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Small Press Bookwatch

Volume 23, Number 1 January 2024 Home | SPBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Health/Medicine Shelf Education Shelf
Parenting Shelf Biography Shelf General Fiction Shelf
Literary Fiction Shelf Romantic Fiction Shelf Mystery/Suspense Shelf
Fantasy/SciFi Shelf Poetry Shelf Christian Studies Shelf
Self-Help Shelf Metaphysical Studies Shelf  

Reviewer's Choice

Confederacy of Monarch: Pirate's Honor!
Everett Watson
Dorrance Publishing Company
9781637642894, $56.00, PB, 222pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "The Confederacy of Monarchs: Pirate's Honor!", author Everett Watson presents counter-arguments in response to the eruption of protests that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia, and Civil War statues across the United States. Why were people so upset about the statues revering our famous soldiers? Was there a Civil War cover-up for a more serious crime committed against the United States?

"The Confederacy of Monarchs: Pirate's Honor!" provides a fascinating depiction of actual events in our nation's history to discover the answers to these questions and more.

This is an American history story that will captivate the reader while explaining true events that prove that crimes were, in fact, committed against the United States, and the men who committed these crimes were freed after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. After they were pardoned, these men had no remorse for their crimes. After the war they published lies, blaming the war on the dead president, and these stories have caused discourse throughout American history.

It is Everett Watson's fervent hope that the reader will agree that America is indebted to the Civil War's deceased, and the truth about the acts of treason committed in 1864 should be told!

Critique: A timely and much needed response to the 100 years of post-Civil War propaganda in the form of literature, movies, and today's documented insurrectionist attempts to overthrow the Constitution of the United States, "The Confederacy of Monarchs: Pirate's Honor!" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, political activist, and college/university library Contemporary Social Issues and American History collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: Everett Watson is an electrician and HVAC technician by trade, and has worked all over the world. He will soon be a college graduate with a degree in construction management. He is a war veteran who is passionate about the history of our great nation and the brave soldiers who have fought for our freedom.

The Health/Medicine Shelf

The Human Being Diet
Petronella Ravenshear
Health Human Publishing
9798988806677, $20.00, PB, 293pp

Synopsis: Sick of flawed fad diets? Longing to understand the root causes behind obesity and chronic diseases? Hoping to overcome feelings of constant exhaustion?.

Petronella Ravenshear (who is a Senior Associate member of the Royal Society of Medicine) has spent decades helping thousands of clients resolve long-standing digestive, skin, and weight issues. And now, with the publication of a newly revised and updated second edition of "The Human Being Diet: A blueprint for feasting and fasting your way to feeling, looking and being your best" she shares the revelations from her in-depth studies of functional nutrition and help you put the spring back in your step.

The new and expanded second edition of "The Human Being Diet" is a DIY three-month program that will reestablish your body's long-term balance. Using her expertise to demystify complex research and dense subject matter, Ravenshear puts health first and allows weight loss to follow as a welcome side effect. And by embracing her liberating approach, you'll be able to interact with food in a positive way while enjoying the freedom of renewed strength and vigor.

With "The Human Being Diet", you will discover: How making smart choices can outweigh genetic tendencies and protect your ongoing health; A straightforward set of rules and phases that reveal which foods best suit your unique biochemistry; The underlying science behind adjusting your eating habits to reset rhythms and restore zest for life; Why 74% of deaths worldwide are caused by avoidable diseases and how you can course correct to improve your odds; Ways in which common approaches to weight loss get it wrong, helpful recipes and meal plans, and much, much more!

Critique: "The Human Being Diet" is a life-changing reveal to having a practical nutrition resulting in better health and a longer life. Thoroughly 'user friendly' in tone, style, organization and presentation, "The Human Being Diet" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and college/university library Health & Diet collections and Nutrition curriculum studies lists. It should be noted that "The Human Being Diet" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Petronella Ravenshear trained at the Institute for Optimum Nutrition and at the Institute for Functional Medicine. She was in private practice in London's Chelsea for nearly twenty years where she built a glittering reputation for helping thousands of clients resolve long-standing digestive, skin and weight issues. Petronella decodes the biological processes which lead to inflammation, lack of energy and overweight, while explaining and clarifying the underlying reasons why changing when we eat, what we eat, and how much we eat, resets our rhythm and restores our joy in life.

Mindful Movement
Dr. David Tannenbaum, author
Risa Sheppard, author
Newman Springs
9798887632322, $15.95, PB, 128pp

Synopsis: Today, the number one ailment affecting Americans is back pain, which impacts more than 80 percent of the population. An additional 70 million adults also suffer from arthritis and joint inflammation. While traditional medicine treats these common aches and discomforts as mechanical problems to be cured by mechanical means, little to nothing is done to alleviate the stress at the root of the issues.

Risa Sheppard and Dr. David Tannenbaum collaborate in "Mindful Movement: Heal Your Back Pain with BAM Therapy" to provide practical and effective help for those living with chronic musculoskeletal pain and related ailments.

"Mindful Movement" offers essential information on the back, along with spiritual wisdom and Pilates movements for alleviating and healing back pain. The authors have poured over seventy years of combined experience in healing into Mindful Movement, along with cutting-edge medical research that supports Body and Mind Therapy (BAM).

In the pages of "Mindful Movement, grateful readers are presented with guidelines on how to incorporate spiritual mentalities and gentle exercise therapy for those who seek to heal their body naturally, without resorting to drugs or invasive surgeries. Constricted minds create constricted bodies, and in turn, open minds create open, fluid, free-moving bodies.

Specifically, "Mindful Movement" helps readers do the following: Understand the connection between emotional stress and physical pain; Identify the source of pain; Alleviate pain from the body; Replace drug therapy with gentle healing techniques; Manage sanity in the face of stressful experiences.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented for the benefit of non-specialist general readers (and invaluable for medical care providers as well), "Mindful Movement: Heal Your Back Pain with BAM Therapy" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and college/university library Health/Medicine collections and supplemental Alternative Medicine curriculum studies lists. It should be noted that "Mindful Movement" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note #1: David Tannenbaum ( is a chiropractor and the founder of Tannenbaum Chiropratic which is located in Beverly Hills, California.

Editorial Note #2: Risa Sheppard is one of the world's most sought-after Pilates instructors, Sheppard Method Pilates ( provides an unforgettable, welcoming place where you can achieve physical, emotional, and mental balance and stability. By placing an emphasis on Classical Pilates and the ever-important mind, body, soul connection, her clients work on themselves as a whole, rather than just the physical being.

The Education Shelf

Sustaining Music Education in K-3 Programs
Ivone Fraiha Clark
Dorrance Publishing Company
9781637642795, $15.00, PB, 134pp

Synopsis: Public school administrators and teachers who provide music in elementary programs are often confronted with budgetary costs and reduced funding for music education. There is a dearth of research regarding music as an essential element in early education in low-income rural areas.

Thus, the purpose of the inquiry presented in "Sustaining Music Education in K-3 Programs: A Research in a Low-Income Rural Area" by Ivone Fraiha Clark is to explore and describe leadership practices of principals who, despite the final challenges, include and sustain music in the K-3 curriculum.

This seminal study was conducted in a small county southeast of the United States. The findings may encourage educational leaders to find ways to sustain music education from early childhood as an opportunity for enhanced education in the hopes of future citizens engaged with a more equitable society.

Critique: Of special and particular interest to school administrators, teachers, school board members, education advocates, parents, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in supporting music education as a part of elementary level school curriculums, "Sustaining Music Education in K-3 Programs: A Research in a Low-Income Rural Area" is a critically important addition to personal, professional, community, and college/university library Music Education Curriculum collections and curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: Ivone Fraiha Clark Ph.D. is a musician and mother of three. She is a US citizen by marriage and Brazilian by birth. In Brazil, she worked for more than 30 years between the stage and teaching. To encourage excellence in music, she has created choirs. She has an informative website at

The Parenting Shelf

Small Moments, Big Impact: The MicroStep Method for the Overwhelmed Parent
Mary Willcox Smith, CMLC
Independently Published
9798988693017, $19.99, PB, 209pp

Synopsis: Parents today seem to inhabit high-speed whirlwinds, where time is scarce and stress runs high. But what if there's a proven way to navigate the chaos, a way to strengthen connections with your children while supporting their personal growth -- all through the power of small, actionable steps?

With the publication of "Small Moments, Big Impact: The MicroStep Method for the Overwhelmed Parent", parenting coach Mary Willcox Smith guides you on a transformative journey, showing you how to chart a straight course through the commotion and, at the same time, how to rediscover the simple joys of parenting.

Imagine: it's long past your child's bedtime. Pleas for "one more story" or "some more water" seem endless. Your frustration looms large, and you are not inclined to indulge your child further. But in a pivotal moment, you stop to try a new approach that involves showing sincere interest and curiosity. And that brief pause, for a newly shared experience as you honor your child's perspective, transforms the bedtime battle into a bonding moment.

How can such a tiny change hold such transformative potential? This is the essence of the MicroStep Method, where seemingly small shifts can empower the overwhelmed parent and Mary Willcox Smith provides you with the know-how and actionable tools that can shift everyday parenting struggles into opportunities to create moments of meaningful connection -- while simultaneously increasing children's cooperation and fostering their self-efficacy.

Integrating 25 years of experience, the best of child development research, and neuroscience, "Small Moments, Big Impact: The MicroStep Method for the Overwhelmed Parent" fully equips parents with easy-to-implement and customizable scripts for connection and growth. Your alliance with your child will deepen as you learn to nurture your child's social-emotional strength, self-esteem, and resilience, while you continue on the profound journey of helping to make your child feel truly whole.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented for the benefit and accessability for the non-specialist general reader, "Small Moments, Big Impact: The MicroStep Method for the Overwhelmed Parent" should be considered essential reading for parents wanting their children to achieve success as they grow from childhood into young adulthood in these undeniably stressful times for any family. Especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and college/university library Contemporary Parenting collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists, it should be noted that "Small Moments, Big Impact: The MicroStep Method for the Overwhelmed Parent" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

Editorial Note: Mary Willcox Smith is a Parent Coach, Speaker, and Author. A mom to four daughters, Mary's passion for neuroscience, mindfulness, and child development inspired her book, Small Moments, Big Impact: The MicroStep Method for the Overwhelmed Parent. Mary holds an MBA from INSEAD Business School and is a Master Certified Life Coach and a Certified Positive Discipline Expert. She provides coaching to an exclusive roster of parents and frequently speaks with schools, corporations, and parent groups.

The Biography Shelf

Better Dirty Than Done
Rick Czaplewski, author
Michelle Gamble, editor
3L Publishing & PR
9798218293567, $19.95, PB, 154pp

Synopsis: Already facing a wretched cancer diagnosis, Rick Czaplewski is a young man whose prospects for survival are dim as he learns his treatments have not worked. Writing against the clock, he feverishly authors a story of profound joy and sadness exploring the life he could have lived.

Desperately told, his story takes you through poignant memories, intimate relationships, and fantastical triumphs in a quest to make sense of it all and leave a legacy behind.

An inherently fascinating and inspiring memoir, "Better Dirty Than Done" will have readers questioning the value of how they are spending their own time. What would they do if their life suddenly had an imminent expiration date?

Critique: A compelling and vividly written reflection on both the fragility of life and its limitless potential for joy, "Betty Dirty Than Done" is beautifully told through an authentic, intimate and personal voice. Simply stated, with the editorial assistance of Michelle Gamble, "Better Dirty Than Done" by Rick Czaplewski is an inspirationally motivating read from start to finish for anyone seeking to make sense of their life. Unique, authentic, and one of those life stories that will linger in the mind and memory long after the book is finished and set back upon the shelf, "Better Dirty Than Done" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as community and college/university library American Biography/Memoir collections.

The General Fiction Shelf

Avery Caswell
Lorimer Press
c/o WayWord Books
9780989788571, $8.40, HC, 88pp

Synopsis: The desperate, the pure-at-heart, the charmingly manipulative, the wise, the deluded -- mothers and children of every stripe populate "MotherLoad", a collection of ten short stories by Avery Caswell and which was originally published in 2015.

In "Irish Twins - Thoughts of Suicide," Marann, a young artist down to her last three dollars, knows she can either fall into the unknown, or venture forth like a tightrope walker, while in "64 With a Sharpener" ten-year-old Frances, in her thin-soled Keds, is aware already of how much better the world looks at a distance. A military school cadet cons his mother in a series of text messages, only to discover he's been conned himself. And in "Salvation" Maggie remembers her Gullah grandmother Pasqueline describing a summer sky, "so still, like a body, a kuwfa, with no more breath left in its bones."

Caswell evokes past and present and paints a southern landscape with a deft brush, from neighborhoods with split level houses and paved driveways, dirt roads the color of mahogany with a cluster of shacks no bigger than a child's playhouse, to a garden full of cures and curses, where the gardener knows which plants nourish and which are pure poison, and should she choose, she could "consign anyone to his fate, with no more thought than deadheading a bed of chrysanthemums".

Critique: Each deftly crafted and original short story is a literary gem, making "MotherLoad" by author and storyteller Avery Caswell a fun and memorable read from start to finish. Made available to a new generation of appreciative readers by WayWord Books, "MotherLoad" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, community, and college/university library 21st Century Literary Fiction collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: Avery Caswell ( was born just north of Chicago, Illinois. From a young age she was always scribbling, filling stenographer notebooks with observations (like Harriet, the Spy) and drawing scenes from Camelot (Franco Nero!). An interest in the blurred edges between religion and magic, and a love of history inspire much of her writing. Caswell attended Kent State and Purdue Universities, the University of Baltimore, and Iowa Writers' Workshop. She holds MFAs in theatre and creative writing.

The Rocking Chair Prophet
Matthew Kelly
Blue Sparrow
9781635822083, $27.95, HC, 320pp

Synopsis: After an unspeakable tragedy devastates his life, Daniel, a thirty-three-year-old suburban man, disappears into the mountains. Years later, he reemerges filled with uncommon wisdom and other extraordinary gifts.

From that day on, people travel from far and wide to meet with Daniel, who sits on his rocking chair, meeting with visitors, and helping them explore their deeply personal questions. These questions lead to a series of epic conversations that traverse life's quintessential topics: love, suffering, health and well-being, education, work, money and things, spirituality, regrets, depression, ambition, nature, parenting, midlife crisis, choices, our hopes and dreams, the meaning of life, and enduring friendship.

A deftly crafted and unique novel, "The Rocking Chair Prophet" by Matthew Kelly is a rich exploration of life and the human condition. It is also an invitation to rediscover yourself and reorient your life. As an author, Kelly has masterfully woven into the story a piercing wisdom that is thought-provoking on a life-changing scale. It is stunning that one novel can have something so meaningful to say on so many topics. This is destined to be a work of metaphysical fiction that readers will return to time and again, and which speaks to us anew in every season of life.

Listening to that voice is the difference between happiness and misery, wonderful memories and heartrending regrets. "The Rocking Chair Prophet" is a transformational novel about reclaiming that voice and the unmitigated joy that comes from following it.

Critique: Of special value to readers with an interest in Christian spiritual growth, personal transformation, and metaphysical/visionary fiction, "The Rocking Chair Prophet" is one of those novels that will linger in the mind and memory long after the book has been finished and set back upon the shelf. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community and college/university library Literary Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Rocking Chair Prophet" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Matthew Kelly ( is an author, speaker, thought leader, entrepreneur, consultant, spiritual leader, and innovator. He has dedicated his life to helping people and organizations become the-best-version-of-themselves. Born in Sydney, Australia, he began speaking and writing in his late teens while he was attending business school. Since that time, five million people have attended his seminars and presentations in more than fifty countries.

When We Were Enemies
Emily Bleeker
Lake Union Publishing
Brilliance Audio
9781662509889, $16.99, PB, 347pp

Synopsis: It's 1943 when Vivian, a small-town Indiana girl, lends her home front support to the war effort. As a translator in the nearby Italian POW camp, she's invaluable. As a celebrated singer for the USO, she lifts men's spirits and falls in love with a soldier. But behind this all-American love story is a shocking secret -- one that is vital to keep buried if Vivian is to achieve the fame and fortune she covets.

Today, camera-shy Elise Branson is different from the other women in her maternal line. Her mother is an award-winning actress. Her late grandmother is Vivian Snow, a beloved Hollywood icon. But when Elise's upcoming wedding coincides with a documentary being made about Vivian, Elise can't escape the camera's gaze. And neither can her grandmother, even in death.

For Elise and Vivian, what's hidden (and what's exposed) threatens to unravel their lives. The heart-wrenching choices they must make will change them both forever.

Critique: An original, fascinating, deftly crafted, and fun read from beginning to end, "When We Were Enemies" smoothly showcases author Emily Bleeker's undeniably impressive talents and her mastery of narrative driven storytelling. Especially and unreservedly recommended for for community library fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "When We Were Enemies" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Brilliance Audio, 9781491556696, $19.99, MP3-CD).

Editorial Note: Emily Bleeker ( is the author of six novels. Combined, her books have reached more than two million readers. She is a two-time Whitney Award finalist as well as an Amazon Charts and Wall Street Journal bestseller.

The Literary Fiction Shelf

Frontiers, Front Lines and Forehands
Brian Lee Gambill
Dorrance Publishing Company
9798886835311, $17.00, PB, 180pp

Synopsis: "Frontiers, Front Lines and Forehands" by Brian Lee Gambill is a story about a young man with varying interests - Education, Animal Welfare, Tennis, Linguistics, and Military Operations-and loads of determination and passion to find success within them. From this far-ranging tale, hopefully readers will be inspired to travel different avenues of life, to pursue their interests, no matter where their origin is or where they may take them.

Critique: Although a work of fiction, "Frontiers, Front Lines and Forehands" is drawn from author Brian Lee Gambill's personal and expansive studies of life and conditions in Serbia. The result is a novel that reads like a memoir (or quite possibly, a memoir that reads like a novel!). Inherently fascinating and exceptionally well written, "Frontiers, Front Lines and Forehands" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community and college/university Contemporary Literary Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Frontiers, Front Lines and Forehands" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Brian Lee Gambill volunteered every week when he served in the United States Air Force for children's events in Schools, Marching Parades, Veterans' Affairs Events, assisting people facing Real Life Crisis Situations, and Arts & Crafts Events. He has devoted 100+ hours of personal time at The John Cochran Veterans Affairs Facility in St. Louis, Missouri as an Administrative Assistant to help with the process of assisting struggling Veterans.

The Thinning Veil: 13 Twisted Tales
Matthew J. Pallamary
Mystic Ink Publishing
9780998680996, $10.95, PB, 175pp

Synopsis: Art imitates life and reflects our human condition which fluctuates from moment to moment along with our ever-changing life experience of the times we live in.

Author Matthew J. Pallamary's first short story collection, "The Small Dark Room of the Soul and Other Stories" was published thirty years ago and made references to the collective fears of those times. Much has happened over the last three decades since then with shifting geopolitics, explosive growth in science, technology, pandemics, school shootings, chaotic weather patterns, homelessness, and all the other problems we are still struggling with as we move deeper into the twenty-first century.

Twenty years later, his second short story collection, "A Short Walk to the Other Side" was published, following the similar theme of how close we all are to our demons, no matter how much we try to ignore and rid ourselves of them. We are all just a short walk away from a thought, act, or emotion that lets the monster out of its cage, taking us hostage into the abyss with it, sometimes with no escape.

Now his newly published third short story collection, "The Thinning Veil" follows the same train of thought. In this case it doesn't matter if the demons are locked in a small dark room, or just a short walk away, because the veil between the worlds is thinning and the boundaries have become blurred, bringing more weight to the question; what or where are the boundaries between what we believe to be real and what we imagine?

Critique: Erudite, eloquent, iconoclastic, "The Thinning Veil" once again showcases author Matthew J. Pallamary's mastery of the short story, raising this literary format to an impressively high level of literary fiction. Thoughtful, thought-provoking, entertaining, and memorable, the thirteen short stories comprising "The Thinning Veil" are especially and unreservedly recommended for community and college/university library Contemporary American Literary Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Thinning Veil" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

Editorial Note: The works Matthew J. Pallamary ( have been translated into Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Norwegian, French, and German. His historical novel of first contact between shamans and Jesuits in 18th century South America, titled, Land Without Evil received rave reviews along with a San Diego Book Award for mainstream fiction. It was also adapted into a full-length stage and sky show, co-written with and directed by Agent Red and performed by Sky Candy, an Austin Texas aerial group. The making of the show was the subject of a PBS series, Arts in Context episode, which garnered an EMMY nomination.

The Romantic Fiction Shelf

The Gardens of Byzantium
J. F. Hughes
JFH Books
9798218219819, $10.99, PB, 190pp

Synopsis: The year is 622 A.D., and the Persian and Byzantine empires have been fighting a war in the deserts since before Asana was born.

Asana's life has been one of turmoil and change. Every year found her uprooted and brought to another foreign land to live an austere life in a garrison with her father, an officer in the Persian Army. But the middle of a war is no place for such a gentle soul.

Before long, she is swept away from her family and forced to flee on the back of her beloved horse. Fate leads her into the hands of a handsome and mysterious Roman soldier who sequesters her in a beautiful palace in the heart of Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine empire.

She begins to fall for him, and at last it seems as though she may have found an oasis of happiness in her war-torn world. That is, until news of a Persian army marching toward the city upends her life again, setting in motion an unstoppable chain of events that bring the story to its breathtaking and tragic conclusion.

Critique: A deftly crafted and riveting read from start to finish, (and all the more impressive when considering that it is the author's debut as a novelist), "The Gardens of Byzantium" by J. F. Hughes is historical romance fiction at its very best. While an especially and unreservedly recommended pick for community library Historical Romance collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Gardens of Byzantium" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.69).

Editorial Note: Born in New York City and raised in New Jersey, J.F. Hughes graduated college with a degree in Business. He is the father of five children, raising them with his wife. He works full-time as a property manager, and moonlights as a music teacher. He has been a lecturer at colleges, a freelance musician, a landscaper, and founder of a real estate business among many other things. Creative at heart, Hughes has been actively pursuing his passion for writing (

The Mystery/Suspense Shelf

The Great Gimmelmans
Lee Matthew Goldberg
Level Best Books
9781685124212, $18.95, PB, 392pp

Synopsis: Middle child Aaron Gimmelman watches as his family goes from a mild-mannered reform Jewish clan to having over a million dollars of stolen money stuffed in their RV's cabinets while being pursued by the FBI and loan sharks. But it wasn't always like that. His father Barry made a killing as a stockbroker, his mother Judith loved her collection of expensive hats, his older sister Steph was obsessed with pop stars, and little sister Jenny loved her stuffed possum, Seymour.

After losing all their money in the Crash of 1987, the family starts stealing from convenience stores, but when they hit a bank, they realize the talent they possess. The money starts rolling in and brings the family closer together, whereas back at home, no one had any time for bonding due to their busy schedules. But Barry's desire for more, more, more will take its toll on the Gimmelmans, and Aaron is forced into an impossible choice: turn against his father, or let his family fall apart.

From Jersey, down to an Orthodox Jewish community in Florida where they hide out, and up to California, the Gimmelmans family goes on a madcap ride through the 1980s. Filled with greed and love and the meaning of religion and tradition until the walls of the RV and the feds start closing in.

Critique: A fascinating, deftly crafted, and fun read from start to finish, "The Great Gimmelmans" fully showcases author Lee Matthew Goldberg's genuinely impressive flair for originality, humor, action, and the creation of a cast of memorable characters. Of great interest to fans of unusual family life, and criminal suspense thrillers, "The Great Gimmelmans" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Mystery/Suspense collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Great Gimmelmans" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $0.99).

Editorial Note: Lee Matthew Goldberg ( is the author of fourteen novels. He was nominated for an Anthony Award and the Prix du Polar. After graduating with an MFA from the New School, he's been published in multiple languages and his writing has also appeared as a contributor in CrimeReads, Pipeline Artists, LitHub, Electric Literature, The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Millions, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, LitReactor, Mystery Tribune, Monkeybicycle, Fiction Writers Review, Cagibi, Necessary Fiction, the anthology Dirty Boulevard, The Montreal Review, The Adirondack Review, The New Plains Review, Maudlin House and others.

Buried Silence: Under the Big Sky
Susan Hemphill
Independently Published
9780997277722, $29.99, HC, 424pp

Synopsis: When the bustle of city life inevitably bored the most powerful captains of industry, the self-proclaimed Big Men of the Big Sky swapped their suits for cowboy boots and drug their trophy wives along with them. Nestled in a gated community at the base of mountains larger than the egos of their husbands, the transplanted women kept themselves busy with over-the-top parties, scandalous rendezvous and not-so-secret affairs.

The picturesque paradise of the Antelope Club quickly turns into a crime scene when an explosion levels the home of one of the Club's key executives. Nothing is as it seems, and it becomes evident this was no random hit; with connections to Wall Street and beyond, a complicated algorithm of lies, secret societies, and catastrophic consequences arises out of the rubble.

Who blew up a house with a woman inside? -- The Yellowstone River runs deep in the Big Sky country of Montana, but so does deception.

Critique: A deftly crafted and original romance/mystery suspense thriller, "Buried Silence" is all the more impressive when considering that it is author Susan Hemphill's debut as a novelist. "Buried Silence" is a fun read from start to finish -- and one that will hold a special interest for fans of novels about the ultra rich when it comes to life, death, and love. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Crime Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Buried Silence" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9780997277715, $17.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

Editorial Note: Susan Hemphill holds a BS degree in Telecommunications and Film from San Diego State University. She has written for the Contra Costa Times and has worked in both corporate and syndicated television and radio as a producer, writer, reporter and on-air personality. She has been featured in Time Magazine, Business Week, and Family Circle in addition to frequently appearing in the business sections of San Francisco Bay Area newspapers.

The Pegasus Directive
Ian A. O'Connor
Pegasus Publishing & Entertainment Group
9781737422921, $27.95, HC, 274pp

Synopsis: Year after year, the world's three most frequently asked questions continue to be:

1. Who killed President John F. Kennedy?
2. Why was he killed?
3. How was it accomplished?

The answers came in May 1972 from a Soviet spymaster seeking sanctuary at the Canadian Embassy in Rome. He told the ambassador at the time he wished to defect to the United States in exchange for perishable information he deemed critical to America's continued well-being. There was just one caveat: He would only surrender to an American agent he knew solely by the code name Pegasus. What he revealed to Pegasus in trade for asylum was deemed so explosive by President Nixon, that it has remained among the world's most closely guarded secrets -- until now.

Critique: "The Pegasus Directive" by Ian A. O'Connor is an international thriller that was scheduled for release in 2023 to coincide with the 60th anniversary year of President John F. Kennedy's assassination. A vividly detailed and inherently fascinating read from start to finish, "The Pegasus Directive" will have a very special attraction to readers with an interest in military, espionage, and JFK assassination conspiracy thrillers. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Pegasus Directive" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781737422945, $15.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Ian A. O'Connor ( is also the author of "Point Option" which is a military themed thriller that was the 2022 winner of the prestigious Silver Falchion Award for the year's "Best Thriller". The award was presented to Ian at the 15th Annual Nashville Writers Conference. O'Connor is a member of the Air Commando Association, an associate member of the Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association, and Mystery Writers of America.

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

Sarena Straus
Winding Road Stories
9798986604336, $14.99, PB, 280pp

Synopsis: A corporation's immensely popular technology can rewire your brain to rid you of any bad habits or unwanted impulses in 2126 New York City. The government is using ReInception in a supposed attempt to rid society of criminal behavior one brain at a time. But when a college student and a government-labeled terrorist discover the truth behind what's happening in people's head, they are ready to risk their lives to preserve their free will and the future of society.

Critique: A riveting read that will have a special resonance with readers with an interest in post-apocalyptic and dystopian science fiction, "ReInception" by Sarena Straus is original, compelling, thought-provoking, deftly crafted storytelling and a truly memorable read that will linger in the mind of the reader long after the book itself has been finished and set back upon the shelf. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community and college/university library Science Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "ReInception" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.99).

Editorial Note: Sarena Straus ( is a lawyer turned author. She writes novels for the curious and adventurous, for people who are intrigued by a "what happens if," scenario, and who like to explore the outcomes. In addition to novels, Sarena has published numerous legal articles and works of poetry. She's also been an editor for a legal magazine and a tv and radio criminal case commentator.

The Last Vampire
Craig Hadley
Dorrance Publishing Company
9798887291086, $22.00, PB, 304pp

Synopsis: What if most of vampire lore and mythology was wrong? What if being a 'vampire' had nothing to do with good or evil, but instead was about a freak manifestation of events that created immortal beings?

Joshua Jacob Jones is 600-years-old -- and the last vampire. Joshua is dragged back to his past when one of his human friends seeks him out after many years apart to share that a small group of very rich and powerful people have acquired vampire blood and are working to unlock the secret to becoming immortal.

Joshua agrees to join forces with his old friend to track down and destroy the source of the blood, as well as all the current research. To accomplish this mission, Joshua teams up with an unlikely group of allies, including a young Japanese woman who is incredibly gifted and a deadly samurai, six former special ops soldiers from across the globe, and a beautiful middle-aged woman with a past that is key to unlocking the secrets of the rich and powerful group striving to become immortal.

But it's not just her secrets that will play a role in this mission. Joshua's secrets are just as important...

Critique: An impressive and inherently fascinating re-working of the vampire action/adventure fantasy genre, "The Last Vampire" is a fun read from start to finish and quite nicely showcases author Craig Hadley's genuine flair for originality and the kind of narrative driven storytelling style that full engages the interest of his readers from beginning to end.

Editorial Note: Craig Hadley earned a history and anthropology degree from the University of South Carolina, as well as a master's in museum science from Johns Hopkins University. He has worked as a professional archaeologist and historian for more than twenty years. Throughout his career he has consulted and managed museums across the United States. He has also been a historical technical advisor on various motion pictures and documentaries.

Legends of Clover Talamh: Unravel
Shannon-Lee Morrissey
Dorrance Publishing Company
9798887293547, $20.00, PB, 252pp

Synopsis: Besides the mysterious death of their parents, twins Garrett and Caitlin believe themselves to be ordinary teenagers. That all changes on their eighteenth birthday when inexplicably they and their three younger sisters are ripped from their home and transported into a world very unlike their own, where witches, pirates, and magical creatures reside.

But the biggest surprise of all is that everyone in this realm seems to know their names!

Critique: With the publication of "Legends of Clover Talamh: Unravel" by novelist Shannon-Lee Morrissey, readers with an interest in fantasy novels will enjoy following the exploits of the five siblings as they embark on a magical and remarkable adventure in order to discover the truth of their origins and their parents' deaths. As an author, "Shannon-Lee Morrissey showcases a remarkable and genuine flair for originality and a narrative driven storytelling style that provides a fun and compelling read from start to finish. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Fantasy Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Legends of Clover Talamh: Unravel" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.00).

Editorial Note: A Connecticut native, Shannon-Lee Morrissey is a witch, a goth, and a Celtic Pagan. She loves writing, reading, drawing, and spending time with family and friends. You can often find her in a bookstore carrying an armload of her favorite fantasy and sci-fi novels.

The Poetry Shelf

Gods of Four Mile Creek
Phillip Howerton
Golden Antelope Press
9781952232831, $18.95, PB, 124pp

Synopsis: "Gods of Four Mile Creek: Poems, Essays and Photographs by Phillip Howerton" explores the inescapable ambivalence we hold toward the places of our upbringing. In 68 exquisitely detailed poems, 19 photographs, and two essays, Phillip Howerton considers aspects of the world into which he was born -- specifically the rivers, farms, fish, birds, and stubborn humans of the rural Ozarks. As his explorations of "Folks, Living and Dead," "Amusements," and "Displacements" demonstrate, these elements may be gods of our own creation, gods which we simultaneously reject and embrace.

Howerton's poems bring careful attention to individuals who ponder, avoid, celebrate, and recognize themselves in the elements of their natural world. By acknowledging their kinship with blackjack oaks, homeless groundhogs, or discarded milk cans, readers come to discover much about who they were and who they might become. In "Farm Team," for example, a lone boy plays baseball with trees and barn doors as imagined teammates. When "the barn foundation/ hits another grounder" the "impossible catch" is "witnessed by a crowd/ of Holsteins." And readers see the imagination and resilience which farm life once required and still requires.

"The Farm Forgets it was a Farm" begins thus: "The loft barn wears the same faded sweater/ every day, with elbows worn thin where boards are missing." In this personification of a farm aging into obsolescence, "fencerows grow unruly like untrimmed eyebrows" and "no one/ visits." The poem ends with the barn imagined as an old man sent off to a nursing home: "In the unmown fields, winds with no place to be/ make a muffled uncertain shuffling sound/ like his stocking feet lost in his numbered hallway."

Ultimately, as a literary work, "Gods of Four Mile Creek" creates a sense of being and belonging. And running through this landscape of place and self is a seven-mile-long creek, oddly named "Four Mile Creek," filled with joy, tragedy, and relentless change.

Critique: Elegant, eloquent, memorable, "Gods of Four Mile Creek: Poems, Essays and Photographs by Phillip Howerton" will prove to be of immense value to readers with an interest in contemporary family poetry and descriptive and deftly crafted verse celebrating memories of places and human experiences. While especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, community, and college/university library Contemporary American Poetry collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists, it should be noted that "Gods of Four Mile Creek" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

Editorial Note: Phillip Howerton is a sixth generation Ozarker who was brought upon a small farm in southern Dallas County, Missouri. After spending several years as a milk truck driver, a production worker, and a beef farmer, he earned degrees in English, history, and education from Drury University and a doctorate in English from the University of Missouri-Columbia. He has taught English at colleges and universities in the Ozarks for more than twenty years, is co-founder and co-editor of the Cave Region Review and general editor of Elder Mountain: A Journal of Ozark Studies. His essays, reviews, and poems have appeared in a wide variety of journals. He received the 2019 Missouri Literary Award from the Missouri Library Association.

The Christian Studies Shelf

From the Beginning of the End to the End of the Beginning
William S. Hyland
Lucid Books
9781632966018, $24.99, PB, 416pp

Synopsis: Two warnings Jesus had expressed to His disciples in Matthew 24 serve as the driving force for "From the Beginning of the End to the End of the Beginning: The Past, Present and Future of Created Life" by William S. Hyland: "See to it that no one misleads you" (v. 4) and "the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah." (v. 37)

Hyland's concern is that the Church of Jesus Christ needs to prepare now for two trending threats, a subtle one to the US Constitutional democracy and the semi-veiled one to worldwide Christianity.

Hyland's structured approach in presenting his case begins with a perceptive commentary on Genesis to highlight the perfections of life's elements God had created. His purpose is to enable the reader to discern and recognize mankind's disregard for that perfection both in ancient times as well as in contemporary life. That knowledge Mr. Hyland believes is necessary in order to prepare the reader's defenses against all forms of deceit.

The last phase of this book focuses on the Apostle John's spiritually gained futuristic insights, particularly on the harsh challenges Satan's angels will thrust on believers in-and-of Jesus as they faithfully struggle to persevere in the thick of persecution at the 'end times.'

Critique: Of immense value to readers with an interest in Christian faith and prophecy, "From the Beginning of the End to the End of the Beginning: The Past, Present and Future of Created Life" is an erudite, informative, insightful, thoughtful and thought-provoking biblically based study that is germane to our understanding of current and forthcoming events with respect to the apocalypse and the second coming of Christ. While also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99), "From the Beginning of the End to the End of the Beginning: The Past, Present and Future of Created Life" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, seminary, and college/university library supplemental Christian Theology/Prophecy curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: William S. Hyland earned a BA from Williams College in 1962 and an M.Div from Westminster Theological Seminary in 1980. From 1962 to 1976 he worked in financial management in New York and Philadelphia. From 1976 to 1996 he served as business manager and financial counselor at the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation. In 2004 he published Fresh Bait for Fishers of Men, which focused on creative concepts for twenty-first century biblical Christianity, and in 2020 a reference book entitled Biblical Concept of Hell . Since 1977 he has been a ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.

The Self-Help Shelf

The Power of Conscious Connection
Talia Fox
Ideapress Publishing
9781646871353, $28.95, HC, 198pp

Synopsis: "The Power of Conscious Connection: 4 Habits to Transform How You Live and Lead" by Talia Fox is much more than just another book on business and/or personal management. It is an introduction to a movement that encourages the reader to be more present, more engaged, and more attuned to the intricacies of our interconnected world. Fox deftly crafts a passionate plea for us to reimagine our roles, not just as leaders, but as global citizens, capable of inspiring and influencing change through conscious connection.

Harnessing the power of her signature model, the LOVE (Listen, Observe, Value, Engage) system, Fox illuminates the profound impact of these four habits. Each page of "The Power of Conscious Connection: 4 Habits to Transform How You Live and Lead" will stir you to the core, awaken your senses, and challenge you to commit to a new way of living and leading. It's about feeling more alive, more connected, more fulfilled. It's about inspiring you to play your part in co-creating a world that truly matters -- a world that we all would love to live in.

"The Power of Conscious Connection" is more than a leadership guide -- it offers a blueprint for a more conscious, compassionate, and connected world. This book is a call to action. It is a call to join the movement, to change the narrative, and thereby create a world that values conscious connection.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The Power of Conscious Connection: 4 Habits to Transform How You Live and Lead" by Talia Fox (who is the CEO of Kusi Global Inc.) is effective, inspiring, and enhanced for the reader with the inclusion of an Appendix (LOVE System Checklist) and three pages of End Notes. While also available for in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99), "The Power of Conscious Connection: 4 Habits to Transform How You Live and Lead" is especially and unreservedly recommended for MBA students, academia, corporate executives, business managers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject. Simply stated, "The Power of Conscious Connection: 4 Habits to Transform How You Live and Lead" will prove to be an enduringly important pick for community, corporate, and university library Business Motivational Management & Leadership collections and supplemental MBA curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: Talia Fox ( has become an inspirational leader in every sense of the word, often referred to as the Jedi of Inspiration by her clients. With over two decades of experience in transforming thousands of executives from all sectors, Talia has become a visionary for leadership and legacy building. Her extensive background in psychology and education has given her the tools to assist leaders in developing successful strategies for complex missions, ranging from defense systems to healthcare initiatives. Holding an M.Ed in psychology and being a Harvard University Fellow, she is a well-respected name in the industry. As CEO of KUSI Global, Inc., Talia uses her knowledge and expertise to make a difference in our world today -- turning ideas into actionable plans that have real-world results. With her passion and dedication, she is revolutionizing the way we view leadership. She helps leaders harness the power to revolutionize the human spirit.

The Opposite is True
Efren A. Delgado
Ad Hoc Publishing
9798987715222, $29.99, HC, 584pp

Synopsis: As humans, we have all and forever struggled with our imperfections. We are psychologically conditioned to hide them. We disguise them, and we spend our lives fighting to overcome them. Yet, our many flaws serve a greater purpose -- if we are willing to see the truth. Our weaknesses can actually reveal great benefits, not only in how we view ourselves, but in defining our purpose.

With the publication of "The Opposite is True: Discover Your Unexpected Enemies, Allies, and Purpose Through the Eyes of Counter-Intuitive Psychology", former FBI special agent and dedicated student of psychology, Efren Delgado offers a unique perspective on human nature, encouraging you to harness your imperfections-your weaknesses, vulnerabilities, insecurities, and emotions-and transform them into your greatest strengths.

Told through captivating real-life stories-including from his extensive counterintelligence and counter-criminal FBI careers-engaging fables, and insightful research from psychology, science, and literature, Delgado unveils the hidden patterns of human behavior that govern our interactions with our work, the world around us, and the world within us-ourselves.

"The Opposite is True" shows how to: Master an advanced empathy mindset to skyrocket your productivity; Uncover three essential rules for deeper self-awareness and better connections with others; Change past traumas into power skills for real-world resilience; Expand your mental perspective with the profound power of gratitude, happiness, and humility; Recognize adversity as the catalyst for purpose, action, and success-and how to adapt your thinking to utilize it.

For anyone seeking clarity, wisdom, and actionable insights to navigate life's challenges, "The Opposite is True" is an ideal DIY guide to embracing the paradoxical and surprising truths of your existence, to take refined action, and unlock your unrealized potential. "The Opposite is True" unravels surprising and counterintuitive truths, propelling you toward genuine success and discovering the hidden virtue of imperfection and learn how to strive for excellence-not perfection.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The Opposite is True: Discover Your Unexpected Enemies, Allies, and Purpose Through the Eyes of Counter-Intuitive Psychology" is an extraordinarily inspiring and unreservedly recommended pick for personal, professional, community, and college/university library Popular Psychology and Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections. It should be noted for readers with an interest in emotional/mental health that "The Opposite is True" is readily available in a paperback edition (9798987715208, $24.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Efren A. Delgado ( is a former FBI Special Agent with 25 years of national security, law enforcement, and private protection experience, and who has now added author and speaker to his threat assessment and consultation profession. His advanced behavioral studies in graduate school and at an FBI specialized unit near Quantico complimented his work experiences in counterintelligence, counterterrorism, and violent civil rights investigations. Efren's years of examining and combating spies, predators, and tyrants extends beyond criminality, revealing how true strength lies in humility-not oppression.

The Metaphysical Studies Shelf

Astrology in the Era of Uncertainty
Joe Landwehr
Ancient Tower Press
9780974762647, $29.99, PB, 474pp

Synopsis: We live in a difficult time. The world is changing in ways that are often complex, confusing, and disruptive to our lives and that can't easily be anticipated. Within such a world, there is a renewed hunger for more direct access to personal gnosis, one that is not dependent on external authorities. Each of us craves a reliable internal compass with which to navigate a world that, in the throes of very large, seemingly insolvable environmental, political, economic, social, racial and cultural problems, is increasingly uncertain.

While astrology may not be able to directly address these global issues, it can help us to cope in meaningful ways by reminding us, through an ongoing, ever-evolving conversation between psyche and cosmos, that we have a place and a purpose in the larger scheme of things. Out of this conversation can come not just a clearer sense of identity and purpose, and a greater capacity to effectively navigate one's life, but also a communion with numinous, sacred mysteries.

With the publication of "Astrology in the Era of Uncertainty: An Astropoetic Exploration of Psyche and Cosmos", Joe Landwehr narrates the history of astrology's co-evolution with science, religion and culture over thousands of years, and shows us how in the postmodern era of increasing uncertainty, astrology can provide a more direct pathway to deep self-knowledge, how it is possible to go beyond interpretation into a more intimate exploratory relationship to a living cosmos.

Critique: Available from Ancient Tower Press in a substantial trade paperback (7.5 x 0.95 x 9.25 inches, 1.7 pounds) edition, "Astrology in the Era of Uncertainty: An Astropoetic Exploration of Psyche and Cosmos" is informatively enhanced for the reader with the inclusion of a twenty page Bibliography and a thirty page Index. Especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and college/university library Metaphysical Studies collections, "Astrology in the Era of Uncertainty" is as inherently fascinating as it is thought-provoking and will be of special value to readers with an interest in astrology and New Age mysticism.

Editorial Note: The astrology that Joe Landwehr deftly weaves into the pages of his metaphysical science books is not that found in horoscope columns in your daily newspaper or in the many astrological cookbooks readily available at your local metaphysical bookstore. They are poetic way of observing the world and our place within it that provides an experiential basis for a satisfying relationship to soul and a soulful life - a way of relating to the world that Landwhr calls astropoetics. Landwehr has studied astrology for nearly 40 years and holds a special appreciation for its value as a reflective language of soul, as outlined in his first book, The Seven Gates of Soul. More can be read about Landwehr's work online at

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

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