Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Mariner Books: Briefly Perfectly Human: Making an Authentic Life by Getting Real about the End by Alua Arthur

From My Shelf

Books and Love

We love stories about books bringing people together, especially when the story is this sweet:

Jessica Lawrence is the publicity manager at St. Martin's Press, and her name is on Sarah Addison Allen's website. Sarah is the author of Garden Spells and First Frost (due out January 20). Carl Knauf found Jessica's contact information on Sarah's site and wrote to her, saying: "Ms. Allen's book Garden Spells has a cute connection in our relationship because it was actually what my girlfriend let me borrow to read during our first 'date.' It was her copy of her favorite book, and I enjoyed it as well, so I think there's some special meaning to the work (hopefully she does as well!).... I was wondering if Ms. Allen could personalize a copy, but also write something about me having a question for her, or 'Will you marry Carl?' or something along those lines?"

Jessica says that Sarah--"just about the nicest person I have ever worked with"--of course agreed. She sent Carl a copy of Garden Spells, and wrote:

Magical love stories have no ending...
Will you marry Carl?
Sarah Addison Allen

Her charming inscription (and true love) worked their magic: Aliyyah Sumner and Carl Knauf of Albuquerque, N.Mex., got engaged on December 20. Best wishes to the romantic and bookish couple! --Marilyn Dahl, editor, Shelf Awareness for Readers

Sleeping Bear Press: A Kurta to Remember by Gauri Dalvi Pandya, Illustrated by Avani Dwivedi

Book Candy

Readers on Subways, Paper Sculptures, Literary Villains

Reinier Gerritsen "took a photo every time he saw someone reading a book on the subway," fascinating images that Slate put on display.


They're bad, which is good. In case "you need a little respite after all the goody-goody cheer of the Christmas season," Flavorwire compiled a list of "the 50 sexiest literary villains."


An anonymous artist, who "has been leaving delicate paper sculptures made from old books at locations in Edinburgh and around Scotland for more than three years," spoke with BBC Scotland... "via e-mail to maintain her anonymity."


Time featured "17 famous writers on their favorite young adult books. "


Lynne Truss, author of Cat Out of Hell, chose her "top 10 gothic novels" for the Guardian.


Lindsay Taylor and Suzanne Smith, co-authors of the Hattie B, Magical Vet series, chose their "top 10 magical worlds" for the Guardian.

Flatiron's First List

A Kim Jong-Il Production: The Extraordinary True Story of a Kidnapped Filmmaker, His Star Actress, and a Young Dictator's Rise to Power by Paul Fischer (February)
This is a wild tale: before he became the Dear Leader, North Korea's Kim Jong-Il was in charge of the Ministry of Culture and was obsessed with filmmaking. (Most of the more than 10,000 movies in his collection were American.) Aware that the country's films were of poor quality, he arranged for the kidnapping of Shin Sang-Ok, South Korea's best known director, and Choi Eun-Hee, South Korea's best known actress--who had once been married. They were held for four years--he most of the time in prison camps--until they were reunited. Kim forced them to remarry and to make nine feature films, one of which was a Godzilla ripoff. Eventually they received permission to visit Vienna, where, after a car chase, they escaped with CIA help. It's an untold story that "reads like fiction," Miller said, "a kind of Orphan Master's Son meets Argo."

The book's editor, Colin Dickerman, said A Kim Jong-Il Production has "everything I look for in nonfiction--a fascinating, untold story; an unbelievable case of characters; and the narrative drive of a thriller." He called the tale "riveting" and "meticulously researched." Fischer, he continued, provides "an oddly humanizing and personal portrait of Kim Jong-Il" and a "perfect, entertaining vehicle through which to understand an incredibly odd and fascinating culture."

Pogue's Basics: Essential Tips and Shortcuts (That No One Bothers to Tell You) for Simplifying the Technology in Your Life by David Pogue (Dec. 2014)
The long-time tech columnist for the New York Times who recently launched Yahoo's consumer-tech site, David Pogue offers 200 tech tips in this trade paperback. "No matter how sophisticated you are," Miller said, "you won't know some of these tips." One of Miller's favorites: Pogue suggests pushing your smartphone camera button before the shot to get the picture in "real time," since most smartphone cameras have a delay. Among other tips, Pogue shows how to scroll through a website using only a space bar and how to use a setting that allows owners to track lost phones. Pogue's Times stories were among the newspaper's most popular, and his TED Talk of tips has been seen by nearly four million people and added 1.5 million followers on Twitter.

You Are Not Your Pain: Using Mindfulness to Relieve Pain, Reduce Stress, and Restore Well-Being--An Eight-Week Program by Vidyamala Burch and Danny Penman (January)
Vidyamala Burch is founder and co-director of Breathworks, which offers mindfulness- and compassion-based approaches to living well with chronic pain, illness and stress, and Danny Penman is a journalist and co-author of the bestselling Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World. Burch grew up with painful back problems after a car accident, and Penman was in a hang-gliding accident. Based on their personal experiences and on extensive research, they offer an eight-week program--10 to 20 minutes a day--of mindfulness practices that can relieve chronic pain and the suffering and stress of illness. Mindfulness, they emphasize, has been shown to wean people from pain and from taking drugs for pain. Miller called You Are Not Your Pain a "clear, helpful guide to using mindfulness to treat pain." This trade paperback comes with a CD bound in.

Irritable Hearts: A PTSD Love Story by Mac McClelland (February)
After human rights reporter Mac McClelland covered the earthquake in Haiti in 2010--seeing things that shook her to the core--she returned home and found she was suffering post-traumatic stress disorder. In love with a French soldier she met in Haiti, she tried to find healing and love and understand PTSD, a process she recounts in this book. Editor Colin Dickerman called Irritable Hearts "an intense, fearless memoir; a love story; a search for healing; and a book that most importantly will further the very necessary conversation about PTSD in this country.... It's the first book to look at the condition outside the world of combat and soldiers, and it expands the definition of what constitutes trauma. It's a brave, honest, at times surprisingly funny and important story that also happens to be a riveting read."

McClelland is one of the first people to contend that PTSD is contagious--children can get it from their fathers. She also examined the depths of its effect, including what it did to her sex life. "She took the conversation out of the war zone and into the bedroom," said associate publisher Liz Keenan.

The Battle of Versailles: The Night American Fashion Stumbled into the Spotlight and Made History by Robin Givhan (March)
In 1973, as a fundraiser for the Palace of Versailles, five American and five French designers faced off on the runway: Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass, Anne Klein, Halston and Stephen Burrows vs. Yves Saint Laurent, Hubert de Givenchy, Pierre Cardin, Emanuel Ungaro and Marc Bohan of Christian Dior. Against all odds, the Americans, whose 10 models were African American, won--commanding the world's attention and becoming a powerful force in fashion. Pulitzer Prize-winner Robin Givhan, fashion critic of the Washington Post, recounts that unusual night, providing what editor Colin Dickerman calls "a great group biography that brings alive the sexiness and freedom of the '70s, managing to tell the entire history of fashion and why fashion matters in the process." Givhan also examines issues of class and race and culture.

The print edition of the book will include some never-before-seen Bill Cunningham photos and will have endpapers and gorgeous detailing--a package that suits the subject.

The Skeleton Cupboard: The Making of a Clinical Psychologist by Tanya Byron (April)
A writer and media personality in the U.K., Tanya Byron recounts her experiences in training to become a clinical psychologist via stories about seven of her earliest patients. "It's a memoir in the form of stories, and we see her evolve," Miller said. "It's an entry into the world of mental illness." The first story is about Imogen, 12, who wants to commit suicide; Barnes seeks to figure out why, and the cause is chilling. Byron also recounts how she became interested in the field: when she was 15, she saw her grandmother murdered and wanted to understand why someone would do such a thing. Byron does not take a black-and-white approach; instead she sees people as being on a spectrum. Liz Keenan called The Skeleton Cupboard reminiscent of the TV show House in its pacing and the way it explores medical mysteries.

Year of the Cow: How 420 Pounds of Beef Built a Better Life for One American Family by Jared Stone (April)
When Emmy-winning TV producer Jared Stone decided he and his family didn't know enough about the meat they were eating, he bought a cow. After the cow was butchered, he stored it in a freezer and over the course of hundreds of meals, he cooked his way through the bovine. During the journey, he discusses the ethnography of cattle, how our ancestors prepared meat and "how intense the experience of eating the cow was and its contrast to food that's processed that we don't have a connection with," Miller said. He also reveals the mistakes he made and how his and his family's lives were affected by the project.

Miller called Year of the Cow "a memoir that looks at where food comes from and the paleo trend of eating more meat. It's an entry to those trends, but more fun than a manifesto." There's a recipe at the end of each chapter. Liz Keenan added: "It's fun to see what he leaves to the end to cook!"

Book Brahmin: Paul Fischer

Paul Fischer is a film producer whose first book, to be published in February by Flatiron Books, is A Kim Jong-Il Production: The Extraordinary True Story of a Kidnapped Filmmaker, His Star Actress, and a Young Dictator's Rise to Power.

On your nightstand now:

Michelangelo: His Epic Life by Martin Gayford, Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink and Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon. And Dr. Seuss's Sleep Book propped up against them--for when my infant daughter is lying on my chest but won't go to sleep.

Favorite book when you were a child:

It was always a tie between Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie and The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas.

Your top five authors:

Budd Schulberg, Michael Chabon, Charles Dickens, Victor Hugo, Naguib Mahfouz.

Book you've faked reading:

The Bible, back in Catholic school. I think that's the only time I ever have. It was too long, too frustrating to read, and besides I'd already read the illustrated kids' version, which had all the violence cut out and featured what looked like a young, groovy, toga-clad Kris Kristofferson as Jesus. I was already pretty sure I'd always like that version better, but try telling that to the nuns.

Book you're an evangelist for:

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon.

Book you've bought for the cover:

This happens to me often, most recently with the 2014 Harvill Secker paperback of Never Any End to Paris by Enrique Vila-Matas, of which I knew nothing when I picked it up, other than it just--looked--perfect.

Book that changed your life:

The first installment of the Japanese manga series Dragon Ball. I was maybe seven years old, I liked picture books, and one day in the supermarket this 42-volume Japanese paperback collection caught my eye, and I asked my parents for it. As I remember it, my mother suggested we buy the first one and see how I got on; my dad, however, bought all 42, put them at home in a closet, and told me he'd only give me each installment if I finished the previous one. I devoured all 42 back to back like a demented little addict and have been hooked on reading ever since.

Favorite line from a book:

Two--both opening lines:

"In later years, holding forth to an interviewer or to an audience of aging fans at a comic book convention, Sam Clay liked to declare, apropos of his and Joe Kavalier's greatest creation, that back when he was a boy, sealed and hog-tied inside the airtight vessel known as Brooklyn, New York, he had been haunted by dreams of Harry Houdini." --The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon

"Marley was dead: to begin with." --A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle.


Book Review


Tesla: A Portrait with Masks

by Vladimir Pistalo, trans. by Bogdan Rakic, John Jeffries

Modernity wouldn't exist without Nikola Tesla. The Serbo-Croatian scientist invented the alternating-current motor, the basis for the electrical grids that power the world. A romantic, troubled figure, he cast a strange, beguiling shadow over everyone he met, walking through fields of electricity or spouting visionary ideas about transmitting thoughts and dreams via electromagnetic waves. It's no surprise, then, that he's been championed as a mad genius capable of anything.

Vladimir Pistalo's Tesla: A Portrait with Masks (the first of the Serbian writer's works to be translated into English) manages to convey that romanticism without ever getting lost in it. Nominally a novel, the book is more of a biography with some literary flights of fancy. Pistalo faithfully tracks Tesla's youth in modern-day Croatia, his time as a prodigious inventor and man about town in New York City, and his final days as a strange, antiquated figure. Instead of conjecture, Tesla re-creates dreams and conversations as if Tesla were a fictional character (which, by all accounts, was similar to how he acted). But even with the words "a novel" on the front cover, it's hard to avoid reading this book as true to life. Pistalo renders Tesla and his contemporaries so vividly that the line between fact and the author's imaginative powers begins to blend. The novel is perfect for readers looking for better insight into one of the greatest minds of the 19th and early 20th centuries. --Noah Cruickshank, marketing manager, Open Books, Chicago, Ill.

Discover: A lyrical telling of the life of visionary inventor and futurist Nikola Tesla.

Graywolf Press, $18, paperback, 9781555976972

West of Sunset

by Stewart O'Nan

"A poor boy from a rich neighborhood, a scholarship kid at boarding school, a Midwesterner in the East, an Easterner out West," F. Scott Fitzgerald "knew better than anyone how to live in an imaginary world." In West of Sunset, Stewart O'Nan (The Odds) fictionalizes Fitzgerald's final four years in the late '30s, spent in Hollywood scraping by, writing and editing screenplays while Zelda rides out her own ups and downs at Highland Hospital. Their years of wealth, fame and adventure are behind them, and though he lives modestly by Hollywood standards, Scott's finances are increasingly desperate, with Zelda's hospital bills to pay, their daughter Scottie's tuition and his own living expenses.

Between pills to sleep and pills to wake up, Scott struggles to hide his heavy drinking from his employers and eventually falls in love. He continues to visit Zelda as her mental illness persists and sees Scottie on holidays, while his girlfriend, Sheilah Graham, barely tolerates his drinking (not to mention his marriage). In these years, Fitzgerald begins but does not finish The Last Tycoon, his last manuscript.

O'Nan brilliantly, sensitively portrays Fitzgerald's internal drama with a tone of wry wit and doom. The nuances of Zelda's character are apt and appropriate, and appearances by Dorothy Parker, Hemingway and Humphrey Bogart add color and humor. O'Nan's characterization and dialogue are spot-on, and his choice of the less-glamorous years of his subject's life yields a beautiful, elegiac novel worthy of its model. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: F. Scott Fitzgerald's final, less glorious years in Hollywood, fictionalized with nuance and grace.

Viking, $27.95, hardcover, 9780670785957

Mystery & Thriller

The Girl on the Train

by Paula Hawkins

Rachel is a "soon-to-be-homeless alcoholic" who exists on the periphery of life since her divorce. She pines for and stalks Tom, who lives with his new family in the house he and Rachel used to share. Every day, Rachel rides a train past her old neighborhood, snatching a momentary glimpse into other lives. From this vantage point, she fixates on one couple she often sees, idolizing them: "They're what I lost, they're everything I want to be."

One day, as the train passes the house, Rachel spies the woman kissing a strange man in her backyard. This discovery shatters Rachel's illusions about the "happy" couple, so she binge drinks to the point of blacking out. The following day, when the news reports the woman is missing, Rachel vaguely recalls having exited the train in her old neighborhood that night and subsequently convinces herself that she may be involved. Unfortunately, Rachel can't remember much else--including where and how she received cuts on her hand. Determined to reconstruct the night in question and solve the mystery, she soon becomes entangled in the police investigation.

Paula Hawkins fashions The Girl on the Train from a staggered timeline and three female narrators. Rachel is the anchor, though she's not always understandable or trustworthy; Hawkins fills in the missing pieces via flashbacks and passages narrated by the missing woman and Rachel's ex's new wife. En route to a terrorizing, twisted conclusion, all three women--and the men with whom they share their lives--are forced to dismantle their delusions about others and themselves, their choices and their respective relationships. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: A jilted, single, alcoholic woman becomes entangled in a missing person case just as she's trying to get her life back on track.

Riverhead Books, $26.95, hardcover, 9781594633669


by David Thomas

Taking real-life Kriminalpolizei and SS officer Georg Heuser and the events of his life as inspiration for his novel, David Thomas (Blood Relative) tells a chilling story of how a human can devolve from fine, upstanding citizen to heartless killing machine.

Georg Heuser is a young man with strong ambition when he joins the German Criminal Police. He intends to do his job superbly and rise in the ranks accordingly. The first case he investigates--and helps solve--is a high-profile serial murderer. In grotesque irony, Heuser's superiors reward him with a promotion to SS-First Lieutenant and a transfer to Minsk, where his job is to murder helpless Jews as part of the Nazi's "Final Solution."

Though the account is fictionalized, Ostland is no less emotionally challenging than a traditional history. Thomas carefully examines the life of this respectable individual and the forces that enable his transformation to mass murderer. Without exempting Heuser from personal responsibility, Thomas questions the level of his guilt and provokes his readers to do the same.

Ostland alternates between sections told in Heuser's voice during World War II and sections told from the perspective of a pair of criminal trial lawyers 20 years later. The latter include little of the actual legal proceedings and introduce a superfluous affair that temporarily draws focus away from the power of Heuser's story. Despite the slight deviation, Thomas has created a captivating narrative with a high level of suspense and a morally charged theme. This is a horror story told with grace and passion. --Jen Forbus of Jen's Book Thoughts

Discover: A World War II-era German police officer responsible for solving a serial murder case becomes what he most despises.

Quercus, $26.99, hardcover, 9781623658496

Science Fiction & Fantasy


by Alex Gordon

Alex Gordon's debut novel opens in 1836 when the resident witches of Gideon, Ill., governed by their Master and Mistress, have the task of guarding the border between this world and the next, protecting all from the demons that roam on the other side of the boundary. To ward off evil, they perform a ritual killing, burning Nicholas Blaine at the stake, but fail to realize the full implications of his death by fire.

More than 100 years later, in 2015, a former resident of Gideon dies, leaving a mysterious book for his daughter, Lauren. After reading the book, she questions who--and what--her father really was, so she travels to Gideon in search of her father's true identity. What Lauren uncovers as she enters the bleak town where crows refuse to roost and cellphone service is nonexistent stretches the margins of everything she's ever known and believed. She must confront otherworldly beings, the strange townspeople and her own self-doubts if she hopes to survive.

Gideon is filled with supernatural entities that rise from the dead and witches who cast spells on a daily basis, in a place where this world collides with another and even time is in flux. The hierarchy of the characters and the actions they take to protect the Master and Mistress of Gideon bring to mind Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery." Fast paced and filled with lively details, Gordon's prose propels readers into a fantastical world that is haunting to the very end. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

Discover: A rapid-fire battle between modern-day witches and the demon who wants to enter this realm.

Harper Voyager, $14.99, paperback, 9780061687372

Biography & Memoir

Sympathy for the Devil: Four Decades of Friendship with Gore Vidal

by Michael Mewshaw

Many are familiar with Gore Vidal thanks to his verbal shoot-outs on TV with William F. Buckley, Jr., and Norman Mailer. Vidal called Buckley a "pro-crypto-Nazi" and Buckley retorted with, "Now listen, you queer." Readers know Vidal through his books, including his outstanding historical novels and Myra Breckinridge. He was an irascible, arrogant, abrasive S.O.B. Michael Mewshaw (Between Terror and Tourism) knew Vidal as a friend for nearly 40 years, and he pays his respects to him in this affectionate, sympathetic biography.

Vidal himself admitted he was a jerk--there's no "warm, lovable person inside... [just] cold water." Mewshaw first met him in Argentina when Vidal was 50. Contrary to popular opinion, he found him easy to talk to and friendly, "generous, hospitable, loyal to friends." Vidal took Mewshaw and his wife out to dinner that night (Gore's longtime companion, Howard Austen, came along) and picked up the tab--he always did. Vidal had an "air of aristocratic self-possession" about him, but Mewshaw also saw Vidal's lifelong generosity, something Vidal never talked about.

Vidal was famous for his opinionated remarks, and Mewshaw cites some great ones: "What are the three saddest words in the English language? Joyce Carol Oates." Mewshaw recounts many stories about his friend hobnobbing with film folk and chronicles Vidal's "slow-motion suicide" brought about by excessive drinking and depression. This "corrective portrait" is a fine rehabilitation of Vidal's legacy, sometimes brutally honest in the telling. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

Discover: A thoroughly entertaining, breezy and up-close memoir about a public man of "wealth and taste" who prided himself on his pride.

Bloomsbury, $24, hardcover, 9780374280482

The Partnership: Brecht, Weill, Three Women, and Germany on the Brink

by Pamela Katz

An exhilarating art scene burst forth during the tumultuous Weimar Republic, between the World Wars. The Partnership tells how five brilliant young theater artists came together in this high-stakes period to conceive revolutionary ideas and methods that would shape their later careers and achieve lasting international influence.

The Partnership hinges on the chaotic creation of The Threepenny Opera. Screenwriter, novelist and New York University professor Pamela Katz (who wrote the screenplay for Hannah Arendt) narrates the creative conflicts, financial and political pressures and uproarious clashes of egos that threatened disaster right up to opening night. Katz highlights the relationship between playwright Bertolt Brecht and composer Kurt Weill, but also paints strong portraits of their three gifted and enterprising collaborators--Elisabeth Hauptmann, Lotte Lenya and Helene Weigel--with respect for their achievements and the unconventional terms of their relationships.

She emphasizes that, despite their widely differing backgrounds and personalities, collaboration was a fundamental value for these artists, and their initial successes arose from their creative interdependence. But as Germany swung fatally to the right, and their community disintegrated and fled into exile, Brecht and Weill diverged in their political and artistic priorities, fell into territorial battles and went their separate ways.

Katz's account shifts between scholarly analysis and vivid, almost fictionalized scenes, peppered with idiosyncratic observations (and occasionally flawed by repetition). Nonetheless, her storytelling is powerful and grounded in thorough research. Her technical and cultural expertise and her personal experience with artistic collaboration are evident in her nuanced examination of the work lives and relationships of her controversial subjects. --Sara Catterall

Discover: An insightful addition to the history of five dauntless and iconic theater artists.

Talese/Doubleday, $30, hardcover, 9780385534918

The Last Escaper

by Peter Tunstall

The Second World War is passing from living memory into history. The number of living veterans, who are now in their 90s, is dwindling. Each one of their first-hand accounts is a precious limited resource, a distinct view on pivotal historical events and human endurance under extreme adversity. Luckily, Royal Air Force bomber pilot Peter Tunstall was able to chronicle his experience as a prisoner of war in Germany before he died at age 94 in 2013.

Tunstall was already an RAF officer by the time Britain declared war on Germany in 1939. He completed only a handful of bombing missions before he was forced to land on the German-occupied Dutch coast in August 1940. Though Tunstall spent the rest of the war as a POW, he never stopped trying to escape or, when that proved impossible, making life as difficult as possible for his captors. His first escape attempt involved an ingenious combination of disguise and distraction, a ruse later referred to by other British prisoners as "doing a Tunstall." The attempt failed only after a policeman in a German port city found Tunstall's cover story (a Swedish fisherman robbed of his identity papers) unconvincing.

Tunstall's attempts grew exponentially more complicated and daring until he was finally transferred to the "escape-proof" prison at Colditz Castle, where he earned the nickname "cooler king" for his many punitive stints in solitary confinement. Tunstall's story is often exhilarating and even funny, though the game he played had deadly consequences (using fake German uniforms nearly got him executed more than once). --Tobias Mutter, freelance reviewer

Discover: The autobiographical escapades of an RAF escape artist/POW in Nazi Germany.

Overlook Press, $27.95, hardcover, 9781468310559

Current Events & Issues

A Theory of the Drone

by Gregoire Chamayou, trans. by Janet Lloyd

Drone warfare carries a number of implications across political, social, military and cultural spheres. Despite the United States' increased use of drones for targeted killings (or assassinations or murders, depending on your persuasion), and more countries and domestic organizations eager to follow suit, Gregoire Chamayou (Manhunts: A Philosophical History) argues that substantial analysis of these implications from a philosophical perspective is lacking.

Chamayou seeks to deconstruct every positive articulation made by those in the pro-drone camp and to demonstrate that drone advocates are either intellectually dishonest, intentionally obfuscating the realities of their weapons, misinformed or naïve. In revealing the flawed reasoning put forth by proponents of drones--such as false dichotomies (claims that drones are more precise than carpet bombing, as if carpet bombing is the option that would be employed otherwise) and category errors (proponents call drones a more humane or humanitarian weapon, but nothing that is designed to kill can be truly humane)--Chamayou dismantles the notion that drones are a fully positive development for society. His argument that the drone violates all standards of Just War theory is particularly poignant as he notes that this technology shifts the focus of our society from ethics (living and dying well) to what he terms necroethics (killing well).

A Theory of the Drone, while challenging in its propositions, is necessary and compelling, as these pilotless aircraft are gradually becoming normalized. --Evan M. Anderson, collection development librarian, Kirkendall Public Library, Ankeny, Iowa

Discover: A complex and thoughtful consideration of the use of drones in both military and civilian contexts.

New Press, $26.95, hardcover, 9781595589750

Health & Medicine

The Conversation: A Revolutionary Plan for End-of-Life Care

by Angelo Volandes

In The Conversation: A Revolutionary Plan for End-of-Life Care, experienced physician Angelo Volandes focuses on the extensive, intensive, intrusive medical interventions that patients routinely receive at the end of life, many of which extend life by a matter of hours or days or not at all, while decreasing its quality substantially. He earnestly argues that every patient should be offered the option to choose among three broad categories of care: life-prolonging, limited medical and comfort care--in other words, the choice between quantity and quality of life. The Conversation advocates for all patients and families to receive information about what end-of-life care looks like within these three categories, and firmly states the importance of patients, families and medical professionals having what he calls the Conversation about end-of-life wishes openly and often.

The majority of the book is devoted to stories of patients, families and circumstances--and Volandes's own attempts, good and bad, at approaching the Conversation. With names changed, these are real-life anecdotes of choices made with more or less preparation and knowledge of what a decision will entail, or what an incapacitated patient would have wanted. The last quarter of the book is composed of several appendices and a narrative notes section that provide substantive advice for the patient or the patient's spouse or children. The Conversation is a how-to manual, enlivened by engaging--if occasionally painful--true stories. Volandes makes his points succinctly and convincingly and offers readers the tools to make change within their own lives. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: A physician's fervent quest for better information about medical options for patients nearing their end, and the steps necessary to make those choices clear.

Bloomsbury, $26, hardcover, 9781620408544

Children's & Young Adult

Stella by Starlight

by Sharon M. Draper

Sharon Draper (Out of My Mind) sets her suspenseful, hope-filled story in a small segregated North Carolina town at the time of the 1932 presidential election between Herbert Hoover and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

In the opening scene, 11-year-old Stella and her eight-year-old brother, Jojo, witness a wooden cross burning on the other side of Kilkenny Pond. "Nine robed figures dressed all in white. Heads covered with softly pointed hoods," the author begins. "Who are they?" Jojo asks. " 'The Klan.' Just saying those words made Stella's lip quiver." Draper gives young readers enough information to place the events in context. The threat is real, but the love and safety Stella finds with her family and the warm community on her side of Bumblebee, N.C., provides the antidote. The KKK, dormant for roughly three years, is showing itself because of the upcoming election. Only Stella's father, Pastor Patton and Mr. Spencer are brave enough to register to vote. And when the KKK strikes back by burning down the Spencers' home, the entire community comes to their aid--including a few white families.

Draper balances the larger cultural forces at play with the daily routines of doing chores, attending school and going to church. The author shows Stella's maturity and strength as she comes through again and again for her family and her neighbors. At the same time, Stella crafts her writing, alone and in private, trying to improve and also as a way to air her fears. Her sense of honesty and justice make her a child with whom all readers can identify. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A suspenseful, hope-filled story of a courageous 11-year-old in a racially divided town on the eve of the 1932 election.

Atheneum/S&S, $16.99, hardcover, 336p., ages 9-12, 9781442494978

The Bear Ate Your Sandwich

by Julia Sarcone-Roach

A missing sandwich leads to a shaggy dog, er, bear story with a surprise twist.

"By now I think you know what happened to your sandwich. But you may not know how it happened," says an offstage narrator. "It all started with the bear." A black bear, sleeping on the title page, rises on its hind legs, as if responding to the introductory remarks. Drawn by "the scent of ripe berries," the furry fellow stows away on a red pick-up truck. A three-part series of vignettes grow larger in size as the ursine hero climbs into the back, feasts and sleeps. The Golden Gate Bridge tells readers that the "high cliffs" rising up around him are the buildings of San Francisco. The forest there is "like nothing he'd ever seen before." Sarcone-Roach's palette feels timeless; the buildings match the truck, the cars and arched doorways match the sky, and the sun-kissed facades look golden. As the bear looks about in wonder, the farmer stares at the back of his red pick-up, scratching his head. Children will love knowing more than the bear does (and more than the sandwich owner), and the author's consistent hues throughout create a self-contained world.

As "leafy green smells led the bear to new fun," Sarcone-Roach shows a park with a slide, and "that is when he saw it./ Your beautiful and delicious sandwich. All alone." But alas, the thief has witnesses: an attentive pen of pups! After a few more turns, the ending delivers its final surprise. Did the bear eat the sandwich? --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A shaggy dog, er, bear story with a surprise twist and sumptuous acrylic paintings.

Random House, $16.99, hardcover, 40p., ages 4-7, 9780375858604


Author Buzz

The Wild Card
(A Rivers Wilde Novella)

by Dylan Allen

Dear Reader,

"What if…?" is my favorite question to ask myself when I start writing a book. The answers that Cassie and Leo's story delivered were unexpected and heartwarming. Adding a heist and serendipitous reunion into the mix took my tried and true favorite trope, second chance, to a whole new level. Theirs is a classic case of right person/wrong time. Whether you're a Rivers Wilde newbie or expert, watching them overcome some pretty steep hurdles is a wild, thrilling, feel good ride.

I hope you love every word. xo,

Available on Kobo

AuthorBuzz: 1001 Dark Nights Press: The Wild Card (A Rivers Wilde Novella) by Dylan Allen

1001 Dark Nights Press

Pub Date: 
January 16, 2024


List Price: 
$2.99 e-book


Kids Buzz

Where Do Ocean Creatures Sleep at Night

by Steven J. Simmons and Clifford R. Simmons
illus. by Ruth E. Harper

Dear Reader,

My newest and latest in a three-book series, Where Do Ocean Creatures Sleep at Night?, came from seeing the fascination so many kids have with the ocean and ocean creatures. How do a whale, octopus, dolphin, clownfish, great white shark and so many other undersea animals get their rest?

After all, they need to get their rest and sleep, just like all of us. So dive into this rhyming STEM picture book to encourage a love of nature and the environment--and under the covers for a great bedtime story.

"What do animals do when children are sleeping? Featuring creatures young children are likely to know, this book has the answers....[and] unusual nighttime facts are a plus." --Kirkus

Steve Simmons

KidsBuzz: Charlesbridge: Where Do Ocean Creatures Sleep at Night? by Steven J. Simmons and Clifford R. Simmons, illus. by Ruth E. Harper


Pub Date: 
April 16, 2024


Type of Book:
Picture Book

Age Range: 

List Price: 
$17.99 Hardcover

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