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Small Press Bookwatch

Volume 22, Number 7 July 2023 Home | SPBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Environmental Studies Shelf World History Shelf
Education Shelf LGBT Studies Shelf Biography Shelf
General Fiction Shelf Historical Fiction Shelf LGBT Fiction Shelf
Literary Fiction Shelf Romantic Fiction Shelf Mystery/Suspense Shelf
Fantasy/SciFi Shelf Poetry Shelf Business Shelf
Humor Shelf Self-Help Shelf  

Reviewer's Choice

Bluebirds to Tikal: Stories of Fun, Fear & Folly
David Hann
Anamcara Press
9781960462015, $21.99, PB, 222pp

Synopsis: The readers of "Bluebirds to Tikal: Stories of Fun, Fear & Folly" will discover why deer don't like to be lassoed, what it's like to drive down a mountain pass without power steering or power brakes after the engine quits, and learn what can happen when cultures clash in this anthology of stories celebrating fun, fear, and folly.

Author David Hann's "Bluebirds To Tikal" is a kind of literary travel journal, of sorts. filled with a miscellany of entertaining tales of adventures and misadventures from central U.S.A. to central Asia.

A family traveling to Guatemala to see the Mayan ruins at Tikal encounter "los hombres militarious" and uniformed soldiers. A sightseeing trip in Turkey meets with obstacles, courtesy, and aid from an unexpected source. A visit to the Eiffel Tower ends with eviction by security guards. An idyllic kayaking vacation in Florida turns into an expedition of courage.

In addition to tales of modern travels and travails, Hann's stories include the experiences of two young men searching for jobs as they make their way through the Northwest riding the rails before World War I; a coal miner's dark journey in Osage County, Kansas; and the competition between two German noblewomen for the affections of a dashing cavalry officer.

Critique: A fun and fascinating read from cover to cover, "Bluebirds to Tikal: Stories of Fun, Fear & Folly" is an extraordinary collection of deftly crafted and humor laced stories that will linger in the mind and memory of the reader long after the book is finished and set back upon the shelf. Simply stated, "Bluebirds to Tikal: Stories of Fun, Fear & Folly" is unreservedly recommended for personal, community, and academic library travelogue and short story/essay collections.

Editorial Note: David Hann ( has written many stories, articles and books. Bluebirds to Tikal, 2023, The Jayhawker Cleveland, 2021, River Memoir and other stories, 2011, and Kansas Past: Pieces of the 34th Star, 1999.Hann established himself as an aficionado of the strange wonders of Kansas in Sampling Kansas: A Guide to the Curious, 1990. David lives in Lawrence, Kansas, where he retired from the University of Kansas in 2009.

The Environmental Studies Shelf

Social Forestry: Tending the Land as People of Place
Tomi Hazel Vaarde
Synergetic Press
9781957869063, $29.95, PB, 512pp

Synopsis: The environment/ecological science of Social Forestry connects villages and communities to their forests and adjoining bodies of water. It includes forest management, protection, and regeneration of deforested lands with the objective of improving the rural, environmental, and social development. Through ecological assessment, carbon sequestration, and generating wildcrafts, people re-establish their wonder in the woods.

With the publication of "Social Forestry: Tending the Land as People of Place", author Tomi Hazel Vaarde, (a collaborator of Siskiyou Permaculture), uses poetry, photographs, drawings, and data to outline philosophies and concepts of Social Forestry. By weaving culturally sensitive stories, myths, and lessons from a range of customs and traditions including North American Indigenous communities and Vaarde's own Quaker upbringing, Vaarde explores how holistic land and community management approaches can facilitate resolution of some of our most dire local and global crises.

Vaarde's "Social Forestry" is critical to overcoming eco-grief while instilling necessary changes to the West Coast landscape for fire mitigation and restoration of complex forest systems for generations to come.

Many indigenous peoples have learned regenerative management by living for generations in and with a sense of place, but few examples of whole-system planning and participation are evident in modern society. Climate adaptation, human survival, and conservation efforts to maintain biodiversity that supports life on Earth require radical, back-to-the-roots grounding and intentional dedication.

"Social Forestry" helps readers remember the ways of the wild while implementing local food production, collaboration with conservation efforts, forest management, and stabilization of headwaters to build resilience for the long term. To live in harmony with our surroundings, we need to re-skill, always remembering those who came before us and acting in ways that honor traditional wisdom of people and place.

Critique: "Social Forestry: Tending the Land as People of Place" is enhanced for the reader with the inclusion of 31 4-color posters and 54 images, an informative Foreword by Starhawk, a twelve page Principles Clipboard, a thirty-four page Bibliography, and a three page Index. Comprehensively informative, exceptionally well organized, and thoroughly 'reader friendly' in presentation, "Social Forestry: Tending the Land as People of Place" is especially and unreservedly recommended as a core addition to personal, professional, community, college, and university library Ecology & Environmentalism collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for students, academia, political activists, governmental policy makers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject tht "Social Forestry: Tending the Land as People of Place" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.49).

Editorial Note #1: Tomi Hazel Vaarde ( is a long time resident of the Southern Oregon/Mount Shasta bioregion first settling here in the early 70's. After having earned degrees in Forestry and Systematic Botany from Syracuse University and SUNY College of Forestry, 1969, Hazel taught Wild Edible Plants and Woods-lore at Laney College in Oakland CA in the early 70's. Hazel has taught dozens of Permaculture courses over the last 37 years, primarily in Southern Oregon and Northern California. These include the PDC, Permaculture Teachers Training, and advanced courses in Optical Surveying, Social Forestry and Farm Planning.

Editorial Note #2: Starhawk ( is an author, activist, permaculture designer and teacher, and a prominent voice in modern earth-based spirituality and ecofeminism. She is the author or co-author of thirteen books, including The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess and the ecotopian novel The Fifth Sacred Thing, and its sequel City of Refuge.

The World History Shelf

Ancient Egypt and the African Roots of Civilization
Ramona Louise Wheeler
Independently Published
2370011627359, $TBA, PB, 318pp

Synopsis: "Ancient Egypt and the African Roots of Civilization" by Egyptologist, illustrator, and author Ramona Louise Wheeler offers a new, seminal, iconoclastic, and ground-breaking study on the religion and Gods of Ancient Egypt beginning with a two page commentary (The Creation of Humanity), a four page Preface (Egyptologists), twelve chapters on subjects ranging from The Nature of the Gods, to Maps of the Mapmaker, to Waking the Dead, to Civilization: Amun & Company, to the Sky Gods, and more.

Of special note is a listing of Museum Sources, Abbreviations, a Timeline of Ancient Egypt, and the inclusion of more than 300 full color illustrations. The fifty-eight page section, 'Translations by the Author', features Romana Wheeler's translations from Egyptian hieroglyph poems, incantations and spells into English. Her brief commentary on the inevitable limitations of translating hieroglyphs is particularly insightful.

Critique: Extraordinarily informative, exceptionally well organized, particularly effective in presentation, and offering a challenging new perspective concerning the beliefs, philosophy, and mysticism of an ancient Egypt that would become the foundation of a unique and enduring form of civilization (and one that continues to be of immense interest around that world today with numerous archaeological digs and academic studies) "Ancient Egypt and the African Roots of Civilization" by Egyptologist Ramona Louise Wheeler is an especially and unreservedly impressive work of meticulous scholarship and original research.

Substantial and thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation "Ancient Egypt and the African Roots of Civilization" an ideal resource for students, academia, practicing Egyptologists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject.

Simply stated, "Ancient Egypt and the African Roots of Civilization" is a welcome and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, college, and university library Egyptology collections and supplemental Egyptology curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: Romona Louise Wheeler is also the author of "Walk Like An Egyptian: A Modern Guide to the Religion and Philosophy of Ancient Egypt" (Wildside Press, 2004).

The Education Shelf

Elevating Co-teaching with Universal Design for Learning
Elizabeth Stein, EdD
Cast, Inc.
9781930583986, $34.00, PB 242pp

Synopsis: Now in a newly revised and expanded second edition, with the publication of "Elevating Co-Teaching with Universal Design for Learning" by Elizabeth Stein delivers a new structure, additional strategies, updated research, and fine-tuned language to show how best to apply the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles and guidelines to co-teaching.

Co-Teaching (the practice of having special education and regular education teachers work together in inclusive classrooms) is a powerful way to ensure that all students have equal access to academic content. The inclusive framework of UDL offers co-teachers structure and guidance in pursuing their goal to create successful learning environments for all students.

How does UDL inform the lesson-planning process? What does UDL look like in the classroom? How do you get buy-in for the UDL approach from administrators, parents, and students themselves? These and other questions are answered in "Elevating Co-teaching with Universal Design for Learning" for anyone interested in co-teaching.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, this new second edition of "Elevating Co-teaching with Universal Design for Learning" must be considered essential reading and an invaluable informational resource for traditional classroom teachers who find themselves working with Special Education instructor in a joint school classroom environment. An ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, school district, college, and university library Teacher Education collections, and supplemental Special Education/Teacher Certification curriculum studies lists, it should be noted that "Elevating Co-teaching with Universal Design for Learning" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $25.99).

Editorial Note: Elizabeth Stein EdD ( has been a special education teacher, instructional coach, and educational consultant for more than 30 years, specializing in universal design for learning (UDL) and co-taught inclusive practices. She is an adjunct professor at Stony Brook University, New York. Elizabeth is a renewed National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT) in literacy and the author of Two Teachers in the Room: Strategies for Co-teaching Success (Routledge, 2017) and other publications.

The LGBT Studies Shelf

Heavenly LGBTQ+
Jan Haen
Apocryphile Press
9781958061220, $24.00, PB, 102pp

Synopsis: Members of the LGBTQ+ community have bravely faced conflicts with church and society throughout history and around the world, including during the 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

With the publication of "Heavenly LGBTQ+: Queer Icons from LGBTQ Life, Religion and History", Jan Haen highlights the role of LGBTQ+ people in the Russia-Ukraine war and puts it into a broader context.

"Heavenly LGBTQ+" is a compendium of illustrated biographies that tell the stories of seventeen diverse international LGBTQ figures ranging from Alvin Ailey to Xenia of St. Petersburg. Included are the stories of saints, activists, martyrs, ministers, writers, and performers from North and South America, Africa, Asia, and Europe.

Most lived in the 20th and 21st centuries. Their courage inspires hope for LGBTQ+ people today.

The succinct and accessible text lets the pictures tell their stories. Lively commentary reflects on how sexuality, gender, and religion impacted the war in Ukraine.

"Heavenly LGBTQ+" is formatted in a deceptively simple comic-book style that effectively conveys sophisticated understandings. The large, colorful illustrations on every page present a fresh, unsentimental perspective on uplifting people who faced tough times. Intended for adults, the book naturally includes occasional nudity and violence, as they are part of history.

Critique: Informed, informative, and timely given the current rise of hostility towards the gay community "Heavenly LGBTQ+: Queer Icons from LGBTQ Life, Religion and History" deserves as wide a readership among both the gay and the straight communities. While also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99), "Heavenly LGBTQ+: Queer Icons from LGBTQ Life, Religion and History" is unreservedly recommended for community and academic library LGBTQ+ collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: Jan Haen is a Dutch visual artist and Redemptorist priest who has ministered in the Netherlands and South Africa. His art appears frequently in the LGBTQ Saints blog series at He painted murals in schools, churches and public places in Africa and across Europe. Haen is an active member of the Werkverband van Katholieke Homo-Pastores, an association of gay Catholic pastoral leaders. "Heavenly LGBTQ+" is the sequel to Jan Haen's first book, "Heavenly Homos".

The Biography Shelf

I Hate You, Mary Sullivan
Barbara J. Williams
Cape House Books
9781939129154, $18.95, PB, 204pp

Synopsis: Only in Ireland is Barbara Williams able to unlock the secrets of her late grandmother's troubled personality -- as well as her own anxiety.

Their Kenny ancestors were farm laborers who had endured famines, violent uprisings, and forced eviction threats. Her Nana, Mary Sullivan, had never breathed a word of it.

As Williams uncovers this painful past, she calls forth a love that heals her relationship with Nana fifty years after her death. Their intertwined stories, infused with Celtic spirituality and scientific insight, help unravel the mysteries that bind us all to our ancestors.

Critique: A simply riveting read from cover to cover, "I Hate You, Mary Sullivan" by Barbara J. Williams is an extraordinary blend of biography, memoir, and history. Exceptional eloquent, poignant, and memorable, "I Hate You, Mary Sullivan" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists and community/academic library Contemporary Biography & Memoir collections.

Where the Shadows Dance
Dana Killion
Amplify Publishing
9781637556412, $24.95, HC, 280pp

Synopsis: It would be easy to say "Where the Shadows Dance" is a memoir about a marriage -- but marriage is simply the setting. In her memoir Dana Killion dives deep into what we do for love, what we do because of love, how love can break us, how love can save us, and how the most important love is the love we feel for ourselves because, without it, no other kind can ever be as rich.

A raw, vulnerable exploration of the damage that secrets and lies inflict, "Where the Shadows Dance" is both a deeply personal and yet universally recognizable story for every woman who has set herself aside because someone else's needs seemed greater.

In the words of Dana Killion -- He got sober. I got broken.

Critique: A deftly written and candidly presented true life story of love, loss, and alcoholism recovery, "Where the Shadows Dance" is a riveting read from cover to cover and will prove to be an especially welcome addition to community library Contemporary American Biography/Memoir collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Where the Shadows Dance" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Growing up in Wisconsin, Dana Killion ( developed a curiosity for the world beyond the confines of small-town life, finding inspiration in the intrepid explorer, Nancy Drew. Dana's thirst for more exhilarating pastures led to a career in the apparel industry, and eventually, back to her love of story. She created a mystery series based on the long-lived desire to shed light on shadows. The series renders a journey through crime and corruption countered by her protagonist's ability to confront deceit. Dana currently resides in Tucson, Arizona with her kitty, Isabel, happily avoiding snow and mending her heart.

Graci Harkema
Page Two Books
9781774582510, $26.95, HC, 216pp

Synopsis: "Rising: From a Mud Hut to the Boardroom - and Back Again" is the inherently fascinating memoir of Graci Harkema, who revisits her experience growing up as an adoptee from the Congo in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She traces her path to claiming and living her own story, becoming a successful consultant on diversity, equity and inclusion, racial justice, LGBTQ+ equality, and women in business.

Born amid civil unrest in a mud hut in the Congo and weighing a mere three pounds, Harkema was left at an orphanage, where she was not expected to live another day. But that afternoon, a visiting American missionary saw her sleeping in a doll's bed and heard a voice inside her say, "This is your daughter."

Her childhood was spent wishing to be lighter and blonder, like her siblings and classmates. Out of fear of standing out even more from her peers, Harkema kept her sexuality a secret, only coming out of the closet years later -- during a job interview! Eventually, she learned to see her identity as her superpower, instead of her shame.

Today, Harkema helps embrace diversity and drive inclusion to ensure open and safe work environments. She is committed to empowering employees to perform to their potential as their authentic selves - setting an example as she continues to live her own story, journeying to meet her birth mother, to discover one more piece of herself.

Critique: Candid, informative, compelling, "Rising: From a Mud Hut to the Boardroom - and Back Again" is the extraordinary life story of an extraordinary woman and will be of special appeal to readers with an interest in an unusual LGBTQ+ biographies and memoirs. Exceptionally well written and presented, "Rising: From a Mud Hut to the Boardroom - and Back Again" is highly recommended for community and academic library Contemporary American Biography/Memoir collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Rising: From a Mud Hut to the Boardroom - and Back Again" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Graci Harkema ( is the owner of Graci LLC, a consultancy providing training and speaking on diversity, inclusion and implicit bias for Fortune 500, small businesses, and non-profit organizations. The Grand Rapids Business Journal has named her a 40 Under 40 Business Leader of West Michigan, and one of the 200 Most Powerful Business Leaders of West Michigan. Graci received national media attention in 2019 for publicly resigning from a prominent Diversity & Inclusion leadership role to make a stand for racial equity and justice. Passionate about serving her community, she volunteers her time on LGBTQ+ non-profit boards and committees. She is also an avid supporter of her parents' faith-based non-profit, Heart for Central Africa, in her hometown of Bukavu, Democratic Republic of the Congo.

One Reason to Live
Christine Rose
Blue Moose Press
9781936960705, $14.95, PB, 360pp

Synopsis: After a series of traumatic events (including the end of a 15-year marriage and multiple sexual assaults), Christine Rose discovers she must face the reality of her life, or end it. On a scrap of paper she writes "Reasons to Live." It stays blank for days. Then, she remembers her old dream: move to Europe.

By pet-sitting in exchange for lodging, Christine made this dream a reality, finding solace in exploring new landscapes and spending time with animals. Against a backdrop of fur-filled adventures and cultural revelations, she battles the demons of C-PTSD and grief as she attempts to rebuild her identity and her life.

"One Reason to Live: A Memoir About Surviving Trauma" by Christine Rose embodies a visceral experience of living with psychiatric injury, combined with the power of radical acceptance, sweetened by the healing quality of animal companionship and the joy of embracing self-love.

Critique: An eloquently written, deeply personal, yet universally recognizable personal life story of trauma and recovery, "One Reason to Live: A Memoir About Surviving Trauma" by author, nomad, and survivor Christine Rose is a significant and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library Biography/Memoir collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of anyone with an interest in trauma recovery for themselves or a loved one that "One Reason to Live: A Memoir About Surviving Trauma" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

Editorial Note: Christine Rose ( is a tech nomad and international pet sitter who straddles life between Portland and London, the city of her soul. She's published twelve books, including the critically-acclaimed memoir One Reason to Live, the award-winning 5-book fantasy series Rowan of the Wood, and the bestselling Steampunk romance Avalon Revisited. She holds both a BA and MA in British Literature, which helps keep her professional, but copious amounts of dark chocolate, frothy mochas, and silent solitude keep her sane.

Roses and Thorns
Michelle Goni, M. D.
New Degree Press
9798885042833, $28.99, HC, 194pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Roses and Thorns: a memoir-esque compilation of a beautiful and messy life", Michelle Goni presents a collection of raw, emotional, and empowering prose poetry in which she shares honest, heartfelt, sometimes gut-wrenching stories of fear, failure, and pain as well as warm, inspiring, and relatable poems of love, evolution, and transformation. Her deftly crafted memoir gives the reader permission to embrace a perfectly imperfect life.

Michelle's personal journey invites the reader to share their own stories by deeply connecting with her written words, thoughts and feelings. Her poems are humbling and they normalize vulnerability, a tool she uses to overcome shame and fear.

"Roses and Thorns" will spark introspection, inspire empathetic relationships, and help the reader discover authentic self-acceptance.

Critique: Eloquent, sensitive, insightful, thoughtful and thought-provoking, In "Roses and Thorns: a memoir-esque compilation of a beautiful and messy life" is an inherently fascinating, uniquely presented, and ultimately inspiring life story -- one that will linger in the mind and memory of the reader long after the book itself has been finished and set back upon the shelf. While also available for personal reading lists in a paperback edition (9798885045865, $17.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99), "Roses and Thorns" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community and academic library Contemporary American Biography/Memoir and American/Hispanic Prose Poetry collections.

Editorial Note: Michelle Goni, MD ( uses the written word as a powerful voice for her soul. She was raised by an immigrant, Renaissance-like, often stoic father who labeled her creativity as distracting. His rigid parenting and control led Michelle to a limited and perfectionist mindset. While this helped keep her focused on becoming a medical doctor, it took years to learn to love herself as she was and fully appreciate her journey.

The General Fiction Shelf

Highway 28 West
Joe Taylor
Sagging Meniscus Press
9781952386602, $19.95, PB, 120pp

Synopsis: Preacher is not a preacher, though death's vicissitudes clamor around him in a disturbingly ecclesiastic manner. When he finds a pit bull puppy by the side of the road and gets a job at a boxing manufacturer, he declares his luck changed. But one small-town cop has doubts: "It ain't your luck needs changing, but the folks you meet." And so it stands, as the sun and moon revolve in their tango-or is it a waltz?-and whisper to one another.

Critique: Deftly scripted, and as entertaining as it is thought-provoking, "Highway 28 West" by author and storyteller Joe Taylor is a fun and inherently interesting read from first page to last. While readily available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99), "Highway 28 West" is an especially and unreservedly recommended pick for community and academic library Southern and Literary Fiction collections.

Editorial Note: Joe Taylor has had three story collections published (The World's Thinnest Fat Man; Some Heroes, Some Heroines, Some Others; and Masques for the Fields of Time). Also, there are a matching number of novels (Oldcat & Ms. Puss: A Book of Days for You and Me; Let There Be Lite: How I Came to Know and Love Godel's Incompleteness Theorem; and Pineapple: A Comic Novel in Verse) published. He has also edited several story collections, including Tartts One through Tartts Seven and Belles' Letters. He has directed the Livingston Press for more than 25 years.

The War Ends At Four
Rosanna Staffa
Regal House Publishing
9781646033317, $18.95, PB, 210pp

Synopsis: Renata, an Italian acupuncturist in Minneapolis, falls madly in love with a charismatic actor. Once married, she discovers his passion is not focused on her alone. With her marriage and her small acupuncture clinic in crisis, she is called to her father's deathbed in Milan. There Renata again faces the slights she suffered in childhood as the daughter of an immigrant from Naples.

Gripped by grief and anxiety over her future, she discovers that her father, a survivor of WWII, believed until the end in risk-taking as a life-affirming necessity. With newfound courage, Renata stumbles into the lure of an old love and the magic of a new one.

Critique: "The War Ends at Four" deftly explores the quest of a perpetual outsider who is desperately seeking a true home while coming to terms with the Italy she left behind and the America she found. Exceptional, original, eloquent, entertaining, it is all the more impressive when learning that "The War Ends at Four" is author Rosanna Staffa's debut as a novelist. While also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.49), "The War Ends at Four" is unreservedly recommended for community library Family Life and Literary Fiction collections.

Editorial Note: Rosanna Staffa ( is an Italian-born author. Her work can be found in Best Short Fictions 2021, The Sun, Tampa Review, Gargoyle, and other literary magazines. She is the winner of 2020 TSR Nonfiction Prize, a Pushcart nominee, and a McKnight Recipient. She is a member of The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. The War Ends at Four is her debut novel.

The Historical Fiction Shelf

A Story With No Name
Patricia Burks
TriMark Press
9798986550268, $13.12, PB, 141pp

Synopsis: A family secret is revealed against the backdrop of Rural Mississippi of the 1920s, where freed African slaves mingled with settlers from outside America; where norms and values clashed when love was spoken -- and then broken. They met in front of the mansion and were photographed separately, sitting on the same lawn. It was a love that segregation could not end.

Critique: A deftly crafted novel of racial history and romance in the American South, "A Slavery With No Name" by author Patricia Burks showcases her genuine flair as a novelist for the kind of narrative driven storytelling that will keep and hold the reader's rapt attention from first page to last. A memorable read for fans of unique and very special historical romance stories, "A Slavery With No Name" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists and community library collections.

Editorial Note: Patricia Burks has called Florida her home for the past three decades. Her other works include "Biography of Dr Irving Williams, I Was Really Walking Mom" and other short stories, to be published, and "Site of Conduction Delay and Electrophysiologic Significance of First Degree Heart Block in Children with Heart Disease."

The LGBT Fiction Shelf

Fault Line
H. N. Hirsch
Pisgah Press
9781942016762, $22.95, PB, 260pp

Synopsis: Newly minted 25-year-old lawyer Bob Abramson joins the DA's office in San Diego and soon finds himself leading an investigation into the politically charged murder of the mayor's husband, a powerful, wealthy developer with far too many secrets for his wife's political ambitions.

Bob's first encounter with murder occurred four years previously, when his roommate, the scion of an old Boston family, was murdered and the case was investigated by the victim's Harvard professor, Marcus George. As the investigation developed, Bob and Marcus, naturally, fell in love.

Now, Bob has completed law school and landed a job as an Assistant District Attorney in San Diego, and Marcus has accepted a new position at UC San Diego. As they settle in to their new home, they're thrust into the investigation and its political ramification, and they find that a gay subculture roils much of southern California's placidly straight surface.

Critique: Of special and particular attraction to readers with an interest in LBGTQ+ themed mystery novels, "Fault Line" by H. N. Hirsch is richly entertaining, original, and showcases the author's impressive flair for the kind of narrative driven storytelling style that keeps his readers compulsive attention from first page to last. A masterful 'whodunnit', "Fault Line" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists and community library Mystery/Suspense collections.

Editorial Note: A graduate of the University of Michigan, with advanced degrees from Princeton University, H.N. Hirsch is the Erwin N. Griswold Professor of Politics Emeritus at Oberlin College in Ohio, where he also held a joint appointment from 2005-2014 in Comparative American Studies; served as Acting Chair of the Department of Politics in 2010-2011; and was Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, 2005-06. His first mystery, SHADE, was published by Pisgah Press in May 2022. He is also the author or editor of Office Hours: One Academic Life (2016); A Theory of Liberty: The Constitution and Minorities (1992); and The Enigma of Felix Frankfurter (1981/2014); and editor of The Future of Gay Rights in America (2005).

The Literary Fiction Shelf

Yuwa: A Novel
Yixin Chen, 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 a contemporary novel about 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 the boy experiences heartbreak after heartbreak. While symbolizing the challenges facing the villagers, the story illustrates how a child's indomitable nature and inherent decency help him endure despite the forces of nature, tradition, and cruelty arrayed against him.

Critique: It is difficult to read a novel like "Yuwa" without also taking note of its symbolic resonance and message of hope. Chen Yixin is young Chinese 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. Deftly crafted by author/storyteller Yixin Chen and very ably translated into English by Howard Goldblatt (who is the translator of numerous works of Chinese fiction, including Xiao Hong, Su Tong, and Nobel Laureate Mo Yan) "Yuwa" and unreservedly recommended for personal, community, college, and university library Contemporary Literary Fiction collections. It should be noted that "Yuwa" was originally published in Chinese in 2019 and is now readily available from Long River Press.

The Romantic Fiction Shelf

A Knowing One
Judith Hale Everett
Evershire Publishing
9781958720981, $15.99, PB, 340pp

Synopsis: Just when Tom Breckinridge has decided to propose marriage to Diana Marshall, a rival has come out of the woodwork: Reginald Popplewell, a childhood neighbor of Diana's, and now heir to a viscountcy. Diana's father much prefers Reginald, but Tom believes Reginald has something to hide.

When Mrs. Marshall invites Tom to a house party at their home near Brighton, Tom finds even more to dislike about "dear Reggie," but Diana won't hear a word against him and goes so far as to wring a pledge from Tom that he will make a friend of Reginald. Knowing just how risky it can be to befriend a con man, Tom will discover to what lengths he is willing to go to win Diana.

Critique: A classic Regency Romance by an author with a complete mastery of the genre, Judith Hale Everett's latest novel, "A Knowing One", is a deftly crafted, fully entertaining, and truly memorable work of historical fiction and one that is unreservedly recommended for community library Historical Romance Fiction collections. It should be noted for the persona reading lists of dedicated Regency Romance fans that "A Knowing One" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

Editorial Note: Judith Hale Everett ( is an award-winning author who writes tongue-in-cheek traditional Regency romance in an immersive style and with emphasis on delightful language and historical accuracy. As one of seven sisters, Judith grew up surrounded by romance novels. Georgette Heyer and Jane Austen were staples, and formed the groundwork for her lifelong love affair with the Regency. Add to that her obsession with the English language and you've got one hopelessly literate romantic. She was a finalist in the 2022 Wishing Shelf Book Awards for her third book, Forlorn Hope. She can be found on Facebook, and Twitter.

The Mystery/Suspense Shelf

Murder for Liar
Verlin Darrow
The Wild Rose Press
9781509248971, $17.99, PB, 298pp

Synopsis: Tom is dangerously close to discovering where his threshold is -- that point of no return for his sanity.

His encounter with the killer represents one more bizarre hot potato he's forced to juggle instead of filing away neatly. It's not one too many, but what if the next one is? And could all the coincidences that keep happening to Tom be nothing more than that? Could a young woman named Zig-Zag really be an angel? How could a dog lead Tom to one of the most important clues? The questions pile up, much as the murders do.

Swept up in a perilous world where nothing is as it seems, Tom struggles to make sense of the decidedly dangerous, downright deadly scheme in which he has somehow unwittingly become a key player. Tom is about to discover that in this treacherous reality, the truth is far, far stranger than fiction -- but the real danger is not knowing which is which!

Critique: A unique, unusual, imaginative, and deftly crafted mystery by an author with a genuine and memorable flair for originality, character development, and the kind of narrative driven storytelling skills that keeps the reader a compulsive page turner from cover to cover, "Murder for Liar" by novelist Verlin Darrow will prove a prized addition to community library Mystery/Suspense collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of dedicated mystery buffs that "Murder for Liar" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).

Editorial Note: Verlin Darrow ( is currently a psychotherapist who lives with his psychotherapist wife in the woods near the Monterey Bay in northern California. They diagnose each other as necessary. Verlin is a former professional volleyball player (in Italy), unsuccessful country-western singer/songwriter, import store owner, and assistant guru in a small, benign spiritual organization. Before bowing to the need for higher education, a much younger Verlin ran a punch press in a sheetmetal factory, drove a taxi, worked as a night janitor, shoveled asphalt on a road crew, and installed wood flooring. He missed being blown up by Mt. St. Helens by ten minutes, survived the 1985 Mexico City earthquake (8 on the Richter scale), and (so far) has successfully weathered his own internal disasters.

Love of Art & Murder
Rose Young
Best Books Publish
9780998881768, $16.95, PB, 392pp

Synopsis: The prominent artist Marilyn Maroney's life-sized sculpture of Athena, the warrior goddess, stood on the third-floor balcony of the Dahlia Art Gallery. Guests numbering 300 attended the art reception and sauntered between the gallery and the Velvet Muse, a performance venue.

The next morning, Georgi Algarve is sweeping the front sidewalk of his Vinho Verde Wine Bar, but when he looks up, he lets out a blood-curdling scream. His beautiful friend Marilyn was dead, impaled by Athena's spear.

Within days another artist is abducted, and the investigators uncover a world of deception, theft, and greed. In shock, the art community wonders - are any artists, galleries, or museums safe? Can the detective and the sleuths catch the killer before another artist is tricked or murdered?

Detective Morrison, and the enigmatic Dr. Storm M.E., determine if Marilyn's death is an accident or homicide. While Georgi, and his clue-hunting friend, Roxanne Samson, the Fire Chief's wife, are convinced they can find the culprit yet they proceed to sleuth their way into Morrison's heart - via heartburn.

Critique: With the publication of "Love of Art & Murder", novelist Rose Young takes her readers on a harrowing journey that goes behind the scenes of the art world with its museums, galleries, and performance halls, into the dark underbelly of the art world, populated by art thieves, callous villains, and unexpected murder. Original, fascinating, and with more unexpected plot twists and turns than an Oklahoma tornado, "Love of Art & Murder" is great entertainment for the dedicated mystery buff and an unreservedly recommended addition to community library Contemporary Mystery/Suspense collections.

Editorial Note: Rose Young ( also publishes a Mystery Fan Newsletter.

Fractured Oak
Dannie Boyd
Indigo Dot Press
9781958160046, $13.99, PB, 270pp

Synopsis: In 1853, after Catherine Miller is murdered for daring to become a doctor in a field full of men, a molecular fusion between human decay and natural rebirth transforms her into a Northern Red Oak. One hundred and seventy years later, she remains a mute but sentient tree, rooted near a secluded Northeast Ohio house. After she watches in horror as the newest homeowner murders one of his PhD students, Catherine is resolved, somehow, to see that justice gets served.

Fortunately, present-day Catherine has an unwitting ally: Lani Whitaker, a fourth-generation detective facing mandatory retirement and sick of being treated like a dried-up relic by her young chief of police. When the body of that same PhD student turns up in the woods, Lani is determined to solve the case and go out with a win.

Two women, generations apart, linked to each other through murder. Can solving a twenty-first-century homicide shed light on a nineteenth-century killer?

Critique: Uniquely original and a fascinating read from cover to cover, "Fractured Oak" by talented novelist Dannie Boyd will have a special appeal to readers with an interest in this story that so deftly blends mystery, suspense, and magical realism. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community library collections, this combination of mystery and fantasy is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).

Editorial Note: Dannie Boyd is a pen name for Carrie Rubin (, who is a physician-turned-novelist and writes medical-themed thrillers. She enjoys exploring other genres as well, so she has a cozy mystery published under the pen name Morgan Mayer and a novel of magical realism under the pen name Dannie Boyd. She is a member of the International Thriller Writers association.

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

Nick Stitle
Blazecrest Publishing
9798987896228, $32.95, HC, 512pp

Synopsis: Auris is a place of storms and chaos where seven violent Tempests rule the land, wreaking havoc across the continent. Only the Summoners, bearers of powers not unlike those of the divine Tempests themselves, have the strength to stand against the tyranny of the storms. Society depends upon the enigmatic Summoner-empowering Crystals for survival... Yet when a Summoner bearing powers that should not exist appears on Arvendon's doorstep, the world begins spiraling into chaos.

Castien Varic, a common soldier, finds himself in the throes of a coming war. He embarks on a mission with the most legendary of Auris's Summoners, hoping to discover the truth behind the resurfacing of the Ancient Summoner.

Faelyn Titansworn, heir to the largest of Auris's empires and one of the most powerful Summoners in the world, finds himself lost in his father's shadow. When a conspiracy threatens to destroy all that he knows and loves, Faelyn takes it upon himself to save not just his kingdom, but all of Auris.

Asteros Silverglade bears the powers of a god. Two years in the past, he, along with five others of his Sect, uncover the hidden secrets that the world has tried to erase. Yet they soon learn that the mysteries of the baffling event known as the Vanishing (the war that somehow caused over half of Auris's Summoners to disappear without a trace) run far deeper than they could've ever imagined.

These three heroes walk the threads of fate, together weaving an epic tale of magic, war, love, and loss. Together these individuals will forever change Auris's future. Empires will shatter, Tempests will be Unbound, but destiny will prevail as these heroes face their fated ends.

Critique: A unique and epic saga of a sword and sorcery style fantasy, "Stormless" is Book 1 of author Nick Stitle's 'The Stormless' series and a simply riveting read from first page to last. Of special note is the deftly embedding of such emotional factors on the part of the lead characters of 'depression, anxiety, and panic attacks' -- believable mental health issues given the stresses, strains, traumas, and assaults that must be dealt with in attempting to survive seemingly constant life or death conflicts. Original, entertaining, and leaving the reader looking anxiously toward the next volume in this simply outstanding series, "Stormless" is highly recommended for community library Epic Fantasy Fiction collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of dedicated fantasy action/adventure fans that "Stormless" is also available in a paperback edition (9798987896211, $17.99) and in digital book format (Kindle, $6.99).

Editorial Note: It is interesting to note that Nick Stitlies ( is 17 years old and that "Stormless" is his debut as an author.

tales from the techpocalypse
Balthazar Westbrook III
Independently Published
9798218189525, $9.99, PB, 212pp

Synopsis: The biggest and most profitable Big Tech company in human history, Magna Mega Corp, is the common thread across each tale, giving you an inside look at:

1. How it unleashes its latest invention - the Intuipet, a new device that AI-enables your dog and translates its thoughts to human speech - on the world, and what that means for humanity.

2. The impact the company has on society, from sending unlimited opioids by mail to algorithmically spreading the kind of misinformation that would radicalize your grandma via its social media division.

3. Its peculiar work environment, internal dysfunctions, morally flexible value systems, and diabolical business flywheel

Along the way, you'll meet clout-chasing celebrity organ donors, AI-enabled dogs who can do your taxes and make you cocktails, eccentric multi-billionaires who have lost complete touch with reality, social media influencers willing to do anything to keep their followers, and a new kind of artificial intelligence that might be more human than all of them put together.

Critique: B. Westbrook III is a new author and (mostly) a very good dog. "tales from the techpocalypse" is apparently his first book -- a brilliant satire in which AI-enabled dogs can speak in full sentences and get into Ivy League colleges! Wickedly funny, wildly fascinating, "tales from the techpocalypse" is a darkly funny and saterical portrait of Big Tech, our modern world, and the coming AI-enabled (and possibly canine-led) apocalypse". Combining humor, imagination, and science fiction, "tales from the techpocalypse" is recommended for community library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "tales from the techpocalypse" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

The Poetry Shelf

Hats Off
Peter Waldor
Finishing Line Press
9798888380680, $20.99, PB, 72pp

Synopsis: One of the purposes of poetry is to evoke in the mind of the listener or ready images that are memorable, motivating, interesting, thought-provoking, and (perhaps most of all) enjoyable. The deftly crafted verse of Peter Waldor in his slender compendium of poems complies with all these purposes -- and more!

Critique: Especially commended to the attention of the armchair traveler and those who enjoy the calming presence of a stroll through the pleasant wild places of nature, this impressive and memorable collection of poems by the accomplished wordsmith Peter Waldor range from the conversational to the meditative. A book of original poetry that will linger in the mind and memory of the reader long after it has been finished and set back upon the shelf, "Hats Off" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, community, and academic library Contemporary American Poetry collections.

Editorial Note: Peter Waldor ( is the author of twelve books of poetry, including Who Touches Everything, which won the National Jewish Book Award. He was the Poet Laureate of San Miguel County, Colorado for 2014-2015. His poetry has appeared widely in magazines, including the American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, The Colorado Review, Fungi Magazine and Mothering Magazine.

The Business Shelf

Hit It Off
Joe Brocato
Imagine and Wonder
9781637610251, $24.99, HC, 234pp

Synopsis: Have you ever wondered why some people seem to naturally hit it off with others? Are you impressed with how they're able to transform that positive first impression into a relationship that helps them achieve their goals in life or business? Would you like to deepen your relationships with the people who are important to you in your life?

If so, then "Hit It Off: 21 Rules for Mastering the Art and Science of Relationships In Life and Business" by Joe Brocato will be a refreshing and rewarding resource for you.

Use the 21 Rules to hit it off with people from the moment you meet them. Walk into a new situation with anyone and fit right in, establish rapport, and be perceived as nice and fun, and a person of integrity - someone who can be trusted with business and friendship.

As you continue to get to know people, use the 21 Rules to cultivate unique relationships for a lifetime.

Readers will learn about what science says about the 21 Rules and obtain a deeper perspective on their practical usefulness and importance in building relationships. The importance of each rule is further illustrated through real-life "train-wreck" stories about what happens when the rules "derail." The good news is that no matter what has happened in the past, you can improve. Stories about the "Zen" of each rule in these pages will inspire you to envision the many unique relationships that await you in your future.

Use the 21 Rules every day to create win-win relationships and become a master of the art and science of relationships in life and business!,

Critique: Not just another business motivation or workplace self help/self-improvement books, "Hit It Off: 21 Rules for Mastering the Art and Science of Relationships In Life and Business" offers genuine and 'real world' insights, techniques, strategies, for building a skill set that can be used in everyday business and in ordinary day-to-day life to achieve social and occupational success. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Hit It Off" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community, corporate, and academic library Business Management/Leadership collections, It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Hit It Off" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Joe Brocato ( is a senior partner with Gozdecki, Del Giudice, Americus, Farkas & Brocato LLP, a prominent Chicago law firm. A serial entrepreneur and investor, he is also the Founder of Intense Coaching and Consulting Worldwide, an elite, international life coaching and business development consulting firm, Founder of Intense Artist Management, a dynamic and strategic music management company, and Co-Founder of Devotion City, Inc., which is building the creative industry's largest accelerator.

P3 Selling: The Essentials of B2B Sales Success
Greg Nutter
Lioncrest Publishing
9781544529981, $24.99, HC, 174pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "P3 Selling: The Essentials of B2B Sales Success", Greg Nutter provides an easy-to-follow framework that explains what you need to do and why you need to do it to achieve consistent B2B (business-to-business) sales success. Navigate today's complex B2B environment with confidence as you win more deals, receive more referrals, make more money, and advance your way up the corporate ladder.

Stop hoping for lucky breaks, and take control of your sales results. With "P3 Selling" you can now develop a deep understanding of the three most critical predictors of B2B sales success without all the unnecessary jargon and complexity of other sales training programs. Then, you will learn how to apply them through non-manipulative techniques that work, closing more deals without sacrificing your integrity.

With specific activities at the end of each chapter to help you tailor these strategies and techniques to your own unique situation, P3 Selling both effective and practical, a resource that again and again will help you overcome every B2B sales challenge.

Critique: Simply stated, "P3 Selling: The Essentials of B2B Sales Success" is critically essential reading for anyone charged with the responsibility of business-to-business commerce and sales. Thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, "P3 Selling: The Essentials of B2B Sales Success" is a solid pick for personal, professional, community, corporate, and community library Business Advertising & Sales/Selling collections and supplemental MBA curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for MBA students, academia, corporate sales directors, entrepreneurs, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "P3 Selling: The Essentials of B2B Sales Success" is also available in a paperback edition (9781544529974, $13.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.99).

Editorial Note: Greg Nutter ( is the founder of Soloquent, Inc., helping business owners and senior sales executives solve revenue growth problems through direct, indirect, and multi-channel sales models. With over thirty-five years of experience, Greg has worked with a wide range of companies to develop strategies, programs, processes, and tools to grow revenues, enter new markets, increase sales consistency, maximize selling investments, and develop skilled sales, channel, and management personnel.

Prove It: Exactly How Modern Marketers Earn Trust
Melanie Deziel, author
Phil M. Jones, author
Page Two Books
9781774582015, $17.95, PB, 152pp

Synopsis: You know your company is amazing. You say your company is amazing. But why should your customers believe you? In a crowded consumer courtroom full of shady advertisers all claiming to be the best, the fastest, the most caring, your brand is literally on trial -- and that means you better deliver the proof.

With the publication of "Prove It: Exactly How Modern Marketers Earn Trust", co-authors StoryFuel founder Melanie Deziel and master of influence Phil M. Jones show you how to leverage every content marketing tool in the box to blast through doubt and win the case with your customers.

Using real-world examples from trusted brands across dozens of industries, "Prove It" walks you, step-by-step, through the process of identifying and categorizing your business promises (even the ones you don't realize you're making) gathering the right evidence, and backing up each style of claim.

You will learn how to apply strategies like corroboration, demonstration, and education to a marketing context to show (not just tell!) the convenience of your offerings, your comparability with the competition, your connection to your community, your competence in your industry, and your commitment to your values. And you'll discover the right format and platform to deliver each type of evidence to make sure your "jury of consumers" connects with your case.

Critique: Exceptionally informative and impressively 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, "Prove It: Exactly How Modern Marketers Earn Trust" will enable entrepreneurs and business managers have their companies and their products/services stand out from all the competing brands -- especially when dealing with a skeptical audience of customers. An ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to community, corporate, college, and university library Business Management, Communications, and Marketing collections and supplemental MBA curriculum studies lists, it should be noted for personal and professional reading lists that "Prove It" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note #1: Melanie Deziel ( is a recognized as one of the world's leading experts in content marketing, and is also the author of the best-selling marketing and business communications book The Content Fuel Framework: How to Generate Unlimited Story Ideas.

Editorial Note #2: Phil M. Jones ( is a master of influence and persuasion. He is also the author of the best-selling "Exactly" book series and producer of the "Most Listened To" non-fiction audiobook of all time. Phil has been an entrepreneur since the age of 14, and is now a trusted advisor for some of the world's biggest brands.

Blaze Your Own Trail
Pamela J. Goodwin
Independently Published
9798390403426, $12.97, PB, 174pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Blaze Your Own Trail: Twenty Leaders In Commercial Real Estate Share Their Unique Paths To Success", author and real estate expert Pamela J. Goodwin offers the ultimate guide for those who are interested in pursuing a career in commercial real estate. Whether this is your chosen career path, a detour from residential to commercial, or a change in course from a dead-end job, "Blaze Your Own Trail" is essential reading in order to become successful and maximize your earning potential -- plus so much more!

"Blaze Your Own Trail" covers: Ways to get started; Successes and Failures; Personal Life Lessons; Greatest Challenges in the Industry; Time Management Techniques; Negotiation Tips; Most Asked Question; Skills to Succeed; Networking Organizations to Join; Best Advice Received.

An impressive collection of questions and answers from the top female leaders in the industry, the contributors to "Blaze Your Own Trail" total of some 597 years of knowledge and experience being in the commercial real estate industry.

Critique: Fascinating, informative, exceptionally well organized and presented, "Blaze Your Own Trail: Twenty Leaders In Commercial Real Estate Share Their Unique Paths To Success" is an absolutely essential, compelling imperative, fundamentally invaluable addition to personal, professional, and community library Business Management for Women collections in general, and Real Estate Investment/Selling reading lists in particular. "Blaze Your Own Trail" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

Editorial Note: Pamela J. Goodwin ( is the founder of Goodwin Commercial based in Dallas, TX, a boutique commercial real estate and consulting firm specializing in developing retail and restaurant pad sites. With more than two decades of experience in project management, leasing, property development, due diligence, entitlement and tenant representation. She can be followed on Facebook: Pamela Z. Goodwin and LinkedIn:

The Humor Shelf

Sons of Thunder
Stephen Paul Grow
Clay Bridges Press
9781684880553, $14.99, PB, 58pp

Synopsis: Cartoons aren't just for Kids! "Sons of Thunder: The Cartoon Series For Christians" gives you a moment to just sit back and smile at life.

"Sons of Thunder" features a sarcastic cat that hates dogs and loves to mock the family he lives with. Feel free to join him in his disdain for dogs but beware that mocking the family in his presence is strictly forbidden.

Then there are the two brothers who are close in age but opposite in personality. Their innocent perspectives on life are comical, and the clashes they have with each other are to be expected. However, don't say anything negative about one of the brothers in the presence of the other.

Don't forget the parents who, in addition to raising two young boys, must deal with the dynamics of the wife trying to help the husband become a better man, and the husband giving her a lot of reasons to do so.

And, of course, a pastor with a sense of humor who could write many sermons based on his encounters with the family. To top it off, we have a Bavarian police officer in an American cartoon!

Critique: Fun, funny, and with many a moral, "Sons of Thunder: The Cartoon Series For Christians" by Stephen Paul Grow is an original and laugh-out-loud collection of memorable, insightful, and sitcom worthy cartoons. Also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.99), "Sons of Thunder" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to personal reading lists and community library Contemporary Humor collections.

Editorial Note: There is a YouTube an informative author interview of Stephen Paul Grow at

The Self-Help Shelf

Pancakes for Roger
Susan L. Combs
Lioncrest Publishing
9781544528397, $25.99, HC, 216pp

Synopsis: In a world that can feel shaky and uncertain at times, one fact holds true: nobody gets anywhere alone.

Susan L. Combs has learned that lesson many times over, and she's held onto the advice that has guided her on her journey-one that's taken her from a tiny town in Missouri to the hustle of New York City. She's faced immense personal grief and fostered immense growth, personally and professionally. Through it all, she leaned on guidance from mentors in her life.

One of those key mentors was her father, Roger. He was a man who wore many hats as: a judge, a veteran, a Two-Star Major General, a leader in his community, a loving husband (and, as we learn in "Pancakes for Roger: A Mentorship Guide For Slaying Dragons") one hell of a dad.

Though he passed away in 2018, his legacy lives on in "Pancakes for Roger" and beyond, as a portion of the proceeds from this book will benefit the University of Missouri School of Law Veterans Clinic in his honor.

"Pancakes for Roger" is comprised of a series of quick, straightforward snapshots delivered with no fluff and a whole lot of heart. The are life lessons Susan learned from Roger and others so that you too can lean on them as you set out to slay your own personal dragons.

Critique: As thoughtful and thought-provoking as it is inspired and inspiring, "Pancakes for Roger: A Mentorship Guide For Slaying Dragons" is a life-enhancing, life-motivating, life-celebrating volume of personal transformation wit and wisdom that is highly appropriate and unreservedly recommended for personal, community, and academic library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections. It should be noted that "Pancakes for Roger" is also available in a paperback edition (9781544528403, $9.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).

Editorial Note: Susan L. Combs ( is President of Combs & Company, a full-service insurance brokerage firm based in New York City. She has created a dedicated website for "Pancakes for Roger" at

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

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