Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Holiday House: Middle School Bites by Steven Banks, illustrated by Mark Fearing; Pixel+ink: The Curious League of Detectives and Thieves by Tom Phillips

From My Shelf

The Legacy of Henning Mankell

Although Henning Mankell (1948-2015) was open about his tough fight with cancer, we were still saddened to hear of his death earlier this month. His many books have connected with a legion of loyal readers over the years, and his writing will be sorely missed.

Henning Mankell

Not afraid to criticize political stances he did not agree with--especially those of right-wing, anti-immigration groups--and to speak openly about social issues in his books, Mankell was clearly influenced by both his Swedish heritage and the many years he spent in Mozambique.

The Shadow Girls shares the story of three young refugees trying to find their way in Sweden. It offers a timely look at questions of immigration, faith and family that Sweden (and the rest of Europe) are currently facing.

The Eye of the Leopard follows Hans Olofson, a Swedish man who takes up farming in Zambia. Exploring the relationship between native workers and white farmers, as well as issues of mental instability and childhood tragedy, it's one of Mankell's many tense, psychological thrillers.

The Man from Beijing is a huge, sprawling novel, with a plot that moves from a hideous massacre in modern Sweden, to big business in China, to a tragic moment in the past, when workers built the transcontinental railroad across the U.S. The disparate themes are brilliantly combined as Mankell weaves a shocking and unforgettable story.

Beginning with Faceless Killers, all of the books in Mankell's Kurt Wallander series are Scandinavian crime noir at their finest. Wallander's status as an emotionally distant anti-hero of a detective seems almost clichéd now, because Mankell's influence on other fictional detectives--perhaps including such greats as Arnaldur Indriðason's Erlendur and Jo Nesbø's Harry Hole--has been so profound.

Mankell's influence doesn't end with Scandinavia, however: Spain's Antonio Hill, New Zealand's Paul Thomas and South Africa's Deon Meyer are among the many writers creating flawed, generally alcoholic, but undeniably shrewd detectives. The legacy of Henning Mankell lives on. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

Scholastic Inc.: Slappy, Beware! (Goosebumps Special Edition) by R.L. Stine

The Writer's Life

The 90 Novels of César Aira

photo: Nina Subin

The prolific César Aira has already produced some 90 short novels over his career. This Argentinean wunderkind publishes two to four novels annually, a staggering bibliographic hurricane that shows no sign of abating. He sets many of his tales in his strangely named hometown, Colonel Pringles, and gets so entangled in digressions that his stories seldom make it to an expected ending. Aira supposedly never rewrites, never plans plot direction, never corrects contradictions, and relentlessly produces a page a day. The novellas resulting from this are exhilarating, infuriating, exasperating, inspiring and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny.

The most recent addition to the 10 novels in translation available from New Directions is Dinner (translated by Katherine Silver; $13.95). Dinner is as short as the others and just as eccentric and unpredictable. A 60-year-old man is living with his elderly mother. They are invited to a small dinner party by the only friend he has left. Afterward, at home, he turns on the news and sees tele-journalist Maria Rosa roaring onto the screen on her scooter, en route to the town cemetery where the dead have been reported rising from their graves. The plot follows her motorcycle, leaving the narrator behind and abruptly turning into a zombie tale--or is it groggy indigestion blending with a late-night telecast of Night of the Living Dead? Instead of a resolution, the story turns into an odd tale about a brother and sister with the same name--in other words, a frustrating, uniquely Aira-style ending.

His other novels in English, published by New Directions, in chronological order:

Ghosts (translated by Chris Andrews) is one of Aira's best. It unfolds in Buenos Aires on New Year's Eve in the half-finished skeleton of an apartment building, where a Chilean night watchman's family is celebrating with future tenants, architects and designers. The naked ghosts of dead builders haunt the premises, laughing uproariously at the living and tempting lonely Patri, the night watchman's teenage daughter, to die so she can join the ghost party.

How I Became a Nun (translated by Chris Andrews) is probably Aira's best known work, the shocking story of an ambiguously gendered child and a brutal father determined to make his son eat his first ice cream cone, not knowing the ice cream has been contaminated with cyanide. After driving his son into sobbing hysterics, the father tastes it and goes into such a rage that he murders the vendor by pushing him face down into the ice cream vat. And that's just Chapter One. The boy ends up in the hospital, the father in prison for eight years for homicide. The ending is just as startling, especially since no one becomes a nun.

The Seamstress and the Wind (translated by Rosalie Knecht) has a compelling, urban fairytale first half, in which a mother sets out in pursuit of her neighbor's truck on a nonstop haul to Patagonia, convinced her eight-year-old son is trapped inside the trailer. The frantic chase turns goofy and preposterous long before the ending.

Aira's masterpiece is An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter (translated by Chris Andrews), a historical novel about a real German artist, Johann Moritz Rugendas, a documentary painter in the time before photography. The novella is an account of Rugendas's truncated five-month trip to Argentina in 1837 at age 35, when this timid genius's plans are cut short by a nightmarishly unexpected "episode." Rugendas is hit by lightning, then dragged by a maddened horse until he's horribly disfigured, with amazing consequences. The novel's superb ending is sheer literary audacity.

The Hare (translated by Nick Caistor) is Aira's longest novel, with his most sprawling plot--a multi-stranded tale about a British expedition to a remote Mapuche Indian tribe led by Clarke, a young naturalist and brother-in-law of Darwin. It's populated by artists and outlaws, gun-wielding bandit wives and colorful natives, making much droll comedy of the many ways Indians can be verbally misleading. The disappearance of the 70-year-old Mapuche chieftain and the elusive flying hare of the title lead to plenty of blazing guns and flying arrows, but not much more.

The beginning of The Literary Conference (translated by Katherine Silver) is intriguing, about the Macuto Line in Venezuela, a rope stretched three yards above the surface of the water by pirates to hide a secret treasure in the sea. Unfortunately, it's just an unexplained device to make the narrator suddenly rich before he proceeds on his way to the literary conference, where a mad scientist is attempting world domination by cloning a cell of Carlos Fuentes, and the author spends most of his time at the hotel swimming pool.

In The Miracle Cures of Dr. Aira (translated by Katherine Silver), the doctor claims to have miraculous healing powers; he's pursued by the villainous Dr. Actyn, who's trying to discover his healing techniques. The comic-book characters and labyrinthine plotting have nowhere to go, resulting in a lot of literary running-in-place.

Shantytown (translated by Chris Andrews) is one of Aira's very best, a literary labyrinth just like the slums outside the Buenos Aires it describes, where the convoluted streets are identified by their light bulb arrangements. Maxi, a handsome, wealthy, weight-lifting 20-year-old, volunteers daily to help the local scavengers carry off their findings. Corrupt Inspector Ignacio Cabezas of Police Station 38 is stalking Maxi's sister because she's mixed up with several neighborhood dealers of proxidine, a drug that increases the proximity of things. The complicated plot generates genuine suspense over the fates of its likable characters, and a dilemma is resolved by a single, brilliant stroke.

Varamo (translated by Chris Andrews) has one of Aira's most delightful premises: a 50-year-old third-class clerk picks up his paycheck--which he doesn't realize has been paid in counterfeit money--leaves his job and within the next 12 hours conceives, writes and completes a long, now-classic poem, "The Song of the Virgin Child"--then never writes another line of poetry in his life. Enough for a rich and complex novel, and that's only the first page. Unfortunately there are no stakes, nothing to care about, and the rest of the plot is forgettable.

Unable to sleep at night, the narrator of The Conversations (translated by Katherine Silver) entertains himself by remembering the day's conversations. One afternoon he and a friend discuss a movie blooper in which an illiterate goatherd in the Ukraine is glimpsed wearing a Rolex watch. Neither one saw the entire film. Each missed different portions of the story. The fury and complexity of the resulting conversation about the goatherd spins out of control until the CIA and the star's private life (even his dog, Bob) are thoroughly implicated in the discussion.

Aira is light, witty, thoughtful, inventive and very uneven. Some Aira works border on genius. But many are throwaway fluff padded out with philosophical nonsense. His playfulness veers between self-indulgence and a creative friskiness than defies the reader not to smile. These improvisational narrative doodles are frequently little more than cartoons, but they're as addicting as high quality popcorn, the literary equivalent of superb junk food that's almost nutritious and much too tasty to resist. --Nick DiMartino, Nick's Picks, University Book Store, Seattle, Wash

Blackstone Publishing: Valley of Shadows by Rudy Ruiz

Book Candy

Halloween Potpourri

Haunted for the holidays: Flavorwire extended an invitation to "visit these real-life literary horror houses." Mental Floss revealed "10 graveside traditions at famous tombs." Electric Lit unearthed "31 fairly obscure literary monsters." Bustle unveiled "13 literary Halloween couples costumes for you and your bookish beau." Buzzfeed showcased "8 Halloween costumes only Game of Thrones fans will get."


From Brightly: "What I've learned from the books my kids love."


Juliet Jacques, author of Trans: A Memoir, shared her picks for "top 10 transgender books" with the Guardian.


"Think beyond the traditional bookcase!" The Reading Room shared "10 creative ways to store your books."

Camcat Books: Fool Her Once by Joanna Elm

Book Review


Wendy Darling

by Colleen Oakes

The first volume in a series, Wendy Darling offers an exciting new perspective on Neverland. Told by Wendy, eldest of the three Darling children, the story by Colleen Oakes is less concerned with make-believe and more firmly footed in what it means to grow up. At 16 years old, Wendy wavers between the carefree joy of childhood and the measured responsibility of being an adult. She strives to please her father and be the lady her mother wishes she would be.

Knowing her affluent family would disapprove, she keeps her relationship with Booth, a poor bookseller, secret. When her beau tells her she must be brave and tell her parents of their courtship, Wendy balks, unable to step outside of her sheltered life and decide her own future. By the time Peter comes to take the Darling siblings to Neverland, Wendy wants nothing more than to escape her conflicted feelings for a short while. Unfortunately for Wendy, the adventure is not as Peter promised.

Neverland is not a game, and the only way Wendy can stay safe from the numerous threats, including sirens and pirates, is to stay close to Peter. But proximity comes with a cost. Wendy begins to forget who she is, losing herself in what feels like addictive love. The Lost Boys also look to Peter with cult-like obsession. When Wendy regains her mind, she is appalled by the veneration and devotion Peter commands. In this dark and dangerous Neverland with YA crossover appeal, Wendy must act against Peter to save herself and her brothers. --Justus Joseph, bookseller at Elliott Bay Book Company

Discover: Return to Neverland through the eyes of Wendy Darling in a satisfying story that's darker than the original.

SparkPress, $17, paperback, 9781940716954

Charlesbridge Publishing: Forever Cousins by Laurel Goodluck, illustrated by Jonathan Nelson

Grant Park

by Leonard Pitts, Jr.

On the same day Malcolm Toussaint rocks Chicago by sneaking his racially inflammatory column into the Post's early edition, a pair of white supremacists abduct the African American journalist. Toussaint's kidnapping is a precursor to the duo's deadly intentions toward Barack Obama during his presidential victory speech in Grant Park.

Caught in the crossfire by Toussaint's infraction is his white editor, Bob Carson. Because Toussaint illicitly used Carson's computer and password to insert his article on the newspaper's front page, the managing editors fire both men. Determined to confront his malefactor, an irate Carson believes Toussaint is avoiding him when his calls go unanswered. But then Toussaint's Corvette is found totaled and abandoned. When another Post journalist is assaulted in the parking garage, the entire staff goes on full alert.

As Carson and Toussaint endure the day's treacherous ordeal, they each recall a time 40 years earlier, when they were idealistically entrenched in the civil rights movement. Alternating between 1968 and Election Day 2008, Before I Forget author Leonard Pitts, Jr., deftly explores the volatile complexity of race relations over four decades in the United States. He pokes and prods at the country's scabs, knowing that without air they will never heal.

Grant Park is layered, insightful and passionate. Pitts's subtly explosive language grips readers with the delicate subject matter and earnestly implores them to understand that "[race] has always meant something and it always will." The scars will remain, but stunningly powerful examinations like Grant Park can be the salve that helps heal open wounds. --Jen Forbus of Jen's Book Thoughts

Discover: A black journalist and his white editor relive their 1960s civil rights experiences in the midst of racial terrorism in 2008.

Agate Bolden, $24.95, hardcover, 9781932841916

W. W. Norton & Company: Natural History: Stories by Andrea Barrett

The Abbey: A Story of Discovery

by James Martin

A Trappist monastery near Philadelphia is the centerpiece of James Martin's compassionate, engaging The Abbey. Martin (Jesus: A Pilgrimage) acknowledges that this novel (his first) is based on a dream and grounded in experiences from his own journey of faith. Thus, he brings together, via the fictional Abbey of Saints Philip and James, three souls, each grappling with personal problems.

The main character is Anne, a divorcee, accountant and lapsed Catholic, who, for three years has been grieving the death of her only child, 13-year-old Jeremiah. Anne owns two houses. She lives in one and the other (her parents' house) she rents to Mark, an unsettled ladies' man and former architect, who now works as a handyman at the Abbey. When teenagers in the neighborhood--friends of Jeremiah--accidentally break a window at the rental home, Mark is forced to contact Anne. Through a series of providential coincidences, Mark and Anne are drawn to the Abbey where Father Paul--the middle-aged abbot who privately questions his own existence and place in the world--gently broadens the views of Mark and Anne in their concepts of spirituality and prayer, mercy and love, and how God and the divine manifest in ordinary lives.

The Abbey takes on a different meaning for the personal evolution of each character. With tender wit and wisdom, Martin offers an in-depth glimpse into committed religious life and how lay people can practice a devout faith amid doubt, anger and questioning. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: A secluded Trappist monastery becomes a place of healing for three restless souls facing personal struggles and doubts.

HarperOne, $24.99, hardcover, 9780062401861

Blair: A Girlhood: Letter to My Transgender Daughter by Carolyn Hays

Mystery & Thriller

Death Wears a Mask

by Ashley Weaver

After solving a murder at a fashionable seaside resort, socialite Amory Ames is looking forward to some quiet time in London with her husband, Milo, to patch up their marriage. (Suspecting one's husband of both murder and infidelity does tend to put a damper on romance.) But their relative peace is disturbed when a friend asks Amory to investigate a jewelry theft. Amory reluctantly agrees to help entrap the thief at a masked ball, but when the night's events lead to murder, Amory finds herself drawn into the investigation.

Ashley Weaver (Murder at the Brightwell) deftly evokes the glittering world of 1930s London society in her second mystery, Death Wears a Mask, assembling her suspects--complete with murky pasts and assorted motives for theft and murder--at a dinner party. Amory again proves a perceptive and appealing amateur sleuth as she sifts through clues (including her maid's stack of gossip sheets) and attempts to unearth new information (even visiting pawnshops in disguise). Amory is less perceptive about the intentions of the notorious Viscount Dunmore, host of the masquerade, and several other male suspects. Meanwhile, rumors are swirling about Milo's relationship to a French film star, and Amory must decide what and whom to believe.

"It is difficult enough to read people in real life, to sort through the masks we all wear," Amory muses. Although Amory may be unsure of where the truth lies, Weaver's skill--as evidenced by her sparkling prose and sensitive portrayal of a difficult marriage--is no illusion. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: Socialite and amateur sleuth Amory Ames investigates a satisfying murder mystery set at a masked ball in 1930s London.

Minotaur, $24.99, hardcover, 9781250046376

Science Fiction & Fantasy

Miss Felicity Beedle's The World of Poo

by Terry Pratchett

After having a specimen deposited on his head by a bird as he passes under an apple tree, Geoffrey, the young protagonist in this new addition to the Discworld series, decides he wants to open a poo museum. With the help of his grandmother and the gardener, Plain Old Humphrey, Geoffrey and his new puppy, Widdler, set off on a series of scatological adventures, collecting specimens from as many new species as they can find. They consort with a friendly gargoyle, bring home a steaming pile from a baby dragon, ride on a barge through the sewage-laden river governed by Sir Harry King, who runs a massive poo collection service, and generally have a tremendous amount of fun while collecting many pieces of feces.

Terry Pratchett's satire and wit are evident throughout this humorous venture into a semi-taboo topic; when discussing the poo of dragons, he writes, "Draco nobilis... is a carnivore. This species is particularly fond of virgins, but knights in armour are a bonus because they add a certain amount of roughage to the diet... the dragons excrete small tin roundels not unlike corned beef, but still in the tin as it were." Pratchett has taken an often smelly, offensive subject and made it the object of a young boy's desire--to have the best poo museum in the world--providing readers with a funny and informative view on a process that is natural and a bond of sorts among animals and humans alike. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

Discover: A young boy wants to collect the leavings of as many animals as possible for his new museum.

Doubleday, $19.95, hardcover, 9780385538244

The King's Justice: Two Novellas

by Stephen R. Donaldson

The King's Justice contains two novellas from Stephen R. Donaldson, whose 10-novel series The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant is among the best fantasy of all time.

The first novella, "The King's Justice," tells of the King's servant, Black, a mysterious figure who seeks to eradicate a new evil that has appeared in the land. Black's travels introduce him to many villagers in Settle's Crossways, some helpful, some not, on his journey to discover the origin of the balance-destroying magic within the village itself. Black is captured when confronting Haul Varder, a blacksmith, but must find a way to rescue himself, as well as thwart Varder's malevolent plans.

The second novella, "The Augur's Gambit," concerns Queen Inimica Phlegathon deVry of Indemnie. Her majesty's hieronomer Mayhew, a seer into the unknown, tells the story of his queen's convoluted machinations within her own kingdom, to ensure its deliverance from Mayhew's dire prophesies. He is deeply loyal to Inimica, but also equally smitten with her plain yet brilliant daughter--and only heir--Excrucia, who must avoid many attempts on her life. When Mayhew, his queen and her daughter are forced to confront their enemies much sooner than they expect, "The Augur's Gambit" escalates into a tense, intricate read.

Donaldson is in fine form with these two engaging stories, each with its own elaborately conceived world and backstory that will pull curious readers in immediately and not let go until the very end. --Rob LeFebvre, freelance writer and editor

Discover: Stephen R. Donaldson delivers two fantasy novellas with sophisticated plotting and language.

Putnam, $27.95, hardcover, 9780399176975

Biography & Memoir

Empire of Self: A Life of Gore Vidal

by Jay Parini

Poet, novelist and biographer Jay Parini (One Matchless Time: A Life of William Faulkner) has written an intimate, clear-eyed and authoritative biography of Gore Vidal (1925-2012). Parini's nearly 30-year friendship doesn't blind him to his friend's faults. "He could be cantankerous, testy, ill-mannered, a terrible snob, a drunken bore," writes Parini. But he was also "a man I admired and valued as a friend."

Vidal wrote two memoirs (Palimpsest in 1995, and Point to Point Navigation in 2006) but he wanted Parini to write his full biography. Parini agreed on the condition it would not be published in Vidal's lifetime. This freedom from interference allows Parini a more critical eye toward Vidal's novels, screenplays and essays. He's also able to sift out fiction from what Vidal presented as fact. (Parini believes Vidal wasn't blacklisted by reviewers after the publication of his groundbreaking 1948 gay novel The City and the Pillar; he just followed it up with a number of underwhelming novels.)

A charming narcissist ("He required a hall of mirrors for adequate reflection, and there was never enough"), Vidal's colorful and volatile life was filled with fetes and feuds with celebrities, politicians and writers. His poised, witty and acerbic personality (catnip for talk shows that helped sell his novels) hid his social insecurity. His life partner of 53 years, Howard Austen, was his diplomatic buffer with most people.

Empire of Self offers a fascinating and compelling portrait of Gore Vidal's many contradictions: an anti-Roosevelt Democrat; a gay man who believed "There were no homosexuals, only homosexual acts"; and an enormously successful author with the thinnest of skins. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant

Discover: Jay Parini, a friend of three decades, provides insights about Gore Vidal in a compelling and richly detailed, warts-and-all biography.

Doubleday, $35, hardcover, 9780385537568


The German War: A Nation Under Arms, 1939-1945

by Nicholas Stargardt

As World War II dragged on, past the Nazi defeat at Stalingrad in 1943, through strategic reversals on all fronts and increasingly devastating air raids, the German people, generally speaking, still gave the war effort their utmost support. Even in the fall of 1944 and into early 1945, many held out in desperate conditions under the belief that something, a miracle weapon or dissolution of the Soviet-Western alliance, would change Germany's fortunes. What compelled them to struggle and die for a regime whose crimes were so appalling? How much did Germans know about the Holocaust, and how could that knowledge coexist with a belief in the righteousness of the German cause?

In The German War: A Nation Under Arms, 1939-1945, Oxford professor Nicholas Stargardt (Witnesses of War) explores these and other questions through letters, diaries and other first-hand accounts from German civilians and soldiers. The result is a portrait of a population that experienced complex combinations of patriotism, religious faith, fear, familial love and, ultimately, guilt.

Stargardt debunks the postwar pleas of ignorance given by Germans when confronted with the horrors of the death camps. News of genocide in the occupied east made its way back into the Reich through letters from soldiers to their families. As the bombing of German cities became catastrophic, civilians mused publicly that the air raids were revenge for how Germany had treated the Jews. The Holocaust was an open secret, and how regular Germans dealt with it is just part of what makes The German War so fascinating. --Tobias Mutter, freelance reviewer

Discover: A portrait of German civilians and soldiers during World War II crafted from first-hand accounts.

Basic Books, $35, hardcover, 9780465018994

Social Science

Letters to Santa Claus

by "The Elves"

For years, letters addressed to Santa Claus have been shipped to Santa Claus, Ind., where a staff of town volunteers--"elves"--processes and answers some 400,000 pieces of mail every December.

The book gathers more than 250 scanned letters and documents, from the 1930s to the present. Wish lists reflect the times--from Shirley Temple dolls to Apple gift cards--and the letters are telling and confessional. A "good little bad boy" admits he's been a "real louse," pouring Tabasco instead of chocolate syrup on his brother's ice cream. A humble little girl wants only shoes with heels for her depressed single mother. Another asks for a time machine to "fix all the bad things that have happened to me." A six-year-old wants Santa to bring his ex-con father a job. A dog, abandoned by housemates, wants his favorite treats. A Braille letter from a blind Filipino girl asks for a radio. There are others boldly seeking mates, money, lingerie and legal aid.

Some lists are long and typed, others short: "I want my dad to be smarter"; "Can my mom come home from the hospital?" Questions about reindeer, chimneys and coal abound, as do apologies and vows toward better behavior. Some dangle prospects of Christmas Eve sweet treats to entice Santa--one promises beer and a liverwurst sandwich. This well-presented, historical collection--reflecting both the naughty and nice--will entertain and offer insights into the human condition. And it's even been reported that a reader spotted her own letter to Santa in the mix! Might yours be included? --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: A heartwarming collection of original letters written to Santa and processed via the dedicated volunteer "elves" of Santa Claus, Ind.

Indiana University Press, $20, hardcover, 9780253017932

Travel Literature

Dispatches from Pluto: Lost and Found in the Mississippi Delta

by Richard Grant

Richard Grant (Crazy River) is "a misfit Englishman with a U.S. passport and a taste for remote places," a writer and professional peripatetic when he encounters an old plantation home in the Mississippi Delta. Later he will ask, "What sort of idiot goes on a picnic and ends up buying a house?" He then explains.

In Dispatches from Pluto: Lost and Found in the Mississippi Delta, Richard moves, with his girlfriend, from New York City to a spot even the locals find remote. They struggle with home improvements, an enormous vegetable garden and the moral problem they encounter in hunting for their meat. After some hilarious hiccups along the way, they take pleasure in living in large part off the land. Perhaps more challenging are questions of culture: the liberal newcomers are sensitive to their conservative religious neighbors, who are surely suspicious in turn. But from the beginning they manage to bond like family.

Grant narrates the next year with reflection and humor, from electoral politics and absurd local news to learning how to hunt and party like a Deltan. The myriad forms and intensities of racism and racial tension develop into a theme, as Grant pursues diverse friends and acquaintances. But he finds beauty as well as complexity, and concludes, "I had done the thing that modern life conspires against. I had fully inhabited the present without distraction." Dispatches from Pluto offers a lovely, appreciative and entertaining tour of the strange and rich Mississippi Delta. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: An occasionally bumbling Brit moves into the Mississippi Delta and delivers a romping survey of the surroundings.

Simon & Schuster, $16, paperback, 9781476709642

Children's & Young Adult

The Emperor of Any Place

by Tim Wynne-Jones

Ever since 16-year-old Evan Griffin's mother left when he was three, it's been just him and his dad at their Canadian home, whose address they jokingly call "123 Any Place." Evan and his father are very close, so when Evan's father suddenly dies of heart failure, there's "a whole lot of Never to get used to."

As if his grief weren't overwhelming enough, Evan finds himself with a mystery on his hands. Evan's father died just after reading a hand-bound manuscript called Kokoro-Jima, the Heart-Shaped Island, and there's a man who keeps calling Evan about it. A letter tucked inside Kokoro-Jima indicates that Evan's 90-year-old grandfather, Clifford E. Griffin II, is blocking its publication, and it's just making the man look guilty, possibly of murdering one of the book's authors, Isamu Ōshiro. Still, Evan is on his own now, and the only person he can think of to call for help is the steely, possibly murderous sergeant major his ex-hippie, draft-dodging father despised. As Evan starts to read Kokoro-Jima, he, along with readers, immerses himself in the fantastical story, narrated by two World War II soldiers--one Japanese, one American--who are stranded on a tropical Pacific Island inhabited only by child ghosts, zombies and a beaked monster. This impossible tale bleeds into Evan's life, as he and his grandfather become the marooned, warring soldiers who struggle toward mutual understanding.

English-Canadian author Tim Wynne-Jones (The Uninvited, Blink & Caution) crafts a truly spellbinding novel in which the mystical, desert-island, wartime chronicle is as riveting as the modern-day story... and the ways they begin to fuse together are breathtaking. --Karin Snelson, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: In Tim Wynne-Jones's masterful novel, 16-year-old Evan finds that a mystical World War II story from his grandfather's past is a bridge to his future.

Candlewick, $17.99, hardcover, 336p., ages 14-up, 9780763669737

Five Nice Mice Build a House

by Chisato Tashiro, English text adapted by Kate Westerlund

A human's trash is a mouse's treasure, isn't that the expression? In this charming addition to the Five Nice Mice collection, Japanese artist Chisato Tashiro (Five Nice Mice and the Great Car Race) brings her exquisite painterly sensibility to the city dump.

The five nice mice are properly introduced: Nibble ("has no idea where his other blue sock is"), Teeny ("never without her green bracelet"), Bon Bon ("always wears his favorite yellow scarf"), Whisk ("the mouse with a knot in his tail") and the red-bowed Abby ("sometimes a little vain"). Early on, cats are established as the enemy, and two very big ones have just moved into the old building where the mice live. The mice search and search for a safer home, until they find "an extraordinary mountain" of cast-off armchairs and clocks, cans and lampshades: the city dump. Delighted, they decide to build a house. A big red chair, overturned, makes an ideal roof, a clock makes a nice pantry and kitchen. The afternoon nap room is perfect: "And when they were finished, the light shone through the glass balls and filled the room with soft, magical light." They even build a Ferris wheel with old bicycle tires! A "MMMEEEOOOWWW!" shatters their newfound harmony, but only temporarily. The poor cat is caught in some twine, the compassionate mice gnaw him free, and in return he becomes their loyal "watch cat."

Children will marvel at the ingenuity of the mice, and revel in the enchanting details of the splendid mouse-house that any creature would love to inhabit. --Karin Snelson, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: Five nice mice build an impressive house out of cast-offs from the city dump in Chisato Tashiro's gorgeous picture book.

Minedition, $17.99, hardcover, 36p., ages 3-7, 9789888240395


Author Buzz

Taking the Leap: A River Rain Novel

by Kristen Ashley

Dear Reader,

River Rain is back!

Sweeping from the mountains of Arizona, to parties in New York City, the next in the River Rain series, Taking the Leap brings on one of my favorite tropes. A bashful woman who's willing to take what she can get and a good man lying to himself about his future, that future being with her. Can Alex and Rix see the possibility and take the leap? I hope you dive in and see!

Kristen Ashley

Available on Kobo

Blue Box Press

Pub Date: 
February 15, 2022


List Price: 
$5.99 e-book

Valley of Shadows

by Rudy Ruiz

Dear Reader,

My new book Valley of Shadows is here! Be transported to a distant time and a remote place where the immortal forces of good and evil dance amidst the shadows of magic and mountains. A visionary neo-Western blend of magical realism, mystery, and horror, Valley of Shadows sheds light on the dark past of injustice, isolation, and suffering along the US-Mexico border.

Win 1 of 5 copies by writing to me at!

Rudy Ruiz

Buy from your local indie bookstore>


Pub Date: 
September 20, 


List Price: 
$27.99 Hardcover

Powered by: Xtenit