Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, March 29, 2013

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

From My Shelf

Books, Displayed Creatively

When I worked at University Book Store in Seattle, one of my great pleasures was creating table and window displays. Sometimes I'd get burned out after one too many themed displays. I'd start to toy with, say, the Mother's Day table, throwing in a sex manual or carpentry book to leaven the cookbooks and sentimental titles. Without a date-specific theme, I'd sometimes wander even further off the charts, randomly picking a title and proceeding with free association. For instance, a picture book titled Balls would lead to By the Balls then Cake Balls then Ball Four then Four Hour Body then... you get the idea. Or I'd use titles that made a story: Sum It Up: Daring Greatly: Things Fall Apart: Strong at the Broken Places: Unbroken.

Conceptual artist Nina Katchadourian has done something like this in a clever photography book from Chronicle, Sorted Books (April, $22.95). She has visited libraries in a 20-year project, arranging books into sentences, fragments, jokes, questions. She says that while she's sorting titles, it feels "like a writing project combined with a memory exercise," using spatial, topical and visual recall--a familiar process to booksellers (and anyone who has a bookcase.)

Two books constitute a formal exchange: I Am a Conductor with And do you also play the violin? Or a brief Cliffs Notes: Romeo and Juliet, They Rose Above It, Codependent No More. Advice: The Art of Conversation, Listen Listen Listen. Criticism: Van Gogh, Alone with the Moon, Crackers. Double-take: The Castrati in Opera, The Story of Organ Music. Narrative: Animal Dreams, Secret Gardens, Where the Sidewalk Ends, No Boundary, Where the Wild Things Are.

In addition to the ingenuity and whimsy, bibliophiles will appreciate the spines and the covers--books as tactile, compelling objects, promising worlds of knowledge and enjoyment. And perhaps we'll look at our shelves a bit differently, and start rearranging with a wild vision. --Marilyn Dahl, editor, Shelf Awareness for Readers

Frog & Toad: Now Streaming on Apple TV+

The Writer's Life

Bob Dotson: People Standing in History's Shadow

Bob Dotson is an NBC News correspondent whose "American Story with Bob Dotson" is seen on Today and other NBC News programs. He was also the writer and host of Bob Dotson's America on the Travel Channel. His work on "American Story" has received more than 100 awards for broadcast journalism. Dotson has been crisscrossing the country for more than 40 years in search of people who have quietly but profoundly changed our lives and our country for the better. In American Story: A Lifetime Search for Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things (Viking, $26.95, March 26, 2013), he presents a road map to the unsung heroes with thoughtful solutions to problems we all face, incredible ideas that work, and blueprints to living our dreams.

You have said, "Learning is a lasting frontier." After almost 40 years as a broadcast journalist, what did writing American Story, your latest personal frontier, teach you?

Most of the time I tell tales on television. That's a little like writing on smoke. Stories simply drift away. But not always. Those that revealed what it took to build and maintain America lingered. Over the years, often working on my own time, I found folks in all walks of life with good ideas. Many of their insights had been forged in hard times, tested and endured. I came to the conclusion that our country would be better served if we listened more to people who don't have titles in front of their names, people just like us who connect the seemingly unconnected, everyday, and find common-sense solutions, which they implement with little fanfare. They appear so ordinary we seldom seek their knowledge, but what these ordinary Americans have learned could send a committee to lunch.

When you first began "American Story with Bob Dotson" on The Today Show, there were skeptics who thought you'd soon run out of suitable subjects. Time has proven those skeptics wrong, but did you ever think that you were running low on candidates for the show?

Each of these people was as difficult to discover as a gold nugget. I had to dig out drama and dimension in the lives of what most editors dismiss because the people in American Story did not send out press releases. But they were the ones living the lives that inspire.

The toughest part of my job is finding those folks. The possibilities are endless, though, because this country attracted pioneers with intensity and drive who quietly lived the values that built America. The country survives and thrives because of ordinary people who live life with passion, who succeed not just on talent and hard work, but also on curiosity and imagination.

In the course of conducting your interviews with "ordinary" Americans who have accomplished extraordinary things, you have drawn great stories out of them, along with unforgettable zingers like, "Money will buy a fine dog, but only kindness will make him wag his tail." Do you have any tips for aspiring journalists for gaining the trust and confidence of people not used to being interviewed?

I've noticed over the years that people nearly always answered my questions in three parts. First they told me what they thought I wanted to hear and then they explained in more detail. If I didn't interrupt, if I let the silence between us build, their answers got more precise and passionate because they figured I didn't yet understand. They began to tell me things I didn't know them well enough to ask.

A tornado victim I once interviewed described the approaching storm as sounding like a freight train. We've all heard that before. The answer I used bubbled up after a bit of silence built between us. He pulled a hunk of pink goo out of the rubble, a shattered set of dentures, and announced, "Well, the tornado got my teeth, but it didn't get me!"

It's important to help the person forget about your camera and lights. Put them at ease, so they're comfortable enough to tell you what you need to know. Talk about their hobbies, not your equipment. Make the technical stuff seem no big deal. If they're still nervous (and who isn't?) tell a funny story about your own struggles with all this. For instance, my mom always worried about my life's work. The first time I did an American Story for The Today Show, I called her to see what she thought. There was a long pause at the other end of the line. Then she said, "Bobby, I think you ought to learn a trade."

"A trade!" I stammered.

"Yes, they're not going to keep paying you for four minutes' work a day."

Your contributions on The Today Show and in this book reflect your credo: "The shortest distance between two people, no matter how different, is a good story." What people and experiences and influences embedded that truth so deeply in your being?

My dad and I didn't have a lot in common. He was an aging athlete. I preferred books. In his beefcake world, I was a patty melt. One day he flipped off the radio after listening to his beloved St. Louis Cardinals play baseball, turned to me and said, "If you sit around all the time, how will you know when you're done?"

We were two strangers in the same family until I heard his story. "Your grandfather Dotson joined the army and disappeared," he said one night. "Your grandmother was a short-order cook, a single mom who couldn't take care of three kids, so she turned me over to a farmer as an indentured servant. I was just 10 years old."

This moment seemed to be crushing my dad, as if time had weight. I wanted to know more. We lived in a nice house in a nice town. He owned an optical store and was a licensed optician.

"Your old man dropped out of school in the fifth grade, but I took night classes for 23 years!"

Pride pushed aside the haunted look in his eyes.

"I've read all those books you've been reading."

We were strangers no more.

At a low point in your career, way back when, your friend Bob Barry advised, "Try to make yourself one of a kind." You've also said that, "All my life I've been trying to tell as tale as well as my grandfather." How did you develop your own unique voice?

We all mimic the people we love when we start telling stories, but my mother's father, Paul Bailey, helped me find an original voice. He said, "When telling a tale, try to see beyond the normal. Show us what we might miss."

Storytelling is at its best when it topples ignorance and opens us to others. That's why I look for strong characters who are reshaping the world, as they would like it to be. It doesn't matter how long I have to tell their tale. Poets have been composing compelling stories at twitter-length since the beginning of time. They don't just write about going to the mall or a fight with their girlfriend. They say, "Honey, the gutter ain't a step up from you." That's a unique voice.

I start every story assuming nobody cares about anything I'm going to tell. That forces me to find the universal themes that will interest the greatest number of people. Then I follow a simple outline: "Hey, You, See, So."

· HEY! (WHACK): I get their attention. Murder mysteries begin with a dead body. 

· YOU: This story may be about a farmer in Indiana, but this is how it connects to you.

· SEE: Here are the details I've found no one else has or if you've heard them before, I'll try to tell them so engagingly, you'll want to hear them again.

· SO: This is why you should care.

That's my blueprint to try to be one of a kind, every time.

We live in a celebrity-saturated culture that seems to equate success and fame with teenagers making millions warbling about thwarted love and heartbreak. You have learned from the people you've interviewed that "There is really only one genuine measure of success, to be able to live your life in your own way." How do you see these two very different narratives playing out as parallel stories in the future?

We've always had deadlines that sliced time too thin for thought, but now we have to fill 24 hours with news. That leads to formula reporting, an endless line of babbling heads and press-release storytelling. Many public relations professionals know the news business and its limitations better than the correspondents who cover their clients. They use that knowledge to get their messages reported as news.

If we don't look beyond powerful people and pop culture, we miss too much of the American story, but who will pay for this search when budgets are tight? Social media held the solution. My stories used to appear one time and then fade away. Not anymore. They end up on an electronic shelf that viewers can find when they have time. Five million people see my profiles on The Today Show--on the web, many millions more. That reality provides production money for would-be Bob Dotsons to do more than press-release reporting, to keep telling stories about us.

I was deeply struck by your statement that many of us are rediscovering "the fundamental lesson of survival--cooperation and compromise--while maintaining integrity." For those who are searching for sources of renewal, challenge and rediscovery, do you have recommendations for where to look?

Most of what we read today tells us about our frustrations--the widening gap between the haves and the have-nots and hate-filled politics that prefers gridlock to compromise. What we know about America mostly comes from journalists who travel in herds, trailing politicians or camped out at big stories, pouncing on problems to repeat over and over. They offer up celebrity experts for solutions, the people who spend their busy days spouting opinions to cameras, while others in the shadows quietly make America work. The answer to your question is not in the pages of one of those celebrity's books. We must look behind the media mirror to find compelling people standing in history's shadow. You pass them by every day. Stop and talk with them. That's where you will find the source of renewal, challenge and rediscovery. Those are the people who will help you plot a more informed path into the future. --John McFarland, author

Book Candy

Greatest Essay Collections; Best Bear Picture Books

Flavorwire highlighted its choices for the "25 greatest essay collections of all time."


That curious feeling you're being followed: The Telegraph showcased the "top 10 most prolific authors on Twitter."


Lucy Coats, author of Bear's Best Friend, chose her "top 10 bear picture books" for the Guardian.


Noting that his novel The Quiddity of Will Self contains "transmogrifications of gender," Sam Mills picked his "top 10 fictional sex changes."

Cozy is the word for the "8 ways to create a reading nook for cuddling up with a book" that were found by the Huffington Post.


Look out for books below! "With an arched bookshelf, you're never at risk of an avalanche" claimed Gizmodo in featuring designer Ivan Zhang's "perfect solution for anyone who's tired of angling the last book on a shelf so the rest of them don't perpetually fall over."


Only Connect... and Eat

The famed Willows Inn on Lummi Island tasting dinner began with an individual wooden box. When the lid was lifted, white wisps of smoke rose from beneath dried moss resting on small, hot stones. Lying on the moss was a piece of baked sunflower root. This was accompanied by local hard cider. The next small bite was... wait, weren't we gathered at this Washington State inn on a lovely island for a book discussion? With "librarian extraordinaire" Nancy Pearl? Hosted by Village Books? Yes indeed, but this pop-up book club came together with a dual purpose: intense book talk and sublime dining. What could be better?

It began on a Wednesday afternoon when Paul Hanson and Kelly Evert from Village Books gathered the 15 participants by a fireplace; Nancy Pearl led off the book discussion by asking us about our favorite books and authors. From Diana Gabaldon to Brian Doyle to Stieg Larsson to Neal Stephenson--veering off to TV's The Big Bang Theory (and crushes on Sheldon)--it was apparent that this was a group that loved books and loved talking about books. The assigned reading began with Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner. For many of us, this was the second or third time with the book; for Nancy, it was even more, as she frequently assigns it for discussion in a course she teaches at University of Washington's Information School. We came prepared: we had read interviews with Stegner and articles about the book, and one person (the geologist who explained "angle of repose") brought along the memoirs of Mary Hallock Foote, on whose life the novel is based. The discussion was thoughtful and lively; then it was on to our first dinner--not the tasting dinner, but still amazing (the most unusual dish: "Onions from down the roads, Barley, Nettles and Ashes").


The next day, we discussed The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell, also a book that many had already read and loved. By now, people had gotten to know each other and felt even more comfortable, so there was no hesitation with the deep questions that The Sparrow brings up. Pearl is an excellent facilitator, knowing how to ask questions, how to draw people out, when to give her opinion, when to listen. She was certainly aided by the group's level of involvement and engagement--we came to be immersed in books, and were. Village Books' mission is to create community one book at a time, and that happened. After the sublime dinner that night, we agreed, as one person put it, that we came together strangers and left as friends. We have each other's e-mail addresses and lists of favorite books. The combination of people, place, food and books was perfect.

Fortunately, Village Books has partnered with Willows Inn to do an author/book discussion once a month. The monthly series will continue with Jim Lynch on April 17 for a discussion of his latest book, Truth Like the Sun.. Undoubtedly, that discussion will careen off track as other book choices come to the fore, and it will be as lively and passionate as the first meeting. And the food again will be spectacular, the vision and creation of Blaine Wetzel, named one of Food & Wine's Best New Chefs of 2012 and a James Beard Award nominee this year for Rising Chef of the Year. The motto at Willows Inn is "Fished, Foraged, and Farmed. Only Here, Only Now," and with fresh salmon, locally churned butter, foraged mushrooms and juniper berry sparkling water, Wetzel's farm-to-table philosophy shines.

Paul Hanson said, "People are yearning for connection and quality experience. I think this exceeded expectations." On all counts. --Marilyn Dahl, editor, Shelf Awareness for Readers

Book Review


Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald

by Therese Anne Fowler

It's tricky to write a novel about a person who, now deceased, was once in the public eye. Therese Anne Fowler has pulled it off and then some, by depicting Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald in living color. Fowler's style is as flawless as Zelda's always was; they are the perfect match.

Zelda Sayre was a 17-year-old Montgomery, Ala., belle when she met F. Scott Fitzgerald at a dance. They were from different worlds: he was a Yankee and not a rich boy, despite graduating from Princeton; she was quite the opposite. They married, left for New York and began a life of excess in every department: romance, glamour and tragedy.

Scott called Zelda "The First Flapper," for her avant-garde attitude toward fashion and behavior. Scott was always working, more or less, on the next novel--the one that would bring in all the money they needed. Zelda followed along, occasionally asserting her own need for self-expression by writing, dancing or painting, but was ever thwarted. Scott had her short stories published under his name, guaranteeing publication as well as money. Zelda went along; she enjoyed what money could buy, so she sacrificed her artistic integrity for more and more of the good life.

What eventually undid them was Scott's out-of-control drinking, and both Zelda and Scott met untimely and tragic ends. Therese Anne Fowler has written a heartfelt novel about a woman out of her time, a woman whose talents were unsung, and she has brought a new understanding to a story we thought we knew. --Valerie Ryan, Cannon Beach Book Company, Ore.

Discover: Zelda Fitzgerald brought to life in living color and flawless prose, in a novel that surprises as it corrects our clichéd view of her life.

St. Martin's Press, $25.99, hardcover, 9781250028655


by Sarah Stonich

The old flannel-shirt, canned beer, worms-in-the-fridge esthetic of Northern Minnesota's cabin culture has been replaced by the sculptured landscaping of luxury resorts and ostentatious summer homes. With a wistful eye toward the bygone era of screen-door vacations, Sarah Stonich sets the thoughtful, atmospheric stories of Vacationland in and around one of these old-timey resorts near the Canadian border. Featuring a cross-section of archetypes--some typical to the area, some fish-out-of water--as they encounter the hidden world of the remote Naledi resort, Vacationland convincingly argues that organisms, be they jack pine or human, need to be hardy to survive at that latitude.

The stories hop around in time to provide a textured portrait of the Naledi resort and the sundry characters that walk its pine-canopied paths. Binding the stories together is Meg Machutova, an artist who lost her parents to a plane crash when she was very young and was raised by her grandfather, a Czech immigrant, at his resort. Through the eyes of sundry other characters, a picture emerges of Meg and her inability to ever completely leave Naledi even after its days as an active resort are long gone.

Despite a few regional characterizations that are maybe a little too broad, Vacationland is a faithful representation of this harshly beautiful place, the way it affects the people who live there and the lasting impression it leaves on those that are just passing through. --Cherie Ann Parker, freelance journalist and book critic

Discover: Stonich (These Granite Islands) shares a somber, atmospheric collection of intertwining stories set in and around a rustic resort in far northern Minnesota.

University of Minnesota Press, $16.95, paperback, 9780816687664

Oleander Girl

by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Before she died in childbirth, Anu Roy instructed that if her baby was a girl, she was to be named "Korobi," after the beautiful and unexpectedly resilient pink oleander flower. Growing up in her grandparents' home in Kolkota (formerly known as Calcutta), Korobi is loved and well-educated, and when the 18-year-old orphan gets engaged to prosperous Rajat Bose, adulthood seems to be falling perfectly into place for her. But the sudden death of Bimal Roy, Korobi's grandfather, on the night of the engagement party is the first in a series of cracks in both families' foundations.

Korobi is the title character of Oleander Girl, but in telling her story, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (One Amazing Thing) also explores the stories of those around her, and it's the intersections and overlaps of those stories that make this novel engrossing reading. Korobi uncovers long-held secrets that will permanently alter her sense of self, but she's not the only one whose life is on the verge of change. All the characters, and their relationships with one another, will be tested over the course of the three months between Korobi and Rajat's engagement party and wedding date.

Divakaruni explores issues of class and politics in modern India and immigrant America, but the family issues at the heart of the novel give it a cross-cultural appeal. Told with empathy and intelligence, and accompanied by intrigue, the stories--and issues--of the Roy and Bose families should appeal to a broad range of readers. --Florinda Pendley Vasquez, blogger at The 3 R's Blog: Reading, 'Riting, and Randomness

Discover: An orphan's journey to learn who she really is sets the stage for a family's reassessment of its own identity.

Simon & Schuster, $24, hardcover, 9781451695656


by Danielle Trussoni

With Angelopolis, Danielle Trussoni returns to the setting of 2010's Angelology--and though the new novel, like its predecessor, has major flaws, its strengths will redeem it in the eyes of many readers. Angelology fans will no doubt be eager to learn the fates of the story's protagonists after its cliffhanger ending, but those new to the series should not find it difficult to jump in without prior knowledge.

Trussoni's fiction has been compared to Dan Brown's, and justifiably so; her metaphysical action premise shares a sensibility with The Da Vinci Code, and there's a familiar air to academic turned angel-hunter V.A. Verlaine as he struggles with his romantic feelings toward a woman whose genetic legacy holds profound religious significance.

Angelopolis moves at a blink-and-you'll-miss-it pace, and Trussoni has a knack for creating wonderfully immediate images, as in this description of the Rhodope Mountains of southeastern Europe: "He saw gorges and valleys falling away in tiers, each new depth like a sheet of linen absorbing the inky night." Her heroes, despite their outlandish backstories, are genuine and sympathetic. Yet the novel's many enjoyable attributes are marred by occasionally clumsy dialogue and too much exposition--the tradeoffs of a complex plot and a breakneck pace. There's often so much going on that it's difficult to get invested in the scene or even the characters. The denouement in particular feels rushed, and readers should steel themselves for another cliffhanger ending. In spite of these drawbacks, readers willing to work a bit may find Angelopolis rewarding. --Katie Montgomery, book nerd

Discover: The sequel to Angelology is a lightning-fast read packed with killer angels, royal conspiracies, kidnappings and train-top chases.

Viking, $27.95, hardcover, 9780670025541

Science Fiction & Fantasy

Queen Victoria's Book of Spells: An Anthology of Gaslamp Fantasy

by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, editors

For years, Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling have edited The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, consistently one of the best annual anthologies of speculative fiction. They've recently begun to concentrate on more specific themes, such as Queen Victoria's Book of Spells--a collection of "gaslamp fiction" set in a 19th-century world where magic exists.

The anthology features a range of talent and tones, and the streets of Victorian London (and other locales) come weirdly and wonderfully alive throughout. Some stories are "fantasies of manners" that might appeal to any Jane Austen fan, while others serve a darker muse. Jeffrey Ford's "The Faerie Enterprise," for example, proffers a severe critique of the Industrial Revolution under its chilly veneer. The title story by Delia Sherman, in which a modern scholar attempts to unlock the great Queen's magically locked teen diaries, offers insight to the actual Queen Victoria as well as the sexual politics and gender disparities inherent in an academic setting. Ellen Kushner and Caroline Stevermer collaborate on "The Vital Importance of the Superficial," a wonderful epistolary short story that is as artful in what it reveals as what it conceals.

As is common in many of the anthologies that Datlow and Windling have edited, there is a small gem of an essay by Windling to start the proceedings. Her essay on the 19th-century English literature that inspired this collection is every bit as wonder-filled, learned and intellectually stimulating as the stories that follow. --Donald Powell, freelance writer

Discover: A great anthology of speculative fiction set in an alternate Victorian age where magic operates.

Tor, $15.99, paperback, 9780765332271

Food & Wine

Rachel's Irish Family Food: 120 Classic Recipes From My Home to Yours

by Rachel Allen

Don't leave your next St. Patrick's Day party to luck! Rachel Allen, a Ballymaloe Cookery School graduate and prolific cookbook author (Favorite Food at Home; Easy Meals), provides step-by-step recipes for 120 authentic and accessible Irish dishes in Rachel's Irish Family Food, along with bits of Irish history and regional culture from the country she loves.

Each recipe opens with a story of Allen's family--she is the third generation of Allens to cook professionally, having wed the son of her first teacher at Ballymaloe--or of the dish or its ingredients. She emphasizes fresh, seasonal and local, and offers ideas for experimentation; photos of the dishes are inspirational and helpful, and the shots of the Irish countryside as lovely as those in any travel brochure.

The friendly tone will make the home cook feel as if Allen is in the kitchen, too. She "translates" Irish references so Americans don't have to figure out, for example, that treacle is molasses, and she includes both metric and U.S. measurements. Meat and fish are abundant in the cookbook, as they are in Ireland, but vegetarian recipes are clearly identified; non-meat-eaters will find much to savor.

Irish Coffee Meringue Roulade, Sweet Scones, Salmon with Capers and Dill, Oysters with Guinness, and perhap the best Creamy Mashed Potatoes ever will delight diners longing for a taste of the Emerald Isle. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, bookseller, Book Passage, San Francisco

Discover: Authentic Irish dishes from chowder to soda bread in this easy-to-follow cookbook by a Ballymaloe Cookery School graduate and instructor.

Collins, $29.99, hardcover, 9780007462582

Biography & Memoir

Public Apology

by Dave Bry

Some people find a good old-fashioned unburdening of their past therapeutic. In Public Apology, David Bry takes this process a step further by writing letters to all those he has ever slighted--and the results are as funny as they are poignant.

Bry arranges his letters chronologically, from his childhood and college years and eventually into marriage and young parenthood. The early letters reveals Bry's finesse at evoking the particular intensities of childhood and adolescence. One long letter to a camp counselor recounts two summers Bry spent at camp; the romance, longing and alienation he describes are as evocative and descriptive as many novels with loftier literary ambitions. Bry also cleverly depicts specific humiliations of high school and college, floating so effortlessly from humor to searing self-observations about his previous incarnations that the book becomes an unexpectedly emotional reading experience.

One of Bry's funniest, most revealing letters describes playing hooky from school to attend a Sting concert. His lines about Sting's persona are some of the pithiest, most precise criticism ever written about the man; Bry, who's made his bacon as a record reviewer, knows how to describe the way we can latch on to three minutes of sound to cement our fluid identities.

Public Apology is a brilliant slice of memoir: funny, awkward and painful, but capable of making a person misty-eyed now and again. --Donald Powell, freelance writer

Discover: A funny, poignant slice of memoir as confessional letters.

Grand Central, $23.99, hardcover, 9781455509164

Walking Home: A Poet's Journey

by Simon Armitage

As a memoir of traveling on foot, Simon Armitage's Walking Home is more a cousin to Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods than Cheryl Strayed's Wild. It's the amiable story of a 19-day ramble along the 256-mile Pennine Way, bisecting England from the Midlands to the Scottish border--at times a world of stunning beauty, but more often an "unglamorous slog among soggy, lonely moors, requiring endurance and resolve."

Instead of traversing the trail from south to north, as is the custom, Armitage decided to proceed in the opposite direction so he would finish in the town of Edale, near his home. The other reason for his choice of direction--the sense that this way he'd be walking downhill--turns out to be hilariously wrongheaded.

There are no wild animals or outlaws to menace Armitage along the way, but he recounts some frightening moments when he's lost in the mists of the Cheviot Hills or scrambling up a narrow path. The boggy moorlands Armitage navigates bring to mind the works of the Brontë sisters, and he remarks on the hordes of tourists (many of them Japanese) who flock to the ruined farmhouse at Top Withens that may have inspired the Earnshaw house of Wuthering Heights. Armitage shares the path at times with a motley crew that includes his wife and daughter and a college friend nicknamed Slug.

The appeal of a book like Walking Home turns largely on the likeability of its narrator, and Armitage scores high on that scale. Perhaps best of all, he concludes his journey in a way that's as surprising for its candor as it is completely satisfying. --Harvey Freedenberg

Discover: English poet Simon Armitage offers an engaging account of a 19-day trek across the spine of his native country.

Liveright, $24.95, hardcover, 9780871404169

Still Points North

by Leigh Newman

After a childhood spent shuttling between her Great Alaskan Dad in isolated Anchorage and her "Great American Instant Coffee Single Mom" in genteel Baltimore, Leigh Newman finds that her compass Still Points North. She shares her journey in a memoir filled with tales of surviving bears and flooded tents, as well as a mother whose insecurities force Leigh to develop a sense of self-sufficiency in the Lower 48 as well.

Despite the physical and emotional strife of her childhood, Newman obviously loves her parents. Her early years included learning survival skills from the caribou-hunting, salmon-fishing father she adored, and readers will hold their breath as Leigh and her dad submerge in icy waters, both literal and metaphorical, during an ill-fated fishing trip or establishing relationships with her new stepfamily. He taught her to pretend she was on a deserted island and had to figure out how to take care of herself, a principle she applied throughout her life.

When her mother ended her marriage and drove cross-country to her hometown of Baltimore, she took eight-year-old Leigh, introducing her daughter to crustless sandwiches and the National Gallery of Art. Manifesting the emotional effects of her own childhood insecurities, her mother spent money carelessly and worked long hours at a low-paying job; Leigh frequently had to fend for herself. After college, Newman became a globe-traveling journalist, though her search for a self-identity still drew on her eclectic roots. Newman is an inspiration--eventually embracing all of the quirky facets of her parents to create a family for herself. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, bookseller, Book Passage, San Francisco

Discover: A memoir of a woman who grows up in her dad's Alaska and her mom's Baltimore, and draws on both to shape her own life.

Dial, $26, hardcover, 9781400069248

Psychology & Self-Help

Making Marriage Simple: Ten Truths for Changing the Relationship You have into the One You Want

by Harville Hendrix, Helen LaKelly Hunt

Oprah Winfrey considers meeting Harville Hendrix in 1988 her "big lightbulb moment on relationships": the former minister, professor and therapist appeared on her show 19 times to promote his belief that we are subconsciously drawn to partners who share characteristics of our parents in order to heal childhood wounds. In Imago Relationship Therapy, marriage is treated as a spiritual partnership, with the intent to change how we see each other, ourselves and the world. Now, Hendrix and his wife, Helen LaKelly Hunt, have distilled the philosophy underlying this approach to Making Marriage Simple.

The couple turn their lofty aspirations for marriage into a series of concrete exercises designed to help couples transform entrenched conflicts into "teachable moments." Each exercise is paired with one of 10 relationship truths--"negativity is a wish in disguise," for example, or "incompatibility is grounds for marriage"--and can be done solo or with a spouse.

With these lessons, Hendrix and Hunt hope to create a "Relationship Revolution" that will transform not only problems in individual marriages but societal ills as well. They believe 90% of the conflicts within marriages are the result of unresolved issues from childhood that can be healed within the safe space of a loving, trusting partnership that views conflict as the opportunity for growth. Even individuals with therapy-averse partners can find value in the Imago philosophy, by learning to understand, for example, whether their partner tends to deal with stress as a "turtle" or a "hailstorm," or finding ways to better support their partner as well as meet their own needs. --Kristen Galles blogger at Book Club Classics

Discover: Anyone looking to strengthen a partnership or heal past emotional wounds will find value in Hendrix's model for a healthy marriage.

Harmony, $22, hardcover, 9780770437121

Children's & Young Adult

Fox Forever

by Mary E. Pearson

This finalé of the Jenna Fox Chronicles trilogy completes Locke's story, the focus of the second book, The Fox Inheritance. Because of his genetically engineered BioPerfect body, the Network has chosen Locke to execute a "Favor." They need their missing leader Karden and hidden funds in order to reunite a now-fractured United States, in which those who didn't choose sides are marginalized and denied rights.

Locke must ingratiate himself with the Secretary of Security's daughter, Raine. For Locke, whose consciousness was imprisoned for 260 years before being restored in his BioPerfect body, Raine is a kindred spirit. She, too, is a prisoner--constrained by her father's position in the government. "You looked so alone and lonely," Raine tells Locke. "I thought maybe I should be that someone who comes so you wouldn't feel all alone." Locke struggles to execute his Favor while also completing his personal mission of self-realization: "I need to live the life that Jenna wants me to live.... Can I ever catch up to Jenna?"

Pearson brings her Jenna Fox trilogy to a satisfying and emotional close, surpassing the excitement and tension of the first two books. The series as a whole deserves to be elevated above most dystopian fiction; its well-developed plot lines, poignant relationships and emotional truths will hit readers in both mind and heart. As Locke says, "It wasn't easy, but I guess things of worth rarely are." A wrenching read. --Jessica Bushore, former public librarian and freelance writer

Discover: In the conclusion to the Jenna Fox Chronicles, Locke wonders if he can become the man Jenna hopes he can be--or is he capable of even more?

Holt, $17.99, hardcover, 304p., ages 12-up, 9780805094343


by Lauren Oliver

Lauren Oliver set up the key elements of her futuristic society in Delirium: Lena wanted to be "cured" of the ability to love (an "infection" called amor deliria nervosa); her best friend, Hana, did not want to be cured. Then Lena fell in love with Alex and they attempted escape into the Wilds--but only Lena made it. Or so she thought.

The chapters alternate between Lena and Hana. Readers learn that while romance has bloomed between Lena and Julian Fineman, son of the head of the DFA (Deliria-Free America), Hana has undergone the "cure" and is scheduled to marry Fred Hargrove, incoming mayor of Portland, Maine. Fred tells Hana, "a perfect golf game uses not a single wasted movement: Order, form, and efficiency are its trademarks." Fred plans to penalize any rebels by cutting off their electricity. He wants Hana to be "his caddy." But Hana is having misgivings, and Alex did not die.

For the first time in the series, the overriding governmental plots and plans trump the personal relationships. Lena's pull in two different directions, between Alex and Julian, takes a back seat to the government's infiltration of the Wilds in their attempt to round up or stamp out anyone outside of the cities' sanctioned borders--and their enlistment of the once-harmless Scavengers as murderous mercenaries. Lena and Hana both doubt their decisions, and readers will race to finish of this suspenseful and thought-provoking conclusion to Oliver's trilogy. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: The suspenseful conclusion to Lauren Oliver's Delirium Trilogy, with the final confrontation between "cureds" and "uncureds."

HarperCollins, $18.99, hardcover, 432p., ages 14-up, 9780062014535

Bot Wars

by J.V. Kade

The robots in this futuristic novel fight back when threatened--in an ultimate battle of survival between man and bot.

The Bot Wars have left 12-year old Trout St. Kroix and his brother, Po, alone for the past two years after their soldier father went missing in Bot Territory. The war ends after thousands of casualties. The human citizens of the United District had grown too dependent on the services of robots, so they're dealing with a collapse of stores and factories after bots either fled or were dismantled. Some, like Po, suffer from the nerve-damaging Deeta disease, a result of the energy from X-bombs used in the war. But Trout just wants to find his father, and when his friend gets him media attention that goes viral, Po winds up missing. Trout must venture into Bot Territory with a robot named LT.

J.V. Kade's (a pseudonym for YA author Jennifer Rush) polished, fresh world-building brims with her own inventions and slang. The crux of the story comes with Trout learning about the Meta-Rise, a union of people and bots who support free will and the right to life. Exciting revelations surrounding his father's disappearance will keep young readers hooked.

This incredible 12-year-old hero rises out of the postwar wreckage to protect his family and prevent another breakout of violence. Kids will "gear out" for this one. --Adam Silvera, Paper Lantern Lit intern and former bookseller

Discover: A futuristic middle grade adventure that pits man against machine with a 12-year-old hero to save the day.

Dial, $16.99, hardcover, 368p., ages 10-up, 9780803738607


Author Buzz

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

by Lexi Blake

Dear Reader,

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

Lexie Blake

Available on Kobo

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

Blue Box Press

Pub Date: 
June 4, 2024


List Price: 
$5.99 e-book

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