Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, October 8, 2019

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

From My Shelf

Succession Crisis

Every now and then there's a TV show that's good enough to inspire background reading. One such program is HBO's Succession, which follows an extremely wealthy family's bitter infighting over the future of their media empire after the patriarch falls ill. The show is clearly inspired by Shakespeare, but also by real-life families like the Murdochs. Unfortunately, there are no recent books about Rupert Murdoch that I can enthusiastically recommend. Instead, I would point curious readers to Kochland: The Secret History of Koch Industries and Corporate Power in America by Christopher Leonard (S&S, $35). The Kochs are much less ostentatious than Succession's Roy family, but a key section of the book deals with a vicious interfamily struggle over the future of the company that ends only after a decades-long legal fight. What is essentially an argument over money evolves into something much more personal: the brothers on each side reportedly refused to speak to each other for years, even at their mother's funeral.

Business is also personal in what may be the greatest business book ever written: Bryan Burrough and John Helyar's Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco (HarperBusiness, $17.99). In terms of understanding the intricacies of buyouts and other high-finance schemes that play a part in Succession, Barbarians at the Gate is an excellent resource. It's even better, though, as a clash of personalities and, as with Succession, greed and betrayal of Shakespearean proportion. The characters in Succession can seem impossibly callous at times, but Barbarians at the Gate shows that this is no artistic invention.

The last book I'd like to recommend is a novel, Preti Taneja's We That Are Young (Vintage, $16.95). It also centers on a succession crisis, and could efficiently be described as King Lear in India. Like Succession, it's a brilliant update of an enduring story. And, while it, too, is fictional, the narrative is just as easy to believe. --Hank Stephenson, manuscript reader, the Sun magazine

Jewish Book Council: 73rd National Jewish Book Award Winners

Book Candy

Atwood, Rushdie and Others on How to Write a Booker Prize Contender

With the big lit award announcement coming soon, the Guardian featured shortlisted authors' thoughts on "how to write a Booker contender."


A rare glimpse into J.D. Salinger's archive is coming to the New York Public Library, Gothamist reported.


Mental Floss sourced "the origins behind 30 Harry Potter words and spells."


"Books that feel like a pumpkin spice latte" were served up by Quirk Books.


"Waldsassen Abbey is the fairy tale library you need to visit," Bookstr noted.


Gennaro Attanasio's 2S Chair bookcase "is designed to be used, lived and decomposed day by day in a different way."

The Furies

by Katie Lowe

Dark and alluring, Katie Lowe's debut novel, The Furies, is a sensory buffet of beautifully gritty prose and a plot that combines witchcraft, murder and the power of angry young women searching for vengeance.

The book opens on the memory of a macabre scene: a teenage girl dressed all in white and posed sitting on a swing, is found dead of unknown causes. "It was so perfectly composed, like a Renaissance painting," our modern-day narrator muses, the recollection "a thrill, cold and sweet."

Twenty years earlier: after Violet's father and sister are killed in a car accident, her increasingly distant mother insists that the settlement money be used to send her to the local private girls' college, Elm Hollow Academy, an "entirely idyllic, and utterly charming" institution on the outskirts of their otherwise unnoteworthy English town. Introverted Violet expects to be a loner in this new prestigious school, but instead she is instantly singled out by Robin, a wild, loud and apparently fearless girl in her art class. Desperate for friendship, Violet clings to bigger-than-life Robin and her two friends, pragmatic Alex and quiet, thoughtful Grace, even when she hears rumors that she looks exactly like Robin's previous best friend Emily, who has been missing for months.

Desperate to maintain her new friendships at all costs, Violet finds herself emulating the other girls, Robin most of all. What begins as common delinquency--smoking, drinking, skipping class--escalates to illicit drugs and violence as they relish in the "brutal power of female friendship." When their hypnotic art teacher, Annabel, invites Violet to take secret lessons alongside Robin, Alex and Grace, it solidifies Violet's growing attachment to the girls--even more so as they study the history of female oppression, witchcraft, mythology and literature.

When one of them is attacked and justice seems unlikely, the friends begin to take Annabel's lessons more literally, invoking ancient spells and ritual sacrifice to summon the mythic Furies to their aid. As the conjured Furies begin to wreak their vengeance, the lines between reality and magic become blurred in Violet's mind. The girls' growing sense of power and virtue takes its toll on anyone in their way, and their actions escalate in violence as together they become judge, jury and executioner.

But the emotional and chemical highs of these moments are followed by doubts as Violet questions not only the ethics of their actions but even her memory of them. Her sometimes unreliable narrative reveals a teenager who is confused and desperate for the affection and approval of her friends, Robin in particular. And though Violet is the protagonist, it is Robin who brings pulsing life to the story and pushes her forward, whether in jealousy, love, grief or joy. "Robin, in our moments of doubt, would pull the four of us together with the force of her belief, words electric and vivid with righteous fury at men, at injustice, and brutal power." Her sensuality and overwhelming confidence offer an alluring escape to Violet, who would otherwise be crushed in her own grief.

"It is [the lot of women] to be seen as either unpredictable and irrational mortals, maligned and repressed by the actions of men, or sacred beings, goddesses of a higher realm, among the Fates and the Furies." Lowe takes this civilizations-old social narrative and shifts it, empowering Violet, Robin, Alex and Grace to action, albeit violent and reprehensible. Her lush descriptions of characters and settings give the increasingly horrifying scenes an addictive quality as Violet and her friends spiral deeper into their own sense of power and twisted morality, their unity propelling their cavalier sense of righteousness and untouchability: "We were close to the divine. We touched gods, felt them flow through our veins. Felt lust, envy, greed, quicken our hearts--but for a while we were truly, spectacularly alive." 

The Furies is a contemporary horror story that harnesses the real-world frustration and anger of generations of women who find themselves overlooked, underestimated and often abused. The most impressive part of Lowe's story, however, is not the vast spread of history she includes or the increasingly violent and destructive path of her protagonist or her vivid, imagery-rich prose. It is that even as readers will judge Violet and her friends harshly, they will also, at least at times, find them strangely, intimately relatable. With the #metoo movement headlining the news and feminist empowerment at the forefront of conversation in the United States, this story of strong, angry women is well-timed. Contemporary themes of friendship, empowerment and surviving trauma are interwoven with magic, sacred rites and vengeance, making The Furies a dark and intoxicating page turner that will speak to many. --Jennifer Oleinik

St. Martin's Press, $26.99, hardcover, 368p., 9781250297891, October 8, 2019
St. Martin's Press, $26.99, hardcover, 368p., 9781250297891

Katie Lowe: Brutal Power of Female Friendship

(photo: Dearest Love)

Katie Lowe is the creator of the blog Fat Girl, PhD, which explores feminism, body image and health. Her writing has been featured in the Guardian, the Independent and more. Following the publication of her debut novel, The Furies (coming from St. Martin's Press on October 8, 2019), Lowe will be returning to the University of Birmingham to complete her PhD in English literature; her thesis explores female rage in literary modernism.

You describe The Furies as "a book about obsession, witchcraft, and murder." What about these themes inspired you to write a novel?

I had the murder before I had anything else--I wrote that opening scene one afternoon with no idea who was talking, or what the context was, and then put it in a drawer for a couple of months and forgot all about it.

I'd also known for a long time that I wanted to write a book about female friendships, particularly among teenagers. It's such a heady period of life, when emotions are running so high and you feel everything with such intensity--so for me, it was irresistible. But I wanted to treat it seriously. Culturally, we have a tendency to minimize the experience of teenage girls: we say their music sucks, their interests are silly, their stories aren't meaningful coming-of-age narratives but high school dramas, and so on. It almost removes their agency when we talk about them like this, as though they're not fully rounded individuals but silly little girls.

Which is partly how I landed on witchcraft as a way of framing all of this. I wanted the girls in this novel to find power in another kind of female figure who sits in the "outsider" category and to run with it. It's such a powerful idea to me that these women accused of witchcraft over the centuries have rejected the expectations put upon them, even if that means being put to death. And so, with The Furies, I wanted the girls to find strength in that rather than fear.

This story of female fury and a need to mete out justice--especially to the men who have harmed them--resonates strongly with recent headlines. Can you talk a little more about the "brutal power of female friendship" and the empowerment through rage that the young women in your novel experience?

I think #metoo has given a language to something that's been part of the female experience for a long time, which is obviously why it resonated so powerfully with so many women.

The auction for the novel in the United States took place on the day the Weinstein allegations first came out, so the writing process took place while the kind of conversations #metoo has brought into the spotlight still only ever happened privately, among friends. It feels almost as though it's being published now into a world I never could've imagined while I was writing it, though it's vastly improved for it.

With that said, I--and most of my friends--had spent 2016-2017 in a kind of stunned horror at the way the world was changing around us. We were, and are still, angry. The fact that these girls and women [in my book] are so angry and so ready to take matters into their own hands was very much a product of that. It's a phrase that's used so often it's a cliché, but that doesn't make it any less true: if you're not angry right now, you're probably not paying attention.

At the start of the book, your protagonist, Violet, and her new friend, Robin, appear to be near foils of one another, but they become progressively more intertwined. Was this character evolution planned or did it grow organically as you wrote?

It really did grow organically. Something I've learned (painfully, I'd say, from this point in the end stages of hashing out a new book) is that I'm not someone who can plot characters in such a way that I can make them do things they aren't meant to do. There's a point, for me, where the book clicks and you know the characters well enough to put them in a situation and let them interact with each other and see what happens, rather than having to force things along. And for me, personally, a lot of the most enjoyable scenes to write were those in which Violet and Robin were alone together. Because they were so closely intertwined, it was so much fun just to put them in a situation and let them talk--almost more like writing a play than a novel.

Your characters are complicated, to say the least. Which was the most challenging to write? Which was the most relatable for you as the author?

The answer to both of these is Violet, but in ways that changed as the book went on. I had her voice straight out of the gate, and the situations I put her into, at first, were ones that were not entirely dissimilar to those I'd experienced at that age (starting school late, hanging out in a coffee shop with my new friends, etc.).

But the more she changed, the harder it was to write her voice. She went to such dark places that it was a challenge to maintain the coldness she develops, especially towards the end of the novel. What I'd hoped to do was begin with a character who was pretty relatable in general, but who--through a series of small, almost understandable decisions--became gradually more callous, taking the reader along for the ride. But spending months in that headspace with her was not the easiest thing!

Your writing is full of rich imagery that makes the story easy to visualize--it feels ripe for a screen adaptation. Did you think about the visual possibilities of TV or film as you were writing?

If I'm totally honest, I didn't. It's only this year that I bought my first TV, and when I was writing The Furies, I was living in a tiny flat with really glitchy wi-fi, so I couldn't really stream TV, either. In a way, I think that might've helped with the visual side of things because I had to put it on the page for it to exist for me, if that makes sense. I did have a really clear idea of how I wanted the world of the novel to look and to feel, so I'm thrilled whenever anyone says they've noticed it on the page.

With that said, owning a TV now, there is so much good stuff out there, and I'm very interested in the way books are adapted for the screen. It's a kind of magic, taking a world that exists on the page and making it into something visual. But deep down, I'll always be a literature nerd at heart. For me, the book will always come first. --Jennifer Oleinik

Shelf vetted, publisher supported.

Book Review


Ghosts of Berlin: Stories

by Rudolph Herzog, trans. by Emma Rault

No matter how much it changes, no matter how far it's come, a city will always be shaped by its past. German writer and filmmaker Rudolph Herzog (A Short History of Nuclear Folly) delivers a splendid and eerie collection of short fiction set at the epicenter of Germany's wildest history in Ghosts of Berlin.

In the vibrant, cosmopolitan 21st century, Berlin and its denizens still grapple with memories of fearsome, mournful events dating back to when the Nazis ruled and when the Stasi lurked. Beginning with "Tandem," the collection sets an assured pace. Dimitri, a young Greek professional with a history of asthma, relocates to Berlin for a promising new employment opportunity. As he settles in, he looks for a language partner to help him brush up on his German. Lotte connects with him immediately--she's a pleasant if mildly unnerving woman of indeterminate age who nurtures a strong preoccupation with Greece. Before long, the guilt she feels for the Nazi occupation of Dimitri's country bursts to the surface, manifesting before his eyes with shocking severity.

Herzog has a knack for summoning the uncanny into otherwise austere, modern settings, and further twisting its presence into a foreboding paranoia. The merciless onslaught of gentrification conjures a certain type of poltergeist inside an unsuspecting tenant's new apartment in the collection's most traditional ghost story, "Ifrit." A shrewd and provocative collection of fiction, Ghosts of Berlin is translated into English by the equally sharp Emma Rault. The plots are thick, and the twists are powerful. Be sure to check the closets and under the bed before the lights go out. --Dave Wheeler, associate editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: Berlin's sometimes sordid past bears down ominously upon unsuspecting residents of the 21st century in filmmaker Rudolph Herzog's eerie collection of short fiction.

Melville House, $17.99, paperback, 192p., 9781612197517

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

Where the Light Falls: Selected Stories of Nancy Hale

by Nancy Hale, Lauren Groff, editor

The short fiction of mid-century author Nancy Hale (The Prodigal Women) has been resurrected to astonishing effect in Where the Light Falls: Selected Stories of Nancy Hale.

Editor Lauren Groff (Florida), in an insightful introduction, argues that Hale is an important 20th-century writer often overlooked in the male-dominated canon. Groff likens Hale's style to a literary "chiaroscuro," and, indeed, these 25 stories reveal a writer equipped with a painterly sensibility. (Many of them first appeared in the New Yorker.) Like her contemporaries Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hale chronicles American life with directness and keen insight, providing a picture of society in many stages.

Her stories, however, place women at the center. "Midsummer," for example, explores female sexual desire in tantalizing poetic detail. "That Woman" focuses on Southern culture and how a woman's honor is controlled by deeply entrenched patriarchal views. And before "mansplaining" was even a word, Hale was writing about it in "Book Review," in which chauvinistic men shoot down a woman's thoughtful commentary. The standout story is "Who Lived and Died Believing." Harrowing and haunting, it features a woman in a psychiatric hospital succumbing to madness. Hale plunges into the internal stream-of-consciousness of the afflicted character à la Virginia Woolf or William Faulkner. As the woman's mind deteriorates, she clings to a vision of love: "It still endured, somewhere, upon the fading world."

Where the Light Falls showcases the work of a versatile and important writer. Though Hale is no longer with us, her stories are timeless. --Scott Neuffer, writer, poet, editor of trampset

Discover: Lauren Groff edits this collection of 25 stories from an overlooked American female author.

Library of America, $26, hardcover, 384p., 9781598536423

The Big Impossible

by Edward J. Delaney

"Things just keep changing," a father laments to his son in "House of Sully," the centerpiece novella in Edward J. Delaney's pained, searching second collection of short fiction (after The Drowning). The Big Impossible concerns men adrift in an inconstant United States, uncertain of their place or their value, often reflecting on their lives in spare prose that soars even as it mourns.

Delaney (Follow the Sun) is adept at the telling detail, at the texture of bygone days: "House of Sully" summons the anxieties of a white family facing the tumult (and new freedoms) of 1968 with an attentive eye to fashion and integration. The marvelous "Big Impossible," meanwhile, punctures romantic fantasies of the rambling life, following a drifter's hardscrabble path from itinerant farm work in 1959 to decades later, as he nurtures the tentative roots he's finally planted. Delaney proves especially strong at depicting regret; his men, uneasy in changing times, tend not to open up to family or mingle well at parties. "My sisters were invisible to me then," notes one narrator, "simply strangers in the household to whom I assigned little attention." Ruminative standouts "Clean" and "Street View" compress decades into pages, the latter's flights of memory aided by Mapquest and Google. Only "David," about a present-day teenager bullied into terrible, predictable violence, lacks the rich specificity that is Delaney's hallmark. That story, though, builds to a bold argument for the power of fiction itself, insisting that nothing stirs empathy like urgent humanist literature. --Alan Scherstuhl, freelance writer and editor

Discover: In two novellas and five piercing stories, men face the last 50 years of upheaval in the United States and their own failures to connect.

Turtle Point Press, $17, paperback, 240p., 9781885983749

The Braid

by Laetitia Colombani, trans. by Louise Rogers Lalaurie

Three contemporary women across the world are unaware of how their lives intersect in Laetitia Colombani's The Braid, translated from the French by Louise Rogers Lalaurie. As the women face existential obstacles, their search for solutions links their lives forever.

Smita is an untouchable in India. She cleans toilets for upper castes and, improbably, dreams of educating her daughter so she can escape a lifetime of degradation. "Smita has no desire to wait for the next life. It's this life, here and now, that she wants, for herself and Lalita." In Sicily, after her father's death, Giulia takes over her family's "cascatura" shop, the tradition of making wigs from human hair. She discovers that the business is teetering on bankruptcy. Vowing to keep it afloat, Giulia reminds herself "that she would carry on, that she would not give in to pain and exhaustion."

Sarah, a Canadian lawyer who's achieved success by keeping her personal life private, is diagnosed with cancer. She attempts to keep this secret, believing that any sign of weakness will interfere with her job: "Like the heroine of a spy novel, Sarah would wage war underground." But this plan spectacularly backfires, and she faces the ultimate test of her worth when it does. Colombani weaves the lives of these three women together in a startling and ingenious way. The author sensitively shows how women everywhere are connected by their struggles against society's expectations. Readers who enjoy a fast-paced story with strong female characters will enjoy this debut novel. --Cindy Pauldine, bookseller, the river's end bookstore, Oswego, N.Y.

Discover: Three dissimilar women across the globe face existential challenges and, in looking for solutions, their lives converge in a most unusual way.

Atria, $16, paperback, 224p., 9781982130039

Science Fiction & Fantasy

Future Tense Fiction: Stories of Tomorrow

by Kirsten Berg, Torie Bosch, Joey Eschrich, Ed Finn, Andrés Martinez and Juliet Ulman, editors

Future Tense Fiction collects 14 cutting-edge stories in which standout authors of the speculative genre imagine various futures. In "Mother of Invention," Nnedi Okorafor keeps readers bedside with an inventor's mistress as she goes into labor, assisted only by his castoff Smart Home. Meanwhile, in "Mr. Thursday," Emily St. John Mandel follows a time-traveling businessman on an ill-fated mission to save a 20th-century secretary. Genetically enhanced Olympic athletes, data-risk assessors and their counterpart assassins, and socialist utopias gone wrong are just a few of the highlights from these wide and varied tales.

Including a neo-noir featuring sex robots who just want to be real girls and a tender meditation on how neurological bridges can keep loved ones alive in disembodied memories, this anthology offers a range of tones, atmospheres and imaginative horizons. Often comical and always prescient, these stories are at their best when their pitch-perfect prose and emotionally resonant characters outshine their showstopping plots. Madeline Ashby offers the noteworthy "Domestic Violence," a caustic revenge fantasy in which house tech becomes a tool of both an abuser and the abused, while Charlie Jane Anders's "The Minnesota Diet" is among the collection's most brilliant and disturbing visions of the world to come. In sparse, no-nonsense prose, Anders depicts the downfall of New Lincoln, a Smart City that deems the extinction of its own population necessary. Ultimately, it is not the destruction of the town, but the desperation of its inhabitants that will linger with readers. Together, these stories inspire excitement over the endless possibilities the speculative genre has to offer. --Alice Martin, freelance writer and editor

Discover: This anthology showcases the creative range of science and speculative fiction with a diverse set of authors and concept-rich premises.

The Unnamed Press, $27, hardcover, 256p., 9781944700959


Heiress Gone Wild

by Laura Lee Guhrke

When he agreed to be guardian to his business partner's daughter, Englishman Jonathan Deverill was under the impression she was a child. When his partner dies and he finds out the truth, it disrupts his plans to leave her at the school where he meets her. American teacher Marjorie hadn't seen her father in years and refuses to mourn a man she barely knew. She sees her inheritance as an opportunity to experience life outside the confines of the academy. Not willing to be left behind, Marjorie defies Jonathan's rules and follows him to England. Between the close confines of the ship and their maddening attraction to each other, both parties enter in a slow dance toward romance.

In Laura Lee Guhrke's fourth installment in the Dear Lady Truelove series, Heiress Gone Wild, Marjorie's life is just beginning while Jonathan's is at a standstill. Her wish to experience traditional courtship is at odds with her desire to be with him. Jonathan is torn between his new life as a self-made man and his previous dream to run the family's publishing house. Jonathan can seem cruel at times, as he handles his attraction to Marjorie by continually pushing her away and making her adhere to conservative English mourning traditions. But ultimately his feelings for Marjorie and his slow personal growth make him the man that Marjorie wanted all along. Their love story, along with the return of Jonathan's warm and kind family (met in the previous books) make this a welcome finale to the series. --Amy Dittmeier, adult services librarian, Brookfield Public Library, Ill.

Discover: In this fiery historical romance, a proper English entrepreneur is surprised to discover his new ward is a beautiful, driven young woman.

Avon, $7.99, mass market paperbound, 384p., 9780062853714

Biography & Memoir

High School

by Tegan Quin, Sara Quin

Even rock stars had bullies. In their co-written memoir High School, Canadian rockers and LGBTQ icons Tegan and Sara Quin invite readers into the aches and agonies of their pre-fame teen years.

The sisters begin at the start of 10th grade, recalling pockets of acceptance among fellow outcasts. Told in chapters alternating from each of their points of view, High School sees the Quins through moments of huge terrors and tiny victories: admitting crushes, experimenting with their sexuality, unrequited love. Together and separately, they navigate the cold landscape of 1990s Calgary, and the emotional landscape of developing their individual identities as identical twins.

Independence comes in spurts and jolts, accounted for in 7-Eleven Slurpees bought with pilfered coins, tabs of acid swallowed in bathroom stalls and, eventually, standing up to the bullies on the bus. Music becomes the twins' oxygen; grunge, rave and punk offer connection, community. Making their own music is the next step, though the two actually began playing separately, each surreptitiously borrowing their stepdad's guitar, strumming alone.

Apropos of the Quins' approach to music, High School feels fresh, raw, beautiful and unpredictable. The writing sings, with stories bouncing and weaving through time. As the twins listen to a new Smashing Pumpkins album, Sara recalls the feelings it evoked: "Nothing had ever sounded more important to me." This memoir will inspire similar devotion from fans or any readers seeking a window into the pains and pleasures of self-discovery, coming of age and coming out. --Katie Weed, freelance writer and reviewer

Discover: Rock stars and LGBTQ icons Tegan and Sara recount their terribly awkward and occasionally wonderful high school years.

MCD/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $27, hardcover, 384p., 9780374169947

Angry Queer Somali Boy: A Complicated Memoir

by Mohamed Abdulkarim Ali

Mohamed Abdulkarim Ali was born in Mogadishu, Somalia, in the mid-1980s; he was stolen away from his home at age four by his father, a stranger to the young boy. With his stepmother and several new siblings, the young Ali lived for a time in the United Arab Emirates and in various cities in the Netherlands. When he was in high school, the disjointed family relocated again to Toronto, where Ali still lives, writing Angry Queer Somali Boy: A Complicated Memoir from a homeless shelter.

The traumas start early, with the national distresses of Somalia represented by Ali's socialist grandparents and his mostly absent businessman father. Ali's stepmother and stepsisters are violently abusive toward him and toward each other. He suffers in the increasingly white countries he is moved to, as an immigrant, foreigner, African. Bullied at school, he must also deal with discovering his sexuality in an immigrant Muslim family disinclined to accept a gay son. Eventually, his coping mechanisms for these and other difficulties include addictions to Valium and alcohol.

His book is filled with suffering, but Ali avoids self-pity with his matter-of-fact reportorial style and the odd, acerbic interjection. His focus is global as well as personal, as he considers Somali history, colorism within nonwhite communities, the way one marginalized group can abuse another, and observed trends in racism, homophobia and xenophobia. Angry Queer Somali Boy is painful but recommended reading for anyone hoping to look directly at this world. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: An angry queer Somali boy deals with race, family and sexual discovery in a series of countries before writing this startling memoir of pain and resilience.

University of Regina Press, $19.95, hardcover, 144p., 9780889776593

Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church

by Megan Phelps-Roper

Megan Phelps-Roper grew up as a cherished daughter of Topeka's Westboro Baptist Church, notorious for its inflammatory rhetoric and protest signs. The third of 11 children, she joined her first picket line at age five, and spent her childhood and adolescence fervently spreading--and believing in the rightness of--Westboro's message. But in her 20s, her engagement with Westboro's critics on social media made her wonder if the church had a monopoly on rightness.

Her memoir, Unfollow, chronicles her upbringing in her family and the church (which comprised many of the same people), the years she spent working for the church alongside her mother and her gradual disillusionment with, and detachment from, her former community. Now an activist and speaker who encourages thoughtful dialogue among those who disagree, Phelps-Roper paints a nuanced portrait of Westboro as a group of human beings capable of both spreading hate-filled messages and living out their deep love for one another.

In a time of polarizing rhetoric, Phelps-Roper is a gentle, powerful voice speaking for compassion and thoughtful conversation. She explores the contradictions in Westboro's thinking, and is candid about her own ability (and later her increasing struggle) to gloss over the cognitive dissonance required to remain "faithful." By leaving Westboro and wrestling through several dark, lonely seasons, Phelps-Roper has found her way to a different understanding of the world: one filled with humility and hope instead of hatred. Unfollow is a fascinating insider's account of life at Westboro and an urgent, timely call for dialogue and understanding. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: Megan Phelps-Roper's first book gives a thoughtful perspective on her former community, the Westboro Baptist Church.

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $27, hardcover, 304p., 9780374275839


Daughters of Chivalry: The Forgotten Princesses of King Edward Longshanks

by Kelcey Wilson-Lee

In Daughters of Chivalry: The Forgotten Princesses of King Edward Longshanks, historian Kelcey Wilson-Lee tells the stories of the five daughters of Edward I of England and his first wife, Eleanor of Castile.

Like even the most elite medieval women, Eleanora, Joanna, Margaret, Mary and Elizabeth left a spotty trail in the historical record, most often appearing in official chronicles only in the context of their relationships with the men in their lives. In her first book, Wilson-Lee fleshes out the picture of their lives using a variety of sources--most notably the account records for the various royal households--plus a certain amount of informed speculation.

Wilson-Lee draws portraits of five clearly defined individuals. Joanna, for instance, frequently defied her father and took full advantage of the opportunities accorded to a young, wealthy widow in medieval society. Mary, who entered the convent of Amesbury at the age of six, had a taste for luxury and a gambling habit at odds with her vow of poverty.

At the same time, she places the sisters within the larger context of royal women in the late medieval period, exploring questions of education, marriages (political and otherwise), widowhood, property, travel and political intercession. Like the women she describes, Wilson-Lee never loses sight of the fact that what power these women enjoyed was derived from their relationship to the king, but she fully explores the nature of that power and how they used it. --Pamela Toler, blogging at History in the Margins

Discover: A lively account of how luxury, power and politics shaped the lives of five princesses in 13th-century England.

Pegasus Books, $28.95, hardcover, 352p., 9781643131948

Children's & Young Adult

The (Other) F Word: A Celebration of the Fat & Fierce

by Angie Manfredi, editor

In the first essay of The (Other) F Word: A Celebration of the Fat & Fierce, contributor Alex Gino talks about the messages society gives fat people: "I'm bombarded with advertisements from a diet industry that wants me to literally be less, along with media that believes my fat is a moral failing." Gino and more than 30 other writers, models, activists, artists and speakers contributed pieces to this ode to fatness and love, a provocative and enlightening collection of personal essays, prose, poetry and artwork edited by Angie Manfredi. The contributors are queer, cis, disabled, non-disabled, BIPOC (black/Indigenous/people of color), white, younger, older. Some are working to, as one writes, "move the needle of representation in media and entertainment." Others are focused on public perception, personal identity and body positivity. All share one message, though: to become our best selves, we all must rethink our ideas about beauty and worthiness. Multi-genre author Hillary Monahan talks about the exploitation of fat people in horror films who die first because, as the trope goes, "they're essentially asking for it." Fashion and lifestyle website creator Bruce Sturgell tells how he created his own community of "Big Boy" style when he couldn't find one. And writer and body image coach Jes Baker describes how she reclaimed the names she's been called over the years, sharing fun facts about hippos, whales and elephants.

Essay titles and contributor bios are almost as empowering as the pieces themselves. Readers will be buoyed by titles like "From Your Fat Future," "Does this poem make me look fat?" and "The 5 Things You Need to Start Your Very Own Rad Fat Babe Revolution (from Someone Who Knows)." An appendix of "FAT FASHION resources" rounds out this upbeat, forward-thinking compilation. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor

Discover: The (Other) F Word is a radical, celebratory, supportive collection of essays, poems, fashion tips and artwork offering teen readers a new, positive perspective on being fat.

Amulet Books/Abrams, $18.99, hardcover, 224p., ages 13-up, 9781419737503

Indian No More

by Charlene Willing McManis, Traci Sorell

In August 1954, President Eisenhower signs a law that says Umpqua Regina Petit and the other citizens of her tribe living on the Grand Ronde Indian Reservation in Oregon are "no longer Indian." Though her Chich (grandmother) urges Regina's father to fight, in 1957 he signs up for the Indian Relocation Program: "Daddy called it an opportunity... Chich called it an eviction." The program moves the family to Los Angeles, where Regina interacts with non-Native neighbors and classmates for the first time. Mama says Regina is still Umpqua even if they leave the reservation, but new friends Keith and Addie are baffled that her family doesn't fit the stereotypes they've seen on TV: "What kind of Indians are you? Do you even have a tipi?"

Extensive back matter informs the reader that Indian No More is based on the experiences of debut author Charlene Willing McManis's family. Like Regina, Willing McManis was Umpqua and a member of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde; after her death, the book was completed by Sorell, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, with the continued help of editor and fellow Cherokee Elise McMullen-Ciotti. Additional paratextual materials include a glossary of Chinuk Wawa (the language of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde) words and a note that explains why the term "Indian" is used throughout the book: it was the "prevailing word" in the 1950s. A heartfelt and meditative exploration of an often-undiscussed time in recent U.S. history, Indian No More wades through complex issues of identity and culture and the preservation of both. Thoughtful and purposeful in its education of readers, McManis and Sorell's collaboration sits proudly within the pantheon of middle-grade books as one fully written and edited by women of the Native Nations. --Kyla Paterno, freelance reviewer

Discover: In 1954, when government declares her tribe no longer exists, 10-year-old Regina is uprooted from her reservation in Oregon and moved to Los Angeles, Calif.

Tu Books/Lee & Low, $18.95, hardcover, ages 9-12, 9781620148396


Author Buzz

Visions of Flesh and Blood:
A Blood and Ash/Flesh and Fire Compendium

by Jennifer L. Armentrout with Rayvn Salvador

Dear Reader,

Today is the release of VISIONS OF FLESH AND BLOOD, the Blood and Ash/Flesh and Fire Compendium, and I am so excited that you finally get to see and read it!

I saw the love you had for Miss Willa, watched how following along with all the series twists and turns brought you joy, and thought... wouldn't it be nice to have a book to help with that, yet give even more new stuff?

So, my publisher and I came up with a plan. It included loads of stunning art commissions, strategic disclosures, and brand-new material. When it all came together, it was even better than I imagined.

VISIONS OF FLESH AND BLOOD is so much more than a series bible. It's a journey and a work of art. A collector's item for sure!


Available on Kobo

AuthorBuzz: Visions of Flesh and Blood: A Blood and Ash/Flesh and Fire Compendium by Jennifer L. Armentrout with Rayvn Salvador

Blue Box Press

Pub Date: 
February 20, 2024


List Price: 
$7.99 e-book

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