Find out the latest indie author news. For FREE.

Ugly Faces
Brian Lupo
This memorably horrific journey from Lupo (Goat's Head) centers on a nightmarish drive and a traumatized law student possibly experiencing mental illness, as Lexi Peters faces a long trip home from college. From the start, Lupo reveals that Lexi endured sexual assault as a child, a trauma that has given her a terror of wide-open spaces. When her friend Rachael cancels on making the drive home with her, Lexi must brave the California trip by herself, a trek that Lupo makes both dizzying and suffocating. The shocks of the road–wrecks, aggressive drivers, a near-apocalyptic storm–all serve to ramp up her anxiety and fuel her paranoia about men wanting to hurt her.

Things take a bizarre turn when a car driven by a killer dressed as a clown runs her off the road, and Ugly Faces shifts from a narrative of a tense psychological journey and into a straight-up fight for survival against a crazed spree killer. Lexi’s overwhelming anxiety and experience of physical trauma shape the storytelling itself, as Lupo employs blackouts, time slips, and other clues that there's more going on under the surface than readers might initially suspect. Lupo is especially skilled at introducing shocking plot developments out of the blue in a highly understated manner, adding to the story’s surreal, apocalyptic quality. Part of this is using Lexi as a highly unreliable and even unstable narrator, as she introduces concepts that mean a lot to her–like her "funny faces"–while leaving the reader to puzzle over what she means.

However, every twist is earned, including the horrifying final ones, as it becomes clear just how and why a seemingly fragile young woman is able to face down a vicious killer. This is a dark and brutal story about how trauma can do horrible things and take people down a path of no return.

Takeaway: A tense roadtrip into psychological horror, told with suffocating power and killer twists.

Great for fans of: Andy Davidson’s In the Valley of the Sun, D. Alexander Ward’s Lost Highways.

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

Click here for more about Ugly Faces
Wealth Your Way: A Simple Path to Financial Freedom
Cosmo DeStefano
Retired CPA DeStefano’s debut guide is a sound investment of time, energy, and money in investment education. DeStefano plots “Life’s Complete Financial Arc,” from calculating how much to invest when building a portfolio to how to withdraw investments. He outlines the “PCR” method for investing–“Plan, Course-Correct, Repeat”–and argues that by repeating these three steps over the course of a lifetime, one may achieve “financial independence…so that all your future financial needs can be paid for from your FI Portfolio without needing…to earn a salary.” Making the case and showing his work, DeStefano walks through the why, what, and how, offering readers the tools to decide for themselves what investments match their own goals and values.

DeStefano writes for a general audience of any age unfamiliar with (or needing a refresher on) investment terminology and strategy. In a genre where authors tend to patronize, overwhelm, or over-promise, DeStefano hits a sweet spot: he provides substantive information in a light and accessible tone. At times, he references pop culture icons like Yogi Berra and Wally from the Dilbert comic strip to add color and humor to the material. Famous quotes and personal asides are scattered throughout, and the eye-catching layout will hold reader attention. Illustrations, charts, and graphs are clear and helpful in explaining difficult concepts with concision. DeStefano provides reading recommendations at the end of each chapter to encourage continuing education.

DeStefano does not tell the reader what to do, but instead informs them of options and potential pitfalls that come with investing so that new investors may make their own decisions. Drawing on examples like the Electronics Boom in the 1950s and the Dot-com Bubble in the 1990s, DeStefano illuminates how the investment industry has changed since its inception, and how new investors may avoid risky or fad investments. This unbiased, practical approach offers a clear-eyed introduction for any prospective investor.

Takeaway: A comprehensive guide for all ages on how to invest and achieve financial independence.

Great for fans of: Bola Sokunbi’s Clever Girl Finance: Learn How Investing Works, Grow Your Money, John C. Bogle’s The Little Book of Common Sense Investing: The Only Way to Guarantee Your Fair Share of Market Returns.

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

Still, the Sky
Tom Pearson
This striking collection of dramatic verse interrogates, complicates, and humanizes the children, both literal and metaphorical, of Daedalus, the inventor in Greek mythology who built the wax wings of Icarus, designed a labyrinth for King Minos, and rigged up the winch-and-pulley system that allowed Minos’s wife Pasiphae to consummate her passion for a sacrificial bull. The first son, of course, is Icarus, son of Daedalus and Minos’s slave Naucrate; Pearson imagines Icarus’s high-flying escape from Minos’s prison not, as has been traditionl, as a warning to those who would fly to close to the sun. Instead, it’s a tale “not of hubris, but neglect, from the one / He admired most.”

The second child is the minotaur itself, resident of that labyrinth, the half-man/half-bull offspring facilitated by Daedalus’s genius. In sharply vivid verse, powered by yearning and precision of language, Pearson imagines a shared childhood for the two on the island of Crete, growing toward their tragic fates with “Mothers’ milk withdrawn, fathers’ care deported.” Pearson explores their youth, their loneliness, their understanding of who they are, how they thank “the darkness for / The cloak under which to share this silent awe, / This togetherness”. In Pearson’s handling, these figures maintain their sense of ancient mystery while still coming to rich, moving life, “The miserable children of those committing / Atrocities we couldn’t comprehend, yet.” These lives are presented in sometimes literal correspondence, inviting readers to connect with hearts that the myths and most retellings don’t dig into deeply.

A work of originality and power, Still, the Sky originated as part of a broader multi-media project incorporating theatrical production and visual art; the poetry, written in non-rigid quatrains, has the expressive clarity of dramatic monologues. Illustrating the text is Pearson’s marvelous, allusive mixed-media art, which incorporate miniatures, wooden boxes, fossils, lotus and seed pods, and more to suggest labyrinths, dreaming, inventions, and a sense of life fading away.

Takeaway: With originality and power, this collection imagines the lives and hearts of Icarus and the minotaur.

Great for fans of: Analicia Sotelo’s Virgin, Roberto Calasso.

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

Click here for more about Still, the Sky
Island Secrets: A Queens of Kiawah Story
Beryl or Barry Jennings
Foxx (Momma Gone) presents a cozy mystery nuanced with romance set on South Carolina’s exclusive Kiawah Island. Savvy, wealthy widow Denise Martine doubts her husband Charles fell off his boat and died nearly one year ago, his body never found. Recuperating among friends in her luxurious island home, she discovers that her former flame Trent Wilkerson visits the scenic barrier island–and, unbeknownst to her, his business involves her, as Trent works as an insurance agent assigned to track Charles’s mysterious business dealings. Following the jolt of a home invasion, Denise enlists Trent to help her uncover Charles’s illicit activities, unwittingly assisting his own investigation. At the island’s most glamorous party of the year, their suspicions lead them to a wily criminal.

Foxx based the ritzy, idyllic setting and fanciful characters on her trips to the real Kiawah Island, imbuing this delightful tale of romantic suspense with welcome authenticity. Island Secrets invites the reader into an elite inner circle where even the local police drive Rolls Royce patrol vehicles. These elements are amusing, and the story delves into secrets and criminality as this tight-knit community of upper-class people of color thrives within a typically white tourist environment. Foxx invites readers to relish her cast’s elite status while offering sharp dialogue and memorable back-and-forth rapport as the case (and the possible romance) heats up.

A bitter ex-colleague cut from Charles’s lucrative business, a cagy inventor, and a notorious socialite who runs a members-only club for those seeking discretion, among others, make compelling suspects. The socialite leads Denise and Trent to a safety deposit box containing seemingly insignificant contents ... but which a criminal desperately needs. The missing man himself may be the most intriguing persona of all. Despite some proofreading issues, Denise’s expensive lifestyle, flamboyant friends, and musings on Kiawah Island will entertain both travel lovers and mystery enthusiasts.

Takeaway: This thriller set among elite island dwellers finds a wife digging into her missing husband’s past.

Great for fans of: Abby L. Vandiver’s Secrets, Lies, & Crawfish Pies, Carl Weber and Eric Pete’s The Family Business.

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

Tastes Better From Scratch Cookbook: Easy Recipes for Everyday Life
Lauren Allen
Photographer, mother and world-traveler Allen imparts wholesome warmth and wisdom as she brings over one hundred tried and true recipes, curated over a lifetime, from her eponymous blog to physical format. Beginning with a deceptively simple introduction, she credits her family for her love of food: “Thanks to my family, my love for cooking came easily, and so did my love for trying new foods. I was blessed to travel many places with my parents and learn about different foods and cultures.” That passion lends itself to a lusciously photographed, decadent book filled with recipes aimed at the budget-conscious home-cook.

With an accessible “how to use” section and a welcome set of tips and tricks, the focus is continually on the food and creating a healthy, fun experience in the kitchen. Parents of young children will appreciate Allen’s own experiences cooking with and introducing her four children, all widely featured in the photos, to the wealth of foods offered in the world. Split into the traditional sections– Breakfast, Salads and Sides, Dessert–each recipe features the prep and cook time at the top, simple ingredient lists and tips for storing the planned-overs, thanks to the author’s focus on time-saving and efficiency. Most of the recipes also come with QR codes readers can scan, leading them back to step-by-step videos featured on the website.

Novice and veteran cooks alike will relish these foundational dishes which provide ample culinary variety reflecting a wide palate (everything from Panang Curry to Biscuits and Gravy to Lasagna Soup). In addition, many of the featured recipes include ideas for variation (Lauren’s Tips) and encouragement for cooks to experiment and add their own spin to classic staples. While many of the offerings feature healthier alternatives and ingredients, no nutritional information is given within the pages. That, however, shouldn’t keep aspiring home culinary artists from finding inspiration in the pages of this delightful cookbook.

Takeaway: An enticing, practical cookbook presented with joy, flavor, and respect for the home cook’s time.

Great for fans of: Antoni Porowski, Carla Lalli Music.

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

Click here for more about Tastes Better From Scratch Cookbook
with your friends.
William Grant
Grant ‘s debut deftly illuminates the tumultuous experiences of the teenage years. In small-town Haverty, high school senior Peter Hansen is conflicted about his future. His feuding parents are increasingly tearing each other to shreds, and Peter takes comfort in his bedroom closet, where Sharpie-inscribed messages penned by a former resident, Brooke, seem to mirror his own struggles: “I don’t know how much more of this I can take…is there more?” As the tension elevates, Peter meets a trio of new friends—Kevin, Ryan, and Mallory—from a rival school at a local coffeehouse, in a story that deals sensitively with tough issues.

Grant excels in describing the inner demons of teenagers, their responses to tragedy and unhappiness, the intense complexity of their interactions, and the healing power of friendship. Kevin’s parents are dead, and his prospects for being able to afford college tuition are slim. Ryan’s depression has at times threatened his life, and Mallory is in love with Kevin, who won’t let himself be with her, even though he desperately wants to. As Peter grows increasingly close to his new friends, and as his parents separate and move toward divorce, he realizes he’s falling in love with Ryan, a transition Grant handles with grace.

The weighty emotion of Grant’s writing will resonate with readers. He expertly chronicles the crushing despair of depression—not just on the person suffering, but for their friends and loved ones as well—and empathetically navigates the realities of poverty, divorce, and sexual orientation. The text flows with careful and descriptive prose: “Dim bars of sun light shone through the lowered blinds, breaking up the darkness,” allowing readers to experience the same feelings as his multi-dimensional, nuanced characters. This first-rate coming-of-age tale will ring true to anyone who has ever had to experience the minefield of adolescent feelings.

Takeaway: This sensitive, insightful coming-of-age story faces tough issues with richly drawn characters.

Great for fans of: Sarah Dessen’s Someone Like You, Emily Gale’s I Am Out With Lanterns.

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

Click here for more about with your friends.
Outplayed: How Game Theory Is Used Against Us
David Lockwood
After exposing how survivor bias tricks everyday people into bad decisions in Fooled by the Winners, Lockwood offers an inviting and alarming look at the ways that game theory—that life-is-poker field of mathematics the he defines as a “set of tools, consisting of axioms, proofs, and equations, with which to plot strategy across a wide variety of fields”—is used to take advantage of millions, on global, national, business, and interpersonal scales. Drawing on examples that range from the “mutually assured destruction” logic of nuclear brinksmanship to who in a relationship wields the remote control, Lockwood makes the case that it’s surprisingly common for us to get “played” by strategists in auctions, elections, financial markets and elsewhere—and offers advice about what to do about it.

In engaging, conversational prose, Lockwood guides readers through a surprising history of game theory dilemmas from literature, picking apart choices and outcomes in Bible stories, Sun Tzu, Rousseau, and others, before offering thumbnail histories of game theorists John von Neumann and John Nash and the classic “Prisoner’s Dilemma” and Nash Equilibrium, which posited that there’s “at least one optimal strategy for any finite multiple-person non-zero-sum game”—and that the outcomes of games reward one individual rather than a group. Outplayed challenges readers to think of more real-life situations as gamelike, presenting strategies to avoid being outplayed and to increase cooperation.

Lockwood takes on fascinating cases and studies in clear prose as he digs into this intersection of math and human psychology. He’s an appealing guide, especially when the material gets heady, as in chapters about evolution and systems of voting (including the complexities of the electoral college). Explanations of complex phenomena make up much more of this guide than guidance about how to deal with it, but it’s still an eye-opening introduction that will reward the curious.

Takeaway: An illuminating introduction to the ways game theory shapes our lives.

Great for fans of: Presh Talwalkar’s The Joy of Game Theory, Avinash K. Dixit and Barry J. Nalebuff’s The Art of Strategy.

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

Click here for more about Outplayed
Jerusalem Stone
Susan Sofayov
Sofayov (The Kiddush Ladies) delivers a novel of healing and grown-up romance, centered on Julie Wasserman, a Jewish woman from Pennsylvania who finds her world shattered after the death of her twin brother, Jack. She treats herself to a trip to Thailand as part of her recovery, but ends up meeting the dashing Avi Gold instead–and careening headfirst into instant chemistry. Caught between grieving her dead brother and falling in love, Julie finds herself at the crossroads of an irrevocable decision. What will she decide, and where will that choice lead her?

The novel is bursting with scenes of romance described with persuasive sizzle (“A kiss is just the meeting of lips. This was a merger”), as much of the narrative revolves around Julie’s whirlwind love affair with Avi, while the two of them traverse first Thailand and then Israel together. Intricate descriptions of Julie and Avi on the tourist circuit as they experience everything from vendors on the streets of Phuket to praying in front of the Wailing Wall often prove novel and will engage readers fascinated by international sojourns.

At times, Sofayov’s combination of a central romantic plot with a brisk travelogue can seem jarring. Julie’s conflict—to either grieve her dead brother or open herself to Avi’s love—is internal, and readers impatient for the romance to flourish may find themselves wondering why, two years after her brother’s death, she cannot allow herself to do both, or elect to pursue the possibilities of a relationship some time in the future. “I feel like if I give you my whole heart, it’s stealing from him,” Julie says. A passage in which she contemplates people’s tendency to say things like “He would want you to be happy” is incisive, as is the message of each heart needing to heal in its own time. Lovers of travel and patient romance will enjoy this novel, which is as much about love as it is about experiencing new things and places.

Takeaway: Lovers of romance and travel will enjoy this story of a woman discovering new beginnings while facing grief.

Great for fans of: Nicholas Sparks, Audrey Niffenegger.

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

Click here for more about Jerusalem Stone
And Go to Innisfree: Three Novellas and Two Stories
Don Eron
Eron’s incisive debut collection offers a deeply philosophical, yet still lighthearted, examination of the human condition. The characters populating these three novellas and two short stories may all walk different paths–among them, readers will meet a private eye, a greeting card writer, and a sandwich maker– but they each grapple with existential questions that transcend their differences as they confront the uncertainties of identity, authenticity, family, and romance with probing persistence. Eron’s stories hold up a mirror that will inevitably reflect the lives of contemporary readers while challenging us to look more closely at who we are and how we live.

The novellas “Welcome to Gilgamesh” and “The Chimera in the Plaster” center on characters struggling to determine what is real in their lives and how to relate authentically to others. Eron gives readers a fascinating glimpse inside their minds, illuminating the repetition, rumination, and occasional self-delusion of their often-messy thought processes as they evaluate themselves, their relationships, and the biggest of all questions as represented, in “The Legend of Elk Avenue,” by a book of Jewish folklore. The complexity of these and many other of Eron’s characters will resonate to readers who embrace fiction concerned with life as it’s actually lived and perceived.

Eron writes with deep insight into his main players, though holding closely to their perspectives flattens the depiction of some of the other characters in their lives, especially the female ones, who often are objects of desire or projections of fantasies. These men don’t fully see them. While thought-provoking and deeply concerned with the limits of our perceptions and self-knowledge, the collection frequently offers welcome, unexpected moments of humor, especially in the often boisterous dialogue that’s often sprinkled with Yiddish. The muddled and sometimes painful self-reflection at the center of these stories, and their characters’ occasional hard-fought realizations, create a fascinating window into life’s big questions about who we are and how we should live.

Takeaway: This incisive collection examines, through short fiction, pressing questions about the limits of self-knowledge.

Great for fans of: Nathan Englander, Bernard Malamud.

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

Click here for more about And Go to Innisfree
The Land of the Pines
Summer Nilsson
There’s a brand-new kitten on Black Mountain Farm, and despite being born as a run-of-the-mill barn cat, this one seems different. The farm’s guardians, towering pine trees aptly named Mr. and Mrs. Pine, bestow the special name of Grey on the newcomer and assign Miss Jay the Bird as her guardian, sagely advising “we believe that this is a special cat, but it will need help finding its voice.” But an ominous Black Widow spider is lurking in the shadows, and her evil Hourglass is calling the shots, recruiting different animals as puppets. Will Grey be able to achieve her destiny, or will she be the Hourglass’s next victim?

Nilsson’s debut boasts engaging animal characters and a sure mix of exposition and action to hold attention, while offering a deeper lesson that adults will appreciate as well. While the Widow works to gain control of the other animals at the behest of her Hourglass, Grey fills the role of her antithesis, leaning on the help of her friends to seek counsel from Bo, a wise owl holding court in the Lone Star Lodge on a mountain above the farm. In the process, Grey forges new friendships and discovers her own magic: she can use her words to protect herself and those around her. But can Grey channel her power to break the curse of the Hourglass, freeing the Widow from its grip and opening the door to a new chapter for the farm?

Though the story’s moral may be heavy for younger readers, Nilsson imbues her animal characters with considerable wisdom. Bo proposes “your magic lies in owning who you are,” and the animals discuss how scars should be viewed as medals–“you didn’t just survive, you thrived.” Fox’s black and white illustrations fill in the details with intricate lines and expressive renderings of the farm’s inhabitants, and the satisfying ending wraps up the story’s theme of belonging.

Takeaway: A kitten with a special destiny embarks on a journey of self-discovery in this entertaining animal tale.

Great for fans of: Kelly Jones’s Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer, Kallie George’s Heartwood Hotel: A True Home.

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

Click here for more about The Land of the Pines
The Man in Cabin Number Five
Chrysteen Braun
Braun’s fiction debut, the first installment of the Guest Book Trilogy, uncovers the stories of two women whose lives are secretly intertwined. Annie Parker, a bi-racial girl who struggled to fit in during her formative years, marries young to David, an older man with three children. When Annie begins to find her feet, forging friendships with the children and starting a career as an interior designer, she also starts to question how much she and David really love each other. Meanwhile, Alyce Murphy, recently remarried and settling into a happy family, is searching for answers about her father’s death when she was young–answers that eventually lead her to Annie’s doorstep.

While elements of mysteries darken the corners of the women’s lives, The Man in Cabin Number Five plays out more as a general fiction novel than a thriller as it follows, in parallel narratives, Annie and Alyce. The primary focus is Annie, and Braun delivers a moving portrayal of a young woman searching for herself amid personal upheaval. When she discovers that David is cheating, Annie escapes to the mountain community where she spent her childhood summers, eventually realizing she doesn’t want to leave. She begins putting down roots, becoming friends with a local hairdresser and starting a romance while forging ahead on her career and finalizing her divorce. Among touching scenes of starting again and facing the past comes some darker material: As Annie comes to terms with her independence, Alyce learns jolting truths about her family’s history.

The central theme is Annie’s transformation from a girl who doesn’t really know what she wants to a self-sufficient woman learning to prioritize herself instead of solely trying to please her husband. Readers will find fascinating connections and correspondences between the two women’s experiences as Braun blends genres and lives with depth and meaning.

Takeaway: A touching novel charting two women’s parallel lives, tied together by mysteries, transformation, and a cabin.

Great for fans of: Liane Moriarty’s The Husband’s Secret, Linda Holmes’s Evvie Drake Starts Over.

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

Click here for more about The Man in Cabin Number Five
Flip Your Wig
Roy Chaney
Hardboiled San Francisco detectives of an earlier era come up against the counterculture in this ‘60s-set procedural that's both gritty and amusing. Inspectors Belcher and Nash investigate a bizarrely murdered man as the Beatles are about to arrive in town. Investigations eventually lead to a seedy club, the Kimono à Go-Go, whose owner is the eccentric Jasper Rollo. Journalist Tina Gone knew the dead man, Danilo Gomez, whose band was going to be an opening act for the moptops—and Rollo might be bootlegging Beatles recordings. And even as the police get deeper into the confusing 1960s milieu, a tragedy from World War II begins to play out.

Chaney, who has worked as a journalist, does a marvelous job of turning his reporter's eye onto a changing time: a witness tries to explain who the Beatles are to the inspectors and suggests the officers read the fan magazines. “The Chief canceled our subscriptions,” said Belcher. Chaney reveals a gift for sharp descriptions, summarizing Malibu as the place where the Hollywood elite go for "naughty weekends, booze and pill-popping and free love" as a "respite from weekdays of booze and pill-popping and free love." The story encompasses many twists, and some of the subplots don't always connect neatly, but the profile of San Francisco in a fractious era always comes through with persuasive clarity.

Among the best of the sharply defined side characters is Gone, who tried to write a Kerouac-like novel on the "dharma spectrum." Her talk both confuses and entices Nash, who begins falling for her in a poignant romance. Nash himself also grows, finding himself increasingly torn between his role as a policeman and the changes roiling his city. Although the book is not about the Beatles, their spirits hover over the Bay as harbingers of change, though Chaney still finds room in the fog for the older spirits of Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade.

Takeaway: Hardboiled detectives face murder and an ascendent counterculture on the eve of a Beatles concert.

Great for fans of: San Francisco Noir, John Lescroart.

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

Click here for more about Flip Your Wig
The Cellular Wellness Solution: Tap Into Your Full Health Potential with the Science-Backed Power of Herbs
Bill Rawls, MD
“Though I’ve had to make some compromises to maintain good health,” Rawls notes in a concluding chapter to this exhaustive introduction to the practice and benefits of using herbal phytochemicals to cultivate wellness, “somehow they don’t feel like compromises.” The Cellular Wellness Solution lays out, with clarity and persuasive power, the health benefits of herbs, herbal supplements, and the “powerhouse” properties of phytochemicals that, due to contemporary food processing that emphasizes the production of calories over all else, tend to be lacking in American diets. In the opening pages, Rawls recounts his astonished discovery of herbs’ power, relieving aches, sleeplessness, gastrointestinal issues, and a once-persistent brain fog, all issues that traditional western medicine had failed to address. The rest of the book finds him guiding readers through his discovery, with a doctor’s eye for the science—and the practical results.

Rawls makes the case that herbs and herbal supplements like slippery elm and reishi can, when combined with a balanced lifestyle that involves fresh foods and regular physical activity, bolster well-being in many areas without drug-like effects, including the maintenance of blood sugar levels, the reduction of menopause symptoms, and improvements of gut, prostrate, bone, and skin health. Plant phytochemicals, he notes, are fundamentally non-nutritive, meaning they aren’t required for cells to survive, though they relieve cellular stress while offering protection from a host of dangers, among them insects and microbes.

Rawls proves an appealing guide, laying out the facts with clarity and, for all this lengthy guide’s thoroughness, a welcome sense of the bottom line: what readers want to know to improve their own health. Appendices, bulleted chapter summaries, and a conversational tone make the material manageable, and he offers full chapters on common pressing health concerns and the maintenance of a balanced, healthy lifestyle. Readers interested in the herbal life will find this a valuable resource.

Takeaway: A thorough yet inviting introduction to the health benefits of herbs and herbal supplements.

Great for fans of: Tina Sams’s The Healing Power of Herbs, Katja Swift and Ryn Midura’s Herbal Remedies for Beginners.

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

Click here for more about The Cellular Wellness Solution
Person to Person: Change Your Life and Fix the World
Joeri Torfs & Pim Ampe
Connecting the tenets of self-help for the individual to the possibility of a community, societal, and even global awakening, Torfs and Ampe make the case that changing one’s personal quality of life—by identifying what one truly needs to thrive, such as personal agency and connection, rather than profits and material wealth—can be the start of changing others, person to person, which in turn can be the first steps toward creating a “Quality of Life World” with a “people-centric economy, built with innovative socioeconomic tools, employing a global network.” This change-your-heart model urges readers to set aside competitiveness and divisiveness, approaching personal, work, and community lives in a spirit of collaboration, working toward shared values and goals, a lofty aim that, the authors argue, could lead to greater opportunity and a rethinking of concepts as foundational as currency and private property.

“Is there a way to break free of the economic, and social, and governmental systems we’re in without being destructive?” the authors ask. Bold yet inviting, Person to Person calls for a humane revolution, an elevation of empathy, cooperation, and valuing long-term health and sustainability over short-term gains. Perhaps recognizing the enormity of asking readers to lead this shift, the authors blend clear considerations of multilevel selection, Sen’s Capability Theory, and the practicalities of decentralized autonomous organizations with fictionalized passages demonstrating how their ideas might play out in practice. These vignettes follow college students Jake and Leon from dorm-room content creators to business leaders who compensate themselves and their collaborators with “Collaboration Points.”

The scope of Person to Person is large, as is the page count, examining how to make change within the existing framework of business: topics include sovereign assets, “which separate ownership from value,” and even the makings of a strong request for investment. The authors cover all this with welcome clarity and persuasive power, inviting readers to aim big by reaching out to others.

Takeaway: This bold guide lays out how to create a people-centric self, economy, and civilization without being destructive.

Great for fans of: Simone Fenton-Jarvis’s The Human-Centric Workplace, David Nordforos and Vint Cerf’s The People Centered Economy.

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

Click here for more about Person to Person
Contrasting Humility and Pride: Bearing Good Fruit or Bad Fruit
Rene Lafaut, MSc.
Lafaut (To Be Broken Into Freedom) explores humility from a Christian perspective in this introspective guide. Asserting that humility is the key to profoundly loving others, he encourages readers to examine their good deeds and emotions to determine whether the right motives are driving their behaviors. In the process, he strives to break down and illuminate complex biblical concepts, such as differentiating Old Testament law from moral law and interpreting Bible parables, all through the lens of humility as the stepping stone to “wholesome love.” Lafaut bases his analysis on the Gospels’ Sermon on the Mount, singling it out as the quintessential lesson on biblical love.

Readers will immediately sense this is intricate material, and Lafaut is upfront about the difficulty in mastering such a multilayered topic, writing that “knowing what humility is does not mean we are practicing it.” He uses the parable of the prodigal son to illustrate how pride can block love, and draws from it the lesson of the need to stop judging others in the name of religion. He also emphasizes that pride is based on outward appearances and control, whereas humility should be the pursuit of mutual respect and empathy. Lafaut argues that Jesus is the ultimate model of humility, urging readers to forgive others and avoid violence, in order to “[build] bridges on common ground.”

Although the text can be challenging, Christian readers will appreciate Lafaut’s reverence for biblical writing: he examines several beatitudes as they relate to humility—particularly the need to extend mercy to others and be willing to give freely—and dedicates plenty of space to clarifying the concept of salvation. Most importantly, he offers readers hope while normalizing the process of change, declaring that “all people have different degrees of humility.” Hands-on learners will appreciate the included quiz that measures their motives behind loving others.

Takeaway: An elaborate analysis of how to achieve humility, based on Christian principles and biblical writing.

Great for fans of: Robert D. Jones’s Pursuing Peace, Gregg R. Allison’s 50 Core Truths of the Christian Faith.

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

The Mommy Clique
Barbara Altamirano
In this dishy beach read, debut author Altamirano updates the high school clique for a more adult audience in this twist on a teen-story standby. When Beth, married mother of two, moves back to the Connecticut suburb of her youth to care for her sick mother, she’s confronted by the social “ghosts of [her] youth” in the form of an elite squad of moms at the bus stop, a tight-knit friend group into which one must be “inducted” rather than simply join. Queen Mom Elise encourages her minions to go through the “initiation” game with Beth, which means making her life miserable in surprising ways. Secrets fly and trust is broken as each mom in the group asks herself whether all this is worth ensuring their first-grade daughters end up on the right end of the social stratum, where Elise’s daughter leads.

Some say that you never really get away from the high school social stratosphere, and Altamirano’s take on the mean girl clique may convince readers that there’s truth in that, especially as a nervous Beth tries to make sense of the group–and to fit in. Altamirano exaggerates in-group behavior, where a smirk can devastate, an invite is actually a command, and dirt is power. While the arc of the plot is familiar, Elise’s group goes further than readers might expect, drawing gasps and dropping jaws with cruelties and humiliations best left unspoiled.

Audiences will sympathize with Altamirano’s characters, except for Elise, who plays the mean-girl role as if she’s bucking for the state championship. It’s easy to identify with Beth, of course, but also some in Elise’s squad–and to hope above all else that these women come to their senses and stand up to Elise’s insidious games, which ultimately will put marriages (and not just friendships) to the test. Crisp comic dialogue and a feel for awkward social dynamics help this one stand out.

Takeaway: This polished beach read updates high school’s mean girls to mean moms, ruling a suburb.

Great for fans of: Sara Shepard’s Pretty Little Liars, Lisi Harrison’s The Clique series.

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

Click here for more about The Mommy Clique

Loading...