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Small Press Bookwatch

Volume 20, Number 8 August 2021 Home | SPBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Money/Finance Shelf Self-Help Shelf
General Fiction Shelf Historical Fiction Shelf Literary Fiction Shelf
Romantic Fiction Shelf Mystery/Suspense Shelf Fantasy/SciFi Shelf
Poetry Shelf Biography Shelf Travel Shelf
Philosophy Shelf Native American Studies Shelf  

Reviewer's Choice

Blue Spruell, author
Miya Outlaw, illustrator
Out of the Blue Productions, LLC
9781735729213 $11.99 pbk / $2.99 Kindle

Synopsis: Orphaned by a rival warlord and bewitched by a ghost, young Taro must discover his birthright and destiny as the legendary boy samurai and hero of Japan.

"B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree" author Blue Spruell has reimagined classic Japanese folklore in this historical fantasy adventure filled with samurai swords and mythical creatures from old Japan. Banzai!

Critique: Taro is a novel for all ages that transforms traditional Japanese folklore into a captivating historical fantasy. Set in the twilight of the 1500's, an era when samurai warlords battled one another relentlessly for power, Taro is the story of a young boy who loses his family to the ongoing conflict. A witch enchants Taro, and he befriends the animals of Mount Fuji while gaining supernatural powers. When Taro saves a powerful warlord's life, it is the beginning of a chain of events that pulls him into the bitter conflict with control of Japan as the prize. Wondrously written, with interwoven scenes of intense action and contemplative reflection, Taro is an extraordinary coming-of-age saga and highly recommended especially for connoisseurs of ancient legends retold. Highly recommended! It should be noted for personal reading lists that Taro is also available in a Kindle edition ($2.99).

Bah Bah for Barbara
Craig Biorn
9781792367854, $15.00 paperback

Synopsis: During the summer of 1957, a teenage girl named Barbara Luhman decides to compete at the County Fair with a 4-H lamb. Determined and competitive, Barbara carefully chooses a lamb, but faces competition and an unexpected surprise from some of her siblings. As the date of the fair draws near, Barbara and her lamb prepare in their quest for a purple ribbon. Based on a true story, 'Bah Bah for Barbara' is a heartfelt story of growing up on a large family farm in Goodhue, Minnesota.

Critique: Bah Bah for Barbara: Based on a True Story adapts the true-life stories that the mother of author Craig Biorn used to tell him about growing up on a Minnesota farm in the 1950's. Here are tales of county fairs, belligerent siblings, the dangers of playing in a haymow (the hay stored in a hayloft), and much more. A heartwarming glimpse into coming of age on a family farm, Bah Bah for Barbara evokes unforgettable nostalgia for a vanishing way of life in today's modern era of agribusiness. Highly recommended.

The Money/Finance Shelf

6th Dimension Investing: An Investment Journey
David Reed Klonsky
Independently Published
9798721177736, $9.95, PB, 217pp

Synopsis: Drawing upon his many years of experience and expertise, David Reed Klonsky, the author of "6th Dimension Investing: An Investment Journey" wants to make it quite clear that: You are not going to get rich by reading a book. No one is going to tell you what to buy, when to buy it and when to run for your life. He quite accurately advocates that you need to develop your own approach based on your risk tolerance and willingness to do some research.

What "6th Dimension Investing: An Investment Journey" provides is a straightforward evaluation of current and classical approaches to selecting common stocks specifically designed to help the novice and experienced investor develop a framework for sustainable long term financial success. It follows the author's quest to find the ultimate stock selection method and describes how the Tech meltdown, Financial crisis and the pandemic influenced his stock selection process.

Approaches such as the dividend discount model, CANSLIM, Magic formula and others are evaluated. There were epic fails, blown chances and dumb luck on the path to developing a repeatable model that could beat the market. "6th Dimension Investing: An Investment Journey" is told with humor, humility and focuses on how others can benefit from the lessons learned.

Critique: An ideal introduction to investing in stocks and bonds, "6th Dimension Investing: An Investment Journey" is written with an impressive clarity for the non-specialist general reader and will prove to be an immediate and enduringly welcome addition to personal, community, college, and university library Money/Finance Management & Investment collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "6th Dimension Investing: An Investment Journey" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.95).

Editorial Note: David Klonsky has been investing in common stocks for over 25 years. After earning his MBA in Finance from Penn State University, he has investigated and tried many different investment models, techniques, methods to beat the market. He currently works for JPMorgan Chase.

The Self-Help Shelf

They Get Your Highs (I Get Your Lows)
Anna Knight
Ditty Up Productions
9780578841083, $15.95, PB, 176pp

Synopsis: Inspired and inspiring, "They Get Your Highs (I Get Your Lows)" by Anna Knight is intended to help the reader to survive difficult situations by being emotionally, intellectually, spiritually and financially prepared for whatever happens. Drawing upon her own life experienced a caretaker struggling to get her husband treatment for Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, and ADHD, resulting in her marriage gradually failing during a long, difficult separation. there are examples of "do as I say, not as I do", as well as some red flag warnings that she would not have missed had I known better.

Staying organized and having a plan helped in some ways, but not in others. Knowledge is power, keep your friends close and enemies closer helped at times, but not in others. As laid out in "They Get Your Highs (I Get Your Lows)", some of Anna's thoughts did not match her feelings, her forgiveness did not match her frustrations, and her dreams did not match her reality. Paradoxically, her love grew stronger, as her anger grew deeper. She found that she had taken care of others so much that had nothing left in terms of caring for herself. That her ending was a new beginning -- even though there is no end in sight!

Critique: An inherently fascinating, candidly presented, informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking read from beginning to end, "They Get Your Highs (I Get Your Lows)" is an extraordinary, unique, and unreservedly recommended addition to community library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "They Get Your Highs (I Get Your Lows)" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).

The General Fiction Shelf

The Revolution Will Be Tokenized
Christopher Brueck
Independently Published
9788739281647, $12.99
B093TDL4FD, $2.99

Synopsis: In the year 2040, a young girl named Cypher is caught in a desperate struggle for survival when she ends up in a refugee camp in Africa.

What began as a simple journey to run from her ex soon turns into an international manhunt, as she has to become more than just a girl: The most dangerous cyber-terrorist of all times! A stunning and vividly imaginative look into our future.

The first novel of the Daedalus Cycle leads us into a world of tomorrow, that is drowning in information and data and in which technologies like Blockchain or Artificial Intelligence have become part of our everyday life.

With a strong new woman in sci fi the Revolution Will Be Tokenized is a breathtaking urban sci fi thriller that shows a dystopian future and the struggle of one girl as she descends into the heart of darkness of this digital age.

Critique: The debut novel of the Daedalus Cycle trilogy, The Revolution Will Be Tokenized is set less than twenty years into the future, when the international economy is dominated by artificial intelligence. A young woman named Cypher has stolen a pivotal computer program, and is desperately fleeing her ex-boyfriend and the company he works for. A saga that spans the divide between networked online identities and African refugee camps that may be the last habitable place cut off from technology, The Revolution Will Be Tokenized is an exciting page-turner, highly recommended. It should be noted for personal reading lists that The Revolution Will Be Tokenized is also available in a Kindle edition ($2.99).

Al Schnupp
Thicke & Vaney Books
9781734832440, $14.95 Paperback
B093SXG461, $4.99 Kindle

Synopsis: Al Schnupp's Zero is a quirky satire of political intrigue, where a grotesque idiot, Zero, is convinced by his devious wife, Maxie, to campaign for Icon of Groad, their country's ultimate political prize. With their carnival barker of a campaign manager, Horace, the trio goes on a whirlwind tour of fundraising, cover-ups, debates, makeovers, and scams. Meanwhile, a bumbling detective, Inspector Oodles, assumes a variety of wacky disguises to uncover the mystery behind Zero's father's "untimely" death...

Critique: Before Trump was elected President in 2016, author Al Schnupp wrote the satirical play "Zero to Infinity". Now, Schnupp has adapted his extraordinarily prescient stage work into a novel that would be utterly off-the-rails, if it didn't so eerily reflect actual American politics. The story follows Zero, the wealthiest and possibly the most grotesque man in the fictional country of Groad, in his quest to rise to the height of power. As Zero's campaign corruption, cover-ups, and outright murderous criminality escalates, the clueless detective Inspector Oodles dares to investigate who Zero really is! At once both uproarious and terrifying in how closely its madness parallels reality, Zero is highly recommended. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Zero is also available in a Kindle edition ($4.99).

Editorial Note: Al Schnupp is the award-winning author of the plays My Body, Censored, Zero to Infinity, The Site, Living Stones, Antigone and Letters to Soldiers Lost, CrossRoads, The Collection, The MerryWinkle International Troupe of Vagabonds Performs a Delicious Potpourri of Fantastical Fairy Tales and Astonishing Folk Legends, as well as an improvisational game book, Bravo!, and the novella, Goods and Effects. He also co-authored The Stone Circle, a full-length adult puppet show, which won an UNIMA International Citation of Excellence. He recently retired from teaching at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, and holds a doctorate from UCLA. As a visual artist, he participates in a variety of art and craft festivals in California and has shown his work in several galleries.

Summer of Love and Evil
Michael Kinnamon
9780997913750, $16.79, PB, 250pp

Synopsis: "Summer of Love and Evil" is a novel by Michael Kinnamon set 1967 in rural Iowa as drugs, corporate farming, and Vietnam are beginning to take their toll on small-town American life. That's when Charles Weaver's plans for the summer after high school graduation go awry and he ends up working for the street crew in his hometown before heading off to college.

Charles, his school's valedictorian and the son of a lawyer, not only knows nothing about driving tractors and laying asphalt, he can't remember even meeting the regular members of the crew: Dexter, who collects discarded furniture for the house he's going to build someday in the Ozarks; the Shakespeare-quoting Moss, a teacher in rural schools before consolidation of the district, and their boss, Clyde, whose strength and temper are legendary in Savannah County.

Two things change Charles's summer experience and life dramatically. On the spur of the moment, he asks Clyde's daughter, Frankie, to go on a date and their romance is a surprise to everyone. Then, the oldest log church in Iowa is destroyed by fire, and Charles stumbles upon a badly-burned body while cleaning up debris. Was this an outsider mixing meth in the hard-to-find church, as the sheriff contends? Or was someone local involved, as Charles suspects?

Charles, the sheriff, and Frankie collide in a stunning climax of this original and compelling novel about a boy becoming a man through his growing awareness of the complexity of love and the subtle power of evil.

Critique: Extraordinarily well written with presented by novelist Michale Kinnamon's impressively memorable and entertaining narrative storytelling style, "Summer of Love and Evil" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community library General Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Summer of Love and Evil" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.49).

Ghost Dancer
Alan S. Kessler
Leviathan Books
9781938394591, $18.95, PB, 294pp

Synopsis: Eleanor Wilson lives trapped inside her parents' marble mansion, held there by their bigotry and rules. A nightmarish vision shows her the way out. But first, she had to dance the Ghost Dance and die.

"Ghost Dancer" by author/storyteller Alan S. Kessler is set in the 1950s at the intersection of the supernatural with the racial intolerance of a small Midwestern town, is a mystical, coming-of-age story where a lonely, insecure teenager discovers in the realm of spirits not only the secret about herself but how to save our dying world.

Critique: A deftly written and inherently fascinating historical novel with compelling themes that are relevant to the social and cultural challenges of today, "Ghost Dancer" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Ghost Dancer" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Where Courage Began: Velma's Story
G. L. Gooding
Independently Published
9781734022841, $15.99, PB, 340pp

Synopsis: A blizzard rages outside a ramshackle Iowa farmhouse in February of 1921. Five-year-old Velma and her older sister stand near a glowing Isinglass stove charged with minding their two younger brothers. Velma senses that her father is dying in the nearby living room, and she wonders if her mother can possibly survive the raging snowstorm in her brave effort to get help.

A work of fiction that is based on the early life of author G. L. Gooding's mother, "Where Courage Began: Velma's Story" tells the story of Velma, her three siblings, and her widowed mother Alice Steele.

Life for the young family in Woodward, Iowa requires courage, tenacity, and ingenuity. Through setbacks, tragedies, and triumphs the Steeles forge a meaningful life in their adopted community during the difficult days leading up to The Great Depression. And it is young Velma, wise beyond her years, who plays a pivotal role in the family's survival.

Verified for local historical accuracy, "Where Courage Began: Velma's Story" shines light on Depression-era communities and their values for God, the land, hard work, family, and friendship. The sweet aroma of Alice Steele's famous cinnamon rolls is one of the most comforting reminders of these traditional values still practiced every day in Dallas County and celebrated annually at the Woodward Friends and Neighbors Celebration.

Critique: Impressively written with the kind of narrative storytelling style that keeps his readers' rapt and compulsive page turning attention from beginning to end, "Where Courage Began: Velma's Story" by author and novelist G. L. Gooding is an exceptional and unreservedly recommended addition to community library General Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Where Courage Began: Velma's Story" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).

Amanda Kabak
Brain Mill Press
9781948559577, $19.95, PB, 314pp

Synopsis: Maddie has everything the way she likes it. Her start-up, Mindful Management, is the work of her heart, and her business partner, Joe, the ideal complement to her talents. Of course she'd like to see her younger brother move past his barista stage and get serious, but brotherly obligation means she can work on him during their weekly diner dates. She doesn't like to think about her ex, the perfect Jane, but even if their breakup was painful, it was grown-up. The boxes are getting checked. Things are humming.

But then everything is turned upside down when Maddie survives a vicious attack by an unknown predator. The moment she opens her eyes in the hospital, it's as if her life starts up all over again on a brand-new day one-except this new timeline reveals that nothing in her old life was what it seemed. Everything Maddie thought she needed isn't turning out how she planned, and honestly, wasn't how she really liked it after all.

Critique: "Upended" by author and novelist Amanda Kabak is an extraordinary, deftly crafted novel, impressively original, and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library contemporary LBGTQ fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Unended" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.99).

Editorial Note: Amanda Kabak is also the author of The Mathematics of Change, a novel. Her recent work has appeared in the Massachusetts Review, Tahoma Literary Review, Sequestrum, and the Laurel Review, among other publications. She was a recipient of the Al-Simak Award for Fiction from Arcturus Review, the Betty Gabehart Prize from the Kentucky Women Writer's Conference, and the Lascaux Review Award for Fiction.

The Historical Fiction Shelf

The Oath: The Druid Chronicles, Book One
A.M. Linden
She Writes Press
9781647421144, $17.95
B08F2JGG56, $9.49 Kindle

Synopsis: When the last of members of a secretive Druid cult are forced to abandon their hidden sanctuary, they send the youngest of their remaining priests in search of Annwr, their chief priestess's sister, who was abducted by a Saxon war band fifteen years ago. With only a rudimentary grasp of English and the ambiguous guidance of an oracle's prophecy, Caelym manages to find Annwr living in a hut on the grounds of a Christian convent.

Annwr has spent her years of captivity caring for the timid Aleswina, an orphaned Saxon princess who was consigned to the cloistered convent by her cousin, King Gilberth, after he assumed her father's throne. Just as Caelym and Annwr are about leave together, Aleswina learns that Gilberth, a tyrant known for his cruelty and vicious temper, means to take her out of the convent and marry her. Terrified, she flees with the two Druids-beginning a heart-pounding adventure that unfolds in ways none of them could have anticipated.

Critique: The first novel in The Druid Chronicles series, The Oath is a work of historical fiction set in Anglo-Saxon Britain during the early medieval period, also known as the Dark Ages. Creative license is applied to portray the Druids as a priestly class of Celts (the Dark Ages are called that because so few records or other concrete information about people's lives during that era has survived to the modern day). In the Oath, betrayals and forced religious conversion threatens to end the way of life of pagan peoples. Druids were once lauded as healers and oracles; now they are shunned and worse as wizards and witches, and the last remaining Druid priests set out on a mission that may be their only hope. Richly descriptive, featuring captivating characters and a setting that brings the harsh conflicts of centuries past to life, The Oath is highly recommended. It should be noted for personal reading lists that The Oath is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.49).

Editorial Note: Ann Margaret Linden has undergraduate degrees in anthropology and in nursing and a master's degree as a nurse practitioner. After working in a variety of acute care and community health settings, she took a position in a program for children with special health care needs where her responsibilities included writing clinical reports, parent educational materials, provider newsletters, grant submissions and other program related materials. The Oath is the first installment of The Druid Chronicles, a five-volume series that began as a somewhat whimsical decision to write something for fun and ended up becoming a lengthy journey that involved Linden taking adult education creative writing courses, researching early British history, and traveling to England, Scotland, and Wales.

The Literary Fiction Shelf

Last Stop on the 6
Patricia Dunn
Bordighera Press
9781599541730, $20.00, PB, 286pp

Synopsis: An inherently fascinating combination of the hilarious and the heartbreaking, author and storyteller Patricia Dunn's "Last Stop on the 6" is about the return of a prodigal daughter to a world of long-buried hurts, political complexities, and female resilience. Set at the dawn of the Gulf War, "Last Stop on the 6" tells the deftly crafted tale of a young woman grappling with warring identities: that of her upbringing in working-class, Catholic, Italian American Pelham Bay and her new life as a Birkenstock-wearing, vegetarian anti-war activist in Los Angeles.

Critique: Original and as entertaining as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Last Stop on the 6" is one of those all-to-rare novels that will linger in the mind and memory of the reader long after the book itself is finished and set back upon the shelf. Showcasing Patricia Dunn's skills with respect to an impressive narrative storytelling style, "Last Stop on the 6" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as community, college, and university library Contemporary Literary Fiction collections.

This Distance We Call Love
Carol Dines
Orison Books
9781949039221, $18.00, PB, 318pp

Synopsis: The short stories comprising author Carol Dines new anthology, "This Distance We Call Love", deftly explores the complexities of contemporary family life with a fine balance of humor and insight.

"This Distance We Call Love" takes its title from the interwoven themes of connection and disconnection in our most intimate relationships: sisters battle issues of duty and obligation when one sister becomes homeless; a mother and daughter take a trip to Mexico, only to be followed by the daughter's stalker; a family living in Rome must contend with their daughter's rape; parents navigate raising their only child in the age of climate change; a biracial daughter whose mother is dying battles her own internet sex addiction.

While some relationships fall apart, others remain entrenched in old patterns, grappling with notions of self and duty. Altogether the stories delve deeply into the relationships that impact and inform our lives, creating a portrait of American family life today.

Critique: A truly memorable read with deftly crafted and thought-provoking stories that will linger in the mind and memory long after the book itself has been finished and set back upon the shelf, "This Distance We Call Love" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as community, college, and university library Contemporary American Literary Fiction collections.

Editorial Note: Carol Dines is a recipient of the Judy Blume award as well as a recipient of Minnesota and Wisconsin State Artist Fellowships. Dines received a BA from Stanford and an MA in English from Colorado State University. She has taught writing to all ages.

The Romantic Fiction Shelf

The Queen of Second Chances
D. M. Barr
Champagne Book Group
9781771554039, $14.99, PB, 204pp

Synopsis: Carraway (Carra) Quinn is a free-spirited English major confronting an unreceptive job market. Desperate for cash, she reluctantly agrees to her realtor stepmother's marketing scheme: infiltrate a local senior center as a recreational aide, ingratiate herself with the members, and convince them to sell their homes.

Jay Prentiss is a straitlaced, overprotective elder attorney whose beloved but mentally fragile Nana attends that center. More creative than mercenary, Carra convinces Jay to finance innovations to the Center's antiquated programming. Her ingenuity injects new enthusiasm among the seniors, inspiring them to confront and reverse the regrets of their past.

An unlikely romance develops. But when Carra's memoir-writing class prompts Jay's Nana to skip town in search of a lost love, the two take off on a cross-country, soul-searching chase that will either deepen their relationship or tear them apart forever.

Critique: Showcasing a genuine flair for originality and the kind of narrative storytelling that keeps her reader's rapt and compulsive page turning from beginning to end, author D. M. Barr's "The Queen of Second Chances" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Contemporary Romance Fiction collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of all dedicated romance fans that "The Queen of Second Chances" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).

The Mystery/Suspense Shelf

The Queen of the Cicadas
V. Castro
Flame Tree Publishing
9781787586017, $14.95 paperback
9781787586031, $24.95 hardcover
B08LDY81LY, $6.99 Kindle

Synopsis: 2018 - Belinda Alvarez has returned to Texas for the wedding of her best friend Veronica. The farm is the site of the urban legend, La Reina de Las Chicharras - The Queen of The Cicadas.

In 1950s south Texas a farmworke r- Milagros from San Luis Potosi, Mexico, is murdered. Her death is ignored by the town, but not the Aztec goddess of death, Mictecacíhuatl. The goddess hears the dying cries of Milagros and creates a plan for both to be physically reborn by feeding on vengeance and worship.

Belinda and the new owner of the farmhouse - Hector, find themselves immersed in the legend and realize it is part of their fate as well.

Critique: The Queen of the Cicadas is a supernatural thriller about a murder decades in the past that calls down a horrific curse in the present. Mexican-American author V. Castro draws inspiration from legends and folklore from both sides of the border to craft an keenly written work of suspense that also reflects upon humanity's capacity for good and evil. The Queen of the Cicadas is a compelling page-turner for connoisseurs of the genre, highly recommended. It should be noted for personal reading lists that The Queen of the Cicadas is also available in a Kindle edition ($6.99).

Editorial Note: Violet Castro was born in San Antonio, Texas to Mexican American parents. Since Violet was a child, she wrote short horror stories and was always fascinated with dark fiction beginning with Mexican folklore and the urban legends of Texas. At eighteen Violet left Texas for Philadelphia to attend Drexel University where she received her Bachelor of Science in Political Science and History.

Ghost Daughter
Helen Currie Foster
Stuart's Creek Press, LLC
9781732722910 $14.59 pbk / $7.99 Kindle

Synopsis: When lawyer Alice MacDonald Greer finds the dead body of her friend and client Ellie Windom at the foot of a staircase, a terrorized horse dancing nearby, she knows trouble's coming. Serving as executor for her friend's will means grappling with Ellie's explosive secrets: a long-lost daughter unknown to her feuding sons and a long-ago lover with enemies of his own.

Alice quickly discovers her friend had a treasure trove of hidden art with questionable history, and the vultures begin to circle. Intruders, carjackers, and greedy heirs all want a seat at the feast. Join Alice as she tries to dodge danger and uncover the murderous truth in a race across Texas and New Mexico (with occasional stops for barbecue).

Critique: Ghost Daughter is part of the "Alice MacDonald Greer Mystery Series", featuring a savvy, strong-willed female lawyer who navigates unpredictable and dangerous intrigues. When Alice Greer unexpectedly finds the dead body of her friend Ellie, she is then tasked with the sad duty of being the executor of Ellie's will. Alice's duty becomes complicated when she uncovers Ellie's secrets one by one - including a potential fortune of art treasures! Could Ellie's hidden riches have gotten her killed? Is Alice the next target? Alice confronts greedy inheritors, deadly threats, and the occasional, delectable Texas barbecue in this page-turning sleuth story that will keep the reader guessing right up to the end! Ghost Daughter is highly recommended, especially for public library collections and connoisseurs of mysteries with plucky heroines. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Ghost Daughter is also available in a Kindle edition ($7.99).

Lynne Turner
Friesen Press
9781525599859 $16.99 pbk / $4.99 Kindle

Synopsis: Dr. William Osgood, a Beverly Hills psychologist, must make a quick decision. Seventeen-year-old Loretta, his most troubled patient, has just fainted on his couch, and his Thursday night group is about to arrive. Knowing that allowing Loretta to stay is ethically murky and potentially perilous to the group's dynamic, Dr. Osgood begins to consider what might happen once Loretta opens her eyes. In cinematic fashion, the doctor rapidly recalls his history with each of the group's six members, and the stories that ultimately landed them in his office. A series of his flashbacks constructs both poignant and comic psychological portraits of each patient. And while he optimistically predicts Loretta will be safe, he can't possibly predict the results of his decision.

Later that night, Dr. Osgood can't sleep. In his studio apartment on Hollywood Boulevard, overlooking the Hollywood Walk of Fame and a youth hostel for runaways, he is unaccustomed to his circumstances. Recently divorced, he has only his three-legged cat, Batman, for company. As dawn breaks, so does the news: A high-powered talent agent has been shot. He is not only startled to realize that the victim had been passionately discussed by his Thursday night group the previous night, but also realizes that each member might have had a motive for the crime. There is a mystery to be solved, but not without taking a scenic route through checkered pasts, old resentments, and new alliances...

Critique: Group is a dark mystery about a psychotherapist who learns of a terrible crime, and realizes that every member of the group he oversees was discussing the victim on the previous night. Each member of the therapy group had a motive to commit the crime! Group is an intensely captivating thriller, crafted with consummate artistry, that will keep the reader in suspense to the very end. Highly recommended, both for public library collections and for connoisseurs of quality psychological suspense. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Group is also available in a Kindle edition ($4.99).

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

One Aon Fatality
Vanessa Krauss
Dream's Edge Publishing
9781913844158 $13.99 pbk / $4.15 Kindle

Synopsis: A chance encounter has the Horizons Corporation realizing that their want to control the weather means accounting for literal forces of nature, gods. By creating the Aons, they plan to use them to chase and destroy these powerful beings. There is a small catch. Their first Aon, Fatality. Being told her only function is to live, die, hunt, kill, she can only want for something better, a world where nature doesn't bow to man, nor to Horizons.

Critique: One Aon Fatality is a suspenseful modern novel in which a mega-corporation has become so powerful that it is on the verge of controlling personifications of natural forces, also known as "gods". The Horizons Corporation has created Aons to hunt and destroy these gods - yet their very first Aon, named Fatality, rebels against the corporation! Fatality was created expressly to hunt and kill, yet she yearns for something far greater, not only for herself, but also the world. One Aon Fatality is a thought-provoking, character-driven novel that encourages the reader to contemplate perspectives outside of their comfort zone. Highly recommended! It should be noted for personal reading lists that One Aon Fatality is also available in a Kindle edition ($4.15).

The Poetry Shelf

Small Altars
Keli Stewart
Bronzeville Books
9781952427220, $24.99, HC, 80pp

Synopsis: Published by Bronzeville Books, "Small Altars" is Keli Stewart's profound, visceral and heady debut poetry collection, as well as a simultaneously autobiographical memoir and social commentary in conversation. The narrator of "Small Altars" is at different times a girl learning from her elders and ancestors; a young woman coming of age; a single mother caring for her child; or a wise woman who conjures the spirits of her past.

"Small Altars" renders this self-portrait in spirals and snapshots-sometimes with humor, sometimes with sentiment and memory-about the body, desire, motherhood and place around her identity as a Black woman while awakening keen observations of her ancestors with a griot's voice.

Critique: Memorable verse that is both intimately personal and universally recognizable, "Small Altars" showcases Keli Stewart's impressive talent and is especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Contemporary American Poetry collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Small Altars" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781952427237, $12.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99).

Editorial Note: Keli Stewart's work has appeared in Quiddity, Meridians, Warpland, Hip Mama, Calyx, and Rhino among other noted journals and publications. She received artist fellowships from Hedgebrook, and the Augusta Savage Gallery Arts International Residency. An alum of the Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation and Callaloo Summer Writing Workshops, Keli's work was selected for first place in the Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Award from the Illinois Center of the Book, Emerging Writers Competition. She received her BA in Fiction Writing from Columbia College and her MFA in Poetry from Chicago State University. Her manuscript After Birth was recently named semi-finalist for the Claudia Emerson Chapbook Award.

The Biography Shelf

Hollywood to the Himalayas
Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati
Mandala Publishing
9781647223656 $29.99 hc / $12.99 Kindle

Synopsis: Hollywood to the Himalayas is the enlightening memoir of a reluctant spiritual seeker who finds much more than she bargained for when she travels to India.

As a Stanford grad in the midst of getting her PhD in Psychology, Sadhvi Sarawati was comfortable with her life. Despite years of grappling with an eating disorder and trauma from her early childhood, she felt as if she was successfully navigating her way through early adulthood. When she agreed to travel to India to appease her husband - and because she loved the food - Sadhvi would have never imagined that she would be embarking on a journey of healing and awakening.

Hollywood to the Himalayas describes Sadhvi's odyssey towards divine enlightenment and inspiration through her extraordinary connection with her guru and renewed confidence in the pleasure and joy that life can bring. Now one of the preeminent female spiritual teachers in the world, Sadhvi recounts her journey with wit, honesty, and clarity and, along the way, offers teachings to help us all step onto our own path of awakening and discover the truth of who we really are - embodiments of the Divine.

Critique: Hollywood to the Himalayas: A Journey of Healing and Transformation is the true-life memoir of a Jewish woman who encountered a spiritual reawakening in India. Though she carried inner scars from the abuse she suffered as a child, she had a more-or-less normal life, was married, and in the process of earning a PhD in psychology. She reluctantly agreed to travel to India, primarily to appease her husband, yet experienced a spiritual revelation that led her to spiritual awakening, and a transformation in her life. She joined a religious order, which required strict chastity vows. She recognized that her relationship with her husband was not right for either of them. Her testimony is one of a long, difficult journey to healing and hope, as well as dedication to humanitarian work. Hollywood to the Himalayas is profound, inspirational, and highly recommended. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Hollywood to the Himalayas is also available in a Kindle edition ($12.99).

They Get Your Highs (I Get Your Lows)
Anna Knight
Ditty Up Productions
9780578841083, $15.95
B08XS7H24W, $3.99

Synopsis: Alcohol abuse and untreated mental health issues wreaks havoc on a family. The perspective is from the wife watching helplessly, but trying everything in her power to get him treatment. She spent years trying to prevent the inevitable, but hoping for the best. There were a lot of ups & downs along the way to get to the point of divorce. The journey created a typical dysfunctional family with an addict, enablers, scapegoat & financial disasters. The ending was the beginning of an unexpected path as a family whistleblower.

Critique: They Get Your Highs (I Get Your Lows) is author Anna Knight's true-life memoir about her marriage to a husband who abused alcohol and had both untreated Narcissistic Personality Disorder and undiagnosed bipolar disorder. Her marriage ultimately ended despite her efforts to hold it together and encourage the man she loved to seek treatment. They Get Your Highs (I Get Your Lows) is a personal journey of learning to recognize that there are limits to what even love can do, and that sometimes the greatest courage is the bravery to walk away rather than remain as an enabler. Raw and real, They Get Your Highs (I Get Your Lows) is an unforgettable life lesson that no one deserves to learn the hard way, and highly recommended. It should be noted for personal reading lists that They Get Your Highs (I Get Your Lows) is also available in a Kindle edition ($3.99).

Serious Little Catholics: A Memoir
Kathy Gereau
She Writes Press
9781647421106, $16.95 pbk / $0.99 Kindle

Synopsis: Serious Little Catholics follows Kathy Gereau, the oldest of seven children, as she grows up in the mid-'50s and '60s and makes her way through Catholic school alongside her siblings. Initially, she buys into the mysteries of faith and the litany of rules being spouted by the Sisters of Mercy. But when her fourth grade teacher tells the class that Kathy's sweet little Protestant grandmother would never be admitted into heaven, she begins to question the rigid dogma of the church. Later, she discovers that not all boys are as goofy as her brothers and struggles with the notion that it is a woman's responsibility to discourage men from the plague of impure thoughts. Even an innocent flirtation can sinfully lead men into a temptation they are not capable of resisting; it doesn't seem fair.

Ultimately, with the help of her classmates and a few understanding teachers, she learns to laugh at the ridiculous bits of her religion?and discovers the spiritual message within.

Critique: Serious Little Catholics: A Memoir is author Kathy Gereau's true-life biography of growing up amid a strict Catholic school education in mid-twentieth century America. Constrained by the myriad rules and dogma imposed by the Sisters of Mercy, Kathy Gereau learned to privately reject what seemed ridiculous and embrace the positive, spiritual message all but buried underneath layers of inflexible doctrine. A page-turning saga of one woman's quest for truth, Serious Little Catholics is compelling, thought-provoking, and highly recommended. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Serious Little Catholics is also available in a Kindle edition ($0.99).

The Travel Shelf

A Narrative Tale of Morocco
J Peter Hall
9781796092875, $27.99 Paperback
B08KXPCWQJ, $2.99 Kindle

Synopsis: Many beautiful countries throughout the world can leave an unforgettable impact on an individual. In J Peter Hall's new book, "A Narrative Tale of Morocco," he walks readers through his tour of this North African country and everything he and his wife endured. Throughout the author's travel, readers will feel as if they have embarked on their own journey through this beautiful country.

"A Narrative Tale of Morocco" not only shares Hall's experience as a tourist, but it also provides photographs of places he stayed, mosques he visited, events he attended and people he met. Of the 221 pictures in his book, 88 of them are historical findings from the internet. He beautifully crafts the lifestyle and culture within the Moroccan society by highlighting key elements that impacted him and his wife. From the vibrant and timeless clothes to the numerous flea markets that can be found around any corner, Hall illustrates the deep-rooted history that makes up this colorful country.

Critique: Featuring full-color photography on almost every page, A Narrative Tale of Morocco tells of a ten-day journey through this vibrant North African country. The descriptive "you-are-there" text shares the author's firsthand travel experience, supplemented with fascinating facts and sagas drawn from Morocco's rich history. A Narrative Tale of Morocco is a joy to browse, and highly recommended especially for armchair travelers. It should be noted for personal reading lists that A Narrative Tale of Morocco is also available in a Kindle edition ($2.99).

Editorial Note: J Peter Hall earned his Bachelor of Science in Marine Transportation. He has recently published his debut book, "A Narrative in Morocco," sharing his amusing account of his wonderful findings of colorful beauty and history in Morocco. The book will also be available in Arabic. Hall currently resides in Surfside, FL, with his wife, Jane.

The Philosophy Shelf

Pandora's Book
David Birch
Iff Books
c/o John Hunt Publishing
c/o NBN (distribution)
9781789045710, $25.95 pbk / $10.99 Kindle

Synopsis: Are you inside your body? Does yesterday still exist? Is it possible to have dignified sex? This book is filled with such questions, hundreds of them. Its aim is not to teach or lecture, but to jolt you into thinking for yourself. It asks you to embrace the spirit of Pandora. To open your mind, release your thoughts and let curiosity get the better of you. David Birch draws on a cornucopia of excerpts from a range of writers and philosophers. You are not entirely left to your own devices: from Plato to Isaac Newton to D. H. Lawrence, these thinkers will be your partners in conversation, galvanizing and challenging your thinking.

Critique: Pandora's Book: 401 Philosophical Questions To Help You Lose Your Mind (With Answers) begins with a straight list of 401 philosophical questions (such as "Is a prisoner who wants to be in prison free?" and "Is it wrong to steal that which no one will miss?"), some of which are quite intimate ("Is it adulterous to be tickled by someone other than your partner?"), then examines each question while drawing upon insights from a vast array of writers and thinkers, including Plato, Isaac Newton, D.H. Lawrence, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Sigmund Freud, and many more. An extraordinary, stimulating, and thought-provoking read, Pandora's Book is thoroughly accessible to lay readers and philosophy students alike, and utterly fascinating to browse from cover to cover. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Pandora's Book is also available in a Kindle edition ($10.99).

Editorial Note: David Birch teaches philosophy and religion at Highgate School in London. He also works with the Philosophy Foundation, an educational charity that takes philosophy into schools, workplaces and the wider community. He is the author of Provocations: Philosophy for Secondary School and Thinking Beans: A Year of Classroom Philosophy Lessons.

The Native American Studies Shelf

Weeping Goes Unheard
Lucia Mann
Aperion Books
9780985603946, $17.95 pbk / $14.95 Kindle

Synopsis: Weeping Goes Unheard educates and highlights those unfamiliar with Canada's shady history in its treatment of native people. This comprehensive narrative presents their heartbreak and how they endeavored, failed, tried again and again to live together peacefully and equally with the non-Indigenous population. These accounts demonstrate that there can be no peace and harmony unless there's equal justice for all.

Lucia Mann records the harrowing personal stories of racial genocide on the part of European settlers, which ultimately led to creating the abhorrent "Indian Act" - now 144 years old. This law paved the way for other subsequent immoral treatment of Canada's indigenous people. Weeping Goes Unheard represents a long overdue look at tragic circumstances that have been existing in the shadows for far too long.

Critique: Weeping Goes Unheard: Sacred Tears for Indigenous Victims of Racial Genocide presents true events, grounded firmly in historical records. Names have been changed and some of happenings have been fictionally reenacted in order to protect identities and locations. Weeping Goes Unheard tells of the suffering endured by native peoples in colonial era Canada, with horrifying tales of racial and cultural genocide culminating with the "Indian Act" (now 144 years old), a unilateral Canadian law that brushed aside previously negotiated treaties. A profound and necessary reminder of past atrocities and injustice, Weeping Goes Unheard is gripping, powerful, and highly recommended for both personal and public library Native American Studies Shelves. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Weeping Goes Unheard is also available in a Kindle edition ($14.95).

Editor's Note: Lucia Mann, humanitarian and activist, was born in British colonial South Africa in the wake of World War II. She now resides in British Columbia, Canada. After retiring from freelance journalism in 1998, she wrote a four-book African series to give voice to those who have suffered and are suffering brutalities and captivity. Weeping Goes Unheard is her eighth book that exposes accounts of both personal and social injustice.

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

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