Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, May 22, 2018

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

From My Shelf

Jeanne Birdsall: How Not to End a Series

photo: W. Diehl

Jeanne Birdsall's middle-grade novels about the Penderwick family have collected many honors, including the National Book Award for Young People's Literature, and have been translated into 30 languages. The final book in the series, The Penderwicks at Last (Knopf), is available now.

A bookseller once told me about a customer searching for the newest Penderwick book. "It's called Die Penderwicks," the girl insisted. She'd found it on the Internet, which meant it had to exist. The bookseller gamely went along, until together they discovered that, yes, there was indeed a book with that title, but it wasn't about dead Penderwicks. It was the German edition of the first book--in German, die means "the."

I've often wondered what the girl thought the book would be about, and why she'd be willing to read it, unless she was an Agatha Christie fan and thought I was leaning that way, too. Which might be fun. I'd write Die, Penderwicks, Die!, and include a detective who was less Poirot and more Miss Marple--Churchie, the kindly Arundel housekeeper, would be perfect for the role.

I never did, and now it's too late. The saga is over, the curtain down, without even one murder detective making an appearance. Do I regret it? No. There was no one I was willing to kill off. Do I regret being finished with the Penderwick family? No. They're still alive in my imagination, just as they've always been.

What I do regret, though--and I wish my high school teacher were still alive to hear this--is putting aside my Latin reference books, the volumes I used for Mr. Penderwick's lapses into the ancient tongue. But there are always consolations: the book I'm now writing lets me learn bits of Scottish Gaelic. I have no idea what I'm doing, and am continually confused, but that's the fun, yes? Thà!*

*Scottish Gaelic has no one word that means "yes." While I think this should be Thà, I'm not sure. Anyone who knows Scottish Gaelic, forgive me. --Jeanne Birdsall

Jewish Book Council: 73rd National Jewish Book Award Winners

Book Candy

Writers as Zodiac Signs

"What's your author horoscope?" Electric Lit "reassigned the zodiac to writers. Find your new sign!"


The first reviews of the late Tom Wolfe's "five most iconic books" were collected by Lit Hub.


"Can you name a book?" Last week, late night TV host Jimmy Kimmel sent his team out to ask pedestrians that question and shared "the very sad results."


Mental Floss considered "10 things you might not know about Little Women."


Translators nominated for the Man Booker International Prize shared their favorite sayings that don't easily translate to English. The Guardian asked: "Can you decipher the correct meanings?"


"What % Jessica and what % Elizabeth from Sweet Valley High are you?" Buzzfeed wondered.


by Claire Legrand

Furyborn's prologue is ferocious, the action at full tilt from the very first sentence: "The queen stopped screaming just after midnight."

Queen Rielle of Celdaria has given birth. "I thought I would kill her," she laughs to herself as she clumsily holds her bawling baby. Queen Rielle was supposed to have been a prophesied savior who would protect her people from the tyrannical rule of the angels. But she had instead "allied with the angels and helped them kill thousands of humans." She was the Blood Queen and had brought doom upon them all.

This first chapter is told from the point of view of Simon, an eight-year-old boy and son of the queen's healer. Both father and son are marques, the persecuted offspring of angels and humans, and possess magic. In the last, striking moments of the scene, the angel Corien arrives and Queen Rielle is certain he plans to kill the baby. She forces the newborn into Simon's arms and demands he use his marque magic to ferry the child away. As Simon creates a portal to escape, the world comes crashing down: a "bright wall of fire" rushes at him, a force slams into him, the baby is ripped from his arms. "And then, nothing."

The next chapter takes place two years earlier. Eighteen-year-old Rielle Dardenne simply wants to get out from under her father's oppressive control. The daughter of the King's Lord Commander, she has grown up in the palace with crown prince Audric and his cousin Ludivine. Now nearing adulthood, Rielle is beginning to understand how desperately she wants Audric, but he is Ludivine's betrothed. Accustomed to keeping secrets and unwilling to hurt either of her friends, she pushes the want aside.

While Audric is "the most powerful sunspinner in centuries," Rielle has immense power over all the elements. She keeps it hidden, though, because her father is terrified by what she can do: he is fearful she may be connected to a prophecy that says the angels will return and "bring ruin to the world." The people "will know this time by the rise of two human Queens--one with the power to save the world. One with the power to destroy it." It is clear that Rielle is mighty enough to be one of the two queens. But which one? When she accidentally unleashes her powers in full sight of the kingdom, she is forced to endure a series of tests to determine whether she is the Sun Queen or the Blood Queen. With Ludivine and Audric by her side, Rielle works to prove that she is the queen with the power to save the world, even if she doesn't entirely believe it herself.

More than a thousand years later, Eliana lives in Orline, across the ocean from Celdaria, under the dominion of the Undying Empire. The Emperor rules with such universal control it seems almost supernatural, but the people of Eliana's time know there is no such thing as magic. They have heard the stories of Rielle, the Blood Queen. But Eliana has no time for such fairytales.

Her father has been missing for 10 years, since he fought in the war against the Undying Empire; her mother, to keep the family afloat, took up mercenary work and taught Eliana the tricks of the trade. When Eliana's mother could no longer work, Eliana took over and is now so lethal, she is widely known as the Dread of Orline. But girls and women are mysteriously disappearing. When Eliana's mother becomes one of them, Eliana joins forces with a man known only as the Wolf, agreeing to help him if he helps her. An equally lethal mercenary, the Wolf works for a revolutionary group that believes in the old religion and its patron saints and is awaiting the prophesied Sun Queen to overthrow the Undying Empire.

Told in short, alternating chapters, Claire Legrand's Furyborn is an explosive trilogy-starter. Both Rielle and Eliana are strong and complicated with abilities that surpass anything their contemporaries can imagine. They are unapologetically powerful—women who know they are extraordinary and demand to be seen as such. And while both young women radiate strength and force, they are also distinctly human. Their stories are raw, filled with raging desire--for power, for sex, for safety.

Furyborn is a fantasy of wrath and passion, of young women who nod to the rules of their society while slyly or violently knocking down whatever stands in their way. They are strength incarnate and they are coming for you, Katniss, Beatrice and Clary. --Siân Gaetano

Sourcebooks Fire, $18.99, hardcover, 512p., ages 16-up, 9781492656623

Claire Legrand: 'Empowered and Inspired'

photo: Ellen B. Wright

Claire Legrand was a musician until she realized she couldn't stop thinking about the stories in her head. Now she is a librarian and the author of several novels for children and young adults, including the Edgar Award-nominated Some Kind of Happiness; The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls; and the first in the Empirium trilogy, Furyborn (Sourcebooks Fire, May 22, 2018). Visit Claire at and on Twitter @clairelegrand.

The Furyborn reader is greeted immediately with a map of the world of Avitas. How did the map fit into your writing process? How did you create it?

I've had the world of the Empirium trilogy in my head for years--14, to be exact! I'd sketched out various incarnations of the Avitas map during that time, inspired by world maps in other fantasy books. The map shifted and evolved as the story evolved. Being able to see the layout of the world helped me orient myself and establish just how big the scope of this story is. Once we sold Furyborn and I started working with the Sourcebooks team, I drew a much more polished version of the map and they made it pretty.

At the beginning of each chapter there is a quote from a different historical text--history books, poems, prayers. How do you go about creating those texts?

There is a tremendous amount of world building and back story to convey in this story, so in an effort to keep the reader from getting overwhelmed--and to keep the book length down--I decided the epigraphs at the beginning of each chapter would be a fun way to concisely convey certain important pieces of information. I also hoped the epigraphs would enrich the reading experience. I wanted the world to feel lived-in and worn, for the reader to understand the richness of Avitas. I did not, however, write the texts in their entirety; that would have taken me forever!

There are two female protagonists--Rielle and Eliana--who live about 1,000 years apart. What was it like to build a timeline as intricate as this one? Did one of the two young women's stories come to you before the other?

Rielle was the first character I developed; the rest of the story grew up around her, which is fitting, as without her, there would be no story. Keeping the timeline straight is tricky, and I imagine it will become even more so as I write books two and three. But I have pages and pages of notes for this series, not to mention a great editorial team at Sourcebooks and fantastic author colleagues who read my early drafts.

Rielle practically vibrates with power. What was your inspiration for this character and how did you develop her?

As cheesy as it sounds, Rielle came to me in a vision. I was staring out the window of an airplane and listening to Howard Shore's score for Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. Suddenly I imagined a young woman--beautiful, powerful, in a great deal of pain and surrounded by a fiery battlefield. I knew she was alone and frightened, and that she was about to make a decision that would change the course of her life. I was intrigued by this woman, and began asking myself questions about her: What kind of power does she have? Who loves her? Who hates her? What's about to happen to her? Why? Thus, the story of Rielle was born.

Furyborn pays a lot of attention to gendered power dynamics. Were you looking to say something through these formidable young women?

Rielle and Eliana exist in a world where everyone around them is trying to tell them who they are, what they should do with the power they carry, who they should love, who they should obey. Within the confines of that world, and throughout the entire trilogy, both women must determine for themselves the kind of people they want to be, and what they will do with their power.

At the beginning of Furyborn, both Rielle and Eliana are surrounded by powerful men--some good, some not. As they begin their separate-but-intertwined journeys, discovering who they truly are and breaking free of the expectations set for them, they learn to lean on other women, and on men who can be true allies. I hope readers come away from Furyborn feeling empowered and inspired by how Rielle and Eliana take ownership of their lives.

There is a lot of sword, knife and hand fighting in this book. How do you create such fluid combat?

Furyborn features several high-octane fight scenes and action scenes, and every one of them was absolutely exhausting to write--fun, but exhausting. To get in the right headspace for action scenes, I watched set-pieces from some of my favorite films, including The Matrix, Mad Max: Fury Road, Aliens.... I also obsessively watched the lightsaber duels from the Star Wars saga. I'm a very visually minded person, so watching expertly executed action scenes helps me internalize how these sequences should look and feel.

As a former musician, rhythm is very important to me, both in terms of a scene's language and in terms of its blocking. I think a lot about rhythm when writing action scenes: When does the reader need a moment to catch their breath? Is the pacing accelerating as it should? What's the give-and-take between our hero and whatever they're fighting against? I also think a lot about how much detail is necessary; the reader should be able to easily follow the scene's progress while not feeling inundated with descriptive information.

Do you already know what will happen in the next two books?

For the most part, yes. I've had certain scenes and sequences in my head for years, and I am ridiculously excited to finally write them as I work on books two and three. Some elements will change during the drafting process, and again during revisions, but I'm confident that the overall arc for the trilogy will remain true to my original vision. --Siân Gaetano

Shelf vetted, publisher supported.

Book Review



by Carys Davies

In the newspaper, Cy Bellman reads of bones pulled from the Kentucky mud--enormous, ancient bones, belonging to some mythic creature taller than the tallest trees. Grieving his lost wife, he is now transported: he all but stops eating and sleeping, too disturbed to give his full attention to his work as a breeder of mules or to his 10-year-old daughter, Bess. He can't help but go in search of the beasts that have so captured his imagination, and leaves Bess and their small farm in rural Pennsylvania in the care of his hard-edged sister, Julie, with the occasional help of an odd neighbor, Elmer. With some weapons, trinkets for trade and a new stovepipe hat, Bellman travels west, toward the wild frontier.

West is Carys Davies's first novel (after two short story collections, The Redemption of Galen Pike and Some New Ambush), and it is an epic tale of early 19th-century adventure in a small package. With fewer than 200 pages, its scale is nonetheless mighty, conjuring both history and fable. Davies's simple, conversational prose stays out of the way of her gripping plot.

This quick, compelling read is a novel about family commitments, small-town agitations and the irresistible, fanatic pull of the unknown. Bellman is either enchanted or suffering a good old-fashioned midlife crisis. Davies writes of small fates: hopeful young Bess, bitter Julie, the enigma of slovenly Elmer. It may prove as hard for Bellman to find happiness at home as to find the monstrous "animal incognitum" he seeks. Readers, however, are the richer for his efforts. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulie

Discover: In this tale of fantasy, hope and risk, a mule breeder heads west to search for a mythic beast while his daughter struggles quietly at home.

Scribner, $22, hardcover, 160p., 9781501179341

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

Property: Stories Between Two Novellas

by Lionel Shriver

Loosely linked by a theme--a need to possess--the 12 pieces in Property are succinct standalones, each a satisfying tale of people and their stuff. Lionel Shriver (The Mandibles) sets her stories in both the U.K. and the U.S., with characters like a narcissistic young freeloader "tempted to regard her physical presence as a gift" and a suburban mother resigned to "old-lady the evening away."

One of the collection's two novellas, "The Standing Chandelier" follows a couple's decades-long (mostly platonic) friendship, irrevocably affected by one's engagement; a presentation of an elaborate piece of the other's art as a wedding gift seals the trio's respective relationships. In "The Royal Male," a postman snoops through other people's letters, eventually unsealing a brighter future for himself.

Many tales center on houses. An Atlanta couple's over-30 son "doesn't seem to find adult life especially compelling," but his interest in the family split-level is devious. Graham and Rosalind both love their heavily-mortgaged Georgian in Sheffield, and when they decide to divorce, neither can afford to move out. A New York couple rents a house they dub "the Little Dump," but when they buy it, his sense of humor is subsumed by an obsession with home improvements. In the darkest home-ownership story, a woman celebrates snagging a foreclosed property, until the house clearly tells her to go away. A happier ending awaits the recently-widowed woman who struggles in her late husband's garden, confronting the neighbor whose "Self-Seeding Sycamore" pollinates her yard.

Shriver's stories feel complete, with a sense that the characters have fully embraced their quests for property. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, manager, Book Passage, San Francisco

Discover: Ten stories and two novellas in Lionel Shriver's collection explore diverse characters and how their commitment to ownership shapes their lives.

Harper, $26.99, hardcover, 336p., 9780062697936

The Emissary

by Yoko Tawada, trans. by Margaret Mitsutani

German and Japanese novelist Yoko Tawada (Where Europe Begins, Facing the Bridge) has written a strangely beautiful and hauntingly powerful story in The Emissary. It touches on mortality with a far-expanding discourse on the joys of life amidst suffering in a fantastic version of post-Fukushima Japan.

Natural disaster and contamination have devastated a large area of the main island, cutting it off from the rest of the world. Spiders and crows are the surviving wildlife. The hale and seemingly immortal centenarians shoulder the burdens of the labor force, while children are frail and prematurely aged, orphans who barely walk, malnourished due to poor digestion.

Three narrators--108-year old novelist Yoshiro, his wife, Marika, and their orphaned great-grandson Mumei--describe the impact this devastation and isolation has wrought on their lives. Yoshiro, filled with devotion, tenderness and wisdom for Mumei, constantly frets over his maladies while dwelling on the mistakes of the past. Mumei, in turn, accepts his fate with stoicism and resolve, but worries about Yoshiro's immortal burden. Marika is a member of a secret society charged with identifying children to serve as emissaries abroad, scientific subjects in a study to prevent disaster-based diseases. She tries to subvert Mumei's identification as an emissary for fear of losing him.

Tawada paints in stark lyricism a visually stunning metaphor of the separation between youth and elderly, vitality and sickness. Most important, The Emissary illustrates how human companionship--and its impending loss--is the thread by which one ultimately clings to life. --Nancy Powell, freelance writer and technical consultant

Discover: Yoko Tawada considers how an isolated, fantastic version of post-Fukushima Japan suffers when its youth die prematurely and the elderly are doomed to immortality.

New Directions, $14.95, paperback, 128p., 9780811227629

Mr Gandy's Grand Tour

by Alan Titchmarsh

When Timothy Gandy's job as a graphic designer is made redundant, the 55-year-old Brit discovers that he's too old to find a new job and too young to retire. Taking stock, he realizes he's invisible in the shadow of his domineering wife--a woman involved with social and philanthropic causes, and to whom he's been married for 40 years. And he doesn't always see eye-to-eye with his adult children. Son Oliver is a successful barrister. He and his wife are highfalutin, materialistic intellectuals. Middle daughter Alice is single, a distant and reclusive librarian. However, good-natured Rosie, a schoolteacher, shares a bond with her father. She understands him. She and her conservationist, naturalist beau struggle to make ends meet, while happily raising their daughter together.

The sting of unemployment followed by a shattering personal loss convinces Timothy to follow his long-repressed yearnings for travel. Despite staunch objections from his family--all except Rosie--he finally asserts himself. He sets off on a grand tour of Europe modeled in the style of those taken by young men of means in the late 18th century. Timothy leaves his Chichester, England, home and begins an exciting journey that takes him through France and Italy, where he makes unexpected new friends that change him and his outlook on life.

Noted gardening guru Alan Titchmarsh (Bring Me Home) plants seeds of hope in another wholesome, richly entertaining story. Readers will be eager to accompany his sensitive, winning protagonist through an itinerary of many adventures. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: A washed-up, middle-aged British man sets off on a tour of Europe that changes him in unexpected, profound ways.

Hodder & Stoughton, $26.99, hardcover, 320p., 9780340953075

Mystery & Thriller

The Lonely Witness

by William Boyle

William Boyle's The Lonely Witness is a knockout combination of in-depth character work, Brooklyn atmosphere and straight-up gritty noir. The devotion Boyle (Gravesend) demonstrates for character, story and place is perhaps the one unadulterated emotion on display in a story imbued with ambiguous morality and loyalty.

When Amy Falconetti's girlfriend Alessandra leaves her to pursue a career in Hollywood, she rebounds by quitting her bar job, ditching her semi-goth style, moving into a basement apartment and returning to church. Wanting to be of service, Amy volunteers as a Eucharistic minister, providing communion to house-bound parishioners. When elderly Mrs. Epifanio expresses concern that her caregiver's son Victor has been coming in her stead and shutting himself in Mrs. E's bedroom, Amy takes it upon herself to investigate.

Surreptitiously trailing Victor stirs up Amy's childhood recollections of repeatedly following a neighbor she witnessed committing an act of violence. Tracking Victor provides a sense of control over her present turmoil and traumatic memories, but Amy is soon caught up in a risky game she can't, and might not want to, escape.

Boyle beautifully uses the first half of the narrative to set the stage for a volatile, fast-moving back end. The potential cost of Amy continuing her behavior is ramped up by the sudden return of Alessandra and the appearance of Amy's long-thought-dead father, who is willing to do anything to earn her favor. The Lonely Witness is a fabulous character piece wrapped in layers of intrigue and subterfuge. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review

Discover: A woman in a state of upheaval inserts herself into a treacherous string of events when she follows a troubled young man headed for violence.

Pegasus Books, $25.95, hardcover, 272p., 9781681777955

Biography & Memoir

Like Brothers

by Mark Duplass, Jay Duplass

The dynamic duo of indie filmmaking, Mark and Jay Duplass, have crafted a heartfelt memoir that doubles as a compelling and insightful instruction manual for those seeking a career in film and television. Together the brothers have written and directed four critically acclaimed movies (including Jeff, Who Lives at Home and Safety Not Guaranteed), created two HBO series (Togetherness, Room 104), produced dozens of award-winning indie films (Tangerine) and acted in various films and TV shows. The "inseparable soulmates" have had an amazing trajectory since 2003, when their seven-minute short This Is John (improvised in one day and shot on a $3 mini-DV tape) was accepted at the Sundance Film Festival.

The engaging and endearing siblings take turns narrating chapters that amiably hopscotch from fine-tuning a 10-best film list to offering a spirited defense of Karate Kid Part II and the musical group Air Supply, and from sharing short stories to instructing future filmmakers on "how to get somewhere when you're coming from nowhere." Throughout the book, the brothers offer a perceptive insider's look. They detail their creative process, how the entertainment industry works and how they have managed to build a successful career with the kinds of projects they want and very little studio interference. The two forged successful careers by bucking traditions (early on, they stopped taking "general meetings" with studios), believing in themselves and being decent human beings.

Film buffs, future auteurs and fans of Robert Rodriguez's Rebel Without a Crew and Christine Vachon's Shooting to Kill will find Like Brothers exciting and essential reading. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant

Discover: Indie film favorites, the Duplass brothers pen a heartfelt and insightful memoir that is essential reading for film buffs.

Ballantine Books, $28, hardcover, 320p., 9781101967713

Kickflip Boys: A Memoir of Freedom, Rebellion, and the Chaos of Fatherhood

by Neal Thompson

If your kids turned outlaw with things like Senior Skip Day and TPing or egging a neighbor's house, count yourself lucky. Journalist and biographer Neal Thompson (A Curious Man) and his wife, Mary, raised two boys with a skateboard obsession and deep immersion in its rogue ways of weed, hip-hop, tats, graffiti and in-your-face rebellion. Kickflip Boys captures the trials of their parenting of Sean and Leo. It's also a reflection on Thompson's own wild youth and an up-close peek into skateboarding subculture. White, liberal professionals, Neal and Mary were raised to be independent and bend the rules. So, as Thompson notes, they "adopted our parents' style of governing--as in: not too much." When their boys shunned academics and traditional sports for freewheeling skateboarding, they scrambled to find a plan B. With eyes glued to YouTube videos of "skaters... graffiti artists, rappers, and street-fight beat downs," and to websites like Vice and WorldStarHipHop, Sean and Leo soon went off the rails.

Rich in the argot of skaters and bursting with all the humor, tears, pride and regret that a parent can't avoid, Kickflip Boys describes the Thompsons' humbling journey to guide their sons safely to maturity. Unlike some memoirs, it has a happy ending: "It wasn't always pretty, but... we emerged on the other side of it all, messy and loving, battle-hardened and intact." In Thompson's self-deprecating, informal prose, Kickflip Boys depicts a wild family trip worth the potholes. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: In a raw memoir of the years raising two skateboarding sons, Thompson airs it all--misgivings, frustrations and satisfaction.

Ecco, $27.99, hardcover, 304p., 9780062394347

The Electric Woman: A Memoir in Death-Defying Acts

by Tessa Fontaine

How many people have considered running away with the carnival when it arrives in town? In The Electric Woman, Tessa Fontaine does just that, joining the World of Wonders traveling sideshow for a season.

Starting out as a "bally girl" in the front of the tent, Fontaine learns to escape from handcuffs, wear a boa constrictor around her neck for hours at a time, eat fire and do simple magic tricks to draw the crowd in toward the inner tent where the main attractions are. As the grueling season progresses, Fontaine moves inside, transforming into the four-legged woman, swallowing swords and eventually becoming her ultimate goal, the electric woman.

Throughout her intriguing memoir, she shares the minute details of the hard, gritty work she does as a carnival hand, and offers portraits of her fellow performers and sketchy carnie men. Hand-in-hand with this lengthy narrative is the story of Fontaine's mother, who suffered a massive hemorrhagic stroke, followed by many smaller ones, three years before Fontaine joins the show. Her mother was in and out of the hospital many times, but despite her severe handicaps, she eventually was able to travel with Fontaine's stepfather to Italy, a dream trip they'd been planning for years. The Electric Woman is a story of loss, love and acceptance, of learning to overcome one's fears and insecurities and of letting go of what was in order to accept what is. She shows readers how to live each day to the fullest despite obstacles--or perhaps, because of them. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

Discover: A woman joins the sideshow and comes to grips with the loss of her mother.

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $27, hardcover, 384p., 9780374158378

Social Science

Kicks: The Great American Story of Sneakers

by Nicholas Smith

Before we were defined by our Converse Chucks, Adidas Stans, Puma Clydes and Nike Jordans, canvas-and-rubber shoes were the footwear of choice for British croquet ladies and were called Plimsolls. After rubber entrepreneur Charles Goodyear developed vulcanizing in 1844, to prevent soles from melting in the summer heat, cheap waterproof "sneakers" began their ascent from kids' PE shoes to their arrival on NBA hardwood, Fashion Week runways and the BET Hip-Hop Award stage.

In Kicks, journalist Nicholas Smith recounts the eclectic history of this ubiquitous slice of Americana. Sneakers may have made their first sport appearance on croquet lawns, but their widespread adoption followed the rise of competitive games like tennis, basketball, track and field, and long-distance running. Smith credits the Converse Rubber Shoe Company with the marketing breakthrough of celebrity endorsement when it put its former basketball player and salesman Chuck Taylor's name on its shoe and sent him on the road pitching his kicks--what Smith calls "playing Johnny Basketballseed."

After the success of Converse Chucks, no shoe could capture market share without some kind of star power seal of approval. The big brands courted sports hotshots like Michael Jordan, championship teams like the 1954 West German World Cup winner, underground heroes like skateboarding's Dogtown Z-boys and music luminaries like Run-DMC. Smith runs down many tangents of this $18 billion market and the frequent ups and downs of its global players. An offbeat history of the athletic shoe world with cameo biographies of those who built it, Kicks is a sneakerhead's dream. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: From 19th-century croquet shoes to 21st-century fashion, Kicks is the fascinating history of the business, marketing and culture of sneakers.

Crown, $26, hardcover, 320p., 9780451498113

Born with Wings: The Spiritual Journey of a Modern Muslim Woman

by Daisy Khan

Daisy Khan is a highly educated Muslim community leader for whom spirituality, the promotion of peace, gender equality and human dignity all go hand in hand. Born with Wings is an intimate and engaging portrayal of the conflicted journey Khan's faith takes after she moves to the United States from Kashmir, and her activism on behalf of Muslim women worldwide.

Khan is searingly honest about her crisis of faith following the 1979 Iranian revolution and the hijacking of Islam by extremists. Working as a young architect in New York, she found herself unable to share any aspect of religion with those who committed terrible atrocities in its name. Eventually she found grace and a spiritual home at a TriBeCa mosque and married the mosque's imam, a charismatic, thoroughly modern and open-minded religious leader who fully supports her reformist work.

Khan walks a path similar to that of young Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai in her tenacity and fearlessness when faced with ignorance and extremist ideology. Both have that fire-in-the-belly determination to overcome obstacles thrown in their path by religious zealots and both understand that peace often comes at a price. Despite resistance from many quarters, Khan is a tireless ambassador for the rights of women, a tolerant and balanced interpretation of the Quran and the pursuit of peace and inclusion.

Born with Wings is gilded with references to the mystical poetry of Rumi, which serves as serene inspiration and a guiding light for Khan as she embraces her determination to end the harmful practice of patriarchy within Islam. --Shahina Piyarali, writer and reviewer

Discover: An eye-opening introduction to the accomplishments of a female leader in New York's Islamic community.

Spiegel & Grau, $28, hardcover, 368p., 9780812995268

Children's & Young Adult

Julián Is a Mermaid

by Jessica Love

Riding the subway after a visit to the pool with his grandmother, young Julián notices three glamorous fellow passengers he's convinced are mermaids. "Julián LOVES mermaids." On the stroll home, he asks, "Abuela, did you see the mermaids?" Walking in sync, she replies, "I saw them, mijo." That confirmation is all Julián needs to reveal, "Abuela, I am also a mermaid."

At home, Abuela announces she's off to take a bath. Left alone, Julián gets down to the business of self-expression. Stripping his outer layers, he crowns himself with ferns and flowers, drapes himself to create a curtain-tail and strikes a perfect pose. But when his towel-wrapped Abuela re-emerges, her unexpected look of disapproval makes his fronds droop: "Uh-oh."

Her silent exit makes Julián self-consciously reexamine himself in the nearest mirror, until Abuela returns to surprise him with the crowning accessory: pink pearls. "For me, Abuela?" the delighted child asks. "For you, Julián." Abuela takes his hand and leads him outside. Their short stroll culminates in a beachside Carnival-like celebration, where wide-eyed Julián whispers with incredulous joy: "Mermaids." While he shyly peeks around a corner, Abuela confirms, "Like you, mijo," as she beckons him forward with an outstretched hand: " 'Let's join them.' And they did."

The words here are succinctly sparse; the art is spectacular, proof that a picture is worth a thousand words. What Abuela and Julián don't tell one another with their voices, debut author/illustrator Jessica Love inventively shows on the page. Love's Broadway performance background is clearly at play throughout, with many of her characters flowingly, enviably swathed. Across her watercolor, gouache and ink spreads, Love captures the transformative power of being seen. Her affecting combination of the literary and the visual results in a powerful affirmation of individuality, creative expression and unconditional acceptance. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon

Discover: With his grandmother's unconditional affirmation, Julían's daydreams become spectacular reality in Broadway actor Jessica Love's triumphant author/illustrator debut.

Candlewick Press, $16.99, hardcover, 40p., ages 4-8, 9780763690458

Ship It

by Britta Lundin

Ship It's 16-year-old Claire is a fan of the television show Demon Heart, a Supernatural-like program with male leads Forest and Rico. Claire is also an extremely popular writer of online gay fanfic (fan-written fiction) about Forest and Rico's characters: demon hunter Smokey and demon Heart. To Claire and many fans of Demon Heart, there are clear on-screen displays of sexual tension between Smokey and Heart. But when Claire challenges Forest about this tension at a local fan convention, Forest adamantly denies it. This is a PR nightmare for the show and Claire is whisked away by the show's producers to travel with the team to other conventions with the hope that this will remedy the situation. Claire, however, sees this as an opportunity to sway the showrunners into making SmokeHeart canon. In one of her early conversations with Forest, Claire retorts, "You think all these people are here for you? They don't know you.... You're just a haircut with a battle ax."

On the road, Claire meets Tess, who has read Claire's fanfic and shares her love of Demon Heart. Claire grapples with her burgeoning feelings for Tess, worrying about defining her own sexuality, especially when she sees the confidence Tess exudes. As Claire stumbles into romance and works to make SmokeHeart a reality, alternating chapters give Forest's perspective (and some very sexy snippets of Claire's fic, too).

Britta Lundin, a staff writer on the television show Riverdale, creates a pitch-perfect teenage voice in Ship It, showing the importance of fandom communities and the emotional growth of fans and actors. Readers unfamiliar with the vernacular of fandom will have no trouble following along with the core of the story and any reader is sure to leave Lundin's work feeling buoyed and ready to take on their own battles. --Clarissa Hadge, assistant bookstore manager, Trident Booksellers & Cafe, Boston, Mass.

Discover: As she navigates online fandom, fanfic and realizations about her sexuality, 16-year-old Claire falls in love with a young woman for the first time.

Freeform, $17.99, hardcover, 384p., ages 14-up, 9781368003131


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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