Postcard from early 1930s of an Estonian farm wishing “Happy Holidays.”



Twenty-six people were killed on November 1, 2017 during the attack on the congregation of the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, and over 20 were injured. Those fatally shot ranged in age from an unborn child to 77. Among them was Annabelle, the 14-year-old daughter of the pastor Frank Pomeroy. This is the deadliest shooting at an American place of worship in modern history.

The gunman, Devin Patrick Kelley, 26, died possibly from a self-inflicted wound during the shootout with two local men, Stephen Willeford and Johnny Langendorff, who interrupted his murderous rampage and saved numerous lives. Kelley was a militant atheist who preached atheism on the Internet. He had received a “bad conduct” discharge from the Air Force, and his rap sheet includes domestic abuse. Rumors of his involvement with Antifa are said to be unfounded.

At the Bookstores

An Amish Christmas Love: Four Novellas by Beth Wiseman, Amy Clipston, Ruth Reid & Kelly Irvin (Thomas Nelson).


Billionaire at the Barracks: The Populist Revolution from Reagan to Trump by Laura Ingraham (St. Martin’s Press) includes the author’s take on the unlikeliest candidate to win election to POTUS.


Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Getaway by Jeff Kinney (Harry N. Abrams), the latest in the 12-book series, debuted in November at #1 spot on several bestseller lists.


Fatwa: Hunted in America by Pamela Geller (Dangerous Books) tells of the author’s upbringing, her battle with supporters of Sharia Law, and her defense of freedom that has resulted in death threats and need for bodyguards.


Junk Raft: An Ocean Voyage and a Rising Tide of Activism to Fright Plastic Pollution by Marcus Eriksen (Beacon Press) provides an engrossing account of a scientist’s fight against plastic marine pollution.


Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie (William Morrow), a reissue of the mystery novel first published in 1934, jumped back onto bestseller lists in spite of the disappointing 2017 film adaptation.


Prairie Fires: The American Dream of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser (Metropolitan Books) is a comprehensive biography of the author of the internationally popular Little House on the Prairie series.


Woman Walk the Line: How the Women in Country Music Changed Our Lives edited by Holly Geason (University of Texas Press) covers 27 artists, among them Maybelle Carter, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, and Taylor Swift.

Winners and Losers


  1. Stephen Willeford, 55, and Johnny Langendorff, 27, Texas. The quick thinking and bravery of these two men stopped Devin Kelley’s killing spree. Their story, which involved a high speed chase and engaging Kelley in gun battle, sounds like a scene from an action film and made them national heroes.

  2. Animal Recovery Mission, an animal rights group based in Florida. One of its members went undercover and documented sadistic abuse of cows by at least three employees of Larson Dairy in Okeechobee, Florida. The video evidence led the Sheriff to issue arrest warrants for the abusers.

  3. Former NSA intelligence officer William Binney, 74. He founded with fellow NSA whistleblower J. Kirk Wiebe a private intelligence agency, Entity Mapping LLC. Binney exposed in 2002 NSA wasting millions on Trailblazer project and revealed in 2017 that false information was disseminated regarding Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. Binney and Wiebe serve as inspiration for future whistleblowers.

  4. Houston Astros won the World Series by beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 4 to 3. The Astros’ George Springer, who had five home runs, was named MVP of the series.

  5. Landscape photographer Jesus M. Garcia, Toledo, Spain. At the 8th annual EPSON International Pana Awards, which drew 1,322 photographers from 71 countries, Garcia was named Open Photographer of the Year. His “Good Marning Damian Shau” was the Open overall winner and winner of the Nature/Landscape category. Garcia also won first prize in the Built Environment/Architecture category. Other winners include Wojciech Kruczynski of Poland whose stunning photo of Northern lights, “Eye of Stokksnes,” won first place in Carolyn Mitchum Awards and also Highest Scoring Gigapixel Image.

  6. Newton, 3-year-old Brussels Griffon, South Carolina. Newton beat out 2,000 other dogs to win Best in Show at the 16th Annual National Dog Show, his 22nd Best in Show award.


  1. Nurse Wanda Nuckles and her fellow nurses who failed to provide life-saving assistance to a veteran, Georgia. Decorated WW II veteran James Dempsey, 89, died in 2014 at Northeast Atlanta Health and Rehabilitation Center (which has one-star rating from Medicare, the lowest score possible). Having trouble breathing, he had called for help six times before falling unconscious. The nurses didn’t even do CPR and are shown doubling over with laughter as they watch him die. When the family filed a lawsuit, Nuckles lied in her deposition regarding her role in Dempsey’s death, unaware of the shocking video taken of the victim’s last hours. Since Dempsey feared abuse, his family had secretly installed a camera that provided proof for ruling the manner of death to be lack of medical assistance. Nevertheless, the nurses were not fired until ten month after the senior care facility was made aware of the evidence. And not until Atlanta station WXIA-TV / 11Alive demanded that the court release the video to the public, did they lose their nursing licenses. After viewing the video, retired nursing professor Elaine Harris identified several violations and concluded: “In 43 years in nursing, I have never seen such disregard for human life in a health care setting.”

  2. Pastors Cordell Jenkins, 47, Anthony Haynes, 38, and Kenneth Butler, 37, Ohio. The trio is charged with sex trafficking of children. They pled not-guilty and face possible life in prison.

  3. The jury in the Jose Ines Garcia Zarate murder trial, San Francisco. The members of this jury made a cruel mockery of Kate Steinle’s death - yet another OJ/Casey Anthony jury. In spite of overwhelming evidence, they acquitted Zarate, an illegal alien with a long rap sheet, of Steinle’s murder and even of involuntary manslaughter. Reactions to this travesty of justice include viewing it as war on women, of giving a pass to the accused when victims are female; blaming it on obsession with illegal aliens; and calls for vigilante justice.

  4. Construction company owner Hossein “Soudy” Golabchi, originally from Iran, residing in Augusta, Georgia. After a photo circulated of him gloating over killing a snow leopard, a Care2 petition was started to bring him to justice and so far has collected over 140,000 signatures. It is illegal to own body parts or fur of snow leopards and importing their remains into the U.S. is a federal offense.

  5. U.S. House of Representatives. According to a Gallup poll in May 2017, its disapproval rating was a dismal 74%. Now it may get even worse. Rep. Jackie Spier, among others, has brought to public attention that in the past 10 to 15 years the House has spent around $15 million of taxpayer funds for hush payments to alleged victims of sexual harassment by it members of both parties.

  6. The film Suburbicon. This film flopped with audiences, critics, and at the box office. Rotten Tomatoes reported a rating of 26% (1.5 stars), and audiences polled gave it a D-.

Site content © 2017

Song of the Angels by William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1881. Reproductions are on sale at

RIP James Dempsey, 1924-2014

Photographer: TS, 2017

Pick of the Month, December 2017



Dying to Live by Michael Stanley, St. Martin’s Press, $27.99

Set in Botswana, the story starts with tourists finding a body near the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. The dead man is identified as Heiseb, an old Bushman who is rumored to have found a life-extending plant. Then two men are reported missing: Christopher Collins, an American anthropologist studying the oral history of the Bushmen, and Botlele Ramala, an influential witch doctor who claims he can prolong life. When Heiseb’s body is stolen from the morgue and possibly shipped to China, the story takes a new twist.

Detective Kubu, assisted by Detective Samantha Khama and Bushman Constable Ixau, becomes involved in the three cases and ponders if they are connected. The search for answers brings to forefront the power of the Chinese Mafia in Botswana, the smuggling of rhino horns, foreign pharmaceutical corporations’ interest in Botswana’s plants, and prevailing belief in the muti dispensed by witch doctors. Muti is a potion made from herbs and plants and occasional contains human parts. It is alleged to have wide-raging magical properties, such as affecting sex life, winning elections, and curing diseases. Even some Western-trained scientists believe in its power and are willing to pay huge sums for it.

During the investigation, Kubu faces stressful personal problems. His adopted HIV positive daughter Nono’s health deteriorates as she suddenly fails to respond to medications. His and his wife Joy’s attempt to handle the crisis places severe strains on their marriage.

This sixth book in the Detective Kubu series is an enjoyable and timely read with compelling characters and an interesting setting. It introduces readers to concerns regarding biopiracy - the exploitation of a country’s endemic plants and traditional knowledge of their properties without having the legal right to do it. This growing problem is driven by potential for enormous profits.


The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston, Grand Central Publishing, $28.00

Stories have circulated for centuries about a lost city deep in Honduran rainforest called the White City or the Lost City of the Monkey God. In 2012, Douglas Preston, author of several acclaimed nonfiction books, joined the latest expedition to locate the city. He presents a fascinating account of uncovering evidence of two lost cities built by an almost unknown civilization, their ruins definitely not Mayan. He labels the findings of this groups of scientists and filmmakers as “one of the major archeological discoveries of the new century.”

The expedition members spent their days under primitive conditions in one of the most dangerous and remote places on earth and used advanced technology, such as linar, in an area that hadn’t been visited for around 500 years. They endured high temperatures and downpours that turned the jungle floor into greasy mud. Danger struck from many sources. The area was infested with deadly fer-de-lances, catclaw vines whose thorns tear into flesh and clothing, and sucking mud that can turn into a deadly trap. Vigil had to be kept for archeological looters, illegal loggers, and narcotrafficers. Getting out of the area for medical emergencies was challenging.

While Hondurans celebrated the findings, a small group of American archeologists reacted with unexpected vitriol and accused expedition members of making false claims of discovery, exaggerating the importance of the site, ignoring previous research, and racism. Preston believes that the attacks sprung not so much out of concerns over incorrect assumptions and other academic issues but for political reasons. Many of the critics were supporters of the deposed leftist president Zelaya (whose family owns a logging and timber business), and part of their criticism was meant to be attacks on the present Honduran government. The controversy included organized hecklers showing up at the lecture of at least one expedition member. Preston admits feeling concerns over consequences such as damage to the rainforest at the excavation sites and unleashing diseases that have lain dormant and perhaps were the cause of the original habitants deserting the area.

Indigenous tribes had warned that those who enter the White City will get ill and die. And expedition members did contact the dreaded leishmaniasis, a disease spread from person to person by flies. Treatment for it is gruesome, expensive, and not always effective, with death as one side effect. When leish moves to ones face, then ulcers grow and eat away the nose and lips, causing them to slough off and leave the face extremely disfigured. Leishmania/HIV coinfection is almost impossible to treat and usually fatal.

In the later part of the book, Reston switches topics and focuses on pathogens. He presents in-depth discussion of smallpox epidemics and makes references to numerous issues, among them global warming and Conservation International, an organization that tries to save areas of high ecological importance. He warns that nightmare diseases from the Third World are making deadly inroads to the First and leaves readers concerned over the danger of admitting tourists and immigrants from nations where leish and other horrific pathogens are prevalent. Cutaneous leish, for example, is rampant in Iraq and Syria (also found in India and Near East), and an outbreak has already occurred in the Dallas, Texas metro area.


The Nutcracker Mice by Kristin Kladstrup, illustrated by Brett Helquist, Candlewick, $17.99, ages 7 to 10

This delightful retelling of the Nutcracker focuses on mice who reside at the historic Mariinsky Theater in Moscow. When Esmeralda, a dancer in the Russian Mouse Ballet Company, get the role of Clara in the ballet, she and the troupe encounter several challenges. Meanwhile, Irina, the 9-year-old daughter of the theater’s janitor who is assigned to exterminate the mice, faces an uphill fight to save them.


Specialty/Small Press

Sleeping Bear Press was established in 1998 and publishes children’s books from preschool to YA. Their stated goal is to provide books that enrich children’s

lives through stories blending entertainment with educational content. Their titles include reissue of Apple Tree Christmas by Trinka Hakes Noble.


Author submissions: They are interested in children’s picture books, middle grade, and YA novels. They accept both regular mail and email submissions. Submission guidelines are provided at