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The Eric Hoffer Award for Books

The US Review of Books supports the Eric Hoffer Project by publishing the results of the annual Eric Hoffer Award for Books. The Eric Hoffer Award is judged by a separate panel, under direction of the Eric Hoffer Project, and is not influenced by The US Review of Books. We simply publish their results each year, and therefore the following commentary cannot be attributed as an official review from The US Review of Books. Instead, the Eric Hoffer Project respectfully requests that you give fair use when quoting their award winners. Please use "-The Eric Hoffer Award."

The Eric Hoffer Award honors the memory of the great American philosopher Eric Hoffer. In addition to the grand prize, Hoffer honors are bestowed by press type and category, and also through the Montaigne Medal, da Vinci Eye, and First Horizon Award.

Coverage of the the Hoffer is updated in May when the results are released to the public. You can view the Hoffer Award announcement schedule on their official website. They also post a grand prize short list of finalists. We publish their list of category finalists with links to the books we've reviewed in our pages.

 

2019 Eric Hoffer Book Award

CATEGORY AWARDS

Adult Fiction

Nonfiction/Trade

E-Book

Legacy

 

Official Sponsor of the Eric Hoffer Award

 

Hoffer Grand Prize

The Eric Hoffer grand prize is the highest distinction awarded each year.

Catch, Release, Adrianne Harun, Johns Hopkins University Press - With this wonderful collection, Harun has accomplished two rare feats. First, she’s taken the grand prize with a work of adult fiction for the first time in our history. Second, and no less important, she’s delivered a cohesive story collection, when so many today seem hurried and uneven. Instead, Harun appears to be a master of the form. She threads interior monologue, which in longer works can become an endless slog, to reveal superb insight. “It’s all about loss,” the narrator of the title story announces. Flashes of humor balance heartbreak as the author explores tragedy: A wife tries to find her dead husband in the memories of a manipulative crone while her teenage daughter plots to teach her mother that “death can’t be called back.” A mother mourns her embattled relationship with her murdered 14-year-old daughter. Young sisters perish of an inherited blood disease, as their brother endures in exacerbation. A middle-aged bachelor struggles with losing his sister and his childhood friend to marriage. Parents wallow in self-absorption, leaving their teenage sons to struggle with maturity on their own. A gifted young African man immigrates to a new reality as a tissue donor to a dying child in London. Each story creates unforgettable impressions and memorable lines in a microcosm illuminated by the beauty and complexity of human emotion.

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Montaigne Medal

The Montaigne Medal is awarded to the most thought-provoking books. (The Eric Hoffer Award provides no specific commentary about Montaigne Medal finalists, but they are listed on their official website.)

True Wellness: How to Combine the Best of Western and Eastern Medicine for Optimal Health, Catherine Kurosu, MD, LAc & Aihan Kuhn, CMD, OBT, YMAA Publication Center - What’s the best medical approach? Western or Eastern? Each has their benefits. Medical practitioners Kurosu and Kuhn blend both disciplines for body/mind wellness, making a strong case for an enlightened approach in the modern world. The book is divided into two parts, the theory and philosophy of each discipline, followed by practical advice for applying it to your life. Acting as one part layman’s guide and one part workbook, the title steps back from traditional stances on western and eastern medicine. Instead, the authors seeks to conjoin the two. Without pointing the finger at western medicine for being wholly bottom-line or at eastern medicine for lacking empirical evidence, the authors "doctors themselves" frame a duality where re both approaches to wellness coexist, with the intention of not only spelling out each field’s pros and cons but also how the two can work in tandem, where the sum is greater than the parts. Despite myriad references to medical studies and further resources, the language and layout are accessible, presenting a book meant more to read and digest than simply reference.

Wise-Love: Bhakti and the Search for the Soul of Consciousness, Pranada Comtois, Chandra Media - Follow the body-mind connection through the false self to discover the eternal soul. Life involves choices. We can either pursue material desire, which is in effect a treadmill of emptiness, or we can reverse that thinking and realize that our present access to the material world is best suited to manifest the desires of the soul. With this we flip our understanding and reasons for being. This is a heavy read at times, packed with eastern philosphy and basis, but it's worth the journey. The wonderment of love is often accompanied by the question of exactly what is love? In this book, the author explores love as it results to self and the transforming power of wise-love. Comtois invites the reader to join her as she explores the bhakti path to a new definition of love, one that awakens the power of consciousness and opens the heart to receive a divinely sacred love. This journey is well-defined, eloquently explained, and easily accessible to all. With step-by-step application, the path to wise-love through bhakti is awaiting anyone who desires to explore a definition of love that transcends the ordinary.

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da Vinci Eye

The da Vinci Eye is awarded to books with superior cover artwork. (The Eric Hoffer Award provides no specific commentary about da Vinci Eye finalists, but they are listed on their official website.)

A Last Survivor of the Orphan Trains, William Walters and Victoria Golden, Orphan Books (cover by Kathleen Lynch/Black Kat Design)

A Whisper Across Time, Olga Campbell (cover by Olga Campbell)

Blair House, William Seale, White House Historical Society (cover by Sarah Maycock)

Into That Good Night, Levis Keltner, Skyhorse Publishing (cover by Brent Bates)

Lucy, go see., Marianne Maili, Chez Soi Press (cover by Marianne Maily & Carina Clark)

Servie's Song, Heidi Tucker, The Pickled Sunflower (cover by Dylan Tucker/Austin Tucker Media)

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First Horizon Award

The First Horizon Award is given to superior work by debut authors. (The Eric Hoffer Award provides no specific commentary about First Horizon Award finalists, but they are listed on their official website.)

A Dreadful Fairy Book, Jon Etter, Amberjack Publishing (See additional award coverage in the Middle Reader category.)

Chicago 1871, James E. Merl, XlibrisUS (See additional award coverage in the Science-Fiction/Fantasy category.)

Defying the Verdict, Charita Cole Brown, Curbside Splendor Publishing (See additional award coverage in Best Micro Press.)

Gather & Make, Genevieve Layman, Azara (See additional award coverage in the Home category.)

Life in the Neck, Diane Davies, Beaver's Pond Press(See additional award coverage in the Children's category.)

Rosie, A Detroit Herstory, Bailey Sisoy Isgro, Nicole Lapointe (illustrator), Wayne State University Press (See additional award coverage in Best Academic Press.)

The Sunshine Land, David Wedd, AuthorHouseUK (See additional award coverage in the Memoir category.)

The Wonder That Was Ours, Alice Hatcher, Dzanc Books (See additional award coverage in the General Fiction category.)

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Academic Press Award

The Academic Press Award is given to a book from a press with an educational institution affiliation, such as a college, library, or museum.

Rosie, A Detroit Herstory, Bailey Sisoy Isgro, Illustrated by Nicole Lapointe, Wayne State University Press - The story of the women of World War II is conveyed through comprehensive rhyme. Bailey takes us on a journey through Detroit history to learn how women supported the economy during a time of wa, and when the war ended, how they encountered hardships. Lapointe's bright and colorful illustrations are just as appealing as the narrative, adding to the comprehension of the story. This teacher-friendly book includes two pages of background information before the story begins, as well as a timeline and glossary.

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Small Press Award

The Small Press Award is given to a book from a press producing twenty-five books or more per year.

The Jaguars That Prowl Our Dreams, Mary Mackey, Marsh Hawk Press - Elegant, vital, raw, tender, this collection of poetry written over four decades casts a stunning spell over the minds of readers. The poet offers a glimpse of how she has lived life fully, through childhood filled with curiosity, as an advocate for women, and years of beating the drum to save the planet. Throughout her work, she continues to show the strength, compassion, and openness to new life adventures. Work here offers a glimpse into the soul of a poet with an unflinching eye. She allows readers to experience an underlying sense of hope. It sneaks a glimpse into the soul of a poet with an unflinching eye for what is real. Readers can feel the woman/poet grow and change over these years, while still remaining the same person fully embracing life, the people she meets along the way, and the world we all should care for.

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Micro Press Award

The Micro Press Award is given to a book from a press producing twenty-four books or less per year.

Defying the Verdict: My Bipolar Life, Charita Cole Brown, Curbside Splendor Publishing - This outstanding account is a testament to the strength and will of its author. It is rare to encounter a memoir with such clarity of voice, yet wrapped inside of a narrative infiltrated by Bipolar disorder. It's the firsthand account of her harrowing travails as a young Black woman institutionalized in the United States pyschiatic medical system. As the story progresses, it becomes clear that the author's journey is a multi-generational one. The author's family history with Bipolar disorder is described in eye-opening detail, providing greater understanding of mental illness and life lived on the margins.

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Self-Published Award

The Self-Published Award is given to a book that was financed by the author and/or not by the publisher, regardless of press size.

Kem Weber: Mid-Century Furniture Designs for the Disney Studios, David A. Bossert, The Old Mill Press - Mapping the intersection of utility and style, this book examines the architecture and furniture of Kem Weber and how his aesthetic complimented the working culture of Disney Studios. Furthermore, it can be read as a narrowly focused exploration of how Weber’s work within Disney can be seen as a broader reflection of the working culture of the time and the industry itself. Mixing anecdotes with images and design specifications, the book is, at times, a meditation on the paradox of style and how the sheer ubiquity that accompanies success makes the designer invisible–until he is not. For example, the author showcases Weber’s, now iconic, Air Line chair, which was cycled in and out the Disney studios for decades before becoming a sought-after collector’s item. Pairing original illustrations, photographs and descriptions of Weber’s furniture alongside anecdotes from the artists who worked on it provides insight into the rare genius who can bring their aesthetics in line with utility in such a way that their work is used and valued across generations.

See the full review in the US Review of Books

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Art

The Art category captures the experience, execution, or demonstration of the arts, including art, fine art, graphic art, architecture, design, photography, and coffee table books.

Winner

A White House of Stone: Building America’s First Ideal in Architecture, William Seale, The White House Historical Association - The Residence Act of 1790 launched the construction of the now famous White House in fledgling Washington DC. Built primarily from nearby Acquia sandstone, which is located down the Potomac River, a collection of laborers and imported Scottish master stonemasons gathered in the Federal City to build, and alter rebuild after the War of 1812, the President’s primary residence. Within the details of excavation and construction, Seale tracks the political, cultural, and personal aspects of the building’s key players and finer points of architecture. This book comes bound with historical records and poignant photography.

First Runner-Up

Chickasaw Historical Atlas, Stanley Nelson, Chickasaw Press – What is a map, but a record of landscape in time. The terrain it defines may change dramatically, but this does not render the map obsolete. It transforms the map into an even more valuable record for history. Nelson’s Chickasaw atlas creates a timeline of early American history. Embedded within is the history of American expansionism, as well as the disregard and betrayal of the Chickasaw and their fight to retain dignity throughout. This gorgeous coffee table book, from cover to cover, will be certain to stir thought and conversation.

Honorable Mentions

Dare to Create: The Joys and Tortures of Learning to Paint, Monroe Katz, Val de Grace Books - An art teacher once stated that he could glance at anyone’s recent sketch and approximate the age at which that person was discouraged to pursue drawing. Indeed the path to learning any art form is littered with false starts and trapdoors. Painter Katz calls us to rejoin the artist’s journey, partially through his devotion to Rembrandt. Through the nuts and bolts of masterworks, he encourages us to paint, fail, learn, and find a way to create in a beautifully organized coffee table edition.

See the full review in the US Review of Books

Too True: Essays on Photography, K.B. Dixon, Inkwater Press - Labeled as “idiosyncratic essays,” author/photographer delivers a personal narrative in pictures and prose. This isn’t Dixon’s first foray into this mixed medium, and the book strangely, alluringly so, begins with a defense of a previous book. At least we know the author is serious. Indeed, he delves into camera art from various angles, including the subject and the subjective, but this is by no means an exclusive list. The photographs that precede each essay/journal entry are worthy of their own discussions.

Vernacular Modernism: The Photography of Doris Ulmann, Sarah Kate Gillespie, Georgia Museum of Art - The work of early twentieth century and self-described “pictorialist” Doris Ulmann, according to biographer Gillespie, has been historically difficult to classify. This may have contributed to her being overlooked within the cannon of her contemporaries such as Stieglitz and Strand. Gillespie settles on “vernacular modernism,” which involves the regional usable past or that reflecting the patchwork reality of the American experience. In fact, vernacular itself, or the need to classify, has squashed the legacy of more than one artist. Gillespie brings this important photographer out of the shadows within this well-wrought coffee table edition.

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Chapbook

The Chapbook category contains books with 40 pages or less, with typically some form of saddle stitch binding and/or artistic assembly.

Winner

Our Lady of the Flood, Alison Pelegrin, Diode Editions - This chapbook took an odd course to the top. At first its beauty wasn’t fully recognized, like when you walk into a foreign church and fail to understand the intersection of saints, history, and many components that create its facade. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Pelegrin invites you into the side chapels, where sacrifice and miracles occur—both great and small, both shining and hideous.

First Runner-Up

Corporal Muse, Allison E. Joseph, Sibling Rivalry Press - Joseph does not obfuscate, yet delivers a classic poet’s chapbook, if such a thing exists. She’s learned to leave out the parts that other people skip, skimming instead into all that matters to her but lets you make sense of it. There are gem stars in this constellation.

Honorable Mentions

One Above One Below, Gala Mukomolova, YesYes Books - Mukomolova’s prose takes you by the throat, if not by the visceral core of your sexuality wrought through experience. Arthur Miller once said that we are at our best when we are most naked. The poet is exposed here, and her alluring collection blurs the boundary between soul and desire.

Thunderbird, Denise Lajimodiere, North Dakota State University Press - With crisp and precise prose, Lajimodiere’s poems read like prayers—prayers for life, nature, and ultimately herself. The nexus of land and spirit is explored through insightful and personal reflections—deceivingly simple and poignant.

You Could Stop It Here, Stacy Austin Egan, PANK Books - What do women know? Everything they’ve learned through each decision they’ve made, for better or worse. The same could be said of any person on Earth, but Egan separates herself with compact stories of paths taken, wishes wanted, and lessons delivered bluntly in the unfolding. Her slow motion camera eye delivers a song of many women, yet only few can tell so well.

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Children's

The Children's category is for young children's books, including stories and picture books.

Winner

Life in the Neck, Diane Davies, Margarita Sikorskaia (illustrator), Beaver's Pond Press - A wonderful tale of teaching new life on Earth how to assimilate to unfamiliar phenomenon. Through entertaining exchanges between mother and fawn, a baby Fawn learns about danger and staying safe, but only to her detriment. When the forest catches fire, the perceived dangerous wolf ends up being a lifesaver. The content of this tale speaks to the true nature of humanity and life in general. One must see beyond that which meets the eye and be drawn to investigate the soul rather than accepting prejudices. This is a phenomenon often experienced later in life.

See the full review in the US Review of Books

First Runner-Up

I See You, Michael Genhart, PhD, Joanne Lew-Vriethoff (illustrator), Magination Press - As a child looks out his apartment window to a colorful streetscape below, he notices a shapeless gray woman sitting at the bus stop. Noticed by others only when her shabbiness doesn't fit in at the corner cafe, when her lack of cleanliness offends the olfactory senses of fellow bus stop occupants, or when dogs that probably eat better than she does growl at her, the woman moves about the neighborhood nearly invisible. But the child sees her as she huddles in a stairway, takes food scraps from a garbage container, and shivers in a cold wind. He brings her a small care package and blanket, and her color returns as she is seen in a more compassionate light by all. The wordless story is complemented by material to help adults discuss homelessness with children in a manner that engenders respect and suggests helpful yet safe actions.

Honorable Mentions

Fruits (Spanish Bilingual Baby Book), Spanish Bilingual, Mison Kim, Dooleyglot - Ms. Kim has created a masterful resource for children learning English and Spanish. Kim’s boastfully colored Picasso-type illustrations serve as wonderful visuals for each vocabulary word. Each page is accompanied by the corresponding English and Spanish word. Parents and teachers can also learn with this book while spending quality time with their children. To help facilitate learning of all ages, Kim has also provided an easy-to-follow pronunciation guide. This is a must-have for parents and teachers looking to break down barriers to a bilingual world.

Growing Up in Alaska, Constance Taylor, Ben O'Brien (Illustrator), Fathom Publishing Company - This book chronicles the life of an Arctic tern family through photos and a story told through the perspective of the baby tern. The photos are crisp and detailed allowing to really see the baby tern starting as an egg in the nest all the way up through its first flight. The details follow along with the photos in a perfect timeline, making connections visually to help understand the changes discussed. There are also smaller drawings on a few pages that add a finer detail to what is going on in the photos. The photos add to this story and allow you to get up close and personal during the tern family’s journey.

Love is Love, Michael Genhart, PhD, Ken Min (Illustrator), Little Pickle Press - Ridiculed for wearing a rainbow heart shirt, a young boy discusses how derogatory language affects him and other LGBTQ families. This beautifully illustrated book depicts the diversity of families across various cultures, focusing on the similarities between traditional family structures and same-sex parents. The central message of the story echoes the title and reinforces the idea that what defines a family is not its shape but the love that is shared between its members. The book includes questions meant to inspire deeper conversations with children on the topic of bullying, hurtful language, and the actions bystanders can take to help.

Sunny Days, Jesse Byrd, Anastasiia Ku (illustrator), Jesse B. Creative - This book is a beautifully written and illustrated account of how a young girl is able to overcome the results of a hurricane in her town. Martine is a joyful, exuberant little girl who delights the people she encounters in her little world. When the rain starts, however, Martine is frightened. With her family, she sees the damage being done to her neighborhood and everything she is familiar with. When she returns home, she sees the negative effect of the hurricane on all of the beautiful things and people she loves. Through her positivity, Martine helps her neighbors overcome the adversity they encountered and move beyond it. After all, hurricane days aren’t the only ones that deserve a name. This book will encourage young readers to engage with their world and look for ways to help in times of need.

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Middle Reader

The Middle Reader category is aimed toward the pre-teen market, including chapter books.

Winner

A Dreadful Fairy Book, Jon Etter, Amberjack Publishing - This is a delightful tale told by a disgruntled “professional narrator” who was given this assignment because it was the only one left. The story takes Shade (Lillyshadow Glitterdemalion), a sullen and somewhat persnickety book-loving fairy who seems to be peeved at just about everything, on a journey to find a new home after her family’s tree home is clumsily burned down. On her quest, she encounters all manner of magical bumbling creatures and strange unlikely friends. Things go from bad to worse until she discovers her true purpose: to build a library in her own home village of Pleasant Hollow, and at which time our fictitious narrator is released from this most unpleasant ordeal.

First Runner-Up

Jace's Adventure at Chidren's Hospital, D.W. Harper, HayMarBooks - Jace is a typical fourth grade boy looking forward to Christmas Break. He has plans that include his best friend, Rocco. As they look forward to the last days school before vacation starts, his friend becomes ill and does not return to school. Jace learns Rocco has a serious illness called type one diabetes. He begins to question why and how his friend developed such a life altering condition. As he learns more about his friends situation, Jace is determined to help Rocco understand and adjust to the new normal he must accept to survive.

Honorable Mentions

Badge of Honor, Karen Glinski, Terra Nova Books - Walk in Beauty: A beautiful concept such as this comes to life. A young man, named Emerson, learns to respect others and himself through every day choices. In a story which weaves Navajo Indian history into a young man's end of summer adventures with his Grandpa at a sheep camp, Emerson grows from a self-absorbed twelve year-old boy into a caring and determined young man. He discovers the rich culture and history of his ancestors along with an obligation to respect the past. Glinkski develops strong characters who clash in their pursuit of wealth and honor. Emerson confronts his own bad choices, realizing honor means more. He leaves Grandpa to return to school, not knowing if he will ever see him again. However, he now understands Grandpa lives in his heart forever as they walk forever in beauty.

Mona Lisa's Ghost, Nancy Kunhardt Lodge, Wilwahren Press - In this book, we’re taken on an adventure from the high tech present to the 13th century where a couple of young teens, using their knowledge of technology, follow the mysterious theft of Leonardo da Vinci’s valuable painting, the Mona Lisa, and eventually uncover the secret to Mona Lisa’s smile. Along the way, and during a trip to Paris, they discover unprecedented seemingly supernatural activity surrounding the painting. What they finally discover is that it’s our perception that makes our reality. The book is cleverly interwoven with art history and the theory that the mind is able to perceive what it desires but what we believe is often dictated by popular input.

The Lake of Fire, Donald Willerton, Terra Nova Books - Mogi Franklin is on the trial of a new mystery in The Lake of Fire. This time Mogi and his sister, Jennifer, enjoy a high school science conference in the mountains when an unsolved mystery piques their interest. Curious, they set out to discover what happened to a downed plane carrying a load of plutonium. It’s been over fifty years since the aircraft went missing. The siblings are shocked when the mystery leads them to foreign spies, government cover-ups, and an out of control fire. These are just a few of the obstacles they encounter as they work to solve this newest mystery.

The Stupendous Adventures of Mighty Marty Hayes, Lora L. Hyler, HenschelHAUS Publishing - Yes, smart kids, who love science and books, can live exciting and adventurous lives. Beneath their nerdy interests may exist special powers beyond their imagination. Mighty Marty Hayes, a twelve year-old lover of science and magic, shows this and more in his adventures as a seventh grader in love with the scientific pursuit of gene-editing technology. Marty has inherited special powers from his Grandmother. He can use his imagination to bring stuffed animals to life and can save the day as he did for his science class when he wills mosquitoes back into a jar, ending an experiment gone wrong. What he and his friends need to learn, however, is that any power, scientific or super hero, must be respected and controlled to serve good over evil. In the end, Marty and his friends thwart criminals intent on stealing scientific knowledge and discover how their powers can save the world.

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Poetry

The Poetry category contains poetry or highly stylized prose.

Winner

Lord of the Butterflies, Andrea Gibson, Button Poetry - Gibson demonstrates in dynamic fashion what it is poetry was made to do: transform heartbreak, isolation, and fury into grace. As Gibson tackles the worst elements of human nature, her crystalline specificity and humor ring out not as a megaphone filled with complaint but as a call for radical love. Gibson shows us that courage stems not from strident bravery, but from a non-negotiable need to get it out—to sound a truthful alarm for what we as a species must remember. In "Good Light,” Gibson writes my first birth was my first yes; this collection roars a mighty yes all these decades later.

First Runner-Up

Echolocation, Sally Bliumis-Dunn, Plume Editions - Echolocation happens by emitting sounds, and then listening to the reverberation bouncing off objects to detect where one is. This collection achieves the same. It is as if each rendered poem ricochets back to the poet to assist in sensing who she is.The opening poem echos the poet’s personal grief, a grief so large she cannot measure it. She conveys it though, through a beached whale who “lays in great sadness” imagining the pod still at sea. Other poems use the natural world, to relay human life and loss. We find this in the sound of metallic rain stabbing the earth until there are crevices. “This is where / the sadness goes” the poet writes, and then compares it to herself “This is how / it tunnels the body.” This collection is rendered beautifully through the use of spare lines, imagery and poignant endings.

Honorable Mentions

A Different Physics, Lisa Rosenberg, Red Mountain Press - The scientific, historical, personal, and lyric scope of this poetry book is impressive. From a first glance at the subtle and striking cover to the  compelling poetic divisions reach “to a sky retold,” to a revelation of secrets that harken back to “the deep workings of a universe,” to models that reference Matisse, a Vitruvian child and to a landscape that examines the personal scape of being-in-the-world. The details, the imagery, the intelligence and craft of the book as poetic inspiration. It is poetry as its contemporary best.

Confessions of a Barefaced Woman, Allison Joseph, Red Hen Press - Strung together, these barefaced poems form a joyous deliberation on modern life. Part memoir, part inquiry, part humorous aside, this book expertly navigates the complicated terrain of midlife, womanhood, and the African American experience. These poems follow the poet from her first concert and adolescent confessions to ruminations on why men whistle, the vagina business, and beyond, but they also ask the reader to confront their own assumptions and suggests at almost every turn that one should reconsider before giving way to regret.

Not Your Mama's Melting Pot, Benjamin Naka-Hasebe Kingsley, The Backwater Press - Kingsley delivers a hyperkinetic examination of family and multicultural identity. The language is fast-paced, breathless, and unflinching. There’s a certain loudness to this, a pounding drumbeat to the poetry, that comes out most clearly in the pieces that focus on childhood memories. These are among the most poignant of the poems in the collection, and while many of the poems detail difficult experiences, they’re told with great pride and bravado. These narrative memory pieces, such as "The Hapa Anthem," "Pick Your Switch," and "Out Last WWF Summer Slam," are also punctuated with meditations on the future, family, and sense of self. The relentless collection reads fast.

pray me stay eager, Ellen Doré Watson, Alice James Books - Deceptively simple language and concepts combine to bring vivid insight to the poet’s sense of self, of aging, of family, and the surrounding world which, while “out there” always reflects back to the self. These poems seem, upon first reading, to be unrelated but there is always that sense of moving toward endings. There are endings of relationships, endings of time to do things but, always in the mix, is the coming of the ending of life. With all of that, there is also the desire for beginnings: “…still, I’d like not to be done with/ ‘smitten’…” These poems speak to life that many readers can relate, and if they don’t now, they will eventually, when they understand that: “’Woman of a certain/ age’ means—how old. Well beyond/ the middle.”

Premonitions, Elizabeth Schmuhl, Wayne State University Press - Through a series of non-consecutively numbered poems, the speaker’s motherhood, femininity, and surrealism melds into nature. In the first poem, the poet states “I stopped using the internet years ago” as she walks outside to search for a natural web. In “#31,” “spiderweb . . . egg sacks” metaphorically swing “like pearls” in her home’s basement. Later she is in “in the dining room, giving birth” when she connects her blood to “raspberry jam.” Then in “#56,” the poet states “My children leave at night at night and I let them” “dig until morning.” However, In “#87,” the poet’s partner “took the twins/ months ago.” When she “scratch[es] her skin” “at the river,” “blood sprouts and blooms slowly.” Lastly, the poet writes to her deceased parents about wildflower picking. As “They always write back,” the book’s conclusion shows the speaker narratively finding emotional solace through nature.

Zoom, Susan Lewis, The Word Works - Prose poetry is the form of choice in this exceptional book. The author’s short poems present as small gifts one could easily slip into a pocket to savor over and over again. She has exceptional skills and can turn the English language on its head at times employing deft juxtaposition that can bring on wide smiles and chuckles. The word play is at times brilliant as in “Drumming to your inner waltz I hesitate, halt of step &/ runneth ever. While you hum & lean in fat/ fragments, with no amount of legs to help you/ stay the course. While misers save, spindrifts spin,/ & lackadaisies loiter.” The poems challenge the reader to dive in, think outside the box and enjoy the high speeds not unlike a rocket counting down the stages to take off.

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Young Adult

The Young Adult category is aimed toward the juvenile and teen markets.

Winner

Love and the Sea and Everything in Between, Brian McBride, Wilder Ground Books - McBride delivers the gut wrenching, heartache, and darkness that the mind of an individual dealing with mental illness experiences. The story submerges into the tragedy and heaviness of college freshman Adam, as he deals with hardship wrought not by his own hand. Still, one person can make a difference in someone's life in very subtle ways, providing huge impact. The mind is an intricate part of our everyday life, mood, and success. This book paints a vivid picture of hope and how it manifests in our lives.

First Runner-Up

Behind These Hands, Linda Vigen Phillips, Light Messages Publishing - A story of sadness, hope, resilience, friendship and facing one's fears, this novel in verse is more than just a coming of age story, this book deals with hard subjects in a way that makes them survivable. Claire grows from a girl going through the usual teenage life to a young woman who has had to overcome adult feelings on subjects such as sadness, survivors guilt, and impending death. The character development is believable and the struggle of the family to deal with the tragic blow that they have been dealt is well written as the author educates the reader on the little-know Batten Disease. Claire channels all she has been through, all her feelings, into the one thing that has been constant her entire life, her music. A beautifully written story.

Honorable Mentions

Infinite: Island of the Immortals, BJR, BJR Storytelling - As a young boy, Michael was told to ignore the shadows; he was told they weren’t really there. Now older, Michael leaps from an airplane and, while in free-fall, awakens to a world he was always meant to see. BJR introduces the reader to two worlds: the human world and the world of the shadows that protect and guide humanity. The plot is full of complex and sophisticated themes, as the story unfolds through the light-hearted and enthusiastic voice of a young man searching for answers and learning his true purpose. This is engaging with rich imagery and quirky, interesting characters.

Sealed with a Twist, V.A. Givens, Eclectic Quill Publishing - This story begins and ends with a visit to a gypsy fortune teller and the wish of a teenage girl and is filled with plot twists and turns in between. A sip from a mysterious bottle sends the two main characters, Ricki and Damian, on an adventure as they try to reverse the life changing effects of the potion. To succeed they have to overcome their lifelong hatred of each other and learn to see each other from the other’s perspective. It's a great message for teenage girls regarding self- acceptance rather than seeking validation through other people. Sometimes things aren’t as they seem when we try to figure out the motives of other people. Very humorous and engaging, you'll root for Ricki to finally find the love that she has been searching for since her visit to the fortune teller's tent.

Snowsisters, Tom Wilinsky & Jen Sternick, Interlude Press - Willinsky and Sternick introduce Soph and Tess, high school students from very different worlds whose lives intersect at a small young writers’ conference in New Hampshire over winter break. Through a fast-paced narrative, intimate journal entries, and authentic characters, this moving story dives deeply into identity, race, and coming of age. Only spanning a single week into these young lives, the story reveals Soph, Tess, and their new friends in lingering fashion. The auhors put forth an honest and sophisticated work for young readers.

The Art of Escaping, Erin Callahan, Amberjack Publishing - The book contains intricate details about what seems like nothing for several pages but ends up being everything. This confusion is pointedly intriguing, adding to the depth of the drama. The mix of exploring a historical performance style we all know from Houdini, with today's modern age, meshes nicely in the narrative told from the perspective of two generations. The author interjects glimpses from the past told from the elder before each chapter, setting the stage for the dynamic skill of the protagonist. The characters are well-developed with humor and sometimes surprising language. Several relationships in the story, from a mentor and teen, to a peer friendship, help bring the theme of authenticity and friendship to life.

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Commercial Fiction

The Commercial Fiction category contains genre specific titles, including thriller, suspense, romance, and horror.

Winner

Visions Through a Glass, Darkly, David I. Aboulafia, Cosmic Egg Books - Richard Goodman is a plagued human being. He sees the dead. Administrator of the Waterman School of Watchmaking, his students are mostly disabled, but the people he works with are dear to him. At home, he must interact with the demons who inhabit his space. Goodman uses drugs to soften the effects of these demon visitations. A trip to Coney Island with his Girlfriend, Kara, leads to a meeting with the Conjuh, a fortunetelling witch who counts down the minutes he as to live on earth—two days, eighteen hours—but Conjuh gives him a gift: being the Conjuh for 24 hours. Goodman becomes multi-dimensional and experiences otherworldly events. When he realizes Kara is pregnant, he knows the child is a girl. Death taunts him in the form of familiar people and then speaks to him directly. Approaching his fate, he fights thought and delusion.

First Runner-Up

The Stars of Locust Ridge, Craig Moody, Vivid Imagery Publishing - Survival is the overriding theme here. Genevieve Delany lives in the hills of Tennessee and suffers night terrors. Loneliness permeates the air and the life of a young girl at it’s heart. Geveieve falls in love with a young man whose family thinks she is not good enough. The mystery of her night terrors unfolds as she becomes pregnant and has a miscarriage. She realizes that she is being drugged and sexually abused by the father of the boy she loves. Genvieve is saved by her mother and two strong women who are in a relationship, Edna Stevens and Janice Everly—a heavenly light appearing above the treeline. Genevieve frees herself, finds love, and a life of her own.

Honorable Mentions

And So the Thunder Comes, Nicholas Kennedy and Emma Dark, AuthorHouseUK - The story begins in a slave ship where Lubek is the most recent slave forced to row a great ship. When the slaves revolt, the ship they are chained to is destroyed, and Lubek, Malik, and nearly two dozen others land on an island where they meet a woman banished as a witch, Freyja, and is trapped on the island. She tells them the story of her sister who was taken from her and promises to help them save their families and avenge their own slavery in exchange for their commitment to rescue her sister. They agree and become a band of warriors calling themselves Gurlemek, which is Turk for Thunder. Along the way, they are reunited with their captured family members, and the Gurlemek go on many adventures, but Lubek continues to wait for his son while holding on to the promise of their upcoming reunion.

See the full review in the US Review of Books

Facing the Dragon, Philip Derrick, Sunnyslope Press - Fifteen-year-old Jim Peterson thinks he is going on a simple side-trip from a family vacation when he steps into the darkness of Carlsbad Caverns. Little does he know that lurking in the shadows is a man with a grudge so strong it leads to murder. Scared and alone, Jim resolves to track down his family’s killer, a quest that leads him first to Oakland Army Terminal, but when, he is forced to adopt a soldier’s identity, he finds himself shipped off to Vietnam and dropped into the middle of a war for which he is legally too young to fight. But fight he must: for his life, for his country, and to finally right the wrong that got him into this mess.

The Girl Who Cries Colors, Raven Kennedy - A varying emotional ride wrapped inside a true love story that will make one even question their own relationships. Willow and David grow up as childhood friends, but they fall in love as adults. David has an amazing talent as a painter. As for Willow, her secret is in her tears by crying with a different color for each emotion. Can their love stand the test time? This is a beautiful story, with deft dialogue and emotional resonance, delivering a refreshingly out-of-the-box perception of love.

The Last Train, Michael Pronko, Raked Gravel Press - Modern day Tokyo is the setting for this tight, tense crime thriller, but knowing Japanese culture isn’t a prerequisite for enjoying this book. The author sets up a wholly believable world, which gives not only lurid insight but meaty depth, peopled with flawed characters that engages readers. Charged with investigating the mysterious murder of an American businessman is Hiroshi Shimizu: a somewhat broken detective still reeling from his return to Tokyo after years in America, combined with the loss of his girlfriend and a blossoming alcohol problem. With the help of Takamatsu, his longtime mentor, Shimizu has to navigate the underbelly of Japan’s sex industry, including the infamous love hotels, to find the murderess. But when Takamatsu suddenly disappears, the stakes rise as his investigation leads into the dangerous world of insider trading.

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General Fiction

The General Fiction category contains non-genre specific fiction, including literary and mainstream.

Winner

A Matter of Chance, Julie Maloney, She Writes Press - This is a gorgeously written story of heartache and hope. The disappearance of eight year old Vinni Stewart launches her mother, budding artist Maddy Stewart, into a years-long, desperate search for her daughter. The novel explores Maddy's growth through periods of nagging guilt, grudging rebirth, and relentless hope, but always with her art as the backdrop. Despite Maddy's desperation, she is genuine and thoughtful, and the reader will root for her until the very end. Maddy works side-by-side with detective John D'Orfini, a man with his own complex emotional past, and together they confront the sickening underbelly of a world where young girls are nothing more than international commodities. Maloney masterfully steers the reader toward a suspenseful and satisfying conclusion.

See the full review in the US Review of Books

First Runner-Up

The Wonder That Was Ours, Alice Hatcher, Dzanc Books - A modern day Caribbean island finds itself at risk to a mysterious disease emanating from a moored cruise ship as fear spreads among the island’s inhabitants. Swept along by this turn of events, the book is nonetheless driven more by its characters than its plot. Led by Wynston Cleave, an ex-con-philosopher-cab-driver, he and his fellow islanders navigate, along with two of the ship’s former passengers, the growing panic. Who better to serve as narrator but the cockroach? The collective "we" of these ever-present bugs offers an historical perspective that illuminates the wrongs that humans inflict on each other based on class, just as the cockroach has survived millennia of attempted genocide at the hands of humankind. This adversity imbues these bugs with a credible and deep authority, a near omniscient insight, that calls out the errors in our own interpretation.

Honorable Mentions

Adamson's 1969, Nicole Burton, Apippa Publishing - Set in America in 1969, Adamson is an eighteen year old son of an English family that has recently moved to Lexington, Massachusetts. He is soon exposed to the anti-Viet Nam War demonstrations and consequently begins to wonder if he is subject to the American draft. His father soon gets promoted, but must haul his entire family back to Europe, leaving Adamson in the U.S so that he can complete his high school and attend college. Adamson moves in with a friend, develops a relationship with a black girl, tries pot, LSD, then catches a ride to California via Florida. There he meets Jim Jones of the of the People Temple, hears about the Charles Manson murders, then hitchhikes back to school on the east coast. This is an interesting portrayal of a young English boy thrown into the tumult and social change of the late 60’s in America.

Disowned, Tikiri, Red Heeled Rebels Group - This gripping transcontinental thriller showcases the contemporary plight of enslaved young women who must use their wits to be free. Asha is orphaned after a car crash kills her parents: one a native of India and the other of Sri Lanka. She is sent to live with relatives in Goa, India. Well-educated and loved when her parents were alive, she is shocked and terrified by the poverty and cultural restrictions of her new life. Worse yet, the teen is to be married to a an evil older villager. In her efforts to escape, she trusts her life and savings to another corrupt man, who sells her into "slavery" in Canada. Asha's survival instincts are strong and inspirational, as she gains the courage to escape and help others.

In the Shadow of War, Patrick M. Garry, Kenric Books - This captures one perfect summer in the otherwise unremarkable life of Glen Kinsella. In the summer of 1970, eighteen-year-old Glen returns to the town of Corcoran to spend his summer vacation with his grandfather, expecting a dull stint in the sparsely populated Minnesota town inhabited mostly by senior citizens, but he’s surprised by the arrival of new youthful residents—war widows and veterans—who attempt bring the dying town to life. It’s a summer of changes, one which sees him grow to manhood in a dying town, and one in which the forgotten town becomes a target for antiwar sentiment and its inhabitants have to redefine their values. Garry provides a moving and realistic depiction of the effects of war on a small town community.

Little Girl Leaving, Lisa Blume, Illumine - This is a jarring look inside the scars of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse through the voice of Deidi, from the age of three years old to seven. Spoken in first person and set in late 1960s, the author brings you to the epicenter of a child’s confusion, innocence, and uncertainty about her future within the toxicity of her family dynamics. As Deidi’s language and understanding evolves, so does the chaos of her life unravel. Her subconscious that tells her "I’m bad and I’m dirty." It harkens a child’s simple yet universal wish: "I wish everyone was just nice." While written in simple language, this is very mature, difficult, and moving read as we are taken through her anxieties and hardships growing up in this dysfunctional family. Deidi survives the only way she knows how–through escapism and dreams.

On Burning Mirrors, Jamie Klinger-Krebs, J2K Creative - Jules Kanter is a newspaper journalist, juggling a successful career, marriage, and motherhood. She seems to be handling it all until she meets Erin, a would-be musician and bartender. Jules is fascinated with this talented young woman, so much so that she falls in love. Then tragedy strikes. She is killed in a car crash, leaving behind her devastated husband and daughter as well as her lover, Erin. Her husband, Will, discovers a letter that Jules had written to herself along with an newspaper article about Erin. The letter reveals the affair, but leaves more questions than answers. Will seeks out Erin and, together, they begin a journey of understanding, acceptance, and healing.

Sorry's Run, Joani Lacy, iUniverse - This book takes the reader into the world of the Scotch-Irish belief in fairies and the supernatural in the mountains of Kentucky. Shelby Jean Stiltner, a top New York model, is called back to her family in the hills because of an ailing family member. She doesn’t intend to stay long, but her plans change when she discovers that some of the tales about healers are true and that she may have inherited the ability to heal others with her will power and her strong hands. When she does discover that real ability is inside of her, she uses it to heal a friend.

See the full review in the US Review of Books

State of the Nation, David Jackson Ambrose, The TMG Firm - Skillfully woven with multiple points of view and set against the backdrop of the Atlanta Child Murders of the late 70s, the book chronicles the lives of three poor, marginalized, young black men growing up in Atlanta. They are struggling to make ends meet and carve out a niche for their unique identities in the only world they know. Truly immersive and deftly researched, one can’t grasp the magnitude of this world until they’ve come out the other side. Violence, innocence, race, poverty, brotherhood, and the blurred lines of gender identity come together to create a time and place in history, which is both fantiastical, and at the same time, all too real.

The Fat Lady's Low, Sad Song, Brian Kaufman, Black Rose Writing - This poignant story of hard choices when one’s career comes to an end is the tale of retiring baseball player Paul Westfall. Old, out of shape, and resigned to giving up his baseball dream, he gets a chance to play for an independent team. He excels as the batting star despite a nasty, ineffective coach. When he must offer guidance to a young woman hired as a first-in-the-league female pitcher, Westfall discovers new talents and paternal interests and the ability to lead his teammates to higher achievements. The hopes, doubts, and fears Westfall struggles with as he tries to continue in baseball bring the reader close to this sympathetic character. The novel provides colorful teammates, each with their own strengths and foibles, and the baseball magic is delivered in a short and sweet fashion that doesn’t take being a fan to enjoy. In the end Westfall learns his true strengths, accepts his stage of life.

Weather Woman, Cai Emmons, Ren Hen Press - Emmons reveals three people who discover the importance and value of their friendship. Though we may have quirks or something different about us, we should be valued because of that difference. Throughout in the beautiful prose, she captivates with meaningful descriptions and characters defined by purpose and setting. Emmons also shows us how women with a special gift should use that gift with strength, courage, and determination.

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Historical Fiction

The Historical Fiction category contains historical fiction books.

Winner

A Hundred Fires in Cuba, John Thorndike, Beck & Branch - Thorndike wraps a history of the Cuban revolution into the chaotic love story between a real-life character and a fictional one. Camilo Cienfuegos is a young Cuban working in New York when he meets photographer Clare Miller. The two fall in love and conceive a child, but before Clare can share the news Camilo is deported. She assumes he is dead, until she moves to Cuba and learns that he is one of Fidel Castro's most trusted rebel commanders. The couple reunite during the turbulent years of the revolution, before Camilo's untimely end. WHile Camilo's death is historically documented, this author posits the notion that Camilo was rescued and went on to enjoy a very different future.

First Runner-Up

The River by Starlight, Ellen Notbohm , She Writes Press - This story set around 1911 will test the reader’s strength of mind, as the character, Annie, battles long bouts of depression brought on by pregnancy, miscarriage, and even death of an infant. There is passion, hope, and forgiveness as Annie reaches out to the next step of life. Annie is haunted, revealing dreams that continue to surface in her psyche yet striking a human chord of mercy. Notbohm delivers an excellent historical piece that touches on a contemporary issue. Mental health is a relevant discussion, as society realizes it cost way too much to ignore. Depression in various forms is still struggling to be understood.

Honorable Mentions

Abigail's Exchange, Kathryn Den Houter, Mission Point Press - Set in Baltimore in the late 1800’s, Houterr weaves the story of Abigail, who suffers through the challenges of a young upper middle class woman of the time. Her father is at the forefront of the candy business; the beginnings of Whitman samplers and chocolate hearts for Valentine’s Day. After taking over her father's store, Abigail deals with issues of a woman owning property, how to hold on to it after she is married, then widowed. Abigail deals with other challenges, a mother who is institutionalized for depression, two sisters who are more traditional than she, the loss of her father, an extremely temperamental husband, and early widowhood. She survives with the help of a women’s exchange, as well as her wits and resourcefulness. It's both a thoughtful and fine historical work.

Angels of the Prairie Coteau, James E. Lewandowski, Praire Hills Publishing - In a time after WWI, Lewandowski conjures the murder of Fr. Arthur Belkap in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Belkap wanted to actively resist the Ku Klux Klan in a time when other characters were more concerned about Native Americans, whom also Belkap defends. The site of the murder is at a cross installed by the Klan during their second uprising in 1925. Ironically, Belkap was murdered for being Catholic. The Klan terrorizes the city with the violence, controlling the town, yet eliciting support from certain citizens and demonstrating the bigotry by complicity of that period.

The Way, Kristen Wolf, Pixeltry - Despite her uncommon good looks, Anna’s confused gender makes her the target of childhood taunts in a small village within ancient Palestine. This confusion haunts her formative years after her father dresses her in a boy’s tunic, cuts her hair, and sells her to traveling shepherds, whose leader seems to know more about her than Anna knows herself. Anna soon begins to enjoy the freedom and self-assurance of her male personna. Assuming the name of her still-born brother, she finds contentment for a few years as a simple shepherd, but becomes Anna again when betrayed by nature and captured by a secretive group of women. Living in an intricate system of caves and practicing strange teachings, they indoctrinate Anna to a destiny that seems to parallel and even parody the life of another.

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Mystery/Crime

The Mystery Crime category contains mystery, crime, and true crime books.

Winner

Far-Fetched and Highly Plausible, Leandro Faria, Dog Ear Publishing - Nikola Tesla, out of favor and living in New York City, has invented a force-field generator. The Military Intelligence officer who gets a demonstration dies of unknown causes before he can report to his superiors. Jump to the year 2020: Nick Neville, forensic accountant, is hired by an investor to audit tech start-up Cogvolve, a pioneer in artificial intelligence and creator of the robotic butler. Joined by BabyKitty, an unlikely partner involved in the Anti Android Alliance, Nick investigates the death of Frederico Lanza, lead researcher, who disappeared with stolen files. A trail of clues leads them to the Illuminati, dedicated to bringing about a new world order, as well as other, more sinister forces. With the team in danger at every turn, the author keeps the reader guessing at how Tesla, genetic mutations, aliens, and Leonardo daVinci all tie together.

See the full review in the US Review of Books

First Runner-Up

Lady Beth, Caroline E. Farrell - In this gritty urban thriller, set in the worn streets of Dublin, the Author exposes critical elements that challenge and even obliterate the prevailing attitudes. Scenes that find Beth ministering to a street junkie and questioning why she had been assigned a hospital bed in a maternity ward after the loss of her baby, elicit a certain accountability from the neighboring society. In the words of Byron, “You know you can never destroy what is already dead.” The liberal use of profanity is debatable, but perhaps a certain creative choice that is left for the reader to make. As the story approaches the denouement, Byron asks Beth, “Why do men become destroyers? Are women not destroyers too?” She responds, “Not in the pursuit of power, but yeah, I guess they can be.”

See the full review in the US Review of Books

Honorable Mentions

Damascus Street, Cathy Sultan, Calumet Editions - Captivating from the start, Nadia Khoury, is an idealistic journalist who is manipulated by many throughout her career. The Middle East is a hotbed of political chess. Syria and Lebanon are used by political leaders and the citizens pay the deadly price. Multiple love stories, interesting spy situations are intertwined between many characters. It is easy to find oneself rooting for Sonia and Fouad to live there happily ever after even with their deceptive backgrounds. It is heart-wrenching when their new blossoming romance is interrupted by tragedy. The author creates a realistic vibe of being in the Middle East with all of its deceit, destruction, hope, and faith and shines.

Pendant, M L Hamilton, Blue Mist Books - Twelve years ago, one of Elaine's students disappeared on a field trip. She has felt guilty about it ever since. Her husband, Roy, isn't surprised by her sudden interest in a newspaper photo she sees of a girl wearing what she is sure was the missing student's necklace. Since he is a retired cop, he decides to investigate for her. But when Roy dies in a tragic accident that may be more than it appears, and Elaine's house gets burned to the ground, she turns to the only person she can trust—another cop, Anthony, whose mother is living in a retirement home. He gives Elaine another name and secures her a place in the house full of colorful characters, while he does what he can to find Roy's killer. Will Anthony find the killer before the killer finds Elaine?

The Watch on the Fencepost, Kay DiBianca, CrossLink Publishing - Kate, a reserved, intelligent young woman with a love for puzzles is mourning the recent loss of her mother and father who were killed in a mysterious car accident while driving the hills they always try to avoid. Relying on her keen intellect and problem-solving skills, she encounters a variety of suspects who are either interested in her friendship or her passionate investigation. Deciding who is friend or foe presents challenges, and Kate employs decryption and deductive reasoning to try to reveal the truth behind the mystery. Surprises occur when help seems to come from the most unexpected places and people.

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Sci-Fi/Fantasy

The Sci-Fi Fiction category contains science fiction books.

Winner

Chicago 1871, James E. Merl, XlibrisUS - Most of us will agree that firefighters are some of the bravest and sometimes the craziest people. John Kirk is no exception. In this time travel novel, the author takes us from 2018 back to 1871, the year of the great Chicago Fire, through the amazing journey of this young, brave firefighter. John Kirk, with the latest firefighting technology and training, finds himself in a time when putting out fires was accomplished by courage and wits alone. He falls in love, marries, and plans to remain in this extraordinary and exciting time. However, fate changes his plan. Using history as a backdrop, the author creates a few twists and turns that will keep the reader glued to the story in anticipation of what John will discover and where his journey will end.

See the full review in the US Review of Books

First Runner-Up

Babble Magic, Miguel Lopez De Leon, BookBaby - Bax is a young apprentice working with a crotchety wizard in the obscure field of Babble Magic—that of making animals talk. When three unlikely test subjects favorably respond to the magic, both wizard and apprentice realize that giving the animals the seemingly simple gift of speech is a bit more complicated than one may think. With this new capability also comes cognizance, with human feelings and thought processes beyond basic natural instincts. Doris, the once angry and defiant squirrel, demands respect; Roger the anxiety ridden rooster, wants for courage, and Brenda, the predator-turned-vegetarian owl, yearns for love and companionship. By supporting one another, this menagerie is able to not only realize their newly awakened dreams, but manage to save the magic community (human and animal alike) from the clutches of a resurrected evil sorcerer—all in time for the awards ceremony at the Shok Wizard Convention.

Honorable Mentions

Children of the Fifth Sun, Gareth Worthington, Vesuvian Books - Kelly Graham, National Geographic marine life photographer and free-dive record holder, is kidnapped and finds himself aboard a military-style frigate and suddenly involved in an international struggle that may alter the future of human history. Freya Nilsson and General Benjamin Lloyd are part of a U.S. black ops team gone rogue that need his help to retrieve a mysterious underwater object. They've cloned a sentient marine animal named K'in that may be an ancient relative of homo sapiens, the source of Mayan legends, and whose powers to influence people mentally and physically they haven't even begun to understand. Pitted against a Chinese team intent on controlling those powers, and who have unleashed a weaponized virus that kills in 48 hours, Kelly and Freya must race to find an ancient artifact that is the key to communicating with K'in and the knowledge that could save humankind.

Death and the Underhouse, Christina Caniyo, 1st Ride Publishing - Reapers aren't supposed to love. Reapers are trained to dismiss emotion. When one finds his soul mate, it is easy to forget the rules. When his beloved Lydia dies giving birth to their daughter, Killen must hide the forbidden child from the Grim Custodians. Not knowing what lies on the other side, he cannot bring himself to send the child through the magical portal that opened the moment Kira was born. Little does Killen know that in the realm of Gardin, where the Ancients dwell, Kira's bond with her counterpart has already formed. Kira, now 20, must brave the portal to escape being detected by the Legion of Death. In Gardin, alongside colorful beings and strange beasts battling an evil influence, she is reunited with Angras, the boy who walks her dreams. Magical mysteries and biblical lore intertwine as they discover not only the complexities of their relationship, but the origins of their very being.

The Wizards of Central Park West (Ultimate Urban Fantasy), Arjay Lewis, Mindbender Press - New York City Police Officers see many strange things, but this one is the strangest. The author takes Eddie Berman, a second generation police lieutenant devoted to helping his fellow man, into the world of wizards and sends him on a mission to save the human world from an evil force. His initiation into this strange new circle grants him powers he could never have imagined. Keeping this strange secret from his partner and family is a strain, as he sets out to solve the Central Park West murders of a homeless man, a diplomat, and a crime boss. Each page of this book brings clues about the perpetrator, who is not your average murderer.

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Short Story/Anthology

The Short Story/Anthology category contains short story collections and anthologies.

Winner

Your Pick: Selected Stories, V.S. Kemanis, Opus Nine Books - Filled with stories that touch the heart, Kemanis weaves a twist into each that draws us right into the action. Some stories are deceptively simple—a single man dining at an exclusive restaurant or a senior widow shopping at a grocery store. Others reveal abusive relationships, trust issues, sorrow, and grief. While penning his memoir, a dance critic stumbles down a difficult path. A shy yet brilliant concert pianist suffers the unthinkable. She has a skill at examining the common from a new perspective. Thus named, Your Pick, as it includes reader's favorites amongst her work.

First Runner-Up

The Amazing Mr. Morality, Jacob M. Appel, Vandalia - The sleek, ironic stories in this collection bring to life seemingly ordinary characters who prove themselves capable of upending conventional morality. The author takes on a substantial range of experience and coexisting perspectives within middle-class life, from the thirteen-year-old toying with her father's desperate obsession with the woodchuck sabotaging his vegetable garden to the crusty retired surgeon who feels obliged to act as "next of kith" after her neighbor suffers a stroke. In the title story, a psychiatrist "who didn't know the first thing about ethics" accepts a job writing an ethics column for his hometown paper with the hidden agenda of seducing his married high school crush. Another quietly stunning story focuses on a dedicated third-grade teacher who must deal with the surreal "children's lottery" that will delivers one of her students to a colony of pedophiles. Each darkly comic piece is revelatory of human foibles.

Honorable Mentions

Hearth: A Conversation on Community, Identity, and Place, Susan O'Connor and Annick Smith (editors), Milkweed Editions - The charm of this collection is that it reflects something from another age. We don't take our books out at night or in the evening as much as our phones, iPads, and portable computers, which are similar in terms of function, form, and content. One character therein, Bill Mckibben, explains this much in conversation. As a famed activist, his success is linked to our phone and iPad. Yet, he soulfully tells of our loss of heart—the ‘Heaart’ due to a modern online life of storytelling. The book has more gems in conversation. It speaks of a calling to find one’s place in time on earth. What soil or seaside dune contains enough spirit to call home, hearth? Searching the diverse containment of refuge, shelter, and one's elusive search for home is time worth spending away from the images of computer screens. This collection sucessfully fits the bill.

Tiny Tim and the Ghost of Ebenezer Scrooge: The Sequel to A Christmas Carol, Norman Whaler, Beneath Another Sky Books - This novella takes the most beloved characters from the classic book A Christmas Carol to show readers what happens in the latter life of Tiny Tim. The boy is now a man mourning the loss of Ebenezer Scrooge, a man who had become like a second father to him. Beyond this grief, Tim has another heartache, a hidden one for a young woman. Readers will love this glimpse into Tim’s life as time did not stand still. Written in language similar to the classic story, readers will again be immersed into a world where it’s possible for a ghost to transport a struggling man into the past and present to invite him to change his future.

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Business

The Business category involves applications to today's business environment and emerging trends, including general business, career, finance, computer, and the Internet.

Winner

You Don't Own Me, Orly Lobel, WW Norton - There are many books on intellectual property rights and the conflicts that occur regarding ownership. Lobel’s study is a fascinating account of the multi-year legal battle that ensued between Mattel, the maker of Barbie, and MGA over rights relating to the Bratz doll. Carter Bryant, the creator of the Bratz doll concept and one time Mattel employee, was the true victim here. Bryant’s sketches were at its epicenter, as Lobel reveals the unethical lengths that corporate giants will go to win and crush competition. Unfortunately, in situations such as this, it is often the individual inventor that suffers the most. This is a powerful story of creativity and innovation and how it can be destroyed by litigation, where the winners are typically those with the greatest financial resources. Instead of competition keeping us nimble and making us better, it is attacked at all costs.

First Runner-Up

How to Wash a Chicken, Tim Calkins, Page Two Books - The thought of public speaking can bring about tremendous anxiety. In fact, there are some who feel that it is a great fear in life. This is problematic for business executives who are responsible for delivering speeches and presentations during their careers. The result may seem rushed and dry and lose an audience’s attention. Calkins, author, speaker, and clinical professor at Northwestern University, shares valuable insights in providing a highly effective presentation. Suggestions include first ensuring what is necessary and that it contains a clear purpose. It should tell a story that flows and builds with a clear beginning and end, instead of pouring out facts and figures in order to capture the listener and bring them to a desired conclusion. When executed properly, one can speak with confidence, leading to the buy-in, which moves objectives forward and enhances career success.

See the full review in the US Review of Books

Honorable Mentions

Be More Strategic in Business, Diana Thomas & Stacey Boyle, Mango Publishing - Most leaders and aspiring ones will admit that at one point or another in their careers they were asked to think strategically or to be more strategic. Regardless of where people are in their careers, being a strategic leader represents an ongoing process of growth and refinement. In their practical guidebook, co-authors Thomas and Boyle, share years of proven experience and provide step by step instructions, on how to become better leaders. These instructions, known as the "six factors for strategic leadership," provide the necessary tools for building a foundation that fosters strategic vision, planning, and execution. A willingness to commit to continuous evaluation, improvement and collaboration coupled with the engagement of stakeholders, is critical for the accomplishments of any organization and its leadership. The book helps to create an environment that fosters success where a shared vision is embraced by all involved in any organization.

Small Town Big Money, Colby Williams - Successful entrepreneurs are not just found in big cities. In his first book on entrepreneurship, Williams underscores this point and shares the story of Parengo Coffee, founded by Williams and his parents in the small town of Sikeston, Missouri. In this inspiring book, the author shares his personal experiences and how he was moved by other entrepreneurs, while providing an honest and humorous look into the differences between small business ownership and entrepreneurship. Being an accomplished entrepreneur requires a certain "can do" mindset. Key elements include hard work, optimism, capital, marketing, and proper branding. Creativity and a willingness to explore new ideas are critical. While these components are vital for the sustainability of any size business, small towns have untapped potential and are often overlooked. Williams encourages us to go beyond our traditional thinking and consider the possibilities of small town entrepreneurship.

How University Boards Work, Robert A. Scott, Johns Hopkins University Press - Building a strong board is critical to the success of any university. While board structures can vary from institution to institution, it is important for new and existing board members, and administrators who work with them, to clearly understand the responsibilities of the role. In Scott’s essential guide to trustee governance, we learn from a former college president about the challenges that universities are facing today and the difficult decisions that must be made by trustees and college presidents. Some of these matters consist of the rising costs of a college education, increased competition, campus safety, and political agendas. Trustees have a fiduciary responsibility to ensure that the mission and future of a university are safeguarded. This comprehensive guide covers, but is not limited to, many relevant topics including the components of a healthy board, supporting and monitoring strategic plans, succession planning, and presidential searches.

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Culture

The Culture category contains nonfiction books demonstrating the human or world experience, including multicultural, essay, women's issues, sexuality, gay, lesbian, aging, travel, recreation, true crime, social commentary, and current events.

Winner

Operation Snowbound, David W. Mills, North Dakota State University Press - In the winter of 1949 along the Northern Great Plains, several heavy snowstorms have already blocked roads and resulted in food shortages for man and beast. Weather forecasting is a rudimentary science. Most of the main roads are unpaved, ans supplies and people travel by train. Some homes have no electricity, and if occupants have a phone, it is a party line. Mills tells the story of the massive blizzards that struck this salt of the earth part of the coutnry and how it affected the lives of farmers, ranchers, townspeople, and the indigenous people. The author includes the stories of those who survived and the reports of those who froze to death. He also includes how pilots, the military, and scientists came together to assist during this time and how that response becomes the basis for the federal emergency response system.

First Runner-Up

Remembering Shanghai: A Memoir of Socialites, Scholars and Scoundrels, Isabel Sun Chao and Claire Chao, Plum Brook - This book is memoir, wrapped in a family history for several generations, encompassed by an overview of Chinese history and culture. The authors are a mother and daughter team. The mother left her family home in China for Shanghai in the 1930s and didn’t return until 2008 with her Westernized daughter. The book balances early memories of a traditional upbringing, her artistic father, her beautiful mother, and a grandmother whose feet were bound in youth, with the daughter’s research into their family’s story in the context of what was happening in China over many decades. Photographs and illustrations are interspersed throughout and with summaries on aspects of Chinese culture (tofu, mahjong, and fashion, etc.) that add dimension to the personal account.

Honorable Mentions

Flying Sleeves, Dr Chua Ee Kiam, Simply Green - Chinese Opera probably doesn’t have a huge fan base in the United States, but that may change thanks to this beautiful book of photographs. The author takes his camera behind the scenes at these elaborate productions, as the performers dress in costume, have their makeup applied and hair styled, and otherwise prepare for their performances. And then the action moves to the stage, the performers enact musical dramas, many of which were first staged more than two thousand years ago. Appropriate narrative completes this photo collection, but for the most part this story is told through hundreds of colorful and crisp images.

From Tolerance to Equality, Darel Paul, Baylor University Press - For thousands of years, generation after generation, homosexuality was abhorred by society. But that started to change in the mid-1900s, and over the last 25 years, views on homosexuality and same-sex marriage have shifted dramatically. The author explores this process of change, emphasizing the role elites have had on America's views regarding marriage and equality. Many theories are explored, including changing moral codes and an emphasis on tolerance, but this author argues that it is the American elites' cultural authority that has driven such rapid change over the past few decades. This book is far more than a history of LGBT rights; it's a study that reveals the path emerging in today's political and cultural climate.

Minnesota Headline Murders: 1900-1919, Patrick L. Shannon, Beaver's Pond Press - Each chapter tells the story of a true Minnesotan crime from the perspective of a person involved with the case in some regard. The author assumes the voices of attorneys, judges, court reporters, and friends of the accused to convey each story. He documents these details with reportage and historical accounts from the relevant era. The result is a unique hybrid of first-person narrative, backed by journalistic recollection of dates and facts. This approach—combined with primary sources in the form of photos, diagrams, and newspaper clippings—makes for a compelling read.

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Health

The Health category promotes physical, mental, and emotional well-being, including psychology, fitness, and sex.

Winner

Healthcare 911, Bhupendra O. Khatri, MD, HenschelHAUS Publishing - America’s health care system is a mess. The author knows this from his own medical practice, and he outlines the nature of the crisis and how it got this way. The book analyzes the rise of administrative dominance, the time-consuming electronic medical record, and the inefficient and arbitrary malpractice system, and it demonstrates how these and other burdens cause burnout among physicians and impair the delivery of good medical treatment. Among the book’s strongest passage are those that define the role of insurance companies and the ways in which they plunder the nation’s health care budget. While not proposing his own remedies for the systemic issues, the author does provide useful suggestions for individual doctors trying to fight the good fight in a dysfunctional medical environment.

First Runner-Up

Mindful Exercise, Peter Anthony Gryffin, PhD, YMAA Publication Center - With the notable goal of improving conventional treatments for life-changing diagnoses such as cancer and stroke, the book highlights the positive results of tai chi in lengthening life, improving quality of life, and mitigating disease-related symptoms for patients facing such dire circumstances. Working in plenty of tai chi’s history, the author also includes plentiful anecdotes of people for whom performing tai chi alongside their medical health plan has sponsored positive and sometimes dramatic changes to their overall health or outlook. While not a title meant for anyone specifically interested in tai chi, the author spends ample time considering the ancient exercises’ role in each of several major or chronic illnesses, making it invaluable for readers shackled with those difficult health challenges.

Honorable Mentions

Discontinue Leeches!! And Other Stories from an ENT's Training, Amit Patel, MD, XlibrisUS - The author, an ear, nose, and throat surgeon, recalls his days as a resident through a series of anecdotes told in dialogue. Some are as brief as two lines, none are longer than two pages, and each brings a smile, a feeling of recognition, and an understanding of the author. The stories sugarcoat nothing, as in the following, reproduced in its entirety. Me: How long do you want this bolster to stay in the nose for? Attending: How long? I want it to stay on these until that guy can’t fucking emotionally stand it anymore. Me: So . . . like a week? The book portrays calamity, frustration, misunderstanding, and despair with a blend of wry, self-deprecating humor and a touching humanity for the patients.

See the full review in the US Review of Books

The Curious Case of the Alexian Brothers Behavioral Health Hospital, Anthony M D'Agostino, MD, iUniverse - Of all medical specialties, psychiatry may be the least understood, but it is certainly the most underfunded. Low reimbursement by the government and insurers has led many medical centers to curtail or eliminate psychiatric care. The author, the former Chief Medical Officer of Alexian Brothers, explores the history of mental illness and its treatment, and describes how one institution has maintained its mission to treating this underserved patient population. Like other psychiatric institutions, Alexian has had its struggles, both internal and external. Despite the author’s insider status, the controversies and debates are portrayed with a sense of fairness to all parties involved.

See the full review in the US Review of Books

The Optimal Dose, Judson Somerville, Big Bend Press - Meant to complement a traditional treatment regimen, the book examines the undervalued, overlooked role that vitamin deficiency plays in numerous chronic diseases, notably in terms of vitamin D3. The author covers multiple components, from specific toxicity levels to the role climate and location play in creating supplement protocols. The clear objective of the title is to allow readers to see to their own vitamin action plan, and the clear chapter recaps, end-of-chapter references, and numbers-based details enable just that. Though focused on aiding in chronic disease treatments, the concepts covered in the title also address vitamin D3 dosing for those more focused on disease prevention or for whom environmental conditions might make D3 exposure or uptake more difficult, broadening the scope and weight of the work.

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Home

The Home category has practical applications to home or home-related issues, including general home, gardening, cooking, parenting, family, interior design, animals, pets, and home-related crafts.

Winner

Gather & Make, Genevieve Layman, Azara - The love of nature began at an early age for the author, who spent her childhood exploring the outdoors. Her passion launched a career that included horticultural therapy and educating children on the beauty of our natural world. There are many known benefits to being in touch with the outdoors, including a substantial impact on one’s emotional and physical well being. Layman connects us with nature throughout the seasons. It is broken out by months and includes projects and activities that are inspired by the environment, emphasizing the seasonality of supplies. These activities range from simple to more difficult and include climate adaptations, beautiful photos, and step-by-step instructions. Projects include dream catchers, floral crowns, and sunflower feeders, to name a few. There is a personal satisfaction in creating something beautiful with the resources found right in our own backyards.

First Runner-Up

The New Filipino Kitchen, Jacqueline Chio-Lauri, Agate Surrey - It is difficult to find a cookbook that stands out, given the vast number that are available today. However, Editor, Jacqueline Chio-Lauri has accomplished this in compiling Filipino recipes from all around the globe. The book is a collection of recipes, photos, and stories that highlights the history and traditions of the Filipino people. Numerous contributors, some of whom are successful chefs, share their memories of family, history, and favorite dishes. Certain recipes have been adapted over time. While not all ingredients are widely known, like banana blossoms, for example, suggestions are made as to where they can be found. Unique dishes, including Baked Chicken Adobo Infused with Coconut Milk and Champorado (sweet chocolate porridge), and many others are included and provide a wonderful inspiration to try something new and expand one’s food palate.

Honorable Mentions

Cockloft, Kyle Thomas Smith, Gatekeeper Press - Living in a major city, one learns to expect the unexpected. We keep moving at a fast pace and do not always slow down to think about our daily lives. Kyle Thomas Smith has created a series of short stories/essays that are both hilarious and heartwarming. Although not all completely true, they range from a wide array of topics including the current political environment, travel, and even squirrels. They are influenced by his random experiences and life as a gay married man living in New York City and San Francisco. It takes a unique talent to poke fun at some of the common absurdities of day to day life, while reflecting upon the friendships, encounters, and hardships that occur along the way. Smith has certainly accomplished this in this wonderful book.

Mariana's Letters, Mariana de Saint Phalle, XlibrisUS - Today, taking the time to sit down and write a letter to a friend and experience the joy of receiving a personal note, rarely takes place. In her cookbook, Mariana de Saint Phalle has compiled a collection of letters that originally began as a series of newsletters. The author’s vision was to pen these letters as if writing to a friend sharing tips, stories, and recipes. This lovely book is inspired by the author’s travels and experiences from cooks and recipes stretching from Maine to France. It is organized by the seasons, emphasizing fresh ingredients, along with holiday recipes. Some notable dishes include, Roast Suckling Pig, Peaches Cardinal, and Avocado Crab Cakes. Whether spending time in the kitchen or simply taking a moment to read her letters, this book will provide a welcome break in our hectic lives.

See the full review in the US Review of Books

Simply Sarasota, Junior League of Sarasota - Sarasota, Florida brings to mind images of beautiful sandy beaches, boats, and plenty of sunshine. Sarasota, however, is also a vibrant community of art, theater, and organizations striving to make a difference in the lives of others. One of these organizations is the Junior League of Sarasota, which has compiled its fourth cookbook with proceeds helping to benefit the lives of many within the area. The cookbook is solid and stands on its own. The recipes include contributions ranging from celebrity chefs to local residents and are inspired by freshly sourced ingredients. Mouth-watering dishes like Pistachio-Crusted Grouper with Lemon Butter Sauce and Cuban-Style Picadillo are detailed throughout. The book serves as an appealing invitation to visit, with photos and a look at some noteworthy sightseeing locations, including the footprint left by John Ringling, of the circus fame, which moved its winter headquarters to Sarasota in the 1920s.

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Memoir

The Memoir category captures specific personal experience.

Winner

The Sunshine Land, David Wedd, AuthorHouseUK - Here are wonderful eye witness accounts of Ghana’s struggle for independence from British rule, written from the perspective of a retired English officer, a half century after the events unfolded. With the help of personal diaries and recollections from fellow soldiers, the author immerses into the turbulent yet exciting times so typical for the birth of a nation. From the intense training as a fresh recruit, his arrival as a young officer in Ghana’s capital Accra, to witnessing the first African nation to gain freedom from its colonial past, the authorreveals stories and anecdotes written in meticulous detail. Well chosen black and white photographs complement this colorful memoir of an English officer gaining “respect as a white European in an African army.” Equally important, however, is the love he develops for “the Sunshine Land” and the “friendliest people in West Africa.”

See the full review in the US Review of Books

First Runner-Up

Almost a Murder, Jody Seay, Jim Lloyd, Koho Pono - Seay and Lloyd deliver a treasure trove of insight into the adversity faced by a young lawyer on his first murder case, painting a picture of peril in the form of scathing courtroom rebuke, strife in his family, dire financial problems, physical tiredness, and emotional havoc with the local law enforcement and community against him. He faces all this without pay. Although he is described as wanting a name for himself, it soon becomes clear that he is a fighter with an all-consuming determination to bring out the truth and save his client from unjust punishment.

Honorable Mentions

A Baptist Preacher's Buddhist Teacher, Lawrence E. Carter Sr., Middleway Press - This memoir helps restore one’s faith in humanity. The author, a devout Christian minister, preacher and academic, looks at non-violence and social activism from both the eastern and western traditions. His shows how people from different faiths can learn from each other to make a better world. His relationship to Daisaku Ikeda and the Soka Gakkai International, the largest Buddhist lay organization in the world, inspired him to speak from a perspective that is neither Christian nor Buddhist. Rather, he writes from the heart about individuals of all colors, cultures, countries and faiths working together to create a common, welcoming home.

Before They Left Us, Rosemary Ann Davis, Old Road Publishing - Davis offers a poetic and vivid memorial to the San Francisco Gay Community, as well as and the life she escaped in the midwest to reach it. This memoir is a roller coaster ride through the HIV/AIDS years that decimated a generation. Gorgeously written and haunting, this book should be required reading for anyone seeking to understand the AIDS epidemic and the redemptive power of friendship.

Skinny House, Julie L. Seely, Skinny House Press - Houses become famous for one of several reasons: location, design, architect, or a famous occupant. The subject of this book—a ten-foot wide house on a small lot in upstate New York—has gained notoriety for the first two reasons. But as the author posits, this house should also be known for the man who designed and built it: an African-American man who climbed the economic ladder by building homes for middle class blacks in pre-Depression America. This book charts the rise and fall of the man behind this unique house, from his successas a builder to his lean years during and after the Great Depression. Seely explains how the house, built in an act of desperation, has become a symbol of ingenuity and Americans’ aspirational spirit. This book is a fascinating exploration of this overlooked but important part of African-American history.

The Hard Bargain: Music, Medicine, and My Father (Richard Tucker, Opera Legend), David Tucker and Burton Spivak, XlibrisUS - An epic father-son struggle that travels back and forth from science to the stage. Two strong-willed individuals battle themselves and each other to rise in their respective fields. Throw in struggles with faith and being a middle child, the American Dream (as the family rises from poverty in Brooklyn) and a behind-the-scenes look at the Metropolitan Opera, and you'd have a potboiler of a soap opera if it weren't so well-written. In this engrossing story, humanity and humor always shine through. Perhaps these two talented individuals sparred so much and so often because they're so much alike.

See the full review in the US Review of Books

Tiger Bravo's War, Rick St. John, Currahee Press - Not as literary as Tim O’Brien’s accounts of the Vietnam War, this memoir of one year of one company’s service is equally strong. The reader gets to know and care about the soldiers of the l0lst Airborne Division’s Wandering Warriors. Writing in a journalistic style, the author has probed deeply into geographic and natural details, history, and people’s individual stories. The book is accompanied by maps, a bibliography, a list of those killed in action and a glossary. This thorough look at one company at one time during this controversial, unpopular war is recommended for all readers, even those not generally drawn to war narratives.

While They're Still Here, Patricia Williams, She Writes Press - When it becomes obvious that they can no longer manage on their own, Williams becomes the dutiful daughter and caregiver for her aging and ailing parents. She helps them clean up, clear out, and sell the family home, then relocates them across the country in a nice apartment right across the street from her home with her partner. They balk at first but learn to love their new life and gain a greater appreciation for the daughter they didn’t always understand. She describes the Herculean task in almost excruciating detail but with empathy and humor.

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Reference

The Reference category involves traditional and emerging reference areas, including history, psychology, biography, education, sports, recreation, training, travel, and how-to.

Winner

The Badass Girl's Guide: Uncommon Strategies To Outwit Predators, CJ Scarlet, CreateSpace - Part how-to guide, part study of fight-or-flight response, this book reads as a personal call to arms. Due to the author’s past experiences with sexual violence, it offers a unique point of view and serves as a useful resource to help anyone avoid assault. The book is unassuming and unbiased with its treasure trove of advice and careful navigation of current systems. The author’s sympathetic voice gives the book a personal and authentic undertone while avoiding perpetuating misconceptions. The book includes everything from tips on recognizing predatory behaviors to overcoming psychological freezing to resources for victims. It serves as a compelling and empowering resource, shedding light on a topic that is often considered taboo.

First Runner-Up

The Celebrated Marquis: An Italian Noble and the Making of the Modern World, John D. Bessler, Carolina Academic Press - Many Americans have never heard of Caesar Beccaria despite his contributions to our understanding and formulation of modern juris prudence, government, and political economy. Although he lectured on prison reform, utilitarian economics, and political evolution, Beccaria’s most important work is a small volume entitled On Crimes and Punishments. In the eighteenth century, with the Industrial Revolution well underway, European philosophers, professors, and professionals paid attention to concepts such as the pleasure/pain principle, economic theories, and the desirability of maximizing happiness for the greatest number. For Beccaria, this happiness included ending torture, equality under the law and the proportionality of punishment, (i.e. tailoring the punishment to fit the crime and reserving the death penalty for heinous acts). Although a biography of Beccaria, this book includes fascinating details about people such as Jeremy Bentham, Adam Smith, Thomas Jefferson, documents such as the Declaration of Independence, and the social classes and mores of the time.

Honorable Mentions

Congressional Procedure: A Practical Guide to the Legislative Process in the U.S. Congress, Richard A. Arenberg, TheCapitol.Net - Structured as a textbook with review questions at the end of each chapter, this is a comprehensive and comprehensible primer about how the U.S. bicameral legislature (House and Senate) is designed to work. Nonpartisan and dispassionate, it presents examples of successful and failed legislation that makes “hot button” issues understandable. For example, on two previous occasions (2006, 2013) both the House and the Senate initiated immigration reform only to have the other reject it. Other events, such as shut-downs (in 2013 one lasted sixteen days), the Senate’s advice and consent and the House’s declaration of war functions, rule-making, and why the two houses are often in conflict with each other and with the president, are also explained within their constitutional framework. For citizens who wonder about, and oftentimes lament, legislative outcomes, this book is a must-read: Our federal legislature was designed to be complicated and adversarial to prevent concentration of power.

Gathering Voices, Marty McConnell, YesYes Books - As thoughtful as it is useful, this book provides a model for community workshop that is refreshingly democratic. Beginning with the author’s poetics, the book is clear in its philosophy of working toward a workshop model that functions with four fundamental terms in mind: curiosity, receptivity, joy, and rigor. Secondly, there are “commitments” as to the way artists will approach the work. With the space circumscribed, the ‘nuts and bolts’ of running a workshop with easy-to-follow plans and a breakdown as to how the time is spent. Additionally, there are a number of helpful strategies for facilitators regarding how to enter conversations and engage with the work as well as tips for the more mundane, yet still crucial, tasks of keeping the group on schedule. The book includes outlines and examples for over twenty workshop sessions, each of which comes with a published piece, writing prompts and exercises. Professional academics or artists in the community will profit from this book as it is an excellent resource for anyone who aspires to run a workshop.

If These Stones Could Talk, Elaine Buck and Beverly Mills, Wild River Books - After being pulled into a modern day effort to save an unmarked slave cemetery, the authors take a deeper look into their local history, including their own family lineages. Here is a rich account interweaving the history of African Americans in Northeast America and the burial rituals done for African American slaves. Though personal in nature for the authors, the book has a universal impact and appeal by shedding light on local history and dispelling commonly held myths. Many local African American community leaders are highlighted, as well as the many contributions African Americans made to New Jersey and the surrounding areas.

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Self-Help

The Self-Help category involves traditional and emerging self-help topics.

Winner

A Year of Living Kindly: Choices That Will Change Your Life and the World Around You, Donna Cameron, She Writes Press - This book not only shares what the author learned during her year of blogging about her daily effort to live kindly, but also gives the reader practical steps and a sound rationale for adopting kindness. This book begins by exploring what it means to be kind, making an important distinction between kindness and mere niceness. The author goes on to share sound research that reveals the various benefits of being kind, including emotional and physical wellbeing, along with some of the repercussions for being unkind. Following this sound basis for living kindly, the author shares practical applications of kindness, taking an honest look at both internal and external barriers that could hinder one’s kindest intentions. This book reveals a clear path towards kind acts, both large and small, while acknowledging that the effort may be challenging but certainly worthwhile.

See the full review in the US Review of Books

First Runner-Up

The Gift of Recovery: 52 Mindful Ways to Live Joyfully Beyond Addiction , Rebecca E. Williams, PhD & Julie S. Kraft, MA, LMFT, New Harbinger Publications - This is a friendly and accessible pocket coach to help anyone on the road of addiction recovery. Although a companion guide to The Mindfulness Workbook for Addiction, it can easily stand on its own. The book is divided into ten sections, each focusing on a different area of recovery such as emotions, relationships, triggers, and stress relief. Each weekly guide begins with an inspirational quote, an exploration of a specific focus of recovery, an exercise, and related daily affirmations. This simple and consistent structure does not overwhelm the reader. The authors’ tone is respectful and compassionate toward the addict in recovery. While the main focus is on recovery from substance abuse, the mindful teachings can readily be applied to other behavior addictions such as gambling or food, and even non-addiction recovery such as PTSD or depression. They teach mindfulness, self-care, and coping skills for the recovering addict at any stage of this life-long journey.

Honorable Mentions

A Journey from Sadness to Hope: A Father’s Story on the Loss of His Son, Robert H. Smith, First Edition Design Publishing - This memoir chronicles the author’s grieving process following the loss of his college-aged son in a tragic accident. The author records the painful memories, drawing universal insights from his worst experiences. Pushing past his own reactions to the loss of his son, the author explores the reactions of his wife and his younger daughters. In this way, the book paints a complete portrait of a family facing unimaginable loss. In addition to sharing the coping lessons the author was able to learn, he also dedicates much of the memoir to celebrating his son’s life. In the end, he acknowledges that grief is an individual experience, while encouraging those suffering such loss to embrace the process, however painful it may be, in order to make room for renewed hope and love.

Roots and Wings - Childhood Needs a Revolution , Alex Koster, Roots and Wings Publishing - We need to go back to basics if we want to live a simpler, happier life. That’s the premise of a book written by Alex Koster M.Ed, an educator, mindfulness practitioner, and mother who has great concern about the developments in children’s well-being in our modern-day world. Koster saw how our society and children’s lives have changed considerably at a very fast pace over the past fifty years. Today, unsupervised play and a close connection to nature and the seasons are increasingly a thing of the past. In many homes, time and opportunities to foster intimate and physical relationships have become scarce. The book also offers a wealth of practical tips, ideas, and exercises to help parents revive in their families the values of compassion, tolerance, and mindfulness. Intentional and mindful parenting is important in helping children grow up to be responsible, strong, content, kind-hearted adults, all traits which our society currently needs in order to welcome diversity and create a balance.

The Magic of Circlework: The Practice Women Around the World Are Using to Heal and Empower Themselves , Jalaja Bonheim, PhD, Meetings in Sacred Space - Bonheim writes a genuine and illuminating book about the history of Circlework, its benefits to individuals and our society, and its evolution and growth. Circlework, the author explains, is about being present in our hearts and bodies, not in our minds. Women of different backgrounds, from ministers to physicians, have led Circlework to experience authentic sisterhood with other women. Their spiritual practices have no religious or ideological boundaries. Rather, they are meant for women to be empowered and empower other women by invoking the sacred feminine and reclaiming their voice. The book shares numerous stories of women who participate in Circlework.  Bonheim provides clear, precise and practical exercises for readers to use as they embark on their Circlework journey toward a peaceful and magical life.

See the full review in the US Review of Books

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Spiritual

The Spiritual category involves the mind and spirit, including religion, metaphysical, and mystical.

Winner

John E. Fetzer and the Quest for the New Age, Brian C. Wilson, Wayne State University Press - The importance of John E. Fetzer is easily recognizable in his many accomplishments as a businessman, philanthropist, and the well-known owner of the Detroit Tigers baseball team. This book goes beyond what Fetzer achieved to explore what he believed. With detailed research, the author documents Fetzer’s spiritual quest through various religions and movements as he explores what makes the whole of a man. Fetzer’s journey is one that spans a lifetime. The author not only presents the facts of the journey, but intertwines fact with purpose. The resulting picture painted of John E. Fetzer is both intimate and complete.

First Runner-Up

A Christmas Mouse in a Christmas House, Sally Hanser - This charming children’s picture book relates a cold winter’s night encounter between two unlikely companions: Miss Mouse, who lives in a church, and The Peddler, an old, weary man with a broken heart and a burdened spirit. Both feel they have nothing to offer the baby Jesus at Christmas, until Miss Mouse comes up with an idea. She asks The Peddler to gather all the pencils from the church pews. Then she sharpens them with her teeth. In that way, the duo create a unique Christmas gift not only for Christ, but also for the parishioners who can put the sharpened pencils to good use. Accompanied by impressive illustrations that capture poignant moments in the story, this book teaches that the greatest gift of all is love.

Honorable Mentions

An Essential Song, Amy R. Saltz, CreateSpace - This is the story of two people who are lost and happen to meet each other at the point of light. One is full of fear, and the other is threatened by it. As they journey through a storm, the man leaves, and the woman is left to ponder and question the meaning of all that has happened. After meeting a fisherman, she learns the importance of singing a song to remain calm. When she loses a second love, she is able to withstand the grief through a song. The beautiful illustrations and vivid descriptions draw the reader into a world of grief and triumph.

Blood in the Asphalt, Jesse Sensibar, Tolsun Books - Picture in your mind the great American Southwest: the immense expanses of endless road, a landscape swept clean of illusion, the realities of life and mortality stark and inescapable. Imagine documenting those realities authentically, with emotion and compassion and strenuous clarity. We've all driven by roadside shrines, those impromptu tabernacles to the memories of travelers who would not reach their destinations. The author of this book stops for such things, preserving them as best he can, both as photographs and as the materials for short, accurate, faithful vignettes, honoring the lost as he drives through the unrelenting landscape, documenting, through these small, ephemeral tributes, the twisting concrete passages of his own journey through these desert places.

Embracing Life as It Is: Lessons fro Wabi-Sabi, Haiku, and Zen, Alan Gettis, PhD and Cart Genjo Bachmann, Goodman Beck Publishing- This book is like a Cliff's Notes version of an Eastern Philosophies textbook, breaking them down to their central feature of embracing life as it is. Not life as you would like it to be, or life as you would wish it to be, but life in the present moment, simplified, unsullied by embellishment. Interspersed throughout the authors' enlightening commentary and poetry is a visual feast for the eye, showing the same concepts through the artistic medium of photography. Beauty can be found in a decaying flower, a rusted bench, or a liver spot. It's in accepting and honoring imperfections, in life, in each other, in ourselves, so that we can unconditionally embrace and love ourselves as we are, perfectly imperfect.

Overcoming Spiritual Myopia, Margaret Placentra Johnston - Society is crying out for a spiritual transformation, an update to mainstream values of competition, polarization, and hoarding. Wisdom from all religions and spiritual traditions can transform mainstream values by exposing the spiritually myopic person to the big picture: a new spirituality, which transcends religious dogmas and “new age” wishful thinking. Impressive research from leaders in the field supports the explanation of new spirituality and bridges the gap between conventional religious thinking and the unitive view of mystics, so necessary for spiritual maturity. The author offers a four-stage spiritual development process to measure spiritual maturity. “Faith” versus “belief” figures prominently. Once attained, spiritual emmetropia (perfect, unimpaired vision) leads to greater meaning and fulfillment in this life, versus an obsession with salvation in the afterlife. The author, an optometrist, cleverly uses optometric conceits throughout to share a prescription for spiritual myopia. View this book as “driving glasses for the soul."

See the full review in the US Review of Books

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E-Book Fiction

The E-Book Fiction category holds fiction books published in an electronic format.

Winner

The Seven Gifts, The Sailor, Strange Land - Perhaps the most unusual book you’ll ever read, it is just as educational and inspiring as Kahil Gibran’s The Prophet, but far more readable and enjoyable. The device is an angel, instructing a boy waiting to be born by requiring him to read seven books, each with a lesson, which the boy needs to find. It is fantasy, with a great deal of humor and set in a mythical kingdom, but all too applicable to our world today. Each of the seven stories stands alone, but they are interlinked. The writing can only be described as beautiful, with one exception. The first story turns into unmitigated horror. It is worth pushing through, because of the inspiring lessons of the whole, and because it would be a great shame to miss the other six stories, and the impact of the totality.

First Runner-Up

Sins of the Fathers, Joseph Badal, Suspense Publishing - The sixth in the author’s Danfort spy thriller series opens in the minds of ISIS allies—sex-starved 24 year-old virgin Nazyr Dudayev and Sulkhan Akhmadov. They are hacking into email accounts, including former CIA boss (Jack Cole) and Robert Danforth and his son, Michael, a general in the United States Army Special Operations Command. We meet Terrence Webber, ex-Mormon convert to Islam, IT worker, but also one of several sleeper ISIS spies, and weapons dealer, Solomon Chavez, Mexican cartel member. This is a fast-paced and sweeping thriller, beginning with the kidnapping of the father and son Robert and Michael Danforth in Colorado, moving swiftly to US terrorist sponsored attacks and Special Ops in Mexico, Greece, Turkey and Syria. An expert storyteller, Badal manages to keep this complex web of stories coherent and entertaining, with strong character development and interesting locations.

Honorable Mentions

Killer in the Retroscape, Bruce M. Perrin, Mind Sleuth Publications - In the near-future of earth, cell phones have given way to virtual assistants that answer any question, augment reality, manage all transactions, and even legally wed. Old-timer Doug still has trouble adjusting, especially when longtime friend Josh is found dead and the only one to see him in his final weeks was his assistant Julia. Doug delves into their shared past to reconstruct what may have led to the apparent suicide, building a vivid picture of how the world came to be. Yet the killer still quietly looms over the would-be detective.

The Benghazi Affair, Steven E. Wilson, H-G Books - Stone Waverly is doing his best to look after his children after their mother’s death. His life, after his years as an operative in the Middle East is finally more settled than ever. But the United States is now embroiled in the uprisings of the Arab Spring, and there’s something particularly worrying going on in Libya—one of Waverly’s prior postings. He understands the language there, the people, the terrain, and the possible path this terrible new threat might be taking toward the United States. Waverly is desperately needed back in Benghazi. The author weaves an intriguing tale of earnest pursuit, betrayal, and loyalty in the Libyan desert. It is a visceral experience of war with a constant view of the stars overhead and fatherhood and patriotism at the heart of it all.

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E-Book Nonfiction

The E-Book Nonfiction category holds nonfiction books published in an electronic format.

Winner

All About Silk, Julie Parker, Rain City Publishing - Visually engaging and highly accessible to a broad readership, this interactive book is a practical introduction to the fascinating world of silk. It begins with an overview of silk and its natural origins, a chapter on silkworms, and another on silk’s structure and physicality, followed by sections about its cultivation, spun silk, the various kinds of wild silk, and textile production. It concludes with the history of silk, as well as its industrial present and future worldwide. Richly illustrated in colors, this encyclopedic guide is an user-friendly reference that contains easy-to-understand texts and diagrams, interspersed appropriately with highlighted keywords and attractive fact boxes.

First Runner-Up

Real Life Construction Management Guide from A-Z, Jamil Soucar, Dorrance Publishing Co. - Soucar provides an insightful view of the Construction Management industry and how human interaction, personalities, and the meshing of these intangible, unexpected factors are crucial to success. Chapters are brief and easy to navigate; illustrations are polished and add insight to Soucar’s grassroots, practical approach in this field. The author segments most chapters into three practical sections that allow readers to access areas of interest or to serve as a quick and easy reference for advice in particular situations: Principles, Real Life Gauge, and Best Practice Tips. This text provides for both beginners and experts sound information and insight into Construction Management and its most critical component: the inner and outer worlds of its participants' that cloud, dominate, and influence from its periphery.

Honorable Mentions

A Last Survivor of the Orphan Trains, William Walters and Victoria Golden, Orphan Books - The Orphan Trains, which existed in America between 1850s and the early 1930s, have so far been little explored as subject matter in memoirs or other literary genres. For this reason, this book might come across as a refreshing take on what seems to be a lesser-known historical matter. Oscillating between two voices—the authorial “I” and a Brechtian narrator—this work of oral history chronicles the life of William Walters, a homeless boy since he was orphaned at age four, and his journeys—by choice, by chance, or against his own will—after being put on one of the Orphan Trains heading for the Southwest. This memoir successfully shuns the exaggerative epic by staying life size in portrayed details and emotions. Overall, the language is clear and its voice convincing. Historical contexts are sufficiently furnished within the narratives.

Some Pigs Can Fly, Peter Rowlands - Stories connect and bind individuals through shared experiences and understanding, especially those in a particular industry. Rowlands’s book is an informative and delightful collection of vignettes of his forty-year history in aviation detailing situations and occurrences he experienced during his time as a pilot. Witty, insightful, and entertaining, the narrative provides a window into the minds of those few individuals who sit in the cockpit and, in some form or another, arrive at their destinations safely and unscathed. Mishaps, unseen problems or issues, and human interactions frame and populate these stories. An authentic slice-of-life portrayal of a pilot’s life condensed into one saying considered as text’s theme: “Although sometimes you have to be good to be lucky, it’s often better to be lucky than good.”

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Legacy Fiction

Books in the Legacy Fiction category are fiction books over two years of age which hold particular relevance to any subject matter or art form. Unlike many in the industry, we think good books last longer than one season.

Winner

A Rising Tide of People Swept Away, Scott Archer Jones, Fomite Press - Set in Albuquerque, NM, the working class struggles to survive as a highway proposed around their town causes business owners to lose livelihood. The central story is that of a boy, who the interconnected townspeople come to take on as their own when they realize he has a poor parental situation. As each character uniquely deals with his/her challenges, the novel brings them all together in an unavoidable experience. The author has conjured people that you care for and a situation that lingers.

First Runner-Up

Incense & Peppermints, Carole Bellacera, CreateSpace - There have been a lot of books written about the Viet Nam war. Most are from the prospective of the men who fought or by people from a political view point. The unsung heroes of that terrible war are the nurses and doctors who took care of the wounded and dying. Cindy Sweet is a young nurse just out of school. She feels it is her duty to sign up to go Viet Nam to serve her country, but has no idea what she is getting into. The heat, the heartbreak, and the terrible injuries that she has to deal with on a daily basis are almost too much for her. In the midst of all these horrors, she finds ways to cope and love.

Honorable Mentions

A Multitude of Mercies, Fay Freimuth, iUniverse - Laura has a difficult and challenging life that is ruled by an all consuming and challenging mental disorder. This disorder has always held her family, particularly her older sister Nan, hostage to the mental illness that tends to drive friends and loved ones away. Nan never gives up on Laura though and has decided to take a chance on Laura's behalf and learn to trust a man who claims to have fallen in love with Laura. The great challenge becomes for Laura to take yet another chance on herself, when so many in the past have backfired. This story of sisterly and familial love through difficult and challenging times speaks volumes on just how all-encompassing a mental illness can be for an individual and their entire family.

See the full review in the US Review of Books

The Rampart Guards, Wendy Terrien, Camashea Press - Jason Lex has a problem. His mother has taken a walk in the woods and vanished; seemingly for good. But that’s just the beginning. Jason’s Dad decides to move the family, forcing Jason to abandon everything he knows. Meeting Sadie makes the change a little easier and him feel less like he’s losing his mind. More and more he’s seeing things that aren’t there—flashes of light like streamers in the air—and things that are there—sparks flying from his fingers. Events take an even stranger turn when he meets Uncle Alexander, the brother Jason’s mother has shunned for years. Calling his uncle eccentric is putting it mildly, but Alexander might be the only one who can explain the strange things that are chasing Jason.

Too Much Trouble, Barbara Beard, Word Alive Press - The Sloan Family begins an adventure going to a cottage by a lake. The entire family is excited, except Andrea. Andrea doesn't think she will like it. Her family tries to convince her she will like it—all except her brother Zachary. Each day Andrea is sure she will not have fun and each day her family reassures her. Zachary keeps antagonizing his sister with "unless you..." comments each day. After a family boat ride to an island, Andrea makes a friend, who makes all of the difference.

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Legacy Nonfiction

Books in this Legacy Nonfiction category are nonfiction books over two years of age which hold particular relevance to any subject matter or art form. Unlike many in the industry, we think good books last longer than one season.

Winner

Flight 232: A Story of Disaster and Survival, Laurence Gonzales, W.W.Norton - Well written and paced, Gonzales skillfully breathes life into the complicated and interesting characters who found themselves involved in the tragedy of the crash of Flight 232. Employing solid research and excellent tension, the author draws the reader further into the narrative—making one almost feel as though they were a passenger on that fateful day. The author leaves no detail uncovered, even those so minute such as the characteristics of the titanium components which failed mid-flight, leading to the catastrophe in which the book is based. From cover to cover, the book is expertly produced and a challenge to put down once started. One could so clearly visualize the facial expressions of the characters, through trouble and trial, fear and hope—bringing justice to the lives lost and closure to those who survived.

First Runner-Up

Road to Damascus, Elaine Imady, MSI Press - Opening with the fate-filled day Imady sees her beloved Mohammed at New York University, a chance meeting whisks Elaine, a college girl in the 1950s, into the culture shock of her new country. Imady describes her first glimpse of Syria, her immediate love of the sea, desert, oasis, gardens, ruins, and the city of rustic houses with little plumbing and oil-based heat. The hospitality of her husband’s family and Elaine’s growing love for her mother-in-law, help her to embrace not only her husband’s family, but also his culture, religion, and the timeless bonds of the Syrian women she meets. As her husband rises in importance in Syrian government, Elaine reveals the tensions between East and West, the religious conflicts, the Imady family heritage, as well as the history of a country now devastated by war.

Honorable Mentions

A Foreign Kid in World War II Shanghai, George A. Kulstad, Quinsan Editions - Kulstad recalls the experiences of the author as a child amid World War II in Shanghai, China. The author depends on his childhood journals and expounds his personal account with the history of what was actually going on around him. Major events were happening all around him, yet the boy does not fully grasp the importance until years later. From hunger to suicide, from sickness to the inhuman treatment of the Chinese by the occupying Japanese Army, this is a first hand account of these atrocities, all through the eyes of a child.

In the Temple of Wolves, Rick Lamplugh - This unconventional book describes a man’s journey through the wilderness of Yellowstone, as well as the animals and wild things within the park as if each part of the ecosystem were vitally connected. Lamplugh provides a provocative experience from humble beginnings as a caretaker at the park, a mission he takes in a time of life when most retiring adults are taking it easy. What follows is an exploration of each animal’s migration into Yellowstone and the writer’s observations on native wildlife, from the laziness of the Asian Bison to the intelligence of the raven, a species with its own language. His tale of losing his ego in a blizzard on Trout Lake while trying to imitate his wildlife explorer-hero McNeil Lyons gives us the all-too-human side of our author. The book’s primary focus turns to the vulnerable wolves of Yellowstone with whom, our guide shows us, humans have much in common.

The School of Sun Tzu, David G. Jones, iUniverse - In this ambitious work, the author endeavors to ascertain the existence of a particular school of thought, noted as the School of Sun Tzu. Taking careful and calculated precaution, the author proves himself to be a worthy and thoughtful historian—uncovering details rarely discussed within academia, if at all. There are many important and helpful ways in which the author builds upon historical literature and current thought as it regards the School of Sun Tzu, the most important of which is the characterization of the historical work itself, transferring it from one focused on warfare to one focused on diplomacy and peaceful engagement. Overall, the book is an effective and interesting exploration of a school of thought, often misunderstood, and illuminates a significant part of the story that has remained largely untold.

See the full review in the US Review of Books

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