Included below are books dealing with state level corruption, crooked cops, dictatorships, time travel, epic hand-to-hand combat, and moral redemption–and that includes both fiction and nonfiction.
Awesome new books from indie presses are hitting shelves this week. Check them out and see why we loved them.
Likable characters, an intricate world, and imaginative settings combine to make a satisfying young-adult read in Jennifer Brody’s Return of the Continuums, the second book of the dystopian Continuum series.
A millennium ago, a cataclysmic event made Earth’s surface uninhabitable. Survivors were selected to carry on the human race in thirteen enclosed, isolated, and self-sustaining habitats, some placed underground, some beneath the ocean floor, and some in space. Without communication or even knowledge of the other continuums, each society has followed a different path.
Heroine Myra escaped the religious dictatorship of the undersea 13th Continuum in order to search for oxygen, which her colony was running out of. On the quest, she met and joined forces with Aero, a young soldier from the space-based militaristic 2nd Continuum. Return of the Continuums finds Myra and those who escaped with her on the surface of the Earth, a terrain previously thought to be nothing more than myth. Here they meet a third major character, Seeker, a claw-bearing, fur-bearing female from yet another Continuum. Aero is also somewhere on the Surface, but despite the strong mental connection they formed in the earlier book, Myra cannot locate him. With the introduction of Aero and Seeker, Myra’s simple search for oxygen has grown into a mission to abolish the restrictive Continuums and reunite the people of Earth. Adding suspense to the plot is the growing attraction between Myra and Aero, whose indoctrination forbids emotional attachment of any sort. Readers who thrive on dystopiana will be turning the pages to see where it will all lead.
SUSAN WAGGONER (August 26, 2016)
Crime, Corruption, and Injustice in the Crescent City
The Story of Dan Bright works on multiple levels. First and foremost, it’s a cage-rattling exposé of the corrupt criminal justice system of New Orleans. It’s also an honest account of criminal life within a major American city. In writing the book, Bright teamed up with Justin Nobel, a prominent magazine journalist. But as the title page makes clear, this is Bright’s story, and Nobel has only a passive listening role as journalist-recorder.
Bright grew up in the projects of New Orleans. By his teen years, he’d become one of the most powerful drug dealers in the city, working directly with a Colombian drug lord in Florida. His criminal enterprises are detailed in a terse, matter-of-fact style, revealing an inner-city economy in which drug dealers do more to reinvest in the community than the government does, taking over the municipal functions of an absent state.
The corruption and malfeasance of that state become apparent in the second half of the story when Bright is framed for murder. He finds himself pitted against crooked cops and prosecutors hell-bent on sending him to death row for a crime he didn’t commit. The chapters set at Louisiana’s infamous Angola prison are harrowing and disturbing and expose the backward state of American prisons.
The Story of Dan Bright is a story of exoneration hard-won against a Machiavellian legal system. But it’s also the story of one man’s moral redemption as he looks back on the mistakes he made—“I was part of a genocide machine that was destroying my own people”—and looks forward to a new way of life, with newfound awareness and appreciation for those on both sides of the legal system fighting injustice every day.
SCOTT NEUFFER (August 26, 2016)
Winning Clinches, Takedowns and Tactics
This text balances instruction with deep insights, giving mixed martial artists the understanding and skills they need to excel.
Sumo for Mixed Martial Arts: Winning Clinches, Takedowns, and Tactics by Andrew Zerling equips practitioners of other martial arts to add sumo to their skill set.
Early portions of the book focus on the history, culture, and significance of sumo wrestling. Zerling immediately goes far beyond the simple stereotypes and cartoonish notions that most people—even many martial artists—may hold related to this less-practiced craft. This depth and background is shown to be necessary for understanding any martial art, and helps the text balance attention on the importance of thinking as well as of doing.
It may be tempting to jump to the technical photos later in the book, but Zerling reveals that every fighter needs to fully understand their martial art in order to do it well. He paces the introduction nicely, keeping martial artists engaged and ensuring that they will have room to grasp key concepts before proceeding. The third chapter, which links sumo and mixed martial arts, ties together the background, what mixed martial artists already know, and the practical skills that come later in the book. Once the book gets to the instructional section, which fills the bulk of the pages, Zerling’s approach turns to no-nonsense action and instruction, showcasing skills that fighters can apply on the mat right away.
Zerling is a black belt with several decades of experience in a number of martial arts. His expertise and interdisciplinary approach shine through in the book’s balance of instruction and depth of insight. His background as a technical writer is also apparent in the book’s straightforward, thorough, and no-frills prose.
Zerling’s key audience is experienced mixed martial artists who want to add depth and complexity to their fighting repertoire through sumo. The book is best suited for those who take their craft seriously and who want to grow in skill as well as in understanding, but who have little or no experience with sumo. Those new to mixed martial arts will find this book inspiring, but not as practically useful as it is for those with more skills or experience.
The numerous step-by-step photos are a key feature of the book. These serve as a guide through the sport’s complex actions, helping to show how motions operate, even when single photos can’t fully encapsulate motion and direction. Occasionally the images run small, but experienced fighters will have the confidence and know-how to understand and apply what they see.
Sumo for Mixed Martial Arts is a thoughtful work that will help to make mixed martial artists more centered and formidable in their craft.
MELISSA WUSKE (June 29, 2016)
Characters bump up against history and each other’s sharp edges in this thrilling, deftly related novel.
Brian Meehl’s Blowback ’07 is a compelling young-adult time-travel adventure that vividly portrays the overlooked history of modern American football. This gripping story infuses history with humanity, not just in its depiction of football as a noble game, but in its resurrection of those who played and shaped it.
Two Midwestern teenagers, Arky and Iris Jongler-Jinks, are trying to heal from their mother’s unexplained disappearance a year before, while also navigating the everyday obstacles of eleventh grade. When Arky decides to take advantage of his father’s weekend trip and invites his best friends and the rest of the high-school football team over for a postgame party, Iris protests by retreating to her room to practice her oboe.
Little does Arky know, Iris is actually playing the Jongler family cor anglais, an heirloom that appeared on her bed with a note from her mother the day of her disappearance. When Arky’s drunk friend Matt Grunnell interrupts Iris and insists she play for him, the music takes over and Matt disappears, leaving Iris with no idea of his fate.
Matt soon discovers he’s arrived in the Carlisle, Pennsylvania of 1907, where another Jongler named Alfred finds him. Alfred also possesses the family cor anglais, but until Alfred decides what to do, Matt must enroll at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School and lay low. Stuck biding his time, Matt tries to do what he’s good at—football. But he has a lot to learn about the game Pop Warner and the Carlisle Indians football team are playing.
Arky and Iris’s experience races beat-for-beat with as much excitement as Matt’s. The drama of their mother’s disappearance makes for rich material, and the twins’ differences are displayed in zinging, often hilarious dialogue.
As the twins race for answers in the present time, Matt’s journey into history reveals a world rich in well-rounded characters who struggle with issues of identity, race, passion, and simple maturation. Progressive Era attitudes shape the 1907 world, and Meehl doesn’t shy away from history’s facts. Matt experiences the violence and force of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School’s intervention, even as he is insulated from many of the physical and psychological tolls by virtue of his status on the football team, and the fact that he knows he’s not Native American or a permanent part of that time stream.
However, Matt is a believable time voyager who acts as much like a teenager as the students around him. Collectively, the characters are allowed to behave in perfectly imperfect ways. These wholly relatable flaws, as much as Meehl’s fluid prose, make Carlisle Indian Industrial School’s history and inhabitants come to life.
Reminiscent of Octavia Butler’s Kindred, Meehl’s deft characterization and gift for infusing historical facts with emotional depth and motivation makes for a consuming read. By allowing his characters to bump up against both history and each other’s sharp edges, Meehl’s world thrills in the first book of this promising new trilogy.
LETITIA MONTGOMERY-RODGERS (October 19, 2016)
Seth Dellon is director of audience development at Foreword Reviews. You can meet him or hear him speak at most of the events Foreword attends, and contact him at email@example.com.