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Small Press Bookwatch

Volume 20, Number 10 October 2021 Home | SPBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Biography Shelf Architecture Shelf
General Fiction Shelf Historical Fiction Shelf Literary Fiction Shelf
Romantic Fiction Shelf Mystery/Suspense Shelf Fantasy/SciFi Shelf
Parenting Shelf Christian Studies Shelf Self-Help Shelf
Holocaust Studies Shelf    

Reviewer's Choice

Kapaun's Battle
Jeff Gress
3rd Coast Books
9781946743480, $17.95, PB, 239pp

Synopsis: The story of a true American hero, "Kapaun's Battle" by Jeff Gress is a powerful testament to the heroism of US Army Chaplain Emil Kapaun who was awarded the Medal of Honor. The story follows him, from the start of the Korean War until his death as a Prisoner of War in a Communist Chinese Prison Camp in 1951, following the destruction of the 3rd Battalion, 8th Regiment of the US 1st Cavalry Division in November 1950.

This is the life story of a young man, from a humble Kansas farming family, whose Catholic faith led him to the priesthood. Kapaun became an Army Chaplain in Southeast Asia during World War II and then a parish priest. He volunteered to return to the Army as tensions rose on the Korean Peninsula. It is the story of Father Emil Kapaun's selfless bravery and dedication to the men he ministered to during the Forgotten War.

In 1993, Pope John Paul II declared Father Kapaun a Servant of God, the first stage on the path to canonization. In 2013, Kapaun posthumously received the Medal of Honor from President Obama for his actions in Korea. He was the ninth American military chaplain Medal of Honor recipient.

Although "Kapaun's Battle" is relevant to every freedom-loving American and indeed people worldwide, it is especially intended for the enlightenment of students in schools and universities, along with members of religious congregations and military personnel, to the incredible impacts that one humble, pious American can have on the lives of so many by sacrificing his for them.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, "Kapaun's Battle" is the extraordinary story of an extraordinary man in extraordinary circumstances. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Korean War histories and biographies collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Kapaun's Battle" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.99).

The Biography Shelf

John H. McFadden and His Age
Richard Carreno
Camino Books, Inc.
9781680980394 $29.95 hc / $9.99 Kindle

Synopsis: John H. McFadden (1850-1921) was America's "Cotton King," overseeing a multimillion-dollar empire of cotton, from its baling in Memphis to its immensely lucrative sales in Liverpool. In his native Philadelphia, he was the city's undisputed "cultural czar." In his spare time, he was a museum administrator and hospital trustee, a property developer and a philanthropist, and he even financed an exploration of the Antarctic. Then McFadden got serious. His collection of English art, the largest of his age outside of the British realm, situated McFadden as a key player in the founding of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The John Howard McFadden Memorial Collection was offered as a tantalizing donation to the city of Philadelphia, with one major caveat: that a building must be constructed to hold it. This provision ensured that the museum in progress would indeed open to the public.

Ranging from sweaty sales rooms in Memphis to posh sales offices in Liverpool, from the life of luxury and high culture in London to the domestic life of Philadelphia's rich and privileged, this book explores McFadden's world in fascinating detail. John H. McFadden and His Age, the first full-length biography of the Philadelphia cultural titan, adds McFadden's often-forgotten name to the pantheon of great nineteenth-century art collectors.

Critique: John H. McFadden and His Age: Cotton and Culture in Philadelphia is a fascinating biography of a wealthy American cotton magnate, who became a legendary cultural figurehead of Philadelphia. A museum administrator, hospital trustee, property developer, and philanthropist who even financed an expedition to the Antarctic, McFadden's life is one of extraordinary impact. Notes, a bibliography, and an index round out this welcome addition to personal and public library American Biography collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that John H. McFadden and His Age is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Editorial Note: Richard Carreno is a longtime art critic in England and the United States. For many years, he was a journalist and university lecturer in London.

My Little Bird
Theresa H. Kulla-Klink
Dorrance Publishing Company
585 Alpha Drive, Suite 103, Pittsburgh, PA 15238
9781636614847, $37.00, HC, 702pp

Synopsis: Since she was a child, Theresa H. Kulla-Klink's desire was always to write about experiences that could one day help others, especially during the time of WWII. Although still young during this time, she tried to help people in need such as distributing food and shelter. As time passed, her hobbies changed to hoping and traveling the world. Her other interests include visiting museums, arts, and cultural centers.

"My Little Bird" is an extensive combination of memoir and autobiography by Theresa about her life before, during, and after WWII. "My Little Bird" is a summation of her long life experience, which includes all the ups and downs of life well lived.

May Theresa's messages in "My Little Bird" inspire and remind you to never give up in life.

Critique: Inherently interesting, exceptionally well written, and ultimately inspiring, "My Little Bird" is the extraordinary story of an ordinary woman living through extraordinary times. While highly recommended for community, college, and university library American Biography collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "My Little Bird" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781636614830, $36.00) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $31.00).

The Architecture Shelf

Becoming an Architect: My Voyage of Discovery
Peter H. Green
Greenskills Press
c/o Greenskills Associates
9781941402177, $14.95, PB, 300pp

Synopsis: Once Peter Green had decided at an early age he wanted to design buildings, the desire turned into a quest: picking the right college, learning to compete in a larger arena and at last seeking an architectural degree. Along the way he met opponents and obstacles and dodged or overcame them. He traveled to study architecture in its original setting, absorbing its history and culture.

En route he met many people and learned a lot about human nature. He sketched what he saw and told stories he recalled, honing his visual and verbal communication skills. It's all part of how he acquired his expertise, met a few great mentors and unlocked secrets of his survival in a complex, difficult and ever-changing profession.

A combination memoir and architectural commentaries, "Becoming an Architect: My Voyage of Discovery" includes original author sketches and drawings and contemporaneous photographs.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Becoming an Architect: My Voyage of Discovery" is a highly recommended addition to personal, community, college, and university library Contemporary American Biography and American Architectural collections. It should be noted that "Becoming an Architect: My Voyage of Discovery" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

The General Fiction Shelf

Judy G. Walters
64 Squares Publishing
9781736334201, $17.00, PB, 291pp

Synopsis: The world has no shortage of moral ambiguity, especially in the emergency room of hospitals. Dr. Jackson is the emergency room physician who seems to have the big house, beautiful wife, and an impeccable reputation as one of the most respected emergency physicians in Dallas. But peeling back the layers, Dr. Jackson's life isn't so perfect after all.

Filled with unique twists, complex medical cases and personal issues, "Pulse" demonstrates that there is always more to the story!

Critique: Unreservedly recommended for community library Medical Fiction & Contemporary General Fiction collections, "Pulse" is the first book in author Judy Walters' Vital Signs Series. An exceptionally well written and riveting read from cover to cover, it should also be noted for personal reading lists that "Pulse" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99).

The Impossible Shore: A Story Cycle
Marc Porter Zasada
Upper Story Press
9780578885858, $14.00 / $5.00 Kindle

Synopsis: In this Story Cycle of closely linked and exquisitely wrought tales, entire philosophical systems arise and fall along with the characters. A man in Central Park envisions a daunting, snow-capped mountain rising up in place of The Dakota. A rock star dreams of Heaven and Hell. A minor Pakistani official tries to imagine The West. A successful CFO tries to pass his fortune to a sailor. An unprepared heir explores the deepest possibilities of "more." A college professor speaks with the dead. Lovers move first into, and then out of worlds they create together. Again and again, as we move closer to The Impossible Shore, the unreachable comes almost within our grasp.

The song "Stop Asking" by Joshua Silvera, was based on The Productions of Time, one of the key works in the cycle. See

Critique: The Impossible Shore: A Story Cycle is an anthology of closely linked short stories that form a whole far greater than the sum of their parts. From the dreams of a rock star to a wealthy CFO who tries to bequeath his fortune to a sailor to a college professor who can communicate with the dead and much more, the quirks and foibles of the characters reverberate, bringing rippling waves of causality and consequences. Each layer of The Impossible Shore draws the reader deeper than the one before. An extraordinary, intricately crafted work of literature, The Impossible Shore is highly recommended. It should be noted for personal reading lists that The Impossible Shore is also available in a Kindle edition ($5.00).

Editorial Note: Marc Porter Zasada is perhaps best known for his six years of "Urban Man" commentaries on NPR station KCRW in Los Angeles, but he has had many careers: newspaper editor, book editor, theatre and classical music reviewer, essayist, and high-tech marketing executive at leading global companies. His articles and stories have appeared in the The Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, The Antioch Review, The Florida Review, Big Fiction, and many other venues.

The Queen of Second Chances
D. M. Barr
Champagne Book Group
9781771554039, $14.99 pbk / $3.99 Kindle

Synopsis: Carra's memoir-writing class teaches seniors to resolve the regrets of their past. But to win over elder attorney Jay, will she follow her own advice?

Carraway (Carra) Quinn is a free-spirited English major confronting an unreceptive job market. Desperate for cash, she reluctantly agrees to her realtor stepmother's marketing scheme: infiltrate a local senior center as a recreational aide, ingratiate herself with the members, and convince them to sell their homes.

Jay Prentiss is a straitlaced, overprotective elder attorney whose beloved but mentally fragile Nana attends that center. More creative than mercenary, Carra convinces Jay to finance innovations to the Center's antiquated programming. Her ingenuity injects new enthusiasm among the seniors, inspiring them to confront and reverse the regrets of their past.

An unlikely romance develops. But when Carra's memoir-writing class prompts Jay's Nana to skip town in search of a lost love, the two take off on a cross-country, soul-searching chase that will either deepen their relationship or tear them apart forever.

Critique: A charming saga of soul-searching with elements of romance, The Queen of Second Chances is a novel about learning from the regrets of the past, and adapting to the challenges of the future. Desperate for money to make ends meet, Carraway "Carra" Quinn reluctantly agrees to take part in a real estate marketing scheme that pressures residents of the local senior center to sell their homes. Her creative approach to a seemingly predatory task sparks a revolution among the seniors. When the grandmother of attorney Jay Prentiss decided to set out on a journey to find her lost love, Carra and Jay scramble to follow her, in a chase that could bring the two of them together or drive them apart. Thoughtful, heartwarming, and sometimes tongue-in-cheek, The Queen of Second Chances is an utterly delightful read, highly recommended. It should be noted for personal reading lists that The Queen of Second Chances is also available in a Kindle edition ($3.99).

The Apology Project: A Novel
Jeanette Escudero
Lake Union Publishing
9781542029926, $14.95 pbk / $4.99 Kindle

Synopsis: Life is about to get complicated for Amelia Montgomery, a prominent litigator in Chicago. She's been fired for not compromising her principles in a high-profile case and then punching her partner in the nose for the misogynistic comment he made in retort (not her finest moment). Leaving a career that gave her purpose, Amelia can only ask, What next?

Let it be better than her epic failure of a fortieth birthday party: an open bar full of no-shows except for John Ellis, a total stranger and the new associate at her ex-firm. As it turns out, though, he's very good company - and a wake-up call. With the help of John and a lot of champagne, Amelia considers the people she's wronged, from old besties to former boyfriends to coworkers. Amelia resolves to make amends - to those who really deserve it.

One apology at a time, Amelia's looking at the choices she's made in the past, the new ones she's making with John, and those she's making for herself. What next? Maybe a second chance she never expected.

Critique: The Apology Project: A Novel is the intriguing story of a cantankerous litigator who questions the choices she's made in life. When her career and her fortieth birthday both appear to be colossal failures, she decides to embark on a personal journey of making amends to the people she has wronged. Old best friends, former boyfriends, ex-coworkers - she resolves to apologize, sincerely and meaningfully, to them all. Could re-examining old choices lead to a new beginning? The Apology Project balances wry, sassy moments with the need to accept some old-fashioned humble pie, and is highly recommended for book clubs and public library General Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that The Apology Project is also available in a Kindle edition ($4.99).

Editorial Note: Jeanette Escudero worked as an attorney before picking up a pen at thirty years old to write something other than legal briefs. Being published fulfilled a dream and gave her an outlet for her imaginative, romantic side. Writing as Sidney Halston, she is the USA Today bestselling author of the Panic series, the Worth the Fight series, the Iron-Clad Security novels, and the Seeing Red duet. For more information visit

The Historical Fiction Shelf

Mayflower Chronicles: The Tale of Two Cultures
Kathryn Brewster Haueisen
Green Place Books
9781950584598, $19.95 pbk / $9.95 Kindle

Synopsis: For thousands of years two distinct cultures evolved unaware of one another's existence. Separated by what one culture called The Great Sea and known to the other as the Atlantic Ocean, the course of each culture's future changed irreversibly four hundred years ago. In 1620 the Mayflower delivered 102 refugees and fortune seekers from England to Cape Cod, where these two cultures first encountered one another. The English sought religious freedom and fresh financial opportunities. The Natives were recovering from the Great Dying of the past several years that left over two-thirds of their people in graves. How would they react to one another? How might their experience shape modern cross-cultural encounters?

Critique: Mayflower Chronicles: The Tale of Two Cultures is a historical novel based on the cross-cultural encounter between refugees of religious persecution who came to the New World in 1620, and the Pokanoket Native American inhabitants. Author Kathryn Brewster Haueisen consulted with modern-day Pokanoket people in the process of crafting this vivid, deftly written historical tale. A saga of survival, cooperation, and the struggle to understand others who belong to a drastically different background, Mayflower Chronicles is highly recommended for both personal and public library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Mayflower Chronicles is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.95).

Editorial Note: Kathryn Haueisen combines her degree in journalism and her career as a pastor to write about good people doing great things for our global village. A descendant of two of the Mayflower passengers and grandmother to three young people with Native American heritage, she spent several years researching the background of what happened when the English met the Pokanoket people. The result is her debut historical fiction account of events on both sides of the Atlantic that led to founding Plimoth Plantation in 1620.

The Literary Fiction Shelf

The Land of Piceno
Phoebe Leed, author
Nathan Neel, author
Rondini Press
9781735853215, $45.00, HC, 204pp

Synopsis: Indigenous peoples cancelled by a burgeoning empire. Devastating earthquakes level ancient monuments. Marauding invaders loot and pillage art treasures. And yet, verdant hillsides ripple with vineyards and olive groves. The dramatic blue Sibillini Mountains shelter shepherds, freedom fighters, and necromancers. Lined with palms and orange trees, the luxurious Adriatic coast is monitored by medieval towers and pagan temples. This is the Land of Piceno (Le Marche, Italy) whose founding symbol, Picus, sacred woodpecker of Mars, guides us through the vicissitudes of time and the beautifully illustrated pages of "The Land of Piceno" by Phoebe Leed and Nathan Neel.

Critique: An inherently fascinating and informative read from beginning to end, "The Land of Piceno" will be of immense and special interest to academia and non-specialists alike who are interested in Fairy Tales, Folk Tales, Legends & Mythology Literary Criticism in general, and Medieval/Renaissance Literary Criticism in particular. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Literary Studies collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists that "The Land of Piceno" is also readily available in a paperback edition, (9781735853208, $28.50).

The Romantic Fiction Shelf

Romance of the Ruin
Judith Hale Everett
Evershire Publishing
9781736067536, $15.99, PB, 358pp

Synopsis: Prey to Gothic sensibilities, Miss Lenora Breckinridge is smitten with the air of tragedy and romance surrounding an abandoned mansion. Convinced that she is fated to become its mistress, she sets out to find the master, secure in the belief that he will fall madly in love with her and they will use her fortune to restore the manor together.

Mr. James Ingles is disillusioned by the short hand fate has dealt him, but goes to be caretaker to the ruined mansion in a last effort to seek his fortune. When he discovers Miss Breckinridge's fascination with the ruin, however, he recognizes an opportunity to change his fate, if only he can put his plan in motion.

Critique: A deftly crafted and immensely entertaining read from cover to cover, "Romance of the Ruin" showcases author Judith Everett's mastery of the regency romance genre. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Romance Fiction collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of all dedicated regency romance fans that "Romance of the Ruin" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

Saving Eric
Jane Blythe
Aces Press
9781643842905, $12.99, PB, 288pp

Synopsis: Lavender Vaile barely survived a madman, and the ordeal became the catalyst for re-evaluating her entire life. While working for an aid organization in Afghanistan her worst nightmare comes true when she is taken hostage by insurgents. Rescued by her best friend and his team of SEALs, one moment of passion changes everything, and the new life she was building could come tumbling down around her.

For Eric "Night" McNamara friendship means everything and when Lavender is kidnaped he'll do anything to save her life and help her heal from the trauma. Anything. Including sleeping with her. But guilt and past mistakes have him tucking tail and running when he realizes that sometimes friendship can blossom into something more. When Lavender disappears a second time he will have to set everything aside and let his heart rule if he wants to get her back alive.

Critique: A simply riveting read from cover to cover, "Saving Eric" by Jane Blythe will prove to be especially interesting for fans of contemporary action/adventure fiction in general, and military suspense romance novels in particular. Original, entertaining, memorable, and also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99), "Saving Eric" is unreservedly recommended for community library collections.

Bully 4 Love: A Rather Odd Love Story
Steven Paul Leiva
Magpie Press
9781735298511, $14.99, PB, 302pp

Synopsis: "She walked into my classroom ten minutes early on the first day of the Fall 1990 semester at South Pasadena Adult Education. I sat at my desk with my head down, going over notes and a sheet of mandatory announcements. It was not hard to hear the entrance, which came with a slight swish to it. I raised my head to greet my first adult education student. She stood just in from the door: a person - a woman - a person, unlike any person I had ever seen or, indeed, have ever seen since, for she was radiant. Radiant - a not unusual adjective and often a metaphor - but at that moment, as she stood there, and as I possibly held my breath, the word was an utterly accurate adjective that was just barely a metaphor."

The above is the opening introduction "Bully 4 Love: A Rather Odd Love Story" by Steven Paul Leiva -- a deftly crafted contemporary romantic comedy that showcases the author's genuine flair for originality and a distinctive kind of narrative storytelling that quickly captures the readers total attention and holds it firmly from cover to cover. While also readily available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99), "Bully 4 Love" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Romance Fiction collections.

The Mystery/Suspense Shelf

10 Days
Jule Selbo
Pandamoon Publishing
9781950627455, $27.99, HC, 332pp

Synopsis: Eleven months after young policewoman Dee Rommel's mysterious and life-altering on-the-job injury and her medical leave is nearly up, and the Police Department and her ex-training officer, newly-single Detective Donato, fully expect her to reinstate.

But her decision is postponed when she is challenged to step in for her godfather, Gordy Greer (a private investigator) to investigate the disappearance of a brilliant high-tech heiress, Lucy Claren, who has announced hasty wedding plans that could derail her father's empire.

Life is further complicated when Dee's good friend, Karla, is physically assaulted by a sadist that Dee had helped put behind bars. Newly released, he decides to turn his sights on justice-driven Dee, making it his personal mission to ensure her failure -- and demise.

Critique: Original, deftly crafted, and replete with unexpected plot twists and turns, "10 Days" by Jule Selbo is a thoroughly fun read for mystery fans from cover to cover. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Contemporary Mystery/Suspense collections, it should be noted for the personal reading list of dedicated mystery buffs that "10 Days" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781950627431, $17.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.99).

Panama Red
David Edward
Independently Published
9798460105618, $14.95, PB, 305pp

Synopsis: During what was supposed to be a routine low-level investigation in Panama City, Panama, Army Special Agent Dirk Lasher finds himself embroiled in a power struggle instead. Caught between Noriega's militant police force and a mysterious organization working to crash the international financial markets so a new world order can emerge. Ultimately leading deep into the murderous jungles near the Panama-Columbia border, a deadly race of discovery devolves into a primal fight for survival.

Critique: A deftly crafted and original suspense thriller of a novel by a master of the genre, "Panama Red" by author/storyteller David Edward is especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Mystery/Suspense collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Panama Red" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

The Red and Purple Murder Mystery
S. R. Zalesny
Sr. Zales
9781087963006, $9.95, PB, 106pp

Synopsis: The sisterhood of fabulous ladies, fifty years and older are out to rock the New Orleans Hotel and Casino with fun and friendship. They compete to win the drawing for the Ruby Tiara. For Mary Jane Watson, a former Detective with the Las Vegas Metro Police, it was supposed to be a retirement celebration with her group, The Dames in Old Hats.

What could go wrong? How about a murder, in the dark, at High Tea with all the ladies? The clues are scarce. The multitude of suspects include a retiree on a scooter to a gentle crossdresser, to the Hotel Manager, and even the head of Security.

Mary Jane joins the Chief of Police and the handsome Scotland Yard Inspector to try to solve the dual crimes and unexpectedly come face to face with a second murderer. Search along with them in this fast-paced story, like Murder, She Wrote, to uncover the final clue and surprise ending.

Critique: A nicely crafted whodunnity mystery by an author with a complete mastery of the genre, "The Red and Purple Murder Mystery" is pur entertainment on paper and an especially recommended addition to the personal reading lists of all dedicated mystery buffs and will prove to be an enduringly welcome addition to community library Mystery/Suspense collections.

Descending the Spiral Staircase
H.F. Beaumont
9781796047721, $36.99 hc / $2.99 Kindle

Synopsis: Descending the Spiral Staircase is a vision I encountered during a dream. This is how a simple construction task turns into a murder investigation, stolen bank money, buried storage shed, hidden tunnel, reconstruction of an unused area to a very usable space. John and Marie are the homeowners, one more vision which changes the lives of many people. Open house grand event, brings concern to the family's safety, nosey neighbor, leak to the press about the bank reward, all of this puts many agencies on full alert. The remodeling magazine wants to film the entire event; police and FBI scan guest photos, looking for unwanted guests.

Critique: Descending the Spiral Staircase is the debut murder mystery grounded in author H.F. Beaumont's professional expertise in landscaping. When a seemingly simple construction task becomes an investigation involving stolen bank money, a hidden tunnel, and a ruthless killer, an open house event transforms into a dangerous cat-and-mouse game between law enforcement agencies, guests, and the estate's family caught in the middle. Descending the Spiral Staircase is a captivating page turner, ideal for connoisseurs of carefully crafted suspense. Also highly recommended is the sequel, The Wiloby Estates. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Descending the Spiral Staircase is also available in a Kindle edition ($2.99).

The Wiloby Estates
H.F. Beaumont
9781796077339, $34.99 hc / $3.99 Kindle

Synopsis: The Wiloby's are customers of Stockdale Landscape Construction, who have requested their backyard to become as magical as the Albright's yard featured in six issues of Remodeling Magazine. Upon completion of their backyard the Wiloby's throw a Luau for family, friends, neighbors and the Governor of the state, shown live on seven cable networks. There is a Governor's ball, grand opening of a new location for Stockdale Landscape, a western wear outfitter event, new office locations in three different states, criminal investigation expands, a major event which puts the daily routine of the family into turmoil.

If you enjoyed reading, Descending Down the Spiral Staircase, the Stockdale's and Albright's enlighten this book to its fullest. All of your emotions will be challenged from cover to cover.

Critique: The Wiloby Estates is another compelling murder mystery grounded in author H.F. Beaumont's professional expertise in landscaping, and the sequel to Descending the Spiral Staircase. When the Wiloby family contracts Stockdale Landscape Construction for a grand celebration that includes the state governor, it's the beginning of a cataclysmic series of events that span three different estates, a vigilant murder investigation, and a maelstrom of chaos that threatens to shatter the prestigious clan. Twists and turns are the hallmark of this captivating page turner, highly recommended for connoisseurs of the genre. It should be noted for personal reading lists that The Wiloby Estates is also available in a Kindle edition ($3.99).

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

Citadel of the Stars
Aaron Simons
Rosebog Books
c/o Dorrance Publishing Company
585 Alpha Drive, Suite 103, Pittsburgh, PA 15238
9781649578525, $14.00, PB, 164pp

Synopsis: In the spring of 1994, Jim and Tina are nonconformists with the strongest relationship imaginable. They turn eighteen, are about to graduate, go onto college, and have their lives ahead of them. But the next day, Tina goes missing!

Five years later, Jim's life has almost complete fallen apart. Tina's parents have moved, he lost his family in a car accident, and he feels his life's about to lose everything. He's with the dog Tina gave him on their birthday and her cat when he decides to give up hope.

Then Jim, the dog, and the cat are brought to the magical world where Tina has been lost. She tells him that she had been abducted by a highly advanced civilization called Pralmist in a parallel dimension. But something went wrong, and she ended up on another world called Maylan, unique in that its reality is everyone has powers that humans only read about in comic books.

Now, the Pralmistians are able to transport their armies to other dimensions and have invaded looking for Tina and to bring Maylan under their control. But there is a prophecy that when a woman from an unknown world appears, her abductors will invade. They must bring the Chosen One, the woman's one true love, to Maylan.

Critique: An exceptionally well written and impressively entertaining read from cover to cover, "Citadel of the Stars" by Aaron Simons is the kind of science fiction action/adventure yarn that was the mainstay of the Golden Age of pulp magazines. While very highly recommended, especially for community library Science Fiction collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of all true science fiction fans that "Citadel of the Stars" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.00).

Matthew Fitzsimmons
Thomas & Mercer
Brilliance Corporation
9781542014267, $24.95, HC, 352pp

Synopsis: In the near future, advances in medicine and quantum computing make human cloning a reality. For the wealthy, cheating death is the ultimate luxury. To anti-cloning militants, it's an abomination against nature. For young Constance "Con" D'Arcy, who was gifted her own clone by her late aunt, it's terrifying.

After a routine monthly upload of her consciousness (stored for that inevitable transition) something goes wrong. When Con wakes up in the clinic, it's eighteen months later. Her recent memories are missing. Her original, she's told, is dead. If that's true, what does that make her?

The secrets of Con's disorienting new life are buried deep. So are those of how and why she died. To uncover the truth, Con is retracing the last days she can recall, crossing paths with a detective who's just as curious. On the run, she needs someone she can trust. Because only one thing has become clear: Con is being marked for murder -- all over again.

Critique: The stuff of which blockbuster movies are made, "Constance" by Matthew Fizsimmons is a particularly deftly crafted and riveting science fiction techo-thriller. While unreservedly recommende for community library collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of Dystopian Fiction fans that "Constance" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781542014274, $15.95), in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99), and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Brilliance Audio, 9781713598558, $24.99, CD).

Against the Tide Imperial
James Young
Independently Published
9798744236557, $25.00, HC, 400pp

Synopsis: July 1943. When the United Kingdom was torn asunder under a hail of German firebombs and nerve gas, the distant outpost of Ceylon was an afterthought for both Allies and Axis. Now, one year after King George VI's death, the small island off of India becomes center stage for a titanic confrontation.

For Vice Admiral Tamon Yamaguchi, the Commonwealth forces on the island sit astride Japan's sole reliable source of oil. With the Dutch East Indies' refineries damaged during the Imperial Japanese conquest, Axis crude from the Persian Gulf and rubber from Ceylon's plantations will be critical to the Japanese Navy's ability to continue the war into 1944. Yamaguchi knows challenging Vice Admiral Andrew Cunningham may end poorly. Still, the Kido Butai is undefeated, and with good planning the Commonwealth's Far East Fleet will have to face Yamaguchi's carriers alone. With the Empire's lifeblood on the line, the Japanese must roll the dice.

Across the Indian Ocean, Lieutenant Eric Cobb is bewildered to be operating with the Commonwealth against Axis forces in Africa. Along with an Asiatic Fleet contingent that includes Captain Jacob Morton's Houston, Vice Admiral Fletcher's forces set out to rampage from Madagascar to Mogadishu. Unfortunately for the Allies' plan, the IJN's unexpected attack forces them to immediately respond.

When established foes clash in a wholly unexpected location, brave men and violent execution will determine whether the Commonwealth holds Ceylon... or succumbs to the Tide Imperial.

Critique: A classic 'alternative universe' action/adventure science fiction novel by an author with a genuine flair for originality, imagination, and the kind of narrative storytelling style that simply grips the readers attention and won't let got, "Against the Tide Imperial" is the third novel of the Usurper's War series by James Young. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Science Fiction collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of all dedicated science fiction fans that "Against the Tide Imperial: The Struggle for Ceylon (The Usurper's War" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9798571927994, $16.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).

The Last Days of Human Life on Earth
Donald Eisner
Independently Published
9798584887018, $4.99, PB, 35pp

Synopsis: So, it began as a hopeful adventure. Life on Earth emerged. Over the millennia, humans took their place. What according to Darwin started as a one cell entity evolved into a multicell organism. Humans eventually developed on Earth after a long evolutionary journey. The route was from simplistic to complex. But would the presence of humans go on to be forever?

Alas, here are the details. Over recent centuries humans were doing quite well. Certainly, they are at the top of the brain chain. Discoveries in a multitude of areas abound. Technology is advancing rapidly and exponentially. What's not going apace is the behavior of humans. Certain inbred characteristics in humans are, to be blunt, quite self-destructive. Firstly, psychologists and psychiatrists have listed 27 personality disorders in the latest Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders. Almost 40% of Americans can be diagnosed with one or more personality disorders.

But what may be most concerning is that the number of narcissistic and psychopathic personality disorders is astronomically rising. A new category, malignant narcissistic personality disorder has skyrocketed. But the list goes on as to the negativity and self-sabotage that infused the human psyche. There have been mass killings, genocide, wars, soaring crime rates, and mental afflictions.

On the other hand, there may be some hopeful signs. How long will human life on Earth survive? According to some scientists and environmentalists not very long. There is too much resistance to change. In 2020 life was livable in the United States. There was less concern over the environment. As the years rolled by fires, hurricanes and pollution added to the destruction of the land.

"The Last Years of Human Life on Earth" by Donald Eisner follows the Lichten family over several decades as there is a dissent into the environmental abyss. Attempts were made to protect the citizens. An invention was patented but there were individuals who sabotaged such events. They had a laisse faire attitude- they were called L-Fers. Their view was "let nature take its course" and nature did take its course.

Once entrenched opinions are formed, no amount of contrary evidence will change one's mind. This is reminiscent of the 1950's theory of cognitive dissonance. No matter what evidence is shown, people will maintain their beliefs. Furthermore, there was a sweeping plague of malignant narcissism. And so, much of society embarked on a careless attitude. The land with destroyed, buildings turned into rubble, eventually the electrical grid was dysfunctional. Civilization had regressed back to what would seem like thousands of years ago. How will it all end?

Critique: Thoughtful and thought-provoking, "The Last Years of Human Life on Earth" by Donald Eisner is a deftly crafted work of apocalyptic science fiction that is all too rapidly becoming science fact with each passing decade. While also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99), this paperback edition "The Last Years of Human Life on Earth" is highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library collections.

The Parenting Shelf

Help Kids Choose Life Values
E. J. Ball
The Happy Thinkers' Press
9798717433259, $10.40, PB, 77pp

Synopsis: "Help Kids Choose Life Values: Kids Think! You Listen With Love" by E. J. Ball will enable parents and caregivers show children just how powerful their thoughts can be in making their lives happier and more rewarding. The children, AKA (also known as) "Thinkers", are encouraged to consider what they want their lives to become, and which life values will guide them.

One of the benefits of "Help Kids Choose Life Values" is that it brings parents and children together to think about important things. Parents of all faiths and children of all backgrounds will welcome this book. Of special note are the recommendations by Ph.D. psychologists that are included in the pages of "Help Kids Choose Life Values".

Over thousands of years many of the world's great thinkers, men and women, ancient and modern, have realized the importance of certain values in their lives that made their lives better. They conveyed their thinking to others with insightful statements about those values. I have selected twelve of those statements as the foundation of this book. After every statement there are carefully worded questions for the Thinkers to answer using their individual intelligence, reason, and creativity.

Critique: Innovative, exceptionally well organized and presented, unique, and highly recommended, as a Life Skills activities book."Help Kids Choose Life Values: Kids Think! You Listen With Love" by E. J. Ball" is throughly 'kid friendly' with respect to being interesting, entertaining, and engaging with and for young children ages 6-12.

The Christian Studies Shelf

The High Sign
David S. Heeren
URLink Print & Media, LLC
9781647531607, $16.99, HC, 312pp

Synopsis: What will be the celestial sign of Jesus' Second Coming and why will it be important for Christians to recognize it when it appears?

These two themes are discussed at length in Jesus' only sermon that fills four chapters of the Bible (Mt. 24-25, Mark 13, Luke 21). In this sermon, Jesus stressed the need for believers to be watchful (for the sign), prayerful, standing firm, fearing nothing and prepared for anything. Prepared believers will have a chance to share their faith during a great revival ending with one-third of all human beings on earth being saved. (Zech 13:9)

Critique: Written as a tool to aid believers in their preparation by David S. Heeren, "The High Sign" is an impressively informative study that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. Of particularly special interest and relevance for all members of the Christian community, as well as community, college, and university library Christian Bible Study & Reference collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of clergy, seminarians, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The High Sign" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781731403223, $8.70) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $1.99).

The Self-Help Shelf

Mind What Matters: A Pep Talk for Humanity
John Viscount
Waterside Producations Inc.
9781941768358, $16.99, PB, 172pp

Synopsis: "Mind What Matters: A Pep Talk for Humanity" by John Viscount offers its readers a compendium of inspiring stories and healing philosophies that eloquently articulate powerful shifts in thought that help human beings from all walks of life transcend the perennial obstacles to achieving happiness. In the pages of "Mind What Matters: A Pep Talk for Humanity", author John Viscount's deeply entertaining writing style expresses an important new voice on the literary stage and serves as a profound and uplifting guide to personal and global transformation.

Critique: Impressively well written, organized and presented, "Mind What Matters: A Pep Talk for Humanity" is an extraordinary, effective, inspired and inspiring contribution to personal, professional, and community library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections. It should be noted that "Mind What Matters: A Pep Talk for Humanity" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: John Viscount is Co-Founder of PEACENOW.COM, a non-profit organization that is gathering one billion signatures to enact a global resolution that creates peace departments in governments worldwide. John is also the creator of the celebrated film about forgiveness, ADMISSIONS, which has won 26 International Awards, been translated into multiple languages and broadcast to 80 million people worldwide. ADMISSIONS stars Academy Award(R) nominee James Cromwell and tells a life-changing tale about what it takes to find lasting peace in our world - even in the most conflict-ridden regions of our planet.

The Holocaust Studies Shelf

Joseph E. Lee
Red Lightning Books
9781684351787, $20.00, PB, 136pp

Synopsis: In March of 1944, at age 10, little Eva was arrested with her entire family, including her twin sister, Miriam, for the "crime" of being Jewish.

Nazis loaded Eva and her family into a cattle car with other men, women, and children headed to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Within moments of their arrival, the twins lost their entire family to the gas chambers without a chance to say goodbye. Because twins were considered valuable for research, the girls were spared immediate death by Josef Mengele, the Nazi doctor and war criminal, in favor of experimentation and torture.

"Forgiveness: The Story of Eva Kor, Survivor of The Auschwitz Twin Experiments" by Joseph E. Lee is stunning, heartbreaking illustrated biography tells the story of a tenacious girl's fight to survive a horrific childhood ravaged by tragedy; her growing anger as an adult who settled in Terre Haute, Indiana; and her eventual discovery that forgiveness might just save her life.

Critique: So that we can live up to the slogan 'Never Forget, Never Again', every personal, community, college, and university library Holocaust Studies and 20th Century Jewish Biography collections should include a copy of "Forgiveness: The Story of Eva Kor, Survivor of The Auschwitz Twin Experiments".

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

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