Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, November 3, 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

Christmas Romances to Melt the Heart

Christmas--the season known to foster peace, love and good tidings of joy--is on the way. Sometimes, however, the sparkly cheer of intended amorous bliss sours at the most wonderful time of the year. Several new novels--stand-alones and additional installments of well-established series--offer feel-good stories of romantic dilemmas.

Elin Hilderbrand has expanded her trilogy of Christmas novels into a quartet with Winter Solstice, which reunites the extended Quinn family of Nantucket. This year, everyone is finally celebrating together under the same roof of the family-owned and -operated Winter Street Inn. But can the welcoming familial nest help resolve festering romantic entanglements, amid long-held traditions, heartfelt reunions and farewells?

A host of clever complications ensues in Merry and Bright by Debbie Macomber, where a single, 20-something office temp reluctantly pursues a new relationship after her well-meaning, but meddling mother and special needs brother set up an online dating profile for her during the holidays.

Ugly Christmas trees upend a whole community in Christmas in Icicle Falls by Sheila Roberts, where one resident in particular, a successful writer, learns that everything and everyone has potential--including an old, overlooked friend who just might hold the key to unexpected romance.

Sugar Pine Trail by RaeAnne Thayne centers on a kindhearted, single, small-town librarian who longs to create a sense of family for herself during Christmas. Her plans go awry when she falls for her tenant--a handsome, sexy, commitment-phobic pilot who has a notorious reputation with women.

In Sugarplum Way by Debbie Mason, the future of true love is tested. A surprising, passionate kiss under the mistletoe at the town Christmas party turns the life of a romance writer--in search of her own happily-ever-after--completely upside down. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines


Crown Publishing Group: Artemis by Andy Weir


Book Candy

A Home for Book Lovers and Cats

"A spacious yet cozy home designed for book lovers and cats" was showcased by Flavorwire.

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To mark the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther's 95 Theses that started the Reformation, author Peter Stanford picked his "top 10 Protestants in fiction" for the Guardian.

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"Here's the pitch publishers rejected when J.K. Rowling was trying to get Harry Potter published," Buzzfeed noted.

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"There are so many book releases." Bustle shared "7 reasons Fall is the absolute best season for reading."

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Mental Floss found "7 people who hated Pride and Prejudice."

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Lucia Grompone's Bücherthron (book throne), three wooden pieces of furniture, "offers your favorite books an exceptional home," Bookshelf noted.


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


The Writer's Life

Skottie Young: Reflecting on Artistic Freedom

Skottie Young is a comic book artist and writer who has worked with Neil Gaiman to illustrate several novels. Young collaborated with Eric Shanower to adapt the Wizard of Oz series into graphic novel format and drew Spider-Man, Human Torch and The New X-Men for Marvel Comics. He is currently writing and illustrating his own series, I Hate Fairyland, for Image Comics. Young lives in Illinois with his wife, two sons and two dogs.

You've adapted fairytale-themed comics with Neil Gaiman (Fortunately, the Milk) and with Eric Shanower (The Wonderful Wizard of Oz series). What drew you to the genre?

I grew up watching Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal and reading The Neverending Story and the Oz books. Then, somewhere along the way, Marvel approached me and said, "Hey, we thought it would be cool to adapt the Wizard of Oz novels." I started there, and it just never stopped.

Let's talk about your artistic approaches. How does your process differ when adapting scripts for Neil Gaiman and Eric Shanower from working on your own material?

Well, working with Neil was really interesting because that was him handing over the manuscript, and me really just going through it with a highlighter and finding all the things I wanted to draw in that book. He was an amazing collaborator. When I'd show him drawings, he'd say, "Brilliant!" There was never any "No, not that way" or "No, not this way." It was my interpretation, and he loved it. It was simple.

The I Hate Fairyland comics are my dream come true. It's me playing pretend on paper with no one else's input, and it doesn't get better than that.

Writer and illustrator Molly Ostertag has said that once she told her own stories, there was no going back to doing art for other writers.

Oh yes, for sure. Illustrating a novel is a little different because there is less drawing there and, again, it really depends. Neil is one of my favorite authors, so that's a whole other ball game than spending three or four years working with another writer after you've written your own stuff in comics. I can't go back now that I've done it all. I write and I draw these stories of mine, and that's what I'm going to do forever.

Even if Neil comes knocking on your door?

Not for a comic. It takes a long time to produce comics, so you really need it to be exactly what you intended. The best way for that to happen is for me to write it.

And how does the process on I Hate Fairyland differ from the superhero comics you've done?

It's freedom because it's mine. In a company like Image there is no oversight, there are no rules, and you can do whatever you want. That's the biggest difference. At Marvel, there's a brand they need to protect. It's on kids' shoes, backpacks, it's in movie theaters. That's a business all unto itself. When you decide to play a part in that, you have to respect it. I liken it to being able to take a Jeep onto an open field and drive however you like. Working on superheroes is like going out on a road with orange traffic cones. You're driving the car, and you're in control to a certain degree, but you're still being told where to go and where not to go. It's a difference in freedom, really.

How do you approach a typical issue of Fairyland?

The theme of the issue occurs to me first. When I finally get that, I usually sit in a room and think, "Oh, I want to do a samurai issue! How would I do that? What's that story? What kind of land would she go into? Oh, mushrooms have a samurai-esque feel, like a hat, so I'll start playing around with that." Then I write an initial script. Once I have a general concept, I write a full script for myself. That way I can get the jokes and the timing right, understand the pacing and dive into the drawing. That's where I spend the bulk of the time.

Would you let your kids read Fairyland?

My youngest is almost two and my oldest will be eight, so probably not yet, but soonish. It's definitely an ornery teen book.

Do you have any other projects in the hopper?

There is one other book that I've been chipping away at, but I can't say too much yet. I operate under this theme that if you tell your stories before you write them, your brain thinks you've told it and so your urgency to tell it is gone. --Nancy Powell, freelance writer and technical consultant


Parting Shot by Linwood Barclay


Book Review

Fiction

Queen of Spades

by Michael Shou-Yung Shum


Michael Shou-Yung Shum's modern interpretation of Alexander Pushkin's short story "The Queen of Spades" is a meticulously crafted tale that elevates the art of gambling to the metaphysical.
 
Shum follows the lives of one woman and three men who work at the Royal Casino: Arturo Chan, a new arrival in town who successfully auditions and earns a position as a poker dealer; Stephen Mannheim, the pit boss diagnosed with terminal dementia who hires Chan; Sam Chimsky, high-limit salon dealer with a large gambling debt to a local bookie; and Chimsky's ex-wife, Barbara, a former addict trying to maintain sobriety through a 12-step program even as Chimsky tests her willpower. The temptress whose path crosses with the four is the mysterious Countess, a wealthy gambler of the Royal whose mathematical precision at faro draws the four together. Her nightly presence at the high-limits salon becomes Chan's single-minded obsession and Chimsky's downfall.

Shum devised the plot based on his own experiences as a dealer and on the stories told to him by a fellow pit dealer, who in 1984 dealt one of the most impressive hands of faro in the 20th century. Shum writes with precision, but it is his power of observation that transforms Queen of Spades into a deeper rumination on avarice, willpower and the uncomfortable alliances forged at the gambling table. Games of chance become the canvas on which Shum examines the internal battle among personal motivation, personal redemption and despair.

Queen of Spades is an intelligent and engrossing debut. --Nancy Powell, freelance writer and technical consultant

Discover: A card game turns into an entertaining high-stakes battle of mathematical probability between dealers and players.

Forest Avenue Press, $15.95, paperback, 256p., 9781942436317

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


Pupcakes

by Annie England Noblin


Who better to welcome the holidays than a so-homely-he's-cute pug sporting a Santa hat and promising baked goods? In her third novel, Pupcakes, Annie England Noblin (Sit! Stay! Speak!) delivers a romance that's sweet and satisfying but not sticky.

In Brydie Benson's messy divorce, she lost not only her unfaithful husband but their jointly owned and operated bakery, too. Lonely and bereft, she moves to the neighboring city of Memphis, where her realtor best friend provides a house--with a caveat. The lovely old home is rent-free, but Brydie is now foster parent to Teddy Roosevelt, a lonely (and stubborn) pug. The owner of the house and the dog require Brydie to bring him for weekly nursing home visits. But in a series of delightful coincidences, Nathan, the handsome man with the rascal wolfhound Sasha at the dog park, is the nursing home's doctor, and the dogs (and their expanding pack of off-leash park pals) love Brydie's creative homemade biscuits. Soon Brydie and Teddy share a circle of friends, including Mrs. Neumann, the homeowner.

A job in a big-box store's bakery, while not her own shop, further expands Brydie's world and her confidence. She cautiously returns Nathan's affection, discovers secrets in Mrs. Neumann's basement and scrambles to fill orders as dog treat demand (cinnamon apple! zucchini vegetarian!) spreads. The plot's loose ends are nicely tied up in a Christmas Eve surprise, and the epilogue explains why, if one looks closely, it's obvious the pug on the cover is smiling. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, manager, Book Passage, San Francisco

Discover: A lonely dog-sitter finds new friends and happiness through her baking skills and Teddy the pug.

Morrow, $14.99, paperback, 384p., 9780062563781

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


The Dirty Book Club

by Lisi Harrison


"A dirty martini will make you admit things to other people, but a dirty book? That will make you admit things to yourself.... Each time you uncover one of these truths, a brick falls from the facade you've built around yourself and leaves a hole for the light to shine through. Men are wonderful, but wood alone can't cultivate that light. You need fire. You need girlfriends."

Gloria Golden and three 20-something girlfriends throw potlucks every full moon, complete with cigarettes, martinis and Neil Sedaka "spinning on the Magnavox." In 1962, they follow the tenets of marriage columnist Miss Matrimony and Prim: A Modern Woman's Guide to Manners.

One evening, the women begin to question their truths and repressions, spurred by Gloria's marital woes and TWA stewardess Marjorie's latest Parisian souvenir, The Housewife's Handbook to Selective Promiscuity. Over 54 years, the group explores and pushes their boundaries by secretly reading provocative literature. Against this glorious backdrop, four present-day women become the chosen successors to Gloria's generation. They barely know each other and often don't even like each other, but they all need to participate or the club will fold.

In The Dirty Book Club, Lisi Harrison charms with a kick-in-the-pants narrative replete with a Golden Girls/Maude vibe that is far from superficial despite its sublime sauciness. Harrison (Monster High) dissects relationships and self-determination in eight voices full of attitude and soul; smart and raucous dialogue will have readers rooting for these distinctive characters in search of their authentic selves. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review

Discover: Two sets of women from different generations are challenged and changed by a book club that reads only works that push them to reveal themselves.

Gallery Books, $25.99, hardcover, 320p., 9781451695977

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


Mystery & Thriller

Nine Lessons

by Nicola Upson


Detective Chief Inspector Archie Penrose is called to the scene of a horrific murder--an organist has been entombed alive in a London church graveyard. In his pocket is a torn photo, showing half of a manor house near Cambridge where, coincidentally, Archie's lover Bridget lives. Moreover, the inspector's old friend Josephine Tey, the mystery author and playwright, has recently moved there. Archie is soon spending a lot of time in Cambridge, investigating a string of increasingly disturbing murders involving former members of the King's College Chapel who studied just before World War I broke out.

Meanwhile, a serial rapist is terrorizing the city, making many women, including Josephine, afraid to venture far from home. As Archie and his friend face alarming violence, they end up discovering that they need each other's expertise to find justice--especially when a secret that Bridget has been keeping holds major implications for each of them.

Fans of Charles Todd, Jacqueline Winspear or Tey herself are sure to adore Nicola Upson's journey into 1930s England. The seventh novel in Upson's Josephine Tey series, Nine Lessons brings the author to life in striking, flawed fashion, adding an extra layer of interest to this historical mystery. Readers interested in Britain between the wars will particularly appreciate the grim undercurrents, but anyone can enjoy this clever mystery. --Jessica Howard, bookseller at Bookmans, Tucson, Ariz.

Discover: In this smart and haunting mystery that stars real-life author Josephine Tey as an amateur detective, Cambridge suffers an outbreak of disturbing murders.

Crooked Lane Books, $26.99, hardcover, 320p., 9781683313212

Algonquin Books: Strangers in Budapest by Jessica Keener


Biography & Memoir

Vivian Maier: A Photographer's Life and Afterlife

by Pamela Bannos


Pamela Bannos, a professor at Northwestern University, frames a fascinating portrait of Vivian Maier, the mysterious nanny who was also a gifted, self-taught photographer who chose to remain unknown. The biography also examines the astonishing circumstances and coincidences by which Maier's photographs emerged into the public eye and her meteoric posthumous rise in the art world. Bannos pieces together clues about the woman behind the camera, dispelling myths that have been perpetuated and shaped since her death in 2009.

Vivian Maier was--and continues to remain--an enigma. Eccentric, fiercely independent and intensely private, she was born illegitimately in Manhattan to a French mother, whose own birth was illegitimate. Both Maier's mother and grandmother were live-in servants. That paved the way for Vivian, throughout her adult life, to work as a nanny for several well-to-do U.S. families. This enabled her to support herself while also secretly pursuing her craft as a visual artist for decades. Those closest to her knew that Maier liked to take photographs, yet no one knew the extent of her passion and drive--and the scope of her talent. It was only near the end of Maier's life that her work was discovered: photographs, thousands of negatives and more than 1,000 rolls of undeveloped film.

Bannos's engrossing, meticulously researched biography sensitively reconstructs Vivian Maier's very private life in conjunction with her posthumous legacy as a visionary photographer. Many questions remain and always will. However, Bannos's comprehensive narrative ensures that Vivian Maier's story and the treasure trove of her work will live on. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: A fascinating glimpse into the life of an eccentric, legendary photographer whose work came to prominence only after her death.

University of Chicago Press, $35, hardcover, 352p., 9780226470757

Crown Publishing Group: Artemis by Andy Weir


Social Science

We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy

by Ta-Nehisi Coates


In We Were Eight Years in Power, MacArthur grant recipient and National Book Award winner Ta-Nehisi Coates collects one essay he wrote from each year Barack Obama was president, dissecting his assessments with notes preceding each piece. He's been called "America's best writer on race," which he hates--"not out of humility, but for how it undermined my own sense of what I was doing. I intended to play music in defiance of the masters, and some of those same masters were applauding." Coates wonders how he can defy a power that insists on claiming him, and wants to write something "that black people would recognize as original and old, something both classical and radical." He saw how writing could connect him to a broader tradition as he "chased" the work of Baldwin, Hurston, Doctorow, Forché: "All the magic I wanted was on the page."

His essays are incisive and his notes are apt. The epilogue was published in the Atlantic's October 2017 issue as "The First White President," and is searing. Coates's premise: Trump is a white man who owes his presidency to that fact, and has made the "awful inheritance [of slavery and racism] explicit."

Coates enjoyed the challenge the note writing presented; he says if he can communicate half that joy to the reader, he "will have done [his] job." He does that and more. He delivers a jeremiad not entirely bereft of hope, laced with wit and transcendent prose. He asks, "What does the story you tell matter, if the world is set upon hearing a different one?" His stories matter in the most urgent way. --Marilyn Dahl

Discover: A collection of incisive essays by Ta-Nehisi Coates written during Obama's presidency, with current commentary on each piece and a broadside epilogue.

One World, $28, hardcover, 400p., 9780399590566

Essays & Criticism

Cleopatra: I Am Fire and Air

by Harold Bloom


Cleopatra: I Am Fire and Air is prolific literary critic and Shakespearean scholar Harold Bloom's continuation of his portrait series concerning monumental Shakespearean figures. While untangling the appeal of this infamous femme fatale is not a new endeavor, Bloom's effort focuses on expounding upon the hints Shakespeare gives in his play Antony and Cleopatra. Instead of asserting any answers, he advances questions that serve to illuminate this captivating figure more than define her. Throughout, he returns to the key point of Cleopatra's character that is both fact and question: "She is and she is not. Can so great an actress always know when she is or is not acting?"

Bloom takes on an intimate persona as he weaves his observations into selections from the play. Most astonishing is Bloom's delicate writing that so efficiently and effortlessly communicates his often complex insights. He muses casually on the concept of Cleopatra as a paradoxical enigma, a giver that "famishes the taker. She beguiles and she devastates." Not unlike the woman herself, the prose in Cleopatra: I Am Fire and Air both satisfies and teases the reader. This all-too-brief invitation into how Bloom reads and envisions Cleopatra educates and entertains, but also leaves the audience wishing they might have Bloom's poetic commentary alongside everything they read. --Alice Martin, freelance writer and editor

Discover: Literary titan Harold Bloom provides a wonderfully readable guide to Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra that scholars and casual readers alike will find compelling.

Scribner, $24, hardcover, 160p., 9781501164163

Nature & Environment

Wild Horse Country: The History, Myth, and Future of the Mustang

by David Philipps


David Philipps (Lethal Warriors), a Pulitzer Prize-winning correspondent for the New York Times, lives on the eastern slope of the Colorado Rockies. On the other side and west lies the Great Basin, the thinly populated land that is home to wild horse herds growing so fast that nobody knows quite what to do with them. Wild Horse Country is Philipps's illustrated investigation into the history, politics, legends and management of these storied symbols of America. Descended from strays, the wild horse "is not pedigreed. It has no stature.... It is beholden to no one. It will not be subjugated." No wonder it is the United States' only animal besides the bald eagle to be protected by specific national law--and no wonder this law has created such philosophical, financial and emotional drama.

Philipps interviews paleontologists who verified the presence of early horses in North America 50 million years ago. He describes the Spanish explorers' reintroduction of the horse in about 1500, and its adoption by Native Americans. Philipps also explores the backdrop to Zane Grey's 40 pulp novels of the Wild West. However, Philipps reserves more concern for the current state of these inspirational animals. The Federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manages the herds. With little budget and a typical bureaucratic snarl of regulations and acronyms, the BLM is trying to deal with a mustang population growing 15% a year.

The colorful, well-researched and well-reasoned Wild Horse Country concludes with an attempted answer to the wild horse dilemma, "something that could limit the herds without poisoning the legend." --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: Pulitzer Prize-winner David Philipps gets to the heart of the wild horse controversy with a little history, a little mystique, a little humor and a lot of solid investigation.

W.W. Norton, $27.95, hardcover, 368p., 9780393247138

Children's & Young Adult

The Secret of Nightingale Wood

by Lucy Strange


When 12-year-old Henrietta Abbott (who has "always been Henry") and her family move to a large old home in the English countryside called Hope House, it's supposed to be a fresh start. But Mama is still "confused and upset" by the tragic death of Henry's older brother, Robert, and Father escapes by taking a job abroad. Henry and her baby sister (affectionately called Piglet) are looked after by Nanny Jane, while Mama is cared for by Doctor Hardy, who keeps her sedated with increasing doses of his "special medicine." Asserting that Mama is too ill to see her remaining children, the doctor chases Henry away.

Henry explores nearby Nightingale Wood, and stumbles upon a fragile woman living in a caravan whom she comes to know as Moth. Even though Moth has her own sadness, she understands that to "lighten the darkness," Mama "needs stories, music, sunshine, birdsong, the smell of a rose, the smile of her daughter." Even with the growing certainty that Mama will be committed to Helldon, "a ghastly gray tomb of a building," Moth helps Henry believe "there will be a way to help."

Literature and fairy tales allow Henry to make sense of her world. Moth is like "a forgotten, fairy-tale princess," while Doctor Hardy "fill[s] the doorway like an ogre." Mama, trapped in her room, is Rapunzel, and numerous literary nightingales allude to freedom. In her debut novel, Strange tells a lovely, extraordinarily enchanting coming-of-age tale. Henry is determined to put things right, even while Dr. Hardy and the other adults begin to question her own sanity. As the cook's husband puts it, "we've all been tossed by the waves... the [t]rick is not to sink." --Lynn Becker, blogger and host of Book Talk, a monthly online discussion of children's books for SCBWI

Discover: When her family moves to the English countryside after the death of her older brother, 12-year-old Henrietta Abbott struggles to put her increasingly fragmented world back together.

Chicken House, $16.99, hardcover, 304p., ages 8-12, 9781338157475

The Tea Dragon Society

by Katie O'Neill


On her walk home from apprenticing in her half-goblin mother's blacksmith shop, Greta finds two scary-looking dogs cornering a tiny, terrified animal. Realizing the dogs are hungry, Greta gives them the meat she was bringing home for dinner and scoops up the little creature. At home, she gets a closer look at the animal. Seafoam green in color, it looks to be some sort of baby dragon... with leaves growing out of its horns. Greta's scholarly human father knows exactly what the animal is and who it belongs to.

A "little way out of town," the Sylph, Hesekiel, runs a tea shop with his human partner, Erik. Hesekiel is delighted to have Greta reunite him with the tiny Tea Dragon, a mercurial, domesticated animal whose leaves are harvested and turned into highly desired tea. But raising a Tea Dragon (and its leaves) to maturity is a difficult and time-consuming task and, of the many members who used to be part of a worldwide Tea Dragon appreciation and caregiving group called the Tea Dragon Society, Hesekiel and Erik are now the only two left. Greta's interest in and commitment to the dragons pulls her into the cozy world of the Tea Dragon trade.

The pace of Katie O'Neill's (Princess Princess Ever After) world is reflected by the design of the graphic novel: gentle, fully saturated colors and story development that is leisurely yet full of life. The page's natural white space acts as the borders for each panel illustration, allowing for individual panels to spread out organically. The magic of the world is in the forefront as the novel and color palette move from season to season, beginning and ending with spring. Greta's story is soft and sweet, a journey of growing love and friendships. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: Katie O'Neill's Tea Dragon Society is a magical world full of diverse peoples and gentle creatures.

Oni Press, $17.99, hardcover, 72p., ages 9-12, 9781620104415

Far from the Tree

by Robin Benway


"Grace wasn't one of those girls who was always fantasizing about homecoming," but it was still "surprising that she ended up spending homecoming night... in the maternity ward... giving birth to her daughter." Only 16, Grace's life is completely changed by giving birth to, then giving away, the baby she thinks of as Peach. Putting Peach up for adoption makes Grace want to meet her birth mother, who, according to her adoptive parents, cannot be found. It turns out, though, that Grace has a sister, and her parents know how to find her.

Maya, a year younger than Grace, was also adopted as a baby. Months after her adoption, Grace's new mother became pregnant with a biological child, making Grace the eldest of two, equally beloved but occasionally feeling like an outsider. Now Grace's parents are nearing divorce--her mother is an alcoholic and her father is never home. Grace and Maya meet and learn that they have an older brother.
 
No longer a newborn when he entered foster care and not white, Joaquin, now 17, unlike his little sisters, was never adopted. The couple he currently lives with is extremely supportive and loving, and desperate to adopt him, but Joaquin, the product of years of foster care and one failed adoption, is terrified of allowing those he loves to get close to him.

Robin Benway's (Also Known As) Far from the Tree is a deeply moving novel about families made and born. The trials the three teens face are always confronted directly and never diminished; their relationships, both new and old, are complicated and beautiful. This novel is a journey into the depths of familial relationships that rings true. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: Three adopted and fostered teens meet and bond with their biological siblings in Robin Benway's stunning Far from the Tree.

HarperTeen, $17.99, hardcover, 384p., ages 12-up, 9780062330628

Humor

Waiting for the Punch: Words to Live by from the WTF Podcast

by Marc Maron, Brendan McDonald


In 2009, comedian Marc Maron began interviewing his friends for a twice-weekly podcast he still records in his garage. With each episode of WTF with Marc Maron running an hour or longer, Maron's intimate setting and relaxed, freeform conversational style lures comedians, actors, writers, directors and musicians into becoming more vulnerable and open. Waiting for the Punch is a powerful and fascinating collection of some of those conversations. Although the majority of these conversations are with comedians, they are deadly serious when they discuss childhood sexual abuse, drug and alcohol addictions, failed relationships, mental illness, sexuality and death.

These soul-baring interviews are woven together by topic, and form a compelling tapestry of voices and advice from survivors who have faced tragedies, loss and shame, and have put themselves on the path to healing. Bruce Springsteen discusses reversing parent-child roles with his schizophrenic father. Aubrey Plaza reveals she suffered a stroke at age 20. Artie Lange and Natasha Lyonne share their struggles with sobriety.

The extensive roster of celebrities sharing harrowing and darkly humorous tales include Amy Schumer, Garry Shandling, Lena Dunham, Mel Brooks, Barack Obama, Dan Savage, Margaret Cho, Sasha Baron Cohen and Amy Poehler. Louis CK sums up Maron's gift for creating a confessional space: "We understand each other's flaws really well. That's why we're able to tell each other things that we don't want to tell anyone else." Waiting for the Punch is a knockout collection of heartbreaking conversations that will help heal many readers. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant

Discover: Harrowing and darkly humorous, this collection of celebrity conversations from Marc Maron's long-running podcast is shocking, revealing and healing.

Flatiron Books, $27.99, hardcover, 416p., 9781250088888

Poetry

Some Say the Lark

by Jennifer Chang


Jennifer Chang (The History of Anonymity) is an accomplished poet with a distinct voice whose work has appeared in PoetryAmerican Poetry Review and the Nation. In her vivid second collection, Some Say the Lark, she is at her inventive best. Divided into four sections, the book takes its title from a passage of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet in which Juliet purposely calls the song of a lark that of a nightingale in order to prolong the amorous night and keep Romeo near.

So Chang plunges into the deceptions of love. She is a poet who merges the abstract and the concrete with fierce, visceral energy. "My guts vast, impossible," she states in "There Are Too Many Other Birds to Write About." In "Small Philosophies," one of the collection's best, Chang breaks up experience into "Phenomenology," "Logic" and "Epistemology." "You are a quality/ and a thing silenced/ by pine-shrug," the poet writes in the section of the poem devoted to phenomenology--a branch of philosophy concerned with human consciousness and self-awareness.

Chang's best poems are characterized by openness to pain, to language and the mysterious way it interacts with the wounded psyche. "It's work to gather the seasons,/ to ask a question that finds the feeling/ at the troubled core of thought," the poet states in "Lost Child." In being open to the meanings of love and loss, Chang also exposes the reader to new perceptions and possibilities of being. --Scott Neuffer, writer, poet, editor of trampset

Discover: Acclaimed poet Jennifer Chang reconstructs selfhood from the ruins of love in this deep and affecting poetry collection.

Alice James Books, $15.95, paperback, 100p., 9781938584664

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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