Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, April 25, 2014

William Morrow & Company: End of Story by A.J. Finn

From My Shelf

Writers on Gabriel García Márquez

One of the most popular features in Shelf Awareness Pro is the Book Brahmin, where we ask authors (and others) questions about their reading habits, as we did recently with Adrian Harte. Had he ever faked reading a book? While he was dodging the question, he said in part: "Can you triangulate a book if you've read the work that inspired it, and the work it inspired? Gabriel García Márquez's Macondo is a few miles beyond the Castle of Kafka, but if you get to Allende's House of Spirits you've gone too far." In that answer, Harte mentioned an author who, over a period of eight years, has been the most-cited answer for every Book Brahmin question, from favorite authors to most memorable first lines. In tribute to Gabriel García Márquez, who died last week, here is homage from past Book Brahmins.

Favorite lines:

"There is no greater glory than to die for love." --from Love in the Time of Cholera, chosen by Jon Katz

"Amputees suffer pains, cramps, itches in the leg that is no longer there. That is how she felt without him, feeling his presence where he no longer was." --from Love in the Time of Cholera, chosen by Mike Greenberg

"Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice." --from One Hundred Years of Solitude, chosen by María Dueñas (and many others)

Book they want to read again for the first time:

Philip Connors: Love in the Time of Cholera. "Rarely has a book so absorbed me in a fictional world."

Nic Brown: One Hundred Years of Solitude. "When I read the last line, my brain almost exploded. I can never put the pieces back together now."

Emily Raboteau: "Hands down, One Hundred Years of Solitude. Pure magic, every line."

Yes, magic. --Marilyn Dahl, editor, Shelf Awareness for Readers

Jewish Book Council: 73rd National Jewish Book Award Winners

The Writer's Life

Eleanor Moran: Juggling Media

photo: Ben Lister

Eleanor Moran's three previous novels are Stick or Twist, Mr. Almost Right and Breakfast in Bed. Her new novel, The Last Time I Saw You (reviewed below), looks back at the tumultuous relationship of two young women after one dies in a car accident. Despite having no television at home growing up in North London, Moran now works as a television drama executive; her TV credits include Spooks, Being Human and a biopic of Enid Blyton, Enid, starring Helena Bonham Carter.

The Last Time I Saw You is based on a friendship you had in school. You've said you wanted to write about "the ambiguity and treachery of female friendships gone wrong." You also write about a very strong female friendship--Livvy and her sister, Jules. Is there a friendship that inspired this one?

I've been lucky to have some wonderful friendships over the years. I think I've looked for girls who could feel more like sisters to me than best friends, because of lacking one (maybe that's why I enjoyed writing the sibling relationship so much). Even the friendship the book is based on had many wonderful moments: she could be an incredibly loyal, warm friend, but then she could also be the opposite. I'm glad to say the women I have in my life now are more consistent and just as wonderful.

One less prominent relationship is between Livvy and her overly competitive co-worker Charlotte. Have you experienced that in the work world? Are you more like Livvy or Charlotte in that world?

I would hope I'm Livvy! And, yes, particularly in media, I've known some fairly bitchy work environments where you've had to watch out for smiling assassins. Lots of kisses on e-mails, not much love.

What have you learned about yourself as a writer now that you've completed The Last Time I Saw You?

I found Last Time very satisfying to write, and it was my first attempt at having some kind of thriller plot. Often in TV, you can get away with telling a relationship-based story if you have the "Trojan horse" of a crime plot, and it's obviously seeped into my thinking. My next novel, Every Breath You Take, is similarly constructed.

Was writing always a goal or did you have dreams to pursue something else when you were a young girl?

When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a paleontologist, but only because I thought it made me sound interesting and clever. I got my comeuppance when my beloved aunt got me a bunch of books about dinosaurs. I would have much preferred a Sindy [a British Barbie with horses] riding stable!

A chicken or egg question: Which came first, your desire to create for TV or to write novels?

It took me years to pluck up the courage to write novels. I worked with so many fabulous writers in my TV job, and it would have felt kind of sacrilegious and a bit clichéd to say that I could do it, too (in fact, I've still largely steered away from scripts for this reason). I had a huge dilemma in my personal life, a semi-engagement that looked great on paper but didn't feel right in my heart. When a friend dropped out of a residential novel writing week, I took her place, started fictionalising the situation, and the rest is history.

Was the lack of TV in your childhood a force that encouraged you to pursue a career in television?

I guess TV was quite an exciting forbidden pleasure! My parents were very bookish, and it did feel quite rebellious (I was an only child, so had no siblings to lead me astray) to be into popular culture. I think I knew quite young I wanted to work in TV.

Tell us about your work in television.

I work as an executive producer for TV drama. Sometimes I come up with a concept for a show, and then go out and find a screenwriter to make it their own. Other times writers will pitch ideas to me. Then I will go and pitch the idea to a broadcaster, and go through a number of drafts on the script before hopefully getting it commissioned (this part is nail biting!). I worked at the BBC for many years, where I would sit on the other side of the desk looking at ideas and soliciting pitches. Once a show is commissioned, I will select a director and work with them on casting the piece and bringing together the rest of the production team to realize the piece. Production is exhilarating and terrifying in equal measure. Shows I've worked on include Rome, MI5 and Being Human. Most recently, I made a legal thriller called Lawless for Sky here in the U.K.

Your third novel, Breakfast in Bed, has been optioned for TV. If your book is made for TV, will you be involved in it?

Breakfast in Bed has sadly been and gone. I wrote the treatment for it, with the help of some fabulous producers, but relationship shows are notoriously hard to get commissioned in the U.K. and the BBC didn't take it further. I would have been an executive producer on it, and probably been a total pain in the a**! What I do know, from having done both jobs, is how much you have to be prepared to change a narrative to make it work in a different medium. I certainly wasn't precious about that.

In your TV work, the genres have really been varied, while your novels have all been stories of female relationships. Is your novel writing what you want to write and the TV you take what comes along? Or do you have other aspirations for your writing down the road?

I love both the TV and the writing--I'm incredibly lucky! I would struggle to choose between the two, although I'm sure at some point I'll have to, as the juggle is kind of crazy. I'm currently doing U.S. publicity for Last Time I Saw You, final rewrites for my new U.K. novel, Every Breath You Take, plus spending three days a week on my very busy TV job. And, yes, I would love to be able to make more relationship shows. Girls is my total treat, and I also adore The Good Wife.

What books are you recommending these days?

Ooh, what have I loved? I thought The Husband's Secret by Lianne Moriarty was great--really accomplished commercial fiction. A page-turner that made you think. I LOVED The Fault in Our Stars--I wept buckets--can't wait for the film. The One Plus the One, the new Jojo Moyes, is fab. It has a great deal to say, but it wears it lightly, and I was completely invested in the love story. I ALWAYS come back to Melissa Bank's The Wonder Spot, even though it's nearly a decade old. She excavates character so deftly, so funnily, and she writes about love like it matters. --Jen Forbus of Jen's Book Thoughts

Sleeping Bear Press: Junia, the Book Mule of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson, illustrated by David C. Gardner

Book Candy

Poetry Quiz; Books Writers Should Read

As Poetry Month enters its final week, Oxford Dictionaries created a devilish "poetry quiz: can you match these first lines to their poem titles?"


"What character from American literature are you?" PlayBuzz would like to know.


An author event bucket list: The Guardian highlighted "the top 10 writers to see live."


"Whether you're new to the city or have been around since 1849," Buzzfeed recommended "16 books to read if you love San Francisco."


"25 books every writer should read" were suggested by Flavorwire.


The "17 quirky, cool bookends to organize your shelves in style" featured by the Huffington Post are a handy way "to expand your book storage options."

Book Review


The Other Story

by Tatiana de Rosnay

Tatiana de Rosnay's The Other Story takes readers into a microcosm of dark family secrets and the quest for an individual's identity.

Nicholas Duhamel--internationally bestselling author, media sensation and 29-year-old heartthrob--takes a luxury vacation at a Tuscan resort, where he plans to spend time with his gorgeous girlfriend and work on his eagerly awaited second novel. The girlfriend, however, has grown increasingly sullen and jealous--and the novel doesn't exist, despite his assurances to his editor that it's well underway. Though his blockbuster debut came to him in a flash, Nicholas has no inspiration for another story. Instead of writing, he revels in his celebrity, obsesses over his social media presence and sexts a provocative fan in Berlin.

As he rests on his laurels, Nicholas slowly realizes that his most important relationships are crumbling due to his self-absorption. An unknown photographer begins posting photos of Nicholas to his Facebook page, leaving him feeling violated and exposed. As his life begins to spin out of control and the weight of his lies grows, Nicholas thinks back to the journey that inspired his life-altering book, a trip to Russia to search for the truth about his father, whom he lost under mysterious circumstances when he was a boy.

De Rosnay (The House I Loved; Sarah's Key) never shrinks from allowing Nicholas to make mistakes; she also skillfully underscores that Nicholas is a young man making a young man's mistakes. The tension of Nicholas's unsustainable half-truths and the gradual parceling out of his father's secrets will keep readers in de Rosnay's thrall, hoping redemption will come. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Discover: Tatiana de Rosnay's knack for exploring the effects of secrets adds complexity to the story of a young novelist's sudden rise to fame and fortune.

St. Martin's Press, $26.99, hardcover, 9781250045133

The Last Time I Saw You

by Eleanor Moran

In her new novel, Eleanor Moran (Breakfast in Bed) addresses the intense emotional complexity of a female friendship gone horribly wrong. Olivia "Livvy" Berrington has been estranged from Sally since a betrayal shattered their friendship in college. But that divide doesn't prevent Livvy's world from being turned upside-down when she's informed of Sally's death in a car accident.

At the funeral, Livvy meets Sally's husband and daughter. As she's drawn into their world, Livvy begins to get a sense of the erratic life her former best friend led. There are questions and inconsistencies, large debts and doubts about whether her death was actually an accident. As Livvy flashes back to her own troubled experiences with Sally and the unanswered questions she still has, her determination to find the answers intensifies--for herself and for the family Sally left behind.

The female friendship at the core of The Last Time I Saw You links to myriad other relationships. Like a spider's creation, Livvy's network is deceptively strong. Readers will likely identify with many of Livvy's bonds: to her dysfunctional family, to the roommate she's secretly loved since childhood, to her competitive coworkers and to the man she falls for despite knowing he's off limits. Moran depicts the believable strength of these relationships despite their flaws and problems. The Last Time I Saw You is the story of a broken friendship, but it's also a story of the healing power of love in all its many forms. --Jen Forbus of Jen's Book Thoughts

Discover: An unexpected death forces a young woman to uncover her former best friend's secrets.

Quercus, $15.99, paperback, 9781623651336

The Bend of the World

by Jacob Bacharach

Pittsburgh is what Detroit could become after the auto business goes away and pro sports, hipsters, artists, academics, hospitals, banks and the residue of old money take over. In his first novel, The Bend of the World, Jacob Bacharach offers an imaginative tale of UFOs, exotic street drugs, Sasquatch, an international corporate takeover--and lots of parties.

Peter Morrison is a mid-level, cubicle-turfed, late-20-something underachiever; he is fond of his weed and Iron City beer but not so fond of parties, which he describes as "like foreign novels, interminable scenes of interactions between interchangeable personages with whom I was just familiar enough to be aware that I'd forgotten them." His childhood best friend, Johnny, is an often drug-addled gay blogger convinced a powerful "fourth river" flows beneath Pittsburgh's convergence of the Monongahela, Ohio and Allegheny. Peter has a half-hearted girlfriend whom he abandons for a beautiful depressed artist who can throw out phrases like "ontological difficulties," and then explain her erudition: "I went to art school. I learned to say a lot of things that I don't understand."

Peter gets fired; he sees a UFO. Peter could use more direction in his life and fewer psycho-pharmaceuticals. The glue that holds Bacharach's wit and general wackiness together is Pittsburgh itself. As if following a Google Maps satellite view, he takes us across the rivers, up the hills and down the alleys with a geographical precision that makes his twisted sci-fi-like story as real as the coke ovens and steel mills that once made Pittsburgh the Steel City. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: The wisecracking protagonist of Jacob Bacharach's first novel is a young Pittsburgh man dealing with wacky friends, quirky family, UFOs and Bigfoot.

Liveright, $25.95, hardcover, 9780871406828

Mystery & Thriller

Under a Silent Moon

by Elizabeth Haynes

Detective Chief Inspector Louisa Smith leads a murder investigation for the first time in this new series from Elizabeth Haynes (Into the Darkest Corner). The victim, a young woman savagely beaten to death on the property of a known human trafficker, led a promiscuous life that results in a suspect list of extraordinary proportions. But forensic evidence uncovered at the scene points Louisa and her team to another woman, found dead at the bottom of a quarry.

At first glance, the second victim appears to have taken her own life in a fit of drunken remorse; a closer investigation by Louisa's team indicates that may not be the case at all. They'll need to filter through town gossip and uncover secrets, irrevocably changing lives in order to unearth the truth.

Haynes's use of multiple perspectives enhances the tension, even though the culprit is evident long before the official revelation. The various points of view provide the reader with intimate connections to those characters, so while the murderer isn't a surprise, the suspense is built more from the slow revealing of each person's fate.

Additionally, Haynes includes case paperwork throughout the novel. Often overlooked in detective stories--filling out paperwork isn't very thrilling--the official reports and interviews here elicit a sense of authenticity and make the reader feel privy to the entire investigation. Readers sensitive to graphic sexual content may want to skip this one, but fans of dark, psychological suspense should find much to enjoy Under a Silent Moon. --Jen Forbus of Jen's Book Thoughts

Discover: The first of a new series by Elizabeth Haynes focuses on a small town with big secrets and a murder/suicide that may not be what it seems.

Harper, $25.99, hardcover, 9780062276025

Baudelaire's Revenge

by Bob Van Laerhoven, trans. by Brian Doyle

The poet's Baudelaire's work and life provide a rich, atmospheric background for Belgian novelist Bob Van Laerhoven's Baudelaire's Revenge--his first novel to be translated into English from his native Flemish and winner of the Hercule Poirot Prize for Best Crime Fiction (2007).

It's 1870. The Franco-Prussian War (which France eventually lost) has just broken out, and Paris is in chaos. Police inspector Paul Lefèvre, on his way to visit one of his favorite cocottes, hears a scream from a brothel. He finds the body of a man with an unusual tattoo; nearby is a sheet of paper with lines by Lefèvre's favorite poet, Charles Baudelaire--who himself died three years prior. Having once attended a reading by the "deathly pale poet," who signed a book for the detective, Lefèvre recognizes the handwriting as Baudelaire's own.

A second man, a writer, is found decapitated in a catacomb. The body was luridly, horrifically augmented after death to give it a female physical appearance. Another piece of paper with verse is found nearby--Baudelaire's handwriting again. When a third victim is found dead on Baudelaire's grave, Lefèvre has no choice but to believe the killer has a personal motive. Could the dead poet be seeking revenge?

Letters and journal entries inserted in the narrative help gradually fill in the gaps as Lefèvre closes in on the killer. This gritty, detail-rich historical mystery involves the reader in a subtle narrative web. Van Laerhoven weaves in some of this period's favorite supernatural elements--magic, exotic poisons, séances and ghosts--to create an eerie, fin-de-siècle atmosphere. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

Discover: This complex mystery from an award-winning Belgian author joins history and literary history to create a sly, smart revenge tale.

Pegasus Books, $25.95, hardcover, 9781605985480

Science Fiction & Fantasy

Robot Uprisings

by Daniel H. Wilson, John Joseph Adams, editors

The robots have risen and are taking over the world. This collection of short stories presents a very modern take on the robots-gone-wrong theme, proving that even though our definition of robotics is constantly changing to include things like distributed artificial intelligence systems (which power our smartphones, our televisions and even our refrigerators), we still worry about the potential dangers to humanity.

Nearly everything in our modern age is touched by automated robotic or computer technology in some way, and most people don't even blink at the amount of hardware and software that surrounds us. Each of these stories--by heavyweights including Cory Doctorow, Hugh Howey, Alastair Reynolds and Daniel H. Wilson himself--takes on a different viewpoint of how and when the robots will gain sentience, take humanity hostage, or just flat out kill us all.

We may not know it's happening until it's too late, as in Seanan McGuire's brilliant story of love and loss, "We Are All Misfit Toys in the Aftermath of the Velveteen War," in which a young doctor must decide where her loyalty lies. In Alastair Reynolds's "Sleepover," a rich man awakens from suspended animation (sadly, no younger or less mortal than he was when he went in) to find a world gone horribly and dangerously wrong.

These stories, including a Dr. Moreau-like foray into nanotechnology by Wilson, all wrench the heart before they can warm it. Robot Uprisings is full of utterly human stories of loss, fear, bravery and revenge, set against an artificial and shiny future. --Rob LeFebvre, freelance writer and editor

Discover: These cautionary, subtle stories show all-new, brilliant facets of the classic killer-robot genre.

Vintage, $15.95, paperback, 9780345803634

Biography & Memoir

Songs Only You Know

by Sean Madigan Hoen

Sean Madigan Hoen is no Keith Richards, and Thoughts of Ionesco, his first band, are no Rolling Stones. In many ways, though, Hoen's tough and emotionally wrenching memoir Songs Only You Know could be the story Richards would have told had he spent the late 1990s in Detroit's punk scene.

Hoen loved the music, loved being the in-your-face front man, loved the booze and drugs. He wrote the songs and recruited bandmates as over-the-top as he was. "I sang what I could," he writes. "What I couldn't, I screamed. Until the sun came up. Until our fingers bled and our ears filled with wax." In synch with the punk ethos of the time, his mission was "to corrupt all traces of harmony. When notes felt too 'right,' we augmented with wrongness."

Songs Only You Know is more than a road trip through half-empty Midwestern bars in his band's corroded, impound-auction '85 Chevy van nicknamed "Orgasmatron," however. It's also the story of how Hoen's family was wrecked by his auto executive father's crack addiction and his sister's frequent bouts with depression--both of them ultimately dying of their diseases. Only his mother seems able to transcend the pain and disappointment of the family's downward spiral and stand by her son as he too fights the sirens of addiction and musical obsession. Now teaching creative writing at Columbia University, Hoen's come a long way from the "crack shacks" of west Detroit, a journey his memoir traces in an almost uplifting saga. Almost. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: The candid memoir of a Detroit punk rocker's zigzag path through family dissolution and musical disappointment.

Soho Press, $25, hardcover, 9781616953362

Gandhi Before India

by Ramachandra Guha

The first volume of what may be the definitive biography of Mohandas Gandhi, Ramachandra Guha's Gandhi Before India covers the years from Gandhi's birth in 1869 through his departure from South Africa in July, 1914. Biographers have often treated Gandhi's earlier life--especially his two decades working in South Africa--as a mere warm-up for leading the struggle for Indian independence. Guha (India After Gandhi) gives this period serious and detailed attention, arguing that such attention is necessary if we are to understand both "how the Mahatma was made" and Gandhi's critical role in South African history.

Guha not only draws on Gandhi's own writings from and about this period, but also uses a wide range of contemporaneous sources, from Gandhi's childhood school reports to secret files kept by the South African government. By focusing on those records rather than retrospective accounts, he overturns some accepted "truths" and introduces new elements to a familiar story. Perhaps the most interesting parts of the book are the side excursions that illuminate elements of Gandhi's life: among them, the history of vegetarianism in England and Johannesburg as a cultural and intellectual melting pot.

Gandhi Before India is a step-by-step account of how an uninspiring member of a Gujurati merchant caste transcended the conventions of his caste, class, religious and ethnic background to become one of the most important figures of the 20th century. --Pamela Toler, blogging at History in the Margins

Discover: How Gandhi became Gandhi, overturning some "accepted" truths and explaining his critical role in South African history.

Knopf, $35, hardcover, 9780385532297

Essays & Criticism


by Angela Pelster

Like the roots of the trees Angela Pelster writes about--which at the time of their development "were an uncontainable force that drilled and crumbled the rock of the world"--these poetic essays on trees, humans and their interactions with nature are profound and beautiful. Pelster encourages the reader's imagination to stretch as she leaps among diverse subjects while still entwined with the life cycles of trees. We learn of the Tree That Owns Itself, a white oak legally deeded to itself by William Henry Jackson in the 1830s. In "Portrait of a Mango," Pelster draws connections among Johannes Vermeer's use of Indian yellow pigment in his paintings, which looks like the "flesh of a freshly sliced mango," mangoes themselves as "the fruit of paradise" and why the Buddha relinquished his possessions because of a barren mango tree. And though it was the only standing object for 400 kilometers, the Loneliest Tree in the World was hit by a truck; Pelster explores why a man built an arboreal statue to replace it.

Death, grief, pain, love and art mesh in the narratives: the lonely demise of a squirrel, a record made of the paper-thin slice of a tree trunk, the evocative and sexual shape of particular fruit. The complex web inexplicably and beautifully works. Mystical yet realistic, eccentric yet reflective, Pelster's ability to unearth the essence of nature is like the "first gasp in the world," a deep, oxygen-rich breath of the freshest air. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

Discover: Lyrical, thoughtful essays on trees and their place in the world.

Sarabande Books, $15.95, paperback, 9781936747757


The Devil's Snake Curve: A Fan's Notes from Left Field

by Josh Ostergaard

It's tempting to fall into baseball metaphors after reading a baseball book, even one as eccentric as Josh Ostergaard's The Devil's Snake Curve. If he were a pitching prospect, his scouting report might say "no heat, all junk." This collection of news reports, anecdotes, statistics and personal reminiscences turns an eclectic history of baseball into a backdrop for American political history.

Growing up near Kansas City, Ostergaard is a long-time Royals fan and so a natural Yankees hater. Yet it is the Yankees who permeate The Devil's Snake Curve, representing all that is good and bad about the United States. He tracks their dominance of the sport from beer mogul owner Colonel Jacob Ruppert, who bought Babe Ruth from the Red Sox, to tyrannical George Steinbrenner, who hired whatever talent he needed and famously forced his players to be clean-shaven and short-haired. As the Yankees have been the most consistently successful team in the majors, so, too, the U.S. is the undisputed power in the global league of war, economics and influence--and, like his Yankees, Ostergaard's America is characterized by chicanery, jingoism, evangelism and, most of all, money. However, despite his disillusionment with both baseball and the U.S., he can still join a Hall of Fame audience recitation of "Casey at the Bat," noting that "the melancholy burned away... it felt like being at the ballpark should feel. Carefree, open, simple." Baseball, thank goodness, has a way of doing that. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: An eccentric political take on American history through the prism of baseball.

Coffee House Press, $15.95, paperback, 9781566893459

Children's & Young Adult

The Islands of Chaldea

by Diana Wynne Jones, Ursula Jones

Diana Wynne Jones's (Howl's Moving Castle) last book, completed by her sister Ursula, demonstrates the charm, sharpness of character, suspenseful plot and offbeat humor that her readers have come to expect and savor. Aimed at a slightly younger readership than her Chronicles of Chrestomanci and Derkholm series, this standalone novel also makes a sound introduction to the esteemed author's oeuvre.

Twelve-year-old narrator Aileen fails the test that the previous women in her family have passed--to become a Wise Woman of the island of Skarr. On that day, she is sent by two kings with her testy Aunt Beck (who is a full-fledged Wise Woman), the not-very-princely Prince Ivar (on whom Aileen has a crush), and his clueless servant, Ogo, on a quest. To fulfill a prophesy, the quartet must cross the four islands of Chaldea (Skarr, Bernica, Gallis and Logra), gathering a man from Bernica and Gallis, in order to raise a mysterious barrier that appeared suddenly many years ago, making it impossible to gain access to Logra. Suspense arises from all the things that go wrong: a near shipwreck, no money, Aunt Beck almost being turned into a donkey when she offends a powerful witch queen. Meanwhile, an ever larger cast of characters enters into the fray--among them a humble monk, a large green bird with unusual intelligence, and an ugly but magical cat the size of a deerhound.

A gob-smacking climax and thunderous resolution bring the story to a thoroughly satisfactory end. --Ellen Loughran, reviewer

Discover: The final standalone novel from a consummate fantasy writer will delight her fans and also serve as a fine introduction to her work.

Greenwillow/HarperCollins, $17.99, hardcover, 368p., ages 10-up, 9780062295071

The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend

by Dan Santat

Dan Santat (Sidekicks) provides a clever twist to the idea of a child's relationship with an imaginary friend in this satisfying story of a first friendship.

The unnamed hero, a snowman-looking fellow with limbs and a gold crown, eagerly waits "to be imagined by a real child." Santat pictures him on an island where the rainbow ends, with sunny skies and plenty of other "imaginary" companions, each waiting to be "picked by a child and given a special name." One by one, the others get picked, and the crowned hero remains alone. "So rather than waiting... he did the unimaginable." He takes an overseas journey to "the real world," and lands in New York City. A humorous double-page spread features the hero's eye-view of busy city-dwellers in a series of vignettes: "The real world was a strange place. No kids were eating cake," he notes as two ladies share a chocolate slice. "No one stopped to hear the music," he observes as people rush past an accordionist on a subway platform, "and everyone needed naptime," he thinks as everyone in his subway car travels with eyes closed.

Finally, the stranger sees "something familiar." Attentive readers will connect the blue tail with a fellow island inhabitant, whom the hero follows, eventually leading him right to his child. A dozen comics-style time-lapse images show their awkward overtures ("Neither of them had made a friend before"). Finally, the girl introduces herself as Alice and also names the hero: "Beekle."

Santat's story reminds children that, with friends, they can accomplish "the unimaginable." Heartwarming. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: The story of an imaginary friend who finds his child, in a heartwarming tale of what it means to connect.

Little, Brown, $17, hardcover, 40p., ages 3-6, 9780316199988

She Is Not Invisible

by Marcus Sedgwick

A blind British teenager embarks on a frightening mission to rescue her father in this artful thriller by the author of Midwinter Blood, the 2014 Michael L. Printz Award winner.

Sixteen-year-old narrator Laureth Peak's absent-minded author father is supposed to be doing research in Switzerland. But when she receives an e-mail from someone in Queens, N.Y., who has found Jack Peak's notebook, she secretly books a flight to New York City for herself and her seven-year-old brother, Benjamin, and sets out to find him. After getting the "Black Book" back, Laureth and Benjamin examine it for clues to their father's whereabouts and scour the boroughs of New York looking for him. Are the notes leading them to their father? Or are his scribblings about the nature of coincidences just a series of red herrings drawing them deeper into the unknown? When a strange man threatens the siblings at knifepoint, Laureth knows that time has run out. If her father doesn't turn up soon, she and Benjamin might not make it out of New York alive. Sedgwick solidly anchors the preposterous-sounding plot through his vivid rendering of Laureth's dark world.

Readers will be so riveted by Laureth's terrifying navigation of cities and airports with only her brother as her guide that they are unlikely to question some of the novel's more far-fetched aspects. But because Jack Peak is writing a book about coincidences, these unlikely synchronicities actually seem fitting. --Jennifer Hubert Swan, middle school librarian and library department chair at Little Red School House & Elisabeth Irwin High School

Discover: A thought-provoking thriller about coincidences, connections and true sight from a Printz-winning author.

Roaring Brook/Macmillan, $16.99, hardcover, 224p., ages 12-up, 9781596438019


Author Buzz

Visions of Flesh and Blood:
A Blood and Ash/Flesh and Fire Compendium

by Jennifer L. Armentrout with Rayvn Salvador

Dear Reader,

Today is the release of VISIONS OF FLESH AND BLOOD, the Blood and Ash/Flesh and Fire Compendium, and I am so excited that you finally get to see and read it!

I saw the love you had for Miss Willa, watched how following along with all the series twists and turns brought you joy, and thought... wouldn't it be nice to have a book to help with that, yet give even more new stuff?

So, my publisher and I came up with a plan. It included loads of stunning art commissions, strategic disclosures, and brand-new material. When it all came together, it was even better than I imagined.

VISIONS OF FLESH AND BLOOD is so much more than a series bible. It's a journey and a work of art. A collector's item for sure!


Available on Kobo

AuthorBuzz: Visions of Flesh and Blood: A Blood and Ash/Flesh and Fire Compendium by Jennifer L. Armentrout with Rayvn Salvador

Blue Box Press

Pub Date: 
February 20, 2024


List Price: 
$7.99 e-book

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