Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Sourcebooks Landmark: Long After We Are Gone by Terah Shelton Harris

From My Shelf

Music for Werewolves

What's better than reading a werewolf novel? Reading it accompanied by appropriate music (silver bullets optional). Benjamin Percy, author of the just-released Red Moon (Grand Central Publishing; watch the trailer here ), here provides the perfect playlist for his shivery story:

"Furr" by Blitzen Trapper. No hesitation, no question--my favorite, and the epigraph of Red Moon. A foot-tapping fairy tale about a man who loses himself to a pack of wolves and then gives up his savage ways for the woman he loves.

"God's Gonna Cut You Down" by Johnny Cash. I love the stomping progress of this song. It makes you feel like you're being chased. Many of the Red Moon characters are driven by the fanatical belief that their convictions matter more than life or law. They are their own gods, and they are hunting others.

"Vengeance Is Sleeping" by Neko Case. Patrick Gamble and Claire Forrester are the bruised heart of the book. Both of them have lost their trust in the world, and--for a time--their trust in each other. Doubt and anger and romantic need are the core of this song.

"Bad Moon Rising" by Creedence Clearwater Revival. Of course.

"Skinny Love" by Bon Iver. The second act of the novel takes place during the winter, in snowbound sections of the world, when hope seems lost. This song is like a long dark night full of whistling wind and ice pattering the window, impatience for spring, longing for warmth and love.

"Red Right Hand" by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. A creepy song about the devil who waits in the darkness at the edge of town. I was thinking about it when writing about Jonathan Puck, who you will hate as much as you fear.

"Moondance" by Van Morrison. Red Moon is a horror story, but it's a love story too, and the dark dance between these characters is spotlighted by the full moon. --Marilyn Dahl, editor, Shelf Awareness for Readers

The Writer's Life

Julie Barlow and Jean-Benoît Nadeau: Living Language

Julie Barlow and Jean-Benoît Nadeau live together, work together and, between the two of them, have published six books (including Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong and The Story of French) and more than 1,000 magazine articles, and have won multiple awards in journalism. Their new book, The Story of Spanish (St. Martin's Press), is a history of Spanish from its roots as an obscure dialect confined to a remote group of farmers in northern Spain to a language spoken by 450 million people in 22 countries; the book is an engaging mix of travel, personal anecdotes and extensive research. Visit their website to learn the connection between "España" and rabbits.

Your book charts the progress of the Spanish language as it spreads across the globe. What has happened with the language here in the U.S. as it shifts from being a "foreign" language to one widely used?

In The Story of Spanish we actually argue that Spanish is not a foreign language in the United States. And never really has been. This is true from both historical and contemporary perspectives. Spanish didn't enter the U.S.--the U.S. entered the Spanish-speaking world by annexing a huge part of Mexico as what is now the U.S. Southwest. In fact, the earliest explorers in the continental U.S. were Spanish. And ranching culture, itself, came from Spain, after being developed in Mexico. A lot of the vocabulary that goes with it, like buckaroo and lasso, comes from Spanish.

We're Canadian, and before writing this book, we wanted to get first-hand experience of the role Spanish plays in the U.S. So in 2010 we moved to Phoenix for six months to do research. A couple of months after we got there, we happened to see Mexican immigrants in our neighborhood cutting cactus leaves in their gardens to make nopalitos, and it struck us that the Hispanics in Arizona are really much more at home living in the desert than most of the other people around us! But, of course, that makes sense, since Phoenix and the whole U.S. southwest used belong to Mexico. 

But even in the contemporary U.S., it doesn't really make sense to speak of Spanish as a foreign language. The U.S. is becoming an important "Hispanic" country in and of itself. Over the last 50 years Hispanic population of the United States has grown faster than any other part of the Spanish-speaking world. If demographic predictions bear out, by 2050, the Hispanic population of the U.S. will surpass that of Spain. Meanwhile, inside the Spanish-speaking world, the U.S. is already considered as an important player, both because of its buying power and because it exports so many Spanish-language cultural products. This is having a huge effect on the Spanish spoken inside the U.S. The U.S. even has its own Spanish-language academy, one of the 22 such academies in the Spanish-speaking world. And in 2014, the Spanish Academy in Madrid will be including "U.S Spanish" words like departamento in its dictionary.

You write about the term "Spanglish," with all of the loaded meaning it carries. Do you see it as a derogatory term?

There's a lot of confusion about Spanglish. Spanglish is not a language. It's a register of oral Spanish characterized by code-switching (switching back and forth between two languages). Surprisingly, some very well respected linguists--including the ones who write the Dictionary of the Royal Academy in Madrid--don't look down on Spanglish because, strictly speaking, there's no reason to worry about it. It's just an oral linguistic phenomenon. It doesn't affect the standard written language much.

Despite the attention it attracts, Spanglish is not the most important thing going on in Spanish in the United States. Few people know it, but Spanish-language translators, newsmakers, writers, publicists and editors are in the process of creating a standard Spanish of the United States. And this is not really new. Associated Press published its own U.S. Spanish-language style manual in 1953.

To be clear, the scripted Spanish of Univision's anchorman, Jorge Ramos, is not Spanglish, and it's not the Spanish used in Mexico or in Spain. Ramos uses standard U.S. Spanish, or something close to it (because the national standard for Spanish has not yet been clearly defined). The U.S. Spanish-language academy, the Academia Norteamericana de la lengua española, is working on this, and Harvard University will soon host a new office of the Cervantes Institute, which will study U.S. Spanish.

The process is accelerating. As the number of Hispanic media in the United States explodes, the need for a defined, written standard of U.S. Spanish is getting more urgent.

You describe how the death of Francisco Franco in 1975 ushered in a counterculture--la Movida, or "the scene"--that has grown over the years, and you attribute a great deal of Spain's cultural production and language development to the public's reaction to Franco's passing. Was this a singular cultural event, or are there parallels in modern cultures that could result in a similar seismic cultural shift?

No, this has happened often in the past. One good example was post-revolutionary Mexico in the 1920s, which started a cultural explosion that went on for 50 years. The same thing happened in our own province of Quebec, in the 1960s, when the so-called Quiet Revolution sparked a phase of radical cultural awakening. In the U.S., the explosion of both Afro-American and Hispanic cultures is closely related to the counterculture of the civil rights movement.

But the main reason we devote a chapter to the Franco period in Spain is that the story of what the Spanish language went through during those 40 years is quite amazing. Franco tried to cut Spain off from outside influences. As part of that, he tried to freeze the Spanish language. And you know what? It didn't work. The Spanish kept writing books, producing groundbreaking art and making films, even if they had to leave Spain or go underground to do it. We describe several famous cases of characters who even wrote unauthorized Spanish dictionaries to keep Spanish vocabulary up-to-date! The Franco years are a perfect illustration of the central theme of our book: that languages are living things, constantly changing. The stories of languages are shaped by all sorts of factors--by politics, economics, geopolitics and more. --Matthew Tiffany, counselor, writer for Condalmo

The World's Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette's, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family

by Josh Hanagarne

Josh Hanagarne, blogger at The World's Strongest Librarian, "might be the only person whose first three-hundred-pound bench press was accompanied by the Recorded Books production of Don Quixote." This is just one of his remarkable singularities. A gentle giant who tears phone books for fun, at 6'7" he tends to catch the eye at the Salt Lake City Public Library, even when his Tourette Syndrome is not acting up. His memoir explores these contradictions and oddities, and his remarkable journey from idyllic childhood to painfully jerky young adulthood to a contented family and work life.

Hanagarne had a happy childhood, beloved by his mother, an incorrigible prankster and devout Mormon, and his devoted, irreverent bear of a father. He grew up in libraries, a passionate bookworm disturbed only by the tics that began in first grade but would go undiagnosed until high school (although his father suspected Tourette's from the beginning). By young adulthood, they were not only embarrassing but violent and debilitating. He would eventually suffer a hernia from the force of his involuntary shouting tics, and his larger movements resulted in injury to himself and chaos in his immediate surroundings. After high school he spent years trying numerous cures, in and out of college, working various jobs and struggling with depression. Lifting weights at the gym stilled the tics somewhat, and for a while he got regular Botox injections in his vocal cords to quiet the shouts and whoops. During that time he met and married a lovely Mormon folklorist named Janette. For the first eight months of marriage, he couldn't speak to her above a whisper.

Although deeply in love, the atmosphere of Josh and Janette's story early in their marriage remains clouded. For years they try to get pregnant. Janette suffers two miscarriages and they are harshly rejected by the Mormon Church as adoptive parents. Josh continues to tussle with Tourette's. For a short time, he finds a position as assistant special educator quite satisfying, not least because his tics become unremarkable in a room full of special needs. But he soon leaves that job, because he seeks challenge: crucially, he aspires to overcome Tourette's, to beat his tics into submission. Pondering what might present the greatest challenge to a man who can't keep quiet, Josh is drawn to the quietest place he knows, a place that has always offered succor and delight. He gets a job as a clerk in the library and begins a master's program in library science. And a key piece of marital bliss is finally achieved when Janette delivers a healthy baby boy named Max.

Josh continues to battle Tourette's in the gym, discovers kettlebell lifting along the way, and makes a new friend in Adam Glass, a former Air Force tech sergeant and strongman: he bends wrenches and horseshoes and tears decks of cards and phone books. Josh's story takes an inspiring turn as the twitchy librarian and the foul-mouthed strongman gradually develop a friendship; as Adam helps Josh build strength, together they also begin to understand and subdue the tics. He finds Adam a little strange, and the explanation for his social awkwardness is also what makes him the perfect mentor for overcoming Tourette's: Adam is autistic.

The adult Josh Hanagarne who relates his story is content and stable, happily married, thrilled to be a father to four-year-old Max, and working full-time at the Salt Lake City Public Library. As he relates his stranger-than-fiction story, he intersperses present-day anecdotes from a workplace that he wryly notes is rife with strange and occasionally smelly patrons and events. He muses eloquently and powerfully about the role of libraries in society, and their future possibilities. Throughout his life and this book, Josh struggles with his Mormon faith, as he sets off on the expected mission and faces myriad challenges in school, work, marriage and parenthood. In telling a story about family, church and Tourette Syndrome, he always circles back to libraries and to books, in many charming literary references. And always central to Josh's story is his love of family. From his loving parents and exceptionally close siblings through the clear delight Josh finds in marriage and fatherhood, he stresses the inestimable gift of a loving family.

Josh's memoir is thoughtful, heartfelt, often hilarious-- and unsparingly honest. He is not proud of every moment in his own past, but he shares nonetheless. The image of the man today who wrote this book and who works in a large branch of a public library in a large city is that of a serious yet funny, mature, loving family man, and this image is only partly at odds with the earlier, less secure young man we come to know in these pages. The younger Josh was unsure and unstable, and the author is more comfortable in his own skin. But both have tics, and stories to tell. --Julia Jenkins

Gotham Books, $26, hardcover, 9781592407873

Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster: The Ministry of Time by Kaliane Bradley

Josh Hanagarne: The World's Strongest Librarian Writes

photo: Suzy Steed/A Moment's Reflection Photography

Josh Hanagarne is from Moab, Utah, and lives with his wife, Janette, and son, Max, in Salt Lake City, where he works at the beautiful main branch of the SLC Public Library. His memoir, The World's Strongest Librarian, touches on the bizarrely various pieces of his life: his struggles with Tourette Syndrome; his journey to becoming a husband and a father; his love affair with books and libraries that would eventually lead to a career; an obsession with the gym that became a penchant for tearing phone books and full decks of cards; and a less-than-smooth lifelong relationship with the Mormon Church, where he still finds family and friends but less faith than he once held.

Your book includes a lot of personal and painful history that belongs not only to you but to your wife and family as well. What was the process for sharing those personal details?

It was hard. During the first draft I didn't think too much about how people were going to react. When I started going through on the second draft, I started showing things to Janette or to my mom and asking, is this accurate? Is this something you're okay with having in here? Sometimes it was, sometimes it wasn't. Whenever anybody was mildly uncomfortable with something, I just took it out--nothing of real consequence. I guess when you write a memoir, you choose which periods of your life you're going to represent, and then you choose which episodes best represent those periods. If you're a normal person, sometimes that means you'll look good and sometimes it means you'll look bad. So that wasn't fun, but it was honest, I think, without being tedious and self-flagellating.

I've always used humor kind of in self-defense, because I knew if I could make people laugh I could make them focus on something other than my tics. I think this book is kind of sad, and I think a lot of humor is rooted in something sad. I believe Kurt Vonnegut and Mark Twain both talked towards the ends of their lives about having various forms of irony fatigue, because humor was mainly a self-defensive tool for them. I think in any book where you get to pick and choose what you put in, the sadder stuff's going to get sadder, and the funny stuff's probably going to get funnier.

You've included Dewey classification numbers under each chapter heading. Do you think this resonates with the general population, or mostly just librarians?

I don't know. I think most people, even if they don't get it, will probably be intrigued. Some people have pointed out that they don't all work out exactly the way capital-"L" Librarians think they should, to which I will just say, the numbers do exactly what I want them to do. I think it's eye-catching. I didn't necessarily think of it as being gimmicky, because it really does tie in thematically with each chapter. What I really like about it is that you can kind of see what's coming and yet sometimes not have any clue how one thing will lead to the next.

Tell us about the process of writing this book: When did you write? Were you still working at the library?

This is probably going to disappoint a lot of aspiring writers who put off writing until they have hours of free time every day, but I don’t think I ever sat down and wrote for more than 15 minutes at a time. I just can't; the tics won't let me. I wrote whenever I could. I'd guess I rarely wrote more than half an hour total in a day. I do write really fast. I found out that, at least now, I'm the sort of writer who has to make a gigantic mess and then clean it up, because if I start trying to anticipate all the editorial questions on the fly, I just freeze up and I don't get anything done. So I wrote a lot more to get to this book than I probably could have, if I were another writer. I wrote the first draft totally on my own and then I sent it to my editor, and things had just been going so well that I kind of assumed, yeah, my first draft is surely anyone else's fourth or fifth. Then my editor sent it back and said, you've got to get rid of 120 pages. We can't even talk yet. Fix this. Which was a great lesson to learn, and not an easy one. But editing was really kind of fun, because Megan [Newman] is really the right editor for me. I think it took three total drafts between us, but about eight on my part. I learned that it takes a hideous amount of work to appear spontaneous. But it was a lot of fun. The shortest way to answer your question is: I wrote every day, I only wrote for a few minutes at a time, and I just kept going. A big part of it is being willing to show up.

Was the writing process cathartic for you?

If this book hadn't come about, I think I'd probably still be going through the motions in church, trying not to make waves. The ideas I've gotten from church have everything to do with my relationship to my body, and the explanations I thought I owed for my life. In writing the book, I realized, I'm actually going to have to deal with this. So I got into the sticky situation of writing a book about how much I love my family and yet gently distancing myself from the church, knowing that that would be painful for my family. That was the biggest catharsis: realizing that I was going to have to deal with that shift in faith. Spending so much time thinking about that, and trying to word it correctly, is what taught me what I actually do think about it all.

Would you say that you had a message or even a cause to communicate with this book, related to Tourette's, or libraries, or anything else?

I'm not much of a crusader. But when I go speak to groups of people with disabilities, or their parents, or special educators, the reaction I get is so humbling and overwhelming. If people I speak to are actually getting out of this story what they tell me they are, I knew I really needed to do this book as well as I can. So that it can go be me in all the places I can't be. There's definitely no downside to spreading the word about Tourette's. This story seems to inspire some people without me ever needing to claim I can inspire anyone. As far as libraries, obviously this whole book is my love letter to books and libraries. That's not necessarily what I intended, but for me to write about myself honestly, that's the only thing that could have happened. 

What do you most want people to know about you that's not in your book?

To entertain my son occasionally in the morning when I put my pants on, I will hold them up at about waist height and I will try to jump into my pants. So I jump all the way up in the air and tuck my knees in and if I do it right, my feet come through the pants and I'm dressed. And if it goes wrong it goes really badly wrong. And about one of every 10 times I can put my pants on this way. Once in a while. You know, one out of 10 might be optimistic. --Julia Jenkins

Shelf vetted, publisher supported.

Book Candy

Which Shakespeare Character Are You?; Hobbit Houses

Personality test of the day: "Which Shakespeare Character Are You?"


J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit has "been an inspiration to tons of architects and designers," io9 observed in exploring "the most breathtaking Hobbit-influenced houses from around the world."


Book Patrol showcased Ros Rixon's Love Lines book art series, in which the artist "delicately reprints the text and encloses the lines in various bottles and glass cubes."


Kazuo Ishiguro loves film. The Guardian featured "six novelists on their favorite second artform."


"Gin and culture go hand in hand," the Telegraph wrote in highlighting 10 of "gin's iconic cameos in film, literature and art with a spot of cocktail trivia thrown in."


"Bye-bye, boring bookcase: inventive ways to store your reads" were highlighted by

Book Review


The Third Son

by Julie Wu

As bombs fall on Japanese-occupied Taiwan during World War II, Saburo, the neglected third son of a powerful family, escapes his disapproving parents to wander alone in the rice paddies. During an air raid, he meets a mysterious girl named Yoshiko and her brother; their tenderness toward each other leaves a deep impression on Saburo. As Saburo works his way through school, dreaming of studying engineering in the United States, he longs to see Yoshiko again. But when he finally encounters her, she is dating his eldest brother.

Julie Wu's beautifully written debut novel, The Third Son, evokes the sounds and smells of occupied Taiwan, where many families adopted Japanese names, as well as the tenuous, fearful political atmosphere. Even as Saburo travels to America to attend graduate school, Chinese Nationalist agents and intrigue continue to follow him. As he adjusts to a completely different way of life, Saburo feels the pull of his family obligations back in Taiwan. Will he and Yoshiko ever be free of their duties to their parents?

Saburo is a bright, inquisitive soul whose gentle spirit somehow escapes being hardened by his difficult childhood. While he struggles to cast off the weight of filial piety, he also forges a new path for himself in true American fashion. Yoshiko's spirit, more mercurial but equally determined, provides a perfect counterpoint to Saburo's personality.

Vivid and moving, The Third Son asks important questions about familial duty, responsibility and the ramifications of our actions for those we love. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: Julie Wu's beautifully written debut is a story of family and responsibility set in mid-20th-century Taiwan and the U.S.

Algonquin, $24.95, hardcover, 9781616200794

Some Kinds of Love: Stories

by Steve Yates

Steve Yates (Morkan's Quarry) offers his first story collection in Some Kinds of Love, winner of the Juniper Prize for Fiction. The 12 stories have Southern settings--seven in Missouri and the Ozarks, including a lovely piece of magic realism, "Mila Joins the Game." Mila Handrill is "possibly the greatest slow-pitch softball player in Lawry City," because he can see just far enough into the future to have a decided advantage in how the game will turn out--until the season's final all-night softball tournament. Suddenly, he sees an orange color pulsating in the east, coming on fast. The team needs him, though, so he bats, with the end of the world rounding third base.

Another Yates story, "Report on Performance Art in One Province of the Empire, Especially in Regard to Three Exhibitions Involving Swine," noted as a distinguished selection in the 2010 Best American Short Stories, is a David Barthleme-meets-George Orwell jaunt. The narrator of "Pleasures of the Neighborhood" is a UPS worker obsessed with insects--and with a married, plus-sized woman named Donna who can't resist him, either. He chronicles their relationship, and her weight gain, with scientific charts and drawings. "A hundred notes my heart sings as the towel drops," he writes. "The sun is fire on my hands and back.... We sweat. We accept.”

Yates surprises often with his range of subjects and moods, with fresh voices and writing styles to complement them all. Some kinds of love and some kinds of work--regular work, job-keeping work--link these generous, thoughtful and inventive tales for the taking. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

Discover: Sex toy catalogue designers, Pakistani terrorists and a furniture factory worker who's an oracle; meet a bunch of characters who are just like you--but aren't.

University of Massachusetts Press, $19.95, paperback, 9781625340283

Science Fiction & Fantasy


by Joe Hill

A world of evil has lain in wait for Victoria McQueen since she helped police capture serial child abductor Charles Talent Manx. While Manx lies in a coma, Vic keeps getting phone calls from his dead victims. Those children were never found, but when they call Vic, they tell her they're not dead--they're flourishing happily in Christmasland. Still, Vic remembers the boy she discovered in the back seat of Manx's Rolls-Royce Wraith--a chilling, vampiric creature with hooks for teeth.

An epic novel that spans three decades, NOS4A2--a pun that comes from the vanity license plate on Manx's car--is Joe Hill's first foray into a traditional horror style reminiscent of (his father) Stephen King. NOS4A2 will delight horror fans with its unsettling imagery and pervasive dread.

While Manx is a charismatic villain, possibly more terrifying is his mentally feeble henchman, Bing, the Gasmask Man, whose task is to entrap the mothers of Manx's victims. Bing's modus operandi--gassing his victims into submission in the House of Sleep--conjures a nightmare tableau that is impossible to forget.

In Vic, Hill creates a tough and complex character with wounds, tattoos and a restless spirit that gives NOS4A2 its most animated force. Considering the classical horror structure, savvy readers may not always be surprised by the novel's violent turns of events. Vic and the cast of supporting characters--from her geeky and kind boyfriend, Lou Carmody, and her tormented son, Wayne, to the various people unfortunate enough to encounter the Wraith--lend dimension to an otherwise familiar tale. --Ilana Teitelbaum, book reviewer at the Huffington Post

Discover: Hill's follow-up to his first two novels, Horns and Heart-Shaped Box, is a horror epic filled with terrifying imagery and compelling characters.

Morrow, $28.99, hardcover, 9780062200570

Food & Wine

Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation

by Michael Pollan

It's possible Michael Pollan could, at some point, run out of ideas for books about food--each new book of his seems larger, more all-encompassing than the last, and Cooked is a logical extension to predecessors like The Omnivore's Dilemma and Food Rules. Why, Pollan asks, does our country spend less and less time in the kitchen cooking, but more and more time watching television shows about cooking? Cooking is interesting and worthwhile, he argues; if taking more than 400 pages to make that argument seems like overkill, well, welcome to your first Michael Pollan book.

Pollan comes at the subject from four different, elemental angles, examining how we channel fire, water, air and earth into the recipes that create meals. Air and water, for example, come together in baking bread, which takes on a magical aura through his description. He visits a master barbecue cook and learns more than you thought possible about slow-roasting a pork shoulder. A chef trained at Chez Panisse reveals the secrets of braised beef bolognese sauce. We get to see behind the curtain of the amazing and alarming process behind sauerkraut. Pollan digs deep, and this wide-ranging study of the means and meanings we can find in cooking will delight readers. His enthusiasm is contagious, and if his goal is to draw more readers into the kitchen, Cooked will succeed. --Matthew Tiffany, counselor, writer for Condalmo

Discover: Foodies are sure to come back to the table for an exploration of cooking conducted in Michael Pollan's signature style.

Penguin Press, $27.95, hardcover, 9781594204210

Jumpstart to Skinny: The Simple 3-Week Plan for Supercharged Weight Loss

by Bob Harper

Fitness trainer Bob Harper, the perennial fan favorite on NBC's The Biggest Loser, follows 2012's The Skinny Rules (co-written with science and medical journalist Greg Critser) with Jumpstart to Skinny, a "get-started-right-now with no-more-excuses, 3 week plan" meant to help readers lose a few pounds before a big event, as well as inspire them to adopt his earlier book's guidelines for more permanent lifestyle changes.

Jumpstart includes 13 rules for quick weight loss, plus day-by-day food and exercise plans based on "Jumpstart Moves" fitness routines; the easy-to-follow steps require a minimum of equipment. Harper's menus of "Power Breakfasts, Lean Lunches and Thinner Dinners" meet nutritional needs with limited calories and strict recommendations for proportions of protein, carbohydrates and fat. (He also explains why his is the optimal combination for health and weight loss.) A list of ingredients needed for each week's meals is included, as well as directions for any sauces or dishes that can be prepared ahead of time and stored--such as cooked quinoa, pico de gallo or Bob's marinara. Most recipes have fewer than five steps and include tempting choices like Mexican fiesta fish, tomato fennel salad and arugula pesto.

"You need a kick in the pants," Harper tells his fans. "And I'm good at that." Jumpstart to Skinny is an effective short-term turbo boost before tackling the life-long Skinny Rules. --Kristen Galles, blogger at Book Club Classics

Discover: A fitness trainer from The Biggest Loser promises quick weight loss and better health.

Ballantine, $25, hardcover, 9780345545107


Bunker Hill: A City, a Siege, a Revolution

by Nathaniel Philbrick

In most accounts of the American Revolution, the "shot heard round the world" at Lexington on April 19, 1775, marks the beginning of the war. But the fierce battle at Bunker Hill two months later elevated a few skirmishes between the redcoats and the ragtag colonial forces to all-out combat. Nathaniel Philbrick's Bunker Hill is a fascinating, detailed account of the occupation and siege of Boston, the mustering of the patriot army and the battle that would change the fortunes of the city--and the American colonies.

Philbrick (Mayflower; In the Heart of the Sea) covers familiar events such as the Boston Tea Party and the confrontation at Lexington, but reframes them in the context of a city where an occupying army confronted a restless, divided citizenry, taking into account the decided lack of organization among the town militias of Massachusetts. Although well-known patriots such as Samuel Adams and George Washington appear, Philbrick focuses on Dr. Joseph Warren, leader of the patriot movement. He also introduces lesser-known figures in both the patriot and loyalist camps, exploring the links between the two sides and the complicated relationship of the colonies to the Crown.

The tension builds as Philbrick approaches the battle itself, mapping out the precarious positions of both armies and explaining the significance of both Bunker Hill and the later fight on Dorchester Heights. Vividly told and full of well-drawn personalities, Bunker Hill provides fresh insight into the bloody beginnings of the American fight for independence. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: A vividly told account of the Battle of Bunker Hill provides fresh insight into the beginnings of the American Revolution.

Viking, $32.95, hardcover, 9780670025442

Current Events & Issues

The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption

by Kathryn Joyce

The issues of abortion and adoption have long been intertwined, with "pro-life" advocates encouraging adoption as an alternative to abortion and "pro-choice" advocates asking who will adopt the children who are carried to term if abortion is no longer an option. In The Child Catchers, Kathryn Joyce reveals how deeply adoption--which has become a multimillion-dollar industry--is intertwined with the religious and political projects of many evangelical Christians.

Joyce begins in Haiti with the push to "get the children out" after the 2010 earthquake and the misplaced convictions of many evangelicals that they did the best possible thing by circumventing the rule of American and Haitian law. She then circles back through the recent history of adoption in the United States, tracing a path through the "Baby Scoop Era" that predated Roe v. Wade to today's "crisis pregnancy centers," which many women blame for pressuring them into adoption while refusing them help in raising their own children.

The connection between the decrease in domestic adoption options and the evangelical adoption movement becomes clear. As demand rose to "save orphans," so did the pressure on the international community to supply the "orphans" in demand--with often deceptive and heartbreaking results. While The Child Catchers clearly has a point to make, it also strives to base every point in fact, painting a picture of an industry desperately in need of oversight and a reevaluation of what is in fact in the "best interests" of a child. --Dani Alexis Ryskamp, blogger at The Book Cricket

Discover: A gripping exposé of the excesses of profit and pulpit in the adoption industry.

PublicAffairs, $26.99, hardcover, 9781586489427

The New Digital Age: Reshaping the Future of People, Nations and Business

by Jared Cohen, Eric Schmidt

It's no surprise Google executives Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen celebrate our wide-open, Internet-connected world. What is surprising, however, is the amount of space they devote in The New Digital Age to analysis of the dangerous--indeed, inevitable--use of this same global network by terrorists, rogue nations and ordinary criminals. With relative calm, they explore the ease with which determined outlaw organizations might recruit disgruntled hackers from anywhere in the world to build "the perfect weapon: powerful, customizable and anonymous."

Their scenarios are not dramatic, 9/11-style "real world" suicide missions, but rather the interruption and even meltdown of the "virtual world" that already controls most of the world's energy, currency and food distribution. Schmidt and Cohen are not indifferent to these threats and have shared their concerns with global political leaders. As they suggest, "What started as the World Wide Web will begin to look more like the world itself, full of internal divisions and divergent interests."

Their objective is not to discourage innovative technology (even that of cheap and easily copied weapon-strapped drones), but to encourage governments and multinational companies to empower people with tools of technology while also building robust and rational protection against their disruptive misuse. Of course, if governments knew how to do that, we wouldn't have wars, terrorism and ruthless dictatorships anyway. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: An optimistic but cautionary study of the future of technological innovation and its effect on global politics.

Knopf, $26.95, hardcover, 9780307957139

Essays & Criticism

Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls: Essays, Etc.

by David Sedaris

Whether David Sedaris is in his native North Carolina or visiting France, Australia or China, in Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls, the humorist never relaxes his eye for detail, making the most mundane experiences hilarious.

These pieces cover everything from how good and cheap the dentists are in France, where he lives part time, to his awkwardness while buying condoms--gifts for fans at his readings--at Costco with his brother-in-law and his fascination with a preserved, severed human arm while shopping for a stuffed owl.

He also writes about "traditional" marriage and healthcare, but don't worry--Sedaris has not turned political. "When it comes to politics," he confides, "all I can offer is emotion." Rather, the effect is that of a mature writer whose opinions about equality and progress can't help but creep into his work--albeit couched in witty observations. Meanwhile, there's no shortage of fodder about his nutty family, who usually provide the funniest anecdotes.

The one unwieldy aspect of this collection is the inclusion of monologues meant for teens to perform in something described as a cross between speech and debate. They're written in first person and interspersed with the personal essays, so it's jarring every time realization hits that it's not Sedaris telling the story but a fictional character--a teenage British girl, a woman or a man with kids. Perhaps the monologues should have been grouped together in a clearly labeled section. This distraction, though, is not enough to ruin the enjoyment of Sedaris in fine, absurdist form. --Elyse Dinh-McCrillis, writer/editor blogging at Pop Culture Nerd.

Discover: The popular humorist (Me Talk Pretty One Day) returns with a funny, absurd, yet more mature collection of essays.

Little, Brown, $27, hardcover, 9780316154697


Beg: A Radical New Way of Regarding Animals

by Rory Freedman

Rory Freedman's promise of "a radical new way of regarding animals" will not be news for readers familiar with Peter Singer or Jonathon Safran Foer, but she hopes to influence the meat-eating, leather-wearing, zoo-going, puppy-buying majority to start making informed decisions that will lead to a compassionate, cruelty-free world.

Freedman (co-author of Skinny Bitch) first appeals to the broadest audience by describing her love for dogs. She provides heartwrenching statistics--three to four million animals are euthanized in shelters every year while four million new dogs are brought into the world by both reputable and backyard breeders--that underline her impassioned case for choosing a dog from a shelter or rescue organization. She then covers animal testing, the entertainment and fashion industries, blood sports, zoos, circuses, rodeos and hunting.

Freedman's writing is funny, irreverent and smart, and her message is clear, buttressed by a concrete "to do" list as well as a plethora of additional resources and suggestions on how to make a difference. She knows giving up meat and dairy is a tough sell, and resurrects 18th-century philosopher Jeremy Bentham's plea: "The question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?" She hopes these questions will compel readers to act with compassion because, in the words of Maya Angelou, once we know better, we will do better. --Kristen Galles, blogger at Book Club Classics

Discover: The co-creator of Skinny Bitch raises a battle cry urging people to make informed, compassionate decisions regarding animals.

Running Press, $18, hardcover, 9780762449545

Children's & Young Adult

The 5th Wave

by Rick Yancey

Rick Yancey's (The Monstromologist) novel of an alien infiltration is terrifying for its sense that the events in it could happen imminently, with references that place the action in the here and now.

Sixteen-year-old Cassie Sullivan opens the story, and her narration takes on the kind of stark, lone survivor quality of Richard Matheson's I Am Legend--that eerie feeling of being alienated from a world that was once familiar, and also of being the last one standing. Other chapters move between Cassie's unrequited high school crush, Ben Parish, who's been co-opted by the government, and a Silencer--one who has infiltrated the population but is allied with the Others, alien beings attempting to take possession of the earth for their own species. Cassie reveals that the Others choreographed the gradual extermination of the Earth's inhabitants with a series of four "Waves," ranging from a massive electromagnetic pulse to Silencers attempting to kill the surviving 3% of the human population. The 5th Wave, which unfolds through the course of the novel, is the most chilling of all.

Yancey's structure of moving among these narrative voices keeps readers tantalizingly off-balance. Who is the good guy and who is the bad guy, and how can you tell? Does being born human automatically give you humanity? If you are not born human, can you develop humanity? Can war cause you to lose your humanity--and if so, is that worse than death? Yancey raises penetrating questions in a suspenseful thriller. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A compelling tale about an alien invasion that asks readers to examine what makes us human and what causes to lose our humanity.

Putnam, $18.99, hardcover, 480p., ages 12-up, 9780399162411


by Amy Tintera

Reboot is a breakneck read from a promising new author.

Five years ago, when she was 12, Wren Connolly was killed at gunpoint. One hundred and seventy-eight minutes later, she was reborn as a Reboot, a "cold, altered copy" whose body is stronger, while Wren herself is less emotional. The longer a Reboot has been dead, the more powerful they are, and Wren 178 is the most feared Reboot to come out of the Human Advancement and Repopulation Corporation (HARC).

Wren trains new Reboots to serve as hunters for the HARC, but Callum 22 is "practically still human." He stirs up memories and a sense of humanity in Wren with his questions and spirit. Callum isn't desensitized enough for this war against humans, and Wren is warned she might have to eliminate him because he's a waste of her time. Instead, Wren aids Callum on a personal journey.

Debut author Tintera thoughtfully and convincingly chronicles Wren's progression into humanity as we watch her gradually shift from antisocial and ruthlessly heartless to curious and unpredictably impassioned. A memorable dancing scene between Wren and Callum during a training session will please those seeking romance--a light moment in an otherwise blood-soaked novel with action-packed missions and creepy experiments.

Tintera skillfully accomplishes a shocking and emotional ending for her once soulless character. --Adam Silvera, Paper Lantern Lit intern and former bookseller

Discover: Teenagers who are reborn as soldiers known as Reboots gain more power but lose some humanity.

HarperTeen, $17.99, hardcover, 384p., ages 13-up, 9780062217073


Author Buzz

Every Time We Say Goodbye

by Natalie Jenner

Dear Reader,

EVERY TIME WE SAY GOODBYE was the hardest book I will ever write, and the most rewarding. I packed everything I could into this book: love and conflict, faith and religion, censorship and resistance, art and moviemaking, fashion and food, cameos by favorite actresses and characters from my earlier books, and above all Rome, my favorite city in the world. I hope that my novel gives you the entertainment and inspiration that nourished me throughout its writing.

Email with the subject line "Every Time Was Say Goodbye Sweeps" for a chance to win one of five copies.

Gratefully yours,
Natalie Jenner

Buy now and support your local indie bookstore>

AuthorBuzz: St. Martin's Press: Every Time We Say Goodbye by Natalie Jenner

St. Martin's Press

Pub Date: 
May 14, 2024


List Price: 
$29.00 Hardcover

Happily Ever Maybe
(A Montgomery Ink Legacy Novella)

by Carrie Ann Ryan

Dear Reader,

What happens in a bodyguard romance when both characters are a bodyguard?

All the heat and action!

I love writing workplace romances because things get tricky. And when a one night stand ends up burning up the pages, things get... explosive.

Gus and Jennifer are fiery, kick-butt characters that made me so happy to write.

I hope you love them!

Carrie Ann Ryan

Available on Kobo

AuthorBuzz: 1001 Dark Nights Press: Happily Ever Maybe (A Montgomery Ink Legacy Novella) by Carrie Ann Ryan

1001 Dark Nights Press

Pub Date: 
February 13, 2024


List Price: 
$2.99 e-book

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