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Sailing with the Wind of Freedom: Lascarina Bouboulis and the War for Greek Independence
Katherine Kaye
Kaye’s often thrilling historical novel, her debut, brings to vivid life 19th century Greek folk heroine Lascarina “Bouboulina” Bouboulis and her role in the Greek Revolution of 1821 against the Ottoman Empire. The road to freedom was long, complicated and dangerous, as Kaye makes clear in a richly told story that engages with themes of love, families, war, and oppression. Bouboulina’s life in crucial ways mirrors that of Greece itself. At fifteen, she lives in the small seaside village of Spetses where she’s shunned by others for defying society’s oppressive expectations of women with her love of sailing and thirst for knowledge and independence. She’s encouraged by her loving and open-minded stepfather Lazarou and cautious mother Paraskevi. Bouboulina also stands up to the cruel taunts from the villagers about her unknown biological father, whose identity is closely guarded by her parents.

Blending fiction with fact, Kaye emphasizes her subject’s boldness. Entering a boys-only sailboat race, Bouboulina loses after stopping to rescue a drowning sailor, an exciting demonstration of her compassionate nature. Bouboulina wins the love of kindhearted merchant Captain Dimitri Bouboulis, but oppression weighs upon her life, as the Ottomans forbid any form of independence, including education, punishing the Greeks with heavy taxes, imprisonment, and executions. Young readers may find it challenging to keep up with the many historical figures in the tale (a dramatis personae helps), and accounts of atrocities, from both sides of the war, are frank and potentially upsetting, especially during the siege of the Monemvasia Island fortress.

Pacing is inconsistent, sometimes rushed and sometimes slow, with more than half the book surveying Bouboulina’s life before the revolution officially starts, including lengthy descriptions of war preparations. The personal material is the strongest. Especially uplifting are Kaye’s depictions of Bouboulina’s family’s closeness and her kindness while rescuing a Turkish harem. Dmitri Andreyev’s line illustrations, emphasizing clothes and culture, are eye-catching, suggesting the richness of the milieu.

Takeaway: A Greek revolutionary’s bold life, told for young readers.

Comparable Titles: Libby Carty McNamee ‘s Susanna's Midnight Ride, J. Kasper Kramer’s The Story That Cannot be Told.

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

The Cliffs of Schizophrenia: A Mother and Son Perspective
Jake and Laurette McCook
Mother-son duo Laurette McCook and Jake McCook offer readers a heartbreaking glimpse of Jake’s struggles with schizophrenia, penned as back-and-forth journal entries shared between the two. “There is no one who is treated with less dignity than the mentally ill,” Laurette writes, a declaration that becomes appallingly evident as she recounts the years of missed diagnoses, medication trials, and hospitalizations that Jake and his family toiled through before discovering clinicians and treatments that granted them painstaking progress. Both mother and son examine the early years before his diagnosis, into his young adulthood, through the lens of their hard-won, incremental victories against this devastating disease.

Throughout, Laurette emphasizes the crucial role that family plays for loved ones with chronic mental health concerns: “You will become the expert on your loved one’s well-being.” Her devotion to Jake’s care shines as a brilliant thread of their abiding connection, buoying him in moments of darkness while gently confronting his needs, all against the backdrop of his yearning to be an independent adult, unfettered from schizophrenia’s agonizing hold. Jake’s lifelong creativity affords him outlets for his emotions alongside several job opportunities, as he pours his energy into video editing and art, all while learning to cope with addiction, paranoia, and “a subterranean beast” that “haunts his days and nights.”

“Hope will be your driving force” Laurette voices, as she details the family’s exhaustive efforts to coordinate and master Jake’s treatment needs while still finding time to nurture their attachment. Jake’s writing is brutally raw, an unflinching rendering of his battles, as are Laurette’s reflections on the barriers to getting Jake the help he needs (insurance funding is a tremendous roadblock, alongside Laurette’s efforts to protect and guide Jake being labeled as “enabling”). This is as much a portrait of a loving family as it is a call to action for mental health treatment reform.

Takeaway: A mother and son’s touching, insightful story of a schizophrenia diagnosis.

Comparable Titles: Vince Granata’s Everything Is Fine, Lori Schiller and Amanda Bennett’s The Quiet Room.

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

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Marry Lies: A Marriage of Convenience Romance
Amanda Richardson
With verve, wit, and randy confidence, the second standalone entry in Richardson’s Ravaged Castles series conjures a delicious marriage-of-convenience scenario, edged with shades of Beauty-and-the-Beast stories, and powered by Richardson’s commitment never to pen a dull scene. Instead, like a skilled lover, she dances with readers’ expectations, teasing and delaying, stirring anticipation for her couple’s slow-burning connection. The premise is pure froth, with a touch of darkness in the self-loathing hero, and a spark of defiance in the sharp-elbowed heroine. After a sexy but inconclusive encounter in Paris a year ago, the marvelously named Miles Ravage—a scion of the wealthy, castle-dwelling American Ravage family—encounters fashion-designer Estelle “Stella” Deveraux, daughter of the founder of one of Europe’s largest charities, in the most surprising circumstances: their fathers, not knowing that the two have previously met, propose that the pair marry, for one year.

The scheme is a PR stunt to rehab investment consultant Miles’s reputation as one of the worst bosses in Los Angeles. The prize for Stella: the money to start her own fashion line. Richardson grabs readers from the start with a sultry, unpredictable scene in Paris, which ends with Miles convinced that the “exasperating” but alluring Stella has rejected him for the scar that runs from chest to jaw. The story immediately leaps to the fathers’ proposal, then to Miles’s abashed realization that he needs to go along with it, and then right to what readers most want: these two crabbing over boundaries and logistics while both pretending they’re not turned on.

Dialogue is crisp and memorable (Miles: “We should probably discuss the wedding.” Stella: “That’s one hell of a proposal, Miles.”), and the novel, despite its length, surges along, hinting at Miles’s secrets—he’s a voyeur, for one, with a glassed-in bedroom and a penchant for NDAs—jealousies, and scars both physical and emotional. The escalating scenes of physical intimacy are precise, vivid, and potent, and the happy ending, while inevitable, satisfies.

Takeaway: Superior marriage-of-convenience romance with sharp elbows and vivid clinches.

Comparable Titles: Sara Cate, Shain Rose.

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

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DEAD DOG ROAD : A True Story Into The Dark World Of An Abused Child
Diane N. Black
In this startling account, Black, a professional children’s counselor in Texas, narrates her efforts to save three Russian children from an adoptive mother and father that she believes to be abusive. While running Roosevelt House, a home for children, Black receives a call in July 2008 to evaluate an abuse claim and goes on to meet three children: Alexey, Svetlana and Anastasia. The girls fearfully parrot good things about their adoptive mother, but Alexey tells Black that, in truth, they endure horrific abuse. Black believes her and is shocked to discover that, despite hospitalizations, attempts at running away, and reports to Child Protective Services, the kids are returned again and again to the home after the parents undergo Family-Based Safety Services sessions. Black continues to fight for the children, facing relentless obstacles which eventually include arrest and the possible loss of her license.

In her direct and unadorned prose, Black powerfully conveys the frustration she feels when she believes that the very agencies created to help children continue to fail them for inane and trivial reasons. She argues that the pain the children suffer doesn’t seem to register with the officials, whose choices, as presented here, tend toward the farcical at best. As the title suggests, Dead Dog Road plumbs dark acts and motivations, as Black offers unflinching details of accusations of abuse and laments a system that makes it easy to turn a blind eye to such pain.

The author’s persistence in pursuing the case shines through this tense and impassioned narrative, especially as she is herself a struggling single mother bringing up two daughters whom she is frequently forced to leave alone under several situations. Her determination to set up Roosevelt House and the surprising way the help that comes pouring in from unexpected quarters is heartening, a reminder of human decency. This sincere account of one woman’s determination to save three children from abuse is a gripping and edifying read.

Takeaway: A children’s counselor fought to protect three kids from abuse.

Comparable Titles: Freya Barrington’s Known to Social Services, Kathryn Anne Michaels’ Wednesday's Children.

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

Click here for more about DEAD DOG ROAD
A Kite for Melia
Samuel Narh and Freda Narh
In Narh and Narh’s inspiring picture book, a little girl named Melia learns the value of persistence and acceptance. Enjoying a sunny day at the park, Melia sees some older kids flying kites and wishes she had one of her own. She also finds herself missing her dog, Ginger, who used to join her to chase fireflies. When she asks the older kids if she can play with their kites, they tell her to make her own. Stung, Melia heads to the library, ultimately finding an old book on the kite making that “smells like success.” Following these instructions, she constructs a colorful kite with a bow on its tail.

When Melia proudly returns to the park, the older kids tease her once again, cruelly telling her that “a pig with a bow still won’t fly.” With tears in her eyes, Melia bravely keeps trying—and soon the older kids are left speechless as her kite “dances with a rainbow.” Seeing Melia’s tenacity pay off will prompt kids to keep working through difficulties to achieve their own goals. Her success also has another layer of meaning, as she has attached a note to her kite for her beloved Ginger. Kids and adults will find this a touching tribute, particularly if they have faced or are working through their own grief.

Valeria Suria’s detailed, colorful illustrations center on Melia, showing the curly-haired little girl as she visits the park and the library. Both settings feel fully realized, with the sun casting long shadows on the ground as children run along expansive green hills and a variety of people gathered to read, build, and draw at the cozy-looking library. Throughout the story, readers will be rooting for Melia, particularly at this tale’s touching and satisfying conclusion that will leave kids and adults feeling more connected and encouraged.

Takeaway: A little girl named Melia builds a kite and learns the value of persistence and acceptance.

Comparable Titles: Jacqueline Woodson’s The Year We Learned to Fly, Jay Miletsky’s Ricky, the Rock that Couldn’t Roll.

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

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Thomas Fitzsimmons - The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man
Thomas Fitzsimmons
This dishy memoir finds Fitzsimmons (author of Confessions of a Celebrity Bodyguard) digging into his days as a police officer in a brutal Bronx neighborhood, then his transition into modeling and acting, and finally—and most prominently—his life on the edge of New York City's rich and famous. The prologue plops the reader right in the middle of the story, as Fitzsimmons details a screaming 1991 fight between his sometime friend Donald Trump and Fitzsimmons’ own for-appearances-only ex-fiancé, Marla Maples, who would later go on to marry the future president. The fight’s subject: the possibility that Maples was interested in Bill O’Reilly, then an Inside Edition host.

That sets the scene for Fitzsimmons’s survey of New York’s glitterati in the 1980s and ‘90s, a time of excess alongside urban grit. After a harrowing career as a cop, Fitzsimmons hosts a television show, appears in commercials and bit parts, and does a number of modeling photoshoots. Along the way, he meets and befriends the famous, occasionally living close to tragedy. Fitzsimmons reports that his friendship was treasured by many because he knew how to keep his mouth shut. Now, Fitzsimmons goes into some detail, including the many ways in which he reports serving as a middleman to the elite.

The memoir is more about places and people Fitzsimmons has met as a sort of Zelig-like figure than a deep reflection on his life. There are shady mob figures, Hollywood friends like Larry Hagman, and tense stories about stalkers and life on the edge. Above all, Fitzsimmons is a keen observer and listener whose exploits doing private security balance the book’s tabloid elements. The heart of the story, though, is his seemingly futile attempt at finding lasting love, until he married Wendy, the great love of his life. That ends in tragedy, and the memoir represents a way of honoring her memory while dishing out yarn after yarn.

Takeaway: Page-turning memoir of a cop-turned-model’s adventures among New York’s elite.

Comparable Titles: Nelson Aspen’s Dancing Between the Raindrops, Peter Gatien’s The Club King.

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

Who's There?: A Collection of Stories (Where Nightmares Dwell)
Dimas Rio
Menace oozes off the pages of this collection of gripping short stories from Rio, a treat for readers who appreciate the surprising beauty of sheer horror. The tales delve into both the shadows of our world and “the hidden cavities of [the] soul” as Rio’s protagonists face both terrors rooted in Asian folk traditions as well as their own true selves: “drunk, paranoid and drenched, like someone just took a leak on him,” a man searches desperately for his fiancee on the eve of their wedding, only to discover nauseating death. Rio, who was born in Indonesian and uses that nation as a setting, keeps readers on their toes with ambitions not limited to a single genre. One story builds, bloodily, to a spike tearing flesh; the ghostly “The Voice Canal,” meanwhile, in which a student believes he hears the voice of his late father, pierces the heart instead.

Poetry and philosophy pepper and bookend the unsettling tales, without slowing down or undercutting narrative momentum, a testament to Rio’s artistry. Tension builds ominously as the nightmare realities of the scenarios dawn on characters and readers both—reading, it’s hard not to inch one’s nose closer to the page in shivering anticipation at “something old and mouldy” in the storeroom, or at a business man giving his “peasant” lover his mother’s necklace, a perverse sort of “coronation,” when the lover knows the mother would consider her “a dishonorable woman” who “fornicates” with the son. Afterwards, the couple “maul[s] each other as if they lusted for blood”—as in, they make love—and when the trap snaps, the entranced reader is as surprised as the prey.

This Indonesia is haunted by ghosts and devils and dispatches from the dead, but also guilt, class concerns, and more. Repeating figures like overbearing mothers and disloyal lovers feels universal, even if the myths and legends breathing life into these stories are fresh to readers.

Takeaway: Gripping, unsettling horror stories of a haunted Indonesia.

Comparable Titles: Intan Paramaditha’s Apple and Knife, Adam Nevill’s Some Will Not Sleep.

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

Rethinking Money and Finance: Economics, Morality and Common Sense
Richard G Patterson
Making the case that economics is less a science than a branch of moral philosophy, this clear-eyed treatise from Patterson (author of Understanding Thomas Sowell) dissects economic orthodoxies and truisms at both theoretical and practical levels, taking aim at societal abuses that come at the hands of capitalism—namely a lopsided wealth distribution that puts most of the power and the benefits that come with it, into the hands of a lucky few. “Exploring the way we conceive of money,” he writes, “is one way to free our minds from the prison cell of dogma.” Rethinking Money and Finance urges readers to not accept as “inevitable” or ““divinely mandated” market outcomes like an increasingly greater number of people forced to choose between life in abject poverty or working ever harder simply to “keep their head above water,” without opportunity to accumulate real wealth.

Patterson, like many of the philosophers, economists, and other heavyweight thinkers he cites, is a long-term thinker facing a world of finance dominated by short-term interests. As he notes in his clarifying discussion of the broad-based mortgage collapse now known as The Big Short, economies are subject to the will of many whose relatively quick grab for profits and/or power tend to help a few get rich at the expense of the many. Rethinking Money and Finance calls for recognizing this as a human choice rather than a natural law of markets.

In his sharp-elbowed, well-researched considerations of Modern Monetary Theory, “the fetish of liquidity,” the messages peddled by “financial ‘news,’” globalization trends, and more, he argues, with persuasive power, that substantive reform can only come after establishing a vision, a clear and shared sense of what economies themselves should do. That’s the vital societal step to change, Patterson argues, and his thorough examination of economic terms, policy, crises, and above all else assumptions proves both pained and heartening.

Takeaway: Sharply argued case for economics not being a science at all.

Comparable Titles: Nicky Pouw’s Wellbeing Economics, Robert Skidelsky’s What’s Wrong with Economics?.

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

Click here for more about Rethinking Money and Finance
A Southern Enchantress
Deborah Trahan
With a keen eye for atmospheric detail and a clear passion for history, Trahan’s debut novel deftly explores the resilience of women faced with decades of generational trauma and a legacy as enchantresses. With a backdrop spanning Louisiana and Mississippi, the plot traces threads through the lives of two women in time spanning from the 1940s to 2010s. Suzanne, the divorced mother of twins, is blessed and cursed by clairsentience. Her romance with too-smooth sociopathic real estate developer, Max, however, catapults her onto a journey of self-discovery, beginning with his unstable temperament and lies about his dead wife, Farrah. Addy, meanwhile, is a bright young aspiring clothing designer, who finds herself burdened with the extrasensory abilities that plague her family line. She, too, finds herself in a bad romance, one stained by violence and betrayal—this time with a young pilot at the tail end of World War II.

Ghosts take top billing in this perceptive and thoughtful fantasy tinged with horror. While Suzanne never much believed in her mother’s hoodoo teachings, a legacy of her Choctaw ancestry, she’s dealt with the spirits all of her life as a conduit and guide. Her journey parallels beautifully with Addy’s in that Addy wasn’t allowed much of an education in the hoodoo practiced by her grandmother, Mimi Jeanne. She, like Suzanne, had one foot in the spirit world and the other on Earth. Elegant details are painted with broad strokes, transporting readers to timelessly beautiful locations.

While the time jumps are, at first, jarring, their rhythm soon becomes clear, offering delicate layers of perspective. Chapters with Suzanne’s narration and contemporary perspectives are largely told using third person and present tense, while those in the 1940s favor past tense, which creates strikingly different moods. Sexual assault, violence against women, gaslighting and emotional abuse all make an appearance, but are sensitively handled.

Takeaway: Time-crossed novel of spirits, generational trauma, and two remarkable women.

Comparable Titles: Joyce Maynard’s The Bird Hotel, Jessica Dodge’s Misplaced Magic.

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

Click here for more about A Southern Enchantress
Tales of the Ravensdaughter - Collection One
Erin Hunt Rado
Rado (author of Gray Warrior) collects six brisk, surprising epic fantasy novellas centered on compelling hero, Alerice, who, after an act of righteous vengeance leads to her murder, becomes a “Realme Walker” endowed with the weapons of the Raven Queen, a not-of-our-world power who shares her court with her husband, the scheming King of Shadows. Returned to Mortalia, the realm of mortals, Alerice is charged with acting on the Raven Queen’s will, which naturally leads to danger—she faces fierce beasts, uncertain alliances, and even a ring of pedophiles. At her side, to her surprise, is Kreston, who bears the mark of the King of Shadows, and at times seems to be working against the Raven Queen’s goals. When not facing off against demon toads or kelpies, Alerice wonders whether she and Kreston can trust each other, as each’s master seems capable of charging one to kill the other.

Complicating matters in these swift, engaging stories is Alerice’s strong sense of justice, inherited from her father, which puts her at odds with the orders of the Raven Queen, who insists that Alerice’s weapons—a dagger and two bladed, extendable “pixie poles”—should only be deployed for the queen’s purposes, not merely to save the lives of innocent mortals. Each entry offers a mostly standalone adventure, taking readers to exciting locations like a fauns’ glen and an abbey beset by wyverns, but the serialized elements are tense and compelling, especially once Kreston has developed urgent feelings for Alerice, and the King of Shadows instructs him to steal a mighty bauble from Alerice’s patron.

Action is lively and inventive, and Rado’s worldbuilding is strong, full of surprises, mythic mysteries, all-too-human gods, and a memorable sense of place, whether the caverns, underworlds, or inviting taverns. The prose tends toward the matter-of-fact, at times not measuring up to the magic of the world, but the dialogue, characterization, and the spirit of adventure are all vigorous. Here’s sword-and-sorcery with real heart.

Takeaway: Rousing epic fantasy novellas of a realms-crossing heroine.

Comparable Titles: Michelle Sagara, Tamora Pierce.

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

Isle of Stars: The Second Book of Moon Mountain
Jess Porto
The surprising second entry in Porto’s 1990s-set supernatural Moon Mountain trilogy continues to chronicle the increasingly complicated life of Morgan Thomas, now facing a true nightmare in her charming North Carolina hometown: a mysterious entity has occupied her body as a “vessel” while her mind languishes “deep inside” a subconscious prison. Stranger still, adversary-turned-ally Vera Gallagher, the mother of a friend, actually shares Morgan’s body, and must explain this situation, through Morgan’s own mouth, to those Morgan trusts most. Soon, Morgan embarks on a perilous, twisty quest for survival against elusive foes who possess humans and wreak havoc. She unearths new mysteries, forges surprise alliances, and carries g the burden of those who have given all in the fight against an elusive invasion that, she learns, is led by a “cold and calculating” entity “with no qualms about torturing and punishing its enemies and using those around it for its own pleasure or gain.”

The saga unfolds at a swift pace with ever-rising stakes as Morgan faces the “slithering fingers” of a blankness she could fade into, and possessions continue in the outside world, which powers a strong sense of uncertain anxiety. Pages devoted to Vera explaining things about these “foreign essence”s and “the Beyond” to Morgan—and to readers—find Porto taking full advantage of this imaginative setup, as Vera conjures visions of her own life and Morgan’s efforts to control her own memories kicks up literal storms. Porto skillfully defies conventional good vs. evil tropes by imbuing the invaders with shades of gray, and the subconscious realm and surrealist liminal spaces through which Morgan journeys are, as the title suggests, inventive and evocative.

At its core, this inward-looking thriller is a journey of hope and self-discovery, psyche and sacrifice, a story concerned with what it’s worth risking everything to save. (A character declares, “One word: humanity.”) The characters make clever use of Porto’s worldbuilding, and the ending satisfies, while pointing to revelations to come. New readers should start with the first book.

Takeaway: Tense, effective thriller of body takeovers and what’s beyond consciousness.

Comparable Titles: Sara Gran’s Come Closer, Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter.

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

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Hypatia: In Her Own Words
Lukman Clark
Clark’s captivating historical journey into the life of Hypatia, a woman of many talents, delves into a pivotal period when Christianity and power were making significant inroads into the world in the early A.D. years. Clark, author of The Alexandrian Scrolls, demonstrates meticulous research into the clash between different Christian sects and pagan beliefs and how one woman left an immense legacy. The novel opens with an intriguing note from a translator, Brandon Blake, who reports having discovered five ancient papyrus scrolls in a North African cave during “a harrowing session of past life regression.” In that lifetime, as an Arab hydrologist in the 10th century, Blake did not live long enough to retrieve the scrolls. Through international intrigue and spiritual reckoning, he found them now and translated Hypatia’s own handwritten story in which she shares her tumultuous life from her girlhood as Tuya and Catherine to her middle age as Hypatia.

Structured like the five scrolls, Hypatia shares her insurmountable losses and details the struggles of her time. A woman ahead of her time, Hypatia experiences olive picking and papyrus manufacturing, while arriving at realizations like “There is no security in life. There is no one and no thing to rely upon.” Yet she still believes that “Life is so utterly beautiful.” Her goal is to “counter-balance the crowd mentality” as she navigates history, philosophy, astronomy, and geometry. She faces formidable opponents and dangers, and benefits from mysterious assistance, not always choosing the easy or popular way.

Clark skillfully highlights name changes, reflecting the transformations in the characters’ lives. Jason, the camel driver, transitions into Theophilus, whose ambition and Christian piety reflect the uncertainty Alexandrians faced in a time of external threats and internal corruption. Clark disparages the “literary legend” of Hypatia, offering a thought-provoking and engaging narrative that brings to life the complexities of a fascinating period that, in Clark’s handling, connects to the present with some urgency.

Takeaway: Vivid historical novel of Hypatia, pagan beliefs, and the tumult of Late antiquity.

Comparable Titles: Ki Longfellow’s Flow Down Like Silver, Hypatia of Alexandria, Faith L. Justice’s Selene of Alexandria.

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

Click here for more about Hypatia
What Lies Buried
Leslie Kain
In this emotional family saga and thriller, Kain (author of Secrets In The Mirror) explores PTSD and childhood trauma in a narrative blending psychological suspense with hard-won emotional breakthroughs. Gavin DiMasi is trying to move on with his life after the heartbreaking discovery of the death by suicide of his twin brother, Devon. Living in the peaceful paradise of Kauai with his wife, Katie and his toddler, Maggie, Gavin struggles daily with this loss as well as the trauma of his abusive childhood. When Gavin receives news that he needs to settle his late father's estate back in Boston, both Gavin and Katie have reservations about his return to his childhood home, understanding that this visit could set into motion emotional triggers that can send Gavin over the edge.

Kain handles the heavy topics of abuse, grief, and facing old wounds with sensitivity that doesn’t dilute the story’s impact. Gavin will resonate with readers interested in healing, even as he spirals further into his mental anguish. Exploring the effects of mental illness on not only the individual suffering from it, but those closest to him, What Lies Buried is a humane and engaging story that’s frank about the challenges of recovery. Gavin not only has to deal with his PTSD and grief but also the nagging possibility that someone is watching him as he deals with his family's estate. After discovering his family's surprise connection to the local mob syndicate, he enlists the help of his high school best friend, Trayvon, who works with the FBI.

Adding to the tension, everyone around notices Gavin's descent—his grandparents, his wife, his best friend, and his psychiatrist—but by the time they realize he might be a danger to himself, their efforts to help may come too late. Kain has crafted a fast-paced contemporary thriller that delves with insight into themes of mental health. Readers who enjoy unreliable narrators and jolting plot twists will enjoy this.

Takeaway: Psychological thriller digging into PTSD, family secrets, and generational abuse.

Comparable Titles: Erin Kelly’s Stone Mothers, Liane Moriarty’s The Husband’s Secret.

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

Click here for more about What Lies Buried
Blackmailer's Delight: A Georgian Era Romp
David Lawrence
This passionate, uproarious gay romance from Lawrence (author of Hugh) unfolds in the Georgian era, when marital unions carried immense societal weight and the pursuit of forbidden love proved a nearly insurmountable challenge. Daniel Thornton diverts his woes from his philandering ex-lover Clarence Hopper to care for his ailing uncle in the bustling town of Grantham, England. Amidst the societal expectations of securing a suitable bride as a promising bachelor who is about to earn his uncle's inheritance, Bridget Morley, daughter of a tradesman, emerges as a potential candidate. However, Daniel's attention is unexpectedly diverted to Bridget's brother, Luke, who has harbored a profound infatuation with him for the past five months.

The affair is made more complicated by the arrival of Clarence, desperate to win Daniel back, and the anonymous blackmail notes that threaten to expose both Daniel and Luke's sexuality. In a series of secret rendezvous, heated arguments and affairs, and repeated reminders of familial obligations, Lawrence deftly navigates the excruciating shame and guilt in concealing one's sexuality from an all-too-often judgemental society. "There is no place for me, or you, in a town like this. Perhaps in a city, where we could be anonymous. But that isn't truly being accepted, is it?" Luke says, an urgent and still all-too-timely reminder of the importance of accepting one’s self first and foremost.

Indeed, beyond the struggle for acceptance, Lawrence crafts a romance that rouses, with twists, surprises, and a randy wit. Blackmailer’s Delight does not extensively dwell on the falling-in-love phase, introducing complications early on, and lingering with playful precision on erotic romps. The bittersweet love triangle unfolds as a tale of being seen and understood, accepting queerness, taking no love for granted, and allowing oneself to indulge in the youthful pleasure of loving and being loved. Perfect for readers fond of LGBTQ+ romances with an erotic edge.

Takeaway: Randy, heartfelt winner of a gay Georgian romance.

Comparable Titles: Cat Sebastian’s The Queer Principles of Kit Webb, K.J. Charles’s The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen.

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

Click here for more about Blackmailer's Delight
And Always One More Time: A Memoir
Margaret Mandell
Mandell stuns with a riveting debut memoir chronicling her grief at the death of her husband, Herb—and her eventual rebirth into “a whole tree again inside and out, standing tall, for now.” Through heartfelt letters to her deceased husband, Mandell recounts their deep love affair and years of intimate time together swimming, taking yoga classes, and traveling, remembering Herb’s determination to stay fit and strong into his later years. That determination came crashing down around them on the heels of Herb’s pulmonary fibrosis diagnosis—a disease, that, according to him, was “worse than cancer” and led to his death shortly after.

Mandell writes of Herb’s rapid deterioration in intimate, hushed tones, recalling his pneumonia (“the end of the road for anyone with pulmonary fibrosis”) and her looming “sixty-something” birthday, reflecting on Herb’s unconditional love and, to the very end, concern for her: when he declares “this is not what you signed up for,” Mandell replies “This is our love story… “there is no place else I’d rather be.” That love forms the backbone of the memoir, even after Herb’s death, as Mandell grapples with her new life amid bone-crushing grief. An emergency hospital stay of her own leads her back into yoga, and, as she questions her identity without Herb, she eventually experiences the kindling of a new love, with John, a college professor.

Throughout, Mandell traces the threads of life that continue to interlace, long after Herb is gone—the presence of their two adult children, her eventual marriage to John, the COVID lockdown, and her most challenging job yet: letting Herb go. Her relationship with John is sweet to watch, as the couple navigates the future while remembering the past, and her growth from lost to regenerated is an arresting reminder to be “open to all that comes [your] way.”

Takeaway: Heart-wrenching, life-affirming memoir of love, grief, and regeneration.

Comparable Titles: Laura June’s Now My Heart Is Full, Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking.

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

Click here for more about And Always One More Time: A Memoir
CONSOLIDATED WISDOM: The Ultimate Book of Quotations For Success, Happiness and Health
Gene S. Jones
This compendium of inspiring quotations offers a guided tour through ideals of wisdom, humanity, love, creativity, and other urgent subjects explored in depth through the words of philosophers, athletes, presidents, and more. In Consolidated Wisdom, Jones (author of Younger and Wiser) considers the evolution of thought and wisdom across the ages of human civilization from biblical times to current day. With an eclectic mix of selections, from sources ranging from King Solomon to Bruce Lee, Jones has gathered often surprising musings, each “an insight drawn from someone’s lifetime of experience,” to provide insight into taking ownership of one's life with the goal, as he notes in an introduction, of offering “diverse blueprints for people of all ages, ethnicities and nationalities to pursue maximum success and happiness."

Each chapter features an engaging introduction from Jones and a section of quotes that fit the chapter's category, which include "Nature & Native American Wisdom,” "Humor & the Immortal Yogi Berra,” and more. Jones quotations sourced from books, magazine interviews/articles, cultural proverbs, the Bible, and even Twitter posts. In recurring section "Great Minds Think Alike,” quotes that share the same sentiment or message are grouped together, showing different perspectives over the ages on shared convictions and enriching understanding–Consolidated Wisdom quotes Lincoln, Yeats, Copernicus, Mandela, Donna Brazille, and the Indian mystic Kabir on the same page.

The chapter "Wisdom Meditations" finds Jones, a creativity consultant, introducing the art of autobrainstorming, a method of meditation intended to help readers to “tap” into “inner wisdom.” Jones offers original, flexible guidance and examples, coaching readers through, and studding the inviting instructions with more quotes. Each chapter ends with tools leading readers to related material. Consolidated Wisdom is an inspiring, well-organized resource guide that finds common cause with thinkers across millenia. It’s suited for readers wanting to explore wisdom through multiple frames of reference running the gamut of the human experience.

Takeaway: Inspiring exploration of wisdom through quotations and meditative practices.

Comparable Titles: Julie Fournier's Daily Wisdom, D.W. Brown's 2500 Years of Wisdom.

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

Click here for more about CONSOLIDATED WISDOM
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