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Small Press Bookwatch

Volume 22, Number 11 November 2023 Home | SPBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Native American Studies Shelf Biography Shelf
General Fiction Shelf Historical Fiction Shelf Literary Fiction Shelf
Romantic Fiction Shelf Western Fiction Shelf Mystery/Suspense Shelf
Fantasy/SciFi Shelf Business Shelf Christian Studies Shelf

Reviewer's Choice

Managing Major Chronic Diseases: Advice from a Patient
Alexis Dupree
Gettier Group, LLC
9781735892580 $5.99

Synopsis: Over 30 years ago, Alexis Dupree was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She thought her life was over. But it wasn't. Since then, she accumulated more diseases and had many surgeries. Even twelve major chronic diseases DIDN'T get her down.

In her book, Managing Major Chronic Diseases: Advice from a Patient, she shares her expertise of living a life with multiple major chronic diseases - and living it well. Because doctors and nurses don't live with the disease. Patients do.

In this book you will learn the following:

What changing your attitude really means
How to redefine your dreams
How to create a new game plan for your life
How to make life easier for yourself
How to manage your disease (or diseases)
What the four challenges are for any major chronic disease
What the five key tactics are for managing any major chronic disease
The vital importance of lying to yourself
How a previous prime minister of Great Britain should influence your life
How to be a survivor

Critique: Managing Major Chronic Diseases: Advice from a Patient isn't a medical book that addresses specific diseases. Instead, it is a psychological and practical self-help book written by a patient with chronic diseases, for patients with chronic diseases. Chapters focus upon the importance of adjusting one's outlook to adapt to a "new normal" while continuing to enjoy everyday life. Author Alexis Dupree draws upon her personal experience with diseases to present her insights in plain terms. "In the United States if you must go to the ER, be prepared to wait unless you are actively dying. ERs do not use a first-come, first-serve process. Instead, they sort patients' needs for medical attention using a process called triage to determine how severe patients' illnesses are. If you need to wait, it's a good thing. Yes, you will be in a lot of pain, but you aren't dying." Managing Major Chronic Diseases is a "must-read" for anyone diagnosed with a chronic disease, and an excellent supplemental resource for family members and caregivers. Highly recommended.

The Native American Studies Shelf

The Navajo Code Talkers: 50th Anniversary Edition
Doris A. Paul
Dorrance Publishing Company
585 Alpha Drive, Suite 103, Pittsburgh, PA 15238

9798890270313, $17.00, PB, 171pp

Synopsis: For five decades The Navajo Code Talkers has achieved attention and acclaim from well-respected sources. First published in 1973 over 50,000 copies have been sold to date. The book has been profiled on the ABC Nightly News and the CBS series, "An American Portrait." This new 50th Anniversary Edition from the Dorrance Publishing Company brings this informative study of the role Navajo Americans played in the Pacific Theater of World War II to a new generation of appreciative readers.

Critique: Originally reviewed by the Midwest Book Review when first published, "The Navajo Code Talkers" by Doris A. Paul continues to be 'the single most comprehensive account of the contribution of the Navajo Native Americans in World War II'. While especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, community, and college/university library World War II 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 "The Navajo Code Talkers" is now also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.33).

The Biography Shelf

Through it All
Michael Fox
Independently Published
9798988641803, $15.99, HC, 240pp

Synopsis: In late fall of 1938, the unification of Germany with Austria sent its Jewish communities into a tailspin and changed the nature of Austria's relationship with its Jewish citizens forever.

A former Jewish diplomat convinced a British Home Office Secretary to rehabilitate a WWI training center on the English coast as a refugee camp to save German and Austrian Jewish men while secretly preparing Britain for impending war. 4,000 men were saved by cooperating with Jewish authorities in Berlin and Vienna under direction of Adolf Eichmann, architect of the Nazis' final solution.

"Through it All: A Jewish refugee story of escape, war, love and identity", although a work of fiction, is true to the history of such events that were set in motion by the holocaust as represented through the story of one man -- Adolf Fuchs. It's a remarkable, informative, and thought-provoking story spanning some six decades, eight countries and two continents. Inspired by true events, it is the timeless story of Adolf's will to survive and rebuild his life.

Critique: It's the personal view of author Michael Fox that "We don't get to pick the times in which we live, and we don't get to shape the world events that test us to be our best or our worst. We live mistakenly believing that we are dancing on a large ballroom floor of our own design, with all the space we need to glide and twirl and spin. But in reality, we are dancing on the head of a pin, and any slight wind, this way or that, can push us off."

A work of deftly crafted fiction that faithfully adhere's to a backdrop of accurate historical detail and authenticity, "Through it All: A Jewish refugee story of escape, war, love and identity" will be of special and particular appeal to readers with an interest in Holocaust/Jewish Historical Fiction. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community and academic library Historical/Literary Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Through it All" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9798988641810, $10.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

Editorial Note: Michael Fox was born near Glasgow, Scotland and moved with his family to New York city at age six where he lived until moving to Madison Wisconsin to attend the University. He graduated with a Bachelor degree in Political Science from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He worked for the State of Wisconsin for thirty-one years at the Department of Health Services where he managed the State Medicaid Managed Care Program for low-income women and children. He has a life-long interest in world history and European history in particular.

A California Love Story
John W. Thill
Pacific Dream Publications
9798987849309, $16.95, PB, 283pp

Synopsis: In September 1925, young Ray Wilcox stepped off a train in Southern California. A humble midwestern man, he could hardly believe the remarkable sights before him -- the vast Pacific Ocean, the sparkling California beaches, and the stunning coastal mountain ranges.

Ray immediately began to formulate a plan for a successful life in this California paradise, but he was missing one thing: his sweetheart, Dora. As he embarked on a campaign of letters to convince her to leave Kansas and join him, a love story began to grow. Through their tender and romantic correspondence, the ambitious young couple began to dream about a blissful future together in this gorgeous place called California.

Nearly one hundred years later, John W. Thill discovered a hatbox filled with these forgotten letters from his grandparents' courtship. Within their worn folds, Thill found a story that was at once timeless and evocative, transporting him to a unique era in American history when the future of California was taking shape.

Deftly interwoven with Ray and Dora's authentic letters, Thill fondly discloses his grandparents' touching story -- from the personal and economic hardships they experienced to the romantic hopes, dreams, and commitments of their young relationship. In the pages of "A California Love Story", the optimism and perseverance of the past shines through, offering an inspiration for us all in the present day.

Critique: Charming, heartfelt, deeply personal but universal in theme, "A California Love Story" is a compelling read from start to finish and unreservedly recommended for personal, community, and academic library American Biography/Memoir collections. It should be noted that "A California Love Story" is also readily available in a digital book format ($7.99).

Editorial Note: John W. Thill ( is a learning and development specialist and adult literacy advocate serving people in Southern California. His life experience incorporates more than forty years of business and community service work. John's passion and expertise includes assisting people in understanding their strengths to better navigate relationships and lead themselves to places of fulfillment and success. He is a graduate of San Diego State University, a past president of the Rotary Club of Carlsbad and continues a fifty-year love affair with the Pacific Ocean.

So Long As It's Wild
Barbara Jenkins
9781947297715, $27.95, HC, 288pp

Synopsis: As a child growing up in the wild beauty of the Ozarks, Barbara often spent her days exploring outside and daydreaming of faraway places to escape the realities of poverty. She longed to trade her homemade clothes and outdoor toilet for spectacular adventures around the world. That chance came in the form of a young wild-eyed, long-haired "viking" man named Peter.

After an exciting courtship and a wedding on a dime, the young couple departed on foot from New Orleans on July 5, 1976, heading toward the Pacific Coast. News of the couple's expedition spread like wildfire, landing them on the cover of National Geographic Magazine and countless other publications.

Soon after beginning their nearly three-year journey, Barbara realized the funny, adventure seeking, charismatic man she married was not the loving partner she thought. Despite this realization, she continued the difficult journey, and whether she faced aggressive renegades, a life-threatening fall from Engineer Pass, or a devastating heartbreak that caused her to feel lost and alone, Jenkins pushed through it all with grit and determination.

Critique: Part memoir, part travelogue, part adventure, "So Long as It's Wild: Standing Strong After My Famous Walk Across America" is an inherently fascinating read from start to finish. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "So Long as It's Wild" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community library American Biography/Memoir collections and will prove of special appeal to readers with an interest in unique true life adventure stories as recounted by those that lived them. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "So Long as It's Wild' is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Barbara Jenkins ( grew up in the wild beauty of the Ozarks with no running water and homemade clothes. The first in her family to go beyond an 8th grade education, she received her Master's from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. She shot to fame in 1976 with her then-husband for their ambitious walk across America. That journey became the inspiration for their book "The Walk West". She has since published a number of other books, including The Road Unseen, a Gold Medallion Book Award winner. Her writing and entrepreneurship has been featured on Good Morning America, Reader's Digest and more. Jenkins now travels the country, speaking at universities, conventions, and other events about her story.

Hitman for the Kindness Club
Captain Paul Watson
c/o Book Publishing Company
9781570674129, $24.99, PB, 360pp

Synopsis: Spanning 1961 to 2022, "Hitman for the Kindness Club: High Seas Escapades and Heroic Adventures of an Eco-Activist" by Captain Paul Watson is an electrifying collection of essays capturing the spirit, mettle, and moxie of one of the most intrepid environmentalists of our times.

Paul Watson developed an enduring passion for the wild as a youngster. This zeal propelled him on an uncharted adventure of outward exploration and inner evolution, with pivotal turning points bringing him to the realization that his life's mission was to defend the natural world and all its inhabitants. In his memoir Watson takes you along for the ride as he upends the Sierra Club, co-founds Greenpeace, and eventually establishes Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

His courageous, often audacious campaigns, held on every ocean and every continent, are hallmarks of his stalwart defense of Indigenous people, marine wildlife, and ecosystems worldwide. These incredible true-life stories reveal how a dedicated group of people with gumption, resourcefulness, imagination, and clarity of purpose can change the world for the better.

Still active, with a new foundation and a loyal crew, Watson now shares his inspirational life lessons for the purpose of encouraging everyone to remain hopeful and to always be kind, without reservation or exception.

Critique: Fascinating, informative, inspiring, "Hitman for the Kindness Club: High Seas Escapades and Heroic Adventures of an Eco-Activist" by Captain Paul Watson will have a very special and particular appeal to readers with an interest in the memoirs and biographers of contemporary eco-warriors and environmental protection activists. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Hitman for the Kindness Club: High Seas Escapades and Heroic Adventures of an Eco-Activist" is a highly recommended pick for personal, professional, community, and college/university library Contemporary American/Canadian Biography/Memoir collections. It should be noted that "Hitman for the Kindness Club: High Seas Escapades and Heroic Adventures of an Eco-Activist" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Captain Paul Watson is a Canadian-American marine conservation activist, founded the direct-action group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in 1977. Watson's other recent releases include Defending Orcas (2022), Urgent! (2021), Death of a Whale (2021), and Orcapedia (2020). (

8 Reid Street: Snapshots from an Australian Beach
Cassandra Wilson
Independently Published
9798813176722, $14.99, PB, 211pp

Synopsis: Cassandra 'Sandy' Wilson's life was gravely altered with the news that young Joan Wilson is dead.

The backdrop of this memoir beginning in one of several convict-built row houses on Reid Street at Newcastle Beach, leads the reader into the world of young Australian surfing women and men, and opens front doors into the homes of the colorful characters of her youth. In her memoir, Sandy takes us good humoredly along city streets and skips the reader down lanes hidden from view, introduces parks, pools, pubs and clubs, as well as monuments and places now long gone.

Becoming a successful, fun loving student and community member, young Sandy's orderly life at 8 Reid Street living with her father and brother, is suddenly thrust into confusion and upheaval with the arrival of a disruptive woman only her father appears to know.

A collection of family snapshots of Australians celebrating a new era, gives memoir an intimate glimpse of life at that time and with familiarity and humor the writer opens the pages to give readers a look behind the curtain of those lives after WW 2 continuing through the 1960's in an honest and straight forward manner.

Critique: The mysterious death of her mother when Cassandra 'Sandy' Wilson was five propels this true-life memoir of an everyday Australian girl during the 1950's and 60's. An inherently interesting life story, "8 Reid Street: Snapshots from an Australian Beach" is an exceptionally well written and presented life story and one that is especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Biography/Memoir collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "8 Reid Street: Snapshots from an Australian Beachd" is also readily available in an inexpensive digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

Editorial Note: Cassandra 'Sandy" Wilson Joseph, now in her 70s, is a former journalist for the LA Times and college linguistics instructor. She has degrees in journalism, English and linguistics, in addition to certificates allowing her to teach English as a Second Language.

Always Moving Forward
David A. Jones
Old Stone Press
9781938462634, $34.95, HC, 550pp

Synopsis: In 1961, David Jones and another young lawyer borrowed $1,000 each to build a nursing home. That modest investment turned into Humana: first the largest nursing home company in the U.S., then the largest hospital corporation, and today one of the nation's largest health insurance companies, with 65,000 employees and a value of $65 billion.

"I've always believed there's nothing being done that can't be done better," Jones writes in his memoir "Always Moving Forward: A Memoir of Friends, Family and Building Humana", an engaging account of American entrepreneurship.

Jones also advocates hiring ordinary people who learn fast and get things done, rather than relying on expert credentials. But Always Moving Forward is about so much more as it covers:

The controversy over for-profit medicine (Jones explains why he was "proudly not non-profit."); The artificial heart (The world watched as a Humana team implanted the Jarvik-7 into a man who lived 620 days); A sixteen-year-long humanitarian mission (After the collapse of the Berlin wall and Eastern European economies, President George H. W. Bush asked Jones to help rebuild the Romanian healthcare system, which had been devastated by war and a corrupt dictator); 9/11 (Jones and 23 Humana executives were at Ground Zero when the planes hit. They tell the harrowing story); Life lessons learned (For example, "Family first" and "You don't have a clear idea unless it fits on the back of a business card."); Business failures as well as successes.

Jones was also a great philanthropist, although mostly anonymously. His final legacy is one of the largest metropolitan parks completed this century -- a project led by him and one of his sons in their hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.

Critique: Of particular merit and value for readers with an interest in Business Professionals Biographies & Memoirs, as well as the American healthcare system, "Always Moving Forward: A Memoir of Friends, Family and Building Humana" is a fascinating, informative, and inspiring life story as recounted by the co-founder, CEO and chairman of the board of Humana Inc., a for-profit American health insurance company based in Louisville, Kentucky. While also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.49), "Always Moving Forward: A Memoir of Friends, Family and Building Humana" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and college/university library American Biography/Memoir collections.

The General Fiction Shelf

Mr. Bridges
Jessie Thorpe
Mountain Lake Press
9781959307211, $24.95, HC, 265pp

Synopsis: Jack Bridges is the popular principal at Great Forest elementary school in suburban Washington, D.C. His easy manner and likeability contribute to his success and job satisfaction. Each day, he attends to his work and returns home to his wife Greta and their three young sons, Chris, Bud, and Sam.

Nina Talbott is a housewife living near the school. She is raising two daughters, Polly and Elaine, while her husband Tom travels frequently for his job. Eventually, and inevitably, Jack and Nina connect and consummate a passionate affair, thereby setting into motion a relationship full of private excitement and hope for future happiness.

Jack also experiences a personal epiphany when he returns to the small Michigan lakeside town where he spent an idyllic youth. But a personal tragedy forces him to make a fateful and likely irrevocable life choice.

Critique: Following author Jessie Thorpe's acclaimed debut novel "Bolton Roper", her new title, "Mr. Bridges" is deftly set in the 1980s and once again showcases her natural flair as a novelist for both originality and the kind of narrative drive storytelling style that is replete with the types of details and descriptions that provide a feeling of authenticity, believability, and reader engagement that raises a novel to the level of fine literature. While "Mr. Bridges" is unreservedly recommended for community and academic library American Contemporary Literary Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Mr. Bridges" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.99).

Editorial Note: Jessie Thorpe, during her time at United Press International, quickly gained a loyal following for her breezy but insightful reviewer critiques of books, films and occasional social events. Using her lifetime love and study of literature and nonfiction, Jessie Thorpe had developed the keenest of eyes for spotting new and emerging talents -- and for poking well-deserved holes into substandard works by famous authors and personalities. Her book reviews consistently presented unique perspectives and insights, and her thoughtful essays matched the observational prowess of much more widely known commentators. They remain trenchant and persuasive despite the passage of time.

Children of Tomorrow
J.R. Burgmann
Enfield & Wizenty
c/o Great Plains Press
9781773371092, $17.95, PB, 256pp

Synopsis: "Children of Tomorrow" by novelist J.R. Burgmann is a history of family and friendship that spans generations and geographies over a century of escalating climate change.

In 2016, Arne Bakker is working on a reforestation project in Tasmania shortly before bushfires sweep across the ancient wilderness. Elsewhere, London - born freedriver Evie Weatherall witnesses extreme climate events in her travels. Arne's close friend and Evie's Canadian cousin Wally, influencer, journalist, and musician, also sees a dangerous future forming. Meanwhile, Arne's brother Freddie, "a shredded poster boy for global environmental activism," is mobilizing his followers. When their paths collide, the group is set on course to witness and struggle together against the coming century.

Decades later, a new generation is living with the havoc wreaked by their parents and grandparents and they too must find ways to find hope for the future in an increasingly difficult present.

Critique: Although "Children of Tomorrow" by J.R. Burgmann is a work of fiction, the extrapolations of how the environmental crises brought about by climate change will affect future (and not-so-future) generals are in full alignment with today's science based forecasts. Articulate, riveting, deftly crafted, and thought-provoking, "Children of Tomorrow" is especially and unreservedly recommended for both community and college/university library fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Children of Tomorrow" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: J.R. Burgmann is an emerging writer and critic. He is a graduate of the University of Melbourne and received his PhD in Literary and Cultural Studies from Monash University, where he is based at the Monash Climate Change Communication Research Hub. "Children of Tomorrow" is his debut novel and was highly commended in the Victorian Premier's Literary Awards 2021 in the category of unpublished manuscripts. In 2022 he was awarded a Wheeler Centre Hot Desk Fellowship.

Beijing Tales
Randy Lu
Soaring Dragon Press
9780578832838, $21.61, PB, 457pp

Synopsis: It is the year 2013. Parsley Wang, an employee of Sin Man Bank, has another romantic failure that she blames on her destiny as a dutiful Chinese daughter living with an elderly widowed mother whose Chinese-ness is at odds with her desire to assimilate.

Grace Kim, Parsley's best friend and co-worker, signs up for a post at the new overseas bank branch in Beijing. She believes it would benefit Parsley to work there, too, and applies for Parsley without consulting, her. Both women's applications are accepted.

Mr. McGee, the widowed neighbor who harbors romantic feelings for Mrs. Wang (unbeknownst to her and Parsley), assures Parsley he can help out her mother, Mrs. Wang, while Parsley is away.

Beijing unexpectedly dazzles Parsley with striking new buildings, scenic parks, and palaces. She immerses herself in the city and its culture and begins to appreciate her Chinese heritage. And she also meets a Chinese Canadian named Andrew Han.

But all is not well. Tina Grecian, the Beijing branch head, works with Jim Clark, a regional head of the bank in the U.S. to embezzle money from the bank for a dream life in Buenos Aires and will let nothing get in her way. And Mr. McGee's daughter, Wynn, and her sister Megan want Mrs. Wang out of their father's life.

Critique: Original, fascinating, entertaining, and exceptionally well written from start to finish, "Beijing Tales" by Randy Lu is an exceptional and memorable novel that reveals its author to have a genuine flair for the kind of detailed background and narrative storytelling style that will fully engage the reader throughout. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community and college/university library Literary Fiction collections, it should be noted for fans of cultural heritage fiction that "Beijing Tales" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.95).

Editorial Note: Randy Lu is a Los Angeles area artist, poet, and writer. Living overseas in Western Europe and East Asia prior to becoming an artist has had a profound influence on her thought and approach to art. Her travels in the U.S. and abroad have inspired numerous paintings. Randy Lu began writing poetry and fiction in high school. As with her artwork, her subject matter and unique style have been influenced by her experiences abroad which include extensive time in China and Japan. She is also the founder of Randy Lu Pastels And Watercolor (

The Historical Fiction Shelf

Stories from War: Vietnam
John S. O'Connor II
Dorrance Publishing Company
585 Alpha Drive, Suite 103, Pittsburgh, PA 15238
9798887294988, $28.00, HC, 134pp

Synopsis: A work of fiction but one that is solidly based on real incidents and real people, "Stories from War: Vietnam" vividly details the brutality of the Vietnam War through a series of short stories. From the horrors of war, the immense loneliness, to small moments of levity, each story is a reminder that soldiers, on both sides of a war, are people; men fighting for their lives and to make their way back home. Within these tales lies just a glimpse into a nightmarish world only a brave few heroes have ever witnessed.

Critique: A riveting, impressively crafted, and truly memorable read from start to finish, "Stories from War: Vietnam" by John S. O'Connor will have a special value to readers with an interest in the Vietnam War and the impact it had on the physical and mental well-being of the people who lived there and the men who fought there. Highly recommended for community library Military Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Stories from War: Vietnam" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.00).

We Are Like Fire
Mike Goodenow Weber
Independently Published
9798354671366, $12.45, PB, 317pp

Synopsis: In 1958 and 1959, when few West Germans had yet reached moral clarity following Hitler's Third Reich, American psychologist Ren Prothero is inspired to help his German friend Dieter Ulrich break free from his society's Nazi past.

As Ren, Dieter, and their relatives and friends collaborate on theatrical plays, Ren also aims to bring fresh insight to their German audiences. As their performances about the tragic poetic genius Friedrich Holderlin move from Denver to Berlin and Frankfurt, will Ren's dream reach fruition or will his friends' Nazi nightmare come to haunt him as well?

Critique: Mike Goodenow Weber's first novel, "Renaissance Radio", compelled his readers into the very heart of the lived experience of the Jazz Generation. His next novel, "We Are Like Fire" takes us into the depths of the World War II Generation's struggle -- events that still speaks to us today: After the darkness of Fascism and authoritarianism in human souls, minds, and cultures, how can people step into the light of their full humanity? A timely, fascinating, and critically relevant read given the new rise of the same forces that once resulted in the genocide of the Holocaust, "We Are Like Fire" is especially and unreservedly recommended pick for community and college/university library Historical Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "We Are Like Fire" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.45).

Editorial Note: Mike Goodenow Weber ( has worked with more than 700 elected leaders from 45 states on policy, communications, or both, including writing 2,000 speeches. He began his literary career as a researcher for author Marilyn Ferguson and writing for the Brain / Mind Bulletin, the internationally influential journal about consciousness, psychology, and human potential. In 2007, he published his book "Visionary Behavior: Creative Intelligence in Action".

The Literary Fiction Shelf

The Literary Undoing of Victoria Swann
Virginia Pye
9781646033973, $19.95, PB, 312pp

Synopsis: Victoria Swann is a successful author of romance and adventure novels who becomes a champion of women's rights as she takes on the literary establishment and finds her true voice, both on and off the page.

Everything changes for Victoria when she goes against her publisher's demands and abandons her frivolous style to tell her own story. Her new, young, Harvard-bred editor becomes her unexpected ally as she fights for the women who have been her faithful readers.

Set in Gilded Age Boston, "The Literary Undoing of Victoria Swann" shows writing and reading as acts of defiance and revision in life and revision on the page as intimately entwined.

Critique: A fun and thought-provoking read from start to finish, "The Literary Undoing of Victoria Swann" is a deftly crafted novel that showcases author Virginia Pye's genuine flair for originality and the kind of narrative storytelling style that will make "The Literary Undoing of Victoria Swann" linger in the mind and memory of the reader long after it is finished and set back upon the shelf. While also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.49), "The Literary Undoing of Victoria Swann" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community and college/university library Historical Literary Fiction collections.

Editorial Note: Virginia Pye (" is the author of the story collection "Shelf Life of Happiness" which won the 2019 IPPY Gold Medal for Short Fiction. Her two historical novels set in China, "Dreams of the Red Phoenix" and "River of Dust", also received literary awards. Her essays have appeared in The New York Times, Literary Hub, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. She is Fiction Editor at Pangyrus and has taught writing at NYU, UPenn, and at GrubStreet Writing Center in Boston.

The Language of Kin
Lynne Hugo
Amphorae Publishing Group
9781943075775, $18.99, PB, 372pp

Synopsis: Eve, a chimpanzee orphaned by poachers and used for experiments in a medical lab, can finally lead a new life. When she arrives at the Dayton Zoo, Kate and Marc must overcome professional differences to build a relationship with her.

Forced to work together, Kate and Marc find common ground when they discover they both are the sole caregivers for their mothers, one who has been deaf her entire life and the other who recently lost her ability to process words.

After a life-threatening crisis occurs, can they find the courage (and the shared language) to reach across these silent divides to heal the ones they love?

Critique: A work of fiction that rises to an impressive level of literary excellence, "The Language of Kin" by novelist Lynne Hugo is deftly and beautifully written exploration of how the language of healing can transcend seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Especially and unreservedly recommended for community and college/university library Literary Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Language of Kin" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.49).

Editorial Note: Lynne Hugo ( is the author of ten previous novels. She is also a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship recipient who has also received grants from the Ohio Arts Council and the Kentucky Foundation for Women. Her memoir, Where the Trail Grows Faint: A Year In the Life of A Therapy Dog Team, won the Riverteeth Literary Nonfiction Book Prize.

The Romantic Fiction Shelf

Start Us Up
Lexi Blake
Blue Box Press
Brilliance Audio
9781957568669, $19.99, PB, 250pp

Synopsis: She's a high-tech boss who lost it all. Ivy Jensen was the darling of the tech world, right up until her company fell apart completely after she trusted the wrong person. Her reputation in tatters, she finds herself back in the tiny apartment she grew up in, living with her mom. When a group of angel investors offer her a meeting, she knows she has to come up with the new big idea or her career is over.

He's an up and coming coder. Heath Marino has always been fascinated with writing code. He's worked on a dozen games and apps and is considered one of the industry's more eccentric talents. But now he's back in New York to spend time with his grandmother. She was known as one of the city's greatest matchmakers, and he wants to know why. Surely there's some kind of code in his grandmother's methods, and he's going to find them.

When Ivy meets Heath it's instant attraction, but she's got a career to get back to and he just might be her on-ramp. It could be a perfect partnership or absolute heartbreak.

Critique: With an immediate appeal and of particular interest for fans of contemporary romantic comedy, "Start Us Up" is a Park Avenue Promise Novel by author Lexi Blake and a fun read from start to finish. The stuff from which Hallmark rom- com movies are made, "Start Us Up" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Contemporary Romance fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Start Us Up" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Brilliance Audio, 9798400148019, $19.99, MP3-CD).

Editorial Note: Lexi Blake ( began writing at a young age, concentrating on plays and journalism. It wasn't until she started writing romance and urban fantasy that she found the stories of her heart. She likes to find humor in the strangest places and believes in happy endings no matter how odd the couple, threesome, or foursome may seem. She has a newsletter and can be followed on Facebook (

The Western Fiction Shelf

Death In The Tallgrass
Donald Willerton
Independently Published
9798988525301, $18.95, PB, 346pp

Synopsis: "Death in the Tallgrass" by novelist Donald Willerton follows a young man in 1904 as he searches for his mother's brother, who was kidnapped by Comanche warriors thirty-four years before.

Crossing the rugged prairies and canyons of New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma, Harry Bonner is confronted by land, people, and cultures that challenge his upbringing as a privileged child of a wealthy family. He battles Comanche magic, puzzles his way through dreams of his uncle fighting against his enemies, and suffers the brutality of men terrorizing the Texas countryside -- all while being consumed by a new-found love in the unlikeliest of people.

When that love is taken from him, Harry explodes with violence and rage, betraying the personal values he has always respected. He is emotionally adrift on the prairie when he is called to witness the last episode of his uncle's life.

Critique: An inherently engaging and deftly crafted novel from start to finish, "Death in the Tall Grass" showcases author Donald Willerton's genuine flair for originality and the kind of narrative driven storytelling style that fully engages his readers throughout. Highly recommended for the personal reading lists of readers with an interest in western action/adventure sagas, and an ideal pick for community library Western Fiction collections, it should be noted that "Death in the Tall Grass" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).

Editorial Note: Don Willerton ( has set most of his novels against the mountains, rivers, and canyons of the American West. Writing since the 1990s, he has also produced ten books of the Mogi Franklin Mystery Series, which combines Southwest landscapes, history, and lore to create mysteries involving a middle-grade sleuth and his older sister; a supernatural suspense novel centered around an abandoned house that has a personality; a thriller combining the two problems of homelessness and ocean pollution; and a WWII novel of a young man's war experiences set against the breakdown of his family life, based on the war itinerary of Willerton's father.

The Mystery/Suspense Shelf

Little Follies: A Mystery at the Millennium
Carolyn Korsmeyer
Black Rose Writing
9781685131050, $23.95, PB, 355pp

Synopsis: A visit to Krakow intended to test a new relationship turns out to be fraught with danger when two Americans encounter a man pursuing a dark ambition in the waning months of the last millennium.

Adam Kasper is a historian delving into the archives of an old museum; traveling with him is Joan Templeton, a journalist. Although they have come to Poland together in hopes that their new romance might flourish, Adam's work is all-consuming, and Joan finds better company with Rudy Vander Lage, a lecturer at the university who is coping with widowhood. By chance, they cross paths with Pawel Radincki, a man of unstable mind who hopes to transform his life by means both criminal and occult.

Adam's obsession with his research leads him to commit a serious breach of academic protocol. Although their relationship is disintegrating, Joan decides to help him with a bold and risky plan, and she enlists the aid of Rudy. Neither realizes that the risks they take will stymie Pawel's plans and put Joan's life in danger. Theft, murder, and magic propel the plot, which reaches a climax at the turn of the millennium, when relationships are realigned and follies laid bare.

Critique: A skilled and riveting read from start to finish, "Little Follies: A Mystery at the Millennium" showcases author Carolyn Korsmeyer's genuine flair for originality and the kind of narrative driven storytelling style that will have special appeal for readers with an interest in international crime thrillers. While also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.99), "Little Follies: A Mystery at the Millennium" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Mystery/Suspense collections.

Editorial Note: Carolyn Korsmeyer is both a novelist and a philosopher. She is especially interested in how the senses and emotions are engaged by works of art, themes prominent in three of her philosophy books: Things: In Touch with the Past, Savoring Disgust: The Foul and the Fair in Aesthetics, and Making Sense of Taste: Food and Philosophy. She is keen to explore the ways that fiction can revive lives from long ago by engaging the reader in the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of the past. Her first novel, Charlotte's Story, imagines the life that Charlotte Lucas (of Pride and Prejudice) might have had after her hasty marriage. Details about her work can be found at her website:

The Hacker Trilogy
Deb Radcliff
Archway Publishing

The Hacker Trilogy is a new series by author Deb Radcliff that will have a very special appeal to readers with an interest in cybercrime novels replete with mystery, suspense and the unexpected.

The trilogy consists of:

"Breaking Backbones: Information is Power" (9781665701099, $33.95 HC, $14.99 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 196pp)

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.

"Breaking Backbones: Information Should Be Free" (9781665727006, $35.95 HC, $18.99 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 280pp)

Cy is still healing from injuries that almost killed her during Operation Backbone when she is called back for a very personal reason. Her son Michael is in the clutches of Damian Strandeski, former chairman of the GlobeCom board and kingpin behind all criminal syndicates operating on the dark web.

Cy quickly deduces that her son is collateral damage in Damian's grab for the lead developer behind a new artificial intelligence named Telos, which is more powerful than GlobeCom was. As she heads to Europe on a rescue mission, Cy's eldest son Adam enlists their clan's rogue copy of Telos to aggressively search for Damian. Then the AI seems to take matters into its own hands...

As they execute their plan to save Michael and catch Damian, Cy and her team face unforeseen retaliation that endangers them all. Will they finally defeat Damian, or will he once again take control of the world through technology?

"Breaking Backbones: From Chaos to Order" (9781665747271, $43.99 HC, $20.99 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 290pp)

In this exciting conclusion to the Breaking Backbones Hacker Trilogy, Cy and Ying are locked in a lover's triangle while their respective governments try to exploit them for their access to a powerful new Artificial Intelligence (AI) named Telos.

From their hideout at the Russian River, Cy and her freedom hackers are using Telos to systematically dismantle Damian Strandeski's criminal empire and redistribute the criminal gains to victims, the needy, and important social causes, reigning in a new era of innovation and sustainable technology. Ying, meanwhile, is using a copy of Telos at an estate in France to get revenge against those who interned her family in the work camps. She is also using Telos to find her missing husband, reported dead four years earlier, but who Ying discovers is very much alive - and with another woman.

With larger forces coming after Telos, a cyberwar erupts, taking out power in America, France and China, and pushing Ying and Cy closer together, ultimately forcing them to make the most difficult decisions of their lives.

Critique: All three novels in this simply outstanding series raise a number of important questions around invasions of privacy in a global bid for power through the use of technology. All three of these impressively original, deftly crafted, memorably entertaining, and thought-provoking novels by author Deb Radcliff's are expressly and unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as community, and college/university library cybercrime, science fiction, and suspense thriller collections.

Editorial Note: Deb Radcliff ( is the first investigative journalist to make cybercrime a beat. Since 1996, she has been embedded in the hacker and law enforcement communities learning their techniques, lifestyles, and philosophies that make them unique. Radcliff has won two Neal Awards for investigative reporting, and feels one of her crowning career moments was addressing engineering students and faculty at West Point Military Academy in 2001.

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

The Amber Menhir
Jonathan N. Pruitt
Spinner Loom Press
9798988661153, $35.99, HC, 384pp

Synopsis: With each new dawn, the celestial body known only as 'Calamity' draws closer - and with it the end of the world. Humanity's only hope from oblivion rests in the menhirs, towering bastions of scholarship and imagination which cast long shadows across the lands. The scholars within the menhirs devote themselves selflessly to the discovery of new magic that will help avert the impending apocalypse -- or so the masses have been made to understand.

In a society divided between those with occult potential and lay citizens, Tara Langcraw is recruited into the Amber Menhir with great interest. The long-awaited heiress of a bloodline bearing the rarest of the six magical disciplines, time manipulation, she is expected to flourish within this noble citadel of learning, as are her friends and fellow recruits, Roland Ward and Peony Bianchi.

They soon find, however, that those who fail to meet expectations, or who dare to challenge the prevailing order, put more than their marks on the line. For the menhir squirms with rivalries, and those who stand against the status quo may not stand for very long.

Critique: Original, fun, laced throughout with humor and suspense, and a compulsive page-turner of a read from start to finish, "The Amber Menhir" by author Jonathan N. Pruitt is especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Science Fiction & Fantasy collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of readers with an interest in satirical and epic fantasy, that "The Amber Menhir" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9798988661108, $18.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $0.99).

Editorial Note: Jonathan N. Pruitt ( is a lifelong educator, a former scientific researcher, and a provocative fantasy author. With his debut novel "The Amber Menhir," Pruitt delivers biting humor, deep human insights, and a unique scientist's perspective. His life experiences - from living in diverse corners of the world like South Africa, Namibia, Australia, and Canada, to navigating the wild landscape of his career - richly inform his narratives. Pruitt's storytelling defies reality yet resonates with emotional truth. He makes readers question the differences between good and evil, and the murky area between the two.

Wayne's Angel Trilogy
Ron W. Mumford
3rd Coast Books, LLC

'Wayne's Angel' is a new trilogy of Christian science fiction and fantasy from the mind and imagination of author/storyteller Ron W. Mumford. The trilogy consists of:

"Wayne's Angel" (9781946743091, $14.95 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 240pp) is the first title of Mumord's trilogy.

All the ladies love Wayne Tyler and he loves all the ladies. Able to impersonate just about any rock or country singer in the business to a tee, he is a talented musician and singer. When he auditions at Tequilaville, a new lakeside club near N.A.S.A. in Houston, Texas, he meets the lady co-owner, Abby Hawkins, a grounded business woman who is instantly smitten.

At their first encounter with Wayne, Abby tells her father, "Daddy Hank, it's time to undo the laces" and takes the womanizer home with her, much to her Dad's disapproval. After being falsely accused of sleeping with Abby's free-spirited sister, Bella, Wayne gets drunk, hot-wires a boat and heads into Galveston Bay late at night to attempt suicide.

That's when the supernatural explodes! Wayne is water spouted into another realm and is given three choices by his guardian angel, Gordon, a.k.a. Mr. Elroy, an old black blues singer. Wayne chooses to face his demons. Some are cunning, some are funny and often charming. Some are vicious with one aim in mind - to claim Wayne's soul. If Wayne is victorious, his prize will be to learn what true love is. There are no guarantees in this unusual, beyond supernatural realm. Wayne may never return... but if he does, the rewards are great.

"Betwixt" (9781946743190, $14.95 PB, $3.99 Kindle, 256pp) is the second title of Mumford's trilogy. features ore supernatural, greater battles and the introduction of Dr. Helle Guyion, the most evil woman in the entire world. Her powers are beyond this earth as she begins to shape, manipulate and deceive our characters.

There is an modern day introduction of Pandora's Box that defies the intellect of the world's greatest scientists. It contains visions of the future displaying unknown formulas and a "dooms-day" bomb with a missing ingredient, causing nations to scurry for world dominance.

There are more unexplainable phenomena that leave Wayne Tyler, wife Abby, Daddy Hank, Robbie and Bella Cantrell in complete awe. As usual, Mr. Elroy, A.K.A. Gordon, Wayne's angel, is present to calm their fears. And who is this new lady, Liz, that makes Daddy Hank's world stand still?

"Z-Gen - The Last Generation" (9781946743398, $17.95 PB, $3.99 Kindle, 235pp) is the third title in Mumford's trilogy in which The Son of Perdition wages war against Almighty God for control of Earth -- World War III.

Twenty years after Hank Hawkins' warrior death in "Betwixt", and the births of Billy Wayne Tyler, Abby and Wayne's son, and Johnny Hank Hawkins, Hank's son, life in Clear Lake has settled down. When Billy Wayne miraculously heals a young boy, the former nightclub becomes Miracle Church with Gordon, Wayne's Angel, watching over.

When Abby and Liz gave birth to their sons, Dr. Helle Guyion, the most evil woman in the world, also gave birth to her son. Helel carries a Hebrew name for "the morning star," the same as a proud, rebellious archangel, Lucifer. Helel secretly studies at Satan's feet for five years, gaining superior knowledge in every subject known to mankind plus powers which no one has seen since Jesus Christ walked the earth. Helel is the Son of Perdition prophesied in the Bible, the anti-Christ.

Helel meets with the Russian, Chinese, N. Korean, and Iranian heads of state. He offers One World Government, for sale to the highest bidder and performs special "miracles" before the powerful men. The Axis powers are born. When Helel tells them about a super, missing ingredient, searched for by scientists for decades, which can destroy everything, the Axis powers finally see their way to eliminate the U.S. After Helel survives a hypersonic blast, they realize he could use his powers against them.

On a special day in Clear Lake, the miracle maker, Billy Wayne, the hellfire minister, Johnny Hank, and son of Satanic power, Helel, finally meet -- and all hell erupts.

Critique: With a special appeal to reader's with an interest in apocalyptic fiction, and while each individual titles can be read and enjoyed as a stand-alone novel, the "Wayne's Angel" trilogy by Ron W. Mumford is original, entertaining, action packed, memorable, and exceptionally well written, and highly recommended reading featuring Christian apocalyptic fantasy, romance, mystery and suspense. As a trilogy, as well as individually, "Wayne's Angle", "Betwixt', and "Z-Gen - The Last Generation" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists and community library Science Fiction & Fantasy collections.

Editorial Note: Ron Mumford was a Journalism major, Business minor at the University of North Texas and has written for magazines, news papers and was a front line Combat Correspondent in the U.S. Army and awarded two Bronze Stars for his service. His works include a novel entitled "Gray Justice," an exciting action/thriller/courtroom drama. "Finding Your Soul Mate, God's Way," was published after exhaustive biblical research on what God says about Soul Mates. He promises that if we do our part, He will send us our soul mate...This book tells us what our part is and that we'll know who our soul mate is in His timing.

The Business Shelf

The Growth Leader
Scott K. Edinger
Fast Company Press
Brilliance Audio
9781639080472, $27.95, HC, 216pp

Synopsis: The basic premise of "The Growth Leader: Strategies to Drive the Top and Bottom Lines" by Scott K. Edinger is that growth is a leadership issue, not a sales issue.

However you define business growth (total revenue, net income, margin expansion, number of products and services, or customer loyalty) sustained and strategic growth requires an organization to do more than sell by simply communicating the value of its products or services. It must create value in the way it sells by delivering a compelling experience that adds value beyond the product itself. As a leader, it's your job to build and guide that experience.

"The Growth Leader" reveals how top executives create profitable growth through the intersection of strategy, leadership, and sales. With a clear strategy, inspiring leadership, and aligned sales, powerful leaders understand that true competitive advantage doesn't come from innovation alone but belongs to companies that use their sales organization to add and create value. In this leadership guide, you'll learn how to ensure growth strategy is aligned at every level of the company, from boardroom initiatives to daily customer interaction.

With the publication of "The Growth Leader", leadership author and business growth consultant Scott K. Edinger helps CEOs and leaders intentionally and strategically engage with the customer experience to differentiate, innovate, cultivate loyalty, and grow. With this growth strategy mindset, your teams will know what they're supposed to be doing, have the skills to accomplish their work at a high level, and be properly supported by systems, process, and environment. But they can only do all this if you lead them -- if you are willing to be a Growth Leader.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The Growth Leader: Strategies to Drive the Top and Bottom Lines" will be of particular, practical, and special value to readers with an interest in business management, strategy, competition, forecasting, and corporate leadership. While especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, corporate, and college/university library Business Management collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists, it should be noted for MBA students, academia, coporate executives, business managers, and non- specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Growth Leader" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Brilliance Audio, 9781799746201, $29.99, MP3-CD).

Editorial Note: Scott K. Edinger ( is a premier consultant for leading business growth who has worked with CEOs and senior leaders to develop pragmatic strategies and execute approaches to drive top and bottom line results. He has written three books and over a hundred articles in Forbes and Harvard Business Review, among other prominent publications. Scott has served as an affiliate faculty member for the University of North Carolina, Kenan-Flagler School of Business. He received a B.S. in Communication Studies and Rhetoric from Florida State University, where he sat on alumni committees including the Board of the College of Communication and Information, as well as the Seminole Torchbearers.

The Christian Studies Shelf

Who Is This God?: A Handbook for Life with Him
Paul Bryan
Lucid Books
9781632966087, $24.99, PB, 392pp

Synopsis: In the first chapter of "Who Is This God?: A Handbook for Life with Him", author Paul Bryan draws our attention to his impetus in writing the book -- the state of unbelief in God in America today.

Bryan argues that there is a pandemic of infectious unbelief in America and the world today! According to a 2020 survey, ninety-four percent of adult Americans say knowing the God of the Bible is not important. Instead, they have created their own idea of who they want Him to be.

So where have you placed your faith and trust? "Who Is This God?: A Handbook for Life with Him" is firmly rooted in the solid ground of the Bible and God's true nature.

Embedded in the forty-three chapter narratives are nearly three hundred questions, six hundred and sixty scripture quotations, and seventy true stories. These stories include miracles of healing, deliverance, and protection only the God of the Bible can do. You will also see that God communicates through His Spirit with those who sincerely seek Him.

Critique: As informed and informative as it is inspired and inspiring, "Who Is This God?: A Handbook for Life with Him" is an especially and unreservedly recommended pick for clergy, seminary students, and all members of the Christian community regardless of their denominational affiliations. It should be noted for personal reading lists and Biblical Studies curriculums that "Who Is This God?: A Handbook for Life with Him" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Paul Bryan 's passion has been to know and serve the God of the Bible since he committed his life to Jesus Christ in 1976. He has served in leadership and teaching roles with various churches during this time. Although he was involved in many ministries, he feels his most important contributions to the Christian faith have been teaching adults to know the Bible and the God of the Bible as He truly exists. He spent his professional career in technology, mainly in management, working for multiple large organizations, including General Motors, Electronic Data Systems, and AT&T. He worked for cru (a Christian non-profit organization) in their technology department for five years, building and managing a technology project management office. He taught business courses at Southern Oregon University and the University of Central Florida for several years. He has a bachelor's degree in psychology and an MBA. Paul and his wife, Linda, live in southern Indiana.

Refuge of Grace: Finding Your Safe Place
Tracy L. Smoak
Bold Vision Books
9781946708953, $17.99, PB, 172pp

Synopsis: Anyone hoping for straight talk to bring Jesus close will find refreshment and inspiration in "Refuge of Grace: Finding Your Safe Place" by Tracy L. Smoak. The reader will gain a fresh look at 22 little-told Bible passages enhanced by her engaging storytelling and her vivid imagery.

These are scriptures that offer you as the reader true comfort in your everyday struggles. Ranging from hearing Gomer's perspective about shame, to imagining Jesus arriving in a Rolls Royce for the family reunion, "Refuge of Grace: Finding Your Safe Place" reveals that you can and will know God's working on your behalf-right now.

Critique: Inspired and inspiring, "Refuge of Grace: Finding Your Safe Place" is especially recommended reading for any member of the Christian community who is in need of a stronger connection with God -- be they clergy, seminary students, or ordinary followers of Jesus Christ trying their best to adhere to His expectations of us all.

Editorial Note: The Tracy L. Smoak website ( Finding Hope also includes her blog, devotionals, bible study guides, and information about all her books.

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

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