Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, February 21, 2014

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

From My Shelf

Mary Stewart Magic

Shivery winter days are a good time to re-read comforting favorites, like romantic suspense by Mary Stewart. Chicago Review Press has reprinted eight of her 15 novels so far; I hope there are more to come. Stewart transports the reader into a setting like few others can; her plots are classic. Her prose is a master class in sense of place; she sketches characters perfectly, succinctly: "He was driving like a careful insult." A tall, dark and handsome walking cliché is a "man whose looks and charm were practically guaranteed to get him home without his even trying."

In Nine Coaches Waiting, at dusk in a French village, Stewart sets a romantic mood with a hint of shadow: "The leaves of an ilex cut the half-light like knives. A willow streamed in the wind like a woman’s hair. The road lifted itself ahead, mackerel silver under its bending poplars. The blue hour, the lovely hour...." The Isle of Skye, in Wildfire at Midnight, is a vision of rain-washed mountains, where rivers brawl and bellow and birches move lightly in the wind, "censing the bright air with raindrops." Crete is the setting for The Moon-Spinners, where the air is full of lemon blossom, the sea moves "lazily, silky and dark," and the waning moon is pale "like silver that is polished so thin it has begun to wear away."

Stewart's stories are filled with orphaned heirs, evil uncles and ruthless villains; the innocent are succored and the wicked thwarted by courageous, resourceful, smart women (one even saves dolphins in This Rough Magic). As for romance, much current overwrought prose could do with a touch of her evocative reticence: "He turned suddenly toward me and pulled me to him, not gently. What we said then is only for ourselves to remember."

Mary Stewart's writing transports the reader to mystery and enchantment, with a soupçon of wit and fine helping of romance. --Marilyn Dahl, editor, Shelf Awareness for Readers

Arcade Publishing: On Wine-Dark Seas: A Novel of Odysseus and His Fatherless Son Telemachus by Tad Crawford

The Writer's Life

Peter Mountford: Strategy and the Chaos of Life

photo: Sarah Samudre

Peter Mountford's first novel, A Young Man's Guide to Late Capitalism, won the Washington State Book Award and was selected by for its Books We Like series. It was featured in the New York Times Magazine, Interview and the Wall Street Journal. His essays and fiction have appeared in the Atlantic, Best New American Voices 2008, Salon and Granta. He's currently a writer-in-residence at the Richard Hugo House and at Seattle Arts and Lectures. His latest novel is The Dismal Science, reviewed below.

Your new novel, The Dismal Science, is anything but dismal. Why this title?

Yeah, it's not a dismal book, it's sort of a black comedy, maybe, but I like the term, this idea of a kind of cruel ordering of life through economics--the transformation of human desires into mathematics. The cover is an image of purgatorio, and there's a crazed arbitrary logic there, too--Dante's dismal science.

The more humdrum story of the title is that I'm totally overwhelmed by titles--they freak me out and I eventually come up with something terrible. Then I call [author] David Shields, who is amazing with titles, and I ask what I should do. He presents me with several possible titles, all excellent, and I pick my favorite. That's basically my process.

It's very much a complex novel of character, focusing on one person, Vincenzo D'Orsi, a vice-president at the World Bank. Why this man, a foreigner? Why this place?

My father is a foreigner--he's Scottish--and he was an executive at the IMF, the World Bank's twin. Also, like Vincenzo, my father became a widower while in middle age. So the book is born of a very personal place, which made the story burn for me in an important way.

Also, as to why write about the World Bank, people often think of economics as this very dry thing, but anyone who's ever seen a country in the grips of hyperinflation, anyone who's ever seen an actual run on a bank--mobs of people trying to break down the door of a bank to withdraw their savings--knows that this isn't boring. Finance isn't an abstract and impersonal thing, it's blood and trauma and death. The history of our era is the history of the global economy, in a way.

The novel explores the concepts of action/inaction and the results or the consequences of such. You quote a young woman from a video Vincenzo watches: "Just a couple more turns to the left, or a couple to the right, and I would have a different life right now." Is this a novel about choices--the road untaken--about fate?

I'm fascinated by how people are constantly in a state of not knowing the outcome of what they're trying to do. We're all striving, but we don't know what awaits us if we succeed. We try to formulate strategies: I will study at this college, buy this house, marry this person, etc. Great, but you're flying blind, really. Not completely blind, of course. We do have agency, but it's limited. We're steering through dense fog, and we must trust our intuition, or our logic, or our faith, or maybe nothing.

Do you see Vincenzo as a courageous character?

Is being honest a form of courage? He's quite honest, for better or worse.

Underpinning your careful examination of this character, there is context, background. Vincenzo is enveloped in a capitalistic, economics-driven world. There is wealth. There is money. He is privileged.

Yeah, he's an economist, and he's well-off in the way that upper-middle class Americans who retire often are. And yet he's having to make decisions that will impact thousands of people in very poor countries. The decisions he must make are political, and they're moral, and they're about what's the "best" policy, but how do you measure "best?" You don't know the outcome until it's too late--it's like what I was talking about before, with people's personal decisions. In the case of his job, the effects of his decisions are far-reaching, ricocheting through all these lives, through history itself. And yet he's this innocuous bureaucrat on the Metro in the morning.

Your epigraph is from T.S. Eliot's "Gerontion": history "guides us by vanities." Is economics/money our new religion?

Religion is still our religion, I think, but money has snuck into our dreams, into our hearts. It rules the day, more than ever. Educated middle-class people abhor greed and stinginess, they want to be post-money, like Vincenzo is. They act the part, but finally we're all impaled on this thing, it's relentless, it's the condition of our era, and it's called capitalism.

Your book has a number of cultural references carefully placed throughout that result in finely drawn digressions: Dante, Kundera, Machiavelli. Why?

Vincenzo is bookish, so he looks to literature to understand his life. At university, he studied classical Italian literature, hence Dante and Machiavelli. They're also an interesting pair, bookending the Renaissance: one obsessed with God, one obsessed with the state, but really they were both just gossips, slaves to the social hierarchies of their eras.

I love how you use the chess motif in the novel.

The book is very concerned with the role of strategy in our lives. Is it possible to "win" in life? What would that even look like? Vincenzo--an avid chess player--has at last developed the wisdom to know that the game of life is a ruse, that for all of our best scheming, we're almost never able to engineer attractive outcomes for ourselves. Still, in his interactions with his daughter, with his friend Walter, with the shady CIA operative Ben, with everyone, he's always playing verbal chess. He can't help himself. But because the game is a ruse, he often seems deeply nihilistic. Not just in life, but in chess--he used to be a cautious chess player, but he's become impulsive, he's surrendering to the chaos of life.

Which writers do you admire and read that have influenced your fiction?

I've been influenced by thousands of writers. All day every day, I'm influenced. I watch that movie Thor and I'm influenced, I read a review of Kanye West's new record and I'm influenced. But the writers I keep coming back to are Vladimir Nabokov, Deborah Eisenberg, Milan Kundera, Lorrie Moore, J.M. Coetzee and maybe another 20 or so writers. I'm currently under the spell of Bob Shacochis's enormous new novel The Woman Who Sold Her Soul, and this mind-bogglingly funny blog by Samantha Irby called bitches gotta eat.

So what's next for you--the completion of a sort of economics trilogy? Or will there be a new road taken?

I'm working on a novel set in Sri Lanka in 2009 at the peak of their civil war. It's quite a funny book, so far, as unattractive as that might sound. The protagonist is a journalist. Money is an issue, but it's not the issue.

There's talk of me writing a memoir, too, something about my love-hate relationship with money--or is it just unrequited love? --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

RP Mystic: Magic, Diversified

Book Candy

Short Novels; Female Characters Who Need Their Own Books

This February has been snowy and not-brief-enough for some of us, but Buzzfeed recommended "19 short novels for the shortest month of the year."


"These 8 female characters in literature deserve their own damn books," the Huffington Post contended.

Rachel Cantor, author of A Highly Unlikely Scenario: Or, a Neetsa Pizza Employee's Guide to Saving the World, chose her "her favorite encounters with authors who appear in other people's books" for the Guardian.

"What we love about big novels is that you have to get really comfortable with them," Flavorwire noted in recommending "25 big novels that are worth your time."


"Which book species are you?" On, Laura E. Kelly featured a "fun, appropriately wordy infographic [that] is my homage to the classic Linnaean classification charts of plants and living things. In this case, we're describing and classifying close to 50 reader species--from the folks who see books as precious display objects to those who sort of hate reading."

Book Review


Prayers for the Stolen

by Jennifer Clement

The rural central Mexico of Jennifer Clement's Prayers for the Stolen is a hard place--especially for the women left behind by men who have gone off to work in the United States or to chase the narco riches of the drug cartels. The harsh state of Guerrero is filled with poverty, insects, iguanas and mothers who disguise their daughters as boys to hide them from the kidnapping cartels. Ladydi Garcia Martínez, the novel's young narrator, dreams of the attractive haircuts and fashionable clothes she sees in her mother's TV shows. Occasionally, she escapes her mother's watchful eye to spend a day in the poppy and marijuana fields of the countryside with her girlfriends from their bare-bones school, but the night "belongs to the drug traffickers, the army, and the police just like it belongs to the scorpions."

Born in Connecticut, Clement grew up in Mexico City; her spare, precise prose has evolved from a portfolio of poetry and fiction largely unknown in the United States (although a previous novel, A True Story Based on Lies, was a finalist for the U.K.'s Orange Prize). Ladydi's story reflects the desolation and gruesome prospects of a poor rural Mexican girl, but it's also one of determination, resourcefulness and loyalty to family and friends. Clement doesn't blink when it comes to describing the trials of Mexico, but she does so with respect and admiration. Her Mexico is presented much like Ladydi's description of her mother's whispered reverent mention of her country: "It was as if she licked up the word off a plate." --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: A sensitive, memorable novel of the harsh, sometimes gruesome life of a young girl in the mountains of Guerrero, Mexico.

Hogarth, $23, hardcover, 9780804138789

The Good Luck of Right Now

by Matthew Quick

Matthew Quick (The Silver Linings Playbook) opens his sixth novel, The Good Luck of Right Now, with the death of Bartholomew Neil's mother--with whom the 38-year-old has lived his entire life. Suddenly, Bartholomew is on his own, uncertain of how to pay his bills, get a job, make friends or move on with his life. Somewhat illogically, he begins to write to Richard Gere, his mother's favorite actor, confiding in him about his uncertainty over what the future holds and his struggles with grief counseling. What begins as just one letter becomes a full-fledged one-sided friendship, as Bartholomew continues to write about the demise of his spiritual advisor, Father McNamee, his crush on the librarian he has dubbed "Girlbrarian" and his life goal of having a beer at a bar with a friend his own age.

As the novel unfolds, Quick builds a story with the most unlikely of characters, from a woman once abducted by aliens to a counselor in need of counseling and an angry man unable to get over the death of his cat. At their heart, they all struggle to find their way after their lives are shaken by events outside of their control. As Bartholomew's letters become more desperate and intense, this unlikely band of characters grows, contracts and learns to embrace the ups and downs life throws at us--finding comfort in the idea that the bad in life happens in order to make room for the good, and vice versa. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

Discover: The author of The Silver Linings Playbook returns with a novel of grief, friendship and finding comfort in the most unexpected places.

Harper, $25.99, hardcover, 9780062285539

The Dismal Science

by Peter Mountford

It was Thomas Carlyle who named economics the "dismal science," to get back at Malthus for his apocalyptic theories about the human race. Peter Mountford's The Dismal Science takes on a far more sympathetic economist--Vincenzo D'Orsi, a middle-aged vice-president at the World Bank--in a quiet, subtle novel that unfolds slowly, like a play, enveloping readers in its nuanced tale.

It's 2005. Vincenzo is successful, fairly rich, reasonably satisfied. A co-worker asks him to cut off funds to Bolivia, which is going through political turmoil. He disagrees with this policy; in fact, he's very upset, even defensive, about the request. He makes a rash decision to refuse, then tells a journalist friend about the incident. The story in the next day's Washington Post means Vincenzo's bridge is officially burned. Why did he do this? What will he do now?

Mountford's exploration of this good man's new road taken is a Dante-esque journey through Purgatory. Other characters, such as his daughter and the journalist who betrayed his confidence, along with the memories of his dead wife, swirl about, affecting him in different ways.

As in Ian McEwan's Atonement, Mountford shows how the repercussions of a single, small decision can slowly, deeply and truly change people. The Dismal Science is a classic novel of ideas for our time and our world of economics, wealth and greed. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

Discover: The author of A Young Man's Guide to Late Capitalism returns with a powerful novel of ideas grounded in a meticulously crafted, character-driven narrative.

Tin House, $15.95, paperback, 9781935639725

Mystery & Thriller

Worthy Brown's Daughter

by Phillip Margolin

Fans of Phillip Margolin (Sleight of Hand) know they are always in for intense legal drama, and Worthy Brown's Daughter delivers--along with a thoroughly researched, vividly depicted 19th-century setting. Based on an actual event, the novel follows the attempts of lawyer and young widower Matthew Penny to help free 15-year-old African-American Roxanne Brown from servitude in 1860s Portland. Roxanne and her father, Worthy, were promised freedom by Caleb Barbour  when they arrived in Oregon, and Barbour has now reneged. The Civil War-era setting comes fully alive in Margolin's hands, a rough-hewn place with drunken judges, corrupt lawyers and gold-digging whores. Penny is an admirable protagonist with just enough flaws not to annoy, but even the shadier characters are portrayed with empathy, making them more human, their motivations more understandable.

Margolin effectively presents the inherent evils of racism and slavery and how badly the deck was stacked against blacks when they sought legal justice. Worthy Brown is an admirable man who has raised an intelligent and self-sufficient daughter, the pair never losing hope in the face of daunting odds, and this makes the reader root for them. Courtroom dramas can often succumb to predictability and plot-by-numbers, but Margolin gives Worthy Brown's Daughter just the right mix of intriguing historical settings, great characters and legal action to make this the perfect read. --Donald Powell, freelance writer

Discover: Phillip Margolin (Sleight of Hand) sets his latest courtroom thriller in Civil War-era Oregon, with all the intriguing plot twists and vividly drawn characters that make his novels so addictive.

Harper, $26.99, hardcover, 9780062195340


by Jo Nesbø, trans. by Don Bartlett

The publication of Jo Nesbø's Harry Hole series in the United States circles back to book two with Cockroaches, originally published in Norway in 1998. When Hole is sent to Thailand to investigate the murder of Norway's ambassador, the Norwegian politicians cite his prior success with a case in Australia (as recounted in The Bat) as justification for choosing him. As he uncovers evidence, however, Hole discovers their true expectation was that he would fail, leaving the ambassador's secrets safely hidden. The alcoholic Hole is determined to stay away from the bottle, but as his ghosts continue to haunt him and new regrets are added to his toppling pile, temptation becomes harder and harder to resist.

Government construction contracts, pedophilia and gambling make up the complex network of events in Nesbø's tightly woven, adrenaline-inducing plot. The supporting cast is a colorful array of dynamic characters, none of them exempt from the cloud of suspicion--or the possibility of an untimely death. And though elements of The Bat do arise, they do not affect the reader's ability to understand the plot of Cockroaches. Just enough background is offered to clarify Hole's character--and thus his motivations--keeping the momentum of the story steady.

Fans familiar with the later novels in the series will enjoy this early entry, loaded with dark humor and explosive plot twists, while those encountering Harry Hole for the first time will learn why he's an international sensation. --Jen Forbus of Jen's Book Thoughts

Discover: When Norway's ambassador to Thailand is found murdered in a brothel, Harry Hole uncovers a nest of "cockroaches" hiding in the walls of Bangkok.

Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, $14.95, paperback, 9780345807151

Where Monsters Dwell

by Jørgen Brekke, trans. by Steven T. Murray

Jørgen Brekke's Where Monsters Dwell blends medieval legends, forensic science and old-fashioned intuition to create an engrossing mystery. It begins when homicide detective Felicia Stone is shocked by a violent murder at the Edgar Allan Poe museum in Richmond, Va. Not only was the museum's curator beheaded, his body was flayed so severely that large portions of his skin are missing. A few weeks later, in Norway, police inspector Odd Singsaker, coming back to work after surgery to remove a brain tumor, winds up with a flayed body of his own--the corpse of a university librarian discovered inside the rare book vault.

Singsaker learns that one of the rare books stored there is the so-called Johannes Book, written by a murderous 16th-century priest and bound in human skin. Meanwhile, Stone, discovering her chief suspect has ties to the Johannes Book, sets off for Norway. Together, the two must figure out exactly why the killer is taking the victims' skin, and stop him or her before more vicious crimes can take place.

Told in alternating chapters, Where Monsters Dwell moves from modern Virginia and Norway back to medieval Europe, as Johannes the priest learns about anatomy and surgery, while Singsaker and Stone try to decipher the connection between his legacy and their unsolved murders. The changing viewpoints keep the story moving briskly, as do the likable main detectives. Stone's complicated past and Singsaker's tumor-caused forgetfulness add interesting layers to the narrative; the stories of several of the academics suspected of murder are equally fascinating. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

Discover: Norwegian and American detectives must cooperate to investigate two grisly murders linked by a medieval book bound in human flesh.

Minotaur, $25.99, hardcover, 9781250016805

After I'm Gone

by Laura Lippman

Inspired by the true story of Julius Salsbury, a Baltimore gambling kingpin who disappeared in 1970, Laura Lippman's After I'm Gone imagines the repercussions on the lives of the women left behind when a bookmaker skips town to avoid jail time.

Ten years after the disappearance of Felix Brewer, his mistress Julie Saxony vanished as well. Although hikers found her remains in a park years later, the murder remains unsolved. Now Roberto "Sandy" Sanchez, a retired detective working cold cases for extra money, has set out to find the truth behind her death, and all his best leads center on Felix. As Sandy interviews Felix's oldest friends, alternating flashback chapters take readers back to the beginning of Felix's story as seen through the eyes of Bambi, his beautiful but increasingly disillusioned wife; Julie, the steadiest of his many mistresses; and his three daughters, who grow up without a father and under the shadow of their mother's financial struggles. (When Felix went missing in 1976, the money he intended to leave with his family disappeared, too.)

Lippman cuts straight to the emotional marrow of her characters' secret selves for a stylish yet juicy look at the effects of a cowardly disappearance. While an astute reader may spot the killer, the motive will leave readers surprised and saddened, and the epilogue to the story of Felix himself leaves a bittersweet sense of poetic justice. --Jaclyn Fulwood, youth services manager at Latah County Library District and blogger at Infinite Reads

Discover: Laura Lippman delivers a standalone story about a murdered mistress, a vanished kingpin and the women he left to pick up the pieces.

Morrow, $26.99, hardcover, 9780062083395

Current Events & Issues

The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well Is the Key to Success

by Megan McArdle

Megan McArdle is no stranger to failure. She has a failed engagement and a failed stint in investment banking to prove it--but she also has a loving husband and a career as a business writer for the Economist and other magazines and websites. How does one move from such failure to such success? That's the key question behind Up Side of Down, as McArdle explores our current thinking about failure and how we can learn to embrace it as individuals, as businesses and as a society.

McArdle comes at failure from every angle, starting with the brain science behind our aversion to risk and ending with the problems of our conventional forms of punishing failures--and the need to forgive both ourselves and others when they occur. Each chapter is peppered with anecdotes from her life (including the failed engagement and her mother's life-threatening surgery) and examples drawn from current events (such as the bankruptcy at General Motors and the state of American penitentiary parole programs). Written with a journalistic flair, her personal anecdotes supplement the facts and figures--and help break up what could have been monotonous reading. As with many business titles, the actual data found in The Up Side of Down is not necessarily new or surprising, but it is compiled in such a way that McArdle succeeds in making us reconsider the failures of our past--and how they can better shape our future. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

Discover: The creator of the popular "Asymmetrical Information" blog explores how accepting (and learning from) failure can ultimately lead to greater success.

Viking, $27.95, hardcover, 9780670026142

The Caregivers: A Support Group's Stories of Slow Loss, Courage, and Love

by Nell Lake

Nell Lake--a journalist interested in health and medicine--was invited to attend a support group for family caregivers at her local Massachusetts hospital. The stories they shared illustrate the pressing life, death and health issues a growing segment of the American population faces--and which our contemporary society needs to address.

The Caregivers chronicles the personal experiences of men and women devoted to providing support out of love and/or a sense of obligation. The central figure of the narrative is Penny, a middle-aged professional woman caring for her forgetful, declining mother. Over the course of two years, Lake meets other caregivers who drop in and out of the group, among them an 88-year-old man (who has himself repeatedly survived cancer) caring for his physically ailing wife and another man whose volatile, demented wife believes he's trying to kill her.

Statistics and facts related to aging in the U.S., Medicaid and living wills serve as a backdrop to Lake's intimate portrayals of the often frustrating, stressful and lonely lives of caregivers amid familial complications, hard choices and, in some instances, no choices at all. In these affirming portraits of love and devotion, she shows that feelings of loss and letting go, when communally shared, can ease difficulty and foster strength, patience and wisdom--along with friendships. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: Insightful, compassionate stories about the intimate, challenging act of caregiving.

Scribner, $26, hardcover, 9781451674149


The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History

by Elizabeth Kolbert

Earth has faced five catastrophic events over its millions of years of existence, causing changes that have wiped out vast numbers of species. Now, journalist Elizabeth Kolbert (Field Notes from a Catastrophe) warns, our planet is in the throes of another global extinction process--precipitated by humans. In clear, informative and entertaining prose, The Sixth Extinction takes us around the globe, from bat caves in New York to the hillsides outside Rome and the Great Barrier Reef, examining the evidence pointing the finger at mankind in this most recent die-off of thousands of organisms.

Through her field reports and interviews with experts in various disciplines, Kolbert shows the correlation between international travel via jet planes and cargo ships and global warming and ocean acidification, drawing further connections to the demise of Panamanian golden frogs, Sumatran rhinos, Hawaiian crows and other species (as well as entire ecosystems). "Life is extremely resilient," Kolbert writes, "but not infinitely so." Although mass extinctions have happened in the past, none have occurred at the rapid pace of this current one, a "rate of change" that doesn't allow time for species to recuperate. Her logical perspective brings disparate issues together into one unified piece, giving readers a horrific yet fascinating look at the disaster set in motion by Homo sapiens, who may ultimately be a victim of this extinction as well. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

Discover: Elizabeth Kolbert (Field Notes from a Catastrophe) presents an ardent, eye-opening account of an ongoing, planet-wide death spiral.

Holt, $28, hardcover, 9780805092998

Children's & Young Adult

The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing

by Sheila Turnage

The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing, the companion to Sheila Turnage's Newbery honor–winning Three Times Lucky, may even top its predecessor.

We join Miss Moses (Mo) LoBeau, chief investigator of the Desperado Detective Agency, and her co-founder and best friend, Dale, just a few months after the conclusion of the previous novel. When sixth-grade teacher Miss Retzyl tells her students to interview a town elder as part of the 250th anniversary celebration of Tupelo Landing, Mo and Dale select the oldest town resident, whom they believe will guarantee them an A. They set out to identify and interview a ghost in the Tupelo Inn, which Miss Lana accidentally purchased at a town auction. Along the way, they form surprising friendships and allegiances with a local moonshine maker and relatives of all sorts (related or not), among others.

Turnage gives just enough context for those who have not yet read Three Times Lucky to root them in the story, while not insulting the intelligence of those who already have. Whether or not this is readers' first visit to Tupelo Landing, they will be charmed by the Southern storytelling and be drawn into a tale of mystery, friendship, ghosts and community--past and present. The plot brims with delightful twists and turns, but it is the language that escalates the storytelling. Turnage knows how to turn a phrase, and uses similes both to keep up the witty pace and to substantiate the cast of characters with all their eccentricities. --Susannah Richards, associate professor, Eastern Connecticut State University

Discover: A perfectly pitched Southern mystery with a cast of characters who may not be what they at first appear.

Kathy Dawson/Penguin, $16.99, hardcover, ages 10-up, 9780803736719

And We Stay

by Jenny Hubbard

Most poetry comes from a place of deep emotion. That's certainly true for Emily Beam, Jennifer Hubbard's (Paper Covers Rock) sympathetic protagonist in And We Stay.

Emily broke up with her boyfriend, Paul, and he ended his life with a gun in the high school library. This revelation comes early in the novel, and the emotional layers of Emily's guilt and the loss of all that she shared with Paul peel off like the petals of a rose, revealing the emptiness she feels inside. Emily heads off to an all-girl boarding school in Amherst, Mass., and discovers that she shares far more than a name, birth date and hair color with its most famous poet. Through the support of her roommate, K.T., her French teacher, Madame Colche, and an artist classmate with whom she started off on the wrong foot, Emily finds her way back to valuing her own life and talents, which gradually forge her reconnection to the world.

Hubbard convincingly integrates Emily Beam's poems alongside her recollections of Paul and her life before boarding school. As the young poet expresses herself, she uncovers her true feelings about Paul's loss, and the rings of emotional shellshock his death leaves in its wake. This is not the story of a school shooting as much as it is a portrait of the fallout from irrevocable, sudden loss, and Emily's guilt of wondering if there is anything she could have done to prevent it. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A budding poet uses her talents as a way to cope with the sudden, shocking loss of her boyfriend.

Delacorte, $16.99, hardcover, 240p., ages 14-up, 9780385740579


by Crystal Chan

The voice of 12-year-old Jewel carries readers through this lyrical and buoyant debut from Crystal Chan. Her first-person narrative immediately plunges us into the heart of a family grieving the loss of their firstborn son.

"Grandpa stopped speaking the day he killed my brother, John," Jewel begins. "His name was John until Grandpa said he looked more like a Bird with the way he kept jumping off things, and the name stuck." But then five-year-old Bird jumped off a cliff, the little blue bath towel he'd used as wings discovered near his body, and Grandpa hasn't spoken since. Jewel was born on the day John died. Crystal Chan marries together the mystical beliefs of Jewel's father, rooted in his Jamaican homeland, and her mother's Christian theology in a union that produces tension for Jewel. In a family flattened by grief, Jewel often feels as invisible and mute as her Grandpa. She finds solace in nature, in a sacred space she creates near Bird's cliff and in a large tree on the McLarens' property, in Caledonia, Iowa. One day she discovers someone already occupying her favorite branch, who goes by the name of John. Is he real, or is he a duppy ("those Jamaican ghosts that Dad always worried about")?

Jewel must unlock this mystery for herself, as she investigates the origins of her grandfather's silence and the tensions in her parents' marriage. The pace occasionally slows when adults tell rather than show some key background information; the strongest points in the novel occur with the discoveries Jewel makes for herself. Chan's strong characterizations and her way with words make her a writer to watch. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A lyrical and buoyant first novel narrated by a 12-year-old coping with a family devastated by the loss of their firstborn son.

Atheneum/S&S, $16.99, hardcover, 304p., ages 8-12, 9781442450899


Author Buzz

The Marriage Auction
(Season One, Volume One)

by Audrey Carlan

Dear Reader,

What would you do for 3 Million Dollars? Would you auction yourself off for marriage to the highest bidder, sight unseen? Four women did… and this is their story.

Arranged marriages. A woman on the run. Family drama. Twins vying for the same bride. It's all part of the deal when you enter into The Marriage Auction.

Read the phenomenon that has been the #1 story across Amazon's new Kindle Vella serialized reading platform for over a year! With close to two million reads already, The Marriage Auction promises a spicy, romantic, thrilling adventure, with forced proximity, taboo undertones, found family, and four loves stories that will fill your heart to bursting.

These are the types of love stories that will stay with you for years to come. Happy reading, friends!


Available on Kobo

Blue Box Press

Pub Date: 
January 24, 2023


List Price: 
$5.99 e-book

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