Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, May 13, 2016


Avery Publishing Group: The Hacking of the American Mind: The Science Behind the Corporate Takeover of Our Bodies and Brains by Robert H. Lustig

From My Shelf

Lion Forge: Little Pierrot Vol 1: Get the Moon by Alberto Varanda

Charlesbridge Teen: Blood and Ink by Stephen Davis

Kelley Armstrong: The Rabbits May Seem Harmless...

Kelly Armstrong (photo: Kathryn Hollinrake)

Kelley Armstrong is well-known for her 33 fantasy novels, beginning with the marvelous Bitten. She has now written a thriller, City of the Lost (Minotaur Books), and we asked her why she changed tack. She explained, "With the Otherworld, I saw my style as a fantasy and thriller mash-up. In the Cainsville series, I increased the mystery and decreased the fantasy, and realized that was the direction I wanted to head. For me, part of having a long and healthy career is shaking things up creatively, which includes exploring new genres. I wasn't tempted to throw fantastical elements into City of the Lost. I had to pay particular attention to anything that could be misconstrued as fantastical--if I mention howling in the forest, I need to be 100% clear that it's wolves, not werewolves!"

Even so, City of the Lost seems to have a bit of the fantastical in it: spooky events, "hostiles," possible cannibalism, feral animals. To Armstrong, "That really was both the appeal and creative challenge of [the town of] Rockton--hardcore world building within a realistic setting. Rockton has all the elements I'd incorporate in a fantasy world--a physical place, an economy, political system, legal system, etc. I added the threats that lurk beyond its borders, rooted in reality. Instead of werewolves, you have feral dogs; instead of zombies, you have ex-residents living in the forest, who might not be above resorting to cannibalism over a hard winter. It was an incredibly fun exercise in incorporating the things I love about fantasy in a non-fantasy novel."

Armstrong can be quite funny in a sly, offhand way ("The rabbits haven't killed anyone... yet."). How does that fit this macabre tale? "My background as a writer is deeply rooted in dark fiction. When I write dark, I take my cue from King and others, who pepper their work with humor and keep it from being unrelentingly grim. And as any Monty Python fan knows, those rabbits may seem harmless, but at some point, they're bound to turn on the residents of Rockton."

--Marilyn Dahl, editor, Shelf Awareness for Readers

Picador USA: Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande


Book Candy

Bookstore Cats!

Chronicle Books shared pics of "15 bookstore cats you'll want to cuddle with."

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Bustle explored "what your TBR list says about your personality."

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Author Meredith McCardle "decided to bless her life recently by devoting a wall in her home to the first page of the Harry Potter series," Buzzfeed reported.

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"Flipping through this pop-up book is more relaxing than a thousand Zen gardens," Gizmodo wrote in featuring a video showcasing artist Tauba Auerbach's work.

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Mental Floss shared "15 tips from Walt Whitman for living a healthy life."

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British singer-songwriter Laura Mvula transformed a Maya Angelou poem into "a color-drenched music video that celebrates the strong, beautiful and, yes, phenomenal ladies in her life," the Huffington Post wrote.


Britt-Marie Was Here

by Fredrik Backman

"Britt-Marie is not actually passive-aggressive. She's considerate." The sexagenarian believes in using coasters, keeping lists and always making the bed before she leaves the house. Anything less is simply uncivilized. But Britt-Marie's safe, organized, civilized life is upended when she leaves her cheating husband, Kent.

Alone for the first time in her life, Britt-Marie worries about dying and no one knowing she's gone until her decomposing corpse draws attention. So she decides she will find a job because "if one has a job, people notice if one doesn't show up." With Sweden's struggling economy, the only thing available to this retirement-age woman who hasn't worked outside her home in 40 years is a temporary position as a recreation center caretaker in Borg.

"Borg is a community built along a road. That's really the kindest possible thing one can say about it. It's not a place that could be described as one in a million, rather as one of millions of others."

Fredrik Backman crafts a city that can be identified anyplace in the world. Readers everywhere will recognize the struggling small town devastated by a global recession: businesses gone, houses for sale and a mass exodus of everyone able to leave. In Backman's crippled little burg, citizens are handicapped by their life circumstances: some literally, like the wheelchair-bound pizzeria owner and the blind former soccer star; others figuratively, including the rag-tag bunch of children who are forced to play soccer in a parking lot lit by car headlights, with soda cans for goal markers. Borg's remaining citizens proudly refuse to give up; they're determined to make the best of what they have.

When Britt-Marie arrives in Borg, she sets to work doing what she does best: cleaning. Armed with baking soda, she attacks the recreation center with verve. However, when she goes in search of her favorite window cleaner, Faxin, she's told it isn't manufactured anymore. Britt-Marie started using Faxin because she loved an advertisement she saw as a child: "Faxin Lets You See the World." What will she do without her beloved cleaner? Perhaps she'll have to see the world differently. Backman provides Britt-Marie with the tools to not only clean her windows to the world, but to see her own reflection in their magical sparkle as well. 

As the dirt of life from Britt-Marie's windows starts to come off, she connects with the citizens of Borg, including a rat living in the recreation center. But the ones who truly change her view of the world are the members of the parking lot soccer team. Barging into the rec center one night to watch a match on the television--the previous manager always allowed the team to watch games together there--the children finagle their way into Britt-Marie's sphere. Unsure what to do with the group, she again resorts to what she knows best--cleaning. So she collects their muddy soccer clothes and heads for the laundry room.

Little by little the children break down Britt-Marie's defenses. One talks her into doing his hair for a date, another continues to find things she needs--things that just happen to "fall off a truck"--and the team leader and only girl, Vega, convinces Britt-Marie to be their coach so they will be eligible to compete in a tournament. Britt-Marie knows nothing about soccer, but Backman, Borg and the town's determined young players are about to educate her.

As with Backman's previous two books--A Man Called Ove and My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry--Britt-Marie Was Here is a brilliant mix of belly-laughs, profound insight and captivating events delivered through enchanting characters disguised as ordinary folk, with Backman's pitch-perfect dialogue and an unparalleled understanding of human nature. His humor is often conveyed through an offhand, deadpan thought or comment, and the result is far wittier than a straightforward joke:

"Bank leaves the parking area in a hailstorm of the ugliest and most colorful words Britt-Marie has ever heard. Britt-Marie actually didn't even know it was possible to combine words for genitalia with words describing other body parts in that way. You don't even come across that level of verbal innovation in crosswords."

And the worldly wisdom hidden among the pages catches readers off-guard with its power and simplicity:

"That is the reason why passion is worth something, not for what it gives us but for what it demands that we risk. Our dignity. The puzzlement of others and their condescending, shaking heads."

Britt-Marie Was Here will warm hearts, wrench hearts and, most importantly, it will steal hearts. At its core, it is a love story, one in which a lonely woman learns to love a small town, its inhabitants and especially herself. Fredrik Backman has cleaned the windows so his readers can clearly view his world, and the reflections they catch of themselves may change them forever. --Jen Forbus

Atria Books, $26, hardcover, 9781501142536

Fredrik Backman: Staying Grounded

photo: Edward Koinberg

Fredrik Backman is the author of the novels A Man Called Ove, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry and Britt-Marie Was Here. All three books were number-one bestsellers in his native Sweden and are being published in more than 25 languages. He lives in Stockholm with his wife and two children. 

You used to drive a forklift. How did that evolve into writing books that are loved around the world?

I don't know. It's still a mystery to everyone who knows me. I always viewed writing as a hobby, not a career choice, and, to be honest, I still do. My dad keeps telling my wife she needs to "treat the money as if Fredrik won the lottery, because this probably won't last!" I think he's got a point. I think I'll eventually go back to having a real job, and I don't really think I'll be any less happy than I am now.

Your first book, A Man Called Ove, had its origins in your blog. How did you get started blogging?

Well, the "origins in the blog" story has turned into somewhat of an urban legend. I think publishers' PR departments love to keep telling it, but it's not really true. There were some elements of the character of Ove that I played around with in my blog and some things I wrote about my dad that the blog readers enjoyed, and that eventually found its way into the novel. I also got the name "Ove" from a very clever blogger called Jonas Cramby, who wrote about how he stood in line at a museum behind an extremely angry man who got into a fight with the staff about the pronunciation of the name of a painter. At the end of the fight the man's wife sighed deeply, took her husband by the arm, and said: "Please, Ove, just let it GO!" And that's where I got the name from. And of course I played around with some jokes and some ideas at the blog, because that's what I do: I steal stuff from people around me and use it in fiction. I suppose most writers do. But…yes…where were we? "How did you get started blogging?" Well... I just started one. It wasn't hard at all. With the risk to sound philosophical I often get the question "how did you become an author?" And I answer that I didn't. I became a writer, by writing, because I like doing it. An author I became by accident.

Why did you decide the Ove posts would work as a novel?

Mostly because I found him funny. He has an unproportional response to everything that makes his anger very entertaining. So the first draft of the novel was just that: a series of situations where he was angry and yelled at people. Fortunately I was surrounded by very clever people--my wife, my friends and, further down the line, my publisher and editor--who told me: "This is funny. But there has to be a story!" So I went back and I started asking myself questions. Who is this man? How was he raised? Who does he love? What makes him laugh? And it grew from there. I started to care about him, and that's always the best start for me. If I don't care, no one will. So I ended up writing a story where I was trying to defend him a little bit, make people know him like I did, and see the good parts of him that make up for the really bad ones.

Just as Ove got his start on your blog, Britt-Marie got her start in your second book, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry. When did you know you wanted to tell her story?

I had plans to tell her story in my second book, actually. It was supposed to tell the story of her life in that house and how she fights this quiet war with her neighbors all day long. But, as usual, I couldn't stick to the plan and I had this other story idea about this seven-year-old girl with an imaginary world and a crazy grandmother and they kind of merged with the first one and well... things got out of hand. When my publisher read it, their first response was, "This is too weird, no one will understand it!" To which my wife responded: "Well this is what happens if you leave Fredrik unsupervised in his office for six months; blame yourselves!" So at that time I really had no plans to write a separate novel about Britt-Marie. That idea really came up when I finished My Grandmother. All of a sudden I realized I could let Britt-Marie go out into the world, and it became this kind of coming-of-age-story about a 63-year-old woman.

Britt-Marie tells the woman at the unemployment office that she wants a job because she fears dying and no one knowing she's gone.

Well, fear of dying is crucial in all of my writing, it seems, and I really don't know why. I just end up at that question over and over: How do you live a life? In the case of Britt-Marie I wanted to tell a very undramatic story that was extremely dramatic to HER, if you understand what I mean. I wanted to write a very "low intensity adventure." The novel really has all the same ingredients as Star Wars and Lord of the Rings: our hero goes on a quest, gets challenged, meets new friends, overcomes adversity, stands up to injustice, and eventually learns something about herself. My story didn't have all the laser swords and the space ships and the fire-breathing dragons, but it's still basically the same: the search for our destiny. The dream of changing the world and leaving our mark in it. "I want someone to know that I was here."

Soccer plays a big role in Britt-Marie Was Here. Are you a player? Fan? And, of course, Britt-Marie would ask you, "Who's your team?"

I have an interest in sports in general that I would call "healthy" and my wife would call "deeply disturbing." I watch everything, and I played everything growing up: soccer, tennis, table tennis, handball, floor ball, basketball... everything. Soccer was really my first love, along with ice hockey, since I'm Swedish and that's what we do over here. But I really love it all. I watch every Dallas Cowboys game in the NFL, and I follow Nascar and baseball and rugby and when the Olympics come around I watch curling and luge and... you get the picture.

I love sports, because all sports is essentially story telling. Every moment has drama. You live or die every weekend, and that's just irresistible to me. And oh, yeah, my team? It's Manchester United--Kent's team in the book. Because I thought there was something great about the absolutely worst character in the book loving the same team as me. The second worst character in the book is named "Fredrik," based on the same idea. It keeps me grounded.

In each of your books, an animal has a central role. Do the animals have special significance to you?

No, there wasn't an idea that this would be a returning gimmick. I didn't mean for that to happen. I just like animals. And I think the biggest part of it is that there's something really nice about a character who doesn't speak. You can tell other stories with them.

A crucial part of your writing process is the stewing the ideas; when you've started the physical writing, do you know the complete story?

There's no formula, if that's the question. I really WISH there was a formula, but I just haven't figured that out yet. The thing is: I'm not a very good writer. And I don't say that to be humble, I'm just saying that I'm not very good technically. I'm better at telling stories than constructing language, which I think can be compared to musicians: the best song writers are rarely the best musicians. You can write a great song using three chords, but that doesn't make you Mozart. So sometimes I have the full story, and sometimes I don't. I rewrote My Grandmother maybe 50 times, but I rewrote Britt-Marie maybe five.

Maybe I could put it like this: I have learned to build a "box" for me to play within. Which means I decide the world my character gets to explore, and the limits of it, and I try to write a beginning and an ending to the story first of all. That way I'm free to have new ideas within it, but I have certain boundaries that force me to actually finish the story at some point. Otherwise I would probably just keep on going and every novel would be 60,000 pages long.

Do the incredible imagery and hilarious examples come as you're writing or are they things you tweak and adjust later?

Most come as I'm writing, I think. What you see in the novels, with one joke in one sentence, are just the version of the story where I've taken nine other jokes out of the same sentence and kept the one that actually worked.

You have a fouth book coming out in Sweden later this year, and then what do you see for the future?

The next novel is a bit more serious. It's about a town, not one specific character. And it centers a lot around ice hockey. And the future? I plan to write until people tell me I can't anymore. That's the only idea I have so far. --Jen Forbus


Shelf vetted, publisher supported.


Book Review

Fiction

Man and Wife

by Katie Chase


Katie Chase's debut short story collection features no zombies, road warriors or other apocalyptic denizens, yet communicates a desperate, end-of-days mood in almost every story. "Refugees," set in an American refugee camp after a devastating economic collapse, hews closest to the rules of post-apocalyptic literature, especially with its meditations on religion and consumerist society. In general, however, Chase's stories occupy the mysterious, frighteningly plausible terrain between present-day reality and the dystopic future, subtly implying that our society is closer to the latter than we might care to admit.

The title story, "Man and Wife," conjures a world where women, including the nine-year-old protagonist, are married off at a very young age to adult men as part of dry business deals. Another, "Creation Story," seems to play off the devastating "Devil's Night" arsons that plagued Detroit well into the '90s, pushing the concept further to tell a story about the nihilism bred by urban decay. Even when Chase presents extreme situations, however, she always fastens them securely to grounded observations, such as one young protagonist's musings that "On sick days you could escape the movement of the world."

The same is true in "Every Good Marriage Begins in Tears," which demonstrates Chase's impressive range by setting the events in post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan. Ostensibly, the plot revolves around the still-common practice of bride kidnappings, but its themes of frustrated masculinity and economic fecklessness ring depressingly true across the cultural divide. Man and Wife is a disturbing, exceptional suite of stories from a promising new author. --Hank Stephenson, bookseller, Flyleaf Books

Discover: Man and Wife is an excellent debut collection that packs apocalyptic menace into stories covering an array of subjects, from American economic refugees to Kyrgyzstani bride kidnappers.

A Strange Object, $14.95, paperback, 9780989275989

Quirk Books: Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of '70s and '80s Horror Fiction by Grady Hendrix


The Blue Bath

by Mary Waters-Sayer


Kat Lind, an American expatriate leading an upscale life in London, is shocked when she arrives at an art gallery to discover the show is full of paintings of her. It turns out that artist Daniel Blake has been compulsively painting Kat for the last 20 years, ever since the end of their Parisian love affair during college.

Contrasting Kat and Daniel's youthful relationship with Kat's current hectic life as a mother and the wife of a high-powered businessman, The Blue Bath journeys with Kat into the what-might-have-beens of life. Beautifully written, bringing Paris and London both to life, this novel is a study of the nature of love and art, and what happens when the two collide.

Originally from New York, Mary Waters-Sayers lived in London for 12 years and shows her love for the city in this first novel. "It seemed as though it was a different possibility of what London could be.... How short a distance you had to go from the familiar to be lost." But unfortunately for Kat, London is not big enough to escape the awkward possibilities inherent in having your body showcased in large portraits. Soon her past relationship with Daniel catches up to her current marriage, and she has some very difficult choices to make.

Anyone who loves a romantic story with a twist, or who has wondered wistfully what happened to their first love, is sure to enjoy The Blue Bath. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

Discover: A woman re-encounters the artist she loved 20 years before, only to discover he's never stopped painting her.

St. Martin's Press, $25.99, hardcover, 9781250088215

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Mystery & Thriller

The Doll-Master and Other Tales of Terror

by Joyce Carol Oates


In The Doll-Master and Other Tales of Terror, Joyce Carol Oates is in her comfort zone, applying her literary mastery to the horror genre. The first story is about a lonely boy--unloved by his father, neglected by his mother--who develops the habit of collecting dolls that he finds on the street. By the time readers find out what he's been doing with the dolls, it's too late to hate him. In another, a teenager is alone housesitting an isolated mansion when a familiar, but slightly altered, person from her past shows up. In the longest story of the collection, while a woman wonders if her husband has planned her murder on their vacation in the Galapagos Islands, her own sanity slips away.

When Oates refers to terror in the title, she's not just talking about the bump-in-the-night kind. Of course, that kind of fear is present in these chilling stories, but there's a much more visceral version of anxiety buried in each one. While this collection seems to be an experiment in all the types of horror storytelling--there's the story with a shocking twist, there's a monster in one, a murder in another--what ties them together is the skin-crawling psychological aspect of each. What remains unforgettable after reading is just how realistic even the most evil of her characters are. It is vintage Joyce Carol Oates to remind us that every one of us is capable of being both victim and perpetrator of some really dark stuff. --Josh Potter

Discover: In a return to horror, Joyce Carol Oates conjures terrifying images in deeply thrilling stories.

Mysterious Press, $24, hardcover, 9780802124883

Counterpoint: Gangster Nation by Tod Goldberg


City of the Lost

by Kelley Armstrong


" 'I killed a man,' I say to my new therapist."

With this opening line in City of the Lost, Kelley Armstrong introduces homicide detective Casey Duncan. Casey makes clear her declaration is neither a metaphor, such as for breaking a man's heart--"A bullet does break a heart"--nor a statement about a job-related incident. Nope. She killed a man while in college. And got away with it.

The only person who knows and has kept her secret is her friend Diana, and now Diana needs Casey's help to escape from an abusive ex. Diana convinces Casey to relocate with her to a remote community called Rockton in the wilds of Canada. The residents there are all hiding from something; with no modern technology available--even electricity is limited--they can stay off the grid. Casey soon realizes, however, that Rockton may be an even more dangerous place for her and Diana, because someone is murdering the inhabitants. Hired as the town's new detective, Casey's job is to hunt down the killer, but this time she might end up as prey.

Casey is a singular, riveting protagonist--tough but loyal, knowing the difference between taking risks and being irresponsible. There's tantalizing romantic tension between her and Rockton's sheriff and his deputy, though that element isn't the focus. The mystery is complex, takes unusual turns, and the setting of isolated territory surrounded by menacing woods is as breathtaking as it is unsettling. Readers looking for a captivating story should escape to City of the Lost. --Elyse Dinh-McCrillis, blogger at Pop Culture Nerd

Discover: In the first of a new series, a homicide detective tracks a serial killer in a hidden community in the wilds of Canada.

Minotaur Books, $25.99, hardcover, 9781250092144

Shelf Awareness Sign-up Giveaway: Without Merit by Colleen Hoover


The Defense

by Steve Cavanagh


Eddie Flynn, a New York City lawyer who hasn't practiced in almost a year due to fallout from a case, is forced to defend the head of the Russian mob in a murder case--and the trial begins the morning Eddie receives the "request." He can't refuse because the mob boss's goons have kidnapped Eddie's 10-year-old daughter, Amy, and Eddie has only 48 hours to gain a mistrial or Amy dies.

What the Russians don't know is that before Eddie became a lawyer, he was a con man, and he now calls upon skills from his grifter days to pull off the greatest con of his life--pretending to play along while plotting Amy's rescue, even as he's under constant surveillance. Helping him is his childhood friend Jimmy Fellini, now head of the Italian mafia. Eddie just wants his daughter back, but Jimmy's involvement could start a war between the Russians and Italians. As with all wars, there will be casualties, one of which may be Eddie.

The Defense rises above generic courtroom dramas and mob-related thrillers mostly because of Eddie. The swindler-turned-lawyer (Eddie doesn't see a big gap between one and the other) gets put in impossible situations, with the clock ever ticking and vise ever tightening, but somehow he finds clever ways to keep his head above water. He shares a few interesting tricks about reading and manipulating juries, but there's nothing dishonest about his love for Amy, and even the most righteous readers would probably agree the end justifies his means. --Elyse Dinh-McCrillis, blogger at Pop Culture Nerd

Discover: Grifter-turned-lawyer Eddie Flynn must defend a mob boss against a murder charge--or Flynn's young daughter will be killed.

Flatiron Books, $25.99, hardcover, 9781250082251

Biography & Memoir

The Bridge Ladies: A Memoir

by Betsy Lerner


Betsy Lerner (The Forest for the Trees; Food and Loathing) recounts the story of her life and her mother's life--and their complicated, often contentious relationship--through bridge, an intricate card game that takes skill and practice to master. After Lerner's octogenarian mother Roz has surgery, Lerner stays with her to help out, and decides to investigate the game that has served as Roz's sustaining, lifelong constant. Enrolling in lessons and attending Roz's weekly bridge club, Lerner finally discovers a common ground to understand better her emotionally self-contained mother.

Snarky acuity and sensitivity layer the bittersweet narrative. Lerner explores the unspoken, painful recesses of Roz's life and the unsung lives of five Jewish women--children of the Depression, pre-feminist--who have met weekly in New Haven, Conn., to share lunch and play bridge for 50 years. Lerner believes bridge was the entertaining "HBO of its day." She shares details about the club and the ladies--collectively and individually--recounting their hopes and hardships and how they've faced life with proud, stoic self-reliance rare to women of Lerner's self-actualized generation, who put career and personal fulfillment over marriage and children. Lerner's own mother--a Brooklyn-born Socialist--is "darker, moodier and harder to know" than the rest of the Bridge Ladies. But as Lerner becomes more astute in game play, bridge becomes a deeper metaphor for crossing the rugged gulf between mother and daughter, who come to appreciate each other and how they've played the hands life has dealt them on their own terms. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: A middle-aged daughter comes to understand her mother--and women of her generation--better through the game of bridge.

Harper Wave, $25.99, hardcover, 9780062354464

Beer Money: A Memoir of Privilege and Loss

by Frances Stroh


The quintessential American Dream is a heartwarming rags-to-riches tale, but a good riches-to-rags story can be just as captivating. Frances Stroh's memoir, Beer Money, chronicles the unraveling of the 150-year-old Stroh Brewing Company, her fourth-generation brewery family and, in the background, its home city of Detroit. Raised among the automobile barons' Grosse Pointe estates, Stroh and her three brothers grew up with private schools, country clubs and world travel. Her father held a token executive sinecure at the family brewery, but she remembers him best as an extravagant collector of antique guns, Martin guitars, Leica cameras and rare books--and as a capricious alcoholic. Although also from a wealthy family, Stroh's mother was a prudent scold always worried about losing money, so she dressed her children in hand-me-downs and shopped at the A&P. Stroh remembers her boarding school experience: "Straight As, varsity teams, good taste in music, and a robust drug habit, that was what landed you on top, socially. Surviving a 'bust' made you legendary."

She describes the dissolution of her family: her parents' divorce and father's remarriage to a gold-digger, her brother Charlie's addiction and accidental death, her brother Bobby's three marriages, and her own divorce and sporadic attempts at creative work. By the 1980s, the company was already failing. In 1999, what was left of it was sold to Miller. The sale proceeds soon dried up, Detroit was in ruins, her father died broke and alone, and Stroh shucked her strangling legacy. With Beer Money, she is on her way to a fresh new writing career--perhaps a riches-to-rags-to-riches story in the making. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: Stroh's frank memoir tells of the descents of a Midwest beer giant; its hometown, Detroit; and her own fourth-generation brewery family.

Harper, $25.99, hardcover, 9780062393159

History

Oneida: From Free Love Utopia to the Well-Set Table

by Ellen Wayland-Smith


One group of Christian reformists amid the splintered spiritual landscape of the Second Great Awakening followed the charismatic John Humphrey Noyes, who promised that the Kingdom of Heaven could be brought to earth imminently, through the perfection of human nature. Ellen Wayland-Smith, one of Noyes's descendants, opens the archives of Oneida, the preacher's commune in central New York, founded in 1848, where his plan for perfectionism turned from a spiritual endeavor into the largest brand name in silverware.

Noyes explained that, in part, perfection could be attained through the practice of Complex Marriage, a wife-swapping, sexual communalism designed to separate amative coupling from reproduction, under the auspices of Jesus' command to love thy neighbor. This tenet of faith, however, quickly progressed into eugenics when Noyes concluded that it was paramount that only the most pious of the Oneida colony, like himself, sire the next generation, a spiritually elite breed.

While Wayland-Smith remarks on the bizarre and dystopic elements, she also highlights the astonishingly progressive aspects of Oneida. To support the colony, men and women labored alongside one another in unprecedented equality. They worked in silks, made traps and eventually silverware, creating a reliable brand that grew even during the Depression; its advertisements tapped into the coveted middle-class American dream with art deco patterns named "The Lady Hamilton" and "Noblesse."

As younger Oneidans grew disillusioned with the faith and values of their elders, the colony began to fracture until all that remained was sterling silver and a household name. With rich detail and a touch of good humor, Wayland-Smith delivers a fascinating narrative of a peculiar American success. --Dave Wheeler, associate editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A 19th-century Christian cult makes an unlikely transformation into a successful 20th-century silverware brand.

Picador, $27, hardcover, 9781250043085

Children's & Young Adult

Flannery

by Lisa Moore


In her first novel for young readers, Canadian author Lisa Moore (February) introduces a feisty, practical heroine readers will love from the first page.

Flannery Malone has known Tyrone O'Rourke her entire 16 years of life, and loved him for at least six of them. When she and Tyrone are partnered for the competitive Entrepreneurial Fair, her heart says, "Boom. Boom, boom," but Tyrone cuts class, stands her up, and leaves her to do all of the work while he spraypaints gorgeous but illegal graffiti murals. Flannery's love is "a whirling dervish doing a Riverdance in my heart, patent leather shoes beating out a rhythm that goes Tyrone, Tyrone, Tyrone" and the ache of it propels the novel, told partly in flashbacks and occasionally breathtaking bursts of stream-of-consciousness prose-poetry. Ironically, Tyrone's entrepreneurial idea for their team is to sell a love potion, "a gag... [l]ike canned fog."

So Tyrone is checked out; Flannery's "best friend since sippy cups" Amber is suddenly too absorbed in her controlling boyfriend to support her; and her artistic, free-spirited single mother, Miranda, spends their welfare money on a video helicopter drone for her six-year-old half-brother instead of on her biology textbook... or the heating bill for the bitter Newfoundland winter. Already isolated and overwhelmed, Flannery also has to endure a horrific bullying incident.

Older teens will identify closely with brave, vulnerable Flannery in her witty, edgy coming-of-age narrative. Good guys and bad boys populate this realistic, funny slice of life, but its heart lies in the idea that we all cope with heartaches, hopefully with the help of each other. --Jaclyn Fulwood, lead librarian at Del City Public Library, Oklahoma

Discover: In this debut teen novel from Canada, a smart-talking, tender-hearted heroine struggles to survive school, a raging crush on Mr. Wrong and her family's perilous finances.

Groundwood, $16.95, hardcover, 256p., ages 13-up, 9781554980765

Wolf Camp

by Andrea Zuill


"All dogs have a bit of wolf in them. It's been proven by science." So says Homer, the "wolfish" narrator of Andrea Zuill's charming Wolf Camp, who sleeps on a dog bed with an electric blanket.

Sometimes Homer sneaks up on the unsuspecting purple stuffed animal, Mr. Moose. He dreams of running with wolves in mountain meadows. So when a flyer advertising Wolf Camp tumbles out of the dog-food bag ("Have you ever felt like howling at the moon? Come join us!"), he knows he just has to go. Homer follows his people around with the flyer in his mouth until they break down. "I'm going to be a wolf!" he thinks happily as he heads off in a yellow school bus to the weeklong camp. Fang and Grrr, the wolf counselors, give a terrifying safety talk, warning Pixie, Rex and Homer not to chase the cats, who are "bigger here than back home," to stay away from grizzly bears, and "finally, never trust a squirrel." Dinner, oddly, has "hair on it." (Homer writes a letter home asking for some of "Grandma Polly's Pampered Pooch Doggie Snacks, the bacon-flavored ones.") Still, back home on his heated dog bed, Homer does feel a little different inside: "I was an honorary wolf. Ahh-whoooo...."

Zuill's wonderful pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations, complete with cartoon bubbles, comically contrast the needle-nosed wolves and the collared, previously pampered pooches. This would be the perfect book to send off with kids for a summer-camp surprise. Giggles are guaranteed, as the wee ones get a little wolfish out there in the wilderness. --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: Homer, a dog, goes to Wolf Camp for a glorious week of howling at the moon and running with wolves.

Schwartz & Wade, $16.99, hardcover, 40p., ages 4-8, 9780553509120

More-igami

by Dori Kleber, illus. by G. Brian Karas


A boy gazes contentedly at a taco on a plate: "Joey loved things that folded."

Joey collects road maps, plays the accordion, and even sleeps in a foldaway bed--his obsession with folding is real. So when Sarah Takimato's mother comes to school with a piece of paper and "folded it, and flipped it, and pulled it" to make an origami crane, Joey wants in. She tells him "the only way to become a true origami master is with much practice and great patience." Joey immediately starts practicing on construction paper, notebook paper, his homework, and his sister's sheet music. When he gets to the money in his mother's purse, his practice does a number on her patience: "This folding has to stop." He heads over to his friend Mr. Lopez's place, Muy Mexicana, for solace and fajitas. As he waits, he gloomily folds his napkin into a pyramid. Bingo! He has a new job, folding restaurant napkins into fans, crowns, and at long last, a crane.

More-igami is Dori Kleber's picture-book debut, and she tells her story with both gentleness and wit, and plenty of playful repetition for storytime. G. Brian Karas (Muncha, Muncha, Muncha!; Tap Tap Boom Boom) reflects her clean style with winsome, expressive gouche and pencil paintings. In a brilliant design coup, some of the pages have faint fold marks. Children who catch origami fever can fold their own ladybug using the step-by-step instructions in the back, and more and "more-igami" is sure to follow. Masterful. --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A boy obsessed with folding things discovers origami in this delightful picture-book debut, illustrated by G. Brian Karas.

Candlewick, $15.99, hardcover, 40p., ages 4-8, 9780763668198

Pets

The Dog Merchants: Inside the Big Business of Breeders, Pet Stores, and Rescuers

by Kim Kavin


In her introduction to The Dog Merchants, journalist Kim Kavin states, "I'm not on the side of the breeders, and I'm not on the side of the rescuers. I'm on the side of the dogs." To fulfill this role as canine advocate, Kavin examines the good, the bad and the ugly in the commercial world of man's best friend. From dog auctions to shelters, exclusive conformation dog shows to PetFinder.com, Kavin investigates the many ways people can acquire four-legged companions. She provides readers with an unbiased look at the industry, debunks the myth that consumers can be guaranteed quality with puppies from breeders but not shelter dogs, and helps to educate consumers about misleading marketing. As she points out, "There is always at least one other side to any sales pitch, and it's our job as conscious consumers to find it." Ultimately, Kavin hopes to unite breed-devotees and mutt lovers alike in moving away from the attitude that some dogs are better than others for purely aesthetic reasons and instead make strides toward informed buying--and raising--decisions that ensure the well-being of all dogs.

Kavin's journalistic approach to the subject offers a balanced analysis of a impassioned subject, and her hands-on approach to research enhances her credibility. The insights into the commercial side of pet adoption are eye-opening, and even the most devoted dog advocates will likely find food for thought in these pages. The Dog Merchants is perfect for anyone considering adding a furry friend to their family. --Jen Forbus of Jen's Book Thoughts

Discover: A journalist and dog advocate thoroughly audits the big business of dog sales.

Pegasus Books, $27.95, hardcover, 9781681771403

Humor

Laughing All the Way to the Mosque

by Zarqa Nawaz


In Laughing All the Way to the Mosque, Canadian television producer Zarqa Nawaz returns to the territory she explored in her groundbreaking television comedy, Little Mosque on the Prairie: the everyday challenges of being a practicing Muslim in North America.

Writing in a style that is both irreverent and thoughtful, Nawaz presents the balancing act between assimilation and faith that has shaped her experiences as Muslim daughter, wife, mother, feminist and filmmaker. Some elements of Nawaz's story are familiar from other accounts of childhood in an immigrant family: the cultural battlefield of the school lunchbox, conflicts with conservative parents over standards of modesty, and ethnically specific summer camps designed to reinforce cultural traditions. Others are very specific to Islam and Nawaz's personal engagement with her faith: explaining to a non-Muslim plumber why the sink needs to be within arm's length of the toilet, cooking her first Eid feast at the end of Ramadan, fighting to allow women to pray with men in her local mosque.

Whether poking fun at the foibles of her community or attempting to untangle custom from doctrine, Nawaz's laughter is directed at herself within her faith but never at the faith itself. The result is a picture of Muslims in American that is humorous, positive and--most importantly--familiar.

Laughing All the Way to the Mosque is a significant reminder that most Muslims are neither terrorists nor extremists. It's also a rollicking good read. --Pamela Toler, blogging at History in the Margins

Discover: The very funny Zarqa Nawaz tells how she lives her life as a Muslim in North America.

Virago Press, $18.99, paperback, 9780349005935

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Publisher:
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Pub Date:
September 12, 2017

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THE INVISIBLE LIFE OF IVAN ISAENKO brings to life something that we’ve all experienced on some level—that transformation that can only come from being connected with another human being. 

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Publisher:
Wednesday Books

Pub Date:
September 19, 2017

ISBN:
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Dear Reader,

I love that our PBS Victoria series is so popular in the U.S., and it was great fun writing the novel. I pored through Victoria's diaries, and I think the events of her younger years make for a captivating story. So excited it's coming out in paperback, and I hope you love it. 

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Publisher:
St. Martin's Press

Pub Date:
September 26, 2017

ISBN:
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List Price: $16.99

 

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