Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, November 8, 2016


HarperCollins: Celebrating 200 Years of Great Books

From My Shelf

HarperCollins: 200th Anniversary Celebration - Why I Read Sweepstakes

Yen Press: Brave by Svetlana Chmakova

In Praise of Soup

Betty Rosbottom's cookbooks (American Favorites; Sunday Casseroles) skew toward the homey and practical, just what we need as the days get shorter and the nights darker. She tells us why soup is important:

When it comes to soup, you can definitely label me a serious fan, a true aficionada. In 2008, I wrote Sunday Soup, my first book that featured soups, and for the past two years, I've dedicated myself to that subject again to create recipes for my latest book, Soup Nights (Rizzoli).

Why write about soups again? Because they are undeniably comforting, often providing us with warm memories of family and home. They are also endlessly versatile and easy to assemble. Add to this their make-ahead possibilities, plus the fact that they tend to be inexpensive, and you can see why soups are a mainstay in every major world cuisine. In short, soup making is a simple art that happens to fit effortlessly into our hectic lifestyles today. 

Soup Nights offers all sorts of culinary adventures: some are perfect for vegetarians, others focus on fish (bouillabaisse and gumbo), and many highlight nutrient-rich beans and grains (barley, quinoa, lentils and beans of varying hues). You will also find hearty, richly flavored options, such as classic onion soup gratiné to counter weather's chill, as well as cooler choices, like an icy cucumber Vichyssoise, for sweltering days.

But one cannot live by soup alone. So I also include recipes for seasonal salads and inventive sandwiches--natural partners for soups--as well as for never-to-be-forgotten desserts.

My hope--as author and cooking teacher--is that Soup Nights will encourage readers to select soups as the centerpieces for their meals. Rather than picking up another roasted chicken at the supermarket or reaching for the phone to order pizza or pad Thai, a "soup night" can be almost as easy, undoubtedly more memorable and immeasurably more satisfying!


Harper: Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton


Book Candy

Harry Potter Yoga

"Harry Potter yoga is the witchy workout you've been waiting for," according to the Huffington Post.

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Pop quiz: "Only an actual grammar genius will totally ace this quiz," Buzzfeed challenged.

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"Pet Names in Literature: A Roundup" was featured by Quirk Books.

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Mental Floss examined "the doctor who designed a cipher wheel to decode Shakespeare."

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Bustle served up "8 Jane Austen mugs you will fall ardently in love with."

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Nikhil Gala's Beamshelf "bends on one side when a book is placed on that side," Bookshelf wrote.


Other Press: Elle by Philippe Djian


Great Reads

Rediscover: Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain was a National Book Award finalist, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction, and the basis for a film by Ang Lee that opens this Friday. Fountain's debut novel follows the eight members of Bravo Squad, a unit of U.S. soldiers brought home from Iraq for a "Victory Tour" after a bloody skirmish is captured on video. 19-year-old Billy Lynn and his comrades are to be set pieces of the halftime show of the Dallas Cowboys' Thanksgiving game. The novel takes place in a single day at the stadium, with several flashbacks, where Billy confronts the harsh, sometimes satirical disconnect between his role as a wartime soldier and a homefront that experiences so little sacrifice.

Ang Lee's adaptation introduces Joe Alwyn as Billy Lynn, who stars alongside Kristen Stewart as Billy's sister, Chris Tucker as a Hollywood producer trying to sell Bravo Squad's story, Vin Diesel as a sergeant who died in Billy's arms in Iraq, and Steve Martin as fictional Cowboys owner Norm Oglesby. Fountain's novel was originally published in 2012 by Ecco Press. On October 25, Ecco released a mass market movie tie-in edition ($9.99, 9780062656568). --Tobias Mutter


New Press: Becoming Ms. Burton: From Prison to Recovery to Leading the Fight for Incarcerated Women by Susan Burton and Cari Lynn


A Reader's Life

Discovering Classic Italian Novels

My immediate and intense connection with the Neapolitan novels by Elena Ferrante should have warned me. I am genetically prone to appreciate Italian literature. I devoured Dante in college, read him in three different translations simultaneously. I gobbled up Ludovico Ariosto, reading multiple translations of his Orlando Furioso (Oxford, $17.95), the greatest comic epic fantasy poem ever written, from first line to last. I saw every film by Federico Fellini, Michelangelo Antonioni and Pier Paolo Pasolini. But Italian novels--not until Elena Ferrante crossed my path.

Once I had read Ferrante's My Brilliant Friend (L'amica geniale, 2012; available in the U.S. from Europa, $17), I became impatient waiting for each of the three subsequent volumes, wondering with the rest of the world who this anonymous writer could be, not understanding that her four-volume saga was the most recent flowering of an Italian tradition of historical realism in fiction that went back to the mid-19th century. I was ripe for discovering classic Italian novels, and was first provoked into doing so by my bookstore friend and podcast partner on Breakfast at the Bookstore, Brad Craft. "You're Italian, and you've never read The Betrothed?" he teased. "It's like Dickens for an Italian. In Italy, it's considered second only to Dante."

It was a challenge I couldn't resist. My pile of advanced copies to review was low--down to two novels, one about the horrors of the trenches in the First World War, the other about the Rwanda genocide. Not surprisingly, it felt like a very good time to put off reviewing and indulge in a little literary self-education.

Alessandro Manzoni's The Betrothed (I Promessi Sposi, 1827; Everyman's Library, $26.95) had never looked more promising. Brad gave me a lovely hardback Everyman's Library edition in the classic translation by Archibald Colquhoun. It was irresistible--not that it was my first copy of that particular classic; I had purchased it repeatedly through my decades of reading. I was frequently discovering yet another unread copy in my collection. I simply had never read it. I searched through my library until I managed to locate a Dutton paperback version that cost $2.45 back in the '60s, and embarked on the 600-page journey.

Manzoni wrote one great novel in his lifetime, but published it three different times, constantly amplifying and improving it. Modeled on the historical novels of Sir Walter Scott, with a hero and heroine from the working class, corrupt aristocrats and less-than-genuine religious folk, The Betrothed is like a big literary lasagna--a layer of history, a layer of comic monologue, a layer of romance, a layer of religious life. It was the birth of a new literary form in Italian literature. It's a huge panorama of society, but oddly static, almost like a medieval tapestry the way the characters seem to freeze and become emblematic.

In the same way that creating the hobbit was Tolkien's stroke of genius, Manzoni's epic is wisely lightened by Don Abbondio, the delightfully cowardly village priest who succumbs to the villain's threats and refuses to marry the titular couple, setting the novel into motion. How that plot intersects with the unification of Italy, the bread riots of Milan and the plague forms a saga that has been filmed multiple times and made into two operas. Its most famous scenes are as familiar to Italians as the river-rafting escapades of Huckleberry Finn are to Americans, and the literary inventions of The Betrothed paved the way for Umberto Eco to create a similar historical masterpiece, The Name of the Rose (Mariner, $15.95).

Manzoni's achievement is often compared with that of Giuseppe di Lampedusa, the Sicilian aristocrat whose novel, The Leopard (Il Gattopardo, 1958), was a similar one-book-in-a-lifetime creation by an Italian genius. Unfortunately, di Lampedusa died with his novel rejected and unpublished. After a long search, I finally found a pristine, unread Avon paperback for $1.75, back from when it was first published in the '60s, and translated by the very same Archibald Colquhoun.

It's a completely different reading experience, mostly psychological interior stuff. Filled with elegant language, sumptuous descriptions and realistic motivations, it's the story of the last melancholy days of the Italian aristocracy as Garibaldi and the unification of Italy reduce them to memories. Though history is changing everything around the novel's protagonist, Prince Fabrizio, most of The Leopard (Pantheon, $16) is not about the action.

The characterization of the prince within his historical context is one of the novel's supreme strengths. But other portions feel fragmentary and unconnected, and a concluding chapter takes place many years later. Apparently there is even yet another uncompleted and unpublished portion. The success of the novel peaks with the penultimate chapter, "Death of a Prince"; di Lampedusa's lyrical assessment of approaching death is unsurpassed. But when the plot wanders away from Prince Fabrizio, the novel feels like a majestic crumbling ruin, like the aristocracy it describes.

Luchino Visconti's brilliant three-hour film adaptation (1963) wisely leaves out everything that doesn't have to do with the Prince. Considered by some among the greatest films of all time, the main events in the film are an inappropriate earthy laugh at the dinner table and a ballroom dance. What Visconti does with those two moments is unforgettable.

The Leopard might have exhausted my Italian plunge had I not noticed on one of my bookstore's display tables a book Brad endorsed, Life in the Country by Giovanni Verga (Hesperus, $13.95). In it are classic Italian stories, including the basis of the opera Cavalleria rusticana, and the sight of it reminded me that I used to have an old Signet Classic copy of Verga's most famous work, a novel called The House by the Medlar Tree (I Malavoglia, 1881; Dedalus, $15.99). An exhaustive search through my home library managed to locate it. And the moment I discovered that D.H. Lawrence had been so captivated by Verga that he had translated the novel himself, the cycle began again.

For a novel published 135 years ago, the shock is that it's head-spinningly modern. No sentimental stereotypes here; these are uneducated peasants. No fancy language; Verga uses the language of the people. He begins his tale of the poor inhabitants of a Sicilian fishing village by plopping the reader down in their midst and casually throwing out the names of half the village with no introductions. The reader has no choice but simply to go with it and try to remember whatever possible. It works. The names easily become familiar. It's sheer literary magic.

He brings to life dozens of characters: the pharmacist, the tavern keeper, the priest, the moneylender, fishermen, farmers and their wives and children. These people dream, curse, fight, love and pursue each other. The story is infested with small-town hostilities and secrets, and when these characters get worked up, they throw proverbs at each other. Deaths at sea cause economic upheavals; the storm-at-sea sequence is appropriately hair-raising and profoundly moving. Verga's characters are as concerned about marriage, money and inheritance as any character in Jane Austen. With a realism that predates the realistic villagers of Jean Giono by 30 years, Verga's tragicomic Sicilian village life comes out of nowhere in literature, refreshingly candid and exhilaratingly spare. As with The Leopard, Luchino Visconti made a film of The House by the Medlar Tree, although he changed the name to La Terra Trema; he filmed in a Sicilian village, casting real Sicilian fishermen and villagers in the cast.

Thank you, Brad, for such a glorious detour in my library and my literary heritage. These classic Italian novels were ones I had purchased more than 50 years ago, kept in my collection and moved laboriously in boxes from house to house, unread. Now they have become my treasures, out of print editions, in perfect condition--and a living testament to why paper-ink-and-glue books matter. --Nick DiMartino, Nick's Picks, University Book Store, Seattle, Wash.


Hawthorne Books: Narrow River, Wide Sky: A Memoir by Jenny Forrester


Book Review

Science Fiction & Fantasy

Faller

by Will McIntosh


A man wakes up on Day One and can't remember anything, including his own name, and the people around him are in a similar state. The few clues to the man's identity are the items he finds in his pocket: a toy man with a parachute made from plastic, a hand-drawn map and a photograph of a man and a woman. Using these items, Faller, as he decides to call himself, goes on a search for answers. Memories and meanings of words pop into his mind as he meanders through the city: "Dog. The word burst in his mind, fresh, like he was giving birth to it. Yet, he knew what a dog was.... Four-legged animal, fur, wagging tail. His mind felt slightly clearer, his energy returning." Faller discovers the world has been shattered into floating islands, that he's the man in the photograph, that duplicates of himself live on other islands, and that people from his past who know him are out to kill him for reasons he doesn't remember or understand.

Will McIntosh (Burning Midnight) places readers firmly in his Day One world before slowly revealing the events that led up to the critical moment when everything changed, which helps build tension and the illusion of this shattered world. He also challenges readers to contemplate the meaning of identity and the appropriate use of power. Faller is mind-bending, futuristic science fiction that contains elements of mystery, intrigue, romance, world war, biological warfare and high-tech science, along with likable characters who often make decisions based on gut feelings rather than logic. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

Discover: A man wakes up to find the world shattered, his memories gone and people trying to kill him.

Tor, $25.99, hardcover, 352p., 9780765383556

Doubleday Books: Full Wolf Moon by Lincoln Child


Graphic Books

Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63

by Marcelino Truong, trans. by David Homel


The family of law student-turned-artist Marcelino Truong was intimately involved in the Vietnam War's early events; his father served under the Diem regime in South Vietnam before the 1963 military coup that took down Diem and his family. With Such a Lovely Little War, Truong offers a child's (and expatriate's) perspective of two years during that period.

This riveting graphic memoir is the story of little Marco, the youngest son of South Vietnamese diplomat Khanh. When Prime Minister Diem recalls Khanh to Saigon in 1961, Marco's family--French mom Yvette and siblings Mireille and Domi--must leave the idylls of their Washington, D.C., home. Marco's quiet life is further disrupted when Yvette's inability to cope with her new environment triggers bipolar disorder. As bombs approach their Saigon apartment, the Truong family must make the decision to leave or stay against the increasing threat of war.

Truong's art moves in gauzy, home movie-like orange hues across the page, breaking into blue-gray palettes to describe historical elements outside of Marco's social sphere. He also strikes a delicate balance between childhood innocence and adult experiences. In the Washington suburbs, Domi's and Marco's otherness provokes thinly veiled racism when neighborhood boys engage them in a "Commies" play battle. Later, in their Saigon apartment, Domi and Marco play-act North versus South Vietnamese battles against the backdrop of their mother's escalating emotional volatility. Perhaps the passage of time has added an objective and journalistic vantage point for this eyewitness account, making a pivotal moment in American, French and Vietnamese history so meaningful and gripping. --Nancy Powell, freelance writer and technical consultant

Discover: Marcelino Truong's graphic memoir offers a child's view of two years during the Vietnam War.

Arsenal Pulp Press, $26.95, paperback, 272p., 9781551526478

University of California Press: In the Fields of the North / En Los Campos del Norte by David Bacon


Food & Wine

My Beer Year

by Lucy Burningham


Lucy Burningham (Hop in the Saddle), effervescent expert on the bicycle and beer scenes in Portland, Ore., brings her energetic, fun approach to My Beer Year: Adventures with Hop Farmers, Craft Brewers, Chefs, Beer Sommeliers, and Fanatical Drinkers as a Beer Master in Training. A longtime brew lover, Burningham decides to show her knowledge by becoming the beer equivalent of a sommelier, a Certified Cicerone. It is an enticing but daunting challenge; the exam's pass rate is lower than most states' bar exams, and many people study for a year and a half to prepare. Burningham decides she will try to do it in a year.

Her thirst for beer knowledge takes her throughout her home region and across the Atlantic to Belgium and Germany. She sips IPAs from Oregon, savors lambics in Brussels and downs Kölsch in Germany. The histories of different beer styles are fascinating, but Burningham is especially compelling in her meditations on being female in this largely male-dominated scene. Her sense of humor is delightful, and she writes adeptly for an audience who may lack a background in beer terminology. Comparing aluminum and steel kegs, she relays that "aluminum kegs scratch easily, weigh less, and make a 'dong' sound when you bang on them (as opposed to steel's 'ding.')"

Sipping a pint while reading is not a requirement, but perhaps it ought to be. Foreseeing that readers might do so, Burningham also includes beer tasting sheets and scoring keys in her afterword. --Katie Weed, freelance writer and reviewer

Discover: Journalist Lucy Burningham turns her attention to beer, spending a year becoming a Certified Cicerone.

Roost Books/Shambhala, $16.95, paperback, 288p., 9781611802719

Shelf Awareness Sign-up Giveaway: Deadly Game  (Robert Finlay #2) by Matt Johnson


Biography & Memoir

You Will Not Have My Hate

by Antoine Leiris, trans. by Sam Taylor


With language as beautiful as the life that was taken from him, journalist Antoine Leiris shares his survivor's story--a story of pain and fear, of memories and dreams, of determination and love. On November 13, 2015, his wife was gunned down during the terror attack at a rock concert at the Bataclan theater in Paris. He vowed to the assassins, in an open letter on Facebook, "You will not have my hate." Blending the narrative and poetic, Leiris relates the devastation of that fateful night. He documents the subsequent days, too, as he comes to terms with his loss and focuses on keeping his promise while navigating the day-to-day necessities of caring for a 17-month-old son.

Through powerful metaphors and heartbreaking imagery, Leiris pulls his readers into the orbit of a shell-shocked husband and father. He falters in a "vertigo of solitude" and enters "that little hut that is photographed after the catastrophe, the one that is left miraculously standing while everything around it is in ruins." But he remains full of hope and conviction: "there will be only the two of us, but we will take up the whole picture. She will be with us, invisible, but there. It is in our eyes that you will read her presence, in our joy that her flame will burn."

You Will Not Have My Hate is book that can be read in one sitting--and remain with its readers for a lifetime. The grace of Leiris's love and writing juxtaposed against the hideousness of his wife's murder is jarring yet inspiring. Leiris changes because of violence; his readers will change because of him. --Jen Forbus, freelancer

Discover: A French journalist vows not to hate his wife's murderers but instead, with his son, celebrate her by leading joyful lives.

Penguin Press, $23, hardcover, 144p., 9780735222113

Cockroaches

by Scholastique Mukasonga, trans. by Jordan Stump


Scholastique Mukasonga (Our Lady of the Nile) has done something extraordinary with her autobiographical work Cockroaches. In straightforward prose over a mere 165 pages, in a binding approximately the size of a 5x7 family photograph, she harnesses four decades of devastating imagery and emotion emanating from the genocide of the Tutsi people in Rwanda. From the heartrending dedication to the last page, Mukasonga holds the reader's aghast but rapt attention through the hardships endured and resilience shown by her family and their fellow refugees.

Mukasonga was three when the pogroms began in 1959 and her family was expelled from their village, exiled to an unpopulated savanna overrun with tsetse flies and wild animals. Hutus relegated hundreds of thousands of Tutsis there, rendering them Inyenzi--cockroaches, something to be stomped on and eradicated.

Despite the daily regime of terror, the Tutsis sustained their proud culture as a means of bearing witness, believing they would die in their hellish exile. They worked, grew food and, perhaps most importantly, they read. Education was Mukasonga's way out and, thanks to books, she "sensed that the world was far bigger than we could imagine.... Sometimes I dreamed of an impossible thing: having a book all to myself."

Mukasonga eventually graduated and moved to France, but kept abreast of the continued evisceration of her people, returning in 2004 to witness what remained of her village. Cockroaches is a haunting love letter to the lost, beautifully written and imbued with controlled emotion, a story to which we should all bear witness. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review

Discover: A survivor of the Tutsi genocide in Rwanda revisits her life, her family and her people in a compelling memoir.

Archipelago Books, $16, paperback, 165p., 9780914671534

Tomboy Survival Guide

by Ivan Coyote


At age five, Ivan Coyote (Gender Failure) knew what it was like to feel different and uncomfortable in one's skin. With a semi-chronological narrative, famous quotations and pen-and-ink illustrations, Tomboy Survival Guide is an insightful memoir of recognizing and accepting one's gender identity while being raised in the Yukon during the 1980s. (Generation X readers will immediately understand and enjoy the many cultural references and nostalgia.)

Coyote is transgender and uses the pronouns they and their. Recalling "the kind of lonely I felt in my belly," Coyote shares defining childhood moments, such as when a stranger thought Coyote was a boy: "Made me feel like he could look inside me and see some part of the truth of me in there." With a strong aptitude for the trades and interest in electricity, Coyote was met with cruel harassment in training programs and on job sites. An advocate for the transgender community, Coyote shares examples of decades of discrimination within the context of personal experiences using restrooms, changing facilities and other public venues.

A live-performance storyteller, filmmaker and musician, Coyote has a narrative style that occasionally strays into casual and off-the-cuff recounting, which lends itself nicely to some of Tomboy Survival Guide's lighthearted moments. Humorous remembrances of childhood summer escapades with cousins are paired alongside challenges in the face of societal injustices. Coyote's memoir offers a moving perspective of life as a transgender person with insights for others on this path and for LGBTQ allies. --Melissa Firman, writer, editor and blogger at melissafirman.com

Discover: Ivan Coyote has written a compelling memoir of discovering and accepting one's gender identity.

Arsenal Pulp Press, $17.95, paperback, 208p., 9781551526560

History

Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady's Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners

by Therese Oneill


When readers want to be swept back to the Victorian era, they often turn to authors like the Brontë sisters, George Eliot, Charles Dickens or Thomas Hardy, who offer a perfect escape to a time that, despite obvious hardships, is easy to idealize. In Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady's Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners, Therese Oneill takes readers on a quick, hilarious romp through the gritty unmentionable details that literature fails to discuss--those of the most intimate nature. Oneill begins at daybreak, waking to abject cold, scratchy bedsheets and, beneath the bed, a bowl that serves as a toilet. She focuses on the life of a well-to-do lady because, as Oneill states, one would not want to be poor given that poverty at that time was especially grim.

Oneill's delight in her subject is endearing. She delivers even the most disturbing facts, like how drinking wells and sewage were placed close to each other, in entertaining ways. Yet Oneill's stories are not without depth. Throughout Unmentionable, she notes how far feminism and related movements have come from the constrictions of Victorian ideologies. She introduces figures like Margaret Sanger, an American nurse and advocate for women's birth control, and Clara Barton, founder of the Red Cross. She stresses how long women have fought to be considered people in their own right and how their contributions changed the world. In the end, Oneill offers readers a little parting comfort: that history is seldom as good, nor as bad, as it seems. --Justus Joseph, bookseller at Elliott Bay Book Company

Discover: Therese Oneill gives a tongue-in-cheek tour of the Victorian era, in non-sanitized detail that you won't read about in literature from the period.

Little, Brown, $25, hardcover, 320p., 9780316357913

Science

The Wasp That Brainwashed the Caterpillar: Evolution's Most Unbelievable Solutions to Life's Biggest Problems

by Matt Simon, illus. by Vladimir Stankovic


Biology can be funny--especially through the eyes of Matt Simon, science writer for Wired magazine. The Wasp That Brainwashed the Caterpillar: Evolution's Most Unbelievable Solutions to Life's Biggest Problems is Simon's gleeful ode to weird science.

Provocatively titled chapters group evolutionary problems and solutions into wry categories, with various animals and their adaptations featured in each. A sampling: "Turns Out Getting Eaten Is Bad for Survival" and "You Absolutely Must Get Laid." In the latter, Simon writes, "Think finding love in a bar is hard? Try finding it in the desolation of the deep sea." The solution for anglerfish involves the males burrowing parasite-like into the females, their bodies fusing and thus syncing the fish's hormones, ensuring that the males release sperm when the females release eggs.

Like nature itself, Simon's descriptions often repel and fascinate. The hagfish's solution to escaping sharks entails choking attackers, "filling their gills with copious amounts of snot." There is also the fungus that zombifies ants, which Simon repeatedly assures readers he is not making up.

He includes notes on humans, too. He celebrates significant scientists throughout history, including one woman whom Simon laments that science has forgotten: natural historian Maria Merian, who studied bugs in Surinam in 1699. Simon also tells a memorable anecdote about modern marine biologists who, when deep sea diving, play Angry Birds on waterproof iPads during slow ascents to avoid the bends. Closing the book with reflections on the scientists combatting humans' impact on our shared planet, Simon reflects with optimism and appreciation on the significance of their work. --Katie Weed, freelance writer and reviewer

Discover: Science writer Matt Simon investigates the wackiest and weirdest results of evolution.

Penguin, $20, hardcover, 272p., 9780143128687

Children's & Young Adult

Heartless

by Marissa Meyer


The tiny and furious Queen of Hearts who shouts "Off with their heads!" was not always so angry.

In Heartless, an imagined prequel to Lewis Carroll's 150-year-old classic Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Marissa Meyer (the Lunar Chronicles) introduces the Queen of Hearts at the tender age of 18, when the King of Hearts, a giggling simpleton, is over the moon for her and for the scrumptious pastries she's famous for baking. The young, yet unmarried Queen of Hearts is Lady Catherine Pinkerton of the Kingdom of Hearts, but her friends call her "Cath." A match to that ridiculous royal is unthinkable to her. Cath has been dreaming for years of opening a bakery in town with her best friend (and maid) Mary Ann, but one night her fantasies take another turn. She dreams of a "hazy, beautiful boy" with lemon-yellow eyes... and then meets him at a party. He's the king's new court jester, a "joker" named Jest, and he dazzles her with his wordplay and breathtaking tricks. The story of the blossoming, forbidden romance between Cath and Jest is absolutely swoon-worthy, and their witty repartee and obvious chemistry make the suspenseful narrative sizzle.

Those well versed in the mesmerizing world of Alice will revel in how cleverly, seemingly effortlessly, Meyer works Carroll's beloved characters into her story. What begins as a witty, ingenious romp darkens and deepens until it grabs its readers by the throat. Will the brave, fierce Cath buckle and marry the king? Will she follow her heart? Meyer's foray into Wonderland will unhinge hearts and drop jaws as it charms and chills. --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: Marissa Meyer's dark, lushly imagined prequel to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland explores what happened to the Queen of Hearts as a teenager to make her such an angry tyrant.

Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan, $19.99, hardcover, 464p., ages 12-18, 9781250044655

The Romantics

by Leah Konen


This charming YA novel (narrated by Love herself) plays out like a romantic comedy. Ironically, that's the genre most hated by movie buff and high school senior Gael Brennan, who is a huge fan of Alfred Hitchcock and Wes Anderson films.

According to Love, Gael is a Romantic, someone "who ruthlessly believes in Love in its finest form." Unfortunately, Gael's new girlfriend, Anika, does not. She's an Adventurer, defined as someone who "primarily seeks out a partner for life's adventures (and misadventures...)." Shortly after Gael professes his love to her, he arrives at school early to discover Anika liplocked with his best friend, Mason. Heartbroken, Gael punches Mason, quits band and generally mopes around, watching movies and eating snack-sized Snickers bars. When Gael is run down by Cara, a first-year college student on her bicycle, the accident leads to that "dreaded enemy of True Love since the dawn of freaking time," the Rebound. Meanwhile, Gael begins to realize that his sister's babysitter Sammy, despite her love of romantic comedies, is good company, and she's quickly becoming a friend he doesn't want to lose. (At least she likes Serpico.)

Throughout The Romantics, Love carries on a droll commentary about the nature of the human heart and Gael's relationships with friends, his little sister, his parents and possible girlfriends, all the while enlightening readers as to how she works her magic. Gael is a warm and sympathetic character, and this playful, entertaining take on love by Leah Konen (The Last Time We Were Us; The After Girls) should find plenty of ardent fans. --Lynn Becker, blogger and host of Book Talk, a monthly online discussion of children's books for SCBWI

Discover: This teen love story, wittily narrated by Love herself, follows Gael, a high school senior and bona fide Romantic, through a series of amorous entanglements.

Amulet/Abrams, $18.95, hardcover, 336p., ages 13-up, 9781419721939

Performing Arts

Television: A Biography

by David Thomson


In his stimulating history of the device once referred to as "the idiot box" but now more likely to be a flat-panel screen, tablet or smartphone, British-born critic and San Francisco resident David Thomson (Moments That Made the Movies) takes a revealing look at this "impassive force that commandeered so much of what we thought was our attention, our consciousness, or our intelligence" for the past seven decades.

Eschewing a chronological approach, Thomson divides Television: A Biography into two segments: "Medium" (an exploration of "the climate of TV, the things that are always there") and "Messages." The latter, and more engaging, section comprises a set of loosely connected essays on subjects that include television's treatment of race (with particular attention to Bill Cosby and the O.J. Simpson trial), women (epitomized in the iconic comedy I Love Lucy), crime (spotlighting the Law & Order franchise that had stretched to 1,062 episodes by the end of 2014) and the news.

The subject of this ambitious study is vast. As of 2015, by Thomson's estimate, some 5,000 years worth of television, from the sublime to the execrable, have unfolded before our eyes. Thomson commands this surfeit of material impressively, and his taste is eclectic.

Television: A Biography captures the "ordinary, casual pleasure to be felt with television," though it's "tinged with unease at what the medium has done to us." Anyone who's been alive in the era of TV would have to concede, as Thomson eloquently demonstrates here, that its transformational influence on every aspect of life in the United States has been nothing less than profound. --Harvey Freedenberg, attorney and freelance reviewer

Discover: Critic David Thomson offers an intelligent and lively survey of the history of television.

Thames & Hudson, $34.95, hardcover, 304p., 9780500519165

Poetry

Float

by Anne Carson


In Float, poet, essayist, translator, critic, playwright and professor Anne Carson (Nox) offers new poetry and prose presented in 23 separately bound chapters, arranged in an attractive acetate case. It is a marriage of penetrating intellect, inspiring language and the art of the book. "Powerless Structures Fig. II (Sanne)," for example, is a short poem on the death of a loved one that concludes, "Three steps up no steps down/ she dies/ in April 2010 of alcohol and indescribable longing." "Eras of Yves Klein" contains six pages of personal biographical entries about this French artist, each line beginning with "The Era of..."--including "The Era of Covering Up Rosicrucian Beliefs with the Vocabulary of Phenomenology so as Not to Be Ridiculed by Paris Intelligentsia." Another, "Maintenance," is an amusing take on upkeep--in one line asking "Is order an issue of maintenance as in in what order as in the order given in the diagram the order they came out of the box etc."

Carson ruminates on the process of translation in "Variations on the Right to Remain Silent," citing Joan of Arc, Francis Bacon and Friedrich Hölderlin. And in the lyrical poem "Wildly Constant," the narrator reflects, "I always walk in the morning./ I don't know why anymore./ Life is short," and continues with what could be a summary description of Float: "What would it be like/ to live in a library/ of melted books?/ With sentences streaming over the floor/ and all the punctuation/ settled to the bottom as residue." A visit to the library inside Carson's head is always worth standing in line. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: In beautiful packaging and with a subtle balance of erudition, humor, criticism and lyricism, Anne Carson's Float is a jaw-dropping achievement.

Knopf, $30, hardcover, 272p., 9781101946848

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Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Pub Date: 05/23/2017

ISBN:9781476755212

List Price: $25.00

 

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