Book Lover Resources, Advice for Writers and Publishers
|Home / Reviewer's
Table of Contents
Alex Phuong's Bookshelf
The Four Winds
St. Martin's Press
9781250178602, $14.99 Kindle, $17.39 Hardcover,$21.34 Paperback, 464 pages
Redefining the Family Saga
First of all, some of the greatest American classics involve families attempting to survive the cruelties of the real world. Examples range from Gone with the Wind, The Grapes of Wrath, and even the 2020 "Best Picture" nominee Minari. Additionally, The Grapes of Wrath beautifully captures America during the disastrous Dust Bowl era. Similarly, The Four Winds appears to combine the strong heroine with the willpower to live in spite of the harshness of reality. In fact, Kristin Hannah crafted a heroine that is comparable to the legendary Scarlett O'Hara. Finally, this novel does contain depressing elements, but it is still a powerful depiction of paving past any difficult situation, including the Great Depression.
Alex Andy Phuong
Allan Jenkins' Bookshelf
9780345545336, $17.00 paper
This is a book that is called The Racketeer. It is a fiction novel written by a very famous author named John Grisham. John Grisham is the author of several other fiction novels, including a very good book that is called the BROOKER, which I have also had the chance to read. He also has written several other fiction novels one of which is called the PELICAN BRIEF. In my opinion this fiction novel would have to be considered a legal thriller, even better the first john Grisham novel that I had a chance to read. John Grisham has lived some of his life in Mississippi and some of his life in Virginia. This book, which is called The RACKETEER, tells the story of a person who is named Malcom Bannister, who is a former us attorney and has now been sentenced to live at the Federal Prison camp near Frostburg Maryland. His situation is not looking to good, most likely because he lives in a federal prison camp. But what makes this novel so interesting and exciting to read, is that Malcom Bannister has an ace up his sleeve. The reason that is true is because Malcom Bannister knows who has killed a federal judge named Raymond Fawcett. The judge is one of the five who have been murdered. The book is about investigation of who killed the judge. The novel begins by explaining how the judge's body were found and his young secretary's body were found. The bodies were found in his remote lakeside cabin. It was discovered that there was forced entry no struggle just two dead bodies. Also, there was one large extremely secure safe that was found in the cabin. The safe had been opened and emptied. The real mystery in this book was what was in the safe, this is the question that made the novel so exciting to read. The FBI would love to know the answer to this question. And Malcom Banister knew the answer and would have loved to tell the answer to this question But Malcom Banister was not able to tell them due to a couple of factors and that is what made it so exciting to read and why it was such a legal thriller and mystery. I would defiantly recommend the John Grisham novel The RACKETEER. It was a great fiction novel to read.
In conclusion this fiction novel, which is called the RACKETEER, is a great legal thriller. It has caused me to want to read more fiction novels from John Grisham .This novel is very long but it is another novel that once you pick up is hard to put down. If had to rate the book I would rate it as an A+.
Ann Skea's Bookshelf
9781526629968, A$28.99, 163 pages
This is not a happy book, nor is it a conventional novel in the sense of fiction with a plot, or a story-line. Instead, its brief chapters offer glimpses of the life of a single woman in her late 40s, who lives alone in an Italian city, teaches, meets friends and lovers, and observes life around her. Chapter headings show the changing pattern of her life over the course of a year: 'In Spring', 'On the sidewalk', 'At the Trattoria', 'By the Sea', 'At my Mother's', 'On the Couch', etc. She is, as Jhumpa Lahiri has said, at a crossroads, questioning her life, which is something which many of us do at her age.
'Solitude: it's become my trade', she reflects. 'As it requires certain discipline, it's a condition I try to perfect. And yet it plagues me'. She suspects that she has chosen it as a rejection of the closeness her mother imposed on her as a child.
When I was young, even when my father was alive, she kept me close to her side, she never wanted us to be apart, not even briefly....We were an unhealthy amalgam until I left to lead a life of my own....She'd say solitude was a lack and nothing more.
Yet her mother would fly into terrifying rages, berate her and find fault with her. Her childhood relationship with both her parents was, as she remembers it, not good, but she believes they shaped her. To escape her 'daily routine', she takes a short vacation in a nearby town. It is 'a sunlit, peaceful spot' and she likes the place where she is staying but even here, the early influence of her parents seems to influence her responses: 'I think a great deal about my parents, and I ask myself, in this sheltered place, are they still nipping at my heels?'.
Often, as she watches and listens to people, she invents stories for them. She watches an elderly couple in the gardens of a villa as they
step down together, gingerly, in a spot where the path is rather uneven, the ground furrowed as if by a stream. They're clearly well-acquainted, but they don't strike me as husband and wife. Something tells me they are brother and sister, with a childhood in common, an intimacy that was imposed and indisputable.
Finding a young couple buying suitcases in a shop which has been her favourite stationary shop until it changed hands, she sees that they are clearly in love, 'attached at the hip, that sublime phrase when every stupid thing feels enchanting', and she ponders their future:
They open and close the brand-new models, lined, unlined, pulling on the zippers, pounding the plastic carapaces. It's probably the first time they're going away together. Maybe also their last? Will they come to the conclusion, after spending three days together in a hotel, that they're not really so in love? Or will the bond only deepen?
In her own life, she has friends and lovers. A friend's husband, who goes into a lingerie shop with her to help her choose coloured stockings, is a man she 'might have been involved with, maybe shared a life with', but 'we have a chaste, fleeting bond'. She sees them as being like the shadows of people which they stop to observe on a wall as they cross a bridge together, 'a routine spectacle, impossible to capture'.
'Never married', she tells us,
but like all women, I've had my share of married men. Today I think of one I met here, in this bar on the other side of the river where I now happen to be, on my own.....He was unhappily, permanently married. We had a fling. He lived in another city, and he would come down from time to time, for the day, for work. What else is there to say?
Her one long-term relationship with a man she clearly loved and cared for, 'You're all I've got in this world, he'd say', is shattered when a woman phones her and it becomes clear that they were 'an unwitting threesome'. When the two women meet and exchange information, 'Each revelation was devastating. Everything she said. And yet, even as my life shattered in pieces, I felt as if I were finally coming up for air'.
Not all of the book is a bleak as this, and the narrator's life is, in many ways, like the solitude many of us have experienced during the Covid epidemic, although this book pre-dates it. In effect, it slowly builds a picture of a woman reviewing her past, questioning the way it has shaped her life, and making a decision to change it.
Towards the end of the book she accepts a year-long fellowship in a country across the border. The symbolism of crossing a border is apparent, as is the symbolism of her vision in a chapter entitled 'Up Ahead'. The day before she leaves her familiar neighbourhood, at 'a moment of transition' when the shops re-open after their long lunch time break, she sees a woman 'out of the corner of her eye' who is dressed exactly as she is, and she follows her 'double', until she loses her amongst traffic.
Did I imagine her? No, I'm certain I saw her. A variation of myself with a sprightly step, determined to get somewhere, just up ahead.
Jhumpa Lahiri has received many awards for her work, including the Pulitzer Prize for her short stories, Interpreter of Maladies. This book, which she wrote in Italian (which is not her native language, but one she fell in love with) was first published in Italy under the title Dove mi trove ('where I find myself'). She has translated it into English herself and chose the title 'Whereabouts', which is a word which can refer to locations as well as to a life. In an interview for The Guardian, she described the book as a novel of 'oscillation and unsettledness and shadows', and she asks 'what it means to pass through life, to always be moving' and, like her narrator, to be 'always on the move in her own world, yet stuck in her world, nervous of what's on the other side of the border'. 'The border - what does that mean today?' Lahiri asks. This is a question which now has both personal and universal relevance.
The Other Black Girl
Zakiya Dalila Harris
c/o Simon & Schuster
9781982160135, $27.00, 355 pages
The Preface to this story is headed 'December 1983, Grand Central Station, Midtown, Manhattan'. A Black woman is fleeing from something which has put her photograph in all the papers. She scratches obsessively at her head, terrified that someone is following her, and panics when the white conductor on the train claims to recognize her:
"I was just reading about you this morning", he said, pointing at something in his back pocket. A rolled-up newspaper. The twinkle in his eye went out, and when he spoke again, the words came slowly, like he was deciding if I was worth wasting them on. "I was a big fan of yours. So I was really surprised to learn how you really feel"....
I did something that surprised him and surprised myself even more.
I looked him in the face and smiled.
"Oh heavens - you mean that witchy lady from the news, right?" I crowed. "Why that happened to me on the way here. My taxi driver made the same mistake. Can you imagine that? Twice in one day!"
She buys a ticket which will take her as far from New York as possible. Where to? Anywhere, but as far North as the train will take her.
That is all we know about this woman until much later in the book.
Part 1 jumps to 'July 13, 2018, Wagner Books, Midtown, Manhattan' and we meet Nella Rogers. Nella is a young Black American woman who, two years earlier, and much to her surprise, had landed a job as an editorial assistant at Wagner Publishing, one of the most prestigious publishers in New York. She is a little proud of being 'the only Black person in the room' but she is passionate about Black rights and works hard to promote awareness of diversity in her workplace. A 'Diversity Town Hall' meeting for staff, organized by the firm's boss, Richard Wagner, seems like a step in the right direction but
The definition of "diversity at Wagner" managed to mystify everyone - roughly 30 percent of Nella's colleagues - and Natalie from HR and the British moderator she'd brought in as a "neutral party" spent the first hour of the first town hall trying to pinpoint what they were really supposed to be talking about....
By the time the fourth meeting rolled around, its attendees were just Nella and a blue-eyed publicity assistant whose name Nella no longer remembered, because she was no longer with the company....
"Maybe we should offer doughnuts or something to get more people to come?" the blue-eyed assistant had meekly suggested...
Nella is a sharp-eyed, likeable, acute and witty observer of the office life around her. She knows the idiosyncrasies of the various editors - the one who leaves greasy thumb marks on manuscripts; the one who is a friend of the owner and is never there - and she knows how to quickly get rid of a 'Cubicle Floater' like Sophie:
As Cubicle Floaters went, she wasn't the worst. She didn't play favourites, which meant your chances of seeing her more than once a week were slim. She was too busy hovering beside the cubicle of another assistant, her lazy smile reminding you of how good you didn't have it.
Nella is well aware that the only other 'Persons Of Colour' (POC) at Wagner Books work in reception or in the mail-room or as cleaners. She is friends with them all, but when she discovers that another Black woman has just joined the editorial staff she is thrilled. Nella and Hazel-May McCall quickly find things in common. Hazel is super-cool; she seems to share Nella's Black activist interests; and she knows all about Burning Heart, a book about a headstrong Black teenager which Nella devoured at the age of fourteen and hadn't been able to put down 'for the entire month of August, and even though it rounded out at a whopping five hundred pages, she'd read three times in rapid succession'. Burning Heart was published by Wagner and it was their first book to have been written and edited by Black women. Nella had also written papers (unpublished) about it.
Hazel's Black credentials are impeccable, far more so than Nella's: born in Harlem, a grandfather who died in a protest march - 'Mentors Black women...goes on poetry retreats...makes signs with all-cap letters...definitely suspicious' jokes Nella's best friend, spiky and smart Malaika, with whom she shares her everyday woes, and who refers to Wagner's as 'White Man's Paradise'. Her joke, however, touches on something which does begin to disturb Nella, even as her relationship with Hazel continues to flourish.
There is something puzzling about the way Hazel seems to fit in so easily with everyone, especially with the editors and with the boss, Richard Wagner. She also seems to know more about Nella's life than Nella has told her. She begins to take over some of Nella's jobs for Nella's superior, Vera, and when Nella upsets the best-selling author of Vera's latest big-book project by voicing her concerns about the Black character he has written into his book, Vera, who had previously valued her honest opinion, begins to favour Hazel.
Nella's doubts about Hazel become worse when she receives an anonymous note, saying, 'in Comic Sans Font, LEAVE WAGNER NOW'. She is thrown into confusion. Did Hazel send it, as Malaika suggests? If not, who did? And why?
This is the first sign that there is more to this book than office politics and social satire. Interspersed between chapters, and first suggested by the Preface, there is another story altogether. Previously unknown characters appear and this is disconcerting at times, but gradually the two stories are woven together and the book turns into something much more serious and interesting.
Towards the end, a seemingly unbelievable scenario emerges, but Harris manages to realistically immerse the reader in Nella's disorientation and distress. The final inevitable confrontation with Hazel is so strongly written that it can be almost as upsetting for the reader as it clearly is for Nella. Finally, the Epilogue, headed 'Jan. 2019, Scope Magazine, Portland, Oregon', sets another scene altogether, and the end is shocking.
The Other Black Girl is an impressive first novel. Zakiya Dalila Harris started writing this book when she was working for the publishers Knoff Doubleday and, she tell us, 'after the rare occurrence of running into another young Black woman in the bathroom' she began to wonder 'what if there can only be one of us?". She knows the publishing world, is an excellent story-teller whose characters come alive, and this book is inventive, easy-reading and fascinating.
As a White woman (Harris always gives Black a capital letter, so I will reciprocate), living in a predominantly White Australian city, I found that being immersed in the cultural nuances of the life of a young Black American woman was an interesting experience. There were names I did not recognize and at times I needed Nella to do some 'Blacksplaining', as she calls it. What, for example are an 'electric slide', and a 'Yankee Candle'? I was certainly like the White woman ('Maybe-Ella') who shared a lift with Nella and Hazel and overheard their conversation about Black hair:
"I'm just too tired to twist my hair up every night, you know? But this 4C hair...you can't just go sleeping on it all loose without expecting the next morning to be a struggle"
"Oh, I remember that struggle. Trust," said Hazel.
"I'm type 4B mostly, but my kitchen is 4C." Nella smiled....
She closely eyed Maybe-Ella's plain light-brown bob and wondered how much Black hair talk she had ever been exposed to. Was she Googling "twisting" and "4B" and "kitchen"?
I certainly had to do that. I was also left with the thought that although Nella's life reflects that of a young Black American woman, her dilemmas raises the perennial question for anyone actively working for the rights of a minority group: do you dissimulate and assimilate yourself into the majority, get an influential job, then use your position to make changes: or do you remain a radical outsider and fight for the cause?
Ann Skea, Reviewer
Carl Logan's Bookshelf
The Art Museum in Modern Times
Charles Saumarez Smith
Thames & Hudson, Inc.
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110-0017
9780500022436, $39.95, HC, 272pp
Synopsis: How have art museums changed in the past century? Where are they headed in the future? Charles Saumarez Smith is uniquely qualified to answer these questions, having been at the helm of three major institutions over the course of his distinguished career. "For The Art Museum in Modern Times", he has visited art museums across the globe and examined how the experience of art is shaped by the buildings that house it.
His story starts with the Museum of Modern Art in New York, one of the first museums to focus squarely on the art of the present rather than the past. When it opened in 1939, MoMA's boldly modernist building represented a stark riposte to the neoclassicism of most earlier art museums. From there, Saumarez Smith investigates dozens of other museums, including the Tate Modern in London, the Getty Center in Los Angeles, the West Bund Museum in Shanghai, and the Centre Pompidou in Paris. He explores our shifting reasons for visiting museums, changes to the way exhibits are organized and displayed, and the spectacular new architectural landmarks that have become destinations in their own right.
Global in scope yet full of personal insight, this fully illustrated celebration of the modern art museum will appeal to art lovers, museum professionals, and museum goers alike.
Critique: A unique and seminal study of the influence museum architecture has had on museum missions with respect to the nature of art and arts they showcase and preserve, and enhanced with the inclusion of fourteen pages of Notes, an eleven page Bibliography, and a five page Index, "The Art Museum in Modern Times" is will prove to be an enduringly valued and appreciated addition to personal, professional, community, college and university library Museum & Museology collections and supplemental studies reading lists.
Editorial Note: Charles Saumarez Smith has been director of the United Kingdom's National Portrait Gallery, director of the National Gallery, and secretary and chief executive of the Royal Academy. He is also the author of East London, The Company of Artists: The Origins of the Royal Academy of Arts in London, and The National Gallery: A Short History, among other titles.
Vlad III Dracula: The Life and Times of the Historical Dracula
Kurt W. Treptow
c/o Casemate Publishers
1940 Lawrence Road, Havertown, PA 19083
9781592110384, $29.99, PB, 296pp
Synopsis: The fifteenth century Romanian Prince Vlad III Dracula, also known as Vlad the Impaler, is one of the most fascinating personalities of medieval history. Already during his own lifetime, his true story became obscured by a veil of myths. As a result, he has been portrayed both as a bloody tyrant (who degenerated down throughout the centuries into the fictional vampire of the same name created by Bram Stoker at the end of the nineteenth century) and as a national and Christian hero who bravely fought to defend his native land and all of Europe against the invading Turkish infidels. Even in more recent historiography, the true history of Dracula has been obscured by Communist and nationalist historiography.
This newly revised and updated second edition of "Vlad III Dracula: The Life and Times of the Historical Dracula " by historian Kurt W. Treptow is arguably the most serious and comprehensive study of the historical Dracula, presenting the life and times of this remarkable figure of medieval Europe in which the author uses all extant Romanian, Turkish, Russian, and German sources to reconstruct the history of this famous prince who, despite his short reign, created a name for himself in the history of his own country, as well as in world history.
This seminal study directly addresses the life and times of Vlad III Dracula, also known as Vlad the Impaler, and provides the reader with a better understanding of the personality of this enigmatic figure of medieval history, as well as the times in which he lived. Treptow also discusses the development of the Dracula myth. Of special note is the translations of key documents concerning the history of Vlad III Dracula which are included in the appendixes.
Critique: An inherently fascinating read that is enhanced with the inclusion of black/white illustrations, "Vlad III Dracula: The Life and Times of the Historical Dracula" is a meticulous work of detailed scholarship and a recommended addition to community, college and university library Romanian History & Romanian Biography collections, as well as the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject of the subject.
Editorial Note: Kurt W. Treptow is a noted specialist on East European history. He received his Ph.D. at the University of Illinois. His other books include "A Historical Dictionary of Romania", "From Zalmoxis to Jan Palach: Studies in East European History", and "A History of Romania".
Carolyn Wilhelm's Bookshelf
Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century
9780393356311 $20.95 Audio, $11.19 Paperback, $9.61 Kindle, 288 pages
Over three years, Bruder completed meticulous, in-person interviewing, living as the nomadic people in this nonfiction book. She met people at temporary camps and even took temporary jobs with Amazon and the North Dakota beet harvest. Nomads are mostly older white people living in vans and cars, moving every twenty-five days as required by law when not giving a parking space by a seasonal employer. Bruder realized she could leave at any time while the others could not. She realized that most black people did not have the option of living in cars and looking for temporary jobs, given how police would view them. The main reason for becoming a nomadic worker was economic, working long days under oppressive conditions to survive.
After reading this book, I noticed vans with "tells" they might be someone's home. I realized this lifestyle did not offer space to stand up, only makeshift cooking arrangements and no bathroom. The sense of humor ("wheel estate" not real-estate), tight community (singing around the campfire sharing food), and informative workshops (what size bucket for a toilet) all helped to make it bearable. I learned about blogs online maintained by some of the nomads and how-to books are available.
All this happens in plain sight. Find what an Amazon fulfillment center is and how difficult it is to work at one (walking aisles several miles a day on concrete as part of the job). Odd, the book is available on Amazon. I borrowed mine from the library.
When Saigon Surrendered: A Kentucky Mystery (Kentucky Mysteries Book 1)
9781717881267, $9.99 paperback, 222 pages
B00TNO3L5U, $2.99 Kindle
Cleverly told and well-written story about a 19-year-old who learns family secrets upon returning to the farm from college to study for finals after his grandmother passes away. Aura writes, "The pain in my heart shot up and slapped my face." After trying to be a hero, he feels guilty for not getting help. Then the college isn't accommodating about granting any extra time for taking the test, making his scholarship uncertain.
Danger is around the corner much of the time while he is milking cows and feeding farm animals. The unexpected happens over and over, with Russell facing everything thoughtfully. He finds clues about the family and learns the Sheriff isn't what he thought.
Characters have clear individual personalities. The storyline is exciting. When Russell and two of his friends form the "Three Musketeers," they face danger head-on. At this point, complicated events move fast.
I thoroughly enjoyed the book and read it in two days because I couldn't wait to find out what happens. It was nice to revisit 1975, as well.
I highly recommend this book!
The Cumberland Killers: A Kentucky Mystery (Kentucky Mysteries Book 2)
9781720173588, $10.99 paperback, 258 pages
B07H6Q2ZPM, $2.99 Kindle
This engaging and sometimes humorous mystery takes place in 1985, bringing back memories of the farm depression, strip mining, layoffs, pollution, big-box stores, as well as women in pantsuits. With this background, Russell, a young rural newspaper reporter, learns of his friend's murder. His friend Tom accompanies him to knowingly find shady manual employment they believe will help lead them to the murderer. More people die in the same manner, raising alarms for some characters and helping tie several story threads together.
I read this book until midnight, which I seldom do as I couldn't put it down. Although we never find out the answers to all our questions, we learn enough to find the read satisfying. Hopefully, there will be a book three for us to know more. Well-developed characters, scenes, job descriptions, along with an excellent plot make for an absorbing read.
Pictures of the area are on the book's Facebook page. The soundtrack of songs mentioned during the story is on YouTube by the original singers. Well researched!
Carolyn Wilhelm, Reviewer
Wise Owl Factory LLC
Chris Patsilelis' Bookshelf
Come Fly The World: The Jet-Age Story of the Women of Pan Am
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
9780358448990, $28.00 HC, 266 pp
9780358448990, $15.99 Kindle, $$28.00 (Audio Book)
Stewardess Wanted. Must Want the World. (1967 Pan Am Ad)
To be a Pan American Airlines stewardess between 1966 and 1975 a woman had to be between '5 3" and 5'9" tall, weigh between 105 and 140 pounds, and be twenty-six years old or younger at time of hire. She was required to have a college degree, speak a foreign language or two, and know current geopolitics.
Travel writer and journalist (Time, Smithsonian, Conde Nast Traveler) Julie Cooke, author of "Come Fly The World: The Jet-Age Story of the Women of Pan Am", and also author of "The Other Side of Paradise: Life in the New Cuba" (2014), goes on to convey how important was the "proper image" of the Pan Am stewardess in regards to her appearance. Pan Am's goal for it's stewardesses was "a natural look", a "femininity and sophistication that stopped short of sexual availability." Sporting sky-blue skirt suits by Beverly Hills couturier Dan Loper, "they were to be clean, ladylike..."
"Management's approval was required for a change in a woman's haircut or color..." Only red, rose red, and coral colors were permitted on lips and nails. "Symmetrical features, clear skin... trampish body type" wee also necessary in this company run meticulously by men, writes Cooke. Yes, it was the "Mad Men" era.
"Come Fly The World" traces the stories of four smart, beautiful young ladies: Lynn Totten, a science major who found lab work boring. Karen Walker, a California girl enamored of travel. Hazel Bowie, one of the first Black stewardesses. Adventuress, technology-minded Tori Werner from Norway. All these women, the author tells us, gave up more staid careers to satisfy a certain personal wanderlust and become Pan Am stewardesses. We follow them as they start their six-week training course where they become acquainted with the technical intricacies of their new position. Not only do they have to learn about a plane's rotations (it's roll, pitch, and yaw) and a plane's parts (it's brake spoilers vortex generators, horizontal and vertical stabilizers, wing flaps, engine pods, ailerons) but also how to "prepare fluffy scrambled eggs in a pressurized cabin", to make Passover meals, and how to "mix a dry martini in flight."
They are also taught how to handle an unruly passenger, how to evacuate passengers during a land or water emergency landing - how to inflate and heave "the enormous yellow raft" into the water.
Pan Am stewardesses were even trained to deal with hijackers: Keep "him occupied with conversation... transmitting as much information as possible to the captain ..." and, while serving caffeine-free nonalcoholic beverages, try to get him to ask to land the airplane.
The author goes on to tell us that as the Vietnam War ramped up in the mid-1960s and Pan Am flew so many more GIs to Saigon and on R & R trips, the company's male management "saw no reason not to capitalize on male fantasy" and focused even more on a stewardesses's appearance - to an excruciating degree. "Round faces, close-set eyes, scars and moles were undesirable." Hip size too was examined.
As this book heads towards it's dramatic conclusion "Round faces" and "close-set eyes" become completely irrelevant as the Vietnam War comes to it's bloody, chaotic end in March-April, 1975. After flying in 747s which were hit by enemy small arms fire in the war zones of Saigon and DaNang, stewardesses Lynne Totten, Karen Walker, and Tori Werner enlist in the U.S. government's "Operation Babylift."
In this dangerous operation 2,000 Vietnamese refugee babies and young children wee airlifted out of South Vietnam in that country's last days before the Communist takeover. In this frenzied situation on April 4, 1975 a U.S. Air Force C-5A transport filled with children crashed, killing almost everyone on board. Sabotage was suspected. With her own flight the next day in mind, "Death was not the thing Lynn [Totten] feared most", Cooke writes. "Adults had made it out of the C-5A crash alive... The worst possibility, to Lynne, would be living when children died."
Gritting their teeth, our frightened yet intrepid stewardesses - Lynne, Karen, and Tori - board their flight a day after the C-5A crash, ducking gunfire on the tarmac, and dealing with a screaming crowd of thousands trying to board the plane.
Once on board, the stewardesses not only perform their usual duties, but they are also tasked with protecting 390 babies across the aisles in their shaking basinettes as the 747 violently roared skyward in emergency takeoff... Safe!
Packed with fascinating, revealing information, never losing sight of the humanity, courage, and professionalism of Pan American's stewardesses, "Come Fly The World" packs a powerful wallop.
Christina Francine's Bookshelf
The Shape-Shifter's Wife
Carolyn Radmanovich, author
Leslie Clark, editor
9781634984263, $14.95 Print, $0.99 digital, 362 pages
Welcome to San Francisco's Russian River, where the line between 1994 and 1847 blur for an anthropology professor. In an incredible journey, Alexis is transported to California during the goldrush where desperate people meet offense on their own terms. Women are especially vulnerable and viewed without the rights their sisters of the future enjoy. The air and country are fresh, clean, and raw. Nature hasn't been compromised yet. The time had come for Alexis to live what she'd always dreamed of.
The Shapeshifter's Wife is the first of two books in a series about sisters who time hop. Due to traumatic encounters, both sisters decide to take time out of their regular lives to pull themselves together. The focus of the first book is on Alexis, known also as Angelica after she transports through time. The second book focuses on Heather. The story begins when Alexis decides to pursue research on shape-shifting with Native Americans near Healdsburg in Northern California. The trip would allow her time to relax, something she really needed. All goes well until the canoe she's in enters the "frothing, tumultuous" water of the Russian River, and runs her into a dead tree. The canoe turns over and she prepares for her demise. Alexis soon wonders if she's hallucinating when water nymphs pull on her arms and provide her with a way to breathe under water. When Alexis surfaces the river, she is in 1848 and meets Reynard, a man who may help her with the loss of her husband.
Alexis begins a series of excitement, romance, and belonging. Unfortunately, she also experiences the dark side of people as well. The goldrush brought out the worst in some, along with a sense of superiority. The now Angelica learns straight from Native American people their shapeshifting knowledge, and finds herself shapeshifting at will. In the end, Angelica faces the decision of whether to go back to her own time and find her sister who is alone, or stay in 1849 where she is content.
Speculative fiction readers and those drawn to unusual possibilities will enjoy this tale. Is transportation to another time-period merely a near-death experience, or a ride though a dimensional door? Radmanvich explores the idea through the main character of her story after suffering near-death herself in the Russian River. History buffs will enjoy The Shapeshifter's Wife too, especially because Radmanvich shares details and historical events about California's goldrush. Readers will want to unravel her second book in this series to learn what happens to Angelica and her sister, although the first book stands alone just fine. An engaging and fascinating tale.
Christina Francine, Reviewer
Clint Travis' Bookshelf
Last One At The Party
c/o Hodder & Stoughton
9781529379143, $26.99, HC, 368pp
Synopsis: It's December 2023, and the world as we know it has ended. The human race has been wiped out by a virus called 6DM ('Six Days Maximum' - the longest you've got before your body destroys itself).
But somehow, in London, one woman is still alive. A woman who has spent her whole life compromising what she wants, hiding how she feels and desperately trying to fit in. A woman who is entirely unprepared to face a future on her own. Now, with only an abandoned golden retriever for company, she must travel through burning cities, avoiding rotting corpses and ravenous rats on a final journey to discover if she really is the last surviving person on earth.
And with no one else to live for, who will she become now that she's completely alone?
Critique: An impressively crafted dystopian post-apocalyptic science fiction novel by an author with a genuine flair for originality and the kind of narrative storytelling style that results in a compulsive page-turner of a read from cover to cover, "Last One At The Party" by Bethany Clift is especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Science Fiction & Fantasy collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of all dedicated science fiction fans that "Last One At The Party" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781529332131, $21.35) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.99).
Local Woman Missing
Park Row Books
9780778389446, $27.99, HC, 352pp
Synopsis: People don't just disappear without a trace -- but Shelby Tebow was the first to go missing. Not long after, Meredith Dickey and her six-year-old daughter, Delilah, vanish just blocks away from where Shelby was last seen, striking fear into their once-peaceful community. Are these incidents connected? After an elusive search that yields more questions than answers, the case eventually goes cold.
Now, eleven years later, Delilah shockingly returns. Everyone wants to know what happened to her, but no one is prepared for what they'll find!
Critique: An original and deftly crafted psychological thriller of a read by a master of the genre, "Local Woman Missing" by Mary Kubica will prove to be an enduringly popular and appreciated addition to community library Contemporary Mystery/Suspense collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Local Woman Missing' is also readily available in a paperback edition (9780778311669, $16.99), in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99), and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9781665068666, $39.99, CD).
Thief of Souls
c/o St. Martin's Publishing Group
9781250779052, $27.99, HC, 288pp
Synopsis: Lu Fei is a graduate of China's top police college but he's been assigned to a sleepy backwater town in northern China, where almost nothing happens and the theft of a few chickens represents a major crime wave. That is until a young woman is found dead, her organs removed, and joss paper stuffed in her mouth.
The CID in Beijing (headed by a rising political star) is on the case but in an increasingly authoritarian China, prosperity and political stability are far more important than solving the murder of an insignificant village girl. As such, the CID head is interested in pinning the crime on the first available suspect rather than wading into uncomfortable truths -- leaving Lu Fei on his own.
As Lu digs deeper into the gruesome murder, he finds himself facing old enemies and creating new ones in the form of local Communist Party bosses and corrupt business interests. Despite these rising obstacles, Lu remains determined to find the real killer, especially after he links the murder to other unsolved homicides. But the closer he gets to the heart of the mystery, the more he puts himself and his loved ones in danger.
Critique: An impressively original and deftly crafted mystery set in Communist China, "Thief of Souls" by Brian Klingborg introduces Inspector Lu Fei in an inherently fascinating novel enlivened by a series of unexpected plot twists and turns. A compelling and exceptionally entertaining read from first page to last, "Thief of Souls" is especially and unreservedly recommended as an immediate and unique addition to community library Mystery/Suspense collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of all dedicated mystery buffs that "Thief of Souls" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Tantor Audio, 9781705291849, $39.99, CD).
Elan Kluger's Bookshelf
The General's General: The Life and Times of Arthur MacArthur
Kenneth Ray Young
Many great men have great fathers. For Douglas MacArthur that held. Many biographies of Douglas, including William Manchester's American Caesar, start with accounts of varying lengths on the life of his father, Arthur MacArthur. These are but capsule biographies, and fail to capture the true man. There is only one biography of Arthur. Thankfully, Young has written an excellent treatment, and there is no need for another. Up until his work, the primary cause of no biography was the lack of good documentary support for his life. Douglas took his journals and letters with him to the Philippines and they were lost there. Young has done a superb job reconstructing his life from the available evidence, but there is still a big hole missing. For example, in letters home, Young quotes another officer who served alongside Arthur in many battles, instead of quoting Arthur's letters.
Arthur was born to a wealthy judge in Wisconsin. His father wanted him to be a lawyer, not a soldier. Arthur was not pleased and routinely tried to join up. Finally, his father relented, and instead worked his connections to get his son as a second lieutenant, an important adjutant in his company. His was the 24th Wisconsin, and they went off to fight in the Civil War. But Arthur was only 17 and a shrimpy 17-year-old at that. Many of the soldiers were extremely unimpressed, and only more so when at a parade, his sword was much too long for his body and messed up his whole parade march. But Arthur continued in his role, largely due to the influence of his father.
The 24th Wisconsin was sent to the front, which allowed Arthur to demonstrate his true talents. Battle after battle, Arthur was distinguished for his bravery. In one famous battle at Missionary Ridge, Arthur was the first one up the hill, in a battle watched in approval by General Grant. Arthur was no longer the shrimpy adjutant and won widespread respect from his soldiers. Arthur was routinely injured but stayed in command, and only took sick leave when it was forced upon him by his father.
The war ended but Arthur stayed in the army. His position was uncertain, as he was only a captain in the postwar army. He was sent to the western frontier, in which he spent his free time studying law. When he returned to society, he passed the bar. More importantly, he went up to a board that would make or break his army career, as Congress was trying to cut the officer pool. His numerous medals and recommendation letters from famous generals served to help him keep his job.
For the next 20 years, Arthur served as a captain in the frontier army. His nights were spent reading hundreds and thousands of books so that he would become one of the most highly educated soldiers. But he was repeatedly passed up for promotion because of his young age, the dearth of promotions in the post-war army, and the favoritism for the cavalry. At long last, in 1889, Arthur was promoted to the rank of major.
The last segment of his career began after McKinley invaded Cuba, and eventually the Philippines. By then a general, Arthur led the invasion of the Philippines and was eventually appointed Governor-General. While historically his role has been characterized as one who was for the murder of the revolutionaries, Young contends that Arthur was actually for peace and repeatedly offered deals to revolutionaries that included full dignity, a lot of money, and other perks, with the only condition that of laying down their weapons.
Arthur also got into a spat with then-Commissioner in the Philippines William Howard Taft, who was using it as a springboard to a position as Secretary of War, then the presidency. Their numerous disagreements were strengthened by Taft's better standing in the domestic press, and Arthur was knocked down a few pegs.
Arthur decided to retire at the age of 62, with the rank of Lieutenant General (4 stars).
Elan Kluger, Reviewer
Israel Drazin's Bookshelf
Reference Guide to the Talmud: The Indispensable Talmud Study Aid
Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz
Koren Publishers Jerusalem
An Indispensable Guide to the Talmud
The recently deceased scholar Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz who authored sixty books and hundreds of articles is the author of the 549 page book "Reference Guide to the Talmud: The Indispensable Talmud Study Aid." It is one of five new books published by Maggid Books. I reviewed four of the volumes previously. The series focuses on five main topics of Jewish tradition in easy to read English. The books are very extensive and are filled with eye-opening and thought-provoking information. People of all religions will learn much from them. I think that this volume is the best and most comprehensive introduction to the Talmud that I saw.
The books are: (1) "A Concise Guide to the Sages," the Sages being called Hazal in Hebrew, a Hebrew acronym for "our Sages, may their memory be for a blessing," (2) "A Concise Guide to the Torah," (3) "A concise Guide to Halakha," Jewish Law is called Halakha in Hebrew, meaning "guide path," (4) "The Concise Guide to Mahshava," Mahshava being Hebrew for Jewish thought, and (5) "Reference Guide to the Talmud."
"Reference Guide to the Talmud" is a detailed explanation of the Talmud a work begun toward the end of the fourth century CE and completed over the course of the ensuing century and a half. It is the recorded dialogue - of questions, answers, and discussions - of generations of Sages. Steinsaltz's book contains a general introduction of eleven pages followed by four parts.
Part one with three chapters from page 15 to 56 describes the historical background: Life in the Talmudic Period, Jewish Communities in and outside Israel, especially about Babylonia and its culture and language, and Generations of Tanna'im and Amora'im. We read about the politics, the synagogue which exited in and outside Israel during the second temple period, the study hall which was and still is so fundamental to Judaism, the Samaritan zone and other localities in Israel and in Babylonia, the early Tannaitic period of six generations from 20 CE until 200 CE, the period of the sages mentioned in the Mishna, and the later eight generation of the Amoraic period until 500 CE, the Sages included in the Talmud, with information about where they lived and the world events occurring during their lives.
Part two has nine chapters from page 59 to 222. Among much else, it describes the tractates of the third century Mishna and the later Talmud, the layout of a Talmud page, the mixed language of the Talmud sometimes Hebrew sometimes Aramaic (the latter being the language that Jews spoke when the Talmud was composed, thus making it more possible for the average Jew to read it), a helpful guide for Talmud study, a detailed glossary that defines words, explanations of the methodology of the Mishna, the Talmud, and Talmudic hermeneutics (the branch of knowledge that deals with interpretation). The latter informs readers on how the Sages interpreted the Torah and how we can understand what the Sages did and why they did so. We read Rabbi Yishmael's famous thirteen hermeneutical principles, those of Rabbi Akiva who took a radically different approach to understanding the Torah, other hermeneutical principles, and restrictive hermeneutical principals. Knowing these basic approaches to the Torah clarifies why Sages came to widely different interpretations.
Part three contains two chapters from page 225 to 476 on principles governing halakhic decision making, and halakhic concepts and terms. The large number of pages devoted to halakha. Jewish law, highlights its significance and how Rabbi Steinsaltz is meticulous in explaining the many principles and legal concepts.
Part four's four chapters from page 479 to 517 offers readers additional resources for the study of the Talmud: the Talmudic weights and measures, Rashi unusual script, plans of the Temple, and explanations of abbreviations.
This is followed by a Hebrew index from page 519 to 530, and an English index from page 531 to 549.
In short, Rabbi Steinsaltz has made a significant contribution by giving us an easy to read and understand treasure of explanations of the Talmud, one of Judaism's most important set of books.
Dr. Israel Drazin, Reviewer
Jack Mason's Bookshelf
Odessa, 1941-1944: A Case Study of Soviet Territory under Foreign Rule
Center for Romanian Studies
c/o Casemate Publishers
1940 Lawrence Road, Havertown, PA 19083
9789739839112, $75.99, HC, 298pp
Synopsis: "Odessa, 1941-1944: A Case Study of Soviet Territory under Foreign Rule" by Professor Alexander Dallin is a comprehensive study of the Romanian administration in Odessa and Transnistria during World War II. It draws a sharp contrast between occupation policies in Odessa and Transnistria, under Romanian administration, and those of Nazi-occupied areas of the Soviet Union. Originally prepared as a Rand Corporation report, it is essential reading for anyone interested in the occupation of Soviet territory during World War II and its consequences.
Professor Dallin provides a detailed study of the Romanian administration in Transnistria, illustrating important aspects of the development of this Soviet territory after the removal of the Communist system. Dallin argues that "The relative success of the Romanians (in contrast to German-held areas of the USSR) supports the thesis that the specific nature of the occupation policy and behavior mattered a good deal in determining the response of the subject population." He adds that "the Transnistrian experiment rapidly gained popular confidence through higher living standards and an atmosphere of greater relaxation. The absence of terror and forced labor, and greater opportunities for self-expression, both economic and cultural, go far to explain the overwhelming popular preference for Romanian over German rule."
Critique: A seminal work of outstanding scholarship and unreservedly recommended for community, college and university library 20th Century Romanian History & Soviet History collections, "Odessa, 1941-1944: A Case Study of Soviet Territory under Foreign Rule" is further enhanced for the reader with an informative introduction by Larry L. Watts, who is an American specialist on the history of Romania during World War II. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Odessa, 1941-1944: A Case Study of Soviet Territory under Foreign Rule" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781592110810, $34.99).
Editorial Note #1: A noted expert in Soviet history, Alexander Dallin (1924-2000) was a former president of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies and Professor Emeritus of International History and Political Science at Stanford University in California. He is
also the author of "German Rule in Russia, 1941-1945".
Japanese Foreign Intelligence and Grand Strategy
Georgetown University Press
3240 Prospect Street, NW, Washington, DC 20007
9781647120634, $104.95, HC, 296pp
Synopsis: Japanese foreign intelligence is an outlier in many ways. Unlike many states, Japan does not possess a centralized foreign intelligence agency that dispatches agents abroad to engage in espionage. Japan is also notable for civilian control over key capabilities in human and signals intelligence. "Japanese Foreign Intelligence and Grand Strategy: From the Cold War to the Abe Era" by Brad Williams (Associate Professor, Department of Asian and International Studies, City University, Hong Kong) probes the unique makeup of Japan's foreign intelligence institutions, practices, and capabilities across the economic, political, and military domains and shows how they have changed over time.
Professor Williams begins by exploring how Japan's experiences of the Second World War and its new role as a major US ally influenced its adoption of bilateralism, developmentalism, technonationalism, and antimilitarism as key norms. As a result, Japanese intelligence-gathering resources centered primarily around improving its position in the global economy throughout the Cold War.
Professor Williams then brings his analysis up to the Abe Era, examining how shifts in the international, regional, and domestic policy environments in the twenty-first century have caused a gradual reassessment of national security strategy under former prime minister Shinzo Abe. As Japan reevaluates its old norms in light of regional security challenges, the book concludes by detailing how the country is beginning to rethink the size, shape, and purpose of its intelligence community.
Critique: An impressive and seminal work of meticulous research and outstanding scholarship, "Japanese Foreign Intelligence and Grand Strategy: From the Cold War to the Abe Era" will be of particular interest to students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject of Japanese intelligence, security, or international relations. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college and university library Japanese History collections in general, and Japanese Espionage, National & International Security supplemental studies curriculums in particular, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Japanese Foreign Intelligence and Grand Strategy: From the Cold War to the Abe Era" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781647120641, $34.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $26.49).
John Burroughs' Bookshelf
Handbook of Research on Business and Technology Incubation and Acceleration
Sarfraz A. Mian, editor
Magnus Klofsten, editor
Wadid Lamine, editor
Edward Elgar Publishing
9 Dewey Court, Northampton, MA 01060-3815
9781788974776, $295.00, HC, 552pp
Synopsis: Knowledgeably compiled and expertly edited by the team of Sarfraz A. Mian, Magnus Klofsten and Wadid Lamine, "Handbook of Research on Business and Technology Incubation and Acceleration: A Global Perspective" is a pioneering compendium of contributors who explore both the theory and practice of business and technology incubation and acceleration over the past six decades as an approach to new venture creation and development. W
With a global scope, the "Handbook of Research on Business and Technology Incubation and Acceleration: A Global Perspective" examines incubation concepts, models, and mechanisms, providing a research-based analytical foundation from which to understand the emerging role of modern incubators, accelerators, science parks, and related support tools in building modern entrepreneurship ecosystems for promoting targeted economic development.
Featuring contributions from internationally renowned scholars and practitioners, the "Handbook of Research on Business and Technology Incubation and Acceleration: A Global Perspective" covers four major themes: understanding incubation and acceleration; incubation mechanisms and entrepreneurship ecosystem development; national and regional incubation policy studies; and incubation practice and assessment. Chapters investigate the expanding importance of newer models and novel modes of new venture support such as smart launching through focused training, mentoring, and financing.
The "Handbook of Research on Business and Technology Incubation and Acceleration: A Global Perspective" will help to equip policy makers, facility and program managers, investors, and entrepreneurs with the knowledge to handle support for future business and technology ventures more confidently and effectively. It also provides a deeper understanding of the incubation approach for researchers and scholars of entrepreneurship, innovation, and economic development.
Critique: Exceptionally well organized and presented, the "Handbook of Research on Business and Technology Incubation and Acceleration: A Global Perspective" is deftly organized into four major sections (Understanding Incubation and Acceleration; Incubation Mechanisms and Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Development; National/Regional Incubation Policy Studies; Incubation Practice and Assessment). Ideal as a curriculum textbook on the subject, the "Handbook of Research on Business and Technology Incubation and Acceleration: A Global Perspective" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, corporate, college and university library collections.
X Marks the Spot: The Lost Inheritance of Mathematics
Richard Garfinkle & David Garfinkle
6000 NW Broken Sound Parkway NW, Suite 300, Boca Raton, FL 33487
9780367187064, $200.00, HC, 482pp
Synopsis: The collaborative project of Richard and David Garfinkle, "X Marks the Spot: The Lost Inheritance of Mathematics" from CRC Press is written from the point of view of the users of mathematics. Since the beginning, mathematical concepts and techniques (such as arithmetic and geometry) were created as tools with a particular purpose like counting sheep and measuring land areas.
Understanding those purposes leads to a greater understanding of why mathematics developed as it did. Later mathematical concepts came from a process of abstracting and generalizing earlier mathematics. This process of abstraction is very powerful, but often comes at the price of intuition and understanding. "X Marks the Spot" strives to give a guided tour of the development of various branches of mathematics (and what they're used for) that will give the reader this intuitive understanding.
"X Marks the Spot": Treats mathematical techniques as tools, and areas of mathematics as the result of abstracting and generalizing earlier mathematical tools; Is written in a relaxed conversational and occasionally humorous style making it easy to follow even when discussing esoterica.; Unravels how mathematicians think, demystifying math and connecting it to the ways non-mathematicians think and connecting math to people's lives; Discusses how math education can be improved in order to prevent future generations from being turned off by math.
Critique: Deftly organized into three major sections (The Roots of Mathematics; Theory in Practice; Toolkit of the Theoretical Universe), "X Marks the Spot: The Lost Inheritance of Mathematics" is enhanced for academia and the reader with figures, an informative introduction (Why This Book?), and a seven page Index. An ideal textbook, "X Marks the Spot: The Lost Inheritance of Mathematics" is very highly recommended for college and university library Mathematics collections and supplemental studies curriculums. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of student and faculty that "X Marks the Spot: The Lost Inheritance of Mathematics" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9780367187040, $54.95) and in a digital book format (eTextbook, $41.49).
Julie Summers' Bookshelf
Educating Marston: A Mother and Son's Journey Through Autism
Christine Weiss, author
Erick Weiss MD, author
Changing Lives Press
9780998623146, $24.99, HC, 244pp
Synopsis: Everyone experiences happiness and sorrow, anger, joy, fear, surprise, loneliness. Kids on the autism spectrum feel just as deeply, but they often sound different, have more issues with confidence, and they don't know what comes after "hi," making their ability to focus and succeed in social situations hard.
With a boy named Marston, his mother, Christine Weiss, would start every morning believing today was the day he was going to look into my eyes and really want her. in her words: He'd reach for me, smile for the first time. Walk. He'd say, "Mama," "Daddy," or even "ball." But by 1998, when Marston had turned three, she had uttered that same old prayer a thousand times, and was more determined than ever to shatter the glass wall that separated my son from the rest of the world.
Autism wasn't widely talked about back then, and Facebook (networking) didn't exist. Eric and Christine were on our own. Collaboratively written by Marston's father, Dr. Eric Weiss, "Educating Marston: A Mother and Son's Journey Through Autism" is an enlightening memoir of their journey of educating Marston through programs like The Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential, Vision Therapy, the Tomatis Method, Marion Blank's approach to reading, hypotherapy, balloon dancing, and the list goes on -- until they discovered stem cell replacement therapy -- then everything changed.
Critique: An inherently fascinating and ultimately inspiring story for the parents of autistic children, "Educating Marston: A Mother and Son's Journey Through Autism" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college and university library Autism collections and supplemental studies curriculums. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Educating Marston: A Mother and Son's Journey Through Autism" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).
The Divine Heart: Seven Ways to Live in God's Love
Monkfish Book Publishing Company
9781948626378, $15.95, PB, 160pp
Synopsis: In the pages of "The Divine Heart: Seven Ways to Live in God's Love", spiritual director Colette Lafia shows how we can live in an ever-flowing love relationship with God, realizing that God is in us and we are in God. Beautifully expressed, sharing examples of her own journey, "The Divine Heart" offers seven "invitations" that can awaken us to this abundant flow of love at the core of our being.
Weaving prayers and practices, along with relevant contemporary and mystical teachings, Colette invites her readers to explore how connecting to Divine love helps us trust our own spiritual experiences and inspires us toward hope, healing, and wholeness.
Critique: Especially in this time of pandemic, economic stress, civil unrest, political turmoil, and the ever sounding drums of war in other lands, "The Divine Heart: is a timely and timeless kind of instruction manual from a Christian Mysticism perspective for integrating loss and pain into our understanding of life, inspiring use to renew ourselves in the power and presence of love. Especially recommended reading for anyone suffering loss, anxiety, and the setbacks that life is heir to, "The Divine Heart: Seven Ways to Live in God's Love" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.49).
Editorial Note: Colette Lafia is a San Francisco-based writer, spiritual director, and retreat leader. A graduate of the Spiritual Directors' Institute at Mercy Center in Burlingame, California, Colette recently completed the Living School program in the Christian contemplative and mystical traditions guided by Fr. Richard Rohr, Rev. Cynthia Bourgeault, and Dr. James Finley. She also designs and facilitates workshops and retreats for an international audience, has an active practice as a spiritual director, and is an adjunct faculty member at Mercy Center. Colette Lafia is also the author of "Comfort and Joy: Simple Ways to Care for Ourselves and Others" (Conari Press, 2008), and "Seeking Surrender: How My Friendship with a Trappist Monk Taught Me to Trust and Embrace Life" (Sorin Books/Ave Maria Press, 2015).
c/o Octopus Publishing
236 Park Avenue, New York NY 10017
9780857839527, $16.99, HC, 224pp
Synopsis: Packed from cover to cover with practical parenting hacks such as how to travel as a family without losing your mind and how to get your kids to eat anything, "Mommin' It: Tips, Hacks & Advice on the Wins and Woes of Modern Motherhood" by Harriet Shearsmith is a refreshing handbook for making a busy life easier for any and all mothers.
With chapters on Food, Home, Travel, Body & Beauty, and Life, parenting blogger Harriet Shearsmith (@tobyandroo) covers all aspects of what makes a family tick and offers down-to-earth useful advice and DIY survival tips to help your home function more smoothly.
With busy parents in mind, "Mommin' It: Tips, Hacks & Advice on the Wins and Woes of Modern Motherhood" is full of time-saving tricks and bite-size chunks of information-try Harriet's speedy ideas to help you get stylish in five minutes flat, use the fail-safe meal plans to figure out what to cook on a wet Wednesday, and create age-appropriate chores to instil independence in your child.
Critique: With a narrative style that resembles having a chat with a friend over coffee "Mommin' It: Tips, Hacks & Advice on the Wins and Woes of Modern Motherhood" will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to personal reading lists and community library Parenting instructional reference collections.
Editorial Note: Based in Yorkshire, England, Harriet Shearsmith runs her Toby and Roo blog from home. She has appeared several times on British TV and is increasing her TV and radio exposure this year. An in-demand parenting influencer, Harriet has collaborated with Tesco, Disney and Johnson & Johnson. A dispenser of wit and wisdom, Harriet can be followed on Instagram: @tobyandroo
Safe Young Drivers: A Guide for Parents and Teens
Mountain Lake Press
9798738733444, $19.95 PB / $9.99 Kindle, 192pp
Synopsis: In 1996, after he had published articles on safe-driving techniques in several major newspapers, and after repeated requests from parent groups for reliable advice on teaching teens to drive, Phil Berardelli published "Safe Young Drivers: A Guide for Parents and Teens".
An instant critical and commercial success, "Safe Young Drivers" has remained in print and in demand for a quarter-century. Over the years, Phil has periodically updated and refined the book's content. Now, in its 25th Anniversary Edition, "Safe Young Drivers" remains what is arguably the best book for the non-specialist general reader on driving instruction ever written.
Designed to give parents the most solid teaching materials available, and teens an understanding of the underlying philosophy of safe driving, "Safe Young Drivers" is an invaluable resource for surviving the most dangerous environment we all face every day and "one of the best investments you'll make in your child's life".
Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Safe Young Drivers: A Guide for Parents and Teens" has stood the test of time and should be a part of every community library Parenting & Driving DIY instructional reference collection. It should be noted for personal reading lists that this new 25th Anniversary edition of "Safe Young Drivers" is readily available in a paperback edition (9798738733444, $19.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).
Editorial Note: Two more very highly recommended titles complete author Phil Berardelli's 'Safe Driving' trilogy: The Driving Challenge: Dare to Be Safer and Happier on the Road - 20th Anniversary Edition" (9798736016983, $16.95; 9798727830833, $11.95 PB, $4.99 Kindle, 194pp) and "Drive On!: Preserve and Prolong Your Time on the Road" (9798748238229, $16.95 HC, 9781727379402, $9.95 PB, $4.99 Kindle, 200pp).
A Not So Lonely Planet: Italy
101 Hudson Street, Suite 3705, Jersey City, New Jersey 07302
9781627783125, $18.95, PB, 308pp
Synopsis: Marina Taylor is a bold, adventure-seeking writer with a one-way ticket to Rome and big dreams to write her book, 'Italian Women of Influence' But an undeniable connection with an irresistible stranger (and her own penchant for disaster) just may derail her plans.
Inspired by actress and sex icon Regina Lombardi, Marina tries to master the sexual gaze as she researches her book and stumbles her way through Italian scholars, Turkish footballers, and Sicilian twins. From the nightclubs of Rome to a Venetian masquerade ball, Marina's escapades leave her yearning for a particular French-Italian photographer. Will she catch her illusive stranger, or prove more calamity than coquette? And what about the ruggedly down-to-earth ex who's waiting for her back home?
Critique: An original and impressively entertaining novel that is an literary gem of deftly crafted erotica that is part comedy and part adventure, "A Not So Lonely Planet: Italy" by Karina Kennedy is an inherently riveting read from beginning to end -- and one that can inspire the reader to an adventure of their own! While a highly recommended addition to personal reading lists, it should be noted that "A Not So Lonely Planet: Italy" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.49).
Kriya Yoga for Self-Discovery
Keith G. Lowenstein, MD, author
Andrea J. Lett, MA, author
Inner Traditions International, Ltd.
One Park Street, Rochester, VT 05767
9781644112182, $19.99, PB, 288pp
Synopsis: Kriya yoga is an ancient meditation technique that focuses on breathing and the spine to unlock deep states of awareness, self-realization, and spiritual growth. Kriya can provide a fast path to awakening, yet its practice has been shrouded in secrecy, passed only from master to initiate for millennia.
Introduced into Kriya 40 years ago and with the assistance of Andrea J. Lett, in the pages of "Kriya Yoga for Self-Discovery: Practices for Deep States of Meditation", Dr. Keith Lowenstein offers an accessible yet detailed guide to Kriya yoga. He explains the basic techniques of the practice step by step, detailing proper posture, breathwork exercises (pranayama), visualization practices, and mantra.
Dr. Lowestein reveals how Kriya is a scientific art -- if practiced consistently, it will allow you to quickly enter deep states of meditation and ultimately experience inner stillness. Dr. Lowenstein also explores how the practice of Kriya leads to healing and the development of compassion and the freeing joy of the union of Nature and Spirit.
Sharing the wisdom of his Kriya yoga teacher Ganesh Baba, Dr. Lowenstein adds a detailed understanding of anatomy, especially the importance of the spine in Kriya yoga and energy flow. He then explores Ganesh Baba's teachings on spirit-infused science and the integration of Vedic philosophy, quantum mechanics, prana, and spiritualization illustrated in the Cycle of Synthesis. Dr. Lowenstein also discusses the relationship between the exercises of Kriya yoga and Patanjali's Yoga Sutras as well as teachings from his other teachers, including Paramahansa Hariharananda.
With this guide, even the most novice of yoga practitioners will gain an understanding not only of the practice of Kriya yoga but also of the spiritual wealth it brings, including the ultimate self-realization of non-dual reality.
Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Kriya Yoga for Self-Discovery: Practices for Deep States of Meditation" is an impressively informative and thoroughly 'user friendly' DIY instructional guide and manual that is highly recommended as a core addition to personal, professional, community, college and university library Yoga collections. Of immense relevance and interest for students of Hindu philosophy, sutras, rituals and practices, it should be noted that "Kriya Yoga for Self-Discovery: Practices for Deep States of Meditation" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.99).
Editorial Note #1: Keith G. Lowenstein, M.D., is board certified in psychiatry and integrative medicine. He began his study of the mind-body interface in 1971 with training in transcendental meditation and in 1980 began his training in Kriya yoga with Ganesh Baba. He maintains an integrative mental health private practice in Portland, Oregon.
Editorial Note #2: Andrea J. Lett, M.A., is a body-mind wellness practitioner with 20 years' experience practicing and teaching meditation and yoga.
Margaret Lane's Bookshelf
Edgar Cayce and the Unfulfilled Destiny of Thomas Jefferson Reborn
Ozark Mountain Publishing, Inc.
PO Box 754, Huntsville, AR 72740
9781940265872, $22.00, PB, 328pp
Synopsis: On June 23, 1936, Edgar Cayce (18 March 1877 - 3 January 1945), who was the most renowned psychic of the twentieth century and the father of holistic medicine, gave a life reading for Thomas Jefferson (T. J.) Davis, the two-day-old nephew of his secretary, Gladys Davis. In this reading, Cayce identified one of the child's past lives as that of Thomas Jefferson, adding this stunning prediction: he "may become more important in the affairs of the WORLD than this entity in its previous experience has been to America -- Thomas Jefferson."
"Edgar Cayce and the Unfulfilled Destiny of Thomas Jefferson Reborn" by Joanne DiMaggio examines all the reasons why that prediction never came to fruition. It is an endearing look at the relationship between Cayce and young T. J., who was tutored by Cayce for the first nine years of his life in preparation for the great work ahead of him. But it also explores how decisions made by T. J.'s absentee parents put their son's soul on a totally different path. For those who make the assumption that a soul that reaches the greatness of a Thomas Jefferson would continue its upward trajectory, this book clearly illustrates the role that free will plays in the outcome of any life. It is a classic case of karma in action, of synchronistic events that make one cringe to think how close and yet how far T. J. was from redeeming the world.
Critique: An articulate, eloquent, insightful, informative, original, and exceptionally well written study, "Edgar Cayce and the Unfulfilled Destiny of Thomas Jefferson Reborn" is a welcome and recommended addition to personal, professional, community, college and university library Metaphysical Studies collections in general, and Edgar Cayce supplemental studies reading lists in particular. It should be noted for scholars and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Edgar Cayce and the Unfulfilled Destiny of Thomas Jefferson Reborn" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).
Editorial Note: Joanne DiMaggio, MA, CHt, is a respected expert in the field of reincarnation and soul writing, which she describes as a written form of meditation. She has been actively involved with Edgar Cayce's Association for Research and Enlightenment (A.R.E.) since 1987 and has been the coordinator for the Charlottesville, Virginia, team since August 2008. The founder and director of the Unity Holistic Healing Center, a service of Unity of Charlottesville, where she conducts private past-life regressions and soul writing sessions, Joanne is also the author of Karma Can Be a Real Pain, Your Soul Remembers, and Soul Writing.
Texting Through Cancer
Upper Room Books
PO Box 340004, Nashville, TN 37203-0003
9780835819503, $17.99, HC, 176pp
Synopsis: When Jan Woodard requested prayer after her breast cancer diagnosis, her texts, email, and mail were flooded with encouraging notes that inspired her to write about her journey through treatment. As she wrote a weekly column for her local newspaper, Woodard discovered that writing kept her from self-pity by helping her focus on others and shift from fear to faith.
In "Texting Through Cancer: Ordinary Moments of Community, Love, and Healing", Woodard shares the peace she found in surrendering her cancer to God. Through 44 reflections she offers practical ways to find beauty in ordinary moments. Woven throughout her meditations are 12 spiritual practices that challenge readers to explore their own faith more deeply.
"Texting Through Cander" extends hope to those who wonder how to live fully today when uncertainty overshadows tomorrow. Readers will discover how to pay attention to small signs of God's faithfulness, savor the gifts each day brings, and receive assurance that "all will be well" when they trust their tomorrows to God.
Critique: Inspired and inspiring, "Texting Through Cancer: Ordinary Moments of Community, Love, and Healing" is a 'must' for anyone having to deal with a life-threatening illness of any kind -- but especially cancer. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented from a Christian perspective, "Texting Through Cancer: Ordinary Moments of Community, Love, and Healing" is recommended for community, college and university library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Texting Through Cancer: Ordinary Moments of Community, Love, and Healing" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.49).
Far Away from Close to Home: Essays
Vanessa Baden Kelly
Three Rooms Press
9781953103024, $17.00, PB, 256pp
Synopsis: In "Far Away from Close to Home: Essays", Emmy Award-winning actress Vanessa Baden Kelly examines what the idea of "home" means to a Black millennial woman. The individual essays also examine a number of contemporary issues including: How important is race to the idea of community? What are the consequences of gentrification on the life of a young Black woman? What aspects of a community help (or hurt) a family with a young child?
In this collection of profound, intimate, and insightful essays, Baden has found a space where she can work out thoughts and feelings she feels unsafe saying out loud. As she processes the initial ideas more fully, her essays evolve from personal stories to fully-realized communiques of a generation of Black women who are finding a new sense of both belonging and ostracism in private, work, and public life.
A single ride on a Los Angeles public bus that begins with the overwhelming odor of a man sleeping across one of the seats travels through a range of ideas and choices: "choosing" to sit in the back of the bus; the interconnectedness of living in a majority-Black community in the Crenshaw district; the segregation and gentrification of Los Angeles; the challenges of raising a child in a modern urban environment.
Underlying the theme of each essay are questions of how a Black millennial woman can find "home" anywhere when confronted with its invasion by police, men, and society's expectations.
Critique: Deftly crafted, eloquent, thoughtful and thought-provoking commentaries replete with wit, wisdom, and experience, "Far Away from Close to Home: Essays" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college and university library African-American Studies collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that ""Far Away from Close to Home: Essays" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.18).
c/o Chelsea Green (distribution)
9781943370160, $31.95, PB, 402pp
Synopsis: Thanks largely to advances in recreational technology (ranging from video games to social media), our kids are moving less than any other generation in human history. Indoor time and screen time have skyrocketed as both parents and kids turn more to "convenient" tech-based solutions, tasks that once required head-to-toe use of our muscles and bones can be done with a click and a swipe. Without realizing it, we've traded convenience for the movement-rich environment that our physical, mental, and environmental health depends on.
Many parents simply don't know what to do! But there's good news: While the problem feels massive, the solution is simple and fun as "Grow Wild: The Whole-Child, Whole-Family, Nature-Rich Guide to Moving More" by Katy Bowman not only breaks down the 'big ideas' behind movement as a nutrient, it serves as field guide -- how to spot all the movement opportunities we're currently missing.
Learn to "stack your life" for richer experiences that don't take more time as "Grow Wild" shows how to: Set up your home to promote more movement, naturally; Dress for (movement) success; Add 'snacktivities' to your meals; Plan dynamic celebrations; Create a dynamic homework space; Bring nature into your home and play -- and so much more!
Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Grow Wild: The Whole-Child, Whole-Family, Nature-Rich Guide to Moving More" by Katy Bowman (who is a leader in the Movement for movement) is thoroughly 'user friendly' throughout and highly recommended for community, college and university library Preventive Medicine, Health & Exercise, and Parenting instructional reference collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Grow Wild: The Whole-Child, Whole-Family, Nature-Rich Guide to Moving More" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $21.99).
Editorial Noe: Speaker and biomechanist Katy Bowman has authored eight books, including the groundbreaking "Move Your DNA". Bowman teaches movement globally and speaks about sedentarism and movement ecology to academic and scientific audiences such as the Ancestral Health Summit and the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition. Her work is regularly featured in diverse media such as the Today Show, CBC Radio One, the Seattle Times, the Joe Rogan Experience, and Good Housekeeping.
We Demand: The Suffrage Road Trip
Anne B. Gass
Maine Authors Publishing
9781633812611, $29.95, HC, 337pp
Synopsis: Swedish immigrants Ingeborg Kindstedt and Maria Kindberg visit San Francisco in the summer of 1915, planning to buy a car and explore the country on their way back to their home in Rhode Island. On impulse, they offer to bring with them suffragists heading to Washington, DC, to demand voting rights for women from Congress and the president. Soon they are plunged into a difficult and dangerous journey that pushes them to the very limits of their endurance.
Along the way they encounter unexpected allies, as well as those opposed to women's growing independence. Bad roads and harsh weather hinder their progress. Will they overcome these obstacles and arrive in Washington at the appointed day and time?
Critique: An inherently entertaining, impressive original, and fully engaging read from cover to cover, "We Demand: The Suffrage Road Trip" showcases author Anne B. Gass' natural flair for the kind of narrative driven storytelling that makes for the kind of novel that will linger in the mind and memory long after the book itself is finished and set back upon the shelf. While especially recommended and certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community library General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "We Demand: The Suffrage Road Trip" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781633812598, $15.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).
Mari Carlson's Bookshelf
M.J. Nicholls, author
Kathleen Nicholls, illustrator
Sagging Meniscus Press
9781952386046, $18.00, Paperback
A seedy hotel full of despicable characters - and one of them is you. England has decided to send one person from each of its counties to this heinous destination as punishment. The crime? Well, these personal accounts speak for themselves. One miscreant is a scrooge of a ticket-taker. Another tries every means available to elicit sympathy, while another, a mother, lobotomizes children so her son will rise to the top. A few are the same photographed face, offered up in smiling innocence.
In agonizing self-aggrandizement or abasement, made-up words, and constant antics, this book imagines current circumstances taken to their outer limits. There, laughter is the only response. The book reads like Monty Python in literary form.
Yet, the last and longest chapter, written by "you," offers a serious proposal. What if absurdity is the only way to "look the truth in the chin" (231)? M.J. Nicholls, in Trimming England, is the brave and reckless soul facing the facts with dark humor and ribald spunk.
Mari Carlson, Reviewer
Marj Charlier's Bookshelf
c/o Penguin Random House
9780593318829, $21.00 Hardcover, $9.99 Kindle, 179 Pages
My literary education really started only a few years ago when I quit the corporate world and found time to read. So, when it comes to reading the classics, reading modern literary geniuses, or keeping up with the most well-respected authors of the 20th and 21st century, I have fallen far, far behind where most book reviewers probably start. So it was that I have recently decided I need to catch up with such notables as Coetzee, Morrison, Robinson, and Ozick, even as I'd rather pick and choose something else.
It was in this vein that I decided to pick up Ozick's latest book - a novella more than a novel - assuming that it would demonstrate the author's talents at their most seasoned and mature. I now think that was a mistake.
Antiquities impressed me not. As I started into the 179 sparsely filled pages of this thin volume, I withheld my judgment, even while wondering what the book was supposed to be about well into its middle. As I read further, I also wondered what transformation I was supposed to see in the main character that would make this tale worth my time. What was the intended theme of this rambling story? The book ended without either question answered.
The novella's main character, Lloyd, is an old alumnus of a private boys' school who later became a regent, and finally a boarder when the school was transformed from an educational institution to a home for aging regents. Lloyd is pompous, dislikable, disliked, and doesn't like much of anyone else either. Ostensibly the reason for writing his memoir, which this book comprises, is to tell the history of the school in 10 pages or fewer. Obviously, he takes some 18 times that many pages, although the printed pages in this diminutive book carry fewer words than most hand-written pages probably would. But quibbling with Lloyd's wordiness is hardly the gravest of concerns here.
Lloyd's story largely centers around the arrival of a nerdy, unpopular, stick-thin and strange Jewish boy with the unfortunate name of Ben-Zion Elefantin, who comes to the academy when Lloyd was already barely accepted by the other students. Lloyd befriends the boy, which provides him a flimsy excuse for his own increasing ostracism. Their odd, tenuous friendship carries hints of a gay courtship. They lie with their bare legs entangled on the bed, which may or may not be the extent of their physical encounter - we don't know. But the question of Ben-Zion's sexuality is left as vague as all other impressions of his mercurial personality. And how Lloyd feels about Ben-Zion is quite unclear as well; Lloyd is not taken to introspection nearly as much as he is to reproach of others.
Whatever slim understanding I reached at the end about Lloyd, Ben-Zion or any of the other peripheral characters in this book, I didn't care. Ozick may be a master at writing sentences, and according to her following, at creating stories. But this is clearly not a great example of the latter.
Of Women and Salt
9781250776686 $26.99 Hardcover, $13.99 Kindle, 224 pages
One of the keys to success in a multi-generational novel is shaping the narratives of each time frame with equivalent weights and stakes. If one story is significantly stronger or weaker than the other (or others), then the structure can fail, and the entire work suffer from the imbalance.
When a book is about multi-generational trauma, that becomes an even more difficult trick to pull off. Even if we think the world we live in today is violent and uncertain, it is hard to dismiss evidence that things were once worse. Consider the horrors experienced by women over the centuries - whether in insane asylums, in the workplace, in the forum, or at home. While child abuse, sexual predation and domestic violence have hardly disappeared from our modern world - even in "advanced" Western economies where women in the workplace and tabus against domestic violence are widely accepted - there is little question that, yes, things used to be horrible.
That makes a book like Of Women and Salt, an exploration of misogyny and abuse over the past 150 years in the U.S. and Cuba, naturally uneven. After the startling and tragic story based in Cuba in 1866, which opens the book, the musings and trauma of the book's contemporary characters can feel trivial. Of course, they're not. But it is the author's challenge to keep us equally outraged by their disappointments, sexual exploitation, and heartbreak when they are juxtaposed with savage beatings and brutal wars that devastated the lives of the women who came before.
Garcia's novel, set in nine different years and following two lineages of mothers and daughters, struggled to maintain that equivalence, and I found I had little patience for the woman whose drug and boyfriend addictions - all assumed to be caused by sexual predation by a stepfather - seemed to pale in comparison with the violence faced by her grandmother and great-great-great grandmother. Both those ancestors were caught in the midst of Cuban revolutions - one in the 30-year war for independence from the colonial Spaniards, and the other against the dictatorship of Batista in 1959. When it comes to suffering, it's hard to compete with outright war, its guns and bombs and bayonets and beheadings.
Perhaps because the author shies away from describing the stepfather's violation in any detail, falling back on hints and vague references, we don't feel its impact. Authors can end up with an imbalance of impact because they are more comfortable depicting scenes of violence and war than of sexual predation. Is the former realistic and gritty, the latter prurient?
The narrative regains its heft and momentum whenever it returns to its wartime settings, and finally in the end as it picks up the story of the youngest girl's undocumented immigration. Here, the Cuban and Nicaraguan families' stories come together, weaving a highly textured narrative tapestry of women's determination, perseverance and strength.
Sensational: The Hidden History of America's "Girl Stunt Reporters"
9780062843616, $27.99 Hardcover, $14.99 Kindle, 400 pages
As a student in the journalism school at Iowa State, I found the courses on the history of the profession stuffy and sanctimonious. All that preaching about "yellow journalism" and all those old men, men, men, some in hats with "press" tags stuck in them, all of them celebrated for their bad manners, gruff personalities, and halos of cigar and cigarette smoke. I didn't know the parts women played in building the traditions of American journalism were being left out.
Sensational: The Hidden History of America's "Girl Stunt Reporters' tells the story of the women reporters at the end of the nineteenth century and their huge impact on the profession, filling in that gap. Engagingly written, full of great stories and anecdotes of the scrapes and dangers young women risked to gain a foothold and a salary in newspaper work, this history may have changed my entire attitude toward my first professional career. (I was a mostly reluctant reporter for nearly 20 years.)
Kim Todd's story of this sensational journalism starts with Nellie Bly getting herself committed to an insane asylum on an island in New York Harbor. Bly recorded the torture, cruelty, and inhumane conditions for Joseph Pulitzer's newspaper, the World. It was a dangerous assignment that proved her metal and sent dozens of would-be Nellie Blys scrambling for similar "stunt" assignments that would uncover social evils at the same time they sold hundreds of thousands of newspapers for Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst.
These women did more than their male counterparts to promote many of the progressive reforms at the end of the 19th century, including women's suffrage, antitrust movements, better living standards in the nation's poorest ghettos, labor organizing, and efforts to provide safe and remunerative workplaces, especially for women and children. However admirable, the work of going undercover gained a shabby reputation through the decade covered by Todd's account - part of that taint deserved, part clearly the fault of editors eager for sensational headlines, and part rising from the misogyny of a male-dominated business. But however ridiculed, the author points out that the strategies employed by these young stunt reporters have been mimicked over and over through the past century, and both the "new journalism" of the latter half of the 20th century, and the "investigative journalism" of today owe much to their ground-breaking, risk-taking efforts.
An interesting digression toward the end of the book effectively lays bare the shameful way American journalists covered the Spanish American war - an assignment that was routinely denied to women. War is men's business, and they did it very badly, playing up every jingoistic and bigoted trope to whip up the public's bellicosity. I never read anything close to this in any college classes, and the telling delivered an unexpected bonus history lesson.
I highly recommend this book for its fascinating stories of remarkable women and its service to an understanding the world of journalism yesterday and today.
A sidenote: Once again, I am struck by the consequences of the recent turn toward print-on-demand and/or cheap production of hardcover books - books that cost just as much as well-made volumes - perhaps in the interest of reducing demand on quality printers or reducing printing costs. This hardcover book's pages were perfect-bound, a form of binding that used to be common only in paperbacks, instead of being collected in folios and stitched before being glued to the spine. The result is a book that falls apart on first reading. That should not happen with a $28 book.
A Sunday in Ville-d'Avray
9781635420456, $20.00 Hardcover, $11.99 Kindle, 144 Pages
Two sisters grow up in and around Paris, immersed in the romance of Jane Eyre as children, a foundational sensibility that persists even as they settle into middle age, encumbered with husbands, homes, jobs and the mundane, quotidian worlds of adults who never inhabited the foggy moors of Great Britain.
One Sunday, one sister drives out from her apartment in the middle of the city to visit the other sister in the provincial suburb of Ville-d'Avray. As evening falls, the suburban sister tells a story of a long-past almost-affair of years past. The stranger whom she follows and who follows her for some short months is, if anything, a bit seedy and shadowy, and yet, the suburban sister courts their pas-de-deux, clearly not knowing what she wants from him nor what he wants from her. And in the end, the woman, the man nor the reader ever come to figure it out.
The novella is heavier on scene than plot. Soggy leaves underfoot and misty walks through wooded parks substitute for what might be messy hotel sheets and abandoned offices in a less atmospheric and more conventional story of an affair. As the narrator returns to her Paris apartment and shakes off the strange tale, her husband wonders why she's sitting in the dark. He quickly realizes: "You've been to Ville d'Avary again."
You might find reading this novella a pleasant diversion, paired with a cup of tea, on your own soggy Sunday, someday. But it's not much more than that.
The Lost Apothecary
Park Row Books
9780778311010, $27.99, Hardcover, $14.99 Kindle, 301 pages
For a person who writes historical novels, I'm often a picky and tepid fan. I read slowly by nature and for pedagogical reasons, and any archaic vocabulary, labyrinthine sentence structures, or long-abandoned syntax will slow me down even more, often to the point of encouraging me to leave. I prefer that an author drop the attempt to "sound" like a contemporary of the characters she has chosen and give it to me straight. I'm a 21st century American, and I just want to enjoy a good story.
At the same time, I love history and love even more the discovery of little stories and peculiar habits of those who came before us - even as far back as the protagonists of Jean Auel's Bronze Age novels. So, it's a conundrum. How do you find a satisfying historical novel that includes the good stuff that isn't bogged down in mimicking the voice of another century?
The answer: The Lost Apothecary.
Sarah Penner's debut novel brings together four women separated by 200 years. In the late 1700s, we have Nella, an apothecary (both the name of a pharmacy and the pharmacist) who provides lethal doses of medicines to women who need to rid themselves of cruel or infidel men in their lives, and Eliza, a client who becomes her young apprentice. In today's world, we meet Caroline, who is trying to recover and distance herself from the recent news of her husband's affair on a trip to London, a trip that brings her into contact with a soulmate, Gaynor, a librarian who loves history as much as she does.
Caroline discovers an old apothecary bottle while beachcombing along the Thames (her guide calls it "mudlarking") to pass the time. Caroline was history major and enthusiast who put aside her plans for graduate school at Cambridge and took a boring job at home in order to satisfy her husband's preference for rationality and stability, a decision she regrets once their 10-year marriage reveals its faults. But the lost apothecary bottle sends her on a mission of rediscovery of both the story of the ancient pharmacy and of her passion for a good historical mystery.
When her husband unexpectedly joins her in London, Caroline refuses to let his presence stop her from finding the old apothecary and piecing together the story of the chemist, her murdered victims, and the women who wanted the men dead. In an inevitable - but not predictable - turn, Caroline herself becomes a suspect in a poisoning that could easily stop her from pursuing her reignited excitement for historical research or anything else.
The ending of both stories - the 18th century one and the 21st century one - are satisfying and are a testament to Penner's storytelling generosity. She ties up loose ends, and she prevents Caroline from reaching a decision that might have been easy, but that would have left us disappointed.
The Nickel Boys
c/o Knopf/Penguin Random House
9780385537070, $24.95 Hardcover
It's hard for me to find anything new to say about The Nickel Boys, as I'm probably the last literate American to read it. So, I'll just say: I found it every bit as great as people have said it is, and as great as the Pulitzer Prize it won says it is.
The story is about Elwood, a young Black boy, who takes his education seriously, works hard, and obeys his grandmother who is raising him. He's sentenced to the Nickel Academy for stealing a car even though he had been caught in it while hitchhiking to school. Once incarcerated, he befriends Turner, who despite his loose ethics is a decent enough kid brought up in a tough place. The education they are supposed to receive at the school is a joke, and the boys and young men spend most of their time working in the academy's factory and farm, and providing "community service" - a.k.a. labor for rich folks in town. And being beaten, sodomized, and humiliated.
The torture, violence, and miscarriage of justice relayed in this short, beautifully written novel are hard to read, but Whitehead has mercy on his readers. He doesn't make his characters only victims but fleshes them out with (sometimes flawed) moral compasses and the kinds of hopes anyone can relate to. While many scenes are difficult to digest, Whitehead never pushes the narrative to the point a reader has to look away to stop the trauma. (I'm reading a book right now about a religious pilgrim in which that is the case. The mistreatment and injustice are unrelenting.) And the even-handedness - almost dispassion - with which Whitehead's narrators relay their stories of the Nickel Academy provides a kind of Teflon that allows for page turning, despite the horrors.
The abuse the Black boys undergo in Whitehead's fictional (based on a real) "reform" school isn't punishment or correction. It's torture and debasement. Honest punishment isn't arbitrary, and well-intentioned correction isn't meted out with brutality and viciousness. A young man beaten to death can't be said to be "reformed" except in a very cynical, cruel sense. The reform that was really called for at the Nickel Academy was eradication of the racism and ruthlessness that allowed the school to exist.
As kind as Whitehead is to his readers, this book will stick with you long after you read it. Even though it is eminently readable, the story is tragic and tough and impossible to forget. Let's hope the world doesn't.
An aside: I saw Colson Whitehead in a TV interview recently and I was impressed with how approachable and down-to-earth he seemed. I would expect such an acclaimed author to have more airs. But he seemed like a genuinely nice guy.
What Were We Thinking: A Brief Intellectual History of the Trump Era
Simon & Schuster
9781982145620, $28.00 Hardcover, $14.99 Kindle, 272 Pages
It might seem at first glance like the four-word title of this book should be punctuated with a question mark, as in "What the (heck) were we thinking?" However, the meaning of Carlos Lozada's thoughtful title is less pejorative. What Were We Thinking, is a survey of what opinion writers, pundits, and ex-administration officials thought about Trump, his party, his followers, and his administration during his four-year reign of terror. ("Reign of terror" is my phrase, not his.)
My sister-in-law, a Trump supporter, gave me this book for Christmas. I had the book on my wish list, but I didn't pick it up until mid-April because I, like many people I know, was just sick of politics. The Jan. 6 insurrectionists' attack on the Capitol made me more so, not less.
Lozada, however, did both my SIL and me a favor: He read about 150 of the books (both pro and con) written about Trump's term in office so we don't have to, and organized and summarized them in such a fashion as to create a narrative of the four years like none other I have seen. I had read four of the books he chose (out of hundreds published), but most of them I had only read about. His erudite and pithy reviews (150 books in 240 pages) have now saved me a lot of time and a lot of anguish.
Lozada's book doesn't do all of our work for us. As he does in this book, we need to continue to evaluate and rectify what Trump did to the cause for democracy, equality, voting rights, world opinion, immigrants, Blacks, Hispanics, the elderly, children, the poor, COVID victims, and the political and administrative institutions that are supposed to hold up all of those ideals and protect our citizens. We have to figure out how to restore decency to public office and respect for the idea of public service. We must continue to search for answers to the question: What were we thinking when we elected this man to office? What kind of a country did we think we wanted?
But after our four-year obsession with the man (whether with dread or elation), we need to look forward as well. I felt that reading Lozada's thorough review gave me permission, finally, to do that.
Marj Charlier, Reviewer
Michael Carson's Bookshelf
The Next Everest
St. Martin's Press
9781250272294, $29.99, HC, 416pp
Synopsis: On April 25, 2015, Jim Davidson was climbing Mount Everest when a 7.8 magnitude earthquake released avalanches all around him and his team, destroying their only escape route and trapping them at nearly 20,000 feet. It was the largest earthquake in Nepal in eighty-one years and killed about 8,900 people. That day also became the deadliest in the history of Everest, with eighteen people losing their lives on the mountain.
After spending two unsettling days stranded on Everest, Davidson's team was rescued by helicopter. The experience left him shaken, and despite his thirty-three years of climbing and serving as an expedition leader, he wasn't sure that he would ever go back. But in the face of risk and uncertainty, he returned in 2017 and finally achieved his dream of reaching the summit.
Suspenseful and engrossing, "The Next Everest: Surviving the Mountain's Deadliest Day and Finding the Resilience to Climb Again" portrays the experience of living through the biggest disaster to ever hit the mountain. Davidson's background in geology and environmental science makes him uniquely qualified to explain how this natural disaster unfolded and why the seismic threats lurking beneath Nepal are even greater today. But this story is not about "conquering" the world's highest peak. Instead, it reveals how embracing change, challenge, and uncertainty prepares anyone to face their "next Everest" in life.
Critique: The stuff of which award-winning mountaineering movies are made, "The Next Everest: Surviving the Mountain's Deadliest Day and Finding the Resilience to Climb Again" is extraordinarily well written and presented. An inherently fascinating read from cover to cover, "The Next Everest" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college and university library Mountaineering collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of all mountaineering enthusiasts that "The Next Everest" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99).
Editorial Note: Jim Davidson is an accomplished high-altitude climber, motivational speaker, and co-author of "The Ledge". Along with his teammates, he has been commended twice by the U.S. National Park Service for volunteering on risky and remote mountain rescues. He has inspired audiences across the United States and internationally through his business, Speaking of Adventure. He also maintains an informative website at: https://www.speakingofadventure.com/
Getting Right with Lincoln
Edward Steers Jr.
The University Press of Kentucky
663 South Limestone Street, Lexington, KY 40508-4008
9780813180908, $27.95, HC, 216pp
Synopsis: Did Abraham Lincoln hate his father so much that he would not visit him on his deathbed or buy him a tombstone? Is it true that Ann Rutledge, who died tragically young, was the real love of his life? Did he order the murder of thirty-eight Dakota Sioux warriors because of his hatred of Native Americans?
In the pages of "Getting Right with Lincoln: Correcting Misconceptions about Our Greatest President", historian and Lincoln expert Edward Steers Jr. sets the record straight in an engaging and authoritative history that analyzes the facts and clarifying some of the most prominent misconceptions about the sixteenth president's life.
"Getting Right with Lincoln" addresses the claims that have found a foothold in mainstream lore, ranging from the contention that Lincoln had a troubled and perhaps scandalous early adulthood in Springfield, to more serious attacks on his character, such as the accusation that he was reluctant to emancipate enslaved people and held racist beliefs. Drawing on his background in health science, Steers also examines allegations that Lincoln suffered numerous illnesses ranging from endocrine disorders to syphilis.
Much of the recent revisionist history about Abraham Lincoln relies on selective sources that provide a false image of the man. His law partner of twenty-one years, close friend, and early biographer William Herndon described Lincoln as "the most shut-mouthed man" he ever knew, and yet volumes have been written on Lincoln's musings, beliefs, and private thoughts in general. His life and deeds have been heavily researched, interpreted, and reinterpreted time and again until the interpretations themselves have become untrustworthy.
In "Getting Right with Lincoln", Steers relies on primary textual evidence to address each legend at the source and maintains caution when reviewing the potentially biased reminiscences of historic figures close to the president. The result is a fascinating forensic exploration of some of the persistent hoaxes and myths related to America's most revered president.
Critique: A unique and welcome addition to the growing library of Lincoln studies, "Getting Right with Lincoln: Correcting Misconceptions about Our Greatest President" is an extraordinary, inherently fascinating, and absolutely recommended addition to community, college and university library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of Lincoln scholars and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Getting Right with Lincoln: Correcting Misconceptions about Our Greatest President" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $20.99).
Michael J. Carson
Nicole Yurcaba's Bookshelf
Whole Lot of Hullabaloo: A Twenty-First Century Campus Phantasmagoria
9781735711317, $14.95 PB, $5.99 Kindle, 293pp
"'Other people were creating the whole hullabaloo, which seemed to keep getting more and more out of control. I wanted to stop it, but I couldn't.'"
On a seemingly quiet university campus, readers meet Ian Mueller (a prankster with a gift for one-liners and a taste for the 80s) and his ever-practical roommate, Troy. After a Halloween prank goes wrong and Ian becomes the very eye of controversy, the Janus-like nature of academia unfolds. Troy and Ian's other friends navigate their on-campus lives and personal morals as Ian faces the consequences of his actions. Meanwhile, readers also meet Sam, the university president struggling to keep his personal and professional lives separate. He finds himself failing at what he desires most - to keep his university free of controversy and negative attention. Amid the controversy, readers find themselves at tables with professors who preach the doctrines of esoteric fields of study, in the throes of protests fueled by rumors and misperceptions, and in the conscience of one young man trying to understand what is actually happening on campus and in society.
Darkly satirical and possessing the tone and power of Vonnegut's story "Harrison Bergeron," this book reads like events straight out of the current day's newsfeed. It boldly examines the fine line between what society tolerates and what it doesn't. More importantly, it questions what happens to individuals who, against all odds, are forbidden to defend themselves against the masses. The book also carefully considers the massive spread of misinformation and how that misinformation vastly transforms groupthink. Bold and daring, humorous yet intellectual, this book has the potential to become a cult classic. Readers of Vonnegut and Brett Easton Ellis will enjoy the book's humor and tone. Meanwhile, readers of cult classics like The Perks of Being a Wallflower will appreciate the book's focus on social issues that impact young adults.
Nicole Yurcaba, Reviewer
The US Review of Books
Robin Friedman's Bookshelf
Angels: A Novel
9780060988821, $15.99, paperback
Death Is The Mother Of Beauty
"Sunday Morning" is a meditative poem by the American poet Wallace Stevens (1879 -- 1955) that celebrates the beauty of the physical world and its transience juxtaposed with themes of religion. Stevens tells his story through a beautiful woman gazing at the sea. The phrase "death is the mother of beauty" occurs twice in the poem. In stanza V, Stevens writes:
"She says, 'But in contentment I still feel
The need of some imperishable bliss.'
Death is the mother of beauty; hence from her,
Alone, shall come fulfillment to our dreams
And our desires."
In the following stanza, Stevens says:
"Death is the mother of beauty, mystical,
Within whose burning bosom we devise
Our earthly mothers waiting, sleeplessly."
On one level, Denis Johnson's first novel "Angels" (1983) could hardly be more different from Stevens' poem. Stevens and his character are erudite, highly educated, and well to do. The characters in Johnson's novel are drug users, alcoholics, and criminals all of whom are ensnared in poverty. They lack the rudiments of an education which would create interest in a writer such as Wallace Stevens.
Yet, there is a clear and often repeated allusion to Stevens' poem in "Angels". The final scene in Johnson's novel is set in a dismal prison in the Arizona desert where one of the primary characters, Bill Houston, is awaiting execution. The gas chamber in which Houston is to be executed bears the (unattributed) inscription "Death is the mother of beauty." Houston meditates on the meaning of this difficult phrase as he awaits his fate: and the haunting line becomes a way to get to think about Johnson's story.
"Angels" offers a gritty look at American low life in the 1980s. The two primary characters, Bill Houston and Jamie Mays, meet on a cross-country Greyhound bus from Oakland. Jamie has two small children and is fleeing her marriage in the hope of meeting up with her sister in Hershey, Pennsylvania. On the bus, she begins a relationship with Houston, an alcoholic ex-con and Navy veteran. The relationship takes the couple through the streets and bars of Pittsburgh, Chicago, and Phoenix and through much sleaze and violence. After Jamie is brutally raped in Chicago, she and Houston take the bus to Huston's family home in Phoenix. Huston, his two brothers, and another man attempt the heist of a large bank, in a scene reminiscent of many film noirs The heist goes awry and the four men are picked up. Bill Houston is tried for the killing of a guard. Jamie for her part suffers a nervous breakdown and is institutionalized. She works to become free of alcohol and substance addiction.
Johnson tells a story of grimness and sadness while showing as well an affection for his people with all their self-inflicted wounds. The book is less a cohesive novel than a series of interconnected vignettes. It succeeds in finding beauty in its characters and places through its writing. Like Stevens, Johnson is a poet who illuminates the lives he sees through writing and imagination. While in "Sunday Morning" Stevens saw the transience, beauty, and spirituality of life through the thoughts of a cultivated, beautiful woman, Johnson works to show these traits in the lives of his down and out characters.
Johnson is probably best known for his book "Jesus' Son" which I have read together with his late novella "Train Dreams". In many ways, the lurid beauty of "Angels" may capture Johnson at his best. I was glad to read this first novel and to think about it together with one of my favorite poems and poets.
A Mortal Blow to the Confederacy: The Fall of New Orleans, 1862
Mark F. Bielski, author
Gerald J. Prokopowicz, foreword
9781611214895, $14.95 paperback
The Fall Of New Orleans In The Emerging Civil War Series
In late April, 1862 the Confederate City of New Orleans fell to a large Union flotilla moving up the Mississippi from the Gulf of Mexico under the command of David Farragut, a New Orleans native. New Orleans was the Confederacy's largest city and the largest exporting port in the United States. The loss of New Orleans early in the Civil War was a blow from which the South never recovered. It was indeed, as the title to this new book (2021) on the fall of New Orleans states, "A Mortal Blow to the Confederacy."
Historian Mark Bielski wrote this study of the fall of New Orleans for the Emerging Civil War Series. Bielski received his PhD in history at the University of Birmingham, England. He resides in New Orleans where is the director of a company offering historical tours of the area. This is Bielski's second book on the Civil War, following an unusual study of nine Polish immigrants who fought in the conflict, "Sons of the White Eagle in the Civil War: Divided Poles in a Divided Nation."
Bielski's study is particularly welcome because the fall of New Orleans has not been written about as extensively as other pivotal events of the Civil War. His study is lucidly and dramatically written and will appeal to readers with varying levels of background and interest in the conflict. The study sets the stage well with a discussion of Union and Confederate naval capabilities at the outset of the War and of the importance of New Orleans and its shipping and resources to the South. Bielski writes: "The Confederacy's largest and greatest city, the South's dynamic commercial center, the key to the Mississippi River, and control of the Gulf of Mexico fell with what most military analysts would characterize as 'minimal resistance'". His book explores how and why this happened.
Bielski discusses the Confederacy's lack of resources but his focus in understanding the fall of New Orleans is on the Confederacy's divided command structure, the squabbling and in-fighting among its leadership, and on the leadership in Richmond, which badly underestimated the threat posed from the Gulf. The Confederate leadership was more concerned about an attack from the north of the Mississippi River and sent away men and ships to meet this threat. One immediate consequence was the Battle of Shiloh on April 6-7, 1862. The fall of New Orleans later in the month was the primary consequence of the failure to take seriously enough the threat from the Gulf.
Bielski examines well and fairly the military activities leading to the fall of New Orleans with emphasis on the Confederacy's decision to abandon a small island, Ship Island, which would serve as the launching site for Farragut's fleet and on the fighting at Fort Jackson and Fort St. Phillip, 70 miles below New Orleans. When Farragut's fleet passed the forts with minimal losses, the fall of New Orleans was assured.
The book discusses the many leaders on both sides, including Farragut, Porter, and Butler for the Union and Jefferson Davis, Beauregard, and Lovell for the Confederacy. But, as Professor Gerald Prokopowicz writes in his Foreword, the City of New Orleans is "itself the main character of this book." Bielski writes with unmistakable love and understanding for his adopted city. He brings New Orleans and its people and places to life, both before the Civil War, during the occupation, and thereafter. His text is enhanced with many photographs of the city, including places that are now iconic and landmarks and places little known and off the beaten path. The book offers a brief overview of New Orleans' history together with a discussion of Jefferson Davis' connection with the city. This storied American city comes alive in what might otherwise be an excellent but conventional work of military history.
I have only visited New Orleans once, for a day or two, and felt in this book an author in love with his subject. The book made me want to see the city again in addition to teaching me a good deal about the 1862 fall of the city. Readers with an interest in New Orleans or in Civil War history will enjoy this book. Savas Beatie the publisher, kindly sent me a review copy.
A Peacemaker for Warring Nations: The Founding of the Iroquois League
Joseph Bruchac, author
David Kanietakeron Fadden, illustrator
9781937786878, $18.95, hardcover
A Story Of The Iroquois League
This new children's book, "A Peacemaker for Warring Nations: The Founding of the Iroquois League", is based upon traditional legends about how five warring tribes were able to come together long ago to form the stable, peaceful Iroquois League centering in what became upstate New York. The five tribes are the Mohawk, Onondaga, Cayuga, Oneida, and Seneca. The book is intended primarily for children ages 10 -- 14. Joseph Bruchac, a native author and storyteller wrote the text and David Kanietaker Fadden a native artist prepared the beautiful illustrations.
Set in the mists of time, the story begins when five strong nations had forgotten the teachings they received from the Creator: "to treat all things with respect -- to always give thanks for the many gifts of life." The five nations were in a state of perpetual war with one another and with other nations. The Creator sends a mysterious Peacemaker to lead the five nations back to the way of unity and peace.
This book recounts the Peacemaker's difficult, beautiful, and complex journey towards restoring peace. It is presented both as a legend and as something of a political fable for the present. The Peacemaker over time approaches the leaders of each tribe and slowly wins their assent to lay down their arms and join together in peace. He also changes the structure of each tribe and of the resulting league by giving a council of women a leading role in governance. The male leaders are appointed by and accountable to the women for their actions. It is worth noting how this social structure is both like and unlike current ideas about gender. The arrangement appears contemporary in providing a leadership role for women. It is also importantly different in that traditional gender roles and differences are maintained. The men do not participate in the council of women and the women do not assume the leadership roles held by the men.
The book shows the obstacles the Peacemaker faces with each tribe and tribal leader in fulfilling the will of the Creator and how these differences are overcome. There are many lovely evocative passages in the story which include much material for thought. For example, here are the Peacemaker's words in forming the Council of Women:
"I have come here to bring a message of peace. When I end warfare, you will have a new role. You and the headwomen of the different clans will choose the leaders and they will abide by your will. We will build a Longhouse of One Family and its light will shine throughout the world. You will be the mother of all the nations when the Great Tree of Peace has been planted."
Just before the final tribe agrees to join the League in peace, the Peacemaker explains how the League will operate:
"We must speak with one voice.... Let us create a nation where everyone listens to whoever speaks, knowing that they will have their own chance to speak in turn. We will come together with the Mohawks and Senecas on on side of the fire and the Cayugas and Oneidas on the other side. Ideas will be passed back and forth in a formal way across the fire until everyone is in agreement. To make sure everyone is understood, we will make Mohawk our common language when we come together in council."
When the League is formed the Peacemaker observes with great ceremony that "Alone one arrow may be easily broken. But together, like our Five Nations, they are strong. United in peace, we will be so strong that others would rather join us than take up arms against us."
Both children and adults will be inspired by this book. It is intended for children old enough to read for themselves. Some of the events and concepts in this book will be difficult for children and for older readers as well to follow. There is much material for discussion in a family or classroom setting.
This book is published by Wisdom Tales, which specializes in books for children with spiritual and religious themes from around the world. I have learned a great deal from reading and reviewing Wisdom Tales titles the past several years. Readers of all ages will learn from this story of the Iroquois League. Wisdom Tales kindly sent me a review copy of this book.
Suanne Schafer's Bookshelf
House of Rougeaux
Black Rose Writing
House of Rougeaux is a family saga that spans the 18th through the 20th centuries and from Martinique to Canada to the US to Europe. I enjoyed the first section of the book, dealing with Martinique and two children, Abeje and her brother Adunbi. They are born on a plantation. Here is the strongest sense of magical realism. Abeje has been given the ability to heal with herbals. She can see spirits also. Later in the book, that sense of the spiritual seems to lessen in her descendants.
From this beginning House of Rougeaux moves to different scenes and time frames. The narrative switches back and forth rather randomly in time. Even as a lover of multiple points-of-view and multiple time frames, I found it distracting. For the first half of the book, it was difficult to keep the family members straight as there were so many and with many unusual names. Fortunately, there is a family tree in the front of the book.
Author Jaeckel touches on the African-American experience including slavery, being cannon fodder in wartime, and the victim of hate crimes, without being overly specific and turning off her readers with harrowing depictions. She also shows the intelligence and resilience that was required to survive these difficulties. My problem with the book is that it covers parts of three centuries in 308 pages, which means Jaeckel cannot fully explore many ideas. She also writes in a very broad omniscient point of view. I wonder if the cast of characters couldn't be trimmed and the work written in a tighter point of view.
America's Daughter (Book 1 of the America's Daughter Trilogy)
Celeste De Blasis
America's Daughter is the first book in the trilogy that has been posthumously published as Ms. De Blasis died in 2001. Thus the writing has a bit of an antiquated feel to it. There is a lot of historical detail, much of which feels rather pedantic.
The Valencourts are a prominent Boston family. The father Marcus, having emigrated there 30 years earlier from England, retains his loyalty to the British Crown. His sons and daughters, however, don't; born in the colonies, they see the New World as their home. This internal family struggle is set against the revolutionary war. Though the blurb that accompanies the book suggests it is a romance, romance is definitely not the primary aim.
The story is told in an omniscient point of view, though the story of the daughter, Ariadne (Addy) is primary. The early part of the book focuses on laying out the story and introducing us to the characters, and their relationships to each other. The book is a quick read, being around 200 pages, but ends rather abruptly.
Arsenic and Adobo
Mia P. Manansala
c/o Penguin Random House
0593201671, $11.99 Kindle, $24.50 Audiobook
Arsenic and Adobo is a cute cozy mystery with an ever-increasing body count. It stars Lila Macapagal who leaves the big city to return home to Shady Palms to help out at her failing family restaurant. The supporting cast includes her grandmother, Lola Flor, and many other members of an extended family plus those who are family by custom and/or acquaintance, like the Calendar Trio, three spunky women coincidentally named after months: April, May, and June. Lila's best friend is a vegetarian Pakistani Muslim with a to-die-for brother, Amir, who Lila has had the hots for for years. The characters are genuine - with hints of those relatives you love, but who can sometimes be a bit possessive and restrictive.
There's a bit of romance too - a failed one with Derek (one of the accumulating bodies), Amir, and a dentist, Jae. Conflict comes when Lila starts to like-like Jae, but his brother is the infamous Detective Park, out to convict Lila of murder and drug-running.
The descriptions of food are amazing and read as good-enough-to-eat, with recipes in the back of the book.
I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and partial review.
The Bachelor Bargain (Secrets, Scandals, and Spies #1)
The Bachelor Bargain marks the beginning of a new series of romances by Maddison Michaels. This is the 1890s version of a romantic suspense. Set in England where the social mores of the mid-Victorian era were conflicting with the burgeoning of women's rights and labor unions,
Lady Olivia (Livie) Haliford and her friends are mourning for their friend Alice. Alice had apparently committed suicide after falling in love with a bounder who left her pregnant. Livie feels that Alice was murdered. She and her friends decide to unmask the man who ruined Alice by publishing a gazette that will monthly reveal three male members of the ton who prey on women. Their pin money won't cover the costs, so Livie approaches Sebastian Colver, the king of the underworld. He rules society with the money he has earned, investments made, and the gambling dens he runs. But she's willing to make a deal with the devil himself to accomplish her goals.
This was a cute read with some steam, the right amount of danger, and a great romance. Livie and Sebastian both have mental/emotional obstacles stemming from their past and must move beyond to establish their relationship.
Soul to Steal
M. A. Guglielmo
M.A. Guglielmo's novel, Soul to Seal, is a light-hearted, fun read which should appeal to older YA readers. The story begins in Summoned (#1 in the series) in which Daniel Goldstein, a Jewish gaming designer, is told by his grandmother's ghost to summon a jinn to save the world from fallen angels. He ends up with a supernatural party girl, Zahara, who's actual form (when she's not dressed to kill in human clothing) is a cuddly kitten with wings. She introduces Daniel to her friend, Zaid. The battle continues as she meets Harut, one of two fallen angel brothers. Marut, the other brother, wants to destroy humankind. The four, along with forces they've gathered to their side in Summoned and later in #3, Price to Pay, combine forces to battle the angels and Zahara's father, who's united with the bad guys. The dialogue is zippy, snarky, and laced with sarcasm. It was enjoyable to read a paranormal book with new-to-me Middle Eastern mythology.
The Apache Diaspora: Four Centuries of Displacement and Survival
University of Pennsylvania Press
Though I was hesitant to read a book about Apaches written by a white man, I must admit that Conrad's The Apache Diaspora: Four Centuries of Displacement and Survival is a fascinating and erudite book. His research into archives in the United States, Spain, Mexico, as well Apache oral histories, he shows how the dispersion of the Apaches is truly a diaspora, as those pushed out of the American Southwest retained a strong bond to their people and their land. I found it amazing that Conrad managed to compress four centuries into a single volume. I found that I wanted to know more about particular subjects, but realized Conrad couldn't delve into every single issue.
Though all indigenous American groups suffered through similar attempts at subjugation by genocide, the Apaches, because of their geographic position between the forces of Spanish, Mexican, American, and Comanche armies, were particularly affected. Through four centuries, they faced slavery and forced migrations in efforts to eradicate their way of life. Families were torn apart and scatted throughout the North American continent and into the Caribbean, Spain, and Mexico.
The Apache Diaspora looks deeply at genocidal issues, how the Indigenous people survived, how the African diaspora intersected with that of the Apaches. Again, each Indigenous group has their own story. Much of what Conrad has written cannot be applied to every single Indigenous group, but a good deal can be transferred: centuries of enslavement, warfare, and forced migrations. The United States, as well as the other imperial forces involved, should reevaluate their treatment of Apaches and other Indigenous tribes and consider reparations.
Truth and Other Lies
c/o Simon & Schuster
9781476795553, $24.99, Reprint edition
Henry Hayden is a great unreliable, unlikeable character with just enough good within him to be a somewhat likable soul, yet he wreaks a swath of destruction in his wake, from childhood on. Currently he manifests himself as a well-known, prolific writer; but his wife is the actual author of his many books.
The eddies and currents of the book are frequent with flashbacks and switches from what Henry is thinking and what is actually going on. Overall I had no problems following the novel except a scene in which Fasch, from his hospital bed, calls Henry. Then three paragraphs later, Henry is sitting on the hospital bed with no sense of how he arrived there. I read the several pages of the scene multiple times to see if I had missed Henry driving to the hospital or something, but no.
Overall, I enjoyed the book.
Prospects of a Woman
She Writes Press
Genre: women's fiction, historical fiction, historical California fiction, Gold Rush fiction
Prospects of a Woman looks at women's rights and status during the Gold Rush. California was at the forefront of women's rights, allowing women to own property, divorce, etc. unlike most of the United States. In 1850, Elizabeth and Nate travel from an apple orchard in Massachusetts to California's American River to find her father. When found, his character has changed completely and he wants nothing to do with his daughter.
Marital problems with Nate and a new love for a Californiano lead Elizabeth to divorce her husband and find her own way.
The story is told in a somewhat distant third person point-of-view with occasional bits of close third person, especially when Elizabeth is working through her problems and her sexuality.
The book has some sexual scenes, but very discrete.
I enjoyed this look into a woman's life during the Gold Rush. It was refreshing to learn that somewhere in America, women were moving beyond the tightly-laced Victorian lives women were forced into.
Bones of the Redeemed
Set in New Mexico in 1952, Kari Bovee's Bones of the Redeemed is an excellent historical mystery. Bovee writes strong female heroines and writes them well, but Ruby Delgado must be her best yet. Ruby thinks quickly and catches threads of this mystery superbly. She's fierce, determined, and courageous woman who, though recovering from her own tragedy, attempts to help others in danger
Ruby is an archeology student working on a dig near the village of Las Montanas. While excavating, Ruby falls into a pit with filled with mutilated bodies, some even crucified. She is also dragged into the inner workings of a religious cult, who crucify young men during Holy Week.
This is definitely a page-turner. I finished it in one night. The descriptions of the dig were exactly what one would expect: dirty, dusty, and with poor amenities, and Bovee's descriptions of New Mexico were spot on. If a reader likes Tony Hillerman type books, this is certainly within that vein.
I was fortunate to have read an early version of Olympus, Texas and have eagerly anticipated its final version since. Author Stacey Swann populates her novel with characters loosely based on Greek gods but with a Texas twang. Olympus, Texas is an insightful look at how one family's fortes and foibles divide and unite these contemporary mortal versions of the unpredictable Greek gods. Despite their ancient origins, these characters are brooding, complex, and contemporary. You don't need to know the ins and outs of Greek mythology to become engrossed in this family saga.
March (Mars) Briscoe returns to his home in East Texas after being on the lam for two years. He left when his affair with his brother's wife Vera (Aphrodite) is exposed. After spending this extended time in New Mexico, he's realized he's only complete in Olympus, Texas with his family.
He visits his parents, but June (Hera) his mother doesn't seem glad to see him, but then, she's never taken to her youngest son. March's father, Peter (Zeus), is a serial philanderer, and June sees those same traits reflected in this child. March always been difficult as his temper flares to the extreme and he becomes violent, yet has amnesia about what occurs, the results of intermittent explosive disorder.
June loves Peter and has put up with his womanizing though his sexual escapades have led to three illegitimate Artie (Artemis), Arlo (Apollo), and Burke) on top of his three legitimate children Hap (Hephaestus), Thea, and March.
Despite being determined to make things right, within hours of returning, March again beds Vera. From there, a series of calamities besets the Briscoe family, all occurring within the space of a week. Someone is killed, marriages are overturned, and even the strongest of family allegiances holding the Briscoes together are shattered.
Structurally, each day of this god-awful week is laid out with its own section. Some chapters have epigraphic quotes from Ovid. Rather than worry about where to place backstory, Swann takes a unique approach and plugs it into "Origin" chapters, such as "The Origin of March's Exile." The sense of place is wonderful. You can hear the rush of the river, the birds sing, and the frogs croak. Swann's prose is elegant, lean, Texan, yet universal with some very lovely turns of phrase. This book will definitely make it to some "best of 2021" book lists.
Suanne Schafer, Reviewer
Susan Bethany's Bookshelf
Success Is the Best Revenge
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781480898394, $21.99, PB, 362pp
Synopsis: Sara Matthews is middle-aged, broke, and facing a divorce she doesn't want. She feels like she's lost her compass in life. What's more, she has many secrets that she keeps from the world at large-the molestation that marred her childhood and a mother who is now a ghost and who haunts Sara only to berate her.
Now she must begin the difficult work of starting her life over. Sara travels to London to work with her business partner, Thomas Hunter, and soon she finds herself involved in a new relationship. But all too quickly, she starts making decisions that lead her down dangerous a path, one that could cost her more than she has to give. Only time will tell whether she'll be able to escape the danger.
Critique: Heartbreaking yet hopeful, "Success Is The Best Revenge" by Kathy Sechrist is a large format (7.5 x 0.75 x 9.25 inches) and original novel that is based on true events and that deftly traces the journey of a middle-aged woman who breaks free from years of abuse only to enter into another life-threatening relationship. Exceptionally well written and an inherently fascinating read, and unreservedly recommended for community library Contemporary Women's Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Success Is The Best Revenge" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).
Beverley Kane, MD
978057875115, $36.00, PB, 318pp
Synopsis: Ever wonder what the expression "healthy as a horse" means? "Equine-imity: Stress Reduction and Emotional Self-Regulation in the Company of Horses" by Dr. Beverley Kane teaches you how to create lifelong practices and relationships, with or without equines, that will improve your health by reducing stress and bridling emotions that behave like runaway horses.
Based on the classes and private sessions Dr. Kane conducts in the Stanford University Health Improvement Program, "Equine-imity" uses techniques ranging from qigong, tai chi, and yoga, to Reiki, and a nature-based therapy that have medically proven health benefits.
Can't quiet your mind for sitting meditation? "Equine-imity" teaches moving meditations that fully engage your mind and body. Simple activities such as meeting, grooming, and leading horses are taught as meditations.
Don't know how to meet a horse? "Equine-imity" provides resources for finding equine programs and private individuals with horses in your area.
"Equine-imity" is written especially for non-equestrians and non-meditators. Whether you have a horse or have never even touched one before, whether you practice meditation or not, in Equine-imity you will discover: Horses as teachers of physical, emotional, and spiritual health; Appreciation of the human body as beautiful in every size and shape; Applied principles from exercise physiology, sports medicine, natural horsemanship, and equine-assisted therapy; 7 easy-to-follow medical qigong exercises; The Stanford four-phase Equine-imity somatic horsemanship program, proven to reduce stress; Resources for how to locate horses near your home or workplace.
The underlying message of "Equine-imity" is that our bodies are our temples and horses can lead us to the altar.
Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Equine-imity: Stress Reduction and Emotional Self-Regulation in the Company of Horses" is a unique, practical, effective, inspiringly motivational, and inherently fascinating read from cover to cover. While especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, college and university library Stress Management & Self-Help collections, it should be noted that "Equine-imity" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $18.00).
Editorial Note: Beverley Kane, MD, is an Adjunct Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine and an Integrative Medicine Physician in the Stanford Division of Primary Care and Population Health, Palo Alto, California.
Christine Pisera Naman
Health Communications, Inc.
3201 S.W. 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442-8190
9780757323850, $16.95, PB, 368pp
Synopsis: A mother traces her daughter's years-long battle with addiction in "About Natalie: A Daughter's Addiction. A Mother's Love. Finding Their Way Back to Each Other", a compelling memoir by Christine Pisera Naman that opens a raw and honest dialogue about substance abuse.
A mother's first, most basic instinct is to protect her child. Christine's daughter Natalie was the light of her life. She was a spirited child with sparkling eyes who was growing up and finding her way in the world. But by adolescence, she had ended up on the wrong road, meeting the wrong kind of people. Natalie was a full-blown addict, caught in a self-destructive spiral that was destroying her life and taking her family along for the nightmarish journey. Christine wondered how she could have missed the warning signs. Was there anything she could do to save Natalie from herself?
"About Natalie" tells one woman's heartbreaking story, one that is played out in homes across the country, and reveals the rollercoaster of emotions that loving an addict unearths. There is despair and joy; denial and acceptance; rage and tranquility. Christine's reflections as she traces her daughter's life are interspersed with Natalie's compelling poems that tell the unvarnished truth of her side of this struggle: "I have handcuffs on/And no one can see them/My screams are so loud /Yet no one can hear 'em".
By sharing the difficult days of isolation, pain, and humiliation that being the parent of an addict can bring, Naman offers comfort and consolation to others in similar circumstances. Ultimately, About Natalie is a story of loving no matter what, keeping the faith, battling hard, and getting back on the right road.
Critique: An inherently engaging and impressively candid account from beginning to end, "About Natalie: A Daughter's Addiction. A Mother's Love. Finding Their Way Back to Each Other" will have a very special appeal to readers with loved ones of their own who are struggling with any form of addiction. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college and university library Contemporary American Biography collections in general, and Alcohol Addiction/Drug Dependency supplemental studies curriculums in particular, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "About Natalie" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99).
Editorial Note: Christine Pisera Naman is also the author "Faces of Hope: Babies Born on 9/11", "Faces of Hope: Ten Years Later", "Faces of Hope at Eighteen, "Caterpillar Kisses", "Christmas Lights", "The Novena", and "The Believers".
Lady Be Good
3705 Shore Drive, Virginia Beach, VA 23455
9781646632725, $29.95, HC, 29800
Synopsis: In the pages of her debut novel, "Lady Be Good: The Life and Times of Dorothy Hale", author and biographer Pamela Hamilton transports us to the glittering, sumptuous era of 1920s New York to follow the life of aspiring actress Dorothy Hale (January 11, 1905 - October 21, 1938) as she comes of age. Breaking societal rules imposed on women, "Peck's Bad Girl of Pittsburgh Society" leaves behind her privileged world for the bright lights of Broadway to chase her dream. From convent school debutante runaway to Ziegfeld showgirl to Hollywood star, Hale transforms herself into one of the most adored figures in the highest echelons of society. Yet behind the public facade the darling of the press contends with heart-rending loss, gossip and betrayal, and a tempestuous friendship with Luce.
Surrounded by her fabulous circle of friends-Gertrude Stein, Fred Astaire, Cole Porter, James Roosevelt, Elsa Maxwell, and other iconic figures-Dorothy finds her way to the other side of heartbreak and prepares for a White House wedding. Then, suddenly, at age thirty-three, at the height of happiness and peak of her fame, she falls to her death. Her life story is revised and written into history by the tabloids and the famed and feted-leading to this novel's stunning conclusion.
Former NBC producer Pamela Hamilton turns her journalism skills on discovering the facts about Dorothy Hale's story, then spins them with color and life into breathtaking revelations about the irresistible and misunderstood glamour girl whose legend has endured for more than half a century.
Critique: A fictional showcasing the life of one of the original 'glamour girls' of the 20th Century, "Lady Be Good: The Life and Times of Dorothy Hale" is an exceptionally well written, organized and presented biography. An inherently fascinating read and the result of meticulous and painstaking research, "Lady Be Good: The Life and Times of Dorothy Hale" is especially and unreservedly recommended, especially for community, college and university library Literary Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Lady Be Good: The Life and Times of Dorothy Hale" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781646632701) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.49)
Editorial Note: Pamela Hamilton is a writer, journalist and consultant who has worked with notable figures in business, US intelligence, music, and the arts, and has covered some of the most significant events of the twenty-first century. For more than a decade she was a producer for NBC News, and she was a producer on the award-winning documentary Grateful Dawg. Based in Manhattan, she serves on the board of the Society of Professional Journalists' Deadline Club and on the advisory board of the Art Deco Society of New York.
The Chosen and the Beautiful
9781250784780, $26.99, HC, 272pp
Synopsis: Jordan Baker grows up in the most rarefied circles of 1920s American society -- she has money, education, a killer golf handicap, and invitations to some of the most exclusive parties of the Jazz Age. She's also lesbian and Asian, a Vietnamese adoptee treated as an exotic attraction by her peers, while the most important doors remain closed to her.
But the world is full of wonders: infernal pacts and dazzling illusions, lost ghosts and elemental mysteries. In all paper is fire, and Jordan can burn the cut paper heart out of a man. She just has to learn how.
Critique: With a distinctive narrative storytelling style, author Nghi Vo's debut LBGTQ novel "The Chosen and the Beautiful" reinvents the American canon as a coming-of-age story full of magic, mystery, and glittering excess, and introduces a major new literary voice. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college and university library Literary Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Chosen and the Beautiful" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.99).
Susan Keefe's Bookshelf
Retirement: Your New Adventure!: It's your choice to decide if your windshield will be bigger than your rearview mirror
9781098363031, $14.95, 148 Pages
Bob Boylan, spent his career training middle and senior management to, "Deliver Training that Takes," and has authored two books on the subject. Now retired himself, he has written this incredibly motivational book, which inspires readers to take responsibility for the rest of their lives, and offers positive suggestions and guidance on how to do so. He is a self-confessed seed planter, and boy does he do it well! After sowing the seeds in his reader's minds, he explains what he means using examples, and invites you to use the suggestion as a discussion starter, in your head, or with friends and family.
Retirement happens at various ages now, no-longer is it necessarily sixty-five. However, it is, to some, an intimidating prospect. All of a sudden a routine, or a series of them disappear, and instead there's this open space where order used to be, opportunities to do new things, and no time constraints, for some this can be scary.
This entertaining little book is a self-help guide for those who may be struggling with the loss of this structure. The author is here to help you explore and embrace all the fun, new, and exciting opportunities which await you.
Of course, there may be factors which will automatically affect the options available to you, your mind, body, or spirit may cause some restrictions. However, the author invites you to explore if these obstacles really exist, or are they a self-defence barrier erected against change? After all, some people love change, challenges and new things, but there are also others who don't, and can't see the 'wood for the trees,' as the saying goes.
You may want to get fitter, explore the world, or your own country more, stay up late, or take on a new hobby. Whatever you want to do the author is here to encourage you to look forward in life, after all as he rightly says, "There is a reason the windshield is bigger than the rearview mirror." He encourages us to think outside the box, and even remove it, reach for our goals, and live those dreams.
Aimed at retirement, I have to say this book will inspire everyone who reads it to be the best they can be. Bob Boylan advises his readers to grab the proverbial bull by the horns, embrace the future, look forward, not back! As the famous quote says, "Life is not about the breaths you take. It's about the moments that take your breath away." Highly recommended!
Imbwa, The Story of the Dog and His Harsh Master
K. A. Mulenga
B08Z7S1GDP, $2.99, 17 Pages
As a dog loving family, I was immediately drawn to this story after reading 'Donk and the Stubborn Donkeys' by the same author. The incredible way this award-winning author conveys important life-lessons through short, beautifully illustrated stories, really keeps the attention of my two young granddaughters, and we all know that this is the way children learn.
This story contains a message which is very important to children. It is about two dogs, Imbwa the Rottweiler, and Galu the Great Dane. The two dogs are different breeds, but this doesn't matter because the message in this story isn't about them, it is general, transcending species. It is one of behaviour, of the way you should treat others, and how acting with kindness versus cruelty affects lives.
Imbwa, and Galu live next door to each other, and when they go to the park they meet. Galu is a happy dog, however Imbwa is always angry. Because they are friends they talk together and through their conversation, the child, or adult reader of the story to the child, discovers why the dogs are so different in temperament. They learn that the way the owners teach their dog right from wrong is the key, and that this in turn affects how the dogs understand things, and learn.
Through wonderful illustrations and based on the Bemba Proverb from Zambia, this beautiful heart-warming tale, sends a strong message for children, and adults alike. Highly recommended.
September to Remember: Searching for Culinary Pleasures at the Italian Table (Book Three) - Lombardy, Tuscany, Compania, Apulia, and Lazio (Roma)
She Writes Press
9781631527272, $16.28, 272 Pages
For me, there can be no better book to read than a gourmet travelogue. As a great fan of Carole Bumpus' "Savoring the Olde Ways series" which have, until this book, been based in France, I was very happy to join Carole and her husband Win (Winston) as they, at his suggestion, started their new culinary tour of Italy in September 1998.
The intrepid American pair had not prepared themselves with Italian lessons, but with guidebooks in hand, had thrown off the shackles of work, and arrived at the Milano Malpensa Terminal full of excitement.
Undaunted by Carole's lost luggage they carried on to their hotel, and after an 'interesting' clothes shopping trip which will make us ladies of, should I say 'non-model size' simultaneously giggle and cringe in sympathy with the author, they started their adventure by visiting the Duomo. This incredible building was "Like a giant birthday cake with delicate filigreed spires reaching up toward the heavens and dancing along the flying buttresses, it was a sight to behold." I was hooked!
From there they headed to Tuscany and stayed in the hillside village of Poderi di Montemerano with their new friend Lisa, who they had met in San Francisco. "After all, who can resist the chance not just to visit Tuscany, but to 'experience her?'" she had told them.
Arriving on a fiesta (or festival) day, they were treated as part of the family and experience real life in southern Tuscany, where in villages and towns the local produce of the area is celebrated every year, on the same day. They found themselves eating the day and night away, sampling traditional delicacies made, that very day by the villagers. Carole soon discovered that here the world seems to spin at a different speed, the people live in a world connected to nature and the seasons, the gods are everywhere, and your very life depends on these forces working in harmony. This ethos has worked for generations, and will do so for generations to come. They explored this beautiful region, including the Etruscan Tombs of Sovana, which have a beautifully carved temple, and burial chambers in the necropolis or "city of the dead." Then enjoyed wonderful meals, including Aquacotta, a simple peasant dish the author enjoys cooking today, the name literally means "boiled water" and it is a thick vegetable stew with a lovely poached egg placed on top. The recipe, like many others, can be found at the back of this wonderful book, so you can try them too.
Carole and Win's adventure continued, with them catching the train to Pisa, then on to Florence, marvelling at the beautiful scenery, with the crystalline Tyrrhenian Sea on one side and the incredible medieval castles, quaint hillside villages. Vineyards and sunflower fields on the other.
Florence was a busy city with amazing shops, and architecture. On their return to Poderi their time included visiting the thermal baths (terme) in Saturnia with its greenish-black moss, now there's a place with a tale to tell...
Then it was time to visit the Amalfi Coast, staying in Amalfi where they visited the spectacular Piazza Duomo. The author's description of this place, Pompeii and the Isle of Love, Capri, had me looking it up as a holiday destination. All I can say is WOW I want to go!
However all vacations must come to an end and after a jaunt across country to Apulia, they were off to their final destination, Rome. The Colosseum, Arch of Constantine, the Forum, the Vatican and Sistine Chapel, the author vividly describes them all. Through her penmanship you can almost see the gold radiating from the Basilica, from both Renaissance and Baroque art. And here, as in other places, she also sends us on a sensory tour with her descriptions of the marvellous meals they enjoyed, of course all handmade, regional, and accompanied by superb wine. A true celebration of Italy.
I believe that Carole Bumpus is such a successful author because of the love and passion she puts into her books, through her writing the landscapes, architecture, and gastronomy of Italy are brought wonderfully to life. Highly recommended!
100 of the Worst Ideas in History: Humanity's Thundering Brainstorms Turned Blundering Brain Farts
Michael Smith and Eric Kasum
9781402293917, $17.99, 288 Pages, Paperback
Fast paced, funny, and extremely educational, everything about this book makes you smile. Not only does it keep you glued to the page, but ir grabs your attention, all the time, whilst delivering fascinating information.
From the historical truth about Columbus' discovery of America, to the terrible blunders which could have avoided the tragic events of September 11th. History, the world of entertainments and politics, indeed the world as we know it has its flip side is exposed. And what about those 'couldn't be without' products which have a place in very household, like WD40? How were they discovered, and what's their story... You will be amazed when you find out!
The author's, Michael N. Smith, and Eric Kasum, are both successful business men. Michael has his own advertising production company, and has written and produced hundreds of TV commercials, radio spots and corporate videos, and Eric has written speeches for presidents, is a well-known journalist and reporter. These men know their stuff!
This book is one which you will pick up time and time again. There's just so much in it that it's impossible to take it all in at one sitting, and this makes it excellent value for money.
This book is not only extremely entertaining, but rib achingly funny, shocking, enlightening, and incredibly insightful. I highly recommend this book as an excellent way to brighten your day!
The Noble Edge: Reclaiming an Ethical World One Choice at a Time
Christopher Gilbert PhD
Morgan James Publishing
9781631954054, $17.95, 254 Pages
This is such a fascinating and thought-provoking book. We all like to think we are honest, and would do the 'right' thing, however, would we? What about the niggling little voices in our heads which influence what we actually do? Do we really do what is ethically and morally right, or what's right for us?
Dr Christopher Gilbert, was once one of the owners of a successful food delivery service called Cravings. The company was established on a strong foundation, and grew well. Unfortunately its downfall came about solely through the unethical behaviour of another company. However, it was this experience which made the author decide to follow his passion and studying ethics and human morality.
He embraced these interests and earned a PhD specializing in ethics, a Bachelor's degree in geology, and a MBA in marketing. His passion has led over the past 25 years, to him traveling, and working, on four different continents.
What I absolutely love about this book is that it takes his reader on a moral and ethical journey, engaging them through the experiences of the author, and others, as well as through the role play of his virtual character Grace. Through her, a scenario is played out at the end of each chapter. These help the reader to fully understand the ethicality of each of the decisions she could make in that situation, and the differing repercussions of each.
The research, and personal experiences which have shaped this book are evident. Through reading it we discover how to live our life with integrity, honesty, and truthfulness. The author provides us with a well thought out blue print, which evolves as we read, revealing the three steps and nine crucial principals we can use to live a more honest, ethical, and truthful life.
There are many really good quotes in the book but this one by Ghandi is my favourite "Be the change you wish to see in the world." For this, quintessentially, is what this book is all about. As the author says, "In the broadest context, an ethical choice is any decision or action that has an impact on others now, or in the future." Isn't it our duty to do just that, not only for the people on this planet, but for the Earth itself?
Many books are written about changing your life, being the better you. This book goes one step further, it invites you to go beyond yourself, to be a beacon of trust and honesty, set the right example, and do the right thing. The years of work in this field have really paid off for Dr Christopher Gilbert, because this book holds secrets everyone can learn and benefit by. Highly recommended!
Susan Keefe, Reviewer
Suzie Housley's Bookshelf
Predator in the House
Joanne C. Parsons
9781734943603, $2.99, 269 pages
"Vengeance is in my heart, death in my hand, blood and revenge hammering in my head"
A death sentence had just been delivered to Detective Karl Shea, prostate cancer with only a year to live. The news set his world in a tailspin of fear and uncertainty. He tried to come to terms with what they meant, and how long he had to live.
While he learned of his future fate, a child's life ends by the hands of a sex offender Karl was assigned to find. When he learned of her death, he feels responsible and vowed that he would live out his last days serving his form of justice to those that preyed on innocent children.
Will Karl be able to find salvation by serving out his form of vengeance against those victimized young children? Will his actions allow him to find the peace his soul craves? Or will find he is placing his own life in danger.
Joanne C. Parsons offers a high action drama that will leave the reader guessing right until they finish the last sentence. This talented author writes with an intense purpose that will leave the reader fully satisfied. Each scene is masterfully crafted, and readers will find themselves unable to put this book down. I predict this book will take the literary world by storm!
Willis Buhle's Bookshelf
Chasing the Ghost: Nobelist Fred Reines and the Neutrino
Leonard A. Cole
World Scientific Publishing Company
9789811231056, $68.00, HC, 300pp
Synopsis: A deftly blended mix of memoir and biography, "Chasing the Ghost: Nobelist Fred Reines and the Neutrino" by Leonard A. Cole tells a deeply human story that will have immense interest for both scientists and non-scientists. Although "Chasing the Ghost" relates to the important discovery of neutrinos, it is more intimately about Fred Reines than the technical details of neutrino physics.
Narrated in a fashion to interest and excite the reader, the science presented here is accessible to a broad general audience. Coursing through Reines' life, his various challenges and encounters, the book reveals constants of his persona. Reines displayed a sustained consistency as a respected leader, admired by students and colleagues as a fount of big ideas and ambition. A continuing source of inspiration and motivation to others, his most basic consistency was his passion for science. The quest for knowledge about the wondrous universe is a profoundly human endeavor. Fred Reines' life and his unremitting scientific curiosity are emblematic of that truth.
Critique: An inherently fascinating and impressively informative read that will have a very special appeal to particle physicists, physics students, academia, and the non-specialist general reader with an interest in the subject, "Chasing the Ghost: Nobelist Fred Reines and the Neutrino" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college and university library Nuclear Physics and American Biography collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Chasing the Ghost: Nobelist Fred Reines and the Neutrino" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9789811231483, $19.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).
Editorial Note: Dr. Leonard A. Cole is an Adjunct Professor at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School (Emergency Medicine) and at Rutgers University-Newark (Political Science). At the medical school he is director of the Program on Terror Medicine and Security. He has written numerous articles for professional journals and general publications including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Foreign Policy, Scientific American, and The Sciences. He has also testified before congressional committees and made invited presentations to several government agencies including the U.S. Department of Energy, the Department of Defense, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Office of Technology Assessment. A member of the Aspen Institute's WMD Working Group on Homeland Security, he is co-author/editor of WMD Terrorism (an Aspen Institute report, 2012).
Above Us Only Sky: The Diaries of Ilan and Asaf Ramon
Gefen Publishing House
255 Central Ave #B-206, Lawrence, NY 11559
9789652299727, $39.95, HC, 243pp
Synopsis: "Above Us Only Sky: The Diaries of Ilan and Asaf Ramon" by Merav Halperin tells the personal story of two of Israel's best sons, Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli astronaut, and his oldest son Asaf Ramon, who followed in his footsteps and became an F-16 pilot.
"Above Us Only Sky" is based on a collection of the diaries and letters they left behind, opening a window to their souls and their unique thoughts. In many ways, their writings are a father-son dialogue between two men who fulfilled their dreams but ended their lives in the skies, under similar circumstances, the father in the 2003 space shuttle Columbia disaster, and the son in a devastating 2009 training accident.
Following their deaths, Rona Ramon, wife to Ilan and mother to Asaf, realized that she had been entrusted with a wonderful treasure that she wanted to share with others. Ilan and Asaf left a legacy of profound thought and a drive for excellence and great achievements, along with love for their family, heritage, the land of Israel and mankind. Rona, who passed away herself in 2018, left a legacy of building and inspiring from out of the ruins.
"Above Us Only Sky" offers a rare opportunity to become acquainted with the heroic stories of two brave, sensitive, and honest men whose lives and deaths answered some of the questions they themselves asked. The fascinating life story of the Ramon family inspires us all to dare to dream.
Critique: An inherently fascinating, informative, and ultimately inspiring read, "Above Us Only Sky: The Diaries of Ilan and Asaf Ramon" is a unique and unreservedly recommended addition to personal reading lists, as well as community, college and university library Israeli Aviation Histories and Biography collections.
Editorial Note: Merav Halperin was born in Haifa in 1960 and lives in Tel Aviv. A graduate of Tel Aviv University, majoring in history, she has worked as an editor at the Israel Defense Forces radio station, then as editor-in-chief of the Israel Air Force magazine. Today she works as an editor of biographies and other non-fiction. Halperin won the Yitzhak Sadeh Prize for Military Literature, for G-Suit, written with Aharon Lapidot (1988). Her novel, My Husband's Not Home, received the Steimatzky Prize for best-selling debut novel of the year (2015) and the Publishers Association's Gold Prize (2016).
Thames & Hudson, Inc.
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110-0017
9780500252413, $34.95, HC, 304pp
Synopsis: Pilgrimage is a global ritual embraced by nearly all faiths and is one of civilization's most enduring traditions. "Pilgrimage" is compelling historical study in which author and journalist Peter Stanford reflects on the reasons people have walked along the same sacred paths through the ages. Through this history, Stanford explores how the experiences of the first pilgrims to Jerusalem, Mecca, and Santiago de Compostela compare to the millions of people who embark on life-changing physical and spiritual journeys today.
"Pilgrimage" traverses sacred landscapes around the world, from the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City to the monolithic rock-cut churches of Lalibela, Ethiopia and the riverbanks of the Kumbh Mela in India. "Pilgrimage" also explores the historical and spiritual significance of these places of healing and reflection and discusses their roles as crossroads., Although pilgrimage is usually viewed as an individual's escape from the everyday to refocus the mind and soul, institutional and national struggles for power have always had an impact on the way pilgrims experience their own personal journey.
Guiding readers through the global history of pilgrimage, "Pilgrimage" is thought- provoking volume that will educate a new generation that may be seeking solace, clarity, and wonder by following in the footsteps of travelers from the past.
Critique: Enhanced with the inclusion of 40 illustrations, "Pilgrimage" is an especially well researched, written, organized and presented historical study that will be particularly appreciated by both academia and the non-specialist general reader with an interest in the subject. While unreservedly recommended for community, college and university library General History of Religion collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Pilgrimage" is also readily available in a digital book format Kindle, $22.49).
Editorial Note: Peter Stanford is a feature writer for the Daily Telegraph, a broadcaster, and a published author. His recent books include "Angels: A Visible and Invisible History" and "Martin Luther: Catholic Dissident". He is also the former editor of the Catholic Herald and the director of the Longford Trust, supporting young ex-prisoners. His biography of Lord Longford was made into the Golden Globe winning film "Longford", and he has presented TV and radio versions of his other books, including the award-winning Catholics and Sex and The She-Pope.
Willis M. Buhle
James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
Site design by Williams Writing, Editing &