Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, July 13, 2012
From My Shelf
Walking Under the Influence... of Books
"I stand up. I start walking. I'm still reading," writes Lev Grossman in "A Book Lover's Guide to Reading and Walking at the Same Time." I, on the other hand, never read books when I'm walking, and I walk a lot.
My reading and walking lives are still deeply connected, however. If I carried a "walking books" backpack, it would be stuffed with works like Cormac McCarthy's The Road, W.G. Sebald's The Rings of Saturn, Teju Cole's Open City and Rebecca Solnit's Wanderlust: A History of Walking, in which she observed: "It is the movement as well as the sights going by that seems to make things happen in the mind, and this is what makes walking ambiguous and endlessly fertile: it is both means and end, travel and destination."
Cheryl Strayed's Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail became one of my walking books last fall, when I heard her say: "I went from weeping and wailing every day to confronting the reality of the hike. You set the boundaries, and every day you go out."
I'm always on the lookout for walking books on the publishing horizon, and look forward to reading The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot by Robert Macfarlane, The Walk by Robert Walser and Walking Home: A Poet's Journey by Simon Armitage.
"Walk wherever you are. Don't wait for the perfect forest path," advised Thich Nhat Hanh in The Long Road Turns to Joy: A Guide to Walking Meditation. His former student Claude Anshin Thomas wrote in At Hell's Gate: A Soldier's Journey from War to Peace: "When I'm on pilgrimage, I've often been asked, 'Why are you walking? What is your goal?' And I often respond by saying, 'I'm walking just to walk.' "
I'm reading in the same spirit. And I'm walking under the influence... of books. --Robert Gray, contributing editor, Shelf Awareness
Bookish Perfume, Wallpaper, Fountain, Landscapes
Love that "new book smell"? Chanel's Karl Lagerfeld has teamed up with Wallpaper magazine to create the perfume Paper Passion, which captures the scent of "freshly printed books," the Daily News reported. Lagerfield described himself as "a paper freak. It's a physical passion. I cannot live without paper. Touching perfect paper has something sensuous about it."
Design Year Book showcased ghostly white bookshelf wallpaper, designed by Young & Battaglia for Mineheart. that creates "a heavenly library" appearance with "white books on white shelves for a bright minimalist look.
A turning pages book fountain in Budapest was featured on the Read & Feed tumblr of Tattered Cover Book Store, Denver, Colo.
Fictional landscapes. Colossal showcased the work of Kyle Kirkpatrick, who "constructs these wonderfully tiny dioramas using the topographies of carved books."
Now in Paper: July
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor (Little, Brown, $9.99)
Laini Taylor (Lips Touch) blends romance, otherworldly beings, joy and pain, light and dark in this tantalizing novel. Karou, 17 years old, with bright blue hair and a "constellation of tattoos," lives in Prague, where she's studying to be an artist. Through Karou's sketchbook, we learn of her "secret world," populated by chimaera who raised Karou as their own from age five. When she meets a seraphim, even though they are enemies, they feel a deep connection. Taylor elevates this tale beyond a story of two star-crossed lovers by exploring the ways that society demonizes "the other" and by filling her tale with captivatingly complex characters.
The Last Letter from Your Lover by Jojo Moyes (Penguin, $16)
London 1960: Jennifer Stirling wakes in a hospital to learn that she has survived a terrible car accident. She can't recall who she is or who she was--until she discovers a heartfelt love letter signed with the letter "B," asking her for forgiveness and to leave her husband. It proves to be just the jolt Jennifer's memory needs in reconstructing the past and a love affair she only half-remembers. In this captivating romance, that ultimately unravels in 2003, Moyes pays homage to the lost art of letter writing and the power of love.
The Rules of Civility by Amor Towles (Penguin, $16)
It's 1938, and for Katherine "Katey" Kontent (stress on the second syllable), Manhattan may not be Nirvana, but it sure beats Brighton Beach. On a New Year's Eve nightclub outing, she and her pal Eve Ross meet the swank Tinker Grey. The encounter changes both women's lives, and the dynamic of their friendship as well, as Katey metamorphoses into Kate, a strong-willed magazine editor whose determination and gimlet eye are a match for every man in the story and almost every woman. Towles's prose in his debut novel is atmospheric and crystalline, with a delectable sentence on every page.
Stone Arabia by Dana Spiotta (Scribner, $14)
Like her National Book Award-nominated Eat the Document, Dana Spiotta's new novel has its roots in the 1970s, as she turns her attention to the intimate details of family life, the slow erosion of dreams and the faint persistence of hope. Narrated mostly in the voice of Denise Krasnis, a woman in the midst of a struggling midlife, Stone Arabia is the story of her relationship with her older brother, Nik Worth, a talented if only modestly successful post-punk musician who now, in 2004, lives in obscurity in Los Angeles. It's an intimate exploration of the complex territory of an adult sibling relationship, perfectly capturing the emotional stew of love, frustration, anger and, perhaps most poignantly, the lack of communication that are the stuff of sibling relationships
The White Devil by Justin Evans (Harper, $14.99)
The day after protagonist Andrew arrives at Harrow, a centuries-old boarding school on the outskirts of London, he finds the only boy he's made friends with dead outside the school grounds and a skeletal figure with a cough standing over the corpse. That figure mysteriously vanishes, and it's determined that the boy died of unusual but natural causes. However, Andrew's dreams have been invaded by a similar apparition, bringing with it visions of violence and desire rooted in the school's past. Meanwhile, the school's lone female student has set her sights on Andrew, noting his eerie resemblance to the young Lord Byron. How Andrew and Byron mesh is told in a chilling contemporary horror story that is an authentic page-turner.
White Shotgun by April Smith (Vintage, $13.95)
Fans of April Smith's Ana Grey series will find much to enjoy in this fourth novel to feature the FBI agent. The intriguingly twisty story begins in London when Grey gets caught in what appears to be a gang hit outside an Italian restaurant. It's not that simple, however, and in the aftermath, Ana is sent by the FBI to Siena, Italy, to meet her previously unknown half-sister, Cecilia Nicosa. It isn't a family reunion that the FBI is after--they want Ana to investigate Cecilia's husband, Nicoli, a fabulously wealthy coffee mogul whose Mafia mistress has recently disappeared. Ana discovers beauty, family and, naturally, treachery in Italy.
A Wild Surge of Guilty Passion by Ron Hansen (Scribner, $15)
It may not have qualified as the crime of the century, but the lurid murder of New York magazine editor Albert Snyder in March 1927 riveted the attention of that city--when the accused, Ruth Snyder and Judd Gray, went on trial, the courtroom was packed with 1,500 spectators. In this vivid, imaginative novel based on that crime, Ron Hansen (Atticus and Mariette in Ecstasy) weaves a story that will appeal to fans of classic mysteries, in the process skillfully evoking the morally compromised atmosphere of Prohibition-era New York.
Writing Despite Disaster
Hugh Sinclair is the author of Confessions of a Microfinance Heretic (Berrett-Koehler). See our review below.
I wrote my book, Confessions of a Microfinance Heretic, in Patagonia, sandwiched between mountains and lakes. This was idyllic--until the Puyehue volcano erupted, cutting off electricity, running water, Internet and other such luxuries. There was no shortage of ash, however, enough to close the airport for eight months.
Like many people, I had had some romanticized idea of what being published would mean. I had submitted my manuscript, figured I had upheld my part of the bargain, and looked forward to sitting back and enjoying some anonymity before the inevitable media frenzy would catapult me to stardom.
Alas, it was not so.
I had to continue working part-time as a microfinance consultant, and thus had deadlines, endless e-mails, reports, reviews and stressed clients that I needed to attend to in order to support my family. I balanced this with the assignments my publisher gave me: design my first website; speak to media; arrange a publicist; participate in events; book a trip to California that would result in 40 hours of travel--each way. To top it all off, my Apple computer broke down, so I had to do all of the above on a 10" netbook. So much for sitting back.
What got me through all this was my sense of responsibility to share this story. I spent a decade in microfinance witnessing some of the most obscene corruptions, but nobody seemed to care. Not until I turned to the New York Times did I realize how writing and publishing validates our ideas by putting them into print. If a newspaper story could get people to react, even if ever so slightly, what possibilities might a book have?
Despite the perpetual feeling of slight panic that this whole publishing process has instilled in me, I have now contributed something that may just make the slightest impact on the world, that will outlast a tweet, that will inspire someone else to share their story and put up with all the drudgery that is the writing process. I only hope they won't need to write on a netbook. --Hugh Sinclair
Summer Reads (or Not); Books on Creativity; Children's Books
Author Linda Fairstein's "sizzling reads for summer" were featured by the Today Show.
Do we camouflage our real summer reading lives? The National Post asked several authors the crucial beach reads question: "But what are you really reading?"
Jonah Lehrer, author most recently of Imagine: How Creativity Works, recommended "5 books to inspire innovation" on NPR, noting that his choices "look at the mystery of the creative mind from many different angles."
"The 20 most beautiful children's books of all time" were showcased by Flavorwire, which noted that "some of the loveliest illustrations we've ever seen have been in books (or maybe that's just the association with a great story talking)."
Juliet in August
by Dianne Warren
Diane Warren's debut novel, Juliet in August, won the prestigious Canadian Governor General's Award for fiction; it richly deserves the honor.
Juliet, Saskatchewan, is a tiny, dusty town on the edge of the Little Snake sand hills. In overlapping stories, Warren etches the lives of Juliet's people in the reader's memory. No pyrotechnics, nothing flamboyant, just perfect descriptions of the singular events that fill the days and nights in Juliet.
It's a hot and blowy day when a horse, a fine-looking Arab, shows up on Lee Torgeson's property. Lee is the foundling left on Lester and Astrid's porch many years ago. Now, his adoptive parents are gone and he is uncomfortable with this generous legacy left to him. He idly mounts the horse and sets out for a short ride that turns into the 100-mile centerpiece of the tale--a very long day spent ruminating, reminiscing, seeing people and sorting out what's next.
We meet Norval, the banker who grieves over the decisions he makes about poor farmers' loans and foreclosures. Blaine Dolson, a father with too many kids and a dithery wife, comes to an epiphany about his own culpability for his situation and a new balance is found in that household.
Lee rides dreamily through it all--he is a bit of a poet at heart--thinking about a long-ago similar ride done on a bet, remembering the words of Ozymandias: "Look on my works, ye mighty and despair," finding objects long buried in the eternal sands. Such is the rhythm of a day in Juliet. --Valerie Ryan, Cannon Beach Book Company, Ore.
Discover: A long ride on a good horse through lives and a landscape, illuminated by Warren's insight into the generosity, pettiness, jealousy, love and fears of all of us.
by Kurt Andersen
As Kurt Andersen's rambunctious True Believers opens, narrator Karen Hollander turns down a potential Supreme Court nomination, knowing the political vetting process will expose a secret she has been carrying since her radical student days in 1968. Instead, she begins a memoir to tell the true story of those years. Jumping back and forth in time, the novel gradually uncovers what really happened when she was 18 and hellbent on saving the world.
Andersen brings all the wit he honed at the Harvard Lampoon and Spy, as well as the probing eye for cultural details shown in his previous novels, Turn of the Century and Heyday. In Karen's granddaughter Waverly, an Occupy protester, he brings to life the contemporary fruit of the seeds planted in the protests of the Vietnam era.
Beneath the surface of Karen's memoir runs an early abandoned Catholicism with the repetitive superficiality of its confession/absolution pattern--"rinse, repeat, rinse, repeat," as her latest lover calls it. Likewise, her childhood infatuation with Ian Fleming's James Bond novels and their romantic duels between good and evil haunts her.
In Andersen's epic novel, the young always think that they are on to something new, that their drive to change the world justifies their behaviors, that the improved future will forgive them. It is the great ambiguity of the 1960s that the grandchildren of the baby boomers discover that the practicalities of career and family often force us "to work hard, become successful, and leave both radicalism and true love--every form of wild romance--to others." Only in the end does Andersen suggest that perhaps, after all her searching for the truth, Karen Hollander can break the cycle and rediscover some of the romance of her youth. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.
Discover: Kurt Andersen's sympathetic heroine brings a smart, funny voice to the political and cultural ambiguities of the last 50 years.
Albert of Adelaide
by Howard Anderson
Imagine a small, solitary figure walking along a winding track somewhere in the central Australian desert, "about two feet tall and covered with short brown fur," by Howard Anderson's description. "He had a short, thick tail that dragged on the ground when he walked upright and a ducklike bill" where his nose would be--oh, and he's carrying an empty soft drink bottle. Meet Albert, a recent escapee from the Adelaide Zoo. This platypus wanted to be free, to discover a place where things haven't changed: Australia "like it used to be." Now he's cut off from water, lost and dying. So begins Albert of Adelaide, Anderson's charming and delightful first novel.
Fortunately for Albert, he stumbles upon a camper named Jack--a large, singing, pipe-smoking wombat with a graying handlebar mustache who provides tea and survival. They set off together and soon come upon a supply depot in Ponsey Station run by a kangaroo with a bar frequented by heavy-drinking bandicotts. After a raucous night, the store burns down; Albert and Jack barely escape alive and decide it's best to split up. Albert is learning fast. He has to feed himself, protect himself and make his own decisions. Some decisions are better than others and, as Anderson writes, a "really bad one could have serious consequences." Like, for example, embarking on a life of crime....
Albert from Adelaide explores timeless themes of friendship, loyalty and survival by presenting animal characters in a straightforward, believable way that just happens to be fantastical as well. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher
Discover: Join Albert the platypus on a delightful, sometimes harrowing, road trip in Australia during which many things happen--not all of them good.
Gun Dealers' Daughter
by Gina Apostol
Gina Apostol's Gun Dealers' Daughter, a stunning novel of the Marcos-era Philippines, is a story of politics and passion, of insurrection and rebellion, of growing up and the consequences of childhood naïvete. When Soleded Soliman (Sol) leaves home for university in Manila, she finds herself swept up in the Communist fervor on campus. But, as the daughter of prominent gun dealers, she is a part of what is being rebelled against. Then again, perhaps all that matters is her crush on Jed, the ringleader of the pack, and perhaps she is really nothing but a useful fool in the rebellion.
"Words are all we have to save us," her doctors tell her years later, "but at the same time, they are not enough to make us whole." This proves to be the paradox of Sol's life, as she tells her story in a desperate attempt to find out who she was--and therefore, who she is--but in doing so, only rediscovers how little she understands. Her telling and retelling and editing and tweaking of her own history feels disjointed in the opening chapters, but ultimately proves to be one of the most successful aspects of Apostol's creation; the technique invites readers into the very core of Sol's experiences, accompanying her on her journey of self-understanding--and, perhaps more importantly, self-acceptance. In the end, Sol is left with as many questions as she has answers, but readers are treated to a captivating look into this period of Philippine history and the gripping story of one girl's struggles to find her place in the world. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm
Discover: A stunning novel of the Marcos-era Philippines, and one girl's struggles to find her place in the world.
East of Denver
by Gregory Hill
In East of Denver, a darkly comic tale of disappearing civilization in the modern rural West, wry humor and desperate characters mix in an arid landscape as a family falls apart. Gregory Hill, who works at the University of Denver library, grew up in rural Colorado and displays a keen, at times riveting, understanding of the absurdities and freedoms of small-town isolation and the dying way of life that was once the American standard.
The novel opens with 36-year-old Shakes Williams returning to the family farm in his tiny Colorado hometown to bury his cat. Shakes makes a gruesome discovery that attests to the severity of his widowed father's worsening dementia. He's also alarmed to find the tidy hum of crop cultivation and well-tended machinery that used to be the farm is now a fallow ruin--a demise abetted by the chicanery of a local bank manager. Shakes quits his Denver job to care for his father and to try to resurrect some semblance of the farm. He consequently falls into a sparse, motley social circle of old high school acquaintances whose circumstances are as abject as his own; a half-assed bank robbery plan is soon afoot.
Hill takes a morbid delight in the abasement of his characters, but he never loses track of their essential humanity or the tragedy of their stunted lives. Though the writing occasionally suffers from a choppy, affected cleverness, the fully realized characters, the vivid, harsh imagery and the bleak yet delectable irony make this debut both funny and harrowing. --Cherie Ann Parker, freelance journalist and book critic
Discover: The winner of the 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award is a tragicomic story of a man helplessly watching his family's legacy disappear in the rural Colorado dust.
Biography & Memoir
Coming to My Senses: A Story of Perfume, Pleasure, and an Unlikely Bride
by Alyssa Harad
Serious, bookish feminist Alyssa Harad didn't expect to fall in love with perfume. When she stumbled onto a few scent blogs during a late-night writing session, she intended to click around and click away. Instead, she found herself captivated by vivid prose describing the images and memories conjured up by the notes of various perfumes. Intrigued, Harad began clandestinely ordering samples online, sneaking into perfume boutiques, even attending a local smelling salon presided over by the mysterious "Curator." She uses the metaphor of seduction to trace her affair with perfume from secret flirtation to full-blown obsession.
As her new fascination grew, Harad also found herself navigating the world of wedding planning: just as intimidating as the world of perfume, and even more aggressively feminine. Hesitant to become a bride, reluctant to admit her passion for fragrance to her Birkenstock-wearing friends, Harad nevertheless found herself transformed by her fixation with scent. The pleasure she found in perfume didn't erase her feminist unease or mollify all her wedding-day fears, but it did give her a new image of herself: more alluring, more secure in her particular brand of femininity, more attuned to the details (sensory and otherwise) of her life.
Full of luscious scent descriptions and fascinating tidbits about the perfume industry, and peopled by elegant, quirky characters (who all smell wonderful), this memoir will send readers dashing to the nearest perfume counter for a bit of olfactory bliss. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams
Discover: The story of one woman's highly unlikely--and deeply rewarding--obsession with perfume.
Where the Heart Beats: John Cage, Zen Buddhism, and the Inner Life of Artists
by Kay Larson
In the long history of free-thinking mavericks in American art, nobody took more chances, reinvented themselves more often or expanded their craft more than the 20th-century composer John Cage. From the premiere of his notorious 1952 piece 4'33" until his death, Cage never quit challenging audiences--or himself--to expand perceptions and dissolve barriers. Kay Larson's authoritative new biography, Where the Heart Beats, is the first work on Cage to examine the influence of Zen Buddhism on him as an artist and as a man. While her book has the bones of a strict chronological biography, Larson takes some of the same chances as her subject, narrowing and widening her scope to include influences, contemporaries, lovers and collaborators of Cage. She ends up not just tackling one elusive man but creating an entire cultural history of America's opening of itself to Eastern wisdom and avant-garde music.
Cage was in constant motion as an artist and a man, challenging sexual mores, the nature of musical composition and performance and even the tools of trade--altering pianos with objects placed on their strings was one of his least radical innovations. What Larson's magisterial biography proves, though, is that Cage was never just a mere trickster. His expansive works were an attempt at finding what he discovered in the austere discipline of Zen: insight into the nature of reality itself. --Donald Powell, freelance writer
Discover: Larson's authoritative biography and first-rate cultural criticism explores how Zen Buddhism transformed John Cage's life and music.
by Joy Harjo
Mvskoke (Creek) Nation citizen Joy Harjo (She Had Some Horses) has given us poetry with a lyrical Native American voice for decades, keeping the narrative of the contemporary native world alive in American literature. With Crazy Brave, Harjo's memoir of her journey to becoming a writer, her fans can learn the story behind the voice.
Born in Tulsa, Okla., where the Trail of Tears forced her ancestors to settle, Harjo spent her early years in the sheltering shadow of her beautiful mother and womanizing father. When their marriage dissolved, Harjo's mother married a volatile man, turning life into a maelstrom of abuse and control. Harjo narrates her escape to an Indian arts boarding school, capturing both its beauty and brutality. Her harrowing struggle with hunger as an impoverished pregnant teenager and her journey through single motherhood and through anxiety attacks to the discovery of her gifts will haunt and mesmerize readers.
Part autobiography, part prose poem and part mythology, this memoir begs to be read aloud. Harjo traces the origin of her poetic, musical and theatrical careers, but she offers much more than reminiscences. Her story is an account of the forging of a woman's soul, the hammer blows striking only to reshape her into a sharp and powerful blade of words and music. Slim of spine but lush with Harjo's trademark singing imagery, this raw and radiant coming-of-age story invites readers to "breathe the light in" and discover their own hidden capabilities. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger, Infinite Reads
Discover: Native American poet Joy Harjo's raw and radiant coming-of-age memoir.
City of Ravens: London, the Tower and Its Famous Birds
by Boria Sax
The Tower of London combines commercial tourism, history and myth in a single site, and its iconic ravens are a part of all three functions. Legend has it that when the ravens leave the Tower, Britain will fall. Boria Sax's City of Ravens blends a highly readable narrative style with academic research into Britain's history, the study of birds and Sax's own interest in animal-human relationships. Sax examines the ravens' changing significance in London's imagination, from being harbingers of death and doom as they fed off the bodies of those executed at the Tower to being heralded as guardians of Britain's Empire--likely due to their role, during the Blitz, of warning of incoming bombs.
Sax's research largely dispels the popular belief that ravens had been pets at the Tower since medieval times, and he is ambivalent about the accuracy of the historical raven record. After highlighting a few individual ravens' personal histories, he finishes by considering the ecological questions raised by the captive birds whose wild counterparts have begun to repopulate London, weighing the options for protecting both the ravens and their mythical standing.
These musings, admittedly conjectural at times, draw on diverse resources including newspaper archives, popular literature, early tourist guides to the Tower and other historical sources--as well as fictional accounts. Part history, part deconstruction of myth, part bird study, always lovingly respectful of the birds themselves, City of Ravens is a whimsical, entertaining and informative journey into London legend. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pages of julia
Discover: A bird's-eye view of the Tower of London's famous raven residents and their role in history and myth.
Business & Economics
Confessions of a Microfinance Heretic: How Microlending Lost Its Way and Betrayed the Poor
by Hugh Sinclair
Microlending has become a popular cause in the early 21st century. Behind the feel-good, do-good facade, though, it turns out that many microfinance institutions (MFIs) have fleeced thousands of borrowers, who are among the poorest people on Earth.
Hugh Sinclair fell into microfinance not long after earning his MBA. At the time, it sounded ideal: a way to use his skills to help the poor while traveling to some of the most remote and exotic locations on the planet, including Mexico, Mozambique, Mongolia and Nigeria. The longer Sinclair worked in microfinance, however, the more he saw that the bright dream concealed some nightmarish conditions. Interest rates pushing 200%, hidden fees, forced savings, illegal lending practices and creditor harassment have combined to make some borrowers poorer than they would ever have been without access to microfinance loans. Some borrowers have skipped town or even committed suicide in the face of loans they will never be able to repay. Meanwhile, many individuals, foundations and banks that fund MFIs don't seem to care what happens to the money they lend, as long as it's paid back--with a tidy profit.
Confessions of a Microfinance Heretic weaves Sinclair's personal experiences with concrete suggestions for fixing microfinance and economic information that's easy to follow. Half memoir, half exposé, this book is a must-read for anyone interested in economic and social justice. --Dani Alexis Ryskamp, blogger at The Book Cricket
Discover: An eye-opening description of how microfinance has failed--and solid suggestions for how we can all make it work again.
Children's & Young Adult
by Rachel Hartman
Rachel Hartman's captivating debut novel explores the pains 16-year-old Seraphina suffers as an outsider as well as the rewards of excelling in something she loves.
In medieval Lavondaville, an uneasy truce exists between dragons and humans. Narrator Seraphina is the product of a dragon mother and a human father. Dragons can disguise themselves as humans, so everyone believes Seraphina to be entirely human. Only when Seraphina's mother died in childbirth did Seraphina's father learn her true nature. Her mother left Seraphina a gift of "mind-pearls," memories triggered by specific events, and also her talent for music. Dragons are known for their technical skill, and that, together with the empathy Seraphina gained from her human father, makes her one of the finest musicians in the land. She has won a coveted position assisting the court composer.
After the death of Prince Rufus, in a manner suspiciously like a dragon's preferred means (decapitation), tensions run high between humans and dragons. Seraphina's position at court exposes her to aspects of both dragon and human societies. When she decides to trust Prince Lucian with her suspicions about Prince Rufus's killer, they embark on a journey that tests her loyalties and strength, and also awakens Seraphina's feelings for him.
In this first of two planned books, Hartman creates a world simultaneously strange and familiar. Her dragons are as magnetic as her human characters. Teens will readily identify with Seraphina's conflicting desires: to please her family or to make her own future. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness
Discover: A medieval world in which 16-year-old Seraphina straddles the societies of humans and dragons.
Mothership: The Ever-Expanding Universe, Book One
by Martin Leicht , Isla Neal
Juno meets Alien in this launch title in a new series by Martin Leicht and Isla Neal, set on a spaceship full of pregnant teenagers trying to return to earth after being threatened with an alien invasion. Galactic battles and hilarity ensue.
The year is 2074, and 16-year-old Elvie Nara's dreams of becoming a space engineer are crushed after she "got the hots for Cole Archer" and got knocked up. After hearing the news, Cole bails, leaving Elvie with "one bun and no baker." To escape her arch-nemesis Britta McVicker, Elvie enrolls at the Hanover School for Expecting Teen Mothers. Readers first meet her there, where she has been for three months, and with a due date three weeks away.
The Hanover School for Expecting Teen Mothers, aboard the spaceship Echidna, not only offers no protection for Elvie from Britta (who also is pregnant with Cole's child) but also fails to defend the students from their teachers, who turn out to be extraterrestrials. Fortunately, commandos have arrived to rescue the girls. Unfortunately for Elvie, Cole is one of them.
Sassy, tenacious and expectant mother Elvie goes through her unexpected pregnancy with no preachiness. Even though her unborn "Goober" just might be an alien, Elvie's maternal instincts kick in to defend it from ending up in the wrong, extraterrestrial hands with sheer willpower--and a ray gun. With a well-imagined mythology and entertaining friction between Elvie and Cole, a fun new trilogy is born. --Adam Silvera
Discover: The Hanover School for Expecting Teen Mothers--a spaceship with pregnant teenagers on board, protecting their children from alien invaders.
The Good Braider
by Terry Farish
In this eloquent free-verse novel, 15-year-old Viola relates the horrors of wartorn Juba, Sudan, in 1999, and her pursuit of freedom in the U.S.
Viola lives with her mother, grandmother and five-year-old brother, Francis. Each day they fear the armed soldiers will come. There is little food, but they make the dense white aseeda to eat and they have each other. Gwendolyn, their very pregnant neighbor, grows groundnuts. Viola trades her a handful of seeds in exchange for watering her crop. One day, while Viola is in Gwendolyn's garden, with Francis a little ways off, a soldier comes to Viola. She tells Francis with her eyes to be silent. He stays quiet, and Viola goes with the soldier in order to protect Francis. The soldier steals her "bride wealth"--he rapes her.
That is not the end of the family's tragedies, but it is also not the end of their happiness. Through Habuba's brother in America, they gain entry to a Sudanese community in Portland, Maine. Viola discovers she is neither in the Sudan nor is she fully in Portland ("I am waiting for myself/ to catch up with/ my body"). But by story's end, Viola has in many ways returned to herself, and she finds ways to honor her heritage.
Viola describes her surroundings through all five senses: The "sickening sweet" tobacco smell of the soldier, the exhaust fumes of Cairo where they wait for papers, and her grandmother's loving hands, braiding her hair. Unforgettable. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness
Discover: A teen who grows up too soon, in a homeland she no longer recognizes and in a new country with alien ways.