Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Gallery Books: Something Wilder by Christina Lauren

From My Shelf

Tom Spanbauer: New Audience & Old Friends

With the recent publication of I Loved You More (Hawthorne Books, $18.95), his fifth novel, Tom Spanbauer takes on a new landscape in publishing while wrestling with history--most conspicuously his own. The novel moves from New York City in the '80s to Portland, Ore., in the '90s, as a love triangle develops between a gay man, his straight friend and the woman who loves both. The book began, Spanbauer recalls, when a straight friend passed away. "I had all this processing to do, and when I couldn't process anymore I started lying." In other words, thinking in terms of fiction, while drawing a line between his own experiences and his characters' lives.

Larger publishers interested in more current stories might have been put off by the time frame of the novel, as Spanbauer mentioned in a Lambda Literary interview, but according to him and Michael Sage Ricci, Spanbauer's partner and publicity manager, the response to I Loved You More from Portland's Hawthorne Books couldn't be better. Working with an independent publisher led them to what Ricci calls "sideways marketing," involving other indie artists and performers to build a broader audience.

Director Mark Levine has already produced the book trailer and, in addition to bookstore appearances, Spanbauer will read at New York City's LGBT Center (May 13). Spanbauer also has big plans for Portland Pride Weekend, including a Queer Lit Happy Hour (June 13) with the likes of Lidia Yuknavitch (The Chronology of Water), and a Big Gay Boat Ride (June 15) with Bianca Del Rio (Rupaul's Drag Race).

At Elliott Bay Book Co. in Seattle last month, Spanbauer treated a packed house to a portion of I Loved You More that serves as an overture to its torrid relationships. Closing the book, he took a moment to regain himself before taking questions. He said, "People ask me why I write, and I tell them it's because I can't cry and speak at the same time." --Dave Wheeler, publishing assistant at Shelf Awareness

William Morrow & Company: Razzmatazz by Christopher Moore

The Writer's Life

Julia Dahl: The Power of Journalism

photo: Chasi Annexy

Julia Dahl is a journalist and author specializing in crime and crime fiction. She has written for the New York Post and, and her articles have appeared in Mental Floss, Salon and The Crime Report. Invisible City, her first novel, is the story of a young journalist in New York City reporting on the murder of a Hasidic woman in an ultra-Orthodox community in Brooklyn (our review is below).

Invisible City is your debut novel, but you have written extensively about crime as a journalist. How was writing fiction about a crime different from writing a news piece about a crime? 

I think one of the things I enjoy most about writing is writing dialogue, and you don't get to do a ton of that in crime journalism. You can quote people, obviously, but when writing a piece about a crime, you weren't there. I swoop in after the crime happened and try to piece together the story from a number of sources--but I'm never really on the inside. I only know somebody from what they show me. In fiction, I get to know people from the inside, because I'm the one creating them.

What most surprised you about the novel-writing process?

How difficult it was to make the plot work. I write a lot of day stories--this is the murder, this is the charge, this is the detail we have. The length between start and finish is very short. But here, I wanted to create a plot that would keep people turning the pages, but also feel authentic. I didn't want readers to stop and think, "What? How did we get here?"

So at the beginning of the book, I knew "whodunit," and I had sense of why, but I didn't know how I would get there at all. A lot of that came in the re-writing.

Rebekah Roberts, the main character in Invisible City, works as a stringer for the New York Tribune; she is sent to various scenes across the city to collect details and call them in for another writer. Why did you decide to make Rebekah a stringer rather than a journalist?

That's just how it was, and still is as far as I know, in New York City tabloids. They're called different things--stringer, runner, reporter--but all are sent somewhere to call in information, which was really shocking to me when I first started. My first day at the New York Post,  I was sent to an accident scene. I went and I interviewed people, and then I typed up a story and e-mailed it in, which shocked my editors. That was not how it worked. There were people in the office that did the writing; I did the fact-gathering. That got me thinking about ethics in journalism and how things might get printed that aren't quite accurate, because there is this chain of people involved.

So partly Rebekah works as a stringer because that's how it would happen and it felt authentic. I also hope that it pushes readers to ask questions: Is that how it really goes? Is that the right way to do this? The best way to honor the truth?

As Rebekah pushes to uncover more information about a murder that others--including the police--seem to be inclined to let alone, she seems shocked at the power she has to keep a story alive.

One of the other things that was important to me in Invisible City were the perils of being a young journalist without any guidance, especially in the tabloid world. Rebekah's only experience before this job is with the school paper. Now she is writing for a paper with a million readers every day, even if they do take the stories with a grain of salt or read them for entertainment. And there is a tremendous amount of power in that. Journalists and editors have a responsibility to think about the impact of what they are printing has on the people reading it. In this case, Rebekah is forced to start taking her job seriously.

How did your own religious background influence the character of Rebekah, who, like you, comes from parents from two different religions?

You write what you know, a little bit. I've spent a lot of my life actively thinking about religion and where I fit. As a child, I went to church and I went to synagogue, and I got to choose which religion was for me. So some of things I'm working out in my head as I write are about what it's like to live between two religions.

Though you are Jewish, you are not ultra-Orthodox. Why did you explore the ultra-Orthodox?

There are probably close to 200,000 ultra-Orthodox in New York City, and an even larger community outside of New York, upstate and in New Jersey. The average family size is four to five kids. And it was, especially before I moved to New York, a community I knew very little about.

Right when I had just started working for the Post, I moved into an apartment whose previous occupant had committed suicide. I found out that he was an ultra-Orthodox man who had had a family and worked as a teacher, but had been shunned because it turned out he was gay. I would get his mail, and though I never opened it, I started to build an idea of this person in my mind. And right on top of that, I was assigned to a story of an ultra-Orthodox groom who had killed himself right after his wedding.

All of that together just made me want to know more, especially because I thought how like me they are--they're Jews! But then, the thing that I value the most in my life is freedom, and it occurred to me that these are people who grow up with no freedom. I wanted to explore that.

Do you have any recommendations for other books about the ultra-Orthodox community?

The first book I read, and the one that was the most revealing for me, was called Unchosen: The Hidden Lives of Hasidic Rebels by Hella Winston. It is nonfiction, centering on a handful of people who grew up ultra-Orthodox and are attempting to leave in some way.

Speaking of further reading, I understand this won't be the last we see of Rebekah Roberts.

Soon after I finished Invisible City, I knew I had to write more about Rebekah. I've just finished the draft of second book, which is scheduled to come out next year. It takes place soon after the end of Invisible City, and Rebekah is still a reporter in New York. Rebekah's mother is a big part of the second book. I'm so happy that I get to write this character again. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

Bethany House Publishers: When the Day Comes (Timeless) by Gabrielle Meyer

Book Candy

Words Book Lovers Should Know; Bookish Places to Visit

Ultracrepidarian was one of "10 words every book lover should know" highlighted by the Huffington Post.


Travel tip: Buzzfeed recommended "23 beautifully bookish places to explore this summer."


Mental Floss screened "25 movie cameos by the authors of the original books."


Shortlist magazine unveiled its choices for the "50 coolest book covers."


Novelist Laura Lippmann chose her "top 10 books about missing persons" for the Guardian.


Controvento is a bookcase with "a refined dispute between visual instability and actual stability" featured by Bookshelf, which noted that "it is a dizzying challenge to the force of gravity, the expression of a profound aspiration to a transparent, metaphysical lightness."

University of South Carolina Press: Only Wanna Be with You: The Inside Story of Hootie & the Blowfish by Tim Sommer

Book Review


The Wall: And Other Stories

by Jurek Becker

In The Odyssey, Homer equates storytelling with weaving: master storytellers stitch their works thread by thread, detail by detail, and the end result is a large, encompassing world. Holocaust survivor Jurek Becker's The Wall is a fine example of Homer's metaphor. While Becker (best known for Jacob the Liar) imagines a host of fantastical tales, the stories in The Wall are potent because they make the invented feel real, with lives established patiently, precisely, intricately.

The themes Becker addresses here are timeless and archetypal: loss of innocence, the incomprehensibility of the opposite sex, stories told (and secrets kept) within the web of a large family. The collection achieves a delicate balance between gravity and levity. Even within the confines of the concentration camp in "The Wall," young boys are brash and childish, more worried about a nighttime excursion than the daily realities that trouble their parents. The charismatic uncle in "The Most Popular Family Story" is remembered not for his death in the camps but for his tall tales. Of his uncle's horrifying disappearance, the young narrator writes only, "Once my father said, Gideon was a very old man when they took him to Majdanek, but still." The piece primarily occupies itself with the slapstick details of an awkward dinner party, but the reader is left with that barest hint of tragedy that colors the rest of the story.

It's this elliptical, allusive quality that gives The Wall its force. Loss settles onto these stories like a film of dust, but beneath those allusions are portraits of humans at their most human. --Linnie Greene, freelance writer and bookseller at Flyleaf Books

Discover: An intimate collection of stories focused on lives bound by World War II and postwar Germany.

Arcade, $19.95, hardcover, 9781628723250

Inkyard Press: A Show for Two by Tashie Bhuiyan

Cure for the Common Breakup

by Beth Kendrick

Need a cure for the common romance novel? We prescribe a dose of Beth Kendrick (The Week Before the Wedding).

Flight attendant Summer Benson saves a child in a plane crash and becomes a national hero, but winds up single when her boyfriend, the pilot, decides he doesn't love her after all. On leave from the airline and needing a quiet place to heal both body and mind, Summer takes off for Black Dog Bay, Del. It's allegedly the number-one location for breakup recovery, boasting businesses that cater to the brokenhearted, like the Better Off Bed-and-Breakfast.

A party girl with sass to spare, Summer barely hits the city limits before she makes a big impression on the locals by standing up to the two meanest socialites in town. She's more interested in making an impression on Dutch Jansen, the gorgeous, levelheaded mayor of Black Dog Bay. Thanks to Dutch's stoicism, Summer's commitment issues and the spite of a wealthy elderly woman who loathes the Jansen family, the course of true love won't run smooth. Can a town famous for new beginnings start Summer down the path to a happily ever after?

Kendrick seamlessly blends a lonely-hearts tourist location with seaside small-town antics--charming locals, quirky eccentrics and all. Summer has a knack for livening up any situation, and it's easy to see that Dutch won't be able to resist her brash attempts to break through his upstanding façade for long. This funny, sexy romp highlights two truisms: we find love where we least expect it and fortune favors the bold. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Discover: A gutsy flight attendant's attempt to heal her broken heart in a quirky seaside town.

New American Library, $15, paperback, 9780451465856

Books Fluent: A Disturbing Nature by Brian Lebeau

Catching Air

by Sarah Pekkanen

After six grueling years as an associate at a Florida law firm, Kira Danner is exhausted. When she gets passed over--again--for a promotion, her husband's brother and his wife call with a tempting but risky offer: the chance to co-own and run a Vermont bed-and-breakfast. Aching for a new start, Kira and her husband agree to try it for a year.

Kira's sister-in-law Alyssa has lived a semi-nomadic life, supporting herself through photography and other freelance gigs. But as she and her husband struggle with infertility, she yearns to settle down. The bed-and-breakfast experiment offers the perfect balance of adventure and safety. As the two couples adjust to their new living situation, they acquire an unexpected employee. Dawn Zukoski fled New York City after a workplace romance led to personal and financial disaster, but she knows she can't hide out in Vermont forever.

Pekkanen (These Girls; The Opposite of Me) delves deeply into the complex relationships of her four main characters, especially the women. Kira and Alyssa have contrasting personalities and family backgrounds, but both are grappling with substantial issues related to vocation, marriage and whether they should have children (if they can at all). Dawn's story intertwines with that of her new friends as she helps out at the B&B and considers how to rebuild her own life. Warm and compelling without being predictable, Catching Air provides an intimate portrait of three women facing the unknown and learning to rely on one another. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: Three relatable women whose lives intertwine as they work together at a bed-and-breakfast in Vermont.

Washington Square Press, $15, paperback, 9781451673531

History of the Rain

by Niall Williams

The rain soaking the Irish landscape in Niall Williams's (Four Letters of Love) luminous novel History of the Rain is as dark and unremitting as Ireland's poetry and storytelling are its miracles.

Ruth Swain is confined to her attic bedroom after collapsing from an unexplained illness while at college. Here she receives visitors like the adoring Nick Cunningham and her old teacher Mrs. Quinty. Here Ruth reads from her father's collection of nearly 4,000 books, to understand her world and find her father. Here, in the face of her own possible mortality, she writes his story to keep him.

Ruth is ironic, self-aware and very funny. She is a contemporary woman wrapped up in Ireland's history and literature. She's a nonbeliever in a deeply Catholic parish. Like Emily Dickinson, she has the habit of capitalization (an Eccentric Superabundance of Style). Ruth's voice is wonderful, bursting with wry observations, but it also aches with love and loss. There's her father; her golden twin brother, Aeney; her illness; and her inability to stop herself from pushing away the devoted Nick. The language is gorgeous and surprising. If there is writerly excess here, Williams has accomplished the neat trick of making it Ruth's excess while leaving the reader to marvel.

In the novel's only false notes, Ruth's mother doesn't quite come into clear focus and Ruth's illness doesn't seem to rise above metaphor. Overall, however, History of the Rain is charming, wise and beautiful. It is a love letter to Ireland in all its contradictions, to literature and poetry and family. --Jeanette Zwart, freelance writer and reviewer

Discover: An incandescent novel about family, Ireland and the magical power of stories from a two-time nominee for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.

Bloomsbury, $26, hardcover, 9781620406472

The Shadow Year

by Hannah Richell

In the present day, Lila, grieving the death of her prematurely born daughter, is anonymously given a remote cottage in England's Peak District. Bewildered at the windfall but desperate for something to distract her from her loss and the rocky condition of her marriage, Lila leaves her London home to tackle the refurbishment of the decrepit structure.

In 1980, five new college graduates, all gloomy about the dearth of jobs in the depressed economy, decide to try a Utopian subsistence-living experiment at the cottage. They take up illegal residence and pool their scant resources, determined to live off the land for a full year. But isolation and fear of discovery create tensions they can't avoid, and sinister undertones in the group dynamics soon lead to dark turns.

Initially unaware of the previous residents' history, Lila still senses something odd about the house. As she digs deeper, she discovers surprising things about the cottage's past and her own future.

Hannah Richell (The House of Tides) aptly captures the mounting tension that isolation in a small group can create, and cleverly twists the tale in an unexpected direction. Lila's struggle to reconnect with her husband in the wake of their family tragedy is no less gripping. Richell combines many small, apparently innocuous moments with the slow pace of country life and manages to create an enthralling whole. The Shadow Year has cross-genre appeal and its gothic overtones will captivate readers of literary fiction, mystery and romance alike. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

Discover: A grief-stricken woman inherits a cottage with a complicated past.

Grand Central , $15, paperback, 9781455554331

Invisible City

by Julia Dahl

Julia Dahl's debut novel, Invisible City, wraps a well-plotted mystery in the setting of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn, N.Y. The result is a fast-paced, smart novel of murder, journalistic ethics and religion.

Rebekah Roberts, a young journalist, moves to New York City fresh out of college to look for one thing: a job as a big-city reporter. Though Rebekah strikes out at the large papers, she lands a job as a stringer for the New York Tribune, a tabloid-like local rag. When Rebekah is sent to cover the murder of a Hasidic woman, she is shocked to discover how insular this community is--so much so that the murdered woman's body is buried without an autopsy and with little inquiry into her death. But she also finds herself learning more about her own mother, an ultra-Orthodox Jew who left Rebekah and her father to return to her religious community when Rebekah was a newborn.

As Invisible City unfolds and Rebekah pushes for more information about the crime, Dahl weaves together Rebekah's own story, including her battles with anxiety and questions about her mother, with a broader exploration of the Hasidim. Dahl comes to fiction with a background as a crime and criminal justice journalist, and it shows; crisp dialogue and a strong sense of intrigue keep Invisible City moving forward to the very end. Though the mystery may be resolved, readers are left with enough questions to leave them anticipating more of Rebekah Roberts's story--good news for all, as a sequel is underway. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

Discover: A Jewish woman's murder that leads a young reporter to learn more about the Hasidic community and her own mother.

Minotaur, $24.99, hardcover, 9781250043399

Mystery & Thriller

Midnight Crossroad

by Charlaine Harris

When Manfred Bernardo--professional Internet psychic--moves to Midnight, Tex., he finds that he's not the only one with secrets to protect. There's his landlord, Bobo Winthrop, who owns the local pawn shop, and Bobo's other tenant, Lemuel, who comes out only to work his night shifts.

Fiji Cavanaugh, a self-proclaimed witch, runs a New Age shop across the road from Manfred's apartment. The Reverend from the little church, dark and aged, rarely speaks, but when he does, everyone listens. Midnight is full of people who keep to themselves, and Manfred feels right at home in his newly adopted burg.

When Bobo's girlfriend, Aubrey, is found dead while Manfred and his newly acquainted friends are on a picnic just outside of town, no one seems to know what to do. Lemuel and his girlfriend, Olivia (a bad*** with a heart of gold whom no one would dare cross), head off in search of possible perpetrators, while Fiji and Manfred do some investigating of their own. What develops is a mystery that will keep readers engaged through to the end, as Manfred finds out that everyone in town has a secret, usually a supernatural one.

While Harris is best known for the Sookie Stackhouse novels that inspired the HBO series True Blood, this first book in her new trilogy begins with a lot of promise. There's something going on in Midnight, and the denizens of the town aren't super keen on anyone finding out exactly what it is. --Rob LeFebvre, freelance writer and editor

Discover: Charlaine Harris's latest begins a new supernatural-flavored trilogy with quirky characters and a mystery at its core.

Ace, $27.95, hardcover, 9780425263150

Graphic Books

Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant?: A Memoir

by Roz Chast

It's no secret to fans of Roz Chast's New Yorker cartoons (and the dozen books bearing her name, including What I Hate from A to Z) that she draws on her life to make us laugh. But her first graphic memoir, Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, is a chronicle of her parents' aging and death, with cartoons, text, photos and ephemera, all in her signature style.

The only child of a meek father and a domineering mother, Chast joined in their denial of the impending health and financial concerns of old age; likewise, she had turned a blind eye to the contents of the "crazy closet" in their Brooklyn apartment of 48 years.

But when her mother is hospitalized for two weeks with acute diverticulitis and her father's worsening dementia becomes obvious, Chast became her parents' caretaker; they move to "The Place," an assisted-living facility near her Connecticut home (but light-years from Brooklyn). Her drawing of the grim reaper seated on their old couch underscores the move's finality, and photos of their "stuff" are poignant yet funny ("Museum of old Schick shavers," a drawer of jar lids).

Her self-portrait is predictably self-deprecating, with lots of bug-eyed drawings, and Chast minimizes how caring for her parents impacted the rest of her life. Her themes are universal: reversal of the parent/child role; choices in end-of-life care; reflections when a parent dies. Particularly striking are the unannotated portraits of her mother's last days, an expression of love by a daughter who eloquently draws what she feels. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, manager, Book Passage, San Francisco

Discover: A cartoonist's serious but humorous graphic memoir of caring for her parents in their last years.

Bloomsbury, $28, hardcover, 9781608198061


Birdmen: The Wright Brothers, Glenn Curtiss, and the Battle to Control the Skies

by Lawrence Goldstone

The subtitle to Lawrence Goldstone's (Lefty: An American Odyssey) Birdmen aptly uses the word "battle." The Wright brothers are American legends; they were, after all, the first to travel in controlled, powered, heavier-than-air flight, on December 14, 1903. But few know of rival flight pioneer Glenn Curtiss. Goldstone's masterpiece of aviation history reveals a personal and legal battle that slowed the progress of manned flight as the three fought for preeminence.

Goldstone begins with a succinct preamble to Orville's historic flight (Which of the Wright brothers was the first to fly? Orville. They tossed for it.) by filling us in on those who had previously tried to fly but failed. Captain Tom Baldwin's motor-powered balloon/airship was a hit for a while, while others had some success with gliders--including the Wright brothers, after first mastering bicycle mechanics. But how to affix a motor to a glider and then fly? The brothers' brilliant invention of the wind tunnel and the aerodynamic data it provided was crucial. Meanwhile, Curtiss, in upstate New York, was experimenting with motorcycles, and developed a light, powerful engine that was key in lifting planes.

Goldstone goes on to tell the gripping story of the many "battles" between the brothers and Curtiss. They fought to be the first to master powered flight, then to sell the planes, interest the military and secure patents. Genius inventor Wilbur and brilliant craftsman Curtiss also went toe-to-toe in a lengthy legal dispute. This is a fascinating tale well told. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

Discover: An absorbing biography of the three greatest aviation pioneers in the U.S., and the hatred two of them had for the third.

Ballantine, $28, hardcover, 9780345538031


Metal Cats

by Alexandra Crockett

Right away you can tell Metal Cats, a photo collection of musicians and their pets, is awesome: just a bunch of hardcore dudes and their fuzzy-wuzzy kitty-cats. But aren't these animals, even domesticated as they are, first and foremost carnivorous predators? Nocturnal and vicious, as violent at heart as hardcore metal? Meme after Internet meme foretells how the world, awash in blood and humiliation, will one day bow before the superior feline race. Come on, that's metal!

Both metal and cats have existed under clouds of stigma, fraught associations with demonic forces and hellish bloodlust. With an introduction by Bariann Tuite of Broken Limbs Recordings, Alexandra Crockett's Metal Cats project hopes to buck those comparisons and demonstrate how "the alternative lifestyle of cats is not unlike the alternative lifestyle of heavy metal fans and musicians." By pairing dozens of metal artists with their pets, she reveals the sensitivity and humanity in each, without sacrificing any hard edge or good humor. Even better, a portion of the sales will support West Coast no-kill shelters.

Love, acceptance and cuddling may not sound all that hardcore, but it makes for one hell of a collection of photos. Here are musicians from bands such as Municipal Waste, Cattle Decapitation, Napalm Death and Skeletonwitch--tattooed, sweaty, screaming--holding aloft their adorable, furry friends. There's an immediate bond visible in Metal Cats, and it goes deep. Leave it to cats to perfect that delicate balance between misunderstood crust and love muffin. In that way, they're the true artists. --Dave Wheeler, publishing assistant, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A photo collection that reveals the softer, fuzzier, domesticated side of metal.

powerHouse Books, $12.95, paperback, 9781576876770

Children's & Young Adult

We Were Liars

by E. Lockhart

E. Lockhart's (The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks) spectacular plotting and character delineation build to an ending that will hit readers like a tidal wave.

The author examines where one has come from, who one wishes to be, and where these two collide. As Granddad explains, "We Sinclairs are a grand, old family.... Our traditions and values form the bedrock on which future generations stand." Granddad went to Harvard, inherited wealth and multiplied it. His "precious" Cadence is the first grandchild. As the novel opens, Cadence recalls the June of what she calls "summer fifteen," when her father drove away in the Mercedes "to some woman he loved more than us." She takes refuge on Granddad's island off the coast of Massachusetts, with her cousins Mirren and Johnny and his best friend, Gat. They are the Liars of the title. Gat sees the disparity between rich and poor, the injustice in the world. That summer, the summer Cadence is 15, she and Gat fall in love. Where she is pale and blonde and accepting, Gat is dark and exotic and questioning. Granddad does not approve. That summer, Cadence has an accident. Something terrible has happened, but she cannot remember what.

This is a love story as much as it is a psychological mystery. The true genius of Lockhart's plotting comes with the second reading, when we see that the clues were there, just below the surface of the placid island waters. The Liars must face the truth in order to heal. Astonishing. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: Candace Sinclair Eastman attempts to piece together the cause of an accident that has left her with no memory of it.

Delacorte, $17.99, hardcover, 240p., ages 12-up, 9780385741262

Fat Boy vs. the Cheerleaders

by Geoff Herbach

Geoff Herbach's (Stupid Fast) funny and poignant novel introduces 16-year-old trombone player Gabe Johnson, who buys pop to support his high school band. Caught directly after allegedly stealing money from the pop machine, he unspools his story to his defense attorney.

Gabe (aka "Chunk") started gaining weight after his mother abandoned him and his father for a Japanese architect she met on the Internet. "Stress makes a hole in me that needs filling," he explains, as he drains bottle after bottle of Code Red Mountain Dew. But then the high school hikes the price of the soda bottles, and Gabe discovers a plot hatched by the head of the school board and the principal to disband the band and start a dance squad of cheerleaders with the pop proceeds. Moreover, Gabe's beloved band teacher gets arrested for drunk driving, and his best friend starts dating a member of the dance squad. But Gabe also attracts new friends: classmates RC III, the African American quarterback who's new to town, and "Gore," a goth girl who works with them at the local doughnut shop.

Through narrator Gabe's eyes, Herbach deftly walks the tightrope between stereotypes and real people painted in broad strokes, and works in a few surprises. Gabe's grandfather helps him get into shape, and a supportive English teacher offers counsel, compensating for the teen's absent parents. Gabe's gradual and credible maturation, plus his winning sense of humor ("Thank God we don't have capital punishment in Minnesota. Die pop robber! Zap!" he tells his attorney) carries the novel. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: Another funny, poignant novel from the author of Stupid Fast about an unlikely hero determined to save his high school's marching band.

Sourcebooks Fire, $16.99, hardcover, 320p., ages 12-up, 9781402291418


Kids Buzz

Case Closed #4: Danger on the Dig

by Lauren Magaziner

Dear Reader,

What if YOU got to be a detective? Which clues would you examine? Which suspects would you investigate? What choices would you make?

I wrote the Case Closed series so you can find out! These interactive pick-your-own path mysteries let the reader be the detective. And because kids make all the decisions, they get to write the story with me, in real time.

For a chance to win a signed copy of the newest Case Closed book, email me at

Happy sleuthing,
Lauren Magaziner

Katherine Tegen Books

Pub Date: 
May 17, 2022


Type of Book:
Middle Grade Fiction

Age Range: 

List Price: 
$7.99 Paperback

Moody Moody Cars

by Eileen Kennedy-Moore
photographs by Michael Furman

Dear Reader,

Cars have feelings! Or at least some look like they do. My picture book, Moody Moody Cars, shows genuine, classic automobile faces showing feelings from angry to excited. Being able to read emotions is like having a GPS for life.

Research says talking about feelings helps kids understand them. Children who are better at recognizing emotions are also:

  • Better liked by peers
  • Less likely to act out aggressively
  • Better achieving in school

Email me at to enter to win a signed copy.

Warm wishes,
Eileen Kennedy-Moore, PhD

Magination Press

Pub Date: 
April 26, 2022


Type of Book:
Picture Book

Age Range: 

List Price: 
$16.99 Hardcover

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