Summer Reads: June/ July 2022 - Shelf Unbound

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Summer Reads FEATURING

2022 Summer Release Roundup Translation & #WorldKidLitMonth Interview with Kim Hooper about her newest novel 'Ways

the World Could End'





M A G A Z I N E 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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The Hive.

By Melissa Scholes Young



Shelf Unbound Staff. PRESIDENT, EDITOR IN CHIEF Sarah Kloth PARTNER, PUBLISHER Debra Pandak COPY EDITOR Molly Niklasch CONTRIBUTING EDITOR Megan Lord V. Jolene Miller Christian Brown Alyse Mgrdichian Gabriella Guerra Wyatt Bandt Christina Consolino Michele Mathews Anthony Carinhas FINANCE MANAGER Jane Miller

For Advertising Inquiries: e-mail For editorial inquiries: e-mail


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Colonel Charles Noble is a US Civil War veteran, and an Army surgeon reservist, who is recommissioned by the government eleven years after the war. 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. Dr. Noble uses his Army deployment as an opportunity to help heal the wounds and afflictions of Southern US citizens. However, terrorists are determined to counter Noble’s good intentions, as they threaten the civil rights, and the very lives, of all who oppose them.

1918: THE GREAT PANDEMIC 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. Noble desperately tries to warn and prepare the country for the approaching horror. Influenza’s effect on the world, nation, and Dr. Noble’s own family unfolds as medical science seeks ways to somehow stop it. Eventually, the 1918 influenza pandemic killed up to 100 million people, and became the worst natural disaster in human history.

1980: THE EMERGENCE OF HIV Dr. Arthur Noble is a brilliant first-year medical resident in San Francisco, who has a stellar career ahead of him. However, all of Noble’s skills are put to the test when he encounters a strange new illness. The ailment 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.







FEATURES 11 Crime & Courage: An Interview with Sheryll O’Brien By Alyse Mgrdichian 22 Summer Reads Roundup By Alyse Mgrdichian

62 Interview: Vanessa Corcoran By V.

SECTIONS 22 Bookstagram 53 Recommended Reading 80 Indie Catalog 86 Book Shelf 126 Indie Bookstore 130 Indie Reviews 146 On Our Shelf

COLUMNS 69 Girl Plus Book Megan Lord 96 Small Press Reviews Sean Malone 116 Podster Gabrielle Guerra 122 Pride & Publishing Chrissy Brown 124 Reading on the Run V. Jolene Miller 128 Fit Lit Christian Brown


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Jolene Miller

72 Interview: Peter Aronson. By Michele Mathews

76 Young Summer Love By Michele Mathews 92 Interview: Martha Conway, Author of

Physician's Daughter By V. Jolene Miller

98 New & Upcoming Spanish-English

Translations: An Interview with Megan McDowell By Alyse Mgrdichian

104 Translation & #WorldKidLitMonth: An Interview with Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp By Alyse Mgrdichian

142 Interview: Kim Hooper By Michele Mathews



If we could all go back to being kids with summers off filled with weekly trips to the library and late-night reading, oh man, wouldn't that be just be everything. This issue we hope to take you back to those childhood moments as you dive into our catalog of great summer reads. We hope you check out our roundup of indie reads to add to your summer reading list featuring new releases and beloved favorites.

Hooper, including conversations with Megan McDowell and Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp on translations. Enjoy the issue! 

In this issue, we have interviews with authors with Sheryll O’Brien, Vanessa Corcoran, Peter Aronson. Martha Conway, and Kim 7

A unique page-turning adventure every fan of the paranormal will love. A Knock in the Attic—my second award-winning book—is, as Uri Geller stated, “a fascinating true story of incredible psychic experiences.”

In these entertaining and adventure filled stories I’ll tell you what it was like to grow up with a powerful and accurate psychic gift that sometimes spooked the adults around me, leaving them bug-eyed and slackjawed; and I’ll relate some of the emotions I experienced while encountering hair-raising visitations from ghosts on a regular basis. I’ll share with you the times when my own Guardian Angels not only protected me from physical harm but when they also literally saved my life with a belated Christmas Miracle, to the astonishment of others who said I had lived through the impossible. Travel with me to Roswell where I have my very own “’UFO’ encounter” at the Roswell UFO Museum, an encounter that validated the fact that the Roswell UFO crash was a real event and also explained why many witnesses to UFOs are reluctant to come forward. Plus: I’ll tell you what it was like to meet Uri Geller; give you a behind-the-scenes look at filming the TV pilot for The History Channel; take you along with me to a haunted horse barn; and then...what was that knocking in the attic...? You’ll enjoy more than a few spine-tingling moments as you join me to experience these astonishing true stories of the unknown...incredible paranormal events that you will not soon forget FIND OUT MORE AT: WWW.AKNOCKINTHEATTIC.NET 8

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BLACK, White And Gray All Over

Enlightening. Explosive. Sensational. Revealing. Humorous. Tongue-in-cheek. But most of all, Heartbreaking.

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.


In This Viral Pandemic Era, Finding A Cure For All Disease Becomes A Deadly Game. SERUM takes the reader on a suspenseful journey from the submarine volcanoes of the Banda Sea into the depths of medical research, intrigue, loss, revenge and corruption that could derail the prospect of a disease-free world. Available Amazon and Barnes & Noble


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Crime & Courage: An Interview with Sheryll O’Brien. BY ALYSE MGRDICHIAN




Here at Shelf Media Group we have many readers, advertisers, and contributors whom we love. However, Sheryll O’Brien is one of our oldest partners, and holds a very special place in our heart. As an experienced author and long-time Shelf Unbound advertiser, Sheryll is currently in hospice. While a private person, we wanted to share Sheryll’s authorial journey while we still have her with us — and she was gracious enough to answer some of our questions. Below you can find our conversation. I hope that, by the end of the interview, you’ll find yourself as fond of & charmed by Sheryll as I was. COULD YOU TELL ME A BIT ABOUT YOUR JOURNEY AS A STORYTELLER?

SO: The starts and stops of my storytelling journey have always begun with a health crisis. I wrote my first book, Suzanne, during the weeks before I had surgery to remove a tumor that had nestled against my brainstem. That book was strictly for me — I needed to fulfill a lifelong dream of writing a book, or more comfortably stated, I needed to fulfill a lifelong dream of telling a story. 12

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I do not consider myself a writer, though I am okay with the word ‘author’. It’s a matter of semantics, I know, but I am most comfortable with the term ‘storyteller’ because that’s where my talent shines. If a reader picks up an SOB book (yes, those are my initials — how perfectly delightful), I am quite sure they will finish it and enjoy it. As for the mechanics of writing, I know how to string words into sentences and paragraphs into chapters, but I have always felt at a disadvantage because I missed out on the whole college experience. I never took a creative writing course or studied important things like POV, tense, or narrative beyond what I learned in high school. I never got to hone my writing skills under the helpful eye of a scholar who felt an obligation to leave their red mark on my work. Whatever I learned about the important ‘writing stuff’ came from the how-to guide, Creative Writing for Dummies. I bought it, I read it, then I wrote, and wrote, and wrote on a clunky old word processor. The end



result was seven crappy manuscripts — and — seven really good stories. I passed them around to family and friends who enjoyed my work enough to wait their turn for another ‘SOB’ to be written and handed off. As time went on, I thought, ‘Maybe one day I’ll write a real book, one that I’d be proud to publish.’ And then I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012. I stopped writing so I could have surgery, radiation treatments, and drug therapies. I was deemed ‘in remission’ in the fall of 2017, and on February 1, 2018, I typed the first sentence of what would become my first independently published book, Bullet Bungalow. That book was intended to be a standalone novella — it ended up being the first book of Pulling Threads, a seventeen book series. FOR HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WRITING, AND WHAT HAS CREATIVITY AND SELFPUBLISHING LOOKED LIKE FOR YOU OVER THE YEARS?

SO: Writing in earnest actually began on a whim and on an iPad. I took up residence on a living room recliner, typed the first line of Bullet Bungalow,

and didn’t stop until I typed the last line a few weeks later. I knew I had written a really good story, but I also knew I had written a terrible book. I changed POV and tense countless times, and my mechanics were dreadful. Creativity has always been the easy part for me. I start a sentence, put a character in motion, and just follow along. The process is very much like watching a movie reel and typing what happens. I don’t outline beforehand, but I fill spiral-bound notebooks with bullet points of what happens in each chapter and add prompts for things that need to happen at some point during the story. When I finished my first novella, I dragged my ‘how-to’ guide from my desk drawer, fixed what I could, then found an awesome editor who hooked me up with an awesome publisher. They excelled in areas where I needed help, and they let me know they really liked my work and were perfectly happy to let me be the storyteller in our little team. If not for the talented professionals in the world of Indie publishing, I would not have realized my dream — I would not have my 13



name on the spine of a book, let alone on the spine of twenty-four books. WHAT, TO YOU, IS THE POWER OF STORYTELLING?

SO: I want to start my answer by using something my editor wrote when I questioned whether I had pushed the envelope too far with a ABOUT THE BOOKS character.

‘...whether heart-wrenching confessions, ethereal spiritual experiences, shameful painful secrets, or spicy sex scenes — any writer who has the courage to dig deep and write vulnerably and truthfully tells the very things that others are thinking and don't have the courage to say. When we write bravely, we put words to thoughts others can't find; we identify emotions and motives and wild sides others want to express, but do not. THIS is the best writing. So Sheryll O'Brien, you are ON POINT. Don't hold back.’ ~Andria Flores (Permission has been obtained through email for use of this quote). Those words gave me the freedom to let my characters tell their stories the way they wanted to tell them. I referred back to Andria’s advice whenever I thought I might be holding back — when I might be self14

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editing. Without question, her words kept me from taming my writing power. I could have done that in certain scenes with certain characters, but I didn’t. I certainly could have done that when I introduced a dashing rascal by day / covert spy by night, Rocco Fiancetti. Thankfully, I didn’t. In my opinion, Rocco is my most unique character in the Pulling Threads series. He speaks a kitschy mashup of sexy Italian playboy and polished British upper crust. As for his effect on women, let’s just say he could have any, but he wants only one. This character steals scenes with comedic-verbiage, then gets down to business, his business — saving himself and, when need be, the world. By pushing into my writing power, my readers and I were introduced to an incredibly funny and sexy character — a slapstick superhero. Go figure! WHAT MADE YOU CHOOSE TO PURSUE STORYTELLING?

SO: The need to write chose me, though the seed of storytelling was planted when I was in elementary school. Mr. Dave Shea, my seventh-



grade English teacher, decided I should write a book. Sort of a bold thing for one person to decide for another, but Mr. Shea was nothing if not bold. A larger than life, take no prisoners teacher at Columbus Park Elementary, Mr. Shea relied on a bellowing voice and punitive essays to rein in students who dared step out of line. I received my first ‘Shea Essay’ after he caught me running the school corridors whilst chewing gum. I received my second ‘Shea Essay’ because I wrote the first one. The opening sentence of my punitive essay covered the basics: ‘Don’t run or chew gum in school because doing so is against the rules.’ Easy-peasy. The next 25 words focused on the dangers of running in close quarters. The next 25 words focused on the dangers of choking on the gum I was chewing. It was the last words that warranted additional punishment: ‘Don’t run the halls or chew gum in school because Mr. Shea will bust you and make you write a stupid essay.’

I wrote many, many, many essays that year. Mr. Shea, still my favorite teacher, graded my essays and edited them. When he handed back a writing assignment, he offered words of encouragement, then assigned another ‘Shea Essay’ — sometimes for a bogus infraction, and sometimes for legitimate cause. I think I knew it back then, and I certainly know it now; the extra work was his way of making sure that I wrote, and wrote, and wrote. On the last day of 7th grade, Mr. Shea gave me my final assignment: ‘You should write a book one day.’ I began that assignment 35 years later.” COULD YOU TELL ME A BIT ABOUT YOUR TWO SERIES — PULLING THREADS AND TWISTED THREADS?

SO: Pulling Threads is about the characters, Twisted Threads is about the crimes. Pulling Threads is a crime fiction series that begins in the fictional 15



seaside village of Mayflower – Laurel Falls. It follows the lives of the Mahoney-Maxwell clan, and the cast of characters who either help light their way or darken their doorstep. This series is what I describe as cozy crime mysteries delivered with a blunt edge. There are murders and assaults, but the reader isn’t always in the room when the crimes occur. On each cover, I tell the reader who the villain is for that story. Technically, each novella could be a standalone mystery because each has its own crime to solve. The fun part of the Pulling Threads series, though, begins with the very first novella and runs through to the end. Clues, or what I refer to as ‘threads’ are dropped into each novella. When pulled and followed, the threads eventually solve the ultimate mystery — the series’ mystery — which is revealed in the series’ finale, Alva.

Lakes region of Upstate New York. Police departments from Syracuse to Geneva work together to apprehend REDO, a serial rapist who attacks his victims twice. The sequel, Stay Safe, has many of the same officers working overtime to stop a serial killer who is hell-bent on avenging the death of REDO. These novels will send most readers behind closed and locked doors. They are gritty, raw, and disturbing. The Stony Beach series: Ashore, Adrift, and Awake, takes place on fictional Whisper Island in Casco Bay, Maine. The twisted threads in this trilogy bind a murdered teenage girl to the only witness to her murder — another teenage girl. Readers of these novels are taken to the crime scenes and to the ocean’s floor, where the central victim fears she’ll spend eternity.

Twisted Threads uses the same technique, but the stories under the banner headline are faster-paced and more definitely in-your-face crime dramas.

Twisted Threads are longer novels, each about 400 pages. The stories are full of creepy villains, backstabbing co-conspirators, and plenty of plot twists and turns to keep the reader guessing.

The first two-books, Her Scream and Stay Safe, take place in the Finger



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SO: On October 18, 2021, I had my first physical exam in two years. Like millions of Americans, I chose not to make a trip to my physician’s office in 2020 because the risk of getting Covid was just too high. As it turned out, staying away was the deadlier choice. A review of my prephysical lab work revealed off-thecharts alkaline phosphatase levels. As a breast cancer survivor, those levels suggested I had metastatic breast cancer in my liver or my bones. In early November, I was told I have systemic bone cancer from my skull to my knees. Prior to my appointment in October, I’d been living the best life. I was writing upwards of 15 hours a day, and working with a talented group of women who helped publish and promote my books. Despite long hours at my desk or kicking back on a recliner working on my laptop, I experienced nothing more than an occasional ache in my lower back

and in my right thigh, and a slight twinge of pain here and there. There was absolutely nothing to suggest I had Stage 4 terminal cancer. When I learned there wasn’t a worthwhile skirmish let alone a winnable fight for me, I decided I’d enjoy the holiday season: Christmas, my 64th birthday on December 28th, and New Year’s celebrations, then I would begin at-home hospice care. While I waited for those milestone days to come and go, I shared the news of my impending death with my family. I spent long, tearful hours with my daughters and husband, and I prepared myself for the day when I would have to tell my seven-yearold granddaughter, Hadley, that she would be losing her MammyGrams. My limited life-expectancy changed my writing focus. I put my last two novels into the hands of my publishing team, and pushed into two very important projects: Writing a book of grandmotherly advice for Hadley, and writing a blog about my end-of-life-journey. The publication of Be was intended 17



as a guidebook, something to help Hadley navigate through life without me. The simple messages behind topics like Be Kind, Be Thoughtful, Be Strong, or Be Faithful were important lessons for me to leave behind. They are even more significant now because we’ve had the opportunity to read the book together and share examples of how to Be Open and Be Resilient. My girl will be able to hold this keepsake in her hands and keep the memories of our sharing it in her heart.

I promised myself when I started the blog that I would be completely honest about everything. That I would offer a view into the life of a dying woman, but more importantly that I would give my readers a look at the ‘secretive’ world of hospice. While waiting for the first meeting with my social worker and hospice nurse, I made assumptions about what the program was — it’s a place where people go to die. Right? Well, yes, but mostly no, no, no.

As for the blog, it was intended to be a way for me to continue writing — a way for me to deal with my emotions about my end-of-life-journey, the one that would keep me confined to a recliner 24/7. Given the advanced stage of cancer, and the fragile state of my skeleton, the greatest and most imminent death risk for me is bone breakage, or the collapse of my spine. Either of those would be a catastrophic event and would result in a quick passing. Barring that, I was told I might have six months before cancer claimed me. It was ‘suggested’ that I get off my feet and stay off of them. Taking to my recliner was an easy decision — filling the long, lonely hours hasn't always been easy.

Given the dreadful and urgent state of my health, I came faceto-face with Really Big Decisions that needed to be made. I let my readers accompany me through my contemplation of, and the signing of, the most important documents of my life: ‘Do Not Resuscitate’; ‘Do Not Intubate’; and ‘Do Not Transport To A Hospital’. I let people I knew, and some who I didn’t know, press in when I presented scenarios that tested the power of the forms I’d just signed. I remember asking my nurse if she would perform CPR if I had a heart attack right then, and whether she’d get an ambulance team on scene if I broke my femur. Without pause


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and with utmost compassion she let me know there’d be no chest compressions or assisted breathing done on my behalf, and unless the femur break was a compound fracture resulting in blood loss, there may not be a trip to the ER. But, she assured me she’d do whatever needed to be done to keep me comfortable during those two hypothetical death scenes. Those discussions were weighty and eye-opening. I think there is a universal expectation that no matter who is with you when you clutch your chest with the pain of a heart attack, some life-saving measures will begin, especially if one of the individuals on scene is a nurse. That is not the case if the person on scene is a hospice nurse, the rarest of healthcare professionals — the one who holds your hand along each well-placed (and last-placed) step on your final journey — the one who will do nothing to alter your final footfalls. If you are surprised by my confusion over something named ‘Do Not Resuscitate’, you are not alone. I knew I’d just signed the DNR, and I knew what it meant, but I’d assigned a complexity to it — a

hopeful assumption that there’d be a pick-and-choose crisis where intervention is on the menu. There is no complexity, no gray-area, no reason to expect life-saving measures. It might sound harsh, but death is harsh, and death is what happens when there’s a DNR. Right? Right. What I have come to learn about hospice is an opinion: Hospice is not about preparing someone to die — it is about helping someone live the best life possible for as long as possible. Hospice nurses are a rare breed. I believe they answer a higher-call to do this type of work. They are nurses, healthcare givers, professionals normally charged with saving lives, and yet hospice nurses are not there to save your life, they are there to monitor your journey and keep you comfortable while you are on it. Pain management is the central focus of a hospice team, which is a team of two: The patient and her nurse. The process of dying is painful. It is really hard work, and it is done at an accelerated pace. To ensure pain is effectively managed, direct questions are asked, direct answers are given, and a look toward the future is taken 19



at each hospice visit. During my time in this program, I’ve come to accept many things. The most important thing is this: My death journey is very similar to my life’s journey. Both have had painful parts and times of really hard work. Both have had all the other stuff, too — the good and joyful and rewarding stuff. These past months haven’t been easy, and they most definitely have been painful, but this time is a gift. I hope I’m paying it forward by offering a peek into the world of hospice with weekly blog posts, and with the publication of a very special book, Be, Still. The writing of this book was a labor of love for hospice patients and the people who love them. Be, Still is my gift to any who read it and find comfort in it — more to the point, it is the greatest gift I’ve given to myself. I am most grateful for the blessing of time. During this slice, I have been reminded to Be Kind, Be Thoughtful, Be Strong and or Be Faithful as I prepare to leave this life. I am most humbled by the lessons I’ve learned, the friendships I’ve made and 20

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renewed, and the love I’ve received. Those are the reasons why I went allin and wrote one final story — my story. WHAT HAS IT BEEN LIKE FOR YOU TO BLOG ABOUT THIS DEEPLY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE?

SO: It has been tough at times. Expressing feelings about what is happening to me physically and emotionally has definitely taken its toll. But, overall, this time has been the most rewarding of my life. I’ve had time to do things, say things, and write things before I leave this world. Each one has touched the deepest, rawest places in my heart. It was bittersweet having a final date night with my husband of 35 years and sharing our tape-recorded words on the blog. It was heartbreaking having to tell the love of my life that her MammyGrams is dying, and then share our recorded words on the blog. It has been difficult working through the fear of a sudden death and the fear of a lingering one, all while sharing my thoughts and feelings with the outside world. But, it has been



gratifying to be lifted from pain and uncertainty by people who are following along, and who are taking time to encourage and support me on Facebook and in emails through my website. I have faced my diagnosis and impending death the only way I know how — with acceptance. I admit there have been times, rare and fleeting, when I’ve been pissed and resentful, and have asked, ‘Why me? Why now?’ In the end, the overriding truth for me is this: I see no reason to go kicking and screaming from this life. I want

to remember every wonderful thing from days gone by, and embrace every wonderful thing in the days still ahead. I want to count my blessings because there have been so many, and I want to enjoy my remaining blessings under the wonderful care of hospice. Mostly I want people to consider this truth — my truth — being told you are going to die is dreadful, but if you are told you still have time to live, and you find something worthwhile to do during that time, then you’ve been given the greatest gift of all. Right? Right. 




Summer Reads Roundup. Top 30 New & Upcoming Releases to Add to Your Summer Reads List BY ALYSE MGRDICHIAN


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coax their own fruit and vegetables from the land. But, as she writes: The summer of striding out toward a life of open fields and sacks of corn, I brought a confused black hole of something pernicious but not yet acknowledged along for the ride.


“An ‘exquisite and probing narrative’ (Publishers Weekly) of one woman's newfound neurodivergence, recounting how her surprising diagnosis of severe ADHD in the year that she moved to a small farm in the English countryside was just the beginning of her journey of discovery, offering an inside-out portrait of a neurodivergent mind for anyone who's ever wondered if different doesn't have to mean broken.” It should have been Rebecca Schiller’s dream come true: moving her young family to the English countryside to raise goats and

Rebecca’s health begins to crumble, with bewildering symptoms: frequent falls, uncontrollable rages, and mysterious lapses in memory. As she fights to be seen by a succession of specialists, her fledgling homestead—and her family—hang by increasingly tenuous threads. And when her diagnosis finally comes, it is utterly unexpected: severe ADHD. In her scramble for answers, Rebecca’s consciousness alternately sears with pinpoint focus and spirals with connections. Childhood memories resurface with new meaning, and her daily life entwines with the history of intrepid women who tended this land before her. Her family weathers their growing pains where generations of acorns have fallen to rise again as trees, where ancient wolves and lynx once stalked the shadows. Written in unsparing, luminous prose, this is an all-absorbing memoir of one woman’s newfound neurodivergence—and a clarion call to overturn the narrative that says minds are either normal and good or different and broken.




relationships between us all? To perceive ourselves in other beings—and to know that those beings are resolutely their own, that they ‘do not / care to be seen as symbols’?


“An astonishing collection about interconnectedness—between the human and nonhuman, ancestors and ourselves—from National Book Critics Circle Award winner and National Book Award finalist Ada Limón.” “I have always been too sensitive, a weeper / from a long line of weepers,’ writes Limón. ‘I am the hurting kind.’ What does it mean to be the hurting kind? To be sensitive not only to the world’s pain and joys, but to the meanings that bend in the scrim between the natural world and the human world? To divine the 24

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With Limón’s remarkable ability to trace thought, The Hurting Kind explores those questions—incorporating others’ stories and ways of knowing, making surprising turns, and always reaching a place of startling insight. These poems slip through the seasons, teeming with horses and kingfishers and the gleaming eyes of fish. And they honor parents, stepparents, and grandparents: the sacrifices made, the separate lives lived, the tenderness extended to a hurting child; the abundance, in retrospect, of having two families. Along the way, we glimpse loss. There are flashes of the pandemic, ghosts whose presence manifests in unexpected memories and the mysterious behavior of pets left behind. But The Hurting Kind is filled, above all, with connection and the delight of being in the world. ‘Slippery and waddle thieving my tomatoes still / green in the morning’s shade,’ writes Limón of a groundhog in her garden, ‘she is doing what she can to survive."



painter Count Hugo Beckenbauer and his masterpiece, Saint Sebastian’s Abyss, the work that established both men as important art critics and also destroyed their relationship. A darkly comic meditation on art, obsession, and the enigmatic power of friendship, Saint Sebastian’s Abyss stalks the museum halls of Europe, feverishly seeking salvation, annihilation, and the meaning of belief.


“What I wanted more than anything was to be standing beside Schmidt, in concert with Schmidt, at the foot of Saint Sebastian’s abyss along with Schmidt, hands cupped to the sides of our faces, debating art, transcendence, and the glory of the apocalypse.” Former best friends who built their careers writing about a single work of art meet after a decades-long falling-out. One of them, called to the other’s deathbed for unknown reasons by a ‘relatively short’ ninepage email, spends his flight to Berlin reflecting on Dutch Renaissance


“Bestselling author of Breasts and Eggs Mieko Kawakami invites readers back into her immediately recognizable fictional world with this new, 25



extraordinary novel and demonstrates yet again why she is one of today’s most uncategorizable, insightful, and talented novelists.” Fuyuko Irie is a freelance copy editor in her mid-thirties. Working and living alone in a city where it is not easy to form new relationships, she has little regular contact with anyone other than her editor, Hijiri, a woman of the same age but with a very different disposition. When Fuyuko stops one day on a Tokyo street and notices her reflection in a storefront window, what she sees is a drab, awkward, and spiritless woman who has lacked the strength to change her life and decides to do something about it. As the long overdue change occurs, however, painful episodes from Fuyuko’s past surface and her behavior slips further and further beyond the pale. All the Lovers in the Night is acute and insightful, entertaining and engaging; it will make readers laugh, and it will make them cry, but it will also remind them, as only the best books do, that sometimes the pain is worth it.


When Mitya was two years old, he swallowed his grandmother’s sewing needle. For his family, it marks the beginning of the end, the promise of certain death. For Mitya, it is a small, metal treasure that guides him from within. As he grows, his life mirrors the uncertain future of his country, which is attempting to rebuild itself after the collapse of the Soviet Union, torn between its past and the promise of modern freedom. Mitya finds himself facing a different sort of ambiguity: is he a boy, as everyone keeps telling him, or is he not quite a boy, as he often feels? After suffering horrific abuse from


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his cousin Vovka who has returned broken from war, Mitya embarks on a journey across underground Moscow to find something better, a place to belong. His experiences are interlaced with a retelling of a foundational Russian fairytale, Koschei the Deathless, offering an element of fantasy to the brutal realities of Mitya’s everyday life. Told with deep empathy, humor, and a bit of surreality, Little Foxes Took Up Matches is a revelation about the life of one community in a country of turmoil and upheaval, glimpsed through the eyes of a precocious and empathetic child, whose heart and mind understand that there are often more than two choices. An arresting coming of age, an exploration of gender, a modern folktale, a comedy about family, Katya Kazbek breaks out as a new voice to watch.


“A human and human-presenting AI slowly become friends—and maybe more—in this moving YA graphic novel.” In a near future, augmentation and AI changed everything and nothing. Indira is a human girl who has been cybernetically augmented after a tragic accident, and Fawn is one of the first human-presenting AI. They have the same internship at a gallery, but neither thinks much of the other’s photography. But after a huge public blowout, their mentor gives them an ultimatum: work together on a project or leave her gallery forever. Grudgingly, the two begin to collaborate, and what comes out of it is astounding and revealing for both of them. Pixels of You is about the slow transformation of a rivalry to a friendship to something more as Indira and Fawn navigate each other, the world around them—and what it means to be an artist and a person.




In this collection of poems, Sellers laments its loss, while observing, over the course of a year, daily life of the people and other animals around her, on her street, and in her low-lying coastal town, where new high rises soar into the sky as the storm clouds gather with increasing intensity and the future of the community- and seemingly life as we know it - becomes more and more uncertain.


“From the frontlines of climate catastrophe, a poet watches the sea approach her doorstep.” Born and raised in Florida, Heather Sellers grew up in an extraordinarily difficult home. The natural world provided a life-giving respite from domestic violence. She found, in the tropical flora and fauna, great beauty and meaningful connection. She made her way by trying to learn the name of every flower, every insect, every fish and shell and tree she encountered. That world no longer exists.


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Sprung from her daily observation journals, haunted by ghosts from the past, Field Notes from the Flood Zone is a double love letter: to a beautiful and fragile landscape, and to the vulnerable young girl who grew up in that world. It is an elegy for the two great shaping forces in a life, heartbreaking family struggle and a collective lost treasure, our stunning, singular, desecrated Florida, and all its remnant beauty.




of adolescence and the fine line between desire and fear.

“Was desire something like being possessed by a nightmare?” Fernanda and Annelise are so close they are practically sisters: a double image, inseparable. So how does Fernanda end up bound on the floor of a deserted cabin, held hostage by one of her teachers and estranged from Annelise? When Fernanda, Annelise, and their friends from the Delta Bilingual Academy convene after school, Annelise leads them in thrilling but increasingly dangerous rituals to a rhinestoned, Dior-scented, drag-queen god of her own invention. Even more perilous is the secret Annelise and Fernanda share, rooted in a dare in which violence meets love. Meanwhile, their literature teacher Miss Clara, who is obsessed with imitating her dead mother, struggles to preserve her deteriorating sanity. Each day she edges nearer to a total break with reality. Interweaving pop culture references and horror concepts drawn from Herman Melville, H. P. Lovecraft, and anonymous ‘creepypastas,’ Jawbone is an ominous, multi-vocal novel that explores the terror inherent in the pure potentiality


Like a cracked crystal ball tagged with black spray paint, these discomforting and darkly hilarious stories unveil a past, present, and future of unexplainable yet bizarrely poetic prophesies and moods. In ninety-five flash fictions, Shane Kowalski’s Small Moods presents lovers, dogs, bathtubs, hands, jewels, bananas, peasant boys, cuckolds, Jesus, dildos, shoes, nudes, cults, sadness, the movie Carrie, and much much more. Can you imagine a love child of Lydia Davis and Richard Brautigan? How about Russell 29



Edson’s ghost having tea with Diane Williams? Reading Small Moods is like entering a weird and private room of rejected fairy tales and goofball fables. It’s a room that belongs to Shane Kowalski, and he is welcoming you with strong, open, sweat-drenched arms. Don’t be afraid. He made you something.


My Volcano is a kaleidoscopic portrait of a menagerie of characters, as they each undergo personal eruptions, while the Earth itself is constantly shifting. Parable, myth, science-fiction, eco-horror, My Volcano is a radical work of literary art, emerging as a subversive, intoxicating 30

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artistic statement by John Elizabeth Stintzi. On June 2, 2016, a protrusion of rock growing from the Central Park Reservoir is spotted by a jogger. Three weeks later, when it finally stops growing, it’s nearly two-and-a-half miles tall, and has been determined to be an active volcano. As the volcano grows and then looms over New York, an eight-year-old boy in Mexico City finds himself transported 500 years into the past, where he witnesses the fall of the Aztec Empire; a Nigerian scholar in Tokyo studies a folktale about a woman of fire who descends a mountain and destroys an entire village; a white trans writer in Jersey City struggles to write a sci-fi novel about a thriving civilization on an impossible planet; a nurse tends to Syrian refugees in Greece while grappling with the trauma of living through the bombing of a hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan; a nomadic farmer in Mongolia is stung by a bee, magically transforming him into a green, thorned, flowering creature that aspires to connect every living thing into its consciousness. With its riveting and audacious vision, My Volcano is a tapestry on fire, a distorted and cinematic new work from the fiercely talented John Elizabeth Stintzi.



troupe recounts the last day she saw her father. Linked by theme and complex familial bonds, these stories shift across genres and forms to excavate the violence wreaked on women’s bodies and document the attempt to create something meaningful in the face of loss. They ask: who do we belong to? What, if anything, belongs to us?


Moving between Cuba and the U.S., the stories in Are We Ever Our Own trace the paths of the women of the far-flung Armando Castell family.” “Related but unknown to each other, these women are exiles, immigrants, artists, outsiders, all in search of a sense of self and belonging. The owner of a professional mourning service investigates the disappearance of her employees. On the eve of the Cuban revolution, a young woman breaks into the mansion where she was once a servant to help the rebels and free herself. A musician in a traveling


The first book of poems from an acclaimed young author, whose meteoric rise has already landed them on the cover of Time Magazine.” “In their bold debut poetry collection, 31



Akwaeke Emezi―award-winning author of Freshwater, PET, The Death of Vivek Oji,and Dear Senthuran―imagines a new depth of belonging. Crafted of both divine and earthly materials, these poems travel from home to homesickness, tracing desire to surrender and abuse to survival, while mapping out a chosen family that includes the son of god, mary auntie, and magdalene with the chestnut eyes. Written from a spiritfirst perspective and celebrating the essence of self that is impossible to drown, kill, or reduce, Content Warning: Everything distills the radiant power and epic grief of a mischievous and wanting young deity, embodied.


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What happens when everything falls away, when those you call on in times of need are themselves calling out for rescue?” In his highly anticipated second collection, Chen Chen continues his investigation of family, both blood and chosen, examining what one inherits and what one invents, as a queer Asian American living through an era of Trump, mass shootings, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Always at work in the wrecked heart of this new collection is a switchboard operator, picking up and connecting calls. Raucous 2 a.m. prank calls. Whispered-in-a-classroom emergency calls. And sometimes, its pages record the dropping of a call, a failure or refusal to pick up. With irrepressible humor and play, these anarchic poems celebrate life, despite all that would crush aliveness. Hybrid in form and set in New England, West Texas, and a landlocked province of China, among other places, Your Emergency Contact Has Experienced an Emergency refuses neat categorizations and pat answers. Instead, the book offers an insatiable curiosity about how it is we keep finding ways to hold onto one another.



monstrous when brought to life, revealing with disturbing honesty the psychological motives of a killer.


What transforms a person into a killer? Can it be something as small as a suggestion? Turn this page, and you may forfeit your entire life. With My Annihilation, Fuminori Nakamura, master of literary noir, has constructed a puzzle box of a narrative in the form of a confessional diary that implicates its reader in a heinous crime. Delving relentlessly into the darkest corners of human consciousness, My Annihilation interrogates the unspeakable thoughts all humans share that can be


They say writing is rewriting. So why does the second part get such short shrift? Refuse to Be Done will guide you through every step of the novel writing process, from getting started on those first pages to the last tips for making your final draft even tighter and stronger. From lauded writer and teacher Matt Bell, Refuse to Be Done is encouraging and intensely practical, focusing always on specific rewriting tasks, techniques, and activities for every stage of the process. 33

First two books now available

GEHENNA SERIES The Underworld Comes To Life In This Supernatural Adventure Series A community of demons in the Underworld and Middle Earth co-exist in the spirit realm and are controlled by the rulers of Hell - Lucifer and Lucinda. Most demons cannot cross between the human and demon world, and most are unaware of the existence of the human world at all. However, the halfhuman half-demon offspring of demons and humans known as Cambions heavily populate Middle Earth and attempt to duplicate the human experience, while mediating between transcendent realms in their attempt to maintain the balance of power between Heaven and Hell.




You won’t find bromides here about the ‘writing Muse.’ Instead, Bell breaks down the writing process in three sections. In the first, Bell shares a bounty of tactics, all meant to push you through the initial conception and get words on the page. The second focuses on reworking the narrative through outlining, modeling, and rewriting. The third and final section offers a layered approach to polishing through a checklist of operations, breaking the daunting project of final revisions into many small, achievable tasks. Whether you are a first time novelist or a veteran writer, you will find an abundance of strategies here to help motivate you and shake up your revision process, allowing you to approach your work, day after day and month after month, with fresh eyes and sharp new tools.


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Ruben Rivera, Ph.D., was born in New York City to a mixed-race Puerto Rican family and raised in southern California in that time ‘when children should be seen and not heard.’ As a working-class brown Latino boy, Ruben was invisible in the public school curriculum, on TV and media – except for anomalies like Tonto whose name in Spanish meant Dummy – and America as a whole, even as the long-ignored were struggling to be seen and heard in the era of Jim Crow, Civil Rights, the Chicano movement, anti-war marches, and the threat of cold war doom. In Z is for Zapatazo, Ruben’s poetry depicts family upheaval, social injustice, and suffering summarized by the Spanish word Zapatazo. But his writing also elaborates on the joys of love, family, faith, and hope for a better world. Experiences in the spaces between freedom and favoritism, ideals and reality, suffering and hope are rendered in a range of poetical forms with vivid imagery, deadly seriousness, and humor. Although his poetry has won awards in various contests, Z is for Zapatazo is Ruben’s first published collection.



and novelette.


A man's midlife crisis unfolding in a taxidermy factory. A widower and his baby daughter visited by demons. A homunculus climbing out of the skull of a woman's sick father. These stories exist in the borderlands between literary and genre, injecting strange and speculative elements into the mundane. Creatures, spirits, ghosts, robots, superheroes, and the Devil himself populate the pages, as elements of satire, horror, and science fiction enter the everyday tragedies of love, death, and loss. With odes to jazz and cyberpunk, spanning Pittsburgh to Argentina, Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before is twelve tales of the weird, including a previously unpublished story


A page-turning generational saga about a young man’s search for a parent he never knew, and a moving portrait of motherhood, race, and the truths we hide in the name of family.” “Jenry Castillo is a musical prodigy, raised by a single mother in Miami. He arrives at Brown University on a scholarship—but also to learn more about his late father, Jasper Patterson, a famous ballet dancer who died tragically when Jenry was two. On his search, he meets his estranged grandfather, Winston Patterson, a legendary professor 37



of African American history and a fixture at the Ivy League school, who explodes his world with one question: Why is Jenry so focused on Jasper, when it was Winston’s daughter, Juliet, who was romantically involved with Jenry’s mother? Juliet is the parent he should be looking for—his other mother. Revelation follows revelation as each member of Jenry’s family steps forward to tell the story of his origin, uncovering a web of secrecy that binds this family together even as it keeps them apart. Moving seamlessly between the past and the present, The Other Mother is a daring, ambitious novel that celebrates the complexities of love and resilience—masterfully exploring the intersections of race, class, and sexuality; the role of biology in defining who belongs to whom; and the complicated truth of what it means to be a family.


Could there be something humbling and revolutionary in understanding myself as a site of contamination?” “Groundglass takes shape atop a polluted aquifer in Minnesota, beside trains that haul fracked crude oil, as Kathryn Savage confronts the transgressions of U.S. Superfund sites and brownfields against land, groundwater, neighborhoods, and people. Drawing on her own experiences growing up on the fence lines of industry and the parallel realities of raising a young son while grieving a father dying of a cancer with known environmental risk factors, Savage traces concentric rings of connection—between our bodies, one another, our communities, and our ecosystem. She explores the porous boundary between self and environment, and the ambiguous yet growing body of evidence linking toxins to disease. Equal parts mourning poem and manifesto for environmental justice, Groundglass reminds us that no living thing exists on its own.


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dark; sometimes he wanders the streets of his small southern Minnesota town. But more often than not, he crosses the hall into his stepfather Russ’s roller rink to spend the sleepless hours lost in music. Russ’s record collection is as eclectic as it is extensive, and he and Matthew bond over discovering new tunes and spinning perfect skate mixes. Then Matthew’s mother divorces Russ; they move; the roller rink closes; the twenty-first century arrives. Years later, an isolated, restless Matthew moves back to his hometown. From an unusual apartment in the press-box of the high school football stadium, he searches his memories, looking for something that might reconnect him with Russ. TILL THE WHEELS FALL OFF BY BRAD ZELLAR

From roller rinks and record players to coin-operated condom dispensers and small-town mobsters, Till the Wheels Fall Off is a novel about an unconventional childhood among the pleasures and privations of the predigital era.

With humor and empathy, Brad Zellar (House of Coates) returns with a discursive, lo-fi novel about rural Midwestern life, nostalgia, neurodiversity, masculinity, and family—with a built-in soundtrack.

It’s the late 1980s, and Matthew Carnap is awake most nights, afflicted by a potent combination of insomnia and undiagnosed ADHD. Sometimes he gazes out his bedroom window into the 39



charts fairy tales that are painfully familiar, never forgetting that violence is often accompanied by tenderness. Here we wonder, ‘What if this time instead of crumbs the girl drops / teeth, her own, what else does she have?’ The Clearing knows the dirt beneath our nails, both alone and as a country, and pries it gently loose until we remember something of who we are, ‘from before…from a similar injury or kiss.’


Winner of the 2019 Max Ritvo Poetry Prize, The Clearing is ‘a lush, lyrical book about a world where women are meant to carry things to safety and men leave decisively’ (Henri Cole). Luminous and electric from the first line to the last, Allison Adair’s debut collection navigates the ever-shifting poles of violence and vulnerability with a singular incisiveness and a rich imagination. The women in these poems live in places that have been excavated for gold and precious ores, and they understand the nature of being hollowed out. From the midst of the Civil War to our current era, Adair 40

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There is a dark beauty in this work, and Adair is a skilled stenographer of the silences around which we orbit. Described by Henri Cole as ‘haunting and dirt caked,’ her unromantic poems of girlhood, nature, and family linger with an uncommon, unsettling resonance.




Near a village high in the Pyrenees, Domènec wanders across a ridge, fancying himself more a poet than a farmer, to ‘reel off his verses over on this side of the mountain.’ He gathers black chanterelles, attends to a troubled cow. And then storm clouds swell, full of electrifying power. Reckless, gleeful, they release their bolts of lightning, one of which strikes Domènec. He dies. The ghosts of seventeenth-century witches gather around him, taking up the chanterelles he’d harvested before going on their merry ways. So begins this novel that is as much about the mountains and the mushrooms as it is about the human dramas that unfold in their midst. When I Sing, Mountains Dance, winner of the European Union Prize, is a giddy paean to the land in all its interconnectedness, and in it Sola finds a distinct voice for each extraordinary consciousness: the lightning bolts, roedeer, mountains, the ghosts of the civil war, the widow Sió and later her grown children, Hilari and Mia, as well as Mia’s lovers with their long-buried secrets and their hidden pain. Irene Solà animates the polyphonic

world around us, the fierce music of the seasons, as well as the stories we tell to comprehend loss and love on a personal, historical, and even geological scale. Lyrical, elemental, and mythic, hers is a fearlessly imaginative new voice that brilliantly renders both our tragedies and our triumphs.


A transporting, otherworldly debut of a young woman’s fated return to a windbattered island off the coast of Scotland, and the dark forces—old and new—that she finds there. The islanders have only three rules: don’t stick your nose where it’s not wanted, 41



don’t mention the war, and never let your guard down during October. Leigh Welles has not set foot on the island in years, but when she finds herself called home from life on the Scottish mainland by her father’s unexpected death, she is determined to forget the sorrows of the past—her mother’s abandonment, her brother’s icy distance, the unspeakable tragedy of World War II—and start fresh. Fellow islander Iain MacTavish, an RAF veteran with his eyes on the sky and his head in the past, is also in desperate need of a new beginning. A young widower, Iain struggles to return to the normal life he knew before the war. But this October is anything but normal. This October, the sluagh are restless. The ominous, birdlike creatures of Celtic legend—whispered to carry the souls of the dead—have haunted the islanders for decades, but in the war’s wake, there are more wandering souls and more sluagh. When a young man disappears, Leigh and Iain are thrown together to investigate the truth at the island’s dark heart and reveal hidden secrets of their own. Rich with historical detail, a skillful speculative edge, and a deep imagination, Emma Seckel’s propulsive and transporting debut The Wild Hunt unwinds long-held tales of love, loss, and redemption. 42

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Based on the true story of Belle da Costa Greene, a woman who defied all odds to carve out a destiny of her own choosing, this is a richly imagined novel bursting with atmosphere, lush period detail, and many unforgettable characters. New York in the 1900s. A young girl fascinated by rare books defies all odds and becomes the director of one of the country’s most prestigious private libraries. It belongs to the magnate J.P. Morgan, darling of the international aristocracy and one of the city’s richest men.



Flamboyant, brilliant, beautiful, Belle is among New York society’s most sought after intellectuals. She also hides a secret. Although she looks white, she is African American, the daughter of a famous black activist who sees her desire to hide her origins as the consummate betrayal. Torn between history’s ineluctable imperatives and the freedom to belong to the society of her choosing, Belle’s drama, which plays out in a violently racist America, is one that resonates forcefully and illuminatingly, even today. The fruit of years of research and interviews, Alexandra Lapierre’s magnificent novel recounts the struggles, victories, and heartbreaks of a woman who is free, astonishingly determined, daring, and fully, exuberantly alive.


Selected by Aimee Nezhukumatathil as the winner of the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize, Danni Quintos carves a space for brown girls and weird girls in her debut collection of poems. Two Brown Dots explores what it means to be a racially ambiguous, multiethnic, Asian American woman growing up in Kentucky. In stark, honest poems, Quintos recounts the messiness and confusion of being a typical ‘90s kid— watching Dirty Dancing at sleepovers, borrowing eye shadow out of a friend’s caboodle, crushing on a boy wearing khaki shorts to Sunday mass—while navigating the microaggressions of the neighbor kids, the awkwardness of puberty, and the casual cruelties of fellow teenagers. The mixed-race daughter of a dark skinned Filipino immigrant, Quintos retells family stories and Philippine folklore to try and make sense of an identity with roots on opposite sides of the globe. With clear-eyed candor and a wry sense of humor, Quintos teases the line between tokenism and representation, between assimilation and belonging, offering a potent antidote to the assumption that ‘American’ means ‘white.’ Encompassing a whole journey 43



from girlhood to motherhood, Two Brown Dots subverts stereotypes to reclaim agency and pride in the realness and rawness and ‘unprettyness’ of a brown girl’s body, boldly declaring: We exist, we belong, we are from here, and we will continue to be.


In nine stories that span the globe, What We Fed to the Manticore takes readers inside the minds of a full cast of animal narrators to understand the triumphs, heartbreaks, and complexities of the creatures that share our world. 44

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Through nine emotionally vivid stories, all narrated from animal perspectives, Talia Lakshmi Kolluri’s debut collection explores themes of environmentalism, conservation, identity, belonging, loss, and family with resounding heart and deep tenderness. In Kolluri’s pages, a faithful hound mourns the loss of the endangered rhino he swore to protect. Vultures seek meaning as they attend to the antelope that perished in Central Asia. A beloved donkey’s loyalty to a zookeeper in Gaza is put to the ultimate test. And a wounded pigeon in Delhi finds an unlikely friend. In striking, immersive detail against the backdrop of an ever-changing international landscape, What We Fed to the Manticore speaks to the fears and joys of the creatures we share our world with, and ultimately places the reader under the rich canopy of the tree of life.



violent world, but can they withstand the corruption of politics and the relentless pull of their own desires? Taking in the Philippines’ troubled history from the Marcos dictatorship to the establishment of the current autocratic regime, and expertly layering into this timely story many aspects of the human condition, The Betrayed is a complex and luminous novel. 


The Betrayed tells the story of two sisters who love the same man. As dictatorship and political upheaval ravage the Philippines, the sisters’ conflicting passions threaten to lead them to betray not only each other, but all that their father stood for. Shy, idealistic Pilar initially resolves to carry on her father’s fight against the regime, while her flamboyant older sister Lali reacts by marrying the enemy—Arturo, the dictator’s godson. Each tries to find their place in this 45


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Hell has never looked so frightening.

Find the award-winning Gehenna series and more from Kaylin McFarren at! 47












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





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@whatstiffreading TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOU. @whatstiffreading: I'm a 26 year old full time cheesecake baker who lives in the middle of nowhere Kansas with her husband and a very sassy cat named Bugsy. TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR BOOKSTAGRAM ACCOUNT AND HOW IT GOT STARTED. @whatstiffreading: My aesthetic is always changing, it goes from just the books by themselves, to where I'm reading, to very curated backgrounds. I started the account in January of 2020 as sort of a overview of a personal goal for myself. I think it started as I wanted to read 20 books and I ended up reading 28 that year! What kept me posting though, was how kind and uplifting the friends I made were. They gave me so much advice and we all grew together. The community I am surrounded with is amazing! WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE INDIE/SMALL PRESS AUTHOR AND WHY? @whatstiffreading: My favorite indie author is Harper Lin! Her Cape Bay Cafe mysteries are just so light-hearted and fun. The main character and her growth as an amateur sleuth are just funny. They speak to me as someone who works in a bakery. WHAT IS ONE OF YOUR FAVORITE INDIE BOOKS? @whatstiffreading: I'm not sure if favorite is the right word for this book. This book has just consumed my thoughts since I put it down though, and that's a rare thing for me. The Mash House by Alan Gillespie. I read this book almost a year ago and I have so many questions and opinions on the characters. It's gritty and dark but I couldn't stop reading!















COMPETITION 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 SelfPublished 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. All entries received (and entry fee paid) will be considered. THE TOP FIVE BOOKS, as determined by the editors of Shelf Media Group, will receive editorial coverage in the December / January 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 fullpage ads in the magazine.

Deadline for entry is October 31, 2022.



the war to

Hitler Riding the icy, moonlit sky— They took the war to Hitler. Their chances of survival were less than fifty percent. Their average age was 21. This is the story of just one bomber pilot, his crew, and the woman he loved. It is intended as a tribute to them all.


Moral Fibre: A Bomber Pilot’s Story By Helena P. Schrader

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SHELF UNBOUND’S RECOMMENDED READING Take a bite from your next favorite book.





DOS Perro Publishing | June 2022

Lyn knew she’d dawdled away the evening, unable to make more corrections to her draft. The indemnification provisions were so intricate that they made her dizzy. She felt as if she was in a maze of hedges in an English garden, going forward, then backing up, searching for a way out. Every phrase looked like the one before it. The phone on her desk rang. Her shoulders sagged. She could listen to the voicemail tomorrow. When the ringing stopped, she gave up her vigil with the agreement. There would be no more drafting tonight. A message from the night receptionist appeared on her screen. The caller was Jay Jackson, the message said. She became flustered. It had happened so fast, like a gust of wind blowing a tumbleweed into her path on the highway. They’d been lovers that one night. He’d called five weeks later, on the seventh of December, 2015, to invite her to his ranch in San Saba. And a week after that, he’d reneged, not even having the guts to talk to her himself, just leaving a message with her assistant. The Hold light on her telephone blinked, insistent. Her fluster became anger. She’d finally reconciled herself to his absence. But she mustn’t lose perspective, she thought. His call 54

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might arrange the last pieces of the puzzle of why he’d jilted her. Although why she wanted to know that, she wasn’t sure. She picked up the receiver. Her greetings were habitually positive. And in difficult circumstances, she overflowed with energy, like a poodle leaping to catch a tennis ball. “Well, hello there, stranger!” she exclaimed. “Give me a chance before you hang up,” he said immediately. “I’m an open-minded woman. You have ten seconds.” “I know I should’ve called long before now.” This apology, if that was what it was, sounded hollow to her. His voice wasn’t apologetic. The words were spoken too politely, thrown out as a perfunctory expression of regret. She held the phone away from her ear for a few seconds. He was not to be forgiven easily. “That’s a start. But not good enough,” she said. “It’s no excuse, but a lot has happened


to me since I saw you last. I want to see you, to tell you in person.” “You can make an appointment with my assistant. But I’m pretty busy.” He laughed. But she wasn’t joking. Her statement was a preparation for hanging up the phone. “Okay. Just think it over,” he said, after some moments of silence. “I’m on the West Coast. The weather is beautiful. The beaches are fabulous. Can you get away for a couple of days?” No would be the best answer. It was nervy for him to ask her so unexpectedly after all this time. A truly repentant

man would’ve sent a dozen roses in advance. “I’m quite busy, actually. Some of us still have to earn a living.” “I’m sorry. I know I surprised you,” he said. “Yes, you did.” “I should’ve sent you an email telling you I was going to call.” The line became silent and she wondered whether she could hear the ocean in the background. That he was on the West Coast, and not at his ranch, was strange. Then her shoulders sagged again. She wasn’t comfortable being strident. And her life had been going sideways. Boredom made her want to be imprudent.

So much so, that she might run away to a beach with a man who’d ditched her for two years. She did live in Houston. Pacific weather would be a relief. “I could probably get away for a day or two,” she said, hesitantly. “Good. Fly to San Diego on Saturday. Send me the flight information. I’ll be there waiting.” “That’s too quick!” He was not the one to be dictating the terms. She was pissed about his disappearance. A trip to the beach wouldn’t make that go away. 


Set in the conference rooms of a white-shoe Houston law firm and the stunning coastline of Baja California, Belinda is the story of a woman's bravery and resourcefulness at the end of her brilliant career. Her decision to fight her firm's men in suits who demand her retirement is called into question when a man once her lover appears after a long unexplained absence. Against a backdrop of romance and legal drama, the novel explores questions about love, the law, and the anxious precipice of life change. Is it ever too late to be swept away by romance? Can true justice ever be attained when the law's practitioners are corrupt? And when your work is what defines you, what's left after retirement? 55


Bottled Lightning. BY L.M. WEEKS

South Fork Publishers

“Oh my God,” she squealed as she wrapped her arms more tightly around Torn and put her helmeted head on his shoulder. Torn smiled. It was intoxicating when the bike had the desired effect of lowering a woman’s inhibitions. “No need for the death grip.” “Oh, sorry.” She tried to comply, but she liked holding onto him tightly. Torn sensed her interest in him was more than just as her lawyer. For the first time in his career, his resolve never to become romantically involved with a client began to waver. Traffic reappeared as they got closer to Hachioji. “Don’t slow down!” Ignoring her, he throttled down, knowing there were tollbooths ahead. He weaved in and out of the cars, again using all three lanes to keep progressing faster than the flow of


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| June 2022

traffic until they had reached the toll plaza. Just enough traffic remained after the tollbooths to make things fun. He pulled into the lefthand lane and toggled to Imagine Dragons. Demon played from the bike’s speakers. Saya squeezed her arms more tightly around Torn’s waist and closed her eyes. “This is more fun than I ever dreamed.” Torn felt warm all over. A few minutes later a big black Mercedes pulled up behind them, its front bumper almost touching the bike’s license plate. Torn sped up but the car continued to tailgate. Saya, eyes closed and lost in the music, didn’t notice the car right behind her. Then it sped up, passing them closely on the left. Torn swerved into the middle lane to avoid a collision. He turned off the music, causing Saya to open her eyes. The Mercedes pulled in front of them and slowed down, forcing Torn

to decelerate and swerve back into the left lane. It had no rear license plate, rare and illegal in Japan. “What’s that guy doing?” “I don’t know.” The big Mercedes changed lanes, slowing down in the middle lane until it was parallel with them. The tinted passenger window opened. Before Torn could react, a man stuck a gun out of the window and fired. The bullet passed through the soft padding under Saya, exiting the other side of her seat. With well-practiced fluidity, Torn squeezed the left


handle bar lever to open the clutch and shifted down to fourth gear with his left foot, then throttled up with his right hand while releasing the clutch lever with his left hand. The Beemer raced away from the Mercedes. He shifted back up to fifth gear as the RPMs shot up. “Oh my God!” “Are you hit?” he asked as calmly as he could while breaking into a cold sweat. “I don’t think so.” Things were moving in slow motion for Torn. He thought, No one has a gun in Japan except yaks. All at once he was relieved neither one of them had been hit, scared shitless about being chased by yakuza types, and pissed off at the damage to his motorcycle.

The big car again appeared next to them in the center lane. Torn slammed on the brakes with his right hand and foot, letting the Mercedes fly by. He shifted down two gears to third and throttled up, accelerating to 120 so fast he almost popped a wheelie. He flew by the driver’s side of the car, the high RPMs making the bike’s engine scream. Shifting up to fourth gear, he rocketed to 160. The powerful car caught him quickly. He sped up to 180 but the big Mercedes stayed on them. They approached more traffic, forcing both vehicles to slow down. As they reached the Mitaka Highway Bus Turnout, the three lanes of traffic became

two, creating a traffic jam. Salvation. Torn threaded between the two lanes of stalled traffic. Their pursuer briefly flanked them on the left shoulder until being thwarted by a soundproofing wall built to protect the surrounding homes from expressway noise. They were safe, but only for a moment. He heard a motorcycle engine being revved until the ugly sound was deafening. It was the sound of a bike with its muffler illegally removed. At the same time he saw the blinding light of a single high beam behind him and heard loud death metal music. His heart sank. 


An intriguing client. A passionate attorney. A deadly game. Top global technology lawyer Tornait “Torn” Sagara knows he shouldn’t get involved with his beautiful client, Saya Brooks, whose revolutionary lightning-on-demand invention will solve climate change and render all other energy sources obsolete. But their shared connection as hafu (half Japanese, half American) draws them irresistibly together.



Kiss Kiss For Real. BY CHARVET CLARK

Motina Books | January 2022

My brain scrambled to process a highly unlikely, unexpected scenario as it played out. Did he just nod at me? Whoa, he did. He actually noticed me. I was rewarded with a tough-guy-gangster-style chin jerk complete with a snobby glare down his nose as he and a couple of his friends strutted past me and the girls I was walking with down the athletics hall. I slightly lifted my chin back, returning a quick hint of an unsure but polite thank-God-for-afamiliar-face smile back. And that was it. We passed by one another and I didn’t swoon, have a hissy fit, freak or anything like my new compatriots were for me. But it did seriously warm my newkid-at-school nervous heart that he chose to sorta say hi. The small amount of relief I felt that I actually


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kinda already knew someone here at this school was so welcome. He, my new next-door neighbor who I’d only just met over the past weekend, had just chosen to acknowledge my existence here. And it felt good. I mean I’d already pegged him as the elusive egotistical type, so already knew it was probably pretty exceptional that he had. “Oh my gosh Rico Alvarez is so fine!” Alicia gasped in a rush after he’d walked far enough away from me, her and the other two girls from P.E. that she’d introduced me to. “Too bad he’s going out with that trampy skank, Jodi.” The other two emphatically agreed and gushed about how his friends were majorly cute, too. Then they all started explaining that Rico was one of the most popular boys in the ninth grade and, therefore, the entire school and was the best basketball and

the best baseball player either Varsity team had. He was totally elite in their description and they wouldn’t shut up about how hot he was and how any girl that hooked up with him would totally gain instant it-girl popularity. I just listened and didn’t say anything. Then Alicia halted her girly-girl sashay as we left the athletics hall. “Wait, he nodded at you, Diana. Oh my gosh!! You are so lucky. Like getting noticed by him is like…it.” Then her hazel eyes gave me an insecure once-over; a tight pouty frown on her perfectly glossed bubble gum pink lips as if she was


trying to see what made me so great. “Oh, it’s not like that,” I quickly explained shrugging it off. “We’re just next-door neighbors, that’s all. I’m sure he was just being nice.” “Nice?! He does not just say hi to someone to be nice,” Alicia stated authoritatively. “He’s sooo picky about who he associates with – like he’s super snobby but he can totally get away with it. Oh my gosh you have to tell him I love him – please! I swear I’d give my left boob to go out with him,” she sighed. The four of us broke down into hysterics over that. “I can tell him you like him. I don’t care,” I casually offered after we recovered. But she looked stricken when I did.

“NO! Oh my gosh, really? I’m so not like cool enough for him!” she exclaimed selfdeprecatingly. But then her face morphed into a wicked grin. “However, since you offered, try to find out what he thinks of me! Okay?” “Sure. I don’t know if he’ll talk to me, but I’ll do what I can. I only just met him the other night,” I explained with a shrug. “Oooh! What was he doing?” Lindy asked with an eager metal-mouthed smile, her round face and bright blue eyes poking into my personal space. The others eagerly leaned in, too, practically smacking their lips in anticipation. I couldn’t believe they were

this hyped up on the guy and didn’t seem to care in the least that he had a girlfriend. “Shooting hoops off his garage,” I answered indifferently. “Was he sweaty?” Summer asked, her eager green eyes getting wider. “‘Cause sweat on guys makes them shiny. And shiny things are pretty…” “Uhhh, I guess?” I answered a little warily, taking a step back from her. They all giggled and then Alicia exclaimed, “Ooh, I bet he looked so good! Did he take his shirt off? I’d fuh-reak if I saw him with his shirt off!” 


Mean Girls meets The Kissing Booth! Kiss Kiss For Real is a fun, slow burn teen romance. Hang on for the ride as you find out how the good girl gets the "bad" boy! It takes you through a roller coaster school year of cat fights, hot guys, chickening out, sneaking around, a secret admirer, making friends and losing a few. Join Diana as she tries to stay sane, look her cutest, figure out who she is and what her heart wants in the midst of it all. 59



Morgan James Fiction | March 2022

Judith exchanged her fancy pumps and business suit for something more comfortable. She still looked chic, though. Always did. Pouring a glass of her favorite red, Judith savored a few sips before she settled on the sofa. The tranquility of the scene was a stark contrast to the storm within. She took some time to prepare herself emotionally. “Call Mimi,” she instructed Alexa and took a long sip of the wine. “Calling Mimi,” Alexa replied. Judith knew the sound of her grandmother’s antiquated, pink, princess phone well. In her imagination, she could hear its peculiar ring. And she could see Mimi walking as fast as she could to get to the phone sitting on the end table, next to the photo of her grandparents. “Judy honey, you called at the perfect time,” Mimi 60

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answered just like she usually did, no matter the time of day. “Hi, Mimi. I just spoke with Rachel.” “Isn’t she a dear?” Judith was not about to make small talk. “This was quite a surprise you sprung on us,” she said. “I’ll have to admit, honey,” Grace responded with spunk in her voice, “even though I knew something was going on, this kinda caught me by surprise too.” “Rachel told me about your prognosis.” Judith swallowed hard to get rid of the lump in her throat. “Five or six weeks?” “The good Lord’s got a plan for us, Judy. You know I’ve always trusted him. Still do.” At that moment, Judith was more ticked at God than trusting him, but there was no sense telling Mimi that. Not now, at least. “I’ve started making arrangements to be away from the office for

the next month or two. I’ll fly in the day after tomorrow, Sunday, to be there with you.” “Honey, that’s what I wanted to talk to you about,” Grace responded. “You remember when Granddaddy took me down to Chattanooga to see Rock City and visit Ruby Falls and the Tennessee Aquarium? We even spent the night in one of them Pullman cars at the Chattanooga ChooChoo.” “I remember, Mimi.” Judith was confused why Grace felt it necessary to reminisce at this very moment about a trip


she and Virgil had taken thirty years ago. Still, she humored her grandmother. “That photo on your end table of you and Granddaddy is from that trip, right?” “Sure is, sweetheart. You know that was the farthest I’ve ever been from Nashville, don’t you? I’ve always been such an old homebody.” “I know, Mimi. And you know how many times I’ve tried to convince you and Granddaddy to come visit me in Los Angeles.” “I’m going to tell you about something you don’t know, Judy.” Mimi paused. “Ever since Virgil passed, my dream has been to get on the bus and visit you.” “Mimi, I’d have sent for you, had I only known.”

“You know you’d never get me on a plane, sweet child. But the bus? That has been my dream. I’ve imagined all the people I would meet and places I would see,” Grace shared with a hint of mischief in her voice. “Did you know the I-40 runs all the way from Nashville to Barstow, California?” “I do.” “Well, there’s a bus service that stops over in some of the major cities so you can see places along the way.” “Can’t say I knew that,” Judith responded, puzzled by Grace’s “confession.” “Well, that has been my dream, honey—to take that bus.” Is this some joke? She listened to Grace continuing to lay out her dream. “I should have done it

before now, but now I’ve run out of time.” “I’m so sorry, Mimi. I wish I had known.” “Well, I’ve been thinkin’ about it since our call this afternoon. You said there’s nothing under the sun you wouldn’t do for me. I know that’s true, but Judy, you know I’d never ask you for a favor.” “That is true.” Pausing briefly, Grace gathered herself. “Well, that is about to change, sweetie pie,” she said. “I’m sorry, but not too sorry to ask. I want you to catch that bus in Barstow to come home to Nashville.”

ABOUT THE BOOK Grace Lee calls her granddaughter, Judith, with a dying wish…for Judith to travel from Los Angeles to Nashville to come visit her. But there’s a catch. Judith must make the journey by bus. The award-winning novel Finding Grace shares Judith Lee’s transformative, cross-country journey, revealing what truly matters. Each day of Judith’s journey becomes a story on its own, as the people she meets and places she visits along the way challenge her to rethink her life. Finding Grace is about Judith’s transformation back into the real world during this journey as a result of the people she meets on the bus, how she deals with the imminent passing of her grandmother, and how all this changes her life’s future plans.



Interview: Vanessa Corcoran Author of It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint BY V. JOLENE MILLER



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VC: It's always interesting to think about how we define ourselves. Usually, when people introduce me, they first label me as a runner, which is a significant part of my identity. I'm also an advising dean and adjunct professor of history at Georgetown University, my dream job. I'm the mother to my almost-two-yearold daughter Lucy and married to my husband Pat - we live in Washington, D.C. I'm also a big nerd: I love reading and playing word games. YOUR BOOK, IT’S A MARATHON, NOT A SPRINT, ISN’T JUST ABOUT RUNNING, IS IT? WHAT WILL A NON-RUNNER GET OUT OF READING IT?

VC: A non-runner will read about someone who grew up as a non-runner - I was not athletic at all as a child. They'll read about how stepping out of my comfort zone and trying new things (like running, switching dissertation topics, and working across the country) ultimately benefited me in the long run (pun intended). Running taught me to be brave and take more considerable risks, so I hope non-runners will see how taking a giant leap of faith in any aspect of life can have significant payoffs. I love running because it's a beautiful metaphor for life: milestones, pacing, goal-setting,

and having people cheer you on; the comparisons are endless. I'll admit the major subjects of my book: running and medieval history, are fairly niche fields. So it's also my hope that the book will shed some light on these topics, and you'll learn more about medieval history and the history of women's participation in athletics. Nowadays, women make up a majority of participants in road races, but women were not allowed to run in the Boston Marathon until 1972. It's a reminder of how recent these steps towards equality were. The book talks about how some of these early pioneers influenced me, not just as a runner, but to be ambitious and fearless whenever I seek to take on a new challenge. YOUR PH.D. IS IN MEDIEVAL HISTORY. WHY A MEMOIR?

VC: I really enjoyed writing my dissertation, "The Voice of Mary: Later Medieval Representations of Marian Communication," at The Catholic University of America. It allowed me to research a topic of interest to me how the Virgin Mary, normally viewed as a demure, obedient mother, was fashioned to have a powerful speaking voice in medieval devotional sources. These portrayals also ran counter to the 63



expectations of medieval women, who were expected to be subservient members of the household and society. I enjoyed this process of discovery and sharing my research with others. But while I was in grad school, I also kept a running blog that detailed how I got into marathon running and other running adventures, including running in the Boston Marathon. These posts also told stories of the highs and lows of grad school - stories that aren't often shared with others. And when I graduated with my Ph.D., I knew I had another story to tell beyond my dissertation: how I did it and what I learned along the way. And the memoir is not just about the highlights (although there are many stories of achievements: graduating, good races, giving birth to my daughter), but focuses intensely on the low points and moments when I struggled with imposter syndrome and anxiety. My mind was both my greatest asset and biggest enemy in grad school, and it took a long time to realize that I needed to get professional help. Seeking counseling and beginning medication helped me learn how to manage my anxiety and cope with it. I kept most of that under lock and key in grad school - I never wanted to appear weak or unqualified. Now that I'm done, I want to share my story so that others 64

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know that this process of grad school is by no means easy, nor can it be done alone. FOR READERS ASPIRING TO ACHIEVE A PH.D., CAN YOU TELL US A BIT ABOUT THE WRITING PROCESS?

VC: Writing a dissertation, like training for a marathon, involves a great deal of consistency: putting in effort most days of the week to create a strong foundation for your project. My best writing days happened when I created S.M.A.R.T. goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound). I didn't wake up and say, "I will work on my dissertation today." The night before, I outlined a few essential tasks I could complete in a day, such as reading a few journal articles, 1 to 2 30-minute writing sessions, time spent revising a specific chapter, etc. I was always more productive when I planned things out ahead of time. When I was trying to cultivate a regular writing habit, I also shared these daily goals with my mom and her two sisters via email. This gave me a sense of accountability, which I needed. WERE YOU GIVEN ADVICE ALONG THE WAY?

VC: My advisor’s biggest advice was to read widely and see what the sources



had to say - what things stood out and seemed new. So after I finished my comprehensive exams (one of the milestones en route to starting the dissertation), I spent so much time reading devotional sources about the Virgin Mary in the later Middle Ages (roughly 1200-1500). I read about portrayals of her in miracle collections, liturgical dramas, sermons, and other religious materials. The more I read, the more interesting the speech patterns emerged that portrayed Mary as an authoritative figure. The biggest challenge I had was not finding substantial material but figuring out the right way to organize my chapters. After my department read one of my early chapters in a workshop format (this venue enabled them to offer helpful feedback), I was encouraged to organize my chapters thematically: Mary as a mourner, as a teacher, as a wife, and as an intercessor. Arranging the chapters by theme allowed my argument to be more distinct, and so while it was difficult to think of restructuring the entire project initially, I'm happy I did. THAT SOUNDS LIKE A DAUNTING TASK. IT ALSO SOUNDS A BIT DISCOURAGING.

VC: My advisor said that I needed to "break the back" of the first dissertation

chapter and that one took the longest to write (incidentally, it became the third chapter - proof that not everything is as sequential or logical as you may initially think). Part of the reason it took so long was that I needed to create a writing routine that worked for me. Once I did that, the subsequent chapters became much easier to complete. I knew this was the case as I was reaching the end of my dissertation - I was cranking out chapters in 3-month spurts, which was much faster than the earlier ones. The whole process became more enjoyable at that point as well. I knew the finish line was in sight and that my advisor was on board with the project. Having that confidence made it easier to sit down and write because I knew the payoff would be huge. HOW WAS WRITING A MEMOIR DIFFERENT FROM WRITING YOUR DISSERTATION?

VC: The biggest challenge was the emotional nature of writing the memoir. Many of the stories included were painful, both to experience them in realtime and then reflect on. I talked about some of the lowest points of my life, dealing with anxiety and depression, and how much I was struggling. I knew that the best version of a memoir was honest and vulnerable, so I had to describe how I felt in those dark moments. After 65



a while, that was emotionally taxing, so some of those sections took longer to write. But there were also days when the writing just poured out of me. I wrote the final few chapters after I gave birth to my daughter Lucy (born in May 2020). I was so eager to get the book off of the ground at that point, and writing time just became limited. So any time I had available, whether it was when Lucy napped or when my husband gave her a bath, or after her bedtime, I had my laptop nearby so I could soak up all of that time to finish this. WAS YOUR MOTIVATION FOR BOTH PROJECTS THE SAME?

VC: I think my motivations for writing each project also differed. Completing the dissertation and Ph.D. were the professional goals I had had since I was 18. During my first semester of college, I completely fell in love with my history courses. Although I was initially pre-law, once I learned you could spend your life in the academic setting, I was singleminded in my determination to get a Ph.D. It was all I wanted to do as an adult, so finishing was such a motivating factor for me. My motivation for writing the memoir was to create a book I wish had existed


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when I was in grad school. I hope this will be a valuable resource to current students who are deep in the trenches of coursework or writing and a reminder that they are not alone in their struggles. If this book will help students feel less isolated, I know it was worth writing. YOUR BIO SAYS YOU’VE “SCORED THE TRIPLE: A PH.D., A BOOK, AND A BOSTON-QUALIFYING MARATHON. WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU?

VC: I'm excited to find out! I had been working on this book as my main side project since I finished graduate school, so it was a real point of pride to put this book on the shelf. I'm currently co-authoring a book chapter on how the papacy has treated the figures of the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene throughout history. I'm writing it with a friend from grad school, so it's been fun to collaborate on a project that reflects our research interests. In terms of running, I'm mainly doing it for fun, although I still enjoy racing. I have a lifelong goal of doing an ultramarathon at some point (which is any distance longer than 26.2 miles), so I'm hoping to check that off my list in the next few years. 




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


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An Emotional Coming-of-Age Graphic Novel This book hits on a lot of very deep and heavy topics including attempted suicide and the ripple effects, relationship dynamics, insecurities, mental health and stress over the future. If you are easily triggered on the mental health front, this book is not for you.


Overall, I think the story was good and had a strong foundation, but I think some of the full emotion was missing. I truly felt more like I was reading a comic, and didn’t really get the emotional engagement you would expect from a story like this. Jade pours her feelings and fears for her friend that attempted suicide, Phoebe (also the friend who had initially found the art retreat for her), into her art as a way to vent. She also meets a very confident new friend, Mary, whom she begins to fall in love with. This brings her new feelings of guilt as she feels she could be letting Phoebe down by letting someone new in. She has to navigate all these different situations and life happenings, while stressing about her future and it’s a bit of a roller coaster - as life typically is.

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.


The art was great - predominantly black and white with some red but well done. Relatable situations, a very quick and easy read. 69






Right before Jade is about to leave for a summer art intensive, her best friend, Phoebe, attempts suicide. How is Jade supposed to focus on herself right now? But at the Art Farm, Jade has artistic opportunities she’s been waiting for her whole life. And as she gets to know her classmates, she begins to fall for whimsical, upbeat, comfortable-in-her-own-skin Mary. Jade pours herself into making ceramic monsters that vent her stress and insecurities, but when she puts her creatures in the kiln, something unreal happens: they come to life. And they’re taking a stand: if Jade won’t confront her problems, her problems are going to confront her, including the scariest of them all—if Jade grows, prospers, and even falls in love this summer, is she leaving Phoebe behind?


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“Best YA Blogs And Book Reviewers” - URBAN EPICS, BLOGGER AWARDS

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

“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.” - J.K. ULLRICH, AUTHOR OF BLUE KARMA

“I Just Read Girl Plus Book’s Review Of Revelation, And It Made My Night!” - ELLERY KANE, AUTHOR OF LEGACY SERIES



Interview: Peter Aronson



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While I’ve read my share of young adult novels as an adult, I can’t say that about middle grade novels. I decided to give Peter Aronson’s latest release, Mandalay Hawk’s Dilemma, a chance and wanted to get to know more about the author who wrote the novel. YOU’RE A FORMER LEGAL AFFAIRS JOURNALIST AND ATTORNEY. WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO WRITE MIDDLE GRADE NOVELS?

PA: It’s very simple. At the time, I began thinking of writing a children’s book. In 2015, my two daughters were in or just entering middle school, and I realized they were reading mostly dystopian-themed books, like Harry Potter or Hunger Games. I thought perhaps it would be better if they read an adventure novel that was more realistic and actually dealt with a realworld problem. So from this idea, I decided to write a novel about kids fighting global warming.


PA: I loved writing those two biographies, and I hope to write more in the future, but I thought it was important to write about global warming because I do think it is the most important problem in the world today. And actually, I began writing Mandalay Hawk’s Dilemma before I wrote the biographies. I began researching and drafting the Mandalay Hawk book in late 2015 and then took time off from that book. I let it sit for a bit from 2017-19, to write the two biographies. Then I resumed writing and completed the Hawk book. THE NOVEL’S MAIN IDEA IS GLOBAL WARMING. HOW MUCH RESEARCH DID YOU DO BEFORE YOU STARTED WRITING?

PA: I spent probably two years, on and off, doing research before I really began writing the book in earnest. I included a bibliography at the end of the book - a novel - because I wanted young readers to understand the effort behind writing the book. I read parts or all of two dozen books and also read more than 100 newspaper and magazine articles. Of course, I make up a lot of stuff in the book, so that’s why it’s a novel, and I speculate about what might be happening climate wise in 2030-31. 73




PA: No, I have not based Mandalay Hawk on anyone I know or have read about. I actually created her character in draft form in 2015 before the amazing and inspiring Greta Thunberg and her equally amazing and inspiring youth environmental activists were internationally known. I knew I wanted to create a young teen activist because my daughters were nearing that age. TELL US ABOUT YOUR WRITING PROCESS.

PA: Fortunately, I am extremely motivated and do not struggle with writer’s block. In writing Mandalay Hawk’s Dilemma, I read a lot of books and articles about the history and impact of global warming. I took copious notes and had to reach a point where I understood the facts well enough to write about them. Then I made up a story about Mandalay and her two close friends trying to make a difference as they first learned about global warming and then figured out 74

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how to fight the powers that be to create change. When writing a story, I rewrite like crazy. I probably wrote 30 drafts of my book. The first draft was about 450 pages. The final draft was half that length. You have to cut stuff you love to get down to the right length. If you fall in love with all your words, the story will be too long. A writing teacher once told me that to be a successful writer, you have to love the process - the process being the writing and rewriting. I am not sure I love all of it, but I do love the intellectual challenge and where I end up. I kept rewriting until I got what I wanted, for good or for bad. And yes, I try to write every day. It’s a wonderful feeling when you’ve written something creative that you think works. Of course, more of what you write ends up on the cutting room floor. But that’s the creative process - work through the garbage to end up with something you like. WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT WRITING A MIDDLE GRADE NOVEL?

PA: Boiling a story down to the proper length is always a challenge, and I think tone was a big challenge for me as well.



I was writing about a very important subject, but I wanted to make sure the story was fun and adventurous enough for 8- to 12-year-old kids to stick with the story. So I made it silly and engaging at times. Hopefully, not too silly. And hopefully serious enough so that kids can learn from the story. Tone is a constant struggle. And the story, even though it’s fiction, has to be somewhat believable. You have to make SUSPENSION OF DISBELIEF a reality. WHAT MESSAGE DO YOU HOPE READERS TAKE AWAY AFTER READING MANDALAY HAWK’S DILEMMA?

PA: I hope it will motivate more younger kids to get involved in fighting global warming and pushing the powers that be to take much more radical action. Not nearly enough is being done, and I think the older generations are way too stuck in their ways. I think the planet’s future lies with the younger generations and middle grade kids can play an important role if they act in unison. YOU’RE WORKING ON A TRILOGY OF SOCCER NOVELS. TELL US MORE ABOUT THESE


PA: I have written a trilogy of soccer novels for middle grade readers with my co-author Shep Messing, an American soccer icon. Shep is a former U.S. Olympic soccer player, teammate of Pele’s on the New York Cosmos, and current soccer broadcaster and executive. A few years ago, Shep proposed that we write a series of soccer-themed books with a strong social/emotional message for kids. The series follows Theresa Rodriguez, a soccer star, from 7th to 9th grades as she learns about life on and off the field when her father is deported and she must juggle family responsibility, team leadership, friendships, and her love for the game during several tumultuous seasons. We think these books reflect the complex times we live in today. We have just started seeking a publisher and hope the books will be published in 2023. To learn more about my books, please visit They are all available at Amazon and IngramSpark. 




Ask me what my favorite season is, and I will always answer, “Summer.” I long for those hot temperatures and sun at all times of the year—most especially in the winter when it’s too cold to go outside and the sun isn’t shining near as much. And then there’s summer love. Summer is the perfect time for two people to meet and fall in love. Call me a hopeless romantic or whatever you want, but when I was younger, I used to dream of meeting Mr. Right in the summer. Unfortunately, it never happened. However, books about young summer love helped me live in that moment, and I think that’s why I’ve always leaned toward this genre. But what does summer love mean to the authors who write this kind of story? “Summer love to me, particularly young summer love, is all about leaving behind the safe familiarity of childhood and taking the first steps in young adulthood,” says Kat Colmer, who is also a high school teacher and librarian. 76

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Summer love can be a new and exciting time in a young person’s life. Jordan Ford states, “Summer love means breaking your own rules and diving outside of your comfort zone to have an adventure and experience something thrilling and new.”

And Britney Mills sees the summer setting in a similar way. “If the couple goes to school with each other, it’s easy during the school year. Summer is more about seeing each other in a different light or outside the normal constraints of learning.”

Summer can also be a time when young people let their guard down. They have less stress because school is not in session. “A summer romance usually is with someone you don’t see on a day-to-day basis at school or work,” says Krysten Lindsay Hagar.

For Katharina Marcus, writing stories about young summer love has a different meaning. “I fell in love with my first boyfriend during the summer I turned 14, and I fell in love with my future husband during the summer I turned 24.”

Young adult sweet romance is one of the most popular genres and is read by not only those who are 12 to 18 years old but by adults as well. When an author adds in the summer setting, we have, or what some readers might say is, the perfect book. So is this why authors want to write in this genre, or is there something else? “Big changes can happen school year to school year, and often the summer is where that begins or gets worked out. Great stories involve change, so it’s the perfect setting,” says Stephanie Scott.

Summer is definitely a popular setting with these authors, so do they plan to write more stories set in this season? “I love writing YA and would love to write a few more. I’ve got one planned as the next in my Rosemont High series,” says Britney. Krysten says she definitely will. “I think we all need a bit of escapism and hope right now. It’s a nice getaway—a mental vacation you can take wherever you are and without spending a lot of money or traveling.” While she’s definitely wanting to write more young summer love stories, Kat is in 77



a different situation since she’s located in Australia where their seasons are opposite of those of us here in the United States.

because I was a summer baby, and all the nice significant things in my life seem to always happen in the summer.”

“The Australian summer offers so many different settings and experiences. There’s the quintessential beach setting with its sun, sea, and sand, but there is also Australia’s vast bushland, such as in the much-loved Blue Mountains, and, of course, all the bustling parts of Australia’s major cities.” Stephanie has already expanded two books set in summer to a four-book series. “I also have another summer-set book on submission through my literary agent, so we’ll see what happens with that.”


Even though she’s not quite sure when she will write another young summer love story, Jordan states she hopes to one day. “I actually have two different series in the back of my mind that have summer themes, and I’m excited to write them at some point.” But one author isn’t sure what her future holds. “I genuinely don’t know where my writing journey is going to take me next,” says Katharina. “I do, however, have a real soft spot for summer novels, maybe 78

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If you’re interested in learning about any of the authors who have shared their thoughts about young summer love, make sure you look for their most recent releases. Dating the It Guy by Krysten Lindsay Hagar Emme is the girl next door, and Brendon is rich, popular, and from a famous political family. He’s the guy in high school everyone wants to date, and sparks begin to fly when they work together over the summer.

Free Wheeling Summer by Stephanie J. Scott Chelsea is a high school graduate who fears moving on to college, so she doesn’t apply anywhere. She joins



roller derby and befriends a skater who happens to be the brother of the rival team’s captain. Remind Me Why I’m Here by Kat Colmer Maya leaves Chicago and heads to what she thinks is Barangaroo, but instead it’s Barangaroo Creek. She meets her home-stay host brother Gus who has important plans that don’t include her. But he can’t scare Maya away that easily, and soon after sparks fly.

The Perfect Game by Britney Mills Serena’s a volleyball player trying to figure out how to get through an injury, and Ben’s a baseball player who’s interning at a physical therapy place. They both have their hurdles, but each take a huge step in getting closer to one another.

White Water by Jordan Ford It’s spring break, and the Ryder Bay crew are ready for a carefree week of fun, but things do not go according to plan.

Cooking with Caroline by Katharina Marcus Kirsty and Jake start off as two people who go to the same school and know of each other, but they have never looked twice at the other. It’s only when they’re thrown together in a cooking club that they start realizing they actually have quite a bit in common and slip into a friendship that slowly moves toward love. 




Book Shelf What to read next in independent publishing



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OK COULD BE H O B ER UR E! O Y 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.




The Hive


The Fehler sisters wanted to be more than bug girls but growing up in a fourth- generation family pest control business in rural Missouri, their path was fixed. The family talked about Fehler Family Exterminating at every meal, even when their mom said to separate the business from the family, an impossible task. They tried to escape work with trips to their trailer camp on the Mississippi River, but the sisters did more fighting than fishing. If only there was a son to lead rural Missouri insect control and guide the way through a crumbling patriarchy.

The Fall of Partha


War breaks out between the kingdoms of Partha and Zeiglon. The Young wizard, Celedant and his bonded dragon, Azimuth set out to unite the dwarvan clans against the growing threat as the first small step in a grander plan. The Staff of Adaman, an instrument of good, is miraculously brought into play, but with devastating results. A titan clash with the evil Staff of Adois brings about a conflagration that soon threatens to destroy all.

Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Tripping Past Om


Jemma, engulfed in selfloathing from a failed romance and boredom from caring for an autistic brother, plunges herself into a dangerous relationship with a head, a proselytizer of LSD. He soon controls her through the drug and her own false perceptions. She emerges into a life of drugs, sex, and violence. The escapades she experiences, both literally and symbolically, roller coast Jemma into self-awareness. She finds that Om (blessedness) is neither out nor in but who and what she is. Tripping Past Om sensually and lyrically pays tribute to the quest for spiritual and personal value in the postmodern world.

3 a.m. Austin Texas" is based on a true story of the author, Klecko. In 1982, when he was a young Minnesota man, still in his late teens, he threw away his life only to reclaim it while hitchhiking to Texas in the dead of winter.

Available at Amazon.

Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.



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Long before the days of cellphones, this journey, made in abject solitude, save for a few people he met along the way, taught him how to be resilient and gain confidence.



Two Tickets to Dubrovnik BY ANGUS KENNEDY

A View From The Languedoc BY ANGUS KENNEDY

Australian wine writer, Andrew Johnston, goes to Dubrovnik to prepare an article for his editor on the wines and wineries of southern Rhône. He meets up with an old Bordelaise wine making acquaintance, Lucien Delasalles, and his step-sister, Niki Menčetić. He becomes embroiled in the murky affairs of Niki and her family and the local police, which leads to his sad departure from the ancient city.

Australian wine writer, Andrew Johnston, is again staying in Europe, this time with his brother, Adrian, for both work and a holiday. During an extensive new wine project from his publisher, he meets up again with a number of his old acquaintances from both France and Dubrovnik, including Niki Menčetić. Whether he can resolve his difficulties with Niki’s life is uncertain. Available at Amazon, Amazon UK, and Barnes & Noble. Available at Amazon, Amazon UK, and Barnes & Noble.

To The East

The Final Programme

The book gives a composite picture of what heaven is like based on the eyewitness testimony of nineteen separate accounts. As a result it gives a more complete picture than any other single book does. All of Scripture’s testimony about heaven is confirmed and many more details God never revealed in His Word. Many readers say it’s a great blessing and have bought extra copies to give away.

In this final novel of the Out of Solitude tetralogy, Australian wine writer, Andrew Johnston, is comatose in a hospital in Sydney, Australia after the events of Međjugorje in Bosnia and Herzegovina. His Croatian lover, Niki Menčetić, believes him gone, the victim of a cruel deception by Andrew’s brother, Adrian, and has returned to Dubrovnik. Andrew now has to try to re-establish the rest of his life. Available at Amazon, Amazon UK, and Barnes & Noble. Available at Amazon, Amazon UK, and Barnes & Noble.






Omitted Pieces

These Walls Between Us

Omitted Pieces is a quirky, YA SCI-FI mixed with a dash of thriller and a pinch of romance about a girl on a rescue mission.

Two girls meet in a 1950’s kitchen. Mary, who is Black and 15, works as a summer-time domestic worker for Wendy’s white family. Wendy, at 12, is the family’s privileged daughter. Over sixty-five years, the two co-create a deep friendship. Vivid stories in Wendy's award-winning memoir lift up the obstacles, in society and in herself, to this unlikely friendship. These two complex and accomplished women will stay with you. Their story will spark conversation and change.


It is 2164 and the mad scientist Cromwell has kidnapped Sierra’s mother and set up shop on planet Scepter. In order to save her, Sierra will need the help of friends in this place of glowing leaves and a floating capital. On Vortex, Al has shut down the old facility, but will he be able to join Sierra? What about those who made it to Earth? Are they closer to danger than they realize? Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Feast of Fates



Available at Independent Bookstores and Amazon.

Journey Into Darkness: A Story In Four Parts, 3rd Edition BY J. ARTHUR MOORE

Morigan lives a quiet life as the handmaiden to a fatherly old sorcerer named Thackery. But when she crosses paths with Caenith, a not wholly mortal man, her world changes forever. Their meeting sparks long buried magical powers deep within Morigan. As she attempts to understand her newfound abilities, unbidden visions begin to plague her—visions that show a devastating madness descending on one of the Immortal Kings who rules the land.

Duane Kinkade was ten years old in the summer of 1861 when raiders struck his farm after his pa had gone to the war; eleven the following spring when he left in search of his father and became a part of the war himself; thirteen the summer he returned home, a veteran soldier after two and a half years of army life and battlefield experience. An intricate blend of fact and fiction, the thread of experience of the fictitious boy soldier runs through the fabric of a very real war and its historic violence as it actually happened. Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Also Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.


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Mildred the Bird Lady

The Talking Drum

A chance encounter in a chicago park between inquisitive 4-year old Mary and the eccentric Mildred begins a lifelong unconventional friendship. Despite her mother's wishes not to engage with Mildred, Mary finds herself drawn to the kind Bird Lady. Impressed by Mary's independence and creativity, Mildred shares the lessons of her gilded life and becomes a mentor for Mary. In their moments together, Mildred teaches Mary about courtship,manners, ethics, art, culture, and life's little luxuries. Through the twists and turns of Mary's life, Mildred's influence is felt time and time again, like a gentle beacon guiding Mary toward her true passion and purpose.

The fictional city of Bellport, Massachusetts, is in decline with an urban redevelopment project on the horizon expected to transform this dying factory town into a thriving economic center. This planned transformation has a profound effect on the residents who live in Bellport as their own personal transformations take place.

Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.


A Knock in the Attic: True Ghost Stories & Other Spine-chilling Paranormal Adventures BY JOHN RUSSELL

When I was five years old I was awakened by an intrusive ghost who not only scared the wits out of me but who also opened up a portal that activated my psychic gifts and allowed a neverending parade of paranormal manifestations to occur in my life. A Knock in the Attic is my story, not only about my psychic awakening and the abundance of mind-blowing otherworldly confrontations I've experienced, but also about the life lessons those many supernatural encounters have taught me. Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.


The Talking Drum explores intra-racial, class, and cross-cultural tensions, along with the meaning of community and belonging.

Grounded Eagles


An identity crisis triggered by facial injuries, single parenting in the armed services, and PTSD are the focus of three heartwrenching tales set in WWII by award-winning novelist Helena P. Schrader. Find out more about these three critically acclaimed novellas, A Stranger in the Mirror, A Rose in November and Lack of Moral Fibre at: https:// Buy the collection from amazon in paperback or ebook at: Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. 85



The Indie Catalog Latest releases, award winners, and more!


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With the death of Lucifer, Queen Lucinda assumes control of Hell, ordering her soldiers to prepare for a doomsday war with Heaven. Craving eternal power, she devours the souls of gifted demonic beings, acquiring their abilities to destroy her perceived political enemies. Meanwhile, the Black Crows meet with the Knights of Darkness in their hidden headquarters, plotting against Lucinda in their efforts to maintain peace and the balance of power. Consumed by hatred over Crighton Daemonium's unrequited love, Lucinda is unaware of the secret conspiracy brewing, or that Lucifer's spirit has returned to Hell inside the body of a soul–trapped demon. Reclaiming his throne, Lucifer punishes his daughter for her act of treason. However, his obsession with Samara, Crighton's beautiful daughter, leaves him incapable of controlling his stolen body. After forcing her into submission, he names Samara the new Queen of Hell yet continues his authoritarian rule. When an insurgency breaks out on Earth, he becomes distracted long enough for her to be kidnapped by Nexus rebel forces, believing her to be the prophesied savior of their planet. Is Samara the Phoenix, destined to destroy Lucifer? Or is she his soulmate and the true Queen of Hell? ABOUT THE AUTHOR

KAYLIN MCFARREN Kaylin McFarren has received more than 60 national literary awards, in addition to a prestigious RWA Golden Heart Award nomination for FLAHERTY'S CROSSING - a book she and her oldest daughter, New York Times/USA Today best-selling author Kristina McMorris, co-wrote in 2008. Her award-winning time-travel adventure, HIGH FLYING, asks challenging questions that will linger long after the final twists are revealed. Jumping to the supernatural-horror genre, Kaylin's clever GEHENNA series leads readers into the pit of Hell, through the mechanisms of secret societies, and across the Earth’s crust, ever raising the stakes for her leading duo—a wicked demon and guardian angel presented with shocking revelations. 87




Thieves, Beasts & Men. This stunning debut uses the irresistible scenario of a hermit living in near-complete self-sufficiency in the wilderness, and asks the universally relevant question: what is the value of existing within a civilization when it is fraught with evil? Adelaide has lived a long, solitary existence in the Blue Ridge Mountains. On the verge of ending it all, she discovers two feral children raiding her garden and rescues them in a misguided attempt at a new life. Now she must find a way to care for children who are more beast than human. They only communicate with chirps and grunts, and they pine for their feral mother. When dangerous men and a wild woman emerge from the darkness in pursuit, Adelaide faces a grueling choice. She can release the children back to the wild, saving her own life but losing everything she has grown to love, or fight to defend her new family, risking the death she no longer seeks.


SHAN LEAH Shan Leah is an award-winning fine artist, freelance photographer, and lover/writer of dark literary fiction.

She was inspired to write Thieves, Beasts & Men, her debut novel, because like her protagonist, she has a tendency to romanticize a life of solitude spent deep in the woods. And though not a feral child herself, Shan was born and raised in the Florida Keys, and with more mangroves than streetlights, it was pretty damn close. 88

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Winter of the Wolf. A tragic mystery blending sleuthing and spirituality ​ n exploration in grief, suicide, spiritualism, A and Inuit culture, Winter of the Wolf follows Bean, an empathic and spiritually evolved fifteen-year-old, who is determined to unravel the mystery of her brother Sam's death. Though all evidence points to a suicide, her heart and intuition compel her to dig deeper. With help from her friend Julie, they retrace Sam's steps, delve into his Inuit beliefs, and reconnect with their spiritual beliefs to uncover clues beyond material understanding. Both tragic and heartwarming, this twisting novel draws you into Bean's world as she struggles with grief, navigates high school dramas, and learns to open her heart in order to see the true nature of the people around her. Winter of the Wolf is about seeking the truth--no matter how painful--in order to see the full picture.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR MARTHA HUNT HANDLER Martha Hunt Handler grew up dreaming of wolves and has always understood that her role in this lifetime is to tell stories and be a voice for nature. She has been an environmental consultant, a magazine columnist, an actress, and a polar explorer, among other occupations. When she and her four children relocated from Los Angeles to New York more than twenty years ago she began to literally hear the howls of wolves. This marked the beginning of her work advocating on behalf of wolves at the Wolf Conservation Center ( Winter of the Wolf is Martha's debut novel. 89




The Girl in the Triangle. When your dreams finally seem to be coming true, it's hard to trust them. It's been four years since seventeen-year-old Ruth set eyes on her fiance. After surviving near-starvation, revolution and a long trip across the stormy ocean, she can't help but wonder: Will Abraham still love her? Or has America changed him? Nowhere's as full of change as 1909 New York. From moving pictures to daring clothes to the ultra-modern Triangle Shirtwaist Factory where she gets a job, everything exhilarates Ruth. When the New World even seems to rejuvenate her bond with Abraham, she is filled with hope for their prospects and the future of their war-torn families. But when she makes friends and joins the labor movement-fighting for rights of the mostly female workers against the powerful factory owners-something happens she never expected. She realizes she might be the one America is changing. And she just might be leaving Abraham behind. ABOUT THE AUTHOR

JOYANA PETERS JOYANA PETERS grew up in New York and loves exploring—this led to her discovery of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire and the stories it holds. She got her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of New Orleans. She currently lives in the DC area and continues to write narratives that shine a light on empowering women and moments in history.


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Tell Me You Love Me. In 1965 April Toulane's life is turned upside down on her fifth birthday when her mother marries a man she's known for only two weeks. The life she'd known is forever changed with the addition of a stepfather and a five-year-old stepbrother who terrorizes her on a daily basis. After a family tragedy the young siblings are thrust into the Hollywood spotlight, surrounded by people whose very foundation is based on secrets and lies. Struggling to grow up and find their way in a world where child stars are forever manipulated and exploited, the siblings form an unbreakable bond vowing to always protect each other when the adults entrusted to take care of them fail at every turn. "Tell Me You Love Me" is the story of April and Auggie Fairbanks, the most sought after faces in show business throughout the sixties and seventies, maneuvering their way through the lies and corruption to learn the truth about their parents and searching for the love and acceptance they so desperately crave.


KATHLEEN STONE Kathleen has been a freelance writer since 1999 and now writes full time. Her work has appeared in Doll World Magazine,, The Lake County Journals, Trails. com; USA Today (travel), (lifestyle), Essortment, eHow, Answerbag,, Suite101 and YahooVoices. She is the author of the award-winning novels Tell Me You Love Me and Whispers On A String, and the Head Case Rock Novel Series (Head Case, Whiplash and Haven). She also has short stories published in the Secrets: Fact or Fiction I & II anthologies. 91


Interview: Martha Conway, Author of Physician's Daughter BY V. JOLENE MILLER


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I met Martha Conway online several years ago. As many do, I was scrolling through my social media feed and learned about her book, Sugarland. I snatched a copy, fell in love with her writing style and characters, and connected with her on Facebook so that I could keep up with future releases. When I saw her post about the release of The Physician’s Daughter (available for pre-order here: https://bit. ly/SneakPeekTPD), I quickly reached out to her. It is an absolute honor and delight to introduce you to historical fiction author, Martha Conway. TELL US ABOUT YOUR WRITING JOURNEY. HOW DID YOU GET STARTED?

MC: I wrote poetry as a child, and after college, I set about learning how to write short stories (which took me more years to learn than I care to admit!). After receiving my Master's in Creative Writing, I set about learning how to write a novel (which again took years!). My first published novel was a mystery, 12 Bliss Street, which was nominated for an Edgar. I believe that writing a mystery is good training for anyone interested in writing fiction, no matter what genre you ultimately end up writing. As you craft a mystery, you must pay close attention to when and how you present clues (or


MC: I studied Literature and History in college, so it's a very comfortable fit. After I wrote my first mystery, I wrote a historical mystery, Sugarland, which takes place in 1920s Chicago. I loved loved loved doing the research for that novel. What I discovered was that, for me, reading primary sources about a past era and culture and people inspires my creative side. I want to use what I read to transform it for my own purposes. IF YOU’RE READING THIS INTERVIEW AND HAVEN’T READ SUGARLAND, HEAD TO YOUR NEAREST ONLINE BOOKSELLER TO PURCHASE A COPY. SUGARLAND DOES NOT DISAPPOINT! DON’T WORRY, WE’LL WAIT ON YOU. YOUR BOOKS (SUGARLAND IS ONE OF MY FAVORITE BOOKS!) FEATURE FEMALE LEAD CHARACTERS. HOW DO YOU MEET THEM?

MC: Thank you! Sugarland is an interesting case because I planned to have 93


one character, Greta, as the protagonist, but a secondary character, Eve, grew on me as I wrote about her. Maybe because Eve writes music and has a strong creative side, I ultimately felt a stronger connection to her. The way I meet my characters is literally by writing about them. They are very shadowy to me at first, maybe only a name and a situation. But as I write about them, they begin to make themselves known to me. The character of May in my novel The Underground River (called The Floating Theatre in the U.K. and Europe) was modeled in part on my younger sister Beth, who was on the autism spectrum. YOU HAIL FROM THE MIDWEST (OHIO - FOR OUR READERS WHO ARE BEING INTRODUCED TO YOU FOR THE FIRST TIME) AND NOW LIVE IN SAN FRANCISCO. WHAT OTHER INTERESTING THINGS ABOUT YOURSELF CAN YOU SHARE WITH OUR READERS?

MC: Hmm. Let's see. I'm one of seven daughters—no boys—so I gravitate toward strong female characters. I myself have two children, a boy and a girl, which I didn't think possible since we tend to have either all boys or all girls in our family! I am lucky enough to teach for Stanford's online writing 94

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program, which I absolutely love. It is such a treat to talk and write about writing, art, creativity, and inspiration. I also love thinking and talking about the nuts and bolts of craft. Would firstperson work better for this particular story? How can we infuse energy into this scene? What makes believable dialogue? My students’ creativity and imagination always inspire me. WHERE DID YOU COME UP WITH THE IDEA FOR THE PHYSICIAN’S DAUGHTER?

MC: The Physician's Daughter is about a young woman who wants to become a doctor after the American Civil War when there were very few women doctors. My inspiration was a bit roundabout: I have a close friend who immigrated from Afghanistan when she was a young girl, and she's done a lot of work around Afghan education for girls. Talking to her, and seeing the play A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini (which my friend worked as a consultant for), made me realize how quickly rights like education can disappear. I began thinking about my education, relatively easily gotten, and how difficult it must have been for women in the previous centuries to educate themselves and/



or get a professional degree. And I've always been interested in medicine, so it seemed like a natural pairing. The fun surprise was all the wacky medical practices people were trying out in the 1860s. Of course, there were a lot of sound medical practices, too, but the fun ones like the Oyster Treatment and the Ice Water Treatment really stood out. What we perceive as true (women aren't smart enough to be doctors; the oyster treatment will cure depression) changes as our culture and knowledge base change. YOUR WEBSITE SAYS THAT YOU PARTICIPATE IN BOOK CLUBS THAT FEATURE YOUR BOOKS, AND THE LIBRARY JOURNAL IS QUOTED AS SAYING, “BOOK GROUPS WILL ESPECIALLY ENJOY THE DISTINCTIVE SETTING, THE RICH HISTORICAL DETAILS, AND THE THORNY ISSUES BEGGING TO BE DISCUSSED.” WHAT KEEPS YOU WRITING? IS IT THE SETTINGS, THE HISTORY, OR “THE THORNY ISSUES BEGGING TO BE DISCUSSED?”

MC: I love thorny issues. I love exploring gray areas. That said, building a world is a hugely enjoyable experience for me. As a reader, I will read any genre and style, but what I love most

is being immersed in another place. That's the experience I try to bring to my readers as well. The two go hand in hand, I think: seeing an issue or problem set in the vividly portrayed past makes us think of comparisons to today. I find it fascinating to measure what's changed and what hasn't — and what I thought has changed but maybe has not. For example, The Physician's Daughter takes place just after the American Civil War, when the country was bitterly and firmly divided. The journalism in the 1850s and 1860s sounds eerily like the journalism of today. But dialogue is everything! Talking about thorny issues is healthier, in my experience, than not talking about them. And using a novel as a way to shape the dialogue usually feels safer. So yay, book groups! BOOK GROUPS? TELL US MORE!

MC: I'd be happy to talk to any book group on any of these topics (or other topics) if there's interest. You can send me an email at, and we'll set a date. 


Catastrophic Rupture: A Memoir of Healing by Dr. K. Jane Lee.

Review by Sean Malone, Publishing Consultant with Orange Hat Publishing | Ten16 Press


TEN16 PRESS TEN16 Press, a division of Orange Hat Publishing, housing fiction, non-fiction, YA and poetry books. WWW.ORANGEHATPUBLISHING.COM

Dr. K. Jane Lee’s Catastrophic Rupture (published 2021) relates the overall journey and internal processing of a medical doctor and mother. At the book’s core and central to its appeal is the perspective provided by the author herself. As a pediatric critical care physician and an ethicist, Jane Lee has provided care for children with a range of serious conditions and disabilities, attaining a comfortable proficiency in helping families navigate decision-making for these children. The heart of the narrative is born concurrently with the author’s second child, in which a complicated delivery leaves her daughter with a severe brain injury, or ‘catastrophic rupture.’ Lee discovers that everything she learned about disability and personhood as a physician and ethicist renders no help as a parent. From this key moment, the book takes the reader alongside the author as she struggles to bond with and love her child and as she reconciles what is happening at home with her ongoing role as a physician to patients and families in similar circumstances. The profound issues that the author must grapple with can be appreciated by any reader within or outside of the medical profession. The key journey of transition involves the shift in view from a strictly medical perspective of disability, that of an impaired body, to the mother’s perspective that sees the beauty and value in the person that is her child. This celebration of motherhood


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reconciled with the author’s medical craft maintained my interest and engrossed me to the final pages.

What truly solidifies the achievement of Catastrophic Rupture is the indelible empathy that it imparts on the reader. By the end, I had a strong and lingering impression that I had shared in Jane’s parenting journey and could see myself in her initial reactions, doubts, fears, and hopes. Her progression in the way she both comes to care for and perceives her child is relatable on a profound level for all parents—that we are enabled to give our children all the love that we can, that we see their lives fulfilled in the fullest sense, and that our own perceptions of normal are defined by barriers that may deserve reassessing. 


CATASTROPHIC RUPTURE: A MEMOIR OF HEALING As a pediatric critical care physician and an ethicist, Jane Lee was accustomed to caring for children with a range of serious conditions and disabilities, and felt comfortable helping families navigate decision-making for these children. When a complicated delivery leaves her second child with a severe brain injury, she finds that everything she learned about disability and personhood as a physician and ethicist is no help as a parent. This book allows the reader to walk alongside the author as she struggles to bond with and love her child, as she reconciles what is happening at home with her ongoing role as a physician to patients and families in similar circumstances, and as she shifts from the medical perspective of disability that sees an impaired body to the mother's perspective that sees the beauty and value in the person that is her child. Tailspin is more than a war story. It's a story of two men's separate journeys confronting trauma and loss. It's a story of resilience and hope. 97


New & Upcoming Spanish-English Translations: An Interview with Megan McDowell BY ALYSE MGRDICHIAN


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Megan McDowell, a literary translator, has tackled many Spanish-English translations in her career—she has partnered with some of Latin America’s most prominent writers, and her list of projects is extensive (to say the least). I met Megan last year, in September, when I was compiling interviews for one of Shelf Media’s Read Global features: Celebrating Women in Translation. Megan and I spoke via conference call, and we had a good conversation about her journey as a translator—if you would like to hear that aspect of her story, as well as the stories of other female translators, visit Shelf Media’s October / November 2021 issue and give it a read. I learned a lot through those conversations, and I felt I got to know Megan well. At the time, her most recent translation had been The Dangers of Smoking in Bed, a collection of short stories by Mariana Enriquez—I can testify that it’s an electrifying and unsettling read—but she let me know that, in 2022, she’d have lots of new projects hitting the shelves! So, we circled back around and had another conversation, this time about her most recent translations. ____ Chilean Poet, a novel by Alejandro Zambra, is the first of her projects we discussed. But how did she meet Alejandro? Megan tells me: “I first started translating Alejandro when I was working on my Master’s degree, around 2007, when I worked on The Private Lives of Trees for a translation workshop I was in.” To be able to have your first translation published is especially rare, and Megan counts herself lucky for that. “But I feel especially lucky,” she continues, “that not only did I get to work with a great writer, but I found a great and generous friend in Alejandro. I’ve translated all of his books since then and many stories and essays, and you could say we’ve developed together over the years, him as a writer and me as a translator. And our process has grown more collaborative over time—he sends me drafts of his works as he’s writing, and seems to value my input as a reader, and I’m constantly asking 99



him questions as I translate, so the whole thing is just a long conversational backand-forth.” “But I feel especially lucky,” she continues, “that not only did I get to work with a great writer, but I found a great and generous friend in Alejandro. I’ve translated all of his books since then and many stories and essays, and you could say we’ve developed together over the years, him as a writer and me as a translator. And our process has grown more collaborative over time—he sends me drafts of his works as he’s writing, and seems to value my input as a reader, and I’m constantly asking him questions as I translate, so the whole thing is just a long conversational back-and-forth.” Chilean Poet was, for Megan, one of two pandemic projects. “I guess I worked on the book for a good two years,” she says. “I love the book’s tone—


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conversational, hilarious, tender, and of course poetic. Translating the poems themselves—the ones the characters write and the ones they cite—was a particular challenge, but an enjoyable one, and I can even say I’m proud of how they turned out. Every time I read the book, I find new things to laugh and marvel at, so translating it was a satisfying and even enriching process.”

Megan’s second pandemic project was Our Share of Night, Mariana Enriquez’s first novel to be translated to English.



Megan tells me, “It’s so, so good. It’s a fantasy-horror novel that centers on the fatherson relationship between Juan, a ‘medium’ who channels a supernatural force called the Darkness, and his son Gaspar, who grows up unaware of who his father is, but is very affected by the consequences of his gift. The process of translating it has been intense. This is the longest book I’ve ever translated (around 736 pages), and that in itself is a challenge—its sheer weight is intimidating. But the world of the novel is captivating, and it’s easy to get into a ‘flow’ state when I’m working on it, I don’t feel the time pass. You know you’re working on something good when that happens.” Megan has been working with Mariana since 2015, and recounts how their relationship formed and grew.

am forever grateful.”

“Anne Meadows at Granta asked me to write a reader report on Las cosas que perdimos en el Fuego (Things we Lost in the Fire), and when I absolutely loved it she asked me to translate it. I jumped at the chance. Since then I’ve translated another collection, The Dangers of Smoking in Bed, and her newest, the novel Our Share of Night, which will be out later this year in the UK and early next year in the US. Mariana is a delight to work with—aside from the fact that I love reading and re-reading her books, she’s very generous with her time and she trusts me with her work, for which I

Megan’s third and final 2022 release is Yesterday, a novel written by the late Juan Emar. Emar died in 1964, but Megan met him through his stories in 2005. “It was when I first lived in Chile,” she tells me. “An ex-boyfriend read some of his stories out loud to me. I thought they were like nothing I’d ever read before—it was like getting inside the head of a crazy mathematician and seeing where his tangled logic would take you.” 101



Megan recounted how Emar spent some time living in Paris and Spain: “That’s where he was influenced by surrealism and the avant-garde movements of the period, and he brought that sensibility to a Chilean context and used it to rebel against the stubborn realism that reigned there in the early twentieth century. He was never appreciated in his day—people didn’t know how to read his work, and he wasn’t really valued until much later. He’s kind of a cult classic in Chile. He wrote four books, all very short, and when those were either panned or ignored he renounced publishing his work, but he never stopped writing. He spent the rest of his life working on an ambitious work called Umbral (Threshold), which wasn’t published in its entirety (some four thousand pages) in Spanish until 1996.” “When I started working on Yesterday for a class,” Megan continues, “I didn’t really know what I was getting into—when you read Emar, you get the impression of a writer who is lighthearted and strange, but translating his brand of absurdist philosophizing isn’t easy, as I soon found out. But Yesterday is possibly


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my favorite of his novels. It follows the narrator and his wife as they go through the events and experiences of a single day and try to extract some kind of ‘conclusion,’ as they put it. They start the day by watching a beheading, then go to the zoo, where they sing with some monkeys and observe a fight between an ostrich and a lion. They go to the studio of a painter friend who is obsessed with the color green, and to the narrator’s family home, where they involve him in a strange bet. The book ends with a delirious meditation on time that revolves around a urinal and a fly. Now, there are some readers who will think this sounds ridiculous, and others who are about to head out to the bookstore—we know who we are.”

This particular translation, for Megan,



has been an endeavor spanning years. She tells me, “After that translation class, I kept working on the book, coming back to it every once in a while and re-working the translation. This book is unique in that way, because it’s something I’ve worked on my whole career, and I’ve seen how the way I read and translate changes and improves over time. Just because the book is published now, I don’t think it means I should stop— maybe I should keep coming back to it for the rest of my life.” I personally look forward to reading these books, especially those centered around magical realism (my favorite genre). I hope you’ll check them out! Megan also has some future projects on the horizon, which you can look forward to. New Directions, who published Juan Emar’s novel Yesterday, also bought his story collection Diez, so Megan’s translation of that will be forthcoming. Also, fans of Carlos Fonseca can look forward to a new novel from him, which Megan is working on now, that will be out next year with FSG (Farrar, Strauss, & Giroux). And this year, Megan is pleased to announce that there will be a new collection of stories from Samanta Schweblin, called Seven Empty Houses. 


Megan McDowell has translated many of the most important Latin American writers working today, including Samanta Schweblin, Alejandro Zambra, Mariana Enriquez, and Lina Meruane. Her translations have won the English PEN award and the Premio Valle-Inclán, and been nominated four times for the International Booker Prize. Her short story translations have been featured in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Tin House, McSweeney’s, and Granta, among others. In 2020 she won an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She is from Richmond, KY and lives in Santiago, Chile. 103


Translation & #WorldKidLitMonth: An Interview with Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp BY ALYSE MGRDICHIAN


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I’m very excited to introduce you to Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp, if you haven’t met her already! As a translator of German, Russian, and Arabic, and a champion of international kid lit, I knew I wanted to pick Ruth’s brain. I met Ruth virtually last year, when Shelf Media Group was preparing for its Global Reads issue back in September. At the time, I was compiling a multitude of interviews with female translators and international authors, and thought Ruth would be a great addition to the piece. The bad news is that she was unavailable – but the good news is that, eight months later, we remembered one another, and now Ruth gets a whole article to herself ! Below you can find our conversation, where she shares her journey as a translator and her passion for kid lit. HOW DID YOU GET STARTED AS A TRANSLATOR, AND FOR HOW LONG HAVE YOU WORKED IN THE FIELD?

RAK: This interview feels well timed because I recently realized that it was 20 years ago that I completed my first freelance translation job. I’m sure I had no idea what I was doing back then when I boldly started touting my skills, half a lifetime ago. I think I was unusual because, even

in my teens, I knew I wanted to work with languages. However, after a school visit to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, I saw myself as an interpreter rather than a translator. I trained as both, though, completing the very intense Masters in Translation and Interpreting at the University of Bath, UK – but while I barely scraped through the interpreting modules (my brain really doesn’t work that quickly), I found myself very at home in the role of translator: close analytical reading, research into new topics and terminology, getting drawn into Google rabbit holes, pedantic editing, and collaborating with co-translators and editors to produce the best work possible. IS THERE A SPECIFIC REASON YOU CHOSE GERMAN, RUSSIAN, AND ARABIC?

RAK: I started learning French at school when I was 11, and German when I was 12, but it was a personal connection that made German the language I would really end up living with: after the fall of the Berlin Wall, we got to know a young family in Dresden, and I went to visit regularly from 1994, when I was 14. I can’t imagine my life without my (adopted) German family who are now in Dresden, Cologne, and Bavaria; I look forward to our next epic train journey to 105



visit them all. I started learning Russian aged 16, as it was offered as a lunchtime elective at my school, and I immediately fell in love. I went on to study German and Russian at university, accidentally majoring in literature, and again falling in love. I came to Arabic in my 20s when I was already a qualified translator, because of an unmissable opportunity to study it as part of my job as an in-house translator. I’m a life-long language learner, and if I can get paid to study, I won’t pass up that chance. Coming to a new language later in life is hard, of course. I know I have a never-ending project on my hands with Arabic, and will always be frustrated by how much I still have to learn! Over the years I’ve also had personal reasons for delving into French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Urdu, Norwegian, and most recently, Maltese and Ukrainian. For these last two, I aspire to be able to get by as a tourist (in hope of peace in Ukraine), and to read and co-translate short children’s books. At the moment, Maltese is on hold, and I’m trying to focus any spare time on co-translating samples of Ukrainian picture books with my dear friend, Ukrainian teacher and


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RAK: I love this question because it makes it sound like I’m flooded with offers of work to choose from. It comes in waves: sometimes there’ll be a period where I accept everything I’m offered, at other times I’m more choosy. But most of my work comes about when a publisher has already bought the translation rights to a book, rather than me pitching proposals to publishers. Of the thirty book projects I’ve worked on, only one came about by my pitching. I’ve translated two books where I had done a sample, but it wasn’t actually me who found the publisher. There have been other times that I pitched books I longed to translate (a historical novel set in Ancient Egypt, and a Syrian prison memoir), but in both those cases the publishers that picked up the book turned out to have such a tight budget I couldn’t afford to work for them. Other translators such as Nicholas Glastonbury and Anton Hur



have written about the frustrations of pitching. I’m lucky to work mainly from German, where there are many literary agents and foreign reps selling rights, lessening the burden on translators to do that legwork. In other language combinations, including Arabic, the work of finding an English-language publisher falls largely to literary translators; it’s a long slog, and often only remunerated by the translation fee or royalties, if the translator ends up being commissioned to translate the book. And that’s a big ‘if.’ But it seems I’m becoming known for my interests because most translation proposals that land in my inbox are the types of work I care most about (history, historical fiction, children’s books, and fiction from under-represented perspectives), and follow themes I’m most passionate about (#ownvoices stories of refugees, of migration, of bilingual and bicultural upbringings, enabling stories of disability, and queer fiction). YOU’VE TRANSLATED CHILDREN’S BOOKS, ADULT FICTION, AND LITERARY NONFICTION. HAVE YOU NOTICED ANY DIFFERENCES IN YOUR EXPERIENCE BETWEEN THESE


RAK: I recently realized that in one day I had looked up tools used by cobblers, horse anatomy, and radioactive isotopes ... and this was all terminology research for fiction and children’s books. In terms of process, there isn’t a huge difference between translating non-fiction and fiction, as I am still painstakingly cautious about reading around a topic to make sure I haven’t misunderstood. I compare Google images and trawl dictionaries, encyclopedias, and forums to select the most appropriate English terms, and litter the margins of my drafts with notes flagging passages I need to run by my more knowledgeable friends and colleagues once I’ve finished the first draft. The main difference is quantity: in the novel I’m currently translating (the sequel to Punishment of a Hunter), I’ll have a few horse-related questions for my expert friend Lucinda, but when I translated a 400-page book of the history of horses in art and culture, I had to book her for a whole weekend. So, the difference between fleeting mentions in fiction and an entire book on a topic might be the difference between a coffee and a quick chat with a friend, and paying a colleague for a day of their time answering my questions. To me, translation is always treading a fine line between confidence and 107



doubt. You need the self-confidence to put yourself out there, and to tell yourself that with the right support you can translate this book (I wouldn’t take on a text if I didn’t have a friend or colleague in my network with the expertise I could reasonably call on). But you also need to doubt everything, to question your assumptions about every single sentence. I even find myself looking up words I think I know inside out. Just because I’ve translated a word a hundred times, that doesn’t mean that this author is using it in the same way in this instance. And even if the meaning is the same, I’ll need to phrase something very differently depending on the context and the target reader. OF ALL THE BOOKS AND STORIES THAT YOU’VE TRANSLATED, ARE THERE ANY PROJECTS THAT YOU’RE MORE FOND OF THAN THE OTHERS? IF SO, WHICH ONES, AND WHY?

RAK: Of the children’s books, I’m most proud of having translated Kathrin Rohmann’s Apple Cake and Baklava. With loveable and convincingly flawed characters, it’s a perfectly structured middle grade story of starting out in a new country and new school, of loss and arrival.


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It cleverly draws a parallel between the experiences of German refugees in World War II and Syrians fleeing the ongoing conflict. My respect and admiration for Kathrin only increased when we finally met last year, when we gave a series of workshops, and even a theater performance, for primary school pupils hosted by the UK charity, the Children’s Bookshow.

Left: Kathrin Rohmann. Right: Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp.

Of my longer translations for adult readers, I think the ones I’m most proud of at the moment are the two I translated during Covid-19 in 2020, when we were homeschooling our two boys, and I was translating in 40-minute chunks scattered throughout the day and night. They were 1) The German Crocodile by literary critic Ijoma Mangold, about meeting his



estranged Nigerian father in his 20s and growing up biracial in 1970s smalltown Germany, and 2) Punishment of a Hunter by Yulia Yakovleva – my first full-length adult novel from Russian – which, perhaps unsurprisingly, turned out to be much more challenging linguistically than her children’s novel, The Raven’s Children, which I had also translated. The second lockdown in 2020 was a tough period, and the burnout took some recovering from. Now when I look back at those books, I wonder how on earth I managed it. But both books were a glorious form of escapism from the anxiety of the pandemic. In fact, in the case of Yakovleva, it was an escapism into a much grimmer reality under Stalin that helped put my life into perspective.



RAK: It is certainly reassuring to embark on the second in a series (I’m currently working on the second in Yulia Yakovleva’s Leningrad noir trilogy for Pushkin Press), confident that I already have a good working relationship with the editor(s) and knowing that the author is happy to help with queries. I hope to have a shorter query list for Yulia than I did with Punishment of a Hunter, but I also look forward to having that conversation with her, whereas with a new author I’m always quite nervous about bothering the author. I never know how many questions are too many. It can also be much quicker to translate a second or third work by an author as you become familiar with the author’s quirks, their syntax, their use of irony and rhetorical devices. Not to mention the vocabulary and metaphorical space their language inhabits: every time I come across what’s clearly an author’s pet phrase, I ask myself ‘Should I translate it in the same way each time to make a connection and highlight that repetition, or is it not 109



worth emphasizing? How much is it part of ordinary language and how much is it this author’s (or narrator’s) idiolect?’ We translators fret in this kind of detail over every single sentence, so having gone through some of the textual analysis of an author and their relationship to language and storytelling, you have a head start with book two. WHAT IS SOMETHING THAT YOU WISH YOU’D KNOWN BEFORE GOING INTO TRANSLATION?

RAK: Having worked for years as a commercial translator, I started to specialize in literary translation (i.e. translating copyrighted works for publishers) around 8 years ago, and in the first years I certainly would have benefited from more practical knowledge about rights, licensing, royalties, and negotiating tactics. And yet, I suspect that no matter how much you know about publishing, you have little negotiating clout to start with, and you learn to secure better terms with each new contract. It took me many years to research these topics, and to feel confident enough to ask my colleagues about fees and royalties. Most of what I have learned over the years was from joining the UK’s Society


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of Authors, ALTA (American Literary Translators’ Association) and ETN (the Emerging Translators’ Network, a practical and collegial Google group for early-career and aspiring literary translators; the US equivalent is ELTNA), where we tend to have an admirably open conversation about translator rights. Members of the Society of Authors can send in their draft translation contracts for expert advice. I do this with every new book contract: it helps the Society update their advice on current ‘observed rates’ for translation, and I learn more about my rights as translator every time. WHAT IS, TO YOU, THE BEST PART OF YOUR JOB?

RAK: I won’t lie – it’s the thrill of seeing one of my translations on the shelf in a bookstore, or even better, in the window! Or that special feeling when a friend sends a photo of the book their sister is currently enjoying, having realized it’s one of my translations. With social media and all the translator forums I’m part of, translation isn’t the solitary profession it once was, but the best bit is – after many, many months of hard work – finally reaching the stage where I have something to share with



the world. I try not to always give my books as birthday presents (sorry to all the friends and family I have done this to!) but it’s always heartening to see the interest friends show in my books, and how much support there is across the translator community for each other’s work. My Twitter timeline is full of translators reading and raving about each other’s latest books! I wouldn’t translate if I didn’t enjoy the process itself, but it is a perverse, painful kind of enjoyment. I find the first draft agonizing, where I’m unpacking everything that the author has done and working out how to word it all in a new language. Now that I share an office with my husband, he tells me that I sigh a lot when I’m working. I’m much happier and calmer the closer the translation is to being finished! COULD YOU PLEASE TELL ME A BIT ABOUT YOUR FORTHCOMING TRANSLATIONS?

RAK: My next two translations to be published are both from German, and they’re examples of the kinds of bicultural literature that really interests me. The literature of migration, perhaps. Swiss-Slovak author and activist Irena Brežná's The Thankless Foreigner will be published next year by Seagull

Books, as a part of their Slovak Series. I started translating this mesmerizing novella in 2012 as part of New Books in German’s flagship Emerging Translators program; the sample was my first ever paid literary translation. It's a short, experimental novel about the many ways to be a refugee, about language and identity, about public service interpreting and translating other people’s trauma, about assimilation and the refusal to assimilate. Brežná was recently awarded the Hermann Kesteren Prize by the German PEN Centre for her lifetime achievements as someone who ‘worked tirelessly throughout her life for justice and freedom and gave dissidents and the persecuted in Eastern Europe a voice.’ She has also just been awarded the Pribina Cross, one of Slovakia’s highest state decorations, given by the President to Slovak citizens who have made a significant contribution to the economic, social, or cultural development of the country. And for Amazon Crossing, I’ve just finished translating Split by CroatianGerman novelist and fellow translator Alida Bremer: a richly atmospheric whodunnit set on the Adriatic Coast amidst the turmoil of 1930s political 111



unrest, on the precipice of war. It’s full of early twentieth century movie stars, political leaders, the sights and smells of the Mediterranean, ancient history, and above all: food. It has made me long to visit the Adriatic and read more of Croatian literature. WHAT IS THE OVERLAP, IF ANY, BETWEEN YOUR LIFE AS A TRANSLATOR AND YOUR LIFE AS AN AMBASSADOR FOR CHILDREN’S BOOKS? WHAT, TO YOU, IS THE IMPORTANCE OF CHILDREN’S LITERATURE?

RAK: My interest in children’s publishing began as I started to translate children’s books, but as my own children grew older and I thought more about what I hoped they might experience of the world, of countries and cultures very different than our own, I realized that there is a role for translators and publishing professionals in opening up access to stories from other places, other traditions. I also taught Arabic and Russian in my local high schools for several years, alongside translating, and it seems to me that reading international children’s/YA books, and exploring the practical and creative process of translation in the classroom, can be a compelling


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motivation for young people to learn another language. On a political level, 1) reading beyond our borders, 2) foregrounding children’s book creators of color, and 3) exploring literature from parts of the world we will never visit or perhaps never meet someone from, are all steps toward thinking about global citizenship, and about social justice on our planet. To me, it’s about anti-racism, anti-bigotry, and decolonization from the earliest part of the school journey: questioning whose stories we listen to the most, and where exclusionary biases skew our perspectives of the world. I think even primary school pupils are open-minded enough to challenge our received thinking, and if reading stories from other places can open up discussions about society, about the way we live our lives, then we are never too young to start exploring. PLEASE TELL US ABOUT WORLD KID LIT MONTH, WHICH YOU HELP OVERSEE. WHAT IS THE DESIRED IMPACT, AND WHAT DOES IT ENTAIL?

RAK: World Kid Lit Month, celebrated every September since 2016, is a month to do exactly that: to



it through a book.

#readtheworld, or at least dip a toe in and start to explore world literature for kids and teens. It might be books and authors from another country or another continent, books in English published on the other side of the globe, or books for young people translated into English from other languages. The annual event started as the #WorldKidLitMonth hashtag on Twitter, but the #worldkidlit community is gradually getting the message out to schools, libraries, and bookshops worldwide, showing how September is the perfect time to promote global reading for young people. Above all, it’s a dedicated month to shine a light on a vibrant and diverse area of children’s publishing that can be difficult to navigate; on the World Kid Lit website, we share book lists and reading maps, and link to resources to help readers choose a country and learn more about

Why September? International Translation Day falls at the end of the month: a day to recognize the essential service performed by translators and interpreters, the craft that enables international communication and cooperation. In the US, September is also National Translation Month, so #WorldKidLitMonth is a way of advocating both for more translation within children’s publishing, and for more discussion of children’s publishing within the literary translation community. The success, I think, of the growing World Kid Lit community is that it’s a hub for readers and advocates of international children’s literature in all sectors (publishing, bookselling, libraries, education, research), and we hope that in time it will both help readers to explore beyond their borders, while also demonstrating to publishers the interest and demand for more ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse books. 113



Please join us next year, in whatever way works for you: share a translated kids’ book on Instagram, ask your library to stock more graphic novels in translation, write to your favorite publisher and ask them why they’re not publishing more Francophone African writers, for example, or YA from South America. You could create or expand a Wikipedia page about your favorite Vietnamese illustrator, or about India’s children’s literature prizes, or go into your local school to talk about fiction from whatever country they’re studying in Geography or History. Whatever you do, please share it on social media! We love hearing the diverse ways that people pick up the idea of #WorldKidLitMonth and run with it. 


Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp is a literary translator working from Arabic, German, and Russian into English. She translates fiction and nonfiction, and has a particular interest in history, historical fiction, and writing for children and young adults. Her translations include books from Germany, Jordan, Morocco, Palestine, Russia, Switzerland, and Syria. See her full publications list. Ruth is a passionate advocate of world literature for young people and diversity in children’s publishing. She is co-editor of ArabKidLitNow! and Russian Kid Lit blogs, and writes about global reading for young people at World Kid Lit, Words Without Borders, and World Literature Today


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


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Buzzing Around Romance. BY BECKY & LEAH


About the Podcast The Hosts of Buzzing about Romance love talk about all things in the Romance Book Genre. They chat with the authors we know and love. Yet they also love to share about the new on the scene author. Authors can be Indie or traditionally published. They want the world to know just how amazing the HEA is.

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


Some of the way they share this love is with their weekly Sunday Podcast, Buzzing about Romance. New Episodes are released every Sunday. READ THE INTERVIEW ON THE NEXT PAGE.




TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF/ SELVES. BAR: I (Becky Burrier) am a 40 something mom and freelance copy editor by day. I am an avid unapologetic romance reader. I live in Ohio with my HEA (Happily Ever After ) of 23 plus years. We have 2 teenagers (they are great kids). I have always been a reader and lover of books. Many of my fondest memories involve books. I have been reading romance since I was 14 and it has always been my most favorite genre of books. HOW DID YOU GET STARTED WITH THE PODCAST? BAR: Like most podcasters it was an idea I had toyed around with for years. It really started to take form when the announcement of the Bridgerton Netflix Deal. I wanted to be able to talk about that series and share thoughts. Life and kids created easy excuses to not pursue it, so it stayed a pipe dream. When Covid stay at home orders started I became a lot less busy, and a lot of excuses were not there anymore. I had also started to work in the publishing industry mid 2019 and that provided some insight I had not had previously. My husband and I kicked around the idea 118

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of a podcast and how we could do it and what would work. He fully supported me. I was also lucky that he had the knowledge and the background to produce the podcast for me. So, we just dove in. It was very much a trial by fire. Buzzing about Romance like anything had an evolution. We started under another name, Drinks with the Bees and we stumbled a lot. We had some issues finding footing and figuring out what worked as we moved forward. What kind of episodes we wanted to create but also what we wanted out of the podcast. My original co-host had some life changes, so we parted ways. This was the time where I could look at where we had been and what I wanted going forward. I felt like I had learned a lot in that 6 months and had a much clearer idea as to what I wanted the podcast to look like. I wanted to make sure the name reflected what we were talking about. I wanted it to be approachable for anyone. So before relaunching under the new name I really thought about what kind of co-hosts I wanted and what was important to me in the whole thing. I roped Leah into becoming my co-host.



Leah was one of my original supporters and after chatting and “interviewing” a couple of different people Leah and I just clicked and Buzzing about Romance was born. HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PODCAST? BAR: Our podcast is for the Romance Book Reader. We want to share the amazing stories of Romance and the people who write them. Our whole goal is to help people find their next favorite romance and author. If we go a week and have not encouraged you to add at least one book to your TBR (To be Read) we aren’t doing our job. We are very real and awkward. When we have authors on, we fangirl over them. We are a bit nerdy when it comes to talking about books. We love the science of romance, the tropes and nuances that come with each story. We also love that they are so sex positive, and everyone deserves an HEA. With our podcast we also wanted to create a community of romance readers. One thing we often hear and have experienced ourselves is that not many of us have friends IRL that read romance. And because Romance books are kind of given a bad rap, which is crap because they are the best, many people

don’t talk IRL about reading them. WHAT’S THE MOST CHALLENGING AND MOST SATISFYING PART OF RUNNING A PODCAST? BAR: The most challenging thing about podcasting is at times it is herding cats. You have so many moving parts and pieces you are always afraid you are missing something. Buzzing about Romance is a 100% indie, so we do all the marketing ourselves and it is not my favorite part. It has been mostly trial and error to figure out what works for us. I don’t want to chase the algorithm or even the trends. I want this to be authentic and feel like friends chatting books. Another challenge is trying to stay relevant and that you are meeting your listeners needs. That we are up on current trends and topics in the book world but also what books and kind of books people are reading. I don’t want to talk into a vacuum. I want to connect with the listener on some level. Be it a mutual love of a trope or excitement for an anticipated read. Most satisfying…. This is easy…. connections are the BEST part of Podcasting. That comes in so many 119



different forms. It can be connecting over the love of a story, or we share a favorite author or sub-genre. Our community is close, and our listeners have let us into their lives, we share the joy, struggles and sorrows, all the while helping you find your next 5 star read. It is also connecting with our favorite authors. Hearing about their upcoming projects and the excitement they have for their stories.

HOW DID YOU GET THE WORD OUT ABOUT YOUR PODCAST IN THE BEGINNING, AND HOW HAVE YOU GROWN YOUR AUDIENCE? BAR: We used social media to our benefit. Instagram is where we started. In the book world on different social media platforms there are niches. I joined “Bookstagram” in October of 2019. Once we started the podcast in July 2020, we would share it on Instagram. We do have a small following on “Booktok”. Our audience grows mostly from word of mouth or when we feature an author, and they share the podcast with their readers. We realize we are a pretty niche podcast, and our growth has been slow and steady.


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WHAT’S ONE OF YOUR FAVORITE EPISODES? BAR: This is such a hard question. We have interviewed some amazing authors and had some really great discussions. I think the episode that is my most favorite is our annual Hockey Book Boyfriend draft. One of the founding types of books we read is Hockey Romance. It is really one of the things that united our community. For the last two years one of our podcast contributors Heather and I go head to head building a hockey team from our favorite hockey reads. We release this episode in February around the NHL All Star Game since they are the all stars of our book shelves! WHAT IS YOUR UPLOADING SCHEDULE, AND WHAT CAN WE EXPECT FROM THE WORST BESTSELLERS IN THE UPCOMING MONTHS? BAR: We are super chaotic and we always have fun events and stuff going on. For the summer months we will still have our regular Sunday Episodes every week. These are usually about 60-75 mins long. Sometimes we have author spotlights, but we also are doing Trope Talks, and what we call our list episodes. List episodes are



where we battle or draft our favorite books against some of our contributors. For June and July, we will drop one Quick Shot of Romance Episode a Week, typically we do 2 a week. Quick Shots of Romance are our 20 min or less book review episodes. We release these as traditional podcast and on our YouTube channel. These will drop on Thursdays. We are hosting our Second Annual Summer Reading Challenge. It involves over 35 authors and over the course of the summer will be giving away signed paperbacks and swag. We did this last summer, and it was so much fun! Once a month we host a Book Club. We lovingly call it Drunk Book Club. We are usually joined by the author of our selected title. (You can find details on our website about this). We also have some special Happy Hour Livestreams on YouTube coming up. These are live author interviews where authors join us to promote their latest release and interact with the book community. We have authors Priscila Oliveras, Lucy Score and Sawyer Bennett scheduled so far.

We will close out summer with our National Read a Book Day Read-a-thon Livestream on Youtube on September 5th. Last year we livestreamed for 8.5 hrs with 14 different romance authors. They came on and did a short reading from either their WIP (Work in progress) or a current release. It was such a fun event, and we are looking forward to it again this year. We are working on finalizing our lineup. WHERE CAN LISTENERS FIND BUZZING ABOUT ROMANCE ? buzzingaboutromance buzzingaboutromance buzzingaboutromance thehivedrinks bookcaseandcoffee


What Do Readers Want To Read? by Chrissy Brown | C.A.A.B Publishing Well, if anyone could answer that question successfully then we could all produce a best-seller without much effort.


C.A.A.B PUBLISHING 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. WWW.CAABPUBLISHING.CO.UK

Unfortunately, the truth is that no book will ever be universally loved. There is no magic formular to instantly make your work appeal to readers. It takes hard work, luck and getting your book in front of people. But, there are things that will help, things you need to do, to include or exclude from your writing to give it the best chance of finding a publisher and an audience. It is said often, but it is the number one thing you need to do EDIT! Then edit again and again. Correct errors in spelling and grammar, or the dreaded typos, sort out common mistakes like wrong word use - there/their/they’re. These will put a reader off and make your work look unprofessional. Be sure to get your work read by as many people as possible before you look for an agent or publisher. Be ready for any inconsistencies in the story, holes in the plot, or characters that change name, age, job suddenly. You need to be a thorough continuity checker and ask others to be sure that nothing is out of place. Allow your voice to be heard in your writing. Let your characters be what you want them to be, but be aware of jarring the reader with your words. By all means use local dialect if the novel is set in a small Welsh town but do not use that same dialect if it is set in London or New York. Be wary of your characters mannerisms and their voices, if a young mum and the old rich man have the same way of speaking, or act the same in a situation, it will seem unrealistic and make your reader feel robbed of rich characters with personality and depth. Readers will need to relate to your characters. Not agree with them or even like them but understand why they choose to do or say what they do. The reader needs to care about the characters in the book, and want to know more, otherwise they will stop reading.


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Let your writing and your language adapt as you write, you may find you go back and change earlier chapters to fit the new style you have discovered. Be sure not to overwrite or underwrite. Try to balance

you sentences. Do not over inflate your narrative with fancy words unless that is your style, be true to yourself. Be wary of your own foibles, using the same words and/or sentence structures repeatedly makes a novel repetitive and hard to read. Also, be careful about you regularly over used word. Every writer has at least one. Check your work and get others to check through it as well. You might hear this suggestion quite a bit, show don’t tell. What does that mean? Well simply do not write, ‘She was anxious’ or, ‘She was sad’ because that is telling. Show the reader instead, use images in writing to convey the emotion. Maybe she is chewing her nails or breathing heavily. Is the character crying, sitting alone, or clutching a handkerchief? If so, that is showing, it conjures up a clear image of your character and lets the reader know how they are feeling. Keep your dialogue useful, let it advance the plot or define character relationships but do not have too much small talk. It is boring. You don’t need to know every word or fill pages with meaningless chatter. Keep it simple and sharp. Stay with the story. Be sure that everything you are writing is moving your narrative towards the next part of the plot, be it the twist, the ending, the calamity, etc. Always be aware of pushing the story towards

the next place or situation that you need your characters to aim for. If you write a fantastic sentence or paragraph that does nothing for plot development, you may need to cut it out in the editing. No matter how good it is. Too many of these amazing but useless sentences and you have lost your reader. Where ever your story is set, be it a fantasy land, space, in the past, or in the future, a reader needs to know how your world compares to theirs. What are the differences and what is the same? As a writer you are responsible for an entire cast and crew, a world of characters that need to know the rules of their land. You must create a map of this place with only words. You are a world builder, so build it well and although you should be careful not to get bogged down in minute detail, you also need to let the reader glimpse into your minds eye and see what you see. Every writer works differently, and that is right for them, some writers can knock out ten novels in a year, but another may take ten years to produce one novel. That is all the way it should be but let me leave you with this. Write a first draft and then put it away. Work on something else for a while. Then go back and look it all over again, edit, edit, edit. Then ask for help with editing and read throughs. Take your time to get it right. You will be much prouder of putting out your best work than rushing it and finding issues later on. So, get writing! 


BENNY AND BOBBY VERSUS ADOLF In Berlin during the Second World War, a pair of white mice are released from their medical laboratory and become the beloved pets of ten-year-old Jewish boy, David Baum. He names them after his twin cousins, Benny and Bobby. But these are frightening times. David's life is in peril, and soon the mice are in danger too, for they live at the centre of Adolf Hitler's evil empire and must confront it head-on. An unequal fight, to be sure. And yet, you should never underestimate the feats that even tiny creatures such as Benny and Bobby can pull off ... or the trouble they can cause for a dastardly enemy.



READING ON THE RUN Binge reading on the run because everything else can wait. ABOUT THE COLUMNIST

In Alaska, I’m a behavioral health instructor by day and a Ph.D. student by night. When I’m not teaching, I have my nose in a textbook or a scholarly article. These days, my writing is nonfiction and my puppy, Omar, is lucky if I can spare ten minutes to play fetch. I still carry a book in my purse because I hope to get a few minutes to read. Fifteen minutes before dawn, in between assignments, or right before falling into bed. Reading is my resting place.


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I saw a quote today that read, “be real, not perfect.” I quite like the sentiment. First, there’s the reality: no one is perfect. You can die trying, but you (nor anyone else) will be successful. Plus, there’s something to be said about authenticity. Take my dog, Omar, for instance. She’s complete in her realness. For example, if you’re standing at the kitchen counter eating crackers and hummus (as I often find myself to be) without giving her a snack, she will walk away and sulk. Likewise, if I am too tired to engage in a game of catch in the living room (also a frequent occurrence as of late), she will take her ball to her bed and lie there…until she hears the rustle of crackers. Omar pulls no punches. She knows what she wants and when - her authenticity is laced with boundaries. You won’t play catch; she won’t even grace you with her presence. It’s how she rolls. Many moons ago, I read Boundaries: When to Say Yes, When to Say NO to Take Control of Your Life by Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend. If you aren’t familiar with it, there is an accompaniment workbook. The writing is simple, straightforward, and offers readers opportunities to practice the art of setting boundaries. I recommend it to students, friends, and acquaintances who report feeling overwhelmed, overworked, and overcommitted due to someone’s push to do more. Setting boundaries is an art and not the abstract kind. The boundary must be as firm as the person creating it. Waffling about is not recommended. Boundaries are also not meant to be touched or crossed, not by the one

making the boundary or the one who has to abide by it. This spring has been full of creating boundaries. In April, I set boundaries around my calendar after participating in several activities that sapped my introverted soul. In May, I set a limit to keep an individual from talking down to me. My husband and I put a boundary around our emotional well-being and removed ourselves from a toxic environment. One of the surprises that come with creating boundaries is realizing the reward. When I capped my calendar in April, I found time to rest and recharge. In May, I found my voice and its companion, assertiveness. My husband and I realized the weight we’d been carrying and its harm to our still-mourning selves. That’s not to say setting boundaries is easy, though I do believe perspective must be considered. Omar’s perspective of me when I’m too tired to play catch is likely that I’m being lazy and mean. What she doesn’t realize is that I’m exhausted from working hard to create a life for her that includes dog toys, treats, and a large fenced-in yard. When I don’t give her a cracker every time she wants one, which equals approximately 87 times a day, she doesn’t realize that I’m rationing the box so that she doesn’t run

out. The same can be said when setting boundaries with people. Their perspective may be that you are mean, unloving, or completely mad. They may even voice their perspective, thus making the boundarysetting that much harder. Don’t despair. If a healthy boundary is necessary, be real about it. Examine why the boundary is important to you; determine the purpose it serves before you create it. Without the boundary, are you attempting to live up to some standard of perfect? Worse yet, are you attempting to live up to someone else’s standard of perfect for you? If you’re uncertain the purpose of the potential boundary, this book might be helpful: The Set Boundaries Workbook: Practical Exercises for Understanding Your Needs and Setting Healthy Limits by Nedra Glover Tawwab, MSW, LCSW. Perhaps, the greater struggle is feeling peace about setting limits and standing firm in them. If so, Tawwab’s book, Set Boundaries, Find Peace: a guide to reclaiming yourself may prove helpful. Whatever you do this summer, be real about it. Forego attempts at being perfect - there is no happiness (or success) there. Set healthy boundaries where and when needed; in the process, find yourself. Reclaim your peace. 125

MacIntosh Books+Paper. SANIBEL, FL



BACKGROUND INFO ABOUT YOURSELF AND MACINTOSH BOOKS MB: MacIntosh Books was established in 1960 on a sleepy island in Southwest Florida, one of the first dozen businesses, in fact, and has grown and changed with the island and its inhabitants. A former Michigander, turned Floridian, I (Rebecca Binkowski) purchased MacIntosh in 2017 after being a bookseller for MANY years at multiple island bookstores. WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO OPEN A BOOKSTORE? MB: I found my passion early on and love the magic moments that take place in the shop every day. Connecting books and people is a terrific way to spend the day. It's very satisfying! People feel very nostalgic about MacIntosh and I love to hear the stories of past visits. WAS A BOOKSTORE A MAJOR NEED IN YOUR AREA? 126

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MB: When I moved to Sanibel in 1995, it had 3 well-established bookstores and a successful private library. We’re a very literary community and host many authors and events. Two of those bookstores have since closed and another has popped up. We’re very lucky to be in an area that supports books and community, and we also put great effort into satisfying the bookish needs of those traveling to the area. WHAT KIND OF READING TRENDS DO YOU SEE WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS? MB: My customer base is a mix of local families and retirees, along with gobs of tourists. We sell historical novels, mysteries and children’s classics more than anything else, but we stock a highlycurated selection of nearly every genre. WHAT OTHER SERVICES AND/OR PRODUCTS DO YOU PROVIDE FOR YOUR CUSTOMERS?


MB: Stationery and gifts are a large part of our business, too. Puzzles and games, beautiful writing supplies. I’m always looking for the unique and extraordinary! As a community gathering space, it's important to keep looking for new and fun ways to gather. In the past we’ve offered painting parties, charcuterie classes, and writing workshops. We’ve even hosted a Neighborhood Project. I see lots more offerings in our future. WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT OWNING AND WORKING IN AN INDIE BOOKSTORE? MB: Books are a great vehicle for human connection and interaction. The world needs more of that! WHAT DO YOU THINK THE FUTURE OF INDIE BOOKSTORES WILL LOOK LIKE? MB: Ours is a fragile business and that isn’t going to change without proper publisher support and protective legislation. That being said, I don’t believe that brick and mortar bookstores will ever go away. We’re a passionate and resilient bunch and our communities need what we have to offer. We’ll keep finding a way to make ends meet.


Breathing, Being, Reading. BY CHRISTIAN ADRIAN BROWN

FIT LIT Body, Mind and Quill


Quadragenarian fitness model, lifestyle coach and bestselling author of the critically acclaimed Feast of Fates, Christian A. Brown received a Kirkus star in 2014 for the first novel in his genrechanging Four Feasts till Darkness series. He has appeared on Newstalk 1010, AM640, Daytime Rogers, and Get Bold Today with LeGrande Green. He actively writes and speaks about his mother’s journey with cancer and on gender issues in the media.

I'm unsure whence you're reading today's issue, but here in Canada, the sun wets streets as dazzling as gold, birdsong livens the air and passerby, for the first time in a long time, smile at each other without the obscurement of masks. Summer has arrived (we seem to have fast-forwarded through spring with only a few rainy days), and with it comes a sense of optimism and levity analogous to the season. I hope that a similar air spreads through your community soon if it hasn't already. So dust off your shoes, download an audiobook that piques your interest and get out into all that light and life. Because if there's one lesson from the past two years, we should have learned that life is short, precious and for the living. Now that you're outside and running around, if you want to understand your connection to the primal drumbeat of your feet slapping upon the pavement, Born to Run by Christopher McDougall is a good starting point. With a combination of journalism, science reporting and first-person omniscient storytelling, you'll find substantive material jammed into a three hundred or so page book. As a result, Born to Run qualifies as essential reading if you're mildly interested in the sports' communities, attitudes, and mythology. The much-lauded Breath, by James Nestor, stands out as another quick (300 pages) informative and


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enlightening read on the connection between our minds and bodies. One of the author's most significant claims is that almost 90% of us breathe incorrectly through our mouths and not our noses. Instead, we should be using our noses, which act as purifiers and humidifiers for the toxins we'd otherwise suck directly into our lungs. Indeed, this critique proves to be one amongst a trove of meticulously researched facts (or impeccably concocted fabrications to have fooled so many experts and critics!). Though I enjoy learning, I hate being "schooled," and each of the books, as mentioned above, does a commendable job of teaching without boring you. If making a personal and not a professional recommendation, Tina Turner's My Love Story makes for an emotional, aspiring monologue to a long hike or cycling session. While I'm unclear how ghostwriters assisted Tina in encapsulating her life, the inimitable artist narrates her own story. Such narration alone elevates the experience, for you can hear each lilt of pain and triumph in her remarkable voice. She's an

incandescent celebrity, a diva who's genuinely earned and inspired that title. Her tale of ruin, rebirth and glory, spanning decades of her life and music, is granted remarkable authenticity through the audiobook medium. Whatever your choice of fiction or non-fiction picked as the soundtrack to your imagination, your aim should be to get outside, move, think, breathe, and celebrate life. All these states that we've suspended. All these dreams that we've been too buried in a nightmare to dream. No better time than now exists to realize happiness. And if you're stuck on the path to how, I've given you a few of thousands of curated roadmaps meant to inspire, elevate and uplift your potential. —C 




Books In Review Self-Published & Small Press Book Reviews



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Seidon’s Tale.

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A stranger with a mythical past changes the course of a modern man’s life in this engaging narrative combining a road-trip bromance with reimagined Greek mythology. Fleeing his lover’s angry Texas state trooper husband, Jake Hewitt hightails it out of Lubbock and nearly runs down a lost old man at the side of the road. The traveler claims to be Poseidon, Ruler of the Seas, and calls himself “Seidon.”


While Jake evades the husband’s pursuit, he listens with growing amazement to stories of his passenger’s fabled past: being swallowed by his father, Kronos, then rescued by his brother Zeus; taking refuge on Olympus to wage war against Kronos and the Titans; gaining dominion over the oceans in a lottery planned by his cunning sister Hera; and finding and losing his great love, a mortal named Pelops. Seidon’s tales are entertaining, but it’s his calm wisdom, dispensed over the course of their days together, that helps Jake come to terms with his own troubled past as an orphan raised in

foster care. The tone of the contemporary chapters, with their taut, swift prose and details like a diner’s red vinyl seats, “some cracked from years of sagging butts squeezing the air out of them,” contrasts palpably and interestingly with the more sonorous polish of Seidon’s alternating fables, as when he describes himself in a dream, riding in “a chariot drawn by large white horses snorting sea salt and pawing at the surface of a tempestuous water.” Mythology buffs will appreciate VanPatten’s version of familiar tropes like Zeus’s lightning, Hera’s jealousy, the twisted Cyclopes, and the human creation story. Although Jake’s history and struggles are by comparison less enthralling, and the mystery remains of how exactly the sea-god Poseidon became stranded in Texas, the new life VanPatten breathes into old Greek legend carries the story along. This is an enjoyable tale likely to please fans of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, Mary Renault’s historical novels or similar works. 


It’s Alive!.

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Julian David Stone takes readers behind the scenes with this winning fictional retelling of the filming of the 1931 classic Frankenstein. It’s days before Universal Pictures’ newest movie, Frankenstein, begins shooting, and the role of the Monster is still uncertain. Since it was Junior Laemmle— with his progressive and cutthroat thinking— who insisted the company produce Dracula, which became highly successful, Junior believes he has proven himself to his father, Universal CEO Carl Laemmle, Jr. and deserves a promotion giving him full reign of production. Meanwhile, after his success as the titular Dracula character, Bela Lugosi refuses to accept the role of a bumbling creature with minimal lines and redirects his attention to his current PUBLISHER: project. Secretly, though, he awaits just the right offer to play GREENLEAF BOOK GROUP this Monster. The other potential lead, Boris Karloff, sees the Monster as a lost, baleful character many can identify with. He also believes this role is his chance to finally become a star and provide his family a sustainable income. As the story evolves and characters intertwine, Junior realizes he’s not getting the expected promotion and takes too many risks trying to prove his father wrong, alienating Frankenstein’s actors, directors, and much of the crew. Things degenerate while theories fly as to why Junior is so determined to get this movie made. Stone’s story is immediately engaging, jumping right into the heart of the action. The use of multiple viewpoints between Junior, Lugosi, and Karloff add depth and texture to the novel, while the dialogue re-creates 1930’s phrasing and cadence without going overboard. Junior’s charming, witty, external dialogue is especially fun when juxtaposed against the ever-growing anxiety of his inner thoughts. The narrative is well-balanced, leaning neither too heavily on flashy action to drive its plot nor on ponderous character studies. Thus, it’s easy to binge-read while still offering moments of contemplation and genuine character depth.  132

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Love and Other Monsters in the Dark: Short Stories.

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Twists and surprises abound in this wry collection of flash fiction from novelist K.B. Jensen. Themes of destruction and deliverance work in tandem in these very short pieces. In the opening story, a vacationer excavates a skeleton from the walls of a villa and knits it into a woman, “[m]issing a tooth, far from perfect, but free. In “Killer Blossoms,” Henry repays a childhood slight with an act that has unanticipated consequences, a device that threads throughout the collection. Many of the metaphors and strange situations feel fresh, like Sara, struggling with depression, who swallows a storm and is torn apart by it, or the 13-year-old girl who eats a boy who torments her. Some twists land with a shiver of delight; in “Lucky Shoes,” a narrator steals a pair of red satin pumps, leaving her own Nikes behind to replace them. Dancing PUBLISHER: CRIMSON CLOUD MEDIA through town, she rejoices that “Nothing hurt when I was wearing them. Not my heels, not my arches, not the balls of my feet, not my heart” —then later wakes to find her own Nikes beneath her bench. Many of the stories, though, don’t deliver on their gimmicks, and some read like the answer to a writing prompt, a mere exercise. In “Grandma,” for instance, the 30-year-old narrator awakens in the body of her grandmother, a premise that leads to bizarre interactions and jolts of self-awareness. But then her boyfriend’s sweet but prosaic declaration of love turns her, “just like that,” back to herself, with no lingering consequence. Several stories fail to fully realize their characters, and many, like the handful of COVID-inflected stories, tread familiar ground. Jensen is an adroit writer, carving out images with a few deft words; on the screensaver of the computer the narrator steals in “The Hoarder,” the flying toasters are “darting back and forth with their angel wings.” Not every story is a heavy hitter, but there are enough memorable moments to make the collection enjoyable. 


The Man Who Came to Rent.

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Set in Montreal in 2009, The Man Who Came to Rent is Sam Krymalowski and Sean Kropveld's debut novel. It combines an epistolatory-style blog format with a first-person narrative as the main character explores Montreal for love and a mysterious movie Voodoo cult. With two authors, you’d expect the writing to feel as such, but the styles meld wonderfully to create a story that I had trouble setting down. In the blog portion of the story, ex-archeologist and movie lover Victor “Vic” Demaisonneuve details his experiences working at the movie store in his blog, notably how he’s like a bartender lending an ear to lonely people, PUBLISHER: listening to corny jokes or how a man missed ADELAIDE BOOKS the days when he performed on tour with Ted PUBLISHERS Nugent. However, this isn’t too different than what Vic does with his blog. As he talks about his taste in film, customers, and his affection for Kate Winslet, he is also looking for a connection, looking to be heard. In the narrative portion, you follow Vic about Montreal as he looks for love, goaded on by his blogger buddies and friends, and the Voodoo cult detailed in a dusty journal he found at the store. Once in Haiti – no spoilers as to how he got there – the plot picks up even more elements of intrigue. The Man Who Came to Rent is a great read, with humor and characters that propel the story forward with dialogue. Even though the catalyst for Vic’s life changing is his hunt for a Voodoo cult, the things that get him there are curiosity and the encouragement of close friends. If you’re looking for a fun adventure with great dialogue, an absurd premise, and with a main character getting out of a rut and leaving it a changed man, this is the novel for you.  134

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It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint.

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As a doctoral student, I think it is safe to say that Vanessa Corcoran’s memoir, It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint, is a lot like the dissertation process. There are equal parts bursts of energy and pride partnered with equal parts fear and despair. Written in a conversational tone, the reader walks with Corcoran through the joys and trials of several life-changing events.


You learn to run together. You experience the highs of the academic journey with her. You also experience the lows; some so intense that you have to pause and reflect. Maybe you realize you’ve been down that road too.

While reading, I wanted to text the author and let her know that I’d been there too. That despite knowing how joyous the finish line would be, there are times when I’m not sure I’ll reach it. And, if I do, I might be too emotionally drained to enjoy crossing the precipice between striving to outrun imposter syndrome and earning the title of expert. Vanessa Corcoran is the strong female lead in It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint. Readers will see the vulnerable and scared parts that live inside her. Corcoran’s route to the finish line is winding and scenic, though some scenes may require tissue. This book is for anyone striving to finish strong. 


Mandalay Hawk’s Dilemma.

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In his latest middle grade novel, Peter Aronson’s Mandalay Hawk’s Dilemma is an easy-to-read novel with a message, not only for pre-teens and teenagers, but for everyone.


Mandalay Hawk is a 13-year-old who wants people to see what global warming is doing to our earth and to save it before it’s too late, and she wants the government to help. So, she creates a plan to march in Washington to get the president’s attention. Set not too far into the future, in 2030, Mandalay begins her journey by getting herself into a situation, which, in turn, gives her father a reason to move the two of them to New York City for a fresh start. In today’s world, I like the spunkiness of Mandalay’s character because we don’t see many

teens who are willing to step up and do the things she does in this novel. While we learn a bit about her backstory as well as her two friends, we really see Mandalay shine throughout this novel as a kid who deeply cares about our earth’s future, just as we all should. Even though Mandalay Hawk’s Dilemma is a fictional novel, I felt at times like it was more of a nonfiction book. In fact, I would classify this as realistic fiction. I could tell Peter had done a lot of research for this novel by the details he added to the story. I also liked the way he wove the research into the story, showing how Mandalay and her two friends researched the information they would eventually share with the president. This research certainly makes the situation a little more real to the readers. If we think about the fact that the story is taking place in 2030, that’s not too far off in the distant future. Will our world really be like what Peter describes in Mandalay Hawk’s Dilemma? While we really don’t know, this novel does give us something to think about, doesn’t it?  136

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The Physician's Daughter.

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Martha Conway has a knack for historical fiction. I read her book Sugarland many years ago. The Physician’s Daughter, I knew I would read it. During a 500-mile move, I had no hesitation about Sugarland’s place in my suitcase. The jazzy notes still play in my head.


Yet despite having read the back cover blurb of The Physician’s Daughter, I carried with me a trifle of doubt and a sliver of hope. Would Vita’s father discourage her from becoming a doctor? Surely not. Wouldn’t it be divine if Vita and her father practiced together? Surely.

Don’t worry - no spoiler alert! Vita Tenney is a strong female character who doesn’t disappoint. She’s scrappy and determined to have it all. If you ever wondered if you could have your heart’s desires settle in with Vita while she tells you her story. The Physician’s Daughter is a necessary read about age-old choices and ugly truths. The historical elements transport readers to familiar places, leaving them to confront discrimination, prejudice, and stereotypes. Read this book if you’re a woman wavering, discouraged, or experiencing imposter syndrome. If you know a young woman, 137

A Redemptive Path Forward

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With vulnerability and honesty, Antong Lucky dissects the experiences that he (and so many others in impoverished communities) have had in his debut memoir and sociological call to action. From selling fake crack as a kid and forming the Dallas Bloods, to dealing real crack as a teenager and experiencing horrific physical abuse while in juvie, Antong was never presented with a mentor who could show him a different path than the one he was on. He and so many other young Black men in his community were raised by their absent father’s mistakes and guided by the “hustle” culture around them. Antong was a smart kid, and he had the drive and desire to excel – but how could he, when the only adult figures in his life who believed in him were the Dallas Bloods and the hustlers / dealers who took him under their wing? How could he, when the academic system that claimed to support unconditional education had no empathy for the most desperate in their community? How could he, when the correctional systems put in place for kids and adults grossly abused their power, whether

physically or emotionally, forcing the young men in their keeping to become even tougher in order to protect themselves? Antong noticed this systemic and generational cycle, and decided to pursue societal change – he would show the young men in his community that he believed in them. He would become the mentor who showed them that there was another way. After seeing the corruption of American prisons firsthand, and finding God through Islam, Antong left jail in his early 20s with a commitment to help America evolve. He was able to break the pattern of his own life, and now seeks to do so for others in similar situations. The purpose of his mission is to keep young Black boys alive and out of jail, and to break the pattern of senseless gang and police violence. In his book, Antong captures all of this and more – not just as an account of his past, but as a genuine call to action. Change is possible. And I find myself hoping that Antong’s book will be used as an educational tool, and that he will write more nonfiction in the future. A Redemptive Path Forward is a deeply compelling read, and brings to light the societal issues that many people support on paper, but in practice make them squirm – police and prison reform, accessible education, gang dissolution, and class equity are a matter human rights, and Antong argues that empathy is the first step toward this new future.  138

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You’ve Changed: Fake Accents, Feminism, & Other Comedies from Myanmar .

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You’ve Changed, Pyae Moe Thet War’s debut book, a collection of essays, is personal and impactful, and I think the back-cover summarizes it best: “In this electric debut essay collection, a Myanmar millennial playfully challenges us to examine the knots and complications of immigration status, eating habits, Western feminism in an Asian home, and more, guiding us toward an expansive idea of what it means to be a Myanmar woman today.” In this book, Pyae masterfully demonstrates the effects of Western bias in her own life, discussing how it is woven into her family and past romantic relationships. With nuance and sincerity, she reveals her own family’s PUBLISHER: complicated view of their colonizers. And with cutting COUNTERPOINT PRESS wit and somber honesty, Pyae dissects the West’s arbitrary prejudice around accents, citizenship, and cross-cultural love, pulling forth evidence from the discriminatory remarks, microaggressions, and governmental requirements that have affected her own life and relationships. There are so many sections of this book that hit me pretty hard … the way Pyae shares her personal story is beautiful. The way she shares her multi-generational family, despite its complications, is beautiful. The way she describes her lack of desire for children or marriage, in spite of Myanmar’s patriarchal norms, is beautiful (and, as an aro-ace person in a middle eastern family, it’s inclusion is appreciated). The way Pyae discovers and explores herself is beautiful—she’s a kaleidoscopic human being, and watching her accept her own nuances is an emotional but beautiful journey … it feels sacred, almost as though I’m not supposed to be in on it. However, Pyae’s vulnerability and honesty in sharing her story is what makes it so impactful—I sincerely look forward to reading whatever she writes next.  139

Nuclear Family.

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Nuclear War, published on June 7, 2022 by Counterpoint Press, is Joseph Han’s debut novel. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever read before, and is incredibly impressive in its execution. Jumping from perspective to perspective, Nuclear Family is an achingly tender, unexpectedly funny, and entirely unique tale of separation, belonging, colonialism, politics, ghosts, immigration, and intergenerational healing. The prose is absolutely beautiful and, while reading, there were moments I stopped to roll a certain sentence or phrase around in my mind, enjoying the taste of it. All of the characters felt very real and individualized, and throughout the book we learn to love and sympathize with all of them, even if we don’t particularly like them or agree with their actions. Their imperfections prove they’re human, and their struggles are heartbreakingly realistic.

As you can probably tell by the synopsis, the storyline itself is pretty wacky – and I mean that in the best way. From ghosts and weed to Guy Fieri and golf, Nuclear Family is as wild and fun as it is aching and beautiful. There is also lots of perspective jumping, which I’m personally a fan of – it results in a more comprehensive look at the characters’ circumstances, motives, and feelings, weaving a tapestry of intergenerational trauma, separation, hope, and love. Their struggles are very real, and Joseph does a phenomenal job of immersing himself fully in the mind of each family member. If you’re the sort of person who needs predictability and conventional storytelling in your reading, that’s great – but this book might not be for you. However, if you’re able to enter a book and fully immerse yourself in its twists and turns, having an open mind and going with the flow of the story, then I definitely think this book is worth your time! I personally fall into the latter category, and greatly enjoyed the experience. I look forward to reading whatever Joseph writes next, and frankly, I look forward to rereading Nuclear Family to see what I may have missed!  140

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Ways the World Could End.

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As Kim Hooper’s newest release, Ways the World Could End is her “pandemic novel.” While she uses this situation as part of her storyline, the novel isn’t just about the pandemic. It goes much deeper than that. Ways the World Could End is the story of Dave, a father with Asperger’s, trying to raise his daughter, Cleo, on his own. Jana, Dave’s wife and Cleo’s mother, is gone now, and they both must find a way to move on without her.


been told in third person.

Right away, I noticed the way Kim tells the story through both Dave and Cleo. Even though Ways the World Could End is literary fiction, I thought it was interesting how she tells the story back and forth between the father and his teenage daughter, both in first person. Usually, literary fiction is told in third person. However, the way Kim tells the story, that doesn’t matter much. I felt I was getting to know the characters better than I would have if the novel had

Another thing I noticed is how Kim uses such great detail in describing Dave’s thoughts. For instance, the book opens with him thinking about asteroids, and as I continued reading, Dave shared his thoughts about other various topics. I could tell Kim had done quite a bit of research in order to give us these facts. Most importantly, I liked the way Kim showed us how it is for an adult with Asperger’s to parent a teenager. We’ve probably all been around a child or teen who is on the autism spectrum at some point in our lives, but have we seen an adult who can be a parent? I hadn’t until I read this book. Ways the World Could End is the realistic look at the life of a man with Asperger’s trying to raise his daughter the best he can. And I must say Kim did an excellent job of showing us how he did this.  141


Interview: Kim Hooper. Author of

Ways the World Could End BY MICHELE MATHEWS


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Having worked in schools for nearly 30 years, I’ve been around students with autism and Asperger’s. So, when I saw that Kim Hooper’s Ways the World Could End had a character with Asperger’s, I wanted to know more about the author and the book. Kim shared her thoughts not only about her personal experience with Asperger’s but her novel, too. TELL ME A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF, INCLUDING WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO BE AN AUTHOR.

KH: To be honest, I never really thought about wanting to be an author. I started writing from a very early age— seven or eight, I think. Writing was (and still is) my way of making sense of the world around me and processing various feelings and experiences. As I got older, I felt a natural desire to share my work with more people, and it seemed like publishing was the way to do that on a bigger scale. So I guess now I’m an author! YOU SAY WAYS THE WORLD COULD END IS YOUR “PANDEMIC NOVEL”. EXPLAIN WHAT YOU MEAN BY THAT.

KH: Well, I wrote it during the

pandemic, and it was largely inspired by this sense of doom I was feeling during those early months. Dave, one of the main characters in the book, is a doomsday prepper, and through him I was able to confront my own anxieties about the fragile state of the world. THE MAIN CHARACTER DAVE TALKS ABOUT ASTEROIDS HITTING THE EARTH. HOW MUCH RESEARCH DID YOU DO FOR WAYS THE WORLD COULD END?

KH: I did a lot of research! I tend to do a fair amount of research for each of my novels, and the research for this one was probably the most interesting of all. I researched various astronomical events and natural disasters. Weirdly, I felt less fearful. I just realized how little control we have as human beings, how much we need to surrender. Writing this book gave me a lot of perspective on the very small window of history in which we are living. DAVE IS BASED ON YOUR PERSONAL EXPERIENCE. WERE YOU THINKING OF SOMEONE IN PARTICULAR FOR THE CHARACTER OF CLEO, DAVE’S DAUGHTER?


KH: Cleo was not inspired by any one person in particular. I suppose I was channeling a bit of my own teenage self. Someone asked me, “How do you write teenage girls so well?” I said, “Uh, I was one!” BEFORE YOUR HUSBAND’S DIAGNOSIS, WOULD YOU HAVE THOUGHT TO WRITE A NOVEL WITH A CHARACTER WHO HAS ASPERGER’S?

KH: No! I really didn’t know much about Asperger’s before he was diagnosed (in 2020). Embarrassingly, I was guilty of many misconceptions. I read many, many books about it to try to understand the autistic brain better. It’s fascinating, really. My husband and I are actually no longer together, but the process of learning more about his brain wiring was invaluable as we figured out our relationship. This book feels very personal for that reason.


KH: Good question. I have no idea. Ha. 144

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I probably should put more deliberate thought into these things, but I tend to just write in a way that feels right, and that’s what felt right for this novel. I do enjoy first person because I feel like it creates more intimacy between the reader and the characters. I enjoy reading first person novels myself, so I’m sure that influenced me here.


KH: I can’t say I’ve read any novels featuring a parent on the autism spectrum. I’m all about inclusivity and representing different types of people in fiction. We need more of that. Neurodiversity is coming out into the open more and if my book can help facilitate people’s understanding of autism, great. There are so many misconceptions out there. The spectrum is huge, and it’s very likely that many of us know multiple people on it. IF YOU HAD TO CHOOSE YOUR FAVORITE NOVEL OUT OF THE SIX YOU’VE WRITTEN, WHICH ONE WOULD YOU CHOOSE AND WHY?

KH: Oh, wow, that’s hard. Each one has been my favorite at different times.

My first novel, People Who Knew Me, holds a special place in my heart because it made me a published author. I love the story too. I’m most proud of All the Acorns on the Forest Floor because it’s a really unique structure, like a puzzle, and I’m still not sure how I came up with that. Dave and Cleo in Ways the World Could End are definitely two of my favorite characters. ARE YOU CURRENTLY WORKING ON A NEW NOVEL? IF SO, CAN YOU GIVE TELL US A BIT ABOUT IT?

KH: I am working on something new and hoping to have a first draft done by summer. I’m terrible at discussing novels as I’m writing them. I have no elevator pitch yet. Thematically, it’s about marriage and motherhood and the various roles women often play. 


Kim Hooper's debut novel, People Who Knew Me, was published in 2016 and hailed by the Wall Street Journal as “refreshingly raw and honest.” Publishers Weekly wrote about her second novel, Cherry Blossoms (2018), “Hooper gives familiar themes of loss and redemption fresh and inviting life.” Her third novel, Tiny (2019), was awarded the Silver in the General Fiction category of the 2019 INDIE Awards by Foreword Reviews. All the Acorns on the Forest Floor (2020), “a stirring series of stories interwoven by the common threads of human frailty and the complexities of relationships” (Suzanne Redfearn) was a 2020 Foreword INDIE finalist. Kim’s fifth novel, No Hiding in Boise (2021), was a 2021 Indie Next Pick and was named a 2021 Great Group Read by the Women’s National Book Association. 145



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.


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VARAKITE by William Long

MOTH by Melody Razak

John Richard Saylor

There are three known parallel dimensions in the multiverse. Archie and his father have left Old Earth to live and work at Mount Tengi on New Earth in the second parallel. Archie is now in command of a Time Escort Group (TEG) that journeys through spacetime zones to other worlds to return timecrack travellers to their Points of Origin.

Melody Razak makes her literary debut with this internationallyacclaimed saga of one Indian family’s trials through the tumultuous partition—the 1947 split of Pakistan from India—exploring its impact on women, what it means to be “othered” in one’s own society, and the redemptive power of family.

Lakes might be the most misunderstood bodies of water on earth. And while they may seem commonplace, without lakes our world would never be the same. In this revealing look at these lifegiving treasures, John Richard Saylor shows us just how deep our connection to still waters run. Lakes is an illuminating tour through the most fascinating lakes around the world. Whether it’s Lake Vostok, located more than two miles beneath the surface of Antarctica, whose water was last exposed to the atmosphere perhaps a million years ago; Lake Baikal in southern Siberia, the world’s deepest and oldest lake formed by a rift in the earth’s crust; or Lake Nyos, the so-called Killer Lake that exploded in 1986, resulting in hundreds of deaths, Saylor reveals to us the wonder that exists in lakes found throughout the world.

It's on one such journey to Ireland during the time of the Great Famine in 1849, they return the Irishman, Finbar the Guide, to his home in Donegal. Shortly after they arrive, Archie and his girlfriend, Kristin, the mission artist, encounter Lord Castleforde, a ruthless landlord responsible for the evictions of starving tenants on land he has inherited from his late wife, Lady Jane.

Delhi, 1946. Fourteen-year-old Alma is soon to be married despite her parents’ fear that she is far too young. But times are perilous in India, where the country’s longawaited independence from the British empire heralds a new era of hope—and danger. In its wake, political unrest ripples across the subcontinent, marked by violent confrontations between Hindus and Muslims. The conflict threatens to unravel the rich tapestry of Delhi—a city where different cultures, religions, and traditions have co-existed for centuries. The solution is partition, which will create a new, wholly Muslim, sovereign nation— Pakistan—carved from India’s northwestern shoulder. 147



Feyi Adekola wants to learn how to be alive again. It's been five years since the accident that killed the love of her life and she's almost a new person now--an artist with her own studio and sharing a brownstone apartment with her ride-or-die best friend, Joy, who insists it's time for Feyi to ease back into the dating scene. Feyi isn't ready for anything serious, but a steamy encounter at a rooftop party cascades into a whirlwind summer she could have never imagined: a luxury trip to a tropical island, decadent meals in the glamorous home of a celebrity chef, and a major curator who wants to launch her art career.


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PEST by Elizabeth Foscue

by Chris Pavone

You think you know a person.. Ariel Pryce wakes up in Lisbon, alone. Her husband is gone--no warning, no note, not answering his phone. Something is wrong. She starts with hotel security, then the police, then the American embassy, at each confronting questions she can't fully answer: What exactly is John doing in Lisbon? Why would he drag her along on his business trip? Who would want to harm him? And why does Ariel know so little about her new--much younger--husband? The clock is ticking. Ariel is increasingly frustrated and desperate, running out of time, and the one person in the world who can help is the one person she least wants to ask.

High school senior Hallie spends her days traipsing from one Montecito estate to the next...spraying ant poison. Between her dad’s pest control company, her mom’s pond cleaning service, and her side gig at a tourist hotspot in Santa Barbara, Hal puts the “work” in working class. But Hal's tired of ditching friends to skim dead fish from fountains, and she’s weary of divorced-parent politics. So Hal has a plan: win the Verhaag Scholarship, go to an east coast school, and never come back. But the Verhaag Scholarship has a proud history of nepotism and a last-minute contender just crawled out of the woodwork. With her college plans rapidly derailing, Hal is forced to enlist the help the dim, infuriating, rich kid next door. Hal’s willing to do anything to win the scholarship, but her side gigs are creating a tangled web that might keep her stuck in Santa Barbara forever, and now she’s wondering if she misjudged the boy next door.


SLEEPWALK by Dan Chaon

Sleepwalk's hero, Will Bear, is a man with so many aliases that he simply thinks of himself as the Barely Blur. At fifty years old, he's been living off the grid for over half his life. He's never had a real job, never paid taxes, never been in a committed relationship. A good-natured henchman with a complicated and lonely past and a passion for LSD microdosing, he spends his time hopscotching across state lines in his beloved camper van, running sometimes shady often dangerous errands for a powerful and ruthless operation he's never troubled himself to learn too much about. He has lots of connections, but no true ties. His longest relationships are with an old rescue dog that has post-traumatic stress and a childhood friend as deeply entrenched in the underworld as he is, who, lately, he's less and less sure he can trust.




by Alfred Stifsim

Inspired by The Decameron and its dark and satirical novellas, Boccaccio in the Berkshires chronicles the foibles of seven women and three men, all in their twenties, who meet in an online chat room for asymptomatic pandemic survivors. They have all endured the deaths of loved ones and decide to shelter together for fourteen days in an Italianate mansion in the Berkshires, offered to the group rent-free. The vacant but furnished villa provides a luxurious, yet bizarre, setting for members of the chat room, who leave their homes in different cities around the United States.

Johnson is accused of assaulting a white woman, a deadly charge for a black man in 1876. Knowing he’ll be lynched if he stays in St. Andrews, Indiana, Johnson flees to the grassy plains of Kansas looking for the freedom unavailable to him back East. What Johnson doesn’t know is that the woman’s father is a powerful businessman determined to track him down. For a man on the run, the West seems like the perfect place for someone withdrawn like Johnson to become a new person, until a top Pinkerton agent named Cole Charles comes into town hunting outlaws.

Over the course of their stay, they bond together in unexpected ways as they tell each other stories, ranging from the personal to the ludicrous, at times riffing on the absurdity of Boccaccio’s tales.

When Cole Charles discovers Johnson is a wanted man, Johnson has no choice but to flee again. This time he escapes to Fort Worth, Texas, where he meets a rowdy woman named Eddie who is quick with a joke and even quicker with her pistol...






Suzanne Mattaboni

Charles Lambert

by Rimma Onoseta

On a grey November evening in Victorian London, Edward Monteith, a moneyed but listless young man, stokes the fire at his local gentleman’s club, listening to its members: scientists, explorers and armchair philosophers discussing their supernatural experiences and their theories of life after death. Edward is taken under the wing of some sceptics and attends a supposed séance where he is captivated by a beautiful young woman selling flowers outside the theatre. What follows is a quintessential Gothic novel, a ghost story, and an uncanny love story. Soon Edward and Settie, the mixed-race Romani traveller are deeply in love, but their bond is threated by the inescapable class system of Victorian society. When Settie falls pregnant Edward panics. Afraid of their fate if he is cut off by his father, he makes a drastic decision with dire consequences.

An emotionally riveting novel for fans of Ibi Zoboi and Erika L. Sánchez about two sisters in Nigeria on their journey to break free of an oppressive home.

In 1984, punk is rampant. Andy Warhol rules. And 20-year-old art student Jessica is sick of all the excitement going on without her. Hungry for the life she’s convinced is just beyond her fingertips, she sets her sights on an avant-garde study abroad program in London she can’t afford. Meanwhile, hometown boyfriend Drew wants to see other people if he’s not exciting enough to keep her stateside. Jess and her buddies rent a beatup apartment, trolling new wave clubs and waitressing double shifts in New Hope, PA, a cool and artsy restaurant town on the river, to scrounge-up tuition money. Then Jess meets Whit, a steamy daredevil guitarist who crawls through her window and makes her head spin like a record. Before long, Jess has to decide if the men in her life will leave her as damaged as her cracked-glass mosaic art projects—and whether they’ll stand in the way of her dream semester in post-punk London.


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Sisters Cheta and Zam couldn’t be more different. Cheta, sharptongued and stubborn, never shies away from conflict—either at school or at home, where her mother fires abuse at her. Timid Zam escapes most of her mother’s anger, skating under the radar and avoiding her sister whenever possible. In a turn of good fortune, Zam is invited to live with her aunt’s family in the lap of luxury. Jealous, Cheta also leaves home, but to a harder existence that will drive her to terrible decisions. When the sisters are reunited, Zam alone will recognize just how far Cheta has fallen—and Cheta’s fate will rest in Zam’s hands.


CONSTANTINE AT THE BRIDGE by Stephen Dando-Collins

The AD 312 Battle of the Milvian Bridge, just outside Rome, marked the start of a monumental change for Rome and her empire. This battle was the figurative bridge between old pagan Rome and new Christian Rome. And once Constantine had crossed that bridge, there was no turning back. Constantine the Great, after winning this battle against his brother-in-law Maxentius and taking power at Rome, and strongly influenced by his mother, forcefully steered Romans away from the traditional worship of their classical gods toward Christianity, setting Rome on two paths – the adoption of Christianity as the state religion, and the relegation of the city of Rome to obscurity as the Western Roman Empire collapsed within 175 years.


FOOL'S ERRAND by Jeffrey S.



Maddie Morrow thought her problems were over. She saved the Inn at Havenfall--a sanctuary between magical worlds hidden deep in the mountains of Colorado--from the evil Silver Prince. Her uncle the Innkeeper is slowly recovering from a mysterious spell that has left him not quite human. And there are still a few weeks of summer left to spend with her handsome, more-than-just-a-friend Brekken, even though she can't stop thinking about Taya.

Years after the death of his gangster father, a young man discovers a letter that sends him reluctantly defying the mob as he races to locate a hidden treasure.

But Maddie soon realizes there's more work to be done to protect the place her family has run for centuries. She must embark on a dangerous mission to put an end to the black-market trading of magical objects and open the Inn's doors to Solaria, the once feared land of shapeshifters. As she tries to accomplish both seemingly impossible tasks, Maddie uncovers family secrets that could change everything.

It’s been six years since the untimely death of Blackie—a charming rogue who endlessly pursued “The Big Deal”—when his son discovers an enigmatic letter telling of a cache of stolen money. Feeling no choice but to pursue his father’s dream, he embarks on a search that leads from New York, to the Strip in Las Vegas, and ultimately to the south of France. Along this life-altering journey, he is confronted by the dangers of his father’s past as he unravels a decadesold mystery, while revealing other long-buried secrets as well. Poignant and entertaining, humorous and exciting, romantic and mysterious, Fool’s Errand leads him to discover both the treasure and himself.




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If you don’t like to read, you haven’t found the right book." – J.K. ROWLING


J UNE/ J ULY 2022