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George Washington Dealmaker-In-Chief: The Story of How The Father of Our Country Unleashed The Entrepreneurial Spirit in America
Cyrus A. Ansary
Ansary’s comprehensive, eye-opening study and celebration charts the “entrepreneurial dealmaking” of the American Republic’s first president, and how this enterprising spirit powered both the specific choices and priorities of building a country and an economy in his two presidential administrations, but also the spirit of the nation itself, over two centuries later. Celebrating George Washington as a “serial entrepreneur” adept at “structuring and negotiating complex transactions,” Ansary’s lively, inviting account links Washington’s private commercial pursuits—coal, mills, land accumulation, ambitious real-estate projects, building a canal—to his initiatives in office. Washington, he argues, established an entrepreneurial economy whose genius only was understood generations later.

Writing with verve, clarity, and occasional expressions of awe, Ansary charts Washington’s colorful efforts at the pursuit of wealth “at a time when the private equity world was not even a gleam in the eye of the most farsighted financier.” The most arresting passages illustrate how that experience shaped Washington’s endeavors as the president of a new nation facing substantial debt, as his administration established transportation and communication infrastructure, the Bank of the United States, a commercial credit system, sources of government revenue, and more. Crucially, Washington strove to eliminate “disincentives built into the colonial system for entrepreneurial activity,” especially compulsory servitude and debtors’ prisons. (A supreme court justice languished in these in several states.)

With richly sourced insight and memorable in-the-moment scene-setting, Ansary digs deep into Washington’s presidential decision- and deal- making, offering in-depth accounts of the first president’s efforts to create a country without an aristocracy while also detailing foreign policy challenges, the planning and building of the capital city, and the highly contentious establishment of a a national bank and currency. Guiding readers through these complex matters, Ansary deftly establishes the stakes and stakeholders, plus Washington’s often inspired navigation of both, with subject and author both always keeping a welcome eye on the impact of these choices over centuries.

Takeaway: This thorough, inviting history of George Washington’s entrepreneurial spirit offers fresh insights.

Great for fans of: Edward G. Lengel’s First Entrepreneur, Germinal G. Van’s The Economic Policy of Thomas Jefferson.

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

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The Accidental Warriors
Karl Fields
Written by Fields, drawn by Velasquez, and colored by Wolf, this entertaining graphic novella quietly emphasizes themes of self-forgiveness and feeling comfortable in your skin. The story’s main protagonists—Jalen and Ram—function as polar opposites throughout: Jalen is boastful and a risk-taker, while Ram is more reserved and clearly portrayed as neurodivergent. When the two make their way to a martial arts class in Los Angeles, they are stunned to see their teacher’s daughter, Kai, being kidnapped by a monster. When the monster escapes with Kai through an interdimensional portal, Jalen and Ram follow him to a strange realm to save her.

The story’s beginning is rather abrupt, as Fields quickly delves into the fantasy aspects, a choice that at first makes the characters, who we’ve spent too little time with in the real world, feel a touch underbaked. However, once they arrive on the shores of this other dimension, the leads flower into distinct and convincing personalities, and Fields keeps readers on their toes with lightning-paced transitions and supercharged magic. In their quest to save Kai and go home, they encounter a riddling rabbit, a nightmarish middle school run by monsters, a friendly village of young magicians, and a greedy bird woman named Ava Rice. Fields brings the story to a sudden close as well, revealing loads of backstory right before the final battle, but despite the pacing issues, there’s a genuine sense of warmth in the friendships that Jalen makes along the way.

A flashback to Jalen's past reveals unresolved guilt, and a pep talk from a village elder motivates him to keep going, despite the odds stacked against him. Fields makes a point of having a diverse cast without treating them as tokens, especially in regards to Ram. Velasquez's expressive art communicates a great deal of nuance in relating unspoken feeling and essential information, and the open-ended conclusion points to potential and welcome future installments.

Takeaway: This YA fantasy boasts a diverse cast, classic quest storytelling, and appealing art.

Great for fans of: Jason Walz’s Last Pick: Rise Up; Tom King’s Heroes in Crisis.

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

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Let Flowers Be Flowers
Daniel Rehm
“It’s a perfect place to die,” we’re told of a cabin in the woods early in Rehm’s action-packed psychological thriller. The narrator declaring that is a young man whose mind has been twisted by loss, the feeling of not being loved by his parents, and the certainty that his dead eldest brother is there with him as he seems to discover, in the woods of the Upper Midwest, bodies moldering in a crude structure—bodies he keeps a secret from his indifferent mother and father. Eventually, after a novella’s worth of tense and unsettling buildup, fresh tragedy burns through those woods. From the ashes a new narrative takes over, the perspective shifting between first and third person, as a hunter with “blue emotionless eyes” stalks game hunters during Western Wisconsin’s deer hunting season, and a game warden tries to make sense of it all as the bodies pile up.

Rehm (The Adventures of Philippine Maximine, P.I. ) writes a fast-moving, expectations-defying plot that will grip thriller readers open to immersing themselves in the minds of damaged men. The daring first section leaves us to guess whether we can trust a narrator who boasts about lacking empathy and tells the tale with a cruel poetry—hitting a man with a rock sounds “like stepping on a crayfish.” Later, the new characters are complex and not much more likable, with Rehm not tipping his hand about who to root for in the extended, convincing cat-and-mouse game that follows.

Rehm puts more trust in readers than many thriller authors, and at times the narrative can seem challenging. But Let Flowers Be Flowers plays fair, especially when it comes to the realities of hunting and forests, and patient readers with the stomach for the killing—and a love for sentences like “There is nothing like a human scream to break the silence of the forest”—will find this harrowing and satisfying.

Takeaway: Nothing is as it seems in this character-driven psychological thriller of hunters and hunted.

Great for fans of: Jack Carr’s Savage Son, Laird Hunt’s In the House in the Dark of the Woods.

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

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Servitude
Costi Gurgu
In this gripping near-future dystopian thriller, Gurgu (RecipeArium) explores, with uncommon persuasive power, a potential outcome of what could happen if class systems became even more dangerously one-sided. After watching debt servitude become legal in England, Blake and Isabelle (Isa) Frye are determined to ensure it doesn’t happen in America—but they’re in a race against time after learning that a bill legalizing it is about to be passed by a Republican (and corporate) controlled Congress. When Blake, an NYPD detective, begins looking into whether debt servitude has actually already begun in America, he and Isa, a producer at the last truly journalistic news station, put together a small team to investigate and expose the man at the head of it all—but they quickly learn the hard way how connected he really is, and how deeply in danger they are.

Gurgu creates a deeply unsettling foreboding future of the haves and have-nots, of slave labor and mass graves, where the corporate elite have it all, and everyone else is owned by them—whether they know it yet or not. Missing one payment in any debt gives corporations the right to dehumanize entire families and sell them into any type of servitude, no matter how horrible or deadly.

Gurgu takes readers down a dark path that they will find uncomfortably believable, digging into how this future came about through smartly structured flashbacks, but he reserves hope by illustrating how everyday people can still change the future. Blake isn’t your average hero in taking-down-the-establishment stories; he is in fact very imperfect, struggling to keep his severe obsessive compulsive disorder from controlling his life, and when he’s forced out of his comfort zone to strategize before acting, he has to think on his feet to save those he loves—and himself. Gurgu adds twists and turns that will shock readers and keep them on the edge of their seats.

Takeaway: A disturbingly realistic dystopian future that will get under readers’ skin in all the best ways.

Great for fans of: Cynthia Kadohata’s In the Heart of the Valley of Love; Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Talents.

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

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The Struggle: 10 Years Later
Brian Storm
“Truth be told, I was excited to see what was waiting for me on the other side,” Storm writes in the first chapter of this unflinching yet hopeful memoir of facing addiction. Before Storm, ten years sober at publication time, could choose to live and dedicate himself to the hard work of sobriety, he faced death itself, willingly, with a chilling sense of ceremony. That harrowing opening chapter recounts, with detail worthy of a noir novel, the thieving, multiple drug transactions, and curious excitement of the January night that Storm tried to die on the train tracks in Northeast Philadelphia—and how he was jolted back by an ex’s out-of-the-blue effort to contact him. The book that follows reveals how he got to that point, what happened next, his AA journey, and how, a little over a decade later, he’s found purpose in helping others who are facing similar demons.

Despite the title, there’s excitement and wit here, too. Writing with crisp clarity and power, plus an eye for the telling detail, Storm digs into his love of hip hop, his youthful penning of rhymes, and the way trouble at first seemed manageable. But some of the kids living on the edge in any high school fall off. For Storm, working in a Xanax blur at McDonald’s at 16 soon leads to hustling “works” (syringes) on the street, subsisting on “sugar sandwiches” made from purloined sugar packets, and working with an addict whom he fell for in detox to shake down her ex-boyfriend.

Tense confrontations, dope-sick sweats, HIV scares, a murder, lost time with loved ones: The Struggle lays out its tragedies and miseries without a sense of romance or braggadocio, instead relating the facts (as Storm recalls them) in prose that moves quickly and never suggests self-pity. Material about AA and recovery proves as compelling as the dark stuff, and the everyday victories in the final chapters—marriage, home ownership, a degree—are especially moving.

Takeaway: This searing but wise account of addiction and recovery inspires as much as it harrows.

Great for fans of: Nic Sheff’s Tweak, Koren Zailckas’s Smashed.

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

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Conversations Across America: A Father and Son, Alzheimer's, and 300 Conversations Along the TransAmerica Bike Trail that Capture the Soul of America
Kari Loya
Loya tells the story of cycling with his father, Merv, across America on the TransAmerica route, an odyssey undertaken when his father was 75 and diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Loya relates the ups and downs of their own journey (literal and metaphorical), but also, as the title suggests, shares the hundreds of interactions that they had with people they met along the way. From servers (“What can I get you, sweetheart?”), hikers (“My trail name is Race”), police officers (“I’m on the SWAT team here in Idaho County”), to the costumed staff at Colonial Williamsburg (“I have the rare ability to look at your plate of food and tell your fortune”) he shares their cheerful essences, offering photos and brief accounts of their conversations, giving a broad view of America, coast to coast.

Loya’s focus is on the relationships he uncovered on the journey, both between him and his father and with others they met, but he still includes a helpful appendix with information about cycling gear, Alzheimer’s and the technical aspects of the trip. The photos and anecdotes provide an encouraging snapshot of an America where people cheer on Kari and Merv and their feat. Kari’s stamina is remarkable as he took these photographs, recalled these conversations, navigated himself and his father and traveled the continent. As a recollection of the journey which brings the reader along, Conversations Across America succeeds admirably.

The most moving conversations, though, come between father and son. From difficult nights spent in the cold to healing discussions of Merv’s health and his future, the emotional heart of the book is deeply moving. Travel readers may wish for even more descriptions of the vistas, challenges, and memorable moments of the trip itself. The journey proved healing for both men, and readers of travel and family memoirs will grow invested in their adventures and relationship.

Takeaway: A travelog of American characters, an epic cycling journey, and a touching father/son relationship.

Great for fans of: Robert Cocuzzo’s The Road to San Donato: Fathers, Sons, and Cycling Across Italy, Jedidiah Jenkins’s To Shake the Sleeping Self.

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

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UN/Reconciled: poems of a love gone off
Pasquale Trozzolo
In Trozzolo’s second poetry collection, readers are led through a series of poem-vignettes that offer fragmentary glimpses into a doomed love story fraught with turbulence, passion, and woe. The collection begins with a preface detailing an elusive woman whom the speaker has been “writing poems about [...] for decades” and doesn’t “want to forget,” and most of the selections that follow include a few introductory lines of prose addressed to this longtime muse, providing narrative context and a juxtaposing tension. Trozzolo’s shadowy, concise stanzas about a man captivated by the memory of a lover who “kill[ed] the future so beautifully” behave like planets: unstoppable in their motion of revolution, of departure and return.

Motion is a common thread in the collections’ metaphors, which compare the woman to “a ship at sea” or the couple’s love to an airplane struggling in flight, while at one point the speaker professes that “watching you come and go was almost perfect.” Additionally, certain words and clauses reappear throughout, which make the collection function as a sort of poetic wheel in tandem with the speaker’s boomerang recollections. Clever ambiguities shade meaning, even in a despairing entry like “Rumble,” which concerns the realization that a romantic partner too often prefers to be alone but can be read, in its climax, to hint at something luxuriant in the misery: “This is meaningless/ at its best.”

In some ways, UN/Reconciled is an ill-fated love story: two lovers meet, love, and eventually fall apart. But this collection is also a report on the behavior of a memory that cannot be forgotten; it comes and goes, just as the woman’s love, “distant and familiar” once did, but the recall never ends. Readers looking for poems on heartbreak and loss will find value in Trozzolo’s collection that is at times striking and offers a somewhat sophisticated brand of sharp-edged melancholy.

Takeaway: Trozzolo’s sensuous, saturnine collection finds a poet struggling over the memory of a lost love.

Great for fans of: Tyler Knott Gregson, Rupi Kaur.

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

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The Angel Theory
John Morelli
The Angel Theory, the twisty, consistently surprising fiction debut of judge and trial attorney Morelli, concerns a fall from grace, yes, but the questions that the book plumbs firmly concern this material world, with one small science-fiction twist. At age 55, “disgusted and depressed” with the law, one-man-shop attorney Bill Arena connects with Peter Swanteck, an old friend from Little League and now a physicist who has become the laughing stock after publishing an article arguing that time travel isn’t just theoretically possible—it’s achievable now. Soon, Arena is impressed into overseeing Swanteck’s early—and surprisingly successful—time-travel experiments, eventually agreeing to serve as executor of Swanteck’s will and estate should anything go wrong.

Something does go wrong, of course. But, fascinatingly, something also seems to go right, as Arena discovers himself suddenly, impossibly rich, in a Great Expectations-style windfall that will keep readers guessing. An uncle’s long-ago investment in a now dominant computer company lifts Arena and family to a California mansion, A-list Hollywood parties—and all the temptations and legal hassles that come with it. Throughout the tale, Morelli continually throws off expectations, offering a vividly detailed moral and legal thriller with literary characterization and pacing rather than the time-travel shenanigans readers might expect.

Arena asks his friends, early on, who they could murder, via time travel, to better the world, but, as Morelli makes clear throughout, cause and effect are more complex than that fantasy. The question becomes, for Arena, whether or not to destroy Swanteck’s discoveries. The story hits some traditional suspense beats, especially in the final chapters, but what’s most engaging are the legal travails of the newly rich Arena, which find him representing himself in a suit filed by a Swanteck relation. Morelli writes with persuasive power and an eye for telling detail for the legal and financial realms, and his story engages as both what-if? and moral conundrum.

Takeaway: Time travel upends a lawyer’s life in this thoughtful, convincing literary thriller.

Great for fans of: Reed Arvin’s The Will, Paul Goldstein’s Errors and Omissions.

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

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Freddy's Magic Garden: Incredible Cat Stories
Angelina Dayan
Compassionate and dedicated cat lover Dayan tickles with charming tales of her clowder of cats, led by the effervescent black and white cutie Freddy. Living in Paris, Dayan fills her house and garden with cats both bought and rescued. She describes the harrowing events of discovering little Freddy, his sister Caramel, and mother Maman in a rainstorm. Covering the details of the story that Dayan could only imagine, Freddy himself narrates his life with his feral mother, the dangers of living in a vacant lot, and starving when they can’t find food. Only in Dayan’s “magic garden,” where food is always left out for the strays, does Freddy find his chance for a forever home. Dayan succumbs to the allure of warm fur and kisses. She soon amasses a household full, admitting, “Little did I know that my seven Maine Coons were only the beginning and that very soon, there would be fifteen cats.”

Dayan and her cats narrate their delightful and sometimes scary episodes of mischief in brief chapters that capture the energy of living with and loving cats. There’s Panda meeting the giant dog next door, who is labeled a “killer” but really just wants to give kisses; Tahiti performing her dance of loneliness in front of the security camera so she can be brought to Dayan’s office; and Valentina getting lost outside and found a week later in a concrete pipe in a parking garage. Stories of hungry and abandoned animals will bring mist to readers’ eyes, while amusing stories of encounters with squirrels and hedgehogs guarantee smiles.

Dayan writes her memoir with the passion of a true animal lover, and she captures the elegance and playfulness of each of the characters in her brood. The book includes adorable color photos, information on the Maine Coon breed, places Dayan has traveled to, and of course, French sensibilities. A truly joyful and rich portrait of life with cats.

Takeaway: Charming slice-of-life adventures told from the points of view of cats and their compassionate caretaker.

Great for fans of: Muriel Barbery’s The Writer’s Cats, Lena Divani’s Seven Lives and One Great Love.

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

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The Billionaire's Folly: The Untold Story of Ethereum and the Unicorn That Wasn't
FAISAL KHAN
In his fast-paced, engagingly written debut, Khan takes readers into the dizzying world of successful entrepreneurs and young idealistic businessmen hoping to cash in on the crypto currency mania of the late 2010s—and maybe change the world for the better. Khan worked for ConsenSys between 2017 and 2020, and he narrates in striking detail the ups and downs he and his colleagues navigated as ConsenSys became the world’s largest blockchain-focused company, pitching their products to clients from around the world and hoping to make Ethereum—“the software cum cryptocurrency cum ‘world computer’”—technology pervasive across all sectors of finance.

Khan opens this rise-and-fall story with a clarifying and succinctly written primer on block chain technology and crypto currency. Then, throughout, he emphasizes the idealism and ambition that drove him and his colleagues, qualities exemplified by ConsenSys founder, CEO, and Ethereum inventor Joseph Lubin’s goal of decentralizing global finance and building “an internet that was decentralized and fair rather than exploitative and foul.” Those goals, and the desire to bring change to big tech and big banks, drove Khan, “a washed up management consultant,” to commit himself to ConsenSys and the possibility “redeem”ing his career. His idealism—and its inevitable conflict with personal financial interests and the greed that consumes a company as it experiences spectacular growth, as ConsenSys did—emerge as the primary theme that Khan engages throughout the book.

Though Khan does a great job at explaining the corporate and fintech jargon, the narrative still at times gets bogged down in details that might challenge the lay reader. Still, Khan provides many moments of levity and details from his personal life that punctuate the narrative while capturing the rush of “hypergrowth” and cutting-edge tech and finance, plus the toll that the stress and terror exacts. Overall, this well-observed, often tense account reveals the frenzied world of crypto and blockchain technology.

Takeaway: The rise and fall of a blockchain company, written from the inside.

Great for fans of: Vitalik Buterin’s Proof of Stake, Alex Tapscott’s Digital Asset Revolution.

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

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Bad Cop
Peter Sarda
Sarda’s standout Hamburg-set police procedural, the twisty and hard-edged followup to One-Way Ticket, throws readers right into the middle of a brutal gang war between an Albanian Mafia gang and Hells Angel bikers, with returning detectives Motz and Ritter caught between the cartels as they search for the killer who has been slaughtering cops throughout Europe. That’s Laura Wesselman, returning from the previous book, who here escapes from police custody in a scene that exemplifies Sarda’s brand of bold action, and leaves a trail of bodies in her wake as she attempts to take the Hells Angel gang down herself.

The bloody intensity keeps up as Motz and Ritter dig into the case, with Sarda bringing welcome life to his cast, creating heroes readers will root for, while still feeling drawn in by villains like Wesselman, whose painstakingly restored 1970 Dodge Charger, now driven by Motz, connects her to the leads. Sarda’s perspective shifts add to the tension. Wesselman’s point-of-view chapters, charged with potential violence, will have thriller fans anticipating whatever horrors she’ll dare next, while the investigation itself, written with an eye for tradecraft and telling detail, finds the intrepid Motz and Ritter facing crime leaders for intel, breaking down torture and murder methods, and striving to get ahead of the next murder, even as they suspect one of their own is connected to the gangs.

Sarda’s choice not to put his leads front and center extends to opening the novel with a high-ranking cop gunning down a drug dealer in a strip club, the scene bleak and vivid. Readers new to the series are encouraged to start with the first book, though Sarda takes pains to bring new readers up to speed—and to keep returning readers from getting too comfortable. A strong sequel and a pitch-dark noir pulsing with action in its own right, Bad Cop will keep thriller readers engaged and eager for more.

Takeaway: This hard-edged Hamburg noir procedural continues Sarda’s striking series.

Great for fans of: Philip Kerr, Simone Buchholz.

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

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Every Road Goes Somewhere: A Memoir about Calling
Wendy Widder
From her earliest days of youth to navigating adulthood, author Widder (To Teach in Ancient Israel) brings readers through her life story in this accessible memoir of faith, wandering, and trying to find one’s path. Even when facing struggle and heartache, Widder's impressive trust in her faith kept her life tied fiercely to her religion. As a young girl, she spent many hours at her place of worship: “The church building was our playground,” she writes, as she details her family’s dedication to the congregation. In college, Widder excelled in her coursework but struggled to fit in and connect with classmates. Through many meaningful experiences with professors and colleagues alike, she found her path veering towards professional academia, eventually leading to a PhD program studying Hebrew with a focus on the Old Testament text.

Readers navigating their own decisions with career and purpose will relate with comfort in the author’s strength, as Widder brings a comforting vulnerability to this memoir with disarmingly frank accounts of bouts with anxiety and extreme sadness. Career changes, and not always for the better, take Widder to the Pacific Northwest, then quickly back to the plains of Minnesota when company culture and management strategies prove to be unbearable. Widder’s purposeful prose draws readers in, especially with comparisons of the earthly world with God’s work in her life: during her time in the Twin Cities, local landmarks around the Great Lakes become, for Widder, signs of God’s compass, guiding her decisions.

At different points Widder shares comforting stories and small discoveries likely to be relatable even to non-believers, though her own path always turns to the Bible. Immersing herself in the text and beyond, Widder shares verses and parables to illuminate her reasoning and responses in situations in this hopeful memoir, reminding readers of the circuitous route it can take to find one’s way.

Takeaway: A believer’s memoir of finding her path, guided by faith even when life was circuitous.

Great for fans of: Rodger L. Huffman’s Following God’s Path, Angie Smith’s Mended.

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

Click here for more about Every Road Goes Somewhere
Forget Me Not: A Caregiver’s Guide to Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease
Torri L. Fisher
“Proper caregiving provides your [loved one] with support and companionship that significantly helps manage the progression of the disease,” Fisher writes in this clear-eyed, informative debut on assisting loved ones with Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease. Following her mother’s diagnosis with the disease in 2018, Fisher sought to share her knowledge of caregiving to help those going through similar experiences. She explains the basics of Alzheimer’s disease and illuminates the challenges that come along with it—caregiving, support teams, engagement with healthcare professionals, and potential legal hurdles—while outlining ways for both caregivers and Alzheimer’s patients alike to find peace and happiness despite the disease.

Fisher tackles this difficult topic with care, compassion, and a welcome sense of practicality, from handling issues of power of attorney and guardianship, to questions to ask healthcare providers, to recognizing the mental health effects caregivers often face, such as social isolation, depression, and even stigmatization. “Spread awareness, and fight stigmatization,” she writes. But she reminds readers to “Give yourself grace.” Offering a unique personal perspective from Fisher’s mother as well as insight from the author’s own time as a caregiver, Forget Me Not provides hard-earned, invaluable advice and ideas in clear prose and an easily digestible format.

While informative and helpful throughout, one of the guide’s most valuable aspects is a selection of quotes from Fisher’s mother (“I’m sorry if you told me already, but why do I have to take THIS pill?”), which powerfully outline the feelings that loved ones encounter while experiencing this disease—and remind us of Fisher’s precept “Don’t assume they are always confused.” This not only showcases Fisher’s compassionate view of those living with Alzheimer’s but also demonstrates the urgency of understanding the perspective of those being cared for. Fisher helps those caring for their loved ones navigate tricky situations that might arise by offering insider information from both a caregiver and a person living with the disease.

Takeaway: An urgently practical and informative read for anyone with a loved one facing Alzheimer’s disease.

Great for fans of: Jonathan Graff-Radford and Angela M. Lunde’s Mayo Clinic on Alzheimer's Disease and Other Dementias, Nancy L. Mace and Peter V. Rabins’s The 36 Hour Day.

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

Wizards of Arcadia: 1
Daniel Xavier Luna
In Luna’s world of magic and fantasy, twin teenage brothers Andrew and Adrian discover an exciting family secret: they’re wizards, capable of channeling the waves of energy all around us. But what starts out as a thrilling new adventure into the world of teleportation, potions, and pet Pegasi slowly morphs into something more perilous. Evil lurks in the shadows and their world gets flipped upside down when they learn their father, who has been a mysterious absence from their lives, is not just a powerful wizard—but that he’s been imprisoned for 16 years, and, upon his surprise early release, wants to see his boys. Now, everything the twins love is being threatened. With the help of a large cast of family and friends, the twins team up to battle a darkness that endangers their new magical reality.

Luna boldly pens the trials and tribulations of adolescents, the betrayal of secrets suddenly unearthed, and the courage to fight for a cause, while also dedicating precious scene space to the mundane. The novel is chatty rather than fast-paced, a choice that emphasizes characters and their growth, potentially setting up a series, while the point-of-view bounces from one character to the next, leaving no cast member behind in this wildly large ensemble of family, friends, and foes. Still, some readers may wish that the scenes were more concise, especially once the quest—involving a hunt for a powerful wizard and then three crystals—kicks off.

Still, there are plenty of twists and some legitimate shock as the characters dig deeper into the magical world Luna has created—and it is a world, rich and detailed, crafted by a writer who understands what readers expect from the genre, and how satisfying it is to see those expectations upended. Relationships are tested as exposed secrets threaten to unravel the twins’ family, but loyalty and love reign supreme. Fans of magic, fantasy, and epic quests will find satisfaction in this character-driven adventure.

Takeaway: Heroes are molded and adventure is afoot in this fantasy YA debut filled with magic.

Great for fans of: Adam Silvera’s Infinity Son, Cinda Williams Chima.

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

Click here for more about Wizards of Arcadia
The Queen of Gay Street
Esther Mollica
Mollica’s (I Feel Love: Notes on Queer Joy) memoir is a raunchy, fun, tell-all love letter to New York City and finding one’s place in it. Mollica left San Francisco to move to Astoria, Queens, in 2008 to recover from a devastating breakup and pursue her dream of writing. With the tart, self-deprecating humor that powers the book, Mollica reasons, “After all, wasn’t New York’s motto basically, ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your undersexed’?” She also discusses with disarming frankness her family’s cycle of abuse, her efforts at establishing a career, her strings of unfortunate dates and lovers, and how she found love in the city. Especially engaging is her account of the heartbreak and hilarity of writing “Broads in the Big Apple,” a column in the lesbian magazine, GRL that became “comic relief for a microscopic subset of lesbian magazine journalists.”

“My destiny in life was to make zero sustainable dollars writing about pussy and crying at bars,” Mollica writes. In sharp, column-like vignettes covering her life in New York, she tells that story, conjuring the buzz and uncertainty of dating and Great Recession-era writing jobs with an emphasis on three major narrative components: her relationship with her abusive parents and how that shaped her love life; her unhealthy on-again-off-again relationship with her editor, Juliet, at GRL; and how she eventually found a healthy love. Of her relationship with Juliet, Mollica writes, with her customary incisiveness, “We wrote that bad romance. We revised it over and over…then ended up tossing it into a dumpster fire of lesbian drama.”

This is as much a briskly comic recounting of the lesbian dating scene of the late aughts as it is an affecting case study of finding love that’s not necessarily “requited” but at least “acknowledged.” With a feel for the telling detail and a deft hand at both punchlines and insights, Mollica offers a dishy, affecting memoir that should resonate with readers well beyond that “microscopic subset.”

Takeaway: A hilarious, irresistible account of a lesbian writing and dating in ‘00s New York.

Great for fans of: Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha’s Dirty River: A Queer Femme of Color Dreaming Her Way Home, Connor Franta’s Note to Self, Michelle Tea’s How to Grow Up.

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

Click here for more about The Queen of Gay Street
Brixton Nights
Amy Tollyfield
Tollyfield writes this elegant novella with intricate detail and grace about the rough childhood of a lesbian who struggles with acceptance and forming relationships. Still distraught over the break-up with her girlfriend Steph many years ago in Brixton, thirty-something Christina moves to Hull, England, for its thriving gay scene. She is confident about her trajectory in life, moving out of her adoptive mother’s house and working in a factory because it keeps her active. Chris’s co-worker, an Irish bisexual woman named Siobhan, is a promising love interest, an “electric character” with a “laugh that swept through the warehouse floor,” but since Steph left Chris for a man, Chris is touchingly wary of being betrayed again.

Tollyfield confronts the trauma of abandonment, betrayal, familial loyalty, and the struggle to be ready to give love and be worthy of accepting love. Throughout the book, Chris flashes back to her troubled childhood when her prostituting and alcoholic mother abandoned Chris and her younger brother Kyle to a friend. They were soon adopted by Simone, a devout Christian who was more interested in the act of caring for the children than in their actual lives.

Long narrative sections with minimal dialogue are alive with striking details of cluttered, working-class neighborhoods, wayward citizens, and the drift of life. Tollyfield, a poet, keeps the language lively and weighted with feeling. Emotions heat up when Kyle acts out, develops an addiction, and clashes with Simone’s boyfriend Greg, which hinders Chris and Kyle’s search for their missing mother. Chris admits to her therapist that she yearns for a life partner, describing her perfect woman: “Her laugh will fill the street. Her laugh will fill the city. She’ll open my world, open my mind.” But when Siobhan is ready for intimacy, Chris holds back, convincingly, her reluctance feeling true, relatable, and moving. This perceptive and deeply human account of Chris’s emotional journey will keep readers engrossed.

Takeaway: A resonant chronicle of a woman sorting out her baggage so she can be ready for love again.

Great for fans of: Gabriela Cabezón Cámara’s The Adventures of China Iron, Ali Smith.

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

Click here for more about Brixton Nights

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