Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Poisoned Pen Press: That Night in the Library by Eva Jurczyk

From My Shelf

Lucky (or Unlucky) Number Seven

What better way to celebrate 7/7 than with a list of seven seven-themed titles?

There are the seven marriages in Taylor Jenkins Reid's novel The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (Washington Square Press, $17), about an aging star's remembrance of her many romances. Evelyn Hugo must not be confused with Evelyn Hardcastle, the titular center of Stuart Turton's The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle (Sourcebooks Landmark, $16.99). How can one die more than one time, and what's a half death, you ask? You'll have to get lost in the nesting-doll-like stories of this many-layered mystery to find out.

Despite its title, Marlon James's A Brief History of Seven Killings (Riverhead, $18) contains far more than seven killings, though it starts with the attempted killing of Bob Marley by seven--yes, seven--unidentified gunmen. There's also The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grames (Ecco, $17.99), which appears to reference a far more metaphorical take on the concept of multiple deaths in this story of immigration and family.

The deaths in Seven Fallen Feathers (House of Anansi, $18.95) are heartbreakingly real, as journalist Tanya Talaga peels back the not-so-buried racist history of residential schools in Northern Canada by examining the unsolved deaths of seven Indigenous students between 2000 and 2011. Equally moving, though for entirely different reasons, is Jennifer Finney Boylan's memoir Good Boy: My Life in Seven Dogs (Celadon, $26.99),in which she recalls her childhood, gender transition and family life through the lens of the seven dogs who taught her the meaning of love. In another memoir, The Seven Good Years (Riverhead, $16), Israeli writer Etgar Keret offers a collection of essays focusing on the seven years between the birth of his son and the death of his father, considering his identity, family and history with a sense of humor and wit. --Kerry McHugh, freelance writer

The Writer's Life

Lacy Crawford: 'I Had to Go Back and Get Her'

photo: Kenneth Dolin

Lacy Crawford is the author of the novel Early Decision. She graduated from St. Paul's School in Concord, N.H., in 1992, and Notes on a Silencing (just published by Little, Brown; reviewed below) is her memoir about what happened to her there and why she decided to talk about it now.

You begin the book in the third person, as if observing your aggravated felonious sexual assault from a remove. Can you talk about that choice?

There are two answers. I was very sensitive to any suggestion of self-pity or grandiosity. I'm thinking always of other survivors, especially those who didn't have the resources that I have, or had. There's a community of us out here, so opening in the third person allowed me to put it on the page in a way that was objectively horrifying without requesting sympathy from the start. That was important to me to do.

It's also true that I've had to continually generate sympathy for the girl I was, for letting them do that to me. Objectifying the situation in that way allowed me to do that. When I wrote the book, it was not so much to interpret the events, but to walk through it with her again.

I left her as surely as they did. I didn't want to be there, and I had to go back and get her.

The way you constructed your book allows us to go on the journey with you, as you realize more about the power structure of St. Paul's School, its influence on you and its force against you. How did you arrive at the structure of the book?

It took 25 years to figure that out. One of the things I wrestled with is that my knowledge of what happened to me is completely uninteresting. I didn't want to hang the telling on the particulars of the assault, chronologically: I was 15, they were 18; we were all sober. The facts had never been disputed. It was important to me to get that out of the way right away.

There were two puzzles I'd been trying to solve. The first is, I know what happened, they know what happened. Is there any way I can tell it that will remove some of the poison, take away the power?

The second puzzle was this: The boys bragged about it starting the next morning. The school knew. Everyone knew it was illegal. No one had a problem with me until I spoke up and said I hadn't wanted it to happen. That's when the slander began. It was fine with everyone but me.

And it took time for you to speak up.

I didn't tell anyone for months. I was complicit in that silence. Once I spoke up, the machinery of the school switched on against me. Suddenly, I'm kicked out of the school. I'd never understood my role in the puzzle of that silencing, the administration, the teachers. It was all finished by the time I graduated at age 16. It was only when I heard from the Concord [N.H.] police that I learned of the silencing. In telling this story I wanted to trace all the different valences of power that made for the silencing, including my own complicity. I needed to pause at the assault, right up front.

At one point you write, "The simplest way I can tell the story of my assault is to describe how the boys made me feel I was no longer a person. Their first violation was erasure." You use that term again after your parents attempt to confront the school: "This time the erasure was committed by men whose power over me was socially conferred rather than physically wielded."

Toni Morrison [who selected Crawford for a writing workshop] was describing what it felt like for her to write a scene in which there was a lynched body hanging in a tree. What she said was, you don't describe the person, the murder victim--you describe the branches against the sky. The reason you do that is, if you really understand what happens there, it's like looking at the sun. You can't see that. What you remember is a detail adjacent to it. You remember the branches.

With traumatic witnessing, our brain scatters around and looks at the things we can digest. For me, thinking about how I had been erased helped me think about how to reassert myself in so many different ways. I was losing weight, I couldn't eat, my throat was searing. Why couldn't I say it? The minute I talked about it the whole school would turn against me. I wasn't wrong.

After my mom had called the school and before the police had been contacted, the school put together a committee but never talked to me. Several of the men in that room I had never met. The school enacted the precise form of erasure the boys did.

You wrote: "The work of telling is essential, and it is not enough. There is always the danger that the energy of the injustice will exhaust itself in the revelation--that we will be horrified but remain unchanged."

I saw what they did to Chessy Prout [also a sexual assault survivor who attended St. Paul's School] and I realized how much unfinished business there was, in me and elsewhere. And with #MeToo, bigger and bigger people were being revealed. Every time one of these breaks, we're all horrified, but nothing changes.

We already know. That's not the problem. The things they're doing are not the problem. The danger of rape testimony is that we allow ourselves to look at something, like Matt Lauer, whom we all thought we knew, or Harvey Weinstein, because he's such an ogre. What makes the rape worth hearing about? What should be extraordinary is that it happens to one in four women. That story doesn't sell.

Even with my book, what are the pegs? St. Paul's. That's a hook. There's an ongoing investigation. That's a hook. If you want your voice to be heard, you have to hit those targets. My point is that's exactly why it needs to be told, because there are so many stories that need to be told.

That's the point--how common this is. We get titillated by any of the social markers--Chanel Miller is the "Stanford rape victim." Why? Because it happened at Stanford. I didn't want my story to be yet another marketable story in this "gosh I can't believe it." This is a way of looking at the branches, not the body.

I don't write about the boys as monsters. We were all of us in this wildly unhealthy system. There's this binary #MeToo and male backlash situation. It's a far more complex conversation, predicated on the assumption that women take the blame for male aggression. I tried to make this about the institutional machinery of silencing, and how we are all of us part of this. It's a portrait of the way an entire community can make the victim take the blame. This is not bad actors versus good actors. This is about a community that has to change. --Jennifer M. Brown, senior editor, Shelf Awareness

Book Candy

A 16th-Century Book-Reading Machine

Atlas Obscura explored "how students built a 16th-century engineer's book-reading machine."


Dilatory, for example. Mental Floss featured "10 words with difficult-to-remember meanings."


Author Eleanor Porter picked her "top 10 books about witch-hunts" for the Guardian.


CrimeReads revealed "the magic of reading Arthur Conan Doyle's letters."


"Page through this incredibly detailed Sino-Tibetan book printed in 1410," Colossal suggested.

Great Reads

Rediscover: Rudolfo Anaya

Rudolfo Anaya, "who helped launch the 1970s Chicano Literature Movement with his novel Bless Me, Ultima," died June 28 at age 82, the Associated Press reported. Anaya's many books include a mystery series featuring Mexican-American detective Sonny Baca, novels (Heart of Aztlan, Tortuga, Serafina's Stories and more), story collections, children's books and anthologies, as well as works of nonfiction poetry. He also launched the creative writing program at the University of New Mexico and opened a retreat in Jemez Spring, N.Mex., for aspiring Latinx writers. In 2016, Anaya was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Barack Obama.

In a statement, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham described Anaya as one of the state's greatest artists and a seminal figure in literature, adding: "Through his indelible stories, Rudolfo Anaya, perhaps better than any other author, truly captured what it means to be a New Mexican, what it means to be born here, grow up here and live here. His life's work amounts to an incredible contribution to the great culture and fabric of our state--not only through his prodigious literary contributions but through his decades as an educator at the University of New Mexico." Bless Me, Ultima is available from Grand Central ($15.99).

Book Review


Members Only

by Sameer Pandya

Members Only, the first novel by Sameer Pandya (author of the story collection The Blind Writer), is as provocative as it is comedic. In a horribly misguided attempt to bond with the first people of color since his own admission into a suburban Los Angeles tennis club, Raj's well-intended but inexcusable use of a slur sets off what will clearly be the worst week of his life. As a Bombay-born Indian American, Raj was the lone member of color at the Tennis Club. His welcome was indirect--because he's his white wife's brown spouse. Raj currently serves on the membership committee, vetting prospective new couples. He's especially thrilled to meet Bill and Valerie Brown--an African American power couple sponsored by the (white) Blacks.

Their appearance inspires "big, friendly grins," until Bill's modesty about his Stanford tennis days elicits Raj's utterly inappropriate response. Yet as dire as Raj's faux pas is, none of his co-members are willing to acknowledge the ongoing racist incidents Raj regularly faces. From the courts to the classroom, Raj's university teaching career next takes a downturn when a student films parts of Raj's cultural anthropology lecture about the West and Christianity and the clip--misrepresented and out of context--lands on a conservative website. The consequences snowball quickly and, no, that's not all.

Facing social, professional, personal implosion--all in one week--might seem impossibly overdramatic, but Members Only proves remarkably convincing. But without ever eliding the gravity of serious social issues like racism, privilege and power, Pandya deftly manages to create a tragicomedy of errors driven by surprising wit, irreverent humor and razor-sharp insight. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon

Discover: This irreverent debut novel deftly exposes the dangerous, absurd difficulty of being a brown immigrant even in elite, liberal California.

Mariner, $15.99, paperback, 368p., 9780358379928

Nine Shiny Objects

by Brian Castleberry

In Nine Shiny Objects, an atmospheric novel-in-stories, debut author Brian Castleberry probes prejudice and xenophobia in the U.S. against the backdrop of the Cold War decades.

In 1947, washed-up stage actor Oliver Danville leaves Chicago and heads west, afire with inspiration after reading a news story about a UFO sighting of nine shiny objects over Mount Rainier. He believes the saucer-shaped objects meant to bring humanity a message about a better future. By chance or fate, he meets a farming couple in Idaho who share his vision. Castleberry reveals the rest of their fate through sideways glances from strangers whose lives intersect tangentially or catastrophically with the Seekers'. By 1952, Oliver and company have founded a utopian commune in northern California, which readers see through the eyes of Claudette, a waitress who falls in love with Oliver's sister Eileen. Each new chapter skips ahead five years and belongs to a different protagonist: a suburban woman in a stale marriage, a young Black poet coming of age in the 1960s, a songwriter pulled into the hedonistic world of a young rock star who lost something irreplaceable the night the commune met its end.

Despite the premise's roots in the bumper crop of UFO sightings during the Cold War, readers won't find extraterrestrials here. Instead, Castleberry examines the ways in which humans can become aliens in their own lives and homes. Dark turns, desperate times and deliberately loose ends abound in this ambitious, provocative web of lives. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Discover: A utopian community's evolution and tragic demise are witnessed by outsiders in this atmospheric novel-in-stories set in the U.S. during the Cold War.

Custom House, $27.99, hardcover, 336p., 9780062984395

Mystery & Thriller

Survivor Song

by Paul Tremblay

Survivor Song is an eerily relevant horror novel following on the heels of Paul Tremblay's story collection Growing Things and his masterful The Cabin at the End of the World. Tremblay excels at short, breathless novels that pack a visceral and emotional punch, and Survivor Song is no exception. It is, essentially, Tremblay's grounded spin on zombie fiction, with the undead replaced by an outbreak of "super rabies" in Massachusetts. Tremblay's virus works like rabies, albeit dramatically sped up: within an hour, those infected become animalistic and violent. At eight months pregnant, Natalie is forced out of quarantine when a rabid man breaks into her house, kills her husband, and bites her on the arm. In a panic, she calls on her close friend Dr. Ramola (also known as "Rams") to help her get to a hospital.

Tremblay's scenario feels surprisingly realistic, especially in the Covid-19 world, where references to PPE and hospital capacity are all too familiar. Tremblay also has a great deal to say about the human and governmental failures that enable the virus's spread, including "a myopic, sluggish federal bureaucracy further hamstrung by a president unwilling and woefully unequipped to make the rational, science-based decisions necessary." More than that, though, the book is a story of survival. Rams and Natalie are constantly meeting new obstacles, from violent outbreaks in hospitals to a foolhardy militia, all with the ticking-clock that is Natalie's possible infection pushing them forward. Unsettling parallels aside, Survivor Song is a breakneck, frightening test of what two people can overcome. --Hank Stephenson, manuscript reader, the Sun magazine

Discover: The horror master's twist on zombie fiction places a pregnant woman and her close friend into a desperate race for survival during an outbreak of "super rabies."

Morrow, $27.99, hardcover, 320p., 9780062679161


Not Like the Movies

by Kerry Winfrey

Kerry Winfrey's quick-witted romantic comedy focuses on almost-30-year-old Chloe Sanderson, an overburdened bisexual whose life is in chaos. The Columbus, Ohio, native has a long-absent mother and a father with early-onset Alzheimer's who resides at an assisted living facility. Chloe's twin--her ne'er-do-well, charming, gay brother, Milo--ditched the family to pursue his own whims, leaving Chloe to bear all the responsibility for Dad.

Tending to her father, trying to finish up her degree and working at a coffee shop--while cultivating her penchant for baking pies--Chloe is also planning a wedding for her best friend, Annie, who scripted a rom-com loosely based on Chloe and Nick Velez, the handsome owner of the shop where Chloe works. With a trailer for the film released, media and townsfolk start nosing around the café, eager to draw parallels between Chloe and Nick, sizing up their fictionalized romance. The attention, coupled with a host of snags, including Milo's unexpected return to town, draws Chloe closer to the kind, supportive Nick. Is his attention what self-reliant Chloe has been secretly hungering for? Is she willing to surrender her conflicted heart?

Winfrey uncovers layers of her characters' lives and longings, burdens and passions. The cast was first introduced in her novel Waiting for Tom Hanks, but readers don't need to be familiar with that book to appreciate this one. Those who enjoy fast-paced, sparring banter will find much to savor in this sexy story where love may--or may not--conquer all. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: A colorful, upbeat romance about an overburdened, overly self-reliant 30-year-old who gets swept up in unexpected passions.

Berkley, $16, paperback, 320p., 9781984804044

Biography & Memoir

Notes on a Silencing: A Memoir

by Lacy Crawford

The propulsive memoir Notes on a Silencing opens in October 1990, when Lacy Crawford, at age 15, was sexually assaulted by two star athletes at St. Paul's School in Concord, N.H.--described in the third person.

The facts carry readers along as they would in a crime novel, with clinical details that force observers to imagine the motives and emotions of the perpetrators and victim. Crawford then shifts to a first-person narrative. "What interests me," she writes, "is the near impossibility of telling what happened in a way that discharges its power." What follows is an exploration of power in its countless iterations: the power of peers, the power of teachers, of administrators, of alumni, of parents--and the power that a diploma from a storied school can bequeath unto its graduates. What is that diploma worth, and what would you endure to get it?

From that initial chapter describing the assault during the fall of her fifth form (or junior year), Crawford flashes back in the next chapter to her first days on campus the year before. She was fresh from Lake Forest, Ill. ("like the Greenwich of the Midwest," quips an older student from Connecticut) and newly exposed to the opulent wealth and worldliness of her classmates.

By toggling between the timelines before and after the book's central event, she conveys the universal experience of survivors--the divide between the person she was and the person she becomes afterward--and builds the narrative to the epiphany that unlocks her silence. --Jennifer M. Brown, senior editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: In a precise, lucid account, the author examines herself and the forces outside her that converged to suppress her voice after a sexual assault at a prestigious school when she was 15 years old.

Little, Brown, $28, hardcover, 400p., 9780316491556

Rockaway: Surfing Headlong into a New Life

by Diane Cardwell

Diane Cardwell grew up in a household where achievement reigned supreme, nothing short of perfection acceptable. Ninety-seven on a math test was met with one question from her father--"Why isn't it a hundred?" Unsurprisingly, she pushed herself to extremes to excel, becoming a reporter at the New York Times, marrying an equally driven man and setting out to create the perfect life. That blew up when her father died and a mid-life divorce caught her by surprise, seemingly sidelining her chances of having a child.

In Rockaway, Cardwell shares how she was saved from her longings for perfection by unlearning her father's lesson and facing failure over and over again by contesting a "liquid bully," the ocean. Watching a group of surfers from a bar in Montauk, she was dumbstruck, feeling as though she'd "stumbled upon a secret tribe of magical creatures." As she began dipping into the sport, taking lessons and renting a beach cottage, Cardwell was perpetually faced with her all too familiar fears of being pushed out of her comfort zone and not belonging.

What she ultimately found was that mastering the sport was not only impossible, but the least important part of her journey. Instead, the further she pushed herself, the more she discovered a life of meaning she never knew she wanted yet desperately needed. Rockaway is a thoughtful memoir of loss, self-discovery and what can happen when you hang on, literally and figuratively, to a piece of wood adrift in the sea. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review

Discover: A perfectionist reporter finds new meaning and purpose in life when she begins to surf after midlife crises send her spinning.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26, hardcover, 272p., 9780358067788

The Beauty in Breaking: A Memoir

by Michele Harper

Michele Harper, an emergency room doctor and author of The Beauty in Breaking, devotes case-study-like chapters to patients whose stories spur Harper to draw connections between her work and the larger world. In "Dominic: Body of Evidence," the police haul in a Black man for allegedly swallowing bags of drugs and expect Harper, who is African American, to give him a physical exam without his consent, which she knows is against the law absent a court order; for Harper, this disregard for the man's rights recalls the despicable historical practice of performing medical experiments on nonconsenting Black men. In "Jeremiah: Cradle and All," Harper treats a 13-year-old who has come in with a head trauma--the upshot of a classmate's bullying. After the boy confesses that he owns a gun and intends to use it on his assailant, Harper is required to contact social services and wonders "why, in all my growing-up years, no physician had ever spoken to me alone, to ask if I was safe."

Harper grew up middle class in Washington, D.C., with a physician father who beat her mother. "The job of my youth had been to get out of that house and out of that life," Harper writes. She succeeded, although the celebratory mood of her graduation from an emergency medicine residency was dulled by the coinciding collapse of her marriage.

By the end of The Beauty in Breaking, fortified by the conviction that healing works both ways, Harper has found a restless peace working at a Philadelphia VA hospital, where the beguiled reader hopes that she will continue to gather insights and commit them to the page. --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer

Discover: In this illuminating memoir, an African American emergency room doctor finds that her patients' stories lead her to make connections between her work and the larger world.

Riverhead, $27, hardcover, 304p., 9780525537380

The Poetry of Strangers: What I Learned Traveling America with a Typewriter

by Brian Sonia-Wallace

"Do you need a poem?" With this question, Brian Sonia-Wallace began his journey as the RENT Poet. Just "another unemployed millennial at the tail end of the financial crisis, looking for a purpose," he took a typewriter to a downtown Los Angeles street party and set up a folding chair and tray table with a sign: "POETRY STORE/ give me a topic/ I'll write you a poem/ pay me what you think it's worth."

When his first customer, a tough, tattooed, buzz-cut Chicana, softened before his eyes after reading his poem about her father, Sonia-Wallace was hooked. He "accidentally started a poetry business with a $20 garage sale typewriter and an impending sense of doom." Intending it as a performance art experiment slash practical joke, Sonia-Wallace proclaimed, "I'm going to pay my rent with poetry!" Since he was in despair and felt his life was over, why not do something stupid?

In The Poetry of Strangers, Sonia-Wallace shares how he not only paid his rent, but ended up with corporate jobs, Amtrak and Mall of America writer residencies, fundraisers, weddings and numerous other gigs. More interesting is that he'd never loved and doesn't consider his work poetry. It's about relationships, the "shrapnel interactions left behind, bits of other people" that left him less alone. While social connections were fraying, Sonia-Wallace traveled the country connecting with poetic empathy. "It was poetry that led [him] to discover a private America, an America where intimacy was possible, one person at a time." --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review

Discover: A young man adrift in the United States, marked by various crises, discovers people are yearning to be heard as he offers to write poetry for them on the street.

Harper Perennial, $16.99, paperback, 304p., 9780062870223

Nature & Environment

Desert Notebooks: A Road Map for the End of Time

by Ben Ehrenreich

With its evocative blend of nature and travel writing, philosophy and history, journalist Ben Ehrenreich's Desert Notebooks: A Road Map for the End of Time merits favorable comparison with works like Annie Dillard's For the Time Being and broad swaths of recent writing by Rebecca Solnit.

Ehrenreich (The Way to the Spring) opens what reads like an enhanced collection of undated journal entries in November 2017. At the time, he and his partner shared a house in the California desert, only a few minutes from the entrance to Joshua Tree National Park. Several months later, he moves to Las Vegas to spend a semester at a literary institute. As he vividly describes it, there hardly could be a greater contrast between the "urgency, brilliance, and stubbornness of life" he comes to relish in the wild expanse of Joshua Tree and the soulless city of hotels and casinos carved from the "same desert, only paved."

But above everything, Ehrenreich's subject is time, or, more specifically, a critique of Western civilization's idea of progress. Citing the California wildfires of 2018 and the ocean rise that will swamp 153 million people by the end of this century, he argues that this "illusion of eternal, self-sustaining growth" has launched humankind on the path to eventual environmental destruction.

One comes away from Desert Notebooks not only with a deeper appreciation for some of America's wildest and most rugged spaces, but with a better sense of how we got to where we are and at least a glimmer of what an alternative path into the future might look like. --Harvey Freedenberg, freelance reviewer

Discover: Ben Ehrenreich explores America's landscape and history in a deep meditation on nature and time.

Counterpoint, $26, hardcover, 336p., 9781640093539

Performing Arts

The Beginning or the End: How Hollywood--and America--Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

by Greg Mitchell

Talk about a box office bomb. As cinema, the 1947 MGM docudrama The Beginning or the End--a factually lax justification for the United States' use of the atomic bomb on Japan--is arguably unworthy of the celluloid it was filmed with. But in the first-rate The Beginning or the End: How Hollywood--and America--Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, Greg Mitchell sees the value in what can be gleaned from the money-losing, critically dispatched film's creation.

Although studio chief Louis B. Mayer thought The Beginning or the End would be "the most important story ever filmed," it was closer to the most difficult to make. The U.S. Army honchos and Manhattan Project scientists consulting on the film called for countless recasts, rewrites and reshoots, and even President Truman weighed in. As production dragged on, scientists watched as MGM bypassed their suggestions in favor of those of the military and the White House. Some prominent physicists, including Lise Meitner and Niels Bohr, refused to let themselves be depicted on-screen; J. Robert Oppenheimer and Albert Einstein capitulated.

Throughout The Beginning or the End, Mitchell (The Tunnels: Escapes Under the Berlin Wall and the Historic Films the JFK White House Tried to Kill) remains devoted to examining the U.S.'s moral defense for its deadly actions against Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but he never misses a chance to expose the comedy provided by his book's many theatrically outsize characters. Surely Mitchell's offering would make a much better movie than MGM's big-budget dud. --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer

Discover: This captivating look at the making of a 1947 docudrama about the U.S. decision to drop the atomic bomb on Japan shows how far Hollywood would go to get the public waving the American flag.

The New Press, $27.99, hardcover, 272p., 9781620975732

Children's & Young Adult

Burn Our Bodies Down

by Rory Power

Relationships are at the heart of Rory Power's creepy thriller about three generations of women who bear an uncanny resemblance to each other.

Margot Nielsen's mother, Jo, is quick to fight, quick to flinch from affection and so deeply involved with her secrets that Margot mostly fends for herself. Mother and daughter look so much alike--down to the same streaks of gray at their temples--that Margot wonders where her mother came from, but Jo won't open up. " 'Nobody but you and me,' " her mother often repeats, "like a curse [they] can't shake." When Margot discovers an old Bible with a photo tucked inside and a phone number on the back, she immediately calls. Vera, her grandmother, picks up. Margot sneaks out that very night and hitches a ride to Phalene, a town three hours away. Hearing a report that "somebody lit the Nielsen farm on fire again," Margot races to the house. But before she arrives, Margot spots something in the cornfield along the road. She goes in to explore and pulls out a dead girl--a dead girl wearing Margot's face.

In her sophomore novel, Power (Wilder Girls) drives the dark investigation into one family's twisted roots with strong, suspenseful writing and pitch-perfect touches of horror. Margot, emotionally battered yet determined to find out where she came from, is compellingly tough when it counts, while Gram, who both embraces Margot and keeps her at arm's length, makes a worthy foil. The growing sense that something is dreadfully wrong will keep readers plowing through the pages of this eerie and unnerving tale of empowerment. --Lynn Becker, blogger and host of Book Talk, a monthly online discussion of children's books for SCBWI

Discover: In this dark YA thriller, Margot, who grew up with her look-alike mom, searches for the family she's never known.

Delacorte Press, $18.99, hardcover, 352p., ages 14-up, 9780525645627

The Voting Booth

by Brandy Colbert

Stonewall Award-winner Brandy Colbert (Little & Lion) rocks the vote with this sweet, politically minded YA romance about two teens who bond while attempting to cast their first-ever ballots.

Civil-rights-conscious Black high schooler Marva Sheridan has waited her entire life finally to vote and feels betrayed by her white boyfriend's last-minute decision to skip it in protest of the two-party system. Duke Crenshaw, whose father is Black and mother is white, feels obligated to vote in honor of his deceased big brother, Julian, a community activist. When Duke's car breaks down in the parking lot after he goes to the wrong polling place, Marva forcefully steps in to help. Duke is more concerned about his calculus test and drumming gig, but she assures him they have plenty of time. Their day turns into an avalanche of mishaps and surprises involving registration errors, family drama and the disappearance of Eartha Kitty, Marva's Instagram-famous feline. Duke falls hard for passionate, driven Marva, and she begins to appreciate his laid-back charm. However, both will have to address challenges in their personal lives if they want to live democratically ever after.

Colbert gently but thoroughly addresses the strain of grief, the relief of having someone to lean on and the importance of involvement even in an imperfect system. Filled with breezy banter that veers easily into deeper conversations about race, rights and the democratic process, this upbeat love story may inspire civic engagement and dreamy smiles, making it a must-have for high school libraries and romance fans. --Jaclyn Fulwood, youth services manager at Main Branch, Dayton Metro Library

Discover: Over the course of Election Day, civic-minded Marva and easy-going Duke grow close as they attempt to find and reach his polling station.

Disney-Hyperion, $18.99, hardcover, 304p., ages 12-up, 9781368053297


Author Buzz

The Rom-Commers

by Katherine Center

Dear Reader,

Famous screenwriter Charlie Yates wrote a romantic comedy screenplay--and it’s terrible. Aspiring writer Emma Wheeler just got hired to fix it. But Charlie doesn't want anyone rewriting his work--least of all a "failed nobody," and Emma can't support a guy who doesn't even like rom-coms, adding another bad one to the pantheon. So what choice does Emma have but to stand up for herself, and rom-coms, and love in general--and, in the process, to show her nemesis-slash-writing-hero exactly how to fall stupidly, crazily, perfectly in love?

Email with the subject line "The Rom-Commers sweepstakes" for a chance to win one of five copies.

Katherine Center

Buy now and support your local indie bookstore>

AuthorBuzz: St. Martin's Press: The Rom-Commers by Katherine Center

St. Martin's Press

Pub Date: 
June 11, 2024


List Price: 
$29.00 Hardcover

Blue Moon
(A Smoke and Mirrors Novella)

by Skye Warren

Dear Reader,

When I started writing Ringmaster Emerson Durand in the Smoke and Mirrors series, I knew he would get his own story. Insouciant. Charming. And he's actually the villain of that book. So can he be redeemed? It's the question I'm always working to answer in my books.

If he's going to deserve his own happily ever after, it's going to be a journey. A scorching hot journey!

That's what BLUE MOON illuminates. A dangerous ringmaster claims his rebellious acrobat for a sensual show you cannot miss.

Skye Warren

Available on Kobo

AuthorBuzz: 1001 Dark Nights Press: Blue Moon (A Smoke and Mirrors Novella) by Skye Warren

1001 Dark Nights Press

Pub Date: 
March 12, 2024


List Price: 
$2.99 e-book

Powered by: Xtenit