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Small Press Bookwatch

Volume 21, Number 12 December 2022 Home | SPBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Economic Studies Shelf International Studies Shelf
Parenting Shelf Music ShelfBiography Shelf
LGBT Studies Shelf General Fiction Shelf Literary Fiction Shelf
Mystery/Suspense Shelf Fantasy/SciFi Shelf Sports Shelf
Christian Studies Shelf Self-Help Shelf Criminology Shelf

Reviewer's Choice

Nonwhite and Woman
Carla Crujido, editor
Darien Hsu Gee, editor
Woodhall Press
9781949116694, $19.95, PB, 278pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Nonwhite and Woman: 131 Micro Essays on Being in the World", collaborative co- editors Darien Hsu Gee and Carla Crujido have assembled 131 personal narratives, each one of which was written by established and emerging women of color.

In 300 words or less, these true stories speak to otherness, familial relationships, impossible beauty standards, ancestral heritage, coming of age, and owning one's place in the world. This singular collection was inspired by Lucille Clifton's luminous poem "Won't you celebrate with me", sings to the beauty of how these women live and thrive in the world, and how they make their lives their own.

Included are author commentaries, discussion questions for further exploration, resources for additional reading, and a guide to writing micro essays.

Critique: Insightful, memorable, thoughtful and thought provoking, "Nonwhite and Woman: 131 Micro Essays on Being in the World" offers an assemblage of unique and yet universal experiences with respect to being a woman of color within the context of a still white dominated culture. Simply stated, "Nonwhite and Woman: 131 Micro Essays on Being in the World" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library Women's Studies collections in general, and supplemental Black Studies curriculum reading lists in particular. It should be noted for students, academia, women's rights activists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Nonwhite and Woman: 131 Micro Essays on Being in the World" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note #1: A short story writer and essayist, Darien Hsu Gee ( is a novelist with Penguin Random House and a recent Poetry Society Chapbook Fellow. Her craft book, Writing the Hawai'i Memoir, won the Hawai'i Book Publishers' Ka Palapala Po'okela award. Darien has received a Sustainable Arts Foundation grant as well as a Vermont Studio Center fellowship.

Editorial Note #2: Carla Crujido is a hapa writer of Filipino, Norwegian, Mexican, and German descent. She is a graduate of the MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts.

The Economic Studies Shelf

Gonzo Wall Street
Richard E. Farley
Regan Arts
9781682451984, $32.00, HC, 400pp

Synopsis: In the 1960s, the fabric of American society was torn apart by deep divisions over the Vietnam War, violence in our cities, and the senseless assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., and Senator Robert Kennedy. Civil rights, as well as women's and gay liberation movements, were challenging America. Music, literature, fashion, and the recreational uses of "substances" were transforming the culture and upending conventional morality and manners. The public, the media, and politicians, preoccupied with these dramatic changes, paid little attention to Wall Street, where a crisis was brewing that would cause more investment banks to fail than during the Great Depression.

The year 1968 should have been the best of times on Wall Street. It was the greatest bull market since the Roaring '20s. The Dow was breaking records. Trading volume was exploding. A hot IPO market for high-flying technology companies was defying gravity. And a swashbuckling mergers and acquisitions wave was generating enormous profits. Despite how flush Wall Street firms looked to outsiders, in truth, they were not a thundering herd but one in need of culling.

Hidden from view was the fact that many of the best-known firms on Wall Street were in very precarious financial positions. Rather than investing in desperately needed state-of-the-art computer systems, the executives of these firms overpaid themselves, leaving them over-extended and over-leveraged. When business exploded in 1968, they were so overwhelmed by the stacks of stock certificates piled from floor to ceiling that their antiquated back offices were unable to process them.

The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), under the oversight of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), was the principal regulator of the Wall Street firms at the time. The NYSE still had many of the vestiges of the private club it was prior to the Depression-era laws that created the SEC and brought Wall Street under the control of the federal government. The NYSE even referred to itself as the "Club", controlled by an old guard of firms that were among the most over- leveraged. Through means legal and likely illegal, this old guard kept many insolvent firms open while keeping the SEC and Congress in the dark until it was too late. With a systemic financial crisis at hand, the boom turned to bust and they went, hat in hand, to Washington for a bailout.

"Gonzo Wall Street: Riots, Radicals, Racism, and Revolution: How the Go-Go Bankers of the 1960s Crashed the Financial System and Bamboozled Washington" by Richard E. Farley is the long-hidden history of how the Wall Street investment banks held Congress over a barrel and got a taxpayer-funded guarantee of what they owed their customers -- and how little Congress and the SEC got from Wall Street in return. More than anything else, this set the precedent for the bailouts of the 2008 Financial Crisis -- and the next Wall Street bailouts.

In a story that unfolds throughout the tumultuous 1960s, during the administrations of Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon, a surprising cast of famous and infamous characters play roles: Abbie Hoffman, Roy Cohn, Ross Perot, Donald Regan, Michael Bloomberg, Felix Rohaytn, Sandy Weill, Ken Langone, and many others. 

Critique: Enhanced for the reader with the inclusion of a four page Cast of Characters, an informative Prologue and Epilogue, twenty-six pages of Notes, a two page listing of Acknowledgments, and a nine page Index, "Gonzo Wall Street: Riots, Radicals, Racism, and Revolution: How the Go-Go Bankers of the 1960s Crashed the Financial System and Bamboozled Washington" is a seminal and informative 20th Century American economic history that is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library collections. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Gonzo wall Street" is also available for students, academia, political activists, and non- specialist general readers with an interest in the subject in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99).

Editorial Note: Richard E. Farley is a partner Chair of the Leveraged Finance Group (New York) and the author of "Wall Street Wars: The Epic Battles with Washington that Created the Modern Financial System". (

The International Studies Shelf

Ships In The Desert
Jeff Fearnside
Santa Fe Writer's Project
9781951631154, $14.95, PB, 136pp

Synopsis: "Ships In The Desert" is a linked essay collection, with which author Jeff Fearnside analyzes his four years as an educator on the Great Silk Road, primarily in Kazakhstan.

Peeling back the layers of culture, environment, and history that define the country and its people, Fearnside creates a compelling narrative about this faraway land and soon realizes how the local, personal stories are, in fact, global stories.

Fearnside sees firsthand the unnatural disaster of the Aral Sea -- an under-reported, man-made environmental crisis that has devastated the region and impacts the entire world.

Fearnside also examines the sometimes controversial ethics of Western missionaries, and reflects on personal and social change once he returns to the States.
"Ships in the Desert" deftly explores the universal issues of religious bigotry, cultural intolerance, environmental degradation, and how a battle over water rights led to a catastrophe that is now being repeated around the world.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, the extraordinary essays that comprise "Ships In The Desert" creates a memorable and thought-provoking read from cover to cover. A welcome and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, community, and academic library collections, "Ships In The Desert" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $1.49) for the personal reading lists of readers with an interest in India, environmental issues, travelogs, and the art of the essay.

Editorial Note: Jeff Fearnside ( is the author of the short-story collection Making Love While Levitating Three Feet in the Air and the chapbook A Husband and Wife Are One Satan, winner of the Orison Chapbook Prize. Other awards for his writing include a Grand Prize in the Santa Fe Writers Projects Literary Awards Program, the Mary Mackey Short Story Prize, and an Individual Artist Fellowship award from the Oregon Arts Commission. His work has appeared in literary journals and anthologies such as The Paris Review, Los Angeles Review, Story, and many others.

The Parenting Shelf

Social Skills for Kids 3 to 10
Kate Herm
Independently Published
9798841361886, $9.99, PB, 170pp

Synopsis: The premise of "Social Skills for Kids 3 to 10" by Kate Herm is that the things your son or daughter learns in childhood can determine the type of adult they will become -- and that parents have opportunity and obligation to teach them the necessary skills to thrive as adults.

Children between the ages of 3 and 10 are at a point in their lives when they have already started socializing with people. Whether it's making friends, starting conversations, or sharing toys, your child needs to learn how to get along well with others.

Having these skills will not just help your child do well in school, but it will also give your child a great foundation for life. With the right guidance, your child can learn how to properly conduct themselves in various settings.

"Social Skills for Kids 3 to 10" offers useful skill-building activities for your child while also making it fun and exciting. It is practical guide featuring more than90+ effective, fun, and engaging activities that will build essential life skills and promote important values, social skills, communication and listening, the importance of body language so they can learn the major differences between good and bad gestures, the art of sharing and self-control, teaching your kids empathy so they can understand the true meaning of emotional intelligence, making friends and practice good manners with incredible tips, tricks, and activities, problem-solving skills that your kids can learn to turn them into fully-functioning adults with their own independent outlook on life -- and much more!

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Social Skills for Kids 3 to 10. How to Help your Child Develop Nine Social Skills Needed to be Happy, Confident, and Successful: Complete with 90 fun ... problem-solving, sharing, and making friends." is an ideal combination of instructional guide and 'how-to' manual for parents, caregivers, and educators. While also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99), "Social Skills for Kids 3 to 10" is an especially and unreservedly recommended for family, day care center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Child Care collections.

The Music Shelf

Magnifico!: The A to Z of Queen
Mark Blake
9781637585900, $32.00, HC, 432pp

Synopsis: Addressing the phenomenal success of the movie Bohemian Rhapsody, music journalist Mark Blake builds on the legend of Queen and their enduring audience appeal. Providing a fresh, unparalleled take on Queen's music, story, and legacy, Blake's complete portrait covers not only the major hits and bestselling albums, but also the inside stories behind the music. Via a series of essays, interviews, and biographies, Blake shares a wealth of lesser-known details (drawn from over thirty years of original material) and explores what the songs of Queen say about their creators.

Critique: Informatively enhanced for the readers with the inclusion of a two-page Bibliography, "Magnifico!: The A to Z of Queen" is organized and presented alphabetically and a 'must' for the legions of Queen fans. While unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library Rock Music History & Criticism collections, it should be noted for students, academia, and Queen fans that "Magnifico!: The A to Z of Queen" is also available in a paperback edition (9781788705738, $15.04, Amazon) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.99).

Editorial Note: Mark Blake ( has been writing about popular music and culture since 1989 and was a former Assistant Editor of Q and regular contributor to MOJO and CLASSIC ROCK magazines. He can be followed on Twitter @markblake3

The Biography Shelf

I Feel Your Stare: An Autobiography
Cheryl Gillespie
Fingertip Books
9780995005624, $24.75, PB, 242pp

Synopsis: The life story of a woman as told by herself, "I Feel Your Stare: An Autobiography" by Cheryl Gillespie is a living example of how with a positive effort and a lot of hard work, life's most beneficial opportunities can arise from life's most challenging hardships and physical disabilities. How when mastering our own lives we can be propelled into a constructive and successful existence with our selves and with others.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, blending insight and aspiration, "I Feel Your Stare: An Autobiography" is an inspired and inspiring life story that is at once intensely personal yet universal with respect to the human condition in our time. With a very special appeal to readers with an interest in exceptionally well told life stories with uplifting messages, "I Feel Your Stare: An Autobiography" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists and community library American Biography/Memoir collections. It should be noted that "I Feel Your Stare: An Autobiography" is also available in an ebook format (2940166731456, $10.95).

Editorial Note: A childhood diagnosis of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, with associated blindness, coupled with physical and societal barriers, has proven only to strengthen the resolve of Cheryl Gillespie. Following graduation from Fredericton High School, Cheryl advanced in her private studies through the Royal Conservatory of Music, attaining First Class Honours in piano, theory and history. Today, well established in her teaching career, she takes pride in the education of her students, highlighted by a two-time provincial medal winner through Mount Allison's Local Centre Examinations Department of Music. Through her active role within the Fredericton Music Teachers' Association, Cheryl has built invaluable, longstanding friendships with her colleagues. In 1993, Cheryl was the recipient of the Stanley B. Cassidy Memorial Award, presented by the Fredericton Music Society, recognizing her dedication to excellence and personal achievements. She is also the author of the children's book, "Tigger and Jasper's New Home."

The LGBT Studies Shelf

Half In: A Coming-of-Age Memoir of Forbidden Love
Felice Cohen
Dividends Press
9798985701708, $14.99, PB, 261pp

Synopsis: At twenty-three, Felice Cohen was, like other recent college grads, hesitant about entering the real world, with the added stress of coming out as gay in the early nineties. Focused on how to land a full-time position as a writer, falling in love was the last thing on her mind.

But fall in love she did. With her boss, a woman thirty-four years older.

Felice and Sarah embarked on a high-stakes, year-long love affair. Addicted to the high of first love, Felice was enthralled by Sarah's attention and content to hide their love in the shadows. Sarah, meanwhile, threw caution to the wind, risking her comfortably established life that included a prestigious job and long-term girlfriend. Though not perfect, it was enough.

That was until their secret was exposed, forcing Felice to publicly acknowledge their illicit love or start a new life for herself. Felice chose to walk away.

"Half In: A Coming-of-Age Memoir of Forbidden Love" is candid coming-of-age memoir (and as compelling a read as deftly scripted novel) Felice chronicles the happiness and heartbreak of an age-gap love affair while struggling to figure out the direction of her future. Ultimately, this is a story about navigating life's unpredictable path while following one's heart, and finding acceptance.

Critique: Exceptionally well written and of special appeal to readers with an interest in LGBTQ biographies and memoirs, "Half In: A Coming-of-Age Memoir of Forbidden Love" is a strongly recommended addition to community and academic library Contemporary American Biography/Memoir collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Half In: A Coming-of-Age Memoir of Forbidden Love" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Felice Cohen ( is a Holocaust educator. Her previous book, "90 Lessons for Living Large in 90 Square Feet (...or More)" received numerous self-help book awards and was inspired by the YouTube video of her 90-square-foot New York City studio that went viral with over 25 million views. Felice has been featured on Good Morning America, NBC, CBS, NPR, Time, Globe & Mail, New York Daily News, the Daily Mail and more. As the grandchild of two Holocaust survivors, Felice is also the author of "What Papa Told Me", a memoir about her grandfather's life before, during and after the war. That book has been endorsed by Elie Wiesel and Yad Vashem in Israel, is taught in schools across the country, has been translated into Polish, and has sold around the world.

The General Fiction Shelf

Mortal Things
Ned Bachus
Tree of Life Books
9781734956382, $19.95, PB, 462pp

Synopsis: Told in alternating perspectives against the vibrant backdrop of one of Philadelphia's most distinctive neighborhoods known for its diversity of ethnicity, race, and social-class, "Mortal Things" is a powerful reflection that in a time of changing values and belief, it's the transient ties that can bind or break us as individuals and as a community.

Critique: Erudite, insightful, deftly crafted, entertaining, thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Mortal Things" by author Ned Bachus is one of those novels that will linger in the mind and memory long after the book itself has been finished and set back upon the shelf. Of special merit, "Mortal Things" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as community and academic library Contemporary Literary Fiction collections.

Editorial Note: The stories of Ned Bachus ( have been anthologized and featured in literary magazines. He has won fellowships from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and had been awarded two artist residencies at Cill Rialaig Project in Ireland. Bachus received a BA from Temple University, an MA from Gallaudet University and an MFA from Vermont College. During his nearly four-decade career at Community College of Philadelphia, he has won multiple teaching awards and has spoken at colleges, libraries, and bookstores about the art and science of teaching and learning.

The Auction
Elci North
Independently Published
9798412323121, $18.99, PB, 502pp

Synopsis: America 2272 - Women are dominated by the government Office of Reproductive Oversight. They must give birth to their babies and then surrender them to "The Auction". The wealthy bid on the healthiest babies and the poor take out predatory government loans to afford the sickest.

Critique: A chilling dystopian novel that rivals such classics as George Orwell's "1984", Elci North's "The Auction" is an inherently fascinating and all-too-plausible glimpse of America 150 years from now given the anti-abortion politics of today. While also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99), and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library collections, "The Auction" will have a special appeal for readers with an interest in dystopian and political fiction.

Chocolate Burnout: Chocolate 4 Life
Emunah La-Paz
Little Ant Productions LLC
9780578994857, $15.99, PB, 330pp

Synopsis: Chantel Reed is a successful, single African American woman who has given up on romance to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a master- chocolatier. Chantel's best friend Astrid, a prosperous, single white woman who sacrificed relationships to conquer her dream job as a certified chocolatier, is the owner of Sweet Indulgence, one of the most popular Chocolate shops in downtown Seattle. Chantel drifts back and forth between her obsession with chocolate, and her obsessive-compulsive desire to find the perfect romance. After the sudden death of their close friend Allison, Chantel and Astrid start to drift apart. Astrid dives into her chocolate business, while Chantel, engages in mortifying relationships.

Chantel's oldest sister, Daria, the family's maternal figure, is prickly and controlling; and she finally breaks up with her slacker boyfriend, Cameron after she finds him cooking dinner for another woman in her apartment. Astrid has a sweet plan concerning how Chantel should move on after the breakup. Chantel, who has always dated black men, is initially hesitant when Brandon, a white guy, asks her out. She quickly falls for him and they come close to marriage despite the push back and racism from both sides of the family.

But when Brandon and Daria team up together and ask an attractive black man to test Chantel's loyalty, her trust in everyone is shattered.

Chantel's spiritual friend Serenity, a black woman, with a flamboyant sense of nature and style, tries numerous methods to try and heal Chantel's love wounds. Serenity's bizarre healing attempts, causes Chantel to seek out her own therapy and healing.

Chantel's believes that her newfound chocolate healing therapy, ignites more joy than romance ever could. Chantel knows that eventually she will have to ditch her chocoholic addiction, and face her life, even if she must dig deep into her past and prod into Allison's death, to heal. But for now, Chantel is testing how far she can go before her Chocolate Burnout, sets in.

Critique: A deftly scripted, reader engaging novel that will have a special appeal to readers with an interest in interracial friendships and relationships between women, "Chocolate Burnout: Chocolate 4 Life" by Emunah La-Paz is the stuff of which Hallmark Movies are made. While highly recommended for community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Chocolate Burnout: Chocolate 4 Life" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.99, Amazon). Librarians should note for their collections that there is a large print edition of "Chocolate Burnout: Chocolate 4 Life" (Hubbard Small Press Publications, 9798985769814, $33.95, 330pp).

Editorial Note: Emunah La-Paz ( is an American author whose first book Chocolate Burnout embraces multi-cultural heritage, and is recognized in the Mavin foundation database of books by authors who touch on interracial relationships. In 2011, La-Paz published the book, Why Do Married Men Cheat with Unattractive Women?, a story based on real life events about a beautiful supermodel that becomes baffled when her husband leaves her for a so-called "unattractive woman".

The Literary Fiction Shelf

You Have Reached Your Destination
Louise Marburg
Eastover Press
9781958094006, $20.00, PB, 168pp

Synopsis: "You Have Reached Your Destination" is a short story anthology by author Louise Marburg captures the turning points in the lives of twelve disparate women. Marburg's crisp, clear-eyed prose, infused with dark humor, reveals the inevitable collapse of pretension beneath the struggles of loneliness, death, and the all too human need to be seen.

The stories range from a pre-teen attempting to understand her father's suicide, to a ninety-year-old woman caught in shadows of past marital abuse. Each of the women profiled in Marburg's stories is made to confront the reality that change is the only certainty. This collection is arguably Marburg's finest yet as she invites her readers to face themselves and their own life journeys with sympathy, humor, and courage.

Critique: Original, fascinating, deftly crafted, memorable, thoughtful and thought-provoking, all of Louise Marburg's short stories comprising "You Have Reached Your Destination" are especially recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library Contemporary Literary Fiction collections.

Editorial Note: Louise Marburg ( is the author of two previous collections of stories, "The Truth About Me" and "No Diving Allowed". Her literary work has appeared in such journals as Narrative, Ploughshares, STORY, The Hudson Review, and many others. She has been supported by the Sewanee Writers' Conference, the Kenyon Writing Workshops, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.

The Mystery/Suspense Shelf

Black Camelot's Days Of War
Darius Meyers
Independently Published
9798534010404, $14.95, PB, 328pp

Synopsis: Chief of Detectives Teddy Walker, with the help of the Society of Protectors, has kept Donald Alexander, Kwame Mills and their spectacular crew of friends dubbed the Black Camelots safe from kill squads.

Under Walker's leadership, the attacks were rebuffed and made way for a peaceful summer marked by the Black Camelot Weddings. The highly anticipated weddings captured the attention of the city, country, and the world and further burnished the Black Camelot's reputation as American royals.

Before Emancipation has re-emerged under the direction of a new and dynamic leader. His first order was to resume the deadly hunt for Black Camelot members and kill key Walker lieutenants in a full declaration of war.

Acts of vengeance are not limited to Walker's fight with Before Emancipation. Bronson Pagent remains in a bitter feud with Yancey and Dawn Davis Stuart. He makes a move that's true to his psychopathic nature and sets off a chain of reactions with consequences he never imagined.

"Black Camelot's Days of War" also follows the corrupt, former Senator Digby Yates, who emerges as a new and formidable nemesis. Yates wants to be President and yearns for a Before Emancipation race war, as it will increase his electoral chances.

In "Black Camelot's Days of War" the white supremacist attacks are no longer a secret, and the good guys have become casualties. It is a period that will leave Walker and the Black Camelots in shock and the city in terror.

Critique: "Black Camelot's Days of War" is the third volume in author Darius Myers' original and riveting Black Camelot series and continues to showcase Darius Myers impressive and narrative driven storytelling skills. Packed with action, suspense, and one compulsive thriller of a read from first page to last, "Black Camelot's Days of War" is highly recommended for community library Mystery/Suspense collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Black Camelot's Days of War" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99). It should be noted by librarians that "Black Camelot's Days of War" is also available in a large print edition (Fero Scitus, 9781639444502, $28.95, HC, 328pp).

Editorial Note: Darius Myers ( is a New York City-based fiction writer and the author of the Black Camelot book series, as well as the "Bourbon Will".

Black Camelot's Dazed By Death
Darius Myers
Independently Published
9798798058570, $15.95, PB, 308pp

Synopsis: Digby Yates and his political aspirations are also undaunted. He remains focused on his ambitions and begins courting a powerful but flawed southern televangelist family who will provide his campaign the press support it needs to win white America.

Senator Janet Bivens has reluctant ambitions for the highest office, and her team of advisers want her to go for it. Donald Alexander made a big decision, too. He announces to the public what friends and associates have long hoped he'd do. He follows Oliver's command to take his power and wealth and do some good.

Critique: Black Camelot's Dazed By Death" is Book Four of novelist Darius Myers suspense thriller Black Camelot series and like its three predecessors is a masterfully scripted action/adventure novel that will have a very special appeal to fans of dystopian suspense thriller fiction. A riveting read from cover to cover, "Black Camelot's Daze By Death" is an unreservedly recommended addition to community library Mystery/Suspense collections. It should be noted by librarians that there is also a large print edition available of Black Camelot's Daze By Death" (9781088009291, $27.75, HC, 312pp).

Editorial Note: Darius Myers ( is a New York City-based fiction writer and the author of the Black Camelot book series, as well as the "Bourbon Will".

The Honeycomb Diamond
Sara Stamford
Elite Online Publishing
9781956642308, $24.99, HC, 308pp

Synopsis: When everyone wants something you have, and they will stop at nothing to take it.

Margarita had it all. Wealth, beauty, status, a loving husband. Or so she thought. In one fateful evening, several days after her husband's accident, she loses everything as her life is plunged into utter darkness.

Taken hostage in her London townhouse by a ruthless gang appearing out of nowhere, Margarita is tortured and asked to divulge the location of her extraordinarily rare pink diamond. After a suspenseful escape, and under the pursuit of thugs who will stop at nothing to recapture her, she finally finds shelter in what she thinks is an oasis of safety -- a secret organization called Honeycomb.

With her troubles seemingly over and protected by people who anticipate and fulfill her every desire and wish, Margarita falls into a rhythm of luxury and peace. But soon, clues begin to point at something far more sinister afoot. Slowly she realizes that the price for her freedom might be far more than she can afford!

Critique: Original, riveting, memorable, "The Honeycomb Diamond" by novelist Sara Stamford is a compulsive page turner of a read from cover to cover and unreservedly recommended for community library collections. The stuff of which movies are made, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of dedicated suspense/thriller fans that "The Honeycomb Diamond" is also available in a paperback edition (9781956642315, $14.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.99).

Editorial Note: Sara Stamford ( is an impressively creative novelist who authors great and purpose-inspired stories. Her commitment is to crafting novels that center on often overlooked societal themes and characters with a keen focus on female empowerment, inclusion, reversing stereotypes, and promoting deeper understanding sets. She can be followed on, on, and on

The Karma Factor
Thomas Lane
Waterside Productions
9781958848210, $24.95, HC, 352pp

Synopsis: "The Karma Factor" by novelist Thomas Lane is the story of highly decorated but conflicted cop who gains access to a database of past lives (the Akashic Records). Using these expanded "profiles", he begins solving cases from a deeper perspective. A combination of James Bond meets Sherlock Holmes meets Siddhartha, he is forced to evolve: struggling to overcome his own dark past to take on the mantle of an "awakened" detective.

Critique: Having a very special appeal to readers with an interest in metaphysical/supernatural suspense thriller action/adventure novels, "The Karma Factor" is an original, fascinating, riveting story that fully showcases author Thomas Lane's genuine flair for the kind of imaginative and narrative driven storytelling -- and will prove to be an immediate and enduringly welcome addition to community library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Karma Factor" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.95).

Editorial Note: Thomas Lane ( is a multi-dimensional creative drawn to spaces where art, spirit, and social justice intersect. He is the author of "The Artists' Manifesto" which is a tribute to the power of the Arts, its value to a society that has forgotten the precious nature of life. In addition to a book of poetry, screenplays and paintings, he recently recorded a CD of his songs, entitled Hotel Earth under the stage name, Trakker. Politically active since his teens, Thomas subsequently created The Helen Hudson Foundation, a charitable organization focused on social issues -- including homelessness, racism, and the environment.

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

Sight Beyond the Sun
Melody Johnson
Incendi Press, LLC
9781735149943, $24.99, HC, 556pp

Synopsis: Adrenaline junkie and explosives specialist Kinsley "Switch" Morales had a chip on her shoulder long before being caught in what she suspects is some sort of intergalactic human-trafficking ring. Aliens not only exist, their reptilian bodies are stronger, their honed reflexes faster, and their shiny scales nearly impenetrable. But nothing will curb Kinsley's resolve to commandeer their spaceship and return home to Earth-even if that means crawling behind enemy lines and cozying up to their uncompromising captain.

When Raveno Hoviir catches Kinsley outside her cell, wreaking havoc in his control room, he sees more than just her strength, resolve, and courage. He sees a golden opportunity to finally root out the traitor under his command and prove his brother's loyalty before the coming revolution. After so many years undercover, Raveno is finally one mission away from saving his planet from its tyrannical ruler. He's sacrificed everything to protect his people-his love life, his anonymity, his left leg-but in his efforts to right his father's wrongs, has he inadvertently become the very monster he plans to overthrow?

As Kinsley and Raveno each attempt to exploit the other, they find more than just leverage for their separate missions. Inexplicably, they find common ground in their mutual devotion to family and service. Kinsley knows all too well the grief and guilt of making the wrong decision in the field, but will Raveno keep his word to send her home if she flips loyalties? Is Raveno's softening heart compromising his judgment, or is Kinsley's intelligence accurate? Separating truth from lies is impossible in the game of spies. Seeing beyond their surface differences and trusting in love again may be the only way to save both their people-and each other.

Critique: A brilliant blending romance with science fiction, "Sight Beyond the Sun" by author Melody Johnson is a fun and original read by an author with a genuine flair for the kind of narrative driven storytelling that makes for a memorable novel -- the kind that lingers in the mind and memory long after the book has been finished and set back upon the shelf. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Science Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Sight Beyond the Sun" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

Editorial Note: Melody Johnson ( is the author of the Love Beyond series, as well as the gritty, paranormal romance Night Blood series (Kensington Publishing/ Lyrical Press). Earning the 2021 Maggie Award of Excellence, "Beyond the Next Star" (Love Beyond, book 1) is an exciting branch from Melody's paranormal romance roots, keeping the dark grit from her Night Blood Series and taking it to new worlds. Her first published novel, "The City Beneath" (Night Blood, book 1), was a finalist in the Cleveland Rocks and Fool For Love contests.

The Sports Shelf

Underdogs and Newshounds
Chris Scudder
Projectis Publishing
9781913984090, 16.99 British Pounds, PB, 250pp

Synopsis: As England head to another World Cup in Qatar with hopes higher than ever and with the publication of "Underdogs and Newshounds: A World Cup Odyssey" former Sky presenter and correspondent Chris Skudder takes his readers on an evocative road trip, a personal journey from 1966 through to the present.

"Underdogs and Newshounds" is a frank and often irreverent on-the-road account viewed through, and beyond the eye of the camera lens that accompanied him around the globe covering the last seven tournaments. This is a compilation of stories that rarely heard and/or that could never be fully told on television. A correspondent who was never shy to tell it like it was, "Underdogs and Newshounds" is part travelogue, part memoir, and essential reading for any dedicated fan who ever hit the road for the big international tournaments or harbors a dream of doing so.

As a lifelong Birmingham City fan, Chris has experienced the lows and lowers that any struggling club or England fan knows only too well. "Underdogs and Newshounds" is comprised of 'up close' stories from one of the most traveled and experienced sports correspondents in British broadcasting, and the club 'education' that got him there. But there's much here for more than just sports fans, from someone who saw the bigger picture. It homes in on the people and the places, littered with wry humour, punctuated by dark tales from the road.

Critique: Fascinating, informative, thought-provoking, and a 'must' for all dedicated soccer fans, "Underdogs and Newshounds: A World Cup Odyssey" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, community, and academic library Sports History & Memoir collections. (

Editorial Note: Chris Skudder is one of the most travelled and experienced sports correspondents in British broadcasting. Chris was one of the original wave of broadcasters from the satellite revolution of the early 90's when Sky News shook up the establishment - one of the pioneers of rolling news and sports news. Chris also earned a place in history as the first person to commit the words 'Sky Sports' to tape, a voiceover for the original commercial tender from the days when the idea of a dedicated sports channel was first in play.

Eye witness to seven football World Cups, he is known for being in the thick of the action - interviewing everyone from die-hard fans to undercover officers and some of the biggest names in sport. With a career spanning more than 35 years - 25 of them with Sky News and Sky Sports News, he now works for ITV News, among others. He is also a podcaster, gig goer and music fan, with each chapter of his debut book, "Underdogs and Newshounds: A World Cup Odyssey", hitting the right note with a musical reference tied to the storytelling.

The Christian Studies Shelf

The 7 Big Questions: Searching for God, Truth, and Purpose
Bruce B. Miller
Global Media Outreach
9781683160205, $9.99, PB, 216pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "The 7 Big Questions: Searching for God, Truth, and Purpose", Pastor Bruce B. Miller addresses such difficult questions as: Why is life hard?", Why is there suffering?, and What is my purpose in life?

No matter our faith background or denominational affiliation within the Christian community, we all have questions about God, our purpose, and why bad things happen. Trying to find reliable answers can be overwhelming. It's hard to know who to trust with the questions you are most afraid to ask. What is needed a safe space to ask these common questions about faith.

"The 7 Big Questions" invites us to explore some of the most common questions about faith including: Does life have a purpose? Is there a God? Why does God allow pain and suffering? Is Christianity too narrow? Is Jesus God? Is the Bible reliable? Can I know God personally?

Throughout these questions and more, Pastor Miller deftly guides his readers through a thoughtful approach to finding answers for themselves.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The 7 Big Questions: Searching for God, Truth, and Purpose" is unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, church, and seminary library Christian Theology/Apologetics Studies collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of seminary students, clergy, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The 7 Big Questions" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

Editorial Note: Bruce B. Miller ( is a dedicated Christian pastor, consultant, and author. As a thought leader on faith and culture, he provides consulting, online courses, and books. He is passionate to help people grow, develop leaders, and empower churches. He consults and creates resources to foster personal growth and provides fresh insights into how we can live more productive, joy-filled lives that make a difference in a rapidly changing culture.

The Power of Positive Thinking: Interfaith 21st Century Edition
Norman Vincent Peale, author
Hasan Abdullah Ismaik, author
Waterside Productions
9781958848197, $18.95, PB, 320pp

Synopsis: Norman Vincent Peale (May 31, 1898  - December 24, 1993) was an American Protestant clergyman who served as the pastor of Marble Collegiate Church, New York, from 1932, leading this Reformed Church in America congregation for more than a half century until his retirement in 1984. Alongside his pulpit ministry, he had an extensive career of writing and editing, and radio and television presentations. Despite arguing at times against involvement of clergy in politics, he nevertheless had some controversial affiliations with politically active organizations in the late 1930s, and engaged with national political candidates and their campaigns, having influence on some, including a personal friendship with President Richard Nixon. (Wikipedia)

The Rev. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale's inspirational The Power of Positive Thinking is arguably one of the most influential books of modern times. It has sold more than twenty-four million copies worldwide and been translated into forty-two languages. It quotes generously from the Christian Bible.

Hasan Abdullah Ismaik created and annotated the Interfaith 21st Century Edition of this iconic book with analogous quotes from the Quran, the Hebrew Bible, and the modern Christian New King James Version Bible to resonate with people of all faiths, awakening them to the shared philosophy and beliefs of the three Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) and provide a unifying and universal voice in our polarized world.

Critique: The new Interfaith 21st Century edition of "The Power of Positive Thinking" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to church, synagogue, mosque, community, and academic library Spiritual Self-Help collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists of seminary students, clergy, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that this new edition is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.95).

The Self-Help Shelf

A Well-Launched Life
Bruce Sheridan
Stonebrook Publishing
9781955711074, $19.95, PB, 194pp

Synopsis: Transitioning from a teenager to a self-sufficient young adult can be a rocky road, littered with many choices to make and potholes to navigate. Choices like, should you go to college? What kind of career do you want? Will you make enough money to live and save for the lifestyle you want? What type of partner are you looking for? The choices you make during this time will impact the rest of your life, so you must choose carefully.

With the publication of "A Well-Launched Life: How Young People Can Live an Intentional, Fulfilling Life", Bruce Sheridan introduces teens and young adults to a practical and simple method for planning and living a God-centered life with few mistakes and fewer regrets.

"A Well-Launched Life" is comprised of practical, 'real world', advice on these important questions and looks at more personal questions surrounding addiction, premarital sex, and dealing with all types of abuse as Sheridan's hilarious and sometimes treacherous real-life illustrative examples about how to, or not to navigate this defining decade are presented.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "A Well-Launched Life: How Young People Can Live an Intentional, Fulfilling Life" is especially and unreservedly recommended to personal, professional, community, and highschool YA self-help/self-improvement collections. It should be noted that "A Well-Launched Life" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).

Editorial Note: Bruce Sheridan was raised in Union City, New Jersey, the fourth child in a family of eight. He earned a BS in Industrial Engineering from Georgia Tech while being a member of the Men's Varsity track team. While working for Florida Power and Light he helped design and build the power grid that supplies electricity to residential and commercial properties. While working full time, Bruce earned a Master of Science in Industrial Engineering from the University of Miami. After working for General Electric and Bank of America for many years, Bruce became an entrepreneur and started a coaching business. Bruce knows that the foundation for his success is due to his relationship with God, and he weaves these messages into his coaching.

The Criminology Shelf

Boston Tabloid: The Killing of Robin Benedict
Don Stradley
Hamilcar Publications
9781949590555, $18.99, PB, 272pp

Synopsis: The disappearance of a twenty-one-year-old woman from a Massachusetts suburb became one of the most discussed crimes of the twentieth century. The discussion intensified when the public learned that she worked as a prostitute in Boston's notorious red-light district, the "Combat Zone", and was linked by a trail of blood to a famous professor from Tufts University.

When Robin Benedict vanished the investigation and media circus that gripped the city of Boston hadn't been seen since the days of the Boston Strangler case. On a Sunday morning in March 1983, a small-time pimp walked into a police station and claimed his girlfriend was missing. He said she had been on her way to visit a client named William Douglas. In the year that followed, the case drew in detectives, state troopers, scores of journalists, and even psychics. But Robin was never found.

With the publication of "Boston Tabloid: The Killing of Robin Benedict" by Don Stradley reconstructs a grisly murder, and explores one man's bizarre obsession. In revisiting this legendary crime, Stradley consulted journalists involved in the media frenzy, prison authorities, arresting officers, and psychiatrists, all in an effort to unravel a most tangled story. Why was the city, and the nation, swept up in this sordid tale? It remains a grim and fascinating moment in Boston's history.

Critique: An exceptionally well written, organized and presented study of a notorious homicide and the mysteries that surrounded it, "Boston Tabloid: The Killing of Robin Benedict" is a riveting read from cover to cover and is especially recommended for community library True Crime collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Boston Tabloid" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9798212241298, $31.95, CD).

Editorial Note: Don Stradley ( is an award-winning writer whose work has appeared in various publications, including The Ring, Ringside Seat, and Along with his boxing coverage, he's written about baseball, NASCAR, and professional wrestling. When not writing about sports and crime, he's written about the movies for such magazines as Cinema Retro, Noir City, and Inside History. He can be followed on Twitter @DonStradley

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
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