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The Panacea Project
Catherine Devore Johnson
This polished medical thriller centers on Calla Hammond, a library assistant with the skin condition vitiligo, a young woman who grew up in foster homes who has lived a quiet life with few friends because she’s never really felt like she fits in. When she collapses one day at her job, her life changes forever. The brain tumor she’s initially diagnosed with somehow disappears prior to surgery, leading to an ambitious physician’s conviction that he’s stumbled onto the gold mine he’s been waiting for in Calla—her body literally has the ability to cure her cancer. Debut author Johnson explores the possibility of that miracle cure and all the consequences that come with it, as Calla’s life is irrevocably altered.

Johnson crafts a medically savvy novel that feels deeply real as it explores what might happen to someone capable of treating and potentially curing one of the world’s deadliest diseases. As the possibility of a quiet, private life disappears almost overnight, Calla’s safety and security are constantly threatened in tense, crisply written scenes. As she faces manipulation and coercion from the outside world, Calla starts to enjoy the experience of the family she never had—aside from her former social worker, Rae—in the people who have now become part of her daily life, though even within that close circle she faces constant betrayals, as they look for money, fame, and a cure. When Calla is kidnapped from the hospital, she is forced to rely on new and old allies alike if she ever expects to get free.

Fans of medical thrillers and engaging female protagonists will appreciate Johnson’s realistic examination of the different ways people can benefit from using Calla, with both selfish and altruistic intentions. The story’s also more humane than some thrillers, featuring well-meaning people who befriend Calla and never expect anything more from her than time and friendship. In an era where medicine and vaccines are hotly debated, this well-written and thoughtful story will inspire both hope and terror about what the future holds.

Takeaway: The cure for cancer residing inside a woman’s cells brings out the best and worst in society.

Great for fans of: Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Megan Abbott’s The Fever.

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

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Love Yourself: It all begins with you: A personal guide on how to put purpose before relationships.
Jamai Wray
Wray advises readers to live with purpose while manifesting their dreams in this debut that blends the pragmatic with the spiritual, urging them to focus on self-love before seeking intimacy with others. Drawing from several universal laws that he describes as “the formula of life,” Wray offers readers his own answers to age-old questions, including how to manifest true love and why we struggle to achieve our loftiest goals, and he delivers those answers in a candid way, building on his own experiences as a learning tool for others. His guidance begins with evaluating relationships but eventually extends to professional acumen and beyond.

Readers who enjoy thought-provoking prompts and creative exploration will appreciate this guide—Wray includes several opportunities for journaling and encourages followers to write down their thoughts to crystallize goals, with exercises that will spark deep self-reflection. He wisely points out how early life experiences can impact adult relationships and urges readers to detach from their pasts, writing that “the energy of holding on to the past just recreates it.” When delving into tips for readers pursuing professional success, Wray emphasizes the power behind seeking out mentors and developing an impressive “elevator pitch” to stir interest in your brand—and he insists readers should never give up on their dreams, even if they lack personal support.

Although Love Yourself brims with practical pep-talks and calls to put yourself first, the guide’s scope can be overwhelming at times, particularly when it veers into religious territory to cover numerology and what Wray describes as “spiritual awakenings,” or moments when “the universe is arranging people, circumstances, and events to bring you closer to the reality you want for yourself.” Still, his commitment to self-work is evident throughout the text, as he shares his own application of those universal truths, such as putting aside fear to accomplish bold dreams and learning how to forgive others. The takeaway—to dive headfirst into self-acceptance—will resonate with readers.

Takeaway: A lively how-to on mastering self-love, manifesting goals, and nurturing spiritual awakenings.

Great for fans of: Hal Elrod’s The Miracle Morning, Caroline Webb’s How to Have a Good Day.

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

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Beyond Abuse: An Empowered Journey of Soul, Science & Self-Help
Martha DuSage
Crafted as a “roadmap” to help survivors of abuse toward empowerment in their lives, DuSage’s empathetic guide encourages readers to undertake a searching, conscious journey of healing that entails “transform[ing] being pissed-off, numb, in denial, or hypersensitive into feeling peace and passion.” Noting that she’s taken such a journey herself, and acknowledging that sometimes stories of overcoming trauma or abuse sound too fantastical to be true, DuSage (Why Bother? Because Self-Help is Never Stupid) urges readers to avoid quick fixes, face emotional blocks or personal resistance to transformational change, break dysfunctional cycles that may result in feeling unloved, and “to take responsibility for getting ourselves out of whatever muck we are in.”

DuSage acknowledges that it’s hard work to, as she puts it, “just get over it,” and that often “truth can be so painful that it makes us feel like we want to die.” But she reminds readers that it’s unhealthy to accept anxiety or stay mired in “survival mode” rather than push oneself toward transformative change. So, writing with the upbeat, inviting tone of a coach or mentor, she lays out clear-eyed action steps toward healing, from letting go of denial to understanding and shaping one’s perceptions to speaking your own truth.

The approach is both nuts-and-bolts practical, with a chapter digging deep into the question of whether to tell one’s story to others, and encouraging of meditative practice and embracing of spirit, energy, and David R. Hawkins’s vibrational scale of consequence. DuSage is an energetic facilitator, whose practice involves helping guiding people who have suffered abuse toward transformative experiences; her treatment of energies, spirits, and vibrations here is matter of fact, with an emphasis on achieving peace and self knowledge, including of one’s “limitless limitations.” The mystic, here, is always in service of the pragmatic, of understanding, forgiving, and embracing one’s deepest self.

Takeaway: This guide to change for people who have faced abuse embraces the practical and the mystic.

Great for fans of: Mariane E. Weigley’s Abuse & Energy, Beverly Engel’s It Wasn’t Your Fault.

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

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Dark Money and Private Spies: The Everett Stern Story
Everett Stern
In this inspiring memoir, Stern tells a tense, deeply personal story about the sacrifices he made to fight for justice from the inside of a multinational bank. Hired at HSBC bank as a money laundering compliance officer, a position he acknowledges he had little preparation for, Stern discovered a shocking secret: the bank was allowing for billions of dollars to be laundered, with much of that money facilitating terrorist activities and drug cartels. Worse, as he puts it: “HSBC Bank was criminally and intentionally manipulating the code on the wires so the payments would go through.” Refusing to remain silent, Stern came to a pivotal decision. He became a whistle-blower, passing reports to the CIA, endangering his career and wellbeing in the process—eventually, HSBC was fined over $1.9 billion. Stern argues, though, that for HSBC that record-breaking sum, though, was “just a cost of doing business.”

The suspenseful opening chapters focus on the HSBC scandal, explicating with welcome clarity the nuts and bolts of money laundering and banking coverups. From there, he explores his personal life, the incidents and circumstances that shaped him into the person he is, while also digging into larger philosophical questions about how one finds his or her purpose in life and what is the price one pays for acting on their principles.

For the most part, Stern’s journey from a dejected whistleblower to founding his own intelligence company, Tactical Rabbit, makes for a gripping read. However, he chooses not to weave details about money laundering scams and terror financing throughout the book, instead relegating this discussion to the beginning and the end, meaning the memoir loses some narrative drive in its middle. Still, Dark Money and Private Spies is an illuminating read for anyone curious about the scandals of high finance—and what it takes to expose them.

Takeaway: This illuminating memoir reveals financial scams and the guts it takes to uncover them.

Great for fans of: John Perkins’s Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, Tim Mueller’s Crisis of Conscience.

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

Click here for more about Dark Money and Private Spies
MEATPACKING: A Novel
Michael Heslin
Heslin’s inspired fifth novel offers a moving portrait of human nature against the backdrop of an ever-changing New York City, specifically the Meatpacking District in the 20th century, long before becoming a swanky tourist destination. Max and her daughter Salome stay in the loft of a hardware store owned by Mr. Zwerling. Emmett, a mute foundling who is in many ways Mr. Zwerling’s twin, also stays with him. The loft’s inner walls have expressionist paintings by Max’s mostly broke painter friends. The quotidian sounds of the trains mark the rhythm of life and the passage of time–birth, growth, sickness, death, and the city’s relentless inconstancy. On becoming redundant, the nearby viaduct is pulled down, but the part near their building, on which Salome plants a garden, remains, though the dilapidated building, with its priceless murals, will itself face inevitable change.

Written in beautiful, haunting prose, the novel’s episodic, non-linear nature captures the everyday, the extraordinary, and the sweep of time. In detailing the lives of this unusual family, Heslin explores the meanings of artistic success, happiness and freedom in a society that, in its relentless march towards “progress,” cares little for people stranded by the wayside, people who do not conform, people who, by chance or choice, are different. Fiercely independent, protagonist Max must continuously struggle to preserve that independence. Mr. Zwerling, made different by his cleft lip, chooses uncompromising, unconditional kindness, and his choice makes life hard. Similarly, Salome’s slower rhythms make her life challenging.

New York City and the viaduct—a chunk of which eventually becomes the High Line public park—are characters too. Kind, cruel, indifferent, and broken by turns, they remind the reader that change is the only constant, inviting contemplation of cities, lives, and time itself, and stirring a sense of the human in the often inhuman scheme of things.

Takeaway: A haunting tale of an unusual foursome against the backdrop of an ever-changing New York.

Great for fans of: Rachel Kushner’s The Flamethrowers, Dawn Powell’s The Golden Spur.

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

Click here for more about MEATPACKING
Coney - A Trip to Luna Park
Jeffrey Lindberg
Set on Coney Island in 1904, Lindberg’s exciting, evocative picture book debut introduces a plucky rabbit named Selena with uncanny jumping abilities. These serve her well when she meets Millie, a little girl riding a trolley, and follows her home—but the two new friends soon discover that Selena’s peaceful hillside dwelling has become a construction site dedicated to a coming-soon attraction called Luna Park. They run into Skip Dundy at the site and are instantly intimidated by his gruff demeanor and declaration that he enjoys eating rabbits. A whirlwind chase ensues, rich with vintage landscapes and old-fashioned fun.

This story is bursting with action—in their efforts to evade Skip, Millie and Selena encounter elephants and giraffes, leap from buildings, walk across tightropes, and ride on an airship, all alongside nonstop drama that will sustain the attention of eager young readers. As the pair races to escape Skip and his sinister intentions, they also explore Luna Park, a vision of early twentieth century culture and ingenuity, eventually stumbling onto a ride called Trip to the Moon. This misty, pseudo-lunar voyage culminates in Skip seeing the error of his ways and a happy ending for all. Though the story is jam-packed with dramatic details, perceptive readers may ask what made Skip so angry in the first place; his climactic transformation would feel more rewarding with greater insight into his character.

Throughout this adventurous tale, Lindberg’s intricate, old-style illustrations fill up the pages with a wistful Coney Island past that would fit right at home on antique circus posters, and readers will leave the story feeling as if they’ve tasted a piece of American history. Younger fans will be inspired to seek adventures of their own, while parents and adult followers will likely feel their own tug of nostalgia—both for the over-the-top grandeur of Luna Park and the simple beauty of childhood friendship.

Takeaway: This picture book finds a little girl in an exciting chase through turn-of-the-century Coney Island.

Great for fans of: Ariel and Michael Tyson’s Jack and the Fantastical Circus, David Litchfield’s The Bear and the Piano.

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

Click here for more about Coney - A Trip to Luna Park
Courageous Love
PAUL A NANKIVELL
Nankivell’s inspiring debut romance follows two sets of couples working through their own struggles, including the impact of Cerebral Palsy on their lives. Alan, a 40-year-old IT expert, wades through his days, coming to terms with his burgeoning love for his 25-year-old caregiver Selena, while also dealing with his feelings of inadequacy due to his Cerebral Palsy. On the opposite side is Catherine, a highly successful lawyer struggling to realize her place in life and at her job while dealing with the struggles of not fitting in and a bias toward other disabled people rooted in her experience with her own disability.

Readers of sweet romances will find themselves drawn into the journey of these characters as they come to discover who they are and what they want, not only for themselves but for their relationships as well. While the individual characters live with very real disabilities and struggles that will engage readers, the power and clarity of their individual storylines at times is diminished by frequent point-of-view shifts and occasional awkward transitions in the dialogue. Still, each character's personal doubt or flaw that makes connection a challenge feels highly realistic, capturing the reader's attention and sympathy, creating investment in this story and these lives.

Nankivell’s close perspective and intricate knowledge of the hearts and lives of people living with disabilities imbues this heartfelt story with convincing power. It’s a pleasant and inviting reading experience, despite a tendency to leap away from one moment to another. Each character brings an interesting individual struggle to the story, creating diversity within the novel and expanding readers’ understanding of atypical relationships. Readers who find joy in unexpected love and overcoming emotional and physical obstacles to develop lasting relationships with find this novel to be a good read.

Takeaway: This inspiring love story will win the hearts of diverse romance readers.

Great for fans of: Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You, Ruby Moon-Houldson’s Romancing the Professor.

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

Click here for more about Courageous Love
The One and Only You!: How to Be the Best, Truest, You-est You
Nicole Jon Sievers, MSW, LCSW
Sievers (co-author of It’s Your Mind: Own it! A Manual for Every Teen) offers a fresh take on self-development in this entertaining but weighty guide. Drawing on her experience as a licensed clinical social worker, she tackles crucial issues impacting younger readers, and offers them creative ways to cope, emphasizing above all else that everyone is "a masterpiece in progress.” With an emphasis on staying curious and viewing mistakes as opportunities, Sievers teaches clever problem-solving skills juxtaposed with rigorous explanations of the science behind them, all while presenting each concept in a playful, upbeat manner that will resonate with tween and teen readers.

The power of positive thinking ripples throughout Sievers’s writing, and adult caregivers will applaud her insistence on celebrating diversity: she addresses why different perspectives are not only necessary but helpful, stresses the importance of viewing diversity as a strength, and is attentive to the unique needs of her readers—including touching on neurodiversity, which is often overlooked in similar literature. Likewise, bold black and white illustrations by Darcy Cline give the subject matter a cheerful edge (while incorporating welcome diversity) even for the most serious of topics. And readers should expect substance along with the fun, as Sievers explores a host of essentials, from detailing brain processes to breaking down Howard Gardner’s theory on multiple intelligences.

Sievers’s willingness to employ a variety of resources is what sets this guide apart from classic self-help writing for younger readers, and her inclusion of group exercises at the end, offering adults enrichment activities to go along with each chapter, is invaluable. Every concept is accompanied by creative and kid-friendly worksheets that will energize readers and leave them eager to try out Sievers’s teachings, whether by designing their own comic strip on working together or rewriting lyrics to their favorite songs as an anxiety buster. Readers of any age will find this worthwhile.

Takeaway: A comprehensive and entertaining self-development guide for middle-grade readers.

Great for fans of: Imogen Harrison’s The Worry Workbook, Andy Cope, Gavin Oattes, and Will Hussey’s Diary of a Brilliant Kid.

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

Click here for more about The One and Only You!
Sell More with a Right-Brain Marketing Strategy: Learn How a Simple Change to Your Product Name and Sales Pitch Can Multiply Your Income
James Bond
A strategy-packed business marketing guide, Sell More with a Right-Brain Marketing Strategy is a quick-paced learning tool designed to show business owners, marketing professionals, attorneys, or others how to boost engagement and create a marketing kit that will grab their audience's attention. Presenting many helpful examples of successful marketing and branding, plus guidance on how to shape strategies tailored to individual needs, Bond has crafted a resource offering inspiration and practical advice for anyone looking to target their intended audience—or to fix what’s not connecting with that audience in an existing campaign.

Writing in inviting, conversational prose and insider’s lingo, and drawing on his years in the persuasion business and his work on big-ticket campaigns, Bond showcases his credentials as he presents his acronym-based “Brain Glue” method (with fourteen strategies to “to influence, persuade, and sell just about anyone, anywhere, anytime”) and his “Steam Attractors” toolkit, a suite of specific pointers for selling an idea, cornering tone, simplifying the complex, and “connecting your product or idea to something your prospect already knows and values.” Bond makes the case that these techniques have been tried, tested, and successful. Relying heavily on well known successful slogans and catch phrases that readers will remember, even from years ago, Bond showcases how making something "stick" in a potential buyer’s memory greatly increases the likelihood of creating an actual buyer.

Each chapter builds upon the last, pairing a crash course in Bond's methods with examples of their sources and potency. Consideration of famous lines such as "If the glove don't fit, you must acquit" or examinations of the brilliant marketing of brands such as Head and Shoulders offer examples of powerful strategies in practice while illustrating Brain Glue’s techniques as well as the persuasive power of familiarity. This will prove valuable to entrepreneurs, social media managers, or anyone who needs to build a better connection with a targeted audience.

Takeaway: A polished, practical marketing guide offering strategies and tips for targeting any audience.

Great for fans of: Seth Godin, Martin Lindstrom’s Buyology.

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

Once Upon A Predator (Dark Amusements #1): A Psychological Thriller
Alex Loch
The first in a promising new thriller trilogy, Loch’s captivating debut follows Samantha “Sam” Turner, a woman determined to capture the knife-wielding killer plaguing her hometown of Murphy, jokingly known as “The Best Little Hellhole Anywhere.” After two near fatal encounters with the murderer, including one that turns on Sam’s inspired handling of a fork, the resourceful hero teams up with fellow survivor Tim and her trusty golden retriever Buddy to bring the murderer to justice before he claims any more lives.

Loch tells the story with polish, power, and welcome senses of tension and momentum, though it’s the characters that most strongly set it apart. The daughter of an ex-police chief, Sam is a fighter who has faced more than her fair share of trauma, especially as friends, family, and loved ones’ lives are upended or even destroyed by the killer, known as “Charlie,” whose reign of terror is as psychological as it is violent.Thanks to her own troubled past, plus the fact that she happens to be around wherever Charlie strikes, many–including the new police chief– suspect that Sam must have some involvement with the murders.

Though a likable heroine, the ever-resilient Sam is gripped by a savior complex that goads her into bold, even reckless behavior as she pursues Charlie and disregards the toll this takes on her physical and mental health, That makes for exciting scenes–Sam’s as wild a wildcard as Charlie, another sharply delineated character. The killer’s creepy charisma makes him fascinating, sometimes even stirring reader empathy despite his heinous and gory crimes. A suggestion of the supernatural complicates the story, with Charlie appearing to know everything about his victims’ personal lives and Sam experiencing what appear to be prophetic dreams. All of these elements spin a riveting new thriller, which will make readers excited for the next two installments of the trilogy as well.

Takeaway: This gripping thriller pits a resilient small-town woman against a serial killer.

Great for fans of: Jennifer Hillier’s Jar of Hearts, Stacy Willingham’s A Flicker in the Dark.

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

Manifest Destiny: An Unholy Alliance
Jaiden Baynes
“Blood and guts gorily sprayed everywhere,” Baynes writes in the early pages of this darkly comic fable of power and powers, royalty and space empires, and a pair of misfit strivers, endowed with great abilities, who prove all too happy to spray blood and guts about as they seize their place in the universe. Antiheroes Norne and Chaos, a princess of the Arcosians and a nine-foot-tall telepathic man-child, meet just before Norne is slated to meet her betrothed, a prince of Tartarus who expects instead to marry her “hottie” sister. But her new friend Chaos lives up to his name, and soon this surprising duo are claiming the kingdom for themselves, facing all the complications—and bloodshed—a coup involves, the adventure powered along by their crisp, playful comic dialogue.

Structured as an epic step-by-step guide to claim and expand an empire, Manifest Destiny blends fantasy, science-fiction, satire, and cheerful violence while still offering rich worldbuilding and an intriguing magic system—and even risking a slow start to the novel with several explanatory prefaces. The satire targets assumptions about who deserves power, both the social and magical kinds, as Norne and Chaos draw on their innate (even “insane and completely unfair”) magical abilities to steamroll their opponents—and occasionally face off against each other. Baynes invites readers to wrestle with the question of whether they support the duo’s efforts even as the story encourages us to cheer for their slowly developing bond.

Of course, the stagnant empires they challenge aren’t sympathetic, either, and with descriptions of rulers who associate their “fair skin” with a “Master Race” Baynes parodies the worst thematic underpinnings of classic fantasy. Scenes run long and chatty, and the prose could benefit from tightening, but fantasy readers interested in the hard work of minion acquisition, keeping the military in line, and the question of whether power games can help the poor and oppressed will find much dark fun here.

Takeaway: A cheerfully bloody comic fantasy concerned with questions of power and powers.

Great for fans of: Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor, Piers Anthony’s Bio of a Space Tyrant series.

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

Click here for more about Manifest Destiny
The Nimmy Nimmy Dance
Tom Geier
Geier’s debut follows Penny Stevens and Henry Taylor, childhood best friends, through the ups and downs of life, as they endure a long separation only to rediscover their love for each other. Penny, content with her job as a corporate consultant in Germany, has plans to attend her girlhood friend, and Henry’s twin sister, Kate’s, wedding—but after career obligations interfere, she’s forced to miss it. While she’s stuck in Germany managing work crises, Henry, professionally successful as a lab research director, seems to have forgotten Penny, until a near fatal accident brings them together again.

Geier has crafted a warm and pleasant novel that moves at a relaxed pace, with little major conflict or tension. The characters are generally likable, mostly doing the right thing regardless of their circumstances. Even Hyatt Emerson, marked by an ambitious nature and desire for power, ends up not being the villain readers may initially suspect. Penny is a hardworking and friendly protagonist, who’s open to Henry’s plans of their future together, even when that may mean putting her career on the back burner, and she manages to stay good friends with her boss, Clara, despite the initial roadblocks her job throws in their path. Likewise is Henry’s response to life: he takes his accident in stride, gets along well with his colleagues, and nurtures a deep and meaningful relationship with his sister Kate. The only enduring tension in the novel is whether Penny and Henry will end up together.

This gentle story is told in polished, inviting prose. Readers who prefer feel-good love stories steeped in innocence will enjoy this idyllic romance, where even the dark cloud that is Henry’s accident and subsequent hospitalization quickly clears the way for sunny skies. In comparison to the blissful world Geier has created, readers may find reality dull and dreary.

Takeaway: This feel-good romance and its big-hearted characters offer a relaxing summer read.

Great for fans of: R. J. Lewis’s Carter, Kasie West’s On the Fence.

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

Click here for more about The Nimmy Nimmy Dance
The Ultimate Guide to Successful Job Interviewing
M. L. Miller
Miller (Guide to Successful Salary Negotiation) draws on his professional experience as a recruiting agent in this straightforward, accessible guide. Emphasizing the crucial need for prospective employees to prepare well before an interview, he burrows into the job interview process to deliver a behind-the-scenes glimpse at what employers are truly looking for—and how candidates can do their best to fit that “ideal profile.” The prep work, according to Miller, should involve tasks such as practicing how to respond to possible questions before ever setting foot in an interview, researching potential companies to learn their culture, and other logical steps that will help readers achieve the job of their dreams.

Miller’s focus on preparation drives the material he offers, and readers with limited experience applying for jobs will prize the down-to-earth, sensible advice. Assuming that applicants are applying for positions that somewhat match their credentials and experience, Miller concentrates on breaking down the interview process in an ordered, methodical way: what to expect at every level, different interview structures, and how to best respond to typical interview questions. He also shares key dos and don’ts for candidates, cautioning against the cardinal sin of airing out dirty laundry from past jobs, stressing the need to exhibit positive body language, and imparting how to follow up interview answers with insightful questions for prospective employers in order to foster fruitful back-and-forth communication.

Despite this guide’s main focus on basic interview skills, there are some intriguing nuggets included, most notably Miller’s “STAR technique”—a method of practicing responses to anticipated behavioral interview questions (queries that spotlight candidates’ past handling of work situations) that recommends applicants rehearse past situations, tasks, actions, and results (STAR) before an interview, in an effort to come primed and eager to share. Those on the hunt for the perfect job will find this a good starting point.

Takeaway: A simple but insightful guide to nailing your next job interview.

Great for fans of: Kathleen Gerson and Sarah Damaske’s The Science and Art of Interviewing, Annette Lareau’s Listening to People.

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

The Plot to Save America - A Novel
Avraham Azrieli
Azrieli (The Masada Complex) wraps a political worst-case scenario inside a suspenseful procedural mystery thriller that follows an unnamed investigator, sent by the government to quickly assess the case of Former Chief Inspector Stuart Tenison, a hero and government official who has been branded a traitor and sentenced to death. Tenison’s case takes place in a world where the January 6th insurrection succeeded and was blamed on Antifa and Black Lives Matter, with Donald Trump declaring martial law and suspending the Constitution to impose ever-more draconian decrees in the service of white supremacy.

The investigator is hunting down the facts, which leads him to the curious matter of a government official named Kevin Pendleton, who seemingly died by suicide, as well as the whereabouts of a document Pendleton wrote called "The Plot To Save America." The investigator follows a series of clues that Tenison leaves him to uncover a conspiracy, each of them connected to a horrifying vision of America where being a feminist merits a domestic terrorism charge, immigrants are executed en masse, and all Black people are scheduled to be deported to Africa. Despite the political focus, Azrieli doesn't skimp on the suspense or action, including a brutal fight with a poison-ring-wielding agent and a showdown on a plane.

The nightmarish scenario Azrieli creates is extreme, though this dystopia’s roots in an actual effort to thwart the peaceful transfer of power make it all the more disturbing. Although the happy ending feels tacked-on, and less realistically developed than the rest of the novel's events, readers of political thrillers who aren’t onboard with Trumpism—or this exaggerated forecast of what it could have become—will likely find relief in the tidy conclusion in a story so chock full of terrifying events. This portrayal of an America with a totalitarian at the helm is at its most effective when describing how, given the right set of circumstances, otherwise reasonable people do horrible things.

Takeaway: A searing procedural thriller imagining Trump held onto power after January 6.

Great for fans of: Leni Zumas’s Red Clocks, Hillary Jordan’s When She Woke.

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

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Morbid Thoughts & The Domino Effect: A Memoir. Passing thoughts during cancer.
Perry Muse
Muse’s lively, life-seizing memoir builds, in its first half, to the author, a businessman and father, asking the hardest of questions: “And so, Doc, with all of your years of experience, what do you feel are my chances of making it ten more years?” The answer is devastating: 35%. Muse had been diagnosed with prostate cancer, and the doctors suspected that, despite treatment, it could spread into his bones. So Muse and his family embark on a hair-raising odyssey of surgeries, radiation, and trying to live as much as possible. He writes with welcome frankness about pain and fear, about facing “the dark shadow” that whispers the “morbid thoughts” of the title, about the family meeting where he and his wife, Nila, broke the news to their kids, about being moved to tears by Tom Petty on the radio.

There’s even some laughs: after an insurance settlement affords an opportunity for home improvement, Muse writes, “I looked at Nila and said, ‘Well, Nila, at least cancer bought us a fence.’” The memoir’s narrative is an exhaustive account of treatments and surgeries and periods of painful recovery, with Muse striving to strengthen “Mr. Skeleton” for the bone cancer that seems inevitable, and to get the most out of his days. He skydives, go-karts, sips Royal Crown; he exhibits tenderness describing his and Nila’s mixed family and a storyteller’s relish recounting the many crashes and injuries he’s sustained over the years, incidents that lead to excruciating complications after his diagnosis.

More a detailed record of an ongoing health crisis—and the author’s zeal to live and live well—than a traditional narrative memoir, Morbid Thoughts & The Domino Effect documents Muse’s state of mind and body, with photos of the family and pets he loves and also the wear and tear on his body. Readers touched by a prostate cancer diagnosis will find invaluable information, and anyone navigating health crises will find inspiration.

Takeaway: A detailed, tender account of facing a tough cancer diagnosis and seizing life.

Great for fans of: Robert K. Brown’s Hundred Percent Chance, Sheila M. Burke’s Bullsh*t to Butterflies.

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

Click here for more about Morbid Thoughts & The Domino Effect
Introducing Sai the Peacock: The Unique Beak
Estani Frizzell
Feeling judged by taunts and insults from the other peacocks, Sai Peacock decides that his beak is too big and his singing voice is not good enough to share with the world. But then he meets Cricket, an unlikely friend who loves his unique sound and wants a front-row seat to watch Sai perform. With Cricket’s confidence, Sai is free to follow his dream, and the two embark on a worldwide journey of performances—billed with the message “beakonfident” as an homage to Sai’s newfound courage. Brimming with heart, The Unique Beak will uplift young readers and show how even one friend can make a difference.

Sophia Frizzell’s textured and layered illustrations, boasting a striking indigo and emerald color palette, render a lush and regal world that especially suits Sai once he ascends to international fame. Though the distinctive illustration style lends itself well to animal stars in the story, the one human figure portrayed when Sai visits London comes across as two-dimensional by comparison, creating the intriguing impression that he is out of place in Sai’s world. Author Frizzell’s clever rhyming text (the book’s impressive first rhyme: ginormous and warned us) pairs nicely with Sai’s musical nature, though readers only get one line that he actually sings: “There’s no day like today!”

Sai’s path to self-confidence (and eventual fame) feels honest, in the sense that it doesn’t happen overnight, and even after he reaches stardom his best friend Cricket stays by his side and is credited with Sai’s successes—or at least plays a major role in them. Most importantly, Cricket treasures those qualities that set Sai apart, and adult readers will value the lesson of friendship over celebrity status, while younger readers-particularly those who are shy-will delight in Sai’s uniqueness and eventual victory over self-doubt.

Takeaway: A peacock and cricket show the power of friendship in this tribute to self-confidence.

Great for fans of: Giles Andreae’s Giraffes Can’t Dance, David Cunliffe’s Whoever Heard of a Flying Bird?.

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

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