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Triumph and Tragedy: The Evolution and Legacy of 20th Century War Machines
Gail W. Miller
As its title suggests, Miller’s blunt, gorgeous photographic history of twentieth century war machines surveys is as pained as it is impressive, as its parade of mighty tanks, planes, cannons, and more—all shot by the author in vivid black and white–stirs both awe at humanity’s power to create and disquiet at its zeal to destroy. “In studying this long sweep of history, one cannot help but be struck by the extreme spasms of violence and destruction that occurred in the twentieth century,” Miller notes, before considering, in several persuasive text chapters, the forces that brought about this era of “unprecedented calamity”: mass production, improved mass transit, crucial cultural and scientific developments, and, fascinatingly, the improvements in public health that allowed populations to surge.

The third book in a trilogy on twentieth century war weapons (after The Neutron's Long Shadow and Weapons of Mass Destruction), Triumph and Tragedy lays out a clear, compelling history of the development of war technology, with welcome attention paid to the political, economic, and cultural currents powering a series of international arms races before, during, and after the World Wars. Miller appreciates that war machines aren’t produced in a vacuum, and his attention to sneaky business like the self-serving relationship between Bethlehem Steel and the secretary of the U.S. Navy during the Cleveland administration is welcome and clarifying, as is his depiction of the deployment of these weapons by often reckless actors working from perceived national interests.

Miller supplements this rich material with accounts of the changing nature of war, often with telling quotes from the people who lived and died in the shadows of these machines. The star, though, is Miller’s photography, plus a host of well-selected archival images and documents. He offers a succession of marvelous photos, often beautiful and barbarous at once, the killing machines looming and unmanned, the gray bolts, treads and gun barrels mute testament to our ingenuity–and appetite for power

Takeaway: This beautiful, outraged photographic survey of twentieth century war machines will dazzle and challenge fans of military history.

Great for fans of: Weapons & Warfare of the 20th Century, David Edgerton’s Britain's War Machine.

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

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Travels Through Aqua, Green, and Blue: A Memoir
Mary E. Gregory
Poet Gregory’s bold first book offers an expansive, revealing memoir about a remarkable life. Born with a cleft lip and palate, Gregory enjoys a mostly happy childhood in Nashville in the 1980s before a deep disruption: her preacher father reveals that he is gay and leaves the family. Lacking support in the face of scandal, and exhibiting signs of mental illness, Gregory’s mother moves her and her two siblings around the country, cutting them off from their father and extended family and subjecting them to extreme poverty and neglect. Although Gregory initially wants to blend in with other people, her self-confidence and bold choices will forever set her apart.

Gregory’s relationships with her family members are central to her story, and she doesn’t shy away from their complexities, addressing flaws and imperfections with sensitivity and nuance. Her mother’s ADHD and paranoid schizophrenia constantly exacerbate the family’s pain and the struggle of scraping by, though Gregory portrays her with a balance of unvarnished honesty and deep compassion and love. She also turns that candor on herself, examining her brief adolescent drug use, her unusual marriage, and her time in therapy. Always infusing these past experiences with incisive present-day commentary, Gregory lays bare the everyday humanity of complex choices—and mistakes.

Gregory’s strong narrative voice—one chapter opens “When I was still on speed, hanging out in the living room with other degenerates on an all-nighter at my dealer’s house, I pulled out a postcard”—is enhanced by strong dialogue and a facility for capturing striking sights, smells, tastes, and sounds of her past, though at times an abundance of detail slows the storytelling. The specificity, though, conveys a strong sense of time and place as Gregory offers fascinating insight into the HIV/AIDs crisis, civil unrest in Los Angeles, and grunge-era teen malaise. Despite the extraordinary and often heartbreaking challenges that Gregory has faced, her sincerity, realism, and determination will inspire readers of all backgrounds.

Takeaway: Readers interested in mental health and coming of age in the late 20th century will appreciate this moving story of resilience and healing.

Great for fans of: Dorothy Allison’s Bastard Out of Carolina, Jeannette Walls’s The Glass Castle, Tara Westover’s Educated.

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

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Discovering Twins: no secret is safe forever
Stella ter Hart
Ter Hart stuns readers with a haunting journey through family secrets in this striking debut. Part memoir and part historical fiction, ter Hart’s account offers an unforgettable mixture of anecdotes, personal memories, genealogy records, and preserved correspondence, all skillfully combined into a moving chronicle of her family’s experience of the Holocaust–a story that, she writes, “must continue to be told to all existing and future generations.” She recounts her parents’ upbringing in Holland during the second World War, as well as their later immigration to Canada, but her focus is on the Jewish family members who were lost–and those left behind.

This family tree can be challenging to track, but ter Hart’s conversational style incites readers in and transports them into the center of her family’s experiences. Her stories of “Tante Mina,” an aunt who survived multiple concentration camps after her husband turned her over to the Nazis, is spellbinding, as is the family secret that her grandfather, Giovanni Vittali, hid a fortune’s worth of valuables for Jewish friends and family through his construction company. Equally moving are ter Hart’s personal photographs, such as a reproduction of her grandmother’s star of David and a snapshot of seven-year-old Maurits, a relative who was killed at Sobibor. Throughout the account, ter Hart returns to the family’s tendency to have twins, the genealogical thread that spurred her interest in uncovering her family’s background.

While ter Hart never shies away from shocking details (at Auschwitz she notes the “still visible claw marks of human fingernails on the walls of the gas chambers”), she highlights the silver lining of stumbling across her family’s confidences–including finally being able to connect with a distant relative who survived. She leaves readers with the gut-wrenching insight “[h]ow grievous that humans, generally, still seem unable to evolve beyond being the hunter, the hunted, or the watcher,” and anyone intrigued by family histories and uncompromising historical fiction will discover a narrative to remember.

Takeaway: An unforgettable odyssey of family, overflowing with devotion, grief, and resilience.

Great for fans of: Adiva Geffen’s Surviving the Forest, David Crow’s The Pale-Faced Lie.

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

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1414º
Paul Bradley Carr
Carr’s first novel is a deep dive into the worst of Silicon Valley, told from the perspective of journalist Lou McCarthy, who has spent over half a decade covering the Valley’s billion-dollar companies, man-child founders, and their brociopathic, sexual assault-ridden culture. McCarthy now has an unprecedented opportunity to expose abuses and a serial predator at Raum, the Valley’s most highly valued company. But when Raum’s founder, Alex Wu, jumps to his own death, she finds herself mixed up in a larger plot to take down California’s tech titans, one sexually depraved CEO at a time. McCarthy must decide if she wants to stop the murderer, or maybe join them.

The narrative is fast-paced, and as a journalist who has spent 20 years covering the tech industry, Carr navigates this world with persuasive ease, his prose steeped in the local slang, jargon, and modes of thinking: “There’s no better way to understand Silicon Valley than to trace the path from feeder schools like Stanford through incubators like XXCubator, all the way to the Nasdaq,” he notes. Readers not steeped in the ins and outs of Silicon Valley may find it dense and occasionally inscrutable, and a circuitous plot at times adds to the challenge of keeping up with McCarthy. Others might not have the stomach for the novel’s frank descriptions of sexual assault.

Still, 1414º is an engaging read, with strong-willed female protagonists driving the plot and its action. With real-world news and events often serving as the building blocks, Carr creates a fictional world both similar to and scarier than the one we inhabit, all while putting his own spin on hot-button issues like the end of data privacy, the danger of online trolls, and, above all else, powerful men’s use and abuse of women. Silicon Valley aficionados, women in tech, and lovers of complex, fast-paced murder mysteries will enjoy this book, which reads as a potent critique of tech industry culture.

Takeaway:A fast-paced Silicon Valley murder mystery with a larger message of social justice.

Great for fans of: Adrian McCarthy’s Blue Screen of Death, Mark Coggins’s Vulture Capital.

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

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The Messenger: Eight Keys for Resurrecting Your Life
Mia Zachary
“Yeshua went again into the region of Yehuda and across the Jordan,” Zachary writes in a typical line from this atypical retelling of key incidents from the Gospels. But she adds, “He took his disciples with him and three Marys walked with him: his mother, his sister, and his beloved companion.” The “beloved companion” is Mary Magdalene, that most contested of Biblical figures, called Maryam in this radically inclusive account and treated with reverent respect by Yeshua, who trusts her to “preach about The Kingdom and to heal the sick.” Drawing from the Gospels, other early Christian texts, and translations of the Tao Te Ching and the Bhagavad Gita, Zachary’s vision of the life, death, teachings, and resurrection of Yeshua is both deeply researched and deeply personal.

Zachary notes, in an inviting preface, that she hopes that reading this new version of the most familiar (and fought over) of tales will prove a “perspective-shifting experience” for readers. She acknowledges that there’s no record establishing the precise relationship between Yeshua and Maryam, but concludes they must have been close friends, together embodying the “necessary balance of sacred masculine and divine feminine energies.” That balance guides Zachary, who alternates between masculine and feminine pronouns for God and has Yeshua address disciple Shimon’s distaste for Maryam’s prominence among the disciples who “fish for people.”

Zachary sources most lines of her retelling in ancient texts, combining Christian beliefs with other traditions, emphasizing light, rebirth, and knowing the self as a route to healing. (An appendix spells out the subtitle’s “keys for resurrecting your life.”) A spiritual healer herself, she preserves the healing miracles, though her take on the loaves and fishes story suggests Yeshua as a good manager rather than a creator of food. She numbers the lines, offers copious explanations of familiar and unfamiliar terms, and places the words of God in blue text. Readers looking to blend Christian teachings with other spiritual traditions will find much to ponder.

Takeaway: A vivid, deeply researched retelling of key moments of the Gospels, woven through with elements of other spiritual traditions.

Great for fans of: Thomas Jefferson’s Jefferson Bible, Elaine Pagels’s The Gnostic Gospels.

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

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Iceapelago 2091
Peter Brennan
Brennan’s near-future dystopian thriller portrays an Ireland shattered by environmental catastrophe into 30 islands where small groups of survivors struggle with weather, dwindling supplies, and governance issues. The Commander, ruler of this "Iceapelago," struggles with his responsibilities and a sometimes contentious relationship with local councils—the "Sixes" and sheriffs. An impending storm serves as a catalyst for violence against the current leadership, while other residents have their own agendas, especially Ruth Henry, who manages the Iceapelago's essential drone fleet, and Rory, a sheriff with a chip on his shoulder.

Brennan, who has a background in climate studies, effectively shows how individuals adapt to new, shocking situations. Rory's "army boots were removed from a corpse at the time of the flood without a second thought," and the boats no longer have life jackets: "life had little value." Occasionally, the point of view switches to wild animals, especially the arctic foxes, who are also struggling, a pivot that grants an especially rich perspective on the environmental calamity, despite interrupting the main narrative. In fact, the story feels crowded at times, with too many characters and plot lines to gain a deep sense for any of them, but the glimpses are engaging, and each story moves at a swift pace.

The most engrossing aspect of this apocalyptic adventure is Brennan's vision of how humans may organize themselves in a dystopian society. He has meticulously mapped out a future, as shown when the local Six offers Rory the sheriff's job, and we see a community that runs with a curious—and plausible—mix of democracy and commonsense oligarchy. But Brennan doesn’t shy away from the potential abuses: as the rulers become more desperate, they become more dictatorial, meting out swift and violent justice. Indeed, the book offers reasons for both hope and despair—and a message of our environmental future that will resonate long after the final page is read.

Takeaway: Sci-fi and climate fiction fans will relish this richly detailed—and all-too-possible—dystopian actioner.

Great for fans of: Diane Cook’s The New Wilderness, M. R. Carey’s Ramparts Trilogy.

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

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Scinan Legacy: C. 1-9
Kathy Blackledge Pickel
Pickel opens her debut fantasy series with a fresh, powerful hook: Thanks to King Wodan’s quest to possess all knowledge, the Nine Realms have stagnated, entering an era marked by “perpetual lack of creativity and invention”—new ideas and significant change are literally impossible. Amusingly, most denizens of the worlds ruled by Wodan haven’t noticed this 25 years later. As Queen Frija and the seers of the Order of the Tjetajat search the Realms for a solution, four young people in the realm of Midangard find themselves on the cusp of adulthood and adult responsibilities with little inkling that they’ll soon be swept up in the fate of the Realms themselves.

The series stands out for its author’s dedication to “specific neurodiverse reading comforts.” Pickel notes that she’s telling this story over multiple books but with consistent chapter numbers and pagination. Thinking of the hefty Scinan Legacy as the first nine chapters of a longer book rather than as a standalone might help readers who find the pacing slow even for epic fantasy. These pages are devoted to friendship and world-building, but of the most inviting sort. In that same preface Pickel promises that she has crafted the novel for readers who prefer “expanded descriptions of characters’ emotions and motivations.” So these characters are thoroughly, engagingly drawn, at times explained to the point of redundancy.

The Realms, too, are presented with welcoming imagination. Pickel guides readers through this world as her her quartet of likely heroes-to-be--three young men and one young woman, a seer accompanied by a wonderful shape-shifting pal called a pucca—tour a sort of fantasy Worlds Fair, lingering in pavilions dedicated to the many sharply drawn cultures. The plot picks up 200 pages in, when the two chief protagonists connect at last—a connection that might shake the Realms. Fantasy fans comfortable with the cozy pace will be eager for the next (literal) chapter.

Takeaway: This new epic fantasy series prioritizes friendship, character, and clarity as it reveals a fascinating world gone stagnant.

Great for fans of:Robin Hobb, Katherine Kurtz.

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

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Hemingway's Daughter
Christine M. Whitehead
Whitehead (The Rage of Plum Blossoms) delivers an immersive fictional imagining of the life of the fictional Finn Hemingway, a daughter of Ernest Hemingway and his first wife Hadley. When Finn leaves her Chicago home to attend a Connecticut boarding school at the age of 14, intent on eventually becoming a lawyer, she falls in love with Nick Armstrong, a relationship soon tested when he enlists in the Marines during the second World War while carries through with her quest for a legal career, attending Smith College and eventually enrolling in law school. Finn does not live with her famous father, but they correspond regularly, and she spends treasured time with him when not in school, as she tries to understand his fractured relationships with women.

The heart of Whitehead’s richly emotional narrative is Finn’s journey of self-discovery and her desire to forge her own path in the shadow of her father’s notoriety. Hemingway’s Daughter draws on the storied author’s history to address controversies surrounding his novels—and once-pressing allegations that he supported communism—adding realism and credibility to the conceit of an imagined daughter. Whitehead expertly develops Finn, interspersing (invented) letters from her father and (actual) quotes from his books into the text. The letters, playfully reminiscent of Hemingway’s famous style, find him offering support for his daughter while noting the vital role that writing plays in his life. Finn’s complexity comes through as she fights against boarding school bullying and addresses how her physical appearance and height run contrary to societal standards.

Whitehead emphasizes her similarities to her father—namely, their mutual struggles with alcoholism and its potential to overshadow their brilliance. Finn’s innermost feelings about her father will resonate most with readers, as she closes this compelling narrative: “He was flawed and fabulous, mean-spirited bully and most gracious of men, driven wordsmith and drunken raconteur, braggart and humble man, international icon and Midwestern boy, all of it. It was all true.”

Takeaway: Ernest Hemingway’s fictional daughter comes to life in a compelling and nuanced story of love, inheritance, and making your own way.

Great for fans of: Erika Robuck’s Hemingway’s Girl, Naomi Wood’s Mrs. Hemingway

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

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With' rd.
Brad Ramsey
Across five sections of short, often unnamed poems, Ramsey’s searing and personal collection grapples with the existence of being a poet before, during, and after making meaning through art. Sometimes, the speakers here ruminate on self-doubt (“It is not that I can’t write, for I have written. Or / Was that some other infinite time?...”), and others lay bare the ways that mental illness can disrupt the creative process: “I long to write the words I once with ease composed, / To celebrate my life in poetry and prose, / But now the world is dark and luminous within, / I scratch the surface only and cannot get within.

Ramsey experiments with voice, point of view, and form throughout this slim collection. Some poems make use of dialogue, bringing the ruminations outside of the prevailing interiority. A few use blocks of text and a meditative tone to illustrate a scene, while others edge toward song structures, with rhythmic refrains and repeated lines. Ramsey often employs strong first-person narration, evoking the feeling of someone recording their deepest insecurities in a journal, but he also offers second person reassurances, perhaps to the reader, perhaps to the speaker: “Meaning falls from the sky at such alarming rates, / You are a human being, my love, you are a human / being…”

At times the many untitled poems can seem to bleed into each other as one long-form narration or meant to be enjoyed in sharp, separate bursts. In true postmodern tradition, Ramsey presents critiques of “the...twenty-first century / wasted mind” in conversation with larger philosophical questions of the self. In Ramsey’s poetic world, no one problem is more legitimate than the next, rather compounding in how they impact the artist. He addresses the canon, then eschews it: “no longer do I aspire to the golden gate of poetry - / to the muses, Keats, Wordsworth, Collins, or Shelly, / but a poor muse, a humble muse will do, / who can be in the society of wretch.” Instead, he finds his own way.

Takeaway: The varied forms, styles, and themes throughout Ramsey’s poetry illuminate the universal nature of loss and sadness.

Great for fans of: Charles Olson, Campbell McGrath.

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

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The Mask
Clayton Marshall Adams
Adams leaves a legacy in this short, inventive, and anguished story, which mirrors the late author’s own devastatingly short life and in the end offers a glimmer of hope. Mil, a skilled sculptor who was abandoned in the woods as a child, is shunned and ridiculed by local villagers because of his disfigured face. He’s the prime target for a classic Faustian bargain: as he treks through the woods one day, he happens upon a mask that offers him a deal—become beautiful in exchange for a promise to perform a task that will be revealed later. If Mil does not complete the task, the mask will be destroyed, and he will revert to his “present form—a freak.” Will Mil take the deal, and, if he does, will he pay the price?

Reminiscent of Hans Christian Andersen's original fairy tales, where children often live and work (and face weird horror) independently, this middle-grade fable manages to confront the very real cruelties and choices children have faced throughout time—such as bullying and whether to conform or stand out—without ever coming across as too grisly. However, while this is a tale and message as old as time, instead of ending on a happy and comfortable note like many modern and contemporary works, Adams closes with a provocative cliffhanger, sending the true but uncomfortable message that you never can know how others might react to your true self, but that it’s urgent to risk it anyway.

This brief but substantial story is heightened by effective and affecting prose (“Mil felt suddenly unclean in the presence of the mask. It was alive.:”) as well as Rohan Daniel Eason's eye-catching, evocative illustrations, often reminiscent in their spareness and line work of classic woodcuts. Adams’s family has done his work proud with this illustrated edition, and Adams deserves posthumous praise for capturing a timeless message with singular power.

Takeaway: Fans of vintage, creepy fairy tales will find more than a moral in this short but moving story.

Great for fans of: Hans Christian Andersen, Sally Gardner’s Tinder.

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

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Every Year, Every Christmas: Inspired by Luther Vandross' classic holiday song, "Every Year, Every Christmas"
Anthony Lamarr
The power of love at first sight is tested in this charming and innocent tale by Lamarr (The Pages We Forget). Atlanta journalist Bryant Fuller returns to his native Chicago for Christmas and on December 24th stumbles into a chance encounter with Cassie Knight at Pearlie Mae’s Café–and, despite being total strangers, the sparks fly and a connection is forged. Cassie impulsively tags along with Bryant for some last-minute Christmas shopping, disclosing in the process that she is engaged to be married in the spring. The duo spend a companionable evening together, after which Bryant claims Cassie is “the girl I’ve been waiting for since fifth grade.” They regretfully part ways–Cassie is engaged–but not before Bryant makes a promise to wait for Cassie at the café every Christmas Eve in case her relationship fails.

Inspired by the evergreen Luther Vandross ballad “Every Year, Every Christmas,” Lamarr kindles a feeling of holiday warmth with this story of slow, simmering love. Bryant, a gentleman who holds open doors, is attentive to Cassie’s feelings, and the encounter causes her to question her relationship with her fiancé, Malcolm, a charmer who largely ignores her and has cheated in the past. But Cassie still goes through with the wedding, staying away from the café—and Bryant—to devote herself to making her marriage work. Meanwhile, Bryant faithfully spends several Christmas Eves waiting for her in their booth, while his own romantic relationships never quite get off the ground.

Lamarr’s sensitive handling of the sweet, budding intimacy between Bryant and Cassie will engage lovers of gentle grown-up romances, despite the story’s shortage of dramatic events. The abrupt ending, though happy, proves anticlimactic and unceremonious, given the extensive time both characters spend longing for the chance to reunite. Readers who fancy delicate romance and wholesome characters will find this tale of loyalty and love appealing.

Takeaway: A chance encounter turns unforgettable in this sweet slow burn of a holiday romance.

Great for fans of: Teri Wilson’s The Accidental Beauty Queen, Beverly Jenkins.

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

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War Story
Rolf Margenau
Novelist and photographer Margenau’s wartime coming-of-age novel centers around four youths each facing their adventures during the upheaval of the second World War. Achim, a respectful youth in Connecticut, unexpectedly becomes involved in a black market scheme; his onetime babysitter Liesel, a young woman already somewhat famous as a licensed pilot, finds her skills give her a chance to aid in the war effort by flying with the British Air Transport Auxiliary; Paul, an engineer turned code breaker discovers that first love can come with brutal lessons; and Horst, a captured German commander who becomes more and more disillusioned with the cause his homeland is fighting for. This cast’s web of connections weaves together as the war nears its end, building to a denouement more optimistic than the norm in contemporary war stories.

After a preface that illustrates the weight and passage of time, an aged Achim finds an old photo album and diary in a cobwebbed attic. Margenau dives into the past, splitting the novel between first-person chapters narrated by Achim, who feels great urgency to share his story as one of the few people left to tell it, and third-person accounts of Liesel, Paul, and Horst. Achim focuses on the war and its impact on himself and the people closest to him: “Almost all those stern, smiling, relaxed people were gone,” he writes, “their stories untold, their eventful lives unrecalled. And so would be my stories, soon.”

From there, Margenau’s work is a warm remembrance of lessons Achim learned from his father (“Once you understand the good and bad things that exist in your world, it is easier to make decisions”), along with the trials, hardships and blessings faced by the others in the tumultuous war years. Whether the focus is on the front lines, the skies, a POW camp, or somewhere back home, War Story offers uplifting testament to the human capacity to carry on when the need is great, no matter how much it hurts.

Takeaway: This warm account of young people in the second World War will please lovers of character-rich historical fiction.

Great for fans of:James Holland’s Twenty One: Coming of Age in the Second World War, Susan Meissner’s The Last Year of the War.

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

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The Addiction Manifesto
JR Weaver
Weaver, a “writer by necessity” as part of his lifetime recovery from drugs and alcohol, opens up about the recovery process in this brief, focused self-help book. Clear-eyed yet hopeful, Weaver details his unique experiences as an addict, his current take on life, and the potential he has found in recovery. “We do get to live a life of value that will make us joyous, happy and free,” he declares. The Addiction Manifesto offers outlines a route toward that life, as Weaver lays out the basics of what to expect during the recovery process, addresses common pitfalls, and shares celebratory, life-affirming moments from his own recovery experience. Weaver blends personal reflections with practical steps and tips for establishing constructive patterns of living (“We avoid anybody who doesn’t support our recovery.”

Weaver has targeted this book toward those dealing with addiction as well as their loved ones, with a goal of fostering empathy, and understanding, though much of the focus is on people personally in recovery. Weaver’s advice for facing addiction and getting the most out of recovery is straightforward, often reinforcing aspects of Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous' (AA/NA) programs; still, Weaver encourages readers to find what works for them personally, acknowledging that not every program will work for every person.

Weaver’s tone is optimistic yet frank, expressing to the reader that there is hope at any point in addiction and recovery, even in the face of setbacks: “Its patience is phenomenal,” he writes, of addiction. “It customizes a personal relapse plan for each of us.” At times, the manifesto’s reflections stray from practical advice, but overall Weaver, who currently works for a treatment program, offers welcome personal and professional guidance. For those curious about what addicts face or those seeking help in their recovery, Weaver’s words offer comfort and guidance.

Takeaway: This manifesto faces addiction and ongoing recovery with the goal of setting a path of hope.

Great for fans of: Arnold M. Washton’s Willpower’s Not Enough, Gabor Maté’s In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts.

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

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God and Humanity: The Revelation of Sovereignty
Max-Henri Lavi
In this ambitious debut, Lavi strives to demonstrate that God exists and that human freedom can only come from that God, who has taken an active role throughout human history. While Lavi’s preface and some of his arguments draw on the Bible or the thinking of Maimonides or Rabbi Abraham Heschel, most of God and Humanity is powered by his own classical reasoning, as Lavi establishes and develops clear premises and hypotheses (“Matter is Divine Clay” or “God created and designed the natural world to reveal the extent of His sovereignty”), working through each claim to his satisfaction, not just showing his work but guiding the reader through.

The result is a challenging but engaging treatise preoccupied with issues of divinity, holy sovereignty, and a covenantal relationship between God and humanity. These topics, for Lavi, are intimately bound: “It is therefore by investigating both the structural origin and aspiration of human consciousness that we may come close to perceiving the existence of a personal God,” Lavi writes, with personal referring to his contention that “God has a relationship with a being according to the unique nature of that being.” From that he concludes that our very capacity to experience awe at the sublime or divine is itself evidence that “our spiritual soul is divine in itself, for that is the entity that directly interacts with or perceives the divine.”

Despite the complexity and thoroughness of Lavi’s nested arguments, a sense of the ecstatic—a sense of the author reveling in the glory of God--pulses throughout the book, even in appendices dedicated to further examining the nature of freedom and consciousness or the relationship between law and holiness. Lavi employs reason to apprehend God, reason that, as the author argues, has the power to “reveal the beauty and goodness of God’s glory.” Believers eager for a heady, philosophical faith, stripped of all cant, will find much here to contemplate.

Takeaway: This impassioned treatise aims to prove God’s existence and humanity's sovereignty through the power of inspired reason.

Great for fans of: Lawrence Keleman’s Permission To Believe: Four Rational Approaches to God's Existence, Brian Davies’s The Reality of God and the Problem of Evil.

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

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Fifty First Dates After Fifty: A Memoir
Rachel Hutchings
Blending memoir and self-help, self-proclaimed Bay Area hippie Arnold offers a quick, refreshing––and surprisingly pro-sex––read about redefining relationships and expectations in a monogamous-normative world. Arnold recounts what she has dubbed “the dating project,” a time in her life, over the course of two years, when she went on 50 first dates searching for her one perfect partner––while trying to get over her noncommittal ex-boyfriend. That period finds her dabbling in polyamory, attending sex parties, and dating married men, convinced that once she finds “the one” she will settle down and be monogamous. But during her journey she finds more than misadventures or an ideal partner. She makes new friends and learns new truths about herself. “Oh yeah!” she exults. “I remembered. I love sex! It energizes and mellows me out at the same time.”

The book’s an engaging example of how the journey matters more than the destination: Turns out, Arnold’s true goal was to love and accept herself for who she is. Arnold’s introspection and clarity (she describes her type as the “spiritual businessman”) will inspire even skeptical readers to evaluate their love lives and perhaps even face and accept aspects of themselves, such as a curiosity about polyamory, that they may not have before. Arnold’s frank description and thoughtful reflection on her dozens of dates––from good to bad, from being rejected to having to reject––will make women readers feel heard and understood.

However, Arnold takes a lot of time describing her work with the Human Awareness Institute, putting a lot of stock on what she has learned there, which makes some of this memoir’s accounts of breakthroughs feel promotional––and risks losing readers enticed by the book’s title. In the final pages, Arnold tends to explain rather than dramatize, burdening the narrative with expositional detail. Still, when Arnold tells these stories with brutal honesty––with herself and her readers––Fifty First Dates shines.

Takeaway: Perfect for the poly-curious and their skeptical counterparts, this account of looking for love after fifty offers surprise and discoveries.

Great for fans of: Zoey Leigh Peterson’s Next Year, For Sure, Sophie Lucido Johnson’s Many Love: A Memoir of Polyamour and Finding Love.

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

Click here for more about Fifty First Dates After Fifty: A Memoir
Till Daph Do Us Part: Weddings. Funerals. Sleuthing.
Phillipa Nefri Clark
Clark (Last Known Contact) offers an enticing kickoff to the Daphne Jones cozy mystery series with the story of a charming wedding celebrant who becomes embroiled in the murder of a newlywed. Daphne Jones enjoys traveling the countryside of Victoria, Australia, with her husband John in their caravan, the Bluebell, marrying couples. On a trip to Little Bridges, Daphne officiates at the wedding of Lisa Brooker to Steve Tanning, Lisa’s third go-round at marrying men related to one another. Lisa’s two previous marriages, to Steve’s cousins, ended with her husbands’ untimely deaths, and this time, shortly after the ceremony, the groom is discovered unresponsive in a pool. Against the advice of local law enforcement. Daphne investigates Steve’s death. The body count rises as her investigation gets too close to the truth, putting her life in danger.

In Daphne, Clark has crafted an ideal cozy mystery sleuth, an appealing and inquisitive woman engaged in a lively profession that allows her to observe people in moments of pitched emotion without attracting their attention. She’s confident yet relatable, having to tell herself, at times, to “stop babbling,” and her love for her job (“Being a celebrant means the world to me”) and fear of losing clients is endearing. As an older woman without connections to the police, Daphne may be discounted by those around her as someone lacking investigative skills, which makes her success as an amateur sleuth all the more believable.

The introduction of multiple suspects adds to the suspense as Clark gradually reveals information about the long-standing feud between the Tanning and Brooker families. Considering her history, the bride can’t be discounted as a potential black widow type, but Clark keeps the pages turning with smooth plotting as Daphne journeys in her caravan, charming yet dogged in the first of what looks to be many investigations to uncover a killer.

Takeaway: A charming wedding officiant turned amateur sleuth pursues the identity of a murderer after a newlywed's death.

Great for fans of: Tonya Kappes’s Beaches, Bungalows and Burglaries, Emma Jameson’s A Death at Seascape House.

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

Click here for more about Till Daph Do Us Part

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