Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, January 11, 2013

Tor Books: The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V.E. Schwab

From My Shelf

Sons and Mothers

Mother's Day is a ways off, but honoring mothers is timeless. With Will Schwalbe's recent The End of Your Life Book Club, he invited us to share the two years he had with his remarkable mother as she was dying of cancer. This brings to mind other writers whose memories of their moms became lovely, insightful books.

Ivan Doig's 10th Montana-set novel, The Bartender's Tale, was published this year. Twenty years ago, he wrote Heart Earth, a memoir of his mother, Berneta, who died on his sixth birthday. Not until 1986, when Doig inherited the letters his uncle received from Berneta during World War II did the author have more than "half-rememberings" of his mother. Heart Earth is not just a tender tribute to Berneta, but an insightful companion to his memoir of his Montana roots, This House of Sky; both are poetic sagas of the challenges of wartime and nature in Montana's high country.

The subtitle A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother tells only a fraction of the remarkable story James McBride shares in his 2006 memoir, The Color of Water. Ruth McBride Jordan, born Ruchel Zylska, survived Polish pogroms, an abusive Orthodox rabbi father and anti-Semitism in her Virginia town to outlive two husbands and raise 12 children. Both husbands were black, and she taught her children, "God is the color of water." Her standards were high; the last section of McBride's book lists Ruth's children and their academic degrees; all completed at least four years of college.

J.R. Moehringer, the only son of a single mother, grew up among the patrons of his uncle's Manhasset, Long Island, tavern. The 2012 publication of his novel Sutton has re-introduced Moehringer's 2006 memoir The Tender Bar, an homage to Manhassat he wrote in response to the town's heavy losses on 9/11; at the same time, it serves as a loving tribute to his mother, Jean, who realized her son's need for male nurturing. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, bookseller, Book Passage, San Francisco

Arcade Publishing: A Mysterious Country: The Grace and Fragility of American Democracy by Normal Mailer, edited by Michael J. Lennon and John Buffalo Mailer

The Writer's Life

Brandon Sanderson: Following Jordan

Brandon Sanderson remembers picking up a paperback of The Eye of the World, the first volume in Robert Jordan's epic fantasy series The Wheel of Time, in late 1990, when he was about 15 years old. "As a young new fantasy fan, who had just discovered the genre in the last year or so," he said, he was drawn to the book because of its size--nearly 700 pages. "You can't judge quality based on length, but I'd hit upon the fact that if I liked a book that was long, there was much more of it to love, so I looked for the big books hoping that I'd find ones that I loved and be able to dig deep into the world."

Jump ahead to 2007: Robert Jordan had died in the middle of writing what he'd intended as the final volume in the series, and Sanderson--now in his early 30s--was beginning to emerge as an epic fantasist in his own right, sharing a publisher with Jordan at Tor Books. After reading one of Sanderson's novels, Jordan's wife and editor, Harriet McDougal, asked Sanderson to help bring the Wheel to its conclusion. "It felt like a huge responsibility, one that I had never considered myself doing," he said of that request. "It was overwhelming, astounding, amazing, wonderful and horrifying all at the same time." It also turned out to be a much bigger project than he'd anticipated, as that last book expanded into a trilogy, starting with The Gathering Storm (2009) through Towers of Midnight (2010) and, finally, A Memory of Light (January 2013).

To prepare himself, Sanderson reread all 11 of Jordan's novels and began writing some "test scenes," estimating that it took him about six months before he felt that he'd found the right approach. "I never tried to imitate his voice," he said, "but every writer learns, like every painter, how to approach different styles." He described the results as adapting his own voice to the fictional world Jordan had created, with an ultimate focus on the characters. "I'm not spending much time worrying whether Robert Jordan would have used this word or that word," he explains. "I spend my time worrying: Would Rand say this? Would Egwene do that? Would Perrin think this?"

This wasn't, he emphasizes, just a matter of tying up some loose ends. "People ask about this a lot: Did it follow the outline? There wasn't an outline," he observed. "Robert Jordan didn't write from an outline. He wrote by instinct." There were several completed scenes--which Sanderson incorporated into his manuscripts whenever they were available--and notes from conversations between Jordan and his assistants, but Sanderson emphasized that these provided only indications of how Jordan intended to complete the Wheel, not firm decisions. "If there had been a strict outline, exact details on what to do, they wouldn't have needed me," he said. "They could have hired a ghostwriter to write it." Now, after five years of what he describes as "a very deep collaboration" with Jordan and his epic, "sometimes I can't even remember what's in the books, what's in the notes, and what I came up with."

As that collaboration was unfolding, Sanderson's own literary output continued to grow. He pointed out, however, that some of the books that appeared between 2007 and 2013 were already completed and in the pipeline, "So it looks like I was working on a lot of projects at once, when really I wasn't doing as much as it seems." The only book he devoted much time to apart from the final Wheel trilogy, he said, was 2010's The Way of Kings, a 1,000-page novel that's intended as the first volume of a 10-book series. Then again, "I take vacations by writing books I'm not supposed to be writing," he added. "I'll flee from duties for a while and work on a short story or something," like the novella The Emperor's Soul (published by Tachyon in late 2012).

As for a proper vacation, Sanderson said, "The book isn't really done until it's out and the tour is over." After that, though, he does have plans for a family cruise... and then, no doubt, it's right back into his own epic worlds. The sequel to The Way of Kings, after all, is tentatively scheduled for later this year. --Ron Hogan, founder of

Zonderkidz: The Smallest Spot of a Dot: The Little Ways We're Different, the Big Ways We're the Same by Linsey Davis, illustrated by Lucy Fleming

Book Candy

Bookish New Year's Resolutions; Book Organizers

Even though it has been more than a week since New Year's Eve, it's never too late to choose one of Bookish blog's "top ten bookish resolutions."


Also still in a New Year's mood, Flavorwire offered "20 great writers on the art of revision," noting that "hopeful souls around the world are working diligently on their plans to revise--their health, their attitudes, their lives."


Brainpickings found "7 obscure children's books by authors of grown-up literature."


You oughtta be in Hollywood... and writing. Word & Film featured "9 struggling writers in film, from Jack Torrance to Barton Fink."


Ubergizmo featured a set of Katana bookends designed to make "your book collection look sharp."


Bat signal for your living room? Trendhunter found a range of "Batty Book Organizers" that let you "organize your books in the most vigilante way possible."

RP Mystic: Magic, Diversified


Sorting Out the Past: Politics and History in Fiction

Stuart Neville has been a musician, a composer, a teacher, a salesman, a film extra, a baker and a hand double for a well-known Irish comedian. His first novel, The Ghosts of Belfast, was selected as a New York Times Notable Crime Book for 2010 and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. His other novels include Collusion (also a New York Times Notable selection) and Stolen Souls.

The seeds for my new novel, Ratlines (Soho Crime, January 2013), were sown more than three years ago when I learned that an infamous Nazi named Otto Skorzeny had lived outside Dublin between 1959 and 1969. Researching this figure, and the scores of other Nazis and collaborators who had settled in Ireland after World War II, I came across another name: Charles Haughey, three-time prime minister of Ireland, and one of the most controversial figures in that country's history. He had been acquainted with Skorzeny, and as Minister for Justice in the early '60s, Haughey was responsible for immigration and asylum seekers. The cogs in my head started turning.

One problem, though: there are real political implications in telling this story. Could I write a thriller with a journalistic bent? I knew other people had done it. One of my favourite novels is James Ellroy's 1994 bombshell, American Tabloid. In that book, Robert and John F. Kennedy, J. Edgar Hoover and many others feature prominently and in a less than flattering light. An outline for Ratlines came together pretty quickly, and I was excited about the subject matter. There was no question this was the book I wanted to write. But could I write it? What were the legal implications of using real people in a novel?

Libel laws in Britain and Ireland are amongst the toughest in the world. My first book in particular had to go through many legal reads to make sure no one could claim a character was based on them and sue for defamation. With Ratlines, a whole cast of characters would be drawn from real life. I learned that so long as a person is no longer alive, they can be represented in fiction, so there was my key. I still had to walk a tightrope, and my U.K. publisher's lawyers have been over the manuscript with a fine-toothed comb. But in the end I managed to create fiction from the threads of history, and I hope I've shone some light into Ireland's dark corners.

Book Review


The Way of the Dog

by Sam Savage

Sam Savage's first novel, the cult favorite Firmin, might easily have been a one-off. After all, he was 65 when it was published, and he had a history of health problems. Three novels later, Savage is going strong, and The Way of the Dog may be his best book yet.

Aging minor writer and failed artist Harry Nivenson is an often sarcastic commentator on his gentrifying college town: liberal professionals in their bike-riding Spandex, lean jogging females with their "hard-muscled pistons" and the nanny-propelled "double- and even triple-wide strollers that span the sidewalk like threshing machines." He's "an inveterate griper and malcontent" whose "rotting three-story hulk" of a house is his way of "flying the banner of decay" in a neighborhood of new abundance.

Although he has abandoned his family, Harry takes comfort in serving the daily needs of his old dog Roy, who is always "stopping now and then to lift a leg or sniff at something," a routine where "in a larger existential sense I followed him, adapted myself to his life program." When his former artistic mentor and housemate commits suicide, Harry discovers new meaning and value in the paintings left behind. His estranged son and ex-wife return to scrub his neglected living quarters, tend his lawn and provide Zen-like advice along with healthy food. Harry begins to soften and finally replace his sense of himself as one who "lived a long time but accomplished little" to one who "made a pattern of zigzags down the road of life"--much like the romps of his live-in-the-moment canine companion Roy. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: With wry observation and commentary, an aging failed artist finally lets go of his nihilism and finds some solace in the kindness of family and the untroubled life of his dog.

Coffee House Press, $14.95, paperback, 9781566893121

Tenth of December: Stories

by George Saunders

There are times when our world seems so strange no fiction writer can capture its essential weirdness. Then George Saunders publishes a collection of stories like Tenth of December and we realize we'll always need writers like him to look obliquely at what we think of as real life and help us grasp it in all its absurd beauty.

Saunders's satiric gifts are on full display in "Escape from Spiderhead," where prisoners participate in a diabolical drug experiment that's all about the intersection of lust and violence. The book's longest story, the novella-length "The Semplica Girl Diaries," is likewise a send-up of our debt-ridden materialism. The narrator wins $10,000 on an instant lottery ticket. Wanting to impress his children, he orders four "Semplica Girls," young immigrants from countries like Somalia who are hung by a surgically implanted microline as backyard ornaments. His youngest daughter's impulsive reaction ends the story on a note of grace.

The lives of an endangered boy and a middle-aged cancer victim who's gone into the frozen woods to commit suicide intersect dramatically in "Tenth of December," giving the older man reason to rethink his choice. "Home" is the story of a soldier who's returned from war in the Middle East with a Silver Star and the stigma of participating in some unspecified atrocity.
Saunders has the assurance to drop readers into the middle of his stories with the confidence we'll get our bearings soon enough.

In an interview with the New Yorker, Saunders observed that "the artist's job is to be a conduit for mystery." He's done that admirably here without sacrificing the real human feeling that infuses these distinctive stories. --Harvey Freedenberg, attorney and freelance reviewer 

Discover: George Saunders's fourth collection of short stories showcases his talent for spotlighting some of the more absurd aspects of contemporary life.

Random House, $26, hardcover, 9780812993806

Hikikomori and the Rental Sister

by Jeff Backhaus

The growing Japanese subculture of hikikomori, young men who withdraw--the word translates as "withdrawal"--to their rooms and cut themselves off from social contact with others, was explained in a 2006 New York Times article.

Jeff Backhaus's debut novel, Hikikomori and the Rental Sister, moves this phenomenon to New York City. Thomas Tessler has been in his room for three years, believing that he was responsible for his son's death and unable to forgive himself. His wife, Silke, keeps up a running commentary with Thomas behind his closed door. She always leaves her bedroom door open and occasionally sits in front of Thomas's door and sobs uncontrollably. Thomas does not respond.

Finally, in desperation, Silke seeks out a young Japanese immigrant named Megumi to act as as a "rental sister," giving her permission to do whatever it takes to lure Thomas out. Thomas and Megumi have no history, so there is nothing to remember or forgive. He tells her of his failure of instinct, not pushing his son out of the path of a car, and she responds matter of factly: "You didn't kill him. If you did, you'd be in jail."

Megumi has run away from her own tragedy. Her brother was a hikikomori; he killed himself after realizing he would never fit into Japanese society because he had a Korean mother.

Silke realizes that Thomas and Megumi have a relationship that does not include her. One night, she makes a dramatic move that changes the equation forever. Backhaus presents a lovely set piece with Thomas and Megumi at an onsen--a Japanese hot spring--where in salt and steam and tears all things are cleansed. --Valerie Ryan, Cannon Beach Book Company, Ore.

Discover: A young man who has secluded himself from his wife and his life for three years is lured back to the world by a rental sister with her own tragic story.

Algonquin, $23.95, hardcover, 9781616201371

The River Swimmer

by Jim Harrison

Born and raised in Michigan, Jim Harrison often sets the lusty appetites and grizzled fatalism of his work among his native state's north woods, rivers and lakes. When a Harrison character gets off track in urban living or academia or an unsustainable marriage, he goes back to drink from Michigan's nourishing well.

The River Swimmer takes another refreshing dive into that well. The title novella is the story of Thad, a Michigan youth raised on a farm on a river island. Swim coaches offer generous scholarships, but in typical Harrison fashion, Thad is more interested in the shapely rear ends and breasts of girls than intercollegiate competition. He swims because "it is the most complete feeling of freedom that there is. The current guides your skin. It's the closest we get to a bird."

"The Land of Unlikeness" is the longer and better of the two novellas, giving Harrison more room to dig into the changes that old age brings to men. Clive is a 60-year-old art history professor from New York City who gave up painting after critics trashed his last gallery show. He returns to rural Michigan to care for his nearly blind mother, where he finds that his first sexual partner, Laurette, is also back from her downstate job to live in her old neighboring farm home. She has taken in a young down-on-her-luck, bisexual poet, and, consistent with Harrison's prodigious appetite for food, sex and the arts, Clive gathers his paints from his childhood room to discover again the pleasure he found in painting and female company.

The River Swimmer is Harrison at his crusty best. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: Jim Harrison returns to Michigan in two novellas that explore the transforming values of his favorite indulgences: nature, art, food and sex.

Grove Press, $25, hardcover, 9780802120731

The Uninvited

by Liz Jensen

When adults say "children are the future," it's a hopeful acknowledgement that investing in their education and well-being will help them grow up to build a more prosperous, peaceful world. But in British novelist Liz Jensen's The Uninvited, "children are the future" is a warning--and a terrifying inevitability.

The Uninvited begins as a fairly conventional corporate thriller, albeit with an unusual narrator. Hesketh Lock is a brilliant anthropologist with Asperger's Syndrome, a "cross-culture sabotage analyst" at an international PR firm who's dispatched to investigate a bizarre series of cases of corporate sabotage. These cases converge with a second alarming phenomenon: children around the world are attacking and killing adults.

The increasingly apocalyptic plot (which includes demon possession, feral bands of violent children and a paradigm-shifting descent into global chaos) is less compelling than Hesketh's presence as a character. Rigidly logical, with an outsider's illuminating perspective, he uses his scientific observation of human behavior to adapt his own--enabling him to have a romantic relationship with a woman, Kaitlin, and be a father to her young son, Freddy. But the relationship has come to an excruciating end, and Hesketh is grieving the loss of contact with Freddy, who is vulnerable to the pandemic of violence infecting children.

"My contract with the world holds that there are no secrets we can't unlock... because everything has a precedent," Hesketh says as he struggles both to save Freddy and to reconcile his current reality with the rational principles that govern his life.

Jensen depicts Hesketh's interiority with sensitivity, insight and evident knowledge of Asperger's. Most impressively, her finely crafted prose doesn't suffer when filtered through what could be a potentially limited narrator; instead, the challenge elevates her writing and makes The Uninvited both a gripping thriller and a fascinating character study. --Hannah Calkins, blogger at Unpunished Vice

Discover: A brilliant anthropologist with Asperger's confronts a nightmarish global phenomenon in Liz Jensen's smart, genre-bending thriller.

Bloomsbury, $25, hardcover, 9781608199921

Mystery & Thriller

Little Wolves

by Thomas Maltman

Thomas Maltman packs a lot of story, myth and mystery into the southwestern Minnesota setting of Little Wolves. Wrested from its original Indian inhabitants by German immigrants, Lone Mountain ("a pretty enough town at first glance") sits amid vast open prairies where farm families are losing battles with drought and the technology revolution of the 1980s. One Saturday afternoon, the well-liked sheriff is shot in the face with a sawed-off shotgun wielded by 17-year-old Seth Fallon. A loner raised by his single father, Grizz, Seth then walks off into a stunted corn field and turns the gun on himself.

Maltman (winner of the 2008 Spur award for The Night Birds) knows small-town prairie people and the secrets that underlie a community life of high school football games and church pageants. Part crime novel and part social realism, Little Wolves focuses not only on the troubled relationship between Seth and Grizz, but also on Seth's attachment to Clara Warren, the pregnant young pastor's wife who is his substitute English teacher. A Beowulf scholar, she forms a bond with Seth that both encourages and frightens her when he sends her cryptic notes of adoration in runic script and Norse drawings. As the story of Seth's solitary childhood raising abandoned coyote pups and struggling with a distant father merges with that of Clara's marital ambivalence and haunting dreams of a mother she never knew, the motives behind Seth's crime emerge. Saturated with violence, Anglo-Saxon mythology and parochial pettiness, Maltman's novel is an unsettling work of first-rate fiction. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: A literary murder mystery blended with a nuanced story of small-town Midwest family legacies and secrets.

Soho Press, $25, hardcover, 9781616951900

Watching the Dark

by Peter Robinson

The murder of a police officer is never straightforward, but the murder of Detective Inspector Bill Reid is particularly odd: he was shot through the heart with a crossbow, and compromising photos of him with a young girl soon turn up. Was Reid a dirty cop? The powers that be seem to think so, and Inspector Alan Banks finds Professional Standards nosing around his investigation in Watching the Dark, Peter Robinson's 20th Banks novel.

Clues emerge possibly linking Reid's murder to an infamous case involving a young woman who disappeared in Estonia six years earlier and has long been assumed dead. Banks has a hunch that there's more to it than meets the eye, however, and manages to finagle a trip to investigate.

Meanwhile, Banks's partner, D.I. Annie Cabot (who has just returned to the job after months of rehab following a serious injury), follows a trail Reid had been investigating before he died. It leads to a series of reprehensible criminals and human traffickers--but are they connected to Reid's murder?

Robinson has created a stubbornly likable detective whose sharp perception of the world around him transports the reader into the case. Banks remains unflappable and obstinate as he focuses on catching Reid's killer. The Estonian angle also offers a bit of a twist on Robinson's usual English setting, giving an intriguing glimpse into how much life in Estonia has changed since the Soviet Union collapsed.

Fans of Peter Robinson or Ian Rankin are bound to like Watching the Dark, as is anyone who enjoys a thoughtful, multi-layered whodunit. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

Discover: A complicated case leads Inspector Banks to dark secrets in Estonia.

Morrow, $25.99, hardcover, 9780062004802


The Happy Life: The Search for Contentment in the Modern World

by David Malouf

In the extended essay that is The Happy Life, Australian novelist, poet and playwright David Malouf wants to know why, when "chief sources of human unhappiness" such as poverty, famine and disease have been removed from our lives, "happiness still eludes so many us."

Starting with Thomas Jefferson's formulation in the Declaration of Independence, then shifting back to Plato and forward to our own time, Malouf briefly treats humankind's shifting notions of what it means to be happy.

Malouf's key insight is that we're living in the small slice of human history in which we are conscious that we inhabit "the Planet," instead of the constrained world that was the limit of experience for most of our ancestors. "The Planet is a thing more remote and less manageable than the Earth," he observes. In the 1970s, when we first could view a photograph of Earth from space, we realized our own insignificance in the face of such vastness, and it has inevitably contributed to our increasing discomfort. When we contemplate the impersonal geopolitical and economic forces that seem more unsettling each day, our distress only grows. "We feel like small, powerless creatures in the coils of an invisible monster," Malouf writes.

The Happy Life is no self-help book, and David Malouf is not naïve enough to suggest he has an easy cure for our persistent angst. But for anyone who wants an intelligent primer to begin the process of asking some of the questions whose answers may relieve it, Malouf offers a useful starting point. --Harvey Freedenberg, attorney and freelance reviewer

Discover: In an extended essay, David Malouf explores some of the reasons why happiness seems to be an elusive state in modern life.

Pantheon, $19.95, hardcover, 9780307907714

Psychology & Self-Help

Love at First Click: The Ultimate Guide to Dating

by Laurie Davis

The first thing most readers will notice about Laurie Davis is her contagious confidence: "I popped my online dating cherry twelve years ago. Contrary to popular belief, I wasn't lurking on in 2001 because I was a desperate 45-year-old living in a basement apartment with only my Star Wars collection for company. Quite the opposite: I was a bouncy, fresh-faced 19-year-old who was addicted to technology and fully supportive of anything that could enhance my boy-crazy lifestyle." Soon, Davis realized her skills and personality were the perfect fit to help others navigate the "online meeting and offline dating" world--and the "online dating consultancy" eFlirt was born.

Love at First Click is thorough, beginning with the eFlirt Virgin Vows. Davis explains why it's important not to get emotionally involved until you've met beyond the broadband, why gender roles shift on the Web and why spell check is imperative. She also reveals how to find the right dating site, create the perfect profile with the perfect photo (your "digital wingman") and read nuances in others' profiles to find your perfect match.

Once a virtual connection has been made, Davis explores online safety (including how to identify red flags), appropriate inbox flirting and when to move offline. An admitted techie, Davis is well informed about the latest revolutions in online dating and spends a chapter on how meeting through an app is different from meeting through a site. Love at First Click provides a fresh take on the universal search for love. --Kristen Galles blogger at Book Club Classics

Discover: eFlirt founder Laurie Davis guides tech-savvy singles through the Wink Wide Web and virtual dating to real-life love.

Atria, $15, paperback, 9781451687033

Art & Photography

Refugee Hotel

by photographs by Gabriele Stabile, text by Juliet Linderman

From 2007 to 2011, Gabriele Steele, an Italian-born photographer, traveled to first ports of entry in the United States--New York, Newark, Chicago, Miami and Los Angeles--to take pictures of refugees from Burma, Bhutan, Iraq, Sudan, Burundi and Somalia. Their stories reflected a common core of suffering: tribal warfare, gender, ethnic, religious and racial discrimination. The bleakness of their new surroundings contrasts strikingly with the cinematic retellings of their survival. (Refugee Hotel opens to a poignant sign ("Please Pardon Our Dust") from an unnamed hotel.) Barely visible amid the darkened hallways, deserted parking lots and alienating cityscapes, the refugees' solemn faces evoke a passage from Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby: "He must have looked up at an unfamiliar sky through frightening leaves and shivered as he found what a grotesque thing a rose is and how raw the sunlight was upon the scarcely created grass. A new world, material without being real, where poor ghosts, breathing dreams like air, drifted fortuitously about...."

The refugees' final destinations are cities long forsaken by any striving Gatsby: Amarillo, Tex.; Mobile, Ala.; Erie, Pa.; Fargo, N.D. Yet for these new Americans, such places represent the rebirth of their humanity. " 'Home' means... looking forward to tomorrow and feeling safe about today," says Farah Ibrahim, a refugee from Iraq. "It means having the rhythm of my life restored." --Thuy Dinh, editor, Da Mau magazine

Discover: The constant remaking of America by refugees who deeply cherish the idea--yet accept the price of--freedom.

McSweeney's, $25, paperback, 9781936365623

Children's & Young Adult

The Wrap-Up List

by Steven Arntson

In Steven Arntson's (The Wikkeling) probing novel, 16-year-old Gabriela Rivera reevaluates what's important to her when she learns that her time is almost up.

It's been more than 100 years since Franklin Delano Roosevelt was president, and the draft has been reinstated. Citizens receive a "Death Letter" with a date on which Death, in the form of an eight-foot-tall, silvery presence, will come for them. The recipient of the Letter may ask for an extension in order to "wrap up" certain things before they go, but go they must--unless they can find their Death's Noble Weakness. In that case, Death grants a Pardon. Gabriela and her friends witness a "departure" at the opening of the novel. Arnston's description of the process is balletic: a Death named Gretchen transforms "the Singing Man" with her silvery touch. When Gabriela gets home, there's a Death Letter waiting for her, signed by Hercule.

The balance of the novel focuses on Gabriela's preparations and her efforts--along with her friend Iris, who's fascinated with Death--to puzzle out Hercule's Noble Weakness. Gabriela's family's priest is but one resource, along with family and friends, available to her. Humor often lightens the mood and serves as an essential icebreaker. Deeper characterizations take a back seat to plot; the novel's strength is its implicit question to readers about what is truly important, and what legacy they leave. The idea of having a relationship with Death, and the constant presence of mortality making each moment matter, will linger long after teens close the cover. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: When 16-year-old Gabriela receives a Death Letter telling her she has only a week left to live, she must think about what truly matters.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $15.99, hardcover, 420p., ages 12-up, 9780547824109

The 13th Sign

by Kristin O. Tubb

Tubb (Selling Hope) turns from historical fiction to a zodiacal thriller set in New Orleans.
On her 13th birthday, Jalen goes to Madame Beausoleil in the French Quarter to have her horoscope read--an annual tradition begun with Nina, her beloved grandmother. This year, however, with Nina gravely ill, Jalen goes with her friend Ellie. After Jalen's disappointing horoscope, Ellie buys her a book to cheer her up, The Keypers of the Zodiack. In her attic, Jalen finds a pin that opens the lock on the book. Inside is a chart of the zodiac, with a sign for Ophiuchus the Snake--a 13th sign for the zodiac. No wonder Jalen's horoscope didn't resonate with her: Jalen is an Ophiuchus.

The moment Jalen departs from the attic, everyone seems different. What power has she unleashed by unlocking the book? The heroine discovers she has 23 hours in which to restore Ophiuchus to the heavens, or these bizarre changes will be permanent. Her former sign, Sagittarius, launches arrows at her, Taurus tries to quash her, and Gemini tells her that "everyone on earth has changed" as a result of Jalen's actions. Scenes of a bull (Taurus) rising from the mist, and Capricorn the goat "bobbing and weaving" down Bourbon Street make New Orleans the perfect setting for this tribe of Keepers. Tubb balances the emotional pull of Jalen's grandmother with the suspenseful quest to restore order to the zodiac. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: Jalen unwittingly unleashes a 13th sign in the zodiac when she unlocks an ancient book, and everything changes.

Feiwel & Friends, $16.99, hardcover, 272p., ages 10-14, 9780312583521


by Lisa McMann

What appears to be an ordinary paranormal mystery on the surface will surprise readers with its psychological twists.

Jules Demarco keeps receiving the same haunting vision: a truck careens into a building and explodes, resulting in nine body bags laid out in the snow. Jules is an ordinary girl who runs deliveries for her family's pizzeria, and she can't decide if her visions are real or if she's crazy like her depressed grandfather who committed suicide when she was little. Jules keeps seeing the vision on billboards and television, but grows obsessed with stopping the explosion after she makes out the face on one of the dead: Sawyer Angotti, a boy who works at her family's rival restaurant, and whom Jules is in love with.

Lisa McMann (the Wake trilogy) creates many obstacles for her doomed hero. Not only is Jules's mundane lifestyle interrupted with these haunting visions, but she must also try to convince the Angotti family, who have hated the Demarcos for generations, that she's trying to save their lives. As she did with Dead to You, the author keeps readers speculating about the realities of everything, with deftly balanced suspense and an unreliable narrator. The ending comes hurtling to a close and shifts the rules for the second book in this series. Fans of McMann's Wake trilogy will race through this one. --Adam Silvera, reviewer and former bookseller

Discover: A girl who doesn't know if her visions of body bags in the snow are truth or lies.

Simon Pulse, $16.99, hardcover, 256p., ages 14-up, 9781442403918


Author Buzz

Bond of Passion
(A Demonica Novella)

by Larissa Ione

Dear Reader,

I'm so happy to be back in the Demonica world, especially with the people and the hospital that started it all. You'll find hints of what's to come in the new series, and you'll catch up with old friends. And best of all, Tavin gets his story!

Larissa Ione

Available on Kobo

1001 Dark Nights Press

Pub Date: 
November 1, 2022


List Price: 
$2.99 e-book

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