Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, February 13, 2015

Poisoned Pen Press: That Night in the Library by Eva Jurczyk

From My Shelf

No Hearts

Seth Greenland

As a kid, I hated Valentine's Day. It forced me to consider the exact nature of my romantic situation. Let me take you back to Mrs. Nichtauser's fifth-grade class, the morning of February 14th. Ten-year-old me is sweating in anticipation (February, mind you. Sweating!). I was smitten with a classmate, Tina, and consumed with whether she would present me with a Valentine's Day card. That we both were in the advanced reading group and loved The Secret Garden was, to me, reason enough to believe we would spend our lives together.

Tina had another idea: Bob (Bob's literary tastes were limited to Young Reader biographies of football players). Disappointed and depressed, I stared at the clock until recess when I intended to caper and strut with such panache that Tina would immediately see the error of her ways, abandon Bob, and run across the playground to plant a kiss on my diffident lips. This did not happen, either.

You might reasonably ask, had I done anything to earn her love? Of course not. But it was Valentine's Day, a time of great possibility, and it seemed logical for my pre-adolescent self to wonder: Why not me?

Much like New Year's Eve (another holiday I can do without), Valentine's Day creates a set of unreasonable expectations. If you're not in love, you're cast as some kind of loser, and an entire day devoted to the exaltation of romance is like having that love-free status tattooed on your forehead. Much of humanity is in this pickle at some point. The general disappointments provided by our clumsy attempts at love are one of the reasons for the enduring popularity of love stories. There's something comforting about the amorous travails of others.

I met my wife in 1987. I still love her. I still hate Valentine's Day. --Seth Greenland

Greenland is a novelist, playwright, and screenwriter; his new novel is I Regret Everything: A Love Story (Europa Editions, Feb.).

The Writer's Life

Book Brahmin: Daniel José Older

photo: Kevin Kane

Daniel José Older has published a collection of stories (Salsa Nocturna) and coedited an anthology of speculative fiction (Long Hidden). His first novel, Half-Resurrection Blues (Roc), begins an urban fantasy series, and Arthur A. Levine Books will publish his first YA novel, Shadowshaper, later this year. Read Older's thoughts on writing and dispatches from his decade-long career as a New York City paramedic and hear his music at

On your nightstand now:

I'm about to finish Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward. It's utterly divine, brutal, intimate, poetic, honest. I'm also reading Recurrence Plot (and Other Time Travel Tales) by Rasheedah Phillips, a haunting afrofuturist time-travel parable, and Up Jump the Boogie by John Murillo, because I always keep a book of poetry nearby, and John is a genius.

Favorite book when you were a child:

The first book I ever loved was Hippos Go Berserk! by Sandra Boynton. That's when I was tiny. Later on, it was Homer's Iliad and All The President's Men by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. Looking back, I think what got me was the messiness of these powerful beings. Both books reveal the deeply flawed, complicated humanity of gods and politicians, all in the midst of amazing storytelling. My mom used to take me to the public library to look at those old microfiche newspapers from the Watergate era, and her stories about that time made history come to life.

Your top five authors:

Junot Díaz made voice and narrative flow make sense to me in a whole new way. Octavia Butler transformed how literature of the fantastic talks about power and history, all the while telling amazing, engaging stories. I love Shakespeare for intricate plots, incredible characters and a balance of humor, depth and sorrow. James Baldwin made truth-telling an art form. And I love Arundhati Roy both for her novel The God of Small Things and her unflinching essays.

Book you've faked reading:

I had to read Tolstoy's Anna Karenina for school, and then I lost my Kindle so I was reading on the phone app. Whenever they started debating agriculture reform, I just skipped ahead until something actually happened.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Story by Robert McKee is simply one of the most brilliant and useful guides to writing I've ever read. It's for scriptwriters, but everything applies across the board. He gets into nitty-gritty mechanics and big-picture thematic questions. I tell everyone who wants to be a writer to read it.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Max Gladstone's Three Parts Dead: that surly, unimpressed glower beneath that fantastic 'fro; the shimmering tattooed arm with the shimmering blade; the rugged, gas-lit world around her that seems both very old and very new.

Book that changed your life:

Six Easy Pieces by Walter Mosley. I drank it during a single, breathless night. Mosley's cool flow and ease with language made me realize I could find a home in genre fiction. These interconnected shorts reminded me that it's possible to say something meaningful about the world and still tell a great story. Here, the mystery becomes about something much more than just solving the crime, it's about interrelated emotional arcs, community, survival.

Favorite line from a book:

"Ojalá podamos crear un lenguaje entrador y... hermoso... para saludar al crepúsculo." ("God willing, we can create a language brave and beautiful enough to greet the new dawn.") --Eduardo Galeano

Which character you most relate to:

Kirpal (Kip) Singh, the sapper from Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient, came to life in my mind in a way few characters do. The book guides us through his ever-complicated relationship to living in two worlds--deepening dimensions of love, discomfort, community, rage, identity--and meanwhile he's defusing bombs. I read it when I was a brand-new paramedic, learning the streets of New York and learning about myself at the same time.

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

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson utterly blew my mind when I first read it. I must've been 12 or so. I was in Puerto Rico with my family, and I remember the experience of finishing it so clearly. It was so dynamic and clear in my mind: I just wanted to run--a completely physical reaction [to] words on a page.

Books that made you want to become a writer:

In my mid-20s, I read Junot Díaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Walter Mosley's Six Easy Pieces and Stephen King's On Writing. Those three books, plus the collective ferocity of Octavia Butler's entire bibliography, meant I pretty much had to write. It didn't even feel like a choice. Suddenly, the stories were there, waiting--demanding--to be told. And who was I to deny them?

Book Candy

Books, Love and Valentine's Day

To help celebrate Valentine's Day tomorrow, Bustle created a "mixtape of love songs for your literary lover," while Buzzfeed suggested "14 must-haves for the perfect booklovers' night in," "12 Valentine's Day reads if 'It's Complicated' " and, for Harry Potter fans, "14 reasons Hagrid would be the best Valentine." The Guardian's lure: "Inflame her to venery with wanton kisses: the joy of sex, 1684-style."


Fifty Shades of Grey, which opens today, inspired Word & Film to feature "Beyond curious: Fifty Shades of Grey & 8 hot book-based movies."  


If you've ever wondered about where, when and why certain books were banned, has created an infographic looking at "banned books through history to the present day."

S.J. Watson, author of Before I Go to Sleep and Second Life, picked his "top 10 books about addiction" for the Guardian.


"We usually tilt the last book on the shelf in order to prevent the books from falling," but Apostrophe Design's Bookshelf has "its own radian, which can keep the books on the shelf to one side."

Great Reads

The Transcendence of Ruby

Oprah's Book Club 2.0 new selection has been announced: Ruby by Cynthia Bond (Hogarth, $16 paperback). Back in the heyday of Oprah's original club, I knew people who would never buy her pick, assuming it was not "literature." Many of her choices have absolutely belied that assumption, and with Ruby, any hesitation needs to be quelled--this is an elegant, powerful, redemptive book. Her publisher calls it transcendent; that's not publicity hyperbole.

I was transfixed by both the story and the lush lyricism of Ruby. Our review said, "Bond manages to fully explore [memory, racism, community and the resilience of the human spirit] by entrancing the reader... human kindness and cruelty are shown as they are--inextricable." Bond describes Ruby Bell as "a constant reminder of what could befall a woman whose shoe heels were too high. The people of Liberty Township wove her into cautionary tales of the wages of sin and travel." Ruby is the focus and repository of the townspeople's fear and shame, except for kind Ephram Jennings, "a moving blur on the eyes' journey to more delicate and interesting places."

Our reviewer wrote, "Is love alone enough to overcome the scars of unspeakable abuse and ruin? In a debut novel that is striking in its blend of surety and sense of wonder, Bond asks and answers this question in some unexpected ways. This is an unusual, rare and beautiful novel that is meant to be experienced as much as read." Amen. --Marilyn Dahl, editor, Shelf Awareness for Readers

Book Review


The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins

by Irvine Welsh

It's a rare author who can hilariously skewer both the pretensions of highbrow art and the self-obsessed world of personal fitness in one book, but Irvine Welsh (Trainspotting) is more than up to the task. Known to many as Scotland's literary enfant terrible, Welsh sets his new novel in Miami, Fla., in the 21st century, where superficiality is religion. After stopping an attempted murder, Lucy, a self-absorbed personal trainer, and Lena, an overweight artist who filmed the event, begin to train together. Unhappy with Lena's lack of motivation, Lucy kidnaps her, forcing her into better habits. But while Lena does shed pounds under Lucy's psychotic fitness regimen, she also begins to take control of the relationship, leading to a disturbing confrontation.

The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins ranks as one of the more vulgar books involving kettlebells and five-mile runs (it has three graphic scenes using dildos), but Welsh's taste for the obscene rarely ruins his story. Instead, the vulgarity only amplifies the farce, pushing situations to the extreme for comedic effect. It may be hard to draw something more than superficial morals from the novel (American consumer culture is bad; men do terrible things to women if given the opportunity; etc.), but Welsh makes up for that with the sheer madcap thrust of the plot and its ever-increasing twists. Regardless of whether or not Welsh's damning satire is entirely effective, he's still crafted a funny, propulsive book. --Noah Cruickshank, marketing manager, Open Books, Chicago, Ill.

Discover: The author of Trainspotting offers a funny, cutting satire of modern life in the United States.

Doubleday, $26, hardcover, 9780385539388

Of Things Gone Astray

by Janina Matthewson

Janina Matthewson's first novel, Of Things Gone Astray, is startlingly beautiful, both ridiculous and poignant. A handful of people in London wake up one morning to find that they have lost things that matter very much to them. Delia can no longer find her way around the neighborhood she has always lived in; Mrs. Featherby's house suddenly has no front wall; Marcus's piano is missing its keys; Robert's place of work is not where it belongs, though no one else seems to be missing it (a whole building!), and his colleagues' numbers have vanished from his phone. These bizarre, surreal absences make no sense, but must be accepted as fact because they are blatant, physical. Meanwhile, a little boy named Jake finds himself attracted to lost things: he collects the contents of the Lost and Found room at school, labels and organizes objects that will likely never see their owners again.

On its face, this is a fantasy, an otherworld fortunately accessible only through prose. But Matthewson's sensitive prose helps us to consider what matters, and the means by which we hang on to those things. Through no overt metaphor, this mystical, whimsical, dreamy world of the lost and the retrieved suggests a fresh and heartfelt new way of thinking, as Jake, in his concern for lost things, may lose track of something far more important and intangible.

Of Things Gone Astray is a stunning, heartbreaking, thought-provoking song of love and memory and family and life, with something to offer any reader, bereft or not. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: A quirky, memorable debut novel about things we miss, large and small.

The Friday Project, $19.99, hardcover, 9780007562473

Love by the Book

by Melissa Pimentel

Melissa Pimentel's Love by the Book is a funny take on the dating world. Anti-heroine Lauren, a late-20s American woman in London, smokes like a chimney, drinks like a fish and is allergic to commitment. She isn't looking for anything serious; she loves dating a variety of different blokes to escape her sad past and decides to make a study of it.

After researching a number of dating bibles for sport (everything from The Rules and The Game to dating methods from the Victorian era), Lauren unleashes some of their techniques on unsuspecting men. Her recorded findings gauging the effectiveness of each method come off like journal entries, giving the whole story a conspiratorial feel. Readers will laugh until they cringe as Lauren dates men from all walks of life, including a 41-year-old biker who lives with his parents and a techie gazillionaire who's obsessed with salted shark meat. Pimentel's debut novel is not only funny and hip but also refreshing, as this female protagonist is definitively not on the eternal hunt for a husband.

Lauren's adventures will appeal to those who want to reminisce about the days of dancing all night and snogging the bartender, as well as anyone with a funny bone--Pimentel's descriptions of the myriad of Lauren's potential suitors are unbelievably entertaining. --Natalie Papailiou, author of blog MILF: Mother I'd Like to Friend

Discover: A hilarious novel detailing one American girl's wild dating adventures in London.

Penguin Books, $16, paperback, 9780143127284

Jam on the Vine

by Lashonda Barnett

LaShonda Katrice Barnett's debut novel, Jam on the Vine, is vibrant, filled with suffering and feeling. Barnett's protagonist Ivoe Williams is inspired by the life of Ida B. Wells-Barnett, newspaperwoman, suffragette and civil rights leader, and she sparkles from the first page, when she steals newspapers from her mother's white employer to revel in the smell of the ink and the magic of print. The plucky Ivoe, a native of rural Texas born just after Emancipation, receives an unlikely scholarship to attend college in Austin, where she studies printing and journalism. She returns home overqualified for the kind of work available to young black women. Under the forces of power and prejudice, the Williams family will ultimately fracture and be forced to migrate to the city, where new challenges await. Ivoe finds love and purpose in work, eventually founding a Kansas City newspaper called Jam! on the Vine, which pursues the rights of African-Americans and women.

It is no exaggeration to say the beautifully written Jam on the Vine recalls Alice Walker and Zora Neale Hurston. Sensuality, pleasure and pain, as well as the righteous difficulties of the early civil rights movement, yield a story that is passionate, inspired and lively. Barnett's (editor of I Got Thunder and Off the Record) prose flows with rhythm and feeling, and her characters both major and minor are intriguing. While Ivoe's hard, important work and her love of written words will endear her especially to readers interested in the history of journalism and the civil rights movement, this literary novel has broad appeal. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: The vivid and inspiring life of an African American newspaperwoman, civil rights activist and lover.

Grove Press, $24, hardcover, 9780802123343

Lies the Mushroom Pickers Told

by Tom Phelan

Lies the Mushroom Pickers Told, Tom Phelan's sixth novel, is a masterful portrait of Irish village life disguised as a murder mystery. Journalist Patrick Bracken heads back to the small rural town where he grew up. He visits the home of former lawyer Sam Howard and his witty wife, Elsie, to talk about two near-simultaneous deaths in 1951 that Patrick and his best friend Mikey Lamb witnessed. The two deaths had been officially ruled accidental, but Patrick knows better. The narrative toggles back and forth between Patrick's revealing conversation with the Howards in the present day and the events as they unfolded in the early '50s.

Jarlath, a priest who died after a nasty fall from his bicycle, had come home from his mission only to fleece the poor townspeople for more charity. His haughty ways invited the resentment of the town, especially given how rudely he treated his devoted siblings.

Doul Yank, a nasty old man, willed his farm to his nephew but refused to die. Instead, he lived with the younger man, expecting to be cared for, fed and allowed to go hunting for grouse--all the while lording over farm. No one was particularly upset when he was found sporting an "accidental" hole in his chest from hunting rifle.

Phelan (The Canal Bridge) finds humor and warmth in every poignant moment, with a clear eye to the reasons no one has ever come clean about the murders, even though most intelligent villagers know the truth. --Rob LeFebvre, freelance writer and editor

Discover: This warm, engaging story of a farming village in Ireland features colorful characters--and two suspicious deaths.

Arcade Publishing, $24.95, hardcover, 9781628724288

Girl Runner

by Carrie Snyder

Aganetha Smart is a 104-year-old one-time Olympic gold medalist whose fame has long since faded. Readers join Aganetha's story when she is alone in a nursing home; she has no living family or friends and spends her days trapped in her withered body. Her only escape is the memory of her life long ago.

The careful unraveling of her secretive past begins with the arrival of Kaley, a young aspiring runner, and her companion, who at first say they are friends come to visit but later claim to be filmmakers. They receive permission to take Aganetha out for the day and load her into their car, touring sites from her childhood. Though they film the old woman with Kaley, it becomes clear they want more from her than just a story. They want something from her past that will affect their future.

The resulting memories are not a sugarcoated retelling of her life, but neither are they the exhausted ramblings of a woman ready to die. Instead, the narrator of this exhilarating novel offers a no-nonsense, truthful account of her experiences, including her brief moment of international fame.

Carrie Snyder (The Juliet Stories) writes with prowess, immersing readers in each moment. The cohesive narrative maintains a fluid sense of time, moving between the present and snapshots of Aganetha's past. While the pieces of Aganetha's long life come out of sequence, Snyder's unifying themes of sibling relationships and family bonds make striking connections between the centenarian's current situation and the memories she relives. --Justus Joseph, bookseller at Elliott Bay Book Company

Discover: A centenarian remembers her Olympic gold and reluctantly remembers family secrets.

HarperCollins, $26.99, hardcover, 9780062336040

Mystery & Thriller

Long Way Down

by Michael Sears

Michael Sears (Mortal Bonds) left a lucrative career on Wall Street to write thrillers. As it turns out, he has a golden touch with words. In Long Way Down, the third in his series featuring former trader Jason Stafford, Jason is nicely set up with a "seven figure job for life" working for banker Virgil Becker, whose father's Ponzi scheme nearly sank the family business until Jason salvaged it. Virgil asks Jason to investigate an SEC insider trading charge against Philip Haley, the CEO of a breakthrough biofuel company in which Virgil's boutique bank holds a large position. Having served two years in prison for his own firm's "financial irregularities," Jason knows where the bodies are buried.

He soon finds himself meeting tycoons in back seats of limos and on terraces of Long Island estates complete with "the Times spread over glass-topped tables, the scent of fresh-brewed Zabar's coffee, and a bag of jelly-filled croissants from the Montauk Bake Shoppe." Jason uncovers fraudulent trading accounts, marital spite, bottom-feeding investor sharks and enough thievery to send him on the run from thugs hired by any number of potential suspects who want his investigation ended.

What sets Sears's novels apart is Jason's relationship with his six-year-old autistic son referred to only as "The Kid." Sears's articulation of the challenge in raising a child with autism reads as true as his Wall Street jargon. With a compelling plot and the authenticity of Jason's professional and personal worlds, Long Way Down is a solid reader investment. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: Michael Sears's third financial thriller featuring Jason Stafford, former bond trader and single father of a son with autism.

Putnam, $26.95, hardcover, 9780399166716

Graphic Books

The Sculptor

by Scott McCloud

Scott McCloud--a cartoonist nicknamed the "Aristotle of Comics" for his nonfiction trilogy explaining the art of the comic book (beginning with Understanding Comics)--explores the seedy side of art, the soul and human desire in The Sculptor. David Smith--not the real life sculptor David Smith--is a down-and-out sculptor living on the last vestiges of the fame he attained as the favored artist of a wealthy patron. He is nursing a hangover in a diner when he meets Death in the guise of his long-dead Uncle Harry. Uncle Harry offers David a deal: 200 days of creativity and fame in exchange for his life.

David agrees and is content to meet his maker until his "angel" appears. Meg, a careless, manic-depressive bike messenger with a savior complex, forces David to confront--and ultimately embrace--the darkness in his life that hinders his artistic abilities, and the fear and anxiety of being an artist whose work is on the verge of being forgotten. As David seeks to make the most of his remaining days, manically creating abstract pieces that represent the time line of his short life, he learns what it means to love and be loved, to have something within his grasp only to lose it when he least expects it.

McCloud, a master of the medium, renders a story that is at once familiar, original and emotionally resonant. He focuses his attention on the anxieties that plague talented young people who haven't performed to the best of their abilities, and situations in which the opportunities that can make or break a career prove just as fleeting as the fame that accompanies them. --Nancy Powell, freelance writer and technical consultant

Discover: A satisfying and emotionally rich graphic novel that explores an artist's fear of being forgotten.

First Second, $29.99, hardcover, 9781596435735

Biography & Memoir

Why Not Say What Happened: A Sentimental Education

by Morris Dickstein

Distinguished cultural critic Morris Dickstein (Dancing in the Dark) has written a lively, impressionistic account of the intellectual and personal transformation of a "brash Jewish kid from New York" that paralleled the U.S.'s emergence from the torpor of the 1950s into the political and cultural explosion of the following decade. Why Not Say What Happened intertwines these two narrative threads to create this engaging story of "an education of the feelings as well as the mind."

In vivid and entertaining prose, Dickstein describes his educational journey as he moved from his undergraduate years at Columbia College and on to Yale, where he obtained a Ph.D. in English literature. Dickstein had the good fortune to experience his scholarly coming of age under the tutelage of intellectuals like Lionel Trilling and Harold Bloom. His anecdotes about these and other figures (Susan Sontag; the great British critic F.R. Leavis) invigorate the memoir.

More than anything, being a participant in the societal ferment of the 1960s propelled Dickstein's desire to be "part of the cultural conversation about the changes in modern life" instead of settling for a life of quietude, teaching and writing about his specialty, English Romantic poetry. Whether he's describing his sexual initiation in the company of the woman who would become his wife, his struggle to maintain his fraying connection to his Orthodox upbringing by his refusal to abandon Jewish dietary laws or his passionate engagement with Keats's poetry, Dickstein shows why his talent would have been only half-realized had he chosen the cloistered life. --Harvey Freedenberg, attorney and freelance reviewer

Discover: Cultural critic Morris Dickstein's spirited memoir of his professional and personal transformation in the 1950s and '60s.

Liveright, $27.95, hardcover, 9780871404312


Lincoln's Greatest Case: The River, the Bridge and the Making of America

by Brian McGinty

Brian McGinty (The Oatman Massacre) uses his skills as both attorney and historian in Lincoln's Greatest Case: The River, the Bridge and the Making of America.

On May 6, 1856, the steamboat Effie Afton hit a pillar of the Rock Island Bridge--the first railroad bridge across the Mississippi. Both steamboat and bridge caught fire. The Effie Afton sank, with all its cargo. The Illinois side of the bridge collapsed onto the wreck of the steamboat the next day. In the trial that followed, the powerful steamboat interests fought the developing railroad industry for control of the Mississippi and the nation's shipping business.

McGinty sets out the complicated story with the clarity of a legal brief. He places the trial and its issues solidly in a historical context that includes the role of the Mississippi in American economic life, the Dred Scott case, Abraham Lincoln's career and westward expansion. He leads readers through the intricacies of legal principles governing interstate commerce and judicial jurisdiction, steamboat operation, bridge construction and river currents with a sure hand. He reports the day-to-day unfolding of the trial with an eye to both the personalities and the issues involved.

Lincoln's Greatest Case tells an intriguing story that will appeal to anyone interested in the commercial and industrial history of the United States, but the title is misleading. Anyone expecting a courtroom drama with Lincoln at its center will be disappointed. There is a reason the Effie Afton trial is little more than a footnote in most Lincoln biographies: Lincoln was not the lead attorney in the team defending the Rock Island Bridge. He is simply the best-known character in a colorful cast. --Pamela Toler, blogging at History in the Margins

Discover: How the legal battle over one bridge shaped the United States' westward expansion.

Liveright, $26.95, hardcover, 9780871407849

Children's & Young Adult

The Question of Miracles

by Elana K. Arnold

Elana K. Arnold (Sacred) makes her middle-grade debut with a slow-building story of 11-year-old Iris learning to live with her grief.

Iris Abernathy moves with her mother and father to Corvallis, Ore., from Seal Beach, Calif. In Corvallis, it rains every day. Iris misses the sun and most of all, her best friend, Sarah. Sarah used to tell her that "iris is the name of a flower, but also a part of the eye"; she said that Iris was sweet like a flower and also noticed things that others didn't. "But without Sarah, Iris didn't know what to do with the things she noticed." Iris accepts overtures of friendship from classmate Boris, whom many kids overlook. When she visits Boris's home after school, his mother tells Iris that he was a "miracle," he was not supposed to live. Readers learn that Iris had been standing next to Sarah six months ago, when Sarah was hit by a car, and later died. Why did Sarah die and Iris live?

In a third-person narrative that remains fully in Iris's range of understanding, Arnold explores the range of sorrow, anger and grief Iris undergoes. Her compassionate parents allow Iris the time and space to find her way while also remaining a strong, consistent presence. A bus driver and psychologist, though secondary characters, also play important roles for Iris. Her gentle explorations of faith, doubt and making a friend while still keeping Sarah close leave a powerful impression. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: Eleven-year-old Iris grieves the loss of her best friend and begins to make room for a new one.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $16.99, hardcover, 240p., ages 9-12, 9780544334649

Red Queen

by Victoria Aveyard

Victoria Aveyard's thrilling debut throws readers into a futuristic fantasy world of clashing countries, segregation and a rebellion that depends on a young thief.

In the country of Norta, at the Feats of First Friday, champions with Silver blood compete against one another using their supernatural abilities to entertain audiences of other Silvers and their servants, the Red bloods. Mare Barrow, a 17-year-old Red, knows these fights serve as a warning that any act of rebellion will lead to punishment or execution via the Silvers' many abilities--mind control, telekinesis and super strength among them. In the small city of Summerton, Mare is pickpocketing the crowd when a group of insurgents called the Scarlet Guard rise up against the Silvers and bomb a castle in the capital. Mare's attempt to pickpocket a boy named Cal (the crown prince) serendipitously lands her a job as a serving girl at the summertime castle of King Tiberias. Mare discovers that she possesses lightning talents that no Red has exhibited before, which the court covers up by posing her as a long-lost daughter of a Silver war hero and betrothing her to Cal's brother. But if one lie from the king can save her life, another lie may take it.

Class tensions run high in this trilogy's first installment. Even when Mare is aiding the Scarlet Guard, she remains wary of the rebels. A gripping, high-stakes game of power and betrayal, Red Queen is an easy pick for those seeking electrifying action and royal settings with a touch of romance. --Adam Silvera, children's bookseller and reviewer

Discover: A YA debut set in a world of clashing countries, segregation and a rebellion that depends on a young thief.

Harper Teen, $17.99, hardcover, 400p., ages 13-up, 9780062310637

I'm Glad I Did

by Cynthia Weil

Songwriter Cynthia Weil ("On Broadway," "You've Lost that Lovin' Feeling") delivers a first novel that's part mystery, part 1960s New York City period piece, with a strong feminist flavor.

"[B]efore I even hit a double-digit birthday, I made a decision. One day I would fly over my own rainbow and write a song like that one.... I'd make it to Oz too." Justice Jeanette ("JJ") Green is determined to break family rule #3: The Greens always become lawyers. The book opens as she takes "a giant step toward my not-so-secret dream and my parents' worst nightmare" by applying for a summer job in the famous Brill Building, where her Uncle Bernie is "the godfather of the music business," and all she wants to do is prove her talent. Sixteen-year-old JJ's first-person narrative takes readers into the heart of the factory-style music business, where JJ rubs elbows (at the keyboard) with the great "Sweet" Dulcie Brown (who's fallen on hard times and now works as a custodian in the Brill Building and who takes JJ under her wing), ends up writing music for Luke Silver, and gets to know "the godfather" perhaps a bit better than she wants to.

When Dulcie dies on the night they're to have dinner, JJ's questions to a neighbor convince her of foul play, and her lawyer lineage comes out as she probes into the matter. She discovers complicated connections between Dulcie, her Uncle Bernie and Luke's father that bring her out of innocence and into the music industry's underbelly. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: This debut novel from a first-rate songwriter takes readers deep into the 1960s music business.

Soho Teen, $18.99, hardcover, 272p., ages 13-up, 9781616953560


Author Buzz

The Rom-Commers

by Katherine Center

Dear Reader,

Famous screenwriter Charlie Yates wrote a romantic comedy screenplay--and it’s terrible. Aspiring writer Emma Wheeler just got hired to fix it. But Charlie doesn't want anyone rewriting his work--least of all a "failed nobody," and Emma can't support a guy who doesn't even like rom-coms, adding another bad one to the pantheon. So what choice does Emma have but to stand up for herself, and rom-coms, and love in general--and, in the process, to show her nemesis-slash-writing-hero exactly how to fall stupidly, crazily, perfectly in love?

Email with the subject line "The Rom-Commers sweepstakes" for a chance to win one of five copies.

Katherine Center

Buy now and support your local indie bookstore>

AuthorBuzz: St. Martin's Press: The Rom-Commers by Katherine Center

St. Martin's Press

Pub Date: 
June 11, 2024


List Price: 
$29.00 Hardcover

Blue Moon
(A Smoke and Mirrors Novella)

by Skye Warren

Dear Reader,

When I started writing Ringmaster Emerson Durand in the Smoke and Mirrors series, I knew he would get his own story. Insouciant. Charming. And he's actually the villain of that book. So can he be redeemed? It's the question I'm always working to answer in my books.

If he's going to deserve his own happily ever after, it's going to be a journey. A scorching hot journey!

That's what BLUE MOON illuminates. A dangerous ringmaster claims his rebellious acrobat for a sensual show you cannot miss.

Skye Warren

Available on Kobo

AuthorBuzz: 1001 Dark Nights Press: Blue Moon (A Smoke and Mirrors Novella) by Skye Warren

1001 Dark Nights Press

Pub Date: 
March 12, 2024


List Price: 
$2.99 e-book

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