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Act of Love : Radically Reprogram Your Mind
Kino MacGregor
“We only really love someone else to the degree that we know and love ourselves” MacGregor (Get Your Yoga On) writes in this inspirational guide on the whys and hows of mastering unconditional love. Through intense self-reflection, paired with case studies from her work as a spiritual practitioner, MacGregor offers readers insight on reprogramming their thought patterns and actions, primarily through redefining their conceptions of love and learning how to incorporate it into everyday living. She pairs the pragmatic—such as practical steps to manage the immense influence of social media—with the philosophical, nudging followers toward an inner awakening, which she declares is “crucial to the evolution of the human race and the health of the planet.”

Readers who enjoy deep contemplation will find much to appreciate here. MacGregor, whose belief system draws from Eastern philosophies while also drawing from Christian principles, paints a holistic picture of how to achieve self-love, although she identifies that term as somewhat of a catchphrase and cautions readers to differentiate it from an ego-based, false sense of self. She frankly addresses how to avoid self-centeredness, writing “There is simply no way that an open heart can turn a blind eye to injustice,” and she urges readers to acknowledge their own biases in order to be more effective activists. MacGregor’s passion for yoga and meditation thread throughout, as she offers original meditation prompts and breaks down steps to use yoga to discover personal and spiritual truths.

Along with this outline of a path to happiness, MacGregor continually emphasizes personal accountability—we are responsible for our emotional reactions and our impact on the world, she writes, and no real change can occur without first uncovering the root to our behaviors. A brief discussion on the science behind emotional regulation and healthy self-love practices rounds out this inviting, transformation-minded read.

Takeaway: A transformative guide to understanding, practicing, and mastering unconditional love.

Great for fans of: Thich Nhat Hanh’s True Love, David R. Hawkins’s Letting Go: The Pathway of Surrender.

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

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A Real Life Fairy Tale Princess Diana
Emberli Pridham
Telling the story of Princess Diana through the lens of a fairytale, Pridham (If Not You Then Who?) takes readers through a romanticized retelling of the life of the late Princess of Wales, from her Norfolk childhood of ballet and finishing school to an upbeat—and notably un-final—ending that alludes to her legacy of “love, patience, and grace” while avoiding her divorce and tragic death. Accompanied by pastel-hued watercolor illustrations tinged with nostalgia and optimism, A Real Life Fairy Tale Princess Diana presents a rosy version of this beloved figure’s tale, focusing heavily on positive aspects like her charity work and love for her children.

The writing style tends toward simple declarative rhyming that celebrates the Princess’s personality, legacy, and impact. Contemporary fairy tales tend to emphasize positivity, though this narrative goes so far as to elide the complexity of the princess’s life and relationship with the public, never acknowledging challenges and controversies she faced or the perseverance that so many loved in her. The book’s past-tense storytelling and avoidance of any fairytale happily-ever-after invites natural questions from young readers—like “what happened to her?”—that the text doesn’t answer.

Even so, A Real Life Fairy Tale Princess Diana can serve as an introduction to an inspiring historic figure who still has a place in people’s hearts. The possibility that people from our own times can also have lives that look like a fairytale is fun. This princess is kind, philanthropic, and a caring mother, laudable qualities in anyone, but especially in a princess, someone kids are predisposed to find fascinating and look up to. A Real Life Fairy Tale Princess Diana provides a dose of history in the form of a fairytale best suited for the most adamant of aspiring princesses or those who want to introduce their kids to a beloved real-life royal.

Takeaway: Princesses and young history fans will enjoy this fairytale retelling of Princess Diana’s life.

Great for fans of: Sara Presley’s Princess Diana for Kids, Susan Barnett Braun’s Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge.

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

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Peyton and Isabelle
Avery Yearwood
Broken love, big dreams, and the toll they take at the end of the day are at the heart of Avery Yearwood's turbulent debut. Unlike most of the students in their prestigious private school, Peyton and Isabelle don't belong to a rich and powerful family—Peyton is the only son of an unmarried teenage mother whose dream was to leave the small West Virginia mining town she was born and raised in. When she meets a man who might represent a way out, Peyton earns a football scholarship and dedicates himself to achieving his mother's dreams of success, a move that eventually leads him to mercurial and sensitive Isabelle, the daughter of a school administrator, who centers her life around her art.

The relationship between Peyton and Isabelle is intense, moves with lightning speed, and will keep readers turning the pages as Yearwood’s story spans the course of these lovers’ lives. Just as it seems they’re on their way to securing their American dream, a tragedy threatens to tear them apart. Yearwood’s unsparing portrayal of the pair—their lives shaped by misogyny, disastrous choices, and Peyton’s brutal tendencies—challenges readers to empathize and understand. Yearwood uses that backdrop, and the contrast between Peyton's childhood and adulthood, as a framework around which she weaves arresting themes of love, justice, inequity, and happiness.

Yearwood’s particular focus is on the repercussions of chasing that American dream—although the older Peyton reaches a level of material success that would shock his younger self, he struggles to achieve true happiness, a theme Yearwood explores in striking prose: “Peyton’s belief in God was one long string of empty lights. When he was young, the bulbs had emanated a strong glow, illuminating his path forward…Until one day, without him even noticing, it went dark.” This poignant novel’s crux is the possibility that living for financial success can cost what matters most.

Takeaway: Young lovers on the verge of achieving the American dream are torn apart by their own choices.

Great for fans of: Philipp Meyer’s American Rust, Ann Pancake’s Strange as this Weather Has Been.

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

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The Girl in the Lifeboat:: A Novel of the Titanic
Eileen Enwright Hodgetts
In a thrilling second entry in her Novels of the Titanic series, following The Girl on the Carpathia, Hodgetts captures both the inspiring homecoming of Poppy and Daisy Melville, survivors of the Titanic whose father didn’t even know they were on the boat, and heated investigations into the circumstances leading up to the sinking of the storied ship itself. In a striking blend of fiction and fact with a welcome dash of romance as relief, The Girl in the Lifeboat follow a host of characters, including Daisy and Poppy—English girls of surprising lineage serving as stewardesses— as they face the aftermath of the disaster, from wrenching decisions about who to save while floating in the lifeboats, to later inquiries in the U.S. and England purportedly dedicated to uncovering what really happened on that night to remember.

Alive with characters you love and love to hate, and action and intrigue powering every turn in the story, The Girl in the Lifeboat pulls readers deep into the heart of one of the 20th century’s most notorious tragedies, as Hodgetts’s cast recalls the most heart-stopping details of the sinking and reveals shocking information that will keep readers riveted. Also fascinating: how media figures and others respond. “It was all planned,” says a journalist convinced he’s got the story of the century, before offering the kind of evidence (J.P. Morgan canceled his ticket at the last minute!) that will remind readers of contemporary conspiracy theorists. Hodgetts incorporates the truth into her fiction so shrewdly that readers will likely dig into the historical record to suss out what was invented.

Readers will find themselves drawn to the mystery of the accident, the drama of the sisters’ lives in New York and in England, and the thrill of discovering the truth. Despite the epic length, this captivating novel moves fast, with the many perspectives handled deftly and each individual POV contributing to the larger story.

Takeaway: This thrilling epic of the Titanic and its aftermath deftly blends fact, fiction, tense inquiries, and a touch of romance.

Great for fans of: Kate Alcott’s The Dressmaker, Shana Abé’s The Second Mrs. Astor, Hazel Gaynor’s The Girl Who Came Home.

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

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Visions of Johanna
Peter Sarno
Sarno's debut follows the poignant love story of music critic Matt and years-older artist Johanna. In 2012, 25 years after the breakup, Johanna's daughter calls Matt to come visit her mother, and the novel is built on Matt’s flashbacks to their vital years together. In 1980s Boston, Matt is a struggling writer facing eviction from his apartment when he runs into Johanna while he’s covering a Bob Dylan concert. With tender excitement, Matt details Johanna’s whirlwind entrance into his life, especially her worldly experiences, knowledge of art, and passion for feminist issues. A long-distance romance blooms, rich with powerful moments.

Sarno explores many heavy and formidable topics, but he does so with sensitivity and delicacy, covering weighty issues like suicide, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other aspects of mental illness with grace. He’s skillful at depicting Matt and Johanna’s shifting relationship, characterized both by moments of transcendent connection as well as darker times—including a wrenching account of a despondent Johanna’s lowest moments. Ultimately, Matt shies from a real commitment because of unresolved trauma from his childhood. This leads to a slow, painful breakup but also later to Matt’s own healing, as he learns to face his past and open himself up in relationships.

The somewhat painful reunion a quarter century later is both moving and evocative of their earlier ups and downs, as Matt has learned to approach those he cares for with a sense of grace that the break-up was lacking. Threaded through it all, as the title suggests, is a fascination with the music of Bob Dylan and others–obsessive Matt, we learn, parses a mono edition of Blonde on Blonde to discover “the prominence of different instruments when compared to the stereo edition.” The resulting novel, like the classic song that lends the novel its title, is a slightly rambling but heartfelt and fascinating narrative about the urgency of human connection.

Takeaway: A beautifully intimate romance that doesn't shy away from challenging topics.

Great for fans of: Hazel Hayes’s Out of Love, Sara Goodman Confino’s She’s Up to No Good.

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

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sepia: If only he hadn't. If only she had.
Herlinde Cayzer
Cayzer’s ambitious historical novel spans seven decades, from the 1940s in Germany to 2013 in Australia, addressing themes of resilience and forgiveness. The three main characters are children in Germany as the Nazis consolidate their power. Young Sigrid and her mother, who does not support the regime, escape to a marginal existence in the German countryside; after the war they relocate to Australia for a fresh start. Forced into the Hitler Youth program, Sigrid’s older brother, Heinz, never internalizes the Nazi indoctrination, but his friend Werner willingly accepts the propaganda. Horrors that Werner witnesses change his life, trailing him into old age and haunting the novel, as does the mystery of what happened to Heinz, as Cayzer connects the three’s stories, known and unknown, through a sepia photograph displayed in Sigrid’s home.

Sigrid, Heinz, and Werner are complex characters caught up in the events of history, and their stories—told in alternating chapters of past and present—resonate and intrigue as the novel builds to its satisfying final revelations. Readers expecting a page-turner, however, should know that Cayzer’s interest is often more in the sweep of time and history than swift commercial storytelling, with Sepia offering passages of historical facts and detailed summaries of the characters’ lives and cultural interests. Unexpected leaps into the heads of minor characters and a tendency toward grand musings on the part of an omniscient narrator (“…the primeval nature of the species took its natural, ecstatic and climactic course”) also diminish the narrative urgency.

Cayzer proves attentive to the horrors of the Nazi regime but also to the pleasures and pain of life afterwards, as her characters face the past and each other. Dialogue scenes are intimate, revealing, and often witty as the novel immerses readers in these lives and takes the measure of time, trauma, loss, and all that’s worth holding on to. Sprinkled throughout the pages are pencil sketches of characters and settings that add charm.

Takeaway: This historical novel charts three extraordinary lives from 1940s Germany to 21st century Australia.

Great for fans of: Kelly Rimmer, Alexander Starritt.

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

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The Liberation of Laith Brinley (Crimson Crew Book 3)
Amy C Svireff
The rousing third installment of Whitcoma’s Crimson Crew romance series pairs a shy and unwaveringly silent college lacrosse player, Laith Brinley, with the inquisitive, unrelenting journalist Brooke Summers. Laith, a man of few words who avoids talking to anyone outside of family, finds himself in a challenging situation when a determined Brooke sets out to interview every member on the lacrosse team for the college newspaper. Laith initially tries desperately to avoid her questions, but eventually he gives in—only to find himself opening up about a long-kept family secret while falling in love with Brooke at the same time.

Whitcoma immediately pulls readers into this story with expertly crafted characters and humorous dialogue, and the fast-paced romance sizzles from the start. Laith is accompanied by an astounding, witty cast of side characters from previous books in the series that adds to the story without causing confusion, and Whitcoma skillfully makes the novel’s main players as relatable as they are intriguing. Though sad at times, Laith’s journey feels deeply personal and intense, and readers will be immersed in his transformation. Whitcoma deftly builds to touching moments that will elicit tears as well as red-hot love scenes sure to fulfill any romance reader’s desire for spice.

The strength of this story lies in the author’s mix of sweet moments between engaging leads with well-thought-out flaws set against heartbreaking backstories. Each character is well-rounded and convincingly detailed, and Whitcoma elevates that detail through intimate writing and penetrating inner monologues that bring the cast to life. This addition adds a thrilling touch to the series, and as an expert in fast-moving romance, Whitcoma hits all the right spots for fans who prefer hot and spicy reads that still deliver the perfect amount of complexity.

Takeaway: This fast-paced Ivy League romance satisfies with memorable characters and a dash of spice.

Great for fans of: Elle Kennedy’s The Deal, Elena Armas, Ali Hazelwood.

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

Nature, Culture & the Sacred: :A Woman Listens for Leadership
Nina Simons
Linking spiritual and personal growth and balance with a call for transformational change at the individual and societal levels, Bioneers co-founder Simons urges readers in this bold, welcoming guide to strive to achieve balance, to “reclaim the feminine,” and to dare to lead. Simons offers insight, inspiration, and tools and exercises to help readers to heal, nurture visions and clear senses of purpose, and stand firm in the face of what she identifies as a “global war on women.” Simons unstintingly lays out the parameters of that “systemic, entrenched, and brutal” war, recounting stomach-churning testimony at the UN Commission on the Status of Women, where she hosted a panel on women’s leadership.

Innovative and original, Simons’s guide asks readers to care for themselves and their own balance and wellness but also “to form an underground web of connection with each other, like aspen trees do” and to aspire to nothing less than “a shift in how we relate to each other and to the whole of the living Earth.” Drawing from indigenous traditions, a deep interest in intuition and dreams, and practical and spiritual-minded conversations with thinkers like V. (formerly Eve Ensler) and Terry Tempest Williams, Nature, Culture, & the Sacred stands apart for its breadth and richness, especially in its clear-eyed linking of attention to injustice, from Standing Rock to civil rights to multinational corporations abuses of indigenous populations, and its conviction that we each have the tools to contribute to change.

Simons emphasizes storytelling techniques and exercises to expose truths, build movements, achieve social change, and even “shift our relationship to time.” Profiles of “sheros” whose work embodies Simons’ conception of “emergent, love-inspired leadership” both round out the book and demonstrate the power of those storytelling techniques. Each chapter ends with “Prompts for Deeper Learning”—“How might you strengthen your partnering with others to leverage power?”—that challenge readers in ways few books do.

Takeaway: This uplifting guide to transformative change challenges readers to face a global war on women.

Great for fans of: 25 Transformational Stories From Women Making An Impact In The Lives Of Others, Julie Burton and Chris Olsen’s Her Path Forward.

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

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The Velvet Badge: A New York Noir
Bob Mantel
A large cast of troubled characters connects with each other over the years in complex and ultimately tragic ways in this series of noir-flavored stories. Soldier Donny Damon finds himself with an odd connection to President Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis and launches a Kennedy-themed nightclub. Rising singer Sadasia takes up residence, and starts a relationship with Capers Greenbergér, famous for creating an offensive sitcom. Desperate publicist Groak has sold his soul—almost literally—as he fast-talks a naïve priest. Eventually these twisty relationships turn toward crime, including a brutal murder, and embroil high-ranking detective Ellia Chase, with her own unsavory connections to the suspects and witnesses. They all face strangely appropriate fates, victims of their own passions.

In his striking first novel, Mantel creates a dark world where everyone has a secret that could lead to destruction. Donny's apparent hallucinations put him on what seems like a road to violence. Sadasia and Capers develop an affair as satisfying as it is destructive. Most arresting of all is the gradual and poignant fall of Ellia, in another case of inner demons and uncontrolled appetites. Although the plot turns are as complex as the characters’ all-too-human motives, the set pieces are so lively that the reader is carried through until the last page.

A key reason the book moves so quickly is Mantel's terrific use of language, an homage to classic noir fiction but always fresh in its own way. A description of how Donny is conceived is a joyfully bizarre cross between Raymond Chandler and Douglas Adams. As a bird dies, its "feathers liquified, popped, hissed and sizzled like the Yule Log broadcast every Christmas Eve in New York on WPIX, Channel 11." A grim Midwestern town is described "where yellowjackets outnumbered registered voters and probably had a higher standard of living." The mood lasts long after the reader has finished.

Takeaway: A horrific crime catalyzes desperate New Yorkers in this arresting neo-noir ensemble tale.

Great for fans of: Michael Heslin’s Meatpacking, Ernesto Quiñonez’s Chango’s Fire.

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

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What Would The Founding Fathers Tell Us Today?: Political Dialogs between 1789 and 2020
Werner Neff
Neff (Vision for America offers an imaginative reconstruction of conversations between the Founding Fathers of America (seven men specifically), from early conversations in 1789 on the basis of our Constitution, to a set of conversations in 2020 on the Trump era’s crisis of democracy, to a flash forward to 2040, when much of the current crises have been resolved. These dialogs are contextualized by explanatory notes and at times summarized by key bullet points. The conversations cover the constitutional basics of the United States of America, both written and unwritten, from the Bill of Rights to the electoral college (“The 2016 thing is kind of weird,” Alexander Hamilton acknowledges), the role that political parties play, the distinction—or lack thereof—between a republic and a democracy, and myriad other topics.

Neff’s playful, informative thought experiment doesn’t restrict the Founder’s conversations to constitutional matters but also reflects on how different the modern world would be to their experience, occasionally layering in jokes to lighten the mood, though some readers might balk at John Adams encouraging someone to “slow [his] roll.” Interestingly, as the conversation turns towards 21st century voting controversies in the last third of the book, Neff makes a wise choice to introduce new characters and broaden the perspective. William Lee, George Washington’s Black manservant, and his two children represent differing perspectives and explore issues of race more fully.

The 2040 section finds the founders speaking to a future president, John Miller, about how the United States made it through its early 21st century crises, giving Neff the opportunity to lay out a set of prescriptions, such as term limits for Supreme Court Justices and members of Congress to the creation of two more major parties rather than just two. Regardless of what a reader may feel about specific proposals, Neff’s dialogs do an excellent job laying out the informal constitutional conventions which American democracy requires to thrive and which are currently under threat.

Takeaway: The founders face the past, present, and future of Constitutional democracy in lively dialogues.

Great for fans of: K. M. Kostyal’s Founding Fathers: The Fight for Freedom and the Birth of American Liberty, Lawrence Rowe’s The Founding Fathers Return.

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

Tangled Violets: A Novel of Redemption
Denise-Marie Martin
Martin debuts with an uplifting story of realistic struggle, a desperate drive for connection, and ultimately Christian redemption. Lizzie Schmidt was adopted as a newborn into a family with another adopted sister, Jeannie, an oversensitive mother, and an alcoholic father struggling to get by. Fast forward decades later, to Lizzie’s life with her third husband, Joe, and Lizzie—a success in many ways, with financial security and graduate degrees in mathematics—embarking on a winding journey towards finding her birth parents and a straighter life path. Lizzie falls in and out of love easily and will face a shocking temptation as she digs deeper into her past. It’ll take Christian counseling and a true rebirth into her faith to set her life on the straight and narrow.

Lizzie’s personal life puts readers onto a roller coaster of emotion. By the time this story starts, she’s had three husbands and five kids and has found that a frightening “emptiness and sense of loss pervaded [her] soul,” specifically after the death of her adopted mother. Tangled Violets Lizzie’s lifelong attempts to find intimacy in too many places eventually lead her into a deeply “inappropriate coupling”—but also, at long last, into healing when she rediscovers for herself the faith that she has always hoped would give her own kids “a wholesomeness and legitimacy that I’d always felt was beyond my reach.”

Martin’s strength in this story comes from a refusal to shy away from life’s difficulties as Lizzie faces tough choices and desires. Living as a Christian, and further a Catholic, isn’t easy, and people do stray. Martin’s development of Lizzie lays a strong foundation to make both her good and the bad choices convincing, encouraging readers to sympathize with a character who embodies human struggle and sin, offering hope of healing and forgiveness. Readers eager for stories about connection and faith will find this engaging.

Takeaway: The heartening story of a woman who’s sought intimacy in the wrong places finding her faith.

Great for fans of: Josie Riviera, Francine Rivers.

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

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The Other Side of Certain
Amy Burle
Willoughby-Burle (The Year of Thorns and Honey) highlights both the despair and the joy of simple pleasures, set against Depression-era Kentucky. When Mattie Mobley leaves her home and life of privilege behind in North Carolina to volunteer at the Works Progress Administration library in Certain, Kentucky, she’s quickly swept into the secrets of the rural town. The library, a converted church, has a murky past tied to widower Daniel Barrett—nicknamed a “grizzly bear” by town residents. Mattie takes on the responsibility of delivering books to Daniel’s home outside of the town, to ensure his children continue reading, and despite his rude demeanor, the two grow closer, and Mattie begins falling for him.

Willoughby-Burle’s lyrical writing propels the novel, its depictions of rural Kentucky’s idyllic beauty haunted by the poverty of the Great Depression. As Mattie’s character gradually develops, Willoughby-Burle focuses on the contrast between her life in North Carolina and in Certain, skillfully capturing Mattie’s charitable nature and genuine quest to help those less fortunate. When Mattie learns the real reason for Daniel’s behavior, she’s able to see the man underneath the gruff appearance and discovers his immense capacity for caring for others, sparking her determination to convince Daniel he must accept his past difficulties and take a chance at reestablishing his fractured relationships with town residents.

Mattie and Daniel’s romance develops simultaneously alongside the mystery behind Daniel’s fall from grace and self-imposed exile from Certain. As Willoughby-Burle reveals the backstory behind the death of Daniel’s wife and why the church—often the center of small southern towns in the Depression era—became a library, she illuminates the contentious relationships and misunderstandings between the town residents, and readers will be drawn to the connection between Mattie’s arrival as a well-to-do outsider and the community’s struggle to heal old wounds. Through it all, Willoughby-Burle never loses focus on Mattie’s generous spirit and the satisfaction she gains through her work.

Takeaway: A young woman volunteering as a librarian inDepression-era Kentucky finds unexpected love.

Great for fans of: Kristin Hannah’s The Four Winds, Mary Monroe’s Empty Vows

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

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The Pursuit of Marriage Oneness: The Key to Marital Success
Dr. H. Irving Wilson
Arguing that, in recent decades, American marriages have increasingly strayed from “biblical precepts and principles,” Wilson makes the case that true happiness, fulfillment, and stability in wedlock comes from “a union of three”: the husband, the wife, and Jesus Christ. Wilson calls for a return to “covenant” marriages, which means loving a spouse through the love of God and continual offering of the self to each other, holding to clearly defined roles for the union’s partners, and “weaving together sacrificial commitment (ahava), intimate friendship (raya), affection, and sexual intimacy (dod), producing the harmony of marriage oneness.”

Drawing on scripture, scholarship, and his experience as a pastor and Christian counselor, Wilson lays out, in clear and inviting language, the theological and practical underpinnings of marriage oneness. He urges couples not to drift into “worldly” understandings of marital partnership, noting that the “covenant partners,” driven by love and faith in each other and God, no longer live just for their individual selves. Instead, “We die to ourselves and begin a new walk with our covenant partner.” Separate chapters on both a husband and wife’s sexual fulfillment and the “debt of love” owed to the other are frank but not explicit, taking inspiration from the Song of Songs; Wilson calls for “mutual submission” and “giving self in mutually sharing physical pleasures.”

The question of “submission” has been complex and controversial in Christian marital guides for generations. Wilson argues that a wife’s “voluntary submission” to her husband’s leadership comes out of “respect and affection for him and reverence to Christ” and that the true authority figure in marriage is Jesus. “A covenant wife’s primary role is a homemaker,” he argues, though she has other duties. Wilson notes that this is in “no way an easy path in today’s contemporary society,” citing the “world’s ridicule” of stay-at-home mothers but acknowledging that wives generating some “supplemental income” is not contrary to biblical principle. Christian readers eager to strengthen their marriages while honoring their faith will find this guide welcome.

Takeaway: A pastor’s thorough, inviting guide to oneness and fulfillment in Christian marriage.

Great for fans of: Tim and Beverly LaHaye, Michelle Peterson’s #StayMarried: A Couple’s Devotional.

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

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Resumes for Children - 17 Years Old and Under: A Guide to Giving a Child that Edge to Succeed!
DONNA KRISTINE MANLEY
Offering precisely what its cover promises, Manley’s upbeat, practical guide lays out how (and why) to put together resumes for and with kids, crafting a living record that honors their accomplishments, commemorates their passions and areas of expertise, and celebrates their talents and skills. Manley argues that developing a resume helps children (and parents) become well-rounded outside the academic world. She advises parents to urge kids to think early about cultivating the references they’ll need when applying for jobs or college. Building resumes, she notes, can improve children’s self-esteem and understanding of their “KSAs”—that is, Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities—while also preparing them to apply for programs, scholarships, jobs, and more … and even help kids answer that trickiest of questions, “Tell me about yourself.”

Resumes for Children includes over 30 sample resumes that showcase how to frame and write up kids’ KSAs and accomplishments in clear, direct language. Manley makes clear that resumes need not focus primarily on jobs. The samples highlight volunteer work, the generation of hobby income, awards and recognition in hobbies and arts, and computer and software skills. Like all good resumes, each selection here is crafted to target a goal or demonstrate a particular skill set, such as gardening or music. The volume is rounded out by samples to help with the rare writing project young people dread even more than thank-you notes: cover letters.

Rather than nudge kids toward the professionalization of their hobbies, Manley’s guide encourages children both to dig deeper into their interests and to range outside them, to take on new challenges (giving presentations, taking online courses, learning languages, getting involved in library programs) that could add new dimensions to their resumes—and to their real-life skills and conception of self. The result is a book and process that encourages kids to know and better themselves, in the flesh and on paper.

Takeaway: This charming guide lays out why and how developing resumes can give kids a leg up.

Great for fans of: Christine M. Field’s Life Skills for Kids, Rachel Toor’s Write Your Way In.

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

Return of the Sphynx: An A. J. Hawke Legal Thriller
Donald McInnis
Sharp-witted lawyer A. J. Hawke uses an unusual genetic condition to defend a client against rape in a nail-biting legal thriller. In this sequel to The Sphynx Murder Case, Hawke must defend Joshua Wellington—alleged to be the dreaded "Sphynx Rapist" — when in reality it's his fugitive brother, Jacob. Jacob wants to see Joshua cleared, but won't turn himself in. Fortunately, Hawke finds Joshua has a special genetic condition—he is a "chimera," a person with “two complete genomes or sets of DNA in their body,” which both binds and separates him from Jacob. He must see if this is enough to convince a jury, but before the case is over, he may have to face the Sphynx himself.

McInnis mines his years of experience as a trial lawyer to bring a high level of reality to the trial prep and courtroom scenes. He has a talent for making the minutiae of trial work interesting, as when Hawke and his associates plan how they will use certain questions to impanel a sympathetic jury without upsetting the judge. McInnis also explores the power—and limits—of expert testimony as Hawke chips away at a distinguished DNA expert in a fascinating exchange. Nor is the personal side neglected, as Hawke and his staff bicker when trial tensions ratchet up.

The trial centers on the DNA of identical twins. McInnis gives the trope a fresh twist with the "chimera” idea, a complex but certainly unique and memorable situation to power a thriller. Thoughtful scientific discussion permeates the book, especially the strategic discussion of how Hawke will explain it to the jury. While most of the suspense centers on the courtroom, the finale shows Hawke can also be an effective action hero–and, fortunately, leaves open the possibility for more Hawke adventures.

Takeaway: A scrappy lawyer must use sophisticated science, and his fists, to aid a client.

Great for fans of: Scott Turow, Phillip Margolin.

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

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The Gospels of Peter Star
Thomas Drago
Written as holy books from a future in which civilization spans planets and gender pronouns have been eliminated from English, Drago’s ambitious novel and thought experiment imagines, in the spirit of 1967, rock music and stardom as a breakthrough for human consciousness, as it follows the life, career, and globe-shaking legacy of Peter Star, Rock of Souls. Drago pens four ersatz gospels (cleverly attributed to John Paul, George, and Richard) that boldly mix and match elements of the New Testament with science fiction and rock and roll history, resulting in a playful, allusive, head-spinning narrative that continually challenges and rewards readers. Before it follows Star’s early career and miracles, Drago’s “Book of John” finds the star-to-be born in Motor City, where the slithering Major Tom—“the first proto-human to launch into space and circumnavigate the globe”—offers to guide the newborn to stardom, calling Star “the one who unites our peoples with song and dance as has been foretold.”

It all gets wilder from there. The subsequent gospels enrich and expand the basic narrative of Peter Star, “Not Son of God and Not Son of Man,” inviting readers to peel back the layers of myth, tradition, and reverence to try to spot the actual human events at their core. En route to Star’s inevitable crucifixion, and the end of what the gospel authors call “The Hard Days,” the satire is playful and biting: “But I tell you to have sex with your enemies, do favors for those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and embrace your abusers,” Star instructs his throng.

Most engaging among the playful provocations is the introduction, in the Book of Paul, of “Lady Madonna,” a figure who seamlessly ties together the biblical and the Beatle-y—and also suggests Priscilla Presley, too. The epic length, proudly archaic prose, and daring conceit means the Star story isn’t for everyone, but readers on its wavelength will find pleasure, insight, laughs, and astonishment.

Takeaway: This astonishing novel presents the gospels of a rock savior, in allusive biblical style.

Great for fans of: WIll Self’s The Book of Dave, Joseph Heller’s God Knows.

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

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