Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, March 18, 2022

Workman Publishing: The ABCs of Queer History by Seema Yasmin, Illustrated by Lucy Kirk

From My Shelf

Waiting It Out

I spent the last year watching Seinfeld, famously a show "about nothing." Maybe it's the unspeakable transitionary tension of just about everything lately, but the sitcom resonated for me as, in fact, a show about waiting. Waiting for a table. Waiting for the other shoe to drop. Waiting for life to begin.

Seinfeld finds potential in these interstitial moments, as does essayist Andrea Köhler in her short, ruminative Passing Time (Upper West Side Philosophers, $18.95): "Waiting is an imposition. Yet only waiting in its manifold guises... affords us an embodied sense of time and its promises." Possibility can blossom in spite of itself before one moment becomes the next, but the longer a moment lasts and the more I am asked to be patient, the more it begins to feel like tension is all there is left.

Recently I was at a concert, and between band sets, the friend I was with asked me, "Do you ever think about time?" I replied: "Constantly." It's so fundamental to our existence that we consider it the fourth dimension and, yet, we do not cope with it well. We hate when things change. We hate when things stay the same. We hate getting old. In her short, perceptive book Ongoingness (Graywolf, $15), Sarah Manguso wrestles with how easily an obsession with time becomes an obstruction--living in the past, preoccupied with the future: "I wanted to know how to inhabit time in a way that wasn't a character flaw."

Köhler and Manguso have valuable insights about inhabiting the present, yet I also greatly anticipate the arrival of Rebecca Brown's contemplative You Tell the Stories You Need to Believe (Chatwin, $15). It's a concise meditation on seasons and cycles, and it dares us to "remember the seasons change." Nothing turns into something, and tension resolves into laughter. I suggest preordering Brown's book and shelving it right alongside these others. --Dave Wheeler, associate editor, Shelf Awareness

Frog & Toad: Now Streaming on Apple TV+

Book Candy

Unusually Long English Words

Merriam-Webster defined "13 unusually long English words."


Gastro Obscura explored "the Roman museum with a taste for historical cookbooks."


Mental Floss recalled "how Robert Frost killed Truman Capote's copyboy career at the New Yorker."


The medieval masterpiece, the Book of Kells, has been digitized and put online," Open Culture reported.


Qinmian Design's Cloud Bookshelf is a temporary shelf on which to place the books you are currently reading. (via Bookshelf)

In a New York Minute

by Kate Spencer

Kate Spencer's debut novel, In a New York Minute, is a heartfelt love letter to New York City, friendship and love itself tucked into an effervescent rom-com envelope. Franny meets Hayes on one of the worst days of her life. She has just been laid off from her job at a design start-up, and as she heads back to her apartment with the sad box of things from her desk, disaster strikes. The back of her dress is caught in the doors of the packed Q train she's boarded, and it rips all the way down. Hayes would be the first to say he's not a hero, but he comes to Franny's rescue by giving her his suit jacket and sparing her the horror of a walk home half naked. Unfortunately, a fellow passenger with a smartphone captures the whole thing and soon the "Subway QTs" have gone viral.

This story is familiar by now: two people are having an interaction that someone else deems romantic and, thanks to the sensationalist nature of social media, their words, body language and personal lives are soon dissected for mass consumption. Spencer tells In a New York Minute in alternating points of view and takes care to depict the range of Franny and Hayes's emotions and the impacts this attention has on their mental health and careers. She doesn't linger on the humiliation, however, choosing instead to give her characters warm, loving friendships--Franny's best friends support her through her job loss, helping her turn her Internet humiliation into an opportunity to launch her own interior design business. Hayes is similarly blessed with a business partner and a cousin who force him out of the routine he's fallen into since a divorce several years earlier.

Spencer balances the story with several subplots that range from silly to heart wrenching. Franny and her friends decide to use at-home DNA testing kits, prompting a connection with relatives of the father she never knew. Hayes's environmental finance company is expanding into a new office space and Franny ends up designing it for them. Their closest friends start dating. Franny and Hayes have distinct character arcs of their own, and Spencer builds the romantic arc in parallel, somehow ending up with a Happily Ever After that feels unlikely but inevitable.

In true rom-com style, Franny and Hayes meet in a series of chance encounters--and some not-so-secretly arranged by their friends--but In a New York Minute is self-aware enough that readers will be laughing with the characters and not at the plot devices. Spencer's references to the city and to romance classics never feel heavy-handed but are seamlessly woven into conversation. She invites readers to love New York City, but the way she writes about connecting with a place, with the smells and sounds, the small joys and irritations and of finding wonder again by experiencing that place with a new person, is universal:

"God, I love this stupid city." I leaned my head back, connecting to him with the smallest touch, though it felt like plugging into a socket.

"Same," he said with a nod.

"Are we doing that thing?" I asked him, pulling my knees into my chest. "Are we being tourists in our own city?"

"I mean, sure," he mused. "But I think it's good to look up and not take all this for granted once in a while." He gestured with his free hand, waving it like a magician at the city and the river and the skyline stretching out in front of us. I knew exactly what he meant--New York could be overwhelming and all-encompassing, but sometimes--often--you moved through it without really seeing it.

Spencer employs several classic rom-com tropes and subverts others. Franny is introduced to readers and to her future love interest on a day so awful it's funny, and her next meeting with Hayes, on a morning talk show to discuss the Subway QTs video, is a stilted disaster full of awkward moments and unintentional slights. There's physical humor, longing glances and late nights at work. But there's also a plot in which Hayes goes on a few dates with another woman; Spencer refreshingly chooses not to portray her negatively. That short-lived relationship is a great example of the careful character work Spencer employs--the pair decide after a couple of dates that it's not working and they respectfully move on. Both of them are decent people and there's no need for jealousy or theatrics to provide the conflict necessary to the novel's central romantic arc.

In a New York Minute reads like a classic Nora Ephron romantic comedy, updated for 2022. Readers looking for a joyful read in which two lost, big-hearted people find each other will finish this book with the warm, hopeful feeling a great romance novel delivers. --Suzanne Krohn

Forever, $26, hardcover, 320p., 9781538737620

Kate Spencer: Love, Laughs and the Magic of New York

(photo: Diana Ragland) 

Kate Spencer is the co-host of the award-winning podcast Forever35 and author of the memoir The Dead Moms Club. She worked previously as a senior editor and producer at VH1 and now writes a bimonthly column for InStyle and has contributed to a range of outlets including the Washington Post, Rolling Stone, Esquire and Cosmopolitan. Her first novel, In a New York Minute, is available now from Forever.

Franny and Hayes meet in an uncomfortable situation and, after an onlooker posts about it, the Internet brands them the "Subway QTs." You must have been inspired by some of these real-life situations, but how did you decide on the path your characters would take?

I was very inspired by the "Plane Baes" viral story from a few years ago, and just the shareable content culture of social media in general. I knew I wanted these two characters to eventually fall in love, because this is a romance. But I also wanted it to feel realistically awkward, uncomfortable, irritating and invasive, as I imagine these situations must be. Ultimately with that "Plane Baes" story--a couple switched seats with two people on a plane and then essentially documented what they believed was a love connection happening between them in real time--the "romance" that went viral didn't even exist. And so I wanted to make sure to honor what it would be like realistically to be in that situation, and then of course add a Happily Ever After onto it.

Your first book, The Dead Moms Club, is a memoir about grief and loss. What was it like to write a romantic comedy this time around?

Reading really saved me in the immediate aftermath of my mom's death, specifically romance books. I don't think I can ever fully express the gratitude I have to the writers whose work I read during that time (some was published, some was fan fiction, all of it was a comfort). Romantic comedy has truly been my pop culture salvation since the beginning of my time here on Earth, and I have many discarded drafts on my hard drive of various romantic comedies I've tried to write. Despite the struggles that come with any challenging creative process, it was such a joy to create and shape this world and play around with the idea of romantic love, self-love and friendship. It was definitely way more enjoyable to write about two people running through a summer rainstorm in Brooklyn than watching my mom's health deteriorate due to pancreatic cancer. There was a lot less crying while writing this book!

Hayes co-founded a company in the field of environmental finance, a type of investing focused on ethical and sustainable projects. How did you settle on this career for him?

When I first started imagining Hayes, he was this kind of stereotypical finance bro. But early on in my first draft I changed the company to have a more compassionate focus as a way to show he, too, was a compassionate person, even if it wasn't always evident in his demeanor. And then it just became way more fun to write about this made-up company whose mission I really believe in! There's been a real push to thoughtfully consider where our money goes as consumers, and it turns out that the same philosophy applies to investing. Hayes has an analytic mind and a heart of gold, and so socially responsible investing just seemed like the perfect career fit for him. 

In a New York Minute is something of a love letter to New York City. Out of all the places you could choose, what makes New York the perfect setting for this rom-com?

New York is magic. I've never experienced another place like it (apologies to other places). I lived there for 10 years and I still miss it daily. It's obviously a beautiful city just aesthetically speaking, and there's so much going on at all hours of the day and night that you really can set your characters up to be doing anything, anywhere, at any time. I also think New York is truly a place where communities--both people and places--become like family; whether that's your neighborhood bodega, your building super, work colleagues, the people you volunteer with, or that certain spot in the park you always frequent. And ultimately I think--and hope--that's at the core of In a New York Minute.

Forever35, the podcast you co-host with Doree Shafrir, has really taken off since you launched in 2018. It's described as "a podcast about the things we do to take care of ourselves." What does that mean to you and how does it inform your writing process?

This is such an interesting question, because my thinking on self-care has evolved and expanded thanks to doing a podcast where we get to discuss it every week. For me, it is as simple as the small things we do for respite or joy--one example in my own life is setting my coffee pot to make coffee at 6 a.m., so I wake up to the smell of fresh coffee brewing. But it's also the less "fun" stuff--caring for your mental health, your finances, scheduling your doctor's appointments. Getting to examine these things regularly has really made me much more aware of the privilege--and specifically my own privilege--that self-care entails. I've tried to do a lot of learning on community care, both in understanding how larger systems of oppression influence access to basic human needs, let alone self-care, as well as doing work in my own community to change that.

As for my writing process, my co-host is also a writer, so there is a lot of empathy and support in our partnership. We've each sent those "I'm on a book deadline can you please handle this!" e-mails more than once. But truthfully, I don't inject a lot of self-care into my writing habits. I try to set boundaries when I'm working (turning off e-mail and not checking social media, for example) but often my writing process is a hot mess.

What are you currently working on? And romance readers will be dying to know--will Franny's best friends Cleo and Lola get their own books?

I am drafting what I hope will be my next book, but it's in that very messy stage where it's still developing and growing into itself. Book puberty, is maybe what we can call it. And I would love to dig deeper into Cleo and Lola's lives, that would be a dream. I'll do what Cleo would tell me to do and put it on my vision board! --Suzanne Krohn

Shelf vetted, publisher supported.

Great Reads

Rediscover: Maureen Howard

Maureen Howard, an author of adventurous fiction and a prizewinning memoir, died March 13 at age 91. She wrote 10 novels, three of which--Grace Abounding, Expensive Habits and Natural History--were finalists for the PEN/Faulkner Award. Her 1978 memoir, Facts of Life, was a National Book Critics Circle Award winner. She also edited The Penguin Book of Contemporary American Essays (1984). Her first novel, Not a Word About Nightingales, was published in 1962. A second novel, Bridgeport Bus (1965), told the story of a beguiling Irish-American woman who leaves the emptiness of small town life in Bridgeport, Conn., for the maelstrom of Manhattan.

Many considered Howard's 1992 novel Natural History--a family chronicle that incorporated drawings and photographs--to be her masterwork. Later in her career, Howard produced a quartet of novels published by Viking Penguin--A Lover's Almanac (1998), Big as Life (2001), The Silver Screen (2004) and The Rags of Time (2009). Each of the four novels was complete on its own, but characters and themes were woven across the cycle as a tapestry of seasons. Among other honors, she was the recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship and an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and letters.

Book Review


Smile and Look Pretty

by Amanda Pellegrino

Amanda Pellegrino's Smile and Look Pretty might seem familiar, given its nods to The Devil Wears Prada, The Morning Show and even She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story that Helped Ignite a Movement. But the New York City television writer and novelist's debut is a sizzling read that adroitly balances relevant headlines, girl-power attitude and surprisingly savvy humor.

Cate, Lauren, Olivia and Max are four best friends in Manhattan who work hard to "make sure [their] bosses have everything." Each is an assistant in a pressure-cooker industry (publishing, screenwriting, acting and broadcast journalism). Their bosses are monstrously inappropriate, from impossible demands for early-morning "vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free, nut-free" cupcakes to wanton genital exposure. "We can't speak up," writes Pellegrino. "Instead, we're told to be invisible but look presentable. To blend in but wear more makeup. To shroud our faces but put on tighter pants. To be grateful to have a job but barely make minimum wage." Male assistants, the women repeatedly observe, are treated otherwise.

The friends meet weekly to discuss "The Shit List" over margaritas, writing the worst offenses of just that one week and then burning their confessions so as to leave no trace. Finally, having had enough, they go public with Twentysomething, an anonymous tell-all blog of bosses who behave badly, that goes viral.

Pellegrino writes with absolute assurance and dexterous pacing. More than a delicious (and screen-ready) revenge narrative, the novel interweaves enough romance, family relationships, BFF fallout and (under/over)privileged characters to make the friends--and their friends--remarkably believable. The "whisper network" is about to become a resonating rebel yell. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon

Discover: Amanda Pellegrino's savvy, addictive tale showcases a quartet of Manhattan best friends who create a tell-all blog to expose the patriarchal abuses of high-profile, pressure-cooker industries.

Park Row, $16.99, paperback, 368p., 9780778311126

Mystery & Thriller

Give Unto Others

by Donna Leon

Commissario Guido Brunetti has been thoughtfully investigating crimes and pondering Greek philosophy for more than three decades now. In Give Unto Others, the 31st novel in the iconic Venetian mystery series from Donna Leon (Trace Elements), the case strikes close to home. Brunetti is approached by Elisabetta Foscarini, a childhood neighbor whom he has seen occasionally over the years, as one inevitably does in a small, pedestrian-friendly city like Venice. Elisabetta fears that something might be wrong in her daughter's marriage, and she would like Brunetti unofficially to investigate her son-in-law, a freelance accountant who works with several businesses in Venice.

Brunetti involves a few of his preferred police coworkers in a discreet, off-the-books series of inquiries into the lives of Elisabetta's daughter and son-in-law. Suddenly, the situation is far from casual: Brunetti realizes that, if it's discovered they were doing favors for him, his friends may see their careers jeopardized--all because of Brunetti's loyalty to childhood memories.

Give Unto Others is a perfect mystery read. The pacing is gentle and methodical, and characters are thoughtful. Brunetti and his fellow police officers frequently reflect on the effects of the pandemia on their beloved city. Give Unto Others is sure to resonate with readers who have experienced far too much real-life uncertainty in recent years. And with no crossover to earlier cases, this installment in the series could be the perfect way for new readers to be introduced to Brunetti's introspective, ethical investigations. --Jessica Howard, bookseller at Bookmans, Flagstaff, Ariz.

Discover: This gentle mystery investigates family secrets in a post-pandemic Venice, which still struggles to cope with the loss of lives and tourism revenue.

Atlantic Monthly Press, $27, hardcover, 295p., 9780802159403

Biography & Memoir

The Perfect Other: A Memoir of My Sister

by Kyleigh Leddy

Deep, everlasting love, grief and the mysteries of mental illness are undercurrents that propel The Perfect Other, a chilling, moving memoir by Kyleigh Leddy. A graduate of Boston College now in pursuit of her master's in social work, Leddy grapples with the life and loss of her older sister, Kait, a young woman affected by schizophrenia.

Leddy has spent a large part of her young life grappling with the sudden and unexplained disappearance of her 22-year-old sister, Kait, last seen on a frigid January night in 2014. Security cameras show that her older sister took a taxi to the foot of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge in Philadelphia, Pa., ascended to the highest point and then disappeared. It is believed she jumped; however, her body was never recovered. Thus, her whereabouts remains a mystery--one that haunts Leddy and sets her on a course to make sense of the shocking tragedy, both personally and through a more psychologically clinical lens.

Through a sensitively drawn, stream-of-conscious narrative--spurred by a "Modern Love" column Leddy published in the New York Times--she stitches together remembered fragments and pivotal scenes from the life she, her mother and father shared with Kait. After sustaining a head injury, Kait started to exhibit concerning erratic behaviors that took inexplicable, unruly--often violent--turns. Leddy's raw search for understanding, meaning and peace grants readers a rare personal glimpse into the universal mysteries of mental illness and the long-lasting traumatic effects it has on those afflicted, as well as those in its orbit. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: A hauntingly reflective memoir details the intricacies of mental illness and the bonds of sisterly love and loyalty in this life--and beyond.

Mariner Books, $28.99, hardcover, 304p., 9780358469346


After the Romanovs: Russian Exiles in Paris from the Belle Époque Through Revolution and War

by Helen Rappaport

Historian Helen Rappaport tells the riches-to-rags story of a generation of Russian aristocrats, artists and writers who fled to Paris from the terrors of Bolshevism in After the Romanovs: Russian Exiles in Paris from the Belle Époque Through Revolution and War. In the years prior to World War I, the City of Light was a favorite getaway for the ultra-rich Russian nobility as well as progressive Russian artists and writers burning with experimental ideas. The French found their Russian guests to be "unfailingly entertaining, if at times incoherent" and welcomed their free-spending escapades. But the endless nights of champagne-soaked carousing came to an abrupt halt with war, the collapse of the monarchy and the rise of the Bolsheviks, who were quick to condemn high-born Russians and free thinkers as "enemies of the new state." Increasingly targeted by the new socialist regime, escape was their only option and Paris the most attractive haven.

Life proved to be a humiliating struggle for survival, however, which Rappaport (The Race to Save the Romanovs) details in several excruciating individual stories. Just like Russian nesting dolls, the nobility saw their status diminish with each low-paying job, whether taxi driving or sewing work. Artists and writers fought to maintain an identity and voice without a homeland. While many Russians met their straitened circumstances with stoicism (even creating businesses in fashion and writing masterpieces), the vast majority sought a return home that never came. Rappaport's engaging prose and prodigious research makes After the Romanovs a touching and enlightening experience. --Peggy Kurkowski, book reviewer and copywriter in Denver

Discover: In this detailed history, Russian nobility and intelligentsia, fleeing the Bolshevik Revolution, wrestle with poverty and memories of a rosier life.

St. Martin's Press, $29.99, hardcover, 336p., 9781250273109

Social Science

Dress Code: Unlocking Fashion from the New Look to Millennial Pink

by Véronique Hyland

Fashion and feminism have an uneasy relationship; the strictures of the former, which are disproportionately directed at women, tend to serve as an affront to the latter. What a treat for feminist fashionistas--and a pleasure for any follower of fashion--to be able to turn to Véronique Hyland's Dress Code: Unlocking Fashion from the New Look to Millennial Pink. Hyland's debut book celebrates the style industry while scrutinizing what clothes say about gender, class and power.

These 15 canny essays offer both a historical overview and a present-day status report. There are thoughts on shapewear, the politician's wardrobe and the endurance of the It girl. Hyland is an omnivorous cultural observer: references to literature, film and art abound, and she quotes philosophers, academics and theorists to bolster her points. In an essay on blending high and low culture in fashion, a reference to the work of French theorist Pierre Bourdieu runs easily into a paragraph discussing Shiv Roy's wardrobe on Succession.

Hyland, the fashion features director for Elle magazine, has a historian's perspective ("Corsets would be reborn as waist trainers; girdles were reincarnated as Spanx") and a small-d democratic outlook: with Dress Code, she may well convince her readers that everyone has a stake in fashion and that what one wears "means something. Even if you're 'just' wearing jeans and a T-shirt." Dress Code will be equally at home on a shelf beside Naomi Wolf's The Beauty Myth and on a coffee table atop a stack of Vogues. --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer

Discover: Véronique Hyland's tremendous essay collection is for fashionistas who like their frock talk served with politics.

Harper Perennial, $16.99, paperback, 288p., 9780063050839

Essays & Criticism

In the Margins: On the Pleasures of Reading and Writing

by Elena Ferrante, trans. by Ann Goldstein

In the Margins collects four thought-provoking and sincere essays on writing from critically acclaimed and bestselling author Elena Ferrante (The Story of the Lost Child). Detailing the path she followed to become a novelist, Ferrante digs into the politics of gendered writing to consider the particular challenges faced by women who write, as well as the general challenge of how one writes. She chronicles the puzzles that led her to write each of her books, with a focus on the Neapolitan novels. Ferrante also offers fresh and pragmatic analyses of literary greats--Emily Dickinson, Gertrude Stein, Virginia Woolf, María Guerra--while describing how she approaches writing.

Ferrante is keenly aware in these essays of the challenge of articulating the project of "writing" to others. Rather than offering a how-to guide, she describes her process with all the lyrical yet clarifying prose of her fiction. For example, in describing the usefulness of genre structures, she explains that by evoking the constraints of particular genres, "really I am waiting for my brain to get distracted, to slip up, for other I's--many--outside the margins to join together, take my hand, begin to pull me with the writing where I'm afraid to go." Such an approach lauds the concept of creativity under constraint, something she sees as a distinct issue for women. While each essay in the collection engages its own topic, all four cohere along this thematic through-line, offering critical insight into the question of how one can "learn to use with freedom the cage we're shut up in." --Alice Martin, freelance writer and editor

Discover: A powerful and meditative look at a woman writer's experience of the craft, In the Margins is a quick but insightful glimpse into the mind of a master.

Europa Editions, $20, hardcover, 112p., 9781609457372


This Is Us Losing Count: Eight Russian Poets

by Sarah Coolidge, editor, trans. by Elina Alter, Catherine Ciepiela et al

This Is Us Losing Count washes over readers like a dream, leaving them with the feeling that they have grasped something tangible yet, at the same time, the understanding that they have not held anything at all. But what is it that readers attempt to hold? Is it memories of a changing world, of a beautifully static past and a dizzyingly intimate present, as described by the melodic voice of Alla Gorbunova? Or perhaps it is the final breaths of Ekaterina Simonova's grandmother, whose life, like specks of dust filtering through a young woman's fingers, scatters across the floor of a childhood home. Maybe it is the emptiness--but, at the same time, the everything-ness--of the flickering world that passes before the eyes of Nikita Sungatov. More likely, however, it is the combination of these three powerful and intoxicating voices, which are placed alongside five other talented women (Galina Rymbu, Olga Sedakova, Irina Kotova, Aleksandra Tsibulia and Oksana Vasyakina). This collection of contemporary Russian poetry invites readers to pass in and out of a dream that seems as though it might be a reality.

Despite the remarkably distinct stylings of the eight individual poets, the collection carries a level of cohesiveness and unity that is rarely found in even the most meticulously designed novels. Made even more impressive by the seamless work of seven talented translators (the original Russian remains on the pages, adjacent to the English translations), This Is Us Losing Count is for anyone interested poetry, dreams and memories. --Eamon Stein, reader, writer and filmmaker in Seattle, Wash.

Discover: The voices of eight Russian poets guide readers through a melodious and melancholy dream in this impressive collection of contemporary poetry.

Two Lines Press, $16.95, paperback, 192p., 9781949641271

A Year & Other Poems

by Jos Charles

The heart of Jos Charles's third book of poetry, A Year & Other Poems, is the titular poem "Year," in which each month, arranged chronologically, serves as both a heading and the gathering of a few stanzas. With only a handful of longer poems on either side of "Year," this spare collection reflects the yawning space that sits between bursts of creativity, a few lines emerging from any given stretch of time. The layout and design contribute to this feeling as well: abundant white space and large margins separate each poem. In some, the first line, or even just the first word, stands in for the poem's title.

Charles (Feeld), a trans author who dedicates this poetry collection to "the lost," writes from a sense of loss herself, though it is a tight-lipped, contained mourning. Each poem has a tangible tension, a sense of something carefully parceled out. The stanzas in "Year" move through the calendar, but they live more in the body than in the weather or seasons. At the same time, the poems tilt toward the passage of time, as seen in the "October" entry for "Year": "When was it/ I knew my house to be/ falling apart/ when did I lift/ an arm or bend/ backward corbel like swung you your back/ to mine When was it ever September tides pouring over/ When whales like men moved about the earth." Charles has been celebrated as a poet of startling power, and this collection is perfect for those readers interested in the exercise of control in a line, a stanza and a poem as a whole. --Sara Beth West, freelance reviewer and librarian

Discover: Jos Charles's A Year & Other Poems, an exploration of loss, is perfect for those readers interested in the exercise of control in a line, a stanza and a poem as a whole.

Milkweed Editions, $22, hardcover, 96p., 9781571315472

Now in Paperback

Northern Light: Power, Land, and the Memory of Water

by Kazim Ali

In Northern Light: Power, Land, and the Memory of Water, named a Shelf Awareness Best Book of the Year, Kazim Ali explores how a sense of place shapes one's identity. "I've always had a hard time answering the question, 'Where are you from?' " he writes. Born in the U.K. to political refugees from India, Ali eventually migrated to Canada with his family. There, his father worked as an electrical engineer for Manitoba Hydro, the province's electrical authority. Decades later, Ali finds himself recalling his childhood years in the remote town of Jenpeg with fondness, "drawn back to a place that for years I had not thought of."

Jenpeg, however, is gone, having been constructed to last only as long as Hydro needed employees in the area to build a dam across the nearby Nelson River. The town site, on unceded Pimicikamak Cree land, is hours from the nearest provincial town, but the town of Cross Lake, on the Cross Lake Indian Reserve, is much closer, and so Ali ends up visiting there to learn more about his childhood home. He is welcomed and embraced by the people of Cross Lake, who open his eyes to a place steeped in centuries of systemic racism and discriminatory policy.

In Cross Lake, Ali finds himself "awash in remembrance"--of his childhood memories, but also in the collective memories of the Pimicikamak Cree people who still live there and hold the memory of the land in their stories. This remembrance forms the backbone of Northern Light, as Ali moves from writing a memoir to something else, something larger than the story of one person, one family, or even one place. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

Discover: Kazim Ali's account of a small town in Northern Canada is part memoir, part ethnography, part history and part exploration of self.

Milkweed, $18, paperback, 200p., 9781571311757

The Future Is Yours

by Dan Frey

Dan Frey (The Retreat) does a bang-up job imagining a scenario in which computers can communicate with their future selves and the impact that could have on society on a variety of levels. Cleverly told entirely via documentation (e-mails, blog posts, texts, reports, etc.) to avoid spoilers, The Future Is Yours is an "opposites attract" tale of friendship set in the thought-provoking and cutthroat world of technology.

Ben Boyce, a confident connection-maker with a gift for wooing venture capitalists, and Adhvan "Adhi" Chaudry, an intellectual genius with woeful people skills, become best friends while rooming together at Stanford University. The story begins with an e-mail sent by Ben to Adhi from a year in the future--immediately proving Stanford whiffed by not backing Adhi's Ph.D. thesis proposing communication with the future using quantum computing.

The engrossing road from college to rolling out their product, a computer-type unit called The Future, is centered on the transcript of a 2021 congressional hearing where the legality of The Future is to be decided. Despite a subpoena, Adhi is mysteriously absent from the hearing. Frey ups the suspense by putting limitations on The Future: it can see only into a one-year future window, to a reality that cannot be altered.

Unsurprisingly, data from The Future becomes problematic. As Adhi struggles with questions of morality, Ben drives passionately ahead, their friendship, relationships and the future of the world at risk. Frey's work as a screenwriter shines through in form and substance in this gripping work of science fiction. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review

Discover: This provocative work of science fiction imagines a computer that can talk to itself a year into the future, wreaking havoc on the lives and loves of its creators.

Del Rey, $17, paperback, 352p., 9780593158234

Children's & Young Adult

Travelers Along the Way: A Robin Hood Remix

by Aminah Mae Safi

A female Muslim soldier turned thief, with a loyal band of followers, travels through the Holy Land during the Crusades in this rousing retelling of the legend of Robin Hood.

In the summer of 1191, during the Third Crusade, Muslim female soldiers Rahma al-Hud and her sister, Zeena, are ordered to abandon their post at the city of Akko after the barbarian Faranji arrive. Rahma is homebound, but Zeena wants to defend Jerusalem from the "false Queen Isabella." On their journey, they collect a "band of merry misfits": Teni, a Mongolian clan member; Viva, a Jewish poet-scientist; John, a chaplain; and Majid, Rahma's childhood friend turned spy. Rahma becomes known as the "Green Hood," a mysterious thief wearing a green hooded mantle who "gives away her plunder." Because of her do-gooder ways, Rahma may be able to end this war--that is, if she can outwit a queen, a king and a sultan.

Travelers Along the Way by Aminah Mae Safi (Tell Me How You Really Feel) is wholly original in its cultural perspective and its centering of strong female characters. While fans of the English folk hero will find much that's familiar, including the roles of Rahma's crew and the heists they carry out, Safi infuses new themes into her version. By creating an almost all-female cast, Safi makes women the heart of her story at a time when they were seen as a "bargaining chip." Though the story is told mostly from Rahma's perspective, readers get glimpses of Queen Isabella's struggles against the patriarchy. These viewpoints, combined with diverse characters and thrilling adventure, make Safi's retelling stand out. --Lana Barnes, freelance reviewer and proofreader

Discover: This rousing adventure tells the legend of Robin Hood from a female Muslim perspective.

Feiwel & Friends, $18.99, hardcover, 352p., ages 13-up, 9781250771278


by Marjorie Liu, illus. by Teny Issakhanian

In Wingbearer, a luminously illustrated graphic novel, Marjorie Liu (Monstress; The Tangleroot Palace) crafts a captivating middle-grade debut about an enchanting world threatened by a Witch-Queen.

Zuli, a Black human child whose only connection to her past is a bracelet, lives in The Great Tree. The mystical birds of The Great Tree guard and watch over the leaves, each one the soul of a bird who will be reborn back into the world. Suspiciously, The Great Tree begins to bear regular leaves, causing Zuli and the birds to panic. Zuli and her farcical owl companion, Frowley, set off into "the world beyond" to find answers--and the missing souls. In their travels, they meet mythical creatures (griffins, dragons) and are joined by Orien the goblin and his flying squirrel-like companion. The group slowly learns about Zuli's past and the power she possesses, which doesn't save them from stumbling into the path of the evil Witch-Queen.

Storyboard artist Teny Issakhanian's glowing mixed-media illustrations direct the story's mood as the characters experience hope, worry, shock and curiosity. Her borderless panels give the individual illustrations a limitless feel--as if the reader is looking through a window into a larger world--and all her creatures are entertainingly expressive. Liu includes banter between Zuli and secondary characters (like Orien and Frowley) that is humorous while also featuring serious conversations that round out the characters and show their humility and courage. Wingbearer's shocking ending will surely make readers crave Zuli's return in subsequent graphic novels. --Kharissa Kenner, children's librarian, Bank Street School for Children

Discover: In this daring and magical graphic novel, Zuli bravely steps outside the world she knows to help save it from the Witch-Queen.

Quill Tree Books, $22.99, hardcover, 208p., ages 8-12, 9780062741165

The Red Canoe

by Anne Yvonne Gilbert

Who wants an old canoe? As The Red Canoe begins, it seems that no one does. But Anne Yvonne Gilbert's picture book ultimately proves soaringly hopeful, intimating that even human-made objects can, like aspects of nature, be part of "the endless cycle of birth and rebirth."

The story is told from the perspective of the canoe itself, "its fragile ribs grown brittle with age, its once bright paint faded, forgotten." From its roost in a boathouse, the canoe recalls the long-ago summer day when it arrived at a lake house, where a boy lovingly used it. A routine developed: each fall the boy would repair the canoe and store it in the boathouse, and each spring he would carry it "into the warm sun, remove its canvas cover, and wake it from its long sleep." But then everything changed: "A war was being fought in faraway lands," and the boy--a man now--doesn't return. The canoe is ignored for years until one day, the boathouse door creaks open....

The Red Canoe covers emotional territory reminiscent of that in picture books like The Old Truck--something is outgrown, abandoned, given new life--but Canoe's mesmeric illustrations are all its own. Veteran illustrator Gilbert (Robin Hood: The Classic Adventure Tale), here making her debut as an author, has earned a reputation for elaborately dense art that casts folklore and fairy tales in an idiosyncratic light; in Canoe, the scenes she creates, dusted with old-timey motifs, are no less enchanting for being earthbound. --Nell Beram, freelance writer and YA author

Discover: This emotionally raw, hopeful picture book, told from the point of view of a disused canoe, suggests that, like aspects of nature, human-made objects can be reborn.

Creative Editions, $18.99, hardcover, 32p., ages 6-10, 9781568463681


Author Buzz

My Royal Showmance
(A Park Avenue Promise Novel, Book 2)

by Lexi Blake

Dear Reader,

The reality TV setting made writing My Royal Showmance so much fun. Anika is expecting a boring time on her latest job but things turn when she has to step in for one of the contestants. It's supposed to be one night, but Luca has other ideas. He's looking to bring tourism back to his small country, but when he sees Anika he realizes he might do something remarkable--find love on the set of a TV show.

Lexie Blake

Available on Kobo

AuthorBuzz: Blue Box Press: My Royal Showmance (The Park Avenue Promise #2) by Lexi Blake

Blue Box Press

Pub Date: 
June 4, 2024


List Price: 
$5.99 e-book

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