Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Harperteen: The Someday Daughter by Ellen O'Clover

From My Shelf

It's a Dog's World

Recently we shared some purr-fect gift books for cat lovers; today we highlight dog books. There's been a litter of new titles, with a welcome emphasis on older dogs and rescue dogs, like My Old Dog: Rescued Pets with Remarkable Second Acts by Laura T. Coffey (New World Library, $24.95), which pairs heartwarming stories of adopted senior pets with fetching photos by Lori Fusaro. Photographer Traer Scott says, in Finding Home: Shelter Dogs and Their Stories (Princeton Architectural Press, $19.95), "It is always particularly heartbreaking to see senior dogs in shelters; they seem so bewildered and lost." Her black-and-white portraits give these dogs a poignancy and gravitas they deserve.

The companions in Old Faithful: Dogs of a Certain Age (Harper Design, $19.99) by Pete Thorne may sport gray muzzles and cataracts, but they exhibit joy and wisdom--they are well-loved family members. Throne began a Facebook page with photos of older dogs and their stories; it turned into the Old Faithful Project as people sent in their own submissions. Airedale terrier Stanley's owner says, "My boy is aging fast and it breaks my heart. I need more time to stare into his kind brown eyes." In Dog Years: Faithful Friends, Then & Now (Chronicle, $19.95), Amanda Jones, who's been photographing dogs for 20 years, revisited some of the dogs she had photographed in their younger years. Golden retriever Maggie, who started life in a puppy mill, is obsessed with tennis balls--she's shown at three ages, all with her beloved ball. One-year-old basset hound Poppy adorably poses with her ear in her mouth.

Shaina Fishman set up a studio with a camera, treats and pairs of pets, and watched them play. The result is the delightful Between Two Dogs (Skyhorse Publishing, $17.99). Goldens Cash and her puppy Buttercup are all cuddly fur and licks; American Eskimos Atka and puppy Kayu, therapy dogs, are splayed out together--snow-white starlets posing for a calendar. --Marilyn Dahl, editor, Shelf Awareness for Readers

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

The Writer's Life

Book Brahmin: Shann Ray

photo: Vanessa Kay

Shann Ray grew up in Montana, played college basketball at Montana State University and Pepperdine University and professional basketball in Germany. His work has appeared in Poetry, McSweeney's, Narrative and Montana Quarterly, and has been selected for the Best New Poets and The Better of McSweeney's anthologies. He is the author of Balefire, a poetry collection, and American Masculine, a collection of stories. He lives with his wife and three daughters in Spokane, Wash., where he teaches leadership and forgiveness studies at Gonzaga University. American Copper (Unbridled Books, November 3, 2015) is his debut novel.

On your nightstand now:

Since my nightstand is so small, let's consider my desk my nightstand for a minute. Here, so many lovely, deeply felt, gorgeous books reside in not so neat stacks! C.D. Wright's Deepstep Come Shining; Claudia Rankine's Citizen; Jericho Brown's The New Testament; Michael Ondaatje's Coming Through Slaughter, The Collected Works of Billy the Kid and The English Patient; Sherman Alexie's War Dances; Carolyn Forché's anthologies Against Forgetting and Poetry of Witness. These and many more have been like good brothers and sisters while I was writing American Copper. In the novel, a copper baron's daughter named Evelynne Lowry, a Cheyenne cowboy and team roper named William Black Kettle, and a steer wrestler/bar room brawler named Zion address the darkness that often overwhelms them--the heartlessness of colonialism, the rage of racial injustice, the isolation of wealth and privilege--and in the end, they give something ultimate in order to reach toward forgiveness and atonement.

Favorite book when you were a child:

In Montana, I spent part of my childhood on the Cheyenne reservation. My family lived in trailers and mobile homes where the talk and the action was mostly about basketball and almost everything occurred in threes--as in 3-point jump shots. There were also dunks, quick moves, ball-handling skills, swishes and all around string music. Books were respected but not adored until later. My favorite book as a boy was Curious George, but mostly my family loved the wilderness and spent a lot of time in the mountains of Montana. When I started dating a girl named Jennifer, I was 17, and books became heart and soul. She introduced me to The Secret Garden, Candide, A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations, The Four Loves, Anna Karenina, War and Peace, Crime and Punishment, Les Misérables. Five years later, I married Jenn and the reading never stopped!

Your top five authors:

Here they are, but the top five are pretty much interchangeable with the top 500, from a passion and torque perspective:

  1. James Welch, especially Fools Crow and Winter in the Blood
  2. Leslie Marmon Silko, especially Ceremony
  3. bell hooks, especially All About Love and Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center
  4. Milan Kundera, especially The Unbearable Lightness of Being
  5. John Berger, especially To the Wedding
  6. Debra Magpie Earling, 7. Toni Morrison, 8. C.D. Wright, 9. Christian Wiman, 10. Graham Greene, 11. Emily Dickinson, 12. Willa Cather, 13. Czesław Miłosz, 14. Li-Young Lee, 15. Shūsaku Endō... (can I list the top 500 here?)

Book you've faked reading:

Lots of books assigned in high school and college. Sadly. The Catcher in the Rye comes to mind with a sting.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Recently, I've loved the intricate, nation-bending work of these three: Toni Morrison's Home, Marilynne Robinson's Gilead and Graham Greene's The Power and the Glory. I was too scared to send love letters to Toni Morrison and Marilynne Robinson, or hold a séance to thank Graham Greene. Then I fell even more for C.D. Wright's Deepstep Come Shining, and I did muster the courage to write her. To my great surprise, she wrote back. She's as graceful and generous as her poems suggest.

Book you've bought for the cover:

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Stunning. Absorbing. The cover takes you down into the book as if you've surrendered yourself to the ocean, the city, the light. And the book is an irreplaceable gem, among the very best novels I've read in the last 10 years.

Books you hid from your parents:

The Stranger by Albert Camus. "Create dangerously!" Gadamer's Truth and Method, who can fathom the depths of it? And I and Thou by Martin Buber, for the way it transcends dogma.

Books that changed your life:

All of the above, but I want to specifically say Fools Crow by James Welch for its evocation of the Blackfeet culture at the height of its power, which was every bit as dignified in grandeur and collective fierceness as the Roman empire. Also N. Scott Momaday's House Made of Dawn, for the poetic beauty and confrontation of American colonialism found in the title and in the prose. Finally, Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being, because we share Czech heritage, and for how he found an elegant and perhaps inescapable way to reach into Czech and Eastern Bloc Communist hyperbole and come out with greater notions of individual and collective responsibility for past atrocities.

Favorite line from a book:

"It was a pleasure to burn." --the opening line of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451.

Five books you'll never part with:

Emily Dickinson's collected poems: "Take all away from me but leave me ecstasy.... Not knowing when the dawn will come I open every door.... I am afraid to own a body/ I am afraid to own a soul."

Gerard Manley Hopkin's collected poems: "It will flame out like shining from shook foil/ it gathers to a greatness like the ooze of oil."

Shakespeare's collected poems: "Let me not to the marriage of true minds/ admit impediments. Love is not love/ which alters when it alteration finds."

The Book of Isaiah, to me the most heartrending of sacred scriptures: "beauty for ashes... and the garment of praise instead of the spirit of despair."

Tolstoy's War and Peace: "Nothing is so necessary for a young man as the company of intelligent women."

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

The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh. In those letters, Vincent says, "The greatest work of art is to love someone." The letters show a heart so full of love and so rich with desire for art, beauty and life. He was always poor as far as money in the pocket, but in the heart he was among the richest of all people.

Novels you love that read like poetry:

Poetry is my first love for the silence between the words, and the call to something higher. Great novels that read like poetry to me include: Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson, The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko, All the Light We Cannot See by Tony Doerr, Fools Crow by James Welch, To the Wedding by John Berger and Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor. 

Broadleaf Books: What We Remember Will Be Saved: A Story of Refugees and the Things They Carry by Stephanie Saldaña

Book Candy

'Tis the Season

Bustle featured "10 literary 'ugly' Christmas sweaters to make your holiday parties bookish and bright," as well as "14 important lessons Harry Potter taught us about the holidays." Brightly shared "8 clever ways to celebrate the holidays with books." First Lady Michelle Obama read The Night Before Christmas with Miss Piggy during the national Christmas tree lighting ceremony, the Huffington Post noted.


Ticket books: "Brazil's biggest pocket book publisher L&PM Editores created a collection of small paperbacks that also work as subway tickets," PSFK reported.


"The only footage of Mark Twain in existence" was featured by Mental Floss, which noted that in 1909, Thomas Edison "visited Twain's estate in Redding, Conn., and filmed the famous author."


Miss Biffin on Deportment is just one of the imagined works Charles Dickens (channeling Jorge Luis Borges) imagined to create "a fake library, with 37 witty invented book titles," Open Culture wrote.


Author Natasha Carthew picked her "top 10 revenge reads" for the Guardian.

Great Reads

Rediscover: The Unknown Terrorist by Richard Flanagan

In Richard Flanagan's 2006 thriller The Unknown Terrorist, the life of 26-year-old stripper and pole dancer Gina Davies is upended after she has a one-night stand with a man later implicated in a terrorist plot. Davies, who is also referred to throughout the novel as "the Doll," suddenly finds herself at the center of a police manhunt and an hysterical media frenzy. As the details of her job, her family and her past life are dissected on national television and the police close in, Davies works frantically to elude capture and clear her name. Set in Sydney, Australia, The Unknown Terrorist is a captivating thriller of the post-9/11 era. And despite being nearly 10 years old, everything it says about the surveillance state, national security and privacy in the digital age is just as relevant today as it was then. The Unknown Terrorist is available in paperback from Grove Press ($14, 9780802143549).

Book Review


A Wild Swan: And Other Tales

by Michael Cunningham, illus. by Yuko Shimizu

Michael Cunningham (Pulitzer Prize winner for The Hours) takes a fresh and dark look at a selection of classic fairy tales with A Wild Swan: And Other Tales. His brief, richly imagined new stories, often based only loosely on their models, are accompanied by detailed, atmospheric black-and-white illustrations by Yuko Shimizu.

Here readers will find the "crazy old lady" who lures Hansel and Gretel to her cottage of candy in the woods; but Hansel and Gretel are pierced and tattooed, and sexy "with their starved and foxy faces." Snow White's prince is obsessed with the beautiful deathly version of her he discovered in the coffin, and troublingly insists on replaying the scene over and over again. Rumpelstiltskin is surprisingly well intentioned--for the most part. Rapunzel's life following the closure of the Grimms' tale is revealed, and it's a good thing she kept her severed braids. The Beast has grown to be a bad boy, even after Beauty gives him her love. And in the title story, the princess is successful in transforming all of her brothers but one back to their fully human forms.

Cunningham sometimes brings these stories into more or less modern times, but the point of this collection is not to recast the classics with smartphones and fast cars, and some of the settings remain unchanged. Rather, these are playful riffs on well-known stories, almost always with a still gloomier tone than even the Brothers Grimm applied. These tales are not always for the kids, of course, but have an appealing mix of dark humor and nostalgia for timeless stories. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Michael Cunningham darkly reimagines classic fairy tales, with appropriately moody illustrations.

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $23, hardcover, 9780374290252

Private Life

by Josep Maria de Sagarra, trans. by Mary Ann Newman

In 1932, the publication of Josep Maria de Sagarra's Private Life--boldly depicting the decline of the aristocracy in Barcelona--caused a scandal in Spain. The sprawling plot is a serpents' nest of entangled motives and schemes centering on three generations of the Lloberolas. Once wealthy, they are now down on their luck and selling off heirlooms. Don Tomas is the head of the family, and his two sons, Frederic and Guillem, are the primary plot-movers. Frederic is a big-scale bungler, and has ended up with a promissory note he can't pay. His younger brother is far brighter--the book's most fascinating character. Cunning and attractive, casually self-serving, the young schemer disguises himself as a ditch digger and goes to a scandalous meeting-place where he is hired to be the lower-class sexual plaything of an aristocratic couple.

Sagarra never hesitates to remind the reader that he has no romantic illusions about desire and attraction. "No matter what the storybooks say, the exercise of love is monotonous." Occasionally the novel is wildly funny, as when Frederic delivers a powerful speech "on the grandeur and decadence of human vanity" to a white spotted cow while she munches on grass.

As Private Life incrementally edges toward a tragic climax, Sagarra plays with the reader, never going where he seems to be heading, presenting a huge, sprawling patchwork fitted together into a mosaic of the end of the aristocratic age. In lusciously exact language, Sagarra painstakingly charts the misunderstandings and crossed signals of privileged human beings greedily, selfishly determined to be happy. --Nick DiMartino, Nick's Picks, University Book Store, Seattle, Wash.

Discover: This exposé of high society in Barcelona caused a scandal in 1932, and now it's available in its first English translation.

Archipelago, $20, paperback, 9780914671268

Mystery & Thriller

American Blood

by Ben Sanders

New Zealand author Ben Sanders (Only the Dead) makes his bow stateside with a high-speed thriller. Marshall Grade--a former NYPD officer now in witness protection--oversteps his bounds when he starts to investigate the disappearance of a young woman in Albuquerque, N.Mex. If the mob-hired killer known as the Dallas Man finds him, his erasure will be swift. Still, Marshall hopes that helping the woman will give him respite from his guilt over the mistakes that landed him here. Unfortunately, his investigation pits him against drug traffickers, and the shock waves trigger not only the attention of sympathetic narcotics agent Lauren Shore but also that of the Dallas Man.

Sanders's tense voice lends a gritty heft to the time-honored story of a man blessed with a very specific set of skills. Handy with a weapon and possessing a quick mind, Marshall matches wits with thug after thug. While finding the missing woman remains his priority, the pertinent question becomes whether or not Marshall will meet someone more dangerous than himself first.

As the title American Blood suggests, copious pints are shed in varied and gruesome fashions. Although the pacing leaves no time for navel gazing, character development is not lost in the shuffle. The Dallas Man in particular intrigues: a hitman extraordinaire who dispatches targets with cold precision, yet calls his young daughter every time he needs distance from the reality of his life. Sanders keeps forward momentum at maximum velocity, and manages to slip in a few nifty plot twists at the last second, including a terrific hook that sets up a sequel. American Blood is a thrill ride more than worth the admission. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Discover: This rapid-fire crime thriller from a New Zealander was optioned by Warner Bros. while still in the proposal stage.

Minotaur, $24.99, hardcover, 9781250058799

Silent Nights: Christmas Mysteries

by Martin Edwards, editor

The Christmas season is ripe for mysteries and ghost stories, like Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol and the holiday adventures of Hercule Poirot and Miss Jane Marple. A connoisseur of British crime fiction, Martin Edwards has collected 16 short stories from the genre's Golden Age in his third mystery anthology, Silent Nights.

Edwards (The Golden Age of Murder) includes a few classic pieces by well-known authors, notably Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Blue Carbuncle" and stories by G.K. Chesterton and Dorothy Sayers. But the collection also includes less familiar names such as Ralph Plummer, H.C. Bailey and Ethel Lina White. Eager to provide fresh material for even the most diehard mystery fans, Edwards has done a bit of sleuthing himself, tracking down one or two stories that have never been anthologized.

Each piece is prefaced by a brief introduction to the author and his or her work, which is especially helpful for the book's more obscure contributors. Many of the pieces (as Edwards admits) are festive in setting only: jewel theft and murder at country-house parties and a sinister collection of waxworks are hardly traditional Christmas fare. But the stories provide a varied and entertaining glimpse into Golden Age crime fiction, and may prompt readers to seek out more work by authors who are new to them.

A bit uneven in quality, but still moody and atmospheric, Silent Nights will amuse and satisfy mystery lovers who like a little murder with their eggnog. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: British crime fiction author and connoisseur Martin Edwards has collected 16 holiday-themed mystery stories by writers both famous and obscure.

Poisoned Pen Press, $12.95, paperback, 9781464204999

Ashley Bell

by Dean Koontz

Despite her somewhat frivolous-sounding name, Bibi Blair, the 22-year-old protagonist of Ashley Bell, is determined to make it clear that she is fierce and dauntless. Engaged to a Navy SEAL currently on an unspecified mission in an unspecified country, she's learned a thing or two about what it means to be strong after being diagnosed with brain cancer and told she has less than a year to live.

To the delight of her parents (and shock of her doctors), Bibi quickly overcomes her cancer: she wakes from a deep sleep miraculously and mysteriously cured. But she does not want to live without understanding the why and how of it. Her persistence and search for enlightenment sets Koontz's novel on a fascinating exploration of destiny that is heart-pounding and mind-boggling.

After her release from the hospital, Bibi meets with a masseuse-turned-mystic, who convinces her that her life was spared in order to allow her to save the life of another--Ashley Bell. With no idea who Ashley Bell is, what (or whom) she needs saving from, or where she might be, Bibi is left confused but more determined than ever to find answers.

Koontz (Innocence) is a masterful plotter, capable of juggling the many threads of this story without losing sight of the whole. There are many strands: neo-Nazism, details of Bibi's past, a wobbling sense of reality, the story of her SEAL fiance's mission. But Koontz knows how to captivate and surprise. Ashley Bell is a rarity of a thriller--one that asks big questions about life and destiny while succeeding in creating such an eerie sense of reality that sleeping with the lights on might seem like a sane idea. --Kerry McHugh

Discover: This well-paced thriller blurs the line between what is real and what is imagined, between past and present, present and future.

Bantam, $28, hardcover, 9780345545961

Home by Nightfall

by Charles Finch

After a brief career in Parliament, gentleman sleuth Charles Lenox is finally enjoying some prosperity as a partner in his own detective agency. When a German pianist disappears after a spectacular performance at a London concert hall, Lenox and his two partners hope to convince Scotland Yard to call them in on the case. But before they can begin investigating, Lenox is called away to spend a few days at his childhood home in Sussex with his recently widowed brother, Edmund.

In his ninth Charles Lenox novel, Home by Nightfall, Charles Finch (The Laws of Murder) again paints a richly detailed portrait of daily life and crime solving in 1870s England. While keeping up with the case in London, the Lenox brothers find themselves drawn into a puzzling series of events in the village of Markethouse: a break-in, an eerie drawing chalked on a doorstep, a spurious telegram. Lenox welcomes the case as both an intellectual challenge and a means to distract Edmund from his grief, but the clues refuse to add up. When the village's mayor is viciously attacked, the brothers must solve the case before the assassin strikes again. Meanwhile, Lenox's agency partners are worried someone is trying to undercut their business from the inside.

As ever, Lenox is a thoughtful, honorable man, quietly determined to bring about justice for the victims of crime. Although both cases have rather unconventional endings, Home by Nightfall is a satisfying and well-plotted entry in Lenox's--and Finch's--detective career. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: Charles Finch's ninth novel featuring Victorian sleuth Charles Lenox draws together themes of grief and revenge in two very different mystery plots.

Minotaur, $25.99, hardcover, 9781250070418

Biography & Memoir

White Eskimo: Knud Rasmussen's Fearless Journey into the Heart of the Arctic

by Stephen R. Bown

During the early 1900s, polar exploration was "the height of fashion and public interest--the era when... dangerous journeys to the remote regions of the planet were part sporting event and part scientific expedition, draped in a cloak of nationalism." One of those voyagers was Knud Rasmussen, a part-Inuit, part-Danish explorer who was as curious about the people he encountered in his travels as he was about the surrounding landscape. In White Eskimo, historian Stephen R. Bown (The Last Viking: The Life of Roald Amundsen) takes readers into the frozen landscape of Greenland, where Rasmussen was born, and examines the life and trips he made in Greenland and across the Arctic.

Because he was part Inuit, the native people of Greenland embraced Rasmussen as one of their own. They were willing to teach him their songs and dances, myth-filled stories and aspects of daily life that other explorers were not privy to, giving Rasmussen insight into the culture of these Arctic people upon which much of today's knowledge was founded. Bown's descriptions of the many dogsled trips Rasmussen took leave no doubt in the reader's mind as to the arduousness of his adventures; the men on his teams faced starvation time and again.

The author also deftly ponders Rasmussen's personal life. Although the explorer had a wife and family in Denmark, he was willing to leave them for years at a time because of his passion for Arctic exploration. An assortment of maps and photographs help round out this informative and entertaining biography. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

Discover: This vivid biography of Knud Rasmussen details his arduous Arctic sled-dog trips and provides readers with a well-rounded portrait of the explorer and his life.

Da Capo Press, $27.99, hardcover, 9780306822827

Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock 'n' Roll

by Peter Guralnick

Much like Sam Phillips himself, author Peter Guralnick (Last Train to Memphis) is nothing if not "obsessed" and "meticulous" when it comes to chronicling the lives of the founding giants of rock 'n' roll and R&B; he worked on the 750-page Sam Phillips since 1979, when he first met the genius behind Sun Records. The good news is that Guralnick uses those pages to present some of the best history of a musical era that provided the soundtrack for the Baby Boomer generation. Sun Studio was not the only place recording largely unheralded rhythm and blues musicians in the 1950s but, as Guralnick suggests, Phillips's Sun was the label that spearheaded the migration of that music into what became rock 'n' roll.

Methodically tracing Phillips's life, from his father's tenant farm near the Alabama-Tennessee border to "big city" Memphis, Guralnick focuses on Phillips's relentless drive to bring the sounds of the "poor blacks and poor whites that had been overlooked for so long" to the mainstream. The remarkable list of "walk-ins" that launched Sun reads like a who's who of rock 'n' roll: Howlin' Wolf, B.B. King, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and the big dog of them all, Elvis Presley.

Sam Phillips's life was not all rock 'n' roll. Divorce, business failures, mental illness, lawsuits and disappointment came his way. At his funeral, "Sam looked good in his coffin... as more than a thousand people stood in line... [while] a succession of Sun hits played loudly over the funeral home's PA system." Not a bad way to go. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: Guralnick's biography of "the man who invented rock 'n' roll" is a cornerstone addition to his unmatched backlist of rock music history and biography.

Little, Brown, $32, hardcover, 9780316042741

Essays & Criticism

This Old Man: All in Pieces

by Roger Angell

Roger Angell's gentle wit and insight permeate brief vignettes about his family, colleagues, acquaintances, famous political figures and, of course, ballplayers in This Old Man. Among them, he reviews his stepfather E.B. White's One Man's Meat, summing it up as a book that "always had the heft, the light usefulness, of a bushel basket, carrying a raking of daily or seasonal notions." His membership in "the greatest generation" somewhat embarrasses him, with its cavalier acceptance of the devastating firebombing of Japan at the end of the war--and makes him reflect: "Killing more civilians than the other side is what war makes you do, but reaching the decision and then acting on it doesn't make you good or great. It makes you tired and it keeps you awake at night, still crazy after all these years."

Angell's collection winds down with "This Old Man," a piece from the New Yorker. He still has some spunk: "I'm ninety-three, and I'm feeling great. Well, pretty great, unless I've forgotten to take a couple of Tylenols in the past four or five hours... the downside of great age is the room it provides for rotten news. Living long means enough already." Let's hope Angell hasn't really had enough already. There can be no better guiding hand to the other side, especially one who appreciates the rarity of an unassisted triple play and laments instant replay reviews because "umps should always be right, even when they aren't." --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: Long-time New Yorker editor and baseball writer extraordinaire Roger Angell collects his columns, eulogies, letters, illustrations and verse.

Doubleday, $26.95, hardcover, 9780385541138

The Good Book: Writers Reflect on Favorite Bible Passages

by Andrew Blauner, editor

Assemble a group of novelists, poets, professors and journalists and ask them to write an essay on a book of the Bible that has special meaning for them and there's a good chance the result will be a book that will enlighten, provoke and at times infuriate readers. Whether believers or skeptics, the 32 contributors literary agent Andrew Blauner has recruited to that task do an admirable job sharing their strikingly diverse perspectives in The Good Book.

Touching on both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, these essays overlap little in substance or style. The strongest pieces are rooted less in religious doctrine than they are in the life experiences of their authors. Lois Lowry, for one, evokes the Book of Ruth in telling the story of the marriage of her son, a United States fighter pilot serving in Germany, to a native of that country. Similarly engaging is Samuel Freedman's story, tied to the enigmatic account of the prophet Ezekiel in the Valley of Dry Bones, of how he "learned how to be a Jew at a black church."

As The Good Book's contributors demonstrate, whether it's viewed as a source of spiritual guidance, a work of literature or history or simply as an anchor for memory, in the hands of writers as talented as the group Andrew Blauner has gathered here, the Bible's riches are both inexhaustible and infinitely challenging. That's enough to make one hope that a sequel to this stimulating book, featuring a different chorus of voices, might be in the works. --Harvey Freedenberg, attorney and freelance reviewer

Discover: Thirty-two writers share keen insights into the biblical passages most meaningful to them.

Simon & Schuster, $27, hardcover, 9781476789965

Children's & Young Adult

The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip

by George Saunders, illus. by Lane Smith

"Ever had a burr in your sock? A gapper's like that, only bigger, about the size of a baseball, bright orange, with multiple eyes like the eyes on a potato. And gappers love goats." So begins The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip by George Saunders (Tenth of December: Stories), stunningly illustrated in full color by Caldecott Honor artist Lane Smith (The Stinky Cheese Man; Grandpa Green).

Since gappers love goats, they gleefully cling to the goats of the three families of Frip, who live in three tall shacks close to the sea. It is the children's job to pick the gappers off the goats, because their nonstop joy-shrieks distract the poor goats from producing the milk the villagers need to survive. The weary children throw the gappers back into the sea eight times a day, but the gappers inevitably return. One day, all 1,500 gappers converge on the goats of a girl named Capable. She asks her neighbors for help, but they refuse her, saying that she must somehow deserve her burden, that she is "not quite as good" as they are. Of course, when those same selfish neighbors are in trouble, they have no qualms about asking for aid. And the compassionate Capable helps them, because "she soon found that it was not all that much fun being the sort of person who eats a big dinner in a warm house while others shiver on their roofs in the dark."

Saunders's delightful, wise, satirical book--reissued with a snazzy new cover--is not to be read anywhere laughing out loud is frowned upon. --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: George Saunders's hilarious all-ages allegory, illustrated by Lane Smith, is about goats, goat-loving gappers, and a kind girl named Capable who makes the town of Frip a happier place.

Random House, $22, hardcover, 96p., ages 9-adult, 9780812989632

The Lion and the Unicorn and Other Hairy Tales

by Jane Ray

British author and illustrator Jane Ray (The Little Mermaid and Other Fishy Tales) turns her attention to the beasts of the earth in this exciting addition to her Story Collector series, sure to enchant middle graders and folklore enthusiasts alike.

Eleven animal poems and tales, whose origins range from the American South to Asia to the Arctic, are the works of other writers or retold by Ray in her own accessible, elegant style, perfect for reading aloud. The type is generously sized, and the design is agreeably roomy. The wonderful stories are enhanced by Ray's signature, etched Scraperboard illustrations, echoing folk art styles. A bejeweled scarlet elephant plucks a plump fig under a starry sky in the Indian tale "The Heavenly Elephant," and a graceful young couple strides through petal-studded air in the Slavic "The Singing Ringing Tree." A slavering minotaur's baleful red eye glows from the darkness in "Theseus and the Minotaur." An adorable, smoke-snorting Custard the Dragon accompanies the Ogden Nash poem in which he stars, and the collection's titular heroes snarl at each other across facing pages, atop a watermark showing their battle.

Ray chose her entries to illuminate humanity's "paradoxical and confused relationship with animals" and the many qualities we project onto them, from magical powers to human emotion. Classrooms and libraries will welcome this admirable assemblage with open arms, but it would also make a handsome gift for the starry-eyed child, animal lover or tale collector. Ray continues to conjure nothing short of pure magic. --Jaclyn Fulwood, youth services librarian, Latah County Library District (Idaho)

Discover: This gorgeously illustrated addition to Jane Ray's Story Collector series features a lively selection of multicultural stories and poems about animals.

Boxer Books, $19.95, hardcover, 176p., ages 7-10, 9781910126387


Author Buzz


by Jessica George

Dear Reader,

Exploring the idea that a 'coming of age' can occur at any age and a number of times is at the heart of Maame. An often introspective, often funny, often realistic look at a later bloomer finding herself amidst all her assigned labels: daughter, carer, friend, assistant, mother.

To celebrate the upcoming publication of the paperback, I'm giving away five copies of Maame. Send your mailing address to enter!

Jessica George

Buy now and support your local indie bookstore>

AuthorBuzz: Maame by Jessica George

St. Martin's Griffin

Pub Date: 
February 6, 2024


List Price: 
$18.00 Paperback

Christmas in Cape May
(A Sunshine Sisters Novella)

by Jennifer Probst

Dear Reader,

What happens when a woman who loves Christmas meets a man who relates better to the Grinch are suddenly forced together to run the annual holiday fur gala?

Let the festivities begin.

This enemies-to-lovers, opposites-attract, holiday romance is part of my bestselling Sunshine Sisters series that takes place in the beach town of Cape May, New Jersey. Devon and Jameson stole my heart with their snarky banter, off-the-charts chemistry, and emotional vulnerability that slowly creates a bond between them. But is there enough magic in Christmas to keep them together?

Let's find out.

Happy reading.

Available on Kobo

AuthorBuzz: 1001 Dark Nights Press: Christmas in Cape May (A Sunshine Sisters Novella) by Jennifer Probst

1001 Dark Nights Press

Pub Date: 
November 7, 2023


List Price: 
$2.99 e-book

Legacy of Temptation
(Demonica Birthright #1)

by Larissa Ione

Dear Reader,

Three decades after the events of REAPER, humans in the Demonica world still struggle to adapt to the existence of supernatural beings. Now, an ancient, powerful demon-slaying organization promises to contain or exterminate all underworlders, even if that means ushering in the End of Days.

Standing in their way is the next generation of warriors, children of demons and angels and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

See how they become legends in their own right.

Larissa Ione

Available on Kobo

AuthorBuzz: Blue Box Press: Legecy of Temptation (Demonica Birthright #1) by Larissa Ione

Blue Box Press

Pub Date: 
February 6, 2024


List Price: 
$5.99 e-book


Kids Buzz

Ode to a Pug

by Jill Rosen, illus. by Stephanie Rohr

Dear Reader,

Ode to a Pug is a rhyming story about a precocious pug with a penchant for messes and mayhem who drives her frazzled owner to declare that she will give her pug away! Will she? Families will enjoy finding the answer and children will see that everyone experiences strong emotions at times in Ode to a Pug, starring the infamous clown of the canine world.

The Children's Book Review calls Ode to a Pug "a sweet and funny exploration of what unconditional love looks like."

Wishing laughs and maybe even a tear or two,

Dark Ink: Ode to a Pug by Jill Rosen, illus. by Stephanie Rohr

AM Ink Publishing

Pub Date: 
February 15, 2024


Type of Book:
Picture Book

Age Range: 

List Price: 
$14.99 Paperback

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