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

Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 19, Number 2 February 2019 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Andrea's Bookshelf Bethany's Bookshelf
Buhle's Bookshelf Burroughs' Bookshelf Carson's Bookshelf
Clint's Bookshelf Grace's Bookshelf Julie's Bookshelf
Logan's Bookshelf Margaret's Bookshelf Mari's Bookshelf
Mason's Bookshelf Messenger's Bookshelf Molly's Bookshelf
Robin's Bookshelf Schneider's Bookshelf Suanne's Bookshelf
Susan's Bookshelf    

Reviewer's Choice

Leadership and Self-Deception
The Arbinger Institute
Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.
1333 Broadway, Suite 1000, Oakland CA, 94612
9781523097807, $17.95, PB, 240pp,

Andy Jordan

Originally published in 2000 and now brought back into print for the benefit of a new generation of readers, "Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box" uses an entertaining story everyone can relate to about a man facing challenges at work and at home to expose the fascinating ways that we blind ourselves to our true motivations and unwittingly sabotage the effectiveness of our own efforts to achieve happiness and increase happiness. We trap ourselves in a "box" of endless self-justification. Most importantly, "Leadership and Self-Deception" shows us the way out. Readers will discover what millions already have learned -- how to consistently tap into and act on their innate sense of what's right, dramatically improving all of their relationships. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community, corporate, college, and university library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Leadership and Self-Deception" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Dreamscape Media, 9781974922215, $19.99, CD).

Walter Kempowski
Charlotte Collins, Translator
Granta Books
9781783783526, A$29.99, hardback, 190 pages

Dr Ann Skea, Reviewer

It is 1988 and Jonathan Fabrizius is "forty-three years old, of medium height, a man whose neatly parted blonde hair was cut by a barber, not a stylist".

The tone of this description is slightly ironic, as is the further authorial comment that Jonathan ("Joe to his friends" - but never to the author) makes a living writing newspaper articles and that editors like "the verve of his diction and the punctuality of his delivery". It seems, too, that "he couldn't actually live on these commissions" and "didn't have to, because he got a monthly allowance from his uncle".

Jonathan is a rather lackadaisical fellow. He shares a flat in Hamburg with his girl-friend, Ulla Bakkre de Vaera (she has Swedish ancestry) who, we learn later, initiated the relationship. Their rooms are very differently furnished and separated from each other by a furniture-blocked door. Ulla calls Jonathan up with "a two-fingered whistle" when she wants sex and he hates the fact that he is "called upon to devote himself to her three times a week".

Clearly the relationship is somewhat casual on both sides and when Jonathan decides to accept a commission from the Santubara car manufacturers which requires him to take a trip to East Prussia he delays telling her until a week later. She receives the news with indifference.

For Jonathan, however, East Prussia is where his mother died giving birth to him as she, amongst thousands of other German refugees, fled from the advancing Red Army in 1945. Her body was hastily left by his uncle Edwin in a village church vestibule "beside the hymn board with its wooden numbers", and the family was forced to move on. Jonathan's father, who, had been a Wehrmacht officer, was also killed by a bomb blast on the Vistula Spit during the final days of the war.

Jonathan knows only the stories of their deaths and imagines the scenes but he has never returned to East Prussia. Now, his commission is to help set up a test-driving tour for motoring journalists "to convince them of the outstanding quality" of the latest Santubara eight-cylinder luxury car. He is accompanied on this trip by Frau Winkelvoss - "small and radiant" and a fan of gold-buckled Russian leather boots, scented scarves and harem trousers. She is determined, against all odds, to always to see the best in everything about the Polish and the impoverished Polish hotels, roads and economy of East Prussia. Also with them is Hansi Strohtmeyer, a highly-paid racing driver who has seen the world, has survived accidents in exotic places, favours comfortable living and whom Jonathan initially mistakes for their chauffer.

This is a curious book. Partly because of the irony and black humour and partly because it is not always clear whether this is an expression of the character of Jonathan or the views of the author, Walter Kempowski. Quite possibly the answer is both, since Jonathan shares some of the biography of his creator and knows the troubled recent history of Germany and East Prussia. Both men had German parents who lived in East Prussia and suffered under Russian occupation during and after the Second World War. Both remember the 750,000 German refugees who fled the advancing Russian army in 1945 and the horrors they endured.

Jonathan imagines some of the scenes of horror and death. Kemposi witnessed one of them when, as a boy, he saw traumatised East Prussian refugees disembarking from one of this father's ships in Rostock. Kempowski's father, like Jonathan's, was a Wehrmacht officer who died on the Vistula Spit during the war, and Kempowski himself was a young Luftwaffe courier who, after the occupation, was imprisoned by the Russians for alleged collaboration with the American intelligence. His mother, too, was charged with knowing of these activities and also imprisoned. Walter Kempowski was eventually deported to Western Germany.

For both Kempowski and his creation, Jonathan, the concept of a homeland is conflicted. Much of this conflict is expressed during Jonathan's tour from Danzig ("first Polish, then German, then Free City, then German again and Polish again") and, especially during his various encounters with a German homeland association tour-group whose elderly members are travelling through the war-impoverished places of their childhood in a luxury, air-conditioned coach. He listens to this group singing German patriotic songs. And he is alongside this group as they are subjected to a tour-guide's account of the history of the Teutonic Order's great Marienburg fortress, where they also see an exhibition of drawings made by a Polish prisoner when the fortress was used by the Germans as a concentration camp:. "The ladies and gentlemen of the homeland association were trying to move on quickly, because one of their number had been imprisoned in Dachau and still hadn't got over it".

Jonathan's first apprehension of the mixed emotions felt by both Germans and Poles occurs at the airport, where he thinks wistfully of German airport officials and muses ironically that he would "soon be placing himself under foreign sovereignty, a guest; he would have to hold his tongue instead of being allowed to demonstrate his superiority. When you'd started a world war, murdered Jews and taken people's bicycles away (in Holland) the cards were stacked against you".

East Prussia has always been a contested territory, fought over and occupied many times, and the difficult, mixed emotions of pride and guilt felt by the occupiers and the dispossessed are an underlying theme in many of the encounters and thoughts in this book. "Who's to blame?" asks an old woman Jonathan meets and whose home he visits in Danzig. There is no answer. And the words, "ALL FOR NOTHING", keep hammering in Jonathan's brain later, after he visits the bunker where his father was killed by a bomb.

All For Nothing, is the title of Walter Kempowski's last novel (he died in 2007) and it seems to sum up his conclusion about the whole troubled history of Germany, including East Prussia. He is best-known in Germany for his collection and collage of documents and first-hand accounts of life during WWII. This twelve-volume collection, accumulated over more than twenty years, plus his own and his family's history which he recounted in his early novels, gave him more than enough reason to ask "Who's to blame? And to conclude that it really was all for nothing.

Homeland, expertly translated from the German by Charlotte Collins, is an interesting, beautifully written, often humorous and sometimes shocking novel. Now, when emigration and refugees are daily in the news and are hotly argued political and social issues, it deserves to be widely read.

The Lure of the Ring: Power, Addiction and Transcendence in Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings
Alan James Strachan & Janet Coster
B07M744RL4, $3.99, Kindle, 66 pages,

Don Sloan

J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings has been one of my "most favoritest" books since a friend told me about it in high school. For more than 40 years since then, I have read it again and again from start to finish at least every three years, most of the time preceding it with The Hobbit, Tolkien's classic introduction to Middle-Earth.

I thus escaped for at least two weeks each of those years when, no matter whatever other stress factors were pulling at me, I walked with Frodo through the beautifully described hills, valleys and mountains of that well-imagined land on my way into Mordor, to help (in my mind) Frodo fulfill his destiny and save all the inhabitants of the West.

Many of the characters in the trilogy fascinated me, and still do. But I suppose none did so more than wise old Gandalf and the mysterious Tom Bombadil, both of whom pulled Frodo and his friends from danger more than once by virtue of their respective incredible powers.

So when I heard that a new book was being offered for early review, examining why the One Ring, which tempted even Gandalf by his own admission, and virtually every other character who came into contact with it -- yet held no sway over Tom -- I couldn't possibly resist.

We're limited a bit in these reviews as to how long they can be, and unfortunately our review of this marvelous addition to the Tolkien canon of interpretive literature cannot be excepted from the rule. It deserves a doctoral thesis-length document, but instead, I'll be brief and just try to convey a little of the book's essence.

The Lure of the Ring examines the Ring's seductive tug on figures no less highly principled than the Lady Galadriel and Gandalf, explaining that "Galadriel's battle to resist the allure of the Ring is a vivid depiction of the way in which power can begin to seduce and corrupt." Gandalf too shows extraordinary restraint in turning down Frodo's offer to take the Ring to keep it safe.

"No!" he exclaims. "With that...I should have power too great and terrible. And over me the Ring would gain a power still greater and more deadly!" For Gandalf was also very aware of the dark addictive aura thrown out by the Ring.

After examining the Ring's danger to these two key players, the authors then provide a brief but illuminating look at the motivations behind Sauron's unholy attachment to the Ring: "Sauron is a perfect example of someone who becomes lost in the convoluted corridors of the ego personality," they assert. "Trapped in impotence, compelled by painful narcissistic wounds, blinded by desire, he gives vent to his frustration and rage through an overwhelming need for tyranny and revenge."

That's putting it mildly, of course. But it does put a clinical explanation on the Dark Lord's blind hatred of virtually everyone in Middle-Earth and his all-consuming need to regain possession of the Ring.

Finally, we come to Tom Bombadil and why the One Ring seems to have no power over him. The authors devote no less than 11 chapters to provide an adequate explanation of this phenomenon, going all the way back to Tom's first enigmatic reply to the hobbits when they ask who he is. He responds simply, and almost Biblically, "I Am."

"In psychospiritual terms," say the authors, "Tom Bombadil is a representation of consciousness itself, even while he also is 'Tom.' He represents - and mirrors - a paradox of human identity and existence."

This is good to know, and explains a lot, even though for those not well-acquainted with such terminology, the explanation may be difficult to understand. However, they continue, stepping through chapter headings announcing that they are covering, among other topics, why:

Tom can't be caught

Tom is timeless

Tom has no fear, and why

Tom is impervious to the Ring

Ah. Now we get to the heart of the matter. According to the authors, "the Ring amplifies the tendency of the ego personality to feel separate and split off from the world, but this has no effect on Tom's unconditioned Self. He is one with himself and one with the world, and the Ring cannot sever that inherent and essential connection."

This also explains a lot, although if you're unfamiliar with Carl Jung's groundbreaking interpretation of how man's ego drives many aspects of his behavior, you may have a little trouble comprehending the full meaning of what the authors are trying to convey. Summing up, they close one of the latter chapters with a very insightful passage:

"Tolkien was inspired to give to the world a vast, vivid and compelling portrayal of the addictive grasping for power and its false sense of immortality - a grasping to which, to varying degrees, we all fall prey. Although it appears that he was not fully conscious of doing so while writing The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien subtly has juxtaposed that kind of power-hungry avarice with Tom Bombadil's "I Am" - a timeless, joyful, resting in and as Being itself that is the essential truth of Who we all are.

The Lure of the Ring is a wonderful and unique look at Bombadil's -- and others' -- relationship with the One Ring, and the authors have gone to great lengths to put that relationship in proper perspective for us. They are to be congratulated.

It's a stunning revelation on why Tolkien's characters remain timeless, even today.

Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe (#2, Saturday Night Supper Club)
Carla Laureano
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc
9781496420282, $14.99,

Gail Welborn, Reviewer

Carla Laureano, RITA award winning author, releases "Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe" February 5, second in her contemporary romantic series, The Saturday Night Supper Club. Although Laureano's unique theme centers around restaurants, baking and "delectable cuisines," the delightful characterization of baker and pastry chef Melody Johansson coupled with a realistic romance and spiritual message make "Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe" an exceptional pick.

Melody, like many contemporary young women focused on her dream career in her twenties, which led to a classical baker's apprenticeship in Paris. Where she learned how to make the hearty, rich, crusty breads and amazing French inspired pastries she loved. However, that had left little time for serious relationships.

Now, eight years later, out of loyalty to well-known culinary entrepreneur Rachel Bishop, her best friend, she had left her dream job as Rachels pastry chef when Rachel had been pushed out of her own restaurant. Melody's thirtieth birthday had also passed in the "rearview mirror," along with several failed relationships and for the last six months she'd been working as a corporate chef, mixing together run-of-the-mill recipes for a chain bakery.

It was time for a new direction and Melody's belief in fairy-tale endings and a "happy-ever-after" future had shifted from finding Prince Charming to owning her own pastry shop in Paris one day.

She had no idea how all that was about to change when she heard a "tapping from the front of the store" where she worked the night shift preparing "mediocre recipes" that made her feel like she'd "sold out" to a life of compromise.

Thus, begins a lively love story between a handsome, pilot with boyish charm and a stunningly beautiful young woman who are "drawn together by unconventional career choices and their shared love of adventure."

Besides a romantic tale of second chances the contrasts between culture and faith, dreams and ambitions and how they intersect in the lives of career driven couples are genuine and authentic. All of which reveal tensions that could tear the star-crossed couple apart or bring them together when faced with seemingly impossible choices. That's what makes "Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe" an extraordinary pick not to miss.

Race Talk and the Conspiracy of Silence
Derald Wing Sue, Ph.D.
9781119241980, $29.95

Maileen D. Hamto, Reviewer

Creating space for sustaining authentic and constructive dialogue around cultural and racial realities and experiences is often challenging, especially in the workplace. The ever-increasing diversity of the healthcare workforce, coupled with the current social climate heightens the need for bold conversations around diversity, inclusion and equity issues faced by employees and communities they serve.

Dr. Derald Wing Sue's 2016 "Race Talk and the Conspiracy of Silence: Understanding and Facilitating Difficult Dialogues on Race" challenges readers to closely examine the mechanisms of power and privilege due to the ways in which they impact difficult dialogue about race and racism in the United States. Through first-person narratives, collected over many years of phenomenological and qualitative research, Sue illustrates the clash of racial realities between Whites and people of color, making the case for the "invisibility of Whiteness" and White privilege the main culprit for continuing racial strife.

I evaluated this book from my perspective as a leader of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives at a large, complex healthcare organization. In my role, I facilitate cross-cultural dialogues among staff members. The foremost goal of each conversation is to increase cultural self-awareness and competence and understand the importance of content in creating space for self-reflection. I work with clinical supervisors, training directors, program leads and anyone with direct reports in the organization. I incorporate experiential learning activities in facilitation, encourage learners to apply tools for ongoing self-inquiry, and maintain a focus on developing authentic relationships across differences.

Over the last couple of years, however, the increasingly tense and divisive sociopolitical climate has ushered in the need for deeper and more introspective conversations about race and racism, power and White privilege, and how oppression shows up not only in the larger society, but in our work more specifically. In the current sociopolitical climate, "Race Talk" offers pragmatic applications supported by race pedagogy. Written for a readership beyond diversity & inclusion practitioners and workshop facilitators, it contains actionable advice for parents, educators and leaders who are working to nurture space for open, honest and healing dialogue about the ravages of interpersonal and institutional racism.

Sue's book not only provides concrete tools and approaches with which to approach conversations in an authentic way, but also addresses issues that are key to advancing racial equity in health care. The book answers my own critical questions in advancing this work: How can we develop greater comfort and humility around discussing racial topics? How do we integrate the important conversation on racial power and privilege? How may we influence our organizations to pursue a values-driven approach toward eliminating disparities and advancing racial equity?

Sue's approach to brokering the conversation about the difficulty of racial dialogues is rooted in decades of research he has carried out on racial, gender and sexual orientation microaggresssions and their impacts on those communities. Serving as a professor of Psychology and Education in the Department of Counseling and Clinical Psychology in Columbia University's Teachers College, Sue's scholarship is among the most cited in the fields of multicultural psychology and counseling. He has collected extensive counter-narratives of Asian, Latinx, African American and Native Americans and their everyday experiences with race and the excruciating reality of race talk for people of color.

Sue departs from a more generalized anti-oppression lens to spell out the contemporary mechanics of race and racism in U.S. society. He breaks down the reasons why racial dialogues are difficult for both people of color and Whites. Through first-person narratives and case studies, Sue takes great care in amplifying the voices and experiences of people of color in behavioral health contexts.

Throughout "Race Talk," Sue centers the experiences of people of color in an effort to dismantle societal mythologies that perpetuate racial discord, including the myth of meritocracy, color-blindness and power evasion. He highlights the four fears among Whites that get in the way of honest and productive dialogue and prevent greater racial understanding. These fears include the fear of: appearing racist; realizing their racism; confronting White privilege and; taking personal responsibility to end racism.

By making the invisibility of White privilege visible or "making the invisible visible" - that is, the invisibility of White privilege - Sue offers ways that defensiveness regarding the execution of racial dialogues may be successfully torn down. One particularly memorable "a-ha moment" from my reading stems from Sue's discussion of perspicacity: how People of color (POCs) must develop a keen understanding of how White people communicate in order to survive and thrive in a White supremacist society. POCs must know how to discern truth and authenticity in how White people communicate, which can be done using nonverbal cues that express true feelings. For me, as a foreign-born woman of color, this validated my experience of learning how to navigate predominantly White institutions in my academic and professional careers.

This book will be a hard read for a White person who hasn't already begun their journey toward cultural self-awareness, particularly their privileged identity as a White American. But for those who are looking to continue developing their cultural humility and agility to authentically engage in racial conversations, this is a solid read in that it will bring you greater comfort as you explore and question how Whiteness impacts the spaces you inhabit. Sue posits that interracial contact is not enough, because emotionality related to any discussion of Whiteness prevents honest dialogue from flourishing. Cultural - more specifically, racial - self-awareness will enable Whites to enhance their everyday communications and interactions with people of color. By deepening self-awareness as cultural and racial beings offers an opportunity to learn how our racial realities hinder authentic connections.

Why is it important for educators and cultural workers to learn about and break the rules of race talk? It goes without saying that it is vital to focus on systemic solutions to address policy and procedures that develop greater equity in educational and healthcare institutions. Hard-fought legislation affirming the civil rights of communities of color have created advances in equity.

However, the struggle for justice, respect, empathy and compassion is not merely contained in policy manuals and legal action alone. To create lasting and meaningful change, it's equally important to strategically develop opportunities that illuminate the impacts of our lived racial realities and strengthen each other's capacity to engage in civil discourse about emotionally difficult topics. In deepening one's understanding of racial stratification, Sue offers useful strategies for adopting an anti-racist identity that is rooted in intentionality, purpose and action.

It's Time to Start Living with Passion! My Journey to Self Discovery
Jean Paul Paulynice, MBA
Paulynice Consulting Group, LLC
9781733560108 (Paperback) $12.99
9781733560115 (eBook) $6.99
9781733560122 (Audiobook) $9.99

Mayra Calvani

Genre: Nonfiction/ Self-help/Inspirational

Do you feel as though you're on autopilot, going through the motions every day - wake up, go to work, come back home, have dinner, sleep, repeat - without real meaning, depth, and purpose in your life?

Even if you have a fulfilling job and earn a good salary, that doesn't mean you've found your passion in life. The problem is, finding your passion can be elusive, especially in our present society where we are constantly seeking external validation from others and are being judged in public platforms more than ever (i.e. social media). Perhaps the wisest statement in this book is that "the moment you start to listen to yourself, you can start shutting out all the noise." This little book is all about soul-searching, self-analysis, and reflection. Sometimes you have to step out of your comfort zone and seek out your passions. Sometimes you have to change your mindset and shift your perspective about things in order for transformation and growth to take place. Likewise, it's also about the choices you make, not so much the major ones but the little ones you make on a daily basis.

In his light, honest, and engaging prose, Jean Paul Paulynice encourages you to do some introspection so you can begin your path toward finding your passion and bliss in life. For those who journal, the reflection questions he asks make very good journaling prompts. A very quick read, under fifty pages, It's Time to Start Living with Passion! is a little morsel of goodness and wisdom that will help on your journey to self-discovery.

It's Time to Start Living with Passion! My Journey to Self Discovery
Jean Paul Paulynice, MBA
Paulynice Consulting Group, LLC
9781733560108, $12.99, Paperback
9781733560115 $TBA eBook
9781733560122 $TBA Audiobook

Suzie Housley

"True happiness involves the full use of one's power and talents."
~John W. Gardner

The time has come to start living in such a way where you feel great passion for everything you do. Is the life you are living now providing you with great joy? If not, then you deserve to make a change by being strong enough to break free of those obstacles that are holding you back from the fulfilling life you deserve.

Author Jean Paul Paulynice found himself in a career that provided financial security but did not excite or invigorate him. He thought by going back to school and earning his MBA he would find the answer to a new career path. It was not until he was able to discover his true self and find out what motivated him that he found the perfect solution - both at work and in his home life.

This book centers around one man's quest to think outside the box and experiment with different ways to invite bliss and passion into his world. Any reader will relate to the struggles he encountered on his journey to find his true calling. The life he is living today is a true testament to his strong will and determination to find himself.

It's Time to Start Living with Passion! My Journey to Self Discovery is a book that will encourage readers to commit to the process of deep reflection. This motivating story will encourage those who find themselves unhappy with their own lives to take the necessary steps required for a positive change. This knowledge and guidance in this book have the power to change a person's situation. I highly recommend it to anyone who finds himself trapped in a life where his true potential is not being utilized.

The House Always Wins
Tom Minder
Black Rose Writing
PO Box 1540, Castroville, TX 78009
9781684331222, $17.95 PB, $5.99 Kindle, 182pp,

Kirkus Review

In this second book in the Long Harbor mystery series, Minder (The Long Harbor Testament, 2017) looks at various characters who are all lured by the promise of easy money.

This sequel returns to Dirty Sam's, a casino located on the southern New Jersey coast that's the social hub of the nearby town of Long Harbor. All the gambling there brings in revenue for local governments, and it draws in people from all walks of life. In this volume, they include a "mountain of a man," a disgraced priest, and a local police detective. Someone guns down a mob thug in the casino's parking lot, and later, someone tries to shoot the aforementioned man-mountain. These developments attract the interest of the Long Harbor police.

Dirty Sam's also regularly ships out hundreds of thousands of dollars aboard an armored truck - an attractive target for the desperate and the greedy, including two of the casino's patrons and two of its managers, who are planning an armed truck heist. The robbery is successful, but all involved soon learn that there's no honor among thieves. Lurking in the background is a former assassin - turned-florist known as "the Red Dahlia."

New Jerseyan Minder delivers a fun romp, merging elements of a murder mystery and a heist novel into a coherent whole. The narrative moves at a fast clip, but it's Minder's descriptions of characters and their vices that make this mystery sing. For instance, police chief Mark Porfino can't give up fast food, regardless of what his wife and doctor say; Detective Ted Hanson has a soft spot for gambling - and for a stripper named Rhonda Gillmore; and Jim Cooper is a priest-turned-professor who spends more time at Dirty Sam's than in his own classroom. And those are just the good guys - but Minder effectively illustrates that people's foibles don't have to define them, giving the novel additional dimension.

An enjoyable crime novel that will make readers hope for future volumes of the series.

The Dream Stitcher
Deborah Gaal
Anchor House Publishing
9781732589605, $13.99 PB, $5.99 Kindle, 362pp,

J.V. Bolkan, Reviewer

"The Dream Stitcher" shifts between the modern-day story of Maude and the fantastical account of Goldye Finkelstein, a Jewish teenager in Warsaw when the Germans invade Poland.

Goldye leaves her parents' home and passes for "Aryan", while practicing her remarkable embroidery talents. She's known for stitching bride's dreams into their wedding gowns - dreams that become reality - while trying to maintain her romance with a dashing resistance fighter on the other side of the ghetto walls. Meanwhile, in present day, widowed Maude is dealing with her unpartnered and very pregnant daughter, her seemingly senile mother, and massive debt. Sunny southern California somehow becomes the bleaker of the alternating settings, as bitter and disillusioned Maude attempts to unravel the behaviors of her secretive mother and the mysterious tapestry that she's woven.

Under Nazi occupation, Goldye's embroidery provides dreams of rebellion to the oppressed. Although the fantasy magic of her embroidery is powerful, the theme of hope being the ultimate power is a very real thread. The bleak setting of the Nazi-occupied Warsaw ghetto feels authentic, complete with vivid horrors, yet author Deborah Gaal infuses this aspect of the story with optimism.

The sections set in the past are easily the strongest and most compelling. Wartime Warsaw is infused with detail and realism, even with the fantasy elements. As the novel progresses, Maude's story becomes more compelling, as connections between the two eras are made. The plot twists are remarkable, but fit perfectly into the story and never feel artificial.

As well done as the plot and setting are, they take a back seat to the author's mastery at crafting characters. Even secondary and minor characters feel real and are given fully-fleshed out lives. With a backdrop as hyper-real as the Holocaust, strong characters are required, and Gaal delivers. The women of "The Dream Stitcher" are flawed - creatures of their time and circumstance - but they possess a strength that is both inspiring and beautiful.

Briskly paced with memorable characters, "The Dream Stitcher" is well-crafted and wonderfully satisfying novel and the characters, events, and themes will stay with readers long after they've read the final page.

Editorial Note: "The Dream Stitcher" was a Finalist in the 2018 National Jewish Book Awards, Goldberg Prize in the Debut Fiction category.

The Impending End
Amanda Rose
Independently Published
9781726623537, $14.99 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 332pp,

Andrew Fantasia

"As someone who has lost a friend to suicide, this book hits all the true to life emotional beats. We could all stand to learn a thing or two about people who suffer in silence, and if you don't know where to start, The Impending End might just be the place."

Trip Wires
Sandra Hunter
Leapfrog Press
PO Box 505, Fredonia, NY 14063
9781935248972, $14.95 PB, $13.57 Kindle, 176pp,

David Rocklin

Like their namesake, the stories populating Trip Wires are mercilessly taut. Told largely from the perspectives of youths torn from their roots by war, these are stories that carry like radio signals across terrains of unrest and displacement. Ms. Hunter's juxtaposition of settings -- Afghanistan, then Los Angeles; Syria, then again to the city of angels -- heightens the immigrant's sense of diasporic otherness in places both near and far from home. This is what life looks like when conflict repaints the canvas against which her characters seek love, family and a moment's stability. Her keen eye for twinned details -- the fleeting safety of an imam's lap is set against a prayer rug in the back room of a California suburban home, far from neighbors' eyes -- lends this collection a rare power and poignancy.

Each to their own struggle, and each calling upon their own culture, Ms. Hunter's characters are forced by circumstance - economic, racial, diasporic - to face situations that exile them from their homes, their families and themselves. In these vividly rendered people, Ms. Hunter's deservedly wide audience experience the characters' disorienting estrangement from their lives. The reader cannot help but empathize, at last, with what it takes to leave one's home in search of the elusive 'better life' among strangers. Not to be missed.

Black Iron
Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert
Thorntree Press
9781944934668 (Kindle) $11.99
9781944934675 (Mobipocket)
9781944934651 (paperback) $19.95, 336pp,

Kirkus Review

Veaux and Rickert's "Black Iron" is a steampunk novel that tells the story of a conspiracy that threatens to bring down the British monarchy.

Thaddeus Mudstone Ahmed Alexander Pinkerton wakes up in the gutter in New Old London, suffering temporary amnesia after literally falling out of the sky. The year is 1855, but in this alternative history, England is ruled by Queen Margaret the Merciful, ally of the France-based Reformed Holy Catholic Church in its struggle with the Catholic Church of Rome. Her London is filled with refugees from the war as well as clankers (11-foot-tall, mechanical iron men).

Thaddeus has just leapt out of the queen's personal zeppelin after putting an incriminating item in the queen's cabin, though not before being spotted by Als de Valois, a princess of France.

When Thaddeus' planted ring is discovered, the queen is arrested on the suspicion that she's secretly in league with Rome; meanwhile, back on the ground, Thaddeus is nearly murdered by the mysterious man who sent him on his mission. The plot that he's set in motion may bring down the queen and her country unless he, Als, and some other pawns in the game can figure out just what's going on.

Veaux and Rickert summon their fictional alternative London with all of its slang, soot, and Victorian (or rather, Margaretian) squalor: "night had finished its long fall and was lying sprawled out over the disorganized heap of Old New London. Rows of gas lamps created uneven pools of light along the roads. Deep shadows lurked between."

The authors show a great deal of relish for the milieu they've created for this story, which, for example, also includes animates - undead laborers stitched together from dead-body parts: "They were frightfully expensive, and as beasts of burden they were only moderately useful, but they'd been all the rage since that doctor from Geneva had started making them a couple of years back." The enthusiasm is infectious, and readers will quickly find themselves becoming caught up in the characters, the intrigue, and the slightly altered customs of this well-plotted mystery.

A satisfying alternate-history work that doesn't skimp on adventure.

Andrea's Bookshelf

Magical Folkhealing
D. J. Conway
Llewellyn Publications
2143 Wooddale Drive, Woodbury, MN 55125
9780738757544, $17.99, PB, 336pp,

Packed from cover to cover with natural remedies and recipes from D. J. Conway and her grandmother, "Magical Folkhealing: Herbs, Oils, and Recipes for Health, Healing, and Magic" is a magical formulary that everyone from beginners to established practitioners can use to make life better. Students of alternative medicine will learn how to use a wide variety of herbs and oils for spiritual, emotional, and mental health and healing. "Magical Folkhealing" provides more than one hundred commonly known herbs and their associated planets, elements, deities, and zodiac signs, as well as their basic powers and specific uses. This user-friendly guide also teaches how to simplify rituals, use special tools and tables for improved prep work, apply oils and aromatherapy for specific needs, and so much more. Featuring everything from herbal teas and tinctures to massage oils and stones, "Magical Folkhealing is an indispensable and unreservedly recommended resource for healing. While certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community and academic library Alternative Medicine collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Magical Folkhealing" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.54).

Dino Domino
Illustrated by Caroline Selmes
Laurence King
9781786273581 $14.99

Dino Domino is not a book, but rather a set of dominos for children, featuring bright, colorful, stylized illustrations of dinosaurs. 28 dominos are packaged in an easy-to use sliding box. A delightful domino game can be played with 2-4 players ages three and up. Dino Domino makes an excellent and inexpensive gift for young dinosaur fans! Highly recommended.

Andrea Kay

Bethany's Bookshelf

Let's Make a Contract
Ann Schiebert
Andrew Benzie Books
9781941713846, $16.95, PB, 280pp,

Synopsis: Dr. Ann Schiebert has spent 25 years working with families who have unintentionally turned over control of the family to a teen or young adult's drug-using behaviors. She is currently a psychologist in the Emergency Department at the medical center of one of the country's most respected major HMO's. She also works in the medical center's Chemical Dependency Department where she treats patients challenged by trauma, chemical dependency, codependency and dual diagnosis. Ann is the mother of three children.

In "Let's Make a Contract: Getting Your Teen Through Substance Abuse", Dr. Schiebert draws upon her years of experience and expertise to create an instruction guide for parents having to deal with adolescent and young adult substance abuse problems and addictions. "Let's Make a Contract" provides step-by-step, up-to-date techniques to help parents lead their teen out of the drug abyss and to stop feeling like they are being held hostage.

"Let's Make a Contract" covers: How to make enforceable consequences; How not to provoke and make a bad situation worse: How to open the doors to communication between parent and your teen: How to avoid problematic situations before they happen: How to become skilled at making contracts with a teen.

Critique: "Let's Make a Contract" is essential for any parent, guardian, or caregiver who finds his or her child mired down in substance abuse of any kind or category. This newly revised and expanded edition of "Let's Make a Contract" features an updated introduction by Dr. Schiebert which details the harrowing journey she took with her own addicted son, as well as a new highly researched chapter on the opiate/opioid pandemic that describes why teens are at particular risk. All contracts showcased in this new edition of "Let's Make a Contract" are available in electronic form to download, modify, and print out.

Sacred Secrets
Nani Lawrence
Balboa Press
c/o Hay House, Inc.
PO Box 5100, Carlsbad, CA 92018-5100
9781504397100, $28.95, HC, 112pp,

Synopsis: Imagine being able to live in a state of grace where your life is in a positive flow and you are connected to a collective conscious tribe of loving people whose mission it is to make this world a better place for generations to come.

Nani Lawrence is a registered nurse whose successful career includes roles in Midwifery, Emergency Medicine, Disaster Medical Response, Legal Nurse Consulting, Hospice Care, Education, Advocacy and Leadership. She has forty years of experience in the field of energetic realignment, with certifications in Jin Shin Jyutsu, Biofeedback Technology and Integrative Quantum Medicine. She currently practices as a Certified Practitioner and Instructor of Integrative Quantum Medicine, inspiring others to discover their optimal health, truth and joy.

Dedicated her life's work toward the integration and alignment of universal energies to perpetuate healing, empowerment, and the oneness of humanity, Nani is now creatively channeling her experience and knowledge into simple, yet effective, methods to inspire others to discover their truth and joy.

In "Sacred Secrets: Living in a State of Grace", Nani shares the lessons learned throughout her years along with some of the most life-altering aha moments that transformed her life from a stressed-out overachiever to a joyful, peaceful healer who is following her heart and living her dreams.

Critique: Comprised of illustrative stories, thoughtful reflections, and insightful revelations, "Sacred Secrets: Living in a State of Grace" is an extraordinary and unique read and one that is unreservedly recommended for community library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Sacred Secrets" is also available in a paperback edition (9781504397087, $11.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).

Spiritual Reality
Lydia A. Mitchell
Balboa Press
c/o Hay House, Inc.
PO Box 5100, Carlsbad, CA 92018-5100
9781982206024, $30.95, HC, 162pp,

Synopsis: In the pages of "Spiritual Reality: Transforming the Ordinary Into the Extraordinary", with her unique background and spiritual guidance, Lydia Mitchell shares an approachable and useful guide to developing spiritual awareness that shifts focus away from an everyday view, to enables her readers to see the magic within and around them that effectively transforms the ordinary into extraordinary.

Through simple methods, practical guidance and tools, and real-life stories, Dr. Mitchell helps her readers to learn how to combine the spiritual and physical realities of life and consistently connect with the spirit to create a life that flows easily.

"Spiritual Reality" effectively shares guidance created to help all of us link with the internal spirit to increase joy, improve our outlook, and take control of our lives.

Critique: Exceptionally and accessibly well written, organized and presented, "Spiritual Reality: Transforming the Ordinary into the Extraordinary" is unreservedly recommended for community library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Spiritual Reality" is also available in a paperback edition (9781982206031, $12.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).

emPOWher: Empowering Young Women
Adrenna Alkhas
Independently Published
9781980819622, $15.99, PB, 188pp,

Synopsis: "emPOWher" by Adrenna Alkhas (who is a marketing and communication director and is a lecturer at her local community college) is specifically intended for the young female who is struggling to find herself in the real world and does not know how to handle a toxic work environment.

The journey of this instructive guide will first take our young female readers into the comic-book female superhero world to discuss what a leader first looks like. Just like any comic book superhero, who have struggled to find their place, so will the readers and in the end of their journey of reading "emPOWher" the young reader will find that superhero power within in them to overcome obstacles.

"emPOWher" is meant for any young female who feels lost and doesn't know what the next step is.

Our younger female demographic need to understand that women who work together build and women who collaborate are innovative together. Women must learn, more than ever, to empower each other and understand what each woman is going through. It is important to teach young girls to be leaders with humbleness, kindness, and be educators in their field and who can embrace the generation after them to be motivators in a movement of women embracing other women.

"emPOWher" does not tell young girls what to do, nor is it a biography about the author. Yet, many of the stories Adrenna shares are her own struggles and the lessons learned from them.

Adrenna also shares her great-grandmother's survival of the Assyrian Genocide of 1915 and how women in the refugee camps worked together to survive. Alkhas compares the battlefield stories and survival during war to surviving corporate America and how women must band together, now more than ever, to help each other. A perfect analogy of women working together during in the workforce is Alkhas's great-grandmothers story during that Assyrian Genocide.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, inherently fascinating, thoughtful, thought provoking, and ultimately inspiring, "emPOWher: Empowering Young Women" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "emPOWher" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Susan Bethany

Buhle's Bookshelf

A Practical Introduction to Day Trading
Don Charles
Cambridge Scholars Publishing
9781527515994, $119.95, HC, 133pp,

Synopsis: Day trading is speculation in securities, specifically buying and selling financial instruments within the same trading day. Strictly, day trading is trading only within a day, such that all positions are closed before the market closes for the trading day. Many traders may not be so strict or may have day trading as one component of an overall strategy. Traders who participate in day trading are called day traders. Traders who trade in this capacity with the motive of profit are therefore speculators. The methods of quick trading contrast with the long-term trades underlying buy and hold and value investing strategies. (Wikipedia)

Some of the more commonly day-traded financial instruments are stocks, options, currencies, and a host of futures contracts such as equity index futures, interest rate futures, currency futures and commodity futures. Once an activity that was exclusive to financial firms and professional speculators, today many day traders are bank or investment firm employees working as specialists in equity investment and fund management. With the advent of electronic trading and margin trading, day trading has also become readily available to private individuals.

While novice day traders enter financial markets with the objective of earning a profit from capitalizing on price fluctuations, many of these new traders will lose their money in attempting to do so. The reason for this is often because these new traders lack any fundamental understanding of financial markets, they cannot interpret any data, and they have no strategy for trading.

Trading in markets is really about deploying strategies and managing risks. Indeed, successful traders are those who have strategies which they have proved to be consistent in granting them more financial gains than financial losses. The purpose of "A Practical Introduction to Day Trading" is to help a potentially uninformed retail trader or inquisitive reader understand more about financial markets, and assist them in gaining the technical skills required to profit from trading. It represents a beginners guide to trading, with a core focus on stocks and currencies.

Critique: The author of "A Practical Introduction To Day Trading", Don Charles holds a PhD, MSc, and BSc in Economics from the University of the West Indies St. Augustine Campus. He has experience in economic research, lecturing, project management, procurement, and industrial relations. He has published on various economic issues in international journals and has presented his research at a number of international conferences. His main research interests are energy economics, green economics, international trade, portfolio finance, and econometrics.

"A Practical Introduction to Day Trading" is exceptionally well written, impressively comprehensive, and thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, making it ideal as a curriculum textbook, as well as a critically important and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, college, and university library instructional reference collection and supplemental studies lists.

Among the Wolves of Court
Lauren Mackay
I. B. Tauris Publishers
9781788310437, $25.00, HC, 312pp,

Synopsis: Thomas and George Boleyn were the father and brother of Anne Boleyn and heads of one of the most powerful infamous dynasties in English history. Already key figures in Henry VIII's court, with her marriage to Henry which resulted in the ascent of Anne to the throne in 1533, Thomas and George became the most important players on the Tudor stage, with direct access to royalty, and with it, influence. Both were highly skilled ambassadors and courtiers who negotiated their way through the complex and ruthless game of politics with ease. But when the Queen fell from grace just three years later, it was to have a devastating effect on her family -- and ultimately costing her brother his life.

Critique: Unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as community and academic library collections, "Among the Wolves of Court: The Untold Story of Thomas and George Boleyn" by historian and Tudor England expert Lauren MacKay is a ground-breaking book. Writing with the narrative smoothness of a novelist, Lauren Mackay's history reveals the untold story of Tudor England, bringing into the light two pivotal characters whose part in the rise and swift fall of Anne Boleyn which had until now remained cloaked in shadow.

IEC 61850 Demystified
Herbert Falk
Artech House
685 Canton Street, Norwood, MA 02062
9781630813291 $159.00

Synopsis: This comprehensive overview of 61850 standard/protocol focuses on implementation, taking the reader through the development and concepts of IEC 61850. This includes the initial work by General Motors (Manufacturing Automation Protocol), EPRI (UCA 1.0 and UCA 2.0), IEEE (TR 1550), and IEC 61850. The standard is a significant piece of many IIoT (industrial internet of things) strategies for substation communication.

The book discusses and documents the basic research and theory of guaranteed multicast done for IEC 61850 GOOSE as well as the shift from variable technology to object oriented technology. The layering principles, as well as the structure, of IEC 61850 are discussed in detail as well as the actual communication profiles that have been created to support substation/distribution automation, distributed energy resources, and synchrophasors. Real applications will be discussed as well as the future direction of the standard.

The author is a technical co-editor of IEC 61850 standard and a leader in US implementations, having been involved with the technology from its inception.

Critique: IEC 61850 is an engineering tool that arose out of necessity. It is an internationally standardized communications protocol that allows "intelligent electronic devices" to interact with one another. It is particularly valuable with regard to smart grid or Virtual Heat and Power plants, and relies on an Ethernet communication backbone. IEC 61850 Demystified is an in-depth reference and resource created especially for professional engineers; a solid understanding of the career basics is presupposed. Chapters discuss the history of IEC 61850; its modern-day usage; client and server communications; the impact of cybersecurity; and much more. IEC 61850 Demystified is a "must-have" for college and university Engineering collections, and an invaluable reference for professionals who work with this indispensable technology.

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

The Jews' Indian
David S. Koffman
Rutgers University Press
106 Somerset St., 3rd Floor, New Brunswick, NJ 08901
9781978800861 $34.95 pbk / $34.95 Kindle

Synopsis: The Jews' Indian investigates the history of American Jewish relationships with Native Americans, both in the realm of cultural imagination and in face-to-face encounters. These two groups' exchanges were numerous and diverse, proving at times harmonious when Jews' and Natives people's economic and social interests aligned, but discordant and fraught at other times. American Jews could be as exploitative of Native cultural, social, and political issues as other American settlers, and historian David Koffman argues that these interactions both unsettle and historicize the often triumphant consensus history of American Jewish life.

Focusing on the ways Jewish class mobility and civic belonging were wrapped up in the dynamics of power and myth making that so severely impacted Native Americans, this books is provocative and timely, the first history to critically analyze Jewish participation in, and Jews' grappling with the legacies of Native American history and the colonial project upon which America rests.

Critique: The Jews' Indian: Colonialism, Pluralism, and Belonging in America is a scholarly analysis of how American Jews interacted with Native Americans, directly and indirectly. Chapters include "Land and the Violent Expansion of the Immigrants' Empire", "Jewish Middlemen Merchants, Indian Curios, and the Extensions of American Capitalism", "Jewish Advocacy for Native Americans on and off Capitol Hill", and more. Extensive notes and an index round out this seminal contribution to public and college library American History collections. Highly recommended. It should be noted for personal reading lists that The Jews' Indian is also available in a Kindle edition ($34.95).

Inductive Sensors for Industrial Applications
Sorin Fericean
Artech House
685 Canton Street, Norwood, MA 02062
9781630812553 $189.00

Synopsis: This practical guide provides a comprehensive survey of all relevant inductive sensor classes for industrial applications in a single volume, from automotive use to white goods, covering design, fabrication, implementation, principles and functionality as well as standards and EMC requirements. The book addresses professional engineers and technicians, but is also accessible to students who require a solid basic knowledge of inductive sensors. Each chapter begins with classic, traditional explanations and gradually moves on to state-of- the art analog and digital solutions, including large-scale integrated systems-on-chip, software defined sensors SDS, digital signal synthesis, coils on silicon and active inductors.

The book employs three modern analysis methods: analytic computation; popular graphical methods (phasor diagrams, phase plans, Smith charts, etc.) and computer assisted tools, like the electromagnetic field simulator, Maxwell, and the popular Spice simulator for electronic circuits. For traditional solutions, the chapters give overviews in tables with computation formulae (including empirical expressions). Numerical examples help the reader consolidate the theoretical knowledge gained. Concrete examples for currently available commercial parts are provided.

Critique: Written as an in-depth reference, resource, and instructional tool for engineers and technicians who work with inductive sensors (devices used to detect the proximity of metal objects), Inductive Sensors for Industrial Applications presupposes a solid understanding of electromagnetic engineering basics. Created by professionals, for professionals, Inductive Sensors for Industrial Applications discusses the definitions and main features of inductive proximity sensors; the practical implementations of inductive sensing elements (ISEs); magnetic materials used for the cores and plungers of ISEs; signal processing and conditioning; adjustment and calibration; temperature compensation; and much more. Sample equations, black-and-white diagrams, and an index round out this extremely detailed "must have" for college and university Engineering collections, as well as the personal reference lists of professionals in the field.

The Tanzania Conspiracy
Mario Bolduc
The Dundurn Group
9781459736092 $17.99 pbk / $6.99 Kindle

Synopsis: Distraught by the murder of Tanzanian lawyer and ex-lover Valeria Michieka and her daughter Sophie, Max O'Brien travels to Tanzania to track down those responsible. What starts as a fight for justice quickly becomes entangled with the persecution of albinos in the East African state. Thought by some to have supernatural powers, many albinos find themselves targeted for their body parts, and Max has reason to think that Valeria and Sophie were killed because of her legal work defending albinos' rights and safety.

Did the lawyers' fight against this horrendous business upset the human traffickers? Max's search for the truth about their deaths is filled with unknowns, each more impenetrable than the last.

Critique: The fourth novel featuring the masterful con man Max O'Brien, The Tanzania Conspiracy is a murder mystery in which Max searches for the killers of his ex-lover and her daughter. Both victims had dedicated their lives to defending African albinos from persecution, human trafficking, and murder. Max's investigation leads him ever deeper among dangerous and ruthless criminals, in search of the elusive truth. The Tanzania Conspiracy is riveting from cover to cover, and highly recommended for connoisseurs of the genre and public library Mystery/Suspense collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that The Tanzania Conspiracy is also available in a Kindle edition ($6.99).

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

Penny Dreadful: The Awakening
Chris King, author
Jesus Hervas, illustrator
Titan Comics
9781785868771, $29.99, HC, 112pp,

Synopsis: In the void left behind by Vanessa's death, Ethan and Sir Malcolm must search for a new meaning in life. But the demimonde isn't done with them yet, as decisions from the past come screaming back to haunt them in another supernatural thriller in the Penny Dreadful series.

Critique: Showcasing the distinctively original artwork of Jesus Hervas, this black & white art edition of "Penny Dreadful: The Awakening" fully captures the aesthetic and atmosphere of the television show created by John Logan while bringing an original Penny Dreadful story to monochromatic life. A thrilling page turner of a read, this oversized graphic novel is a 'must' for the legions of Penny Dreadful fans. While very highly recommended for community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Penny Dreadful: The Awakening" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $26.41).

New Pathways: An Advanced Business Chinese Reader
Jane C. M. Kuo
Cheng & Tsui Company
25 West Street, Boston, MA 02111-1213 USA
9781622914715, $59.99, PB, 488pp,

Synopsis: Designed for students and entrepreneurs with a business oriented interest in the current state of China's economy, "New Pathways: An Advanced Business Chinese Reader" provides the foundational knowledge necessary to navigate China's rapidly changing economic landscape. The twelve lessons comprising "New Pathways" deftly address a broad range of macroeconomic topics, including the development of private enterprise and free trade zones, the evolution of the Chinese banking system, brand recognition in China, and the "One Belt, One Road" initiative.

In each individual lesson, the Main Text offers a sweeping overview of the lesson topic and its historical context, while the Supplementary Text delves deeper into specific aspects of the topic at hand. By combining informative readings with practical Chinese used in business settings, New Pathways equips students with the knowledge and language skills to discuss high-level macroeconomic ideas and better understand newspapers, reports, and other business and economics texts in formal written Chinese.

"New Pathways" provides: Lesson Texts are presented in both simplified and traditional characters on facing pages; Explanation of Terms sections strengthening a student's understanding of key terms and grammatical structures with concise English explanations and example sentences relevant to business situations; Distinguishing Synonyms sections using English explanations and example sentences to help clarify nuanced differences between words with similar meanings; Exercises at the end of each lesson offer extensive opportunities for language practice, with particular emphasis on correct usage of vocabulary and grammar points; Questions and Exploration sections that encourage students to conduct Internet research and present their findings in oral or written format for further discussion or debate

Critique: An ideal choice for college and university library collections, "New Pathways: An Advanced Business Chinese Reader" is unreservedly recommended for the personal reading lists of MBA students, corporate executives, and governmental policy makers with respect to successfully and profitably doing business in China today.

The Curse of Oak Island
Randall Sullivan
Atlantic Monthly Press
c/o Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
154 West 14th Street, 12th Floor, New York, NY 10011
9780802126931, $27.00, HC, 396pp,

Synopsis: In 1795, a teenager discovered a mysterious circular depression in the ground on Oak Island, in Nova Scotia, Canada, and ignited rumors of buried treasure. Early excavators uncovered a clay-lined shaft containing layers of soil interspersed with wooden platforms, but when they reached a depth of ninety feet, water poured into the shaft and made further digging impossible.

Since then the mystery of Oak Island's "Money Pit" has enthralled generations of treasure hunters, including a Boston insurance salesman whose obsession ruined him; young Franklin Delano Roosevelt; and film star Errol Flynn. Perplexing discoveries have ignited explorers' imaginations: a flat stone inscribed in code; a flood tunnel draining from a man-made beach; a torn scrap of parchment; stone markers forming a huge cross. Swaths of the island were bulldozed looking for answers; excavation attempts have claimed two lives. Theories abound as to what's hidden on Oak Island and range from pirates' treasure, to Marie Antoinette's lost jewels, to the Holy Grail, to proof that Sir Francis Bacon was the true author of Shakespeare's plays. Yet to this day, the Money Pit remains an enigma.

"The Curse of Oak Island: The Story of the World's Longest Treasure Hunt" is a fascinating account by Randall Sullivan of the strange, rich history of the island and the intrepid treasure hunters who have driven themselves to financial ruin, psychotic breakdowns, and even death in pursuit of answers. And as Michigan brothers Marty and Rick Lagina become the latest to attempt to solve the mystery, as documented on the History Channel's television show The Curse of Oak Island, Sullivan takes readers along to follow their quest firsthand.

Critique: An extraordinary and impressively detailed account of a real life treasure hunt that spans decades, cost fortunes, ended lives, turned into a popular multi-seasoned television reality show, and continues on to this very day, "The Curse of Oak Island: The Story of the World's Longest Treasure Hunt" will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to community library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Curse of Oak Island" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.61).

Michael J. Carson

Clint's Bookshelf

Terms of Engagement
Paul Alan Ruben
Larkin Books
c/o Alison Larkin Presents
9781642552072 $14.99 pbk / $5.99

Synopsis: Terms of Engagement explores father and son, each yearning to be understood, acknowledged, and validated by the other. Raw and gripping, these nine stories take place in collision territory - where father and son engage one another in uncertain terms, both desperately trying to repair the emotional damage that has led to their alienation.

Inextricably linked by blood, each story pits a vulnerable authority figure (the father), before his vulnerable son, who derives neither protection nor emotional nourishment from him.

At their core, these are stories of flawed, sympathetic and searching fathers and sons, all of whom - whether they reside in Brooklyn, Manhattan, small-town New Jersey, or the suburbs of Chicago - are extraordinarily conflicted, ordinary people that yearn to be understood, accepted, loved and acknowledged.

Hope is a theme that emerges throughout the collection, a deep-seated hope that what alienates father and son can be resolved. It is that hope that propels: a desperate father's attempt to get his twenty-something, disrespectful, stay-at-home son off his ass and functioning like an adult; a stupefied teenager's uncertain effort to somehow rescue his emotionally distant father that he's inadvertently discovered is gay; a thirty-year absentee father's meticulously constructed strategy to reconnect to his estranged, adult son; a new dad to break free of his father's insidious and haunting influence, and locate the courage to take ownership of himself as a father, role model, and a man. Like these four, the other stories' fathers and sons are also propelled by hope.

Critique: A thought-provoking anthology about the dynamic tensions between fathers and sons, Terms of Engagement: Stories of Father and Son lingers long in the mind after the last page is turned. Terms of Engagement is powerful, and speaks to the challenges that beset human beings, the hidden depths within, and the bonds that endure. Highly recommended. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Terms of Engagement is also available in a Kindle edition ($5.99).

Debris Line
Matthew Fitzsimmons
Thomas & Mercer
9781503951648 $24.95 hc / $4.99 Kindle

Synopsis: Lying low on the sun-kissed coast of Portugal is a far cry from twenty-four-hour lockdown in a CIA black-site prison. But even in paradise, Gibson Vaughn is a long way from being home free. With the feds hot on his heels, he and his crew of fellow fugitives know they can't hide in a sunny beach town forever. And before they go on the run again, their generous host - a wealthy drug smuggler - expects to be paid for his hospitality. And paid double.

His price? A nearly impossible operation that Gibson and his gang must pull off to retrieve a king's ransom in hijacked narcotics. Even if they make it out alive, they'll have to face the wrath of a ruthless Mexican cartel that plays dirty...and is used to winning. But when Gibson discovers there's far more than drugs at stake, the heist becomes a daring mission of rescue and mercy - and righteous vengeance.

Critique: Debris Line is a taut, fast-paced thriller featuring a gritty protagonist that is far less than a hero, yet far more than a criminal. Forced to seek shelter with a drug lord, Gibson Vaughn and his crew are railroaded into an against-all-odds mission to retrieve stolen drugs. But when lives hang in the balance, Vaughn is in a unique position to help the helpless, in this daring, high-stakes saga. Highly recommended, especially for connoisseurs of the genre! It should be noted for personal reading lists that Debris Line is also available in a Kindle edition ($4.99).

The Coming of the American Behemoth
Michael Joseph Roberto
Monthly Review Press
134 W. 29th Street, Suite 706, New York, NY 10001
9781583677315 $25.00

Synopsis: Most people in the United States have been trained to recognize fascism in movements such as Germany's Third Reich or Italy's National Fascist Party, where charismatic demagogues manipulate incensed, vengeful masses. We rarely think of fascism as linked to the essence of monopoly-finance capitalism, operating under the guise of American free-enterprise. But, as Michael Joseph Roberto argues, this is exactly where fascism's embryonic forms began gestating in the United States, during the so-called prosperous 1920s and the Great Depression of the following decade. Drawing from a range of authors who wrote during the 1930s and early 1940s, Roberto examines how the driving force of American fascism comes, not from reactionary movements below, but from the top, namely, Big Business and the power of finance capital. More subtle than its earlier European counterparts, writes Roberto, fascist America's racist, top-down quashing of individual liberties masqueraded as "real democracy," "upholding the Constitution," and the pressure to be "100 Percent American."

The Coming of the American Behemoth is intended as a primer, to forge much-needed discourse on the nature of fascism, and its particular forms within the United States. The book focuses on the role of the capital-labor relationship during the period between the two World Wars, when the United States became the epicenter of the world-capitalist system. Concentrating on specific processes, which he characterizes as terrorist and non-terrorist alike, Roberto argues that the interwar period was a fertile time for the incubation of a protean, more salable form of tyranny - a fascist behemoth in the making, whose emergence has been ignored or dismissed by mainstream historians. This book is a necessity for anyone who fears America tipping ever closer, in this era of Trump, to full-blown fascism.

Critique: The Coming of the American Behemoth: The Origins of Fascism in the United States, 1920-1940 is an expertly researched analysis with a startling proposal - that even as conventional fascism took hold in Europe during the roaring 20's, the Great Depression, and subsequent recessions, a different but no less insidious form of fascism was taking hold in America. This American fascism involved the extreme concentration of money and power in corporate monopolies, bent government policy to serve the nation's wealthiest citizens, contributed to the suffering of the Great Depression, and also included fascism's characteristic efforts to control public perception. Author Michael Joseph Roberto claims that the driving emphasis of American fascism was fueled by the wealthiest and most powerful interests, a claim that resonates today. Notes and an index round out this salient, disturbing political piece.

Clint Travis

Grace's Bookshelf


Books for the Turn of the Year

The Stella Poems: Astrophil & Stella
Duane Locke
The Bitter Oleander Press
83 pages

Sally Wen Mao
Graywolf Press
110 pages

when you say you can't go home again, what they mean is you were never there
Marty McConnell
Southern Indiana Review Press
72 pages

Li Bai Rides a Celestial Dolphin Home
Tom Sexton
Univ. of Alaska Press
58 pages

Becky Gould Gibson
The Broadkill River Press
97 pages

Seduction: New Poems 2013-2018
Quincy Troupe
Triquarterly/ Northwestern University Press
107 pages

Ghost Voices: A Poem In Prayer
Quincy Troupe
Triquarterly/ Northwestern University Press
72 pages

Hiram Larew
FootHills Publishing
44 pages

Edited by Gianna Jacobson
December Publishing
222 pages

What Is Poetry?
Michael Rosen
Candlewick Press
179 pages

Art Matters
Neil Gaiman, author
Illustrated by Chris Riddell
William Morrow/HarperCollins

Nearing Ninety
Judith Viorst
Simon & Schuster
73 pages

Sweet Herbaceous Miracle
Berwyn Moore
BkMk Press/ Univ. of Missouri-Kansas City
80 pages

Woman in Red Anorak
Marc Harshman
Lynx House Press
62 pages

What Lies Beyond
Judith Farr
Deerbrook Editions
59 pages

To Those Who Were Our First Gods
Nickole Brown
Rattle Foundation
44 pages

Crude Angel
Suzanne Cleary
BkMk Press/ Univ. of Missouri-Kansas City
88 pages

The Stella Poems: Astrophil & Stella
Duane Locke
The Bitter Oleander Press
9780999327937 $14.00 83 pages

Any time a 97-year-old poet of great note writes a present-day version of Sir Philip Sidney's Astrophal and Stella, I'm there. The original piece was about a lover (a star watcher) fixating upon his star (Stella) and so it is with Locke's postmodern version. He has 57 poems to and about Stella - the love affair's not linear nor chronological: in poem 54 the poet ends his six stanzas with a couplet: "...At this time in my life, I had not met Stella, therefore there/Is no one to send my thoughts. My wife is a redneck Baptist." Inspiration, not content, is what Locke brings back from the 16th century, 108 sonnets and songs.

Stella is alive, Stella is deceased, Stella has cancer, Stella leaves notes and letters. Stella's lover/author uses the relationship to discuss philosophy and probabilities - all worth hearing - in his daydreams: "...Stella, writing to you is stronger reality than/Thinking about you, and still a more stronger reality/Is being with you. See you this evening/At Florian. We will drink Campari in the place/Where Nietzsche wrote his poem about the pigeons of Venice." Locke - poet, painter, photographer - lives the word.


While I was searching for my notes on Husserl -
Notes I did not find, I found
An old letter, my first letter, from Stella.
This epistle, like Apollo's torso changed
Rilke's life, changed my life.

"Phil, I dare you,
Dare you, yes dare you
To meet me in Italy.

Fly to Malpensa, rent a car, drive to Varese.
We can stay at an albergo that is built into the rocks.

It is a rarely visited albergo. It is mainly visited by Nuns,
Who believe some type of miracle took place here.

If you meet me here, a miracle will take place."

Signed Stella

Oculus: Poems
Sally Wen Mao
Graywolf Press
9781555978259 $16.00 pbk / $9.99 Kindle 110 pages

Mao is a poet of conscience, passion, advocacy and theater. Put them into the compression of poetry and there's a power that extends outward and doesn't stop when the poem is finished. Among her remarkable human testaments, are two sets of poems about the early Chinese-American film star Anna May Wong. The persona poems are where satire meets tragedy meets irony. The intention however is clear: to reveal what price is paid for celebrity without respect; to be almost invited to the party, but not quite. Poems showcasing this Chinese-American idol are real and surreal, factual, futuristic, imagistic, with sharp smart language unifying the core of each event. It's holy work to create a character who will never be gone from these pages, a character spun from real cloth, now large, meaningful, a sector of Hollywood made permanent - for Wong's longing and perhaps for her despair. But there's bravery here as well. And the poet sings her characters to the top with words that are alive - here to stay - a public trust.

I told you she was fearless:

The Death of Robot K-456

The robot opera sends us to space.
We look down. We don't miss our lovers.
Instead, we're nostalgic for gravity.

Permutations of ground: cement,
grass, parquet, soil. Premonitions
of sound: crash, pow, shriek.

Down on earth, we saw the tragedy -
the machine cracked under slow wheels.
His cords and his bowels, twitching.

The machine defecated on itself,
spilling all its beans. We looked away.
In another time, we would mourn.

But for now, we hover, above patrols,
above surveillance, above the borders,
like migrants to a black hole, a Xanadu

where no one dreams of finding us.
Even if we cut off a limb or leap over an edge, no eyes watch us. We are free.

when you say you can't go home again, what they mean is you were never there
Marty McConnell
Southern Indiana Review Press
9781930508422 $15.95 72 pages

When you read the opening verse of "when the time comes to be happy, you will be happy" - you know what you'll get: "You will show all your teeth to the door/and it will open like the hole in your mother/through which you disgraced the air/for the first time. Everything is going to be//just fine..." Do you hear that crisp language, struggling dream, mission for a good life, talking to the angels? McConnell documents her time in history without cynicism: "We'll live forever again/which is to say, until anything/that can remember/is dead...." (from the poem, "this world is going to end and it's going to be fucking beautiful.")

McConnell doesn't look at the world to fix it or change its proportions or to challenge its pretty little morals and ugly hatreds - she barges ahead, into music and words without anger; and so, while calling the world out for what it is, happily, she sees us "drawn back to shore" most of the time. McConnell's a social critic describing the versatilities of life in spite of death. Life is filled with shame, freedom and fear; and with the controlled energy of masterful writing it can come out in favor of every moment, no matter.

supplication with grimy windowpane

I don't know what I'm supposed to do about the lost.
I sweep and sweep. The taxes are put away, and the hats
stacked brim to brim. The rubber ball on the radiator

just sits there. I'm alive, I'm sorry, I'm sorry.
In the bath, my body is massive: thighs, big toes, every
pointy hair. We're out of wine. Remember when the water

was a sanctuary? Come closer now. This is the part
where I tell you what's behind the glass to which
I've pressed my entire body, pink

from the bath; this is the part where you tell me how many
of your teeth are dead, where you left the cowboy
hat you pinched from the head of your sister's

outgrown doll. It's quiet here now. Give me something
I can chew on, long into the evening. An architecture
for this salt house. This bony, birdless pen.

Li Bai Rides a Celestial Dolphin Home
Tom Sexton
Univ. of Alaska Press
9781602233645 $14.95 pbk / $14.20 Kindle 58 pages

The hero of this story is the Chinese poet Li Bai back from antiquity to take an almost 5000-mile ride from Massachusetts to Alaska. We see the world through the present-day poet's eye alongside ruminations and observations by Li Bai. The Chinese series is in eight- line form used originally by Li Bai. There are additional poems where the natural world comes off the page to embrace you - starry skies, chickadees, birch trees, foxes, pears, rivers. Sexton turns his love for the ecosystem into the complexity of tone, rhyme, music - all a reverent presence.

Near Wawa, Ontario

On a trail through a stand of hemlock,
roots rising from thin soil like sea serpents
making their way to Lake Superior,
a trail I hoped led to a clearing where
years ago an Ojibway elder filled my hands
with blueberries from his coffee can,
I was looking for kindling to start a fire.
We devoured his gift in our leaking tent.

I tell myself the '60s are long gone. Thoreau
and Longfellow gather dust on a shelf.
That eagle overhead is probably a drone,
but when I reach a clearing that seems familiar,
I find a sea of small pink flowers beginning
to open. "I have more than enough," he said.

Becky Gould Gibson
The Broadkill River Press
$18.95 97 pages

Gibson brings to life the story of Lydia of Thyatira, said to be among the first converts to Christianity. She creates an ancient text in modern language, each spoken simultaneously. "The Lydian woman" talks to magazines (Christianity Today and Ms. Magazine;) modernity is interspersed with biblical passages and gospel verses. It's extraordinary when feelings become history and protestations are verbal action. The series is a study in sensitivity to faith with questions and insights we cannot prove. There's commentary enough on the tests of time: (The Road-Stone speaks to the Pilgrim) "Then, we went all the way from Dyrrachium to Byzantium, /Durres to Istanbul...Now, cast aside for scrap, curiosity seekers. For tourists/ to gape at, flip out iPhones to take photos of. /One of the oldest roads in the world. Blah, blah, blah. / But I can tell you, once upon a time, we worked. / Felt every wheel, every hoof, every tail of every lash/ striking every back..." That Gibson can work with so many different levels of progress, text, spirit, history - all together - show us her God, via Lydia, a woman.

The Road-Stone Speaks to the Pilgrim

Then, we went all the way from Dyrrachium to Byzantium,
Durres to Istanbul, if you've checked a recent map.
Now, cast aside for scrap, curiosity seekers. For tourists
to gape at, flip out iPhones to take photos of.
One of the oldest roads in the world. Blah, blah, blah.
But I can tell you, once upon a time, we worked.
Felt every wheel, every hoof, every tail of every lash
striking every back. I still love clear nights -
stars tossed like trinkets in the vast bowl of sky
when the young come to try out their bodies.
You should've seen me and my mates fresh from the quarry.
Pristine. Virginal. Straight out of that mountain.
Now everyone's practically naked. Speak in fragments.
Ride bicycles, bring water bottles, roll strollers over us.
Scrolls in knapsacks. Books in backpacks, on Kindles.
You'd think by now words would be worn out.
Papyrus wears thin, paper tears apart. One blink,
the screen goes blank. What stands the test of time?
Stone. What you're walking on. We'll be here
long after you and your words are gone. Once we stones
were glorious, the weight of empire upon us.
We moved troops, merchants; odd gods, odd notions.
That tentmaker was not the first to talk about Jesus,
to spread the Word, as he called it. Nor the last,
that's for damn sure. Like I've always known, whatever Rome
gets behind thrives. If anything on earth is eternal, it would be stone.

The way to heaven? Don't ask me!

Seduction: New Poems 2013-2018
Quincy Troupe
c/o Northwestern University Press
9780810139046 $24.95 pbk / $14.72 Kindle 107 pages

Seduction chronicles in verse, major figures of our time indelibly noted by the poet. He's the voice of his culture from Harlem's artistic world to the "wired" world of today, in vast epic passages that seem to say, if a man is what he does he'd better do it with majesty. Troupe writes beyond forgiveness or reconciliation: he's done with discussing submission or surrender in our lives, he goes right to what emboldens. In "Poem for Jack Whitten," there's a story of a man steeped in the difficulties of a segregated culture but the poem sweeps to the world of art, painting, musicians, poets, jazz, surrealism - all the redemptions that art brings - this is a grand consummate poem about a man born in Bessemer Alabama taking us through the 60s 70s 80s 90s documenting his pieces of art through 2015. You will know Jack Whitten all right. You will cross time with Quincy Troupe and you will believe this poet almost forgives the world if it can produce black artists who escape from violation to magnificence.

High Noon Shadow

eye looked in wonder as my shadow inked concrete
The behind me, it softened, then hardened its black shape
as if it were an amoeba trailing my footsteps
through the hot summer day filled with gaggles of people
at high noon in manhattan, eye listened to a sprinkling
of voices ricocheting around, airing intentions
murderous as mamba snakes, they troubled me deep down
inside my secret dreams, where eye often feel isolated
as my shadow snaking behind me, wavering over concrete

Ghost Voices: A Poem in Prayer
Quincy Troupe
c/o Northwestern University Press
9780810138995 $16.95 pbk / $9.95 Kindle 72 pages

Troupe writes slave history re-creating voices not heard before. Troupe is orator and rhetorician as well as poet, starting 400 years back. Ghost voices are terrifying echoes of those in ships, those in search, seeking, surviving. Troupe's massive speech enfolds as it tells, back and forth across time, making beauty, he shows what divides us and what triumphs.

& so each day the sun rises,
voices resurrect
the morning mist of memory
we will all be reborn one day

these fevered dreams
anchored in history,
why these voices flew
like birds in springtime,
they took us there

because we only knew

to keep on going,
seeking IT we knew
to keep on going
seeking IT


Hiram Larew
FootHills Publishing
$TBA 44 pages

Are these bubbles or words? Did e.e. cummings know he could be outdone? Freeing all the wild horses from the barn with consonants and vowels? Images wonderfully juxtaposed like your favorite dream?

(When We) "Stars on the fence just as we/How such long ago seemed like/When our eyes became as/When the moon was mostly/For everything about then was/And how we held much more than/As if shy might/As if backlit hills for once would/We knew more than/We felt all of/So how could this world be so/When if we might/More if we would/In almost then/On nights that/with fences of."

Larew's style is pure momentum. He folds lines with texture and buoyancy, everything's alive in the center of his poem: it says, all of this matters, none of this matters, it's just the cherries on a tree in Michigan, everything is just red and juicy and fleeting. The lighter the poem gets the deeper it becomes - I'm no quantum physicist but there's some energetic bargaining going on here with tone, word placement, and rhythm. Words pump, they swing, they talk, they sing. Larew twists language into meanings it never expected. Language may never know what hit it. Hiram Larew can change the future.


I want to my days to be smeared
and my nows blurred

I want the future and past
to kiss and make up over drinks

I want clocks to wink
and time to misbehave like it's supposed to

I want long ago to burp like a baby
to start at the end
and to be completely behind when ahead.

I want everything to quickly slow
somehow like the hours and days of my confetti -
backwards but forwards up and down
true and alarmed.

Mostly I want to know what I mean
in reverse
and to love whatever is mixed
I want luck to cheat at my poker game
while the dealer smokes and grins.


Edited by Gianna Jacobson
December Publishing
$TBA 222 pages

The 60th Anniversary Issue! Begun in 1958, and after a publishing hiatus was restored to life by Jacobsen. This magazine is physically beautiful, bursting with fresh minds and writings in poetry and prose. The visual arts add color and energy. Fiction and non-fiction are accompanied by interviews - in this issue Robert Lowes interviews novelist Jesse Lee Kercheval. december is book, rather than magazine, flourishing with the seasoned Marvin Bell, Albert Goldbarth and Marge Piercy, or someone never heard before. Here's a poem by Katie Manning:

The Book of Relation
All that remains of Revelation

name will be
as clear as
down the middle of the

these words
a lamp

you are

I am
the one who

What Is Poetry?
Michael Rosen
Candlewick Press
9781536201598 $15.99 hc 179 pages
9781536201581 $7.99 pbk

This is called "The Essential Guide..." and I think ESSENTIAL is the key word. When is it early enough to introduce the poem as a friend? One who has thought what the child has thought, felt, noticed? Young people think they're alone in their observations and impressions; what a gift to show that reading makes us less lonely; and everyone has the chance to write poetry for him/herself. There are great poems as examples, whimsical line drawings, some technical points, but more than anything - the permission. Teachers, you're no longer at a loss in approaching this not-so-mystical experience.

Art Matters
Neil Gaiman, author
Illustrated by Chris Riddell
William Morrow & Company
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
195 Broadway New York, New York 10007
9780062906205 $19.99 hc / $12.99 Kindle

If Neil Gaiman says "Art Matters" we can believe him because he's unleashed some of imagination's most magnificent marvels; and here, the best of cartoonists, Chris Riddell, joins up to visualize his call to action. Gaiman is the ambassador of dreaming, reading and making things up. I don't know what age group this book is for but it works for me as well as my grandchildren so I guess our author is right: spirit can't be measured, boxed up, and counted. Let it out. It'll come back to light up your room, house, world. And what we like most is Gaiman always tells the truth:

The problems of success.
They're real, and with luck you'll experience
them. The point where you stop saying yes
to everything, because now the bottles you
threw in the ocean are all coming back,
and have to learn to say no.

Nearing Ninety
Judith Viorst
Simon and Schuster
9781501197086 $17.00 hc / $10.99 Kindle 73 pages

It seems just a minute ago I was reading Viorst's It's Hard to Be Hip Over Thirty... That was one of her thirteen books of poetry (plus twenty-three children's books, and nine "others.") Well, by my count that was 60 years ago, and she's stronger and truer and funnier, sweeter and sassier than ever. Laura Gibson illustrates these foibles of late love, impending knee replacements, putting car keys in the freezer...and each chapter has an epigraph by a great thinker or writer, adding heft to humor (sometimes much the same). These anecdotes strike at the heart of each moment, and beneath the laughter line we hear: "Goodbye Goodbye/please don't cry."

My Stuff

The trouble is I really love my stuff,
Especially the stuff that's stashed in my basement,
Like that trunkful of 78s that I haven't listened to in over seventy years,
When the Andrew Sisters rang "Rum and Coca Cola,"
And Sinatra sang "Full Moon and Empty Arms,"
And I forget who sang "Chattanooga Choo Choo,"
All of them played on what we called a Victrola
In the sun parlor - always my childhood's favorite room,
Where built-in shelves held my Oz books, The Secret Garden,
The Count of Monte Cristo, the Nancy Drews,
All of them also safely stashed in the basement
Of the house I live in now, and am leaving now,
Except - how can I leave without my stuff?

Sweet Herbaceous Miracle
Berwyn Moore
BkMk Press
c/o Univ. of Missouri-Kansas City
9781943491162 $13.35 pbk 80 pages

Berwyn Moore is an elegant delicious poet. She takes the things of this worn-out frayed world and breathes sweet miracles everywhere. I love the way she can even write of rats and show what voice poetry is made of, the use of language, how it works, each line striking the right chord for the next. This book's a keeper and Moore's a new favorite.

Life Goals

let's begin with twilight tweaker,
forest ranger, big city foot-courier,
ramekin washer, antique duster,
living mannequin (coiffed and windless),
peanut packer, hem presser, skeet shooter,
mattress tester, ash artist (portraits only).
I would have settled for egg flipper,
blue hair shampooer, hay stacker,
collector of pure (so many dogs)!
snake milker, mud-lark, barn mucker,
leech collector, sin-eater, tick tweezer -
anything, O beloved, O grandest dame -
anything but this: your thistle, your dread,
your thirst, the creases in your forehead.


Woman in Red Anorak
Marc Harshman
Lynx House Press
9780899241616 $17.95 62 pages

West Virginia's beloved Poet Laureate, children's author, with a new book of poems.

Woman in Red Anorak

It was a small lake surrounded by black spruce,
but for a few seconds it blossomed
with a splintering of sunlight,
every soft slosh of wave flaming.
There floated a small stone island near the shore.
Upon it stood a man.
If you look close, you can see there's a small puddle
from last night's rain into which he's been staring
for hours.

As when a man is dreaming of war,
and the shells of thunder, and sweat pours
through the sheets and pools beneath him,
he is a fountain, and will forget the pain
long enough to fear
he has gone missing again.

He hears his mother shouting from the edge of the forest.

The flags atop the courthouse snap as sharp as gunshots.
He takes off his hat and wipes the sweat from his brow.
There had been a woman in a red anorak standing with him,
standing in the middle of a sea just before a storm.
Then came lightning, falling mirrors, the quiet after,
the believing.

What Lies Beyond
Judith Farr
Deerbrook Editions
9780999106280 $15.95 59 pages

Dickinson scholar and famed author turns new poems.

Excerpted From "Five Poems Inspired by Five Paintings," poem five:

On Rembrandt Van Ryn, "Self-Portrait"
Old man, I gave you my youth.
Warm summer days, and you repaid me.
I know your debts, fears, women. See:
Despite centuries, the tutored or uncouth
Stay, watchful, before your portrait.
The guards watch. The people wait.
It is yourself they wait for, what paint
Cannot do, they expect. And I, my taint
Of need so corruptive in my flesh,
I too, await your dark coming, coming
Down from this dark framing, turning
Toward me (as I dream it), solving
All my anguish you, your fresh
Hopes gone, your clenched hands burning.

To Those Who Were Our First Gods
Nickole Brown
Rattle Foundation
$TBA 44 pages

Brown is a savior of wild creatures, a lover of animals, an angel in waiting, a rescuer, a story teller. Part One from the five-page title poem, "To Those Who Were Our First Gods: An Offering:"

To Those Who Were Our First Gods: An Offering

Samson, I admit it: I flirted with you
in Sunday School, crayoned tan your He-Man pecs,
picked the box's best to dye bright
your Pantene-perfect waves. But even then, I didn't touch

those kamikaze columns, left blank those two
marble pillars snapped with your sledgehammer fists
to crush a whole damn crowd. Yes, even then

I was a real red-letter girl
timid in the back pew, hiding behind the blue cloak
of the only one I ever felt safe enough to pray to -

HailMary, keep me from Judges
and every other book in the OT
gut-piled and slick as a slaughterhouse floor;

dear MaryMotherOf, save me from
those men like him who slit
the throats of lambs then struck
a pyre to burn the poor beasts, calling
what they've done a sacrifice.

Crude Angel
Suzanne Cleary
BkMk Press
c/o Univ. of Missouri-Kansas City
9781943491179 $13.95 pbk 88 pages

Anyone who can write a poem about Lawrence Welk and make it pull with truth has my vote. She can write about horses, denim jackets, or Degas - poetry master of any subject.

Edward Hopper's Paint Box

When you see Edward Hopper's paint box
your first thought is tetanus, the rusted razor blades
for sharpening pencils, the painting knives
like tiny sand-blasted pie-servers, for applying paint
impasto, for working oils while wet.

You might stare happily at the scraps of sandpaper,
at the brittle-bristled brushes still flecked
with gray-shot yellows, with greens infused with blue,
but who, you think, would willingly take into her hand

Even the pencil, even the small cotton rag,
and risk what they exact?

Grace Cavalieri, Reviewer & Maryland's Poet Laureate
Washington Independent Review of Books

Julie's Bookshelf

Visions of the Rapture and Unseen Realm
Glenda Dumas
Balboa Press
c/o Hay House, Inc.
PO Box 5100, Carlsbad, CA 92018-5100
9781504368070, $30.95, HC, 164pp,

Synopsis: "Visions of the Rapture and Unseen Realm: While Experiencing a Life Similar to Job's and Visions Beyond the Veil, an Angel Showed Me the Rapture" is a compilation of angelic metaphysical communications personally experienced by Glenda Dumas. The subject of these visions is the Rapture. Glenda also cites a number of verses that are taken directly from the Bible to support her visions.

Critique: An inherently fascinating read from first page to last, "Visions of the Rapture and Unseen Realm" is an extraordinary account and one that is unreservedly recommended for anyone with an interest in Christian Metaphysics in general, and the Rapture in particular. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Visions of the Rapture and Unseen Realm" is also available in a paperback edition (9781504368056, $12.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).

The History of British and American Author-Publishers
Anna Faktorovich
Anaphora Literary Press
1898 Athens Street, Brownsville, TX 78520
9781681143736, $20.00, PB, 370pp,

Synopsis: The mainstream publishing industry has popularized the stereotype that "self-published" books are inferior to "traditional" ones because the author does not receive an advance and the services provided are less professional. The reality is that the Big Four publishers attained their enormous market share by at least initially relying on author subsidies.

"The History of British and American Author-Publishers" by Anna Faktorovich describes the road some of the world's top authors took to self-publication.

Charles Dickens self-published A Tale of Two Cities in his periodical, All the Year Round.

Sir Walter Scott published most of his fiction and poetry with Constantine and Ballantyne, who publishers in which he was heavily invested. Scott's self-publications included his best-selling Waverley series, which established the historical novel genre with Ballantyne.

The Liberal only survived for a few issues, and yet its founders, Lord Byron and Percy Shelley, published outstanding radical works in its pages: "The Vision of Judgment" and "Lines to a Critic."

Virginia and Leonard Woolf's Hogarth Press published nearly all of Virginia's writings; these works are still used by feminists and birthed the stream of consciousness movement (a style that was too unique for "mainstream" publishers).

Edgar Allan Poe spent a lifetime working to create his own independent journal, only succeeding in a brief ownership of the Broadway Journal, a power he used to speak out against plagiarism with pieces such as, "Voluminous History of the Little Longfellow War."

Herman Melville paid Harper $29,571 for 350 copies of Clarel.

Mark Twain spent $1.3 million (in today's money) to print Old Times on the Mississippi with J. R. Osgood.

Henry Luce and Briton Hadden started Time Inc. and Time because they were frustrated reporters seeking more power and independence.

Dudley Randall founded the Broadside Press in part to publish his own books like Cities Burning.

Alice Walker published an introduction to The Spirit Journey after founding a press with her lover, Wild Trees Press, and might have kept it going longer if major publishers did not start snatching up all of her own innovative full-length works.

Without author-publishers: the sun would still revolve around the earth (Galileo) and book printing would lack exquisite artistic details (Rembrandt). And Americans would still be living in the colonies of the United Kingdom (Benjamin Franklin).

Critique: A unique and extraordinary history of self-publishing that is impressively detailed, exceptionally informative, and ultimately inspiring, "The History of British and American Author-Publishers" is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Writing/Publishing collections, and is an inherently fascinating read from beginning to end. Simply stated, "The History of British and American Author-Publishers" should be on the personal reading list of every practicing or aspiring self-published author.

Editorial Note: Anna Faktorovich is the Director and Founder of the Anaphora Literary Press. Previously, she taught for four years at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania and the Middle Georgia State College. She has a Ph.D. in English Literature and Criticism. She published two academic books with McFarland: Rebellion as Genre in the Novels of Scott, Dickens and Stevenson (2013) and The Formulas of Popular Fiction: Elements of Fantasy, Science Fiction, Romance, Religious and Mystery Novels (2014). She edits and writes for the Pennsylvania Literary Journal and the Cinematic Codes Review. She won the MLA Bibliography, Kentucky Historical Society and Brown University Military Collection fellowships.

One Breath at a Time
J. Dana Trent
Upper Room Books
PO Box 340004, Nashville, TN 37203-0003
9780835818551, $12.99, PB, 112pp,

Synopsis: In secular mainstream America, meditation has become as ubiquitous as yoga. But how does meditation fit into Christianity, and how does it differ from prayer?

In the pages of "One Breath at a Time: A Skeptic's Guide to Christian Meditation", J. Dana Trent (who is a member of the humanities faculty at Wake Tech Community College, Raleigh, NC) reframes meditation for those who are skeptical because they doubt their ability to be still and quiet and they doubt the validity of meditation as a Christian spiritual practice.

Using scripture, theology, and examples from the early church, "One Breath at a Time" challenges the prayer habits of Christians that leave little room for enough silence to experience and listen for God.

Using five approaches (breath meditation, lectio divina, centering meditation, loving-kindness meditation, and devotional meditation) "One Breath at a Time" provides a practical, 40-day guide to beginning and sustaining a Christian meditation practice in an often chaotic world.

Critique: Of special relevance to all members of the Christian community regardless of their denominational affiliation, "One Breath at a Time: A Skeptic's Guide to Christian Meditation" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "One Breath at a Time" provides a scriptural, theological, and scientific case for Christian mediation and features illustrative stories drawn from Dana Trent's own personal experiences. Providing a thoroughly 'user friendly', step-by-step approach, "One Breath at a Time" is unreservedly recommended as a life-enhancing, life-affirming, life-enriching read from beginning to end.

Counter Culture: Clams, Convents and a Circle of Global Citizens
Eleanor Dunfey-Freiburger
Peter E. Randall Publisher
9781942155157 $29.95

Synopsis: When LeRoy 'Roy" Dunfey called out "Hey...Dunfey" in his fried clam restaurant in the 1940s, at least seven of his twelve children would turn around. Then he'd point to the one he needed without having to remember names. Roy and Catherine 'Kate' Manning had met and married thirty years earlier as teenage workers in Lowell, Massachusetts textile mills. With little formal education or resources, but with a store of humor, entrepreneurial zest, and spiritual roots, they collared the American dream starting out in 1915 with Dunfey's Orchestra, a luncheonette, and a baby every two years through the Great Depression to the doorstep of World War II.

Written by their twelfth child, this saga reveals the lasting influence her parents had on each of their dozen kids: around the kitchen table digesting political fare; over restaurant counters meeting a diverse world of people; into and out of convents serving as educators; on to Boston's Parker House, Omni International Hotel boardrooms, and, for forty-five years, still around the table of the family's not-for-profit Global Citizens Circle's civil dialogues.

Critique: Counter Culture is the true-life story of an American mill town family that inspired its twelve children to make a difference worldwide. (The tongue-in-cheek title wryly refers to the counter of a beloved restaurant frequented by the family, not the culture of the 1960's hippies.) A saga of faith, family values, hard work, and dedication to service, Counter Culture is singularly memorable and inspiring. Vintage black-and-white photographs illustrate this lovingly crafted tribute, written by the youngest of the twelve children. Highly recommended.

Julie Summers

Logan's Bookshelf

Ultimate Speed
Samuel Hawley
Chicago Review Press
814 North Franklin Street, Chicago, IL 60610
9781641600200, $30.00, HC, 304pp,

Synopsis: An L.A. hot-rodder with a high school education, a family to support, and almost no money, Craig Breedlove set out in the late 1950s to do something big: harness the thrust of a jet in a car. With a growing obsession that would ultimately cost him his marriage, he started building in his dad's garage. The car's name was Spirit of America.

Through perseverance and endless hard work, Craig completed Spirit and broke the land speed record on the Bonneville Salt Flats, setting a new mark of 407 mph in 1963.

He went on to be the first person to drive 500 and 600 mph, breaking the land speed record five times.

In the early 1970s he turned to rockets and set an acceleration record at Bonneville that stands to this day. He built a jet car in the 1990s, Spirit of America - Sonic Arrow, to go head to head against Britain's ThrustSSC to be the first to Mach 1. Craig's subsequent crash at 675 mph remains the fastest in history.

Even today, at the age of eighty, he is going strong with plans for yet another Spirit of America racer. The ultimate goal: 1,000 mph.

"Ultimate Speed: The Fast Life and Extreme Cars of Racing Legend Craig Breedlove" by Samuel Hawley is the authorized biography of Craig Breedlove -- and features a foreword by Craig himself. A candid revelation of one of motorsports' most interesting figures, "Ultimate Speed" is based primarily on countless hours of interviews with Craig and dozens of people connected to his life.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Ultimate Speed" is a simply fascinating read and one that will be especially appreciated by car racing and automotive speed record setting fans. While especially and unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Contemporary American Biography collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Ultimate Speed" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $19.99).

The New Chicago Way
Ed Bachrach & Austin Ray Berg
Southern Illinois University Press
1915 University Press Drive, SIUC Mail Code 6806, Carbondale, IL 62901
9780809337514, $19.50, PB, 188pp,

Synopsis: For the past few decades Chicago is a city that has become infamous for its racially-based violence, police abuse, parent and teacher unrest, population decline, drug epidemics, and mounting municipal and pension debt.

Ed Bachrach is the retired CEO of Bachrach Clothing and the founder and president of the Center for Pension Integrity in Chicago. His op-eds have been published in the Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, and Chicago Sun Times.

Austin Berg, an award-winning writer, is the director of content strategy at the Illinois Policy Institute. He contributes opinion columns to the Illinois News Network and wrote the documentary film Madigan: Power. Privilege. Politics.

Together Bachrach and Berg have collaboratively written "The New Chicago Way: Lessons from Other Big Cities" with the basic premise being that the underlying problem is that deliberative democracy is dead in the city.

Chicago is home to the last strongman political system in urban America. The mayor holds all the power, and any perceived checks on mayoral control are often proven illusory. Rash decisions have resulted in poor outcomes. The outrageous consequences of unchecked power are evident in government failures in elections, schools, fiscal discipline, corruption, public support for private enterprise, policing, and more.

Rather than simply lament the situation, criticize specific leaders, or justify an ideology, Bachrach and Berg compare the decisions about Chicago's governance and finances with choices made in fourteen other large U.S. cities. The problems that seem unique to Chicago have been encountered elsewhere, and Chicagoans, the authors posit, can learn from the successful solutions other cities have embraced.

Chicago government and its citizens must let go of the past to prepare for the future, argue Bachrach and Berg. A future filled with demographic, technological, and economic change requires a government capable of responding and adapting. Reforms can transform the city. The prescriptions for change provided in the pages of "The New Chicago Way" point toward a hopeful and remedied future.

Critique: The produce of exceptional scholarship in terms of research, organization and presentation, "The New Chicago Way: Lessons from Other Big Cities" is an extraordinary and seminal study that is as informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking. "The New Chicago Way" especially commended to the attention of Chicago-based political and social activists, city and state governmental policy makers, and political science students, as well as non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject. This paperback edition from the Southern Illinois University Press is unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Contemporary American Political Science collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

Systems Engineering of Phased Arrays
Rick Sturdivant, Clifton Quan, Enson Chang
Artech House
685 Canton Street, Norwood, MA 02062
9781630814885, $169.00, HC, 300pp,

In antenna theory, a phased array usually means an electronically scanned array, a computer-controlled array of antennas which creates a beam of radio waves that can be electronically steered to point in different directions without moving the antennas. In an array antenna, the radio frequency current from the transmitter is fed to the individual antennas with the correct phase relationship so that the radio waves from the separate antennas add together to increase the radiation in a desired direction, while cancelling to suppress radiation in undesired directions. In a phased array, the power from the transmitter is fed to the antennas through devices called phase shifters, controlled by a computer system, which can alter the phase electronically, thus steering the beam of radio waves to a different direction.

Since the array must consist of many small antennas (sometimes thousands) to achieve high gain, phased arrays are mainly practical at the high frequency end of the radio spectrum, in the UHF and microwave bands, in which the antenna elements are conveniently small.

Phased arrays were invented for use in military radar systems, to scan the radar beam quickly across the sky to detect planes and missiles. These phased array radar systems are now widely used, and phased arrays are spreading to civilian applications. The phased array principle is also used in acoustics, and phased arrays of acoustic transducers are used in medical ultrasound imaging scanners (phased array ultrasonics), oil and gas prospecting (reflection seismology), and military sonar systems.

The term is also used to a lesser extent for unsteered array antennas in which the phase of the feed power and thus the radiation pattern of the antenna is fixed. For example, AM broadcast radio antennas consisting of multiple mast radiators fed so as to create a specific radiation pattern are also called "phased arrays".

Phased arrays are now being used or proposed for use in internet of things (IoT) networks, high-speed back haul communication, terabit-per-second satellite systems, 5G mobile networks, and mobile phones. "Systems Engineering of Phased Arrays" considers systems engineering of phased arrays and addresses not only radar, but also these modern applications. It presents a system-level perspective and approach that is essential for the successful development of modern phased arrays.

Critique: The collaborative project of Rick Sturdivant (Assistant Professor of Engineering, Azusa pacific University, Azusa, CA); Clifton Quan (Senior Member of the IEEE and holder of 71 U.S. patents on antennas and antenna systems); and Enson Chang (Assistant Professor in Physics, Azusa pacific University), "Systems Engineering Of Phased Arrays" is impressively organized and accessibly presented, making it an ideal curriculum textbook on phased arrays and an unreservedly recommended addition to professional, corporate, governmental, and academic library Modern Technology collections in general, and Radar supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

Carl Logan

Margaret's Bookshelf

The Sisters Hemingway
Annie England Noblin
William Morrow & Company
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
195 Broadway New York, New York 10007
9780062674517 $15.99 pbk / $10.99 Kindle

Synopsis: The Hemingway Sisters of Cold River, Missouri are local legends. Raised by a mother obsessed with Ernest Hemingway, they were named after the author's four wives - Hadley, Pfeiffer, Martha, and Mary. The sisters couldn't be more different - or more alike. Now they're back in town, reunited to repair their fractured relationships.

Hadley is the poised, polished wife of a senator.

Pfeiffer is a successful New York book editor.

Martha has skyrocketed to Nashville stardom.

They each have a secret - a marriage on the rocks, a job lost, a stint in rehab...and they haven't been together in years.

Together, they must stay in their childhood home, faced with a puzzle that may affect all their futures. As they learn the truth of what happened to their mother - and their youngest sister, Mary - they rekindle the bonds they had as children, bonds that have long seemed broken. With the help of neighbors, friends, love interests old and new - and one endearing and determined Basset Hound - the Sisters Hemingway learn that he happiness that has appeared so elusive may be right here at home, waiting to be claimed.

Critique: The Sisters Hemingway is an absorbing novel about the bonds of sisterhood. Three sisters, who lost a beloved fourth sister when they were younger, have reunited after years away from their former home in the Missouri Ozarks. Each is troubled by a sour turn in her life; now, brought together by the funeral of the eccentric aunt who raised them, they have the opportunity to aid and learn from one another in this trying season of their lives. Engaging to the very end, The Sisters Hemingway is highly recommended, especially for public library General Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that The Sisters Hemingway is also available in a Kindle edition ($10.99).

Say What You Mean
Oren Jay Sofer
Shambhala Publications, Inc.
300 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, MA 02115-4544
9781611805833 $16.95 pbk / $12.99 Kindle

Synopsis: We spend so much of our lives talking to each other, but how much are we simply running on automatic - relying on old habits and hoping for the best? Are we able to truly hear others and speak our mind in a clear and kind way, without needing to get defensive or go on the attack? In this groundbreaking synthesis of mindfulness, somatics, and Nonviolent Communication, Oren Jay Sofer offers simple yet powerful practices to develop healthy, effective, and satisfying ways of communicating.

The techniques in Say What You Mean will help you to:

* Feel confident during conversation
* Stay focused on what really matters in an interaction
* Listen for the authentic concerns behind what others say
* Reduce anxiety before and during difficult conversations
* Find nourishment in day-to-day interactions

Critique: Say What You Mean: A Mindful Approach to Nonviolent Communication lives up to its title with tips, tricks, and techniques to say what is needed without escalating into an argument. For example, learning how to state neutral observations rather than emotional judgements is a valuable communication skill. "To determine if something is an observation, ask yourself, 'Could this be caught on film?' A camera registers movement sound. It can't record someone 'behaving coldly.'" Say What You Mean is highly recommended for both public library and personal self-help collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Say What You Mean is also available in a Kindle edition ($12.99).

The Seamstress
Allison Pittman
Tyndale House Publishers
351 Executive Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188
9781414390468 $14.99 pbk / $4.99 Kindle

Synopsis: A beautifully crafted story breathes life into the cameo character from the classic novel A Tale of Two Cities.

France, 1788
It is the best of times...

On a tranquil farm nestled in the French countryside, two orphaned cousins - Renee and Laurette - have been raised under the caring guardianship of young Emile Gagnon, the last of a once-prosperous family. No longer starving girls, Laurette and Renee now spend days tending Gagnon's sheep, and nights in their cozy loft, whispering secrets and dreams in this time of waning innocence and peace.

It is the worst of times...

Paris groans with a restlessness that can no longer be contained within its city streets. Hunger and hatred fuel her people. Violence seeps into the ornate halls of Versailles. Even Gagnon's table in the quiet village of Mouton Blanc bears witness to the rumbles of rebellion, where Marcel Moreau embodies its voice and heart.

It is the story that has never been told.

In one night, the best and worst of fate collide. A chance encounter with a fashionable woman will bring Renee's sewing skills to light and secure a place in the court of Queen Marie Antoinette. An act of reckless passion will throw Laurette into the arms of the increasingly militant Marcel. And Gagnon, steadfast in his faith in God and country, can only watch as those he loves march straight into the heart of the revolution.

Critique: Reinterpreting Charles Dickens' classic novel "A Tale of Two Cities" through the eyes of one of its lesser-known characters, The Seamstress: A Novel is a sweeping work of historical fiction. Deftly crafted with close attention to detail, The Seamstress brings an era of turmoil, rebellion, and hope to vivid life, and is highly recommended especially to connoisseurs of the genre and for public library General Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that The Seamstress is also available in a Kindle edition ($4.99).

Smile! Be Happy!
Angela Larosa
Legacy Projects
9781987621778 $14.99 pbk / $9.99 Kindle

Synopsis: Being a housewife is challenging -- managing a home, assisting a husband in business, and raising four children, not to mention taking care of yourself, which is the focus and heart of this inspirational book. Since losing her mother as a child, Angela LaRosa has brought hope and optimism to every aspect of her life. And with her bold and durable commitment to God, she enjoys a life of beautiful fulfillment, and is now proud to share what she has learned.

Critique: Smile! Be Happy! Life Lessons from an Uncommon Housewife is candid memoir about the crucial responsibilities of author Angela Larosa's daily life as a housewife and mother, raising four children, and assisting her husband in business. Of particular interest is her straightforward testimony about the challenges of raising a son diagnosed with autism. Chapters speak of her abiding faith in God, the importance of communication, and of finding balance in one's life. "'Please' and 'thank you' are essential keys to effective communication. These words have more of an impact on your life than you might imagine. They will empower you and your effect on others. Everyone desires respect, and using these 'magic' words is the first sign that you know about respect." Smile! Be Happy! is an uplifting and enlightening read from cover to cover, highly recommended.

Margaret Lane

Mari's Bookshelf

The Summer Abroad
Ivan Brave
Self Published
9780998036410, $14.99, 329 Pages

Ivan Brave's The Summer Abroad is a sonic speed dating session through Europe. A whirlwind of encounters with cities large and small yields an artful appreciation of Home.

In 2013, Mikail, Rick and Alex celebrate graduating (or, almost) from the University of Texas at Austin, with travel. The itinerary begins in Amsterdam. A few stops later, Rick and Mikail meet up with Alex. After several weeks of non-stop drinking, drugs, meeting and hooking up with several girls at hostels in spontaneously chosen destinations, the three friends drift in different directions. Solo in Barcelona, Mikail, the narrator, faces the questions about the future he's been avoiding during the trip. Solitude and the Virgin Mary on Montserrat say it's time to go home. The plot completes a satisfying arc from carefree wandering, to angst, to a thoughtful conclusion.

Although no character is as well developed as Mikail, none is a foil, either. Rick and Alex hold their own as independent hombres. As many attractive women as the boys lust after, each is strong and distinct. A favorite is The Queen, a theatrical Brit. "'I would love it if you bought me a drink!' The Queen lowered a faced up palm behind her back, to the hunter character, and received a hidden high-five to celebrate another lured unsuspecting character" (166). The characters make lasting impressions, even if fleeting.

The novel plays with language. Many sentences are strings of words, like a rap or skat or a poem, more musical than grammatical. Spanish is sprinkled throughout the text (Mikail is half Angentinian). A few sentences here and there, becomes longer passages in Barcelona, not only because of Spain, but because Spanish is Mikail's mother's tongue, and he's thinking more about home and family. He says about language, "American [as opposed to English] was developed at the signing of the Declaration of Independence by men who spoke French, Spanish, Dutch, and read Latin.... [L]et's learn another language" (278). What's native to Mikail is a mix of languages and cultures all influencing him.

The book also toys with point of view. Mikail addresses places as "she," showing his intimate relationship with settings. When he first addresses "you," it seems to mean the audience, but it later becomes clear that "you" points back to himself. The novel cleverly makes its main point through cutting edge language use: becoming a subject, an adult, is being both "I" as well as "you," an actor and acted upon, giver and taker, sharer and listener, tourist and settled, in short, "multiconfundido."

Reminiscent of Ben Lerner's innovative novel, Leaving Atocha Station, The Summer Abroad is an artistic coming of age story, a global evolution painted in vibrant hues and daring strokes.

His Sweet
Hildur Sif Thorarensen
Antonov Publishing
9789935944900, $7.99, 177 pps

From the Icelandic author of Nordic noir series, Loner, comes His Sweet. Set in Alabama, this chilling detective story is warmed by tender friendships.

After a miscarriage and subsequent separation from her boyfriend, Sheriff Yolanda is all the more determined to save an abducted girl. The girl's journals found in an old barn reveal years of brutal captivity soon to end, either in death or release, depending on the efforts of Yolanda and her crime-fighting team.

The short book toggles between journal entries and a blow-by-blow account of the unfolding case. With each excerpt from the innocent writings of a magic-loving girl who comes to appreciate her father's strictness while she's holed up in a madman's basement, a hunger for justice grows. The alternating chapters are full of suspense, as the investigation takes one step forward and two steps back. Tension really builds in the second part of the book when the journal entries disappear, making the girl's endangerment all the more pronounced. The showdown at the end packs a punch, both in violence and relief.

That the outcome is predictable is not a criticism; rather, the novel is short and satisfying, with a dynamic combination of lurid crime met with loving concern and professionalism. Yolanda and other female characters stand out as model citizens. The Scandinavian author's descriptions of the American South, in its accents, tastes, humor and biases, are an accurate and witty outsider's perspective. A hopeful end to a hopeless situation equals a successful second novel by Hildur Sif Thorarensen.

Cool That Volcano: How to Help Children Stay Calm, Manage Anger, and Master Emotions
Peter Black
CPW Media Ltd
1986036111, $9.99, paperback

Using a simple analogy, Cool That Volcano is a no-nonsense approach to helping children with their emotions.

The book's aim is clearly laid out: to systematically and effectively guide moments of emotional outburst. The first section introduces the analogy and method. Emotions are like internal volcanoes that can erupt when triggered. Icebergs are strategies that help cool volatility. The second section is most helpful, including "cooling" tools and volcano "maintenance" tips and motivation. The third section describes how parents can create a healthy environment that encourages emotional intelligence, by observing patterns, engaging with kids about their feelings and managing their own emotions. The book promises positive outcomes if implemented.

The outline is simple, if not repetitive. Chapters begin and end with unnecessary recaps. Its repeated, "don't panic," has the opposite effect, drawing attention to the gravity of parental responsibility. Injunctives to "take control" and "don't delay," undercut the otherwise trial and error spirit, emphasizing results over experimentation and light-heartedness. The book struggles to strike the tricky balance between the imperative to deal with difficult situations and parenting in a relaxed and playful manner.

A brief overview of psychological concepts for quick application in tantrum-like situations, best for parents of 5-10 year olds.

Messy Grace
Caleb Kaltenbach
WaterBrook Press
9781601427366, $14.99

Caleb Kaltenbach's Messy Grace: How A Pastor with Gay Parents Learned to Love Others Without Sacrificing Conviction is an argument based on life experience and the Bible, emphasizing conviction over love.

Pastor Kaltenbach grew up between two gay households. During school, he lived with his closeted father, a university professor. Holidays, weekends and summers he spent with his professor mother and her female partner. As a teen, in an attempt to understand and combat Christians' hate for his parents and their friends, he began to attend a church. His infiltration of the enemy backfired when he converted instead, ironically "coming out" to his parents as a Christian. Now, as a pastor and DMin candidate, he evangelizes gay people.

The book argues clearly and succinctly, in twelve short chapters, each concluding with discussion questions. The message is simple: "Love is the tension of grace and truth." Grace is God's unfailing forgiveness and mercy. Truth is Biblical teaching on how to manifest God's plan in the world. Love is the mess that occurs as people accept God's grace by living in truth, that is, reconciling sinful acts with discipleship.

This theology is too tidy for a book about messy grace. The title hides a divisive agenda.
The book's use of "us" and "them" obscures love. "We" engage not only the GLBT community, but any group of non-believers, to direct "them" to God's side. The "mission" is to "pursue" and not "lose" people. In other words, the book's argument rests on the premise of a battle its team (the Christians) means to win. Does that sound like love?

Love is further sullied by the way "messy" is used. The messy gospel "isn't messy actually, but looks messy when it goes to work in messy lives." A mess that only looks messy but is really a tool to use on people as though we're machines is not convincing. Did Jesus actually offer his body and his blood (his mess) as salvation, or did he just appear to in order to get us on his "winning" side? Real mess matters. At his mother's partner's funeral, the author complains that the stories people told about her "were just that: stories. What counted was who she knew on the other side of eternity." Stories, as this book attests, change people's lives. Why belittle them? People's messy stories - our lives - deserve real attention, not God's work masquerading as a mess in order to appeal to the masses.

The book's polemical language ("us" and "them," as well as what's actual versus "just" a story) undercuts its goal to reach out in love to people outside the church.

Hear Our Defeats
Laurent Gaude?
Translated from French by Alison Anderson
Europa Editions
9781609455002, $17.00, 224 pps

Laurent Gaude?'s Hear our Defeats reads like a canticle.

The novel is bookended by the primary stories of Assem, a French intelligence officer sent to "neutralize" a US Special Forces agent gone rogue. Assem spends an unforgettable night before he receives this assignment with Mariam, an Iraqi archaeologist committed to saving artifacts being destroyed by ISIS, one of which she secretly gifts to Assem. Assem and Mariam's threads are punctuated by stories of Hannibal's battle against ancient Rome, Haile Selassie's rise and fall, and Grant's bloody victories during the American civil war.

Each chapter is named by a setting in which most of the action takes place, although not at the same time. For example, in the chapter Addis Ababa, Assem meets with Job, the Special Forces agent, post-2011, and Selassie returns from exile, 1941. The chapter also includes bits of narrative from Hannibal, who, like Selassie plans his next move into a new era, circa 218 BC. Given that these dates are not in the text, this fluid back and forth acts as a mellifluous conversation transcending time and place. The lack of dates and frequent switching of contexts also makes the book a little confusing.

History plays a personified role in the story. It is often capitalized, like it is a force of its own, a decider of fates. Assem feels "sucked in" by History, by what it's put him through. He feels his words have been taken from him by History. Mariam helps him regain some control with her relic, a concrete sign that all is not lost. So, too, Assem helps Mariam regain delight in her withering body. To History, Assem says "hear our defeats." Prayer-like, the phrase is an invitation to become one of "our," to add to his and Mariam's ongoing story of victory and defeat in the face of indifferent History.

A hopeful and probing literary gem by Goncourt Prize-winner, Laurent Gaude?, Hear Our Defeats is a dignified plea to engage with History.

Mari Carlson, Reviewer

Mason's Bookshelf

Man Up: How to Cut the Bullshit and Kick Ass in Business (and in Life)
Bedros Keuilian
BenBella Books
10300 N. Central Expressway, Ste 400, Dallas, TX 75204
9781946885036 $24.95 hc / $0.99 Kindle

Synopsis: After years of coaching and consulting hundreds of startup rookies as well as seasoned entrepreneurs, executives, and CEOs, Bedros Keuilian realized that most people who want to start a business, grow an existing business, author a book, make more money, or make a bigger impact usually take the long, slow, painful way to get there . . . and more than 80 percent of entrepreneurs never get to their desired destination or achieve their full potential in business. They treat their dream as if it were merely a hobby and dip their toes in the water, but they never commit to diving in - you get the idea.

It's time to cut the bullshit excuses. Everyone has a gift, a purpose. It's your duty to figure out what your gift is and how you're going to share it with the world.

Man Up: How to Cut the Bullshit and Kick Ass in Business (and in Life) is your guide to doing exactly that. Keuilian, founder and CEO of Fit Body Boot Camp and known as the "hidden genius" behind many of the most successful brands and businesses throughout multiple industries, will show you how to break out of the sea of mediocrity, get singularly focused on your purpose, and do what it takes - not only to achieve but dominate your goals.

With Keuilian's no-nonsense approach in both business and personal spheres, you'll be able to define your purpose and have clarity of vision - and a plan - to make the quantum leap. Whether it's creating and growing a company, leaving a legacy, making a difference, or launching a new brand, you will discover how to use your passion, purpose, and sheer grit to overcome any adversity that attempts to derail your progress.

If there's an area of your life in which you need to man up, this book will get you there.

Critique: Thoroughly accessible to readers of all backgrounds (and both genders!), Man Up: How to Cut the Bullshit and Kick Ass in Business (and in Life) is a visionary self-help guide to focusing on one's goal with laser precision. Entrepreneur, consultant, and digital marketing expert Bedros Keuilian offers motivational tips, tricks, and techniques to achieve one's goals in business or in everyday life. Highly recommended! It should be noted for personal reading lists that Man Up is also available in a Kindle edition ($0.99).

Some Kind of Mirror
Amanda Konkle
Rutgers University Press
106 Somerset St., 3rd Floor, New Brunswick, NJ 08901
9781978802612 $29.95 pbk / $29.95 Kindle

Synopsis: Although she remains one of the all-time most recognizable Hollywood icons, Marilyn Monroe has seldom been ranked among the greatest actors of her generation. Critics have typically viewed her film roles as mere extensions of her sexpot star persona. Yet this ignores both the subtle variations between these roles and the acting skill that went into the creation of Monroe's public persona.

Some Kind of Mirror offers the first extended scholarly analysis of Marilyn Monroe's film performances, examining how they united the contradictory discourses about women's roles in 1950s America. Amanda Konkle suggests that Monroe's star persona resonated with audiences precisely because it engaged with the era's critical debates regarding femininity, sexuality, marriage, and political activism. Furthermore, she explores how Monroe drew from the techniques of Method acting and finely calibrated her performances to better mirror her audience's anxieties and desires.

Drawing both from Monroe's filmography and from 1950s fan magazines, newspaper reports, and archived film studio reports, Some Kind of Mirror considers how her star persona was coauthored by the actress, the Hollywood publicity machine, and the fans who adored her. It is about why 1950s America made Monroe a star, but it is also about how Marilyn defined an era.

Critique: Amanda Konkle (Assistant Professor of Film Studies and English at Georgia Southern University's Armstrong Campus) presents Some Kind of Mirror: Creating Marilyn Monroe, a scholarly analysis of the film career of legendary actress Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962), exploring her on-screen personas in the context of discourses in the 1950's about the role of women. Drawing upon an extensive body of research, Some Kind of Mirror is a fascinating study, a must-read for connoisseurs of Monroe's career, and a choice pick for public and college library Film Studies shelves. Highly recommended. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Some Kind of Mirror is also available in a Kindle edition ($29.95).

Jack Mason

Messenger's Bookshelf

Water Bodies
Jeffrey Perso
Black Rose Writing
PO Box 1540, Castroville, TX 78009
9781684331994, $16.95, pbk

Satire flourishes in desperate times and is often the last refuge of a desperate writer. If that is so, Jeffrey Perso, the author of Water Bodies, is as accomplished as he is perhaps desperate. If satire can be broadly defined as that which mocks human vice or folly by means of derision, irony or wit, then Water Bodies is satire par excellence. Its targets are specifically American, yet its reach is truly global, for stupidity and wilful ignorance care little for national boundaries.

The narrator of Water Bodies has returned to his 'muddy midwestern town sunk into the carp-rank banks of the Upper Mississippi River Basin.' 'Doctor John Voltaire, Professor of Biology and Freshwater Science at the University of Illinois-Chicago,' appears to have arrived in his home town of 'L' in the nick of time. The good citizens of L have every reason to heed the traditional warning to fear death by water, as so many of them are drowning in bizarre accidents and cruel attacks by unknown assailants. In addition:

People of L were always drowning: drowning in debt, drowning in sorrow and tears, drowning in obedience, conformity, and consumerism. They were going under, unable to reach the surface; shackled, sunk, on their way down.

John has returned to help sort things out between his sister Lara and his brother Cristo, so they can decide what to do about selling the old family house.

It was the first time I had been back in L since my parents' double suicide, one successful, one only partially so, mother moldering in the wet earth seven years now, father, brain damaged and soul dead, locked inside the insane asylum.

We need pursue the plot of Water Bodies no farther; suffice to say, things are not always what they seem in this water world of increasingly turbulent relationships and muddy thinking. Water Bodies surfs its metaphor and rides the wave: humanity is drowning in the rising waters of foolishness and entrenched ideologies, much of which is controlled and channelled by vested interests and governing elites focused solely on their own greed.

In inspired parallels with the contemporary moment, civic efforts follow the same old outworn policies that led to the trouble in the first place. Thus, the plague of drownings, required lifeguard and CPR training for all residents of L, the construction of concrete walls, wooden barricades, and electric fences, twenty-five feet high, alongside both east and west river banks ... Also, the possibility exists for the creation of volunteer citizen patrols.

Fears surrounding an imaginary serial killer must be assuaged with yet more killing machines:

That's why everyone should arm themselves, he said. The state had just passed "open carry" laws, and "everyone should get themselves to the local K-Mart or gun shop as soon as possible. Don't call the police," he said. "Don't call 911. By the time they arrive it could be too late."

At Liquor, Guns, and Ammo, a store whose name speaks for itself, the proprietor is selling guns as if he really does suspect there's no tomorrow:

"Be sure to get here early," the store owner told us. "They're barely out of the box before they're gone."

"That makes me feel safer already," I said.

Yet the town is under siege on multiple fronts. Respiratory disease, suicide and alcoholism are the major causes of death; the air is polluted and smoking is rampant; as for alcohol, 'It is here that L reaches its zenith. For here can be found not only more bars per capita than in any other city in the country, but also more bars per square foot.'

Satire has its own particular undercurrents of moral outrage. While the tone of Water Bodies is dryly amusing, its anger occasionally floats to the surface. For instance, at a seemingly innocent and characteristically tedious Sunday church picnic, an obese boy is mercilessly bullied and tortured by a group of children under the benignly indifferent gaze of the adults. John concludes:

Yes, I had to admit, Evangelicals make the best bullies. Especially the Lutherans. The Lutherans and the Baptists. And the Catholics. The Catholics because there are so many of them, like an invading army. Onward Christian soldiers.

This harrowing episode is 'just another storybook moment for the memory machine, just one more page secure in the holy holiday scrapbook, sacred pages memorializing the everyday, commonplace lives of the good people of L.' As Cristo declares, 'You learn a lot about a country and its culture by studying what is thrown away, what has lost its value. And by what is forbidden, what is feared.' Thus, 'These drownings are clearly the work of a satanic cult.'

That's why [Lara] had decided to buy a gun. Something ladylike, but not just a fashion accessory. One that could do real damage. A pistol, a revolver, snub nose, maybe a Magnum or Deringer. She wasn't sure. She wanted me to go along to help choose.

Sometimes it is hard to know whether to laugh or to weep. Perhaps that is the point of chapter 33's description of scandalized citizens' righteous disgust at a display of confiscated sex toys, a disgust which soon turns to fascination and libidinous desire. Surprisingly, race and class rarely raise their heads in Water Bodies, although we learn that

Hmongs jumped into the river and began to swim out into the middle of the black, wide, still flood-swollen swift channel, while the laughing, shouting fraternity brothers heaved heavy rocks picked up from the shore toward them.

This charming interlude is later mirrored by the veiled racism of remarks such as 'back to the jungle' with reference to a group of trespassing children - African American children, one presumes. 'And so, life goes on, such as it is, even in L. The sun and moon rise and set; and rise and set again. Earth wobbles on its axis.'

Amid all this threat from inside and out, 'If the choice is between security and civil liberties, I choose security. Don't you?' writes the improbably named Webb Civit, MD, whose false binaries replicate the appalling standards of US political debate in general.

Chapter 32 of Water Bodies is perhaps the heart of the novel. Is there anything as sad and true as this reflection:

"I just read somewhere," Cristo recalled, "or heard somewhere, that the Vietnamese do not call the Vietnam War the Vietnam War - they call it 'The American War.' And then I thought, I knew, I understood that if that is so, then the Korean War is The American War, the Nicaraguan War is The American War, the El Salvador War is The American War, the Gulf War is The American War, the Kosovo War is The American War, the Iraq War, Part I and Part II, is The American War, Part I and Part II, the Afghanistan War is the American War, the War on Terror is the American War. The War on Crime, the War on Drugs, the War on Poverty, all the wars I remember and all the wars I cannot remember or name - they are all The American War."

The Earth rebels in Water Bodies just as it is rebelling in reality, 'rejecting all it [has] swallowed.' 'The land just can't take it anymore ... it is in revolt.' 'The good, industrious, meat- and milk-loving people of L were almost literally drowning in shit.' And all it has for political leadership is the dunce known as Mayor Rockton:

Some thought him "focused" and "disciplined," that he "stayed on message." But the truth was that Roscoe Rockton was actually quite dull, witless, unimaginative, ignorant, and dense. Once locked into an ideology he had no need to challenge assumptions; everything was already explained, everything was known, everything made sense.

Remind you of anyone?

Water Bodies' serpentine digressions into apparent backwaters will confuse readers looking for straightforward narrative in which lots of things happen. Cristo's ruminations are not for the faint of heart, and his Dostoyevskian wanderings with his brother through the L that is Hell will interest only those for whom the journey, and not the destination, is what counts. It is easy to foresee a major plot resolution but, thank goodness, that matters not one jot. One might also suspect that parts of the novel were originally conceived separately, especially a lengthy town council meeting where the novel sags a little before recovering.

No matter. Once in a long while, a writer seems to have been listening in on one's own thoughts and quietly following one around for the past several years. There are few bad reasons for liking a novel, but there are plenty of tenuous ones, and I shall risk enumerating them in my own case: I, too, have tripped and fallen on a badly lit street in a US city (and fractured a finger), lying in the gutter until someone found me; I, too, have written about an Oldsmobile; I, too, have envisaged death in these terms: 'I would put the notebook and bottle aside and settle back, close my eyes, and fall into a contented hypothermal sleep, never to wake, but only to decompose in the lovely woods.' I feel surveilled.

Until recently, our old friend desperate times was wont to stroll hand in hand with the companionable qualifier such as our own. No more. The jig is up. Breathe deeply and you will detect the delightful aroma of burning flesh. Our shortlived Anthropocene is keeling over for lack of oxygen, tipping humanity into the Gehenna of history, a fatuous grin on its complacent face. Ah well, it was pretty bad while it lasted. 'Weialala leia' indeed.

Water Bodies is a bleakly enjoyable wade through the vice and folly that have got us into our catastrophic predicament. Its humour and wit are dry and acerbic; it meanders this way and that, revealing the illogicality and the primitivism, the superstition and the hate brandished by those who seek to expel, to exclude, to neutralize the demons whom they believe wish to devour them. But Water Bodies never strays from the central point that we only have ourselves to blame for what we have made of our world. Ladies and gentlemen, it is we ourselves who are the demons, and our name is Legion, for we are many.

Dead Aquarium
Caleb Michael Sarvis
Mastodon Publishing
9781732009127, $18.00, pbk

In an era of flash and twitter fiction, we are apt to forget that short is not new, and that literary heritage includes the aphorism and the pensee as much as it does the triple-decker novel and the epic poem. Kafka's stories, for example, often extend for no more than a paragraph or two, while much Classical myth and fable is similarly concise. Motivations and contexts change with the times, however. The subtitle to Dead Aquarium - 'i don't have the stamina for that kind of faith' - references the lower-case exhaustion and peculiar ennui that overcome contemporary culture when confronted with the grand, upper-case questions about Identity and Destiny, Value and Extinction that stalk us through the wind-strewn detritus of the back alley and the shopping mall.

The title page to Dead Aquarium tells us it comprises 'stories and [a] novella,' but this descriptive assertion can hardly be taken at face value. Dead Aquarium is divided into sections entitled 'Mundane', 'Supra-Terrestrial', '(Loon)acy' (whose one entry is the subdivided novella called 'Emerson') and 'Sublime'. This structural organization stresses the interrelatedness of all the pieces, whose splintered arrangement into short sections snubs venerable literary conventions while also managing to be wittily self-serving. This, together with its narrow field of focus, makes Dead Aquarium a challenging book to read. There is much to admire, much to question and to think about.

Unlike the fetid and static water evoked by its title, the writing in Dead Aquarium is amazingly fluid and lucid; and it flows, flows easily and effortlessly, so that there is not a single obstruction or blockage, not one awkward, clumsy boulder of a sentence to interrupt the easy procession of prose. It really is a remarkable achievement and a wonderful asset (with one major reservation, outlined below), the greatest that Dead Aquarium has to offer, which is otherwise concerned with absences rather than possessions.

Broadly understood, absences of one kind or another are a recurring feature of the collection. For instance, the first story, 'Sinking Moments,' is about the surprises of solitude in the absence of parents and lovers. The burials in 'Goose Island' and 'Scoop Carry Dump Repeat' are another kind of absence. 'An Unfaded Black' has other absences: a tooth, a forearm, a son, and a search for an image:

When Miles told his grandpa he'd like a cell phone for his birthday, his grandfather scoffed at the idea and said, 'You need to learn how to be alone.' But that was the point, Miles had thought. With a cell phone, the internet, he could always be alone. Instead, he was stuck at the dining room table with 'Dying Sly.'

'Gastropod' unravels in the shadow of Hurricane Irma; 'Terra' is post-hurricane and the most interesting piece in the collection. A makeshift community is formed in the aftermath of destruction when neighbours and strangers coalesce around the only functioning television set to watch a game of football, eating pizza and drinking beer. Yet, amid this unexpected and casual conviviality, there is absence, for the owner of the TV has recently divorced and still has the habit of phoning his ex-wife to ask where she stored the remote.

Dead Aquarium is also about interruptions, thematically and structurally. One quickly discovers that Dead Aquarium is not a book to be read without interruptions. Indeed, it requires them, which is why it factors in so many - sections, subheadings, white spaces - as well as short short stories. These features are an indication that the writing will not comfortably expand or sustain concentration, or support anything above a few pages (I have to confess I felt compelled to skim the final sections of the novella). 'Emerson' - the novella - has fish tanks everywhere: in bars, in shops, as architectural elements of store fronts and bridges. Divided into short sections (as if readers cannot be trusted to cope with anything more demanding), its prose finds refuge in absurdity and a kind of resigned flippancy, often conveyed in extremely short sentences with little variation. In 'Vertical Leapland,' to take another example, sentences of around six stresses abound, and the few longer sentences are broken into similarly short clauses. This relentless invariant flow is only palatable in small doses.

Or so it seems to me. I wonder if Caleb Michael Sarvis has a novel in the works and what it might look like. Of course, the novel and the short story are two different dinosaurs, and neither is superior to the other. Many brilliant writers have specialized in the shorter form and made it their own; either way, they have required a lot more than six beats to the bar to sustain their brilliance.

Context is particularly important in assessing/appreciating Dead Aquarium. Perhaps it really is necessary to be American, even Floridian, and young to regard the book as an uninterrupted success. Someone from a different demographic may be puzzled by its rejection of a wider moral or political context, its absence of engagement, its refusal of genuine feeling, its comfort in denial, intellectual retreat and warped realities. When a culture is hell-bent on cruising to oblivion, brand names and Despicable Me will only take us so far, and invariably in the wrong direction. Dead Aquarium is an interesting and thought-provoking collection by an immensely talented writer - and a stepping-stone, surely, to greater things.

Above an Abyss: Two Novellas
Ryan Masters
Radial Books
9780998414669, $13.00, pbk

The epigraph to Above An Abyss, Ryan Masters' marvellous collection of two beautiful and stunningly juxtaposed novellas, is from Nabokov's Speak, Memory: 'The cradle rocks above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness.' 'Trampoline Games' and 'The Moth Orchid' approach this idea of existential precarity from entirely different directions, yet the two stories complement one another in breathtaking, unexpected ways.

Ryan Masters seems to relish climatic extremes. His superb short story 'Irredeemable, Now and Forever,' published in Catamaran Literary Reader, is pinned next to a highway near the torpid River Humboldt in the blistering heat of the Great Basin in Nevada. In Above an Abyss, 'Trampoline Games' tells of the inferno-summer of 1986 in Sandy, Utah, a suburb of Salt Lake City, where Jacob, the new 12-year-old in town, meets and befriends Finn Levy, a rebellious and eccentric red-haired kid who sports a white lab coat decorated with New Wave buttons. Jacob also discovers the four Hanson girls who live next door. They have a trampoline. He becomes quietly obsessed with Debra, also twelve: 'The sight of Debra Hanson's hair flouncing wildly over the fence, the sound of the springs and peals of angelic laughter, it was all too much for me sometimes.'

In contrast, 'The Moth Orchid' is set in Fairbanks, Alaska, where it is fifteen degrees below zero. Alasa Memnov maintains an orchid hothouse with obsessive vigilance, while also taking time to visit her mother, Bebe, at a nursing home: Bebe has succumbed to early-onset Alzheimer's. Appropriately, it is the Russian Orthodox Feast of the Epiphany, before which Alasa dreams proleptically of self-revelation.

The writing in both these novellas is masterfully self-effacing. Nothing is forced and nothing draws attention to itself, yet it is all perfect, natural, necessary. It reminds me of the films of Kelly Reichardt, whose shots and compositions share the same sense of unexpected revelation amid the everyday. Images linger: a crazy drive on a frozen river and a bewildering walk through a maze of snow in 'The Moth Orchid'; the deafening whirr of the crickets in 'Trampoline Games'; the abrupt exposure of dangers and cruelties half-buried beneath the normal; and how very strange the 'normal' can be - almost, as Jacob asserts, like something from The Twilight Zone.

The novellas reflect one another in subtle ways. They both feature important mothers and absent fathers. Jacob's mother drinks a great deal and watches game shows. She is not a happy woman and verges on the malevolent (at times reminding me of Allison Janney in I, Tonya). Alasa Memnov's father died when she was an infant; Jacob's father is delayed in California while he 'orchestrates a massive round of layoffs' at National Semiconductor. There is much humour and bitterness in both works, but in inverse proportion. One senses the possibility, or the fear of the possibility, that characters might simply disappear, absorbed by a landscape or a weird culture, and lose themselves.

Most wonderfully, 'Trampoline Games' and 'The Moth Orchid' end on entirely unexpected notes of quiet revelation, the reverberations of which continue long afterwards. I do not mean to suggest these endings are somehow bolted on as deliberate surprises. Instead, they are as parts to the whole, with deep roots in the material, but whose blossoming transforms all that has gone before. They are quite remarkable and profoundly moving.

Above an Abyss surely establishes Ryan Masters as a great practitioner of the novella, one of the most difficult and ambiguous of literary forms. Read Above an Abyss and be touched by a quiet moment of grace.

Jack Messenger, Reviewer

Molly's Bookshelf

Side Effect
Sandra Feder
Thornwood Pub Co
9781930541054, $23.95, Hardcover, 320 pages

On the pages of Sandra Feder's SIDE EFFECT, The Reader is drawn into a narrative in which a succession of enigmatic deaths appear to be linked to the medical treatment investigation work in progress by one Dr Grant Fraser.

Fraser has engendered a noteworthy medication that he believes just may transform the therapeutic community when unexpectedly his study is brought to a standstill by Altimate Pharmaceuticals. Only a year ago Fraser thought he was on top of the world. He was the most important researcher Altimate had, he was engaged to Dena, company president Nathan Horcroft's daughter, life was good.

Then came the shock of Dena's tragic, unexpected, death in an airplane crash and his world seemed to crumble. Now, it again looked as if that his life and profession were once more on track, the drug he had engendered seemed to have capacity to transfigure how doctors treat illness. When his research concerning the drug is canceled Fraser is disbelieving of the reasons put forward by his boss, the director of research. He suspects a conspiracy.

Confusing Fraser's situation are the three ambition driven women who have been closely involved with his study; Daniele Horcroft, Dena's twin sister who does not care much for Fraser, Angie his shrewd, self-doubting young assistant, and, the director of communications Joss Avery, the attractive, ex-wife of the sad case aspirant for governor. Quest of their individual motivations serve to push Fraser to a chilling finding.

His drug has a worrisome side effect, a side effect being exploited in a wide-ranging plan that has already begun causing deaths. Fraser feels responsible for his creation, is determined to get to the truth regarding what is going on and why, and, begins a not so merry chase during which he finds himself caught up in too many close calls with death.

Danger seems to lurk behind every turn, no one is safe, even the one person he had thought completely trustworthy proves not to be.

Fraser realizes almost too late no one is safe, not Bailey his dog, not Dena's nephew, certainly not himself. Fraser's attempts to stop the conspirators before more die is met with repeated attempts on his own life. Just in time Fraser realizes between misdirection and duplicity he has mistaken enemies and allies.

It is when he discovers who is really behind the plot and the actual purpose his enemies have for the drug the real hunt begins with himself as the target.

I found SIDE EFFECT to be a real page turner filled with connivance, narrow escapes, exploit, real life situation, help from unanticipated sources and more twists and turns than a roller coaster.

Writer Feder has crafted a riveting, well-wrought work filled with lively, frequently very likeable, characters, stimulating circumstances and adroit dialogue. Her experience as a research chemist has been put to good use in this narrative.

The bad guys are well developed, cold-hearted beyond belief and may catch you by surprise if you are not careful. I found the creativity shown by this writer to be very invigorating. Side Effect, taking place over a 9 day period heightens the sense of urgency, is not a 'canned' or formula work by any means; the narrative keeps the reader turning the page.

Writer Sandra Feder presents herself to readers through a very comprehensible work. With any luck this particular effort is a revealing for how she plans to continue developing as a writer. I hope there are many books from her in future.

Writer Feder brings a quality of fidelity to her account that many works of fiction lack. SIDE EFFECT is focused around Pharmaceutical Science. Every so often writers of fiction take liberties with what is possible as opposed to what is credible with the result that their work lacks validity. Not so on the pages of SIDE EFFECT

The anguish Grant depicts as he endeavors to disentangle this fast moving, action packed tale is something we can feel and understand. His increasing confusion regarding who may be friend and or foe washes over onto the reader, don't be caught off guard by those cagey red herrings. Feder's work is filled with emotion, and deceit along with a hefty dollop of downright fright tossed in just to keep it interesting.

Jam-packed with the semi inscrutable mystery of an Agatha Christie novel combined with the fast action William Manchee portrays in his Stan Turner series; SIDE EFFECT is a book you will not want to put down until you have reached that last page.

If you enjoy a well written mystery filled with lots of action and mystery you will likely enjoy SIDE EFFECT. If mysteries are not your cup of tea you may not.

Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend. Certain, to please the target audience; not for everyone.

29 Days to becoming a great listener and communicator A Simple Guide to Permanent Results
Richard Fast
29 Days Inc.
9780986537745, $29.55, Paperback, 296 pages

Richard Fast's 29 Days to becoming a great listener and communicator A Simple Guide to Permanent Results is one of a growing body of '29 Days' books regarding a diversity of topics including health and fitness, financial independence, live without cigarettes and more

29 Days to becoming a great listener and communicator is a work of 6 parts, 22 chapters, a Preface, Introduction a four-week plan and About the Author.

The Preface explains 29 Days is designed to generate gentle, effortless, forward momentum every day.

The Introduction explains that 29 Days has one purpose -- to help you to independently make positive and permanent changes in your life.

PART ONE Understanding the Challenges to Change

Chapter one discusses habits, what they are, how they are formed,

Chapter two presents the philosophy of Permanent Change with the goal by acquiring habits that are born of a change of attitude and thought, as opposed to willpower.

Chapter three details 2 important Principles of success

PART TWO Uncovering and Understanding our Greatest Foe: FEAR

Chapter four 'The Unlimited (or limiting) Power of Your Inner Self and Why We Fail'

Chapter Five Fear and the Futility of Expecting Instant Results.

Chapter Six Simple Steps Will Sow the Seeds of Belief and Success

PART THREE Our Thoughts: The Source of All Good and Bad

Chapter Seven How Gentle Progress Bypasses our 'Hardwired' Brains

Chapter Eight How Small Actions and Gentle Repetition of Thought Can Transform Our Lives

PART FOUR The Principles of 29 Days ... to a habit you want

Chapter Nine The Deceptive Power of Patience and Perseverance

Chapter Ten The Hidden Power of Support from Our Inner Self

PART FIVE Bringing it All Together

Chapter Eleven How 29 Days Will Help You To Achieve Your Goals in an Effortless Way

Chapter Twelve How to Set a Goal, Visualizing a Goal

Chapter Thirteen The Power of Focused Repetition

Chapter Fourteen The Power of Awareness

Chapter Fifteen The Power of Questions

Chapter Sixteen How Our Changing Wants and Desires Might Apply in the Real World

Chapter Seventeen There are No Shortcuts... but 29 Days Can Happen Surprisingly Quickly

Chapter Eighteen How Often Do We Play the Martyr?

Chapter Nineteen Do the 29 Days programs guarantee I'll reach my goal in twenty-nine days?

Chapter Twenty Above All Else, Enjoy the Journey!


Chapter Twenty One How 29 Days Programs Work

The Program 29 Days of activities offered to be accomplished during a 4 week program.

Week One Commitment and Awareness

Week Two Preparation for Action

Week Three Taking action

Week Four Staying the Course

The author notes: Change is Difficult because We instinctively Fear Change.

On the pages of 29 DAYS TO BECOMING A GREAT LISTENER AND COMMUNICATOR, the reader confronts a vital component shaping the means we use to manage ourselves and others.

One of the most authoritative points made in the text appears as the writer notes we should want to change not just for others, but for ourselves as well.

If the desire of the Reader is to improve connections with other, Readers will need to pay attention to voices other than just our own. I agree fully that any of the issues mentioned in the text should be resolved principally so we can be the best person possible.

An important aspect of the book; Readers are presented suggestions allowing readers to evaluate themselves by use of questions when answered in an honest way improves the way we interact with others. If your goal is to interconnect more with others Readers must be able to hear what is said, and not listen to their own voice alone.

Identifying problem areas heretofore not realized provides a great resource for us to put into practice and share with others.

There are few requirements as dynamic for the human spirit as being corroborated and understood, and there are few things as expressively overwhelming as the vacant void of not being heard.

Listening and hearing is a strange and powerful force. No one is more esteemed, prized, or valued than the deeply effective listener. Learning to really listen and connect with others can carry the willing to any goal. It is important not only hear the spoken but to also understand what the speaker is trying to impart. The skills of effective listening and communicating are likely the most important skills we can develop.

The Author reminds readers that changes we want to make should be for others and for ourselves as well. In the book methods for self-evaluation are provided to help Readers identify possible problem areas not yet realized.

I find Richard Fast's 29 Days to becoming a great listener and communicator A Simple Guide to Permanent Results to be a well written narrative filled with clearly presented thoughts and ideas. The material is well written, organized in a systematic fashion, easily understood and well thought out.

Interesting, thought provoking, compelling Read, happy to recommend.

Undercover Love
Lucy Grijalva
Lionhearted Pub Inc; 1 edition
9781573430029, $TBA, Paperback: 271 pages

Lucy Grijalva's Under Cover Love introduces Readers to school teacher Julia Newman. Newman finds herself flummoxed to realize herself rivetted by a seeming lout, tough guy, who moves into the apartment next door. Rick Perry, gives the impression that he is completely disgraceful. Pronouncing himself a handyman, Julia notices Perry, if that is his name, keeps the most unusual hours. With his ongoing assemblage of as scandalous friends as himself, his disheveled hair, and inexplicable method of not answering personal questions Julia is certain all are signaling problems so far as Julia can tell.

Rick would be pretty easy to disregard if he weren't so agreeable, attractive, entertaining, and even so out-and-out good-looking.

Rick is not the type of man Julia ever thought she wanted to meet.

Primary, Third-grade, educator, Julia; is a woman who was cossetted by an imprudent single parent; while existing in a city slum. Now that Julia has shaken off the stinging humiliation of her rearing and has carefully put one noteworthy youthful gaffe behind her, Julia wants no part of what was her former life.

Julia's life today is built on propriety, uprightness and decorum.

She an upstanding, right-living young woman; is very cognizant that her personal dearth of reasoning as regarding men must be held in check if she does not wish to follow in her mother's footsteps. Julia is a woman who grew up observing as her mother became besotted and then cast aside by a series of ne'er-do-wells. While still a teenager, Julia came dangerously close to mimicking her mother's role modeling.

That near disaster was abandoned, and Julia is resolute; never again. She is single-minded that should she ever choose to get enthralled with another fellow; he will need to be an upright man who will have an authentic, valid, honest source of income in addition to having an unwavering sense of honor.

Rick Peralta, not the name Perry he is using, has difficulties of his own troubling him. What Julia does not yet realize regarding her new neighbor is that he is a vice cop working undercover.

Rick's justification for hanging around the serious drug dealer's apartments by means of his 'handyman' shtick enables him to garner evidence on the dealer and get him arrested. His plan is simple; put the drug dealer at ease, and then assemble a sizable drug buy with the ultimate consequence a very long prison sentence for the gangster.

In order to pull it off, of course, Rick must not only look but also act the part of a tough guy himself.

Actually, it's not a particularly bad plan as plans go, and, everything would be moving along nice and smooth if Rick weren't so fascinated by his striking neighbor. Rick hasn't had much triumph at maintaining a long-term relationship in the past, and, even though he can't divulge much about himself for fear of blowing his cover; he just can't help being drawn to the gorgeous, entertaining, stimulating Julia.

Undercover Love is an enjoyable, well rounded little work filled with enough angst and romance that the narrative is certain to maintain reader's concentration from the opening paragraphs right on through to the final chapter.

In Undercover Love first-time author Grijalva preserves the focus shift on her main characters' evolving relationship. That growing romantic bond is precisely what readers who enjoy romance novels most likely will want to read about.

Novelist Grijalva has added an assemblage of well fleshed, affable characters who are quite innovative.

Undercover Love provides a bit of subplot regarding Rick's undercover assignment as well as Julia's preoccupation with one of her students, however, it's just enough to add a little spice to the narrative, and in no way takes from the romance itself.

As in Diana Garcia's Stardust, the growing romance between Rick and Julia found on the pages of Undercover Love is pleasant to watch unfolding. Their relationship evolves progressively and naturally. Grijalva does a sound job in letting the reader feel the sexual tension drawing the pair together, notwithstanding their understandable disinclination for such.

The sensitive interchange carried out between the duo adds to the narrative, as Julia gradually learns she can depend upon Rick and trusts her own judgment as she divulges the hurt of her torturous childhood.

At last, indecision is subjugated, problems are conquered, and the love neither was seeking is theirs.

Lucy Grijalva's Under Cover Love is a fast paced, well written work sure to appeal to reader's who enjoy a situational novel with a bit of romance added for interest.

Happy to recommend.

Simple Beauty The Shakers in America
William C Ketchum
New Line Books
Series: Art Movements
9781880908440, $16.50, Hardcover, 128 pages

William C Ketchum, JR's Simple Beauty The Shakers in America is a dandy reference of anyone who likes the straightforwardness and lack of decoration found in Shaker furniture, clothing stands, buildings, tools and the like as opposed to similar objects produced by those in 'the World'. The latter term is the one used by Shakers to designate non-believers.

As one who is a keen genealogy advocate having a broad multiplicity of ancestors, including several who held to the Shaker belief; I especially find books regarding the religion, life and products of these interesting people to be especially captivating.

Shakerism as a belief focused acceptance that wholly involved the devotees' lives. Construction, living arrangements, work and social customs were intended to mirror the group's central principles. Celibacy was mandated with most communities, which meant adding new converts was necessary to maintain the strength of the group which has now more or less completely died out.

Some of the former communal sites today are museums where Shaker products are displayed and reenactors appear in Shaker dress and carry out production of items using Shaker methods.

Chock a block with text and photographs William C Ketchum, jr's Simple Beauty The Shakers in America Chapter titles set the stage for specifics to be discussed, The Introduction provides an overview of Shaker history.

Ketchum notes that the Shakers were only one of the many millennial groups active in the United States. They have in recent times become a center of cult recognition centered on the artistic beauty and simplicity prized by these dedicated people.

Shaker history began in France as the Camisards, Protestants, persecuted for what was considered heretical views and religious practices by the ruling Catholic body. The early Protestants fled in 1706 to England.

A poverty stricken young Manchester woman, Ann Lee 1736 - 1784, lost 4 children in infancy during her twenties, and develop a distaste for sex and procreation. She was subject to 'visions', used powerful oratorical skills and soon achieved a position of power within the new religious group. She was imprisoned for heresy in 1770.

This section features text along with graphics depicting Shaker members, and photos of simple, hand crafted furniture, designed for utility rather than ornamentation. A slant lid desk, characteristic built in cupboard and drawers, chest of drawers known as a case, oval storage boxes, detail of splint seat, landscape showing the area around Canterbury Shaker village, New Hampshire, interior of the great round barn at Hancock Shaker Village, Massachusetts, painting of a sleigh ride, outer stone wall of the round barn, illustration from a nineteenth century book depicting Shakers during religious service. Religious services were often attended by outsiders who came to watch the 'show' while sitting in seats along the walls.

Interior of the meeting house indicates the seats along the walls, benches without backs set in two groups with a center area open for the ritual dancing that was a major part of the devotions. Men and women sat apart.

Even meal times when men and women occupied the same room were a time with separate, segregated, eating area.

Furnishings were designed to relate efficiently to the space including a balance between comfort and practicality. The Laws of 1845 prescribed for each 'retiring room' a rocking chair, except where the aged reside, a table, one or two lamp stands, one or two beds and a looking glass of the allowed size. The rooms were expected to be used for sleeping and dearth of furniture was deemed sufficient.

The rail peg board running upon upper wall area of most rooms was a major characteristic of Shaker interiors. Chairs, tools, other furnishings could be hung on the pegs leaving floor areas open and bare.

More photos show a late 1800 rocking chair, a reenactor sitting in the Interior of a school room of the Center Family house at Shaker Village, Pleasant Hill, Kentucky. Shaker grammar schools often open to non-Shaker children.

Chapter one Furnishing Utopia: Shaker Community Furniture large full page photo of the cantilevered stairway accenting the open architectural lines of the interior of a building at Shakertown, Pleasant Hill, Kentucky. A table, school desk with side drawer and cupboards along the wall are shown at the head of the separate stairs in the Dwelling house Shakertown, Pleasant Hill Kentucky, along with another shot of the stair, a washstand, reenactors in period dress up stairs, along with more examples of serviceable, plain, well made furnishings.

The ministry dining room is set apart, communal, but not accommodating so many at Hancock Shaker Village Massachusetts features a smaller trestle table, cupboards along the walls, peg on upper wall, a large secretary desk is shown, and was likely built into the wall originally.

A 'retiring room', with pegs on walls, beds, footstools chests of drawers, and child's wash stand are shown. Shakers produced miniature furniture for children's orders.

Building interior at Hancock Shaker Village Massachusetts features a large desk of referred to as a 'trustees' desk. A settee likely used in a community room along with a small cupboard with drawers is shown.

Text discusses Uniformity and Innovation. Low back dining chairs and large trestle tables, to conform to communal meals are discussed, and shown. An early 1800s wash stand, another shot of stairway, interior of a dwelling house with chairs hanging on pegs on the wall along with reenactors in Shaker dress are shown.

Text discusses as well the after math of war between the states and shows a 'plantation desk', reproduction rockers and a single drawer stand.

Communities of Hancock Shaker Village Massachusetts, Shakertown, Pleasant Hill, Kentucky, Groveland, New York, Sabbathday Lake Community, Maine, South Union, Logan Co., Kentucky, where some of my ancestors lived out their lives and are buried are mentioned in text.

Chapter Two Useful and Necessary: Shaker Woodenware features more text and illustrations of Shaker made items wooden items.

Today's world is filled with much mass produced items, not so the norm during the 1700, 1800 and early 1900s. The Shakers produced necessary goods and items needed for their own comfort and to sell to those in the world in order to maintain cash flow needed to further the community.

Many homes were swept clean via use of 'Shaker' brooms, a two-page spread photo of reenactor using old methods and tools is shown plying the same skills as original Shaker craftsmen producing brooms at Shakertown, Pleasant Hill, Kentucky. Storage boxes and carriers, buckets, seed boxes,

Individual photos and full-page spreads feature built in cupboards, items produced primarily by one or another community, including storage units, churn small and large brooms, covered buckets, baskets and kitchen ware, bowls, trays, mirrors, farm implements include hand carved hay fork and various grain and apple shovels, scoop, mortar and pestle, sugar molds, tools including wood planes, carpenter tools all crafted by hand to fit particular need.

Communities of South Family, New Lebanon, Union Village, Ohio, Mount Lebanon New York Community, are all mentioned.

Chapter Three Metal work, Basket, and Sieves: Shaker Crafts The various Shaker communities farmed, produced wooden ware and undertook ironwork, smithy and other mechanical methods.

'The cut nail, a machined product which soon replaced the hand wrought nails of antiquity, is said to have been invented by Sister Sarah Babbit of the Harvard Community and was being sold to the world by 1788.

Diverse metalwork includes hinges, latches, gates, scythes, hoes, knives, made for home usage and for sale to the general public. At Mount Lebanon metal parts were produced for threshing machines, water wheels, silk reeling machines and looms.

Photos include a variety of single and full page shots of furnishings including chairs, beds in a 'retiring' room with peg molding holding hangers and candle sconce, cupboards tables, tinware including sugar molds, colander, bucket, sausage stuffer, baskets, cast iron 'sad irons', Shaker heating stove

Inner and outer shots of buildings, cut stone, and wood, hand made baskets some with covers and lids, others open for drying fruit, draining off whey during cheese making, sewing baskets, are all shown in this section.

Following the format used previously this chapter incorporates, photos and text, explanations and examples. I am particularly enthralled with the two-page spread showing home of well-known Shaker authorities Faith and Deming Andrews filled with examples of the simple, beautiful work of Shaker faithful. And, the Brass and iron wool comb and brass and walnut pill roller used in the dispensary at South Union. Perhaps my own relatives may have used one or both of the items or the splint baskets and bent wood grain measures also shown and attributed to South Union Community.

Communities mentioned include Hancock Shaker Village, Harvard Community, Mount Lebanon, Pleasant Hill, Shaker Village New Hampshire, South Union Kentucky

Chapter Four Woven Well: Shaker Textiles The author mentions that coverlets were made on the same looms as worldly examples, and, are pretty much indistinguishable one from the other.

In this section are found photos of a day gown, dress with bertha, shawl or neckerchief worn over the shoulder, cloth bonnet, and a woven straw lined with satin and decorated with satin ribbons was an item worn by Sisters and sold to the World too. Millennial strictures against personal adornment, in addition to care that no Believer's appearance excite envy of others assured uniformity in both female and male wear.

Included in this section are a number of examples of work and sewing boxes.

Shakers did have a diversity of attire, status and jobs dictated type of garb. Everyday dress was different than 'meeting dress', young girls did not wear identical wear as did adults. Cloaks worn for winter warmth became very popular for those living in the World as well as among the Shaker Communities. 3 examples of cloaks are shown on a two-page spread featuring the cloak room in th 1830 dwelling house at Hancock Village.

South Union Community began growing silkworms in 1822, leading to silk and silk products being produced in Kentucky and Ohio for a number of years. Silk neckerchiefs, shawls and bodice coverings were worn. Men's silk neckerchiefs or collars were made at South Union. Shakers produced woven fabrics in variety from silk to wool.

Coverlets, shag rugs crafted from wool, or ticking with rag, as well woven, knit, braided and hooked crafted by various communities and a photo of a reenactor working at a Shaker loom own by Shakertown Pleasant Hill, Kentucky is added. Photos include spinning wheels, a flax wheel from South Union, reenactors in period dress are shown carding wool with spinning wheels nearby, sitting and visiting.

A large photo of carefully worked sampler is shown.

Photo of a retiring room complete with single beds, and heating stove, peg molding with bonnet and chairs, a patented loom used at South Union for the weaving of rag rugs, several small rugs, description of shirred rugs,

Millennial Laws dictate how many colors, 2, were to be used in making coverlets, but did not restrict design.

Communities mentioned include South Union, Hancock, Shakertown at Pleasant Hill, Canterbury Village New Hampshire

Chapter Five Shaker Art and Emphemera Shakers have left behind a large paper trail, letters, journals and advertising materials are highly regarded. Shaker seeds advertised and illustrated with colorful detail were used by various communities and people from the World as well.

Wood seed boxes having lithographed paper labels were sold throughout the US. Catalogs illustrating cloaks, other garments, boxes, medicines, and edibles as well as chairs were catalogued and sold by communities.

A two page spread of the infirmary area at Hancock Village have photo of 2 adult cradles designed to comfort elderly and infirm patients are unique to the Shakers.

Final pages offer a view of Hancock barn and dwelling house, Spirit, Inspirational Drawings, Maps and Plans, as well as Folk Paintings. As age and death thinned numbers more and more communities looked for other than farming as source of income. Folk art type paintings became popular.

Index as closure for the book is alphabetical to aide reader search for particular item of research.

I find William C Ketchum, JR's Simple Beauty The Shakers in America to be a particularly satisfying read, research item and introduction into more understanding regarding the amazing people who were Shaker. Filled with so many photos and drawings the book is pleasant for the eye and interest alike.

I bought my copy at the local jumble shop and plan to keep it. Simple Beauty The Shakers in America is an interesting, interesting book, to be read and re read on an ongoing basIs; it is large, unwieldly, jam packed with information and pictures and a complete delight for collectors of Shaker items, genealogy enthusiasts who may have Shaker ancestors and those who simply want to read a well written, informative book.

Highly Interesting Read, Happy to recommend.

Quick and Easy Dump Dinners
Cathy Mitchell
Telebrands Press
9780989586566, $12.96, Hardcover, 256 pages

Cathy Mitchell's Quick & Easy DUMP DINNERS packed with 250 + Delicious Family Sized Dinners in Minutes! recipes is a hard bound volume in the growing number of editions offered by this author.

Table of Contents lists

Introduction to Dump Cooking

Short Cuts and Substitutions

Make Ahead Recipes to Make Cooking Easier

Followed with recipes themselves.

Introduction to Dump Cooking Mitchell puts forth two suggestions regarding many of those men and women filling the role of food prep prepper in today's modern kitchens.

Gone are the days when many women worked only part-time or not at all and had time during the day to gather ingredients and unhurriedly prepare tasty, well planned dinner dishes for hungry family each day.

Those were the days when Mom often had time and social impetus for teaching daughters and even sons too how to cook AND Homemaking classes were generally taught during High School and many girls to women began getting their feet wet, so to speak, regarding how to get a meal together, shop for meal preparation and the like.

Today many women find themselves with little understanding regarding meal prep, have been raised in an atmosphere of fast food and take out and may or may not have actually had much experience in the kitchen prior to life on their own, or marriage, work and children.

Mitchell notes 'Dump Cooking' is a technique that allows you to simply 'dump' a variety of ingredients into the pot, pan or casserole dish, turn on the heat, or pop in the oven, and turn out delicious, healthy meals that the whole family will love.

Neither huge kitchen, or expensive cookware is required, nor are expensive ingredients from the specialty shop.

Mitchell does suggest making a meal plan for the week so that ingredients can be set out on the counter prior to leaving the house for the workday. Not a bad idea; as the busy school teacher mom of kids, Scouts, Church etc., I found using a specific meal type for each day of the week helpful for me i.e. Monday meat loaf, Tuesday chicken etc. whatever works for the cook at your house to make your life easier will be made even more easy by using simple recipes as found in the 'dump' cookbook series during the work week.

I like the section noting that just because the packet says taco seasoning does NOT mean it cannot be added to non-taco dish, recipe calling for canned corn CAN be fine if frozen corn is used, and left overs are dandy the second time around along with other helpful suggestions novice cooks may not realize at first.

Short Cuts and Substitutions is a unit jam-packed with helpful hints including preparing several pounds of ground beef at one time and freezing can be the basis for many dinners with less work to do when actually used, chop several onions and freeze all except the amount needed today, buy several seasoning packets and keep on hand. Mitchell suggests dry Onion Soup mix, it has been a standby in my kitchen and in kitchens for women across the nation for nearly half a century.

Money Saver Substitutions provide even experienced cooks with some good methods perhaps not thought about including how to make your own dry onion soup seasoning, easy recipe for ranch dressing packets, and more.

Make Ahead Recipes to Make Cooking Easier is, I believe particularly helpful. I found as my children advanced beyond the baby stage and my determination to have cooked meals for supper during the week also advanced to preparing recipes ahead became the standby in our kitchen. The Monday meat loaf became 4 different recipes, prepared and into the freezer during the first weekend of the month etc.

Oldest child beginning at age 12 came home, set oven, and placed the dish for the day in the oven. I used a variety of Corning Ware in a diversity of styles square, round, oblong so that kid could quickly grab the meat loaf, oblong.... Bread baker from the freezer quickly, etc. Kid 2 set the table. It was wonderful coming home to a house filled with the scent of supper, table was set, Dad, kids and I sat down to simple, tasty meals.

Mitchell provides how to for preparing Chicken Breast, Whole Chicken, Ground Beef, Rice, Pasta, Bacon, Beans, Veggies, 'Trashcan' Stock, Hardboiled Eggs, Onion Soup Mix, Ranch Seasoning, Italian Dressing Seasoning, and Taco Seasoning to be prepared ahead for use in preparing recipes.

5 or less: Quick, Delicious Recipes in No Time includes guidelines for Pork Chops, Spaghetti Carbonara, Chicken, Pizza, Beef including steak, ground meat and meat balls, Tex Mex, Baked Potatoes, pasta dishes.

I particularly like the BBQ Chops with Stewed Apples and the Baked Potatoes.

Quick and Easy Casseroles provide a diversity of casserole dishes including Baked Ravioli, Tater Tot Casserole, Meatball, Enchilada, Chili Mac and Chili Dog, Chicken, Ground Beef, Sausage.

I particularly like the Cheesy Cornbread Casserole and Holiday Casserole using stuffing and turkey.

Quick and Easy Beef Dinners includes Pasta and ground beef, Ground Beef, Steak, boneless Sirloin, Shredded Beef, and Pot Roast.

I particularly like the Beefy Biscuit Bake and Easiest Meatloaf Ever using ground Beef and stuffing mix.

Delicious Chicken Dishes recipes from Chicken and Dumplings, Noodles, Veggies, Rice, Stuffed, Baked, Skillet, Roasted are included.

I particularly like Chicken and Mini Dumplings and Easy Peasy Chicken and Rice.

Soups and Stews include instructions for Chicken, Broccoli, White Bean, Hamburger, Minestrone, Tortellini, Chili, and Chowder.

I particularly like Quick and Easy Beef Stew and Cheesy Potato Soup.

Quick Breakfast and Brunch Dinners recipes from Breakfast Pie, Donuts, Quiche, Waffles, Frittata, Scramble, Bread, Bread Pudding, Casserole, French Toast, Pizza, Enchilada are included.

I particularly like Easy Cheesy Breakfast Bake and Apple Coffee Cake.

Easy Side Dishes for Every Meal include methods for Squash, Corn, Green Bean, mixed Veggies, Potato, Cabbage, Spinach, Roasted Veggies, Cauliflower, Beans, Asparagus.

I particularly like Mashed Potato Casserole with Crunchy topping, Cheesy Bacon Corn Casserole.

Easy Appetizers recipes include Pesto, Artichoke, Onion, Pizza, Bali, Wings, Salsa, Italian, Antipasto, Cheddar, Spinach, Shrimp, Greek Layered, Taco Cheese Ball, Pumpkin Spice, Italian Cheese Pie, Cheesy Bread Sticks, Crescents, Bites, Tartlets,

I particularly like Mexican Layered, and Enchilada Dip.

Cook Once, Eat Twice one of my favorite ways to cook! Instructions include Beef, Chicken, Pasta, Stir Fry, Potatoes, and Quiche.

I particularly like Slow Cook Pot Roast to Shredded Beef Tacos and Sloppy Joes to Chili.

Meals that will Feed a Crowd Pulled Pork, Lasagna, Sausage and Pepper, Fettuccine, Chicken, Pasta, Chicken, Pasta Sauce,

I particularly like Mac and Cheese and Cold Night Chili and Four Cheese Baked Penne.

I would prefer to see the binding as in others of the series: an inner spiral binding so that recipes lay flat during prep. I find with this volume I open the book, set two cans on the open pages and check the recipe.

As with any cookbook most recipes provide a decent meal and will be tweaked several times before being added to the repertoire of the cook. If upon using a recipe a particular meat or pasta or seasoning did not provide the desired or hoped for or expected result try it again with a little different handling, it may prove to be the best yet for your family.

I don't expect 'dump' it all in the bowl, pan or pan to provide the epicurean, hoity toity dish for the ladies group, however, for a technique to fill the always hungry teen, weary husband or entice the less interested in food elder, kid or whomever in the house, many of these Cathy Mitchell's Quick & Easy DUMP DINNERS packed with 250 + Delicious Family Sized Dinners in Minutes! Recipes fill a need and provide downright tasty supper fare!

Happy to recommend this addition, Quick & Easy DUMP DINNERS to the growing group of Cathy Mitchell's basic cooking plans.

Leadership Theory and Practice
Peter G Northouse
SAGE Publications, Inc; 4th edition
9781412941617, $TBA, Paperback: 416 pages

Peter G Northouse's Leadership Theory and Practice Fourth Edition is one in a growing body of suitable, beneficial, and highly useful work designed for those who find themselves in a Leadership position wherever and whatever their work, field or situation may be, or those who aspire to enter the world of leadership.

From the outset Northouse sets the stage Leadership is defined and described in the Introduction along with discussion of Trait Versus Process Leadership, Assigned Versus Emergent Leadership along with Leadership and Power, Coercion and Management.

Plan of the book is specified along with a summary and References.

Fourteen specific Section titles include: Trait Approach, Skills Approach, Style Approach, Situational Approach, Contingency Theory, Path Goal Theory, Leadership Member Exchange theory, transformational Leadership, Team Leadership, Psychodynamic Approach, Women and Leadership, Culture and Leadership, and Leadership Ethics.

Name Index, Subject Index, about the author and about the contributors sum up the last of the work.

Chapters are filled with good solid writing packed with many self helps, questionnaires, case studies, how to suggestions for setting about choosing leader responsibilities, assuring constructive work climate, listening to others and overcoming obstacles.

Self-assessment questionnaires can be valuable for those honest in their assessment of their own strengths and weaknesses. Worksheets provide guides for getting the group going.

Realizing that this book is an outgrowth of the writer's experience while teaching and consulting regarding leadership issues makes the writing more significant for this reader.

Northouse presents the theory, and the materials, suggestions and self-awareness I need to put the theory into practice. I find the combination of academically sound presentation makes the book highly readable for readers whether as business or education, volunteer or paid leaders.

The fourteen chapters provide information regarding the major facets I want to delve into regarding leadership and how to continue to improve my own style and approach with greater success. Reader friendly check lists, suggestions and other tools are based in solid experience. Follow up regarding major concepts and different approaches of leadership with examples, analysis and documentation as end of chapter is helpful.

Theory is fine, but nearly 4 decades spent successfully teaching school, and taking active part in a diversity of school related and other committees, Youth Group activities and the like; have taught me that theory without good solid, 'this worked for me in such and such situation, and this fell flat' are always more helpful to my way of thinking.

Whether entering a leadership role for the first time, or having year's experience as a leader in whatever endeavor the reader may be involved Peter G Northouse's Leadership Theory and Practice Fourth Edition is an informative, interesting read providing much grist for thought and practice for honing skills and developing new ones too.

Happy to recommend Peter G Northouse's Leadership Theory and Practice Fourth Edition

Complete Guide to Symbol Crochet.
Rita Weiss and Susan Lowman
Leisure Arts, Inc
9781464712081, $9.99, Paperback

Leisure Arts' Rita Weiss and Susan Lowman offer a handy Complete Guide to Symbol Crochet. The Introduction indicates that 'This book was the idea of my friend and business partner, Jean Leinhauser.'

It is the out growth of a project the pair of needle artists undertook several years ago; come up with 400+ crochet stitches. In order to accomplish that feat the pair began searching worldwide sites including Russian, German, French, Italian, Spanish, and Japanese, while they could read crochet directions they could not read all the languages. Luckily the sites included instructions in crochet symbols.

Sadly, Leinhauser died before her hope to present symbol crochet methodology for all crochet needle crafters use was finalized. Weiss along with a loyal group of editors and designers worked to complete her project.

The outer leaf of this small, soft cover work with color renditions of small doily and granny square alongside symbol diagrams caught my eye. I have found Leisure Arts small instruction books to be handy and useful. The back cover shows the scarf, hat and pineapple doily.

Pieces can be worked from the charts by those who cannot read standard crochet directions. Happily, I learned to crochet before my teens, my mother was an accomplished needle artist who taught me to read written directions. I first saw crochet symbols rather than written directions about 20 years ago, and like both crafting methods.

The Introduction continues with The Story of Symbol Crochet, The Symbols, The Diagrams, a two-page spread of the symbols themselves, and then pages 10 - 59 detailed, graphic of crochet hook and thread included beginning with single crochet, SC, and how to do and how it should look all presented with graphic and specific text for accomplishing the stitch.

Stitches detailed include chain, single crochet, half double and double crochet, treble, double treble, and treble treble, front and back post single, front and back post half double, double, treble, single, half double, double and treble crochet decrease, single, half double, double and treble crochet increase, extended single, half double, double and treble crochet, reverse single, V stitch, half double, double, treble, cluster, also called bobble and popcorn stitch, double crochet and other shell crochet, several picot stitches, cross stitch, x stitch, y stitch, adjustable ring. Stitch details are presented prior to the pages featuring specific projects.

First project is a granny square shown in a two-page spread, on the left a color photo of a completed square, with text including skill level, materials to use, and gauge. The right hand page shows the charted diagram with a key at the bottom of the page showing symbols and their name. The next two pages show charted rounds with text written in standard ch 4, 2 dc in 4th ch from hook format.

Then follows other projects presented in the same format, color photo of the completed project, material needed, skill level, and charts with text.

Projects include a Simple Doily, Crossed Stitch Hat, Snow Flake Earrings, Striped Scarf, Sweet Sachet, Kitchen Angel Dishcloth, Galaxy Doily, and Pineapple Centerpiece doily.

For the novice the 8 projects can serve to forward skill, and perhaps further interest. Any of the pieces can be made in multiples, joined and form afghan, table cloth and whatever tickles the fancy. Each of the projects and motifs with the exception of the granny square, hat and scarf is a variation of doily.

Doilies and granny squares can be joined using crochet stitch in the final row of the motif. Depending upon thread, string, yarn used for making the motifs; the resulting pieces will be delicate and airy, or thick, heavy and warm.

All in all I find Leisure Arts' Rita Weiss and Susan Lowman Complete Guide to Symbol Crochet to be informative and useful, graphics are clear, easy to follow and understand. Novice crochet artists and long-time plyers of the hook will find diagrams easy to follow, projects are varied and lend themselves to more projects.

Happy to recommend Leisure Arts' Rita Weiss and Susan Lowman handy Complete Guide to Symbol Crochet.

Molly Martin, Reviewer

Robin's Bookshelf

The Jewish God Question
Andrew Pessin
Rowman & Littlefield
9781538110980, $34.00

Jewish Philosophers Think About God

Andrew Pessin's new book, "The Jewish God Question: What Jewish Thinkers have Said about God, The Book, The People, and The Land" offers an overview of the diverse, serious thought Jewish thinkers have given over the centuries to broad questions about God, religion, and Judaism. In addition to his writings on Jewish subjects, Pessin, professor of philosophy at Connecticut College, has written a historical novel, "The Irrationalist" on the life of Rene Descartes, introductions to philosophy and the philosophy of mind, and a book called "Uncommon Sense" which introduces readers to provocative, counter-intuitive yet valuable ideas advanced by different philosophical thinkers. But Pessin has shown an affinity for religious, metaphysical questions. His "The Jewish God Question" is something of a spin-off from an earlier book, "The God Question: What Famous Thinkers From Plato to Dawkins have said about the Divine". (This book has recently been translated into Chinese.) We have never met, but through reading and reviewing some of his books and through online communications, Pessin and I have become friends.

Pessin and I share some of the same interests. I am fortunate to see and learn from his gifts for literature, philosophy, and Judaism. Pessin seems to me to bridge the tension between broader-themed cultural works and Jewish works in an admirable and enviable manner. Indeed, one of the themes raised but not resolved in "The Jewish God Questions" is the nature of the interplay between Jewish themes and life and broader philosophical themes and life in various broad, diverse cultures. In addition to his erudition and enthusiasm, Pessin has the rare ability to write pithily and succinctly and to make himself understood to non-specialist readers.

"The Jewish God Question" consists of short summaries of critical ideas of 72 Jewish thinkers beginning with Philo of Alexandria and concluding with Samuel Lebens (b. 1983). Each chapter consists of about two pages of text summarizing an important thought. In the individual chapters, Pessin often moves from writing in his own voice to trying to get inside the mind of the subject of the chapter to show the problems he was addressing and the solutions he adopted. Each chapter is cross-referenced to enable the interested reader to explore the thoughts of other individuals included in the volume on related themes.

With the brevity of each chapter, there is no claim of being exhaustive. Still, each chapter distills highly complex ideas and, much more importantly, got me involved with the subject. The presentations help the reader understand what motivated the position under discussion and to think along for oneself. Pessin lets his subjects speak; I found it difficult to detect his own philosophical positions and approaches from the summaries he provides of many thinkers who differ greatly from each other.

The book is grouped chronologically into four parts, each of which begins with a short introduction. The first part covers Philo (one of my own Jewish philosophical heroes, together with Spinoza) through Ibn Daud (1180 CE). The second part focuses on Maimonides and his successors through about 1550. The key figure for part three is Spinoza, and the book takes the story of various responses to Enlightenment to 1891. Part four of the book covers the many, broken themes of the modern era including Zionism, the Holocaust, existentialism, feminism, post-modernism and more. Samuel Leben's Afterword offers his own overview of the contents of the volume and stresses the importance to Judaism and to society of the search for objective truth (as opposed to the post-modernisms and relativisms which make their appearances in Pessin's book) and of the possible value of the techniques of analytical philosophy. Interestingly, Lebens' own work that Pessin discusses to conclude his presentation is a somewhat playful, idealistically-oriented essay that I had an earlier opportunity to read in a book on contemporary idealistic metaphysics. Pessin offers a readable, sympathetic summary of what is a difficult, esoteric essay.

It is worth pointing out the thinkers who receive more than the one brief expository chapter in this book which perhaps gives some idea of the major figures; Philo, Saadia Gaon. Abraham Ibn Daud, Nachmanides, Gersonides, Spinoza, S.R. Hirsch, Herman Cohen, and Leo Strauss receive two chapters each. Judah Halevi, Maimonides, and Crescas are the only figures who receive three chapters.

My own degree of Jewish observance is small at best, but I have found it helps me a great deal to engage with Jewish philosophy and its themes. Pessin's book reminded me of works and thinkers I have read over the years and made me want to revisit or to learn for the first time about some of them. I also thought, in the context of my own reading and of Pessin's work, about the degree of weight to be given to particularly Jewish thought. As mentioned earlier, I admire Pessin for his ability to move between writing on Jewish sources and writing on non-Jewish sources. Some might argue, in a view I have some sympathy for, that a focus on Jewish sources, as in "The Jewish God Question" raises the possibility of an essentialist position with a too-heavy emphasis on identity and a separation of a distinctly Jewish approach to philosophy or to life from the approaches of others. Still, this is a question that Jewish thinkers themselves often raise and discuss with insight as shown in Pessin's book.

Pessin has written an outstanding overview of Jewish thought which I found moving and informative. Readers interested in Jewish philosophy will learn from this study.

Dangerous Mystic:Meister Eckhart's Path To the God Within
Joel F. Harrington
Penguin Press
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
9781101981566, $30.00

A New Study Of Meister Eckhart

For centuries after his death the teachings of the medieval German mystic Meister Eckhart (1260 -- 1328) fell into obscurity. Beginning in the mid-19th century, Eckhart's writings were rediscovered and made widely available. Today many people of widely varying backgrounds and religious dispositions draw inspiration from Eckhart. He has been celebrated in the music of John Adams, for example, and his been a source for popular spiritual works as well as for scholarly study and reflection. I have explored Eckhart at various times of my life for years and have learned from him.

Joel Harrington's recent book, "Dangerous Mystic:Meister Eckhart's Path to the God Within" (2018) shows the author is a person who has thought deeply and learned from Eckhart. His book will be valuable both to scholars and to those readers newly approaching Eckhart. Neither a philosopher nor a theologian, Harrington is Centennial Professor of History at Vanderbilt University who has written about German history in the early modern era of the sixteenth century. In his study of Eckhart, Harrington puts his formidable skills as a historian to use.

Many fine books are available about Eckhart's thought and a still larger number are available about Medieval history. But there are few studies which have integrated the two and considered Eckhart within the context of his times. Harrington does so brilliantly and in the process helped me understand both Eckhart's teachings and his life.

The book consists of four parts each of which works to elucidate part of Eckhart's fundamental teaching of letting go. The first part, "Letting Go of the World" talks about the young Eckhart by discussing the world into which he was born. Harrington describes a culture moving towards a monetary, commercialized economy and the impact of this movement on religious belief. He describes the literature of courtly love and of spiritual search in the context of an increasingly commercial society and explores how this literature doubtlessly influenced the young nobleman and, more importantly, is reflected in Eckhart's writings and in his spiritual search. This part of the book takes Eckhart's biography through his early years as a Dominican friar at Erfurt, his home for most of his life.

The second part of the book "Letting Go of God" explores Eckhart's long period of study of scholastic philosophy in Paris where he ultimately earned the title of "Master" or "Meister" for his extensive learning (roughly equivalent to the modern-day PhD). Harrington gives background on the nature of scholastic life and of the scholastic approach to philosophy and religion. His approach places Eckhart squarely within and, indeed, a master of the scholastic philosophy of his day. Eckhart gradually became attracted to a Neoplatonic approach to philosophy rather than the Aristotelian approach more common in the schools. Eckhart questioned the ability of reason and logic to provide an approach to God and developed an approach relying more on intuition and personal experience. He conceived the project of writing his own "Summa" to rival and correct that of Aquinas. This project was never realized.

In the third part of the book "Letting Go of the Self" Harrington explores Eckart's life after leaving Paris and the academy for reasons which remain uncertain. Eckhart became a skilled administrator in the Dominican order and a preacher. He took his highly developed thought and presented it to the people, especially to religious women, rather than to fellow scholars and students. Importantly he spoke in German rather than in Latin. Harrington describes Eckhart's life as an administrator and he explores Eckhart's relationship to the movement of women's spirituality expressed by the community of beguines, including figures such as Marguerite Porete, who was burned at the stake for heresy. There is a great deal of mutual influence between Eckhart's teachings and the teachings of the beguines. In this part of the book, Harrington offers an exposition of Eckhart's basic and difficult teachings and of his frequently paradoxical style of writing. Eckhart was aware both of the limitations of human speech and of the necessity of speech for finite beings to approach understanding.

The final part of the book "Holding on to Religion" addresses both holding on and letting go. Harrington discusses the inquisition into Eckhart's thought which ultimately led to the papal condemnation of some of his writing after Eckhart's death. The condemnation was based on the alleged antinomian character of Eckhart's work, its possible radical individualism, and its alleged break from institutional Catholicism. Eckhart's reputation went into eclipse for centuries, and Harrington traces the course of the history of Eckhart's reception in the final sections of his book. With the revival of interest in Eckhart, the tension in understanding his work that began at the outset has revived: some of those who learn from Eckhart place him within the boundaries of orthodox Christian teaching while others see Eckhart as breaking away towards a new form of spirituality outside the bounds of any particular religion.

In placing Eckhart thoroughly within the context of his times and in his insightful discussions of Eckhart's teachings, Harrington's sympathies lie clearly with seeing Eckhart within the context of Christian teachings. Harrington is properly skeptical of relativistic, anything goes understandings of Eckhart. Still, Harrington recognizes that Eckhart's words and teachings in some ways break through traditional Christianity and have allowed those people influenced by Eastern religions, as well as those with a mystical bent in the Moslem and Jewish traditions, and those not professing any particular religion and in some cases not being religious at all to learn from Eckhart. Eckhart's teachings are, in their depth, broader than Christian; and yet in Harrington's account, also stress the value of adherence to a particular religious body, in Eckhart's case Christian. In an Epilogue explaining what Harrington sees as the sources of Eckhart's continued importance, Harrington concludes:

"Meister Eckhart's wayless way deliberately remained general and nonprescriptive, allowing for countless subjective variations. It would be ahistorical and presumptuous to predict his opinion of either religious exclusivism or perennialism. But based on his long life of service, we can conclude with conviction that nothing would have pleased the master more than to be considered still useful to his fellow seekers' journey to the God within."

Harrington's book has helped deepen my own understanding and appreciation of Meister Eckhart.

Robin Friedman

Schneider's Bookshelf

Darling Girl
Terry H. Watkins
Green Writers Press
9781732266247, $19.95 PB, $7.19 Kindle, 300pp,

In Darling Girl, Watkins writes a story that needs to be both told and shared. The story is one of heartbreak and love. The story is one of joy and sadness. The story is DG's and the reader's life is richer for having shared in it.

Opening in 1957, the work chronicles the life of DG, a vivacious, inquisitive, and inspiring young girl. Each chapter shares witty, crisp, and clear text that details a moment (an event, a day, a week, a month) in DG's life. The reader travels through time alongside DG (fireworks on the 4th of July, Brownie troop meetings at her home, her father with another woman) and shares (through both laughter and tears) in her poignant and heartbreaking experiences. Each chapter captures the sweet joy and sorrow of life amidst lies, half-truths, secrets, family anger, lost babies, community contempt, piercing observations, and never-ending travel. The work highlights the complexity and the bonds of family. Mental illness is one challenge for DG's family, but it's neither the darkest nor the most persistent. Questions of cause and effect complicate relationships and implications. DG's resilience and strength is a bittersweet testament to the potential of youth as well as its fragility.

"Everybody always says I just blurt out whatever I'm thinking, but that's not true. I think lots of stuff nobody knows about, like how come I don't stutter in my head, and how will know if Henry David stutters, too, if he doesn't ever talk, and why the boys all have two names and I don't even have one. I'm real careful about what I say on account of sometimes it makes my mama cry, and where is my mama?"

DG's mother goes away often. The first time she left, DG was five. That was a first of many trips and DG's questions would grow deep. DG's father (a large, controlling figure with questionable motivations, misplaced anger, and dangerous tendencies) would take DG and her family on a world tour, all the while manipulating and further complicating a family already living in fear of his anger. His dominance persists, but hope does, as well.

"The inside of the muff is satin, and it is the smoothest, coolest thing I've ever touched. I just might never take this coat off."

"He is the scariest I've ever seen him. I do as he says, leaving my coat and muff behind. It is bitter cold outside."

Watkins speaks loudly, even when she writes quietly. Watkins speaks powerfully on family dynamics and the delicate childhood dance of feeling love for parental figures whose acts send mixed and often dangerous messages.

"Everybody is saying nothing pretty loud, at least to me, and nobody cares that I miss her awful. My mama is gone again."

Though the work's message is serious and weighty, Watkins' writing is light, crisp, and engaging. DG is wonderfully likable, funny, and endearing. The shared vignettes are honest, vivid, and often funny. Many take place in the types of private spaces that so often reflect our individuality and sometimes hide our suffering. Watkins' preserves humanity and, at the same time, raises awareness of the darkness of mental illness.

"IN HER CLOSET, it's pretty easy to imagine my mama is near. Dresses trail over my head as I crawl toward the back, careful not to disturb the stacked shoeboxes and wrapped handbags that tell me the story of her life."

"Grandpa's workshop is kinda like Mama's closet - it tells you who he is. The smell of it and the things you find there are all a part of him."

Watkins writes with an honest clarity and a piercing truth that amplifies otherwise silenced voices. Watkins work serves as affirmation for those who suffer and those who suffer along with them. Darling Girl speaks to all of us. DG is no longer invisible. She is strong and powerful. And I am grateful to have shared in her story.

A Critical Pedagogy of Resistance: 34 Pedagogues We Need to Know
James D. Kirylo, editor
Foreword by Luis Miron
Sense Publishers
9789462093720, $32.00, PB, 172pp,

In "A Critical Pedagogy of Resistance: 34 Pedagogues We Need to Know", James D. Kirylo presents a powerful collection of essays that chronicles the perspectives and lived experiences (in narrative form) of 34 diverse pedagogues (some likely familiar, some likely not). Each featured pedagogue has contributed in important and varied ways to the meaning, impact, and influence of critical pedagogy. The 34 pedagogues represent a wide array of backgrounds (cultural, ethnic, geographic, and religious) and educational circumstances that "necessitated their leadership and resistance" (Kirylo, 2013, p. xx).

The diversity of the contributors (along with the diversity of the circumstances that inspired their work) is exceptionally compelling. It is the rare reader who will be unable to see him or herself reflected in the mirror of experiences conveyed through one (or more) of the shared narratives. Readers will simultaneously find windows through which new perspectives and understandings of our world can be gained. While the mirrors and windows will certainly present in different forms (autobiographical, conceptual, circumstantial, or otherwise) for different readers, the view and/or reflection serve as powerful motivators for both positive change and a greater good.

Kirylo describes critical pedagogy as "an empowering way of thinking and acting, fostering decisive agency that does not take a position of neutrality in its contextual examination of the various forces that impact the human condition" (2013, p. xxi). Whether by intention or by chance, the collection articulately captures and conveys the pedagogues' own modes of thought and action and, in doing so, effectively empowers the reader. In the work's Introduction, Kirylo orients the reader and provides a valuable context for the individual narratives that comprise the bulk of the text. Each chapter, titled with an appropriately meaningful phrase that captures the work of its subject pedagogue, serves to further strengthen the collection's call for reflection, exploration, and further action.

Kirylo writes that the aim of the book takes three parts (2013). Specifically, the work aims to (i) inspire discussions about pivotal social issues involving justice and equality, (ii) promote critical self-reflection regarding the lens through which readers view our world, and (iii) inspire action (2013). Kirylo can rest assured that his efforts have not been for naught.

Of the 34 critical pedagogues (presented alphabetically in the text), Kirylo writes of two groups. First is the group in which "members personally experienced and lived under terrifying and dangerous oppressive circumstances" (2013, p. xxi). Second is the group who has "lived (and continues to do so) under a constant cloud of losing their jobs, status, and the distorting of reputation for taking positions of resistance" (2013, p. xxiii). A common thread emerges in how all "audaciously remain in the struggle of calling out powerful, well-financed entities that make every attempt to marginalize their thought" (2013, p. xxii). The dichotomy is an interesting and useful framework. I wonder, though, whether an additional third category might be beneficial. For example, theorists who are neither of the above, but yet have quietly impacted change in their own way.

Reflecting upon the text as a collective whole, several useful themes emerge. Prevalent themes include: (i) education is not neutral (Michael Apple, Stanley Aronowitz, Lilia Bartolome, and Paulo Freire); (ii) education often supports those in power (Michael Apple, Lilia Bartolome, Antonia Darder); and, most critically, (iii) ongoing scrutiny and critical reviews of curricula and related educational activism are a way (and perhaps the only way) to achieve positive change in this regard (Michael Apple, Stanley Aronowitz, Lilia Bartolome, Deborah Britzman, Noam Chomsky, Antonia Darder, and John Dewey) (Kirylo, 2013). Parallel themes of risk and loss (Ignacio Ellacuria) serve as a reminder of the stakes and the potential costs. Hope persists throughout all of the themes and the pedagogues' work (see Paulo Freire and bell hooks) (Kirylo, 2013).

While I highlight those early in the alphabet for illustrative purposes, the noted themes are consistent throughout the collection's summary of the 34 pedagogues. The themes persist throughout the middle (for example, Henry Giroux's efforts to expose hidden curriculum and harmful assumptions as well as Jesus "Pato" Gomez's emphasis on giving voice to otherwise silenced groups) as well as through the end of the collection (for example, Joe Kincheloe's suggestion to review curriculum for intended harms) (Kirylo, 2013). Highlighting some is not in any way to minimize or overlook the work of all of the profiled pedagogues.

In addition to unifying themes, there are also important distinctions across the chapters. These distinctions are useful as a reminder that each interaction is, at its core, individual. For many of the critical pedagogues, their life's work emerged from patterns formed by what were initially singular encounters. For example, Judith Butler attributes her own personal life choices to a single individual (Kirylo, 2013). The reminder to never lose sight of the power and potential of individual interactions and relationships to make and achieve change is powerful and important. The collection serves as both a call to action and a powerful reminder to both look back and look within, in order to move forward towards a better, more just society.

Finally, the collection serves more as a beginning, rather than an end. Due to obvious word limitations, many of the passages raised new questions, rather than provided comprehensive answers. This collection inspires readers to act with both "honorable anger" and a "pedagogy of love" in their work to confront and address injustices and their impact on society (Darder, as cited in Kirylo, 2013, p. xxiii). We know that "revolutions do not occur spontaneously" (Gramsci, 2013, p. 72). Rather, "[t]hey are the work of individuals" (Gramsci, 2013, p. 72) and each of us, serving as agents of change, has the potential to support positive change.


Gramsci, A. Life and Impact on Critical Pedagogy. In Kirylo, James D. A Critical Pedagogy of Resistance: 34 Pedagogues We Need to Know. (pp. 61-64). Sense Publ., 2013.
Kirylo, James D. A Critical Pedagogy of Resistance: 34 Pedagogues We Need to Know. Sense Publ., 2013.

Jennifer Schneider

Suanne's Bookshelf

Hearts of the Missing
Carol Potenza
Minotaur Books
9781250178282, $26.99

I have read every Tony Hillerman book and, being raised in the Southwest, loved how he (and later his daughter Anne Hillerman) captured so beautifully the aura of the land and its people. When I heard Hearts of the Missing had won the Tony Hillerman Prize for Best First Mystery Set in the Southwest, I was intrigued enough to read it.

Let me say, I was not disappointed. Potenza's book is every bit as enthralling as a Hillerman Leaphorn or Chee mystery novel. Potenza's love for the New Mexico landscape comes through clearly. Additionally, she has a strong female protagonist in Nicky Matthews who is an officer in the police department of the Fire-Sky people. Though not a native, she is trusted by the people she serves. Tribal members have been disappearing for several years, but Nicky is told to close the investigation. The book combines well-conceived plot twists as native mythology and history conflict with science. Nicky faces a boss who dislikes her, an old lover and his demon of a wife, plus a new love interest who may not be who he seems. People who enjoy a good conspiracy theory will enjoy Heart of the Missing as well. Cant't wait to read the next one!

The Lost Carousel of Provence
Judith Blackwell
9780451490636, $15.00

I was tempted to read this book by its title. Having lived abroad, I have fond memories of Europe and wanted to see if Blackwell's writing lived up to my memories.

The Lost Carousel of Provence is a complex book in multiple points of view in multiple settings and time frames from the Belle Epoque to World War II to modern day France and California, all tied together with the spandrel of a burnt-out antique carousel. The author handled the shifts in POV well, and I never felt lost or was taken out of the story to re-orient myself. Her descriptions of the landscape and people of Provence are spot-on. Her research on carousels and their restoration was fascinating and her descriptions of carving evoke the desire to pick up a chisel.

Themes of family, what constitutes a family, and what it's like to have no family run through the book. Cady is a tough orphan from Oakland. She has been given an antique carousel rabbit and goes to France to determine its provenance. A second, very likable character is Maelle Tanguy. In the early 20th century, she serves as the only female assistant to Gustave Bayol, an artisan famous for his carved carousels. Like any good artist, she is driven to be a sculptor, to the point of breaking patriarchal ideas of what a woman should do. Jean-Paul is a Frenchman who befriends Cady in Paris then again in Provence. The most endearing character is the grumpy, irrascible, reclusive Fabrice. He participated in the French Resistance against the Nazis. All three threads are related and come together in a cohesive narrative as family secrets are unraveled to reveal the truth.

This is a bit of a genre-bending story: mystery, women's fiction, and romance. The romantic elements are sweet, but minimal, that didn't overwhelm the rest of the book.

While I enjoyed the ambiguous ending, readers who like a definitive closure to a book may not.

The Forgiving Kind
Donna Everhart
119 W 40th St # 21, New York, NY 10018
9781496717009, $15.95, paperback

I chose to read this book because I grew up with a similar hard-scrapple cotton farming family in Texas and picked cotton with my cousins and migrant farm workers. Everhart really understands and is able to depict that sort of life. I was immediately transported back to the South in the 1950s - an era I grew up in. I remember separate drinking fountains and toilets for "colored" people.

The Forgiving Kind has themes of bigotry and acceptance of blacks and homosexuals and those with who stand out (Sonny herself is gifted with the ability to divine water and stands out from the crowd for this ability).

The Forgiving Kind captures the hardships and pleasures of being a cotton-farming family: the terror of bole weevils or drought or rain at the wrong time of cotton development. It is a coming-of-age story blended with family drama. When their father dies after being bitten by a rattlesnake, Sonny Creech, her mother, and brothers learn that they have little money to subsist on - not enough to plant the year's crop of cotton. Faced with the potential loss of their farm, they accept help from the rich man, Frank Fowler, who lives on the farm next door. Eventually, Fowler seduces and marries the mother - which leads to unforeseen devastating consequences.

The richness of farm life and Sonny's attachment to the land is exquisitely portrayed. I read this in one night and was sorry to see the book end.

The Hangman's Secret
Laura Joh Rowland
Crooked Lane Books
9781683319023, $26.99

I enjoyed Laura Joh Rowland's mystery series set in 17th century Japan featuring samurai detective Sano Ichiro, so I was certain I'd enjoy this story as well.

This is the third in her Victorian mystery series with photographer Sarah Bain, her gay friend Sir Hugh, and a street urchin, Mick. Ostensibly they work for the London's Daily World newspaper which is headed by Sir Gerald Mariner, a wealthy former mariner and banker, but on the side they solve murders.

A criminal named Amelia Carlisle, given the sobriquet of the "Baby Butcher" for taking in infants for adoption, then killing them, was hanged by Harry Warbrick, who was later murdered - ineptly hanged. Sarah and her friends discover a tie between those two and the actor/nobleman who wishes to become the next Sheriff.

The relationship between the three (Sarah, Hugh, and Mick) is touching. They have disparate lives but form a family with ties strong enough that when Sarah must choose between them and her boyfriend, Barrett, a cop, she has a hard time deciding.

Their struggle to solve the mystery endangers all of them, their occupations, and Sarah's love for Barrett.

Rowland, as always, does a superb job in capturing the time and place of her stories. The seedy underbelly of London comes to life in her capable hands, and her descriptions of the crime-scene photographs that Sarah makes are realistic.

The Ones We Choose
Julie Clark
Gallery Books
1230 6th Ave, New York, NY 10020
9781501184475, $16.00

As a family practice doctor and the mother of an adopted son, I loved this book. The scientific aspects appealed to me as did the fact that Paige worked as a scientist and was never a stay-at-home mom. I was also intrigued by Paige's dilemma of having conceived a child with an anonymous sperm donor then having to deal with the repercussions in a child's life. I see some of these same questions of identity as I watch my son search for the birth mother who abandoned him at the hospital.

The characters, even the secondary ones, were particularly well-drawn. Clark's prose was simple yet compelling as she portrays Paige dealing with the childhood trauma of being abandoned by a non-nurturing parent, the trials of a single mother working full-time while raising a child, the gut-wrenching of seeing her son, Miles, unhappy, being bully, seeking answers she can't give, and being unable to "fix" these problems, and her inability to let Liam, her boyfriend, close enough to form an enduring relationship, always choosing her son over her lover and protecting her heart from being let down.

I enjoyed this book on all levels. Clark weaves subplots such as Paige's career (ironically, her research is on non-bonding of fathers with their children), the boyfriend, and her family, including her father who has come and gone Paige's entire life. There are enough twists to keep the reader enthralled.

What Doesn't Kill You
Aimee Hix
Midnight Ink
9780738754437, $15.99

What Doesn't Kill You is Aimee Hix's debut novel. She now has a second out in the same series (Willa Pennington, PI Mysteries), Dark Streets, Cold Suburbs, which I am eager to read. If you like strong female protagonists in detective/mystery series such as Sara Paretsky's V.I. Warshawski or Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone, you'll enjoy Hix's Willa Pennington.

Willa retired from the police department in her late twenties to apprentice with her father as a private investigator. A neighbor asks her to help their daughter move from the apartment she shares with her abusive boyfriend. Willa arrives just in time to find no daughter, just the boyfriend's body.

This is a lovely debut book. Hix has impeccable timing in her plotting and manages to keep all the plot balls juggling until the reveal. Hix manages to blend cozy mystery domesticity (scenes with Willa's family add to this ambiance) and noir. Hot/cold scenes with Seth, a one-night stand/old friend who's reentered her life provide a sizzle of sex appeal and add to the twists and turns of the plot. The reader can look forward to great characterization, a tense storyline, and a first novel that provides a good underpinning to the sequels to come.

Suanne Schafer, Reviewer

Susan's Bookshelf

Pinnacle Lust
Michelle Dim-St. Pierre
9781610055710, $9.99, 354 Pages

What would a girl expect to be given from her mother on her 18th birthday? A locket, or similar as a keepsake perhaps? Leigh Stone does receive something memorable on her 18th, but not quite what one would expect. Her mother Sharon decides that this is the right age for her daughter to discover secrets she has kept about her past, through necessity, until now. So bravely (or foolishly, I wonder) Sharon decides to give Leigh her own journal, which reveals the truth about her younger life.

The story begins with Leigh's stunned acceptance of her mother's unusual gift, and as she reads it the story unfolds through Sharon's own words.

The journal begins in November 1990, when the young Sharon, a kosher Jew, living a secular life, is the nurse house supervisor at the Kol Israel Achim Jewish Hospital. It is there that one day she is introduced to a new physician at the hospital Dr. Sloan, and it is love at first sight.

Despite being in a relationship, with a very eligible man, the sight of the six foot, well built and 'gorgeous' Dr. Sloan literally takes her breath away. As their eyes meet she dares to imagine that he feels the same.

Sounds like a fairy-tale, a match made in heaven. Well it would be, if it wasn't for the fact that Sloan is in fact a married man with a son. However, their joint attraction is so strong that neither can resist the temptation, and they embark on a passionate, and very intense love affair.

Leigh soon discovers in the pages that her mother's young life at this time was very traumatic. She reads of Sharon's decision to finish the relationship with boyfriend Joel, her establishment of lifelong female friendships, brief sexual encounters, and tragic loss of life. Also, she get a glimpse of what it was like to live through the terrors of the bombing of Israel by the Iraqis during Operation Desert Storm.

As adults with a few years of life behind them, many people, myself included, can relate to the core emotions of this story, from one side or the other, wife, mistress, husband, lover, either through their experiences, or those of friends. However the reader has to remember that Leigh is only 18 and her reactions to her mother's life as they unfold are typical of someone that young.

Along with the excitement of the affair, Sharon and Sloan also have to deal with the real life issues of being together, both at work and at home. The celebratory days when the married lover is with his 'family', the snatched moments, these and so much more are situations which the lovers have to come to terms with. Very clearly the loneliness of Sharon, (the mistress') life is exposed, laid bare, emotions raw.

With her body clock ticking away, like thousands of women before her, Sharon decides she wants a baby. However, how will this affect their future? Will Sloan really leave his wife for the woman he professes to love? If he does, what will the spurned wife do, and how will she react when she discovers about the affair? So many questions run through Leigh, and the readers mind in this exciting story.

As the story concludes, Leigh's life is turned upside down by the revelations the journal contains, and she realises she doesn't know her mother at all!

Available from Amazon:

Hide and Panic Stations: Super Speed Sam, Book 2
Monty J. McClaine
9781530435890, $6.99, 74 Pages

I first fell in love with this series of Super Speed Sam books when I downloaded book 5, just before last Christmas. My granddaughter and I so enjoyed reading of Super Speed Sam, the innocent looking Basset Hound's adventure when he was Santa's Rescue Dog that we just had to read the whole series.

In this, the first book we were introduced to the McClaine family, which consists of Mom, Dad whose real name is Marty, but who Mom calls Monty, Jack a typically mischievous six year old boy, and Molly (also known as moms little princess) who has just managed to start to crawl. The sworn defender of this family is their best friend and pet Super Speed Sam.

The character of Sam is adorable, my brother had as pets, and bred Basset Hounds for a number of years. Their strong characters and clever brains are cleverly hidden behind their sloppy loveable face, and they make wonderful childhood pets, as my children and nieces will attest to. The affable Sam is the perfect companion for Jack on his adventures and in this story they are playing hide and seek, a game which every dog owner knows, dogs excel at.

Sam is very good at hiding but Jack finds him in the end. However, when it is Jack's turn to hide he discovers the perfect place, somewhere nice and comfy, and being a boy he has his hands free flashlight and his MP3 player. Things get even better when Jack finds a hidden gem just waiting for him to look at. At this point Jack does what boys do best, he loses himself in the moment and goes off into his own world, innocently totally unaware of the bedlam he is causing. Meanwhile poor Sam is confused, where could he be?

Sam looks in all the usual places and soon his desperate searching alerts the family to the fact that Jack is missing. Mom is panicking and even dad is getting worried. There is nothing left to do, Sam decides he must chant his special powers chant and become Super Speed Sam!

Donned in his special Sherlock Sam hat and in full sleuthing mode, as only Basset Hounds know how to, he begins his search. The question is, will Sherlock Sam find his young master safe and sound?

Well, the only way to discover the answer is to read this exciting adventure, and I am sure you will enjoy this wonderful story, which is beautifully illustrated, as much as we did!

Available from Amazon:

In Foreign Fields: How Not To Move To France
Susie Kelly
Blackbird Digital Books
9781916426825, $15.99, 248 Pages

As a firm fan of Susie Kelly's books about her adventures and experiences of living in rural France, I couldn't resist downloading this, her latest book, and I am so happy that I did.
In it I discovered how it is that Susie Kelly came to live in her house in the Poitou-Charente region of France. Throughout this wonderful book she shares her incredible adventures of this time, and I found myself laughing, sighing, and sometimes nearly crying, as I read them described in truly 'fly on the wall' style.

Like many others before and after them, Susie and her husband Terry set off armed with practical advice, hope and lots of information and tips on house buying in a foreign land. Needless to say, despite this, we all know the draw of the Estate Agent's window, all those amazing properties, interesting, and sometimes slightly misleading descriptions, plus the financial restrictions which we all have. Susie and Terry were just the same and settled for, as my dad would say 'a doer-upper.'

From the moment you open this book and start reading, Susie Kelly's frank and humorous style of writing draws you in, and, as an expat myself, I have to say it really is a very honest look at the wide range of characters of people, both English and other nationalities which you encounter here. Through her amazingly descriptive writing she paints a vivid picture of the countryside and life around her in this beautiful region of France, and recounts honestly many of the situations she finds herself in, and the antics of her menagerie.

Whether you dream of moving to France, want to know what life here is really like, or just want to be a fly on the wall enjoying someone else's experience, then this is the book for you.

Available from Amazon:

Susan Keefe, Reviewer

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

Copyright ©2001

Site design by Williams Writing, Editing & Design