Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, July 22, 2016

Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster: A Short Walk Through a Wide World by Douglas Westerbeke

From My Shelf

In Praise of Boredom & 'Beach Reads'

"Boredom is integral to the process of taking one's time." --Adam Phillips, from On Kissing, Tickling and Being Bored: Psychoanalytic Essays on the Unexamined Life

I come here to praise boredom, not to bury it under the weight of frantic summer activities. My current "beach reads" list features a range of titles, including Richard Russo's Everybody's Fool, Joy Williams's Ninety-Nine Stories of God, Jenny Diski's In Gratitude, Michael Connelly's The Crossing and Denise Riley's Say Something Back. As summer to-do lists go, this one is top shelf, but when will I ever find the time?

Here's what I tell myself: There is time--time to read and time to be a just a little bored, in a summer way. "Boredom is fertile. Boredom is potential. Boredom is the basic element of all of baseball's drama," writes Andrew Forbes in his fine new collection, The Utility of Boredom: Baseball Essays. "But baseball can make you feel like you've got time to burn. These days that's a precious feeling."

While "time to burn" is implicit in the beach read concept, I am a clock watcher by nature and nurture. And yet, I don't feel compelled to "finish" my book list. I just read. In those precious moments of freedom when I'm not working and my favorite chair on the deck beckons, I immediately sink into sun-drenched depths of boredom, ennui, lassitude, apathy, lethargy (take your pick), and then rise again... just a little, just enough to read well.

And to reread. This year my choice is J.L. Carr's slender masterpiece, A Month in the Country, one of my favorite novels set in this languid season. The narrator, Tom Birkin, gazes back 50 years, with longing and regret, to the golden summer of 1920, when he found a rare measure of peace, consolation and love never to be reclaimed. "Since, I sometimes have wondered if it was a dream," Birkin muses. A perfect summer thought.

Relax. Exhale. Turn the pages slowly.

--Robert Gray, contributing editor, Shelf Awareness

Sleeping Bear Press: When You Go Into Nature by Sheri M Bestor, Illustrated by Sydney Hanson

The Writer's Life

Donald Ray Pollock: The Heavenly and Not So Heavenly

Donald Ray Pollock dropped out of high school when he was 17. He became an author after working at an Ohio paper mill from 1973 to 2005, abandoning his addiction to drugs and drink, and going to college. When he was 40, he got an Ohio University degree and went on to earn an MFA from Ohio State. All three of his books are based primarily in Ohio. His first book, short stories about drugs and drink, is titled Knockemstiff, the name of the blue-collar village where he spent his youth. It won the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Fellowship Award in 2009. His first novel, The Devil All the Time, imagined a husband and wife as serial killers. In 2011, GQ celebrated it as a Book of the Year and the Los Angeles Times praised it as "a significant voice." His second novel, The Heavenly Table (Doubleday, July 12), deals with crime in 1917. It's mostly about two troubled families: the three Jewett brothers, ages 23 to 17, who turn to crime and murder; the other, an honest and poor couple. They end up joined in a surprising way.
Is this your first fiction set before you were born?

Well, yes, pretty much. A bit of The Devil All the Time takes place in the 1940s, but I was born soon after, in 1954, so that really doesn't count. The Heavenly Table is set in 1917, and I started out intending to write an historical novel about Camp Sherman, a huge army training base that the government built on the edge of Chillicothe, Ohio, right after America declared war on Germany. Then one morning, while I was working on the first draft, the Jewett brothers suddenly appeared, and I decided to go with them instead of the camp. To be honest, it was a relief. Trying to write a true historical fiction felt too restrictive to me, and I'd also begun to worry that I just wasn't talented enough to do it properly. Once I decided that I was just going to make stuff up and not follow the facts, it became a little easier to write.

There's little that's heavenly about most of your characters.

For most of the characters being evil or seriously messed up, well, those are the people I tend to write about, and they probably do overshadow the decent ones at times, but I do believe there are several characters in this book who would qualify for a place at the heavenly table.

You describe one of your characters, young Eddie, as a "boozehound." Does that describe some of your youth?

I didn't realize it until now, but I guess maybe Eddie is loosely based on myself, at least as far as the drinking and the running away from home. That was a long time ago.

Is Meade, the main settling for the novel, based on a real town?

Meade is what I call Chillicothe, the town I have lived in since I was 18. I changed the name in my first book, Knockemstiff, mostly because I worked for 33 years at the Mead Paper Mill located there. The mill had such a huge impact on my life and also on the town--it's been there for way over 100 years--that it just seemed the thing to do at the time, and I've stuck with it. Too, strangers sometimes find Chillicothe a hard name to pronounce.

How would you answer a question raised in the novel, "Wasn't being queer bad enough without being so damn blatant about it?"

I was just trying to figure out what a soldier who was gay and wanting to keep it a secret might have thought about his more reckless and flamboyant lover. After all, the story takes place in 1917, not 2016.

Was the racial dismissal of World War I by Sugar, who's black, a product of history or your imagination?

That was all imagined, though during that time there were, for instance, a lot of people who didn't want black soldiers fighting alongside white soldiers. That was true even in the Second World War. Sugar might be a drunk and a murderer, but he is a little more worldly than the other black men in those scenes who are waiting to join the army. He resents white people for good reasons and he's not going to be tricked into fighting for them.

Most of the young female characters are prostitutes, but Cane, the only of the three brothers who can read, meets a young female bookseller who shares his admiration of Shakespeare. Why does she get only three pages?

My plan was to start the book out slow and increase the pace as it went along. By the time I got to the lady in the bookshop, I was trying to set everything into place for the ending, and I thought it would slow the story down if she was given any more pages than that.

Why do you write in short chapters?

I think I do that for two reasons. One being that I'm not a very good writer and short chapters are easier to write than long ones; and two, because I want the book to move along at a quick pace.

In your acknowledgements, why do you thank Dr. Ron Salomone "for riding my ass to finish the damn thing?"

Ron Salomone is a retired English professor from Ohio University and a damn good friend of mine. He helped me finish the book by asking me every other time I saw him if it was done yet, thus making me always aware that it wasn't done yet. As for taking so long to write it, it wasn't a case of writer's block or anything like that. I was lucky in that The Devil All the Time did well in Europe, and I kept getting invited over there, and I went every time. Unfortunately, traveling takes a lot out of me, and so a few days in, say, France, meant that it would take several weeks to get back into the rhythm of the work. Plus my wife and I bought another house, and I worked on it obsessively for a long time before we moved in. Too, I'm just lazy.

What's next? Another five years?

Lord, I hope not. I turned 61 years old a few months ago, and the value of time has suddenly become very clear to me. I'm already committed to traveling quite a bit this year for The Heavenly Table, but after that's over I'm going to pretty much stay home and work until I finish the next one, a novel tentatively called Rainsboro.

About what?

It's set in the late '50s when a mother runs away from home with her son, but it could totally change. --Bob Minzesheimer

Book Candy

Why YA Books Are Good for Adults, Too

The Chronicle Books Blog offered "9 reasons why reading young adult books is good for adults, too."


"Hooked from page one: 10 memorable opening lines" were shared by Signature.


Headline of the day: "Harry Potter beaten in best-loved book character poll by Winnie-the-Pooh."


"They can keep their heaven. When I die, I'd sooner go to Middle Earth." Bustle found "10 George R.R. Martin quotes on writing, fantasy and feminism."


In an illustration for the Guardian, Tom Gauld imagined "a rogue bibliophile in 2500 AD."

Great Reads

Rediscover: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

The latest novel from author, editor and publisher Dave Eggers, Heroes of the Frontier (Knopf), comes out July 26. It follows Jose, a divorced dentist who flees her ex and a looming malpractice lawsuit for the wilds of Alaska. She takes her two children, rents an ancient RV they dub the Chateau, and sets off on a road-trip plagued by internal and external dangers--wildfires, wildlife, police, past mistakes--sprinkled with moments of dark humor. It's familiarly post-postmodern fare for Eggers, who is the author of many books (The Circle, What Is the What, A Hologram for the King et al.), the founder of McSweeney's Publishing and co-founder of 826 Valencia, basis for the 826 National literacy nonprofit.

Eggers entered the literary limelight with his 2000 memoir, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (Simon & Schuster), about having to care for his younger siblings after the death of their parents. In November 1991, Eggers's father, a heavy smoker and drinker, died from lung cancer. In January 1992, his mother died of stomach cancer. Eggers's two brothers and sister moved from Illinois to California, where Dave gained custody of eight-year-old Toph. Dave had to learn how to be both a brother and father figure, all while while managing a fledgling magazine, Might, and navigating the perils of young adulthood. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius was an enormous critical and commercial success and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. It was last published in 2001 by Vintage ($15.95, 9780375725784). --Tobias Mutter

Book Review


The Secret Language of Stones

by M.J. Rose

The year is 1918, and Parisian jeweler Opaline Duplessi spends most of her time crafting trench watches for soldiers. But many who visit the shop to see her come seeking her more specialized and uncanny talent. Part curse and part gift, inherited from her mother, she can deliver messages from the dead to the bereaved using an item belonging to the departed. At a time when news from the front is slow and inaccurate, this gift offers closure to the families and friends of missing soldiers. When one of the spirits talks directly to Opaline instead of giving her a message, she wonders if her ability is driving her to madness. With warnings from her great-grandmother to walk away from the occult arts that consumed Opaline's mother, she tries to ignore the spirit that haunts her, but soon yields to the specter's allure. At the same time, her employers, a Russian couple with ties to the recently abdicated Tsar, beseech her to aid an exiled royal and use her talents to determine the fate of the Romanovs.

M.J. Rose writes a compelling story--haunting and beautiful--that is rich and lush with detail. Set in a gorgeously imagined historic Palais-Royale district of Paris during wartime, Rose captures the unpredictable horrors of war and what it means to try to continue living a normal life under such conditions. Coupled with an enthralling story and a romance that will leave readers entranced, The Secret Language of Stones is a gem of a novel. --Justus Joseph, bookseller at Elliott Bay Book Company

Discover: A young Parisian woman who can communicate with the dead finds love in a remarkable place.

Atria, $25, hardcover, 320p., 9781476778099

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep

by Joanna Cannon

Reminiscent of Scout Finch with shades of Flavia de Luce, 10-year-olds Grace and Tilly spend the sweltering summer of 1976 investigating two mysteries: What happened to their neighbor Mrs. Creasy, and where does one find God? Joanna Cannon's debut, The Trouble with Goats and Sheep, is set on a small British cul-de-sac, but its themes are universal.

As "the heat poured itself over the country," bold Grace and shy Tilly strike out each day determined to interview the neighbors for clues. " 'What about Margaret Creasy, then?' someone would say. And it was like firing a starting pistol."

A visit to church yields more confusion: If God is everywhere, why hasn't he found Mrs. Creasy? Might finding Him lead to her? While the guileless sleuths are unaware of the town's dark secret, flashback chapters reveal a night in 1967 that residents recall but never discuss, and their long-held fears provoke warnings: don't go near Number 11, nor the reclusive Mr. Bishop. The girls' fearless commitment (and the delightful plot point of Tilly seeing an image of Jesus in a drainpipe, prompting a festive community-bonding vigil) eventually takes them to Number 11, and forces everyone to examine long-hidden truths.

Quirky characters, playful language (one woman is "dressed in alternating layers of taupe and concern") and humor offset the mystery's tension. The child detectives may have gotten themselves into more than they bargained for, but their adventure leads their street toward closer community and the novel to an upbeat conclusion. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, manager, Book Passage, San Francisco

Discover: Ten-year-old best friends devote their summer to solving the mystery of a missing neighbor during a heat wave in 1976 England.

Scribner, $25, hardcover, 368p., 9781501121890


by Delia Ephron

Delia Ephron (Sister Mother Husband Dog: Etc.) turns an idyllic Sicilian vacation upside-down in Siracusa, a novel about two sophisticated American couples in their 40s. Told through shifting timelines and four points of view, the story reveals the couples' shared history and the restlessness they are facing in their respective marriages.

Lizzie and Michael, struggling writers, are a childless couple from New York. Lizzie is a long-form journalist, and Michael is a famous author and riveting raconteur who secretly wants out of the marriage, as he is in love with a younger woman. Finn and Taylor are from Maine. Their daughter, Snow, is tagging along on the trip; she is a beautiful but deeply repressed--and impressionable--10-year-old, with a condition called "Extreme Shyness Syndrome." Finn owns a restaurant and is resentful of Taylor, a cultured heiress who smothers their daughter with care and attention. Finn, too, harbors secret romantic longings of his own. Upping the ante is the fact that Lizzie and Finn were once an item. The two perpetually flirt with each other, provoking the ire of their spouses.

Ephron writes colorful repartee and backhanded insults, revealing the foursome's jealousies, lies and betrayals that further ignite when an unexpected visitor crashes their holiday. The atmospheric details of historic Sicily serve as a remarkable backdrop to the characters' personal conflicts, rendering Siracusa as a dark, psychologically astute story about the limits of marriage and friendship. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: An intimate, suspenseful story of two American couples--whose marriages are in crisis--vacationing in Sicily.

Blue Rider, $26, hardcover, 304p., 9780399165214

The Inseparables

by Stuart Nadler

In his second novel (after Wise Men), Stuart Nadler (The Book of Life) focuses on three generations of smart, idiosyncratic women with all the mother/daughter drama that entails. Henrietta Olyphant is the 70-year-old matriarch, a recent widow and former Women's Studies professor who infamously authored the popular soft-porn novel The Inseparables in her 20s. Financial insecurity threatens because she dumped her royalties into her late husband's failed white-tablecloth restaurant. Desperate for a rich advance, she agrees to re-issue the embarrassing novel ("one of America's most famously trashy books") and even go on a book tour as what her publisher calls "some looked-over doyenne of sexual health. A soothsayer of a new collectively libidinous generation."

That generation includes her daughter, Oona, a successful orthopedic surgeon who returns to live with Henrietta while divorcing a stoner, stay-at-home husband. It's no surprise that Oona took a different direction from her indomitable mother, who secretly hoped that Oona would "become a firebrand or an artist, or at least somewhat competent during dinner conversation about, say, Susan Sontag's 'Notes on Camp.' " As mother and daughter strain to adjust to each other, Oona's 15-year-old daughter, Lydia, gets suspended from prep school when her boyfriend virally circulates her topless cellphone photo. Forced to deal with her embarrassment and shame, Lydia is suddenly the mediator between her parents and a confidante of a grandmother who once scoffed at her Sleeping Beauty bed sheets: "Dynastic power, jewel worship, the reanimating capacities of Prince Charming's lips--none of this will help you." Sharply drawn, amusingly observed, Nadler's three generations of women make for a richly entertaining novel. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: Nadler's second novel traverses familial and generational divides as three women step in to brace each other through rocky patches.

Little, Brown, $27, hardcover, 352p., 9780316335256

Mystery & Thriller

Guilty Minds

by Joseph Finder

Joseph Finder's crackerjack thriller Guilty Minds captivates with the kind of adrenaline rush one would get in a racecar driven by an expert who knows how to maneuver sharp twists and turns for maximum excitement. The majority of Finder's 14 novels are standalones that feature ordinary men thrust into extraordinary (and life-threatening) circumstances--where they outsmart highly trained spies and killers. Guilty Minds marks the third appearance of former Special Forces soldier turned spy-for-hire Nick Heller (following Vanished and Buried Secrets). With his Black Ops training, Heller is far from an ordinary man, but Finder infuses him with quirks, humor and frailties that make him a down-to-earth and entertaining narrator.

The political gossip website Slander Sheet is about to publish accusations that a Supreme Court justice has repeatedly hired a prostitute. Heller is hired to stop it. But circumstances quickly become more convoluted and nefarious after Heller disproves the story. When he tries to discover who is behind the smear campaign, the trail back to the source becomes littered with dead bodies.

Much of Heller's immense appeal is the fact that he always has several backup plans, and by his thinking logically through clever solutions and escapes, the improbable becomes realistic. Readers learn how to escape from a locked walk-in safe, elude police while stranded on a hotel balcony and how to escape if their arms and legs are zip-tied to an aluminum chair. Finder's bite-size chapters make it nearly impossible to stop reading Guilty Minds--a wildly entertaining and exciting story of blackmail, corruption and murder. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant

Discover: Joseph Finder's third Nick Heller thriller, Guilty Minds, is a tightly written, irresistible adrenaline shot that mystery lovers won't be able to put down.

Dutton, $28, hardcover, 400p., 9780525954620

Dr. Knox

by Peter Spiegelman

Dr. Adam Knox means well, but as the saying goes, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. And the doctor is laying down his stepping-stones at a rapid rate. Knox runs a medical clinic in Los Angeles near Skid Row and lives in an apartment above it. Since his typical clientele isn't exactly leaving him flush with cash, he moonlights--with the help of his friend, former Special Forces agent Ben Sutter--taking hush-hush house calls from people who can't or won't publicly seek medical help. But these jobs are cake compared to the boy who shows up at his clinic.

When Alex arrives at Knox's office, he's suffering from a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. Knox and his capable staff stabilize the young patient only to discover that the boy doesn't speak English and his mother has vanished. Knowing all too well how child services works, the doctor wants to attempt to find the boy's mother before calling them. His good intention, however, is the key to unlocking the gates of Hell. And not just for himself, but also for everyone he cares about.

Dr. Knox is feverishly suspenseful. Peter Spiegelman ramps up the stakes for Knox with catch-22s and tests of his integrity. He spreads a layer of grime over Los Angeles, manipulation, corruption and filth successfully blocking out the rays of hope and leaving his well-meaning doctor no options if he won't play dirty himself. Dark, evocative and riveting, perdition's never been so inviting. --Jen Forbus of Jen's Book Thoughts

Discover: Dr. Adam Knox searches for an abandoned boy's mother and winds up face to face with the darkest elements of Los Angeles.

Knopf, $26.95, hardcover, 368p., 9780307961273

White Bone

by Ridley Pearson

Ridley Pearson is known for fast-paced, plot-driven series for adults as well as for children. White Bone is the fourth novel in his Risk Agent series (after The Red Room), starring John Knox and Grace Chu, whose relationship undergoes significant change in this installment.

Knox is an importer/exporter of international arts and crafts, a career that provides him good cover for his clandestine work with Rutherford Risk, an international security firm that specializes in hostage extractions. Grace Chu is a forensic accountant and hacker, and a colleague at Rutherford Risk. As White Bone opens, Knox has received a troubling text message from Grace, just before she goes radio silent. Troubled, he follows her into the field.

Grace was sent into Kenya to track a stolen shipment of donated measles vaccines. The case quickly expands to involve the widespread criminal practice of poaching elephants for their tusks and rhinoceroses for their horns, and possibly the funding of terrorism. When Knox arrives in Nairobi, Grace has been missing for days: he fears her cover has been blown.

White Bone is richly detailed and filled with intrigue that encompasses terrorism, corruption and lingering colonial strains. Its characters are nothing if not passionate, and these passions include the author's obvious concern about elephant poaching. Pearson's writing is informative and allows his muscular story to take center stage. Series fans will remain committed, and new readers will be drawn in, with no background knowledge necessary to follow this action-packed novel combining the thriller, adventure and mystery genres. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: Ridley Pearson, prolific author of action/suspense novels, turns his skills to the distressing problem of elephant poaching in Kenya.

Putnam, $27, hardcover, 400p., 9780399163753

Science Fiction & Fantasy

Fallout: The Hot War

by Harry Turtledove

During the Korean War, when U.S. soldiers were retreating down the Korean Peninsula under the unexpected onslaught of Chinese troops, General Douglas MacArthur asked President Truman to authorize the use of atomic bombs on Communist targets in Manchuria. Truman refused. In Harry Turtledove's Hot War alternate history series, however, the president approves MacArthur's idea.

In the first volume, Bombs Away (2015), MacArthur's plan catastrophically backfired. American atom bombs exploded in Manchuria and, in retaliation, Joseph Stalin nuked U.S. allies in Europe. The war escalated until several Russian cities, including Moscow, were destroyed, along with the West Coast of the United States and Paris, with the Red Army and NATO waging war across the ruins of a divided Germany.

Fallout picks up where Bombs Away left off, but readers should be able to enjoy it without having read the first installment. The atomic genie is out of the bottle, and President Truman sees no way to stop the nuclear madness. Meanwhile, civilians and soldiers are caught in a deadly conflict that dwarfs the world's last war. Turtledove follows a huge cast of characters, sometimes too many, to portray his dark vision of alternate world history: a mother outside nuked Seattle living in a refugee camp; Red Army and West German troops in Europe; an American soldier in Korea; a German woman in a Russian gulag; a British barkeep in love with an American pilot; a Jewish family outside destroyed Los Angeles; a Russian Manchurian hiding in Soviet Siberia. The quick shifts among drastically different perspectives can be jarring, but Turtledove, the master of alternate history, has done well again. --Tobias Mutter, freelance reviewer

Discover: Fallout is the second Hot War novel, an alternate history in which the Korean War leads to World War III.

Del Rey, $28, hardcover, 432p., 9780553390735

Social Science

Head in the Cloud: Why Knowing Things Still Matters When Facts Are So Easy to Look Up

by William Poundstone

Most people imagine that they are less ignorant than everyone else. They might want to think again. Head in the Cloud offers a broad study of the Dunning-Kruger effect, in which "those most lacking in knowledge and skills are least able to appreciate the lack." The more ignorant someone is, the more confident they are likely to be in their knowledge, and the less likely they are to look something up. They continue to believe that gluten is a carbohydrate, that the firearms death rate in the U.S. is rising and that Einstein was the father of the atom bomb. If you can laugh at those--there is much more.

William Poundstone (Rock Breaks Scissors) understands that there is good reason to ignore much of the information that floods the modern world. But too much ignorance makes people vote against their values and interests, and decide foolishly about finances, health and personal lives. "We just don't care enough; we don't feel we need to know. Yet we walk around with misperceptions that shape attitudes, votes, and policy."

Poundstone looks at surveys and studies, combined with many of his own Internet panel polls, to explore the practical benefits of broad knowledge, how individuals can best stay selectively informed and how companies and organizations can adapt to a low-information society. But change must begin at home. "The first place to look for a Dunning-Kruger ignoramus" he writes, "is in the mirror." --Sara Catterall

Discover: William Poundstone explains why our Internet-driven society still leaves so many people more ignorant than they realize.

Little, Brown, $26, hardcover, 352p., 9780316256544


Dog Medicine: How My Dog Saved Me from Myself

by Julie Barton

The first chapter of Dog Medicine: How My Dog Saved Me From Myself builds to a hopeful note. Julie Barton describes the depression that left her helpless and alone on the floor of her dreary Manhattan apartment, the desperate call for help to her mother in Ohio, the suicidal thoughts as she waited for rescue. She then remarks that American Kennel Club records show the day she "gave in to the sorrow was the same spring day that Bunker Hill was born."

Adopting Bunker, a feather-soft red-orange golden retriever puppy, was a turning point in Barton's journey of struggling with debilitating depression. The pup offered "judgment-free listening and wordless faith" that restored her self-esteem. "I felt confident, despite my shaky mental state, that I could keep him safe, healthy, and loved."

Dog Medicine covers spring 1996 to spring 1997, with some attention paid to early childhood trauma and explaining the medical parameters of the condition that led to Barton's collapse in New York. Attuned to nature her whole life (as a child she "felt so connected to the land, to the trees, to the animals passing by"), she seems predisposed to bonding with her dog. Her innate optimism, a strength of her story, comes to the fore when Bunker faces a severe medical condition of his own. Their healing relationship, and the romance Barton finds with Bunker by her side, elevate this "dog book" to the head of the pack. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, manager, Book Passage, San Francisco

Discover: A woman and her dog share a healing relationship as he leads her out of depression and she cares for him in return.

Penguin Books, $17, paperback, 256p., 9780143130017

Children's & Young Adult

Milestones of Flight: From Hot-Air Balloons to SpaceShipOne

by Tim Grove, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

Almost everyone has an aerophile--a lover of aviation--in the family. For thousands of years, the lure of the sky has inspired engineers and madmen and even mythological characters to create contraptions that might allow them to fly. Kites, balloons, airplanes, rockets and satellites all come from the same vision: to soar like a bird, to explore space, to approach the stars and planets.

In the exquisitely designed Milestones of Flight, chock-full of illustrations from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum's collection, the major events in the history of aviation are covered in thrilling detail. Robert Goddard's lifelong obsession with finding a way to make space travel feasible started with a dream about ascending to Mars in a spinning aircraft, and ended with him creating the world's first liquid-fueled rocket. Ann Baumgartner, inspired by Amelia Earhart's visit to her elementary school class, became the first American woman to fly a jet-powered aircraft. Readers will also learn about the entrepreneurs and engineers who are developing space vehicles to carry tourists into suborbital spaceflight.

Milestones of Flight was written by chief of museum learning Tim Grove (First Flight Around the World) to accompany the Boeing Milestones of Flight exhibit at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. A glossary, timeline and chart of the planets with notable flight milestones rounds out this fun compendium, a treat for young aviation buffs. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor

Discover: Designed to accompany the Milestones of Flight exhibit at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, this engaging treasury is packed with facts, photos, anecdotes and aviation history.

Abrams, $21.95, hardcover, 112p., ages 10-14, 9781419720031

Babies Ruin Everything

by Matthew Swanson, illus. by Robbi Behr

A little girl resents the arrival of a baby brother from day one. "They put the baby in my room. Even though he's very small, he has a lot of stuff," she complains. "A picture of three kittens and a fuzzy pink walrus hangs where my 'Types of Deadly Spiders' poster used to be." She keeps trying to convince her parents that they need a better baby, one who can play Frisbee and whistle, but the baby seems to be a permanent fixture. It's only when the girl's worshipful little brother dissolves in tears at her outburst--"BABIES RUIN EVERYTHING!"--that big sister figures out that maybe he just needs a better sister. As the two siblings become thick as thieves, and just as mischievous, the parents soon realize they're "no match" for their offspring.

Husband-wife team Matthew Swanson and Robbi Behr run Bobbledy Books (a book and music club for kids), a small press called Idiots' Books and a letterpress design shop, and have co-created more than 60 books for children and adults, including Ten Thousand Stories.

Swanson's hilarious stream-of-consciousness narrative pairs perfectly with Behr's cute, big-headed children and merely silhouetted adults in this ideal gift book for every big-sibling-to-be. Young readers will love looking for the heroine's chubby, emotive hamster, Leonard, on every spread. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor

Discover: A new big sister resists the charms of her baby brother until she realizes "this baby has potential."

Imprint/ Macmillan, $16.99, hardcover, 40p., ages 4-7, 9781250080578


Author Buzz

Dragon Kiss
(A Dragon Kings Novella)

by Donna Grant

Dear Reader,

Welcome back to the Dragon Kings! I'm thrilled to bring you DRAGON KISS. The world of the Dragon Kings keeps expanding, and this story brings us Alasdair and Lotti, a powerful couple who have overcome all odds to find love. But a deadly enemy intends to rip them apart.

I can't wait for you to fall in love with Alasdair and Lotti as I have.


Available on Kobo

AuthorBuzz: 1001 Dark Nights Press: Dragon Kiss (A Dragon Kings Novella) by Donna Grant

1001 Dark Nights Press

Pub Date: 
January 9, 2024


List Price: 
$2.99 e-book

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