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The Eric Hoffer Award for Books

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

View the Eric Hoffer Book Award sponsors.

 

The Eric Hoffer Award honors the memory of the great American philosopher Eric Hoffer. In addition to the grand prize, Hoffer honors are bestowed by press type and category, and also through the Montaigne Medal, da Vinci Eye, and First Horizon Award. Coverage of the the Hoffer is updated in May when the results are released to the public. You can view the Hoffer Award announcement schedule on their official website in the spring. They also post a grand prize short list of finalists. We publish their list of category finalists with links to the books we've reviewed in our pages.

 

2020 Eric Hoffer Book Award

CATEGORY AWARDS

Adult Fiction

Nonfiction/Trade

E-Book

Legacy

 

Official Sponsor of the Eric Hoffer Award

 

Hoffer Grand Prize

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

Start Finishing: How to Go From Idea to Done, Charlie Gilkey, Sounds True - We are what we do. Gilkey demonstrates how this simple premise unlocks a treasure of unique talents which lead us to our soulful purpose in life. However, not all actions are equal. Only our best work, the projects which require us to be on the verge of failure, unlock our soulful grace. There’s an art and science to turning great ideas into finished products, and there are great teachers who help us along the way. Gilkey is one of those teachers. He provides strategies not only to get your projects from start to finish, but to also live a meaningful life. Everyone has dreams which they try to achieve, oftentimes underestimating the attitude, work, and commitment needed to turn those dreams into reality. Life’s overwhelming tasks and responsibilities cause many to abandon their dreams and accept the "reality" handed to them. This leads to feelings of frustration, sadness, fatigue, and even depression. The 9-step method in this book offers a unique perspective and practical advice on productivity, which will help you honor your dreams and commitments. A quote from twentieth century Spanish poet Antonio Machapos Maxim, provided by the author, captures the overall essence of the book: "Wanderer, there is no road, the road is made by walking."

See a full review in the US Review of Books

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Montaigne Medal

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

A National of Unwell: What's Gone Wrong?, Kristine L. Gebroic, MD, LCR Publishing - This takes a refreshing big picture approach to complex issues of health. Heart disease and cancer are on the rise. The same is true for autoimmune diseases, ADHD, asthma, and allergies. Doctors diagnose symptoms and then prescribe long term medications. Symptons are a cry for help from our bodies that medicines mask. The author argues that the answers often may be found in nutritional and environmental factors. The author of this book is a medical doctor who cites examples from personal experience, patients’ experiences, and medical knowledge to demonstrate the many mistakes we all make in everyday decisions that affect our health. Environmental toxins and chemicals in our food supply affect us all. Sugar, for example, is hidden in processed foods like snacks and chicken nuggets that are not sweet, stressing our bodies into sugar overload. The author then suggests ways to improve the body’s balance, such as eating healthier diets and filtering drinking water.

Be Wise Now: A Guide to Conscious Living, Gael McCool, Feel, Inc. - Another big picutre approach, but that of the mind and soul. A personal tragedy, young in adult life, led the author to anguish, depression, and near suicide. Struggling for meaning and purpose, the author turns to traditional religious teachings for wisdom, but only finds self-blame and guilt for answers. Refusing to believe she brought on her own tragedy, the author begins a journey of self-discovery. She realizes her tragic moment is one of many stories in her life. A person's life story reveals more than an intellect, but a combination of fifteen "selves" in need of development to become a fully integrated being. Providing examples and self-evaluation tools, the author leads the reader on a path toward self-awareness. Learn to accept imperfections as the starting point for growth, and not as the defining elements of one's life. A tragedy in one dimension opens a door of insight into the other elements of the fully integrated self.

See a full review in the US Review of Books

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da Vinci Eye

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

2020 da Vinci Eye Winner

Blueberry Dreams, Calvin earl Dallas, Stratton Press (cover by Karen Brenner)

See a full review in the US Review of Books

2020 da Vinci Eye Winner

Hawk Parable, Tyler Mills, University of Akron Press (cover by Amy Freels; art by Chris Maynard)

2020 da Vinci Eye Winner

Kneeling Under the Lemon Tree, Michele Lesko, Kelsay Books (cover by Shay Culligan; photo by Juniper Spring Photography)

2020 da Vinci Eye Winner

Priya Dreams of Marigolds & Masala, Meenal Patel, Beaver's Pond Press (cover by Meenal Patel)

(See award coverage in the Children's category.)

2020 da Vinci Eye Winner

The Lampblack Blue of Memory, Sarah Adleman, Tolsun Books (cover by David Pischke; art by Dr. Debbie Pischke)

2020 da Vinci Eye Winner

The Non-Exerciser's Guide to Awakening the Fitness Within, Instructor Savant Professorjohn, Growing Pains Publishing (cover by Instructor Savant Professorjohn)

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First Horizon Award

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

A Drop of Magic, L.R. Braden, Bell Bridge Books (See award coverage in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy category.)

A Nation of Unwell, Kristine L. Gedroic, MD and Valerie A. Latona, LCR Publsihing (See award coverage in the Montaigne Medal category.)

A Single Desperate Prayer, Ludmila Ritz, Amazon (See award coverage in the Self-Published Award category.)

A Wounded Deer Leaps Highest, C.P. Mangel, Eyewear Publishing (See award coverage in the General Fiction category.)

Be Wise Now, Gael McCool, Feel Inc. (See award coverage in the Montaigne Medal category.)

Deliberate Discomfort, Jason B.A. Van Camp, Ballast Books (See award coverage in the Small Press Award category.)

Geraldina & the Compass Rose, Geraldine Brown Giomblanco, GBG Books (See award coverage in the Romance category.)

Not Dead Yet and Other Stories, Hadley Moore, Autumn House Press (See award coverage in the Short Story/Anthology category.)

Sirocco, Danielle A. Dahl, Coffeetown Press (See award coverage in the Legacy Nonfiction category.)

Six Healing Questions, Madonna Treadway, MCM Publishing (See award coverage in the E-Book Nonfiction category.)

Three Ways to Disappear, Katy Yocom, Ashland Creek Press (See award coverage in the Micro Press Award category.)

When a Toy Dog Became a Wolf and the Moon Broke Curfew, Hendrika de Vries, She Writes Press (See award coverage in the Culture category.)

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Academic Press Award

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

The Five Quintets, Micheal O'Siadhail, Baylor University Press - O’Siadhail’s book is an erudite, epic poem that covers four centuries of modern thought and sensibility. It ranges through the best that has been thought in the modern world and in well-crafted, inventive, poetic forms, while introducing major artists, poets, writers, musicians, scientists, philosophers and politicians. It is an engaging, delightful, and amazing tour de force. It is a book to be studied and taught and read. For poets, it is an inspiration.

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Small Press Award

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

Deliberate Discomfort, Jason B.A. Van Camp, Ballast Books - The thought of change and being uncomfortable can bring fear and panic to us. In some cases, it can even be debilitating. Van Camp, a decorated Green Beret, takes us through his and other decorated combat veterans' intense experiences, while teaching us how these difficult times can provide lessons that can be applied to everyday life. This is the basis for the creation of a successful company with an educational program known as “the Total Warrior Model,” where one learns to overcome fear, embrace the uncomfortable, make difficult choices, and “get comfortable being uncomfortable.”

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Micro Press Award

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

Three Ways to Disappear, Katy Yocom, Ashland Creek Press - Sarah DeVaughan gives up a career as a journalilst to return to India where she lived with her family as a child. She joins a group dedicated to saving the Bengal tiger. On the surface, that seems simple, but local tradition, politics, and economics makes saving the tiger a difficult and dangerous undertaking. Sarah must also face the tragedy that haunts her family. Meanwhile, her sister Quinn is also struggling. Her son is seriously ill, her marriage is falling apart, and she too is trying deal with the family tragedy. The author has assembled an interesting cast of characters to present a picture of human frailty, while demonstrating the perseverance required to break down the walls of guilt and pain. Life is precious, from the Bengal tiger to the bonds of a family.

See a full review in the US Review of Books

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Self-Published Award

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

A Single Desperate Prayer, Ludmila Ritz, Amazon - As a little girl, the author is sent to knock on neighbors' doors for drug-making ingredients. When the author is given a puppy, she lets it fall out the window, because there's not enough food for another mouth. Eventually orphaned—a blessing?—she thrives in state care. In a charming passage, Ritz discovers Jesus as she learns to read. That said, religion is not the subject of this book. Its a candid, clear-eyed guide into the everyday horror of a young life in post-Soviet Ukraine. The frank prose is tough, tender, and full of grace.

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Art

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

Winner

Gloria Garfinkel, Andrew Kelly, Gloria Garfinkel Foundation - Nonagenarian and working artist Gloria Garfinkel is vibrant in thought and style. Her work crosses artistic mediums and cultural boundaries. Colors mix, explore, and explode in Warholian fashion, but like viewing any great artist, there is the first flush of the eye and later the insight of the mind. Even though her sculptures, paintings, and collages can be found publically both near and far, this dense retrospective gathers a salient understanding of an artist one may have only a glancing familiarity with. The brilliantly produced, hefty coffee table book will be a prize in your collection and help promulgate Garfinkel to the generations.

First Runner-Up

Art for All Ages: Reignite Your Artistic Self, Corinne Miller Schaff, Top Reads Publishing - A wise artist once claimed that he could examine anyone’s drawing and estimate the age when he/she was discouraged to continue. For most, this age was in the small numbers, but fortunately artist and teacher Schaff wants to restart your creative journey through drawing and painting. Beginning with a brief self-assessment, the author guides us through simple and then more complex activities. The narrative is encouraging and accessible. After all, creating art is a worthy venture, and the only failure is not following your desire to express your passion in some form.

Honorable Mentions

Art in the White House, William Kloss, The White House Historical Association - The White House art collection is significant, extending far beyond the collection of presidential portraits. Largely produced by American artists, it’s a bit like watching the country assemble from its nascent thought through expansionism and nearing dominance. Portraiture, both famous and common, and various real life depictions dominate the collection. Although not a complete overview of the hundreds of works, the breadth of these selections is impressive. It's large coffee table book begins with an informative preface, as well as detailed discussions of each plate.

Jewels of Nature: A Mandala Stone Treasury, Elspeth McLean, Happy Nest Press - Artist McLean paints mandala stones—beautiful circular paintings based on the intricate Buddhist sand creations—and that is only where her journey begins. On each photographic plate, her eye-popping art stones are placed within likewise natural beauty. The mandalas dangle like flowers, rest within seasonal nature, and mingle with wildlife. Arresting, gorgeous, and fanciful, we just couldn’t put it down.

Louisiana Trail Riders, Jeremiah Ariaz, UL Lafayette Press - Our introduction to Louisiana trail riders—predominantly black horseback clubs that crisscross the bayou in honor of an ancestral trailblazing history–arrives in the form of an insightful essay by photographer Ariaz. The sharp black and white stills mostly comprise portraiture of people in the trail riding act, yet not exclusively. We emerge into the culture of horses, cookouts, and meet-ups for zydeco concerts. Pride and joy emanate from the pages.

Structures of Reverie, Josephine Sacabo, Luna Press - The nexus of form and emotion merges in Sacabo’s artistic photographic plates. Page after page, black and white composite exposures achieve the mystique of charcoal drawings. A shadow falls over them, holding both our attention and the ghosts within the images in place, all while bending and evading the linearity this collection explores.

See a full review in the US Review of Books

The Wild Herd: A Vanishing American Treasure, Deborah Kalas, Val de Grace - For decades, the wild herd’s of the west have been disappearing, at times through deliberate government slaughter, but mostly due to land encroachment. Kalas’ stunning photographs of this legendary breed reveal and preserve their character and majesty. Occasional, short narratives provide context and experience. Only time and responsible stewardship will determine if these horses will remain free and part of our living heritage. Until then, this is Kalas' mission, and she's in top form.

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Chapbook

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

Winner

Smoke Girl, Simone Person, Diode Editions - Fierce and fearless, poet Person rides the rough internal landscape of trauma and redemption. This brave collection nails every line, while conjuring a sense of anger and barter with the minutes.

First Runner-Up

Muri, Ashley Shelby, Radix Media - Built around an unreliable narrator, this story literally sets sail into a sketchy future with an explosive fate. It’s sci-fi at its best, wrapped within spot-on prose.

Honorable Mentions

Art Preserves What Can't Be Saved, Carolyn Dahl, The Orchard Street Press - Skilled prose unfolds throughout this animal spirit collection, but in the end it is sheer humanity wrought through a prism of art.

Notes to the Mental Hospital Timekeeper, Tim Mayo, Kelsay Books - Mayo balances it all here, as his prose rocks between charming and insightful. Buried in moments, the poet brings clarity to the madness in life.

See a full review in the US Review of Books

The Porch, Jae Nichelle, YesYes Books - Structured around the view of and from Nola porches, a fresh voice emerges. Vista by vista, Nichelle lures us into the relentless churn of meaning and understanding.

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Children's

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

Winner

Priya Dreams of Marigolds & Masala, Meenal Patel, Beaver's Pond Press - Living in a house on a small street in a small city in the United States, little Priya hurries home from school to experience India through her grandmother’s rich descriptions and family traditions. Making rotli together, the two take an imaginative journey through India’s sights, sounds, tastes, and smells. This beautifully illustrated book honors the love between grandparents and grandchildren, while exploring the joy of sharing their heritage with others in their community.

First Runner-Up

Valentino the Love Bunny, Book One, Two, and Three, Margarita Fairbanks, Suzan Duval (illustrator), Valentino the Love Bunny - The series includes three titles: Valentino the Love Bunny and How He Came to Be, ...Takes Flight, and ...Christmas in Mammoth with Family and Friends. These imaginative and thoughtful involve a black and white bunny born to love and be loved as depicted by two special heart markings adorned to his face. The tales unearth a perceived meaning of love and its magical healing properties when shared by members of a family and beyond. The message is one of compassion and kindness as well as the importance of giving to others selflessly and the tendency to fulfill one’s own desires naturally as a result.

Honorable Mentions

A Walk with Cooper, Debbie Gonzalez, Mindful Spark - Cooper is a loyal energetic dog who loves to go for walks. The dog enjoys watching the world around him. He is a cheerful and bouncy dog. He sometimes gets overzealous, and his mom reminds him to slow or calm down. He likes to say hello to the other animals. At the park, he runs and dreams of flying. Cooper smells the flowers and enjoys snuggles with his mom. This story reminds us to slow down and enjoy the small things in life as well as the world around us. The illustrations are bright and colorful just like Cooper's happy spirit.

Speak a Powerful Magic, Wick Poetry Center, The Kent State University Press - This anthology of poetry was collected over the course of ten years beginning as a project to facilitate conversation, encourage new voices, and share a creative experience. The collection includes creative expressions from all walks of life. The authors include students, immigrants, seniors, veterans, healthcare workers, caregivers, and other everyday people. Many varied voices are represented in this work allowing each reader to find a poem that speaks directly to them. The fonts match the voice of the authors. The striking illustrations are colorful and eye-catching and their uniqueness brings them to life.

The Adventures of Mr. Fuzzy Ears, Donna Carr Roberts, iUniverse - This book is a beautifully written and illustrated account of one dog’s search for a friend. Mr. Fuzzy Ears loves his humans, but he longs for a friend of his own. After searching his house and yard for a friend, his humans decide to help with his search by taking him to look at the local humane society. This book is a lovely story about how humane societies work and why some animals end up there. It also reminds readers of the great work that humane society workers do and that loving friends can be found for adoption.

See a full review in the US Review of Books

The Goat Woman, Jo Anne Beaty, Baylor University Press - After stories told at a Hallowe’en sleepover, nightmares of a scary, ragged old woman terrify young Jodie so much that she often wakes her parents and Gramma with screams. Chasing Jodie through an endless field, the bony old crone has horns like a goat and is dirty and smelly. Then on an early spring day, wise Gramma takes Jodie to visit a friend who raises goats. Jodie snuggles with a newborn kid, walks among the gentle adult goats, picnics with the two old women, and plays in the daisies with the young goat. When it’s time to go home, Jodie—now rather dirty and smelly herself—leaves reluctantly with a promise to return. Sweet dreams of little goats and flower-filled fields give her a peaceful night’s sleep at last.

The Journey of an Acorn, Corey Wolff, Transcendence Press - Without illustrations, the words paint a clear picture. It's the story of an acorn who decides he is ready to brave the world on his own, but is met with many challenges to grow and thrive. There is much that holds him back, including his parent, but his determination and perseverance keep him going. The acorn deals with friendship, love, loss, and rebirth. The acorn realizes that his own life is a mirror of his past. However, it is his perspective and his actions that can change his world and the world of others. It’s when he lets go that he truly lives.

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Middle Reader

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

Winner

Teddy Roosevelt, Millie, and the Elegant Ride, Jean M. Flahive, Philip W. Morse - When 96-year-old Millie visits the shop where a historic electric trolley car, the Narcissus, is being restored, she is transported to her youth. As a young farm girl, Millie understands the value of hard work, family, and following her dreams. In vivid detail, Millie recalls when the electric trolley lines make their way through her father's farmland, bringing with them visions of travelling to faraway places and meeting notable people. These interurban trolleys bring much excitement to the small town of Gray, Maine, where Millie meets Teddy Roosevelt, participates in the war effort during the first World War, and eventually contributes to the women's suffrage movement. Rich with historical details, Millie's narrative is both educational and inspiring. .

First Runner-Up

The Pumpkin Room, Mark Milbrath, Nightforest Press - From its lyrical opening, the narrator of this spooky story collection invites us to enter the Pumpkin room, where inside a mansion in a dark forest he tells tales “beyond the grave.” Each of the unlucky thirteen stories, begins with am enticing introduction from the Seed Reader. The stories are imaginative, clever, and quite frightening. You’ll meet the vampire in the library, go on a haunted hayride, and visit an island steeped in dark magic. This is a highly original collection and makes a great read-aloud for parents and kids at sleepovers, camp fires, and Halloween parties.

Honorable Mentions

Little Big Sister on the Move, Amy B. McCoy, KDP - Katie is a nine-year-old “little big sister” to her eleven-year-old brother, Mickey who has autism. When Katie’s family moves to a new neighborhood, Katie finds herself needing to explain her brother’s behavior to her new friends and neighbors. She must look out for Mikey who has a habit of disappearing. Each chapter ends with a written list from Katie that reveal her innermost feelings. Told in the first person, Katie’s simple story of family bonds, friendship, and acceptance will appeal to middle-grade children. Children who have autistic siblings will identify with Katie’s challenges in dealing with her brother. Readers will cheer on Katie and her friends as Team Mickey joins the annual Autism Walk. The novel does a fine job of showing the reality of everyday life with an autistic family member without being didactic.

See a full review in the US Review of Books

Two Terrible Days in May, Billie Holladay Skelley, LawMux Press - Ringtail's grandfather leads Ringtail to an empty field. There, he tells Ringtail of an often-forgotten battle that occurred long ago, during the Civil War. Grandpa's account of the Rader Farm Massacre in Jasper County Missouri highlights the participation and sacrifice of African American Union soldiers, many of whom lost their lives. Grandpa also reveals how history may have depicted these soldiers unfairly in suggesting their actions were cowardly. Based on archaeological findings that contradict previous accounts of the event, Grandpa points out how historical accounts can vary depending on the source. This illustrated narrative is somber yet accessible to younger readers. Young Ringtail and Grandpa, both raccoons, share an informative dialogue.

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Poetry

The Poetry category contains poetry or highly stylized prose.

Winner

Still Life with Mother and Knife, Chelsea Rathburn, LSU Press - The author confronts the complications of motherhood and juxtaposes that identity with her attempts to assert her own voice in an inequitable world. The book is at once gracefully poised and scuttled with angst, evoking an innate foreboding that the reader might realize is to be found in their own life. The poetry bites with its confrontation of sexism and misogyny, inviting a reconciliation, but never arriving at one. Brilliantly paced, the formatting of the pages grounds the, at times, ethereal stanzas. The author's words leave the mind parched and the soul hungry, with the occasional fist unconsciously slammed onto the tabletop.

First Runner-Up

We Call Them Beautiful, KC Trommer, Diode Editions - This is a sweeping examination of image, memory, and how we ascribe meanings to the experiences we collect. The opening poem "First Map" establishes this idea with a specific memory of art school and of being prompted to fill in the borders of the body. The collection continues with vignettes that find beauty in specific ways of seeing reality, such as how the title poem compares dead trees in a park to the dendrites of Einstein's preserved brain. Trommer is deeply concerned with the strangeness of human experience, of body, mind, memory, and desire. Stylistically, the work is open and straightforward, opting to be more direct and relational than experimental, still there are some beautiful flourishes of language, and a search for deeply effective prose.

Honorable Mentions

A Few More Minutes, Brenda Livingston Bradley, XlibrisUS - Filled with clear-seeing honesty and courageous in its truth telling, this collection reaches to touch on the beauty of life at all stages. Well-crafted, wise, and graceful, each poem is its own performance. This work offers instructions on how to face the world without blinders. It is a marvelous voyage through the artist’s mind and beyond. The author weaves scenes, stories, and lyrics into a rich whole cloth. This poet’s intimate personal tone intersects with everyday life. Showered with grace, honesty, love, and acceptance of what cannot be changed, this writer shows a special poised strength. Overall, she gives a radiant self-portrait of her world.

See a full review in the US Review of Books

Former Possessions of the Spanish Empire, Michelle Peñaloza, Inlandia Books - Peñaloza demonstrates in dynamic fashion what it is poetry was made to do, by transforming the pain of history, occupation, and fracture into grace and completion. As Peñaloza tackles the worst elements of violation and human nature, her crystalline specificity and light touch ground us to every poem’s resounding depth. The poet shows us that courage stems not from strident bravery, but from a non-negotiable need to excavate—to sound a truthful alarm for what we as a species—made up of distinct, underrepresented peoples—must remember.

Give a Girl Chaos, Heidi Seaborn, Mastodon Publishing - From the title poem, the author immediately lays out the book’s main thesis. Once “Chaos arrives screaming,” the reader is presented with a girl in chaos. Eventually the poem flips the script from the girl being harassed to the girl harassing her challenges. As the author establishes a narrative link between the poems, the reader is confronted with “At The End Of Our Marriage, You Contract Congestive Heart Failure” and “How To Run Away” where the speaker travels to Israel in “Crossing The Dead Sea.” After undergoing a divorce, her “body is charcoal with mud.” When “The Dead Sea washes / mud away,” she is physically and emotionally reborn. The poet keeps us following the "girl" in her post-divorce single mother life by oscillating between verse and prose poetry. There is never a dull moment in the chaos found here.

Hail and Farewell, Abby E. Murray, Perugia Press - This book is a hard-hitting, intimate look into the life of a pacifist who is married to a U.S. military service member. The complications of this are illuminated with wit, intelligence, and a clarity that fosters understanding. The poet unfolds the story with thoughtfulness and humor and with all the daggers that women endure in this patriarchal world. Pushing against the expectation to conform, the poems do the same. Without editorializing, the poet handles heavy content and surreal circumstances by weaving the personal and the political with lines that are beautifully unadorned and allow space to present the impact of a toxic world. Brutality and love to push against one another in a way that creates wholeness, rather than contradiction.

The Boy in the Labyrinth, Oliver de la Paz, University of Akron Press - This collection serves as poetic historiography of a father fighting to reconcile "the swirling cacophony" of unknowns that come with the raising of two autistic children. Part episodic prose poetry, part multiple choice questionnaire and tests, the poet in many ways tries to rescue the father by challenging form and asking us to make sense of what can't be controlled. "Nothing fills the grammar he desires except the labyrinth's elaborate hoaxes"—the hoaxes being those perceived systems of what we consider "control." This is where this collection truly finds its magic.

The Breach, David K. Leff, Homebound Publications - Leff spills the history, secrets and all, of a New England mill town in brilliantly loosed poems that personify inanimate objects in a factory. "A Pressback Arm Chair" cries out, “I wish one of my legs could kick/ Clutch’s butt off my seat.” Or in from "Creamer and Sugar Bowl," “Sure as I can pour a fine stream/ of cream from my pouting lips,/ that letter sound like a lot of sidestepping/ doublespeak to me.” The poet tells the story, spinning the intrigue through his beautifully constructed poems. The unique narrative presents drama, humor, and sheer delight in his craft.

The Taste of the Earth, Hedy Habra, Press 53 - The book begins with a poem, Topography: "Sometimes I think my face is a map,/ each line a faint record of hidden scars/ of what I’ve seen or felt..." The poems that follow trace the origin of many of those scars in well-developed and striking language used both in free verse and in well-designed Japanese haibun form. The latter used very effectively, although in striking contrast with the Middle Eastern ancestry with which many of the poems deal.

Why I Never Finished My Dissertation, Laura Foley, Headmistress Press - The quest to discover why this poet does not complete a dissertation, leads to an astonishing read. This collection reveals a wide range of life-changing experiences beginning with a marriage to a hunchback Moroccan, almost twice the writer's age. Other poems express revelations and observations that arise out of travels, such as a trip to Tehran, where the poet stands on a bullet-riddled balcony watching a hurried crowd "spill Khomeini from his coffin." The signature poem unveils a suddenly busy domestic life in a second marriage with three young children and puppies. Toward the end readers experience love which results in marriage with a same-sex partner. No matter one's personal story, what makes a story great is how it is told.

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Young Adult

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

Winner

The Prince of Orange County, Kareem Tayyar, Pelekinesis - An amazing coming of age story set in California in the 80's, Tayyar does an wonderful job of fleshing out his main character, Thomas, and the cast of background characters that supports him. Thomas, and his endless stream of questions, approaches life and it's challenges with such openness and optimism. You'll feel like you are sitting in the park, watching the daily interaction of the characters on the court, as they make sense of life while playing basketball. The intertwining relationships help build a story that sustains, creating a window into the cultural interactions during this time, which is portrayed in a positive light. His expert word choices set the tone perfectly, both humorous and sometimes sad.

First Runner-Up

Britfield and the Lost Crown, C.R. Stewart, Devonfiled Publishing - Tom and Sarah are twelve year-olds locked up at Waverly, a horrible orphanage in the north of England. The children are forced to work long hours in a factory, given the least amount of food to keep them working, and are not allowed to read books. When Tom is led to believe his parents may actually be alive, he and his peers are more determined than ever to find a way out. The orphans devise a plan to escape overcoming one obstacle after another until they are finally successful. Or are they? One of the worst, cruelest members of the Waverly staff arrives on the scene. This fast-paced, vivid tale has many twists and turns which keep tween readers turning the pages.

Honorable Mentions

A Song for the Road, Rayne Lacko, Spark Press - Creativity, Victory, Heart, Discipline—four words that mean so much to the main character and a common thread that the author weaves throughout. The author leads the reader on a quirky journey as Carter loses his home in a devastating tornado. Carter takes to the road, with nothing but a guitar that once belonged to his long absent father as wel as a desire to find out why his father left and where he himself fits in the world. Along the way, we discover a ragtag band of supporting characters who lend notes of the melody to Carter's life. This is an entertaining tale about love and family and how it looks a little different for everyone.

Chloe, Jerry Leppart, iUniverse - Chloe discovers she is a clone of her mother, Jenny, at age twenty-two. She had been told her mother died in childbirth. Her father had been devastated. He consulted a doctor who was successful in cloning her from her mother. Now she must come to terms with being a clone. Is she a real person? Can she have children? Does she have a soul? Will she die young like Dolly the Sheep? The family puts their Minnesota home up for sale and takes an unforgettable journey into life and truth. The story is skillfully written with sympathetic concern for Chloe’s condition.

See a full review in the US Review of Books

Watershed, HN Deeb, Fruitstone Press - Imagine Earth in the future where there are not enough resources for all its inhabitants. The Judges are the upper echelon of society and hold all the power and hoard most of its resources. The most vital and scare is water. The rest of the population barely has enough water to drink or bathe with, and it is rationed out to them in inadequate quantities as they struggle to survive. The Transcendents want a revolution. Cassie, a teenager raised by her hard-working, law-abiding grandmother, secretly joins a group of young people who earn money stealing water. Cassie is smart and has other qualities that society deems make her a good fit to become a judge’s apprentice and move up in status in the world. But she is torn between allegiance to her friends, love for her grandmother, and a growing admiration of the Transcendents’ goals..

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Commercial Fiction

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

Winner

Begotten Not Made, Cónal Creedon, Irishtown Press - Creedon combines the structure of the conventional novel with traditional Irish storytelling in a tale about the cultural losses and disruptions of the technological era. As its title suggests, this novel addresses the inevitable questioning of religious faith in an age of science. Set in modern-day Ireland, the story traces the tragi-comic arc of the life of an Irish Catholic brother whose personal destruction and redemption mirror the tumultuous cultural transformations of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Brother Scully joined the priesthood at a young age, encouraged by his family and community at a time when the Catholic Church’s influence in the cultural life of Ireland was prominent. Early in his career, Brother Scully’s provocative intellectual insights illuminate some of the daunting questions facing the modern Church, and everyone believes he is destined for great things. But he is unprepared for his encounter with Sister Claire, and his life descends into a tailspin of inner turmoil and self-recrimination that ultimately lend urgency to his quest for redemption and salvation.

See a full review in the US Review of Books

First Runner-Up

The Nothing Within, Andy Giesler, Humble Quill - The author imagines a post-apocalyptic world in the year 2163 and tells the story of small communities of Amish people living in Ohio. Most of civilization has been wiped out by chimeras, and those people remaining gather in small villages for mutual protection. Here rules are strict and simple missteps can lead to the death penalty. The matriarchs who control these communities will not allow curiosity or change, but young Root longs for both. The novel follows her somewhat picaresque adventures, relating the tale through her eyes and those of the unlikely companions who befriend her, toward a logical and satisfying conclusion.

Honorable Mentions

Cognition, Jacques St-Malo, Ballista Press - With a strong sense of adventure, this book is rife with spies, assassins, and corruption. Genetics are being controlled, and world power is at hand. Naturally, this is no stroll through the park, including many plot twists that serve any genre read—all achieved through St-Malo's strong narrative, supported by superb dialog and clear intellect and his command of the story. It's a rare combination in genre writing, with many storylines revolving around the cloning of humans, leading toward a climatic ending.

See a full review in the US Review of Books

Come Take Me, Ethan Herberman - Marshal Shmeehkees suffers. He suffers ridicule, physical abuse, disillusion, and loss. His weight, pudgy round face, and pudding-like appearance lend themselves to his mockery. Seeking escape, he joins an Internet Social Group-—Come Take Me—whose members seek to be taken by aliens. To entertain himself, Marshal creates videos and posts them on the Internet. A group of website monitors working for CorpInc enjoy his videos, and when they learn he no longer posts them, they create a false female friend to replace him. Melody, one of the CorpInc employees agrees to play him along. Howver, one may realize too late that his dream, the one that gives him purpose, is just that, a dream without reality.

Directive One, Scott Shinberg, Evolved Publishing - The director of the CIA and his wife have been kidnapped during a hijacked flight, and it’s up to elite CIA operative—assassin—Michelle Reagan, codenamed :"Eden," to find and rescue them. Intel leads Eden and her team first to investigate the shadowy remains of the Irish Republican Army, and then into the heart of a fortified military base inside Iran. Eden must use her considerable skills to extract the director safely, or she must become the physical and legal arm of "Directive One:" the final option to keep the United States’ secrets safe from enemy agents.

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General Fiction

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

Winner

A Wounded Deer Leaps Highest, C.P. Mangel, Eyewear Publishing - This brilliant novel in poetic form is set in 1950 during the days of segregation. The story unfolds through experiences of a precocious fifteen-year-old Asa, the daughter of a black father and white Jewish mother, who move to North Carolina from Chicago. Tension is created by the author's description of the lush and lyrical descriptions of food, landscapes, and Black society in contrast with the ever-present threats of murder, subjugation, and threats by the Klan. The pages are laced with poetry and quotes from great literature, as Asa devours books and shares her parents' passion for learning. Her father is a professor and her mother decides to open a library for African Americans. The increasing threats of violence and heartbreak hangs over the community efforts of family and friends until a series of unimaginable, but believable horrors are unleashed.

See a full review in the US Review of Books

First Runner-Up

Queen of the Owls, Barbara Linn Probst, She Writes Press - A beautifully written story about a woman searching for the meaning of her life in terms of her desires, sex, marriage, and need to be wanted. She measures them or compares herself with what she thinks she sees in the paintings of Georgia O'Keefe, through her relationship with her artist. Many readers will relate to this story as the author describes the struggles of women in search of value. The book has a strong character and includes tension, empathy, and suspense. It plots the journey of self-discovery, as well as the choices we can't take back.

Honorable Mentions

A Day in June, Marisa Labozzetta, Guernica World Editions - Too bad you can't sample a few years of marriage, the way you can sample wedding food. But it's hard to know in advance. Vermont looks beautiful, but don't take a wrong turn: The white clapboard of that quaint little village might cover a tattered economy. If you go there for your dream wedding, your fiance might just decide to run off and join the Jesuits. Things are tough all over, and nothing planned ever goes right. But even in a whirlwind of catastrophe and stained glass, if enough kind and caring people, folks of determination and goodwill, all come together at just the right moments, there's a chance, just a chance, someone might actually walk down the aisle, behind a flower girl in an organdy dress, scattering roses.

See a full review in the US Review of Books

Commitment, R.C. Cord, Bardolf & Company - David Madison returns a broken man after several tours in Iraq. But he runs into a homeless pregnant woman and by helping her, helps himself into recovery. He starts to paint and after meeting up with an ex-girlfriend, he is suddenly asked by her congressman father to run for the Senate seat held by his ex-girlfriend's ex-husband. What follows is a political drama filled with dirty tricks, romance, jealousy, and redemption. Madison is pursued by two women, both daughters of Senators—the ex who runs his campaign and wants to run him again, and the other who hates politics and loves art, beckoning David to another life. David goes back and forth between them until he finally commits to one, and the several well-woven strands of suspense and plot lines find a satisfying resolution.

Just Another Girl on the Road, S. Kensington, Troubador/Matador - Written in such a way and filled with descriptions of the events of 1944, populated by life-like characters that summon cheer and admiration during ther quest to survive, readers can't help but be drawn into this tale. Add love to the mix. Katrinka, an escapee from German deserters, must determine with whom she should spend the rest of her life. Should she chose a man, Nye, she has loved since her early years or Wolfe who embroiled her in a love affair that lingers in her memory? After the French liberation, she begins a search for both men with the plan of making a decision.

Maggie's Ruse, Anne Leigh Parrish, Unsolicited Press - Two identical twins in their twenties, wannabe artist and actor, know little of how to make a living or the value of money. They live off parental funds, wrestle over lovers in New York City and upstate New York, and seek meaning. Maggie, the mellow twin, flees from Marta, the hardnosed manipulator. While the reader might pin unflattering labels on this pair and their friends, their authenticity grabs and won’t let go. Like the freaks in the circus sideshow, we thrill to observe them. The author’s astute insight, big characters, a snappy pace, and especially dialog laden with subtle subtexts and zinger truths deliver a memorable, literary trip.

See a full review in the US Review of Books

Managed Care, Joe Barrett, Black Rose Writing - Frank Johnson, a 33-year-old computer programmer, is in a stand-off with the manager of a nursing home, insisting on a refund of money he paid for a year-long residence for his grandfather who died before moving in. Because the manager refuses his demands, Frank moves into the facility himself with plans to stay the year or until he gets his money back. There he meets two misfit teenagers from a school/community program assigned to read to the residents—Elroy, a timid orphan who lives in a foster home with an elderly couple who really should be where Frank is, and then there's Sally, whose main goal in life is to end it. Frank takes a fancy to the two, gets them to check him out of the home for occasional outings, and the resulting shennanigans of the unlikely trio are hilarious, highly irreverent, and touching.

See a full review in the US Review of Books

The Falls of the Wyona, David Brendan Hopes, Red Hen Press - This is a sensitively crafted coming of age novel that explores the intersection of first love and adulthood, ominously juxtaposed against the violence and turbulence of World War II. Three adolescent friends, Arden, Vince, and the new student Glen, pine for each other in a time where they were pressured to conceal their newfound desires. The setting of the Appalachian mountain region provides an innocent, serene backdrop to the boys’ journey into adult hood. The exception is the insidious “Falls of Wyona”, which themselves, act as a character in the novel, mysteriously consuming at least one young life per year. The beautiful symbolism of the danger looming behind desire and these seemingly innocent years, are a prefect representation of the dangers of unrequited and socially unacceptable love.

The Tragedy of King Leere, Steven L. Peck, BCC Press - In this brilliant futuristic novel, set in Utah in 2086, a "king" must decide who shall inherit his climatologically devastated land where royalty and demons mix with bots, genetically engineered goats, and citizens with neural implants. Peppered with free verse and robot speech, combining science fiction and pure science, and drawing on Shakespeare, Tristam Shandy, "Star Wars," et al., this is a timely story executed with supreme skill, wit, and bravado. Sentence by sentence, this astonishing work never ceases to bewitch and amuse, even as it addresses the tragic subject of ecological collapse and human irresponsibility. On the level of both content and style, it demonstrates virtuosity and originality. An ambitious, inventive, and entertaining work.

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Historical Fiction

The Historical Fiction category contains historical fiction books.

Winner

I Was Hitler's Baker, Glenn Peterson, XlibrisUS - Albeit heartbreaking, the novel brings about the story of Hitler’s rise to power in a unique and fresh way, following the story of Josef Putkamer, a boyhood classmate of Adolf Hitler. Both the object of Hitler’s schoolyard terrorizing and an accomplice, Josef grows up to desire affirmation from the soon-appointed leader. He opens a bakery and watches as Hitler gains the affections of the Germain people with impassioned speeches and turns a nation against its perceived weaker members. Josef stands by and watches the suffering, striving to keep himself and his family safe rather than stand up for the oppressed. Soon, it is too late, and Josef realizes that fear has impacted many of the decisions he has made.

See a full review in the US Review of Books

First Runner-Up

Carrying Independence, Karen A. Chase, 224Pages - This is a book that brings to life the time in history that allows Americans to live in the land of the free. Post rider, Nathaniel Marten is given the overwhelming task of delivering the original Declaration of Independence document to the signers unable to attend the formal signing. Torn between loyalty to the land he loves and family ties, he takes on the job assigned to him personally by Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. His journey opens his eyes to the importance of freedom and the courage it takes to protect the right of everyman to be free.

Honorable Mentions

African Sorceress: A Warrior Forged, M. E. Skeel, XlibrisAU - Skillfully chronicled with historical timelines and geographical maps, this tale is based on the legend of a young West African girl warrior named Kisa who lived in the early days of the Atlantic Slave Trade 1620-1640. As a child, young Kisa is able to communicate with trees and trains with her grandmother to become a powerful medicine woman and obeah. Later she and her childhood friend and eventual partner Kojo train with Master Yasuki to become Samurai warriors. This first book in a series describes the beginning of the warriors' adventures in strange lands and how they learn to protect their small African village from the horrors of the early European slave trade. The young heroes' adventures against the evil Sefu mark the beginning of the legend of the Sorceress Kisa and the fight to protect her people from slavery.

See a full review in the US Review of Books

The Last Paradise, Michael Kasenow, iUniverse - Maxwell Hayes, a migrant worker of impeccable character and insight, comes to Galveston, Texas, at the beginning of the 1900s to find work. What he gets is far more than he anticipated. In the heart of rough, wild, and booming Galveston, Maxwell encounters ruthless corporate politics, an interested old flame who is married to his employer, an incorrigible sidekick with a penchant for getting into trouble, the kind-hearted but tough sisters of mercy who run the local orphanage, incest, romance, racial tensions between blacks and white, labor issues between the haves and have nots, and a storm that goes down in history as America's deadliest disaster.

See a full review in the US Review of Books

The Portrait, Maya Rushing Walker, Apollo Grannus - Elegantly written, the book is set in the Georgian Era in Great Britain. The author is true to that period in both fashion, architecture, and customs. The heroine, Lady Catherine Claverton, is a compelling character. Not only born a female, thus assuring the Earldom would revert to the Crown and end her father's line, she's also crippled in one leg. This garners only disgust and bitterness from her father the Earl who would like to shut her away from society. However, her deceased mother, Lady St. Clair, has a title and property in her own right. So, early on Lady Catherine chooses to go to Bath and live at Wansdyke, her mother's manor house, where she meets a cast of intriguing if not beguiling characters both friend and foe. While this novel deals with the status of women in Georgian times, it explores lies at its core—lies to protect oneself, lies to protect others, and lies designed to take advantage of others.

See a full review in the US Review of Books

The Voice of Melody, Kaylene Powell, Raymond Shop Press - The author skillfully weaves a history of the 1800’s whaling era into one family’s story of life, love, triumph, and loss, as told from the perspective of Captain Owen Chase’s wife, Peggy, and his firstborn, daughter Phebe. In spite of her father’s preference that she marry a local merchant or farmer who would stay close to home, Peggy falls in love with Owen, who sails on his next whaling adventure just three months after their wedding. Half a year later, with Owen still at sea and unaware of his wife’s pregnancy, Peggy gives birth to Phebe, the first of their three children. Girded with faith and hope, Peggy works hard to provide a sense of normalcy and security for her children, while Owen is at sea for months or years. Each time he leaves, and each time he returns, he is buoyed by a steadfast family at home.

Trial, Christopher M. Briggs, The Soap Box Press - A searing examination of the long-lasting effects of war, this deftly interweaves the stories of three characters connected not only by a sensational trial, but also by the physical and emotional damage they each carry. The facts of the book are compellingly drawn from the true story of a 1928 libel suit brought by Sir Arthur Currie, Canada’s field commander during World War I, against a newspaper over its claim that he recklessly ordered soldiers to their deaths. The author dramatically recounts the trial, while examining the repercussions of revisiting a traumatic past for Currie, a war-scarred lawyer, and a neglected wife.

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Mystery/Crime

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

Winner

The Sirens of Oak Creek, Robert Louis DeMayo, Wayward Publishing - This mysterious, magical tale provokes emotional insight into an ancient native American sacred site, Oak Creek Canyon within today's Arizona borders. The protagonists are female, while the antagonists are always male. The book spans 800 AD to the present, although the sacredness of the cave at the center of this book is intimated to predate even that date. Males see it as a place to gain riches and power, which typically lead to ruin and death. The only males to somewhat escape the omen are the Mayan ItZel who returns to Central America as a greater leader yet at a terrible cost and Bear Howard, a giant of a man who operates as a hunter and trapper. Meanwhile, the "sirens" of Oak Creek Canyon serve as guardians, warning the treasure-crazed men through words and channeling unnatural events (i.e. flood, storm, raven attack, spiritual chatterings, and laughter). Always, the treasure is returned by the guardians who transform into animal spirits.

First Runner-Up

Winds of Fear, Gledé Browne Kabongo, Brownstone Media - Well written, a tale of over-the-top evil and a mother's love, intuition, and resourcefulness. Yes, there is murder, kidnapping, and other crimes, but mostly this is about unspeakable evil. A professional mother works hard to get a PhD, but what if someone she doesn't even know and never met is obsessed with stealing her child for insane reasons? The stalker moves into her neighborhood, kills the nanny protecting her son, and then successfully become her replacement. With evil down the hall, things get worse and she abducts the child, taking him out of the country, not for ransom but to keep and raise herself? The police suspect nothing, which only leads to more trouble, hardship, and danger.

Honorable Mentions

High Kill, Diane Ryan, Steemhouse Publishing - Taylor Beckett travels to Southwest Virginia in search of a news story. Three dead bodies have been found stuffed in drums out in the middle of the Appalachian woods. When a fourth body is found that reveals a link to some past animal cruelty in the area, she returns, drawn in part by her own inner demons and an insatiable need for answers and justice. Two people in the community—the sheriff and a local boy who wants to be a veterinarian and found the first body—are willing to help her uncover the story at great personal cost. Everyone else is either too entrenched or too scared of what is known as the Mountain Mafia. Can Taylor uncover the truth, and face the truth about her own haunted past, before the killer strikes again?

Mr. Catherine, Stacey Margaret Jones, Creators Publishing - This is a character driven murder mystery centering around the disappearance of wife, Catherine, and the many battles her husband wages—both internal and external—to find her. A cheating wife, blackmailing hoodlums, and a strange, building relationship with her former lover make for a complex thriller. Yet in the narrator's tortured mind he wonders: Did she really end the affair? Were things normal again? What is normal if not what they had? Can he forgive her? Is she still alive? Is it right to blackmail her former lover? We suspect he's missing the point, but still we cheer him on. Intrigue mixed with raw human emotion, misplaced hope, and a modicum of naiveté that ends with only, perhaps, the possibility of a future.

Shamus Dust, Janet Roger, Troubador Publishing - The book reads like a snappy Raymond Chandler crime noir, with the backdrop of a dreary 1940s postwar London and a mysterious death to be solved. The author focuses the narrative on a detective navigating the gritty underworld to solve a murder, but things become increasingly complex and interconnected. The plot moves swiftly and with clear direction, and the author adeptly creates believable characters with memorable dialogue. The author is masterful at cultivating and elevating the mystery by using the setting as itself a place of shadow and intrigue; the reader feels the chill of a winter in London as the chill of murder and danger. The book gets my highest recommendation.

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Romance

The Romance category contains books within the romance genre.

Winner

Geraldina & the Compass Rose, Geraldine Brown Giomblanco, GBG Books - The magic of this spiritual, romantic memoir lies in the details. Roses, frogs, and Catholic mystical symbols abound, as the author details her journey to faith-fueled love. The reader feels deeply the struggles and pains of the author. Through each challenge, however, the author's faith remains strong. The reader finds themselves cheering along with the author as mystical experiences light her way to true love. No matter where you are on your spiritual journey, this romantic story can spark true curiosity into the divine nature of reality. As the author participates in a dialog with life itself, made evident through coincidences, messages, and symbols, the reader may find themselves changed, eyes open to the deep mystery swirling among all things.

See a full review in the US Review of Books

First Runner-Up

On a City Street, Pat Wahler, Evergreen Tree Press - The author has created a wonderful contemporary novel that explores the life of a veterinarian in a small town trying to save the vet clinic while being blindsided by the possibility of falling in love on two fronts. As the main character, Carolyn Becker, struggles to save the clinic, which has a mission to educate the town on spaying and neutering for animal population control, she encounters two intriguing but different men—one who is good for her and the other who presents a challenge. With a group of eccentric townspeople to help her on her way, Carolyn finds her life altered in unforeseen ways by a town and a professional mission that brings her and the reader fulfillment in the end.

Honorable Mentions

Bound in Flame, Katherine Kayne, Passionflower Press - In this novel set amid the Hawaiian islands, ancient magic mingles with murderous villains, a stable of spirited horses, and culture clashes galore. The suffragist protagonist, Letty, dreams of becoming a veterinary doctor. Howewver, this is in a time when a woman pursuing such a dream is unheard of. On top of that, Letty has discovered that she was born with a fiery magic that means she could harm the one she loves most. Literally, her kisses could kill. So how will she react to an electric friendship with an English gentleman farmer, already in pursuit of an heiress to heal his familial wounds? In the skilled hand of this novel's author, the reader is taken on a journey across islands, cultures, time, and tradition. Throughout all this fantastic romance's twists and turns, the reader is taken on an adventure she will not soon forget.

See a full review in the US Review of Books

If You Tame Me, Kathie Giorgio, Black Rose Writing - The book is a contemporary romance that explores the relationship between two characters in their 50’s, Audrey and Frank. As the two find their way to each other, with the help of their pets—her’s, an iguana, and his parakeets—they find that love can happen again. The author explores finding love in the post 2016 election world with characters who question and evaluate how men and women relate to each other, what it means to be a femenist, and how relationships can be forged from the most unlikely of personalities. What does it means to find love after you thought you were done looking?

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Sci-Fi/Fantasy

The Sci-Fi Fiction category contains science fiction books.

Winner

A Drop of Magic: The Magicsmith Book 1 , L.R. Braden, Bell Bridge Books - Magic, dragons, werewolves, and fae—they all exist in the post-war human world of Alex Blackwood. After the death of her friend and an attack by a rouge werewolf, Alex is faced with the knowledge that she is a "halfer" with magic powers of her own. Alex transitions, learning what her newly found powers can do as she tries to uncover the murderer of her friend and find a Fae artifact that could destroy the world. Alex is an artist, who is confronted with the possibillity that her success may be because her magic entices people to like her artwork, instead of innate talent. By the end of book one, the suspense for her next phase is set.

First Runner-Up

Winterset, Dennis Maulsby, NeoLeaf Press - A small town in Iowa is the new home of Father Donnahey, an Irish priest whose previous bailiwick was South America. He is expecting a quiet semi-retirement among the farms and cornfields. Little does he expect the depths that lie beneath the area’s placid exterior. The good Father who is reminiscent of Father Brown in the G.K. Chesterton stories is the unifying element here, and like that storied priest, he's always up for adventure. He discovers a sheriff with a disturbing alter ego and a psychiatrist with a unique French lineage. What makes the stories especially interesting is that they're drawn from the myths of many cultures: Native American, Indian, Chinese, and even Celtic. The author writes clear, expressive prose with the occasional fresh simile to add a touch of spice to the narrative.

Honorable Mentions

Killing Adam, Earik Beann, Profoundly One Publishing - In the not-so-distant future, man has discovered how to link the human brain to a computer network through the implantation of an Altered Reality Chip (ARC). Although the initial experiment is considered a success, an unintentional consequence is the formation of a new omniscient intelligence that calls itself Adam. As more and more people plug in, Adam grows stronger and compiles a society programmed to be dependent on technology. Years later, the majority of North American's have connected to the ARCnet, easily conforming to this new utopia while maintaining an "illusion of independence" through subtle manipulation of advertising, media, and direct connection to their minds. Jimmy Mahoney is not able to receive an ARC however, and individuals excluded from the new society programming are a threat to Adam. When sought out by another independent thinker, Jimmy becomes a target as they attempt to disconnect a humanity that cannot simply unplug.

Matilda Seer, M.D. Allen, Pixerati - On their sixteenth birthday, seven sixteen-year-old foster children are pulled into the Inner Realm, another dimension that co-exists with earth as mankind knows it. But the Inner Realm is not Earth. It’s a magical realm where the youth are to become part of the Chosen, a group who battles the black magic of the Inner Realm. New names, indicating the teens’ new powers are bestowed. Things go sideways when their teachers, the Watchers, are captured by the evil Lord Rafe. Still reeling from the loss of all that is familiar, the teens set out on a journey to find the only people they know in this magical world. They must cope with the dynamics of new friends, frenemies, jealousy, and fear—all the while sidestepping magical pitfalls as they learn how to control their new powers.

See a full review in the US Review of Books

Reality™ 2048, Derek Cressman, Poplar Leaf Press - Vera is a privileged member of the Globalia establishment, and her implanted Myndscreen chip provides instant access and direct neural feed—visual, aural, and sensual—to information, entertainment, and even virtual sex, but it also monitors users' behavior. The ubiquitous reality shows all feature "Big Mother," and a steady stream of "Chatterfeed" provides continuous updates and commentary on everything. Vera works at the Department of Information, where she sees her factual research distilled down to very short sound bites before reaching the public. She begins to question truth and reality, corporate and government intentions, and the public's ability to separate fact from propaganda and advertising. With the help of a writer named Chase, Vera begins to fight for her own emotional and intellectual freedom.

Willoughby's World of Wonder, Stephen Barnwell, Antarctica Arts - This book is like a Victorian version of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, but only for the real world, if you can call a world of fairies and other "mythical" creatures real. This is so well done that it is difficult to tell if the book is fiction written by a fan of fantasy or nonfiction penned by someone who has experience with creatures of myth and legend. Lavishly illustrated, well-indexe, and dotted with advertisements true to the period, it also could prove to be a useful resource for writers interested in otherworldly creatures.

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Short Story/Anthology

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

Winner

Not Dead Yet and Other Stories, Hadley Moore, Autumn House Press - The haunting and seamlessly crafted stories in this collection take the reader to dark places that shed new light on what it is to be human. Unforgettable characters range from ordinary people struggling with private pain to those considered mentally ill and on the brink of self-destruction or violence. The protagonists are thrust in situations for which our vocabulary has few terms: two boys cope blindly with their father's incarceration; a mother torments her five-year-old boy as she fulfills commands only she hears; an aging entomologist feebly resists the world’s entropy; and a man previously widowed by cancer faces his second wife’s terminal diagnosis. While each protagonist's lived reality is invisible to others, the common denominators are impulses to control their lives and to cross the gulf of difference to discover love.

First Runner-Up

Against Death, Elee Kraljii Gardiner (editor), Anvil Press - Each of the thirty-five stories involve the writer’s close approach to death—the writer’s own or that of a loved one—and in so doing, celebrates the life remaining. By the book’s publication, three of the writers had died. Yet, this volume springs with the life force! The final essay, by Lisa Neighbour, a cancer survivor, concludes: "Although the exact date of my death has been postponed, the certainty of it has been emphasized and illuminated.... it also contains the key to an unlimited source of renewal and inspiration—the school of possibility." Another writer, Sarah Lyn Eaton, a burn victim, writes of the joy in every moment after a harrowing and random fire nearly kills her. "There wasn’t something special about me that made it possible for me to overcome what other people couldn’t. I made a series of choices that each required a moment of bravery.... I am the most me I have ever been."

Honorable Mentions

Like Water and Other Stories, Olga Zilberbourg, WTAW Press - Zilberbourg’s lilting voice illuminates the quiet worlds of San Francisco and Russia. Her previous Russian language story collections have paved her route to lyrical English prose. The Leningra-born author brings an observant eye and openness to everyday life—no cynicism here. "The growth spurts came every few years and pushed our bodies exponentially upward and out" begins the story "Evasion." Some of the stories in the flash fiction range, but the collection retains a wholeness not common to works comprised entirely of flash fiction. There's a humility here which distinguishes this volume from many other collections published by American writers.

Our Prince of Scribes, Nicole Seitz & Jonathan Haupt (editors), University of Georgia Press - The circle around serious writers can be small, even elusive. Yet this collection of community and family to a warm human seeker, as well as a writer, exposes nurturance and friendships through the art as nonfiction storytelling. The passages are keenly vivid, insightful, and heartfelt as they reveal Pat Conroy's heart, mind, and intentions. The collection of vignettes, remembrances about Conroy, who set a standard of profound, at times dark, heavy sequences in the human tragedy remains buoyantly warm and uplifting. In sequences, the magic Conroy brought to his readers, his friends, his community is captured and given again to the outer circle looping within this inner circle. In effect, the magic of the day through his path in life springs from the pages.

The Patron Saint of Lost Girls, Maureen Aitken, Southeast Missouri State University Press - "Nothing good was a straight line. What was beautiful knew how to veer on a whim," according to Mary, the young protagonist in this memorable collection. In linked stories centered on relationships—of family, friendship, or romance—Mary creates art as she veers on the hazardous path to mature awareness. Beginning in the gritty setting of Detroit in decay during the 1970s and '80s, key stories focus on the bonds between Mary and her sister with sharp insight and irony as well as understated tenderness. The characters and setting are both vividly particular to their time and place and universal in their emotional depth.

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Business

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

Winner

Lessons from My Grandfather, Marc Charles Demetriou, Success House Publishing - Wisdom and experience passed down from one generation to the next can be a priceless gift. Demetriou shares invaluable mentoring tools he received from his grandfather, Charlie Pistis, a man who immigrated through Ellis Island from Greece during The Great Depression. Charlie overcame many hardships and lived a good life, and his advice inspired the author’s own success as a speaker and business person, lessons that can be transferred to many aspects of one’s life. Charlie’s advice involved maintaining a positive attitude, taking risks, and investing in relationships—all true markers of great success and a happy and fulfilled life.

First Runner-Up

The UnAmerican Dream, Carlos Hidalgo, Visum Publishing - Hidalgo brings to mind images of working hard and making sacrifices to achieve success. This is done in order to gain wealth, buy a home, and save for college and retirement. Attainment of these goals may come at the expense of one of our most important assets, our relationships. Based on personal experience, this author and entrepreneur takes us through a thought-provoking exploration of the price of chasing success at all costs. However, there are wasy where we can establish boundaries, find balance and fulfillment, and treasure our most important assets—our loved ones.

Honorable Mentions

Bedtime Stories for Managers, Henry Mintzberg, Berret-Koehler Publishers - There are countless books written about leadership and strategic planning. Many take the reader through a series of steps with the objective of becoming an effective manager. These handbooks can be lacking and dry in presentation. This is not the case in Mintzberg’s compilation of forty-two engaging short stories, which were selected from the author’s 101 blogs. These light-hearted and witty stories are intended to be read at the end of the day and provide helpful insight on an array of management topics where the reader emerges with a fresh new set of actionable ideas.

Feedback (and Other Dirty Words), M.Tamra Chandler with Laura Dowling Grealish, Berret-Koehler Publishers - There are many misconceptions regarding feedback. It is often viewed as something negative and unwanted both on the part of the giver and the receiver. In this book, we are shown a way to see feedback through a different lens, one that can be a powerful tool used to achieve trust, connection, and growth. Through regular feedback, we can build stronger organizations with invested employees. We learn through the authors' vast experiences that when we do a reset on out-of-date processes and begin to relate to each other openly, honestly, and frequently, we become better managers and employees.

The Brainwashing of The American Investor, Steven R. Selengut, LitFire Publishing - History has shown that placing blind faith in Wall Street’s investment recommendations is not in the best interest of the individual investor. In his book, author and financial services veteran, Steven R. Selengut, teaches us how to be informed and cut through Wall Street’s complex sales and marketing rhetoric and develop an individual financial plan that is both balanced and logical. In this useful handbook we see how to take control of our portfolios and learn conservative strategies for investing in the stock market, as well as income generation, enabling us to make informed decisions and achieve our personal goals.

The Gift of Struggle, Bobby Herrera, Bard Press - Experiencing adversity is a part of life. What is important is how we choose to view these experiences and grow from them. In his book, Bobby Herrera, CEO of Populus Group, candidly shares his own life’s struggles, both socially and financially. He teaches us that struggles are gifts that can help us grow and change our lives for the better. They are what define us as individuals and leaders. It is hard work to reflect upon and potentially share our own individual stories of struggle. However, in doing so, we become stronger, and then inspire and build trust with those around us.

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Culture

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

Winner

When a Toy Dog Became a Wolf and the Moon Broke Curfew, Hendrika de Vries, She Writes Press - Born in Amsterdam near the beginning of World War II, the author chronicles growing up in that uncertain time. At age four, she starts to understand the impact of the Nazi occupation, watching as Jews are rounded up and sent away. Then her father, a soldier, is sent to a German prisoner-of-war camp, and she and her mother are left to fend for themselves. They join the thousands of families helping to hide Jewish children, adding an older "sister" to their household, risking arrest and execution, while facing extreme food shortages. The end of the war finally comes, but not the end of difficulties, as the author's father returns, a baby is born, and the family is swept up in the post-war wave of emigration, seeking a safer and more promising future.

See a full review in the US Review of Books

First Runner-Up

Untold Stories, Unheard Voices, Jan Whitt, Mercer University Press - This book examines Truman Capote’s methods and motivations in the research and writing of In Cold Blood. The author posits that Capote—not a trained journalist—blurred the line between fiction and nonfiction in his retelling of the 1959 murders of a family in small-town Kansas. As she builds this argument, the author touches on other books, articles, and films that fall into the same category, including the film adaptation of In Cold Blood. Interwoven with this exploration of literary journalism are the author’s musings on the nature of evil, the human inclination to tell stories, the role of allegory in journalism, and the lengths to which a writer may go to “get the story.”

Honorable Mentions

A Grip of Time, Lauren Kessler, Indiana University Press - Redemption, a common goal among those wishing to right wrongs they have done. Though the question suggests an answer, does everyone deserve the right to seek such atonement? The author lays open the hearts of those ostracized by a society who deems them unworthy of anything other than solitary confinement. An award-winning author gives inmates their voice within the barred walls of Oregon’s prison by assigning prompts that force them to dig deeper within themselves to find their own truth. This in effect forces the question: What is justice? The author has completed countless hours of research, on and off the field, to determine whether rehabilitation is possible even for our country's most convicted felons.The author not only challenges society’s prejudice, but also her own, without judgement and with compassion.

Along the Migrant Trail, Michael Hyatt, Frontera Nueva Books - This photo essay, some in black and white and others in color, depicts the Arizona Migrant Trail in 2003 and its hardships, long before the 2016 election. Some pictures include The Our Lady of Guadalupe shrine, various migrant movements, essential supplies being delivered, migrant camps, items left behind, migrant death and assistance, samaritan volunteers, child separation, demonstrations, and other memorials. Hyatt's photos realistically portray the mostly South American and Mexican people crossing the U.S. border in order to seek labor opportunities.

Tales from an Uncertain World, L.S. Gardiner, University of Iowa Press - Throughout history, humans have found themselves enduring catastrophic events, but it seems that no two catastrophic events, just like no two humans, are alike. The Roman intellectual, Pliny, apparently paged through a book while lava rained down from Vesuvius. In Cape Cod, citizens moved a historic lighthouse before the ground beneath it gave way. Off the coast of the Caribbean island of Bonaire, fishermen battle the invasive lionfish with spears. During the torrential storms that swept through Colorado in 2013, the author recalls doing her laundry, but now that climate change is believed by some to be an existential threat to civilization, Gardiner wonders whether a new paradigm must be laid out: to convince everyone that the time to act is now and that just doing your laundry may not be enough, while beaches erode, species die out, and cities flood from rising seas.

To Live on Lafayette Square: Society & Politics in the President's Neighborhood, William Seale, The White House Historical Association - An inside look at the United State's highest profile neighborhood just across from the White House, this book is packed with a deep insight of historic American friendships, including romances and scandals outside of the public eye, all while unfolding the near demise of Lafayette Square in the 1960s. This author reveals the victorious fight of President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy to keep the once vibrant homes from demolition and then ultimately preserving this living history on Lafayette Square. Aided by detailed maps, photos, and anecdotes of the high profile, this book offers an intriguing look into the most influential neighborhoods in America.

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Health

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

Winner

Big Brother in the Exam Room, Twila Brase, Beaver's Pond Press - Ever wonder why the average doctor spends 31% of an office visit looking at a screen, only 9% looking at you... or how private and secure your medical records are? This book answers these questions, and readers will find the answers more than a little disturbing. The author presents a compelling argument that the electronic health record (EHR) has done more damage to America’s health care system than anything else in a generation. Consider the privacy question. Although federal laws purport to insure privacy, the EHR, allows access for profit-generating activities such as business planning, premium rating, and auditing. It is impossible to read this exposé without feeling shock, anger, and a degree of grief over what has happened to medical care in America.

First Runner-Up

Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew, Ellen Notbohm, Future Horizons - "Who speaks for the child?" Notbohm asks and pointedly shows us that children on the Autism Spectrum have dreams of their own that they may not be able to communicate. Autism is only part of the child and not the whole child. The book helps the reader realize that there has been a huge shift in perception regarding Autism. How we look at these children can have a great impact on their outcomes in dealing with the world and being accepted into the mainstream. This book gives us a fresh look into the minds and behaviors of autism spectrum children that can both break your heart and enlighten you.

Honorable Mentions

Misdiagnosed!, Dr. Ira E. Williams, Tate Publishing - When a company is failing, its organizational structure needs to be overhauled. The author makes a parallel that talks about the state of healthcare in the United States and how it cannot be fixed using a new economic structure. In other words, it’s not about money. The entire system needs repair and change, review and revision for outdated techniques, patient safety, and proper authority, accountability and responsibility. The need for investigating patient care involves greater medical peer review and state medical examining boards. The author suggests that new policies need to be created by a conglomerate of government offices, public foundations, and private organizations to arrange and develop clinically relevant standards of quality and performance that will improve American health care overall.

Your Body's Environmental Chemical Burden, Cindy Klement, MS, CNS, MCHES, Mindstir Media - The genesis for this fascinating book began with the author’s question: What chemical burden do I carry? Having been an organic eater for decades and a user of the safest household products, it came as a shock to learn she was in the 80th percentile for benzene and styrene, the 95th percentile for a PCB, and also had detectable levels of many other unnatural, often dangerous, compounds. This book breaks down the sources of our chemical contaminants—gases, pesticides, plastics, sanitizers, and others—and outlines strategies for avoiding or neutralizing them. There is an extensive index, a useful glossary, and an appendix for accessing helpful web sites to learn more.

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Home

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

Winner

Creating the Sweet World of White House Desserts, Roland Mesnier with Mark Ramsdell, The White House Historical Association - When the maître d’ said, “Pick up!”, the author had to “rock and roll.” And he did, from 1979 to 2006, as the White House’s Executive Pastry Chef under five presidents. Like many great artists, the author envisioned his creations, after studying the guests’ nationalities and interests. But rather than use cookie-cutter tools, he fashioned his own, from wood, metal, silicone, and pâte sucrée to create chocolate Big Bens, Bengal tigers, Viking boats, and other edible masterpieces. With no access to today’s sugar-working tools, he engineered tubes and gadgets to shape and blow melted sugar into ribbons, baskets, peacocks, giraffes, swans, orchids, and more. His appetite to please and perfect was boundless. For the first time, the author shares recipes, techniques, private dramas, and personality tidbits. Passion, ingenuity, chemistry, and engineering, combined with mouth-watering photos of food and famous people, create a cookbook/memoir that rises above the rest.

First Runner-Up

Braided, Beth Ricannati, MD, She Writes Press - Ricanati, is a wife, mother of three, and a physician with an exhausting schedule. Like many women, she was trying to do all and be all when she came to the realization that things must change. At her friend’s suggestion, she began to bake bread—challah—and that became her weekly ritual and her savior. The pages in this book take us on a beautiful journey of how one woman handled her busy world with the meditative and sacred act of baking bread. She includes many tips on how to bake challahs. We feel the warmth of the hot kitchen, the delicious scent of the fresh bread, and wishes to taste the rich and spongy results right out of the over.

Honorable Mentions

#LookUp, Judy Stoffel, Wise Ink Creative Publishing - ???.

Marfa Garden, Fissell, Hughes, Martinez, Saxon, Trinity University Press - ???.

The Chile Line, Liddie Martinez, Pajarito Press - In New Mexico, the chile is a subject close to the heart—a topic that stirs emotion and, of course, perks the taste buds. From home cooked treasures passed down from generation-to-generation to timeless recipes that originated over 400 years ago in Spain, the author approaches this solemn topic with the tenacity of an academic and delivers it in such a way that even the cautious beginner can find success. With a variety of delicious recipes and a dash of history, the hungry and curious reader is sure to leave full, both of inspiration and knowledge of New Mexico’s prized cuisine and culture.

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Memoir

The Memoir category captures specific personal experience.

Winner

Finding the News, Peter Copeland, LSU Press - Copeland details his journey from Chicago city-desk reporter to international journalist. Part coming-of-age tale, part mentoring guide, he tells his story in vivid, spare prose. We feel the tension of a military unit poised to drive Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. We experience the fear of civilians huddled together in a hotel basement, shuddering at the muffled thunder of an overhead Patriot missile launch. During his career, he broke impactful stories about the role of women warriors and border issues with Mexico, where he met his dancer wife. Throughout, the author reaffirms the bedrock values of journalism—speed, accuracy, and fairness. He offers a glimpse of the profession before random cell phone clips could set the news agenda and before the blurring of the line between opinion and news. The book hearkens when reporters took seriously their role in earning public trust.

First Runner-Up

Mating in Captivity, Helen Zuman, She Writes Press - Essential reading for anyone curious about what goes on inside a cult, commune, or utopian community, this book is an important, well-written, and riveting account of why a well-educated young woman searching for love, intimacy, and self-discovery ended up in a mind-controlling cult, albeit unwittingly. She tells her story of being at the Zendik Farm in North Carolina, established by Wulf Zendik in 1969 and ruled by him until his death in 1999, just before the author’s arrival. Participants were brainwashed by manipulative, brutal leaders into believing that the outside world is a "Deathculture." Zuman writes with raw honesty about her and her compatriots' sexual experiences and the resulting feelings of fear and shame.

Honorable Mentions

Beyond the Third Door, Maria Hekinger, BookBaby - Based on Hekinger's experiences, she includes the conjured thoughts and feelings of both her birth mother and her adoptive mother, in a memoir designed to understand them both, if not her own past. With thanks to the Greek Church for their meticulous record keeping, the author plots the course of her own history. With agony during a difficult period within Greece, her birth mother gave up her up for adoption. As the author attempts to find her birthplace and any possible remaining family, beautiful moments happen that will stir the soul.

Every Grain of Sand, David P. Wichman with Heather Ebert, W. Brand Publishing - Wichman dives into a very deep and raw place, providing great insight into a culture unknown by many outside the LBGQ+ community, all the while revealing its triumphs and struggles, especially in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Escaping childhood trauma, this is a tale of soaring through life without a net until the inevitable crash arrives, and it does, threatening life imprisonment. Now an author, speaker, sexual healer, and clearly an adventurer, Wichman appears to be flying again through life, but this time with more respect for his own wellbeing.

Missing, Kenneth D. Evans, Starhaven Publishing - This book is a beautiful, moving, memorial biography of the author's father. Stories not often told and recorded of the horrendous struggles soldiers encountered during World War II are chronicled in this book. The story is related in a folksy, down-home manner which makes it an enjoyable read. The reader becomes embroiled in the actual combats, although vicariously, as little known events of the Battle of the Bulge and others like it are divulged. History buffs would also thoroughly enjoy these personal memories of World War II.

The Life You Can Save, Peter Singer, The Life You Can Save - Singer has written more than 20 books, all dealing with ethics. In this expanded edition, he straightforwardly lays out ways that we all can help reduce world poverty. He believes all of us can contribute a small portion of our incomes to responsible charities, even it it's only 1%. Rather than making us feel guilty, the narrative makes us aware of the poverty around the globe. Consider our obligation to those trapped in extreme poverty and decide to share a portion of our earnings with worthwhile charities, which he has investigated and listed on his website. As evidence, he cites university studies, real situations, and literature.

The Red Ribbon, Nancy Freund Bills, She Writes Press - This is a powerful, heart-wrenching account of a tragedy that occurred on the coast of southeast Maine in 1994. When a freak thunderstorm struck, the author’s husband was killed and her son was critically injured. Bills struggles to deal with this in her deeply personal story of loss. The story is heartbreaking, yet delivered cinematically. At its core, it's a story of survival, filled with insight and loveand, inspiring anyone dealing with personal loss and bereavement.

Waking in Havana: A Memoir of AIDS and Healing in Cuba, Elena Schwolsky, She Writes Press - It's the life story of a strong-willed woman with an infectious enthusiasm, who embraces the hippie culture and the Cuban revolution, and then evolves into a compassionate nurse on the frontline of the AIDS epidemic. Selflessly attending to the suffering of HIV infected patients at work, abroad, and at home, our heroine finds herself immersed in this "different kind of jail, different kind of life sentence..." Written in a warm and eloquent style, this is a timely memoir of human interactions during periods of social upheaval and mortal threat from a viral epidemic, as well as a story of lifelong friendships, despite a deadly disease and the division persisting between countries at odds with their philosophies of life.

See a full review in the US Review of Books

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Reference

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

Winner

Literary Geography: An Encyclopedia of Real and Imagined Settings, Lynn M. Houston (editor), Greenwood - As a discipline develops specialized concepts, classifications, terms, and methods, it creates a technical vocabulary, which may be assembled into words, lists, or encyclopedias. In geography, early dictionaries consisted mainly of terms from related fields, particularly from the physical sciences. However, the author takes a unique turn when delving into the subject of literary geography—those places and settings both real and imagined. From Slaughterhouse-Five to Macbeth and from the Lord of the Flies to Gulliver’s Travels, the author expertly delivers nuggets of wisdom in a manner that might prove fruitful and valuable to both the layperson and to the academic alike.

See a full review in the US Review of Books

First Runner-Up

Restoring the Promise, Richard K. Vedder, Independent institute - Vedder states that higher education in America is big business, and real costs are skyrocketing for decreases in quality that is increasingly making a college education economically unfeasible and indefensible. Poor student preparation, government regulation, questionable employment outcomes, and the burgeoning emphasis on sports—all contribute to the current crisis of crippling student ddebt. His solution involves the three I's of Information, Incentives, and Innovation. However, this depends on the stakeholders' and shareholders' willingness to change, and that may not be possible if these participants are unwilling to adopt his rational over the for-profit business model. Vedder's analysis is comprehensible and persuasive.

Honorable Mentions

Common Dragonflies and Damselflies of the Pacific Coast, James S. Walker, Cave Art Press - Dragonflies and Damselflies are not only beautiful, but have beautiful names such as River Jewelring, Autumn Meadowlark, and Blue-eyed Darner. The three-hundred-million year-old insects, that are harmless to humans despite their needle-shaped bodies and eerie ability to "reawaken" when exposed to warmth, have their own geographic domains and their own seasons. Vivid Dancers, for example, are found in America’s western states and Canada’s southwest provinces and has a flight season from January to through October, peaking in July. Color photos and maps, as well as a biology lesson accompany Walker's slim field guide of these West Coat habitats, makes identification of these folklore-ish flyers as easy as bird watching.

From Lectern to Laboratory, W. Nikola-Lisa, Gyroscope Books - The author charts the monumental change in 19th Century American university curricula from classical Liberal Arts to STEM-centered education through an account of the life of Edward Pickering. Why him? The son of a prominent Boston family, Pickering was "heir to neither riches nor poverty." A lackluster student until he was electrified by science, Pickering took advantage of every opportunity that came his way, eventually becoming the fourth Director of the Harvard Observatory, and exemplifying the can-do-through-technology attitude that fueled America’s capacity for invention and innovation. Using a hybrid-genre merging biography and history, Nikola-Lisa explains how and why our modern age has made STEM the jewel in the educational crown, spawning college that specialize in the sciences from coast to coast.

How to Draw the Presidents, John Hutton, The White House Historical Association - For people who want to become acquainted with America’s Presidents in an unconventional way, drawing them lets adults and children learn to recognize even our less well-known leaders. On the left-hand side of the book’s pages are cartoonish, but respectful pictures suitable for coloring. On the right-hand side are simple directions and diagrams of how to draw all the Presidents' faces and optional body drawings. For those who may never have heard the likes of Millard Fillmore, James Polk and Franklin Pierce, this book is a fun, innovative introduction to our nation's leaders from George Washington to Donald Trump.

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Self-Help

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

Winner

Your Lion Inside: Discover the Power Within & Live Your Fullest Life, Kimberly Faith, Advantage Media Group - Written for women, this book explores some of the common thinking that the author believes is holding women back. Chapters are devoted to specific examples of women who dealt with the need to meet every demand, for perfection, and not feeling qualified. The author cites examples of women who required approval to move forward or were okay sinking into the background. The author highlights how each thought pattern placed the women in the “Red Zone” and how changes in thinking moved them to a “Green Zone” where they could flourish. The author shows that small actions over time make a significant impact on a woman’s level of confidence. Charts, bullet points, examples from the author’s life, and reflection questions enhance the author’s points. It is a well-written and thought-provoking book.

First Runner-Up

Memories in Dragonflies: Simple Lessons for Mindful Dying, Lannette Cornell Bloom, She Writes Press - Just as a dragonfly moves with purpose and direction, darting from one level to another and from one second to the next, the author gently leads the reader back and forth between precious memories of the past to the treasured and fleeting moments of the present. Bloom elicits an ever-deepening and more mindful understanding and acceptance of the inevitable—the beautifully complex ending to the journey that is life. There are no lectures or how-to's in this book, only gentle encouragement to "never forget the absolute beauty of slowing down to the rate of a dying soul." The right perspective, in any situation in life, can turn that situation into a thing of beauty, regardless of the pain that may be brushed into the background. Honorable Mentions

Apples for the Mind: Creating Emotional Balance, Peak Performance & Lifelong Wellbeing, Tom Nehmy, PhD, Formidable Press - Nehmy offers up an abundance of crucial psychological skills needed to fulfill potential, avoid procrastination, close the door on depression and anxiety once and for all, and enjoy optimal mental health. By way of an organized approach to a wide array of common issues, including practical tips and pages dedicated to the reader’s own brainstorming about personal fault lines, the auhtor generously acknowledges and attempts to care for the needs of his diverse audience. Skillfully devised and executed, this book should be required reading for anyone seeking emotional balance and well-being.

Raising a Child with Dyslexia: What Every Parent Needs to Know , Don M. Winn, Cardboard Box Adventures Publishing - This is a wonderful modern "one step at a time" resource for anyone with a child who struggles with dyslexia. Beginning with how to identify and evaluate key issues and effects related to dyslexia, it then moves through learning styles, behavioral symptoms, raising good readers, interventions, developing self-esteem, parental perspective, advocating, and everything in between. Winn reveals cutting-edge strategies and research to help every parent and child work together and become the best they can be. Throughout, the author's personal experience serves as a constant encouragement.

The Big Book of Chakras and Chakras Healing: How to Unlock Your Seven Energy Centers for Healing, Happiness, and Transformation, Susan Shumsky, Weiser - Shumsky’s book is an impressive distillation of Kundalini’s spiritual journey into our body’s energy centers—or chakras. Shumsky tours this complex system, as well as the visualizations, practices, and breath work designed to help heal and maintain the health of our body's energy fields. Executed in an approachable and organized manner, this is an invaluable guide for anyone seeking to better understand the ancient practice of chakras, as well as those who already understand the power of Chakral energy but wishing to better integrate that knowledge into their everyday lives.

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Spiritual

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

Winner

Solus Jesus: A Theology of Resistance, Emily Swan & Ken Wilson, Read the Spirit Books - This book continues Phyllis Tickle’s conversation about the shortcomings of Martin Luther’s sola Scriptura. Specifically, limiting our faith to a strict reading of the Bible devalues the role of experience and consequently limits the opportunity to follow the Holy Spirit’s lead on the matter of inclusion. While mainline Christian denominations try to contextualize the Bible to bring about a more inclusive interpretation of Christianity, the authors take a different approach and draws on works of liberation theology. Scripture is on the side of those who suffer. Scripture is on the side of those without power. Ultimately, the authors provide a compelling argument for churches to embrace the LGTBQI community.

First Runner-Up

Love Wins: Unveiling Heart and Mind, H. Palmer, AuthorHouseUK - Palmer recounts the trials and tribulations of being a single parent of a child eventually diagnosed with autism in the disorder’s early days of discovery. Through extremely trying times that initially included emotional and physical abuse, the author never falters to continually seeking answers and treatments for her son when little was known about autism. She increasingly relied on her spirituality and faith. Palmer places her child’s needs above her own, dedicating her life to learning more about and educating others on autism. Her story of resilience, faith, and hope provides readers a window into how spirituality can bring support for life’s challenging and joyous moments, while building and fostering community and offering strength when most needed.

See a full review in the US Review of Books

Honorable Mentions

Mary Magdalene, Shaman: Healing Through Transplant Surgery, Sara Taft, LitFire Publishing - This book provides interdimensional details regarding a spiritual transformation the author experienced during her journey before, during, and after a liver transplant. Particulars regarding an exploration of spirituality before the diagnosis underlay physical details associated with the removal of the old liver from the body and the arterial attachment of the new liver. Persons who interact with the author, including the nurse who, after the surgery, wheels her from the ICU to her new room, are perceived as prophets, harbingers of the future. Even character names are given significance. For example, the nurse Omar, whose name means flourishing and thriving, delivers news to the author about her having received a good liver. The author refers to herself as a shaman. She came to know the interrelated significance of everything humans encounter, from stones, to animals, humans, and spiritual beings.

See a full review in the US Review of Books

Sage Sapien: From Karma to Dharma, Johnson Chong, Köehler Books - In this hypnotizing memoir, the author recounts how his identity and portrayal of self did not align with his inner mentality. As he takes the reader on his tumultuous rejection of social and cultural paradigms that were learned through societal pressures and his Asian-American identity, he teaches readers to not "live in the bounds," but instead cultivate a spirit of self-awareness, self-discovery, and continuous self-transformation. The subtitle "From Karma to Dharma" illustrates that the self defined by society and our actions do not ultimately determine our universal truth and self-actualization. The layers of one's existence are compounded as we learn that we are more than what our conscious may allude to. Chong provides tangible approaches to guide our own quest for authenticity.

The Little Love That Could: Stories of Tenacious Love, Underdogs, and Ragamuffins, Pamela Capone, Aha! Press - Just as a tiny spark can cause a huge explosion, a little love can cause a ripple effect that impacts far beyond its locus. Inspired by the Little Engine That Could, the author penned over sixty uplifting stories of ordinary people exemplifying an extraordinary love that changed others, impacting them and creating ripples for generations to come. Reading this book is like sitting down to talk with the author over coffee or tea, with several laugh-out-loud moments and many poignant reminders of how "all things work for the good" of those who love deeply, unconditionally. Readers can absorb the stories in short, savory bursts, as each is only two to three pages, or gorge themselves one after another to quench the dry, cracked parts of their souls.

True Stories of a Psychic Empath Medium, Triza Schultz, Trafford - We cannot die; we just change in form. Our living energy is eternal. The author opens her personal life journal with this premise, filled with real life visions of the spiritual world, as proof of eternal life. The author begins with an attempt to deny her spiritual powers, a process of self-deception based upon fear for the alluring yet scary world of spirits and angels. Eventually, the author is forced to acknowledge and accept her divine powers when unplanned visions of spirits and past lives appear in spite of her denials. In the conclusion of her journal, the author leaves the reader with a fundamental question: Why do we deny the divine spirit within each of us and not accept the angels and spiritual guides in our lives, guaranteeing we are never alone?

See a full review in the US Review of Books

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E-Book Fiction

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

Winner

East of Lincoln, Harlin Hailey, Amazon - On the outskirts of Los Angeles, three white male Boomers struggle to find their place in a world that has used them up and tossed them aside. The Artist, Jimmy, seems to have the best chance of them all, but keeps falling prey to low self-esteem and the harebrained schemes of his neighbor, Bales. Though our narrator, Jimmy’s childhood friend Richard, does his best to keep the group positive and out of Bales’s increasingly violent plots, tragedy looms over their endeavors. Despite it all, there may yet be a silver lining.

First Runner-Up

Fall Out, Susan Spieth, Amazon - With a strong narrative voice, compelling characters, and a window into a formerly very private world—that of the female cadet at West Point in the early 1980s—Spieth delivers a gripping new installment in the Gray Girl series. Although the narrator never questions the hierarchy, she does prove the power of those early women in terms of tenacity and fortitude. The story sounds like autobiography, and while the author is indeed a graduate of West Point in those years, the events are of her imagination, proving the verisimilitude of the fascinating, internecine narrative.

Honorable Mentions

Different, Datta Groover, Deep Pacific Press - The book follows a struggling family, a mother and father with a strained marriage, and a child with autism who does not speak. Throughout, the problems the family faces are familiar but heart-wrenching. All members of the family experience growth, sometimes at a cost. The problems many modern families face make this story positively magnetic, with realstic characters that evoke compassion and emotion. It's a journey well worth your time.

The 8th Emotion, Joshua Spiller, Splendour - Although Karthalia intrigues the reader of fantasy, much more lies beneath the surface of this fantasy world. In this post-apocalyptic utopia, the ills of our current reality lurk menacingly: the escape value of virtual and alternate realities; hallucinogenic drugs replacing video games as alternate universes; scientists vilified, discredited, and killed for true research; the increased role of A.I. in the guise of the novel’s interactive, wise “statue;” relationships torn by ambition and greed; a language evolved by plants and a scientist who understands the environmental impact; confusion over evolution versus the true spirit of humankind; the role of human emotion in the wake of totalitarian takeover; and ultimately the hope in the power of a few non-conformists. All of this launched in a world of deep characterization and tremendous world-building.

The Green Solider, J. Edward Gore, Amazon - An epistolary novel beginning on January 12, 1862, during the Civil War. The novel begins with Great-Grandfather writing and sending letters to his Great-Grandson Lindwood about his dead brother who fought in the Civil War. The Confederate soldier, John Gore, gives a history of the Civil War and the social atmosphere at the time using his daily experiences, some mundane and some horrific, such as a black man being beaten and hung. Eventually, Gore’s brother fights for the North, a reaction to Southern soldiers invading his home. Gore falls in love with a young woman he meets traveling with his troop. But his life does not reach fruition, as he is captured and dies a prisoner. The story is based on the author's family.

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E-Book Nonfiction

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

Winner

Six Healing Questions, Madonna Treadway, MCM Publishing - Treadway divides her text into six distinct chapters, each reflecting questions she poses toward dealing with childhood loss of a parent. She exceeds in her task, providing her reader with the tools to establish communities of their own in order not to face grief alone. The author offers sage advice and consolation in a healing and reassuring tone, evoking trust and reassurance that solace will come, but only over time. She provides her readers with the practical tool of the “Upward Spiral of Grief” to assuage and mitigate grief without dismissing or diminishing it. She validates anguish and gently provides room for the suffering to overcome pain, but only on their terms. This is a thoughtful, generous, and practical approach to a delicate and heart-breaking topic.

First Runner-Up

Digital Humanities and New Ways of Teaching, Anna Wing-bo Tso (editor), Springer - Digital humanities is very much a new discipline of its own, and this book, the first volume in a series, address the role of digital culture through the lenses of teaching and multi-disciplinary humanities. In addition, it contains a focus on cultural heritage preservation and research via digital means. The essays concentrate on Asia, notably Hong Kong, but also broadens its scope to the German-speaking world and Canada. The twelve essays in this anthology are written by scholars and experts, who present their well-researched studies in an informative and coherent way. The work concludes with three timely articles that address the future directions in digital humanities—for instance, the ever-expanding presence of social media in digital life and literacy—which by extension can be of relevance to other regional or disciplinary foci.

Honorable Mentions

100 Years of Deception, Alan R. Adaschik, Stratton Press - This is a conspiracy theorist book, as it boasts in the introduction. Some won't agree that the United States ended in 1914, beginning with institution of the little understood and much-draped in secrecy and mayhem Federal Reserve Act, but the author knows how to hook the audience. While the evidence presented is disputable, it's akin to reading Behold a Pale Horse by William Cooper. Has the world been duped by undue influence and propaganda? It's great, fun nonfiction book, perhaps taken with a grain of salt.

See a full review in the US Review of Books

General in Command, Michael M. Van Ness, Koehler - This is a work of biography that sets out to honor the military achievements and life of Major General John B. Anderson. Beyond that, the author, who is Anderson's grandson, portrays the general through stories and first-hand findings of a father, gentleman, son, and man who, however, struggled with his own emotional sufferings and personal battles against alcoholism. Throughout the book, the narrative voice is clear and straightforward, and his is language never convulated. While the work does not go far beyond setting out the facts, background, and social contexts of Major General Anderson’s life, in particular his wartime experiences, the author gives depth to his writing by including generous portions of Anderson’s correspondence, photographs, and other secondary materials that help one gain more immediate insights into Anderson’s times and social climate.

See a full review in the US Review of Books

His Name was Brownie, Judi M. Roller - Roller, provides a funny and whimsical view of human encounter, whether it be canine, feline, or the wild flora and fauna of Hawaii. This is an insightful view of human interaction, personalities, and their unexpected meshes that go beyond the stories at hand. The introductory chapter details the author’s dog, Brownie, lovingly, and touchingly, opening the door for the pathos and emotion to follow. A collection of vignettes and profiles of broad, wide-open landscapes populated with people, their animals, and the stories that fill them. This is more than the tale of a dog and its owner, but one of life lived and fulfilled.

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Legacy Fiction

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

Winner

A Stone for Bread, Miriam Herin, Livingston Press - Two men from diverse backgrounds, but both brilliant in their own way, are thrown together by circumstances and World War II. Henry, the son of a poor sharecropper from the US, has clawed his way up from poverty to an education and the reputation of an exceptional poet. Rene, on the other hand, came from a middle class family in France and is often plagued by bouts of depression. A chance meeting builds trust between the two. After a time, Rene entrusts Henry with a book of poems written by an unknown prisoner of the concentration camps, describing the atrocities of life there. When Henry publishes the poems, he is ridiculed as not being truthful about their origins. As years go by, he goes into seclusion, tired of the scandal and questions. The complete story comes out when a television producer is persuaded to make a documentary of Henry, the poems, and the ensuing scandal.

See a full review in the US Review of Books

First Runner-Up

What Survives, Phyllis M Skoy, IP Books - An intriguing tale of a Turkish woman’s experiences at the turn of the 21st century, this novel catches the attention in subtle and delightful ways. What is offered is a glimpse of the customs, everyday life, and traditions of the people of Turkey through the eyes of the young, resigned Adalet. Opening with her practical banishment to a small community far from all that's familiar to her, Adalet slowly gains confidence as she establishes new relationships. With one opportunity, suddenly her world is set right again, and she starts to see the potential in moving back to her former home. Just as Adalet seems to finally recover all she has lost, she faces perhaps her largest obstacle yet. Parallel to Adalet's growth is the maturing of Turkey as a country yielding to modern influence while still holding to dear and precious practices of old. The beauty shown is that, though the customs be strange, life is not so different no matter the country.

See a full review in the US Review of Books

Honorable Mentions

All of Me Wants All of You, J.Z. Howard, All4U - Not even Christians have fairytale romances, just ask Dean Nelson. While he deeply loves his wife, Kate, their sex life is nonexistent, and it's off-limits for discussion. He finds himself tempted by the beautiful Larissa, his wife''s fitness instructor. He calls off his emotional affair before things get physical and confesses to his wife and pastor, Trevor Harrington. Kate confronts Larissa, ironically strengthening their friendship. As they partner for a project at Kate's church, Larissa meets Trevor and begins to fall for him despite her agnosticism. Kate and Dean both seek spiritual counseling and discover that they are far from alone in this situation. Various trials and family conflicts continue to test both relationships, but their faith and devotion to one another help them discover true love and fulfilling intimacy.

See a full review in the US Review of Books

Bethlehem's Brothers, Ronald Hera, AuthorHouse - When two of the family members are brutally killed before their eyes, the two remaining brothers and mother travel to different places to live. Enoch helps his uncle, Lamech, with fishing and starts to study scriptures to learn of the Messiah. Simeon finds himself in a potter's home and contacts leprosy. Simeon begins seeking the Messiah for healing, and the family's life is turned upside down. Based on the events surrounding the life of Jesus, the story is told from the point of view of those around him. Howard truly makes this story come alive. This is the first in a trilogy about the brothers.

See a full review in the US Review of Books

Inventing Madness, J.G. Schwartz, Schwartz-Publishing - Schwartz imagines the life of the great American inventor Thomas Alva Edison, offering an alternative and more nefarious explanation for Edison’s success. Charting a line of madness, cruelty, and retribution passed down from Edison’s mother to the inventor himself, this novel shows the ruthlessness and competitiveness involved in becoming a great inventor and achieving fame as such. Doing away with the image of the benevolent inventor, creating items for the betterment of humanity and the usefulness of society, the re-imagining depicts the dog-eat-dog world of science, invention, and technology, while showing us a side of Thomas Edison we would never have thought to see.

Until the Iris Bloom, Tina Olton, iUniverse - Tidy Bourbon is 92 years old and determined to live out the remainder of her days in independence, despite having cognitive, physical, and financial challenges. This proves to be more difficult than she anticipated, as her tenant—who often takes on the role of her caretaker—is arrested. A social worker learns of Tidy's situation and tries to convince Tidy to move into a care facility. Unsuccessful in that venture, she convinces a young accountant to help out with Tidy's finances, and they strike up an unusual friendship. Tidy ultimately achieves her goal of living out her last days with the dignity denied to many other elders due to the best intentions of others.

See a full review in the US Review of Books

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Legacy Nonfiction

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

Winner

Sirocco, Danielle A. Dahl, Coffeetown Press - This autobiography is a window into life in Algeria during the 1930s, illuminating one girl’s experience of the Algerian War. It is an enlightening story of a young family attempting to keep hold of the life they know and love, amid unspeakable atrocities and loss. Danielle is forging her way into adolescence, with familiar experiences of first love, caring for her family, and doing her best to please her father. She cannot, however, remain unscathed by the tragedies and cruelty encountered. As the world shapes Danielle, she molds her sense of self while attempting to grasp surroundsings no longer recognizable. Her father’s temper and volatility echoing the greater violence and injustice occurring between France and the National Liberation Front. As political events reach a fever pitch, the family must decide if they can remain or if they must flee.

See a full review in the US Review of Books

First Runner-Up

Stolen Hours, John Howard Prin, Syren Book Company - A narrative of secrets, shame, and addiction chronicles the author's life from a sad adolescence to a disastrous stint in Hollywood working in the film industry, before finally returning home to Minneapolis. It is intended as a self-help book, describing the author's struggles with addictions of various kinds and his life-long journey to recovery and health—physically, emotionally, and spiritually. His acceptance of God into his life plays a large roll in the last portion of the book. The narrative is engaging, and the ends of the chapters include a page or two of questions and commentary intended to encourage reflection and to emphasize points for the reader’s own journey to recovery.

Honorable Mentions

Cape Horn, Réanne Hemingway-Douglas, Cave Art Press - The book opens with the definition of Pitchpole: "The upending of a boat in gigantic seas where the stern passes over its bow and the vessel is dropped upside down." This is the sea’s most violent act against a boat, and we are hooked. When the author’s husband sets out to sail around the tip of South America, she must serve as first-mate, galley slave, wife, partner, co-captain, and often savior on perilous seas. The chronicle is an extraordinary look inside the power-struggle of two people working to preserve their intimate relationship in the most challenging experiences imaginable. The author’s brutal honesty is a refreshing change in the 21st Century climate of social media images of relationships that often pass for the truth. The startling photos and stories of people and cultures below the equator, as well as words from the captain himself, round out a truly inspiring read.

Haunted by History: Separating The Facts and Legends of Eight Historic Hotels, Vol. 1, Craig Owens, Sad Hill - This author balances the serious with the playful as he surveys paranormal activity in eight historic hotels and inns in Southern California. The author first allows the reader to get to know each hotel, remarking on the hotel's beginning, famous people who stayed there, people who died there, and ghost legends connected to the hotel. He juxtaposes these historical facts with playful, yet dramatic black and white photographs of models in period costumes posing in locations thought to be the most haunted. He and his crew employ a watchful eye and an EVP machine, a machine thought to pick up spirit voices, to see if perhaps these period shoots provoke paranormal activity. Mixed in with these photographs, the author provides a balanced, believable report of paranormal activity, if any, he and his crew uncovered during these sessions. This is both an informative yet entertaining read.

The Repatriate: Love, Basketbakk, and the KGB, Tom Mooradian, More Radiant Publishing - The book covers a thirteen year span of the author living in the Soviet Union from 1947-1960. It explores the societal differences between America and the Soviet Union, interwoven in a gripping first-person narrative. Some of the differences are quite humorous, like the author discovering it is not appropriate to pat another basketball player on the bum. Some are life threatening, such as it is acceptable and encouraged to flirt with Russian women, but deadly to flirt with Armenian women. As the author grows and finds his place in Soviet Russia, he experiences love, interrogations, hunger, and homesickness, resulting in a deadly attempt to reach home. This captivating tale covers life behind the Iron Curtain, from a personal point of view.

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