Foreword Reviews

Book of the Day Roundup: November 14-18, 2022

Born Andromeda

Book Cover
K. M. Watts
Duet
Softcover $12.99 (284pp)
978-1-951954-21-5
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

An action-packed space opera that’s not afraid of guts, glory, or going against the grain, K. M. Watts’s Born Andromeda showcases a new type of princess whose success hinges on being true to herself.

Andromeda of Celestine isn’t your typical princess. Disabled, neurodivergent, and obsessed with mechanics, Andy hides engines in her bedroom and prefers plain clothes to pageantry. Despite this, she’s accepted that her life will always be defined by her duties, no matter how much her spirit may suffer. At seventeen, she learns those duties include marrying in just a few days. On her journey to Earth, fate interrupts in the form of a pirate looting gone wrong, but the kidnapping that ensues offers her the first chance to figure out what she wants for herself.

Stuck aboard the pirates’ ship, Andy faces the dissonance between herself and other people’s plans. Her lurches toward self-actualization are punctuated in equal measure by teenage bravado and denial as Andy learns not only how naïve she’s been, but how much fight is in her to be something bigger and more complex than what her role as princess offers.

Relationships comprise a major theme of the novel. The intricacies of family—biological, chosen, and found—help Andy to understand her own wants and needs. She sparks romances with people of multiple genders and forms relationships on her own terms. Whether it’s the crew or the pirate captain himself, the pirates offer her comfort, challenges, and companionship, allowing Andy to contend with her assumptions for the first time.

The novel’s cliffhanger ending tees up Andromeda’s next adventure; it’s a satisfying resolution to the book’s core action. Brash and action-packed, Born Andromeda marks a bold beginning for this young adult science fiction series.

LETITIA MONTGOMERY-RODGERS (October 27, 2022)

Recovering You

Soul Care and Mindful Movement for Overcoming Addiction

Book Cover
Steven Washington
New World Library
Softcover $19.95 (304pp)
978-1-60868-795-4
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

Steven Washington’s tender text Recovering You merges traditional and modern practices into a holistic approach to recovering from addiction.

Trained in traditional Chinese medicine, Washington used qigong, a system of movements and breathing meditations similar to tai chi, in his recovery from alcohol and drug addiction. Before that, he spent years avoiding conflict and dismissing his own identity and needs. With techniques including mindfulness meditation, cultivating positive self-talk, and building social support, his book shares actionable steps and wisdom for constructing a solid foundation for addiction recovery.

Each chapter is consistent and reliable in structure, with exploratory expositions, practical advice from Washington’s vast “recovery toolbox,” and thought-provoking journaling questions for self-discovery. Qigong exercises, featuring helpful illustrations and step-by-step instructions, conclude each chapter, tying their lessons together with applicable movements to induce calmness and energy and to help to process the emotions brought up in the book’s discussions.

Traditional Chinese medicine’s understanding of wellness combines with psychology and modern knowledge of addiction to broaden the book’s scope. The first chapter’s instructions on self-massage on the hands, feet, and ears incorporate both acupressure points and a meditative attitude to enhance the effectiveness of the practice. Additional experiences from years-sober individuals bolster the book’s authority, expanding upon but not relying on the twelve steps from Alcoholics Anonymous for elevated insight.

Washington’s caring, empathetic voice is the book’s most prodigious strength. “We” and “us” language invites connection and encourages self-discovery as the chapters progress. The guidance for creating a personal network is sympathetic to the fact that many recovering addicts lack family support. Authentic explorations of addicts’ behaviors, like hiding from one’s emotions, encourage honest self-reflection without judgment.

Recovering You is an insightful text drawing on sober wisdom; it celebrates optimism and the possibility of navigating recovery from addiction.

AIMEE JODOIN (October 27, 2022)

Neom

Book Cover
Lavie Tidhar
Tachyon Publications
Softcover $17.95 (224pp)
978-1-61696-382-8
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

Amid the shifting desert sands of Lavie Tidhar’s novel Neom, a melancholy robot searches for something to believe in.

Earth has changed since people first took to the stars. In the wake of wars that human beings depended on AI to end, nomadic groups sift the sands for defunct technologies to peddle to collectors. Cities spring up in the deserts, their residents eking out a weary existence. Struggling beings dream of leaving the planet behind.

Mariam, who looks with longing toward the skies, is both fortunate and not in Neom, a city where inequalities still exist, but where a kind of peace is possible. At one of her several jobs in a flower shop, she encounters a decommissioned robot who wants a flower, but who can’t say why. For her, it’s an opening to be kind; for the robot, it’s the start of an uncharted journey to awaken his golden once-companion, who was constructed by a terrorartist.

Across the land: AI shift and awaken. The sands move. Certainties dissipate. And memories better left packed away creep at the edges of people’s minds, defying the protections of time and neuromanipulation. The city below Neom also knew an uprising like this, before it disappeared into ash; those who look toward history for warnings are put on edge by the creaking, onward march of innumerable mechanical limbs.

In his signature style, Tidhar laces his future-set, fascinating tale with biblical references and nods to science fiction classics, here revitalized with added empathy. And though the residents of Neom have valid reasons to fear the AI they left behind, there are hints that the beings they made in their likeness may have something more to contribute than violence: they feel. They yearn. They believe. And they love. Neom is an extraordinary and compassionate trek into the hearts of AI.

MICHELLE ANNE SCHINGLER (October 27, 2022)

Van Dog

Book Cover
Mikołaj Pa
Gosia Herba, illustrator
Milky Way Picture Books
Hardcover $19.99 (50pp)
978-1-990252-12-9
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

A cavalcade of characters brings a parade of color—and a little chaos—to this whimsical story about a dog determined to complete his masterpiece. Van Dog heads out into the countryside intent on painting a landscape; the frequent interruptions seem to vex him, but artistic inspiration can be a funny thing. Robots, vampires, giant lizards, and every color of the rainbow populate the playful illustrations of this delightful book.

DANIELLE BALLANTYNE (October 27, 2022)

Aesthetica

Book Cover
Allie Rowbottom
Soho Press
Hardcover $27.00 (264pp)
978-1-64129-400-3
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

A former influencer reminisces about her days chasing power and internet fame in Allie Rowbottom’s subtle novel Aesthetica.

At nineteen, Anna wanted to be an internet model. Her plan was to find a manager, grow her social media following, and make enough money to support herself and her mother. As her plans came to fruition though, she discovered that compromises are made on the other side of the camera. She was forced to bury secrets.

Now, in a pink hotel in California, Anna lounges by the pool, watching a family swim. Focusing on them takes her mind off her looming experimental procedure to reverse the plastic surgery she had when she was younger. She is unsuccessful, and long repressed memories resurface.

Anna’s thoughts, emotions, and memories are the filter through which all is understood. Unlike a social media filter, meant to obscure flaws, the narrative neither shies away from Anna’s thirst for fame nor allows her to blur the edges of her more destructive choices. Instead, it brings into sharp focus her conflicting feelings about undergoing surgery, which she must convince herself she wants; her fraught relationship with her mother; and her too late realization about the consequences of her work.

Anna’s past and present collide as she scrolls through her old photographs. Past Anna, a naïve teenager, was on a slow spiral into the dark side of social media. Present Anna, a dissatisfied adult, does just enough to stay afloat, moving neither forward nor backward; her fervent wish is to return to a time when she felt full of herself and powerful. The connection between the two versions of Anna is just out of reach.

Aesthetica is an introspective novel wherein fame is fleeting and power must come from within.

DONTANá MCPHERSON-JOSEPH (October 27, 2022)

Barbara Hodge

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