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Small Press Bookwatch

Volume 22, Number 10 October 2023 Home | SPBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Writing/Publishing Shelf Education Shelf
Parenting Shelf Theatre/Cinema Shelf Biography Shelf
General Fiction Shelf Historical Fiction Shelf LGBTQ Fiction Shelf
Literary Fiction Shelf Mystery/Suspense Shelf Fantasy/SciFi Shelf
Sports Shelf Religion/Spirituality Shelf Self-Help Shelf

Reviewer's Choice

Running with Changing Woman
Lorinda Martinez
Salina Bookshelf
9781960830005, $23.95, HC, 319pp

Synopsis: Samantha is a Navajo girl attending Atsa Mesa Community School on the Navajo Reservation. Her life has seemed pretty average when one day at school her body suddenly changes. As a Dine, Samantha must now prepare for the four-day Dine womanhood ceremony called the Kinaalda, a ceremony once performed by the Navajo deity, Changing Woman. With a whirlwind of new adventures, Sam's family and her two best friends do their best to help Sam deal with bullies, boys, and her new responsibilities as a Dine woman.

Critique: Of special and particular appeal and value to readers with an interest in Navajo culture in general, and the role/customs involving Navajo girls becoming Navajo women, "Running with Changing Woman" is a unique, informative, entertaining, and impressively written story and one that is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, community, and college/university library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Running with Changing Woman" is also readily available from Salina Bookshelf in a paperback edition (9781960830012, $17.95).

Editorial Note: Lorinda Martinez is Lok'aa Dine'e (the Reed People Clan) born for Tachii'nii (Red Running into the Water Clan). The Tabaahi (Water's Edge Clan) are her maternal grandfathers and the Todich'ii'nii (Bitter Water Clan) are her paternal grandfathers. She was raised in Pueblo Pintado, New Mexico and Shonto, Arizona. She attended Highlands University in Las Vegas, New Mexico where she earned her Bachelor's and Master's Degrees in Education. Lorinda currently lives in the four corners area with her husband, son and dogs.

The Writing/Publishing Shelf

Your Mindful Journal and Memoir
Jenny Davidow
Independently Published
9798218213466, $19.99, PB, 261pp

Synopsis: Ride the invisible currents of your imagination, heart, and creativity as you are guided step by step through dozens of journal experiments, memoir weaves, and mindful meditations with the insights and information comprising "Your Mindful Journal and Memoir: Open the Floodgates to Your Creativity" by Jenny Davidow and her breakthrough approach to creative journaling and memoir based on her fifty years of dedicated journaling and inner exploration.

With skill and sensitivity, Jenny Davidow helps you to tame your inner critic and transform it into warm and generous self-acceptance. Which is directly germane to any aspiring writer who has struggled to: Keep a journal and/or write a personal memoir; Get past their inner critic to express an authentic point of view and emotions; Be more fully present in each moment of their life; Give caring and compassion to themselves and others.

"Your Mindful Journal and Memoir: Open the Floodgates to Your Creativity" will take you far beyond conventional journaling and memoir as it: Resonate with your senses, the doorway to mindful attention; Transform your inner critic into gentle self-acceptance; Enjoy mindful meditations to meet your creativity, inner child, heroes, and more; Give kindness and healing to your emotions and memories; Learn the art and power of metaphor to paint a self-portrait with words; Create an evocative mindful memoir, one page at a time.

Critique: Although principally a self-help/self-improvement book (and a good one for that readership), "Your Mindful Journal and Memoir: Open the Floodgates to Your Creativity" is an unexpected treasure trove of insights and information dealing with aspiring authors who want to set about writing their own memoir, whether it be for the benefit of their posterity, or as a form of catharsis for themselves, or simply to leave a literary mark to note and document the life they have lived. "Your Mindful Journal and Memoir: Open the Floodgates to Your Creativity" is unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library Self-Help/Self-Improvement and Writing/Publishing instructional reference collections and personal reading lists.

Editorial Note: Jenny Davidow ( is a lifelong and enthusiastic journaler, communication coach, clinical hypnotherapist, and workshop leader. She holds a Master's in Psychology and a Doctorate in Clinical Hypnotherapy. Jenny's first book, "Embracing Your subconscious: Bringing All Parts of You into Creative Partnership" was translated and published in Spain and Central America. Her writing appears in three anthologies: The Spirit of Writing: Classic and Contemporary Essays Celebrating the Writing Life; Dreamscaping: New and Creative Ways to Work with Your Dreams; and Love Games. Jenny is also the creator and presenter of the Mp3 series, Mindful Meditations.

The Education Shelf

Who's Tougher Than Us?: The Realities of Teaching
Donna Gerard
Three Fountain Press
9798986612003, $14.99, PB, 166pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Who's Tougher Than Us?: The Realities of Teaching", classroom teacher Donna Gerard presents a collection of true stories entirely drawn from her personal experience as an educator.

She shares three kinds of stories. Student stories, both good and bad, tell of the student who came to school with his books, pencils, razor blade, and suicide note, and of the former student who yelled "Ms. Gerard!" across a department store to tell her how well she was doing, all because Ms. Gerard broke a rule. Also, it is not impossible to pay $2 to stop a student from having temper tantrums.

This is a compendium of everyday teacher stories, such as the drama surrounding the copy machine. Donna also includes her top and bottom ten lists of teacher life where she shares the joy of the Catch Up Day, field trip adventures in the rain, and why you need to keep an extra shirt in the classroom.

Finally, there are her true life stories about administrative issues, such as trying to follow the statewide seating mandate in a room where the desks just don't fit, or navigating dress code policies that cause more problems than they solve.

Teaching is a complex profession that is in trouble, as evidenced by our current teacher shortage. By examining and addressing the issues that drive teachers out, we can bring teachers in. Teachers in all stages, from new classroom teachers to veteran educators, will relate to Donna Gerard's experiences and see themselves in these stories.

Critique: Fun, fascinating, revealing, and laced with humor, irony, and insight, "Who's Tougher Than Us?: The Realities of Teaching" is a unique and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, school district, college, and university library Education Career Development and Teacher/Student Mentoring collections, as well as supplemental Educational curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of student teachers, classroom teachers, education administrators, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Who's Tougher Than Us?: The Realities of Teaching" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99).

Editorial Note: Donna Gerard ( has a BA in sociology, a state teaching certification for K-8, an MA in Middle School Science, and state endorsements in middle school science, secondary social studies, and secondary social science. More importantly, she had 34 years of teaching experience, including K-12 substitute teaching, K-4 basic skills math and reading, grades 5-8 social studies, grades 1, 5, 6 language arts, math, science, and social studies, grade 6 health, and grades 7-8 science. She has taught students classified as special education, gifted and talented, struggling learners, ELL, and general program. Gerard was a practitioner of learning stations, project-based learning, basal readers, formal spelling programs, phonics, whole language, call and response, book learning, hands-on learning, multiple intelligences, computer-based learning, individualized instruction, and cooperative learning, to name a few. She drew the conclusion that every trend in education has merit and should be used, but none are the sole "answer" to how to teach students or should be used exclusively.

The Parenting Shelf

The Organized Home for New Parents
Ria Safford
Blue Star Press
9781958803042,$27.95, HC, 252pp

Synopsis: As a new or expecting parent, you are bombarded with seemingly endless advice ranging from how to nurse or feed your child, to how to sleep and potty train them. But conventional guidance misses a crucial aspect of the early years of parenting: how to organize your home for life with your little one.

From dirty dishes piling up to heaps of new toys and clothes in every corner of your home, life with young kids can be, well, a lot. Thankfully, with the publication of "The Organized Home for New Parents: Create Routine-Ready Spaces for Your Baby's First Years", celebrity organizing expert and mom of three Ria Safford is here to help. After learning and mastering her own systems of home organization, she has made a career out of helping parents create functional, routine-ready spaces to make more time for what matters most.

In "The Organized Home for New Parents: Create Routine-Ready Spaces for Your Baby's First Years" you will learn how to: Prioritize the newborn necessities you'll need using easy checklists and charts; Organize your nursery, stroller, and diaper bag; Make breastfeeding, pumping, and solid food prep more manageable; Set up diaper-changing and feeding stations throughout the home; Cycle clothes, toys, and other items out of the home as your child grows; Arrange your spaces to easily reset them when messes take over; Tackle the every growing pile of laundry; Prepare for travel and life on the go with babies and toddlers.

"The Organized Home for New Parents: Create Routine-Ready Spaces for Your Baby's First Years" is enhanced throughout with gorgeous illustrations and photos from inside real families' homes, making this practical guide for new parents the perfect baby shower present or gift for new parents. With equal parts humor, candor, and insight, "The Organized Home for New Parents: Create Routine-Ready Spaces for Your Baby's First Years" will be your lifeline through this hectic, unpredictable season of life and empower you to create a safe, organized, and comfortable home for your growing family.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The Organized Home for New Parents: Create Routine-Ready Spaces for Your Baby's First Years" by Ria Safford is essential, invaluable, practical, and informative for expecting parents and even experienced parents with a new addition to their other children -- making it especially and unreservedly recommended for personal and community library Parenting collections. It should be noted that "The Organized Home for New Parents: Create Routine-Ready Spaces for Your Baby's First Years" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.99).

Editorial Note: Ria Safford ( is a Cuban-American mom of three. She is the founder and CEO of RiOrganize, a company offering full-service organization, design, and space planning to families across the United States. Ria has organized spaces for A-list clients like Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Ciara, and Jen Atkin and for everyday families who are desperate for more streamlined systems in their homes. Ria's own organization journey began when she became a new mom and felt overwhelmed by all the mess accumulating in her house. She set out to calm the chaos and help families everywhere reduce stress and create routine-ready spaces that would make managing life with little ones easier. In 2022, Ria partnered with U Brands for a product line at Target that was featured on endcaps in 820 stores. She has also partnered with dozens of other companies including Michaels, Ziploc, iDesign,, and more.

The Theatre/Cinema Shelf

Native American Movie Actors
E. Dennis King
Dorrance Publishing Company
9780578669861, $65.00, HC, 128pp

Synopsis: This unique and seminal large format (8.5 x 0.32 x 11 inches, 13.9 ounces) edition of "Native American Movie Actors" by E. Dennis King is a seminal and unique volume that features a wealth of historic b/w and full color illustrations that include an amazing section of movie posters for films in which Native American actors were a key and significant element to the stories told. An impressive number of individual Native American actors are showcased with a small photo and a once paragraph personal/professional biography. The impressively informative commentary on American Cinema and Native American Actors also includes observations about and of the on-location sites where the films were made including Arches National Monument, Utah's Castle Valley, and Utah's Dead Horse Point State Park. Of special note is the section devoted to Navajo culture -- and so much more!

Critique: With the publication of "Native American Movie Actors", E. Dennis King fully honors and rescues from an undeserved obscurity those Native Americans who made western movies possible by creating those magnificent action scenes. It honors their courage, bravery, and willingness that helps tell through the means of cinema their part in settling the western frontier and fighting for what was theirs against all comers. Unique and fascinating, informative and exceptional, "Native American Movie Actors" is a seminal and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library Cinematic History and Native American History collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for students, academia, film buffs, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Native American Movie Actors" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $29.95).

The Biography Shelf

Playin' Possum: My Memories of George Jones
Nancy Jones, author
Ken Abraham, author
Forefront Books
c/o Simon and Schuster (distribution)
9781637632222, $29.00, HC, 304pp

Synopsis: Ask anyone who knows country music, George Jones was one of the most popular performers in that genre.

Millions of people know the name of the iconic country music artist, George Jones, but very few of them know that behind the man and his golden voice was Nancy Jones, a strong, feisty woman who not only saved his life from cocaine addiction, alcoholism, and other abusive and self-destructive behaviors, but who was also instrumental in saving his soul.

Legends, half-truths, and downright lies abound about the iconic singer, but what secrets do people not know about him? What was it like to live with him through the darkest shadows and in the brightest of lights?

Married for more than thirty years to who was arguably the greatest country music singer who ever lived, Nancy Jones knew George Jones better than anyone else on earth -- the good George and the bad George, the horrendous, and the hilarious. George and Nancy married March 4, 1983, and with her help and encouragement, he quit his wild and wicked ways - for a while. Nancy soon learned, however, that the demons held a strong grip on the man she loved, and they were not about to release him without a fight. But Nancy Jones is a tenacious fighter, and most people who knew "the Possum," credit Nancy with saving his life and rebuilding his career.

For the first time, in her memoir, "Playin' Possum", Nancy Jones (with the assistance of Ken Abraham) reveals the true "insider" perspectives and little known poignant and as well as humorous stories about the country music icon -- his battles with cocaine, alcohol, abusive behavior toward her and others, his battles with himself, and most of all, his battles against the demons that sought to control him and ultimately destroy him.

Nancy knew there was a good man inside George Jones, and she felt strongly that God had given her the assignment to help him, even if he hurt her. She refused to give up on Jones. Although Tammy Wynette sang "Stand By Your Man," it was actually Nancy Jones who stood by George for more than thirty years, and helped bring him to the Light. Together, they brought joy and light to millions of people.

Critique: Fascinating, informative, candid, detailed, exceptional, "Playin' Possum: My Memories of George Jones" is a 'must read' choice for the legions of George Jones fans. With a stellar and unreserved recommendation as a high level pick for community and academic library American Biography/Memoir and Country Music History Collections, it should also be noted that "Playin' Possum" is also readily available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99).

Editorial Note #1: One of the most revered and respected women in the country music community, Nancy Jones has proven her business skills as well as her personal integrity and perseverance in managing George Jones's career and his intellectual properties. Winner of the Country Music Association's prestigious Source Award in 2016, for "Women Behind the Music," Nancy genuinely loves interacting with people.

Editorial Note #2: Ken Abraham ( is a professional writer with world-class credentials. Two of his recent projects include "Payne Stewart" which he co-authored with Stewart's widow, Tracey; and "Zinger", the autobiography of golfer Paul Azinger.

We Lived In Danger
Victor Hepburn Small, author
Joanne Small, editor
Independently Published
9798987227107, $17.99, HC, 138pp

Synopsis: "We Lived In Danger: From True Prairie Boy to Royal Regina Rifleman: A Western Canadian's WWII Memoir" is a deeply personal and inherently fascinating story about Victor (Vic) Hepburn Small, a small-town Canadian boy from Saskatchewan. In his exceptional memoir he unveils a rare and fascinating slice-of-life vignette of the World War II era. Vic's formative years in Big Sky country, and his love affair for prairie culture, was to prepare him for an extraordinary life event: to serve his country during WWII.

Vic enlisted in 1942 at age 18, "to fight the Germans. Every living body did the same thing."

Published by his wife after his passing in 2021, this memoir is not only a labor of love it is also a remarkably unique anthology. Vic's transcribed, word-for-word, "Blue Bombers" leave letters are both gripping and eloquent. They reveal, with endearing intimacy and authenticity, vivid details of his experience as a young man at Sandhurst Royal Military College and serving in the European Theatre from 1943 to 1945.

Not unlike many Canadian soldiers, Vic kept his film camera strapped to his side all the way from military training in Alberta and British Columbia, then across the pond on Cunard Line's Queen Mary to Great Britain, Holland, and Germany. He left behind an emblematic photo collection for his memoir, delicately captioned by hand, and lovingly preserved in his family for over 75 years.

Vic's story is truly a tribute to the undeniable resolve of his generation, a rare, historic fingerprint of an analytical, light-hearted, yet curious young Canadian man extending his view of the world around him, and finally, an insight into the heart-breaking reality for soldiers of war back then, and the few WWII veterans left today.

Critique: Deftly edited by Joanna Small and published posthumously, "We Lived In Danger: From True Prairie Boy to Royal Regina Rifleman: A Western Canadian's WWII Memoir" is a impressively compelling, exceptionally informative, and truly memorable contribution to our expanding body of WWII Histories, Biographies, and Memoirs. While especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, college, and university library collections, it should be noted for students, academia, military history buffs, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "We Lived In Danger: From True Prairie Boy to Royal Regina Rifleman: A Western Canadian's WWII Memoir" is also available in a paperback edition (9798987227114, $15.80) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: A proud, but humble man, Victor Hepburn Small had a keen sense of humor and extremely kind nature. Born on May 28th, 1924, he was a true Saskatchewan prairie boy. "Vic" became Lieutenant Small, a Canadian WWII Veteran who served with the Royal Regina Rifles and the Calgary Highlanders in Europe during the years 1943 to 1946.

Prior to his service, Vic was raised by a loving and resourceful family as they endured the hardships wrought by the Great Depression of the 1930's. Still, Vic became a King Scout, was an avid amateur photographer, and passionate lover of the prairie skies, chokecherry berries and jam, blue cowbell blossoms and the Western Red Lilly, mixed farming, and the Qu'Appelle Valley.

Following his service as an infantryman and flamethrower, Vic returned to North America to earn doctorates in Optometry and Experimental Psychology and made Bethesda Maryland his home. As years passed, he was known as a beloved husband, father, stepfather, grandfather, great-grandfather, and uncle. Vic lived until a month before his 97th birthday, and left behind a story that, in his words, "Is a story worth telling."

Shoulder: A Memoir
Moya Hession-Aiken
Elboro Press
9781737927471, $17.95, PB, 282pp

Synopsis: Growing up a headstrong Irish Catholic girl in a notoriously tough housing estate in Northern England, Moya Hession-Aiken had just one goal -- to live a rich creative life in America.

"Shoulder: A Memoir" tells the story of the riotous and hilarious path from Moya's boisterous but warm family back home to her education in London and her escape to New York in the 1980s where she finds everything she's looking for-exciting jobs in the fashion industry and later at MTV -- but where she also meets the man of her dreams, only to lose him to cancer following the birth of their son.

"Shoulder: A Memoir" is Moya's deeply personal story about the thrill of taking chances and the unbearable pain of loss, as well as a profound meditation on what it takes to survive and what it means to care for others.

Critique: Impressively candid, remarkably detailed, and inherently fascinating, "Shoulder: A Memoir" is the kind of life story that is as interesting and emotionally involving as it is ultimately inspiring and memorable. Simply stated, "Shoulder: A Memoir" is a highly recommended pick for personal reading lists and community library Contemporary Biography/Memoir collections.

Editorial Note: Moya Hession-Aiken ( studied art at Manchester Polytechnic (now Manchester University) and the Central School of Art and Design (now Central St. Martins), graduating with a first class honors degree in textile design before moving to New York to work in the garment industry. However, before too long she was working for MTV earning an Emmy Award for her work as a paintbox artist. At MTV she met her future husband, producer Bill Aiken. They had a son, Liam, in 1990, a few years before Bill's tragic death. She currently resides in Connecticut and pursues her work as a fine artist, exhibiting frequently.

Blissful Thinking
L. L. Kirchner
Motina Books
9798887840161, $26.99, HC, 312pp

Synopsis: "Blissful Thinking: A Memoir of Overcoming the Wellness Revolution" is the personal story of L. L. Kirchner's search for nirvana -- a search that took her from university halls in the Persian Gulf to the streets of Manhattan to a sex cult in India.

Between her family's gym and the years she'd spent in substance abuse recovery, Kirchner felt versed in physical and spiritual wellness. But when her husband demanded a divorce over the phone, she feared a return to her addictions.

Forced to confront the fact that her painful family dynamics remained unresolved, the author embarked on a spiritual journey to regain her trust in the universe. She tried yoga, meditation, chanting - all the things meant to cultivate bliss. Each brought some relief, but it wasn't until she visited a psychic that she knew her life had changed.

In a memoir that's both rapturous and page-turning, Kirchner captures the terrors and joys of searching for radical honesty - and a second date.

Critique: A combination of personal memoir and Persian Gulf travelogue, "Blissful Thinking: A Memoir of Overcoming the Wellness Revolution" is a life story that is as candid and fascinating as it is compelling and honest. With it's theme of 'Never give up, especially not on yourself.', "Blissful Thinking" is a truly memorable read -- one that will linger in the mind and memory of the reader long after the book itself has been finished and set back upon the shelf. While highly recommended for community library Contemporary American Biography collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Blissful Thinking" is also available in a paperback edition (9798887840154, $16.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99).

Editorial Note: L L Kirchner ( is an award-winning screenwriter and the author of American Lady Creature, named one of Bustle's "11 Books to Battle the Blues," and is currently writing a follow-up memoir, Blissful Thinking: A Memoir of Overcoming the Wellness Revolution. Once simultaneously the religion editor for and LGBTQIA+ paper, dating columnist for an alt newsweekly, and bridal editor for a society rag, Kirchner holds a journalism degree from Ohio State. Her writing can be found in The Washington Post, GEN, DAME Magazine, and The New York Times.

Midnight Water: A Psychedelic Memoir
Katherine MacLean
Green Writers Press
9788986532470, $19.95, PB, 330pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Midnight Water: A Psychedelic Memoir", Katherine MacLean (who is a groundbreaking scientist who led the way in psychedelic research) shares her deeply personal story of grief and redemption.

In Dr. MacLean's first year on the faculty at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, her path takes an unexpected detour following the death of her younger sister from cancer. After leaving her faculty job, MacLean travels the world bringing medical and humanitarian aid to remote Himalayan villages and creating sanctuary spaces for psychedelic support -- until she settles on an organic farm.

While birthing and raising her two children, leading workshops, psychedelic retreats, and training to become an MDMA therapist, MacLean's traumatic past and the loss of her sister continue to haunt her. When her father is dying, MacLean realizes that she must dive straight into the heart of her own labyrinth in order to forgive him.

"Midnight Water" is not only a personal story of psychedelic healing but also offers an inspired vision for a psychedelic future that positions women and family caregivers at the center of home-based healing, from birth through death.

Critique: Exceptional, inherently fascinating, impressively insightful, candidly informative, and exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Midnight Water: A Psychedelic Memoir" will have a very special appeal to readers with an interest in psychedelic medical research and is especially recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library Contemporary Biography/Memoir collections. It should be noted that "Midnight Water" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99).

Editorial Note: Katherine MacLean ( holds a PhD and is a Research Scientist with expertise in studying the effects of mindfulness meditation and psychedelics on cognitive performance, emotional well-being, spirituality, and brain function. As a postdoctoral research fellow and faculty member at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, she conducted clinical trials of psilocybin, the primary chemical found in "magic mushrooms," and other psychedelic compounds. Her groundbreaking research on psilocybin suggests that psychedelic medicines can enhance openness to new experiences and promote mental health.

The General Fiction Shelf

Trouble the Living
Francesca McDonnell Capossela
Lake Union Publishing
9781662511233, $16.99, PB, 303pp

Synopsis: It's the final years of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, and Brid and her sister, Ina, try to maintain a stable life in a divided country. Pushed by her mother's fanaticism and a family tragedy, Brid joins the IRA and makes a devastating choice. Frightened and guilt ridden, she flees, leaving behind Ireland and her family for America.

Years later, her guilt and tragic history still buried, Brid is an overprotective mother raising her sensitive daughter, Bernie, in Southern California. Growing up amid a different kind of social unrest, Bernie's need for independence and her exploration of her sexuality drive a wedge into their already-fragile relationship. When mother and daughter are forced to return to Northern Ireland, they both must confront the past, the present, and the women they've become.

As they navigate their troubled legacies, mother and daughter untangle the threads of love, violence, and secrets that formed them -- and that will stubbornly, beautifully, bind them forever.

Critique: An original and deftly crafted novel of cultural heritage, family life, and women's relationships, "Trouble the Living" by gifted author Francesca McDonnell Capossela is an inherently fascinating read from cover to cover and is especially and unreservedly recommended for community library General Fiction collections. It should be noted that "Trouble the Living" is also readily available for personal reading lists in the digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).

Editorial Note: Francesca McDonnell Capossela ( is an LGBTQ writer and Irish American dual citizen. She grew up in Brooklyn and holds a Master's in creative writing from Trinity College Dublin. Her writing can be found in the Los Angeles Review of Books, The Point, Banshee, The Cormorant, Columbia Journal, Guesthouse, and the anthologies Dark Matter Presents Human Monsters and Teaching Nabokov's Lolita in the #MeToo Era.

The Girl in the White Cape
Barbara Sapienza
She Writes Press
9781647425036, $17.95, PB, 256pp

Synopsis: Fifteen-year-old Elena lives in a church attic in San Francisco's Richmond neighborhood, where she is cared for by her guardian, a kind Russian priest named Father Al. Six days a week, Father Al sends her out of Our Lady, across the meadows and ponds of Golden Gate Park, and all the way to Baba Vera's house on Taraval Street for Baba's version of school.

Unlike regular school, however, Elena's learning is unnerving. Baba Vera's preposterous demands, dizzying antics, and house (which is full of skeletons, brooms, strange implements, and guinea pigs, among other oddities) seem straight out of a Russian fairy tale Father Al used to read to Elena -- not life in 2020.

If not for her beloved doll, Kukla (bequeathed to her by the mother she never got to know, but of whom she often dreams) Elena would be overwhelmed. Yet she works hard at every task given her, understanding intuitively that there is a purpose to every one of her grandmother's strange assignments.

Frank, a young taxi driver, enters Elena's world on the day he delivers a strange, witch-like woman named Anya to Our Lady. Upon meeting Anya and Elena, a dream-world begins to spin for him - and he feels a deep, protective pull toward Elena. In the days that follow, Frank devotes himself to saving her from the harm he is sure Anya intends toward her. What he comes to understand, as he enters more deeply into Elena's story, is that she has magic of her own.

He thought he was supposed to save her -- but in the end, the two of them may just save each other.

Critique: Holding a very special appeal to readers with an interest in deftly crafted coming of age novels blended paranormal urban fantasy, "The Girl in the White Cape" by Barbara Sapienza is a unique, entertaining, and memorable read from cover to cover. As an author, Barbara Sapienza has managed to use her impressive storytelling talents to raise "The Girl in the White Cape" to the level of the kind of literary fiction that wins awards. While available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99), "The Girl in the White Cape" is an especially and unreservedly recommended pick for community library and academic library Contemporary Literary Fiction collections.

Editorial Note: Barbara Sapienza ( is a retired clinical psychologist and an alumna of San Francisco State University's creative writing master's program. Her first novel, Anchor Out (She Writes Press, 2017), received an IPPY Bronze for Best Regional Fiction, West Coast. Her second novel, The Laundress (She Writes Press, 2020), received a starred review from Kirkus Reviews.

John Boden
Dead Sky Publishing
9781639510856, $11.99, PB, 85pp

Synopsis: Marlin Stains is a lonely man who is filled with words. Words that he longs to share with the world but so far only shares with himself. He has over 300 notebooks brimming with them in his trailer room. A wood-paneled tomb of prose and syllable.

Marlin Stains killed his brother in the womb, buried his father when he was a young man and now, a bit older, he watches the same monster devour his mother. While grappling with this, he experiences a combination of exchanges and events that point him on a new trajectory with an outcome that is both expected and anything but.

Marlin Stains has learned plenty in his thirty-two years: Love never dies, it just hides for a while and gets punchy. Death is never afraid and never gives a damn. Life is a thing that stretches, sometimes so far that you forget about it until it snaps back and hurts you. A snarl is an angry sound or a tangled trap, Marlin is familiar with both.

Critique: With a very special appeal to readers with an interest in the mixing of crime thrillers with horror fiction, "Snarl" by novella author John Boden is one of those unique, quick and riveting reads that will linger in the mind and memory of the reader long after the book has been finished and set back upon the shelf. While highly recommended for personal reading lists and community/academic library Contemporary Fiction collections, it should be noted that "Snarl" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.49).

Editorial Note: John Boden lives a stones throw from Three Mile Island. While his output as a writer is fairly sporadic, it has a bit of a reputation for being unique. An extensive listing of his books is available at:

My Life as a Cactus
Diane Asitimbay
Culturelink Press
9780975927618, $16.99, PB, 236pp

Synopsis: Heartbroken, Sara quits her dead-end job in Queens and decamps in Mexico, a country where nobody ever dies, they just take long naps until the next year's Day of the Dead. With no money and a little Spanish, she knows she's ready for her new career in a new country because of the rolls of smashed toilet paper busting out of her suitcase. After all, how different can life in Mexico be? -- It turns out, very different!

Critique: A deft blending of anecdotal misadventures and laugh-out-loud adventures, "My Life as a Cactus :Tales of a Rookie Reporter in Mexico" by Diane Asitimbay is the deftly scripted story of transplanted American reporter Sara and her various misadventures and cultural clashes in Mexico. Laced through with humor, anecdote, culture shock, and charm, this is also an inherently fascinating and deftly told story of friendship, healing, and self-discovery. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Contemporary Fiction collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of anyone with an interest in Mexican culture, travel, humor, and the life of a fictional reporter in Mexico City, that "My Life as a Cactus" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Diane Asitimbay ( has been a guest columnist and writer for numerous magazines and newspapers, and her humorous writing and cultural insights have appeared in Hispanic, Business Mexico, and the San Diego Union-Tribune. Her previous award-winning books include the non-fiction guide, What's Up, America? and a book of poetry, No Perfect People, Please! She also teaches English to international students at the University of California - San Diego. Asitimbay's debut novel "My Life as a Cactus" was inspired by her actual work as a reporter for a Mexican newspaper in Mexico City. She went to live in Mexico with no magic beans and the result was a novel based on her misadventures.

The Historical Fiction Shelf

The Lion Communique
Jim Cherry
9798987993712, $29.95, HC, 224pp

Synopsis: "The Lion Communique" is an anthology of thirteen darkly wound stories by Jim Cherry that examine the struggle between good and evil from multiple perspectives. These stories include Jim Morrison in the wilderness of Shamans and psychedelics, capturing the soul of General Sherman, mysterious forces at play in the trenches of WWI, southern gothic/noir, families at war, and the ghosts of our pasts that we carry with us -- as well as the hope of redemption.

Critique: Original, deftly crafted, memorable, entertaining, thoughtful and thought-provoking, each jewel of a short story comprising "The Lion Communique" is inherently fascinating and showcase author Jim Cherry's genuine flair for narrative driven storytelling and mastery of the short story format. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community and academic library Literary Fiction & Short Story Anthology collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Lion Communique" is also available in a paperback edition (9798987993705, $14.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

Editorial Note: Jim Cherry ( was born and raised in Chicago, spent his 20's in the pursuit of experience as research in the name of art, visiting places as New Orleans, Los Angeles, Germany, France and Mexico. He now resides in the western suburbs of Chicago. He's formerly a columnist for and appeared on The Rants, Raves and Rock 'n' Roll Magazine and radio show. He currently writes The Doors Examiner, and has written the novels Becoming Angel, The Last Stage, and the book of short stories Stranger Souls. Jim has also had stories published in The Doors Collector Magazine, and poems in various poetry volumes.

The LGBTQ Fiction Shelf

Michael Chavez
Flashpoint Publications
9781619294851, $28.95, HC, 270pp

Synopsis: Since when does a kiss awaken the senses to an explosive human experience? Since when does a kiss reveal a truth so unmistakably?

It's 1972 and twenty year old Neho, an aimless college student who has been abused by his stepfather, attempts to redress the crime but finds himself cast as the perpetrator. The backlash becomes almost unbearable and threatens to put him in jail and destroy his relationship with Martin, the man he deeply loves.

An old creencia (belief) revealed to him by Martin takes hold and slowly changes his life. As he begins his new journey, it becomes clear what he must do. But is it enough?

Critique: Featuring deftly crafted characters and a narrative driven storytelling style, "Aclaracion" by novelist Michael Chavez is a bittersweet LGBTQ coming-of-age story that is ultimately about love, courage, faith, and the human condition. While an especially recommended pick for community library literary and LGBTQ fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Aclarcion" is also available in a paperback edition (9781619294837, $19.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

Editorial Note: Michael Chavez ( was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Michael retired from public service and now volunteers as Ombudsman advocating for the rights of vulnerable seniors. Aside from writing, he likes to read, travel, play golf and occasionally visit the neighborhood coffee shop and rub elbows with locals whose juicy yarns provide fodder for colorful fiction storylines. He lives in Albuquerque with Bart, his terrier companion.

The Literary Fiction Shelf

Beautiful Shining People
Michael Grothaus
Orenda Books
Isis Audio Books
c/o Ulverscroft Large Print, Inc.
9781914585647, $16.99, PB, 276pp

Synopsis: It's our world, but decades into the future it is anything but ordinary, and it's about to change forever

It's an ordinary world of the foreseeable future where cars drive themselves, drones glide across the sky, and robots work in burger shops. There are two superpowers and a digital Cold War, but all conflicts are safely oceans away. People get up, work, and have dinner. Everything is as it should be.

Except for seventeen-year-old young man named John -- a tech prodigy from a damaged family, who hides a deeply personal secret. But everything starts to change for him when he enters a tiny cafe on a cold Tokyo night. A cafe run by a disgraced sumo wrestler, where a peculiar dog with a spherical head lives, alongside its owner, enigmatic waitress Neotnia.

But Neotnia hides a secret of her own -- a secret that will turn John's unhappy life upside down. A secret that will take them from the neon streets of Tokyo to Hiroshima's tragic past to the snowy mountains of Nagano. A secret that reveals that this world is anything ordinary and that it is about to change forever!

Critique: Distinctively original, deftly written, singularly memorable, as well as being of special interest to dedicated fans of science fiction stories and historical thrillers raised to the stellar level of High Literature, "Beautiful Shining People" by talented novelist Michael Grothaus is especially and unreservedly recommended for community and academic library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Beautiful Shining People" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.15) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Isis Audio Books, 9781399148795, $122.95, CD)

Editorial Note: Michael Grothaus ( is a novelist, journalist and author of non-fiction. His writing has appeared in Fast Company, VICE, The Guardian, Litro Magazine, The Irish Times, Screen, Quartz and others. His debut novel, Epiphany Jones, is a story about sex trafficking among the Hollywood elite and was longlisted for the CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger and named one of the 25 'Most Irresistible Hollywood Novels' by Entertainment Weekly.

What Makes You Think You're Supposed to Feel Better: Stories
Jody Hobbs Hesler
Cornerstone Press
9781960329073, $24.95, PB, 236pp

Synopsis: The grisly death of the hermit outsider in a tight-knit neighborhood prompts a young mom to yearn for solitude. A man wrestles with regrets from a 30-year-old affair while his wife hovers toward death in the ICU. An older, childless woman aches to rescue the seemingly mistreated child she observes in the grocery store. And a girl's desire to avoid the party her father dragged her to nearly gets her abducted.

Told with restraint and deep compassion against the backdrop of Virginia back streets and small towns, "What Makes You Think You're Supposed to Feel Better: Stories" by Jody Hobbs Hesler is her debut short story collection and simply shines with its stellar portraits of longing, disconnection, and the ache for renewal and redemption that comes from our own frailties.

Critique: Eloquent, articulate, original, memorable, deftly crafted, "What Makes You Think You're Supposed to Feel Better: Stories" by author Jody Hobbs Hesler is a literary treat throughout and a welcome and highly recommended pick for personal reading lists, as well as community and academic library Contemporary Literary & Short Story collections.

Editorial Note: Jody Hobbs Hesler ( has written ever since she could hold a pencil and now lives and writes in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Her stories and other work have appeared in Los Angeles Review, Valparaiso Fiction Review, Necessary Fiction, CRAFT, Pithead Chapel, and elsewhere. Growing up, she split time between suburban Richmond, Virginia, and the mountains outside Winchester, Virginia. Experiences of all three regions flavor her writing. She teaches at WriterHouse in Charlottesville, Virginia, and reads for The Los Angeles Review. Her debut novel, Without You Here, is currently scheduled for release in November 2024.

The Mystery/Suspense Shelf

The Last Island
James Hunt
Independently Published
9798807666499, $15.99, PB, 308pp

Synopsis: Former United States Department of Defense contractor Charlie Owens resigned from his position with the government to live a life off-grid. After building a cabin on a small island in the Pacific Northwest, the detonation of an EMP sets into motion a series of events that will test Charlie and his family in ways he never imagined.

Critique: Of special interest to fans of dystopian future novels and deftly crafted suspense thrillers, "The Last Island" by author James Hunt is a riveting read from first page to last. Deftly crafted characters, an original and stellar plot, a thoroughly reader engaging, narrative driven storytelling style, "The Last Island" will prove a welcome pick for community library Contemporary General Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Last Island" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $1.99).

Editorial Note: James Hunt's passion for writing began at an early age. While his journal of yesteryear may never be the work of great fiction, he's been working hard every day since then to bring pages to life. James has well over a decade of writing under his belt, but his professional career in literature didn't take off until 2014. His previous novels include "Broken Lines" and "The Last Flag".

James currently lives in Orlando, FL and when he's not pounding away at the keyboard you can find him at the theater or somewhere outside enjoying the beautiful Florida weather.

Shadow Dance
Martin Ott
Regal House Publishing
9781646033799, $18.95, PB, 206pp

Synopsis: West is a man looking to flee the past, barely old enough to drink and looking to rediscover himself after several tours in Afghanistan as a POW prison guard. After going AWOL, West looks to reunite with Solomon, his childhood best friend, who exists in the dark underworld of a Los Angeles gentleman's club, Club Paradise.

West soon finds himself caught in the web of an Iranian family and its patriarch, Big Z Pourali, a former wrestler with a dark side and side businesses that put his dancers, employees, and family in peril. West stays in LA to look after Solomon but soon falls for the club owner's daughter Nikki.

West must come to terms with the raw underside of a Los Angeles crime family and his own past, all the while hoping to maintain his sanity in the process.

Critique: Deftly crafted, original, memorable, and a terrific read from start to finish, "Shadow Dance" by Martin Ott will have a very special appeal to readers with an interest in military and crime suspense thriller fiction. With more plot twists and an Oklahoma tornado, a roster of interesting characters, and from an author with a genuine flair for the kind of narrative driven storytelling style that is both engaging and entertaining, "Shadow Dance" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Shadow Dance" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Martin Ott ( is the author of ten books of poetry and fiction. His first two poetry collections won the De Novo and Sandeen Prizes. His work has appeared in more than 300 magazines and 20 anthologies. A former US Army interrogator and longtime LA resident, Ott works as a communications professional and develops for TV and film in between his other writing projects.

Cape Cod Radio Mystery Theater

Synopsis: Steven Thomas Oney is the author of the Parker Robinson Mysteries -- a trilogy of three deftly crafted novels of mystery and suspense and a well meaning if somewhat dysfunctional college student with a great many problems of his own. Each of the three titles comprising this outstanding premier series is produced in a digital book format (Kindle).

"Stalking Bulls" (9780974566870, $2.99, Kindle) Parker Robinson has a guardian aunt who thinks he's a responsible college student but doesn't know he's on probation for skipping a half-semester's worth of classes to go surfing Hawaii. He also has a Polynesian girlfriend whose face could launch a thousand outrigger canoes. He has a dog that listens only to him. He drives an antique 'bullet' Thunderbird that belonged to a late uncle and another uncle, who is the Boston Police Commissioner, who offers him a summer's internship provided he not involve himself in police business.

Parker agrees. But this is before the Isabella Stewart Gardner Art Museum suffers its second major break-in-and-art-heist and Parker realizes he must involve himself to save his uncle's job. However, doing so leads to unintended consequences: such as his girlfriend being kidnapped. To free her, he has to come face to face with a modern-day Minotaur (must confront it and wrestle it) even though it means pitting the monster's brute strength against Parker's youth.

"Stalking Lions" (9780974566887, $3.99, Kindle) You have to feel for Parker Robinson. Yes, he is now safely back at college, but he's still on probation. What's more, he has a floor counselor who hates his guts and wishes him dead, and the dean of the school wishes he could expel him and blames Parker for the bad publicity generated when he appeared, semi-nude, on morning network TV, as the likely suspect in a campus coed's strangulation murder case, even though all the poor boy had done was try to go to the poor girl's aid.

Then there is the gorgeous identical twin who thinks Parker may, in fact, be her sister's killer, until Parker convinces her otherwise and then agrees to help her find the real killer, even if it means pretending to be a model, going to a sleazy modeling studio downtown, searching the tunnels under the Morningside campus, tracking down an absent-minded professor, attending rah-rah football games with sis-boom-bah alumni - - one of whom has very deep pockets and his eye on Parker. However, it is Parker's bloodhound instincts that lead him from 'the frying pan' into the 'fire', or in this case from 'the rowing tank' into the 'drowning vat'.

"Stalking Chickens" (9780974566894, $4.99, Kindle) Concern is mounting for Parker Robinson. Parker's Aunt Ruth, worried that New York City is too dangerous a place for Parker to complete his community service, has taken it upon herself to have him transferred to the wilds of western Minnesota, where she imagines it will be safer, it being the idyllic land of Laura Ingalls Wilder and Little House on the Prairie.

Now Parker's job is to try to acquire virgin tallgrass prairies to help save the threatened Greater Prairie Chicken. But nobody informs either him or his aunt, that the Agassiz Beachline - once the Gateway to the Wild West - is as wild as ever. Peopled as it is by arsonists and hermits, smugglers and swindlers, and by crazed cowboys with psychotic tendencies that can turn violent at the drop of a Stetson.

His path leads him to burning trestle bridges, exploding grain elevators, into mystery caves and to uncomfortable meetings with a Dancing Potato tycoon, an Annie-Oakley-style sharpshooter and the seedy owner of a local strip club. Along the way, he encounters rattlesnakes, menacing gravel trucks, an out-of-control prairie wildfire, as well as a life-threatening winter storm.
The main question we are left with is: if this region is so much safer than New York City, then why has Parker received three separate attempts on his life?

Critique: Unique, original, engaging, and fun, and although each title in this simply outstanding series is a stand alone read in its own right, it is best if read in the order of "Stalking Bulls", "Stalking Lions", and "Stalking Chickens". The Parker Robinson Mystery trilogy clearly showcases author Steven Thomas Oney's genuine flair for developing inherently memorable characters and the kind of narrative driven storytelling style that will specially appeal to mystery/suspense fans. These are the kind of mystery novels that will linger in the mind and memory of the reader long after each of them is finished and set back upon the shelf.

Editorial Note: There is an extensive listing of novels by Steven thomas Oney online at

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

Treasure of the Umbrunna: Meleena's Adventures
Fred Rayworth
NewLink Publishing
c/o Mystic Publishers
9781934051863, $17.95, PB, 304pp

Synopsis: All Meleena wanted was to get rich, but in the end, she sacrificed all to help another. If she isn't careful, people may start to think she's a decent person. Meleena goes through life one picked pocket at a time. With a wild heart, she spends each night with a different man, and often wakes up in a strange place.

When she goes after a valuable pearl hidden in a lost city called Slab, she figures this is the way to the easy life. An old magick user named Grel may hold the key to finding this pearl, and he insists she not go alone if she hopes to survive. Despite second thoughts and an aversion to working with others, she gathers a team and heads for the lost city.

However, she isn't the only one after the pearl, and Meleena finds herself in a race to get there first.

Critique: As much a fun read as it is an original action/adventure fantasy,"Treasure of the Umbrunna" launches "Meleena's Adventures", a new series by novelist Fred Rayworth that has more unexpected plot twists and turns than an Oklahoma tornado. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Fantasy Fiction collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of dedicated fantasy adventure fans that "Treasure of the Umbrunna" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

Editorial Note: Fred Rayworth ( found his passion for writing in 1995. He's so far completed thirteen full-length novels in genres that include science fiction, icky bug (horror), adventure/thriller and fantasy. He has also published numerous non-fiction articles on amateur astronomy including co-founding and editing the original Observer's Challenge for the Las Vegas Astronomical Society.

Gods of the Blue Mountains: Meleena's Adventures
Fred Rayworth
NewLink Publishing
c/o Mystic Publishers
9781941271490, $21.95, PB, 462pp

Synopsis: When a friend in need of a special ingredient to save his life, he asks Meleena for help. She answers his call. But, as it happens when she volunteers, there's always a catch. To find this ingredient, she must risk her life by sneaking into the realm of the Gods Of The Blue Mountains. Nobody has ever done that -- and returned. Can she help her friend even after she hooks up with others who have a more sinister agenda? Will she survive this journey and save her friend?

Critique: Action/adventure at its best, "Gods of the Blue Mountains" by novelist Fred Rayworth (and the sequel to "Treasure Of The Umbrunna", the author's new 'Meleena's Adventures' series) deftly blends suspense and fantasy into a fun read populated by memorable characters and an original storyline. While highly recommended for community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Gods of the Blue Mountains: Meleena's Adventures" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

Editorial Note: Fred Rayworth ( found his passion for writing in 1995. He's so far completed thirteen full-length novels in genres that include science fiction, icky bug (horror), adventure/thriller and fantasy. He has also published numerous non-fiction articles on amateur astronomy including co-founding and editing the original Observer's Challenge for the Las Vegas Astronomical Society.

The Sports Shelf

Burial At Home Plate
Bob Fulton
Dorrance Publishing Company
9798888121399, $23.00, PB, 336pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Burial at Home Plate: An Oddball History of the Pittsburgh Pirates", dedicated baseball fan Bob Fulton offers a colorful look at the Pittsburgh Pirates, with an emphasis on the offbeat moments in team history.

Pittsburgh Pirates fans will read about the doubleheader completed underwater; the Pittsburgh outfielders whose pursuit of a batted ball was halted by a gun-wielding Cincinnati fan; the pitcher who earned a victory while taking a nap; the dead man who tied a franchise record for games played; the sparrow that flew from beneath batter Casey Stengel's cap; and the rookie who struck out while seated on the bench.

"Burial at Home Plate" also touches on the indoor game that was rained out; the throng of 50,000 that turned out in Pittsburgh for a game played more than 400 miles away; the tipsy pitcher who fell asleep inside the tarp during a game; the future MVPs who delivered their first major league hits while still in the minors; the FBI agent who "pinch hit" for Ralph Kiner; and the Pirates manager who disproved the notion that you can't steal first base.

Additionally, "Burial at Home Plate" shines the spotlight on the Green Weenie, the alabaster plaster, Aunt Minnie, the Rickey Dinks, Destiny's Darlings, Dr. Strangeglove, eephus pitches and-the inspiration for the book's title-a strange pre-game interment that took place at home plate.

Critique: An absolute 'must read' for the legions of Pittsburgh Pirate fans, "Burial at Home Plate: An Oddball History of the Pittsburgh Pirates" is a fun and informative read that is impressively well written, organized and presented. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Baseball History collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Burial at Home Plate: An Oddball History of the Pittsburgh Pirates" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $18.00).

Editorial Note: The first time Bob Fulton went to a Pittsburgh Pirates game, in the summer of 1961, a foul ball came the youngster's way, and his father, Wayne, reached up, bare-handed the ball and gave it to his son. Later on, the ball was sent to the Pirates' clubhouse, where a handful of players autographed it for the youngster. For 9-year-old Bob, it was the start of something else. He developed a lifelong passion for the Pirates, in particular the oddball things that have happened during the team's sometimes-storied, sometimes-sad history. Both have become parts of his career as a book, newspaper and magazine writer that has spanned parts of six decades.

The Religion/Spirituality Shelf

The Secret of Love: A Glimpse into the Mystical Wisdom of Rav Kook
Rabbi Aryeh Ben David
Kasva Press
9781948403412, $24.95, PB, 220pp

Synopsis: "The Secret of Love: A Glimpse into the Mystical Wisdom of Rav Kook" by Rabbi Aryeh Ben David is a book about love. To be more exact, it is a book about how to become a more loving human being. How to love ourselves, our families, our communities, other human beings, and all of creation -- more. It has been inspired by the writings of the contemporary mystic, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook, usually referred to as Rav Kook.

Rav Kook teaches us that loving is primarily a spiritual experience. It flows from our souls. Or more exactly, it flows from the Source of the universe into and through our souls. Just as our heart naturally circulates blood throughout our body, so too our soul naturally streams love throughout our life. Loving is our most pure and natural state of being.

Critique Of special appeal, relevance and value to readers with an interest in personal transformation and spirituality, "The Secret of Love: A Glimpse into the Mystical Wisdom of Rav Kook" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, community, and academic library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections and personal reading lists.

Editorial Note: Rabbi Aryeh Ben David has worked in Jewish Education for over 30 years, as senior staff at the Pardes Institute, Educational Director of Livnot U'Lehibanot, Spiritual consultant for Hillel International, and founder and director of Ayeka: Center for Soulful Education. He is the author of Becoming a Soulful Educator; The Ayeka Shabbat; The Godfile: 10 Approaches to Personalizing Prayer; The Ayeka Haggadah; and Prayers of the Lost & Found. Some people call him a rabbi and master teacher; he refers to himself as a work-in-progress.

The Self-Help Shelf

Not Less Than Everything
August Turak
Clovercroft Publishing
9781954437999, $29.99, PB, 400pp

Synopsis: As a troubled young college student in 1971, Turak was seized by the idea that the mystical experience various religious traditions call Enlightenment, Satori, Nirvana, Samadhi, the Unio Mystica, or Cosmic Consciousness not only exists, but might be attainable by him.

This sparked a life altering quest as Turak became in turn, the first student of a rough-hewn, hillbilly Zen master; the protege of the founder of the IBM Executive School; the client of a mystical psychologist doing government funded research with LSD; a member of the original team that launched MTV: Music Television; a successful hi-tech entrepreneur and even a longtime, part-time Trappist monk. It was this same spiritual roller coaster that dropped him off twenty-five years later in a tiny room of a rundown motel in Baltimore, Maryland deeply depressed, fearing for his sanity, and with nowhere else to turn. Or so it only seemed...

Through a series of true, wildly entertaining spiritual adventures and practical life lessons, with the publication of "Not Less Than Everything: One Man's Quest for Spiritual Enlightenment" August Turak offers his readers an accessible, universal blueprint for a life overflowing with joy, peace, higher purpose and above all gratitude.

Critique: An inherently fascinating blend of memoir and spiritual self-help guide, "Not Less Than Everything: One Man's Quest for Spiritual Enlightenment" will prove to be of very special value to readers with an interest in the kind of personal transformation that leads to simple inner joyfulness, happiness, and contentment no matter what your life circumstances might be. While highly recommended for personal, professional, and community library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections, it should be noted that "Not Less Than Everything: One Man's Quest for Spiritual Enlightenment" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: August Turak ( is a successful corporate executive, entrepreneur, award-winning author, speaker, and consultant. He is the founder of the educational nonprofit the Self Knowledge Symposium Foundation. As a frequent monastic guest, Turak has been living and working alongside the Trappist monks of Mepkin Abbey since 1996. His book, "Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks", uses 1000 years of Trappist business success and his own entrepreneurial experience to demonstrate the monks are not successful businessmen despite adhering to only the highest ethical values, but because they do.

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

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