Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, October 13, 2015

William Morrow & Company: End of Story by A.J. Finn

From My Shelf

Contemporary Nigerian Voices

Until recently, I'm ashamed to admit, my reading of Nigerian authors was limited to the works of Chinua Achebe (which are certainly worth reading, if you haven't already). I had been overlooking a host of more recent fiction from Nigerian voices, all of which work to highlight the complex and often misunderstood history and culture of this unusual country.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Half of a Yellow Sun provides an unflinching, heartbreaking account of the background and horrors of the Biafran War (known to some as the Nigerian Civil War) of the late 1960s. With beautiful prose and stunning descriptions of her country, Adichie's writing is not to be missed. That powerful writing is present again in Americanah, which explores the experience of a Nigerian immigrant coming to America, and is as astoundingly good as Half of a Yellow Sun.

Teju Cole's second novel also centers on a Nigerian expatriate, using the experience of the narrator's return to his hometown of Lagos to highlight the corruption of the city. Peppered with photos taken by Cole, Every Day Is for the Thief is in every way a story of place, exploring themes of immigration and home and the complexity of both.

Chigozie Obioma's debut novel, The Fishermen, was recently named to the shortlist for the 2015 Man Booker Prize for Fiction--and for good reason. Obioma's stunning novel centers on the lives of four young brothers whose lives are forever changed by an unexpected prophecy. Set against the background of a tumultuous and politically charged Nigeria in the 1990s, The Fishermen is a commanding story of time and place and destiny, and of coming of age in a particular moment in history.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg. I'm considering picking up Okey Ndibe's Foreign Gods Inc. next, or perhaps Chinelo Okparanta's Under the Udala Trees. And then it might just be time for a re-read of Achebe's Things Fall Apart. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

Jewish Book Council: 73rd National Jewish Book Award Winners

The Writer's Life

Mary E. Buser: Mental Health and Mass Incarceration

Mary E. Buser worked in the Mental Health department on Rikers Island from 1995 to 2000 during New York City Mayor Rudolph Giulani's historic crackdown on crime. She eventually oversaw the mental health of prisoners interned in the Central Punitive Segregation Unit, a facility designed to place dangerous criminals in solitary confinement. Her experiences there helped inspire her memoir, Lockdown on Rikers: Shocking Stories of Abuse and Injustice at New York's Notorious Jail (see our review below).

Your period of employment at Rikers Island ended in 2000. What led you to publish 15 years later?

When I left Rikers in 2000, I was determined to tell the world everything I had witnessed behind bars. Little did I know the world was not particularly interested. Rudolph Giuliani was still in office and the city was celebrating historically low levels of crime. The last thing people cared about was the fate of those who'd been arrested. Nonetheless, I pressed on, convinced that if people really knew, they would definitely care.

But there was more to writing a book than I'd anticipated. Although I'd always been a decent writer, I'd never attempted anything book-length and turning out a quality manuscript took years. At times I considered a ghost writer, but in the end I felt that I was the only one who could tell this story. Between working on the manuscript and trying to attract an agent, the years went by. As the rejections piled up, there were many discouraging moments, believe me. But I could never forget the faces of the people I'd met, and the stories that needed to be told, so I kept going, waiting for my opening. I never anticipated that it would be over 10 years before the opening came, but now that it has, I'm actually grateful for the timing.

The book is being released at a time of public scrutiny of our criminal justice system--with growing concerns about mass incarceration, solitary confinement, and treatment of the incarcerated mentally ill. With this heightened interest comes the potential for maximal impact of my story. Prior to the recent media explosion depicting the injustice and brutality on Rikers Island, I had a fear that no one would believe what I was saying. Now, there is no cause for doubt, and my story is that much stronger. I guess everything has its time.

Your time at Rikers was profoundly influenced by the policies of then-mayor Giuliani. Many New Yorkers still regard his “tough on crime” approach as a success, but you report that it flooded Rikers' jails and left mental health workers overwhelmed. With the benefit of hindsight, how do you view the mayor's policies?

Giuliani's aggressive policing policies resulted in the biggest jailhouse build-up in New York City history. To put things in perspective, an upstate prison like Attica houses approximately 2,000 inmates in total. At the height of Giuliani's crackdown, 24,000 inmates were held on Rikers Island! His campaign cast a wide net, picking up not only dangerous criminals, but low-level offenders--trespassers, loiterers, and the homeless and mentally ill, whose crimes were often little more than petty mischief--people whose needs could have been humanely addressed on the outside, sparing them the trauma of incarceration. But under his regime, complex social problems had but one solution: arrest! To make matters worse, he simultaneously gutted the Rikers Social Services Department, virtually eliminating critical support for the "presumed innocent," and also severed ties with the respected 25-year inmate healthcare vendor, Montefiore Hospital. He then brought in a cheaper vendor with no experience in a correctional setting. The ensuing cutbacks inevitably resulted in diminished care, with terrible consequences for all, and in particular for the mentally ill.

While I would be the last person to argue against reduced crime and safer streets, I believe the same results could have been achieved with a more thoughtful and humane approach, rather than an ever bigger hammer.

As you mentioned, the publication of Lockdown on Rikers is very timely. Presidential candidates have spoken about the problem of mass incarceration and newspapers (especially New York newspapers) are filled with stories of prison abuse. Do you have any hope that prison reform is becoming more viable?

Yes, I do. When I was at Rikers, news stories about jails and prisons were few and far between, and when they appeared, they were barely noticed and promptly forgotten. Now, there is a sustained and unrelenting barrage of stories depicting guard-on-inmate brutality, the horrors of solitary confinement, treatment of the mentally ill, and the unfairness of the criminal justice system. I see a growing groundswell of outrage, which is already prompting change.

In New York City, a progressive corrections commissioner was installed, and he has already made significant reforms to solitary confinement on Rikers Island. As recently as a few years ago, this would have been unthinkable. In addition, the recently announced reforms to solitary confinement in the California prison system, largely brought about by the Pelican Bay hunger strikes, made national headlines. With world leaders, from President Obama to the Pope, voicing their concerns, I think we are at the beginning of historic changes to our criminal justice and penal systems.  

In Lockdown on Rikers you explicitly equate solitary confinement with torture. Why do you think the general public remains untroubled by the practice?

I think a big factor is that solitary confinement is tucked away and out of sight. This punishment is carried out deep within the recesses of the already cutoff world of jails and prisons. The public never sees it up close. But even for those who might be troubled by it, I think a second reassuring factor is confidence in our criminal justice system, and an abiding trust in the constitutional prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. It is almost unfathomable to consider that our constitution could be so egregiously violated. We are conditioned to believe that human rights violations occur elsewhere--never here. But if people were to see solitary confinement up close the way I did, I think they would be horrified, and would quickly realize that the 8th Amendment is absolutely being violated. --Hank Stephenson, bookseller, Flyleaf Books

Sleeping Bear Press: Junia, the Book Mule of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson, illustrated by David C. Gardner

Book Candy

Children's Book Quotes Adults Should Know

Encurious offered "20 quotes from children's books every adult should know."


"Attention, pumpkin spice latte lovers!" Quirk Books imagined who the "pumpkin spice latte drinkers of literature" might have been.


"Want a Jane Austen quote delivered to you every day? There's an app for that," the Guardian noted.


The Buzzfeed Community collected "23 underrated horror books you have to read ASAP."


Bustle explored "the 9 stages of a hangover, as told by quotes from classic books."

Book Review

Mystery & Thriller

Named of the Dragon

by Susanna Kearsley

Since the death of her infant son five years earlier, literary agent Lyn Ravenshaw has dreaded the holidays. When her favorite client, Bridget, invites Lyn to join her for Christmas in South Wales, Lyn gladly accepts, hoping for a reprieve from her recurring nightmares. However, once the women arrive at their destination, Lyn's nighttime dreams shift into a new story: that of a woman who repeatedly begs Lyn to save her young son from the dragons. Unsettlingly, the dreams echo the real-life pleas of the young widow next door, who also has a small boy and is convinced Lyn is meant to be his protector.

Acclaimed novelist Susanna Kearsley (Season of Storms) spins an atmospheric narrative in Named of the Dragon, originally published in 1998 and available for the first time in the U.S. She creates an appealing cast of characters, setting them against a moody backdrop of steep cliffs, ruined castles and Arthurian legend. Practical, reflective Lyn and impulsive, big-hearted Bridget balance each other nicely, and they meet an engaging mix of local people, including the farm's cheery handyman and a well-known but reclusive playwright. The characters occasionally fall into types, and the story's supernatural element (involving the prophecies of Merlin and a child destined for greatness) is a bit fuzzy at times. But Kearsley's writing will keep readers enthralled as she weaves together themes of love, loss, facing one's past and the stories of British kings, both factual and legendary. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: Susanna Kearsley delivers a cozy yet atmospheric novel of love, loss and Arthurian legend set in Wales.

Sourcebooks Landmark, $16.99, paperback, 9781402258640

Devil of Delphi

by Jeffrey Siger

Jeffrey Siger is the author of six Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis mysteries. By now, Kaldis is resigned to the corruption rampant in Greek society, especially after the conspiracy he and Detective Yianni Kouros uncovered in the preceding Sons of Sparta. But even he is shocked to realize how prevalent the sale of bomba--counterfeit alcohol made of cheap booze, dangerous chemicals and even paint thinners, with authentic-looking labels slapped on--has become. When Kaldis and his team start digging into the bomba scandal that has caused several deaths in Athenian clubs, they find a world of mobsters and killers, with whispers of a terrifying boss known only as Teacher.

Kaldis and his detectives have to tread carefully: they don't want to step on the toes of Teacher, or of the members of Parliament and government officials who seem to have ties to the bomba production. Meanwhile, a shadowy killer known as Kharon (the name of the mythical ferryman to Hades) is wreaking havoc in Delphi. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it's not long before an odd connection between Teacher and Kharon emerges.

Reminiscent of Breaking Bad on AMC, Devil of Delphi is violent, action-packed and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny. With chapters told alternately from the perspective of the police and assorted criminals, the reader gets a glimpse at both sides of the story. The modern Greek setting, entertaining repartee between the detectives and the rapidly rising body count fuels this fine addition to Siger's suspenseful series. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

Discover: A violent, yet funny, thriller set in modern-day Greece goes down the rabbit hole of the bootleg liquor trade.

Poisoned Pen Press, $15.95, paperback, 9781464204326

Science Fiction & Fantasy

Killing Titan

by Greg Bear

The second entry in a military SF series from genre master Greg Bear (War Dogs), Killing Titan continues the story of Master Sgt. Michael Venn. The novel begins after a near-death experience on Mars and subsequent quarantine at a government facility with the aim of figuring out why he's hearing the voices of a long-dead alien and a recently deceased commanding officer.

A rogue faction within the military hierarchy manages to smuggle Venn out of the facility, only to place him with a group of space marines, intelligence agents and another man with similar symptoms. They face incredible odds on their journey to Titan, one of Saturn's moons, which likely holds an explanation for the voices Venn hears, and other secrets on the origin of sapient life in the universe.

Bear's signature talent, besides his thorough grounding in solid scientific speculation, is his ability to imbue his characters with strong personalities, no matter how far removed from modern day the setting is. Venn is smart and spirited, yet sees the world through the eyes of a career soldier; the story unfolds from his perspective, colored as it is by his outrageous experiences.

Killing Titan keeps the thrills coming, with engaging future-tech and descriptions of solar system travel, and never loses sight of what makes a great science fiction: conflicted human beings having to come to terms with the vast and scary universe that lies beyond our own experience. --Rob LeFebvre, freelance writer and editor

Discover: Greg Bear's latest military science fiction novel explores a deep alien mystery in the solar system through the eyes of the front line grunts who discovered it.

Orbit, $26, hardcover, 9780316224000

Biography & Memoir

The Outsider: My Life in Intrigue

by Frederick Forsyth

"Behind his mask, the writer is always watching; he cannot help it. He observes, analyzes, takes mental notes, stores nuggets of the talk and behavior around him for later use," says English author Frederick Forsyth (The Day of the Jackal; The Odessa File) in the introduction to his memoir, The Outsider: My Life in Intrigue.

If a fiction writer must rely on nuggets of his own experience for inspiration, Forsyth's life is a goldmine. He fell in love with the Royal Air Force Spitfires that dueled Nazi bombers over his boyhood home in Kent and vowed, against the sternest warnings of his schoolmasters, to join the RAF. By age 19, he had survived multiple misadventures across continental Europe, learned three languages and earned his pilot's wings.

But after flight school the RAF would only let him fly a desk, so Forsyth indulged his wanderlust by becoming a foreign newspaper correspondent. Through apprenticeships, wits and sheer luck, he landed a job at the Reuters Paris bureau in 1962, during the height of the Algerian War crisis. His experiences with the security cordon around Charles de Gaulle, who was then facing assassination attempts by far-right paramilitary nationalists, inspired The Day of the Jackal.

Forsyth's foreign reporting went on to include a stint as Reuters bureau chief in East Berlin, where he nearly caused World War III, and freelance correspondent during the Nigerian Civil War, where he witnessed combat, mass starvation and began his part-time volunteer work for MI6. The Outsider is as thrilling as Forsyth's own fiction. --Tobias Mutter, freelance reviewer

Discover: The author of The Day of the Jackal delivers an autobiography as exciting as his fiction.

Putnam, $28, hardcover, 9780399176074

Social Science

Trans/Portraits: Voices from Transgender Communities

by Jackson Wright Shultz

In his introduction to Trans/Portraits: Voices from Transgender Communities, Jackson Wright Shultz argues that while transgender experiences are increasingly present in academic writings and pop culture, the voices of transgender individuals remain largely absent from those portrayals. He works to correct this absence in discussions with 34 people who identify along a spectrum of genders.

As Shultz observes, no two of them use the same terminology to refer to themselves. Kelly came out as a girl at age 12, and was able to take puberty-suppressing medications and, later, hormones. Olivia transitioned when she was 43, and is a minister with the United Church of Christ. Alexander is asexual. Natalie is a police officer, and gives sensitivity training to departments around the state. Russ performs Deaf poetry in hir spare time (and uses the gender-neutral pronouns "ze" and "hir").

Trans/Portraits suggests that the transgender experience cannot be encapsulated in any one story. The individuals Shultz talks with have undergone various forms of transition, using hormones, surgery, both or neither. Shultz asks them about vocabulary and pronoun use; finding support in communities; intersectional identities, for example race, gender, socioeconomics and (dis)ability; seeking basic safety and medical care; and activism. The theme is diversity: of lifestyle, of desired outcomes, of identity and personality. Shultz's collection of first-person voices offers a fascinating and eye-opening view of transgender individuals and communities that will aid healthcare and education professionals, anyone with questions about gender and the general public. The uplifting message is that these are simply people, as sympathetic, interesting and varied as any other. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: Trans/Portraits collects diverse, first-person stories of transgender experience and their contexts.

Dartmouth College Press, $24.95, paperback, 9781611688078

Lockdown on Rikers: Shocking Stories of Abuse and Injustice at New York's Notorious Jail

by Mary E. Buser

In Lockdown on Rikers: Shocking Stories of Abuse and Injustice at New York's Notorious Jail, Mary E. Buser looks back on her time working in the Mental Health Department on Rikers Island, from 1995 to 2000. Buser not only examines a particularly trying time at the jail--or, more accurately, the huge complex of 10 facilities that covers the island--but connects appalling conditions on the island to failed policies that have stayed in place through the present day.

Buser worked at several locations on Rikers, eventually rising to become acting chief of Mental Health at the Otis Bantum Correctional Center. The OBCC is prominent in Buser's narrative because it incorporates the Central Punitive Segregation Unit, a "five-story tower of nothing but solitary confinement cells, one hundred per floor" known colloquially as "the Bing"--"Rikers folklore has it that the term Bing was coined to describe the human brain under the strain of solitary--it goes... bing!" Buser makes a particularly strong case that solitary confinement is a form of psychological torture, and she paints a hellish portrait of "blood-smeared cells, makeshift nooses, and... agonized, shell-shocked faces."

Apart from the horrors of solitary, Buser ably covers the problem of prison overpopulation--exacerbated by unforgiving drug policies and "broken windows" policing that disproportionately affect the poor and minorities--and a dysfunctional judicial system that makes plea bargain deals all but inevitable even for apparently innocent inmates. Lockdown on Rikers is a valuable piece of evidence in the case against the current system of incarceration. --Hank Stephenson, bookseller, Flyleaf Books

Discover: A disturbing inside look at one of the largest jail complexes in the world.

St. Martin's, $26.99, hardcover, 9781250077844

Essays & Criticism

Changing the Subject: Art and Attention in the Internet Age

by Sven Birkerts

When it comes to the debate over the digital world's effect on our habits of thought and our engagement with the written word, AGNI editor Sven Birkerts is no newcomer to the conversation. In 1994's The Gutenberg Elegies, he identified a cluster of unsettling trends that have only intensified since that time. Changing the Subject: Art and Attention in the Internet Age can be viewed as a companion work, one that's no more sanguine than its predecessor about the survival of traditional reading culture.

Though he acknowledges the argument of writers like Nicholas Carr, in The Shallows, that electronic media literally are rewiring the neural pathways of our brains, Birkerts is more concerned with broader social trends, ones that he returns to repeatedly, but not repetitiously, in this collection. Citing the "preference algorithms and instant data search" of sites like Wikipedia and Pandora, he laments the "movement away from the notion of the individuated 'I' and toward a more networked, which is to say collectivized, existence." The ever-present distraction offered by our devices, in his view, competes with the "summoning of attention" that is the essence of art, and more specifically, deep reading.

Though Birkerts clearly inhabits the online world, he's proud of the fact that he's never owned a cellphone, while frankly acknowledging the problems that's created for his relationships with family and friends. But Sven Birkerts is no "cranky Luddite," in the words of one essay's title. Rather, he's a wise and humane guide, offering a gentle restraining hand as we hurtle into the electronic future. --Harvey Freedenberg, attorney and freelance reviewer

Discover: Sven Birkerts thoughtfully explores the tension between the distraction of our omnipresent electronic media and the attention that allows deep engagement with art.

Graywolf Press, $16, paperback, 9781555977214


Grounded: Finding God in the World--A Spiritual Revolution

by Diana Butler Bass

For several decades, church attendance has been on the decline in the West, prompting many cultural commentators to speak of a parallel decline in Christian faith. But increasingly, people of all religious persuasions are living out their values through engagement with one another and the world. In her eighth book, Grounded, religious scholar Diana Butler Bass (Christianity After Religion) explores this shifting spirituality, arguing that a spiritual revolution--not a slump--is underway.

Bass examines the "new" spirituality through two lenses: connection with the natural world (earth, water, sky) and connection among human beings (home, neighborhoods, common spaces). She cites examples of socially conscious faith communities and the ways they are working to embrace and care for the world: community gardens, environmental activism, a commitment to local businesses. Bass shares her own stories of shopping at her local farmer's market (buying lamb from a Mennonite farmer and herbs to season it from a Muslim vendor) and participating in cleanup days at the Potomac River, near her house. The chapters on human connection explore the difficulty and importance of knowing one's neighbors in a world fractured by terrorism and fear of the unknown. Throughout, Bass blends anecdotes from her own experience with incisive social commentary and interviews with people committed to making a difference in their communities.

"This world, not heaven, is the sacred stage of our times," Bass asserts. Grounded is sure to encourage conversation among people of faith looking for practical ways to engage in the world's unfolding story. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: Religion scholar Diana Butler Bass presents a thoughtful examination of the current trend toward social engagement and practical spirituality.

HarperOne, $26.99, hardcover, 9780062328540

Nature & Environment

Two Percent Solutions for the Planet: 50 Low-Cost, Low-Tech, Nature-Based Practices for Combatting Hunger, Drought, and Climate Change

by Courtney White

Eliminating pesticides, sequestering carbon, making healthy food available to the poor and harvesting rainwater are some of the many positive goals of the 50 regenerative practices Quivira Coalition co-founder Courtney White (The Age of Consequences) outlines in Two Percent Solutions for the Planet. White organizes these green ideas into five sections--ranching, farming, technology, restoration and wildness--includes pictures and charts to help illustrate and provides information on how readers can learn more about each concept.

The common theme underlying them all, however, is "nature knows best." Including organic no-till, year-round farming, flerds (the co-existence of range animals) and "poop 'n' stomp" (using livestock to regrow grass), the solutions return the work to natural processes. White believes, "sometimes innovation isn't a thing, a practice, or a new technology, but simply a different way of looking at the world."

While Two Percent Solutions for the Planet would make an excellent resource for any agri-science program, it's also an enlightening reading experience for city dwellers and others far from agrarian lifestyles. Understanding processes described in the book can inform buying decisions, community involvement, even backyard gardening practices--all of which can help combat some of the world's most pressing environmental issues while simultaneously treating the planet with kindness and respect.

Two Percent Solutions for the Planet is easy to understand, fascinating and enjoyably educational. Whether readers are entrenched in agricultural business or simply interested in sustainability, there's plenty to glean from White's collection of innovative practices. --Jen Forbus of Jen's Book Thoughts

Discover: A conservationist offers a guide to healing the land and helping the planet one acre at a time.

Chelsea Green Publishing, $24.95, paperback, 9781603586177


Erratic Facts

by Kay Ryan

Two-term United States Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner (The Best of It, 2010), Kay Ryan of Northern California has won nearly every poetry prize existent. Her poems are famously short, and those in her collection Erratic Facts are no exception. Like championship banners hanging from the rafters of storied basketball arenas, they are tight vertical ribbons of two- to four-word lines. They're deceptively easy to scan, but not so easy to digest. A metaphor here, a colloquialism turned on its ear there--they do what poetry does so well: make us see our world a little differently, force us to think.

Ryan likes to lead her poems with epigraphs, and there are many here--including a few from W.G. Sebald (who may be better in epigraph than in book-length). "Monk Style" takes its epigraph from an NPR segment ("It was hard for [Thelonious] Monk to play Monk"), which she bends to conclude:

Monk must
approach himself,
join himself
at the bench
and sit awhile.

Then slip his
hands into his
hands Monk

Ryan didn't come to fame until late in her 50s and has earned her wisdom. As one ages, things don't matter so much--or perhaps they matter even more. Erratic Facts reflects a great poet still standing on her peak. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: The wise, frisky and concise poems in Pulitzer Prize winner Kay Ryan's Erratic Facts reinforce her already stellar reputation.

Grove Press, $24, hardcover, 9780802124050

Children's & Young Adult

Orbiting Jupiter

by Gary D. Schmidt

Gary D. Schmidt, two-time Newbery Honor winner (Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy; The Wednesday Wars), tells the terrific, gut-punching story of a 14-year-old boy who is the father of a child he's never seen... a baby named Jupiter.

Teenager Joseph Brook is delivered by the State of Maine to the Hurds' farm under strained circumstances. The social worker warns the Hurds that Joseph won't be touched, won't eat canned peaches and, by the way, has a baby somewhere, but the eager foster family is undaunted. Twelve-year-old Jack Hurd knows Joseph is an okay guy when the family cow, Rosie, takes a liking to him: "You can tell all you need to know about someone from the way cows are around him," says Jack. Orbiting Jupiter grabs readers by the collar right away, with Jack's direct, plainspoken voice that bursts with heart. Joseph, withdrawn at first, warms up to the family in time, but he's haunted by his past. At night he cries out the name of his true love and baby's mother, Maddie. And one moonlit night, sitting around the fire with Jack and his parents, Joseph says, "I have to see Jupiter. Will you help me?" The odds are stacked against Joseph ever reuniting with his child, and his sinister, abusive biological father isn't helping matters.

To the bitter end, the Hurds remain as comfortingly steadfast and true as "the smell of hay and old wood and leather and cow" of their barn. Love doesn't conquer all in this spare, masterful novel, but it's a force to be reckoned with. --Karin Snelson, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A tough-but-tender teen father finds love in a foster family in this heart-wrenching novel by two-time Newbery Honor winner Gary D. Schmidt.

Clarion, $17.99, hardcover, 192p., ages 13-up, 9780544462229

Six of Crows

by Leigh Bardugo

Leigh Bardugo's fantasy Six of Crows is the jaw-dropping companion to the Grisha trilogy that began with Shadow and Bone.

Jesper is just one of 17-year-old Kaz Brekker's crew of six brilliant, profoundly damaged teenaged criminals who are determined to pull off the heist of a lifetime. Each has a desperate reason--from revenge to escape to greed--for embarking on this insane gig: breaking into the most reinforced fortress in their world (a dark, otherworldly, Amsterdam-like place) in order to free an imprisoned chemist who holds the future of the planet in his hands. Bardugo has a knack for swinging from brutality to almost hysterical humor in a single page. Sassy one-offs such as Nina's line, "You wouldn't know a good time if it sidled up to you and stuck a lollipop in your mouth," are followed up with harsh, heartbreaking flashbacks into each of the diverse cast's tragic personal histories: a murdered brother, enslavement in a brothel, a Nazi Youth-like adolescence. 

Whether readers are agonizing over Nina and Matthias's deadly love-hate relationship, rolling their eyes at poor, dopey Wylan, fantasizing about slipping invisibly through dark streets like spiderly Inej or just eaten up with curiosity about Kaz Brekker's monstrous ways--is he truly without a conscience?--they will not breathe easily until the last semi-lovable crook has climbed the prison incinerator shaft, the last double-crosser is outed and the final page is read. Except... it's a bit of a cliffhanger. The sequel awaits. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor

Discover: Leigh Bardugo's companion to the Grisha trilogy features a crew of strangely appealing underworld criminals who risk everything for money, love, revenge and survival.

Holt, $18.99, hardcover, 480p., ages 14-up, 9781627792127


Author Buzz

Visions of Flesh and Blood:
A Blood and Ash/Flesh and Fire Compendium

by Jennifer L. Armentrout with Rayvn Salvador

Dear Reader,

Today is the release of VISIONS OF FLESH AND BLOOD, the Blood and Ash/Flesh and Fire Compendium, and I am so excited that you finally get to see and read it!

I saw the love you had for Miss Willa, watched how following along with all the series twists and turns brought you joy, and thought... wouldn't it be nice to have a book to help with that, yet give even more new stuff?

So, my publisher and I came up with a plan. It included loads of stunning art commissions, strategic disclosures, and brand-new material. When it all came together, it was even better than I imagined.

VISIONS OF FLESH AND BLOOD is so much more than a series bible. It's a journey and a work of art. A collector's item for sure!


Available on Kobo

AuthorBuzz: Visions of Flesh and Blood: A Blood and Ash/Flesh and Fire Compendium by Jennifer L. Armentrout with Rayvn Salvador

Blue Box Press

Pub Date: 
February 20, 2024


List Price: 
$7.99 e-book

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