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I Love You I'm Proud of You: An LP Memoir
Tom Sheridan
In this wise and funny memoir, Sheridan, author of the Franco crime novels, offers incisive sketches from a life of “a relentless Jersey boy” who leaves the working-class world of the Shore and the Turnpike for a degree in finance, then lights out for film school and Hollywood as “a 25-year-old dude raised on hip-hop, mafia movies, and all things bro culture.” There, he interns on Mad Men, whips up “script after script, following patterns of distraction and delusion” he recognizes from his father; dabbles in standup comedy; pours himself into screenplays that get some heat but languish unproduced; and eventually, after much frustration, embraces novel-writing instead. Along the way, he gets married (wedding song: “Thunder Road,” naturally), becomes a father, and faces a traumatizing incident from his youth.

With a wicked wit and a welcome sense of play, Sheridan proves an assured, insightful storyteller, one with a comic’s sense of timing and how to upend a cliché—he’s especially funny analyzing his early screenplay projects and digging into Jersey stereotypes (“where people tawk the way they tawk, grab forks from the draw.”) But he’s also frank and engaging on serious topics, most urgently his account of enduring a shocking assault in the woods at age 12. That incident, Sheridan writes, split his life in two, and reverberations from it can be felt throughout I Love You, I’m Proud of You. Also movingly handled: the slow-dawning realization that he was not going to “come from nothing and make it on Wall Street AND Hollywood all by himself! All before he’s 30!”

Despite its core of trauma and disappointment—at one point, when a deal finally goes through but without him, he calls himself “the sacrificial lamb”–the memoir is a charmer, offering laughs and heart and hard-won wisdom as it charts a cocksure yet anxious young man’s path toward maturity, parenthood, and satisfaction as a teacher and coach. It’s about not getting what you want but still being blessed.

Takeaway: A touching, often hilarious memoir about not quite making it in Hollywood but still making a life worth celebrating.

Great for fans of: Mike Edison’s You Are a Complete Disappointment, Gary Shteyngart’s Little Failure.

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

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Zero-Day: A Cyberpunk Action Adventure: The Sommerfeld Experiment #1
Allie Davidson
The compelling first installment in Davidson’s dystopian cyberpunk series follows Joshua, a young man who relies on his extraordinary abilities—like enhanced senses and lightning reflexes—to survive. A cutthroat gang leader working for an illegal arms dealer, Joshua has eked out a dangerous life for himself while being pursued by the Nevada State Military Zone (NSMZ), who have determined Joshua to be an escaped experiment from the NSMZ lab. Desperate to bring back such a critical piece of government property, the NSMZ begin a tense game of cat-and-mouse against the backdrop of a dystopian, impoverished America.

Davidson’s prose is gritty and atmospheric, with sharp dialogue and a jaded, lived-in narrative voice: “It would have been picturesque if it weren’t for the bodies,” Davidson writes, after a striking description of an abandoned church. The fallen futuristic world of Zero-Day is convincingly detailed: government surveillance technology is embedded into citizens; video games give people new identities; and the remnants of the old United States are a battleground for the disenfranchised. Populating it are a cast of well-drawn characters, primarily Joshua, a calculating anti-hero gang leader who governs with impunity. Kevin, Joshua’s best friend and weapons designer, finds new life in the Virtual as a dashing elven hero, while Shelby, another of Joshua’s allies and fellow gang member, is a cunning hacker who guides Joshua through an unforgiving underworld.

Davidson gives similar color to the NSMZ agents in this suspense-driven story: agent Meriwether is cool and detached, relying on Southern charm to get what she wants, and Agent Farrell is dogmatic, ready to mindwipe his enemies at any opportunity. Readers will be keen to immerse themselves in this realistic, dark world, and Zero-Day will appeal to fans of hard boiled science fiction thrillers. Davidson writes with a frenetic, engaging energy that will keep readers on the edge of their seats.

Takeaway: The start of an engaging and gritty cyberpunk series set in a convincing and frightening future U.S.

Great for fans of: Matthew A. Goodwin’s Into Neon, D.L. Young’s Cyberpunk City series.

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

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Bed of Rose and Thorns
Lee Hunt
This spectacular standalone fantasy from the prolific Hunt (author of the Dynamacist Trilogy among others) bursts with epic battles and avid romance. Sir Ezra’s life has come to be defined by a single moment from eleven years in the past. After defending his Queen and murdering her would-be assassins, including her powerful husband, he is banished in a ploy to assuage the Queen’s enemies who would otherwise seek retribution. The sacrifice costs him dearly. He must leave behind the Queen, whom he secretly, desperately loves. But that’s not his only secret: He’s an Elysian Bell, which means he possesses a special ability that causes him to vibrate and ring when he experiences profound love or raging anger. Now, to his shock, Ezra’s banishment has been overturned, and he returns to the capital where he must fight to protect his Queen from those who seek her death.

Ezra is an honorable and courageous hero who leads the charge as the plot unravels thrilling twists and dynamic action sequences, but many supporting characters also shine in the spotlight. Hunt proves adept at developing character through symbols, as Ezra’s physical and emotional armor protect the fallen knight against his feelings. His passion for the Queen shines not only in his heroic zeal to keep her safe, but through his emotions as an Elysium Bell. The Queen, who harbors her own secret, also proves to be engagingly complex, as is Sir Marigold, a valiant female knight and friend of Ezra.

Hunt weaves in bloody battles alongside the lyrical declarations of love in order to create a balanced, appealing adventure. As Ezra struggles to unravel the inner mysteries of his beloved Queen, he also must come to understand his own desires. Fantasy fans looking for epic battles and a dose of romance will enjoy meeting Ezra and his Queen.

Takeaway: Lovers of fantasy and romance will enjoy this adventure led by dynamic characters and thrilling battle scenes.

Great for fans of: N. K. Jemisin, Shane Silvers.

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

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THOMAS JEFFERSON FAMILY SECRETS
william G hyland
Hyland paints a sympathetic portrait of both the third president’s last years as the patriarch of Monticello and the extended family that carried on his legacy, as well as a spirited defense against accusations of Jefferson’s sexual exploitation of Sally Hemings–Hyland argues that 2021 DNA testing suggests that Jefferson’s brother Randolph or “two wayward nephews, Peter and Samuel Carr as the true candidates for a sexual relationship with [Hemings].” Jefferson’s last years were marked by struggles in his family, as relations faced abusive spouses, financial disaster, and even murder charges against those nephews. There were also triumphs, such as the establishment of the University of Virginia. Hyland particularly focuses on the lives of two of Jefferson’s trusted grandchildren, Thomas Jefferson Randolph and Ellen Randolph Coolidge, who sought to rescue their grandfather’s patrimony and secure his legacy.

While telling a mostly chronological biography of Jefferson’s last years, Hyland at times approaches the topic thematically, which might on occasion prove disorienting for readers not already familiar with the basic chronology, though welcome portraits and images help establish personalities and places. Defending Jefferson against the Hemings accusations, Hyland discredits the origin of the story as “invented by the fractured psyche of an alcoholic hack journalist” and appeals to trust in this Founder’s decency, insisting that the “allegation of sexual misconduct is contrary to Jefferson’s refined and reticent nature toward women.”

Hyland ties historians’ acceptance of the Hemings accusations to a broader concern with “critical race theory.” (He acknowledges that his source on the subject of CRT comes from conservative activist Christopher Rufo.) Hyland’s narrative is most compelling when he tells of the love between Jefferson and his grandchildren, from charming correspondence between a president and his granddaughter about sleeping in, to advice for his young grandson about books. The reader can feel the family's care for each other, and Hyland stirs sympathy for their travails, during Jefferson’s life and in the later battles to keep Monticello and protect a legacy.

Takeaway: A study of Thomas Jefferson’s later years, family, and legacy as well as a dismissal of the Sally Hemings accusations.

Great for fans of: Jonathan Sistine’s Thomas Jefferson: The Failures and Greatness Of An Ordinary Man, Fawn M. Brodie’s Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History.

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

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Goodnight, Mr. Wombat: A Young Girl And An Old Wombat’s Loving Friendship
Thomas Rippy
Wombats might seem like fantastic creatures. About the size of a four-year-old child, these Australia natives look like an improbable yet adorable mash-up of a bear and a rodent, making them a perfect character for a children’s story. In Rippy’s sweet, playful picture book for young readers, a little girl named Cindy befriends one of these curious marsupials when he wanders into her yard during a rainstorm. Cindy and her mother lure the animal to their porch and out of the downpour by offering him carrots, and they give him cozy blankets to sleep on. Mr. Wombat is so comfortable that returns to his bed every night and eventually builds a permanent home beneath the family’s tool shed.

Simple and straightforward, this touching tale offers plenty of opportunities for children and adults to experience genuine empathy. Cindy’s father speculates that Mr. Wombat got lost during the storm because of his advanced age. “He is very old, Cindy,” he tells his daughter. “I am happy that he is safe and that you gave him carrots to eat.” Each night, Cindy tells Mr. Wombat she loves him: “Carrots and kisses, good night, Mr. Wombat, I love you.” This cute, silly refrain is rooted in genuine concern for the wombat’s well-being, which will inspire kids to look at the world around them with care and compassion.

Rippy’s illustrations are colorful and comforting, showing Cindy and her parents interacting peacefully with the calm, cat-like wombat. The family smiles while feeding and petting Mr. Wombat amid bucolic farm scenes, which feel nostalgic and welcoming enough to make readers want to join the marsupial on his cozy pallet. A self-proclaimed outdoorsman and animal lover, Rippy shares a gentle appreciation for the natural world. That impulse is contagious, as is the desire to make some amazing new animal friends.

Takeaway: In this sweet, playful picture book a little girl named befriends a wayward wombat.

Great for fans of: John Butler’s Can You Cuddle Like a Koala?, Jackie French’s Diary of a Wombat.

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

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One Will Too Many: A Julia Fairchild Mystery
PJ Peterson
In the fourth entry in the Julia Fairchild series, Peterson delivers an intricate, conversational mystery with a missing heir, a slew of suspects, and a medical bent appropriate to the hero. Julia, a doctor and amateur sleuth in the Pacific Northwest, gives her new friend Sophia a ride home after a charity gala. But when they find Sophia’s boyfriend, Jay, dead on the floor, Julia can’t help but get on the case. With the help of a nephew on the police force and a lawyer boyfriend, Julia tracks down Jay’s missing half-sister—but is she a suspect or another victim? Julia must put the pieces together and catch the killer before they kill again. And the next target could be Julia herself.

One Will Too Many is a refreshingly no-frills whodunit, stripped of the cute gimmicks of many cozies or the suspenseful action of a thriller, though Julia relishes her peppermint tea and throwing a log into the fireplace. Peterson tells much of the story through dialogue, a sequence of conversations between Julia and her contacts as she teases out clues, motives, and her latest findings. That talk is engaging, and Julia’s clever piecing together of the crime a pleasure, though the narrative’s not particularly urgent–besides having been “practically there when it happened,” Julia doesn’t have a clear compelling reason for cracking this mystery herself. In this outing, she’s somewhat subdued as a character, despite a fascinating career and a love triangle that’s mostly on the backburner.

That said, Peterson brings satisfying detail to Julia’s “serious sleuthing,” with the medical expertise of Julia and her colleagues coming into play more than once, and the niceties of inheritance law and the distilling of grog providing a basis for surprises. This unadorned mystery with a clever protagonist will bring readers on a twisty journey through inheritance law.

Takeaway: A cozy mystery that avoids the quaint, this refreshing change of pace finds a doctor investigating murder.

Great for fans of: Kelly Oliver, Jonathan Gash.

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

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Free From Sin
Karen Ann Hopkins
In the first of Hopkins’s (The Offering) The Possum Gap Novels series, three women’s lives are thrown together in the aftermath of a shocking crime in small town Kentucky. Teenage sex trafficking victim Charlie Baker escapes her captor during a violent shootout and finds refuge in the home of Lucinda Coblentz, a kind Amish woman. As town sheriff Sadie Mills investigates the crime, Charlie’s presence in the tightly knit Amish community becomes increasingly difficult to conceal. Relationships among the communities of Possum Gap are tested as the three women struggle with the decisions they must make.

The story is told from the perspectives of Charlie, Lucinda, and Sadie in alternating chapters, allowing readers to get to know more about each of these well-drawn characters: Charlie’s tragic backstory, Lucinda’s struggle to balance her own judgment with her community’s religious restrictions, and Sadie’s difficult relationship with her teenage daughter. The shared narration does not interfere with the plot’s clarity or momentum, and while at times the characters rush toward major decisions, the story’s quick tempo and surprising twists make the book hard to put down. Christian spirituality influences elements of the story, but the narrative is also gritty and even shocking at some points, with instances of violence and frank references to sexual abuse.

Hopkins’s descriptions of the rural Appalachian setting are vivid and have the ring of authenticity, attentive to both beautiful mountain landscapes and impoverished living conditions. Her depiction of the different communities within Possum Gap–law enforcement, Amish, and backwoods family clans–is similarly thoughtful and detailed. The main players reflect the values and experiences of their backgrounds, but they are not static or stereotypical, instead displaying their own unique personality traits and perspectives. This exciting psychological thriller adds a human dimension to a hard-nosed crime story.

Takeaway: Readers who relish strong female leads will enjoy this suspenseful but nuanced crime novel.

Great for fans of: Linda Castillo’s Kate Burkholder series, Vannetta Chapman’s Shipshewana Amish Mystery series, Chris Offutt’s The Killing Hills.

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

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Delight In The Limelight: Overcome Your Fear of Being Seen and Realize Your Dreams
Linda Ugelow
In this conversational, inspiring debut, Ugelow draws on her depth of experience as a professional speaker and speaking coach to craft a guide for transforming public speaking skill. She probes readers about why they may have negative feelings around speaking in front of others, noting “we are the way we are for real reasons” and offering advice for how to face our own inner critics. From there, she details strategies for cultivating a “particular kind of experience,” both mentally and physically, to help her succeed in all types of speaking scenarios. There are tips for pre-speaking routines, mindful meditations, meaningful visualizations, and better life practices to encourage confidence and relaxation so that one doesn’t “give up on your dream because you are afraid to be seen.”

Ugelow employs the second-person, speaking directly to readers in the voice of an encouraging, empathetic coach. She emphasizes flexibility, finding what works for individual readers, offering many different solutions for all manners of speaking problems, from ancient movement practices to speech/sound exploration, to tried methods of memorization, because “the process itself is empowering.” Preparation goes beyond that, of course, and Ugelow faces the fact truth at some point all speakers will have to “wing it,” and urges readers to find an “Embodied Connection”: “look inward for somatic and energetic connection to yourself, and then outward for this same connection but with your audience.”

Readers may find some of that phrasing a bit eccentric, but her fuller explanations are clear, inviting, and practical. Through her on-point stories, her emphasis on individual readers seizing hold of what works best for them, and her patient, carefully crafted advice, Ugelow’s book forges one of those “Embodied Connection”s with readers, who by the end will not just find public speaking demystified and likely less frightening–they’ll likely feel they have a coach in their corner.

Takeaway: This guide to facing down fears to become a more polished public speaker emphasizes confidence and individuality.

Great for fans of: Carmine Gallo’s Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds, Susan Cain’s Quiet.

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

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Crossing the Pressure Line
Laura Anne Bird
Bird’s engaging, heartfelt debut for middle-grade readers follows 13-year-old Clare Burch as she struggles to define herself and overcome her guilt and grief after the death of her beloved Grandpa Anthony. In his will, Anthony specified that he wanted his ashes scattered at wild, windswept Lake Alwyn in Wisconsin, but he also wanted Clare—along with her high-strung mother, Helen, and her spoiled, indoorsy Grandma Lulu—to live there in his rural cabin for two months. Everyone is upset about this for their own reasons: Helen will miss teaching summer art classes, Lulu will be in a different state from her hairdresser, and Clare won’t see her friends or compete in summer swim meets.

Despite their misgivings, the three generations of women make the trip north from Chicago. To help cope with her sadness, Clare sets three goals that she thinks would make her grandfather proud: she aims to make a new friend, swim to the island and back without a life jacket, and catch a musky with her fishing rod from Anthony. Watching Clare accomplish each of these tasks will be rewarding for young readers who are also trying to define themselves. As an added bonus, Clare’s mother and grandmother are funny, troubled, fleshed-out characters, which will encourage kids to take a compassionate look at the adults in their own lives

Clare is a warm, determined, and friendly character, in a way that is relatable and inspiring. Young teens will find her journey of self-discovery similar to what they and their friends are experiencing. “I’m changing into something that was there all along, I just didn’t know it,” she says. Ultimately this spirited book serves as a valuable reminder that the things we dread can be adventures in disguise, waiting to help us become better, truer versions of ourselves.

Takeaway: An engaging middle-grade read that follows a 13-year-old girl on a quest of self-discovery following the death of her grandfather.

Great for fans of: Marie Miranda Cruz’s Everlasting Nora, Amanda Rawson Hill’s The Three Rules of Everyday Magic.

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

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Shadow: Run, but you can't hide
Gurpreet Kaur Sidhu
Sidhu’s ambitious, character-grounded thriller series returns, once again finding mystery and suspense where life and death edge against each other as past lives and a shadowy intelligence agency wreak havoc on a pair of parents-to-be. Evan Storm, the protagonist of Storm: It's a Curse to Remember, is haunted by recurring dreams of his family’s past as his wife Shadow takes maternity leave. Baby Bright is on the way, but the SEA—the corrupted Secret Eye Agency—and the psychopaths in its ranks is still out there, meaning the family’s not safe, despite the efforts of Evan’s father, Bruce, and his colleagues to shut it down. Bruce is facing a tough diagnosis, and some distrust over the secrets he’s kept, while Evan’s visions of the past suggest that Bright will be in danger of being taken away by the SEA.

Facing the danger and the past will involve courage, trust, and the revelation of dark truths, as tragedy touches their lives and Evan and Shadow must rely on Bruce for safety in a world where, as Evan muses, “people lurking in the shadows…would take innocent lives just for power.” Sidhu’s thrillers exhibit an uncommon interest in the humanity and connections of their characters, with much of this novel’s first half dedicated to warm domestic scenes—and some convincing arguments and expressions of regret—between Evan’s flashbacks to the 1930s and shorter scenes at the SEA. That big-hearted attentiveness to what matters in life ensures that the plot’s jolts, when they come, have serious impact, though readers who prefer their suspense tales lean and mean may find the pacing slow.

Sidhu proves adept at twining past and present while creating the sense that nowhere is safe—a set piece in which a character is heavily medicated in a hospital bed is chilling. Still, Shadow doesn’t forego the thrills of high-tech gadgetry and desperate action. Setting it apart, though, is its focus on all that its heroes have to lose.

Takeaway: A spy thriller with a big heart, visions of the past, and an emphasis on human connections.

Great for fans of: Melissa Caudle’s Never Stop Running, Karen Cleveland’s Need to Know.

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

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Like a Spark From Fire: Break Free from the Past, Shine Your Brilliance and Become Your True Self
Debra Berndt Maldonado
Writing for women who feel stuck or that they’re not realizing their full potential, Maldonado (Let Love In) lays out in clear, engaging language practical steps and philosophical precepts to help readers break free, “ignite” their lives, and move through the world with less stress, more self-compassion, and understanding of one’s persona, projections, patterns, visions, and personal spark. That “spark” refers to the unchanging core self, a “True Personality” that we’re each born with; occasionally, Maldonado argues, we experience “spark moments,” soul-deep flashes of clarity and truth that remind us “to remember who you are and reclaim your power.” Like a Spark from Fire offers tools, insights, and practical guidance to connect readers with that spark and (re)discover their essential nature.

“Let’s draw the curtains and see who you really are,” Maldonado writes. While she draws on Jungian concepts and Eastern mysticism, Maldonado writes with the tone of a coach or confidant, offering practical advice and insights, anecdotes from her own journey, exercises and meditation prompts, plus much spirited encouragement. (“As you express true feminine power, you can inspire other women to speak up as well, feel more confident, and consciously create a new, more loving world.”) Even chapters addressing how to identify and “integrate” one’s “shadow” remain clear-eyed and persuasive, neither sinking into vagueness nor getting bogged down in Jungian complexities.

Some readers may find Maldonado’s breakdowns of “persona type”s (The Lover, The Mother, The Mystic) too generalized, though she takes care to note that these are most often facets of personalities rather than the totality. Throughout, she reminds readers that what matters most is what resonates with them, as we’re all unique and complex. The result is an inviting guide that makes complex ideas simple, relatable—and, most crucially—applicable to a broad range of readers who are open to its ideas.

Takeaway: This guide for women to seizing their power by revealing their core self is inviting and adaptable.

Great for fans of: Shainna Ali’s The Self-Love Workbook, Catherine A. Duca’s Unmasked.

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

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How Did I Do That? : A Life of Risk and Reward
Bill Dutcher
Looking back on an eventful “life of risk and reward,”Oklahoma oil-and-gas entrepreneur Dutcher addresses the titular question of “how did I do that?” with thoughtful good humor, sometimes sounding a little surprised himself at how his life and the world changed between his Bartlesville childhood, in the days of the iceman and Our Gang, and today, as Dutcher has achieved success in the fossil fuel industry—and in his leisure time once almost got plowed into by Steph Curry at a crucial playoff game. Less a guide to doing all this yourself than an inviting rumination on a life well lived, How’d I Do That? digs into family, business, basketball, and more.

Whether writing about his experiments in youthful, James Dean-inspired rebellion (“At the time I had no idea of what I was rebelling against”), lessons learned playing basketball or the specifics of his industry (“no one blinked at 18 percent interest rates when loans were needed to drill deep gas wells”), Dutcher proves an appealing, incisive narrator. His story takes him from Bartlesville to military service to executive suites and lobbying and the booming 1980s, though it’s clear, even on a Concord flight or opening his own company, that he never forgets where he’s from.

“My enthusiasm for work easily tripled as I realized I was my own boss and responsible for making my business work,” Dutcher writes, one of many truths that he hits on telling his story. This memoir offers much clear-eyed business advice, especially in the later chapters, as Dutcher guides readers through the negotiation and closing of major deals. Just as urgent, though, in this telling: playing basketball well into his later years, relishing life as it comes, and, as he tells a coach, knowing that “it’s about knowing who you are.” He does. Readers fascinated by the lives of American businessmen will find much here that’s engaging and illuminating.

Takeaway: An inviting account of a life well lived, in business and basketball.

Great for fans of: Stephen A. Schwartzman’s What It Takes, Bryan Burrough’s The Big Rich.

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

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Traveling Freedom's Road: A Guide to Exploring Our Civil Rights History
John J. Hanrahan
Written with intentionality, passion, and precision, Hanrahan’s debut is both an historical account and a travel guide, published to illuminate civil rights and African American history by exploring destinations “where you can learn about the quest for equality.” Beginning with a candid foray into Hanrahan’s own journey through civil rights history, readers will gain a snapshot of the lives behind some of historical activists, the courageous people commemorated in the landmarks featured in this guide. Hanrahan also offers practical recommendations for travel planning, including sample checklists and trip itineraries, alongside meticulously detailed information about historical destinations located primarily in the southern United States.

Hanrahan packs this guide with powerful, black and white imagery to illustrate critical moments in civil rights history, adding to its beauty while making it inviting for readers to sift through for inspiration on important historic sites to visit. He also expertly lays out the gritty process of planning an intensive road trip, without shying away from some harsh travel realities—such as the pandemic’s impact on daily operations or the importance of understanding your own travel style prior to making elaborate plans. This guide is painstakingly detailed, offering more than some readers might need, but Hanrahan’s attention to minutiae will be welcomed by those desiring more comprehensive travel advice.

Hanrahan dedicates ample time to historically significant museums, buildings, monuments, and other sites, but perhaps the most impressive aspect is the incredibly specific and helpful pointers he provides about each location—including opening and closing hours, parking, descriptions of displays, and appropriateness for children. This impressive guide belongs on the shelves of historians, teachers, travelers, and any readers interested in taking a meaningful, life-changing trip through civil rights history.

Takeaway: An impressive guide that pairs travel advice with civil rights history, including must-visit locations and detailed suggestions.

Great for fans of: Deborah D. Douglas’s Moon U.S. Civil Rights Trail, Nikole Hannah-Jones’s The 1619 Project.

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

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Tarsier Sings His Song: Endangered and Misunderstood Book 4
Terri Tatchell
An adorable tarsier searches for his true love in this delightful fourth picture book of the Endangered and Misunderstood Animals series by Tatchell. Tarsie, who sings when the sun rises and sets each day, seems mournful to his friends –a bear cuscus, a hornbill, and a crested macaque who all live together in the jungle. When he explains his sadness is because he’s “waited for so long” for a female tarsier to join his duet, his pals vow to help him get noticed. Each animal friend has a special skill to teach—from the hornbill’s hint on flapping his arms to the macaque’s suggestions of kissing the sky between notes — that may give Tarsie the confidence he needs to finally find his partner.

Tatchell has created a skillful blend of education and entertainment on every page. Readers will learn intriguing facts about little-known animals, such as the cuscus bear’s love of cocoa plants and macaque’s preference for fresh fruit, but the fun doesn’t stop there. Tatchell’s appealing characters evoke the bond of friendship as they rush to help Tarsie discover happiness, and their unique advice lands him magical results. Tatchell’s lilting verses work to mimic the natural rhythm of Tarsie’s world, as when he playfully sings “I am a friendly tarsier/who munches flying things./I snatch them from mid-air because/I like to crunch their wings.”

Ivan Sulima’s illustrations are deep, harmonious reflections of survival in the wild. In the night-time scenes particularly, Sulima’s cool palettes conjure the mystery of jungle life, and his bold graphics will quickly grab readers’ attention. True to the story’s conservationist bent, Tatchell includes fast facts at the end about the featured animals as well as how-to instructions for sketching them. Any fan of endangered species—or animal lovers in general—will cherish this uplifting tale.

Takeaway: A young tarsier learns to sing his true love’s tune with the help of his endangered friends.

Great for fans of: Thyra Heder’s The Bear Report, Rosanne Parry’s A Whale of the Wild.

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

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More After the Break: A Reporter Returns to Ten Unforgettable News Stories
Jen Maxfield
NBC New York journalist Maxfield crafts poignant and heartfelt follow-up stories from ten incredible news events over her twenty-year career. As a reporter with a tight deadline, she usually conducts brief interviews that are quickly edited and presented on the nightly news. “I’ve always liked the quote ‘news is the first rough draft of history,’” she writes. “I would add that the drafts I’ve written are not just rough; they’re incomplete.” Sometimes, she notes, the personal stories and perspectives of those involved in news stories get forgotten. On an assignment in 2021 about getting illegal guns off the street, Maxfield interviewed, for the second time, the grandmother of a fifteen-year-old who was murdered in a drive-by shooting in 2015. Maxfield had not heard from her since and was struck by the fact that, so often, reporters tell people’s stories but rarely learn what happened next.

With curiosity, humility, and respect, Maxfield follows up with ten remarkable people, promising “Their story will be an integral part of our community’s shared history.” Maxfield revisits Paul Esposito, who lost both legs in the Staten Island Ferry crash in 2003, and now teaches about living independently with a disability. Maxfield also follows up with Yarelis Bonilla, who as a five-year-old with leukemia needed a bone marrow transplant, but her sister in El Salvador was refused a tourist visa. Other subjects include children who survived a Paramus, New Jersey, bus crash; a Hurricane Katrina survivor; and an Ivy Leaguer who was imprisoned on drug charges under harsh mandatory minimum sentencing.

Maxfield presents these harrowing stories with nail-biting intensity while affording her subjects the space and humanity to discuss their lives and how their ordeals affected them. She also offers welcome insight into the news gathering profession, the impact of social media, and the role of local news to report information pertinent to small communities. Readers of real-life stories of overcoming trauma will find these inspirational tales impossible to put down.

Takeaway: Maxfield’s poignant follow-up interviews with everyday news makers reveal humanity and optimism.

Great for fans of: Clarissa Ward’s On All Fronts, Craig Taylor’s New Yorkers: A City and Its People in Our Time.

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

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Pekolah Stories
Amanda Bales
Bales’s accomplished debut collection presents a standout portrait of small-town life in a straightforward, occasionally lyric style as it lays bare, in interconnected stories, Pekolah, Oklahoma, a world of trout rivers, church sanctuaries, and a pervading sense of decay. Within this setting, Bales achieves a range of subjects, themes, and approaches, not shying away from dialect or creative risks. The first story, “Fair Enough,” explores the limits of morality in a stagnant town: Ruth and Kendal are lovers who face harassment and opposition. “A Hard Thing But True,” a tale of murder that pairs with “The Gods of Men,” unstintingly considers masculinity, and rhyming, lyric prose distinguishes “At the Fourth of July Potluck,” which contrasts gay and straight sexuality and its effects on women.

The varied approach offers surprises, like ‘A School Gunman’s Letter…,’ composed entirely of hymn titles and the lyrical, almost surrealist ‘“Bunny Town, USA,” though even there these lives, backgrounded by NCIS and George Strait posters, are delineated with sensitivity and convincing detail–but also without illusions or sentimentality. On issues of politics and culture, Pekolah Stories is serious and surefooted, interrogating the complex intersection of far-right politics and Christianity, and other dynamics shaping small-town life.

Conviction makes murder righteous in the wrenching “The Gods of Men,” and death-writ-large is recurring theme throughout: “It’s a helluva thing, dying like that,” one narrator muses. “ Made me understand why Dad ate his gun.” Bales likewise proves adept at examining gender and sexuality, presented with satirical bite in “At the 4th of July Potluck the Year She Moves Back Home,” but also with deadly seriousness in stories touching on the institutional violence of police stops and conversion centers. Bales’s prose illuminates larger systems of belief without losing its earthiness, its connection to everyday characters and events. Readers of literary fiction and clear-eyed portraiture of American lives will do well to seize these bruising, finely wrought stories.

Takeaway: Bracing, clear-eyed stories of small-town America, alive with memorable detail and insight.

Great for fans of: Lynn Lauber, Melissa Faliveno’s Tomboyland.

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

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