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Small Press Bookwatch

Volume 22, Number 8 August 2023 Home | SPBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Theatre/Cinema Shelf Civil War Shelf
Biography Shelf General Fiction Shelf Historical Fiction Shelf
LGBT Fiction Shelf Mystery/Suspense Shelf Fantasy/SciFi Shelf
Poetry Shelf Self-Help Shelf Criminology Shelf

Reviewer's Choice

Atrocity Fabrication and Its Consequences
A. B. Abrams
Clarity Press
9781949762709, $31.95, PB, 424pp

Synopsis: Atrocity Fabrication is the invention and reporting of atrocities committed by an adversary without knowledge that they ever occurred.

This form of misinformation and disinformation has a centuries-long history at the heart of propaganda and power politics as an effective means of moving public and international opinion.

Its use can provide pretext for a range of hostile measures against its targets, transforming in the public eye wars of unprovoked aggression into wars of liberation of the oppressed, or turning blockades to starve enemy civilians into humane efforts to pressure abusive governments under the moralistic label of sanctions.

As it plays a large and growing role in global conflict in the 21st century understanding atrocity fabrication and the consistent means by and ends to which it has been used has become crucial to comprehending geopolitical events in the present day.

With the publication of "Atrocity Fabrication and Its Consequences: How Fake News Shapes World Order", A. B. Abrams clearly elucidates the seldom explored but central role played by atrocity fabrication in eleven major conflicts from the 1950s to the present day: from Korea, Vietnam and Cuba during the Cold War to Iraq, Libya and the emerging Sino-U.S. cold war more recently.

"Atrocity Fabrication and Its Consequences: How Fake News Shapes World Order" also highlights the many variations of atrocity fabrication, the strong consistencies in how atrocity fabrication is used, and the consequences it has for the populations of the targeted countries, This study also demonstrates the roles played by media and both government and non-governmental organizations in misleading the public as to the actuality of these highly publicized events.

The emerging and growing trend towards Atrocity Fabrication, and the deep implications this has for democracy and world order make an understanding of its history particularly critical.

Critique: An impressively timely study given the contemporary assaults on American Democracy by authoritarian elements of local, state, and federal office holders whose boldest attempt was the effort to overthrow a freely and fairly elected Presidential election, and foreign national efforts to mislead and adversely affect the American citizenry, and the struggles between the democracies of the world against the authoritarian nations seeking domination over them in a cyber war based conflict, "Atrocity Fabrication and Its Consequences: How Fake News Shapes World Order" is an exceptionally well written study that is unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, college, and university library Contemporary Political Science collections. Also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.49), "Atrocity Fabrication and Its Consequences: How Fake News Shapes World Order" will have a very special relevance and value to students, academia, political activists, state and federal government officials, as well as non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject of 'Fake News" with respect ot Human Rights, Journalism, Democracy and Social Media Communications.

Editorial Note: A. B. Abrams ( is based out of London and is the author of Power and Primacy: A History of Western Intervention in the Asia-Pacific, Immovable Object: North Korea's 70 Years at War with American Power and World War in Syria. He has published widely on defense and international politics, and holds Masters degrees in related subjects from the University of London. Abrams is proficient in several Asian languages including Korean and Arabic, and has closely studied the conduct of war for close to a decade.

The Theatre/Cinema Shelf

Phil's 3rd Favorite 500
Phil Berardelli
Mountain Lake Press
9781959307198, $24.95, HC, 472pp

Synopsis: In 2012, Phil Berardelli published his first compilation of 500 favorite movies, divided into 50 categories and borne of a lifelong love of the medium, and a desire to share some of his most enjoyable experiences with other cinephiles. Subsequently, he followed up in 2018 with a print edition of that compilation.

Then, two years later, Phil completed his second 500 favorites, likewise encompassing 50 categories.

Now, with the publication of "Phil's 3rd Favorite 500: Still More Loves of a Moviegoing Lifetime", he adds yet another 500 titles, presented in yet another 50 categories.

With this feature film trilogy, Phil offers a vast array of attractions to engage a wide variety of interests, ranging from the most avid film students, to the most casual viewers, and from acknowledged classics to little-known treasures.

All films featured in this third movie compendium represent some of the finest work of film makers in America and overseas alike, with some titles going back nearly a hundred years! Witty and eminently browsable, Phil's three compilations will no doubt in the coming years be regarded as classic references for movie lovers everywhere.

Critique: Descriptively informative, "Phil's 3rd Favorite 500: Still More Loves of a Moviegoing Lifetime" is thoroughly 'film fan friendly' in organization and presentation -- making it an essential and welcome addition to personal, professional, community, film school, college, and university library Cinematic History reference collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for film students, academia, and dedicated movie buffs that "Phil's 3rd Favorite 500: Still More Loves of a Moviegoing Lifetime" is also available in a paperback edition (9781959307181, $19.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.99).

Editorial Note: Phil Berardelli has been in love with movies ever since his first encounter as a little boy thrilled him and then scared the daylights out of him. In the intervening years, including a six-year stint as a TV movie critic, Phil has seen at least 5,000 films.

The Way of Washi Tales
Ibe Kyoko & Elise Thoron
The Legacy Press
9781940965208, $45.00, PB, 232pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "The Way of Washi Tales", co-authors Ibe Kyoko and Elise Thoron chronicle the beautiful and moving story of Recycling: Washi Tales, a theatrical performance first conceived in 2009 by American theater maker, Elise Thoron, and Japanese paper artist, Ibe Kyoko.

Inspired by washi (Japanese handmade paper), the co-authors set out on an ongoing exploration of its dynamic presence and harmonious spirit in theater. Working with a company of Japanese traditional performers and an American storyteller, Recycling: Washi Tales brings to the stage four folk tales centering around washi from different periods of Japanese history. Three Japanese musical traditions are also represented: Noh drum, biwa, and shomyo (Buddhist sutra singing). Performances of Recycling: Washi Tales have delighted audiences across the U.S.A. and Japan, captivated by Ibe's dazzling paper art and costumes, the on-stage papermaking, and the artistry of each of the company performers.

The Way of Washi Tales tells the story of a collaboration across cultures, including how washi and the rich history of the craft informed the performances of the theater artists, while their ongoing work together as a company resulted in deep personal bonds and experiences. Through backstage scenes and over two hundred photographs, "The Way of Washi Tales" explores the fascinating process of long-term cultural exchange, including the complex challenges of bilingual performance and the rewards of building a "washi family."

In personal essays, the co-authors reflect on how profoundly a simple natural material (washi) has shaped Japanese culture and influenced the trajectory of their lives.

Critique: Informatively enhanced for the reader with the inclusion of two Appendices (A reproduces the script for Recycling: Washi Tales and Claire Cuccio's translation of Najio Gawa by Mizukami Tsutomu, a source for one of the Washi Tales), a glossary, and bibliography, "The Way of Washi Tales" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, college, and university library Japanese Art, Japanese Theater, and Japanese Popular Culture collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note #1: Ibe Kyoko ( completed a master's degree at the Kyoto Institute of technology in 1967, and continued working with paper and has been invited to more than 20 countries for exhibitions, workshops lectures, teaching, judge, panelist and stage art installation. Her work pushes the limits of paper, transforming a craft into an art form. Her radical new approach to paper combines a respect for tradition with technological experimentation. She exhibit in many museums, including Los Angeles County museum in 2011, Stockton University Gallery in 2017 and her works are the collection of Chicago Art Institute and many others. She is the author and editor of "Guide book of Contemporary Paperwork," and co-author of "Encyclopedia Paper culture and Science," Paper, Makers Tears, volume one.

Editorial Note #2: Elise Thoron ( is a playwright, director, and translator who brings stories not widely heard to life on stage. Her plays have been produced in the United States, Europe, Japan, Cuba.

The Civil War Shelf

The Bone Ring
Gari Carter
Donella Press
9781955068055, $14.95, PB, 100pp

Synopsis: When Colonel William Leonard died in 1901, among his effects was found a lovely jewelry box containing a simple ring carved of cow bone and engraved with his birth date and the year of his imprisonment in Libby Prison.

This humble memento, so carefully preserved, was made for him by his men to mark his 46th birthday when they were all prisoners of war in the notorious Libby Prison in Richmond, Virginia.

Also found was his journal, which begins when he was colonel in Purnell's Legion Infantry, which was charged with protecting telegraph and rail lines in Maryland and Virginia, and ends after he was paroled from Libby Prison and returned to Maryland.

The bone ring and journal writings were passed down through his descendants, and his memory has been kept alive through family stories. Leonard's great-granddaughter Gari Carter, who previously published the Civil War journals of another ancestor, Franklin Dick, now presents Col. Leonard's journal, richly annotated and supplemented with family lore and local history.

Critique: A welcome addition to the ever expanding community, college, and university library American Civil War collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists, "The Bone Ring: Civil War Journals of Colonel William James Leonard" is a fascinating and informative American Civil War memoir that is informatively enhanced for the reader with the inclusion of a number of maps, black/white illustrations, a ten page family genealogy, and a ten page bibliography. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, civil war historians, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Bone Ring" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99).

Editorial Note: Gari Carter ( is also the author of "Troubled State: The Civil War Journals of Franklin Archibald Dick" (Truman State University Press, 2008), which took her ten years of research about the diaries of her great-great grandfather and his first-hand account of the initial Civil War event in St. Louis, and his correspondence with President Lincoln as Provost Marshall General of Missouri.

The Biography Shelf

Scratching the Surface
Allyson Steedman
Calathea Press
9781738665204, $14.99, PB, 230pp

Synopsis: For her whole life, Allyson lived with chronic eczema. At times severe, she was told the condition was incurable and doctors prescribed topical steroid creams to help manage the outbreaks. She learned to live with it.

Now, well into her thirties, married and with a daughter of her own, life was busy and full of energy and seemed to be moving in the right direction. Until she stopped using the creams.

Plunged into Topical Steroid Withdrawal (TSW), she faced years of debilitating effects that left her with increased loss of physical function, traumatic physical and mental pain and a greatly diminished quality of life. But through all the pain, a resonating within her of an undeniable truth emerged; that physical healing was only one part of the equation. That to truly heal, we must look deeply within ourselves to find the connection between our mind, body and spirit.

Through Allyson's journey, we can find a link to our own spirit and answer its call to live more authentically and with a full heart.

With the publication of "Scratching the Surface", Allyson Steedman challenges all of us to look beyond our physical limitations and current situations to find a deeper connection to ourselves and who we can truly be. She encourages us to shift our thoughts, shed our fears and equip our minds for a different outlook and to believe in our own intrinsic value.

Critique: Extraordinary, exceptional, impressive, informative, inspiring, "Scratching the Surface" is essential reading for anyone suffering from steroid withdrawal and anyone else having to deal with traumatic physical and mental pain brought about by severe or chronic illness. While also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99), "Scratching the Surface" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community and academic library Contemporary American Biography/Memoir collections, and Self-Help/Self-Improvement reading lists.

Editorial Note: Allyson Steedman ( is a former corporate event planner and entrepreneur. Her many endeavors include owning a specialty dog boutique, a party planning and event consulting business and a bespoke travel company. Her first hand experience with physical healing and emotional discovery has set her on a path to help others reignite their connection to their own spirit to help find joy, passion and abundance in their own lives.

The General Fiction Shelf

How We Healed
Melody & Arric Fowler
Poetic Gems Publishing
9781738647026, $16.50, PB, 208pp

Synopsis: Desperate to escape a difficult life in the South, Drunetta Brown flees to New York City with her children. And there, she develops powerful friendships that help her claim her place in a changing world. -- But there is nothing ordinary about the journey she takes in life, or the people in it.

Critique: With the publication of "How We Healed", co-authors Melody and Arric Fowler have carefully crafted a compelling novel on the them of starting over and fully engaging their readers with an original, thought-provoking, memorable and poignant story of healing from emotional injuries. Of special appeal to readers with an interest in African/American Women's Fiction and Multicultural Romance, "How We Healed" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Contemporary General Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "How We Healed" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99).

Editorial Note: Melody Fowler ( is a free-spirit born and raised in Vancouver, BC. She worked for prominent Vancouver law firms, a psychiatrist, and retired after decades working for a Crown Corporation. She is also a recognized painter and a poet. She published a book of poetry, "Life Lyrics" in 2011. She now lives outside Vancouver, with her husband Arric, where their backyard, affectionately known as the "Fowler Vineyard", continues to produce amazing wines and jellies.

Yuwa: A Novel
Chen Yixin, author
Howard Goldblatt, translator
Long River Press
c/o China Books
9781592652587, $16.95, PB, 140pp

Synopsis: Set in a dirt-poor area of Gansu Province in China's far west, "Yuwa" is an original work by novelist Chen Yixin that features a boy who rises above his marginal existence in a village bypassed by economic growth.

Yuwa (rain child) leads a simple life surrounded by an extended family, love, and friendship. He tends sheep with his grand-uncle, who teaches him about life; he goes to school with his best friend, whose loyalty never wavers; he has an aunt who dotes on him and a mother who worries about him. As a novel, "Yuwa" builds in intensity and emotion after Yuwa experiences heartbreak after heartbreak.

While symbolizing the challenges facing the villagers, the story also illustrates how a child's indomitable nature and inherent decency help him endure despite the forces of nature, tradition, and cruelty arrayed against him. It is difficult to read Yuwa without taking note of its symbolic resonance and message of hope.

Critique: Ably translated into English for an American readership by Howard Goldblatt, "Yuwa" is a novel by Chen Yixin that was originally published in Chinese in 2019. A finely crafted and impressively original work of literary fiction available from Long River Press in a highly portable paperback edition (5 x 0.35 x 7 inches, 6.7 ounces), "Yuwa" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, community, college, and university library Contemporary International Literary Fiction collections.

Editorial Note #1: Chen Yixin is young writer who was born and grew up in a village similar to Yuwa's. Chen's childhood experience has given him a unique perspective on contemporary life in impoverished parts of China that seldom emerge from the shadows. With plain language and compassion, Chen has created a truly memorable character in an undersized child who survives against all odds.

Editorial Note #2: Howard Goldblatt ( is the translator of numerous works of Chinese fiction, including Xiao Hong, Su Tong, and Nobel Laureate Mo Yan.

Survivors of the Hive
Jason Heroux
Radiant Press
9781989274866, $22.00, PB, 120pp

Synopsis: Loss. Grief. Centipedes. Silence. The word "no." The word "yes." A high school poetry contest that may or may not be linked to the end of the world. The characters each of the four short stories that comprise "Survivors of the Hive" by author Jason Heroux are under one form of attack or another.

A grief-baffled son hopes to save an innocent insect from a toxic genocide, a daughter struggles to accept loss while visiting a community overwhelmed by denial, a sorrow-stricken father recalls his bizarre final conversation with his only child; the individuals in these the four short stories (Tell Me Again How the Silence in the Chamber of Exaltation Sounds; The No Problem; Tango Zero Hour; The Last Poetry Contest) discover how difficult it can be to let go of what's gone in order to live with what's left.

Critique: Original, eloquent, and of special appeal to readers with an interest in deftly crafted and surreal fiction, "Survivors of the Hive" is a valued and recommended pick for community and academic library Short Story and Contemporary Literary Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Survivors of the Hive" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $20.90).

Editorial Note: Jason Heroux ( is the author of four books of poetry: Memoirs of an Alias (2004); Emergency Hallelujah (2008); Natural Capital (2012) and Hard Work Cheering Up Sad Machines (2016). He is also the author of three novels: Good Evening, Central Laundromat (2010); We Wish You a Happy Killday (2014) and Amusement Park of Constant Sorrow (2018). Jason holds a BA degree from Queen's University, and was a finalist for the 2018 ReLit Novel Award. He was the Poet Laureate for the City of Kingston from 2019 to 2022.

Who Brought the Dog to Church?
Tracy L. Smoak
Emerald House Group
9781649604224, $18.99, PB, 328pp

Synopsis: Betty is sure that Ida Lou does not belong in their church when the woman shows up to the Good Friday service with her small dog in tow. But before she knows what's happening, Betty is pushed into helping the woman as she deals with the sudden hospitalization of her husband. Having lost her own husband just one year ago, Betty is chosen as the perfect person to help walk through this valley with the newcomer -- along with the other women of the WUFHs (Women United For Him).

Sarah McAdams knows her husband loves her. He just loses his temper sometimes. It comes with the stress of being a highly recognized police officer. But when Sarah makes the decision that this is not the life she wants for her young son, will she be able to get out alive? Where can she go? And who will help her?

God works in mysterious ways -- and through ordinary people. The town of Prosper is about to experience some drama -- and it all starts with a dog who comes to church!

Critique: Original, entertaining, deftly crafted, and a throughly enjoyable read from first page to last, "Who Brought the Dog to Church?" will have a very special appeal to anyone with an interest in Contemporary Christian Fiction and Women's Friendship themed novels. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community library General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Who Brought the Dog to Church?" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

Editorial Note: Tracy L. Smoak ( is a freelance writer and the author of Living Water to Refresh Your Soul (Redemption Press, 2022), and a nonfiction about encouragement based on Bible characters (Bold Vision, 2023) Throughout all her writing, her goal is to address deep issues and bring comfort with the good news of Christ.

The Beauty of Rain
Jamie Beck
c/o Amazon Publishing
9781542032421, $16.99, PB, 331pp

Synopsis: Winning the lottery changed Amy Walsh's life, but the cost was greater than she could bear. In the aftermath, she struggles to find joy and purpose. Only one thing feels certain now -- she will never spend one cent of the prize money on herself.

Worried, her older sister, Kristin DeMarco, invites Amy to live with her family while she heals. Unfortunately, this arrangement leads to trouble for Kristin: Divided focus affects her career. Her daughter prefers Amy to her. And Amy's unsolicited opinions provoke tension between Kristin and her husband.

Meanwhile, Amy is making drastic plans of her own, which include giving away all her money. But first she must convince Kristin not to squander her most valuable asset -- time with her family.

As the sisters help each other reimagine their futures, life's unpredictability sends them to surprising places that test their love and resilience. Will they learn to live in the now, before it's too late?

Critique: A well crafted and inherently engaging novel of sisterhood and family life, "The Beauty of Rain" showcases author Jamie Beck's impressive storytelling skills. While also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format ($4.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Brilliance Audio, 9798400116353, $19.99, MP3-CD), "The Beauty of Rain" will prove a popular and prized addition to community library Contemporary Women's Fiction collections.

Editorial Note: Jamie Beck ( is the author of eighteen novels. She is a two-time Booksellers' Best Award finalist, a Women's Fiction Writers Association STAR Award finalist, and a National Readers' Choice Award winner. Fans can get exclusive excerpts and inside scoops and be eligible for birthday-gift drawings by subscribing to her newsletter at

Always Orchid
Carol Van Den Hende
Azine Press
9781958223000, $32.95, HC, 346pp

Synopsis: Phoenix Walker will never be the same. Nine months after a heroic act leaves him forever changed, he refuses to hurt Orchid Paige ever again.

Orchid is ready to forgive. Convincing her guy she still loves him, no matter his injuries, she works to rebuild their intimacy. But their move to her family's ancestral country unveils China's superstitions against people with disabilities. Worse, their friend's life has been upended by those prejudices.

Will Phoenix and Orchid find a way to beat the odds and turn discrimination into compassion?

Critique: "Always Orchid" is the riveting third book in author Carol Van Den Hende's 'Goodbye, Orchid' contemporary fiction series but can be read and enjoyed as a standalone novel. Deftly crafted characters, and inherently fascinating plot twists and turns, "Always Orchid" will hold a special appeal for fans with an interest in multicultural romance and personal life journeys that ultimately and successfully lead to unconditional acceptance and romance fulfilled. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Contemporary Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Always Orchid" is also available in a paperback edition (9781958223048, $19.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Carol Van Den Hende ( pens stories of resilience and hope. Her novels Orchid Blooming and Goodbye, Orchid draw from her own Chinese American family's history, and have won 30+ literary awards, including the American Fiction Award, IAN Outstanding Fiction First Novel Award, and Royal Dragonfly Awards for Disability Awareness and Cultural Diversity. Carol's mission is unlocking optimism as a writer, speaker, global marketer, digital strategist, Board Trustee and Climate Reality Leader.

The Historical Fiction Shelf

Returning the Bones
Gin Hammond
9798887470580, $34.95, HC, 320pp

Synopsis: Bebe, a bookworm with an outlandish imagination, lives a peculiarly privileged life for a Black girl during the Great Depression. Her fearless father owns a hospital and an array of businesses, making him a keen target of the KKK. Her home life is filled with a panoply of distinctive family members, including a psychic mother, a terrifying "spinster" aunt who's having a secret affair with the local white sheriff, a renegade librarian aunt, a grandmother who might be the great-great-granddaughter of Alexander Hamilton, and Grandmother Betty, a Cherokee medicine woman who suffers no fools.

Guilt over the death of a beloved family member quenches Bebe's ability to rebel against her father's suffocating expectations. A tempestuous relationship with her enigmatic boyfriend, and further challenges-both hilarious and heartbreaking-compound Bebe's inability to live a life of her own choosing, until an unlikely opportunity in post-war Europe arises. Will Bebe relinquish dreams of being the architect of her own destiny, or abandon everything she's ever known to reinvent herself in an unfamiliar world?

Critique: With the publication of "Returning the Bones", author Gin Hammon has written a complex, deftly crafted, entertaining, and thought-provoking novel that asks her readers 'how do you choose between your country, your people, and yourself?. Authentic, original, memorable, inherently fascinating, "Returning the Bones" will have a special and particular appeal for readers with an interest in African-American biographical fiction. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Historical Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Returning te Bones" is also available in a paperback edition (9798887470573, $15.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Gin Hammond ( is a graduate of Harvard University and Moscow Art Theatre. She has performed nationally and internationally at theatres such as the Guthrie, the Long Wharf Theatre, and the Studio Theatre in Washington, DC, where she won a Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Lead Actress. A certified associate teacher of Fitzmaurice Voicework(TM), Hammond teaches voice, voiceover, public speaking, and dialect coaching.

The LGBT Fiction Shelf

Goes On, Without the World's Understanding
Thomas Westerfield
Rattling Good Yarns Press
9781955826402, $15.95, PB, 146pp

Synopsis: "Goes On, Without the World's Understanding" is a new collection of short stories in which author Thomas Westerfield challenges our expectations about the tales that can be told regarding sexuality, race, love, abuse, trauma, art, and intergenerational relationships.

We meet, among others, a men's sexual abuse group in rebellion against their earth mother therapist; a ninety-six-year-old gay cult writer who confronts a young queer interviewer; a burnt-out white professor playing dangerous academic games with his Black lesbian colleague; a teenager in a small Kentucky town in 1971 who experiences gay life for the first time through the movie, The Boys in the Band; a retired man sharing a Las Vegas roulette table with a lonely drunk college student celebrating his twenty-first birthday; a little boy terrified of what his Barbies will do to him in the dark of night; and a sex-trafficked young man, now free, explaining why he will never return to his family.

Some find acceptance, even peace, within the many contradictory and often warring elements of their hearts; some do not. But all are embraced with compassionate acceptance as they go on, without the world's understanding.

Critique: Eloquent, inherently fascinating, deftly crafted, entertaining, memorable, and emotionally moving, "Goes On, Without the World's Understanding" by Thomas Westerfield is an original short story anthology that will have a very special appeal to readers from the LGBTQ community. While highly recommended for both community and academic library Short Story Anthology and LGBTQ Literature collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Goes On, Without the World's Understanding" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.99).

Editorial Note: Thomas Westerfield stories have been recognized as a finalist by the Saints and Sinners Festival, the New Millennium Writing Awards for Fiction, and the Dzanc Books Short Story Collection Competition. His plays, Catharsis and Monasteries, received productions and staged readings in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and San Francisco throughout the 1980s and 1990s. He was recognized as one of the "25 Unsung Heroes of the Gay Community" in 1988 by The Advocate magazine for his co-founding the Owensboro Gay Alliance in Kentucky. (

The Mystery/Suspense Shelf

Beneath the Surface
Kaira Rouda
Thomas & Mercer
9781662511929, $16.99, PB, 269pp

Synopsis: You are cordially invited to an overnight voyage on the Splendid Seas.

This is an invitation to Catalina Island from billionaire CEO Richard Kingsley for his sons, Ted and John, and their wives. It's also an opportunity to curry favor, gain control of a real estate empire, and secure their family's futures. For the controlling patriarch, succession is a contest. He and his newest wife won't make it an easy win.

Then Richard's estranged live-wire daughter, Sibley, crashes the party. She's the least of the night's surprises. As the stakes for the inheritance of the Kingsley legacy are raised, the beautiful waters of the Pacific look more like a menacing illusion.

Let the games begin for a family who has everything money can buy, and has used lies, deception, and more to keep it. This weekend one of them will be crowned heir. One is in line to lose everything. That's the plan. But in the coming storm, so much can go dangerously wrong.

Critique: With the publication of "Beneath the Surface", novelist Kaira Rouda demonstrates her complete mastery of the psychological suspense thriller genre. Original, clever, deftly crafted, and featuring the author's distinctive and narrative driven storytelling style, "Beneath the Surface" is a welcome and unreservedly recommended pick for community library Mystery/Suspense collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Beneath the Surface" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Brilliance Audio, 9798400123900, $19.99, MP3-CD). Librarians please note that there is also a large print hard cover addition (Thorndike Press, 9798885793322, Library Binding, $36.99) of "Beneath the Surface".

Editorial Note: Kaira Rouda ( is a multiple award-winning author of contemporary fiction that explores what goes on beneath the surface of seemingly perfect lives. Her domestic suspense novels include "Best Day Ever", "The Favorite Daughter", "All the Difference", "The Next Wife", "Somebody's Home", and "The Widow".To date, Kaira's novels have been translated into more than ten languages.

She lives in Southern California with her family and is at work on her next novel. Connect with her on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest: @KairaRouda; and on Facebook at Kaira Rouda Books.

Dale M. Pollock
Shadowbrook Publishing
9798218117023, $27.99, HC, 338pp

Synopsis: On Thanksgiving Day in 1849, the richest man in Boston vanishes.

A Harvard Medical College janitor finds cut-up pieces of a human in chemistry professor John Webster's privy vault beneath his laboratory. He is charged with murder despite only circumstantial evidence, and the notorious trial that follows offers a spectacle that is as riveting as the O.J. Simpson trial of the 1990s.

A young doctor, James Winchell Stone, who takes down the entire transcript of the trial using an early form of stenography, decides to use his deductive reasoning to solve the mystery of who actually killed Dr. George Parkman. In the process he uncovers a tragic truth involving the Underground Railroad and falls into a forbidden romance.

Critique: A work of fiction based on an historical incident and a simply thrilling evocation of 19th Century Boston, with the publication of "Chopped", novelist Dale M. Pollock deftly weaves a inherently fascinating and entertaining "whodunit" explanation into the actual court transcript of the case, taken down word-for-word by his ancestor, Dr. James Winchell Stone. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Historical Murder/Suspense Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Chopped" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9798218117016, $17.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Dale M. Pollock ( is a writer, lecturer, film producer, and cinema professor. His previous book was the "Skywalking: The Life and Films of George Lucas."

Exodus Team: New Roads
Trilogy Christian Publishing
9798887382173, $20.99, PB, 250pp

Synopsis: For Maj Newhouse, life revolves around her faith, her friends, Aimee and Kevin Cole, and her projects at the old barn -- but that was before Jason Knight walked through the door.

The handsome businessman from Chicago has a problem; he has staked his career on rehabilitating a haunted hotel. An encounter with Kevin has led him to the old barn, and Maj is shocked to learn that Knight expects to hire her and her friends as exorcists for his property!

Will Maj's distrust of the charming stranger and her own self-doubt cripple the newly formed Exodus Team before it starts?

Critique: The first title in a new Christian paranormal mystery suspense thriller series from Trilogy Christian Publishing, "Exodus Team: New Roads" by Christian entertainer BEBogdon is an inherently fascinating, exceptionally well crafted, and impressively memorable read that will have a particular interest for fans of Christian mystery/suspense novels. While also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.49), "Exodus Team: New Roads" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Contemporary Mystery/Suspense collections.

Editorial Note: BEBogdon ( is a Christian entertainer from the Midwest whose passion for writing began with a love for reading. Although a newly published author, Bogdon has been telling stories for years. Through involvement in theater, film, commercial, and voice-over work, she has had the opportunity to breathe life into the written word, and as an avid daydreamer, she is thrilled to see those dreams finally settle onto the printed page.

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

The Green Mage
Michael Simms
Madville Publishing LLC
9781956440188, $21.95, PB, 324pp

Synopsis: Norbert Oldfoot is a simple mage who makes his living traveling the Bekla River Road, selling trade goods, performing healing magic, and singing traditional songs of heroes. He becomes friends with Kerttu, a coppersmith who has developed a new alloy which is perfect for manufacturing swords.

When Kerttu is kidnaped by the evil Wizard Ludek, Kerttu's teenage daughter Tessia, a skilled hunter, recruits three friends, including Norbert, and sets out on a quest to find a legendary dragon who lives in the mountains. With the help of the dragon, Tessia plans to save her father.

Little do they know that in order to save Kerttu, they will first have to save the kingdom!

Critique: Original, deftly crafted, "The Green Mage: The First Chronicle of Tessia Dragonqueen" a fun and fascinating read from start to finish, and debuts novelist Michael Simms new heroic fantasy series 'The Talon Trilogy'. Populated throughout with interesting characters and unexpected plot twists, "The Green Mage" will prove to be an immediate and enduringly appreciated pick for personal reading lists of dedicated action/adventure fantasy fans and community library Science Fiction & Fantasy collections. It should be noted that "The Green Mage" is also readily available from Madville Publishing in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.49).

Editorial Note: Michael Simms ( has worked as a squire and armorer to a Hungarian fencing master, stable hand, gardener, forager, estate agent, college teacher, editor, publisher, technical writer, lexicographer, political organizer, and literary impresario. He is also the author of seven collections of poetry and a textbook about poetry. In 2011 Simms was recognized by the Pennsylvania State Legislature for his contribution to the arts.

Becoming Crone
Lydia M. Hawke
Michem Publishing
9781989457085, $14.99, PB, 244pp

Synopsis: Claire Emerson is adrift. After a lifetime as a wife, mother, and grandma, she never saw divorce or loneliness coming and is desperate for some sense of purpose. But when her sixtieth birthday brings a snarky gargoyle, an annoyingly sexy wolf shifter, and an unknown magical calling, she thinks she's losing the only thing she has left -- her sanity.

Refusing to believe she's the powerful defender of humankind her so-called protectors claim, Claire attempts a return to her safe life, only to have her powers ignite when she's attacked by dark supernatural creatures. And without the training she was supposed to have received, she has no idea how she'll defeat sinister mages plotting her demise.

Can Claire overcome creaky joints and major hot flashes in time to save the world - and her own life?

Critique: "Becoming Crone" is the first volume in the new fantasy series 'The Crone Wars' by author Lydia M. Hawke. It's the story of a 60 year old woman who wanted a new purpose for herself now that her children were grown and had children of their own. Be careful what you wish for! Because what she got was dark magic and war. An original, fun, and deftly crafted action/adventure fantasy with a most unlikely hero, "Becoming Crone" is a great read and a welcome pick for personal and community library Science Fiction & Fantasy collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of all dedicated fantasy fans that "Becoming Crone" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

Editorial Note: Lydia M. Hawke ( is a Canadian writer possessed of both a light side and a dark one. On the dark side, she's the author of the Grigori Legacy, an apocalyptic urban fantasy series featuring a hard-as-nails cop caught up in the war between Heaven and Hell. In her lighter moments, she writes romances (contemporary and suspense) under the pseudonym of Linda Poitevin.

The Poetry Shelf

The Dreams of the Gods
J. R. Solonche
Kelsay Books
9781639803392, $23.00, PB, 102pp

Synopsis: Assumption: A precocious / bumble bee has / stumbled here / from somewhere / and finding the garden / bare of bloom / so stumbles on elsewhere / one must assume.

The purpose of poetry is to affect both the emotions and the intellect of the listener/reader. With the publication of "The Dreams of the Gods", J. R. Solonche demonstrates his consummate skills and impressible talents as a wordsmith as revealed in this compendium of his verse.

Critique: Memorable, original, deftly crafted, and of special appeal to fans of free verse poetry, "The Dreams of the Gods" by J. R. Solonche is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, community, college, and university Contemporary Poets & Poetry collections. Also very highly recommended is "Leda" (Dos Madres, 9781953252777, $21.00, PB, 105pp), J. R. Solonche's thirty-first published book of original, noteworthy and skillfully structured verse.

Editorial Note: J. R. Solonche ( is the author of Beautiful Day (Deerbrook Editions), Won't Be Long (Deerbrook Editions), Heart's Content (Five Oaks Press), Invisible (nominated for the Pulitzer Prize by Five Oaks Press), The Black Birch (Kelsay Books), I, Emily Dickinson & Other Found Poems (Deerbrook Editions), In Short Order (Kelsay Books), Tomorrow, Today and Yesterday (Deerbrook Editions), If You Should See Me Walking on the Road (Kelsay Books), and so many more outstanding works of literature and poetry.

The Self-Help Shelf

33 Letters of Compassion: To: The Unseen. Love, Rosie
Elaine Elizabeth
Independently Published
9798887596372, $14.99, HC, 84pp

Synopsis: "33 Letters of Compassion: To: The Unseen. Love, Rosie" by Elaine Elizabeth is an inspiring memoir that will motivate her readers to embark on their own journeys to healing and self-discovery.

"33 Letters of Compassion" promotes the value of mental well-being and self-compassion. It is a collection of stories about patience, recovery, and personal development. This is your sign to finally take the first step in taking control of your emotions, practice self care, and live your life to the fullest!

"33 Letters of Compassion" deftly takes the reader on an insightful journey through Elaine Elizabeth's own inner thoughts on difficult emotions. This journey provides a glimpse into the healing process and the steps it took to healing, reclaiming joy and fulfillment.

"33 Letters of Compassion" reveals:

The path to self-discovery, which is the process of exploring those things that will help you in creating a better understanding of yourself. This will give you some insights in revisiting your values and principles in life.

The value of compassion. This act of kindness will help you in fostering a stronger sense of connection with yourself and others.

The value of self-empowerment and self care. This is something that will guide you in self-acceptance and personal growth. It is important to know that you can find joy and happiness the moment you start focusing on your holistic well-being.

Critique: Eloquent, thoughtful, thought-provoking, and ultimately inspiring, "33 Letters of Compassion: To: The Unseen. Love, Rosie" is particularly relevant and recommended for anyone who is experiencing trauma, as well as those who are trying to get past the past and start rebuilding a life full of joy and purpose. While especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, and community library Self-Help/Self-Improvement and Popular Psychology/Medicine collections, it should be noted for anyone who has ever struggled with trauma or who knows a friend or family member who has, that "33 Letters of Compassion is also available in a paperback edition (9798887595856, $12.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

Editorial Note: Elaine Lamoreaux ( aka Elaine Elizabeth created Generational Evolution to provide independent opportunities for those that wanted to battle their demons alone. She knows that not everyone knows where to start. She's hoping that generational evolution can be a start for those that are looking to change the way they live their life to experience life to the fullest.

The Criminology Shelf

Breaking Midnight: A True Story
Lynn Walker
MZW Publishing
9781737895541, $14.99, PB, 302pp

Synopsis: John Walker was a Miami undercover narcotics agent in the 1970s. Ten years later, he was in prison for smuggling 12,000 pounds of marijuana. In prison, he connected with a South American drug lord who was still running the family operation from inside the federal pen. Within months of being paroled, John began smuggling again -- this time it was uncut Colombian cocaine. And this time, he put everything on the line: his freedom, his family and, ultimately, his life.

"Breaking Midnight: A True Story" shines a light on the gritty underbelly of Miami drug trafficking and the danger of leading a double life -- as an undercover narc or a smuggler. Based on interviews with her father, John, this biography of him by Lynn Walker is an uncensored, up-close-and-personal account of how a good cop goes bad.

Critique: A simply fascinating, informative, and true account of how and why a law enforcement agent was seduced into a life of crime Lynn Walker's biography of her father, "Breaking Midnight: A True Story", is a compelling read from first page to last. While also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.99), "Breaking Midnight: A True Story" is a unique and highly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, college, and university library American Biography collections and supplemental Criminology curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: Lynn Walker ( worked for many years with at-risk high school students whose parents were drug addicts and alcoholics. Her work with those teens compelled her to reconnect with her own estranged father, who had been a Miami undercover narcotics agent-turned-drug smuggler. What she found entangled in his story was part of her own, and she wrote "Midnight Calling: A Memoir of a Drug Smuggler's Daughter". Her second book, "Breaking Midnight: A True Story", is about her dad's infamous life, based on numerous interviews she conducted with him over several years. Lynn can be followed on social media @WalkerMemoir

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

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