Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, March 16, 2018

Poisoned Pen Press: That Night in the Library by Eva Jurczyk

From My Shelf

In Praise of Women

During Women's History month I'm learning about three amazing women each day. This month-long challenge is easier than it sounds with the help of these four collections of bite-size biographies.

Sandra Lawrence's Anthology of Amazing Women (Little Bee Books, $17.99) introduces younger readers to notable women, ranging from Egypt's longest-reigning female pharaoh, Hatshepsut (born 1507 BCE), to contemporary singer Beyonce and girls' education advocate (and Nobel Laureate) Malala Yousafzai. Similarly broad ranging and a good choice for teens and/or comics fans is Brazen (First Second, $17.99), written and illustrated by Penelope Bagieu, with vignettes covering subjects from Angolan queen Nzinga to astronaut Mae Jemison.

Covering some racier subjects with saltier language, Hannah Jewell collects "100 unknown women who built cities, sparked revolutions and massively crushed it" in her collection She Caused a Riot (Sourcebooks, $22.99). Jewell encourages us to devote more of our mental real estate to amazing women who "should be so well-known that their names would make terrible passwords." Though Jewell includes women from ancient history to the present, she captures them in the zeitgeist using pop-culture and slang-heavy storytelling (she includes a glossary, "for old people.")

All the Women in My Family Sing (Nothing But the Truth, $16.95) steps back from history books to look instead at the varieties of women's experiences seen through their own personal stories. The collection of short pieces gives intimate voice to women of color as they consider citizenship, race, motherhood, the workplace, aging and more.

The brief biographies in each book are easily consumed on a morning bus ride or, as Jewell notes, just as easily seated on the toilet as in an armchair beside a roaring fire. She hopes the stories, in addition to inspiring further reading, might inspire each of us to "Get up, go outside, scream at the sky in a righteous fury, and then join a community organization or two." --Kristianne Huntsberger, partnership marketing manager at Shelf Awareness

The Writer's Life

When Your Kids' First Words Are 'Olive Oil'

photo: We Create Lift

James Briscione, director of culinary research at the Institute of Culinary Education, was the first chef to win the Food Network cooking competition Chopped twice. He also served as the lead chef on IBM's computer-meets-cuisine project, Chef Watson. With his wife and co-author, novelist Brooke Parkhurst, Briscione sets out to humanize the science of combining flavors with The Flavor Matrix: The Art and Science of Pairing Common Ingredients to Create Extraordinary Dishes (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30; reviewed below).

You two collaborate often. How do your individual approaches to cooking and writing enhance each other's work? What is your process when collaborating on a project like The Flavor Matrix?

Parkhurst: I admit it--I'm slow! I love to precisely schedule out my time when working on cooking and writing projects. And when 5 o'clock dinnertime for the kids hits, I'm done for the day. By contrast, James is a terror in the kitchen and on the computer, and I mean that in the best way. He can plow through concepts and recipes at a break-neck pace, and is content working 14 hours a day. His mind is always in process; his creativity is constantly in play. We're watching Broadchurch on the couch and he's sketching new dishes.

Briscione: I always say that Brooke is the one that keeps us grounded and keeps things moving. She is the practical voice in this book. When I have wild ideas for a recipe, she looks at me and says, "No, honey, no one is ever going to make that at home." She was also the intelligent voice that translated my chef-speak and scientific terms into words that the average home cook could understand.

In your explanation of how aroma and flavor intertwine, you write, "Think about how much the aromas of burgers on a grill tell you about the food's flavor as the scent wafts through the summer air, even if you're on the other side of the baseball field from where the food is being cooked." That's a beautiful line. What aromas from your kitchen at home, or your travels abroad, inspire nostalgia or excitement for you?

Both: One of the first handful of words that both our children said was "olive oil." That tells you a lot! And like many chefs and foodies, one of our favorite culinary destinations is Italy. So you have those classic aromas of baked wheat (pizza dough), garlic, olive oil and roasting meat that tell us we're somewhere really beautiful and that a delicious meal is being cooked for us--or by us.

Which recipes in the Flavor Matrix appear most often on your table?

Briscione: The Bacon Tapenade (designed to be served with melon) is a near fixture in our refrigerator. Weeknight dinners often come from Pan Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Coffee, Soy and Peaches or Cocoa Rubbed Flank Steak with Avocado and Sesame.

James, in your work with "Chef Watson," the IBM computer, did any flavor combinations you discovered surprise you by not actually seeming to work, or not tasting as complementary as expected? Basically, were there any "fails" along the way?

There were some really wild combinations that came out of work with Chef Watson. I often think of our Pork Belly "Moussaka," which combined cottage cheese, sweet peas, bell peppers and dill, among other ingredients.

But we always approached these dishes as the ultimate challenge to our "Chef-hood." We were going to find a way to make these combinations beautiful dishes no matter what. Some dishes went through nearly a dozen iterations before we landed on a successful version. But to your questions, we never let the ingredients get the best of us--there was not a single combination that just didn't work.

James, you won the cooking competition Chopped twice. Did that play a role in your curiosity in putting together ingredients that don't usually get combined? How do you think "Chef Watson" would fare on the show, if computers could cook?

It definitely did! Strange ingredient combinations were nothing new to me. So much of this is just about being able to approach the process with an open mind. You have to shed preconceived notions of what's "supposed" to go together and let the ingredients lead you.

I've always said my job is safe because Watson doesn't know how to flip an egg. But I would love to see the type of mystery baskets Chef Watson could create. They would really throw competitors for a loop!

Brooke, as a novelist, how do you approach your writing when you're working on a cookbook versus crafting a character or storyline? Does your process change?

Simply stated, writing a cookbook--even a very focused and research-based one like The Flavor Matrix--is fun. It's light. There is no concern that I might be staring at a blank page for seven hours. As a matter of fact, when I was writing my novel, I would cook during my breaks for a bit of levity. While both require putting pen to paper, drafting a novel and writing a cookbook couldn't be any more different. And for now, while I have little ones running around the apartment, I am very happy continuing with cookbooks and recipe-writing.

What three things are always in your fridge? Anything surprising? (E.g., do you keep an emergency Lean Cuisine in the freezer?)

Parkhurst: Eggs (a meal in itself, anytime--especially for our kids), Olive & Cherry Jam (for a cheese & charcuterie plate emergency!) and some sous vide piece of "mystery meat" that James is experimenting with.

For a dinner party using entirely dishes from The Flavor Matrix, what might you suggest for a menu?

Hors d'oeuvre: Fried Eggplant with Muhamara
App: Crab, Mango, Dill and Poblano Salad
Entrée: Sweet Pea, Pork and Coconut Tacos with Roasted Root Vegetables and Ginger Salsa Verde
Dessert: Lemon Curd with Crunchy Olives served over yogurt with toasted almonds and crumbled shortbread cookies.

What other chefs inspire you? What else are you reading right now?

Briscione: The two books next to my nightstand right now are Wylie Dufresne's wd-50 and Ingredient by Ali Bouzari. I love both of them. I think their approach to cooking and creating is so smart and thoughtful. I am learning so much from both of their books.

On the other side of the coin, Brooke and I are opening a restaurant in Pensacola, Fla., this fall. It will be an Italian restaurant called Angelena's. So I am thinking a lot about the time I spent working for Frank Stitt, who was an incredible champion of local producers, long before it was the fashionable thing to do. Frank found a way to take the native ingredients of Alabama and elevate them with French sensibilities at his flagship Highlands Bar & Grill. It's something I hope that we are able to do with Italian cuisine on the Gulf Coast. --Katie Weed

Book Candy

Irish Poets for St. Patrick's Day

For St. Patrick's Day, Signature featured "chords of mystery: 10 selections from Irish poets."


Buzzfeed shared "13 facts about famous authors that will make you see them differently."


Embrangle is one. Mental Floss recommended "25 smart synonyms you should be using."


"What if fictional archeologists acted like actual archeologists?" Quirk Books asked.


"Bank heists, political satire and Ngugi wa Thiong'o." For the Guardian, author Peter Kimani chose his "top 10 books about Kenya."

Great Reads

Rediscover: Stephen Hawking

Star astrophysicist Stephen Hawking died on Wednesday at age 76. His age alone was a stellar feat--he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) as a 21-year-old Cambridge University student and given two years to live. Though the disease confined Hawking to a wheelchair, his formidable mind was left intact, and his text-to-speech communication system helped propel Hawking to an iconic perch in pop culture. In addition to his groundbreaking work on black holes, among other major contributions to his field, Hawking was a bestselling author of popular science books.

A Brief History of Time (1988) uses non-technical terms to explain, well, everything: where the universe came from, how it works and where it's going, from the smallest quarks to the greatest pulls of gravity. It sold 10 million copies within its first 20 years in print. Hawking's other books include The Grand Design (with Leonard Mlodinow), The Universe in a Nutshell, The Nature of Space and Time (with Roger Penrose), the George's Secret Key children's book series (with his daughter, Lucy Hawking), Black Holes and Baby Universes, An Illustrated Brief History of Time and A Briefer History of Time. His memoir, My Brief History (2013), is available from Bantam Books ($22, 9780345535283). --Tobias Mutter

Book Review


The Break

by Katherena Vermette

The Break begins with Stella, a Métis mother, calling to report a rape she witnessed on an isolated strip of land in Winnipeg's North End. In the ensuing detective story, two police officers set about discovering who is the victim and who is the attacker. But the deeper they get, the more difficult this differentiation becomes. The narrative interweaves the perspectives of nine women and one man connected to the crime and, in doing so, reveals the tapestry of sexual violence that threads together time, space and the voices of those whose lives are forever altered.

A novel with heavy themes and emotional resonance, The Break rejects much of the underlying simplicity of the detective story while ironically engaging in its classic tropes. Katherena Vermette's approach to her complex and devastating subject matter is boundless in its scope, intelligence and beauty. Her treatment of every character, including the mixed-race, male police officer and the hard-edged, homeless teenager, is both polished in its precision and gentle in its expression of genuine empathy. As a native of Winnipeg's North End, Vermette, in her debut novel, captures the landscape and its people with a keen eye and an exposed heart. As a result, she writes with authenticity and texture that will appeal to fans of Andre Dubus III and Madeleine Thien. Moreover, she opens her novel to a larger thematic reading that will echo in any corner of the world. --Alice Martin, freelance writer and editor

Discover: A intriguing novel about sexual assault, familial bonds and the importance of place and tradition.

House of Anansi, $16.95, paperback, 288p., 9781487001117

The Silent Companions

by Laura Purcell

British novelist Laura Purcell (Mistress of the Court) offers a classic tale of gothic horror in this claustrophobic journey through one woman's nightmare. The daughter of a match factory owner in 1865 England, Elsie never expected to marry as well as Rupert Bainbridge, heir to a country estate called the Bridge. Weeks after the wedding, Rupert dies mysteriously while readying the Bridge for Elsie and the heir she already carries. Amid rumors that she had something to do with his death, Elsie finds herself bundled off to the estate by her younger brother Jolyon to weather pregnancy and the growing scandal.

The villagers treat her with suspicion and hostility, and the servants look down on her despite their own rough manners. Left with only Rupert's silly spinster cousin, Sarah, for companionship, Elsie explores her new home, where a locked garret holds a life-sized wooden cutout of a girl painted in trompe l'oeil style and two diaries written by a Bainbridge ancestor. Once the ladies move the painting--their "silent companion"--into the house, strange occurrences begin, including the mysterious appearance of more companions, culminating in suspicious deaths.

Despite clear links between the strange events and the estate's bloody past, Elsie faces suspicion that she committed the crimes, and her desperation to protect those in her care from harm is both futile and heartbreaking. The silent companions themselves are hair-raising, moving independently when unobserved. Reminiscent of Susan Hill's The Woman in Black and even du Maurier's Rebecca, The Silent Companions will chill readers who fall under its spell. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Read

Discover: In a classic gothic setup, a Victorian English widow finds herself bedeviled by painted wooden people left by her home's long-ago owners.

Penguin Books, $16, paperback, 320p., 9780143131632

Mystery & Thriller

Down the River Unto the Sea

by Walter Mosley

It's been more than a decade since Joe King Oliver, a former cop, spent three months at Rikers Island prison for a crime he didn't commit. Although, he's well aware that he couldn't have been framed if he hadn't been cheating on his wife. Now without a wife and a badge, he's joylessly running a one-man detective service in Brooklyn with secretarial help from his teenage daughter, whose very existence curbs some of his more self-defeating impulses: "The madman created by Rikers was still there in my head."

While working to prove the wrongful conviction of a male schoolteacher on death row for killing two cops, Oliver receives a letter from the woman whose coerced claim that he raped her put him on the path to Rikers. She has found God, and with God, morality. After the woman divulges a key name, Oliver takes his own case out of mothballs.

By now it's no surprise that Walter Mosley, who created the beloved Easy Rawlins and lauded Leonid McGill mystery series, can expertly tease two simultaneous storylines to a satisfying end. An added perk: Mosley's obvious pleasure in unpacking his new protagonist's baggage is contagious. Oliver manages to find some peace while working on the parallel cases, realizing at one point that his life has "many planes of beauty to it." Down the River Unto the Sea shares this attribute. --Nell Beram, freelance writer and author

Discover: Walter Mosley introduces a new detective who juggles two cases--one of them his own.

Mulholland Books, $27, hardcover, 336p., 9780316509640

The Woman in the Water

by Charles Finch

Charles Finch (Home by Nightfall) spins a thoroughly engaging origin story for his likable detective in his 11th Charles Lenox mystery, The Woman in the Water. After graduating from Oxford University, Lenox is eager to launch his career as a private detective. But his chosen profession is nearly unheard of in Victorian London, especially for a gentleman with no need or desire to earn a salary. He nevertheless keeps a close eye on the newspapers, clipping crime reports and other items of interest. When he and his valet, Graham, discover an anonymous letter in the Challenger related to a recent murder, Lenox may have his first big case.

Readers of Lenox's other adventures will recognize the detective as well as many supporting characters: Lenox's brother Edmund, his parents and most notably Graham, whose quiet intelligence and resourcefulness know no bounds. Lenox and Graham must navigate a snarl of misleading clues in a baffling murder case and a web of tangled politics at Scotland Yard, where Lenox's pedigree opens a few doors and threatens to slam others shut. As the killer of the titular woman commits a second murder and hints at a third, Lenox races against the clock and faces some difficult family news. Finch deftly weaves Lenox's personal and professional lives, plus an engaging subplot featuring an unrelated case for Lenox to solve. Like his clients, Lenox fans (and devotees of cleverly plotted historical mysteries) are sure to walk away satisfied. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: In a prequel to his Charles Lenox mystery series, Charles Finch weaves an engaging story of Lenox's first big case.

Minotaur Books, $25.99, hardcover, 304p., 9781250139467

Graphic Books

You Have Killed Me

by Jamie S. Rich, illus. by Joelle Jones

Jamie S. Rich's (Lady Killer; 12 Reasons Why I Love Her) graphic novel You Have Killed Me is a tightly scripted and entertaining gumshoe noir told in a cinematic and spare style reminiscent of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. Hard-edged and world-weary private eye Antonio Mercer is enlisted by beautiful heiress Jennifer Roman to find her sister Julie, a soon-to-be bride--who happens to be Antonio's ex. Antonio takes the case and comes under suspicion by law enforcement because of his past relationship with Julie. Antonio has no choice but to see the case to its conclusion though, even if it means sacrificing life and sanity in his pursuit of justice.

Joelle Jones's artwork serves as the perfect foil for Rich's well-plotted (if easily discernible) script. The characters follow established noir tropes--the clueless and macho detective, machine gun-toting gangsters and sexy, mysterious seductresses. Rich's snappy dialogue adds freshness to the action sequences, and Jones's distinctive black-and-white lines and gray shadows move across panels effortlessly. Together they create an atmospheric moodiness and foreboding that pays homage to the classic detective stories of old. You Have Killed Me is fun, quality entertainment delivered in rapid-fire bursts of understated drama that will satisfy fans of James Ellroy and Richard Stark's Parker series. --Nancy Powell, freelance writer and technical consultant

Discover: This is fast-paced and cleverly plotted noir from the creative team behind Lady Killer.

Oni Press, $15.99, paperback, 192p., 9781620104361

Food & Wine

The Flavor Matrix: The Art and Science of Pairing Common Ingredients to Create Extraordinary Dishes

by James Briscione, Brooke Parkhurst

Peanut butter and jelly? Of course. Peas and carrots? Classic. Tried-and-true food combinations stand the test of time, but sometimes even quintessential pairings can lose their luster. What to do? Cue science for inspiration.

That's what James Briscione and his wife and co-author, novelist Brooke Parkhurst, set out to do in The Flavor Matrix: The Art and Science of Pairing Common Ingredients to Create Extraordinary Dishes. Consider peanuts and fish sauce in a funky-sweet brittle, or peas with coconut and pork in garlicky, bright tacos.

Briscione, now the director of culinary research at the Institute of Culinary Education, cut his teeth in kitchens in the American South, then New York City. Along the way, he won the television show Chopped--twice. When he served as lead chef in IBM's project Chef Watson (a computer programmed to use the chemistry of flavor to suggest pairings), his ideas about flavor evolved. While Briscione considered recipes based on professional experience, the computer "thought about combining ingredients based only on their inherent flavors, with no notions of which foods conventionally go together." From Watson came the inspiration for The Flavor Matrix.

The book itself is as beautiful as its dishes; it's a pleasure to leaf through. The dishes, naturally, are stunning. The alphabetical organization isn't always intuitive (for instance, "J" for Jerusalem Artichoke is actually a recipe for Gin and Brown Butter Emulsion), but users looking to learn--or looking to shock then please their dinner guests--are in luck. --Katie Weed, freelance writer and reviewer

Discover: The chemistry of cooking can be intimidating to non-scientists or new cooks, but this intriguing collection of recipes from a celebrity chef couple makes food science accessible.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30, hardcover, 320p., 9780544809963

Biography & Memoir

The Rest of It: Hustlers, Cocaine, Depression, and Then Some 1976-1988

by Martin Duberman

Lambda Award-winning historian, novelist and academic Martin Duberman (Midlife Queer) reveals that he's avoided writing about the 12 years covered in The Rest of It in his previous memoirs because "[t]hose were the most painful years of my life." Despite emotional turmoil and debilitating health scares, it was also one of his most productive periods as a writer and pioneering gay activist. The Rest of It is a mesmerizing and fearlessly candid memoir that begins with the death of his mother and a succession of failed romantic relationships. His grief leads to panic attacks, a deepening depression and, finally, a massive heart attack at 49.

Once recovered, Duberman strives to avoid his "deep hermit instincts" by trying to be more social. "Ever steadfast in pursuit of unavailability," he finds it easier to buy companionship at a New York City hustler bar. Cocaine helps reignite his desire to write. His life improves when he begins working on a biography of Paul Robeson. He gets a massive advance paycheck from his publisher, but becomes entangled with Robeson's unstable son who tries to sabotage the project. The chapters on researching Paul Robeson: A Biography are riveting. There's also plenty of literary gossip sprinkled throughout. Gore Vidal confesses that he slept with Jack Kerouac, telling Duberman, "I felt he and I owed it to American Literature to go to bed together."

Duberman's emotionally raw and keenly observant memoir illuminates both his turbulent life and the years when gay publishing began to flower just as AIDS started to devastate its landscape. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant

Discover: Martin Duberman's emotionally raw and fearlessly candid memoir covers the 12 most painful years of his life.

Duke University Press, $27.95, hardcover, 256p., 9780822370703

Dressed Up for a Riot: Misadventures in Putin's Moscow

by Michael Idov

Dressed Up for a Riot is the personal account of Latvian-born Michael Idov's two years in Moscow as the head of GQ Russia, and includes a cast of political insiders and dissenting outsiders as extensive as that of a Russian novel. After immigrating to Cleveland at age 16, Idov got a degree from Michigan and moved to New York City as a struggling writer (his novel Ground Up is based on his short-lived Lower East Side business Café Trotsky). Arriving in Moscow in 2012 with more fluency in Russian than most media expats, he immersed himself in its hipster underworld of creatives and political activists. A gung-ho new editor, he shifted the magazine from its previous glam focus on the upscale Rublevka suburban oligarchs to a home for talented young writers covering a broader swath of urban culture and cleverly skewering the establishment.

Idov's intimate knowledge of Moscow's chaotic politics and youth culture makes Dressed Up for a Riot a solid, amusing primer on life in Russia's capital today. Beyond his camaraderie with those participating in anti-Putin protests, Idov became something of a celebrity himself--writing Russian sitcoms, hanging with Pussy Riot and even rubbing shoulders with Trump Jr. when he was in town. He left GQ Russia in 2014 and, disillusioned with both New York and Moscow, currently lives in Berlin. His concluding take on our uneasy world says a lot: "This world doesn't have its orthodoxy down yet, and things can turn on a dime at any moment. In that sense, it feels a lot like Russia." --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: Journalist Michael Idov's personal account of his years in Moscow as head of GQ Russia is a self-deprecating journey into the turmoil beneath the Putin autocracy.

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $26, hardcover, 288p., 9780374223151


No Turning Back: Life, Loss, and Hope in Wartime Syria

by Rania Abouzeid

In 2011, award-winning journalist Rania Abouzeid was blacklisted by the Syrian regime, designated a spy and banned from entering the country. She continued to enter Syria illegally, aided by her fluency in Arabic and her ability to blend into crowds. No Turning Back is an account of her six years following civilians, soldiers, gun runners, children, a doctor, a cleric, poets, prisoners and activists as their country devolved into a bitter civil war.

She describes Syria as a state "built on silence, and fear, and... [a] permanent state of emergency." Syrians, scarred by decades of a repressive regime, were pushed beyond the end of their patience by generations of violence and grief, and broke out into protests. "Everybody here is a martyr in waiting. Either we die free or we die," a young man in a crowd shouts. "And besides, he said, he was sure the international community would soon demand an end to the violence: 'They can't stay quiet forever as we die, can they?' "

Abouzeid carefully disentangles the significance of complex and shifting political, ethnic and religious identities involved, and provides expert historical and political context, maintaining strict objectivity and taking no sides. She explains her criteria for believing a story, and how she came to be deceived in her earlier reporting of certain incidents. Readers may still be horrified by the actions of some of her subjects, but will come away with a better understanding of their motivations. This may be the most intimate and epic account yet for the ongoing tragedy of the Syrian civil war. --Sara Catterall

Discover: An intimate and epic account of the Syrian civil war, from six years on the front lines.

W.W. Norton, $26.95, hardcover, 400p., 9780393609493

Performing Arts

Bachelor Nation: Inside the World of America's Favorite Guilty Pleasure

by Amy Kaufman

How did a reality-based television show that pits 25-30 media-defined perfect people against each other to "win" (i.e., become engaged to) a person of the opposite sex after six weeks of "dating" capture the cultural zeitgeist? There are varied answers to that question, but the one unshakable fact is that the Bachelor franchise (The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, Bachelor in Paradise, etc.) is still going strong in its 16th year (35 seasons of bachelors and bachelorettes combined).

In her exposé, Bachelor Nation, Los Angeles Times staff writer Amy Kaufman, herself a proud devotee, delves into the hows and whys of a wildly popular guilty pleasure. Kaufman interviewed former contestants and production members to provide first-hand, behind-the-scenes details about what goes on during pre-production, under the lights (and sometimes the covers) and in post-season fallout.

There are many intriguing facets to reality television and Kaufman skillfully hits a sweet spot between breadth and depth. Bachelor Nation provides insight into the beginnings of reality dating shows, their evolution over the decades and how an audience of tens of millions rationalizes its dedication to a genre that mostly horrifies critics.

Knowing her audience, Kaufman smartly provides salacious details fans yearn for while still addressing complex issues such as historical male and female stereotypes, the somewhat inherent conflict between female viewership and feminism, producer manipulation and the role dopamine may play in how events unfold. A must for members of Bachelor Nation, Kaufman's work will also appeal to students of the sociology of television. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review

Discover: A look inside reality dating television, its fandom and fallout by a pop-culture professional and genre insider.

Dutton, $25, hardcover, 320p., 9781101985908

Children's & Young Adult

The Night Diary

by Veera Hiranandani

Veera Hiranandani, a South Asian Book Award Finalist for her The Whole Story of Half a Girl, partially based The Night Diary on her own Hindu father's family's experience during the "largest mass migration in history."

Nisha and Amil, her 12-year-old fraternal twin, are caught up in the Partition of India (creating the countries of India and Pakistan) in August 1947. But Nisha's story is more complicated than the Hiranandanis'. Her Muslim mother and Hindu father married against tradition. Mama gave birth to the twins and then died, leaving her Hindu husband to raise their Hindu/Muslim children. Nisha and Amil were brought up in a loving but incomplete family, which, as the book opens, includes their Hindu father and grandmother and a beloved Muslim male cook, Kazi. Nisha and Kazi have a close relationship and, for the twins' birthday, Kazi gives Nisha a diary as a present. Every night, Nisha uses the diary to confide in the mother she never knew; she writes about daily events, her dreams, her problems and her conflicts with her own heritage. One night, she poignantly yet fearfully writes: "If you were alive, would we have to leave you because you are Muslim?"

The diary is Nisha's record of the period from July to November 1947. She recounts her comfortable life as a doctor's daughter in a town where Hindus and Muslims got along, and follows that with the difficult trip--by train and then on foot. Young readers will need emotional maturity to read about the family's harrowing life on the road, although some lighthearted moments alleviate the harsh descriptions. And Nisha and Amil, with their individual interests, talents and convincingly changeable relationship, are protagonists sure to appeal to young readers. --Melinda Greenblatt, freelance book reviewer

Discover: Nisha and her family face great hardships as they make the journey to their new home in independent India in 1947.

Dial, $16.99, hardcover, 272p., ages 10-12, 9780735228511

Trampoline Boy

by Nan Forler, illus. by Marion Arbona

"Twirly-whirly,/ loop-dee-loop" takes Trampoline Boy up "into the blue, blue sky." Each "BOING" enables him to see something new, from his own backyard to far beyond the clouds. In the morning, after school and "until the sky turn[s] pink," Trampoline Boy finds contentment in the consistent motion of his bright trampoline. The neighborhood kids, however, can't understand his bouncing: "They'd scream and they'd shout," eventually dismissing him with a jeer--" 'He is so weird.' "

A single child, Peaches, returns every morning, afternoon and evening to watch Trampoline Boy's effortless motion, until one day she finally speaks: "I wish I could see what you see/ up there in that blue, blue sky." Her cautious whisper makes Trampoline Boy descend from his trampoline to "[peer] closely at her face." " 'Show me,' " she says. With a trusting grasp of her hands, Trampoline Boy helps her climb onto his trampoline and the pair begin their "BOING BOING" upward--together. Canadian writer Nan Forler (Bird Child) channels her own experiences teaching autistic children with inspiration she found reading Ian Brown's The Boy in the Moon, a father's memoir about life lessons learned from parenting a son with a rare disease. Forler never labels her Trampoline Boy beyond his epithetic description, thus welcoming young readers of all backgrounds to witness new perspectives. Artist Marion Arbona (The Good Little Book) enchantingly illustrates those changing landscapes, from the whimsical pink-to-red palette of the familiar backyard to the cool blue-and-white fantastical skyscapes above. Arbona enhances Forler's spare text with additional energy throughout, including a comical kitty-bird-squirrel on-the-ground drama and an eye-catching kiddie fashion show of stripes and 'shrooms. With each new "BOING," author and artist take readers to a world "clear and true." --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon

Discover: The titular Trampoline Boy watches changing perspectives as he bounces ever higher, but pauses long enough to learn lessons on the ground when he takes a new friend on his sky-high adventures.

Tundra, $17.99, hardcover, 48p., ages 3-7, 9781770498303

The Beauty That Remains

by Ashley Woodfolk

New York teens Autumn, Shay and Logan have each been devastated by the loss of a loved one in recent months. Autumn's best friend, Tavia, died in a car accident when leaving a party Autumn skipped to hang out with Tavia's brother Dante. Logan is wracked with guilt over the last words he said to his boyfriend Bram when they broke up a few months before Bram died of a drug overdose. And Shay is foundering after her identical twin sister, Sasha, succumbed to leukemia (or, as they referred to it, "f*cking Luke... as if the cancer were a crappy boyfriend she couldn't shake instead of leukemia"). Turning to music, social media and friends--as well as, for some, alcohol, school truancy and denial--they all struggle to find The Beauty That Remains in their changed world.

Ashley Woodfolk's ambitious debut novel knits together the intersecting lives of three ethnically diverse, grieving teens. Although the backdrop is the pop-punk and indie rock scene of urban and suburban New York, social media serves as a parallel setting. Autumn continues to e-mail and DM Tavia. Logan obsessively watches Bram's old vlogs (his YouTube channel was called "Bram Is Bored"). And Shay is paralyzed at the thought of continuing to work on the fan site she and her sister hosted: Bad*ss Music Fanatics. Anyone who has ever lost someone they love will ache at the grinding pain and guilt the three experience, and perfectly understand the sometimes terrible choices they make as they get, as Shay says, "closer to okay." --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor

Discover: Three teens experience heartbreaking losses, but as their circle of music-loving friends tightens around them, they begin to find a way back to all the beauty that still remains.

Delacorte, $17.99, hardcover, 336p., ages 14-up, 9781524715878


Author Buzz

The Rom-Commers

by Katherine Center

Dear Reader,

Famous screenwriter Charlie Yates wrote a romantic comedy screenplay--and it’s terrible. Aspiring writer Emma Wheeler just got hired to fix it. But Charlie doesn't want anyone rewriting his work--least of all a "failed nobody," and Emma can't support a guy who doesn't even like rom-coms, adding another bad one to the pantheon. So what choice does Emma have but to stand up for herself, and rom-coms, and love in general--and, in the process, to show her nemesis-slash-writing-hero exactly how to fall stupidly, crazily, perfectly in love?

Email with the subject line "The Rom-Commers sweepstakes" for a chance to win one of five copies.

Katherine Center

Buy now and support your local indie bookstore>

AuthorBuzz: St. Martin's Press: The Rom-Commers by Katherine Center

St. Martin's Press

Pub Date: 
June 11, 2024


List Price: 
$29.00 Hardcover

Blue Moon
(A Smoke and Mirrors Novella)

by Skye Warren

Dear Reader,

When I started writing Ringmaster Emerson Durand in the Smoke and Mirrors series, I knew he would get his own story. Insouciant. Charming. And he's actually the villain of that book. So can he be redeemed? It's the question I'm always working to answer in my books.

If he's going to deserve his own happily ever after, it's going to be a journey. A scorching hot journey!

That's what BLUE MOON illuminates. A dangerous ringmaster claims his rebellious acrobat for a sensual show you cannot miss.

Skye Warren

Available on Kobo

AuthorBuzz: 1001 Dark Nights Press: Blue Moon (A Smoke and Mirrors Novella) by Skye Warren

1001 Dark Nights Press

Pub Date: 
March 12, 2024


List Price: 
$2.99 e-book

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