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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.

 

2021 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.

Sing Like Never Before A Creative Look at Vocal Technique & Pedagogy for Singers & Voice Teachers, Justin Stoney, Mark Pate (Illustrator), Mission Point Press - A must-have for any singer or singing teacher's library, this book is a wonderful tool and technical reference for teaching vocal pedagogy for voice teachers and students, vocal coaches, and professional singers who desire detailed information on the anatomy and mechanics of the complex, and sometimes mysterious, bodily system of the voice. Throughout the text, the author breaks down these complex topics with great clarity, detail, and amusing sidebars that help make the science of the voice accessible with practical and effective ways of exploring and applying it. With beautifully illustrated images throughout, the author guides the reader through the vocal landscape of breathing, larynx, throat, face, and jaw without neglecting the emotional, psychological, and spiritual elements of the uniquely human artform. A wonderfully informed, responsible, and integrated approach to all aspects of the art of singing, this book serves as an appropriate example of what a reference guide should look like.

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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.)

Not Even Past, Cody Marrs, Johns Hopkins University Press - Are the times a'changing? Marra examines the enduring narratives of the American Civil War, made manifest in the cultural products throughout the decades. The author identifies several primary narratives, including those that romanticize Lincoln as a father of a family in conflict, promote secession as the primary motivator of the South, and tell the myth of the immediate emancipation of enslaved persons after the war. He presents excerpts from fiction, film, poems, and diaries, as well as drawings and daguerreotypes from the 1860s to the present time. In doing so he reveals an undercurrent threading through the civil rights era and, more recently movements. The reader is left with a sense of an America still divided, and, in the words of W.E.B. Du Bois, the Civil War as "...a social revolution... never allowed to complete itself."

Smoke but No Fire, Jessica S. Henry, University of California Press - Some 2,500 people wrongly convicted of crimes are exonerated each year, but an even more troubling statistic finds that nearly a third of those individuals are convicted in cases in which no crimes actually occurred. Among the cases cited by the Henry, a former defense attorney, are accidental fires wrongly investigated as arsons, suicides misinterpreted as homicides, and various other offenses in which witnesses lie, police and prosecutors abuse their authorities, public defenders are either incompetent or too busy, and judges who are too aloof to notice the evidence doesn’t stack up. We have a system designed to exonerate the guilty rather than convict the innocent, but this startling expose of the criminal justice system uncovers a culture so broken and dysfunctional that innocent people are often forced to spend years in prison futilely trying to prove that not only are they innocent but that a fair and objective analysis of the facts would reveal that no crime actually occurred.

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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.)

After the Body, Cleopatra Mathis, Sarabande Books (cover design by Alban Fischer)

And So Was Was Made & Also Honey, Amy Beeder, Tupelo Press (cover design by Kenji Liu)

See additional award coverage in the Poetry Category.

Beyond Repair, Sebastian Matthews, Red Hen Press (cover design by Joanna Velez; photographs by Sebastian Matthews)

Gimpy, John Wilde, Bluewater Publications (cover art by Terri Dilley)

Midwest Gothic, Laura Donnelly, Ashland Poetry Press (cover art by Debora Greger)

The Art of Wisdom, Tammy Lea Fabian, Time in the Desert (cover design by Tammy Lea Fabian)

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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.)

Ava, Janet Perroni, iUniverse (See award coverage in the Romance category.)

Believe, Julie Mathison, Starr Creek Press (See award coverage in the Middle Reader category.)

Fractal Shores, Diane Louie, University of Georgia Press (See award coverage in the Poetry category.)

Merged, Jim and Stephanie Kroepfl, Month9Books (See award coverage in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy category.)

Scavenger Hunt, Dani Lamia, Level 4 Press (See award coverage in the Commercial Fiction category.)

Sing Like Never Before, Justin Stoney, Mission Point Press (See award coverage in Grand Prize.)

Smoke but No Fire, Jessica S. Henry, University of California Press (See award coverage under the Montaigne Medal winners.)

The Reckoning, Book One, Jeffrey Pierce, Jai Mitchell (illustrator), Black Rose Writing (See award coverage in the E-Book Fiction category.)

Tigers Love Bubble Baths & Obsession Perfume, Mary K. Savarese, Köehler Books (See award coverage in best Small Press.)

Time to Fly!, Valerie Wiebe, Your Nickel's Worth Publishing (See award coverage in the Children's category.)

Unfettered Journey, Gary F. Bengier, Chiliagon Press (See award coverage in the Spiritual Fiction category.)

Words Whispered in Water, Sandy Rosenthal, Mango Media (See award coverage in the E-Book Nonfiction category.)

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Medal Provocateur

The Medal Provocateur is given to to the best on the frontier of poetry—the experimental, the innovative, the daring and stunning, the impromptu in technique and voice.. (The Eric Hoffer Award provides no specific commentary about Medal Provocateur finalists, but they are listed on their official website.)

Inheritance, Taylor Johnson, Alice James Books - Taylor fuses the intimately, deeply personal with the covertly universal. In surgical examinations of the self, the body, and place possession and ownership, boldly postmodern yet clandestinely metaphysical, poems like "Nocturne" declare "What was rampant in me was not wisteria" and establish the inseparable identity humankind has with nature: "I laid down among the tall grass / and came up a specter. I came up everywhere." Brazenly and courageously, "The Black Proletarianization of the Bourgeois From Isn’t Kanye West's Gospel Samples” tackles the mainstream and the celebrity’s narrowness and disassociation with the masses, addressing both with a defiant "O, Death": "O, Death. Your singular eye. My mother speaks the King’s English. Makes quiche. Makes clove / pomanders in winter. Pawned her flute. Cleaned my elementary school classroom." In this collection, lines break and shift, bodies and spirits shape, reshape and question, and "Everyday is an invitation into intimacy, I decide, leaving my house."

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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.

Grief's Country, Gail Griffin, Wayne State University Press - In this stunning account of one woman's emotional journey, we are allowed the rare experience of becoming a hidden interloper witnessing the expanse of fresh grief in another. Inundated with beautiful and devastating language the memoir is a seeming paradox: thoroughly enjoyable read about the worst time in another's life. Griffin's mastery of the written word, both prose and poetry, brings the reader so intimately along that it is easy to imagine her circumstance, her pain, her experience as a whole. Although grief could be described as an unknowable or unexplainable phenomena, this author gives such an honest, descriptive account of her own loss the reader would be challenged to not forever link grief with this author's words.

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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.

Tigers Love Bubble Baths & Obsession Perfume (who knew!), Mary K. Savarese, Köehlerbooks - Angie Pantera, a 48-year-old wife and mother gets a surprise on her 25th wedding anniversary that changes her life forever. In exasperation, she decides to flee to a random destination on a map. When a tiny white feather appears out of nowhere and lands on Birdsong, Maine, she takes it as a sign of divine intervention. Packing up her fragile automobile, she begins the trek. Upon arriving at Birdsong, her car breaks down in front of an old Catholic church and that’s when the mystery, surprises, and supernatural encounters begin. Angie and all those she meets including laity, clergy, and nursing home residents are never the same again in this delightful rollicking spiritual whodunnit.

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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.

Amnesia, Hal Y. Zhang, Newfound – This captures the essence of the modern chapbook, which is in effect a revival of the original form. For centuries, they made the written word accessible to the public—Paine’s Common Sense being the bestseller of all time—but more commonly, they were concentrated thoughts in an even tighter space. Within Zhang’s Amnesia, a conflict between tradition and reality emerges. The conflict is often West merging with East, and by the middle of this beautiful chapbook, kanji characters melt into Latin script—tradition into present culture, familial expectation into present desire, the crafted self into the actual self. While the palette is five thousand years of ancient history, the landscape is the internal rectification of one woman.

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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.

Behind the Lines: WWI's little-known story of German occupation, Belgian resistance, and the band of Yanks who helped save millions from starvation, Jeffrey B. Miller , Milbrown Press - This fantastic book focuses on a terrible time in human history. It tells the story of a group of people who worked tirelessly to save millions from starvation. Although some of the stories of brutality are hard to read, it shows the great suffering that happened at the hands of the Germans during WWII. While there are many stories of brutality, there are just as many stories of the heroic effort to protect the food and supplies. The Commission for Relief in Belgium (CRB) started and managed the largest food and relief drive in the history of the world. Amid war, humanity emerged.

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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

Jacob Lawrence Lines of Influence, SCAD Museum of Art, Scheidegger & Spiess – Jacob Lawrence unique style and contemporary compositions influences artists even today. His angular portraits and spectacular color palette rejoice in the African American experience—stories of pain and pride, of default and triumph, of revolt and revolution. This spectacular coffee table book is more than a retrospective. While including works of artists influenced by and homage to Lawrence.

First Runner-Up

Homespun Mercies, DJ Hill, Light of the Moon – A particular joy runs through Hill’s collection, accentuated by bright and rich collages, and therefore it transcends a simple poetry collection. It’s the mélange of a symphony highlighted by the singular violin of love.

Honorable Mentions

Master, Pupil, Follower, Robert Randolf Coleman, Nelda Damiano, Benedetta Spadaccini, Georgia Museum of Art, Univ. of GA – Italian works on paper, while hardly unknown, typically take a backseat to the more famous paintings. However, the drawings are not just studies for larger works, but run the gamut of line sketches to completed works that stand on their own. This collection is as much as primer as it is a retrospective of 16th to 18th Century masters.

The Art of Symeon Shimin, Tonia Shimin, Mercury Press International – The incomparable emotion of Shimin’s drawings and paintings are on full display in this beautiful collection. Humanity is the subject, presented in humble iconic imagery and complex gestures alive with every turn of the page.

The Magical Universe of the Ancients, Julie Whitesel Weston, Big Wood Books – The American West lives in a constant state of decay and preservation. Petroglyphs dance across stone as if painted yesterday, and ancient places of worship rise from the desert floor as if closed only temporarily—all while the relentless wind or the random stone cleft come crashing down upon them. In words and photos, this art book captures the magic.

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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

A San Joaquin Almanac, Don Thompson, Main Street Rag – Too many poets today believe they are modern journalists, while the modern journalists fashion themselves as preachers. In this collection, toss all that out. Season by season, month by month, Thompson plods through the San Joaquin landscape, pausing to watch and listen. The structure is engaging, while the prose is salient and insightful. The emotions captured here are reflected off the native expanse, and thankfully he doesn’t lecture us, but lets the reality posit its own conclusion.

First Runner-Up

We Are All Things, Elliott Colla and Ganzeer, Radix Media – A prose piece rounds out the honorees, although it embraces the chapbook form more deeply by weaving the words through thematic artwork. It teases at the question: If you were to exit the planet at this moment, what would the objects left behind say about how you lived? Stylized artwork marries with the thought-provoking prose.

Honorable Mentions

Corner Shrine, Chloe Martinez, Backbone Press – Lord Chesterdon said that the whole point of travel is to return home and view it anew. Martinez develops those new eyes in a series of travel poems across South Asia. While major and minor landmarks are viewed, the collection excels in private moments of reflection.

Smaller Songs, Anna Lena Phillips Bell, St. Brigid Press – The chapbook is in essence a contrived thing, and Bell heartily demonstrates this concept in her coy collection of short poems assembled from the transcribed footnotes of English and Scottish Ballads. Presented as “songs” in the their own right, they engage, entertain, and inspire meditations.

Things from the Creek Bed We Could Have Been, Claire Oleson, Newfound – The line between poetry and prose can be blurred. Traditional rhyming verse can march forward like the scenes in a novel, while lyrical prose can navigate the associated illuminations of poetry. It’s the latter mode that Oleson presents her wonderful collection of shorts that salvage memories and refashions them into prayers.

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Children's

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

Winner

Time to Fly!, Valerie Wiebe, Your Nickel's Worth Publishing - This artist does a fantastic job of entwining her paintings with incidences and people in her life to form a sort of cataclysmic adventure into adulthood, which find expressions that exhibit the emotions surrounding the inherent phenomenon of Earthly existence and growth. A child will take great joy in these discoveries, spawning questions not usually heard. The artwork is phenomenal in and of itself but coupled with inspiration and wise insights, then finally settling on the familiarity of home and love.

First Runner-Up

Babies Bond, Phoebe Fox, Jim Fox (illustrator), Mamafox Books - In a series of haikus, this book introduces a wide variety of animal mothers and their young. From kangaroos to sloths, each haiku is accompanied by a soft watercolor illustration of their nurturing habits. The poems and images place a special emphasis on the value of mothers nursing their offspring and the special bonds between mothers and babies. The softness of the watercolor images echo the delicate nature of this relationship. The book closes with detailed and well-researched descriptions of each animal, providing a valuable educational opportunity.

Honorable Mentions

A Wild Day at the Zoo, Little Polyglot Adventures, Vol II, Victor D.O. Santos, Linguacious - Volume two of the Little Polyglot Adventures series takes Dylan, his little sister Isabella, Mom, Dad, and their chicken, Kiki, to the zoo for an unusual event. All guests are invited to bring their own pets for the day. While the family tours the grounds and visits the animal enclosures, Kiki gets herself in a bit of trouble with a curious giraffe. This skillfully illustrated story includes phrases in Portuguese, Ukrainian, Spanish, and Turkish revealing the beauty of diverse languages and cultures.

Coral Gardens, Patricia Gleichauf, Karen Staszko (illustrator),Page Publishing - Gleichauf visits the coral gardens of the sea. The colorful, vivid, and very detailed illustrations bring the ocean habitat of coral reefs to life with the use of watercolor. Through carefully chosen and easy flowing rhyme, the author touches on many types of living creatures and bacteria in this habitat and explains how they all have a job to do in order to maintain a delicate balance. The author also discusses some of the different types of coral and their requirements to flourish in their environment, as well as the geography of coral gardens and where they are located in the world.

Idia of the Benin Kingdom, Ekiuwa Aire, Our Ancestories - This beautifully illustrated book follows the story of Idia, a young girl of the Benin kingdom, as she attempts to achieve all the things she dreams of. Eventually Idia becomes the kingdom's first Iyoba or Queen Mother. As our protagonist explores and learns about her culture, the story educates the reader on the culture of this community. The book shows youngsters to trust their parents, to never stop learning, and to follow their dreams. The book features information on the Benin kingdom, as well as a map of the region. This is an empowering story for all young girls, showing what they can accomplish if they put their minds to it.

Mia and Nattie, Marlene M. Bell, Grace Sandford (illustrator), Ewephoric Publishing - When a lamb is born prematurely on Grandma’s farm, there is scant hope it will survive. But Mia, who is smaller than the average little girl, begs Grandma to let her nurse the baby with bottle feeding and warm blankets. Mia names the little lamb Nattie, and under Mia’s care the lamb thrives. Lamb and girl bond until Grandma’s laundry room is too much of a mess. Nattie has to move outside, and Grandma is ready to sell her to the neighboring farm. Desperate to keep her friend, Mia finds a job for Nattie when another lamb is struggling to survive. Nattie turns out to be a healing companion for sick sheep. Grandma, amazed at Nattie’s effect, allows Mia to keep the little sheep with its misshapen horn and crooked mouth. Mia and Nattie, though small, have big hearts and a joyful friendship.

My Favorite Letter, Susan Gilpin, KDP - This is an excellent book for reading aloud to small pre-readers. It is also great for avid readers. The photos and illustrations are vibrant and eye-catching. Each letter page provides space for a child to write his/her favorite word corresponding with the letter. This unique approach to writing an alphabet book is refreshing and a lovely change. This book can be read in stages as the child studies a letter or as a whole. It is a great read for any young scholar.

Who's Jerry?, T.M. Jackson, Darwin Marfil (illustrator), Scrubs Like Us for Us - This story addresses mental illness from a child’s point of view, beginning with the child coming home from school and excited to share some news with her mother who is behaving rather strangely. Not just children, but also how families are impacted in these situations, but when there is support, a good outcome can still be had. The story is well-written, educational, and very child friendly. The colorful, eye-catching illustrations help bring this story to life. A list of support resources are included at the end for further research.

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Middle Reader

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

Winner

Believe, Julie Mathison, Starr Creek Press - Eleven-year-old Melanie’s mom has been missing for a year. Life with out her leaves Melanie feeling as if she’s breathing with only one lung. On top of that, she has to deal with the mean girls at school. When Melanie meets the quirky and creative Sabrina, she begins to see possibilities for a happier life. Next thing she knows, she’s landed a role in the school play, Peter Pan. Then Sabrina convinces Melanie to begin Operation Find Mom. Using her powerful imagination, her gift for reading people, and her new friend’s confidence, Melanie sets out to find the truth about her Mom. Her journey brings mystery and heartache. This is a tender story of grief and the power of the human spirit. Ages 9-12.

First Runner-Up

Eagle vs Bear: Adventures of a Child Cub, Emile Millar, Blayne Fox (illustrator), EvB Media - A gripping page turner, this action-packed adventure pits two cubs and a wise older bear against an army of antagonistic eagles who unfairly dominate their forest and make all bears do their bidding. Through stunning illustrations and dynamic writing that is easily accessible, the authors effectively blend elements of adventure and mythology into a compelling lesson about conquering one’s fears, as in their fight for freedom the young bears must face the eagles’ mighty power. Download information is provided for songs that accompany each chapter, thereby helping to create a cinematic feel to the story and illustrations.

Honorable Mentions

Crushing the Red Flowers, Jennifer Voigt Kaplan, Ig Publishing - In the summer of 1938, Emil Rosen, a German-Jewish boy tries to look away from the rising anti-semitism that threatens his family. Emil’s neighbor, Friedrich Weber, a compulsory member of a Nazi youth group, is tortured by the horror he has only just begun to grasp. The two boys’ separate lives intertwine then later collide on the night of Kristallnacht (the state sponsored pogrom against the local Jewish residents) when Friedrich risks his live to save Emil and his family. This is powerful historical novel that considers hard questions about confronting evil. The characters are strong representations of both the German Jewish culture and the pro-Hitler movement in the 1930s. Issues of identity, emigration, German patriotism and morality are explored through a gripping story of bravery and survival for grades 6-12.

Light is Color!, Nicole Kurtz & Kevin Kurtz - This charming book provides a highly engaging, easily accessible approach for readers of any age to understanding what could otherwise be challenging scientific concepts: what is light, how do we have it, and how does it work? The authors expertly present a science-based but easily understandable lesson through a comic book style that invites readers in to color its pages and engage in interactive activities. Complex concepts are therefore explained both visually and through simple text in a fun and participatory way that teaches while it entertains. The book’s quirkily delightful illustrations and good-natured text make it an attention-holding read from start to finish.

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Poetry

The Poetry category contains poetry or highly stylized prose.

Winner

Fractal Shores, Diane Louie, University of Georgia Press - A stunning example of prose poetry, whose craft and poise one rarely sees exemplified. The author does an incredible job of capturing a unique voice, balancing autobiography with unmooring commentary, while inviting us into a liminal space between witnessing and wonder. The book itself is aesthetically gripping, the texture of the cover complimented by the layout of the pages within. This is a wonderful gathering of poems, contained in a picturesque binding. A joy to read and reflect on, the words are only outmatched by the physical book itself, perhaps a flaw. The author should be proud of her creation.

First Runner-Up

An Incomplete List of Names, Michael Torres, Beacon Press - The power of this collection has to do with the poet’s voice and the keen ability to craft original images. Its straightforwardness is steady like a horse’s canter. Language ignites the imagination, and propels us to read on, stanza by stanza, line to line. Many poems arise out of observations and everyday moments as a Minnesotan, as well as from childhood memories as a Mexican-American growing up in California. Reading this poetry collection is a reminder that any thought and/or life experience can be a poem-in-the-making. "I am never completely alone, especially when / on a run and grasshoppers snap into a sky resembling / the broken clothespins of childhood summers" says the poet. This suggests the writer connects with surroundings, and in this sense, he forms relationships between himself and the world through which he walks.

Honorable Mentions

Alice in Ruby Slippers, Carol Lynn Stevenson Grellas, Kelsay Books - Grellas has brought a collection of, mostly, formal verse, sonnets of various forms predominately, that are well-wrought, personal but not maudlin, celebrating family, life, and death. The poems avoid the pitfalls that afflict a great deal of modern formal poetry, making strong use of metaphor and assonance and finding the rhyme in its proper place without the need to torture lines into awkward shapes to get the end rhyme to fit. Many of the poem deal with loss but through all, hope and beauty shines through. Perhaps the overarching theme of this book of poems is contained in the final couplet of a piece, "Farewell to Fear": "If earth is only this, I must amend. Love is all that matters in the end.".

And So Was Was Made & Also Honey, Amy Beeder, Tupelo Press - Beeder’s words are sensual, velvet-tongued beauties in our hands. Like a wizard, she brings us to "our pantry of secret diminutives" and makes us enter "crepuscule sulks... a rib cage too meager to scaffold the temple." She forces us to inhabit our own bodies and the body of the world. She plunders "his body – so busy with rigor," "chapped hands on the full utter’s verge" and "a red stamp on their mouths," her word-work on the body at once Elizabethan and futuristic. The poet becomes historian, beekeeper, science teacher, traveling gypsy, and provocateur. As in her poem, "In Central Asia Nomadic Horseman" where a horse enters its owner's dream to tell him, "Now master make of me a two stringed violin—" so too, Beeder seems to sacrifice her blood to give us this lush harvest of images.

Cracked Piano, Margo Taft Stever, CavanKerry Press - Stever uses poetry to imagine the experiences of her own great-grandfather who was incarcerated in an insane asylum in the late 19th century and to juxtapose those experiences with the absurdity of all human life. It’s a clearly ambitious book, and it’s perhaps one of the most beautifully printed books of the year. The poems range from narrative epistles describing day-to-day life in a madhouse in "Plank Walk" to dreamlike visions of bodily dissociation in "I have been my arm, Missing Link, Hand." The result is one of those rare poetry books that is actually a page-turner, that compels a reader forward with ever-more inventive images and sounds.

Ghost Dogs, Dion O'Reilly, Terrapin Books - If Emily Dickinson read this book, she might say her body was so cold no fire could warm her. O'Reilly's poetry takes the top of your head off, just as Dickinson said poetry should. The language is often spare but compelling, raw and breathtaking. The landscapes of physical geography and the human heart are vivid and powerful. Abuse that could easily be called torture is detailed in a way that does not beg for sympathy or understanding. The organic and crude, the brokenness and resilience come together in poetic brilliance.

Now in Color, Jacqueline Balderrama, Perugia Press - The poet excels at crafting a controlled, graceful narrative in this collection. Each section is introduced by a Spanish word presented with a dictionary definition. These definitions are micropoems in English that provide the reader with a key for where the door will lead to next. Despite the author's deceptively gentle style, these poems pack soft punches as they explore Mexican culture, the risk to life immigrating across the border can pose, the Mexican migratory experience, poverty, and erasure. Further punctuated by heart-wrenching anecdotes of family history, Mexican history, and art, these poems weave stories within stories of visibility and invisibility, assimilation, and loss.

Simple Absence, Nancy Fitz-Hugh Meneely, Antrim House Books - These are intensely resonant and important poems. The sound is gorgeous, with liquid language that is never overdone. The soaring music of her work is stunning. Every word seems self-invented. Descriptions are precise, crisp, and specific. Love of poetic form is apparent and skillfully done. Every poem is like a whetstone, honing the reader. She's not afraid to start a poem with a brutal, unadorned truth and does not shrink from the absolute worst moments of being a human, then transforms them into something vital and useful. She can take a small, interior moment and build it into a masterpiece. This is a poet who is paying the most attention.

The Full Moon Herald, Phyllis Klein, Grayson Books - This deeply nourishing collection by a poet, who is definitely not hiding, shares memories of the world with sometimes unbearable intimacy. The work here reminds one of places been to (or longing to see), the new/old history that haunts from far away, and people who grace everyday lives. Behind the word images is a tangled emotional yearning to be understood for whom the author is or wishes to become. This complication gives readers a gift of honesty, familiarity, and wholesome genius. These are radiant poems. Now happy, then righteously angry, mournful, adoring, the author shares experiences through a fine ear and sharp eye allowing all to view this world that surrounds, encourages, and, at times, seems to defeat mortals. It’s a wake up call to the fullness of amazing life, and the opportunity to enjoy the discovery.

The Rented Altar, Lauren Berry, C&R Press - Over sections titled "Engagement," "Honeymoon," "Labor," and "Splinter," the narratively linked poems shows the trajectory of a marriage. In the eponymous poem, there’s symbolic undertones of coming conflict when "the backyard garden gate / where [she] promised to die / before [she’d] leave [her] husband / ensnares in kudzu vines." Later in "Honeymoon Island," the speaker "grew restless in [a] brick house" with her husband and his son. As "they dozed," she educated herself about "honeymoon history" where women were oppressed. In the speaker’s reality, history is repeating itself. In "Family Portrait With My Stepson’s Heel Against My Stomach," the now-pregnant speaker invites her husband’s son from his first marriage to "Build / a teepee, come inside . . . so we can hide." In the fourth section, the speaker’s marriage has unraveled, exemplified with "Contemplating An Affair." In the last poem, the speaker presents hope with "We Gave Ourselves The Summer To Find The Spark."

The Snow's Wife, Frannie Lindsay, CavanKerry Press - Part elegy to her late husband, part intimate diary in verse, and part heartfelt prayer for the future, in poems like, "Prayer for my Rapist," Lindsay lays her heart bare in this profound meditiation on loss, loneliness, and hope for redemption for everyone she encounters. An astute observer of the human condition, she is unflinching of her delivery as if she is writing outside of herself. Without sentiment, yet burgeoning with love, relationships, both real and imagined, and both evocative and meaningful. As intimate and intense as this collection is, the artistry and power with which Lindsay writes makes it impossible to look away from this masterwork.

The Things I Didn't Know to Wish For, Linda Hillringhouse, NYQ Books - With a beautifully crafted collection of poems, Hillringhouse turns details of ordinary daily lives into something of a wonder, haunting but satisfying experienFrom start to finish, a consistent voice reveals the flawed realities that surround us, but we discover the beauty within, no matter how painful the process. This book serves as a guidebook for how to survive and understand in an unusual but skillful way that only a master like the poet unveils.

Typescenes, Rodney A. Brown, Unlikely Books - Because Brown's poems are linked in a very specific way, because the subject matter as well as the approach is so provocative, indeed unsettling at times, the reader would do well to study the ten pages of preface, which the publisher and author felt necessary to prepare and enlighten anyone undertaking these twenty five compelling and arresting poems of travailing through life in a black body, in a queer body, in a woman’s body, in a prisoner’s body, and ultimately in a dying body. This book is radical and courageous in its perspective with an eye toward a brave new world of language possibility.

Vortex Street, Page Hill Starzinger, Barrow Street Books - This is a brilliant study in balance—stylistically and thematically. Each page of this collection feels both stripped and abundant, bare and lush, desolate and humming. Starzinger keeps the audience at just the right distance, that place of beauty where what is specific registers universally. The speaker’s universe becomes ours, lives in us the way it lives on the page—with space, precision and vulnerability. The reader is caressed, page after page, by poems etched with risk and calm. Not a single cosmic pothole here.

See a full review in the US Review of Books

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Young Adult

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

Winner

Camper Girl, Glenn Erick Miller, Fitzroy Books - A wonderful coming of age story that should be included in every school library, Miller has us laughing and crying along with the main character, Shannon as she comes to terms with the death of her beloved Aunt Rebecca. She follows the clues left to her in her aunt’s will, all while traveling in her aunt’s last gift, an old Toyota Dolphin camper. While there are a few other characters, the story focuses on Shannon’s journey of self-discovery and budding self-confidence. From traveling alone to having to come to grips with loss, the story reminds young adults that they can take the road less traveled. They should not try to fit into the mold, but to instead break it and find their own path.

First Runner-Up

The Identity Thief: Book One in the God Machine Series, Alex Bryant, K&M Books - With his debut novel, Alex Bryant hits the ground running, immediately weaving an exciting and thrilling story in this nonstop, fun read. Set in modern London, one not entirely familiar, the story delves into a world of magic and sorcery. The elusive sorcerer known as Cuttlefish has remained dormant for ten years, but has resurfaced and is now attacking random Londoners. Meanwhile, 12-year-old Cassandra "Cass" Drake tries to navigate her school year without incident or social ruin, wondering if Cuttlefish’s re-emergence has any connection with a strange new family in her neighborhood. With cutting suspense, one wonders who is or isn't who they say they are, and who is friend or foe.

Honorable Mentions

Dear Jane, Marina DelVecchio, Black Rose Writing - The author of this book uses a unique format to tell the story of a young, adopted, greek girl who must overcome her past and make sense of her new future. The main character, Kit Kat, deals with life in America and her new mother by writing to the fictional Jane Eyre. It connects the young reader to a classic book that they might not otherwise encounter. Kit Kat expresses the pain of abandonment from not only her birth parents, but also the emotional abandonment of her new mother in America. Sd, lonely, she only wants to be loved, as she tryies hard to be the daughter that her adoptive mother had wanted. Her friendship with Jane Eyre gives her the strength to overcome it all.

Malcolm and Me, A Novel, Robin Farmer, SparkPress - Thirteen-year-old Roberta challenges the nun who asks the class why slave-owning Thomas Jefferson signed the Declaration of Independence. "Hypocrisy," says Roberta, who is punished for her outburst. From there, the book takes us into Roberta’s loving but troubled family during the 1970’s, with the Watergate trial on TV and The Autobiography of Malcom X in Roberta’s pocket. Why are her parents fighting? Will Roberta win the essay competition? It's the perspective of a young, smart Black girl, as her family falls apart and her world opens up. The writing feels fresh, timely, necessary.

Treasure of the Blue Whale, Steven Mayfield, Regal House Publishing - Set in depression-era Tesoro, California, this story reveals the heart of its small town community when there is promise of treasure and a potential windfall for its residents. With each chapter, a new character of the town is introduced, yey developed so well that by the end of the novel you may be rooting for each one. Although set in 1934, the themes of hardships, celebrations, and silly escapades of the tight-knit community are universal. A mischievous and funny story, this book brings laughs and leaves you wondering how you’d spend your share of the treasure.

See a full review in the US Review of Books

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Commercial Fiction

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

Winner

Scavenger Hunt, Dani Lamia, Level 4 Press - Five entitled scions of a wealthy family discover that their recently deceased father included a peculiarly vicious twist in his will: They must compete against each other for complete control of both the family business and its fortune by following predetermined clues to solve a series of games. The situation grows more dire, however, when the loser of each successive game is gruesomely murdered by the mysterious "Game Master." Eldest child Caitlyn quickly realizes that not only must she play for her own life, but also for the lives of her siblings, whether they deserve it or not. She is, without question, clever and ruthless enough to win it all, but will the Game Master let her? Taut and well-written, Lamia will drag you willy-nilly to the barbarous conclusion.

First Runner-Up

The Torchbearers, Bairbre Higgins, Terra Nova Books - Higgins immerses into an intriguing plot and rich details to construct a tantalizing crime story from cover to cover. Characters are fully developed, with realistic dialogue moving the story along. The book centers around a hedge fund manager who needs time away from a stressful job and personal demons, and so the protagonist steals away to a small town in New Mexico. When this investor reports a deplorable event centering around one of the town's favorite sons, authorities and residents in the fundamentalist Baptist town are quick to judge the interloper.

Honorable Mentions

Ghost Lake, Nathan Niigan Noodin Adler, Kegedonce Press - This is a one way trip to true horror with a mystery needing to be solved. Following different characters and stories uncovers mystery, passion, vengeance, and a take on mother nature itself. There are thirteen stories in total, each with relatable characters with diverse goals and challenges. Yet, in Ojibwe, the land remembers it all. Adler has skills in storytelling that change the game, which tips the scale on how horror feels with page-gripping suspense and a good measire of problem solving until the very end.

The Agent, Marsha Roberts, Easy Riter Press - Although the conduct of two of the main characters is despicable, Roberts elicits sympathy by providing depth to their backgrounds. The author is knowledgeable about the settings and accessories to the story, including fashion, finance, and style. It may be possible to unravel the central mystery earlier, but the pace keeps us guessing until the end. Intriguing, difficult to put down, this is an engaging read from a skillful, accomplished writer.

See a full review in the US Review of Books

The Perpetual Now, Jerome J. Bourgault, Tellwell Talent - Well-written with a strong science fiction element, this is the tale of a young Canadian boy, Justin, who narrates his memories of growing up without his mother—a doctor, who was killed and never found. She'd discovered a drug ring run by doctors in her clinic and was killed before she could expose them. This mystery is uncovered, while a parallel story unfolds of a being from an unseeable universe who becomes involved with Justin. The being takes the form of a nine-year-old girl, alternately emerging from and returning to the "perpetual", although never fully described "other" existence. The two children work through elements outside their immediate grasp. Reflecting from adulthood, Justin finds the being contributed more to solving the murder than was first understood.

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General Fiction

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

Winner

The End of Aphrodite, Laurette Folk, Bordighera Press - The lives of four women grieving the deaths of loved ones intertwine, echoing and influencing each other, in this novel that moves back and forth in time and touches upon family and romantic relationships in a Catholic, Italian-American community in coastal Massachusetts. The inspiring beauty of Aphrodite and the tragedy of Persephone are two of the underlying myths animating this tale of two generations, an older one marked by rich experiences of love and loss, and a younger one making its way through mistakes born of naievete and ignorance. Redemption occurs through a mysterious alchemy, as tragedy yields sweetness in the form of memories that linger like questions never to be answered.

First Runner-Up

A Wife in Bangkok, Iris Mitlin Lav, She Writes Press - Thailand—a world away not only in distance, but in culture, language, and familiarity to Brian and Crystal's small Oklahoma town of Pico City. When their family of four is forced to move for work, the author wonderfully and illustriously depicts the stark differences between the two locations and draws the reader into the loneliness and despair of a wife in 1975 whose initial reluctance to assert herself causes her to plummet into a deep, silent depression. We follow Crystal throughout the novel, whose story is undoubtedly just as palpable to many modern day readers. The book, though fiction, tackles critical issues of mental health, a woman’s authority and role in marriage, and reconciliation within a family unit.

Honorable Mentions

Entanglement-Quantum and Otherwise: A Literary Crime Fiction Novel, John Danenbarger, StormBlock Publishing - What could join teenage prostitution, white slavery in Bermuda, gay strippers, and gay priests together with laundered drug money, a cop who is also a lifelong serial killer, and dolphins who are warning us of impending environmental disaster? Danenbarger uses the concept of "entanglement"—the quantum physics theory of acausal connectivity across distances—as a metaphor for human relationships extending across years and people with entangling emotions and loss permeating a fabric of intricate connections. Two generations stretching from 1968 to 2044 provide the canvas for the writer to spin his spider's web of causality. A teenage girl gives up an infant for adoption who is later adopted by a cop who has been murdering his enemies since childhood. The boy later causes the cop to shoot his wife, leading him to later shoot himself. There are many such tragic entanglements that give the novel a quantum deterministic feel.

Exodus of Chaos, Steven Kent Olson, XlibrisUS - This historical fiction tells of the mistreatment of Indians in Minnesota by white expansion. Systematic removal, starvation, and persecution by the Army makes life dangerous for an Indian widow of a Swedish man killed by the natives he befriended. Porter, a deserting Civil War soldier, becomes the protector of Prisha, the Santee widow, and her extended family, who must manage a large tract of land craved by an avaricious, Indian-hating cleric. A ruthless, amoral Army colonel adds to the danger. This compelling tale of bravery and skill draws the reader in with authentic descriptions of the ways of survival in a harsh land. The dangers from conflicts between settlers, Indians, and army surround well drawn characters who struggle to decide what is right and wrong and how to survive. They still make room for romance in a compelling tale of bravery and skill in the settlement frontier.

See a full review in the US Review of Books

Have Snakes, Need Birds, Travis Klempan, Köehlerbooks - Sergeant John Mackenzie, at the height of combat operations in Iraq, has one job: making sure his soldiers get home safely. As difficult as this may be, with the standard trappings of war, the task becomes monumentally more so. What could make surviving a war zone more difficult than insurgents and bombings and snipers? The awakening of two evil forces, bent on destroying everything they can. In the middle of the chaos, Mackenzie goes on leave and meets and falls in love with Sera, a schoolteacher in Louisiana. Filled with new vigor and purpose, his return to Iraq is a mad whirlwind of magical realism, obsessions with books and storytelling, and a quest to protect his men and return to the woman who has overwhelmed him.

Hinterland, LM Brown, Fomite - The title foreshadows the dark and ominous beyond, as well as what is visible or unknown in this gripping mystery of possessive love, mental illness, and family relationships. Nicholas is an overprotective father whose partner. Kathleen has had schizophrenia since their now school-aged daughter, Kate, was born. He's afraid that Kathleen off her medication will harm Kate. Kathleen doesn't take her pills and tries to smother the girl. Police are called, and Kathleen is institutionalized. Nicholas doesn't explain to Kate where her mother has gone, causing a schism as the girl ages. His own youthful violent past, resulting in prison, is revealed as he and "the girl next door" rekindle their teen romance. The suspense and plot twists continue to highlight the dark side of what is still unknown. Nicholas finally agrees for the still-institutionalized mother and daughter to meet and imagines what truth will be revealed during their visit.

See a full review in the US Review of Books

It Happened in Tuscany, Gail Mencini, Capriole Group - This story explores the relationship between a WWII veteran, Mr. Mills, and a young woman, Sophie Sparke, who live in the same apartment building. As neighbors, they somewhat tolerate each other, but a friendship ensues when Mr. Mills asks Sophie to chauffeur him to his wife's funeral. When Sophie loses her job, Mr. Mills asks her to accompany him on a trip to Italy. The story develops as Mr. Mills and Sophie travel to Italy where Mr. Mills, as an 18-year old, was a soldier. While in Italy, Mr. Mills wants to put ghosts from his past to rest. Mencini uses illustrative words to paint beautiful pictures of the places this duo visits while in Italy.

Sweet Jane, Joanne Kukanza Easley, Black Rose Writing - This is a story about Jane, a young woman who survived a difficult and ugly childhood. Her drunken mother and absent father made life so difficult that she left home at the age of sixteen and never looked back. Through the help of Alcoholics Anonymous and friends she traveled a long way and was able to overcome her past, go to grad school, and marry a kind and loving man. But to really succeed, she needs to face her past and accept herself as a good person. This well-crafted book uses an interesting technique to take the reader on Jane's journey to redemption—sometimes in first-person to highlight the past and sometimes in third-person to place Jane in the present.

The Sound Between the Notes, Barbara Linn Probst, She Writes Press - A well-crafted story about the words unspoken, the expectations of family, sacrifices, second chances, the things left undone, and the love that cannot be released. Suzanne digs into her past to help her understand her present life, but unravels a secret that she wishes she had not uncovered. She wants to understand the events in her life and seeks encouragement to either recapture her past as a pianist or continue her present life as a wife and mother. The author's use of lyrical language not only builds engagement while giving the story a musical quality. We hear, feel and, see Suzanne engrossed at the piano.

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Historical Fiction

The Historical Fiction category contains historical fiction books.

Winner

The Devil's Bookkeepers 3, Mark H. Newhouse, Newhouse Creative Group - Newhouse has penned a chilling story based on the experiences of Jews in Poland’s Lodz Ghetto during WWII. Based on chronicles of events written at the time, it's poignant, tragic, and gripping. Pulled into the nightmarish reality of terrifying danger, children are snatched from their parents' arms and nighttime raids steal thousands away on trains. Those left behind pray for the best, fear the worst, and await their turn to be taken. It's a difficult read and equally difficult to put down. Experience the horror along with believable characters in this well-written novel.

First Runner-Up

The Secret Music at Tordesillas, Marjorie Sandor, Hidden River Press - The narrator of this novel is one Juan de Granada, who is undergoing questioning during the Spanish Inquisition. He grew up in a Jewish neighborhood in Granada, but his parents secreted him out of the city before they disappeared. An accomplished player of the vihuela, his path has led him to play for Joan the Mad, daughter of Spain's Ferdinand and Isabella, and it is her death and the closing of the castle that have led to the interview. The rich tapestry of this novel has been made possible by copious research, and the end result is much more than one man’s memoir. It includes characters who left Spain to avoid persecution, some who stayed and converted to Catholicism, and others who remained but hid their beliefs. It presages the racial and philosophical strife with which the world still struggles today.

Honorable Mentions

Bitter's Run, Rod Collins, Bright Works Press - At the end of the Civil War a great migration began towards the western United States encouraged by the government's promise of free land. John Bitter, former Union Captain, is looking forward to leaving Missouri and returning to his Oregon farm. He prepares to ride the Oregon Trail alone and arrive before winter. Along the way he marries, adopts two orphan boys, and meets more trouble than any one man deserves. Bushwachers, Indians, rebel soldiers, unaware that the war is over, a Black family in need of a companion to Oregon—all slow his ride but load this book with excitement and adventure. He makes lifelong friends along the way, including a Pinkerton Dective, union soldiers, and an old Indian. Collins has written a good old western hero story mixed with family and forever friends that keeps the reader page turning from beginning to end.

Red River Reunion, John Layne, Labrador Publishing - This is an epic story set in the old West. Set in a simpler time, the citizens of Red River have a Marshall and Texas Ranger keeping them safe from a world of outlaws. Layne's vivid writing draws a clear and believable picture of the time and place. He does an excellent job portraying the 19th century American West in a way that feels authentic. The story starts with an attention-grabbing opening and holds the reader’s attention with a slew of believable characters, fast-paced action, and a skillful writting—suspenseful and entertaining..

Talland House, Maggie Humm, She Writes Press - This book is a sweeping journey into turn of the century Cornwall, where Lily Briscoe—Virginia Woolf'’s heroine in To the Lighthouse—must unravel a deadly mystery during the missing years left out of Woolfe's famous novel. This "behind-the-scenes" premise gives the author great freedom to explore the characters, their off the page actions and motivations, as well as their world, all of which she depicts in sparkling detail. Thanks to tremendous research and attention to detail, the reader is left with a deeper understanding of both Briscoe and Woolfe, as well as deeper ideas on the meaning of fulfillment in life, the impact of the choices we make, and the true effect of modernity.

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Mystery/Crime

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

Winner

The Elizabeth Walker Affair, Robert Lane, Mason Alley Publishing - Private investigator Jake Travis is approached by an old army acquaintance, Andrew Keller, one evening at his home. When Keller weaves a sad tale about a lost love, Travis brushes it off and sends the guy on his way after offering some cheap wine and not much else. A few weeks later, Keller is gunned down in a convenience store, and a US marshal tells Travis to look into his death and try to find Keller’s lost love, Elizabeth Walker, nee Phillips. The only clue he has to go on is something she mouthed to Keller the last time she saw him about a trumpet. Travis soon finds himself in the middle of the fraught world of gun-centered politics. Along the way to the truth about Keller’s death and Elizabeth’s involvement, Travis discovers some long-buried secrets that have an impact on his family life and future career path.

First Runner-Up

Tokyo Traffic, Michael Pronko, Raked Gravel Press - Violent murder interrupts a film shoot in a Tokyo pornography studio. The murderers unwittingly leave behind Sukanya, a Thai immigrant, hiding in the shadows. Worn down by broken promises and the drugs flowing through her bloodstream, Sukanya bravely escapes with cash and incriminating electronics. Skirting the law and her criminal handlers, Sukanya aimlessly wanders until she meets Chiho, who empathizes her and faces the resulting danger with her new friend. Detective Hiroshi Shimizu specializes in ferreting out the financial schemes of criminal syndicates by examining bank records, statements, and the prizes found in office safes. Hiroshi and his police colleagues race against time to link the personnel and the money to save the lives of young women caught in a web of sex trafficking. The author brings Tokyo and its citizenry to life in a taut thriller.

See a full review in the US Review of Books

Honorable Mentions

Against My Better Judgment, B.T. Polcari, The Wild Rose Press - A fun cozy mystery filled with chuckles throughout, college freshman Sara Donovan is a wannabe detective with her dog at her side. She finds herself in some comical situations, right in the middle of cramming for finals! This is a fast-paced story with an engaging mystery and various twists and turns. There are enough suspects to keep the reader guessing and sleuthing along with Sara. The addition of Egyptian artifacts is a unique angle. Snappy dialogue combines with just the right amount of romance to create an enjoyable, quick read.

The Truth That Lies Between, W.D. McComb, TreaShore Press - It's 1985, and the rural Mississippi town of Amberton is simmering with secrets. Teenager Case Reynolds and his two best friends, Jet Townsend and Jack Masterson, build a hideaway cabin on land owned by a family friend. Their carefree adventure quickly turns dire after Case discovers the skeletal remains of a local vagabond. Who is he? Who put the bullet Case finds lodged in the drifter’s shoulder? Soon after this grisly discovery, Jack's stepfather disappears. When the evidence points to the boys as suspects, they set out to solve the murder and find Jack's stepdad. This nostalgic coming-of-age story is a well-executed tale of friendship, self-discovery, and small-town Southern culture packaged into a captivating mystery.

Torched, Joe Edd Morris, Black Rose Writing - The author takes the reader back to a period in time that many would like to forget, but to the chagrin of those who lived during that period in history, it is well worth remembering. An apprentice preacher returns to the town where he lived during his childhood and becomes reacquainted with two friend from his youthful past. The Klan tries to stop the rebuilding of a black church that had been torched by nightriders. They are bent on continuing the segregation in that period of time. Interracial romance makes the situation dangerous for the friends.

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Romance

The Romance category contains romance books.

Winner

Ava, Janet Perroni, iUniverse - The author presents a historical romance that explores a woman's romantic awakening in the early 20th century in Boston. Through her journey, she is presented with trials and tribulations as she falls in love with a man above her current social class. As she navigates her family structure and supporting her children and her desire to love a man that she can't have, the character of Ava decides to settle for the financial stability of her family and herself. The author explores the time period and the social morays that would be present for a woman at this time in the United States and draws the reader into her every day life and romantic exploits.

See a full review in the US Review of Books

First Runner-Up

Sunrise in Florence, Kathleen Reid, Köehler Books - Rose Manning is a practical art history professor who decides to move to Italy and follow her dreams. She dreams of becoming a painter instead of a teacher, and as the dream becomes a reality, an exciting world opens up to her. She overcomes her fears, purchases a home in Italy and begins a new chapter in her life. Then, her first love from America, unexpectedly comes to visit and in a whirlwind relationship she becomes engaged. Her American fiance soon betrays her trust, and Rose learns to step away from the past into a new found happiness. The reader will fall in love with the city of Florence and with Rose, as this heart-warming story unfolds.

See a full review in the US Review of Books

Honorable Mentions

Along the Road: A Becker Family Novel, Pat Wahler, Evergreen Tree Press - Kat Becker is a hopeful musical artist with a big dream. Against her parents' wishes she moves from her comfortable home in Kansas City to the city of Nashville in the hopes of becoming the next worldwide singing sensation. As she arrives in Nashville, she experiences a fender-bender which results in an unexpected meeting with a rather indifferent and preoccupied ER doctor, Dr. Dan McDonald. The good doctor must overcome his own personal obstacles to open the door to his feelings for this refreshing new acquaintance. The reader will not be disappointed by this uplifting love story full of many unexpected twists and turns.

The Magic Ingredient, Lindy Miller, Rosewind Romance - A small town romance that embarks on a romantic adventure from loss to new love, Miller crafts a small New England town and charactersto root for, all set during the pressure and joyful filled holidays. The obstacles that keep the main characters apart include losing a family owned bakery and new loss create a sense of empathy. This blended family new romance brings together a bake shop owner and handyman in an eccentric town with humor and heart that leaves you wanting to return to this place and the love that happens there.

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Sci-Fi/Fantasy

The Sci-Fi Fiction category contains science fiction books.

Winner

Merged, Jim and Stephanie Kroepfl, Month9Books - Seven teens, each brilliant in a particular discipline, are chosen to participate in a an experiment to merge with the minds of dying Nobel prize winners. The participants are eager for the chance to contribute to the important work on which their Nobels have been working—plus their families have been well compensated. Orphyn is a street artist, Lake is a chemistry savant, and Stryker has a hidden past that somehow qualifies him as a partner for a Nobel Peace Prize recipient. When they realize that they are not sure who is in charge of the Darwinians or what their real purpose is, the three of them have to work together to save the minds, as well as the lives of their group.

First Runner-Up

A Trail of Pearls, D.M. George, Amazon - An excruciatingly beautiful mermaid, who drinks too much, and a frumpy, fifty-five year old woman, who's just been dumped, become fast friends over a bottle of limoncello when they accidently meet in a sea-splashed alcove where the mermaid resides. Trapped by Neptune in her mermaid form, Parthenope only wants to be free of her beauty, feeling it is a curse. Left for a younger, more beautiful woman, frumpy Perla envies Parthenope's beauty. Neither woman is happy as they are. A gift of an enchanted cameo from Parthenope gives Perla what she wishes for: beauty, self-confidence, and a new love. But the gift comes with a price. Perla must decide if she's willing to pay. In a story of self-esteem, love, and friendship, the author weaves the beauty of Capri and mermaid mythology into a delightful, magical tale.

Honorable Mentions

In the Orbit of Sirens, T.A. Bruno - When the best bet for a settlement is on a planet where an airborne bacterium will most likely kill them all, Dr. Eliana Venton and team must find a cure and find it quickly. The last remaining human refugees flea Earth from the savage, human-absorbing, shape-shifting, mecha-insectoids known as the Undriel. Smitten by engineer-turned-scout and alternate time-liner, Denton Castus, the duo traverse the beautiful and sometimes deadly flora and fauna that inhabit Kamaria. With the aid of the indigenous birdfolk, the Auk'nia, a cure is found. However, as history, lore, and timelines unfold another possibly greater danger is revealed. How exactly does one combat a seemingly immortal, mind-reading, body-inhabiting, pitiless and cruel adversary, who has a grudge against your kind? With a neo-classic new-world creation and descriptions so vivid you feel like you're watching a movie, this book is everything you want in a science fiction novel and more.

See a full review in the US Review of Books

Over the Hills of Green, E.V. Svetova, Ananke Press - A young man is found naked and unconscious in New York City's Riverside Park with no memory of who is or how he got there. His silver-white hair freshly clipped but otherwise untouched, he is admitted to the hospital where, Anna, a psychologist in training is on staff. She is assigned his case, and at first he seems to be the perfect subject for her doctoral thesis. But there are some things about him that are strange and unsettling. His skin is smooth, hairless, and extraordinarily white. His ears are long and elf-like. In fact, he suffers under the delusion that he was born hundreds of years ago of a human mother and what he terms an Alvan father. Something strangely familiar about him, just like the adolescent dreams Anna can't quite remember. In probing John''s psyche, Anna will discover the secrets of her own.

The Last Lumenian, S.G. Blaise - The author goes above and beyond to create not only a different world but a different galaxy filled with angry gods and paranormal creatures—a world filled with magic and danger, suspense and love. There's a friends-to-lovers and enemies-to-lovers drama that makes this impossible to put down. The author narrows in on what a true sacrifice is and the complexities of the heart. The power of one girl, Lilla, has to defend the weak and oppressed, which provides the heroine everyone cheers for. Blaise makes you question: What price are you willing to pay for freedom?

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Short Story/Anthology

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

Winner

Animal Wife, Lara Ehrlich, Red Hen Press - This collection is a kaleidoscopic view of a world in which—for women—"no good can come of longing." In each story, the protagonist struggles with the revelation that a fairytale ending will rob her of her animal freedom. In spare prose, the author creates a shimmering reality in which many of the protagonists negotiate contemporary life through the framework of magical realism. A girl grieving abandonment by her mother learns to box and reinterpret the myth of her mother’s life. A woman who "needs a change she can’t come back from" inhabits an artificial deer body and lives in the wild with a stag she remembers from her childhood. A mother lives independently in her car, abandoning her daughter and husband. Always surprising, the stories bring to life women whose call to self-actualization or even to madness the reader will root for.

First Runner-Up

Once Removed, Colette Sartor, University of Georgia Press - These stories chart the inner worlds of women experiencing troubles with children, themselves, marriages—ordinary lives examined with extraordinary tenderness, compassion, empathy. Sartor goes inside fragile souls in a deep but nonintrusive fashion. The time we spend inside the pages is time pondering the paradox of human nature in general and in specific that of the characters we explore. The opening story, "Bandit," leads into the relentless pain experienced by a mother whose multiple pregnancies end without a child, through various sorts of failures. When the mother ends up taking in a housemate as a sort of surrogate, the marriage between the protagonist and her husband frays, and the young woman provides unexpected intrigue.

Honorable Mentions

Places We Return To: A Celebration of Twenty Years Publishing Fine Literature, Joan Cusack Handler & Gabriel Cleveland (editors), CavanKerry Press - This book welcomes, energetically inviteing one to open and read here and there, as prose and poetry is, at once mesmerizing or another time only a passing image. The opening this of the book easily unfolds and envelopes a few moments, or an hour of contemplation. As "we wait…" the pages turn and welcome the reader to see images—for birth, of birth, for a job, waiting to sleep, for sleep. These are often perceptions from all sides of the periphery or the center of one's view. Perhaps it's something found again or returned to with older eyes; quite another find, once lost, to the other splice of a no longer imperceptible vantage point; or a vantage point to ponder on now, transiting as we return to the moment, the glimpse, and linger.

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Spiritual Fiction

The Spiritual Fiction category contains book within the religious and spiritial genres.

Winner

Unfettered Journey, Gary F. Bengier, Chiliagon Press - The past, present, and future... the heart, mind, and intellect… life, meaning, and love… physics, philosophy, and purpose… science, religion, and self-reflection… all collide and meld together in this exciting futuristic story. In Joe's life, constant and intimate interaction with personal artificial intelligences (AIs) are a common part of every day life. Determined to live and control his own life though and to find a deeper meaning to it all, Joe steps away from the common place to set his own path and seek the multi-leveled truths of the universe. His journey becomes a fascinating adventure through space, time, and the deeper wonderings of the heart and mind.

See a full review in the US Review of Books

First Runner-Up

The Way: Through a Field of Stars, Brian John Skillen, 1881 Productions - This book is filled with fascinating historical facts and geographical tidbits. It offers a thrilling perspective to the hidden mysteries and romanticism of the Knights Templar from the vantage point of a young French princess who defies tradition and embarks on a quest to save the world from destruction at her father’s directive. Filled with excitement, intrigue, surprise, and mystery, the story is wonderfully woven and captivating. Pilgrim quests, secret codes, and forbidden love enliven the journey down the Camino De Santiago.

Honorable Mentions

On Mystic Mountain, Tabatha Waybright, Touch Point Press - The Frazier’s family camping trip to beautiful Mystic Mountain quickly turns into a quest for survival when a flash flood creates a raging river, which destroys their campsite and physically separates the two Frazier teens from their parents and most of their supplies. A fierce battle then begins as the teens and their parents separately struggle against natural forces with the aid and antics of supernatural beings. In their quest to survive and reunite, the Fraziers rely on their wits, prayers, and supernatural intervention in this riveting and dramatic clash between two parallel universes that intersect on a magical mountain.

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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

Saving Species on Private Lands: Unlocking Incentives to Conserve Wildlife and Their Habitats, Lowell E. Baier with Christopher E. Segal, Rowman & Littlefield - The book is jam packed with facts and information regarding ecology, laws, rules, regulations, and financial incentives for private land owners,. The importance of proactive voluntary conservation for preserving natural resources and saving/protecting endangered species. Baier offers numerous photos, case studies, tools, programs and creative conservation solutions for private American landowners, including how to receive assistance for designing, implementing, and paying for conservation through grants, partnership programs, habitat programs, government agencies, and private concerns. We hear from the Department of Agriculture, Fish and Wildlife, Bureau of Land Management, and Forestry, wetlands and grasslands scientists, as well as Land Trusts, private individuals, and State Agencies for every state in the U.S. The book is a roadmap for land owners or developers seeking ways to have a net gain while being proactive in protecting the environment.

First Runner-Up

Non-Obvious Megatrends: How to See What Others Miss and Predict the Future (Non-Obvious Trends, 10), Rohit Bhargava, Ideapress Publishing - It seems counterintuitive that a megatrend with worldwide political, social, and financial implications could be anything other than obvious. But the author, a self-described "near futurist" explains why it is important to identify a megatrend as early as possible and how to develop the mindset to become a non-obvious thinker. His predictions for the next decade focus on topics such as gender, technology, data, wealth, and commerce. Each of these megatrends will have a profound effect on life around the world. The author also takes an honest look back at previous predictions. As an added bonus, the author maintains a weekly email newsletter and active social media presence to ensure the conversation stays current for readers.

Honorable Mentions

Hire Purpose: How Smart Companies Can Close the Skills Gap, Deanna Mulligan with Greg Shaw, Columbia Business School Publishing - The author paints a picture of a major turning point in the American private industry, automation. She posits that it is how a company reacts to this turning point that will lead to its own success or downfall. She presents a plan to ensure the future workforce has the necessary skills to be successful. The plan is designed with not only the up and coming workforce, but also adults already in the workforce. The plan has two major components: education and training. This plan looks at everything from how degrees are weighted to how to standardize skills. The plan also consists of a major change in the education system to match the job skills of both the future and today. One highlight is integrating the classroom and the workplace. The book ends with the importance and results of putting your people first.

The Regenerative Business: Redesign Work, Cultivate Human Potential, Achieve Extraordinary Outcomes, Carol Sanford, Nicholas Brealey Publishing - Being in business is about making a profit, but it takes people to run a business, but humans are psychologically more complex than any machine or artificial intelligence will ever be. The author challenges fixed corporate culture models and defines a new approach for sustaining the human aspect of any business, including their unpredictability, without compromising their abilities or pushing them beyond their capabilities. The book clearly demonstrates how employees become more confident, learn better, and develop a sense of pride in themselves, thereby increasing creativity and productivity. Employees are tied together by their understanding of the company's core values and are motivated by their own creative juices. The result is an organizational culture that is flexible, with an informal structure that allows humans to be human and an organic cultural alignment born of understanding people—investing in humans.

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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

The Doctor Who Fooled the World: Science, Deception, and the War on Vaccines, Brian Deer, Johns Hopkins University Press - Once a childhood rite of passage, vaccines have become a major point of conflict in recent years. This book tells the story of Dr. Andrew Wakefield's 1998 study that purported to find a connection between the MMR vaccine, gut disease, and developmental disorders such as autism in young boys. The author not only exposes major flaws in the study itself, he also describes high-pressure tactics used to recruit the young patients and the harmful, invasive procedures used to gather samples. He goes on to reveal the unethical relationships between Wakefield, investors, and lawyers hired to sue vaccine manufacturers. The study has since been retracted, but the doctor behind it helped launch a major movement against vaccines.

First Runner-Up

Step It Up and Go: The Sotry of North Carolina Popular Music, David Menconi, University of North Carolina Press - This is a fascinating study of musical history in North Carolina. Thorough, informative, and packed with interesting facts and surprising insights, the book is arranged into sections that focus on various genres popular in the area and, while not strictly chronological, the narrative does move through time in a generally straight trajectory. Through a plethora of entertaining anecdotes, historical recollections, and contemporary observations, Menconi weaves a vivid picture of a vibrant musical scene. Additionally, the pleasing layout and beautiful pictures serve this extensive compendium well. The discography and index are valuable resources. Compassionate, with insightful commentary, the book reveals a deep connection to the area.

Honorable Mentions

Cyber Privacy: Who Has Your Data and Why You Should Care, April Falcon Doss, BenBella Books - A vital, current and key contribution to privacy and cybersecurity debates. Expertly written in a way that is both accessible and groundbreaking, Doss does not fault into conventional binaries or empty warnings. Rather, this book thoughtfully tackles the most pressing questions in a nuanced, detailed, and deep way, acknowledging uncertainties, complexities, tradeoffs, and necessities. The author analyzes the web of laws and fast-changing technologies that affect our personal information and data, while offering important takeaways on the role of state action, private regulation, consumer agency, and collaboration among different countries. The author's expertise and experience shines through, providing both a thoughtful guidebook and an enjoyable read, full of colorful and powerful stories and case studies that demonstrate why our attention to the topic is timely and critical.

It's OK to Say "They": Tips for Educator Allies of Transgender and Nonbinary Students, Christy Whittlesey, Dave Burgess Consulting - This book works not only to help allies, but to create them as well. By providing first-hand accounts from trans students, the book feels both intimate and immediate. The author offers tips and examples for educators to build a safe, inclusive space for every student—regardless of gender. The gentle language and illustrations lend this book a level of accessibility to readers of all backgrounds. It tackles a heavy topic often undiscussed due to fear of missteps with a gentleness. There is no shaming, only educating. For anyone who wants to be an ally but does not know where to start, this serves as the first step.

Overshot: The Political Aesthetics of Woven Textiles from the Antebellum South and Beyond, Susan Falls and Jessica Smith, UGA Press with Sarah Mills Hodge Fund - Coverlets, created on four-harness looms with wool and cotton threads woven together into geometric patterns, are known as "overshot" coverlets. This book focuses on American overshot coverlets created between the early 19th century and the present. The authors analyze the importance of the coverlets to those who made and used them as well as what these textiles tell us about the time periods in which they were created. At the same time, they look at how these overshot coverlets have been exhibited, interpreted, represented—and misrepresented—in our culture over time. The well-written and documented book is made up of six chapters and includes numerous photos of overshot coverlets that enhance the narrative and demonstrate the beauty of these folk textiles.

The Chemistry of Fire, Laurence Gonzales, The University of Arkansas Press - This collection of enthralling essays explores the harrowing mountain ascent of two woefully unprepared climbers, then casually invites the reader along on a Sunday morning motorcycle ride with a charming group of seasoned but empathetic cyclists. Just as quickly, the author switches gears to examine the tragedy and aftermath of a commercial plane crash in the Everglades and then settles in to quietly ponder what it means to view oneself and the world through a camera lens. With deft and, at times, lyrical prose, these satisfying compositions pull the reader into a world of curious wonders and intense observations that will linger for some time after.

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Health

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

Winner

All of Us Warriors, Rebecca Whitehead Munn, She Writes Press - Cancer is prevalent enough for every person to either have had it or known someone who has. Yet it's a disease that remains a mystery for a lot of people. This book breaks down some of that mystery with its collection of essays from cancer survivors, as well as a few from those who have lost loved ones to cancer. Each essay outlines the individual's background, breaks down the treatment experience, and offers advice for others. The book reads like a conversation between friends and is an encouraging read for those who have been affected by cancer but don't want to be defined by it.

First Runner-Up

Probably Someday Cancer: Genetic Risk and Preventative Mastectomy, Kim Horner, University of North Texas Press - Horner discovered she carries the BRCA2 genetic mutation, putting her at extraordinarily high risk for the early development of breast cancer. Having lost her grandmother and her great-grandmother in their 40s to breast cancer, she confronted a horrible decision: have both breasts removed for a disease that may never actually occur, or take the chance that she would become yet another victim. As a journalist, the author is able to bring out both the personal and the scientific narratives in a moving and compelling style. It should not be a spoiler to know that after a bilateral mastectomy and ovariectomy (ovarian cancer also commonplace in those carrying the BRCA2 gene), she has every reason to expect a long, healthy life.

Honorable Mentions

Surrounded By Others and Yet So Alone: A Lawyer’s Case Stories of Love, Loneliness, and Litigation, J.W. Freiberg, Philia Books - One does not expect an attorney, even one as distinguished as the author, to write so deeply about the social and psychological aspects of legal proceedings. The central theme of the case studies described in this book is loneliness. More specifically, the author describes individuals who suffer from feelings of isolation and poor connections despite having what a casual observer might perceive as family, friends, and lovers. The writer's legal responsibilities give him access to the most intimate details of his clients' lives, permitting him to develop a taxonomy of the reasons that connections fail or never become established in the first place. This book is of immense value to others in the legal and the psychological professions.

See a full review in the US Review of Books

Your Pregnancy and Childbirth: Month to Month, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists - This book is a helpful guide for anyone who wants to learn more about pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period. In easy-to-understand prose, the book outlines what to expect during each month of pregnancy, from body changes to possible complications to questions to ask your obstetric provider. It also discusses what to expect during and after labor, as well as special considerations like miscarriage or having twins. The book is easily searchable so you can quickly find the information you need—everything from creating a nutrition plan to tips on breastfeeding—and also includes guides and worksheets at the back to help you plan each stage of your pregnancy and delivery.

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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

Cooking Coach, Jan Plummer, iUniverse - Many of us remember taking Home Economics class in school. These classes taught valuable life lessons that included cooking and beyond. Unfortunately, many schools have removed these classes from their curriculum, leaving a considerable void in particular homemaking skills. Plummer, author and educator, helps to bridge this gap in her important guide to basic skills in the kitchen. While the book is packed with timeless and well-worn recipes, it also includes helpful discussions on everything from ingredient measuring to food staples and cooking equipment. There are tips on shopping, basic etiquette, and table setting, helping to take the stress out of the kitchen and create an enjoyable cooking experience.

See a full review in the US Review of Books

First Runner-Up

Some Good Sweet Treats: 50 Delicious Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free Recipes, Jessica Mitton, Breakwater Books - This book is a visual confection. The author, a certified nutritional consultant, crafts dazzling desserts for the everyday baker in need of gluten-free and dairy-free recipes. The author clearly explains how to make chocolates, breads, muffins, bars, cookies, cakes—even a cheesecake—using readily available ingredients like honey, coconut, nut butters, cacao powder. Recipes are uncomplicated and limited to one page, faced with drool-worthy photographs. The book is printed on smooth heavy paper and feels good in one's hands. This handsome book is a welcome addition to any collection and a companion piece to the author's Some Good: A Full-Menu Cookbook of Recipes that Have No Gluten, Dairy or Refined Sugars.

Honorable Mentions

My Creative Space, Donald M. Rattner, Skyhorse Publishing - Creativity does not always come immediately or naturally. Sometimes a creative mindset can be stimulated by the environment in which one resides and works. Rattner—author, educator and architect—has written a beautiful book showcasing how the use of certain architectural and design elements can transform space into areas that foster imagination and inspiration. The book goes well beyond A & D and is divided into practical "creativity tactics" that can be employed to inspire, including the use of lighting, meditation, colors, and scents. While some suggestions might be easier to implement than others, this book will certainly help the way we think.

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Memoir

The Memoir category captures specific personal experience.

Winner

The Mountains of Paris: How Awe and Wonder Rewrite My Life, David Oates, Oregon State University Press - What do snowy mountains and the Eiffel Tower have in common. Apparently a lot. Growing up gay in an intolerant Baptist world, the author finds peace and solace in nature and true passion for life in an oasis of diversity abroad: the city of Paris. The great outdoors are majestic and indifferent, just as culture offers immense pleasure without judgment. Immersed in both of these realms, Oates feels free, almost invisible, "grateful for the silence." This book chronicles one man's journey to self-acceptance and love. "Slowly I believed it: that I might be right too," he concludes. "Small, yes. Lonely, yes. But right enough." Written in an eloquent style, this introspective memoir emanates profound honesty, compassion, and beauty.

First Runner-Up

Poetic License, Gretchen Cherington, She Writes Press - The author pens a vivid account of growing up in the orbit of her famous father, Pulitzer-prize winning poet Richard Eberhart. She encountered a bevy of family acquaintances in their home—a veritable who's who of the twentieth century literary world. She discussed Buddhism with beat poet Allen Ginsberg. She contemplated the role of women after encountering the controversial Ann Sexton. The author ably explores the dark side of her father. The family's needs were subordinated to his own, as an artist, and a man still coming to terms with the early loss of his beloved mother. Thw poet crossed the line in ways that would long impact her self-worth. This unflinching, honest, and inspiring account attempts to understand her father based upon not only her experience, but also a lifetime's worth of correspondence between her father and his contemporaries, lovers, and family.

Honorable Mentions

Childhood Canceled: A Memoir, Mishka Migacz - This is the story of a lost childhood, of a girl born to an unstable, alcoholic mother, was taken into protective custody, and then lived in and out of foster care. She was finally returned to her mother but her brutal life continued. The story is narrated in the innocent voice of a child, and the voice matures as the author grows. It's an inspiring tale of how one child navigated and eventually overcame poverty, abuse, racial discrimination, and homelessness. Healing, redemption, and personal success are gained, as Migacz uncovers her mother's secrets and learns to make sense of them.

Face, A Memoir, Marcia Meier, Saddle Road Press - Raw, heartfelt and emotional, Meier details her surviving a horrific car accident where she is forced to undergo a multitude of surgeries in order to regain some semblance of normalcy. We travel through her journey of growth during tribulations: confronting the driver of the car in court, gut-wrenching pain of facial surgeries, therapy, comfort in nature and travel, and eventually leading to personal salvation. The daily struggle of living with permanent disfigurement is real and relatable. The timeline and interjection of the actual surgeon's notes returns us to the trauma, revealing the author's emotional state of mind in a tangible manner.

Finding Venerable Mother: A Daughter’s Spiritual Quest to Thailand, Cindy Rasicot, She Writes Press - Excellent, engaging for these times, melding themes of self-growth and spirituality, Rasicot accompanies her businessman husband to live in  Bangkok, Thailand for three years. She does not know the language, the customs or  the religions. She cannot seek employment. Her husband  is  totally preoccupied, and her son folds easily into an international school. The author starts visiting temples and discovers one in particula. Its Thai Buddhist nun and teacher, Dhammananda, fill her needs almost precisely. After struggling for years with a difficult relationship with her mother, finding this nun, a venerable mother, allows Rasicot to re discover herself, her purpose, and her spiritual path. She feels fully nurtured, something never given by her biological mother. "Dhammananda’s love helped me come full circle." The details of the nun's life pre- and post-ordination are fascinating.

One of God's Chosen Vessels: A Journey of Faith, Love and Loss, Bill Mehr, AuthorHouse - A lifelong searcher, Mehr continues his search during the last ten months of his life, posting his thoughts on CaringBridge. He discusses his diagnosis of stage IV cancer, treatments and thoughts. Ten years after his death his, wife has turned those postings into a book, along with her journal entries at the time. Sometimes the writing is stream of consciousness, but always pondering, searching for meaning and wisdom. Mehr shares with his audience the books he is reading (topics from philosophy to comic books). He cannot imagine an afterlife without books or a life of the mind. He is constantly grateful for his wife, his friends, his church, and his Caring Bridge community. His wife's journal entries are heart-wrenching, as she tries to reconcile her short time with her husband and the emptiness of life without him.

See a full review in the US Review of Books

Remote: Finding Home in the Bitterroots, DJ Lee, Oregon State University Press - The book is a trifecta of stories surrounding the disappearance of the author's friend and mentor in the remote wilderness range known as the Bitterroots in Northern Idaho. Lee covers the history of the Bitterroots, while intertwining her own family's connection to the land. She does a wonderful job of explaining her experiences as a woman alone in the backcountry and the different wild animals she encounters, homosapiens included. She brings to life stories of her own heritage and how it relates to the land, beginning with her grandmother in the 1940s, to her aunt and mother in the 70s, to her own experiences in the present day. The memoir is driven by the missing persons case, while including first-person accounts of all the types of exhilarating adventures one finds in the remote wilderness, in this case, the Bitterroots.

The 10 Greatest Gifts We Give Each Other: A Memoir of the Magic of Marriage Vows, Barbara Lynn-Vannoy, Admont Press - An unexpected and pleasureable experience, the story reveals courtship, love, and marriage, which are ordinary events in many lives, but it's Lynn-Vannoy's narrative that gives these events magical resonance in lilting prose The author's word usage is like a gurgling stream that becomes a raging tortrent—a master storyteller delivering singing sonnets and rhythmic chapters that flow one into the other.

The Grand Gypsy, Ottavio Canestrelli with Ottavio Gesmundo, Lulu Press - The grandson of circus great Ottavio Canestrelli has revived his grandfather's handwritten memoir and added more family stories of six generations of this famous circus family. Stories of daring and destiny are interwoven with rich detail and a wealth of never-before-seen circus photos, as the family act evolved from a makeshift caravan in 1896 in Italy by performing in the town squares throughout Europe and the world. The grandfather's fascinating behind-the-scenes tales of circus tents on fire, a tragic python attack, animal training, and daring trace the survival of the circus during two world wars and the family's coming to America with the Greatest Show on Earth, Ringling. A remarkable contribution to circus history as much as memoir with star-studded daring acts, juggling, balancing, falls, and injuries. For the Canestrelli family, the show must go on, and it continues in this fascinating read.

Underprivileged Overachiever: A Crenshaw Story, Y.A. Salimu, Telemachus Press - This motivational book proves we are the product of our choices. The author, living deep in "the jungles" of Los Angeles, chooses to see a better future after Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson says, "I believe in you." Johnson’s speech at a local park inspires the author, homeless at thirteen in gang-ridden Baldwin Village, to team his hunger for more—food, safety, knowledge, and role models—with an exceptional intuition. This inner voice sometimes wins and sometimes loses, but the battle is riveting, especially when he shoulders his mother and little brother. With humor, honesty, and hindsight, the author offers a front row seat to an extraordinary journey from Crenshaw High School, the shelters, and the streets, and all the way to the United States Air Force Academy. In the words of his favorite poem, "If—," he chooses to "meet with Triumph and Disaster/ And treat those two imposters just the same."

Unglued: A Bipolare Love Story, Jeffrey Zuckerman, Boyle & Dalton - Raw and irreverent, the book takes a candid dive into the nuanced depths of loving and supporting a spouse with a mental illness. After decades in a thriving marriage, the author finds himself wrestling with the repercussions of his wife'’s late-onset bipolar disorder. As Leah's uncharacteristically erratic behavior makes her nearly unrecognizable to those who love her, the author must find his way through a volley of verbal assaults, bizarre social interactions, impossible travel arrangements and the fragmented mental healthcare system leading to support groups, self-care, and acceptance of the absurd. Filled with dark humor, self-awareness, and love, Zuckerman presents a refreshingly honest inner look at what it feels like to be on the outside of a partner's ailed mind while on the inside of its consequences.

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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

Thrive Through the Five: Practical Truths to Powerfully Lead through Challenging Times, Dr. Jill M. Siler, Dave Burgess Consulting - An insightful, compassionate, and inspiring book motivating teachers to keep working through the 5% of their job that makes them want to give up. This is for teachers who love 95% of their job but need motivation and practical help to get through the difficult parts. Chapters begin with stories and experiences that teach a truth or give a new perspective on a challenging job aspect. Then each chapter gives a quick list of five "tips to thrive" for long-term reference. Every chapter then ends with a practical chart of action steps that can be used for journaling or brainstorming. It combines compelling stories with compassionate inspiration and practical advice—perfect for the author's very targeted audience. With a compelling cover, thorough editing, and clear and attractive layout, this book is an example of excellence.

First Runner-Up

The Mammals of North Dakota, 2nd Ed., Robert Seabloom, John W. Hoganson, North Dakota State University Press - During the Ice Age, bison latinfrons, which could be 50% larger than the largest bull bison we see now, roamed the territory known as North Dakota. Many researchers believe bison should be encouraged to replenish in vast numbers in a state with sparse human population, and environmentalists concur. North Dakota is ideal. Home to not only the large plains animals, such as moose, elk, and deer, the state also supports tiny animals like the Meadow Jumping Mouse, weighing in at just 19g and only 207mm in length. The authors have created a compact mammalian encyclopedia of the region with a fascinating overview of the paleofauna and ecologies of the region making this book a must-have resource for naturalists, sportsmen, and photographers. Well-researched, well-annotated, with maps and full-color plates, this book is distinguished by its ease of use—large-sized type, accessible writing, and consistent headings.

Honorable Mentions

Feather River Country Adventure Trails: 104 Fun Hikes within the Region of the Feather River Upper Middle Fork, the Lakes Basin, and the North Yuba River, Tom DeMund, Know DeFeet Publishing - With beautiful color photographs, simple to read maps with legends, and crisp descriptions, the author tempts the reader to experience the pleasures of hiking the Feather River environs. Each hiking trail includes crucial information—distance, difficulty, and directions, etc, and whether camping is permitted—for safe enjoyment, which makes this guide an indispensable addition to the avid outdoors person's library. Written in a conversational style, the author adds his own observations and historical knowledge to the mix that includes tidbits, for example withholding the location of an old pile of worn-out tires since covered with dirt on the C-7 Calf Pasture Creek trail. With such detail, hikers will find a wealth of information on the outdoors without ever stepping for on Feather River's terra firma.

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Self-Help

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

Winner

Leaning Out, Monica E. Pierce - This is a refreshing look on women's freedom to choose her role in and outside of the workplace. Pierce encourages women to follow their individual paths, whatever that may be, rather than trying to maneuver themselves through advice prescribed for everyone. Pierce shares her own journey in corporate life, and her decision to lean out of that lifestyle because her greater priority was family and personal time. "I want you to critically consider 'what having it all' actually means and instead think about designing a life around having only what you want especially if what you want does not include a corner office." Her experiences and perspective reveal that trying to fit women's role in society as a "one-size fits all" is creating a lot of pressure and taking joy away from life.

First Runner-Up

Ballad of a Sober Man: An ER Doctor’s Journey of Recovery, J.D. Remy, M.D., AnnElise Publications - From trusted physician, loving husband, and devoted father to addict fighting for sobriety, this book chronicles the harrowing journey of long-term alcohol recovery through the lens of an American E.R. Doctor. The author uses the guidance of Alcoholics Anonymous' 12-Step Program alongside honest and often humorous personal anecdote to embrace the gift of desperation, rekindle long forgotten and much needed friendships, and navigate personal and professional stigma that accompanies addiction recovery all while navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. Through his journey, the author provides the reader thoughtful insight on how he turned the worst years of his life into a powerful story of redemption and hope.

Honorable Mentions

Seriously! Are We There Yet?! A personal growth guide to stop the coulda woulda shouldas and Start Living Life Like Like a Kid Again, Paolina Milana, Whitney (illustrator), Madness to Magic - The book every adult wants to read, even if you are a grown-up feeling stuck in life, this whimsical, insightful, and encouraging book is for you. The authors take you on a journey of missteps, forgotten dreams, and plans that didn’t quite work out only to show you that you are exactly where you need to be, right on time. This book reminds readers that although adulting is challenging, you can start anew. With clever prose and vivid illustrations, your inner child has been given permission to make mistakes, start over, and dream again. This is a fun and easy read.

Unlock! 7 Steps to Transform Your Career and Realize Your Leadership Potential, Abhijeet Khadilkar, Vicara Books - Excellent resource for people who want to lead or do a better job of leading in any organization anywhere. Learn how to assess your weaknesses and strengths, solicit honest feedback to help you grow, develop your own personal brand, find mentors, build networks, and discover new possibilities for your career and personal life. This book provides easy to understand, game-changing information in a clear, logical, and concise way that values the reader's time and includes many specific and highly beneficial web-based resources and tools that anyone anywhere can immediately access to become the leader they want to become, even during a pandemic.

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Spiritual

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

Winner

The Twelve Gifts from the Garden: Life Lessons for Peace and Well-Being, Charlene Costanzo, Mango Publishing Group - The reader is invited to take a walk with the author as she engages with nature in the botanical gardens of Sanibel Island. It is here, though not just here but other "green" place as well, where she is reminded that new perspectives can bring about change, healing, and love. She is more mystic than master-gardener. The plants stir within her the twelve gifts (strength, beauty, courage, compassion, hope, joy, talent, imagination, reverence, wisdom, love and faith) that she was introduced to decades ago in a dream. Initially, these lessons were meant for her children, but she now generously shares them with the reader.

See a full review in the US Review of Books

First Runner-Up

Don't Mess with this Mama: Risking It All to Rescue Our Daughter, Missy Maxwell Worton, Author Academy Elite - This book reveals an incredible series of barriers the author overcame when adopting a child from Ethiopia. It started when her husband lost his job just before the two expensive visits required to complete the adoption. They were late for the judge during the initial adoption visit, but they did succeed in the adoption. By Ethopian Law, a young girl named Favor was officially theirs. During their second visit from the United States to Ethiopia to bring their child home, despite assurances from the U.S. Embassy that they were free to take their child, a corrupt official threated to grab their child away from them, to keep her in foster care. Tense moments ensued. Nevertheless, the author and her family succeeded in bringing their new daughter home. Prayer and an understanding of the will of God helped her family surmount the odds.

Honorable Mentions

A Journey Through The Darkness: A Story of Grief Recovery after the Death of my Daughter, Frank Goulet, Trafford - Those who have experienced the death of child will connect immediately with the author's gripping prologue, which evokes the immediate and all-consuming darkness that consumes a parent upon the realization that they have outlived their child. Those who have not experienced this degree of darkness, who are not members of a "club nobody signs up to join," will greatly benefit from the instruction found within its pages for how to talk with someone who has. The author provides an entire chapter with advice on how to approach grief-stricken people. No one's grief is the same and respecting each person's journey is crucial to reach through the darkness to the light on the other side.

See a full review in the US Review of Books

Relax… You're Not Going to Die, Pt. 1: More Spiritual Insights for Your Life, Darryl Philip, Austin MacAuley Publishers - We are much more powerful and magnificient beings than we are often led to believe, with our spirit surviving the death of the body. The author demonstrates this premise using recent scientific studies, valiating what spiritual teachers have proclaimed for years: A person's spiritual soul is as real as the body. Using stories from people having Near Death Experiences (NDE), the author shows how scientific studies validate these experiences as real and not imagined events. Referring to the people who survive NDEs as modern day messengers of God, the author shows how their specific stories and insights provide a consistent narrative with ancient spiritual texts and recent scientific studies of body and spirit, demonstrating the impact prayer and meditation has upon the physical world. The author asserts these developments provide mankind with insight into why we are here on earth and how we relate to the concept of God.

Soul Afterlife: Beyond the Near-Death Experience, Bud Megargee, KDP Amazon - Megargee employs engaging content to attract readers into the subject of reincarnation. It's a story laced with tangible examples and easy-to-understand communication, which teases at a question introduced at the start: What happens when this life comes to an end? Presented in a nonjudgmental way, the auhor brings awareness to positive actions of love and kindness. If we are souls of reicarnation, then the life we live now is the most important. The book concludes with the afterlife concept as a reflection of the unknown changes in our daily life.

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E-Book Fiction

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

Winner

The Reckoning, Book One, Jeffrey Pierce, Jai Mitchell (illustrator), Black Rose Writing - The paranormal adventure opens in World War I. The writing, taut and economical, creates the sense of words stapled to the page, evoking the staccato pace of war. This World begins with Harry Moss running from artillery, ordinance, and demons. An old soul, Harry seems to have survived multiple battles throughout history; something of a shape shifter, this soldier is clever or maybe lucky, but not immortal. The interaction of soldiers fighting the Germans, fighting their own demons, not to mention a paranormal she-wolf with a big appetite, creates an intriguing world with wide-ranging characters, intriguing back stories, and a Hemingway vibe that puts the reader in the scene. Spanning several countries and Pperiods of time, perhaps even dimensions, the story is cinematic without sacrificing the integrity of it's diction and that is why it stands out.

First Runner-Up

Parrot & Firefly, Jules Murphy, Gabriella Cadli (illustrator), Spotty Dot Books - Parrot and Firefly are the best of friends. They write many letters expressing their friendship and their dreams to each other. At twilight they fly with one another. One important shared dream is to fly to the moon. The moon, however, is too far away and they must turn back to earth after wings feel too tired to go on. They believe they solve the problem when they decide to fly faster to reach it. Still they become too tired and return home. They express their disappointment in their letters. Yet they try again but have to turn back. They decide that the moon might not be as good as they thought and are content to stay earthbound. They fly to the edge of the forest where they discover a reflection of the moon in a pond. They delight in this moon that they can share together.

Honorable Mentions

A Single Tear, Nemo James - James takes the reader into the little-known world of marionettes. Before the marionettes become the center of their working world, the two men, Tim and Bill, must break the silence that they've carried for five years. They were fishing buddies during that five years and not a word passed between them. When Tim notices a single tear falling down Bill's cheek, he must know about his sadness. When the silence is broken, a new partnership is formed that leads to an exciting and eventful life for both, as as well as a fulfilling read for us.

Alaska Spark, Lolo Paige - Tara Waters wants nothing more than to follow in her father's firefighting footsteps and to heed his advice not to get romantically involved with another smokejumper. Both goals end up on the rocks after she fails to save a homeowner and is sent to Alaska to train under the attractive smokejumper who had to save her. It quickly becomes clear these aren't her only struggles, as someone on the crew starts sabotaging Tara's success. She battles to prove her mettle, clear her name, and decide if another relationship is wise, all while fighting raging Alaskan wildfires.

Everyone Dies Famous, Len Joy, BQB Publishing - Joy takes a scalpel to the heart of a relationship between struggling working men, dissecting the friendship and boiling it down to its basest parts. The characters are beautifully drawn with realistic intentions, and the story that emerges is both a sobering reflection on happiness when you’re just scraping by and how loneliness can bring you to your lowest point. By the end, you'll feel intimately connected to the main characters, for better or worse. Their hurt is your hurt, their loneliness is yours. It’s not often you find a book that elicits such an emotional response.

Ghost of Tomorrow, Maya Rushing Walker, Apollo Grannus Books - Walker paints a bleak but hopeful picture of young Elisabeth, a teen who struggles with a mentally ill single mother who can barely care for her. Elisabeth is a lonely but kind-hearted girl. She discovers a young boy hiding in a shed behind her house who also provides a distraction from her daily troubles. As their relationship grows, she discovers that the boy is actually a relative from a different time. This brisk novellaeamlessly and effortlessly links two time periods and two characters. The book is a great prequel that should motivate readers to complete the series.

Monster in the Water: Fighting Back Against Harmful Algal Blooms, Dylan D'Agate, Maria DeCerce (illustrator), Sixth and Spring Books - The author delivers a fun and informative story, while the illustrator makes this book come alive in amazing ways. Coupled with the illustrations, what results is an entertaining story that gets its message across without being preachy, but just may truly impact the world around them.

Storytellers, Bjørn Larssen, Joseph Tailor - Hermit blacksmith Gunnar just wants to be left the hell alone with his animals and his booze so he can while away his days at his smithy and pass his nights dead asleep. He's therefore a little irritated when a man named Sigurd appears at his doorstep with a broken ankle. Sigurd begins to tell him a tale, and soon Gunnar is transfixed. The story is told in a uniquely executed story-within-a-story fashion. As you move through the pages, the pieces meld to form the climax. Great detail is given to creating a rich atmosphere of both place and time. Thepacing keeps you on the edge of your seat.

The Curist, The Curist, Julie Donofrio and Vincent Calfapietra - Keith Strickland is a spy during World War II when his plane crashes. Abby Steele is a current day detective. She is called away to investigate her father's superstition that several murders in her home town are related. On the plane, Abby meets Ken Stone.They are immediately attracted to each other. Ken reveals his name is really Keith Strickland, and he is around 100 years old. Keith was rescued from his crash by a tribe of Mayans that had discovered the secret of long life. The Mayans saved Kieth for a mission. They previously saved another man and given him a long life, but he was using his longevity for evil instead of good. Keith's mission was to hunt him down and kill him with a special poison. When Keith confronts the evil one, he gets a small dose of the poison himself and starts to age rapidly.

Viatorem, Urvasi Pauvaday, Amazon - The walls between the worlds of parallel dimensions are thinning, and the Wise Spirits prepare to dominate the realm of Terranor, or, as its inhabitants know it, Earth. Lyla Lancroft, a young student at university long abandoned by her father and grieving her sister Meredith's death, is drifting through life before events shift her from one world into another. She discovers she is a Viatorem, a traveler between worlds, as were her lost family. Confronted with the madness, terror, and passion of the realms beyond, she must conquer her own fears and forge her own identity or see it stolen by the Wise Spirits. It is a story of a woman confronting her own doubts and fears to make connections between dreams and reality.

What is REAL Love? Researched and Answered, Harry A. Flannery, Urlink Print & Media - Flannery attempts a difficult construct such as love and its relation to feelings, emotion, and how these are subjective yet inherent to those lucky enough to engage it. No doubt research of biblical proportion went into this project along with years of experience. He tackles a subjective topic appropriately relying upon ancient tradition in the telling of the tale of love and attraction using meticulous reference materials. This reader agrees with many of his disseminations: love is not a one size fits all, but when you find it or it finds you, "and when it does, you will know it, feel it, and will never forget it?"

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E-Book Nonfiction

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

Winner

Words Whispered in Water: Why the Levees Broke in Hurricane Katrina, Sandy Rosenthal, Mango Media - Part memoir, part exposé, Rosenthal employs the surgical precision of a investigative journalist and the craft of a memoirist to expose the flaws, natural and human, behind the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. Fueled by personal history and a fierce sense of social advocacy, Rosenthal goes beyond the received Katrina narrative and the media that advanced that narrative to uncover corruption, bureaucracy and a failing infrastructure. Rosenthal balances the deeply personal with a keen documentarian's eye to create an engaging and compelling account. Incisive, exhaustively researched and deeply engaging, Rosenthal offers an enlightening and cautionary account within a riveting and compelling read.

First Runner-Up

Your Child is Smarter Than You Think! Unleashing Your Child's Unlimited Potential, Wanda Draper, Urlink Print & Media - A child's success in school and in life is directly influenced by emotional security, expectations, and motivation. Super achievers are self-confident, self-reflective, focused, get along with others, and maintain a sense of wonder and desire to learn. The author combines sound educational philosophies with her years of experience to provide parents with practical ways to support and inspire their children. Delightful children's writings are interspersed among the strategies to deal with specific challenges ranging from learning disabilities and behavioral disorders to giftedness. Supplemental materials include a list of support organizations, charts and explanations of developmental explanations for the various stages of childhood, and simple recipes for art supplies that encourage creativity and self-expression.

Honorable Mentions

Finding Solace at Theodore Roosevelt Island, Melanie Choukas-Bradley, Tina Thieme Brown (illustrator), Changemakers Books - This is a delightful and poetic book by a nature writer who continuously looks to the environment for healing and insights when the worldly life in Washington D.C. tires her mind and body. In this book of thirteen chapters, each divided into sections based on days, Choukas-Bradley presents vignettes of a "traveling diary," which blends detailed descriptions of her walks, explorations, and encounters with trees, birds, and more at Theodore Roosevelt Island, alongside a rich variety of literary references, in relation to real-life events and personal happenings in life. "Every walk in nature has the elements of a good story," she writes in the second chapter of "August—Island Poetry," and yet she walks not as a tourist or consumerist writer, but as an engaged citizen who works hard at her optimism through the truths she has learned from nature during a politically hard and dark year.

Growing Up and Getting Old Behind the Wheel: An American Autobiography, William Schiff, Urlink Print & Media - This book offers a thoroughly charming perspective of the changes in American culture and everyday life, from the year 1939 all the way through the decades to 2010. Schiff begins with his first childhood memories and the drive of a lifetime visiting important historical moments along life's highway, including WWII through a young child's eyes, teenage years (and the wild escapades thereof) during the Korean War, college antics, family life—all from behind the wheel of this or that incredible-in-its-own-way vehicle that left an indelible mark on the heart of America. This book is delightfully presented and thoroughly entertaining from fender to fender.

What Remains: The Many Ways We Say Goodbye An Anthology, Sandi Gelles-Cole and Kenneth Salzmann (editors), Gelles-Cole Literary Enterprises - Who knew that as many ways as humans are unique so are the ways they say goodbye to those they loved. This anthology of accomplished writers from all over the world shares how people mark that final passage. What compels a person to be buried in a mushroom suit to help with decomposing the body as a green solution? How does a creatively carved casket become ones last gift? These stories of final farewell will resonate.

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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

Dream Big, Kat Kronenberg, Stephanie Dehennin (illustrator), Greenleaf Book Group - This beautifully illustrated children's book offers a story of change and acceptance in the animal world. The natural science embedded in the book draws the reader into a meaningful investigation of animal life. Kronenberg deals with issues such as feelings of inadequacy, fear, loneliness, and hope that all children experience in their daily lives. The author includes a guide in both the pages of the book and at the end to equip readers or their parents and teachers to use the book to engage children in meaningful activities directly and indirectly related to the text. The activities stimulate imagination, action to relate to others, and crafts.

First Runner-Up

Believe in the Magic, Ann DeFee, Bellastoria Press - DeFee weaves romance, regionalism, crime fiction, and Christianity into one story. Set in a small Appalachian town where no one is a stranger, this tells the story of Springen O'Flaherty, the youngest daughter in a family of five, a preacher's daughter who has psychic abilities that complicate her adolescence, turning her into a minor celebrity for all the wrong reasons. Witness to a convenience store robbery that results in the shooting death of her childhood sweetheart and fiancée, Springen uses her psychic ability to finger the culprit. Now, as an adult, her gift threatens to uproot her well-established life, and she has to decide if her ability is a gift or a curse.

Honorable Mentions

Eve of Awakening, Alisa Hope Wagner, Marked Writers Publishing - This book is set far into the future, after the second World War. Eve is a top-ranked Efficientist, and she finds herself discovering more about who she is and where she has come from. The World Government that seems to control everything is starting to crumble in Eve's mind, and she begins to see life in a new way. There are awakenings that are experienced as a flashback to a previous life, and after Eve experiences an awakening, her counselor encourages her to seek out her past. In a world that frowns upon the Bible and all things Christianity, Eve finds herself searching to discover the past and how it changes her life today.

Rooke's Island: The Prophecy of Staring Eyes, SK Whalen, iUniverse - The refreshing originality of the narrator's voice draws the reader into the story of a letter, an owl, and a schoolteacher named Adeline Margery Josephine Ida Hilda-Ann Mutters, whose eyes are the color of a Granny Smith apple. She is pulling weeds from her garden in a long dress covered in sunflowers as a postman and owl battle over the letter-marked private. It finally falls into her hands, delivering news that her beloved uncle has left her most of his estate, including an enchanted island. She must come at once to Alwyn's Village to learn of the provisions in his will. She travels to and through the requirements, delights, secrets, and dangers of her uncle's life and land, discovering uncanny connections to her own and a secret underworld of owls.

Starlina and the Magic of Believing in Yourself, Kari Faarup, Marissa Cook (illustrator), Bishop-Howell Publishing - This is the story of a little star with bright colorful patches named Starlina. She is happy until she meets other stars that laugh at her and call her names, because she looks different. Starlina receives a gift of a magical poem from Mr. Moon to help her see that she is perfect the way she was made. It is not long until Starlina is not upset anymore, but she stumbles upon another star suffering from the same name calling. She gifts the magical poem Mr. Moon gave her to help the little star. She gains confidence by being able to help that star deal with the bullying stars. The author gives the book owner their own copy of the magical poem for them to keep and share with someone.

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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

Secretariat's Meadow, Kate Chenery Tweedy and LeeAnne Ladin, Dementi Milestone Publishing - The artful photograph of Secretariat's regal face, his brown eyes looking through time to find us a world apart from his vantage point of 1973, graces a beautiful book that retraces the unparalleled racing career of this North Carolina thoroughbred. Full color illustrations track Secretariat's rise from awkward colt to champion. Amid the historic photos are touching tributes of the grooms who cared for him, not to mention the loving words of Ron Turcotte who rode Secretariat victoriously through the three races culminating in the Triple Crown, the equivalent of winning the Daytona 500, Indianapolis, and Lemans. But it's the family's own memories of Secretariat lapping the field at the Derby and the photos of the horse nearly lifting off the Earth that set this book apart from mere histories of the Sport of Kings. It doesn't hurt that the story of Secretariat is the legacy of women surviving widowhood and divorce to bring the champion to the World.

First Runner-Up

Kings, Conquerors, Psychopaths: From Alexander to Hitler to the Corporation, Joseph N. Abraham, MD, Hidden Hills Press - Reading this work, reminds one of the true nature of many of history's great leaders: a commonality amongst these men and women. Their ambition and drive reveal psychopathic tendencies, allowing them to make the decisions that lead them as kingship and conquering. We speak such names as Alexander the Great and Caesar with awe and wonder, but we almost never think of the character traits that allowed them to ascend to great heights.

Honorable Mentions

Beasts and Gods: How Democracy Changed Its Meaning and Lost its Purpose, Roslyn Fuller, Zed Books - Anyone who does not partake of society is either a beast or a god. Society, and the populaces interaction with it, is the subject of the book. How is a person's voice heard, and what is their ability to influence the course of a state or nation is discussed in great and illuminating detail. How has the idea of democracy changed since ancient Athens, and in what ways has it been corrupted by money or power? In this time of flux in the United States and around the world, there is great value in taking a step back to get a clear perspective on our democracy and the forces that inhibit, obscure, or derail the American experiment.

James H. Critchfield: His Life's Story 1917-2003, Lois M. Critchfield, AuthorHouse - This is the life of James Critchfield, a leader in the US army, the CIA, and later in an engineering company in the Middle East. Each experience propelled him forward to the next adventure. While in the army, he led a historic group of African American soldiers called the 10th Cavalry and later earned a bronze and a silver star for his leadership in combat during World War II. Experiencing the devastation of war greatly impacted Critchfield, ultimately causing him to change course, working for the CIA to rebuild post-war Germany's intelligence agency and later working to get ahead of conflicts in the Middle East regarding oil. Once Watergate hit, Critchfield steered away from the CIA, teaming up with an engineering company that made many contributions in the oil industry. While Critchfield's career is a central theme of the book, the author also includes vignettes from his personal life.

See a full review in the US Review of Books

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