Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Dial Books: Adrian Simcox Does Not Have a Horse by Marcy Campbell, illustrated by Corinna Luyken

From My Shelf

Silver Dolphin Books: Eppie the Elephant (Who Was Allergic to Peanuts) by Livingstone Crouse, illustrated by Steve Brown

Algonquin Books: Shadow of the Lions by Christopher Swann

Book to Movie: Strange and Wonderful

Alexandra Bracken is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. Director Jennifer Yuh Nelson's film adaptation of her book The Darkest Minds is now playing in theaters.
It's a strange and wonderful thing to see your story through someone else's eyes.
When The Darkest Minds was first optioned in 2011, I could not have been closer to the story. I had just spent over a year writing and revising the book in a bedroom that barely had enough room for a forever-broken IKEA dresser, let alone space to dream. As I wrote, I envisioned the world of the possible film: I pictured every scratch on the minivan the characters drive; daydreamed about scenic Virginia; imagined the classic rock soundtrack kicking in at certain moments.
Time has created some emotional distance. It's seven years later and the movie adaptation looks almost nothing like how I'd pictured it... and I think that's fine.
I love the book and its world, but I've also come to really appreciate the flexibility of storytelling--that a plot can twist and condense to fit a new medium and others' visions.
And there are many others: I wish I'd known from the start how many people touch a film before it ever hits theaters. There's the screenwriter, of course, but the studio, director and producers all weigh in extensively before filming begins. Not to mention the cast and the rest of the crew--the set decorator, the costume designer, the cinematographer and so on--who bring their own ideas to the shoot.
It's difficult to let go of an image we've held onto and embrace something new, but there's a real reward in being open to it. The film team created a collaboration that let me enjoy my story in a whole new way: filtered through the imagination of others. Best of all, it retains the thematic heart and honors the characters in a way I know readers will love.

From My Shelf

Silver Dolphin Books: Eppie the Elephant (Who Was Allergic to Peanuts) by Livingstone Crouse, illustrated by Steve Brown

Algonquin Books: Shadow of the Lions by Christopher Swann

The Next Move

The last weeks of August are buzzing with new beginnings--children getting ready to go back to school, students heading to college. For those of us who wish we, too, could experience something new and exciting in our lives, or just push the reset button on our careers, it's tempting to wonder what the options might be. If you're pondering your next move, these books will get you asking all the right questions.
In Pivot: The Only Move that Matters Is Your Next One (Portfolio) Jenny Blake demonstrates how to take advantage of existing strengths and interests to pivot in new career directions. She encourages small steps, not big leaps, toward new goals.
What Blake refers to as "pivoting," authors Bill Burnett and Dave Evans of Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well Lived, Joyful Life (Knopf) call "reframing." They advocate the use of good design principles--the same ones that gave us our smartphones, for instance--to highlight our best qualities and reveal their optimum use. Bottom line: it's never too late to design a life you love. The crucial question is not how to solve a design problem but to define it correctly in the first place.
What Color Is Your Parachute? 2018: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers (Ten Speed Press) by Richard N. Bolles is an updated, reliable classic that covers résumé building, interviewing and job hunting tips in excellent detail. It is packed with all manner of helpful advice, including how to start one's own business, how to deal with a handicap and how to conduct a personal inventory that is the first step toward promoting one's best self. --Shahina Piyarali, writer and reviewer

From My Shelf

Silver Dolphin Books: Eppie the Elephant (Who Was Allergic to Peanuts) by Livingstone Crouse, illustrated by Steve Brown

Algonquin Books: Shadow of the Lions by Christopher Swann

Building Your Cookbook Shelf: Food Science

There's much to be said for cookbooks that cover the basics, but there's more to good food than simply following a recipe. Understanding the science behind a recipe can make it easier to adjust on the fly based on the ingredients you have available, correct and pivot when things go wrong mid-recipe or make up an entirely new-to-you dish based on your diet and food preferences.
We highlighted America's Test Kitchen and the Cook's Illustrated Cookbook in a recent column, and it's worth mentioning them both here again. ATK takes an evidence-based approach to food and cooking; Test Kitchen staff will test every variation of a recipe they can before determining what method is best. The Cook's Illustrated Cookbook is a handy guide for anyone who wonders how the same cookie dough recipe, say, can result in crunchy or chewy cookies, depending on the day.
J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, a one-time editor of the Cook's Illustrated magazine, brings this same scientific approach to food in his stellar book The Food Lab. "Once you understand the basic science of how and why a recipe works, you suddenly find that you've freed yourself from the shackles of recipes," he writes. The Food Lab is a reflection of that philosophy: while Lopez-Alt does offer recipes, they are written to encourage home chefs to experiment on their own. Samin Nosrat's Salt Fat Acid Heat starts from a similar point, providing practical advice for mastering the "elements of good cooking," as she calls them, to create any type of dish.
While Julia Turshen's Small Victories is not about food science, per se, the recipes collected within are an invitation to play with traditional dishes: each recipe includes suggestions for small, simple shifts that can be applied to transform the original dish into something entirely new, as well as a nod to the "small victory" to be learned in its making. That learning--and those victories, be they large or small--is, after all, what makes time in the kitchen the enjoyment that it is. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

From My Shelf

Silver Dolphin Books: Eppie the Elephant (Who Was Allergic to Peanuts) by Livingstone Crouse, illustrated by Steve Brown

Algonquin Books: Shadow of the Lions by Christopher Swann

Summertime... and the Reading Is Easy

The lazy days of August are perfect for reading. Find a cool spot on a hammock or a hot spot on the beach and enjoy one of these summer-themed books.
Prodigal Summer (Harper Perennial, $16.99) by Barbara Kingsolver features three stories about a female park ranger, a young farmer's wife and an elderly man who are linked only by living in the same region of Virginia, though their stories gradually come together. Kingsolver's focus on nature and the ecosystems and economics of Appalachia make this novel immersive.
Providing a different perspective of the season, This One Summer (First Second. $18.99) by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki is a young adult graphic novel that won both the Printz and Caldecott Honors and appeals to adults, too. Two girls, Rose and Windy, on the cusp of adolescence, return every year to the same lake with their families. This tale of the girls' turning-point summer is told with emotional depth, an intricate plot and well-developed characters.
If you prefer historical fiction, The Summer Guest (HarperCollins, $15.99) by Alison Anderson is a novel that transports the reader to a different time and place: Ukraine in 1888, where Anton Chekhov and his family rent a guesthouse from another family. Moving back and forth between the present and the past (through diary entries), this beautifully written novel delves into the life of the author in a very personal way.
Nonfiction lovers can get their fix with One Summer: America, 1927 (Anchor, $17) by Bill Bryson, whose informative and entertaining books are legendary. This one takes a look at a single season in history. For each month of that summer, Bryson tackles a single subject, including Babe Ruth, Charles Lindbergh, Calvin Coolidge and more.
--Suzan L. Jackson, freelance writer and blogger at Book By Book

From My Shelf

Silver Dolphin Books: Eppie the Elephant (Who Was Allergic to Peanuts) by Livingstone Crouse, illustrated by Steve Brown

Algonquin Books: Shadow of the Lions by Christopher Swann

The Book Is... Different

When it comes to film or television adaptations of books, the old snobbish saying is "the book was better," and I've tended to agree with that assessment more often than not. It can be difficult to watch a story you love that doesn't match the version that exists in your head, no matter how faithful the adaptation. And if the movie or show does depart from the book in significant ways, it's common for fans to have a strong negative reaction--if you don't believe me, ask the people still upset that Tom Bombadil didn't make it into the otherwise faithful The Fellowship of the Ring film.
On the other hand, there are movies and shows that depart so significantly from the books that inspired them that they seem like entirely separate visions. I generally favor this approach, because it allows for writers and filmmakers to do more than re-create a story I've already read. For a recent example, see the film adaptation of Annihilation, which incorporated elements from throughout Jeff VanderMeer's bizarre Southern Reach trilogy, along with entirely new ideas, to create an opaque, visually stunning puzzle. The television version of The Magicians (Penguin Books, $17) is a less demanding watch, but it also significantly remixes the source material to the point that fans of the book series had more than a few surprises in store. Going back some decades, Stephen King and many of his fans never approved of the film version of The Shining (Anchor, $8.99), which cut huge chunks of the book and conformed to director Stanley Kubrick's signature chilly style.
The debate over whether "the book is better" is likely to continue in perpetuity, but I'm always happy to see literary adaptations willing to take a chance or two. If the book is truly great, no adaptation will diminish it. --Hank Stephenson, bookseller, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, N.C.

From My Shelf

Silver Dolphin Books: Eppie the Elephant (Who Was Allergic to Peanuts) by Livingstone Crouse, illustrated by Steve Brown

Algonquin Books: Shadow of the Lions by Christopher Swann

Notes from Shanghai

Our first stop was for spicy noodles after a long day on a train from Beijing to Shanghai. Our second was a little shop in the French Concession serving English-language literature and gelato. By now my boyfriend knows that when we travel, I'll find us at least one bookstore--per city. Dessert was just a bonus.
It was a sleepy Thursday evening on Shaanxi Road, and we were the only customers, so I took the opportunity to ask the bored staff for recommendations. Fiction about contemporary China, ideally. One bookseller handed me The Seventh Day by Yu Hua (Anchor, $16), like he'd known me for years. I had missed its initial U.S. release in 2015, but an ethereally wistful yet morbidly funny sojourn through the afterlife? Count me in! I basically swallowed it whole.
Savoring our gelato, my boyfriend and I continued through the French Concession, not realizing just how long we would wander there. Even when we thought we might explore another neighborhood, our plans kept bringing us back.
In retrospect, it was like Ma Bo'le's circuitous perambulations in Xiao Hong's tragicomic novel Ma Bo'le's Second Life (Open Letter, $15.95). Of course, Ma was puttering around the French Concession in the 1930s, apprehensive about the Japanese siege. Through this episodic, Dickensian story, Xiao nimbly observes the pull of Westernization and tension of impending war. I couldn't help but fly through it just this week, with a growing longing for a second chance at Shanghai.
It's true I've fallen in love a bit. And though I may not return for quite some time, I feel fortunate that Lucy Tan's debut, What We Were Promised (Little, Brown, $26), was waiting for me when I got home. It's set in contemporary Shanghai, and our review (below) calls it "an astute portrait of a staid family thrown into disarray." Looks like I have my weekend reading cut out for me. --Dave Wheeler, associate editor, Shelf Awareness

Abrams Appleseed: Super Pooper and Whizz Kid (Hello!lucky) by Eunice and Sabrina Moyle

Book Candy

Check Your Book Obsession

Pop quiz: "Are you obsessed with books?" Buzzfeed asks.


"It's got a subtle Casablanca connection." Mental Floss shares "10 fascinating facts about The Handmaid's Tale."


"What is Walden Pond?" Atlas Obscura notes that Henry David Thoreau's legendary retreat's "cultural meaning may be calcified--but off the page, it's changing fast."


"Reading a book takes time--deal with it," Electric Lit advises.


From Frankenstein to Pinocchio, Sjón picks his "top 10 artificial humans in fiction" for the Guardian.

Charlesbridge Publishing: First Day Jitters (Mrs. Hartwell's Class Adventures) by Julie Danneberg

Books About Falling for Your BFF

Shhhh. Bustle recommends "7 Books About Best Friends Falling in Love That Will Give You Serious Feel-Good Vibes."


Buzzfeed wonders which "Harry Potter characters would survive the Hunger Games?"


Chronicle Books offers "six books that teach children to be global citizens."


In the Guardian, novelist A.G. Lombardo outlines his "top 10 novels about riots," which include A Clockwork Orange, Midnight's Children, Les Misérables and The Plot Against America.


Perhaps "better known for its scantily clad female characters and their impossible anatomy," anime does feature "plenty of incredible badass women," Quirk Books writes. It profiles eight of them in "Strong female characters in anime."

Chronicle Books: Be Everything at Once: Tales of a Cartoonist Lady Person by Dami Lee

Fictional Character Quiz

"Only a serious bookworm will know which novels these characters are from," Buzzfeed challenged.


Bustle pitched "five folktales from around the world that would make incredible movies."


Atlas Obscura profiled Ellen G.K. Rubin, the "Popuplady," who has more than 9,000 pop-up and movable books in her collection.


Bookstr explored "six examples of Emily Brontë's lasting influence on pop culture."


An "extremely rare" leather-bound copy of Ada Lovelace's pioneering computer program, first published in 1843, sold at auction for nearly £100,000 (about $131,330), the Guardian reported.

Red Lightning Books: Pence: The Path to Power by Andrea Neal

Interesting Lives of Female Mystery Authors

Quirk Books investigated "female mystery authors who lived interesting lives themselves."


Bustle shared "11 uplifting quotes from Anne of Green Gables that will help you get through the rest of 2018."


"What it's like to stand inside a poem." Electric Lit explored "a digital storytelling experiment turns poetry into immersive art."


"This guy turned his book collection into art and we are absolutely here for it," Buzzfeed reported.


The remains of an ancient public library that may have housed up to 20,000 scrolls was uncovered in Cologne, Germany, the Guardian reported.

Albert Whitman & Company: Ignite the Stars by Maura Milan

Dealing with Book Snobs

Bustle suggested "11 tips for dealing with book snobs, because no one has time for judgmental people."


A business of ferrets, for example. Mental Floss listed "50 collective nouns for your favorite groups of animals."


From bedtime stories to bribes, the Guardian offered tips on "how to get your child reading more."


Signature corrected "5 grammar mistakes even the best writers make."


Headline of the day (via NDTV): "Britain Bans Export of Legendary Novelist Charles Dickens' Study Table."


Technology Museum of l'Empordà in Spain "houses an amazing collection of rare, antique typewriters,' Atlas Obscura noted.

Shelf Awareness Giveaway: Central Avenue Publishing: [Dis]connected: Poems & Stories of Connection and Otherwise edited by Michelle Halket


Author Liese O'Halloran Schwarz chose her "top 10 books about self-reinvention" for the Guardian.


Pop lit quiz: "Guess the book titles using only emoji," Electric Lit challenged.


"Jane Austen loathed the Prince Regent, who later became George IV, but he might have been one of her first readers," the New York Times reported.


"After nine tries, the husband of celebrity chef Paula Deen has won the Ernest Hemingway Look-Alike Contest," the Guardian reported.


Author Lauren Groff recently tweeted a list of "40 of the books that make up my brain."


A 2,000-year-old mystery papyrus reveals its secrets," Atlas Obscura reported, adding: "For centuries, no one could read it."


"Which Great American Read are you?" Penguin Random House wondered.


From Peter Carey to Cormac McCarthy, author Paul Howarth shared his "top 10 tales from the frontier" with the Guardian.


From Catullus to Dylan Thomas, author Ruth Padel picked her "top 10 elegies" for the Guardian.


Bustle revealed "7 surprising things librarians do other than check out books."


"A literary themed hotel in Portugal is a bookworm's dream complete with its own library and even a gin bar," the Times Mirror.


Literature-Inspired Drinks

Chantal Tseng, the "mixologist behind a D.C. bar's 'Literary Cocktails' series, shares some of her favorite literature-inspired drinks" at Electric Lit.


The "literary roles of Benedict Cumberbatch" were showcased by Quirk Books.


Check out "the best notes Atlas Obscura readers found in used books."


"A literary map of the United Kingdom" was offered by Quid Corner.


"Get rid of books you no longer need with this easy 3 step process," Bustle advised.


"Archaeologists have unearthed an ancient tablet engraved with 13 verses of The Odyssey in the ancient city of Olympia, southern Greece," the Guardian reported.

Great Reads

Rediscover: V.S. Naipaul

V.S. Naipaul, the novelist and Nobel laureate of Indian ancestry born in Trinidad, died last week at age 85. Much of his work involved scathing critiques of colonialism and the British Empire, but also harsh judgments of subjugated or formerly subjugated peoples themselves. He was also known for his difficult temperament and instances of misogyny--both in his fiction and in his personal life. After a childhood in Trinidad, Naipaul received a scholarship to study at Oxford University in England, where he lived for the rest of his life. His debut novel, The Mystic Masseur, was published in 1955 to some acclaim. His next novel, A House for Mr. Biswas (1961), achieved global success.

Naipaul also wrote A Bend in the River, The Middle Passage, The Mimic Men, The Enigma of Arrival, A Turn in the South, Half a Life, Miguel Street and Among the Believers, among other fiction and nonfiction works. He won the 1971 Booker Prize for In a Free State, and was knighted in 1990. In 2001, he received the Nobel Prize for Literature. Writing in the Guardian, Amit Chaudhuri said: "Though many of us disagree fundamentally with his views, we are beholden to what Naipaul has given us: not as members of a particular ethnicity, group, or gender, but as people, whose experience of the world flows into the experience of writing." Naipaul's novels and short story collections are available from Vintage. --Tobias Mutter

Rediscover: The Complete Robuchon

French chef, restaurateur and cookbook author Joël Robuchon died on August 6 at age 73. He was a celebrity French cook who operated dozens of restaurants around the world--which earned him a total of 32 Michelin stars, the most of any chef. At age 21, Robuchon joined an apprenticeship program that allowed him to learn regional techniques throughout France. By age 29, he was head chef at the Hôtel Concorde La Fayette, which staffed 90 chefs cooking 3,000 meals each night. Robuchon cut his chops during the height of nouvelle cuisine, a style centered on innovation and reduction with an emphasis on plating. Robuchon synthesized some of those elements with more classic French cuisine. His simultaneous strive for perfection and simplicity earned him the title "Chef of the Century" by the restaurant guide Gault Millau, as well as frequent appearances on French cooking shows. An early retirement (caused by witnessing the premature heart attacks of overworked colleagues) was cut short when Robuchon opened his worldwide line of restaurants, L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon.

Patricia Wells, chef, journalist and co-author of  Robuchon's cookbook Simply French (1991), said his favorite line was "our job is not to make a mushroom taste like a carrot but to make a mushroom taste as much like a mushroom as it can." Home cooks seeking to sample Robuchon's famous simplicity of ingredients and perfection of execution can find more than 800 of his recipes in The Complete Robuchon (2008), translated by Robin H.R. Bellinger and available from Knopf ($40, 9780307267191). --Tobias Mutter

Rediscover: The Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin

Russian author, dissident and former exile Vladimir Voinovich died on July 27 at age 85. He is best known for The Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin, a sort of Soviet Catch-22 about the Red Army during World War II. Voinovich was born in what is now Tajikistan to a father who was sentenced to five years in labor camps for anti-Soviet agitation.  Voinovich published Ivan Chonkin in two parts between 1969 and 1971 and, within a few years, his writing was banned in the Soviet Union, spreading instead through samizdat and Western outlets. By 1980, after a campaign of harassment, Voinovich was forced to emigrate and was stripped of his citizenship. He settled in Munich, West Germany, where he wrote the dystopian satire Moscow 2042. Voinovich was able to return to Russia when Mikhail Gorbachev restored his citizenship in 1990. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Voinovich was a vocal critic of reemerging totalitarianism under Vladimir Putin.

The first part of The Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin finds lowly Private Chonkin (now a famous figure in Russian popular culture) assigned to guard a downed airplane. Through a series of satirical misunderstandings and authoritarian stupidity, Chonkin ends up at odds with the NKVD--and singlehandedly thwarts a regiment of them. Chonkin's misadventures continue in Pretender to the Throne: The Further Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin and a third entry published in 2007, A Displaced Person. The first and most famous of Voinovich's Chonkin books is available from Northwestern University Press ($21.95, 9780810112438). --Tobias Mutter

Rediscover: 2001

Fifty years ago, the world of science-fiction cinema reached dazzling new heights with Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. Since the moment the monolith uplifted early man to an orchestral swell, then blasted off to the far-future via a bone toss, the genre has never been the same--with HAL's glowing menace and the trippy Star Child finale forever permeating pop culture. Though Kubrick directed and produced 2001, the screenplay was co-written with sci-fi superstar Arthur C. Clarke. Clarke and Kubrick also simultaneously wrote a novelized version of their story (though only Clarke's name appears as the author).

For those seeking more definitive answers to the film 2001's beautiful, intriguing, but sometimes opaque plot points, the novel version provides, and then some--2001 continues with a whole series of books: 2010: Odyssey Two, 2061: Odyssey Three and 3001: The Final Odyssey. Clarke's original behind-the-scenes look at this dual-media franchise, The Lost Worlds of 2001, is currently out of print. However, on April 3, 2018, Simon & Schuster published Michael Benson's Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, and the Making of a Masterpiece. In 2016, Penguin Classics republished 2001: A Space Odyssey as part of its Penguin Galaxy series of sci-fi masterworks, which includes a new introduction by Neil Gaiman ($25, 9780143111573). --Tobias Mutter

Rediscover: Mary Oliver

As July slips to August, and midsummer fades to late, Mary Oliver's musings in "The Summer Day" spring to mind. As the poet ponders a grasshopper in her hand, wider wonders surface: "Who made the world? Who made the swan, and the black bear?" The grasshopper hops away, and its simple life subsumes the need for complex categorization: "I don't know exactly what a prayer is. I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down into the grass." At last, she reflects on the waning day spent in that field, in nature, and famously asks if it was time well spent: "Tell me, what else should I have done? Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do/ With your one wild and precious life?"

Mary Oliver's "The Summer Day" was published in New and Selected Poems (1992), which won the National Book Award for Poetry. She also won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry with American Primitive (1983). Oliver's many collections have made her, as described by the New York Times, "far and away, this country's best-selling poet." Her most recent books include Upstream: Selected Essays (Penguin Press) and Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver (Penguin Press, $30, 9780399563249), which highlights 200-plus poems from her 50-year career. --Tobias Mutter

Rediscover: Harry Potter

On September 1, 1998, readers in the United States got their first magical taste of what would become a global phenomenon. In the 20 years since Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone cast its spell on children and adults alike, J.K. Rowling's world of wizardry has summoned seven books, plus spinoffs, eight movies, plus spinoffs, whole amusement parks and a Diagon Alley's worth of other odds and ends. No fan of fantasy or young reader growing up in the late '90s/early aughts will ever forget the Boy Who Lived, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named or any of the dozens of other unforgettable characters and places sprung from Rowling's fertile imagination.

The celebrations surrounding such a major anniversary for such a storied franchise are as widespread and bewitching as their source material. Besides all kinds of parties and events, publishers are planning special editions of the Harry Potter books. Scholastic has released the seven Potter titles with new cover illustrations by Caldecott Medalist Brian Selznick. (They still include the original interior decorations by Mary GrandPré.) For those who can wait, the titles will appear next month as a boxed set, adorned with crests of each Hogwarts house and a closeup of Harry. --Tobias Mutter

Rediscover: Wuthering Heights

July 30, 2018, marks the 200th birthday of Emily Brontë, poet and author of Wuthering Heights. Emily (1818-1848) belonged to a family as gifted by literary talent as they were struck by tragedy. Charlotte Brontë, author of Jane Eyre, died at age 38; Anne Brontë, author of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, died at age 29; brother Branwell Brontë, poet and painter, died at age 31; two older sisters and the Brontës' mother also died young. Emily, Anne and Charlotte first appeared in print under the names Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell to avoid prejudices against female writers. The first edition of their collected poetry sold only two copies but spurred the sisters to complete their novels. The success of Charlotte's Jane Eyre made later reprints of Poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell far more widely read.

Wuthering Heights was published in 1847 under the name Ellis Bell. It was released in the first two volumes of a three-volume format, the last of which was taken up by Anne Brontë's Agnes Grey. Early critics found Emily's gothic tale of passion and tragedy on the moors of Yorkshire alarming in its dramatic intensity and baffling in structure. Still, the work has endured in the literary canon. After Emily's death, Charlotte released a second edition with her own minor edits. Wuthering Heights is available from Penguin Classics (9780141439556). Earlier this month, Oxford University Press released an anniversary edition of The Oxford Companion to the Brontës (9780198819950). --Tobias Mutter

The Writer's Life

Delia Owens: Survival, Nature and Isolation

photo: Dawn Marie Tucker
Delia Owens is well-known for her books about her experiences as a wildlife scientist in Africa, working with endangered species: Secrets of the Savanna, The Eye of the Elephant and Cry of the Kalahari. She recently shifted her focus to fiction while remaining rooted in the natural world with her debut novel, Where the Crawdads Sing (Putnam, $26), which is reviewed below. Owens lives in Idaho.
You describe the North Carolina coastal marshes in such gorgeous and loving detail in the novel. Have you lived in that region?
I haven't lived in that region, exactly. I've visited quite a bit--often as a child and when I started writing the book, I took several trips to do a bit of research. I grew up in South Georgia, and I went canoe camping with my mother in the Okefenokee Swamp and other areas. So I know the ecosystem and the habitat quite well.
Kya is a strong, likable heroine. Was she based on anyone from your life?
Kya partly comes from my own background. I grew up as a tomboy--a lot of my friends were tomboys and my mother was a real outdoor girl. So, my life was similar in the sense that I spent a lot of my time outside with my friends, and I knew a lot of girls who lived like that. I got the expression in the title from my mother. She would say to us, "Go way out yonder where the crawdads sing." Maybe she was just trying to get us out of the house! But she wanted us to get out into nature and learn about wildlife.
Where did you get the idea for the novel?
I studied wildlife in Africa for 23 years and was particularly taken by the fact that mammals live in tightly bonded social groups--a pride of lions, a troop of baboons, a herd of elephants--the groups are made up of females. Males lead the groups, but they emigrate to other groups for mating. Females stay in their natal groups all of their lives. We as a species have a very strong propensity to live in our groups, especially females. I lived in isolation in Africa for years, and I felt the impact of not being with my "troop." Growing up, I had this amazing group of girls--my novel is dedicated to three of them--and we are still close to this day, but I was isolated from them for years. I wanted to write a novel about a young girl growing up in isolation and how that would make her different from other people.
The other side of isolation is that Kya is self-reliant and independent, and that grows into wonderful things. She educates herself, she has ambition and she's determined. Even though Kya is in extraordinary circumstances, there is some of Kya in all of us, and that's what I wanted readers to feel. She's one in a million, but she's also all of us.
What made you decide to write a novel, and how was that different from writing nonfiction?
I just wanted to write this particular story. I love the freedom of fiction. With nonfiction, you're always restricted by the timeline and the facts. I ride horses out here in the West. I can get out and ride my horse in the mountains and go anywhere. To me, writing fiction is the same feeling. You can ride your horse inside the corral, around and around, and that's nonfiction, but when you go through that gate and get your horse into a nice lope and run across the meadow and up the mountains, you can go anywhere you want... that's fiction! It's like soaring. 
What do you hope readers take away from reading Where the Crawdads Sing?
I want people to understand the importance of knowing where our basic behavior comes from. A lot of what we do evolved while we were back on the savannas, eons ago where we had to protect ourselves and search for food, and a lot of those things are still in us. Until we understand who we were back then, we will never understand who we are now.
And my mother was right--it's important for us to go out, way out yonder where the crawdads sing, because that's where our secrets are. Spending time in nature is so important--it's our original home. I also want people to appreciate the value of a group. We need to reach out and find our "troop." When you're in a troop, you are giving to them, they are giving to you and you are sharing. Only good comes from that. --Suzan L. Jackson, freelance writer and author of Book By Book blog

Keith O'Brien: Flying Back into Women's History

Keith O'Brien is an award-winning journalist and author of Outside Shot, about basketball in rural Kentucky. He has been a finalist for the PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sportswriting and contributed to National Public Radio for more than a decade. O'Brien has also written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, USA Today, Politico, Slate, and the Oxford American, among others. He lives in New Hampshire with his wife and two children. His new book, Fly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History (Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28), is reviewed below.
You first learned of these women while you were, ironically, on a plane.
In spring 2016, I was reading Lily Koppel's The Astronaut Wives Club on a flight to Pittsburgh. One of my all-time favorite books is The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe, and I was interested to learn that story from the wives' perspectives. As I read, I became captivated by a reference to an all-female air race, the Powder Puff Derby. I consider myself well read and educated, yet I had never heard of this. My plane had wi-fi, so I cracked open my laptop and started Googling. I did what all good storytellers do: I stumbled on a little nugget of a story, just a little crumb, and followed it down a path. Sometimes these nuggets don't lead anywhere. Other times, they take you to a magical place you never knew existed.
Did you know immediately that this was a bigger story than one race?
By the time I landed in Pittsburgh, I knew I needed to get to a library soon. After my kids were asleep and my workday was done, I started going to my town's university library at night to research these races and these remarkable unknown women. While I was tracing these women's lives, I was looking for a narrative--what is the story and who are the primary characters in that story? That was a journey with a lot of stops and starts. When I found Florence Klingensmith, everything came together. She was one of the few women who raced against men, and was the first to do so in a race of great importance. She was one of the most talented female pilots of her time and undoubtedly more talented and skilled than Amelia Earhart.
Why do you think Florence Klingensmith, Ruth Elder, Louise Thaden and Ruth Nichols aren't as well known as Amelia Earhart?
I think we remember Amelia for several reasons. You can't underestimate how famous she was at that time. When she flew across the ocean as a passenger in 1928, and when that plane succeeded in reaching the coast of Wales, it made her one of the world's most famous women. Of course, it didn't hurt that she was backed by the full power of the George Putnam publishing machine, cranking out her books and sending her on a lecture tour. To Amelia's credit, she didn't rest on her laurels. She could have taken that flight, gone on the lecture circuit, done a vaudeville show, gone to Hollywood. She was also outspoken. People thought she was famous for doing nothing and criticized her behind her back--she knew that. In response, she spent the rest of her very short life--her remaining nine years--challenging herself and answering her critics. 
Had it not been for happenstance, crashes and others' instances of sheer bad luck, we might be remembering one or all of them instead. Their stories and accomplishments are just as fascinating.
Right. Fly Girls isn't just a story about airplanes flown by women. There was a purpose in what these women were trying to do. To put it in context, when a man attempted to fly across the ocean or race across the country, he was treated as a hero. If he died, he was memorialized with a grand tribute. When a woman tried the exact same thing, to push the limits of what she could do--and what planes at the time could do--her failure was severely criticized. She was judged harshly and treated horribly. Florence's story is an example of that. What happened to her changed the course of aviation history and certainly the course of my narrative. I'll be honest--her story also really changed me.
Have you talked with any of the pilots' surviving family members?
I spoke to many relatives, including Louise's daughter, who was three years old when this story ends. As a reporter, when you sit with someone's child and talk at length with them about their parents, you come to know that person in ways that you would not have otherwise. 
You are also giving the families, and the world, the gift of knowing these women and their rightful place in history.
These five women founded and were charter members of an organization called the Ninety-Nines, still in existence today. I recently had the honor of speaking to them, and only a few in the audience had ever heard of these women. Florence is remembered in the small Minnesota community where she lived. But when I called around to Rye, N.Y., and Anniston, Ala., nobody knew Ruth Nichols or Ruth Elder, respectively. 
What advice do you think the pilots would give to women--pilots or not--today?
They knew they were connected because of discrimination and how men regarded them. One woman's failure was every woman's failure. The opposite was true, too: one woman's success was to everyone's benefit. They were rivals at times and racing to beat each other, but they knew that they all needed to make it. Amelia talked about the importance for women to "keep knocking" on closed doors. "As more knock, the more will enter," she famously said. That was true in 1936 and sadly, remains true now. --Melissa Firman

Louise Candlish: Domestic Suspense from Across the Pond

photo: Jonny Ring
Louise Candlish is a British author of dark novels that deal with family, marriage and the flaws that make us human. Our House (Berkley, $26; reviewed below) is Candlish's U.S. debut.
Our House is a crime thriller with an unusual premise. What inspired you to write about the theft of a family home?
I wanted to explore a crime I hadn't seen before in fiction. I'd read reports about property fraud in the British newspapers (generally involving a faceless criminal who intercepts the buyers' closing payment), and one in particular caught my eye in the Daily Mail. A woman's house had been sold without her knowledge by a criminal gang who used someone to impersonate her in the process. I thought how terrible and shocking it would be to lose your home in this way and then I thought, imagine if the fraudster was someone you knew and trusted! 
I wanted the story to be both an entertaining puzzle and a cautionary tale. As house prices have rocketed and the divide between the haves and have-nots has increased, I've grown worried that we've begun to value property more highly than each other. The main character in Our House, Fi, admits that if she had her time again, she'd concentrate less on her house and more on the people in it.
How did you come up with the idea of writing a book in the form of a podcast?
Since Gone Girl, husband-wife, he-said/she-said stories have become an established subgenre--one that I love to read--and I wanted to try to push the boundaries. Fi tells her story in the form of a transcribed interview for a crime podcast called The Victim, interspersed with her husband Bram's written account of the unfolding disaster. I loved Serial and I listen to a lot of podcasts, audiobooks and radio drama. Audio is a medium about intimacy and persuasion and a spoken interview felt like a natural choice for Fi's story.
It was important to me that the format of the book be integral to the plot, rather than experimental for the sake of it. As the plot unravels, readers might wonder why a private citizen with no ambitions for celebrity would choose to go public in this way. Would you?
Despite all the trouble he causes, Bram is a surprisingly sympathetic character. Without giving away the plot, tell us why you chose to construct Bram in this way.
What I find most fascinating about humans is our flaws and frailties; I'm curious about how we act when threatened or isolated or pushed to the brink by circumstance. Or when we've made a terrible mistake and can't see a way back. Although Bram acts criminally, the story of how he comes to commit his crimes is very complex. He has issues, including anxiety, alcohol-dependency and others that are rooted deep in childhood. Because his acts against his family are outrageous, I needed them to be psychologically watertight. Stealing from the family you love is not a lifestyle choice, it's the behavior of a desperate man. I felt huge compassion writing him and it's a joy to find that early readers have warmed to him, too. I honestly didn't know what to expect.
Trinity Avenue, where Fi's house is located, seems like a place you know well--a realistic portrait of an upwardly mobile suburban London street. Is it based on an actual street where you live or have lived?
It's actually a composite of several streets in South London. These are gorgeous tree-lined avenues with large family homes and a real sense of community. There's a park nearby, a farmer's market, a pub and patisserie, a great school. The dogs are well trained and the hedges nicely trimmed. If you landed here, you would never want to leave. That's why the loss, when it comes, is like grief.
Everyone thinks Trinity Avenue is based on my own street in Herne Hill, South London, but it's not. I can't afford a property as posh as Bram and Fi's, I’m a writer!
People who have read Our House point out its "addictive" quality. How does Our House compare to your previous novels?
It's more complex and ambitious. There are different layers of guesswork: the two main characters', the police's, the reader's. The reader learns the facts before Fi does, and I think that's part of what makes it compulsive--we want to know when she'll find out what the hell Bram has been up to and what she'll do about it when she does.
In some ways it develops themes I've explored before in my writing, such as our dangerous love of property, the pressures of parenting (and marriage), the unluckiness of meeting an amoral person when at your most vulnerable. It's my debut in the U.S., so readers here are definitely starting with the best!
When the book ended I was left wanting more, much more. Do you have a sequel in mind?
Not yet, but it's such a compliment when someone asks that question, so thank you! The characters and their fates are still very fresh in my mind, too. People are talking about the last line, which I hoped quite clearly indicates what's likely to happen to Bram and Fi when the pages are closed. If anyone is in doubt, they can tweet me @louise_candlish.
Could you share a little of your writing process? What advice do you have for aspiring writers out there?
The writing process--you mean other than the coffee and salted caramel treats on tap?
Over the course of several novels, I've come to value plotting and planning above all else. On Our House, I collaborated closely with my editor at Berkley, Danielle Perez, and, among the many things she taught me was the usefulness of keeping timelines. I had a timeline for the crime, a timeline for each individual character, even for the car and the phones. Readers are very clever, very well-read, and a plot flaw is not going to go unnoticed.
My advice to aspiring writers is to start with a strong central premise, the hook you can express in a sentence. (With Our House, you would say, "It's about a man who sells the family home without his wife's knowledge.") Then develop your voice. I always advise first-time writers to start with a first-person narrator: it's so direct, you can get the power and rhythm quite quickly. Oh, and enjoy it! In some ways, the time before you know whether or not you have a career as a writer is the best bit. Anything might happen, your dreams are open-ended, and that's an exhilarating feeling. --Shahina Piyarali, writer and reviewer

Michael Bennett, De-Masked

photo: Brad Puet
Super Bowl champion, three-time Pro Bowler and two-time NFC champion Michael Bennett and his wife, Pele Bennett, cofounded the Bennett Foundation for the education and support of underserved children and communities. The pair also wrote Three Little Monsters Have a Wild Day, a picture book about their three daughters. Michael Bennett's new book, Things That Make White People Uncomfortable (Haymarket Books, $24.95), written with Dave Zirin, is an unflinchingly personal look at current affairs, social justice and inequality.
What inspired your love of reading?
My mom was a teacher, so there were always books in the house and we always would read. A book is something that can take you into a whole different world--it could take you to the fourth dimension or the fifth dimension. It could take you to Neverland or Narnia or it could just take you to Brooklyn. A book is your own movie in your mind. You are attached to the author and sometimes you feel like the book is talking to you. And that's really how I started to love reading.
How do you find book recommendations?
People. Friends. Or I look online at stories, or on TV. It's just different books that I see and think, oh, I need to read that book. Mostly just word-of-mouth, or I just walk into the library and find a catchy title.
And now you've written Things That Make White People Uncomfortable. How is writing similar or different to playing football?
The things about football and writing a book that are similar is you have to be creative, you have to be timely, you have to be a little bit structured. Actually, the thing that's really different is that in football, you make your creativity through your movements, and writing a book, you use your creativity through your mind and put it down on paper. Some moves on a football field you can't redo, but what you write in a book is there forever.
Your book is also peppered with really great authors like Langston Hughes and Maya Angelou. What are some of the books that particularly inspired you to write this book?
Freedom Is a Constant Struggle by Angela Davis; Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow, obviously; and Brené Brown's work. So many great authors helped shape  my mind, like the Dalai Lama. A lot of authors will send me their books, too, and I get to meet a lot of great people because of the work we do.
You're very candid in the book about your admiration for your family and your distrust of the NFL. Was it intimidating to get so raw?
It was very intimidating, because you de-mask yourself and share the story of you doing all these different things. But, at the same time, you want to be able to be like that because you owe it to the children behind you to be confident, emotional and able to share yourself.
You say near the end of your book that feeling uncomfortable opens people up.
I think it does, or should. Being uncomfortable allows you to want to stop and say, "hey, it's time for us to grow as a community and grow as a people."
You write about athletes' tremendous untapped power to hold companies accountable. How did food education and STEM education, which you call twin issues, become key points for you?
When you think about food and the lack of access to food in different minority neighborhoods, it's evident that it is just so sad. We want to be able to talk about why certain diseases happen and what that means to a community. I focus on that because I think food is the gateway to culture. Food is the gateway to health. Food is the gateway to a lot of different things, and I think STEM is, too. With science and technology, you're able to get creative and create different things.
The African organization iamtheCODE, which aims to improve girls' access to science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics, entrepreneurship and design, is a program you got involved with to help close the gap of gender inequality. Having three daughters, this is probably on your mind a lot personally as well as socially. How do we help tackle this?
I think it takes a lot of everybody to start understanding certain issues that are happening in the world. And now being able to support women through technology and iamtheCODE is me recognizing the place I play in changing lives, the place we play as a community in uplifting women and giving them the same opportunities as men. Science is one of the things that helps change the world. I think you have to be able to have seats at the table. --Kristianne Huntsberger, writer, storyteller and partnership marketing manager at Shelf Awareness

Karen Brooks: Unlocking the Past to Understand the Present

photo: Stephen Brooks
Karen Brooks, the author of nine novels, is an Australian academic, a newspaper columnist and a social commentator. She lives in Hobart, Tasmania. Her new book, The Locksmith's Daughter (Morrow, $16.99), is reviewed below.
You have said the more you write about the past, the more you understand you also are writing about the present. The Locksmith's Daughter takes place between 1580 and 1582, during the reign of Elizabeth I, but contains parallels with today's world.
I knew this novel would have a strong theme of secrets, those that the ruling classes keep from the people as well as the deepest, most personal truths we hide from others and ourselves. What I didn't expect was how religious persecution would resonate so strongly with what is happening today. In the late 1500s, religious persecution was based on fear and misunderstanding, and it created suspicion, division and guilt by association. The adage plus ça change (the more things change, the more they stay the same) is, sadly, so true.
Your inspiration for this novel came after your husband broke a key in his car's ignition and you were watching the locksmith repair the damage and craft a new key. 
Yes! While Bruce (the locksmith) worked, I asked about his training, and he shared his excitement about locks and keys. As I drove home, a story formed about a female lock-pick. The idea of the symbolism of locks to secrets fell into place during my research.
Many characters in The Locksmith's Daughter are real historical figures, including Sir Francis Walsingham, Queen Elizabeth's spymaster. Does he hold a particular fascination for you? 
Walsingham often seems misunderstood, especially given the context of the times he lived in. That isn't to say he wasn't cruel, and it doesn't justify his actions in the name of religious dogma and unbending righteousness, but he protected the queen while making many personal sacrifices. I tried taking that notion as far as I could without condoning or excusing him. I wanted to show how those in power can excuse their appalling actions as being in the best interest of the rulers and their subjects. Also, everything in the book is, to the best of my ability, accurate, and there for a reason. There's nothing that happens to my characters that wasn't authentic to the period.
Mallory Bright, one of your fictional characters, often defines herself by her past. She's from the late 1500s but seems contemporary. What lessons does she offer to women today? 
What a great question. Don't be a victim of circumstances, whether you've created them or had them placed upon you. Be a survivor. She admits her mistakes, owns them and doesn't dodge responsibility for poor decisions and actions. She listens to those with more experience and wisdom. She doesn't always follow their advice, but she respects it. Sometimes we don't acknowledge the wisdom of our elders. We ignore that to our detriment. 
You wear many literary hats--author, journalist, book reviewer, social commentator, academic. Have you always known writing would be part of your career path?
A play I wrote was produced at a theater in Sydney when I was 19--that was lovely--but writing was never a serious proposition for me. When I became an academic, I found that I loved research. It's a problem. I never know when to stop. For my novels, I keep comprehensive journals filled with maps from the actual period. They are strewn across the floor, which, much to my husband's chagrin, I crawl across with a magnifying glass. Novel writing happened with the encouragement of my beloved late friend, the author Sara Douglass.
A research trip for The Locksmith's Daughter inspired a new novel. Can you talk about that yet? 
Yes! When I visited Hampton Court, one of Elizabeth I's residences and the home where she was initially raised, I stumbled upon a chocolate kitchen. A chocolate kitchen! Back then, chocolate was a popular yet rather naughty drink--an aphrodisiac, but one with negative religious connotations. I found this amazing connection between the free press, drinking chocolate, government conspiracies, war and more.
From all this arose The Chocolate Maker's Wife, set during the hedonistic 1660s, [a period that] marked the beginning of journalism and terrible religious discord--again. Women were finding a new place in society, literacy was increasing and many people were unhappy with their new, exiled but very naughty and decadent king. The people's discontentment was voiced in London's new coffee and chocolate houses, where the government sent spies to uncover treasonous plots and illegal printing presses that they accused--believe it or not--of printing "false news." Yes, that was a term even in the 1660s when people loved their coffee, chocolate, politics and news.
Now, what was that I was saying earlier about plus ça change? --Melissa Firman

Rosie Walsh: A Reason for Ghosting

photo: Anna Pumer Photography
The exuberant Rosie Walsh, a former contributor to Marie Claire magazine and a documentary film producer (and author of four romance mysteries under the pseudonym Lucy Robinson), is making her U.S. debut with Ghosted (reviewed below). Many of us can relate to the phenomenon of being "ghosted" and what it feels like to never hear from someone again. Having experienced it herself too many times, Walsh decided to write a novel about that rare time when there might be a good reason behind the ghosting.
Why did you to write under a pseudonym for your four prior novels and switch to your real name for Ghosted?
I started out under a pseudonym because I was writing a dating blog for Marie Claire. Clearly, I couldn't use my real name, because who would go on a date with a woman who was going to write about it the next day? For everyone's sake, I took on a nom de plume. I just picked the name of the girl who lived next door to me--I gave it very little thought. It certainly didn't cross my mind that this name would end up appearing on the front of four book jackets! But I liked that those books came out under a pseudonym. I think, deep down, I wanted to keep my own name for a book that came straight from my soul, and Ghosted was that book. As soon as my agent started reading it, she proposed that we send it out on submission under my own name. 
Ghosted is your first novel to be published in the U.S. and there is global buzz surrounding the book. What would you say is the winning formula of Ghosted?
Firstly, Eddie's disappearance provides readers with a major mystery to solve--a mystery that most of us, at some point, will have had to solve in our own lives. And no sooner is it solved, another one pops up. These mysteries, studded with twists, keep the pace thundering along.
Yet in amongst all these twists and turns, there runs not only an epic love story, but a tale of grief, forgiveness, family and mental health. In this respect, I think Ghosted draws on many genres, so probably appeals to a wide readership.
What influence did your career as a documentary film producer have on your fiction writing?
It taught me the fundamentals of storytelling. You can't just pitch a documentary about an interesting subject these days--you need to go in with a fully rounded narrative arc. I find it very difficult to start a book unless I have the full arc planned out, and this means plotting a great deal of detail before writing a single word. It can be paralyzing, but it works for me.
You make clever use of texts and Facebook posts to build suspense. What role does technology play in making it easier or harder to ghost someone?
It's as easy to ghost someone now as it was 50 years ago. It's what happens next that's different. Before mobile phones and social media, you could tell yourself any number of lies about why your phone hasn't rung--you could convince yourself that they'd lost your phone number or that they had dropped dead in the street. Nowadays, with digital connectivity as it is, it takes a great leap of faith to convince yourself of the above. (And yet we all still do it. Myself included.)
An underlying theme in your novels is the protagonist who is not what he or she seems.  What attracts you to characters with mystery and enigma?
Are any of us who we seem? There have been two recent and widely reported suicides in the U.S.--Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. Both seemed successful, happy, confident--they have inspired fashion designers and chefs around the world. And yet both carried an inner pain that became too great to bear. Our outer lives are curated and edited all day long, whereas our inner worlds remain a mystery. I think it's hard for any writer not to be curious about that contrast.
Your website is filled with inspiration and advice for fledgling writers. Who or what encouraged, influenced or inspired you to write fiction?
A woman named Kate Burke who used to work for Penguin Random House in the U.K. e-mailed me, having read the blog I was writing for Marie Claire in 2009 about Internet dating. She encouraged me to write a book. I said, "No thanks, I'm not a fiction writer." She answered, "Are you sure?" I was pretty sure, but I thought there was no harm trying it. I sat down one night in October '09 to "start my novel." I spent four hours staring at my computer screen. The next day I e-mailed her and asked, "How do you actually write a novel?" Her response--which still makes me laugh today--was uncompromising. She told me to "just write a novel!" It took many years to bring together the approach to writing that I outline on my website! --Shahina Piyarali, writer and reviewer

Book Review


My Year of Rest and Relaxation

by Ottessa Moshfegh

It's 2000, and the unnamed narrator of My Year of Rest and Relaxation seems to have it all: an apartment on Manhattan's Upper East Side, an easy gig at an art gallery and an inheritance to sustain her. She's beautiful, even on bad days ("like a young Lauren Bacall the morning after"). But those are the only days she has. At 24, she's lost both of her parents and, with the exception of trips to the corner bodega to get bad coffee, her interactions with the world are limited to three people. And those connections grow tenuous and troublesome as she embarks on a year of hibernation.
There's Trevor, her on-and-off (but mostly off) boyfriend who occasionally surfaces for sex. There's Reva, her only friend, whose loyalty and devotion are offset by neediness and envy. And there's Dr. Tuttle, a remarkably disreputable doctor who dispenses prescription drugs without a second thought. All the narrator wants to do is sleep. "I was growing less and less attached to life. If I kept going, I thought, I'd disappear completely, then reappear in some new form. This was my hope. This was the dream." When sleep is replaced by days of insomnia, Dr. Tuttle prescribes Infermiterol. Sleep arrives in three-day blocks; so do blackouts and bizarre behavior she can't account for.
With My Year of Rest and Relaxation, Ottessa Moshfegh (McGlue, Eileen) has created a character whose detachment is so profound she often hears herself saying things, as if caught by surprise. Yet the novel is frequently funny, and Moshfegh skillfully makes her narrator, with all of her wealth and misanthropy, sympathetic. You may never learn the narrator's name, but you'll never forget her. --Frank Brasile, librarian

Discover: A young woman disconnected from the world goes into hibernation with the aid of a dangerous drug.

Penguin Press, $26, hardcover, 304p., 9780525522119

The Boatbuilder

by Daniel Gumbiner

"When was the last time you got lost in a thing?" When 28-year-old Eli "Berg" Koenigsberg is asked this question, he's fresh out of rehab, living in the Northern California coastal town of Talinas, trying to stay clean until his musician girlfriend returns from the road. Derailed by a brain injury and resultant opioid addiction, Berg has, by his own account, made nothing of himself, despite supportive parents, significant intellect and prior career success. In The Boatbuilder, Daniel Gumbiner excerpts a life interrupted and the craft and community that help Berg figure out who he might be.
Berg has grand intentions of living a life of fulfilling work, exercise and fresh air. He makes progress, discovering the art of boatbuilding as an apprentice for Alejandro, a local artisan whose farmhouse Berg unknowingly raided of prescription drugs shortly before they crossed paths. As Berg immerses himself in the details of craftsmanship, Alejandro mentors him on a grander scale--"You do this one little thing right, in this moment, you fix this one little thing, then you think, Maybe I can fix my life."
Gumbiner surrounds Berg with a boatload of colorful characters (including a local who sings country songs about deer) and a community vibrant with oddities (full-size papier-mâché bodies hang from wires in the underground sewer) and local lore. Engagingly written and full of the complexities of being human in a muddled world, The Boatbuilder is a soulful, funny and sometimes absurd slice-of-life debut that shines. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review

Discover: A young man in search of himself finds hope under the tutelage of a philosophical boat builder and the denizens of his small coastal town.

McSweeney's, $18, paperback, 240p., 9781944211554

Confessions of the Fox

by Jordy Rosenberg

Once upon a time, a professor finds an old, neglected manuscript at his university's library book sale.
What unfolds in Jordy Rosenberg's Confessions of the Fox, from the discovery from this old manuscript, is far more than even poor Dr. Voth could have imagined. The document turns out to be an unpublished account of Jack Sheppard, notorious 18th-century thief and something of an English folk hero. Jack, made famous by the likes of The Threepenny Opera and The Beggar's Opera, is known to history for his fantastic heists and seeming ability to break out of any jail cell. The new confessions Dr. Voth discovers, however, suggest that history may have misremembered Jack in more ways than one--and those discoveries may put Voth or the manuscript--or both--in danger.
Taken at face value, Confessions of the Fox is a rollick of a read, a fictional autobiography of a real person packed with action and heists and sex and danger. But with the addition of Dr. Voth's annotations, Rosenberg transforms a "simple" story into something much more complex. Voth's extensive footnotes poke fun at the world of modern academia; condemn systems of capitalism and power; denounce the time-honored traditions of mass incarceration; and offer commentary on gender, queer and trans theory through the lens of Jack's story. The result is much more than the sum of its parts, an impressive, ambitious debut from an author whose passion for and knowledge of his subjects shines on every page. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

Discover: Jordy Rosenberg reimagines the history of the legendary Jack Sheppard in an ambitious debut novel.

One World, $27, hardcover, 352p., 9780399592270

What We Were Promised

by Lucy Tan

After growing up in a silk-farming village, Lina Zhen left China as a new bride to pursue the American dream with Wei, the husband her father chose for her. Years later, the couple returns to Shanghai, though their 12-year-old daughter still spends the school term in the United States. Financially successful thanks to Wei's career in marketing, the Zhens move into the luxurious Lanson Suites, where former teacher Lina settles into life as a taitai--a housewife with no housekeeping responsibilities.
Both struggle to adjust: Lina striving to put on a polished appearance to fit in with the other wives in the apartment complex, Wei feeling that his work has no greater purpose. When Wei's brother, Qiang, calls after decades of no communication, his plan to visit throws Lina and Wei into private tailspins. Wei has spent years wondering if Qiang, who fell in with a gang as a teenager, is dead or alive. Lina, whose girlhood love for Qiang has lain dormant but not dead, wonders if he is finally coming back for her. Set against the backdrop of the 2010 World Expo, the Zhens' reunion will reopen old wounds and uncover the truths that divided them in the first place.
Winner of Ploughshares' Emerging Writer award, Lucy Tan draws an astute portrait of a staid family thrown into disarray in this assured first novel. She does not explore the Tolstoyan adage of unhappy families, but rather throws a stone into the still pool of carefully balanced domesticity. With its measuring of expectation against reality, What We Were Promised showcases Tan's sharp eye for the intricacies of human relationships. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Discover: Set in Shanghai, Lucy Tan's debut novel follows Wei and Lina Zhen's family crisis over the return of Wei's prodigal brother, who was also Lina's first love.

Little, Brown, $26, hardcover, 336p., 9780316437189

Early Work

by Andrew Martin

Funny and trenchant, Early Work is the story of a love triangle among ambitious but lethargic aesthetes. In Andrew Martin's first novel, unpublished writers, unproduced playwrights, unemployed actors and literary hangers-on mingle in the bars and literary soirees of Charlottesville, Va. Peter narrates most of the tale. Living with his fiancée, Julia (an aspiring poet and medical student), he imagines writing a great novel while teaching at the local community college. A Ph.D. drop-out from Yale, he dawdles with drinking and smoking weed while Julia holds their household together. When he meets Leslie, an MFA graduate taking a break from her Montana fiancé, their free-spirited lust gets the best of them. More booze, more dope and lots of uninhibited sex unseat their presumptions about commitment--to their partners and to writing. Something's gotta give.
A University of Montana MFA graduate, Martin takes on the boozy world of writers with the panache of J.P. Donleavy's classic bawdy tale of intellectual debauchery The Ginger Man. Martin's characters wallow in what Leslie describes as "baseball and arrogant French New Wave movies and... I don't know, Otis Redding, too." Early Work may be mostly filtered through Peter's snarky wit and cynicism, but it is Leslie who is the no-BS voice of truth. As she tells Peter: "You should be a writer. You should f**king write something down on a piece of paper." We are lucky that the talented Martin followed her advice. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: Martin's first novel cleverly dramatizes writers who overcome early indulgences to hone their skills and master their craft.

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $26, hardcover, 256p., 9780374146122

The Bear and the Paving Stone

by Toshiyuki Horie, trans. by Geraint Howells

This ethereal collection of three stories by French literature scholar Toshiyuki Horie plays with themes of memory and coincidence, illustrating how unrelated events trigger suppressed memories. The title comes from a Jean de la Fontaine fable, "The Bear and the Amateur Gardener," in which a lonely bear befriends an old gardener. The bear kills his new friend after lobbing a paving stone at the gardener's nose to ward off a fly.
Translated by Geraint Howells, the 2001 Akutagawa Prize-winning "The Bear and the Paving Stone" is a gentle, stirring novella of history and memory that simmers with raw emotional ferocity. Two university friends, a Japanese translator of French literature and Yann, a photographer, meet in Normandy to reminisce about their lives. Their discussion meanders across various topics--the impact of war on Yann's family and his interest in granite architecture, the translator's studies of Émile Littré--and converges on the story of a blind teddy bear created by Yann's landlady for a blind son. This unlocks a flood of discomfiting revelations for the narrator, in which "Time had flowed backwards, from my pained lower jaw towards the invisible centre of the nervous system, where everything comes together."
For two other stories as well, Horie uses descriptive imagery in a distanced narrative style. His characters maintain an inner strength and Zen-like independence that wavers under the emotional weight of shared memories, which merge in unexpected ways to convey a yearning for deeper connections.
The Bear and the Paving Stone adds to the bold collection of contemporary Japanese literature published by Pushkin Press. --Nancy Powell, freelance writer and technical consultant

Discover: Three revelatory stories examine the yearnings for human connectedness through shared memories.

Pushkin Press, $13.95, paperback, 160p., 9781782274377

How to Be Famous

by Caitlin Moran

Caitlin Moran's fans will know narrator Johanna Morrigan from How to Build a Girl, in which she kissed goodbye to Wolverhampton, England, in pursuit of a London life as Dolly Wilde, music journalist. In How to Be Famous, she's now a 19-year-old success story: she writes fearless pieces with titles like "In Defense of Groupies" and lives an unsupervised life recalling "that of Pippi Longstocking, but with whiskey, and rock music."
The drugs and rock and roll are going really well; it's the sex that's not working out: when Johanna makes the mistake of sleeping with comedian Jerry Sharp, he films their exploits without her consent. Johanna wants to be famous--as her brink-of-acclaim musician friend Suzanne puts it, "Famous is the shortcut to power"--but not as the subject of a widely circulated sex tape.
Set in the mid-'90s heyday of Britpop, How to Be Famous is a #MeToo manifesto before the fact, full of hilariously righteous rage, not to mention pop music references and wonderfully incendiary theories, as when Johanna makes the argument that the Beatles succeeded "by tapping into the untouched cultural capital of humanity: girls." How to Be Famous would be a superb novel for a young adult readership unflapped by explicit sex and semi-rampant, low-consequence drinking and drugging. Given the novel's emphasis on libidos and vice, it's easy to miss what it really is: a toothy feminist romance, complete with a fantasy-figure love interest for Johanna in John Kite, a musician who sees only perfection in her non-trophy-wife proportions. --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer

Discover: In Caitlin Moran's follow-up to How to Build a Girl, music journalist Johanna Morrigan is finally getting famous; unfortunately, it's for starring in a sex tape.

Harper, $26.99, hardcover, 352p., 9780062433770

Midnight Blue

by Simone van der Vlugt, trans. by Jenny Watson

Midnight Blue by Simone van der Vlugt introduces a young woman in 17th-century Netherlands struggling to maintain her independence while maneuvering through a patriarchal world.
Catrin, a widow, leaves her village under suspicious circumstances and heads for Amsterdam, which is a large, exotic place affording her the invisibility she craves. "The world is very different for women," she says in defiance, but she's confident in her ability to take care of herself in a man's world. Trying to escape her past isn't successful--a man from her village appears and knows her secrets. She fears that "one day the truth will come to light," and leaves again, moving to the smaller city of Delft to regain her anonymity.
There she finds work painting the new style of blue-on-white pottery. Her increasingly skilled designs and her ability to sense popular trends make her invaluable to the pottery studio and win her the respect of the men with whom she works. Yet when she thinks her life is finally settled, tragedy strikes. Is she being punished for her past? "Do you think there's such a thing as sins you have no choice to commit?... How do you know if you've been forgiven?" she asks a minister in anguish.
Midnight Blue, van der Vlugt's first novel published in the United States, translated by Jenny Watson, evokes a place and time not often highlighted. With cameos by Rembrandt and Vermeer, this is perfect for fans of Girl with a Pearl Earring and B.A. Shapiro. --Cindy Pauldine, bookseller, the river's end bookstore, Oswego, N.Y.

Discover: Seventeenth-century Netherlands is the setting for Midnight Blue, atmospheric historical fiction with elements of romance and mystery.

Morrow, $15.99, paperback, 336p., 9780062686862

The Family Tabor

by Cherise Wolas

Adored by his family and admired by his community for a life of good works, Harry Tabor is a man who seems to have it all and to appreciate the good fortune that has brought him to this place at age 70. But as Cherise Wolas (The Resurrection of Joan Ashby) shows in her introspective second novel, "luck is a rescindable gift."
Wolas takes her time getting to the heart of her story, delivering ample servings of the history of Harry, his child psychologist wife, Roma, and their children, Phoebe, Camille and Simon. Everyone arrives in Palm Springs for a gala celebrating Harry's selection as Man of the Decade, for his 30 years of work resettling Jewish refugees from around the world in his California community. But as Wolas deliberately scrapes away the surface sheen of the Tabors' lives, she reveals how the secrets they've been keeping from each other have affected them. Chief among these is a massive transgression in Harry's previous life as a stockbroker that impelled him to uproot his family from their Connecticut home and move west in the classic paradigm of American reinvention.
Despite its roots in family drama and the mystery that propels its final third, The Family Tabor is, at its heart, a philosophical novel. Wolas poses big questions: What does it mean to live a good life? How can we atone for a serious misdeed?
"The past is not dead. It's not even past," wrote William Faulkner. The Family Tabor provides compelling evidence of that truth. --Harvey Freedenberg, freelance reviewer

Discover: A loving family is thrown into crisis when a secret from the patriarch's past emerges.

Flatiron Books, $27.99, hardcover, 400p., 9781250081452

The Lost Queen of Crocker County

by Elizabeth Leiknes

There's no doubt that Iowa has lost one-time Corn Queen Janie Willow. Now a syndicated Los Angeles movie critic known for her acerbic reviews, she has put her Midwestern days behind her, which she refers to as "Before Jane." "After Jane" has one friend (by her own count) and is "ruled by doubt and cynicism." In The Lost Queen of Crocker County, Elizabeth Leiknes slowly reveals what marks "before" vs. "after" for her emotionally elusive protagonist.
Jane is planning a lavish visit for her parents, set to arrive from True City, Iowa. She notes she isn't "brave enough" to go home. Instead, she is immersed in movies, her reality defined by parallels to lines, plots and actors. But her parents' deaths in a plane crash demand her immediate return, and her loss and anxiety are agonizing. They were pillars of the community. (Literally. The grain silos were named for them.) And Janie was the most famous Corn Queen of all. What horror drove her to leave this loving town forever? As Janie-now-Jane navigates the memories, the profuse sympathy and the corn casseroles, a second tragedy leads to deeper sorrow. Eventually Jane faces her 20-year secret and begins a circuitous path to peace, and even joy.
Cinematic references and farm-country details embellish a fast-paced plot. Jane's basic goodness, credited to her wholesome Iowa upbringing, allows for suspension of disbelief as conflicts happily resolve. After all, as any citizen of True City would confirm, Jane's dad was always right when he said, "Believe so." --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, manager, Book Passage, San Francisco

Discover: A devastating secret from Jane's past is revealed when she returns to the small Iowa farm town she left 20 years before.

Sourcebooks Landmark, $15.99, paperback, 336p., 9781492663799

Cat Flap

by Alan S. Cowell

In his novel Cat Flap, British journalist Alan S. Cowell presents a modern fable: Dolores Tremayne--wife, mother and a successful corporate executive of African British descent--wakes one day and discovers that part of her has migrated and metamorphosed into the body of the family's "finely bred, highly pedigreed" indoor cat.
The human Dolores sets off on a Lufthansa flight bound for a high-powered business meeting with a prestigious car company in Munich, Germany. Her feline self--her mind and soul, aka "X"--stays behind and gains a surprising glimpse into the daily life of her sexy, white husband, Gerald, a former drug dealer-user and stalled novelist. His first book had been "well-received, if not well sold or marketed" and a three-book commitment looms over him, along with his daily, demanding responsibilities as a house-husband to his and Dolores's two little girls.
One day, when Gerald exits the apartment, curious X slips out and follows him. She discovers that he is a serial philanderer juggling numerous shocking exploits. Being trapped in the body of a cat shutters all of Dolores's emotional human instincts and reactions. However, through some creative ingenuity, X and human Dolores join forces as avenging spirits.
Cowell (The Terminal Spy) has never shied away from exploring dark themes in his writing--those found in newspaper journalism, politics, war, risk taking and spying. Readers will eagerly suspend their disbelief, immersing themselves in Cowell's cleverly conceived, satirical novel that probes contemporary issues of race, identity and sexuality. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: A successful, British executive--a wife and mother--has her mind and soul metamorphosed into the family cat.

St. Martin's Press, $24.99, hardcover, 240p., 9781250146519

The Locksmith's Daughter

by Karen Brooks

Set between 1580 and 1582, The Locksmith's Daughter opens with Mallory Bright returning home to London. Two years earlier, she abandoned her fiancé to elope with Sir Raffe Shelton, whose promises were lies and who caused Mallory's greatest heartbreak. Now a shell of her previous self, she is scorned by nearly all, except her locksmith father--who taught her how to crack the most intricate of locks--and the mysterious Lord Nathaniel.
To restore his daughter's good standing, Gideon Bright enlists help from his friend, Sir Francis Walsingham. As Queen Elizabeth's spymaster, Sir Francis views Mallory's intelligence and lock-picking abilities as key assets to his mission to eradicate Catholicism throughout England.
Karen Brooks (The Brewer's Tale) brilliantly ensnares both reader and Mallory in an elaborate web of suspicion, trickery and deceit. With extensive research, Brooks marries fictional and real-life characters and actual events, such as religious persecutions. ("Were they not Londoners before they were Catholics? Or did their faith make them something so strange, so different, they were no longer recognizable as English? As humans? I saw no traitors plotting to bring down a queen, only desperate people; people whose world was in disarray and who felt threatened. Who prayed to the same God, only differently.")
Mallory's emotional growth happens while she's wrestling with questions of loyalty and love. Unable to resist the romantic attraction between herself and Lord Nathaniel but fearful of being hurt again, Mallory is protecting more than her country. The hardest lock to open is the one around her heart and only she holds the key. --Melissa Firman 

Discover: In an intricate historical romance, a woman finds the right tools to forgive herself for her past while learning to accept the love she deserves.

Morrow, $16.99, paperback, 576p., 9780062686572

Mary B: A Novel: An Untold Story of Pride and Prejudice

by Katherine J. Chen

Mary Bennet, as everyone knows, is the plain middle sister: not beautiful like Jane, witty like Lizzy or even high-spirited like her younger sisters, Kitty and Lydia. But though she may be awkward, Mary is far from dull, and in Katherine J. Chen's debut novel, Mary B, she finally gets a chance to tell her own story. Beginning with the events of Pride and Prejudice, but going far beyond them both in time and scope, Chen imagines a woman ill-suited for the family and the world into which she was born. Mary struggles to make her own way in life without giving in to either convention or despair.
The well-worn incidents comprising Lizzy's and Jane's love stories do make the narrative drag a bit. But the action picks up after Lizzy and Darcy are married, and Mary goes to stay with them at Pemberley. There, she discovers a surprising friendship with Darcy, an unexpected connection with his cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam, and a latent passion for writing. The latter provides not only amusement and intellectual stimulation, but may change the course of her life. Gradually, Mary Bennet the minor character becomes Mary B the authoress, making bold choices for her fictional creations and herself.
Austen purists may be scandalized at Chen's reimagining of these familiar characters and her handling of the Darcys' relationship, but the book's plot twists are thought-provoking. Mary has long stopped believing in happy endings, but through sheer force of will and a series of unorthodox choices, she creates a surprising future for herself that might even include a bit of joy. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: Mary Bennet, the awkward middle sister, finally gets to tell her own story in this acerbic, surprising debut novel.

Random House, $27, hardcover, 336p., 9780399592218

The Blurry Years

by Eleanor Kriseman

The interrelated pieces that make up The Blurry Years hum with such insight and understanding that the whole feels strikingly personal. Eleanor Kriseman's Callie ("Cal") ages from a child of six to a young adult of 18 under precarious circumstances in late 1970s and early 1980s coastal Florida. Moving between an assortment of impermanent locations (hotels, cars, various boyfriends' homes) with her alcoholic, peripatetic mother, Cal seeks stability in whatever small nooks and crannies she can find it.
The Blurry Years is skillfully unsettling in its unfiltered look at a girl simmering in ongoing crises over which she has no control. Cal's mother, Jeanie, not only fails to shelter her daughter from danger, but in most instances is the source of it. Although Cal is the narrator and focus of the stories, Kriseman's portrayal of Jeanie's alcoholic fall-downs and get-back-ups has dazzling authenticity, all the more striking as viewed through a girl's eyes.
Peace and comfort come in incremental measures for Cal, who wants only "plans, promises, something concrete": things her mother is not equipped to provide. Kriseman packs a perfect punch in a small package, painting 12 years of Cal's life to full-frame in fewer than 200 pages. The picture is bleak, perhaps a reflection of Kriseman's experience as a social worker, but the writing is unerringly captivating. Cal herself describes it perfectly as she curls up on the couch to read Bridge to Terabithia: "It was obvious something awful was going to happen, but I couldn't stop reading." --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review

Discover: In interrelated stories spanning her turbulent adolescence, a girl comes of age with her alcoholic mother.

Two Dollar Radio, $15.99, paperback, 162p., 9781937512712

An Ocean of Minutes

by Thea Lim

In Thea Lim's An Ocean of Minutes, it's 1981 and a vicious flu pandemic has swept across the United States. With the advent of time travel, people are given the option of traveling to the future as migrant workers to pay for a loved one's treatment. When her boyfriend Frank gets sick, Polly agrees to go to 1993 and work in exchange for his cure. Though they planned to meet each other then and pick up where they left off, Frank is nowhere to be found. Polly realizes she has been rerouted to 1998 and is a slave to TimeRaiser, the company that hired her. Met with an unfamiliar and unforgiving landscape, Polly is determined to find Frank and build the future she'd imagined, rather than the one she's found.
Lim's mastery of plot, pacing and character shines in this high-concept novel. Striking a balance between the page-turning narrative and heartfelt, wistful insights, this novel depicts a future that reads more like an inspection of the contemporary moment than a fantastical assumption. Lim dives seamlessly through questions of race, gender, immigration and corporate monopoly, to surface with poignant discoveries about love, sacrifice, loss and ephemerality. Best of all, Lim's meditations on time illuminate the novel's shimmering and translucent surface to reveal fleetingly the depths and beauty of human emotion beneath. Polly's journey suggests both the beauty of and the inability to "stop right here, and stay in this very moment, for good." --Alice Martin, freelance writer and editor

Discover: A visionary literary dystopia, An Ocean of Minutes will appeal to fans of Emily St. John Mandel's Station Eleven and Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go.

Touchstone, $26, hardcover, 320p., 9781501192555

The Pre-War House and Other Stories

by Alison Moore

Alison Moore (The Lighthouse) is a purveyor of memory. Her stories usually focus on where the past and present converge, when old traumas grow too great to bear and burst to the surface of her characters' lives. This nebulous flow of time gives her work a dreamlike quality, so that The Pre-War House, a collection of short stories, feels like reading through someone's reveries.
The people in The Pre-War House are average, as are their terrors and heartbreaks, but that is precisely what makes Moore's work so affecting. She is uninterested in romanticism, nor using fiction to plot out the extraordinary. Instead, she takes moments that are at once tragic and quotidian, teasing out the former so that it overtakes the latter. The final story, which gives the collection its title, is the longest, and perhaps the best, deftly weaving multiple timelines as an unnamed narrator packs up her father's house and prepares for its sale. Slowly but surely Moore exposes the traumas the pre-war house witnessed, never turning away from the very human tragedy at the core.
The characters aren't special, certainly not at first, but give Moore a few pages and their lost chances in life are stunningly revealed in a way that can't help but be affecting. In the hands of a lesser author, the collection might be too pitiful, too hard to consume, but Moore finds the right balance, keeping stories short and atmospheric enough to draw readers into deeply and beautifully rendered lives. --Noah Cruickshank, adult engagement manager, the Field Museum, Chicago, Ill.

Discover: Alison Moore's short story collection The Pre-War House explores the tragic moments in everyday lives.

Biblioasis, $14.95, paperback, 288p., 9781771962155

The Last Cruise

by Kate Christensen

It may come as no surprise that Kate Christensen, food blogger and author of the gastronomy memoir Blue Plate Special, sets her seventh novel, The Last Cruise, in a galley aboard the 1950s cruise ship Queen Isabella. The pampered guests on a roundtrip voyage to Hawaii gather to embark in Long Beach, Calif. Among them is a geriatric Israeli string quartet of Six-Day War veterans, including violinist Miriam. In her 70s, Miriam is still feisty enough to have a crush on the group's recent widower cellist--and is prepared to act on it during their carefree cruise.
On a work/play junket, 34-year-old Maine farmer Christine agrees to accompany her New York City friend Valerie, a webzine editor doing a story on the world's working class. Valerie plans to drink and schmooze her way through the rank and file while Christine enjoys a break from farm drudgery to dress for dinner and read from the shipboard library's collection of classic Waugh, Wharton and Wodehouse.
The ship's Hungarian sous-chef, Mick, oversees the fresh produce and luxury meat cuts stowed to satisfy a vintage menu heralding '50s decadence. He and the largely immigrant coterie of workers berthed on the lower decks are charged with providing the upper deck hoity-toity a retro experience. After the cruise, however, they are all being sacked, as the global corporate owner of the Isabella plans to send it to the scrapyard.
Like many novels of isolated microcosmic societies, The Last Cruise slips from a romantic storybook idyll to a struggle between haves and have nots. In the process, Christensen delivers an engrossing tale that reveals the fragile veneer of civilization. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: Gathered for a carefree vintage voyage to Hawaii, a cultured mix of guests and crew find that sailing into the past doesn't leave the troubled present behind.

Doubleday, $26.95, hardcover, 304p., 9780385536288


by Rosie Walsh

Ghosted by British author Rosie Walsh is a modern story of love, both filial and romantic, thickly coated in mystery. Sarah, an L.A. transplant, meets Eddie while visiting her hometown of Gloucestershire. The two of them are swept up in an all-consuming romance and, despite the fact that they barely know each other, both are convinced that they have found their true-life partner. After seven blissful days they reluctantly part and Eddie promises to call. But then he doesn't.
Sarah's friends tell her to accept the fact that she's been "ghosted," but she refuses to give up on him. As the mystery of Eddie's silence deepens, the devastating past that Sarah spent her whole life trying to escape catches up with her. Walsh employs clever descriptive contrasts to reflect the very different worlds Sarah and Eddie inhabit: the cozy dampness of Gloucestershire against the stark brightness of L.A.; restless Sarah who fled to America versus stable, constant Eddie who stayed close to home; her high-visibility career and his quiet work as a traditional British cabinetmaker.
Ghosted heralds a new subgenre of romance mystery, one that builds relationship suspense through unreturned texts, deleted messages, mysterious Facebook posts and, of course, good old-fashioned phone calls. Walsh includes letter writing, too, to round out the communication struggles Sarah and Eddie face as they attempt to balance their need for each other with the consequences of being together. --Shahina Piyarali, writer and reviewer

Discover: Radio silence, and all the mystery it brings, clouds a modern romance set in Gloucestershire, England.

Pamela Dorman/Viking, $26, hardcover, 352p., 9780525522775

Clock Dance

by Anne Tyler

Anne Tyler's Clock Dance traces the formative events in the life of generous Willa Drake. From watching her tempestuous mother intimidate her pushover father to picking a bully-husband of her own, Willa's life has always been defined by the underlying power dynamics of intimate relationships. After her husband dies in a road rage accident, Willa marries another bossy man, Peter. When she receives a call begging her to take care of her son's ex-girlfriend and her daughter, Willa can't help but agree. Peter may not approve, but she is drawn in by the warm, outspoken young woman and her pragmatic daughter. Soon, Willa begins to realize that while Peter and the other men around her may be loud, they don't have a monopoly on her life.
Tyler is no stranger to crafting slow-burn narratives that illuminate concealed family dynamics. Clock Dance is a perfect addition to her oeuvre, offering all the intimate insights and cleverness of her past work while still displaying her ability to experiment with form. The novel opens with a series of snapshot moments throughout Willa's life that showcase Tyler's instinctual ability to pinpoint her characters' soft spots. With its strong, clean prose and evenly paced storytelling, Clock Dance nimbly captures the rhythm of an overlooked woman's life. But buried within this personal story is a larger question about who the world chooses to discount and what will happen when those who quietly hold the world together finally decide to walk away. --Alice Martin, freelance writer and editor

Discover: A finely tuned piece of social commentary, Clock Dance is full of wit and charm for a broad audience of readers.

Knopf, $26.95, hardcover, 304p., 9780525521228

Where the Crawdads Sing

by Delia Owens

Nonfiction author and wildlife scientist Delia Owens (Secrets of the Savanna, Cry of the Kalahari) makes her fictional debut with Where the Crawdads Sing, a compelling, original story of a girl who grows up alone in the marshes of the North Carolina coast. In 1952, Kya is just six years old when her mother leaves the family without a word. One by one, Kya's siblings soon move on, until it's down to just her and her father. Disappearing for weeks at a time, the hard-drinking man eventually abandons Kya, too, leaving her on her own. She'd learned a lot from him and her brother over the years about fishing and local plant and animal life, but Kya still finds it challenging to support herself deep in the unforgiving marshes of Barkley Cove.
The story moves back and forth between Kya growing up in isolation, passionate about the nature surrounding her, making only a few tenuous connections with other people and learning to love, and later, in 1969, when a body is found and the townspeople--and soon the police--suspect Kya, known to most only as the Marsh Girl. A mystery, a courtroom drama, a romance and a coming-of-age story, Where the Crawdads Sing is a moving, beautiful tale. Readers will remember Kya for a long, long time. --Suzan L. Jackson, freelance writer and author of Book By Book blog

Discover: An engrossing story of a girl, abandoned by her family, who survives alone in the North Carolina coastal marshes--with a murder mystery and a courtroom drama woven in.

Putnam, $26, hardcover, 384p., 9780735219090

Mystery & Thriller

Live and Let Chai

by Bree Baker

After dropping out of culinary school and getting her heart broken by a cowboy, Everly Swan has returned to Charm, her quaint seaside hometown in North Carolina. Things are looking up: she's just opened her dream iced tea shop and cafe in a gorgeous Victorian house that's also her new home. But when a cranky local councilman is found dead on the boardwalk with one of Everly's signature tea jars next to him and poison in his system, she must battle a wave of suspicion from the townspeople. An anonymous vandal begins targeting Everly's shop, and she becomes even more determined to clear her name and find the killer. Bree Baker brews up a cozy mystery as sweet and Southern as Everly's tea in her debut, Live and Let Chai.
Baker fills her town with (mostly) appealing characters, including the owners of Charm's other small businesses: the bookstore, the ice cream shop, the general store. Everly's quirky beekeeper aunts, Fran and Clara, offer more local color and emotional support, while an unnervingly handsome, new-in-town detective provides expert crime analysis and a bit of romantic interest. In classic amateur sleuth fashion, Everly follows every lead with more tenacity than discretion, throwing a wrench or two into the police investigation, but also turning up some useful information. While Everly's cooking skills far outpace her sleuthing abilities, this is an enjoyable setup for Baker's series, best enjoyed with a sweating glass of sweet tea. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: A cozy mystery set in a seaside North Carolina town features iced tea, a slow-brewing romance and murder.

Sourcebooks Landmark, $7.99, mass market paperbound, 352p., 9781492664758

Stay Hidden

by Paul Doiron

Mystery floats through the pages of Paul Doiron's enthralling whodunit Stay Hidden like a thick Maine fog. This is the ninth novel featuring game warden Mike Bowditch, who must now determine whether a woman shot to death while vacationing on a small island off the coast of Maine was killed intentionally. The locals are convinced her death was a hunting accident--hunting and fishing are the community's most common ways of making a living, and guns can be found in every home. But when a woman who looks almost identical to the dead woman steps off a ferry a few days later, no one knows what to believe. What follows is an atmospheric mystery with enough twists to keep even the most seasoned readers guessing what will happen next.
Bowditch proves once again to be a likable protagonist, confident enough to push people's buttons when necessary, but possessing enough self-awareness to feel guilty about it. The characters surrounding him are well-rounded, and the landscape feels as real on the page as sea water does on the skin. Especially impressive is Doiron's attention to the ecological problems Mainers face, including deer overpopulation, widespread increases in tick counts and the proliferation of Lyme disease. All of this adds to the novel's eeriness. A native of Maine, Doiron is at his finest here, capturing both the state's wild beauty and rural suspicion to create a marvel of a thriller. --Amy Brady, freelance writer and editor

Discover: This atmospheric mystery set on an island off the coast of Maine is filled with unpredictable twists and a cast of believable characters.

Minotaur Books, $26.99, hardcover, 336p., 9781250102386

Caught in Time

by Julie McElwain

Julie McElwain (A Twist in Time) continues her Kendra Donovan series with a third entry, Caught in Time. The FBI agent is still trapped in the 19th century, but now that it's been a few months since she accidentally slipped through a wormhole, she's starting to adapt to the strictures of the earlier era; and since the Duke of Aldridge declared her his ward, she's allowed much more leeway than most women get.
Kendra and the Duke are traveling to one of his country estates when a heavy fog slows their journey. In the mist they see a group of Luddites, armed with axes, off to destroy the mechanical looms at a local mill. The travelers stop in the town of East Dingleford, intending to remain only for the night, but when the constable discovers, along with the broken machines, the brutalized body of the mill owner, Kendra can't help but intervene. The Duke, fascinated with her hints about the future and forensic science, aptly aids her, even calling in his handsome nephew, Alec, to assist.
Caught in Time is an excellent historical mystery. McElwain weaves a delicate web that can keep readers guessing until the very last moment, and the time travel framing the story adds a fascinating extra layer. It's well-researched with a fast-moving plot and many quirky village characters. As Kendra walks a fine line between disgruntled mill employees, a nasty local farmer and a squire with gout, she will have to use every bit of her 21st-century wits to guide her to catch a killer. --Jessica Howard, bookseller at Bookmans, Tucson, Ariz.

Discover: An FBI agent must catch the killer of a 19th-century mill owner in this fascinating time-traveling mystery.

Pegasus Books, $25.95, hardcover, 464p., 9781681777665


by Belinda Bauer

Belinda Bauer's Snap opens in August 1998, with three kids sitting in a sweltering, broken-down car, waiting for their mother to return from the call box up the road. After more than an hour, the children, ages two to 11, go searching on foot for her, finding only a phone with the receiver dangling by its cord.
Their nightmare continues three years later, when the children are living alone in their house, trying to avoid attracting neighbors' and social services' attention by keeping the lawn mowed and lying about their father. Jack, now just shy of 15, takes care of his siblings by stealing food and other necessities from nearby homes. In one, he makes a chilling discovery that indicates the owner might know what happened to Jack's mother.
Bauer once again delivers a fast-paced, suspenseful, and heartbreaking story laced with extra-dry humor and well-defined characters. Detective Chief Inspector John Marvel returns from The Shut Eye with his grump and thirst for a good murder case intact, though he's been exiled from the Met in London and sent to Somerset to investigate burglaries. Jack and his sisters, Joy and Merry--ironic names--are complex in ways one would expect of traumatized children. Bauer does not tug at readers' heartstrings; she simply shows how harsh life can be for the most vulnerable and youngest among us. The detectives can be a bit slow to pick up on clues, but thriller fans should snap up this one. --Elyse Dinh-McCrillis, blogger at Pop Culture Nerd

Discover: Three children search for the truth about what happened to their mother after she disappeared three years earlier.

Atlantic Monthly Press, $26, hardcover, 352p., 9780802127747

The Corpse at the Crystal Palace

by Carola Dunn

On an outing to London's Crystal Palace with her children and their visiting cousins, Daisy Dalrymple Fletcher is shocked when her nanny temporarily disappears. When she goes in search of Nanny Gilpin, Daisy stumbles upon a corpse dressed in a nanny's uniform. Meanwhile, the children spot Mrs. Gilpin in uncharacteristic pursuit of yet another nanny, who has disappeared by the time they catch up to her. Worried for her employee and also baffled by the presence of the two other nannies, Daisy can't resist a bit of unofficial sleuthing. Carola Dunn (Superfluous Women, Heirs of the Body) leads both her protagonist and her readers on a merry, highly enjoyable chase in her 23rd Daisy Dalrymple mystery, The Corpse at the Crystal Palace.
All the hallmarks of Dunn's series are here: Daisy's keen curiosity and sense of justice; her detective inspector husband, Alec, both exasperated by and grudgingly grateful for his wife's interference; a slew of colorful suspects (including an enigmatic family of Russian jewelers); and Daisy's friends Lucy and Sakari, who each contribute to solving the case. The setting of interwar London is a pleasure to revisit, and Daisy's domestic trials (an exploding boiler, the challenges of parenting three-year-old twins) unfold alongside her attempts at ferreting out information. Dunn touches lightly on issues of class, race and politics while keeping the main focus firmly on the twisty plot. Daisy's adventure here is both an engaging puzzle and a pleasant return to the world Dunn has created. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: Daisy Dalrymple Fletcher goes in search of a missing nanny and uncovers another mystery in her latest adventure.

Minotaur Books, $26.99, hardcover, 288p., 9781250047052

Our House

by Louise Candlish

Our House by Louise Candlish is an artful, absorbing thriller that proposes a new level of fear--the fear of losing the one thing that many of us take for granted: our home, our sanctuary.
Fiona and Bram are lucky to own their dream home on picture-perfect Trinity Avenue, in an upwardly mobile London suburb. Sky-high property prices have rendered them millionaires, along with their neighbors. All of their savings and Fi's spare time are poured into renovating and updating the house. A stunning magnolia tree in their front yard symbolizes the life they have built for themselves and their two young sons. Even when things fall apart between Fi and Bram, the magnolia tree stands magnificent, a testament to their intact family home. It's when that home, the center of their family, is sold from under her that Fi finds herself in free fall.
Candlish (The Swimming Pool) has embarked on a daring and ingenious form of storytelling. Fi's version of events is relayed in the form of a podcast in which each episode is a true-crime event told in the words of the victim. Candlish explores what happens when the home that is the fabric holding one's family together slips through one's fingers. How important is the house, anyway? Fi calls the Trinity Avenue house her family's "primary breadwinner." It was so much more than a shelter for her--for better or for worse, it's her family's identity.
Our House is a tempting slice of London life packed with intrigue, suspense and beautifully flawed characters, a winning formula with the added bonus of a cautionary tale about investing too much of ourselves in the outward trappings of success. --Shahina Piyarali, writer and reviewer

Discover: In this brilliantly dark crime thriller set in South London, a family home is sold without the owner's knowledge.

Berkley, $26, hardcover, 416p., 9780451489111

Her Pretty Face

by Robyn Harding

Robyn Harding (The Party) tackles the contrasting issues of women's friendship and violent criminals in Her Pretty Face.
Stay-at-home mom Frances is insecure and lonely. She struggles to do what's best for her special-needs son while being closed out by the snobby, seemingly perfect moms at his new private school--especially after an incident involving her son rocks the small community. The only thing that makes Forrester Academy tolerable is her new friend, Kate. Gorgeous, thin and wealthy, Kate nonetheless seems truly to like Frances, and the two women bond over wine, their sons' friendship and a shared sarcastic wit. The women and their families gradually grow closer, but one of the friends is hiding a terrible secret: she's a murderer who changed her name years ago.
Harding takes readers on a ride through deceit in the midst of friendship. While some of this novel's secrets will probably be guessed early on and are revealed by the halfway point, the story is more focused on why rather than who. This domestic drama about women's friendship moves between the past and the present while exploring intriguing questions. Can a person really change? Once someone has paid for a heinous crime, should she be forgiven and allowed to live a normal life? The stakes are high as the facts emerge in this tense and thoughtful novel. --Suzan L. Jackson, freelance writer and author of Book By Book blog

Discover: Two moms become best friends, but one of them is hiding a secret, violent past.

Scout Press/Gallery, $26, hardcover, 352p., 9781501174247

On the Java Ridge

by Jock Serong

Devastatingly brilliant, Jock Serong's On the Java Ridge is an emotionally grueling mix of high-octane action, life-and-death political maneuvering and, at its heart, an anguishing portrayal of worldwide refugee crises. On the eve of federal elections, Minister for Border Integrity Cassius Calvert discloses a new policy regarding unannounced boats in Australian waters--no unidentified vessels will be offered maritime assistance.
Meanwhile, two phinisi (Indonesian-built sailboats) head toward Australia. The Takalar is packed with asylum seekers--men, women and children of varied ethnic backgrounds trying to escape the terror of their homelands. The Java Ridge, owned by a charter surfing company, is full of white Australians headed for legendary remote island waves.
The boats' trajectories result in an ill-fated meeting, and the Australian government becomes aware of a phinisi in potentially dire straits. Willing to sacrifice foreign lives to keep the favor of the electorate, officials stand behind the new policy. Even when Calvert suspects Australian lives may be at stake, he's ordered to stand down and maintain plausible deniability.
Serong (author of the 2015 Ned Kelly Award-winning Quota) writes masterfully from varied perspectives, crafting haunting characters struggling to survive in a raging sea of human horror and callous partisanship. Life aboard each boat is depicted in detail that highlights the dichotomy like a red-hot poker to the gut--cavalier tourists relieve themselves over deck rails as refugees struggle to maintain their dignity while living in their own waste. Beautiful, mournful, infuriating and brimming with tension, On the Java Ridge is utterly incomparable. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review

Discover: As the passengers of two boats struggle for survival after a disastrous meeting at sea, Australian politicians refuse to respond.

Text Publishing, $15.95, paperback, 320p., 9781925498394

Half Moon Bay

by Alice LaPlante

Someone is abducting and murdering girls from Half Moon Bay, a small town south of San Francisco. While resident Jane O'Malley, who works at a plant nursery, insists that she's no murderer, she admits to the accusing mother of one of the girls, "I do odd things sometimes." (For one, Jane calls random strangers on the phone and then hangs up, just to make what she thinks of as a human connection.) Doing odd things comes with the bereaved-parent territory: in Berkeley the previous year, a reckless driver killed Jane's teenage daughter, Angela. Jane's husband left her for another woman not long afterward.
Darker examples of Jane's behavior following Angela's death precipitated her move from Berkeley to Half Moon Bay, where, like everyone else, Jane obsesses about the murders. Meanwhile, the FBI, which has established a temporary office in town, considers her a suspect. It's not just that Jane has no alibis for the times of the abductions and that the FBI thinks the killer is female (the corpses are found dolled up with makeup); it's also that those who have learned about Angela's death find it easy to interpret Jane's emotional shakiness as moral depravity. The way that Alice LaPlante finesses this witch hunt-like thread gives the absorbingly macabre Half Moon Bay its underpinning of compassion. If Jane's behavior is sometimes baffling, it's also true that LaPlante (Turn of Mind) hints that the character's psychological damage began long before she lost her child. --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer

Discover: A mother recovering from her teenage daughter's death becomes a suspect when girls in her small town are being abducted and killed.

Scribner, $26, hardcover, 272p., 9781501190889

Science Fiction & Fantasy

Trail of Lightning

by Rebecca Roanhorse

Trained by an immortal in hand-to-hand combat and killing, Maggie Hoskie is a tough-as-nails monster slayer with special powers in a post-apocalyptic world. She fights the fiends and supernatural beings of Navajo tradition, which have come to life behind an enchanted wall separating Navajo lands from the rest of the U.S.
When she is called on to search for a missing girl, she discovers a new type of monster, which sets her on a whirlwind adventure across the rez. If she hopes to destroy these creatures, Maggie must place her trust in Kai Arviso, a young medicine man in training who is unexpectedly thrust into her life. Together they engage with Coyote, the trickster, and fight monsters, their pasts and their self-doubts--all while creating new alliances and enemies.
Rebecca Roanhorse fuses well-rounded and diverse characters with Navajo legends and strong fantasy details in her fast-paced debut. Subtle specifics--such as the use of corn pollen and obsidian to kill supernatural beings, or the talents of the characters based on their clan names--add layers of authenticity and solidness. Roanhorse creates a fascinating world where the abilities and actions of the characters are plausible and magic is commonplace. Trail of Lightning is the exciting first book in the Sixth World series, a blend of fantasy and romance where the lines between good and evil, lying and truth, fantasy and reality, meld and swirl like the desert winds on the rez, leaving the reader eager for book two. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

Discover: Monsters stalk Navajo lands, and Maggie Hoskie must slay them before they can do more harm.

Saga Press, $16.99, paperback, 304p., 9781534413504

One of Us

by Craig DiLouie

In 1968, a sexually transmitted disease called teratogenesis swept the globe. Infected mothers gave birth to monstrous infants. Many died, at first, but by the time scientists developed a test for the disease, a million malformed babies were born in the United States. Congress created a system of state-funded Homes for these cast-off miscreations. Strict reproductive laws stopped the spread of teratogensis, but it was too late to save the plague generation.
In 1984, in rural Georgia, Enoch Bryant, also known as Dog, lives in a ramshackle Home with hundreds of other unwanted plague kids. His generation seems destined to serve as a distrusted underclass, kept separate and subservient to normals. But the plague kids are also entering adolescence, and some are discovering they have abilities far beyond mere deformities. To Dog's dismay--and that of a federal agent looking for new test subjects--all Dog can do is run fast and snarl with his canine head. Dog's days doing farm work might be numbered if his ultra-genius friend Brain's revolution ever comes to pass. Meanwhile, he envies the normal kids who go to a regular school in the nearby town, one of whom is a monster passing for human.
One of Us is part AIDS-parable, slavery story (the Home is in an old plantation house), coming-of-age tale, period piece and so much more. Craig DiLouie has crafted something special, with sympathetic characters, tragedy, hope and humor all expertly woven together. One of Us is a stunning achievement in speculative fiction. --Tobias Mutter, freelance reviewer

Discover: In 1984 Georgia, a lost generation of mutated children forced apart from normal society reaches adolescence.

Orbit, $26, hardcover, 400p., 9780316411318

The Annex

by Rich Larson

Rich Larson began writing short stories in 2011 and quickly established himself as a prolific wunderkind of speculative fiction. Larson's full-length debut, The Annex, is an ambitious and energetic coming-of-age thriller in which a group of orphans fight to survive in a town devastated by alien invaders.
The aliens have turned adults into catatonic zombies. They also imprison children in warehouses to serve as hosts for parasitic "keys" that, when fully mature, will open a dimensional door to other invaders. The parasites endow some children with varying abilities to "shift" objects; these kids must be sedated by their robotic overseers. A group of warehouse escapees known as the Lost Boys, led by Wyatt and Violet, rebel and attack the robotic "othermothers" sent to recapture them. When Violet encounters new escapee Bo on a foraging mission, she invites him to join the group, where his presence threatens to upset its balances of power and allegiance.
The first in a projected series, The Annex alternates between Violet and Bo, highlighting the fluctuating dynamics in their complicated relationship: their yearning for belonging, fear of abandonment and struggle to develop a post-invasion identity. Larson's creatures draw inspiration from H.R. Giger (Alien) but evolve into something more sinister. And while Larson's plot follows many genre tropes, he infuses the story with his own spin to create a moving alien invasion narrative that captures the joys and cruelties of adolescence in a rapidly changing world. --Nancy Powell, freelance writer and technical consultant

Discover: An electrifying and satisfying debut from a fresh new voice in speculative fiction ponders the value of friendship and loyalty in a world devastated by war.

Orbit, $15.99, paperback, 368p., 9780316416542


How to Keep a Secret

by Sarah Morgan

For How to Keep a Secret, Sarah Morgan (Miracle on 5th Avenue) shifts a bit from contemporary romance into fresh women's fiction sure to be appreciated by fans of Nancy Thayer or Elin Hilderbrand.
Lauren has a perfect life in London, until her 16-year-old daughter, Mack, turns overnight into a stereotypically bitter and sullen teenager. Lauren's younger sister, Jenna, who still lives on Martha's Vineyard, is desperate to get pregnant, but it's just not working, and she's worried that her husband isn't on board with her deep desire for parenthood. Meanwhile, Lauren and Jenna's mother, Nancy, knows she wasn't the best parent, but she'll never be able to tell the girls why, which has created a gulf between them. Moreover, she's a well-known artist, but has abruptly quit painting.
Now dramatic circumstances bring all four women together in "The Captain's House"--the Martha's Vineyard home that has held their family for generations. Nancy and her daughters tentatively begin to explore the secrets they've hidden from each other. Lauren and Mack, too, work on their relationship, starting an emotional but life-changing summer for everyone as they discover the hidden depths in each other.
Sarah Morgan does an excellent job of creating strong, nuanced women who want to love each other, in spite of the barriers between them. Their spilling secrets pour a charming spell over this heartwarming and summery beach read. --Jessica Howard, bookseller at Bookmans, Tucson, Ariz.

Discover: Three generations of women explore the secrets they've been hiding from each other as they spend a summer together on Martha's Vineyard.

HQN, $15.99, paperback, 432p., 9781335613004

Cottage by the Sea

by Debbie Macomber

In Debbie Macomber's (If Not for You) latest, Cottage by the Sea, Annie Marlow, a physician assistant in her 20s, deals with the aftermath of a catastrophic mudslide that wiped out an entire Seattle community--including her family--one Thanksgiving weekend.
Annie, inundated by grief and red tape, takes a leave of absence from her job. In search of solace and a sense of home, she retreats to Oceanside, "a small, out of the way town" in the Pacific Northwest, where she and her family happily vacationed during the summer when she was a teenager. Annie accepts a temporary job at the town medical clinic. When she tries to rent the same cottage from her past, she finds the place overgrown and in disrepair. She convinces the landlord, Mellie Munson--a reclusive hermit just a few years older than Annie and emotionally paralyzed by a shattered romance--to rent her the place anyway. As Annie tries to spruce up the cottage, she is helped by Seth Keaton--a shy, reserved local painter, a towering figure in town with a sensitive heart--trying to hide his own life battle scars, as well as his feelings for Annie.
Her presence in the small seaside community becomes a rallying force for good until Annie is faced with a choice that could affect not only her life, but the lives of others, too. Macomber's tender story demonstrates how kindness, support and love can heal wounded hearts and souls, making them profoundly stronger in all the broken places. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: A young woman mired by grief relocates to a small, seaside town where her presence fosters healing in herself--and others.

Ballantine Books, $27, hardcover, 352p., 9780399181252

Heart of Glass

by Nicole Jacquelyn

When Staff Sergeant Henry Harris is killed in action, his grieving family is shocked to discover he left behind a daughter, Etta. And they are especially appalled to learn that he had walked away from the girl, leaving her to be raised by her mother, Morgan. Henry's brother, Trevor, can't believe that the kind boy he knew growing up turned out to be a deadbeat dad, but he's determined to make it up to Morgan and Etta.
When he meets them, he is blown away by how much sweet little Etta looks like her late father, and by how much he's attracted to Morgan. Trevor and Henry were nothing alike physically--Trevor is black, Henry was white, both adoptees--but Morgan finds in Trevor the same sense of humor that attracted her to his brother. In addition to being super sexy, he is sweet and earnest, and seems to be committed to being there for her and Etta. But Morgan's life has been full of abandonment. Can she trust that Trevor is really in their lives for good?
Nicole Jacquelyn (Unbreak My Heart; Change of Heart) has created a thoughtful romance with flawed yet genuine characters who are trying to start again. Morgan and Trevor both have past baggage to get over, but Jacquelyn's exploration of their emotions and feelings is believable and gripping. The large, eclectic Harris family includes a wealth of interesting side characters, adding depth to the central love story. Readers are sure to adore Heart of Glass. --Jessica Howard, bookseller at Bookmans, Tucson, Ariz.

Discover: In this intriguing romance, a man finds himself attracted to his late brother's girlfriend, as he tries to help her raise her daughter.

Forever, $14.99, paperback, 368p., 9781538711859

Graphic Books

The Ghost Script

by Jules Feiffer

Jules Feiffer's graphic novel trilogy began with Kill My Mother and Cousin Joseph, hardboiled noir in the vein of Dashiell Hammett and Will Eisner. The concluding book, The Ghost Script, takes a decidedly political turn, evoking McCarthyism and the Hollywood Blacklist.
Ten years after the events of Kill My Mother, Feiffer's characters have moved on from their collective tragedies. Annie Hannigan, a successful Hollywood screenwriter and director, is rumored to possess a "ghost script" that threatens to expose the blacklist conspiracy. Annie's son Sammy has grown into an angry teenager harboring anti-communist sentiment against his family. Elsie is a radio gossip columnist who plots with her lover, Patty, to seek vengeance against the mysterious Cousin Joseph, her husband's murderer.
Meanwhile, Hollywood executives and investigators from the House Un-American Activities Committee hire hapless private eye Archie Goldman, Annie's lover, to retrieve the script. Archie is pursued and beaten up by union busters and liberals, who suspect him of ulterior motives. As Archie's investigation closes in on his immediate circle and the secret identity of Cousin Joseph, things take a malevolent turn and threaten to destroy the lives of the women around him.
Feiffer integrates many of the underlying themes of McCarthyism: the demands for absolute loyalty in exchange for continued employment and favors, anti-Semitism and the seedy layers of racism. His art has evolved with the progression of the series, and individual monologues ground a plot that tends to meander in confusing directions.
Feiffer displays his unapologetically sharp wit in a story that shows that starry-eyed dreams are often doomed to the failed lessons of American history. --Nancy Powell, freelance writer and technical consultant

Discover: The conclusion to Jules Feiffer's hardboiled trilogy is a political thriller about McCarthyism and the Hollywood Blacklist.

Liveright, $26.95, hardcover, 160p., 9781631493133

Biography & Memoir

Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret

by Craig Brown

Satirist Craig Brown says that for most royal biographers "there is no division between the interesting and the uninteresting." His deliciously gossipy and unconventional biography of HRH Princess Margaret (1930-2002) avoids the humdrum by creating a fascinating patchwork of stories culled from histories, memoirs and diaries of historians, servants, royal watchers and celebrities including Michael Palin, Alec Guinness, Nancy Mitford, Noël Coward, John Fowles and Christopher Isherwood.
As the daughter of a king and sister to a queen, Margaret was keenly aware of her supporting role in history and her own life, and she wasn't happy about it. Her waspish personality attracted people who were "mesmerised less by her image than by the cracks to be found in it." She liked to arrive late to parties, then delay dinner "to catch up with her punishing schedule of drinking and smoking." She would then stay late, which meant other guests were unable to leave because protocol dictated that no one depart before her. "She had no wish to draw others in, and refused to offer them the illusion, however fleeting, of parity," writes Brown. Her marital life wasn't any happier. Her husband, Lord Snowden, tossed lit matches at her across the dinner table and left her notes reading "You look like a Jewish manicurist" and "I hate you."
Brown's Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret could be subtitled "Royals Behaving Badly." It's chock-full of catty, funny, surprising and sometimes heartbreaking anecdotes. This supremely witty, riotously rude and tightly written biography will be irresistible to Anglophiles. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant

Discover: An irreverent and catty highlights-only biography of Queen Elizabeth's waspish younger sister, Princess Margaret.

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $28, hardcover, 432p., 9780374906047

The Victorian and the Romantic: A Memoir, a Love Story, and a Friendship Across Town

by Nell Stevens

In The Victorian and the Romantic, Nell Stevens traces her journey through the trials of a Ph.D. program in English literature as well as her misfortunes in love. While writing a thesis on Victorian novelist Elizabeth Gaskell and the community of artists she met in Italy, Stevens begins to see parallels between her literary hero and herself. While Gaskell dreams of a life with a member of the Italian literati, Stevens imagines an intellectual but domestic lifestyle with Max, an old classmate. As both dreams fall apart, Stevens wonders what is it that gives her life purpose and if she needs another person by her side to answer that question.
Like Stevens's debut, Bleaker House, The Victorian and the Romantic experiments with the boundaries of nonfiction, seamlessly interweaving memoir, historical research and fictional biography. For all its blurry borders, this book's backbone is the author's often insightful, always charming narrative voice. Never shying away from vulnerabilities and doubts, she relays her inner nature convincingly and sympathetically, even if it may be fictional. The sections dedicated to Gaskell glow with Stevens's self-revelations and wit; the Victorian becomes a mirror for Stevens in addition to being a historical figure. Stevens writes love letters to her, making these sections all the more lovely for the light each woman shines on the other--a light that marks the kind of bright, electrifying clarity Stevens's character is searching for throughout the narrative. --Alice Martin, freelance writer and editor

Discover: Part memoir, part fictional biography, all love story, The Victorian and the Romantic will delight readers with its humor, buoyant warmth and unintentional joy.

Doubleday, $26.95, hardcover, 272p., 9780385543507

Life in the Garden

by Penelope Lively

The prolific and much-loved British writer Penelope Lively's Life in the Garden is a heady remembrance of landscapes both real and fictional and a celebration of Lively's love of all things horticulture. Now in her 85th year, she gardens on, albeit at a more limited pace than before. From her mother's home in Cairo to her own vast grounds in Oxfordshire, Lively (Dancing Fish and Ammonites) reflects on the wonder and solace of nature and the timeless, therapeutic attributes of gardening. In the process, she addresses horticultural manners and fashions, what flower preferences say about people, the joys and perils of marital gardening and the possession of a back yard as a social indicator.
Life in the Garden is rich with precious knowledge acquired over many decades, and Lively is poetic as well as playful as she muses on the manipulation of flora, the imposition of order where nature prefers disorder. In line with this inherent conflict between environment and worker, she refers to weeding as "a bout of ethnic cleansing." It is the anticipatory nature of gardening and the power of gardens to refute time that Lively finds supremely comforting. The rose, that most symbolic of flowers, is given special consideration, as are the pioneering efforts of Willa Cather and Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Life in the Garden is a beautiful escape into the countless wonders of gardens and their enjoyment. It is Lively's gift to her longtime fans as well as to those just now discovering the delights of her literary largess. --Shahina Piyarali, writer and reviewer

Discover: English literary icon Penelope Lively offers a meditative celebration of the joys and rewards of gardening and the garden's protean, timeless beauty.

Viking, $25, hardcover, 208p., 9780525558378

Now My Heart Is Full

by Laura June

When Laura June had her first child at 36, a surprising feeling arose: she longed for her late mother, who suffered from alcoholism and with whom she'd had little contact as an adult. June spent most of her life pulling away from her family's difficult home life, only to realize how much it was a part of her. In Now My Heart Is Full, she recounts her childhood, which was fraught with her mother's drinking and reconsiders that relationship as she becomes a parent. June details her experience of her daughter's first weeks and years, including advice and opinions on nursing and sleep training. She also delves into something much deeper about the realities of motherhood, the ways the past unavoidably affects the future and how complicated it can be to love someone who is flawed.
June's writing is intimate and heartfelt, and often casual and friendly. Many of her stories of motherhood are common, so her memoir is both interestingly personal and comfortingly familiar. She explores the hard truths of being a mother and a daughter, showing that each role can be simultaneously joyful, miserable and loving. June saw the world differently as soon as her baby was born, and one realization is especially nuanced and profound: "I had always thought that when people die, our relationships with them stop evolving," she writes. "But I realized then that this wasn't true." --Katy Hershberger, freelance writer and publicist

Discover: A new mom contemplates parenthood and her own childhood growing up with an alcoholic mother.

Penguin Books, $16, paperback, 272p., 9780143130918

I Can't Date Jesus: Love, Sex, Family, Race, and Other Reasons I've Put My Faith in Beyoncé

by Michael Arceneaux

Michael Arceneaux's inspiring and delightful debut collection of autobiographical essays about growing up black and gay in Texas is alternately hilarious and touching. "This book is about unlearning every damaging thing I've seen and heard about my identity and allowing myself the space to figure out who I am and what that means on my terms," writes Arceneaux. Growing up in a home with a rage-prone father and religious mother, he kept his sexuality under wraps. Calling himself a recovering Catholic, he still contends, "Catholic guilt never leaves you, and follows you everywhere; it's the herpes of your conscience."
Arceneaux details his fumbling sexual encounters, bad dates and his painful coming out to his mother: "As a gay man, you already have so many people against you," he writes. "Your family--especially your mother--is supposed to be in your corner as you battle these people, not throwing sucker punches with them." He finds solace and a source of strength in favorite musical divas Madonna, Janet Jackson and his goddess Beyoncé. One fascinating chapter covers his mixed feelings about gay people marrying. He's happy for the progress but doesn't see it in his future, writing, "The failure to learn how to love someone properly is a trait that has since been passed down to me."
While I Can't Date Jesus is filled with razor-sharp observations and sly and snarky one-liners, the book's most impressive attribute is Arceneaux's bravery and skill at tackling complex issues with humanity, eloquence and compassion. This book is a winner. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant

Discover: This is a winning collection of funny and touching essays about growing up black and gay in the South.

Atria, $17, paperback, 256p., 9781501178856

It Happened Like This: A Life in Alaska

by Adrienne Lindholm

Adrienne Lindholm has always had a taste for wild places: open spaces, unmarked territory, "the feeling of something about to happen." After college, she moved to Alaska to try her luck as a backcountry park ranger. Nearly two decades later, her roots go deep into the Alaskan tundra, where she has built a career and a life on the edge of the wilderness. Lindholm chronicles her experience in a frank, luminous memoir, It Happened Like This.
As a greenhorn park ranger, Lindholm was unprepared for the rigors of backcountry life. She learned quickly from her fellow rangers and other new friends, many of them fellow transplants who had chased their own wanderlust to Alaska. Featuring many vivid characters (both human and animal), Lindholm's book traces her journey through a new career in an unpredictable, captivating environment. She also tells the story of meeting the man she grew to love, and her own wrestling with questions of marriage, motherhood, home under the vast northern sky. She delves into environmental issues: water and land use, the tension between preserving unspoiled wild places and providing for human enjoyment of them. The book's focus shifts midway through to Lindholm's deep ambivalence about motherhood, but she never loses sight of the awe and wonder that pulled her toward Alaska in the first place.
With lively anecdotes and clear, lyrical prose, Lindholm draws readers into a place "where challenge and mystery slip in beside me, take hold of my wrist, and guide me toward the edge." --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: Adrienne Lindholm's luminous memoir chronicles the wonder and wildness of her two decades living in Alaska.

Mountaineers Books, $16.95, paperback, 208p., 9781680511345

Out of Step

by Anthony Moll

When Anthony Moll joined the army at 18, he was a queer leftist punk with pink hair. In the months after September 11 he, like many who enlisted, was struck by a feeling of patriotism and duty, but mostly he saw military service as the only way out of his life of poverty in Reno, Nev. He served for eight years during the Don't Ask, Don't Tell era  and, amid a culture of hypermasculinity, anti-gay bias and homophobic slurs, he attempted the delicate balance of being true to his identity without damaging his career or risking violence. Once he left the service, he began the confusing work of reentering society with a background much different than his peers.
A slim memoir told in essay-like chapters, Out of Step is the story of a young man trying to find his place in the disparate worlds of American military and civilian life. He admits to his naïveté as a new soldier, ignorant of the work he signed up for or the "gray ethics" of the U.S. foreign policy it represented, and he shows how his perspective changed over time. "Here I am an expert marksman who is happy that he has never gone to war, a rising military leader who stopped believing in the U.S. military's role in the world," he writes of his last years in the service. "Here I have stopped believing in the narrative that has been offered to me for the last seven years, and I have yet to fully uncover who exactly I will become once I finally take off my uniform and put it away for the last time." Moll's take is thoughtful and fair, both critical of the military while recognizing how it built him. --Katy Hershberger, freelance writer and publicist

Discover: A thoughtful memoir about the complicated experience of being queer in the U.S. Army.

Mad Creek /Ohio State Univ. Press, $18.95, paperback, 116p., 9780814254820


Fly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History

by Keith O'Brien

More than 80 years after Amelia Earhart's mysterious disappearance, she continues to hold a place among the world's most famous women. What isn't as well known is that Earhart was part of a group of brave, high-achieving and largely forgotten female pilots--fly girls--who helped to set the course of aviation while setting records and shattering stereotypes.
A fly girl is "a term used in the 1920s to describe female pilots and, more broadly, young women who refused to live by the old rules, appearing bold and almost dangerous as a result." In addition to Earhart, these fearless women included Florence Klingensmith, Ruth Elder, Louise Thaden and Ruth Nichols. They came from vastly different backgrounds: Nichols was born into a wealthy Rye, N.Y., family; Elder was a divorcée from Alabama; Thaden sold coal in Wichita, Kan. Yet each saw flying as a chance to prove that women could compete equally in a high-stakes, life-or-death environment. "These women... wanted the right to be heard and the right to hold any job they wished. Most of all, they wanted respect...."
Journalist Keith O'Brien's (Outside Shot) compelling narrative soars as he explores the business of competitive air races in the 1920s and '30s, complete with publicity-savvy promoters and wealthy investors who recognized that women pilots would generate intense interest, especially in cross-county events. As they competed in the face of tragedy and discrimination, the female pilots learned the importance of keeping a united front and supporting each other (they formed the Ninety-Nines, a female pilots' association still in existence). The bravery, courage and determination of the fly girls provides inspiration for modern times. --Melissa Firman, writer, editor and blogger

Discover: This is the story of five female pilots who challenged stereotypes and changed aviation history.

Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28, hardcover, 352p., 9781328876645

Travelers in the Third Reich: The Rise of Fascism: 1919-1945

by Julia Boyd

After spending several months touring the Third Reich in 1936, W.E.B Du Bois wrote: "It is extremely difficult to express any opinion about Germany today which is true in all respects without numerous modifications and explanations." With World War II and the Holocaust in hindsight, Du Bois's comments seem soft. How could an intelligent academic, himself a persecuted minority, divorce the German economic progress that impressed him from the horror of Hitler's regime? That Du Bois had mixed opinions, rather than outright condemnation, shows the beguiling nature of the Third Reich to outsiders prior to World War II.
In Travelers in the Third Reich, British author Julia Boyd collects dozens of accounts from foreign tourists, diplomats, students, journalists and more between 1919 and 1945. The years just after World War I were full of famine and hardship, when Quaker activists brought food relief for millions of German children. Hyperinflation and feelings of humiliation over the Versailles Treaty deepened Germany's misery. For tourists, the exchange rate was excellent, and the loose social mores of the Weimar Republic proved irresistible.
After Hitler and the Nazis took power, foreign accounts turned more toward the ambiguous sentiments of Du Bois--the country had regained its footing, but at a terrible sociopolitical cost. It seems that until Kristallnacht in 1938, most visitors were blind to the depths of Jewish suffering. Travelers in the Third Reich is an intriguing new slant on well-trod ground, with especially fascinating accounts from Du Bois and Ji Xianlin, a Chinese postgraduate student who grew to hate the Germans but was trapped in Germany by the war. --Tobias Mutter, freelance reviewer

Discover: A fascinating collection of accounts from foreign travelers in Weimar and Nazi Germany.

Pegasus Books, $28.95, hardcover, 464p., 9781681777825

Political Science

We're Doomed. Now What?: Essays on War and Climate Change

by Roy Scranton

"We've known that climate change was a threat since at least 1988, and the United States has done almost nothing to stop it. Today it might be too late," writes Roy Scranton. We're Doomed. Now What? is his latest book of essays focused first on climate change and then on war, whether as seen through the lens of his own experiences in Baghdad or upon his return to the city 10 years later as a journalist covering the elections. Scranton's thoughts are sobering and provocative as he ponders the next 20 to 30 years, with the potential for sea levels rising, food and potable water becoming scarce and the rich continuing to prosper while millions, possibly billions, are left in deprivation. Imaginary storm scenarios, "speculative realism," ecology and the loss of Arctic ice are some features in the shorter section on climate change.
Equally as challenging and confrontational are Scranton's musings on war: why he joined the army, why the United States ever sent troops to Iraq in the first place--what did the U.S. hope to gain by this?--and the effects war has on the people who serve on the front lines. Scranton skillfully integrates literature and philosophy into his own thoughts, creating multilayered writings that beg to be read slowly and carefully by a reader willing to pay attention for a steady length of time. Eye-opening and honest, these essays are like receiving a terminal diagnosis from a specialist while still leaving a margin of hope on the sides. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

Discover: War and its effects and climate change are the focus of these confrontational essays.

Soho Press, $16.95, paperback, 360p., 9781616959364

Social Science

A Deal with the Devil: The Dark and Twisted True Story of One of the Biggest Cons in America

by Melanie Hicken, Blake Ellis

A Deal with the Devil is the story of a global mail scam that bilked more than $200 million from its victims. Blake Ellis and Melanie Hicken use their skills as award-winning investigative journalists to keep the narrative lively as they explain an extraordinarily complex financial scam.
Letters signed by French psychic Maria Duval arrived at the homes of mostly elderly people, prophesying better days ahead if they sent her money. "The letters appealed to the most base emotions of fear, loneliness, and hope--making it nearly impossible for victims to resist." International fraud units had tried without success over the years to get to the company behind the letters. Duval was "the psychic that no one ever sees."
Ellis and Hicken became obsessed with the extent of this fraud and reported on it for CNN Money in 2016. They spent countless hours on the phone and Internet tracking down what governments could not, and even traveled to France in an effort to meet Duval. Their reporting turns up a colorful cast of characters that includes a copywriter of scam letters, a Swiss attorney and an Argentinean landowner. As the authors wryly point out, "Whistleblowers have always been a journalist's best friend."
A Deal with the Devil shows the power of investigative journalism to uncover corruption. Ellis and Hicken discover the truth about a complicated scheme, halting the financial victimization of those who could not help themselves. --Cindy Pauldine, bookseller, the river's end bookstore, Oswego, N.Y.

Discover: A CNN investigative reporting team uncovers the incredible story behind a decades-long mail fraud that netted over $200 million.

Atria, $26, hardcover, 304p., 9781501163845

Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company That Addicted America

by Beth Macy

It's hard to read Roanoke, Va., journalist Beth Macy's Dopesick without a mounting anger. A searing account of the U.S. opioid epidemic, it methodically follows that scourge along its murderous path--a 20-year journey that began with a drug company's aggressive promotion of a powerful pain medication to a credulous medical profession, and eventually caused 66% of the 64,000 deaths from drug overdoses in 2016, with no end in sight.
Macy (Factory Man) began reporting on the crisis in 2012, after it had migrated from the poverty-stricken former coal and factory towns of Appalachia to affluent neighborhoods in and around her hometown. The event that detonated this deadly explosion was the introduction of the powerful opioid OxyContin, in 1996, by Purdue Pharma. Encouraged by bonuses, its sales representatives fanned out across the country to promote the drug. Their efforts coincided with a reassessment by the medical profession of protocols for pain treatment that encouraged doctors to be more aggressive in prescribing analgesics. By 2007, Purdue had earned more than $2.8 billion from its sale, and had sparked a massive substance abuse problem.
Although effectively deploying studies and statistics to support her argument, what makes Macy's book so devastating are her intimate portraits of addicts and their tortured families, trapped in the cycle of addiction, recovery and relapse. Macy spares few harsh words for a public response so feeble that "getting addicted is far easier than securing treatment." As long as the system treats addiction as a "crime problem rather than a health problem," she's pessimistic any solution is near. --Harvey Freedenberg, freelance reviewer

Discover: A veteran journalist's frightening exposé of the American opioid-addiction epidemic.

Little, Brown, $28, hardcover, 384p., 9780316551243

Fewer, Better Things: The Hidden Wisdom of Objects

by Glenn Adamson

Consider the humble chair. It's a ubiquitous object, and we likely sit in several different chairs each day. But we rarely, if ever, give it much thought. What material is it made of? How was it constructed? Where was it made? Was it designed by a craftsperson or mass produced?
In Fewer, Better Things, scholar and former museum curator Glenn Adamson inspires readers to reflect on the physical items they encounter. Adamson is a passionate advocate of material intelligence, which promotes an understanding of the craft and production of objects in material environments--from the most treasured possessions to mundane items taken for granted. As technology makes objects more abundant, it also makes people less materially intelligent. Adamson's tour of the material world includes a Japanese tea ceremony, with its reverence of objects, as well as innovative museums that allow patrons to interact physically with artifacts. Adamson also considers the influence of tools throughout history, how craft has responded to new materials, and the artisans who are masters in their fields.
But there's more to material intelligence than understanding an item's physical characteristics. Adamson argues that objects cross cultural barriers ("they may require interpretation, but not translation") and provide a shared understanding of culture and history. By creating meaningful connections to objects, we can move towards a sustainable world where we surround ourselves with fewer, but better, things. --Frank Brasile, librarian

Discover: Fewer, Better Things aims to help the reader appreciate the craftsmanship, form, function and design of objects in a material world.

Bloomsbury, $27, hardcover, 272p., 9781632869647

Amateur: A True Story About What Makes a Man

by Thomas Page McBee

Thomas Page McBee (Man Alive) continues writing about modern masculinity in Amateur. After a brush with an aggressive man on the street, McBee begins training as an amateur boxer. His sights set on a charity fight several months away, he's driven by a desire to hone his skills in protecting himself, but more so by a burning question about why violence is so entwined with masculinity. Sociology professor Michael Kimmel suggests to him, "Men tend to fight when they feel humiliated.... You don't fight when you feel really powerful."
Furthermore, McBee observes, "I assumed that fighting for my right as a trans man to be seen as 'real' would be a big part of this story," and yet the social idea of what "real men" are, and how they behave, is more insidious than that. Men have their gender performance regularly policed with admonishments to "man up." Vulnerability is discouraged and turned into a reason to fight. And while that may explain the common male posture toward violence, it most certainly doesn't excuse it.
McBee ponders these sociological implications with refreshing care and empathy, untangling a positive depiction of masculinity from the toxic strains paraded through contemporary discourse. His writing is marvelous, pinning ideas that could so easily be abstract to the visceral, physical poetry of boxing. He displays tenacity on the page and in the gym, sizing up formidable concepts and engaging them with savvy and sensitivity. Amateur is more than a boxing story, just as it's more than a trans narrative. It's a highly recommended case study in manhood. --Dave Wheeler, associate editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: While training as an amateur boxer, Thomas Page McBee grapples with the complex relationship between masculinity and violence.

Scribner, $26, hardcover, 224p., 9781501168741

The Black and the Blue: A Cop Reveals the Crimes, Racism, and Injustice in America's Law Enforcement

by Matthew Horace, Ron Harris

Matthew Horace, security expert and news commentator, has worked at almost every level of law enforcement. He is, at his core, "just a cop." But he's also "male black," police shorthand for African American, always viewed as threats, armed with an inescapable weapon--"the very skin we're in."
Horace and former Los Angeles Times editor Ron Harris interviewed law enforcement professionals, elected officials, community advocates and survivors of police violence of every race, gender and political affiliation. The goal? To profile police forces and how they affect violence, particularly as perpetrated against African Americans.
The Black and the Blue exposes systemic misconduct that plagues law enforcement, stretching the implicit biases we all carry to more than just a few bad apples. Unacceptable procedures are "woven into the fabric of local policing," creating "a culture of disregard... for the people [police] are paid to serve." Horace highlights cases where cops went wrong without accountability, while recognizing officers are sent into a cultural divide lacking proper tools.
In the end, "[t]he question isn't whether we have racism, it's what we're going to do about it." Horace's work is more light-shining than problem-solving, but cultural change requires recognizing the existence of a problem. It is a start to push back against the idea that "it is officially reasonable to be afraid of a person just because he is black. And because you fear him, it is okay to kill him." If anger and sorrow haven't flooded to the surface when the last page is turned, go back and start again. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review

Discover: A black law enforcement officer reveals the inherent racism and political culture that plague police forces.

Hachette, $27, hardcover, 256p., 9780316440080

Essays & Criticism

Hummingbirds Between the Pages

by Chris Arthur

When the Irish essayist Chris Arthur (Reading Life) first saw a hummingbird, the sight "entranced [him] so completely" that he remembered it 50 years later when he sat down to write his seventh essay collection, the thoughtful and lyrical Hummingbirds Between the Pages. The title is derived, Arthur writes, from the 18th-century American settlers' practice of capturing hummingbirds and pressing them like flowers between the pages of a heavy book. Like Arthur, they, too, were mesmerized by the small, wondrous birds and wanted to mail them to family members back in the United Kingdom.
Arthur's collection features the hummingbird as a metaphor for the small things that have made the essayist pause, reflect and reconsider. Among the highlights is a piece about Charles Darwin's brief mention of a rare Chilean fox in The Voyage of the Beagle, wherein the scientist describes killing the animal. Arthur contemplates: "How slight the probability seems of Darwin being in that exact spot at that exact time, coincident with the presence of this rare creature." He goes on to marvel at the myriad causes and effects of all that has ever happened to us and all that will ever be. Other stand-out essays focus on Egyptian shells and an ugly clock owned by the writer's dying mother.
Together these essays take on a near-cosmic view of how we got here and where we are going. It's a stunning collection that reveals a depth and nimbleness of thinking that is a joy to read. --Amy Brady, freelance writer and editor

Discover: This lyrical and thought-provoking essay collection draws big questions about life and death out of small, everyday objects.

Mad Creek Books, $23.95, paperback, 264p., 9780814254844

Psychology & Self-Help

Tech Generation: Raising Balanced Kids in a Hyper-Connected World

by Jon Lasser, Mike Brooks

Tech Generation: Raising Balanced Kids in a Hyper-Connected World by Mike Brooks and Jon Lasser is a welcome addition to the growing field of developmental psychology addressing the challenges of parenting in our tech-saturated times. While much has already been written about harnessing the positive aspects of technology while avoiding the negative impact of too much screen time on children's lives, Tech Generation still has plenty of new and fresh material to offer parents.
Brooks and Lasser advance their Tech Healthy Life model of cultivating a healthy relationship with technology using some crucial reminders: we must be the change we want to see in our children, a variation of Gandhi's advice to "be the change you want to see in the world." Parents must model a balanced, controlled and healthy relationship with their own screens before expecting their children to do the same. Secondly, our influence as parents is strongly dependent on the quality of the relationship we have with our children.
The authors offer practical advice paired with an empathetic understanding of day-to-day realities: busy parents, the powerful lure of games and social media on growing brains and the increasing dependence on technology at school. Topics such as authoritative parenting, mindful engagement with technology and the difference between parental monitoring and electronic surveillance are addressed with thought-provoking insight.
Every generation of parents faces child-rearing challenges. For parents of young children and teens today, maintaining a healthy relationship with technology is one of the principal challenges of our times. --Shahina Piyarali, writer and reviewer

Discover: This guide is for parents engaged in what often is an increasingly fraught battle with their children over technology use.

Oxford University Press, $24.95, hardcover, 328p., 9780190665296


Extreme Conservation: Life at the Edges of the World

by Joel Berger

If global warming continues to raise earth's temperatures and disrupt its natural systems, how will the animals living in the planet's most remote regions adapt to the changes? That's the question at the heart of Joel Berger's fascinating Extreme Conservation: Life at the Edges of the World. The conservation biologist travels to remote and frozen landscapes to collect as much data on the animals and their changing environments as conditions allow.
In clear and accessible prose, Berger (The Better to Eat You With: Fear in the Animal World) describes his trips to the frozen Chukchi Sea to study the diminishing population of musk oxen; to the Bhutanese Himalayas to observe a rare goat-antelope species called takins; and to the Gobi Desert to learn what he can of the critically endangered saiga antelope. He encounters extreme temperatures, dangerous wild animals and, sadly, further evidence that climate change is on track to leave many ecosystems uninhabitable for the already imperiled animals that live in them.
Berger's tales are as compassionate as they are exciting to read. For example: when his experiment involving putting tracking collars on Arctic musk oxen results in the death of some of the herd, he considers the possibility that they're sentient, and seeks to find more humane means of gathering data. Extreme Conservation is a moving and necessary look at what the Earth will lose if climate change is left unchecked. --Amy Brady, freelance writer and editor

Discover: This is a fascinating and compassionate look at endangered animal life in the planet's most remote and dangerous regions.

University of Chicago Press, $30, hardcover, 368p., 9780226366265

Nature & Environment

The World in a Grain: The Story of Sand and How It Transformed Civilization

by Vince Beiser

Investigative journalist Vince Beiser's first book is a rich study of one of the world's most abundant natural resources: sand. With a balance of statistics, science, history, on-the-scene reporting and some healthy environmental skepticism, The World in a Grain highlights the ways this ubiquitous global commodity has been essential to human development and advancement.
Sand is indispensable to global shelter, mobility and convenience. Mixed with cement it makes concrete. When near-pure sand is melted, it becomes glass. Special quartz sand is refined into flawless silicon to produce computer chips like those that established the eponymous California valley. Scarce round grain sand from Wisconsin and Minnesota provides the raw material for the high-pressure "fracking" of oil and gas wells. Major cities such as Dubai, Chicago, Lagos, Singapore and Hong Kong have created whole neighborhoods out of transported and dredged sand. And, of course, where would the snowbirds go if there weren't miles and miles of coastal sand beaches? No wonder Beiser calls sand "the literal foundation of modern civilization."
Each life-enhancing application of sand and its many manufactured manifestations, however, creates a drain on the supply of this seemingly most common of resources. Beiser also explores the environmental and social implications of sand mining, the interstate highway system, fracking and the overbuilding of shoreline towers and marinas. In lucid prose, The World in a Grain illustrates the many marvels sand has brought to the world--while at the same time cautioning that without prudent use, the environment and sand's economic availability are threatened. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: Journalist Vince Beiser's first book explores the extraordinary role of sand in world development and some of the future risks.

Riverhead, $28, hardcover, 304p., 9780399576423

Health & Medicine

Cancerland: A Medical Memoir

by David Scadden, Michael D'Antonio

"Roughly half of us will be diagnosed with cancer," writes David Scadden, and "one in five Americans will die from it." Co-founder of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, Scadden has witnessed cancer from many perspectives: as a child, when one of his friends disappeared from school; as a son, when his parents both contracted different forms; and as a physician and researcher.
In Cancerland, he expertly combines his personal stories of treating patients with the history of cancer treatments. Some of the descriptions are graphic as Scadden shares with readers the nitty-gritty details of how doctors have been handling cancers since they were first identified. Massive chemotherapy and radiation treatments and extreme surgeries were the foundations of today's protocols, which use subtler techniques such as obtaining marrow stem cells from the blood rather than repeated draws from the hip bone. New discoveries in the drug world led to the use of ATZ or azidothymidine for HIV/AIDS patients, and Scadden also addresses the roles money and power play in the research and development of new cancer drugs.
Most exciting is his examination of stem cell research and of the genome and epigenome, which "helps cells differentiate into different tissues and then helps drive their activity." It is in this arena that doctors are most hopeful in finding effective treatments for a scourge that affects so many. Blending memoir and medical history, Cancerland provides valuable information to those seeking a better understanding of cancer in all its complexities. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer 

Discover: A thorough examination of the history and advancements made in treating cancer patients by a physician and researcher.

Thomas Dunne Books, $27.99, hardcover, 320p., 9781250092755


Okay Fine Whatever: The Year I Went from Being Afraid of Everything to Only Being Afraid of Most Things

by Courtenay Hameister

Generalized Anxiety Disorders (GAD) are debilitating, as writer Courtenay Hameister can tell you: "Phone calls to strangers were miserable. Parties where I didn't know anyone were like the seventh circle of hell, but with better snacks. And making an unprotected left turn triggered the same fight-or-flight response most people experience when running from a small-to-medium-sized bear." So when this finally drives her to the point that she leaves her role as host of a nationally syndicated radio show, Hameister decides to try a yearlong experiment: she will attempt things that scare her in an effort to rewire her brain to be less afraid.
Hameister doesn't attempt physically life-threatening challenges; instead, she pursues activities that might be construed as unusual or sometimes embarrassing, like experiencing a sensory deprivation tank. A large part of Hameister's project is centered on dating. Having always battled her weight and dated only rarely in her first four decades of life, she creates a profile on OKCupid and embarks on a series of first dates--28 to be exact. She tries one-night stands, polyamory and a sex club. But then she realizes that these are all a new form of avoidance. She's steering clear of what's truly frightening: intimacy. When she changes her approach to dating and applies some of the lessons absorbed from her first 27 dates, she meets "First Date #28" and her experience is much different.
Okay Fine Whatever manages expertly to blend adventure, romance, mental illness and an extra helping of humor for an entertaining memoir. --Jen Forbus, freelancer

Discover: A 40-something woman with generalized anxiety disorder spends a year trying unusual things that scare her in an effort to convince her brain to be less fearful.

Little, Brown, $26, hardcover, 320p., 9780316395700

Maeve in America: Essays by a Girl from Somewhere Else

by Maeve Higgins

Comedian, podcaster and writer Maeve Higgins delivers a stellar U.S. debut with her collection of essays, Maeve in America. Her astute cultural observations combined with a wicked sense of humor make for delicious entertainment, while her sharp intelligence, self-effacing disposition and compassion add an honest thoughtfulness to timely subjects like immigration and race. Through the eyes of this Irish woman, the U.S. has never been so clear--or hilarious.
Higgins's idiosyncratic range of topics includes lighthearted pieces on small talk, Instagram stories and identifying a husband like a baby bird does his mother in the children's book Are You My Mother?: " 'What about you?' I ask a vaguely interesting handyman. He looks at me the same way the cow looked at the baby bird, like, No, ma'am, absolutely not." Higgins carefully balances this delightful humor with forays into heavier subjects like depression, misogyny and racism: "It's troubling to see how privilege accumulates over generations... and, when people reach a certain level of safety, to see how they pull the ladder up after themselves." The overall equilibrium is perfect, leaving readers with inspiration and hope.
Maeve in America offers distinctive insights from a fabulously fresh voice. Higgins is candid and humble, inviting readers into her personal space in order to see through her eyes. The view isn't always beautiful, but readers will follow Higgins's allure. It's pleasing and powerful, possibly even addictive. She is a treasure and this reader, for one, is happy to have Maeve in America. --Jen Forbus, freelancer

Discover: An Irish comedian offers her shrewd insights on American culture in this collection of clever essays.

Penguin Books, $16, paperback, 256p., 9780143130161


New Poets of Native Nations

by Heid E. Erdrich, editor

Each poetic voice in the marvelous and much needed new anthology New Poets of Native Nations is original and distinct. The volume is edited by Heid E. Erdrich, an Ojibwe author of several poetry collections; in an enlightening introduction, she writes of the 21 poets in the anthology, "Not one of them identifies as 'Native American' alone." This is the double duty the anthology performs, and brilliantly so: representing several Indian nations--including southwest, Midwest, Alaskan and Pacific Islander peoples--while emphasizing the common humanity and greater Americanness of the work.
There are familiar names here, such as Tommy Pico, Natalie Diaz and Layli Long Soldier, and poets lesser known in the white literary establishment, like dg nanouk okpik, Craig Santos Perez and Brandy Nālani McDougall. All the selections offer vivid imagery and powerful poetic voice, driven by social and environmental justice concerns as well as abiding love for language itself. Several poems mix Native vocabulary with English, emphasizing the way translation both opens new semantic space but poses existential challenges. That many Native languages are disappearing--a common theme throughout--makes the work even more urgent.
Collectively, the poems speak to what Pico, in "Nature Poem," calls "fodder for the noble savage," that is, the stereotypes and expectations of white audiences. Gwen Nell Westerman expresses this struggle differently in "Theory Doesn't Live Here": "They didn't need theory/ to explain where they came from," the poet, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, writes of her grandparents. "They lived it."
New Poets of Native Nations showcases complex and talented individuals crafting American poetry at its best. --Scott Neuffer, writer, poet, editor of trampset

Discover: This wisely edited collection of Native poets helps redefine the canon of American poetry.

Graywolf Press, $18, paperback, 304p., 9781555978099

If They Come for Us

by Fatimah Asghar

The word "partition" occurs over and over in Fatimah Asghar's book of poetry, If They Come for Us. The idea of being riven, of families, identities and even bodies broken into parts, populates the world of her poems. But these smaller, sometimes quieter partitions are ripples from a larger, cataclysmic one: the partition of India and the creation of Pakistan in 1947. Asghar's poems probe her own identity, tracing its history while at the same time creating a ground for her present and future.
The poems in If They Come for Us are jarring and passionate. But, intriguingly, Asghar matches her forceful portrayals of violence, Islamophobia, misogyny and more with a sense of playfulness. One of the first poems, "How We Left: Film Treatment," may be the best example of this interplay. In it, Asghar uses the structure of a film treatment to depict her family's escape from political genocide. Literally beginning with "[Establishing Shot]," she drives a conceptual wedge between the horror and the telling of it.
Later pieces structure themselves after a floor plan, a bingo game and a crossword puzzle to achieve similar results. Not every experiment works as well as "How We Left: Film Treatment," but each shows a talented voice using almost absurdist constraints to highlight injustice and terror. Responding to the past and present, Asghar is happy to wield structures however she sees fit, perhaps as a tool against the many partitions her work portrays. --Noah Cruickshank, adult engagement manager, the Field Museum, Chicago, Ill.

Discover: Poet Fatimah Asghar's If They Come for Us is a forceful look at history, identity and form.

One World, $16, paperback, 128p., 9780525509783

Children's & Young Adult

Eleanor Roosevelt, Fighter for Justice: Her Impact on the Civil Rights, Movement, the White House, and the World

by Ilene Cooper

Ilene Cooper's Eleanor Roosevelt, Fighter for Justice is an inspiring account of how Roosevelt developed from a shy, wealthy girl bred with the racism of her time into a spokesperson and champion for many social causes.
As her husband advanced in politics, Eleanor became immersed in politics. In 1933, when Franklin Roosevelt became president, the issue of civil rights attracted her attention. She had not been fully aware of the social and economic conditions faced by most African Americans until she was taken to visit the slums of Washington, D.C., where she saw firsthand "a rotten world of crumbling wooden tenements, home to twelve thousand blacks and one thousand whites." From that point on, she grasped the importance of making changes to improve the lives of all people--a feeling not always fully shared by Franklin, a pragmatic politician--and met with black leaders like Mary McLeod Bethune and NAACP head Walter Francis White.
Cooper's (Faith and Fury: The Temple Mount and the Noble Sanctuary: The Story of Jerusalem's Most Sacred Space) solid biography, with archival photos, excellent notes and timeline, focuses on Eleanor's many civil rights activities, including efforts to stop lynching, ensure that New Deal government agencies treated blacks and whites equally, and integrating the armed forces. The absorbing text discusses personal concerns, including Eleanor's dismay at her husband's affair and her fraught relationships with her mother-in-law and her own children, and emphasizes her strengths in forging an independent identity as a speaker, a writer, a United Nations delegate and an active First Lady concerned with the rights of all U.S. residents. --Melinda Greenblatt, freelance book reviewer

Discover: Ilene Cooper's Eleanor Roosevelt, Fighter for Justice is an inspiring account of Eleanor Roosevelt's untiring involvement with the major issues of her time.

Abrams, $17.99, hardcover, 192p., ages 10-14, 9781419722950


by Andrew Donkin, Eoin Colfer, illus. by Giovanni Rigano

Eoin Colfer, Andrew Donkin and illustrator Giovanni Rigano, collaborators on the Artemis Fowl graphic novels, team up once again on the powerful, moving Illegal. This middle-grade graphic novel is told in two timelines: "Nineteen months earlier" and "now." The book opens with "now": a "Seahawk Inflatable Rubber Dinghy. Maximum safe load 6 people. Currently carrying 14 passengers." The 14 people on this decrepit dinghy are hoping to reach safety in Europe. Razak, whom 12-year-old Ebo and his older brother, Kwame, met along the way, is, like the other people on board, angry--angry at the others, angry at the situation and angry at those who put them in this position. There is no more fuel and no more water, and Ebo tries to calm everyone down: "If we don't fight and tip over then soon we will reach our new home. People are rich there and will be ready to give us blankets and food. We have a long way to go."
Nineteen months earlier, Ebo's brother disappears from their village in Ghana, just like their older sister, Sisi, did years ago. Ebo knows his brother is going to Europe--where Sisi is presumably safely settled---and refuses to be left behind. He collects what's his ("not much") and heads out to find his brother.
The narrative continues, moving back and forth through time, depicting every new, painful trial--murder, poverty, dehydration, repeated dehumanization--with sensitivity and nuance. Rigano's illustrations show the beauty of the unforgiving landscapes and the individuals desperately seeking a better life; Colfer and Donkin's text is deep and evocative. With the timely subject material and backmatter dedicated to both the refugee experience and the art of creating a graphic novel, Illegal is sure to be a bookseller, librarian and teacher favorite. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: The team behind the Artemis Fowl graphic novels collaborates again on Illegal, a middle-grade graphic novel about a Ghanian boy's escape to Europe.

Sourcebooks, $19.99, hardcover, 144p., ages 10-up, 9781492662143

Lovely, Dark, and Deep

by Justina Chen

Viola Li, Geeks for Good member and charity bake sale pro, has a life plan: following graduation, she's going to attend college at NYU Abu Dhabi, study journalism and become a foreign correspondent. She's also covertly plotting exotic trips with her Auntie Ruth. But her meticulously calculated future crumbles when she suddenly develops a dangerous illness.
While setting up a bake sale at an exhibit for her favorite sci-fi series, Firefly, Viola faints. Fortunately, a "young Thor-gone-lumberman" and fellow Firefly aficionado is there to catch her. He brings Viola to the hospital, where she learns she has developed an extreme allergy to sunlight. Viola's parents--the crisis management team of Lee & Li--immediately go into protection mode, UVA-proofing their house, creating emergency kits and limiting tech time when Viola's skin reacts to the screens. In response, Viola narrates, "I bottle the outdoors, a perfume called Freedom and Future. No matter how long I hold my breath, I must exhale. When I do, it feels like good-bye." It won't be, though--Viola refuses to bid the outdoors farewell. But when she defies her parents' rules, the result is devastating.
Justina Chen (North of Beautiful) takes her teenage narrator on a suspenseful journey through a terrifying malady. Chen's artful use of humor and poetic language help mitigate the horrors without ever downplaying the situation's gravity. The inclusion of a love interest for Viola offers additional layers of complexity to the spectacularly rich family relationships. Few words sum this novel up better than lovely, dark and deep. --Jen Forbus, freelancer

Discover: A high school girl tries to piece her life back together when she develops an allergy to the sun and the outdoors becomes her personal war zone.

Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic, $18.99, hardcover, 352p., ages 12-up, 9781338134063

Mightier Than the Sword

by Alana Harrison, Drew Callander, illus. by Ryan Andrews

You're not a hero. At least, you don't think you're a hero... you can't quite remember. In fact, you can't remember anything since waking up on the beach with nothing but "an ordinary pencil" in your pocket and a note beside you. The note is alarming: "HELP! I'VE BEEN CAPTURED! DEAR HEAVENS, I BEG OF YOU, RESCUE ME! Prince S." It's confusing, not remembering anything, and "[d]espair smothers you like a heavy blanket woven by an evil grandma." The only thing to do is try to find this prince. As you wander through the strange land of Astorya, where stories written on Earth come to life, strange friends and foes cross your path. You learn that, in order to get home, you will have to save Prince S.--and your pencil may be the greatest weapon in the land.
In Drew Callander and Alana Harrison's first middle-grade novel, Mightier Than the Sword, "you" is the main character. Told in a hilarious, second-person voice, this thrilling interactive adventure invites readers to draw, write and create their own elements of the story through word puzzles, Mad Libs-like fill-in-the-blanks and illustrations. Along the way, Callander and Harrison offer wonderful word plays and quips while fleshing out the story with a varied and fantastical cast of Couriers, a group tasked with protecting stories from erasing, the one thing that can destroy them. Ryan Andrews's black-and-white illustrations generously scattered throughout are full of energy and humor and make the work all the more delightful. Daringly original and quick-witted, Mightier Than the Sword deftly pairs lighthearted humor with themes of bravery, friendship and the power of imagination, putting this story in a category all its own. --Kyla Paterno, former YA and children's book buyer

Discover: In this interactive adventure, you're trapped in a land of stories, where your only chance of escape is to rescue a missing prince with a pencil as your only weapon.

Penguin Workshop, $13.99, hardcover, 320p., ages 8-12, 9781524785093


by Gretchen McNeil

Alcatraz 2.0 is a "suburban island... where convicted murderers [are] hunted down by government-sanctioned serial killers for America's amusement." The "brainchild of an anonymous television mogul known only as The Postman," Alcatraz 2.0 has taken over a significant part of the judicial system because the "former reality 'star' [who] was elected president of the United States" relished the idea of "capital punishment as entertainment." The Postman's killers are "media-driven celebrities" who maintain their anonymity through masks and clever killer names: Hannah Ball kills by turning her victims into "cannibalistic casseroles"; Cecil B. DeViolent uses the prisoners to re-create movie deaths; Gucci Hangman constructs designer murders that match the victim's "complexion and outfit and the latest trends from New York Fashion Week." The Postman app is a "runaway success."
According to 17-year-old Dee, who has just woken up wearing a floor-length ballgown in what must be Prince Slycer's kill room, "[t]he whole thing [is] f*cking nuts." Dee, who has never engaged with the app, was forced to watch the livestream while held in jail awaiting trial for killing her stepsister. From this little bit of exposure, she knows that Prince Slycer dresses his victims like Disney princesses and chases them "through booby-trap-riddled mazes," hunting them down and skewering them with "an arsenal of increasingly large and bizarre cake knives." Simply put, Slycer is "the worst," and he's about to kill Dee--who knows she's innocent--in front of 50 million people.
What follows feels best described in review clichés: #MurderTrending is an edge-of-your-seat, heart-pounding thriller. While savvy readers will likely pick up what McNeil is putting down and figure out the conspiracy, that knowledge takes absolutely no enjoyment away from this inventively gory, regularly humorous and extremely suspenseful novel.  --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: On a prison island where the inmates are tortured and murdered by government-sanctioned serial killers, a teen tries to prove her innocence and stay alive.

Freeform/Disney, $17.99, hardcover, 352p., ages 14-up, 9781368010023

The Forest Queen

by Betsy Cornwell

Sixteen-year-old Silvie and her childhood friend Bird run away to Woodshire Forest after Silvie's tyrannical and abusive older brother, John, is named sheriff of Loughsley. The teens form their own community in the woods that includes a pregnant, towering girl called Little Jane, a midwife named Mae Tuck and a band of fed-up Loughsley residents. As Silvie learns about the common folk's suffering, she begins stealing from her family to help the destitute villagers. Soon, a full-blown rebellion starts and Silvie faces the consequences of turning her back on her bully brother.
Betsy Cornwell (Venturess) sets Silvie's uprising against a lush forest where "light springs out of the leaves" and the snow "threads through the forest, white tangles on a green loom. A scrim of frost on every fallen leaf." Cornwell's vivid, lyrical descriptions in The Forest Queen bring nature to life and showcase the threats each season brings, steadily building tension and pushing Silvie closer to understanding the everyday injustices her band endures.
In this gender-swapping Robin Hood retelling, Silvie is an inspiring young woman who discovers that it doesn't take much to stand up to oppressors--she is a champion, fighting against inequality, who doesn't see herself as a hero. Silvie refuses to be called mistress (she's "nobody's mistress out here") and fails to see that her selfless actions are fanning the revolutionary fires. But when the critical time comes for her to step up to be an official leader, she embraces it, finally understanding that "just living is fighting, sometimes." --Lana Barnes, freelance reviewer and proofreader

Discover: An inspiring, female-centric retelling of the classic medieval ballad of Robin Hood.

Clarion, $17.99, hardcover, 304p., ages 12-up, 9780544888197

A Case for Buffy

by Ulf Nilsson, illus. by Gitte Spee

Detective Buffy is a young mouse police officer under the tutelage of Detective Gordon, "the famous criminal detective, the terror of all villains," who also happens to be a very old toad. Life is busy and productive in the "sweet little police station" in the woods, with Buffy rubber-stamping ("kla-dunk") solved cases of litterbugs and missing scarves, and Gordon dozing in a cozy bed in the renovated prison.
Then two tiny kindergartners--another mouse and toad pair--show up for "small police school," and in the ruckus of the young ones learning how to salute and spy, Buffy suddenly remembers the mother she lost when she herself was young. Distraught at not being able to remember what happened to her mother, she takes Gordon's advice: "Why don't you start by writing small poems about your mother, so the memories come back. That's what a real police officer does."
Sure enough, the memories flood back in several free-form poems, including this clincher: "Sharp claws--Fox!/ Running here and there./ Waterfall, fir trees.../ Running all day/ Over snow, over mountains./ Everyone's gone!" The stage is set for Buffy and Gordon's most important police investigation yet: "find a mother!"
Following The First Case, A Complicated Case and A Case in Any Case, this stand-alone fourth book in the Detective Gordon series by Swedish author Ulf Nilsson and Dutch illustrator Gitte Spee is whimsical perfection. Spee's soft, colorful pictures are reminiscent of William Steig's classic illustrations. Readers who have graduated from early chapter books like Arnold Lobel's Frog and Toad series will adore A Case for Buffy, with its gentle adventures, droll humor and delicious cakes at every turn. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor

Discover: Swedish author Ulf Nilsson's Detective Gordon series delivers old-fashioned adventure with warmth and humor as the detectives take their most important case yet: finding Buffy's mother.

Gecko Press, $16.99, hardcover, 108p., ages 6-10, 9781776571789

Grace and Fury

by Tracy Banghart

Serina Tessaro has spent her entire life training to become a Grace, a woman handpicked by the Heir to serve as Viridia's "highest standard of beauty, elegance, and obedience." If chosen, Serina will live in the palace, "go to glittering balls and want for nothing"--she'll never have to work as a servant or a seamstress or be forced into marrying the highest bidder. Serina's sister, Nomi, on the other hand, can't accept that the choices for women are so limited, and she doesn't understand how becoming "a possession for [the Heir] to own" is better than those other options, anyway. Despite her opinions, when Serina goes to the city of Bellaqua to "vie for this honor," Nomi goes along as handmaiden.
On their first night, as Serina is being introduced at the Heir's ball, Nomi sneaks into the palace library. Even though women are forbidden to read, Nomi has been taught, and she steals a book that reminds her of home--then immediately runs into the Heir. Although terrified, she responds defiantly to his rude questioning; the Heir, seemingly angry, proceeds to his ball. When he announces his top choices, though, Nomi is stunned to find that she, not Serina, has been named a Grace. Worse, Serina is caught with Nomi's stolen book and is banished to the nightmarish Mount Ruin. Nomi must find a way to rescue her sister while appearing to embrace her new role at the palace.
Grace and Fury's blend of fantasy, feminism and political thriller will likely appeal to fans of The Hunger Games, Marie Rutkoski's Winner trilogy and Sabaa Tahir's An Ember in the Ashes. The dual narratives create plenty of suspense, and the growth and transformation of these two sisters is engrossing. --Lynn Becker, blogger and host of Book Talk, a monthly online discussion of children's books for SCBWI

Discover: In a country where women have few options, Serina competes to become a revered Grace, but all her well-laid plans for the future crumble when her rebellious sister is chosen instead.

Little, Brown, $17.99, hardcover, 320p., ages 12-up, 9780316471411

The Princess and the Pit Stop

by Tom Angleberger, illus. by Dan Santat

Author Tom Angleberger (Origami Yoda series; Inspector Flytrap series) teams up with artist Dan Santat (Lions & Liars; Drawn Together) in The Princess and the Pit Stop, a picture book that brings NASCAR-style racing to the land of fairytales.
"Once upon a time, there was a Princess who made a pit stop. While the Birds and the Beasts changed her tires, her Fairy Godmother told her she was in last place! With just one lap left! SHE MIGHT AS WELL GIVE UP!" The comic-book style panels show the Princess's pit crew members--a gnome, a pig, a bowtie-wearing bunny and the caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland--racing to replace her tires. Fairy Godmother (wearing a noise-cancelling headset) points out the number of laps left; a close-up on the Princess's red face shows her determination to win. Give up? "Instead, the Princess hit the gas!"
A frog in a sparkling gold suit jacket screams into a microphone with the Princess's progress: "SHE PASSED HUMPTY DUMPTY! SHE PASSED ALL THE KING'S HORSES! SHE PASSED ALL THE KING'S MEN!" Watch out Wicked Witches, Hansel and Gretel, Sleeping Beauty and the Wizard of Oz! The Princess is coming for you, Three Bears, Flopsy, Mopsy and Peter Rabbit! Thick black lines dissect the pages into large panels, making it easy for young readers to interpret the action, even as Santat's vividly colored illustrations swerve, flip and rocket across the black lines and off the page. Angleberger's text is simple and silly, switching between direct storytelling (white text on colored backgrounds) and exuberant announcements from the frog (black text in speech bubbles). With its breakneck speed and massive number of storybook references, The Princess and the Pit Stop is sure to be a story time favorite. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: With only one lap left, can the Princess beat the other fairytale characters in Tom Angleberger and Dan Santat's NASCAR-style storybook race?

Abrams, $16.99, hardcover, 48p., ages 5-7, 9781419728488

Bookjoy, Wordjoy

by Pat Mora, illus. by Raúl Colón

Pat Mora and Raul Colón's third picture book collaboration is a joyful, vibrant celebration of words, books and the imagination.
Mora's opening poem kicks the reading festivities off: "We belong/ together,/ books and me,/ like toast and jelly/ o queso y tortillas./ Delicious! ¡Delicioso!/ Like flowers and bees,/ birds and trees,/ books and me." Colón's accompanying watercolor and Prismacolor pencil illustration features a rainbow-colored girl happily snacking on toast and jelly, queso y tortillas, as she leans against a tree trunk, her body completely surrounded by books. In her non-quesadilla-holding hand is a book, hefty and old looking, clearly a classic. The next spread features the poem "Collecting Words," with a boy in a baseball cap capturing words with a net--"cinnamon," "rambunctious," "wiggle"--as if they were butterflies. The following spreads slowly populate with more and more figures until "Library Magic" features a library full of children, all comfortably enjoying books.
Back and forth the poems and illustrations go, upbeat and exuberant with bright colors, or softer, gentler color palettes combined with the rolling intensity of poems like "Antelope Canyon": "For millions of years, water sculpted this sandstone,/ winding and swirling around rocks, waterfalls/ buffing sharp corners into curves,/ careening around boulders,/ crashing in flash floods, torrents gushing,/ polishing as they roiled and plunged." Mora's poems--in English with Spanish phrases sprinkled throughout--are descriptive and entertaining, wholly accessible to the young reader. And Colón's illustrations perfectly match Mora's text, his art dynamic, full of life and color. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: Bookjoy, Wordjoy is exactly that: Pat Mora and Raúl Colón's collaborative celebration of all things books and words.

Lee & Low, $17.95, hardcover, 32p., ages 6-9, 9781620142868


by Nadine Brandes

In a highly stratified, fantastical British society, citizens, through blood inheritance passed from mother to daughter and father to son, are able to manipulate and use colors, and thus any objects or elements of that color. Special training is needed to hone these skills, and Thomas Fawkes, the son of "[t]he great Guy Fawkes. The mighty soldier," is about to complete his education. In order to graduate officially, Thomas needs his father to give him a handmade mask that binds Thomas to one specific color and that shows his color to society. But Guy is at the center of a war.
On one side are the Keepers, who believe people should control only one color. On the other are the Igniters, who believe everyone should control all colors, especially White ("the color through which all other colors come"), thus giving practitioners control over all colors. Each side blames the other for causing a plague that is sweeping through Britain, slowly turning people to stone. And Guy, a Keeper, is plotting to kill King James, an Igniter. Thomas, in need of his mask and a victim of the plague himself, tracks down Guy, hoping to find help before he turns completely to stone. Working closely with his father at the head of the anarchist Keepers, Thomas is installed into the community; all the while, the White Light calls to him and a romance between him and a mysterious young Igniter kindles. Do Thomas's loyalties lie with his father, a man he barely knows? Or to the potentially more dangerous world of Igniters?
Historical facts, along with captivating characters and quick dialogue, make for an extremely enjoyable novel. A great read for fans of The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue, Fawkes brings new life to the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. --Clarissa Hadge, assistant bookstore manager, Trident Booksellers & Cafe, Boston, Mass.

Discover: In this fantastical spin on the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, Thomas Fawkes is tested when he joins his father, Guy Fawkes, in a conspiracy to kill the King of England.

Thomas Nelson, $16.99, hardcover, 448p., ages 13-up, 9780785217145

Denis Ever After

by Tony Abbott

"I'm Denis, Matt's twin brother. Matt is alive and twelve now. I'm one of those, but not both." Being dead isn't the worst thing in the world. Denis Egan has been dead for five years now, and is shedding his memories in reverse order, on track to progressing to the final stage of death. "Being clean is the total point when you die," he says. "You clear your life out of your system like, well, your food when you have stomach poisoning. You shake off the heaviness, you become air." But just recently, Denis has been experiencing "noises clawing the inside of [his] head" which, according to his great-grandmother GeeGee, mean someone has unfinished business with him. To stop the noises and finish whatever business it is, Denis must return to the land of the living. And, just like that, his peaceful trajectory toward the "ever after" is interrupted.
When Denis starts making the excruciatingly painful journeys to "the before place," he makes contact with Matt, who is agonizing anew over the horrific circumstances of Denis's death. Their family is falling apart, with secrets "whirling around... like a simmering industrial fire." Matt begs Denis to stay in his world and "haunt" him until they find out why Denis was "ripped away." As they piece together the complex series of events from five years ago, it becomes clear that their lives--and deaths--will be forever altered.
Tony Abbott has written more than 100 books for children, including the Secrets of Droon series, the Copernicus Legacy series and The Summer of Owen Todd. Witty, suspenseful and full of hope, Denis Ever After fearlessly travels into the dark mysteries of life, the afterlife and the spaces in between. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor

Discover: Five years after his death, Denis reconnects with his still-living 12-year-old twin brother to solve the mystery of his own death in this dark and twisty middle-grade novel.

HarperCollins, $16.99, hardcover, 320p., ages 10-up, 9780062491220

Allie All Along

by Sarah Lynne Reul

When a little girl named Allie breaks her blue crayon, she is "furious, fuming, frustrated, and so, SO, SOOO ANGRY!" So angry, in fact, that she turns into a stomping, smashing furry red monster. Her big brother works to help her calm down, giving her a pillow to punch, a toy to squeeze and suggestions to take deep breaths and count backward. As she successfully applies each tactic, gradually reducing her rage, she sheds the brightly colored fur skins that represent her feelings. By the time "the rest of the angry [falls] away," there's just one slightly forlorn little girl in pigtails standing in the room, asking her brother for a hug. "I knew she was in there all along," he says.
Sarah Lynne Reul's (The Breaking News) illustrations are brilliantly evocative of each mood as Allie cools down, and the language she uses provides readers with a veritable thesaurus of vocabulary words for angry feelings: "ferocious," "fierce," irritable." And the labels on the crayons in the inside front cover give a poetic flavor to emotions: "fire fury explosion red," "raging flame orange," "simmering green storm" and the infamous broken "deep down blue." Children who are still trying to find words for their own powerful feelings will love seeing Allie's moods reflected in colors and should even pick up a few anger management tips from her wise, loving older brother.
Inside the back cover the venomous crayon color labels are no longer visible, and the previously broken blue crayon is now taped together. Almost as good as new, just like Allie! Allie All Along deserves a spot on the shelf with Where the Wild Things Are, When Sophie Gets Angry--Really, Really Angry... and My Mouth Is a Volcano. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor

Discover: A little girl turns into a multi-layered, many-colored monster when she becomes angry over a broken crayon, and her older brother helps her shed the furry coats of rage.

Sterling, $16.95, hardcover, 40p., ages 4-7, 9781454928584

A Festival of Ghosts

by William Alexander, illus. by Kelly Murphy

Rosa Diaz is a ghost appeasement specialist, just like her mom. The two live in a "cozy basement apartment underneath the Ingot Public Library," where their official job is to deal with books that are "too haunted." But ever since the "huge circle of copper" placed around Ingot by its founder, Bartholomew Theosophras Barron, was broken, Rosa and her new friend, Jasper Chevalier, spend a lot of time traveling around town, quieting ghosts and restless spirits.
The previously "library-schooled" Rosa begins attending classes at Ingot Public School to perform the "emergency appeasements" her mother is certain the school will need. She's not worried when, on her first day, small hauntings become evident, including a chalkboard that displays "[e]very mark ever made on it." But when the voices of six students--and the principal--are stolen by ghosts in the water fountain, Rosa and Jasper know they have to find the key to appeasing Ingot's restless dead. As if that weren't enough work for two middle-graders, Rosa worries that she's being haunted by the spirit of her dad, and Jasper is determined to reopen the Ingot Renaissance Festival, even though the grounds have been taken over by dueling ghosts.
A Festival of Ghosts, Alexander's follow up to A Properly Unhaunted Place, is as strong as the first, with Murphy's dynamic pencil illustrations scattered throughout. Rosa and Jasper have all the makings of a terrific literary duo and as the pair grow more comfortable with each other, they affectionately banter their way through all the supernatural tasks, whether they are communicating with ghosts or keeping one step ahead of the people who believe in banishing ghosts forever. Here's hoping for a third book that's just as good! --Lynn Becker, blogger and host of Book Talk, a monthly online discussion of children's books for SCBWI

Discover: The ghosts are back in Ingot, and Rosa and Jasper have their hands full trying to appease them in William Alexander's follow up to A Properly Unhaunted Place.

Margaret K. McElderry, $17.99, hardcover, 272p., ages 8-12, 9781481469180


Author Buzz

Dear Reader,

First love gets a second chance this summer in the sexy, fun, heartwarming romance, GETTING SCHOOLED! I'm so excited to share this story with you, I'm giving away five copies. Email me at for a chance to win!

Emma Chase

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Emma Chase, LLC 

Pub Date:
June 26, 2018


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Dear Reader,

It’s been six years since THE MARRIAGE BARGAIN stormed the world and captured reader’s hearts. I’m thrilled to re-visit this series, and loved connecting with both familiar, beloved characters and brand-new ones.

Join me on an emotional journey through Italy with the brooding Rip Savage and the determined Caterina Winsor for a battle over the family winery, and for each other’s hearts. This is a complete standalone story for your enjoyment. Thank you for allowing me to step back into this special world and share Rip and Cat’s love story—which begins with the intriguing Book of Spells!

Please write to to win one of five copies.

Jennifer Probst

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Evil Eye Concepts, Inc.

Pub Date:
May 1, 2018


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Dear Reader,

I love stories that dig deep into family relationships, so when I set out to write HAWKYN, I wanted to bring readers deeper into the world of the guardian angels known as Memitim, as well as update everyone on the extremely important role the founding couple, Azagoth and Lilliana, play in the Demonica Underworld. Hawkyn and our heroine, Aurora, will bring a new, sexy dimension to the Demonica ‘verse, and in a way neither of them expected

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Larissa Ione

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Evil Eye Concepts, Inc. 

Pub Date:
February 27, 2018


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Dear Reader,

Do you remember the one who got away?

Rome McGuire only spent one evening with Randi Bryant. She was the sweetest, sexiest girl he’d ever met, and that night she staked a claim on his heart. The next day, wildfire swept through their town. Randi and her family were forced to evacuate, losing everything. They never returned.

Eight years later, Rome spots her at the grocery store. She’s come back for her high school reunion, but she’ll only be in town for the weekend. Now he has two nights. Another chance. This time, he’s not letting her go.

Please write to to win one of five copies

Joanna Wylde

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Evil Eye Concepts, Inc.

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April 24, 2018


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