Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, October 12, 2012

Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster: A Short Walk Through a Wide World by Douglas Westerbeke

From My Shelf

Books About Books, Round 2

Earlier this week we wrote about the current abundance of books about books. Here are more:

Novelist Nick Hornby writes the monthly "Stuff I've Been Reading" column for the Believer, and More Baths Less Talking (McSweeney's Books) is a compilation of his last two years of reviews. Eclectic and amusing.

The Books That Mattered: A Reader's Memoir by Frye Gaillard (NewSouth Books) is a tribute to the books that "enriched and altered his life." His literary explorations include excerpts from the works he cites, reminding us of past favorites and showing us soon-to-be new ones.

Hans Weyandt, co-owner of Micawber's Books in St. Paul, asked indie booksellers for their top 50 reads, which, along with anecdotes on the bookselling life, he has collected in Read This! Handpicked Favorites from America's Indie Bookstores (Coffee House Press).

Jacques Bonnet has thousands of books, and in Phantoms on the Bookshelves (Overlook), muses on collecting books and even cataloging them, good advice for those of us "besieged" by our own libraries.

With The Books They Gave Me: True Stories of Life, Love and Lit (Free Press), Jen Adams gathered stories of books received as gifts--perfect selections, ill-chosen ones, romantic ones, illuminating ones.

Who doesn't judge people by what's on their bookshelves (although e-book readers make this well nigh impossible)? Lauren Leto, in Judging a Book by Its Lover: A Field Guide to the Hearts and Minds of Readers Everywhere (Harper Perennial) not only helps you stereotype someone by their favorite author, or figure out what your child will grow up to be by what you read them, but shows you how to fake reading, say, Jonathan Franzen.

Or you could just get How Not to Read: Harnessing the Power of a Literature-Free Life by Dan Wilbur (Perigee). Entire genres summed up in one page, storming through the classics by reading every third word, literary insults to memorize. --Marilyn Dahl, book review editor, Shelf Awareness

Sleeping Bear Press: When You Go Into Nature by Sheri M Bestor, Illustrated by Sydney Hanson

The Writer's Life

Bronwen Hruska: An Epidemic of Over-medicated Children

When Bronwen Hruska's eldest son was in third grade, a teacher at his private school in Manhattan recommended medication to help him settle down in class. The question was: Did he really need it? "Will did not bounce off walls," Hruska recalled in an op-ed piece published in the New York Times this summer. "He was an eight-year-old boy with normal eight-year-old boy energy." For his school, however, that represented not just a mild discipline problem, but a potential blow to its test scores.

Hruska and her ex-husband began giving their son a generic form of Ritalin on school days, although their son put an end to it a year later after telling them what he'd learned about the potential side effects. She couldn't shake her frustration with the experience, and began channeling that energy into a novel that uses thriller-like pacing to turn one family's crisis into an indictment of the succeed-at-any-cost culture that's grown up around private education. "These characters are not me or my son or my ex-husband," Hruska said of the family at the center of her debut novel, Accelerated (just published by Pegasus Books), but the initial stages of the story are "verbatim from my own experience." ("Thankfully," she added, "not the later parts.")

She signed up for a creative writing class that demanded students bring a full plot synopsis to the first session as a spur to get started; when the class ended three months later, she had the first few chapters down and was ready to spend the next nine months completing an initial draft. "I worked as a screenwriter for seven years, so I had mapped it out as a screenplay," she said of the storyline, which she eventually began whittling down to a more novelistic level. "It was really... bad," she confessed, "but I started to rewrite, and then I was invited into a master class workshop led by the novelist Jennifer Belle. That's when the draft really started to shape up."

Then, in 2008, Hruska's mother, Soho Press co-founder Laura Hruska, invited her daughter into the business with the aim of taking it over after her death (which came two years later). "Working at a publishing company was never something I saw myself doing," she recalled, but "I owed it to myself, and to her, to try... and the more I learned about it the more I started to like it--now I absolutely love being able to bring these amazing books into the world, and continue what my mother started."

Meanwhile, over the course of several years, Hruska continued to refine the manuscript of Accelerated whenever she could find a few moments--tightening the plot further, sharpening the dialogue, and removing the perspective of a sympathetic teacher to tell the story entirely through the eyes of the father being pressured to accept the school's description of his young son as a problem child in need of medical treatment. (She chose a male protagonist in order to emphasize his outsider status among the other private school parents; "It's really a culture of women," she said.)

Once the novel was completed, Hruska admitted, "I didn't actually know how to go about getting an agent, which is kind of ridiculous." She knew agents, of course, but she didn't want to show the book to anyone that she was already working with regularly as a publisher, fearing the potential awkwardness if they weren't impressed. Eventually, one of Soho's editors, Juliet Grames, put her in touch with Stephanie Abou, who loved the novel and began submitting it to editors.

"A lot of people passed on the book," Hruska recalled, but her new role at Soho softened the blow of the rejections. "As a publisher," she explained, "you really have to fall in love with a book. You can't feel casual about a book that you want to publish." Eventually, it was accepted by Pegasus Books, another indie publisher located not so far from Soho's offices. "But I'd never met them before," Hruska said with a laugh. "I finally met them in Frankfurt, two weeks after they'd already bought my book."

She's thrilled with how they've been treating her as an author, including their willingness to listen to marketing suggestions based on things she's learned trying to sell Soho titles. "There are many e-mails I don't send because I don't want to be 'that author,' " she said, "but at the same time, I've only ever felt open arms from them.... I really do feel like we have a nice partnership."

As for her sons? Will, whose misdiagnosis inspired Accelerated, is now an honors student in high school. Her younger son is enrolled in a different school, where they haven't outright recommended medicating him but have encouraged Hruska to have him evaluated. "So I see the patterns emerging again," she said, "and I'm keeping an eye on the situation." If her novel encourages other parents to push back at schools trying to steer their children into treatment, she said, all the better. "I wanted to look at how hard it is for parents to make these kinds of decisions," she reflected. "It's not something they talk about much amongst themselves." Hruska's op-ed piece already set that conversation in motion; Accelerated is likely to take it even further. --Ron Hogan, founder of

Book Candy

Hobbit Coins; Little Women Texts OMG; Axe Bookshelves

New Zealand Post is issuing The Hobbit coins as official legal tender in anticipation of next month's premiere of Peter Jackson's film adaptation of the Tolkien classic. In addition, the city of Wellington "will actually call itself 'The Middle of Middle-earth' during the week of the premiere, a change that will be evident on postmarked letters and even the masthead of the city's main newspaper," International Business Times reported.


LOL Louisa May! The Hairpin imagined "texts from Little Women."


"Mr. Scott Fitzgerald deserves a good shaking." Flavorwire offered "15 scathing early reviews of classic novels."


With this set of Axe Bookshelves, the "good news is that you won't need a hammer and nails to hang this bookcase. Just aim and swing vigorously," Neatorama wrote.


Top YA Film Adaptations; Ezra Pound's Six Types of Writers

Flavorwire screened "10 YA novel to film adaptations that kept their edge."


Feeling a little down? The "best science fiction and fantasy novels to cheer you the frak up" were recommended by io9.


Ezra Pound created a list of the "6 types of writers and two rules for forming an opinion," which Brain Pickings described as a "taxonomy of scribe sensibilities, with some advice on how to make up your mind."


Caspar Henderson, author of The Book of Barely Imagined Beings, chose his "top 10 natural histories" for the Guardian.

An Object Lesson

Sadie Stein is deputy editor of the Paris Review. Object Lessons: The Paris Review Presents the Art of the Short Story was just published by Picador.


The anthology Object Lessons is at first glance straightforward: Lorin Stein and I went to 20 masters of the short story and asked each one to choose his or her favorite from the Paris Review's 60-year archive.  Then each person wrote an introduction explaining what he or she learned from the story. From the beginning, it seemed like a sure-fire concept--a great collection of stories, curated by some of our favorite working writers.

True, but the process ended up being so much more than I had anticipated: it was a window not just into what makes a memorable story, but how writers relate to literature, and to each other.

While some of the most famous stories from the archive were chosen quickly, so were lesser-known treasures that the authors remembered from their original publication.  It was exciting to know that the pieces had made such impressions on writers who would go on to great careers of their own. But the process became even more pleasurable once we started tracking down the authors whose work had been selected. They were uniformly delighted, often touched.  I can't pretend the morass of securing permissions was all fun--many of the Review's early records are, to put it mildly, sketchy, as often based on gentleman's agreements as paper contracts.

Some of it was drudgery--but, as one agent put it, as she graciously gave us permission to publish a story by her late client: "This will keep his work alive and available to a new generation." If the anthology taught me nothing else, it showed the power of veteran writers to inspire new ones, and--equally--how much their appreciation and gratitude repay the debt, as the years go by. Talk about an object lesson.

Book Review


The Lighthouse Road

by Peter Geye

Given its occasional archaic language and specialized terms of late 19th- and early 20th-century boatbuilding, forestry and medicine--plus a sprinkling of immigrant Norwegian--you might find yourself bogged down in The Lighthouse Road, Peter Geye's story of early settlers on the shores of Lake Superior north of Duluth. But stay the course and you'll find a novel rich in character, moving back and forth in time between the orphaned Odd Einar Eide's difficult birth and his last hours ice fishing with his own motherless son as the spring thaw rips a spider web of cracks across the big lake beneath them.

As he demonstrated in his award-winning Safe from the Sea, Geye deeply understands the hardship and isolation of those largely Scandinavian immigrants who made their living from fishing and shipping in the cold wilderness of Minnesota's Superior shoreline. In a land where "the hours of daylight shriveled until it seemed there was hardly any purpose to the sun rising at all," and taciturnity was the norm (Odd's boatbuilding teacher was "a widower, childless, and the least garrulous man in a town full of reticent men"), those who survived and thrived were those who could compromise and adjust to the injustice of men and the indifference of nature. The Lighthouse Road gradually pulls us in to an often bleak time and place where only tenacity and dreams can build a life with a future. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: A fine historical novel set on the rugged shores of Lake Superior, featuring the tough, self-sufficient lot of Scandinavian immigrants who called it home.

Unbridled Books, $24.95, hardcover, 9781609530846

Little Star

by John Ajvide Lindqvist, trans. by Marlaine Delargy

People talk about John Ajvide Lindquist as the next Stephen King, and Little Star proves the comparison runs deep and true. Like many of King's protagonists, Lindquist's characters find themselves worn down by the ordinary miseries of life--plus a few extra.

The novel begins with Lennart and Laila, a Swedish pop duo whose one shot at stardom in the early 1970s fell through, not so coincidentally right around the time their marriage lost steam. Two decades later, Lennart finds an abandoned infant who cries in perfect pitch, with "an E that rang like a bell and made the leaves quiver and the birds fly up from the trees." He bullies Laila into agreeing to raise the child in complete secrecy, so he can cultivate her musical capabilities; that plan will backfire spectacularly. By then, however, their son Jerry has already bonded with "Little One," whom he renames Theres, and continues her illicit training. Meanwhile, Lindquist sidesteps to tell the story of Teresa, an emotionally frustrated young girl who becomes captivated by a girl on the Swedish version of Idol with an amazing voice.

Once Theres and Teresa meet, the darkness rapidly descends. Lindquist eventually abandons the question of a supernatural component to Theres's uncanniness; it's not something he needs to bother with--the psychological horror of her influence is chilling enough. It's hard to tell from the matter-of-fact translation, but maybe it's not far-fetched to read Theres as a parody of Lisbeth Sanders, one that strips away any pretenses of heroism from the violent fantasies and exposes their nihilistic core. --Ron Hogan, founder of

Discover: Lindquist's alienated teens invite easy comparisons to Carrie, but could they also be a commentary on the popularity of Stieg Larsson's sociopathic heroine?

Thomas Dunne, $27.99, hardcover, 9780312620516

Blasphemy: New and Selected Stories

by Sherman Alexie

Blasphemy is a superb collection of 15 new and 15 old short stories by National Book Award-winner Sherman Alexie (The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian). It must have been tough for him to choose among the latter, given how consistently good his work has been for so long.

There is no story titled "Blasphemy," however; instead, it's a subtext running throughout many of these stories that deal with Native American life, especially on the reservation, the battle between reverence for the sacred and the loss of or contempt for it. In the powerful "Cry Cry Cry," the narrator turns to dance as a way out of his self-destruction, a way back: "I was dancing for my soul and the soul of my tribe," Alexie writes, "for what we Indians used to be and who we might become again." The narrator of "Indian Education," meanwhile, reflects on the death of another Indian and the relentless hopelessness of reservation life: "Believe me, everything looks like a noose if you stare at it long enough."

Many of these characters suffer mightily, but thanks to Alexie's amazing sense of humor and his own reverence for the historical greatness in the Indian way of life, the stories rise above the ennui and the sadness with the touch of a poet: "It was so quiet, a reservation kind of quiet, where you can hear somebody drinking whisky on the rocks three miles away." Blasphemy reveals an artist in full command of his material and style, able to astonish and move us in story after story. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

Discover: A perfect sampling of the dark, witty and powerful short stories of this outstanding Native American writer.

Grove, $27, hardcover, 9780802120397

Miss Dreamsville and the Collier County Women's Literary Society

by Amy Hill Hearth

In Miss Dreamsville and the Collier County Women's Literary Society, Amy Hill Hearth takes the reader back to a time when Naples, Fla., was just a "sunbaked southern backwater town." Hearth writes from the perspective of 80-year-old, divorced Dora Witherspoon, looking back at 1962, when she was a postal worker violating regulations by perusing, on the job, the latest issue of Vogue, addressed to a glamorous newcomer in town, Jackie Hart. When Jackie catches Dora in the act and asks, "What else do you like to read?" the encounter sparks the formation of the Collier County Women's Literary Society, a group that draws an array of local misfits who gather to read and discuss great books--and inadvertently reveal mysteries and secrets about their own lives.

The society grows to include the local librarian, the town's one and only Sears employee, a woman who once did prison time for allegedly killing her husband, a middle-aged poet and a token male member--as well as a young "colored" girl, a maid, who is secretly whisked to the meetings in the racially segregated town.

In the midst of it all, the KKK is hard at work and Collier County is fascinated by an anonymous radio show anchored by Miss Dreamsville, whose mysterious identity spices up life in the small town. Inspired by true events, Amy Hill Hearth has written a heart-tugging story about a band of lively characters finding friendship and freedom from conformity. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: The formation of a book club in a small southern town in the 1960s inspires unlikely friendships.

Atria, $15, paperback, 9781451675238

In Need of a Good Wife

by Kelly O'Connor McNees

Kelly O'Connor McNees's In Need of a Good Wife is a fictional look at the 19th-century phenomenon of mail-order brides in frontier America. It starts with Clara Bixby, abandoned by her husband, out of a job and stuck in a boarding house full of unpleasant memories. Then she hears about Destination, Neb., a town with no women, and decides it's a perfect place to start over. She's not looking for romance, but she's willing to act as a marriage broker and shepherd a group of mail-order brides to Destination.

The mayor eagerly accepts her offer, and Clara and her group of brides set out on the long trip. Among the women is Elsa, an immigrant and devout Christian who has spent her life working backbreaking hours in a laundry and longs for an opportunity to have her own space and cook the German recipes of her childhood. Rowena was a leading figure in New York society until her husband was killed in the Civil War; now she is penniless. Filled with anger at her father's mental illness and her husband's death, Rowena sees Nebraska as her only chance to escape.

McNees (The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott) shifts perspective between these three women (as well as some of Destination's men). Her characters aren't necessarily likable, but they are realistic, and the dilemmas that Rowena, Elsa and Clara face are compelling. Destination may not be the end of the line for this trio, but they will discover surprising things about themselves and each other in their journey to happiness. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

Discover: Clara Bixby is determined to start over; organizing an expedition of mail-order brides to Destination, Neb., seems just the ticket.

Berkley, $15, paperback, 9780425257920

The Heart Broke In

by James Meek

The Heart Broke In, James Meek's smart and generous look at contemporary morality, is the kind of novel to press into the hands of someone who asks, "Why read fiction?"

Set mainly in Britain, Meek's novel revolves around brother and sister Ritchie and Bec Shepherd. He's an over-the-hill rock star whose gig on the show Teen Makeover provides ready access to temptations he finds hard to resist. She's a parasite researcher so driven to develop a malaria vaccine she risks infection herself. Both struggle with the legacy of the murder of their father, a British soldier, by an IRA terrorist 25 years earlier. When Bec connects with Alex Comrie, a cell biologist whose research raises hopes of reversing the aging process, her former lover's threat to expose Ritchie's misbehavior is the ticking bomb that propels the narrative.

To preserve his comfortable life, will Ritchie reveal a confidence his sister has shared with him? What moral compromises will Bec consider to give Alex the child he so desperately wants? Has science, with its ability to end diseases and potentially alter the human lifespan, become our new religion? The questions have the ring of soap opera, but Meek's wise and occasionally humorous treatment is anything but that, as he steers his troubled protagonists through what Bec thinks of as the "vast, alien moral landscape," all the while relishing the pleasures of their outwardly successful lives.

The Heart Broke In invites us to look at ourselves in all our flawed human beauty without turning away. --Harvey Freedenberg, attorney and freelance reviewer

Discover: Set in present-day Britain, James Meek's novel poses serious moral questions in a world where the source of answers is anything but obvious.

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $28, hardcover, 9780374168711

Mystery & Thriller

Mad River

by John Sandford

John Sandford's Mad River stars Virgil Flowers, a supporting character in Sandford's Prey novels who graduated to his own series with 2007's Dark of the Moon. This sixth installment stands capably alone; series readers will recognize certain characters, but the plot twists and building suspense require no backstory.

Flowers is an investigator for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension called out to the tiny farm town of Shinder to investigate a string of brutal murders, starting with a highway patrol officer. The spree is quickly connected to a trio of local youths, and as the tension mounts and the murders spread across the state, the challenge is to catch the killers before the vengeful local cops get to them. Flowers suspects there's a connection to something even bigger and needs the killers taken alive.

The central plot is riveting, but strained relations within the law enforcement community, Flowers's visits with his loving parents and his dalliance with an old flame provide further drama. The story's travels around the state add local color: expanses of empty farm land make the killers nearly impossible to track. Perhaps the greatest strength of Mad River, though, lies in Flowers himself. It's hard to think of a more balanced and genial investigative hero, yet he's still able to keep cops and bad guys alike in line. The bulk of the mystery is revealed fairly early on, though the killers' motivations and dynamic remain riveting until the final pages--and the ultimate question persists to the tantalizing end. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at Pages of Julia

Discover: A series of bloody murders in Minnesota's farm country, and the supremely likable detective who will stop them.

Putnam, $27.95, hardcover, 9780399157707

The Vanishing Point

by Val McDermid

Val McDermid gives her series characters a hiatus in The Vanishing Point, a stand-alone thriller that kicks off with a kidnapping in Chicago's O'Hare airport. Stephanie Harker has been a parent for only nine months. The ghostwriter for Scarlett Higgins, a British reality TV star, she reluctantly fell into the role of parent when Scarlett, dying of cancer, named Stephanie young Jimmy's guardian.

Alternating between the present investigation and flashbacks where Stephanie relates the history of her relationship with Scarlett, the bizarre world of the pseudo-celebrity takes shape. But McDermid presents an enchanting character in Scarlett that conflicts with the popular stereotypes about reality TV celebrities. She is in no way high society, but she's smart, ambitious and dedicated.

In traditional McDermid style, the plot of The Vanishing Point is riveting. Well-placed red herrings and twists keep the energy level high throughout, and the story engages readers in ideas and issues beyond the pursuit of the villain. McDermid is skilled at developing themes such as what defines a parent, or the differences between British and Americans, as part of the mechanism that drives the plot; this makes her work exceptional.

The Vanishing Point's tone is not as dark as many of McDermid's recent novels, but the intensity, the depth and the caliber of the content is as good if not better than anything she's written to date. This is a great introduction to Val McDermid for new readers and a criminal treat for established fans. --Jen Forbus of Jen's Book Thoughts

Discover: McDermid's stand-alone thriller illustrates the lengths a parent will go to when another breaches her child's safety.

Atlantic Monthly Press, $25, hardcover, 9780802120526

Science Fiction & Fantasy

Three Parts Dead

by Max Gladstone

Max Gladstone's Three Parts Dead is part steampunk urban fantasy, part necromantic legal thriller and all parts entrancing read. The fantasy setting, a once Earth-like world ravaged by the warring of gods and mortals, is fully realized but not overbearing. Alt Coulumb is one of the few cities still ruled by a deity, and Kos, a fiery survivor of the God Wars, keeps the massive metropolis running with steam generators and a calming presence in the hearts of His citizens. His sudden death spells trouble for the city and its four million residents.

The impending legal battle over Kos's remaining contracts (bartered promises of power from which deities gain or lose strength) draws Tara Abernathy to Alt Coulumb. As a new associate of the necromancy firm Kelethres, Albrecht and Ao, she must raise a god from the dead before the city slips into chaos. An eccentric cast helps and hinders her mission, including a chain-smoking priest, a party girl/vampire bite junkie and a gargoyle whose presence at a murder scene makes him a fugitive. Gladstone populates his world with other eccentricities, such as the law enforcing hive-mind called Justice, to create an engrossing sense of breadth and depth. It's a refreshing success in a genre where world-building is so necessary--but sometimes not necessarily convincing.

Gladstone's story is both cosmic in scope and deeply personal. His is a dark world where individuals face frightening monsters and magic, but also cherish the ever-burning embers of hope and love. Three Parts Dead is a powerhouse debut novel sure to entice even non-fantasy readers. --Tobias Mutter, freelance reviewer

Discover: A debut novel with an enthralling mix of steampunk urban fantasy and magical legal thriller.

Tor, $24.99, hardcover, 9780765333100

Graphic Books

Sailor Twain: Or: The Mermaid in the Hudson

by Mark Siegel

In the late 19th century, steamships plied the waters of the Hudson River--and so, Mark Siegel tells us in the delightfully imaginative Sailor Twain, did mermaids. When Captain Twain (no relation to Mark) rescues an injured mermaid hanging off the side of his ship, he finds himself drawn into a world of myth and mystery on (and in) the river's waters. As he struggles to remain faithful to his wife while falling more and more in lust--or is it love?--with the mermaid he has rescued, he finds he's not the only one captivated by the legend of mermaids: the previous ship's owner disappeared after weeks of strange behavior; the current ship's owner is carrying on a correspondence with a famed but elusive author of folklore books; and a member of the crew finds himself unable to leave the ship and set foot on land.

Sailor Twain is a graphic novel of the finest calibre; Siegel's story, rich in its own right, is complemented by his intricately beautiful charcoal illustrations. Together, they make a complex, engaging narrative based as much on history as mythology, pushing aside the Disneyfied image of mermaids in favor of a more traditional, and somewhat fearful, representation. Despite its illustrations (or perhaps because of them), Sailor Twain is not a novel for children, but it is a fantastic--and fantastical--novel of romance, suspense and the power of legend. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

Discover: A graphic novel about a passionate encounter between a riverboat captain and a mermaid in late 19th-century New York.

First Second, $24.99, hardcover, 9781596436367

Children's & Young Adult

This Is Not My Hat

by Jon Klassen, illus. by Jon Klassen

Jon Klassen once again uses a minimalist palette, short, declarative sentences and a hat to deliver a wallop of an ethics lesson. Having explored the victim's point of view in his debut picture book, I Want My Hat Back, Klassen now shines a light into the mind of a thief.

A tiny fish sporting a light blue derby hat states, "This is not mine. I just stole it." It's a doozy of an opener and an echo of the starting lines of the bear hero in the first book: "My hat is gone. I want it back." In both books, the eyes tell the story. No one speaks except the tiny fish thief. But the narrator's words often appear at odds with the action in the full-spread illustrations. After confessing having stolen the hat while the victim slept, the tiny fish states, "And he probably won't wake up for a long time," just as the fried-egg size eyes of a giant fish pop open, turn upward to check on the now-absent hat, then shift to cigarette-shaped eyes, pupils forward, emitting bubbles that look like smoke. Strands of sea grass hold fish-shaped leaves, so when they thicken together, they serve as an ideal camouflage for the tiny fish. But will it be enough?

Klassen once again gets the tone pitch perfect. His bare-bones text and enigmatic images leave the proceedings open to interpretation. And the ethics questions could keep kids debating for days, laughing all the way to consensus. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: Jon Klassen's latest ethics dilemma, a picture book companion to I Want My Hat Back, this time from the thief's perspective.

Candlewick, $15.99, hardcover, 40p., ages 3-up, 9780763655990


by Ari Berk, illus. by Loren Long

This lyrical, sumptuous picture book reimagines the classic tale of a young one leaving its nest as a journey of not only independence but also of creativity.

Children first meet Chiro, the young bat hero, as he hangs with his mother from the ceiling of their cave, in a circle of twilight hues. On this night, Chiro's mother urges him to take his first solo flight, but he is afraid. It is "darker even than the water before dawn," and he worries that he will not find his way. "There are other ways to see," his mother assures him, "Use your good sense.... the song you sing out into the world, and the song the world sings back to you." She tells him to fly to their breakfast pond and home again. When "long arms rose up in front of him, waving slowly, blocking his path," Chiro remembers his mother's advice, and sings. His song functions as a kind of sonar headlight, revealing a path of color in the darkest corners of the woods.

The duration of Chiro's journey lasts from sundown to sunup, but he has passed a milestone. He knows he can go it alone. Berk shows readers that Chiro's mother has prepared him well, as the small bat recognizes guideposts along the way, and subtly demonstrates how a bat's sonar works. This lovely, lilting story makes an ideal book for sending a child to school for the first time, tryouts for a team or a class play. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A small, brave bat taking his first solo flight who'll inspire any child trying something new for the first time.

Simon & Schuster, $17.99, hardcover, 48p., ages 4-8, 9781416978862


by Ilsa J. Bick

In Ilsa J. Bick's Ashes, an electromagnetic pulse struck the world, killing many civilians, converting others into feral carnivores (the Changed), and forcing the survivors (the Spared) into unspeakable corners. More terrifying than its predecessor, Shadows exposes new villains--desperate humans.

Ashes ended with Alex Adair led astray by the council of Rule (a sanctuary protecting humans from the Changed) and into a field of five Changed teenagers wielding guns and knives. Alex survived the bleakness of her brain tumor and her will to live is unrelenting. She defends herself against the Changed in the kind of calculated, graphic fight scene at which the author excels throughout the book. Bick suspends the outcome of this first scene with Alex while the perspectives of other Spared teenagers unfold. Readers learn of a rebellion forming from inside Rule over why their commander, Peter, has them stealing children, as well as the mystery of why Rule has been safe from attacks by the Changed. Even more frightening, a captive discovers from a sinister human that the Change isn't over and those who thought they were Spared may not be.
Even as she alternates among a handful of characters' perspectives, Bick manages the narrative impressively and often leaves readers in suspense for several chapters with her well-timed cliffhangers. In this violent sequel, enemies aren't black and white, reunions between characters are short-lived, and the detailed bloodshed will call forth nightmares. A post-apocalyptic world hasn't been scarier. --Adam Silvera, reviewer and former bookseller

Discover: The sequel to the post-apocalyptic Ashes, in which humans are responsible for as much carnage as the zombies.

Egmont USA, $17.99, hardcover, 528p., ages 14-up, 9781606841761


Author Buzz

Dragon Kiss
(A Dragon Kings Novella)

by Donna Grant

Dear Reader,

Welcome back to the Dragon Kings! I'm thrilled to bring you DRAGON KISS. The world of the Dragon Kings keeps expanding, and this story brings us Alasdair and Lotti, a powerful couple who have overcome all odds to find love. But a deadly enemy intends to rip them apart.

I can't wait for you to fall in love with Alasdair and Lotti as I have.


Available on Kobo

AuthorBuzz: 1001 Dark Nights Press: Dragon Kiss (A Dragon Kings Novella) by Donna Grant

1001 Dark Nights Press

Pub Date: 
January 9, 2024


List Price: 
$2.99 e-book

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