Summer Reads - Summer 2024 - Shelf Unbound Magazine

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All we wanted was a really good magazine. About books. That was full of the really great stuff. So we made it. And we really like it. And we hope you do, too. Because we’re just getting started.

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Award-winning historical novelist A small town, and an unsolved death. A family with many secrets, and a hope of redemption. *When

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Nolan Emerson, PhD, is a brilliant young theoretical and experimental physicist who is a professor at the University of Geneva, and the lead scientist at the CERN particle accelerator. He is a leader in the areas of general relativity and quantum mechanics. Dr. Emerson devises an experiment so radical and revolutionary that it seeks to unlock the astounding, complex, and mysterious secrets of Einstein’s space-time. Ultimately, his work challenges the fundamental notions of consciousness and of the concept of reality itself.

«(AUDIOBOOK available! See«


Major Edward Nobel’s mission, as a physician, is to help protect American troops from infectious ailments during the First World War. However, his unique vantage point in Boston allows him to detect an emerging influenza strain that is an unprecedented global threat. Eventually, the 1918 influenza pandemic killed up to 100 million people, and became the worst natural disaster in human history.


Colonel Charles Noble is a US Civil War veteran, and an Army surgeon reservist. Extreme violence in the former Confederacy, in anticipation of a national election, has caused President Grant to send additional federal troops to the Southern states. Terrorists are determined to counter Noble’s good intentions, as they threaten the civil rights, and the very lives, of all who oppose them.


Dr. Arthur Noble is a brilliant first-year medical resident in San Francisco. Noble encounters a strange new ailment that seemingly appears out of nowhere, and delivers its victims a most horrible merciless death. Dr. Noble struggles to find answers to the medical mystery, even as many researchers and society refuse to believe that it is a serious public health hazard, or that it even exists.



14 New Release Roundup: Summer 2024 By Corinna Kloth 58 Overcoming Obstacles: An Interview with Monic Ductan By Christina Consolino

76 The BIG List of 2024 Indie Summer Reads By Michele Mathews

122 Offers a New Way for Readers and Authors to Connect By Michele Mathews 126 Summer Book Festivals By Corinna Kloth

135 Elevating Mothers’ Voices: An Interview with Amanda K Jaros Editor of Labor of Love: A Literary Mama Anthology By Christina Consolino

By Corinna Kloth

COLUMNS 142 Girl Plus Book Sarah Kloth 146 Podster Corinna Kloth 150 Pride & Publishing Chrissy Brown SECTIONS 30 Bookstagram 32 Recommended Reading 66 Book Shelf 112 Indie Catalog 106 Indie Bookstore 154 Indie Reviews 178 On Our Shelf SPRING 2024 6
Summer Book Clubs

Summer Reads.

As we gear up for another summer filled with sunshine and relaxation, we're thrilled to share our latest issue—a treasure trove of indie summer reads handpicked just for you. From thrilling page-turners to heartwarming tales, we've curated a collection of stories that are perfect companions for lazy days at the beach or quiet evenings on the porch swing.

Within these pages, you'll find stories that will whisk you away to far-off lands and introduce you to unforgettable characters. Whether you're in the mood for a gripping mystery that will keep you on the edge of your seat or a swoon-worthy romance that will warm your heart, we've got you covered.

But that's not all! Be sure to catch our BIG list of summer reads from indie authors, featuring a diverse array

of voices and genres that are sure to delight. And don't miss our summer book clubs list, where you can connect with fellow book lovers and dive into lively discussions about your favorite reads. Plus, be sure to mark your calendar for some amazing summer music festivals happening across the globe, where you can groove to the sounds of summer while browsing for your next great indie read.

In a world that can sometimes feel overwhelming, literature offers us a refuge—a chance to unplug, unwind, and lose ourselves in another world for a while. So grab your favorite summer beverage, find a cozy spot to curl up, and let the stories in this issue transport you to new and exciting places. We hope you enjoy this collection as much as we enjoyed putting it together, and that it brings a little extra sunshine into your summer days.

Enjoy the issue! 

What lies within our hearts, is often corrupted by what lives beneath us.

Award-winning author, John Crawley, returns to his Texas roots to bring us a pulsating love story shrouded in a dark mystery.

Beneath Us, his 21st book, is the tale of Jack Lawrence, a successful author swimming up from his on-again, offagain affair with the bottle, and his former secret lover, Missy Rusk, a celebrated actress and fashion model, being reunited at a family funeral after twenty years of separation. What caused their estrangement? What was the unspeakable incident that drove them apart two decades earlier? Can they find forgiveness for each other, as well as atonement from their unsettling history?

Set with the backdrop of the famous slant-hole drilling days of the East Texas Oil Field, believed to be the largest unsolved crime in the history of American business, Beneath Us is the story of lost love mingling with the dark secrets of two families from different rungs on a very congested social ladder and the deceit that occurred 3,500 feet beneath them in the world’s richest oil field.

Available online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Lulu and Walmart SPRING 2024 8

Right after Mark’s next-door neighbor is murdered, he gets a new neighbor—the beautiful but mysterious Sylvia, who has just arrived from London. Mark is drawn into a mutually obsessive relationship with Sylvia. She is secretive regarding her past and Mark’s friends caution him that she can’t be trusted. But Mark won’t listen to his friends or to the priest who later claims that Sylvia is a deadly threat.

Mark is enchanted by Sylvia’s beauty and charm, even though dating her has its challenges. Whether it’s performing gymnastics on the ledge of the Golden Gate Bridge, creating an embarrassing scene at the wedding of Mark’s best friend, or shocking Mark with her unusual sexual proclivities, Sylvia never misses an opportunity to make a bad first impression.

When Mark first meets Sylvia, he tells her, “You’re the girl of my dreams!”

Sylvia smiles and responds with a warning—“Be careful what you wish for.”

“The Vampire Girl Next Door is a choice pick for one looking for a romance with a supernatural twist, highly recommended.”

John Burroughs Midwest Book Review

In The Vampire Girl Next Door, Mark fell in love with Sylvia, the beautiful, but quirky girl next door, not realizing that she was a vampire who killed his last neighbor.

Now, in The Vampire Girl in London, they fly from Mark’s San Francisco to Sylvia’s London. They tangle with terrorists, are shadowed by a CIA agent, and are pursued by a vampire-hunting cult. Even more challenging, they must cope with living in a mansion full of Sylvia’s vampire friends—some of whom she can’t really trust.

And Mark still has to deal with Sylvia’s sexual hijinks. Will Mark and Sylvia’s love be enough to survive it all?

“The Vampire Girl in London would satisfy supernatural fans and I’m once again entertained by Arbib’s fascinating couple, Sylvia and Mark.”

Lit Amri, Readers’ Favorite Book Reviews Available at in paperback and Kindle. Paperback and all e-book formats available on author’s website. 9

Shadow within Darkness. Secrets within Secrets.

The doll knows everything. But she isn’t talking.

“ Raymond Mackey is back in Book 2 of a noir mystery series that only gets better.

…[T]he Raymond Mackey Mystery Series does not disappoint…”

– US Review of Books

…[A] relentlessly surprising crime thriller…” – Maincrest Media

Ray Mackey is one of the best characters out there in the literary world…”

– Reader Views

…[H]ard to put down.”

– Book Excellence

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ORGIN STORY by Jendi Reiter

What is the Poison Cure?

The creator of a gay superhero comic faces his darkest childhood memories through his art...A transgressive, genre-bending novel about sexuality, faith, and healing from trauma.

“Set against the backdrop of the AIDS epidemic and theological problems like the Binding of Isaac, the novel pulls the reader into a deep, uncertain landscape. Origin Story is wonderfully complex and explosive... It offers hope and a glimpse of how things ought to be."

--Remi Recchia, Gasher Press editor

“An enjoyable and recommendable read."

--Bayou Book Junkie


The House

A Cautionary Winter’s

This chilling tale kicks off a series of gothic fables, weaving a story of family curses, loyalty, and redemption. As winter sets in, it serves as a reminder that life has its own rules, and at times, we must tread carefully.

in the Middle of the Street SPRING 2024 12


out these titles from

Black Rose Writing

Joe Turner's Harrowing Quest to Prove a Fugitive's Innocence!

"Fast pacing, clever plot twists, and intercontinental flavor make A Long Time Dead difficult not to finish in one sitting. 5/5 Stars."

– Chanticleer Book Reviews


Hole: When Memories Blur,

Nightmares Collide

"Love the title! it made a 64-year-old dude pay attention. It reeks of childhood and scariness. The dialog is strong and Andrea writes very well." – Koehler Books

Tragedy Sparks Unexpected Bonds and Emotional Reawakening

Widower Ed Gideon, grappling with loss, meets his late wife's killer's daughter amidst personal turmoil, rekindling grief and unexpected desires.

Retired Detectives Unite to Crack Florida Teen's Disappearance

"Amato's prose is crisp, and the stakes are high-don't miss this hilarious crime caper with unforgettable characters and non-stop action!" – Cam Torrens, award-winning author of Stable and False Summit


New Release Roundup: Summer 2024.

A Compliation of Newly Released Indie Reads.

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Nahid Rachlin went to Columbia University on a Doubleday-Columbia Fellowship and to Stanford University on a Wallace Stegner Fellowship. Her publications include a memoir, Persian Girls (Penguin); four novels, Jumping Over Fire (City Lights), Foreigner (W.W. Norton), Married to a Stranger (E.P. Dutton), Crowd of Sorrows; and a short story collection, Veils (City Lights). Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Newsday, The Washington Post, the LA Times, Solstice Literary Magazine, the Virginia Quarterly Review, Prairie Schooner, Southern Humanities Review, Redbook, and Shenandoah.


Set in contemporary Iran, Mirage delves into the complicated relationship between Roya and her identical twin sister, Tala. Their inseparable bond becomes hard to maintain as they grow older, but when they both get pregnant at the same time, their relationship is rekindled. After an accident causes Roya to miscarry and Tala to go into labor, grief, jealousy, suspicion, and guilt fracture that recently renewed relationship. Delving deep into the human psyche, Nahid Rachlin intricately explores themes of sisterly identity, betrayal, envy, depression, loss, and the impact of memories. Like Ottessa Moshfegh’s Death in Her Hands (Penguin Press, 2020), Mirage artfully juxtaposes the sociopolitical dynamics of contemporary Iran with a story of the nature of grief and redemption that will take firm hold of your heart.



These sonnets were inspired by the Preludes of Chopin.

Do keys matter? Do they speak to different parts of us? Inspired by the Preludes of Chopin and the piano solos of Art Tatum, these experimental sonnets seek to question timbre and tone. That’s bullshit. They are just sonnets.


“Percival Everett is a genre.” —Kiese Laymon, author of Long Division and MacArthur Fellowship Grantee

“I feel very deeply that he is one of the most profoundly talented writers of all time.”

—Robin Coste Lewis, author of Voyage of the Sable Venus and National Book Award for Poetry Winner

“Percival Everett’s body of work has been called many things—experimental, idiosyncratic, ‘gleefully unhinged’—and perhaps most frequently, prolific.”

—Lisa Tolin, Editorial Director at PEN America


Percival Everett is the author of more than thirty books of fiction and poetry. Among his works are James, The Trees, Erasure, and Dr. No. He has been awarded the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award, the Windham-Campbell Prize for Fiction, a Creative Capital Award, and a Guggenheim. He has been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, the Booker Prize, and the PEN/Faulkner Award. He is a Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Southern California.

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Sadie Hoagland has a PhD in fiction from the University of Utah and an MA in Creative Writing/Fiction from UC Davis. She is the author of American Grief in Four Stages, a short story collection published by West Virginia University Press. Her work has also appeared in the Alice Blue Review, The Black Herald, Mikrokosmos Journal, South Dakota Review, Sakura Review, Grist Journal, Oyez Review, Passages North, Five Points, The Fabulist, South Carolina Review and elsewhere. She is a former editor of Quarterly West and currently teaches fiction at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.


When her hippie mother Edi goes missing the same week Sky Richard is assaulted at work—Sky wants to run away from everything. Instead, Sky goes looking for her mother and finds an estranged grandmother, the cult she was born in, and an unlikely ally. But the most important thing she discovers in her mother’s past is the strength she needs to face her own life.

Circle of Animals tells the story of a woman, Sky, grappling with a sexual assault in her workplace and the disappearance of her troubled “hippie” mother the same week. As she searches for and uncovers her mother’s story, she also discovers the larger story of the historically situated and gendered bodies of her mother and estranged grandmother. Drawing on ancient myth (the title refers to the zodiac), California counterculture of the last century, and current conversations about sexual violence, this novel asks us to think about how the inability to communicate violence done unto the body is not just a symptom but also a means through which violence spreads collaterally between women as silence and estrangement. As Sky looks for her mother, she must also find her own voice and courage to claim her agency.



Don’t look back. Did Eurydice want to return from the underworld? Did anybody ask?

In this brilliant portrait of rage and resilience, a Korean woman tries to connect with her younger brother and grapple with family tragedy through bedtime stories that weave together Greek mythology, neuroscience, and tales from their grandmother’s slipping memory.

Recasting the myths of Eurydice, Orpheus, Persephone, and Hades through the lens of a Korean American family, Eunice Hong’s debut novel offers a moving and darkly funny exploration of grief, love, and the inescapability of death.

“A beautifully written and impressively candid meditation on family secrets and the ties that bind, the slipperiness of memory and family lore, and resilience and endurance found in even the unlikeliest of circumstances.”

—Helen Wan, author of The Partner Track


Eunice Hong is the director of the Leadership Initiative and a lecturer in law at Columbia Law School. She was previously a litigation associate at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP and a law clerk to the Honorable Richard M. Berman in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. Eunice received her JD from Columbia Law School after graduating from Phillips Academy Andover and Brown University. She resides in New York, New York.

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Thomas McGuire came to Alaska with two college friends. Fifty years later he still hasn’t found reason to leave. He has worked as a salmon fisherman, carpenter, and North Slope oilfield worker. He and his wife have raised four children in a house they built on the banks of the Chilkoot River. Grizzly bears are frequent visitors. Tom has also paddled thousands of miles down (and up) northern rivers. He has published a book, 99 Days on the Yukon, that describes a summerlong trip with legendary canoeist Charlie Wolf.


Nora Tyler returns to Alaska after many years away and finds work on a salmon fishing boat, but the long, hard season brings both deep friendships and unexpected violence.

Nora Tyler returns to Alaska after twenty years in Seattle and finds work on the Lily Langtry, a purse seine fishing boat. Over the course of the long, hard season, Nora reawakens to the beauty of fishing for salmon on the outer coast. Her four crewmates have their own troubled pasts, and she forms a different bond with each one. A rivalry develops with another boat, the Viking Hero. When a woman is lost overboard from the Hero, Nora tries to understand what happened and finds that the Hero was dealing drugs and her crewmate Danny was part of the action. Toby’s ex-girlfriend, Sara, takes the place of the missing woman and finds herself in a difficult situation with no easy way out. At the end of the season, Nora and her crewmates go duck hunting on the Stikine River flats. Two of the Hero’s crew appear, perhaps not by chance, and the confrontation turns violent.



Another North is a paean to the material world— food, clothing, cars, and houses, of course, but also to wastrel beauty that serves no purpose but to catch at the human heart.

The pieces in this collection capture the feeling of being buffeted by great gusts of middle-aged longing. What began as one woman’s quarrel with Buddhism, especially its doctrine of non-attachment, morphs into a larger question: What’s the right way to love a person or a thing? With voluptuous detail and rigorous self-interrogation, Jennifer Brice looks for answers in family lore, personal experience, conversations with friends, and beloved books. The result is a tender, moving, far-reaching—sometimes delightfully funny, sometimes achingly poignant—exploration of the powerful ties that bind us to one another and to the world around us.


Jennifer Brice is the author of The Last Settlers, a work of documentary journalism, and Unlearning to Fly, a memoir. Another North is her first collection of essays. Born in Fairbanks, Alaska, she teaches contemporary literature and creative writing at Colgate University in upstate New York.

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DC Frost is a second-generation Angelino. For almost twenty years, she has worked at a small private liberal arts college in the heart of Los Angeles.

DC loves and respects Southern California, a melting pot of class and culture that is often misrepresented and misunderstood in popular fiction and media. DC lives in Eagle Rock, California, with her husband, who is an NPR journalist and reporter, and three rescue dogs. DC and her husband have an adult son, a filmmaker, who resides in Los Angeles.


A Punishing Breed, the first in a series of novels featuring Detective DJ Arias, is a murder mystery that takes place in Los Angeles, the city of angels, freeways, Santa Ana winds, and honeysuckle slithering through chain-link fences and perfuming LA’s dark streets and neighborhoods. Detective Arias hunts for a murderer on a liberal arts campus that prides itself on its progressive curriculum but is rife with jealousy, racial and sexual tensions, and a hierarchy as real and destructive as a medieval fortress. DJ Arias, good at his job because he sees the worst in people, is challenged by the college community, a neighborhood recluse, and a young Latino gardener he sent to jail ten years ago for a hit-and-run accident. Through the course of his investigation, Arias will find out no one is who they appear to be. He begins to reclaim his humanity by adopting a dog he names Evidence and finding the clues to a crime born from a dark secret not contained in the past but alive in the present, which will cast destruction and murder on the denizens of the small liberal arts campus.



Teach me to bury this.

Just as Odin’s ravens, named Huginn and Muninn (translated to Thought and Memory), would whisper everything he couldn’t see, so too do these and other mythical ravens—of Athena, the Biblical Eve and Noah, Coronis, and others—function in Jamison’s essay collection: they are tools to interpret and make meaning of their world, rent as it is between the rural and urban, the romantic and abusive, where language is both surfeit and dearth. This collection sees mythical ravens murmur alongside the actual bone and viscera of crows, starlings, and pigeons in disarming explorations of desire and destruction, the body and creation. Carrion is an ambitiously structured collection that honors the literary forebears at its center while lamenting our inability to communicate anything—love, need, hope—except in metaphors.


Wes Jamison is the author of and Melancholia (Essay Press, 2016), and is a noted author in Best American Essays. They earned an MFA in nonfiction from Columbia College Chicago and a PhD in English from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. They currently teach at Del Mar College in Corpus Christi, TX.

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Max Porter is the author of Lanny, which was longlisted for the Booker Prize, Grief Is the Thing with Feathers, winner of the International Dylan Thomas Prize, and The Death of Francis Bacon. He lives in Bath with his family.


This is the story of a few strange hours in the life of a troubled teenage boy.

You mustn’t do that to yourself Shy. You mustn’t hurt yourself like that.

He is wandering into the night listening to the voices in his head: his teachers, his parents, the people he has hurt and the people who are trying to love him.

Got your special meds, nutcase?

He is escaping Last Chance, a home for “very disturbed young men,” and walking into the haunted space between his night terrors, his past, and the heavy question of his future.

The night is huge and it hurts.

Shy is a music-besotted literary performance that has had critics in awe of Porter’s “bravura, extended-mix of a novel that skitters, pulses, fractures and coalesces again with all the exhilaration and doom of broken beats and heavy bass lines” (Hermione Hoby, The New York Times Book Review).

Credit: Francesca Jones


Since she was little, Louise has been not quite hearing and not quite deaf—her life with this invisible disability has been one of in-betweenness. After an audiology test shows that almost all her hearing is gone, her doctor suggests getting a cochlear implant. The operation will be irreversible, making the decision all the more fraught. The technology would give Louise a new sense of hearing—but it would be at the expense of her natural hearing, which, for all its weakness, has shaped her unique relationship with the world, full of whispers and shadows.

Hearing, for Louise, is inseparable from reading other people’s lips. Through sight, she perceives words and strings them together like pearls to reconstruct a conversation. But when the string breaks, misunderstandings result and eccentric images fill her thoughts. As she weighs the prospect of surgery, fabulous characters begin to accompany her: a damaged soldier from the First World War, an irritable dog named Cirrus, and a whimsical botanist. This ethereal world, full of terror and beauty and off-kilter humor, keeps erupting into the equally chaotic reality of Louise’s life as she experiences a new relationship, suffers through her first job, and steadies herself with friends.


Adèle Rosenfeld lives in Paris where she runs writing workshops. Jellyfish Have No Ears was a finalist for the 2023 Prix Goncourt for a first novel.

Credit: ©JFPAGA SPRING 2024 24


Laura Marris is a writer and translator. She is a MacDowell fellow and the recipient of a Silvers Grant for Work in Progress. She teaches creative writing at the University of Buffalo.


In this debut essay collection, Laura Marris reframes environmental degradation by setting aside the conventional, catastrophic framework of the Anthropocene in favor of that of the Eremocene, the age of loneliness, marked by the dramatic thinning of wildlife populations and by isolation between and among species. She asks: How do we add to archives of ecological memory? How can we notice and document what’s missing in the landscapes closest to us?

Filled with equal parts alienation and wonder, each essay immerses readers in a different strange landscape of the Eremocene. Among them are the Buffalo airport with its snowy owls and the purgatories of commuter flights, layovers, and long-distance relationships; a life-size model city built solely for self-driving cars; the coasts of New England and the ever-evolving relationship between humans and horseshoe crabs; and the Connecticut woods Marris revisits for the first time after her father’s death, where she participates in the annual Christmas Bird Count and encounters presence and absence in turn.

Vivid, keenly observed, and driven by a lively and lyrical voice, The Age of Loneliness is a moving examination of the dangers of loneliness, the surprising histories of ecological loss, and the ways that community science—which relies on the embodied evidence of “ground truth”—can help us recognize, and maybe even recover, what we’ve learned to live without.

Photographer Credit: Pat Cray


Written after two years of artistic silence, during which the world came to a halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Minneapolis became the epicenter of protest following the murder of George Floyd, Bluff is Danez Smith’s powerful reckoning with their role and responsibility as a poet and with their hometown of the Twin Cities. This is a book of awakening out of violence, guilt, shame, and critical pessimism to wonder and imagine how we can strive toward a new existence in a world that seems to be dissolving into desolate futures.

Smith brings a startling urgency to these poems, their questions demanding a new language, a deep self-scrutiny, and virtuosic textual shapes. A series of ars poetica gives way to “anti poetica” and “ars america” to implicate poetry’s collusions with unchecked capitalism. A photographic collage accrues across a sequence to make clear the consequences of America’s acceptance of mass shootings. A brilliant long poem—part map, part annotation, part visual argument—offers the history of Saint Paul’s vibrant Rondo neighborhood before and after officials decided to run an interstate directly through it.

Bluff is a kind of manifesto about artistic resilience, even when time and will can seem fleeting, when the places we most love—those given and made—are burning. In this soaring collection, Smith turns to honesty, hope, rage, and imagination to envision futures that seem possible.


Danez Smith is the author of Don’t Call Us Dead, winner of the Forward Prize for Best Collection and a finalist for the National Book Award, and [insert] boy, winner of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award. They live in Minneapolis.

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Kapka Kassabova is a writer of narrative nonfiction, poetry, and fiction. She grew up in Sofia, Bulgaria, and lives in the Scottish Highlands. She is the author of Elixir, To the Lake, and Border, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.


In Anima, Kapka Kassabova introduces us to the “pastiri” people—the shepherds struggling to hold on to an ancient way of life in which humans and animals exist in profound interdependence. Following her three previous books set in the Balkans, and with an increasing interest in the degraded state of our planet and culture, Kassabova reaches further into the spirit of place than she ever has before. In this extraordinary portrayal of pastoral life, she investigates the heroic efforts to sustain the oldest surviving breeds of our domesticated animals, and she shows us the epic, orchestrated activity of transhumance—the seasonal movement, on foot, of a vast herd of sheep, working in tandem with dogs. She also becomes more and more attuned to the isolation and sacrifices inherent in the lives shaped by this work.

Weaving together lyrical writing about place with a sweeping sense of the traumatic histories that have shaped this mountainous region of Bulgaria, Kassabova shows how environmental change and industrial capitalism are endangering older, sustainable ways of living, and by extension she reveals the limited nature of so much of modern life. But shining through Kassabova’s passionate, intimate response to the monoculture that is “Anthropos” is her indelible portrait of a circulating interdependence of people and animals that might point to a healthier way to live.



Claudia Rankine is the author of Just Us: An American Conversation, Citizen: An American Lyric and four previous books, including Don’t Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric. Her work has appeared recently in the Guardian, the New York Times Book Review, the New York Times Magazine, and the Washington Post. She is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, the winner of the 2014 Jackson Poetry Prize, and a contributing editor of Poets & Writers.


A brilliant and unsparing examination of America in the early twenty-first century, Claudia Rankine’s Don’t Let Me Be Lonely invents a new genre to confront the particular loneliness and rapacious assault on selfhood that our media have inflicted upon our lives. Fusing the lyric, the essay, and the visual, Rankine negotiates the enduring anxieties of medicated depression, race riots, divisive elections, terrorist attacks, and ongoing wars—doom scrolling through the daily news feeds that keep us glued to our screens and that have come to define our age.

First published in 2004, Don’t Let Me Be Lonely is a hauntingly prescient work, one that has secured a permanent place in American literature. This new edition is presented in full color with updated visuals and text, including a new preface by the author, and matches the composition of Rankine’s best-selling and award-winning Citizen and Just Us as the first book in her acclaimed American trilogy.

Don’t Let Me Be Lonely is a crucial guide to surviving a fractured and fracturing American consciousness—a book of rare and vital honesty, complexity, and presence.

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Stacey D’Erasmo is the author of the novels Tea, A Seahorse Year, The Sky Below, Wonderland, and The Complicities, and the nonfiction book The Art of Intimacy. She is a professor of writing and publishing practices at Fordham University.


How do we keep doing this—making art? Stacey D’Erasmo had been writing for twenty years and had published three novels when she asked herself this question. She was past the rush of her first books and wondering what to expect—how to stay alive in her vocation—in the decades ahead.

D’Erasmo began to interview older artists she admired to find out how they’d done it. She talked to Valda Setterfield about her sixty-year career that took her from the Merce Cunningham Dance Company to theatrical collaborations with her husband to roles in films. She talked to Samuel R. Delany about his vast oeuvre of books in many genres. She talked to Amy Sillman about working between painting and other media, and between abstraction and figuration. She talked to landscape architect Darrel Morrison, composer Tania Léon, actress Blair Brown, musician Steve Earle, and visual artist Cecilia Vicuña. She saw connections between them and to artists across time: Colette, David Bowie, Ruth Asawa. She found insights, too, about what has driven and thwarted and shaped her as a writer.

Instead of easy answers or a road map, The Long Run offers one practitioner’s conversations, anecdotes, confidences, and observations about sustaining a creative life. Along the way, it radically redefines artistic success—shifting the focus from novelty, output, and external recognition toward freedom, fluidity, resistance, community, resilience, and longevity.




Each issue we feature a new bookstagrammer highlighting some of their amazing work.








@SheReadsandTravels: I’m a 29 year old literary content creator, writer, and mental health professional based in the UK. I’ve loved reading all my life and live with my two guinea pigs Toffee and Domino.


@ SheReadsandTravels : I started my Instagram account in the summer of 2016, shortly after I graduated from university but before I found my first full time job. I remember it being a very spur of the moment thing in the middle of the night, where I just thought, hey, I could do that too! I rebranded my account from @juliasbookcase last summer (although my website still uses the same name for now). It was all a very impulsive thing in the beginning, so it’s quite amazing to see how far it’s come.


@ SheReadsandTravels : This is probably a bit of a wildcard but I’m a big fan of Emma Cruises on YouTube and she’s self publishing her first children’s book soon! I’m very excited to get it.


@ SheReadsandTravels : It has to be Can’t Spell Treason Without Tea by Rebecca Thorn. Fantastically for her it has recently been picked up by a publisher, but was initially self published and I absolutely adored it. The book’s basically about two women in a fantasy land who run off together to open a bookshop/coffee shop. It’s brilliant.


@ SheReadsandTravels : I honestly don’t know where I’d be without the bookstagram community. Over the last 8 years I’ve made so many amazing friends, and I really enjoy connecting with readers from all over the world. I feel so lucky to be part of such a wonderful community and I really treasure it.

It’s the same with reading itself - I don’t know who, or where I’d be without books.

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Sex. Murder. An Escort. A Mystery “

Thrilling, well-paced, and surprisingly dark, Naked Came the Detective is Glendall C. Jackson III’s beautifully written debut novel with a noir soul….The universe of escorting is shown with all its contradictions – the intimacy, secrecy, danger, allure, emotion, and transactional nature – without glamorizing it, or condemning it.”

—The Independent Review of Books Jackson’s research into the reality of sex work gives the story persuasive power, the mystery plotting is suitably twisty, and the protagonist is funny, focused, and quick on her feet.”

— Publishers Weekly, BookLife reviews

WINNER: Best Indie Book Award, Paris Book Festival, Firebird Book Awards, The BookFest Awards.

TOP NOTABLE 100 INDIE BOOK, Shelf Unbound magazine. “ Available in Hardcover, Paperback and Ebook.

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Take a bite from your next favorite book.


The Caricaturist .

Bellevue Literary Press | July 2024

“Do you know what a newspaper is?” Crane asked me. Robert had gone to the other end of the veranda to admire the weeds.

I’d have given a ready reply had I not suspected a trap.

“. . . a collection of half-injustices / Which, bawled by boys from mile to mile, / Spreads its curious opinion / To a million merciful and sneering men . . .”

“Then why do you waste your words on them?” I was suddenly exasperated.

“To earn my bitter herbs and crust of bread! Christ’s sake, let’s go get some grub!” His tough talk seemed, to me, a parody of street argot, although his unkempt, unwashed appearance was the real McCoy. Charlie Michelson, a New York Journal correspondent at Key West, later called

Crane the dirtiest man in an army. I liked him. Most people did. I felt— how do I say it? That there was something not quite right about him. But I wanted to be in his company.

The three of us walked up Caroline Street to the Yellow Fiddler, not far from Key West Bight. We ordered jerk conch, tamales, and beer bottled by the Tampa Brewery.

Gnawing on a rubbery conch, Robert cried, “Damn it, this is hot!” as his eyes began to tear.

“I’d offer to share my tamales, but they taste like pounded firebricks from Hades,” said Crane, whose teeth, I saw, were bad.

In our recollections of people, we tend to dwell on their spoken words; no one is likely to remember a clam. To

understand Crane, however, one needs to acknowledge his silences, which were habitual and could be lengthy and embittered. That June night at the Yellow Fiddler, named for the marsh crab, Crane entered the valley of silence at eight o’clock and did not emerge until half past. Not that he withdrew entirely into himself, but his replies to our questions were terse, sometimes hostile, and his contributions to the parley few and listless. Mostly, he kept quiet.

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Had it not been for the ghost of tobacco smoke given up by his clothes, he might not have been there at all. When he finally did speak, it was of a woman he’d been with in New York City.

“Amy Leslie— she also went by other names—lived in a flat house on West Twentyseventh, a street jammed with opium palaces and brothels. The janitor at Amy’s place enjoyed a flash of celebrity when he declared, with a smirk and a swagger, that I had stayed with her during the summer of 1896. On that rancid crumb of intelligence the public choked and, having done so, spat me out. What was the word of a fornicator


against that of New York detective Becker and the entire Nineteenth Precinct? The dope layout the police found when they tumbled my room completed the picture of Dorian Gray and made me an object of spite and an outcast from polite society, whose morals were safeguarded by police commissioner Roosevelt and Hamlin Garland. I had nailed the tin tray to a wall in my room to memorialize an excursion into the Tenderloin, taken so that readers could be titillated by ‘Opium’s Varied Dreams.’ With the exception of Hearst’s Journal and Walt Whitman’s old paper, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, the gentlemen of the press

bludgeoned me. I was afraid the cops might do likewise with their truncheons. I didn’t go into the Dora Clark business, thinking of martyrdom. I don’t care for martyrs. They stink of the match that sets light to the pyre.”

The Caricaturist, the eleventh, stand-alone book in Norman Lock’s The American Novels series, is a tragicomic portrait of America struggling to honor its most-cherished ideals at the dawn of the twentieth century. In its pages, you’ll meet Oliver Fischer, a self-styled bohemian, boardwalk caricaturist, and student at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, who becomes ensnarled, along with Mark Twain and Andrew Carnegie, in a clash between the Anti-Imperialist League and their expansionist foes. Sent to Key West to sketch the 1898 American invasion of Cuba, in company with war correspondent Stephen Crane, he realizes––in the flash of a naval bombardment––that our lives are suspended by a thread between radiance and annihilation.


The Byways.

Spark Press | June 2023

They walked into a long room with a high ceiling, like an art gallery. Instead of pictures, there were mirrors hung on the walls.

“There are others around the city, but this place has the most gathered in one spot.”

“What are they?” CeeCee asked.

Jesse looked at her sideways. “They’re . . . mirrors,” he said slowly, like he suddenly doubted her intelligence.

“I can see that,” she huffed, exasperated. “I mean, what are they here? Are they going to talk? Are they going to enslave my soul and make spaghetti? What do they do?”

The amused gleam was back in his eyes. “Ah.” He walked over to a foot-high, oval-shaped mirror.

“Take a look.”

She leaned toward the glass, the silver sheen of it throwing light in her eyes, and peered into the mirror. Instead of her reflection, she saw a living room.

A couch with a toile slipcover faced a high-end TV. Next to it sat a comfortable leather recliner. In the background, a door provided a glimpse of a kitchen. There were lace doilies and expensivelooking knickknacks on side tables. Everything was cream and black and mauve. It was very posh but a little outdated. She was confused. Why would you put a random picture behind a mirror?

An older woman appeared in the doorway and crossed to the TV. Then it clicked. CeeCee was looking

at a living room in someone’s house. She leaned away from the mirror and looked at Jesse. “What the fuck is this?”

He laughed, delighted at her expression. “It’s a window.”

“Are all mirrors like this?” She heard her voice rising. “Where someone can see you?”

“No, not all. Just a few.” He paused. “I think it happens more when people want to be seen. Or if they’re open to other sides.”

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“This is totally creepy.” She looked around for mirrors looking into bathrooms. That would be even worse. “You know that, right?”

“Agreed. Creepy but useful.” He looked pleased with himself. “Watch.”

He moved to a mirror that was easily seven feet tall. CeeCee stepped up behind him and saw a shadowed nursery on the other side of the glass, full of cluttered tools and ailing potted plants. It looked like the dusty corner where someone put the stuff they didn’t need right away.

Jesse went very still. Then he stepped through the


mirror, the glass rippling like water around the edges of his body, into the nursery. He turned around to face her direction and grinned, smug and triumphant.

“Holy crap,” CeeCee whispered.

He glided back through the glass again like it wasn’t there.

“See? They can be used as doors. You can get back home, or close enough. It’ll put you on the other side at least. Not all of the mirrors come out in our city, but I know the ones that do.”

CeeCee felt her spirits soar. She took a trembling step forward and laid her hand on the

Neurodivergent high school student CeeCee Harper has a temper and a reputation for trouble. Angry at the rumors and afraid she’ll never fit in, she makes a wrong move—and lands in the byways, a world of alleys, magic, and forgotten people . . . some that aren’t even human. And if she doesn’t escape quickly, CeeCee learns, she’ll be trapped for good.

Searching for a way out, she gets lost among monsters, drug pushers, the homeless, and political upheaval, and soon finds there are those who will stop at nothing to keep her from leaving. But the byways pull people in for a reason. CeeCee must figure out why she got stuck in the first place—before her loved ones are put in danger and she loses them forever.

A dark retelling of Alice in Wonderland meets Neverwhere, this contemporary fantasy will enchant Neil Gaiman and Christina Henry fans.

glass. It felt cool and solid against her palm. “How do I do it?” she breathed.


We, Alive, Beloved.

Row House Publishing | June 2024

Notes from Therapy:

This world bruises us into retreat.

A half-life crawling back to the womb, away

From false starts, and things we have been.

But in the house of becoming there are no clocks— No chimes marking transformation— Only the whisper of possibility. An expanse Vibrating in the palm of your hand.

Choices shaped like rivers endlessly branching its waters.

Begin in your life’s timid daybreak

Or begin in the twilight of your years.

Our lives are a gallery of unfinished portraits. Each stroke—a choice.

Unrestrained, untamed

By the leash of time, each breath, each moment,

A fresh parchment. Write, rewrite, until the ink runs dry.

Let it startle you. Become a sunburst

In a winter sky, laughter in a room of silent faces, Become raindrops tracing veins

Of a leaf, or unexpected ballads in city noise.

On Days I Am Dying:

I find just enough reason to breathe in a Frank Ocean song, looping lyrics stitch a lifeline to the parts of me sinking into silence.

Artists can be a buoy, tethered to tomorrow, uncoiling the sorrow knotted in the throat. Each chord, a conversation

with the void, fleeting declarations of promise written in rhythms whispering you’re not alone.

Songs, like mirrors, reflect my fragments, painting portraits in shades of experiences that stare back at me.

In a stranger’s lyrics, there are letters addressed to me, postmarked from dawn. A voice with eyes that hold pain I know too well, yet

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Pillow Talk:

In the veiled language of moonlight, I have made love to shadows, negotiated with the gravity of time unraveling my secrets. The pearls of years I’ll never know again—seventeen and twenty-three.

Seventeen, when first kisses tasted like summer rain. Twenty-one, when I stumbled from dim-lit bars into lust. Like murmurs against the shell of memory, now elusive. I have bathed in the dense


wild of sunrise questioned the love that braids itself around my heart, unnamed, untamed. An erratic flame kindling upon the unknown.

A constant question mark in the book of my life, unmarked, unhinged. But once, when I dreamt of climbing mountains, and traveling to different planets, I woke up and you were still there.

Crumpled under the blanket of darkness. Words were empty, so, it was quiet. What is this feeling? I’ve never worn this before,

I don’t even know its name.

From the story of Štefica Cvek to “The Kharms Case,” the pieces in Lend Me Your Character—comprised on the novella “Štefica Cvek in the Jaws of Life” and the story collection “Lend Me Your Character”—are always smart and endlessly entertaining. The former story paints a picture of a harassed and vulnerable typist whose life is shaped entirely by cliches. She searches endlessly for an elusive romantic love in a narrative punctuated by threadbare advice from women’s magazines and constructed like a sewing pattern. The latter story is one of Ugresic’s funniest and is about the strained relationship between a persistent translator and an unresponsive publisher. it’s the survival that is contagious.

Are we but another flicker, momentary pixels in the grand unfolding of oblivion? When the sun rose, you were gone, leaving stardust on my pillow. Left hoping you don’t misplace me, like you did your girlhood crush, like you did thirty and twentythree.


Annika Rose.

Red Hen Press | May 2024

In the living room, her father was dozing in the more comfortable armchair, printed with a line of ducks lifting themselves out of the water. Her father’s mouth yawned open, one long, gangly leg stuck out on the dirty carpet. Annika began writing a grocery list at the kitchen table, planning her meals for the week on a separate piece of paper. Once when she got up to check the pantry, she let the door bang. On another trip, she did it again.

The second bang woke her father. He yawned and stretched. He took off his glasses and polished them. “You thinking of anything in particular for supper this week?” Annika asked him.

“How about a meat loaf?”

“Last night at Jesse and Tina’s, we had fish and that was pretty good.”

Her father reached over to the end table, where

he had stuck his chewed piece of gum to the rim of his water glass, and put it in his mouth. He picked up Jaws, skimmed over a page. He asked if it had been the saugeye from Kakagesick and Annika said it was. He asked how it tasted and she said white and clean, delicious.

Finally, he asked, “Nick, did you drink a lot of beers last night?”

She almost laughed with relief. “No. Just one or two!”

“You’re not going to do it again, are you?”

“No. I felt terrible today.”

Her father gave her an anguished look, his jaw hanging open. He said, “If I ask you to clean the ditch or anything else, you do it,” sounding less as if he were making an order than simply stating something he had always believed to be true.

“I know it,” Annika said feelingly. “I’m sorry.”

Her father said in a low voice that she couldn’t just be staying out all hours of the night, either. “You think maybe it would be better if you didn’t go over to Jesse and Tina’s for a while?”

“I don’t even want to,” Annika said, and she was feeling so world-weary, it was true.

At least until a few days had passed—after she had finally finished that stupid fence, complete with a clunky, primitive gate on the northern side; she’d almost forgotten that part

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and nailed herself out of the garden—when she had the time to grasp what she’d lost. As autumn loomed, it didn’t, for the first time she could remember, seize all of August in its grip. The yellow squashes beginning to swell under the leaves, the cozy look of the dogs with their thickening coats, did not fill her with dread touched with a tender longing. Neither did Annika feel the threat of school squeezing each drop of excruciating beauty out of the late-summer light on the wild plums.

If she had been going to school, she might have been clutching the smugly happy feeling that this year when she got on the bus, she would have with her the existence of Tina


and Jesse. Something no one else in school had, or perhaps could even imagine. Maybe when Tina went into town for groceries, she would have swung by the school in her loud, conspicuous truck, her elbow out the window, Jesse’s motorcycle sunglasses on, shouting with her pretty smile to ask Annika, waiting for the bus, if she wanted a ride. Jesse might have visited Haas in his office, and certainly he’d have come to her band concerts. She imagined him drawing everyone’s attention by scattering guitar picks on the gym floor when he pulled something out of his pocket. If nothing else, Annika could have thought and even yapped about them all day long. They had come a year too late.

Sometimes in the evenings, when Annika would have been going to Tina and Jesse’s smelling of dirt and corn silk, she sat in a lawn chair in front of the trailer watching the sun go down, snapping a rubber band into her leg and wondering what in the world she had done with all this time before.

Seventeen-year-old Annika Rose and her father Wes have spent the years since the death of Annika’s mother in selfimposed social isolation on their farm on the edge of the woods. When a young woman named Tina moves into a house down the road, the result is a sudden explosion of feelings in both father and daughter and a fierce rivalry. At stake in the competition is not only their relationship, but the life of the vulnerable young woman at the center of it all.



Red Hen Press | June 2024

Words distort reality, and language is merely a fragile, so-breakable sheen over the body, bodies, over the concept of the body.

To say I am dying or I feel like dying or I will die—it means nothing. But the body can certainly feel or know or, in a way, trust that it will become inanimate, decompose, become something else to be used by something else. The body knows things we never can: for so long, I dreaded contracting HIV. The fear of complications (of the deaths caused by HIV) still persists, but the dread is gone: my body that wanted HIV got it.

The ejaculate stayed in me long enough for it to seep. My body created and then failed to close a bleeding open wound, accepting some number of viruses greater than twenty-five. They

were attracted to it like a shark, and they couldn’t all be killed by my defenses quickly enough.

I no longer dread, because it has already entered my blood and replicated itself through my white blood cells, ripping them from the inside out, leaving only these sheathes of procreation. I will certainly outlive any complications, but I grew up in a time when the most horrible thing about Matthew Shepard’s death was that the officer who found him was exposed to HIV, a time when we were still being taught that just the diagnosis is a death sentence. That when that officer tested negative, it was a relief. Regardless. No matter how much has changed since then, without medication, the body crumples in on itself from its lack of viable immune system.  Illness, chronic

illness seems to be the only way to confront, accept, trust in our bodies’ fleetingness. Only when we see our blood leave us in seven purple vials—and only when those are moved from our elbows to our own palms, holding our own heat. It seems to me that we can only know mortality if we are violently thrust into it, or if it is thrust into us.

And when our lungs or liver or knuckles or scapula or nerve endings or sphincter are not suffering, or we do not know that we are, the

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ravens return to remind us.  I try to write the raven, the symbol and the body of the raven, but I cannot, because I have lapsed into language, and words only wrap themselves around and function as index to the actual. But to get to the truth, we have to confront the fear, our fears. Confrontation becomes easier when we deal with a physical manifestation or representation of something metaphysical. So I do not make much attempt at discovering what happens in a rotting body, a twentyminute-dead body, but instead attempt to discover that which makes a raven not a crow and makes a raven fly and why a raven


circles in flight and just how smart they are.

I write about ravens repeatedly, knowing that I cannot in this way come any closer to them. I never do: I never get any closer to approximating their bodies or that which they represent. Language is futile, because it is the body, not the language we use to describe a body, that holds meaning. But the attempts are not without meaning: I begin to circuit them, circle through currents of hot air, waiting to get high enough before I proceed, only to fall, then circle and rise again. I want to outline them, provide silhouette, draw their perimeters, their limits; I want to wrap words

around their mitochondria, their throat and crop, their crown, their mantle and flank, their secondaries and tertials, ribs and trachea, around their anterior-facing digits if no words may actually fill their void on this page.

Just as Odin’s ravens, named Huginn and Muninn (translated to Thought and Memory), would whisper everything he couldn’t see, so too do these and other mythical ravens--of Athena, the Biblical Eve and Noah, Coronis, and others--function in Jamison’s essay collection: they are tools to interpret and make meaning of their world, rent as it is between the rural and urban, the romantic and abusive, where language is both surfeit and dearth. This collection sees mythical ravens murmur alongside the actual bone and viscera of crows, starlings, and pigeons in disarming explorations of desire and destruction, the body and creation. Carrion is an ambitiously structured collection that honors the literary forebears at its center while lamenting our inability to communicate anything--love, need, hope--except in metaphors.


Another North.

Red Hen Press | June 2024

Dear Fairbanks, when I was young, I never saw you as beautiful. Like my mother, you just were. Sometimes on winter nights, she’d wake me from sound slumber, wrap me in a scratchy blanket, and tug me out the back door. By then, we were living in a three-bedroom house five miles from town. It was so big it had a back porch into which we dug a network of snow tunnels every winter. On the nights I’m thinking of, Carol Ann would place me in front of her, then tilt my sleep-tousled head toward the sky. “Look up,” she’d say, in her gentlest, most rapt voice, the one she usually reserved for church. Streamers of green and pink unfurled soundlessly across the star-studded sky. “It’s the northern lights. They’re dancing. Isn’t it wonderful?” To see something as wonderful—literally, as a miracle, a mystery, a prodigy of nature—you

must also see it as strange. Because I was born here, I’ve never been able to see Alaska through a stranger’s eyes. When I was a child, and everything seemed new, nothing ever surprised me either—nothing, I should say, but the sight of my no-nonsense, loaferswearing, public health nurse mother undone by the beauty of her chosen home. To please her, I looked up. And fell into the sky. “I assure you that this region is so far north that the Pole Star is left behind toward the south,” writes Marco Polo in The Travels of Marco Polo. His I assure you gives him away, of course. As his editor, R. E. Latham, notes drily, “A more learned writer might have avoided Polo’s gaffe about travelling farther north than the Pole Star.” I don’t blame him for exaggerating: Marco Polo was an explorer, not a cartographer, and he was pursuing a truth more

abstract than longitude or latitude. True north has always been a figment of mapmakers’ imaginations, a fixed point on the globe that doesn’t correspond to any real place on earth. It’s like the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow: the closer you get, the farther it recedes. The romantic in me will always be seduced by that phrase, true north (also: magnetic azimuth, pole star), especially as a metaphor for the companion of one’s heart. The practical side of me knows where the compass needle points instead:

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toward plain-old magnetic north. The magnet is earth’s fiery core. Fluctuations in its temperature mean that magnetic variation—meaning, the compass gap between true north and magnetic north—is most extreme at literally the most extreme places on earth: the North and South Poles. This has been a long peregrination. I’m returning to the place where I started, with the runway marker that gave me such a turn on that December night nearly a decade ago. By the time I got around to asking my father for an explanation, I’d already begun to work it out for myself. In 2014, the Fairbanks runway was nearly seventy years old. Over the decades, magnetic variation had done


what an earthquake, a flood, and time alone could not: shifted its compass heading ten degrees.

Bewildered is the word for what I felt, on realizing this—literally stumbling around in a wilderness of not-knowing. Dislocated and estranged from myself. I was like a drunk who’d tumbled out of the bar a few martinis in, only to discover her house two blocks west of where she’d left it. The external world no longer aligned with my inner compass. Here, in a place simultaneously home/not home, is where I found myself at fifty-one, the same as Clarissa Dalloway in her narrowing bed. The same age as my grandmother when

she rescued my family from the flood. Now, for the second time in my memory, the fabric of the natural world had ruptured. What was I meant to do with this new information? Who was I meant to be?

The pieces in this collection capture the feeling of being buffeted by great gusts of middle-aged longing. What began as one woman’s quarrel with Buddhism, especially its doctrine of non-attachment, morphs into a larger question: What’s the right way to love a person or a thing? With voluptuous detail and rigorous self-interrogation, Jennifer Brice looks for answers in family lore, personal experience, conversations with friends, and beloved books. The result is a tender, moving, far-reaching-sometimes delightfully funny, sometimes achingly poignant-exploration of the powerful ties that bind us to one another and to the world around us.


Ghost Dogs.

W. W. Norton & Compan | March 2024

Dogs became invisible to me. I knew they were in the world and often in the houses and yards of friends, but I did not see them or acknowledge them in any way, even when one was nudging my leg or sniffing my hands or barking at me. They held no more interest for me than a telephone pole. Dogs served some function, I knew, but not for me.

Twenty years later and I was a husband and a father. Our kids—Austin, Ariadne, and Elias—were fourteen, twelve, and ten at the time. Happy kids. Well-loved kids. It was Christmas, and Fontaine wanted them to have a dog. I resisted at first, but I soon relented. Maybe from behind that iron door came the muffled echoes of Duke and Duchess and Robin barking at the rain, their

warm bodies beside ours in the living room. Maybe behind that locked iron door Steagle was running beside me through the pine trees. Maybe I was there, walking Sonny and Cher, something I used to look forward to and did often. “Okay,” I said. “All right.”

Because we wanted a rescue dog, the process would take more time than we had before Christmas, so we bought a stuffed dog and wrapped it, and when our kids opened it, we told them that this fake animal represented the real live dog that was coming. There was so much surprised joy in their faces that my eyes filled, but something I couldn’t name began to move coldly through my arms and legs, and I stood and hurried past my kids and the Christmas tree to start breakfast.

We seemed to forget about getting a dog after that—or, at least, I did. That stuffed dog and my children’s joyfully expectant faces on Christmas morning faded like some dream that had left me feeling unsteady the next morning, somehow tilted sideways as if about to flip over into a ditch. A year and a half came and went, and during that time Fontaine bought the dance studio where she’d been teaching for nearly thirty years. When she wasn’t creating her own pieces with her modern dance company,

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she was busy running the studio.

Our kids’ days and nights were filled with school and sports and friends and homework, and I had my full-time writing and teaching and public speaking duties, as well as a new book coming out.

Then, on a hot June afternoon, I came home from a book tour, and Fontaine picked me up at the airport. We hugged and kissed, and as she was accelerating into traffic, she glanced over at me in the passenger seat. “Um, there’s something I have to tell you.”


She smiled over at me, her dark eyes lit with mischief.


“We got a dog.” “What?”

And she told me how she and Ariadne had driven to Maine to pick up a rescue dog they’d found while I was away. At first I felt a cool disappointment, then fear, and then a sort of mind-clearing surrender: we had promised them a dog, after all. I guess we now had a dog. Named Rico.

What followed I do not want to write about. I do not want to write it because I do not like how it makes me look, not just to the reader, but to my younger self, the boy who used to love dogs. I yelled at Rico so many times over the years that I’m convinced my kids saw a dark side of me

they never would have seen otherwise. I resent Rico for this, and I want to apologize to him for this resentment. And I want to apologize to him for far more than that.

During childhood summers in Louisiana, Andre Dubus III’s grandfather taught him that men’s work is hard. As an adult, whether tracking down a drug lord in Mexico as a bounty hunter or grappling with privilege while living with a rich girlfriend in New York City, Dubus worked—at being a better worker and a better human being.

In Ghost Dogs, Dubus’s nonfiction prowess is on full display in his retelling of his own successes, failures, triumphs, and pain. In his longest essay, “If I Owned a Gun,” Dubus reflects on the empowerment and shame he felt in keeping a gun, and his decision, ultimately, to give it up. Elsewhere, he writes of a violent youth and of settled domesticity and fatherhood, about the omnipresent expectations and contradictions of masculinity, about the things writers remember and those they forget.


Help Wanted.

W. W. Norton & Company | March 2024

The warehouse was even more dungeon-like than usual. With sun-rise still a ways off, its small, dirty skylights were useless. The half dozen or so bare bulbs that hung from the high ceiling only dented the gloom. The air was thick and warm. There was never any AC back here, but with the store closed to customers, the HVAC system was on eco mode: no occasional blasts of cooled air wafted in from the sales floor.

The truck was parked ass-out in the first of the warehouse’s three loading docks. Every few seconds, high-pitched squeals tore through the dark space. The line—a long metal track that ferried merchandise through the warehouse—needed oiling. Milo and Diego had arrived before the others, to set up. Milo was already in position, standing just inside the truck, and was rar-ing to go—rotating his arms in their shoulder sockets, like a pitcher warming up.

Milo was the thrower. His job was to transfer boxes from the truck onto the line, then push them to the next person, who scanned them. At store #1512, this was Nicole. If her scanner said a box held backstock, she drew a slash on its label with a Sharpie before pushing the box down the line. Downstream from her, Travis, Raymond, Diego, Val, and the old guys were spread out along the line. Each one was responsible for picking certain categories of boxes off the line and putting them onto pallets waiting by their feet. Boxes that weren’t theirs, they pushed to the next person, until the truck was empty.

Without waiting for the old guys to get to their posts at the back of the line, Milo began pushing boxes down the track.

Nicole’s scanner intoned dully—beep, beep, beeeeep—as it hovered over a microwave, a box of DVDs, a bundle of six swim noodles tied together

with twine, which for some reason—who knew or cared— elicited a longer and higher-pitched squawk. Nicole fell into a steady, almost somnambulant rhythm as she scanned and pushed, scanned and pushed. There came a cordless vacuum cleaner, an infant car seat, several packages of paper towels fused together with shrinkwrap, a box containing tubs of protein powder, an office chair, a dollhouse, kitty litter, curtain rods, an air conditioner, a box of mixed HBA (health and beauty aids), a flat-screen TV, baby wipes, a box of individually packaged, microwavable bowls of organic mac ’n’

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cheese, two Blu-ray players, a convection oven, four Android cell phones, a crate of jarred pasta sauce, a box of DVDs, a stack of Monopoly sets wrapped in cellophane, a white-noise machine, a mixed box of Chemical (cleaning supplies), a bundle of shrinkwrapped lampshades, more kitty litter, several cases of flavored seltzer water in 12-ounce aluminum cans, tiny cans of gourmet dog food, deodorant, double-A batteries, even more kitty litter—for decades, Potterstown had been hemorrhaging people, but judging by the fecal evidence, its cats were flourishing— dish soap, soap dishes, a drip coffeemaker, a Keurig coffeemaker, pots for planting, pots for cooking, rubber mats to put in the footwell of a car, crayons, laundry baskets, bookshelves, a half dozen bound American flags,


shampoo, nail polish, wood polish, shoe polish. When a pallet filled with boxes, Little Will used a jack to whisk it from its spot. Before taking it out to the sales floor to be unpacked—or “broken out,” as they called it—he swapped an empty pallet in its place so the movement of the line wouldn’t be interrupted, even for a moment. Corporate insisted the unload take no more than an hour. If they took even a minute longer, Meredith, as executive manager, had to submit a “failure report,” as she called it. Having to do this guaranteed she’d be on the warpath for the rest of the morning. One time, after it happened, she’d sent Raymond home early, on the grounds— dubious, in Little Will’s judgment—that Raymond was still drunk from the night before. (He’d just smelled of

booze.) More recently, she’d gone off on Nicole, chewing her out and threatening to write her up for no reason at all.

Every day at 3:55 a.m., members of Team Movement clock in for their shift at big-box store Town Square in a small upstate New York town. Under the eyes of a self-absorbed and barely competent boss, they empty the day’s truck of merchandise, stock the shelves, and scatter before the store opens and customers arrive. Their lives follow a familiar if grueling routine, but their real problem is that Town Square doesn’t schedule them for enough hours— most of them are barely getting by, even while working second or third jobs. When store manager Big Will announces he is leaving, the members of Movement spot an opportunity. If they play their cards right, one of them just might land a management job, with all the stability and possibility for advancement that that implies. The members of Team Movement— including a comedy-obsessed oddball who acts half his age, a young woman clinging on to her “cool kid” status from high school, and a college football hopeful trying to find a new path—band together to set a just-socrazy-it-might-work plot in motion.


Zig-Zag Boy.

W. W. Norton & Company | February 2023

I walk out to South Point. It is wild and desolate; the air smells of molted seal fur and guano. I take my binoculars so I can see her more clearly—the first elephant-seal mother to haul off. She is lumbering and clumsy as she heaves her body over the dunes and past the willow.

Early winter is birthing season at Año Nuevo, the elephantseal sanctuary in Northern California where I am training to be a docent. My fellow volunteers are eating lunch in the barn. I am alone out here. Walking helps. I make new footprints in the sand, my skin tingling in the salty air. I clench my fists and release them.

Out on Cove Beach, the surfers in their black wetsuits carve up the face of a wave. My boy used to surf, raising his limber body onto a shortboard. That was when he trusted the water and its purity. I didn’t suspect that anything could get in the way of his dreams.

The mother seal dives into the water when the beta males aren’t looking. She knows that if she is caught they will try to mate with her, just in case she hasn’t been impregnated by the alpha. It doesn’t matter that she is spent and famished.

Somehow, she isn’t spotted. Her skin shimmers like silver foil as she dips into the surf. She heads out into the deeper, darker water where she moves more easily and only has herself to think about. She doesn’t look back at her pup, who lifts up his head and chest from the beach as he searches for her. This is the first time she has left her baby’s side since his birth. She has given him all of herself, even when the tides were wild and threatening, when the huge elephant-seal bulls rose around her, roaring and fighting violently for the alpha position, when she was empty from birthing and had lost

one-third of her body weight from lactating and fasting.

Now something tells her it is time to leave him, to ignore her pup’s cries that carry on the breeze. He continues to call the way he has done for the last month, the sound that had always worked to keep her close and protective of him. But she is far away now, hungry for fish and squid, deepdiving, alone. Her blubbery pup is still too fat to swim, and his buoyancy would attract the sharks. He must slim down and learn when to take the plunge himself. I stare at him, stranded,

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The pups have a fifty percent chance of surviving their maiden voyage, and even if this pup one day makes it back to Año Nuevo, to the very same breeding ground where he was conceived and born, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that he and his mother will ever reunite. The mother will forget the scent of her pup, his cry and the bond they forged during their early days together; she will mate again, give birth and propagate. She is all instinct.

As I stand on the bluff I think about Zach, my youngest son, lying at home, curled up inside his sleeping bag, hands over his ears to shut out the voices only he hears.

My eyes prick with tears behind my sunglasses, and then I am crying more


freely, fiercely, and it hurts my throat. I want to climb down to the beach and pick up the seal pup, to feed him myself, but the laws of nature govern here at the reserve. There can be no human intervention.

I leave South Point and make my way back under the low sky. The marine haze is still heavy on the northern side of the reserve.

The other docents gather and take their seats in the old horse barn for the afternoon session. We are going to watch video footage of great white sharks, filmed by researchers at the University of California. I keep my sunglasses on and stand by the door, trying not to panic about the fact that there is no Wi-Fi or cell service here on this remote part of the California coast.

One night in 2009, Tanya Frank finds her nineteen-year-old son, Zach— gentle and full of promise—in the grip of what the psychiatrists would label a psychotic break. Suddenly and inexplicably, Tanya is thrown into a parallel universe: Zach’s world, where the phones are bugged, his friends have joined the Mafia, and helicopters are spying on his family.

In the years following Zach’s shifting psychiatric diagnoses, Tanya goes to war for her son, desperate to find the right answer, the right drug, the right doctor to bring him back to reality. She struggles to navigate archaic mental healthcare systems, first in California and then in her native London during lockdown. Meanwhile, the boy she raised—the chatty, precocious dog-lover, the teenager who spent summers surfing with his big brother, the UCLA student—suffers the effects of multiple hospitalizations, powerful drugs that blunt his emotions, therapies that don’t work, and torturous nights on the streets. Holding on to startling moments of hope and seeking solace in nature and community, Tanya learns how to abandon her fears for the future and accept the mysteries of her son’s altered states.

I wonder if my son has woken up yet, frantic to reach me, if he will remember to call his older brother instead. I wonder if it is helping at all, me being here, trying to distract myself, trying to become a woman who isn’t solely consumed by looking after her son, trying to put him together again.



Vine Leaves Press | July 2024

He entered the Sweatshop, a labyrinthine behemoth of brick and poured concrete that still bore vestiges of industrial function. Musty hallways lit by hanging fixtures encased in wire lattice. Steel I-beams at every turn. An utter lack of proper ventilation which, in the warmer months, made extended rehearsals feel more like boot camp than band practice, and lent the building its frank moniker. On the second floor, at the end of a long corridor that swelled with the muddy cacophony of simultaneous jam sessions, Paul stood and shored himself before a dented metal door. He couldn’t help but laugh to himself: his future hanging in the balance in two-day-old underwear. He breathed in and out and shouldered through the doorway.

In the far corner of the room, Bunky sat on a stool, vamping a rubbery groove on the bass. Above him on the eggshell-colored concrete walls, loping squalls of graffiti and spray art hovered like a threat. Bunky looked up and nodded stiffly without breaking stride. He had, Paul noticed then, shaved his head down to the quick of his scalp.

“You ready?” Bunky said. He stopped playing with a resonant thump and was now scrutinizing Paul with the stern impatience of a teacher.

“Born,” Paul said with all the conviction he could muster. He went to his folding table, on top of which, to his surprise, Bunky had neatly arranged his gear. He hoped it was a sign. He donned his headphones, a set of fat cans that wouldn’t have been out of place in air traffic control. He cued up a bank of samples on his MPC and listened to the jagged buzz bleeding from the other side of the wall. Some band was doing its damndest to channel the sludgy, horny, rambunctious spirit of Janis Joplin.

“Somebody’s drowning cats,” he said, trying to make light. He looked over where Bunky was fiddling with an effects pedal at his feet. “At least we’re not that.” It did make him feel better that the band on the other side of the wall sucked and was enough to fortify in him at least a baseline of confidence.

“Right,” Bunky said at last. He met Paul’s gaze for the first time since he’d come in. “So, what are we then?”

Paul felt prickly warmth climb

the nape of his neck, round his jowls and rise to his cheeks. He pulled his sweatshirt over his head and tossed it onto a ratty armchair adjacent to his table. “We,” he said, “are about to make some heat. Check it out.”

From the speakers standing at attention at opposite corners of the room: the warm, lived-in crackle of vinyl, a thick kick drum, an elastic snare, the soulful yowl and wobble of a Hammond B3 organ. A beat he’d been tinkering with for weeks, but which Bunky had yet to hear. Then, atop the sample loop, a voice, airy and ambiguous, diced and compressed to the distant frequencies of payphones and noir. Paul bobbed his head as he tapped out the sequence on his drum pads—he felt the need to really sell it—and watched as Bunky shut his eyes, running his hand down the fret of his bass until it found the right place. Then his tongue stuck out at the corner of his mouth and he began to play one of his greasy grooves. Paul too closed his eyes and let the beat carry him to a place where subtle shifts and changes emerged, where the guiding principle was instinct rather than thought. He listened as Bunky’s bassline fell into the pocket, meandered back to every downbeat. An absolute killer, just like always. There it was: lockstep. A flash of inspiration. He could feel it.

Then the bass fell out.

“No,” Bunky was saying, shaking his buzzed head.

Paul stopped playing and looked up to see Bunky glaring at a spot on the concrete floor. On the crown of his scalp was a quarter-sized patch of uneven hair, like he had passed the clippers over his head in a rush.

“What?” Paul said. “That was feeling good.” He dialed down the volume, lifted his headphones from his ears and let them curl around his neck. Once again, he could hear the muffled clamor from the practice room next door: a tortured wail beset by a cascade of pots and pans.

Bunky shook his head and looked up at Paul. His expression was blank. The look of someone accountable only to himself. “No. It’s all wrong.”

“What’s all wrong?” Paul said. He tried to steady his voice. “The bridge? We can ditch it. Repeat the chorus for another eight bars.”

“No, man.” Bunky let a little snuff of air pass from his nose. With the thumb and forefinger of his fret hand, he rubbed his eyes as though summoning fumes of patience. He lifted his bass and nestled its neck in the crook of the stand next to his stool. He stood and sighed and made his way to the other side of the room. He folded his arms across a ratty t-shirt emblazoned with the word DAYTONA—one of his prudent thrift store purchases—and said, “You know this isn’t working, right?”

Though he’d felt it coming, Paul found himself in the position of fighting for his life. He felt if he could just buy himself time, Bunky might be willing to reason. “I told you. We can skip the bridge. I was—”

“Yo. It’s not about the fucking bridge. You want to talk about the bridge? Fine. Let’s talk about the bridge. Let’s talk about how it’s a Jimmy McGriff sample. How about that?”

Paul tested a brittle smile. “You got a good ear, man. I tried to sneak it by you, but you got a good ear.”

“And you got no common sense. You know how much that sample would even cost us? I mean, we’re talking at least—shit, it’s not even worth saying it out loud. That’s how irrelevant it is.”

“Well, we don’t have to release this one,” Paul reasoned. “We could post it for free like we first did with the record. Let it happen organically. DIY like we used

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“I’m done with DIY, man. I’m done giving away stuff for free. I’m trying to make another album. What are you trying to do?”

“Make something great,” Paul said, almost under his breath. It was the first honest thing he’d said in a very long time.

And Bunky laughed. “Something great.” Abruptly, he let his arms fall heavily to his side, then flung them about for emphasis. “Great isn’t this, Paul. Great isn’t using the same fucking jazz samples over and over and over again.”

Paul absorbed the comment like a blow. “Hold up,” he said. “In case you forgot, you used to like my ear for samples. Matter of fact, that’s why you hit me up in the first place. Isn’t that what you said? You said—”

“I said I liked your stuff because I could feel it, okay? Now? It’s recycled. Played. It’s like—you gotta do better than low-rent J Dilla. You gotta do better than channeling your record collection. Nostalgia is only good if you can build on it. Take it forward for once.”

Paul clenched his fists until he felt his fingernails dig into the skin of his palms. He swallowed a burning lump in his throat. “Where’s this coming from? Far as I’m concerned? I’m doing the same shit as when you hit me up. I’m doing—”

Bunky snapped his fingers and pointed. “Exactly. Exactly! You’re doing the same shit, Paul. We put that record out two years ago. Other artists have put out entire catalogs in that time. And for the last six months it’s been the same shit.” Here Bunky crossed his arms again, tightly this time, as though girding himself against an unseen force. “It’s like, when Sara left?” Paul felt a cold flash at the sound of her name. “I swear, when she left, she like, took your fucking soul.”

“Wow,” Paul said with a curt laugh. “You know what I don’t get?”


Bunky’s eyebrows jumped, inviting an answer.

“Why are you so ashamed of what you come from? It’s like, you have this idea in your head about being authentic. About being real. But honestly? You’re one of the fakest dudes I know.”

Bunky shook his head and smirked. “Nah,” he said, “you have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“C’mon. You don’t think I know who paid for all those fancy lessons back in the day? Who pays for your apartment? Your share of this space? You work at a dive bar.”

“Fuck off. Where I get my money is none of your business.”

“But that’s exactly what it is. My business. This is my life, man. I don’t have a fucking trust fund to fall back on. I quit my job, remember? This falls through? I go home to Ohio and grind in a factory for the rest of my life.”

“Listen to yourself. You want to make it so bad? Why’d you blow off Greg? Huh?” Bunky read the look on Paul’s face. “What, you think I don’t know? I called him on a hunch. Shit. You’re so lost and you don’t even know it.”

“If you knew, why didn’t you book the gig yourself? What, was that a fucking test?”

Bunky thought about it for a moment, nodded. “Yeah. You could call it that. And you failed. Like I knew you would. Like you knew you would.” He made his way to the stool where he’d been perched, lifted his bass from the stand and crouched down to pack it away. When he spoke again, the edge in his voice had smoothed, as though he’d found a pocket of peace. “You get laid at least?”

“What?” Paul said. His ears were ringing and he felt dizzy, as though he’d been punched square in the head.

“That woman you were after last

Brendan Gillen is an Emmy-winning writer living in Brooklyn. His fiction has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and his debut chapbook, I’ve Given This a Lot of Thought, was published in 2022. As a partner and writer/director at Boomshot, Brendan has developed content for ESPN, FanDuel, Condé Nast, Fox Sports, BBC, the U.S. Open, Resy, AnheuserBusch and others. His work has received attention in the New York Times, Mashable, the Washington Post, USA Today’s “For the Win,”, the Huffington Post and, among others. He earned a Sports Emmy for his work on the campaign for the 2014 FIFA World Cup on ESPN.

night. You fuck her? Or you fail at that too?”

“No,” Paul said, “I mean yeah. We—”

“Good,” Bunky said, snapping the clasps on his case, “at least one of us got something out of that show.” He stood from his crouch. “Can I give you a little advice?” Paul stared, dazed.

“Stop feeling sorry for yourself. It’s not a good look. So some girl broke your heart. Get over it.” Then Bunky turned and made his way for the door.

“Wait,” Paul said, his voice shaky. He cleared his throat, thinking of that crumpled pink ball of paper on the floor of his apartment. “Now what?”

At the door, Bunky turned. He ran a hand over his head, felt the tuft of hair where the clipper blades had failed. “Me? I’m about to go get some tacos because I’m starving. You? What you do is up to you because we’re done.” Then he ducked out of the room, shut the door, and left Paul to absorb the atonal squall bleeding from the room next door.


Faythe of North Hinkapee.

Saugatuk Press | March 2024

The group of twenty Indians crept up on the White Men’s camp, which was quiet and dark. Good, thought Chief Passatan. They are asleep, and we will catch them unawares. He nodded to his left and to his right, where his son Katatuk sat on his horse, every bit the man he was becoming. All of them rode forward without hesitation, fearless in the faint starlight.

Indian chieftains did not lead from the rear, but instead from the front; accordingly, Chief Passatan offered the benediction of his heart: I am proud of my son. This was his last thought before a musket ball tore through the top of his head, and he slowly, oh so slowly, fell to the ground. His horse, now riderless, followed the other horses and men forward in a rush at the sound of the shot. No, the White Men’s camp had not been sleeping after all. They were waiting, and it was a grim beginning

for the Sagawanees. Three more warriors were quickly dispatched before the rest had dismounted and—armed, vicious, and fearless—struck out to take the battle to the White Men secreted in the trees.

The White Men’s advantage lasted only moments, because a musket fired, betrayed with sound and smoke the location of the shooter, and there was certainly no time to reload before the Indians closed with each musket man. The battle was intense, every man fighting for his own life and to end the life of his adversaries.

The Indians asked no quarter and gave none, either, and the White Men returned the savagery upon their foes.

Screams of triumph mingled with death cries, as swords, knives, tomahawks, spears, and musket balls found their marks.

Katakuk had seen his father fall and thoughts ran through him all at once

with the shock. What now shall we do? he thought in a panic. Am I now chief? What of the battle? Are we losing? But then there was no time to think, and he closed with an angry, enormous White Man who bore down upon him.

Katakuk ducked under the path of the White Man’s spear and rolled forward, coming up strong and hard with his knife. The look on the White Man’s face—his last expression, in fact—was surprise at the quick slicing of Katakuk’s knife up through his chin and into his brain, killing him instantly.

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Suddenly, Katakuk, looking for his next opponent, was seized from behind and a knife came up to his throat. Instead of fear, he felt only sadness. I will leave now, having been chief for but a brief moment, but it was not to be.

For some reason, the knife that would have left him bleeding like a slaughtered animal did not strike. Instead, the man holding the knife slumped to the ground.

Katakuk had a moment for a grim smile when he saw what had happened. An arrow had pierced the man in the head, an arrow with such vehemence, accuracy, and force that it had actually come out the other side.

Nununyi! In a flash he knew why she had not been upset at Chief Passatan’s


forbidding her to come to the attack. She was coming anyway, and he felt a split second of pride and a thrill. But there was no time for reflection—another White Man was rushing upon him. Arrows were flying from somewhere as another, and then another, and then another of Harriman KeepSafe’s men went down. KeepSafe traced carefully the direction of the arrows, and then concluded where they were coming from. He had one more musket shot left, and he took a chance and shot it into the trees where he could see the outline of the archer. It was a lucky shot and found its mark—the body jerked and fell. I’ll see about that one later, he thought, pulling his hatchet from his belt and running full tilt

against another of the savages. No more arrows flew thereafter from that location.

They will pay for what they have done to my sister, thought Faythe as she rode her panting horse into the darkness of the forest night…. away from the accursed town of North Hinkapee. She knew she would be back to set things right. Faythe no longer sought mere justice; now she craved vengeance on the powerful Downing family and the scheming Minister Brown.

Faythe is an utterly non-conforming heroine living within the strictures of seventeenth-century colonial America, where young women are to be seen and not heard.

But Faythe is having none of that! Join this valiant woman in her epic journey of love and justice. Faythe’s quest carries you along through romance, betrayal, wickedness and heartbreak, all the way to its breathtaking conclusion.


Daughters of Muscadine.

Fireside Industries | November 2023

We entered the meeting hall and Janice put the cat down on a pew, and then she went over and threw her arms around a robed woman. They hugged a moment, and when Janice pulled away she said, “This is Lynne, my friend from school, Mama.”

Mrs. Munson was tall like Janice but appeared taller due to her upright posture. On a shorter woman, the long, black minister’s robe would have dragged the floor, but not on Mrs. Munson, who gave me a little wave and turned back to the flock of women gathered around her. Others stood in line to shake her hand. A few people milled around the room or sat in the pews. Most were older, in their fifties and sixties.

I took a seat in one of the pewstoward the back. People keptsmiling at me and coming over to shake hands. The whole congregation was white, except for one old Black woman and a little boy I

guessed was her grandson.

[ . . . ]

After the last “Amen,” we all went down to the fellowship hall for dinner. Platters of country ham, mac and cheese, and corn muffins lay out on the counter. Janice fluttered around the room like a butterfly, laughing and talking with everyone. Though they were all friendly, I felt uncomfortable and worried I’d say the wrong thing.

[. . . ]

“I’m glad I invited you here, Lynne,” she said and leaned closerto me as if to reveal a secret.“I didn’t tell Mama you were Black. Wasn’t sure she’d let you visit with us.”


“She just don’t approve of Blacks and whites together,” Janice said, like it was no big deal. “And she’s very religious, don’t believe in a lot of things, probably ’cause she’s wanting to be a pastor.”

I shook my head.

“This isn’t even a real church. You have cats all over the place, and your mom didn’t even read from scripture.”

“She wasn’t supposed to read from scripture. It was a prayer meeting.” She sucked in her breath and put her palms against the lip of the sink. “Look, Lynne. Please don’t be mad at me. You’re still my best friend.It’sjust that folkslike my mama don’t believe Blacks and whites should mix, that’s all.”

“Then why the hell am I here?! Why’d you invite me?”

“Well, Mama don’t

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think Blacks and whites should marry or anything like that, but it’s okay for me to be friends with them.” She stacked three plates in front of me. “You’re my friend, Lynne. Mama knows that. She don’t care that you’re Black, as long as you ain’t a guy.”

“So if I were a guy, you couldn’t hang around me?”

“You ain’t a guy.” She dipped her hands into the sink and coated them with poofs of tiny bubbles. She flicked the bubbles at me.

“Quit it,” I said, and dropped the towel on top of the wet plates.

My own mother had sat me down long beforewe’d come to Muscadine and told me that some people might say racist things to me. These comments were not my fault, Mom had said, and I shouldn’t


feel bad. The problem was that I did feel bad. Had I done something to not deserve Janice’sfriendship?And ifso many kidsin my class made fun of Black speech or said things like “She’s pretty for a Black girl,” then there must be some truth in their statements, right? I shook my head, fighting to clear those thoughts away.

“You’re going to take me home,” I said, turning toward the door.

“Nooo,” she said in a long, slow breath. When my family had first moved to Georgia, I admired thewomen’s drawls. Waitressesin restaurants let syllables drip from their lips like honey, but Janice’s accent didn’t sound charming just then. It was a pathetic twang.

[. . . ]

Two events tie together the nine stories in Monic Ductan’s gorgeous debut: the 1920s lynching of Ida Pearl Crawley and the 1980s drowning of a high school basketball player, Lucy Boudreaux. Both forever shape the people and the place of Muscadine, Georgia, in the foothills of Appalachia.

The daughters of Muscadine are Black southern women who are, at times, outcasts due to their race and are also estranged from those they love. A remorseful woman tries to connect with the child she gave up for adoption; another, immersed in loneliness, attempts to connect with a violent felon. Two sisters love each other deeply even when they cannot understand one another. A little girl witnessing her father’s slow death realizes her own power and lack thereof. A single woman weathers the excitement—and rigors—of online dating.

Covering the last one hundred years, these are stories of people whose voices have been suppressed and erased for too long: Black women, rural women, Appalachian women, and working-class women. Ductan presents the extraordinary nature of everyday lives in the tradition of Alice Walker, Deesha Philyaw, James McBride, and Dorothy Allison in an engaging, engrossing, and exciting new voice.

“Please, Lynne,” she said. “I’m sorry about the Black stuff. We’re still friends, okay?”

I knew Janice felt as lonely as I did. I was the new kid in a mostly white school, and she was so strangely religious and not wealthy enough or popular enough to get invited to most of the parties. Still, no matter how lonely I was, I didn’t want to stay.


Overcoming Obstacles: An Interview with Monic Ductan


Author Monic Ductan’s debut short story collection, Daughters of Muscadine, was named A Book All Georgians Should Read for 2024 by Georgia Center for the Book, and it won the 2023 Weatherford Award. Some characters in the collection make repeat appearances, but at the heart of the book is the setting—Muscadine, Georgia. Monic shared with me a little about how the book, which explores the struggles and triumphs of a group of women in the South, came to be.


MD: I write in a few different genres. I’ve been writing essays, stories, poems, and a novel since I started graduate school in 2012. I finished this book of stories first because I was made to write short pieces for my fiction workshops in

school. I wrote half the book as a student in my MFA and my PhD programs, and then I wrote several additional stories after I started teaching full-time. Finally, I had enough stories for a book. I had an excellent editor at Kentucky Press who asked what I could do to the stories to make them more cohesive, so I decided to set them all in Georgia, mostly in the town of Muscadine, Georgia. Yes, I definitely second-guessed myself. I think self-doubt is pretty common among writers and artists, especially when we receive a lot of rejection and criticism. I started out by publishing in literary magazines, and everyone knows how selective magazines are. I learned to take rejection by receiving hundreds of form rejection letters from journals. Still, even when you’re used to rejection it often stings something awful.




MD: Thank you! I’m a very slow writer, and the stories developed over a period of years. A lot of writing is rewriting, just returning to the manuscript again and again until you’re satisfied with it. I always tell students that I rely on my beta readers, too. If something isn’t clicking, my betas let me know, and they give good advice for how I could potentially fix it. You can’t please every reader, but you can choose a certain type of ideal reader, and then write to please that ideal person. None of my stories look anything like their original drafts. I kept asking myself what I could do to complicate each story, basically by asking myself, “What would happen if she did this?” or “What if this person doesn’t react the way they’re expected to?”

I spent all of my growing up years in northeast Georgia. Lots of people have asked how I brought the setting of my

book to life. It’s easier for me to write about a familiar place. Some of the places in the book are based on real-life places I know in Georgia. If I can see a place in my mind’s eye, then it’s easier for me to put it on the page. I also think that creating a setting involves paying attention to the smallest of details, such as the way the hills slant or the way a dog lifts its head and thumps its tail on someone’s porch.



MD: I have a certain type of reader in mind. I write for people who read the

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same sort of fiction that I read. We like stories about everyday people that have a compelling conflict, the sort of conflict that makes us ask, “What would I do in a similar situation?” I think I write about smart females because those are mostly the types of books I read. Recently, I read two books by Amy Engel, and I like her style and subject matter. I also like Billie Letts. My favorite classic stories that I return to again and again are Bastard out of Carolina and Streetcar Named Desire. When I was a child I read and re-read The Logan Family series by Mildred D. Taylor and Up a Road Slowly by Irene Hunt and Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson. I also read quite a bit of memoir now, and some of my favorite books to teach from that genre are Coming of Age in Mississippi by Anne Moody and The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. All of these aforementioned books have strong women at their center. Even my favorite films are often about women who struggle to overcome some obstacle. Those are inspiring stories to me, even when they don’t always have happy endings.



MD: My mama has a black and white photo of my great-grandma, Eula Knox White, who was born in Georgia in the 1800s. Eula’s parents and grandparents were also Georgians, according to my mama. This means that my maternal family has been in Georgia for at least five generations before me. That shows the extent of my connection to that place. When I’m writing, I often imagine places from my childhood, like the small house where my grandparents lived with their ten children near Commerce, Georgia, or the fields and woods surrounding the trailer I grew up in. People ask why I’m a Southern writer. The answer is that I never really thought much about being any other type of writer. It’s in the blood, I guess.

In terms of belonging, I have never felt like I fit in most spaces, which could explain why I write about estrangement. The part of Appalachia that I’m from is very white. It’s changing now, like most places, but my town was probably 85%


white when I was a child. I was often the only Black child in my classes at Maysville Elementary, and I was sometimes one of maybe two or three other Black teenagers in my classes at Jackson County High. Race wasn’t the only thing that made me feel different, though. My family was also really poor, a fact I was ashamed of and tried hard to hide. It wasn’t until I got to graduate school that I was diagnosed with ADD and started to figure out that I might be on the autism spectrum, which could also explain why I have often isolated myself from others. I worry about being judged for not always getting the joke or for saying something awkward.


MD: I’m most intrigued by realistic stories about things that could (and do!) actually happen. These stories allow me to settle into their worlds so easily. The familiarity in those stories is comforting to me.


MD: Good question. I was talking about my book at a college recently, and someone said they gave the book to a professor on campus who read it and said it was surprisingly dark. I don’t think I write dark stories on purpose, and obviously not every story in the collection is dark. I try to find a balance between different topics and tones so that the collection is not just all misery. There are a couple of happy endings in there and also some characters who get what they want.


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MD: I feel a sense of connection when I read Southern authors and Appalachian authors. I remember reading work by Silas House, Barbara Kingsolver, Lee Smith, Mildred D. Taylor and Adriana Trigiani for the first time and feeling like I knew and understood those people and places. The dialect(s) remind me of home. I have always been a lonely person, and some of my favorite memories involve being curled up with a book and a snack and reading for hours at a time.

I have found support in some reading and writing communities. I live in Tennessee, and my book is a Kentucky Press book, so I’ve given several author talks and readings in this region. At each event, I’ve found at least one reader that I’ve connected with. Either they came up to me to ask about one of my characters, or they told me that Muscadine reminds them of home. This makes me feel socially connected.



MD: Yes, it definitely means something to me to know that my first book won an award. I looked at the list of previous Weatherford winners, and it includes so many authors and books I’ve admired for years. I’m proud. For a long time, my definition of literary success was to publish a book with a respectable press, and now I’ve achieved that. Winning the Weatherford feels like an added bonus.


MD: Reading has always been a passion of mine, and teaching in the areas of literature and writing is the field most closely related to that passion. I had some great teachers in graduate school, and they inspired me and made me believe I could succeed in academia. I’m also inspired by the writing I teach. Last year,


I taught some persona poems by Frank X. Walker. They were from his poetry book on Medgar Evers, Turn Me Loose, and those poems made me want to attempt to write some persona poems. I started scribbling some in my notebook using people I know or people I imagined, and hopefully something will come out of those poems one day.


MD: I get most of my writing done in summer when I’m not teaching. This summer, I’ll be trying to finish a novel about a woman named Lena (the same protagonist from my short story, “Gullah

Babies”) who moves to a small town and uncovers corruption in the police department. Lena is Black and a police dispatcher, and her boyfriend is a white policeman. The boyfriend allegedly kills a Black man in Lena’s neighborhood. Lena is trying to figure out what happened the night of the shooting, and she’s also trying to figure out her relationship with her boyfriend. In addition to this novel, I also have a group of personal essays I’ve been working on for years. My poetry manuscript, Man Sold Separately, is coming together nicely, but I need another dozen poems or so to complete it.

Two events tie together the nine stories in Monic Ductan’s gorgeous debut: the 1920s lynching of Ida Pearl Crawley and the 1980s drowning of a high school basketball player, Lucy Boudreaux. Both forever shape the people and the place of Muscadine, Georgia, in the foothills of Appalachia.

The daughters of Muscadine are Black southern women who are, at times, outcasts due to their race and are also estranged from those they love. A remorseful woman tries to connect with the child she gave up for adoption; another, immersed in loneliness, attempts to connect with a violent felon. Two sisters love each other deeply even when they cannot understand one another. A little girl witnessing her father’s slow death realizes her own power and lack thereof. A single woman weathers the excitement― and rigors―of online dating.

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The Talking Drum: A Novel by

A Book That Is Sensual, Fraught, And Above All, Human.” - The Boston Globe “


2021 IPPY Gold Medal - Urban Fiction

2020 Shelf Unbound Best Indie Book Award

2020 National Association of Black Journalists Outstanding Literary Award

Foreward INDIES Book of the Year Awards Finalist - General Fiction

* * * 65
What to read next in independent publishing BOOK SHELF SHELF UNBOUND’S Book Shelf BS SPECIAL ADVERTISING SECTION SPRING 2024 66

Promote your book in Shelf Unbound in our Special Advertising Section for Authors.

Each issue of Shelf Unbound is distributed to more than 125,000 people in the U.S. and 62 countries around the globe. Our introductory ad rate for this section is $350/quarter page as seen here. Contact publisher Sarah Kloth to reserve your space.


Syrup Sandwiches

Syrup Sandwiches is a powerful story about a young black boy who defeats the odds. Anthony Owens shares how he became a successful man as he had to rise above the expected outcome for a child raised in poverty.

Syrup Sandwiches is an inspiring story that gives hope to all children, especially poor children of color, providing a message of hope and success. In a time when society is looking at stories that speak to the black American experience, this is a story that is unapologetically authentic.

Laugh Cry Rewind

Growing up in 1970s and 80s suburban Houston, Judy Haveson is funny, sarcastic, and fiercely loyal, especially to her family, friends, and big sister, Celia. When she suffers a series of unimaginable traumatic events, her seemingly idyllic childhood comes to a halt, changing her life forever.

In Laugh Cry Rewind, Judy takes readers on her journey of self-discovery, sharing funny, touching, and heartbreaking stories. Her message to others who have experienced loss or tragedy is this: stop waiting for the other shoe to drop. Let life go on, and good things will be waiting for you on the other side of the pain.

The Journal of Hidden Truths

Sometimes an unimaginable tragedy can bring a new outlook on life and love. Twelve years ago, in the wake of a tragedy, Mariah rejected the church community that failed her. Mariah moved a thousand miles away to Boulder, Colorado, with her infant daughter, Star. But the past continues to haunt her, and Mariah has yet to reveal to Star what had happened. At thirteen, Star is brilliant and sensitive, with an uncanny ability to intuit truth. Through dreams, observations, and journaling, Star inches ever closer to uncovering her mother’s secrets.


In 2042 the United States is recovering from terrorist attacks that upended the government, rewrote our civil liberties, and erased two states from the map. River, a widow, single mother, and veteran of the Caliphate Wars, works as a waste hauling trucker, is weeks away from the end of her contract and returning to her young daughter. Finn Cunningham, a hydrologist, is suspicious of environmental changes he’s seeing in nearby western waterways and decides to investigate. His decision sets him on a collision course with River, sending them both on the run. One a fugitive, the other a reluctant participant, they develop an affinity for each other.



McVeigh puts the spotlight on Darcy in this imaginative re-telling of Austen’s classic tale. In a timeless story of love amid the clash of social classes, Darcy is faced with a terrible choice: to stay in London to force Wickham’s hand – or to go to Rome, to salvage his family’s reputation.

With a new Darcyesque slant, omitted scenes from the original, and an extra helping of humour – including excerpts from The Wisdom and Wit of Miss Mary Bennet – this is a fresh new Pride and Prejudice with (wedding) bells on!

Of White Ashes

The bombing of Pearl Harbor propels America into WWII and two Japanese Americans into chaos. Separated by the Pacific, each embarks on a tumultuous path to survive and live the American dream. Ruby Ishimaru loses her liberty and uproots from her Hawaii home to incarceration camps on the mainland. Koji Matsuo strains under the menacing clouds of the Japanese war machine and atomic bombing while concealing a dangerous secret-one that threatens his family's safety. When destiny brings Ruby and Koji together, their chemistry is magnetic, but wounds of trauma run deep and threaten their love as another casualty of war.

A Haunting at Linley

Clive and Henrietta return to England to find Castle Linley in financial ruin. When Clive’s cousin, Wallace, invites an estate agent in to assess the home’s value, the agent is later found poisoned. Clive and Henrietta are soon drawn into an investigation, which is slowed by an incompetent local inspector and several unexplained phenomena—the cause of which many believe to be the workings of the ghost of a hanged maid. Meanwhile, Gunther and Elsie have begun life on a farm in Omaha. Circumstances are difficult, but they are content—until Oldrich Exely appears, proposing an option Elsie finds difficult to ignore.

The Unstoppable Eliza Haycraft

The year is 1844. On a May midnight, Eliza Haycraft flings herself into a canoe to escape a husband who beats her and a life that does the same. She is penniless and illiterate. Yet a decade later, sex and secrets will make her the wealthiest woman in St. Louis, a frontier boom town at the western edge of a restless nation. With only herself to rely on, Eliza becomes a prostitute and madam, then a property owner and puller of strings. She tangles with a vindictive rival and a governor who will become a Civil War turncoat. Scarred by experience, she finds true love but dares not admit it even to herself.



The fate of humanity rests in the hands of a few.

Pulse: Book Two is the conclusion of B.A. Bellec’s dystopian sci-fi horror duology. This time around we are tapping into iconic stories like The Stand, Station Eleven, Cloud Atlas, Contact, and The Road to add elite and ambitious scale. Our chaotic journey picks up moments after the first book ends with action from the second you start turning the pages, but if you thought you knew where the story was going, leave your expectations at the door and ask yourself this one question: How would a P-7500 defeat these creatures?

Does It Look Like Her?

Melanie Faith's latest narrative poetry collection, Does It Look Like Her?, follows Alix, a forty-something artist,  new educator, and mom, and the famous painting she sits for. The poems explore what it means to pursue artistic passion, the personal meanings we overlay onto art and artists in a society not conducive to art-making, ambition at midlife, and the indirect route to so-called overnight success.

An Inch From Oblivion

After being suspended from his job as a police detective, Dave Ostrinsky, needing a respite from his stress-filled life, rides his bike along a mountain trail and accidentally goes over a dangerous cliff. During emergency surgery, Dr. Ivy McDermott discovers a strange microdot in Ostrinsky's brain. In researching the mysterious growth, Dave and Ivy are shocked to discover a conspiracy guided by criminals' intent to control a programmable public. An Inch from Oblivion is the harrowing journey of one man's accidental encounter with a secret so disturbing you will be compelled to reexamine your every move.

Lives Behind the Locked Doors

About thirty years of work experience at a psychiatric facility is being reflected in a novel format; many narratives are factual and some are fictional.

This novel delves into the complexities of mental illness through the eyes of Steve, a psychiatric aide, and James, a therapy assistant, as they navigate the challenges and triumphs of working in a mental health facility in Western Canada. Through their experiences and interactions with patients, the novel explores themes of compassion, diversity, and the enduring quest for healing in the face of life's unpredictable twists and turns.

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“The dance between biology and our emotional response is mysterious. I can tell you we understand far less than we pretend to know. Worse, what we think we know, we have only fooled ourselves into believing we know.”

From award winning author, S Sky, EthosBot weaves realistic fiction packed with intrigue, adventure and romance centered around a devious medical nanobot. Teens defiantly investigate the impact of the bot on the psyche and its mysterious connection to eerie geomagnetic sandstorms.

Haelend's Ballad

A young man signs his own death warrant when he joins an already failing militia. A teenage girl is haunted by her childhood abuse and begins to crave the very things she hates. A childless mother finds herself on the run as a convicted murderer. Yet they are all unaware that their own fates are tied to a young orphan who has drowned and come back to life in a foreign land where he will be the death of everyone he meets. Haelend's Ballad is a grimdark fantasy/ steampunk tale about what happens when men and women from two colliding cultures realize they may not be on the right side. Heroes are villains. The persecuted are oppressors. And when rumors begin to spread that the world is dying, the darkness of their own hearts betrays them.

Dancing Between The Raindrops


Sunflowers Beneath The Snow

A Ukrainian rebel. Three generations of women bearing the consequences. A journey that changes everything. When Ivanna opens the door to uniformed officers, her tranquil life is torn to pieces - leaving behind a broken woman who must learn to endure cold, starvation, and the memories of a man who died in the quintessential act of betrayal. Using her thrift, ingenuity, and a bit of luck, she finds a way to survive in Soviet Ukraine, along with her daughter, Yevtsye. But the question remains, will she be strong enough to withstand her daughter's deceit and the eventual downfall of the nation she has devoted her life to?


Black, White, and Gray All Over

Cold as Hell

From shootouts and robberies to riding in cars with pimps and prostitutes, Frederick Reynolds' early manhood experiences in Detroit, Michigan in the 1960s foretold a future on the wrong side of the prison bars. Frederick grew up a creative and sensitive child but found himself lured down the same path as many Black youth in that era. No one would have guessed he would have a future as a cop in one of the most dangerous cities in America in the 1980s---Compton, California.

The Mahdi

A stunning thriller set in the West Bank, Gaza and Israel and told through the lens of a modern, liberal Muslim American. The hero, Kufdani, is asked by Bedouin leadership to recover the confiscated West Bank lands once owned by Bedouin-Israeli citizens. Kufdani’s request for negotiations is refused, then Kufdani is drugged and thrown into a notorious Israeli prison, said by Israelis to be the rapist of a Bedouin girl. Violence ensues. War breaks out in Gaza.

In the West, there are worse things to fear than bandits and outlaws. Demons. Monsters. Witches. James Crowley's sacred duty as a Black Badge is to hunt them down and send them packing, banish them from the mortal realm for good. He didn't choose this life. No. He didn't choose life at all. Shot dead in a gunfight many years ago, now he's stuck in purgatory, serving the whims of the White Throne to avoid falling to Hell. Not quite undead, though not alive either, the best he can hope for is to work off his penance and fade away.

The Guinevere Trilogy: On the Eve of Legend, At the Dawn of Legend, & The Legend.

A Medieval comingof-age adventure of courage, honor, loyalty, and friendship. Join Guinevere & Cedwyn in their dangerous and riveting Arthurian adventure. Marvel at their complete trust in each other even in the face of impending doom. Join the magician Merlyn and learn the Legend of the Red Deer and the Unicorns.

Available at Amazon and Author's Website


Squeeze Plays

Adventures On The Bloody Trail

A financial thriller and satire, Squeeze Plays is a contemporary morality tale set principally in New York and London. It centers on a bank CEO, a tabloid publisher, and a cunning Russian oligarch who steps in when the bank’s loan to the publisher goes sour. An intrepid financial reporter catches wind of the gambit and develops a front-page expose.

Professional reviewers have called the novel “captivating” and “thoroughly entertaining.”

Grenadine and Other Love Affairs

In this sensuous debut poetry collection, Carolyn Grace explores meaning through body, image, form, music, myth, history, and language. To read these poems is to touch, taste, and hold love deeply in body and soul, to celebrate love, unflinching and painful and joyful.

Come, enter this magical, essential world. Let its music sound your depths, its precision sharpen your mind. Then prepare to leave changed, your self challenged and enlarged.

Adventures On The Bloody Trail is a travel guide that sends you to the best Bloody Marys in Wisconsin and so much more! If you're looking for those out-of-the-way places where good food and great views can be found, Fiebig's guide will take you there with Bloody Mary stops along the way. Filled with the history of the cocktail and instructions on how to score Bloodys using Fiebig's 50-point criteria, this is a fun-filled adventure guide to Wisconsin with a twist. As always, please take a designated driver with you on your adventures. Cheers! Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Son of the Siren

Half-siren Lirien calls on siren powers to bring his father, the King, back from the sea. But a siren song’s true strength is seduction, and Lirien ensnares his stepmother, the Queen, with its melody.

The Queen uses magic to force Lirien’s love, but instead it steals Lirien’s voice and turns his siblings into animals. Lirien will risk everything to break the spells, but his own curse haunts him should he stray too long from the sea.







Shelf Media hosts the annual Shelf Unbound Best Indie Book Competition for best selfpublished or independently published book, receiving entries from May 1 to October 1 each year. In addition to prizes, the winner, finalists, and more than 100 notable books from the competition are featured in the December/January issue of Shelf Unbound.

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Call For Entries .

Shelf Unbound book review magazine announces the Shelf Unbound Writing Competition for Best Self-Published Book. Any self-published book in any genre is eligible for entry. Entry fee is $100 per book. The winning entry will be selected by the editors of Shelf Unbound magazine.

To submit an entry, Apply Online at www.shelfmediagroup. com/competitions.

THE TOP FIVE BOOKS, as determined by the editors of Shelf Media Group, will receive editorial coverage in the Winter issue of Shelf Unbound. The author of the book named as the Best Self-Published book will receive editorial coverage as well as a year’s worth of full-page ads in the magazine.

The deadline for entry is midnight on October 1, 2024.


The BIG List of 2024 Indie Summer Reads.

Must Read Indie and Self Published Books to add to your TBR this Summer.

Summer is here. Have you made a list of the books you’d like to read? If you haven’t, it’s not too late to start. This list of fifty books will give you some ideas you might like to check out. From general fiction to memoirs and everything in between, you’ll find a variety of genres listed below to help you with your own list of to-be-read books this summer.

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General Fiction:


Carol misses red flags about Joe’s need for control before she marries him, dashing her dreams for herself and her family. Trouble escalates after their daughter Ellie is paralyzed by the polio virus and Joe returns from WWII. Carol realizes how brutal waking life can be, and she conceals bruises and protects her children the best she can.

The Moments Between Dreams is a captivating story of a 1940s housewife who conforms to the rulebook of society until Joe pushes her too far. His constant intimidation shrinks Carol’s confidence while she tries to boost Ellie’s. Church-going neighbors in Carol’s tight-knit Polish community are complacent, but Sam, a handsome reporter, stirs up Carol’s zest for life. Despite impossible circumstances, Carol plans a secret escape. Along a risky path, she empowers her daughter to know no limits and teaches her son to stop the cycle of violence and gender discrimination.


In My Good Son, award-winning author Yang Huang explores both the deep power and the profound burdens of parental love through the story of Mr. Cai, a tailor in post-Tiananmen China, and his only son Feng. Like many of his generation, Mr. Cai’s most fervent desire is for his son to succeed. He manages to get Feng to pass his entrance exams, and turns to an American customer, Jude, to sponsor his studies in the States. This scheme, hatched between the older Chinese man and a handsome gay American ex-pat, exposes readers to the parallels and differences of American and Chinese cultures―


father-son relationships, familial expectations, sexuality, social mobility, and privilege. Huang’s writing abounds with sharp insights and a quiet humor, revealing the complexity of family relationships amidst two rapidly changing cultures.


It’s the end of summer, 2001. Erin O’Connor has everything she’s ever dreamed of: good friends, a high-powered career at a boutique Manhattan firm, and a husband she adores. They have plans for their life together: careers, children, and maybe even a house in the country. But life has other plans. Daniel works on the 101st floor of the World Trade Center.

Erin is drinking margaritas on a beach in Mallorca, helping her best friend get over a breakup, when she hears aiplane has crashed into Daniel’s building. On a television at the smoky hotel bar, she watches his building collapse. She makes her way home with the help of a stranger named Alec, and once there, she haunts Ground Zero, nearby hospitals, and trauma centers, plastering walls and fences with missing-person flyers. But there’s no trace of Daniel. After accepting Daniel’s death, Erin struggles to get her life back on track but makes a series of bad decisions and begins to live her life in a self-destructive fog of booze and pills. It’s not until she hits rock bottom that she realizes it’s up to her to decide: Was her destiny sealed with Daniel’s? Or is there life after happily ever after?


After disaster strikes, a Louisiana family and their community need to prove to each other and the world that their bond is thicker than the oil threatening their shores in Sharon J. Wishnow’s stunning debut novel.

It’s taken Chef Josie Babineaux six months to reconcile the

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debts left from her husband Brian’s gambling along with her broken heart. But now with a promising tourist season heating up and a travel magazine declaring her the spice queen of the bayou, she may be able to save her family’s historic Cajun restaurant. Repairing her relationship with her daughter, Minnow, while hiding the true reason she left her husband is a bigger issue.

Just as the first tourists arrive, an explosion on an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico shatters their fragile plans. With her island community at the epicenter of the oil spill, everything is endangered, including the restaurant’s beloved mascot—a brown pelican dear to the family’s heart. Josie realizes her family needs more than financial recovery. Only reconciling her past and revealing the truth can clean up the guilt and hurt pooling under the surface. And maybe, with enough honesty, this family can find renewal.


In 1998, fiery Eleanor “Els” Gordon thought the new century would find her married to her childhood soul mate, rejuvenating her family’s Scottish Highlands estate, and finally earning a managing director title at her investment bank. Maybe she’d even have the courage to discover why her estranged mother ran home to Italy thirty years earlier.

But when 2000 dawns, Els is mourning her fiancé and her father, and she’s unemployed, broke, and sharing an antique plantation house on the Caribbean island of Nevis with the ghost—or “jumbie”—of Jack Griggs, the former owner. Jack’s jumbie wangles Els’s help in making amends for wrongs committed during his Casanova life, and in exchange he appoints himself Cupid on behalf of a charter captain who’s as skittish about vulnerability as Els. Meanwhile, Els lures her mother to Nevis in hopes of unraveling the family secrets—but will the shocking truth set her free, or pull her fragile new happiness apart?



Ryan Shipley wouldn’t have recognized his grandfather if they were the only two people in a room. So when an unwanted inheritance lands in his lap, Ryan is overcome with obligation. Does he leave his life as a journalist in LA to run his grandfather’s weekly newspaper and revive a dying Ozark town, half of which he now owns?

The overwhelming amount of casserole dishes brought to his door, along with being stopped by anyone and everyone to be regaled about the virtues of his grandfather, don’t sway him. But when he starts to fall in love with more than just a girl named Olivia, Ryan sees a future there. Change is due for this small town, and Ryan is all in. But when there is talk of a chicken processing plant being built on the outskirts, he writes an editorial in its favor and stirs up trouble. An arsonist and a rigid bigot turn the uproar of the townspeople into mayhem. But it only makes Ryan more empowered to guide the town, and with Olivia by his side, they begin to turn the tide.

Charming and humorously thoughtful, Chicken Dinner News is contemporary fiction for open-minded soul searchers that enjoy books by such authors as Richard Russo, Robert James Waller, and Boo Walker.



Sarcastic, aspiring-comedian Raely is the sole survivor of a disastrous train wreck. While faced with the intense grief of losing her best friend, she acquires a stalker... that no one else sees. For a ghostly tag-along, Casper’s not so bad. He might even be the partner Raely needs to fight the evil spirit hell-bent on destroying her.

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Raely and her transparent friend must learn who this demonic spirit is, why he’s after Raely, and what she has to do to stop him before he destroys her life—and potentially her soul. Which, much to her chagrin, means she’s going to need the help of a psychic, and she’s going to have to rid herself of the pesky ghost hunter who’s interested in exploiting her new abilities.


A stunning debut novel and an impressive feat of storytelling that pulls together mythology, magic, and ancient legend in the gripping story of a mother’s struggle to save her only daughter. Nadine is a jinn tasked with one job: telling the stories of the dead. She rises every morning to gather pomegranate seeds—the souls of the dead—that have fallen during the night. With her daughter Layala at her side, she eats the seeds and tells their stories. Only then can the departed pass through the final gate of death.

But when the seeds stop falling, Nadine knows something is terribly wrong. All her worst fears are confirmed when she is visited by Kamuna, Death herself and ruler of the underworld, who reveals her desire for someone to replace her: it is Layala she wants. Nadine will do whatever it takes to keep her daughter safe, but Kamuna has little patience and a ruthless drive to get what she has come for. Layala’s fate, meanwhile, hangs in the balance.

Rooted in Middle Eastern mythology, Rania Hanna deftly weaves subtle, yet breathtaking, magic through this vivid and compelling story that has at its heart the universal human desire to, somehow, outmaneuver death.


With millions watching on live stream, Daxx and his teammates Qrysta and Grell win the role-playing Games (RPG) Grand Championship. But winning the game was a


piece of cake compared with what comes next.

Daxx wakes up to find he’s turned into his own avatar and is in the middle of a wilderness he doesn’t recognize. Armed with a crappy sword he has no idea how to use and dressed in beginner-level gear he must figure out how to survive quickly because he can already hear the bloodthirsty howls of wild animals from the jungle that surrounds him.

Thus starts a fantastic epic fantasy adventure. Once the three friends finally find each other they need to puzzle out their new world, gain skills, combat enemies, and make alliances with all kinds of characters and creatures from the different territories of this new world in order to survive.



Blood to Rubies is the scorching saga of injustice, love, and redemption in the western wilderness. A young frontier photographer goes West to escape the Civil War draft and settles in the Bitterroot Mountains, ancestral home of the Nez Perce Indians. There he becomes obsessed with a young Irish pioneer woman he spies swimming nude in a mountain lake. He comes to admire the Nez Perce and photographs the young leader, Chief Joseph, and a Nez Perce woman warrior (based on a real historical person). Their stories tangle in a ruthless convergence of fates. As he chronicles Chief Joseph’s desperate struggle to save his people and their harrowing 1,500-mile exodus to the Canadian border--the medicine line--to join Sitting Bull in freedom, he feels complicit in their demise. Blood to Rubies has already garnered early praise from many New York Times bestselling authors, praising the debut novel as “brilliant,” “heartbreakingly beautiful,” “unforgettable,” “gritty and lush,” “a masterpiece of a debut.”

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The foreword of Blood to Rubies is written by a descendant of Chief Joseph and former Chair and Chieftain of the Nez Perce Tribe, as well as Founding Board Member of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, Allen V. Pinkham, Sr. Other leading Nez Perce elders have endorsed Blood to Rubies, as well.

A portion of Blood to Rubies’ sales goes to the Chief Joseph Foundation (CJF) in Idaho for its amazing Mounted Scholars Program, mentoring Nez Perce youth to learn about their tribal culture and horse legacy, as well as empowering them to become first-generation college and trade school students. CJF also sponsors Nez Perce youth to ride the annual Chief Joseph Ride and provides them with Nez Perce-bred Appaloosas for the trek so they can learn about the heroic and historic Nez Perce struggle to remain free. Many of their ancestors fought and died along the trail, so the experience is profound and life-changing for them.


The bombing of Pearl Harbor propels America into WWII and two Japanese Americans into chaos. Separated by the Pacific, each embarks on a tumultuous path to survive childhood and live the American dream. Ruby Ishimaru loses her liberty and uproots from her Hawaii home to incarceration camps on the mainland. Koji Matsuo strains under the menacing clouds of the Japanese war machine and atomic bombing while concealing a dangerous secret— one that threatens his family’s safety.

When destiny brings Ruby and Koji together in California, their chemistry is magnetic, but wounds of trauma run deep and threaten their love as another casualty of war.

Inspired by the true stories of the authors’ family, OF WHITE ASHES crosses oceans and cultures, illuminating the remarkable lives of ordinary people who endure seemingly


unbearable hardship with dignity and patience. Their experiences compel us to reflect on the resilience of humanity and the risk of history repeating.


How does a man show his love – for country, for heritage, for family – during a war that sets the three at odds? What sets in motion the necessity to choose one over the other? How will this choice change everything and everyone he loves?

Jacob Miller, a first-generation American, grew up in New Berlin, a small German immigrant town in Ohio where he endured the Great Depression, met his wife, and started a family. Though his early years were not easy, Jacob believes he is headed toward his ‘happily ever after’ until a friend is sent to an internment camp for enemy combatants, and the war lands resolutely on his doorstep.

In An Enemy Like Me, Teri M Brown uses the backdrop of World War II to show the angst experienced by Jacob, his wife, and his four-year-old son as he left for and fought in a war he did not create. She explores the concepts of xenophobia, intrafamily dynamics, and the recognition that war is not won and lost by nations, but by ordinary men and women and the families who support them. If you are a fan of historical fiction with a love for heartfelt, introspective war stories, then you’ll enjoy An Enemy Like Me by award-winning author Teri M Brown. This emotional saga explores war and its impacts in unique ways that few military fiction novels do.


In the fall of 1863, the Union army is in control of the Mississippi river. Much of Louisiana, including New Orleans and Baton Rouge, is occupied. The Confederate army is retreating toward Texas, and being replaced by Red Legs,

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irregulars commanded by a maniacal figure, and enslaved men and women are beginning to glimpse freedom.

When Hannah Laveau, an enslaved woman working on the Lufkin plantation, is accused of murder, she goes on the run with Florence Milton, an abolitionist schoolteacher, dodging the local constable and the slavecatchers that prowl the bayous. Wade Lufkin, haunted by what he observed—and did—as a surgeon on the battlefield, has returned to his uncle’s plantation to convalesce, where he becomes enraptured by Hannah. Flags on the Bayou is an engaging, action-packed narrative that includes a duel that ends in disaster, a brutal encounter with the local Union commander, repeated skirmishes with Confederate irregulars led by a diseased and probably deranged colonel, and a powerful story of love blossoming between an unlikely pair. As the story unfolds, it illuminates a past that reflects our present in sharp relief.

James Lee Burke, whose “evocative prose remains a thing of reliably fierce wonder” (Entertainment Weekly), expertly renders the rich Louisiana landscape, from the sunsets on the Mississippi River to the dingy saloons of New Orleans to the tree-lined shores of the bayou and the cottonmouth snakes that dwell in its depths. Powerful and deeply moving, Flags on the Bayou is a story of tragic acts of war, class divisions upended, and love enduring through it all.

Literary Fiction:


It’s 1825, four generations after Berggrund Island’s women stood accused of witchcraft under the eye of their priest, now long dead. In his place is Pastor Silas, a widower with two wild young daughters, Beata and Ulrika. The sisters are outcasts: imaginative, oppositional, increasingly obsessed with the lore and legend of the island’s dark past and their absent mother, whom their father refuses to speak of.

As the girls come of age, and the strictures of the


community shift but never wane, their rebellions twist and sharpen. Ever capable Ulrika shoulders the burden of keeping house, while Bea, alone with unsettling visions and impulses, hungers for companionship and attention. When an enigmatic outsider arrives at their door, his presence threatens their family bond and unearths – piece by piece – a buried history to shocking ends. All the while Berggrund’s neighboring island the Blue Maiden beckons, storied home of the Witches’ Sabbath and Satan’s realm, its misted shore veiling truths the sisters have spent their lives searching for.

A Nordic Gothic laced with the horrors of life in a patriarchy both hostile to and reliant on its women, The Blue Maiden is a starkly beautiful depiction of lost lineage and resilience.


Outside a rural Pennsylvania motel, nine-year-old Lulu smokes a cigarette while sitting on the lap of a trucker. Photographer Quinn is passing through town and captures it. While the image launches Quinn’s career, Lulu fights to survive in a volatile home.

Decades later, when Quinn has a retrospective at a major museum and “Lulu & the Trucker” has sold at auction for a record-breaking amount, Lulu is surprised to find the troubling image of her young self in the newspaper. She attends an exhibition talk with one question in mind for Quinn: Why didn’t you help me all those years ago?

Tell Me One Thing is a portrait of two Americas, examining power, privilege, and the sacrifices one is willing to make to succeed. Traveling through the 1980s to present day, the novel delves into New York City’s freefor-all grittiness while exposing a neglected slice of the struggling rust belt.

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Urabá, Colombia, 1990: A violent strike at plantations across the banana zone leads to crops in flames, managers murdered, and the local economy teetering on the brink. In retaliation, the banana producers finance right-wing paramilitaries to cleanse the zone of guerrillas and their supposed collaborators.

Through the intertwined lives of four characters—a banana worker making a play for power in the guerrillas, a decadent Colombian banana planter who runs his business from the safety of Medellín, a widow in Urabá struggling to stay on the right side of the local paramilitaries, and an American banana executive wading ever deeper into troubled waters—The Banana Wars charts the struggle to survive in impossible conditions, in a place where no one is to be trusted and one false move can lead to death.

Starkly drawn from the true history of Urabá and this period of conflict, including the unseen role of US corporate interests, celebrated author Alan Grostephan’s latest is an incandescent historical novel for fans of Jesmyn Ward, Roberto Bolaño, and Fernanda Melchor.


Art historian Cate Adamson, desperate to succeed to console her grieving parents, leaves the Midwest to complete her doctorate in New York—only to find herself assigned to an impossible sexist advisor. She struggles to impress him until she discovers a hidden painting, possibly a Baroque masterpiece. Risking her career, financial disaster, and further alienation from her family, she flees to Spain with the painting to consult art experts.


Antonio, an impoverished duke, meets Cate on the train to Seville, and joins her search while attempting to rescue the decaying legacy of his family. They find clues and uncover evidence that will shock the titans of art history, may destroy her prospects as an art historian, and shatter her future with Antonio.

Written with vivid prose, rich references to seventeenth century Spanish art, compelling characters and a historical puzzle, Attribution is the story of one contemporary woman’s journey to understand the past and unlock her future.

Mystery & Thriller:


When Corie Geller asked her parents to move from their apartment into the suburban McMansion she shares with her husband and teenage daughter, she assumed they’d fit right in with the placid life she’d opted for when she left the Joint Anti-terrorism Task Force of the FBI.

But then her retired NYPD detective father gets a call from good-natured and slightly nerdy film professor April Brown—one of the victims of a case he was never able to solve. When April was a five-year-old, she’d emerged unscathed from the arson that killed her parents. Now, two decades later, April is asking for help. Someone has made an attempt on her life. It takes only a nanosecond for Corie and her dad to say yes, and they jump into a full-fledged investigation.

If they don’t move fast, whoever attacked the April is sure to strike again. But while her late father, Seymour Brown, was the go-to money launderer for the Russian mob – a mercurial and violent man with a penchant for Swiss watches and cheating on his wife –April Brown has no enemies. Well-liked by her students, admired by her colleagues, her only connection to crime is her passion for the noir movies of Hollywood’s golden age.

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Who would want her dead now? And who set that horrific fire, all those years ago? The stakes have never been higher. Yet as Corie and her dad are realizing, they still live for the chase. Savvy and surprising, witty and gripping, Bad, Bad Seymour Brown is another standout hit from the beloved Susan Isaacs.


With his signature crackling prose, literary master Chris Offutt has staked out his own territory in crime fiction, a place of familial allegiances, old wounds, and revenge—the code of the hills. His new book, a sharp, twisty southern noir with echoes of James Sallis and Daniel Woodrell, will force Mick to face up to the way of life he thought he’d escaped.

Mick Hardin is supposed to be retired, transitioning to civilian life. Back in the hills of Kentucky after a two-year absence, he’d planned to touch down briefly before heading to France, marking the end of his twenty-year Army career.

But in Rocksalt, trouble is brewing. Mick’s sister Linda, recently reelected as sheriff, and her deputy Johnny Boy Tolliver are investigating the murder of Pete Lowe, a sought-after mechanic at the local racetrack. Mick doesn’t want to get involved—he wants to say his goodbyes and get out of Dodge. But when he reluctantly agrees to intervene in a family dispute requiring a light touch, he uncovers evidence of an illegal cockfighting ring and another body, somehow linked to the first. And then, Linda steps into harm’s way, leaving Mick to solve the crimes himself.

Code of the Hills is a harrowing novel of family—of what we’re willing to do to protect and avenge the ones we love.



After a decade of exile precipitated by the tragic death of his mother, Will Seems returns home from Richmond to rural Southside Virginia, taking a job as deputy sheriff in a landscape given way to crime and defeat. Impoverished and abandoned, this remote land of tobacco plantations, razed forests, and boarded-up homes seems stuck in the past in a state that is trying to forget its complex history and move on.

Will’s efforts to go about his life are wrecked when a mysterious, brutal homicide claims the life of an old friend, Tom Janders, forcing Will to face the true impetus for his return: not to honor his mother’s memory, but to pay a debt to a Black friend who, in an act of selfless courage years ago, protected Will and suffered permanent disfigurement for it.

Meanwhile, a man Will knows to be innocent is arrested for Tom’s murder, and despite Will’s pleas, his boss seems all too content to wrap up the case and move on. Will must weigh his personal guilt against his public duty when the local Black community hires Bennico Watts, an unpredictable private detective from Richmond, to help him find the real killer. It would seem an ideal pairing—she has experience, along with plenty of sand, and Will is privy to the details of the case—but it doesn’t take long for either to realize they much prefer to operate alone.

Bennico and Will clash as they each defend their untraditional ways on a wild ride that wends deep into the Snakefoot, an underworld wilderness that for hundreds of years has functioned as a hideout for outcasts—the forgotten and neglected and abused—leaving us enmeshed in the tangled history of a region and its people that leaves no one innocent, no one free, nothing sacred.

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Detective Arias hunts for a murderer on a liberal arts campus that prides itself on its progressive curriculum but is rife with jealousy, racial and sexual tensions, and a hierarchy as real and destructive as a medieval fortress. DJ Arias, good at his job because he sees the worst in people, is challenged by the college community, a neighborhood recluse, and a young Latino gardener he sent to jail ten years ago for a hit-and-run accident. Through the course of his investigation, Arias will find out no one is who they appear to be. He begins to reclaim his humanity by adopting a dog he names Evidence and finding the clues to a crime born from a dark secret not contained in the past but alive in the present, which will cast destruction and murder on the denizens of the small liberal arts campus.


The police call him Merkury. He’s a killer who seems to choose his victims at random. He leaves no evidence behind, and no witnesses. Except for one.

When Kate Summerlin was eleven years old, she climbed out her bedroom window on a spring night, looking for a taste of freedom in the small college town where she and her parents were living. But what she found as she wandered in the woods near her house was something else: the body of a beautiful young woman, the first of Merkury’s victims. And before she could


come to grips with what she was seeing, she heard a voice behind her, the killer’s voice, saying: “Don’t turn around.”

Now, at the age of twenty-nine, Kate is a successful true crime writer, but she has never told anyone the truth about what happened on that long-ago night. When Merkury claims yet another victim—a college student named Bryan Cayhill—Kate finds herself drawn back to the town where everything started. She sets out to make sense of this latest crime, but the deeper she gets into the story, the more she comes to realize that it isn’t over. Her search for the truth about Merkury is leading her down into a dark labyrinth, and if she hopes to escape she’ll have to meet him once again—this time face to face.


Journey to an unnamed mountainous country in central Europe at the end of the Great War. Enter Citizen Orlov, a simple fishmonger and an honest, upright citizen, who answers a phone call meant for a secret agent and stumbles into a hidden world of espionage and secrecy. Recruited by the Ministry of Security, he is sent on assignment to safeguard the king.

But Orlov soon discovers that his ministry handler, the alluring femme fatale Agent Zelle, is planning not to protect the king but to assassinate him. Caught in a web of plot and counterplot, confusing loyalties, and explosive betrayals, Orlov finds himself on trial for murder. Given the opportunity to clear his name, he finds that the lives of his friends, mother, and fellow citizens hang in the balance.

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Losing your mother is a transformational event at any age, and yet the number of books on the subject of adult children grieving a mother’s death is meager. In this moving collection of poems and letters, Donna Stoneham chronicles the healing power of love between an adult daughter and her elderly mother—across the boundaries of this world and the next, and over the course of four years—and how that connection teaches her to love more deeply, to fully forgive, and to grow into her authentic self.

An embracing solace for anyone recovering from the loss of a loved one, Catch Me When I Fall reveals how our grief journeys can be a powerful transformative force and offers readers a courageous, healing path to the other side of sorrow’s dark passage. Through the conversations between mother and daughter that take place in these lyrical pieces, readers are provided with the opportunity to explore a beautiful notion: as long as we keep our hearts open to the mystery and transformational power of transcendent, eternal love, it will always be possible to heal and continue our most pivotal relationships—even after death.


Erica Reid’s debut collection, Ghost Man on Second, traces a daughter’s search for her place in the world after estrangement from her parents. Reid writes, “It’s hard to feel at home unless I’m aching.” Growing from this sense of isolation, Reid’s poems create new homes in nature, in mythology, and in poetic forms—including sestinas, sonnets,


and golden shovels—containers that create and hold new realizations and vantage points. Reid stands up to members of her family, asking for healing amid dissolving bonds. These poems move through emotional registers, embodying nostalgia, hurt, and hope. Throughout Ghost Man on Second, the poems portray Reid’s active grappling with home and confrontation with the ghosts she finds there.


Artist and author Nancy Stone took life for granted–until she was thrust into the unchosen role of caregiver for her spouse of fifty years. Her husband’s decline has changed every aspect of their relationship–except their love. In poems that show the change of emotions along with insights for coping with loss and grief and the metaphor found in nature–water, light and shadow–Stone breaks down the silence and stigma associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease, and offers a calming guide for others dealing with the devastation and exhaustion of caregiving. Her poems and art offer glimmers of gratitude, courage, and resilience for moving forward with love in your heart during challenging times.


In the wake of the untimely death of the author’s younger sister and isolated by the pandemic, Rikkers produced Morning Leaves, a book of vulnerable, evocative, and ultimately hopeful poems. She introduces her story and explains how counseling, the artistic process, and nature helped her through the healing process.

Her poems, paired with Kelly Leahy Radding’s stunningly realistic botanical paintings, metaphorically describe the range of emotions she passes through while grieving.

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Rikkers seizes the opportunity to be attentive to who she is and, more importantly, who she wants to be, leaving space for the reader to do the same. Her writing is soulful, open, and accessible and the artwork is exquisite. Ultimately, readers are invited to reflect on themselves as they address the grief and loss they have experienced in their own lives.


Jillian Nejat is the only dating and relationship expert on the planet who is incapable of speaking to men. If they’re living, if they’re breathing, it’s game over. With her bank account at zero, her career a dumpster fire, and her dating life in a tenyear slump, she moves into a tiny, dirt-cheap NYC apartment. Unfortunately, the apartment is already occupied.

Daniel (no-last-name) is a sexy, shirtless, six-pack wielding heartthrob who is also…dead. He isn’t living. He isn’t breathing. He’s a ghost. He’s also the only man on the planet that Jillian can talk to. Soon, Daniel’s convinced that it’s his afterlife mission to resurrect Jillian’s love life. He knows, if he helps her fall in love then he can move on. Jillian agrees. The last thing she needs is a Lothario ghost haunting her living room. But then, one practice date leads to another, one confession leads to more, and suddenly Jillian fears she’s falling for the one man she can never have.


Love in War is a new historical romance novel that portrays a passionate story of young love growing out of the cauldron of war. Based on a true story, it is being made into a feature film. The Spanish Civil War, waged in the late 1930s, was one of the most destructive in European history, pitting families against one another. The fascist regimes supported the Nationalists, who ultimately won the war, while the Soviet Union, and American and European artists and writers, including Ernest Hemingway, backed the Second Spanish Republic.



Hannah Kent and Oliver Jennings pledged their hearts to each other as children. Now, years later, Hannah is thrilled to receive an invitation to spend the summer at Oliver’s family’s country estate. The path to wedded bliss is clear―so long as Oliver’s highbrow older brother, Damon, has ceased his juvenile antics, Hannah’s future looks bright indeed.

But from the moment Hannah arrives at Summerhaven, nothing is as she expected. Oliver seems disinterested in renewing their acquaintance, and Damon is not the brutish boy she remembers but a man intent on avoiding marriage. Although she has loathed Damon her whole life, when he contrives a ruse designed to win them both what they desire, Hannah warily agrees. All she has to do to reclaim Oliver’s attention is pretend to be madly in love with Damon. But when Damon is surprisingly convincing in his role as a suitor, it proves difficult to discern the line between pretense and true love.

Science Fiction:


After 35 years of living on the Moon, cranky old oxygen farmer Millennium Harrison has stumbled onto a hidden facility in the shadows of the Slayton Ridge Exclusion Zone with a radiation leak and a deadly secret. Mil’s discovery leads to the death of a young astronaut, sabotage, murder, and cover-ups that may go all the way to the Chief Administrator of the space agency. Unfortunately, she happens to be Mil’s estranged daughter, busy trying to secure her own legacy―the first international mission to Mars.

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With time ticking down to a limited launch window, enemies, friends, and even family may do anything to ensure the truth doesn’t come out. Or will history finally catch up with a deadly scheme that has the potential to destroy the moon and eradicate all life on Earth? It seems the planet’s only hope is a cantankerous guy who never really liked those people in the first place.


Apollo 32, commanded by career astronaut Vivian Carter, docks at NASA’s Columbia space station en route to its main mission: exploring the volcanic Marius Hills region of the Moon. Vivian is caught in the crossfire as four Soviet Soyuz craft appear without warning to assault the orbiting station. In an unplanned and desperate move, Vivian spacewalks through hard vacuum back to her Lunar Module and crew and escapes right before the station falls into Soviet hands.

Their original mission scrubbed, Vivian and her crew are redirected to land at Hadley Base, a NASA scientific outpost with a crew of eighteen. But soon Hadley, too, will come under Soviet attack, forcing its unarmed astronauts to daring acts of ingenuity and improvisation.

With multiple viewpoints, shifting from American to Soviet perspective, from occupied space station to American Moon base under siege, to a covert and blistering US Air Force military response, Hot Moon tells the gripping story of a war in space that very nearly might have been.


For every baby born, another human must die. Unthinkably, planet Earth has run out of room. There’s not enough food nor resources to sustain the masses. Those who do not contribute


toward the common good and survival of humans are considered expendable. Man has devised a fascinatingly morbid survival competition to eliminate anyone who deviates from the law. The good hunt the bad to keep the population in check. Those who cross their neighbors tally a high “violation count” and will be marked for termination.

Maximum Capacity challenges the reader’s imagination with fascinating new concepts. They will immerse themselves in a dystopian world where planet Earth is dying, the good people of the world are taking control, and man desperately searches for new, habitable planets in an attempt to avoid extinction.


A slender novel of epic power, Orbital deftly snapshots one day in the lives of six women and men hurtling through space—not towards the moon or the vast unknown, but around our planet. Selected for one of the last space station missions of its kind before the program is dismantled, these astronauts and cosmonauts—from America, Russia, Italy, Britain, and Japan—have left their lives behind to travel at a speed of over seventeen thousand miles an hour as the earth reels below. We glimpse moments of their earthly lives through brief communications with family, their photos and talismans; we watch them whip up dehydrated meals, float in gravity-free sleep, and exercise in regimented routines to prevent atrophying muscles; we witness them form bonds that will stand between them and utter solitude. Most of all, we are with them as they behold and record their silent blue planet. Their experiences of sixteen sunrises and sunsets and the bright, blinking constellations of the galaxy are at once breathtakingly awesome and surprisingly intimate. So are the marks of civilization far below, encrusted on the planet on which we live.

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Young Adult:


East Texas, 1972. Sixteen-year-old Leni O’Hare spends her free time drawing and galloping her mare across the chaparral. Horse crazy and rebellious, she fears her dream of becoming an artist will be thwarted by her strict mother, the small-town values of her community, and her family’s meager finances. A desperate bid to save her beloved mare from being sold brings her together with Caleb McGrath, the brainy and gentle scion of the county’s richest rancher, whose dream of becoming a physicist also pushes the bounds of their town and defies his family’s expectations. When tragedy strikes Leni’s family, and Caleb’s brother returns from Vietnam angry and dangerous, the two grow closer and make a plan to leave and start a life together. Before they can go, though, Leni learns of something she fears will derail Caleb’s hard-earned shot at the future he wants. Choosing to keep what she’s learned secret, she sets them on sudden and separate paths.

New York City, 1986. Leni, now an artist and activist, and Caleb, now engaged and working on Wall Street, meet once again. Their old passion reignites. Can their love for one another overcome the choices made in the past? And when Leni’s secret—one that impacts not only Leni and Caleb but also four generations of Leni’s family—is finally revealed, will it be too late for them?


Fourteen-year-old Reese’s dream of winning the Black Elk race is shattered when her beloved horse, Trusted Treasure, falls at the last jump and the vet suggests they put him down. While still reeling from that loss, her family suffers a second


tragedy—one that results in the end of their family business, the sale of Trusted Treasure, and irreparable damage to Reese’s relationship with her father.

Heartbroken and still longing to find Trusted Treasure, Reese meets Wes, a selective mute, whose way of training horses is unlike anything she’s ever seen. If anyone can win the Black Elk, it’s Wes—but he’s struggling with his troubled past, and having a teenage girl hanging around his barn isn’t exactly what he’d planned. Through heartaches and triumphs, Reese must prove her worth if she wants to heal her family, help Wes, and show them all that some dreams are worth fighting for.

A spellbinding tale in which every teenager has magical powers within them just waiting to be discovered, this book will have you laughing and crying—sometimes on the same page—all the while rooting for Reese, the most unlikely of heroes.


On the second day of ninth grade, introverted Frances meets Sonja, a witty and outgoing newcomer recently moved from France, and the girls become instant soulmates. The two teens are euphoric about their blossoming relationship, relishing a depth of understanding for each other they’ve never experienced with anyone else. Frances is charmed by Sonja’s energy and worldliness, while Sonja adores Frances’s sense of calm and dependability. She’s also taken with Frances’s close-knit family, especially her older brother, Will. Led by Sonja, the girls declare their goal to become “visible” at their high school, dubbing themselves “The Poets” and rallying their classmates to enter the homecoming parade with a poetry-mobile built from Frances’s father’s old band bus.

But as their friendship grows, so do the expectations. Family crises impact both girls— Sonja’s parents are caught in a bitter divorce, and Frances’s father suffers from bipolar disorder. When Sonja’s mother attempts suicide, Sonja temporarily moves in with Frances and her family. Sonja’s dominating personality begins to overwhelm Frances,

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causing her to doubt herself and her own talents. And when Sonja’s infatuation with Will becomes obsessive, Frances feels manipulated and attempts to set some boundaries. For Sonja, there is no middle ground, and she sees Frances’ efforts to regain her independence as the ultimate betrayal.


Neurodivergent high school student CeeCee Harper has a temper and a reputation for trouble. Angry at the rumors and afraid she’ll never fit in, she makes a wrong move—and lands in the byways, a world of alleys, magic, and forgotten people . . . some that aren’t even human. And if she doesn’t escape quickly, CeeCee learns, she’ll be trapped for good.

Searching for a way out, she gets lost among monsters, drug pushers, the homeless, and political upheaval, and soon finds there are those who will stop at nothing to keep her from leaving. But the byways pull people in for a reason. CeeCee must figure out why she got stuck in the first place—before her loved ones are put in danger and she loses them forever.

A dark retelling of Alice in Wonderland meets Neverwhere, this contemporary fantasy will enchant Neil Gaiman and Christina Henry fans.


Noah loves his nighttime reading ritual with his dad. Stuck in a small new town after the pandemic caused his parents’ marriage to fracture, the curious thirteen-year-old happily explores the peculiar local bookstore. But when the lonely youngster takes home a firefighter’s old diary, he’s amazed when it transforms him into the book’s owner and transports him across space and time to a blazing building.


Distracted by a close friendship he’s developing with a smart schoolmate, Noah is certain the heat and confusion were just a frightening dream. But when he sits down to continue the fascinating story, he realizes he’s facing scarily real life-or-death situations… and his actions could change history.

Can he master the weird magic and make sure no one gets hurt?

The Phantom Firefighter is the action-filled first book in the First Responder fantasy series. If you like adventurous kids, clever humor, and pages jam-packed with suspense, then you’ll love J.W. Jarvis’s blending of reality and enchantment.


Historical fiction meets crime fiction in The Djinn's Apple, an award-winning YA murder mystery set in the Abbasid period—the golden age of Baghdad.

A ruthless murder. A magical herb. A mysterious manuscript.

When Nardeen’s home is stormed by angry men frantically in search of something—or someone— she is the only one who manages to escape. And after the rest of her family is left behind and murdered, Nardeen sets out on an unyielding mission to bring her family’s killers to justice, regardless of the cost…

Biography & Autobiography:

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In August 1939, Alice Marble graced the cover of Life magazine, photographed by the famed Alfred Eisenstaedt. She was a glamorous worldwide celebrity, having that year won singles, women’s doubles, and mixed doubles tennis titles at both Wimbledon and the US Open, then an unprecedented feat. Yet today one of America’s greatest female athletes and most charismatic characters is largely forgotten. Queen of the Court places her back on center stage.

Born in 1913, Marble grew up in San Francisco; her favorite sport, baseball. Given a tennis racket at age 13, she took to the sport immediately, rising to the top with a powerful, aggressive serve-and-volley style unseen in women’s tennis. A champion at the height of her fame in the late 1930s, she also designed a clothing line in the off-season and sang as a performer in the Sert Room of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York to rave reviews. World War II derailed her amateur tennis career, but her life off the court was, if anything, even more eventful. She wrote a series of short books about famous women. She turned professional and joined a pro tour during the War, entertaining and inspiring soldiers and civilians alike. Ever glamorous and connected, she had a part in the 1952 Tracy and Hepburn movie Pat and Mike, and she played tennis with the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Marlene Dietrich, and her great friends, Clark Gable and Carole Lombard. However, perhaps her greatest legacy lies in her successful efforts, working largely alone, to persuade the all-white US Lawn Tennis Association to change its policy and allow African American star Althea Gibson to compete for the US championship in 1950, thereby breaking tennis’s color barrier.


In certain circles, her name inspires immediate recognition and pronouncements of a committed admiration that has likely spanned decades. As an author, Marguerite Henry was indeed remarkably prolific, with 59 books published, millions of copies sold, and nearly 80 years of her life spent writing them—or


responding personally to the stacks of fan mail she received—at her typewriter. Her books, most meticulously researched historical fiction about influential horses and the hosts of fascinating characters who surrounded them—to name just a few, her Newbery Award winner King of the Wind, the book that changed an island Misty of Chincoteague, and the glowingly reviewed Justin Morgan Had a Horse—have had an outsized influence on those who grew up reading them, ultimately leading to writing careers, lives dedicated to riding and caring for horses and other animals, and even fan memoirs describing Henry’s impact.

But despite a professional existence that became profoundly public, particularly after Misty of Chincoteague, published in 1947, became a bestseller and eventually a popular feature film in 1961, Henry’s own life was mostly shielded from view.

With particular purpose to uncover what is little known about the author, as well as superb instincts for illustrating fascinating details that help readers construct the settings in which Henry’s creative mind, intensive historical and scholarly research, and storytelling ability matured and evolved, accomplished journalist and author Lettie Teague has provided a unique biography that is as much a pleasure to read as her subject’s own books. Highlighting over a dozen titles that represent, to Teague, not only the best of Marguerite Henry’s work but help tell the story of Marguerite Henry herself, and following the trail of some of her remarkable collaborators—most importantly, the charismatic and talented artist Wesley Dennis—Teague gives Henry fans what they always strived for through their thousands of letters: personal connection.



Based on the sermon series that garnered top honors from Yale Divinity School, Finding Joy on Death Row is the powerful story of a broken preacher’s transformative experience learning about joy from Death Row prisoners, combined with dramatic handwritten responses from more than twenty men

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currently sentenced to die.

In Finding Joy on Death Row: Unexpected Lessons from Lives We Discarded, Williams journeys into the hearts and minds of those sentenced to death, illuminating for readers the ways in which the human spirit can suffer--and soar.

Finding Joy on Death Row includes dozens of handwritten statements from those facing capital punishment. The testimonies and contemplations of those sentenced to die offer readers a unique opportunity to hear from individuals whose lives are marked by their looming execution. And yet these prisoners have--in the midst of grim circumstances-managed to find joy.



If you or someone you love just found out they have cancer, more specifically breast cancer, this is a must-read or must-gift book. Follow two friends diagnosed at the exact same time through their varying journeys. Realizing that the bond with each other and their relationships with the Heavenly Father became the key ingredients to healing, these women share their stories, devotions, and recipes to pay their good fortune forward to others facing similar battles. Their conversations inspired and encouraged each other and will do the same for all those who read this personal and beautifully illustrated memoir.



Drafted! tells the story of Henry Morgan Miller’s year in Vietnam at the invitation of Lyndon B. Johnson. It is the story of a meat-cutter—wannabe commercial airline pilot—whose life was rudely interrupted by being inducted into a war that he considered someone else’s battle for a lost cause. It’s a story that could describe many of the almost 300,000 men drafted in 1968 along with Morgan, or, for that matter, the 1.85 million drafted between 196473. It is the story of your brother, your son, your friend— some who came home safe and sound, and others who perished, or were no longer whole.

In his book, Morgan also exposes a major mechanical issue with Vietnam-era Cobra helicopters; so serious that had they been Ford cars they would have been subject to a major recall. He suggests that Cobra helicopter pilots were guinea pigs for aircraft plagued with serious, not to mention deadly, hydraulic problems.

Drafted! is for readers who want to experience what it was like, on a day-to-day basis, to go through basic training, learn to fly gunships, and then be shipped out to the Vietnam warzone. What it’s like to be shot at and shot down. To serve your country honorably, while fighting a war you don’t believe in, only to return and be ostracized by a misguided faction of the general public.



Lauren Kay Johnson is just seven when she first experiences a sacrifice of war as her mother, a nurse in the Army Reserves, deploys in support of Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. A decade later, in the wake of 9/11, Lauren signs her own military contract and deploys to a small Afghan province with a noncombat nation-building team. Through her role as the team’s information operations officer-the filter between the U.S.

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military and the Afghan and international publics-and through interviews and letters from her mother’s service, Lauren investigates the role of information in war and in interpersonal relationships, often wrestling with the truth in stories we read and hear from the media and official sources, and in those stories we tell ourselves and our families.

A powerful generational coming-of-age narrative against the backdrop of war, The Fine Art of Camouflage reveals the impact from a child’s perspective of watching her mother leave and return home to a hero’s welcome to that of a young idealist volunteering to deploy to Afghanistan who, war-worn, eventually questions her place in the war, the military, and her family history—and their place within her.


A chronicle of the divergent journeys of a Vietnamese father, who fled his home country in desperation, and his American-born daughter, who ventured to Vietnam as an adult, capturing the stark contrast between their perspectives as they strive to heal the long-term wounds of war refugees.

In this captivating, heartfelt dual memoir, Christina Vo and her father, Nghia M. Vo, delve into themes of their identity, heritage, and the tragic multi-generational ordeals of war, with intertwined stories that present a multifaceted portrayal of Vietnam and its profound influence on shaping both familial bonds and individual identities across time.

Nghia M. Vo left Vietnam in April 1975 with only the clothes on his back, following the US withdrawal of troops and the fall of Saigon. After a harrowing two month journey, he found himself in a refugee camp outside Harrisburg, Pennsylvania where he began the painful process of reconnecting with his family and rebuilding his life as a medical doctor. Christina Vo, Nghia’s daughter, grew up in the US. As a restless young adult, she felt a longing to connect with her heritage and soon moved to Hanoi in the former North Vietnam—much to her father’s distress—to discover a country that had changed


dramatically since the war, yet retained many of the ancient traits experienced by her ancestors.




The Civil War is most remembered for the grand battles that have come to define it: Gettysburg, Antietam, Shiloh, among others. However, as bestselling author Patrick K. O’Donnell reveals in The Unvanquished, a vital shadow war raged amid and away from the major battlefields that was in many ways equally consequential to the conflict’s outcome.

At the heart of this groundbreaking narrative is the epic story of Lincoln’s special forces, the Jessie Scouts, told in its entirety for the first time. In a contest fought between irregular units, the Scouts hunted John Singleton Mosby’s Confederate Rangers from the middle of 1863 up to war’s end at Appomattox. With both sides employing pioneering tradecraft, they engaged in dozens of raids and spy missions, often perilously wearing the other’s uniform, risking penalty of death if captured. Clashing violently on horseback, the unconventional units attacked critical supply lines, often capturing or killing high-value targets. North and South deployed special operations that could have changed the war’s direction in 1864, and crucially during the Appomattox Campaign, Jessie Scouts led the Union Army to a final victory. They later engaged in a history-altering proxy war against France in Mexico, earning seven Medals of Honor; many Scouts mysteriously disappeared during that conflict, taking their stories to their graves.

An expert on special operations, O’Donnell transports readers into the action, immersing them in vivid battle scenes from previously unpublished firsthand accounts. He introduces indelible characters such as Scout Archibald Rowand; Scout leader Richard Blazer; Mosby, the master of guerrilla warfare; and enslaved spy Thomas Laws.

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O’Donnell also brings to light the Confederate Secret Service’s covert efforts to deliver the 1864 election to Peace Democrats through ballot fraud, election interference, and attempts to destabilize a population fatigued by a seemingly forever war. Most audaciously, the Secret Service and Mosby’s Rangers planned to kidnap Abraham Lincoln in order to maintain the South’s independence.

A little-known chronicle of the shadow war between North and South, rich in action and offering original perspective on history, The Unvanquished is a dynamic and essential addition to the literature of the Civil War.



In February 1944, in one of the most astonishing battles of World War II, a ragtag collection of British clerks, drivers, doctors, muleteers, and other base troops, stiffened by a few dogged Yorkshiremen and a handful of tank crews, managed to defeat a much larger and sophisticated contingent of some of the finest infantry in the Japanese army on their march towards India.

What became known as the Battle of the Admin Box, fought amongst the paddy fields and jungle of Northern Arakan over a fifteen-day period, turned the battle for Burma. Not only was it the first decisive victory for Allied troops against the Japanese, more significantly, it demonstrated how the Japanese could be defeated. Lessons learned in this otherwise insignificant corner of the Far East set up the campaign in Burma that would follow, as General William Slim’s Fourteenth Army finally turned the tide of the war in the East.

In Burma ’44, acclaimed World War II historian James Holland offers a dramatic tale of victory against incredible odds. As momentous as the Battle of the Bulge ten months later, the Admin Box was a triumph of human grit and heroism and remains one of the most significant yet underappreciated conflicts of the entire war. In Holland’s hands, it is finally given its proper place in the history of World War II.




On June 6, 1944, the landings from the greatest armada of ships ever assembled began at 0630hrs. Overnight, paratroopers from the British 6th Airborne Division had secured the eastern flank of the landing zone with the US 82nd and 101st Airborne Division securing the western flank to reduce the risk of German counterattacks. The Allied battle, codenamed “Operation Overlord,” had begun.

In Churchill’s D-Day, Richard Dannatt, former leader of the British Army, and Allen Packwood, one of the world’s foremost Churchill experts, capture the British Bulldog’s emotional turmoil and epic decision-making before, during, and after the world-defining action of D-Day. Culled from the official Churchill Papers at the Churchill Archives Centre, this book features historical documents, photographs, letters, and more, for a documentary Churchillian experience of D-Day leadership, military strategy, and humanity.

As the people of Great Britain awake to the news of the landings on their radios, the burden of making a formal statement to the House of Commons falls on the shoulders of their prime minister. While Churchill is aware of the huge responsibility he bears for the British soldiers and French civilians, knowing his political opponents will question his leadership, no one else in the world is aware of the conversations, innermost thoughts, and deliberations leading up to the decisions he’s made and will continue to make on this day. Everything hangs in the balance.


Now that you’ve read through this list, what books did you add to your own list to be read this summer? With fifty books, hopefully, you found a few that you’d like to read, and maybe you could even share the list with a friend.

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Latest releases, award winners, and more!


Boxing in fixed fights just to provide for her brother, Eve accidentally stumbles in the strange kingdom of Walyre, where few lucky persons have innate powers called Blessings. At first, it seems Eve can find a place of contentment and peace in this new world, a brief escape from the horrid obligations in her own reality. Prince of Walyre, Safir Astana, suffers under his Blessing that forces those around him to experience exactly what he’s feels and recalls from his torturous childhood. Upon meeting Eve, he discovers that her mere presence can impede Blessings. Divine intervention or random luck? A story of shared grief and trepidations love, watch these two strangers find their own purpose in their respective worlds while having the worst things in common.

J. J. PARK is a Kentucky native who hordes yarn and plays Dungeons & Dragons. Having made an enemy of brevity, J.J. has played the long game since she wrote an essay in the fifth grade about her favorite place in the world. Writing was always seen as a creative hobby for those around her and rarely deemed as a responsible career choice. She’s pursued multiple degrees to attain a secure job in healthcare, specifically inpatient physical therapy, to financially support her lofty dream of becoming an author. Despite facing thyroid cancer, ACL reconstruction, and even her cat catching fire...twice, she's pursued writing, overcoming 60 rejections to debut as a novelist. Her first debut novel is a result of her endeavors. J.J. fully expects to expand upon her dreams with the help of her immensely supportive friends, family, and one pyrophobic cat.


40 Years of Texas Storytelling.

“ Brimming with heart, grace, and grit

... These stories from the Texas Storytelling Festival shimmer and sparkle like a radiant Texas sunset. Celebrate four decades of captivating storytelling, from true, heartfelt personal narratives resonating with raw honesty, to the rhythmic cadence of cowboy poetry echoing across the vast landscape, to tales taller than the towering Texas Sky and stretching wider than the expansive horizon. Each of these diverse stories reflects the gentle humor and generous spirit which define the Texan soul. Forty Years of Texas Storytelling is a celebration of tradition and the enduring legacy that is the Texas Storytelling Festival.”

—Alton Takiyama-Chung, Storyteller ( and Editor- In-Chief of The Story Beast, a quarterly e-Publication dedicated to the art of storytelling (


The TSA Fortieth Anniversary Book Committee of Jaye McLaughlin, Hank Roubicek, Peggy Helmick-Richardson, and Chester Weems would like to make a special tribute to Parkhurst Brothers Publishers, for its part in development of Forty Years of Texas Storytelling. To them, this was more than a business project. Ted Parkhurst has been a longtime supporter of the Tejas Storytelling Association. He has provided exhibits, moderated sessions, and given overall support for many years, and not just to Tejas, but storytelling across the nation. Ted and his wife, Linda, the lead graphic designer on this project, have gone an extra mile to see this book through to completion. We appreciate them.

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How They Linger.

In these stories of fondly remembered people ... each exemplifying an enduring virtue— Donald Davis both entertains and inspires. As a frequent featured performer at the National Storytelling Festival (USA), he has revealed himself to be a deeply caring, wondrously talented storyteller. This book encapsulates his gentle wisdom and understanding of human nature.

“The wonderful Celtic scholar John O’Donahue once said, ‘Beauty is a homecoming.’ Donald Davis is a homecoming. There is nothing, I mean nothing, like witnessing Donald Davis tell a story. This collection takes me closer to that experience than I thought possible. His voice jumps from the page.”

—Kevin Kling, storyteller and author of The Dog Says How.



Donald Davis, a native of Waynesville, North Carolina, was educated at Davidson College and Duke Divinity School. A retired Methodist Minister, Davis tours the country, telling stories and conducting workshops. He is a regular headliner at the National Storytelling Festival and has been a featured storyteller at the Smithsonian Institution and the World’s Fair. He lives with his wife, Trish, on Ocracoke Island.


An Enemy Like Me.

What Would You Do for Love?

An Enemy Like Me, written by award-winning author Teri M Brown, is a powerful novel of love, war, and the complexities of family and identity.

How does a man show his love - for country, for heritage, for family - during a war that sets the three at odds? What sets in motion the necessity to choose one over the other? How will this choice change everything and everyone he loves?

Jacob Miller, a first-generation American, grew up in New Berlin, a small German immigrant town in Ohio where he endured the Great Depression, met his wife, and started a family. Though his early years were not easy, Jacob believes he is headed toward his 'happily ever after' until a friend is sent to an internment camp for enemy combatants, and the war lands resolutely on his doorstep.

In An Enemy Like Me, Teri M Brown uses the backdrop of World War II to show the angst experienced by Jacob, his wife, and his fouryear-old son as he left for and fought in a war he did not create.



Born in Athens, Greece as an Air Force brat, Teri M Brown came into this world with an imagination full of stories to tell. She now calls the North Carolina coast home, and the peaceful nature of the sea has been a great source of inspiration for her creativity.

Not letting 2020 get the best of her, Teri chose to go on an adventure that changed her outlook on life. She and her husband, Bruce, rode a tandem bicycle across the United States from Astoria, Oregon to Washington DC, successfully raising money for Toys for Tots. She learned she is stronger than she realized and capable of anything she sets her mind to.

Teri is a wife, mother, grandmother, and author who loves word games, reading, bumming on the beach, taking photos, singing in the shower, hunting for bargains, ballroom dancing, playing bridge, and mentoring others.

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Held and Free.

In one moment, author Meagan O’Nan’s life changed. She suddenly found herself an outsider, both to the life she had known and to the life she did not yet know. A gay woman in Mississippi, she had been outed —and she wasn’t ready for it.

Feeling unworthy of the life she had always wanted, Meagan left her home and all that was familiar to her in order to find herself. At rock bottom, she screamed to the Universe, “I want to be loved the way that I love!” It was in this desperate moment that her answer came. It wasn’t what she had expected; it required her to break down all the walls she had built around her heart from her coming out experience. It required her to heal.

The only way for her to be Held And Free was to return to Mississippi and come out of her story.



Meagan O’Nan is an award-winning author, keynote speaker, and vulnerable storytelling expert. She is the author of the award-winning book, “Creating Your Heaven on Earth,” “Courage: Agreeing to Disagree Is Not Enough,” and "Held And Free." Meagan is also a member of the Forbes Coaches Council where she produces regular content for

Meagan has spoken to thousands of people at live events since 2008, including alongside internationally recognized spiritual leaders such as don Miguel Ruiz, author of the bestselling book, “The Four Agreements,” and she has appeared multiple times in local and national media. Meagan even received a personal note from Desmond Tutu after hearing a talk of hers on forgiveness. Meagan is passionate about creating deeper connections through speaking, workshops, and through her executive speaker coaching. Her approach is unique in that she uses storytelling as a way to overcome differences and generate healing.


Gothic Revival.

The Psychological Thriller Inspired by the Creation of Frankenstein

Chris, Anne, Fiona, and Lauren were inseparable friends while earning MFAs in Creative Writing. Years later they've grown apart and are surprised to receive an invitation to a reunion from the fifth member of their group, Eric, a successful screenwriter. Eric flies them to a remote lake villa where he reveals his new obsession: their group is a modern version of the famous one from Villa Diodati in 1816, the iconic literary event during which Frankenstein was created. Chris and Anne are their Percy and Mary Shelley. The free-spirited artist Fiona is like Claire Clairmont. Instead of Dr. Polidori, they have Lauren, PhD in Victorian History. That leaves Eric, the Hollywood player, as Lord Byron. Like Byron, Eric proposes they write ghost stories, an homage to their famous predecessors. Laughter, creativity, and reminiscence are soon replaced with deceit, suspicion, and fear. What is the self-proclaimed clairvoyant Fiona seeing and hearing? Why does Eric lie? What does the creepy old housekeeper know about their host? Tensions grow as relationships are tested until a shocking discovery reveals the true intention for the reunion.



My author career began with a twisted fairytale retelling about the unknown 8th dwarf which turned into a trilogy of such tales. Over the years I've received book awards and industry recognition for which I'm very grateful. I'm currently working on a business plan for an educational company that uses the fairytale trilogy, TaleSpins, as curriculum to teach things like empathy and anti-bullying.

I've written marketing materials for the merch divisions of Disney, DreamWorks, 20th Century Fox, and Universal, but I gave all that up because I was tired of selling people junk that was just going to end up in a landfill. Before I was a writer, I was a preschool teacher and college professor, two positions I found disconcertingly similar.

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Trouble lurks in the Lowcountry of South Carolina in the guise of a family feud, forbidden love, and a journalist hell-bent on uncovering corruption.

Meet Zingle Caddell, who doesn't regret the destruction left in his wake so much as he is annoyed by it. Figuring no man can continue to have such bad luck, Zingle is waiting for his fortunes to improve. He knows what he likes--alcohol, women, and family, in about that order--and he'll continue on with them as before. That is, until he's surprised by a violent encounter with his match, Jessie Bell, when her stepdaughter doesn't come home as expected. Bad blood is rampant between the Bells and the Caddells by the time Jessie's daughter and Zingle's nephew unwittingly fall in love. Forbidden to see one another, the couple must decide how much they're willing to risk. Is it worth being ostracized from their families? Destitution? Their very lives?


Sophia Alexander writes character-driven historical fiction that grips readers' emotions and surprises them with unexpected twists. A Lowcountry native, she is the award-winning author of the Silk Trilogy. Her writing is inspired by historical fact, genealogical investigations, intuitive guesswork, and fanciful romanticizations. Sophia is a graduate of the College of Charleston and Bastyr University. She lives with her husband in Savannah, GA. Visit to sign up for her newsletter.


Midnight in Syria.

Midnight in Syria is a Pentagon-approved, real-world story that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end.

The next Book in the Special Forces Connection series takes you to the far deserts of the Middle East. Dakota is an intrepid journalist set on making a name for herself, and while she hoped to sneak into Syria to write a story of a lifetime, she never expected to get trapped there. With no one to turn to, and the Civil War unfolding in front of her very eyes, the only chance of escape is with a mysterious Special Operator who is full of intrigue and guile - but it might already be too little too late.

Dive into this real-world riveting tale of courage, sacrifice, and resilience, that takes you on the ultimate journey, while following the delicate love story of two people pushed to their limits. Contrasted by the painful realities of war, politics, and lives in between, this book is guaranteed to strike at the heart and mind of every reader, and will immerse them into the complexities of the decade long Syrian civil war that has already claimed more than half a million lives.



Jacek committed his first crime when he was three months old smuggling Solidarity propaganda paperwork to Polish resistance leaders in prison. His father was the cofounder to the 1980s antiCommunist Solidarity movement, and his family had a choice, get traded to the Soviet's or become political refugees. Two pieces of luggage later, they made it to America. His Dad, Leszek Waliszewski, was the first Solidarity Member to brief Congress, and his parents worked multiple jobs to make ends meet.

Jacek is now a Dad, a writer, and a Special Forces Green Beret. He's traveled the world, run with the Bulls in Pamplona, and while deployed, earned his bachelor’s degree in International Relations from AMU. He then went on to earn a Graduate Diploma in Strategy and Innovation from the University of Oxford.

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Doggerel: Really Bad Poems

These almost 500 poems are broken down into seven categories: Life, Love, Sin, Sex, Nature, death and God.

“Doggerel: Really Bad Poems, is a fresh, unique collection of poems about human life in all its facets. They speak of something personal within each of us…like happiness, sadness, pain, growing older, success, and heartache—even heaven and hell.”

- Reader Views

“…this book is recommended to those who like to delve into the nitty-gritty of existence and the many emotions these experiences can elicit. I would particularly appeal to those who appreciate nononsense writing, and glimpses of lives other than their own.”

- Book Review Directory

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Have you ever read a great book and wished you could find a similar book like it? I know I have, and I’m excited to learn more about an innovative online platform for readers and authors called Shepherd .

Launched in April 2021, entrepreneur Ben Fox started this bootstrap company with his savings, and he also makes money from display advertising, affiliate advertising, and memberships for authors. He also accepts donations. As Shepherd continues to grow, Fox says he aims “to cover 75% to 85% of our costs by the end of this year.”

What is Fox’s big goal for Shepherd? “Nothing will ever replace the ‘bookstore experience,’ but I want to reimagine online book discovery with more serendipity and delight,” he said. “And I want to do that while helping authors bump into the most likely readers for their book.

Authors face an immense battle to get noticed, and I want to help readers find a broader range of authors than the typical top 100 list on Amazon or the New York Times.”

For readers, Fox is focused on two things. “I want to know what books people LOVED, not just what they liked. I want to create fun ways for readers to share the books they love the most (and why),” he says.

He also wants to create profiles of each reader’s Book DNA, a feature he is currently working on. “This will go beyond the typical fivestar review format as the goal is to profile why you love the book so we can help you and other readers like you find books you will love (not just like).”

For now, when readers visit the website, they can search over 10,000 lists that are already available. These lists navigate readers to books they might like to


read. Readers aren’t charged to search through the lists, but Fox says they will “launch a premium reader membership plan as we launch user accounts and more reader features over the next two years.”


So, how are these book recommendation lists created? Authors choose their top five favorite books based on their target audience of their own book. This gives them a chance to show off their voice, expertise, and passion.

As readers search the thousands of lists, they will not only find an author’s list, but they’ll find that author’s book as well. According to Fox, “Not only is that great for readers, but it will create thousands of book recommendation channels for authors to reach different slices of readers.” Fox’s determination to help

authors grow their audience is obvious. “And if their book has that magic spark, I want to help them meet more readers. I don’t want to live in a winner-takes-all book market where we are stuck with the same big-brand authors.”

I am sure most authors would agree with Fox. If you’re not a big name author, marketing is tough. Doing ads is expensive, and many times, authors spend a lot of money and still don’t sell enough books to recoup what they spent.

While Shepherd doesn’t charge authors to create a list for readers, they do offer a membership program as a founding member for a low cost each year. All of the money goes toward building new features and improving ones they’ve already implemented. Eventually, Fox would like to hire a full-time developer in addition to the part-time developer he already has.

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The membership program does give authors a few perks. They get exclusive access to book boost ads to use one time a year. For 60 days, these ads run in various places on the website. A founding member’s list gets shared on the front page of the website. Other perks include first access to new features as they launch plus they get access to Fox, can help influence Shepherd’s feature roadmap, and can even suggest features.

As I’ve already said, Shepherd already has over 10,000 lists, so how are they marketing them to readers? According to Fox, they are “100% focused on two external marketing channels: search engine traffic and email marketing.”

Over the next two years, Fox said they are working to get the website pages ranked on DuckDuckGo, Google, and Bing, but it does take time—at

least three years for Google. He is also working on launching a newsletter for readers. For now, social media isn’t something Fox will do. “We encourage authors to share their book list on social media with their fan base.”

After spending time exploring Shepherd, I can see so much potential for both readers and authors. While it’s a young company, it will grow as word spreads about its features. “It won’t happen overnight, but Shepherd will eventually rival Goodreads because we have a soul,” Fox says.

I hope you’ll take some time to explore Shepherd to see what it can do for you—either as a reader, an author, or both.


Summer Book Festivals.

Explore Summer Book Festivals and Events that Showcase Indie & Self Published Authors.

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Gear up for an unforgettable literary journey this summer by attending one (or more!) of these exciting book festivals! From bustling city events to serene outdoor gatherings, we’ve curated a list of the top book festivals happening this summer. Immerse yourself in the vibrant world of literature, meet your favorite authors, discover new voices, and celebrate the joy of reading with fellow book enthusiasts. Whether you’re a devoted bibliophile or simply looking for a unique cultural experience, these festivals promise to ignite your imagination and leave you inspired long after the last page is turned.


June 1-2, 2024; Berkeley (US)

Our next Bay Area Book Festival will take place in two parts: Family Day at the Berkeley Public Library on Saturday May 4, 2024 (geared towards youngsters through teens/YA) and our full 10th Anniversary festival June 1 & 2, 2024 in Downtown Berkeley. We plan to present the 2024 festival fully in person, with the possibility of some events additionally available via livestream. Barring unforeseen changes in the public health situation, we do not currently plan to host any fully virtual events in 2024.



June 5-7, 2024; Austin Peay State University (US)

Greetings! Every year, the creme de la creme of today’s literary scene gather in Tennessee for the Clarksville Writers Conference, paying homage to the state’s rich history as the birthplace of the southern Renaissance. For almost two decades, the conference has been a sanctuary for those who hold the written word dear. And for those fortunate enough to be in attendance, it will be an unforgettable experience.


June 2-3, 2024; Eastsound (US)

The Orcas Island Lit Fest (OILF) is an annual celebration of literature and community held in an inspiringly beautiful place. With the San Juan Islands as our backdrop, we bring together renowned authors and avid readers, visitors and locals, for a weekend of panels, readings, and events that highlight the vibrant literary culture of the Pacific Northwest and beyond. From Pulitzer Prize winners to gifted new voices, our featured artists from across the country represent the finest in contemporary fiction, nonfiction, poetry, playwriting, and more. The Orcas Island Lit Fest is your opportunity to engage with world-class writers and their work in an intimate, inclusive setting that welcomes everyone who loves books.

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2024; Riverview Conference Center (US)

The Cedar Falls Christian Writers Conference welcomes both new and established writers, as well as anyone interested in the writer’s craft. Their purpose is to glorify God and His Son Jesus Christ through all their endeavors while encouraging others in the art of writing. The conference, held in Cedar Falls, Iowa, offers a unique opportunity to explore writing, improve writing skills, and learn about getting published and marketed. The theme for this year’s conference is “Lighting the Path to Publication”.




2024; Wingham (CA)

The Alice Munro Festival of the Short Story is inspired by one of the greatest storytellers of our time, Alice Munro. Born and raised in Wingham, Munro has spent most of her life as a Huron County resident. She is the only Canadian to be awarded the Nobel prize for literature, which she won in 2013. The Alice Munro Festival of the Short Story strives to nurture emerging local writers, showcase Canadian authors, and celebrate the joy of reading, writing and telling our stories. This annual festival takes place across Huron County and features workshops, author readings, presentations, performances and a short story contest.



June 13-16, 2024; Dalkey Co. (IE)

The Dalkey Book Festival is an annual literature festival held in Dalkey, County Dublin, Ireland, for four days in June. The festival includes 60+ events celebrating Irish and international writing, welcoming some of the world’s leading thinkers to the seaside village.


June 28-30, 2024; Oyster Bay (US)

More than 50 authors will appear at Gold Coast Book Fair June 28-30 on the campus of Long Island University and in downtown Oyster Bay to celebrate books, reading, and the brilliant literary culture of Long Island. Novelists, historians, romance writers, children’s authors, and more will be there! View the full list of authors now!

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July 3-6 2024; Penzance Cornwall (UK)

Known for its friendly atmosphere and strong sense of community, the Penzance LitFest celebrates words in all their many forms, and welcomes contributions that will inspire, entertain and inform our enthusiastic audiences. Over four exciting days, we are bringing an eclectic selection of authors, writers and performers to west Cornwall. Whether your fancy is for fiction, history, poetry, humour or a brain-teasing quiz, this year’s programme has something for you.


July 11-13, 2024; Virtual

A 3-day romance novel con, Romance Slam Jam Book Lovers’ Convention celebrates diversity in publishing. Authors and Readers wanting the VIP publishing industry experience where workshop sessions are LIVE for Q&A and engagement with fellow authors, readers, and industry experts will not want to miss this romance book conference.



July 15-16, 2024; Main Library Columbus (US)

The Columbus Book Festival features a lineup of 200+ national and Columbusbased authors, panel discussions, author talks, book signings and more! The Festival Marketplace is filled with dozens of bookish retailers, community exhibitors, an entertainment lineup, local food court and the popular Indie Author Alley pavilion and Friends of the Library Big Book Sale tent. As always, this event is free and open to all book lovers.


August 2-3, 2024; Downtown Lewisburg (US)

Since 2012 the Lewisburg Literary Festival has been celebrating literature and promoting reading in the Greenbrier Valley by featuring bestselling authors speaking about their works, offering writing workshops, providing booksellers with a venue and presenting ancillary events ranging from movies and plays to hands-on activities for adults and children. All events are free to the public, with costs underwritten by grants from local family foundations and the City of Lewisburg, and sponsorships from businesses and individuals.

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August 24, 2024; Walter E. Washington Convention Center (US)

The 2024 National Book Festival will be held in the nation’s capital at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on Saturday, August 24, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. (doors open at 8:30 a.m.). The event is free and open to the public. A selection of programs will be livestreamed online and videos of all programs will be available shortly after the Festival.


August 14-24, 2024; Ripton (US)

The Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, founded in 1926, is one of the oldest and finest of its kind in the country. The conference features workshops in poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction, as well as lectures; craft classes; meetings with editors, agents, and publishers; and readings by faculty and guests..


Seminal Moments

Along the road of life there can be many adventures. They can be real or imagined or personal or hearsay, and the next one may be just over the hill.

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Elevating Mothers’ Voices: An Interview with Amanda K Jaros

Editor of Labor of Love: A

Literary Mama Anthology


Freelance writer and editor Amanda K. Jaros has a strong connection to the online journal Literary Mama. She started there as a blog editor and eventually worked her way up the editorial ladder to editor-in-chief. During that time, she helped give voice to countless mothers who wanted to share their wisdom and stories. Amanda recently took on the role of curating works for Labor of Love: A Literary Mama Staff Anthology, which celebrates the journal and staff as well as motherhood and the people who experience it.


AJ: When I first found Literary Mama, my son was about six, and I was struggling to find a community of moms as well as a community of writers. I felt new to both worlds. I had been writing a mom blog for a while when I discovered the LM blog. I loved the literary focus combined with the motherhood focus, and I knew I had found a place to settle in. As I grew into my life as a mom and a writer, I started to see how both roles are so undervalued in our society, and thus how important it is to elevate mothers’ and artists’ voices. I’m a fairly ambitious person, and I just kept wanting to do more for both the LM journal and the community as a whole. And of course, the women I worked with, these other dedicated and passionate mother writers and editors, were and are very important to me.


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AJ: The journal is so technologically different from what it was! When I came on, the journal was on its second website iteration, which had no capacity for images. It has gone through two major renovations since then, as well as a staff-wide migration to Google products. What has always been a struggle for Literary Mama is that we have so many departments with volunteer editors coming together from all over the world, and editors often get siloed into their niche. As volunteers, we can set standards and encourage best practices, but there is no real “boss” to tell folks what to do. The flip side of that, however, is that everyone who gives their time to LM brings their own unique flair,

energy, and expertise to the journal, which makes it a wonderfully evolving entity.


AJ: My son is about to graduate high school, so I’d say my perspective has changed a lot! I’m at the point now where I am having to let go of him and trust that I did a good job as a mother and that he will go out into the world and do wonderful things. I didn’t fully understand it before, but it really is true that our children are not ours to keep. We get them for a short time until they become their own independent selves. It’s a heart wrenching and beautiful transition of life.




AJ: Simply, I wanted to make a book. But I also wanted to celebrate the many wonderful volunteer editors who started and kept LM going all those years. I felt they deserved to be recognized with a chance to share their own writing. I was excited about almost every aspect of the project. My sole reservation was how to undertake the actual publishing/printing.

Luckily, former LM poetry editor Allison Blevins reached out to offer collaboration with her indie

press Small Harbor Publishing. Working with Small Harbor took the technical aspects out of my hands and let me focus on working with the writers, for which I was grateful.


AJ: I always enjoyed editing writers’ work with the journal, but in later years, after I left the LM creative nonfiction department, I got pretty entrenched in the administration of the journal. That’s fulfilling in its own way, but very different from reading someone’s writing and working with them to explore, enhance, or develop it. Putting together an anthology allows one to read such a broad range of styles and topics. I loved it when a new piece came

SPRING 2024 138

in and I sat down to discover what it was all about. I remembered how much I love the editorial process, and it inspired me to try to expand my editorial business.


AJ: I played around with various ways to divide the book. I wanted it to be more dynamic than by genre or topic. There were a surprising number of pieces about the various transitions mothers and families go through, such as kids leaving the nest. There were also several that reflected on the past, family legacies, and histories. The pieces seemed to come together naturally into a past, present, and future kind of format. And the more I moved things around, the more it made sense. At least, it made sense to me!

I hope it does for readers as well!


AJ: There is quite a range of human stories in this book. That’s what I was hoping for. No two mothers have the same experience, so reading about other people’s worlds can open us up to new ideas. And yet, I also hope that readers find a story or poem that speaks to them, that they can see themselves in and know that even


if their life looks a bit different, there is someone out there going through something similar. That said, I do think there are a lot of stories not included here– stories of grandmothers, stepmothers, adoptive mothers, trans mothers, and many others that I would love to read. I worked with the pieces that came in and was grateful for the varied and thoughtful perspectives that these mothers shared.


AJ: In addition to the above, I hope this book helps elevate the voices and experiences of mothers. Mothers do hard work every single day, with, often, so little support or compassion from our society. I hope mothers read this and find camaraderie, but I also hope fathers and single people and people without kids read this and

understand a little more deeply what it is to be a mother.


AJ: I’m not a particularly patient person, so the hardest part was how long everything took. From giving writers enough time to create their best work to the very long publication process, I always wanted it to go faster. The entire project was a wonderful learning experience, and a chance for me to slow down and focus on each step in the process. Good things, whether a baby or a book, take time.


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AJ: I’m currently in the final production stage of my travel guide 100 Things to Do in Ithaca Before You Die, from Reedy Press. That will be released in September 2024 and will entail a lot of events around the Ithaca area where I live. I’m also finalizing my manuscript In My Boots: A Memoir of Five Million Steps Along

the Appalachian Trail, which is scheduled for release February 2025 with Black Rose Writing. I have a couple other creative nonfiction works in the percolator, including another motherhood anthology idea. Mostly, though, I’m trying to gently usher my teenage son to the next phase of his life, as I, too, figure out how to transition into a new stage of motherhood.

The essays, poems, and stories in Labor of Love explore the depth and breadth of what it means to mother. Literary Mama celebrates mothers and the work they do caring for their families, from soothing tears to playing on the beach to teaching independence. For twenty years, Literary Mama has published the best writing for and by mothers, and this anthology shines the spotlight on the staff who keep the journal going, offering them space to share their own stories. With insight and grace, the mothers gathered here consider challenges like coping with their children’s or their own illnesses, adjusting to divorce, caring for their aging mothers, and encouraging teenage children to leave the nest. A collection that revolves around themes of girlhood, legacy, empowerment, and transition, Labor of Love is a testament to the strength and dedication of mothers, writers, and all those who mother.



Shelf Media Group's digital young adult community designed to connect readers with YA authors and books.

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Why We Play With Fire.

“Why We Play With Fire” by Giselle Vriesen is a mesmerizing tale of magic, identity, and the journey to self-discovery that captivates from the very first page. Set against a backdrop of enchantment and danger, the story follows Thea as she embarks on a quest filled with twists, turns, and unexpected revelations.

From the moment Thea is thrust into the world of Malachite, a house for the children of gods, readers are swept up in a whirlwind of adventure and intrigue. With her unique heritage and newfound powers, Thea must navigate rivalries, secrets, and her own inner doubts as she races against time to retrieve lost keys and unlock the secrets they hold.

Vriesen’s writing is vivid and immersive, bringing to life a richly detailed world where magic and mythology intertwine. As Thea journeys through different realms and encounters a diverse cast of characters, including the enigmatic Zero and her loyal friends, readers are drawn deeper into the story, rooting for Thea every step of the way.

One of the novel’s standout elements is its exploration of identity and belonging, as Thea grapples with her mixed-race ancestry and the weight of her divine lineage. Through Thea’s eyes, we witness the importance of accepting one’s heritage and forging connections with ancestors, even as she faces daunting challenges and uncertain futures.

With its compelling characters, intricate plot, and themes that resonate long after the final page, “Why We Play With Fire” is a must-read for fans of fantasy and adventure. Vriesen’s storytelling prowess shines brightly in this captivating debut, leaving readers eagerly anticipating what she has in store next.


Young adult fiction continues to become one of the most popular genres – mostly for adults. Join us each issue to find your next YA read.





In a thrilling journey of self-discovery and magical intrigue, Thea finds herself transported to a house for the children of gods, where she must retrieve lost keys while navigating secrets, rival schools, and her own doubts, all before the shadow creatures catch up to her.

Embark on a spellbinding odyssey of self-discovery, where Thea's extraordinary journey unfolds within a realm of enchantment and peril. Desperate to escape encroaching darkness, Thea is propelled through a mystical well by her mother and grandmother, left only with a cryptic mission to "retrieve the keys."

However, her destination defies all expectations as she arrives at an extraordinary haven—a house known as Malachite. Within the hallowed halls of Malachite, Thea unveils a world far beyond her wildest imagination. Amidst an intricate tapestry of training and elusive artifacts, she discovers a mysterious box safeguarded by the students' within the home.





YA Blogs And Book Reviewers”


“Top 100 Book Review Blogs For Book Readers and Authors”


“The awesome Girl+Book YA book review blog.....I smiled to see Blue Karma recommended for "tom-boys, tree climbers, adventure seekers, and backyard-campers" because I have answered (or still do) to all of these descriptions....The Girl+Book blog continues to make my day.”


“I Just Read Girl Plus

Book’s Review Of Revelation, And It Made My Night!”



Shelf Media Group's digital magazine about podcasts and podcasters.

SPRING 2024 146

The Thread.

About the Podcast

The Thread is a new documentary interview series on YouTube in which exceptional individuals share the different paths they have taken to lead meaningful lives. Each 30-minute episode of The Thread will take the viewer on a personal journey into the life of an extraordinary individual who explores their life’s passion and purpose. The Thread will tug at the heart and reveal insights into some of the most meaningful lives of our time.


Podster is a column for podcast listeners and serves as a curator for the best of known and unknown podcasts.



GK: My name is George Kunhardt and I’m the executive producer at Life Stories, a nonprofit organization that produces and distributes documentary stories about individuals whose lives inspire meaningful change. Our interviews, series, films, and educational resources cover a wide range of topics – social justice, history, politics, the arts, and culture – through the lens of relatable human stories of purpose and meaning. And as part of our mission, we provide open access to all our content for the benefit of communities and classrooms.


GK: The Thread is our latest documentary interview series in which exceptional individuals share the different paths they have taken to lead meaningful lives. Each 30-minute episode of The Thread explores the passions and purpose of inspiring figures like Gloria Estefan, Mitt Romney, and Tony Hawk. Our hope is

that a more reflective conversation will not only reveal a different side of these well-known personalities, but give us all better insight into our own lives and choices.


GK: In our clickbait-oriented culture, there are fewer opportunities for people to sit down and tell the full version of their life story. The Thread is an opportunity for both interviewees and listeners to delve into their personal journeys and gain some perspective on the choices and challenges we all face in our lives.


GK: There are so many satisfying parts! The conversations with our interviewees, listening to a final cut, and working with our talented team are all highlights. But for us, it’s most gratifying to see the positive and inspiring impact our content has on our listeners. As for the challenge, getting our content in front of the

SPRING 2024 148

audiences that will love our content is tricky in an increasingly crowded space!


GK: I’m particularly proud of our first episode with Gloria Estefan. She is an incredibly gracious interviewee and was willing to share some deeply personal struggles with us. More importantly, she shared how she pushed through those emotional and physical challenges to find both peace and happiness. I keep coming back to this episode, and I think it’s a great place for new listeners to start.



GK: The Thread is in the middle of its first season of 16 episodes, and each episode is released on Monday at 5pm ET. We’re already hard at work on the second season and it should be released this summer. Stay tuned for the release date!


GK: The Thread can be found on your favorite podcast platform, but here are a few links for easy access:

• Spotify

• Apple Podcasts

We’d recommend watching on Spotify since each episode is accompanied by a video recording of the video. Enjoy!



What is a summer read?

Do you always wonder if your book is a SUMMER READ?

Well, technically any book can be read at any time, but a good traditional summer read (in our opinion) has a few elements that are tried and tested. So, if you want to check your work for the following or start a new manuscript for the summer reading crowd, take a look at our summer reads recipe.

Firstly, you will need an easy-to-follow plot – this is useful as reading on the beach or while traveling can have many distractions and readers do not want to keep back tracking or re-reading chapters because they lost the thread.


CAAB Publishing Ltd is a traditional, small, indie company helping unknown authors have a voice and inspiring new writers to take that first step into the world of publishing.

Mix in a little humour – be it any sort, a summer read should engage and make the reader smile. A horror or a tragedy can still entertain and use black or dark humour to keep a reader’s interest and to stop them from putting it down to jump in the pool.

Throw in a few easy to identify characters – this is a helpful addition to a summer read, lots of characters with similar names or that behave the same way can start to muddy the waters and lose the reader, characters should be diverse and varied.

A sprinkle of light-heartedness – this is true no matter the genre, if it is an intense read it is probably a little much for the summer reader, they are looking for fun in the sun. Some tears, some scary bits, or some passion is fine, but it shouldn’t be a heavy read or terribly depressing, just engrossing and thrilling.

Be sure to snip away any unwanted chapters – a summer read should not be the length of War and Peace. Readers have luggage allowances to consider.

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Wrap the whole thing in a cover of simple structure and easy-on-the-eye images - a black road, a bright sky, a flash of lightning. The cover should offer a glimpse of the genre but ideally needs to say a lot without being busy or overcrowded. Summer readers will look for covers that may reflect the writing. They want to relax, and they will choose to read something that will help them to do that.

And that is it, you are ready to be a summer hit.

Of course, there is a difference between a summer read and summer reading, as in the reading assigned to kids through the summer months. Whatever the school has offered as options to children usually has some meaning for the coming year of tuition. A summer reading programme for

A Less Than Serious Guide to SAN FRANCISCO

kids is very different to just reading a book whilst on holiday, if you want to get a book out there that could some day be included in school lists then you need to think about what subjects are being taught to the age of child you will be aiming the book at.

Such as, Romans, World Wars, Kings and Queens or other writers work (Shakespeare, etc). Writing a book about these subjects, or giving a different perspective on the work of great writers can get you noticed and added to a school’s reading list. Read the books already on the lists, see if you can find a new way, a more interesting way or a simpler way to get the information across to the children. Make it fresh, make it new and make it educational.

Happy Summer time from all at CAAB Publishing ltd 

This book is a humorous look around the great city of San Francisco California.

Whilst some may make the ludicrous claim that this made-up guide is in some way less useful than an “actual guide” it is definitely a lot more fun. So if you want to discover the real (made-up) San Francisco this is the book for you.

In this book you can find the truth behind San Francisco’s name, the untold details of how the city selects its mayor, and discover the “truth” about the origin of the Victorian Era. This guide contains everything - except the truth.


The Alabama Booksmith.




JR: We spent the first half of our professional life working in the family custom-tailoring operation. During those years we were active with many civic organizations like Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Kiwanis, The American Cancer Society, The National Football Foundation, and others. These days our time is spent at the store seven days a week.


JR: The genesis originally was sparked by a visit to San Francisco where my son ran a used bookstore. He bought books for pennies and sold them for dollars. It seemed like an easy and quick way to make a fortune. Obviously, it didn’t work out as I thought, and through several iterations over thirty-four years, we now have the only shop on the planet that sells exclusively new

signed books. (P.S. His name is Frank Reiss and he owns A Cappella Books in Atlanta and opened a year before we did. He sells new and used books)


JR: Since we only sell signed copies (every book in the store is signed and sells for regular publisher’s price - except for a handful in our Collector’s Corner) most of our customers collect for their libraries and reading trends or best sellers have little effect.


JR: For twenty years we have offered the opportunity to join our Signed First Editions Club where we select an important title every month, reserve first printings, have the author sign and ship to our customers’

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doorsteps. It’s like Christmas twelve times a year. There is no charge for the service, the only cost is the publisher’s price of the book and media mail. We have no other sidelines.


JR: Ninety percent of our customers live in the other forty-nine states and in over a hundred foreign countries. Our building is huge and we own it. Our mailroom has more than forty sizes of boxes and is larger than our showroom. We are able to perform all aspects of worldwide shipping from this location and have no thoughts of expanding.

Note: The ninety-percent of our business that goes out-of-state and out-of-the-country is

generated through our web site. Not only is every book signed, but every book in the store is on our website.


JR: Our business is such an outlier, we’re not qualified to predict the future of general indie booksellers. That being said, over three decades we’ve had the pleasure of creating relationships with many of the county’s movers and shakers in the businesss and every conversation we’ve had in recent years has been extremely positive. If forced to wager, we’d bet indies will continue to thrive in the near and far future.


Self-Published & Small Press Book Reviews

BY SPRING 2024 154
Books In Review

Meditations at Midnight .




ISBN: 9870829458886


Meditations at Midnight is a small but impactful book of poetry and prose from an award-winning author of nonfiction, contemplating the ways in which the spiritual intersects with the mundane.

Gary Jansen’s chapbook-sized collection is divided into five parts whose titles are freighted with meaning, and which peer through thick layers of emotion with a subtle lens. In “Via Dolorosa,” a cycle of short poems describing the Passion of Christ, Jesus imagines, as he’s nailed to the cross, a dove whispering in his ear “The promise of honey, olives, milk./ The promise of love.” Jansen brings out the story’s heavy symbolism with the lightest of touches, building swift ripples of human loss and misery to a final triumph: “in this restless darkness you sleep.// But not for long.”

“Via Vitae” skillfully relates small, poetic parables of an old man seeking spiritual truths, with varied success. Here Jansen mingles the lovely and the absurd with the image of a

woman glowing “as if she radiated phosphorus” who slaps the old man, and a contemplation of God that alludes to Charles Schultz’s Charlie Brown.

The poems of “Via Cordis” are more purely lyric, spinning captivating tales of attraction, enchantment, nostalgia, and loss with lines like “[…] all I wanted to do was wrap you/ and me in a cocoon of Syrian silk/ and play strip poker until/ we grew one set of wings.”

Meanwhile, “Via Memoria” recalls powerful memories written in prose: an eerie moment in a church in Prague, Jansen’s inspiration to become a writer, meeting a man in Paris who recounts a long fable of an itinerant paintbrush. “St. Cecilia and the Ballad of the Lonesome Traveler” captures the best expression of Jansen’s faith and the way, for him, the numinous peeks through the ordinary in quiet spaces.

Readers will appreciate the sly, subtle images that emerge quietly and hook deep in these pages. Balanced with a steadfast, compassionate philosophy and the sheer poise of the lines, these are tiny meditations that leave a deep impression.


Not From Here: The Song of America.




PAGES: 392


Immigrating to modern-day America is the theme of Leah Lax’s vivid, sensitively framed collection of interviews first collected years earlier as the basis for her libretto to Houston Grand Opera’s 2007 production The Refuge.

From conversations with 123 Houstonians, Lax shares six full-length accounts (offering short, pithy quotations from others in between), prefaced by descriptions of the interviews’ settings and sometimes of how she connected with her subjects (one was an acquaintance; one the “soccer friend of another subject”) accompanied by her personal reactions to their stories and explanations of the stories’ historical backgrounds.

Her first interviewee, Luisa, recounts a harrowing past, fleeing from violence and poverty in El Salvador, and an uncertain present, hoping to be reunited with her young sons despite her unresolved immigration status. The second interviewee, Binh, a successful member of Houston’s large Vietnamese-American community, tells an equally harrowing story as one of two million Southeast Asians who fled by boat following Saigon’s fall.Others include successful Pakistan-born Ali; Indian-born couple, Mythili and Murthy; Soviet-Ukranian Jew Manya; and Nigerian dissident Elias, his wife and four of their six adult children.

Together, they provide vivid details that illuminate why someone would leave his/her native country and the challenges faced once in America. Lax’s depth of feeling for the topic (e.g., her shock at realizing that in 21st century America someone “who crossed the border without papers was no longer … a needy human in search of work, food, and safety…Now they were criminals”) is extremely powerful. The narrative also benefits from the balance Lax strikes between her interviewees’ voices and her own, and most of all, from her spare, lyrical writing style, as when describing the Vietnam War Memorial: “The march of disembodied names etched into black granite was as ordered as troops across a blackened landscape.”

This is a thoughtful work of self-inquiry and oral history—a fascinating and beautiful look at the modern American immigrant experience. 

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PAGES: 367


K.R. Gadeken’s immersive genre-bending novel, Nabukko, is set on a bizarre planet with inhabitants who do not remember how they got there.

Eff Sharp finds herself alone on an unknown planet with barely any recollection of her past. After surviving for months, she encounters a group of people similarly stranded on the planet. At first, Eff is delighted to find community, safety and food but later discovers that many members of camp Nabukko are struggling to trust her. The group is also concealing secrets that make Eff question how safe she is in the camp.

Eff constantly has nightmares with blurred flashes of the past. Many in Nabukko are in a similar predicament and want answers regarding their arrival on the planet. Being the newcomer means key information about the camp is withheld from her. With little information to work with, Eff struggles to solve the puzzle about their mysterious arrival on the planet and how they could get back to Earth while trying to adjust to life at the camp.

Gadeken has delivered a unique, richly woven story brimming with intrigue and mystery. Through lush details and vivid descriptions, the novel’s world comes alive. Beautiful scenery and meadows with hues of red, black, brown and purple dot the landscape, and dim, golden sunlight lights up the planet. Unfamiliar animals like the menacing rodent-like creatures named Munkraves and other deadly animals roam the planet.

The cast consists of original, brilliantly crafted characters who grow and adopt new roles. Eff makes both friends and enemies in Nabukko, and as new mysteries arise, those friendships are tested. A strand of romance is skillfully woven into the plot, and humorous dialogue enlivens the story.

The first installment in a trilogy, Nabukko is a remarkable, multi-layered science fiction novel with endearing characters, perplexing mysteries, and unforgettable scenes. While it’s not a standalone, it introduces its audience to an extraordinary world and a compelling cast they’ll want to encounter again. 


The Young Samaritan.


PAGES: 255


This story—based on a little-known character in the Bible’s book of Mark who is following Jesus at the time he is arrested—focuses on a fictional Samaritan character named Joshua.

Young Joshua is forced to leave his home when his evil stepfather threatens his life. He ends up staying with an unfamiliar uncle who lives “just a stone’s throw away from the heavily traveled Jerusalem Road.” There, he meets various travelers, including Jesus and his disciples. The story then recounts Joshua’s journey with this group until the day Jesus is arrested.

By depicting the disciples and Jesus through the eyes of young Joshua, author J. Schuyler Sprowles provides a fascinating perspective on the Messiah’s earthly life. Sprowles presents the hardships of finding food and water while traveling, the delight of listening to Jesus’s parables around a fire, and the fear that is sparked in Joshua upon hearing rumors that people want to kill the man he’s following.

This book is mostly geared to Christian readers, who will appreciate that the author footnotes events in the story that are based directly on the Bible. They will also be intrigued by how Joshua and his uncle grow in confidence and faith from their interactions with Jesus.

In all, religious readers interested in an unusual perspective on the life of Jesus will find this an engaging offering.

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The Djinn's Apple.


PAGES: 160

ISBN: 9781911107859


"Djinn’s Apple" is a compelling YA novella set in the vibrant and tumultuous backdrop of Baghdad during the reign of Harun Al-Rashid in the late eighth and early ninth centuries. The story begins with a violent and politically charged murder that leaves 12-year-old Nardeen orphaned and traumatized. Her entire family is brutally killed due to a political fallout, an event that sets her on an unexpected and perilous journey.

Following this tragic event, Nardeen finds herself under the care of Muallim Ishaq, a legendary and enigmatic physician. While Ishaq’s initial intentions seem benevolent, Nardeen's suspicion is piqued when she receives a mysterious message warning her about him. As Nardeen is forced to study at The Bimaristan, a renowned hospital of the era, she is immersed in an environment where medicine and politics are deeply intertwined. This setting not only serves as a backdrop for her growth and education but also as a crucible where the truth about her family's demise begins to emerge. The

Bimaristan represents a place of healing and learning, contrasting sharply with the violence and betrayal that brought Nardeen there.

The novella shines in its portrayal of Nardeen's journey from a traumatized child to a young woman who confronts her fears and seeks justice for her family. Her experiences at The Bimaristan expose her to the complexities of medicine and the ruthless nature of political intrigue, ultimately leading her to uncover the truth. One of the standout features of "Djinn’s Apple" is its ability to offer a fresh perspective on Middle Eastern history and Arab youth. The author skillfully challenges various stereotypes, presenting a nuanced and rich depiction of the region and its people. Despite the intense hardship and betrayal Nardeen faces, the story is imbued with themes of love, friendship, and resilience.

While the novella is relatively short, it leaves a lasting impact. The relationship between Nardeen and Muallim Ishaq is particularly compelling, and one wishes there had been more time to explore their dynamic further. Overall, "Djinn’s Apple" is a thought-provoking and uplifting tale that not only entertains but also enlightens its readers about a fascinating period in history. 


Bitter Thaw.


PAGES: 404

ISBN: 0999460285


In Jessica McCann’s “Bitter Thaw,” the narrative navigates between past and present, deftly exploring the impact of discrimination based on race and gender. McCann handles weighty themes like racism and sexism with sensitivity and insight, weaving a poignant tale that resonates deeply with readers.

Set in 1956 Minnesota, the discovery of longforgotten human remains reopens an old case for an Arizona family. Three generations embark on a cross-country journey seeking truth and closure, their quest serving as a metaphorical journey of self-discovery. As they unearth buried secrets, doubts surface, challenging their understanding of right and wrong, and forcing them to confront uncomfortable truths about their family's past.

The story unfolds across diverse landscapes, from the windswept plains of the Midwest to the rugged terrain of the American Southwest, highlighting how historical injustices echo in the present. It’s a tale of seeking truth while confronting personal histories, prompting characters to reconsider their moral compass and confront the complexities of their identities.

“Bitter Thaw” is a heartfelt exploration of memory, truth, and the complexities of ethical choices. It gracefully delves into the nuances of navigating the past, compelling characters and readers alike to ponder the shades of right and wrong in a world where justice is not always black and white.

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Where You End.


PAGES: 336

ISBN: 9781250873248


Released on January 16, Where You End is Abbott Kahler’s debut fiction novel. As a former journalist, she has four bestselling narrative nonfiction books.

Where You End is a psychological thriller about identical twins—Kat and Jude. As the story begins, Kat is in a coma after a car accident, and she has lost all of her memory. Jude helps her remember her past, but as time passes, Kat realizes her past maybe isn’t what Jude has told her.

As I began reading Where You End, I felt like I was reading more of a women’s fiction or a literary fiction novel, not a thriller, but I hung in there because I do read those genres and the story did intrigue me. Right away, I liked the way Abbott did a dual point of view and timeline. She labeled each chapter, so I knew

exactly who was speaking and where I was on the timeline. That made it easier to follow the story. I enjoyed Kat’s first-person narrative because I felt like I was inside her head more than Jude’s third person point of view. Being inside someone’s head in a thriller makes it that much more suspenseful.

As I have already mentioned, the prologue grabbed my attention right away, but the first several pages of the book moved somewhat slowly. Jude is helping Kat to relearn her past after she has come home from the hospital, but as Kat gets brave and goes out into society, she learns more and more about herself. That is when the pace picked up.

The more Kat learned about her past, the more she wanted to know the truth, and that is what drove me to finish this thriller.

Overall, Where You End feels more like a combination of literary fiction and psychological thriller, but it is a book I would still recommend. 




PAGES: 432



“Hiraeth” by Elizabeth Carlisle is a gripping and atmospheric tale that plunges readers into a world of mystery, danger, and the resilience of the human spirit.

The story begins with Aurelia Quinn awakening to find herself trapped in a coffin, her memories of her old life lost to her. As she struggles to come to terms with her new reality, she is thrust into a world of secrecy and danger, where she must rely on the help of Imogen Zenith to navigate the treacherous path that lies ahead.

Carlisle expertly builds tension and suspense as Aurelia grapples with enemies both within and without, forced to confront the shadows of her past while fighting for her future. With enemies infiltrating the safety of the underground complex and loved ones making sacrifices on her behalf, Aurelia must summon all of her courage and strength to survive.

At the heart of the story are the relationships that Aurelia forms along the way, particularly with Malakai Hawthorne and Caleb Laurier. Their unwavering support and loyalty serve as a beacon of hope in the darkest of times, reminding Aurelia—and readers—of the power of friendship and solidarity in the face of adversity.

Carlisle’s prose is rich and evocative, drawing readers into the world of the Aeternus with its vivid descriptions and immersive storytelling. From the claustrophobic confines of Aurelia’s coffin to the sprawling underground complex where she seeks refuge, “Hiraeth” is a world that feels both hauntingly familiar and tantalizingly mysterious.

As Aurelia and her allies race against time to defeat their enemies and secure a future of freedom and peace, “Hiraeth” is a thrilling and emotional journey that will keep readers on the edge of their seats until the very end. With its blend of suspense, action, and heartfelt emotion, this novel is sure to leave a lasting impression on readers long after they turn the final page. 

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Fire Music.


PAGES: 422

ISBN-10: 1684921597


“Fire Music” by Connie Hampton Connally is a poignant and evocative tale that weaves together the threads of love, loss, and the enduring power of music against the backdrop of wartorn Budapest.

At 78 years old, Antal Varga finds himself confronted with a haunting reminder of his past when a young American stranger, Lisa, places a yellowed music sheet into his hands. As he gazes upon his own teenage handwriting from 1945, memories flood back of a city under siege and the desperate composition he penned during those harrowing times.

Enlisting the help of his grandson, Kristóf, as a translator, Varga embarks on a journey to uncover the truth behind the music and the painful secrets it holds. With each revelation, the trio delves deeper into Varga’s past, unearthing a tale of war, love, jealousy, and profound loss that he has kept hidden for decades.

Connally masterfully brings to life the atmosphere of wartime Budapest, immersing readers in its tumultuous streets and the resilience of its people. Through Varga’s narrative, we witness the struggles of individuals grappling with the devastation of war, as well as the enduring bonds of love and hope that sustain them in the darkest of times.

What sets “Fire Music” apart is its exploration of the universal themes of love and connection that transcend time and place. As Varga, Kristóf, and Lisa navigate the complexities of their shared history, they are forced to confront the painful truths of the past while also finding solace in the possibility of healing and redemption. Connally’s prose is lyrical and heartfelt, imbuing each page with a sense of emotional depth and resonance. From the poignant strains of Varga’s violin to the bittersweet melodies of memory, “Fire Music” is a testament to the enduring power of music to both wound and heal the human soul.

In “Fire Music,” Connie Hampton Connally has crafted a moving and unforgettable tale that resonates long after the final note has faded away. It is a story of love, loss, and the indomitable spirit of the human heart that will leave readers spellbound from beginning to end. 


Labor of Love.


ISBN-10: 1957248203


The online journal Literary Mama began in 2003, and over twenty years later, this journal, run solely by volunteer editors, is still going strong. To celebrate its two decades of existence, former Editor-in-Chief Amanda K. Jaros worked with Small Harbor Publishing to publish Labor of Love: A Literary Mama Staff Anthology. The collection, which is divided into four sections (“Narrating Our Histories,” “Exploring Our Beginnings,” “Discovering Our Power,” and “Embracing Our Transitions”) features short fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry written by former and current staff members of the journal, all of whom identify as mothers.

Literary Mama has always believed that every mother’s experience is unique, and the works in this collection showcase that as well. The authors, who span the globe and the varying stages of motherhood, open themselves up and reveal their hard truths. They reflect on their mothers and grandmothers and women who’ve served in the mother role. How food can be an important love language for mothers, leaving their children feeling loved and cherished at any age. How some

expectations are exceeded—who knew how fierce a mother’s love could be?—and how just as many, or more, fall far short—how did that natural birth so quickly become a c-section? The pieces draw readers into a world that’s familiar and novel at the same time, and readers encounter a gamut of emotions—joy, fear, amusement, sadness, confusion, disappointment, excitement, anticipation, and acceptance.

Despite the wide range of experiences depicted, Jaros acknowledges in the introduction that the book is still missing many voices from its pages: “stepmothers, those who have miscarried, adoptive mothers, women who desire motherhood or have gone through in vitro fertilization, and more.” The “and more” includes mothers from marginalized backgrounds, who, like all mothers, have important stories to share.

Still, the women in these pages, whether real or imagined, have a lot to offer readers. They face a variety of situations and circumstances and exhibit strength, power, and determination at the edge of the unknown. They’re willing to show their vulnerable sides, and in doing so remind us how rich life can become when we’re open to learning. In these pages, we recognize that motherhood is, indeed, a labor of love. 

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The Pelican Tide.


ISBN-10: 1662518498

Released in June, The Pelican Tide is Sharon J. Wishnow’s debut novel. It is about a family dealing with a couple’s separation and financial issues after a catastrophic event. Josie is a chef in Grand Isle, Louisiana, where she runs her family’s Cajun restaurant. She’s been separated from her husband Brian for six months, and she struggles with the relationship with her daughter Minnow because of this. When the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explodes off the coast, it shuts down the tourist season just as it was starting and causes the family even more financial stress.

First of all, The Pelican Tide is a heartwarming tale of a family in the South. Sharon has created memorable characters who will make you cry and cheer at different times in the book. As the main female character, Josie has dealt with an abusive mother, but she’s a strong woman who is determined to keep the restaurant afloat and mend her broken heart. As her male counterpart, Brian has not only gambled, but he’s lost his job because of the oil rig explosion. He tries his hardest to win back Josie’s love.

As far as the secondary characters go, Josie’s daughter Minnow is taking her parents’ separation harder than her brother Toby, and the stress from being bounced back and forth has made her sick. Gumbo is a pelican that Minnow has helped rescue.

The farther I got into the book, the more I could tell Sharon spent a great deal of time researching the oil rig explosion, and I think that makes the story feel much more real to me. I also like the fact she based Gumbo on a real-life pelican—all the more reason he became a favorite character in the book. For all of these reasons, I highly recommend The Pelican Tide. 

Adult 165

Hot Stage.



PAGES: 416

ISBN-10: 1913394964

A third in the Inspector Gowda series, Hot Stage begins in Bangalore, India two years after the second book. Inspector Borie Gowda has now graduated to Assistant Commissioner of Police who sets out to investigate a suspicious death of an elderly Professor named Mudgood. The crime comes off as a perceived political assassination, but as Inspector Gowds uncovers more clues about the murder, Gowda seems to think the crime has more to do with a political vendetta.

Gowda may be a flawed policeman with a chaotic life, an absent wife, an estranged son, and an enigmatic mistress, but this story isn’t about the ideal hero, but rather an imperfect man devoted

to his job despite a messed-up life. With so many underlying themes exploring politics, religion, privilege, corruption, deceit, financial dominance, and feminism, this book will test your patience. What’s really cool is that this novel can be read alone without having to read any of the other installments.

The author also does a great job at showing the scarier aspects of a criminal world which ultimately leads to a shocking climax that will leave you terrified, so if you get into stories about troubled characters and police procedure, this book is for you.

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The Phantom Enforcer.



ISBN: 9798988715733

The Phantom Enforcer by J.W. Jarvis is a story packed with magic and action. It’s part of a sequel, so I recommend reading the original book, First Responder, before delving into the series. Since it takes place in Chicago’s south side where Noah and Dani contest evil deep within the city shadows, the magical realism offers an exciting layer of mystery when they team up with a police officer to combat street violence.

Doing this is meant to preserve the past from being negatively altered. Ironically enough, these fantastical elements sort of resemble real-world aspects of humanity and how we treat each other whenever the world is on the brink of total collapse. What made this story so fun was having to guess

who the heroes and villains were since the author blurred the roles while the characters averted obstacles meant to test their courage and resourcefulness while learning to use magic.

For lovers of YA, this book burns super-fast since the magic generates a ton of drama that by the time the book reaches the end the cliffhanger leaves you breathless and delirious on when the final installment of the trilogy will get published. Jarvis’ storytelling carries so much wit that I highly recommend this book to anyone seeking new material this year.


Village Weavers.


ISBN-10: 1963108078


Village Weavers by Myriam Ja Chancy is a tale set in Haiti. The story reflects on class, friendship, and social standing, but its core is about Gertie and Sisi’s childhood friendship that forms despite the disapproval from Gertie’s family. Sisi and her family eventually flee to Europe after both their lives become unexpectedly battered by deadly violence.

However, even with the bloodshed overtaking the area, Gertie and her family get the privilege to stay behind so that Gertie can marry a rich man from the Dominican. Myriam Chancy pulls all the stops to depict Haiti under Duvalier’s autocratic dictatorship from 1957 to 1986. Many people went missing during this period just as much as dead bodies were strewn on the streets. Gertie’s family never had to worry since they were protected by Duvalier’s influence.

The novel does a stellar job portraying the different types of tension between the Haitians and Dominicans as the story progresses. Forgiveness and reconciliation are also big issues in Village Weaves as Gertie and Sisi mature into adulthood, but regardless of the separation from their friendship, Gertie and Sisi never forget each other. I love how this book talks about leaving everything behind to start a new life and the challenges people face when that happens. The story is a slow burn, so if you like sinking your teeth into descriptive narratives, you’ll find this piece appealing. 

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To & Fro.


PAGES: 416

ISBN-10: 1954276257


To & Fro by Leah Hager Cohen is “a tale of two girls—one living in a parable, the other in Manhattan.” That statement is true, but the story is far more complex and compelling than that single line. That’s partly due to the book’s structure: To & Fro is a tête-bêche (French for head to tail), which means readers can choose where to begin the journey.

Starting at To, readers first meet Ani, a young girl who bikes from her home with only a cat for company (hence the cat’s name, Company). Ani is young and trusting and isn’t sure where she’s going, but she goes anyway, covering a large distance and meeting new people. The people are nice, but they aren’t exactly what she’s searching for; they don’t erase her need to feel like she belongs. Something indescribable tugs at Ani to keep going, so she does..

Starting at Fro, readers encounter Annamae. Unlike Ani, she is surrounded by people—her family, including her brother and mother, and the whole of Manhattan. Like Ani, though,

she still feels lonely and journeys through adolescence searching for someone to provide a sense of belonging. Annamae isn’t sure who she’s looking for; she just knows someone is missing from her life. She relies on an object, the notebook she calls her “company,” for support during this time.

The beauty of the book’s format emerges after reading both narratives. Despite their differences—To evokes fantasies and Fro realism—the two unique stories support one another, serving, as the author note shares, as reverberation for the other. Words, phrases, and objects echo in both narratives, giving the reader the sense that both girls are connected across time and space. Is Ani the person Annamae is searching for, and is Annamae the pull that tugs on Ani? After all, Annamae contemplates this very thing, saying, “What if my Friend doesn’t live in this world?” and then “What if my Friend doesn’t live in this same time?”

Regardless of where one begins, the novel satisfies readers. It reminds them of the joys and mysteries of childhood and recalls the ubiquitous desire to find one’s place in this world. 


Sons of Chinatown.



PAGES: 280

EAN: 9781439924877


In “Sons of Chinatown: A Memoir Rooted in China and America,” William Gee Wong delivers an evocative and deeply personal narrative that intertwines his experiences with those of his father, Pop, amidst the backdrop of systemic racism and American exceptionalism. Born in Oakland’s Chinatown in 1941, Wong is the only son of Pop, who emigrated from Guangdong Province, China, to the United States during the Chinese Exclusion era in 1912. Pop’s journey to America was fraught with challenges, entering the country with partially falsified papers as the “son of a native.”

Wong’s memoir captures the essence of his father’s struggles and triumphs in establishing a life in segregated Oakland, facing the harsh realities of systemic racism toward Asians. Pop’s determination and resilience are evident as he navigates the complexities of running a business and providing for his family in an unwelcoming society. Despite the end of the exclusion law in 1943, Pop’s experiences leave an indelible mark on young William, who himself grapples with assimilation into American culture.

As William grows up, he finds his calling as a journalist, writing for notable publications like the Wall Street Journal and the Oakland Tribune, as well as Asian American periodicals. Through his work, he documents the Asian American experience, paying homage to Chinese American history and identity while also confronting his own encounters with discrimination. Wong’s narrative deftly balances his admiration for his father’s perseverance with a righteous indignation towards the systemic barriers they both faced.

“Sons of Chinatown” is more than just a memoir; it is a poignant exploration of the immigrant experience in America. Wong reflects on the enduring hardships faced by Asian Americans, questioning whether the United States truly welcomes or repels immigrants. His story, both personal and universal, highlights the ongoing struggles for acceptance and recognition in a country that often prides itself on being a melting pot.

Wong’s memoir is a testament to the strength and resilience of immigrant families, offering a powerful reminder of the contributions and challenges that shape the American identity. “Sons of Chinatown” is an inspiring and thought-provoking read that sheds light on the complexities of immigration and the enduring quest for a sense of belonging. 

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BlueInk Review offers professional book reviews ofindependently published and self-published books.

A fee-based book review service for self-published books. All of our book reviewers are professional reviewers with bylines from major newspapers and periodicals and senior editors from major NY publishing houses. All of our reviews are honest and credible.


Summer Book Clubs.

A List of Virtual Indie Book Clubs to Join This Summer.

Looking for the perfect way to spend your summer days? Dive into the world of literature and join a book club! Whether you’re an avid reader looking to discuss your favorite stories or a newcomer seeking new literary adventures, we’ve compiled a list of captivating book clubs to join this summer. From virtual meet-ups to local gatherings, there’s something for every book lover to enjoy as they delve into the pages of captivating tales and engage in lively discussions with fellow bibliophiles.

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The Finding Our Voices bookclub is one more way our grassroots and survivorpowered, Maine-based nonprofit, Finding Our Voices is breaking the silence of domestic abuse. Shining a light on a problem is the first step to solving it, and this book club shines a light on the domestic abuse that hides in plain sight all around us. The authors often join the discussion. Join us too, and let’s talk about it!


The Literary Queers is a virtual, monthly gathering of queer folks interested in reading and discussing queer books. Meetings are currently scheduled in UK/ EU-friendly times, however if there is enough interest from other parts of the world, additional meetings can be scheduled.

3. TIKA’S BOOK CLUB 68 Members

I saw that one of my favorite old time book writers Sister Souljah was coming out with a new book and sequel to The Coldest Winter Ever, an urban fan favorite. I thought this is the perfect time to start a club, and why not bring back and re read The Coldest Winter Ever and have discussions about the book, so once we read the new book we will be all refreshed and caught up. I asked my Friends on Facebook and they were just as excited and down for the idea... and that’s where Tika’s Book Club began.


Greetings from the Big Apple! I’m Sheri Simmons, a firm believer in personal development and a dedicated advocate of growth. With an unwavering growth mindset, I’ve established the Purposeful Transformation Book Club as a platform to connect with remarkable women like you. Together, let’s embark on a journey of exploration and improvement.


At Purposeful Transformation, we’re committed to delving into the self-help and personal development genre, igniting meaningful conversations, and cultivating our potential.


A group of thriller, mystery, and true crime lovers in Southern California who want to meet up and talk about everything spooky! IRL OC is run by Chelsea @ thrillerbookbabe and Yolanda @readit.shareit


Welcome to Bookclubs Author Chats! We’re excited you’re here. Every other month we will host a book club meeting with an inspiring author, focusing on their work and getting all our burning questions answered. Tune in to the interview and then share your thoughts on the message board.

7. SUNDRY BOOK CLUB 12 Members

Types of Books We Read in Sundry Book Club: A mix of fiction and nonfiction with an emphasis of highlighting underrepresented groups in publishing (BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, people living with a disability, and more), We don’t shy away from social justice topics either!

8. LIT(ERARY) WOMEN! 13 Members

A group of women open to differing thoughts and ideas while growing with literature. You’re all DOPE, inside and out, so bring yourself into the conversation. Reach your book goals with us! Themes vary so our discussions explore perspectives on real life experiences, human behavior, boundaries, career & family life, and more, often from an anti oppressive lens. It’s going to be LIT(erary Women)!



Before meeting: Read assigned book, RSVP for meeting on BookClubz page, inform host (in a timely manner) of inability to attend meeting (when applicable), post discussion questions (under “Documents”), post a picture reading book in Photo Album on BookClubz.


The Spiritual Book Club for Women is a safe place for women to read and discuss on various spiritual and metaphysical topics relating to women and their experiences.


Founded in 2021, the Misteria Book Club intends to highlight the voices of women and BIPOC writing in the mystery and thriller genres. Meetings will usually take place on the third or fourth Saturday of every month. I hope that we will be able to meet in person, but otherwise meetings will take place via Discord.


Feminist Reading Group of Houston meets the last Monday of the month in Zoom at 7:30 PM Central Time.


Misteria Book Club reads a variety of genres with a lean toward romance and womens fiction. We meet halfway through the month and again at the end of every month via zoom to share what we all thought, our ratings, and discuss our opinions. Our members are all over the country and we always welcome new women! Any questions feel free to email us at



134 Members

I created YAFAB to create a community where those of us who want to read more African fiction - and don’t have anyone to talk to about it to- can come together, grab a drink (or three :P ) and get into it! We try to be representative of the continent as best as we can in our book selections. We are always open to new suggestions, so come through and bring your recommendations with you!

15. IN THE VOID 855 Members

Hi! Join the club here on Bookclubs to be an official member. Through the Bookclubs platform/app we organize meetings, vote on book polls, host giveaways, share important updates and more.

How Do I Participate? DISCORD: We chat all quarter long about our current reads, general book chat and more. INSTAGRAM: Follow our instagram to see all ITV bookclub related content. ZOOM: At the end of the quarter, we meet via zoom to discuss the book. Video/Mic are both optional; we have a text based chat feature in our zoom calls!

What types of books does In The Void read? We read horror: new, old, indie and everything in between.


Call For Entries .

Shelf Unbound book review magazine announces the Shelf Unbound Writing Competition for Best Self-Published Book. Any self-published book in any genre is eligible for entry. Entry fee is $100 per book. The winning entry will be selected by the editors of Shelf Unbound magazine.

To submit an entry, Apply Online at www.shelfmediagroup. com/competitions.

THE TOP FIVE BOOKS, as determined by the editors of Shelf Media Group, will receive editorial coverage in the Winter issue of Shelf Unbound. The author of the book named as the Best Self-Published book will receive editorial coverage as well as a year’s worth of full-page ads in the magazine.

The deadline for entry is midnight on October 1, 2024.



What's On Our Shelf

Nobody loves books more than us. We're a team of readers with broad interests and strong feelings about the books on our shelves.

BS SPRING 2024 178


Zaire. Late 90’s. Mobutu’s thirty-year reign is tottering. In Lubumbashi, the stubbornly homeless Sanza has fallen in with a trio of veteran street kids led by the devious Ngungi. A chance encounter with the mysterious Monsieur Guillaume seems to offer a way out . . . Meanwhile in Angola, Molakisi has joined thousands of fellow Zairians hoping to make their fortunes hunting diamonds, while Austrian Franz finds himself roped into writing the memoirs of the charismatic Tshiamuena, the “Madonna of the Cafunfo Mines.” Things are drawing to a head, but at the Mambo de la Fête, they still dance the Villain’s Dance from dusk till dawn.

SHORT WAR by Lily Meyer

When sixteen-year-old Gabriel Lazris, an American in Santiago, Chile, meets Caro Ravest, something clicks. Caro, who is Chilean, is charming, curious, and deeply herself. Gabriel dreams of their future together. But everybody’s saying there’s going to be a coup—and no one says it louder than Gabriel’s dad, a Nixon-loving newspaper editor who Gabriel suspects is working with the C.I.A. Gabriel’s father is adamant that the moment political unrest erupts, their family is going home. To Gabriel, though, Chile is home.

Decades later, Gabriel’s Americanraised adult daughter Nina heads to Buenos Aires in a last-ditch effort to save her dissertation. Quickly, though, she gets sidetracked: first by a sexy professor, then by a controversial book called Guerra Eterna. A document of war and an underground classic, Guerra Eterna transforms Nina’s sense of her family and identity, pushing her to confront the moral weight of being an American citizen in a hemisphere long dominated by U.S. power. But not until Short War’s coda do we get true insight into the divergent fortunes of Gabriel Lazris and Caro Ravest.


Little Seed is an experimental memoir that braids together the narrative of the author’s relationship with her brother and family with a deeply personal field guide to ferns.

The chapters move associatively, commenting on each other indirectly and drawing out questions of assimilation, race, class, gender, nature and the general problem of being and knowing. When the author’s brother has a psychotic break, the rigid structure of the book itself breaks apart and the protagonist adventures to the cloud forest of Oaxaca in order to truly live: to know the world by experiencing it rather than reading about it or following the direction of others. Some persistent themes throughout the book: What does it mean to be Chinese? What is love and how best to love? What really is a fern?



Amid heightened restrictions about what women can and cannot do with their bodies, Lynn Schmeidler’s debut short story collection, Half-Lives, is a humane, absurd, and timely collection of narratives centering on women’s bodies and psyches. Playful and experimental, these sixteen stories explore girlhood, sexuality, motherhood, identity, and aging in a world where structures of societal norms, narrative, gender, and sometimes even physics do not apply. The protagonists grapple with the roles they choose and with those that are thrust upon them as they navigate their ever-evolving emotional lives. A woman lists her vagina on Airbnb, Sleeping Beauty is a yoga teacher who lies in state on the dais of her mother’s studio, and a museum intern writes a confession of her affair in the form of a hijacked museum audio guide.


It’s watching.

Liz Rocher is coming home . . . reluctantly. As a Black woman, Liz doesn’t exactly have fond memories of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, a predominantly white town. But her best friend is getting married, so she braces herself for a weekend of awkward, passive-aggressive reunions. Liz has grown, though; she can handle whatever awaits her. But on the night of the wedding, somewhere between dancing and dessert, the newlyweds’ daughter, Caroline, disappears—and the only thing left behind is a piece of white fabric covered in blood.

It’s taking.

As a frantic search begins, with the police combing the trees for Caroline, Liz is the only one who notices a pattern: A summer night. A missing girl. A party in the woods. She’s seen this before. Keisha Woodson, the only other Black girl in Liz’s high school, walked into the woods with a mysterious man and was later found with her chest cavity ripped open and her heart removed. Liz shudders at the thought that it could have been her, and now, with Caroline missing, it can’t be a coincidence. As Liz starts to dig through the town’s history, she uncovers a horrifying secret about the place she once called home. Children have been going missing in these woods for years. All of them Black. All of them girls.

It’s your turn.

With the evil in the forest creeping closer, Liz knows what she must do: find Caroline, or be entirely consumed by the darkness.



A young woman in need of a transformation finds herself in touch with the animal inside in this gripping, incisive USA Today bestselling novel from the author of Cackle and The Return.

Rory Morris isn’t thrilled to be moving back to her hometown, even if it is temporary. There are bad memories there. But her twin sister, Scarlett, is pregnant, estranged from the baby’s father, and needs support, so Rory returns to the place she thought she’d put in her rearview. After a night out at a bar where she runs into Ian, an old almost-flame, she hits a large animal with her car. And when she gets out to investigate, she’s attacked.

Rory survives, miraculously, but life begins to look and feel different. She’s unnaturally strong, with an aversion to silver—and suddenly the moon has her in its thrall. She’s changing into someone else—something else, maybe even a monster. But does that mean she’s putting those close to her in danger? Or is embracing the wildness inside of her the key to acceptance?

This darkly comedic love story is a brilliantly layered portrait of trauma, rage, and vulnerability.

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It was Vera’s idea to buy the Itza. The “world’s most advanced smart speaker!” didn’t interest Thiago, but Vera thought it would be a bit of fun for them amidst all the strange occurrences happening in the condo. It made things worse. The cold spots and scratching in the walls were weird enough, but peculiar packages started showing up at the house who ordered industrial lye? Then there was the eerie music at odd hours, Thiago waking up to Itza projecting light shows in an empty room.

It was funny and strange right up until Vera was killed, and Thiago’s world became unbearable. Pundits and politicians all looking to turn his wife’s death into a symbol for their own agendas. A barrage of texts from her well-meaning friends about letting go and moving on. Waking to the sound of Itza talking softly to someone in the living room . . .

The only thing left to do was get far away from Chicago. Away from everything and everyone. A secluded cabin in Colorado seemed like the perfect place to hole up with his crushing grief. But soon Thiago realizes there is no escape not from his guilt, not from his simmering rage, and not from the evil hunting him, feeding on his grief, determined to make its way into this world.


In our world, there is a great need for a poetry book that promotes love over hate. This book seeks to inspire its readers through its pages with the message of “Love after Love” and encourages them to embrace love until it overcomes all. The book is dedicated to all mothers and urges them to teach their children the importance of love. Children who grow up with hate may eventually hate their mothers, so it’s essential to remove all forms of hate from their hearts, hug them every day, and avoid using the word “hate.” To prevent the spread of hatred in children, school curriculums should include lessons on tolerance, compassion, and goodwill, which are more important than any other subject. Hate is becoming more prevalent, and we see an increase in wars, genocides, and massacres. It is up to us to fight back with love. The United Nations should create a date to eliminate hate. Ultimately, love leads to heaven, while hate leads to hell. We must strive to live in heaven and never succumb to hate.


A Professional Lola is a collection of short stories that blend literary fiction with the surreal to present the contemporary Filipino American experience and its universal themes of love, family, and identity. A family hires an actress to play their beloved grandmother at a party; a couple craving Filipino food rob a panaderya; a coven of Filipino witches cast a spell on their husbands; a Lolo transforms into a Lola. These are just a few of the stories in the collection that represent its roster of stories beautifully grounded in culture and vividly and meticulously painted to make the absurd seem mundane and the commonplace, sinister. A Professional Lola embodies the joy, mystery, humor, sadness, hunger, and family that inhabit modern-day Filipino American virtues.



Edna Sloane was a promising author at the top of her game. Her debut novel was an instant classic and commercial success, vaulting her into the heady echelons of the 1980s New York City lit scene. Then she disappeared and was largely forgotten. Decades later, Seth Edwards is an aspiring writer and editor who feels he’s done all the right things to achieve literary success, but despairs that his dream will be forever out of reach. He becomes obsessed with the idea that if he can rediscover Sloane, it will make his career. His search for her leads to unexpected places and connections, and the epistolary correspondence that ensues makes up this book, a novel infused with insights and meditations about what our cultural obsession with the “next big thing” does to literature, and what it means to be a creative person in the world.

Set in 2018 against the backdrop of an overcrowded, fetid refugee camp on the beautiful Greek island of Samos, The Good Deed follows the stories of four women living in the camp and an American tourist who comes to Samos to escape her own dark secret.

When the tourist does a “good deed,” she triggers a crisis that brings her and the refugee women into a conflict that escalates dramatically as each character struggles for what she needs.

“Written with immense sensitivity and depth of knowledge and understanding, The Good Deed is an essential read of our times. It is captivating, revealing, and insightful. It is vividly and beautifully written, taking us to the heart of these women’s experiences, their external and internal journeys, showing us the reality of what it means to be a refugee, the devastation, the loss and trauma, but also strength and resilience. This is a must read! It should be on everybody’s bookshelf. It bought tears to my eyes and hope to my heart.”

—Christy Lefteri, author of Songbirds and The Beekeeper of Aleppo


Deer Black Out is a(n obsessional re) meditation of violence and trauma through the trans/coalescence of identities surfacing and resurfacing within a manuscript of serialized poetry, influenced by HD, Zukofsky, and Ronald Johnson. It’s sort of like a body, the movement of which you can only recognize emerging within a field of static. Just the outlines. A deer! In ramifying lines, this poetry creates a self-reciprocating dialogue with the very act of self-replication. The language exists as the prosthetic support that co-creates and conditions the Baerself’s emergence into the real.

“Engaged on a transverse plane of psychophysical consciousness, Ulrich Jesse K Baer is aware that the body existentially wages war for survival on a plane of societal infamy that institutionally condemns not only the book’s basic lingual anatomy but also empowers the existential scale it implies. Certainly not the static grounding that appears as chronological consequence but as living aberration.”

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What can we bear and what can we lift when a beloved, when our world, is lightstruck and mad? The Bearable Slant of Light documents a web of clinical assessments, medications, the terrible beauties of delusion, and the fragile gifts of darkness. Poems that reach across the history of writers and artists who fought and sometimes lost their own battles against mental illness are set against the urgencies of our anxious world and the intimate struggle of one family.

“What if you were to write a book of poems expert in their formal invention and so varied in tone that the anger and helplessness and desperation of the poems were also shot through with a tough-minded, often darkly humorous intelligence sifting through possibility after possibility of solace and finding, after all that sifting, nothing but a pile of dust? No consolations, no moments of redemption, nothing but the hard and strange and always original perception of ‘it happened this way but never the way I expected.’ Well, this is the kind of book that Lynnell Edwards has written—a book whose occasion is the mental illness of her son, but whose subject is radical estrangement/self-estrangement.”

Sleigh, author of The King’s Touch


As the Sky Begins to Change is a book of poems to wake the world, lyric anthems for earth and kin.

In his third poetry collection from Red Hen Press, Kim Stafford gathers poems that sing with empathy, humor, witness, and story. Poems in this book have been set to music, quoted in the New York Times, posted online in the Academy of American Poets Poem-a-Day series, gathered in a chapbook sold to benefit Ukrainian refugees, posted online in response to Supreme Court decisions, composed for a painter’s gallery opening, and in other ways engaged with a world at war with itself, testifying for the human project hungry for kinship, exiled from bounty, and otherwise thirsting for the oxygen of healing song.

BLUE ATLAS by Susan Rich

Blue Atlas is a lyrical abortion narrative unlike any other.

This one-of-a-kind collection follows a Jewish woman and her ghosts as they travel from West Africa to Europe and, finally, to the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco. The speaker searches repeatedly for a new outcome, seeking answers in a myriad of mediums such as an online questionnaire, a freshman composition essay, and a curriculum vitae. The raw, often far from idyllic experience of a global love affair that results in an unplanned pregnancy is examined and meditated upon through a surreal prism. The Blue Atlas, a genus of the common cedar tree first found in the High Atlas of Morocco and known for its beauty and resilience, becomes a metaphor for the hardship and power of a fully engaged life.



It’s not a river, it’s this river.

A hot, motionless afternoon. Enero and El Negro are fishing with Tilo, their dead friend’s teenage son. After hours of struggling with a hooked stingray, Enero aims his revolver into the water and shoots it. They hang the ray’s enormous corpse from a tree at their campsite and let it go to rot, drawing the attention of some local islanders and igniting a longsimmering fury toward outsiders and their carelessness. It’s only the two sisters—the teenage nieces of one of the locals, Aguirre—with their hair black as cowbird feathers and giving off the scent of green grass, who are curious about the trio and invite them to a dance. But the girls are not quite as they seem. As night approaches and tensions rise, Enero and El Negro return to the charged memories of their friend who years ago drowned in this same river.

As uneasy and saturated as a prophetic dream, Not a River is another extraordinary novel by Selva Almada about masculinity, guilt, and irrepressible desire, written in a style that is spare and timeless.


In 1967, the dancer Marta Becket and her husband were traveling through Death Valley Junction when they came across an abandoned theater. Marta decided it was hers. She painted her ideal audience on its walls and danced her own dances until her death five decades later.

In the present day, Gia has ended a relationship and taken a leave from her job in film studies at a university. She is sleeping fifteen hours a night and ignoring calls from her mother. In a library archive, she comes across a photo of Marta Becket and decides to write her a letter. Soon Marta magically appears in her home.

Gia hopes Marta Becket will guide her out of her despair. But is Marta—the example of her single-minded, solitary life—enough? Through precise, vivid vignettes, Bitter Water Opera follows Gia as she resists the urge to escape into herself and struggles to form a lasting connection to the world. Her search has her reckoning with a set of terrifying charcoal drawings on her garage walls, a corpse in the middle of a pond, a crooked pear sapling, and other mysterious entities before bringing her to Marta’s theater, the Amargosa Opera House. There in the desert, Gia finds one answer.

Like Love is a momentous, raucous collection of essays drawn from twenty years of Maggie Nelson’s brilliant work. These profiles, reviews, remembrances, tributes, and critical essays, as well as several conversations with friends and idols, bring to life Nelson’s passion for dialogue and dissent. The range of subjects is wide—from Prince to Carolee Schneemann to Matthew Barney to Lhasa de Sela to Kara Walker—but certain themes recur: intergenerational exchange; love and friendship; feminist and queer issues, especially as they shift over time; subversion, transgression, and perversity; the roles of the critic and of language in relation to visual and performance arts; forces that feed or impede certain bodies and creators; and the fruits and follies of a life spent devoted to making.

Arranged chronologically, Like Love shows the writing, thinking, feeling, reading, looking, and conversing that occupied Nelson while writing iconic books such as Bluets and The Argonauts. As such, it is a portrait of a time, an anarchic party rich with wild guests, a window into Nelson’s own development, and a testament to the profound sustenance offered by art and artists.

LIKE LOVE by Maggie Nelson
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Sara Daniele Rivera’s award-winning debut is a collection of sprawling elegy in the face of catastrophic grief, both personal and public. From the leadup to the 2016 presidential election through the COVID-19 pandemic, these poems memorialize lost loved ones and meditate on the not-yet gone—all while the wider-world loses its sense of connection, safety, and assurance. In those years of mourning, The Blue Mimes is a book of grounding and heartening resolve, even and especially in the states of uncertainty that define the human condition.

Rivera’s poems travel between Albuquerque, Lima, and Havana, deserts and coastlines and cities, Spanish and English—between modes of language and culture that shape the contours of memory and expose the fault lines of the self. In those inevitable fractures, with honest, off-kilter precision, Rivera vividly renders the ways in which the bereft become approximations of themselves as a means of survival, mimicking the stilted actions of the people they once were. Where speech is not enough, this astonishing collection finds a radical practice in continued searching, endurance without promise—the rifts in communion and incomplete pictures that afford the possibility to heal.


When the unnamed narrator of Marie Mutsuki Mockett’s stirring second novel returns to Carmel, California, to care for her mother, she finds herself stranded at the outset of the disease. With her husband and children back in Hong Kong, and her Japanese mother steadily declining in a care facility two hours away, she becomes preoccupied with her mother’s garden—convinced it contains a kind of visual puzzle—and the dormant cherry tree within it.

Caught between tending to an unwell parent and the weight of obligation to her distant daughters and husband, she becomes isolated and unmoored. She soon starts a torrid affair with an arborist who is equally fascinated by her mother’s garden, and together they embark on reviving it. Increasingly engrossed by the garden, and by the awakening of her own body, she comes to see her mother’s illness as part of a natural order in which things are perpetually living and dying, consuming and being consumed. All the while, she struggles to teach (remotely) Lady Murasaki’s eleventh-century novel, The Tale of Genji, which turns out to resonate eerily with the conditions of contemporary society in the grip of a pandemic.


A confession, a lament, a mad gush of grief and obsession, My Heavenly Favorite is the remarkable and chilling successor to Lucas Rijneveld’s international sensation, The Discomfort of Evening. It tells the story of a veterinarian who visits a farm in the Dutch countryside where he becomes enraptured by his “Favorite”—the farmer’s daughter. She hovers on the precipice of adolescence, and longs to have a boy’s body. The veterinarian seems to be a tantalizing possible path out from the constrictions of her conservative rural life.

Narrated after the veterinarian has been punished for his crimes, Rijneveld’s audacious, profane novel is powered by the paradoxical beauty of its prose, which holds the reader fast to the page. Rijneveld refracts the contours of the Lolita story with a kind of perverse glee, taking the reader into otherwise unimaginable spaces full of pop lyrics, horror novels, the Favorite’s fantasized conversations with Freud and Hitler, and her dreams of flight and destruction and transcendence.



Diane Seuss’s signature voice— audacious in its honesty, virtuosic in its artistry, outsider in its attitude—has become one of the most original in contemporary poetry. Her latest collection takes its title, Modern Poetry, from the first textbook Seuss encountered as a child and the first poetry course she took in college, as an enrapt but ill-equipped student, one who felt poetry was beyond her reach. Many of the poems make use of the forms and terms of musical and poetic craft—ballad, fugue, aria, refrain, coda—and contend with the works of writers overrepresented in textbooks and anthologies and those too often underrepresented. Seuss provides a moving account of her picaresque years and their uncertainties, and in the process, she enters the realm between Modernism and Romanticism, between romance and objectivity, with Keats as ghost, lover, and interlocutor.


It’s been a few months since the events of Speak for the Dead and Dr. Cate Spencer is seeking a temporary reprieve in the bucolic Eastern Townships of Quebec where she can come to terms with her brother’s death, find inner peace, build new relationships, and await a decision about her future.

But when a man at a neighboring farm is shot through the eye with deadly accuracy, a metal detector lying next to him, Cate can’t help but investigate.

As she delves deeper into the mystery, Cate uncovers a world of drugs, lies, and violence hidden beneath the picturesque town, all of which threaten the tenuous peace she’s built for herself.

As long-buried secrets and a centuries-old mystery become exposed, what will Cate lose to find the answers she seeks?


The neighborhood of Oleander Court is the poster child for suburban bliss. The residents compare lawns beautified by hired help. They monitor home values. They toss perfect furniture because they wanted tapioca, not beige.

But when a string of murders rips through the neighborhood, suspicions abound as new secrets come to light. And as more and more bodies are taken away, it becomes clear that the killer is strategically selecting each and every victim, picking off the shallowest, most wasteful of the lot in spectacular fashion and leaving everyone in the neighborhood to wonder: Who’s next?

While most of their neighbors scatter like well-dressed cockroaches, a small group of the neighborhood ladies team up to solve their local mystery and restore their once-peaceful lives. But is this ragtag collection of amateur sleuths truly a united front? With reputations, freedom, and personal sanity on the line, the ladies must unmask the killer... even if the killer is among them.

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On a September afternoon in Santa Barbara, a private jet carrying the members of Poor Ghost—one of America’s most storied rock bands—plunges into the backyard of Caleb Crane, a retired insurance salesman. Still mourning his wife’s death from Covid, Caleb finds himself navigating trauma, grief, and loss, all while his quiet neighborhood is invaded by pushy reporters and rabid Poor Ghost fans.

For fans of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s Daisy Jones & the Six and its fictional documentary structure, Poor Ghost moves back and forth between the impact of the plane crash on Caleb’s life and an oral history of Poor Ghost—from its beginnings as a working-class punk band to rock icons. As the twisting and turning strands of the plot converge, readers are shown what happens when different worlds (literally) collide with one another, and how we view, negotiate, argue with, and aid those who are unlike us.

It’s 2422 and the world’s governing mathematicians have calculated that society’s struggles with rampant war and homicide have put humanity on a crash-course with extinction. With an estimated fifteen months left until humankind’s total annihilation, the World Council of Mathematicians (WCM) determine the only way out of the crisis is to create the optimum language for humans, creating common understanding across all cultures and allowing them to work together for their joint salvation.

The WCM and Charles De Costa, a brilliant mathematics student, must rely on LIFT, a scientific breakthrough that allows them to enlist the aid of the greatest minds in history, to create this new world language based on mathematics, linguistics, and music. Can the great minds of the past help lead humanity to a better future? Can this new language be created in time? Or will society’s continued evil and miscommunication lead the world to an inevitable end?

The house breathes. The house contains bodies and secrets. The house is visited by ghosts, by angels that line the roof like insects, and by saints that burn the bedsheets with their haloes. It was built by a smalltime hustler as a means of controlling his wife, and even after so many years, their daughter and her granddaughter can’t leave. They may be witches or they may just be angry, but when the mysterious disappearance of a young boy draws unwanted attention, the two isolated women, already subjects of public scorn, combine forces with the spirits that haunt them in pursuit of something that resembles justice.

In this lush translation by Sophie Hughes and Annie McDermott, Layla Martínez’s eerie debut novel is class-conscious horror that drags generations of monsters into the sun. Described by Mariana Enriquez as “a house of women and shadows, built from poetry and revenge,” this vision of a broken family in our unjust world places power in the hands of the eccentric, the radical, and the desperate.

WOODWORM by Layla Martinez


It’s 1966 in Suriname, on the Caribbean coast of South America, and the long shadow of colonialism still hangs over the country. Grandma Bee is the proud, cigar-smoking matriarch of the Vanta family, which is an intricate mix of Creole, Maroon, French, Indian, Indigenous, British, and Jewish backgrounds. But Grandma Bee is dying, a cough has settled deep in her lungs.

The approaching end has her thinking about the members of her family she’s lost, and especially one of her favorite granddaughters, Heli, who has been sent away to the Netherlands because of an affair with her white teacher. Ultimately, there’s only one question Bee must answer: What is a family? If her descendants are spread across the world, don’t look similar, don’t share a heritage, and don’t even know each other, what bond will they have once she has died?

A moving portrait of a woman finding peace in the legacy that is her daughters and granddaughters, Off-White, keenly translated by Lucy Scott and David McKay, is also a searing and complex portrait of male violence, the legacy of colonialism, and a dismantling of what it means to be “white”.


At an age when she’d rather be making her own way in the world, an unnamed young woman finds herself moving to a small town at the seaside to care for her uncle. He’s a disabled war veteran with questionable habits, prone to drinking, gorging, and hoarding—not to mention the occasional excursion down into the plumbing, where he might disappear for days at a time. When the world starts to shut down, Uncle and his niece become closer than ever. She knows his every move—every bathroom break he takes, every pill he swallows—and finds herself relying more and more on this strange man, her only company in a shrinking world. But then Uncle’s health takes a turn for the worse: He’s sent to a hospital that cares for cats, dogs, and Uncles, and any way for her to make sense of this eerie new reality, and her place within it, falls apart.

NO GODS LIVE HERE by Conceição Lima, translated by David Shook

A career-spanning collection from giant of Santomean poetry Conceição Lima, No Gods Live Here catalogues and memorializes the cruelties and triumphs of the country’s past alongside the poet’s own childhood poems set against the tiny island nation’s distinctive flora and geography. Through vivid imagery, Lima evokes São Tomé and Príncipe, from popular Santomean music to imagery of fishermen on the beach, while remaining ever aware of the subjective meeting of memory, time, and place.

Through poetry, Lima unites past and present to resurrect hope in human creation and the possibility of metamorphosis.

“Conceição Lima has emerged in the postcolonial period as one of lusophone Africa’s foremost contemporary poets.”

—Russell G. Hamilton

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Divided Island is the story of a woman with a neurological disorder. The day she goes in for the encephalogram that will lead to her diagnosis, she finds herself splitting in two. One of the two women she becomes decides to travel to an island to take her own life; the other remains behind. Scenes and images real and imagined gradually coalesce into the story of a life told from a singular location: a way of perceiving and describing the world, guided by cerebral dysrhythmia. Written in scraps and fragmented chapters, Divided Island is a nonlinear narrative best read as a poetic experience, in which the protagonist’s memories and dreams recompose the world and, in doing so, trouble the very notion of the self.


The speaker in Dorothy Chan’s fifth collection, Return of the Chinese Femme, walks through life fearlessly, “forehead forever exposed,” the East Asian symbol of female aggression. She’s the troublemaker protagonist— the “So Chinese Girl”—the queer in a family of straights— the rambunctious ringleader of the girl band, always ready with the perfect comeback, wearing a blue fur coat, drinking a whiskey neat. They indulge on the themes of food, sex, fantasy, fetish, popular culture, and intimacy.

Chan organizes the collection in the form of a tasting menu, offering the reader a taste of each running theme. Triple sonnets, recipe poems, and other inventive plays on diction and form pepper the collection. Amidst the bravado, Return of the Chinese Femme represents all aspects of her identity—Asian heritage, queerness, kid of immigrants’ story—in the most real ways possible, conquering the world through joy and resilience.


Maggie and her family are forced to endure a season of fear and failure as they face the loss of their home and their onceamazing Daddy to the whiskey bottle. Up against terrible truths and unforeseeable accidents, Maggie struggles in the dark and lonesome farmhouse.

When all seems lost, Maggie, her sisters, and her mother band together to overcome humiliation and tragedy. A tale of willpower in ordinary people who act with courage and grit, this story is ultimately one of resilience, forgiveness, and redemption.

Literature is the safe and traditional vehicle through which we learn about the world and pass on values from one generation to the next. Books save lives."



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