Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, November 18, 2016

William Morrow & Company: End of Story by A.J. Finn

From My Shelf

A New Faith Narrative

Deborah Jian Lee is an award-winning journalist, radio producer and co-founder of One Book, One Church. She is the author of Rescuing Jesus: How People of Color, Women and Queer Christians Are Reclaiming Evangelicalism (Beacon Press, $19.95).

photo: Luis Bacca

Your journalism has delved into a variety of subjects, most notably your series about migrant workers in China. What drew your focus to changes in the Evangelical movement for such in-depth study?

I found the massive racial demographic shifts and generational shifts within evangelicalism so compelling and rich with stories. I used to be an evangelical student leader, but left because I couldn't stomach the culture wars. I'm a woman of color, a feminist and an LGBT ally, and whenever I asserted these parts of my humanity, my faith was questioned. So I was particularly intrigued when I met deeply evangelical people of color, women and queer folks who were doing theology from the margins and recasting a vision of evangelicalism that was far more inclusive and inspiring that what I had left.

What surprised you most in your interviews?

I was surprised by the degree to which evangelical leaders have historically used power and their version of "theology" to engineer a religion where straight white men owned the faith. They deployed so-called biblical rationalizations that kept women submissive, endorsed racial segregation and stoked fear of gays, lesbians and all sexual/gender minorities. The second big surprise came when I met scores of evangelicals who have thoroughly rejected these principles and offered up Biblical scholarship and stories from the margins. Evangelical feminists are denouncing purity culture, evangelicals of color and white evangelicals are offering themselves to such causes like Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ evangelicals and allies are advocating for full inclusion. Despite the risk of spiritual trauma, lost livelihoods and ostracism, evangelicals on the margins are rising up to tell a new faith narrative.

--Dave Wheeler, associate editor, Shelf Awareness


Jewish Book Council: 73rd National Jewish Book Award Winners

The Writer's Life

Ben Miller: The Real Science of Aliens

photo: Colin Thomas

Ben Miller is a BAFTA Award-winning actor and comedian living in London best known for being one-half of the comedy act Amstrong and Miller. He describes himself as "a mutant ape living through an Ice Age on a ball of molten iron, circulating a supermassive black hole." Miller also happens to be a Cambridge-trained physicist who plays the disembodied brain Professor McTaggart on ITV's It's Not Rocket Science. His second science-related book, The Aliens Are Coming: The Extraordinary Science Behind Our Search for Life in the Universe (available in paperback from The Experiment), provides an entertaining and thought-provoking look behind the scenes at our search for extraterrestrial life.

Despite being far removed from your studies as a graduate student in physics during the late 1980s, you have maintained a solid grasp of modern physics and biology while enjoying a career as a comedian. What compelled you to return to your roots?

It was a midlife crisis. I suddenly had the awful feeling of unfinished business. I started a Ph.D. in physics at Cambridge--in fact, I did three years of research--but never finished it. Then a couple of years ago I started to get this yearning for science. Some men would have bought a sports car, others would have taken up the guitar; I decided to write a book about the real science of aliens.

For a physicist, you devote considerable thought to microbiology. What does science tell us about the ability of microbes to survive in extreme environments on Earth, but not on Mars, Mercury or one of the moons of Saturn, for example, and of the possibility that Earthlings originated on another planet?

Microbiology tells us that life is extremely tenacious. It finds a way. Whereas we were once convinced there could be no microbial life in the outer reaches of the solar system, now we aren't so sure. We have also learned that the planets of the solar system aren't hermetically sealed; on the contrary, they are intimately interconnected. Asteroids collide with Mars, for example, and then end up on Earth. Early Mars was, in some ways, a more hospitable planet than ours. It remains possible that life may have started on Mars, then hitched here on a space rock. And, most excitingly of all, it remains possible that in the liquid ocean beneath the icy crust of Saturn's moon Enceladus, alien microbes are thriving.

Earth seems unique in its ability to support so many forms of life. If there are many Earth-like planets out in the universe, why has there been no sign of intelligent life?

Well firstly, I'm not sure that Earth is unique in its ability to support life. As we are seeing from our latest telescopes, there are lots of planets out there that could do the job just as well, if not a little better. The really important question is, is Earth the only place where life has started? Certainly, at the moment, it's the only place we know of, but then we haven't done an awful lot of looking. As to why there's been no sign of intelligent life, well, like all good relationships, it's down to timing. Intelligent civilisations are rare, and separated by a great deal of time and space. If the nearest one is 10,000 light years away, it's seeing the Earth as it was before human civilisation. If it's 100 light years away, it's only just started to pick up our early experiments with radio.

In the chapter "Planets," you open up the line of inquiry beyond hard science to include pop culture references, concluding that culture provides the most important frame of reference in understanding Earthly life. Yet culture is also a man-made artifact. What would happen if "culture" couldn't be a common mode of communication with newly discovered lifeforms?

And that, in a nutshell, is the whole problem. If we don't share a culture with the entity we are trying to communicate with, it is much harder to decode its messages. When Jean-Francois Champollion finally translated the Egyptian hieroglyphs, it was due in part to the existence of the Rosetta stone. On this stone was the same piece of text written in three languages, one of which was hieroglyphs, and another ancient Greek. But of course Champollion was also assisted by his knowledge of ancient Egyptian civilisation. When we receive an alien message, how will we decode it, with no knowledge of the culture that shaped it?

Is it fair to assume that if life did exist "out there," those beings would be as advanced as we are?

My understanding is that conditions have been right for life in spiral galaxies like the Milky Way for roughly five billion years. Before that, there was too much high-energy radiation around. So the important question becomes, what's the average length of time it takes to evolve a civilisation? If Earth is average, it takes about four billion years. So there might be civilisations out there that are a billion years older than ours. There might be civilisations younger, of course, but we wouldn't be able to detect them because they wouldn't yet have developed radio communication. Which all shakes down as: if we are contacted by aliens, we'd better not talk down to them.

You pose the possibility of Earth humans being so advanced as to provoke the galaxy to "wake up." Why do you believe this?

If there's one thing we know about the human race, it's that we are explorers by nature. Anatomically modern humans left Africa sometime within the last 200,000 years, and have now populated the entire planet. We have set foot on the Moon, and we are planning missions to Mars. The next generation of telescopes will search for our nearest Earth-like planets. When we find one, I am sure of one thing: someone, somewhere, will hatch a plan to go there. The human diaspora will have begun.

How do we know that certain universal scientific and linguistic rules will carry over across universes, that alien technologies will evolve along the lines that ours has and that truth of our physical models extrapolates beyond what is known?

We don't, but we are probably better off looking for civilisations like our own as we have more chance of recognising them. One thing we will almost certainly have in common with our alien neighbours is the fundamental structure of the universe. They will have the same building blocks of matter such as the proton, neutron and electron, and be familiar with the same periodic table of chemical elements and their compounds. But when we imagine civilisations that are technologically evolved way beyond our own, we have no idea what we might have in common. Maybe very little. They may be out there, clearly visible in the galaxy, but we have no idea what we are looking for. Does an ant, sitting on your foot, have any idea that you exist? Possibly. Does it have any inkling that Coldplay has a new album out? I doubt it. And yet Coldplay is everywhere.

What are your thoughts on the recent discovery of Proxima B, an Earth-like planet orbiting Proxima Centauri?

It thrills me because it shows yet again that small rocky planets like ours are common. Though of course Proxima Centauri is a red dwarf star and so Proxima B isn't truly Earth-like. We urgently need to search our nearest sun-like stars to find out if they have Earth-like planets in Earth-type orbits, and the next generation of telescopes will be able to do just that. After all, Earth is the one place where we know life exists, so it makes sense to start looking for planets that are truly Earth-like in all respects. The data we have so far tells us that the nearest such planets may be as little as 12 light years away. Imagine that. The nearest alien civilisation might be just about to catch the first season of Arrested Development. Lucky entities.

Should we expect to hear of aliens in any of your upcoming comedy routines?

Absolutely not. All of this is too far-out for comedy. No one would believe it. --Nancy Powell, freelance writer and technical consultant

Sleeping Bear Press: Junia, the Book Mule of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson, illustrated by David C. Gardner

Book Candy

Oxford Word of the Year

Brave new world: "Post-truth named word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries," the Guardian reported.


Infographic of the day: "How the world reads" from Electric Lit.


What is the best novel to read in a pub? The Guardian introduced the new Spoons Carpets Novel Award to find out.

Buzzfeed matriculated at "16 university campuses that might secretly be Hogwarts."


"What happens when these literary characters discover Twitter?" Quirk Books shared "Twitter rants from literary characters."


The Huffington Post modeled "10 purses that are brilliantly disguised as books."

Great Reads

Rediscover: Storm of Steel

At the outbreak of World War I, Ernst Jünger (1895-1998) volunteered as an infantryman in the German army. He received the first of many wounds in April 1915 and, during his recovery, decided to become an officer. As a lieutenant, Jünger led an infantry platoon through several cataclysmic battles on the Western front, where he was well known for daring nighttime patrols and offensive initiatives. Jünger survived 14 wounds, the last of which was a shot through the chest that nearly ended his life during the 1918 Spring Offensive. He was awarded the Pour le Mérite, the German Empire's highest honor, one of just 11 given to infantry commanders during the war.

Jünger kept a diary of his wartime experiences. After the war, it was published essentially unedited as In Stahlgewittern, or Storm of Steel. Several revisions were made in the following decades. A version in the 1930s toned down some of the most graphic violence for international audiences and, in 2003, Michael Hofmann wrote a new English translation based on the final 1961 German manuscript. Hofmann's translation was published as a Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition last May ($18, 9780143108252), with a new foreword by Karl Marlantes, author of Matterhorn, and an evocative cover by Neil Gower.

Jünger's is unusual among accounts of World War I combat. It is savage, apocalyptic, though largely apolitical, in which the author finds a transcendent quality to warfare and its horrors. During his long life, Jünger was sometimes criticized for glorifying war, but Storm of Steel gives an important perspective for the World War I centennial, of not just what soldiers endured, but the attitude that allowed them to endure it. --Tobias Mutter

Book Review


Niagara Motel

by Ashley Little

Writing in the voice of a child is a tricky and perilous thing. It's also something Ashley Little (Anatomy of a Girl Gang, Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize winner) knocks clean out of the park in Niagara Motel; readers will fall madly in love with Tucker Malone. It's no surprise Tucker is wiser and more world-weary than any 11-year-old should be: his mother, Gina, is a peripatetic, narcoleptic stripper. Yet Little brilliantly blends Tucker's street smarts with his innocence, and his voice never feels anything but authentic.

When Gina's narcolepsy leads to tragedy, Tucker is forced to leave their current residence, the Niagara Motel, to stay at Bright Light, a home for older, troubled kids. A boy forced to deal with a grown-up situation under less-than-stellar circumstances, all Tucker wants to do is find the man he believes to be his father--Sam Malone from the television sitcom Cheers.

Tucker is drawn to fellow housemate Meredith, 16 and pregnant. "We were a strange match as far as friends go, but magnets don't need to understand how magnetism works; they just repel each other or stick together." Stick together this odd duo does, through life's dramas and one of the more fascinating road trips ever. The journey is so wildly inventive it's almost distracting (in the best of ways; go in blind and have Google handy), but the strength of Little's characters and dialogue ensure the story never loses its focus or heart--the inimitable Tucker Malone. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review

Discover: A troubled boy finds friendship and meaning on a captivating road trip with a pregnant teen.

Arsenal Pulp Press, $17.95, paperback, 296p., 9781551526607

The Long Room

by Francesca Kay

The Long Room is spy fiction drained of every drop of romanticism, in the storied tradition of John le Carré's understated masterworks and the dark psychological intensity of Coppola's The Conversation. Francesca Kay's novel burrows so deeply into her protagonist Stephen Donaldson's psyche that his warped perspective can be frighteningly persuasive. Stephen works for a secretive U.K. government agency known as the Institute, which seems primarily to engage in domestic espionage. The novel takes place in November 1981, as IRA bomb attacks wreak havoc and the United Kingdom stumbles toward war in the Falklands. The titular "long room" refers to the drab office space where Stephen and his colleagues listen to tapes of tapped phone calls and bugged residences.

Stephen's monotonous, lonely world is interrupted by his increasing obsession with Helen, the wife of one of his surveillance targets. Stephen begins to imagine an exaggeratedly romantic relationship between them: "With her, and only with her, he feels no need to pretend, he is at ease in his own skin, he begins to like himself. She gives him back his truthfulness and when he thinks of her he thinks in poetry." Kay purposefully blurs the line between spook and stalker, raising troubling questions about the ethics of intelligence work.

More than anything else, The Long Room is a deep and absorbing character study. Stephen's self-justifying fantasies and solipsistic outlook can be almost as alluringly deceptive as Humbert Humbert's. The Long Room is a striking and particularly satisfying work of espionage fiction. --Hank Stephenson, bookseller, Flyleaf Books

Discover: This espionage thriller takes an unsettling look at domestic spying in 1980s London.

Tin House, $15.95, paperback, 304p., 9781941040454

Mystery & Thriller

Under the Midnight Sun

by Keigo Higashino, trans. by Alexander O. Smith with Joseph Reeder

Keigo Higashino (A Midsummer's Equation) takes a break from his Detective Galileo series for this twisted and creepy standalone. In 1973, an Osaka neighborhood is rocked by the murder of local pawnshop owner Yosuke Kirihara. Sasagaki, a police detective, follows up with the most promising suspects. When the victim's trophy wife gives a solid alibi, suspicion shifts to an udon cafe waitress who won't admit to knowing Yosuke as more than a customer, despite suggestions to the contrary. Sasagaki never finds enough evidence to make an arrest, and the case goes cold. From there, Higashino follows the lives of two children connected to the murder: Ryo Kirihara, the son of the victim, and Yukiho Nishimoto, the daughter of the udon waitress. Through the eyes of friends and acquaintances, readers watch the pair of children grow through adolescence into young adulthood, the past shadowing their every step.

Yukiho captivates every man she meets as she grows from middle schooler to college student. Oddly, girls who might rival her in looks or charm along the way find themselves in tragic circumstances, with detrimental effects to their social statuses. Ryo wallows in criminal enterprise, pimping out attractive male high school classmates to older married women before turning to video game piracy. Higashino's unforgiving corkscrew of a mystery will leave readers gleefully chilled. The solution to Under the Midnight Sun plays second fiddle to the tense atmosphere and unspooling machinations as innocent, or at least hapless, bystanders get caught in the webs of Ryo or Yukiho. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Discover: This Japanese thriller follows two Osaka children affected by an unsolved murder as they grow into troubled adulthood.

Minotaur, $27.99, hardcover, 560p., 9781250105790

Inherit the Bones

by Emily Littlejohn

Fair warning: this mystery includes a clown. He is good and dead, if that helps, and it's Deputy Gemma Monroe's job to figure out who killed him in Emily Littlejohn's terrific debut, Inherit the Bones. When the identity of the traveling circus performer is discovered, the small town of Cedar Valley, Colo., is rocked by secrets that have been buried for decades.

In the summer of 1985, young cousins Tommy and Andrew McKenzie disappeared. That same summer, a woman's body was found dumped on a riverbank. Neither mystery was ever solved. More recently, the mayor's son slipped off a cliff and vanished into the raging water below. The dead clown is simply the newest addition to Cedar Valley's tragic history.

Along with a partner she doesn't fully trust and a freshly minted recruit, a very pregnant Gemma must mine the town's past crimes in order to solve its most recent. There's always danger to be had when digging up old secrets, and the investigation will heap more misfortune on everyone attached to them before it's over.

Inherit the Bones will leave readers wanting more from Littlejohn's impressively diverse cast of characters, each presented with intriguing depth without distracting from the action. Littlejohn's prose deftly moves the investigation forward, yet is often laced with moments of insightful beauty. The story arcs grow worryingly in number, but Littlejohn pulls them together in excellent fashion. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review

Discover: A deputy's murder investigation has perilous ties to her small town's tragic past, and those hiding old secrets will do anything to stop her.

Minotaur Books, $25.99, hardcover, 336p., 9781250089397

Night School

by Lee Child

One morning in 1996 "they gave Reacher a medal, and in the afternoon they sent him back to school." Night school, that is, the title of Lee Child's 21st Jack Reacher thriller. Turns out, it isn't a class but a top-secret mission involving the CIA, the FBI, the National Security Council and Reacher, representing the army's MP division.

The NSC has been keeping tabs on an apartment in Hamburg, Germany, that houses a jihadist sleeper cell consisting of three Saudis and one Iranian. The Iranian is a CIA-run double agent who gets wind of an unnamed American's plan to sell something to a Middle Eastern buyer. The bad news: the asking price of $100 million. The worse news: the buyer readily agrees. What could be worth that much to a potential enemy? Reacher and his colleagues must find out who the players are, what the product is, and block the sale before the mystery item is used against the U.S. and possibly the world.

Reacher Creatures will find the series' staples here: their hero using his analytical skills to dissect situations, annihilating opponents in fights and coupling with a female colleague (though happily not with his sergeant Frances Neagley, who remains a sharp and formidable ally). The familiar aspects make for reliable entertainment, and the 20-years-younger Reacher is little different from his present-day self. No matter what age he is, though, he'll remain head of the class to his legions of fans. --Elyse Dinh-McCrillis, blogger at Pop Culture Nerd

Discover: Jack Reacher must prevent the sale of a mysterious product that could be used to cause catastrophe in the U.S. and around the world.

Delacorte Press, $28.99, hardcover, 384p., 9780804178808

Biography & Memoir

Ray & Joan: The Man Who Made the McDonald's Fortune and the Woman Who Gave It All Away

by Lisa Napoli

Ray Kroc, a paper cup and milkshake machine salesman from Chicago, became the force behind the lucrative franchising of McDonald's. When Kroc died in 1984, he left billions of dollars to his wife, Joan. Investigative journalist Lisa Napoli (Radio Shangri-La) sets out to understand shrewd and pushy Ray, and his strong-willed, opinionated third wife, Joan, who eventually gave away the bulk of the fortune her husband amassed.

Napoli details the struggles of hard-up brothers Mac and Dick McDonald, who fashioned a revolutionary roadside restaurant--with a simple menu and quick, assembly-line-style food preparation--in San Bernardino. Ray Kroc's milkshake machines were integral to their restaurant, and in 1954, Kroc suggested that the brothers expand their profitable business. This would launch one of the most complex business success stories in American history. Along the way, Napoli weaves in details of Kroc's personal life--his battle with alcoholism, two failed marriages--and his tumultuous romantic relationship with Joan, a liberal feminist.

In his lifetime, Ray started the Kroc Foundation, funding research on diabetes, arthritis and multiple sclerosis, and Ronald McDonald Houses, which offer free housing for families with children undergoing medical treatment. After Ray's death--and for the next 19 years, until her own death--Joan contributed billions to a host of causes that touched her heart: AIDS research, Greenpeace, the Democratic party, the San Diego Zoo and National Public Radio. Napoli's well-researched, compelling portrayals of Ray and Joan Kroc shed light on a dynamic and influential couple whose generosity continues to improve a world where McDonald's is a household name. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: A fascinating portrait of the man behind the McDonald's brand and his wife, whose unconventional philanthropy benefited many.

Dutton, $27, hardcover, 368p., 9781101984956

Octavia E. Butler

by Gerry Canavan

Part of the Modern Masters of Science Fiction series, Octavia E. Butler is an in-depth and accessible study of the acclaimed and influential author's life and work. Professor Gerry Canavan (The Cambridge Companion to American Science Fiction) based his research on the enormous archive of her papers at the Huntington Library.

Butler (1947-2006) was an internationally acclaimed author drawn to the "wide open horizon" of science fiction, even though it was a genre dominated by white men when the black teenage girl began selling her stories. She was a devoted and prolific daily writer until her death in 2006, with a dark, pessimistic imagination and a controlled, vivid style. Canavan writes that "her fiction exemplifies the complex insights of the Afrofuturist school of science fiction, which notes... that 'black people live the estrangement that science fiction writers imagine.' " Despite her productivity, Butler published only 12 novels and one story collection, in part, Canavan says, because she "was not only a writer but a rewriter and a re-rewriter, and a re-re-rewriter, almost to the point of compulsion." Perfectionistic and intensely self-critical, she explored every avenue of her recurring characters, plot points and themes, keeping everything she wrote but rarely satisfied with any of her versions, including the published ones. With impressive clarity, Canavan traces the intricate networks of Butler's developing ideas across her many works and her private journals and letters. He includes substantial notes, a bibliography, chronology, a decent index and Butler's self-defining 1980 essay, "Lost Races in Science Fiction." This is a biography that will be welcomed by both fans and scholars. --Sara Catterall

Discover: Both fans and scholars will appreciate this vivid in-depth study of an internationally acclaimed science fiction author's life and work.

University of Illinois Press, $22, paperback, 224p., 9780252082160


A Radical Faith: The Assassination of Sister Maura

by Eileen Markey

In 1980, four United States churchwomen in El Salvador were raped and murdered by members of the U.S.-trained National Guard, calling into question U.S. support for the right-wing military dictatorship and leading to several high-level and international investigations. The four were treated as symbols and martyrs; journalist Eileen Markey wanted to make them individuals again. A Radical Faith: The Assassination of Sister Maura pursues that goal by examining the life of Maura Clarke.

Markey follows Maura from a close-knit Irish Catholic family in Rockaway, N.Y., to a Maryknoll convent at 19 in 1950, part of a staunchly anti-communist Catholic Church. Maura served in the Bronx, and then for 17 years in Nicaragua, where she was horrified by poverty and want. She gradually experienced a massive transformation of worldview, eventually becoming an outspoken activist, even as Markey outlines a parallel if gentler shift at the Church's highest levels. When assigned to El Salvador, Maura worked a few short months before her murder.

A Radical Faith is not an objective inquiry: it assumes that Maura had few flaws and that missionary work in cultures abroad is good work. Markey nevertheless powerfully establishes Maura as an individual, and animates the story of her death. Her work brings an extraordinary level of detail, from Maura's own journals and correspondence as well as redacted government documents, to a decades-old crime with higher-level instigators who have not been brought to justice. Though not impartial, A Radical Faith is a carefully researched and flattering portrait, moving and evocative. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: One of the four churchwomen murdered in 1980 El Salvador is honored with a detailed biography.

Nation Books, $26.99, hardcover, 336p., 9781568585734

Essays & Criticism

Am I Alone Here?: Notes on Living to Read and Reading to Live

by Peter Orner

"Alone in the garage with all these books. There's no room on the shelves anymore. Now they live in piles," writes Peter Orner in his introduction. "I sit here... and I think... I'll be dead before I read a quarter of the books down here." A variety of volumes, their impact on Orner at various times in his life and the memories they stir up are the essence of the essays and ruminations in Am I Alone Here? With a penchant for short stories in particular, he discusses an eclectic mix of authors, including Anton Chekhov and Eudora Welty, who have influenced him and his writing.

Using quotations from particular pieces, Orner analyzes and scrutinizes the writing through his own experience, focusing primarily on his interactions with his late father and his troubled marriage. The writing ebbs and flows, morphing and shifting as if the reader is watching Orner's life through a kaleidoscope of brilliant words instead of shapes and colors. The effect is mesmerizing. The only drawback to reading Am I Alone Here? is the urge to go forth and read (or reread) the pieces Orner writes about, which is a considerable library of work and could easily take a lifetime to do. But as he writes, "I have come to the conclusion that reading keeps me alive, period." Adding this brilliant book to your to-read pile will definitely keep you breathing. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

Discover: One man, whose life revolves around books, shares his thoughts on them.

Catapult, $16.95, paperback, 276p., 9781936787258

Psychology & Self-Help

The Power of Off: The Mindful Way to Stay Sane in a Virtual World

by Nancy Colier

Suffering from bouts of anxiety, depression or loneliness? How about that nagging feeling that there is never enough time in the day to finish tedious responsibilities, yet there's always time to check Facebook or another social media platform? Psychotherapist Nancy Colier (Inviting a Monkey to Tea) noticed these symptoms in her patients as well as their shared compulsive need to check the phone. Colier promotes wellness and a calm center of self by learning to unplug.

Richly informative yet personable, The Power of Off: The Mindful Way to Stay Sane in a Virtual World teaches readers how to take time for themselves. Colier describes the need to stay "plugged in" as creating the expectation that everyone must be available and at each other's disposal always. As a result, she notes, many have been pushed to live in a constant state of angst and readiness without any reprieve. The consequences of this altered state has manifested in compromised mental and physical health, including the risk of depression, high blood pressure and emotional instability. Colier offers fun and interactive techniques to demonstrate that technological dependency is an addiction, and how it can be broken. She offers personal anecdotes, advice and exercises to be performed as one reads. With so much encouragement, readers may be convinced to leave their smartphones and keep up with the energetic journey toward "me time."

Those seeking guidance on how to limit their time on social media and the Internet in general should pick up Power of Off! --Carol H. Hood, writer, graphic novelist, social commentator

Discover: Psychotherapist Nancy Colier offers a fun, interactive guide to lead readers away from dependency on social media.

Sounds True, $16.95, paperback, 256p., 9781622037957

Children's & Young Adult

My Sister Rosa

by Justine Larbalestier

Australian-American author Justine Larbalestier (Razorhurst; Liar) looks at the formative years of a psychopath through the concerned eyes of her older brother.

When seven-year-old Che watched Rosa's birth, the Aussie boy instantly adored his "perfect" baby sister and wanted to protect her from the world. Ten years later, Che must protect the world from Rosa, now a Shirley Temple lookalike with a "fluffy halo" of blonde ringlets and a frighteningly high score on the Hare Psychopathy Checklist. Rosa steals, manipulates, tortures ants and finds loopholes in her promises to be good, but their preoccupied "parentals," David and Sally, are in denial.

Che wants to go home to Sydney for his 17th birthday, but David and Sally move the family from Bangkok to New York City on the bankroll of future employers the McBrunights. Che becomes friends with the McBrunights' deeply sarcastic teen daughter Leilani, but Rosa befriends only one of Leilani's younger twin sisters, driving a wedge between them. Boxing enthusiast Che begins to adjust to New York, helped along by Sojourner, a beautiful "total badarse" he meets at his new gym. However, as Rosa threatens to hurt Sojourner and acts out against the twins, Che and Leilani must find a way to stop her before she destroys both their families.

Larbalestier reminds readers of her masterful gift for slippery, unreliable characters, while Che and company's conversations about religion, diversity and sexuality reflect the complex concerns of today's youth. Mature teens and adult thriller fans will devour this suspenseful, chilling meditation on the roles of nature and nurture in creating dangerous criminals. --Jaclyn Fulwood, lead librarian at Del City Public Library, Okla.

Discover: In Justine Larbalestier's YA thriller, an Australian teen desperately tries to keep his psychopathic little sister from wreaking havoc in New York City.

Soho Teen, $18.99, hardcover, 320p., ages 14-18, 9781616956745

Stick Man

by Julia Donaldson, illus. by Axel Scheffler

Poor Stick Man! Out for a jog one spring day, he's nabbed by a dog that believes he's a stick to fetch. Then a swan decides he's a twig for her nest. Come winter, a boy thinks he's an arm for his snowman. Over the course of four seasons, in one case of mistaken identity after another, Stick Man is taken farther and farther from his "Stick Lady Love and their stick children three." Eventually, on Christmas Eve, chilled and weary, he winds up on someone's fireplace grate. Is there anyone who can save him now? "Oh-ho-ho," there sure is!

Author-illustrator pair Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler (Room on the Broom; The Gruffalo) update their quirky rhyming classic with a brand-new Christmas-y cover. Donaldson's catchy verses will still have young readers chiming in for the chorus:

"I'm not a stick! Why can't you see,
I'm Stick Man, I'm Stick Man,
I'M STICK MAN, that's me,
And I want to go home to the family tree!"

Every page is packed with details demanding the attention of readers who are willing to slow down for the rewards. Scheffler's bright, cartoony illustrations are full of lively touches: The stick children's toys are made out of acorns and chestnuts. Stick Man's eyes are squeezed shut as a girl stretches him as a bow for her arrow. Look closely... there's even a Gruffalo ornament on a tree!

Stick Man is a holiday odyssey that, even with its unusual protagonist, will ring true as sleigh bells for any reader who loves stories about overcoming obstacles to succeed. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor

Discover: A stick man is desperate to get home for Christmas but keeps being mistaken for boomerangs, flagpoles and firewood in this zany story in verse.

Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic, $12.99, hardcover, 32p., ages 4-8, 9780545947893

Paul & Antoinette

by Kerascoët, trans. by Claudia Zoe Bedrick

In the charming picture book Paul & Antoinette, the title characters are sibling pigs who live alone in a cozily furnished stone house.

Fastidious Paul is a "toast spread neatly with butter" kind of pig, while ebullient Antoinette "piles jam and chocolate on her special Two-Taste toasts." Paul prefers to stay inside and tinker with intricate ship models, while Antoinette can't wait to drag her brother outside to embrace, quite literally, the delicious chaos of nature. Once outdoors, however, her brother adapts nicely: "When Paul sees beautiful gold button flowers in the meadow, he's inspired to think deeply about Ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging." Antoinette licks a snail.

Paul is not a complete killjoy. He is intellectually curious about nature, and even as Antoinette is splashing in the mud, "Paul joins in, leaping elegantly over each puddle." But by the end of their outing, Paul has clearly had enough, and the dirt-and-berry-smeared Antoinette worries that he is angry with her. She tries to smooth things over at home by concocting "her famous Everything Tart," and, indeed, the hilariously enormous and ornate pie does put a smile on Paul's face that lasts into snuggly bedtime. With warmth and humor, Paris-based Kerascoët's expressive watercolor illustrations capture both the friction and the love that coexist where Paul's orderly-but-not-too-rigid nature meets his sister's joyful entropy. --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: In this delightful picture book, Paul is a clean and proper pig and Antoinette is his messy, over-the-top sister, but by nightfall they still manage to snuggle up contentedly.

Enchanted Lion Books, $17.95, hardcover, 40p., ages 3-8, 9781592701964


Author Buzz

Visions of Flesh and Blood:
A Blood and Ash/Flesh and Fire Compendium

by Jennifer L. Armentrout with Rayvn Salvador

Dear Reader,

Today is the release of VISIONS OF FLESH AND BLOOD, the Blood and Ash/Flesh and Fire Compendium, and I am so excited that you finally get to see and read it!

I saw the love you had for Miss Willa, watched how following along with all the series twists and turns brought you joy, and thought... wouldn't it be nice to have a book to help with that, yet give even more new stuff?

So, my publisher and I came up with a plan. It included loads of stunning art commissions, strategic disclosures, and brand-new material. When it all came together, it was even better than I imagined.

VISIONS OF FLESH AND BLOOD is so much more than a series bible. It's a journey and a work of art. A collector's item for sure!


Available on Kobo

AuthorBuzz: Visions of Flesh and Blood: A Blood and Ash/Flesh and Fire Compendium by Jennifer L. Armentrout with Rayvn Salvador

Blue Box Press

Pub Date: 
February 20, 2024


List Price: 
$7.99 e-book

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