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A Prospect of London
Julie L'Enfant
In L’Enfant’s (The Dancers of Sycamore Street) academic comedy of manners, Caroline Landry, assistant professor of English at a Louisiana university, travels to London in 1980 on a research grant. Accompanied by a group of colorful colleagues, she has three weeks to spend at the British Library tracking down an obscure American author with a possible connection to the Bloomsbury set of the 1920s. Adrift in her career, Caroline needs to publish soon or lose her chance for tenure, but she’s less interested in research than in absorbing London culture—and staying on high alert for sightings of a mesmerizing former professor.

A string of coincidences constitutes a loose plot that eventually leads Caroline out of London to Emerald Glover, the mysterious novelist whose work could secure her academic reputation. Through first-person narration, Caroline reveals herself as a naïve Anglophile prone to speaking in exclamations, continually expressing astonishment that her colleagues don’t share her rapture about London—but her knowledge of the city stems primarily from a brief sojourn as an undergraduate and a devotion to Masterpiece Theatre. L’Enfant makes clear her characters’ bias throughout the novel, particularly with Caroline’s nonchalant judgments about “brown scholars" and her understanding of a friend’s “sensible distrust of foreigners,” and when combined with the anti-Semitic outbursts of a supporting character, these sentiments may challenge some readers’ patience.

Skeptics will be pleased to see Caroline achieving some maturity in the final chapters, as she realizes the professor she’s dreamt about for eight years isn’t all that dashing and that London is just one speck in a big world—though she shares this growth through meandering, travelogue-style observations that foster some disconnection between the story’s events. A high point in the novel is L'Enfant’s skewering of academics and their pursuits, creating laugh-out-loud moments amid this otherwise scholarly read.

Takeaway: An amusing story centered on a young professor’s hunt for an obscure novelist.

Great for fans of: David Lodge and Jessica Francis Kane

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

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Remote, Not Distant: Design a Company Culture That Will Help You Thrive in a Hybrid Workplace
Gustavo Razzetti
“The Great Resignation is turning into the Great Reshuffle. People are not just leaving the workforce but also reconfiguring their relationship with work,” Razzetti (Stretch Your Team) writes in this energizing reshaping of contemporary workplaces. Offering readers down-to-earth, refreshing advice on what he terms “culture design,” a process of structuring company culture around the needs of its employees rather than focusing solely on profitability, Razzetti breaks down crucial steps for businesses to adapt to the demand for remote work while continuing to ensure industry longevity—and he accomplishes that feat with efficiency and vision.

Razzetti is persuasive in his exhortation that the workplace has undergone a fundamental shift that must be respected and accommodated: “The hybrid workplace is here to stay,” he declares, arguing that organizations must shift their focus from rewarding employee input to recognizing goals and results—and he makes the bold claim that “When done correctly, remote work increases productivity and work enjoyment.” To that end, Razzetti outlines actionable steps for companies to forge stable and connected remote cultures, including changing feedback from a manager-fixes-flaws mindset to a collaborative process, creating powerful company rituals to generate a sense of inclusion, instilling trust between colleagues, and more.

Highlights include hands-on activities to implement Razzetti’s guidance, ranging from clever organizational icebreakers that promise to enhance belonging, to a “culture reset canvas” worksheet that will help companies redefine hybrid workplace cultures. QR codes to download and personalize the guide’s exercises keep the material relevant, and Razzetti’s employee-minded focus will appeal to a progressive workforce. For those concerned about the potential downside to remote workplaces, he also problem solves how to keep employees engaged, offers insights on psychological safety to bring awareness to employee vulnerability, and even touches on safe camera guidelines for video interactions during remote meetings. This is a friendly and discerning call-to-action for all levels of the workforce.

Takeaway: An easy-to-grasp guide on building successful remote workplaces.

Great for fans of: Chris Dyer and Kim Shepherd’s Remote Work; Alida Miranda-Wolff’s Cultures of Belonging.

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

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Going Deeper With The Twelve Steps: Following The Spirit of The Steps
Rene Lafaut, MSc.
Lafaut (To Be Broken Into Freedom) delivers an intriguing spiritual analysis of the 12 Step Program for addiction treatment in this compact guide, offering readers constructive ways to meet their needs and establish sobriety. He highlights how to apply spiritual principles to recovery—such as developing a “healthy two-way relationship with God” alongside increasing the practice of heartfelt prayer—and outlines actions for readers to turn personal weaknesses into strengths. Lafaut advocates strongly for the 12 Step approach but lays out his own interpretation of these steps based on Christian principles, writing that “Faith focused people go farther than those who are purely knowledge focused.”

Though his writing can be abstract at times, Lafaut consistently circles back to the importance of a close dependence on God in order to break free from addiction, and much of his text focuses on the need for forgiveness of self and others. He breaks down challenging concepts by sharing his own experiences and emphasizing the spiritual roots behind addictive behaviors—including unresolved anger, pride, and guilt—and Christian readers will appreciate his first hand approach to overcoming addiction. Particularly helpful are the suggested prayer outlines Lafaut includes and his attention to dismantling confusing religious terms.

Christian readers struggling with addiction will find plenty to think about, and Lafaut dedicates ample space to summarizing his own spiritual explanation of each of the 12 Steps (some steps he spends more time on than others, including step nine, when he explores how to make amends “with God’s help”). For those who are unfamiliar with the 12 Step Program, Lafaut lists every step in its original form and offers additional resources in the backmatter. His unconditional regard for readers will be a welcome approach, and his caution against judging others is refreshing—as is his encouragement that “Overcoming all our challenges doesn’t happen overnight.”

Takeaway: A spiritual interpretation of the 12 Step model for addiction recovery.

Great for fans of: G. Sharpe’s God & the 12 Steps; Friends in Recovery’s The Twelve Steps for Christians.

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

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NOWHERE TO LAND
Teretha Houston
Houston straps readers into a high-stakes thrill ride complete with complex characters and a terrifying monster. Onboard the Combi passenger and freight aircraft lurks a genetically engineered apex predator with a taste for blood. As the dead bodies pile up, air marshal Quentin Kane races into action, desperate to save lives, but the creature is only one problem on this flight from hell. The plane malfunctions over the Atlantic, leaving commercial pilot Eden Stone in charge of pulling a miracle out of the sky. One mistake will cause the plane to plummet into the ocean. As the time runs out, Eden and Quentin must work together to save passengers and survive.

Houston brilliantly weaves Eden’s past fears and trauma into the action, forcing the protagonist to come face-to-face with buried secrets. As a former Navy pilot, Eden understands pressure-cooker situations, but a single moment from her military career causes her self-esteem to tumble into a tailspin. She must figure out how to push past the darkness in her mind, while Quentin’s insecurities rush to the surface as he struggles to reconcile a past tragedy himself if they are going to outwit the clawed monster hunting down passengers.

With a deadly storm on the horizon, fuel running out, and a ravenous creature on the loose, the pulse-racing action will keep readers on the edge of their seats. Be aware blood and gore speckles the pages, but at the heart of this gnarly thriller are sympathetic characters with complicated pasts trying to survive an unthinkable horror. Houston’s witty descriptions (“Reality hit him like a bucket of ice water splashed in his face and then having the bucket crown him a good one too”) add a layer of playfulness to the writing style, building a fun, lightening the tense mood. Action and horror fans looking for a creature-based thriller with well-rounded characters will enjoy this read.

Takeaway: Fans of creature-horror and fast-paced action will rave over this dazzling thriller.

Great for fans of: Hunter Shea, William Meikle’s Infestation.

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

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Percivious Origins
JJ & AJ Cook
The haunting but uplifting second installment of the Cooks’ epic science fiction trilogy, after Percivious: Insomnia offers an account of the XYZ race, Earth’s original intelligent species, who existed 280 million years before humans. When the XYZ discover a destructive asteroid 500 kilometers wide is hurtling toward the planet they call Orbyss, they have just 10 years to plan their escape. Council leader Anae, with the help of her son Grynn and astronautical engineer prodigy Vash, faces a terrifying decision: they must design and build the giant Helix ship to carry 100,000 colonists to a new planet, Orbyss II, on a dangerous interstellar journey that will take twenty years.

Evolved from whales, the XYZ have developed telepathic communication, and with advanced technology based on carbon fiber, they are a compassionate race who live in harmony, in accordance with Percivious, “the ultimate in altruism being at the center of their existence.” Before escaping Orbyss, they bury a capsule filled with the DNA of their species deep in the ocean floor, in the event they are destroyed en route to their new planet. Strong female protagonists lead the survivors through their many doubts, fears, and accomplishments, while never losing focus on their vital mission. Grynn, who experiences unimaginable tragedy, grows up despondent and pessimistic, while his female counterpart Vash takes over the stressful reins of command.

Sophisticated interactions between characters, detailed descriptions of intergenerational life aboard ship, and edge-of-your-seat predicaments and action add layers of depth and dimension that readers will savor. When the XYZ arrive at Orbyss II—a tidally locked planet with only a 500-kilometer habitable strip at its center—the solar system reveals a devastating secret, and the resilient population must make a difficult choice. The poignant portrayals of the survivors and their burdens will keep readers on the edge of their seats in this science-fiction triumph.

Takeaway: A knockout science fiction epic of apocalypse, survival, and ingenuity.

Great for fans of: James Rosone’s Into the Calm, Jasper T. Scott’s Planet B.

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

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The Cat's Paw Murders
Frank Gertcher
“I will evolve from sleuth to spy,” the hero declares at the start of this winning continental mystery. Gertcher’s fourth entry in the Caroline Case series finds the now globe-trotting Caroline Jones and her husband, Hannibal, still in France in the early 1930s, tasked by the Deuxiéme Bureau with keeping tabs, as espionage agents, on the fascist movements rising in Italy and Germany—all while Caroline continues doing what she has always done best, from the Wabash Valley to European capitols: solving murders. The game’s afoot as early as the couple’s espionage training, when another prospective agent turns up dead. The case—and the others spinning out from it—eventually suggests that the nascent Nazi movement already has secured more power and reach than anyone expects.

The scope of Gertcher’s series has expanded, with Caroline’s cases now connected to globe-shaking events, but her sprightly, sparkling narrative voice remains a pleasure, and for all the winds of war gathered around her the tale remains agreeably breezy. That’s true even as Caroline handles encounters with Göring and Goebbels, endures Nazi squad combat in Germany, and faces the horrors of Mussolini’s colonization of Northern Africa. While crisply engaging, the tone never diminishes the real-world urgency of the material; Caroline proves as skilled with ammo clips as she is with clues.

The travelogue plotting keeps the events fresh, even as the variety of locales and missions lend this outing a serialized feeling. Holding it all together, though, is the paranoia that powers so many espionage tales: as she travels to Berlin, Vienna, Mogadishu and elsewhere, striving to untangle a particularly knotted set of webs involving assassinations, slavery, and the 20th century’s greatest monsters, who can Caroline trust? Wielding a Walther when necessary, the sleuth turned spy scrambles to stay a step ahead, saving lives and cracking cases but not always pulling off a perfect victory, as she slowly comes to understand the bigger threat: the shadow of Hitler.

Takeaway: A sleuth turns spy and faces the fascist threat in this engaging 1930s mystery thriller.

Great for fans of: Philip Kerr, Len Deighton.

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

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The Seed of Corruption
A.I. Fabler
Fabler follows up AGENDA 2060: The Future as It Happens with a suspense novel tracing an elaborate art heist through the jungles of Vietnam. Anton Faraday, a British wildlife painter, is desperate to hunt down a forger who has recreated one of his signature pieces. He crosses paths with a freelance journalist, Caroline Brinkley who is searching for her adopted Vietnamese brother. In 2004, with the SARS epidemic rearing its ugly head, Anton and Caroline find themselves navigating an underbelly of corruption, leading Anton to confront, ultimately, the demons of his own past.

Fabler crafts an intriguing tale, edging more toward the literary than the suspenseful, with polished prose touched with poetry. Readers will appreciate the tensions that simmer between Anton and Caroline. Anton is a familiar fish-out-of-water hero whose philosophizing–snapping photos in country, he muses about how his “life’s journey had not begun when he was born; it would not begin until he consciously started it”–at times diminishes the narrative’s momentum. Faber tempers these musings with acerbic comments about contemporary art, which feel more natural: “I suppose if Damien Hirst can get a million pounds for a sliced pig in formaldehyde,” one character notes, “you could try a set of conjoined embryos in a womb of blood-red polycarbonate.”

Fabler makes clear throughout that his hero feels unmoored in Vietnam, sympathetic to the tragic history of it and neighboring Cambodia but overwhelmed by its foreignness. One early passage describes Vietnam as “infecting” Fabler and builds to this jolting declaration, evocative of Heart of Darkness: “The enigmatic face of Asia is often presumed to mask profundity, yet in his experiences to date, it only masked a single-minded pursuit of money.” The novel that follows challenges and interrogates that perspective, with engaging elements of suspense and incisive passages about the making and selling of art, though even deep into Faraday’s journey Fabler risks alienating readers with essentialist phrasing like “the absurd logic of madness that plagued Vietnam.”

Takeaway: This literary thriller sends a wildlife artist into Vietnam in search of a forger.

Great for fans of: Robert Owen Butler’s A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain, Marian Palaia’s The Given World.

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

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When the Soul Calls: True Stories of Deep Healing and Transformation Through the Wisdom of the Heart and Soul
Silvana Maria Pagani
Dedicated to transformative healing at the level of the soul, this expansive volume surveys the craft and many accounts of specific results of what Pagani identifies as “soul healing,” starting from the premise that we all already possess the capacity to heal ourselves—and that Pagani’s task, as a “facilitator and Soul counselor,” is to guide individuals in giving “space” for the “Divine to do its work.” The nature of that guidance: revealing to individuals how to take “self-responsibility for the manifestation of what ailed us and healing it,” whether that ailment be physical, mental, or spiritual. Drawing on her long experience as a healer, including her work at New Mexico’s HeartPath Retreat, where she’s the founder and director, Pagani digs deep into general practices of soul healing a variety of ailments, then a selection of specific ones (depression, the healing of childhood wounds) with detailed case studies.

Those techniques and case studies address expected topics like disease, mental illness, addiction, and overcoming trauma, arguing that “disease points to separation from God, separation from the Source” and urging readers to re-connect to “the divine essence of the self,” an essence that our “drugged society” too often sunders, especially in times of crisis. Readers already steeped in Samsara, auras, the alignment of chakras, and the idea that “we are spiritual beings temporarily inhabiting a body” will find Pagani’s treatment thorough and illuminating; meanwhile, the book’s many case studies and testimonials, as well as Pagani’s accounts of her own journey, invite in the uninitiated.

Those case studies are frank, sometimes earthy, connected to the complexity of contemporary existence and to the effort that a healing process demands. They stand as Pagani’s most convincing material, demonstrating a correlation between the process of connecting with the Divine and positive health and wellness effects. Still, claims that photos can reveal entities that possess us and cause ailments like addiction or that lymphatic cancer means “a deep secret is eating away at one’s core” are unlikely to persuade the skeptical.

Takeaway: A soul healer’s inviting magnum opus argues, with case studies, that healing begins with connecting to the Divine.

Great for fans of: Keith Sherwood’s The Art of Spiritual Healing, Caroline Myss’s Anatomy of the Spirit.

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

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Phantoms of Ruthaer: Chronicles of Damage, Inc., Book 1
Jason & Stormy McDonald
The McDonalds’ engagingly pulpy debut, a party-based fantasy novel as eager to get to the adventure as your latest tabletop RPG session, finds a squad of bounty hunters facing a seemingly simple mission that, like all the hooks that kick off such a story, soon proves more complex and dangerous—and, in this case, so personal that it might tear the party apart. The heroes are Damage, Inc., a motley band of toughs in it for their own benefit. In a world of vampires and demons, dragons and trolls, gruff leader Hector, a scimitar wielding warrior, refuses to take any non-paying jobs, but Aislinn, the team’s healer and tracker, insists on sailing to her hometown, Ruthaer, after an old lighthouse keeper sends her a message about disappearances and some sorcerously odd weather.

Reluctantly, Damage, Inc., set out to investigate, encountering graverobbing, fog-choked boneyards, ancient relics, ghosts raging against the light, and other surprises all dramatized by the McDonalds with clear relish—moments like an apparent act of kindness from a murderous dærganfae challenge the expectations of characters and readers. The world of the Confederation of Nations is engaging, boasting traditional fantasy elements and a welcome diversity, and the action is fresh and vigorous, honoring the not-quite-heroes’ array of abilities and approaches. The stakes are high, despite the prevailing spirit of fun.

A surfeit of modifiers at times slows the line-to-line storytelling, but this first volume of the Chronicles of Damage, Inc. series is otherwise an engaging treat for fans of party-based fantasy adventure. Setting it apart is the McDonalds’ crack characterization, the way Damage, Inc., works and bickers as a group, cracking jokes without ever going too meta. ("‘Is it bad luck to kill a monk?’ Dave asked, breaking the silence.”) Hector, Aislinn, the archer/swordsman Dave Blood, the empath Hummingbird—heroes or not, readers will cheer them on.

Takeaway: This vigorously entertaining fantasy debut pits lovable bounty hunters against the undead.

Great for fans of: Nicholas Eames, Lee Gaiteri’s Below..

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

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Dad Is My Best Friend
Kerice Robinson
Angela is close to her mom and gets along well with kids on the playground, but, as the title suggests, it’s her dad who’s actually her best friend. In this heartwarming tribute to family bonds, inspired by the author’s relationship with her own father, readers follow Angela and her dad as they hang out and exercise together, riding bikes, running a race, and doing push-ups. Kavion Robinson’s warm, nostalgia-tinged illustrations convey the magic and power in simple, everyday opportunities for parents to connect with kids, and this story’s portrayal of a loving father-daughter attachment is sure to resonate with families.

Although readers only get to see Angela and her dad engaged in a short list of activities, the sense of camaraderie and affection is unmistakable—whether she is riding on his shoulders or celebrating the winner of their many races, Angela is always depicted with a smile during their time together, and young readers will certainly appreciate the opportunity to glimpse everyday parent-child moments rendered in such a positive light. Even the story’s extended push-up scene, where Angela climbs onto her father’s back and they count off push-ups together, gives kids and parents a chance to challenge themselves to try the same fun activity.

Kerice Robinson (I Am Full of Thanks) dedicates this story to her earliest memory of her father “working out by the front door” of their home, revealing the emotional basis for the exercise theme that RObinson employs to remind readers that making lasting memories is easy—and that bonding doesn’t have to involve an expensive outing, but can be as simple as riding a bike together. In a fast-paced world, everyone can use a reminder to slow down, and Dad Is My Best Friend’s inviting illustrations and emphasis on fleeting moments of connection is spot on.

Takeaway: This tender father-daughter story celebrates the power of simple connections.

Great for fans of: Gregory E. Lang’s Why a Daughter Needs a Dad, Sean Williams’s Girl Dad.

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

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Voices Whisper: Second Book in the Voices Series
Linda Lee Graham
The second book in Graham’s historical “Voices” series, Voices Whisper is a continuation of the stories of the three friends Liam Brock, David Graham, and Elisabeth Hale who, in Graham’s words, are “together by chance, bound by choice.” In 18th century Philadelphia, Liam attempts to chart his course in the burgeoning new American republic, though his path is plagued with obstacles, some personal, others circumstantial. But his biggest problem might turn out to be romantic, with Liam forced into deciding what he really wants from life.

The series offers both romance and history. Readers are plunged into the marriage of David and Elisabeth, replete with its controversies and culminations. At the same time, there is Liam, plowing through one love affair after another—until the arrival of Elisabeth’s friend, Rhiannon Ross, who seems to halt his otherwise plummeting trajectory. Meanwhile, Graham digs into her milieu, touching on events like the debt crisis spawned by the War of Independence or digging into the reasons for Alexander Hamilton granting Philadelphia the status of the new nation’s temporary capital.

As in the first book, Graham has done a remarkable job balancing an engaging plot line, complete with romantic suspense and several steamy scenes, with a vivid recreation of a fascinating era of the American past. The dialogue and detail are convincing but still relatable today; that’s in large part thanks to her intricately crafted characters, immigrants turned American strivers who feel alive on the page as they build new lives in a New World. While this entry has been written to stand alone, with Graham taking pains to offer context for characters and events, readers who have not read the first book might find some plot points confusing. Lovers of historical fiction will like this book, which is as entertaining as it is illuminating.

Takeaway: This story of life and love in 18th century Philadelphia is as entertaining as it is illuminating.

Great for fans of: Julia Quinn’s When He Was Wicked, David O. Stewart’s The New Land.

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

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DNA, or The Book of Brad: A comic novel about finding family.
Monica Bauer
This quick and funny novel from playwright Bauer explores family dynamics, sapphic relationships, and finding where you truly belong. Rose Pettigrew is a young Black lawyer who has never known her biological parents or where she truly came from. Growing up, Rose promised her adoptive mother that she would never seek out her birth parents until after her adoptive mother was dead and gone, but once her adoptive mother develops early onset Alzheimer's, Rose goes back on her word and takes a DNA test. It turns out that Rose's biological father is a semi-famous rabbi, the author of multiple self-help books–and, unfortunately, now passed, having met his untimely death right before the test results came back.

Bauer deftly tells a fast-moving story with crisp comic dialogue, but its heart is in its three- dimensional, highly likable characters. Rose is in a serious relationship with Paula, a heart surgeon. As Rose gets acquainted with her grandfather, Rabbi Shmuel Cohen, and her biological brother, Jacob, she’s helped by Paula, who is Jewish, in navigating the challenges of integrating into this newfound family. Rabbi Brad, too, plays a prominent role, and readers discover him through excerpts of his many self-help books featured at the beginning of each chapter, and through the eyes of the family that he left behind. “On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being a masochist and 1 being Oprah, what did your Dad, Rabbi Brad, teach you about guilt?” Paula asks Jacob. His answer is complex and surprising.

This novel will please fans of comic family dramas as, for all its sharply observed cultural specifics, it finds universals within its themes of family ties and self-discovery. Mixing comedy with heart, Bauer’s story will resonate with those who, even in their adult life, feel themselves still searching for a place among family, a feeling of belonging and being home.

Takeaway: A sharp, funny story of DNA surprises and finding your place in a new family and culture.

Great for fans of: Jessica Strawser’s A Million Reasons Why, Marra B. Gad’s The Color of Love.

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

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Project Management in the Hybrid Workplace
Phil Simon
In this inviting, clear-eyed business management guide, tech authority and business podcaster Simon (Reimagining Collaboration) urges readers to reevaluate the way project-based work and product launches are executed in remote and hybrid work environments. Written for product developers, service providers, students, and seasoned project managers, Simon provides “essential guidance for managing projects … in remote and hybrid work-places,” which are becoming increasingly popular thanks to a galvanized workforce that is reluctant to return to pre-pandemic work conditions. Simon does not expect that trend to reverse, and he lays out practical advice to of-the-moment questions facing managers like “What happens when a high-inflationary environment collides with woke employees and an unprecedented rise in remote/hybrid work?”

After a list of important figures and a brief yet insightful introduction, Simon dives into the circumstances responsible for creating an American workforce no longer interested in reverting back to a traditional office setting before delving into the unique challenges of hybrid work environments, such as collaboration overload, communication delays, varying levels of digital literacy, plus the exacerbating effects remote work has on our cognitive biases. Simon’s thorough and persuasive, offering that data (often in engaging graphics) to bacon up his straight talk. The most significant information is found in the third and final section of the guide, with each chapter dedicated to a specific prescription or guideline to ensure the success of projects managed for a remote team, including “Perform a Project Premortem” and “Institutionalize Clear Employee Writing.”

Simon lays out his guidelines for success on managing projects following the principle-based approach of Google’s management team, which emphasizes simplicity above a code of stringent, detailed rules. Using several research studies and labor statistics to back his assertions, Simon doesn’t introduce new methodologies but instructs readers on how to best alter their approach, techniques, and processes to better fit remote workplaces, while addressing the additional constraints both employers and employees face when working outside of a traditional nine-to-five setting.

Takeaway: A clear-eyed call to reevaluate project-based team projects in the days of remote work.

Great for fans of: Kory Kogon’s Project Management for the Unofficial Project Manager, David Pachter’s Remote Leadership: How to Accelerate Achievement and Create a Community in a Work-from-Home World.

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

Best Friends Forever: A Puppy's Tale
Portia Y. Clare
A young girl learns the depths of love—and loss—in Clare’s heartwarming debut. Scoopie has just turned four when she learns her parents are getting her the gift she’s always wanted–her very first puppy. Packing their car full of new dog goodies, the family heads out to pick up Scoopie’s present, a dachshund she names Sandy. (Scoopie also promptly declares that Sandy looks “like a hot dog.”) Scoopie and Sandy are immediately best friends and spend their time playing, fetching, and sharing food–until one day the family takes Sandy on an airplane flight and her ride in the luggage compartment triggers a seizure.

Unlike many feel-good pet tales, this one comes with a painful life lesson: Despite medical treatment and the family’s deep love, Sandy eventually dies from complications of epilepsy. However, Scoopie is able to soak up many fun experiences with her puppy before she passes away, and Clare is attentive to the difficulties of explaining pet illness to younger readers. Readers will learn what a seizure is and why it’s important to be sensitive to animals (or people) who are experiencing them, and although Sandy’s outcome is heartbreaking, it’s handled with grace. Scoopie takes time to grieve the loss of her puppy, and when she feels ready, she asks for another dog–this time a miniature schnauzer named Omar.

The most important part of this story is its gentle treatment of grief. Scoopie circles back to her memories of Sandy while learning to love again, recognizing the similarities and differences between the two dogs as she introduces Omar to Sandy at her gravesite, a meeting that Clare aptly describes as “a family reunion.” Alderson’s muted illustrations provide a fittingly hushed atmosphere, and although it covers delicate territory, this emotional story will strike a chord for any reader who has endured the loss of a beloved pet.

Takeaway:A young girl experiences the loss of her first pet in this emotional story.

Great for fans of: Patrice Karst’s The Invisible Leash, Adrian Raeside’s The Rainbow Bridge.

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

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Cemetery Reflections
Jane Hopkins
Striking and elegiac, Hopkins’s exploration of American cemeteries contemplates, through arresting photographs taken at over 200 cemeteries in the Eastern United States and Canada, North American traditions of memorialization, grief, and solace. Her shots of headstones, sculptures, stained glass, mausoleums, and other markers to the dead, often freshened up by flowers brought by the living, invite the same kind of quietly awed, contemplative response that a reader might feel strolling a cemetery in real life: this is an encounter with time itself, with the force of elements and the perseverance of stone and memory, with the question of what of us will endure.

Hopkins demonstrates a keen eye for crumbling stone, the interplay of memorial markers and the abundant life of the surrounding trees and foliage, and the impulse to impose order on the messiness of life and death through graveyard symmetry. (She also deftly arranges the images so that their corresponding qualities enrich each other on the page.) The individual carvings and headstones remain fascinating throughout, especially the oldest, with their skulls and death’s heads suggesting how much closer death felt in ages past, the markers’ messages still clear even when their faces are faded by centuries. Occasional surprises offer jolts of recognition of our own era: a freshly dug grave, not yet filled, or a pair of stone rabbit garden figurines, their cutesy tackiness suddenly endowed with greater significance.

Supplementing the photos are short, well-chosen excerpts from a poetry anthology from the 1890s, plus selections from authors like Louisa May Alcott and Leo Tolstoy—who, while always edifying to read, isn’t exactly an authority on American ways of dying. But he speaks to the larger truth that powers Hopkins’s work, and any healthy fascination with places of remembrance: each of these markers represents a life and all that entails. There’s beauty, wisdom, and peace in this collection.

Takeaway: This striking collection of cemetery photography sheds light on the American way of memorialization.

Great for fans of: Yolanda Zappaterra’s Cities of the Dead, Lorraine Evans’s Burying the Dead.

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

Click here for more about Cemetery Reflections
Alice and Jack Hike the Grand Canyon
Amy Graves and Pam Schweitzer
Hiking the Grand Canyon is a family tradition for daughter and mother co-writers Graves and Schweitzer, and their first picture book captures both the disciplined preparation the journey demands and the wonder of the experience. When her parents announce that they’ve obtained a permit to camp in Grand Canyon National Park during spring break, Alice begins to read about this amazing natural wonder and joins younger brother Jack on practice hikes. It’s like training for the Olympics, Alice declares, as her family spends four months prepping for the trip, which involves hiking down paths carved into the canyon–and an even more strenuous, uphill climb out.

Told from Alice’s perspective, this family trip is a grand adventure that unfolds as a series of important tasks. She approaches each one with relish, from choosing the best waterproof hiking boots to leading her family into Phantom Ranch, their canyon floor base camp. Her enthusiasm is tempered only by a fear of heights, and illustrator McKenzie Robinson skillfully captures Alice’s trepidation taking a practice walk across a narrow rope bridge over a ravine. When she faces the daunting Silver Suspension Bridge with the roaring Colorado River below, the girl’s determined posture projects her resolve.

Robinson is a childhood friend of Graves, and their collaboration illuminates a young girl discovering how much she can learn and achieve. Characters are drawn with more detail than the natural world, which is rendered in bold, expressive strokes of soft color, making the canyon walls more inviting than imposing and reinforcing Graves and Schweitzer’s encouraging tone. Only one percent of visitors travel down into the Grand Canyon, and Alice’s family serves as a model for parents and kids eager to experience this astounding environment –and for those who aren’t afraid of the hard work. Through Alice’s immersive Grand Canyon journey, readers will learn how satisfying a challenge can be.

Takeaway: An inspiring account of a Grand Canyon adventure, emphasizing practical prep and sheer wonder.

Great for fans of: Jason Chin’s Grand Canyon, Alison Farrell’s The Hike, and Jennifer K. Mann’s The Camping Trip.

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

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