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Small Press Bookwatch

Volume 22, Number 5 May 2023 Home | SPBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Environmental Studies Shelf Jobs/Careers Shelf
Biography Shelf General Fiction Shelf Historical Fiction Shelf
LGBT Fiction Shelf Literary Fiction Shelf Romantic Fiction Shelf
Mystery/Suspense Shelf Fantasy/SciFi Shelf Graphic Novel Shelf
Business Shelf Self-Help Shelf Holocaust Studies Shelf

Reviewer's Choice

Life is...: Remembering Forgotten Wisdom
Marcia L. Friedman
Independently Published
9798385649518, $14.95, PB, 40pp

Synopsis: We learn so much about life as we travel through it, but how much of that knowledge do we actually use to better our relationships, the world around us, and ourselves. Some of it we integrate into our being, but at other times it is lost or forgotten -- particularly at those instances when we need it most!

"Life is...: Remembering Forgotten Wisdom" by Marcia Friedman is a lovely illustrated volume to be used as a helpful reminder of some of the age-old concepts of wisdom we often forget. Each of these "Life is..." citations are the foundations of little wisdoms that enrich our life's experience.

Critique: "Life is remembering every day is a new beginning". A compact (4 x 0.1 x 6 inches, 2.72 ounces) and highly portable little volume showcasing succinct wisdom filled observations and assertions, "Life is...: Remembering Forgotten Wisdom" is a recovery of overlooked wisdom sayings that will be of special, life-enhancing value to readers with an interest in being happy, having a healthy self-esteem, and appreciating what life has to offer -- making it an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to personal and community library Self-Help/Life-Management collections.

Editorial Note: Marcia Friedman's creative work has been featured in close to 100 magazine and newspaper editorials and collected by numerous galleries, individuals, and corporate clients. Some of her noted clients for her art include Wynn Resorts/Las Vegas; Atlantis Resort/Bahamas, Princess Cruises, and McGraw Hill Publishers. (

The Environmental Studies Shelf

The Climate Pandemic
Dennis Meredith
Glyphus, LLC
9781939118233, $23.99, PB, 480pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "The Climate Pandemic: How Climate Disruption Threatens Human Survival", author Dennis Meredith argues that much of what you've been told about climate disruption are myths. Focusing on climate disruption, "The Climate Pandemic" reveals why: Current plans to limit global heating will not avoid climate catastrophe; Renewable energy will not offer a major clean energy source; Decarbonizing our energy system is a delusion; The human species will not ultimately survive climate disruption.

"The Climate Pandemic" details the science, technology, politics, economics, and psychology that determine our climate future. It explains climate-driven heat waves, megadroughts, wildfires, floods, and superstorms. It explores the human impacts of climate disruption: increased toxicity and disease, famine, migration, conflict, and societal collapse. It documents the failure of the media, scientists, environmentalists, corporations, and politicians to act on climate disruption. And it reveals how the Paris agreement, renewable energy, carbon capture, geoengineering, and nuclear power are unrealistic panaceas.

As our mission for the future, "The Climate Pandemic" advocates that we dedicate ourselves to palliating our planet, preserving as much as we can.

Critique: A sobering study focusing on the impact of Climate Change upon the Earth and the human race, "The Climate Pandemic: How Climate Disruption Threatens Human Survival" is an important contribution on the subject of Climate Change in terms of our personal and collective responses to surviving it as individuals and as a species. While especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, college, and university library Environmental Studies collections and supplemental Climate Change curriculum studies lists, it should be noted for students, academia, political/environmental activists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Climate Pandemic: How Climate Disruption Threatens Human Survival" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Dennis Meredith ( has worked as a science communicator at some of the country's leading research universities, including MIT, Caltech, Cornell, Duke and the University of Wisconsin. Over his career, he has written well over a thousand news releases and magazine articles on science and engineering. He is author of nonfiction books Explaining Research: How to Reach Key Audiences to Advance Your Work and The Climate Pandemic: How Climate Disruption Threatens Human Survival, as well as award-winning science thriller novels.

The Jobs/Careers Shelf

The Law at Work
Alan Crone
Lioncrest Publishing
9781544539560, $34.99 hc / $17.99 pb / $7.99 Kindle, 194pp

Synopsis: Work conflict can be frightening because employers have more power than their employees. When problems arise with no apparent solution, it can feel like you, the employee, have no leverage to resolve them.

One of your most important relationships is between you and your employer. The more advanced your career, the higher the stakes when conflict threatens this partnership built upon hard work and mutual respect.

From career changes and compensation issues to unethical behavior and discrimination, difficult topics that threaten your reputation and livelihood are hard to navigate. With the publication of "The Law at Work: A Legal Playbook for Executives and Professionals", employment law attorney Alan Crone reveals how to protect yourself from harmful consequences during workplace conflict that threatens your income, future, and peace of mind. You will learn the options available and whether legal recourse is appropriate. Release worry and doubt, knowing you're not alone, via this enlightening must-read for executives who want to be their best, even in crises.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The Law at Work: A Legal Playbook for Executives and Professionals" by Alan Crone will have a particular value to readers with an interest in personnel management/conflict resolution and on-the-job decision making/problem solving. While especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, corporate, and academic library Business Management and Decision Making, Corporate Governance and Project Management, as well as Jobs/Careers collections and supplemental curriculum MBA studies lists, it should be noted that "The Law at Work: A Legal Playbook for Executives and Professionals" is also available in a paperback edition (9781544539553, $17.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

Editorial Note: Alan G. Crone ( is the founder and CEO of The Crone Law Firm, an employment law team committed to helping employees, executives, and entrepreneurs resolve workplace disputes. A master at devising winning strategies and innovative tactics, Alan is known for achieving the best outcome for clients. He is a fifth-generation Memphian who has been active in local and state politics for decades, serving as the former head of the Shelby County Republican Party and Senior Policy Advisor to the mayor of Memphis.

The Biography Shelf

Matilda's Triumph: A Memoir
Richard M. Moss
LangMarc Publishing
9781880292860, $21.95, PB, 390pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Matilda's Triumph: A Memoir", Dr. Richard Moss of Jasper, Indiana, writes of his childhood in the Bronx, his mother's struggles raising five boys alone, Richard's graduation from medical school, pro bono work in several countries, and finally setting up a traditional medical practice in Indiana. He also writes of his struggles dealing with his mother's stroke and his inability to save her.

Critique: This inherently interesting, candidly personal, effectively written life story includes flashbacks, medical research, and his present day life. With a special appeal to readers with an interest in a personal life stories that inspire and linger on in the mind and memory long after the book has been finished and set back upon the shelf, "Matilda's Triumph: A Memoir" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community and academic library Contemporary American Biography/Memoir collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Matilda's Triumph: A Memoir" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.99).

Editorial Note: Richard Moss M.D. ( is a board-certified specialist in Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery (Ear Nose and Throat). He earned his undergraduate degree in Biology at Indiana University and completed his Doctor of Medicine Degree at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis. Dr. Moss has written regular columns for Indiana newspapers, including The Dubois County Herald, The Indianapolis Star, The Evansville Courier and Press, The City County Observer, The Vanderburgh Independent Press, The Bloomington Herald-Times, The Petersburg Press Dispatch, and The Ferdinand News; had a local radio talk show; and was the host of a local TV show Yoga for Health.

From Lawyer to Warrior
Chris Paviak
Houndstooth Press
9781544538457, $28.99, HC, 242pp

Synopsis: When Chris Pavlak failed the bar exam in 2006 and 2007, the comfortable optimism of becoming an attorney vanished, replaced by feelings of shame, humiliation, and inadequacy.

Fixated on the financial ascendancy of being a lawyer for a large law firm, Chris had attended law school for all the wrong reasons. In that hypercompetitive environment he became singularly focused on comparing himself to others, status, and making money. When chaos reared its ugly head in the form of repeated failures, he realized he would have to radically reshape his life.

Uncertain about where a new path might lead, Chris embarked on a life of service in the United States Marine Corps.

With the publication of his biography, "From Lawyer to Warrior: Failing the Bar, Becoming a Marine, and Finding Meaning", Chris shows how failure might be considered an opportunity to willfully and courageously confront the chaos of life. The crucible of Marine officer training and the privilege of leading Marines ultimately helped recalibrate the vision of his life.

This is an honest and inspirational memoir about reinvention and reclamation-of finding meaning in the uniqueness of personal tragedy by being absorbed in something bigger than yourself, camaraderie, and being responsible for others.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, inherently interesting, and with a very special appeal to readers with an interest in personal stories of dealing with life's problems and opportunities, "From Lawyer to Warrior: Failing the Bar, Becoming a Marine, and Finding Meaning" is an especially recommended addition to community and academic library Contemporary Biography/Memoir collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "From Lawyer to Warrior" is also available in a paperback edition (9781544538464, $16.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.99).

Editorial Note: Chris Pavlak ( graduated from law school in 2006. He failed the bar exam twice before joining the marines and becoming a ground intelligence officer. During his service, Chris has led marine rifle and scout sniper platoons, been a planner for Marine Corps service-level exercises, and served as an advisor to Afghan security forces. Still in the Marine Corps Reserves, Chris is a faculty member at National Intelligence University near Washington, DC. As a civilian, he is a consultant on the policies, ethics, governance, and regulations of artificial intelligence and emerging technologies.

My One and Only Love
Laura H. Gilbert
Independently Published
9798378143764, $18.00, PB, 88pp

Synopsis: Helen Day was born in 1923 to a poor family in rural Indiana. Helen dreamt of playing in the school band but had no means to acquire an instrument - until her domestic-worker mom rescued a clarinet from the trash. Two years later Helen's band director lent her the school's saxophone. She fell in love with it and aspired to a career in music.

In 1942, at age 19, Helen began her 11-year career on the road. Even when she left the road to be a 1950s housewife, Helen never left music. It was her everything; her heart and soul. After nearly two decades of practicing and waiting to perform, at the age of 48 Helen joined a local pick-up group -- and was never without a band again!

In 1989 Helen, at the age of 67, began her second musical heyday that lasted 31 more years. "My One and Only Love - A Big Band Love Story 1938-2021" by Laura H. Gilbert is her story.

Critique: Nicely enhanced for the reader's enjoyment with illustrations throughout, "My One and Only Love - A Big Band Love Story 1938-2021" is a deftly crafted and inherently interesting biography of Helen Day by her daughter, Laura H. Gilbert. Exceptionally well written, organized, and presented, "My One and Only Love" presents the life and accomplishments of a dedicated musician and is an unreservedly recommended addition to personal, commlunity, college, and university library American Biography, Women's Biography, and Actor/Entertainer/Musician Biography collections.

Editorial Note: Laura H. Gilbert ( lives in Minnesota where she worked as a musician, professor, creative consultant, attorney, and policy analyst. Laura writes in a practical, friend-by-your-side voice, sharing her personal experience and the creative paths she took to meet common challenges: managing college costs, downsizing a lifetime's worth of stuff, and retiring well on a middle-income budget. Her most recent work follows her mother's 80+ year journey as a Big Band musician. She is also the author of: "Enough: A Retirement Life That Works for Me", "The Stories We Leave Behind: A Legacy-Based Approach to Dealing with Stuff", "Back to School for Grownups", "How to Save $50,000 on College", "Graduate School on a Budget", and "Our Plan - A Family-Centered Approach to Paying for College."

American Journey: My Life in Art
Marco Sassone
Arti Grafiche Press
9780935194159, $39.00, HC, 360pp

Synopsis: "American Journey: My Life in Art" is the vivid, transformational life story of internationally acclaimed American-Italian painter Marco Sassone, who came to California in search of artistic freedom and success. His journey led him through periods of hope and despair and ultimately to the threshold of true self-fulfillment: a deeper understanding of himself and his mission as an artist.

The life he has lived and the people he has known make the memoir of this remarkable artist a wonderful revealing canvas. Dining with Sophia Loren, conversing with Luciano Pavarotti, and joking with Tina Turner at his Beverly Hills opening are all part of his California days during the 1970s.

But what makes this memoir extraordinary is Sassone's vivid recollection of his real-life stories that include: His childhood in post war-torn Florence in the 1950s; his beginnings as an artist in the glorious studio of his teacher overlooking Giotto's Bell Tower; and his harrowing experience of survival during the great flood of Florence in 1966; His first drawing of "Willie" in San Francisco in the late 1980s, and his extensive personal research on the homeless that led to his groundbreaking exhibition "Home on the Streets"; And more recently, his reflections on the forgery of his artwork and the subsequent lawsuit in the Nevada's Supreme Court.

In his memoir, Sassone also offers vivid descriptions of what takes place in his studio during the act of painting: an intimate affair that he reveals for the first time in his memoir. "American Journey" is an inspiring, sometimes painful and courageous examination of a life in art. Sassone's story explores the very nature of all human beings and fulfills the inner vision that motivates them.

Critique: A fascinating and fearlessly candid personal life story that is informatively enhanced with the inclusion of numerous full color illustrations, an informative 'Afterword', a four page listing of Acknowledgments, and a seven page Index, "American Journey: My Life in Art" by artist and now author Marco Sassone will have a particular appeal to readers with an interest in the life stories of artists in general, and Marco Sassone in particular. While an especially recommended addition to community and academic library Biography collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "American Journey: My Life in Art" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Marco Sassone ( was born in Florence, Italy, and the most poignant and enduring of influences can be traced back to his studies in the 1960s with acclaimed painter Silvio Loffredo, himself a student of the Austrian Master, Oskar Kokoschka. The agitated brush strokes and vibrant colors appealed to a young Sassone, offering the artist a foundation upon which to create his emotional, expressive art works. Numerous books and catalogues have been written about his work, including a 300-page monograph, "Sassone", written by art historian Donelson Hoops. His paintings hang in collections throughout the world. Marco Sassone was knighted into the "Order of the Merit of the Italian Republic" by President Sandro Pertini in 1982

The General Fiction Shelf

Where Waters Meet
Zhang Ling
Amazon Crossing
Brilliance Audio
9781662510380, $28.99, HC, 284pp

Synopsis: There was rarely a time when Phoenix Yuan-Whyller's mother, Rain, didn't live with her. Even when Phoenix got married, Rain, who followed her from China to Toronto, came to share Phoenix's life. Now at the age of eighty-three, Rain's unexpected death ushers in a heartrending separation.

Struggling with the loss, Phoenix comes across her mother's suitcase -- a memory box Rain had brought from home. Inside, Phoenix finds two old photographs and a decorative bottle holding a crystallized powder. Her auntie Mei tells her these missing pieces of her mother's early life can only be explained when they meet, and so, clutching her mother's ashes, Phoenix boards a plane for China. What at first seems like a daughter's quest to uncover a mother's secrets becomes a startling journey of self-discovery.

Told across decades and continents, Zhang Ling's exquisite novel is a tale of extraordinary courage and survival. It illuminates the resilience of humanity, the brutalities of life, the secrets we keep and those we share, and the driving forces it takes to survive.

Critique: All the more impressive when considering that "Where Waters Meet" is Chinese author Zhang Ling's first novel written in English. With a special appeal to readers with an interest in women's fiction and generational family novels, "Where Waters Meet" is an elegant, eloquent, original, entertaining, thought-provoking, and narrative driven novel that is especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Literary Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Where Waters Meet" is also available in a paperback edition (9781662509001, $16.99), in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99), and as a complete an unabridged audio book (Brilliance Audio, 9781978699687, $29.99, MP3-CD).

Editorial Note: Zhang Ling ( is the author of nine novels and numerous collections of novellas and short stories, including A Single Swallow, translated by Shelly Bryant; Gold Mountain Blues; and Aftershock, which was adapted into China's first IMAX movie with unprecedented box-office success. Born in China, she moved to Canada in 1986 and, in the mid-1990s, began to write and publish fiction in Chinese while working as a clinical audiologist. Since then, she has won the Chinese Media Literature Award for Author of the Year, the Grand Prize of Overseas Chinese Literary Award, and China Times's Open Book Award.

One More Day
Diane Chiddister
Columbus Press
9781633375529, $14.99, PB, 303pp

Synopsis: author Diane Chiddister's new novel, "One More Day", showcases the surprising depth and complexity of the Grace Woods Care Center, where the facility itself is small, yet the emotional world is expansive. While grieving and loss play a part in this world, so do love, joy, and compassion.

"One More Day" is told in four voices: Thomas, a retired anthropologist who approaches aging with curiosity; Lillian, a woman with dementia trying to find her way home; Sally, a compassionate caregiver blindsided by love; and Beth, the center director, who strives to maintain quality care through difficult changes.

Critique: Deftly crafted, impressively original, and fully entertaining, "One More Day" is an enriched experience for the reader and a celebration of novelist Diane Chiddister's genuine flair for creating distinctively memorable characters along with a riveting, narrative driven, storytelling style. While also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99) for readers with an interest in Women and Family Life fiction, "One More Day" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Contemporary Literary Fiction collections.

Editorial Note: Diane Chiddister ( is a journalist and former editor of the Yellow Springs News in Yellow Springs, Ohio. She's also a short story writer and 1981 MFA graduate of the University of Iowa Writer's Workshop, where she was a Teaching-Writing Fellow.

Engin Akyurek, author
Doina L. Kovalik & Atiye Erden, translators
Flexible Press
9798986245942, $18.00, PB, 177pp

Synopsis: "Silence" is a compendium of short stories by Engin Akyurek that take us to Turkey and a time when people got to know people by looking in their eyes, to touch people by talking to them, and to understand each other by listening. The times when the kids were still kids, when they started a ball game as soon as they found an empty field, when neighbors stopped by uninvited, holidays were celebrated all together, the happiness and the sorrow shared by all.

These stories by Akyurek brings the reader both the richness of Turkish day-to-day life but also the universal shared between all cultures -- the need for community, connection, and of love.

Critique: The twenty-one short stories by Engin Akyurek comprising "Silence" range from The Cherry Tree, to The Child in Me, to Memories in the Air. Original, memorable, deftly crafted, and impressively translated into English by the team of Doina L. Kovalik and Atiye Erden, as a short story anthology "Silence" is singularly and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Contemporary Literary Fiction and Cultural Heritage Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Silence" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Engin Akyurek ( is a Turkish actor, screenwriter and author. Akyurek began his acting career in the year 2004. Staring in many acclaimed series and movies, and having received no official schooling for acting, stage or screen, Akyurek is considered as one of Turkey's most successful and highest paid actors. Akyurek.

The Historical Fiction Shelf

In Search of the Animalcule
Steven L. Berk, M.D.
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781663248015, $23.99, HC, 228pp

Synopsis: When he is born in 1847 Vienna, Jacob Pfleger shares just two days with his mother, a female obstetrician who dies giving birth (like thousands of other women around the world) of the mysterious childbed fever.

Because his birth father wants nothing to do with him, Jacob is placed in an orphanage. His mother's dying wish is that he will grow up with resilience and independence. As Jacob matures into a precocious twelve-year-old, he is told about the legacy of his mother by her colleague, Ignaz Semmelweis, and learns that his father is a winemaker in Lille, France.

Determined to find his father and his destiny, Jacob embarks on a quest to locate him. When he arrives in France, Jacob is introduced to Louis Pasteur who is working with is father to determine why the wines of France are spoiling. As he is led on an intense scientific journey, Jacob eventually also works with Joseph Lister and Robert Koch, participating in the great discoveries of the era that uncover the animalcules, the bacteria, that have caused global disease and death.

Later Jacob studies to become a doctor under the mentorship of Sir William Osler at Johns Hopkins.

Although a deftly crafted work of fiction, "In Search of the Animalcule is an amazing story that fully captures the real lives and work of the great scientists of the time as an orphan assists in shocking medical discoveries that change the worlds understanding of disease and uncovers the field of infectious disease.

Critique: An inherently fascinating and compelling novel, "In Search of the Animalcule" by novelist and medical doctor Steven L. Berk is based upon genuine discovers of bacteria and viruses that would revolutionize medicine and our understanding of the true nature of all manner of infections diseases. While unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Historical/Medical Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "In Search of the Animalcule" is also readily available for personal reading lists in a paperback edition (9781663248008, $13.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

Editorial Note: Steven L. Berk ( joined the faculty of the School of Medicine in 1999, and served as Regional Dean for the Amarillo Campus, Professor of Medicine, until 2006 when he was appointed Dean of the School of Medicine.

The Lady of the Lighthouse
Terri Greening
World Castle Publishing
9798385875740, $19.99, HC, 271pp

Synopsis: Loralei Lancaster, a lonely, pregnant young mother and lighthouse keeper on the Great Lakes is caught up in a WWII espionage plot while waiting for her shipping-captain husband, Devon, to return from a Great Lakes voyage. When a dashing, Italian spy posing as a down-and-out art dealer and handyman enters her life and seduces her, she must ultimately choose between her passionate love for him and her love for Devon, her family, and her country.

Critique: With the publication of "The Lady of the Lighthouse", novelist Terri Greening presents a deftly crafted and fully entertaining World War II thriller set in the Great Lakes area and features a pirate, a Great Lakes shipping captain, a dashing Italian spy, and the lonely, pregnant young mother who loved them all. An original and fun read from cover to cover, "The Lady of the Lighthouse" will have a very special and particular appeal to readers with an interest in historical World War II espionage suspense thrillers. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Lady of the Lighthouse" is also available in a paperback edition (9781960076403, $13.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).

Editorial Note: Terri Greening ( is a creative writer in the Great Lakes region who enjoys yoga, gardening, nature parks, walking, and biking.

Mimosa Road
Ruth Linnea Whitney
Independently Published
9798371628817, $17.99, PB, 340pp

Synopsis: "Mimosa Road" by author Ruth Linnea Whitney is a novel of two women, two cultures, and a shadow world where people who offend Life-President Mobutu Sese Seko disappear.

Set in Kinshasa, Zaire, 1974-1975, "Mimosa Road" is the story of a privileged expat and a Zairian in a simple village who meet and find themselves in close-up range of Mobutu's mindless brutality.

Their stories intertwine in a post-colonial world that bewilders, terrifies, yet challenges them to confront violent oppression. Of special note is how "Mimosa Road" raises issues in the mid-1970s that are surprisingly relevant to our time and place in 2023.

Critique: An original and inherently riveting read from beginning to end, "Mimosa Road" is exceptionally well written and presented, showcasing as it does the impressive and narrative driven storytelling skills of novelist Ruth Linnea Whitney. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community library General Fiction, Historical Fiction, and Political Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Mimosa Road" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

Editorial Note: Ruth Linnea Whitney ( short stories and essays have appeared in The Threepenny Review, Kaleidoscope, Natural Bridge, Assisi, and elsewhere; her poetry in Raven Chronicles and Ancient Paths; her journalism in Chicago Tribune, Town & Country, Seattle PI, and elsewhere. Her professional memberships include: The Authors Guild, International Women's Writing Group (IWWG), Pacific NW Writers Association (PNWA), and Writers Guild of PCUSA. She has taught primary school subjects to AIDS orphans in Uganda, ESL to nurses in Vietnam and to immigrants at Peninsula College in Port Townsend, WA.

The LGBT Fiction Shelf

Sylvia Aguilar Zeleny, author
J. D. Plucker, translator
Deep Vellum Publishing
9781646052202, $15.95, PB, 168pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Trash", author Sylvia Aguilar Zeleny interweaves the voices of three women with lived connections to the municipal garbage dump of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

Aguilar Zeleny reveals the complexities of survival and joy, love and violence a teenager abandoned by her guardian at the dump, a scientist doing research on the residents of the dump, and a transwoman living nearby who is the matriarch of a group of sex workers.

Each one of these three characters must navigate through family, abandonment, power, jealousy, greed, and multiple taboos around sexuality and gender violence. Their separate life stories are linked by geography and by ideas of waste and abandonment.

As Sylvia Aguilar Zeleny explores these territories in her novel, she asks crucial questions: who is seen as disposable and why? How do women find their own means of survival and joy in the midst of a perilous sociopolitical context? What does it mean to live a life in a time of austerity and extreme violence?

Critique: A critical intervention in Mexican literature and ably translated into English for an American readership by J. D. Pluecker, "Trash" showcases author Sylvia Aguilar Zeleny genuine flair for an eloquently impressive and narrative driven storytelling style that fully engages her readers from first page to last. Also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99), this is one of those original novels that will linger in the mind and memory long after the book itself is finished and set back upon the shelf. "Trash" is a fine addition to personal reading lists, as well as community, and academic library LGBTQ literary fiction collections.

Editorial Note #1: Sylvia Aguilar Zeleny received her MFA in Creative Writing from The University of Texas at El Paso. She is the author of four short-story books and a young adult novel series. Her novel Todo Eso Es Yo won the National Book Award in Tamaulipas, Mexico in 2015, and was republished as The Everything I Have Lost (Cinco Puntos Press, 2020) as a rewriting in English. Her work has been included in anthologies in Mexico, the United States, Australia, Peru, and South Korea. She has also given conferences and participated in various panels addressing the work of women writers of Latin America, as well as panels on teaching bilingual creative writing and/or teaching fiction to first or second generation students.

Editorial Note: J. D. Pluecker ( has translated numerous books from the Spanish, including Gore Capitalism (Semiotext(e), 2018), AntĄgona Gonzalez (Les Figues Press, 2016), and Writing with Caca by Luis Felipe Fabre (Green Lantern Press, 2021). Their book of poetry and image, Ford Over, was released in 2016 from Noemi Press. JD is a recipient of the Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writing Grant and has exhibited work at Blaffer Art Museum, the Hammer Museum, Project Row Houses, and more.

The Literary Fiction Shelf

Blair Austin
Dzanc Books
9781950539758, $16.95, PB, 310pp

Synopsis: In a city far in the future, in a society that has come through a great upheaval, retired lecturer Wiggins moves from window to window in a museum, intricately describing each scene. Whales gliding above a shipwreck and a lost cup and saucer. An animatronic forest twenty stories tall. urban wolves in the light of an apartment building. A line of mosquitoes in uniforms and regalia, honored as heroes of the last great war.

Bit by bit, Wiggins unspools the secrets of his world -- the conflict that brought it to the brink, and the great thinker, Michaux, who led the diorama revolution, himself now preserved under glass.

After a phone call in the middle of the night, Wiggins sets out to visit the Diorama of the Town: an entire, dioramic world, hundreds of miles across, where people are objects of curiosity, taxidermied and posed. All his life, Wiggins has longed to see it. But in the Town, he comes face to face with the diorama's contradictions. Its legacy of political violence. Its manipulation by those with power and money. And its paper-thin promise of immortality.

Critique: "Dioramas" by author Blair Austin is a kind of hybrid novel -- part essay, part prose poem, part travel narrative. Original, imaginative, exceptionally well written, and an inherently interesting read, and particularly impressive when considering that this is Austin's debut as a novelist, "Dioramas" will have a very special appeal to readers with an interest in deftly crafted dystopian fiction. While highly recommended for community and academic library Science Fiction and Literary Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that 'Dioramas" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.49).

Editorial Note: A former correctional librarian, Blair Austin ( was born in Michigan and attended the Helen Zell Writers' Program, where the seed novel for Dioramas won a Hopwood Award.

The Romantic Fiction Shelf

Royal Coconut Beach Lunch Club
Diane Bergner
Meridian Editions
9781959170037, $19.95, PB, 382pp

Synopsis: Julia Wild was thrilled to trade her legal briefcase for stiletto heels and a glam wardrobe when she accepted the position as a high society fundraiser at a prestigious performing arts center. The Addison Center is supported by mega-donations from the ultra-rich in Royal Coconut Beach, but the gala lifestyle is a minefield.

As if the punishing schedule isn't enough, Julia's boss is having an affair with an important donor (is this what it takes to get big donations?) and someone is trying to sabotage her job. Even as she begins to doubt her new career choice, she weakens to the seduction of elite social circles and the allure of becoming a fundraising rainmaker.

But what really matters are the fascinating and strong-willed women who become her confidantes. They meet regularly for lunch, gossip, subtle lessons, and cocktails -- while they dissect the wealth-fueled dynamics of the rich and powerful.

The deeper Julia is drawn into this world, the more reality and fantasy blur, and fault lines in her marriage surface. When she meets a debonair Argentinian billionaire, moral ambiguities and temptations are stirred. Will this fascinating man push her to her limit? Will she listen to her new companions who offer their smarts and feminist sensibilities?

It is only when a suspicion caused by an untimely death blows up the carefully constructed glittering mask of the moneyed set that Julia realizes she must decide whose side to take - and how willing she is to risk everything.

Critique: Featuring the compelling and narrative driven storytelling style of novelist Diane Bergner, "Royal Coconut Beach Lunch Club" is a fully engaging and riveting read that will have a special attraction for readers with an interest in contemporary romance and women's friendship fiction. While also readily available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $0.99), "Royal Coconut Beach Lunch Club" is especially impressive considering that it is author Diane Bergner's debut as a novelist. Simply stated, "Royal Coconut Beach Lunch Club" is an unreservedly recommended addition to community library Contemporary Romance collections.

Editorial Note: Diane Bergner ( is vice president of Development at the Raymond F. Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in West Palm Beach, Florida. She is a member of The Writers' Academy of the Kravis Center and was the runner-up in the Best Writer in Palm Beach County, hosted by the Palm Beach Book Festival.

The Mystery/Suspense Shelf

Her Deadly Game
Robert Dugoni
Thomas & Mercer
9781662500190, $28.99, HC, 396pp

Synopsis: Keera Duggan was building a solid reputation as a Seattle prosecutor, until her romantic relationship with a senior colleague ended badly. For the competitive former chess prodigy, returning to her family's failing criminal defense law firm to work for her father is the best shot she has. With the right moves, she hopes to restore the family's reputation, her relationship with her father, and her career.

Keera's chance to play in the big leagues comes when she's retained by Vince LaRussa, an investment adviser accused of murdering his wealthy wife. There's little hard evidence against him, but considering the couple's impending and potentially nasty divorce, LaRussa faces life in prison. The prosecutor is equally challenging: he is Miller Ambrose, Keera's former lover who is eager to destroy her in court on her first homicide defense.

As Keera and her team follow the evidence, they uncover a complicated and deadly game that's more than Keera bargained for. When shocking information turns the case upside down, Keera must decide between her duty to her client, her family's legacy, and her own future.

Critique: Another simply riveting novel from Robert Dugoni, "Her Deadly Game" is original, deftly crafted, and a fun read from first page to last for anyone with an interest in murder mysteries and suspense thrillers. While unreservedly recommended for community library Mystery/Suspense collections, it should be noted for the growing legions of Robert Dugoni fans that "Her Deadly Game" is also available in a paperback edition (9781662500183, $16.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.99).

Editorial Note: Robert Dugoni ( is the author of the Tracy Crosswhite series; the Charles Jenkins series; the David Sloane series; and the stand-alone novels The 7th Canon, Damage Control, The World Played Chess, and The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell. He is the recipient of the Nancy Pearl Book Award for fiction and a three-time winner of the Friends of Mystery Spotted Owl Award for best novel set in the Pacific Northwest. He is a two-time finalist for the Thriller Awards and the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction, as well as a finalist for the Silver Falchion Award for mystery and the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Awards.

Death Watch
Stona Fitch
Arrow Editions
c/o Concord Free Press
9780990805953, $18.95, PB, 250pp

Synopsis: Coe Vessel, son of a legendary adman, lands the much-anticipated ad campaign of artist-provocateur Watanabe's latest creation, a mysterious watch called Cassius Seven. The enigmatic Watanabe claims the watch can kill its wearer. Convinced it's a high-art hoax, Coe and his team of renegade creatives work furiously to land the campaign and persuade the world that the watch (rebranded as Death Watch) is the must-have accessory for end-time capitalism.

Thanks to the team's inventive launch, Death Watch finds eager buyers among the brazenly cocky, thoroughly disillusioned, and silently suicidal. Death Watch soon becomes a cultural phenomenon, harbinger of a new nihilism, and a target for moral outrage. Exactly what Watanabe envisioned. But his hoax turns horrific when the watches start going off, killing their wearers.

Appalled, Coe and his team reverse course and work feverishly to alert would-be customers. But can they stop the juggernaut they set in motion?

Critique: Unique, original, fascinating, and one of those novels that will linger in the mind and memory of the reader long after the book is finished and set back upon the shelf, "Death Watch" by Stona Fitch is especially and unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Humor/Satire Fiction collections. With a special appeal for those with an interest in a distinctive and all-to-believable premise, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Death Watch" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

Editorial Note: Stona Fitch ( is the author of seven novels. He is the founder of Concord Free Press, a revolutionary non-profit publisher that inspires generosity among readers. Since graduating from Princeton University, Stona has worked as a daily newspaper reporter, dishwasher, musician in a popular country-punk band, director of a non-profit organic farm, and communications consultant.

But Now I See
Bill Stackhouse
Independently Published
9798844179556, $17.95, PB, 260pp

Synopsis; Even with a left leg shattered by a drug dealer's bullet and a medical retirement from the Detroit Police Force, former homicide captain Ed McAvoy feels he's too young to be put out to pasture. Accepting the job as Police Chief of Peekamoose Heights, in New York's Catskills, he figures it will be sort of like running a country club. After all, how much crime can there be in a quiet, little village?

McAvoy soon discovers that his skills as a homicide detective will not atrophy from lack of use in Peekamoose Heights. Murder, as it turns out, is an equal opportunity crime that not only resides in large bustling cities like Detroit, but in sleepy Catskill villages like Peekamoose Heights as well.

Porky Jarvis, co-owner of The Plough & Whistle Pub in Peekamoose Heights, has been selected as one of the guest chefs for the 'Gastronomy and Great Estates on the Hudson' tour -- a nine-day roundtrip cruise from New York City to Kinderhook to visit the historic mansions that dot the Hudson River shoreline, sandwiched between two two-day sightseeing excursions in Manhattan.

Figuring that he has earned a long overdue vacation, McAvoy signs up for the tour along with Porky's sister, Stevie Henderson, even though, due to a previous commitment on Porky's part, Porky and Stevie, and therefore McAvoy will have to leave the tour after dinner on Day #5.

When one of the members of the tour group is murdered, the Ulster County Sheriff tasks the former Detroit Police Force Homicide Captain with discovering who did it. Not so simple a task. First, McAvoy must figure out if the victim was, indeed, the intended target or simply collateral damage in a botched attempt at the assassination of someone else.

Many questions. Few answers. And a secret group, monitoring McAvoy's every move, who would like to keep it that way.

Critique: "But Now I See", is the eighth Ed McAvoy Mystery by novelist Bill Stackhouse and continues to showcase the author's genuine flair for originality and offering the distinctive kind of narrative driven storytelling style that is his hallmark as a storyteller -- keeping his reader's riveted attention from first page to last. Of special appeal to readers with a particular interest in police procedural style murder mysteries, "But Now I See" is a highly recommended addition to community library Mystery/Suspense collections -- as well as being available for the personal reading lists of dedicated mystery buffs in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.95).

Editorial Note: Bill Stackhouse ( scriptwriting credits include training films and promotional videos for NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to name a few. He has also written numerous radio and TV commercials. Four of Bill's seven stage plays (The Best Laid Plans, The Early Bird, To Serve and Protect, and A Tradition of Service) have won local, statewide, regional, and national contests.. In addition to playwriting, Bill has directed many productions for various community theatres. For a very brief time, he even had a theatre company of his own that toured six mid-size cities in Northern Alabama and Southern Tennessee.

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

Broken: The Young Hellions Series
Braxton A. Cosby
Cosby Media Productions
9798885262613, $23.99, HC, 370pp

Synopsis: It is 2035, and Earth's inevitable destruction has finally been realized. Efforts to perfect weapons of mass destruction and subsequently destroy one another have come to a head as the most powerful countries engage in an all-out nuclear assault (known as the time of The Big Drop) that nearly banishes everyone to death in a wake of destructive Fallout.

Humanity devolves back to its carnal heritage of slavery in an effort to re-establish currency through the slave trade.

Nobody knows who started it, but the devastation ravages every organic life form, both plant and animal. 90% of human life is wiped out, and of the 10% that survive, radiation poisoning has varying effects on the human genome, creating both mindless beasts called Ashers and beings with special gifts -- the Alphas.

As humanity struggles to survive, migrating to the safety of continental coastlines in search of fresh water, the planet scurries to salvage some kind of economic stability. Enter16-year-old Keesa Donovan and her younger brother Kiran. They live out their lives in a slave pod run by The Establishment, just outside Savannah, Georgia. Losing everything she loved after the Fallout, she desperately seeks freedom while navigating the trials of teenhood, sifting through emerging feelings for her best friend Wynn, and realizing the growing attraction for newcomer Dobbs.

Confounded by her gift of ESP, she is haunted by unexplainable visions of mysterious days to come, holding onto a sliver of hope that one day she and her brother will be freed. But on the fateful day of the annual Reckoning, Keesa's life takes a turn as fate steps in and forces her onto the narrow road of her destiny.

Critique: A riveting and original post-Holocaust dystopian novel, "Broken" by author Braxton Cosby is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to community library Science Fiction collections. Part of the author's 'The Young Hellions' series, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of all dedicated post-apocalyptic science fiction fans that "Broken" is also available in a paperback edition (9798885262743, $16.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).

Editorial Note: Braxton A. Cosby ( has penned over 18 novels, comics, and several screenplays, many based on his own works. He tells stories that evoke emotions and stimulates thought. Two other highly recommended Cosby Media Production science fiction titles are Braxton Cosby's "Steel Reign: Flight of the Star Ship Concord" (9798483872658, $20.99 HC, $16.99 PB, $3.99 Kindle) and Titus Murphy's "Black Oak: The Loveless Chronicles" (9798553494629, $16.99 PB, $3.99 Kindle).

I'll Stop the World
Lauren Thoman
Mindy's Book Studio
9781662509971, $28.99, HC, 446pp

Synopsis: Trapped in a dead-end town, Justin Warren has had his life defined by the suspicious deaths of his grandparents. The unsolved crime happened long before Justin was born, but the ripple effects are still felt after thirty-eight years. Justin always knew he wouldn't have much of a future. He just never imagined that his life might take him backward.

In a cosmic twist of fate, Justin's choices send him crashing into the path of determined optimist Rose Yin. Justin and Rose live in the same town and attend the same school, but have never met -- because Rose lives in 1985. Justin won't be born for another twenty years. And his grandparents are still alive -- at least for now.

In a series of events that reverberate through multiple lifetimes, Justin and Rose have a week to get Justin unstuck in time and put each of them in control of their futures -- by solving a murder that hasn't even happened yet.

Critique: Original, deftly crafted, and a lot of fun for readers with an interest in amateur sleuths solving murder mysteries, coming of age novels, and time-travel science fiction fans, "I'll Stop The World" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "I'll Stop The World" is also available in a paperback edition (9781662509964, $16.99), in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.99), and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Brilliance Audio, 9781978695757, $24.99, MP3-CD).

Editorial Note: Lauren Thoman ( lives outside Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband, two children, and a rotating number of dogs and fish. Her pop culture writing has appeared in numerous online outlets including Parade, Vulture, and Collider.

Sam Weis
Kasva Press
9781948403313, $14.95, PB, 226pp

Synopsis: With the lush Pacific Northwest as a backdrop, a famous artist abruptly changes her painting style and finds her art has an eerie impact on people. Wren Willow Hendrix's new work provokes inexplicable personality changes in those who view it, with often hilarious results. All too soon, Wren finds herself the center of unwanted attention.

With Homeland Security hot on her trail and a hate-spewing cult preacher gunning for her, Wren needs all the help she can get. Unfortunately, her best friend has hatched a plot of her own -- one that will not only put her in the line of danger, but will pull Wren onto the stage of world events.

Will the dubious protection of a meddling journalist, a battle-scarred veteran, and a reclusive pot farmer be enough to keep Wren out of the clutches of those who would abuse her art - or worse?

Critique: With trip-inducing paintings, an amphibious tour bus (and assorted donuts!), "Abstraction" by musician and novelist Sam Weis is an engaging, original, and thoroughly fun story of artists, villains, and accidental heroes that will have a very special appeal to fans of deftly crafted Magical Realism stories and action/adventure urban fantasies. While highly commended for community library Fantasy Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Abstraction" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.95).

Editorial Note: Sam Weis ( is an accomplished abstract painter, a 12-string guitarist/recording artist, and an award-winning songwriter. She grew up in Eastern Iowa and studied Fine Arts at The University of Iowa. Sam has toured as a guitarist with two rock bands and enjoys a successful solo music career. Now, after writing five recordings of original music and lyrics, she thought it was time to write something that did not rhyme every other line.

The Graphic Novel Shelf

Blackwax Boulevard Is Listening
Dmitri Jackson
Frotoon Press
9780999259658, $24.00, HC, 202pp

Synopsis: "Blackwax Boulevard Is Listening" by artist/author Dmitri Jackson is a slice-of-life comedy that follows Marsalis, Hardy, and Veronika, as they strive to keep the titular record store open for business. In this original graphic novel from Frotoon Press, our three heroes also tackle the most hot-button issues of the day including racism, homophobia, #MeToo, and cancel culture. Blending pop music esoterica with blistering commentary on the nature of celebrity, fandom and wokeness, "Blackwax Boulevard Is Listening" fully captures a generation of record lovers, nerds, hipsters, and outcasts grappling with the cultural turbulence of the late '10s and early '20s.

Critique: Replete with timely and timeless observations, insights, wit, wisdom, and humor, "Blackwax Boulevard Is Listening" is a fun and deftly read that will have immense appeal to readers with an interest in satire presented in a graphic novel format. While unreservedly recommended for community library Graphic Novel collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Blackwax Boulevard Is Listening" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9780999259641, $20.00).

Editorial Note: Dmitri Jackson ( is an award-winning cartoonist based in St. Louis, Missouri. His work includes the Frotoon minicomic series, John Henry: Steel-Driving Man and Marty's Diner.

The Business Shelf

A Place for T
Robert H. Lengel, author
Cindyj M. Teske, author
Linda Curtis, illustrator
9781039151376, $46.99, HC, 340pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "A Place for T: Giving Voice to the Tortoise in Our Hare-Brained World", Professor Robert H. Lengel offers a thought provoking twist on Aesop's Hare-Tortoise fable reframing it as a Human Race pitting our Hare-brained heads against our Tortoise-inspired hearts.

As we run faster and faster in our Hare-like pursuits of wealth, power and status, we are leaving no place for the slow and steady Tortoise to speak for our humanity. As a result, Professor Lengel poses the possibility we are creating a world with our intellects and technology that we can't relate to emotionally and spiritually. We might be outrunning our humanity and setting the stage for the Hare to win this human race by default. Our inability to engage each other in civil and respectful conversations, the hate and violence infecting our culture and leadership failures in organizations might be evidence this sinister end is fast approaching.

"A Place for T" is a hard hitting and at times poetic invitation to step back from our busy lives, sit with the author on his front porch, and question our lives and work. It is an inspirational reminder of Mahatma Gandhi's warning that "there is more to life than simply increasing its speed." In a conversational format, Professor Lengel guides us down a hopeful path forward - a path illuminated by what he calls divergent thinking. His words are a 'siren call' to wake up and realize we can't afford Hare- brained progress at the cost of our souls.

Professor Lengel's principle message is that we need 'A Place for T' in our lives 'now', in order to be able to account for the unaccountable while we still have time!

Critique: Fascinating, informative, insightful, thoughtful and thought-provoking, "A Place for T: Giving Voice to the Tortoise in Our Hare-Brained World" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, corporate, and academic library Business Development & Management collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of MBA students, academia, corporate executives, entrepreneurs, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in Sustainable Business Development and Environmental Economics that "A Place for T" is also available in a paperback edition (9781039151369, $34.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.99).

Editorial Note: Dr. Robert H. Lengel ( holds a BS and MS in aerospace engineering, an MBA, and a PhD that blended oceanography, environmental management, leadership and organizational dynamics in business. His research work in developing the concept of 'media richness' has been referenced over 10,000 times in scientific and practice journals. Building on this research and his eclectic background, he has been a pioneer in blending the first-person languages of the arts and humanities with the third-person languages of the sciences and engineering to deepen our understanding of leadership and communication theory and practice. He is the co-author with Dick Daft of "Fusion Leadership: Unlocking the Subtle Forces that Change People and Organizations " (Berrett Koehler 1997) and author of "The Front Porch Revolution: Reclaiming the Time and Space to Slow Down, Talk to Each Other, and Lead in an Over-Managed World" (Friesen Publishing 2018). He is currently an Associate Professor emeritus at the University of Texas at San Antonio and president of his consulting firm LeaderWork Inc.

The Self-Help Shelf

The Language of Trust
Ingrid B. Christensen
New Degree Press
9798885044981, $18.99, PB, 230pp

Synopsis: With the publication of " The Language of Trust: Communicate to Build Meaningful Relationships in Business and Life", author Ingrid Christensen provides her readers with an impactful and essential guide to the crucial ingredient that makes relationships, businesses, and communication tick: trust.

"The Language of Trust" directly addresses the precise practice of taking meaning from one language and translating it into another, proliferating your ability to connect with people all over the world, no matter what language they speak. Throughout "The Language of Trust", readers will learn how to nourish relationships and communicate authentically to build confidence and deepen human connection.

Once you learn about developing an organizational identity, cultivating trust with others, and prioritizing time for personal development, you'll get to do the work for yourself. As a leader, your ability to cultivate trust both at work and home will have a profound impact on your personal and professional life.

Trust directly impacts everything-it's the key to unlocking one's purpose, connection, resilience, and growth. Trust is a practice that offers transformation and "The Language of Trust" shows you how.

Critique: Eloquent, elegant, 'real world' practical, insightfully informative, motivational, and inspiring, "The Language of Trust: Communicate to Build Meaningful Relationships in Business and Life" is thoroughly 'reader friendly' DIY combination of instructional guide and how-to manual. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, and of immense value to readers with an interest in Communication Skills,"The Language of Trust" will prove to be a welcome addition to personal, professional, and community library Self-Help/Self-Improvement & Media Communications collections.

Editorial Note: Ingrid R. Christensen ( is an entrepreneur, business leader, and advocate passionate about providing equal access to information to everyone, no matter what language they speak. In 2006, Ingrid launched her company, INGCO International after witnessing firsthand how translation and interpreting services truly bridge barriers and connect people from different cultures. Ingrid, alongside people during some of life's most vulnerable moments, in hospitals, courtrooms, classrooms, boardrooms, and more, has observed how communication and trust transform relationships, empower the underserved, and gives a voice to the voiceless.

The Holocaust Studies Shelf

Oy Mame! Oy Mame!: I Looked into the Eyes of Evil
Chana Gutreiman Goldberg
3rd Coast Books
9781946743367, $13.95, PB, 145pp

Synopsis: "Oy Mame! Oy Mame!: I Looked into the Eyes of Evil" is the personal story of Holocaust survivor Abraham Gutreiman and is based on his oral recollections captured during a series of video interviews when he was 90 years old. It includes many stories that he told multiple times over the years to everyone he came across. This time, knowing his end was near, he intended they should be recorded for future generations. The final chapters of this book were recorded later and continue his experiences until his departure from this world aged 95.

Abraham's story beings with his earliest memories as a young Orthodox Jewish boy living in Parysow, located some 50 kilometers southeast of Warsaw, Poland. His family was poor but hard-working. Looking to secure a better future for his family, his father had made a down payment on a house in the nearby town of Garwolin, an act that led to his betrayal and death.

The family, stunned by this tragic loss, were forced to recover through the endeavors of the children until September 1939, when Nazi Germany invaded and occupied the western half of Poland, which included Parysow. A Judenrat and Ghetto were established, leading to the eventual deportation of the region's Jews to the Treblinka death camp in 1942.

During the journey, a fellow deportee used a smuggled hacksaw to cut through the iron bars in the window of the cattle car. People were pushed out of the small opening, many dying from the fall, but Abraham survived and made his way to a house owned by a sympathetic Polish gentile known to the family. After an anxious 9-day wait, his elder brother Yankel (Jacobo) arrived at the house. Due to Yankel's indiscrete behavior in locating the house, the two brothers spent the remainder of the war on the run.

Surviving the war and its immediate aftermath, Abraham met and married Frieda, who understood Yankel would remain with them for some time. The three refugees made their way through Germany, Italy, Brazil to settle for some years in Bolivia before finally reaching Costa Rica. Abraham and Frieda built a family, which included Yankel until his death at the age of 101.

Critique: With the publication of "Oy Mame! Oy Mame!: I Looked into the Eyes of Evil", by the team of co-authors Chana Gutreiman Goldberg, Max Gutreiman, and Mauricio Vargas Ortega,
the reader is provided with a vividly memorable and informatively detailed exploration of Abraham's battles with poverty, evil, adversity, and his relationship with God -- all against the horrific background of the Holocaust. A valued addition to the growing library of Holocaust literature, "Oy Mame! Oy Mame!" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, college, and university library Jewish Biography/Memoir collections in general, and supplemental Holocaust History curriculum studies lists in particular. It should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in th subject that "Oy Mame! Oy Mame!" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).

Editorial Note #1: Chana Gutreiman Goldberg was born in Munich, Germany in 1949. She is a sociologist, who previously worked for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Editorial Note #2: Max Gutreiman Goldberg was born in La Paz, Bolivia in 1955. He currently lives in San Jose, Costa Rica where he practices as a Medical Internist.

Editorial Note #3: Mauricio Vargas Ortega was born in Santa Ana, Costa Rica in 1971. He is a writer, researcher, and professor. As one of the authors of this book, his task was to give a literary structure to the faithful transcriptions of the life stories of Abraham Gutreiman.

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
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