Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, March 11, 2022

Poisoned Pen Press: That Night in the Library by Eva Jurczyk

From My Shelf

Ah! Board Book Monsters!

Monsters and fantastical creatures are tons of fun for adults. But the monsters children imagine lurking under the bed or in the closet? Well, here are some board books that show them to be silly, sweet and amusing.

"When monsters get up in the morning, they have to find something to wear," says Daisy Hirst's Monster Clothes (Candlewick, $7.99). Harriet, bright red and frog-like, has a hat. Simon, blue with bunny ears, wears socks. And Terrence? "Terrence tries on a tomato." Every screen-printed monster is a solid color and appears on a monochrome background. Their clothing--pajamas, dresses, toy cars--are all in bright, contrasting colors and sometimes worn on the appropriate body parts.

What's in the Box (Tiger Tales, $14.99) by Isabel Otter, illustrated by Joaquin Camp, is an immersive experience for kids. A pile of boxes has arrived. "Can you guess what hides inside?" Every page turn offers a hint ("This box is ON FIRE") and a new creature hidden beneath a flap ("A DRAGON curled up, ready to doze"). The other boxes contain a monster, a dinosaur, a unicorn and the best treat of all: a book.

Elise Gravel is known for her distinctive artistic style and quirky sense of humor. I'm the Boss (Orca Book Publishers, $10.95), translated from the French by Charles Simard, is a perfect exhibition of her thick-lined, boldly colored illustrations and entertainingly offbeat plots. A young monster tells their caregiver, "Your job is to give me everything I ask for." This includes a dinosaur egg with a baby dinosaur inside, a robot that spits fire and a castle made from chocolate. The adult handles the demands perfectly but, just in case, "Orca Book Publishers apologizes in advance for any autocratic tendencies this book may inspire." --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

The Writer's Life

Sasha taqʷšəblu LaPointe: The Love that Mattered the Most

photo: Blaine Slingerland

Sasha taqʷšəblu LaPointe is a Coast Salish author and songwriter from the Nooksack and Upper Skagit Indian tribes. She received a double MFA in creative nonfiction and poetry from the Institute of American Indian Arts and lives in Tacoma, Wash. Red Paint: The Ancestral Autobiography of a Coast Salish Punk (Counterpoint, $23; reviewed below) is her debut memoir.

You bookend Red Paint with lyrics, starting with the Salmon Song translated by Aunt Susie, and ending with lyrics of your own. You also begin not with I but we: "We were a hunter-gatherer society. We were nomadic." How did you approach the telling of these stories?

I knew I wanted to begin this story in the words of my great-grandmother and my ancestor Aunt Susie. So much of what I learned on my journey of finding strength and healing came from these women, especially my grandmother, Aunt Susie and Comptia Koholowish. This was my way of honoring all they've taught me. Using the We is something I've shied away from in the past. I often struggle with the idea of writing from a collective we, because sometimes I think it can come across as presumptuous or entitled. It was important for me to begin with the We to signal to the reader this is not my story alone. This book isn't just about me, but rather a story of the women who came before me and all that they taught me. I hoped that right away the reader would pick up on that because of how I chose to structure it.

There's a striking line early in Red Paint: "It's easier to remember the hard things." How do you access the easier things, the positives that also shine through--either in terms of recalling memory, or in, say, physical practices like reviewing old journals and photos, visiting?

I think that line carried so much weight for me. This idea that we hang on to trauma and focus on it because sometimes it can eclipse the strength and the moments [when] we do have power, or safety, or happiness, is something I've had to fight against. In my previous manuscript Little Boats, I couldn't get away from the pain and the anger. I think the book read as a sort of sad catalog of every hard thing that had happened to me, and there was no power in it, no healing. I think this line is a nod to that, a way to remind myself not to focus on only the hard things, but to work to move through them.

There are so many moments of kindness in Red Paint. What are some kindnesses you experienced from others, and maybe even granted yourself, in writing it? 

I love this question because those moments of kindness and softness really helped to prop me up against the heavier, more weighted moments. There is a lot of darkness in this story. And I think there was a lot of strength and love and understanding from so many people around me while I was writing. Letters and care packages from friends and family, very long FaceTime calls with one of my best friends (thank you, Tania) and just a lot of patience from the people in my life. And I think in the process of writing this I learned a lot about being kind and compassionate towards myself and through that was able to be kinder and more compassionate to those I loved.

A physical object that holds great resonance are the dentalium shell earrings from your friend Tania, which she says: "We wear... to show how much we are loved." Did Red Paint feel like a celebration of love?

Her work is stunning. And yes, receiving those earrings and the note she sent about "We wear them to show we are loved" was literally one of those eye-opening moments. There was such wisdom there! And I think of it all the time, still. I think when I was wrestling with different notions of love, what it meant to be loved, or to love someone, I was struggling with the attachment part of love, the part of love that maybe didn't work for me in failed relationships. I think receiving Tania's gift at the time that I did was the exact time I needed to hear it. Because it taught me that I don't need to love someone else, to bend myself into fitting into their idea of love or their idea of me, but rather understand that I had enough love, I had the tools to love myself. And that was the love that mattered the most.

Any questions you are particularly excited about with the book's release, or particularly dreading?

I'm excited about food and music and movie questions. I'm excited about fun questions. Because if you read Red Paint carefully, you'll understand just how important those things are to me. I'm silly. I'm a total nerd. I get really excited about talking about whatever I happen to be obsessed with currently. I'll take the light questions and the goofy questions when I can.

I think I'm dreading questions about kids. Like, a couple people have asked me if I'd try to have a kid again and I'm like, I have no idea and that's also none of your business. If that's what you walked away wondering after reading, I think you read wrong. I also think there's this assumption or expectation that most women want or crave motherhood. I have no idea if I want to do that, not really? It was a very specific time in my life, connected to a certain person and a certain love. I think it's rude to assume most women want that. Some of us don't. Some of us have no idea. And that's fine.

Any interesting writing process snacks or habits?

Thank you for this question! I'm an incredibly snack-motivated person, and I like snack questions. And I have a bit of a sweet tooth. I'd like to answer with something more writerly, whatever that means, and answer really poetically like, I eat half a pomegranate and drink Douglas fir tip tea or something when I write. But I literally have a bag of Sour Patch Kids in front of me. It's one of my favorite bad snacks. My partner calls them "Sour Patch Children" and that cracks me up. Lots of coffee. Lots of vegan gummies. I'm the pillar of health.

Who do you most hope reads Red Paint?

I hope people who haven't had the chance to see themselves reflected back at them on the page read it. Growing up it was difficult to find any experiences that reflected my own as an indigenous person, a Coast Salish person, a mixed heritage person, a queer person, a person who survived sexual assault or grew up on a reservation. I didn't see many indigenous stories on the page or on the screen and that often felt lonely. The books, the films and the music I loved were almost always through the lens of only whiteness. I know that it's changing, and I'm so excited for that. I'm so excited to see film and television, books of prose and poetry from native voices. And I hope my book can be part of that.

I hope other Coast Salish people read it, but I also hope nonnative people who don't know a lot about Coast Salish people read it.

What have you read lately that you love? 

Sharks in the Time of Saviors by Kawai Strong Washburn. It is one of the most incredible books I've ever read. I am actually rereading it now. It's such a beautifully powerful story, one that is unapologetically indigenous. One that more white people (especially white people who live in Hawaii or even travel to Hawaii) need to read. He is such a capable and poetic storyteller that I can't put it down. I'm actually ending this interview right now so I can keep reading. --Katie Weed

Book Candy

Science Fiction from the 2nd Century

"The first work of science fiction: Read Lucian's 2nd-century space travelogue A True Story," courtesy of Open Culture.


"Absent letters that are heard anyway: When letters make sounds that aren't associated with their name." (via Merriam-Webster)


" 'A group of drinkers with a writing problem': readers' favorite literary haunts," according to the Guardian.


Messy Nessy Chic takes you "cruising with Agatha Christie on the last steamship of the Nile."


Bookshelf featured the Isola bookcase, "a masterpiece of glass and brass coming together and challenging design."

Great Reads

Rediscover: The Widow of the South

Robert Hicks, author of bestseller The Widow of the South, which helped finance his passion of buying and saving a Civil War battlefield in Franklin, Tenn., died on March 4 at age 71. Published in 2005, The Widow of the South was Hicks's first novel and was, the New York Times wrote, "one of the buzziest books of the year, with his publisher, Warner Books, ordering 250,000 copies for its first print run." It follows Carrie McGavock, who with her husband owns Carnton, a real mansion that served as a Civil War hospital, which Hicks had helped restore. The novel "imagines a love story involving her and a Confederate soldier." The book also helped popularize Carnton: visits quadrupled, "and over the next decade Franklin transformed from a sleepy Nashville suburb to a luxury enclave, a change due at least partly to the book's success."

After helping restore Carnton, Hicks decided to buy a golf course on the site of the Battle of Franklin that was for sale to keep the area from being developed. He helped raise nearly $20 million to buy some 110 acres and turn it into a park. The result was what the National Park Service called "the largest battlefield reclamation in North American history." Hicks also published two other novels, A Separate Country (2009) and The Orphan Mother (2016). The Widow of the South is available in paperback from Grand Central ($17.99).

Book Review



by Karen Joy Fowler

One could write an old-fashioned horror novel, but an even better way to terrify modern readers is to show them the parallels between a gut-wrenching period of American history and today, as Karen Joy Fowler does in Booth. In this canny and disturbing piece of historical fiction, she creates a portrait not just of a killer but also of the killer's family. Readers meet the large Booth family--Junius, the father and a Shakespearean actor on tour more than at his home near Baltimore; his wife, Mary; and their 10 children, only six of whom live beyond childhood. Among them are Rosalie ("Nothing is expected of her"); "artistic, sensitive, and maybe a touch eccentric" Edwin, who becomes a celebrated stage actor; tomboy Asia; and John, who is neither the actor nor the staunch abolitionist his brother is and who believes that "nothing will destroy the American black faster than freedom."

Interspersed among scenes of the Booth family, Fowler (We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves) charts the career of Abraham Lincoln, starting with his 1838 speech in which he responds to the lynching of a free Black man in St. Louis. In describing the warnings in Lincoln's speech, Fowler's words read as chillingly apt today: "The gravest peril will come if the mob and the dictator unite." That's what makes Booth so unsettling and thrilling: the many parallels between the Booth family's era and the present day. "What is it like to love the most hated man in the country?" Fowler asks. It is a grim reminder that, throughout history, families of murderers have had to discover the answer, and more are likely to follow. --Michael Magras, freelance book reviewer

Discover: Karen Joy Fowler's Booth, a cautionary tale for today, is a work of historical fiction that dramatizes the life of John Wilkes Booth and his family. 

Putnam, $28, hardcover, 480p., 9780593331439

Mystery & Thriller

Wild Irish Rose

by Rhys Bowen, Clare Broyles

Rhys Bowen (The Last Mrs. Summers) teams up with her daughter, composer Clare Broyles, for Wild Irish Rose, the 18th installment of the charming Molly Murphy historical mystery series. Molly has hung up her detective hat and now spends her time caring for her children and Daniel, her husband and a New York City police captain. But Molly feels restless, especially given the presence of her critical mother-in-law, who is temporarily living with the family. Society may expect Molly to be content to be at home, but Molly misses her detecting days.

In order to keep herself busy, Molly engages in some charitable work. Delivering clothing to new arrivals at Ellis Island stirs up memories of her own arrival from Ireland some years earlier. But then a man is stabbed, and the presumed murderess, Rose McSweeney, turns out to be Molly's doppelgänger. Molly is convinced that her presence on Ellis Island that day was meant to help Rose. Much to Daniel's dismay, Molly plunges into her own investigation, trying to clear Rose's name. Will Molly be able to help Rose without putting herself or her marriage in danger?

Bowen and Broyles aptly capture the complicated social hierarchy of early 20th-century New York City. Molly challenges stereotypes and boundaries at every turn, making her a delightful lens for modern readers to learn more about this era, while simultaneously enjoying the twists and turns of her investigation. Fans of Deanna Raybourn or T.E. Kinsey are sure to appreciate Molly's introspection and intrepidity. --Jessica Howard, bookseller at Bookmans, Flagstaff, Ariz.

Discover: In this lighthearted historical mystery, Molly Murphy investigates a stabbing on Ellis Island, which involves a woman who looks exactly like Molly herself.

Minotaur Books, $26.99, hardcover, 320p., 9781250808059

The Heretic

by Liam McIlvanney

The Heretic, Liam McIlvanney's gritty, meaty and propulsive follow-up to The Quaker, finds Detective Duncan McCormack back in Glasgow, heading up a Serious Crime Squad unit after six years with the Met in London. For some of McCormack's Glasgow colleagues, the mystery of why he has returned is as worthy of investigation as something on a police docket.

It's 1975, and McCormack is working full bore to nail Glasgow crime lord Walter Maitland. McCormack is sure Maitland is behind a recent tenement fire that killed four, including a child. But McCormack's boss, Detective Chief Inspector Alan Haddow, wants him to switch gears: the body of an elderly man, a well-heeled local businessman and former politician, has turned up in a rubbish dump. McCormack refuses to sideline the Maitland case. He "marches to his own bloody drum," grouses Haddow, who isn't the only officer to bear a grudge against McCormack for professional fallout from the Quaker case. McCormack cracked that case six years earlier--and it haunts him still.

The Heretic is a hard-charging thriller infused with something not typically associated with tartan noir: tenderness. The novel's scale and roving point of view ensure that all the principal characters' stories can be told and their socioeconomic circumstances fleshed out. When Detective Constable Elizabeth Nicol sums up the "magical strangeness" of her work--"You moved around the city and people opened their doors and gave you little glimpses of their lives"--she could be describing the experience of reading McIlvanney's capacious, immersive novel. --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer

Discover: This sturdy follow-up to The Quaker finds Detective Duncan McCormack back in Glasgow, the reason for his return as mysterious to his colleagues as the reason for a local businessman's murder.

World Noir, $18, paperback, 400p., 9781609457419


Mr. Wrong Number

by Lynn Painter

Lynn Painter's romantic comedy Mr. Wrong Number is perfect for readers looking for a semi-epistolary escape. Advice columnist Olivia Marshall isn't the average comedic-disaster heroine--she just accidentally burned down an entire apartment building after her boyfriend cheated on her. With only a gym bag and cell phone to her name, she leaves Chicago for her brother's apartment in her hometown of Omaha, Neb. When she arrives, however, she finds that her brother's irritating lifelong best friend, who owns the apartment, still lives there. The hits just keep coming, so when she engages in some surprisingly fun banter with a texter who has reached the wrong number, Olivia clings to this anonymous, no-pressure exchange like a lifeline.

Financial analyst Colin Beck has never allowed himself to consider his best friend's little sister anything more than an entertaining annoyance. But when he realizes that the woman that he's been sparking with in his apartment is the same woman who's been heating up his phone, he must decide how--or if--to come clean.

Painter (Better than the Movies) employs several classic rom-com staples: a best friend's sibling, a secret identity, an incredibly unlucky heroine, roommates and antagonists-turned-lovers, but the plot doesn't feel derivative. She cleverly subverts the trope of the clumsy heroine and, though the banter is charming and funny, the characters bond in a deeper way as well. Pair that with just enough steam and conflict, and readers have a rom-com sure to please--an especially good fit for fans of The Hating Game or television's The New Girl. --Suzanne Krohn, librarian and freelance reviewer

Discover: Mr. Wrong Number is a funny contemporary romance with plenty of tropes, banter-filled texting and a steamy opposites-attract premise.

Berkley, $16, paperback, 352p., 9780593437261

Biography & Memoir

Red Paint: The Ancestral Autobiography of a Coast Salish Punk

by Sasha taqʷšəblu LaPointe

In Red Paint: The Ancestral Autobiography of a Coast Salish Punk, Sasha taqʷšəblu LaPointe delivers a cutting, artful thrashing of settler colonialism and a sensitive exploration of ways of healing and forging space for community and connection through storytelling. LaPointe, a poet and songwriter from the Nooksack and Upper Skagit Indian tribes, recounts a coming of age abundant with love as well as instability, punk rock, skepticism and, at times, trauma. Via written word and grounded journeys, she honors ancestors who have modeled ways to heal, love, preserve stories and language and leave legacies. Their names reverberate throughout: Comptia Koholowish, Aunt Susie and Vi taqʷšəblu Hilbert.

LaPointe's intimate prose is introspective, raging and funny. Vivid details mark salient memories of falling in love, navigating conflict and asserting value. She wrestles with the desire to honor the bravery of those before her and anger at people and institutions that relentlessly demand it. LaPointe writes: "I hate the word 'brave.' Like I hate 'victim,' 'survivor,' or 'squaw.' " Instead, she writes, "call me Coast Salish or poet. Call me a girl who loves Nick Cave, and night swimming, and ramen, and old Bikini Kill records. I no longer wish to be called resilient." Indeed, reducing Red Paint to a story of resilience does a disservice to LaPointe's nuanced offering: meditations on self and legacy, thoughts on the urgency of listening and representation, and a model for creating space to connect across communities inherited and created.

And night swimming. And ramen. And records that are old, new and unforgettable, much like LaPointe's words. --Katie Weed, freelance writer and reviewer

Discover: Coast Salish writer Sasha taqʷšəblu LaPointe explores her experiences and familial legacies in a wash of rage, beauty, love and reclamation of strength via storytelling.

Counterpoint, $25, hardcover, 240p., 9781640094147

Never Simple: A Memoir

by Liz Scheier

This debut book is a touching memoir of growing up as the only child of "not just a strict single parent, but something different. Something to be cautious of." Liz Scheier, a former editor at Penguin Random House, reveals the many ways her mother, Judith, was Never Simple, and the singular parent-child bond that endured through this fraught relationship.

It's reassuring to realize the author is alive and well; her opening chapters reveal the bizarre, even abusive, behavior she survived in 1980s Manhattan, where her "retired" mother, vague about Scheier's father, orchestrated their "secluded life in the center of a massive city." Scheier eventually realized Judith had borderline personality disorder, explaining the "whole fake world" she created. In a compelling, even humorous narrative ("Kids scattering like spiders in front of my mother when she strode into the school"), Scheier parallels her life story--itself a fascinating journey to career, marriage and motherhood--with her mother's erratic existence. Scheier illustrates how a child can not only heal from trauma, but evolve into forgiveness. As Judith's charisma failed to keep creditors from her door, and as "mental illness was... vying with dementia," Scheier had to make decisions for her mother's care. In poignant, often horrific and darkly funny ways, she describes "the fraying hemp of the last ropes tying me to her creak to their breaking point." Yet in a heartfelt conclusion to Never Simple, Scheier hopes she can "let the good stories surface and the bad ones sink for good," remembering her mother as "flawed, but well-intentioned." --Cheryl McKeon, Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany, N.Y.

Discover: A horrific yet darkly funny memoir by the daughter of a charismatic woman with borderline personality disorder emphasizes the strength of family bonds.

Holt, $26.99, hardcover, 288p., 9781250823137

Reference & Writing

Refuse to Be Done: How to Write and Rewrite a Novel in Three Drafts

by Matt Bell

Many bookshelves sag under the weight of creative writing instruction manuals, but few are as engaging--in little more than 150 pages--as Matt Bell's Refuse to Be Done. Bell (Appleseed), professor of creative writing at Arizona State University and the author of three novels, has written an enthusiastic and highly practical guide to completing this challenging artistic effort successfully.

The first section of Refuse to Be Done is its lengthiest and most stimulating. In it, Bell describes an array of strategies designed to help the aspiring novelist continue to generate fresh material. The goal here is simply to get words on paper. Bell, who's not a proponent of outlining before beginning a novel, strongly advocates for that process at the beginning of the work's second stage. This outline is "less a document of what exists and more a plan for the better book you want the second draft to be, discovered among the material of the first draft's more organic creation." In his final section, Bell offers a host of helpful practices for tightening a manuscript, which he concedes the writer may be weary of confronting by this point, to create a highly polished work. At this stage, he argues, it's especially important for writers to "refuse to be done," finally urging them to read the novel aloud one last time, "a beautiful gift you can give yourself, before you give the gift of your novel to everyone else."

By implementing even some of Bell's myriad of sound and ingenious tips, writers will almost certainly find their journey a more rewarding one. --Harvey Freedenberg, freelance reviewer

Discover: Matt Bell's compact guide to writing novels is packed with useful strategies and tips to help improve any writer's finished product.

Soho Press, $15.95, paperback, 168p., 9781641293419


How Do I Un-Remember This?: Unfortunately True Stories

by Danny Pellegrino

Danny Pellegrino, comedian and podcast host, delivers a warm and humorous collection of stories about his childhood, including his experience coming out as well as building a career out of his love of pop culture. Many readers will find a kindred spirit when reading "I've never had a second glass of wine that didn't end with me on Allison Janney's IMBD page." Although Pellegrino (The Super Carb Diet, with Bob Harper) can't pinpoint when he realized he is gay, he does remember as a preteen recording The First Wives Club on VHS tape over his brother's copy of The Terminator and his love for Chris O'Donnell in Batman & Robin.  

His rollicking tale of his family enduring an endless time-share tour for free vouchers to Florida theme parks is made even funnier by his frequent diversions, including why Diane Keaton, Alfre Woodard and Dianne Wiest should play superheroes in Marvel movies. In fact, every chapter in How Do I Un-Remember This? includes a "Detour," in which Pellegrino sidetracks his story for tributes and tirades on everything from late-1990s boy bands to The Nanny, Magic Mike and some of his favorite places to shop: "Marie Kondo wants us to get rid of shit, but I can only assume that's because she's never been inside of a HomeGoods."

Readers will laugh when he postpones flying home to his grandmother's funeral for what became a bad first date. But then, as an example of how his stories perfectly blend hilarity and poignancy, he reveals years of unprocessed grief. This is a winning collection of tales from an unforgettable voice. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant

Discover: Danny Pellegrino's exuberantly funny and poignant stories of growing up gay are stuffed with loving pop-culture references and laced with real emotion. 

Sourcebooks, $25.99, hardcover, 272p., 9781728247984


The Kissing of Kissing

by Hannah Emerson

Define verbal. Better yet, define nonverbal, a word sometimes used to describe autistic individuals who don't speak. As a poet, Hannah Emerson knows that words and their meanings matter and thus prefers to describe herself as "non-speaking autistic." Her debut poetry collection, The Kissing of Kissing, proves the wisdom of that choice: it decisively shows that speaking aloud is only part of being verbal.

Emerson makes great use of repetition, such as with phrases ("yes yes" or "please get") that spiral in and out of the poems. This signals a certain urgency and makes the tone at once familiar and fresh. The rhythmic quality of each piece is similar, creating a steady pulse throughout the collection. Every poem feels alive with a fierce energy, a force that is balanced by the book's design. Each full page of white space grounds readers, creating a stillness within the movement. The pause allows reflection on such insights as "Looking oblique littles/ the moment into many/ helpful moments" from "Peripheral" or, as in the poem "I Live in the Woods of My Words," to sit with a tangle of ideas and words: "I live in the branches/ of the trees. I live in/ the great keeping/ freedom of the really/ helpful down yearning/ in the grown of the forest/ floor."

This arresting collection is the first in Milkweed's Multiverse series, titles written and curated by the neurodivergent. It makes a remarkable statement, both visually and verbally. --Sara Beth West, freelance reviewer and librarian

Discover: This fierce and energetic collection of poems--which makes a remarkable statement, both visually and verbally--is the first in a series of titles written and curated by the neurodivergent.

Milkweed Editions, $16, paperback, 96p., 9781571315496

Now in Paperback


by Anna North

Outlawed by Anna North (America Pacifica; The Life and Death of Sophie Stark) is a wild, ripping western with a feminist bent, set in an alternative North America.

After the Great Flu decimated the population, the U.S. government collapsed and, in its place, the people established Independent Towns west of the Mississippi. Ada has grown up in Fairchild, where her mother is a skilled midwife. Ada excels in her own midwifery training and helps care for her beloved three younger sisters. She marries at 17 and tries to become pregnant. But when six months pass, Ada worries. To be barren in Fairchild is a crime punishable by death. At the end of a year, her husband's family rejects her, and Ada's mother sends her to the Sisters of the Holy Child. Ada's hunger for knowledge drives her west, where she joins up with the infamous Hole in the Wall Gang, led by the Kid. He is charismatic, beloved and possibly dangerous in entirely different ways than the rumors insist.

Outlawed--a Reese's Book Club Pick--is a delightful tale of adventure, rebellion, the importance of knowledge and the value of family, however it is made or defined. With the Hole in the Wall Gang, Ada finds unexpected freedoms and fluid gender roles, and is forced to consider what she has to offer her new friends and the world. North's narrative is often lighthearted, with style, humor and a sense of fun, but her protagonist never forgets the high stakes. Part of the genius of Outlawed is that its feminist themes juxtapose neatly with the traditionally male-dominated western genre. --Julia Kastner

Discover: This alternate history set in the Wild West brilliantly juxtaposes feminist themes in a traditionally male-dominated world and delivers energetic, literary entertainment to boot.

Bloomsbury, $17, paperback, 272p., 9781635578249

Children's & Young Adult


by Anna-Marie McLemore

Lakelore, the eighth YA novel by Anna-Marie McLemore (Mirror Season), is an exquisite and impassioned story about two neurodivergent Mexican American teens, both queer and nonbinary, who find solace in a magical lake world.

Sixteen-year-old Bastián Silvano crafts alebrijes (figures of mythical creatures) as an outlet for their ADHD-related anxiety. Bastián pours their "worst moments into the painted papier-mâché then releases the alebrijes into a magical world under the lake. There, the mythical animals come alive and stay beneath the surface. That is, until the day Lore Garcia appears, and the lake world slips into the real world. Lore's family has relocated to Bastián's town after Lore hurt someone at school. Lore is dyslexic and the learning disability has earned them jeering taunts from classmates and insensitive urging from a teacher that Lore should "just sound it out." These memories haunt Lore as the clatter of the lake world mysteriously floods their home. Only the two teens can see the lake world, so only they can solve the mystery of why it's following them to land.

Lakelore delivers mesmerizing magical realism, brilliant portrayals of gender transitioning and genderfluidity, and sensitive representations of living with ADHD and dyslexia. The candidness and specificity with which Bastián and Lore divulge how they think, how hard they work and how racism affects them stems from McLemore's experience as a nonbinary Mexican American diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia. Through alternating first-person points of view, this magnificent YA novel urges acceptance and support, reminding readers that different isn't wrong, it's beautiful. --Samantha Zaboski, freelance editor and reviewer

Discover: Two neurodivergent and nonbinary Mexican American teens are the only ones who can see an underwater world that is encroaching on reality in this compassionate magical realism YA novel.

Feiwel & Friends, $18.99, hardcover, 304p., ages 12-up, 9781250624147


by Kristen Ciccarelli

Edgewood by Kristen Ciccarelli (Iskari series) is an enjoyably romantic, otherworldly saga that features a young woman hellbent on escaping her superstitious hometown--that is, until she must win back her aging grandfather from a wicked king and save an entire kingdom.

Nineteen-year-old Emeline Lark is a "folk singer with a pop vibe" who wants nothing more than to chase her dream of "making a living with just her voice." She's getting close, too, with reps from prestigious Daybreak Records on the verge of offering her a contract. But ever since Emeline fled Edgewood, the backwards town where she grew up, it feels as if the woods are calling her, begging her to "sing us a true song." Now her grandfather, who's suffering from dementia, has gone missing and his neighbors say he's been tithed to some "fairy tale" Wood King. Emeline refuses to believe this madness but, even though the Daybreak reps won't wait, she hurries back to search for her beloved Pa. When she ventures into the woods, she meets mysterious Hawthorne and his huge, impossible mare--and discovers that magic is real. Emeline will have to sing like never before in order to save Pa and break the curse that's poisoning the forest.

A finely tuned fantasy, Edgewood is an enchanting mix of magical quest, mystery and romance. Ciccarelli's headstrong Emeline is as much modern-day woman as she is timeless hero, and Hawthorne is as sensitive and broody a love interest as readers could hope for. Add in the delightfully lyrical prose and this neo-fairy tale hits all the marks. --Lynn Becker, reviewer, blogger, and children's book author

Discover: Rising star Emeline Lark must sing for her life as she infiltrates an enchanted wood to win back her beloved grandfather in this finely tuned modern fairy tale.

Wednesday Books, $18.99, hardcover, 400p., ages 12-up, 9781250821522

Loujain Dreams of Sunflowers

by Lina AlHathloul, Uma Mishra-Newbery, illus. by Rebecca Green

Loujain Dreams of Sunflowers by Lina AlHathloul and Uma Mishra-Newbery is a picture book about a brave girl who learns to fly and inspires other girls to take flight.

Every morning when Loujain wakes, she remembers her dreams of flying "to a place her baba described as the carpet of a million sunflowers." But girls are not allowed to fly. So every day, Loujain and Baba put on their wings and Loujain pretends to fly as Baba soars away. She loves bright colors and taking pictures with her camera; her favorite picture of all is one Baba gave her that features the sunflower field and makes her feel like she is "floating in a sea of color." At school, when Loujain tells her friends that one day she will fly, they laugh and call her silly. But Loujain is determined. Eventually, she convinces her reluctant Baba to teach her, and Loujain's unthinkable dream comes true. 

Human rights activists AlHathloul and Mishra-Newbery wrote this story for AlHathloul's sister, Loujain, who was imprisoned in Saudi Arabia for fighting for women's right to drive. The heroic and emotional text is accompanied by the striking illustrations of Rebecca Green (How to Be a Good Creature illustrator). Green uses acrylic gouache, colored pencils and earth tones to create brilliant, detailed art full of spirit and warmth. This gorgeously illustrated book inspires hope and reminds readers always to fight for justice. --Natasha Harris, freelance reviewer

Discover: In this moving and warmly illustrated picture book inspired by Saudi activist Loujain AlHathloul, a tenacious girl follows her dream and learns to fly.

mineditionUS, $18.99, hardcover, 40p., ages 4-8, 9781662650642


Author Buzz

The Rom-Commers

by Katherine Center

Dear Reader,

Famous screenwriter Charlie Yates wrote a romantic comedy screenplay--and it’s terrible. Aspiring writer Emma Wheeler just got hired to fix it. But Charlie doesn't want anyone rewriting his work--least of all a "failed nobody," and Emma can't support a guy who doesn't even like rom-coms, adding another bad one to the pantheon. So what choice does Emma have but to stand up for herself, and rom-coms, and love in general--and, in the process, to show her nemesis-slash-writing-hero exactly how to fall stupidly, crazily, perfectly in love?

Email with the subject line "The Rom-Commers sweepstakes" for a chance to win one of five copies.

Katherine Center

Buy now and support your local indie bookstore>

AuthorBuzz: St. Martin's Press: The Rom-Commers by Katherine Center

St. Martin's Press

Pub Date: 
June 11, 2024


List Price: 
$29.00 Hardcover

Blue Moon
(A Smoke and Mirrors Novella)

by Skye Warren

Dear Reader,

When I started writing Ringmaster Emerson Durand in the Smoke and Mirrors series, I knew he would get his own story. Insouciant. Charming. And he's actually the villain of that book. So can he be redeemed? It's the question I'm always working to answer in my books.

If he's going to deserve his own happily ever after, it's going to be a journey. A scorching hot journey!

That's what BLUE MOON illuminates. A dangerous ringmaster claims his rebellious acrobat for a sensual show you cannot miss.

Skye Warren

Available on Kobo

AuthorBuzz: 1001 Dark Nights Press: Blue Moon (A Smoke and Mirrors Novella) by Skye Warren

1001 Dark Nights Press

Pub Date: 
March 12, 2024


List Price: 
$2.99 e-book

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