Book List

Indie Best Books of the Month May

A rich remembrance of a captivating, transformative era in American history.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2018



A stunning debut memoir that documents the societal and racial changes of the mid-20th century, told from the perspective of a Chicago family caught in the middle of them.

After the deaths of their parents, Fred and Lillian Gartz, the author and her two brothers found a genealogical treasure: decades’ worth of “letters, diaries, documents, and photos” written and taken by her parents and grandparents. Using these detailed sources, she pieced together this family memoir, which begins with her grandparents’ immigration to Chicago, their strict and sometimes-abusive child-rearing methods, and their financial devastation during the Great Depression. The spotlight then shifts to her parents’ romantic courtship and the early days of their marriage. The joy and innocence of their young love would soon face the demands of everyday life, including caring for Lil’s psychotic mother, “their time-sucking devotion to building maintenance” as landlords, and Fred’s travel-heavy job that severely strained their marriage. Later, she says, the 1950s brought “a mass migration of African Americans, escaping from the…cruelties of the Jim Crow South.” Gartz describes the racial tensions that existed in her white family’s neighborhood, manifesting especially in discriminatory property laws that kept black people in poverty. Gartz concludes the book with her own recollections of the civil rights movement and the era’s changing sexual mores before returning the spotlight to her parents in their old age. Although the subtitle suggests that this book is primarily about race in 1960s Chicago, it actually covers a much broader array of material, both chronologically (from the early 1900s to the ’80s) and topically, as she addresses mental illness, marital distress, and her own quest for independence, among other issues. Her primary sources, which include the aforementioned photographs and quoted letters and journals, provide an invaluable, up-close-and-personal view of historical events and family drama. Gartz writes with a warm tone, and the various people and settings are as well-developed and intriguing as those in a riveting novel.

A rich remembrance of a captivating, transformative era in American history.

Pub Date: April 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63152-320-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

A skillfully written, well-researched account of two difficult, mesmerizing characters.



This biography tells the story of Czech artist Jan Emmerich “Riko” Mikeska and his wife, Greta Schmied.

When Dailey (Listening to Pakistan, 2013) first met Riko, at a friend’s recommendation, the artist was already 80 years old and nearing the end of his life. “The works of Mikeska give you joy,” summarized an art critic writing in 1936, yet today he’s barely known. Fascinated by Riko’s powerful personality and Greta’s need to tell their story, Dailey began recording their chats and, over 20 years, gathering accounts from the couple’s friends. The saga is amplified with photographs, some in color; curious readers can visit an associated website ( for more. Born in the industrial town of Vitkovice, Moravia, in 1903, Riko painted and studied in cities like Vienna, Berlin, and Paris, living mainly in Prague. He married Greta, an artist, illustrator, and teacher, in 1929. With Greta later in danger because of her Jewish ancestry, the couple escaped Prague and the Nazis for Britain. After 10 years in that country, Riko and Greta moved to New York City, where they lived until their deaths (in 1983 and 1998, respectively). Despite Riko’s promising early career, his work gained little notice after he emigrated. Dailey draws out the many captivating strands in Riko’s personality: his skill as a teacher, his ability to win friends, his highly developed sense of injustice, his hatred of self-promotion, and his perfectionism. These last two traits could be self-destructive; he’d overwork paintings, sell them for too little, or refuse to offer them at all, though money was always an issue. Dailey describes all this with verve and insight, as when discussing Riko’s palette. "Riko’s love for André Derain and Maurice de Vlaminck, both leaders of the Fauves movement, was as intense as their colors—pigments unseen (but yearned for) in the chiaroscuro of Riko’s coal-scrimmed youth,” she writes in a nice passage. Greta’s story, too, is well-represented, making this nearly a dual biography: her birth in 1900; her moneyed upbringing, being tutored by the likes of Kafka and Max Brod; her first marriage; and her struggles to earn a living and guard her husband’s legacy.

A skillfully written, well-researched account of two difficult, mesmerizing characters.

Pub Date: Dec. 19, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-99-940690-8

Page Count: 313

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

A book that will make readers want to pack their bags and catch the first flight to somewhere far away.



A set of rules for life, by way of a delightful travel narrative.

Jensen (How to Recruit, Select, Induct and Retain the Very Best Teachers, 1987, etc.) and her late husband, World War II veteran Rudy, had diametrically opposite personalities, but their combination makes for excellent stories. Her memoir highlights her husband’s list of travel rules, and over the course of their adventures, he taught her how to apply them to all things in life. The tales can be hilarious or heartbreaking, but all highlight “Rule #11”: “Relax. Some kind stranger will appear.” Throughout, the author highlights Rudy’s adventuresome spirit and absolute optimism as they journeyed to Scotland, Mexico, Egypt, Indonesia, and elsewhere. The stories don’t necessarily teach readers very much about the places they visited but rather tell how to live life to the fullest. “We don’t travel to have comfort...we can have comfort at home,” Jensen writes; traveling, according to Rudy, is for learning about new cultures, and to do that, you must “ride with locals, not tourists.” In Oaxaca, for example, the Jensens were swept up in a crowd headed to celebrate Holy Thursday. They would have missed the opportunity to participate in the ceremony if they’d gone to the recommended tourist destinations—and indeed, Jensen looked up “to see tourists in the two restaurants above us…straining to see, to understand what has happened on the streets below. I see what they had missed.” Other stories are laugh-out-loud funny, as when the couple decides between two dangerous modes of transportation in Puerto Escondido. When in Egypt, the Jensens faced a heartbreaking experience, yet it was one that also showed the generosity of the people in the community. Not a lot of time is spent at any given location in each section; instead, the author takes readers to many places, briefly but vividly describing each. In this way, the author shows how Rudy’s Rules applied to a wide variety of scenarios.

A book that will make readers want to pack their bags and catch the first flight to somewhere far away.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63152-322-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

A clever, silly, and giggle-out-loud funny adventure.


When tiny creatures commandeer Sebastian’s room, everything goes haywire in this incredibly clever, beautifully designed picture book from debut author/illustrator Forbes.

“Some-Things are tiny, but you can see them if you look closely,” the story begins, filling the entire page with this single sentence in bubble letters of varying sizes. Several Some-Things live inside Sebastian’s house (only just visible in their bright colors, hiding inside the vent), and they invite every Some-Thing they know to come to a party. The multihued, multitextured creatures soon fill Sebastian’s room, much to Sebastian’s dismay. After two clever, almost-rhyming two-page spreads of the different types and shapes of Some-Things Sebastian encounters, the boy demands they leave his room. But—they protest—not without cake! Although there seems to be a Some-Thing for everything, not a one of them knows how to bake a cake, so they turn to their resident magician, who turns the entire house into a cake. After the Some-Things and all the human neighbors help to eat the house, the Some-Things helpfully build a new, grows-with-water home for Sebastian’s family, leading to one last visual joke in the endpapers. Forbes has designed the book so that the words themselves become part of the pictures, and the collage-textured illustrations, reminiscent of the Pinkalicious series, will have readers giggling. Sebastian’s misadventures are sure to tickle funny bones, and young readers will be looking at their bedroom vents for their own Some-Things.

A clever, silly, and giggle-out-loud funny adventure.

Pub Date: Dec. 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5255-1894-2

Page Count: 36

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

A must-have for comic historians and those interested in gothic romances, romance comics, and LGBTQ interpretations of...


This anthology pays tribute to the gothic-romance style seen in comic books from their 1960s and ‘70s heyday, updating them in fresh ways.

Like the novels they’re based on, gothic-romance comic books “embodied the best of the gothic-romance tradition—isolated and eerie locations, inherited crumbling manors, family secrets, ghosts, secret identities, and passions heightened by mysterious circumstances,” plus the iconic image of a woman in a white nightgown running away from a dark mansion. The 20 pieces collected here by Nicholson (The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen, 2017, etc.) and Beiko (Scion of the Fox, 2017, etc.) vary in style, tone, and subject but always play with the genre and reader expectations in creative ways. For example, the opening story, “Crush” (writing by Janet Hetherington; art by Ronn Sutton; color art by Becka Kizie; lettering by Zakk Saam), employs a traditional comic-book style and seems at first to be a typical, suspenseful gothic setup: A governess goes to a lonely mansion owned by a ship’s captain whose “eyes are as wild as the sea.” (With his seven children, the story has amusing resonance with The Sound of Music as well.) Not so typical is that the heroine, Constance Mayhew, is black, and the children are undaunted by their harsh father. Other stories, too, turn the tables on tradition. Besides people of color, they also offer powerful heroines; gay and lesbian characters; a mix of several fresh artistic styles; modern-day settings; outcomes that don’t depend on winning love; stories in Vietnamese and Korean; and even a quiz (“How grave is your misfortune?”). By turns romantic, dreamy, death-haunted, or tongue-in-cheek, this is a splendid offering, entertaining on its own and provokingly genre-bending. Editors Nicholson and Beiko have done readers a real service by assembling such a diverse, attractive collection by talented writers and artists. Their love for the genre comes through, and this volume is likely to gain more fans.

A must-have for comic historians and those interested in gothic romances, romance comics, and LGBTQ interpretations of traditional forms—highly entertaining.

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-988715-07-0

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Bedside Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

A riveting journey recounted by an irrepressible, highly likable narrator.



A witty, resilient Liverpudlian sets out to visit every sovereign nation in the world in this travelogue.

British adventurer Hughes plans to visit every country and territory in the world. In order to satisfy Guinness World Records, he agrees to follow a few basic rules: He can’t travel by plane, nor hitchhike, nor use anything other than public transportation; he must set foot on dry land in each place; and “A visit to a far-flung territory does not count as a visit to ‘the motherland.’ ” This first installment of a planned trilogy begins on Jan. 1, 2009, on the border between Argentina and Uruguay and ends, 133 countries and 6 territories later, on Dec. 31, 2009, at the Egyptian pyramids. It covers the author’s journey through the Americas, Europe, and Africa, and it’s bursting with fascinating, hilarious, and occasionally terrifying anecdotes. While traveling across the Gulf of Mexico, he nonchalantly recounts that a yacht captain used “a fishing hook to put stitches in [his] head with no anaesthetic other than a bottle of scotch.” In the Congo, he’s inexplicably thrown into a prison cell that “was like somewhere you might wake up if you were a victim of the Jigsaw Killer” in the movie Saw. Yet the mood is almost always upbeat, and readers will succumb to Hughes’ deliciously blunt humor: “the fact that I still hadn’t suffered the squits the entire journey…only goes to prove that my DNA should be extracted and cloned in order to create the race of ginger super-soldiers that will one day RULE THE WORLD.” The book is made even more amusing by editor’s notes that occasionally translate the author’s Liverpool slang: “Helga rustled up some scouse (Liverpool stew) for me to eat and it was proper boss la….Editor’s Note: Apparently in Liverpool this means really good.” The straightforward, chronological approach leaves little time for evocative description, but it adds to the urgency as the author visits country after country. It’s also carefully illustrated with maps and information cards throughout. Readers will be eager to read the next book in this series.

A riveting journey recounted by an irrepressible, highly likable narrator.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62613-081-4

Page Count: 332

Publisher: ATBOSH Media Ltd.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

More Book Lists

The Magazine: Kirkus Reviews

Jenn Shapland reclaims a queer icon in My Autobiography of Carson McCullers.

  • The Kirkus Star

    One of the most coveted designations in the book industry, the Kirkus Star marks books of exceptional merit.

  • The Kirkus Prize

    The Kirkus Prize is among the richest literary awards in America, awarding $50,000 in three categories annually.

    See the 2019 winners.

Great Books & News Curated For You

Be the first to read books news and see reviews, news and features in Kirkus Reviews. Get awesome content delivered to your inbox every week.

Thank you!

Looks good !! Please provide a valid email.