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Small Press Bookwatch

Volume 21, Number 5 May 2022 Home | SPBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Jobs/Careers Shelf Native American Studies Shelf
Cookbook Shelf General Fiction Shelf LGBT Fiction Shelf
Mystery/Suspense Shelf Fantasy/SciFi Shelf Biography Shelf
Christian Studies Shelf Religion/Spirituality Shelf Travel Shelf
Self-Help Shelf    

Reviewer's Choice

Make Your Own Party: Twenty Blueprints to MYO Party!
Chef Kelli Lewton
Scribe Publishing Company
9781940368085, $35.00, HC, 240pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Make Your Own Party: Twenty Blueprints to MYO Party!", Detroit edge meets classically trained know-how by Chef Kelli Lewton, founder and owner of a catering and event company and Culinary Arts Instructor. So put away the fine China and hit up your local thrift store because Chef Kelli encourages you to "Make Your Own Party", meeting you where you are, offering up expert guidance, style and food concepts.

With party themes like Unicorns Trending, Boho Beach and South & West, the suggestions in this guide are guaranteed to make your party the talk of the town! And Chef Kelli has done the hard work for you: Each chapter offers a party blueprint including design tips, a full menu and recipes, with a twist: You are the head chef, decorator, and entertainer. Use the plan in its entirety or take what inspires you and leave the rest. MYO Party makes planning gatherings attainable and fun so that you can focus on the important stuff: eating and celebrating with Your People!

Critique: Profusely illustrated with full color photography throughout, "Make Your Own Party: Twenty Blueprints to MYO Party!" is an ideal DIY instructional guide and 'how to' manual for creating unique and memorable entertaining occasions with friends and family. Exceptionally 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, "Make Your Own Party: Twenty Blueprints to MYO Party!" will prove to be a welcome and 'real world practical' addition to personal, professional, and community library collections. It should be noted that "Make Your Own Party: Twenty Blueprints to MYO Party!" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $33.25).

The Jobs/Careers Shelf

Wasim Hajjiri
Winsome Entertainment Group
9781513690490, $21.99, PB, 140pp

Synopsis: After years of working with job seekers and landing hundreds of offers with combined salaries of over 10M$, with the publication of "Fulfilled?: How to Land a Job That Aligns with Your Purpose" Wasim Hajjiri summarizes the job search into simple steps that can help you land your dream job within a few weeks instead of many months.

"Fulfilled?: How to Land a Job That Aligns with Your Purpose" addresses such fundamental issues as: How To Be Fulfilled in Your Job; Dealing with Failure, Rejection, and Ghosting; Balancing Mind, Body, and Spirit; Branding: LinkedIn, Resume and Job Board Success; Networking: How to connect with the right people to land interviews; Interview Prep: How to succeed in interviews and negotiate a winning salary.

Critique: As comprehensively informative and 'real world practical' as it is exceptionally 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, "Fulfilled?: How to Land a Job That Aligns with Your Purpose" must be considered as an essential combination of DIY instruction manual and 'how-to' guide for anyone seeking more than just another job -- but employment as a stepping stone to a achieving a desired career and/or work-based life-style. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Jobs/Careers shelf, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Fulfilled?: How to Land a Job That Aligns with Your Purpose" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Wasim Hajiri is an Executive Career Coach who helps professionals land their dream job, as well as a Forbes Career Coaches council member with numerous TV, Radio, and Magazine features including FORBES, FOX, CBS, Iheart Radio, and more. He also maintains a personal/professional website at:

The Language Teacher Rebel
Anneli Beronius Haake
Teach Yourself
c/o Hachette
9781529381771, $17.99, PB, 240pp

Synopsis: Do you want to start teaching a language online, be your own boss and be able to work from anywhere that has wifi? Do you want to make a difference in the world by using your language skills to empower people and give them the confidence they need to develop?

With the timely publication of "The Language Teacher Rebel" by Dr. Anneli Beronius Haake offers an instructive guide to building a successful online teaching business covering everything needed to set up a successful online language teaching business, from creating the right mindset, tech and marketing, to designing products and services, finding students online, growing your business and more.

But more than just a 'how to' manual, "The Language Teacher Rebel" is also a rallying call for teachers (or language teaching rebels) to share cultural values beyond the traditional classroom and encourage integration on a worldwide scale.

Critique: An accompanying Language Teacher Rebel Toolkit offers a wealth of editable, effective and time-saving templates for all the essential documents needed to set up and run an online language teaching business, is available for sale at Including planners, email scripts and financial templates, this toolkit has everything you need to get organized and get teaching. Especially in this time of distance learning due to the pandemic and its aftermath, "The Language Teacher Rebel" is especially 'user friendly' in instructive commentary, organization and presentation. While highly recommended for community, college, and university library Education & Business collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Language Teacher Rebel" is also available in an inexpensive digital book format (Kindle, $0.99).

Editorial Note: Dr Anneli Haake is a native Swedish language and culture specialist and translator. She is also the Director of Swedish Made Easy, an e-learning language school, and has taught Swedish to a wide range of students across the world.

The Native American Studies Shelf

The Bear is My Father
Bear Heart, author
Reginah WaterSpirit, author
Synergetic Press
9780907791898, $16.95, PB, 176pp

Synopsis: "The Bear Is My Father: Indigenous Wisdom of a Muscogee Creek Caretaker of Sacred Ways" is a kind of love story between Bear Heart and a community that stretches across the globe. It celebrates the life, teachings and legacy of Marcellus Bear Heart Williams, a Multi-Tribe Spiritual Leader and author of the critically-acclaimed The Wind is My Mother.

Bear Heart (April 13, 1918 - August 4, 2008), was a Muscogee Creek Native American Church Road Man with a talent for seeing people as individuals, and for making them feel seen and special in their own ways. "The Bear Is My Father: Indigenous Wisdom of a Muscogee Creek Caretaker of Sacred Ways" contains the final words Bear Heart wrote before his "going on" as well as contributions from friends and family whose lives were forever changed by Bear Heart's presence and work.

In "The Bear Is My Father", Bear Heart employs stories of his youth and traditional medicine practices to convey lessons and knowledge about living in harmony and with respect for all. It should be noted that while offering a mix of history and spiritual wisdom, "The Bear is My Father" is co-authored by Reginah WaterSpirit, who was Bear Heart's Medicine Helper and wife of 23 years. When Reginah would ask Bear Heart exactly how he made his medicine, he always answered, "I don't make the medicine, it was here before me. I've been entrusted to be a caretaker of certain sacred ways."

Critique: A notable and significant contribution to community, college, and university library Native American Biographies, Religion, and Demographic Studies collections and a supplemental curriculum syllabus, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Bear is My Father: Indigenous Wisdom of a Muscogee Creek Caretaker of Sacred Ways" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

Editorial Note #1: Marcellus "Bear Heart" Williams was one of the last traditionally trained medicine men of the Muscogee Creek Nation. His teachings wove together the knowledge of many traditions as Bear Heart was also an ordained American Baptist Minister, Road Chief, and renowned spiritual counselor. Speaking in 13 Native American tribal languages, Bear Heart was considered a Multi-Tribal Spiritual Leader and was called upon internationally for his healing work. Bear Heart's first book, "The Wind Is My Mother", has been translated into 14 languages. Bear Heart received formal education from the all-Indian Bacone College in Muscogee, Oklahoma. He later majored in Biblical Greek and earned a divinity degree from Andover Newton Theological Seminary in Boston, Massachusetts.

Editorial Note #2: Reginah WaterSpirit studied the Voice Dialogue method with Dr. Sidra Stone and the late Dr. Hal Stone, eventually becoming a facilitator and teacher in this field. Her interest in psycho-spiritual paths led her to New Mexico and eventually to Marcellus Bear Heart Williams, a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation.

The Cookbook Shelf

A Teacher's Cookbook
Anna Marie
Joshua Street Press
9798985079401, $14.99, PB, 212pp

Synopsis: A unique combination of biography and recipes, "A Teacher's Cookbook: Country Recipes, Letters, and Stories from the Rural West 1933-2014" showcases vintage recipes of the 1930s (Potato Cake), the 1940s (Chicken Tamales); the 1950s (Tuna Carrot Loaf and Sour Cream Pie). Also featured are the secret ingredients of a 1960s mortar created Chili Salsa and a 1970s Chicken Huasteco Casserole, as well as a popular 1980s Chili Nopal dish, and a number of simple garden recipes from the 1990s.

Seasoned with personal recollections and letters, essays and reflections of each decade, "A Teacher's Cookbook" is the personal story of Herlinda, who was a master educator in the classroom and the kitchen for many years. Readers will enjoy reliving a teacher's memories through a wide collection of kitchen recipes and life experiences. This insightful journey from creative recipes to poetic wisdom is meant to nourish the mind, body, and soul.

Critique: Featuring more than a hundred nostalgic, palate-pleasing, appetite-satisfying recipes, "A Teacher's Cookbook: Country Recipes, Letters, and Stories from the Rural West 1933-2014" by Anna Marie Hernandez is also an inherently fun and fascinating memoir. While especially and unreservedly recommended for personal and community library cookbook collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "A Teacher's Cookbook: Country Recipes, Letters, and Stories from the Rural West 1933-2014" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.99).

Editorial Note: Anna Marie Hernandez is a former teacher who has taught in both public and private schools. She is also a free lance writer who has published children's picture books, biographical stories, and self-help books.

The General Fiction Shelf

Joe The Salamander
Timothy Gager
9781952232695, $19.95, PB, 239pp

Synopsis: "Joe The Salamander" by Timothy Gager is the deftly engaging story of Joe Gamut, a brilliant boy whose infatuation with Superman helps him through his struggles in the neurotypical world. Divided into seven major sections, "Joe The Salamander" relates Joe's life growing up with a disability involving his difficulties in speaking and with hyperfocusing that results in failed attempts by his parents, hist teachers, his counselors -- and the unexpected positive impact of Shades Creek, a pet store owner that creates a city-wide 'Salamander Festival' that Joe unexpectedly responses to. Joe's highschool experience is also positively impacted by a popular student who intervenes to prevent Joe from being bullied.

Critique: With its inherent message promoting the value of appreciating diverse abilities, disabilities, and circumstances, and although "Joe The Salamander" is a work of fiction, author Timothy Gager's novel is solidly and soundly based on real-life conditions as experienced by thousands of children throughout the United States today. Entertaining, thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Joe The Salamander" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to community library Contemporary Diversity Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Joe The Salamander" is also readily available from Golden Antelope Press in a digital book format (9781952232701, eBook, $8.95).

Editorial Note: Timothy Gager has published 16 books fo fiction and poetry (including 17 of which were nominated for Pushcart Prizes). His work has been nominated for a Massachusetts Book Award, The Best of the Web, and The Best Small Fictions Anthology.

The Lives of Diamond Bessie
Jody Hadlock
9781684631179, $16.95, PB, 328pp

Synopsis: Pregnant out of wedlock, sixteen-year-old Annie Moore is sent to live at a convent for fallen women. When the nuns take her baby, Annie escapes, determined to find a way to be reunited with her daughter. But few rights or opportunities are available to a woman in the 1860s, and after failing to find a respectable job, Annie resorts to prostitution in order to survive.

As a highly sought-after demi-mondaine, Annie (now calling herself Bessie) garners many expensive gifts from her admirers, and eventually meets and marries the son of a wealthy jeweler. With her marriage, she believes her dream of returning to proper society has finally come true. She's proven wrong when she suffers the ultimate betrayal at the hands of the man she thought would be her salvation. But Bessie doesn't let her story end there!

Critique: "The Lives of Diamond Bessie" by novelist Jody Hadlock is inspired by a true story and set amid the burgeoning women's rights movement of the mid-ninth century. An historical novel of betrayal, redemption, "The Lives of Diamond Bessie" is an inherently fascinating and fully engaging exploration of the question: Is revenge is worth the price that must be payed. Entertaining and thought-provoking fiction at it's best, and available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.69), "The Lives of Diamond Bessie" is highly recommended for community library General Fiction and Historical Fiction collections.

Marc Opsal
Goldshif Publishing
9781735549514, $25.99, HC, 392pp

Synopsis: Extreme urban sprawl has resulted in one massive megalopolis simply called, "The City." The City's wealthiest families live in the Highland, above a freezing layer of indigo mist.

Noble Valet Bear was born in the lowland, but now lives and works in the Highland as the sole servant of House Telladyne. Bear's best friend, Aleks, was born to House Yukita, but has resisted her Noble grooming since she was young.

Until now, Bear has kept Aleks at a distance for fear his love might put them both in danger. Little does he know that they are about to stumble upon deeply-hidden secrets of the Idol that will threaten both of their lives.

In the fight to save themselves, Bear and Aleks must join forces with dangerous allies, face off against a foe who wields unimaginable power, and make the impossible choice between desire and survival.

Critique: Having an immense attraction for readers with an interest in dystopian themed novels, "Lifecast" by author Marc Opsal is a simply compelling page turner of a read from cover to cover. Original, entertaining, populated with memorable characters and more plot twists than a carnival roller coaster, "Lifecast" is a deftly crafted novel -- the kind from which blockbuster movies are made! While highly recommended, especially for community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Lifecast" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

The LGBT Fiction Shelf

Valiente: Courage and Consequences
A. G. Castillo
Archway Publishing
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781665704052, $39.99, HC, 344pp

Synopsis: Ever since his beloved father's unexpected death and his best friend's suicide, high school athletic phenom Chente Jimenez has been shutting out his family and friends in an attempt to protect his shattered soul.

When Chente decides to take a midnight jog on a sleepless, snowy night, he never imagines that his surprising encounter with his first-year basketball coach at a city park will unleash a series of events that will test his fortitude, challenge his courage, and awaken feelings he has guarded and suppressed all his life.

While immersed in the final semester of his senior year, Chente soon becomes overwhelmed by the pressures of being an all-American boy, choosing the right college, and hiding his emerging homoerotic feelings from family and friends. Now as the Avalon High School basketball team races toward their first state championship, their starting-point guard must battle locker room homophobia and cyberbullying while attempting to boldly embrace his truth and become, Valiente.

In this coming-of-age story, a high school athlete must face a mirror of truth that shows him a reflection he must come to terms with before he can move forward in life.

Critique: Exceptionally well written by an author with a genuine flair of character development and the kind of narrative storytelling style that keeps the reader's fully engaged attention from beginning to end, "Valiente: Courage and Consequences" by novelist A. G. Castillo is a compelling and highly recommended addition to highschool and community library YA Fiction and LGBTQ Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Valiente: Courage and Consequences" is also available in a paperback edition (9781665704069, $21.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99).

My Home is on the Mountain
Caro Clarke
Sapphire Books Publishing
9781952270406, $16.95, PB, 374pp

Synopsis: Cecilia Howison, the rich and well-known daughter of a prominent East Tennessee family, appears to be the perfect Southern girl, cultured, gracious, virginal. The actual lesbian she is feels restless and ready for something new. She finds it in a high mountain meadow: a girl, wearing nothing but overalls, asleep beside a violin. Cecilia accepts the challenge.

Airey Fitch is the mainstay of her family's hard-scrabble hill farm. She has no love for the Howisons or any their kind, who now, in 1931, are evicting the mountain folk to create a new national park. Despite them, she will hang on, despite them, she will seek a life in music. When Cecilia offers to make that happen, Airey dares to trust her. And wonders at Cecilia's hold on her thoughts.

Cecilia understands all too clearly the risks she runs by wooing Airey Fitch but cannot stop, lured like a moth to Airey's flame. Airey wants more than the passion Cecilia gives her -- wants her heart. But the world they live in forbids it, and Cecilia is faced with a choice that only love can make.

Critique: A deftly crafted and inherently fascinating novel by an author with a genuine flair for originality and the kind of narrative driven storytelling that keeps its readers enthralled from first page to last, "My Home is on the Mountain" by Caro Clarke is a truly extraordinary and highly recommended addition to community library Historical Fiction & LGBTQ collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "My Home is on the Mountain" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99).

The Mystery/Suspense Shelf

Slay The Dragon
William McGinnis
Whitewater Press
9781733654784, $15.95, PB, 294pp

Synopsis: A police officer is brutally murdered in a "mostly peaceful" Oakland protest. City hall shuts down any serious investigation of the heinous crime. Ex-Navy SEAL Adam Weldon and his cop buddy BC take up the search for the killers only to find themselves hunted, outmatched, and at risk of being killed at any moment.

As they fight for their lives, Adam and BC discover the horrible truth: The murder is part of a relentless, 40-year, "unrestricted warfare" assault on America by an implacable, seemingly all powerful foe. A sovereign state with vast resources -- including database files on virtually everyone and the ability to track and kill anyone anywhere at any time. A sovereign state determined to bring America to its knees and to become itself the dominant power in the world.

Can Adam and his team (and American democracy itself) survive?

Critique: A simply riveting read from cover to cover, and the stuff from which action/adventure movies are made, "Slay The Dragon" is a non-stop suspense thriller of a read that is laced with memorable characters and a plot line that has more ups and downs than a Coney Island roller coaster. While highly recommended for community library Contemporary Espionage &Suspense Thriller collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Slay The Dragon" is also available in an inexpensive digital book format (Kindle, $0.99).

Editorial Note: William McGinnis has written numerous books including "Gold Bay: An Adam Weldon Mystery Thriller"; "Whitewater: A Thriller"; "Whitewater Rafting"; "The Guide's Guide Augmented: Reflections on Guiding Professional River Trips"; and "Sailing the Greek Islands: Dancing with Cyclops".

Before & After
Jamison Thomas Meyer
Dorrance Publishing Company
585 Alpha Drive, Suite 103, Pittsburgh, PA 15238
9781637643549, $31.00, HC, 360pp

Synopsis: In the middle of the night, as the stars creep across the sky, Sam wakes to discover himself lying on a dock. He has no recollection of where he is or how he got there - nor does he know the identity of the dead woman lying next to him.

Sam, confused and lost, must hurry to figure out who this woman is, and how she died. Was she murdered? Should he go to the authorities and risk being a suspect? But before he can decide what to do with his future, he must work to uncover his past, and the events leading up to the mysterious woman's death. Who is she? More importantly, who is he?

In the midst of all these questions, a blooming love affair with a young man, who may actually be part of his past.

Critique: An inherently absorbing novel of psychological suspense and mystery, "Before & After" by Jamison Thomas Meyer is all the more impressive when considering that it is the author's debut as a novelist. "Before & After" is a true page-turner of a read with memorable crafted characters, unexpected plot twists, and an inherently fascinating, unexpected conclusion. While highly recommended, especially for community library Contemporary Mystery/Suspense and Crime Fiction collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of dedicated mystery buffs that "Before & After" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: A self-described bibliophile, Jamison Thomas Meyer has long had a love of literature and has spent much of his life writing. He wrote his first short story in fourth grade and his first novella as a high school freshman.

Secret Society: All We Have Is Us
Kingston Imperial
9781954220508, $14.95, PB, 176pp

Synopsis: Celess and Tina are two young women at the top of their game. They've got the looks and the bodies to attract attention from men wherever they go -- and they work it. From New York to Philly to Vegas, they hit all the clubs and every big party dressed to kill. And they don't pay for a thing -- not with men like O, Tariq, and James lining up to buy them designer clothes, the hottest jewelry, and luxury cars.

But their fast paced lives are about to catch up with them. The two share a devastating secret, and when it's revealed, Celess will need every ounce of her street smarts to survive.

Critique: A riveting novel that combines elements of erotic suspense with a mystery thriller, "Secret Society: All We Have Is Us" is a deftly crafted and entertaining read for mature readers only. Highly recommended, and of particularly special interest for an African-American readership, it should be noted that "Secret Society: All We Have Is Us" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Miasha's debut novel was "Secret Society: A Novel" (2006). In the years that followed, she released two more Secret Society series books, respectively titled "Never Enough" and "Til Death". Cited as "A Writer to Watch" by Publisher's Weekly, Miasha was featured in national magazines like Essence, VIBE, Philadelphia Magazine, Jet and Elle (as the first urban literature author to grace the pages). Her presence was felt even stronger when she released her top-selling sophomore novel, "Diary of a Mistress" (2006). In 2007, Miasha released her third title, "Mommy's Angel". Less than a year later, Miasha released "Sistah for Sale", a cinematic read about a girl growing up in Miami's sex trade. In addition to releasing seven titles under Simon and Schuster, Miasha contributed to Diamond Playgirls, an anthology published by Kensington Books.

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

Tory Quinn
Level 4 Press
9781646300662, $18.95, PB, 312pp

Synopsis: It's 2112 and war between nations has become a spectator sport. Soldiers are now gamers who live and die based on the outcome of the match, and every four years a worldwide MegaDeath tournament gives countries a chance to air their grievances. This year, however, an enterprising company has made it possible for ordinary citizens to bet their lives on their country's team. Winning players will become national heroes, but losers will be responsible for the deaths of millions of their fellow citizens.

For North America's talented star player, Megan Mori, death can't come soon enough. Haunted by the loss of her daughter, which she blames on her own government, she has nothing more to lose and no one to fight for.

But as the games begin, it becomes clear that a much more sinister agenda is unfolding, and Megan will need to rally her fellow gamers against a threat that could end humanity as they know it.

Critique: Featuring a deftly crafted dystopian future that is quite logically projected from contemporary circumstances where the digital age of the nightly television news and smart phones have made Russia's current war against Ukraine a kind of spectator event for millions of Americans, "Mega Death" by author Tory Quinn is a brilliantly executed novel -- and one that is especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Contemporary Science Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Mega Death" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

The Biography Shelf

Entrenched: A Memoir of Holding On and Letting Go
Linda Lee Blakemore
Leonella Press
9781736994702, $29.99, HC, 404pp

Synopsis: When a destructive affair with an older, married boss ended in sexual assault, Linda was grateful her husband took her back. The reconciliation was short-lived when Linda found herself drawn to another older, married man. Even though he was selfish and controlling, she needed to be the one he chose. She got her wish. But shortly after he proposed, her repressed memories of childhood sexual abuse almost destroyed Linda and her new relationship.

Linda persevered and they married. But just as he had done to his first wife, every two years her second husband left her. She always took him back - even after he moved in with his friend, a man charged with possession of child porn. Why did Linda cling to this unhealthy relationship? Would she ever find the strength to let go?

On average a woman will leave an unhealthy relationship seven times before leaving for good. Why? And why did she choose the wrong partner in the first place? The answer can most often be found by exploring past trauma. Our past formulates self-worth, how we attach to others, and how we believe we deserve to be treated. Given the important and timely focus on workplace sex assault/harassment, intimate partner sex assault, child sex abuse and trafficking, Linda's autobiography, "Entrenched: A Memoir of Holding On and Letting Go" will resonate with anyone who has been a victim -- and the numbers of such women are staggering.

One in four girls is a victim of child sexual abuse and a child victim is six times more likely to be sexually assaulted as an adult. Each year in the United States alone there are 463,634 victims (12 or older) of rape and sexual assault- that's one in five women and almost half of those assaults are perpetrated by an acquaintance.

With the publication of "Entrenched: A Memoir of Holding On and Letting Go", Linda writes for each of these women. She is one of them. Her poignant true story sheds light on the aftermath of child sexual assault, and highlights the pain and self-blame a victim often feels following intimate sexual assault. As Linda confronts her past and heals, her journey creates a powerful resource for any woman who has experienced intimate sexual assault, workplace sexual assault, childhood sexual abuse, or abandonment.

Critique: Impressively candid, detailed, and an inherently fascinating read from first page to last, "Entrenched: A Memoir of Holding On and Letting Go" is an extraordinary and intensely personal memoir that will prove exceptionally instructive and insightful -- especially for readers who find themselves in similar circumstances. Ultimately a story of hard earned success, "Entrenched: A Memoir of Holding On and Letting Go" is especially recommended for community, college, and university library Women's Issues, Contemporary American Biography, and Family Abuse/Self-Esteem collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Entrenched: A Memoir of Holding On and Letting Go" is also available in a paperback edition (9781736994719, $21.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

Editorial Note: Linda Lee Blakemore is an author, speaker, and advocate for women and children. Her books have been endorsed by professionals across the country, and Linda has appeared on national and international radio and television. With her first book writing as Linda Lee Foltz was "Kids Helping Kids, Break the Silence of Sexual Abuse". Linda has traveled the country advocating for children.

The Ghost Marriage: A Memoir
Kirsten Mickelwait
She Writes Press
9781647420307, $16.95, PB, 344pp

Synopsis: At thirty-one, Kirsten has just returned to San Francisco from a bohemian year in Rome, ready to pursue a serious career as a writer and eventually, she hopes, marriage and family. When she meets Steve Beckwith, a handsome and successful attorney, she begins to see that future materialize more quickly than she'd dared to expect.

Twenty-two years later, Steve has turned into someone quite different. Unemployed and addicted to opioids, he uses money and their two children to emotionally blackmail Kirsten. What's more, he's been having an affair with their real estate agent, who is also her close friend. So she divorces him. But after their divorce is finalized, Steve is diagnosed with colon cancer and dies within a year, leaving Kirsten with $1.5 million in debts she knew nothing about. It's then that she finally understands: The man she'd married was a needy, addictive person who came wrapped in a shiny package.

As she fights toward recovery, Kirsten begins to receive communications from Steve in the afterlife -- which lead her on an unexpected path to forgiveness. "The Ghost Marriage" is her story of discovery and that life isn't limited to the tangible reality we experience on this earth -- and that our worst adversaries can become our greatest teachers.

Critique: A unique kind of paranormal and metaphysical memoir that will have a special interest to students of, and believers in, ghosts, hauntings, and reincarnation, "The Ghost Marriage: A Memoir" by Kirsten Mickelwait is an inherently fascinating and emotionally involving read from cover to cover. While highly recommended for community library American Biography and Metaphysical Studies collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Ghost Marriage: A Memoir" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99).

Editorial Note: Kirsten Mickelwait is a professional copywriter and editor by day and a writer of fiction and creative nonfiction by night. She's an alumna of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, the Napa Valley Writers' Conference, the Paris Writers' Conference, and the San Francisco Writers' Conference. Her short story, "Parting with Nina," won first prize in The Ledge's 2004 Fiction Awards Competition.

The Christian Studies Shelf

Enacting Love
John Smelcer
Naciketas Press
9781952232671, $17.95, PB, 262pp

Synopsis: Thomas Merton has been called "An American Prophet" and "The Conscience of America." Throughout the tumultuous 1960s, Merton was a vocal advocate for the civil rights and peace movements. Merton was the first major religious figure in America to come out against the Vietnam War. He convinced Martin Luther King, Jr. to add his voice to the cause. In the fall of 1968, Merton left the safety of the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani monastery in Kentucky to go on what would be known as his Asian Journey. He could not have known at the time that he would never leave Southeast Asia alive. -- Or did he?

"Enacting Love: How Thomas Merton Died for Peace" by John Smelcer is a judiciously researched study and revealed now by the man who discovered Merton's worldly possessions were removed from the abbey on orders of the abbot after Merton's death and safeguarded by a fellow monk and a nun who had been Merton's friend and acolyte.

Half a century since her friend and teacher died, the nun (Sister Mary Pius) revealed Merton's secret. With the publication of "Enacting Love", her incredible story about Merton's daring plan that might have saved tens of thousands of lives is now revealed.

Critique: An absolute 'must read' for the legions of Thomas Merton fans and admirers, "Enacting Love: How Thomas Merton Died for Peace" is an extraordinary expose that, simply stated, is a riveting read from beginning to end. While also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.49), "Enacting Love" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community, seminary, college, and university library Christian Social Issues and Catholic Biography collections.

The Religion/Spirituality Shelf

Thomas Bachhuber, author
Rochelle Melander, consultant editor
Caritas Communications
9780578804453, $18.95, PB, 334pp

Synopsis: "In calling me to live my special qualities and characteristics, God planted deep in myself an original purpose-what my concrete self adds up to---and the desire to live that out."

This passage by Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556), medieval scholar and founder of the Jesuit order, is the impetus for new content and a re-release of "Transpirations: Guidance for the Head & Heart through Career and Beyond". This passage is the perfect link between the spirituality of vocation and career development. Connecting our call "to live out our qualities and characteristics" to "original purpose" and discerning "what my concrete self adds up to" is the essence of career/work/service/retirement planning.

Ignatius recognized this in the Middle Ages and integrated it into his spiritual teachings. Dr. Bachhuber recognized this genius and incorporated significant practices into the new chapter, "Ignatian Spirituality for Work, Service and Retirement Transitions."

This final complement to "Transpirations" applies Ignatius's wisdom to career, service, and retirement transitions, making this unique career development and spiritual companion even more valuable.

Dr. Bachhuber also brings to bear leading career/work insights from experts like William Bridges, Richard Bolles, and Herminia Ibarra, together with his own professional and personal experiences from major universities, Fortune 500 companies, and leading retreats.

Dr. Bachhuber deftly weaves the wisdom of spiritual writers like Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, Mary Oliver, Sister Joyce Rupp, Parker Palmer, Eckhart Tolle, Teresa of Avila and now, Ignatius Loyola into his spiritual and personal experiences -- and brings a likeable, informal style together with his substantive messages. "Transpirations" is a resource that can be read straight through, used as a workbook, or as a means for daily reflection.

Critique: While highly recommended for personal, professional, community, college, and university library Religion/Spirituality collections, it should be noted for academia, clergy, philosophy students, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in education, business ethical practices, money management, and career planning that "Transpirations: Guidance for the Head & Heart through Career and Beyond" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99).

Editorial Note: President of the Board and Executive Director for The Center for Life Transitions, Thomas Bachhuber is responsible for overall Center leadership and strategy. His individual coaching/counseling as well as workshops and retreats focus on integrating leading career development ideas with spiritual exploration. He was also the Director of the Career Development Center at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee from 2003-2011 and is presently Adjunct Faculty in the Department of Educational Psychology. While Director, he also founded the UWM Career Transitions Center, a career center for adults in Milwaukee. He has written five previous five books including: Directions: a Guide to Career Planning (Houghton-Mifflin), A Parents Guide to Helping their Children with Educational and Career Decisions (Abbey Press) and The Best Graduate Business Schools (Macmillan/Simon Schuster).

The Travel Shelf

Beyond the Bright Lights
Lois J. Funk
RIT Publishing
9780578690094, $19.99, PB, 559pp

Synopsis: "Beyond the Bright Lights: When Luxury Was Prime: A Travelogue in Time" is a non-fiction travelogue by Lois J. Funk covering her four "once-in-a lifetime" trips outside the United States, derived from, and coinciding with, her documented travel journals depicting her life in Australia with her parents, as a teenager, from 1957-59, and concluding with a third trip to Australia with her husband, for the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

As a teen, Lois Funk lived in Australia for over two years, attending high school there. Two subsequent trips to the same area, with her husband and son gave her a bird's eye view of changes that had taken place over the years.

Between those trips, she and her husband traveled to the Oktoberfest, in Munich, Germany. With an aversion to tours offered by guides and such, Funk and her parents (in Australia) and her husband (in Germany) chose to get down with the people of the lands they visited versus looking down on them from a tour bus or tour guide's perspective.

Critique: An ideal and entertaining 'armchair traveler' read, and with a text that often resembles a free verse form of prose, "Beyond the Bright Lights: When Luxury Was Prime: A Travelogue in Time" is an inherently fascinating travelogue that deftly blends contextual details and the kind of narrative driven storyteller that will engage the reader's total attention. A veritable saga of a travelogue, "Beyond the Bright Lights: When Luxury Was Prime: A Travelogue in Time" is highly recommended as an addition to personal reading lists and community library Contemporary Travelogue collections.

Editorial Note: Loise J. Funk was born and raised in the Midwest but has traveled extensively outside the U.S. From lifetime journals, she gleans details of childhood and travel experiences and deftly incorporates them in her nostalgic writings

The Self-Help Shelf

The Answer Is Love
Luis Rojas
Aviva Publishing
9781636181110, $29.95, HC, 214pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "The Answer is Love: A Simple Conversation About Discovering Your True Self", Luis Rojas takes his readers on an extraordinary journey of self-discovery. Part memoir and part self-help guide, Luis offers a gentle rollercoaster ride through the ups and downs of his life, from being a high-powered attorney to losing it all, from childhood bedwetting to bonding with others.

Throughout life, we all constantly experience significant pain and suffering. It is life's only constant. Why does suffering happen? Is it true there's a reason for everything? The answer to all life's questions boils down to Love -- the need we have for it and what we must do to become people who can understand, accept, and provide it.

Love may be seen by some as an ineffective tool -- will it really stop crime, prevent abuse, or heal those who seem beyond help? As a husband, father, attorney, former criminal prosecutor, and fellow human, Luis Rojas will shares his hard earned answers to these questions. He has seen Love at work and can tell you it is real. He has not only discovered how all-encompassing Love is throughout our lifetimes, but he knows beyond a doubt that it is the most powerful force in the Universe. Whatever troubles are afflicting you or our society, Luis Rojas has found the answer to them: Love!

Critique; As inherently fascinating as it is inspired and inspiring, "The Answer is Love" is a life-changing, life-enhancing, life enriching read from cover to cover. While a welcome and recommended addition to community library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Answer is Love" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Luis Rojas holds a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice from the University of Nevada- Reno and a Doctorate of Juris Prudence from Drake University. After being admitted to practice law by the Supreme Court of the State of Nevada in 1993, he began prosecuting criminals for misdemeanor and felony offenses. He has also practiced law in the private sector with criminal defense attorney Stephen Stein. Together, they formed the Law Office of Stein and Rojas. Today, Luis is a private business and legal consultant and an inspirational speaker, motivating professionals and business people in the pursuit of their life goals and missions.

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

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