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Small Press Bookwatch

Volume 21, Number 4 April 2022 Home | SPBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Parenting Shelf Business Shelf
General Fiction Shelf Historical Fiction Shelf Literary Fiction Shelf
Romantic Fiction Shelf Mystery/Suspense Shelf Fantasy/SciFi Shelf
Sports Shelf Psychology Shelf Self-Help Shelf

Reviewer's Choice

How to Swim Like a Mermaid
Aileen Cunningham Swartz
Independently Published
9798407632863, $29.99, HC, 77pp

Synopsis: Impressively illustrated with watercolor artwork throughout, "How to Swim Like a Mermaid: Creative Ways to Raise a Strong Swimmer!" is the story of Waverly, a mermaid who befriends a young girl named Callie. Callie is sad because she is a poor swimmer. Waverly promises to teach her mermaid games and secrets to strengthen her abilities!

Any parent can now can improve their child's swim skills with the fresh, imaginative approach taken in "How to Swim Like a Mermaid: Creative Ways to Raise a Strong Swimmer!" by Aileen Cunningham Swartz. In this story, a girl befriends a mermaid and discovers real secrets to great swimming! Your child will discover mermaid magic and the joy of swimming in this tale of two unexpected friends.

Of special note is that following the imaginative and entertaining story, there are pool games listed in great detail to encourage and empower young swimmers. Parents are also given a list of technical points to increase their child's swimming efficiency.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "How to Swim Like a Mermaid: Creative Ways to Raise a Strong Swimmer!" is an ideal and 'real world practical' combination of instructional guide and 'how to' manual for parents to interest their children in the art, practice, and fun of swimming. Original, unique, and thoroughly parent friendly, "How to Swim Like a Mermaid: Creative Ways to Raise a Strong Swimmer!" is especially and unreservedly recommended for family and community library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "How to Swim Like a Mermaid: Creative Ways to Raise a Strong Swimmer!" is also readily available in a paperback edition (979-8504004785, $12.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.99).

The Parenting Shelf

Growing Compassionate Children
Sonja Lange Wendt
Enlight Publishing
9781734246384, $9.95, PB, 112pp

Synopsis: The world needs more compassion and where else to start than with raising compassionate children. "Growing Compassionate Children" by Sonja Wendt is a very special DIY parenting book that includes twelve steps of "growing" compassionate children in the form of a Grower's Guide.

"Growing Compassionate Children" follows the steps needed to grow a healthy plant, starting with preparing the soil, where a plant can be deeply rooted in solid nutritious ground, like a child growing within a strong foundation made up of positive values and principles. There are stories and topics addressing the impacts of societal issues such as the use of social media, mental health, misdirected anger, and violence to focusing on acts of kindness, inclusion, and acceptance.

The topics addressed in "Growing Compassionate Children" are diverse and include math and science concepts as they apply to plants and growing compassionate children. "Growing Compassionate Children" also talks about the importance of knowing, understanding, and preserving our roots, where this knowledge and increased understanding leads to a more compassionate child.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, impressively organized and presented, "Growing Compassionate Children" is especially useful and 'user friendly' for the parents of children ages 2-12 who want to instill the values of empathy, sympathy, tolerance, acceptance, and compassion into the character of their sons and daughters. Highly appropriate for a baby reveal or baby shower gift, "Growing Compassionate Children" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, and community library Parenting instructional reference collections. It should be noted that "Growing Compassionate Children" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.92).

Editorial Note: Sonja Wendt is an award-winning author for her children's book series Cultivating Compassion in Children. She is also the creator of Reading & Seeding which is an intergenerational program for communities to bring senior living center residents and daycare children together to listen to her book readings, participate in a craft, and to mingle & munch. Sonja published 4 books in her series in 2020.

Your Whole Body
Lizzie DeYoung Charbonneau, author
Misha Iver, illustrator
Arctic Flower Publishing
1955619004, $17.99, HC, 46pp

Synopsis: "Your Whole Body" by author Lizzie DeYoung Charbonneau, and illustrator Misha Iver, will help parents teach their children the names for their genitals in a comfortable and natural way by seamlessly weaving in the explanations and illustrations for private parts as the book explores our amazing human bodies from head to toes!

"Your Whole Body" will: Helps parents who aren't sure how to start the conversation, or don't know if they're doing it right; Teach children the names of their genitals in an approachable way;
Teache the purpose of body parts in an inclusive way that helps all kids see themselves in the pages; Encourage a view of genitals as just another body part your child can discuss openly with you; Helps give your child the confidence to talk about potentially uncomfortable or inappropriate situations they may encounter in the future; Includes interesting facts that some adults may not even know!

Critique: Especially appropriate for parents and caregivers of children ages 2-6, "Your Whole Body" is beautifully and thoughtfully illustrated throughout. With it thoroughly parent/child friendly text "Your Whole Body" is an ideal book on a sensitive subject that all families with young children needing. Simply stated, "Your Whole Body" is highly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Human Sexuality & Hygiene collections for young children. It should also be noted for personal reading lists that "Your Whole Body" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781955619028, $14.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

Editorial Note: Lizzie DeYoung Charbonneau believes it is important for young children to know the names of all of their body parts. To help teach her son about his body, Lizzie looked for a toddler book that discussed genitals the same way as other body parts. She wasn't able to find one, so she decided to write it, consulting with parents, child safety experts, pediatricians, gender specialists, and educators. The result is Your Whole Body, an inclusive book for preschoolers about the entire body.

The Business Shelf

A One-Legged Stool
Ed Chambliss
Best Friend Brands, LLC
9798985448702, $12.95 pbk / $7.99 Kindle 270pp

Synopsis: Have you ever wondered if business needs to be so...unbalanced? Is putting shareholders above everyone else the only way for private enterprise to be successful? Is that "just the way it is?"

The short answer is "no."

Before "shareholder primacy" took hold in the 1970s, investors weren't more important than other stakeholders. Companies balanced the interests of all the legs of the corporate stool (customers, employees, communities, and shareholders) and everyone's life got better.

So, what happened? How did we get to today, where "maximizing shareholder value" is seen as the panacea for all the world's ills? And, more importantly, what's the path forward that allows business to profit by applying its significant resources to solving society's problems, rather than making them worse?

We all rely on the stool of business to elevate our lives. The publication of "A One-Legged Stool: How Shareholder Primacy Has Broken Business (And What We Can Do About It)" by Ed Chambliss is a clarion call to fix the problem it before it collapses our country.

Critique: What may well be viewed as an iconoclastic approach to repairing the damage inflicted over the last four decades to our corporate driven economy, "A One-Legged Stool: How Shareholder Primacy Has Broken Business (And What We Can Do About It)" is an inherently fascinating read that is as informative as it is inspirationally motivating. Offering 'real world practical' solutions and approaches bringing back an economically essential balance to our corporation based management decisions for the good of the company and the good of the community, "A One-Legged Stool" is highly recommended and an essential addition to professional, community, corporate, college, and university library Contemporary Business & Economics collections and supplemental MBA curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for MBA students, academia, corporate executives, economists, governmental policy makers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "A One-Legged Stool" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

Editorial Note: Ed Chambliss has spent over 35 years in marketing, watching his otherwise smart clients make increasingly poor decisions that damage their companies -- just so that they could extract more money for their shareholders. In 2018, he walked away from being a CEO to figure out why business was on such a destructive path and what could be done to change it. The result of his research is the foundation for "A One-Legged Stool".

The General Fiction Shelf

Asterisk: A Wildcard Character
Booth Milovnik
Fulton Books
9781639857968 $32.95 hc / $8.49 Kindle

Synopsis: In January of 1983, fourteen-year-old Cindy found out that she was pregnant. Her faith-filled mother was crushed. She ended up giving birth and naming the baby Matthew. Cindy ended up calling Matthew her little asterisk. As Cindy tells us the story of her life, Matthew seems to be a footnote to everything that happens. But Matthew is not just an asterisk in his mother's story. Family members and friends also share their stories, and Matthew seems to be an asterisk in all of them.

Who is Matthew? Who is his father? Just how important is Matthew to everyone he encounters as he grows up? Read stories that are raw and emotional. Sometimes funny, often sad, but always compelling. Enjoy this unconventional look at someone's life through the eyes of many different people, including Matthew himself.

Critique: Set in Michigan, Asterisk: A Wildcard Character is an original novel about the challenges a struggling family. In 1983, Matthew is born to a fourteen-year-old mother Cindy, who refuses to identify his father. Cindy ends up calling Matthew her "little asterisk" as she raises him, with help from family members and friends. The narrative perspective shifts between Cindy, her family, her friends, and Matthew himself, but Matthew always seems to be an "asterisk" in everyone's point of view. Matthew can't exist as an "asterisk" forever - his need to find the truth and determine his path in life is a core theme of this sometimes quirky, sometimes heartbreaking, and thoroughly fascinating saga. Highly recommended! It should be noted for personal reading lists that Asterisk: A Wildcard Character is also available in a Kindle edition ($8.49).

Truth and Other Lies
Maggie Smith
http: //
TEN16 Press
9781645382621, $18.99 pbk / $9.49 Kindle 360pp

Synopsis: Megan Barnes' life is in free fall. After losing both her job as a reporter and her boyfriend in the same day, she retreats to Chicago and moves in with Helen, her over-protective mother. Before long, the two are clashing over everything from pro-choice to #MeToo, not to mention Helen's run for U.S. Congress, which puts Megan's career on hold until after the election.

Desperate to reboot her life, Megan gets her chance when an altercation at a campus rally brings her face-to-face with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jocelyn Jones, who offers her a job on her PR team. Before long, Megan is pulled into the heady world of fame and glamour her charismatic new mentor represents.

Until an anonymous tweet brings it all crashing down. To salvage Jocelyn's reputation, Megan must locate the online troll and expose the lies. But when the trail leads to blackmail, and circles back to her own mother, Megan realizes if she pulls any harder on this thread, what should have been the scoop of her career could unravel into a tabloid nightmare.

Critique: All the more impressive when considering that "Truth and Other Lies" is author Maggie Smith's debut as a novelist, is an impressively original, inherently engaging, fully entertaining, and truly memorable read from first page to last. Having a special appeal to readers with an interest in political fiction from a female perspective, "Truth and Other Lies" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to community library Contemporary Women's Fiction and General Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Truth and Other Lies" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.49).

Editorial Note: Maggie Smith's writing centers on women and the challenges they face in dealing with what life throws their way. She's the host of the weekly podcast Hear Us Roar, where she interviews debut novelists for the Women's Fiction Writers Association. She also pens a monthly blog for Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and serves as managing editor for The Write City Magazine, a literary publication of The Chicago Writer's Association. She maintains a website at http: // and can be followed on Instagram where she posts as @maggiesmithwrites

The Road to Resilience: Velma's Story
G. L. Gooding
Independently Published
9781734022889, $15.99, PB, 356pp

Synopsis: An inherently interesting novel that is based on the life of author G. L. Gooding's mother, Velma Steele, "The Road to Resilience" is the sequel to, and continues the saga that was introduced in author Garry Gooding's first novel, "Where Courage Began" -- where readers first met five-year-old Velma, her young siblings, and her suddenly widowed mother Alice.

Now, with the publication of "The Road to Resilience" we find that it is Christmas Day 1924 and young Velma is still breathless from the dramatic events of the previous night. She remembers with joy participating along with many of her community in rallying around an isolated family in a moment of great need.

As years pass, Velma continues working hard at school and putting in endless hours helping her widowed mother and older sister. Together they support the family during the economic hardships in rural America that foreshadowed the Great Depression of the 1930's. Uprooted yet again by this national tragedy, the family's indomitable spirit and endless spunk help sustain them. Along the way, Velma begins to envision a brighter future in spite of continuing hardship.

Then, as a young woman, Velma meets handsome Jack Gooding and in the briefest of time, realizes she has found her one true love. Now equipped with hard earned life skills, she feels confident in facing the vagaries of life with Jack at her side. Together they begin pursuit of shared dreams amid a turbulent world. All too soon, however, her resilience and courage must endure the greatest challenge yet.

A lasting fictional tribute to life in Dallas County, Iowa, "The Road to Resilience" continues a heartwarming literary series that mirrors the struggles of a generation, shining a special light on the Midwestern love for God, the land, hard work, family, and friendship.

Critique: Exceptionally well written by an author with a genuine and memorable flair for the kind of 'feel good' narrative fiction that wins literary prizes, "The Road to Resilience" is a fully entertaining, engaging, and memorable novel that is highly recommended, especially for community library Historical & Literary Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Road to Resilience" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).

The Historical Fiction Shelf

Mike Bond
Big City Press
9781949751246, $15.95, PB, 342pp

Synopsis: Mick leaves for the Himalayas while Troy heads to Vietnam with the Marines. Daisy starts her PhD in brain research, and Tara battles heroin as her rock band reaches stardom.

Troy is soon caught up in mind-numbing combat in Vietnam, while Mick returns to the States to lead the antiwar effort. Tara's band signs a Motown contract amid the Detroit riots. At Stanford, Daisy expands her study of the human brain under LSD and other mind-altering drugs. Troy falls in love with a Vietnamese teacher and is slowly losing faith in the War.

"Freedom" concludes with the night before the Tet uprising in Vietnam that will change the War, and trap Troy and his beloved in the fires of hell.

From the war-shattered jungles of Vietnam to America's burning cities, near-death in Tibet, peace marches, the battle of Hue and the battle of the Pentagon, wild drugs, rock concerts, free love, CIA coups in Indonesia and Greece, the Six Days' War, and Bobby Kennedy's last campaign, "Freedom", although a work of fiction by novelist Mike Bond, puts the readers firmly and vividly back in the Sixties.

Critique: A simply riveting and deftly crafted read from an author with a genuine flair for narrative driven storytelling and an impressive attention to historical detail, "Freedom" by Mike Bond will prove to be a welcome addition to community library General Fiction & Literary Fiction collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists that "Freedom" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

Editorial Note: Mike Bond is an acclaimed novelist, noted war and human rights journalist, and dedicated environmental activist. He has covered guerrilla wars, death squads, and military dictatorships in Latin America and Africa, Islamic terrorism in the Middle East, and ivory poaching and other environmental battles in East Africa and Asia.

The Stone World
Joel Agee
Melville House
9781612199542, $27.99, HC, 240pp

Synopsis: "The Stone World" by Joel Agee begins in a house with a large garden in an unnamed Mexican town in the late 1940s, where six-and-a-half-year-old Peter reads, dreams, and plays with his friends. He is a nascent explorer, artist, philosopher, mystic, and scientist. His world is still new, not yet papered over with received knowledge.

And the actual world around him is a unique one in history: a community of leftist emigres who have found refuge in Mexico from the Nazi and fascist regimes of Europe, rubbing shoulders with Mexican labor activists and leftists such as Frida Kahlo.

But many of the emigres long for home -- including Peter's step-father, who wants to return to his native Germany. Going back to Europe may not be safe for any of them yet, however, which gives rise to anguished arguments among Peter's parents and their tight group of friends.

And slowly, Peter begins to comprehend that his world may be turned upside down -- that he might be forced to take leave of everyone he knows: his best friend, Aron; his father's friend Sandor, who talks about revolution and performs magic tricks; and Zita, the family's live-in-maid, who has taught him the consoling mysteries of prayer.

Steeped in the magic and myths of childhood (yet haunted by a harsh adult world bedeviled by instability and political turmoil) Joel Agee's "The Stone World" offers an unforgettable portrait of a troubled family in a troubled community during a troubled time.

Critique: Eloquent, original, deftly scripted, complex, compelling, thought-provoking, and entertaining read from beginning to end, "The Stone World" is an extraordinary novel that is unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Literary Fiction collections. It should be noted for the personal lists of readers with an interest in Family Life and Coming of Age novels that "The Stone World" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99).

Editorial Note: Joel Agee is a writer and translator. He has won numerous awards for his translation work, including the Berlin Prize of the American Academy in Berlin; the Helen and Kurt Wolff Prize; and the ALTA National Translation Award, as well as fellowships form the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. His essays have appeared in Harper's, The New Yorker, The Yale Review, and other magazines, and he is the author of two acclaimed memoirs: "Twelve Years: An American Boyhood in East Germany" and "In the House of My Fear".

Ready, Set, Oh
Diane Josefowicz
Flexible Press
9781736403341, $18.00, PB, 368pp

Synopsis: Providence, Rhode Island, 1967, Tino Battuta returns home from medical school in disgrace and without his draft deferment to attend his grandfather's funeral and to spend time with the love of his life, Primrose Tirocchi. Primrose, an art student, has an abusive home life and serious mental health challenges. But Primrose has plans: she is writing The Book of Love with her best friend while dreaming about living in New York and showing her art in galleries. Tino has a dream as well: to escape the war.

Complicating matters, Primrose is soon carrying Tino's baby. Tino isn't giving her the ring she wants, but Primrose isn't so sure about their relationship either. Soon Primrose falls for Lupo Light, a budding astronomer with a deferment, who is caught up in a popular movement to link political liberation to a wave of UFO sightings.

While Tino and his best friend work on a boat that could be their ticket to Canada, Primrose joins the Students for a Democratic Society while trying to keep a grasp on her tenuous mental health.

Together, Primrose and Tino discover the limits of their finite possibilities as well as the fragility of their resilience. Ultimately, they must confront the question: how much choice do we really have in the paths our lives take?

Critique: "Ready, Set, Oh" by Diane Josefowicz is set against the upheavals of the Sixties and chronicles the struggles of a man who has just lost his draft deferment, a young pregnant woman with fragile mental health, and a UFO-chasing astronomer, each hostages in their own way to their families and to history. A compelling and especially engaging story from first page to last, "Ready, Set, Oh" is all the more impressive when considering that it is author Diane Josefowicz's debut as a novelist! Showing a genuine flair for originality and an exceptional gift for narrative driven storytelling, "Ready, Set, Oh" is unreservedly recommended for community library Contemporary Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Ready, Set, Oh" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Diane Josefowicz's fiction and essays have appeared in Conjunctions, Fence, Dame, LA Review of Books, and elsewhere. As a historian, she is the author, with Jed Z. Buchwald, of two histories of Egyptology, The Riddle of the Rosetta (2020) and The Zodiac of Paris (2010), both from Princeton University Press; and a novella, L'Air du Temps (1985), forthcoming from Regal House. She also serves as reviews editor at Necessary Fiction and director of communications for Swing Left Rhode Island, a progressive political organization focused on electoral work, voter protection, and voting rights.

The Literary Fiction Shelf

Proof of Me and Other Stories
Erica Plouffe Lazure
New American Press
9781941561270, $17.00, PB, 216pp

Synopsis: Comprised of twenty-one short stories by Erica Plouffe Lazure, "Proof of Me" is a compendium of delicately interconnected tales set in a small town in eastern North Carolina. From the rambunctious antics of an erstwhile Shad Queen to the guilt-throttled grief of a secret affair gone wrong, from one story to the next, "Proof of Me" stitches together the lives and adventures of each of its characters, in unexpected and peculiar ways.

Critique: Vivid, eloquent, inherently compelling, distinctly memorable, the short stories comprising "Proof of Me" showcases author Erica Plouffe Lazure's genuine flair for originality, the crafting of indelible characters, and the kind of narrative driven storytelling that holds and keeps the attention of the reader from cover to cover. "Proof of Me" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, community, college, and university library Contemporary Literary Fiction and Short Stories collection.

Editorial Note: Erica Plouffe Lazure is the author of three chapbooks: Sugar Mountain (Ad Hoc Press, 2020), Heard Around Town (Arcadia, 2015), and Dry Dock (Arcadia, 2015). Her debut story collection, Proof of Me and Other Stories (New American Press, 2022), received the New American Fiction Prize. She is a former newspaper reporter who now writes, teaches English, and draws in Exeter, New Hampshire. She maintains a website at

The Romantic Fiction Shelf

Josh and Gemma Make a Baby
Sarah Ready
W. W. Crown
9781954007222, $24.99, HC, 318pp

Synopsis: In Sarah Ready's new novel, "Josh and Gemma Make a Baby" we are introduced to Gemma Jacobs. She's driven, energetic, and a positive thinker. She has a great career working for famed self-help guru Ian Fortune, she lives in a cute studio apartment in Manhattan, and her family is supportive and loving (albeit a little kooky). Her life is perfect. Absolutely wonderful.

Except for one tiny little thing.

After a decade of disastrous relationships and an infertility diagnosis, Gemma doesn't want a Mr. Right (or even a Mr. Right Now), she just wants a baby. And all she needs is an egg, some sperm, and IVF. So Gemma makes a New Year's resolution: have a baby.

Josh Lewenthal is a laid back, relaxed, find-the-humor-in-life kind of guy. The polar opposite of Gemma. He's also her brother's best friend. For the past twenty years Josh has attended every Jacobs' family birthday, holiday, and event - he's always around.

Gemma knows him. He's nice (enough), he's funny (-ish), he's healthy (she thinks) and he didn't burn any ants with a magnifying glass as a kid. Which, in Gemma's mind, makes him the perfect option for a sperm donor.

So Gemma wants to make a deal. An unemotional, businesslike arrangement. No commitments, just a baby. To Gemma's surprise, Josh agrees. They have nothing in common, except their agreement to make a baby and their desire to keep things businesslike.

But the thing about baby-making -- it's hard to keep it businesslike, and it is nearly impossible to keep it unemotional, plus it's definitely impossible to keep your heart out of the mix. Because when you're making a baby together, things have a way of starting to feel like you're making other things too -- like a life, and a family, and love. And when the baby-making ends, you wish that everything else didn't have to end too.

Critique: A lively, entertaining, romantic comedy by an author and novelist with a genuine flair for originality, humor, and narrative driven storytelling, "Josh and Gemma Make a Baby" by Sarah Ready is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to community library Women's Fiction, Romance Fiction, and General Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Josh and Gemma Make a Baby" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781954007192, $15.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.99).

Editorial Note: Sarah Ready writes contemporary romance and romantic comedy. Her debut novel The Fall in Love Checklist was hailed as the unicorn read of 2020. She maintains a website at

The Mystery/Suspense Shelf

The Hanger-On Drops In
Birke Duncan
Independently Published
9798548047472, $6.99, PB, 116pp

Synopsis: What caused Rolly to plummet 40 feet to his death in mid-celebration? He was young, in love, and had just received funding for his musical version of "The Creature from the Black Lagoon." Why did he fall? Who made it happen? Was it the manipulative narrator? Was it the deranged and embittered salesman? Was it the saleswoman with a secret? Was it an accident caused by his adoring girlfriend? Who will solve this mystery set in a department store? And what will be the aftermath?

Critique: Original, fun, and a gem of a whodunnit style mystery, "The Hanger-On Drops In" by Birke Duncan showcases the author's genuine flair for the kind of narrative driven, unexpected plot twisting, and deftly crafted storytelling that will be an especially popular read for dedicated mystery buffs and a welcome addition to community library Contemporary Mystery/Suspense collections.

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

The Hidden Saint
Mark Levenson
Level Best Books
9781685120504, $17.95, PB, 312pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "The Hidden Saint" by Mark Levenson, the historical horrors of eighteenth-century Eastern Europe are deftly interwoven with fantastic creatures drawn from 3,500 years of Jewish myth and magic. For the first time, "The Hidden Saint" conjures up a very human origin story for one of the greatest superheroes of Jewish folklore: Rabbi Adam, famous for battling wizards, witches, and demons.

The story opens on a long-awaited family wedding, which turns to horror as Rabbi Adam's children are abducted by an ancient supernatural evil. To save them, the rabbi is joined by a golem, a man of clay pained by the burden of living among, but always apart from, humans. He's goaded and mentored by an elderly, wisecracking housekeeper who is secretly one of the thirty-six hidden saints, or Lamed-Vavniks, upon whom the fate of the world depends.

As he is both blessed and challenged by his wife, Sarah, who leads him to a garden named Eden, and as tidal waves and fires ravage the earth and the very stars above begin to disappear, can Rabbi Adam and his companions succeed in time?

Critique: Inherently fascinating, deftly written, elegantly absorbing, and always entertaining, "The Hidden Saint" is a unique masterpiece of Jewish fantasy and will prove to be a welcome addition to personal, community, college, and university library Jewish Historical Fantasy collections. It should also be noted that "The Hidden Saint" is also readily available in a digital book formt (Kindle, $5.99).

Editorial Note: Mark Levenson is an award-winning dramatist, screenwriter, and short-story writer, as well as a longtime journalist. His Jewish-themed fantasy writing has won honors from The National Foundation for Jewish Culture and the American Jewish University, as well as a Union Internationale de la Marionnette-USA Citation of Excellence. Levenson has also written The Return of the Golem and The Wise Men of Chelm for the stage, and adapted S. Ansky's The Dybbuk for actors and puppets. His Jewish-themed short fiction credits include Mystery Weekly Magazine, Kindle Kzine, and Ami Magazine. He also blogs about Jewish fantasy for The Times of Israel.

The Cool Thing: A Dark Comedy - Or Not
Robert Rife
Independently Published
9780578348193, $22.95, HC, 350pp

Synopsis: A love besotted crook and his street girl acquire a device taken from a long buried UFO. They think it's a medieval breastplate. But it's not! It's part of a spacesuit that can nullify distance, allowing access to a house above the wreck. Which is a site with a terrifying history of failed species-splicing.

Not all of the failures die. Occasionally one escapes, vastly invigorating the human staff. Especially those who get eaten. The girl accidentally activates the device and is snatched. Death would be an improvement on her fate. The lovesick crook blindly charges to the rescue, running in circles on banana peels -- and the feces hits the proverbial fan!

Critique: Original, compulsively entertaining, exceptionally well written, "The Cool Thing: A Dark Comedy - Or Not" will have a very special and enduring appeal to dedicated fans of genetic story based science fiction with threads of horror and humor throughout. Showcasing author Robert Rife's impressive flair for narrative driven and memorable storytelling, "The Cool Thing: A Dark Comedy - Or Not" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to community library Science Fiction & Fantasy collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of dedicated science fiction fans that "The Cool Thing: A Dark Comedy - Or Not" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9780578660875, $16.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

The Sports Shelf

ARA's Untold Story
Peter Camann
Dorrance Publishing Company
585 Alpha Drive, Suite 103, Pittsburgh, PA 15238
9781639372973, $130.00, HC, 560pp

Synopsis: Skateboarding is an action sport originating in the United States that involves riding and performing tricks using a skateboard, as well as a recreational activity, an art form, an entertainment industry job, and a method of transportation. Skateboarding has been shaped and influenced by many skateboarders throughout the years. A 2009 report found that the skateboarding market is worth an estimated $4.8 billion in annual revenue, with 11.08 million active skateboarders in the world. In 2016, it was announced that skateboarding will be represented at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, for both male and female teams. However, skateboarding has also become controversial in areas in which the activity had been made illegal, has damaged curbs, stoneworks, steps, benches, plazas, and parks. (Wikipedia)

But like every other human endeavor, skateboarding had its start with one or more individuals daring to do something extreme, something they feel is worth personal sacrifice even if it means being the object of derision, even hostility. This is the way skateboarding began in the heart of Colorado's Rocky Mountains back in 1975-1976.

Critique: "ARA's Untold Story: Skateboard Racing in the Rockies: Colorado 1975-1978" is a definitive and unique history of regional skateboarding that could well be utilized as a template for similar studies in other regions of the country. Illustrated throughout, comprehensive, and impressively well researched, written, organization and presented, "ARA's Untold Story: Skateboard Racing in the Rockies: Colorado 1975-1978" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library American 20th Century Sports History collections in general, and Skateboarding Histories in particular. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of dedicated skateboarding enthusiasts and fans that "ARA's Untold Story: Skateboard Racing in the Rockies: Colorado 1975-1978" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $20.00).

The Psychology Shelf

The Shyness Workbook
Lynne Henderson
9781472144706, $24.99, PB, 256pp

Synopsis: Shyness has evolved as an emotion over thousands of years and can be helpful in some circumstances. However, it can become a problem when it interferes with life goals, develops into social anxiety disorder, or leads to 'learned pessimism', mild depression and even 'learned helplessness'. In this way, shyness and shame often hold us back from realizing our potential and from engaging with others wholeheartedly.

"The Shyness Workbook: Take Control of Social Anxiety Using Your Compassionate Mind" by psychologist and academician Lynne Henderson is a practical self-help workbook that sets out the background to shyness including its evolutionary functions and why it becomes chronic in some people, as well as teaching skills and exercises to help in the overcoming of problematic shyness.

Using this workbook, readers will learn how to: Cope with shy feelings and debunk anxious thoughts; Develop self-compassion; Practice new, confident behaviors. An informative compendium of fresh insights and exercises, "The Shyness Workbook: will fully support a journey into developing social self-confidence.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The Shyness Workbook: Take Control of Social Anxiety Using Your Compassionate Mind" is an especially recommended tool for DIY self-help/self-improvement studies in general, and having to deal with moderate to severe shyness in particular. It should be noted for personal use by non- specialist general readers or as a counseling resource for counseling professionals that "The Shyness Workbook: Take Control of Social Anxiety Using Your Compassionate Mind" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.90).

Editorial Note: Lynne Henderson is a licensed clinical psychologist with over forty years of experience. She founded the Social Fitness Center, and is founder and Co-Director, with Philip Zimbardo, of the Shyness Institute. She was a visiting scholar in the Psychology Department at Stanford University for thirteen years, a lecturer for five years, and a faculty member in Continuing Studies. Dr Henderson also served as a Consulting Associate Professor in Counseling Psychology for ten years. She directed the Shyness Clinic in Palo Alto for twenty-five years and conducted research and shyness groups at the Stanford Counseling Center. Her research interests include translating the results of social psychology and personality theory into clinical work, specifically, the negative stereotyping of shyness, the influence of personality variables and cultural influences on interpersonal perception and motivation, the leadership styles of shy leaders, and compassionate social fitness.

The Self-Help Shelf

The Still Point: The Simplicity of Spiritual Enlightenment
Kevin Krenitsky, MD
Waterside Productions
9781954968820, $22.95, HC, 224pp

Synopsis: Many people live lives riddled with outright anxiety, pervasive fears, and quite desperation. Instead of happiness and ease being the normal state of existence, most experience happiness as only brief moments of joy, when some desire has been temporarily fulfilled. But it does not have to be this way; happiness can be recognized as our natural state of being.

According to author, medical doctor and modern-day philosopher Kevin Krenitsky, we are in the midst of the biggest wave of awakening or self-realization this planet has ever seen. Our unconscious living has not only created stress, anxiety, wars, and famine; our choices have brought us to the edge of mass destruction. The earth has suffered greatly from our collective human unconsciousness.

In "The Still Point: The Simplicity of Spiritual Enlightenment ", Dr. Krenitsky shows us a better way. He shows us how to discover and live our lives in alignment with our true self. More than just a mental concept, the Still Point is a felt experience of recognizing our own self-aware being. When the Still Point becomes obscured by giving exclusive focus to the noise of the outside world, we lose our feelings of peace and happiness.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The Still Point: The Simplicity of Spiritual Enlightenment" can be viewed as a kind of intensely personal but ultimately rewarding journey of self-discovery that ultimately leads to (in Dr. Kevin Krenitsky's words) the recognition that our self-aware nature is happiness and peace itself. A life changing, life enhancing read, "The Still Point: The Simplicity of Spiritual Enlightenment" is highly recommended for personal, professional, community, college, and university library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections.

Editorial Note: Kevin Krenitsky has been, at times, a professional rock musician, a medical doctor, and a business executive. Despite leading a life deemed outwardly "successful," he lived with a deep background of anxiety, fear, and stress that waxed and waned since early childhood. At the age of forty, in the midst of decades of suppressing tremendous inner and outer conflict, he reasoned there must be another way. This "willingness" led to a decade of studying non-duality by way of A Course in Miracles. Later, at the height of a successful business career, he turned away into relative isolation and soon found the direct path to the recognition of our true nature. One day in meditation, a thought came that a book called The Still Point would be written. Five years later, the first words arrived.

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

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