Shelf Awareness for Thursday, June 18, 2020

William Morrow & Company: Polostan: Volume One of Bomb Light by Neal Stephenson

Shadow Mountain: The Legend of the Last Library by Frank L Cole

Atlantic Monthly Press: The Elements of Marie Curie: How the Glow of Radium Lit a Path for Women in Science by Dava Sobel

Ace Books: Dungeon Crawler Carl by Matt Dinniman

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: The Millicent Quibb School of Etiquette for Young Ladies of Mad Science by Kate McKinnon

Annick Press: Bog Myrtle by Sid Sharp

Minotaur Books: Betrayal at Blackthorn Park: A Mystery (Evelyne Redfern #2) by Julia Kelly


Bolton Book Offers Damning Details of Trump White House

A day after the Justice Department filed suit to block publication of former national security adviser John Bolton's new book, The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir (Simon & Schuster), whose pub date is next Tuesday, multiple media outlets are reporting on the many shocking accounts of his 17 months working for President Trump and his administration. (Last night the Justice Department asked a judge for a temporary restraining order blocking publication of the book, a move S&S called "a frivolous, politically motivated exercise in futility. Hundreds of thousands of copies of [the book] have already been distributed around the country and the world. The injunction as requested by the government would accomplish nothing.")

Among the revelations in the book:

"President Trump's decision-making consistently prioritized his re-election and family's well-being ahead of the national interest," the Wall Street Journal wrote. Bolton "describes 'obstruction of justice as a way of life' inside the Trump White House and denounces what he says is the president's penchant to 'give personal favors to dictators he liked.' "

In addition, the Journal, which published an official excerpt from the book, too, said, "Mr. Bolton defends his decision not to participate in the House's impeachment inquiry, and criticizes Democratic leaders for narrowing the scope of their investigation. Had the House focused on Mr. Trump's broader behavior, Mr. Bolton writes, there might have been a greater chance to persuade Republicans that the president had committed 'high crimes and misdemeanors.' "

The Journal called The Room Where It Happened "a scathing rebuke of a sitting president by one of his own former senior advisers and, as Mr. Bolton describes it, a warning to conservatives ahead of the 2020 election."

The New York Times emphasized that the book "describes several episodes where the president expressed willingness to halt criminal investigations 'to, in effect, give personal favors to dictators he liked,' citing cases involving major firms in China and Turkey."

Concerning China, for example, "Mr. Trump overtly linked trade negotiations to his own political fortunes by asking President Xi Jinping of China to buy a lot of American agricultural products to help him win farm states in this year's election. Mr. Trump, he writes, was 'pleading with Xi to ensure he'd win. He stressed the importance of farmers, and increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat in the electoral outcome.' "

The Washington Post added that at the same meeting, "Xi also defended China's construction of camps housing as many as 1 million Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang--and Trump signaled his approval. 'According to our interpreter,' Bolton writes, 'Trump said that Xi should go ahead with building the camps, which Trump thought was exactly the right thing to do.' "

The Post also noted other "shocking statements" made by the president. "Trump said invading Venezuela would be 'cool' and that the South American nation was 'really part of the United States,' " the Post continued. "Bolton says Trump kept confusing the current and former presidents of Afghanistan, while asking Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to help him strike a deal with Iran. And Trump told Xi that Americans were clamoring for him to change constitutional rules to serve more than two terms, according to the book.

"He also describes a summer 2019 meeting in New Jersey where Trump says journalists should be jailed so they have to divulge their sources: 'These people should be executed. They are scumbags,' Trump said, according to Bolton's account."

As for the accusations at the heart of the House's impeachment of the president, the Times wrote, Bolton "provides firsthand evidence of his own that Mr. Trump explicitly linked the security aid to investigations involving [Joe] Biden and Hillary Clinton. On Aug. 20, Mr. Bolton writes, Mr. Trump 'said he wasn't in favor of sending them anything until all the Russia-investigation materials related to Clinton and Biden had been turned over.' "

The Times also called the book "a withering portrait of a president ignorant of even basic facts about the world, susceptible to transparent flattery by authoritarian leaders manipulating him and prone to false statements, foul-mouthed eruptions and snap decisions that aides try to manage or reverse.

"Mr. Trump did not seem to know, for example, that Britain is a nuclear power and asked if Finland is part of Russia, Mr. Bolton writes. He came closer to withdrawing the United States from NATO than previously known."

The Justice Department claims that the book contains classified material, but publisher Simon & Schuster indicated there was a different concern driving the White House. In a statement on Tuesday, S&S said, "The lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice to block John Bolton from publishing his book, The Room Where It Happened, is nothing more than the latest in a long running series of efforts by the Administration to quash publication of a book it deems unflattering to the President. Ambassador Bolton has worked in full cooperation with the [National Security Council] in its pre-publication review to address its concerns and Simon & Schuster fully supports his First Amendment right to tell the story of his time in the White House to the American public."

Running Press Kids: Your Magical Life: A Young Witch's Guide to Becoming Happy, Confident, and Powerful by Amanda Lovelace

International Update: 'Brisk Trade' for Reopened British Bookshops

Booksellers in England reported "a brisk trade" Monday as many bookshops reopened for the first time since the nationwide lockdown due to the Coovid-19 pandemic, the Bookseller reported. 

"Our customers are over the moon we're open again! It's almost brought us to tears," said James Firth, co-owner of the Stripey Badger Bookshop in Grassington. "Most of our customers are locals that usually come in and they have been saying, 'Thank God you're open again! It's good to be back.' One has brought us a bottle of wine and a card, which is lovely.... So we anticipated we would be busy the first couple of days, just from the locals wanting to visit. It will be interesting to see how tourism picks up."

Hilary Redhead, manager of the Bell Bookshop, Henley, said, "We were a bit concerned obviously [how it would go] like everybody else, but everybody has been really lovely, it's all been very calm. We haven't been overloaded but it's been steady, people have been coming in. Pretty much everybody knows the drill by now and we have our sneeze screen up and our hand sanitiser by the door. We're not taking the books out of circulation but everybody is perfectly happy."

Waterstones COO Kate Skipper noted that the company was "very happy to have finally reopened the doors to books. We are delighted to welcome back into our bookshops both booksellers and customers. It's been a long 12 weeks. The first day has gone well, reflecting similar patterns to those seen in Ireland and Europe. Feedback has been really positive with both the safety measures and new ways of retailing working well. It's been incredibly heartening listening to booksellers recommending books to our customers again. It feels like a good first step towards some kind of normality as we look forward to the reopenings in Scotland and Wales."

Rebecca MacAlister, shop manager at the Blackwell's flagship store in Oxford, said: "It was such a pleasure to open the doors again and see our customers being delighted to return. We have had small children and elderly customers who have shopped with us their entire lives return today and all have been reassured that we have remained the same in so many ways but changed enough for them to be comfortable shopping with us at this difficult time."


BookNet Canada, which is sharing stories of how booksellers are adapting to the challenges related to Covid-19, recently spoke with Patricia Massy of Massy Books, "a 100% Indigenous owned and operated bookstore in Vancouver's Chinatown neighborhood." Here's a sampling from the q&a:

How have you adapted your business in response to Covid-19? Are there particular initiatives that you'd like to share?
We immediately moved into increasing our online presence. The same week non-essential businesses shut down, we hired Emily Dundas Oke as our media manager and curator within our non-profit, Massy Arts Society. The timing worked out perfectly in terms of keeping her busy with tasks, as our non-profit was put on hold due to cancelled events.... Regarding initiatives, we introduced our free delivery service which resulted in a surge of online orders. We've also begun preparing book gifts and bundles. We've always loved giving recommendations, and we have begun preparing themed book lists--such as Feminist Dystopias and Indigenous Plant Ecology and Medicine. These are shared through social media and our newsletter.

Will you continue with any of these initiatives or business practices when brick-and-mortar bookstores reopen to customers?
Yes, absolutely, we're going to continue with delivery and give Amazon a run for its money. I mean, we're going to try anyway! We are also building our book list platform to help customers explore the breadth of titles we carry--and partner with special interest groups, conferences, and book clubs to build book lists as well!

What is your biggest takeaway from working as a bookseller while physical-distancing measures have been in place?
That art and books are providing relief for a lot of folks self-isolating and in quarantine. Imagine getting through this time without anything to read?! Also, from the sheer number of books we're selling, it's very apparent people are searching for alternatives to Amazon. Now that they've discovered it's just as easy to order from your local independent bookstore, I don't think many people will be going back.


The European and International Booksellers Federation has launched a digital campaign "to share positive and successful stories from the bookselling sector, celebrating the innovation, resilience, and resourcefulness of booksellers from across the world. This campaign aims to highlight the successes of these small- and medium-sized businesses, which were really in the spotlight during the Coronavirus outbreak. Despite being forced to close their doors to customers, booksellers found multitude of different ways to continue engaging with their customers, and keep providing their local communities with access to books and culture."

In the first EIBF posts in the campaign, Flore Gautron of the Florilège Librairie, Fontenay-le-Comte, France, explains how a board game helped her customers see a funny side of hygiene regulation; Raluca Selejan and Oana Doboși from the La Două Bufniţe, Timisoara, Romania, discuss how they decided to build their online store around the idea of travelling with books; and Jan Smedh from the English Bookshop in Uppsala and Stockholm, Sweden, talked about the store's auction of books, which helped it engage with followers and bring joy to winners across Europe.

G.P. Putnam's Sons: William by Mason Coile

How Bookstores Are Coping: Outdoor Bookselling; Removing Seating and Carpets

This week, Riffraff Bookstore and Bar in Providence, R.I., opened a small outdoor version of its bookstore in its building's courtyard. Emma Ramadan, who co-owns the store with Tom Roberge, explained that prior to the pandemic, the courtyard had a few tables where customers could sit outside with their drinks. Now, that's been converted into a mini-bookstore featuring around 100 titles. Ramadan said it's a bit smaller than they would like, as they had to make sure there was enough space for customers to browse while staying distant, but it is the first time in months that customers have been able to browse in-person.

The store is still doing curbside pick-up as well as online and phone orders, and just this week Roberge and Ramadan started offering take-out drink service. Their first day of drink service was Tuesday, and though they were open for only two hours, they served three different groups of customers. This weekend Riffraff will start offering outdoor bar service in the courtyard, which is something Ramadan and Roberge plan to have on weekends going forward. The courtyard is sizable enough, but if things get too crowded they may start a reservation system.

Technically, reported Ramadan, they could reopen their store for browsing, but they have no plans to do so until they feel completely comfortable having people inside again, which may not be until there is a vaccine. Rhode Island is a densely populated state, and while cases are low compared to other parts of the country, people are already acting as if there's no pandemic at all. She added: "We'll always prioritize what feels safe over profit."

On the subject of the ongoing nationwide protests against systemic racism and police brutality, Ramadan said she and Roberge did close the store for a day in order to join one of the protests in Providence, but they have not engaged with any mass demonstrations since. They're actively mixing drinks for customers again, and they are concerned about the possibility of contracting the virus at a protest and then infecting their customers.

They have, however, posted a relevant reading list on their store's website, with 20% of sales from those titles going to various organizations in R.I. that fight racial injustice, and are using their social media platform to promote the work of various activists.



In Gresham, Ore., Maggie Mae's Kids Bookshop is now open for appointment browsing while still offering curbside pick-up and local delivery. Owner Shoshonna Roberts reported that to help with social distancing, she and her team have removed all seats, including the store's "beloved Wild Things chair," and they've removed the carpet in order to make the new six-foot floor markers easier to see. They moved all plush toys out of reach of children, and everyone in store has to wear a mask and sanitize their hands when they enter.

Roberts went with the appointment system because of her store's size and because of how difficult it would be to social distance with children from more than one family in the store at a time. To help keep young children engaged throughout their visits, there are dog pawprints on the shop floor that they're encouraged to find and count. This way, it's easier for staff to keep their distance and children will hopefully be less inclined to touch merchandise.

When asked about her staff, Roberts said she has not had to cut any hours throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, even after they pivoted to doing online sales. The store's two part-time staff members were able to help with that while working from home, and they are now coming in on alternating schedules.

While the store didn't release any kind of official statement in response to the ongoing protests, Roberts continued, she and her team feel that their actions, including sharing books and resources written by Black authors and raising money for Campaign Zero, have let her community know "where we stand on the issue." Celebrates Juneteenth's Black-owned bookseller partners

To honor Juneteenth, which celebrates the end of slavery in the U.S. in 1865, will give 100% of its audiobook sales tomorrow to its 35 Black-owned bookstore partners. Proceeds from any purchase of a book or a new 2-for-1 membership ($14.99 and two audiobooks) will be shared equally by the 35 stores. will cover "normal payment terms" for all partner bookstores, authors, and publishers. The special begins tonight at midnight Eastern and lasts until 3 a.m. Saturday morning. For more information and a list of the 35 bookstores, click here.

San Diego's Run for Cover Bookstore Closing, 'Not Disappearing'

Run for Cover Bookstore, San Diego, Calif., will be closing July 1. In a letter to customers, owner Marianne Reiner, who opened the store in the fall of 2018, wrote: "The greatest gift Run for Cover Bookstore has brought me has been to get to know so many of you. Our conversations, our exchanges about books, society and life in general have enriched me in ways I can't even begin to describe. My dream of creating a community of Book Lovers (as I love to call you all!) was realized. Despite the ups and down and being taken out by a pandemic and its economic consequences I would do it all over again."

Reiner noted that although she is not sure what the future of Run for Cover Bookstore looks like, she is sure that it "is morphing into something new and different; it is not disappearing. The community of readers and book lovers we have here and well beyond our neighborhood and city is the best one a bookseller could dream of. I will continue to work in one capacity or another to foster this community.

"The social justice curation I have strived to bring into the bookstore from day 1 will continue in one form or another. Our country is at a crossroad when it comes to issues of racial justice, inequality, women's rights, LGBTQ rights, children's rights, immigrant rights, voting rights and climate change. A bookstore holds a critical role in the greater landscape of what is shaping in front of us. I intend to remain a part of these much-needed conversations and actions.

"If anything, the pandemic has emphasized even more than before the need to provide books to all children. When libraries and schools suddenly closed, some amazing supporters of the bookstore stepped in and donated money so we could buy and distribute books to children who otherwise had no access to books. I intend to continue to work to ensure all children have access to books they can own and cherish for years to come."

Expressing her gratitude to the readers and authors who "have made walking into RFC Bookstore a thrill every single morning," Reiner observed. "As we say in French, this is an 'au revoir' not an 'adieu.' Run for Cover Bookstore is looking for its Phoenix (or its owl?!) as the ashes we stand on right now are merely a symbol of our metamorphosis. Never stop reading real books, support small and local businesses and engage in civic and social justice conversations and actions."

Brant's Books Launches Fundraising Campaign

Brant's Books, an independent bookstore in Sarasota, Fla., that opened in 1956, has launched a GoFundMe campaign with a goal of $100,000. Store owner Barbara Barone explained that the Covid-19 pandemic hit the store hard, and all raised funds will go toward catching up on past-due bills, getting the inventory online and more.

The bookstore has more than 150,000 titles in its inventory, from current bestsellers to vintage titles, and originally inhabited an old Army barracks moved from the Venice airport after the war. Barone described the store's interior as having the "quirky organized chaos of an old-fashioned bookstore."


Image of the Day: S&S's Riverside Distribution Center Goes Solar

Simon & Schuster has completed a major solar installation project at its Riverside Distribution facility in Delran, N.J. The installation, by solar developer EnterSolar, consists of 5,256 panels that will generate 2.2 million kilowatt hours of electricity per year, nearly a third of the facility's electricity needs. In addition, S&S will offset 690 metric tons of carbon per year from its Scope 2 carbon emissions, equivalent to that of 900 acres of forest, according to estimates by the EPA.

"At our distribution center we have always endeavored to reduce our energy consumption through the use of motion sensitive lighting, regenerative fork lifts, and other sophisticated energy management tools," said S&S facilities director Ramon Gonzalez. "We are proud to have brought this project to completion and thrilled for the opportunity to generate eco-friendly, renewable energy that will significantly reduce our impact on the environment and contribute to a greater resilience of our warehouse operations from grid outages."

Bookshop Video: 'The BookTowne Tango'

Posted on Facebook by BookTowne, Manasquan, N.J., in anticipation of the store's reopening Monday: " 'BookTowne TANGO (Quarantine REMIX)'.... get your mask and swerve on... cause we will have customers starting on Monday June 15th!!!"

Personnel Changes at the Center for Fiction; Tor

Michael Roberts has been named interim executive director of the Center for Fiction, effective June 30. He succeeds Noreen Tomassi, who is retiring this month after serving as executive director since 2004.

He was most recently executive director of the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Mass., and earlier was executive director of PEN American Center, executive director for public programs at the Asia Society and was an attorney, secretary of the university and assistant to the president at Harvard University, where he also taught undergraduate literature courses.


Devi Pillai has been named v-p and publisher of Tor, Tor Teen, and Starscape. She has been v-p and publisher of Tor Books, and joined Tor as publisher in 2016 after a decade at Orbit Books.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Kristen Howerton on Fresh Air

Fresh Air: Kristen Howerton, author of Rage Against the Minivan: Learning to Parent Without Perfection (Convergent Books, $26, 9781984825162).

CBS This Morning: Kim Wehle, author of What You Need to Know About Voting--and Why (Harper, $17.99, 9780062974785).

Kelly Clarkson Show: Nicole Byer, author of #VERYFAT #VERYBRAVE: The Fat Girl's Guide to Being #Brave and Not a Dejected, Melancholy, Down-in-the-Dumps Weeping Fat Girl in a Bikini (Andrews McMeel, $19.99, 9781524850746).

This Weekend on Book TV: Stacey Abrams

Book TV airs on C-Span 2 this weekend from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday and focuses on political and historical books as well as the book industry. The following are highlights for this coming weekend. For more information, go to Book TV's website.

Saturday, June 20
1 p.m. Matthew Whitaker, author of Above the Law: The Inside Story of How the Justice Department Tried to Subvert President Trump (Regnery, $28.99, 9781684510498). (Re-airs Sunday at 4:45 p.m.)

1:40 p.m. Stacey Abrams, author of Our Time Is Now: Power, Purpose, and the Fight for a Fair America (Holt, $27.99, 9781250257703).

4:20 p.m. Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens, author of Incitement: Anwar al-Awlaki’s Western Jihad (Harvard University Press, $35, 9780674979505). (Re-airs Sunday at 11:30 a.m.)

5:50 p.m. Dr. Vivian Lee, author of The Long Fix: Solving America's Health Care Crisis with Strategies that Work for Everyone (Norton, $25.99, 9781324006671).

6:50 p.m. Dr. Danielle Ofri, author of When We Do Harm: A Doctor Confronts Medical Error (Beacon Press, $26.95, 9780807037881).

Sunday, June 21
1 a.m. Eric Cervini, author of The Deviant's War: The Homosexual vs. the United States of America (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $35, 9780374139797), at Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor, Mich.

1 p.m. Anthony Townsend, author of Ghost Road: Beyond the Driverless Car (Norton, $27.95, 9781324001522).

3:40 p.m. Glenn Kessler, Salvador Rizzo and Meg Kelly, co-authors of Donald Trump and His Assault on Truth: The President's Falsehoods, Misleading Claims and Flat-Out Lies (Scribner, $20, 9781982151072), at Politics and Prose in Washington, D.C.

10 p.m. Masha Gessen, author of Surviving Autocracy (Riverhead, $26, 9780593188934), at Politics and Prose.

11 p.m. Carol Anderson, author of One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy (Bloomsbury, $18, 9781635571394).

Books & Authors

Awards: German Peace Prize; Carnegie and Greenaway Winners

The Peace Prize of the German Book Trade will go this year to Amartya Sen, the Indian economist, philosopher, author and Nobel Prize winner who has taught at Harvard University since 2004, Börsenblatt reported.

The board of the Prize Foundation called Sen "a philosopher who for decades has focused on questions of global equality and whose work fighting social inequality in education and health is more relevant today than ever. That social prosperity is measured not just through economic growth but also on developmental possibilities for the weakest and poorest is one of his most important theses. Amartya Sen considers solidarity and a readiness to negotiate as essential democratic values and demonstrates that cultures shouldn't be a source of conflict over identity. In haunting examples, he shows how poverty, hunger and sickness are connected to missing democratic structures. With the Human Development Index, the Capabilities Approach and Missing Women, early on he introduced concepts that delineate high standards for the creation and assessment of equal opportunities and basic human needs. His inspiring work is a call for political decisions to be made based on a responsibility for others and to make sure no one is denied the right to be involved and for self-determination."

The €25,000 (about $28,115) prize will be presented on October 18 in Frankfurt.


Lark by Anthony McGowan has won the CILIP Carnegie Medal for writing, and Tales from the Inner City written and illustrated by Shaun Tan has won the Kate Greenaway Medal for illustration. The winning books were chosen by 14 volunteer Youth Librarians, from a total of 162 nominations this year, as the very best in children's writing and illustration published in the U.K. The winners each receive £500 (about $625) worth of books to donate to a library of their choice, a gold medal and a £5,000 ($6,250) Colin Mears Award cash prize.

Julia Hale, chair of the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals judging panel, called Lark "a powerful standalone novella that brings the exemplary Truth of Things series to an emotional ending. Lark picks up the story of the close relationship between Nicky and elder brother Kenny, who after surviving trauma and poverty in their past, must now endure the extremes of nature at its cruellest. This novella was admired for its clear, simple storytelling; combining authentic characters and realistic situations in pared down prose with blunt humour, genuine tension and moments of pure poetry as fleeting and transcendent as birdsong. It is incredible that such a rich reading experience is in no way impeded by its short and accessible form, indeed it is a strength. The book leaves the reader with hope for the future; that through the bonds of love from friends and family things can and will get better."

Hale called Tales from the Inner City "a masterwork of illustration that generates an outstanding experience for the reader in every detail. In a collection of 25 surreal short stories set in a semi-dystopian dreamscape where the boundaries between urban and wildlife are close to collapse, Shaun Tan conveys the tangled, intimate relationship between humans and animals with breath-taking technique and awe-inspiring invention. Double page spreads of oil on canvas give pause for necessary reflection and contemplation. Never have the bonds between us and the beautiful creatures we share the earth with been so exquisitely rendered with such prescience. The judging panel were moved, amused and astonished by the artistry and imagination of a stunning book that should be widely shared and celebrated."

Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, June 23:

The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir by John Bolton (Simon & Schuster, $32.50, 9781982148034) is a memoir by Trump's former national security advisor.

Five Days: The Fiery Reckoning of an American City by Wes Moore and Erica L. Green (One World, $28, 9780525512363) chronicles the aftermath of Freddie Gray's killing by the Baltimore police.

I Tried to Change So You Don't Have To: True Life Lessons by Loni Love (Hachette Go, $28, 9780306873720) is the memoir of the radio and TV show host.

Death in Her Hands: A Novel by Ottessa Moshfegh (Penguin Press, $27, 9781984879356) follows an elderly widow who finds a possible murder clue in the woods.

The Girl from Widow Hills: A Novel by Megan Miranda (Simon & Schuster, $26.99, 9781501165429) is a psychological suspense novel about a woman fleeing childhood trauma.

Eliza Starts a Rumor by Jane L. Rosen (Berkley, $26, 9780593102084) follows four women united by an online lie.

The Girl and the Witch's Garden by Erin Bowman (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, $17.99, 9781534461581) is a middle-grade novel in which a girl is forced to live with her wealthy grandmother--who just may be a witch.

Forest of Souls by Lori M. Lee (Page Street Kids, $18.99, 9781624149245) is the first in a YA duology about a young woman training to be the queen's royal spy.

Party of Two by Jasmine Guillory (Berkley, $16, 9780593100820).

IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

From last week's Indie bestseller lists, available at, here are the recommended titles, which are also Indie Next Great Reads:

The Second Home: A Novel by Christina Clancy (St. Martin's Press, $26.99, 9781250239341). "While reading The Second Home, you can taste the saltwater of both the ocean and the tears of familial pain. Christina Clancy has written a beautiful story of family and the bonds that can be broken and somehow repaired again. The characters and location are so well-written, you'll feel like you've vacationed on the Cape for years with the Gordon family. Fans of Jane Hamilton and We Were the Mulvaneys will love The Second Home." --Nancy Baenen, Arcadia Books, Spring Green, Wis.

The Dragons, the Giant, the Women: A Memoir by Wayetu Moore (Graywolf Press, $26, 9781644450314). "At the age of five, Wayetu Moore and her family were forced to flee Liberia on foot in the midst of a brutal civil war. As Wayetu's father and elders attempt to get her and her sisters to safety by traversing a deadly and unforgiving landscape, Wayetu's mother, who is attending college in New York, waits to hear from her family--until she can wait no longer. Moore makes brilliant creative choices with structure, voice, and point of view in this deeply moving, lovingly crafted, and unique memoir. Her story is both a thoughtful examination of the emigrant experience and an inspiring testament to the incredible power of familial love." --Brian Wraight, Wesleyan R.J. Julia Bookstore, Middletown, Conn.

A Taste of Sage: A Novel by Yaffa S. Santos (Harper, $15.99, 9780062974846). "This book is a tasty, delicious treat! When you mix delicious food and hate-to-love romance in a book, you instantly have me hooked. Lumi Santana is a chef with the gift of synesthesia: She can feel a person's emotions just by tasting their cooking. When she opens a restaurant and it fails, she takes a sous chef position at a French restaurant with Julien Dax, a celebrated chef known for his good looks but bad attitude. Lumi can't stand Julien but tastes his cooking because it looks so irresistible, and when she's overcome with intense emotions she wonders if she wants more. If you are looking for something that's fun and tasty and will test your senses, you will enjoy this book." --Deanna Bailey, Story on the Square, McDonough, Ga.

For Ages 4 to 8
The Night Is for Darkness by Jonathan Stutzman, illus. by Joseph Kuefler (Balzer + Bray, $17.99, 9780062912534). "Readers join a father driving home with his son and daughter at night as they notice wildlife, the night sky, and sights and sounds that are part of the world of darkness. They arrive home to meet their mother and begin bedtime rituals, complete with brushing teeth, saying prayers, and listening to stories. The Night Is for Darkness is a story told in lyrical rhythm and rhyme accompanied by appealing illustrations. This bedtime story has a peaceful and reassuring feel that makes it a great addition to any young child's library." --Ann Niedzielski, Beagle and Wolf Books & Bindery, Park Rapids, Minn.

For Ages 9 to 12
Rick by Alex Gino (Scholastic, $17.99, 9781338048100). "A fantastic book about identity and acceptance! This is a great introduction to LGBTQ+ topics for middle-grade readers, whether you're finding your own identity or if you just want to be a good friend. Rick isn't sure if he's gay or asexual or queer or something else entirely, but that's okay! Identities take time to figure out, and sometimes your identity can change." --Genevieve Taylor, Boulder Book Store, Boulder, Colo.

For Teen Readers
Forged in Fire and Stars by Andrea Robertson (Philomel, $18.99, 9780525954125). "In one word: exciting. From the beginning, this adventure/chosen-one story brings three teens together who must fight to save their country from a people who worship a dark and demanding god. Very Lord of the Rings meets Game of Thrones meet Vikings. I loved it!" --Lauren Nopenz Fairley, Curious Iguana, Frederick, Md.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]

Book Review

Review: Memorial Drive: A Daughter's Memoir

Memorial Drive: A Daughter's Memoir by Natasha Trethewey (Ecco, $27.99 hardcover, 224p., 9780062248572, July 28, 2020)

Natasha Trethewey, two-term United States Poet Laureate, forges a serious, poignant work of remembrance with Memorial Drive: A Daughter's Memoir. Trethewey's mother, Gwen, is the focus of this book: the daughter's memories and what she's forgotten, and, pointedly, the mother's murder at the hands of her second ex-husband. The murder took place just off Memorial Drive in Atlanta, Ga.; the aptly named thoroughfare runs from downtown to Stone Mountain, monument to the Confederacy, "a lasting metaphor for the white mind of the South."

Trethewey is the daughter of an African American mother and a white Canadian father. Their marriage was illegal; she was born just before the Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court case that struck down laws banning interracial marriage. Memorial Drive begins with her upbringing in Mississippi with her doting extended maternal family, necessarily recounting her early understanding of race and racism. This happy period ends abruptly with mother and daughter's move to Atlanta, when Trethewey's parents divorce. Atlanta has its strengths, such as a vibrant African American community, but very quickly, Gwen meets the man who will become her second husband. From the beginning, Joel is a sinister figure. Twelve years later, 19-year-old Trethewey returns to Atlanta from college to clean out her mother's apartment after Joel brutally murders Gwen.

While this central event is harrowing, Memorial Drive does not focus only there. Trethewey ruminates on memory and forgetfulness, and recalls her developing love for and skill with metaphor, language, writing. Back home in Mississippi, her great-aunt "would appear each day at the back door, singing my name through the screen, her upturned palm holding out toward me three underripe figs... she was teaching me the figurative power of objects, their meaningful juxtapositions." During the painful retelling of her stepfather's physical abuse of her mother, Trethewey resorts to the second person, a whole chapter delivered to her younger herself. Concluding: "Look at you. Even now you think you can write yourself away from that girl you were, distance yourself in the second person, as if you weren't the one to whom any of this happened." Memories of her mother often appear as images, offering symbolic interpretations of the 12-year gap left by trauma. While Trethewey does pursue forensic exploration (transcripts of recorded phone calls between Gwen and Joel, as well as a visit to a psychic), this memoir is more introspection than true-crime investigation. And it is gracefully and gorgeously rendered, as befits a poet of Trethewey's stature.

Trethewey declines to offer a neat conclusion, but she succeeds in making meaning from pain. Memorial Drive is loving and elegiac, disturbing and incisive. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Shelf Talker: A former U.S. Poet Laureate remembers her mother, and wrestles with her brutal murder, in compelling and feeling style.

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