Find out the latest indie author news. For FREE.

Briarhill to Brooklyn: An Irish Family's Journey to Freedom and Opportunity
Jack Bodkin
Bodkin weaves readers through a tapestry of decades across the Atlantic and back, sharing his family’s history, struggles, and migration to America in this creative nonfiction tribute. The large Bodkin family, rooted in Briarhill, Ireland, endured many historic struggles in the mid-1800s. As The Great Famine raged on, millions starved in desolation. Heartbreaking tales pull the reader in during early chapters as Bodkin eloquently introduces family members. In one instance, loving father Séamus makes the difficult decision to take himself and toddler daughter Honora from Inis Mór to the mainland, with only the young child surviving the perilous journey. Honora, becoming Nora, proves a blessing to the Bodkin matriarch’s sister, and later joins the family on the voyage to America. As Bodkin writes, their expedition on the Cushlamachree ship was more than dangerous, punctuated with moments of hardship and love, but ultimately worth the risk for the Bodkin clan.

In a delicate yet deliberate manner, author Bodkin keeps the reader in check with the realities of the world around his family in the 19th century. War, famine, revolution, and the industrial age touch the lives of every sibling. Grounded in their Catholic faith, the Bodkin children persevered in the new world of Brooklyn, and America’s many opportunities. The figure of uncle Laurence, steadfast and dependable, proves a heartening presence in many chapters, as the bishop blesses potato patches, teaches the children botany and history, and guides the family’s transition into the New World. Bodkin brings together the family’s adult children in a solemn celebration decades later, as they recount their fond memories of the homeland.

Readers who enjoy family lineage stories will revel in this beautifully written account of the tight bonds of the Bodkins, complete with fictionalized but persuasive dialogue. Briarhill to Brooklyn keeps their traditions alive while forging ahead, extending geographies and building on their legacy.

Takeaway: The memorable account of an Irish family’s journey to America and a new life, lovingly told.

Great for fans of: James R. Barrett’s The Irish Way, Gerard R. D'Alessio’s Leaving: Three Generations of an Irish Immigrant Family.

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

Click here for more about Briarhill to Brooklyn
Endless Awakening: Time, Paradox, and the Path to Enlightenment
Patrick Paul Garlinger
This philosophical treatise with practical repercussions gently invites readers to release the attachment to linear logic and lean into the dualities and paradoxes inherent to spiritual growth, especially around the concept of time. Leaning into his personal experience with higher consciousness work and with plant medicine (ayahuasca), Garlinger addresses ideas like allowing ourselves to feel difficult emotion in order to release it, that we are simultaneously bound by time and able to fall out of it, that identity building allows us to be seen but cannot encompass the full truth of who we are, and that we need to simultaneously hold the notions of separation and oneness.

Garlinger’s commitment to a both-and mentality and a joyful approach to paradox threads clearly through each topic he considers, giving his ramble through big concepts a consistent path. His insight into the human condition encourages self-kindness and holding our ideas of self lightly, as it rejects the idea of enlightenment as linear progress. This offers the reader a sense of comfortable acceptance from which to let go into grander considerations.The prose style is conversational but not chatty, with accessible, straightforward language free of esoterica, and the material is clearly organized by topic. The net effect is one of listening to wise lectures quietly over tea. Though the author’s sharing of insights from ritual psychedelic use shifts the tone here and there, Garlinger never suggests that such experiences are mandatory on one’s journey.

A few of Garlinger’s ideas stick particularly hard, even for readers used to considering spiritual realities: the distinction between being in the present, which we cannot avoid, and being present, which is a choice and a practice; that identity is a shield against repression and that oneness does not mean eradicating difference; and that other people are simultaneously mirrors of ourselves and unknowable strangers.

Takeaway: Seekers ready to embrace the paradoxes of human living will find great ideas to chew on here.

Great for fans of: John Gray’s The Soul of the Marionette, Sean Enda Power, >em>the Philosophy of Time, A Contemporary Introduction.

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

Click here for more about Endless Awakening
Entanglement - Quantum and Otherwise
John Danenbarger
Danenbarger’s ambitiously titled work of literary fiction revolves around an intricate web of characters whose connections and dissociations slowly become evident as the novel progresses. The story starts with Geena, a woman sitting in her Kansas City office, conflicted about whether she should open the letter in front of her or not. In the end, she does; and what pours out is an entire history, a family saga that begins with a mother’s youth, goes on to detail lives, loves, and inevitable ruptures, before culminating in a crescendo of death.

Right off the bat, it becomes evident that the narrative is rich and complex: Expect frequent jumps in timeline, a flood of new and seemingly strange characters in each chapter, and a deliberate withholding of key plot points, meant to create suspense and enhance the effect of the eventual revelations. The title, of course, refers to the concept in physics of two particles being directly connected even across vast distances, a phenomenon that could well be an analogy for almost all the characters’ relationships to each other. No matter the distance separating them, they keep recurring in, and influencing, each of their lives.

Readers who favor page-turners over literary puzzles will likely find the book a challenge: having each chapter narrated by a different character, in a different voice, with sudden shifts from third-person to first person perspective, is a bold choice and not everyone’s cup of tea. The language alternates between complex—even complicated—and the directly stated (“Vanity is a woman’s punishment for being born”) and piercingly heartfelt. For all the book’s headiness, Danenbarger offers dramatic events and developments, and an empathetic understanding of how we process traumatic events. On occasion he even dares sentimentality. The novel is insightful and has a sensitivity that shines through. Lovers of family sagas, and the relationships that undergird them, will enjoy this book, which is demanding but ultimately very human.

Takeaway: A heady, human family saga for lovers of literary fiction.

Great for fans of: Ann Patchett’s Commonwealth, Anne Tyler’s A Spool of Blue Thread.

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

Click here for more about Entanglement - Quantum and Otherwise
Love in the Age of Dragons: A Novel
Fatima R. Henson
Henson’s (Courageous Cody’s Western Adventure) high-stakes adventure follows Ayanna Grace, a seventeen-year-old Black girl, as she deals with the fallout of a planet ravaged by dragons. Two years after her father opens up a wormhole to the Draconus Planetary System and inadvertently ushers dragons into the world, Ayanna—now orphaned—struggles to survive while serving as an assistant doctor in an underground community called Terra. Ayanna must face the worsening health of Terra’s doctor, the dwindling supply of life-saving medications, drought, and disease. Simultaneously, she wrestles with feelings for both Richard Daniels, her longtime-friend-turned-Captain, and Jackson Kyle, a mysterious stranger she meets on an unauthorized adventure to the surface.

Ayanna stands out as a multi-faceted and inspirational protagonist willing to place the needs of her community above her own as restitution for the mistake that her father made. Ayanna’s strong, selfless mindset is dealt with elegantly as her motivations—to help her community because of a sense of duty—are made just as clear as her reasons for hesitancy—her desire to avoid guilt if things go poorly. Ayanna’s powerful personality is the perfect vessel to explore the carefully crafted world created by Henson. Both the subway system community and the dragon-ridden surface are well developed settings and serve an important purpose in the overall story arc.

Despite feeling rushed at times, this story as a whole is very well thought out and engaging, and the dragons, so often overused in fantasy, here are truly scary and exciting, scarring the land and the flesh of people Ayanna meets. Whether following Ayanna as she navigates the trials and tribulations of living in an underground society with a questionable government or her exciting confrontations with beasts on the surface, Love in the Age of Dragons keeps the reader invested throughout. This fast-paced dystopian fantasy is intensely captivating until the very last page.

Takeaway: This story of life in the wake of a dragon invasion is perfect for fans of dystopian survival tales.

Great for fans of: Neal Shusterman, Amie Kaufman’s and Jay Kristoff’s Illuminae.

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

Click here for more about Love in the Age of Dragons
Elvia and the Gift of Passion
Ruthy Ballard
A young girl is snatched across space and time from an African safari resort to the fantastical, watery world of Urth in the exciting fourth installment of Ballard’s Tales by Moons-Light middle grade series. Elvia, who has the “gift of Passion,” is magically transported to a place called Finding Island, where an “uppy” named Lacie greets her and informs her that she has a mysterious mission to complete, after which she’ll be returned safely home. As they leave the island, Lacie cares for Elvia in her own slightly shallow and airheaded way, obsessing over fashion and trying to understand Elvia’s feelings and needs using the book of color palettes she carries with her.

The fun continues from there as Elvia accepts Lacie and this new world without a second thought, enjoying the luxurious accommodations and the free gifts that are offered to support “findlings” like herself, while also submitting wholeheartedly to her assigned tasks, like learning to scuba dive as a safety precaution before being allowed on a submarine trip. Elvia is a charming, curious, and friendly child, who embraces even the most abrasive locals. By contrast, Lacie is kind-hearted in her own way, but flighty and inconsistent except in her passion for clothing and fashion, an obsession that lands her in trouble in the end. Elvia’s other main companion, Rats, is another human who chose to stay on Urth after his mission was completed, and his “gift of Breaking Rules” and scampish personality are a wonderful foil for Elvia’s earnestness.

Chapters featuring Elvia’s worried parents and their search for her after she’s assumed to have been snatched by a lion add a slightly heavier touch to the lighthearted story without weighing it down too much, and the book’s overall silliness is well balanced to keep a young reader entertained and delighted. This is an adventure, and a heroine, that will delight middle grade readers.

Takeaway: The irresistible adventures of a young girl spirited away to a two-mooned planet.

Great for fans of: B.B. Alston’s Amari and the Night Brothers, Elle McNicoll’s Like a Charm.

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

Click here for more about Elvia and the Gift of Passion
Sundowners
R.L. Merrill
Merrill delivers a fast-paced romance thriller in the first of her Sundowners series (a spinoff from The Gifted series). Creed Lowell seemingly has it all—looks that could kill, poise, and an old soul that seems out of place in his young body—but that’s to be expected, given his status as a vampire. Below the surface he’s an enigma: fresh out of a lengthy self-enforced exile and with no family left alive, Creed’s hell bent on revenge from the cult leaders responsible for his condition, but while on the hunt for them he spends his time working as a nurse in Santa Cruz, drinking human blood only when he must in order to survive and using his supernatural powers to heal his patients.

Readers will be invested in Creed’s efforts to settle, and jolted when Santa Cruz is rocked with strange crimes and reports of victims being bitten by human attackers. While he’s wondering about the coincidences, he crosses paths with Roman—a psychology doctoral candidate recently returned to the city after his grandmother is placed in the very same assisted living facility where Creed works. Sparks fly between the two, and before long their whirlwind attraction morphs into something much bigger, leaving Creed to brood on how he’ll break the news of his true identity to Roman. But more than romance is on the horizon for Creed and Roman, as they’re caught up in a supernatural fight for power that threatens their love—and the world.

Paranormal romance lovers will relish Merrill’s blend of steamy action, while the undercurrent of good versus evil—and probing the true parameters of that concept—gives the novel welcome depth. Some dialogue suffers from the narrative’s brisk pace, but the appealing characters and steady energy more than make up for any hiccups. Readers will be disappointed when the ride is over and eager for the reunion.

Takeaway: An action-packed paranormal romance with welcome depth—and real bite.

Great for fans of: Joe Satoria’s Vampire Kisses, Ariana Nash’s Violent Desire.

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

Click here for more about Sundowners
Azabu Getaway (Detective Hiroshi Series Book 5)
Michael Pronko
Pronko returns with the fifth installment of his celebrated Detective Hiroshi Series, following Hiroshi Shimizu, the Tokyo detective with a deep dislike of working crime scenes. Despite his preferences for , Hiroshi finds himself summoned in one night to two different murder scenes: in one, the CEO of Nine Dragons, one of Tokyo's wealth management firms, is found murdered in his office, while the second finds young mother Miyuki returning home to discover her mother murdered, her babysitter attacked, and both her young daughters gone. As Hiroshi is pulled into the mix, he’s determined to solve the crimes—and in the process uncovers a shocking connection between them.

Lovers of hard-boiled procedurals will relish Pronko’s interweaving of suspense and drama—Miyuki is certain that her husband, Patrick, who happens to be an employee of Nine Dragons, is involved in their daughters’ disappearance, as the couple are in the middle of a divorce that would leave him without even visitation rights. And Pronko, an American living in Tokyo for over 20 years, avoids the trap of many foreign writers by painting a realistic rather than exotic portrait of Japan. This Tokyo is, like any big city, a huge and crowded place, filled with different worlds coexisting next to each other, yet at the same time, it's a place where it's hard to disappear for long if a dogged sleuth is really searching. Pronko skillfully shifts between viewpoints, and despite his attention to well-established series relationships, readers who are new to Shimizu’s adventures will easily connect with the story.

Hiroshi and Patrick lead readers through the shoe-leather of police work—with all its inherent challenges and miscommunications—and Japan's unique economic and criminal world, topics that Pronko treats with depth and realism while still always making them engaging. Jolting bursts of violence and a consistent wit will keep the attention of even the most procedural readers.

Takeaway: A Tokyo police detective faces two murder scenes in one night in this gripping procedural.

Great for fans of: Nicolás Obregón’s Blue Light Yokohama, Sujata Massey’s The Salaryman's Wife.

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

Unaka
william kauffman
This incisive collection from Kauffman centers on the author’s talent for capturing, in just a few lines, the sweep and grain of a life, with rare empathy. Kauffman’s perceptive acuity is clear from the opening pages, as the collection kicks off with a heartbreaker of a portrait of a Georgia widower picking at his guitar, reflecting on how he came to be here, wondering what life has left for him after 74 years. The answer resounds in the stories that follow: connections. “Friends did all they could within their limitations,” Kauffman writes, one of the many small yet resonant truths that stud the collection. Sammy, the widower, “had never been much for church going” but finds what he needs in visits from a literal Good Samaritan, a volunteer from a Christian ministry who checks in on him.

The other stories read like check ins as well, Chekhovian dispatches from the heart and mind of entirely believable people facing hardships, feeling towards a bit of grace. In the Great Depression, aged sisters Mary and Ruby, who have lived together and tended each other for decades, discuss Buddhism, the past, and a piercing question: “Are you happy?” The milieu couldn’t be further removed from “Jack,” a penetrating story that opens with a Chicago CEO briefing a board of directors on how profitable it will be to exploit Nigerian workers, but both stories turn on loneliness and people’s responsibility to each other when Sobia, a Pakistani national, discovers a secret.

The stories range widely—a doctor interested in a race horse; an audit at a local Red Cross office; the proudly divorced exterminator who eats at Hardees every morning and has drunken visions of an East Indian woman. What binds Unaka is Kauffman’s almost reportorial dedication to these people’s experiences and circumstances. He pins lives to the page in direct, unadorned prose.

Takeaway: Quiet, incisive slice-of-life stories of rare empathy and directness.

Great for fans of: Breece D'J Pancake, Ron Rash’s Burning Bright.

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

Click here for more about Unaka
Leading Inclusion: Drive Change Your Employees Can See and Feel
Gena Cox, Ph.D.
“Effective inclusion leadership needs to start at the top of the organization,” Cox notes in this illuminating business guide focused on effective inclusion leadership, which starts from a jolting truth: businesses and organizations that committed in recent years to DE&I are too often still not seeing serious progress—or happier employees. Drawing on her experiences as an executive coach and organizational psychologist, she introduces a three-step framework for effective inclusion that provides leaders with strategic solutions to ongoing racial disparities amongst employees in workplace environments. Pairing historical data with the shared experiences of peers and colleagues, Cox explains the root causes of race-based discrimination and social inequality, noting that many Americans still report that they’r just learning about their nation’s racial disparities.

The heart of the book is her “MBA” framework: Mindset, Boldness, and Action.Cox begins with a call to action for “those who have the power to change workplaces” to address their uncertainty around issues of race, take action, and be supportive. Divided into four main parts, the first section is a brief breakdown of U.S. history surrounding race, especially in regard to Black Americans. The next three sections are each dedicated to an aspect of Inclusion MBA. REDI (Respect, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion) principles are incorporated throughout the guide. Cox asserts that “to effectively lead all employees, leaders must practice REDI” and address systemic bias in the workplace.

An extensive REDI exercise helps readers pinpoint their conscious and unconscious beliefs about people of color and how to approach anxiety surrounding these issues, and an extensive REDI Action plan begins with clarifying any current diversity issues. From colorism to sexism, this guide takes an unflinching look at every aspect of systemic bias and inclusion in the workplace. Prioritizing respect and awareness, Cox provides senior leadership teams with a detailed roadmap to effective inclusion and meaningful REDI progress.

Takeaway: A real-world leadership guide to effective inclusion and diversity in the workplace.

Great for fans of: Mahzarin R. Banaji’s Blindspot, Mary-Frances Winters’s We Can’t Talk about That at Work!

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

Click here for more about Leading Inclusion
Welcome to the Free World: A Novel
Lloyd Raleigh
“Welcome to the free world,” says Will Robin, the protagonist of this near-future dystopia, the first time he slices a microchip out of someone’s scalp. Soon, his patient, overwhelmed by a life in which her brain isn’t remotely medicated by the Cirrus megacorporation, collapses and weeps. In Raleigh’s inventive, liberation-minded thriller, the populace is jacked, through these microchips, into Aurora, a network originally touted for treating mental and neurological disorders. Will, though, suspects the worst, and the fact that an assassin’s targeting him and everyone he loves seems like confirmation: Cirrus “had the ability to use neural plasticity to reshape someone’s brain for profit and its own sinister purposes.”

That arresting setup kicks off a tense, polished thriller of revolutionary resistance and high-stakes chip removal as Will, a member of the Asheville, NC, chapter of the “Scalpels,” faces feds, killers, racists, and—in richly unpredictable scenes—an AI named Iris who can summon up artificial realities. She’s seemingly the product of a court-mandated Aurora implant, knows his Scalpel secret, and apparently has an agenda all her own. Raleigh intercuts this mysterious setup with characters facing their own engaging travails in a climate change-ravaged Arizona, where gangs work a black market for water.

Scenes of violence tend toward the wrenching. One unforgettable scene finds Aja tapping into Will’s fears: in a vision he can’t escape, Will, always aware his brown skin can get him into trouble from white men with power, sees himself bullwhipped by Confederate goons, passing out from the pain only to be awakened by his Aurora and forced to suffer again. Flower deftly blends contemporary fears with dark truths about the American past and its possible tragic future in a story with mysteries to burn, freedom at its heart, and serious depth of feeling.

Takeaway: This superior dystopian thriller takes on AI, climate change, and pressing issues of freedom.

Great for fans of: Omar Al-Ekad’s American War, Cory Doctorow.

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

Click here for more about Welcome to the Free World: A Novel
Overcoming Deepest Grief, A Woman's Journey: Grief, Acceptance, Gratitude and Joy
Mary Aviyah Farkas
“When is the thick skin required to live this life supposed to form?” asks Farkas in this pained yet inspiring debut, which follows her journey through the unexpected loss of two pivotal women in her life—her wife, Margaret, and her sister, Lexi. Farkas shares her grief through a collection of essays, poetry, and journal entries arranged in chronological order and detailing her transitions from shock and suicidal thoughts to her eventual “vow to go on living.” In the process she sweeps readers into the depths of her pain and carries them out the other side to healing and rebirth, offering a model for facing the hardest that life has to offer while finding meaning and purpose.

Always mindful of her connection to the Universe—and embodied with a deep sense of wonder at the world around her—Farkas writes with gentle poise, even in the darkest moments of her remembering. “Today, I emptied one jar. I undid your accumulation of insignificance, so significant to me,” she notes while trying to recreate life without Margaret, and, delving into the added pain of Margaret’s family’s bias towards her in the days following the funeral, she conveys “We were just Lesbians, Queer; our relationship didn’t really count.” That innate longing to stamp out bias powers the memoir as Farkas celebrates coming out on her 25th birthday and considers the pain of other minority groups.

Farkas offers much more to her readers than how to cope with grief, although she deposits soft reminders throughout the book for self-care and urges readers to fall back in love with experiences that create joy, whether that’s spiritual stirrings, learning new skills, or rediscovering movement. Farkas’s willingness to unveil her immense pain allows readers the privilege of free expression, and her unwavering self-empathy will inspire them to not just survive, but “come out strong and clear…even thrive.”

Takeaway: A moving meditation on love, loss, and rebirth.

Great for fans of: Ariel Levy’s The Rules Do Not Apply, Tanja Pajevic’s The Secret Life of Grief

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

A Fish Called Andromeda
Cynthia C. Huijgens
Huijgens (Polar Bear and the UFO) celebrates the power of imagination in this whimsical story of Zuki, a young girl who wants “a fish more than she wanted anything else in the world.” When Zuki’s mother explains a pet fish is too expensive, Zuki takes it upon herself to craft a fish instead, tying a string to its mouth and running through her neighborhood with her very own flying fish. But when she accidentally lets go of the string, her fish takes off into the clouds, leaving a devastated Zuki behind to pick up the pieces.

Young readers will relish the dreamy landscape of this story and rejoice in Zuki’s journey from heartache to celebration. When her kindly neighbor, Mr. Humphries, notices her distress, he unwraps his telescope to help Zuki spot her fish in the nighttime sky, sparking an impromptu lesson on constellations—among which, he points out, “it would be easy for a fish to get lost.” When Zuki finally spots her fish floating by the Andromeda galaxy, and wonders if it will ever return, the wise Mr. Humphries reminds her of the power of positive thinking, prompting Zuki to name her fish Andromeda and to patiently wait for its reappearance.

Huijgens’s message to believe in your dreams won’t be lost on adult readers, and Watanabe’s wistful, kaleidoscope illustrations bolster that message with hints of texture and gorgeous imaginings: the night sky sparkles and glows across the pages, while different animals float high above Zuki and Mr. Humphries. It’s a pleasure to get lost in these pages. Ultimately, Zuki-and her fish-achieve their happy ending, one that Huijgens chooses to render with beautiful abstraction, in keeping with the book’s theme. Readers will find plenty of opportunities to exercise their own imaginations in this fanciful story, and the author includes a link at the end to Andromeda-inspired crafts online.

Takeaway: A young girl unleashes her imagination to find the pet of her dreams in this beautifully illustrated tale.

Great for fans of: Dan Santat’s The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend, Alice McLerran’s Roxaboxen.

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

Click here for more about A Fish Called Andromeda
Way Too Fast: An American Reckoning: The Life and Music of Danny DeGennaro
John J. Farmer, Jr.
Blending biography, memoir, musical studies, and innovative storytelling techniques, Farmer invites readers into the world of the first-rate but little-known guitarist and songwriter Danny DeGennaro, exploring through DeGennaro’s life and music a turbulent era where genius can so often languish in obscurity, all while celebrating the pleasure of seeing “one of the best bands on earth play in a local bar for free.” Born in 1955, Danny DeGennaro was raised in Levittown at the infancy of suburban life in America. His supportive father, a member of the then-booming post-war industrial middle class, could provide the means to nurture his musical talent. “Perhaps no generation in American history had been born into such limitless-seeming promise,” Farmer writes, and throughout he ties that promise to DeGennaro’s own.

Through his adolescence, DeGennaro dazzled with his performances at casual gatherings and in bands in his teens and twenties, DeGennaro won a devoted fandom after joining the band Kingfish in 1979. Farmer twines elements of memoir throughout this portrait, touchingly recounting first meeting DeGennaro as Farmer grieved his wife’s sudden death 1993. First, he heard DeGennaro’s guitar, coming from a waterfront bar in New Hope, “a sound that is as sad as the world, as sad as everything you’ve lost, because it is also as beautiful.”

DeGennaro “inspired loyalty” among many, Farmer writes, and he offers deep dives into those relationships. The story of Farmer and DeGennaro come together again in a happier time in the author’s life nearly twenty years later, when he finds the guitarist having suffered both in health and career. Readers will cheer on DeGennaro in his battle for his sobriety to the bitter end, which comes too soon, with his murder in 2011. This elegiac, formally inventive work examines shifts in culture over a generation, plus changing views of war, the invasion of drugs, and always, no matter the circumstances, the life-affirming power of music.

Takeaway: This innovative biography and memoir celebrates a singular guitarist and his passing era.

Great for fans of: Jim Abbott’s Jackson C. Frank: The Clear, Hard Light of Genius, Steven Blush’s Lost Rockers.

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

Click here for more about Way Too Fast: An American Reckoning
Becoming a Warrior: My Journey to Bring A Wrinkle in Time to the Screen
Catherine Hand
Hand’s upbeat debut memoir offers readers a story of an unpredictable, vibrant life threaded by a childhood dream kept alive for over five decades by one woman’s faith in herself. In 1963, when she first read Madeleine L'Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time as a middle-schooler, Hand dreamt of starring as the protagonist, Meg, in the film, describing the book as “a portal into a wondrous, mysterious universe that set [her] curiosity on fire.” Over fifty years later, Hand realized her dream as one of the two producers for the movie. Becoming a Warrior chronicles the switch-backed journey of Hand’s life over half a century, with an emphasis on the ups and downs of the dream she never abandoned.

Most people grow out of childhood dreams over time, but Hand’s ambitions matured with her—through all her years as a young Hollywood executive assistant, stay-at-home mom, radio producer, and political appointee under the Obama administration, Hand’s dream of bringing L'Engle’s beloved fantasy to the screen grew and shrunk in scope and plausibility, but she never let it go. Beyond an exacting account of what it takes to produce a blockbuster—from acquiring film rights to casting to working with Reese Witherspoon and Oprah Winfrey to post-production—and working as a woman in Hollywood in the 1970s and 1980s, Hand’s memoir is also a record of how she built an identity by pursuing her goals despite numerous professional obstacles and personal challenges.

Hand writes with positivity and grace, crediting much of her success to the mentors and friends she generously describes in her memoir, particularly L’Engle, and her first boss, Norman Lear. Film industry enthusiasts, A Wrinkle in Time fans, and those interested in the painstaking process of making a big-budget film in Hollywood will delight in Hand’s accessible storytelling and the rewarding tale of a dream coming to fruition.

Takeaway: The inspiring story of one woman’s dream to make a movie from Madeleine L'Engle’s classic novel.

Great for fans of: Naomi McDougall Jones’s The Wrong Kind of Women, Christina Lane’s Phantom Lady.

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

Click here for more about Becoming a Warrior
House of Pain
Karolina Wilde
Wilde’s polished debut, a dishy gothic fantasy page-turner, grabs from the start with sharp prose, weird magic, cutting remarks, a frank and buoyant sex-positive outlook, and a creepily enticing summoning ritual certain to lead to unexpected consequences. Set in a hothouse magic school where horned-up students enjoy public sex, discussing their professors’ endowment, and competing in a high-stakes campus-wide Game, House of Pain centers on Alecto, a half-witch of less power than the purebloods and legacies surrounding her at Venefica Academy, where she’s a second year student in the Inner Circle of the House of Snakes, taking classes like “History of the Sexuality of Witches” and being targeted for humiliation by handsome blackguards like Blaze.

This inventive school, alive with engaging students and rampant talk of sex and blood magic, will delight readers looking for a boldy uncensored take on fantasy mainstay while likely singeing the ears of readers who aren’t. To secure an advantage against the other houses in the Game, the Snakes witches perform a summoning ritual, calling forth what they hope will be a gorgeous “guardian” free of the character flaws of the likes of Blaze. It’s a laugh-out-loud moment, then, several chapters later, when an impossibly alluring newcomer turns up in one of Alecto’s classes. His name: Rogue Smolder. He’s a demon—and he’s Alecto’s new study partner.

Sexy, funny, fast-paced, and committed to jolting genre expectations, this first book in Wilde’s projected trilogy is decidedly not for everyone, but readers on its wavelength will savor it and impatiently wait for more. For all the adult and even satirical elements, the story itself—especially a surprising slow burn romance—is heartfelt and exciting, and Wilde proves deft at plotting out twists, reversals, betrayals, and revelations that honor the beloved magic and prep school stories that House of Pain both celebrates and interrogates. There’s detentions, memory orbs, and forces beyond everyone’s control—including lust.

Takeaway:This dishy, sex-positive magic school fantasy/romance will dazzle the readers on its wavelength.

Great for fans of: Caroline Peckham and Susanne Valenti’s Zodiac Academy series, Leigh Bardurgo’s The Ninth House.

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

Click here for more about House of Pain
She Rules: What You Didn't Know is Holding You Back in Business
Sara Roach Lewis
Feminist business coach Roach Lewis’ debut offers readers a pathway to entrepreneurial success that deviates from what she identifies as a patriarchal, militaristic, Sun Tzu-quoting methodology that has dominated the field of business coaching since its inception. This alternate path is built on six “she rules” that offer readers strategies to expand their revenues and engineer a lifestyle for continued personal and professional growth. Citing substantial research and drawing on conversations with other successful women in business and her own career, Roach Lewis posits that “gender equality can solve all of the world’s problems,” and one of the best ways to bring about that equality is by “empower[ing] women to [...] make more money.”

Roach Lewis’ approach isn’t new. Readers will find many of her “she rules” familiar, including No.3 “Be Willing to Adapt and Calibrate,” and No. 4 “Attitude Is Everything.” The value in Roach Lewis’ guide stems from her contextualizing of these ideas into a feminist business framework that positions awareness, inclusivity, and empathy as assets required for a thriving entrepreneur. She declares that “military business strategy doesn’t serve anyone anymore” and that business owners’ time is better used learning how to be vulnerable in their leadership and to create harmony between work and home life through the use of boundaries. Roach Lewis assures readers that by following these rules, they will learn to “relax into their zone of genius” and “embrace all [their] dimensions.”

Lewis does acknowledge her racial and socioeconomic privilege, but there are times when the guide lacks suggestions for people who do not have access to the same resources as Lewis does. Beyond that omission, there is ample material within her rulebook for any entrepreneur, whether they’re in the start-up stage or a seasoned CEO, who wants a fresh, feminist perspective on business growth and the future of entrepreneurship.

Takeaway: A women’s-centered rulebook for entrepreneurs seeking business growth via feminist business strategy.

Great for fans of: Rachel Rodgers and Brené Brown’s Dare to Lead, Kim Scott’s Radical Candor.

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

Click here for more about She Rules

Loading...