US Review of Books - Book Review Service

US Review Blog Twitter Facebook Instagram GoodReads Linked-In USR Subscribe US Review RSS feed

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 post the results each year. The Eric Hoffer Award does compose a grand prize short list of finalists on their official website. In addition, we've provided a list of category finalists with links to those we've reviewed in our pages.

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-line.

The Eric Hoffer Project respectfully requests that you give fair use when quoting their award winners. Please use: "-The Eric Hoffer Award."

 

2017 Eric Hoffer Book Award

 

Official Sponsor of the Eric Hoffer Award

 

Hoffer Grand Prize

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

The Book, Julius Freedman, Old Stone Press - It's been a decade since an art book has taken the grand prize, but this beauty kept rising to the top of our judges' scoring cards. Have you ever seen a book after it becomes wet and dries? It screams, with a puffed chest of curling pages like the arms of a roiling sea monster. Julius Freedman shows us this and more, as he takes on the book as both physical and symbolic object. In a sequence of building images, The Book begins with a book as art in its purest form—its complex leather bindings, the embedded tabs of a dictionary, the pages of sophisticated rag or weave. Then books begin to take flight, with pages misshapen, eventually cracking and splitting from their spines, the print itself escaping, until we enter the realm of collage, yet always tethered to the concept of a book itself. Is a book a mere extension of our memories, or does it go deeper than its byproduct overlap with our brains? If Gabriel Garcia Marquez created a book to fit his prose, it might result in one of Freedman's constructions. The organization, as well as thoughtful commentary by Pico Iyer and Jill Gage, strike the right balance with the art presentation. Unique, whimsy, thought-provoking, this beautiful coffee table edition is worthy of any collection. but it is so much more. It envelopes the very concept of the book itself. Bravo.

back to top

 

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.)

Echoes of Tattered Tongues: Memory Unfolded, John Z. Guzlowski, Aquila Polonica - In this time when "immigrant" is a controversial word (mostly due to public ignorance and deliberate misperception), Guzlowski provides an enlightened perspective in poetry and the occasional narrative. He tells the story of his parents—Polish refugees and survivors of Germany's last bloody campaign to rule the world and dispose of humanity in the process. Many passages are reflective of the immigrant journey in the way they must shed their skins while clinging to vestiges of the past, in the way simple things are questioned in a new land, and in the way the homeland is never lost. Poems like "My Father's Prayer" and "My Mother's Sister After the War" are achingly beautiful, while resonant and haunting of war's aftereffects. This is a book written in the classic sense of a memoir, to keep public record as much as to divine meaning for his own understanding. In the process, it draws us all closer to the human experience.

How Whole Brain Thinking Can Save the Future, James Olson, Origin Press - Olson claims that the left brain—the logical and analytical side—has led humanity to the brink of destruction. But let's not disparage the left brain so quickly. It's helped us to survive a rough start and guided us through the construction of modern society. While any society is a result of its actions and thinking, does modern life truly represent the full potential of humanity, encompassing the creativity and emotion of the right brain? Olson wants us to embrace a whole brain identity that balances the hemispheres' authority and therefore solves the problems of left brain bias, which include war, disharmony between the sexes, and likely a plethora of neurological and thought imbalances. This treatise for the dual-operating brain, whether it saves humanity or not, is a thought-provoking and vital discussion for the evolution of humankind.

back to top

 

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.)

Baby X, Rebecca Ann Smith, Mother's Milk Books (cover by Tieka Bellamy, illustration by Emma Howitt)

Know the Mother, Desiree Cooper, Wayne State University Press (cover by Bryce Shimanski, art by Karin Miller)

One Way to Ask, Daniel Ari, Norfolk Press (cover by Daniel Ari)

The Charles W. Morgan, Andrew W. German & Daniel V. McFadden, Mystic Seaport (cover photo by Andy Price)

The Improbable Wonders of Moojie Littleman, Robin Gregory, Mad Mystical Journey Press (cover by Robin Gregory & Nancy Cleary, artwork by Catrin-Weiz Stein)

The Last Cadillac, Nancy Nau Sullivan, Walrus Publishing (cover by Kristina Blank Makansi)

back to top

 

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.)

Baby X, Rebecca Ann Smith, Mother's Milk Books (see coverage in the Commercial Fiction category)

Enlightened Negotiation, Mehrad Nazari, Select Books (see coverage in the Business category)

Karamba, Olukayode Oyenekan, Trafford (see coverage in the Fiction Legacy category)

Moving Beyond the Unspoken Grief, Dr. Sarah Lynn, Dreamstone Publishing (see coverage in the E-Book Nonfiction category)

The Eldercare Consultant, Becky Feola, AMACOM Books (see coverage in the Health category)

The Improbable Wonders of Moojie Littleman, Robin Gregory, Mad Mystical Journey Press (see coverage in the Young Adult category)

back to top

 

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.

The Nomenclature of Small Things, Lynn Pederson, Carnegie Mellon University Press - This is a beautiful, often grim, journey told with a mastery of poetic language. Generously peppered with scientific acumen, Pederson manages to make her work both stunning and accessible. Readers are greeted with a litany of creatures. Exploring the magic of our world and all the little worlds within it, loss and despair are major characters in the title poem, but the collection rings with a declaration of hope as well. Mortality is at the heart of Pederson’s poetry, and the idea that even the tiniest of lives matter immensely is one that sits in the reader’s heart to digest long after the last page is turned. Sadness and joy, gorgeousness and brutality—these are just a couple of the contrasts displayed both technically and poetically perfectly in this slim collection.

back to top

 

Small Press Award

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

Exoneree Diaries: The Fight for Innocence, Independence and Identity, Alison Flowers, Haymarket Books - The author opens this book by coining a new word: "exoneree." She notes that, up to now, there has been “no word for the people freed from prison, innocent of the crimes that sent them there.” She proceeds to tell the stories of four wrongfully accused individuals, recounting the situations that landed them in prison, their trials, their appeals, and their life back in the world following exoneration. The product of detailed investigative journalism, the book does more than document the ins and outs of the criminal justice system. The author writes compelling portraits of her four subjects. and by sharing the stories of the challenges they face when they re-enter society, she makes the case that the judicial system owes the innocent more than exoneration.

back to top

 

Micro Press Award

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

The White Devil: A Novel, Domenic Stansberry, Molotov Editions - A young American actress finds herself in Rome with her husband and her too-loving brother. Strange how, since childhood, the men she has loved keep dying in suspicious circumstances. When she begins an affair with senator Orsini, both his wife and her own husband are murdered, and soon she, Orsini and the brother are all on the run. The story takes us from the corrupt high society of Rome, to Malibu, to a fabulous climax in a mysterious city in South America. Told in a clipped, breathless style that recalls Dashell Hammett and Hemingway, this novel sucks the reader into a delicious whirlpool of suspense. This is a little masterpiece, sculpted, and elegant.

back to top

 

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.

The Great American Family: A Story of Political Disenchantment, Weam Namou, Hermiz Publishing - The true and gripping story of an all-American girl charged with illegally selling telecommunications equipment to Iraq. However, her co-conspirator turns out to be a CIA operative, possibly working on a project to bug Saddam Hussein and his top henchmen. The author makes good use of firsthand accounts, skillfully weaving them together to show how the “War on Terror” has blurred or perhaps frayed our criminal justice system. As an Iraqi-American journalist the author has the prefect background to tell this story. Settings are well-depicted and characters come to life so that it’s tempting to skip ahead to learn the resolution. This book takes a hard look at how terrorism, oppression, and sanctions invite hypocrisy, abuse of power and double-dealing. One hopes this isn’t an example of the new normal for America but fears that it is.

back to top

 

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

Icon of Modernism: Representing the Brooklyn Bridge, 1883-1950, Georgia Museum of Art, University of George - The line between art and artisan has always been a contentious boundary. If this argument proves anything, it's that the creations of humankind wrought to fruition bring the extraordinary into everyday life. None is larger proof than the iconic Brooklyn Bridge, which rose above a post-Civil War New York during its first great expansion period. Steel man and master builder Roebling knew he was constructing his masterwork, but he also left behind generations of inspiration for artists. Some artists cannot escape its majesty and return again and again during their lives. From early paintings and photos to surrealistic and modernistic depictions, this retrospective is worthy of the bridge itself. Sara Kate Gillespie, Janice Simon, Meredith E. Ward, and Kimberly Orcutt provide essays that form a cohesive narrative for the book.

First Runner-Up

One-Man Show: The Life and Art of Bernard Perlin, Michael Shreiber, Bruno Gmünder - Bernard Perlin knew he was an artist and a gay man in a time (mid-twentieth century) when neither were particularly welcomed. (OK, there has never been a truly welcoming time for an artist, regardless of his/her popularity.) Perlin's confidence of self allowed him to live life to the fullest, which includes an incredible catalogue of work. While his silver gelatin print photos are mostly self-indulgent and personal, he's known in large part for his paintings, especially among the magical realists. Here we find a level of haunting beauty and playfulness that never crosses the border to trite. There is an immediate, gripping nature to his work that extends the fullness of the artist, as well as an evident command of color and composition. Chronologically sequenced through phases of the artist, the book's narrative is dominated by an exploratory Q&A from the artist through each phase of his life.

Honorable Mentions

Allentown: A Photographic Excursion into the Heart of Buffalo NY, William Faught, Buffalo Heritage Press - While a homogeneous quality exists in every city, its character emerges within each subsection. The historic Allentown district of Buffalo reveals a staple charm to this classic American city. Make no mistake about it, Buffalo is one of the countless American cities that was left for dead in the post-Industrial Revolution, but is undergoing a renaissance today. Faught's photographic essay is sprinkled with color photos, but it's the high contrast black and white frames that hold together this collection and make it sing. This book is recommended for the photo composition collector and Americana enthusiast alike.

Chickasaw Women Artisans, Allison Fields, Chickasaw Press - True artists never forget the past, and the Native Americans are no exception. A recent publication of the Chickasaw Press focuses on works of Chickasaw women. Sculpture, photos, painting, and of course the exquisite crafts of jewelry, poetry, and weaving, to name a few, are on display in this well laid-out and organized coffee table edition. Beyond the obvious connection to their culture, the accompanying stories and artist profiles avoid intrusion through enlightenment and by staying close to the work. The judges of the Eric Hoffer Award want to further recognize the growth toward excellence of the Chickasaw Press over the years.

Healing Art: Don't Let Anything Ruin Your Day, Robert Flatt, Bright Sky Press - One of the charms of perusing the art category submissions is coming across the rare solo effort of an artist or photographer that shows the requisite skill of more accomplished presses or masters of the form. Robert Flatt, former engineer and businessman, pivots toward his avocation as photographer in this collection of mostly wildlife that spans the globe. The close-up appears to be his forte, especially birds. As rare as the hummingbird in flight and as resilient as the post-hurricane cooper's hawk—both captured within this collection—Flatt aims for the positive in the simple beauty of life as we know it but rarely get to see with his clarity.

Paper in Profile: Mixographia and Taller De Gráfacia Mexicana, Georgia Museum of Art, University of George - Mixographia, or the process of producing fine art textured prints, is the subject of this exhibit and retrospective. The art form continues to develop to this day, but badly needed this book, if at a minimum as a way of introduction and explanation. The book begins with the art form's genesis through backgrounds of its principal players. Then the narrative delves into the visceral works. You quickly learn that the medium is not at all restrictive in composition, and then there is the engagement of the three-dimensional, sculpture-like form that collage artists regular exploit. This is recommended for novices to the form and appreciators of art alike.

 

back to top

 

Poetry

The Poetry category contains poetry or highly stylized prose.

Winner

Nature Speaks: Art and Poetry for the Earth, Deborah Kennedy, White Cloud Press - The clarity of the poetic voice in the author’s lines carry an intensity of feeling that communicates the subject’s vulnerability. The book offers a restless, analytical collection in which the forces of nature and science intertwine and often signal the acute precision of the analysis itself. It is a culmination of parts drawn together, weaving amongst earthy illustrations and an exquisite layout—pulling the reader even deeper into the narrative. The author’s work is both fascinating, thought-provoking, and soul-stirring. The book is haunting and powerful—an affectionate work of art, critical for reading during such a time as this.

First Runner-Up

Waterlines, Alison Pelegrin, LSU Press - This book packs a lot of intensity into relatively few words. The images are focused and intense, depicting the contemporary American South as a place where nature is beginning to reclaim a neglected human civilization. The poet depicts a landscape that is simultaneously apocalyptic and terrifyingly familiar. In particular, the poems "Red State Epistle," "Self Portrait as Voodoo Doll," and "Graffitti Jesus" show us the hollowed-out parts of current American life and the stark dreamlike beauty of disorder. These poems try to make sense, try to find the peace, in a run-down and chaotic landscape. There’s a sense of trying to contain the uncontainable, trying to make sense, and find some comfort in the rapid falling apart of a world.

Honorable Mentions

A Provisional Map of the Lost Continent, Gregory Mahrer, Fordham University Press - The book presents a precision of language and historical sequencing. In an early poem in the book, “Ciudad de Oro” (City of Gold) reveals a group of conquistadors in the Middle Ages searching for El Dorado through an unfamiliar landscape. At the poem’s end, they “made camp and set about / perfecting the maps.” In an era when navigation “requires a backward glance,” the book moves through human history with such poems as “Itinerary of Fire” and “The Age of Glass.” While the time period changes, the city motif as a means of discovering, conquest, and building remains consistent through “Ciudad de Plata” (City of Silver) and “Ciudad de las Manos” (City of the Hands). In contrast to “Ciudad de Oro” where navigation is fluid, the title poem shows the exactitude of Ferdinand Magellan circumnavigating the globe. In redrawing our world map, the reader finds oneself refreshed in a new land.

Raven Wire, Matt Pasca, Shanti Arts - These poems, on widely varied topics, all come back to the author's carefully considered concept of self. They are unafraid of where they lead. From realizing himself as, "the white boy artist... armored in privilege, spikes pointed in" to the poem, "In A Name," in which he finds connection between his two surnames and concludes that, " ...the dumb luck of surnames must have saved me..." The writing is clean, accessible, and thoughtful. Best of all, it leads the reader from surface image to deeper thought without insistence or obtuseness.

The Crown Ain’t Worth Much, Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib, Button Poetry - Rarely does one read a poetry collection that feels so vital. This work provides a window into an urban landscape where death is looming and prejudice ubiquitous, but it does so with prose that is both piercing and brightly lit. The voices that emerge within this text are alive in myriad ways—defiant, expectant, hopeful, frightened yet insightful. “I…watch a couple dance with their children in the park and I want to tell them how easy it is for all of us to wake up next to someone who never will again.” Within this collection, the author employs a blend of prose poems, erasures, list poems and various other forms to weigh in on the issues of race, identity, opportunity, gaps, police brutality and love in 21st century America. “I am still whole” the author says near the end and thankfully so. This collection is a gift.

"This" Ameri-Can-Ah, Curtis L. Crisle, Cherry Castle Publishing - Whether describing America as a glorified waiting room, a fractured block party, or an America “blinded / between ancestors and government,” it all becomes evident early on that despite whatever version of itself America chooses to reveal, the reader instantly becomes trapped within the strange loop that is America’s own fractal geometry. Within each one of the book's poems, the author manages to temporarily pause and isolate each iteration so the reader can stand witness to each picture within a picture, layer within a layer, with such precise resolution that one can't help but find themselves, their true selves, residing at the very epicenter of this endless loop, of "this" America, as the tiny figures trapped inside. And that hopefully, at the end of this journey, one can finally "cover your nose" and "grasp the authentic you.”

back to top

 

Chapbook

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

Winner

Inadequate Grave, Brandon Courtney, YesYes Books - In many ways, Courtney delivers the perfect chapbook—small, approachable, indulgent, cogent, and of course well-written. Many of the flabbier entries could take a lesson here, not the least of which is to stay on point, no matter how brief. After all, a chapbook is brief by design. Courtney's tale of loss, grief, and the toll of war involving seaman off the cost of Iraq delivers a punch in a small space. In a half-dozen strokes, a modern parallel to Homer's Odyssey is drawn. Powerful, haunting, and striking all the senses, this epic poem bears all the colors of the sea.

First Runner-Up

Mercy Songs, Kai Carlson-Wee & Anders Carlson-Wee, Diode Editions - More storytellers than poets, yet a substantial dose of the latter, the Carlson-Wees join forces to capture time and place with stunning prose. Roaming the national identity—if we truly have one any longer—they mine a way of thinking perhaps wrought through evolution. Channeling through railroad tracks, streets, and rivers, through the homeless and strangers, through our loves and thoughts, this is a rainy day collection of the long view.

Honorable Mentions

Beastgirl & Other Origin Myths, Elizabeth Acevedo, A Vinyl Blue Note Edition - Why does whimsy and fantasy fail so often in longer forms, but rivet our attention in the focused retelling? Who is Beastgirl, and what is her origins, disposition, and tale? This collection offers fabulist quandaries and folklore cures. It grounds in the everday, and then raises anchor and floats in the surreal. Acevedo offers advice for understanding within the poem "Dominican Superstitions"—good hard instructions for the living and the dead alike. Her prose shines visceral, poignant, and multi-colored.

Grief Bone, Karla Houston, Five Oaks Press - In death, we are left with a fragmented story, because no one really knows the heart of the deceased. We gather the fragments as close as we care—some to the chest, others to the dust bin—and piece together understanding. It is memory that guides this process—insisting that we pick up some pieces, giving them importance over others. In sparse and practical, yet searing prose, Houston unfolds an intricate Chinese fan of reflection and assembles insight and meaning for the reader.

Heavy Light, Kelly Morse, Two of Cups Press - Bring life into the world is a beautiful mystery of living. We know all about DNA and those complex, inalterable instructions, but it's the spirit within that brings character to each pregnancy. Morse's collection, circulating the giving of life, evokes tears and laughter. It will remind you of one of the primary missions of our journey—its continuance beyond our own—while pausing at both major and minor signposts along the way.

A Journal of the Drought Year, Don Thompson, Encircle Publications - Whether it is a hurricane, earthquake, or even a drought, Mother Nature wins. But then again, winning and losing is a concept of man. Nature is a clock that winds and turns as it needs and at the pace it needs, leaving man to suffer and wonder. Such is the material of Thompson's collection, as people wait out a season of drought. In this comes reflection—drought of the soil, drought of the heart, drought of the soul. One finds discovery and light in these pages.

Juned, Jenn Marie Nunes, YesYes Books - Nunes is thinking. If anything captures the soul of the Millennial, it's the conscious flow of thought, perhaps at times they are even too conscious of it. In her collection of stories, Numes maps the twin machine of the world driven by thought over action, and she appears to be in the center of it all. In many of the stories, a physical object passes like currency, representing a feeling she should have resolved or passed by. In others, she wrestles with a quandary and approaches epiphany. In all, she reads the landscape of humanity. We root for her like we root for ourselves.

 

back to top

 

General Fiction

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

Winner

The Good Divide, Kali Van Baale, MG Press - On the outside, Jean is the perfect farmer's wife, but something lies below. There is richness in the storyteller’s voice that draws you along page after page searching for an answer: Why is Jean Krenshaw fixated on her brother-in-law Tommy Krenshaw? Why is her character jealous when she is married to a kind and loving man? But she is married because of her strong desire to survive and a need for something to change. Simple but sophisticated prose rules the pages. This is a story that will haunt you while considering your own life decisions and consequent actions.

First Runner-Up

Loving Eleanor: The Intimate Friendship of Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok, Susan Wittig Albert, Persevero Press - Exquisitely told, this near epic story of forbidden love, both lived and denied, is delivered from the point of view of a long term personal friend and lesbian lover. The weighty historical events around FDR’s presidency gives readers a view of history through an unusual, but very sharp lens. As an historical novel, the book is nevertheless focused on its characters and yet believable of its time and politics. It is at once very personal and offers a deep look into the motivations, desires, and foibles of humans who love each other, all the while dealing with events that are larger than themselves. The sweeping and engaging prose enhance the historical events, and the reader will find this is an important historical, and literary, read, and both are deeply satisfying.

Honorable Mentions

Coulrophobia & Fata Morgana, Jacob M Appel, Black Lawrence Press - This book of contemporary short stories opens with infanticide, however as the author's gracefully written prose assaults the reader, it is hard to look away. The author can turn a phrase and have it come out sounding both earthy and elegant. Other stories in the book offer electroshock therapy combined with wit, a parent killing electrical fire, and teenage romantic fantasy. These are character driven stories in the hands of a writer who knows how to flesh out his unique cast, present the eerie and abnormal, and yet have it come out believable but on its own terms.

Heirlooms, Rachel Hall, BkMk - Haunting and timely, the stories follow (mostly French) Jewish characters caught in the Holocaust. Heroism, devastating loss, sacrifice, betrayal and love swell through the pages, pulling the reader into their generational sea. In the war's aftermath, the central figures, Jean and Lise, and their adopted niece, Eugenia, emigrate to America where they struggle with language, customs and prejudice. Their painful pasts, and those of other immigrants, cannot be forgotten; suffering is etched in minds and on skin. The prose is clear and gripping. Underscoring Jean’s mood when on the boat to American the author writes: “Above, dark birds like a sprinkle of pepper disappear into the soupy sky.” Or in explaining how love grows, “If you were drawn a warm bath at the end of a cold rainy day, would you dip in only your toes?” The characters are so genuine that the reader wants to draw that bath.

Know the Mother, Desiree Cooper, Wayne State University Press - Cooper’s thirty-one memorable vignettes explore the poignancy of motherhood. Some are peppered by blackness in America and some are salted by universality. A daughter deals with her old, blind, dying dad, a mother laments her neglect in sickness, a military wife abides racial discrimination in the fifties, a mother waits at the window for her dating daughter. Somehow mothers survive. These gems are garbed in marvelous words, a musical chorale of breath-catching, memorable metaphor, the picturesque, and resonance. When the music ends, the reader must stand and shout “Bravo.”

No-Accounts: Dare Mighty Things, Tom Glenn, Apprentice House - An engrossing portrayal of the deepening relationship between a divorced, fifty years old heterosexual man and a former gay dance student now suffering the horrors of untreatable AIDS at age 31. The time is the early eighties, before researchers have devised a cohesive method of treatment for the disease, when thousands of gay men who had experienced brief moments of sexual freedom in their young lives are now dying in the thousands. The music teacher tries to fill the emptiness in his life by volunteering for a “Buddy” program where caregivers are assigned to give assistance to terminally ill AIDS patients. The two men grow to depend and love each other despite their differences. As Peter gradually gets profoundly sicker, Martin realizes that his care has deepened to love. Highly readable and emotionally intense, this gritty and truthful account is both raw and powerful.

Pararescue 'It’s a Fine Madness! Volume One' – Through the Looking Glass, Martin F. Caldwell, iUniverse - Becoming a pararescue specialist is not an easy choice for a career pursuit. The months and months of qualification testing are enough to discourage those of the strongest character leaving only those with the necessary will and drive to become a person who will give his life to rescue the victim. The author makes the story come alive by forcing the reader to pick his favorite character and remain with his choice to the end of the line. The author allows the story to be real and fun to follow. The author had to have been a part of the action to make it so very compelling and true to life.

The Nine Assignments, Glenda Winders - This is a poignant story about a family, once close, who have drifted apart over the years. Distance, lifestyle, and misunderstandings have stirred the pot of resentment and dislike. The mother, Anita, has decided to bring her adult children, Gina and Larry, back together and has come up with nine assignments that the two must complete together. When the assignments are complete, each will receive a monetary reward. Both Gina and Larry are reluctant to try but decide to grant their mother her wish. Along the way, each begins to let go of negative feelings and talk about the issues that drew them apart. As time goes on, they realize that each has misconstrued the actions of the other. Together with their mother, they meet once again in love and friendship. It is a reflective and scintillating story that is a rewarding and heartwarming read.

See the full review in the US Review of Books

The Shape of The Atmosphere, Jessica Dainty, Pandamoon Publishing - A powerful story about a young woman whose life is turned upside down when her father and sister die suddenly in a car accident. She is left in the care of her alcoholic mother, who cannot love her and sends her to an institution for the mentally ill, even though Gertie is not ill, just grieving. The book charts more than two years in this asylum, where she is subject to the “cures” of the 1950s: cold baths, Electroshock therapy, insulin therapy. Yet she discovers friends there she did not have in her pre-institutionalized life, even the promise of love. She starts a magazine in which the inmates can express themselves, and there the world of this asylum comes into public view, with all its excessive zeal. In the end, Gertie, now an orphan, finds her resiliency and arrives into her adulthood.

See the full review in the US Review of Books

back to top

 

Commercial Fiction

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

Winner

Baby X, Rebecca Ann Smith, Mother’s Milk Books - After the heartbreak of multiple miscarriages, Karen Frey and her husband, Rob, turn to the Centre for Reproductive Medicine for help. There, under the direction of Dr. Alex Mansfield, the Freys agree to have their baby through the first in vitro gestation program. Little Baby X will be monitored and nourished in an artificial uterus until his birth by a close-knit team including Samantha (Dolly) McFarlane. Rather than clinical and sterile, however, the gestation of little Baby X becomes profoundly human and messy as reporters hound the Freys mercilessly and Dr. Mansfield develops a strong attachment to the fetus. When she has reason to fear that the baby is in danger, the doctor loses her objectivity and responds with a woman’s love. The memorable characters in this moving novel reflect the visceral joys and fears of motherhood as the author delivers edge-of-your-seat suspense while exploring the ethics of fertility medicine.

First Runner-Up

Exuvia Set: Haunted Systems 1-A, Erik Angle, Telegeist Tactics - Described as a "cyberpunk coming of age thriller," it's the story of a group of 1980s techno geeks who desperately attempt to figure out the mystery behind a suspicious arcade game that's having a deadly effect on their friends and fellow gamers. The writing is dense, tight, and unique. The reader won't mind unpacking the dialogue of this group of cypberpunk misfits because the writing is also good. At the center of the story is young aspiring hacker Bobby (alias Exuvia Set), whose good friend commits suicide after getting hooked on the new video game of Regulus. Through horrific first-hand experiences, Bobby and his breaker buddies begin to understand the realities of the game only to eventually learn of the even more terrifying motives behind the manufacturers of the game. What these samurais of the mind discover does not bode well for their futures. The complicated world of this novel contains spellbinding, vivid storytelling and compelling new-age technology.

Honorable Mentions

Choices, Eolane, T Crain (illustrations), AuthorHouse - This book opens like a love story, but grows into the story of a person’s life guided by choices and considered in the light of paths not taken. It's a complex tale with interesting characters and emotionally gripping stories that make you wonder: If given the opportunity, would you have taken a different path? However, throughout this story we see not only the loss of the path not taken but the joys of the paths taken. The well-written stories are full of details that peer beyond the various choices of the character's lives, while considering what life would be like if they’d taken a different road. It is hard to say whether the story or the character drive this story more, but it's clearly a compelling and enjoyable story short enough for a weekend read.

See the full review in the US Review of Books

Crash Course: To Hell in a Handcart, Alan Barrington, AuthorHouse - The book is a collection of compelling stories from the life of a fictional lawyer. As cases and clients are encountered, life and life events unfold in the background—from murders and affairs to the Twin Towers in 2001. The first-person narrative serves the story well and paints a vivid and sympathetic picture of the main character. The descriptions and details are thorough and well integrated, and several different styles (journal entries, letters, etc.) are successfully employed to keep the reader engaged. This intriguing character study contains plenty of action, is well written and thoughtful, and has a satisfying conclusion that leaves the door open for further adventures.

See the full review in the US Review of Books

Devil in the Dark, Chris Lindberg - This political thriller is the follow-up book to Lindberg’s 2011 Code of Darkness, which introduced the Covert Ops Division’s appropriately named secret weapon Rage to the thriller genre. Rage is an almost super-human action hero who has to take a little pill to keep his explosive temper in check so he doesn’t needlessly kill every bad guy in sight. Even readers who didn’t meet Rage in the 2011 novel will be able to enjoy this taut, well-written book. Rage is called in to take care of things after a Mexican drug lord, Javier Oropeza, stages a terrorist attack on a border patrol outpost. He isn’t the only one taking an interest in the action, however. U.S. Border Patrol Officer Otis Brown, the local sheriff’s son, is launching his own investigation into the whereabouts of an illegal alien named Enrique Castillo, whose life he saved in the attack and who slipped across the border in the chaotic aftermath.

Pages in the Wind, Sally Saylor De Smet, Greenly Publishing - Nineteen-year old Emily Quinn is in the San Francisco County Jail. Charged with murdering her father, but not remembering any details or the reason why, she has been assigned to a renowned prison psychiatrist. Dr. Lieberman is attempting to discover the darkest secrets buried inside the tortured mind of a girl-killer. Through regression therapy, doctor and patient painstakingly form a partnership, tear open the scars, explore heartbreaking abuse, and unwrap the circle of treachery. Her brother, Robert, always her protector, is no longer able to stand between her and the painful realities of her mental and physical damage. Will the final diagnosis prove that Emily willingly and knowingly performed a brutal act of revenge? Or is there much more going on? Sally Saylor De Smet does a great job of entangling readers in an unbelievable web of psychological torment.

The Cost of Liberty, Michael Skeen, BookVenture Publishing - This book is a riveting and compelling scenario of "What If." With World War III is looming on the horizon, the tale evokes terrible imagery of our world as it could possibly become. The author's view of a betrayal of trust in governance, the devastation arising from vast concentrations of power, and the unwillingness of these prevailing powers to work together is terrifying in its implication for humanity. The shortsightedness of those powers could and possibly would lead to the annihilation of the species. Diverse ideologies lead to disagreements on an international scale, but to survive, the Earth's people must learn to live in peace. However, the military seems to be the only recourse.

See the full review in the US Review of Books

Tōru: Wayfarer Returns, Stephanie R. Sorensen, Palantir Press - The story offers a mildly steampunk alternative history (dirigibles are involved) of the opening of Japan's isolation mid-19th century. While the story is informed by history, it is expanded thanks to a vivid and thoughtful imagination. The writing can be lovely, descriptive, and feeling, and the action is compelling. Although the ideas present are of interest, this was a good read with a triumphant story line.

See the full review in the US Review of Books

back to top

 

Children's

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

Winner

A Thousand NO's, BJ Corchin, The phazelFOZ Company - A story of will and endurance, this book uses the word NO to illustrate what happens to our pride as well as our ideas when they are shut down time and time again. The stunning illustrations allow you to feel the emotions of the character and see how she reacts to the 'No' words piling up around her and getting inside her idea. Even though the word 'no' has a negative meaning, they change her idea to make it bigger, stronger, and better than ever before. The character makes a choice to become vulnerable and ask for help with her idea. The suggestions she receives pushes her idea in a more positive direction than ever before until, finally, all of those No's turn into a gigantic YES!

First Runner-Up

Delivering Dreams, Lori Preusch, Dandelion - This book is a beautifully written and illustrated adventure of a young girl who travels vicariously through letters she receives from her grandfather during his travels around the world. Each day she awaits new adventures in her mailbox and imagines herself adventuring along with him. She is content to travel via mail until the day that one of her letters returns unopened. Then a new way to travel comes her way. The author's fantastic prose and whimsical and colorful illustrations transport the reader into the young traveler's world and all those she visits. This book will encourage all children to take up pen and paper to correspond with their most distant friends and relations.

See the full review in the US Review of Books

Honorable Mentions

A Hand Truck Named Dolly, Kay Whitehouse, Mark Wayne Adams (illustrator), VH Publishing - This book is a delightful chapter book for young readers. A friendly hand truck named Dolly finds her way into the hearts and lives of a typical American family. Through her eyes, the reader discovers how magical ordinary day-to-day life can be when you know you belong. This well-written story will keep beginner readers turning the page. The eye-pleasing illustrations add to the fun stories playful spirit. You'll find an added bonus at the end of the book with puzzles and fun facts about Dolly the hand truck.

Little Lek Longtail Learns How to Sleep, Bette Killion, Wisdom Tales Press - Little Lek, the pheasant, is afraid to go to sleep for there are dangers lurking in the night that wish to consume him. He is the most beautiful bird in the bunch, and his compadres admire him. His mother nurtures and validates him yet encourages him to find his own unique protective mechanism. Little Lek explores the possibilities by observing each creature’s unique traits of survival until he discovers his own unique trait, his long beautiful sensitive tail. This gift allows him to feel any predators long before they made their way to his flesh. He finds a perch in a tree that allows his tail to hang along the branches and finds a peaceful sleep without his mother’s protection. This tale inspires inner confidence. The illustrations capture the envy of the other creatures, while exhibiting appreciation for the genial Little Lek.

Red Socks Go With Absolutely Anything, Darla Woodley, Evan Munday (illustrator), SonShine Design - This is an inspiring story of how sometimes it’s not what we say, but just showing support through our actions, even in a subtle way like wearing red socks. Sunshine learns she can be strong and brave and can learn to do things with encouragement from mom, who is always there for her wearing her bright red socks. The story shows Sunshine as she grows from childhood to adulthood. Parents will love this awe-inspiring tale that will build children’s confidence as well as make one smile. The cartoon-like illustrations will delight and entertain along with a powerful teaching lesson that will last a lifetime.

back to top

 

Young Adult

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

Winner

The Improbable Wonders of Moojie Littleman, Robin Gregory, Mad Mythical Journey Press - "I reckon that families are like stars," Moojie said, "When they don't expand they collapse." An inspiring tale of finding one's self and purpose; of finding one's place in the world family. At first the text seems almost too clever for itself, but once the reader grasps the rhythm of the author's style, it becomes quite enjoyable. This is a very evocative book about prejudice and choices, as well as learning to love and letting go. The author does a wonderful job creating the character of Moojie, an orphan twice over, who discovers love for the first time, not realizing that the love he sought was around him all along. An engaging tale that shows that families come in many different forms.

First Runner-Up

Circle of Nine Sacred Treasures, Valerie Biel, Lost Lake Press - Jump into the mystical history of Ireland and Celtic magic as it comes to life once more in this last of the Celtic Nine series. The author reveals the answer to ancient and not so ancient secrets. Our heroine, closer to completing her training, learns more about her heritage, abilities, special gifts, and especially about her destiny. Magic portals, potions, and mysterious enemies are among the many enchantments that keep the reader turning the page. And it all occurs in the setting of a normal, or not so normal, teenage girl’s life.

Honorable Mentions

Fight to Learn, Laura Scandiffio, Annick Press - With its rich personal anecdotes and diverse examples, this book illustrates the many challenges encountered and overcome by exceptional young people as they strive for an education. This inspiring work of nonfiction illustrates how determination and hope can change individuals and communities for the better. Through compelling stories that focus on global youth, this book empowers young readers to be change-makers in their own communities and recognize the power of education to transform lives.

Fugitive from Asteron, Gen LaGreca, Winged Victory Press - Arial, aka Alex, escapes from the tyrannical rule of Feran, the dictator of planet Asteron, only to find that he has carried with him a top secret weapon. Unable to change his destination, he lands on a planet with different values and morals than that of Asteron, but the people on this new planet seem to be much like those of Asteron, allowing Alex to blend in. To complicate his new life, he is drawn to Kristin, another skilled pilot. He must overcome his fear of his whereabouts being discovered by Feran before Feran does something unthinkable to Alex's adopted home.

Making It Right, Marilee Peters, Annick Press - This visual and compelling work, presents a multifaceted overview of justice for young readers. Through vivid examples and accessible language, this dynamic text effectively conveys the nuances and intricacies of justice, conflict, and other relevant concepts. From Australia and Ireland to Rwanda and Bosnia and Herzegovina, readers begin to unpack justice and its complexities through the deeply personal, first-hand experiences of youth from around the world. Peters presents an excellent primer for the justice system to young adult readers in this portable guide.

The Naming of Girl, Rhonda G. Williams, Upper Hand Press - Set in 1968, this book covers the hard topics of child abuse, domestic violence, drug use, neglect and racial tensions, all through the eyes of the unforgettable Girl. Although only 9, Girl possesses street smarts that belie her age. The author creates a character whose sense of self preservation becomes her most valuable attribute. Girl must navigate through her first friendship with Cerese, a black classmate, in a time when such friendships were not accepted. She spends her life always trying to stay one step ahead of her guardian's abusive, war damaged boyfriend while always watching out for Antoe, her mentally disabled uncle. It is her love for Antoe that sets her out on a journey to find him and in the end finds out about herself and what she wants from life. A well-crafted, gritty book that leaves the reader wanting to travel farther with Girl to see where she goes with her unstoppable spirit.

The Sword of Telemon, Murray Lee Eiland Jr., CreateSpace - Orfeo is an outcast from his tribe because he was "fostered" in the big city as a companion to the son of the king of Pylos. His tribe has eyed him with suspicion since he returned home due to his "city" views and ways. When Orfeo's older brother, Herron, is captured by slavers, Orfeo is sent along with the rescue party to find him. The party includes the strongest and most notable warrior of the tribe, Telemon. Telemon is ready to attack Pylos immediately. Orfeo knows they have no chance against Pylos' army. He persuades Telemon to try diplomacy first. After following Herron's trail to several cities, the party finds him and sets out to bring him home. A fatal storm has other ideas. With Herron gone, Orfeo is the next heir to the throne. Should he remain the heir, or should he abdicate?

back to top

 

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

Manifold Nature, J.D.Schraffenberger (editor), North American Review Press - When one thinks of the great nature writers in the Western canon, the name John Burroughs may not come to mind. The primary value of this book, then, is to introduce him to the reader. While he wrote at the turn of the last century, he espouses some remarkably modern views. His approach to nature is austere: We find meaning in its beauty, we anthropomorphize its creatures, but heedlessly it forges on, promoting and reproducing life, adapting and changing as necessary. Yet he finds inspiration, hope, and inclusion in the natural cycles of life that surround him. Several essays explore the relationship between science and theology, calling for a sharp separation between the two. He eschews the notion of a benevolent, engaged God, yet accepts that “religion is a sentiment, and is true as a sentiment—it is real.”

First Runner-Up

A Peace of My Mind: American Stories - Exploring the Meaning of Peace, One Story at a Time, John Noltner, John Noltner Photography - This is the book we didn’t know we needed. Elegantly designed and beautifully photographed, it includes the personal narratives and peace stories of dozens of real people, the known and the unknown. Some are artists or social workers, professors or students, directors of foundations or journalists. All of them are survivors, who now work for peace. Through their stories, all told in the first person, readers will learn of the profound depths of human emotion and experience. Readers will come to know them, to understand their courage and strength and their contributions to greater harmony. And most of all, they will gain a deep understanding of what it is to be a human being, on this earth, in this particular place and time.

Honorable Mentions

Consuming Stories: Kara Walker and the Imagining of American , Rebecca Peabody, University of California Press - At its core, the book is a well-written scholarly review of the diverse artworks of one contemporary artist. From her black paper silhouettes, to her video installations, to her thirty-five-and-a-half-feet tall sculpture made of sugar-coated foam blocks, Walker’s art provocatively explores race, sexuality and violence. But according to the author, the artist accomplishes more than that. The author looks at Walker’s use of well-known stories such as "Roots" and "Uncle Tom’s Cabin" and how she transforms images from them into something unfamiliar and even uncomfortable. Walker, she argues, is re-telling stories in a way that makes those “consuming” her art re-think their understanding of these stories. Generously illustrated with photographs and stills of Walker’s art, the beautifully designed book is compelling both for those familiar with the artist’s work and for those being introduced to it for the first time.

Garage Criticism: Cultural Missives in an Age of Distraction, Peter Babiak, Anvil Press - Ranging in tone from grouchy academic to witty conversationalist, this collection of essays is like sitting in on a stimulating discussion, complete with light-hearted mockery of millennials and Americans and cogent insights on marriage and death. Often funny, sometimes deep, this book is an honest, insightful deconstruction of some of the hottest cultural missives of today, from our fascination with Internet culture to the "allergies of reading" to salacious grammar. The book also reads like a memoir at times, both taking us into the mind of a regular, imperfect man and showing us how we, too, fit into today's world.

Good Girls Marry Doctors: South Asian Americans on Obedience and Rebellion, Piyali Bhattacharya (editor), Aunt Lute Books - This collection of essays deals with issues of race, sexuality, the generation gap, coming of age, religion and migration as experienced by women of South Asian descent. Women from Sri Lanka, Pakistan, India, and Bengali backgrounds sift through multiple identities and find their voices as Americans, daughters, women, sisters, mothers, and lovers. This often requires the sloughing off of the assumptions and expectations imposed by traditional forces in their home cultures. Bridges are burned and sometimes redesigned and reconstructed from the ground up. This process is accomplished with great courage, rage, and even humor. Each essay is a journey—and an education—for the reader.

Midwest Maize: How Corn Shaped the U.S. Heartland, Cynthia Clampitt, University of Illinois Press - A history of America would be incomplete without mentioning one of its most important crops: corn. From farming to transportation to mazes to cultural celebrations, corn plays a crucial role in shaping the Midwest, leaving its mark on the rest of the world, as well. This book provides fascinating insights on American history through a lens most non-Midwesterners wouldn't consider, and corn's time in the spotlight is by no means over. Included at the end of the book are many corn recipes, showing us once again the many ways corn has inserted itself into our daily lives.

back to top

 

Memoir

The Memoir category captures specific personal experience.

Winner

The Parachute Paradox, Steve Sabella, Kerber Verlag - With a clever and intriguing cover, this book eagerly invites the reader to explore its contents. Perhaps the fact that the author is an accomplished artist and photographer explains the volume's elegant appearance. The book's content isn't any less appealing. We learn the story of a Christian boy growing up among Arabs in Israeli-occupied Palestine, drowning in the toxic national and religious ideology that surrounds him. We later discover a young man who's freedom does not exist except as an expression of his art, and as an endless love for the girl of his dreams. We finally encounter a mature, conflicted man pursuing his career in exile and using art as the vehicle of his liberation. This memoir offers a glimpse into the perpetual Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the eyes of an innocent bystander, who struggles to survive and who learns to live free, if only in his mind. Meanwhile, the Palestinian and the Israeli existence continues to be linked like the parachute jumper and his trainer, who descend in a dangerous tandem toward an insecure future.

First Runner-Up

Mommy, What’s that Number on Your Arm, A-6374,, Gloria Hollander Lyon, Xlibris - Jewish teenager Gloria Hollander Lyon experienced the horrors of seven different Nazi concentration camps during WWII. In this book, she offers a vivid perspective on the Holocaust. Her story begins on the family’s idyllic farm in Czechoslovakia and follows the family as they are transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau. She details stories of bravery and deprivation. Dr. Mengele selects her for cremation, but she escapes, only to be separated from her mother. Six more concentration camps followed. Lyon is one of the many women liberated from Ravensbruck, a slave labor camp, through the efforts of a Swedish statesman. She writes about kindness, the simple pleasure of sitting beside a stream, as well as the deep emotional scars that plagued the survivors. She shares touching stories about her foster Swedish family. Lyon’s memoir stands out from other historical accounts because it is deeply hopeful and beautifully written.

See the full review in the US Review of Books

Honorable Mentions

Living in Italy: The Real Deal: Surviving the Good Life, Stef Smulders, Babelcube - A gay married couple from the Netherlands decides to radically change their lives by moving to Italy, buying a property, and turning it into a B&B. They are not handy nor do they speak Italian. What could possibly go wrong? Often hilarious accounts of the seemingly never-ending mishaps and delays involved in the process offer the reader an opportunity to learn not only about the frustrations and bureaucracies of renovating a property in a small village high up on a hill in the Italian countryside, but also provide a lot of delicious local flavor, from individual quirks to everyday ways and customs. Renovations are universally understood to be an often unpredictable and maddening process, but the story of how this B & B dream finally, slowly, almost miraculously becomes a reality, happens to be a lot of fun to read.

The Butcher’s Daughter , Florence Grende, Madison Literary Press - We’ve heard of “Survivor’s Guilt” that exists in those who went through the Holocaust and didn’t perish, but is there a name for the condition that afflicts their children, who also suffer? Grende has written an affecting memoir about what it was like to grow up with parents who survived the Holocaust by hiding in the woods, yet were hunted for many years. This affected her parents’ view of the world, their paranoia, and how they raised their daughter. The author does a beautiful job of evokinng her child’s voice to let us experience her traumas and then stepping out of that voice to reflect on the effects of such an upbringing.

The Last Cadillac, Nancy Nau Sullivan, Walrus Publishing - This memoir importantly addresses “The Adventure," involving divorce; the care-giving of a father’s end-of-life decline and death; child-rearing; family in-fighting; and how an ex-wife, mother, and sibling finds as T.S. Eliot says, “In the end is our beginning.” The book might also be said to define “the art of losing,” something quite difficult to master. As the author says at the beginning, “Time didn’t seems to have an edge to it anymore; it just flowed out around me like dark water.” This is captured on the cover of the book (i.e. a daVinci Eye winner). The ebb and flow of life contains an overarching message: “Don’t panic.... Take each moment—one minute, one hour, one day at a time.” And perhaps, you should have another glass of merlot.

back to top

 

Business

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

Winner

Enlightened Negotiation, Mehrad Nazari, Select Books - The word “Negotiation” can bring to mind fearm anxiety, and negative images, especially in business. One might envision a hostile exchange taking place across a boardroom table with tempers flaring. In truth, we negotiate all of the time in our everyday lives. Author, business professor, and mediation and yoga teacher, Mehrad Nazari, shows us a different way. He teaches us that effective negotiations can and should be built on trust and mutual respect. The book is divided into eight essential sections, known as the “8 Universal Laws to Connect, Create, and Prosper.” These sections cover topics ranging from trust to reflection and mindfulness. We learn that mindfulness is an awareness of one’s self and others. Through this awareness, we learn to collaborate and build relationships. When we learn to listen and understand the goals of others, we no longer have winners and losers, only winners.

First Runner-Up

The Language of Man, Larry Robertson, Daymark Press - The concept of creativity can be interpreted in many ways. We all have different ideas of what creativity is and what it means to be creative. Author and respected thought leader, Larry Robertson discusses creativity in powerful terms. We are asked to cast aside our pre-conceived notions, which can often limit us, and instead be open to new possibilities and experiences. This openness allows us to inquire, discover, take risks, and sometimes make mistakes. By placing constraints on ourselves, we see only through a single lens, which greatly inhibits our ability to be creative. The book is a roadmap for “reimagining creativity.” Robertson refers to this as learning a new language, “the language of creativity,” and takes us through the various stages of the discovery process along the way. This is an essential tool for unleashing our constraints and maximizing our potential.

Honorable Mentions

Customer Moat, Eddie Sung - Regardless of the industry, the ultimate goal of a business is to increase its profits. There are many thoughts on how to accomplish this. According to Eddie Sung, it all begins and ends with customer loyalty. A customer moat or “C-Moat” refers to the likelihood that a customer will choose a company instead of its competitors for reasons that go beyond pricing. After gaining experience saving a family business and researching some of the most prominent business strategy leaders, Sung developed a model for success. By utilizing his “8 Moat Builders," which include high satisfaction, location, and branding, businesses begin to create market share and profits. Once a customer is acquired, it is imperative to retain that customer. Many examples of companies that have excelled in this area, like McDonalds and See’s Candies, are discussed in this valuable guide to customer retention and loyalty.

Estate Planning Smarts, Deborah L. Jacobs, DJWorking Unlimited Inc. - Estate planning is a topic that many people tend to avoid. Thinking about the inevitable can be a difficult subject to consider. While there are many books written on the subject, few are as comprehensive this guide. Deborah L. Jacobs discusses all aspects of estate planning in simple and practical terms. An estate plan consists of many components, but the ultimate goal of a plan is to protect our loved ones. Jacobs explains the various ways in which this can be accomplished. Major considerations include the naming of assets, understanding IRA options, insurance policies, and providing for children with special needs. It is also critical to establish medical directives and appoint an executor and power of attorney. While creating an estate plan may seem daunting, this book is a helpful starting point in making decisions that will impact the future of those that we care about.

One Million Frogs, Rhett Power & Peter Gasca, Mill City Press - Being an entrepreneur is not for everyone. Starting a business involves a great amount of risk. One must make sacrifices that are not only financial but personal. Jacobs shows us firsthand how authors and entrepreneurs, Peter Gasca and Rhett Power, launched Wild Creations, recognized by Inc. Magazine “as one of the 500 fastest-growing companies in the U.S.” In this handbook, the authors share valuable lessons on how they overcame obstacles and achieved success. We learn that entrepreneurs must work harder than they have ever worked before, oftentimes at the expense of many things. Successful business owners have dreams, take risks, and surround themselves with great mentors and advisors (lawyers, accountants, etc.). They must “expect the unexpected” and be prepared to deal with unforeseen difficulties. Written in practical easy to understand language, this is a valuable guide for anyone considering launching a new business.

Prosecuting Corporations for Genocide, Michael J. Kelley, Oxford University Press - Corporations have traditionally chased the bottom line, with little regard for the consequences of their actions. They have been allowed to do so by the legal system, with minimal accountability. Author and professor, Michael J. Kelly, provides both a historical and modern day look into the corporate complicity of international crimes. While corporations may not be direct participants in atrocities like genocide, Kelly points out that they “provide the necessary means,” such as weapons and chemical gases that provide aide to terrorists, dictators, and governments. In this thought-provoking book, Kelly illustrates the need for the liability of these actions. Corporate executives can no longer be protected by the organizations where they work and escape criminal prosecution. Corporations and those employed by them need to be socially responsibility from a global perspective or pay the consequences.

back to top

 

Reference

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

Winner

Hidden Hemingway: Inside the Ernest Hemingway Archives of Oak Park, Robert K. Elder, Aaron Vetch, and Mark Cirino, Kent State University Press - Over a half century after his death, the shelf on Ernest Hemmingway is well stocked with biographies and scholarship. However, this sampling of photos and documents taken from the Hemingway Archives of Oak Park contains a number of items which shed light on the author before he was constructed to be a towering figure of letters. What’s revealed is a family life as ordinary as any other. Included, are a number of Hemingway’s writings and assignments from his school days. Elsewhere, random artifacts trace a fascinating outline of the course of Hemingway’s life from private citizen to international literary fame with items such as informal family photos, bullfight advertisements, and handwritten notes written shortly after his father’s suicide. With vivid photos of a strikingly odd assortment of effects, this book provides a rich yet often non-contextualized point for reflection on the life of this celebrated author.

First Runner-Up

Socialism: Origins, Expansion, and the Attempted Revival in the United States, Phillp J. Bryson, Xlibris - A must read for those seeking understanding of the vocabulary of our political/economic landscape by offering us a "complete, documented review of socialist economies." Beginning with the Bible, which Bryson contends forms the basis of continued efforts of Western culture to care for the poor, he explains why the ideal blueprint does not and cannot become reality, concluding that is not by accident that secular/atheist governments elevate socialism to a quasi-religious quest for the good sans the supernatural. The journey of that quest is revealed by chronicling the development of socialism as an economic system, defining its terms, explaining the differences among socialisms (Utopian, Marxist, Soviet, and American socialism, for example) briefly introducing us to notable economists, sociologists, and historians and their contributions to economic theory and practice. At 908 pages, this tome seems daunting, but he wisely uses a larger type which makes this book easy to read.

See the full review in the US Review of Books

Honorable Mentions

Electric Savvy: Using Electricity to Make Your House a Home, Blaine C. Readler , Full Arc Press - Powering appliances, entertainment, security, personal computers, and, increasingly, even transportation, society is dependent on electric power to maintain a high standard of living. However, despite the ubiquity and growing importance of technology in the home, many individuals lack a layman’s understands of how electrical power works and the challenges and opportunities it presents. Electric Savvy provides a useful and accessible reference guide to the basic concepts of electrical engineering as well as useful and practical applications of this knowledge. For example, the author discusses solar roof technology by first explaining how much energy is produced, on average, by sunlight striking the earth before detailing the difficulties, costs, and benefits of using solar panels to capture and store this energy. Additionally, the book contains a number of practical details about electrical power which readers will find useful for the purchase, use, and maintenance of numerous technologies found in the modern home.

See the full review in the US Review of Books

The Slate Roof Bible: Everything You Need to Know About the World's Finest Roof, Joseph Jenkins - Aided by beautiful full-page photographs and 'how to" instructions (choosing, rating, using a ladder, for example), diagrams, advice, and fascinating information (such as colors, historical and geographical deposits and designs by country, and even a poem), Jenkins makes the case that slate roofs are not just beautiful, they are also highly functional. For example, they are fireproof and recyclable. No matter how old, slate roofs are restorable unless the slates are worn out. Chapter eleven is dedicated entirely to safety: OSHA, for example, advises that if people fall, they should find a way not to hit the ground, but Jenkins says the best safety devices and practices insure the roofer doesn't fall at all. Develop a safety attitude, he instructs, including considerations of carcinogens, bees, weather, electrical wires, and co-workers. It’s good advice for any roof activity. Jenkins has indeed written a bible for the novice to the true believer.

Yours Respectfully, William Berwick: Paper Conservation in the United States and Western Europe, 1800-1935, Christine A. Smith, The Legacy Press - Smith became interested in Berwick when she was asked to conserve George Washington’s Last Will and Testament, in addition to Martha Washington’s will, a project she shared with Berwick who conserved the badly-torn and moldy papers for eighty-two years. Smith has merged the history of paper conservation with a biography of Berwick, Head of Manuscripts and Restorations, U.S. Library of Congress (1898-1920) and manuscripts restorer for the American Philosophical Society (1899-1920). An important history chronicling the changes in methodology, the book also serves as an all-encompassing and important recourse for conservators in all fields. Both stories work together to present a complete reference on paper conservation, the theme thoroughly explored: “…good work in any discipline is built on the efforts of earlier collogues and reaches toward those who will follow.” There are six appendices covering the author’s research, including Miscellaneous Interesting Recipes and Extant Samples of Materials, with an Index, Bibliography, and Endnotes.

back to top

 

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

Cooking with the Muse, Stephen Massimilla & Myra Kornfeld, Tupelo Press - This is not a typical cookbook that gets buried on a kitchen shelf. In fact, it is not simply a cookbook. It is a wonderful collection of recipes, poetry, and photographs that inspires us to take a moment to relax and enjoy life. This is a book to take pleasure in on a porch with a glass of wine in hand. The recipes are wonderful and are divided by season, utilizing fresh ingredients and are paired with inviting photographs, poems, and helpful “Cook’s Notes.” “Poet’s Notes” provide historical and cultural information relating to the foods. While it is difficult to mention all of the recipes, the Spiced Espresso Chocolate Pudding with Pumpkin Whipped Cream and Portobello Mushrooms Stuffed with Chestnuts, Apples, and Wild Rice were definite standouts.

First Runner-Up

Kids in Musicianland, Karyn Rashoff, Barking Dog Books - Learning music can be a transformative experience. It can bring joy into one’s life that can be shared with others, but requires perseverance and patience. Unfortunately, these are not qualities that middle and high school age children often possess, especially when there are competing interests like sports and social lives. Rashoff offers a helpful guide for parents and students in understanding the importance of studying music and how it can become a lifelong gift that enriches one’s life. The book is broken down into five sections, “The 5 Reasons to Stick with it.” They are discussed through compelling interviews with professional and amateur musicians, educators, and others, including the author. The book helps us to see that music teaches us that we are part of something much larger than our individual selves and exposes the student to culture, language, and opportunities that one could not begin to imagine.

Honorable Mentions

A Couple with Common Cents, Ryan Eidson, Morgan James Publishing - The discussion of finances can place a great strain on a family. Oftentimes couples are not aligned in their attitudes towards spending, saving, and investment risk taking, which is often the result of one person (i.e. the one who pays the bills) having a close understanding of the family economics. As a result, couples are faced with overwhelming amounts of debt and are not willing to have a dialog to put a solution in place. Eidson introduces us to a fictional couple that is experiencing substantial financial issues. It is only when Tabitha, who is a wife and mother, attends a women’s conference and receives professional financial planning advice that their situation slowly begins to improve. Eidson is a talented storyteller. He distills difficult subject matter and weaves it into a simple to understand story. The book is a helpful guide for those wanting to begin to get their finances back on track or develop healthy savings habits.

Hairy Lemon Cookbook, Simon Cooper, AuthorHouse - The Hairy Lemon is a Dublin restaurant and a local institution. People come from all over for its traditional Irish meals, welcoming smiles and good company. The restaurant and recipes were inspired by a grandmother’s family Sunday dinners and named after an infamous Dublin dog catcher, who resembled a hairy lemon. Author Simon Cooper shares some of the recipes that made The Hairy Lemon an award winning restaurant. The charming cookbook includes some traditional home recipes such as Champ Mash, Colcannon and of course, Irish Stew, one of the restaurants signature dishes. Another favorite is the Pastry-Topped Beef ‘n’ Guinness Pie. The book also includes “drinking tips” and “humorous Irish sayings (with translations).” If one doesn’t have the opportunity to visit the Hairy Lemon in person, this is the next best thing.

See the full review in the US Review of Books

My Travel Adventures and Secret Recipes, Chef Wolfgang Hanau, iUniverse - Chef Wolfgang Hanau grew up in Europe, attended culinary school in Munich, and has traveled extensively throughout his career. Hanau has shares his experiences of working at some of the world’s top resorts and restaurants and how these experiences have influenced his cooking. The book is filled with an abundant amount of delicious recipes and stories inspired from Chef Hanau’s work in countries like France, Switzerland, and Bavaria, among others. Highlights include Pumpkin-Glazed Pork Chops, Moroccan Seven-Herb Couscous, and Avocado and Sweet Chili Blue Crabs. This is a distinctive book that marries cuisine with the love of travel and culture.

See the full review in the US Review of Books

back to top

 

Health

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

Winner

The Eldercare Consultant, Becky Feola, American Management Association - Plainly stated from the outset, the book is not light reading, but a roadmap for those charged with caring for someone with a chronic or even terminal illness, seniors in particular. The author’s spouse—stricken with Huntington’s Disease—formed the foundation for her many years of experience in elder care. Her journey is woven throughout chapters on practical caregiver considerations, such as choosing the proper healthcare providers, managing the patient’s personal estate, and making the difficult decisions amid inevitable family and even social pushback, but she also brings in multiple, first-person accounts by several people who have undergone the same challenges. With a suitable blend of personal stories and need-to-know information, the book offers a valuable map for those who have no course but to take charge in the care of an elderly loved one.

First Runner-Up

Essentials of Nutrition: Good Nutriton vs. Malnutrition, Joel Bressler, Xlibris - The author, a pharmacist and nutritionist, has set out to establish general guidelines for proper eating as well as to address specific disease conditions and the nutritional aspects of treating them. He has met his objectives most admirably. It remains a truism in the medical community that while rules for good nutrition seem simple, adhering to them proves challenging for many people. This book both illustrates the consequences of poor eating habits and reveals the benefits of good ones. Although some of the science may be regarded as unsettled, there are no outlandish claims outside the mainstream of current medical thought.

See the full review in the US Review of Books

Honorable Mentions

Alzheimer’s Disease:  A Guide to Caregiving, Budd J. Hallberg and Genis M. Tarrant, AuthorHouse - A concise primer for the person with primary responsibility for caring for a person with Alzheimer’s, this book contributes a bird’s-eye view of the diagnostic issues and treatment options available for this grim disease. The health and well-being of the caregiver is also discussed, with particular attention to lifestyle adjustments and emotional support. The book also includes a helpful roster of hospitals recognized as providing excellent care for the patient with Alzheimer’s, a list of websites, a useful bibliography, and an index. Those who find themselves on the caregiver’s journey would likely benefit from more comprehensive reference works, but this volume serves as an excellent point of departure.

Carrying the Black Bag, Tom Hutton, M.D.m Texas Tech University Press - Told from the novel perspective of a neurologist with decades of in-the-field as well as clinical experience, the book comes across as part engrossing narrative and part medical diary. The author uses a clear gift for storytelling and skill with engaging writing to recount his numerous and sometimes incredible history with medical cases of all sorts. In an intriguing blend of House and Sherlock Holmes, certain cases work to engage the reader’s curiosity about matters that—without specific cause—would likely pass unnoticed like events tucked deep within a newspaper. A must for both medical professionals and those interested in healthcare, the book also holds broader appeal in the accessible way in which the stories unfold, but also the relatable, everyday nature of the subjects.

How Whole Brain Thinking Can Save the Future, James Olson, Origin Press - Adding to a growing canon of evolutionary psychology titles, the book challenges the most ambitious foundation—how we think as humans—and makes equally ambitious goals for altering the way society operates. Brave indictments of gender roles, cultural norms, and even the military-industrial complex are backed up with myriad references and cited facts, moving the book away from mere conjecture or anecdotal narrative and into the more important space of true cultural reformation. The author claims broad credentials in philosophy, of which the book holds plenty, but a passionate and reasoned narrative style broadens the books’s appeal beyond those interested only in deep thinking without practical application. The author skirts the tired rhetoric pervading discussion of hot-button topics such as the drug war, feminism, and the state of modern politics, and seeks a more holistic causality that incorporates both the medical the cultural and offers sound, reasonable ways to break our more destructive social patterns.

Mind Shift, Don Sweatt , Trafford Publishing - This book is a collection of interlaced stories that describes remarkable achievements by people who employ a blend of mental and physical skills. The stories illustrate the commonalities of health and fitness regimens across a wide variety of cultures and eras. Each brief anecdote, typically concerning a teacher figure and a pupil, is told in an engaging style. The cumulative effect inevitably results in the reader giving a thoughtful consideration to the goals and techniques required to achieve a health body and a healthy mind. In the text, the author avoids prescriptions, trusting his reader to draw her own lessons.

See the full review in the US Review of Books

back to top

 

Self-Help

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

Winner

The Science of Shame and Its Treatment, Gerald Loren Fishkin, PhD Parkhurst Brothers Publishers - Psychotherapist, Gerald Fishkin, uses neuroscience, psychological research, and case studies to elucidate the origins and nature of shame and how it impacts our behavior and mental health. Dr. Fishkin begins by exploring the universality of shame and how it grows from our “primal and silent internal communication that formed alongside our psyches…” The author gives a thorough examination of the psychological and cognitive nature of this harmful self-talk. Interestingly, Fishkin also underscores the difference between the emotion of guilt (feeling regret for something you did wrong) and shame (feeling something is wrong with you). Through well-written case studies, Fishkin demonstrates how early childhood experience, particularly trauma, neglect, and abuse, set the stage for “the shadow of shame.” The book’s final chapter presents the unique challenges in treating individuals suffering from shame wounds. Fishkin’s treatment model encompasses the goals of “attunement, empathy, and compassion.” This highly accessible book would be valuable to both patients and mental health practitioners.

First Runner-Up

Grow: Change Your Mindset, Change Your Life, Jackie Beere, Crown House Publishing - Everyone has areas where they need to experience growth. This very helpful book begins by explaining why we need to grow. Questionnaires are included to guide readers to understand themselves better. To change a negative mindset, we must learn to reframe our thoughts. Changing negative inner dialogue takes practice. It requires thinking on purpose to reframe the outcome, because whether we think we can or we think we can’t—we’re right. An insightful chapter about Helping Our Children Choose to Grow includes a table of responses of “Do’s” and “Don’ts” that may be beneficial to parents trying to help their child work through a problem. The author has included testimonies, examples, and charts. Chapters contain Reflect and Review sections to reiterate important points. Very practical book.

Honorable Mentions

Everything I Never Learned in School About How to Be Successful, Darin Colucci, SDP Publishing - This book explains the author’s method for attaining success. The steps to success apply whether your job is in the business field, athletic field, or creative fields such as music and writing. Each chapter explains a different facet of the process which begins with your thoughts. Important lessons learned are included in The Takeaway section at each chapter’s end, where the author also encourages putting the steps to work by giving tasks. Examples of the plan’s success both in the author’s life and the lives of others are sprinkled throughout the book. Though written for college-aged students, the principles apply to any age. Well-written and helpful book for anyone struggling to meet a goal.

Overcoming the Destructive Inner Voice: True Stories of Therapy and Transformation, Robert W. Firestone, Prometheus Books - What causes our self-destructive behaviors? How can human beings overcome childhood wounds? Is true transformation possible? These are some of the essential questions Robert W. Firestone, PhD explores through eleven case studies of his former patients. The intimate narratives explore the transformative effect of the therapeutic relationship. Dr. Firestone’s innovative “voice therapy” methodology reveal his ability to help patients learn to recognize, understand, and quiet the destructive inner voices that keep them from living a full life. The well-written, clinical encounters give both the layperson and practitioner a close-up view of the psychotherapy process in action and how it can lead to self-understanding and personal growth. These powerful stories are brimming with emotion and truths about the human experience.

When Their World Stops, Anne-Marie Lockmyer, Joseph Allen Press - Understanding how to help someone through grief is not always easy. This book offers the tools necessary to help the reader help another through that journey. Sometimes a person can be loneliest when they are in a crowd, but grief is a journey one should not have to take alone. The support of friends and family may diminish the loneliness but it will always be present. Staying close for the long haul and not shying away from allowing your grieving friend to talk about their loved one, are some of the steps presented by the author. The author gives lists and practical examples for anyone who finds themselves helping another through the grieving process.

back to top

 

Spiritual

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

Winner

Infinite Awareness: The Awakening of a Scientific Mind, Marjorie Hines Woollacott, Ph.D., Rowan & Littlefield - Science is about evidence. Awareness is about subjective experience. The author, a neuroscientist, asks if science can explain the subjective experience of infinite awareness produced when she meditates. Most scientific evidence reduces the experience of meditation to a description of its effect on brain waves. She provides evidence that experience (“the interior perspective of a functioning brain”) can’t be reduced to merely the physical properties of a brain. In layperson’s language, the author bravely supports her personal journey with extensive studies of consciousness from leading neuroscientists, quantum physicists, yogis and philosophers. Can thoughts change our brains? Does consciousness exist separately from the brain, as Near Death Experiences suggest? Can meditation influence the path of a proton? Where does reincarnation, reiki, the placebo effect, and distant intentionality (such as long-distance healing) fit? This enthralling investigation into the experience of consciousness answers these questions and more, with supporting illustrations, footnotes and a fat bibliography.

First Runner-Up

The Calling: Unleash Your True Self, Priya Kumar, Books That Inspire - Each of us lives with the lies we’ve created about our world. In this way, we’re able to cope with everyday stresses, rejection, and pain. However, if you’re willing to take a personal journey to discover the truths within you, follow the author on an adventure into the harsh Himalayan Mountains. You are your own force, and whether you choose to use that force for better or worse is up to you, but you are in control of your destiny and how you view reality. In this book, you’ll discover insights about yourself long forgotten and some you didn’t know existed. In the end, you’ll emerge an inspired spirit who no longer lives by accident. You will direct your own path and live out loud, knowing that you have created your own reality.

Honorable Mentions

Friending God: Social Media, Spirituality and Community, Antonio Spadaro, S.J., The Crossroad Publishing Company - This book creatively explores the presence of God in the internet, using the contemporary teachings of Pope Francis and Pope Benedict, along with the notions of philosophers like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, to identify those whom we meet in social networks as our "neighbor," for whom we are responsible in much the same way as The Good Samaritan is responsible for the injured man of the road. The book claims that those who participate in online social media networks are present to the entire population and thereby have opportunities to engage in a people-centered mission of neighborliness, sharing, and witness to God.

Miracle of the Call: Twentieth Century Heroes and Heroines, Donna A. Ford, Westbow Press - Marie Curie. Albert Einstein. Billy Graham. Martin Luther King, Jr. Mother Teresa. Neil Armstrong. These, along with eleven more, make up the list of amazing individuals in this book who not only had personal accomplishments that benefited humanity, but they also experienced the "miracle of the call" on their life at an earlier age to make a difference. This book isn't a normal biography, but more of a testimony of how God can accomplish great things through those who remain available to hear the call on his or her life. People respond to stories—narratives—in a way that evokes emotional connection. Reading these stories of ordinary people who did extraordinary things will inspire readers to listen for their own miracle call.

The Trip Will Change Your Life: A Shaman’s Story of Spirit Evolution, Jennifer B. Monahan, She Writes Press - This book is not just another ‘find your purpose in life’ rehash. It’s a look at how the universe continues to work with us and how we can channel its energy to make our lives better. You will learn to ground yourself and break through blockages that are keeping you from your purpose, get in touch with your inner wisdom and focus on your strengths intuitionally rather than intellectually. The author shares her personal journey into the world of shamanism and allows the reader to understand and take part in the generosity of the spirit, grow their own awareness, and become mindful of the ‘wisdom’ that’s guides us all.

Why is the Dalai Lama Always Smiling? A Westerner's Introduction and Guide to Tibetan Buddhist Practice, Lama Tsomo, Namchak Publishing - Originally written for a class on Tibetan Buddhism, this is the textbook the author tried to find for her students, but couldn't, so she wrote it instead. Westerners rarely take the time to be mindful, but this book not only shows the way, it goes a step further with beautiful illustrated photos of Buddhist practices to start your journey on the path to enlightenment. The author clearly describes Buddhism in a way that will leave no Westerner confused, as is often the case with books on Buddhism written by Tibetan authors. Also included is a helpful appendix of glossary terms as well as a set of Practice Cards that make the information readily accessible and portable.

back to top

 

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

Karamba, O. K. Oyenekan, Trafford Publishing - Karamba is a series of stories following those experiencing the AIDS epidemic on the ground in Nigeria, from the modern priestesses of ancient religions to Dr. Cinzano, a Western-trained physician newly returned home to treat his countrymen. Each story adds a layer of complication and helps answer the question, “Why can’t we wipe out AIDS in Africa?” The author, journalist O. K. Oyenekan, uncovers the roots of mysticism surrounding the AIDS epidemic and the widespread ignorance a handful of doctors must battle along with the disease the locals call “Slim.” Each story adds to the total picture, like a painter letting canvas dry before adding new details. A well-known government figure, Karamba, is treated by Dr. Cinzano, his disease sensationalized by the press. In another tale, the new wife of a prominent man has no concept of the danger she poses as a Slim carrier to the man’s other wives and to their unborn children. When Dr. Cinzano breaks with local custom and tells this new wife, now his patient, that she has the disease, he is put on trial. By the time we reach Dr. Cinzano’s trial, we learn the doctor’s exposure of government corruption is actually behind the charges, and Cinzano takes the opportunity to state for the record that corrupt governments deserve no loyalty. In the exchange, Cinzano must admit he is a “Slim carrier” for the record. In the last pages, Cinzano sees himself as the scapegoat of a revolution he will not live to see.

See the full review in the US Review of Books

First Runner-Up

Jupiter and Gilgamesh: A Novel of Sumeria and Texas, Scott Archer Jones, Southern Yellow Pine (SYP) Publishing - The root idea of this book, that a Texas businessman-cum-hermit and a 5,000 year old Sumerian king could be in mutually beneficial conversation with each other, might be absurd to some, but as in any fanciful tale, it all comes down to the author's skill in enabling the reader to suspend disbelief and enter into the strange journey being projected. Archer is skilled to an exceptional degree. His writing is terse; he respects the reader's ability to read between the lines and form the picturesque: "As he sat there, the sky turned black and rolled past the tower, carrying winter back into the plains." There is an implied spirituality to the story that turns the bleakness of a deterministic world into one of unexpected possibility. Matt Devon's life seemed locked down upon a tragedy until he 'met' Gilgamesh, and it spun upon its axis to one of unforseen possibility. Beyond the simple pleasure of a tale told well, the playfulness and joy beneath the surface of this unlikely yarn is the author's gift to the reader.

Honorable Mentions

A Dream of Daring, Gen LaGreca, Winged Victory Press - The author uses effective detail to depict the pre-war South and one Southerner in particular—namely the charater Tom Edmunton and his efforts to thrive as an inventor of technology that will revive the farming industry. However, the technology ultimately becomes the impetus for a murder suspense tale. The book establishes a convincing sense of place and time. The characters depicted are compelling and diverse—slaves and owners—and they face internal and external struggles for individual and regional changes in power. The plot advances with many engaging moments of descriptions and dialogue. The novel uses a historical moment in United States history as the springboard for exploring internal and social struggles about freedom, progress and change. The plot advances the drama and the story in a compelling way and builds suspence toward a satisfying ending.

A Pyrrhic Victory I: The Shaping of Destiny, Ian Crouch, Eloquent Books - The book presents an interesting use and combination of historic and fictional elements. The narrator's voice effectively ushers plot points with a transparent tone that allows the action and development to take center stage. Crouch presents the multi-layered cast of characters and their unique motivations and the influence of the values and workings of the ancient world in a compelling way that holds the reader's attention despite the plot point complexity and level of historic detail. The story follows interesting characters, such as Pyrrhus of Epirus, a young, very effective commander who was an important figure after Alexander the Great. The book also strikes a good balance between war and conflict, and romance and relationship, as well as the interiority of the main character as well as the historical setting.

Listener in the Snow: A Novel, Tim Jollymore, Finns Way Books - In this riveting tale of the north, the author weaves unfamiliar and diverse strands to craft a surprisingly suspenseful and intriguing novel. The bitter cold of northern Minnesota, the solitary ice fisherman lodged in his darkling hut, the heritage and ambivalence of the Algonquin peoples as they mingle, often tragically, with the rest of us, the contrast of a comfortable busy life in Pensacola to a simple pure one in the forested north—these and other elements flow naturally into the story. The book is temporally layered, told retrospectively as a tale recounted in an ice house to a brother-in-law on frozen Thief Lake. It is intellectually layered as the author moves about seamlessly from simple story, to existential reflection, to gripping, totemistic Algonquin spirituality. Best of all it is a very human story as a secret past unhinges Tatty and Mary's marriage and carries them on a journey unexpected and dreadful.

The Emperor's Regret, Barbara A. Pierce, Sharon Boyd (illustrator), Xlibris - This is a most beautiful, colorful book with vibrant depictions of the palace life of the emperor, Paheni, as well as exquisite floral illustrations when the action of the story moves into the jungle. At the story’s center is a young emperor who becomes disenchanted with ruling his province and wishes to escape. His chief magician, Haknobee, devises a plan to use magic to allow the emperor to change places with a parrot in the rainforest. The magician has determined that the parrot, too, is disenchanted with his life, so the two malcontents are good candidates to swap lives. As soon as the swap is made, however, the emperor finds himself on constant alert as a snake angles up to make dinner of him. After that, giant bugs try to eat him, and he must hide, not only from a prowling leopard, but also from hawks and eagles. It doesn’t take long for the emperor to realize that he’s made a mistake. We then learn that the parrot was not always a bird but is a dissatisfied farmer who was not happy as an emperor, either. Since the farmer would rather go back to being a bird as opposed to returning to farming, the chief magician makes the switch, and the young emperor returns to his original status as ruler.

See the full review in the US Review of Books

back to top

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

The Charles W. Morgan: A Picture History of an American Icon, Andrew W. German & Daniel V. McFadden, Mystic Seaport - Written with the intent to educate and illuminate readers, it tells the story of the whaling vessel, which sailed 38 times from 1841 to 2014, first to hunt whales for America’s thriving whaling industry in the 1800s, and then the last time, across protected waters as a symbol of conservation, ameliorating past economic history with the current enthusiasm to protect and save whales and protect their environment. The book’s many historic photographs are described in detail from the time the ship was an active whaling vessel through the time she was embedded in a sand berth near New Bedford as a tourist attraction and now as a museum exhibit at Chubb’s Warf, Mystic Seaport. For her 38th trip, she sailed traditionally, providing an historic glimpse to participants in order to “rediscover and preserve the process and the experience.”

First Runner-Up

What Foreigners Need to Know About America: From A to Z, Lance Johnson, A to Z Publishing - This enlightening book advises immigrants on what they need to know about getting along in American society. The author addresses misconceptions Americans and immigrants often harbor about one another, then makes the case that differences are often minor and can easily be put aside. The remainder of the book focuses on specific aspects of American society: government, religion, education, the arts, business, and so on. In each case, the author provides an explanation of the American way, then offers tips on how visitors can blend in. Sometimes, the advice is practical; for example, the author provides information on how to apply to American colleges—a key concern for young people from immigrant families. In other cases, the advice is light-hearted—lists of top American movies are provided, evidently for use during those key conversations around the office water cooler after the Academy Award nominations are announced.

Honorable Mentions

Beyond Deportation, The Role of Prosecutorial Discretion in Immigration Cases, Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, New York University Press - Prosecutorial discretion is defined “as a decision by a government employee, as opposed to a judge, to abstain from enforcing the immigration laws against a person or group.” The author is a lawyer, law professor, and daughter of immigrant parents, who recommends improvements for the use of prosecutorial discretion, while providing a compehensive history of its use. The thorough text is written in an academic tone. While the judicial and executive branches are at odds over immigration policies, as well as the fundamental discussion of borders or no borders (security or no security), the implimentation of immigration law must involve paths for accountability when standards are ignored, which includes improved transparency.

Give Me This Mountain, Minchin-Comm, Trafford Publishing - This is an excellent story of one man’s exploits from a humble beginning in Sierra Leone to realizing his life-long dream. David Turay grew up in a beautiful country with many natural resources, but also he experienced the ordeals of surviving in a country being torn apart by civil war and the corruption of warlords plundering the country’s vast supply of diamonds. The author does an excellent job of focusing on Turay’s courage and faith that he attributes these to seeing him through his life’s journey as he achieves his dream of having a family and becoming a highly trained and prominent surgeon.

See the full review in the US Review of Books

It's Midnight in Berlin, Pat McMann Gilchrist, Xlibris - This is the story of a civilian woman working for the American government to help Germany repair war-torn Berlin after World War II. While the diary genre format doesn't lend itself to active narratives, it manages to clearly describe her activities and relationship with other people very well. In particular, the author does an excellent job in describing the endless life-like parties and fun, as well as her female co-workers. Her writing about the day-to-day details of government office operations, the cities she visited, and her interactions with the people she met is quite detailed and informative as well as entertaining.

See the full review in the US Review of Books

March Farm, Season by Season on a Connecticut Family Farm , Nancy McMillan, Stuart Rabinowitz and Jack Huber (photography) Whistling Hawk Press - In 1944, there were 22,000 farms in Connecticut. Today, according to a recent USDA census, there are 4,916. Yet, with a renewed interest in local foods, that number is beginning to increase. Farm stays, corn mazes, farm stands, pick your own options are popular. Yet, many children and adults have never visited a farm and do not know where their milk or produce come from. With color photographs, this book celebrates a year in the March family, the 4th generation of farmers to work this 150-acre farm. Readers might change their minds about the role of farming in our society, the beauty of its cycles, and the work that produces so many things that sustain us all.

Seasons of Sand, Ernst Aebi, iUniverse - The author chronicles his extraordinary journey spending years in North Africa building infrastructure in a tiny village. Aebi progresses with humor in situations that are often challenging and unbelievable. His ability to be innovative in helping and respecting a community of Africans that do not have much is inspiring, and he effectively blends his telling of the story of their community without resorting to condescension about the differences between their lives and those of Western individuals. He clearly cares and loves the people and the country, and his passion for helping others shows through in his writing. The author endeavors tirelessly to bring agriculture to a land-locked, dry, poor community of the Sahara desert, and writes a memorable and moving story about how difficult this was and how close it came to succeeding.

See the full review in the US Review of Books

back to top

 

E-Book Fiction

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

Winner

I, Necrosis, Ramy Christopher Tadros, Nightlight Books - This might easily be categorized as just another dystopic, futurist science-fiction novel. The author adeptly paints a picture of a bleak, not-too-distant future society ruled by the warring factions of Faceboogle, Inc.’s dissidents; the fascist State Spawn, or SS; the outlaw tribes of traditionalists; and an increasingly powerful lobby of machines and robots. Attentive readers may understand this novel more accurately as one of the most relevant and important statements of contemporary philosophy. Instead of using the pervasiveness of technology as merely a vehicle for another stereotypical sci-fi thrill ride, the author co-opts the contemporary environment of technological saturation to explore themes of human suffering caused by postmodern indifference, alienation, brutality, and inescapable oppression and tyranny.

First Runner-Up

Good Girl Bad Girl, Ann Girdharry, Fine Line Publishing - When Kal Medi’s journalist mother vanishes, it’s up to Kal to pick up the trail of her mother’s final expose to find her. Kal walks a fine line between social and physical finesse to gain the suspects’ trust and soon finds herself in the middle of an expansive and elaborate worldwide pedophilia ring. Somewhere between searching for her missing mother, rescuing kidnapped children, and avoiding attempts on both her and her friends’ lives, Kal struggles to come to terms with her childhood training, the double-edged sword of a gift her deceased father bestowed upon her. This gift allows her to confront the ring’s leader to learn the truth about her father’s past and her mother’s future, but Kal may lose herself in the process.

Honorable Mentions

Age of Order, Julian North, Plebeian Media - This dystopian young adult novel will pull you in with its well-drawn characters and all-too-easy-to-imagine plot. Daniela Machado is surviving her world through her family, loyal friends, and her running skills, which offer her a way out of her difficult life. But it may be a guise for the powers that be to use her for a different purpose. Anyone that’s ever felt like an outside will relate to Daniela. Fans of Divergent and the Hunger Games will find much to love in this fast-paced story.

On Moving Mountains, Jiri Soukup, Magic Well Publishing - A true story of hope and the power of love to overcome tyranny, the story begins in the 1970s in Prague, Czechoslovakia around the time of the Soviet coup. We are immediately reintroduced into the world we have always known—the world that seems to be disappearing before our very eyes. Michal is a young and ambitious computer engineer trapped in an unhappy marriage and despondent at the prospect that the Soviet invasion will close him in and keep the world out. Danna, his longtime colleague, is also unhappily married and saddened at the prospect of her vanishing youth. The two young lovers risk everything in a dangerous plan to escape the impending threat of communism. Their daring adventure takes them on a breathtaking, white-knuckle world tour as they risk everything to secure a final grasp on freedom before it is pulled forever from their grasp.

The After War, Brandon Zenner - In this well-written dystopian novel, two cousins leave their underground bunker hoping to have escaped the worst ravages of humanity and to make their way to a new life with their uncle who taught them how to survive. On the other side of the continent, Simon Kalispell is leaving his secluded cabin and making his way east, hoping to avoid the few desperate survivors he’s caught glimpses of and overcome his knee-buckling fears. Well-drawn, realistic characters pull you into the story.

back to top

 

E-Book Nonfiction

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

Winner

Moving Beyond the Unspoken Grief, Dr. Sarah Lnyy, Dreamstone Publishing - This is a personal journey through the frightening reality of in vitro fertilization as seen through the eyes of a General Practitioner, but from the other side of the doctor’s desk, where she sits as the patient. The book is epistolary in form, emails to the yet unborn child. It details the struggle the parents of the unborn child endure through the process of IVF. It's a love letter to someone who does not yet exist, one with no guarantee they may ever come into being. From the rise of bubbling hope to the visceral plummet of hopeless anguish, Lnyy’s book is a tribute to a child, one yet to be, cradled and thriving in the mother’s mind, yet not manifest in the parent’s flesh and bone. This book is a promise to self, a wish come true, and a testimony of love.

First Runner-Up

Common Stones, Alicia M. Smith, Inspiring Voices - Each person walking on this journey of life must deal with pitfalls that can bring about periodic darkness. Most people will agree that when we look at how others deal with pain a new voice is gained. This book allows the reader to see how other humans have learned to carry on engaging in life. The testimonies are authentic, raw, and vulnerable. The perspectives are beyond humbling and will inspire each reader with healing and hope.

Honorable Mentions

Live Without Stress , Dr. Marvin Marshall, Piper Press - This book is a fresh and innovating read that details the various ways individuals can improve their lives by shedding the psychologically debilitating exoskeleton of stress. Marshall states that people are affected by their mental states, and fear paralyzes, traps them in a self-imposed shell, one they perceive to be their armor or strength, but in reality it is an anchor weighing them down, miring them in misery. Despite the heavy subject matter, the writing is bright and lively, uplifting and nurturing, offering insights and shedding light into those dark corners of our fear where we seldom venture and, if trapped, never escape.

Wall Street Kitchen: The Recipe Behind a Housewife's 1000% Stock Return, Victor Chiu - The stock market scares most people into thinking that a degree is needed before anyone can begin to invest. This book gives hope and a proven formula for the common person to follow in order to gain confidence and see the power in investing. The author uses his experience and speaks directly to the reader as if he were sitting at the family's kitchen table. Since this is how the author learned to successfully invest, his teaching method puts the reader at ease. He provides a step by step process to follow in each chapter with charts and graphs that provide information on the history and use of the stock market. When a housewife can invest in the stock market and make money to support her family, it is information that should be shared.

back to top

The US Review of Books volunteers its time to support the Eric Hoffer Book Award. We appreciate the grateful feedback we've received for our efforts. Thank you.