Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Workman Publishing: The ABCs of Queer History by Seema Yasmin, Illustrated by Lucy Kirk

From My Shelf

The Prince of Denmark

William Shakespeare is believed to have been born on April 23, the same date on which he died 52 years later, though some say his birthdate is unknown. The Bard's fans may disagree on the date of his birth or which of his plays is their favorite, but one thing most agree on is that Hamlet was his major work.

By far the most ambitious reimagining of Hamlet to date is from master storyteller Ian McEwan. In Nutshell (Anchor, $16), a third-trimester fetus listens as his mother Trudy and Uncle Claude plot to murder the fetus's father, John. They want to cash in on John's derelict old house situated on prime London real estate. McEwan takes Hamlet's sense of helplessness to a whole new level with this remarkably clever adaptation.

What if Hamlet were an 11-year-old boy too preoccupied with middle-school distractions seriously to contemplate revenge for his deceased father? Instead of a castle, Matt Haig's The Dead Fathers Club (Penguin, $15) is set in an English pub called the Castle and Falcon, and offers a comically entertaining version of events while staying true to the original play.

If you want to read the story of Hamlet from Ophelia's perspective, look no further than Lisa Klein's young adult novel Ophelia (Bloomsbury, $9.99), written from the point of view of a rebellious, willful young lady-in-waiting to Queen Gertrude. Klein's Ophelia marries her prince and gives the kingdom of Elsinore a run for its money.

And you'll only have to hold on a few years for Gillian Flynn's version of Hamlet, part of the Hogarth Shakespeare Project that asks authors to rewrite Shakespeare's plays for a contemporary audience. Knowing Flynn's work, it will be worth the wait. --Shahina Piyarali, writer and reviewer

Frog & Toad: Now Streaming on Apple TV+

The Writer's Life

Patrick McGuinness: Toying with the Thriller Genre

photo: Mari McGuinness

Patrick McGuinness, who was born in Tunisia in 1968, is a professor of French and comparative literature at Oxford University and a fellow of St. Anne's College. He has previously published books of poetry, works of nonfiction and the novel The Last Hundred Days, which was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. His novel Throw Me to the Wolves (reviewed below) has just been released by Bloomsbury Publishing.

Throw Me to the Wolves has the signposts of a thriller--a crime to solve, a detective narrator--but it somewhat subverts the genre by lingering on the main character's personal relationships and on his musings unrelated to the crime. Did you set out to break the traditional rules of thriller writing, or did you just let the story take you where it wanted to go?

I was guided by the story and by the holes in the story, which perhaps interested me more. Thrillers are pushed by a desire to explain, by the belief that explaining things helps you understand them. I'm not sure it works like that. I wanted to write a book that toyed with the genre, but which showed, basically, that real life is both more complex and less complex than a thriller. I often try to interrupt the pacing so it doesn't become too much like a linear narrative, and to interrupt time zones, too. I wanted intermissions for musing, or remembering, or for cultural commentary. The whole book takes place over three days and at the same time it takes place over three decades.

In the novel, you name-check Dorothy L. Sayers and Agatha Christie's Poirot and Marple, not to mention Rumpole and Columbo; you know your way around the mystery and thriller world. Who are your favorite authors and characters in the genre? 

I love police procedurals, yes, in film and in television. I loved Columbo because it inverted the genre: the mystery lay not in the who, the how and the why (we knew whodunit and how and why at the start) but in how it was resolved. It became a psychological game, usually based on the murderer's hubris.

A critique of tabloid journalism is a major theme in Throw Me to the Wolves. Was there a particular tabloid-inflamed event that inspired you to take on the subject? 

Yes, the case of Christopher Jefferies, a teacher arrested by the police and hounded by the press for the murder of Joanna Yeates in 2010. He was my teacher, and we liked and admired him, and he was, for me, the teacher who taught me to love books and ideas and, eventually, I guess, writing. Though the novel is not about him, and the character in my book is visibly as well as anecdotally not him, I used my book to express some of the outrage and anger I felt at what was done to him. I was especially disgusted when some of my contemporaries at school were prepared to lie about him in the press, either for money or attention, and make up stories about his behavior towards us. He was, of course, exonerated. As in so many cases in real life, the murderer was a toxic male heterosexual, with a girlfriend and a good job, a penchant for sexual violence, lying and pornography. Not the strange, sexually ambiguous, fastidious single man who reads literature and likes opera, behaves a little distantly and carries a hessian bag with "I Love Books" written on it... I'm sorry--just writing this out makes me angry, so let's move on....

Here in the United States, there's nothing quite comparable with the English boarding school in terms of strictness and formality. Did you attend a school like Chapelton? 

I did, but it wasn't as bad. I took what I knew, and, as perhaps we all do in fiction, I pushed it along the truth-fiction spectrum until I reached the point I needed for a novel plot--thankfully, because some of the stuff in the story is pretty traumatic. These schools are an English phenomenon, and they produce the British ruling class: essentially a stratum of venal and entitled sociopaths, sent to these places by their parents, who went to the same school, and so on for decades and in some cases centuries. They are places of teacher-endorsed bullying and emotional and physical violence; snobbery is rife, as is racism and classism and sexism. Or they were then. These schools underpin the English class system and help it self-perpetuate. The fact that they cost tens of thousands of pounds a year, and yet manage to call themselves charities and avoid proper taxes, is the final irony. The products of those schools happen to be in charge of my country, which explains quite a lot about the state we're in. 

Prof and Gary are such a fantastic detective team--an odd couple that doesn't sound the same notes as odd-couple combos we've seen in the past. Could you see revisiting this team in another book? 

Maybe, yes. It occurred to me that they needed another outing--Lord knows there's enough bad stuff for them to be getting on with. But in this book, the narrator is also solving the mystery of himself, so the next story, if there is one, needs to be as urgent and as traumatic. Perhaps Gary can have a trauma? Gary's unique feature is his normality in a world of damaged people. At one point, he suggests, ironically, that in a world of misery memoirs and trauma narratives, not having a childhood trauma is in fact the new childhood trauma. Maybe I could start there and take him up on it? --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer

Book Candy

In a Word: Authors on Their One-Word Titles

Merriam-Webster featured "11 authors on their one-word book titles."


Batgirl? Mental Floss found "10 surprising former librarians."


"Short story vending machines to transport London commuters" are being installed, the Guardian reported.


An exhibition at New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art focuses on the artistic tradition inspired by Murasaki Shikibu's classic literary work, The Tale of Genji.


The Libro de los Epítomes "was a catalogue for Hernando Colón's 16th-century collection, which he intended to be the biggest in the world," the Guardian noted.

Great Reads

Rediscover: Gene Wolfe

Critically acclaimed science-fiction/fantasy writer Gene Wolfe, best known for his Book of the New Sun series, died April 14 at age 87. He was the author of more than 30 novels and nine short story collections, for which he won multiple Nebula Awards, Locus Awards and World Fantasy Awards. Wolfe received the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 1996 and was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2007.

After being drafted into the Korean War, Wolfe became an industrial engineer and was a senior editor for the trade publication Plant Engineering. He developed the machine that cooks Pringles potato chips. The success of the first two entries in the Book of the New Sun series, The Shadow of the Torturer (1980) and The Claw of the Conciliator (1981), allowed Wolfe to pursue writing full-time. The other two volumes in the Book of the New Sun, which can be considered either four separate books or a single four-volume work, are The Sword of the Lictor (1982) and The Citadel of the Autarch (1983).

The Book of the New Sun series takes place on a far future Earth where the Sun has dimmed and the planet is cooler. It follows Severian, a disgraced apprentice in the torturer's guild and an unreliable narrator, despite his self-proclaimed perfect memory. Wolfe continued what became known as the Solar Cycle by setting The Book of the Long Sun (1993-1996, four volumes) and The Book of the Short Sun (1999-2001, three volumes) in the same universe. Wolfe was much admired by other authors. In a 2011 Guardian article, Neil Gaiman called him "the finest living male American writer of SF and fantasy--possibly the finest living American writer." --Tobias Mutter

Book Review


Throw Me to the Wolves

by Patrick McGuinness

After a young woman is found strangled by the River Thames, Michael Wolphram, who was an English and music teacher at an elite boarding school until his retirement, is hauled into the police station: he is the dead woman's neighbor and her DNA has been found in his car. Even before the police charge him, a bloodthirsty tabloid journalist uses Wolphram's eccentricities to hang him in the court of public opinion.

Throw Me to the Wolves is primarily narrated by Prof, a middle-aged detective who realizes that he knew Wolphram almost 30 years earlier. (Author Patrick McGuinness shrewdly waits a bit to reveal the particulars of their introduction.) Prof wonders how long he can withhold this information, which could compromise the investigation, and how long it will be before Wolphram recognizes him.

Dispersed throughout the novel are scenes from the perspective of a boy who was Wolphram's student. The man's impassioned teaching style spoke to the lad, and to several other young outcasts at the school, which made a habit of punishing the unmoneyed and the unconnected.

McGuinness, a poet and the author of a previous novel, The Last Hundred Days, which was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, takes a double-barreled approach to his first police procedural: it's also a canny evisceration of the media's noxious salaciousness. As Prof puts it, "You take sexual shame and sexual frustration, you top it up with wealth, hierarchy, and mental and physical violence, then serve it in a large glass called entitlement, and you get... well: you get what we have." And you get this fine novel. --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer

Discover: Patrick McGuinness's police procedural doubles as a wily takedown of tabloid culture.

Bloomsbury, $27, hardcover, 336p., 9781620401514

Courting Mr. Lincoln

by Louis Bayard

With wit and charm that only Louis Bayard (Roosevelt's Beast) can deliver, Courting Mr. Lincoln transports readers to 19th-century Springfield, Ill., to view both the romance of Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd and the intimate friendship of the future president and a dry-goods merchant named Joshua Speed.

Elizabeth Todd Edwards is determined to find her sister Mary Todd a husband, so she summons Mary to Illinois from their childhood home in Lexington, Ky. Daughters of a wealthy banker, both women are educated and accustomed to refinement. In Elizabeth's eyes, the poor, unpolished country lawyer with political aspirations is far from a suitable match for Mary. And at first Mary takes little notice of Lincoln, but after repeated social encounters with him, she gets to know the mind and heart inside the gangly, mannerless man.

When Lincoln first arrives in Springfield, he is saddled with debt and asks the proprietor of a small store to recommend inexpensive lodging. He's offered a room above the store, but he must share it with the storeowner, Joshua Speed. Speed is the son of a wealthy farmer who is searching for his life's purpose. He finds it in his relationship with Lincoln. In addition to providing him a place to hang his hat, Speed educates Lincoln on the ways of gentlemen.

With Mary and Speed both vying for Lincoln's affection, it doesn't take long for conflict to arise. Those familiar with Bayard's work will appreciate his sterling dialogue and ingenious humor. When that all comes together, Courting Mr. Lincoln is Bayard at his absolute best as one of the nation's greatest literary gems. --Jen Forbus, freelancer

Discover: The making of the 16th U.S. president as seen through the eyes of his future wife and his best friend, who view each other as adversaries in a fight for the young lawyer's heart.

Algonquin, $27.95, hardcover, 352p., 9781616208479

The Book of Dreams

by Nina George

In The Book of Dreams, Nina George continues to explore love, life and mortality. With a similarly luminescent quality as its predecessors--The Little Paris Bookshop and The Little French Bistro--The Book of Dreams shines light into the hidden spaces of each character's soul. The living make life-altering decisions while the almost dying experience alternate paths, showcasing what life could have been.

Sam, Henri, Eddie, Maddie: four lives converge at London's Wellington Hospital. Sam and Eddie are there visiting. Henri and Maddie are patients in comatose states. All four are living double lives. Sam skips school to spend time with the father he never knew and the girl he's falling in love with. Eddie hides her daily visits to Henri--her secret heartbreak, the former love of her life--from her current partner.

Henri and Maddie are both trapped in dreams. Henri is trying to find his way back to life (but which version of life being shown to him is real?), while Maddie is too scared to move forward.

Quietly meditative and exquisitely plotted, there is nonetheless a feeling of urgency to the story, as the days pass with each turning of the page, making it less and less likely that Henri or Maddie will find their way back to consciousness. By the final chapters, a lyrical crescendo is building, leading to a dramatic conclusion and a graceful coda, so that, like life, there is no guarantee of a happy ending, yet no one is left bereft at the end of the tale. --BrocheAroe Fabian, owner, River Dog Book Co., Beaver Dam, Wis.

Discover: Four lives intertwine, relationships are formed and love explored in this novel about life, death and everything in between from the author of The Little Paris Bookshop.

Crown, $27, hardcover, 400p., 9780525572534

Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl

by Andrea Lawlor

It's 1993, and by all appearances, Paul Polydoris is having the time of his life. He's a bartender at the only gay club in Iowa City, immersed in the college town's queer scene. He makes zines, has perfected the art of the mix tape and can have any man he wants--and usually does. "Why did people think Paul was so strange, so easy, so lucky?" the author wonders. "He wasn't. He was just willin', like Linda Ronstadt." But there's one thing in Paul's arsenal that few people know: he's a shapeshifter who can change gender at will.

Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl follows Paul on a genderqueer odyssey across America. He changes into Polly and joins his best friend Jane at a Womyn's Music Festival in Michigan where he meets Diane, an animal rights activist. The intense sexual chemistry they share is matched by their love for each other. Together, they go to Provincetown, but it all falls apart; heartbroken, Polly changes back to Paul and takes off for San Francisco to start over. Old habits die hard as Paul struggles to come to terms with the things he's deftly avoided in his young life so far: connection, stability and identity.

In Paul/Polly, Andrea Lawlor has created a character who is both supernatural and completely familiar and accessible. Paul's quest for intimacy is universal, and his sexual prowess across the gender spectrum blurs the lines of masculinity and femininity. Infused with magical realism, panache and healthy doses of sex, Lawlor delivers a wild coming-of-age tale that will leave readers breathless. --Frank Brasile, librarian

Discover: A shapeshifter who can change his gender on demand strives for connection among the sexual conquests in this genre-bending debut.

Vintage, $16.95, paperback, 352p., 9780525566182

The Mother-in-Law

by Sally Hepworth

Lucy, who lost her mother as a teenager, had hoped that when she and Ollie got married, his mother, Diana, would warm to her. But Diana has always kept Lucy at arm's length, much to Lucy's disappointment. Resigned to her standoffish mother-in-law, Lucy is nevertheless shocked when the police show up at the door of Lucy and Ollie's home to tell them that Diana is dead. Diana had recently informed Ollie and his sister, Nettie, of her breast cancer diagnosis, and a note found in Diana's desk seems to imply that she chose suicide rather than a cancer battle.

But then the autopsy reveals that she did not in fact have cancer. The police keep coming around, hinting that perhaps her death was not actually suicide. As the investigation unfolds, and the secrets of young Diana are told, Lucy gets caught up in the story that Diana spent so much of her life trying to hide from her children.

Sally Hepworth (The Things We Keep, The Family Next Door) has delivered a delightfully twisty domestic suspense novel in The Mother-in-Law. Hepworth does a remarkable job showing the misunderstandings between Lucy and Diana through each woman's eyes, and will keep the reader on tenterhooks to find out exactly how and why Diana died. Fans of Big Little Lies and Then She Was Gone will love the startling end of The-Mother-in-Law. --Jessica Howard, bookseller at Bookmans, Tucson, Ariz.

Discover: In this surprising domestic suspense novel, a woman discovers the secrets behind her mother-in-law's apparent suicide.

St. Martin's Press, $27.99, hardcover, 352p., 9781250120922

Biography & Memoir

The Known, the Secret, the Forgotten: A Memoir

by Joan Wheelis

The Known, the Secret, the Forgotten is a memoir of Joan Wheelis's unusual, comfortable childhood growing up as the only child of distinguished psychoanalysts in midcentury San Francisco. Told from a vantage point 50-plus years in the future, Wheelis's recollections have a dreamlike quality--misty, distant, but shot through with immediate, vivid details and symbolic suggestion. Her narrative favors impressions and themes over chronology, shifting from scene to scene, memory to memory, without concern for sequential plotting. One moment she's six years old and puzzling over the "endlessly intriguing" mystery of her parents' work, which they both conducted from Wheelis's home; the next, she's having an existential conversation with her elderly father as they watch the Blue Angel jets fly over the Presidio.

Wheelis only briefly alludes to her life in between those early years and the near-present--becoming a psychoanalyst herself, having a son, her husband leaving her. The absence of most of her life from this narrative suggests a strong link between her earliest memories and who she is today.

The link between the two time periods is her parents' legacy, particularly her father's. Wheelis paints him as an exacting, disciplined man of rigorous intellect and scrupulousness who nonetheless imparted her with a certain zeal for living. The paradoxical remoteness and intimacy of their relationship, and her memory of how it evolved over time, is the cornerstone of the book. Fittingly, Wheelis later describes memory as "the rich layering of time and experience. Built like a stone wall"--one that, eventually, like all things, wears down and falls away. --Hannah Calkins, writer and editor in Washington, D.C.

Discover: Poetic and reflective, this spare but evocative memoir is a lovely meditation on time, memory and generational legacies.

Norton, $25.95, hardcover, 160p., 9781324002581

Business & Economics

The Players Ball: A Genius, a Con Man, and the Secret History of the Internet's Rise

by David Kushner

Thirty years ago, searching for a love connection was largely limited to scouring personals in the newspaper. Those looking for something with less commitment had pornographic magazines or VHS tapes for immediate gratification. But by the mid-'90s, the Internet forever changed how people look for love and satisfied lust, thanks to the foresight of two pioneers whose similarities were equaled by their hatred for each other.

In The Players Ball, David Kushner (Alligator Candy) recounts the battle for sex on the Internet during its infancy. Gary Kremen founded and invented online dating by bringing classified ads online. Recognizing the potential, Kremen bought other domains, including, to use in the future. Within a few years, Kremen was dismissed from the company he founded. Adding insult to injury, he discovered that a con artist named Stephen Michael Cohen had claimed ownership of Cohen used fake letterhead and falsely claimed that Kremen no longer owned the domain; Cohen convinced domain registrar Network Solutions that he was the new owner, allowing him to earn tens of millions of dollars a year. A cat-and-mouse game ensued as an obsessed Kremen pursued Cohen, who routinely taunted Kremen.

Kushner's multifaceted portrait of the two men shows that the tenacious Kremen and the shameless Cohen shared much in common. Both had a grudging respect for each other, despite years of legal battles during the "anything goes" mentality of the nascent technology. Kushner's take on this chapter in Internet history is compulsively readable and always entertaining. --Frank Brasile, librarian

Discover: The Players Ball tells the story of the epic battle for ownership of during the Internet's early years.

Simon & Schuster, $27, hardcover, 272p., 9781501122149

Social Science

How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy

by Jenny Odell

Jenny Odell is an artist who teaches at Stanford University and, like most people in the 21st century, she feels the relentless pull of digital technologies on her already busy life. Targeted advertising, social media, personal brands, the gig economy: these modern manifestations demand attention often to the detriment of their participants, she argues. "In an endless cycle where communication is stunted and time is money, there are few moments to slip away and fewer ways to find each other." How to Do Nothing, however, goes beyond the notions of unplugging and retreat--exercises so often designed to spur greater productivity upon returning. Instead, Odell encourages readers to slow down and cultivate a sense of attention that prioritizes the physical realm.

What makes Odell's approach so appealing is that she recognizes that wholesale permanent retreat is unrealistic; it often neglects a person's responsibility to the world of digital interaction, such as keeping in touch with friends and relatives. Instead, her argument strives for balance, subverting the capitalistic drive of productive content creation by questioning the very terms of its demands. To that end, she draws heavily on Bartleby, the Scrivener, famously declaring, "I would prefer not to." Add to this the finely tuned attentiveness in David Hockney's art, the careful work of Hannah Arendt and a full palette of other brilliant creators, and How to Do Nothing emerges as a lush, sensible argument for balance in an unrelenting world. Furthermore, Odell grounds her work in the natural splendor of her home in the Bay Area. From what better vantage could a writer critique the fallout of Silicon Valley's Internet Age? --Dave Wheeler, associate editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A Bay Area artist considers the best practices in resisting the onslaught of digital influences on modern lives.

Melville House, $25.99, hardcover, 256p., 9781612197494

Psychology & Self-Help

Everything in Its Place: First Loves and Last Tales

by Oliver Sacks

The late neurologist and prolific author Oliver Sacks (AwakeningsThe River of Consciousness) crafted a series of essays as varied as they are wise in Everything in Its Place: First Loves and Last Tales. At their core is a section devoted to "clinical tales" in which Sacks discusses freely, and always with a deep sense of humanity, several patients and their neurological disorders that fascinated him. In "Seeing God in the Third Millennium," Sacks explores out-of-body and near-death experiences, respecting the personal meaning of such experiences while attempting to ground them in the physical realities of the brain. In "The Seduction of Madness," he chronicles manifestations of bipolar disorder and the heightened mania that can become a drug for those who experience feelings of superhuman ability.

Sacks's sense of wonder permeated his life, evidenced by the two sections bookending his clinical tales. The first is composed of boyhood reminiscences. He describes his youthful affinity for swimming and for libraries and museums, and how he fell in love with science. The last section of the book is written from the perspective of old age, in which those same loves have matured and directed his interest even more outward toward the mysteries of the world. These later essays are full of curiosity and awe.

Whether discussing botany or the intricacies of the brain, Sacks writes with the natural candor and wisdom of a great teacher. Everything in Its Place is his thoroughly illuminating last word. He will be missed. --Scott Neuffer, writer, poet, editor of trampset

Discover: Famous neurologist Oliver Sacks details his adventures with the mind and the greater natural world in this posthumous collection of essays.

Knopf, $26.95, hardcover, 288p., 9780451492890

Parenting & Family

Nanaville: Adventures in Grandparenting

by Anna Quindlen

Welcome to Nanaville, Anna Quindlen's newest address. The prolific chronicler of American family life--in columns, nonfiction (Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake) and novels (Alternate Side)--shares her latest chapter: grandparenting. "I am the mayor of Nanaville, and I vow to carry out my duties well," Quindlen declares in this joyous memoir when her son's son is born.

Two tropes she debunks are that the grandparent and child have a "common enemy" and that spoiling is her role, "which casts Nana not as the bad cop and not even as the good cop but as the getaway driver." Baby Arthur is born into a loving extended family, there's no doubt. Quindlen writes warmly about her son, who "puts his own concerns and needs aside to minister to this little boy" and her daughter-in-law who replied, "Of course," when she first asked to hold the child, "signaling right at the start where I stood." She recognizes her role does not include giving unsolicited advice. The "two commandments of Nanaville: love the grandchildren and hold your tongue."

Describing her large Irish Italian family (her grandparents had 32 grandchildren!), Quindlen reflects on cultural changes. When she was a girl, a "mixed marriage" was between a Catholic and a Lutheran. She cheers "the arc of progress" Arthur represents; his mother is Chinese, and his grandparents eagerly study Mandarin to talk with him in both of his languages.

Thoughtful and often hilarious (including variations on the title "grandma"), Nanaville is a delight for women of any generation. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, manager, Book Passage, San Francisco

Discover: In this memoir, prolific novelist and essayist Anna Quindlen shares the joy of grandparenting.

Random House, $26, hardcover, 176p., 9780812996104

Children's & Young Adult

You'd Be Mine

by Erin Hahn

Debut author Erin Hahn's You'd Be Mine is a YA romance that uses all the trappings of the genre to build an engrossing, moving story about addiction, emotional health and fame, with a whole lot of fun and romance thrown in.

Clay Coolidge is an 18-year-old pop-country sensation whose label, SunCoast Records, is sick of his bad boy "f*ckery." They've given him an ultimatum: convince Annie Mathers to join his tour or lose his contract. Annie is the child of country stars so giant, she "thought Willie Nelson was [her] actual grandpa until [she] was ten." Four years ago, she lost both parents to a "double-suicide" and has been "hiding out in Michigan" at her grandparents' home ever since. Now 17, Annie is slowly coming out of hiding, and SunCoast--the label that originally signed her mother, Cora--desperately wants "to have the pair."

Of course, Annie with the "smoky vocals" agrees to open for Clay with the "whiskey voice," and a relationship develops. But their time together isn't just a sexy, summer romp. (Though it is that, too!) Hahn's protagonists are complicated, whole individuals who realistically deal with the rapid maturing that comes with being famous at a very young age. Annie loves performing but is terrified of becoming her drug-ruined mother; she wants Clay but refuses to love someone who's so like her dad. Clay, too, is complex. Much of this novel centers on addiction, and Hahn's depiction of Clay's slow, painful acknowledgment of his alcoholism reads devastatingly true. You'd Be Mine perfectly balances the brutal with a lot of beautiful and shines with good humor, Southern sensibilities and a great love of music. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: Two talented young country singer/songwriters embark on a summer tour that sets them on tracks neither expected.

Wednesday Books, $17.99, hardcover, 304p., ages 14-up, 9781250192882

I Am Hermes!

by Mordicai Gerstein

Oh, that Hermes: we always knew he was mischievous. But in I Am Hermes!, Mordicai Gerstein's comics-style autobiography of sorts, it's clear that as a kid, the messenger of the gods was a pest of Olympian proportions.

With the help of dialogue balloons, Hermes narrates his own adventures, starting with events from his devilish infancy and toddlerhood. The baby-talking trickster takes delight in sneaking out of his cradle and stealing the cows belonging to his older brother Apollo. When Apollo rats out the brat to their dad, Zeus tells his younger son that it's time to grow up, which Hermes literally does before his eyes: "How's this?" Zeus anoints him on the spot: "You'll deliver messages, some in the form of dreams, to everyone." In the latter part of I Am Hermes!, the wing-sandaled one sets out to rescue Ares, god of war, who has been captured by Poseidon's twin sons; later, he disguises himself as a goatherd to get to know the crush-worthy mortal maiden Penelopeta, who becomes his bride.

Gerstein, author of the 2004 Caldecott-winning The Man Who Walked Between the Towers, has a flair for the comics-style format, which he tested in I Am Pan! Although chockablock with panels, the tidy layouts can accommodate banter and sight gags (an oblivious snail, when Apollo asks it about his cows' whereabouts: "I was inside all morning, housecleaning"). To aid the reader unfamiliar with the book's mythological cast of characters, I Am Hermes! begins with a pseudo team picture in which the gods and goddesses pose above their IDs; several look like good candidates for a starring role in another Gerstein book. Here's hoping there's one forthcoming. --Nell Beram, freelance writer and YA author

Discover: This winning middle-grade, comics-style look at Hermes, messenger of the gods, capitalizes on the humorous aspect of his troublemaking.

Holiday House, $18.99, hardcover, 72p., ages 8-12, 9780823439423


Author Buzz

My Royal Showmance
(A Park Avenue Promise Novel, Book 2)

by Lexi Blake

Dear Reader,

The reality TV setting made writing My Royal Showmance so much fun. Anika is expecting a boring time on her latest job but things turn when she has to step in for one of the contestants. It's supposed to be one night, but Luca has other ideas. He's looking to bring tourism back to his small country, but when he sees Anika he realizes he might do something remarkable--find love on the set of a TV show.

Lexie Blake

Available on Kobo

AuthorBuzz: Blue Box Press: My Royal Showmance (The Park Avenue Promise #2) by Lexi Blake

Blue Box Press

Pub Date: 
June 4, 2024


List Price: 
$5.99 e-book

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