Find out the latest indie author news. For FREE.

The Alas League
Christian-Eric Falardeau
This playful, episodic science-fiction apocalypse opens with a small village, nuclear devastation, and a mystery box scenario: The nations of Earth have (accidentally) launched their missiles, and many of the residents of Verminus would rather down Guinness at the bar than take shelter, figuring this would be a more pleasant way to go. In the days that follow, life seems to go on, with curious new mysteries. The local mountain seems off somehow; a hut has materialized with an alien interior and a promise that it’s a gift of “The Alas League”; and the roads out of town no longer seem to lead anywhere. As residents debate whether they’re dead, raptured, mired in Purgatory, or maybe something else entirely, a dog makes the acquaintance of mysterious gray beings, and an artificial voice issues baffling commands like “Prescribe your charade.”

Strange things are afoot in Verminus, and they’ll only get stranger, though Falardeau offers answers at a steady clip—albeit answers that, in turn, stir more questions. Split into two halves, The Alas League at first mines its mysteries for thoughtful comedy, as the chatty residents interpret everything through their blinkered perspectives: “It’s symbolic,” insists the town priest, when challenged on a finer point of his interpretation of Revelation. “Don’t get hung up in the details.” That priest, in “The Dragons of Verminus,” the novel’s surprising second half, will be known as Pope Ferdinand I, as the story takes on time-displacement, a Galactic Bank, and the fate of Earth’s survivors, who now—well, it would be churlish to spoil the mysteries.

“The Dragons of Verminus” continues the local-color comedy (“They’re full of gas and hot-dogs,” someone warns of the titular dragons) while leaning into the science fiction aspects and setting up several books to come. Readers who like their apocalyptic adventures smart and funny—but not a joke—will find much here that’s inventive, bonkers, true-to-life, and narratively satisfying.

Takeaway: This amusing apocalyptic novel imagines a small village somehow persisting after the bombs fall.

Great for fans of: Terry Pratchett, Becky Chambers.

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

Click here for more about The Alas League
The Land of the Strays
Summer Nilsson
The latest in Nilsson’s Loodor Tales series is a heartfelt, almost metaphysical journey that features a mis-matched pack of animals, rivalry between strays and leashed animals, a cat and dog with powers, and the guidance of the stars themselves. Grey the kitten’s decision to jump through a fence into oncoming traffic–and out into the world–not only changes her life but sets her on a path to meet new friends and learn about the importance of teamwork. Brimming with action, intrigue, and quirky animals, The Land of the Strays encourages readers to trust in themselves and their pack, as Grey learns to do the same.

Grey and the animals she meets along the way–a stray cat, former search and rescue dog, a gecko, and a dog with magical powers similar to her own–are a fully-loaded cast of engaging personalities that offer ample opportunity for memorable characterization. The story’s persistent flashbacks, occurring every other chapter, at times overwhelm the narrative present, as they establish the precise traits that the team will need to complete its mission.The best scenes, as when Blaze the “high-brow” Bengal tour-guides a nervous Grey through the Trinity Trails, boast an engaging comic snap and much surprising detail: “Etiquette is just a big word for ‘socially acceptable behavior,’ Blaze explains. At other times, the characters speak in platitudes, explicating the novel’s message so explicitly that there’s little room for reader interpretation.

Despite the moralizing, animal lovers and advocates will appreciate the story’s ultimate theme of compassion and understanding for others–and the team’s perseverance as they “all [work] to achieve a shared goal.” Spot illustrations at the beginning of each chapter provide further opportunity to appreciate the animals’ personalities, such as seeing Olivia the poodle’s outrageous outfit or Grey’s cowgirl costume. Adventure seekers and animal rights supporters will enjoy this intriguing story of camaraderie, bravery, and, in the end, victory.

Takeaway: This tale of talking animals with superpowers is sure to intrigue adventurous young readers.

Great for fans of: Tui T. Sutherland’s Wings of Fire: The Flames of Hope, Eugene McCabe’s Cyril’s Woodland Quest.

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

Click here for more about The Land of the Strays
Amazing Appellations: Discovering the Names of Jesus
Kristina Howard-Booth
Howard-Booth (Sojourner’s Journey) explores the different names of Jesus and their distinctive meanings in this compact Christian devotional. Encouraging believers to develop deeper familiarity with God, and drawing from her professional experience as a Certified Christian Life Coach, Howard-Booth offers sections of biblical study revolving around the names Jesus used for himself, how his disciples referred to him, and names used in specific chapters of the Bible. The guide’s chief appeal, though, is the author’s explication of sometimes puzzling spiritual theology, as she offers graspable, personally applicable insights paired with prayer suggestions and a principal verse to meditate on for each name.

A page examining Jesus as “The Word,” for example, breaks down the teaching of the Gospel of John to illustrate Jesus’s divinity—“Jesus has always existed. He is divine and eternal”—and recommends a prayer thanking Jesus for “making a way for us to be with the Father.” Howard-Booth delves into Hebrew and Greek meanings throughout the guide as well: the name “Jesus” is defined in Hebrew as “Jehovah the Savior or Jehovah is Salvation,” and the first letters of the Greek alphabet are referenced several times as indicators of divinity. Later in the guide, Jesus is studied as “Him Who Has the Sharp Two-Edged Sword,” a challenging subject to explain, but Howard-Booth aptly explains the symbolism, relating it to the written word of the Bible that “cut[s] more deeply than any other ancient weapon.”

Christian readers will cherish the intimacy of this guide–whether examining Jesus as the “Bread of Life” providing for all his followers’ needs or learning the comparison of Jesus as a “Good Shepherd” who “[laid] down His life for His sheep,” Howard-Booth’s focus is on making Jesus tangible to her readers. She prompts them not to worry if some of the concepts are complicated, writing that “we do not have to understand it all; we have faith to accept it.” The result is a contemplative and detailed offering sure to inspire Christian followers.

Takeaway: Christian readers will enjoy this inspirational, straightforward study of the different names of Jesus.

Great for fans of: Mark Jones’s The Prayers of Jesus, Michael Murray’s Nobody Left Out..

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

Click here for more about Amazing Appellations
Eli's Redemption
HANNAH LARREW
The follow-up to Blood in the Low Country does not disappoint as another fast-paced, intricately plotted shocker. In the late 1970s high school senior Eli is accused of the rape and murder of his girlfriend Kimberly. Although he’s innocent, Eli is forced to run for his life after a jolting betrayal: his own society-climbing mother, Rose, tells him she’ll testify to his detriment at trial, almost certainly sending him to prison for life or an end strapped, as another character puts it, “to old sparky.” Rose’s reaction to the scandal plays into her deep fears of having a secret exposed, and Eli is forced to escape to the Bahamas, where he then leads a life of intrigue, excitement, and golf among the powerful and the power-hungry.

Even though it’s a sequel, readers can enjoy Eli’s story as a standalone, and even though Attaway’s love for golf shines through the text, non-golfers should not be wary. A treat for mystery fans and thrill lovers, Eli’s story exemplifies its genre, with Attaway’s precisely detailed approach bringing life to each situation and character, as Eli finds himself intertwined with some powerful and dangerous groups using him as a scapegoat for their problems.

Throughout his journey, Eli himself goes from villain to hero and back again, but readers will never lose their sympathy for his plight as he struggles to find his place without anybody to really know or love him, feeling “alone, utterly alone.” It is long, but it moves with swift power, a page-turner that offers an experience more rich in character than that term usually suggests. A satisfying conclusion ties up the loose ends, though some elements might be a touch more clear to readers familiar with the first book. Fans of character-driven thrillers will find themselves eagerly reading for the next piece of the puzzle as Eli faces his fate.

Takeaway: A superior, character-rich thriller about a wrongfully accused teen fleeing ‘70s Charleston for the Bahamas.

Great for fans of: Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half,Shea Ernshaw’s A History of Wild Places, Nancy Jooyoun Kim’s The Last Story of Mina Lee.

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

Click here for more about Eli's Redemption
For Position Only
Adele Royce
Royce continues her Truth, Lies, and Love in Advertising series with this character-rich third installment (after Camera Ready) that again explores romance in a cut-throat business. California advertising agency founder Craig Keller started Keller Whitman Group by taking his clients from former mentor Warren Mitchell, but finds himself on the receiving end of a similar scheme when his current fling, agency employee Hayden Towne, quits his agency to start her own by stealing his clients. To ensure his survival in the ad business, Craig proposes a merger of sorts with Warren’s firm, putting Craig into close contact with Jane Mercer, a former coworker and lover he cheated with while he was married. Though Jane feels contempt towards Craig due to his previous ill-treatment of her, she starts to thaw towards him as they begin working together. But Craig seems to have a problem with not sabotaging relationships and continues experiencing guilt over his brother’s untimely death years before.

Although Royce’s primary focus is on the inner workings and relationships at an advertising agency, simmering throughout are hints at Craig’s guilt over his brother DJ’s death–DJ fell overboard into a yacht’s propeller while Craig was passed out drunk. Royce expertly makes a connection between Craig’s chilling memories and his uncaring attitude towards others as Craig frequently flirts with disaster in both his personal and professional life.

As Craig must decide whether to abandon his sexist treatment to build a solid relationship with the woman he has been unable to forget, Royce draws on her public relations and advertising experience to create a believable narrative and make her characters convincing. She expertly paints a picture of cut-throat tactics where only the most cunning survive, and Craig’s gradual evolution from sexist narcissist into a person who, while not particularly admirable, is somewhat redeemed, demonstrates Royce’s skill as a writer. The suspense continues right through the tense New Years Eve climax, and a satisfying ending will please romance fans.

Takeaway: The sexist head of an ad agency must join forces with a former mentor in this engaging romance.

Great for fans of: Nicole Archer’s Road Tripped, Jack LeMenager’s Unto Others.

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

Click here for more about For Position Only
Purposeful Memoir as a Quest for a Thriving Future: Inspiration for Writers & Seekers
Jennifer Browdy, PhD
No matter how dispiriting life might seem, Browdy affirms that "we have the power to change the world with our vision, our understanding, and the choices we make day by day”—and she offers this impassioned volume, and the eight “quests” at its heart, to help inspire writers, seekers, and “worldwrights” toward embracing the “alchemical potential” of their creative imaginations and ushering us all toward a brighter future. At the heart of Browdy’s vision is the practice of “purposeful memoir,” which centers an effort to understand how humanity got to this place and to “align the personal, political, and planetary threads of our existence” with the goal of transforming lives—and our world.

Browdy lays out how purposeful memoir, through the technique of “alchemical writing” combining the literal and metaphorical, can activate the “poetic visionary” in anyone, changing how we view and feel about our own history and empowering us in the present. Her “archeological exploration” technique, meanwhile, digs into deeper layers of memory, lineage, and history (including “historical cruelties like the Inquisition, colonization, slavery, misogyny, racism”) to move past whatever attitudes and worldviews of our ancestors no longer suit the present, while preserving what’s still essential. This heady concept is supplemented by clear techniques, examples, and prompts for writers, while Browdy, writing with a warm and inviting tone, makes clear that this practice is open-ended and exploratory.

The bulk of this slim but packed guide is dedicated to what Browdy calls “quests,” eight inspired and inspiring essays and prompts each dedicated to developing a positive quality (clarity, guidance, love, community). Each of these pairs Browdy’s original musings—often thoughts on the achievements of activists, “worldwrights,” and poets like Julia Butterfly Hill, Audre Lorde, and others—with practical, well-crafted “catalysts for writing.” Readers and writers seeking inspiration to better themselves and our world will find much here that resonates.

Takeaway: Big-picture inspiration and practical prompts for seekers eager to better themselves and the world.

Great for fans of: adrienne maree brown’s Pleasure Activism, Natalie Goldberg’s Old Friend from Far Away.

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

Child of Etherclaw
Matty Roberts
Roberts’s debut is an enthralling post-apocalyptic teen thriller. Spunky and quick-witted 16-year-old Fenlee will do anything for her family, though Fenlee and her adopted brother, Elliot, are mostly on their own: Fenlee’s mother died in an explosion when she was young, the same day they found Elliot, and their dad spends his days off-world asteroid mining for months at a time. All Fenlee has left of her mother is the opal necklace she always wore. But one day, when she and Elliot are scavenging for things to sell and run into a problem, she finds out there is much more to the opal than she ever imagined.

Readers of all ages will be immediately drawn in and feel connected to the trials Roberts’s characters face. In the beginning, Fenlee’s only focus is caring for her brother. She spends nights scavenging in order to buy food and days working hard in school to eventually get a job that will move her family to the higher tier. But when Fenlee and Elliott get in over their heads with brutal people chasing them and magical powers they don’t understand, they discover that new friends– and a cat that won’t leave their side–are more family than they’ve had in a long time.

Roberts’s world-building is immersive and natural. Readers will smell every smell, feel every touch, and experience the stresses of trying to survive the different tiers of New Cascadia, a world that exists only because of the assistance from aliens willing to clean up the damage done by humans. In their post-apocalyptic future, a new religion emerges and dangerously mixes with a formidable company willing to do anything for their secret science study. Readers who love found-family adventures will be thrilled as Fenlee tries to find her footing and protect her family at all costs.

Takeaway: An enthralling post-apocalyptic adventure where a tough teen heroine and her friends take a stand.

Great for fans of: Lauren Oliver’s Delirium, Veronica Rossi.

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

Click here for more about Child of Etherclaw
The Shadows We Make
Jo Allen Ash
Blending SF, the fantastical, and the apocalyptic, Ash’s debut is jam packed with striking details that will delight fans of dystopian adventure. Living in the desert, just outside of a large city government named Citadel, sixteen-year-old Grace is trained as a warrior of the Irese tribe. She’s always on alert for trouble. It eventually finds her in the form of Stone Tiran, an arrogant upstart who demands a bonding–and whom she rejects. Soon Grace discovers that Stone wields more influence than she could have imagined, and for her disloyalty he sentences her to death by banishing her to their planet Talia’s mostly uninhabited moon, Emerald, which doubles as an inescapable penal colony.

Because of Grace’s age, she’s housed in the juvenile section of Emerald, along with several other inmates. Determined to get back to her family and save them from Stone’s wrath, Grace must make the decision to trust her fellow convicts–or die alone. Ash freshens up the Lord of the Flies vibe, and the steady, slow-building pace allows information and action to be doled out at a rate that will leave readers eagerly flipping to the next page. Grace’s budding relationships with the other prisoners add a layer of nuance that rapidly develops the characters into dynamic entities, particularly Duncan Oaks, adding just the right amount of sweetness to counterbalance the story’s darker themes of addiction, death, and hopelessness.

The intricate worldbuilding and deliciously complex characters shine, though at times some of the story’s horror aspects would benefit from greater clarity. Stone’s place in the larger cosmology also raises some questions that Ash leaves unanswered. Yet overall, this beautifully crafted novel’s enticing premise and creative blend of familiar elements with welcome surprises will appeal to readers of all ages–especially those interested in themes of isolation, belonging, and duty.

Takeaway: A beautifully crafted SF dystopia, boasting relatable characters and a skillful plot.

Great for fans of: Tara Brown’s Born, Bella Forrest’s The Girl Who Dared to Think.

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

Click here for more about The Shadows We Make
Karma Under Fire
Love Hudson-Maggio
Set in Atlanta and India, Hudson-Maggio’s debut is a story about finding love in spite of insurmountable obstacles. Harlow Kennedy, a Black American woman battling to keep her head above water, crosses paths in mid-air with celebrity Indian restaurateur Tej Mayur/Vikram Chatwal when the two are both traveling to India, she to attend best friend Lita’s big fat Indian wedding and he to meet his mother, who is planning a traditional marriage for him. It takes Harlow and Tej some time to acknowledge their mutual attraction, and even then they face many hurdles before any possible happily ever-after: tradition, culture, nationality, caste and color, plus their own individual quirks and past personal tragedies.

Hudson-Maggio’s crisp, engaging prose and quick-paced storytelling will please readers of lively, travel-minded international fiction, though the novel doesn’t dig too deeply beneath the surface of Indian life. Extreme poverty, enormous wealth, Ayurvedic spas, extravagant weddings, unyielding tradition, fantastic Indian cuisine, a snake charmer–all the boxes for depicting India as an exotic backdrop for romantic adventure get checked. At times, the depiction strains credulity in the interest of generating tension: even in the nation’s most traditional homes, the days of the bride and groom not knowing each other’s names before the ceremony are long past.

Still, the language is breezy and the dialogue captivating, as Hudson-Maggio demonstrates a strong sense of character revealed through conversation. Narrative perspective is split between different narrative voices–first Harlow, then Tej, and later Sophia, Harlow’s mother. The introduction of Sophia as narrator might at first seem jarring, though the choice to highlight her perspective deepens her characterization from cold mother to wronged woman aching for her child. Readers looking for a light, character-driven romance with empathy and wit will find much to enjoy here.

Takeaway: Readers will find this culture-crossing cheerful romance a breezy read with some captivating dialogue.

Great for fans of: Rebecca Ryman’s Olivia and Jai, Nicola Marsh’s Busted in Bollywood.

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

Click here for more about Karma Under Fire
KIDNAPPED - A Tugboater's Tale
Bob Ojala
Ojala offers a rare and deeply researched insight into the world of human trafficking in middle America. Lake Michigan tugboat captain Ashley Walter and her husband Adam disappear after disembarking to buy pizzas for their crew. Young crew member Steve Steiner raises alarm over the couple’s disappearance, and both he and his father, Curt, must plunge into the grim netherworld of sex trafficking, working closely with police to conduct covert operations to gather the evidence to bring down those involved in smuggling these women across state boundaries.

Much of the novel’s strength comes from its female protagonists. There is Ashley, the tugboat captain who gets kidnapped, only to escape quickly by outwitting her kidnappers. Moved by what she witnessed and concerned about the welfare of other young women who fell victim to these traffickers, Ashley volunteers to work with the police on a sting operation, along with Officer Elizabeth “Liz” Trent, an experienced undercover officer who has busted many trafficking rings. Under her hardened exterior, Liz is an exceptionally empathetic police official who treats each young woman she rescues with kindness, making sure they reach their respective homes safely.

Though fast paced and suspenseful, with a strong sense of milieu, especially the “tough, steel mill town” of East Chicago, Indiana, not a place commonly assumed to be a hotspot of traffickers. (One character notes “I thought those places only existed in Detroit or Chicago, not right here.”) Still, the book often reads like a series of various characters’ adventures rather than one cohesive story, with perspective shifts from chapter to chapter and some plot points, such as the fact that civilians volunteer their services to the police and participate in high stake operations, strain credulity. The budding romance between Steve and Liz, though, is engaging, which makes it easier for readers to invest in the plot and its characters and look forward to subsequent sequels of the novel.

Takeaway: This suspenseful dive into human trafficking in middle America is distinguished by strong female characters.

Great for fans of:Lisa Clonch Tschauner’s Reclamation, Helen C. Escott’s Operation Trafficked.

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

Click here for more about KIDNAPPED - A Tugboater's Tale
Bag O' Goodies
Jolly Walker Bittick
This spirited miscellany from Bittick, author of the striking military-life hangout novel Cape Henry House, makes its intentions clear both from its title and its dedication page, which reads like an inviting toast: “To voluptuous variety: the spice of life.” Toastmaster Bittick follows it with a laddish poem linking loving a book to losing one’s virginity then a raucous tale of drinking, cornhole, potential hookups, and getting pulled over. (“I’m good” is the narrator’s answer to the question “do you consent to a field blood alcohol content test?”) The chatter of men, boys, and man-boys powers many of the tales that follow, which examine, with an empathetic lack of judgment, the behavior of seamen, neighborhood kids, young men just a little too old to go “cruising,” and other fundamentally innocent types who get in over their heads and live to tell about it.

As in Cape Henry House, Bittick demonstrates a rare ear and keen eye for all that’s comic, bittersweet, and occasionally alarming when groups of boys get to carrying on. His chatter, at bars and Naval bases, rings true, as his characters crack at each other and never quite say out loud the deeper things they’re feeling. Also as in the novel, the amusing conversations at times can drift toward aimlessness, which means they’re more accurate than most depictions of military life even when–especially when–they come at the expense of narrative momentum.

Still, Bittick excels at capturing the way good (or good-ish) times can spin out of control. It’s a relief, then, when despite “AR-15’s, handguns, and a shotgun or two” the three-part, novella-length motorcycle epic “Blue Ridge Riders” ends on a note of hope rather than violence or despair. The poems, meanwhile, range from deadly earnest to wickedly playful, demonstrating that structure sharpens rather than dulls the wit that pulses in all those shaggy dialogue scenes.

Takeaway: These vivid stories and poems of military and motorcycle life pulse with convincing comic dialogue.

Great for fans of: T.C. Boyle’s Greasy Lake and Other Stories, David Abrams’s Fobbit.

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

Click here for more about Bag O' Goodies
Camera Ready
Adele Royce
This sexy second-chance contemporary romance–the first in the Truth, Lies, and Love in Advertising series–introduces Jane Mercer, 28 year-old ad executive, as she balances a budding career and complicated love life. Finally over a disastrous affair with debonair businessman and chronic womanizer Craig Keller, Jane has convinced herself that she’s content and happy planning a future with her live-in fiancé Derek Lowell, a concert violinist with the L.A. Philharmonic. However, after a few unexpected encounters with the always “camera ready” Craig, old feelings begin to resurface, leaving Jane confused about her current relationship and the man she hates but also loves “in a strange and awful way.”

Writing with crisp, engaging prose, Royce wastes no time introducing the romantic conflict, and within the opening chapters sexual tension between Jane and Craig percolates from the pages. Some romance aficionados may take pause at Jane’s acts of deception as she attempts to conceal the truth about her torrid past affair and subsequent run-ins with Craig to her fiancé. However, Jane’s redeeming qualities shine through as she gets over the harsh breakup with Derek, and is thrust into a toxic new work environment rampant with misogyny, envious coworkers, and sexual harassment.

Royce excels at weaving aspects of her personal career experience as a Las Vegas-based PR and advertising exec into the story. The workplace drama she creates beautifully balances out the romance, while intensifying the stakes as Jane attempts to make partner at her new firm. Although Jane is infatuated by Craig’s good looks and sexual prowess, there are many aspects of his personality that she absolutely despises, which takes this story into enemy-to-lovers territory. The relationship between Jane and Craig is cat-and-mouse up until the last chapters, which build to an unexpected ending that will leave fans of contemporary romance satisfied and rejoicing.

Takeaway: Romance readers will appreciate the well-crafted redemption arc and surprise happily ever after.

Great for fans of: Lillie Vale’s The Shaadi Set-Up, Penelope Ward’s The Day He Came Back.

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

Click here for more about Camera Ready
Breathing Into the Light: One Woman's Journey Embracing the Sacredness of All Life
Pamela Verner
​​In her debut memoir, Verner shares how spiritual experiences helped her survive abandonment, sexual abuse, family addiction, and multiple suicide attempts. She details how advisors, both in spirit form and living, guided her through difficult times: “helpers…held a candle guiding me through some of my darkest hours, lighting my path forward.” Verner also describes her own experiences in psychotherapy, both as a patient and a social worker beginning in the 1980s, sharing with readers the “considerable compassion” she gained for her patients. Weaving together spiritualism and mental health practices, Verner delivers an inspirational narrative that will resonate with readers seeking hope for healing and who are open to concepts like spirit guides.

Writing for an adult audience unfamiliar with the realities of mental healthcare, Verner digs into the foundations of psychology and reveals how these theories influenced her personal life and her practice as a licensed clinical social worker. She explains the differences between ethical and unsupportive clinician-patient relationships, as well as the importance of patients establishing “informed consent” with their therapist. Verner also considers therapy practices that are still being used and those that are out-of-date: “I began my long walk past several nurses…past the locked medical room used for shock therapy, past the empty ‘quiet’ room used for patients who are in restraints (full leathers that is).”

​​Verner’s memoir does not purport to be a self-help guide–she cautions readers that not every mental health and spiritual technique, such as hypnosis, is recommended by every clinician. Despite the dark subject matter, Verner’s conversational style makes this an easy, meditative read. She often uses repetitive fragments to highlight her points, and although this can make the text choppy, it does not detract from the tension and tone: “There were only three people on the road that night. Me. Benjamin. And a police officer.” Spiritualists and survivors looking for inspirational guidance will find much here to contemplate.

Takeaway: This thoughtful memoir details the importance of mental health treatment and spiritualism in healing.

Great for fans of: Kay Redfield Jamison’s An Unquiet Mind, Kathryn Foster’s Sessions: Memoirs of a Psychotherapist.

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

Click here for more about Breathing Into the Light
Skyrmion: Book One of The Sweetland Quartet
Duane Poncy
In this immersive, intricately plotted mystery set in a near-future dystopia, Poncy (Bartlett House) challenges the concept of reality versus simulation. In 2035 the American government is owned by a corporate oligarchy that has privatized all services, leaving devastating poverty in its wake. Citizens spend their time on the internet-like Grid inside the New Life virtual reality world. But when Seattle private investigator Bridge Whitedeer—known as Claire Deluna in New Life—follows the trail of several bodies, she stumbles on a string of computer code called Skyrmion, which is designed to shut down the Grid and destroy the American economy.

With confident prose and a diverse cast of characters with fully realized back stories, Poncy’s well-plotted, complex thriller–the first book of The Sweetland Quartet–amps up the clash between virtual existence and reality. The planet is flooding, food is scarce, and the world is on the verge of a war over water. Joe Larivee, an overwhelmed social worker unable to help the drug-addicted masses, learns that his 14-year-old daughter Jessie is trying to get to an environmental community called Sweetland, a utopia that promises a new beginning for humanity. But Bridge gets conflicting information: is Sweetland a habitable pristine planet, a way to upload human consciousness to a giant database, or just a guerrilla marketing campaign to improve the New Life brand?

Poncy excels with evocative world-building and connections between characters that keep readers immersed and guessing until the end. The morality facing the characters who want to flee to the promise of Sweetland rather than try to fix the problems in front of them, offers a stark reminder to readers: “We always build a level of abstraction, a simulated bubble of denial around ourselves to protect us from the consequences of our decisions.” This is a treat for cyberpunk and science fiction fans who like smart characters maneuvering through introspective epics.

Takeaway: An intricate, cyberpunk dystopian thriller that will keep readers engrossed.

Great for fans of: Ernest Callenbach’s Ecotopia, Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash.

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

Click here for more about Skyrmion
Boston Proper
Joseph Caro
Caro’s fleet, assured debut centers on class and love in the late 19th century in what was then America’s most prim city, Boston. In the sprawling—and splendidly described—Bon Vive estate, where the patriarch and his wife live essentially separate lives, young Victoria Bon Vive comes of age with one dear friend, Xander, the son of the Bon Vive’s gardener, despite her mother’s admonitions to avoid that “filthy” child. At age sixteen, Victoria and Xander share a kiss, not long before she’s spirited away to New York’s Bennett School for Girls, and he finds his own ambitions--such as a pioneering irrigation system for the estate’s crops and greenhouse—thwarted by the disinterest of rich swells who consider themselves his better.

“I can’t go back to being a porcelain doll,” Victoria tells Xander. As this unlikely pair ages, they feel around for fresh life possibilities—Victoria dreams of becoming a teacher, much to her mother’s disgust. Secrets come to light, fortunes are threatened, and American society and geography works against them, as new commitments and relationships pull Victoria and Xander further apart, especially when Xander finds opportunity in San Francisco, a bold city on the make.

Caro dishes this story in crisp, swift chapters that have an inviting whiff of high-end gossip about them, especially as the story checks in, in brief and to-the-point passages, on the sprawling cast and each individual’s secret desires, schemes, and disappointments. The expectations of what it means to be “Boston proper” loom over the characters’ choices, and Caro proves adept at plotting and pacing a story that never allows the repressive forces that dominate it to slow down the narrative or limit its emotional resonance. At times, the prose could benefit from more polish, but the novel pulses with feeling, revelations, and the great concern of historical novelists—the question of what it felt like to be human in a particular time and place.

Takeaway: A bold, brisk historical novel of class, romance, and 19th century Boston mores.

Great for fans of: Renée Rosen’s The Social Graces, Nancy Zaroulis’s Call the Darkness Light.

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

Click here for more about Boston Proper
What the Pet Food Industry is Not Telling You: Developing Good Practices for a Healthier Dog
Dr. Stephanie Krol
Krol debuts with an impassioned treatise on using holistic nutrition to ensure the longevity of our pets. Focusing mainly on dogs, although she offers insight for cat owners as well, Krol argues that no commercial pet food is healthy, instead suggesting owners follow what she calls “Single Category Rotational Feeding,” a diet plan that includes only one category of food per day, drawing from raw meat, cooked vegetables, and fruits in their natural state. Urging readers to take control of their pets’ wellbeing, Krol argues that the bulk of the commercial pet food “comes from nutritionally empty and worthless byproducts sourced from ground-up body parts.” She likewise takes aim at veterinary science.

Using wolves as a natural comparison due to their shared DNA with dogs, Krol breaks down the genetics behind her recommendations: namely, dogs have a one chambered stomach, and combining different food types elevates levels of toxicity in their systems. She also delves into the science behind feeding dogs raw meat (their stomach acid is ten times more powerful than humans’, so bacteria does not pose the same risks) and why organic food guarantees the best health outcomes. On the medical side, Krol advises owners to be cautious with repeat vaccinations, arguing that titer testing—antibody tests to determine immunity—should be utilized instead.

Readers will appreciate the depth of insight in this guide, particularly how to differentiate digestive warning signs from common animal reactions to dietary detox. Most useful are the hands-on resources, including recipe samples, structured feeding plans based on animal preferences, and hints on finding (or making) safe treats–in addition to tailored food lists for cat lovers. Krol’s appreciation for pets is evident throughout, and her reminder that “there’s no greater gift you can give your dog or cat than the priceless gift of true health” is spot on.

Takeaway: A call to action about the dangers of commercialized pet food and animal medical treatment.

Great for fans of: The Woof Brothers’s Dog Nutrition & Cookbook, Shawn Buckley and Dr. Oscar Chavez’s Big Kibble.

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

Loading...