Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, July 13, 2018

Sourcebooks Landmark: Long After We Are Gone by Terah Shelton Harris

From My Shelf

Volver a España

Earlier this summer, I returned to Spain for the first time in nearly a decade. Naturally, my favorite way to prepare for travel is to dive into a stack of relevant books. Besides the excellent Lonely Planet Andalucía (Lonely Planet, $24.99), which I found indispensable, I discovered several books that made my trip both más fácil (easier) and más divertido (more fun).
Patricia Harris writes with verve and a keen eye for detail about 100 Places in Spain Every Woman Should Go (Traveler's Tales, $19.95). Divided by region, her guide includes all the classics: Granada's stunning Alhambra, live flamenco performances, tiny tapas bars and sprawling markets. But it's also full of quirky gems: an olive oil tasting workshop; the house of a former duchess, now a museum; a meditation on the title character of Bizet's opera Carmen. Harris's book sparked my enthusiasm and inspired me to take in a few unusual sights.
While I did rent a bike one afternoon in Sevilla, I still stand in awe of British cyclist Polly Evans's intrepid journey through Spain on two wheels, chronicled with dry wit in her memoir It's Not About the Tapas (Delta, $16). From San Sebastián to the Costa del Sol, Evans battled fatigue, recalcitrant bike gears and the local wildlife (including goats), as she sampled the food, culture and cycling trails in every region of Spain. It's a highly entertaining journey through a vivid, fascinating country.
My vacation reading stack included Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s The Shadow of the Wind (Penguin, $17), which I'd been meaning to read for years. Though I didn't visit Barcelona on this trip, Zafón's utterly bewitching novel of postwar love and revenge--set in a bookshop!--had me spellbound on bus rides between various cities.
Needless to say, I'm already planning my next viaje a España--and the requisite reading material. ¡Olé! --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

The Writer's Life

Reading with... David Bell

photo: Glen Rose Photography

David Bell is the author of Bring Her Home and Since She Went Away. He's an associate professor of English at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Ky., where he directs the MFA program. He received an M.A. in creative writing from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and a Ph.D. in American literature and creative writing from the University of Cincinnati. Somebody's Daughter (Berkley, July 10, 2018) is his eighth novel.

On your nightstand now:

Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser. Not only is Jessica a talented writer, but she's also become a friend. (I overlook the fact that she roots for the Pittsburgh Steelers.) Her first novel, Almost Missed You, was excellent, and her second promises more of the same. Who could resist a story about a night of wine drinking around a fire pit going wrong?

Favorite book when you were a child:

King Arthur and His Knights by Mabel Louise Robinson

I read and re-read this book in grade school. What more could you ask for as a 10-year-old? Knights, swords, friendship, betrayal, wizards, magic, love. It has everything!

Your top five authors:

Stephen King because he's Stephen King. And because when I first started reading grown-up books, he showed me how important characters are to a great story. We remember the killer clowns and haunted cars, but none of it would have mattered if King didn't make us all care deeply about the characters.

Octavia Butler because she combined big, important ideas with rich, fantastic storytelling. Her books and stories are the perfect marriage between the compelling and the thoughtful. I also heard her speak once, and her journey as a writer inspires as well. Every beginning writer should listen to her.

Elmore Leonard because I read his books over and over again, and they taught me about plot and character and language and voice. And to this day I could re-read any one of them and learn something new. One of the biggest influences on my progress as a suspense writer.

Tom Clancy because his books are big and compelling and they mix politics, war and spycraft like nobody else. He created a distinctive world and wrote with an idiosyncratic voice. I wish he'd stuck around to write more, but what we have will be read for a long, long time.

Ursula Le Guin because "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" is one of the greatest short stories ever written. Because everything she wrote was literary and compelling and bursting with wisdom and ideas. A master of science fiction and fantasy.

Book you've faked reading:

Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon.

Let's just say I (ahem) faked reading a number of books in graduate school, but this is the one I faked the most. Because it's the longest and the densest and the least coherent. Don't tell my exam committee.

Book you're an evangelist for:

South of the Big Four by Don Kurtz.

A brilliant, compelling book about a guy who returns to his hometown and farms the land that used to belong to his family. Great characters, loads of plot and a stunning ending. If there were any justice in the world, this book would be considered a modern classic. Because it is.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Bloodstone by Karl Edward Wagner.

The cover shows a giant man in a loincloth holding a sword and flying in front of the moon. What young man wouldn't want to read about such a hero? And, by the way, the writing is excellent. Wagner is a master of both fantasy and horror.

Book you hid from your parents:

Even Cowgirls Get the Blues by Tom Robbins.

I don't know why I picked this up in the public library when I was about 14. Maybe because the cover showed a nearly naked woman with giant thumbs? But inside I found lively writing, hilarious social commentary and a bizarre cast of characters. This was a book that showed me a very different world than the one I was living in. I'll never forget it because of that. And, no, Mom and Dad wouldn't have understood. That was the point.

Book that changed your life:

Looking for Rachel Wallace by Robert B. Parker.

When I first started contemplating writing suspense novels, I read a number of Parker's books. They're all tightly plotted and concisely written. And they're also all about something more than just the resolution of the mystery. Parker's books say something. For my money, Rachel Wallace is the best of the bunch. I read it again and again, using it as a textbook for my own writing.

Favorite line from a book:

"When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon." --from The Last Good Kiss by James Crumley

Not only is The Last Good Kiss a great mystery novel that also subverts and comments on mystery novels, it opens with what has to be the greatest first line of any book I've ever read. How could you read that sentence and not keep going?

Five books you'll never part with:

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
Is it the greatest vampire novel ever written? The greatest zombie novel ever written? The greatest post-apocalyptic story ever told? Yes, yes and yes. Much imitated but never equaled. A true classic that's as fresh today as it was 60 years ago.

Indian Country by Dorothy M. Johnson
A couple of these stories became classic movies: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and A Man Called Horse. All of these stories are excellent glimpses into our frontier past. Clear, sharp writing and heartbreaking characters. Johnson deserves a wider audience.

Hondo by Louis L'Amour
My dad loved Louis L'Amour, and I think this is L'Amour's best book. The tough and sentimental story of a man befriending a young boy and then falling in love with the boy's mother. The basis for a really good movie starring John Wayne, but always an amazing book to be read again and again.

Collected Stories by Flannery O'Connor
Nearly every story in the book--and it's a thick book--is memorable and can be considered a classic. O'Connor's characters are so human and so flawed and so heartbreakingly, darkly funny. These are stories I return to again and again, both as a writer and as a teacher.

Imaro by Charles Saunders
Charles Saunders deserves a wider audience as well. His hero, Imaro, came along in the '70s and showed us all something very different--fantasy set in Africa featuring a Conan-like hero and inspired by both history, myth and legend. If you loved The Black Panther, then you should really read anything by Saunders.  

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

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry.

I read this book as soon as it came out, and it blew my mind. Amazing characters that seemed to jump off the page, a rich story about the closing of the west and powerful, vivid writing. I've read the book a few times since then, but nothing can replicate that first time when I was about 15, devouring all 800 pages during an Ohio summer. A great book.

Book Candy

Guess-the-Writer Quiz

Are you up for a literary challenge? "The hardest guess-the-writer quiz" was featured by the Paris Review.


CBC Books collected "85 facts about master short story writer Alice Munro."


Tim Parks picked "the smartest books about the brain" for the Guardian.


Gastro Obscura explored the "harsh reality of food" for Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie pioneers.


The original map of Winnie-the-Pooh's Hundred Acre Wood by artist E.H. Shepard sold at auction for £430,000 (about $567,725).

Great Reads

Rediscover: The English Patient

Earlier this month, author Michael Ondaatje won the Golden Man Booker for his 1992 novel, The English Patient. The award honors the best work of fiction from the last five decades of the Man Booker Prize, Britain's most prestigious literary award, and was selected by five judges from among the previous 51 prize winners. Judge Kamila Shamsie called The English Patient "that rare novel which gets under your skin and insists you return to it time and again, always yielding a new surprise or delight. It moves seamlessly between the epic and the intimate--one moment you're in looking at the vast sweep of the desert and the next moment watching a nurse place a piece of plum in a patient's mouth."

Ondaatje's novel unites disparate characters during the Italian Campaign of World War II--the eponymous patient burned beyond recognition, his Canadian nurse, a Canadian thief and a Sikh British Army sapper--then weaves in their previous experiences during the African Campaign. In 1996, The English Patient was adapted by Anthony Minghella into a film starring Ralph Fiennes, Kristin Scott Thomas, Willem Dafoe and Colin Firth. It won nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. Ondaatje's latest novel, Warlight, was published by Knopf on May 8, 2018. The English Patient was last published as part of Penguin Random House's Everyman Library series in 2011 ($24.95, 9780307700872). --Tobias Mutter

Book Review


Fight No More

by Lydia Millet

"Too often the future was somewhere else, a land where you might find yourself one day," thinks the protagonist in the opener to Lydia Millet's wise and darkly comic story collection Fight No More. The real estate agent comes to this realization moments after the near-death of a client--he had tried to drown himself in the pool of a house she was showing him and his friends. "Easy to tell yourself the future could be staved off and nothing had to change: the present would stretch in a band of gold along the horizon, bright line joining the earth and sky."
These thoughts become a theme that snakes through each story in this interlocked collection. Each piece is set in Los Angeles and examines what it means to find, live in or leave a home. For these characters--all of them a part or living in the orbit of the same broken family--the future is hard to imagine. For some, divorce or depression has made the days ahead too painful to think about. For others, youth has blinded them to the possibility that someday their actions will have consequences. Millet's cast is richly drawn, each with a complex inner world.
Most of the protagonists are female, whose problems arise from difficult men. But there's nothing flat or predictable about their relationships, romantic or otherwise. Instead, their stories are rife with emotional complexity and surprising twists. Satirical, brutal and often poetic, Fight No More is a collection by a PEN Award-winning writer working at the peak of her powers. --Amy Brady, freelance writer and editor

Discover: Lydia Millet offers a dark and witty story collection about contemporary home life in Los Angeles.

W.W. Norton, $24.95, hardcover, 224p., 9780393635485

We Begin Our Ascent

by Joe Mungo Reed

The narrator of Joe Mungo Reed's We Begin Our Ascent is Solomon, a professional cyclist 12 days into the Tour de France. By the time he is introduced, Solomon and his teammates are well acclimated to the rhythm of the race, their performance manically monitored by Rafael, their directeur sportif. Racing is Solomon's life; he thinks people must see him as part man, part bicycle. It is only because of his wife, Liz, and their baby boy that Solomon can imagine a life beyond racing.
Reed swiftly draws the reader into the fascinating mechanics of the race, the heart-pulsing rush of daily mountain ascents and descents, the graceful, unified movement of cyclists through the narrow lanes of villages and mountain valleys. The cyclists grab water bottles and food as they ride, cheered on by fans as they forge ahead at breakneck speed. This is indeed a breathtaking inside scoop, a close-up view of racing as most of us will never experience it.
Hanging over the sport of competitive cycling, though, is the murky world of performance-enhancing drugs. Solomon and his teammates are already medicated to the hilt with pain killers and sugared up on energy bars and sweetened water. The only thing that matters is getting their team leader, Fabrice, to the finish line in as little time as possible. Too far along to object consciously, Solomon is simultaneously repelled and seduced by Rafael's efforts to push the team to the brink of their abilities. Reed's exciting debut compassionately illustrates the life-altering impact of treacherous competition. --Shahina Piyarali, writer and reviewer

Discover: This fast-moving sports novel features a professional cyclist and his team's push to win the Tour de France.

Simon & Schuster, $26, hardcover, 256p., 9781501169205

The Myth of Perpetual Summer

by Susan Crandall

Susan Crandall weaves a compelling, heartbreaking saga and a sensitive portrait of mental illness in her 12th novel, The Myth of Perpetual Summer. In the wake of family tragedy, Tallulah James left her Mississippi hometown at age 17, determined never to look back. But when her baby brother Walden is accused of murder nine years later, Tallulah leaves her carefully constructed life in San Francisco to see if she can help him. Her journey back home unleashes a flood of memories, and as she tries to build a case for Walden's defense, Tallulah is forced to reckon with her family's ghosts.
Crandall (Whistling Past the Graveyard) tells the story in Tallulah's voice, shifting between the adult Tallulah's return to Mississippi in 1972 and her growing-up years in the early 1960s. The child of two brilliant, mercurial parents whose volatile relationship caused tongue-wagging in town, Tallulah coped by caring for her younger twin siblings and relying on her staunch Southern grandmother. But Granny James's pride and Tallulah's own strong will were no match for her family's brokenness. Crandall deftly explores the fault lines created by Tallulah's parents and the events that led her to flee and build her own life in California. Walden's murder charge is only a pretext for the far more interesting story of a young woman struggling to come to terms with her family's past and face her own future. Laced with sweet tea and pimiento cheese, Crandall's novel is as Southern as it is satisfying. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: Susan Crandall's latest novel is a heartbreaking Southern family saga and a sensitive portrait of mental illness.

Gallery Books, $16, paperback, 368p., 9781501172014

The Perfect Couple

by Elin Hilderbrand

In The Perfect Couple, Elin Hilderbrand (Winter Storms) dishes up a mysterious and superbly crafted whodunit, wrapping it around a story of domestic bliss gone awry.
As is her trademark, Hilderbrand sets her novel in Nantucket--assembling a large cast of characters who gather on the island for the sultry July wedding of 20-somethings Celeste Otis and Benjamin Winbury. Celeste is a shy, down-to-earth, middle-class zoologist whose parents have what she considers the perfect marriage. Her caring and attentive, well-to-do businessman fiancé, Benji, is the offspring of a successful mystery novelist mother and a notoriously philandering father. With Celeste's mother battling cancer, the Winburys generously offer to host the event at their posh beachfront estate, Summerland. But on the morning of the wedding, the body of the maid of honor--the bride's best friend--is found floating in the surf. Was her death accidental or the result of foul play?
Hilderbrand peels back layers of her suspenseful story by tracing the details of a suspected murder investigation, chronicling Benji and Celeste's relationship and revealing the hidden lives and agendas of others. As the Nantucket chief of police probes wedding attendees for answers, the integrity of many comes into question, along with Celeste's true feelings for her husband-to-be. A rapidly snowballing plot shifts suspicions as Hilderbrand displays a riveting grasp on insidious domestic rivalries and the secrets embedded in the human heart that can lead to unexpected, shattering consequences. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: Turmoil erupts at a posh Nantucket beachfront estate when a member of a wedding party is found dead on the morning of the nuptials.

Little, Brown, $28, hardcover, 480p., 9780316375269

Science Fiction & Fantasy


by C.L. Polk

Witchmark, C.L. Polk's debut, introduces a magically infused world reminiscent of early 20th-century England, with gas-lit rooms, cloaks and carriages.
Dr. Miles Singer has created a life for himself mostly devoid of magic. Having fled his powerful family as a young man, he joined the Aeland army, went to war against the Laneeri, and now works in a veterans' hospital. But in a world where most witches are sent to asylums, supposedly for their own safety, Miles must be careful about how--and where--he uses his magical gifts. When a handsome gentleman brings a poisoned journalist into the hospital for treatment, this careful balancing act becomes increasingly hard to maintain--especially as his feelings for the gentleman evolve. And when his sister, a member of the elite magical class, shows up on his doorstep, he is drawn right back into the world he fled so long ago.
Polk's worldbuilding is done with finesse; information on the magical systems at play in Aeland are revealed smoothly and as appropriate to the story. But the magic is only the smallest part of what makes Witchmark the impressive novel that it is. The subtle ways Polk builds her characters, reveals the systems under which they live and unwinds a complicated, twisting plot with both personal and political implications are testaments to her skill as a storyteller. She builds toward a satisfying yet unpredictable conclusion, but with just enough wiggle room that these beloved characters may make appearances in future installments--which would be a welcome treat. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

Discover: A debut fantasy novel introduces a gas-lit world where most witches are banished to asylums--unless they are of the wealthy ruling class.

Tor, $15.99, paperback, 320p., 9781250162687

Social Science

White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism

by Robin DiAngelo

Antiracist educator Robin DiAngelo writes that white fragility--the defensive reactions of white people when they are challenged racially--is "triggered by discomfort and anxiety, it is born of superiority and entitlement." She dissects the phrase and its cultural implications to try to explain why it's so hard for many white people to talk about racism.
Carefully breaking down many of what she considers myths created by whites--such as claims of color-blindness, meritocracy and the belief that humans are objective beings--DiAngelo shows that racism is embedded in the culture. It isn't just a black-and-white issue of explicit hate or violence; she argues that all people are now born into an institutionalized system of racism and have no say about whether they will be affected by it. They are, however, responsible for their role. And for the white populations, this is unsettling; it disrupts the white equilibrium. To defend themselves from racist implications, they often react with anger, denial and withdrawal, instead of examining their behaviors and attempting to change them. This protective instinct shuts down the conversation and stops any advancement in race relations.
DiAngelo handles this potentially explosive topic with care and tact, even using examples of her own racist actions, but she is also forthcoming about its complexity and challenges. Efforts to make white people "comfortable" in the conversation erect further barriers to change. White Fragility is a book everyone should be exposed to. With any luck, most who are will be inspired to search themselves and interrupt their contributions to racism. --Jen Forbus, freelancer

Discover: An antiracist educator illuminates society's role in the modern adaptation of racism, showing how even well-meaning white people contribute to it.

Beacon Press, $16, paperback, 192p., 9780807047415

Conan Doyle for the Defense: The True Story of a Sensational British Murder, a Quest for Justice, and the World's Most Famous Detective Writer

by Margalit Fox

On December 21, 1908, Marion Gilchrist, an elderly, wealthy spinster, was murdered in her flat in Glasgow. The police were immediately on the case, which featured a missing diamond brooch and the eyewitness account of Nellie Lambie, Gilchrist's maid. Within days, the police identified Oscar Slater as the culprit. Slater--"gambler, foreigner, Jew"--was convicted despite shifting eyewitness testimony and dubious evidence, and sentenced to life at Peterhead, Scotland's most notorious prison. It took nearly two decades for justice to prevail, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the mind behind literature's most clever detective, Sherlock Holmes, was the man for the job.
In Conan Doyle for the Defense, Margalit Fox (who has penned more than 1,200 obituaries for the New York Times) reconstructs one of the 20th century's most notable miscarriages of justice. Slater, having "managed to become a sterling embodiment of everything that post-Victorian Britain had been taught to fear," stood little chance of a fair trial. Criminology, which identified criminals "before the fact," lingered from the 19th century. It was criminalistics--"scientific, rationalist, exquisitely abductive"--embodied by Conan Doyle and his creation Sherlock Holmes that would free Slater from his wrongful conviction. 
Fox paints vivid portraits of Slater and Conan Doyle through correspondence and court transcripts. Befitting a crime novel of the era, Slater's plea for help was written on a tiny scroll that fellow prisoner William Gordon hid in his dentures upon release from Peterhead. While criminal justice has undoubtedly advanced since the early 1900s, Slater's presumed guilt because of his "otherness" is unfortunately still all too familiar today. --Frank Brasile, librarian

Discover: Sherlock Holmes may be fictional, but in real life, author Arthur Conan Doyle used Holmesian logic to free a German Jew wrongly convicted of a crime in Scotland.

Random House, $27, hardcover, 352p., 9780399589454

Health & Medicine

Unthinkable: An Extraordinary Journey Through the World's Strangest Brains

by Helen Thomson

Science journalist Helen Thomson's first book, Unthinkable: An Extraordinary Journey Through the World's Strangest Brains, draws inspiration from the late Oliver Sacks in its empathetic portraits of people whose brains shed light on neuroscientific thought. Thomson seeks to revive the classical case study in all of its humanistic detail, forgoing bloodless objectivity for quirky explorations of the subjects' personalities. Thomson introduces the reader to Bob, whose memories never seem to fade; Rubén, who sees colorful auras when he looks at people; and Matar, who perceives himself turning into a tiger. Thomson uses these outlying cases to reflect on the typical functioning of the brain, explaining aspects of the brain that are relatively well understood, as well as delving into more obscure territory.
In surveying the unusual, Thomson reminds the reader that there are many perspectives on reality--perspectives that can shift with surprising ease, as can personalities. When writing about Luke, who developed pedophilic urges due to a tumor, Thomson concludes: "We tend to think of our personality as something that is steadfast and strong, but in truth it can rapidly desert us." Along with this discomfiting thought comes appreciation for the staggering variety of human experience. Sylvia's persistent auditory hallucinations, for example, come in the form of musical passages that she mostly tries to ignore. The case studies described in Unthinkable vary in degree from benign to frightening, but each serves as a useful entry point into a fascinating field of study. --Hank Stephenson, bookseller, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, N.C.

Discover: Unthinkable presents a series of fascinating case studies in the tradition of Oliver Sacks, pairing anecdotes with scientific explanations.

Ecco, $27.99, hardcover, 288p., 9780062391162

Travel Literature

Northland: A 4,000-Mile Journey Along America's Forgotten Border

by Porter Fox

It takes a lot more than the vague "from sea to shining sea" description to establish one of the world's longest national borders. As Maine native Porter Fox (Deep) learns in his journey along the Canada/United States border, it took nearly 150 years to lay monument markers along the western 49th parallel boundary line. In the east, however, much of the border roams through lakes, rivers, bays and canals--Fox's travel by kayak or freighter could just as easily put him in one country as the other. Northland is an account of his journeys along the northern edge of the United States, and includes a healthy dose of the history of early explorers and Native American resettlements in the northern Great Plains.
He begins in tiny Lubec, Maine, the easternmost town in the United States, originally "populated by bootleggers, businessmen, snake-oil salesmen, fishing families, smugglers, shipbuilders, and frontiersmen." Following the route of many explorers, he makes his way to the St. Lawrence River and into the Great Lakes. From the western tip of Superior to the Pacific Ocean, however, Fox trades his kayak and life jacket for a good truck and camper. Supposedly nailed to the 49th parallel as the "longest straight border in the world," up close, the boundary squiggles around and the highway gets diverted through various Indian reservations, mountain ranges, lakes and dense forests.
While Northland touches on various political disputes related to Native American issues, oil and gas production, and fishing and water rights, it is more an engaging travel memoir. Like the meandering border itself, Fox wanders down whatever path catches his interest. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: In an enlightening travel memoir, journalist Porter Fox takes us on a trek along the often remote, often loosely marked border between the United States and Canada.

W.W. Norton, $26.95, hardcover, 272p., 9780393248852


American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin

by Terrance Hayes

Terrance Hayes (How to Be Drawn) has reached a new level in his work as he delivers 70 sonnets that reflect what it means to be a black American. It's important to note that these poems were composed during President Trump's first 200 days in office and encapsulate not only historical moments of adversity toward black people, but also the present-day dialogue of Black Lives Matter.
Hayes writes, "Are you not the color of this country's current threat/ Advisory? ...Are you not a flame of hollow Hellos & Hell Nos,/ A wild, tattered spirit versus what?" He addresses the recently murdered and their murderers, creating poetry from the names of shooting victims.
Emmett Till, Jimi Hendrix, Toni Morrison and many others make their way into his lyrics as he ponders what it means to be black, in love, doing drugs, having sex. He studies the insidious way racism still pervades the culture, whether through lyrics in a rap song sung by a white woman in the privacy of her car or the Confederate statues that still stand in many places. Hayes's complex use of language, his ability to slant rhyme and to build a staccato tempo enhances these sonnets. The effect is musical, beautiful and haunting, a thorough meditation on black America and the culture that surrounds it, in all its myriad variations. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

Discover: Terrance Hayes crafts a visceral and evocative look at black America through verse.

Penguin Poets, $18, paperback, 112p., 9780143133186

Children's & Young Adult

My Year in the Middle

by Lila Quintero Weaver

When sixth-grader Lu Olivera discovers an unexpected passion for running, she also finds a potential friend in fellow speedster Belinda Gresham. Unfortunately, 1970s Red Grove, Ala., is not an easy place for this friendship. Although public schools have officially become integrated, Lu, an immigrant from Argentina, and Belinda, a black girl, are not supposed to "mix," according to the culture of the community. School may be desegregated, but their classroom reflects the reality of the racial status: "White kids sit on one side and black kids on the other." Lu is "one of the few middle-rowers who split the difference," not belonging clearly to either group. The kids in the middle rows "believe in equal rights and all that good stuff," and this "makes [them] weirdos in some people's eyes." Everyone in the class is closely following the upcoming primary election in which ex-governor and segregationist George Wallace is trying to reclaim his old position from the current moderate governor, Albert Brewer.
Based on true events in Lila Quintero Weaver's own 1970s childhood as an Argentinian immigrant in a small Alabama town, My Year in the Middle is a moving story about finding one's center in the midst of overwhelming external pressure. Lu is believable as a girl who is afraid to "stick [her] neck out too far." And she's genuinely likable as a girl who wants nothing more than to find a friend who shares interests and a sense of humor, even if she doesn't share a skin color. Weaver writes vividly about the spaces in the middle, between black and white. Any reader who has struggled to find a safe and happy place between polarities will appreciate Weaver's deep understanding of just how difficult--and rewarding--this can be. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor

Discover: 1970s Alabama is a tough place to develop a mixed-race friendship in this beautifully written novel about real-life events in the painful era of school segregation.

Candlewick, $15.99, hardcover, 288p., ages 8-12, 9780763692315

The Unfortunates

by Kim Liggett

Three months ago, Grant Franklin Tavish V caused a fatal car accident and he has been "choking under the weight of it all" ever since. His senator father insists upon making the situation disappear, but Grant's guilt makes him want somehow to right his wrongs. The high school senior embarks on a solo cave excursion--it's a male tradition in his family, but he has no intention of returning. When a spontaneous collapse traps him and four other teens underground, though, he agrees to help them get out. But someone--or something--doesn't want the teens to survive the ordeal.
The Unfortunates by Kim Liggett (The Last Harvest) is a riveting psychological thriller that explores guilt as felt by an unreliable, paranoid narrator. Grant hears whispers, sees shadows and is convinced someone is following him, but he questions whether any of it is real: "something pushes me, or my knees give out." Grant sees threats that aren't there ("Maybe it's all in my head, or hypothermia setting in"), but then admits he could be experiencing what is called "the rapture," an extreme reaction to darkness that makes a person "see things... hear things." And his biggest tell: he can't remember what happened after he got out of the car the night of the accident. Grant's unpredictable thoughts and reactions to his perceived reality convince the reader not to trust anything he says, thinks or does, making the book an eerie, compulsive read.
This plot-twisting, adrenaline-boost of a novel will keep readers turning the pages until its astonishing reveal. --Lana Barnes, freelance reviewer and proofreader

Discover: In this psychological thriller, a guilt-ridden teen tries to redeem himself by helping a group of friends escape a cave collapse.

Tor, $18.99, hardcover, 224p., ages 14-up, 9780765381002

I'm Not Missing

by Carrie Fountain

Ever since Syd showed up in Miranda's third grade class in Las Cruces, N. Mex., the two girls have been best friends. They became even closer the summer before high school, when Syd's mother left rehab and "hightailed it to Colorado." Miranda could relate, as her own mom had taken off seven years earlier. Syd and Miranda performed a symbolic ritual of "honor and blood," swearing "to never stray from the other, and to never go after [their] mothers." Then, in the middle of senior year, Syd vanishes. She had been waiting to hear about her early admission to Stanford as the culmination of an elaborate Escape Plan, and suddenly she is "[g]one, not missing," and it's "as if Syd had never existed."
Miranda is forced to recognize "a basic truth about [her] life": content all these years to exist in the shadow of Syd's "superstar light," she has no idea "what to do or how to be or even what to look at" without her best friend by her side. Rather than walk alone past Nick, the boy she's been in love with for three years, the one who stood her up for prom, she skips class. But Nick has a secret that involves both Syd and Miranda, and he reaches out to her to talk.
Though Miranda is no closer to discovering where Syd has gone, she begins to discover herself. In her debut novel, poet Carrie Fountain writes with grace and fluidity as she reveals twists and turns that are fresh and surprising. Miranda's sweet romance with Nick proceeds in realistic fits and starts as the pair earnestly navigates the rough terrain of love and betrayal. By the end, readers will almost certainly feel hopeful about the prospects of Fountain's very real, very compelling characters. --Lynn Becker, blogger and host of Book Talk, a monthly online discussion of children's books for SCBWI

Discover: High school senior Miranda's best friend suddenly runs away, leaving her alone to deal with life and love.

Flatiron, $18.99, hardcover, 336p., ages 12-up, 9781250132512


Author Buzz

Every Time We Say Goodbye

by Natalie Jenner

Dear Reader,

EVERY TIME WE SAY GOODBYE was the hardest book I will ever write, and the most rewarding. I packed everything I could into this book: love and conflict, faith and religion, censorship and resistance, art and moviemaking, fashion and food, cameos by favorite actresses and characters from my earlier books, and above all Rome, my favorite city in the world. I hope that my novel gives you the entertainment and inspiration that nourished me throughout its writing.

Email with the subject line "Every Time Was Say Goodbye Sweeps" for a chance to win one of five copies.

Gratefully yours,
Natalie Jenner

Buy now and support your local indie bookstore>

AuthorBuzz: St. Martin's Press: Every Time We Say Goodbye by Natalie Jenner

St. Martin's Press

Pub Date: 
May 14, 2024


List Price: 
$29.00 Hardcover

Happily Ever Maybe
(A Montgomery Ink Legacy Novella)

by Carrie Ann Ryan

Dear Reader,

What happens in a bodyguard romance when both characters are a bodyguard?

All the heat and action!

I love writing workplace romances because things get tricky. And when a one night stand ends up burning up the pages, things get... explosive.

Gus and Jennifer are fiery, kick-butt characters that made me so happy to write.

I hope you love them!

Carrie Ann Ryan

Available on Kobo

AuthorBuzz: 1001 Dark Nights Press: Happily Ever Maybe (A Montgomery Ink Legacy Novella) by Carrie Ann Ryan

1001 Dark Nights Press

Pub Date: 
February 13, 2024


List Price: 
$2.99 e-book

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