Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, September 27, 2016

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

From My Shelf

Neely Tucker: The Belly of the D.C. Beast

I've been a fan of Neely Tucker's thrillers since the first stunner--The Ways of the Dead--about the murder of the teenage daughter of a Washington, D.C., judge. He followed with Murder, D.C.--another death, this time the son of a prominent African-American family, who's found in the Potomac near a violent drug den--and now Only the Hunted Run (all published by Viking). Tucker has been a staff writer for the Washington Post for 16 years, which has given him the background to create a profane, flawed reporter in Sully Carter, a former journalist in war-torn Bosnia, and to limn the class and racial underbelly of the District. In Only the Hunted Run, Carter nearly dies during a shooting rampage in the Capitol. His investigation eventually leads him to St. Elizabeth's, a corrupt mental hospital. Tucker's plots are riveting, to be sure, but a case can also be made to read him for his edgy prose and snappy dialogue.

After the shooting, Sully--often mired in grief and anger and alcohol, always with an authority problem--is stuck in the "mosquito-breeding swamp called downtown... people walking around like clubbed fish, dazed but not quite dead. An Edward Hopper painting in three-quarter time." As he works into the night on a rewrite of the murder story, "feeds coming in fast from all over.... He felt like a tuning fork that had been struck on a gong the size of Nebraska, the tension from across the room pouring into him, like he has sensor panels on his palms, on his chest." Copy editors sit at their desks, "the last barricade against reportorial failures of grammar, common sense, and third-grade mathematics." Later, at Sully's home, "The ceiling fan spun slowly, more a thought than an actual breeze."

Sully Carter--tough, sardonic, and yet compassionate--is a marvelous creation, and Neely Tucker is a superb writer.

--Marilyn Dahl, editor, Shelf Awareness for Readers

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

The Writer's Life

Reading with... Bryn Greenwood

photo: Jennifer Stewart Newlin

Bryn Greenwood is a fourth-generation Kansan and the daughter of a mostly reformed drug dealer. She earned an M.A. in Creative Writing and works in academia as an administrator. Her stories and essays have appeared in the New York Times, the Battered Suitcase, Karamu and the Chiron Review. Her debut novel, All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, was just published by Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press. She is married to an extensive home remodeling project, and is raising a small herd of boxers and hairless cats.

On your nightstand now:

I always read in pairs. One fiction, one nonfiction, usually on completely different topics. My fiction bedtime book is Erika Swyler's The Book of Speculation, which is doing a thing that I love: switching narrative threads while moving backward and forward in time. My nonfiction book is A Murder over a Girl by Ken Corbett. I can read it only in small doses, because it's absolutely heartbreaking.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Ursula LeGuin's The Tombs of Atuan, in no small part because it sent a clear message to me that women were capable of wielding power and making life and death decisions. There's this undertone of menace that runs through the whole book, from Tenar's symbolic sacrifice as a child to the moment where she issues the order to have two prisoners executed, and yet she rises above that. She doesn't merely abandon her home to travel to a foreign land with a stranger. She destroys everything she knows to bring salvation to Earthsea. If not for her brave leap of faith, the sorcerer Ged wouldn't have lived to see the third book in his own trilogy.

Your top five authors:

Anthony Trollope goes at the top for the sheer fact that there are so many of his books to enjoy. From there I feel like a small child tasked with choosing her five favorite stuffed animals. Ursula LeGuin will inevitably appear repeatedly any time I'm invited to talk about books, as will Margaret Atwood. Her entire oeuvre has shaped me, not just as a reader and a writer, but as a human. To round out the top five, I'm going with Toni Morrison and Mary Renault.

Book you've faked reading:

Gravity's Rainbow. With apologies to Thomas Pynchon, I just couldn't get into it. I actually faked having read it on a graduate level exam, which I managed by regurgitating the dimly remembered drunken conversations of my fellow graduate students who had read it.

Book you're an evangelist for:

The Princess Bride. The movie is pretty universally loved in the U.S., but I meet a lot of people who have never read William Goldman's book. It's a masterpiece, and so cunningly crafted that even in the Internet age, people will walk into libraries and bookstores in search of more S. Morgenstern books. Additionally, Goldman's characters are so layered (and his prose so diabolically funny) that watching the movie with the book under your belt is even more enjoyable.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Alan Moore's Watchmen. I remember walking into the old Forbidden Planet in London, where I was thrilled to be a nanny for one of my professors. I actually had the kid in a buggy, pushing him down the narrow aisle, when I was stopped in my tracks by the bright yellow smiley face with the splotch of blood. I picked the book up and even before I'd opened it, I thought, Yes, I'm getting this. Happily, the cover did not disappoint.

Book you hid from your parents:

There were several books that I hid from my mother when I read them. I sneaked out of my bedroom at night to borrow Austen's Pride and Prejudice, reading a few chapters each night and then returning it to the shelf. Later I did the same with Nabokov's Lolita. Pride and Prejudice was forbidden to me because it was a very nice, hardcover edition of my mother's favorite book, and I was a bookish but grubby eight-year-old. Lolita was on the same high bookshelf with the fancy, grownup books, and that was precisely why I decided to read it. My mother, it turns out, has never read Lolita, but shelved it with the forbidden books, because she'd heard it was "nasty." Additionally, as teenagers, my sisters and I secreted copies of various V.C. Andrews books under our beds, on the presumption that if Mom knew what was in them, they would have been forbidden.

Book that changed your life:

So many books have changed my life, but I'm going to go with the one that I'm most keenly aware of having altered my worldview: Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man. I grew up in a very small town in Kansas that was overwhelmingly white. By the time I went to college, I had spent time with exactly one black person: my wonderful eighth grade English teacher, Mrs. Aletha Moon. I read Invisible Man on her recommendation, and it opened my eyes wide to the nature of systemic racism in America. I left that book more radically changed than any other book.

Favorite line from a book:

"They were his last words, because Maurice had disappeared thereabouts, leaving no trace of his presence except a little pile of the petals of the evening primrose, which mourned from the ground like an expiring fire. To the end of his life Clive was not sure of the exact moment of departure, and with the approach of old age he grew uncertain whether the moment had yet occurred." --From E.M. Forster's Maurice.

I love how perfectly it describes a moment suspended in memory, and one that reveals so much about the characters. Plus, I love this whole book, because I'm a sucker for seemingly doomed love stories with happy endings.

Five books you'll never part with:

Strunk & White's The Elements of Style is not only an enduring and reliable guidebook for writers, it's a fun read. I would have chosen something from Elements as my favorite line from a book, but I don't know how I would have decided which line to use.

The Persian Boy by Mary Renault, because at its heart it's a love story, but one that isn't built on the premise of happy endings or equality in love. On a long enough timeline, nearly every story--historical or fictional--has a sad ending. The point is not necessarily to be requited, but to love.

The Color Purple by Alice Walker. This is one of those books that nearly exhausts you, as it runs you from one end of the emotional spectrum to the other. Misery, hope, loneliness, love, lust, hate, joy. Name a feeling and it's in this story, expressed in such an intensely open way that you can't help but feel it as you read it.

Anthony Trollope's The Way We Live Now. It is so piercing in its evaluation of ne'er-do-wells living on credit and scheming, morally bankrupt financiers that a lot of it rings true today. Plus its romantic subplots, even the ones with happy endings, are all tainted with devastating betrayal. Marie Melmotte is my absolute favorite literary heroine, because she's so feisty. She loves recklessly but fiercely.

Codex Seraphinianus by Luigi Serafini. Until you see this book, you can't begin to comprehend how amazing it is. After college, I lived in a small town in Japan, and when I reached the end of the local library's limited number of English-language books, I stumbled across this. On countless cold, snowy Niigata winter nights, I pored over the fantastical drawings and indecipherable text. Even now, if I take this down from my bookshelf, even if just to dust the shelf, I'll likely spend an hour or more perusing it.

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

Mark Helprin's Winter's Tale. I first read this book at a time of great upheaval in my life. I'd just dropped out of high school, left home to attend college, and lost someone close to me. Everything was new and even the ground I was walking on seemed unstable. This book gave me a sense of hope that there were immutable truths, eternal loves and futures full of things worth risking my whole heart on.

Book you wish you'd never read--not because it was bad, but because you've never recovered:

The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers. I think it's a beautiful, incredible book, but I never recommend it to people, because it wrecked me emotionally. After I read the end, I ugly cried for about an hour. Then I quickly donated the book to my local thrift shop, because I didn't even want to be reminded of how sad it made me. In fact, thinking about it now makes me want to cry a little.

Book Candy

Censorship and Banned Books

Bustle shared "15 quotes about censorship and the danger of banning books."


Quirk Books displayed "the jewelry lover's guide to literature."


"Truman Capote's ashes sold for $43,750," the Guardian reported.


"All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath." Signature featured "19 F. Scott Fitzgerald quotes for flappers and philosophers."


Buzzfeed showcased "24 bookshelves that will mildly arouse any book lover."

Great Reads

Rediscover: The Queen of Katwe

Phiona Mutesi was born in 1996 in Katwe, the largest slum in Uganda's capital, Kampala. Her father died of AIDS when she was three, and when she was nine, Phiona dropped out of school when her family could no longer afford to send her. One day in 2005, while searching for food, Phiona met Robert Katende, a missionary who discovered and nurtured Phiona's unexpected talent for chess. She ascended the ranks of her country's chess championships until she was competing on Uganda's national team in the World Chess Olympiads. Phiona is now a Woman Candidate Master, the first titled female in Uganda's history.

In 2011, sports journalist Tim Crothers wrote about Phiona's remarkable journey for ESPN the Magazine, which he expanded into a book, The Queen of Katwe: One Girl's Triumphant Path to Becoming a Chess Champion. A film version developed by Disney, Queen of Katwe, comes out this Friday, September 30. Madina Nalwanga makes her acting debut as Phiona Mutesi, starring alongside David Oyelowo as Robert Katende and Lupita Nyong'o as Phiona's mother, Nakku Harriet. On September 6, Scribner released a movie tie-in edition of Queen of Katwe ($16, 9781501127182). See the original Shelf Awareness review of Tim Crother's "inspirational" book here. --Tobias Mutter

Book Review

Mystery & Thriller

Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd: A Flavia de Luce Novel

by Alan Bradley

Adolescent sleuth Flavia de Luce returns in Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd, Alan Bradley's eighth novel starring the precocious chemist, heir to the crumbling Buckshaw estate and solver of murders too bizarre for the village constabulary. Readers who began with Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie are again rewarded with references to previous novels, but those just starting out will soon feel at home.

Flavia is ecstatic to return to the English countryside following a dismal term in Canada at her late mother's boarding school (As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust). Arriving at Southampton eager to see her dear father (and even her annoying older sisters), Flavia is deflated when only her beloved Dogger, Buckshaw's de facto butler, is dockside. Even worse, he delivers the news that Colonel de Luce is hospitalized with pneumonia.

Buckshaw is strangely somber, and housekeeper Mrs. Mullet is "trying to pretend everything is tickety-boo when it wasn't." Visits to Colonel de Luce are denied. Fleeing the gloom, Flavia hops on her trusty bicycle, Gladys, taking to the icy roads and, fortuitously, her next case: on an errand for the vicar's wife, she sees a woodcarver's body, hanging from his door! "It's amazing what the discovery of a corpse can do for one's spirits! I licked the tip of my mental pencil and began to make notes."

Researching the crime distracts her from her father's illness, and Flavia's first-person narration reveals her precocious intellect as well as her youthful vulnerability. As she shares the clues leading to the case's conclusion, she offers foreshadowing of what we hope is another chapter from Flavia's world. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, manager, Book Passage, San Francisco

Discover: In the eighth of Alan Bradley's Flavia de Luce mysteries, Flavia investigates a death in the local village while fretting over her father's illness.

Delacorte, $26, hardcover, 352p., 9780345539960

The Secrets of Wishtide

by Kate Saunders

Mrs. Laetitia Rodd, the middle-aged widow of an archdeacon, is struggling to make ends meet in Victorian England. She discreetly earns a small income by helping her brother, a criminal barrister, investigate on behalf of his clients.

At her brother's behest, Mrs. Rodd sets off for Wishtide, the Lincolnshire estate of Sir James Calderstone. She's posing as a new governess for the Calderstone daughters, but really she's there to investigate the eldest son's most inappropriate love interest: a scandalous widow who is nine years older than he. But rather than a simple case of proving Mrs. Orme's antecedents to be as false as the Calderstone family believes them to be, Mrs. Rodd's inquiries reveal that Mrs. Orme and the Calderstones are both hiding dark secrets. And when a vicious attack ends in death, it will take all of Mrs. Rodd's wits to catch the killer.

A lovely atmospheric mystery that sharply contrasts the opportunities permitted to men in the Victorian era with the strictures placed upon women, The Secrets of Wishtide is fascinating. Kate Saunders (The Marrying Game, The Whizz Pop Chocolate Shop) has written across a variety of genres--including romance, middle grade fiction and cozy mysteries--and The Secrets of Wishtide proves she is a superb historical mystery writer as well. Sure to appeal to fans of Deanna Raybourn, Rhys Bowen and Laurie R. King, or anyone who enjoys strong, intelligent female protagonists, The Secrets of Wishtide is Victorian mystery at its finest. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

Discover: In Victorian England, an impoverished middle-aged widow becomes a sleuth in order to make ends meet.

Bloomsbury USA, $26, hardcover, 352p., 9781632864499

Science Fiction & Fantasy

The Queen of Blood

by Sarah Beth Durst

Daleina lives in a treehouse built in one of her country's many forests. Her life is simple--she assists the village's hedgewitch and helps her family at home. Like every citizen, Daleina relies on her queen's binding magic to keep her safe from six spirit types; without the queen to hold their energies in check, they would kill every person and animal on their land. But when this balance is broken, Daleina's village is destroyed. Her family are the only survivors because Daleina, to her great surprise, manages to command the spirits to leave them alone. The development of this power tears her away from her familiar life. Sent to an academy that teaches young women how to control the spirits should the queen's power falter, Daleina struggles to fit in. Meanwhile, the disgraced champion Ven tries to figure out why the spirits are able to attack villages at all. If the queen's power is weakening, the whole country is in danger.

The first in a trilogy, Sarah Beth Durst's The Queen of Blood is deeply connected to nature, one that does not allow humanity to plunder its resources. The threats are chilling, and the landscape haunting, even in quiet, safe moments. In Daleina, readers will find a strong young woman whose intense self-doubt and unconventional approach to dealing with the spirits makes her a character well worth cheering. Known for YA novels like The Girl Who Could Not Dream, Durst dives into adult fantasy with thrilling results. --Justus Joseph, bookseller at Elliott Bay Book Company

Discover: A gifted young woman faces the threats of a world controlled by a queen whose power is corruptible and uncertain.

Harper Voyager, $19.99, hardcover, 368p., 9780062413345

Time Travel: A History

by James Gleick

Celebrated science writer James Gleick (Chaos, Genius) takes readers on a scientific and cultural journey through the history of time travel, investigating time machines as well as paradoxes and quandaries scientific and metaphysical.

Gleick kicks off with H.G. Wells, but Time Travel bounces along thematic paths rather than chronological ones: one chapter deals with the philosophical implications of time travel, while another addresses the physics of entropy (it's what makes time move forward for us, and keeps us from being able to go backward). Gleick is omnivorous, finding his muse in every available source, and is as likely to make a reference to Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure and Back to the Future as he is Tom Stoppard or Richard Feynman.

Though versed in sci-fi and pop culture, Gleick's chief concern is the nature and definition of time itself. "People keep asking what time is," he writes, "as if the right combination of words could slip the lock and let in the light" (an apt metaphor, given the intimate relationship of light and time). "We want a fortune cookie definition," he muses, then obliges with a volley of quoted witticisms.

Brilliant, charming and insightful, Gleick has been heaped with awards and praise for his assorted books--including his previous, The Information, about the techno-cultural era. Like time itself, Gleick's writing adds dimension to lived experience, and a way to keep track of it. --Zak Nelson, writer and bookseller

Discover: James Gleick delivers a witty and fascinating examination of the literature and science (and pseudoscience) of time travel.

Pantheon, $26.95, hardcover, 352p., 9780307908797

Graphic Books

The Osamu Tezuka Story: A Life in Manga and Anime

by Toshio Ban, Tezuka Productions, trans. by Frederik L. Schodt

Osamu Tezuka, who died in 1989, was the bespectacled, smiling and beret-wearing gentleman dubbed the "God of Manga": he brought the form into the mainstream with Astro Boy, Kimba the White Lion and Buddha and elevated it into a serious art form. "Tezuka was the main force in the creation of the long-arc, story manga format that today rivals novels and films in its powers of expression," writes Frederik L. Schodt in his introduction to Toshio Ban's 928-page homage to his former employer.

During his life, Tezuka drew more than 160,000 pages of manga and created 60 animated movies. He was a gifted storyteller at a young age and grew up to become a postwar Renaissance man--a medical doctor with a love of theater, a skilled piano player and amateur entomologist. These multi-faceted interests helped imbue his works with the imaginative and deeply layered narratives that would become Tezuka hallmarks. He was also a demanding perfectionist boss who nonetheless reserved time from his hectic schedule to mentor younger animators.

The Osamu Tezuka Story offers a reverent and candid review of Tezuka, in a style that memorializes and mirrors his artistic sensibilities--conceptually rich landscapes, clean, complex lines and extreme attention to movement and expression. This book is a necessary reference for Tezuka fans and an historical document providing insight into the philosophy, creation and manufacture of manga in what Schodt calls "as close to a posthumous autobiography as possible." According to Tezuka: "As long as manga can make people weep, or feel anger, manga will continue to expand their expressive possibilities." --Nancy Powell, freelance writer and technical consultant

Discover: A longtime collaborator delivers a reverent and detailed biography of legendary animator Osamu Tezuka, whose style continues to influence new generations of artists.

Stone Bridge Press, $29.95, paperback, 928p., 9781611720259

Angel Catbird, Volume 1

by Margaret Atwood, Johnnie Christmas, Tamra Bonvillain

Angel Catbird is a strange story that's all the stranger because it's by the Booker Prize-nominated novelist Margaret Atwood (and Arthur C. Clarke Award winner for The Handmaid's Tale), an author well-known for her strong environmental and feminist views. Angel Catbird is a kooky, punny and pulpy comic book with a flying cat-owl-man hybrid superhero suffering from an identity crisis of his conflicting feline, bird and human selves.

Strig Feleedus, a pharmaceutical scientist, discovers a missing piece of code that will complete a compound designed to replace diseased genes with healthy ones. As he is leaving home with his breakthrough, his cat runs into the street and is struck by a car; the driver then hits Strig, too, breaking the beaker with the secret chemical compound. Strig changes into a flying cat-man possessing the desires and instincts of both birds and cats. His transformation attracts the attention of coworker Cate Leone, who leads a group of feline misfits at the Catastrophe Nightclub. They join together to fight Professor Muroid, their evil half-rat boss, who has designed a pack of remote-controlled rats to destroy all cats.

Angel Catbird recalls the Golden Age cheesiness from which the story is modeled. There are qualities within the narrative that channel traditional Atwood, such as overt environmental subtexts (she is an advocate for Nature Canada). While Angel Catbird won't be for everybody, it does seem to satisfy Atwood's itch to publish a comic book, one that is a trippy thrill ride and weird to the core. --Nancy Powell, freelance writer and technical consultant

Discover: Margaret Atwood's zany first comic features a flying cat-birdman who defends the world against an evil pack of remote-controlled rats.

Dark Horse Books, $14.99, hardcover, 112p., 9781506700632

Food & Wine

The Seasoned Life: Food, Family, Faith and the Joy of Eating Well

by Ayesha Curry

Ayesha Curry, a Jamaican-Chinese-Polish-African American Californian by way of Toronto and North Carolina, has scooped up the best ingredients and traditions from her heritage and collected them in her first cookbook, The Seasoned Life.

A contributor to publications including Food & Wine and USA Today, Curry has appeared on Rachael Ray and hosts Cookin' with the Currys on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. To foodies, her name connotes quick, creative family meals. To sports fans, she's better known as the wife of Golden State Warriors basketball superstar and MVP Steph Curry.

"Good food has the power to make the moment," she writes, and her goal is to share the recipes that "encompass all the precious moments that season my life." Her spicy "yardie" (Caribbean expat) dishes, including fried plantains and Jamaican Chicken Curry and Fried Dumplings, recall her mother's roots; and "all-out Southern" recipes--Pork Chops and Apples, Carolina Chowder, Deep-Fried Oreos (she confesses to an "extremely mean sweet tooth")--honor her days in the southeast, Steph's home. "Cooking with the Littles" includes foods their two little girls love. Restaurant-inspired dishes and California-style salads reflect Curry's evolving menu. Anecdotes and photos lend a family-album feel.

What sustains an MVP? Vegetable-rich Game Day Pasta is Steph Curry's traditional pre-game meal, and when it's his turn to cook: Five Ingredient Pasta. Drinks (cocktails and mocktails), a short chapter on homemade healthy beauty products, and a succinct "What's in My Pantry" section make The Seasoned Life accessible to any food--or basketball--fan. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, manager, Book Passage, San Francisco

Discover: Ayesha Curry's cookbook reflects her rich multicultural heritage as well as recipes that fuel her basketball star spouse, Steph.

Little, Brown, $27, hardcover, 256p., 9780316316330

Biography & Memoir

The Tao of Bill Murray: Real-Life Stories of Joy, Enlightenment, and Party Crashing

by Gavin Edwards

"He's an insane man, and in another country he'd be locked up." John Larroquette's observation fairly sums up fellow actor Bill Murray. So what is it about Murray that renders him America's beloved "modern-day trickster god," as Gavin Edwards (Last Night at the Viper Room) sees him, rather than a resident of the nearest penitentiary? Edwards explores this question to hilarious and profound ends in The Tao of Bill Murray: Real-Life Stories of Joy, Enlightenment, and Party Crashing.

Contributing editor for Rolling Stone, Edwards believes Murray is "secretly teaching us how to live." Using the Ten Principles of Bill ("Invite yourself to the party" and "While the world is spinning make yourself useful," for example), Edwards shares decades of zany Murray antics. As a whole, however, the Principles indicate that Murray's madcap nature is a means to become the best version of himself while trying to make the world a better place.

Murray is the embodiment of the Fourth Principle: "Make sure everybody else is invited to the party." He might crash your get-together and give a toast, drag you from a retail establishment to pelt you with snowballs, or pull his shirt over his head, rub his belly and photo bomb your vacation. Because it's Bill, these encounters end with laughter and legend rather than handcuffs. The Tao of Bill Murray is a joy to read and a must for Murray fans, but it's also a heartfelt reminder that we're in this together, and together we can all enjoy the party. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review

Discover: This book offers a delightful tour through decades of Bill Murray's shenanigans and the sincere mindset behind the madcap myth.

Random House, $26, hardcover, 368p., 9780812998702

The Fortress: A Love Story

by Danielle Trussoni

Danielle Trussoni's 2007 memoir, Falling Through the Earth, reflected how her parents' divorce affected her. Nine years later, in The Fortress, Trussoni (Angelopolis) recounts her efforts to spare her children from similar pain while waging an ultimately unsuccessful battle to save her own marriage.

Nikolai, a young Bulgarian novelist, sweeps Danielle off her feet when they meet as graduate students in Iowa. Both recently divorced, they form a fast and intense new romance. When Nikolai needs to return to Bulgaria to renew his expired visa, she and her toddler readily accompany him. But once they arrive, she learns that the required stay is two years rather than the few months Nikolai had implied and that she is pregnant. They eventually return to the States as a married couple with two children, but after several difficult years, Danielle is desperate for change. In a dramatic play to save the marriage, she and Nikolai purchase a medieval fortress in a French village and move the family there. The romantic setting becomes a battleground where Danielle tries to protect her children and save herself from Nikolai's manipulations and increasing instability.

Trussoni's depiction of her relationship with Nikolai is strewn with red flags and warning signs, and she vividly conveys its unraveling. The reader knows from the outset that this mission to France will fail, but is compelled to see how it unfolds. The Fortress is an intimate and intense portrayal of a troubled marriage as seen by the woman who emerged from it scarred but stronger. --Florinda Pendley Vasquez, blogger at The 3 R's: Reading, 'Riting, and Randomness

Discover: A medieval French fortress becomes the place that will make or break a troubled 21st-century marriage.

Dey Street Books, $27.99, hardcover, 336p., 9780062459008

The Great Good Thing: A Secular Jew Comes to Faith in Christ

by Andrew Klavan

Andrew Klavan was married with children. He was successful. Two of his thriller novels--True Crime and Don't Say a Word--had been turned into movies, starring Clint Eastwood and Michael Douglas, respectively. But as he approached the end of his 40s, he felt something was missing. Klavan began to re-assess his life, entering a "five-month-long agony of self-examination," where he began to question his relationships and his beliefs. The Great Good Thing outlines his quest and the experiences that led him toward Christian baptism.

Klavan was born a secular Jew on Long Island, N.Y., and considered himself agnostic. "I believed in science and analysis and reasonable explanations," he admits, re-creating scenes from an impressionable childhood--his sensitivity, a hostile father, an unknowable mother, a kindly babysitter who rejoiced in Christmas and a picture of Christ that later encouraged him to read and absorb the four gospels of the New Testament. Travails and rebellions throughout college, meeting his future wife, battling depression and the lean, uncertain years spent honing his craft as a writer led Klavan to epiphanies that illuminated how the presence of God--consciously and unconsciously--shaped his life. His story culminates with his father's death and how that loss becomes the turning point in Klavan's search for spiritual enlightenment.

Klavan's conversion narrative is intellectual and well paced. It exemplifies the ways in which fate and providence crisscrossed and collided through many dark nights of the soul for a man dedicated to living a more consciously evolved spiritual existence. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: This absorbing memoir is about the forces that led a formerly agnostic secular Jew to become a Christian.

Thomas Nelson, $24.99, hardcover, 304p., 9780718017347

Children's & Young Adult

The Secret Keepers

by Trenton Lee Stewart, illus. by Diana Sudyka

Eleven-year-old Reuben Pedley considers himself a "sneaker." While his caring but harried mom works two jobs and still barely manages to support them, Reuben enjoys solitary summer days sneaking around the Lower Downs, the worst neighborhood of New Umbra, a place "as gloomy and run-down as a city could be." One day, Reuben squeezes into the narrowest alley he's ever seen, and climbs to a dangerously high ledge. While holding on for dear life, he finds a beautiful, spherical antique pocket watch lodged in the brick wall. It looks valuable, and Reuben hopes to sell it for enough money to "turn things around for him and his mom."

But Reuben quickly learns the watch has an incredible secret power. He knows he must keep it out of the hands of The Smoke, a "monstrous individual" who unofficially rules the city. Unfortunately, the bands of men who patrol New Umbra, taking payouts and reporting back to The Smoke's representative, are already looking for him. The Smoke wants Reuben's watch, and will do anything to get it. The boy sleuths his way to nearby Point William's historic lighthouse, where he discovers the story behind the centuries-old watch, as well as two unexpected allies in spirited 10-year-old Penny Meyer and her brother, Jack.

Trenton Lee Stewart (the Mysterious Benedict Society series) expertly ratchets up the tension in this wonderful nail-biter of a story, adding danger upon danger as Reuben attempts to outwit The Smoke, put him out of business, and make New Umbra a decent place in which to live again. --Lynn Becker, blogger and host of Book Talk, a monthly online discussion of children's books for SCBWI

Discover: In this novel, 11-year-old Reuben Pedley finds an antique pocket watch with a powerful secret.

Megan Tingley/Little, Brown, $18.99, hardcover, 512p., ages 9-12, 9780316389556

Have You Seen My Trumpet?

by Michaël Escoffier, illus. by Kris Di Giacomo

In Have You Seen My Trumpet? Michaël Escoffier and Kris Di Giacomo-- the author-illustrator team behind Where's the Baboon? and Take Away the A--invite readers to join a little girl and a charmingly odd menagerie for a silly day of beach play and wordplay.

Each action-packed seaside scene tells multiple visual mini-stories and poses a question that embeds the clue to its answer. In the opening spread, a pig is holding a pail, a sea star worries, a mouse flies a kite and a big bee takes a ride on a whizzing red disk. The question is: "Who is playing frisbee?" and the "bee" is highlighted in red. The next spread asks, "Who is blowing a dandelion?" and it is, in fact, a lion. A windsock shows the wind's direction, a ship sits on the horizon and the previously seen pig sits in front of a sandcastle with his pail. A few of the animal characters appear again and again, such as the mostly bowl-bound, "selfish" fish with the "I (Heart) Me" T-shirt. As the day unfurls, giant tentacled arms rise unexpectedly from the sea, all manner of boats come and go, and, the girl looks for her missing Trumpet... who is happily found at the end.

The disarmingly funny illustrations--textured, gloriously composed, and with an edible color palette--offer new surprises and punch lines with every reading. And, for the record, it is officially impossible to resist a gleeful mole in striped red pants clutching a big avocado. ("Who loves guacamole?") --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: In this winning picture book with a seaside setting, the author-illustrator team cleverly puts the "bat" in "bathroom" and the "eel" in "wheel."

Enchanted Lion, $17.95, hardcover, 48p., ages 5-8, 9781592702015


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

Powered by: Xtenit