Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, December 17, 2021

William Morrow & Company: End of Story by A.J. Finn

From My Shelf

Infographics Near and Far

'Tis the season for visually striking and elaborately informative overviews. Just about every social platform has some kind of year-in-review feature to highlight our comings and goings and, I have to say, I am a sucker for a quality infographic.

When I first saw Upper Left Cities by Hunter Shobe and David Banis (Sasquatch, $30), I was mesmerized. It's a gorgeous compendium of cultural data related to Seattle, Portland and San Francisco laid out with eye-popping aesthetics concerning regional ephemera. For instance, there is a delightful little graph that looks at the variety of businesses that share the Sasquatch name with the elusive cryptid, with breweries and eateries dominating the chart. The book cleverly covers urban landscapes, nature, social relations, commerce and popular culture in styles both eclectic and apropos. How about a timeline of early 20th-century jazz clubs delineated on a musical staff?

Another exceptional example of infographic allure is New Playful Data, edited by Wang Shaoqiang (Hokai, $45). It features rigorous science as well as inventive graphic design from numerous contributors. I was particularly intrigued by the entry about standing desks, having switched to one years ago. I don't know if I feel exactly 62% happier, as the report indicates, but it certainly improved my workflow.

The World Explained in 264 Infographics by Jan Schwochow (Prestel, $65) condenses tons of global data in realms both scientific and social into brilliant and digestible overviews. Also, Queerstory: An Infographic History of the Fight for LGBTQ+ Rights, illustrated by Rebecca Strickson (Tiller, $16.99) celebrates some of the most monumental advances toward equality. There's something for every curious mind, so books like these make great last-minute gift items or pleasant diversions for those long dark winter nights. --Dave Wheeler, associate editor, Shelf Awareness

Jewish Book Council: 73rd National Jewish Book Award Winners

The Writer's Life

Reading with... Benjamin Alire Sáenz

photo: Juan Carlos Garcia

Benjamin Alire Sáenz writes poetry and prose for adults and teens, and lives in El Paso, Tex. He was the first Hispanic winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award and a recipient of the American Book Award. His new YA novel, Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World (Simon & Schuster), is the sequel to 2012's Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, which was a Printz Honor Book, a Stonewall Award winner, a Pura Belpré Award winner, Lambda Literary Award winner and a finalist for the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award.

On your nightstand now:

Nepantla Familias: An Anthology of Mexican-American Literature on Families in Between Worlds, edited by Sergio Troncoso. The city in which I live is full of families who live in transition and who live in a liminal space struggling to find a space in the world.

Favorite book when you were a child:

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. I have always loved this fable that is definitely not for children. And The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams--such a lovely message of what it means to love.

Your top five authors:

Gabriel García Márquez, William Faulkner, James Baldwin, Ernest Hemingway, Toni Morrison. These are the writers who represent greatness to me. They are writers who set the standard of excellence not only in their writing but in their thinking.

Book you've faked reading:

Ulysses by James Joyce. I hate this book, and I find it impossible to read. Only a crazed literary critic could love this book. I feel the same way about T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land.

Book you're an evangelist for:

The Price of the Ticket by James Baldwin. His collected essays on race and the position of Black people in America still stand as a testament to his brilliant mind. Baldwin is the only writer I've ever read who made rage sound elegant.

Book you've bought for the cover:

I don't ever think I've bought a book for its cover. But then again, when I walk into a bookstore, I already know the books I'm going to buy. And these days I order the books I want by mail.

Book you hid from your parents:

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty. My mother and father would not have approved of me reading that book. My aunt had told my mother that the book was written to seduce us to the dark side and was Satan's way of getting to our children. My aunt was crazy.

Book that changed your life:

Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo. The book has been banned off and on. I read it during the Vietnam War, and it remains the most powerful antiwar novel that I have ever read. That book shaped my views on war.  

Favorite line from a book:

The last lines of Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez: " 'And how long do you think we can keep up this goddamn coming and going?' he asked. Florentino Ariza had kept his answer ready for fifty-three years, seven months, and eleven days and nights. 'Forever,' he said."

Five books you'll never part with:

A signed special edition copy of Nelson Mandela's Long Walk to Freedom. A first edition of Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom! My worn-out copy of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, translated directly from the Greek and which I've had since I was 21. The two-volume set of the Oxford English Dictionary (despite the fact that I have an online subscription) and Alban Butler's Lives of the Saints (which exists in a four-volume set). Did I cheat? I always cheat on these things.

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. This book blew me away when I first read it. I read it again in graduate school. That was 30 years ago. Time to dive back into the waters of that book.

What made you become a reader?

I had four brothers as roommates. I read to escape.  

So why do you read now--is it also to escape?

No, I read books that make me confront the world I live in.

Sleeping Bear Press: Junia, the Book Mule of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson, illustrated by David C. Gardner

Book Candy

Festive Reads and Favorite Books

"Festive holiday reads for kids and teens" were recommended by the New York Public Library.


Former President Barack Obama shared a list of his favorite books from this year.


Mental Floss noted that "some people know Game of Thrones better than real-life history," according to a new survey.


In Boulder, Utah, "the Grinch opens his cave as vacation rental to keep you away from festivities," Design Taxi noted.


A robot artist performed AI generated poetry in response to Dante, according to the Guardian.

Great Reads

Rediscover: bell hooks

bell hooks, the author, scholar, feminist and activist whose work examined race, class, gender and the ways they intersect, died on December 15 at age 69. Born Gloria Jean Watkins in Hopkinsville, Ky., she published more than 30 books under the pen name bell hooks. She explained in interviews that it was her great-grandmother's name, and she wrote it in lowercase letters to focus attention on her words, not herself. She attended Stanford University and went on to earn a master's in English at the University of Wisconsin Madison and a doctorate in literature at the University of California Santa Cruz. She taught at Oberlin College, City College of New York and Yale University before joining the faculty of Berea College in Berea, Ky.

Her first book was the poetry collection And There We Wept, released in 1978. In 1981, she published the hugely influential Ain't I a Woman? Black Women and Feminism, which explores the impact of sexism and slavery on Black womanhood. In addition to Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center (1984), All About Love: New Visions (2000), Feminism Is for Everybody (2000) and The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love (2004), hooks wrote scholarly articles, essays and children's books.

Book Review


Wish You Were Here

by Jodi Picoult

Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult transports readers in fluid, dreamlike prose back to March 2020, a few days before lifetimes of plans were turned upside down.

Diana O'Toole is a striving, nearly 30-year-old associate specialist at Sotheby's. She is ready for a much-needed vacation to the Galapagos Islands, where she is confident that her boyfriend, Finn, a resident at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, will propose. Everything in her life is going according to plan. But just before departure, Finn's job directs him to stay--19 cases of a novel coronavirus have been diagnosed in the city.

With Finn's encouragement, Diana travels alone to the Galapagos. The final ferry for two weeks drops her off on Isabela Island, where she finds that the hotel she'd booked is closed indefinitely. Wandering, she meets Gabriel, a farmer and former tour guide, and his daughter, Beatriz, who is struggling in isolation. She explores the island with them, learns their secrets and discovers a new life within an abundance of time. As the ferry keeps being delayed and one thing leads to another, Diana realizes getting back will not be easy and that she will not be the same when, or if, she returns.

Picoult balances a portrait of millennial New York City life with quarantine diaries from a remote beach and the front lines of an overflowing hospital. A peek into the art world and a meditation on the nature of the mind, Wish You Were Here satisfies a multitude of curiosities. --Walker Minot, teacher, freelance writer and reviewer

Discover: This novel of current events, told in fluid, dreamlike prose, helps make sense of the traumas of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ballantine, $28.99, hardcover, 336p., 9781984818416

Mystery & Thriller

Dark Night

by Paige Shelton

Dark Night, book three in Paige Shelton's Alaska Wild series, continues the adventures of thriller writer Beth Rivers in the insular small town of Benedict, Alaska. Like Thin Ice and Cold Wind, this installment offers intrigue in a low-gore, cozy package.

Beth is known to the rest of the world under her pseudonym, Elizabeth Fairchild, but after an abduction and skin-of-the-teeth escape, she's retreated to this remote hamlet to live quietly and anonymously: only the local police chief knows who she really is. With winter closing in and a few friends kept at arm's distance, Beth tries to heal from the trauma and go on with her writing, hoping to hear that her abductor has been caught. Instead, her mother turns up unexpectedly. Mill Rivers is a loose cannon, on the run from the law herself--and she may be Beth's best hope at finding peace and finally feeling safe again. A local murder, of course, spices things up. Between Beth's reluctant romantic interest in the comically named Tex Southern, the propensity of Benedict's residents to keep their secrets, an ill-mannered, unwanted census taker and yet another fugitive in town, mother and daughter will have their hands full solving mysteries large and small.

Shelton's plot is twistier than a path through the dark Alaska woods. Suspicions shift and suspense builds in this novel of discovery, growth, relationship building and investigatory hijinks. As a bonus, Dark Night ends with a lead-in to the next episode: Beth Rivers's trajectory will surely extend and continue to complicate as she deepens her roots in the captivating town of Benedict. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: Piles of intrigue and secrets populate a remote town in Alaska, where an amateur sleuth hopes to reinvent herself, in book three of this cozy mystery series.

Minotaur Books, $26.99, hardcover, 288p., 9781250796271

Family Business

by S.J. Rozan

If Laura Lippman's Tess Monaghan was Chinese American and did her private investigating not in Baltimore but in Manhattan, she might be Lydia Chin, who drives the hard-charging but thought-churning Family Business, another welcome offering in Edgar Award winner S.J. Rozan's Lydia Chin/Bill Smith mystery series. Like Tess, Lydia protects more than her clients: she'll be damned if someone is going to mess with her city.

As Family Business begins, crime boss Big Brother Choi has just died--of natural causes, of all things. Choi owned a Chinatown building occupied by the New York branch of the Li Min Jin, the tong over which he presided for decades. Developer Jackson Ting wants to buy the property, which would mean the building's demolition and, as Lydia grouses, "that whole gentrification thing." The decision to sell is now up to Mel Wu, a real estate attorney who inherited the property from Choi, her uncle. Mel hires Lydia and Bill Smith, Lydia's partner (in both senses), to escort her to the building, where Choi's top lieutenant said he would give her the message her uncle intended for her. She never receives it.

Family Business contains some gasp-making reveals and leaves readers with lots to ponder--about loyalty, about assimilation. Rozan embroiders her story with references to Chinese customs courtesy of chatterbox narrator Lydia, who uses her background to professional advantage. Still, her ultra-traditional mother considers her a disappointment: Why date a white guy like Bill when she could date Jackson Ting? --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer

Discover: Set in Manhattan's Chinatown, this Lydia Chin/Bill Smith mystery offers readers an immersive experience in two of the city's signature industries: culture and real estate.

Pegasus Crime, $25.95, hardcover, 352p., 9781643138299

Graphic Books

The Graphic Canon of Crime & Mystery, Volume 2

by Russ Kick, editor

From Cain and Abel to The Silence of the Lambs, The Graphic Canon of Crime & Mystery, Volume 2 selects accounts of murder and intrigue and presents them as an eye-catching gallery of graphic shorts.

By employing a different illustrator for every piece, the book showcases the breadth of comics stylings. Landis Blair depicts Kafka's The Trial through detailed cross-hatch drawings, limericks and choose-your-own-adventure twists. It's one of several black-and-white renderings, alongside Rebecca (illustrated by Emily Rose Dixon) and "The Tell-Tale Heart" (illustrated by Dame Darcy). By contrast, Katherine Hearst's version of Chaucer's "The Pardoner's Tale" is in abstract watercolors, and Till Lukat's take on the Ellery Queen story "The Lamp of God" has a turquoise and magenta palette.

Within thematic sections such as "Killers" and "Revenge," pieces appear in chronological order. Editor Russ Kick's prefaces provide background information and an appreciation of the artist's approach. Most tales are extracted or condensed into 10-page segments. A few stretch to encompass the full plot, such as Anthony Ventura's adaptation of Shakespeare's gruesome Titus Andronicus. Some illustrators return to the source material rather than a better-known movie, as Rachel Leah Gallo does in a largely wordless reworking of Psycho.

Besides familiar names such as Arthur Conan Doyle and Dashiell Hammett, Kick highlights lesser-known authors like sensation novelist Mary Elizabeth Braddon (Lady Audley's Secret) and Emmuska Orczy, whose Lady Molly was an early female detective.

With styles varying from gothic to manga, this is a perfect tasting course for crime readers new to graphic novels. --Rebecca Foster, freelance reviewer, proofreader and blogger at Bookish Beck

Discover: This eye-catching gallery of graphic shorts illustrates tales of murder and intrigue.

Seven Stories Press, $29.95, paperback, 320p., 9781609808266

Biography & Memoir

The Churchill Sisters: The Extraordinary Lives of Winston and Clementine's Daughters

by Rachel Trethewey

Giving the daughters of the famous Churchill family their due, The Churchill Sisters: The Extraordinary Lives of Winston and Clementine's Daughters by Rachel Trethewey sheds new and fascinating light on the drama, passion and tragedy surrounding Diana, Sarah, Marigold and Mary, and the pivotal role each played in their father's illustrious political career, before and during World War II through the postwar years. Marigold did not survive to adulthood, her loss a permanent scar on the family's psyche.

The Churchill Sisters features intimate family scenes set against the resplendent backdrop of Chartwell, the family's home in Kent, and the mutual devotion between Churchill and his daughters reveals a tender, unexpected side of the great politician. The sisters, intelligent and politically astute, traveled with their father to historic world events as his confidantes and informal advisers. Capturing with sensitivity Diana and Sarah's mental health struggles and the tragic impact of their mother's emotionally distant parenting, Trethewey also includes plenty of what she calls "country-house colour" in the sisters' stories. Their glamorous cousins, the Mitford girls, make sparkling appearances throughout the book.

Trethewey (Before Wallis), an accomplished British journalist, author and historian, draws on hundreds of previously unpublished family letters to delve into the complex sibling and familial dynamics and personal challenges that shaped the sisters' destinies. This richly drawn, gorgeously written group biography is the first-ever account devoted to Churchill's daughters. Diana, Sarah and Mary are ultimately defined by their attempts to establish meaningful lives of their own, away from their charismatic parents and the demands of living up to their famous name. --Shahina Piyarali, reviewer

Discover: This elegant, entertaining biography of three young women from the renowned political family reveals the influence of Diana, Sarah and Mary Churchill on their father's postwar legacy.

St. Martin's Press, $29.99, hardcover, 320p., 9781250272393

Sex Cult Nun: Breaking Away from the Children of God, a Wild, Radical Religious Cult

by Faith Jones

In her memoir, Sex Cult Nun, lawyer Faith Jones sensitively explores her traumatic experiences in the Children of God cult.

Also known as the Family, the religious movement--founded by her grandfather, David Brandt Berg--interpreted Christian scriptures to allow free love and link seduction with evangelism. Jones's father kept two wives. Growing up on a Family compound in Macau, Jones would sometimes accompany her mother on "flirty fishing" outings, and was encouraged to spend time alone with adult men and learned how to perform sexual favors.

Readers are sure to be compelled, despite some horrifying situations, because of how Jones re-creates her innocent child-self's point of view as a fluid present-tense narrative. This makes the Family's policies seem natural--this way of life was all she knew. And although her strict parents employed corporal punishment, her upbringing wasn't all bad: she vividly evokes the sultry tropical heat, the purposefulness of waking up at 4:30 a.m. to start farm chores and the feeling of being set apart from the "Systemites" outside the cult.

Only after mission journeys in Europe and Asia and a return to the U.S. for college did Jones awaken to the truth of the child abuse she suffered. It took a boyfriend using the word "rape" for her to realize she had been taken advantage of. This haunting memoir provides a thorough history of the Family as well as a personal record of a journey to understanding consent and being able to declare "I own me!" --Rebecca Foster, freelance reviewer, proofreader and blogger at Bookish Beck

Discover: This haunting memoir provides a thorough history of the Children of God cult as well as a personal record of the author's journey from sexual trauma to self-confidence.

Morrow, $27.99, hardcover, 400p., 9780062952455

Apparently There Were Complaints

by Sharon Gless

Readers will have no complaints with Sharon Gless's bawdy, blisteringly candid and no-holds-barred memoir that grips from the first page to the last. "The one consistent love of my life has always been my acting career," writes Gless, who learned her craft for more than a decade as the last contract player at Universal Studios. In 1982, after twice turning down the co-lead role in Cagney and Lacey, she relented and joined Tyne Daly in the iconic police drama, which earned her two Emmy awards, a Golden Globe and legions of fans. During the series' seventh season, she began an affair with the show's producer, Barney Rosenzweig, and checked herself into rehab for two months after decades of blackout drinking.

Gless recalls being sent to a Jesuit university at 19: "Within three months I had become a weekend drunk and was having an affair with a married man." Gless writes with sardonic humor and fearless honesty about her alcohol addiction and decade-long relapse after 15 years sober. She also chronicles her battles with weight and self-esteem. She married Rosenzweig in 1991, and she's open about their marital struggles, decades of therapy and near-divorce.

Apparently There Were Complaints offers rollicking show-biz anecdotes (a date with Steven Spielberg) and times when she was "sucked into a haze of booze and cocaine.... Hey, it was the '80s." Gless also writes affectionately of working on Queer as Folk, Burn Notice and Nip Tuck. Gless may remind some of Carrie Fisher, but she has her own tart-tongued, funny, endearingly original and brave voice. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant

Discover: Sharon Gless's knockout memoir has it all: brave confessional, hilarious Hollywood dish and a strong and endearing writing style.

Simon & Schuster, $27, hardcover, 320p., 9781501125959

Rewilding the Urban Soul: Searching for the Wild in the City

by Claire Dunn

Journalist Claire Dunn once spent a year living off the grid in the Australian bush, a transformative experience she chronicled in My Year Without Matches. After moving to Melbourne, Dunn found herself not only overwhelmed by the urban bustle, but craving ways truly to connect to the wildness that was sometimes hidden under the city's concrete heart. In her second book, Rewilding the Urban Soul, Dunn charts her experiments in foraging, observing and learning about local wildlife species, kayaking a city river and even making herself a (locally trapped) fox fur coat.

Much as Dunn was shaped by her time in the bush, she knew she couldn't stay there. But she didn't want a typically fast-paced urban life, either. In warm, insightful prose, Dunn relates her experiences building a new life from scratch: settling into a communal house, leading "Rewild Friday" groups at a local park, teaching others to see the physical world in the city while re-seeing it herself. She delves into the disconnect that sometimes exists between urban dwellers and their surroundings, and tries different ways of bridging the gap. Though the details of Dunn's landscape are vividly Australian, her strategies are available to many urban dwellers: anyone can learn the names of local birds, trees and other species, or make an effort to find out where their food and water come from. Dunn's humility, thoughtfulness and curiosity make her an excellent guide to finding and following a thread of wildness in any city. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: Australian journalist and nature activist Claire Dunn chronicles her experiments and insights in seeking wildness near her Melbourne home.

Scribe, $28, paperback, 336p., 9781950354788

Business & Economics

Flying Blind: The 737 Max Tragedy and the Fall of Boeing

by Peter Robison

Flying Blind: The 737 Max Tragedy and the Fall of Boeing opens with the shocking crash of two Boeing 737 Max flights in 2018 and 2019, resulting in the deaths of 346 people. From there, Bloomberg reporter Peter Robison traces the roots of those tragedies to seismic changes within Boeing--a disturbing reflection of an increasingly profit-obsessed corporate leaders. Robison then takes readers back to Boeing's golden years, when the company made huge bets on behalf of its ambitious engineers as they parlayed their experience contracting for the military into the creation of soon-to-be-ubiquitous passenger planes like the 737.

While Flying Blind pays a great deal of attention to the mechanical failures that led to the 737 Max crashes, it is equally attentive to the corrosion of Boeing's corporate culture that led to those failings. A new era of Boeing leadership proved much less interested in the nuts and bolts of engineering successful planes than the savage cost-cutting and stock buybacks that enriched investors. Robison makes it clear that Boeing was by no means alone in embracing these values, tying the changes rocking Boeing to decades of federal deregulation and the emergence of hyper-aggressive CEOs like General Electric's Jack Welch. Robison's narrative distinguishes itself by showing how broader trends sweeping through the corporate world were fundamentally at odds with building exceptional, safe airplanes. Flying Blind is at its most convincing when bloodless corporate maneuvering is juxtaposed with the terrible human costs that result. --Hank Stephenson, the Sun magazine, manuscript reader

Discover: Flying Blind is a convincing and unsettling business narrative that reconstructs the decisions leading up to two tragic Boeing 737 plane crashes.

Doubleday, $30, hardcover, 336p., 9780385546492

Art & Photography

Marcel Duchamp

by Robert Lebel et al.

Six decades since its 1959 publication, Marcel Duchamp by Robert Lebel et al. is back in print, and it's a must-have for anyone who wants better to comprehend an artist who made a career of doing the semi-incomprehensible. The book--Duchamp's first monograph and catalogue raisonné--swarms with photographs and reproductions of his work and is faithful to the French Dadaist's original design. Marcel Duchamp is an art book, a time capsule and a portrait of the artist by four contributors, including the artist himself.

Duchamp (1887-1968) made his first big splash in 1912 with his titillatingly titled but eroticism-free painting Nude Descending a Staircase, which, Marcel Duchamp reports, one flummoxed critic described as conjuring "an explosion in a shingle factory." That same triumphant year, Duchamp quit painting and turned to ready-mades; writes Lebel, "He would spruce up the Mona Lisa with a beard and moustache or recommend, as a 'reciprocal ready-made,' the use of a Rembrandt 'as an ironing-board.' "

Marcel Duchamp highlights the artist's love of wordplay, perhaps most famously employed in his pseudonym Rrose Sélavy (pronounced "C'est la vie"). This humor coexisted with Duchamp's easy-to-miss seriousness. In his exultant essay about their friendship, writer H.P. Roché offers, "When he submitted a porcelain urinal to the New York Independents, he was saying: 'Beauty is around you wherever you choose to discover it.' " The New York Independents thought the urinal, which Duchamp titled Fountain, was saying something else: after the 1917 show opened, he was forced to withdraw it. --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer

Discover: Six decades after its original 1959 publication, this enchanting reissue is a monograph, a time capsule and a portrait of Marcel Duchamp by four contributors, including the artist himself.

Hauser & Wirth, $125, hardcover, 252p., 9783906915517

Children's & Young Adult

Killers of the Flower Moon: Adapted for Young Readers: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI

by David Grann

New Yorker writer David Grann has skillfully adapted his chilling nonfiction bestseller Killers of the Flower Moon for young readers. Grann examines this ghastly episode of U.S. history in an authentic, accessible style that will hook teens with the intrigue of fiction while simultaneously enlightening them with the facts.

Two stories converge as Grann adeptly lays out the details of a series of gruesome murders committed against members of the Osage Nation in the 1920s. He focuses on the family of Mollie Burkhart: her older sister was shot to death, her mother died suspiciously not long after and Mollie's younger sister was killed in a bombing. When it became clear the murders were connected and continuing, the Bureau of Investigation was called in to take over the case. Tom White, a former Texas Ranger, led the investigation team in Oklahoma, while J. Edgar Hoover used one of the bureau's first major homicide cases to secure his position as the director of what would become the FBI.

There is no shortage of jaw-dropping information in Killers of the Flower Moon. Grann entices younger readers with a mystery worthy of fiction and grips them with a thriller. In the preface, Osage tribal member Dennis McAuliffe Jr. says, "Every time this history is learned, justice is served, and the victims... are honored." Grann has ensured that justice will indeed be served many times over. --Jen Forbus, freelancer

Discover: Journalist David Grann masterfully adapts his work about the Osage tribe murders--a National Book Award finalist--to provide young readers with an accessible look at this horrific part of U.S. history.

Crown Books for Young Readers, $18.99, hardcover, 336p., ages 10-up, 9780593377345

Spell Sweeper

by Lee Edward Fodi

Spell Sweeper by Lee Edward Fodi (The Secret of Zoone) is a middle-grade magic school adventure that features a sassy and smart-mouthed heroine who wants to be recognized as a real wizard instead of as one who cleans up after them.

Seventh-grader Cara Moone attends Dragonsong Academy for the magically gifted, but she's not learning how to brew potions or cast spells. Rather, Cara is learning to clean up messes. Equipped with her trusty broom, she is a MOP, a Magical Occurrence Purger, who "sweeps" the spell dust left behind when "real" wizards do magic--real wizards like 15-year-old Harlee Wu, the "so-called Chosen One" and Cara's sworn enemy. After one of Harlee's magical feats, Cara is faced with sweeping a slime-oozing rift in the Field of Magical Matter, which is what wizards access when spellcasting. Though Cara closes it--by herself--Master Quibble, the MOP department head (who thinks Cara a "disobedient failure"), doesn't believe her. Worse yet, Cara is sure he won't believe her theory that Harlee is using an occuli, a forbidden magical talisman.

Spell Sweeper is a genre-loyal magic school tale full of mischievous antics told from the point of view of a gutsy girl wizard who never lacks a comeback. Daring leap-before-you-look moments, hilarious mishaps and tense family drama add excitement, levity and depth. Interspersed between chapters are quirky guides on the "wizarding world" and tender reflections on Cara's most private memories. Together, Cara and her wizard companions show that people are not always who they seem on the outside and, if given the chance, they can truly shine. --Samantha Zaboski, freelance editor and reviewer

Discover: A feisty tween girl wizard leads this lighthearted magic school story, in which brooms are used to sweep up the waste left behind by spells.

HarperCollins, $16.99, hardcover, 368p., ages 8-12, 9780062845320

Our Violent Ends

by Chloe Gong

Our Violent Ends continues the satisfying, high-stakes tale of forbidden love that began in These Violent Delights. Chloe Gong brings the duology to a close amid a culture of moral decay and an ever-increasing body count.

This sequel picks up four months after the "monster of Shanghai" was killed, and the madness associated with it has abated. But even as citizens celebrate, the bloody gang war between Scarlets and White Flowers rages on. Confrontations between Communists and Nationalists heat up as well and, in the emerging political landscape, both Scarlets and White Flowers stand to lose all their hard-won power and territories. Scarlet heir Juliette Cai hasn't seen ex-lover and White Flower heir Roma Montagov since she saved his life by pretending to shoot one of his closest friends. In the ensuing months, Roma, certain Juliette betrayed him, has become a bitter, angry killer intent on vengeance. But now the pair must work together again to track down a blackmailer who demands payment in exchange for the city's safety: while only one monster caused chaos and destruction before, "I have five," the blackmailer's note warns. "Do as I say, or everyone dies."

Chloe Gong revisits Romeo and Juliet--"one of Shakespeare's best plays" Gong states in her bio--and sets it in the "uproarious decadence" of an alternate 1920s Shanghai in political and social turmoil. At the heart lies the smoldering romance between Roma and Juliette, which simultaneously threatens to blaze into deadly violence and amorous love at any moment. Against such a ruthless backdrop, with loyalties tested, how can true love possibly win out? --Lynn Becker, reviewer, blogger, and children's book author

Discover: This sequel to These Violent Delights continues a satisfying, high-stakes tale of forbidden love set amid a culture of extreme decadence and an ever-increasing body count.

Margaret K. McElderry Books, $19.99, hardcover, 512p., ages 13-up, 9781534457720


Author Buzz

Visions of Flesh and Blood:
A Blood and Ash/Flesh and Fire Compendium

by Jennifer L. Armentrout with Rayvn Salvador

Dear Reader,

Today is the release of VISIONS OF FLESH AND BLOOD, the Blood and Ash/Flesh and Fire Compendium, and I am so excited that you finally get to see and read it!

I saw the love you had for Miss Willa, watched how following along with all the series twists and turns brought you joy, and thought... wouldn't it be nice to have a book to help with that, yet give even more new stuff?

So, my publisher and I came up with a plan. It included loads of stunning art commissions, strategic disclosures, and brand-new material. When it all came together, it was even better than I imagined.

VISIONS OF FLESH AND BLOOD is so much more than a series bible. It's a journey and a work of art. A collector's item for sure!


Available on Kobo

AuthorBuzz: Visions of Flesh and Blood: A Blood and Ash/Flesh and Fire Compendium by Jennifer L. Armentrout with Rayvn Salvador

Blue Box Press

Pub Date: 
February 20, 2024


List Price: 
$7.99 e-book

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