Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, May 16, 2014

IDW Publishing: Earthdivers, Vol. 1: Kill Columbus (Earthdivers) by Stephen Graham Jones, illustrated by Davide Gianfelice, colored by Joana Lafuente

From My Shelf

Another Reason to Buy Local

Amazon likes to remind us regularly why independent booksellers are to be treasured and supported. The behemoth did it again last week, when its efforts to bully a major publisher into granting it better terms became public. Many books published by Hachette, one of the "big five" U.S. publishers, are now being listed as available only in a few weeks, sometimes up to five or six weeks--an eternity in today's fast-paced world and in effect a delisting. This artificial scarcity is a cynical effort to punish Hachette by choking sales.

Among the books are some of the most popular today, including works by Malcolm Gladwell, Stephen Colbert and James Patterson, the last of whom is a kind of patron saint of independent booksellers because of his generous support for reading initiatives and financial grants to indies. A lot of books are affected: Hachette's many lines and imprints include Little, Brown, Grand Central, Twelve, Back Bay Books, Mulholland Books, Hachette Books (formerly Hyperion), Reagan Arthur Books, Yen Press and Orbit.

This lack of availability is the equivalent of your local indie hiding books in the backroom to keep you from buying them. Needless to say, independent bookstores pride themselves on doing all they can to supply the books readers want. By the same token, unlike their big online rival, they keep monies in the community, work with and contribute to local cultural and charitable organizations, provide a place for the community to gather, support reading groups, offer classes and other activities and, perhaps most important, make book recommendations to readers and bring real-live authors into the store.

In an era where one monopolistic company likes to throw its weight around in the bookselling world, there's one highly effective way to show support for retailers that truly serve customers: buy books-- Hachette's or others--in print and/or e-book editions in person or online from your local independent bookstore! --John Mutter, editor-in-chief, Shelf Awareness

Tommy Nelson: Buster Gets Back on Track (Buster the Race Car) by Dale Earnhardt Jr., illustrated by Ela Smietanka

The Writer's Life

Philip Kerr: Faith and the God-Shaped Hole

photo: Phil Wilkinson/The Scotsman

Prayer is the latest stand-alone novel from Philip Kerr, well known for his Bernie Gunther mystery novels. Prayer is the story of skeptical atheist FBI agent Gil Martins and his investigation into the recent deaths of several prominent atheist thinkers. Martins must confront his own beliefs when his first suspect confesses that she killed them with prayer.

As Martins investigates her seemingly preposterous claim, he begins to feel stalked by an ancient evil, forcing him to decide whether God is real and, if so, out to get the unbeliever.

Kerr describes Prayer as a police procedural as William Peter Blatty, author of The Exorcist, might write it.

Why write about religious faith?

Well, the inspiration was my own history, really. I had a religious upbringing as a child; I was born in Edinburgh, we went to church three times on a Sunday. Four, if we were lucky.

My parents had originally been members of the Free Church of Scotland. They decided that was a little bit on the liberal side, so they became Baptists.

I viewed the whole thing initially with the enthusiasm of a child wanting to please his parents. After a while, I began to question it, but learned to question it fairly quietly. I became, at the very least, an agnostic if not a full atheist. But the whole subject continued to be of enormous interest to me.

Salman Rushdie said there's a God-shaped hole inside us all, in the same way that Chomsky argues that there's a sort of language-shaped hole. So I guess I still feel the existence of a God-shaped hole, even if I don't find that God fits neatly into it anymore. So for me, it's a very complicated set of circumstances, how I came to write about this. It seemed a logical thing to do, to deal with the God who really exists in the Bible, not this sort of benign Father Christmas figure that we use.

As He said, "I'm a jealous God." And he's a God of anger, and he's not a very nice God, I don't think.

No, he's terrifying.

The Devil has sort of stopped being frightening. So I think you want to look around for the person who even the Devil is frightened of, and that's God.

So I wrote with the full confidence of someone who had previously been a church-goer. I think that's what you need, really: the full zeal of someone who's an apostate.

Do you think the "God-shaped hole" is something we get from upbringing, or is it a part of our genetic heritage?

I think it's based very much on upbringing. My parents were very religious. Because they were Baptists, [their church] used to have this weird thing every month when they would lift up the floorboards and the carpets and reveal this small swimming pool. People would be baptized in it.

They would stand in front of the congregation wearing curious shifts that looked very like the sort of the thing you'd wear in your coffin, which wasn't a promising start. They would stand in front of a microphone and then tell the whole congregation why they were inviting Jesus into their lives, and then they would be dunked under the water.

For me, you see, I had an early near-drowning experience as a child. I had an abhorrent, very real fear of water until I was about 12. I thought, "Well, you know, that's just never gonna happen to me. I'm never gonna be fully immersed under the water, and therefore my sins will never be washed away. I might as well quit now on the whole idea of being Christian."

So instead of thinking Godly thoughts, I used to sit there and think very un-Godly thoughts.  I guess that's where I started writing, actually, in the church. It kept me amused, and my parents, of course, thought I was probably writing texts from the Bible or something like that.

You must have done a lot of research on the FBI and the southern part of the U.S., in which the novel is set. How did you go about that?

I was lucky enough to broker a good contact with the FBI, partly because the guy who's the military head of NATO is a fan of my books. I think that helped swing it, really. They realized I wasn't a security threat, because I'd already spent the weekend at the admiral's house in Belgium.

And actually, that was only half the reason to go. The second reason was that they have the largest church in the world in Houston. It's called the Lakewood Church, and it's 17,500 members strong. They also have the second biggest one, which is I think is called the Second Baptist Church or something like that, which has a mere 12,000 members.

It was the complete opposite of the experience I expected to have, which was to find Texas filled with all kind of rednecks, Republicans and gun-toting nutters. They couldn't have been more friendly, actually. I really liked them; they were terribly hospitable and very courteous. I formed the conclusion that one of the reasons why Texans are so courteous is probably because they're all armed. It does make people polite.

I kept asking myself what would happen if people in Scotland owned guns, and I put that in the book as kind of a joke, that the country would be decimated because they're all so aggressive and foaming at the mouth in how they behave with each other--there would be a shooting every half hour.

The FBI couldn't have been more helpful, too. They were open and friendly, not in the least bit like the sort of Hoover "G-Men" that you imagine from the movies. In fact, most of the people I dealt with were women, actually. And women in the FBI, now, are much more important than they used to be.

How did you write the authentically American characters in Prayer?

I guess you've really got to feel sympathy with the people who are there. You've got to like them. If you're gonna write about them, you've got to get under their skins. I think you've got to feel, in a sense, that you could become one of them.

And that's the great thing about Texas, especially Houston; it's a city where lots and lots of people go to live. It's not a city where people are born. It's an immigrant city; lots of people come from all over the United States. I felt I could easily end up in somewhere like Houston.

It helped I was in a fantastic hotel, the Houstonian, which I think was originally a house owned by George W. Bush. It was a fantastic country club hotel with enormous swimming pools and even more enormous restaurants, which of course my kids adored. So, you know, for a British person going there, what's not to like? There are masses of food and the weather is fantastic. --Rob LeFebvre, freelance writer and editor

Parallax Press: Unshakeable: Trauma-Informed Mindfulness and Collective Awakening by Jo-ann Rosen

Book Candy

Fictional Characters' Taste in Fiction; Kids' Book Reviews

The Guardian highlighted its "10 favorite readers of fiction in fiction," noting that it can be "difficult to pick out fictional characters whose reading truly says something about their personality; or in some way relates to the plot of their fictional realm."


A former school librarian asked students to write reviews and Buzzfeed highlighted "9 delightful book reviews by kids."


From the if you like that book, you might like this one dept.: Flavorwire showcased "10 dark and twisty books for Gone Girl fans."


How to Name a Baby Without Handicapping It for Life by Alexander McQueen was just one of "8 how-to books from 100 years ago that are still (sort of) useful" featured by Mental Floss.


"These 10 home libraries are for people who really, really love their books," the Huffington Post reported.

Book Review


The Transcriptionist

by Amy Rowland

Lena Respass is the last transcriptionist at the Record, New York City's largest and oldest newspaper. Each day, she hooks herself to a Dictaphone in an otherwise empty 11th-floor room overlooking Times Square and transcribes the voices of reporters calling in stories. Her only conversations are with a pigeon on her window ledge and an occasional harried editor with instructions to "just slug it, type it, dump it. We need it." Few at the paper even know her "office" exists, fewer still know her name. When her shifts end, she calls the news desk to report only that "this is the Recording Room calling in for a goodnight."

With Lena, Amy Rowland--an editor (and former transcriptionist) at the New York Times Book Review--updates a long line of isolated underground literary protagonists that includes Ralph Ellison's invisible man and Colson Whitehead's intuitionist. She even flavors this first novel with a taste of Kafka, as in her description of the Record newsroom with its "well-medicated activity, soundless keypads, and clusters of low-partitioned cubicles... like a benign government agency in a bad budget cycle."

Rowland's The Transcriptionist is a behind-the-firewall look at a traditional newspaper's death spiral. More memorably, however, it is the story of a sensitive, observant woman who finally decides to disconnect from the disembodied voices reporting war, suicide and suffering--"listening to people's tragedies all day"--and reconnect with the people on the streets who actually experience them. It's not such a reach to bookend Amy Rowland's debut contemporary existential novel with the original: Dostoyevsky's Notes from Underground. It's that good. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: A stunning first novel in which an isolated newspaper transcriptionist wrestles with existence.

Algonquin, $24.95, hardcover, 9781616202545

The Boy in His Winter

by Norman Lock

"Listen. Every author wants to write at least one time-travel novel," says an aging Huck Finn, the narrator of Norman Lock's remarkable A Boy in His Winter. It is 2077, and Huck is now a retired yacht salesman named Albert Barthelmy. He is recounting his boyhood on the Mississippi, where he floated through history, perpetually 13, until Hurricane Katrina washed him ashore, thrusting him back into time.

In the story as Albert tells it, the raft itself is the time machine for two mythic literary characters; Huck and Jim step off the raft for brief periods but always return. The pair floats past Lincoln's assassination, the Industrial Revolution, the Jim Crow South, the birth of jazz. Huck loves Jim and resents him in equal measure, and never more so than when Henry, a black jazz musician, joins them and becomes Jim's close confidant. The tragic consequences of Huck's resentment haunt him for the rest of his life.

The span of his life may be epic but Albert is more interested in his story's odd synchronicities and its truth than in its facts. His goal is lofty: "I'll try to study cruelty (I regret my own) and render it in more familiar terms."

Lock (Love Among the Particles) writes some of the most deceptively beautiful sentences in contemporary fiction. Beneath their clarity are layers of cultural and literary references, profound questions about loyalty, race, social progress and the nature of truth. They merge with an iconic American character, tall tales intact, to create something entirely new--an American fable of ideas. --Jeanette Zwart, freelance writer and reviewer

Discover: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn re-created into a stunning time-travel fable that celebrates and critiques our cultural preoccupations.

Bellevue Literary Press, $14.95, paperback, 9781934137765

To Rise Again at a Decent Hour

by Joshua Ferris

Joshua Ferris's wry, intelligent novel To Rise Again at a Decent Hour adroitly navigates the borderland between the demands of faith and the persistence of doubt.

Paul O'Rourke, a Park Avenue dentist, is cynical about nearly everything, save his beloved Boston Red Sox. One day Paul finds his office website appropriated by someone posting biblical-sounding messages. To his dismay, he soon becomes an unwilling presence in the online world, his name attached to posts and tweets that take on an increasingly disturbing, even vaguely anti-Semitic, tone. Paul's distaste for our absorption in social media and for electronic devices like our smartphones--what he calls his "me-machine"--only deepens his distress.

The members of the group who've reached out to him consider themselves descendants of the Amalekites, the hated tribe whose extermination God decrees in the Book of Samuel. Paul, an atheist, eventually learns the tragic story of the religious seeker whose research fuels the activities of the group he laments has "hijacked my life" and he comes to understand their effort is less about preserving some tiny cult than it is in defining the dimensions of religious practice amid skepticism.

In seizing upon both the transitory oddities of contemporary life and our enduring search for meaning, Joshua Ferris has created a winning modern parable--a welcome return to the spirit of his first novel, Then We Came to the End. Ferris is a gifted satirist with a tender heart, and if he continues to find targets as worthy as the ones he skewers here, his work should amuse and enlighten us for many years to come. --Harvey Freedenberg, attorney and freelance reviewer

Discover: A smart, contemporary satire on one skeptic's search for the roots of religious belief.

Little, Brown, $26, hardcover, 9780316033978

The Year She Left Us

by Kathryn Ma

One rite of passage many American teenagers hold in common is striking out on their own in the transition to adulthood. Angst, festering from those final years under their parents' roofs, jettisons them into a realm of self-discovery and self-reliance requiring hearty determination to embody their own distinct identities. For Ari, a Chinese orphan adopted in infancy by Charlie Kong--a Chinese-American woman in San Francisco--a frustrating lack of information about her birth family compounds her already dubious sense of belonging and she tumbles into orbit far beyond the reach of family and friends.

Kathryn Ma's incandescent debut novel, The Year She Left Us, is a stirring excavation of adolescent, familial and racial identity. Ari's depression looms over her every move, threatening to fracture her relationships and her body; sometimes it succeeds, brutally. But those around her are not as stable as Ari enviously suspects. Ma mediates the tensions facing three generations of Kong women as judiciously as an attorney with her clients; Gran Kong refuses to acknowledge her aging disposition; and sisters Charlie and Lesley find their sibling rivalry bleeds into their courtroom professions. Tempers blossom fresh when Ari, obsessed with finding her father, disappears.

The Year She Left Us is difficult and lovely, wild and endearing. Families both chosen and biological can often feel that way, too, but their true mark is discovered in challenging moments, the darkest years, when their most tender members are put to the knife. --Dave Wheeler, publishing assistant, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A young woman's tumultuous expedition to come to terms with her adoption.

Harper, $25.99, hardcover, 9780062273345

The Last Will & Testament of Zelda McFigg

by Betsy Robinson

Zelda McFigg has a need to set straight the record of her life. In her seriocomic fictional memoir, the 4' 11", 237-pound, single 49¼-year-old maps her inauspicious life. Her story begins in 1975, when 14-year-old Zelda ran away from her upstate New York home and a neglectful, drunken, single mother and was forced to "pursue alternate routes of survival." With acting aspirations, she headed for Manhattan, becoming a cleaning lady and an assistant to a washed-up poet who once appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. Afterward, she meets a "baby-doll-faced" heroin addict committed to animal rights; confronts a mouse-phobia; acts in avant-garde, Off-Off Broadway theater showcases for no pay; lives in "concentration camp" barracks while doing props for a New England summer stock theater company; and winds up as a part-time hall monitor-turned-English teacher in the Moose Country, Vt., school system. There, she mentors a student of Native-American descent, who, like those in the rest of the town, harbors secrets.

Zelda's life journey is circuitous and paved with a slew of absurd, comic blunders. "Invention is the most valuable life skill one can have or teach," she explains as she copes with three decades of chronic disappointments and disingenuous people. Yet, she remains resilient, undaunted by the fact that wherever life takes her, she's a misfit and a loner. In the end, the wit of Zelda's narrative voice as created by novelist/playwright Betsy Robinson will finally allow her to connect and be recognized in the world of readers' imaginations. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: A seriocomic fictional memoir about a runaway from upstate New York who risked her life simply by choosing to live it.

Black Lawrence Press, $17.95, paperback, 9781625579218

American Innovations: Stories

by Rivka Galchen

American Innovations, novelist Rivka Galchen's (Atmospheric Disturbances) first collection of short stories, defies categorization, varying in tone from coolly surreal to nakedly emotional. While not all of the 10 stories will appeal to every reader--owing simply to the collection's sheer variety--Galchen consistently delivers interesting work.

The title piece reimagines Nikolai Gogol's short story "The Nose," in which the protagonist loses his olfactory appendage. Here, the narrator is a graduate student who discovers one day that she has become "sideways pregnant," with a third breast growing out of her lower back. Galchen's protagonist treats her "supernumeraryness" with the sharp wit that's shared by many of her characters. Trish, the narrator of "The Entire Northern Side Was Covered by Fire," is a writer who observes that "the nicest reader letters I've received--also the only reader letters I've received--have come from prisoners."

Galchen best reconciles the tension between fabulism and realism in "Real Estate." After moving into her aunt's nearly empty town house, that narrator encounters her father--who has been dead for more than a decade--and wonders if she has "slipped through a wormhole of time." Even after he disappears, she resolves to remain in the building because she has the "sense that ghosts like to return to the same place."

Though occasionally perplexing, her stories are grounded in a keen grasp of detail and crisp, lively prose. The bracing originality of Galchen's work merits favorable comparison to adventurous contemporaries like Aimee Bender and Kevin Brockmeier and assures she'll continue to be a writer who deserves our attention. --Harvey Freedenberg, attorney and freelance reviewer

Discover: A story collection that ranges from the fantastic to the grounded stuff of daily life.

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $24, hardcover, 9780374280475

Mystery & Thriller

The Kill Switch

by James Rollins, Grant Blackwood

Branching off from his Sigma Force novels, James Rollins and co-writer Grant Blackwood introduce ex-Army Ranger Tucker Wayne and his working dog, Kane. In a mixture of thriller, adventure and mystery, the freelancing duo is called on by Sigma Force covertly to escort Dr. Abram Bukolov, a Russian scientist, to the United States.

Bukolov has uncovered what he believes is the stem cell-equivalent for plant life--LUCA. For pharmaceutical purposes, Bukolov envisions amazing medical advances and life-saving discoveries. However, a Russian general sees the potential for a biological weapon: "It could wipe out the country's entire agricultural industry, devastating the land without a single shot being fired."

People are racing to find a sample of LUCA growing somewhere in a volatile region of Namibia, because what both sides lack is the "kill switch" for this life-altering plant. From Russia to Africa in planes, trains and even submarines, Wayne and Kane struggle to stay ahead, retrieve the sample and get Bukolov safely to the U.S. But the Russian forces know their every move. Someone is feeding them information. Can they discover the mole before everyone winds up dead?

The Kill Switch is a smart, exciting start to a new thriller series. Tucker Wayne is a compassionate hero whose relationship with his canine partner is as engaging as the book’s action sequences. His adventures take readers off the beaten path to exotic locales and keep them guessing with explosive plot devices. Here's hoping there's no kill switch to this series any time soon. --Jen Forbus of Jen's Book Thoughts

Discover: An ex-Army Ranger and his K9 partner go to extraordinary lengths to complete their mission: escort a scientist, find a plant and save the world.

Morrow, $27.99, hardcover, 9780062135254

Food & Wine

Simple Thai Food: Classic Recipes from the Thai Home Kitchen

by Leela Punyaratabandhu

Leela Punyaratabandhu started her blog,, in 2008 to honor her mother's memory through her best Thai recipes. Now Punyaratabandhu, who lives in Bangkok and Chicago, has written Simple Thai Food to "show readers how easy it is to re-create traditional flavors--at home."

Punyaratabandhu chose recipes that were not only familiar to her from childhood--and will be familiar to readers who frequent Thai restaurants in the U.S.--but were feasible for kitchens not necessarily outfitted to make traditional Thai dishes. She breaks down what equipment is helpful (like why a granite mortar and pestle is best), offers information on locating such hard-to-find ingredients as kaffir lime rind or galangal, and covers how to prepare and store essential ingredients like long-grain white and Thai glutinous rices; coconut milk; chile jams; ready-made curry pastes; and fish, soy and oyster sauces.

The recipes are organized according to the Thai way of cooking: Noshes and Nibbles/khong wang (between-meal snacks and appetizers, like sweet potato fritters with peanut-sweet chile sauce); Rice Accompaniments/kap khao, also known as samrap (like Son-in-Law Eggs and Shrimp Curry Stir-Fry), which are eaten with rice as part of a meal; One-Plate Meals/ahan jan diao (complete dishes containing rice or noodles, like Pad Thai with Shrimp; and Sweets (often eaten between meals as snacks in Thailand), like Chewy Banana-Coconut Griddle Cakes. What began as a personal culinary journey to honor her mother's memory has evolved into an accessible embrace of her country's cuisine. --Kristen Galles from Book Club Classics

Discover: Thai food enthusiasts from the most novice to those who prefer a challenge will find something to love in Simple Thai Food.

Ten Speed Press, $24.99, hardcover, 9781607745235

Biography & Memoir

Eating Wildly: Foraging for Life, Love and the Perfect Meal

by Ava Chin

As Eating Wildly begins, Ava Chin's beloved grandmother is dying. They were quite close; her mother's parents had helped raise Chin after her father walked out on the family. Trying to make sense of life without her grandmother, Chin muses on her childhood, her complicated relationship with her uptight mother, her memories of her grandfather and her own string of failed romantic relationships.

Chin's stories of her grandparents and the Chinese culture they passed on are touching and funny. Many readers will relate to her romantic setbacks and may identify with Chin's frustration with the omnipresent string of boyfriends in her mother's life.

Permeating all of these reminiscences are a love of eating and a realization that the cyclical nature of food is echoed in many areas of her life. Remembering hunting for obscure ingredients like cloud ear (an edible jelly fungus) in Chinese grocery stores with her grandfather; Chin begins to search through backyards and parks in the New York City area for edible items like mustard garlic, wild honey and mushrooms. She finds comfort in the rhythm of the seasons and the ebb and flow of plants' growth. Foraging through weeds and grass for edible treasures brings her new friends, earns her a New York Times blog column and helps her search for the beauty in her own complicated memories.

Eating Wildly includes suggestions to help the novice forager: tips on drying herbs such as motherwort, ways to clean and serve wood sorrel and recipes for dishes like Wild Morel Linguine and Field Garlic and Hummus. A collection of touching memories and delicious recipes, Eating Wildly will likely please memoir readers, locavores and cooks alike. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

Discover: A memoir of family and foraging for food in New York City.

Simon & Schuster, $25, hardcover, 9781451656190


A Difficult Par: Robert Trent Jones Sr. and the Making of Modern Golf

by James R. Hansen

James R. Hansen (First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong) believes Robert Trent Jones, Sr., the subject of this definitive biography, was the greatest golf course architect of the 20th century. After reading this superb chronicle, it's hard to disagree.

The title comes from the architect's adage that every golf hole should be a "difficult par but an easy bogey." Trent (as he came to be known) emigrated from England to East Rochester, N.Y., and learned to play while caddying. He became quite good and soon decided golf course architecture was his calling. He attended Cornell University, creating his own curriculum (landscape architecture, hydraulics, surveying, agronomy, etc.), which gave him the skills he needed. In the 1930s, any kind of job was hard to get. He started out doing course remodeling, then got his first 18-hole design job in Penfield, N.Y. At that time, courses were built with New Deal and WPA labor using simple farm machinery.

His big breakthrough came in 1948 when the great Bobby Jones (no relation) asked him to help design the Peachtree course in Atlanta, Ga. It was there that his signature design elements took shape, especially his idea of "runway tees"--long teeing strips that can accommodate all levels of players. After doing some significant remodels of famous layouts (Winged Foot, Southern Hills) his greatest designs followed (Hazeltine, Spyglass Hill). It's likely every golfer and reader of this fine book has played one of Trent's courses--he designed more than 400 worldwide. For anyone serious about golf, the history of the game or course design, this fine biography is a must. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

Discover: An in-depth biography of one of the greatest golf course architects of all time.

Gotham, $32.50, hardcover, 9781592408238

Children's & Young Adult

The Battle for WondLa

by Tony DiTerlizzi

The three books that constitute Tony DiTerlizzi's futuristic classic chart an unforgettable journey, masterfully told. Its conclusion is well worth the wait.

In The Search for WondLa, heroine Eva Nine appeared to be the last human in a world of creatures, raised in an underground Sanctuary by a robot. She learns there's a city of humans when teenage pilot Hailey Turner takes her to New Attica in A Hero for WondLa. But the beautiful future promised her comes with a price. This final installment finds Eva and Hailey on the run from the warbots of visionary Cadmus Pryde, and the two are immediately in danger from a hungry beast in the wilds. Alongside this cinematic action, DiTerlizzi prepares readers for the moral dilemmas to come with his overarching themes of trust and truth. Eva and Hailey meet an artifact collector, Caruncle, an alien who joins them on their quest to prevent Cadmus Pryde and the otherworldly Loroc from enacting the Age of Man.

Eva Nine has matured in DiTerlizzi's black-and-orange illustrations. Readers will detect her distress on the page, as she faces situations that call for sacrifice and evaluating her morality ("What is 'right'? What might be 'right' for me may not be 'right' for you?"). Readers will cheer on Eva as her expression switches to determination during her final battle to preserve a harmonious coexistence between humankind and aliens. The end to Eva's search for her WondLa is deeply touching. Victory has never looked this good. --Adam Silvera, children's bookseller

Discover: In the triumphant conclusion to the WondLa trilogy, Eva Nine bravely fights for harmony between humans and aliens.

Simon & Schuster, $17.99, hardcover, 496p., ages 10-up, 9781416983149

Rules of Summer

by Shaun Tan

As with so many of Shaun Tan's (The Arrival) creations, this magnetic picture book with minimal text allows readers to enter a world with limitless interpretations.

The text sends up the requisite "What I Did on My Summer Vacation." Before the story begins, readers see two children, backlit by the summer sun in a gray cityscape. The taller one, crouching, whispers to the shorter one. Are they siblings? Friends, and the taller one is the alpha? The title page explodes in golden sun, the taller child blowing a horn, the shorter one behind him, beating a red drum, dropping a drumstick. "This is what I learned last summer: Never leave a red sock on the clothesline," opens the narrator, cowering by a fence as the larger child covers his mouth. A menacing red rabbit stares over the fence with eyes that match the sock, dangling from a clothespin. "Never eat the last olive at a party," reads the text as the narrator reaches for it and the taller child pulls him back; giant hawks with olive-shaped eyes keep watch, dressed in tuxedos.

Each directive begins with "never"; each illustration depicts the consequences of the transgression. Tan alters perspective and palette, keeping the narrative structure constant. The book comes to a climax when the smaller child fights the larger child ("Never ask for a reason"), with the rabbit, hawks and other creatures from previous pages as spectators. The hard-won resolution brings hope, as the small boy, with a horn, leads their two-boy band, and the larger boy plays drums. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: The latest enigmatic picture book from the creator of The Arrival offers a twist on "What I did on my summer vacation."

Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic, $18.99, hardcover, 48p., 9780545639125

The Greatest Star on Earth

by Kate Klise, illus. by M. Sarah Klise

This second charming installment of the Three-Ring Rascals series, begun with The Show Must Go On, brings back lovable Sir Sidney and his circus performers. 

Sir Sydney learns of a special contest being run by the Circus Times newspaper to name the Greatest Star on Earth. But he thinks all of his performers are the greatest, from unlikely best friends Leo the Lion and Elsa the Elephant to the acrobatics of the Famous Flying Banana Brothers, and begins to worry about how this will upset their cheerful and cooperative circus. As he worries, he develops a worrywart, and his doctor prescribes some R&R at a peanut farm in Georgia. This gives Barnabas Brambles a second chance to run the circus, and he says he'll "try" to follow Sir Sydney's kind rules. Secretly, clever mouse siblings Bert and Gert use reverse psychology on Barnabas, as each of the circus acts tries to show that they are truly The Greatest Star. Again silliness and humor reign as this story unfolds. In the end, with Barnabas Brambles's lessons learned, Sir Sydney returns and harmony is restored. The wonderful line drawings, cartoon illustrations and diagrams on every page skillfully tell much of this story. The artist incorporates zany site gags, rhymes, jokes, made-up words, even math concepts. 

This popular author-illustrator team (43 Old Cemetery Road series) succeeds again with their cast of quirky and endearing characters. This fun series continues to be spot-on for early chapter book readers. --JoAnn Jonas, children's librarian, freelance reviewer

Discover: Friendship, loyalty and kindness are more important than a trophy for being the Greatest Star.

Algonquin Young Readers, $15.95, hardcover, 144p., ages 7-10, 9781616202453


Author Buzz

(A Masters and Mercenaries Novella)

by Lexi Blake

Dear Reader,

Tempted is all about opposites attracting. Ally Pearson is an up and coming Hollywood actress from a celebrity family. West Rycroft left his family's ranch to become a bodyguard in the big city. Sparks fly when these two meet but there's someone out there who wants to ruin this happily ever after. I hope you'll join me for this new Masters and Mercenaries story--and you might find a little bit of Butterfly Bayou!

Lexi Blake

Available on Kobo


AuthorBuzz: 1001 Dark Nights: Tempted: A Masters and Mercenaries Novella by Lexi Blake

1001 Dark Nights Press

Pub Date: 
September 25, 2023


List Price: 
$2.99 e-book

These Things Happen

by Michael Eon

Dear Reader,

Daniel Zimmer will do almost anything to end his pain, except for the one thing that might work. Flashing through Daniel's life, past and present, this nostalgic ode to Brooklyn is an unflinchingly honest account of coming-of-age and the inevitable ups and down of recovery. With a vivid, atmospheric backdrop of 1970's Brooklyn, These Things Happen fearlessly examines generational abuse, the transformative power of confronting addiction, and the profound life-changing potential of redemption.

Write me at for a chance to win 1 of 5 copies!

Michael Eon

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Girl Friday Books: These Things Happen by Michael Eon

Girl Friday Books

Pub Date: 
September 19, 2023


List Price: 
$17.95 Paperback

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