Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, June 30, 2017

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

From My Shelf

Baby University

Quantum theorist Chris Ferrie's Baby University series (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky; $9.99 each, ages 0-3) began as something of a joke: he wanted to create a "prop nerdy baby" book. When his wife and children enjoyed his creation, Ferrie decided independently to publish Quantum Physics for Babies in paperback. Then, Mark Zuckerberg posted a picture on his Facebook page of him and his wife reading the paperback to their newborn, and Ferrie's joke quickly became very serious.

In this board book series, Ferrie makes his knowledge accessible to the youngest of readers--and probably some adults, too. Though the four titles in the series offer "simple explanations of complex ideas for your future genius," the books may be a bit beyond the comprehension of your average baby, but the subject material will certainly be enjoyable for trendy caretakers to read aloud. (And the pictures of babies chewing on the covers are going to be #instaworthy.)

General Relativity for Babies starts with a ball that "has mass," introduces the reader to "flat space" and "warp" and explains how "space drags mass." With simple circles, lines and arrows, baby learns how "waves stretch and squish space throughout the universe."

Newtonian Physics for Babies uses only circles and arrows to explain how "the force of the ground always equals the force of gravity."

Quantum Physics for Babies states that "all balls are made of atoms." It breaks atoms down into protons, neutrons and electrons and explains that an "electron can take energy to jump up. And it must give energy to fall down. This amount of energy is a quantum."

Rocket Science for Babies changes the shape of the ball with which all the other books have begun in order to change the air flow around it: "If the air goes down, the shape goes up!" --Siân Gaetano, editor children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

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

Book Candy

Book Clubs' Fine Tradition

"Even in the 1700s, book clubs were really about drinking and socializing," Atlas Obscura reported.


Headline of the day (via the Guardian): "Hygge under threat from friluftsliv as lifestyles battle for bookshop supremacy."


Brightly showed how to make "a summer reading star chart for beginning readers."


"À la Carte: Hannah Tunnicliffe's menu for novelists in 9 haikus" was featured by Signature.


Daniel Radcliffe, for example. Pop quiz: Quirk Books challenged: "Is this older or younger than Harry Potter?"


Jonathan Emmett's goal for the Impossible bookshelf was to build it so the "books fanned out like the voussoirs (the wedge-shaped stones) that make up a stone arch."

The Sisters Chase

by Sarah Healy

The birth of a baby in 1977 opens The Sisters Chase by Sarah Healy, a fast-paced, suspenseful novel that expertly probes the depth of family bonds, love and loyalty. Readers soon learn that the hopeful promise of new life, however, is riddled with complications for Diane Chase, a struggling single mother, her rebellious and street-smart 14-year-old daughter, Mary--whose "beauty had a ferocity to it, an elegant savagery"--and new baby Hannah.

The Chases never had an easy time of it. The two girls were born to two different fathers, both absent, but the Chases were not the type to dwell on misfortune. Stoic Diane had inherited a motel, the Water's Edge, "a down-market little tourist trap," in Sandy Bank, N.J., after her father died. In order to support herself and the girls, Diane worked a second job as a cocktail waitress at a nearby Atlantic City casino. Diane's strength, grit, work ethic and determination were instilled in Mary early on, and those character traits are the bedrock of how Mary and her sister survive after Diane dies in a car accident in 1981 that leaves the two girls orphaned.

After Diane's death, Mary, age 18, and Hannah, four, learn their only inheritance is the nearly bankrupt Water's Edge. Mary, realizing they are broke, takes the insurance payout from her mother's car and purchases plane tickets to Miami to visit her mother's cousin, Gail Dackard, and her husband, Ron, who owns a lucrative chain of automobile-maintenance shops. It's clear to Mary that Gail and Ron are leery of the girls' visit. Her suspicion is confirmed by snarky second cousin Tim--the Dackards' spoiled son--who tells Mary outright, "My mom doesn't want you here. She thinks you're looking for a handout." Mary uses her feminine charms on Uncle Ron, drawing him into a provocative web that leads Mary to ultimately blackmail him for a trumped-up charge, forcing the couple to fork over $10,000 to the girls to keep them quiet.

With the money, Mary buys a car, and the sisters head north. She tries to make the trip fun for Hannah as they camp, eat take-out and avert potentially dangerous encounters with questionable men. They wind their way toward the Gulf of Mexico to Bardavista, Florida--Hannah's birthplace--then through the swamp regions of the south en route to Northton, Rhode Island, where Mary cleverly orchestrates a seemingly serendipitous meeting with a boy who, six years earlier, "sailed his white boat into Sandy Bank," where he and Mary had a tryst.

Stefan Kelly, son of a successful businessman and his elegant wife, is home from law school during Christmas and is surprised to see Mary. Mary tells the Kellys that she and her sister are in town because Mary's birth-father--a famous, iconic art connoisseur--grew up in Northton. This name-dropping pretext allows Mary inside Stefan's upper-crust world, and she and Stefan fall in love, despite the wariness of his parents. However, just as Mary and Hannah seem to be settling into their new lives, the past returns: second cousin Tim Dackard shows up, forcing Mary and Hannah to go on the lam before he exposes Mary's con artistry to the Kellys--but not before Mary leaves behind a heartfelt letter of explanation for Stefan. Will Stefan believe her side of the story and fight for her?

Stefan's silence is heart-wrenching for Mary--and for Hannah, as she, too, had become attached to Stefan. Over the next several years, Mary, who continues to grow tougher and more jaded, gets work wherever she can as the two sisters cross the country, determined to make their forever home in California. Mary is forced to devise devious--often illegal--ways to make ends meet, all the while trying to ensure every transition is as normal as possible for Hannah. By 1990, the now 14-year-old rebels against Mary and her decisions. This well-wrought tug-of-war, coupled with Mary's increasing lack of life fulfillment, forces the past to ultimately collide with the present, leading to a startling conclusion.

Skillfully threaded throughout a timeline spanning three decades is a parallel plot from the 1970s that unfurls secrets Mary shared with her mother. These scenes more clearly define Mary and her actions and offer a point of reference for the many sacrifices Mary has made out of love--and a loyalty "fierce and rare and absolute"--to protect Hannah.

Moral dilemmas and unexpected surprises force these well-wrought characters to learn how to adapt beyond the ravages of conflict, chronic upheaval, fear and loss. As in Healy's previous novels, House of Wonder and Can I Get an Amen?, complex personal challenges forged inside larger familial ramifications make for a revelatory, thought-provoking read.--Kathleen Gerard

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25, hardcover, 304p., 9780544960077

Sarah Healy: The Importance of Family

photo: Dennis Healey

Sarah Healy is the author of Can I Get an Amen? and House of Wonder. The Sisters Chase (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, June 2017) is her third novel. A native of New Jersey, she now lives in Vermont with her husband and three children, where she divides her time between writing, raising her young sons and working in sales and marketing.

The Sisters Chase is a departure from your previous novels in many ways. What made you decide to write down a different path?

I honestly think I just grew up as a writer. This sounds simple, but I learned to write books by writing books, and so my early novels represent a different phase in my education. And, in many ways, The Sisters Chase was a really natural progression from my previous works, as all center around family. But I tried to go deeper with this book. I put my back into it, so to speak.

Your protagonist Mary is a strong, intelligent young woman, but deeply flawed as well--even unlikable at times. What was it like to write someone who walks such a fine line between sympathetic and unredeemable?

Mary was so much fun to write that I had to stop myself from thanking her in the acknowledgements section. I loved getting to see what she would do next. I think what makes her so fascinating is that she has a different moral compass than most of us, and its true north is Hannah. She does some bad things, but her motivations are quite pure--she needs to survive and she needs to protect her sister. These are really relatable impulses. We sympathize with her intended ends if not her means.

As a writer, did you consider the possibility that readers might not take to Mary? And if so, did it influence the shape of her?

I was more interested in making Mary real than I was making her likable. There can be such a preoccupation with likability in characters, and I understand it, to an extent. But I wanted to make the reader care about Mary, even if they didn't always like her. In that way, she's similar to everyone we all care about, isn't she? We don't always like the people we love.

Because the novel moves back and forth in time, the reader comes to know Mary as a teenager, too. As the mother of three sons, this had to be new writing territory for you. Most parents of teen girls are mystified on a regular basis. How did you manage to write such a thoroughly realized adolescent girl?

I recall those years so well! Feelings are much more acute during adolescence; it's almost like emotions are distilled into something more potent. Maybe that's what makes that time so memorable. My teenage self would have been mesmerized by Mary. She represents so much of what I would have loved to have been--fearless and cunning and devoid of insecurities. She's immune to social mores in a way not many of us are.

And what made you want to write a female teenager? They are, to put it mildly, a bit of a landmine (I can say this as the mother of two teen girls).

I think we inhabit the world in a different way when we're teenagers. We grope around, trying to find an identity and a tribe; and we bump up into things that test the boundaries of who we will allow ourselves to become. It's a time when our freedom tends to have a really unique relationship to our maturity, and that's a recipe for all sorts of explorations.

From the cover of The Sisters Chase to many of the settings, even lines such as "You never really have to stop moving when you're in the ocean," water plays an important role in the novel. Tell us about its place and purpose in the book.

You know, it wasn't until I saw the cover of The Sisters Chase that I fully understood water's significance in the story. In some ways, it represents home--the Chases' motel is by the ocean and the farther the girls are from a coast, the more nomadically they live. But water came to have power in this book. It could protect and shield. It could wash away sins and the past. And it could, of course, destroy.

Because your settings are so vividly realized, especially those in the south, they become characters themselves within the novel. Did you intend for this to happen?

I love that you see them this way! And no, I didn't know that the settings would take on this life. I wrote The Sisters Chase at a time when various responsibilities kept me close to home, so Mary and Hannah became my proxies for adventure. I would stay up at night and pore over pictures and descriptions of the places that were my inspiration for those in the book. I hadn't been to most of them, and I fantasized about them so constantly that they became something other than simply a backdrop. The South, in particular, has an almost mythological presence for me--it has always seemed like a place where tales are born.

The importance of family is threaded throughout The Sisters Chase--family and what, when threatened, we'd do for those we love. What made you want to explore such a thorny subject?

Motherhood acquainted me with the ferocity of love. When I had my boys, I realized that I would do anything to protect them. Mary has very maternal feelings toward Hannah, so understanding the intensity of that instinct was enormously helpful in writing The Sisters Chase. That deeper, almost darker side of love is so interesting.

Mary's family extends beyond her sister, Hannah, and her mother, Diane, reaching to key secondary characters who support--sometimes unknowingly--the girls as they grow. Would you talk a bit about the importance of this concept?

I think we all long for family. And where it doesn't exist, we try to construct it. In Mary and Hannah's case, they were often the objects of that urge. Mary uses that to her advantage whenever possible, manipulating those who wanted to protect her and her sister. It's one of her most important survival mechanisms. But ultimately family are the people who see us inside and out, the people who know the best and worst parts of us. Family represents certain truths, which is why Mary has such a complex relationship with it.

What do you hope readers take away from The Sisters Chase?

I just hope people love the book. And I hope Mary and Hannah become real to readers. I hope that these sisters end up feeling like family. --Stefanie Hargreaves, editor, Shelf Awareness for Readers

Shelf vetted, publisher supported.

Book Review


White Fur

by Jardine Libaire

The character descriptions in Jardine Libaire's second novel, White Fur (after Here Kitty Kitty), are so pithy and bona fide that she could have wrapped her stormy 1980s love story into a tight narrative verse. But then we would miss her talent for slowly building the steamy relationship between two New Haven kids from divergent backgrounds. Chiseled Jamey Balthazar Hyde (third-generation heir an investment bank) lives in an off-campus townhouse. Behind it, in a bare squat, lanky Elise Perez watches Jamey day and night. They meet on a beer run, and before long, the privileged Jamey and raw, risky Elise dive into an edgy, rugby scrum of a sexual relationship.

To her credit, Libaire doesn't let this Romeo and Juliet tale follow a predictable path. Instead, Elise carries the novel with her fresh impetuosity and fragile sensibility in the face of a world she's never tasted--nor much wants. Their relationship heats up and Jamey drops out of Yale to whisk Elise off to Manhattan's East Village. In her ever-present white fur ("knee-length rabbit coat with its vinyl belt, the Esther stitched in violet in the taffeta lining") which she got in a swap for a can of Pringles on a Greyhound bus, Elise roams the streets and bodegas while Jamey works as an intern at Sotheby's. Until he up and quits. Legally renouncing his inheritance, Jamey grabs a gumball ring and takes Elise to the courthouse. When the Hydes get wind of it, they bring on the power of old money to try to bust up the impassioned lovers. Libaire's White Fur is a love story with raunch, obsession and heart, told with frothy originality. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: Jardine Libaire's zesty second novel wraps two improbable lovers together like sticks of dynamite--and lights the fuse.

Hogarth, $26, hardcover, 320p., 9780451497925


by Neil Jordan

Known for writing and directing films such as The Crying Game, Neil Jordan (Night in Tunisia) demonstrates his vast literary imagination in Carnivalesque--a fantasia of the highest order that is marvelous, whimsical, dark and daring. The story, set in Ireland, focuses on a wayward adolescent boy named Andy, who, wandering into a carnival's hall of mirrors one night, is swept into an alternative world and replaced by a doppelgänger in the normal one. Entranced but homesick, Andy begins a long journey of self-discovery, navigating the emotionally fraught threshold between childhood and adulthood.

Jordan constructs a wonderfully intricate cosmology of carny existence, full of rich, fantastic imagery. More than fantasy, there's some magical realism at work in Carnivalesque, à la Gabriel García Márquez or Steven Millhauser. Jordan grounds his fantasy in painful elements of the human condition: "They saw something clearly, too clearly, by the mere fact of their existence. And this clarity was only made bearable by the evasions, the digressions, the fables they created to occlude it." Such self-conscious realism contrasts with moments of lavish poetic splendor in which Jordan gives his formidable powers of description free rein. Falling cherry blossoms, for instance, make "a diaphanous downward undulation that carpeted the dull mud-colored grass of the front lawns in a blaze of pink."

Carnivalesque possesses the moral weight of allegory. The ending arrives breathlessly, with surprising emotional intensity. And the journey there is, in a word, magical. --Scott Neuffer, freelance journalist, poet and fiction author

Discover: Famed writer and film director Neil Jordan spins a fantastical tale on the pain and beauty of growing up.

Bloomsbury, $27, hardcover, 288p., 9781632868145

The Shark Club

by Ann Kidd Taylor

The summer Maeve Donnelly was 12, she was bitten by a blacktip shark and kissed by Daniel, the first boy she ever loved. She grew up to be a marine biologist, taking off around the world to study sharks, but always returning to home base: her grandmother Perri's beachfront Florida hotel. After a research trip to Bimini, Maeve comes home to find Daniel--now her ex-fiancé--is the hotel's new chef, and her twin brother, Robin, is about to publish a novel that's a thinly veiled version of Maeve's life story. Meanwhile, an illegal shark-finning operation has sprung up just miles away, and she is determined to stop it. Ann Kidd Taylor explores the collisions of Maeve's past and present in her debut novel, The Shark Club.

The first-person voice is wry and appealing; Maeve has a keen eye for details of the natural world, but struggles to identify and catalogue her relationships so neatly. After seven years, she's still not sure she can forgive Daniel for an old betrayal, though she's rapidly falling in love with his precocious daughter, Hazel, founder of the titular Shark Club. Kidd Taylor writes with deep empathy about Maeve's efforts to reckon with her past wounds and move forward. Readers will also come to understand Maeve's (and Hazel's) fascination with sharks, even if, like Robin, they don't share it.

Absorbing and well-written, Kidd Taylor's narrative is a bittersweet story of love, complicated family ties and living with the past while refusing to be defined by it. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: Ann Kidd Taylor's debut novel tells a bittersweet story of love, loss and a lifelong obsession with sharks.

Viking, $26, hardcover, 288p., 9780735221475

Come Sundown

by Nora Roberts

There's a sad story lurking behind the Bodine Ranch--30,000 idyllic acres in the Montana wilds, offering resort-like family vacations with horse shows and riding. Alice Bodine gladly left in the late 1980s; at age 18, unhappy and feeling overshadowed by her older sister, Maureen, she hightailed it to California. In 1991, disillusioned after three reckless years, Alice longed for home. En route to surprise the family with an unexpected homecoming, however, she is abducted by a man she'll later call "Sir"--a twisted psychopath who beats, rapes, brainwashes and holds Alice captive in chains for 25 years.

The family believes that when Alice set off for California, she abandoned them for good. The unknown horrors she faces in captivity--just a few miles from the ranch--is a stark contrast to the life of Bodine Longbow, Maureen's daughter, who oversees the ranch with her brothers. When Bodine hires handsome horseman Cal Skinner, an old crush recently returned from a hiatus in Hollywood, a romance blooms until Cal becomes a suspect in a pair of murders. Meanwhile, 47-year-old Alice suddenly escapes her violent captor and returns to the multi-generational family fold with a shattered psyche. The threats that follow promise danger for all.

Romance and suspense are Nora Roberts's (The Obsession) specialty. She delivers both in Come Sundown, but it is her keen emotional probing of the lost and found--along with the often heartbreaking bonds of family--that rise to the fore. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: A family-run ranch in Montana is upended by the sudden reappearance of a relative who survived 25 brutal years in captivity.

St. Martin's Press, $27.99, hardcover, 480p., 9781250123077

Mystery & Thriller


by Meg Gardiner

Growing up, Caitlin Hendrix watched a killer destroy her father, Mack, a homicide detective with the Alameda, Calif., sheriff's department, in charge of the Prophet serial murder case. The Prophet consumed Mack's existence, costing him his marriage, his home, his sanity.

Twenty years later, Caitlin Hendrix is making a name for herself in the narcotics division of the Alameda Sheriff's Department when the notorious serial killer strikes again. Homicide Sergeant Joe Guthrie summons Caitlin to the grotesque scene where a woman lies dead, strangled with a bullwhip and left with the Prophet's calling card. Joe wants Caitlin on the investigation team because she's the only one with ties to her unstable father, now living in a boarding house and working as a day laborer. Regardless of Mack's questionable mental state, Joe knows he has valuable information about their unsub--unknown subject--locked inside him from long ago, and Caitlin's the one most likely to possess the key to that lock. What Joe doesn't realize is that Caitlin has more to offer the team than her familial connection to Mack Hendrix. She's a smart, driven woman, determined to serve and protect, as well as exact revenge for her father. But as the Prophet reels in Caitlin in the same way he did her father, her fate may turn out far worse.

In this break from her Jo Beckett and Evan Delaney series, Meg Gardiner (The Shadow Tracer) draws inspiration from the unsolved case of the Zodiac Killer that haunted northern California in the late 1960s. She keeps the suspense at peak levels throughout the novel. Those who worship at the altar of the thriller shall rejoice. The Prophet has arrived. --Jen Forbus, freelancer

Discover: A young detective tracks the heinous serial killer who systematically destroyed her father's life 20 years earlier.

Dutton, $26, hardcover, 384p., 9781101985526

Science Fiction & Fantasy

The Sacred Era

by Yoshio Aramaki, trans. by Baryon Tensor Posadas

The Holy Empire of Igitur is in the twilight years of its prophesied Millennium of Prosperity. This theocracy, ruled from Earth by a Papal Court, once spanned a thousand lightyears before contracting to a handful of worlds. On an Earth ravaged by severe warming, a young man called K travels from the drought-stricken countryside to take the Sacred Examination in the empire's crumbling capital. K hopes to join the Sacred Service, a privileged sect of metaphysical researchers whose newest subject, the once legendary Planet Bosch, will propel K on a surreal pilgrimage across time and space.

The Sacred Era, considered the greatest work by Japanese New Wave science fiction author Yoshio Aramaki, was originally published in Japan in 1978. It appears in English for the first time thanks to the translation work of Baryon Tensor Posadas, assistant professor of Asian languages and literatures at the University of Minnesota, and comes with a contextualizing foreword by Takayuki Tatsumi, professor of English at Keio University.

Aramaki's opus is a mind-bending blend of post-apocalyptic religious science fiction and increasingly dreamlike sequences exploring cosmic and emotional mysteries. K's training and travels take unexpected turns as he is plagued by the ghost of a supposedly centuries-dead heretic. His disillusionment with a lifetime of strict religious teachings touches the novel's lowest point--dated, sometimes degrading uses of female characters that blemishes an otherwise entertaining journey. The Sacred Era rewards patient readers with a bizarre chapter of a bygone literary epoch and plenty of memorable images. --Tobias Mutter, freelance reviewer

Discover: The major novel of a Japanese New Wave science fiction author appears in English for the first time.

University of Minnesota Press, $22.95, paperback, 240p., 9780816699865

Food & Wine

Lisbon: Recipes from the Heart of Portugal

by Rebecca Seal, Steven Joyce, photographer

"Have a damp tea towel or fire blanket ready in case of accidents." This hot tip accompanies Rebecca Seal's notes on Flaming Chorizo in Lisbon: Recipes from the Heart of Portugal. Seal (Istanbul) offers a gorgeous portrait of Portuguese cuisine and culture, threading more than 80 recipes with thoughtful observations, practical cooking advice and dashes of history.

She begins with crisp petiscos, akin to Spanish tapas, including salt cod croquettes and tempura green beans. Seal reflects on the legacy of Portugal's colonization and trade routes, and includes dishes hailing from North Africa, Brazil and India, such as samosas and Goan chutney.

Next up: sides, soups and salads, with almost-sweet turnip and garlic mash; chilled melon and mint soup; and broad beans with cumin and Parsley. Meat and seafood follow, the bedrock of Portuguese dining: dishes like roasted octopus with smoked paprika, parsley and lemon; piri piri chicken; and roasted pork belly.

Indulgent desserts include fluffy, coconut-sweetened Bread of God and the famous custard tarts pastéis de nata--which require three pages of Seal's reassuring instructions. She concludes with simple but sophisticated recipes for "cocktails and nibbles," like sangria; light and sparkling white port and tonic; Padrón peppers; and olives with orange zest.

Packed with tempting photos, Lisbon is a vibrant mosaic of Portugal's food, people and personality. The city comes alive: the smells in the air, the spray of the water, the fiery sizzle of chorizo and the taste of tradition. --Katie Weed, freelance writer and reviewer

Discover: This collection of Portuguese recipes captures flavors new and old harbored in the city of Lisbon.

Hardie Grant, $35, hardcover, 256p., 9781784881030

Biography & Memoir

James Baldwin: The FBI File

by William J. Maxwell, editor

Following on his 2016 F.B. Eyes: How J. Edgar Hoover's Ghostreaders Framed African American Literature, scholar and author William J. Maxwell presents this edited and annotated selection from the 1,884-page file on the great American writer, speaker and civil rights activist James Baldwin. It was created between 1963 and 1974, at the peak of Baldwin's career. Under Director J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI regarded Baldwin as the most significant and dangerous African American writer of the 1960s. This material is of fresh interest now, says Maxwell, thanks to the revival of Baldwin's work driven by the young Black Lives Matter movement, for whom he is the "literary conscience, touchstone, and pinup, the go-to ideal of the writer in arms."

Maxwell's knowledgeable and concise commentary supplements this surveillance scrapbook of photos, article clippings, letters, literary criticism and more, forming an illicit patchwork "police-authored biography." There are also many appearances by key figures of the civil rights and Black Power movements. Maxwell provides a link to the complete file online, but states that this edit retains the range and story arc of the original. He discusses the FBI's role in Baldwin's declining productivity and gives evidence for how "Baldwin drove the FBI mad in turn," openly criticizing and even baiting them. Those interested in Baldwin, the U.S. civil rights movement or the problems of harassment by surveillance are likely to find this book disturbing, inspiring and eye-opening. --Sara Catterall

Discover: A scholar presents an enlightening and outrageous portrait of the FBI's harassing surveillance of a brilliant 20th-century writer and activist.

Arcade Publishing, $22.99, paperback, 440p., 9781628727371

Health & Medicine

Open Heart: A Cardiac Surgeon's Stories of Life and Death on the Operating Table

by Stephen Westaby

Cardiac surgeons are rock stars of the medical world. They're able to save patients given up for dead, literally grasping life and death in the palm of their hand. British surgeon and artificial heart pioneer Stephen Westaby's Open Heart is a thrilling memoir of some of his most challenging cases--both extraordinary successes and tragic failures. He passionately advocates for advances in technology that will extend the lives of many patients, short of a heart transplant.

Each case is more astonishing than the next. He describes high-risk surgery for an aortic stenosis that threatened to cost a pregnant woman both her life and that of her unborn child. He also recounts how pure chance allowed him to save a heart attack victim in cardiogenic shock from certain death. But for all the compassion Westaby demonstrates for desperate adults in the end stage of heart failure or struggling infants in surgery for complex congenital anomalies, he understands the need to maintain the "psychology of detachment" that enables him to keep a cool head and a steady hand in the operating theater.

Westaby's prose is clipped and direct, as if he dictated these reminiscences with the adrenaline rush of a challenging surgery still pulsing through him. As he approaches age 70, the physically and emotionally demanding surgical career that took him "everywhere from Tehran to Toronto" has ended, not because of any loss of nerve, but instead by impairment from overuse of his ability to grasp surgical instruments. In his long surgical tenure, he's left behind an impressive legacy, one that transcends the gratitude of the patients whose lives were saved by his talent. --Harvey Freedenberg, attorney and freelance revieweropen

Discover: British cardiac surgeon Stephen Westaby delivers dramatic stories from a long career at the leading edge of his demanding profession.

Basic Books, $27, hardcover, 304p., 9780465094837


Shark Drunk: The Art of Catching a Large Shark from a Tiny Rubber Dinghy in a Big Ocean

by Morten Strøksnes

A Greenland shark is the world's largest flesh-eating shark, growing to 24 feet in length and weighing more than 2,500 pounds. Its flesh, if improperly prepared, creates a sense of extreme intoxication, hallucinations and even death. Catching one is the goal for Morten Strøksnes and his good friend, Hugo, in Shark Drunk.

Set off the coast of the Lofoten Islands in Norway, Strøksnes's true account is a modern-day adventure story of two friends sharing intimate moments in a tiny rubber boat as they attempt to attract an elusive quarry. Wind, weather and ocean conditions must be just right before they venture out; time and again, they bait their optimum spot and then wait. Blended with his thoughts on the shark fishing process, Strøksnes shares a compendium of nautical lore, the history of fishing in Norway, insights into the flora and fauna found in the world's oceans and reflections on the impact humans have had on the seas. Tiny plankton, the cod that fill Lofoten Sea, the luminosity used by sea creatures in the deepest regions of the ocean and mythical sea beasts are several of the topics Strøksnes ponders.

He expertly mixes beautiful descriptions of his natural surroundings and the ocean's various moods into his narrative. Illuminating a vast underwater universe filled with so much that is still little understood, Strøksnes provides landlubbers and ocean lovers alike with a rich feast that evokes a deep sense of longing to be near the sea. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

Discover: Two friends hunt for the elusive Greenland shark off the coast of Norway.

Knopf, $26.95, hardcover, 320p., 9780451493484

Children's & Young Adult

The Someday Suitcase

by Corey Ann Haydu

Clover and Danny have been friends forever. They are a "perfect match." When their fifth grade science teacher tells them about symbiosis--"[e]ach being has what the other one needs"--Clover realizes that's exactly what she and Danny have: "It's Danny's job to have big, crazy dreams, and it's my job to figure out the real world," says Clover. So when Danny suddenly develops a scary, mysterious illness, Clover has no idea what to do. "I don't know how to be me without Danny," she tells another friend. "I'm not as me-ish without Danny."

Because Clover loves the possibilities of science--her teacher says science is "hope plus facts"--she decides to do her big science fair project on Danny and his illness. She begins taking notes, marking all his "weird little symptoms" and relevant details. Ever the scientist, she looks for both correlation and causation, and when she notices that her presence is the one constant in Danny's good days, she takes on the responsibility of finding a cure, or at least leading him to someone who will find one--even if that means traveling a great distance. As Danny's illness progresses, and Clover's physical closeness to him grows more and more necessary, it looks like the pair of snow-starved Floridians might find a use sooner rather than later for the "someday suitcase" they bought together, dreaming of travels to snowy places.

In this moving, exquisitely written story, Corey Ann Haydu (Rules for Stealing Stars; OCD Love Story) explores the thin line between science and magic within an intense bond of friendship. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor

Discover: In this poignant story of science, hope and love, the world of ten-year-old close friends Clover and Danny goes off-kilter when Danny becomes gravely ill.

HarperCollins, $16.99, hardcover, 304p., ages 8-12, 9780062352750

Little Wrecks

by Meredith Miller

It's been four years since the end of Vietnam, two since Magdalene's mother left and "[i]t seems like this is the year for making things happen. The Year of Necessary Cruelty." Ruth and Magdalene have been friends nearly their whole lives and, with Isabelle's introduction two years ago, an inseparable trio formed. Everyone in Highbone, Long Island, seems to have a hidden truth of some kind: unspoken things known by all but spoken aloud by none. Isabelle, Ruth and Magdalene see below the surface of their small coastal town and desperately want to make others acknowledge their own shallow lies and games. As summer approaches and the days stretch into long and dangerous nights, teenage angst amplifies into adult problems. The goal for the girls has always been to get out of Highbone. After all, "[n]one of them are supposed to be here. They all know it, and that's why they get each other; that's why they're friends." Now, though, for the first time, the girls are keeping secrets of their own, even from each other.

Meredith Miller's debut novel introduces a trio of teenage girls on the brink of madness or genius, escape or confinement, freedom or demise. As they struggle with issues including parental abandonment, abuse, sexual harassment, assault and theft, the girls each sift through weighty realities of life, morality and justice. Little Wrecks is an emotional rollercoaster, blasting through the troubles of growing up and growing apart in a world that seems set against you. --Kyla Paterno, former children's & YA book buyer

Discover: Three teenage girls in a small coastal town in the late 1970s face stark realities of growing up and growing apart under increasingly volatile circumstances.

HarperTeen, $17.99, hardcover, 368p., ages 14-up, 9780062474254


by Cynthia Rylant, illus. by Brendan Wenzel

A straightforward and lyrical meditation on existence, Life "begins small. Even for the elephants. Then it grows." Newbery Award-winner Cynthia Rylant's (Little Penguins; Missing May; A Fine White Dust) spare text reads like a secular prayer, affirming the beauty and importance of all life even as it reminds the reader (or young listener) that life can be tough: "if, one day, it seems nothing beautiful will ever come your way again, trust the rabbit in the field and the deer who crosses your path.... And it is worth waking up in the morning to see what might happen."

The illustrations by Brendan Wenzel (Caldecott honoree for They All Saw a Cat; Beastly Babies) affirm the grand ideas housed in Rylant's simple text through sweeping landscapes and bordered illustrations that overflow their boundaries into the white space of the page. Both Rylant and Wenzel are strong proponents of conservation, a shared passion that can be seen as Life reminds readers that there is always something to love and always "something to protect." Each page turn reinforces the idea that animals have a right to life--and healthy environments--as it also speaks in a broader context about what it is to exist and to be human. The subtle beauty of the text pairs with the bountiful illustrations, creating a reflection on life and love that can be appreciated by children and adults alike. And, as life circles back upon itself, so, too, does Life, opening and closing with life that begins small and grows. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: In Life, Brendan Wenzel's illustrations complement Cynthia Rylant's text, creating a picture book with accessible existential musings and a conservationist tilt.

Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster, $17.99, hardcover, 48p., ages 6-9, 9781481451628


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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