Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, July 31, 2018


From My Shelf

Sourcebooks Landmark: Sold on a Monday by Kristina McMorris

Doubleday Books: The Shakespeare Requirement by Julie Schumacher

The Book Is... Different

When it comes to film or television adaptations of books, the old snobbish saying is "the book was better," and I've tended to agree with that assessment more often than not. It can be difficult to watch a story you love that doesn't match the version that exists in your head, no matter how faithful the adaptation. And if the movie or show does depart from the book in significant ways, it's common for fans to have a strong negative reaction--if you don't believe me, ask the people still upset that Tom Bombadil didn't make it into the otherwise faithful The Fellowship of the Ring film.
 
On the other hand, there are movies and shows that depart so significantly from the books that inspired them that they seem like entirely separate visions. I generally favor this approach, because it allows for writers and filmmakers to do more than re-create a story I've already read. For a recent example, see the film adaptation of Annihilation, which incorporated elements from throughout Jeff VanderMeer's bizarre Southern Reach trilogy, along with entirely new ideas, to create an opaque, visually stunning puzzle. The television version of The Magicians (Penguin Books, $17) is a less demanding watch, but it also significantly remixes the source material to the point that fans of the book series had more than a few surprises in store. Going back some decades, Stephen King and many of his fans never approved of the film version of The Shining (Anchor, $8.99), which cut huge chunks of the book and conformed to director Stanley Kubrick's signature chilly style.
 
The debate over whether "the book is better" is likely to continue in perpetuity, but I'm always happy to see literary adaptations willing to take a chance or two. If the book is truly great, no adaptation will diminish it. --Hank Stephenson, bookseller, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, N.C.

Music Box Films: Memoir of War - From the life of Marguerite Duras, bestselling author of The Lover


Book Candy

Dealing with Book Snobs

Bustle suggested "11 tips for dealing with book snobs, because no one has time for judgmental people."

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A business of ferrets, for example. Mental Floss listed "50 collective nouns for your favorite groups of animals."

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From bedtime stories to bribes, the Guardian offered tips on "how to get your child reading more."

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Signature corrected "5 grammar mistakes even the best writers make."

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Headline of the day (via NDTV): "Britain Bans Export of Legendary Novelist Charles Dickens' Study Table."

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Technology Museum of l'Empordà in Spain "houses an amazing collection of rare, antique typewriters,' Atlas Obscura noted.


Flatiron Books: Meet Me at the Museum by Anne Youngson


Great Reads

Rediscover: Mary Oliver

As July slips to August, and midsummer fades to late, Mary Oliver's musings in "The Summer Day" spring to mind. As the poet ponders a grasshopper in her hand, wider wonders surface: "Who made the world? Who made the swan, and the black bear?" The grasshopper hops away, and its simple life subsumes the need for complex categorization: "I don't know exactly what a prayer is. I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down into the grass." At last, she reflects on the waning day spent in that field, in nature, and famously asks if it was time well spent: "Tell me, what else should I have done? Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do/ With your one wild and precious life?"

Mary Oliver's "The Summer Day" was published in New and Selected Poems (1992), which won the National Book Award for Poetry. She also won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry with American Primitive (1983). Oliver's many collections have made her, as described by the New York Times, "far and away, this country's best-selling poet." Her most recent books include Upstream: Selected Essays (Penguin Press) and Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver (Penguin Press, $30, 9780399563249), which highlights 200-plus poems from her 50-year career. --Tobias Mutter


International Thriller Writers: William Morrow & Company: Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter


The Writer's Life

Karen Brooks: Unlocking the Past to Understand the Present

photo: Stephen Brooks
Karen Brooks, the author of nine novels, is an Australian academic, a newspaper columnist and a social commentator. She lives in Hobart, Tasmania. Her new book, The Locksmith's Daughter (Morrow, $16.99), is reviewed below.
 
You have said the more you write about the past, the more you understand you also are writing about the present. The Locksmith's Daughter takes place between 1580 and 1582, during the reign of Elizabeth I, but contains parallels with today's world.
 
I knew this novel would have a strong theme of secrets, those that the ruling classes keep from the people as well as the deepest, most personal truths we hide from others and ourselves. What I didn't expect was how religious persecution would resonate so strongly with what is happening today. In the late 1500s, religious persecution was based on fear and misunderstanding, and it created suspicion, division and guilt by association. The adage plus ça change (the more things change, the more they stay the same) is, sadly, so true.
 
Your inspiration for this novel came after your husband broke a key in his car's ignition and you were watching the locksmith repair the damage and craft a new key. 
 
Yes! While Bruce (the locksmith) worked, I asked about his training, and he shared his excitement about locks and keys. As I drove home, a story formed about a female lock-pick. The idea of the symbolism of locks to secrets fell into place during my research.
 
Many characters in The Locksmith's Daughter are real historical figures, including Sir Francis Walsingham, Queen Elizabeth's spymaster. Does he hold a particular fascination for you? 
 
Walsingham often seems misunderstood, especially given the context of the times he lived in. That isn't to say he wasn't cruel, and it doesn't justify his actions in the name of religious dogma and unbending righteousness, but he protected the queen while making many personal sacrifices. I tried taking that notion as far as I could without condoning or excusing him. I wanted to show how those in power can excuse their appalling actions as being in the best interest of the rulers and their subjects. Also, everything in the book is, to the best of my ability, accurate, and there for a reason. There's nothing that happens to my characters that wasn't authentic to the period.
 
Mallory Bright, one of your fictional characters, often defines herself by her past. She's from the late 1500s but seems contemporary. What lessons does she offer to women today? 
 
What a great question. Don't be a victim of circumstances, whether you've created them or had them placed upon you. Be a survivor. She admits her mistakes, owns them and doesn't dodge responsibility for poor decisions and actions. She listens to those with more experience and wisdom. She doesn't always follow their advice, but she respects it. Sometimes we don't acknowledge the wisdom of our elders. We ignore that to our detriment. 
 
You wear many literary hats--author, journalist, book reviewer, social commentator, academic. Have you always known writing would be part of your career path?
 
A play I wrote was produced at a theater in Sydney when I was 19--that was lovely--but writing was never a serious proposition for me. When I became an academic, I found that I loved research. It's a problem. I never know when to stop. For my novels, I keep comprehensive journals filled with maps from the actual period. They are strewn across the floor, which, much to my husband's chagrin, I crawl across with a magnifying glass. Novel writing happened with the encouragement of my beloved late friend, the author Sara Douglass.
 
A research trip for The Locksmith's Daughter inspired a new novel. Can you talk about that yet? 
 
Yes! When I visited Hampton Court, one of Elizabeth I's residences and the home where she was initially raised, I stumbled upon a chocolate kitchen. A chocolate kitchen! Back then, chocolate was a popular yet rather naughty drink--an aphrodisiac, but one with negative religious connotations. I found this amazing connection between the free press, drinking chocolate, government conspiracies, war and more.
 
From all this arose The Chocolate Maker's Wife, set during the hedonistic 1660s, [a period that] marked the beginning of journalism and terrible religious discord--again. Women were finding a new place in society, literacy was increasing and many people were unhappy with their new, exiled but very naughty and decadent king. The people's discontentment was voiced in London's new coffee and chocolate houses, where the government sent spies to uncover treasonous plots and illegal printing presses that they accused--believe it or not--of printing "false news." Yes, that was a term even in the 1660s when people loved their coffee, chocolate, politics and news.
 
Now, what was that I was saying earlier about plus ça change? --Melissa Firman

Tanglewood: The Kissing Hand 25th Anniversary Edition by Audrey Penn, illustrated by Ruth E. Harper and Nancy M. Leak


Book Review

Fiction

Confessions of the Fox

by Jordy Rosenberg


Once upon a time, a professor finds an old, neglected manuscript at his university's library book sale.
 
What unfolds in Jordy Rosenberg's Confessions of the Fox, from the discovery from this old manuscript, is far more than even poor Dr. Voth could have imagined. The document turns out to be an unpublished account of Jack Sheppard, notorious 18th-century thief and something of an English folk hero. Jack, made famous by the likes of The Threepenny Opera and The Beggar's Opera, is known to history for his fantastic heists and seeming ability to break out of any jail cell. The new confessions Dr. Voth discovers, however, suggest that history may have misremembered Jack in more ways than one--and those discoveries may put Voth or the manuscript--or both--in danger.
 
Taken at face value, Confessions of the Fox is a rollick of a read, a fictional autobiography of a real person packed with action and heists and sex and danger. But with the addition of Dr. Voth's annotations, Rosenberg transforms a "simple" story into something much more complex. Voth's extensive footnotes poke fun at the world of modern academia; condemn systems of capitalism and power; denounce the time-honored traditions of mass incarceration; and offer commentary on gender, queer and trans theory through the lens of Jack's story. The result is much more than the sum of its parts, an impressive, ambitious debut from an author whose passion for and knowledge of his subjects shines on every page. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

Discover: Jordy Rosenberg reimagines the history of the legendary Jack Sheppard in an ambitious debut novel.

One World, $27, hardcover, 352p., 9780399592270

Everafter Romance: Dr. Strange Beard by Penny Reid


Midnight Blue

by Simone van der Vlugt, trans. by Jenny Watson


Midnight Blue by Simone van der Vlugt introduces a young woman in 17th-century Netherlands struggling to maintain her independence while maneuvering through a patriarchal world.
 
Catrin, a widow, leaves her village under suspicious circumstances and heads for Amsterdam, which is a large, exotic place affording her the invisibility she craves. "The world is very different for women," she says in defiance, but she's confident in her ability to take care of herself in a man's world. Trying to escape her past isn't successful--a man from her village appears and knows her secrets. She fears that "one day the truth will come to light," and leaves again, moving to the smaller city of Delft to regain her anonymity.
 
There she finds work painting the new style of blue-on-white pottery. Her increasingly skilled designs and her ability to sense popular trends make her invaluable to the pottery studio and win her the respect of the men with whom she works. Yet when she thinks her life is finally settled, tragedy strikes. Is she being punished for her past? "Do you think there's such a thing as sins you have no choice to commit?... How do you know if you've been forgiven?" she asks a minister in anguish.
 
Midnight Blue, van der Vlugt's first novel published in the United States, translated by Jenny Watson, evokes a place and time not often highlighted. With cameos by Rembrandt and Vermeer, this is perfect for fans of Girl with a Pearl Earring and B.A. Shapiro. --Cindy Pauldine, bookseller, the river's end bookstore, Oswego, N.Y.

Discover: Seventeenth-century Netherlands is the setting for Midnight Blue, atmospheric historical fiction with elements of romance and mystery.

Morrow, $15.99, paperback, 336p., 9780062686862

Dial Books: Adrian Simcox Does Not Have a Horse by Marcy Campbell, illustrated by Corinna Luyken


The Locksmith's Daughter

by Karen Brooks


Set between 1580 and 1582, The Locksmith's Daughter opens with Mallory Bright returning home to London. Two years earlier, she abandoned her fiancé to elope with Sir Raffe Shelton, whose promises were lies and who caused Mallory's greatest heartbreak. Now a shell of her previous self, she is scorned by nearly all, except her locksmith father--who taught her how to crack the most intricate of locks--and the mysterious Lord Nathaniel.
 
To restore his daughter's good standing, Gideon Bright enlists help from his friend, Sir Francis Walsingham. As Queen Elizabeth's spymaster, Sir Francis views Mallory's intelligence and lock-picking abilities as key assets to his mission to eradicate Catholicism throughout England.
 
Karen Brooks (The Brewer's Tale) brilliantly ensnares both reader and Mallory in an elaborate web of suspicion, trickery and deceit. With extensive research, Brooks marries fictional and real-life characters and actual events, such as religious persecutions. ("Were they not Londoners before they were Catholics? Or did their faith make them something so strange, so different, they were no longer recognizable as English? As humans? I saw no traitors plotting to bring down a queen, only desperate people; people whose world was in disarray and who felt threatened. Who prayed to the same God, only differently.")
 
Mallory's emotional growth happens while she's wrestling with questions of loyalty and love. Unable to resist the romantic attraction between herself and Lord Nathaniel but fearful of being hurt again, Mallory is protecting more than her country. The hardest lock to open is the one around her heart and only she holds the key. --Melissa Firman 

Discover: In an intricate historical romance, a woman finds the right tools to forgive herself for her past while learning to accept the love she deserves.

Morrow, $16.99, paperback, 576p., 9780062686572

Abrams Appleseed: Super Pooper and Whizz Kid (Hello!lucky) by Eunice and Sabrina Moyle


The Pre-War House and Other Stories

by Alison Moore


Alison Moore (The Lighthouse) is a purveyor of memory. Her stories usually focus on where the past and present converge, when old traumas grow too great to bear and burst to the surface of her characters' lives. This nebulous flow of time gives her work a dreamlike quality, so that The Pre-War House, a collection of short stories, feels like reading through someone's reveries.
 
The people in The Pre-War House are average, as are their terrors and heartbreaks, but that is precisely what makes Moore's work so affecting. She is uninterested in romanticism, nor using fiction to plot out the extraordinary. Instead, she takes moments that are at once tragic and quotidian, teasing out the former so that it overtakes the latter. The final story, which gives the collection its title, is the longest, and perhaps the best, deftly weaving multiple timelines as an unnamed narrator packs up her father's house and prepares for its sale. Slowly but surely Moore exposes the traumas the pre-war house witnessed, never turning away from the very human tragedy at the core.
 
The characters aren't special, certainly not at first, but give Moore a few pages and their lost chances in life are stunningly revealed in a way that can't help but be affecting. In the hands of a lesser author, the collection might be too pitiful, too hard to consume, but Moore finds the right balance, keeping stories short and atmospheric enough to draw readers into deeply and beautifully rendered lives. --Noah Cruickshank, adult engagement manager, the Field Museum, Chicago, Ill.

Discover: Alison Moore's short story collection The Pre-War House explores the tragic moments in everyday lives.

Biblioasis, $14.95, paperback, 288p., 9781771962155

Shelf Awareness Giveaway: Central Avenue Publishing: [Dis]connected: Poems & Stories of Connection and Otherwise edited by Michelle Halket


Mystery & Thriller

The Corpse at the Crystal Palace

by Carola Dunn


On an outing to London's Crystal Palace with her children and their visiting cousins, Daisy Dalrymple Fletcher is shocked when her nanny temporarily disappears. When she goes in search of Nanny Gilpin, Daisy stumbles upon a corpse dressed in a nanny's uniform. Meanwhile, the children spot Mrs. Gilpin in uncharacteristic pursuit of yet another nanny, who has disappeared by the time they catch up to her. Worried for her employee and also baffled by the presence of the two other nannies, Daisy can't resist a bit of unofficial sleuthing. Carola Dunn (Superfluous Women, Heirs of the Body) leads both her protagonist and her readers on a merry, highly enjoyable chase in her 23rd Daisy Dalrymple mystery, The Corpse at the Crystal Palace.
 
All the hallmarks of Dunn's series are here: Daisy's keen curiosity and sense of justice; her detective inspector husband, Alec, both exasperated by and grudgingly grateful for his wife's interference; a slew of colorful suspects (including an enigmatic family of Russian jewelers); and Daisy's friends Lucy and Sakari, who each contribute to solving the case. The setting of interwar London is a pleasure to revisit, and Daisy's domestic trials (an exploding boiler, the challenges of parenting three-year-old twins) unfold alongside her attempts at ferreting out information. Dunn touches lightly on issues of class, race and politics while keeping the main focus firmly on the twisty plot. Daisy's adventure here is both an engaging puzzle and a pleasant return to the world Dunn has created. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: Daisy Dalrymple Fletcher goes in search of a missing nanny and uncovers another mystery in her latest adventure.

Minotaur Books, $26.99, hardcover, 288p., 9781250047052

Science Fiction & Fantasy

Trail of Lightning

by Rebecca Roanhorse


Trained by an immortal in hand-to-hand combat and killing, Maggie Hoskie is a tough-as-nails monster slayer with special powers in a post-apocalyptic world. She fights the fiends and supernatural beings of Navajo tradition, which have come to life behind an enchanted wall separating Navajo lands from the rest of the U.S.
 
When she is called on to search for a missing girl, she discovers a new type of monster, which sets her on a whirlwind adventure across the rez. If she hopes to destroy these creatures, Maggie must place her trust in Kai Arviso, a young medicine man in training who is unexpectedly thrust into her life. Together they engage with Coyote, the trickster, and fight monsters, their pasts and their self-doubts--all while creating new alliances and enemies.
 
Rebecca Roanhorse fuses well-rounded and diverse characters with Navajo legends and strong fantasy details in her fast-paced debut. Subtle specifics--such as the use of corn pollen and obsidian to kill supernatural beings, or the talents of the characters based on their clan names--add layers of authenticity and solidness. Roanhorse creates a fascinating world where the abilities and actions of the characters are plausible and magic is commonplace. Trail of Lightning is the exciting first book in the Sixth World series, a blend of fantasy and romance where the lines between good and evil, lying and truth, fantasy and reality, meld and swirl like the desert winds on the rez, leaving the reader eager for book two. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

Discover: Monsters stalk Navajo lands, and Maggie Hoskie must slay them before they can do more harm.

Saga Press, $16.99, paperback, 304p., 9781534413504

Biography & Memoir

Life in the Garden

by Penelope Lively


The prolific and much-loved British writer Penelope Lively's Life in the Garden is a heady remembrance of landscapes both real and fictional and a celebration of Lively's love of all things horticulture. Now in her 85th year, she gardens on, albeit at a more limited pace than before. From her mother's home in Cairo to her own vast grounds in Oxfordshire, Lively (Dancing Fish and Ammonites) reflects on the wonder and solace of nature and the timeless, therapeutic attributes of gardening. In the process, she addresses horticultural manners and fashions, what flower preferences say about people, the joys and perils of marital gardening and the possession of a back yard as a social indicator.
 
Life in the Garden is rich with precious knowledge acquired over many decades, and Lively is poetic as well as playful as she muses on the manipulation of flora, the imposition of order where nature prefers disorder. In line with this inherent conflict between environment and worker, she refers to weeding as "a bout of ethnic cleansing." It is the anticipatory nature of gardening and the power of gardens to refute time that Lively finds supremely comforting. The rose, that most symbolic of flowers, is given special consideration, as are the pioneering efforts of Willa Cather and Laura Ingalls Wilder.
 
Life in the Garden is a beautiful escape into the countless wonders of gardens and their enjoyment. It is Lively's gift to her longtime fans as well as to those just now discovering the delights of her literary largess. --Shahina Piyarali, writer and reviewer

Discover: English literary icon Penelope Lively offers a meditative celebration of the joys and rewards of gardening and the garden's protean, timeless beauty.

Viking, $25, hardcover, 208p., 9780525558378

Essays & Criticism

Hummingbirds Between the Pages

by Chris Arthur


When the Irish essayist Chris Arthur (Reading Life) first saw a hummingbird, the sight "entranced [him] so completely" that he remembered it 50 years later when he sat down to write his seventh essay collection, the thoughtful and lyrical Hummingbirds Between the Pages. The title is derived, Arthur writes, from the 18th-century American settlers' practice of capturing hummingbirds and pressing them like flowers between the pages of a heavy book. Like Arthur, they, too, were mesmerized by the small, wondrous birds and wanted to mail them to family members back in the United Kingdom.
 
Arthur's collection features the hummingbird as a metaphor for the small things that have made the essayist pause, reflect and reconsider. Among the highlights is a piece about Charles Darwin's brief mention of a rare Chilean fox in The Voyage of the Beagle, wherein the scientist describes killing the animal. Arthur contemplates: "How slight the probability seems of Darwin being in that exact spot at that exact time, coincident with the presence of this rare creature." He goes on to marvel at the myriad causes and effects of all that has ever happened to us and all that will ever be. Other stand-out essays focus on Egyptian shells and an ugly clock owned by the writer's dying mother.
 
Together these essays take on a near-cosmic view of how we got here and where we are going. It's a stunning collection that reveals a depth and nimbleness of thinking that is a joy to read. --Amy Brady, freelance writer and editor

Discover: This lyrical and thought-provoking essay collection draws big questions about life and death out of small, everyday objects.

Mad Creek Books, $23.95, paperback, 264p., 9780814254844

Health & Medicine

Cancerland: A Medical Memoir

by David Scadden, Michael D'Antonio


"Roughly half of us will be diagnosed with cancer," writes David Scadden, and "one in five Americans will die from it." Co-founder of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, Scadden has witnessed cancer from many perspectives: as a child, when one of his friends disappeared from school; as a son, when his parents both contracted different forms; and as a physician and researcher.
 
In Cancerland, he expertly combines his personal stories of treating patients with the history of cancer treatments. Some of the descriptions are graphic as Scadden shares with readers the nitty-gritty details of how doctors have been handling cancers since they were first identified. Massive chemotherapy and radiation treatments and extreme surgeries were the foundations of today's protocols, which use subtler techniques such as obtaining marrow stem cells from the blood rather than repeated draws from the hip bone. New discoveries in the drug world led to the use of ATZ or azidothymidine for HIV/AIDS patients, and Scadden also addresses the roles money and power play in the research and development of new cancer drugs.
 
Most exciting is his examination of stem cell research and of the genome and epigenome, which "helps cells differentiate into different tissues and then helps drive their activity." It is in this arena that doctors are most hopeful in finding effective treatments for a scourge that affects so many. Blending memoir and medical history, Cancerland provides valuable information to those seeking a better understanding of cancer in all its complexities. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer 

Discover: A thorough examination of the history and advancements made in treating cancer patients by a physician and researcher.

Thomas Dunne Books, $27.99, hardcover, 320p., 9781250092755

Humor

Okay Fine Whatever: The Year I Went from Being Afraid of Everything to Only Being Afraid of Most Things

by Courtenay Hameister


Generalized Anxiety Disorders (GAD) are debilitating, as writer Courtenay Hameister can tell you: "Phone calls to strangers were miserable. Parties where I didn't know anyone were like the seventh circle of hell, but with better snacks. And making an unprotected left turn triggered the same fight-or-flight response most people experience when running from a small-to-medium-sized bear." So when this finally drives her to the point that she leaves her role as host of a nationally syndicated radio show, Hameister decides to try a yearlong experiment: she will attempt things that scare her in an effort to rewire her brain to be less afraid.
 
Hameister doesn't attempt physically life-threatening challenges; instead, she pursues activities that might be construed as unusual or sometimes embarrassing, like experiencing a sensory deprivation tank. A large part of Hameister's project is centered on dating. Having always battled her weight and dated only rarely in her first four decades of life, she creates a profile on OKCupid and embarks on a series of first dates--28 to be exact. She tries one-night stands, polyamory and a sex club. But then she realizes that these are all a new form of avoidance. She's steering clear of what's truly frightening: intimacy. When she changes her approach to dating and applies some of the lessons absorbed from her first 27 dates, she meets "First Date #28" and her experience is much different.
 
Okay Fine Whatever manages expertly to blend adventure, romance, mental illness and an extra helping of humor for an entertaining memoir. --Jen Forbus, freelancer

Discover: A 40-something woman with generalized anxiety disorder spends a year trying unusual things that scare her in an effort to convince her brain to be less fearful.

Little, Brown, $26, hardcover, 320p., 9780316395700

Children's & Young Adult

Lovely, Dark, and Deep

by Justina Chen


Viola Li, Geeks for Good member and charity bake sale pro, has a life plan: following graduation, she's going to attend college at NYU Abu Dhabi, study journalism and become a foreign correspondent. She's also covertly plotting exotic trips with her Auntie Ruth. But her meticulously calculated future crumbles when she suddenly develops a dangerous illness.
 
While setting up a bake sale at an exhibit for her favorite sci-fi series, Firefly, Viola faints. Fortunately, a "young Thor-gone-lumberman" and fellow Firefly aficionado is there to catch her. He brings Viola to the hospital, where she learns she has developed an extreme allergy to sunlight. Viola's parents--the crisis management team of Lee & Li--immediately go into protection mode, UVA-proofing their house, creating emergency kits and limiting tech time when Viola's skin reacts to the screens. In response, Viola narrates, "I bottle the outdoors, a perfume called Freedom and Future. No matter how long I hold my breath, I must exhale. When I do, it feels like good-bye." It won't be, though--Viola refuses to bid the outdoors farewell. But when she defies her parents' rules, the result is devastating.
 
Justina Chen (North of Beautiful) takes her teenage narrator on a suspenseful journey through a terrifying malady. Chen's artful use of humor and poetic language help mitigate the horrors without ever downplaying the situation's gravity. The inclusion of a love interest for Viola offers additional layers of complexity to the spectacularly rich family relationships. Few words sum this novel up better than lovely, dark and deep. --Jen Forbus, freelancer

Discover: A high school girl tries to piece her life back together when she develops an allergy to the sun and the outdoors becomes her personal war zone.

Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic, $18.99, hardcover, 352p., ages 12-up, 9781338134063

Grace and Fury

by Tracy Banghart


Serina Tessaro has spent her entire life training to become a Grace, a woman handpicked by the Heir to serve as Viridia's "highest standard of beauty, elegance, and obedience." If chosen, Serina will live in the palace, "go to glittering balls and want for nothing"--she'll never have to work as a servant or a seamstress or be forced into marrying the highest bidder. Serina's sister, Nomi, on the other hand, can't accept that the choices for women are so limited, and she doesn't understand how becoming "a possession for [the Heir] to own" is better than those other options, anyway. Despite her opinions, when Serina goes to the city of Bellaqua to "vie for this honor," Nomi goes along as handmaiden.
 
On their first night, as Serina is being introduced at the Heir's ball, Nomi sneaks into the palace library. Even though women are forbidden to read, Nomi has been taught, and she steals a book that reminds her of home--then immediately runs into the Heir. Although terrified, she responds defiantly to his rude questioning; the Heir, seemingly angry, proceeds to his ball. When he announces his top choices, though, Nomi is stunned to find that she, not Serina, has been named a Grace. Worse, Serina is caught with Nomi's stolen book and is banished to the nightmarish Mount Ruin. Nomi must find a way to rescue her sister while appearing to embrace her new role at the palace.
 
Grace and Fury's blend of fantasy, feminism and political thriller will likely appeal to fans of The Hunger Games, Marie Rutkoski's Winner trilogy and Sabaa Tahir's An Ember in the Ashes. The dual narratives create plenty of suspense, and the growth and transformation of these two sisters is engrossing. --Lynn Becker, blogger and host of Book Talk, a monthly online discussion of children's books for SCBWI

Discover: In a country where women have few options, Serina competes to become a revered Grace, but all her well-laid plans for the future crumble when her rebellious sister is chosen instead.

Little, Brown, $17.99, hardcover, 320p., ages 12-up, 9780316471411

Pieces of Her
by Karin Slaughter
ISBN-13: 9780062430274
William Morrow & Co.
August 21, 2018


an exclusive interview with bestselling author Karin Slaughter 
 

In your thriller PIECES OF HER, a young woman, in your words, realizes “the person she’s known her entire life is basically a stranger to her.” What drew you to this dynamic?

Karin Slaughter: “Our parents are not who we think they are. Nobody really wants to know about their parents’ sexual mistakes or the things that basically make them human…I thought that would be really interesting to play on. I wanted to talk about the differences between generations of women, and there’s no better way to do that than with a mother-daughter story because you have two distinct, different generations. And I thought about the fact that, when I was growing up, women had very few choices about what they could do with their lives. It just wasn’t presented to young women that they could be doctors or lawyers. The goal was still to meet a nice guy, settle down, have a family. That’s very much the sort of message Laura grew up with. You can juxtapose that against Andy’s experience—a young woman who has so many choices that she’s stymied by it. I thought it would be really interesting to use this kind of thriller rubric to talk about those differences.”

 Read the rest of the interview here.

 

ALSO FEATURED ON THE the big THRILL…

UNDER A DARK SKY by LORI RADER-DAY: In the new psychological thriller from award winner Rader-Day, a young widow strangled by grief decides to shed her fears, including her paralyzing phobia of the dark, and spend a week at a dark sky park, but when a fellow guest is murdered, everyone becomes a suspect. Read more at The Big Thrill.

THE GETAWAY LIST by FRANK ZAFIRO & ERIC BEETNER: In the latest Bricks and Cam mystery, the two hit men plan a new life on the West Coast, but while stopping in a small town they are plunged into trouble, as an intervention between an abusive boyfriend and his girlfriend quickly escalates into a blood feud with backwoods royalty. Find out more here.

TIFFANY BLUES by M. J. ROSE: The new atmospheric and romantic historical mystery from best-seller M.J. Rose takes readers to New York in 1924 and Tiffany’s prestigious art colony, where a young artist’s dreams of winning a coveted place at a gallery are darkened by the actions of someone who knows the secret of her past. Learn more at The Big Thrill.

SOMEBODY’S DAUGHTER by DAVID BELL: In this novel of psychological suspense from the bestselling author of Bring Her, a man is visited by his ex-wife who tells him that he is the father of her 10-year-old daughter, now missing, and in the course of one night, lies that span a decade come to the surface. Visit The Big Thrill for more. 

PULL & PRAY by ANGEL LUIS COLON: The author of acclaimed crime fiction novels and short stories brings readers the story of Fantine Park, who after surviving a heist is lured back to the United States by a lead on the identity of her mother’s killer--and the possibility of an irresistible score. Read more here.

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