Find out the latest indie author news. For FREE.

ADVERTISEMENT

Charlotte's Ghosts: The Mystery of the Vanishing Boy
L. P. Simone
A cozy contemporary paranormal mystery offers an opportunity for a gentle historical perspective on war and loss in this time-crossed middle grade novel. As an Army kid, 7th grader Charlotte Cross is used to moving, but since her dad died in Afghanistan, she knows this new school in Manassas, Virginia, is more permanent. On a walk past a local Civil War battlefield, her black lab Beau runs toward a strange boy, who soon after disappears. From there, Charlotte’s Ghosts plunges into the past. In 1861, Jeremy is left alone on the farm after his father goes north to join the Union Army, but his pacifist Quaker mother won’t let Jeremy sign up to fight the rebels like he desperately wants to. While Charlotte navigates grieving by joining the cross-country team and making friends, she also finds some others willing to help her figure out how to help Jeremy’s ghost be at peace.

Charlotte’s side of this well-constructed story will be instantly relatable for readers, with themes of settling into a new place, and the sadness of losing her father touches without being overly visceral. Jeremy’s story will prove less immediately intuitive for young readers, as a Virginian father eager to fight for the North against slavery despite his wife’s religious objections is complicated, especially as slavery itself is not depicted in the story. Still, that setup illuminates the complexity of American identities, and the idea of a boy who wants to follow his own idea of manhood will resonate with adolescent readers.

In the past, the upsetting parts of the story, such as the killing of Jeremy’s beloved cow by soldiers, are also told with grace. Both Charlotte and Jeremy’s stories come to satisfying conclusions without loose ends, and the shift in Charlotte’s thinking about her dad at the end makes it clear she’s learned something from the experience.

Takeaway: Ghost mystery connecting present and past while gently exploring grief.

Comparable Titles: Claire LeGrand’s The Year of Shadows, Allison Mills’s The Ghost Collector.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A

Click here for more about Charlotte's Ghosts
Married to a Psychiatrist: A memoir
Dan Prochoda
Prochoda, a former police officer and SWAT team leader turned mechanical engineer working for the U.S. Space Command, describes his emotional evolution in his refreshingly candid literary debut. The author divides his memoir into five sections: “The Psychiatrist and Me,” which outlines how he met his second wife; “The Insights,” a series of 13 essays which make up the bulk of the narrative and chronicle his emotional growth from an angry and manipulative man to one who understands how to set healthy boundaries; “A Closer Look,” where Prochoda outlines his desire to help others make similar emotional awakenings; “The Learning Never Ends,” which discusses the integration of these lessons into his life, and the amusingly named “Stuff You Find At The End Of A Book,” which includes a spritely afterword and acknowledgements.

Prochoda is engagingly frank throughout, often exhibiting a welcome light touch, as when he notes that he originally wanted to write his memoir Eat, Pray, Love style but discovered that when he tried this the narrative was “as interesting to read as a service manual for a 1979 Toyota Corolla.” In the aim of helping others to understand the power of growth and vulnerability, he also is open about other shortcomings, including regrets about parenting, an affair during his first marriage, and an unrealistic desire for the mythical “perfect woman.”

The author isn’t shy about laying himself bare and sharing what he has learned from his wise wife, a Harley-riding, emotionally badass blonde he met online. Prochoda writes that his wife also grew up in a dysfunctional household but used her training as a psychiatrist to set healthy boundaries in every part of her life, including her relationship with Prochoda. Under her tutelage, Prochoda learns to do the same thing. This inviting but unflinching narrative will appeal to those seeking emotional growth, especially those who struggle to show it to those who they care about.

Takeaway: Incisive look at a man’s bold emotional growth, with a road map for others.

Comparable Titles: Owen Marcus’s Grow Up, David Kundtz’s Nothing's Wrong.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A-

Click here for more about Married to a Psychiatrist
The Last Person In The World
Matthew Tree
Tree (author of If Only) pens a unique story of vigilante justice in this 1970s-based thriller. The story launches with a “lower-middle-class” unnamed narrator trying to earn good marks at his London school, filling his free time with Real Workers’ Party (RWP) events and navigating friendships with his more well-to-do peers. Enter terrorist group The Vanguard, an organization whose targets seem random, pipe bombing schools after first evacuating them and orchestrating drive-by shootings of prominent men’s homes. When M15 agent James Delaney tasks our narrator with infiltrating The Vanguard, he suddenly finds himself thrust into the center of the upheaval he's been dabbling in.

Intrigue and unexpected twists keep this novel moving at a fast clip. The narrator is kidnapped by Vanguard members, only to discover the group’s leader is none other than his friend, Ralph Finns, “the wealthiest of them all, so much so that he made the rest look practically insolvent.” Turns out The Vanguard isn’t political after all: it’s composed of people committed to righting the wrongs for victims unable to speak for themselves. Tree captures the nuances of classic literature in a sweeping, harrowing story, with larger-than-life characters who are unpredictable and unreliable at times, ensconced in a tale riddled with secrets and jaw-dropping revelations of the wolves—often in coveted, high-powered positions—who prey on the innocent.

With a mission to "undermine the status quo," Tree’s constantly moving narrative reveals the truth in stark snippets, exposing the wicked while central characters take justice by any means necessary. The villains are dark and haunting—protected by money, status, and elitist “boys’ club” traditions—and the horrific abuse and heavy subject matter may be triggering for some readers. Thought-provoking and biting, at times disturbing and challenging, this is a story of heroism and payback that will stay with readers long after its stunning and satisfying conclusion.

Takeaway: An unpredictable tale of vengeance and vigilante justice.

Comparable Titles: John Grisham's A Time To Kill, Deanna Raybourn's Killers of a Certain Age.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: B+

Click here for more about The Last Person In The World
The Epic of One: Act One: Perceiving the Beginning
Tony Blacksmith
Blacksmith’s debut pulses with inventive powers, action, conspiracies, assassination missions, torture scenes, training sequences, and bizarre enclaves of “activated souls” like the Red Lightning (cool!) and the Side Characters (meta funny!). It boasts dense lore, mad abilities (Reach, Isolate, Pressure, Blade) that you could map in your mind to a game controller, an abundance of super-powered characters with code names (Crackle, Repulsion, Excalibur) that both sound tough but also give everyone involved the chance to make crack wise. “The hell is it with you guys and codenames[?]” 14-year-old protagonist Sidharth Ashoka Kumar asks a few pages in, the brisk, wised-up dialogue, like the correspondingly brisk and wild action, suggestive of the movies, games, and anime that have inspired this epic debut.

Readers eager for a sugar-rush of dark super-powered action and shadowy secret societies will find lots here that’s fresh and vivid. But editing and presentation issues, plus the novel’s relentless momentum and protracted length, make Sid’s adventures challenging to keep up with, even as the many twists, confrontations, power-set evolutions, and bursts of crisp dialogue (“He thinks he’s uncontrollable, but that makes him one of the most easily guidable people I’ve ever met”) prove individually exciting. But too often the rushed, unpolished prose reads as if texted: “Oh yea he brought Peacock with him he’s holding that knife made out of his skin and hair in his right hand did I mention that has that been mentioned?”

Characters and developments are introduced so quickly, with so little explanation, that they lack impact and often clarity. The fantasy of Sid, at 14, running a super-powered assassination squad is so fun that readers will want to relish the characters and imaginative setups before it all goes pear-shaped. That’s true, too, of later stages of Sid’s journey, involving demons, other dimensions, a Red Lightning civil war, and more. (It probably doesn’t apply to the surprisingly graphic sex scene.) When the narrative voice connects, though, Blacksmith blends a playful spirit and storytelling that surges.

Takeaway: Inventive but unpolished epic of superpowered killers at war.

Comparable Titles: Alexander Darwin’s Combat Codes, Drew Hayes.

Production grades
Cover: B-
Design and typography: C
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: C
Marketing copy: B

As the Rivers Merge: A Story of Love, War and Perseverance Across Continents
Daniel Mamah
In this touching memoir, Mamah chronicles the life of his mother, Judit, and father, Matthew. Told through the immersive perspective of his parents' point of view from collected letters, journals, and loved ones’ memories, Mamah writes a sweeping narrative of his parents' separate lives growing up and then their enchanting romance and life forming a family in the 1980s. Matthew Mamah, a young Nigerian boy from the village Emelego, grows into a determined and highly educated man, earning a PhD, making an impact as a politician in his home country, and learning to lead (and at times ration food) in the face of injustice in his employment at West African Glass Industry. Matthew met his eventual wife, Judit, during an apprenticeship at Central Laboratory in Hungary, her home country, where she instantly took a liking to "this fascinating man—a Black man who actually spoke her language!"

In alternating chapters Mamah provides vivid details of both parents' upbringing and childhood struggles in the face of war and hardship in each country. The pair allows their love to guide them through relocations, career changes, political regime changes, and even prejudice from within their own family, specifically Judit's father, who eventually grows to love Matthew as his own son. Mamah's narrative is an engaging tale that immerses readers in the rich cultural history of Mamah's parents and a love that spans 25 years and five children, including two sets of twins, plus much societal change Mamah emphasizes the perseverance of that love in the face of “the political turmoil of the latter part of the twentieth century,” celebrating their strength, commitment, and connection in a world too often unmoored.

As the Rivers Merge is an emotional and inspiring story of cultures colliding and love transcending borders and human divisions. Fans of historical narratives and culturally diverse love stories will find much that’s moving in this story of family, religion, political strife, and resilience.

Takeaway: Sweeping memoir of Nigeria, Hungary, and resilient cross-cultural love.

Comparable Titles: E. Dolores Johnson's Say I'm Dead, Mark Whitaker's My Long Trip Home.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A

Click here for more about As the Rivers Merge
AfterLife: There Will Be Trouble
E. Vince
In this Christian-focused debut, the first installment of Vince’s Afterlife series, the fractured Hill family grieves the looming death of their matriarch, Karen, who is suffering from a congenital heart condition. Her husband, Bert, is angry at the world and a bitter alcoholic, while daughter Melody (who later changes her name to Crescenda), is a self-absorbed teenager too caught up in a toxic romance and her friends to be concerned with her mother's impending death. Meanwhile, Karen’s son, Roy, is a quiet boy trying to cope with the loss of his mother and the dysfunctional family he has left.

When Karen dies, she awakens in a peaceful place “of rest and nurture” called Paradise. Under the guidance of distant relatives, and guardian angel AJ, Karen undertakes a spiritual journey as entertaining as it is profound (Paradise runs on a “buddy system,” to help newcomers “learn the ropes”), while AJ secretly watches over her family, attempting to steer them toward God’s encompassing light—and away from the shadowy, demonic figures luring them down a path of destruction. The result is a moving story of family, faith, redemption, and love, as Vince explores death—and its rippling impact on the Hill family—through biblical text, references to well-known biblical figures, and famous people from history (including Claude Monet and John Denver).

Beyond a transformative story of the ways love and faith shape life and death, this emotional narrative delves into the turmoil that chronic illness can cause within a family—and the negative vices people can succumb to when bitterness, anger, and heartbreak fester. Vince juxtaposes those grueling human emotions—and the dark feelings attached to death—against the spiritual beliefs of God’s unfailing love, making this an immersive read for Christian audiences of grief and deliverance, both in the living world and in the spiritual afterlife.

Takeaway: Christian study of one family’s journey through grief after the death of a loved one.

Comparable Titles: Mitch Albom's The Five People You Meet in Heaven, William P. Young's The Shack.

Production grades
Cover: B+
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: B+

Click here for more about AfterLife
Herbvana
Brian B. DeFoe
In this twisty debut, attorney and Bainbridge Island resident DeFoe mines both experiences to create a surprising tale about murder and mayhem connected to a Washington State cannabis dispensary called Herbvana. Sleazy lawyer-turned-dispensary co-owner Marshall is reveling in all his weed-related income provides—including a yacht dubbed the Mary Jane and barely legal women any time he wants—when a scheming employee named Lilith sets her target on taking over the operation. Working with Marshall’s somewhat simple-minded partner, Barry, Lilith takes advantage of a questionable accident and a dirty cop on the take to set her plan in motion, spurring events that will forever change the lives of Bainbridge Island residents.

This fast-paced story, illuminating the still-evolving dynamics of the legal marijuana trade during the late Obama years, will captivate readers up for crime, a brisk and canny chatter, and the occasional jolt of action. DeFoe’s tale doesn’t shrink from the gruesome—a human head in a crabbing pot, a devious woman literally fileting a nemesis for food for sea creatures—but employs such details for more than shock; instead, Herbvana demonstrates the lengths to which corrupt individuals will go to protect their interests. The perspectives of supporting characters, such as internet fame-seeking teenager Leaf, solid cops Sarah and John, and Internal Affairs officer Eleanor, are finely drawn, each distinctive and adding depth to the narrative.

Readers will sympathize most with slightly dopey Barry, whose ambition is to share his passion, marijuana, with others to make them happy, while all around him are plotting for their own personal gain. Crooked cop Earl is so odious that readers won’t waste a lot of time feeling sorry for him, reflecting the author’s skill in spinning a world that seems eminently possible. The storytelling is agreeably loose, fitting the milieu, but never slack.

Takeaway: Briskly told thriller of the Washington State weed biz circa 2012.

Comparable Titles: Nick Petrie’s Light it Up, T. Coraghessan Boyle’s Budding Prospects.

Production grades
Cover: B
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A-

Click here for more about Herbvana
The Reset (Time Corrector Series Book 3)
Avi Datta
Triple-stuffed with time-jumps, alt-reality doubles, chronological paradoxes, tense military showdowns, and other smart twists that bend existence like taffy, the third entry in Datta’s Time Corrector series is relentless in its invention, relentlessly committed to big ideas and bigger surprises. The hero, again, is Dr. Vincent Abajian, the “Time Corrector” of his reality, a man who has sacrificed and profited much over the course of the first two books’ harrowing adventures in time.

This time around, the action starts in media res, but plural, as the first chapters whisk readers through a host of years, locations, first-person perspectives, and unpredictable revelations as Vincent and his trillion-dollar company Quantum World face his old adversary Philip Naradin, the kidnapping of Vincent’s daughter (and future Quantum World CEO) Nozomi, and the combined forces of the G7, who want what Vincent and Philip control: intreton, the electromagnetically unstable element that powers Philip and Vincent’s wildly profitable innovations.

Readers new to the Time Corrector books should start at the beginning, as this volume draws on a Marvel Universe’s worth of complex, reality-crossing backstory. (Explanatory footnotes help.) Even seasoned readers will likely find the first hundred or so pages a challenge to track, as Datta vaults, in brisk and immersive passages, across years and POVs, with Vincent eventually teaming up with Philip—who is, through timeline shenanigans, also kind of Vincent’s father—to prevent the world’s powers from seizing intreton. Datta loves hinting at Vincent’s plans without tipping readers off too much, and the novel becomes clearer as it goes, building to spectacular set pieces, like Vincent demonstrating a Time Corrector’s powers in the Oval Office, or a quick jaunt through 20th century conflicts as the G7’s fighter jets threaten Philip’s island. For all its doubled selves, corporate intrigue, time-crossed suspense, and reality-in-the-balance epicness, the stakes are human and personal, with a touching ethos of sacrifice powering the climax. Lovers of time-travel complexities will relish Datta’s truly mind-blowing twists.

Takeaway: The most ambitious entry yet in this brain-twisting time-travel series.

Comparable Titles: Jon Evans’s Exadelic, Max Barry’s The 22 Murders of Madison May.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A-

Giving: (Witness)
Ginny Emery
Emery’s Witness series debut begins with a compassionate tour de faith of the author’s spirituality, grounded in Christianity, that is both theologically sophisticated and piercingly beautiful. Central to Emery’s collection is the figure of Jesus, with one section aptly titled “Jesus’ Eyes,” featuring reflections on the gaze of Christ, “like quiet pools of water // under cloudless skies above,” that “combs through cities and deserts and farms //… seeking hearts in every land, // for those who want to welcome Him.” Emery depicts Jesus as the source and extender of grace, peace, and spiritual ecstasy throughout this contemplative collection.

Many of Emery’s poems are prayer-like, referencing scripture and employing hymnal structure, yet some present metaphors that stretch beyond tradition, including “Spring,” in which the speaker sniffs newly bloomed “hyacinth and crocus” and reflects on her faith: “… I wonder, // will He breathe in breath of me, // and smile to sense sweet savors of His Son? // And might my prayers ascend // as incense, pleasing in His lungs?” Rather than hoping God merely hears her prayers, the speaker allows for a sensory expansion of God that implies a relationship beyond verbal exchange, grounded in breath.

The uniting force of this collection is joy for the fulfillment and peace the speaker receives from her faith in God’s love, making it accessible for a wide range of readers. Emery builds the collection on a foundation of celebration, though a handful of poems express views that may polarize some readers, including “Prostitution,” where Emery writes “Whenever—whether out of greed or need— // self seeks self to sell, // self turns self toward facing hell.” Above all, Emery seeks to share her “life-long journey into joy with my loving Father”: “His burning coals transform our minds, // with warming love He realigns.”

Takeaway: Devotional poems celebrating the Christian faith.

Comparable Titles: K.J. Ramsey’s The Book of Common Courage, Morgan Harper Nichols’s All Along You Were Blooming.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A-

Click here for more about Giving
Epigenesis or serendipity? Shit just happens, doesn’t it?
Shawanda Stockfelt
With a title suggesting its playful ambitions and its protagonist’s frustrations, Stockfelt’s impassioned debut spins a poignant, provocative narrative through the compelling voice of Virtue Lindström, a self-described “womanist” from Dominica who says “No, ovaries” when her partner, Daavid, discusses having “balls.” Virtue embarks on a transformative journey when she secures a scholarship for postgraduate studies in the U.K. The story begins with Virtue breastfeeding her second-born, Mandla, whose refusal to feed marks the first of the bouts with self-doubt Virtue will face as she charts an uncertain path through motherhood, cultural differences, and the challenges of life as a woman with children and states of “unhealth” building an academic career.

As Virtue faces the challenges of motherhood and an unsettling move to Sweden prompted by her Daavid's new job opportunity, Stockfelt skillfully shifts between Virtue's intimate first-person perspective and Daavid's viewpoint, revealing the complexity of their relationship with empathy and insight. Each perspective depicts touching hesitancy and some limitations of perspective when Daavid and Virtue navigate their marriage and one another’s feelings. When a medical consultation unveils a tumor pressing on Virtue’s pituitary gland, leading to imbalanced hormonal levels, the novel delves into Virtue's struggles with depression, self-harm, and the resulting impact on her relationship with Daavid.

In prose touched with grace and wisdom, Stockfelt explores themes of marriage, sexuality, and the intersections of unhealth, providing a multifaceted perspective on complex aspects of life and a potent critique of gendered ways of thinking and reacting. The shifting dynamics between Daavid and Virtue are a both revealing and emotionally jolting. Epigenesis or Serendipity? emerges as a beautiful and thought-provoking exploration of a woman’s journey, seamlessly blending reflection with an incisive examination of societal norms and expectations.

Takeaway: Intimate, incisive love story of a “womanist” Dominican academic.

Comparable Titles: Nicole Dennis-Benn’s Patsy, Yaa Gyasi’s Transcendent Kingdom.

Production grades
Cover: B
Design and typography: A-
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A-

THE SURFACING
TERRY COFFEY
In this imaginative sci-fi thriller by Coffey (author of Valley of the Kings), strange phenomena are occurring in the provincial town of Lynch, Kentucky. Clay Krutcher can’t catch a break; recently fired from his job, learning his wife is pregnant, and facing the threat of impending criminal charges from his father after parting out his old man’s car, Clay is down on his luck when he stumbles onto a windfall during a solo hunting trip—a discovery that seems to answer all his prayers. Though Clay’s bent on exploiting that discovery, six-year-old Kaden, who is not what he seems, has other plans for him—plans that an unsuspecting Clay could never prepare for, and an otherworldly destiny beyond anything he could imagine.

A parallel storyline finds Lily and Frank Astin reeling from the mysterious disappearance of their son, Jeremy, a young autistic child with dyslexia, causing his parents to fear the worst. As Kaden's true dark intentions are revealed, his life becomes increasingly intertwined with Clay and Jeremy. Coffey's depiction of extraterrestrial body snatchers, the Ocran, is inventive, twisted, and creepy as told through the eyes of the highly unusual Kaden, who possesses a sinister entity lurking just beneath his surface.

The duality of human souls and the cold intelligence from the beings occupying their bodies creates a burning tension as Coffey reveals which characters have been taken over and who will disappear next. As the humans close to those who have been inhabited begin to notice something’s off with their loved ones, Coffey's world building and storytelling shine—juxtaposing the emotional responses from human characters against the cold, calculating action of the nonhuman entities. The irony of young Kaden being a sinister villain lends a horror element to the story, and Coffey delivers heart-pounding terror when unveiling Kaden’s plans for the human race. Readers will be transfixed until the climactic conclusion.

Takeaway: Out-of-this-world science fiction rich with pulse-pounding terror.

Comparable Titles: Jack Finney's Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Stephenie Meyer's The Host.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A

Click here for more about THE SURFACING
Amethyst, The Shallows
Kellye Abernathy
Abernathy’s middle-grade fantasy, the second installment of the Yellow Cottage Stories series (after The Aquamarine Surfboard), is an evocative coming-of-age tale following the inhabitants of sleepy California oceanside town Dipitous Beach as they grapple with the surprises fate has in store for them. When a Sickness disrupts the town’s otherwise idyllic existence, the residents are predictably overwhelmed and bewildered, each trying desperately to navigate the treacherous waters of their new lives. When teen Lorelei, fighting to protect her mother from her worsening illness, stumbles across a fantastical ocean creature, it changes the course—and the fortunes—of the town’s inhabitants forever.

Dipitous Beach’s residents cope with the aftershocks of the town’s Sickness on their own terms: Lorelei, an amateur oceanographer, finds solace in taking her purple surfboard, Amethyst, out among the hidden underwater caverns of the ocean; New York city transplant Isaac finds himself alone in a new world; Tad, Lorelei’s quiet brother, grows up too quickly as he confronts their mother’s illness; Lorelei’s boyfriend, Casey, chafes against his parents’ overprotectiveness; Condi, granddaughter of a wise yoga teacher, grapples with the growing terror of isolation; and Irish expat Kait longs to leave the America she’s feeling increasingly trapped in. The tale brims with atmosphere, though the many varied viewpoints make for choppy storytelling at times.

The cast is relatable for middle grade readers, and, despite the mishmash of traits and personalities, the story’s framework—built on oceanography, marine biodiversity, and even magic—is intriguing. Abernathy’s use of color as a recurring motif for Tad and Isaac is fully fleshed out and resonates, and the pair’s blossoming friendship is a bright spot in the narrative. The storytelling evokes tranquility and mystery alongside coming-of-age transformations that probe the limits of love and adventure, making this a delightful testament to the forces of friendship and bravery.

Takeaway: An imaginative coming-of-age tale rich with magic, adventure, and friendship.

Comparable Titles: Rebecca Stead and Wendy Mass’s The Lost Library, Tahereh Mafi’s Furthermore.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A

Click here for more about Amethyst, The Shallows
Reflections from the Shadow of Los Angeles: A Very Brief Memoir
Byron Schneider
Poet Schneider (author of Poems to Science and Industry) delivers a compact memoir rich with polished prose, a striking depiction of a 1960s and ‘70s Southern California that brims with steady sunshine and stylish new inventions. From the novelty of drive-up tellers to the first days of Disneyland, Schneider paints his upbringing during “the golden age of California” in fiery strokes, blazing his memories across a backdrop of family secrets and hidden trauma. As he transforms from “a pure childhood wonderland” to dating, drugs, and debauchery, Schneider breaks open the catalyst for those changes: the sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of his grandfather.

Shared through intimate snapshots of childhood memories—and framed against an undercurrent of foreboding that runs throughout—Schneider’s recollections pack a powerful punch. He unflinchingly recounts his abuse, sharing the hatred he instantly felt for the man he once loved unconditionally—and chronicles how that hatred remained, unabated, for years. Despite those earth-shattering insights, Schneider never lets the calamity overshadow the rest of his memoir. Using his poet’s touch, he relays thwarted childhood runaway schemes, science class experiments that go awry, hipster cousins ruining the spirit of Christmas, and the lasting effects of shattered young love (“For years I would fall hard whenever I fell in love. And even harder when love departed” he writes).

Schneider’s short essays roll a striking portrait of a distinct time and place into a highly readable story of his early life, delivering a patchwork of potent experiences that feel fully formed and deeply expressive. Classic music and pop culture of the ‘60s and ‘70s invade the memories, from Schneider’s description of Joni Mitchell as a “guide, articulating the minor keys of my emotional state” to his dabbling in drugs on “the beach not far from Nixon’s San Clemente estate.” This is an exquisite rendering of innocence, unraveling, and identity.

Takeaway: Exquisite coming-of-age amid trauma, family secrets, and 1960s awakenings.

Comparable Titles: Rick Hill’s We're All from Somewhere Else, Lawrence Culver’s The Frontier of Leisure.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A

Forensic Medium: The Power of the Unseen
Sheila Marie
Medium and entrepreneur Marie’s background in law enforcement and public speaking, plus of course her mediumship, shape the make-up of this encouraging debut, which introduces spiritual concepts and offers guidance to the work of “tap[ping] into your innate abilities and connect with higher realms,” such as opening one’s self to the messages sent by the universe, finding one’s “soul purpose,” and connecting to “the psychic cloud,” a term Marie coined. Promising to illuminate” a “path to success through the art of connection,” Forensic Medium is put together like a courthouse argument, making a clear case for readers to follow, first inviting readers to get to know a bit about Marie and her vocation, then digging into anecdotes from Marie’s history and clients plus core concepts and exercises crafted to help connect to their spiritual sides.

Marie’s focus throughout is on urging readers to release the worldly things that interrupt what she presents as our innate, intuitive abilities to receive messages from the universe. “The more you know about the psychic energy you leverage, the more meaningful your life will be,” she argues. Chapters that include meditation exercises or the experiences of real cases in which Sheila Marie participated will prove enjoyable and compelling to seekers, and her direct voice and stream-of-consciousness style is intimate and personable, that of an impassioned instructor.

Readers already open to the idea of a joyful connection with a Divine Source will feel buoyed by Marie’s encouragement and stories of intuitive flashes, like the friend who can “download psychic energy” from people warning, prophetically, that a man’s work colleague is not to be trusted. The chapters including exercises and meditations to sample are refreshing, and the overwhelming positivity of Marie’s message will resonate with readers on her wavelength.

Takeaway:A medium’s upbeat guide to connecting to the Divine Source.

Comparable Titles: Lisa Hunt’s The Divine Connection, Ervin Laszlo’s Reconnecting to the Source.

Production grades
Cover: B+
Design and typography: A-
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: B+
Marketing copy: A-

The Vanished Gardens of Cordova
Emil Rem
In his third volume centered on his travels with his wife, Laura, and his two sons, Chris and Alex, author Rem shares a touching account of his family's trip to Spain and such enticing locales as Barcelona, the Park Guell, and the Mezquita-Catedral. Cherishing a family vacation that often feels bittersweet, Rem recounts coping with the inevitable changes happening in the family as his sons grow older and begin marking their own path into adulthood. With deeply personal anecdotes of special moments and talks with his son, Alex, and nostalgic memories of his humble upbringing with his single East Indian mother, this memoir juxtaposes the role reversals of Rem as a young boy and son with his own transition and relationship with his sons as a parent.

With the same inviting storytelling that distinguished 2022’s Heart of New York, Rem blends the light-hearted and the quietly profound, pulling the reader into his close-knit family while also celebrating the cultural richness of their destinations. The joy of introducing his family to Spanish places he visited as a young man, and the excitement of taking the Gaudi tour of the famed architect and designer in Barcelona, radiates from the pages as Rem creates lifelong memoirs with his wife and children—and conjures some of the magic for readers in evocative descriptions of tapas, the stillness of siesta time, the “medieval” feeling of Madrid, and the beauty and complex history of Alhambra and its gardens. Through it all, he imparts life lessons with his sons, with perhaps the most edifying being Rem’s zeal for family, travel, and culture, food, and art.

This moving story is rounded out by Lorie Miller Hansen’s charming illustrations, plus personalized summaries of each chapter from both author and illustrator. Readers who have read Rem's previous works will reconnect with his family and note the growth in his two sons from adolescence into adulthood, though no prior knowledge is required to enjoy the book.

Takeaway: Touching memoir from a family man creating lifelong memories on a Spanish vacation.

Comparable Titles: Jessi Hempel's The Family Outing, Pat Kogos's Feet in the Window.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A-

Click here for more about The Vanished Gardens of Cordova
ALL THE DARK VOICES
Philip Myles Dane
Thomas Shelton, the vice chairman of Lambert Capital, might seem to have it all. But he’s a haunted man—a watched man. Over the two decades since he took the life of a pedophile reverend while somehow speaking ancient Hebrew and Latin, Shelton has been shadowed—”observed"— by hooded men, always at a distance, but always there. When he receives confirmation from his trusted friend and bodyguard, Ben Davis, that the men are not hallucinations, Shelton is relieved to know that he is not crazy yet understandably vexed by the watchers. In the intricate thriller that follows, Dane’s debut and the start of a projected trilogy, the influence of these paranormal entities called "guardians" will rock the church and global governments, with Shelton at the center of it all, the bearer of a mysterious destiny that transcends worlds and time.

Dane's offering is an imaginative and creepy story of ancient secrets and immortal life forms that watch from the sidelines and strike in strategic and deadly ways. Shelton is more than just a wealthy businessman with an impressive military career— he is a complex character with a secret double life as a vigilante seeking justice for the innocent and those who have been violated in the foulest way. Dane peels back the layers of this complicated hero with care, building suspense and setting up jolting revelations. Embroiled in a doomsday narrative that spans centuries are a wide range of characters from clergymen to the president, as Dane pits good against evil and humanity against a threat to the world itself.

“I am required to rely on seven souls to help me. Seven souls who believe in what I am doing and will lay down their life for the cause," Thomas explains of hismission. That captures the tone of this brisk, tense novel. Readers who enjoy bloody thrillers of demons, souls, lost religious tomes, and quick-witted, philosophical-minded characters will find much to enjoy.

Takeaway: Suspenseful doomsday thriller of demons and ancient secrets.

Comparable Titles: Mike Carey’s Felix Castor series, John Shirley’s Demons.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: B+

Click here for more about ALL THE DARK VOICES
ADVERTISEMENT

Loading...