Find out the latest indie author news. For FREE.

I hate my brother
Branislav Bojcic
Bojčić’s dramatic war novel is rooted in the gut-wrenching events of the Bosnian War. Serb Gvozden Mišić lives in Yugoslavia with his wife, Yadranka, and daughter, Anna. He naively believes Yugoslavia will continue to prosper as a unified country after President Josip Broz Tito’s death. Soon, war breaks out, and Gvozden serves in the military with a mission to secure villages against traitors. Before Gvozden leaves to fulfill his commitment to his country, he asks his Muslim neighbor Senad to look after his family. The Serbs in charge seek to kill Muslims and Croats in order to create a pure Serbian Yugoslavia, but Gvozden simply wants to return home and protect his wife and daughter.

Gvozden’s intense experiences as a soldier transform him from a level-headed farmer and devoted family man to a primal brute. The story depicts shocking acts, including the rape of Muslim women by rogue soldiers in Gvozden’s unit. The graphic violence captures the horrifying nature of war, and beneath the bloodshed lie philosophical questions: Are monsters born or created? If God exists, why does He allow evil? Bojčić doesn’t try to provide answers, instead leaving readers to grapple with the repercussions of violence on those who commit it as well as those it victimizes.

Bojčić’s experience as a Yugoslavian and a political refugee in the United States lends authority to the setting and subject. The characters and themes transcend the occasional translation and editing errors to create an intense, fast-paced journey guaranteed to haunt readers. This arresting drama draws back the curtain of war and focuses on the metamorphosis of men under the extreme stress of combat. Bojčić’s emotional and gripping portrayal of war will stick with history enthusiasts long after the final sentence.

Takeaway: Fans of war, military, and historical fiction will be enthralled by Bojčić’s heart-twisting depiction of the Bosnian War.

Great for fans of Sebastian Faulks’s Birdsong, Zlatko Dizdarević’s Sarajevo: A War Journal, Loung Ung’s First They Killed My Father.

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

Click here for more about I hate my brother
The Science of Defying Gravity
LINDA A REED
Reed’s second middle grade novel, an upbeat tale meant to encourage girls in STEM, explores the joys of scientific discovery. Fifth grader Cassie Williams dreams of going to Space Camp, her initial step toward becoming the first movie director in space. Unfortunately, her ticket to Space Camp relies on getting a good grade in science—her worst subject! With her father recently laid off, Cassie needs to make the best science fair project ever if she wants to win a scholarship and keep any hope of getting to space.

Though the science of Cassie’s paper airplane project is solid, the narrative often gets dragged down by details, such as an entire chapter of Cassie writing a lab report. The illustrations range from whimsically charming to bland. Cassie’s personal journey is full of false starts; problems with friends and her moviemaking ambitions are never really fleshed out, and though Cassie is an effective vehicle for conveying academic information, she’s not always a compelling protagonist. Her classroom setting also feels a bit dated, and at times the plot stretches credulity. However, even when the story falters, the detail is interesting enough to keep the attention of science-minded young readers.

Cassie’s journey is full of empowering female role models, including a woman engineer, and bonus material includes links to the Society of Women Engineers. Children who have a hard time grasping scientific principles may find this book more understandable than a textbook, while children who love science will be pleased with the amount of factual information and the experiments that can be done at home. The novel would work well as a classroom tool, pairing narrative with ideas for hands-on experiences, and will encourage young scientists—especially girls—to believe that their dreams are within their reach.

Takeaway: Tweens who enjoy making, building, and learning will get the most from this book about what it takes to become a scientist.

Great for fans of Asia Citro’s Zoey and Sassafras series, Linda Sue Park’s Project Mulberry.

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

Click here for more about The Science of Defying Gravity
Bittersweet Memories: The Life Story of an Immigrant Daughter
Barbara Hussmann Long
Long, a German American immigrant, shares the story of her parents’ broken marriage, her brother’s alcoholism, and her own challenges finding happiness and peace against the backdrop of WWII’s lasting shadow. Long is a natural storyteller, and though she joins many others in addressing the trauma experienced in WWII, her memoir provides an unusual perspective: a member of a white, upper-middle-class family living through the rise and fall of Nazi Germany and immigrating to America. Framed as an effort to come to terms with the unexpected death of Long’s estranged father, this book covers divorce, mental illness, faith, and family through a combination of storytelling and personal reflections.

At times, Long’s stories feel straight out of a war drama. An anecdote about her mother having a friendly chat with Ulrich Graf, Adolf Hitler’s personal bodyguard and friend, strikes a chilling note (and contrasts with Long’s mother's later vehement anti-Nazi sentiments). The book is full of similar larger-than-life moments, including a humorous encounter with the von Trapp Family Singers (of Sound of Music fame) and a tale of Long’s mother sneaking into the 1936 Olympics. The family’s personal challenges are no less intense. Long is sometimes dismissive of her brother, viewing him as giving in to mental illness and substance abuse; readers may wish she’d put more effort into reflecting on how his coping mechanisms mirrored her frantic quest for external sources of inspiration and approval.

Long’s central message is that nothing surpasses the power of positive thinking, especially when healing from trauma. Citing Pollyanna, Norman Vincent Peale, and music from the last few decades, Long celebrates her positive attitude, which she believes drove her personal and professional successes: becoming a top-notch salesperson, finding a spiritual home in Unitarian Universalism, and raising her family. Readers will find themselves quoting Long’s many aphorisms long after they finish this moving memoir.

Takeaway: This emotional memoir will resonate with readers interested in first-person-accounts of life in Nazi Germany, immigration in wartime, and family strife.

Great for fans of Irmgard A. Hunt’s On Hitler’s Mountain, Wolfgang Samuel’s German Boy.

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

Yesterday Is Not Yet Gone
Gabriel Veiga
Veiga’s fast-paced debut whodunit combines murder and intrigue while introducing a not-so-ragtag team of strong female leads who must navigate an intricate web of lies and small-town secrets to catch a serial killer. Judy Hunter, a newly retired NYPD detective, and Charlotte Gibbins, the daughter of Judy’s former partner, form an unlikely crime-solving duo. When Hollywood star Ethan Gregory is murdered the day of Judy’s retirement, Judy is resigned to leaving the investigation to her trusted partner, Fred Gibbins, but then Fred dies suddenly. Judy teams up with Charlotte, who is determined to be a detective like her father, to find out the truth about Fred’s death as well as Ethan’s.

Veiga keeps the story flowing with short chapters that quickly alternate between the perspectives of Judy and Charlotte. The characters’ attitudes and viewpoints are expressed vividly through colorful, sometimes choppy dialogue. The cast of characters is large and diverse with interconnecting story lines, adding additional layers of conflict and suspense. Tensions often flare when Hunter’s replacement, Eddie White, a good ol’ boy from Louisiana, makes an appearance. Albeit a tad clichéd, Eddie’s arrogance and personal beliefs exemplify prejudices and racist views that create inequalities within the legal system.

Elements of mystery and suspense are combined with the complexities of navigating a career that’s less friendly to some races, genders, and sexual orientations. The chapters are packed with action and usually end on cliffhangers that hold the reader’s attention. The rural setting and the warm relationship between Judy and Charlotte give the story an almost cozy feel and set the backdrop for a true mystery thriller that keeps readers guessing until the end.

Takeaway: Fans of cozy murder mysteries will find delight in this story’s fast-paced plot and quirky, diverse cast of characters.

Great for fans of Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects, Tana French, Agatha Christie.

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

Click here for more about Yesterday Is Not Yet Gone
Corrupted Humours, a Novel
Donald Friedman
Friedman’s layered novel combines humor and two distinct narratives into a single convoluted mystery. In the first story line, struggling novelist and journalist Owen Berk investigates the untimely death of esteemed psychiatrist Dr. Snaedeker, who had a gastrointestinal condition causing him to produce excessive amounts of gas. Snaedeker exploded on the operating table during routine surgery performed by renowned surgeon Bill Spencer. In the second, which seems to be both real life and a novel Owen is writing, Charlotte Spencer, Bill’s wife and Snaedeker’s patient, grapples with the realization that her husband has been cheating. The stories begin to intertwine as Owen tries to figure out whether Snaedeker was murdered and the Spencers veer toward divorce.

Snaedeker’s medical condition and death are mined somewhat for comedy, but they take a back seat to the drama in Owen’s life and the turmoil within the Spencers’ rocky relationship, particularly the physical abuse and mental manipulation that both Snaedeker and Bill inflict on Charlotte. Unfortunately, the stylistic choice to leave quotation marks out of dialogue (“She said, they’re chocolate, your favorite. I said no thanks”) makes it very hard to follow the events; Owen’s first-person narration blurs into his conversations with others, and scenes with multiple characters are especially difficult to untangle, greatly diminishing the tension.

Nuances of character elevate the story. Owen, a man in his “stream-dribbling sixties,” is somewhat obsessed with aging and death, a trait developed through his relationship with his 20-something girlfriend, Kjirsti, and his role as unofficial caregiver to his 92-year-old neighbor, Basha-Rose. Charlotte experiences a masochistic sexual awakening that helps her both make sense of and defy being mistreated. These complex protagonists and their interwoven narratives create a distinctive literary mystery with a bent toward the philosophical.

Takeaway: This mystery will appeal to readers who enjoy literary fiction and stories that examine the human condition.

Great for fans of Alexis Schaitkin’s Saint X, Suzanne Rindell.

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

Click here for more about Corrupted Humours, a Novel
Living in Christ: Character, Community, and Leadership
Stephen W. Hiemstra
The fifth and final work in Hiemstra’s Christian spirituality series (following 2019’s Simple Faith) unpretentiously explores the role of Christian ethics in a postmodern environment and examines biblical components of modern religious leadership. This uncomplicated publication illuminates the clash between many core Christian values and current American society, offering concrete methods to tackle topics such as idolatry, family dysfunction, and morally complex decisions. Readers seeking to enhance personal and professional leadership skills will find Hiemstra’s guide easily relatable, with basic and adaptable suggestions for living responsibly. Hiemstra offers specific advice on the trials of pastoring amid present-day demands, and much of the work uses his own experience in the ministry to highlight ethical dilemmas around such everyday concerns as raising children, funding churches, and making restitution for harm.

Theology is explained in straightforward terms with comprehensible interpretation of biblical principles and parables. The work consistently delivers a framework for Bible-based leadership, though at times it digresses with unrelated and disconnected material. Hiemstra’s emphasis on sharing the Christian message in modern times is candid, and the work does not shy away from confronting sensitive topics. The author utilizes personal experiences to clarify and support themes in the work, although readers may find these rudimentary and extraneous. Building from a foundation of pure devotion, Hiemstra exhorts followers to self-transformation through emulating the behaviors and beliefs of Christ and witnessing to others.

Highlighting the Christian leader’s role in addressing societal problems while promoting moral accountability, Hiemstra provides readers with impetus to model maturity by mentoring others. The combination of straightforward biblical analysis of Christian leadership practices and tangible applications for living in faith makes the work relevant to postmodern Christianity and gently challenging. Hiemstra offers a balance of mild admonishment and aspiration for ethical living, and readers will appreciate the forthright presentation of Bible-based principles for effective leadership.

Takeaway: Readers seeking to improve Christian leadership skills and heighten ethical living through well-known biblical principles will find this work straightforward and useful.

Great for fans of John MacArthur, Henri J.M. Nouwen.

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

Click here for more about Living in Christ
Compassion Mandala: The Odyssey of an American Charity in Contemporary Tibet
Pamela Logan
In a memoir resonant with authentic devotion to serving others, Logan (Tibetan Rescue: The Extraordinary Quest to Save the Sacred Art Treasures of Tibet) painstakingly chronicles the work of the American charity she created to aid the deeply impoverished Kham region of Tibet. After becoming fascinated by the fighting styles of other countries, Logan initially explored the area of Kham to discover more about their warriors. Immediately drawn to help the region’s poorer residents, Logan left her aeronautics career and began volunteering, eventually starting the Kham Aid Foundation. Logan tells the moving stories of raising money for conservation projects, assistive equipment for disabled people, and education, as well as acquiring sponsors to give individual children educational scholarships.

Logan acknowledges that humanitarian work in the region is often dirty and difficult, but she always maintains a positive viewpoint, and the individuals she helps seem to share her attitude of hope and thankfulness. Sometimes her narration is a little dry and removed, but when she lets herself get personal, her writing shines. Readers with some background knowledge of politics in Tibet and China will have the best grasp of the nuances of Logan’s work. Those unfamiliar with the region will still appreciate the comprehensive firsthand exploration of areas both troubled and beautiful, as well as the helpful maps.

Throughout, Logan takes time to detail the importance of establishing trusting connections with locals, the complicated nature of international relations, and the speed with which networks and contacts can change. Although she delves into the corruption of government officials stealing money earmarked for the children and shares cautionary advice for Americans doing humanitarian work in China, Logan also brilliantly reveals the rewards of her labors: babies’ lives saved at birth, educated girls who achieve great success. The resilience and beauty of the Tibetan people stand out in this sweeping account.

Takeaway: Readers curious about daily life and humanitarian work in Tibet will be swept up by this marathon account of the Kham Aid Foundation’s founding and work.

Great for fans of Charlie Carroll’s Peaks on the Horizon: Two Journeys in Tibet, Gillian G. Tan’s In the Circle of White Stones: Moving through Seasons with Nomads of Eastern Tibet.

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

Click here for more about Compassion Mandala
The Write to Happiness: How to Write Stories to Change Your Brain and Your Life
Samantha Shad
This cogent guide to storytelling also advocates the use of writing as a tool to improve one’s life through the written word. Shad identifies the “rules of writing to happiness” in straightforward steps, with an emphasis on using creative writing to view life’s problems through the lens of narrative. The first section is an excellent resource for aspiring and novice writers, with chapters that explore storytelling, developing characters, and plotting. Shad effortlessly expands and builds upon each element of writing as the book progresses. Having addressed the “how” of writing, the second section explores the “why.” Shad delves deeper into explaining her belief that one can rewire the brain through expressive writing, thus writing oneself to happiness.

The detailed chapters on the basics of writing will appeal to novice writers just beginning to explore the craft. Shad begins at the very beginning, discussing where ideas come from, how to develop a protagonist and antagonist, and how to structure a plot. Her style is engaging and entertaining while staying highly informative and providing firm guidance: “There are no awards for having the most characters, subplots, and storylines. Aim to go deep, not wide.” Shad encourages the reader to jump ahead in certain areas of the book to try their hand at a particular exercise. This will go over well with readers who are hands-on learners and with writers already well-versed in the basics.

This guide caters to writers in the broad sense of the word, providing useful analysis for professionals, as well as for people who journal and write recreationally. Novices can rely on the wealth of information presented as a learning tool, and seasoned authors can peruse the work as a refresher course or learn more about writing and the brain. The writing exercises and worksheets are relevant to all skill levels. Readers with interest in creative writing or journaling will find this tool well worth investigating.

Takeaway: This resource for aspiring writers is also a self-help book for anyone seeking self-discovery through the art of writing.

Great for fans of Julia Cameron, Chris Fox, Ryder Carroll.

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

Daniel Scratch: A Story of Witchkind
Don Jones
Jones’s languorous, meditative epic fantasy follows its titular character, Daniel Scratch, an orphaned teenager descended from powerful witches. At age 13, Daniel is sent to pursue his magical education in a fantastical tower, alone but for his friend and mentor, Kirmin. Daniel is studying to be the adherent of the Axis of Endings, one of the world’s great magics. This affords him control over endings big and small, from lifestyles to lives. The rest of witchkind binds Daniel to the tower, hoping that doing so will bind death. Once Daniel becomes an adherent and is able to send his spirit beyond the tower, he uncovers a horrible crime that shines a light on his complicated family history and tests his new abilities.

The gothic setting is rich in detail: magical bureaucracy and legality, Lithuanian spell words, peculiar artifacts, taciturn ghosts. It creates a compelling backdrop for Daniel’s development, in the process emphasizing his loneliness and isolation. His parents didn’t teach him many things they should have, his undead grandmother is cryptic, and he struggles to catch up with what the rest of witchkind already knows, all while developing control of immense magics. Romance, friendship, and family are absent from his life; even among his fellow adherents, Daniel stands alone.

Jones does an admirable job of describing the perils and pitfalls of power in this captivating story. At one point, Daniel considers using his abilities to end an argument, only to reflect that conflict can have a purpose and should be resolved naturally. The true meaning of ending is explored and expounded, stressing the importance of free thinking through viewing the challenges and experiences of the main characters. These ruminations, and the sections detailing Daniel’s education, are at times exposition-heavy, but this work is generally best suited to readers who enjoy slow immersion in rich prose. Adult and teenage fans of thoughtful fantasy will love exploring this beautifully described world of arcane powers.

Takeaway: This meditative look at power will engage readers who like their fantasy with a side of philosophy.

Great for fans of Ursula K. Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea, Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book.

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

Click here for more about Daniel Scratch
Evah & the Unscrupulous Thwargg
Longoria Wolfe
Wolfe’s intense and complicated debut draws readers into a young woman’s magical world. Evah, an 11-year-old Black girl, is bullied by her white classmates. She’s as troubled by her strange abilities as she is by her loneliness: she is able to manifest the smell of glillin flowers, create a fiery hole in the ground, and even generate a swarm of hornets to chase the bullies. A blind church rat explains that Evah is really an alien Hypathian. All Hypathians are known for their vivid dreams, but Evah is a rare extuiter, a person who can control and manipulate reality. As Evah learns about her identity, she discovers that the ancient, mystical Naaheen tribe has been dying at the hands of the ruthless Thwargg regime, which monitors citizens while they sleep.

“All the body of creation is dismembered, confused, and rambling,” a spiritual leader tells Evah, and at times this also describes the story. Wolfe swoops Evah from world to world, explaining many generations’ worth of oppression and rebellion in lengthy expository sections. The many shifts in perspectives and timelines can be confusing. Shimmering illustrations with distinctive psychedelic, watercolor, and gothic influences provide much-needed cohesion and grounding when readers feel lost.

Readers may struggle with the moral ambiguity of the characters: some create oppressive regimes out of fear, and others seek violent revenge on those systems. While exploring questions of power, dominance, and how history influences the present, Wolfe leaves it up to Evah to reconcile the troubling actions of her ancestors with the harsh realities they experienced. Teens drawn in by the wish-fulfillment narrative of an oppressed girl’s hidden inner power and mystical lineage may find the story’s veiled moral challenges less appealing, but those who persevere will enjoy bold, curious Evah and her dreamlike tale.

Takeaway: Older teens and young adult readers who are seeking an immersive story with strong worldbuilding and moral nuance will find this novel worth exploring.

Great for fans of Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone, Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti series, Lois Lowry’s The Giver.

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

Click here for more about Evah & the Unscrupulous Thwargg
Limerick Comics
Robert Hoyman
Hoyman’s playful but informative debut collection introduces children to the joy of limerick poetry while delivering fun facts about an array of subjects from everyday life and history. Every page contains a fully illustrated limerick mini-comic and additional information about the poem’s meaning, inviting readers to soak up knowledge. The varied topics include the jewelry-packed tombs of ancient Egypt, the origin of roller coasters in Russia, the biological importance of a pesky fruit fly, and Joseph Aspdin’s creation of Portland cement in his own kitchen.

Each illustration employs traditional cartooning, eye-catching colors, and outlandishly hyperbolic imagery that brings some humor to an otherwise ordinary lesson. A glossary is also included to help those who are hungry for learning but may stumble over terms such as bioluminescence and shtick. Alongside pages on science and history, such as one discussing how the first mail systems worked via stagecoach, steamships, and the Pony Express, Hoyman includes limericks about food safety (with vivid illustrations of moldy cheese), the dangers of smoking and benefits of getting adequate sleep, and the role of local government in the community.

Even when discussing complex subjects, Hoyman keeps the language simple (“A caveman all covered with dust/ Could briskly make flint stones combust”). Young readers will have no trouble enjoying and absorbing the entire collection, whether by picking a poem at random or reading from cover to cover. With the subject matter changing from page to page, the book excels at keeping readers’ attention while planting the seeds for an early appreciation of poetry, art, history, science, and civics. This witty and fun little book, displayed on a Kindle or Nook or read by flashlight, is sure to delight any reader who gives it a look.

Takeaway: For young readers and parents alike, this collection of factoid limericks will be a great introduction to poetry while delivering interesting knowledge and good laughs.

Great for fans of Mick Twister’s There Was an Old Geezer Called Caesar: A History of the World in 100 Limericks, Garrison Keillor’s Living with Limericks, the Oxford English Dictionary in Limerick Form project.

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

Click here for more about Limerick Comics
Wander New York: Fitz in the City
Reese Traves
It’s a busy day in the Big Apple for Fitz the fox and his mother in Traves and Traves’s whimsically illustrated, engaging, and information-packed debut book. A yellow cab whisks Fitz and his mother into Manhattan, where they take a ferry to their first destination, the towering Lady Liberty. From there, the foxes travel by foot and subway to other iconic New York City tourist attractions that include the Brooklyn Bridge (depicted as blissfully car-free), dinosaur fossils at the American Museum of Natural History, and a bustling Grand Central Station. Fitz even learns how to use his map and find a route to the Bronx Zoo after he and his mother miss the Central Park Zoo subway stop.

This charming picture book allows readers to experience New York City vicariously as they join Fitz on a trip that is both fun and educational. Reese Traves’s friendly narrative and Jon Traves’s detailed, colorful illustrations capture Fitz’s sense of adventure as well as the quintessential character and energy of New York City. The young fox’s realistic experience in the city encompasses a range of emotions, such as the delight of climbing a “ginormous” rock and curiosity about Grand Central Station’s leaf and acorn motifs.

The visual emphasis of certain words in the sometimes stilted rhyming text adds a dynamic element: “It said CLOSED?! The train did not STOP?!/ This is not opportune./ We are LATE and the Central Park/ penguin feeding is soon!” The use of various modes of transportation will intrigue children who live outside cities and feel warmly familiar to urbanites, and trivia notes in tiny type will appeal to factoid fans. The friendly anthropomorphic characters will captivate children’s attention and spark conversation. This is a perfect story for children looking forward to, or anxious about, a proposed trip to New York.

Takeaway: This enticing child’s-eye-view of New York City is perfect for young tourists getting ready to explore the city.

Great for fans of Richard Scarry’s What Do People Do All Day?, Salvatore Rubbino’s A Walk in New York.

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

Click here for more about Wander New York
How the Deer Moon Hungers
Susan Wingate
Wingate (Storm Season) spins pure literary heartbreak in this wrenching coming-of-age tale set on an island near Seattle. MacKenzie “Mac” Fraser’s parents are separated; her seven-year-old sister, Tessa, is seriously annoying her; and her best friend, Gemma, is bugging her to try smoking pot. These mundane problems are transformed in an instant when Tessa is mowed down by a drunk driver and Mac is caught holding Gemma’s pot. Mac is sent to juvenile detention, and her mother, blaming her for Tessa’s death, throws away Mac’s possessions and gives away her beloved cat—but those are the least of Mac’s worries once she gets to the abusive environment of juvie.

Wingate’s top-notch worldbuilding skills easily draw readers into her well-plotted, often brutal story. The graphic descriptions of sexual abuse may trigger survivors, but Wingate pulls no punches in fully delivering the horrors of prison rape (committed both by those in authority and by prisoners), urging readers to empathize with and understand Mac as well as anyone sentenced to that traumatic environment. She allows readers to experience events from multiple characters’ perspectives—including Tessa’s as she’s dying—but the tale is primarily told in Mac’s pained and ultimately resigned voice.

The lyrical prose will enchant readers, and the searing plot twists and a surprising yet emotionally satisfying wrap-up command close attention. Survivors of dysfunctional families and traumatic, tragic events will find many of their experiences reflected. Though Mac is a teen, her story may be too emotionally devastating for many readers close to her in age, but adult and new adult readers will fall headlong into it. No one who picks up this heartrending story will emerge from it unchanged or unmoved.

Takeaway: This powerful and poignant novel is ideal for new adult readers seeking to immerse themselves in rage, grief, and pain.

Great for fans of Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper, Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones, Lois Lowry’s A Summer to Die.

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

Click here for more about How the Deer Moon Hungers
South Korea: The Price of Efficiency and Success
John Gonzalez and Young Lee
Gonzalez, an American educator with extensive experience teaching in South Korea, and Lee, an actuary and analyst, conceive of this thoughtful study of contemporary South Korean culture as something like a gift, an opportunity to show Gonzalez's “appreciation” to a country that had “opened its doors” to him. That spirit of thankfulness does not preclude this self-described “outsider” from offering his host country warnings about what he fears South Korea may be losing in its drive toward efficiency and success. Gonzalez and Lee have spirited praise for South Korea’s traditions and its recent rise to global dominance as an innovator and exporter of technology and pop culture, but they also sound an alarm about the possible harms of a cultural emphasis on materialism.

Concerned that a nation enjoying growth and international prestige is losing ground in happiness, the authors note that many young people see success as reserved for those who are already wealthy. Other factors, they suggest, might be the nation’s low fertility rate and aging population. They argue that a cultural emphasis on efficiency and speed is the cause of several deadly industrial disasters. Meanwhile, globalization introduces ways of life that oppose traditional values such as respect for the elderly.

Gonzalez takes a first-person approach to a wide-ranging work that would be more persuasive if it foregrounded Korean voices and avoided sweeping statements such as “Koreans have an innate desire to reach consensus.” However, readers will appreciate his celebration of South Korea’s adoption of new technologies, spirit of collective sacrifice, and enduring traditions. Those who agree with the authors' beliefs about the cost of material success will appreciate this compilation of statistics, anecdotes, observations, and food for thought.

Takeaway: This study will interest Westerners looking for a sympathetic and self-aware outsider’s take on 21st-century South Korean cultural shifts.

Great for fans of Geoffrey Cain’s Samsung Rising, Boye Lafayette De Mente’s The Korean Way in Business.

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

The Magdalene Deception
Gary McAvoy
In this gripping conspiracy thriller, McAvoy (And Every Word Is True) applies his love of ancient manuscripts and historical documents to weave a story that spans from the early days of the Catholic Church to the present. Father Michael Dominic, an assistant archivist of the Secret Archives of the Vatican, has stumbled upon a relic’s trail that’s tangled up with blackmail and death. Hana Sinclair, a journalist for the French newspaper Le Monde, is investigating France’s involvement in the funneling of Jewish assets through Swiss banks during WWII. When their investigations invariably link, the two join forces for answers, while a mysterious foe lingers in the background.

Separately, Hana and Michael’s stories are balanced and intriguing. Together, a forced romantic subplot derails and disengages the reader. The two only share fleeting moments of genuine interaction. The inclusion of Swiss Guard Karl Dengler and Brother Calvino Mendoza’s attraction to Michael mainly serve to show him as desirable while setting up the real romantic subplot. The insertion of a well-intentioned coming-out scene appears unearned in a friendship that hasn’t matured enough to warrant such a display of trust.

Welcome historical context is sprinkled throughout the novel, which includes vivid descriptions of real-world celebrations, history-inspired prophecy, ancient texts, Wikipedia articles, sections of epic poems, and newspaper clippings. Every detail has been carefully curated to immerse the reader in the story, and McAvoy makes sure to leave breathing room for readers to absorb each new piece of information. The rich settings, elegantly described through architecture and antiques, anchor the reader in time and place. Consistent pacing complements the narrative. Only the awkward personal relationships undermine the tension. This story brims with intrigue, danger, and the fight for a religion’s soul.

Takeaway: Steeped in Vatican and WWII intrigue, this history-rich thriller will appeal to readers eager to unravel conspiracies and explore the past.

Great for fans of Raymond Khoury’s The Last Templar; Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln’s Holy Blood, Holy Grail; Ian Caldwell’s The Fifth Gospel; Dan Brown.

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

Click here for more about The Magdalene Deception
The Slaughtered Lamb Bookstore & Bar: Sam Quinn, book 1
Seana Shelby
Kelly blends suspense and the supernatural in a fast-paced, lighthearted paranormal romance packed with action. Sam Quinn became a werewolf at 17 after a brutal rape that left her emotionally and physically scarred. Now 24, she runs a combination bookstore and bar catering to the supernatural community. This quiet life is interrupted when an unfamiliar wolf assaults her during an evening run and she loses a protective amulet she got from her mother, one whose power she never realized. Now exposed to psychic bombardment from enemies she didn’t know she possessed, Sam has to trust her friends to become true allies as she fights for her life.

The action begins almost immediately, giving readers a scant taste of Sam’s everyday life before repeated crises encroach. As the book opens, her relationships seem casual, with people being kept at arm’s length, but her acquaintances are happy to come to her rescue even when she’s in significant danger. Over time, as Sam is attacked again and again, the emotional impact of the onslaught starts to wane. The relentless pace is also reflected in her romantic life; her love interest, Clive, eventually admits he’s been fascinated by her for a long time, but the development of their relationship feels startlingly abrupt.

Despite the plot’s demanding pace, Sam is a sympathetic protagonist, more so as the book progresses. Though she initially appears to depend on her friends’ kind assistance, the narrative traces her burgeoning confidence as she matures and discovers her own strength. She grows on a personal level as she allows herself to open up and become vulnerable to the people who care about her. This adventurous story will have readers rooting for a strong heroine as she blooms through confronting danger and surviving adversity.

Takeaway: This action-packed paranormal series launch will appeal to readers who enjoy a plot-driven, female-centric journey of growth with a side of romance.

Great for fans of Patricia Briggs’s Alpha and Omega series.

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

Click here for more about The Slaughtered Lamb Bookstore & Bar

Loading...