Book List

Indie Best Books of the Month September

Bold, charming, and inspirational.

NOT A POSTER CHILD

LIVING WELL WITH A DISABILITY: A MEMOIR

A Californian polio survivor shares memories of her challenging but fulfilling life in this debut memoir.

Falk-Allen remembers being what she refers to as a “normie”—“what the ‘crip’ community…calls non-disabled people.” Her memoir opens with her as a toddler in 1950, running carefree down West 109th Street in the Westmont neighborhood of Los Angeles. This was her last memory of running; at 3 years old, she contracted spinal polio, causing paralysis of her right leg. Doctors said that she’d be in a wheelchair for the rest of her life. Falk-Allen recounts her two weeks in quarantine, which was followed by six months in a rehab center that felt like imprisonment. She began physical therapy and, contrary to her doctor’s initial prognosis, was able to learn how to walk with assistance from crutches and a leg brace. But after she was released, she faced new adversity as she tried to assimilate as a “normie.” She charts her growing interest in boys, her high school fascination with rock ’n’ roll during the mid-1960s, her time as a co-ed at San José State University and the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, and her development into a confident young woman. Along the way, the author shares many painful memories; as a child, she says, she was injected with a muscle relaxant every day for 180 consecutive days, which resulted in her becoming “permanently needle-averse.” But she recalls her difficulties with unflinching prose, and her directness and dry humor are captivating: “I have never felt I had the choice to Scarlett O’Hara my experience (‘I’ll think about that later’).” Some readers may interpret this candor as overly abrupt, or even unfunny; the author is aware of this possibility, but she knows her target audience: “if you are a fan of Monty Python, I ask you to remember the irony of the song, ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’—sung while Brian was being crucified—as you read on.” Overall, this is a frank, no-nonsense account of living with a disability edged with a razor-sharp wit.

Bold, charming, and inspirational.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63152-391-5

Page Count: 364

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: June 7, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

Whip-smart plotting makes this adventure an ideal romp.

MATTHEW PATTERSON AND THE WISH DEFENDERS

In this middle-grade fantasy debut, the removal of pennies from a water fountain unleashes magical forces both good and evil.

Matthew Patterson’s 13th birthday isn’t going too well. Football tryouts are a disaster when school bully Dan Valdner trips him. Worse, the kindhearted Kelsey Robins can only look on while the coach boots Matthew from the field. Later, his parents take him and his best friend, Johnny Barnes, to the family’s favorite restaurant, The Inn of the Eleventh Ray. In the restaurant’s courtyard is a stone fountain featuring sculptures of odd creatures with “long arms, pointy fingers, and long, curling tails.” Matthew impulsively grabs three pennies from the fountain, little realizing that the act is noticed high above, and far below, the restaurant. In caves deep within the Earth, Bolterkein, ruler of the Wish Stealers, dispatches his agents—Glut, Sluth, and Tanger—to help steal the energy from the wishes that Matthew has placed in jeopardy. Meanwhile, on “the brightest star in the sky,” Empress Hopreme of the Wish Defenders responds with her own team: Nova, Dodd, and Byno. Their mission is to aid Matthew in returning the coins to the fountain within 24 hours or Bolterkein will be one step closer to escaping his subterranean prison. For their collaboration, Holm and Foster deliver a bouncy adventure with some exceptionally daring twists. First among them is that the wishes made with Matthew’s pennies are coming undone. WNBA all-star Judy Hughes loses her skills on the court, and the elderly Clay Williams finds that his wife, Edith, is once again gravely ill. That the third coin belonged to the protagonist’s parents—which sets Matthew himself unraveling—further jolts this creative story. Trim, capable prose transports readers, as when “Clouds slowly drifted by the pinkish-purple sunset....The planet’s surface was covered with large islands surrounded by turquoise-blue water.” After time spent at a water park and in a car chase, the narrative ties several threads together in a remarkable bow, highlighting the role of hard work in life.

Whip-smart plotting makes this adventure an ideal romp.

Pub Date: March 30, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-578-20056-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Holmade Publishing

Review Posted Online: June 7, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

A piquant and fun romp that recounts the misadventures of a beer drinker who proves to be as insightful as he is amusing.

THE UNLOUNGING

FROM A BELLY FULL OF BEER TO A CRAW FULL OF TIME

A 20-something Missouri man with a penchant for swilling beer on his lounger experiences an epiphany that turns his life around in this fictionalized memoir.

Selraybob peaks when he plays left tackle for the Waketon champion high school football team. Years later, his wife, Joalene, reads him the riot act, walks out the door, and leaves him sitting in his lounger drinking three quarts of beer a day, reminiscing about those glory high school days. Does he indulge in self-pity as he watches her stride away? Of course not. Instead, Sel (as his friends call him) sees two clocks that differ in time by seven minutes, and this observation becomes the inspiration that drives him from his lounger to reclaim his broken life (“What I decided was this: all we’ve been doing when we tell time, since we started telling time, is counting things. That’s it. We’ve been counting”). That may not seem like much, but to Sel this reflection leads him to obsessively read up on time and to formulate his own intriguing theory, which comprises an Everyman’s argument against the ideas of Einstein and Stephen Hawking and all the sophisticated and complex concepts of modern physics. “Time is a Count,” Sel surmises. In this funny, wise, and poignant account, the author, also named Selraybob (There Is No Now, 2011), deftly describes the protagonist’s bracing journey and captivating cohorts. With the help of his best buddy, Herm, Sel fixes up his old, beloved, broken-down car (“She was still beautiful. Sleek and red. A Corvair. But not just any Corvair….This was a 1964 Monza Convertible. Rear engine. Long, straight lines. Not curvy but not boxy. Lean. And misunderstood. She was called dangerous back in the day”). He wants to hot-rod around town and keep an eye on Joalene; he thinks she is having an affair with Reggie, Herm’s brother, the star quarterback Sel protected back in his football days. As Sel embarks on rollicking escapades while skillfully unraveling the mystery of time, Herm’s beautiful wife gives him some much-needed backup. Written in a distinctive, plain style that calls to mind Mark Twain, this book should touch and entertain readers with its self-deprecating humor and deep perceptions that penetrate to the root of the Midwest American male character.

A piquant and fun romp that recounts the misadventures of a beer drinker who proves to be as insightful as he is amusing.

Pub Date: July 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9846156-6-7

Page Count: 210

Publisher: Cur Dog Press

Review Posted Online: June 9, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

Fosters familial connection and resilience; told in luxurious prose with illustrations worth framing.

IF YOU LOOK UP TO THE SKY

In this stunning picture book debut from Dalton, strikingly painted by veteran illustrator Sikorskaia (Big Cat, Little Fox, 2018, etc.), a girl sees the wisdom in her grandmother’s words across a multitude of beautiful skyscapes.

A little girl and her grandmother, both dark-skinned, look into the sky together. The grandmother tells the child that if she’s feeling lost but can see the moon through the clouds, she will “know you’re in the place you are meant to be.” If there is no moon, that is a moment to learn patience. If there are stars, they glow with the child’s accomplishments. Each skyscape represents something: A shooting star is the girl’s uniqueness; a storm shows that even bad moments can be exciting—and will pass; clouds are dreams waiting to be dreamed; and a cloudless sky shows anything is possible. Sikorskaia’s vibrant color choices stretch across double-page spreads, each with the girl showing a different aspect of her own personality that reflects the grandmother’s wisdom: She is in turn a ballet dancer, a hiker, a canoe paddler, a dreamer, and—at the end—a mother with a son of her own, sharing what her grandmother told her. The rhythm and cadence of Dalton’s prose are beautifully lyrical, and the tone is at once forward-looking and nostalgic: The world is full of possibility, and those we love are with us always.

Fosters familial connection and resilience; told in luxurious prose with illustrations worth framing.

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-59298-828-0

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Beaver's Pond Press

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

An entertaining, sweetly atmospheric baseball story.

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    Best Books Of 2018

THE FAT LADY'S LOW, SAD SONG

An over-the-hill first baseman and a female pitcher lead a misfit team to minor league glory in this hangdog sports romance. 

After 10 years in the minors, first baseman Parker Westfall has nothing to show for it except two suitcases containing all his worldly belongings, a fat gut, and impressive home run stats that somehow never impressed a major league team. He reaches the lowest rung of pro ball when he signs with the indie league cellar-dwelling Fort Collins Miners in Colorado. There, he joins a crew of leftovers, including a gigantic outfielder with a hair-trigger temper, an aching catcher, and a second baseman with a yen for Shakespeare. Presiding over them is Grady O’Connor, an irascible manager with an inane “Grady Ball” system that consists mainly of chewing players out, even when they hit homers. Rounding out the roster is newbie Courtney Morgan, a 20-year-old female knuckleballer who bowls Parker over with her looks. Parker gets off to a fine start, batting .400 and blasting balls out of the stadium, but Courtney, despite her world-class knuckler, gets shelled off the mound in her outings. When Parker tries to give her advice, he runs up against her prickly defensiveness and Grady’s idiotic managerial decrees. Debut author Kaufman’s knockabout yarn paints a grubby but beguiling portrait of minor league purgatory with its cruddy locker rooms, lewd dugout banter, and belligerent fans, all lit in the twilight glow of misbegotten major league dreams. His prose captures both the thrill of the game—“the ball strikes the top of his glove’s webbing, and when Montgomery falls back to earth like Icarus, having touched the sun, the ball stays in his glove”—and the crass commercialism behind the heroics. (“If I keep the same guys on, year after year, we become a lower-tier product, indistinguishable from roller derby,” the team owner says, explaining that the need to draw fans with the illusion that they are watching future major leaguers means Parker’s contract won’t be renewed despite his great season.) Parker and his teammates can’t win, but readers will still root for them. 

An entertaining, sweetly atmospheric baseball story.

Pub Date: June 28, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68433-072-0

Page Count: 190

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

Review Posted Online: June 13, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

A magnetic and vital historical restoration.

LEGACIES

INTERVIEWS WITH MASTERS OF PHOTOGRAPHY FROM DARKROOM PHOTOGRAPHY MAGAZINE

A reprinting of long-lost interviews with photography icons. 

As the lead interviewer for the now-defunct Darkroom Photography magazine, debut author Bultman didn’t shy away from approaching high-profile personalities, asking uncomfortable questions, and distilling complex photographic theories into digestible, compelling prose. The author spoke with some now-legendary photographers, such as Gordon Parks, Robert Mapplethorpe, Mary Ellen Mark, Ernst Haas, Barbara Crane, and Lee D. Witkin, and allowed each to speak freely about their practice, without any limitations. “Gordon Parks flirted. Lee Witkin was so likeable, I wanted him to be my new best friend. Robert Mapplethorpe was weak and barely articulate,” Bultman writes. “He hadn’t yet announced he had AIDS…but he was clearly ill. I left his studio, and I cried.” In this book, readers experience intimate discussions that had been lost to those without access to Darkroom Photography—all featuring Bultman’s intelligent questions, engaging repartee, and genuine curiosity. Many interviews published here were conducted in the 1980s, pre–9/11 and pre-digital age. As a result, a lot of their wonder and critical thinking may seem somewhat foreign to modern readers. In her interview with Parks, the photographer identifies “the camera as a weapon against intolerance, injustice, and poverty”; later, Mark says “there’s no such thing as being objective on a personal project. If you care about it, then you have to be subjective. But it’s very easy to make pictures lie, so you have to be fair in that sense.” Although these ideas aren’t novel, reading them here, as they were expressed by masters, may give readers goosebumps—and perhaps even entice some younger readers to consider photography in the same ways. Ultimately, this is a beautiful historical document of a long-gone era.

A magnetic and vital historical restoration.

Pub Date: April 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-692-83443-5

Page Count: 230

Publisher: Quercus Agrifolia Press

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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