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Small Press Bookwatch

Volume 20, Number 12 December 2021 Home | SPBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Psychology Shelf Biography Shelf
General Fiction Shelf Mystery/Suspense Shelf Poetry Shelf
Military Shelf Self-Help Shelf Wine Shelf
Photography Shelf Theatre/Cinema Shelf  

Reviewer's Choice

And Still We Rise
Jordan Steven Sher
Atmosphere Press
9781639880669, $18.99, PB, 312pp

Synopsis: Based on real-life events, in spring, 1992 in Prijedor, Bosnia, "And Still We Rise" by Jordan Steven Sher is a novel about the genocide that took place in Bosnia.

The Kovacevic family is a Muslim family confronted with the harsh reality that they are the targets of a brutal campaign to rid the country of non-Serbs. Neighbors turn on neighbors as the nationalist Serb propaganda leads to the so-called "cleansing" of communities that destroys families and their homes.

Elvir, and his fifteen-year-old son Amir, are sent to the Omarska concentration camp where torture and death haunt them daily. With a world that turns a blind eye, both suffer physically, psychologically, and spiritually. Yet they must rely upon each other if they are to survive. Hajra, Elvir's wife, and mother of their two younger children, Halima and Danis, are imprisoned in another camp called Trnopolje. They, too, must survive the atrocities that visit them including rape and witnessing beatings and murder. Hajra and the children encounter Elvir's brother, Tarik, who has been transferred to Trnopolje from another camp, only to see him disappear a short time later. As they all have learned too well in the camps, many disappear never to return.

The Kovacevic family eventually leaves the camps and reconnects with Tarik's wife, Merjem, who is unable to accept the possibility of the loss of her husband. The families' trajectories lead them to journey together as they face unforeseen obstacles that must be overcome if they are to find true freedom from the trauma that continues to inform their decisions. As refugees, they move to Germany and then to America seeking to rediscover meaning in their lives after surviving genocide, grieving their losses, and to place roots in their new home.

Critique: A compelling and deftly written novel that is fully supported by meticulous attention to historical detail, "And Still We Rise" is an extraordinary read that is quite timely given the present immigration crisis afflicting the European Union. While highly recommended, especially for community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "And Still We Rise" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

The Psychology Shelf

Transcending Trauma
Frank G. Anderson, M.D.
PESI Publishing Inc.
9781683733973, $29.99, PB, 224pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Transcending Trauma: Healing Complex PTSD with Internal Family Systems", Dr. Frank G. Andersn explores a unique, compassionate, and evidence-based approach to resolving complex and dissociative trauma. In this transformative book Dr. Anderson, masterfully details an IFS (Internal Family Systems) path to therapy that allows clients to access their inherent capacity for healing (called Self-energy) while also helping them welcome, as opposed to manage, the extreme emotions frequently associated with trauma.

Included in "Transcending Trauma" are clinical case examples, summary charts, current neuroscience research, and personal stories that will enable your clients to reclaim self-connection, experience self-love, and regain the ability to connect with and love others.

Specifically designed with clinicians, therapists, and counselors, in mind, "Transcending Trauma" offers a comprehensive map to complex trauma treatment that will enable readers to:
Learn how to stay calm and steady in the presence of extreme symptoms; Discover a different approach to resolving attachment trauma; Gain confidence when addressing shame, neglect, and dissociation; Understand the neurobiology of PTSD and dissociation; Integrate neuroscience-informed therapeutic interventions; Effectively address medications and common co-morbidities; Incorporate IFS with other models of treatment.

Critique: Deftly composed in seven major sections, (Trauma and IFS; The IFS Techniques Working With Protective Parts; The Neuroscience of Trauma and Dissociations; Attachment and Relational Trauma; Common Reactions to Relational Trauma; Associated Features of Trauma; Healing, "Transcending Trauma: Healing Complex PTSD with Internal Family Systems" is an exceptionally well organized and presented volume that is enhanced further with the inclusion of a four page listing of References, and a six page Index. While an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to professional, college, and university library Clinical Psychology, Neurology, and Dissociative Disorders collections and supplemental curriculum studies, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of psychology students, academia, counselors, therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Transcending Trauma: Healing Complex PTSD with Internal Family Systems" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99).

Editorial Note: Frank G. Anderson, MD, is the former chair and executive director of the Foundation for Self Leadership, an organization focusing on Internal Family Systems (IFS) research and the expansion of the IFS model beyond psychotherapy. He coauthored the bestseller Internal Family Systems Skills Training Manual. He is also a lead trainer and program consultant for the IFS Institute, an advisor to the International Association of Trauma Professionals (IATP), and maintains a private practice.

Brain Storm: A Life in Pieces
Shelley Kolton, MD
FLR Press
9780578736471, $14.95, PB, 318pp

Synopsis: The sad 7-year-old girl. The aggressive 14-year-old boy. The terrified 3-year-old child. The cult leader. She lived with these, and over thirty other parts of her mind, no less real than you and I, throughout endless cycles of deepest depression, paralyzing panic, thoughts of suicide, and a revolving door of psychotherapists.

A harbinger of the coming storm, darkness followed her everywhere, from infancy to a career as a renowned, openly gay OB/GYN in New York City. A loving wife and three remarkable kids completed the facade she allowed the world to see while inside her mind was a raging tempest. A fierce will to survive sustained her until, at long last, a gifted therapist gave a name to her unrelenting psychic pain: Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). And so the work began.

In "Brain Storm: A Life in Pieces", Dr. Shelley Kolton tells the story of a childhood marked by unimaginable abuse and the distinct parts her brain created to hold those memories and protect her. She balanced the demands of medicine, marriage and family as new parts (each one requiring her attention and care) emerged while grueling therapy sessions consumed her days and nights.

After twelve torturous years, she finally accepted that the alters colliding inside her brain had, in truth, saved her. Dr. Kolton, often using emails and text messages written by her alters, mixed with her own journal entries, paints an honest, intimate and at times humorous portrait of a woman living with DID, managing the inhabitants of her own creation. With memories so raw and real, she puts to rest any doubts as to the existence of multiple personalities.

"Brain Storm: A Life in Pieces" is the heartbreaking account of a mind, fragmented and broken, ultimately made whole by one woman's incomparable strength and courage.

Critique: An inherently fascinating, candid, insightfully descriptive, thoughtful and thought-provoking read from cover to cover, "Brain Storm: A Life in Pieces" is an original and especially, unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library Psychology, Psychiatry, and Contemporary American Biography/Memoir collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of psychology students, academia, therapists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Brain Storm: A Life in Pieces" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

The Biography Shelf

The Ghosts of Italy
Angela Paolantonio
4900 LaCross Road, North Charleston, SC 29406
9781537410913, $18.95, PB, 300pp

Synopsis: "The Ghosts of Italy" is Angela Paolantonio's personal memoir of how she first discovers and then returns to live in the remote mountain village in Southern Italy where her grandparents were born.

She set out late one November, just after having celebrated Thanksgiving alone on a rooftop in Rome, the spirit of her ancestors guiding her in. "I really didn't know I was searching for anything till I got here," she says. "Then I realized what I was missing and what it meant."

Angela Paolantonio's archetypal journey to the village of the ghosts of her ancestors is a unique yet universal woman's story. She ventures across the threshold of a lost world, reclaims it, and falls deeply in love along the way - with the town and its residents, the landscape, and the Handsome Man from Macchiursi. She follows the clues to rediscover her spirit and the spirit of her grandmother, and namesake, whose memory had been lost to her, locked inside her father's heart.

"The Ghosts of Italy" opens with Angela's daydream of one day owning a stone house on an Italian hillside, sheep grazing below her balcony. 'Now I have them in view.' Then wistfully, 'But it's not just any view. It's the balcony view of my grandmother's youth.'

With good timing, Angela ends up buying the very house where her grandmother was born, made of fieldstone set by hand by her great-grandfather, with the beautiful view, kept in the family for generations. But will she trade a career in Los Angeles to live the Roseto Mystery?

Critique: An inherently fascinating, deeply personal, and deftly written story, "The Ghosts of Italy" is a truly memorable read from first page to last. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Contemporary Biography/Memoir collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Ghosts of Italy" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.95).

Editorial Note: Also highly recommended is "Still Life With Saints: Italian Adventures of Magical Spirit" (979-8571716765, $19.95 PB, $9.95 Kindle, 256pp) by Angela Paolantonio" which continues her life story as she trades Mulholland Drive for via Fontana to live in the house where her Italian spirit was born, on a magical lane among the women of the village who take her under their wing and into their lives. Call it magic, serendipity, or maybe a dispatch from a past life Angela is compelled to listen and act on her inner voice. In this sequel to "The Ghosts of Italy: she's no longer out of her league. Italian folklore rules her days. "Still Life With Saints" is the song of her nights.

Living in Color : A Love Story, In Sickness and in Health
Mike Murphy
Ocean M Press
9780998209463, $14.95, PB, 244pp

Synopsis: Mike Murphy's dream came true when he found the love of his life. Nine months later, there was a lump in her breast that would change the course of their love story forever. "Living in Color : A Love Story, In Sickness and in Health" is a moving, emotionally candid, and honest memoir in which Mike tells the story of his wife Margot's nine-year battle with cancer and the courageous attitude with which she lived each day of her life. He also offers a window into the often-overlooked role of the caregiver, sharing his own struggles with unflinching honesty, humor and insight.

Critique: One of those incredible life stories that will linger in the mind and memory long after the book itself has been finished and laid upon the table, "Living in Color : A Love Story, In Sickness and in Health" by Mike Murphy is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to community library Contemporary American Biography & Memoir collections. Especially appropriate for anyone having to deal with a terminal illness in themselves and/or their families, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Living in Color : A Love Story, In Sickness and in Health" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

The General Fiction Shelf

The Trail
Ethan Gallogly, author
Jeremy Ashcraft, illustrator
Faith Rumm (cover art)
Sierra Nevada Press
9781737419228, $35.00, HC, 366pp

Synopsis: Ethan Gallogly's novel, "The Trail", is the story of Gil, who In the wake of his father's death and recently fired from his job, agrees to accompany his father's old hiking partner Syd on a month long trek on the John Muir Trail. There's just one problem: Gil hates camping and is woefully unprepared for the rigors of the journey. Moreover, he soon learns Syd may not survive the hike...

A former Sierra Club leader, Ethan takes the reader on a wild tour across the Range of Light, describing its glorious scenery in vivid detail while introducing a diverse cast of characters drawn from his own personal experiences as a hiker.

Enhanced with the inclusion of 43 maps and sketches by mountain illustrator Jeremy Ashcroft, showing the topography of each section in clear three-dimensional renderings, "The Trail" is also peppered with drawings of the trail's iconic scenery, like the Muir Hut, the Rock Monster, and Evolution Lake.

Critique: Set in the High Sierra and with great attention to background detail, "The Trail" is an original and moving story showing how nature helps us find what's missing in our lives. More than just another hiking novel, "The Trail" is fused with a memorably impressive combination of humor, philosophy, and trail lore. Woven in is a back story detailing the origins of the John Muir Trail: a 211-mile trail spanning the rooftop of the Sierra Nevada from Yosemite Valley to Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the continental United States. Exceptional, original, entertaining, informative, and an inherently fascinating read from cover to cover, "The Trail" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Contemporary General Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Trail" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

The Golden Key of Gangotri
Eyal N. Danon
Blue Branch Press
9781736299425, $5.99, PB, 212pp

Synopsis: Harley Green, a twenty-year-old student from New York, is embarking on a perilous journey to search for her father, who disappeared in Gangotri, a sacred pilgrimage site in the Indian Himalayas. Following the arching course of the mighty Ganges, Harley's plan is to reach the source of the river, at a remote ice cave in the high mountains. In route, Harley engages with a young local named Rajou and together they engage in a philosophical exploration to the meaning of life.

Critique: "The Golden Key of Gangotri" by author Eyal N. Danon (a Columbia University trained life coach, and the founder of Ignite Advisory Group, as well as a global leader in managing expert communities) is an inherently fascinating novel that combines an original adventure with philosophical insights that underpin a message of what constitutes happiness and meaningful, successful, and enduring self-help/self-improvement. A fully entertaining and memorable read, "The Golden Key of Gangotri" is highly recommended as a unique and welcome addition to community library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Golden Key of Gangotri" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

Wake Up the Night
Kenneth A. Silver
Four Seasons Press
9781732589285, $22.95 hc / $5.99 Kinlde

Synopsis: This is a collection of stories, of words and ideas that flow like a dream, but is there anything less predictable or quite so fickle as a dream? Ken Silver creates narratives that are decidedly daring, and he is never afraid to reach, but never beyond the point at which (with lawyerly precision) he is unable to support his conclusions, scientifically or otherwise. Make no mistake though, it is hardly a tame piece of writing, but a rich harvest of beautifully imagined and thoroughly engrossing tales conceived by an original thinker who refuses to be shackled to curatorial conventions. Accordingly, each and every story, and the novel that follows, has a mind of their own.

The novel itself could only have been written by someone who had actually been there. It took more than research. It took a fashion designer, lawyer, and rainforest radical, but, most of all, it took a poet. Sip it slowly. It is a bold and complex selection and wants to be savored.

Critique: Wake Up the Night is an anthology of seven short stories and one short novel, drawing upon themes of post-modernism, science and magic, dystopian fiction, and more. From the darkest corners of the human mind, to the threads of dark humor that buoy perseverance, Wake Up the Night is unforgettable from cover to cover and highly recommended. The stories are "Outside Influence", "The Trigger", "Buy on the Rumor... Sell on the News", "The Pleasure is All Mine", "Wake Up the Night", "Goin' Home, Goin' Home", "The Switch", and "Leak in the Roof". It should be noted for personal reading lists that Wake Up the Night is also available in a Kindle edition ($5.99).

The Mystery/Suspense Shelf

Deadly Division
Nathaniel Sizemore
Bdi Publishers
9781946637253, $16.95, PB, 410pp

Synopsis: David Stoneman was a rising star at one of Washington, D.C.'s most prestigious law firms until the firm's conniving managing partner, Gregory Thomas III, abruptly derailed his plans.

Thereafter, David encounters Sarah Mercer, a single mother who tragically lost her son and wants justice. To help Sarah and redeem his tarnished reputation, David unwittingly uncovers a government secret buried by Senator Stephen Smythe, a ruthless politician who will stop at nothing to protect his new legislation, the Division Act.

Allying with a desperate Southern Baptist minister, David and Sarah find themselves in a tumultuous legal battle which turns into a fight for their lives. The clock is ticking, and David must use his most powerful weapon (his mind) to outsmart his former boss, outmaneuver a team of highly-trained killers, and outlast a sitting United States Senator, before it's too late.

Critique: An action packed and deftly crafted novel of political suspense, "Deadly Division" by Nathaniel Sizemore fully lives up to its title. Showcasing the author's genuine flair for narrative storytelling and meticulous attention to detail, "Dead Division" is a fully entertaining read from cover to cover. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Mystery/Suspense collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Deadly Division" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.49).

A Gilded Death
Cecelia Tichi
Independently Published
9781639725182, $15.99, PB, 354pp

Synopsis: A formal dinner in palatial, Gilded Age Newport stuns Val DeVere when her closest friend whispers a terrifying rumor. The friend's ultra-rich auntie's fatal heart attack at Mrs. Astor's annual ball last winter was murder.

When the aunt's reclusive daughter (and heir) succumbs to "heart failure," Val and husband Roddy probe the deaths to shield their dear friend who is next in line to inherit the family fortune -- and risk sudden death.

Society's "odd couple," Val and Roddy, a.k.a. Valentine and Roderick DeVere, blend his Old New York savvy and her mountain West vision to ask: Is Newport truly Society's "place to take root in," or a dear friend's place to die?

Critique: A fully entertaining read from first page to last, "A Gilded Death" by author Cecelia Tichi is a deftly crafted 'whodunnit' novel that showcases her genuine flair for originality, unexpected plot twists, and memorable characters. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Mystery/Suspense collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of all dedicated mystery buffs that "A Gilded Death" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).

Breaking Backbones: Information Is Power
Deb Radcliff
Archway Publishing
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781665701099, $33.95, HC, 194pp

Synopsis: A hacker war seventeen years in the making erupts after GlobeCom takes over the world through human chip implants. As dozens of hacker strike teams around the world attempt to relieve GlobeCom of its iron grip on humanity through a coordinated attack on its data centers, Cy is gravely injured and her husband is killed in the attack.

At his funeral, Cy learns the hacker clans are now going after her secret spouse, a chief security officer from GlobeCom's China hub who has been anonymously feeding the clans inside information to aid their cause. Without any idea the China hub's CSO is their secret source of information, the hackers leave in the middle of the night to intercept him at the DC hub.

Cy realizes they are most likely walking into a turf war between global powers with deep resources and state-of-the-art weaponry. With time running out, Cy must dispatch another team to rescue her secret husband and the clan members converging in DC before she loses nearly everyone she holds dear.

Critique: In a story that could be ripped from tomorrow's headlines, "Breaking Backbones: Information Is Power" is an exciting and deftly crafted suspense thriller by investigative reporter and author Deb Radcliff. : Book I of the new Hacker Trilogy, "Breaking Backbones: Information Is Power" is inherently fascinating novel that raises important questions around invasions of privacy in a global bid for power through the use of technology. While very highly recommended for community library Contemporary General Fiction and Action/Adventure Suspense/Thriller collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Breaking Backbones: Information Is Power" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781665701082, $14.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

The Poetry Shelf

Bramah and the Beggar Boy: THOT J BAP
Renee Sarojini Saklikar, author
9780889714021, $26.95, PB, 368pp

Synopsis: One afternoon, in an old house in an abandoned village on the outskirts of Perimeter, in the place they call Pacifica, Bramah and the beggar boy find fragments of an ancient text. Hunched over scraps of parchment and broken computer disks, they blow the dust off a cover, and so our story begins. Many things happen, some good, but mostly bad -- including five eco-catastrophes and a viral bio-contagion.

Steeped in the tradition of fairy tales, "Bramah and the Beggar Boy: THOT J BAP" (The Heart of This Journey Bears All Patterns) is a map-history of a world in which a small band of eco-survivors faces heartbreak and destruction. In its pages, speculative fiction meets rhymes and chants, soulful characters and a playful re-imagining of the saga as a portent for our planet earth.

Shapeshifting in and out of it all is the nimble Bramah, a female locksmith who is brown, brave and beautiful.

Critique: An epic saga of fantasy and poetry that was ten years in the making by poet and author Renee Sarojini Saklikar, "Bramah and the Beggar Boy: THOT J BAP" spans continents and centuries and is the first instalment of the multi-part series. An inherently entertaining, unique, and memorable read from first page to last, this extended saga/poem is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, community, college, and university library collections.

Editorial Note: Renee Saklikar's ground-breaking poetry book about the bombing of Air India Flight 182, children of air india, won the Canadian Authors Association Prize for Poetry and was shortlisted for the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize. Trained as a lawyer, Saklikar is a mentor and instructor for SFU's writing and publishing program, as well as the city of Surrey's first Poet Laureate. She is the co-founder of the poetry reading series Lunch Poems at SFU and has served for two years as a national advocate for The Writers' Union of Canada. Saklikar is currently serving as the Writer in Residence for UBC Okanagan in Kelowna, BC.

The Military Shelf

Richard Tregaskis: Reporting under Fire from Guadalcanal to Vietnam
Ray E. Boomhower
High Road Books
9780826362889, $34.95, HC, 368pp

Synopsis: In the late summer of 1942, more than ten thousand members of the First Marine Division held a tenuous toehold on the Pacific island of Guadalcanal. As American marines battled Japanese forces for control of the island, they were joined by war correspondent Richard Tregaskis. Tregaskis was one of only two civilian reporters to land and stay with the marines, and in his notebook he captured the daily and nightly terrors faced by American forces in one of World War II's most legendary battles -- and it served as the premise for his book, "Guadalcanal Diary".

One of the most distinguished combat reporters to cover World War II, Tregaskis later reported on Cold War conflicts in Korea and Vietnam. In 1964 the Overseas Press Club recognized his first-person reporting under hazardous circumstances by awarding him its George Polk Award for his book "Vietnam Diary".

Boomhower's riveting military biography "Richard Tregaskis: Reporting under Fire from Guadalcanal to Vietnam" is the first to tell Tregaskis's (November 28, 1916 - August 15, 1973) gripping life story, concentrating on his intrepid reporting experiences during World War II and his fascination with war and its effect on the men who fought it.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Richard Tregaskis: Reporting under Fire from Guadalcanal to Vietnam" is an inherently fascinating and informative read that will have special appeal to military history buffs. While especially and unreservedly recommended as a critically important and unique addition to community, college, and university library American Military History collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists, it should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Richard Tregaskis: Reporting under Fire from Guadalcanal to Vietnam" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $34.95).

Editorial Note: Ray E. Boomhower is a senior editor at the Indiana Historical Society Press. He is also the author of more than a dozen books, including Dispatches from the Pacific: The World War II Reporting of Robert L. Sherrod; John Bartlow Martin: A Voice for the Underdog; and Robert F. Kennedy and the 1968 Indiana Primary.

The Self-Help Shelf

A New Now
Michael Goddart
Clear Path Press
c/o Epigraph Books
9781951937744, $28.95, HC, 258pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "A New Now: Your Guide to Mastering Wisdom Daily, Achieving Equilibrium, and Empowering Your Nobler Self", author Michael Goddart offers his readers a chance to step into an omnipresent reality, a new now in which they can readily navigate their lives successfully, happily, easily. Working with this guide, anyone can become a new and improved version of themselves so that situations, people, thoughts, and desires are more easily negotiated moment to moment.

All human beings have an untapped reservoir of awareness that they can learn to access to become wiser, achieve a state of equilibrium, and develop a clearer and stronger sense of their purpose for each day and this lifetime. The benefits awaiting are many. Just a few are: clarity of mind, enhanced intuition, development of spiritual strengths and virtues, contentment and happiness, and knowing and achieving your purpose.

"A New Now" presents: The treasure of 33 wisdoms, including the 11 Loving Wisdoms, the 11 Guiding Wisdoms, and the 11 Evolutionary Wisdoms; The 10 Keys to Achieving Equilibrium; The 5 Sources of Wisdom; The 5 Prerogatives of Equilibrium; and How to empower and be your nobler self.

Critique: A potentially life changing, life enhancing read, "A New Now: Your Guide to Mastering Wisdom Daily, Achieving Equilibrium, and Empowering Your Nobler Self" is an exceptionally insightful and motivating instructional guide and manual that is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, college, and university library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "A New Now" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781951937737, $18.95 PB) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Michael Goddart, MFA, is also the author of "In Search of Lost Lives: Desire, Sanskaras, and the Evolution of a Mind&Soul" and "BLISS: 33 Simple Ways to Awaken Further and Spiritual Revolution - A Seeker's Guide". Since 1974 he has journeyed thirteen times to India and also numerous times to England, Greece, Canada, Spain, and within the United States to be with those rare teachers whom he considers to be fully realized humans. He maintains an informative website at

The Wine Shelf

Lineage: Life and Love and Six Generations in California Wine
Steven Kent Mirassou
Val de Grace
9780984884957, $35.00, HC, 184pp

Synopsis: Drawing upon his decades of wine making expertise and experience, and with his extraordinary gift for evocative writing, in the pages of "Lineage: Life and Love and Six Generations in California Wine", Steven Kent Mirassou takes us straight into the heart of his calling: how it looks and feels to be in a vineyard heavy with grapes, awaiting the dawn and the throbbing pulse of a harvest about to begin. It's a magical moment, and it's the beginning of a journey deep into the art, the craft, the passion, and the 8,000 years of history that lie inside the finest of wines.

Steven also helps us feel his connection to the six generations that the Mirassou family has been growing grapes and crafting wines in California, the last thirty years in the Livermore Valley. It's a region that struggles, image-wise, in the shadow of the Napa Valley but holds fast to its belief in the virtues of its hills and valleys and fertile soils, and to its unshakable faith that crafting beautiful wines and sharing them with others is, at its core, good for the heart and pure tonic for the soul.

There is high drama too. Like all family-owned wineries, Steven faced a mountain of challenges: rough growing seasons, business mistakes, the loss of cherished vineyards and more. And Steven lost something larger too -- his beloved wife, from a terrible illness. But as Steven shows us, with the proper attitude every loss can be a new beginning, an opportunity to live more deeply, and, with luck, to improve the character of the wines you craft and the enduring wisdom you can pass along to the next generation.

Critique: Offering a unique and true insider's perspective to the California wine making industry, "Lineage: Life and Love and Six Generations in California Wine" is an impressively informative blend of biography and family history. An inherently fascinating read from first page to last, "Lineage: Life and Love and Six Generations in California Wine" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal and professional reading lists, as well as community, college, and university library Homebrewing, Distilling & Wine Making history collections.

In the literature of American wine, there is nothing quite like what Steven Kent Mirassou has brought us. Come feel the spirit, come share the wine.

The Photography Shelf

Asia Calling: A Photographer's Notebook 1980-1997
Edward Grazda
powerHouse Books
9781648230004, $35.00, HC, 72pp

Synopsis: "Asia Calling" is longtime mid-east photographer Edward Grazda's art journal recap of his decades traversing the globe during times of immense social and cultural change in the Asian continent. Much like Peter Beard and Bill Burke before, Grazda's journal entries and diaristic graphics, along with his image manipulation and conceptual positionings of his photographs and writings make this no mere photo notebook, but rather an indelible stamp, a graphic passport if you will, of people and places, frozen in time, but now alive with invigorating juxtapositions and dynamic sequencing, a filmic recap of a place and time long gone but still there.

Starting in 1980, Grazda traveled to Hong Kong, Thailand, Burma, Vietnam, Laos, India, China, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. This was a time of change in Asia - globalization, wars, drugs, tourism, and religion remaking ethnic traditions and governments alike. Grazda's photos (with a few fictional and literary texts) is a visual passport to that long time ago.

Critique: An inherently fascinating volume of historical and culturally oriented photographs, "Asia Calling" is a thoughtful and thought-provoking browse that will have immense appeal to both academia and the non-specialist general reader alike -- making it especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, college, and university library Street Photography collections.

The Theatre/Cinema Shelf

These Fists Break Bricks
Grady Hendrix, author
Chris Pggiali, author
RZA of Wu-Tang Clan, author
Mondo Books
9781736891605, $39.95, PB, 432pp

Synopsis: When Warner Brothers (a major Hollywood studio) released Five Fingers of Death to thrill-seeking Times Square moviegoers on March 21, 1973, only a handful of Black and Asian American audience members knew the difference between an Iron Fist and an Eagle's Claw. That changed overnight as kung fu movies kicked off a craze that would earn millions at the box office, send TV ratings soaring, sell hundreds of thousands of video tapes, influence the birth of hip hop, reshape the style of action we see in movies today, and introduce America to some of the biggest non-white stars to ever hit motion picture screens.

"These Fists Break Bricks: How Kung Fu Movies Swept America and Changed the World" by the team of Grady Hendrix, Chris Poggiali, and RZA of Wu-Tang Clan is a lavishly illustrated history that tells the bone-blasting, spine-shattering story of how these films of fury spawned in anti-colonial protests on the streets of Hong Kong came to America and raised hell for 15 years before greed, infomercials, and racist fearmongering shut them down.

"These Fists Break Bricks" also covers Japanese judo coaches battling American wrestlers in backwoods MMA bouts at county fairs, black teenagers with razor sharp kung fu skills heading to Hong Kong to star in movies shot super fast so they can make it back to the States in time to start 10th grade, and Puerto Rican karate coaches making their way in this world with nothing but their own two fists.

It's also about an 11-year-old boy who not only created the first fan edit but somehow turned it into a worldwide moneymaker, CIA agents secretly funding a karate movie, the New York Times fabricating a fear campaign about black karate gangs out to kill white people, the history of black martial arts in America (Why does judo or karate suddenly get so ominous because black men study it?, wondered Malcolm X), the death of Bruce Lee and the onslaught of imitators that followed, and how a fight that started in Japanese internment camps during World War II ended in a ninja movie some 40 years later.

In a continuing battle for recognition and respect that started a long, long time ago and continues today in movies like The Matrix, Kill Bill, and Black Panther and here, in the pages of "These Fists Break Bricks", and for the first time, is the full uncensored story.

Critique: Published in a coffee-table sized paperback back format (8 x 2 x 11 inches), "These Fists Break Bricks: How Kung Fu Movies Swept America and Changed the World" is a 'must read' for anyone who has every sat in a theatre and thrilled to a martial arts movie. Inherently fascinating, impressive informative, expertly organized and presented, profusely illustrated, "These Fists Break Bricks: How Kung Fu Movies Swept America and Changed the World" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, college, and university library Film History and American Popular Culture collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note #1: Grady Hendrix is an award-winning New York Times bestselling author and one of the founders of the New York Asian Film Festival. He's covered the Asian film industry for Variety, Sight & Sound, and Film Comment, among others.

Editorial Note #2: Chris Poggiali is a librarian, writer and film historian who edited the fanzine Temple of Schlock from 1987 - 1991, and brought it back as a blog in 2008. He has written about film for numerous magazines, websites, and DVDs/Blu-rays.

Editorial Note #3: An American rapper, actor, filmmaker and record producer, Robert Fitzgerald Diggs is better known by his stage name RZA. He is the de facto leader of the hip hop group Wu-Tang Clan, having produced most albums for the group and its respective members.

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
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