Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, December 15, 2020

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

From My Shelf

Female Friendships

In Text Me When You Get Home: The Evolution and Triumph of Modern Female Friendship (Dutton, $17), journalist Kayleen Schaefer explores the role of female friendship in contemporary life. She draws on her own experience, as well as examples of how these kinds of friendships are portrayed in the media, to shape a slim but powerful tribute to the potential of female friendship to be a defining (if not the defining) relationship in one's life.

Intrigued by Schaefer's exploration of the many (many) ways contemporary culture highlights the more negative aspects of female friendships (catfights, backstabbing, gossip and more), I set off in search of more examples like the positive ones she shares. First to mind was Girl Squads: 20 Female Friendships that Changed History by Sam Maggs, illustrated by Jenn Woodall (Quirk, $16.99), which is exactly what it sounds like: a collection of 20 history-shaping friendships spanning from 400 BCE to present day. I am also intrigued by the scientific knowledge promised in Jacqueline Mroz's Girl Talk: What Science Can Tell Us about Female Friendship, which Shelf's reviewer said "takes the bonds between women seriously."

Though Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear (Riverhead, $17) is ostensibly about creativity, not friendship, it is impossible to read Elizabeth Gilbert's account of her long relationship with fellow writer Ann Patchett without reflecting on how formative that friendship has been for both women and wondering how many other lives have been shaped by friends in the same way. The same "big" theme underlies Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close (Simon & Schuster, $26), in which the co-hosts of the popular Call Your Girlfriend podcast, Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman, provide concrete recommendations for investing in long-term friendships, based on their own decade-long relationship, with all its joys and challenges. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

The Writer's Life

Reading with... Sherry Thomas

photo: Jennifer Sparks

Sherry Thomas writes historical fiction, romance and YA. Her novels have appeared on many "Best of the Year" lists. Her historical mysteries include the Lady Sherlock series (A Study in Scarlet Women, A Conspiracy in Belgravia, The Hollow of Fear, The Art of Theft), Beautiful Enemy and The Luckiest Lady in London. Her latest Lady Sherlock novel is Murder on Cold Street (Berkley). Thomas immigrated from China at age 13, and English is her second language. She lives in Austin, Tex., with her husband and sons.

On your nightstand now:

My phone, on which I've been reading a xianxia (Chinese fantasy) web novel for months.

Favorite book when you were a child:

There was this Chinese book called 365 Nights of Tales, a collection of children's stories both Chinese and international. I'm not even sure I can recall any specific stories from it, but I read that book front to back and back to front countless times. And the funny thing was, in my hometown in that era, it wasn't always easy to get stuff. So, all I ever had was the first volume of this two-volume collection. Never seen the second volume ever, anywhere.

Your top five authors:

Jin Yong (Louis Cha)
Gu Long
J.R.R. Tolkien
Judith Ivory
Laura Kinsale

Two legendary writers of wuxia (Chinese martial arts epics), one fantasy writer and two romance writers. My sensibility has always been and would probably always remain genre.

Book you've faked reading:

I'm pretty sure I never read Paradise Lost, which I was supposed to for the English IV correspondence class I took to graduate early from high school.

Book you're an evangelist for:

I have recommended the Queen's Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner a lot of times. To this day, I look at book 2 in the series and am astounded by the romance that happened.

Book you've bought for the cover:

I have never bought a book for the cover, lol.

This is not because I am a person of substance, but because I was not given pocket money as a child. So, when I lived in China, I depended on my grandmother to buy me books--or my friends to loan me theirs. And when I came to the U.S., I relied on libraries.

Even today, that old habit persists. I will buy books to support my author friends, but for myself I only buy books I've already read wholly or partially and really, really love.

Book you hid from your parents:

Books by Gu Long (Louis Cha) which I rented to read. (That was a thing when I was growing up in China. Old men would have these little stalls in parks--or just a tarp on the ground--with books you can rent. You pay a deposit and then a daily fee to take a book home to read. I was a fast reader so typically I could get through a big martial arts epic overnight on a 30-cent daily fee.)

Book that changed your life:

A never-to-be-named historical romance that disagreed with me so violently that I decided to take up writing myself. Really changed my life. :D

Favorite line from a book:

My memory is bad so I can only recall "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit." I could have also put the opening line from Pride and Prejudice, but it's a little longer and I'd have to Google to make sure I'm not wrong with the wording.

Five books you'll never part with:

These are the books I brought with me from China when I came to the U.S. more than 30 years ago, so I'm confident I'll never part with them.

Happy Heroes by Gu Long, which is a take on the martial arts epic so radically different from anything else I'd read before that I fell in love instantly.

Dream of the Red Chamber, one of China's four great classic novels. My grandmother, who raised me, bought the books for me when I was in sixth grade. I used to read whole chapters aloud to myself because the language was so beautiful.

The Chinese dictionary I received from my great-aunt for my 10th birthday.

The English-Chinese dictionary that belonged to my grandmother and bears the alphabet written in her hand along the fore edge as a kind of quick index.

Stories of the Sahara by Sanmao. Actually, what I have is a mainland Chinese recompilation of her autobiographical and travel essays both from Stories of the Sahara and some other sources. The book was hugely popular in China when I was growing up, and Sanmao had such a wry, endearing, yet fierce voice.

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

Writing about the books I brought with me from China all those years ago has made me nostalgic. So, I'm going to say Stories of the Sahara by Sanmao. It was astonishing to me, as a preteen, to read about the experiences of an ethnically Chinese woman living, just living, in such faraway places. She wasn't in those faraway places to get a degree or job training or anything else that was considered "useful." She was just living there, and experiencing life deeply, sometimes in hilarity, sometimes in heartbreak.

I miss that experience, that wonder. I also miss--a little--the girl I was then, so long ago, so far away.

Book Candy

Books Authors Love to Read

"The books authors loved to read in a year of living precariously" were highlighted by the Sydney Morning Herald.


"The sexiest moments in literature that aren't sex scenes" were revealed by the Guardian.


Open Culture explored The Futurist Cookbook and "looked back when Italian Futurists declared war on pasta (1930)."


CBS Sunday Morning celebrated Nancy Drew's 90th birthday.


"There are way more copies of Newton's masterwork than anyone thought," Atlas Obscura reported.

Great Reads

Rediscover: John le Carré

John le Carré, the master of Cold War spy novels, died on Saturday at age 89. Born David Cornwell, le Carré worked in MI6, Britain's Secret Intelligence Service, and its domestic version, MI5, for 16 years. The best known of his more than two dozen books were set in MI6, "the Circus," forever at war with its Soviet counterpart, "Moscow Centre," with many of their battles played out in divided Germany. Most of the titles starred George Smiley, a taciturn, brilliant, methodical, dour, honorable, unassuming spymaster and an aficionado of German literature and language. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, published in 1963 and le Carré's third novel, became an international bestseller, and was followed by, among others, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Honourable Schoolboy and Smiley's People.

With the end of the Cold War, le Carré developed new characters, set his books in different places, including Africa, post-Soviet Russia and Central America, and investigated big pharma, money laundering and more. Among those titles were The Constant Gardener, Our Kind of Traitor, The Night Manager and The Tailor of Panama. In later years, le Carré and his books became more straightforwardly political. He was vehemently against spy agency torture, the post-9/11 "war on terror" and Brexit. His most recent titles, both published in the U.S. by Viking, were The Pigeon Tunnel: Stories from My Life (2016), an autobiography, and Agent Running in the Field (2019), a spy thriller set in the world of the Circus in the present day.

Book Review


Thirty Names of Night

by Zeyn Joukhadar

Zeyn Joukhadar builds upon his success with The Map of Salt and Stars in his second novel, Thirty Names of Night. Intertwined stories in the style of Persian fables play together like the multiple movements of a concerto, alternating between fast-paced dramas and slow, thoughtful exposition. History and memory, art and literature, queer and immigrant identities, familial and community expectations, self-discovery and exploration: all these blend together toward a crescendo of heartbreaking brilliance readers have come to expect from this incredibly talented writer.

The stories of three generations and two family lines of Syrians/Syrian Americans are delicately pieced together in chapters that range throughout time and space. The families are entwined due to a beautiful and possibly mythical bird presumably painted by the Syrian American artist Laila Z, who disappeared more than 60 years ago. Laila's childhood and development as an artist is slowly revealed while, in the present day, a trans boy is trying to make the connection between his dead mother's ghost, their shared obsession with the semi-mythical bird and whether in finding the truth behind the missing painting of the bird, he will also find the courage to present his real self to the world.

The narrative as a whole weaves through the past and the present of many others--biological, legal and chosen family. It presents an incredibly nuanced picture of the lives and loves, threats and setbacks, and hopes and dreams of a tight-knit, fully represented, Syrian American community of immigrants and naturalized citizens, who are working toward their best lives in an increasingly fractured American landscape. --BrocheAroe Fabian, owner, River Dog Book Co.

Discover: A trans Syrian American boy wrestles with grief, loss, identity and discovery while searching for a painting by an artist who disappeared 60 years earlier.

Atria, $27, hardcover, 304p., 9781982121495

The Orchard

by David Hopen

David Hopen's dark and enthralling fish-out-of-water novel, The Orchard, questions whether or not intelligence and free thinking cancels out religious education.

Brooklynite high school student Ari Arden's frum (Yiddish for devout or pious) Jewish education has always been supplemented with the works of Shakespeare, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche. When Ari's family abruptly relocates to the ultra-rich Jewish not-so-pious community of Zion Hills, Fla., his new community views Ari as an oddity. Luckily, popular jock and nice-guy neighbor Noah takes Ari under his wing, cementing Ari's status as one of the school's elite. Ari's black-and-white orthodox wardrobe morphs into skinny jeans, colorful polo shirts and trendy footwear, as he becomes immersed in a world of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll.

Life is good until Ari is introduced to Evan Stark, the hyper-intelligent de facto leader of Ari's circle, who has just returned from abroad. The recent loss of his mother causes Evan to question the concept of God so severely that he sets out on a drug- and alcohol-fueled quest to see the face of God himself. Evan plans to drag along the other members of the circle, including Ari, to confront the deity, whether they like it or not. Ari must choose between being shunned by the group or following Evan down a path of destruction.

Hopen's first novel provokes fiery sociological debate on whether or not science and religion can coexist. The argument is not new territory, but framing it within a story of a young man on the brink of adulthood makes the themes universal, and the pacing and smart writing cause The Orchard to sizzle. --Paul Dinh-McCrillis, freelance reviewer

Discover: A teenager's strict religious upbringing crashes into a more secularized world in a smart, edgy coming-of-age drama.

Ecco, $27.99, hardcover, 480p., 9780062974747

Mystery & Thriller

The Silver Shooter

by Erin Lindsey

Erin Lindsey (Murder on Millionaires' Row; A Golden Grave) seamlessly blends historical fiction and paranormal mystery in her charming Rose Gallagher series. Rose, formerly a maid to the very proper Mr. Thomas Wiltshire, is now his investigative partner. What no one knows is that Rose and Thomas work for a secret branch of the Pinkerton Agency, tracking paranormal activities.

As The Silver Shooter begins, Theodore Roosevelt asks Rose and Thomas to head out west to Dakota Territory to research his massive cattle losses and find out about the death of one of his acquaintances. Bad weather can't explain all of the cattle deaths, and rumor has it that a mysterious violent creature has been mangling the bodies of cattle and humans alike. Off to investigate the purported monster and to see if Roosevelt's friend is truly haunting a local hotel now, Rose and Thomas find that indeed things are not as they seem in Dakota Territory. Tensions are high as local ranchers blame the Lakota, but the Lakota insist that a malevolent presence has been at work. It will take all of the Pinkertons' tenacity and ingenuity to stop the terrible creature and protect the innocent from being blamed.

Well researched and quickly paced, The Silver Shooter is a lovely historical mystery with a magical flair. Fans of Jacqueline Winspear and Rhys Bowen will appreciate Rose's clever prowess, and lovers of paranormal mysteries will enjoy the way that Lindsey weaves rumors of ghosts, the fae and other magical beings into the historical backdrop of the rough and tumble Dakota territory. --Jessica Howard, bookseller at Bookmans, Tucson, Ariz.

Discover: Maisie Dobbs meets The X-Files in this delightful historical, paranormal mystery.

Minotaur Books, $17.99, paperback, 352p., 9781250623447

Little Threats

by Emily Schultz

In the psychological thriller Little Threats, the 15 years that Kennedy Wynn served in the penitentiary after pleading guilty to murdering her best friend pale in comparison to the emotional prison that engulfs her and the families involved. Guilt, grief and teen angst revolve around a perceptive plot with carefully crafted characters, all of whom are trying to rebuild their lives.

Kennedy was 16 years old when she was accused of murdering Haley Kimberson, whose body was found in the woods near an upscale Richmond, Va., suburb. Kennedy doesn't remember that night, as both girls were high on acid. Evidence was sketchy, but Kennedy was coerced by her attorney and her father, Gerry, to take the deal. Now, a 31-year-old woman, Kennedy enters a world she doesn't recognize. The murder--never far from anyone's mind--is dredged up when a true-crime show plans a feature.

Emily Schultz explores the vagaries of complicated characters in Little Threats as she did in her debut, The Blondes. Kennedy doesn't know if she can trust anyone, even herself, affecting all relationships. Guilt wracks Gerry and Carter, Kennedy's twin sister. Revenge consumes Haley's parents, who divorced after her death. Poor before Haley's death, the Kimbersons are now wealthy because of a lucrative civil suit. All of the characters' daily lives are shaded by the murder, augmented by anger and manipulation.

Little Threats avoids the cliches that trap many novels about dysfunctional families as Schultz delivers an energetic plot fueled by incisive character studies. --Oline H. Cogdill, freelance reviewer

Discover: In this perceptive thriller, a woman released from prison for murdering her best friend when they were teenagers deals with a world of grief and guilt.

Putnam, $16, paperback, 384p., 9780593086995


The Cul-de-Sac War

by Melissa Ferguson

Melissa Ferguson (The Dating Charade) has written a lighthearted, wholesome romance in The Cul-de-Sac War. Bree Leake has always been a free spirit, much to the concern of her mother and stepfather. Bree has finally gotten a good job at the Barter, a live performance theater in Abingdon, Va., and she's living in her grandma's former house, which she partially inherited. The only problem is her super-annoying new neighbor, Chip, who is renovating the house next door.

Chip's dog won't leave her alone. He makes all kinds of noises at weird hours, and he seems to love tormenting Bree. She's tempted to leave--except that for her birthday her parents offer to give her their share of her grandma's house if she agrees to stay in the house and at her job for one year. All Bree has to do is settle down and survive a year of her aggravatingly attractive neighbor. Until the owner of the Barter announces that he's switching shows, and the whole cast will have to re-audition. Can Bree pull it together? Or is it just easier to move on?

Funny and sweet, this cute romance will have readers chuckling. Melissa Ferguson does an excellent job of making Chip's and Bree's pranks on each other seem believable in spite of their ridiculousness, and the escalating war between them makes for an enjoyable escape. Readers of Christian fiction or romances are sure to enjoy The Cul-de-Sac War. --Jessica Howard, bookseller at Bookmans, Tucson, Ariz.

Discover: In this light-hearted romance, two neighbors play increasingly elaborate pranks on each other as they try to resist their attraction to one another.

Thomas Nelson, $15.99, paperback, 336p., 9780785231042

Biography & Memoir

The Doll: A Portrait of My Mother

by Ismail Kadare, trans. by John Hodgson

In The Doll: A Portrait of My Mother, translated by John Hodgson, internationally acclaimed novelist, poet and playwright Ismail Kadare offers a whimsical, autofictional account of growing up in Gjirokastra, an UNESCO World Heritage city in southern Albania. He pays affectionate yet emotionally conflicted tribute to his mother--whose fragile physicality, self-restraint and inscrutable mask-like face earn her the sobriquet "the doll"--and recognizes her early, essential influence on his career.

The author describes the Kadare ancestral home as "a menacing pile of stone," with a permanent air of frostiness and misunderstanding due to the ongoing cold war between its two mistresses: Kadare's sensitive, naive mother and his grim, tight-lipped grandmother. His rendering of local weddings as "a unique infiltration into the opposite camp, a parley of both intelligence and counter-intelligence" perfectly captures the union of families by marriage in traditional Albanian society, where the bride is expected to shift allegiance from her father's house to her new family of in-laws.

The Doll is a moving, intimate portrayal of a young man's literary awakening. Kadare (A Girl in Exile; Chronicle in Stone) shares with ironic detachment Albania's communist history and his resistance to its anti-individualist forces, resulting in a ban on his books and self-imposed exile in Paris. Throughout it all, his mother's sacrifice strikes most deeply for the Man Booker International Prize-winning author: she surrendered her own parental authority to liberate him, in a world where freedom was rare and hard to find, "like crusts of rationed bread in the time of the Germans." --Shahina Piyarali, reviewer

Discover: The celebrated Albanian writer recalls his unconventional mother's influence on his work and the launch of his literary career under a totalitarian government.

Counterpoint Press, $16.95, paperback, 208p., 9781640094222

One Life

by Megan Rapinoe, Emma Brockes

In 2019, after a second World Cup win with the U.S. Women's soccer team, Megan Rapinoe spoke to her fans and asked them to work to make their world better. "We have to love more, hate less, listen more, talk less," she said. "This is everybody's responsibility." Rapinoe expands on this message in her thoughtful memoir, One Life, which takes its name loosely from the famous Mary Oliver quotation that also serves as the book's epigraph: "Tell me, what is it you plan to do/ with your one wild and precious life?"

One Life is Rapinoe's answer to that question: soccer and social justice. The memoir outlines her somewhat meteoric rise from youth leagues to national teams, packed with play-by-plays of some of her biggest and most career-shaping games as a player (including three World Cups and two trips to the Olympics). Rapinoe also reviews her work as an activist; as one of the first openly gay players in soccer history, she realized how much her sense of justice was tied to her success in her sport. "I couldn't imagine being an effective player if I wasn't completely honest. I play my best when I'm free." Since then, she has been an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, fought against the unequal pay of women soccer players based on their gender, and kneeled during the National Anthem in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick and the Black Lives Matter movement. "Arms out wide, claim your space," she tells her fans and readers--and that's exactly what she does here, with an inspiring memoir that reveals a strong, quick-witted writer whose words are as quirky as her on-field persona and as thoughtful as her activism. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

Discover: The inspiring memoir of famous U.S. soccer player Megan Rapinoe focuses on her two greatest passions: soccer and social justice.

Penguin Press, $27, hardcover, 240p., 9781984881168

The Killer's Shadow: The FBI's Hunt for a White Supremist Serial Killer

by John E. Douglas, Mark Olshaker

In 1977, a Jewish man was shot to death in broad daylight leaving a synagogue near St. Louis, Mo. Three years and 15 dead men, women and children later, authorities identified the killer as Joseph Paul Franklin, and arrested him in Kentucky, but Franklin escaped custody. The police turned to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Behavioral Sciences Unit to build a psychological profile on Franklin and find him before he killed again. The Killer's Shadow: The FBI's Hunt for a White Supremist Serial Killer, written by John E. Douglas and regular collaborator Mark Olshaker, is the intense account of the hunt for one of the worst killers in American history.

In May of 1980, FBI Agent John E. Douglas was working in a dingy basement in Quantico. He was the bureau's only full-time criminal profiler at the time, and the request for help in predicting Franklin's next move fell on his desk. Douglas built a profile based on the killer's methods and where his known victims were found. Douglas's meticulousness eventually led the FBI to bring Joseph Paul Franklin to justice.

Franklin, an overly abused and underfed child, read Hitler's Mein Kampf as a teen and decided his goal would be to cleanse the world of those he deemed inferior. He targeted Jews, African Americans and anyone willing to associate with them. The Killer's Shadow is told in a nonlinear way that's sometimes confusing, but it delves deeply into a profiler's struggle to drag killers out of the darkness, without succumbing to the abyss himself. --Paul Dinh-McCrillis, freelance reviewer

Discover: A racist serial killer is pursued by a relentless criminal profiler in a riveting true-crime story.

Dey Street, $16.99, paperback, 304p., 9780062979766

Social Science

Alright, Alright, Alright: The Oral History of Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused

by Melissa Maerz

The world keeps getting older, but the kids partying through a '70s Austin night in Richard Linklater's beloved 1993 comedy Dazed and Confused stay the same age. Melissa Maerz's oral history of Linklater's shaggy slice-of-life covers Dazed's scripting, casting, shooting, initial box-office failure and welcome ascension to canonical status. For the actors, making Dazed was a summer camp for up-and-comers, a mad season of drugs, crushes, hook-ups and reveling in their own promise--they believed they'd be stars after this. For Linklater, who kept detailed diaries, the shoot was a battle with producers, who didn't understand or support his vision.

Revealing and sometimes riotous interviews with cast, crew and Linklater's high school friends illuminate how Linklater and company captured so much true teen feeling in a movie that the studio, Universal, wanted to be a sex comedy. (Linklater recalls producers offering to bump up Dazed's minuscule budget if he would agree to shoot some nudity.) Like the film itself, Maerz's book boasts a laid-back, hang-out vibe, both innocent and foul-mouthed, as her interviewees dish, reminisce and occasionally contradict each other.

Alright also shares with Dazed a breakout performance from Matthew McConaughey. McConaughey's stories of landing and crafting the role of his cosmic Texas horndog creep mod are gratifyingly weird and longwinded. Still, for all the high spirits, and the film's eventual success, a sense of disappointment clouds Linklater's own feelings about it. He believes Dazed fails in one crucial way: he intended the film to expose the misery of the '70s, not its alluring chillness. --Alan Scherstuhl, freelance writer and editor

Discover: The high-spirited oral history of Dazed and Confused reads like an all-night Austin party.

Harper, $26.99, hardcover, 464p., 9780062908506

Reference & Writing

Love, Kurt: The Vonnegut Love Letters, 1941-1945

by Kurt Vonnegut; Edith Vonnegut, editor

While browsing through the contents of her mother's attic, Edith Vonnegut made a remarkable discovery in the form of a white gift box. Inside this battered vessel she found 226 love letters written by her father, Kurt Vonnegut, to her mother, Jane Marie Cox, between 1941 and 1945.

At 19, the couple met at a dance at the Woodstock Country Club in Indianapolis and, from Kurt's letters, they seemed to form a swift and strong connection. Kurt was studying engineering at Cornell, always floating on the edge of academic probation; Jane studied literature at Swarthmore devotedly. Their letters--some typewritten, some written in pencil, many composed in some combination of the two with Kurt's drawings adorning the margins--represent not only a young love developing in the precarity of wartime, but the pure, imaginative work of a young writer who had yet to discover the extent of his talent. He writes to her while on deployment, "I saw the Northern Lights for the first time in my life tonight. It was pretty much like kissing you."

In December 1944, Kurt was captured in the Battle of the Bulge and held as a POW in a Dresden slaughterhouse. His release in May 1945 marked a crucial change in his relationship with Jane. They married that September, and their remaining letters, written from Fort Riley, where Kurt was finishing his army obligations, reveal a mutual intimacy hard to find in earlier correspondence. Kurt's letters, once filled with poems, drawings and pleas designed solely to win the love of Jane, become the means by which Jane reads and edits Kurt's earliest stories. --Emma Levy, writer

Discover: The intimate love letters that fill Love, Kurt feature the imaginative and unmistakable literary voice of Kurt Vonnegut decades before his first literary success.

Random House, $35, hardcover, 240p., 9780593133019

Children's & Young Adult

The Lights and Types of Ships at Night

by Dave Eggers, illus. by Annie Dills

Dave Eggers (Her Right Foot; This Bridge Will Not Be Gray) returns to children's nonfiction with The Lights and Types of Ships at Night, a beautifully illustrated and enthusiastic picture-book introduction to ships of all sizes.

"You may have heard of ships," begins the narrator, but "did you realize that... there is nothing more beautiful than a ship and its lights on the sea at night? This is true. This is a factual book." The endearingly earnest narrator introduces ships from around the world with exclamations and loving declarations of beauty and purpose: container ships, trawlers, paddlewheel ferry boats and junks are equally enthralling to the narrator, who is quick to declare each successive type to be "the most beautiful of ships at night!" Eggers's fanciful but factual turns of phrase ("when [antique galleons] appear at night, like illuminated dreams of the past, they are the best of all things on water") are equally as lovely as picture book debut illustrator Annie Dills's art, which turns the ships from everyday functional objects into magical floating beacons, sparkling in the dark. With her use of "shimmering metallic gold and silver Pantones," Dills's illustrations of light refracting through mist and reflecting off moving water are realistic yet maintain an unexpected beauty and fantasy. Lights and Types of Ships at Night includes a full-color fold-out poster and, for close readers, an extra search-and-find that is detailed on the copyright page. Young fans of boats and ships--and even those who are indifferent--will likely delight in this new perspective. --Jennifer Oleinik, freelance writer and editor

Discover: With infectious enthusiasm, the narrator of an introductory picture book explores the beauty of lighted ships in the dark.

McSweeney's, $18.99, hardcover, 32p., ages 6-10, 9781952119071

I Am the Wind

by Michael Karg, illus. by Sophie Diao

Playful, evocative text and art define this creative nonfiction picture book, an author and illustrator debut, which follows the whooshing, whirling and whispering wind as it visits 11 different animals--plus a human child--in various habitats around the world.

This story begins and ends in a city where, despite the "cold and dusky damp," a frisky breeze delights one young girl as it stirs autumn leaves. The wind moves on to "float in a barred owl's flight" above snowy fields, "scale the highest peaks" with a wolverine, race "like a river" with wolves and settle with "musk ox in massive coats... on a starry polar night." It electrifies "the heavens for a festive reindeer picnic," whistles through a "snow leopard ledge" and "serenade[s] some geese" over Everest. On and on it goes, all the while proudly proclaiming, "I AM THE WIND."

Michael Karg's expressive text makes excellent use of alliteration and repetition, and his personification of the wind serves as a perfect vehicle to whisk readers away to far-flung regions of the world. Sophie Diao's digital illustrations evoke the near constant motion of the journey, employing a variety of dynamic viewpoints to bring both wind and animals to boisterous life. Back matter includes a map, a short explanation of the way wind interacts with wildlife and an additional fact or two for each animal featured in the book. I Am the Wind serves as an age-appropriate introduction and global ode to this restless force of nature, one always ready "to lift again, and sing and swirl and soar." --Lynn Becker, blogger and host of Book Talk, a monthly online discussion of children's books for SCBWI

Discover: An exuberant wind proudly escorts readers on a journey to visit animals around the globe.

Page Street Kids, $17.99, hardcover, 32p., ages 4-8, 9781624149221


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

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