Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Zonderkidz: The Smallest Spot of a Dot: The Little Ways We're Different, the Big Ways We're the Same by Linsey Davis, illustrated by Lucy Fleming

From My Shelf

Heroic Women

A cursory search for "World War II fiction" easily finds more than a thousand titles. One growing subgenre focuses on brave women forced into heroics during the war, whether by spying, resisting, working or "merely" surviving.

Elizabeth Wein's Code Name Verity (Disney-Hyperion, $9.99) appears on many lists of best World War II fiction, with good reason. Verity is a Scot working for the Allies, captured by the Nazis when her plane went down over France. She is sustained by memories of her friendship with Maddie, an English pilot. Our reviewer wrote, "Wein conveys a complexity with her characters that may at first elude us, and the ground shifts with each revelation... she creates a captive who uses wit as a weapon, and makes us feel that, at least intellectually, Verity has the upper hand."

When war comes to them, civilians have no choice but to fight, flee or exist. Two sisters in France take different paths in The Nightingale (St. Martin's Griffin, $17.99) by Kristin Hannah. In a Nazi-occupied village, Vianne wants to keep her head down and protect her daughter; Isabelle wants to fight, and joins the French Resistance. Hannah's epic is an emotional powerhouse that lays bare the human heart's capacity for courage, compassion and resilience.

A recent novel in this tradition is The Paris Orphan by Natasha Lester (Forever, $16.99). Jessica May, a famous New York model, uses her talent with a camera to document the war, although she is constantly thwarted by the brass. The front is supposedly no place for a woman, but Jess proves them wrong by surviving and taking haunting, provocative photographs. Jess is loosely based on Lee Miller, one of the war's preeminent photojournalists. --Marilyn Dahl, Shelf Awareness

Arcade Publishing: On Wine-Dark Seas: A Novel of Odysseus and His Fatherless Son Telemachus by Tad Crawford

Book Candy

Model Fictional Senior Citizens

Quirk Books considered "senior citizens in literature we want to grow up to be like."


"What would Michel Foucault think of social media, fake news & our post truth world?" Open Culture wondered.


Scholars believe John Milton may have been an early owner of a copy of Shakespeare's first folio, according to the Guardian.


"The oldest continuously operating library in the world is in this Egyptian monastery," Aleteia reported.


"Literary sculptures from around the world" were showcased by For Reading Addicts.

HarperVia: The First Seven Titles

HarperVia, the new HarperCollins imprint headed by Judith Curr, will publish 24 books a year, "mostly fiction, mostly in translation." The first seven titles will be published this fall and spring and are set in a range of places and time periods, including contemporary Venezuela and Iran, 1960s Germany and 22 years in the future. "The books all have relevance and have some point," Curr says. "They're not just about, say, a romance and will the couple end up together or about a murder and who was the killer and will the killer be found. These books have bigger issues at their heart."

Lost in the Spanish Quarter by Heddi Goodrich ($25.99, 9780008359966, September 5, 2019). Heddi met her first love while she was an American exchange student in Naples, Italy. Years later, when Pietro contacts her to apologize, Heddi is transported back to her college days in the labyrinthine streets of Naples' Spanish Quarter. This coming of age romance about an Italian boy and an American student--which Judith Curr says focuses on "nostalgia for a person's first adult romance"--is sure to appeal to fans of Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan novels and Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter. Author Heddi Goodrich, an American who studied in Naples before moving to New Zealand, originally wrote Lost in the Spanish Quarter in Italian and translated it into English herself. This is her debut novel.

It Would Be Night in Caracas by Karina Sainz Borgo, translated by Elizabeth Bryer ($23.99, 9780008359911, October 17, 2019). Adelaida Falcon had a middle-class childhood in Venezuela. Now, as an adult, Adelaida must bury her mother alone because contemporary Caracas has become too dangerous for travel. Violence is rampant, food in short supply, and every night Adelaida duct tapes her windows to keep tear gas from seeping indoors. She must also endure the roving looters who call themselves revolutionaries. It Would Be Night in Caracas gives "a vivid view into Venezuela today and into a community slowly descending into chaos and total anarchy," Judith Curr says. Karina Sainz Borgo is a Venezuelan journalist who currently lives in Madrid.

The German House by Annette Hess, translated by Elisabeth Lauffer ($25.99, 9780062910257, December 3, 2019). In 1963 Germany, 24-year-old Eva Bruhns recalls World War II as a hazy memory that left Frankfurt in ruins from Allied bombing. Now the streets are repaved, new stores constructed and Eva is eager to start a fresh life with a wealthy suitor. But when Eva is hired as a translator for concentration camp victims in the 1963 Frankfurt Auschwitz trials, she learns in detail about the Holocaust and wonders why her family remains so silent about those years. Judith Curr notes that this period in Germany, a time that isn't well known, was critical because "without a reckoning with its past, Germany couldn't move forward." The German House is already a bestseller in Germany, where Annette Hess has written several popular shows for German Netflix. Her novel is sure to appeal to readers of The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa and The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris.

The End of the Ocean by Maja Lunde, translated by Diane Oatley ($25.99, 9780062951366). In 2019, 70-year-old climate activist Signe sets off on a sailboat carrying cargo that may one day save lives. In 2041, Southern Europe suffers from drought and war. David and his daughter Lou are fleeing for safety when they discover Signe's old sailboat abandoned miles from shore. The End of the Ocean connects these parallel journeys into a call for climate action. Maja Lunde is a Norwegian author and screenwriter whose previous book, The History of Bees, was an international bestseller and also told a story of ecological collapse through several disparate perspectives. The End of the Ocean will appeal to Lunde's current fans and anyone concerned with climate change.

The American Fiancée by Éric Dupont, translated by Peter McCambridge ($27.99, 9780062947451, February 11, 2020). The American Fiancée is a globe-spanning saga about the Lamontagnes, whose matriarch's cookbook shapes three generations of the family's fortunes. Louis Lamontagne travels from his native Quebec to the U.S., then to Europe during World War II. Madeleine, his daughter, opens a popular restaurant chain using her grandmother's recipes. Finally, Madeleine's son Gabriel follows a woman to Berlin and uncovers shocking family secrets. Dupont weaves these far-reaching threads into what Judith Curr calls "a work of art and magic" that has already sold 60,000 copies in Quebec. The American Fiancée was a finalist for the Giller Prize, the Prix littéraire France-Québec and the Prix des cinq continents, and a winner of the Prix des libraires and the Prix littéraire des collégiens. It is Dupont's fourth novel.

Then the Fish Swallowed Him by Amir Ahmadi Arian ($25.99, 9780062946294, March 24, 2020). Yunus Turabi is an apolitical bus driver in Tehran. But after a bloody bus strike, Yunus finds himself in political prison with his own personal interrogator. As Yunus endures rounds of solitary confinement and questioning, he recalls the freer country of his youth and must decide whether to struggle against the dictatorial state or submit to its will. Then the Fish Swallowed Him is part retelling of Jonah and the Whale, part an allegory of authoritarianism and a chilling look at modern Iran. Judith Curr says that the book "shows the damage that individuals suffer under despotism." Currently a teacher in New York City, Amir Ahmadi Arian has translated the works of E.L Doctorow, Paul Auster and Cormac McCarthy from English into Farsi. Then the Fish Swallowed Him is his first novel written in English.

The Florios of Sicily by Stefania Auci, translated by Katherine Gregor ($27.99, 9780062931672, April 21, 2020). The Florios of Sicily is a grand, sweeping international bestseller that captures the many lives of one of Italy's most notorious families, the Florios, from their humble origins as Sicilian shopkeepers to their dominance as titans of industry, starting with Vincenzo, who sacrifices family and love to transform his tiny Palermo spice shop into a trading empire. The Florio men are stubborn, arrogant, philanderers and slaves to passions, while the Florio women unapologetically demand their place outside the restraints of caring mothers, alluring mistresses, or wounded wives. Inspired by the lives of real history-making titans, The Florios of Sicily brings to life the dark secrets, the loves and betrayals, and the cruel acts of revenge that marked the Florios' century of influence. In this epic yet intimate tale of power, passion, and revenge, the rise and fall of a family taps into the universal desire to become more than who we are born as.

Heddi Goodrich on Lost in the Spanish Quarter

Heddi Goodrich

Heddi Goodrich's Lost in the Spanish Quarter was just published by HarperVia. Here she discusses the book, which she first wrote and published in Italian. She calls it "a love poem" to Naples and an exploration of first love, "a kind of imprinting that affects every subsequent love relationship, a life-altering event that changes our love DNA forever."

How would you describe Lost in the Spanish Quarter?
Lost in the Spanish Quarter is a love story set in the '90s in Naples. University student Eddie, as she is known among her free-spirited tribe of fellow linguists, is an American searching for the roots she's never had, while Pietro, a geology major, is caught between a burning desire for freedom and the ties that bind him to the elusive, mountainous region he calls home, only a hundred kilometers from the city but a world away from the chaos and danger of the Spanish Quarter they live in. It's essentially a story about belonging, to a place or to a person, in which language is used a tool to peel back the emotional and cultural layers. E-mails written several years later and interlaced throughout further unravel the truth while offering the two a second chance at happiness.

How important is Naples and the Spanish Quarter as a setting for the book?
My whole reason for writing the book in the first place was simply, and selfishly, to relive Naples: I'd recently moved to New Zealand but couldn't afford the plane ticket back. The novel is my love poem to the city I lived in for over a decade, during some of my most formative years. As I began writing it, I realized that the Spanish Quarter in particular, a slum in the historic center of the city, was the perfect metaphor for first love, with its twisting paths, passionate shouting and moments of confusion and forgiveness, pettiness and heroism. Its crumbling buildings and illegal floors too, built from soft volcanic stone thanks to Mt. Vesuvius, are a daily reminder of the precariousness of all things.

Pietro's hometown, Monte San Rocco, is just as important a setting, although one I don't think American readers will be as familiar with. It's typical of many villages not just in Southern Italy but all along the country's "spinal cord," the Apennines, not postcard destinations but towns slowly dying from lack of opportunity and brain drain--when earthquakes don't depopulate them first. Unlike in Naples, where people live impulsively and loudly in the now because life is short and delicious, in Monte San Rocco much goes unsaid--even the dialect there is more closed-lipped--and food is stored up for the many winters to come, in constant preparation for the next famine. The incompatibility of these two settings is key to understanding the love story and the characters' motivations.

How easy or difficult do you think it is for a couple from different cultures to fall in love and find happiness? What's special about "first love?"
There's no easy answer to this because while it's true that we are products of the land and the culture that formed us, love is love. It just is. And even when you fall in love with someone who shares your cultural background, to love is to embark on a journey far outside your comfort zone, into unknown territory with all sorts of risks and surprises.

First love is not merely memorable but feels to me like a kind of imprinting that affects every subsequent love relationship, a life-altering event that changes our love DNA forever.

How was it writing in Italian first and translating into English? Was writing the book first in Italian important to the story? Do the Italian and English versions differ in any ways?
My first few drafts were actually in English. I'm an English teacher after all, and a copyeditor too: that is, I'm a very competent writer in my native language. But, as it turns out, I'm not a very inspired writer. Two years ago I discovered that only in Italian do I get true inspiration, in the classic sense of the word where beautiful sentences will come to me, as if from outside myself, and I just write them down. Maybe this inspiration is simply an effect of the slight distance from the language that I have as a non-native speaker, that subtle extraneousness that allows me to hear my words as if they weren't mine and therefore pick up any false notes, such as affected, overdramatic or unnecessary phrases. In Italian, I write like a reader. At the same time, I feel a very personal connection with the language, like it naturally molds to my innermost thoughts and emotions, but without all the linguistic baggage a native speaker might have. I can be true to myself and unintentionally unconventional. It's very freeing.

Translating Perduti nei Quartieri Spagnoli (Giunti, January 2019) into English wasn't quite as magical but it turned out to be a fun intellectual challenge, and it was nice never having to ask the author what she meant. Once I'd finished the translation, I was satisfied that I'd conveyed the genuineness of the original but worried that something essential had been inevitably lost, like with a photocopy of a painting. But I think I just needed some space from Perduti in order to see Lost in the Spanish Quarter as a work of fiction in its own right. Besides, the English version has some small additions, relating to the dialect or other cultural or historical factors, which I love because they will deepen the experience for the English-language reader.

How was BookExpo and your tour in Washington, D.C., and Boston? What stores did you visit and what stood out about them and the booksellers?
At BookExpo, I received an embarrassingly warm welcome. There was a long line at the HarperCollins stand to receive signed galley copies of my novel, although it might have had something to do with the free prosecco brought out to launch the new imprint, HarperVia. My editors and the rest of the team were giddy with excitement because they're doing something risky and new--and it's a real thrill because I'm new to all this too. I took part in a panel discussion about literature in translation and was shocked to learn that only 3% of books sold in America are translated from a foreign language. I like to fantasize that my novel will help, in its own little way, to make the world smaller.

Visiting so many tantalizing independent bookstores confirmed to me that I've landed among some of the most passionate do-gooders on the planet. In D.C., I especially enjoyed walking into Politics and Prose, just a block away from where I'd been staying with my brother and his family; it's their local bookstore, right next door to their local pizzeria. I also met with booksellers at Kramerbooks, One More Page, East City, Solid State, Loyalty Books and Busboys and Poets. In and around Boston, if possible, the reception was even warmer and I simply did not want to leave. I visited Harvard Book Store, Belmont Books, Harvard Coop, Newtonville Books, Concord Bookshop, Brookline Booksmith, Porter Square Books, An Unlikely Story and Wellesley Books.

What brought you to New Zealand? Will you be back in the U.S. anytime soon?
To quote Eddie Vedder, by going to the other hemisphere "I got my wish to up and disappear," but New Zealand is the kind of land that heals you whether you like it or not. That was 20 years ago, which means I've lived here longer than in any other country. But now my connection with the U.S. has been rekindled, in a completely unexpected way, as has my relationship with Italy, so who knows what will happen next.

Do you have plans to write more fiction and will you set any future works in New Zealand or the U.S.?
I'm naturally drawn to Southern Italy, and the next novel I plan to write is set in the province of Naples, near Pompeii, dealing with the friendship between two women from different worlds and different generations. Setting is fundamental to me and always will be, but I'm also fascinated by ancient Roman history and keep getting flashes of a possible historical novel. And yes, New Zealand, with its flightless birds and their strange songs, its wet beauty and fierce culture, provides an incredible backdrop which I probably won't be able to resist.

Book Review


Gun Island

by Amitav Ghosh

Amitav Ghosh's Gun Island captures the reader's imagination with a bold rendering of accelerated climate change and migration. It follows on the heels of the author's nonfiction work, The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable, in which he challenged fiction writers to confront the greatest existential threat to mankind. Ghosh rises to the summons himself by crafting a surreal, fantastical story of displacement caused by extreme weather.

Deen is an Indian American rare books dealer dividing his time between New York and Kolkata, a solitary life that has experienced its share of romantic disappointments. While in India, he is drawn to Bengali folklore about a gun merchant and the goddess of snakes who pursues him. Deen's friend and mentor Cinta is also drawn to the story and encourages him to venture further into mythology as a possible tool for understanding the bewildering present.

As Deen travels from Kolkata to Los Angeles and then on to Venice, retracing the gun merchant's steps, he witnesses wildfires, cyclones, tornadoes and sinking lands. Deen meets marine biologist Piya, who opens his eyes not only to the oxygen-starved waters that are wreaking havoc on sea life but also the stagnation of his own sheltered heart.

In a Venetian lagoon scene reminiscent of epic mythological battles, a migrant boat is confronted by warships and protestors intent on denying it access to shore. The anti-migration crusaders fail to realize that the forces of climate change will sooner or later render them utterly homeless, too. Ghosh's (River of Smoke) mesmerizing storytelling style, honed over a prolific career, positions him as one of the leading contenders of contemporary South Asian literature. --Shahina Piyarali, writer and reviewer

Discover: A confrontation between myth and reality drives the action in this climate crisis-inspired adventure through India, the U.S. and Italy.

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $27, hardcover, 320p., 9780374167394

RP Mystic: Magic, Diversified

The Starlet and the Spy

by Ji-Min Lee, trans. by Chi-Young Kim

"I go to work thinking of death. Hardly anyone in Seoul is happy during the morning commute, but I'm certain I'm one of the most miserable."

At the opening of Ji-Min Lee's The Starlet and the Spy, Alice J. Kim works as a translator for the American forces a year after the armistice and ceasefire. Her life and outlook are as dour as these introductory lines: the traumas of the war have left her hopeless and joyless. When her boss tells her about an upcoming assignment, he expects she'll feel excited and honored to serve as escort, interpreter and handler for Marilyn Monroe, on a tour to entertain U.S. soldiers. Alice is unmoved--what does she care for an American movie star?

During the course of four days with the bombshell, however, Alice will be forced to broaden her perspective on her own life and options. There seems the hint of a chance that she will find someone she's lost. As Alice struggles with her will to live, the American beauty surprises her. Stunning, sexy, charismatic, yes; but Monroe is also unexpectedly approachable. And she will make a small but essential difference in the life of the less famous woman.

Born of a curiosity about human relationships in unusual times, The Starlet and the Spy asks the questions: What if we met across a divide? What if a despairing young Korean woman reached into Marilyn Monroe's makeup bag for a lipstick, or a way out? In a decidedly optimistic turn, Lee leaves her ending open, and her reader free to wonder what might be next for Alice. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: In 1954 Seoul, a war-weary young Korean woman and Marilyn Monroe share a brief but crucial sojourn, and learn they have more in common than they thought.

Harper Paperbacks, $15.99, paperback, 192p., 9780062930262

Mystery & Thriller

Cold Storage

by David Koepp

After 16 "kills" (nuclear/bioweapons programs neutralized), Defense Nuclear Agency team Roberto Diaz and Trini Romano think they've seen it all. Then, in 1987, they encounter Cordyceps novus, a fungus more pernicious, adaptive and threatening than anything they've ever seen. The government destroys all but a small sample, which it buries safely in cold storage in the Atchison mines, "sealed inside a biotube three hundred feet underground in a sub-basement that didn't officially exist."

Thirty years later, the former government space has been turned into Atchison Storage. One night, employees Travis "Teacake" Meacham (an oddly charming ex-con) and Naomi Williams (a single mom working her way through veterinary school) hear beeping behind a wall, which leads them to the discovery of hidden subbasements and a government vault with an odd fungus spreading across the floor.

After three decades, nobody but Roberto and Trini remembers the deadly fungal threat, so when Teacake and Naomi call the military, Roberto is summoned out of retirement for what his superiors think is an unnecessary assessment. Enacting a secret contingency plan, Roberto goes off grid and races the clock--and the newly awoken fungus--to keep it from spreading. The threat is real: if he fails, it will "[bring] about a Sixth Extinction, a mass die-off" of all life on Earth, and he'll do anything to stop it.

Cold Storage is the debut novel by screenwriter and director David Koepp (Jurassic Park, Panic Room), and his riveting combination of distinctive characters, thrilling pace and deadly threat make it a fun ride. --Jennifer Oleinik, freelance writer and editor

Discover: A deadly fungus threatens total annihilation to life on Earth, and it's up to two security guards and a retired military man to destroy it before it's too late.

Ecco, $27.99, hardcover, 320p., 9780062916433

Science Fiction & Fantasy

A Song for a New Day

by Sarah Pinsker

In A Song for a New Day, novelist and musician Sarah Pinsker (Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea) imagines a future where avoiding human interaction has become the norm. After a series of high-profile bombings and mass shootings leaves thousands dead, the United States government outlaws public gatherings. Technology allows people to live in their own homes where, they believe, they'll be safe.

The narrative moves between two voices. Luce is a musician who fronted the band that was the last major concert headliner before the congregation laws went into effect. After concerts are outlawed, she's lost without a live audience. But, to her surprise, she discovers an illicit network of live venues. As dangerous as it is--the government is ruthless in jailing perpetrators and destroying venues--she opens her own underground club and begins performing again.

Rosemary is a young woman who doesn't remember a time before gatherings were illegal. Her schooling, shopping and dating have all been virtual. Her first experience at a virtual concert where everyone is an avatar, however, is transformative. She becomes an artist recruiter for StageHoloLive, the company that organizes and sponsors virtual concerts and events. This necessitates actual traveling to find underground musicians in order to convince them to join the virtual world. Her first major recruitment effort is to convince Luce to be a SHL entertainer.

The power of speculative fiction comes from the realistic depiction of future consequences of contemporaneous actions and beliefs. Pinsker uses the world of music, with its power to bring people together, as an urgent warning about the dangers of society withdrawing into itself. --Cindy Pauldine, bookseller, the river's end bookstore, Oswego, N.Y.

Discover: In this speculative novel, public gatherings are outlawed after massive, lethal terrorist attacks, but an underground musician helps keep hope alive for a resurgence of human connections.

Berkley, $16, paperback, 384p., 9781984802583

Food & Wine

Umami Bomb: 75 Vegetarian Recipes that Explode with Flavor

by Raquel Pelzel

Vegetarians and carnivores alike will rejoice at the bold, inventive recipes in Umami Bomb: 75 Vegetarian Recipes that Explode with Flavor. If your vegetable recipes are sweet, salty, bitter or sour, but still missing that special something, you need to increase the fifth flavor, and up the umami factor. Umami is often considered to be meaty, but Umami Bomb proves that you can have recipes packed with savory richness without using any meat.

Seventy-five flavorful recipes are grouped into chapters organized by eight umami-rich ingredients: aged cheese, tomatoes, mushrooms, soy sauce, miso, caramelized onions, smoke and nutritional yeast. After the end of these eight main chapters there is a bonus fish chapter, with umami-rich ingredients like anchovies adding extra savory power for pescatarians.

Filled with bright pictures, clear fonts and easy-to-follow recipes that will leave mouths watering, Umami Bomb is sure to please any eater. Add a splash of soy sauce to marinara to create depth of flavor. Surprise brunch guests with a Savory Mushroom Breakfast Porridge that will knock their socks off. Keep a jar of caramelized onions in the fridge to have on hand for Caramelized Onion Focaccia with an Everything Bagel Seasoning. And even add savory flair to desserts, using smoke to make delicious Grilled Banana Splits. Perfect for vegetarians wanting to improve their dinner parties, or anyone interested in a more plant-based diet, Umami Bomb is a welcome addition to any cookbook collection. --Jessica Howard, bookseller at Bookmans, Tucson, Ariz.

Discover: In this cheerful cookbook, savory ingredients such as tomatoes, miso and caramelized onions add umami flavor to inventive vegetarian recipes.

Workman, $19.95, hardcover, 256p., 9781523500369

Biography & Memoir

The Most Spectacular Restaurant in the World: The Twin Towers, Windows on the World, and the Rebirth of New York

by Tom Roston

Windows on the World was a fixture in the North Tower of the World Trade Center. It occupied nearly 50,000 square feet on the 106th and 107th floors--a quarter-mile high--and it was once the top-grossing restaurant in the country. With painstaking detail, journalist Tom Roston (I Lost It at the Video Store) relied on more than 125 sources to craft a superbly drawn portrait of an esteemed restaurant that was once a sophisticated pillar of New York City, catering to elites and tourists alike.

Windows launched in 1976. Roston shares a behind-the-scenes history of how the restaurant was conceived; the many culinary, creative and business challenges surmounted; and juicy stories about the power players, politicians and patrons who pioneered--and maintained--its legendary existence. Most notable was restaurateur Joe Baum, a forward-thinking, innovative perfectionist who demanded the same from his peers and subordinates.

Roston's richly detailed narrative chronicles how Windows rose in prominence, shining like a beacon of hope during the tumultuous 1970s. Stories about management and employees--many of them immigrants, some undocumented--reveal how diversity played a significant role in the success of a restaurant that was forced to adapt and evolve, including when Windows went dark for three years following the 1993 bomb attack on the World Trade Center. Sections chronicling events leading up to, through and beyond 9/11--how everyone working and dining at the restaurant that day perished--are particularly riveting and utterly heartbreaking. Through it all, Roston shows how this lavish destination restaurant in Manhattan--"Versailles in the sky"--is a landmark to be remembered. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: A painstakingly researched, emotionally engaging account of the hard-won rise--and fall--of a landmark New York City restaurant.

Abrams, $28, hardcover, 352p., 9781419737992


When the Sky Fell: Hurricane Maria and the United States in Puerto Rico

by Michael Deibert

When Puerto Rico fell to the United States in 1898 after the Spanish-American War, it was "an afterthought," named a territory only because of its "strategic importance." By 1996, U.S. industries began to abandon the island when they lost federal income tax exemptions that had made Puerto Rico a manufacturing haven. Unemployment skyrocketed and, by 2013, Puerto Rico was $87 billion in debt. Four years later, the government had closed more than 300 public schools.

On September 12, 2017, Hurricane Maria hit the island with winds reaching 165 miles per hour. Buildings collapsed, homes were flooded and 80% of Puerto Rico's crops were destroyed. Communication, electrical power and municipal water systems were almost nonexistent island-wide. Five days later, FEMA's director arrived to assess the disaster, leading a Florida congressman to observe, "We've invaded small countries faster than we've been helping American citizens in Puerto Rico."

When the Sky Fell gives a vivid account of Puerto Rico's dark colonial history and the economic difficulties that have befallen the island while under U.S. control. Journalist Michael Deibert (Haiti Will Not Perish) shows how depredations of the past created fertile ground for the tragedies of the present, giving voice to the words of a San Juan resident in 2018: "The United States is a superpower, one of the greatest in the world, and they can't get the lights on and the water running for a 100 by 33 mile island...? They can take their citizenship and get out of here. Let us have our island." --Janet Brown, author and former bookseller

Discover: A journalist shows how past colonialism and prevailing economic exploitation have damaged Puerto Rico as deeply as the savage force of Hurricane Maria did in 2017.

Apollo Publishers, $24.99, hardcover, 216p., 9781948062367

Nature & Environment

Dark Skies: A Practical Guide to Astrotourism

by Valerie Stimac

Most of Lonely Planet's guides cover the ground beneath us: hotels and restaurants, landmarks, museums, day trips and everything in between. Many of these destinations suffer from a common plight--light pollution. In his introduction to Dark Skies: A Practical Guide to Astrotourism by Valerie Stimac and Lonely Planet, Phil Plait (aka the Bad Astronomer) cites a study claiming that 80% of the planet is afflicted by light pollution, including 99% of the United States. This means most people can see only a relatively few stars, even on a clear night.

Observing the Milky Way in a place with little or no light pollution can be a life-changing experience. Much of Dark Skies is dedicated to a global listing of sites accredited by the Dark Sky Association for stargazing, such as Cherry Springs State Park in Pennsylvania, Uluru in Australia and NamibRand Nature Reserve in Namibia. Beyond traveling to see the stars, Dark Skies also guides astrotourists to major observatories, rocket launch sites, solar eclipse paths, meteor shower schedules and the best places to see the aurora borealis (despite visa complications, Russia is apparently underrated).

Dark Skies may be a new frontier for Lonely Planet guides, but its format will be familiar to anyone who has used its earthly counterparts. Though many of the destinations are ambitious (good luck seeing Chinese rockets in the Gobi desert), there are enough locations in the Western hemisphere to make Dark Skies worthwhile to U.S. readers, and perhaps it will launch some illuminating trips. --Tobias Mutter, freelance reviewer

Discover: A guide to the world's best places to see stars, auroras, meteor showers, eclipses and more.

Lonely Planet, $19.99, hardcover, 288p., 9781788686198

Performing Arts

For the Love of Music: A Conductor's Guide to the Art of Listening

by John Mauceri

Classical music can be a divisive genre--some people love it, others dislike it, still more are intimidated by it. But no matter what one's relationship to classical might be, this meditation on the genre by esteemed conductor John Mauceri (Maestros and Their Music) is sure to give all readers a new, or deeper, insight into what they are listening to when they listen to a piece of music.

Despite the title, For the Love of Music isn't really a how-to, and instead peels back the decades and the histories and the dialogues entered into when a piece of classical music is heard. Mauceri invites listening as an active process, one that questions what we are hearing, what we are feeling, what is evoked in us. For him, a journey through classical music is a journey through narratives encoded in an invisible art form, one that will always be up to the listener to interpret. He takes a historical view of the genre and wraps it in his experiences as both a fan and a performer, always emphasizing the symbolic mode of storytelling at the heart of the notes and its ability to induce a sense of wonder. For the Love of Music returns to the idea of music as a compendium of memory, tied to nostalgia, to personal experience and, overall, to the pleasure one might find in the endless variation of how it might be listened to yet again. --Michelle Anya Anjirbag, freelance reviewer

Discover: A meditation on classical music, and how to really listen to it, from someone who knows how to do it: longtime conductor John Mauceri.

Knopf, $25.95, hardcover, 224p., 9780525520658


Father's Day

by Matthew Zapruder

In Matthew Zapruder's fifth collection of poetry, the themes of fatherhood and uncertainty for the future loom large. Father's Day is not a drastic departure from Zapruder's previous books. It features concise poems that often stem from an unexpectedly poignant--or, in some cases, bleak--moment he's encountered in everyday life. At the center of this volume is Zapruder's son, who appears in various poems as a human about to be born, an infant capable of renewing hope and a young child on the autism spectrum learning to navigate the world--and asking his father to do the same.

In an afterword, Zapruder (The Pajamist) clarifies that his son is "not a symbol, or myth, nor, for that matter, a diagnosis," and the complexity and care reflected in poems like "My Life" and "Today" make this sentiment exceedingly clear. Anxiety and political turmoil also make frequent appearances, often as poems addressed directly to high-profile subjects like Paul Ryan and Roseanne Barr. In other cases, Zapruder's work takes the form of letters or musings to some of poetry's most acclaimed creators. He is exceptionally skilled at this form, which allows for observational patter as one might have found back when letters were a primary means of communication. Engaging with everyone from Slovenian poet Tomaž Šalamun, W.S. Merwin and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Zapruder proves that poetry is often at its most effective when posited as a conversation. --Zack Ruskin, freelance reviewer

Discover: A tender, wise collection of poetry touching on subjects like fatherhood, political anxiety and the beauty found in tiny moments.

Copper Canyon Press, $17, paperback, 96p., 9781556595783

Children's & Young Adult

Our Favorite Day

by Joowon Oh

Papa is an elderly creature of habit: every day begins with a cup of tea, tending to his plants, tidying up and getting dressed to ride the bus into town. His regular walk takes him by familiar stores and lands him at the same restaurant for his "usual" lunch of dumplings before he makes his return homeward. Thursdays, however--although they start the same, with tea, plants, town--are different: he shops at the craft store and takes his double order of dumplings to go. Back at home, the ecstatic cry of "Papa!" joyfully interrupts his routine, as a little girl races from parked car into his open arms. Dumplings are shared and artful creations are made.

Korean-born, New York City resident Joowon Oh makes her picture book debut with Our Favorite Day, a poignant celebration of multi-generational, unconditional love. Working in watercolor with gouache and paper collage, Oh enhances her spare prose with subtle, resonating additions. Papa is a reader with thick books scattered by his bed and on his living room table. He's a widower, sleeping solo, but surrounded by photographs of his late wife. He's a little lonely, meandering always by himself, seated at a table for one. But Oh also reminds us that his granddaughter's presence must be a regular event: her smaller cup and saucer with its goofy grin on the kitchen table, the stepstool at the sink for washing up, framed photographs that show her progression from toddler to little girl. Oh, who dedicates her Favorite Day to her own "dad, with love," gently reminds parents and young children the absolute necessity of extended connections and the resulting rewards of routine interruptions. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon

Discover: Joowon Oh's picture book debut shows how routine connections are the heart of a relationship between a grandfather and his energetic granddaughter.

Candlewick, $16.99, hardcover, 32p., ages 3-7, 9781536203578

Little Libraries, Big Heroes

by Miranda Paul, illus. by John Parra

"For thousands of years, people have loved stories about heroes. Mythical heroes, historical heroes, and even... ordinary heroes. Like this guy: Todd."

Todd Bol was "pretty ordinary." As a child, he found reading difficult and was often in trouble in school. His mother, a teacher and book-lover, "told him he was gifted and had something big to offer the world." Years later, when Todd's mother died, he comforted himself with memories of her, including her teaching kids how to read. This gave him an idea: he would create a tiny "library" to "share his mother's love of reading." Made from an old door and "hammered... together to make a tiny one-room schoolhouse," this was the very first Little Free Library.

Miranda Paul's (Nine Months) straightforward, accessible text walks readers through Little Free Library's history, from Bol's first mini schoolhouse in Hudson, Wis., to the more than "75,000 registered LFLs" now found around the world. Paul dives into specifics, telling readers about six-year-old Nikki, who became an LFL "steward" after distributing hundreds of books in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina; librarian Ms. López, who built Texas's first LFL to bolster the school district's reading program; volunteers who set up both a school and an LFL in Uganda in a refugee camp. John Parra's (Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos) fully saturated, acrylic illustrations are lively, each many-hued page full of motion and unrestrained energy. The award-winning pair both dedicate Little Libraries, Big Heroes to their childhood librarians, happily pointing out that ordinary book heroes can be found on the street and in the open arms of a child's local library. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: Award-winners Miranda Paul and John Parra team up to tell the history of Little Free Libraries in high-spirited, picture book form.

Clarion Books, $17.99, hardcover, 40p., ages 4-7, 9780544800274


Author Buzz

The Marriage Auction
(Season One, Volume One)

by Audrey Carlan

Dear Reader,

What would you do for 3 Million Dollars? Would you auction yourself off for marriage to the highest bidder, sight unseen? Four women did… and this is their story.

Arranged marriages. A woman on the run. Family drama. Twins vying for the same bride. It's all part of the deal when you enter into The Marriage Auction.

Read the phenomenon that has been the #1 story across Amazon's new Kindle Vella serialized reading platform for over a year! With close to two million reads already, The Marriage Auction promises a spicy, romantic, thrilling adventure, with forced proximity, taboo undertones, found family, and four loves stories that will fill your heart to bursting.

These are the types of love stories that will stay with you for years to come. Happy reading, friends!


Available on Kobo

Blue Box Press

Pub Date: 
January 24, 2023


List Price: 
$5.99 e-book

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