Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Tor Books: The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V.E. Schwab

From My Shelf

Newbery Medal Winners Keep Shining

Winning a Newbery award forever changes a writer's life. When asked about the "Newbery Effect," Rebecca Stead (When You Reach Me) said she was grateful for the friends she's made; Gennifer Choldenko (Al Capone Does My Shirts) said the medal messed with her head (not in a bad way); and Jennifer L. Holm (Our Only May Amelia; Penny from Heaven; Turtle in Paradise) said of Newbery recipients, "We will always be book reports!" Here are a few (by no means all) "Newbery Nexts"--2015 titles by Newbery authors.

In Crenshaw (Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan) by Katherine Applegate (The One and Only Ivan), a fifth grader named Jackson has an imaginary friend, a giant tuxedo cat named Crenshaw, who first appears when Jackson and his struggling family must trade their home for a minivan. Jackson wishes his goofy, "lemons-to-lemonade" parents would just be honest with him. This buoyant, bittersweet novel for readers 8-12 juxtaposes the joy of a purple jellybean (Crenshaw's favorite) and the trials of homelessness.

Until I Find Julian (Wendy Lamb/Random House) by Patricia Reilly Giff (Pictures of Hollis Woods; Lily's Crossing) is about a Mexican family whose son Julian has gone to the United States... and disappeared. The story of Mateo's perilous attempt to find his older brother is edge-of-seat reading for ages 8 and up.

And these 2015 "Newbery Nexts" received starred reviews in Shelf Awareness: Goodbye Stranger (Random House) by Rebecca Stead; Chasing Secrets (Random House) by Gennifer Choldenko; Sunny Side Up (Graphix/Scholastic) by Jennifer L. Holm; Listen, Slowly (HarperCollins) by Thanhhà Lai; The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate (Holt) by Jacqueline Kelly; Gone Crazy in Alabama (Amistad/HarperCollins) by Rita Williams-Garcia; Enchanted Air (Atheneum/S&S) by Margarita Engle; The Hired Girl (Candlewick) by Laura Amy Schlitz; and Orbiting Jupiter (Clarion) by Gary D. Schmidt.

Cheers to Newbery winners past, present and future! --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Arcade Publishing: A Mysterious Country: The Grace and Fragility of American Democracy by Normal Mailer, edited by Michael J. Lennon and John Buffalo Mailer

Book Candy

Holiday Gift Ideas--and Words of Wisdom

"Before you give up and just start sticking Elfie in different spots on your tree every day," Mental Floss shared "34 creative ideas for your Elf on the Shelf."


"Rich gifts wax poor when givers prove unkind." Bustle offered "14 words of wisdom for the holidays from your favorite books."


Quirk Books recommended some "holiday DIY: paperbacks to paper chains" and "23 quirky, geeky and bookish stocking stuffers."  


Benedict Cumberbatch led a celebrity list writing letters to Father Christmas recently to mark the Letters Live National Letter Writing Day, the Guardian noted.


The Independent showed how "Harry Potter fans enjoy Christmas dinner at Hogwarts in true wizarding style."


And... Buzzfeed found "17 holiday cards every Harry Potter fan wants to receive."

The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science

by J Kenji Lopez-Alt, J Kenji Laopez-Alt

The Food Lab is an impressive tome, more than 900 pages. But unlike other cookbook staples for home cooks--and yes, The Food Lab should definitely be considered an essential volume--it's about far more than recipes. Where The Joy of Cooking and How to Cook Everything are primarily sets of step-by-step instructions for preparing a wide variety of dishes, J. Kenji Lopez-Alt has included a mere 300 recipes in his massive book. The rest of the space is dedicated to exploring the science of food and recipe construction, as well as recommended tools, tricks and techniques.

Lopez-Alt was previously editor of Cook's Illustrated magazine and is now managing culinary director of, where he authors "The Food Lab" column on food science. The Food Lab draws on those experiences to offer readers a guide to improved home cooking through scientific understanding. In the introduction, he writes, "Being able to identify exactly which parts of a recipe are essential to the quality of the finished product and which parts are just decoration is a practical skill that will open up your opportunities in the kitchen as never before. Once you understand the basic science of how and why a recipe works, you suddenly find that you've freed yourself from the shackles of recipes."

In order to do that, one must start with the most basic of basics: a well-stocked kitchen. Therefore, the book opens with recommendations on key kitchen equipment for the home cook (the pots and pans one must keep on hand, which utensils are critical, what unitaskers to skip) and the pantry basics no home kitchen should be without (dairy products, grains, spices and salts, canned goods--and how to store them all appropriately). In both sections, as in dish-specific guides later in the text, Lopez-Alt is conscious of cost, explaining when cost-saving makes sense (a good heavy cleaver, for example, need not be fancy) and where it makes sense to splurge a little (your chef's knife should last a lifetime; a digital thermometer will be your best friend).

With the basics of kitchen equipment established, Lopez-Alt dives next into the food--and the science. The rest of the book is divided into nine sections:

  • Eggs, Dairy and the Science of Breakfast
  • Soups, Stews and the Science of Stock
  • Steaks, Chops, Chicken, Fish, and the Science of Fast-Cooking Foods
  • Blanching, Searing, Braising, Glazing, Roasting, and the Science of Vegetables
  • Balls, Loaves, Links, Burgers, and the Science of Ground Meat
  • Chickens, Turkeys, Prime Rib, and the Science of Roasts
  • Tomato Sauce, Macaroni, and the Science of Pasta
  • Greens, Emulsions, and the Science of Salads
  • Batter, Breadings, and the Science of Frying

Though one could dip into and out of each section on a whim, the book's structure allows for cover-to-cover reading--unusual for a cookbook--and the scientific explanations and theories behind each recipe build over the course of the text. The recipe for Buttermilk Biscuits expands on the science explored in the recipe for Buttermilk Pancakes from 20 pages earlier; the 10-page recipe for All-American Meatloaf draws on the scientific exploration of ground meat (including instructions on how--and why--to grind your own at home) found in earlier recipes for homemade sausage; understanding how starch interacts with oil, as explained in a recipe for aglio e olio, is helpful in following the science behind the Ultra-Gooey Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese recipe 40 pages later.

Throughout the text, scattered among humorous and engaging anecdotes about his experiences experimenting with food, Lopez-Alt has included asides on techniques and ingredient-specific recommendations. These include little things like how to hold a knife properly; scientific explanations of why cutting meat against the grain yields more tender bites; and handy charts on things like how different additions (milk, water, cream, butter) change the consistency of scrambled eggs and what types of cheeses are best for what applications.

While much of this may sound too simple for a practiced home cook, the science behind each recipe ensures that even the most experienced chef will learn something new here. "Once you start opening your mind to the wonders of the kitchen, once you start asking what's really going on inside your food while you cook it, you'll find that the questions keep coming and coming, and that the answers will become more and more fascinating," writes Lopez-Alt. The Food Lab is an invitation to start that questioning. And with a no-fuss, no-frills approach to cooking, The Food Lab promises to become essential for the cookbook shelf, with thoughtful, reasoned explanations for how to make classic American dishes the best they possibly can be. --Kerry McHugh

W. W. Norton & Company, $49.95, hardcover, 9780393081084

J. Kenji Lopez-Alt: Breaking Free from Recipes

photo: Peter Tannenbaum

A graduate of MIT, J. Kenji Lopez-Alt previously served as editor of Cook's Illustrated magazine. He is currently managing culinary director of Serious Eats, where he also authors "The Food Lab" column, dedicated to exploring the science of food. His book of the same name (W.W. Norton) expands the content of this column with more than 900 pages of food science, recipes and full-color photographs. Lopez-Alt lives in San Francisco.

The Food Lab is full of recipes, as well as narratives about cooking and food science, making it a very readable cookbook.

I wanted it to be a book that people would use in the kitchen, but also one that people who don't cook would find interesting to read. It's part cookbook, part pop science.

The recipes are meant to be recipes that people can cook all the time, and that people of any skill level could follow. If you want to just follow the recipes, you're going to get a result that works. But if you're a more advanced cook reading a recipe for something simple, I've tried to put enough background and information on testing and questioning conventional cooking knowledge that you will perhaps learn something new.

Introducing the book, you say that once the basic science of a recipe is understood--both the "how" and the "why"--the cook is freed from a recipe's constraints.

Yes. People learn recipes by rote, from their parents and grandparents, and then follow every single step start to finish. That's understandable; it's hard to figure out which part of a recipe is really important and which part can change with so many different steps.

By teaching people the science behind recipes, I hope to give people the opportunity to experiment for themselves and figure out how to achieve the results that they want.

For example: maybe you don't like your roast chickens specifically the way that I like mine; maybe you want a different texture or seasoning. Understanding how heat and meat and skin and salt interact can let you make the recipe serve your own personal tastes.

Now you can start with your favorite recipe or your mother's recipe and then really make it your own.

The Food Lab grew out of your column of the same name on Serious Eats, which all started with a post on boiling eggs. How did that come about?

I told the founder of Serious Eats that I'd always been interested in doing a column on food science. He said I should, and we'd call it The Food Lab.

It seemed like eggs were a natural place to start: they're uncomplicated and yet simple, they're cheap, everybody eats them. And for boiled eggs in particular, people have all these thoughts on best methods to make them, so it just seemed like a topic that was ripe for easy, inexpensive experimentation. It turned out to be insanely popular.

The column has evolved over the years, but it's all based on that very first post: tons of experimentation on dishes common to the American repertoire and food that people take for granted.

How much of the book is new content, and how much will feel familiar to long-time fans of the online column?

The methodology and the concepts will obviously feel familiar, but as far as the actual content, it's about 75% new. I took some of the biggest hits from the column and included those, because they will be of interest to people who never read the site. But a book is a different format than a website, so my approach for what recipes to include and not include was different from how I think about what to include or not include online.

How does about writing a whole book differ from doing shorter pieces?

A lot of the most difficult work was not the writing itself, but the organization: making sure that when people needed a certain piece of information, they could find it easily; making sure the layout fit the content; etc. That's stuff you think about in an article, but organizing 3,000 words into a story is a lot easier than organizing 1,000 pages into a coherent book.

And then there are photographs of various steps of each experiment, recipe and technique scattered throughout every narrative.

Those are mostly the product of my own obsessive natural tendencies. I take photos of everything I cook all through the cooking process, specifically because I never know when I'm going to want that picture for something. So the pictures you see in the book are pictures I took as I was working on recipes.

When you work on recipes, do you work out of a test kitchen or in your home?

No, this book was written 100% out of my apartment in Harlem. I don't live there anymore, but it was a one-bedroom apartment with a little tiny kitchen.

You make a point of recommending affordable tools and equipment, as well as highlighting inexpensive ingredients in your recipes.

That comes from my days with Cooks Illustrated. If you want people to cook your recipes, you have to make sure that it doesn't use fancy equipment and that it takes into account real-world strains.

So that was one of the basic parameters of the book. This was going to be something that people would learn from, but also that was accessible to more than just a small niche of people who were willing to spend tons of money.

There are a few places in The Food Lab, like in the recipe for Garlicky Sautéed Spinach, where you come to the conclusion that the traditional way of doing things really can't be improved upon. Are there other classic recipes and techniques you'd never change?

When I start working on a recipe, I don't set out to disprove anyone else. I just want to know what is the best way to do something, regardless of whether it's traditional or something new.

I think people can get caught up in the idea of besting tradition, but sometimes tradition is right and is tradition for a reason. Actually, quite often tradition is right. When that's the case, I want to tell people that it is--and then hopefully explain why it is.

With so many recipes and techniques in the book, are there any you want to highlight?

I really love the Stovetop Mac and Cheese. That's a food that everybody grew up with. The goal was to make a recipe that was maybe 25% more time-consuming than just opening up a box and pouring out the cheese packet, but would be many, many, many times tastier. So it's still a really easy recipe, thrown together in the time it takes to boil pasta, but it's way, way better than anything you'd get out of a box.

More so than the recipes, the techniques and construction are what I think sets this book apart from other cookbooks.

With this first book wrapped up, what are you excited to be working on now?

We've recently started this Food Lab video series, which is based on the column. Like the column, it's more about food science than straight cooking. That's something I'm pretty happy with, and have been working hard on for the last few months and will be doing a lot more in the future. --Kerry McHugh

Photos excerpted from The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science by Kenji Lopez-Alt. Copyright ©2015 by J. Kenji López-Alt. With permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.

Shelf vetted, publisher supported.

Great Reads

Rediscover: The Revenant

Michael Punke's 2002 novel The Revenant tells the true story of Hugh Glass, a fur trapper who was brutally mauled by a grizzly bear while exploring the upper Missouri river in September of 1823. Assuming that Glass would quickly succumb to his wounds, the leader of the trapping expedition, Andrew Henry, leaves him in the care of two men who are told to ease his suffering and bury him after his death. Glass survives, however, but not before the two men left to care for him steal his knife, his gun and his flint. So begins an engrossing journey for revenge that takes Glass across hundreds of miles of the western frontier as he contends with wild animals, the elements and hostile Arikara Indians. A feature film adaptation of The Revenant, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Hugh Glass and directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, is due out on December 25. The book is available in paperback from Picador. --Alex Mutter

Zonderkidz: The Smallest Spot of a Dot: The Little Ways We're Different, the Big Ways We're the Same by Linsey Davis, illustrated by Lucy Fleming

Book Review


Bohemian Gospel

by Dana Chamblee Carpenter

Bohemian Gospel, Dana Chamblee Carpenter's debut novel, involves magic and religion, and a young girl named Mouse, who lives at the intersection of the two. Mouse was given no proper name and handed over to the Church as an infant to be raised by the monks and nuns of the Teplá Abbey. With the power to sense things that others cannot and to manipulate the world around her in mysterious ways, Mouse has always known she's not a normal girl--just as she's known she couldn't remain at the Abbey forever. When young King Ottakar arrives at the Abbey injured by a traitor's arrow, Mouse does everything she can to save his life. Caught up in keeping the king alive, she soon finds herself the object of his attention and is swept off to court. There, she is forced to come to terms with the power that lies within her as she fights to take control of her life and her destiny.

In Bohemian Gospel, Carpenter expertly combines elements of gothic fantasy with historical details of 13th-century Bohemia. The combination creates an atmosphere of mysticism and tension: a setting that mirrors Mouse's own struggles to understand herself. As the novel moves through Mouse's life--loves and losses, births and deaths--it quickens in pace, ultimately charging ahead toward a surprising conclusion that is as epic as it is emotional. With a strong and nuanced central character and a rich sense of mystery, Bohemian Gospel is breathtaking. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

Discover: Dana Chamblee Carpenter's excellent debut combines elements of gothic fantasy with historical details of 13th-century Bohemia.

Pegasus, $25.95, hardcover, 9781605989013

RP Mystic: Magic, Diversified

Charmed Particles

by Chrissy Kolaya

In Charmed Particles, first-time novelist Chrissy Kolaya incorporates physics, cultural assimilation and family friendships into a story of small-town political conflict.

When the U.S. Department of Energy announces that it is considering building a Superconducting Super Collider that would replace the National Research Accelerator Lab in Nicolet, Ill., theoretical physicist Abhijat Mital is excited by what it could mean for his career, but many of Nicolet's citizens don't share his enthusiasm.

Mayoral candidate Rose Winchester opposes the SSC, and popular opinion, fueled by fear of the project's environmental impact and resentment over the potential loss of homes to its construction, seems to be on her side. However, Rose's scientifically inclined teen daughter, Lily, aligns herself with Abhijat, the father of her best friend, Meena, in support of the project. Meanwhile, Meena and her mother, Sarala, more attuned to their community than Abhijat is, both have reservations. Sarala has spent more than a decade since moving from India trying to assimilate into the Midwestern suburbs, and is torn by understanding both her neighbors' concerns and her husband's hopes for the project; Meena just wants to fit in with her high-school class.

The early chapters of Charmed Particles are largely episodic and focused on developing the characters; by the time the SSC proposal is introduced, the reader has become invested in these people's lives and how they will be changed by it, no matter what the outcome. Kolaya's emphasis on personal relationships helps her portray the public controversy over the SSC with sympathy to all sides, and the result is a story that engages both heart and mind. --Florinda Pendley Vasquez, blogger at The 3 R's Blog: Reading, 'Riting, and Randomness

Discover: The proposed arrival of a major scientific research facility leads to conflict among the families in a small Illinois town.

Dzanc Books, $15.95, paperback, 9781938103179

The 6:41 to Paris

by Jean-Philippe Blondel, trans. by Alison Anderson

The 6:41 to Paris chronicles a train ride in which two people seated next to each other by happenstance recognize one another immediately. The story is told alternately by Cécile and Philippe, both in their 40s, who haven't seen each other in some 27 years. They once dated for three or four months. They shared one painful, embarrassing, cruel week in London, a youthful dating disaster. They are both desperately trying to pretend they don't know each other.

Once a golden boy, Philippe has become flabby and amounts to nothing more than a TV and VCR salesman in a superstore. Once plain and forgettable, Cécile has become a very attractive workaholic who has scarcely missed a day of work in 20 years and founded a hugely successful Parisian shop selling organic beauty products.

Will they talk? Will they acknowledge each other? Jean-Philippe Blondel has created a realistic and delightfully familiar dilemma as a springboard for his bittersweet comedy about two people mildly dissatisfied with their lives, who share an unhealed moment in their pasts. It's told almost entirely in thoughts. Their two intertwined interior monologues are braided through the narrative, interrupted periodically by the few words they actually exchange over an accidental bump or a dropped pen.

Their poignant attempts to reconcile themselves to their past mistakes, and their struggle to come to terms with their awkward forced proximity, create a compelling and touching suspense throughout this delicate, tightly controlled little anti-romance. --Nick DiMartino, Nick's Picks, University Book Store, Seattle, Wash.

Discover: Two people who once had a disastrous affair while students meet again more than 25 years later, trapped side-by-side on a train to Paris.

New Vessel Press, $14.95, paperback, 9781939931269

Mystery & Thriller

Woman with a Blue Pencil

by Gordon McAlpine

In this refreshingly innovative detective novel, Hammett Unwritten author Gordon McAlpine follows the life of a character cut--via the vicious blue editing pencil--from a novel. 

Takumi Sato is a Japanese-American in the Manzanar relocation camp during World War II who has written a novel featuring Sam Sumida, a Japanese-American sleuth investigating his wife's murder. In order for the book to be published, Sato has to agree to change his own name, his protagonist's ethnicity and various other elements of the work. But Sumida has come to life and simply will not die.

Sumida walks into a movie theater on December 6, 1941, to watch The Maltese Falcon, and emerges after what he believes is a few hours to discover it's January 22, 1942, and his world is in complete chaos. No one knows who he is--in fact, there's no evidence he ever existed--but everyone is hostile toward him. With nowhere to go and a million baffling questions, Sumida sets to work unraveling this isolating conundrum.

Woman with a Blue Pencil is the intricate plaiting of excerpts from Sato's novel, The Orchid and the Secret Agent, published as William Thorne; correspondence from Sato's editor, the woman with the blue pencil; and a novella merely labeled The Revised. McAlpine ingeniously blends the three plots to create a multi-dimensional, absorbing mystery, simultaneously examining the shameful incarceration of Japanese-Americans in camps by the U.S. government. He also takes hilarious, yet subtle, jabs at the tropes of "commercial" fiction. 

McAlpine's creative talent is rare and this novel is an exceptional literary treat. --Jen Forbus of Jen's Book Thoughts

Discover: When a character takes on a life of his own, even the blue editing pencil can't eradicate him.

Seventh Street Books, $13.95, paperback, 9781633880887

A Different Lie

by Derek Haas

Columbus, the hit man known as the Silver Bear in Derek Haas's Assassin trilogy, is back in A Different Lie, juggling work, life as a husband, and being a father to his three-year-old son. Conveniently, his wife, Risina, is also his fence, the liaison between client and assassin. Columbus is employed by the "dark men," shadowy figures in the U.S. government, and his latest assignment is to take out the young hotshot assassin Castillo.

Though Columbus is famous for pulling off hits deemed impossible by most, he soon realizes he's more than met his match with Castillo. It's like going up against himself, for Castillo has even studied Columbus's methods. And Columbus, with a wife and kid, has vulnerabilities, while Castillo has nothing to lose.

A protagonist is only as strong as his opponent, and Columbus and Castillo are a formidable pair. A screenwriter for movies such as Wanted and 3:10 to Yuma, Haas keeps the action flying while deftly juxtaposing Columbus's work with the realities of his home life. The assassin is seconds away from taking out a target when he learns his pregnant wife's water has broken. While he's on another assignment, Risina calls to say "I love you," adding, "Kill this man so you can come home to us." The duality makes him an accessible antihero; when he comes to a difficult decision at the end, he's not doing it as the infamous Silver Bear but as just a regular dad. --Elyse Dinh-McCrillis, blogger at Pop Culture Nerd

Discover: A notorious hit man's latest assignment is to eliminate a younger assassin who's as deadly as he is.

Pegasus, $24.95, hardcover, 9781605988993

The Great Forgetting

by James Renner

History teacher Jack Felter returns to his hometown in Ohio to care for his sick father. While he is home, he picks up the trail of his old friend Tony, a psychiatrist who went missing three years before. As he pursues the truth about what happened, he meets Cole, Tony's last patient, who could very well be at the center of one of the largest conspiracies ever fathomed.

What if history was neither the official narrative nor shared memory at all? What if history was everything that had been forgotten?

The Great Forgetting proposes an alternative reality where the United States lost World War II and the Nazis conquered America. A world where Nikola Tesla invented the atomic bomb and Stephen Hawking invented a machine that allowed everyone to forget the past collectively. In search of these histories' origins, Jack and Cole wind up in far-flung reaches of the Earth--from a secret underground facility in the Catskills to a lost island in the Pacific--in order to discover the truth about their own pasts and the project known as "The Great Forgetting."

This novel is a conspiracy goldmine. Working their way through this heady plot are aliens, Area 51, HAARP, 9/11, fluoride, Malaysia Airlines flight 370, the lost continent of Mu and a whole lot more. There is a conspiracy for everyone at play here, and it is evident Renner had as much fun putting them together as readers will have figuring them out. --Jarret Middleton, author, freelance editor

Discover: A hilarious mind-boggle that mixes thriller, sci-fi and alternative realities with the best conspiracy theories American culture has to offer.

Sarah Crichton/Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $26, hardcover, 9780374298791

Science Fiction & Fantasy

Six-Gun Snow White

by Catherynne M. Valente

Unlike most retellings of fairytales, with familiar plots and characters in a different setting, Catherynne M. Valente's Six-Gun Snow White offers readers an entirely new story that gestures toward the original without taking on the traditional trappings. In Valente's version, readers find no dwarves, poison apples or prince, but the tale maintains a deep connection to the original. In an American West as mythical as Snow White, narrated in rough dialect, Valente firmly nestles readers in an unpredictable, gun-toting adventure.

Mr. H makes his fortune in Nevada's silver mines using his supernatural knack for finding precious gems. Just as the earth gives itself to him, so, too, he expects people to do what he wants. Mr. H forces a Crow woman to marry him by threatening her family and their land, but the woman dies after giving birth to their daughter. He keeps his daughter hidden on his expansive property, building her a private secluded world. Her only companion is her gun, with which she is an expert shot. By the time Mr. H remarries, his first marriage and his daughter have long been forgotten by all. When the new wife discovers the young girl and attacks her for her dark skin, she mocks the daughter by giving her the name Snow White. After suffering years of abuse, Snow decides to run away, beginning her adventure.

Valente creates moments where readers recognize allusions to the original fairytale of Snow White, like a tavern having only seven barstools. Yet readers encounter these nods with a thrill of the unexpected. Six-Gun Snow White gives this old story new magic. --Justus Joseph, bookseller at Elliott Bay Book Company

Discover: Rather than a retelling, this story of Snow White is a reinvention, which imagines the fairytale heroine as a gunslinger in a Wild West adventure.

Saga Press, $14.99, paperback, 9781481444736

Biography & Memoir

Young Elizabeth: The Making of the Queen

by Kate Williams

A universally recognized yet enigmatic figure, Queen Elizabeth II is now England's longest reigning monarch. Most Britons can hardly remember life without her on the throne, but she was in some ways an accidental ruler. In the biography Young Elizabeth, Kate Williams explores Elizabeth's childhood and the turbulent family politics that set the stage for her reign.

Williams (Ambition and Desire) begins with Abdication Day, when Elizabeth's Uncle David (King Edward VIII) made his historic decision to give up the throne and marry Wallis Simpson, a surprise move that made Elizabeth's father king and put her first in line to the throne. From there, Williams relates the love story of Elizabeth's parents, her cozy early years spent in the nursery with her little sister, Margaret, and the abrupt changes to their family life caused by the abdication and World War II.

Meticulously organized, with a strong sense of duty, Elizabeth was well suited for the throne in some ways, though she lacked a thorough education. Much is made of Elizabeth's experiences driving an ambulance during the war (though even there she was set apart from her compatriots). More relevant, and more interesting, is Williams's portrait of the complicated ties among the royal family, including the close but often fractious relationship between Elizabeth and Margaret. Williams does her best to demystify the woman behind the crown, but the queen's personality and private life--so carefully guarded for six decades--ultimately remain elusive.

Part juicy family drama, part coming-of-age story in a royal setting, Young Elizabeth gives readers a new (if limited) angle on Her Majesty the Queen. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: A biography of Queen Elizabeth II sheds light on her childhood years and the story behind her ascension to the throne.

Pegasus Books, $28.95, hardcover, 9781605988917


Welcome to the Microbiome: Getting to Know the Trillions of Bacteria in, on, and Around You

by Susan Perkins, Rob DeSalle, illus. by Patricia J. Wynne

Microbes have existed for billions of years, but though we felt their effects, scientists only began to learn about them in the last hundred years. Our knowledge of the microbial world has blossomed in the 21st century and is expanding every day. Rob DeSalle (The Brain) and Susan Perkins are curators at the American Museum of Natural History, and Welcome to the Microbiome is an excellent introduction to this exciting scientific field, clearly written for a general audience and illustrated with fine black-and-white drawings by Patricia J. Wynne.

Your body is home to about "ten thousand different species of microbes... approximately the same number as the species of birds that exist on the planet." Although many of us may have been taught to think of "germs" and "bacteria" as threats, most of the species we live with are harmless or even beneficial to us, and DeSalle and Perkins argue that "our definition of what a pathogen is clearly needs to change." They cover the origins and definitions of life; the relationships of the "three great domains of life--Archaea, Eukaryota and Bacteria"; our attempts to detect and identify them, including genetic sequencing; how immune systems work in higher and lower animals; and how microbes travel, interact and affect us, including studies of microbes and roller derby teams, subways, obesity and mental health. They emphasize that this is not just a subject for scientists: "Our very survival may well depend on understanding, and respecting, the ecology and evolutionary context of the microbiomes in and on us." --Sara Catterall

Discover: This is an enjoyable introduction to exciting new discoveries in the world of microbes, and how they affect our health and our world.

Yale University Press, $32.50, hardcover, 9780300208405

Unstoppable: Harnessing Science to Change the World

by Bill Nye, edited by Corey S. Powell

The United States Department of Defense has called climate change the biggest "threat multiplier" worldwide because of its potential to magnify and exacerbate the challenges of global instability, hunger, poverty and conflict. What has been done climate-wise cannot be reversed; what humans can do, as Bill Nye "the Science Guy" (Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation) proposes, is consider lifestyles that reduce the carbon footprint and treat the planet as homeowners rather than as short-term renters.

In Unstoppable, Nye provides a hopeful and pragmatic blueprint of tempering climate change by applying his engineering skills and existing science to tackle the problem. At the heart of this conundrum lie inefficient sources of energy that produce significant waste, like farming methods that have proven to be the heaviest emitters of greenhouse gasses, and fossil fuels such as gasoline, of which two-thirds comes out a tailpipe as waste. Nye argues for the need to find cleaner, efficient carbon-free energy alternatives that "put energy in the bank," like nuclear power, solar and wind power. He discusses the pros and cons of natural gas over coal burning, and the viability of reverse osmosis to desalinate seawater, mimicking the actions of Florida mangroves.

Maintaining the status quo will lead to staggering economic costs, but Nye believes that sustainability doesn't have to mean sacrificing the modern comforts of living. "The longest journey starts with a simple step... lifestyle changes that add up to collectively change the world." It's time for each person to answer that call and do their fair share. --Nancy Powell, freelance writer and technical consultant

Discover: Bill Nye's Unstoppable is a call to action for humans to act as responsible stewards of their planet in order to provide for a sustainable future.

St. Martin's Press, $26.99, hardcover, 9781250007148

Children's & Young Adult

Creaturepedia: Welcome to the Greatest Show on Earth

by Adrienne Barman

Animal lovers and taxonomists of all ages will go ape for the charming British import Creaturepedia, a visual explosion of more than 600 creatures, illustrated with Adrienne Barman's whimsical, cartoonish artwork--delicate line drawings of richly colored animals, usually with funny and expressive googly eyes. The most distinctive aspect of this magnificent book--aside from the fantastic fauna--is the unusually creative way that the animals are categorized. Each lively spread is populated by a menagerie of animals, labeled by name, with the sparest of details to help explain how each fits into its designated category.

The section called "The prickly ones," for example, includes the bay shrimp, and its tiny caption says only "has a spiky horn above eyes." "The brainboxes" category is populated by intelligent creatures such as the Asian elephant, the chimpanzee ("good at problem-solving"), the parakeet, the Jungle crow, the common octopus, the rat, the dolphin ("self aware"), the honeybee and the red wood ant. The "canary-yellows" embrace everything yellow, it seems, but an actual canary: the blue-cheeked butterfly fish, the banana slug, pineapplefish, etc. The "faithful" include the agile gibbon, the lovebird ("mates for life"), the dik-dik and the Mongolian gerbil. The "regal?" The lion, golden eagle, white tiger, king cobra. Other intriguing categories among the 41 total are "The Lilliputians," "The fierce," "The endangered," "The show-offs," "The munch-it-uppers" and "The mythical."  Amusing interactions between various animals on the page add yet another dimension to this fabulous book that guarantees hours of contented browsing. A gem. --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: This whimsical children's encyclopedia of animals is divided into wonderfully creative categories such as "giants" (blue whale, Goliath frog) and "bounders" (kangaroos, etc.).

Wide Eyed Editions, $22.99, hardcover, 216p., ages 4-12, 9781847806963

Nellie Belle

by Mem Fox, illus. by Mike Austin

"Is it fun in the yard,/ Nellie Belle, Nellie Belle?/ Is it fun in the yard,/ Nellie Belle?" Australian author Mem Fox (Time for Bed; Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes) brings her preschooler-pitch-perfect rhythm and repetition to Nellie Belle, a cheerful picture book so melodic it could easily be sung.

Nellie Belle is a reddish-brown pooch with a pink collar who pants and prances her way through an eventful day in a seaside town. She digs a hole, moves through the town greeting everyone she meets (begging at the bakery, howling with street musicians, accepting a pat on the head), goes to the beach to chase seagulls (who chase her back), and even jumps in the sea. "Is it fun at the beach, Nellie Belle, Nellie Belle? / Is it fun at the beach, Nellie Belle?" She goes to the park... but what's this? Possums hiding out in the park's dark shrubbery? Nellie Belle looks scared--it is decidedly not fun in the park. She races back home, retracing her steps because "It's best on the bed, Nellie Belle."

Mike Austin's (Junkyard; Monsters Love Colors) colorful, friendly illustrations resemble textured tissue-paper collage, a bold, simple style that harmonizes splendidly with Fox's bold, simple story. Wonderful touches and comical details abound, such as the hole in the fence that reveals beach-bound surfers, the kinetic orbits around Nellie Belle's wagging tail, the beach ball that bounces into Lighthouse Park (into the paws of a possum), and the abandonment, then reclaiming of Nellie Belle's beloved teddy bear at the end. Home sweet home. --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: In Mem Fox and Mike Austin's rhythmic picture-book adventure, a pup named Nellie Belle has an exciting day, then decides life is best spent curled up in bed with her teddy bear.

Beach Lane/ S&S, $17.99, hardcover, 32p., ages 3-7, 9781416990055


Author Buzz

Bond of Passion
(A Demonica Novella)

by Larissa Ione

Dear Reader,

I'm so happy to be back in the Demonica world, especially with the people and the hospital that started it all. You'll find hints of what's to come in the new series, and you'll catch up with old friends. And best of all, Tavin gets his story!

Larissa Ione

Available on Kobo

1001 Dark Nights Press

Pub Date: 
November 1, 2022


List Price: 
$2.99 e-book

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