Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Workman Publishing: The ABCs of Queer History by Seema Yasmin, Illustrated by Lucy Kirk

From My Shelf

Beach Reads

This issue, focusing on books we'd consider to be Beach Reads, gives us an opportunity to think about fun books. Not that reading serious works can't be a pleasure, but we're talking about escapism here.

For many, a perfect place to escape to is a British village of a certain era. Look no farther than the Grantchester mystery series (Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death, ...the Perils of the Night, ...the Problem of Evil and 2015's Sidney Chambers and the Forgiveness of Sins), published by Bloomsbury USA. James Runcie's atmospheric books begin in 1953, with cleric-detective Canon Sidney Chambers and his friend Inspector Geordie Keating involved in multiple mysteries per volume, à la Father Brown. The novels are delightful, with just enough darkness to give them a bite. And if you haven't discovered the PBS series Grantchester, with dishy James Norton as Chambers and Robson Green as Keating (and the canon's adorable dog, Dickens), get thee to Netflix.

A more sinister mystery, set in the wilds of the Falklands, is Little Black Lies by Sharon Bolton: three unreliable narrators, and an ending that may have to read twice. Or thrice. Baseball fans will be enthralled by Jon Pessah's The Game: Inside the Secret World of Major League Baseball's Power Brokers, whether their sympathies lie with the owners or the players (and at 656 pages, it will last you a long summer season). Food writer Ruth Reichl's first novel, Delicious! (now in paperback), features a young woman named Billie Breslin who works for an ill-fated food magazine, reminiscent of the now-defunct Gourmet. James Beard (appearing in a cache of old letters), Billie's beloved sister and a soupçon of romance make this a satisfying souffle of a book. A Sting in the Tale: My Adventures with Bumblebees (also in paper) by Dave Goulson explains the lives and behaviors of the insects we owe so much to. They are of the tribe Bombini--a honey of a word to soothe when a bee buzzes too close for comfort. --Marilyn Dahl, editor, Shelf Awareness for Readers

Frog & Toad: Now Streaming on Apple TV+

The Writer's Life

Kimberla Lawson Roby Has a Lot to Say

photo: Paul Crave

Kimberla Lawson Roby is the author of the Reverend Curtis Black series. The Ultimate Betrayal, just out from Grand Central Publishing, is the 12th book of the series and Roby's 22nd novel overall. She and her husband live in Rockford, Ill.

In the third grade, Mrs. Ellson told Kimberla Lawson Roby, "You have a lot to say." As an elementary school child, that characteristic sometimes got her into trouble. But it was this statement and others like it from her teachers that helped Roby make the decision that would change her life.

When considering college and careers, Roby explored writing possibilities. But the financial allure of the business world won out. By the age of 30, however, Roby thought maybe she'd made a mistake.

"I was working in corporate American--and then as a financial analyst for the city--and I just felt like there was a void in my life," Roby said. So she sat down to figure out what was missing, and the voices of the teachers who had praised her writing years ago returned to encourage her once again. This time she opted to pursue her passion rather than money.

While maintaining her full-time job, Roby wrote nights, weekends and holidays. Family and friends helped to make it possible, picking up the household slack where it was needed. "I wrote the very first three chapters over a week and half. Then I was editing and tweaking them for a month. Finally a friend said, 'these chapters are fine. You have to move on.' " Reluctantly, she did, and Roby learned to save the larger parts of her editing for when the first draft is complete. She also began writing in chapters. "It felt complete to finish a chapter. I never finish writing for the day in the middle of a chapter. I don't feel like I can sleep at night otherwise."

Seven months later, Roby completed her first book, Behind Closed Doors. She did her due diligence and found a list of agents she knew were interested in African-American contemporary literature, agents she felt could be a good fit for her writing. In her naiveté, she wrote to them all, thinking she would have her pick of representation. Instead, she received rejection letters from every agent. Then she tried submitting her manuscript to publishers directly, only to receive more rejection letters.

Instead of giving up the dream of publishing, Roby used her business background and started her own company. "I read every book on the subject," she said, "and I learned what I would need to do to get the book out on a national level." She put together a release party, inviting influential individuals she knew personally and they in turn drew coveted media attention--as well as more than 500 guests. Behind Closed Doors went on to be a #1 Blackboard bestselling book. With that success in hand, Roby returned to the agents and found a more receptive audience. Her established record of sales persuaded Kensington to publish her second book, Here and Now.

These days when Roby is writing the initial draft of a new book, she doesn't have to worry about a day job. She's been writing full time since the release party for Behind Closed Doors. She carves out six to eight weeks with no travel or outside appointments and dedicates 10 to 12 hours each day to writing. "Everyone knows Kim's on her writing deadline," she said about her family. Roby's process starts with an outline of about half the book. But, she said, "Things start to change from the outline as characters begin taking on a life of their own. And I never know the ending until about a week before I write it."

Casting the First Stone is Roby's third novel and the first in her Reverend Curtis Black series. But she admitted, "I never wanted to write a series. I was afraid it would be too much and I wouldn't be able to keep it fresh." The repeated queries from her readers asking when Curtis Black would return ultimately nudged Roby into telling more of his story. "I wrote the fourth book and then the fifth book, but readers never stopped asking about Curtis Black. I couldn't believe people wanted to see someone who was so bad, but readers love to hate him and they love to see him get his just deserts."

In the current novel, The Ultimate Betrayal, it's Curtis's daughter, Alicia, whom readers love to hate. Roby says, "Alicia is her father's daughter; like Curtis, she doesn't learn her lesson." Alicia was married to Phillip Sullivan in The Best of Everything, an earlier entry in the series. The outcome wasn't favorable, but she's getting a second chance with the good pastor in The Ultimate Betrayal. However, Alicia's ex-drug-dealer boyfriend is out of prison and set on winning Alicia back. Roby puts Alicia into an ethical tug-of-war where she's forced to confront the question, "What do you do if you know that someone is your soul mate?"

While Alicia is her father's daughter, Roby has learned that readers aren't as apt to forgive her female characters. "There's a double standard, " she said. "Men can have affairs and people look down on them, but they aren't going to be ostracized. Readers have had a lot more to say about the women in Curtis's life." An interesting situation, possibly one for the good Reverend to explore in a future novel.

Born and raised in and around the church, Roby hasn't had to do a lot of research about the church's inner workings or its congregants. But other concerns Roby addresses in the books have required research. "I want to address the issues we don't talk enough about," Roby explains. One such topic in The Ultimate Betrayal is anorexia. With Alicia's good friend Melanie--a successful nurse practitioner in her late 20s--Roby explores how self-esteem issues can strike even the unlikeliest of candidates.

Giving voice to important issues, creating characters readers love to hate, passionately pursing her goals--these have all resulted in much success for Kimberla Lawson Roby. She's an NAACP Image Award winner, a recipient of the AAMBCA Female Author of the Year award and a bestseller on many respected lists, including the New York Times, USA Today and the Washington Post. Another secret to her success is her connection with readers. For Roby, "It's always been trying to connect with one reader, one book club at a time. Social media has created a whole new avenue from when I first started writing. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram give us a chance to interact in real time. It's fun for the readers and for me to have more of a personal connection. It changes the whole landscape of the reader-author relationship, and they become readers for life."

With no shortage of readers and a hugely successful series that was never meant to be, Kimberla Lawson Roby is evidence that you never know where life is going to take you, but with passion and faith, anything is possible. --Jen Forbus of Jen's Book Thoughts

Book Candy

Best Literary Love Songs, Opening Lines

In the midst of wedding season, "the 10 best literary love songs" were chosen by Quirk Books, which noted that "for those couples with a bookish inclination, we've pulled together some of the best lit-infused songs that are perfect for the reception, the first dance or even just a romantic Spotify playlist."


"The evolution of the Internet novel, 1984 to present: a timeline" was featured by Flavorwire.


Bustle explored the possibilities "if Jane Austen's leading ladies tried OkCupid."


Where the Wild Things Are: 4.2 minutes. Personal Creations calculated "how long it takes kids to read popular books."


"All this happened, more or less," Kurt Vonnegut wrote in Slaughterhouse-Five. Buzzfeed showcased "53 of the best opening lines in literature."

"Before I got fired I used to tell my students that bad choices make for good stories," novelist Matt Sumell recalled in recommending his "top 10 fictional troublemakers" for the Guardian.

Great Reads

Rediscover: Works of James Salter

James Salter, described by many as "a writer's writer," someone who didn't so much write as sculpt prose, died last Friday at age 90. The New York Times quoted Michael Dirda as saying about Salter, "he can, when he wants, break your heart with a sentence." Although he won awards and was respected by critics and other authors, sadly he was, as James Wolcott wrote in Vanity Fair, the country's most "underrated underrated author."

The Hunters, Salter's first novel, was based on his experience as a fighter pilot in the Air Force during the Korean War; it was published in 1956 and was made into a movie starring Robert Mitchum in 1958. (A West Point graduate, Salter was still in the Air Force when the book appeared.)

Perhaps his best-known work was the 1967 novel A Sport and a Pastime (available in paperback from FSG), about a passionate affair between an American student and a young Frenchwoman;  Salter considered it his best work. (He loved France.)

Light Years, published in 1975, details the happiness and flaws of a marriage. His 1988 short story collection, Dusk and Other Stories, won the PEN/Faulkner Award, and one of its stories, "Twenty Minutes," was the basis for the 1996 movie Boys. Burning the Days was his 1997 memoir. Salter's last novel, All That Is, was published in 2013, and like all his books, received rave reviews.

The multi-talented Salter was also a screenwriter and wrote, among others, the screenplay for Downhill Racer.

Book Review


The Jezebel Remedy

by Martin Clark

After three legal thrillers (the first memorably titled The Many Aspects of Mobile Home Living), veteran Virginia circuit court judge Martin Clark sets his fourth among the strip malls, tattoo joints, Ace Hardwares and gentleman farms of Martinsville, Va. The Jezebel Remedy centers on the marriage and legal practice of Joe and Lisa Stone--hardworking small-town lawyers who defend the defenseless and don't mind providing counsel to local outlaws and oddballs. "Petty Lettie" VanSandt is a prime example of the latter. A tattooed, animal-rescue, police-harassing, necromancer nutcase, she wastes Joe's hours with secret potion patent filings and lawsuits against perceived frauds like lightbulbs that don't last the promised year or a broken set of "clackers" (a 911 operator pictures Lettie "sitting there at her trailer with her gold tooth, wild-eyed, up to her neck in cats and dogs, probably juiced on meth, banging them balls together as fast as she can go until they shatter"). When Lettie offers one of her elixirs to a big pharma company and then suspiciously turns up dead in a meth cookhouse fire, Joe and Lisa find themselves in a complicated big-city case with their jobs and lives on the line.

Clark's legal bona fides provide plenty of courtroom and insider evidentiary drama, but his story also draws juice from moments of discord and reconciliation in Joe's and Lisa's 20-year marital and professional lives. Lisa's adulterous slip ("a needle full of passion... a two-day jolt over her for-as-long-as-I-live promise"), Joe's unbillable work wasted on Lettie, even the loss of their office-sharing dog, Brownie, provide a nice domestic balance to a plot full of crime-solving and legal maneuvering. With fiction talent like this, one wonders why Clark still sits on the bench. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: Martin Clark's fourth legal thriller involves small-town Virginia lawyers up against a global pharmaceutical behemoth.

Knopf, $27.95, hardcover, 9780385353595

The Sunlit Night

by Rebecca Dinerstein

Set on a Norwegian island 95 miles above the Arctic Circle, Rebecca Dinerstein's debut novel, The Sunlit Night, is the wistful story of two young people--one American, the other a Russian immigrant to the United States--thrust by misfortune into a romantic encounter in this most unlikely of places.

The novel pairs recent college graduate Frances, fleeing a failed relationship and her parents' crumbling marriage in New York to intern with an artist who paints only in the color yellow, and 17-year-old Yasha Gregoriov, whose first return visit to Moscow from his home in Brighton Beach in Brooklyn is shattered by the sudden death of his father. Determined to carry out his father's wish to be buried at the "top of the world," Yasha accompanies the body to the Viking Museum, a decidedly modest attraction where tourists come to celebrate events like the whale meat festival and to practice archery while picnicking on a boulder-strewn beach, where the elder Gregoriov is buried. "Yasha and I had both come a rather far and strange way, toward either an end or a height," Frances observes.

In her first novel, Rebecca Dinerstein has demonstrated a level of mastery that would be impressive even in a much more seasoned writer. The Sunlit Night is a funny, wise and tender story, a near perfect blend of disparate elements that's reflected in the ambiguous, yet vaguely hopeful, ending that provides the fitting conclusion to this unusual love story. --Harvey Freedenberg, attorney and freelance reviewer

Discover: A tender love story set on a remote Norwegian island.

Bloomsbury, $26, hardcover, 9781632861122

The Household Spirit

by Tod Wodicka

In The Household Spirit, Tod Wodicka (All Shall Be Well; and All Shall Be Well; and All Manner of Things Shall Be Well) writes again of Queens Falls, a remote community in upstate New York. The novel focuses on two adults--strangers, lost souls--who have long lived adjacent to each other in the only two houses for miles on a remote stretch of Route 29, "a twisted old country road" that serves as an auxiliary pass-through. Their houses were twins--"once identical, now fraternal"--built in the 1860s, when paper mills were the boon of the region.

In the house with original wood siding lives Howie Jeffries, a morbidly shy, divorced 50-year-old. Howie's wife left him 20 years before, and he has lost touch with his daughter, Harriet, a free-spirited young woman pursuing an art career in New York City. After two decades of living on his own, Howie still considers the residence "his family's house."

Emily Phane grew up in the aluminum-sided home adjacent to Howie's. Now 24 and struggling to cope with, and conceal, a debilitating condition that makes her too terrified to sleep, Emily is summoned home from college to care for the doting grandfather who raised her after he suffers a stroke.

Finely nuanced details and multi-layered dark comedy are Wodicka's strong suits. Howie's and Emily's alternating viewpoints reveal their vulnerabilities and enrich their well-drawn characterizations in a poignant, revelatory story of the liberating nature of truth and friendship. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: An unlikely bond between neighbors that propels them from the sad inertia of their respective lives.

Pantheon, $26.95, hardcover, 9780307377050

Old Heart

by Peter Ferry

Peter Ferry (Travel Writing) crafts a wise and delicate novel of aging, love and autonomy in Old Heart.

Tom Johnson is 85. He has been widowed, and thereby freed from a troubled marriage. His adult children have begun pressuring him to sell the house in Illinois and move into a home, and the death of a son who had Down syndrome has given Tom the opportunity to pursue an old mystery. So Tom runs away, leaving no clues behind save a note for his family: "I am not coming back." He then travels to the Netherlands to track down a Dutch woman he knew during World War II, with whom he had "invented love."

The half-hidden narrator of Old Heart is Tom's granddaughter Nora, a graduate student who had just begun recording the story of Tom's return from the war and the beginning of his long-lived but unhappy marriage. When Tom makes his escape, Nora is the only one he takes into his confidence, and she relates parts of his story from her perspective. In other chapters, he chronicles his personal history in long letters to Nora.

Old Heart is earnest and occasionally sentimental, but also pensive and eventually enlightened. It is at once a romance, a meditation on the complications of end-of-life independence and the responsibilities of family, and a lovely personal history. In a slim, unassuming read, Ferry opens intriguing questions and introduces his reader to complex and deeply likable characters. The result is delightfully warm and universally appealing. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: A sweet, tender story of an old man's search for a long-lost lover and the less elegant realities of aging.

Unbridled Books, $16, paperback, 9781609531171

Madeleine's War

by Peter Watson

Peter Watson (who wrote Gifts of War under the pen name Mackenzie Ford) entertains with Madeleine's War, a novel of World War II romance and intrigue starring fictional characters but with a historically accurate background.

Matthew fought on the ground in France with a secret British resistance unit until he suffered a severe injury. In his new role training fresh recruits, he meets Madeleine, a beautiful, talented French-Canadian woman determined to contribute to the war effort. Matthew's job is to train Madeleine for intelligence and sabotage before she parachutes behind enemy lines. Her superior officer, he is not supposed to fall in love with her, but the two nonetheless embark upon a passionate, short-lived affair, before she is sent to France and disappears.

Despite its title, Madeleine's War is told from Matthew's perspective, leaving the reader as in the dark as he is after Madeleine vanishes in Nazi territory. He is then left to track her down--out of both love and duty, which sometimes conflict. The plot then twists again as Matthew is given an uncomfortable mission of his own to carry out.

Watson's expertise as a historian lends credibility to the context of this story: in his afterword he states that the geography, training procedures, technologies and secrecy he portrays are all based on fact. Matthew and Madeleine and their colleagues are Watson's own creations, painted with a rosy, romantic glow but also exposed to the glaring realities of war. Romance fans and war buffs will be equally pleased with the result. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: A nuanced marriage of military history and romance, set in a secret British resistance unit during World War II.

Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, $26.95, hardcover, 9780385539791

Eight Hundred Grapes

by Laura Dave

When Georgia Ford looks out the bridal shop window and spots her fiancé, Ben, with another woman, she reacts instinctively: she jumps in her car and drives nine hours--in her wedding dress--to seek solace at her parents' northern California vineyard.

In Laura Dave's (The First Husband) fourth novel, Eight Hundred Grapes, Georgia and Ben's romantic woes are just the beginning of tumult. Georgia arrives at the Sonoma vineyard looking for comfort but finds her close-knit family in the throes of crises rivaling her own.

Her parents are "taking time apart"; her father's decision to sell the beloved but demanding Last Straw Vineyard is too late to save their marriage. Georgia's twin brothers love the same woman, and their triangle is torn by real and perceived alienations. While the family rallies to support Georgia, their advice varies on how to handle the shock of learning Ben has a daughter from a previous relationship and that he's friendly with her glamorous mother.

With the wedding date picked to coincide with the celebratory grape harvest, Georgia has to decide soon if she'll go through with the ceremony. As she weighs her options, she realizes that her threatened nuptials are perhaps not what's tugging hardest at her heart. Rather, it's the loss of the vineyard, so she fights the planned sale to the rival winery and its forthright (and handsome) CEO.

Decisions remain bottled until the end of this fast-paced novel, which holds surprises and satisfying conclusions for the family and the harvest both. Eight Hundred Grapes is a delightful read by itself but pairs perfectly with a good California wine. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, manager, Book Passage, San Francisco

Discover: A novel of romance, family love and the healing power of a vineyard.

Simon & Schuster, $24.95, hardcover, 9781476789255

Mystery & Thriller

Manhattan Mayhem: New Crime Stories from Mystery Writers of America

by Mary Higgins Clark, editor

As part of its 70th anniversary celebration, the Mystery Writers of America has published an anthology of crime stories set in Manhattan, where the MWA national office is located. Manhattan Mayhem, edited by Mary Higgins Clark, boasts a handsome cover depicting a map of the island and the location of each story; inside are 17 contributions from authors including Lee Child, Thomas H. Cook, T. Jefferson Parker, S.J. Rozan and Clark herself.

As with any collection, there are standout stories and less successful efforts. The strongest ones include Ben H. Winters's "Trapped," a witty entry written in the format of a play about the murder on the set of a Chelsea production of the Broadway thriller Deathtrap; Cook's "Damage Control," which reveals a heartbreaking misunderstanding between a Hell's Kitchen resident and his former foster daughter; and Nancy Pickard's "Three Little Words," about the tragic consequences of an Upper West Side, terminally ill woman's attempts to tell only the truth in her remaining days. Child's and Rozan's stories feature their series characters Jack Reacher and Lydia Chin, respectively, though Chin is referenced only because her amateur-sleuth mother takes the focus.

Even when the stories are less satisfying, they're accompanied by pictures and maps of landmarks to aid readers in planning a trip to the city and exploring a metropolis that always seems to have more stories to tell. Fans can also learn some local history and perhaps wax nostalgic about bygone days. --Elyse Dinh-McCrillis, blogger at Pop Culture Nerd

Discover: A collection of stories by Mystery Writers of America members about crime in Manhattan.

Quirk Books, $24.95, hardcover, 9781594747618

Biography & Memoir

My First Hundred Years in Show Business: A Memoir

by Mary Louise Wilson

Octogenarian character actress Mary Louise Wilson has a face that's more familiar than her name. "I'm not well known, I didn't have a glittering career studded with affairs and celebrities," she writes. What she is, however, is a survivor in a very tough profession, and a born storyteller with a deliciously acerbic sense of humor about everything, especially herself.

In her mid-50s, Wilson realized that she had to take control of her flagging career by writing (with Mark Hampton) and starring in Full Gallop, a one-woman show based on the life of Vogue magazine editor Diana Vreeland. The focus of My First Hundred Years in Show Business is Wilson's eight-year journey to bring Full Gallop to the stage. "If you never want to hear from somebody again, send them your play," Wilson writes.

Alternating with this long-gestating project are short, juicy chapters covering her film, TV and theater roles and her private life. Wilson has decades of great backstage anecdotes, starting with her Broadway debut in the 1963 flop Hot Spot starring Judy Holliday--who fired several directors and refused to speak to Wilson offstage. Wilson's behind-the-scenes stories are equally compelling: an accidental overdose, an African American cross-dressing boyfriend, a pre-legal abortion and a cocaine-addicted dentist who used Crazy Glue to fix her teeth.

Wilson won major theater awards in her sixth and seventh decade and has no interest in retiring. At age 82, she writes, "The need to perform doesn't die. It's like lust; it's like throwing a lit match on a pile of dry hay." --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant

Discover: Wilson's frank and fascinating story of perseverance will encourage aspiring actors and entertain theater buffs.

Overlook Press, $28.95, hardcover, 9781468310856

Essays & Criticism

Behind the Mask: A Life of Vita Sackville-West

by Matthew Dennison

In Behind the Mask: A Life of Vita Sackville-West, British journalist and biographer Mark Dennison (The Last Princess) focuses on the complex individual behind the early-20th-century icon. This balanced life history reveals a famous writer, horticulturalist and gardener, baron's daughter, respectable Edwardian wife and mother, and passionate lover of men and women--most famously Virginia Woolf.

Vita Sackville-West was born in 1892, into aristocratic privilege. At age 21, Vita married the diplomat Harold Nicolson. Though they both vigorously pursued other--mostly same-sex--lovers, they remained a devoted couple until Vita's death in 1962. Dennison recounts the details of Vita's affairs with her childhood friend Rosamund Grosvenor, the novelist Violet Trefusis (née Keppel) and Virginia Woolf with objective restraint and a multitude of details. Vita's affair with Woolf seems to have been less emotionally intense but was important as a friendship with another writer, a point crucial to Dennison's argument that Sackville-West's literary legacy transcends her taboo-breaking sexual behavior. She twice won the Hawthornden Prize for poetry, published many widely praised novels and biographies, and later wrote an influential weekly garden column in the Observer, which, along with her care of her famous gardens at Sissinghurst, helped secure her place in history as a garden designer.

Dennison is a meticulous and respectful chronicler of Vita's life. Thoroughly researched, with liberal quoting from her diary, letters and books, his narrative retains an urgency colored by details worthy of the best British costume dramas, and reveals a complex, gifted, charismatic but conflicted woman whose many and wide-ranging accomplishments, long obscured by her sensational life, deserve recognition. --Jeanette Zwart, freelance writer and reviewer

Discover: A revealing biography of the writer and horticulturalist Vita Sackville-West.

St. Martin's Press, $29.99, hardcover, 9781250033949

Travel Literature

The Ghosts Who Travel with Me: A Literary Pilgrimage Through Brautigan's America

by Allison Green

Published in 1967, Trout Fishing in America by Richard Brautigan was hugely popular. It's an episodic, zany, picaresque novella that begins in San Francisco and ends in rural Idaho. Allison Green (Half-Moon Scar) was four when it came out. Just as Brautigan's book celebrated a more pastoral America in retrospect, Green's delightfully whimsical memoir, The Ghosts Who Travel with Me, is an appealing look back to a time she wishes she had participated in. She travels with her partner, Arline, from Seattle to Boise, then up into the Sawtooth Mountains in pursuit of the ghosts of Brautigan and his America.

Structurally, her book mirrors Brautigan's. She, too, employs short, episodic chapters on a variety of topics: her parents' record collection, hamburger frying, her inner trout. Brautigan was the first lyrical writer she ever read, the "first writer more interested in sentences and words than story. I responded by shrugging into the pajamas of his style." Her memoir goes back and forth, to her youth and the experiences that were important to her when she was growing up, to her and Arline's current road-trip adventures, including fretting about possible encounters with the Aryan Nation members camped out in North Idaho."

Retracing Brautigan's route, they seek out the lakes and rivers he fished in. When Green finally finds an empty mountain campsite Brautigan used 47 years ago, she feels like a "pilgrim to an abandoned religious site." Her entertaining memoir is heartfelt, filled with an intimate and welcoming charm. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

Discover: A woman's lifelong desire to drive the same route Richard Brautigan described taking years ago in Trout Fishing in America.

Ooligan Press, $15.95, paperback, 9781932010770

Children's & Young Adult

Finding Audrey

by Sophie Kinsella

Sophie Kinsella (Confessions of a Shopaholic) successfully translates her trademark humor into a warm and thoughtful YA novel dealing with mental illness.

Audrey has been traumatized as the victim of bullying and been taken out of school. The book opens months after her recovery has begun; she still has to wear sunglasses in her home because she can't make eye contact with anyone. Her brother Frank, an online gaming enthusiast, only seems to care for himself, and her baby brother, Felix, is her sole source of comfort. When Linus, one of Frank's gaming buddies, comes to the house, Audrey is at first terrified, but they slowly develop a friendship. Linus is incredibly patient with Audrey, and their friendship blooms into romance.

Often funny, but also sensitive and insightful, Kinsella wisely chooses not to examine the episodes of bullying, but focuses instead on the repercussions and Audrey's slow and painful recovery. The author is most successful when examining Audrey's interior monologue, and demonstrating the fear that paralyzes Audrey in every social circumstance. But she also has created likable and credible characters in Audrey's circle: from Frank, the typical gaming slacker who shows extraordinary sensitivity to his sister when she needs it most, to Audrey's credible and sensitive therapist, and her mom, the wacky neurotic obsessed with the Daily Mail, who has sacrificed much to help Audrey recover.

Kinsella proves that YA is a natural transition for her, and that she can handle weighty and complex themes. --Nan Shipley, literary scout

Discover: Sophie Kinsella's YA debut is an insightful and deft handling of teen mental illness.

Delacorte, $18.99, hardcover, 304p., ages 12-up, 9780553536515

Those Girls

by Lauren Saft

Lauren Saft's debut novel exposes the psychology of a codependent trio of friends at a wealthy all-girl school in suburban Philadelphia.

Readers get to know 16-year-old Alexandra Holbrook, Mollie Finn and Veronica Collins through their alternating first-person narratives. Alex and Mollie have been friends since kindergarten at Harwin. Veronica didn't arrive until fifth grade and still feels like the interloper. Alex is also "best friends" with Drew, who attends Harwin's brother school, Crawford. Secretly, Alex is in love with Drew; she is the only virgin of the three-way friendship. Mollie is obsessed with Sam, her football-star boyfriend and the most sought-after guy at Crawford. Veronica savors the attention she gets from guys, mainly because of her reputation for giving them what they want. The dynamics change swiftly and dramatically when Alex joins a band, and Drew and Veronica start dating. Then Veronica starts surreptitiously sleeping with Sam--betraying both Mollie and Drew.

Saft starts with surface impressions--the persona that each teen displays--then reveals their motives, their insecurities and their humanity. They keep so many secrets when all they really want is to be able to count on their friends' loyalty. When two of the friends gang up on the third to exact revenge, it nearly results in tragedy and serves as the wake-up call they need. Saft uses strong language and graphic sexual situations to convey living, breathing teens. This is a beachtime page-turner likely to grab some adult fans, too. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A debut novel that explores the psychology of a codependent trio of friends at a wealthy all-girl school.

Little, Brown, $18, hardcover, 330p., ages 15-up, 9780316403665


Author Buzz

My Royal Showmance
(A Park Avenue Promise Novel, Book 2)

by Lexi Blake

Dear Reader,

The reality TV setting made writing My Royal Showmance so much fun. Anika is expecting a boring time on her latest job but things turn when she has to step in for one of the contestants. It's supposed to be one night, but Luca has other ideas. He's looking to bring tourism back to his small country, but when he sees Anika he realizes he might do something remarkable--find love on the set of a TV show.

Lexie Blake

Available on Kobo

AuthorBuzz: Blue Box Press: My Royal Showmance (The Park Avenue Promise #2) by Lexi Blake

Blue Box Press

Pub Date: 
June 4, 2024


List Price: 
$5.99 e-book

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