Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, October 31, 2017


From My Shelf

Timber Press: The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder: The Frontier Landscapes That Inspired the Little House Books by Marta McDowell

Imagine: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band: The Album, the Beatles, and the World in 1967 by Brian Southall

Toil and Trouble

Witches pop up everywhere in October. Ghoulish old women on brooms dangle from house eaves and costume shops are full with warty pickle noses, pointed hats and portable plastic cauldrons. These witches of Halloween are still painted as malevolent cranks, cackling and hexing folks willy-nilly.

Historian Ronald Hutton gives context to some enduringly hostile perspectives of witches in The Witch: A History of Fear, from Ancient Times to the Present (Yale). Hutton's exhaustive book explores historical histrionics that resulted in violence against (predominately) women accused of witchcraft. There are several global examples, but Hutton focuses on the British perspective, which offers hefty background for the fictional five generations of hereditary witches in Louisa Morgan's novel A Secret History of Witches (Redhook). This page-turning genealogy follows the women of the Orchiére family line as they pass down their craft along with the unfortunate possibility of meeting a violent end, similar to those chronicled by Hutton. The ethics lessons underlying the Orchiére family's most dramatic encounters, together with the devastating hardships the women endure, make room for moral subjectivity that challenges the stale good witch-bad witch trope.

Alice Hoffman also deals with the power of will and responsibility in her family novel The Rules of Magic (Simon & Schuster). This prequel to her bestseller Practical Magic follows siblings Franny, Jet and Vincent as they learn to accept their magical inheritance and challenge the fallibility of fate.

The non-sensationalized daily magic and the struggle to exist outside convention is what Taisia Kitaiskaia honors in her celebration of 30 women authors, Literary Witches (Seal Press). Kitaiskaia crafts mythological identities for each author in this wonderfully broad collection spanning Emily Dickinson to Octavia Butler to Sappho and Mirabai, each illustrated by Katy Horan and elevating witches from warty Halloween decorations to visionary and inspirational literary icons. --Kristianne Huntsberger, partnership marketing manager at Shelf Awareness


Crown Publishing Group: Artemis by Andy Weir


Book Candy

Happy Halloween!

Halloween last call: "Sarah Perry, Jeanette Winterson, Mark Haddon and other writers put a new spin on the traditional ghost story with tales set in English Heritage properties," the Guardian noted. Quirk Books imagined "literary covens as bona fide witches." Newsweek introduced Shelley, "a program made by the MIT Media Lab that uses human input to write short horror stories."

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Stephen King's books "are all connected to each other, and it's honestly terrifying," according to Bustle.

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Pop quiz: "Which Roald Dahl book represents you best?" Buzzfeed challenged.

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Mental Floss unshelved "15 children's books no one reads now."

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Modern times: Electric Lit highlighted "8 pieces of modern technology that science fiction predicted--or invented." And the New Statesman considered "how the 25 greatest stories ever told would be ruined by technology."


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


The Writer's Life

Colleen Hoover: Self-Made Writer

photo: Chad Griffith

Colleen Hoover is the author of 14 novels and winner of the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Romance twice--for Confess in 2015 and It Ends with Us in 2016. Confess was adapted into a seven-episode online series. In 2015, Hoover and her family founded The Bookworm Box, a monthly subscription service offering signed novels donated by authors; all profits go to various charities. Hoover lives in Texas with her husband and their three boys. Her new novel, Without Merit (Atria), is reviewed below.

Within the last decade, the genre term New Adult was coined to denote fiction similar to young adult but published and marketed to adults. One of the writers credited with creating this genre is Colleen Hoover, who started her writing career in the most unexpected of circumstances.

Inspired by some song lyrics, Hoover began what she thought would be a short story. She recalled, "I would let the girls I worked with read it. My boss at the time would beg me to write on my lunch break and finish the chapter." Hoover had conceded to her day job in social work when she believed her lifelong dream of writing a book was futile. Married with small children and bills to pay, she dropped her college writing major for something she thought would be more lucrative. She said, "I found an old MySpace post a couple years ago that I wrote back in 2005. It talked about how I did a lot of research on what authors make and how long it takes to write a book. I wrote, 'I'm just going to let this dream go; it's never going to happen; I'm stressing myself out because I haven't done it yet, so I'm going to focus on my kids and not worry about it.' I think letting that go and not making it my life goal kind of helped me. Then there was no pressure."

Also helping her were the colleagues who eagerly awaited the next chapters. Hoover wasn't striving for anything grand with her story, she said, "it was just something fun I was doing for [my friends]; I got a big kick out of it because they were enjoying something I wrote." The final important component in transforming her "fun" pastime into the New York Times bestselling title Slammed was her grandmother's 2011 Christmas present. She explained, "My grandmother had gotten a Kindle and we couldn't figure out how to get the story I wrote onto it. I did some research online, and 30 minutes later I had it on Amazon. It was just a Word document I uploaded with their pre-created cover." Once the e-book was listed, Hoover decided it wouldn't hurt to let others know. "I posted on Facebook and a few of my friends downloaded it; they read it, shared it with their friends, and it just kind of snowballed. I didn't put a penny into marketing. Five months later it hit the New York Times simply by word of mouth. It was insane."

Slammed's success ignited her second book, Point of Retreat, and before Hoover knew what hit her, she had two books on the New York Times bestseller list. Readers were not the only people taking notice: "I started getting calls from publishers, and I didn't have an agent at the time. I didn't know what to expect or what offers to entertain." Uncertain as to whether she could continue to deliver books--and whether she wanted to relinquish control of her writing--Hoover shied away from commitments for manuscripts not yet written. Atria bought the paperback rights to Slammed and Point of Retreat without requiring anything further. She self-published her third book, Hopeless, and again sold the paperback rights to Atria. This time, though, they won her over: "I really, really loved them. My editor was just great. So I've done everything with them since and I couldn't be happier."

The most recent book Hoover has written for Atria is Without Merit, the story of Merit, a teenage girl in a dysfunctional family who comes to the end of her rope with all her family's lies. In the past, Hoover has said that she inadvertently puts herself into all of her characters. Merit is the exception to that rule, though. Hoover explained, "There's not a lot of me in her. I had a very--I wouldn't say perfect but close to perfect--childhood. Growing up I had a great relationship with my sisters and my parents; we didn't keep secrets; we were very open. I wrote her almost as the opposite of my teenage self."

While Merit may not have much in common with her creator, the strange home she lives in--a former church--has some ties to Hoover, who said, "We recently built a house. When we went to the builders, the first thing I said was, 'I want an ugly house. I want the inside to have everything I want, but the outside I just want a rectangle building.' Once they built it, I realized, 'this looks exactly like a church. All we're missing is the steeple.' So we kind of joke that our house is our church." Merit's family may have some unconscious parallels to Hoover's as well: "We live in a small town in conservative East Texas. I've lived here my whole life, but somehow came out a very hardcore liberal. I get along with everyone, but it's kind of funny that we're the crazy liberal family with the scary clown head hanging on the living room wall."

Crazy just may be the secret in Hoover's writing recipe. Some might find her nontraditional approaches unusual, but who can argue when they work so well? She's included music, illustrations and slam poetry in her stories; adapted a book for an online series; and views technology as a way to enhance books: "We have so much more at our fingertips to experience reading in a whole new way. I think we're just at that beginning." And for someone who credits technology for her success, this attitude is fitting. Hoover added, "I feel like if it weren't for Facebook and social media, I wouldn't have a career in writing."

Colleen Hoover definitely has a strong career with momentum and many fans behind her. Despite the continued success and the publication of Without Merit, her 14th novel, she said, "Every day I still wonder, 'How did this happen?' " Maybe it's partly what she attributes the New Adult credit to: "Good timing and good luck." But there's also plenty of talent in the mix as well. --Jen Forbus, freelancer


Parting Shot by Linwood Barclay


Book Review

Fiction

Fresh Complaint: Stories

by Jeffrey Eugenides


Though he's produced only three novels in nearly 25 years, with a Pulitzer Prize to his credit for 2002's Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides's literary credentials are impeccable. It comes as good news, then, that he's finally delivered a collection of career-spanning short stories, Fresh Complaint.

Eugenides has an affinity for characters whose lives are marked by longing for something more, a feeling that leads them into behavior that's foolish at best and self-destructive at worst. That's true of Charlie, the protagonist of "Find the Bad Guy," whose marriage of two decades to a German woman to secure her green card--"love at fifteenth sight, I guess you'd call it"--crumbles after his brief affair with a teenage babysitter. That scenario is echoed, but with an interesting perspective on the subject of romantic love, in the collection's title story, when Matthew, a visiting professor from England, encounters a young Indian American woman desperate to escape her family's plan for an arranged marriage.

In "Baster," Tomasina, a successful network news producer, reaches the age of 40 childless. Surveying the "ragtag gang of adulterers and losers, hit-and-run types, village burners" who might serve as a partner, she takes matters into her own hands. When Wally Mars, a former lover and the story's narrator, arrives at Tomasina's "Insemination Party," the evening takes a touching and entirely fitting turn.

Every one of the stories of Fresh Complaint offers a complete and satisfying reading experience. One hopes Jeffrey Eugenides doesn't wait another 30 years to produce a collection of stories this full of life. --Harvey Freedenberg, attorney and freelance reviewer

Discover: Jeffrey Eugenides's first short fiction collection offers an assortment of revealing snapshots of human frailty.

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $27, hardcover, 304p., 9780374203061

Graphic Arts Books: Build It! Robots and Build It! Farm Animals: Make Supercool Models with Your Favorite Lego Parts by Jennifer Kemmeter


The Last Ballad

by Wiley Cash


Based on actual events, Wiley Cash's third novel, The Last Ballad, relates the story of Ella May Wiggins and the early fight for unions in the North Carolina Appalachian region. Cash, as in his previous novels, deftly employs multiple voices to recount a story about the violent struggle for workers' rights and the tragedy of Wiggins's murder.

Mother of four with a fifth on the way, Wiggins works nights in a textile mill to support her family. Earning $9 a week, the white woman labors and lives alongside African Americans in abject poverty. Abandoned by her husband, Wiggins can't stay home to care for her sick child without the threat of losing her job. So when she learns of a union rally, she risks attending and dares to hope for a better life. Wiggins's story and her singing talent quickly turn her into the movement's poster child. The mill owners, however, have no intention of allowing the "bloody red flag of Communism" to fly over their businesses; they will stop the union efforts whatever the cost.

Cash (A Land More Kind than Home; This Dark Road to Mercy) juxtaposes the beauty of Wiggins's love and devotion--to her family and to her black friends and neighbors--against the hideousness of racism, classism and hate in 1929 North Carolina. These contradictions illuminate the novel's intense sense of place as much as the compelling physical details. Told with grace and compassion, The Last Ballad is an enthralling narrative and a powerful reminder of the immense sacrifices made for workers in the United States. --Jen Forbus, freelancer

Discover: A woman struggling to keep her family afloat takes up the fight for unionization of the textile mills in 1929 North Carolina.

Morrow, $26.99, hardcover, 384p., 9780062313119

Amberjack Publishing: The Splendid Baron Submarine (Bizarre Baron Inventions #2) by Eric Bower


The Iliac Crest

by Cristina Rivera Garza, trans. by Sarah Booker


Translated from the Spanish by Sarah Booker, The Iliac Crest by Cristina Rivera Garza is a slim volume that pushes the boundaries of the male-female spectrum, mental health and the stories one tells oneself and others. Two women visit an unidentified male narrator, a doctor who lives by the ocean; one is a former lover, the other a stranger who instills desire and fear in the narrator. Both women settle into a comfortable routine, leaving the doctor to ponder past, present and future aspects of his life. When these two women state they know his biggest secret--that he is in fact a woman--the narrator begins a downward spiral into a state of mental confusion and anxiety that pushes him to perform acts he might otherwise avoid.

Garza's work draws heavily on the writings of Amparo Dávila, a Mexican author whose female protagonists often have mental illnesses. These often lead to violent and dangerous scenarios. Other themes both writers explore are death, ghosts and time. In The Iliac Crest, ghosts are prevalent. Time ebbs and flows between past and future--reflected in the motions of the ocean, a setting the narrator is drawn to time and again.

Although modest in length, Garza's creative piece is a complex puzzle that might take multiple readings to unravel fully. A background in Amparo Dávila's work would be useful, but it is certainly not necessary, as an afterword by Elena Poniatowska helps clarify some of their shared themes. Despite the novel's brevity, Booker's translation makes clear the intricate and delicate poetic dance Garza crafts among the three main characters. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

Discover: A complex tale of time, death and identity written by an outstanding Mexican woman is now available in English.

Feminist Press, $16.95, paperback, 200p., 9781558614352

Workman Publishing: Wild: Endangered Animals in Living Motion by Dan Kainen and Kathy Wollard


Mystery & Thriller

Lost Luggage

by Wendall Thomas


Fans of Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum are sure to adore Cyd Redondo, Brooklyn, N.Y., travel agent extraordinaire, who has never been further than New Jersey. Cyd works for her uncle's agency, specializing in package tours for retired vacationers. She is desperate to travel and escape her mundane life, where the only recent excitement was the death of the neighboring pet store owner. After meeting a handsome man named Roger at a travel conference in Atlantic City, Cyd can't resist asking him to be her plus one when she wins a safari to Tanzania.

But plans for a romantic vacation with Roger go awry when they arrive in Africa to discover that some of the elderly clients she'd booked on this same tour have been arrested. Then, inexplicably, Roger disappears with their luggage. Cyd Redondo of Redondo Travel can't let that slide, and sets off on a mission to save her clients from prison and figure out what happened to Roger. Soon she's knee-deep in poachers, smuggled animals and vegan tour guides as she staggers through the jungle in her stilettos on her quest for the truth.

Laugh-out-loud funny and enchantingly ridiculous, Lost Luggage, first in a series by Wendell Thomas, is a highly entertaining peek into the world of smuggling and the lengths people will go to for money. Cyd's spunky attitude and Brooklyn twang might bewilder the Tanzanians she meets, but the funny scenarios that surround her will have readers roaring. --Jessica Howard, bookseller at Bookmans, Tucson, Ariz.

Discover: This funny mystery stars a cheeky Brooklyn travel agent who accidentally gets involved in smuggling rare animals in Tanzania.

Poisoned Pen Press, $15.95, paperback, 258p., 9781464208928

Algonquin Books: Strangers in Budapest by Jessica Keener


Science Fiction & Fantasy

The Power

by Naomi Alderman


Winner of the 2017 Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction in the U.K., Naomi Alderman's (The Liars' Gospel) sci-fi thriller The Power asks how humanity's oldest balance of power would shift if women suddenly had strength beyond that of men.

After the Day of the Girls, the world is never the same again. Video online shows teenage girls delivering electrical shocks with their bare hands that can leave a grown man crying in agony. Soon the isolated incidents become widespread as young women all over the globe discover the power of the skein, an extra organ that lies along the collarbones and discharges electricity. The power awakens in girls everywhere. Soon governments and families must accept that the power is the new reality. Over the coming years, it will change religions, borders and the order of human society.

Ostensibly the manuscript of a historical novel by a far-future male author, the story is bookended by letters between the humble writer and his condescending female editor, who calls him "you saucy boy" and patronizes the quaint idea of a patriarchal society as "a kinder, more caring and--dare I say it?--more sexy world."

Alderman has built a suspenseful thrill ride filled with deep, contrasting female leads on a scaffolding of philosophical questions about how different men and women are at heart. Reminiscent of the work of Alderman's mentor Margaret Atwood, The Power is perfect for book clubs, where readers will undoubtedly debate the finer points of nature versus nurture and whether a power shift can reverse a lifetime of socialization in middle-aged women. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Discover: When the world wakes up one day to find that women possess the power to electrocute with a touch, human society changes forever.

Little, Brown, $26, hardcover, 400p., 9780316547611

Crown Publishing Group: Artemis by Andy Weir


Romance

Without Merit

by Colleen Hoover


Merit Voss collects trophies. Not awards she's won, but discarded prizes found at thrift stores or garage sales. She rewards herself when something bad happens by purchasing these mementos: her boyfriend breaks up with her, she fails her driving test, her parents divorce. Given the level of dysfunction in the Voss family, her trophy collection is large.

The seven Vosses live in a former church they refer to as Dollar Voss. There's a marquee in the front yard and an eight-foot-tall statue of Jesus Christ hanging inside. As if that wasn't odd enough, Merit, her twin sister, Honor, and older brother, Utah, live with their father, stepmother and half-brother, while their agoraphobic mother resides in the church basement.

Within the walls of Dollar Voss roam the family's dark secrets. When the household expands--Honor's boyfriend and the stepmother's brother move in--the secrets pile up even higher. Day by day they weigh Merit down until she can't bear the load any longer, and she decides to leave. In her wake, she'll expose everyone's secrets. However, even the best-laid plans don't always work out the way they're intended; Merit's implodes.

Colleen Hoover (It Ends with Us) deftly elicits empathy from her audience for a narrator who could easily be unlikable if viewed only from the surface. Merit's complexity, confusion and sense of isolation pull readers to her and encourage them to look deeply into her character, to see everything she's desperately protecting. Engrossing and compelling, Without Merit beautifully illustrates the power of relationships and honesty. --Jen Forbus, freelancer

Discover: A teenage girl is driven to the edge by her dysfunctional family's overwhelming secrets and lies.

Atria, $25, hardcover, 384p., 9781501179761

Biography & Memoir

Admissions: Life as a Brain Surgeon

by Henry Marsh


At age 67, Henry Marsh (Do No Harm), a leading British neurosurgeon, has dying on his mind. He's heading toward retirement, his father had dementia and, as a doctor, Marsh is more aware than most of the fragility of life and the capriciousness of death.

In 2014, Marsh bought a derelict cottage on a canal, with the aim of fixing it up as a woodworking space: "Now that I am retiring, I am starting all over again... but now I am running out of time." He still has a few weeks to go at work, so on a Monday morning, he worries about finding a bed for a patient scheduled for surgery--no bed, no surgery. As Marsh ruminates on the quality of today's health care, he rails at the current medical climate that calls for operating needlessly to maintain life, when doing so results in the "cruel and obscene joke" of vegetative states. He says, "Our moral duty in life is to reduce suffering."

He seasons the book with chapters on his parents, woodworking (he's disappointed that he's run out of tools to buy) and childhood. There is plenty of clinical detail, however, for the medically inclined. He writes, "I had always loved my work, even though it was so often painful." That love is clear in Admissions. In spite of frequent dark musings, he takes joy in his craft, in his family, his friends and his cottage on the canal. He may have dying on his mind, but he still has much to do and much to give. --Marilyn Dahl

Discover: On the eve of retirement, Henry Marsh takes stock of his life as a leading British neurosurgeon, writing passionately and candidly about his profession.

Thomas Dunne Books, $26.99, hardcover, 288p., 9781250127266

History

Chasing Phil: The Adventures of Two Undercover Agents with the World's Most Charming Con Man

by David Howard


In 1977, two ambitious young agents in the Gary, Ind., FBI office stumbled on a potential career-making lead to bring down the swashbuckling financial swindler Phil Kitzer. Jim "J.J." Wedick and Jack Brennan had little in common except a drive to climb the Bureau ladder. Fast-talking Kitzer convinced financially desperate small business marks that his various shell banks would provide the funds they needed--for a fee. By the time the shady paper he arranged was exposed as worthless, he had moved on to a new sham bank and new victims. At the time, the FBI was into old-school crimes like kidnapping, extortion and interstate stick-ups. White-collar crime and undercover agents with wiretaps didn't get the big federal bucks.

Chasing Phil is the story of how Wedick and Brennan broke out of the FBI administrative handcuffs to weasel into Kitzer's global circle of financial con men called "The Fraternity"--and got convictions on 50 of them. David Howard (Lost Rights) has combed trial archives and newspaper stories, and interviewed many of the key players. He sketches the late nights of booze, broads and high-end dinners where Kitzer worked out his scams and schemes. As Wedick and Brennan become more deeply enmeshed in Kitzer's world, the crimes escalate from two-bit cons to million-dollar fraudulent international bonds. The FBI takes notice and bumps the investigation to Major Case Number One. When the FBI finally pulls the trigger on Kitzer after eight months of undercover work, Wedick and Brennan are relieved--but sad to see their adventure close. A colorful bad guy is always more interesting than an office full of suits. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: The story of how two ambitious FBI agents from Gary, Ind., took down the biggest white-collar con man of the 1970s is exhilarating and cinematic.

Crown, $28, hardcover, 384p., 9781101907429

Essays & Criticism

Forgetfulness: Making the Modern Culture of Amnesia

by Francis O'Gorman


In Forgetfulness, British thinker Francis O'Gorman aims to distill many of the problems of modernity into a single cause. The trouble with our current age, O'Gorman claims, is that humans now solely focus on the future, without properly tending to the past or understanding what that future might truly entail.

O'Gorman delves into the roots of Western culture for a different kind of cultural schema, arriving at the Grecian notion of citizen and family member. The Greeks worshipped their ancestors, keeping the history of their family and city as part of their everyday lives. When monotheistic religion arrived, however, with its focus on a world to come, the future outstripped the past and the West began to succumb to cultural forgetfulness. Tracing that phenomenon into contemporary culture, O'Gorman dissects everything from the English novel to "personal growth plans" at work, showing that global capitalism and art have intensified modernity's fixation on the future. But, he rightfully points out, there is no end game for the forward push of art or economy: a company continues to grow and make profit, while art always searches for the fresh and new.

O'Gorman's eye is keen and his words sharp as he picks apart much of modern life, but he doesn't provide easy solutions. He is well aware that the problems he raises are possibly too vast and far-gone to be dealt with on a cultural scale. Instead, he hopes to instill the reader with an interest in personal remembrance, in not so easily buying into a future that won't ever really come. --Noah Cruickshank, adult engagement manager, the Field Museum, Chicago, Ill.

Discover: British writer Francis O'Gorman elegantly considers the modern age through the lens of memory.

Bloomsbury Academic, $19.95, hardcover, 200p., 9781501324697

Psychology & Self-Help

Mental: Lithium, Love, and Losing My Mind

by Jaime Lowe


Lithium makes fireworks red, makes batteries charge and makes music journalist Jaime Lowe lead a normal life. In her memoir, Mental, Lowe recounts living with bipolar disorder and examines the enigmatic medication that saved her. At 16, after a manic episode during which she received messages from Michael Jackson and the Muppets, she was hospitalized and given lithium, the favored element of Kurt Cobain, ancient Romans and worldwide spa-goers. As she grows up, moves to New York and works in media, the little pink pills are a constant in her life--until she stops taking them, descends back into mania and is forced to rebuild her relationships and career after she (literally) burns them down. When Lowe later learns that the drug that keeps her mind in check is harming her body, she goes on a journey to hot springs, salt flats and academic conferences to learn more about her psychotropic savior.

Lowe researches her own life through her journal, her therapist's notes and interviews with friends and family, in a way that's reminiscent of David Carr's The Night of the Gun. With humor and rapid-fire prose, she brings the reader into the bliss and grandiosity of a psychotic episode, an experience more intense than drugs. Then, she explains the aftershock: how it feels not to be trusted and not trust yourself, and the guilt of somewhat missing her fearless, thrilled, manic self. Mental is fascinating, shocking, heartbreaking and fun to read. --Katy Hershberger, freelance writer and publicist

Discover: In her raw and captivating memoir, Jaime Lowe explores lithium and mental illness.

Blue Rider Press, $28, hardcover, 320p., 9780399574498

Children's & Young Adult

Silent Days, Silent Dreams

by Allen Say


Boise, Idaho, is home to the James Castle Collection and Archive, commemorating an internationally renowned local artist who lived most of his 78 years in isolation. The sleek building stands in sharp contrast to the artist's actual lifetime studios: an attic, an abandoned chicken shed and a two-room trailer. "Deaf, mute, autistic and probably dyslexic," James survived childhood trauma and elevated his silent life by teaching himself to create stupendous art from salvaged materials.

Despite being one of seven children, James was mostly alone. His first, brief attempt at schooling left him forever "afraid of strangers." His father locked him in the attic to counter his only means of communication--"piercing screams of frustration." Using trash paper found around his family's farm, he used burnt matchsticks to draw. He survived five years at the Idaho School for the Deaf and the Blind, but was deemed "ineducable" at 15; the principal sent James home with warnings to deny him all drawing materials. James prevailed, stealing chimney soot, mixing it with his spit to draw, again on trash paper. His persistence never waned: "James drew everything he saw." Decades later, his nephew, Bob--"the only one he ever allowed in his studio"--would become James's messenger to the outside world.

Caldecott Medalist Allen Say's empathy moves beyond words, as he "emulat[es James's] unschooled style" by using similar methods, including soot and spit, and mimicking James's "unsteady lines" by switching from his dominant right hand to his left. Say's illuminating author's note provides indelible testimony to the metamorphic power of art as he transforms James's Silent Days, Silent Dreams into resonating homage and spectacular storytelling. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon

Discover: Allen Say presents the difficult, bittersweet life of self-taught artist James Castle, who used discarded, found materials to capture the world around him.

Arthur L. Levine/Scholastic, $21.99, hardcover, 64p., ages 8-12, 9780545927611

Beasts Made of Night

by Tochi Onyebuchi


To craft the gripping fantasy world of Tochi Onyebuchi's debut novel, Beasts Made of Night, he takes the age-old idea of the haves and the have nots, adds a dose of magic, sprinkles in action and intrigue, then tops it all with a deliciously complex character on his path of self-discovery.

In the walled city of Kos live Mages who wield the power to extract sin from people. The sin-holder is then purified and the sin itself becomes a beast that must be killed and Eaten. The slave-like aki are the only ones who possess the power to Eat the sin-beasts (inisisa). The Mages demand high prices to withdraw sin but then cheat the aki, who consume the inisisa and wear the beasts' images on their skin. In Kos, these tattoos are signs of shame.

Taj, a cocky, talented young aki, describes the arrival of one such tattoo after he slays a sin-dragon: "I know that wings are spreading across my shoulders and sharp claws are burning down my arms to curl around my biceps. I squirm on the pallet as the tattoo of the dragon's neck and head form on the back of my own neck." After defeating a particularly vicious inisisa extracted from the king of Kos, Taj finds himself entangled in a sinister plot to destroy the city. Taj must cut himself off from his fellow aki, team up with a smart, young Mage and find a way to defeat the evil forces or everything he cares about will be ravaged.

Beasts Made of Night is an intense novel that touches on powerful themes of justice, inequality and family. Onyebuchi's inventive realm, combined with the Nigerian influences, ink the reader's soul and are certain to leave a lasting mark on the young adult canon as well. --Jen Forbus, freelancer

Discover: In a world where the richest can pay to live sin-free, the poor must bear the burden of their transgressions, imprinted on their skin and carried in their minds.

Razorbill, $17.99, hardcover, 304p., ages 12-up, 9780448493909

Parting Shot
by Linwood Barclay
ISBN-13: 9780385690232
Doubleday Canada
10/31/2017


an exclusive interview with bestselling author Linwood Barclay
 

In PARTING SHOT, the latest release in the Promise Fall series, a key issue is trial by social media and its attendant behaviors. You seem like the perfect author to take it on, since you’ve admitted you’re a key user.

 “I’m on it countless times every day, particularly Twitter. I like it, but this new online world has a very dark side. The sickest people have been able to crawl out from under their rocks far enough to reach a keyboard. There has always  been bullying, but it can be done on a grand scale now.” And even when bullying is not necessarily at the heart of every matter, he does question the quality of opinion and judgment. The Internet has little room for nuance. You’re wonderful, or you’re a monster. There’s not much in-between… I remember that woman who tweeted something tasteless as she boarded a plane to Africa and had lost her job by the time she’d landed. The world had turned against her during her flight.”

 Read the rest of the interview here.

 

ALSO FEATURED ON THE the big THRILL…

EVEN IF IT KILLS HER by KATE WHITE: Returning to her bestselling Bailey Weggins’ series, White tells the story of a true-crime journalist returning to her home town, and being confronted by a friend who 16 years ago lost her family to a killer, one whose conviction is being overturned by new DNA evidence. Read more at The Big Thrill.

THE MIDNIGHT LINE by LEE CHILD: In the latest of the powerhouse Jack Reacher novels, the action shifts to a small Wisconsin town, where spotting a class ring for West Point 2005 in a pawn shop window, motivates Reacher to find out why someone would give up such a precious ring, starting on a journey that turns dangerous fast. Find out more here.

COME HOME by PATRICIA GUSSIN: From the bestselling author with a background in medicine comes a thriller of a child town between two cultures and allegiances to two families, with lingering post-9/11 prejudice against Arab men and pressure from Egypt lead to tragic consequences no one could have foreseen. Learn more at The Big Thrill.

DYING TO LIVE by MICHAEL STANLEY: The sixth crime novel in the Detective Kabu series set in Botswana follows the discovery of a Bushman found dead and the revelation that the old man’s internal organs look remarkably young and that the corpse was stolen from the morgue, setting the investigation on a dark path. Visit The Big Thrill for more. 

Living on a farm with 400 goats and a cantankerous carnivore isn’t among vegan chef Brie Hooker’s list of lifetime ambitions, and when she stays at Aunt Eva’s farm, she makes some grisly discoveries, such as when the farm’s pot-bellied pig unearths the skull of Eva’s husband, who disappeared years back. Read more here.

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