Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Mariner Books: Briefly Perfectly Human: Making an Authentic Life by Getting Real about the End by Alua Arthur

From My Shelf

Carol Wallace: Updating a Classic

Carol Wallace is the great-great granddaughter of Lew Wallace, author of the novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, first published in 1880. Carol, who holds degrees from Princeton University and Columbia University, has written more than 20 books and has just updated Ben-Hur (Tyndale House, $15.99 paperback) as the official tie-in for the remake of the classic film, out August 19; here's the trailer for this thrilling movie. We asked her about modernizing the novel. 

"Writing the new version of Ben-Hur was great fun, because Lew Wallace had already done the heavy lifting: the research, the wonderful plot, building characters that readers care about. The biggest challenge was probably writing the chariot race scene: it's only 11 pages in the original, but I wanted to stretch it out, since this is what everyone remembers. And there's a great deal of story still to come after the chariot race, which has to be exciting enough to keep readers going after what they expect--from the filmed versions--to be the end of the story. 

"One big change was that I made the chapters very short, and made the dialogue more contemporary. And I spent more time on the point of view of the female characters, who were not really central in the original version. To be honest, I kept pretending I was Lee Child--I love his swift, compelling way of telling a story."

Karen Watson, associate publisher at Tyndale, also commented on Wallace's rewrite: "Carol's skillful reworking and updating of the novel put it into perfect sync with Tyndale's mission for making spiritual truth broadly accessible to the average reader, who would not likely engage with the 200,000-word original novel. Carol's updated version keeps the heart and arc of the wonderful redemptive storyline, while tightening and rewriting existing scenes for today's reader, and we're also able to engage them with exciting visuals from the new film. We are thrilled to introduce this classic to a broader, modern audience." --Marilyn Dahl, editor, Shelf Awareness for Readers

Sleeping Bear Press: A Kurta to Remember by Gauri Dalvi Pandya, Illustrated by Avani Dwivedi

Book Candy

Literary Candles

Bookish illumination: Bustle found "12 literary candles every reader will love."


"We're probably mispronouncing his name." Mental Floss offered "11 simple facts about Henry David Thoreau."


Buzzfeed modeled "17 gorgeous wedding dresses all book lovers will adore."


With a "seemingly ever-growing list of adaptations heading our way, let's get a check on the status of Stephen King's adaptation projects," Signature noted.


Bookshelf showcased South African artist and designer Justin Southey's Whale Bookshelf.

Hell Divers

by Nicholas Sansbury Smith

More than two centuries after a catastrophic world war rendered the Earth uninhabitable, the scant remnants of humanity circle the skies in the same mammoth airships used to bomb civilization into oblivion. A fleet of ships once hundreds strong is now reduced to two: the Hive and the Ares, each carrying half of all remaining humans--scarcely over 1,000 souls total.

These ships have been in operation for hundreds of years beyond their originally intended lifespans. Their survival, and the survival of all mankind, depends on the service of a few dozen Hell Divers--brave men and women who jump thousands of feet to the planet's surface to collect the ancient components needed to keep the airships afloat. They must contend with fierce electrical storms, intense radiation and mutant monsters prowling crumbling city ruins. Their motto is simple: "We dive so humanity survives."

Xavier Rodriguez--better known as X--is by far the most accomplished Hell Diver on the Hive. The average diver survives 15 jumps; X has survived 95. Hell Divers opens with X preparing to make his 96th jump while nursing a hangover. It's been a year since he suffered a personal tragedy that, along with the high chance of death on every jump, has led him all too often to the bottom of a bottle of 'shine--a foul makeshift liquor. X has been prematurely aged by his nihilistic partying, the radiation he encounters outside the ship and the radiation permeating the Hive. But he is one of the lucky above-deckers, with his own cramped apartment, adequate rations and plenty of shielding between him and the Hive's nuclear generator. The unskilled lower-deckers cram into communal spaces in the ship's bowels, where cancer and deformities have worsened with every generation.

The lower-deckers are not the only victims of humanity's nuclear-fueled airborne existence. Captain Ash, commander of the Hive and former member of its security force, the Militia, is dying of throat cancer. Much to the dismay of her husband, Captain Ash has refused chemotherapy treatment so she can carry out her duties as long as possible. She vows what by now seems a vain hope--to find a safe place on the surface to land, where humanity can be earthbound once again.

But Captain Ash makes a terrible mistake, one that almost makes X's 96th dive his last: she sends X and his team into an electrical storm. Those team members not killed by lightning strikes on the dive fall victim to a new, even more horrifying threat--eyeless, pale humanoid mutants, wielding razor talons, tons of teeth and a hunger for human flesh. X is the mission's sole survivor. One of his comrades, a friend, has a son, who now falls into X's care. He is a pensive guardian, but the boy, called Tin for the foil hat he wears and his aptitude with electronics, may be just the right responsibility to make X stop drowning himself in 'shine.

Captain Ash gets little time to ruminate on her mistake. She receives a call for help from the Ares--the sister ship is above a wasteland called Hades, an Old World city targeted by so many bombs during the world-ending war that it became a frozen hellscape of radiation, blasting snow and constant electrical storms. Captain Ash can't imagine what desperation led the captain of the Ares to fly over that damned place, but she refuses to stand by and let half of the human race die. She steers the Hive toward Hades, to a dive that will push X and a team of rookie Hell Divers to their limits. Meanwhile, the discontent of the oppressed lower-deckers threatens to reignite a class struggle that led to deadly riots on the Hive just a few years prior.

In Hell Divers, Nicholas Sansbury Smith unleashes post-apocalyptic science-fiction with the pacing of a thriller. He achieves his world-building succinctly, and moves from thrills to chills without the story becoming a mere catalogue of violence, along with tender moments that round out the characters. Hell Divers offers genre fans everything they could ask for, from fresh takes on the post-apocalypse to social commentary reminiscent of Snowpiercer, and plenty of action. The book's swift, tight plotting will also appeal to thriller fans, with a cliffhanger ending that leaves readers suspended mid-air for the rest of a promised trilogy.

Nicholas Sansbury Smith is the author of the five-volume Extinction Cycle series, also post-apocalyptic thrillers, and the Orbs series, science-fiction thrillers about an alien invasion. Before turning to fiction writing, Smith worked for the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management in the field of disaster mitigation. Perhaps his career there is part of what makes Smith so good at imagining worst-case scenarios. Whatever his inspiration, Smith has crafted something enthralling with Hell Divers. --Tobias Mutter

Blackstone Publishing, $24.99, hardcover, 9781504725842

Nicholas Sansbury Smith: Sky-high Dystopia

photo: Zachary Smith

Nicholas Sansbury Smith has written several popular post-apocalyptic and dystopian novels, including the Extinction Cycle series (self-published) and the Orb series (Simon & Shuster). The first volume of a planned trilogy, Hell Divers (Blackstone) tells the tale of the last remnants of humanity, surviving in airships above a ruined Earth. He lives in Des Moines, Iowa, with his family and several rescued animals.

What's your background?

I worked for Homeland Security and Emergency Management for a number of years. I did disaster mitigation planning. That's what inspired me to write post-apocalyptic novels. It's depressing how many ways the world might end. It's something that I've been focusing on in my writing--what people do when that time comes, all the different types of survivors and their personalities. It just fascinates me. Hell Divers is another example of that. It's a little bit different because it's set so much farther into the future than my other books.

What was your approach to building the world of this novel?

Since it's set 250 years into the future, there were a lot of different ways I could take this, but I did want to focus on what life would like on these airships. Are people religious, and are there different religions? How does the economy work? I had to envision what would have happened over these 250 years. There wouldn't be a whole lot left. It would pretty much be what you could grow and barter in terms of selling stuff. Some of the same belief systems would have remained over time; they probably would evolve. I think life would just be a lot darker, and so I tried to reflect that in the characters. Even Tin, the boy Hell Diver Xavier ends up taking care of, grows up knowing that life can end at any moment. With that hanging over your head, you either have to choose to keep going or just give up.

What about the class differences? What was your rationale in creating the haves (upper decks) and the have-nots (lower decks)?

I wanted to have a dystopian outlook on it. In society today, the distribution of wealth is a lot different than it was during the 18th and 19th centuries, with the robber barons. In my future, when power and wealth is in the hands of the few, like it is on the airships, then you're going to have major differences between the two caste-like systems. I wanted the lower deckers to have some sort of revolt, but I wanted it to brew very silently so it wasn't something that just happens overnight. It's a cycle--almost like in Hugh Howey's Wool, where you have different revolts over the years. I also wanted to have a humanist as captain, so Captain Maria Ash understands the plight of the lower deckers. She can relate because of the cancer that she has (most lower deckers get cancer due to the poor shielding from the nuclear engines that power the airships). At the same time, there isn't a whole lot she can do. Her goal is to keep humanity going. In a situation like that, you almost have to pick the lesser of two evils and decide who survives and who doesn't. Otherwise, the human race really goes extinct.

Who is Xavier Rodriguez, the world-weary but duty-bound Hell Diver who must keep going at any cost?

When I was writing his character, I was looking for someone the reader could love and hate. Someone they could relate to and, like I said, someone who was flawed. I don't want to give away any spoilers, but his journey is kind of a journey through hell. He really does believe in humanity. He really does care about the human race even though his character might not seem like it. That's why I had Xavier and his relationship with Tin evolve; in the beginning, Xavier doesn't seem like he cares about a whole lot of stuff. Then he realizes what's important in life again over the course of the book.

Even 10-year-old Tin has a character arc. Where did you draw your inspiration for that? Kids are hard to write.

I tried to give all of the characters' points of view as much page time as possible so they develop and aren't so one-dimensional. With Tin, my inspiration came from my own childhood. I had to think back to how I would feel in situations like his. But then I also had to remember I grew up in a much better place than an airship. It wasn't easy, and my editors have definitely helped. I don't have kids, but my editors who do have kids said, "Eh, this doesn't make sense. Tin wouldn't react this way."

What about the world-ending catastrophe? Was it one nuclear event or were there several things?

I decided not to go into a major explanation of what happens in the book itself.

Because it doesn't matter, right?

Right. At this point, not everyone on the airships understands really what happened. Captain Ash is fascinated and obsessed with figuring out what happened, but there's a scene where she talks about the Hive originally being a lifeboat that was meant to drop bombs. They were designed by the military to be hardened against EMPs. The future of warfare is electronic warfare. We might not have manned jets 10-20 years in the future. We might have more drones, but at that point, I think there's going to be more electronic warfare that can shoot those types of things down. The lifeboats were designed to drop bombs and create an electromagnetic pulse. I don't touch on which countries, who started the war, or who ended the war. I just explained that these were military aircrafts that were designed to withstand an EMP blast. These lifeboats dropped the bombs, but they also picked up the families of the military officers that commanded them. They became lifeboats. The military ended the world, but in a way they saved the last remnants of humanity. There are only two lifeboats left at the start of the novel, 250 years in the future.

In fact, the tubes that the hell divers drop out of to go down to the planet to salvage supplies were the bomb tubes.

Right. They are retrofitted now to drop people instead of bombs.

That's some irony right there. What inspired the monsters on the land?

Again, I wanted to try to make this realistic, so I had to think about what would happen 250 years after these bombs had dropped.

That's a long time for mutations to take hold.

Whatever creatures are down there are going to have to evolve to withstand not only the radiation, but figure out a way to survive. Since it's so dark, I decided the creatures didn't have to have eyes. They wouldn't be able to see anyway, so they use some sort of sonar. The skin and all the other extremities are very leathery. They have these appendages and they move really fast up surfaces. What would it be like down there? What would they have evolved to? How would they move? How would they see? How would they breathe? What would they eat? Some of my inspiration has come from other books, TV shows and movies. --Rob LeFebvre

Shelf vetted, publisher supported.

Great Reads

Rediscover: Snow

The recent failed military coup in Turkey is part of a long history of tension between secularism and Islamism stretching back to the country's creation. Ataturk, the Republic's founder, enshrined an "active neutrality" in the state's relationship with religion. The Turkish military has since staged multiple successful coups to defend the secular nature of Turkey's government in a country where 99% of the population is Muslim.

In his novel Snow, Turkish author Orhan Pamuk explores the divergent tides of religion and secularism in modern Turkey. It was first published in Turkish in 2002, titled Kar, and translated into English by Maureen Freely in 2004. The novel follows Ka, a Turkish poet who returns to his homeland after a 12-year exile in Germany. He has two goals: to reconnect with a woman from his past and to investigate a string of suicides in Kars, a city in eastern Turkey. A snow storm cuts the city off from the outside world. Over the next three days, Ka interacts with a variety of polarized residents representing the major fault lines of Turkish society--a secularist, a semi-fascist nationalist, an Islamist, Kurds, military men and more--and witnesses a coup attempt. Orhan Pamuk won the 2006 Nobel Prize for Literature. Snow was last published in 2005 by Vintage ($15.95, 9780375706868). --Tobias Mutter

Book Review


The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules

by Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg

When Lily of the Valley retirement home in Stockholm is sold to ghastly new owners and renamed Diamond House, the cloistered pensioners who reside there get fed up. Their food is "delivered and served under cellophane wrapping," and budget cuts curb their daily coffee consumption. Believing they would be better treated and have more freedom in prison, a group of five friends who, in their late 50s, decided to live together in old age, start a rebellion to test their theory. Banded together by 79-year-old, childless, crime fiction fan Martha Andersson, the "League of Pensioners" goes on the lam. The quintet--handsome, dapper Rake; Oscar "Brains," an optimistic solution-finder and inventor; Christina, who's in search of simple pleasures; and hard of hearing Anna-Greta, a former banker and financier--set out to rob from the rich and contribute the funds to improve living conditions for seniors throughout Sweden. After a successful robbery at a luxury hotel, they pull off the heist of a Renoir and a Monet from the National Museum that ultimately lands them behind bars. The paintings, however, proceed to elude the police and ultimately, even the Yugoslavian mafia.

A comedy of errors, oversights and obstacles infuse Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg's clever U.S. debut, and the hilarious, escalating antics of a spirited cast of walker-dependent characters in their 70s and 80s will have readers of all ages rooting for their cause. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: A comic crime caper about five Swedish pensioners who break out of their retirement home and become criminals.

Harper Paperbacks, $15.99, paperback, 400p., 9780062447975

Nine Women, One Dress

by Jane L. Rosen

Everyone in New York City is desperate to get their hands on the black dress of the season. When it hits the cover of Women's Wear Daily, the little number begins a journey from the dressing room at Bloomingdale's to a house in Paris and back again. Along the way, it changes the fortunes of nine women (and a few men). Debut novelist Jane L. Rosen delivers a frothy, fast-paced story of a dress and its odyssey in Nine Women, One Dress.

Rosen's narrative flips back and forth at an astonishing pace, switching among multiple narrators of varying age, gender and occupation. They include Sally Ann Fennely, the fresh-faced model from Alabama who wears the dress on the runway; recently jilted Bloomingdale's salesgirl Natalie and her older, wiser colleague Ruthie; private detective Andie Rand, whose personal experience with cheating husbands has led to her current occupation; and veteran pattern maker Morris Siegel, for whom the dress is the cherry on top of a 75-year career in the garment industry. These characters and others, loosely connected by the dress itself, dream of romance, revenge and even career changes, swept along by the frock's almost magical aura of possibility.

With such a large cast, Rosen's novel whizzes along like an express subway train, but she does give a few brief, vivid glimpses into her characters' inner lives. Readers will root for Natalie, Andie and others as they pursue love, professional satisfaction and--of course--that perfect little black dress. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: A must-have little black dress changes the lives of nine women in this frothy, fast-paced novel.

Doubleday, $24.95, hardcover, 272p., 9780385541404

Break in Case of Emergency

by Jessica Winter

In Break in Case of Emergency, first-time novelist Jessica Winter balances an earnest exploration of a young woman's personal challenges with a snarky skewering of dysfunctional office culture.

After the economic collapse of 2008 and months of unemployment, Jen finally lands a job with the Leora Infinitas Foundation (LIFt). The nonprofit's mission to "empower women" is vaguely defined and haphazardly executed. Ideas lead to acronyms, and initiatives frequently lead nowhere as the board and senior management shift their short attention spans elsewhere. As her work feels increasingly pointless, Jen comes to suspect that the foundation's goals don't extend to empowering the women on its staff.

She's not feeling particularly emboldened by her life outside the office, either. She has set aside her artistic ambitions largely out of economic necessity; she and her husband, Jim, a high-school teacher, need two paychecks to make rent for their apartment in a not-yet-fashionable part of Brooklyn, and to continue their relationship with a fertility clinic for as long as necessary. Jen also struggles with her love for and envy of her best friends, Pam and Meg, as she contrasts their creative and financial successes with her own less promising circumstances.

Winter's depiction of Jen's workplace is biting. The fruitless meetings, the jargon, the jockeying and the suspicion that no one really knows what's going on are familiar elements exaggerated (one hopes) for comic effect. However, it's the rendering of Jen as a person both in and out of that workplace that gives the novel heart, and makes Break in Case of Emergency a smart, funny and affecting fiction debut. --Florinda Pendley Vasquez, blogger at The 3 R's: Reading, Riting, and Randomness

Discover: A young woman strives for professional and personal empowerment in this smart, engaging debut novel.

Knopf, $25.95, hardcover, 288p., 9781101946138

The Harrows of Spring: A World Made by Hand Novel

by James Howard Kunstler

The first three novels of the World Made by Hand series, by noted author and social and environmental critic James Howard Kunstler, presented a United States in which terrorism, disease and environmental destruction have reduced society to a hardscrabble subsistence. In the fourth and final volume, the citizens of Union Grove have succeeded in making this hand-to-mouth lifestyle work, but they find their hard-won efforts threatened by a cunning group of dissident hyper-liberals. 

Union Grove is forced to defend an already fragile infrastructure. Dwindling winter supplies have left fresh food scarce, but plantation owner Stephen Bullock refuses to lend his riverboat so the people can transport goods from Albany. Meanwhile, the anti-establishment crowd called the Berkshire People's Republic, led by former NPR correspondent Glen Ethan Greengrass, arrives in town. They attempt to extort silver from residents in exchange for membership in and protection from the Republic. Meanwhile, mayor Robert Earle's son Daniel has returned from a mysterious two-year sojourn to start a town newspaper. Then tragedy strikes the denizens of Union Grove.

The rhythms of the novel are slow and undulating, mirroring the rebuilding of town and civilization, and Kunstler's ornate tone gives way to gentle, yet critical, observations of post-industrial society. A world deprived of modern comforts may be bleak to some, but Kunstler retains a strong belief in the human spirit's ability to form community out of hope, which gives this dystopic series a moving and satisfying end. --Nancy Powell, freelance writer and technical consultant

Discover: This rewarding conclusion to the post-apocalyptic World Made by Hand series is an invigorating tale of insurrection, loss and rebirth.

Atlantic Monthly Books, $24, hardcover, 384p., 9780802124920

Mystery & Thriller

The Innocents

by Ace Atkins

After training an Afghani police force, Quinn Colson returns to Jericho, Miss., where Lillie Virgil is acting sheriff. Quinn's father has grand plans to turn Quinn's farm into a dude ranch. His girlfriend Anna Lee is moving to Memphis. And a teenager consumed by raging fire walks down the middle of the road in a desperate attempt to get help. The sixth in Ace Atkins's series may be his darkest yet.

Quinn thought he was finished policing in his hometown when the community voted him out as sheriff. But the gruesome homicide of former high school cheerleader Milly Jones has all of Mississippi watching the investigation, and Lillie needs as much help as she can recruit. The suspect list is long--the strip club boss Milly shortchanged on tips, the drug dealer she refused to sleep with, her drunkard father who feels disgraced by her employment--and the flames devoured any significant forensic evidence that could identify the killer. As Quinn and Lillie dig through the ashes for answers, they find far more than they bargained for.

The marriage of Quinn's law enforcement and complex interpersonal relationships make this series an addictive read. The Innocents shines a glaring spotlight down the darkest alleys of small-town Mississippi, but does so with the compassion of one who loves the region and wants to reveal the diamonds along with the dregs. Seasoned Quinn Colson readers will likely predict the outcome early, but the journey there is the true joy in this gem of a crime novel. --Jen Forbus of Jen's Book Thoughts

Discover: The fiery death of a former high school cheerleader leads Quinn Colson and Lillie Virgil to uncover dark secrets in Jericho, Miss.

Putnam, $27, hardcover, 384p., 9780399173950

The Kingdom

by Fuminori Nakamura, trans. by Kalau Almony

The Kingdom is Fuminori Nakamura's 10th novel and a "sister novel" to his acclaimed English-language debut, The Thief. Newcomers shouldn't feel intimidated, however, as The Kingdom is also a perfect entrée into Nakamura's almost indescribably weird brand of crime fiction--sometimes given the catchy moniker "zen noir" for its contemplative, unemotional bent. Nakamura's novel follows Yurika, a freelancer for an obscure criminal agency who poses as a prostitute in order to sedate and take embarrassing pictures of important men. Yurika finds her lucrative routine interrupted when a sadistic underworld figure named Kizaki starts involving her in cruel, anarchic schemes with far-reaching goals.
As always, Nakamura packs a lot of plot into a slim novel, but his pared-down prose style leaves room for the meditative asides that characterize his work. Yurika, like most of Nakamura's protagonists, is a true outsider--so utterly detached that her observations feel both profound and bafflingly alien. Early in the novel Yurika visits a smoke-filled bar and muses:

"I'm not sure why, but I thought it would be nice if this was what the world was like after death. The dead all get drunk somewhere, surrounded by a white haze. They sing songs and never notice that they are gradually disappearing. But then where would the children go? Children can't get drunk, so they'd have to remain conscious of themselves as they disappear."

The Kingdom is a gripping crime novel wrapped around an ongoing existential crisis. No one writes like Nakamura, and everyone should read him. --Hank Stephenson, bookseller, Flyleaf Books

Discover: The Kingdom offers another sample of Japanese author Fuminori Nakamura's heady blend of disaffected philosophy and noir suspense.

Soho Crime, $23.95, hardcover, 224p., 9781616955922

Among the Wicked

by Linda Castillo

Linda Castillo's Among the Wicked continues the serial adventures of a likable detective with an unusual background. Kate Burkholder is chief of police in Painters Mill, Ohio, a community more than half Amish. Her relationship with that faith, which she left as a teen, both pervades and complicates her work. She speaks Pennsylvania Dutch and understands the culture, but many resent her desertion. When a young girl dies under suspicious circumstances in the particularly insular Amish community of Roaring Springs, N.Y., Kate is the obvious choice to go in undercover. Her boyfriend, also a cop, has misgivings, but as her fans know, Kate won't step down from a challenge--or a chance to help.

To enter this secretive society, which is led by a powerful, charismatic and possibly dangerous man, Kate must assume an identity that closely resembles one she might have lived. She poses as a widow, making new friends as well as new enemies. As she nears the frightening truth of Roaring Springs, Kate's experience among the Amish drives her to reconsider her decisions regarding the faith.

Romantic developments in Kate's personal life sweetly offset the disturbing events in this engrossing novel. Castillo's skills are broad. Despite its deceptively quiet setting in Amish country, Among the Wicked is a high-speed, adrenaline-filled case of terror and intrigue: fast-paced and plot-driven, but with nuanced characters and an eye for detail where many thrillers slack off. This gritty mystery will equally satisfy fans of the Kate Burkholder series and first-time readers. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: A gutsy police chief goes undercover in Amish country, reentering a life she thought she'd left behind.

Minotaur Books, $26.99, hardcover, 320p., 9781250061577

Science Fiction & Fantasy

The Last Adventure of Constance Verity

by A. Lee Martinez

Constance Verity has died twice, met Dracula and visited the future, where, she reports, there are no flying cars but lots of robots, both good and evil. A self-proclaimed detective with an incredible collection of skills and a dedication to dental hygiene, Constance is known for her unconventional adventures that usually result in disaster and destruction. An entire arm of government is devoted to tracking her, which helps with the inevitable and necessary post-incident cleanups after fighting ninjas, battling robots and saving the world from monsters. Despite possessing skills that are downright otherworldly, Constance wants to step away from her role as heroic rescuer and regain a sense of control over her life--but her childhood wish for an adventurous life, granted by her fairy godmother, keeps this from happening. Discontented, Constance decides to go on one last mission: to kill her fairy godmother and take her life back from the fate she's been dealt.

The Last Adventure of Constance Verity by A. Lee Martinez (Gil's All Fright Diner; A Nameless Witch) has a classic pulp story feel. Fast-paced and funny, the story never flags, though it features a self-aware character who offers readers moments of philosophical reflection alongside cheeky commentary and nonchalant observations. The quick and charmingly campy humor perfectly complements the splashy world Martinez has developed, where even the earth is not what it seems--it's really a sleeping monster that wants to eat people. Moments of horror sneak into the ongoing levity as characters face disturbing situations, leaving readers with chills long after the laughter has passed. --Justus Joseph, bookseller at Elliott Bay Book Company

Discover: In this lively adventure, a strange and heroic young woman is out to kill her fairy godmother.

Saga Press, $24.99, hardcover, 384p., 9781481443517

Health & Medicine

The Little Book of Healthy Beauty: Simple Daily Habits to Get You Glowing

by Pina LoGiudice

There are so many guides to achieving maximum health and beauty that it's a minor miracle when one stands out in the crowd--and Pina LoGiudice's The Little Book of Healthy Beauty is a real standout. LoGiudice, a naturopathic doctor and founder of the clinic Inner Source Health, writes engagingly, with humor and confidence. While LoGiudice covers an abundance of material, it is delivered in easily digested bite-size nuggets on cleverly designed pages. This is not health and beauty advice that drones on; it is energetic and many readers will finish the book with dozens of dog-eared pages to be shared with family and friends.

LoGiudice's goal is to help readers "glow," or attain a "look that communicates vitality, essence, and energy." This can be achieved through better sleep habits (ideally more than seven hours per night); a healthy diet (she recommends the Mediterranean diet for longevity and health); vitamin supplements (vitamin-deficient soils deprive even healthy foods of vitamins); exercise (a combo of cardio, flexibility and balance work); relaxation (meditation, massage and acupuncture); and detoxification (eliminating toxins that accelerate your inner and outer aging process). The outward manifestation of looking and feeling younger comes from your inner vitality.

The Little Book of Healthy Beauty is a concise, buoyantly optimistic and encouraging resource, filled with holistic and scientific facts and advice that make heading down the road toward good health feel achievable. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant

Discover: This upbeat, encouraging and good-humored guide offers a holistic approach to longevity, good health, vitality and a visible glow.

TarcherPerigee, $15, paperback, 256p., 9780399176937

Travel Literature

On Trails: An Exploration

by Robert Moor

In 2009, Robert Moor hiked the entirety of the Appalachian Trail (commonly called "the AT" by hiking enthusiasts), starting in Georgia and ending Maine. While walking those 2,200 miles, he started to wonder about the nature of the AT: who created it, why and why any footpath at all exists. That last question proves pivotal in shaping Moor's experience after his hike, sending his curious mind on a journey to discover the nature of trails and their origins. His research culminated in On Trails, which offers a "panoramic view of how pathways act as an essential guiding force on this planet."

Moor's survey starts with fossils and moves through time and the animal kingdom to explore the tracks of insects and mammals; the pathways of early humans and those blazed in more recent centuries; the origins of the AT, including several recollections of Moor's hikes there; and the more modern, technological trails humans are forging for travel and information, such as highways and the Internet. Along the way, he moves seamlessly between personal reflection and fascinating trivia, detailed history and philosophical musing, etymological accounts and geographical recollections. These many threads combine to make On Trails an example of narrative nonfiction at its finest. Those with a passion for walking, hiking or exploring will be naturally drawn to Moor's subject, but this is so much more than a subject-specific story; it is a book that poses big questions about humanity's place in the world (literally and figuratively) and how we've come to be here--and it's fascinating to its very end. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

Discover: Robert Moor offers a spectacular, fascinating survey of the world's trails, how they came to be created, and how they created the world as we know it.

Simon & Schuster, $25, hardcover, 352p., 9781476739212

Children's & Young Adult

Frank and Lucky Get Schooled

by Lynne Rae Perkins

Newbery-winning author Lynne Rae Perkins (Criss Cross; All Alone in the Universe) paints a picture of a redheaded boy whose bad day turns around when he brings a friendly black dog home from the pound: "One day when Frank could not win for losing, he got Lucky."

Frank and Lucky Get Schooled is a story about a boy and his dog, yes, but it's also a funny, inventive exploration of the nature of learning and the interconnectedness of all things. Science, for instance: "Science is when you wonder about something, so you observe it and ask questions about it and try to understand it." So, of course Lucky the dog is interested in science. He wonders about squirrels ("Can I catch it?"), bees ("Can I eat it?") and deer ("Is it my friend?"). By picking up ticks and burrs, Lucky helps Frank learn about entomology and botany. Boy and dog both love math: "Math is puzzles. Math is how much and how many." The number of biscuits Lucky is willing to eat? Infinity.

Expressive, comical watercolor and pen-and-ink paintings appear in small framed panels with cartoon bubbles and also on full-bleed pages. Perkins has a knack for elegantly, playfully distilling the essence of the world, and in doing so, making readers feel lucky to be alive. This delightful story of a boy and his beloved pooch also shows how geography is full of science, how art contains math, and how science is "jam-packed" with art. Fresh, profound and just plain fun. --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A boy and his dog both like science (squirrel!), math (how much do we get to eat?) and history (who ate the cake?) in this winning picture book about the nature of learning.

Greenwillow/HarperCollins, $17.99, hardcover, 32p., ages 5-8, 9780062373458

Hill and Hole Are Best Friends

by Kyle Mewburn, illus. by Vasanti Unka

There's a clean, bold painting of a hump on the left side of the double-page spread... that's Hill. There's a scooped-out valley on the right side... that's Hole.

Hole asks what Hill can see from up where he is: " 'I can see the sun rising,' Hill replied. 'It looks like another beautiful day.' " At night, Hill asks Hole, "What can you feel, so deep in the ground?" Hole can hear the earth breathing. Hole and Hill ask Mole if he can help them swap places, just to experience a different perspective. Mole agrees to dig and dig until Hill is a hole because "Isn't a hole just an inside-out hill, and a hill but an upside-down hole?" (As he digs, he kicks up a wonderful splattering of dirt, captured in kinetic spatters of brown watercolor.) Hill and Hole are happy with their new lives for a while, but both soon start to feel out of their elements. This time it's Wind who helps out, but she can only flatten the landscape, creating "a vast, flat plain stretching all the way to the horizon." And that too was okay, "for a while."

With Hill and Hole Are Best Friends, New Zealand author-illustrator team Kyle Mewburn (Kiss! Kiss! Yuck! Yuck!) and Vasanti Unka (The Boring Book; Spots or Stripes?) graphically, cleverly illustrate the idea of swapping points of view. There are no real lessons here, just a general nod to natural curiosity, branching out, change and acceptance. --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: Hill and Hole wonder what it would be like to change places in this artful, perspective-bending picture book.

Feiwel & Friends, $17.99, hardcover, 40p., ages 2-5, 9781250076373


Author Buzz

The Wild Card
(A Rivers Wilde Novella)

by Dylan Allen

Dear Reader,

"What if…?" is my favorite question to ask myself when I start writing a book. The answers that Cassie and Leo's story delivered were unexpected and heartwarming. Adding a heist and serendipitous reunion into the mix took my tried and true favorite trope, second chance, to a whole new level. Theirs is a classic case of right person/wrong time. Whether you're a Rivers Wilde newbie or expert, watching them overcome some pretty steep hurdles is a wild, thrilling, feel good ride.

I hope you love every word. xo,

Available on Kobo

AuthorBuzz: 1001 Dark Nights Press: The Wild Card (A Rivers Wilde Novella) by Dylan Allen

1001 Dark Nights Press

Pub Date: 
January 16, 2024


List Price: 
$2.99 e-book


Kids Buzz

Where Do Ocean Creatures Sleep at Night

by Steven J. Simmons and Clifford R. Simmons
illus. by Ruth E. Harper

Dear Reader,

My newest and latest in a three-book series, Where Do Ocean Creatures Sleep at Night?, came from seeing the fascination so many kids have with the ocean and ocean creatures. How do a whale, octopus, dolphin, clownfish, great white shark and so many other undersea animals get their rest?

After all, they need to get their rest and sleep, just like all of us. So dive into this rhyming STEM picture book to encourage a love of nature and the environment--and under the covers for a great bedtime story.

"What do animals do when children are sleeping? Featuring creatures young children are likely to know, this book has the answers....[and] unusual nighttime facts are a plus." --Kirkus

Steve Simmons

KidsBuzz: Charlesbridge: Where Do Ocean Creatures Sleep at Night? by Steven J. Simmons and Clifford R. Simmons, illus. by Ruth E. Harper


Pub Date: 
April 16, 2024


Type of Book:
Picture Book

Age Range: 

List Price: 
$17.99 Hardcover

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