Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, October 23, 2015

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

From My Shelf

Linked Stories

There's something about linked short stories--not quite a novel, but not a traditional collection--that speaks to me. Perhaps it's because the form allows authors (and therefore a reader) to explore two kinds of writing at one time; perhaps it is because I view life and stories as a series of snapshots, so the approach resonates with my way of thinking about the world.

The first time I encountered linked short stories, I thought I was starting a "regular," linear novel. Only as I came to the third and then fourth and then fifth chapters of Frederick Reiken's Day for Night did I realize that the novel is a series of connected stories, each chapter offering a new character's perspective, shifting from one voice to another to compose a fully formed account. Ayana Mathis's The Twelve Tribes of Hattie uses a similar approach, consisting of 12 distinct narratives spanning 60 years that combine to reinforce Hattie's position as the heart and soul of this novel about the Great Migration of the 20th century.

In If I Knew You Were Going to Be This Beautiful, I Never Would Have Let You Go, Judy Chicurel centers every chapter on one character, Katie, but uses each to explore a different aspect of the summer after Katie's senior year of high school. Each of Katie's experiences serves to highlight not only her shift to adulthood, but the feel of one time in one place: a small Long Island beach town on the cusp of gentrification in the midst of the Vietnam War.

Likewise, in her debut novel, The Shore, Sara Taylor uses linked stories to explore a particular place--a group of small islands in the Chesapeake Bay. The short story approach here allows Taylor to examine one family across a century of the islands' history, with minor characters reappearing in later stories in bold and unexpected ways. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

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

The Writer's Life

Elin Hilderbrand: A Summer Novelist Tackles Winter

photo: Laurie Richards

Twenty-two years ago, Elin Hilderbrand sublet her Manhattan apartment where, after college, she'd been living and working in publishing and as a teacher, and spent the summer on the island of Nantucket off the coast of Massachusetts. "The second my ferry pulled into the harbor I thought, I'm never going back (to New York)," she says. Ever since, this bestselling author has called Nantucket home, on the page and off--all of Hilderbrand's 16 novels are set on the island. Hilderbrand has been labeled "the Queen of the Summer Novel"; her fans expect a new book from her every summer, featuring ensemble casts of characters, the complexities of contemporary family life and romantic entanglements.

In 2014, Hilderbrand published her second novel of the year, Winter Street, a story about the Quinns, a large dysfunctional family that gathers on Nantucket for Christmas and faces unexpected surprises. In Winter Stroll (see our review below), Hilderbrand reunites the Quinn family as they face new familial complications and partake in holiday festivities particular to Nantucket.

Did you plan to write a Christmas series of books?

In the summer of 2013, my publisher, Little, Brown, had a book fall off their winter list, and they asked if I could write a Christmas book in four weeks. I said, "No!" But it got me thinking about Christmas novels, and I came up with the idea of the Winter Street Inn and the Quinn family. I knew I wanted it to be a trilogy, but it took the first book for me to convince my publisher.

Why should readers want to read your "Winter" series when they've grown so accustomed to your "Summer" novels?

The Christmas books give a whole new aspect to life on Nantucket. It happens to be one of the most charming places in America to celebrate the holidays. In Winter Stroll, I tried to incorporate the fun aspects of Nantucket's annual holiday festivities, including Winter Stroll Weekend, where Nantucket becomes a winter wonderland. At the Festival of Trees party, the Whaling Museum is all adorned and decked out, and island businesses and organizations decorate 100 Christmas trees. Nantucket restaurants and people--year-rounders and summer residents--dress up and kick off the Christmas season in style.

How did you create the Quinn family for the series?

I knew I wanted a large, blended family--a man with a wife and an ex-wife, with children by each. I myself have two older boys, then a girl. So I used that combination from my own life in the story, and I added the character of Bart, who is deployed to Afghanistan, to the creative mix. Bart is the son by the second Quinn wife.

Your books often juggle multiple story threads and characters.

Yes, I wait to see what my characters will do once I create them. It's always surprising.

Do you have a favorite character from the "Winter" novels?

Hands down, my favorite character is Kelley Quinn's first wife, Margaret Quinn, who is the anchor of the CBS Evening News. I love Margaret because she is a working mother and at the time that I started writing this novel, I was so absorbed with work that I suffered from mom guilt. I wanted to write a novel where the working mother came in to save the day, where the working mother was the hero.

In Winter Stroll, you mention that Ava (the music teacher) despises the Christmas song "Jingle Bells." Is this a personal dislike of yours?

All music is personal and our predilections are inexplicable. I hate "Jingle Bells." Hate it. I was able to vent this particular dislike in the character of Ava.

You've been writing two books a year. Is it hard to do?

Yes, it's an insane work schedule! I began writing two books a year with Winter Street. I have two down, one to go in the "Winter" series. And then I hope to reclaim my life and go back to one book a year.

Do you have a favorite novel among those you've written?

My favorite of recent novels is Summerland, which takes place at Nantucket High School. My favorite character is Hobby. If you want to understand why, you really have to read the book.

Which is the most difficult novel you've written?

Silver Girl, but in some way each novel gets progressively harder because my job is to write the same thing and yet something completely different. It's a tall order.

Have you ever had the urge to revisit characters from your prior novels?

Yes, I'm considering writing a murder novel called "N" and bringing back characters from the past 10 books.

You are a breast cancer survivor. Did that affect your writing?

The only connection between my cancer and my writing is that the writing kept me focused and occupied during a very trying time. I wrote The Rumor all throughout my illness, surgeries and treatment. I have to admit, I look back and I can't believe I kept going.

You graduated from the "literature-based" writing programs at Johns Hopkins and the University of Iowa. How did you come to write commercial women's fiction?

I wrote short stories while at Iowa. When I graduated, however, it was pretty clear there wasn't really a market for stories. I needed to write a novel, and I wanted to write one set on Nantucket. From there came my idea for my first published novel, The Beach Club--and the modern beach book was born. I don't think in terms of literary or commercial. I think of writing about people and the place that I love better than anywhere on earth.

Do you think you'll ever write a novel not set in Nantucket?

My novels will always be set primarily on Nantucket, although the one I'm writing now is also set in New York City, Kentucky and L.A. And on deck... a novel about Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard.

Would you be willing to offer readers a glimpse into your next "Summer" novel?

Sure. It's called Here's to Us, and it's about a very famous, very successful and very tormented Manhattan chef who kills himself on page one. His three ex-wives and their children come to Nantucket to the house he impulsively bought in order to spread his ashes. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

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

Book Candy

Halloween Challenges, Costumes

'Twas the week before Halloween: St. Martin's Press offered a challenge: "Can we guess what you like to read based on your Halloween style?" Bustle suggested "14 awesome literary pumpkin carving and decorating ideas to try out this Halloween." Hodder & Stoughton showcased "Halloween crafts for book lovers." And Brightly highlighted "19 book-inspired Halloween costumes for kids and parents."


Infographic of the Day: Fast Company featured the "definitive breakdown of famous books vs. their film adaptations."


"These visceral anatomy cross-sections are made entirely out of old books," the Independent noted in showcasing the work of artist Lisa Nilsson.


Buzzfeed stopped by "17 beautiful rooms for the book-loving soul."

"A man of his last word." William F. Buckley's take on Lyndon Johnson is just one of Flavorwire's "30 harshest writer-on-politician insults in history."

Great Reads

Rediscover: Baseball Maverick

Baseball Maverick (Atlantic Monthly Press, $26, 9780802119988) focuses on Sandy Alderson, general manager of the New York Mets. As our pre-season review noted, "with 'a critical mass of talent,' 2015 is the do-or-die season for Alderson and the Mets." Well, the Mets just won the National League championship and are headed to the World Series, and many credit Alderson's patient, painstaking approach to building an amazin' team. Here's our review:

In the 2012 movie Trouble with the Curve, Clint Eastwood played Gus Lobel, a worn-out, grizzled baseball scout at the end of his career, bouncing from sandlot to sandlot looking for the next hotshot arm. Gus is as far from Sandy Alderson, the general manager of the New York Mets, as one can get and still be in the ballpark. In Baseball Maverick, Steve Kettmann--former San Francisco Chronicle sportswriter and ghostwriter of Jose Canseco's autobiography, Juiced--describes Alderson's build-from-the-farm approach as a "tightly run, analytically efficient, organized system for developing minor-league talent." A Vietnam Marine vet and lawyer from Harvard, Alderson was hired in 1981 by the Oakland A's when the Haas family bought the team and wanted a more businesslike approach to running the franchise.

Alderson transformed the lowly A's into a powerhouse of the '80s and '90s as he mentored his successor Billy Beane to be the sabermetric miracle man made famous in Moneyball. For nearly half his book, Kettmann explores whether that same low-key, analytical, business-focused approach can work in the biggest baseball market in the world with a Mets team that began as a laughingstock in 1962, had several superlative years (1969 and 1986) but had many more miserable seasons and September collapses. Now, with "a critical mass of talent," 2015 is the do-or-die season for Alderson and the Mets: "It's a car with some power under the hood: it's time to do some driving." Baseball Maverick is not so much about Sandy Alderson as it is a savvy story about the business side of baseball--a side that sometimes seems to be doing all the driving. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: A seasoned sportswriter's take on the unconventional general manager of the New York Mets and the business side of baseball.

Book Review


Thirteen Ways of Looking: Fiction

by Colum McCann

Thirteen Ways of Looking, Colum McCann's first collection of short fiction since 2004, confirms his status as a gifted writer.

Roughly half of the book consists of the title novella, inspired by the iconic Wallace Stevens poem. In it, McCann (Let the Great World Spin) juxtaposes an account of the final day of Peter Mendelssohn, a retired Brooklyn judge, with the investigation into his death after he's assaulted leaving an Upper East Side restaurant on a snowy afternoon. As McCann painstakingly describes the police detectives' exhaustive study of video for clues to the identity of Mendelssohn's assailant--a distinctly intense form of looking--he makes clear how these investigators "work in much the same way as poets: the search for a random word, at the right instance, making the poem itself so much more precise."

"What Time Is It Now, Where Are You?" the briefest story in the collection, is a clever metafictional exercise. The story "Sh'khol" already has garnered McCann a 2016 Pushcart Prize and a spot in Best American Short Stories 2015. Set on the Galway coast, where "white spindrift blew up from the sea, landing softly on the tall hedges in the back garden," it tells the gripping story of the disappearance of Tomas, a deaf Russian teenager adopted by Rebecca, an Irish woman. McCann's writing has always been distinguished by its humanity, a quality best displayed in "Treaty," in which Beverly, an Irish Maryknoll nun who was captured and tortured in Colombia nearly four decades earlier, believes she has glimpsed her sadistic captor on television at a peace conference in London.

Whether reading him for his stories or for his sentences, Colum McCann is one of those writers whose work consistently engages the imagination. --Harvey Freedenberg, attorney and freelance reviewer

Discover: Colum McCann's first collection of short fiction since 2004 showcases his gift for evocative prose and empathetic storytelling.

Random House, $26, hardcover, 9780812996722

And West Is West

by Ron Childress

Ron Childress's And West Is West combines operations in the military and on Wall Street for a look at the disastrous consequences of getting caught up in a corrupt system.

When Jessica Aldridge, an Air Force drone pilot in Nevada, receives the order to fire a missile at a terrorist leader in Afghanistan, she hesitates. Two young girls are in the targeted convoy. After she follows through with the shot, she confesses all in a letter to her incarcerated father, but the Air Force gets tipped off about the confidential information, leading to Jessica's discharge. Soon she finds herself pursued by federal agents.

Ethan Winter is a Wall Street quant who happened to come up with an algorithm predicting terrorism's effect on currency rates. After his girlfriend, Zoe, leaves him to work for a nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C., Ethan inadvertently becomes the keeper of her family secrets, and the resultant chain of events distracts him long enough for a coworker to sabotage his algorithm; Ethan loses his job and is left adrift.

Although Childress initially appears to be setting up a political thriller, what evolves is a more personal exploration of life in the wake of colossal mistakes. While Jessica flees for her life, certain the government will make her disappear if she is caught, Ethan lets denial swallow him, continuing to pursue Zoe as well as a dead-end lawsuit against his former employers. Their stories intersect in startling ways, proving that despite the artificial moral distance created by the technology each of them used in their professions, the world remains filled with human connections. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Discover: A Wall Street quantitative analyst and an Air Force drone pilot face harsh realities when they become scapegoats and lose their jobs.

Algonquin , $26.95, hardcover, 9781616205232

Winter Stroll

by Elin Hilderbrand

Family and holiday traditions are at the center of Winter Stroll, book two in Elin Hilderbrand's Winter Street series. In this installment, the Quinn family reunites in Nantucket on Thanksgiving weekend, when Kelley Quinn, the twice-married family patriarch and father of four, once again hosts his ex-wives, as many of his children as can make it, their children and several significant others at his iconic Winter Street Inn. All have gathered to celebrate "Winter Stroll," an annual Nantucket festival to kick off the Christmas season, and to attend the baptism of a new addition to the family.

Personal baggage and romantic difficulties abound for Kelley and his offspring: Patrick, a once successful financier, is now serving prison time; Bart, a soldier, is still missing in action in Afghanistan; Ava, a local music teacher, is having second thoughts about her relationship with the school principal; and an old flame returns to taunt Kevin, who thought he finally had his life back on track. Add Margaret, Kelley's first wife--a high-profile television journalist--and her commitment-phobic doctor beau, and eccentric Mitzy, Kelley's estranged second wife, to the mix, and the ante goes up for feuds and dramatic complications.

Hilderbrand (The Rumor) juggles an ensemble cast and successfully weaves together many bittersweet story threads, tying up just enough of them to keep readers anticipating another sequel. Despite some characters being at odds with each other, the Quinns prove a close-knit, unified and loyal bunch, who truly love each other and stick together through the joys and challenges of life. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: A large, complicated, dysfunctional family reunites in Nantucket at Thanksgiving.

Little, Brown, $25, hardcover, 9780316261135

The Mystics of Mile End

by Sigal Samuel

In Montreal's Mile End neighborhood, Hasidic communities live alongside progressive hipsters. Falling somewhere in between is the Meyer family--David Meyer, a staunchly secular professor of religion, struggles to connect with his two children after the death of their devoutly religious mother. But at the heart of the family's grief is a complex crisis of faith. The Mystics of Mile End--journalist Sigal Samuel's debut novel--chronicles the spiritual journeys of its characters as they seek wisdom from their neighbors: a Holocaust survivor, a young science nerd and an oddball building a "Tree of Life" out of trash in his backyard.

The Tree of Life proves to have the most enduring influence on the family. It sparks the children's interest in Kabbalah, which their religion teacher warns them is so dangerous you must be "forty years old and married" in order to study it. He tells them, "Suddenly everything you see looks like a sign from above," and that many sages "lost their heads chasing after such signs." But a thirst for knowledge runs in the family and, one by one, they explore the practice.

Samuel writes about Jewish culture for the Jewish Daily Forward and researched her Indian Jewish family's involvement with secret kabbalistic societies, so she deftly handles the intricacies of religion. Mystics reads almost like an allegory, with each character representing a distinct approach to finding meaning. And yet, what the characters find in their searches often blur the lines of their approaches, emerging as something new entirely. --Annie Atherton

Discover: A family in Montreal's Mile End neighborhood grapples with the loss of their mother while exploring mysticism and Kabbalah.

Morrow, $15.99, paperback, 9780062412171

Food & Wine

Food Gift Love: More than 100 Recipes to Make, Wrap, and Share

by Maggie Battista

Food Gift Love answers the eternal question: What to give those who already have "everything?" Food! Consumable gifts avoid unwanted clutter and are welcome expressions of thoughtfulness--especially from the kitchen of Maggie Battista, founder of the 2013 IACP Best Culinary Brand award-winning Eat Boutique. Food Gift Love shares more than 100 recipes for edible gifts perfect for any celebration, organized from easiest to most ambitious, plus many fabulous wrapping ideas.

Battista's recommended pantry list includes ingredients and kitchen equipment to facilitate "food gifts on the fly," gift-wrap supplies and styles (whether simple, sweet or sophisticated), and concrete suggestions for choosing the perfect gift according to the recipient and the nature of the occasion. Battista recommends sticking with universally loved or classic flavors if the recipient is not well known, and sharing stronger flavor combinations with closer relations. For example, an unfamiliar recipient suffering a sad occasion may appreciate Roasted Banana Bread or Rhubarb Vanilla Jam, while a close friend celebrating a happy event may prefer Amaretto Tiramisu or Argula and Pistachio Pesto.

Her recommendations for how to ship food gifts are detailed and based on the weight and consistency of the item. Each recipe includes serving size, appropriate course (appetizer, snack, dessert) and preparation time. The accompanying pictures demonstrate at least one way to wrap the dish. Ten tips for becoming the "quintessential food gifter" include not striving for perfection, choosing "signature" food gifts and matching the gift to the recipient. Food Gift Love provides the perfect present for every occasion. --Kristen Galles from Book Club Classics

Discover: Maggie Battista shares ideas and recipes to make perfect food gifts for all occasions.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25, hardcover, 9780544387676

Biography & Memoir

Lady Byron and Her Daughters

by Julia Markus

Lord Byron's wife of one year, Lady Byron has often been portrayed as a pious and insensitive woman who didn't deserve him. In Lady Byron and Her Daughters, biographer and novelist Julia Markus (Dared and Done) mounts a strong defense of the lady's character and accomplishments.

She was attracted to Lord Byron's brilliance, beauty and "friendlessness." She later wrote: "I did not pause--there was my error--to enquire why he was friendless." She became "the very good girl determined to save the very bad man." But Byron was beyond reform, driven by shame and anger over his clubfoot, bisexuality and childhood sexual abuse, and fresh from an affair with his half-sister, Augusta, that produced a daughter, Medora. The Byrons had a traumatic marriage, undermined by his relationship with Augusta, swinging between sexual reconciliations and his increasingly violent rages that made Lady Byron question his sanity. After the birth of their daughter, Ada, he told her to leave, and she won a formal separation. Public opinion sided with her at the time, but his version of events eventually won out, in part because Lady Byron never told her story in public. Independent and wealthy, she became a progressive activist against slavery and for working-class education reform.

Lady Byron attempted a memoir, but never finished it. Her grandson wrote a biography based on her papers, but printed only 200 copies. Harriet Beecher Stowe championed her in another book that never got much attention. Markus tells her story with strong feeling and a novelist's skill, and her facts are well documented. Lady Byron may finally have some vindication here. --Sara Catterall

Discover: Novelist and biographer Julia Markus offers a passionate and well-documented defense of the controversial Lady Byron.

W.W. Norton, $28.95, hardcover, 9780393082685

Essays & Criticism

Keeping an Eye Open: Essays on Art

by Julian Barnes

"Art doesn't just capture and convey the excitement, the thrill of life. Sometimes, it does even more: it is that thrill." British writer Julian Barnes (Levels of Life) is a sensitive, deeply knowledgeable observer with exceptional powers of description and a dry irreverent sense of humor. Keeping an Eye Open collects 17 of his previously published critical essays.

Barnes examines artwork in the context of their creators' lives and changes in the art world since their creation. He challenges received wisdom, generously quotes other artists and critics, remarks on the qualities of art materials, comments on the technicalities of exhibition hanging and tells many entertaining anecdotes. His curiosity and enthusiasm are contagious, and though he has strong opinions, after decades of looking at art he is well aware of the danger of "being too certain."

Of an exhibition of André Masson's " 'erotic' work," Barnes writes: "It was mostly grim stuff: juvenile, facile and often plain nasty, reminding us that dredging the male subconscious can easily bring up dead dogs and rusty torture equipment." On Redon: "We tan lightly in the glow of his later colours while remaining indifferent to the message; whereas the noirs, which are Redon's glory, hover, haunt and linger like mutant products of the world's shared private imagination."

Anyone with a serious interest in art will enjoy these essays, no matter their level of knowledge. This is a book to be read and reread for both information and pleasure. --Sara Catterall

Discover: Acclaimed British novelist and essayist Julian Barnes offers perceptive and entertaining art criticism.

Knopf, $30, hardcover, 9781101874783

Psychology & Self-Help

Design the Life You Love: A Step-by-Step Guide to Building a Meaningful Future

by Ayse Birsel

From the opening line ("You Are Courageous!") of Design the Life You Love, Ayse Birsel's warm, affirming tone convinces readers that a deeply fulfilling life is possible. Birsel, an award-winning designer and co-founder of the design studio Birsel + Seck, conducts acclaimed Design the Life You Love workshops and has now created a hands-on workbook (although Birsel prefers the name "play" book, as shown by the cheerful cartoons and illustrations throughout) to help people follow their dreams.

Birsel believes design is "about identifying and working within given constraints [i.e., time, money, age, location] to arrive at new and better solutions." To facilitate this, she presents a series of exercises that lead readers first to deconstruct their current lives, then shift their point of view to inspire change, and eventually reconstruct a new life that reflects their values and passions. Each exercise guides readers, step-by-step, and uses both creative expression and linear analysis. Birsel believes metaphor can be a conduit to visualizing new possibilities and provides many that have inspired changes in her own life.

Her personal experiences abound throughout Design the Life as she helps even the most literal to think figuratively--when inevitable self-doubt creeps in, Birsel provides the perfect motivational story from her own life, as well as inspirational quotes from other great creative minds, to move readers through any blocks. Design the Life You Love would be the perfect gift for anyone in a rut, at a crossroads or about to embark on a new career path. --Kristen Galles from Book Club Classics

Discover: A guide to how deconstructing and reimagining our lives can help reconstruct a life of passion.

Ten Speed Press, $19.99, paperback, 9781607748816


Beast: Blood, Struggle, and Dreams at the Heart of Mixed Martial Arts

by Doug Merlino

When no-holds-barred mixed martial arts "cage fights" began to attract millions of fans in the late 2000s, seated in the front row at one fight in Moscow was the cheering Russian President Vladimir Putin, while back in Washington, Senator John McCain was dismissing the sport as "human cockfighting"--another Russia vs. USA disagreement. When journalist Doug Merlino (Hustle) chanced upon a rousing sports bar crowd watching a parade of Ultimate Fighting Championship combatants whale at each other "on a mat imprinted with advertisements for motorcycles, beer, and shaving gel," he wondered, "Who are these guys?" To find out, he talked his way into the confidence of several fighters who trained at Florida's American Top Team gym. Beast is Merlino's story of the immigrants and hard-luck brawlers who dominate the sport--like Bosnian refugee Mirsad Bektic, who enters the cage "stripped down to his shorts, fighting for his future on cable television."

Merlino writes about the three-decade history of this fast-growing sport, which combines elements of wrestling, jiujitsu, aikido and boxing, with a healthy dose of show business. Besides Bektic, Merlino focuses on former Oklahoma State wrestler Steve Mocco, heavily tattooed anarchist Jeff Monson and ex-con Daniel Straus--each with his own tale to tell. With the enormous success of Spike TV's Ultimate Fighter reality show and the popularity of UFC's first woman champ Ronda Rousey ("the anti-Miss America," "the California Girl as a**-kicker"), mixed martial arts is now a big-time business--but as Merlino shows, for those pounding the mat in the cage, it's all about "the fight, the will to excel, to rise, to be something." --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: Doug Merlino investigates the sometimes brutal, sometimes inspiring lives of professional mixed martial arts fighters.

Bloomsbury, $26, hardcover, 9781620401552

Travel Literature

Atlas of Cursed Places: A Travel Guide to Dangerous and Frightful Destinations

by Olivier Le Carrer

Olivier Le Carrer's Atlas of Cursed Places: A Travel Guide to Dangerous and Frightful Destinations profiles 40 locations around the world, so that tourists may avoid risk and the adventurous may be satisfied that "many mysterious places remain to be explored and understood." In his introduction, which recognizes Adam and Eve as the origination of curses, he describes these spots as falling into three categories: spiritual or paranormal curses; natural hazards; and human-caused threats. Le Carrer, a sailor, then sorts them by the oceans they lie nearest.

Historic religious conflicts qualify Gaza and Jerusalem: of the latter, Le Carrer writes that "mankind is capable of transforming even the most beautiful holy stories into a nightmare." Other places are cursed by animal activity, as with Kasanka National Park in Zambia, where five million fruit bats descend annually, and Cape York in Queensland, Australia, where crocodiles reach 17 feet in length and live alongside eight of the 10 most dangerous snakes in the world. Le Carrer's attitude toward his subjects varies, as he addresses the Bermuda Triangle rationally ("people navigate the area every day without incident, and there are often logical explanations for any incident") but concludes mysteriously of Area 51 that "accursed nature strikes again."

Le Carrer's descriptions of place are designed to entertain and comfortably frighten his readers. His brief, playful evocations are accompanied by historical maps and period illustrations in this large-format book, which will please travelers and trivia fans alike. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: Sailor Olivier Le Carrer guides readers on an enticing tour of frightening places around the world, with maps and pictures.

Black Dog & Leventhal, $24.99, hardcover, 9781631910005

Children's & Young Adult


by Sarah Crossan

Sixteen-year-old conjoined twins Grace and Tippi of New Jersey live together as one in One, a moving free-verse novel by Dublin-born author Sarah Crossan. It's astonishing that the two sisters live at all--they have two heads, two hearts, four arms and are joined at the hip, so they lumber along on one set of legs. They dodge some of the horror of public scrutiny through homeschooling, but when donations from well-wishers dry up, state funding dictates that their parents send them to Montclair's Hornbeacon High instead. Grace, the novel's narrator, listens to the news and nods, but Tippi shouts, "Are you kidding me? Have you both lost your minds?"
"It's going to be fabulous!" Mom says,
pretending we aren't being
thrown into a ring of lions
without a weapon,
and Dad smiles

At school, the pretty, pixie-nosed twins don't want to be "amazing," as their well-meaning helpmate Yasmeen calls them: "Normal is the Holy Grail/ and only those without it/ know its value." Fortunately, Yasmeen soon befriends them, as does Jon, who makes Grace's pulse quicken with his texts, tattoos and nut-brown eyes. The story deepens when it's discovered that Grace's heart is failing... and she and Tippi grimly navigate the impossible decisions they are forced to make. The clear, spare free verse breathes air into the story of the sisters' starkly intractable struggles.

One is an exploration of intimacy. Crossan's examination of the daily reality of being physically attached to someone else gives readers another way to look at what it means to be human, to love, and to share a life. --Karin Snelson, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: Two 16-year-old conjoined twin sisters live as one in Sara Crossan's powerful free-verse novel set in New Jersey.

Greenwillow, $17.99, hardcover, 400p., ages 13-up, 9780062118752

The Beast of Cretacea

by Todd Strasser

With The Beast of Cretacea, Todd Strasser (The Wave; Give a Boy a Gun; Fallout) crafts a thrilling interplanetary adventure based on Herman Melville's classic story of revenge and madness, Moby Dick. Gone are descriptive passages about whale species and shades of white. Instead, Strasser focuses on the action. Ishmael, Queequeg, Starbuck and Ahab are still on the ship, but their quarry, the great white whale, has been replaced by the Great Terrafin.

When 17-year-old Ishmael wakes up aboard the Pequod, he is amazed by Cretacea, the clean, beautiful planet on which he finds himself. He hopes to earn enough money to save his foster parents, before the foul air and lack of water back on the coal-burning, oxygen-depleted Earth kill them. Now, miraculously, he is floating on "a vast, glittering blue-green sea." As Ishmael trains for his new job--catching ocean-dwelling creatures to ship back to the dying Earth--he quickly proves himself a courageous leader among the motley crew of men and women. But when the Great Terrafin is spotted, Captain Ahab ignores the "catchable beasts," as well as the safety of ship and crew, to chase down his nemesis.

Ishmael grapples with fierce pirates, isolated island dwellers and various sea beasts, all the while worrying about his foster parents and his much-loved, disabled foster brother, whom readers learn about in flashbacks. High-tech gadgets, from drones to virtual reality goggles, add a modern twist to this apocalyptic adaptation, part political satire, part environmental cautionary tale. --Lynn Becker, host of Book Talk, a monthly online discussion of children's books for the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators

Discover: Ishmael risks his life to save his family in Todd Strasser's maritime swashbuckler and environmental cautionary tale, based on Moby Dick.

Candlewick, $18.99, hardcover, 432p., ages 12-up, 9780763669010

Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine

by Laurie Wallmark, illus. by April Chu

Ada Byron Lovelace of 19th-century England might have been a computer programmer, if computers had been invented during her lifetime. In this lavishly illustrated picture-book biography, readers are introduced to a brilliant young mathematician who had a prescient vision for the potential of computers.

A love of numbers ran in the family. Ada's mother, Lady Byron, had such a passion for geometry she was nicknamed the "Princess of Parallelograms." Ada's father, Lord Byron, was world-renowned for his Romantic poems, but to Ada's mother, he was a "scandalous" man she didn't want near her daughter. Lady Byron fled with her baby to London, and Ada never saw her father again. Ada was a lonely child, but "[h]er journals, filled with pages of inventions and equations, kept her company." Debut author Laurie Wallmark zeroes in on Ada's childhood fascination with numbers, flying machines and, eventually, the intellectual pursuits of mathematicians Mary Fairfax Somerville and Charles Babbage, the visionary behind the "Analytical Engine," a precursor to the modern computer.

April Chu's artfully composed, pencil-on-paper illustrations celebrate Ada's creative mind at work with a swirl of cast-off sketches of the young inventor in her ruffled Victorian dresses and luxurious surroundings. Her cat is never far from view, often mirroring the story's small dramas with amusing expressions.

This picture book is a visually rich peek into Victorian high society, an inspiring tribute to the life of the mind, and a fine introduction to Ada Byron Lovelace, a lesser-known pioneer in the field of computer science. --Karin Snelson, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A visually stunning picture-book biography of Ada Byron Lovelace, a 19th-century English mathematician whose ideas contributed to the invention of the modern-day computer.

Creston Books, $17.99, hardcover, 40p., ages 6-up, 9781939547200


Author Buzz

(A Masters and Mercenaries Novella)

by Lexi Blake

Dear Reader,

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

Lexi Blake

Available on Kobo


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

1001 Dark Nights Press

Pub Date: 
September 25, 2023


List Price: 
$2.99 e-book

These Things Happen

by Michael Eon

Dear Reader,

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

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

Michael Eon

Buy now and support your local indie bookstore>

Girl Friday Books: These Things Happen by Michael Eon

Girl Friday Books

Pub Date: 
September 19, 2023


List Price: 
$17.95 Paperback

Powered by: Xtenit