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Midwest Book Review

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Provenance: A Novel by Sue Mell. The brightly colored background is a stylized painting of a guitar in bright, rainbow hues. The painting is by Sue Mel.
Cover art by Sue Mell

Sue Mell
www.suemellwrites.comMadville Publishing
9781956440027, $19.95 212pp



Still grieving his wife’s early death, DJ has spent the last three years (and the money from her insurance policy) collecting guitars, composing music, and continuing to shop the Brooklyn stoop sales and flea markets they’d always enjoyed.

When his building is sold, he takes refuge in his younger sister’s half-finished basement, imagining a comfortable and solitary retreat in Hurley, the small Hudson Valley town where they grew up. Instead, he finds himself caught up in his sister’s troubling divorce, drafted as caregiver for his 11-year-old niece, and unable to face or afford a storage unit crammed with hundreds of vinyl records and every other scrap of his former life.

DJ gifts his niece a marbled glass egg, a porkpie hat, and one of his prized guitars. But what’s asked of him, on his return to Hurley is not to give the perfect object – it’s to give of himself.


A carefully crafted, impressively intriguing, and fully engaging contemporary novel that will have a special appeal to readers interested in family life fiction, “Provenance” by the gifted author Sue Mell is especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Literary Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that this edition of “Provenance” from Madville Publishing is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note:

Sue Mell is a writer from Queens, NY, earning her MFA from Warren Wilson, and was a 2020 BookEnds fellow at SUNY Stony Brook. Her collection of micro essays, Giving Care, won the 2021 Chestnut Review Prose Chapbook Prize, and her collection of short stories, A New Day, was a finalist for the 2021 St. Lawrence Book Award. Other work has appeared in Cleaver Magazine, Hippocampus Magazine, Jellyfish Review, Narrative Magazine and elsewhere. She has a dedicated website at www.suemellwrites.com


Sonju, by Wondra Chang, shows a Korean woman in traditional dress with a background of yellow ginko trees. A medallion is on the cover to indicate that Sonju has been chosen as the Pulpwood Queens featured selection. Also present is the coveted Kirkus Star

Wondra Chang
9781948692588, $19.95, PB, 290pp



Author Wondra Chang’s novel, “Sonju,” opens on a chilly day in November, 1946 in Seoul, Korea. Japan has ended its thirty-five-year occupation of Korea after the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. The American military has become the new occupier. A young woman named Sonju is on the way to her best friend’s house when she sees two Americans in military uniforms walking ahead of her, and her heart stirs. So begins the story that spans over two decades.

Sonju comes of age in Japanese-occupied Korea, and having received a modern education, she imagines a life of equality and freedom of choice. Her ideals soon clash with the centuries-old Confucian tradition of order and conformity when her mother arranges her marriage to a man she has never met. The decisions she makes during the Korean War lead to her being disowned by her family, betrayed by her best friend, and shunned by society.

Through the period of rapidly evolving political strife in her country following its liberation in 1945, Sonju’s private struggle to seek her relevance in a male-dominated society parallels the struggles of Korea on its way to becoming a force in the word.


A carefully and impressively crafted work of literary fiction, “Sonju” will have a very special appeal to readers of women’s historical and literary fiction. An entertaining and memorable read from beginning to end, “Sonju” is especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that “Sonju” is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note:

Wondra Chang was born in South Korea and has lived in the U.S. since 1970. Her writing discipline began at age ten, writing five short stories a day under the tutelage of a writing teacher. She won first place in a province-wide in-person writing competition. She also studied journalism at Ewha Womans University in Seoul, Korea.

Midwest Book Review finishes with a link to buy Sonju

A Woman’s Story

A Woman's Story by Francine Rodriguez cover shows multi-colored stylized women's heads on a beige background with title and author name in slanted handwritten style font. There are two awards showing on the cover, an International Latino Book Award, and a Featured pick by the Pulpwood Queens


Francine Rodriguez
9781948692601, $19.95, PB, 244pp


With the publication of “A Woman’s Story”, author Francine Rodriguez tells the stories of Latina women’s lives in tales revealing conflict in gender bias, experiences of exploitation, violence, powerlessness, and sometimes resulting in pain and despair in their turbulent world.

But these original stories also tell of these women’s celebration of life itself that empowers them and gives them the will to sustain. These are stories that will resonate with the reader on a deeply emotional level.


As “A Woman’s Story” documents, as a writer, Francine Rodriguez knows how to spin a narrative and keep it going with energy. Here she created a series of truly memorable characters who are both compelling and unique. Although a work of fiction, these are the stories about the realities of women having to live hard lives, some at the poverty line, some a little better off, but all desperate in some way. While highly recommended for community, college, and university library Women’s Fiction and Literary Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that “A Woman’s Story” is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note:

Francine Rodriguez grew up in and around downtown Los Angeles and later worked as a Civil Rights and Equal Employment Opportunity Investigator in the Federal sector. All told, she has worked in the fields of law and psychology for over thirty years, and her experiences in these fields inform her writing. She has published two previous novels, A Fortunate Accident (Booklocker 2015), and A Woman Like Me (Booklocker 2019).

Midwest Book Review finishes with a link to A Woman’s Story

A Third Place: Notes in Nature

A Third Place: Notes in Nature by Bob Kunzinger. Stylized script flows across a painting of a sunset over the Chesapeake Bay.


Bob Kunzinger
9781948692168, $16.95, PB, 144pp


A Third Place exists in the extremes, pinpointing the details in nature which demand attention, and finding within those details our place in the bigger picture. Set in a series of observations and experiences, “A Third Place: Notes in Nature” by Bob Kunzinger on the one hand brings us all closer to nature through the eyes of the author yet makes us wonder if he has been following us around on our afternoon excursions.


An absorbing read from cover to cover, “A Third Place: Notes in Nature” clearly documents author Bob Kunzinger as an especially gifted writer and essayist who is able to engage and keep his reader’s thoughtful attention from beginning to end. “A Third Place: Notes in Nature” is unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as both community and academic library collections.

Midwest Book Review finishes with a link to buy A Third Place: Notes in Nature

Fairview Chronicles: A Wayward Proposition

Fairview Chronicles Book One


Johnathan Paul, author
Andrew Dunn, illustrator
9781948692106, $18.95, PB, 216pp


“Good boy, Mr. Covington,” an ominous, disembodied voice calls out from the darkness of the woods. After hearing the voice Randall comes to his senses and feels his hand gripping tightly to a knife, a knife buried in the back of a man dressed in black!

With chaos and anxiety Fairview Chronicles: A Wayward Proposition begins the journey of author Johnathan Paul’s mystical fantasy series. Mixing dark fantasy with sci-fi and a pinch of cosmic horror we are introduced to the world of Fairview and the exploits of the disgraced history professor Randall Covington.

Randall travels to Fairview with one goal in mind, to find redemption. As he arrives he finds that there are otherworldly forces at work, and he may find redemption, but at the cost of his life.


A master of the paranormal/horror fantasy genre, “Fairview Chronicles: A Wayward Proposition” showcases author Johnathan Paul’s exceptional flair for originality and the kind of narrative storytelling style that grips and compel’s the reader’s full and total attention from first page to last. Certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community library Contemporary Science Fiction & Fantasy collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that Fairview Chronicles: A Wayward Proposition is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Midwest Book Review finishes with a link to buy Fairview Chronicles: A Wayward Proposition

The Autobiography of Francis N. Stein: The Last Promethean

The Autobiography of Francis N. Stein by A. Rooney. What appears to be a weathered journal with a medically accurate drawing of a human hard stamped on the cover.


A. Rooney
9781948692083, $18.95, PB, 216pp


Francis Stein is a slow thinking giant of a man who attracts attention wherever he goes. Stein seems cursed with bad luck, and trouble waits for him around every turn in spite of his good intentions.

The Autobiography of Francis N. Stein: The Last Promethean is a story of struggle and pathos, pain and absolution, deception and deliverance…. [an] inherently fascinating novel about the last descendant of Dr. Frankenstein’s wretched creature, the spurned monster who ultimately turned upon his creator.


An inherently riveting read from cover to cover, The Autobiography of Francis N. Stein: The Last Promethean is a compelling novel that reflects the author’s genuine flair for originality and narrative driven storytelling. Doing full justice to the literary legacy of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”, The Autobiography of Francis N. Stein: The Last Promethean is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to community library collections and the personal reading lists of all dedicated Frankenstein fans.

Midwest Book Review finishes with a link to buy The Autobiography of Francis N. Stein

An Englishman in Texas

An Englishman in Texas by Ron Kenney Cover


Ron Kenney, author
Kimberly Davis, editor
9781948692021, $16.95, PB, 144pp

An Englishman in Texas is a deftly scripted and impressively candid memoir by Ron Kenney, who was an English jockey who came to the United States in 1960. This autobiographical account begins with his childhood in the northeast of England during WWII. Ron then goes on to describe how, with no knowledge of horses, he was sent four hundred miles from home at 14 years of age to apprentice as a jockey. Ron had been turned away by the foreman at the coal mine because he was too small. The story also follows Ron through his coming of age to his coming to America when he was 30. It follows his fortunes in pursuit of the American Dream. An Englishman in Texas also tells of riding horses for some of the wealthiest and most famous horse trainers in Texas. Deftly edited by Kimberly Davis, An Englishman in Texas is the intensely personal and inherently interesting story of Ron’s loves, his betrayals, and introduces the people who helped him along the way, making this memoir an unreservedly recommended addition to personal reading lists, as well as community and academic library Contemporary American Biography collections.

Midwest Book Review finishes with a link to buy An Englishman in Texas

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