Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, September 8, 2017


From My Shelf

Clarkson Potter Publishers: Exciting Games for Readers and Word Lovers

Quirk Books: Holiday Gift Guide

Exploring Mortality

When 36-year-old physician Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer, he knew he had little time left to live. The memoir of his final months spent coming to terms with the reality, When Breath Becomes Air, questions what it means to live in the face of death. Kalanithi reflects on the doctor-patient relationship during this difficult time--a theme that Atul Gawande also explores in Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End. Gawande, also a physician, takes a hard look at the role of the medical industry in aging and death, examining the ways end-of-life care have worked and not worked as medical technologies have advanced.

Where Kalanithi and Gawande look at life immediately preceding death, others focus on what comes after. Mary Roach touches on this in two of her books: Stiff, which explores the science of what happens to cadavers used in scientific research, and Spook, which provides a surprisingly scientific exploration of the afterlife. In her memoir Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, Caitlin Doughty weaves together tales of her work at a crematory with research into death rituals and mythologies across history, encouraging readers to reconsider their attitudes towards death. Tom Jokinen details the modern funeral industry in his memoir, Curtains: Adventures of an Undertaker-in-Training, while Judy Melinick shares what a career as a medical examiner has taught her about how we live and how we die in Working Stiff.

Death may be an uncomfortable subject for many, but the wealth of literature on the subject speaks to our boundless fascination with it as an inevitable part of every life. After all, as the very wise (albeit fictional) Albus Dumbledore once said, "to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure." --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm


Workman Publishing: Enter to Win a Library of Our Bestselling Holiday Gifts


Book Candy

Literary Travel

Bustle highlighted "11 literary destinations every book-lover should visit in the Fall."

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Nathan Gelgud created "an illustrated guide to Jack Kerouac's On the Road, 60 years later" for Signature.

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"The crazy story behind the first book published in the (future) United States" was shared by Mental Floss.

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Try your hand at Pottermore's "not-so-easy Weasley quiz."

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"Where to start: the 7 must-read Sherlock Holmes stories" recommended by Signature.

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The WOUPS Invisible shelf "gives the illusion that your books are levitated against the wall, hanging in the air like magic," the Bookshelf noted.


Storey Publishing: The Naturalist's Notebook: An Observation Guide and 5-Year Calendar-Journal for Tracking Changes in the Natural World Around You by Nathaniel T. Wheelwright and Bernd Heinrich


Great Reads

Rediscover: Girl in Hyacinth Blue

Susan Vreeland, whose novels explore art, artists and artistic inspiration, died on August 31 at age 71. She earned widespread acclaim for her second novel, Girl in Hyacinth Blue (1999), which follows a fictional Vermeer painting through centuries of ownership back to its conception. Vreeland uses eight short stories to track the Vermeer's owners, beginning with a remorseful professor whose Nazi father looted the work while rounding up Jews in Amsterdam. The next story tracks that doomed Dutch family, then moves further back in time to a farmer's wife, a Bohemian student and on to the pictured girl herself, with each person altering the painting's fate and being touched by its beauty.

Vreeland's other novels also portray artists and their work. The Passion of Artemisia (2002) fictionalizes the life of Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1656), a female Italian Baroque painter, while Luncheon of the Boating Party (2007) washes life into Renoir's famous impressionist painting, and Clara and Mr. Tiffany (2012) illuminates the long overshadowed woman who crafted Louis Comfort Tiffany's stained glass lamps. Vreeland's final novel, Lisette's List (2014), finds an aspiring art gallery apprentice and her husband in Vichy France, where she becomes immersed in post-impressionist art history. Girl in Hyacinth Blue was released in paperback by Penguin Books in 2000 ($15, 9780140296280). --Tobias Mutter


Avery Publishing Group: The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, and Douglas Carlton Abrams


The Writer's Life

Paul Madonna: Open to Interpretation

photo: Jason Madara

"It doesn't fit into an easy niche," said Paul Madonna, cartoonist, creator of the comic strip All Over Coffee and author of the novel Close Enough for the Angels, available now from Petty Curse Books. Madonna's first novel tells the story of a failed artist who has been a "one-hit wonder twice over." The book explores the nature of the creative process and is a blend of artistic media, with more than 100 ink-on-paper illustrations of locations in China, Japan and Thailand interspersed throughout the novel.

"It's not a graphic novel, it doesn't come from the comic world," explained Madonna. His comic strip, which ran in the San Francisco Chronicle from 2004 to 2015 and was published in two collections by City Lights Booksellers & Publishers, was likewise a sort of hybrid, blending poetry and ink-on-paper drawings in the conventions of a comic strip. He added that for much of his career, he has been creating things that "no one knows what to call."

At the heart of Close Enough for the Angels is Emit Hopper, who found sudden, fleeting success first as a musician in the 1980s and then as a literary darling in the 1990s. Twenty years on, he is the owner of a laundromat and has largely given up on his creative dreams. The story opens as Emit's lover Marie has been missing for more than a year. He takes a sudden journey to southeast Asia, and from there the narrative jumps between different stages of Emit's life and career while he unravels a mystery tied to a personal tragedy. The illustrations sprinkled throughout the novel, meanwhile, don't simply summarize scenes in the text.

"In a classic illustrated novel, you read on one page a scene of two people sitting at a cafe with the sun setting. You turn the page, and there is a picture of two people at a cafe with the sun setting out the window. That to me is redundant," said Madonna. He explained that the drawings in his book are a distinct part of the story, and though they are paired with the text in a tonal, emotional way, they don't simply replicate what the reader has just read.

"It's not obvious why we're reading this chapter and seeing this image," he said, adding that figuring out why a particular image is tied to a particular part of the text is something of a small puzzle for the reader to figure out.

Madonna began working on the project in 2010, and what he thought would be a two-year project turned into a six-year project. He first visited southeast Asia in 1999, and after falling in love with the region, "vowed to myself I would always go back and make something there." When Madonna was in the process of publishing his first All Over Coffee collection, he initially had a hard time of it, with publishers saying they loved his work but wouldn't publish the book because they thought it was regional and would sell only in the Bay Area. While most of the art in All Over Coffee did feature San Francisco, Madonna found that label frustrating, because he was receiving letters from and shipping art to readers all over the world. City Lights, which Madonna said understood that his work would have wider appeal, eventually published All Over Coffee and its follow-up, Everything Is Its Own Reward, but even though the latter collection featured drawings of more than a dozen cities, it was still considered by many to be a "San Francisco book."

"That frustrated me," remarked Madonna. "I decided the next one was not going to be a San Francisco book."

When it came to publishing Close Enough for the Angels, Madonna once again had some difficulties. He recalled that conventional publishers shied away from the large number of images in the project and were daunted by how expensive it would be to produce, and publishers more experienced with graphics did not want to take on a novel. He eventually decided to create 50 handmade copies of the book, to be sold as high-price art objects. Spurred on by that success, and while discussing the project over lunch with friend and Abrams Books sales representative Andrew Weiner, Madonna and Weiner decided to publish the book themselves. They created a two-person publishing company, Petty Curse Books, with one project: Close Enough for the Angels.

"It was a really interesting process," said Weiner. "The challenge was to find someone who could accommodate a single book." Weiner and Madonna found their way to Graphic Arts Books and Publishers Group West. Graphic Arts Books will distribute Close Enough for the Angels and host the book within its catalogue, and Ingram Publisher Services sales reps voted to have art from the book featured on the IPS catalogue cover. Added Weiner: "It's been a really great working relationship with them."

Madonna has no shortage of future plans: his first solo museum show is opening in 2018, and for that he's writing an autobiographical book about the creative process, and he's been meaning to do a third All Over Coffee collection for a while. And if Close Enough for the Angels proves popular, he has two more books about Emit Hopper in mind. Said Madonna: "The hope is it will get enough attention and interest, so that I can continue running with those next two books." --Alex Mutter


Trellis Publishing: Gift from the Garden by Bernie DuBois


Book Review

Fiction

The Silence of the Spirits

by Wilfried N'Sonde, trans. by Karen Lindo


The Silence of the Spirits, the second novel by award-winning Afropean writer Wilfried N'Sonde, is the haunting story of a former African child soldier, Clovis Nzila, who makes his way into France illegally. Destitute and at the end of his rope, Clovis has spent an exhausting day avoiding the police. Feeling hopeless and with nothing to lose, he decides to jump onto a commuter train heading out of Paris. Sitting across from him on the train is Christelle, a red-haired, middle-aged woman heading home from her job as a nurses' aide at a Paris hospital. Sensing Clovis's distress, Christelle's "heart suddenly ignited... recognizing the pain from her own life in [his] eyes"; she wants to console him.

Their lives are so different, yet their pasts have much in common, including a shared history of violence, drawing them irresistibly toward each other. Over the next 24 hours, they joyfully discover comfort and solace in one another's company. Christelle brings Clovis "into her universe" and envelops him "in an aura of light." They enter "the epicenter of a magical vortex of curiosity, yearnings and desires." N'Sonde's lyrical prose, beautifully translated by Karen Lindo, is almost hypnotic in its intensity. It eventually forces the reader to bear witness to the atrocities committed by Clovis in the name of freedom, leaving us to wonder if he and Christelle can ever move beyond his violent past.

N'Sonde's broader message concerns hostility toward illegal immigrants and the danger for those who provide shelter to them. Originally written in 2009, this powerful story is narrated in Clovis's voice and unfolds through his desperate but hopeful eyes. --Shahina Piyarali, writer and freelance reviewer

Discover: A Parisian nurses' aide and a former African child soldier meet on a commuter train and form an instant connection.

Indiana University Press, $17, paperback, 140p., 9780253028945

Legend Press: Lose yourself in a legendary classic - Click to win a copy


The Mountain: Stories

by Paul Yoon


The six stories in Paul Yoon's (Snow Hunters) second collection, The Mountain, are almost shocking in their simplicity. Possessing a fable-like sensibility, each one is a quietly elegant examination of how survivors of various sorts carry on in the face of profound loss. Yoon's strikingly uninflected prose heightens both the tension and the resonance of these tales.

Though The Mountain's stories range across more than a century and inhabit settings that include upstate New York, Galicia and Russia's Pacific coast, they're united by the distant echo of war. Yoon illuminates how the tragic consequences of conflict linger long after the guns fall silent. World War I soldiers are sent to recover from their injuries in a Hudson Valley sanatorium in "A Willow and the Moon." In "Milner Field," a stunning incident involves a weapon given as an expression of gratitude for a lifesaving act by a Japanese commanding officer to one of his troops.

The collection's title story is its most haunting. Its protagonist, Faye, was born in Shanghai, where her father worked in a chemical plant, but returned to South Korea as a teenager. When she's recruited for a mind-numbing job on the assembly line of a Chinese camera factory, she gradually unearths fragments of a past that yield both physical and psychological trauma.

It's impossible to separate the content of these stories from the daringly unembellished quality of Yoon's writing, where omission often feels as meaningful as the words on the page. The unadorned prose is of a piece with the fragility of these delicate stories. Individually and collectively they comprise an exquisite and memorable work of art. --Harvey Freedenberg, attorney and freelance reviewer

Discover: Paul Yoon's evocative second collection of short stories explores the lives of trauma survivors.

Simon & Schuster, $25, hardcover, 256p., 9781501154089

Prospect Park Books: Addicted to Americana: Celebrating Classic & Kitschy American Life & Style by Charles Phoenix


How to Find Love in a Bookshop

by Veronica Henry


For Emilia Nightingale, her father's cozy bookshop in the Cotswolds isn't just the family business: it's always been her home. But after her father's death, Emilia is faced with a pile of bills and paralyzing grief. Determined to save Nightingale Books from a predatory property developer, Emilia enlists the help of her staff, a few regular customers and her accountant best friend to revitalize the shop and rescue its bottom line. But it's an uphill battle, and Emilia grows weary. She and her compatriots dig deep into the stacks of her beloved bookstore to unearth hope, the courage to move forward and even a bit of romance in Veronica Henry's U.S. debut, How to Find Love in a Bookshop.

Though Henry's narrative centers on Emilia, her engaging ensemble cast gets its due: shy chef Thomasina, local gardener Dillon and Emilia's father, Julius, among others, have the chance to tell their own stories. Julius's longtime lover, Sarah, is struggling with complicated grief after his death, as well as her daughter's injury in a car accident before her upcoming wedding. Emilia is befuddled by her growing feelings for Marlowe, a family friend. The characters' stories intertwine in charming and sometimes surprising ways, as Henry nudges not only her bookshop, but several of the people who love it, back to life. This warmhearted novel is catnip for bibliophiles and Anglophiles, but can captivate anyone looking for a story of hope and new beginnings. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: A lovely novel about a rundown Cotswolds bookshop and the young woman who struggles to revitalize it after her father's death.

Pamela Dorman Books, $25, hardcover, 352p., 9780735223493

Sounds True: Practice You: A Journal by Elena Brower


The Luster of Lost Things

by Sophie Chen Keller


Walter Lavender Jr. is a 12-year-old with a motor speech disorder, a brain pathway dysfunction that prevents him from producing the words he wishes to speak. Walter may be isolated and withdrawn, but over the years, he's learned to adapt and cultivate an uncanny sense of perception. This turns him into a sought-after expert at finding lost things. Despite finding other people's prized possessions, a great sense of loss marks Walter's own life. His father, an airline co-pilot, disappeared on a flight to Bombay just three days before Walter was born.

While he waits for his father's return, Walter skirts bullies at school and spends time at the Lavenders, his mother's eclectic bakery in the West Village of New York City. Devoted patrons believe the desserts are magical--the angel food cake is light enough to whisk away pounds, and carefully crafted marzipan dragons breathe fire. The centerpiece and good luck charm of the success of the bakery, however, is a treasured, leather-bound manuscript--an illustrated winter's tale of lost love. When the book goes missing, the shop takes a nosedive: the magic suddenly evaporates from the desserts, business drops off, a French bakery opens a few doors away and the landlord threatens to double the rent. Fearful that all will be lost, Walter commences his 85th--and most personally challenging--case.

With straightforward prose, Sophie Chen Keller tells this insightful story from Walter's singular point of view. This is a feel-good, message-driven story about the restorative power of human connectedness and how acts of kindness can ultimately change lives. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines.

Discover: A gifted, fatherless boy with a communication disorder goes on a quest to save his mother's magical bakery.

Putnam, $15, paperback, 336p., 9780735210783

Crown Publishing Group: Artemis by Andy Weir


Mystery & Thriller

The Driver

by Hart Hanson


As creator, writer and executive producer of the hit television series Bones, Hart Hanson knows his way around a cold open. With his marvelously well-rounded debut novel, The Driver, Hanson proves his talent translates beautifully from a visual medium to the narrative form. In 10 pages, the first chapter delivers an entertainment smack upside the head that will keep readers rapt to the story's end.

The opening introduces multifaceted protagonist Michael Skellig (highly educated and decorated military veteran, owner of Oasis Limo Services, Hippocratic categorizer of his fellow humans, and the titular driver) and his dedicated and singular tribe of employees (fellow veterans with their own background goldmines). Without skipping a beat, Skellig shares a bit about his mother, his romantic entanglements and his penchant for humorous parenthetical asides. Then, the disembodied voice of a Chechen jihadist torturer he killed a decade earlier warns Skellig his client--wunderkind skateboarding hip-hop mogul Bismarck Avila--is in trouble at the hotel bar. One short gunfight later, Skellig is unconscious.

What follows is a rip-roaring good time, an action-packed yet sentimental story that never sacrifices one element for the sake of another. Wryly funny and whip-smart, Hanson's narrative seamlessly weaves in serious themes, pop culture and a bit of a love letter to Los Angeles. As Skellig and his crew get sucked into Avila's problems, the risks rise and the cost is high. Hanson excels at creating characters to invest in wholeheartedly and this group is worth your 401(k). --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review

Discover: A military veteran, and owner of a limousine service, is embroiled in the dangerous problems of a client, testing his moral compass.

Dutton, $26, hardcover, 336p., 9781101986363

Portable Press: Uncle John's Old Faithful 30th Anniversary by Bathroom Readers' Institute


Bibliomysteries: Stories of Crime in the World of Books and Bookstores

by Otto Penzler, editor


For many years, Otto Penzler, owner of the Mysterious Bookshop in New York City, has commissioned authors to write Christmas stories for an annual anthology. Having built a loyal following of authors and bookshop customers, Penzler had the bright idea to merge the two by asking authors to write short "bibliomysteries"--stories where books or bookstores feature prominently. Many authors, including Jeffery Deaver, Loren D. Estleman, Nelson DeMille, Anne Perry, John Connolly, C.J. Box and Laura Lippman, were unable to resist, and the result is Bibliomysteries: Stories of Crime in the World of Books and Bookstores.

With such a variety of talent, a diverse assortment of delightful stories is the happy result. They range from the bizarre (a book collection funded by selling pronghorn antelopes to Nazis) to the unexpected (a Mexican drug cartel leader with an astounding assortment of rare first editions). In one charming story, Anna Karenina occasionally escapes a secret library where book characters live and reenacts her death on local train tracks. Bibliomysteries offers mysteries in myriad styles, including cozies, thrillers, noir and the supernatural.

With some set in the present, some set in the past and some set in magical places that any bibliophile would love to visit, these 15 stories are sure to hold the attention of mystery aficionados of all varieties. Bibliomysteries is a perfect collection for the bookish, the mysterious--or both. --Jessica Howard, bookseller at Bookmans

Discover: In this charming collection, authors including Jeffery Deaver, Anne Perry and Nelson DeMille offer a variety of book-themed mystery stories.

Pegasus Books, $26.95, hardcover, 544p., 9781681774589

Shelf Awareness Sign-up Giveaway: The Land Beyond by Leon McCarron


Science Fiction & Fantasy

Ember

by Brock Adams


In the not-too distant future of Brock Adams's Ember, the sun is fading, losing its light and heat. To rescue the earth from a slow freeze, world leaders hatch a plan to reignite the dying star. They let loose the world's arsenal of nuclear weapons toward the sun, then sit back and wait, as it will take three years for the missiles to reach their destination. Meanwhile, the Earth grows ever colder, with temperatures below freezing the new norm in the southern states of the U.S. Regions farther north are encased in snow and ice year-round.

As the fateful, sun-rejuvenation day arrives, unhappily married couple Lisa and Guy and their faithful dog, Jemi, watch from a hillside, expecting to see a vast explosion and a resurgence of light and heat from the setting sun. But something goes awry and the earth is plunged into near darkness and then chaos. In the days shortly after the nuclear fiasco, militants use violence to take control, forcing millions, including Lisa and Guy, to become refugees as everyone searches for food, shelter, heat, guns and protection from the elements.

Winner of the 2016 South Carolina First Novel Competition, Adams takes a far future scenario of the sun's demise and brings it nearer, a maelstrom in which strangers must trust strangers to survive. With climate change and global warming a growing concern, Ember is a chilling scenario--a perfect read for a hot day at the beach. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

Discover: When the sun begins to die and the earth starts to freeze, chaos unfolds as militants seize control in the United States.

Hub City Press, $18, paperback, 200p., 9781938235320

Food & Wine

Hello! My Name Is Tasty: Global Diner Favorites from Portland's Tasty Restaurants

by Liz Crain, John Gorham, David L. Reamer, photographer


Portland, Ore., a city renowned for creativity and local flavor, is also a hotbed for eateries, including Tasty n Sons, Tasty n Alder and Toro Bravo. Chef-owner John Gorham (Toro Bravo: Stories. Recipes. No Bull.) brings the tricks of his establishments to the page in Hello! My Name Is Tasty: Global Diner Favorites from Portland's Tasty Restaurants, written with Liz Crain and featuring artful photography by David L. Reamer.

The book opens with pantry stocking tips and equipment suggestions before diving into diner fare loosely grouped into three sections: Brunch, All Day Long and Dinner, including combinations of small plates, big plates, boards, sandwiches, cocktails, sides and sweets. Gorham and Crain usher home cooking into a new echelon with decadent dishes like Polenta and Sugo with Mozzarella and Over Easy Egg; Korean Fried Chicken with Rice, Tasty Kimchi and Eggs; Alabama BBQ Chicken; and Cedar-Plank Salmon with Salsa Verde.

Gorham writes, "Kitchens, primarily, have been my home"; this cookbook serves as an invitation into his. Personal stories, food histories and fun facts liven up long recipes. Many of the meals are indulgent; rarely are they quick. A number include ingredients that need to be ordered online. Yet this collection sizzles with possibility. Even among a roster of complex dishes, simplicity shines through in the easily replicable Sour Pickles, Potato Chips or a Big Batch of Bloodys. The recipes are odes to regions and spices, both sense-awakening and surprising. --Katie Weed, freelance writer and reviewer

Discover: Re-create flashy, fabulous or classic meals from Portland's beloved Tasty restaurants at home.

Sasquatch Books, $29.95, hardcover, 288p., 9781632171023

Biography & Memoir

Cuz: The Life and Times of Michael A.

by Danielle Allen


It's not an uncommon story: a young black man gets in trouble with the law and takes a public defender's recommended plea to avoid a stiff sentence. After a decade in prison, he returns to an unfamiliar world as an adult unable to assimilate and support himself. Another arrest, another ticket to prison--and so it goes, until he is either killed or ends up serving a sentence extending long into old age. For Michael Allen, the endgame was a violent death on a street in Los Angeles at age 29. But in his case, he had help from his older cousin Danielle Allen, a high-achieving elite college dean who clawed her way up from similar working-poor family roots. She observes, "There was no one else. Someone's always gotta be the safety net, and it was my at bat."

With her considerable resources and resolve, Allen guided Michael through enrollment and financial support at Valley Community College, helped him secure a job at a local Sears warehouse, led him through the DMV maze for a driver's license and found him an affordable studio apartment near his job and school. Cuz is her story of Michael's short life and her failed attempt to save him. As Allen (Education and Equality, Our Declaration) shares memories of growing up with Michael, she speculates about what went wrong. How did she earn advanced degrees and professional success while he got busted for an attempted carjacking?

Very personal, Cuz sheds light on an environment that creates too many tragedies and not enough triumphs--too many Michaels and not enough Danielles. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: Danielle Allen uncovers discomforting facts about her family, instabilities in the African American experience and the inadequate U.S. criminal justice system.

Liveright, $24.95, hardcover, 256p., 9781631493119

Science

Darwin's Backyard: How Small Experiments Led to a Big Theory

by James T. Costa


Great scientists are often famous for one or two projects out of a lifetime of study. Charles Darwin is best known for the voyage of the Beagle, which he took in his 20s, and for his book On the Origin of Species. Biologist and author James T. Costa offers a more domestic view of Darwin's life and work in Darwin's Backyard, looking at his systematic explorations of the natural world in the context of his childhood and adult family life, his friends and neighbors and the larger scientific community of his day. At the end of each chapter, Costa provides Darwinesque experiments on seeds, plants, barnacles and earthworms, among other subjects.

Darwin comes across as a charmingly enthusiastic and curious character in this illustrated biography, which includes a college friend's early cartoon of him going beetle hunting, perched astride a giant beetle and waving a butterfly net. This is an unusual look at the daily creative life of a great scientist, with opportunities to dig in and observe the workings of nature first hand using methods very similar to his own. The reading level is high, but the experiments could be done by any sufficiently interested person over the age of 10, or modified by teachers. Costa provides clear instructions, supply lists, resources for unusual materials and suggestions for further reading. "Darwin's approaches were varied... rarely meeting modern standards of rigid experimental design. But for all that, Darwin managed to learn an awful lot about how the world works. And it all began in that smelly boyhood laboratory at the bottom of the garden." --Sara Catterall

Discover: This is a biography of Darwin's lesser known, lifelong studies of the natural world, with well-constructed sample experiments for readers to conduct themselves.

W.W. Norton, $27.95, hardcover, 464p., 9780393239898

Children's & Young Adult

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus

by Dusti Bowling


Aven Green's missing arms have never been an issue for her or her family. Adopted as a two-year-old, her parents taught her to be a "problem-solving ninja" so that she could do everything people with arms can do. At home in Kansas, Aven is sociable, athletic (soccer is her game) and a prankster. When her father accepts an offer to run Stagecoach Pass, a western-themed amusement park in Arizona, she's not thrilled at the idea of having to make new friends. Sure enough, her new middle school is a challenge. When she meets Connor, a boy with Tourette syndrome, the two immediately bond over the way people behave around them. "They just act weird around me," Aven says, "like they don't know whether to look or not, to ask about it or not. But no one has talked to me like I'm an actual person." When they find a strange room in the park with boxes of intriguing old papers, they join forces to investigate the whereabouts of the mysterious, unseen Stagecoach Pass owner.

Dusti Bowling's story of a regular, hugely likable kid who deals with her unusual challenges with grace and humor is pitch-perfect. Aven and her friends have hilarious conversations (for example, when she and Connor meet: "'I would shake your hand, but....' He motioned toward my armless area, blinking his eyes rapidly and barking as he did so. 'But you have horrible warts all over your hands,' I said.") but it's their empathy and warmth that win the day. Sitting under her favorite centuries-old saguaro cactus, Aven realizes that she may be "an entirely insignificant event in the life of this cactus," but her life does matter, in all its painful, sweet, awkward glory. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor

Discover: In this charming, funny middle-grade novel, a 13-year-old girl with no arms deals with insensitive peers and a mystery when she moves to a western-themed amusement park in Arizona.

Sterling, $14.95, hardcover, 272p., ages 8-12, 9781454923459

Mr. Crum's Potato Predicament

by Anne Renaud, illus. by Felicita Sala


Québécoise author Anne Renaud (Missuk's Snow Geese) and Italian illustrator Felicita Sala team up for a crisp, delightful envisioning of the birth of that American culinary classic, the potato chip.

In 1850s Saratoga Springs, N.Y., customers flock to Crum's Place to devour delicacies cooked by George Crum, shown flipping a flapjack with smiling poise, and served by cheery-cheeked, flame-haired waitress Gladys. Known for his sense of humor as well as his kitchen skills, Crum finds himself flummoxed when he meets "finicky, persnickety" customer Filbert P. Horsefeathers, resplendent in a purple-plumed top hat, polka-dotted cravat and sunflower boutonniere. Filbert sends back three plates, complaining his potatoes are too thick, too bland and undercooked. Deciding to have a little fun with the demanding diner, George sends a plate of finely shaved, crispy-fried spuds, but the joke happily backfires when Filbert adores the creation, and so Crum's Crisp Crispies--potato chips--are born.

Mr. Crum's Potato Predicament showcases American humor and ingenuity at its finest. Studded with playful phrases like "prickly porcupine pie," Renaud's vivacious vocabulary builder of a story sings alongside Sala's feather-soft watercolor and pencil depictions of George, who was of African American and Native American descent, ruddy-faced Filbert and a full house of diverse customers. An afterword to this "fictional tale with a helping of truth" explains that Crum's legend has roots in reality, even if no single cook can take credit for the chip. Readers age five through nine will giggle at this mischievous morsel. Bet you can't read it just once! --Jaclyn Fulwood, youth services manager, Main Branch, Dayton Metro Library

Discover: A deliciously funny take on the legend of George Crum, often credited with the invention of the potato chip.

Kids Can Press, $17.99, hardcover, 40p., ages 5-9, 9781771386197

Genuine Fraud

by E. Lockhart


"This isn't a movie about a girl who breaks up with her undermining boyfriend... It's not about some great white hetero hero who loves a woman he needs to save or teams up with a lesser-powered woman in a skintight suit. I am the center of the story now, Jule said to herself.... I am the center."

Jule West Williams believes in being hard physically and emotionally. She has several origin stories, but the one she prefers "to any other story she might tell about herself" paints her as the child of murdered secret agents, a skilled agent herself.

Jule tells herself she's powerful and safe, hiding under bravado and secret identities how small and scared she really is. She finds herself drawn to another orphan, the beautiful, wealthy and mercurial Imogen (Immie). Told in two timelines (one linear over the course of a few days, the other in backwards skips and hops over several months), it is clear from the first chapter that something is not quite right with the protagonist, and there's something amiss with the way the girls interact, with how Jule has braided their lives together. But the broken up and ever-rewinding timeline paired with Jule's own unreliable narration makes her difficult to decode.

E. Lockhart's (We Were Liars) Genuine Fraud is a young adult thriller with nods to The Talented Mr. Ripley, The Man in the Rockefeller Suit and Great Expectations. Readers will be engrossed as they wind their way through Jule's gnarled narration eventually to find the truth. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: Jule is a master of deception who uses her skills to keep herself safe and strong in this twisty thriller.

Delacorte, $18.99, hardcover, 288p., ages 13-up, 9780385744775

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Author Buzz

Dear Reader,

Cass, the singularly reliable wife and mother in POISON, has a blissful marriage...until she begins to suspect that her husband may be trying to kill her. But when she takes action to save herself and her children, no one believes her. 

I wrote POISON as both a suspenseful thriller and a cautionary tale to promote discussion and to keep you riveted. Please write trademarketing@stmartins.com for a chance to win one of five copies.

-Galt Niederhoffer
https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250085290

 

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Publisher:
St. Martin's Press 

Pub Date:
Nov. 21, 2017

ISBN:
9781250085290

List Price: $26.99

 

Dear Reader,

Archeologist Nick Randall searches for the lost city of Vilcabamba. Hidden deep in the Amazon, he believes it holds proof that his controversial theories are true. When he disappears, his daughter Samantha must set aside her own career to search for him. But someone else seeks him as well. Francis Dumond, a shadowy man with unlimited resources, will stop at nothing to find him first. 

THE RUINS, is a 2015 Adventure Writers Competition semi-finalist. Readers Favorite says, “Robert Rapoza has constructed an elder statesman/action hero worthy of Pierce Brosnan or Liam Neeson.”

Email authorrobertrapoza@gmail.com with the subject line "The Ruins Giveaway" to win one of five signed copies. 

Robert Rapoza
www.robertrapoza.com

 

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Publisher:
Ravenswood Publishing  

Pub Date:
Sept. 1, 2017

ISBN:
9781975898755

List Price: $13.99

 

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