Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, July 15, 2016

Roaring Brook Press: Juniper's Christmas by Eoin Colfer

From My Shelf

In Praise of Disagreement

Milkweed Editions has published a thought-provoking anthology that analyzes the many moving pieces of the book industry, Literary Publishing in the 21st Century, edited by Travis Kurowski, Wayne Miller and Kevin Prufer. Publisher Daniel Slager observes in his contribution that "while it does seem clear that the book world is undergoing a change greater than any since Gutenberg invented the modern printing press... it is also true that much remains the same." Avid readers can see that big chain and online retail, print-on-demand and e-books have had varying effects on how books are bought and sold, but Literary Publishing addresses the flux in detail.

This anthology captures a compelling breadth of perspectives. Gerald Howard, executive editor of Doubleday publishing, considers the finer points of what makes a book successful, not least of which he owes to becoming a better reader over 37 years of doing so professionally. As Richard Nash, a publishing consultant and former head of Soft Skull Press, put its: "The more you read, the better you get at it, the more fun you have."

The world of books and book lovers is built upon stories and ideas, and so it's understandable that there will be plenty of disagreement, unpopular but necessary opinions, dire pessimism and starry-eyed optimism. The anthology includes Daniel José Older's powerful analysis of race, power and publishing, "Diversity Is Not Enough," and Bookslut founder Jessa Crispin's incisive and reflective essay "The Self-Hating Book Critic," which in many way expounds upon and clarifies the criticisms she laid out in her provocative May interview with Vulture.

The editors of Literary Publishing don't intend it to be exhaustive, but rather a snapshot for readers to gain a bit of insight into how a book happens--from the writer's mind to the reader's. Because as agent Chris Parris-Lamb says to Jonathan Lee (High Dive) in an interview, publishing "exists to bring readers books that are worthy of their time and attention." And this anthology is one well worth a reader's time. --Dave Wheeler, associate editor, Shelf Awareness

BINC: Read Love Support Campaign

The Writer's Life

Indra Das: Magic and Mythic Narratives

photo: Rajib Saha

Indrapramit Das (aka Indra Das) is a writer and artist from Kolkata, India, whose fiction has been published in Clarkesworld, Asimov's, Strange Horizons and, and has been widely anthologized. He is an Octavia E. Butler scholar and a graduate of Clarion West 2012, and completed his MFA at the University of British Columbia. He divides his time between India and Canada, immigration willing.

His first novel is The Devourers (Del Rey, July 12, 2016), a story of shapeshifters, magic and love, spanning from 17th-century Mughal India to 21st-century India, that stands out for dreamlike, haunting fantasy.

Reading your book, I had the feeling that there was another story beneath the surface, like one of the shape-shifters in the book. Was The Devourers a fantasy story from the start that became more, or was it the other way around?

That's an astute observation, because the process of writing The Devourers was in a way the novel having a conversation with itself. And myself.

The novel started as some werewolf stories I wrote during college, many years ago--and they were very male-centered, with the only women being a) prey for a werewolf b) a prostitute who is raped so that a male predator can come to terms with his own predatory nature. I was very young, and unpublished at the time, and still had a lot to learn about writing readable, good, complete stories (I still do, but I'm a bit better now). Those characters remain in the final novel--but the novel was woven around questioning how easily I, as a straight male writer, slipped so comfortably into using this misogynistic narrative device of taking away the voice of women, even while exploring violence against women (and ostensibly questioning and criticizing it). It's an essentially egotistical and harmful exercise in storytelling: male writer congratulates himself on condemning the existence of sexual violence by using it as an easy plot device for emotional (or nihilistic) impact. It's a pat on the back that doesn't engage with how we're all complicit in perpetuating cultures of sexual violence, misogyny and bigotry, doesn't engage with how we think about the place of violence in our societies. I can't say how well the novel that I ended up writing engages with these ideas, of course, but I tried, which my earlier, younger self, did not, at least not very hard.

Years later, writing my MFA thesis, I used those stories as seeds for a novel, and began to question the tropes of my early writing as I went along. Cyrah, the rape survivor at the heart of the novel's historical narrative threads, came alive when I realized how absurd it was to not give her a POV. She ceased to become just a plot device for male catharsis, and her voice became a substantial part of the novel. She's now honestly one of my favourite characters (that I've written).

There's also another aspect to this answer, in that those early stories were fantasy, but ambiguously so--the reader never saw the "second selves" of the shapeshifters. The shapeshifters were representations of humanity's ability to shape their own realities through story--they could be delusional, or talking about shapeshifting on a symbolic and cultural level, or real shapeshifters. The reader was to decide. I was inspired by the fact that people genuinely believed in werewolves as a legitimate threat, as entirely real, not that long ago. There are still people who believe in supernatural monsters, after all, all over the world. So my approach to "realizing" these myths was different.

Once I started writing the novel, though, it felt like a shame not to really show the magic inherent in these mythic narratives, and the whole thing shed its ambiguous skin to become the fantasy novel it wanted to be. Considering that the novel deals with such heavy, dark themes, I felt a need to give it some unabashedly non-realist vibrancy to shake off the grimdark muck of human nature.

There are parallels in the story to what's happening with the political climate in the United States. I imagine this book was largely finished when the current election commenced, but was there an intent on your part to address broad political themes?

The book was written long before this current U.S. election cycle--I was finishing up the first draft when President Obama had a year left of his first term. But yes! I very much wanted to address broad political themes, though I didn't know this until I started writing the first draft and really grappling with it, when I realized Alok was bisexual and attracted to the stranger, and Cyrah was going to be telling her own story. The book then showed itself to me, as it were, as an exploration of identity, gender, sexuality and violence. Of course, I wasn't thinking just about the political climate of the United States, but of India and the world, as an Indian citizen and at-the-time resident of Canada (and ex-resident of the U.S.), and pretty much permanent immigrant. (I'm currently in India, but want to return to Canada, and ideally move back and forth--easier said than done, especially as a not-rich brown person.)

Right now, there's an international dialogue about how we need feminism, and need to address the human rights of women, of LGBTQIA populations and of marginalized people all around the world, about how the weight of injustice and bigotry our global systems of commerce, learning, and entertainment are built upon is becoming entirely unsustainable. It's breaking the back of all our societies and cultures, and of the anthropocene Earth itself.

This new and visible dialogue is all because of the Internet, which also gives virulent voice to everyone opposed to all the above--to the notion of social justice. But it's not a new conversation, even if the way we're having it is new, and seems more urgent. Civil/human rights struggles have been around since the dawn of human beings, I imagine. We've always mistreated each other, hated each other, loved each other. We've always killed each other. We've always been dicks to women and people who don't stick to any one society's prevailing idea of sexual and gender norms. We've always been for and against social justice for populations we believe deserve it--or don't deserve it.

Which is why (I assume) The Devourers feels relevant to today's political climate: because these themes, about humanity trying to reconcile its creativity and violence, are universal.

Do you have plans to return to this world in future books?

I honestly don't know. There are definitely more stories to tell; a whole world of them, an entire alternate history of the world and its mythologies to explore. That said, I don't know when and if I'll want to tell more stories in this world, because of how much time I spent in it already. I want to explore new ones, you know? But I wouldn't rule out another book (or short stories) connected to The Devourers some day. --Matthew Tiffany, LCPC, writer for Condalmo and psychotherapist

Book Candy

Nobel Prize-Winner Alice Munro on Writing

"I have never kept diaries. I just remember a lot and am more self-centered than most people." Flavorwire shared "25 inspiring Alice Munro quotes on writing."


There is no cause for alarm... at this time. featured a graphic exploring "the most feared books of all time."


The Chronicle Books blog explored "the life of a food photographer: a balance between control and chance."


A Harry Potter-themed science summer camp "exists at Chicago's 'The Laboratory,' because magic & science go hand in hand," Bustle noted.


Jenny Downham, author of Unbecoming, chose her "top 10 grandmothers in fiction" for the Guardian, noting that "these women all have a central place in the hearts of their grandchildren."


Shelf life: Bookshelf displayed the CHEFT, which was "inspired by Persian architectural patterns." And Design Milk showcased "customizable, minimal shelving from Rafa-kids.

Great Reads

Rediscover: Born on the Fourth of July

In 1964, Ron Kovic joined the Marine Corps fresh out of high school. He volunteered for two tours of duty in Vietnam. On a reconnaissance mission in 1968, Kovic was shot twice: once in the foot and once in the shoulder. The second bullet injured his spine, leaving him paralyzed from the chest down. Back in the U.S., Kovic became a prolific peace activist, and was arrested at least a dozen times.

Kovic's autobiography, Born on the Fourth of July, was published in 1976. Oliver Stone and Kovic adapted the book into an academy-award winning movie starring Tom Cruise in 1989. This past July 4, Akashic Books published a long-awaited followup, Hurricane Street, about a 17-day hunger strike Kovic led outside the Los Angeles office of Senator Alan Cranston in 1974, demanding better treatment for disabled veterans.

A 40th anniversary edition of Born on the Fourth of July was published on July 4 by Akashic Books ($26.95, 9781617754685). It includes a new foreword written by Bruce Springsteen, whose song "Shut Out the Light" was partially inspired by Kovic's book. Kovic's tale of patriotic disillusionment and poor treatment of veterans is as sadly relevant today as it was 40 years ago. --Tobias Mutter

Book Review


The Invoice

by Jonas Karlsson

The absurdities of life coupled with the strangely surreal are hallmarks of Swedish actor and playwright Jonas Karlsson's work (The Room). His second novel, The Invoice, again turns on a Kafkaesque premise: a nameless, 39-year-old part-time video store clerk and film aficionado--a loner with only a handful of friends, whose most notable indulgence in life is having a pizza and taking in a movie in his one-room Stockholm apartment--receives a bill for 5.7 million kronor (roughly $875,000) in the mail. Thinking the bill--imprinted with a nondescript logo--is a mistake or a scam, the narrator disregards it. The next month, he receives another bill in the same amount, but with a surcharge of 150 kronor tacked on as a late payment. When the narrator calls to inquire, he makes matters worse as it is soon discovered that he owes even more than originally calculated. "What am I supposed to be paying for?" the narrator asks. "Everything," says the representative. "Being alive costs."

Through a cryptic, engrossing storyline that snowballs with staggering, thought-provoking complications, Karlsson reveals more about his underachieving hero. It seems contradictory that the hefty "happiness tax" in the whole country should be imposed upon someone living such a simple life. Fair or not, this leaves the narrator to scramble for deductions in the form of disclosures about free-floating anxiety, missing his parents and the loss of a secret love. The satirical, philosophical nature of this story delves into the meaning and purpose of life, how we measure joy and what truly constitutes a sense of accomplishment. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: In this thought-provoking existential comedy, a lowly video store clerk receives an astronomical bill for simply living his life.

Hogarth, $24, hardcover, 9781101905142

Bye Bye Blondie

by Virginie Despentes, trans. by Siân Reynolds

Much like its protagonist, Bye Bye Blondie wears its barbed-wire personality proudly. French writer and filmmaker Virginie Despentes (author of King Kong Theory and Baise-moi, among others) arms her novel with attributes to scare away the faint-hearted: an unlikable, mentally unstable heroine; more cocaine than can fit up two nostrils; punk rock violence that unglues one's Mohawk and ruins a perfectly decent pair of Doc Martens. Beneath the debauchery is a woman on a precipice, attempting to reconcile her haphazard life with some semblance of contentment.

Despite--or because of--this thorny exterior, the novel's decidedly lovelorn center is all the sweeter. Following a stint in a mental hospital, teenage Gloria's love affair with fellow patient Eric turns lifelong when they find each other again after many years. The couple's reunion is volatile; they grapple with the disparate realities between the idealistic teenage drifters they once were and the aging, disillusioned adults they've become. The novel volleys between barrooms and house parties, arguments that shred vocal cords and sex scenes as gentle and sweet as a lamb. Despentes follows the couple from youth to middle age as they search--often unsuccessfully--for happiness, fulfillment and each other.

One learns alongside Gloria that beneath its superficialities, punk rock's baseline is raw emotion, be it anger or love. Gloria and Bye Bye Blondie possess both in spades. --Linnie Greene, freelance writer

Discover: Bye Bye Blondie follows punk rock protagonist Gloria as she negotiates love and adulthood, often revisiting her idealistic, shiftless teenage past.

Feminist Press, $17.95, paperback, 9781558619272

The Last One

by Alexandra Oliva

When Zoo signs up to be one of 12 contestants on a TV reality show, she does so intending to have one last adventure before she and her husband try to create a family. Because the show has promised that the experience will be tough, Zoo expects to be challenged and welcomes the idea. In addition, the chance to win a million dollars is enough to keep her in the game. What Zoo and the other players in the woods don't realize is that something goes very wrong during the filming of the first week; Zoo figures the events and devastation she has to contend with are part of the game. Through Zoo's eyes, readers slowly learn the truth about the game and the world.

With The Last One, Alexandra Oliva has written a debut novel that combines elements of reality TV with those of a post-apocalyptic world to create a tense atmosphere, filled with memorable characters who move through the game and surrounding world with varying levels of proficiency. She has done her homework on orienteering, the basic hunting and trapping of animals, and other survival skills a person might need to live alone in the woods without much more than the clothes on one's back. Oliva also does an excellent job of portraying the psychological and emotional traumas that the contestants face, particularly those of Zoo, who begins to question her motives for playing as time progresses. For fans of Survivor and The Hunger Games, Oliva has melded the best of both worlds and added her own unusual twist. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

Discover: The contestants on a survival-based reality TV show face hardships that make them wonder what's real and what's part of the show.

Ballantine Books, $26, hardcover, 9781101965085

The House at the Edge of Night

by Catherine Banner

Catherine Banner's first adult novel, after her Last Descendants YA trilogy, is a magically irresistible family saga about four generations of the Esposito family and their café, the House at the Edge of Night, on the small fictional Sicilian island of Castellamare.

In the years before World War I, Amadeo Esposito, a foundling from Florence, has transcended his circumstances and become a physician. He arrives in Castellamare with a red leather notebook in which he records the folk tales the islanders recount. Among his first storytellers is the beautiful schoolteacher Pina Vella, who tells him how Sant'Agata, Castellamare's patron saint, saved the island from a plague of sorrows.

Amadeo and Pina soon marry. Their son is born on the same night that the wife of il conte, Castellemare's titled nobleman, gives birth to a boy, a child who is soon rumored to be Amadeo's, too. Disgraced, Amadeo loses his position as the island physician. To support their growing family, Amadeo and Pina open their café. Three subsequent generations of Espositos continue operating the business, and all the while, they gather the locals at the café to talk and gossip, through loves and betrayals, marriages and estrangements, friendships, grudges, rivalries and the moments of unexpected grace.

This wonderful novel offers much to savor. Banner's island setting is especially well done--a rich and fabulous creation, full of texture and detail. Emotions are deeply felt, consequential and operatic in this small place. All of the people here have lives that matter because they live them fully, and readers are lucky for it. --Jeanette Zwart, freelance writer and reviewer

Discover: The House at the Edge of Night, about the family who runs a café on a small Mediterranean island, is a richly themed and magical fairy tale of a novel.

Random House, $27, hardcover, 9780812998795

Mystery & Thriller

The Graveyard of the Hesperides

by Lindsey Davis

In ancient Rome, as in the modern world, weddings and murder aren't supposed to go together. But for Flavia Albia, a private informer (detective) who learned her craft from her father, Marcus Didius Falco, picking up a new case six days before her bridal ceremony is a relief. Lindsey Davis (Deadly Election) ably mixes marriage and mayhem in her fourth Flavia Albia novel, The Graveyard of the Hesperides.

Adopted as a teenager by Falco (the protagonist of Davis's previous long-running mystery series), Albia is a sharp-tongued widow who relished her independence, until she fell in love with Tiberius Manlius Faustus, an upstanding if slightly dull plebeian aedile (magistrate). As Graveyard begins, Faustus is juggling his crabby relatives, his anxious bride and his new contracting business, which includes the renovation of a down-at-heel bar called the Garden of the Hesperides. When the remains of six bodies are discovered in the bar's courtyard, Faustus and Albia investigate, questioning the bar's landlord, waiters, grain suppliers and a seedy assortment of local residents. The bones have lain undisturbed for more than a decade, but as Albia soon discovers, someone doesn't want her digging up old secrets.

Davis's deep knowledge of Roman life and culture creates a believable setting, although the details occasionally overwhelm the plot. Albia is an engaging narrator, though not an infallible detective, and her zany relatives (especially her wedding-crazed younger sisters) provide an entertaining counterbalance to the investigation. Davis fans as well as new readers will enjoy this twisty, dryly humorous mystery. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: Lindsey Davis's fourth Flavia Albia mystery is a wry, entertaining mixture of marriage and murder in ancient Rome.

Minotaur Books, $26.99, hardcover, 9781250078902

Science Fiction & Fantasy

Deserts of Fire: Speculative Fiction and the Modern War

by Douglas Lain, editor

Deserts of Fire explores the concept of endless war and its impact, both personal and societal, through 21 speculative stories about living alongside terrorists, about citizen-soldiers enduring combat and suffering PTSD, and about the dehumanizing aspect of technological war.

In Norman Spinrad's "The Big Flash," following the U.S. government's overly successful attempt to get citizens enthusiastic about deploying nuclear weapons, a character remarks, "We'd all like to get it over with one way or the other." And in "The Sun Inside" by David J. Schwartz, set in the fictional kingdom of Pellucidar first created by Edgar Rice Burroughs, an imperialist general argues, "War isn't something people need; it's something we can't avoid. It's what we do. That being the case, it's imperative to be on the winning side, and not allow enemies--existing or potential--the opportunity to gather strength." In many of these stories, collected and edited by Douglas Lain, it is hard to escape the eschatological impulse, a certain nihilistic drive, that fuels much of war, suggesting that perhaps the only end to war is to end humanity.

In another standout, Ken Liu's "In the Loop," a software engineer, whose father committed suicide due to the stress from his job as a drone pilot, writes code for a new generation of killing machines. He makes them smarter, safer and prone to less "collateral damage," and comes to the realization that "fighting with robots meant that no one had to feel responsible for killing."

This is a fine collection of stories, covering big ideas and conveying thoughtful characterizations. --Evan M. Anderson, collection development librarian, Kirkendall Public Library, Ankeny, Iowa.

Discover: This broad collection of speculative short stories considers the impact and nature of seemingly endless war.

Night Shade Books, $15.99, paperback, 9781597808521


Daughters of the Bride

by Susan Mallery

When Maggie Watson turns out to be a bit of a bridezilla, it's most surprising to her bridesmaids--who happen to be her three tall, blonde daughters. In spite of their stereotypically Californian good looks, the three women are chagrined to realize how much better their mother's love life is than theirs.

Protective big sister Rachel is divorced and juggling life as a single mom, but still not over her cheating ex-husband. Beautiful Sienna is engaged for the third time--to a man she doesn't love, but she can't figure out how to get out of it. And clumsy Courtney isn't looking for love; she just wants to finish her college degree to prove to her family that she isn't the dumb little sister.

As the wedding plans progress, Maggie, Rachel, Sienna and Courtney will have some surprising revelations. Can they overcome their differences so Maggie can have the elaborate, over-the-top wedding she wants? Or will their secrets, the pink champagne and the swans in the swimming pool tear them apart?

With lots of humor, Susan Mallery (Three Sisters, The Girls of Mischief Bay) accurately portrays the complicated relationships that even the best of sisters often have. Navigating their own love lives, plus trying to placate each other, keeps Rachel, Sienna and Courtney busy, and is sure to keep the reader chuckling.

A perfect summer read, Daughters of the Bride is bound to make romance readers and anyone who's ever been a bridesmaid happy. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

Discover: Three sisters must keep the bride--their mother--happy, as she plans an extravagant wedding.

Harlequin, $26.99, hardcover, 9780373789719


The Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer

by Kate Summerscale

One London newspaper called the 1895 murder of Mrs. Emily Coombes "the most dreadful murder of the century." The killer was her 13-year-old son, Robert, who, along with his 12-year-old brother, Nattie, continued to live in their East London home with the decomposing body for 10 days before the stench began arousing suspicions. With her usual restraint and impeccable research, biographer Kate Summerscale's The Wicked Boy delves into the matricide, its sensational courtroom trial and the jury's verdict that Robert was guilty but insane at the time of the murder.

When Robert was sentenced to an indefinite detention at Broadmoor ("a fortified criminal lunatic asylum that housed the most notorious killers in Britain"), most readers would think that was the end of the story. But Summerscale's investigation discovers that Robert was rehabilitated, and in the second half of his life, he won a medal for his military service in World War I, and became an unofficial guardian to an abused boy (whose abuse was very similar to that in the Coombes household when Robert was a child).

Summerscale (The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher) is a deft historical crime writer with an eye for fascinating period detail and psychological insight to the times. She writes with immense control, trusting that her readers will connect the pieces of evidence without breaking the Victorian era reserve with modern day-intrusions. The Wicked Boy is an absorbing piece of true-crime investigation, and a surprising and satisfying tale of redemption. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant

Discover: This fascinating account of a Victorian era matricide, the sensational trial and the child murderer's redemption is a treat for true-crime fans.

Penguin Press, $28, hardcover, 9781594205781

Social Science

The Jolly Roger Social Club: A True Story of a Killer in Paradise

by Nick Foster

Journalist Nick Foster explores a backwater archipelago of Panama in The Jolly Roger Social Club: A True Story of a Killer in Paradise, a work of true crime and national history. As he investigates the serial killer known locally as Wild Bill Cortez, Foster asks: What is it about this expat society, or this place, that allowed these events to unfold?

William Dathan Holbert was originally from western North Carolina, where he showed an early disrespect for the law and his friends. Foster's investigative work follows a young man who defrauded his mentor and experimented with white supremacy before running for the border with his girlfriend, Laura Michelle Reese. But it was in the small village of Bocas del Toro in Panama that he came into his own, eventually killing a number of fellow American expatriates for their cash and real estate. On the property of an early victim, he opened a bar called the Jolly Roger Social Club ("over 90 percent of our members survive"), where he groomed future victims. Holbert and Reese still await trial in Panama.

The Jolly Roger Social Club intersperses Holbert's crimes with Panamanian history, from the building of the Canal to Manuel Noriega's dictatorship and its ties to United States politics and economics. With this broader perspective and interviews with expats in Bocas del Toro who knew "Wild Bill," Foster explores the factors that provided Holbert with the setting where his crimes went undetected for years: a remote corner of the Caribbean where people sometimes simply... disappear. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: A chilling tale about an expat American in Panama whose murderous crimes went undetected for years.

Holt, $28, hardcover, 9781627793728


Twenty Girls to Envy Me: Selected Poems of Orit Gidali

by Orit Gidali, trans. by Marcela Sulak

Israeli poet Orit Gidali explores politics, religion and community in Twenty Girls to Envy Me. Of particular note is Gidali's treatment of motherhood beyond cultural norms that equate maternity with happiness. Her poetry shares personal reflections about being a mother that are complicated by ongoing violence that affects generation after generation, not just in Israel but globally. She demonstrates how this external landscape shapes domestic life so that even moments of great peace and joy are fraught with conflict. Yet she knows awareness is not enough to drive action or bring about necessary change.

The poem "Heir to the Curfew" opens with her son's hair: "that I let time pass, your hair lengthens, bound in my hand while you sleep." The pleasantness of this intimate moment shifts when she sees that his hair will be "cut short, like the time from here to the army." In this way, she seamlessly moves from one reality of motherhood to another, less pleasant aspect: mandatory service for Israeli young adults. The juxtaposition continues, of nursing her infant and a cycle of violence at odds with domesticity, of a military uniform that smells of laundry. Even as she warns her son against participating in this cycle, "she, occupied by [his] sweetness, is not rising up to do anything." In this life-affirming moment, she mourns her ambivalence, recognizing that her focus on home may prevent her from taking action in the outside world. Gidali's poems offer timely criticism of such apathy without being scathing, leaving readers with a prevailing sense of hope. --Justus Joseph, bookseller at Elliott Bay Book Company

Discover: A timely collection by Israeli poet Orit Gidali reveals the many ways in which people connect and matter.

Center for Middle Eastern Studies, University of Texas at Austin, $16, paperback, 9781477309575

Children's & Young Adult

Lucky Strikes

by Louis Bayard

It's 1934, and Melia Hoyle is a 14-year-old mechanic in Walnut Ridge, Va., scrambling to keep her younger siblings in her custody and holding the despicable Harley Blevins at bay. Blevins runs a chain of gas stations, and will stop at nothing to get his hands on Brenda's Oasis, the station Melia took over when her mother died. Melia concocts a crazy plan to take in an "old bum" and pass him off as her long-lost daddy. Hiram Watts is "a heap of mud and hair, a cotton shirt, and a pair of torn-up trousers planted squarely in the path to pump number two" when she first encounters him, but he soon proves his worth ten times over as a businessman... and a father figure.

Joining the ranks of Scout from Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird and Frankie from Carson McCullers's The Member of the Wedding, Melia is a southern force to be reckoned with. "I don't know nothing 'bout--'bout feeling. All I know is fighting. And holding on. At the end of the day, I don't got much left for nothing else." Any one of the intriguing cast of characters of Lucky Strikes--the gruff, protective truckers, Harley's bumbling, blushing nephew Dudley, the down-at-the-heels lawyer still carrying a torch for Melia's mama--could make a splendid protagonist, but tough-tender Melia tops them all. Although Louis Bayard is best known for his historical mysteries (The Pale Blue Eye) and his Downton Abbey recaps in the New York Times, his foray into young adult literature may be his finest work yet. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor

Discover: At 14, Melia Hoyle is orphaned and left to run the family gas station while keeping her siblings out of foster care in Depression-era Virginia.

Holt, $16.99, hardcover, 320p., ages 12-18, 9781627793902

Bear and Hare Share

by Emily Gravett

Bear and Hare are back for another jaunty go-round in Bear and Hare Share, and despite the spirit of generosity the title suggests, they never do share--and it's all Hare's fault.

The two friends are on a walk, both smiling. All is well. Hare says, "Oooh, a flower!" and then eats it. "Share? asked Bear." "Mine! said Hare." This is the fun-to-read-aloud refrain of the book--all the wonderful nuance lies in Hare's guilty expression that says, "No way in the world I am giving you a bite of this delicious flower even though you are my friend." Amazingly, Bear hugs Hare anyway. They go for yet another walk. "Oooh, ice cream!" says Hare. "Share?" asked Bear, looking less happy than before. "Mine! said Hare." Hare has angry eyes here, and his arms are wrapped protectively around the giant ice cream cone, even his long ears are wrapped around it. Still, Bear doesn't care. Hare doesn't want to share a balloon, either, and their ensuing tug-a-war pops it. And when Hare finds some delicious honey, and a swarm of furious bees, it is Bear who comforts and nurses the bee-stung Hare: "There there." (Bear still gets no honey...)

British author-illustrator Emily Gravett's (Orange Pear Apple Bear; Again; Bear and Hare Go Fishing) madly adorable pencil, watercolor and crayon paintings of the bear-and-hare pair leap off the thick white pages to steal readers' hearts. Preschoolers know sharing is important (if difficult), but perhaps an even more important reminder is that being friends means occasionally forgiving ignoble behavior and moving on. --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: In Emily Gravett's new picture book, Hare doesn't share, but Bear doesn't care.

Simon & Schuster, $16.99, hardcover, 32p., ages 2-5, 9781481462174

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