Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, August 5, 2011

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

From My Shelf

Word of Mouth: Between Us

Earlier this week I spent some time in New York City, which is still the center of book publishing (even if there are other centers of literature, reading and writing... but that's another editorial). At one lunch, a publisher and I had an intense discussion about how that important and elusive thing, "word of mouth," happens.

"Word of mouth" can't be bought. It can't be planned for in pre-publication financial spreadsheets. It isn't easy to measure once it happens, either. But it is so important, still, to the book-release process that my lunch companion and I spent time comparing some of the places online where we think the word-of-mouth experience is best duplicated, as well as brainstorming ways that it might be amplified in the future.

I'm telling you about this because it points up something quite wonderful and low-tech about publishing: despite e-books, digital media, bookstore closings and distribution challenges, one of the most important elements is still reader-to-reader contact, and a top New York publisher is still intimately and urgently concerned about fostering that contact.

The best part? We exchanged word-of-mouth recommendations, too, talking about books we were currently enjoying in book groups, on vacations and for work. Word of mouth connects all readers, whether they're in the biz or living far from the nearest bookstore--and we need to do all we can to keep it strong.

Readers know best, and to that end, I'd like to hear from all of you: booksellers, book-group members, solitary readers, parents, publishing colleagues. Write, and tell me what kind of word of mouth is most effective for you personally and your ideas about how to take advantage of word-of-mouth power. I'll gather the best of those for a future editorial or article here. From our mouths to others' ears, as they say....

The Writer's Life

Portrait of the Artist: J. Anderson Thomson

"Andy" Thomson and Clare Aukofer's small book, Why We Believe in God(s): A Concise Guide to the Science of Faith (Pitchstone Publishing), is generating some big buzz on newspaper op-ed pages, including this recent piece in the L.A. Times.

That's because the authors--J. Anderson Thompson, a University of Virginia-affiliated psychiatrist, and writer Clare Aukofer--have clearly and concisely put together an argument about how human neurology affects human beliefs in divinities and the development of religious faith, fundamentalism and fanaticism.

Speaking by telephone from his Charlottesville office, Thomson explained that he became interested in the science of faith while researching suicide terrorism, which he began doing after 9/11. His son worked close to Ground Zero, and although he was not injured in that day's terrible events, Thomson wanted to know how and why people would carry out such brutal acts in the name of a god. Eventually, Thomson put together a talk that he filmed and put on the Web. When it garnered more than 350,000 page views, he thought: other people want to learn about this, too.

"At that point I was not thinking about writing any sort of book," Thomson said. "I'm a practicing psychiatrist--not an academic, and not an author. But after I posted another talk based on the material included in the book's second half, we realized that there is not other publication like this, one that is short, easily read, and provides the basics of how human minds generate religious belief."

One of the human traits Thomson and Aukofer examine is attachment. "Any time you see a trait, you want to think in functional terms," Thomson explained. "What does it do? What problem does it solve?" Attachment helps us to literally and figuratively latch on to our earliest caretakers, providing safety and survival. "The attachment system probably started to evolve 65 to 70 million years ago, when mammals survived the wipeout of dinosaurs, and their spread led to more and more helpless infants who needed to have a system to keep them connected to their sources of survival."

For Thomson, this illustrates one of the basic parts of human religious belief: attachment to a being that helps them to survive. He continued, "It shows that the basics of religion are tied to the basics of our evolutionary adaptation."

Sound simple? "That was one of the other purposes of writing this book," Thomson said. "We wanted to do something that would demonstrate that you don't need specialty knowledge to understand the dynamics of religion and how it grew out of our neurology. We wanted to lay this out in a way that anybody could understand, grasp, and turn around and share this knowledge."

A few of their key devices are worth highlighting. For example, the "fast-food analogy." "We're quite serious," Thomson said. "We think if you understand the psychology of fast food, you'll understand the psychology of religion."

He explained that our common human origins in Africa as hunter-gatherers meant that there were certain foods that were very difficult to obtain--so when a person or group happened upon one of the sources of those foods, they would binge on that substance, be it animal flesh, fatty nuts or fresh berries. "We don't have cravings for greens and grains because those were relatively easy to get, and they weren't crucial to survival. Meat, being a compact source of calories and protein, created cravings. The people who didn't crave things that gave them crucial nutrients like vitamin C didn't survive. We're the descendants of the ones who had cravings."

Religion, as Thomson and Aukofer carefully show, gives us ways to get a "hit" of pleasure, just like that much-craved food does. "Religion gives us a parent more powerful than any ordinary parent, a sense of safety and reassurance much greater than anything a mere human can provide," Thomson said. "You don't even have to have zealots and fundamentalists to illustrate this. Handel's Messiah sung in a cathedral will move me, an atheist, in a way that singing on my own never could. It's a powerful stimulus."

If you crave an easily digested overview of how modern science can explain religious faith, you might want to take a look at Why We Believe in God(s)--it might not be fast food, but it is a fast read.

Great Reads

Further Reading: Beijing Welcomes You

Beijing Welcomes You: Unveiling the Capital City of the Future by Tom Scocca details Slate contributor Scocca's discoveries in China after he followed his wife there while she took an assignment. He arrived in 2004, just in time to watch the preparations for the 2008 Olympic Games, which the Chinese did up big.

China itself is so big that we decided to make this a special double-title edition of Further Reading, meaning that we're giving you twice as many book ideas.

If you are interested in Beijing Welcomes You, and want more:


Fiction about China: Try Lisa See's novels, which include Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (a major motion picture release this summer), Peony in Love and linked novels Shanghai Girls and Dreams of Joy. See is of Chinese descent and combines historical research with a passion for China that makes for unforgettable reading. A completely different view of 20th-century China comes from the perspective of an American missionary couple in Bo Caldwell's City of Tranquil Light, the highly praised author's first novel in more than a decade and a beautifully wrought portrait of a marriage.


Nonfiction about China: Rather than give you expected titles, we've chosen two that could not be more different. The late poet Iris Chang's The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II examines the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Chinese soldiers and civilians by Japanese soldiers after the city fell in 1937. Amy Chua's controversial Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is about Chua's decision to try traditional Chinese parenting techniques in 21st-century America. Both books will show you some of what makes the Chinese spirit indomitable.


Memoir about China: For a parallel experience to Scocca's, try Deborah Fallows's Dreaming in Chinese: Mandarin Lessons in Life, Love, and Language, a memoir from 2010 about the author's three years learning Mandarin Chinese and using its frustrating and rich connotations and symbols to interpret everyday life. Red Scarf Girl: A Memoir of the Cultural Revolution by Ji-Li Jiang is an intense personal look at what happened to innocent people during Mao's “Great Leap Forward,” and shows how a society can fall apart even while its most powerful members are pretending that everything works seamlessly and harmoniously.


Movie: Branagh Directing Guernsey?

Book-club members, rejoice! One of your favorite titles is not only being adapted to the silver screen--a favorite screen star may be its director.

Variety reported that Fox 2000 "is circling" Kenneth Branagh to direct The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, based on the novel by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer. The movie, which is being produced by Paula Mazur and Mitchell Kaplan (owner of Books & Books in south Florida) from a script by Dan Roos, is expected to begin production in the spring.

Book Candy: A Tumblr for Writers, Cara Barer's Book Art

While this Tumblr should probably fall under "The Writer's Life," it's so well designed that we decided to classify it as candy--mind candy!

So You Want to Write Short Stories is one microblogger's manifesto on short fiction--made to look like vintage Penguin Classic paperbacks. The penguin colophon is replaced by a panda amid bamboo, upping the cuteness factor--but that is held in check by the world-weary tone of posts like "Step 5--Bypass the Gatekeepers?"


Cara Barer's book art is not of the adorable kind. Instead, think mesmerizing, strange and beautiful. She assures viewers that "no important books have been injured during the making of any of these photographs."

Back to School

From beach reads to back-to-school reads... for adults. recommended "10 books you really should have read in high school."

"I think that there are characters that it would be a shame not to meet like Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird or Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye," said Misha Stone of the Seattle Public Library. "I borrow from what world-renowned librarian Nancy Pearl says, and I will paraphrase here--everyone has a different definition of what would be considered a classic, but there are also books that it would be a shame to go through life not reading. There are books that speak to the human condition and the world we live (and lived) in in astonishing, thought-provoking, and life-changing ways."

No Last Larsson Book

Girl without another Dragon Tattoo.

Stieg Larsson's longtime partner, Eva Gabrielsson, now describes a possible fourth Millennium novel as something that "probably doesn't hang together." On BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour, she added that the late author had probably written "about 200 pages," but he was "a spontaneous writer. He could write scenes and not knit them together until later on. He just liked the scene. You can't call it a novel."

In bitter negotiations with Larsson's estranged father and brother, Gabrielsson had hinted that there was a fourth novel in the laptop owned by Larsson that she possesses.

Book Review


This Beautiful Life

by Helen Schulman

Schulman (A Day at the Beach) has created a cautionary tale focused around a timely issue: an e-mail that goes, unhappily, viral.

Fifteen-year-old prep school student Jake Bergamot, his parents, Richard and Lizzie, and his adopted Chinese six-year-old sister, Coco, have recently moved from Ithaca to Manhattan, where Richard is now senior executive vice chancellor of Astor University of the City of New York, working on a project that will reclaim real estate, create jobs and schools and all the good stuff that everyone wants.

Jake goes to a party that he doesn't particularly want to attend, has too much to drink and is hit on--hard--by his eighth-grade hostess, Daisy. Jake's friends razz him about robbing the cradle, and he extricates himself from her clutches, bolting for the subway and home.

The next morning he turns on his computer and finds an e-mail from Daisy, a video so frankly pornographic it is like nothing he has ever seen. He quickly sends it to his best friend, who sends it on, who sends it to... within hours, around the world it goes.

Suddenly, Richard Bergamot's boss tells him to stay underground "until this all blows over." No one wants someone whose kid has screwed up so publicly making decisions for their children. Meanwhile, Lizzie and Coco experience public humiliation at a high-toned Plaza Hotel slumber party in the aftermath of Jake's error in judgment. Schulman has written an incisive exploration of a family owning up to what each of them really wants and what it will cost all of them. --Valerie Ryan

Discover: An adolescent mistake--an e-mail gone viral--causes a family to come unglued.

Harper, $24.99, hardcover, 9780062024381

Daughter of Providence

by Julie Drew

Anne Dodge, the only daughter of an old-money New England family, is not your typical blue-blooded 1930s gal. Not only is she half Portuguese, she's terrible in the kitchen and doesn't have the slightest interest in marrying the besotted son of a prominent family.

In Julie Drew's debut novel, set in Rhode Island in 1934, Anne is in love with one thing--building boats. It's so unladylike that her controlling, WASP father refuses even to discuss it with her, in the same way that he is mum on the subject of what happened to Anne's Portuguese mother, telling her only that she abandoned them when Anne was born. So Anne trudges along in her life, sneaking off to build her beloved boats and dreading the time when she'll have to give up her passion and surrender to her duty as a wife.

Unexpectedly, several events rock Anne's insular world. First, she stumbles upon a dead body. Next, her feisty half-sister, Maria Cristina, who's been raised by the Portuguese side of the family, comes to live with her, unleashing a love and determination in Anne that gives her the impetus to claim her independence. And Maria Cristina's arrival leads to the revealing of long-hidden truths about Anne's mother and father.

Drew's subplot regarding labor unions and a strike at the town mill seems a bit out of place here, but it introduces the powerful and debonair Oliver Fielding who awakens a desire in Anne that changes her life, irrevocably, as the tale sails into its surprising conclusion. --Natalie Papailiou, author of blog MILF: Mother I'd Like to Friend

Discover: A debut novel about an unconventional woman struggling to find her voice (and her place) in 1930s Rhode Island.

Overlook Press, $24.95, hardcover, 9781590204627


by Joanna Briscoe

Betrayal, obsession and the rituals of seduction are familiar territory for British writer Briscoe, who mined all three successfully in Sleep with Me. Here, she ups the ante considerably by making one of the seducers a 17-year-old girl, Cecilia, whose object of obsession is her married teacher, James Dahl.

This takes place in a progressive school, Haye House in Dartmoor, where children are allowed to make their own choices--and mistakes. Cecilia's parents, hardworking Dora and feckless Patrick, who putters about making pots but no money, have moved there to live the countryside idyll. They end up taking in hippie boarders to make ends meet and Dora, frazzled and unhappy, makes her own unfortunate alliance with the last person she ever expected to care for: the cool and elegant Elisabeth Dahl, wife of James. Dora has no prior record of lesbian attachment but tumbles into a physical relationship with Elisabeth, with whom she is besotted.

There are predicable consequences to Cecilia's actions, which haunt her through the years. Twenty years later, Cecelia, now in her 40s and a children's writer, returns to Devon with her partner, Ari, and their three daughters, ostensibly to care for Dora, now ill with cancer. Cecilia gives in to her need to find answers about the past, to the point where she almost loses one of her children through neglect and inattention. She also reconnects with James Dahl, still teaching in the area, and the stability of her present life is threatened.

The resolutions of these highly charged affairs take a good deal of hand-wringing angst to accomplish, and while the answers may not be entirely satisfactory, they are altogether believable. --Valerie Ryan, Cannon Beach Book Company, Ore.

Discover: The actions, reactions and consequences for a mother and her daughter are explored, explained and lamented.

Bloomsbury, $15, trade paper, 9781608194834

Mystery & Thriller

Stealing Mona Lisa

by Carson Morton

Carson Morton's first novel employs a delightfully murky moral standpoint. The protagonist is Eduardo, the Marquis de Valfierno, who heads up a gang of clever con men in Argentina in the early 1900s. Taking advantage of the shameful lack of security in the National Museum, Valfierno has concocted a brilliantly simple plot to swindle American businessmen. He offers to sell them paintings stolen from the museum, but delivers masterful forgeries instead. Not the noblest line of work, but once we meet the newest client, railroad tycoon Joshua Hart, it's clear that swindling is exactly what he deserves.

When a change of circumstances, and perhaps a lingering affection for Hart's beautiful young wife, land Valfierno in Paris, he plans his most ambitious project yet: the theft of the Mona Lisa. With Hart and the French police pursuing him, the action culminates in a chase through the streets of Paris, as the waters of the Seine spill over their banks and flood the city.

Morton bases his work on a myth surrounding the actual theft of the Mona Lisa in 1911. Many years after the painting was recovered, an article appeared in the Saturday Evening Post describing the author's meeting with a man named de Valfierno, who claimed to have commissioned the theft in order to pass off several forgeries as the real thing. Despite being completely unsubstantiated, the story has persisted throughout the years and, in Morton's capable hands, has been crafted into an engaging and atmospheric novel. With richly drawn characters and careful pacing, Stealing Mona Lisa is a work of art in its own right. --Judie Evans, librarian

Discover: Discover: An enthralling historical mystery in the flooded streets of Belle Époque Paris.

Minotaur, $25.99, hardcover, 9780312621711

Silent Enemy

by Thomas W Young

Four years after the events of Thomas Young's first novel, The Mullah's Storm, Army Sgt. Major Sophia Gold and Air Force Major Michael Parson are reunited when a bomb destroys the Afghan National Police central training facility in Kabul. Gold is helping to run the literacy program and sustains minor injuries in the blast. However, many of her students are badly injured and she's going to accompany them to a hospital in Germany that is large enough to handle all the patients. Parson is called on to fly the patients to Germany, which is a routine matter--until a bomb is discovered aboard the aircraft.

Readers unfamiliar with The Mullah's Storm will have no problems following the events of Silent Enemy. The pace is quick; there's constant action and well-timed twists. Young treats the array of characters and cultures with dignity, avoiding any hidden agendas in his themes. Some readers may find the technical elements of the aircraft piloting a bit daunting, but they play a minor role in the overall story.

Young's experience as an Air National Guardsman serving in the Middle East works to heighten the authenticity in this exciting military thriller. But don't read this on the plane heading off to vacation. Wait until you've hit the beach. --Jen Forbus of Jen's Book Thoughts

Discover: A thrilling ride that maintains mach speed from liftoff to landing... or however the plane comes down.

Putnam, $25.95, hardcover, 9780399157790


Killing the Cranes: A Reporter's Journey Through Three Decades of War in Afghanistan

by Edward Girardet

Edward Girardet (Afghanistan: The Soviet War) came to Afghanistan more than 30 years ago as a reporter for the Christian Science Monitor, embedding himself with mujahideen fighting the Soviets. He saw the Russians leave and the Taliban move in, and recognized immediately the connection between the assassination of Massoud, the Lion of Panjshir, on September 9, 2001, and the attacks on the U.S. two days later. The author has a profound love for the Afghanis, giving him the edge over almost any other outsider; and his deep experience and understanding of the people and the country.

There are "no military solutions" in Afghanistan, said General Boris Gromov, the last Soviet commander to leave Afghanistan. However, the U.S. spends an average of $2.8 billion a week there, and NATO reports security forces cost an estimated $6 billion annually. Outsiders throw billions of dollars of aid at Afghanistan, but a new, ugly culture of greed has emerged over the decades: in 2010, some $18 billion of U.S. aid alone has disappeared into the "labyrinth of contract bureaucracy."

What would work? Girardet offers what he says are obvious, but neglected answers: quality over quantity; small, doable projects; a long-term commitment--years, if not decades; reduced dependency on private security and mercenaries; better infrastructure, health centers, public transportation; working in the countryside, not just in cities. Finally, he writes, Western donors need to move beyond "hollow words.... They need to actively pressure Pakistan, Iran, China, India, Saudi Arabia, and others to stop meddling in Afghani affairs. This has been, and continues to be, the principal obstacle to peace in Afghanistan." --Judith Hawkins-Tillirson, proprietress, Wyrdhoard Books, and blogger at Still Working for Books

Discover: A book that needs to be read by every policymaker in Washington about the ways in which Afghanistan has been turned into a war-torn, corrupt pile of very expensive rubble.

Chelsea Green, $27.95, hardcover, 9781603583428

A First-Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links Between Leadership and Mental Illness

by Nassir Ghaemi

Consult any list of the traits that make a person fit for crisis-time leadership, and you're not likely to see "mentally ill" on it. In A First-Rate Madness, Nassir Ghaemi, a professor of psychiatry and director of the Mood Disorders Program at Tufts Medical Center, contends that perhaps that shouldn't be the case.

Applying principles of modern science and psychology to character studies of eight prominent historical leaders, Ghaemi argues that "in times of crisis, we are better off being led by mentally ill leaders than by mentally normal ones." Ghaemi identifies four elements of mental illness that promote crisis leadership--creativity, realism, empathy, resilience--and examines their manifestation in the lives of leaders who suffered from depression or bipolar disorder, leaders like Winston Churchill, Mahatma Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy.

Ghaemi draws from public records and private documents to present data about each man's symptoms, family history, course of illness and treatment. He lays out his theory using language that is accessible, if not entirely jargon-free, and illustrates his case studies systematically and succinctly to establish a compelling argument for the link between certain types of mental illness and crisis-time leadership. The keyword here, though, is "link," and Ghaemi strays at times from the proviso that "correlation does not equal causation" to imply a more directional relationship than the evidence supports. Readers who bring both a passing familiarity with psychology and a healthy skepticism will find much food for thought in A First-Rate Madness. --Rebecca Joines Schinsky, blogger at The Book Lady's Blog

Discover: A provocative theory of psychological history and a revealing exploration of the inner lives of some of our most remarkable leaders.

The Penguin Press, $27.95, hardcover, 9781594202957

Beijing Welcomes You: Unveiling the Capital City of the Future

by Tom Scocca

Journalist and blogger Tom Scocca followed his wife (and her new job assignment) to Beijing in 2004, arriving just as the city was beginning its preparations as future host of the Olympic Games. Though Beijing Welcomes You looks backward to an important transitional time in China's ascent to global power, it follows a mostly forward path through the city's countdown to the Games. (The book's title refers to a popular Chinese song written to promote the Games.)

Luckily for the reader, Scocca is industrious and, frankly, brave in both his journalistic and touristic travels in Beijing. He studies the scientific attempts to control the weather and the air quality of the city, and considers the behavioral modifications recommended to Beijing's citizens (control of spitting and the formation of orderly lines seemed to be primary goals). He appreciates the architectural achievements of the new sporting venues and documents the beautification of the new Beijing, often at the cost of the historical charms of the old city. Scocca's tenacity and curiosity led him to interview politicans, scientists, designers, athletes and ordinary citizens, and to participate in Beijing's cultural and civic offerings, all of which clearly enriched his story.

Beijing Welcomes You is an entertaining account of the city's transition into the future, prompted by the social, political and environmental challenges of hosting the Olympic Games. --Roni K. Devlin, owner of Literary Life Bookstore & More

Discover: An engaging account of Beijing's people, places and politics as it prepares to host the 2008 Olympic Games and attempts to become a model capital city of the 21st century.

Riverhead Books, $26.95, hardcover, 9781594487842


by Wayne Koestenbaum

Few rational people would want to know what it feels like to be disgraced former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner. But the universality of shame, disappointment and even the odd pleasure in another's disgrace provide fertile territory for poet and critic Wayne Koestenbaum in this provocative study of humiliation.

There's ample material here to engage aficionados of pop culture, from a discussion of Alec Baldwin's ranting voice-mail message to his adolescent daughter, to television shows like The Swan, a Fox reality program featuring "disturbed women [who] ask to be humiliated on television so that they might end up beautiful." Through myriad examples, Koestenbaum raises the legitimate question whether our eagerness to exult in the humiliation of others defines contemporary American culture.

Koestenbaum doesn't confine himself to stories ripped from the pages of Us Weekly. It takes some patience to follow the thread of his argument when Humiliation veers off into discussions of relatively obscure artists like Antonin Artaud and Glenn Ligon, or discourses on terms like "abreaction" and "desubjectification."

But it isn't long before this academic author again startles with a bold argument, some elegant turn of phrase or a striking anecdote that steers his account back to more accessible, ground--as with his assertion that humiliation can be "a kiln through which the human soul passes, and where it receives burnishing, glazing, and consolidating."

Anthony Weiner is merely one more example, as Koestenbaum reminds us, that "there will always be another public figure falling, another man... to confess, in public, a shameful act, and to submit to the televised spanking." Even as we recognize the wearying inevitability of this behavior, it's fair to ask whether our near obsession with their debasement says as much about us as it does them. --Harvey Freedenberg, attorney and freelance reviewer

Discover: Poet and critic Wayne Koestenbaum takes a lively and highly original look at a painfully universal human emotion.

Picador, $14, trade paper, 9780312429225

Children's & Young Adult

Defiance: Resistance Book 2

by Carla Jablonski, illus. by Leland Purvis, color by Hilary Sycamore

With the rise of graphic novels as a valuable tool in the classroom, we've seen more comics for teens with a historical focus. Defiance and its prequel, Resistance (2010), are two of the best to appear on the scene.

Both are set in a small French village in Vichy, France, after France's surrender to Germany in WWII, and focus on the Resistance efforts of the Tessier family. By the time Defiance begins, the German army has taken over their village. Fourteen-year-old Paul uses his drawing talents to fight back against the occupation by making propaganda, and his mother and sisters help the maquis living in the Jura mountains and the Resistance in any way they can. Meanwhile, Paul's aunt has decided it's smartest to side with the Nazis.

In retrospect, it seems easy to declare the good guys and the bad guys in this struggle, but one of the strengths of this series is that Jablonski explores the grey area. She elevates the book into the realm of a great story that just happens to be set 60 years ago. Jablonski does not over-explain the situation, and instead lets the characters, particularly the teenagers, drive the action.

Combined with Purvis's active art, especially the panels in which he draws in the fashion of Paul, this stimulating story sheds much-needed light on a brave episode of history rarely discussed in this country. --Stephanie Anderson, manager of WORD bookstore in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Discover: A smart and thoughtful addition to the growing canon of graphic nonfiction for teens that's so enjoyable they might not notice they're learning something.

First Second, $16.99, trade paper, 9781596432925

Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes

by Jonathan Auxier

Anything can happen in debut author Jonathan Auxier's fantastical world. The 10-year-old hero, discovered as a baby bobbing in a basket, and named by some magistrates "after a misremembered nursery rhyme," overcomes many challenges--including blindness and abject poverty--to earn the title "the greatest thief who ever lived." The captivating omniscient narrator remains mindful of Peter's handicap while extolling the virtues of the hero's highly attuned remaining four senses. He paints Peter as a boy who must steal in order to survive, but who also possesses a heart of gold.

The turning point occurs when Peter meets a haberdasher who can read his mind, and who plants a box containing the "fantastic eyes" of the title, knowing Peter will find them. Each pair of eyes possesses a magical trait that leads to a series of farflung adventures, including a chance meeting with Sir Tode, a human-kitten-horse hybrid under a hag's spell, a desert full of thieves, a vanished kingdom, a giant dogfish named Good Ol' Frederick who helps defeat a school of sea serpents, ravens that could be good or evil, and talking apes on a Night Patrol that chain up children as slaves--among them a princess. Auxier ties them all together so that none feels extraneous or (too) over-the top. Amid the humor and battle scenes, he also raises some searching questions, such as whether modern reason has overridden the ancient need for magic, and what qualities define a true hero. Kids will root for Peter and hope for his return.--Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A page-turning fantasy adventure about finding your place in the world, filled with magical beasts and hybrid villains.

Abrams/Amulet, $16.95, hardcover, ages 10-up, 9781419700255

The Implosion of Aggie Winchester

by Lara Zielin

Trying desperately to escape the label of "the girl who'd run and tell Mommy what she knew about anyone," Aggie Winchester, daughter of St. Davis High's principal, has gone goth to match her best friend, Sylvia, and protect herself from getting hurt again. In her sophomore novel, Lara Zielin (Donut Days) creates a stunningly realistic look at a high schooler's journey of self-discovery.

By the end of the first chapter, Aggie gets the shocking news of her mother's cancer and her best friend's pregnancy. Her mother refuses to leave her post as principal, and Sylvia is convinced the father of her child will support her, even when Aggie tells her he's a jerk. With the arrival of new girl Beth (also goth), Sylvia ditches Aggie, and the upcoming prom has everyone except Aggie excited. The prom queen nominations are announced, and Aggie is surprised to find Sylvia on the list. Sure that the father of her child will care about her again if she is the queen to his king, Sylvia gets desperate and (with the help of Beth) rigs the election by stuffing the ballot box.

The prom queen is announced, and the school is in an uproar. She's not who they voted for, and they know it. Aggie knows more than anyone, and finds herself in the middle of it all with Sylvia and her mom both directly involved.

Zielin captures the attitude of Aggie perfectly as she fights for what's right and learns about herself. --Shanyn Day, blogger at Chick Loves Lit

Discover: A remarkably realistic tale of personal growth that follows Aggie Winchester on a complete journey of friendship and family.

Putnam Juvenile/Penguin, $16.99, hardcover, ages 14-up, 9780399254116


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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