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Small Press Bookwatch

Volume 21, Number 9 September 2022 Home | SPBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Jobs/Careers Shelf Money/Finance Shelf
Cookbook Shelf Biography ShelfGeneral Fiction Shelf
Literary Fiction Shelf Mystery/Suspense Shelf Fantasy/SciFi Shelf
Poetry Shelf Journalism Shelf Christian Studies Shelf

Reviewer's Choice

Soldiers' Blood and Bloodied Money: Wars and the Ruling Elites
Allen B. Clark, author
Jess B. Johnson, contributor
Combat Faith
9780692111987, $14.99, PB, 470pp

Synopsis: West Pointer Allen B. Clark (USMA Class of 1963) knows about blood. As an Army officer assigned to Special Forces in clandestine intelligence operations in the Vietnam War, he shed "soldier's blood" in an enemy mortar attack on his camp in 1967. Blessed with life after surviving the loss of both legs, he returned to life as a veteran who served his country.

Subsequent to experiences in a variety of political, public service, and financial endeavors, he began to acquire a keen interest in the real causes of wars and their attendant casualties throughout history in contrast to the histories written by potentially biased sources. Healing from the emotional issues related to his wounds, he grew in spiritual depth and faith.

His extensive and concentrated research over many years motivated him to pen Soldiers' Blood and Bloodied Money, a hard-hitting work that pulls no punches and exposes the "usual suspects" who have profited from wars and derived their "bloodied money."

Considerable and wide-ranging studies have resulted in this publication, which names the individuals and institutions throughout history who have fostered and fomented horrendous wars, such as arms merchants, religious leaders, politicians, international bankers, media titans, lawyers, and "secret societies". His findings, from sources published as far back as 150 years ago, will captivate and shock readers.

No ordinary collection of conspiracy theories, "Soldiers' Blood and Bloodied Money: Wars and the Ruling Elites" will enable the reader to grasp the political, financial, business, religious, social, and propaganda-based truths leading to wars with a special focus on the American Revolution, Civil War, Spanish-American War, and the "Banana, Banker, and Oil Wars" in the Americas.

Clark concludes "Soldiers' Blood and Bloodied Money: Wars and the Ruling Elites" with his spiritual approach for veterans to heal from wartime traumas.

Critique: A detailed and fascinating read from cover to cover, and especially recommended for personal, community, college, and university library collections, "Soldiers' Blood and Bloodied Money: Wars and the Ruling Elites" is a compelling and detailed expose of how the desire for power, wealth and fame on the part of a few has wrought such horrific devastation on the many with respect to the wars and rumors of war throughout the last the last 300 years of American history.

Editorial Note: The Honorable Allen B. Clark graduated the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1963. In 1966, he volunteered for service as an Army Intelligence officer in the Republic of Vietnam, in which assignment he was involved in clandestine activities to include debriefing a defector, training anti-Communists in helicopter insertions into Cambodia, and organizing intelligence-gathering operations against enemy base camps in the tri-border area of South Vietnam.

On June 17, 1967, Allen was wounded in an enemy mortar barrage and was returned for fifteen months of hospitalization that included amputation of both legs below the knees, multiple surgeries and a fourteen-week residency in a closed psychiatric ward at Brooke Army Medical Center, for what would later be described as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). For his service in Vietnam, he is a recipient of a Silver Star, America's third-highest decoration for Gallantry in Action, a Purple Heart, and the Combat Infantryman's Badge.

His political service began in 1979 when he served as a special assistant to Texas Governor Bill Clements until 1981. In 1982, he represented the Republican Party as a candidate for Texas State Treasurer. Between 1989 and 1993, he served in the President George H.W. Bush Administration as the Assistant Secretary for Veterans Liaison and Program Coordination and Director of the National Cemetery System in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Published in 2007 by Zenith Press, his book Wounded Soldier, Healing Warrior, is his autobiography containing a foreword by Ross Perot. He also authored Valor in Vietnam, a collection of personal stories of the war with a foreword by Lieutenant General Dave R. Palmer, Superintendent of West Point (1986-1991). Valor in Vietnam was published in 2012 by Casemate Publishers of Philadelphia and Oxford. In 2014, this book was recognized by the Military Writer's Society with the Bronze Award in the History category.

For several decades, Allen has been a guest speaker at military bases for their Wounded Warrior Battalions and has mentored many young veterans of our Nation's conflicts. He is a frequent presenter and motivational speaker for numerous youth groups, churches, and religious organizations.

In early 2018, Allen became the proud recipient of the Patriot Award from the Greater Dallas Military Foundation. In late 2018, Allen received the Sons of the Flag Legacy Award. He has a dedicated website at

The Jobs/Career Shelf

Decoding Your STEM Career
Peter J. Devenyi
Business Expert Press
9781637422250, $26.99, PB, 146pp

Synopsis: A must-read for STEM graduates who aspire to be the technical leaders and executives of our next generation, "Decoding Your STEM Career: How to Exceed Your Expectations" by Pete Devenyi will also have significant value for mid-level technical managers who seek to move up the corporate ladder but are not sure how to differentiate themselves from their peers.

With the publication of "Decoding Your STEM Career", Devenyi highlights ten capabilities that technology leaders must develop and nurture in order to achieve their full potential. He also shares learnings and techniques through a collection of compelling, real-world stories from his own 37-year technology journey.

"Decoding Your STEM Career" discusses the importance of a never-ending commitment to technical education but recognizes that it can only propel a leader so far. It is critical to develop many additional skills as well, such as the ability to maintain composure in high-pressure situations. Technologists who commit to acquiring all the capabilities outlined in the book are far more likely to rise to senior executive levels in major corporations.

Critique: Exceptionally informative, impressively well written, thoroughly accessible in organization and presentation, "Decoding Your STEM Career: How to Exceed Your Expectations" is an especially recommended addition to personal, professional, corporate, community, college, and university library Computer Technology, Engineering, and Corporate Leadership & Motivation collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of MBA students, academia, corporate executives and managers, as well as non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Decoding Your STEM Career: How to Exceed Your Expectations" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.49).

Editorial Note: Pete Devenyi spent his thirty-seven-year engineering career working in software and technology development in the fields of networking, telecommunications and logistics. He held senior technical executive positions at large global companies such as RIM and Dematic, leading hundreds of technologists around the world. His overarching goal has always been to develop great products that leave a lasting impact. He earned bachelor's and master's degrees in Electrical Engineering from the University of Toronto and continues to consult actively in the fields of warehouse automation, software development and robotics. He has a dedicated website at

The Money/Finance Shelf

Master Your Mortgage
Brighton Gbarazia
Kick Start Press
9781777949501, $15.99, PB, 234pp

Synopsis: Buying a home might be the biggest mistake of your life. Think the bank is giving you a good deal in your mortgage? It's time to take another look because the mortgage process is one of the most widely accepted (yet least understood) aspects of the home-buying journey for ordinary people unfamiliar with real estate and banking.

In a rush of emotions, you stare at your freshly printed mortgage loan agreement, signing on all the dotted lines, perhaps without fully understanding what you're agreeing to today, let alone the impact of your decision decades down the road. You trust the process, but what if the bank doesn't have your best interest in mind?

With the publication of "Master Your Mortgage: What the Bank Won't Tell You About Buying the Right Home", Brighton Gbarazia draws from his more than a decade of firsthand experience and exepertise as a financial advisor and underwriter working for some of the largest banks in Canada to guide you through what they won't tell you.

"Master Your Mortgage" covers: Discovering what a bank is really looking for in a mortgage application; Knowing the difference between affording your mortgage and getting it approved; Understanding how banks look at your income and avoid getting in over your head; Learning why frequent refinance and debt consolidation helps the bank -- not you!

"Master Your Mortgage isn't a book about getting rich with real estate; it's a book about not being taken advantage of in the mortgage process of buying a home.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Master Your Mortgage: What the Bank Won't Tell You About Buying the Right Home" is unreservedly recommended to the attention of anyone in the process of buying a home (or any other property or building) that will entail the acquisition of a mortgage. With a special and direct relevance to buying, selling, or investing in real estate, "Master Your Mortage" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99) and a necessary, core addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library Money/Finance collections.

Editorial Note: Brighton Gbarazia is the CEO of Wealth Marathon with over a decade of experience working with Canada's largest banks to provide sound, straightforward financial advice to young Canadian professionals and families. Along with his experience in the banking industry, Brighton holds a bachelor of business administration from Kwantlen Polytechnic University. He has a dedicated website at

The Cookbook Shelf

Pot Luck: Random Acts of Cooking
Tinky Weisblat
The Merry Lion Press
9780974274157, $29.95, HC, 160pp

Synopsis: What makes "Pot Luck: Random Acts of Cooking" stand out is not only the quality of the recipes, the 'kitchen cook friendly' style of organization and presentation, but cookbook author Tinky Weisblt's engaging commentary throughout. Nicely illustrated, the recipes are seasonally organized. Of special note is the inclusion of 'A Musical Coda', an elaborate recipe for Turkey Tetrazzini, and two essays: 'Supper Time with Ethel Caters' and 'A Cup of Ambition'.

Critique: With palate pleasing, appetite satisfying dishes ranging from Marti Gras Jumbalaya, Grandpa Jim's Peanut Brittle, and Cinco de Mayo Tortilla Soup, to Sour Cherry Upside Down Cake, Peach and Goat Cheese Salada, and Taffy's Succotash, "Pot Luck: Random Acts of Cooking" is a fun and unreservedly recommended addition to personal and community library cookbook collections.

Editorial Note: Tinky Weisblat is a food writer and singer. She is known to readers and television viewers as the Diva of Deliciousness. Tinky is the author of three previous books, "The Pudding Hollow Cookbook", "Pulling Taffy", and "Love, Laughter and Rhubarb". She tries to use her knowledge of American history and culture in everything she writes. She strongly believes in the ways in which food and cooking nourish and connect people, both through literal sharing of food and through across-the-generations sharing of recipes.

The Biography Shelf

Tablecloth Nights: a Memoir
Kathleen Fern Suess
Independently Published
9798674804390, $16.00, PB, 243pp

Synopsis: A core of resiliency, a touch of humor, and a backwards glance into family relationships, with the publication of "Tablecloth Nights: a Memoir" readers will enjoy following the life story of Kathleen Suess from Queens, NY, who was the youngest of four girls in a family fueled by too much alcohol and too little love.

Early marriage, divorce, another relationship, motherhood, and several chaotic years later, Kathleen gains her independence and moves to the Catskills, adapting a new persona and a more relaxed way of life. With time to reflect, Fern confronts her nagging suspicions about Uncle John, a Catholic priest, and an important part of her childhood.

Pursuing answers to questions about the past, she discovers a secret that has been hidden for decades. With the knowledge comes validation and an unexpected bonus.

Critique: An intimate, engaging, articulate, dramatic, thoughtful and thought-provoking life story, "Tablecloth Nights: a Memoir" is one of those personal life stories that will linger in the mind and memory of the reader long after the book itself has been finished and set back upon the shelf. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Tablecloth Nights: a Memoir" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Contemporary American Biography & Memoir collections. Having a very special appeal to readers with an interest in parenting and relationships, "Tablecloth Nights: a Memoir" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.99).

Editorial Note: Kathleen Fern Suess has a dedicated website at She freelanced for a local Northwester, New Jersey newspaper, then moved upstate to the Hudson and founded a poetry group, publishing two chapbooks, while painting and working for a non-profit arts organization. She began writing her memoir after an unexpected family revelation. She is currently working on a cozy mystery novel that takes place in an historic small town in the Catskills.

The General Fiction Shelf

The Bird of Time
John Isaac Jones
Independently Published
9781735574585, $27.99, HC, 360pp

Synopsis: Did you ever have a friend who would make you do things you would never do on your own? A friend that made you act so different from your regular self that you didn't recognize yourself when you were with them?

John Chance has such a lifelong friend, Jesse Trubble, who has an unyielding zest for life that is infectious -- captivating and influencing John's actions and relationships for over fifty years of their lives.

In 2021, John is in a retirement home, and to pass the time, begins to relate the story of the best friend he ever had.

By the age of eight, Johnny is motherless and his father is an alcoholic. His life is empty until he meets Jesse Trubble, a boy who is also motherless but whose father loves him and treats him and Johnny well. Together, the boys stir up adventure and trouble, which lasts a lifetime, whether it is playing cowboys, leading fugitives from justice to freedom, plotting the murder of bullies, fighting in Vietnam, or running weapons in Peru.

Can Jesse, whom others view as a "bad influence" on Johnny, mend their friendship when a rift occurs? Or will they remain estranged, unable to get past their differences?

"The Bird of Time" by John Isaac Jones is a unique and inherently fascinating coming-of-age novel that spans the 1940s through the 2020s, with the nostalgia of these modern times creating a backdrop for the exploits of Johnny and Jesse.

Critique: Some authors seem to have an inherent knack for the kind of narrative style storytelling that keeps their readers full and total attention from first page to last. "The Bird of Time" by novelist John Issac Jones is just such a compelling work of fiction from first page to last. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Literary & Historical Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Bird of Time" is also available in a paperback edition (9781735574578, $19.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

Editorial Note: John Isaac Jones is a retired journalist and novelist currently living and writing at Merritt Island, Florida. For more than thirty years, "John I.," as he prefers to be called, was a reporter for media outlets throughout the world. His recent book, "A Quiet Madness" is a work of historical fiction about the life of Edgar Allan Poe, author of the short story classics, The Tell-tale Heart and The Cask of Amontillado. Jones is the author of eight novels, two short story collections and five novellas. He has a dedicated website at

The Village Idiot
Steve Stern
Melville House
c/o Penguin Random House (dist.)
9781612199825, $27.99, HC, 368pp

Synopsis: "The Village Idiot" by novelist Steve Stern begins on a glorious spring day in Paris 1917. Amid the carnage of World War I, some of the foremost artists of the age have chosen to stage a boat race. At the head of the regatta is Amedeo Modigliani, seated regally in a bathtub pulled by a flock of canvasback ducks. But unbeknownst to the competition, he has a secret advantage: his young friend, the immigrant painter Chaim Soutine, is hauling the tub from underwater. Soutine, an unwashed, misfit artist (who incidentally can't swim) has been persuaded by the Italian to don a ponderous diving suit and trudge along the floor of the river Seine. Disoriented and confused by the artificial air in his helmet Chaim stumbles through the events of his past and future life.

It's quite an extraordinary life. From his impoverished beginnings in an East European shtetl to his equally destitute days in Paris during the Annees Folles, the Crazy Years, from the Cinderella patronage of the American collector Albert Barnes, who raises him from poverty to international attention, to his perilous flight from the Nazi occupation of France, Chaim Soutine remains driven by his unrelenting passion to paint.

To be sure, there are notable distractions, such as his unlikely friendship with Modigliani, who drags him from brothels to midnight felonies to a duel at dawn; there are the romances with remarkable women who compete with and sometimes salvage his obsession. But there is also, always on the horizon, the coming storm that threatens to sweep away Chaim and a generation of gifted Jewish refugees from a tradition that would outlaw their longing to make art.

Wildly inventive, as funny as it is heart-breaking, "The Village Idiot" is a luminous fever-dream of a novel, steeped in the heady atmosphere of a Paris that was the cultural capital of the universe, a place where anything seemed possible.

Critique: An inherently fascinating and impressively well crafted novel from first page to last, "The Village Idiot" showcases author Steve Stern's exceptionally storytelling skills. Replete with memorable characters and unexpected plot twists, "The Village Idiot" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community and academic library Literary Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Villiage Idiot" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99).

Editorial Note: Steve Stern has won two Pushcart Prizes, an O'Henry Award, a Pushcart Writers' Choice Award and a National Jewish Book Award. For thirty years, Stern taught at Skidmore College, the majority of those years as Writer-in-Residence. He has also been a Fulbright lecturer at Bar Elan University in Tel Aviv, the Moss Chair of Creative Writing at the University of Memphis, and Lecturer in Jewish Studies for the Prague Summer Seminars. He has a dedicated Wikipedia web page at

The Music We Make
Michelle Rene DeBellis
Paradise Publishing
9798986167213, $16.99, PB, 393pp

Synopsis: Surviving an accident that takes his mother's life, twenty-two-year-old songwriter, Santiago DeAngelo is consumed by grief, guilt, and the opiates he is prescribed for his injuries.

Nearing rock bottom, he receives inspiration for a song from his late mother. As he struggles to write it, he falls in love with Kitty Holladay, a music producer who offers a rare shot at fame with a hidden agenda. Kitty seduces him into the fast-paced world of pop music where he records a hit album while fighting his opiate addiction to write the one song that will help him make peace with his mother's death.

But when their relationship ends over the betrayal of that song, Santiago must decide the real value of his life in a moment that nearly ends it.

Critique: A deftly crafted and thoroughly engaging novel by Michelle Rene DeBellis, "The Music We Make" about overcoming our pain if we are to achieve our dreams. One of those novels that will linger in the mind and memory long after the book is finished and set back upon the shelf, "The Music We Make" will have a particular appeal to readers with an interest in love, loss, and family relationships. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Contemporary General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Music We Make" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: As an author and novelist, Michelle Rene DeBellis' literary vision is to create meaningful entertainment that connects us to each other with love. She has a dedicated website at

The Literary Fiction Shelf

Maral and the Wisdom of the Forest: A Quest for Truth
Riya Aarini
Independently Published
9781956496154, $16.99, HC, 106pp

Synopsis: Maral is a fawn who is left alone in the thickets of the forest and befriends a white-bearded gnome named Bilge. An unlikely friendship blossoms, and Bilge becomes an audience to Maral's poignant sadness about the fleeting nature of happiness. Determined to show her a way toward fulfillment, Bilge takes Maral on a contemplative walk through the forest.

As they wander to the edges of the forest and back, Bilge points out the special wisdom revealed by natural life. Hidden within the giant two-thousand-year-old redwood trees are symbols of fortitude and patience. Tiny violets emerging from the rich soil display a tender humility, deeply inspiring the wide-eyed fawn. Even trees damaged by lightning strikes express remarkable truths that shape her world view. But sinister dangers are known to lurk in their wooded realm, and Maral risks everything to accompany her wise friend and receive the generous knowledge of the forest.

Their brave trek gradually transforms Maral's inner world, lending her an untold wisdom that leads to a discovery of profound fulfillment and lasting joy.

Critique: "Maral and the Wisdom of the Forest: A Quest for Truth" is an original, inherently fascinating, and thought- provoking novella that takes the reader on a heart-healing, soul-searching, and immensely satisfying journey through the picturesque natural world. A literary masterpiece of inspirational fiction, "Maral and the Wisdom of the Forest: A Quest for Truth" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, community, and academic library Contemporary Literary Fiction collections. It should be noted that "Maral and the Wisdom of the Forest: A Quest for Truth" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781956496161, $9.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.99).

Editorial Note: Riya Aarini is an accomplished writer of humor and inspirational fiction. She also writes middle grade novels and picture books. She has a website at

How We Disappear: Novella & Stories
Tara Lynn Masih
Press 53
9781950413447, $27.95, HC, 164pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "How We Disappear", award-winning author Tara Lynn Masih offers readers transporting and compelling collection of a novella and short stories. These are tales of those taken, those missing, and those neither here nor gone-runaways, exiles, wanderers, ghosts, even the elusive Dame Agatha Christie.

From the remote Siberian taiga to the harsh American frontier, from rural Long Island to postwar Belgium, Masih's characters are diverse in identity and circumstance, defying the burden of erasure by disappearing into or emerging from physical and emotional landscapes. Masih's fiction comprising "How We Disappear" crosses boundaries between the historical and the contemporary, sparks with awareness that nothing and no one is ever gone for good -- and that the wilderness is never quite behind us.

Critique: Engaging, entertaining, original, thought-provoking, "How We Disappear: Novella & Stories" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Literary Fiction collections. With a special appeal for readers with an interest in Metaphysical & Visionary Fiction, it should be noted that "How We Disappear: Novella & Stories" is also available in a paperback edition (9781950413454, $17.95), and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9798200889273, $31.95, CD).

Editorial Note: Tara Lynn Masih is author of the critically acclaimed short-story collection Where the Dog Star Never Glows and founding series editor of The Best Small Fictions. She has received multiple book awards, including a 2018 Skipping Stones Honor Award for My Real Name Is Hanna, her debut novel. She has a dedicated website at

The Mystery/Suspense Shelf

We Lie Here: A Thriller
Rachel Howzell Hall
Thomas & Mercer
9781662500329, $24.95, HC, 416pp

Synopsis: TV writer Yara Gibson's hometown of Palmdale, California, isn't her first choice for a vacation. But she's back to host her parents' twentieth-anniversary party and find the perfect family mementos for the celebration. Everything is going to plan until Yara receives a disturbing text -- "I have information that will change your life."

The message is from Felicia Campbell, who claims to be a childhood friend of Yara's mother. But they've been estranged for years -- drama best ignored and forgotten. But Yara can't forget Felicia, who keeps texting, insisting that Yara talk to her "before it's too late".

But the next day is already too late for Felicia, whose body is found floating in Lake Palmdale. Before she died, Felicia left Yara a key to a remote lakeside cabin. In the basement are files related to a mysterious tragedy, unsolved since 1998. What secrets was Felicia hiding? How much of what Yara knows about her family has been true?

The deeper Yara digs for answers, the more she fears that Felicia was right. Uncovering the truth about what happened at the cabin all those years ago will change Yara's life -- or end it!

Critique: As an novelist, Rachel Howzell Hall has a genuine flair for crafting memorable characters and writing the kind of narrative driven style that quickly engages her reader's attention and holds it fast from beginning to end. "We Lie Here: A Thriller" is a ripping good read that will have a special appeal to readers with an interest in African-American suspense thriller fiction. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Contemporary Mystery/Suspense collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of dedicated mystery buffs that "We Lie Here: A Thriller: is also available in a paperback edition (9781542033695, $15.9), in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99), and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Brilliance Audio, 9781713641865, $24.99, MP3-CD).

Editorial Note: Rachel Howzell Hall is the author of "And Now She's Gone","The Good Sister" (with co-author James Patterson), "They All Fall Down", "Land of Shadows", "Skies of Ash", "Trail of Echoes" and "City of Saviors" in the Detective Elouise Norton series. Rachel is also an Anthony, International Thriller Writers and Left Award nominee and is a past member of the board of directors for Mystery Writers of America. She has been a featured writer on NPR's acclaimed Crime in the City series and the National Endowment for the Arts weekly podcast; she has also served as a mentor in Pitch Wars and the Association of Writers Programs. Rachel has a dedicated website at

Real Bad Things
Kelly J. Ford
Thomas & Mercer
9781662500091, $15.95, PB, 333pp

Synopsis: Beneath the roiling waters of the Arkansas River lie dead men and buried secrets. When Jane Mooney's violent stepfather, Warren, disappeared, most folks in Maud Bottoms, Arkansas, assumed he got drunk and drowned. After all, the river had claimed its share over the years.

When Jane confessed to his murder, she should have gone to jail. That's what she wanted. But without a body, the police didn't charge her with the crime. So Jane left for Boston -- and took her secrets with her.

Twenty-five years later, the river floods and a body surfaces. Talk of Warren's murder grips the town. Now in her forties, Jane returns to Maud Bottoms to reckon with her past: to do jail time, to face her revenge-bent mother, to make things right. But though Jane's homecoming may enlighten some, it could threaten others. Because in this desolate river valley, some secrets are better left undisturbed.

Critique: Some writers seem to have a natural affinity for originality and the kind of narrative driven storytelling that immediately engages and then holds the reader's total attention from first page to last. Clearly, with the publication of "Real Bad Things", Kelly J. Ford has proven herself to be one of those novelists. Of special appeal to LGBTQ readers with an interest in psychological thriller fiction, "Real Bad Things" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community library collections. It should be noted that "Real Bad Things" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Brilliance Audio, 9781713660002, $14.99, MP3-CD).

Editorial Note: Kelly J. Ford is the author of the award-winning Cottonmouths, a novel of "impressive depths of character and setting" according to the Los Angeles Review, which named it one of their Best Books of 2017. An Arkansas native, Kelly writes about the power and pitfalls of friendship, the danger of long-held secrets, and the transcendent grittiness of the Ozarks and their surrounds. She has a dedicated website at

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

Doctor Refurb
Marty Essen
Encante Entertainment Inc.
9781734430370, $16.95, PB, 244pp

Synopsis: From novelist and public speaker Marty Essen, "Doctor Refurb" is an unconventional, satirical, controversial, time travel comedy based upon the suppositions of being able to reach back in time to deport the world's worst environmental villains to a depository planet before their greed condemns Earth to an ecological apocalypse? What if each time you did so, an alien instantly extracted a body part and replaced it with a refurbished one? Would you still do it?

With little choice but to cooperate, Dr. Stefan Westin (aka Doctor Refurb) and vet tech Tara Kramer endure multiple body part extractions for the sake of Earth. Then, with the help of Rodney (a full-time planetary consultant from another galaxy), they must finish the job by traveling back in time to capture Ralph, a rebellious alien who has been jumping from person to person doing evil in the name of Christianity since biblical times.

But Ralph could be anywhere, from leading the Spanish Inquisition, to instigating the Salem witch hangings, to abusing indigenous children at residential schools in Canada, to occupying an abusive missionary in Brazil. Only by capturing Ralph can Stefan and Tara annul the unholy marriage between conservative Christianity and the worst environmental villains.

Adding to the difficulty of their task is that they must succeed before expending their time travel budget. Should they fail, Rodney's supervisor won't wait for the ecological apocalypse to happen -- she'll order Earth recycled immediately!

It is interesting to note that "Doctor Refurb" reflects actual historical events and confronts the serious subjects of climate change, far-right politics, and child abuse committed by Christian authorities.

Critique: Laced throughout and through with humor, insights into human (and non-human) nature, and a roller coaster of a story line, "Doctor Refurb" is a fun and thought-provoking read from first page to last. Unique, creative, iconoclastic, "Doctor Refurb" is one of those novels that will linger in the mind and memory of the reader long after the book has been finished and set back upon the shelf. While highly recommended for community library Science Fiction collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists that "Doctor Refurb" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, 9781734430363, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Marty Essen began writing professionally in the 1990s as a features writer for Gig Magazine. His first book, Cool Creatures, Hot Planet: Exploring the Seven Continents, won six national awards, and the Minneapolis Star-Tribune named it a "Top Ten Green Book." His second book, Endangered Edens: Exploring the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Costa Rica, the Everglades, and Puerto Rico, won four national awards. His novels, Time Is Irreverent, Time Is Irreverent 2: Jesus Christ, Not Again! and Time Is Irreverent 3: Gone for 16 Seconds, all became Amazon #1 Best-Sellers in multiple categories.

Hits, Heathens, and Hippos: Stories from an Agent, Activist, and Adventurer is Marty's inspirational and entertaining memoir, and like all his books, it reflects his values of protecting human rights and the environment -- and does so with a wry sense of humor. "Doctor Refurb" is Marty's seventh (and most controversial) book to date.

The Poetry Shelf

365 Revolutions
Lucas Smiraldo
Auricle LLC
9780578256269, $20.00, HC, 384pp

Synopsis: "365 Revolutions" is a collection of daily liberation poems by Lucas Smiraldo who was inspired by yoga poses that can be integrated into yoga practice or as food for reflection and social transformation.

Enhanced by beautiful line illustrations that highlight diverse racial, gender and body identities, "365 Revolutions" evokes social and historical narratives that assert deep and expansive notions of belonging. Each individual poem packs a wallop, rooted in the sensory elements of posture and the spiritual inferences of the yoga path.

Simply stated, "365 Revolutions" is conceptual and emotional fuel for yoga teachers and their students, as well as dedicated readers of poetry who particularly drawn to daily reflections and meditations to inspire their daily journeys of insight and action.

Critique; Unique, memorable, thoughtful, deftly crafted, the poetry comprising "365 Revolutions" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists and community/academic library Contemporary Poetry collections.

Blown Into Now
Mylo Schaaf, poet
Alex Lowenstein, photography
Blue Light Press
979898649306, $48.03, PB, 89pp

Synopsis: There may never be genuine closure when losing a love one, but the combination of poetry and photography can be of help in easing the spirit and lightening the emotional impact of loss. The 45 eloquent poems comprising "Blown Into Now: Poems For A Journey" by Mylo Schaaf are coupled with full color photography by her son, Alex Lowenstein (who died unexpectedly in while in his 20s) are a memorial tribute to the pain of a mother upon the death of a son.

Critique: Especially and unreservedly recommended to the attention of anyone having to deal with love and loss in their own lives, "Blown Into Now: Poems For A Journey" will prove an inspiring and welcome addition to personal, family, community, and academic library Contemporary Poetry & Grief Counseling collections. "Blown Into Now: Poems For A Journey" is soon to be released in both a paperback and a digital format editions with a release date announced on Mylo Schaaf's website at

Editorial Note: There is a web page featuring Mylo Schaaf on the SoundCloud website at

The Journalism Shelf

Century's Witness
Mary Llewellyn McNeil
Whaler Books
9781737886495, $32.95, HC, 388pp

Synopsis: Today when local newspapers are going out of business, corporate profits drive press coverage, and unbiased reporting is seen as almost nonexistent, the life and work of Wallace Carroll (December 5, 1906 - July 28, 2002) is a lesson in journalism excellence.

A "journalist's journalist" with unmatched integrity, Carroll covered the most significant events of his time, from the London Blitz to the United States' withdrawal from the Vietnam War. His story is even more relevant today given the war in Ukraine and Russia's assault on the truth.

Carroll covered the League of Nations in the 1930s, warning the American public of the dangers of fascism, headed United Press's office in London at the outbreak of the war, and was among the first journalists to reach the Russian front following the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. He later joined the US Office of War Information, tasked with "winning the hearts and minds" of those under the Nazi boot. As such, he was well-placed to understand the power of words, and their heightened importance in a time of war.

Carroll's life and career are essential reading for all those who believe a trusted and reasoned press is essential to our democracy. Carroll bore witness to this country's greatest generation-working to win a war, influence the peace, abolish segregation in the South, and conserve our most beautiful lands-these were the accomplishments of his life.

Critique: With the publication of "Century's Witness: The Extraordinary Life of Journalist Wallace Carrol", biographer Mary Llewellyn McNeil is an exceptionally well written and inherently fascinating read from cover to cover. While also available for journalism students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject in a paperback edition (9781737886440, $22.95), "Century's Witness" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library American Biography collections in general, and Journalism supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

Editorial Note: Mary Llewellyn McNeil is a former editor and writer for Congressional Quarterly and primary author of Environment and Health, Reagan's First Year, and The Nuclear Age. She has worked as an editor at the Smithsonian Institution and the National Academy of Sciences and as a journalist at the Winston-Salem Journal. During a 28-year career at the World Bank she launched two global publications, The Urban Age and Development Outreach, and edited Demanding Good Governance, Lessons from Social Accountability Initiatives in Africa. A graduate of Wake Forest University and the John F. Kennedy School of Government, she has a dedicated website at

The Christian Studies Shelf

Eternal Justice
Philip Remington Dunn
Fidelis Publishing
9781736620625, $15.99, PB, 224pp

Synopsis: Does God intervene in our lives? If so, why does God so often seem to ignore our prayers? There have been countless scholars throughout the ages who have attempted various answers to this most significant question. Thus, the issue isn't new, but as old as The Bible.

It was certainly true for Job, and David perhaps said it best, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?" Psalm 22:1.

Yet, as Christians we believe God does intervene in our lives. We have faith. Is that faith based merely upon what we believe or is it also based upon experience? Certainly, the Bible provides countless examples of God's intervention on behalf of His people, those reported in Exodus being perhaps the most vivid. Then there is the ultimate intervention in human history, the redeeming sacrifice of God's only son, Jesus Christ. But the question still lingers, does God intervene in our lives today?

With the publication of "Eternal Justice: How God Intervenes for the Least of Us", Philip Reminston Dunn answers this question with a resounding, YES. He tells the stories of some of God's most lost souls and how they made their way back to Him through His direct intervention in their lives.

Critique: Inspired and inspiring, "Eternal Justice: How God Intervenes for the Least of Us" provides a persuasive and compelling presentation that will be of immense interest and value to all members of the Christian community regardless of denominational affiliation. Eloquent and confirming of God's love, "Eternal Justice: How God Intervenes for the Least of Us" is also readily available in a digital book format ($8.49) and is particularly recommended to the attention of clergy, theologians, seminary students, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject.

Editorial Note: Philip Remington Dunn has been a celebrated criminal defense attorney in Southern California for over thirty years. As a Christian, he has been able to use his faith to recover and redeem countless souls, salvaging those who might otherwise have become victims of their own conduct and the criminal justice system. During the course of his career, he has been given the Ventura County Criminal Bar Association award for "Distinguish Contribution," recognition as a "Local Hero" by The Santa Barbara Independent newspaper, and "Special Contribution" to the criminal justice system, by the California State Assembly and the United States Congress. He has a dedicated website at

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

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