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New Girl on Louisiana Street
Doug McCall
Exploring family, friendship, acceptance, lies, and obsession in small-town Texas, this surprising coming-of-age science-fiction story from McCall (author of Thickets) centers on preteen Mickey Forman and his friendship with his mysterious classmate, Heidi Jones and her eccentric family who are hiding a big secret. Mickey makes two discoveries: first, accidently seeing his neighbor Mrs. Jane Robinson in an intimate moment with the also-married Police Chief Winston Dunaway. Second: that the Joneses are space aliens. After gossiping about the affair with his friends, Mickey unexpectedly finds himself juggling secrets, friendships and a shaky romance with his insecure girlfriend Kristi, all along with his schoolwork and the possibility of violent retribution for revealing the assignation. Meanwhile, Jane is obsessed with Dunaway, ruthlessly pressuring him to go public about their relationship, not caring if her vicious husband, Jim, attacks Chief Dunaway.

Between the science-fiction elements and the shocks of encountering adult infidelity, McCall captures preteen anxieties and expectations and the complexities of yearning for romance while still enjoying younger kid interests. The story also underlines the importance of acceptance, especially through Mickey’s older sister Jan, who mocks the Joneses before being impressed by their alien powers and calm personalities. Mickey, by contrast, feels more relaxed with the Joneses, who pleasantly insist “We are not what you would refer to as dangerous aliens,” but even as he finds comfort in their inability to be judgemental he sometimes worries if he can fully trust them.

Readers may be frustrated by the uneven pacing, as the story, told in sometimes quite-lengthy sentences, often takes too long to reveal secrets. But there’s power and charm in the lyric storytelling, which targets the heart but never forgoes suspense or unexpected laughs, including aliens’ unexpected affection for Lawrence Welk. The siblings growing closer throughout the book is uplifting, and an evening flight above Dallas, the Grand Canyon, and Las Vegas is breathtaking. The ending is abrupt but sweet.

Takeaway: Small-town coming-of-age adventure with aliens, secrets, and life lessons.

Comparable Titles: Ellen Conford’s And This is Laura, Willo Davis Roberts's The Girl with the Silver Eyes.

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

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AWE: A technothriller
Pierre R. Schwob
When Pic de Lucrète, project director at the Palo Alto Research Institute and leader of a group of exceptional scientists, is summoned to Tokyo to sound out a new project—building a potential space elevator—his team is tasked with finding an appropriate anchor location for the elevator on Earth. To find the expertise he needs, including a nonlinear systems master mathematician, Pic seeks out the brilliant Lily Lee, a virtual unknown currently working at her family’s nail salon. With his team in place, Pic takes on the concern of climate change and its impact on the elevator’s anchor—leading them to shocking research results that predict complete climate degradation decades sooner than expected.

With that news, and a climatologist’s projection that “the Arctic may be entirely ice-free starting in the summers of the 2030s,” the race is on to prevent a planet wide catastrophe, pitting Pic and his team against the fossil fuel industry and the wiles of Galileo Olrik, a psychopath and bigwig in the oil sector, with a vested interest in pleasing his old acquaintance, Vladimir Putin. Schwob brilliantly portrays the struggles of scientists combating climate change and dangerous misinformation through Olrik’s powerful social media campaigning aimed at undermining Pic’s team and destabilizing democracies around the world—backed, of course, by Putin.

The social commentary is timely, and Schwob milks that angle to the max, while delving into the intricacies of scientific discovery and research for thoughtful readers. Pic’s priorities understandably change in response to Olrik’s dealings, prompting him to develop an AI tool that can “defang [the] fake news,” otherwise known as AWE (Artificial Wisdom Engine)—which channels the entirety of human wisdom to defeat climate change in time. Readers will savor the astonishing detail in this brainy debut, and, after delivering a precise assessment of the world’s priorities, Schwob builds momentum to a satisfying conclusion.

Takeaway: Brainy technothriller of scientists facing climate change and disinformation.

Comparable Titles: Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Ministry for the Future, Neal Stephenson’s Termination Shock.

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

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Zintka!: Lost Bird of Wounded Knee—Zintkala Nuni
Brad Colerick & Scott Feldmann
Colerick and Feldmann's historical montage captures the tragic life of Zintkala Nuni, a baby found alive in her dying mother's arms after the massacre of the Lakota people at Wounded Knee. This stunning YA debut transcends the confines of a single book, as the authors, through their multimedia flagship company, resurrect Zintka’s powerful tale, first brought to light in Renée Sansom Flood’s biography, Lost Bird of Wounded Knee: Spirit of the Lakota. Through diverse artistic mediums, Colerick and Feldmann employ song, ledger art, winter counts, and film with exquisite, emotionally charged images, ensuring that Zintka’s story will never be forgotten.

This haunting narrative reveals America’s wretched treatment of Indigenous peoples, which Feldmann terms “a 400-year decimation… by guns, germs, and grant deeds.” Zintka—stolen as a trophy from her Lakota mother by General Leonard Wright Colby—embodies that treatment, and the authors pay respect to her attempts to straddle her biological roots and bitter adoptive world. Zintka’s adoptive mother, women’s rights activist and publisher of Woman’s Tribune Clara Bewick Colby, whose husband forged her signature on the adoptive papers in court, grew to love Zintka, but was left penniless when she and Leonard divorced. In evocative imagery, Colerick and Feldmann recount Zintka’s desperate search for belonging, as she moved between husbands, Hollywood, and Clara’s home, accepted by neither her adopted world nor the Lakota people.

The surreal juxtaposition of images of the Lakota, their homes, and Zintka under her Lakota name, “Lost Bird,” strikes a melancholy tone that engulfs while triggering a powerful emotional connection. Feldmann uses digital ledger art—including backgrounds made from broken treaties, news articles, and military documents that record the deaths of soldiers and horses, but not of the Lakota people—to starkly highlight the broken relationship between Indigenous people and white settlers. The images, and Colerick’s emotive song, “Little Bird – Lost Bird of Wounded Knee,” tear at the soul.

Takeaway: Stunning artistic recreation of Zintkála Nuni’s story.

Comparable Titles: Patty Krawec’s Becoming Kin, S.D. Nelson’s Sitting Bull.

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

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Deathless Creatures
Katie Wilson
Sarah Woodward is the only person to walk away from a chilling accident. After her unexplained survival, she is haunted by repeated dreams she can’t parse, strange changes to her appearance, memories that don’t seem to belong to her, and unexplained healing abilities—she can’t even scar, much less die. By chance, she meets Alex Smith, Seattle’s only vampire, and Lucy Goodspeed, a low-ranking member of a centuries-old society, both of whom quickly identify Sarah as not quite human. Sarah doesn’t trust them, but also doesn’t believe she qualifies as ordinary anymore; still, she’s not ready to give up her independent life, unattached and unneeded by anyone.

Viscerally macabre imagery permeates Wilson’s chilling debut, the first in her Deathless Creatures Saga, giving attentive readers haunting scenes to savor while echoing Sarah’s desperation for someone to understand, and clarify, what’s happening to her. She runs from Alex—and avoids learning more from Lucy—in an attempt to save her comfortable life, but ultimately her path can’t be denied. Wilson colors Sarah’s fascination with Alex as a conduit for acceptance—that she cannot be less than who she is and cannot avoid her fate as someone more than human, needed by the entire planet—though her relationship with Alex is muddled by vampire hierarchy and Lucy’s enigmatic Society of Keepers.

Though Sarah’s refusal of her call is lengthy and drawn out, Wilson’s writing easily draws readers in, eventually offering a high-stakes feast of electrifying passion, death, and a ticking bomb of destruction that only Sarah can stop. Through sheer willpower, and with Alex’s devoted help, Sarah eventually comes into her own, transforming into a confident, transfixing lead who is assured in her role of protecting the human world. Wilson’s characters—and their mesmeric universe—are ripe for sequel treatment, whispering of more romance and exponentially higher stakes in the future.

Takeaway: Two immortals struggle to accept their fate—and each other.

Comparable Titles: B.B. Griffith’s The Vanished series, Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse Saga.

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

Click here for more about Deathless Creatures
Two Years to Serve
Thomas Elliott
Elliott takes readers on an unforgettable journey from the sun-soaked beaches of California to the battlefields of Vietnam in this gripping debut memoir. In 1966, at just 20 years old, Elliott was drafted into the U.S. Marine Corps, transforming him from a carefree surfer into a disciplined soldier. The narrative vividly portrays boot camp’s grueling reprogramming—intense training that stripped away Elliott’s former identity and molded him into a radio operator, ready for the monsoon rains, violence, and endless death in his future. Elliott’s writing is raw and unflinching, slashing the physical and mental demands of recruits against the exhaustion, fear, and camaraderie that defined this transformative period in his life.

This is a grisly reminder of the costs of war, shaped through the harrowing experiences of a young Marine whose identity—and outlook on life—was irrevocably changed. Elliott delves into the psychological toll of combat, illustrating trauma’s long-lasting effects and the challenges of reintegrating into civilian life, with deeply personal, candid reflections that make this not just a war story, but a tale of resilience and recovery. The day-to-day chronicle of grinding through C-ration meals, booby traps, and enemy snipers is riveting in Elliott’s capable hands, punctuated throughout by stark evidence of war’s appalling missions—like digging up graves to furnish superiors with enemy body counts for the news back home. It was “a way of keeping score,” Elliott writes, “like war was some kind of team sport.”

Elliott includes news clippings and photographs from his experiences, revealing snapshots of a time that is often ignored but never forgotten. A copy of a 1966 newspaper article validates Operation Chinook and the damage that unfolded after, while powerful black and white photographs of Elliott—and his comrades—dot the narrative. When he returns home, he reflects on his experiences, wondering “if all the effort and loss of life did any real good overall.”

Takeaway: Harrowing account of a U.S. Marine’s service in Vietnam.

Comparable Titles: Robert Mason’s Chickenhawk, Doyle Glass’s Lions of Medina.

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

Click here for more about Two Years to Serve
After Intelligence: The Missing Passage
Nicole Marie
Android and human high school students work together to find clues left behind by one of the founders, all while fighting for android equality in Marie’s mysterious second After Intelligence novel (after The Hidden Sequence). Returning to school for a new semester, Charlotte, her android best friend, Isaac, her new boyfriend, and their friends are preparing as a team for an unpredictable augmented reality competition called the Enigma tournament. But as soon as the tournament starts, other students begin to show they’re not accepting of the android students as equals, trying to get them removed from the tournament. While Charlotte and her team fight for the androids’ right to play, they also strive to uncover the secrets of a journal of the founder of an android-developing conglomerate.

In a future where everyone wears viewer contacts for reading, messaging, and augmenting reality into anything they want to see, the addition of androids into everyday life has proved complicated. Marie explores the issue of android acceptance through the lens of high school, revealing how the feelings of the students reflect those of humans in general, including the fear of something different, even though androids have done nothing to deserve the negative attention. Marie’s storytelling makes a spirited case for acceptance even as “technology changes humans’ relationship to the world around them,” demonstrating that androids may have advantages in some ways, but humans have advantages in others. That’s true in life and the games, where every room the teams investigate becomes entire new worlds, only seen and felt through their viewer contacts but wholly lifelike.

The fun of the story doesn’t stop with the incredible tournament. The likable heroes continue chasing clues from the journal found in the first book, facing mathematical challenges, augmented reality puzzles, and more. Readers who love gameplay and camaraderie will be on the edge of their seats trying to work it all out with these clever teens.

Takeaway: Clever android and human teens crack puzzles and push for acceptance.

Comparable Titles: Cory Doctorow’s For the Win, Marie Lu’s Warcross.

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

Click here for more about After Intelligence: The Missing Passage
The Secrets of Millhaven
Will Beaudry
Life in the small Tennessee town of Millhaven, circa 1990, is sweet and slow. The diner regulars catch up over eggs and coffee, the local teen troublemakers are known to all—with sympathy going out to their sweet mother—and the townspeople expect that interim sheriff Kyle Lorne will take over the job permanently, filling the shoes of his late father. But as the title suggests, beneath the surface, secrets and dirty deeds transpire every day. When Kyle gets a call from the owner of the town's inn, he discovers instead a room sprayed with blood, a female guest gone missing, and a man clinging to life, shot multiple times and without a scrap of ID on him. Also appearing from out of nowhere: a man with a recent cut on his face claiming to be a Chicago police detective on the trail of a wanted woman.

And so Kyle, whose own father believed he wasn’t up to the job of sheriff, takes on the case of his life, exposing dark truths about his hometown as the bodies pile up. Beaudry’s debut offers up a compelling mystery that starts off with a bang, smartly balances procedural suspense and local color, and will keep thriller readers engaged until the end. The Millhaven cast demand and reward interest, from their quips at the diner (“I know for a fact that you haven’t seen any action since the Reagan administration!”) to the touching sense of local history and community Beaudry demonstrates in the face of losses. Small-town life, politics, and corruption are convincingly dramatized, with clear eyes and a touch of satiric humor but also lots of heart and even warmth.

Despite all the amusing chatter he case proves fast-paced and winningly twisty, with crisp action and quick and engaging chapters, as Kyle and a squad of likable helpers tease out clues, save lives, and face ever-elevating stakes. Readers will want more of this of buckshot, fax machines, and “beat-up Ford Ranger”s with “a rusty car transmission and a stuffed deer head” in the bed.

Takeaway: Strong mystery debut pitting an uncertain sheriff against murder and corruption.

Comparable Titles: Ace Atkins’s The Ranger, Declan James’ Jake Cashen series.

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

Click here for more about The Secrets of Millhaven
Bill Bailey, Please Come Home
A.N. Stewart
Around the world, music is hailed as a universal language, transcending communication barriers and allowing people to understand each other despite their differences. In Stewart’s lively picture book for young kids, traditional New Orleans brass band music facilitates interspecies connection as a group of cats learns to play trumpets, horns, and drums. The cats live in a shotgun shack with a woman named Eartha, who is the only human who can understand them. For one friendly cat named Bill Bailey, the desire to communicate causes a degree of frustration. He finds none of the people he encounters on his daily walk know what he is saying.

To Bill’s delight, a pair of elder kitties spots him trying to talk to people and lets him in on the secret that will change his life. “Music is a universal language,” they tell him, “and when you learn its secrets and how to play it, all humans, no matter what language they speak, will understand you.” Bill rushes home to tell his friends, and they learn how to play the classic tune that gives Bill his name: “Won’t You Come Home, Bill Bailey?” The book’s multiple references to this song could confuse some readers at first, but it will inspire kids to look it up and learn more about New Orleans’ rich culture and history.

Virginia de Mahy’s vibrant illustrations are reflective of the color and spirit of the Big Easy. Eartha’s house is a striking shade of turquoise with a pink fence and porch swing, and the kitties are shown frolicking in a yard teeming with butterflies, turtles, and other native wildlife. The neighbors are diverse and friendly, and the cats’ faces are thoughtful and expressive, with Bill’s wide, green eyes clearly showing his delight in learning a new way to communicate that everyone will understand.

Takeaway: A friendly cat named Bill Bailey learns why music is a universal language.

Comparable Titles: Grant Snider’s What Sound Is Morning?, Jill Barber’s Music Is for Everyone.

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

Click here for more about Bill Bailey, Please Come Home
What Once Was Promised
Louis Trubiano
Sixteen-year-old Domenic Bassini, an immigrant headed to America from Italy in 1914, knows the value of community. He comes from a small, tight-knit village, where, in his father’s wise words, “other things may change us, but we start and end with the family.” That wisdom nourishes Domenic as he makes a life for himself in America, surrounded by colorful characters and political rivalries in a country that runs on the backs of its immigrants but too often cares little for their welfare. As he sets down new roots—and treads the dangerous ground of Boston’s North End in the early 20th century—Domenic learns just how far that sense of belonging will take him.

Trubiano fills this riveting debut with a wealth of history and deeply appealing characters, all set against the backdrop of the American dream—an elusive notion that taunts Domenic and his fellow Italian immigrants, while they try to survive in the face of treacherous beginnings. Domenic is a solid, admirable character, who devotes himself to work and family—both biological and found. The connections he makes on the passage to America stick with him in unexpected ways, notably young stowaway Ermino Lentini and the beautiful, but married, Francesca Dragatto—one a future mafioso and the other Domenic’s first love. Those relationships come full circle for Domenic in ways he could never have guessed as a young, hopeful immigrant.

Rich with cultural insight, Trubiano’s novel takes on the deadly rivalry between different immigrant groups in early America, particularly the Irish and the Italians, and spins an unforgettable tapestry of community, survival, and political intrigue—in an America where corruption is rampant and it’s literally every man for himself. Domenic’s spirit—and respect for the new life he’s carved—shines brightly throughout, despite his heartbreaking experiences, making this a true homage to the steely resolve of America’s first immigrants.

Takeaway: Riveting story of immigration and Boston’s North End in the early 20th century.

Comparable Titles: Adriana Trigiani’s The Shoemaker’s Wife, Akhil Sharma’s Family Life.

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

Click here for more about What Once Was Promised
The Wise One
K.T. Anglehart
Launching Angelhart’s Scottish Scrolls series, this polished and enchanting urban fantasy coming-of-age thriller follows a teenage girl learning about her mystical gifts. In Massachusetts in 1991, 17-year-old Mckenna O’Dwyer has the ability to read people’s emotions and suffers from nightmares of a witch being burned at the stake. After Mckenna reveals she moved a book with her mind and discovers a secret letter from her absent mother, her biological father, Seán, confesses that in England he once was married to a witch named Abigail. Believing herself to be in danger, Abigail urged Sean to flee the country with the infant Mckenna—affectionately named “Wise One.” An obstinate Mckenna runs away, accompanied by her new friend Nissa, in search of her mother in Ballycastle, Northern Ireland.

Anglehart’s twisty mystery adventure skilfully captures the awkwardness and unease of being a teenager who feels out of place, all while conjuring a grand web of magic, intrigue, mystical atmosphere, and fae surprises. After stowing away on a ship bound for Dublin, Mckenna and Nissa traverse the Emerald Isle by hitching a ride with Cillian, a young politician who informs them of the Troubles in Belfast and the ancient mound at Newgrange, a site whose magical energy connects with Mckenna. But Cillian will face jolts, betrayal, and a relentless High Priestess eager to push the Wise One to discover her “darkness within” and, in accordance with prophetic scrolls, bring great power to the natural world, but with a dire human cost.

With intrigue and revelations, the plot progresses delightfully as Mckenna gains confidence and learns about her magical legacy. This swift, crisply written modern-day fairytale of determination, growing up, and embracing your identity will inspire young adult readers who appreciate Irish and Scottish folklore. The environmental message resonates, and Angelhart’s evocations of an Ireland where a “lake of mystic topaz” stands “silent and still beneath smooth mountains” are both wistful and sumptuous.

Takeaway: Enchanting fantasy of a teen girl, prophecies, and witchy magic.

Comparable Titles: Brie Tart’s Iron & Ivy, E. Latimer’s Witches of Ash & Ruin.

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

Click here for more about The Wise One
The Marriage Gift
G Stephen Evans
When married couple Paula and James receive an invitation to “cousin Angela’s” nuptials, neither can recall who she is. But, with the ceremony only three days away, the couple is fixated on what gift to take—and who is responsible for choosing it, given that no one in either family has a relative named Angela. As the cast grows to include James’s parents, his brother Frank, Paula’s co-worker Iris, and the odd-couple next door, the puzzling mystery at the novel’s center quickly devolves into a metaphor for each individual’s thoughts on marriage and relationships.

Evans’s brisk, snappy dialogue powers the storytelling, the intimate and revealing talk giving readers a voyeuristic familiarity with the inner workings of Paula and James’s marriage—even when both seem to know what the other is thinking, they dance in an all-too-relatable way around what will or won’t be said. As the clock ticks closer to the big day, Paula insists that James should be the one to select the gift, prompting him to settle on a toaster, until Iris reveals toaster crumbs as the culprit for her divorce—a revelation that compels an immediate strategy shift, from shopping for a wedding gift to, in Paula’s terms, a “marriage gift” that will “prepare them for the journey they are making together.”

The story culminates with a turbulent Mall of America excursion for Paula, James, Frank, and Iris, complete with painful indecision, mistrust, and, eventually, healing, in the form of a toaster for some and red lingerie for others. Evans (author of The Mind of a Writer and Other Fables) starts each chapter with satiric snippets pulled from the fictitious “factuality.com,” a fitting set up for the spirited, quirky interactions that follow. The vignettes change as rapidly as Paula and James’s opinions on what to buy the elusive Angela, and Evans’s unexpected ending to the mystery echoes James’s sentiment that “not only do I have no idea what the right answer is, I have no idea if there is a right answer.”

Takeaway: Snappy intimately comic stage satire of marriage life.

Comparable Titles: Monica Ali’s Love Marriage, Charles Yu’s Interior Chinatown.

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

Click here for more about The Marriage Gift
Life After
J.C. Warren
In Warren’s harrowing young adult debut, coastal flooding and ravaging wildfires have left much of the United States uninhabitable. Diego Rivera, the renowned scientist who desperately tried to warn others of impending climate change consequences, now lives with his assistant, Mia, and subsists on alcohol, grieving over the world’s destruction and economic collapse while cheating death one day at a time. Meanwhile, siblings Dee and Rowan leave New York when food becomes scarce and their parents are dead, and 17-year-old Winona struggles on her own in what used to be Seattle—until Jeremy arrives and changes her life forever.

Warren’s world is a stark, unflinching portrait of the costs that come with ignoring climate change. As the three groups make their way to Denver, Colorado—one of the last viable places to live on Earth—Warren paints a planet rife with harsh conditions: natural food is almost non-existent, animal scavengers are deadly, and viruses have decimated populations. Readers grasp the events leading up to the world’s destruction through the stories Warren’s characters share with each other—and the knowledge they glean from history books—while experiencing firsthand their fight to survive the choices made by humans in “the before.”

Though the story holds eerily similar parallels to contemporary times, Warren ensures a glimmer of promise in the bonds made between her characters, the resilience of the few who survive, and their commitment to living in a safer, more natural world. As the groups start over from scratch, the novel reaches a precarious balance of struggle and optimism, with sprinkles of romance and new beginnings buoying up the bleakness of this new world. The terrain is vicious, and the stakes deadly, but Warren’s characters—an appealing jumble of hardened yet vulnerable survivors—will leave readers with flickers of hope for our own future.

Takeaway: Realistic but hopeful adventure of starting over after climate destruction.

Comparable Titles: Sarah Crossan’s Breathe, Neil Schusterman’s Dry.

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

Click here for more about Life After
Rebranding The Church : Rediscovering the greatest story ever told to connect with modern audiences
Peder Tellefsdal
“The Gospel is the greatest story ever told… yet, today, it seems most people in the West do not care,” writes Tellefsdal in this fresh, inviting resource for Christian leaders and organizations. Drawing on 20 years of experience in public relations, and candidly sharing his personal journey with the Christian faith, Tellefsdal delves into barriers that, he argues, are making the church irrelevant to contemporary followers: weakening their message to be “like everyone else” or becoming inflexible and isolating from the mainstream. To combat those “ditches” as he calls them, Tellefsdal offers several functional tools and communication tactics, urging the church to reach those who are “in desperate need of grace and hope.”

Tellefsdal’s approach is unique, and, though much of his experience is based out of his home turf of Norway, readers will find a wealth of creative suggestions here, all aimed at increasing church membership and clarifying the Christian message. Tellefsdal labels the church as “off-brand”—and offers steps to get back on track, including how to “pitch” Jesus to contemporary audiences—while asserting that the complaints people have toward Christianity result from a lack of human connection between the church and the outside world. He also recounts interviews with prominent church leaders across the globe, sharing their success stories and the steps they took to get there as proof that “significant progress can occur if we rethink where and how we gather.”

Whether it’s revamping media approaches, improving web sites, or applying a sales funnel approach to church marketing, Tellefsdal offers readers logical principles to enhance the “Christian narrative” and “make the Christian faith relevant to modern audiences.” Bonus material includes analysis of secularization trends in the United States compared to Europe and a summary of how to use the hero’s journey framework when marketing the Christian faith.

Takeaway: Creative guide for bringing a Christian message to contemporary audiences.

Comparable Titles: Andrew Atherstone’s Repackaging Christianity, Dave Adamson’s MetaChurch.

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

Click here for more about Rebranding The Church
A Desperate Measure
Seth W. James
Gun for hire Cain is back in this second installment in James’s action-packed Cain series, after Ethos of Cain, this time serving as the chief of security for Francesca Pieralisi, the newly appointed Director of Implementation for the European Seawall Foundation. As Francesca's protector—and lover—Cain tracks down threat after escalating threat as a high powered, above-the-law corporation named Black Horizon, Inc infiltrates the seawall committee for their own interests. Cain—highly skilled, dangerous, and intelligent—thwarts a creepy stalker, planted slander attacks, and crooked cops, all to help Francesca accomplish her dream of building the European seawall.

As the odds stack up against her, Francesca must decide if she is willing to play as dirty as her adversaries for the greater good. James liberally probes that theme, blurring the lines between right and wrong as morally gray characters abound—several of whom readers will find themselves cheering on, as they’re forced into unconventional methods to combat the story’s rampant corruption. James adds in Altered Reality sunglasses, multiple AI programs (such as Ledger, a forensic accounting AI, and surveillance AI Serval), and off-world laws to make this sci-fi thriller a serious exercise in imagination, juxtaposing criminal threats and violence throughout to create knife-edge tension.

Full of jaw-dropping plot twists and high-octane action, A Desperate Measure is a riveting adventure that explores a futuristic world swarming with visionary technology—and a new set of rules, formulated after growing climate change crises force several nations into emergency mode. Cain and Francesca can trust only each other as they desperately work to prevent global destruction, and James keeps their romance—and the novel’s multiple plot lines—moving at a clip that matches the frenetic pace of the world’s downfall. These sarcastic, gritty heroes are a perfect fit and will leave readers eager for more.

Takeaway: High-octane thriller seasoned with corruption, futuristic tech, and knife-edge tension.

Comparable Titles: Bethany Jacobs's These Burning Stars, Nicholas Sansbury Smith's Galaxy in Flames series.

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

Click here for more about A Desperate Measure
The Maker of Worlds
David Litwack
Following the death of his beloved, the hero of this polished portal fantasy from the author of The Seekers series braves a maelstrom and embarks on a journey to a new realm, eager to escape his misery. In that new world Lucas encounters curious characters who already know his name, a tyrant eager to “gobble up” the free lands, and above all else wondrous magic, which grants our grieving hero the power to manipulate his surroundings through magic, though he quickly learns that practice makes perfect, and that there are limits to what even magic can fix. After meeting a host of the surprising new companions that are a key pleasure of stories like this, Lucas learns that he is one of this new realm’s handful of sorcerers—and that another sorcerer has created a fortress to lord over the local inhabitants. At first, Lucas seems content to live and let live, until he asks himself and Mia, a stalwart new companion, “Can the way to a new life start with the way of the coward?”

WIth an expert hand, Lathwick crafts wonders and challenges for The Maker of Worlds, casting a series of atmospheric spells that immerse readers in the fantasy: the warm, comforting feel of the home of the custodian who welcomes Lucas into his power; the melancholic colors of the village Ironforge, facing times as hard as that name; and the rich yet dark castle fortress that recently appeared out of nowhere, to which village kids are lured by enchantments under the crescent moon.

Litwack brings a classical approach to the fantasy, magic, and dialogue (“Magic is everywhere, even in your old world, if people would believe”), spinning a story touched with myth, fairy tale, friendship, and classic hero’s-journey adventure beats that connect, touchingly, to Lucas and Mia’s psychological scars. Readers favoring dense lore dumps and intricate magic systems should look elsewhere. Instead, as villagers rise up against their oppressor, Litwack offers spooky enchanted forests, charming characters, and touches of wisdom.

Takeaway: Second-world fantasy in a classical mode, alive with charm and character.

Comparable Titles: T. Kingfisher’s The Hollow Places, ​​Charles Stross’s The Fanily Trade.

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

Click here for more about The Maker of Worlds
Command the Crisis : Navigate Chaos with Battle-Tested Public Relations and Communication Strategies
Angela Billings
Defining crisis as “where risk meets opportunity,” Billings identifies a crisis communication strategy for businesses based on military precision and using examples from her deployment as well as real world, recent and relevant case studies. Drawing on years of high-level military experience and training, as well as her time as the Director of Communications for the Kentucky Senate Majority, Billings’ guidance and case studies place clear emphasis on consistency, preparation, and training when it comes to navigating crises. Her hard-won advice (“distance yourself emotionally and execute your communication strategy”) is presented with easy-to-follow checklists, processes, and structures for both beginners and advanced communications/public relations specialists, with key takeaways at the end of each chapter under the no-nonsense heading “What You Need To Know.”

For those times when an organization seems under attack, Billings lays out the basic questions to ask and master when crafting a strategy to communicate internally and externally and establish control over the narrative. She calls for ensuring everyone in an organization is on the same page and appropriately prepared, explains the basics of media training and salvaging a brand, and explores the many ways that the communications specialist can bring value to their organization. Key tools include a “Crisis Decision Matrix” for organizations to determine if they are actually in a crisis, and Billings proves persuasive when making the case that how an organization behaves ahead of a crisis determines how it emerges from one, noting that “Being transparent and forthcoming with information” before a crisis “will take some of the wind out of your opponents’ sails.”

Billings’s blunt directness and military terminology keeps the guidance clear while modeling the transparent, task-focused language that keep teams on-message. There is no ambiguity in what she considers critical to the mission of protecting an organization's people and the brand. The case studies presented analyze what went wrong and how each could have been handled better.

Takeaway: Clear-eyed, hard-won advice for crafting crisis communication strategies.

Comparable Titles: Sarah Kovoor-Misra’s Crisis Management, Leonard J. Marcus et al.’s You’re It.

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

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