Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, October 8, 2021

Dutton: Sunderworld, Vol. I: The Extraordinary Disappointments of Leopold Berry by Ransom Riggs

From My Shelf

The Scare-Your-Pants-Off Book Club

Word has it that beloved public television series Arthur, about an aardvark who knows how much fun a library card can be, is ending in winter 2022, after 25 seasons. In homage to the show's notorious Scare-Your-Pants-Off Book Club, I thought I'd highlight some creepy and satisfying reading for the coming winter.

Some of the best terror emerges from the dusty annals of history. The inimitable Edith Wharton had a knack for twisting a house's eerie, storied past into freshly chilling tales. Ghosts (NYRB, $16.95) collects some of her most dazzling stories of haunted houses and tortured souls, complete with shadowy candlelit passages and hot glowing eyes. "The Eyes," in particular, captures the unsettling way the past doesn't always die. (Wharton's ghost stories are also incredibly funny, with her keen descriptions and quick-witted asides.)

Wharton also appears in the second volume of Weird Women (Pegasus, $25.95), an anthology project devoted to the uncanny and supernatural writings of women in the 19th and 20th centuries, including George Eliot and Zora Neale Hurston. Our reviewer loved this eclectic array of science fiction and horror for its "expertise in covertly commenting on the real and gendered horrors that undergird society." The publisher also has a more modern anthology out this month called The Haunting Season: Eight Ghostly Tales for Long Winter Nights (Pegasus Crime, $25.95), featuring contemporary standouts like Jess Kidd and Andrew Michael Hurley.

But if short fiction doesn't quite satisfy the horror hungry reader, consider The Death of Jane Lawrence (reviewed below, St. Martin's, $27.99), a novel that treads among the spiritualist and medical horrors of the early 20th century, with spooky rituals and macabre bloodlettings.

These suggestions might not be entirely appropriate for our friends at Lakewood Elementary, but I like to think that E.A. DePoe, author of the Scare-Your-Pants-Off series, would approve. --Dave Wheeler, associate editor, Shelf Awareness

Book Candy

Richard Wright Haikus

Richard Wright's haikus have been turned into public art around downtown Brooklyn, Gothamist reported.


Mental Floss shared "10 frightening facts about Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle."


Fine Books & Collections magazine featured a landmark rare book collection that focuses on climate change.


Author Claire Fuller invited readers into her writing space in the Women's Prize for Fiction's "Why I Write" series.


"Real Harry Potter to make thousands from Harry Potter book," Derbyshire Live reported.

The Last House on Needless Street: Catriona Ward on Her Love of Horror

Catriona Ward

The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward (hardcover, $27.99, 9781250812629, September 28, 2021)

Catriona Ward was born in Washington, DC, and grew up in the United States, Kenya, Madagascar, Yemen, and Morocco. She studied English at the University of Oxford, and later the Creative Writing Masters at the University of East Anglia. She won the August Derleth Award for Best Horror Novel for her debut, The Girl from Rawblood, and again for Little Eve, making her the first woman to win the prize twice. Little Eve also won the Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novel and will be published by Nightfire.

A gripping psychological horror novel that delivers twist after twist, her latest book, The Last House on Needless Street, is a shocking exploration of the lengths we'll go to protect ourselves from dark truths.

In a boarded-up house on a dead-end street at the edge of the wild Washington woods lives a family of three. A teenage girl who isn't allowed outside, not after last time. A man who drinks alone in front of his TV, trying to ignore the gaps in his memory. And a house cat who loves napping and reading the Bible.

An unspeakable secret binds them together, but when a new neighbor moves in next door, what is buried out among the birch trees may come back to haunt them all.

Here Catriona Ward talks about how her peripatetic childhood drew her to horror and of the joy of her favorite horror writer--Stephen King--loving this book:

"I had a fairly isolated childhood, mostly growing up in remote places," she says. "There weren't many opportunities to make friends, or, when we moved long distances, which we did every three years, continue those friendships I had. A letter took up to six months to reach Madagascar from the US.

"So, instead of friends, like many children everywhere, I had books. Specifically, I read Stephen King. I found that reading horror actually made the world seem less forbidding. His universe was a place to explore feelings of isolation and fear, and that made them more manageable. I read and read and read. His work shaped me as a person, and a writer.

"The fact that he has not only read The Last House on Needless Street but hasn't read anything 'this exciting since Gone Girl' is very significant to me, a personal milestone as well as a professional one. In a year full of struggle and challenges, life has somehow come full circle. I wish I could tell 11-year-old me, who read It late at night under the blankets, what's in store--she would lose her mind."

Nothing But Blackened Teeth: Cassandra Khaw on Their 'Gorgeously Creepy' Novella

Cassandra Khaw

Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw (hardcover, $19.99, 9781250759412, October 19, 2021).

Cassandra Khaw is an award-winning game writer and former scriptwriter at Ubisoft Montreal. Khaw's work can be found in places like Fantasy & Science Fiction, Lightspeed, and Khaw's first original novella, Hammers on Bone, was a British Fantasy Award and Locus Award finalist, and their forthcoming novella, Nothing But Blackened Teeth, will be published by Nightfire in October 2021.

Nothing But Blackened Teeth is a gorgeously creepy novella steeped in folklore and full of devastating twists. It features a group of friends reuniting for a destination wedding in a Japanese mansion that stands abandoned, its foundations resting on the bones of a bride and its walls packed with the remains of girls sacrificed to keep her company. It's the perfect wedding venue for a group of thrill-seeking friends. But a night of food, drinks, and games quickly spirals into a nightmare. Because lurking in the shadows is the ghost bride with a black smile and a hungry heart. And she gets lonely down there in the dirt.

Here Khaw discusses the deeply personal roots of this tale:

"Part of the story comes from all the ghosthunting (yes, don't look at me like that) I used to do with my friends when we were in our teens/early 20s," Khaw says. "It was just a thing that Malaysian youth like to do. We would wander into the decaying ruins of old apartment buildings, explore jungle-swallowed houses, peek into old hotels--and it was weird because we all had at least some belief in these things but none of those beliefs involved the idea we wouldn't get horrifically murdered by a ghost. We just...wanted to go poke around in the dark.

"The other part of the story is less funny. When my father killed himself, things exploded for me.

"It led to some really bad days, to tolerating too much for the sake of just having people around: anything to salve that loss, to satisfy that need for some kind of order and connection. Nothing But Blackened Teeth is an exploration of that and fractured friendships and what happens when you know things are broken but you hold onto relationships because they're what you know, what feels safe, and all the painful, poisoned things that happen in the process."

Book Review


The Gods of Green County

by Mary Elizabeth Pope

A drama rooted in injustice and mental health plays out over many years in rural Arkansas in Mary Elizabeth Pope's stark debut.

In 1926, Coralee Harper returned to her family home after a failed first marriage shortly before her brother, Buddy, was killed by the sheriff. Coralee "always could see things," so at first it wasn't a surprise when she would see Buddy in the yard at night. She worked, married Earl Watkins and tried to move on. But as the years go by, Coralee begins to show other erratic behavior, in addition to seeing Buddy again. Earl comes to believe that the only way he can make sure Coralee and their son are both cared for is to have Coralee committed to a mental hospital. Her sanity hearing puts her before Judge Leroy Harrison, who, as a young lawyer, defended the sheriff who killed Coralee's brother.

The Gods of Green County is a harsh tale of people put in conflict by their searches for justice and mutual welfare. Judge Harrison wants to atone to Coralee for not giving her brother justice all those years before, but is torn over whether she would be a danger to herself and others if not committed. Stumbling across a new lead on a witness, he uses every tool he has to uncover what really happened when Buddy died, but the cost may be surprisingly high. This bleak novel about the dangers of power will grip readers from beginning to end. --Kristen Allen-Vogel, information services librarian at Dayton Metro Library

Discover: In a harsh Southern gothic, consequences of an abuse of power stretch across many years.

Blair, $25.95, hardcover, 246p., 9781949467710

Fight Night

by Miriam Toews

Miriam Toews's novels (Women Talking; All My Puny Sorrows) are filled with clever, darkly humorous women on the run, fighting and persevering. In her eighth, Fight Night, precocious nine-year-old Swiv narrates the story of Grandma, Mom and her, revealed in letters never meant to be mailed.

Toews's characters, who span three generations and whose characteristics will be familiar to her fans, exude hope and ferocious determination; they navigate quirky plot twists and hilarious dialogue. Tenacious, spirited Grandma, who survived a stifling religious upbringing, "has one foot in the grave" but retains her boisterous sense of humor. Mom is in the last trimester of what Grandma calls a "geriatric pregnancy," causing her to go "scorched earth" emotionally. Swiv, conveniently suspended from school ("Madame said I had one too many fights"), looks after Grandma, who loosely home-schools her in their tiny Toronto apartment.

Swiv's dad is missing; his whereabouts, "the sixty-four-thousand dollar question," Grandma says. For a letter-writing project, Swiv is telling their story to Dad, while Mom and Grandma write to the baby. "You're a small thing and you must learn to fight," Grandma advises.

With Swiv's frequent italicizations and conversations without quotation marks, Fight Night is absurdly funny. Yet Toews's endearing women fiercely defy adversity as a team, one readers will cheer right through to the poignant, loving ending. --Cheryl McKeon, Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany, N.Y.

Discover: In a darkly funny story narrated by the youngest member of the family, three generations of scrappy women defy adversity.

Bloomsbury, $24, hardcover, 272p., 9781635578171

Mystery & Thriller

The Savage Kind

by John Copenhaver

A gripping coming-of-age story set in 1948 propels the character-driven The Savage Kind, which explores the unresolved sexual attraction between two teenage outcasts, quiet Philippa Watson and opinionated Judy Peabody. John Copenhaver's second novel (after the Macavity Award-winning Dodging and Burning) captures the awkwardness of teenagers grappling with identity and a need to belong.

Philippa recently moved to Washington, D.C., with her loving father, a lawyer with JAG (Judge Advocate General's) Corps, and kind stepmother; Judy maintains a volatile relationship with her adopted parents. The girls' initially tentative friendship deepens, fueled by their love of Romantic poets, classic literature and a mutual infatuation with Christine Martins, their perceptive and beautiful English teacher at Eastern High. Returning a book to Christine's apartment, Philippa flees after seeing the teacher and a half-dressed man in bed. Philippa is unsure if she witnessed an affair or an attack. Then Christine abruptly resigns, and the body of a student with whom she had fought is found. Philippa and Judy go all Nancy Drew to find out what happened, especially since the student's murder echoes the unsolved killing of the Peabodys' biological daughter.

The teens' growing sexual awakening and hunger for romance deepen Copenhaver's solid character studies as he shows two complicated, brilliant young women wrestling with pending adulthood and sexuality. A prologue by an anonymous voice, points of view from each teenager, along with diary entries, add to the tension: Whose remembrances are to be trusted? The finale becomes unwieldy, however, with a few too many turns. Still, Copenhaver excels in shaping characters on the cusp of acknowledging they are gay in The Savage Kind. --Oline H. Cogdill, freelance reviewer 

Discover: Two teenagers try to solve the mystery of a fellow student's murder and their teacher's disappearance while grappling with their mutual attraction in this perceptive character-driven novel.

Pegasus Crime, $25.95, hardcover, 352p., 9781643138091

Last Girl Ghosted

by Lisa Unger

Last Girl Ghosted by Lisa Unger is an electrifying thriller for the modern age featuring a young woman searching for true, sustaining love in a dating climate cluttered with casual hookups and limited attention spans.

Wren Greenwood has overcome a tragic childhood to build a successful life for herself as an advice columnist with many fans. She hosts a popular podcast and lives in a beautiful, dilapidated brownstone in Manhattan. With no family and only a few close friends, her past is neatly boxed up and shelved away in her hometown of The Hollows outside New York City. When she meets Adam on the dating site Torch, their immediate connection blossoms into blissful romance--until just a few months later, Adam ghosts her, all traces of his digital existence erased. Desperate to find the man she thinks might be the love of her life, Wren stumbles into a dark mystery that forces her back to the haunting past she's tried all her life to escape.

Unger's fans will enjoy meeting Bailey Kirk, the handsome private detective whose investigation of a missing-persons case sets him on a spectacular collision course with Wren. A bestselling author, Unger (Confessions on the 7:45; The Stranger Inside) continues to thrill readers with fresh, original stories built around a familiar exploratory theme: Can one really escape one's past? What happens to the traumatized child when they grow up? Last Girl Ghosted will be happily devoured by readers with an appetite for titillating murder mysteries crafted with a contemporary spin. --Shahina Piyarali, reviewer

Discover: A beloved veteran of the mystery and suspense genre is back with a deliciously complex psychological thriller featuring a New York advice columnist and the intriguing online suitor who ghosts her.

Park Row, $27.99, hardcover, 400p., 9780778311041

Science Fiction & Fantasy

Once More Upon a Time

by Roshani Chokshi

YA author Roshani Chokshi (The Gilded Wolves) makes her adult fantasy debut with Once More Upon a Time, a lighthearted, romantic fairy tale novella about second chances.

When Imelda, one of the 12 famous dancing princesses, falls in love with Prince Ambrose, her father gives the happy couple a part of his realm called Love's Keep. To ensure the prosperity of this particular domain, the king and queen must always remain in love. "Far too much pressure," the narrator tsks. Sadly, a tainted heirloom tomato poisons Imelda at their wedding brunch, and the witch who sells Ambrose a healing spell asks a high price: their love. Without it, Imelda and Ambrose lose Love's Keep after a year and a day. Then the same witch reappears and offers them a deal: if they retrieve a vial of her favorite potion, she'll give them each their dearest wish. The former lovers set off with the help of an enchanted road, a wisecracking cloak that believes itself to be a horse, and "some granola. One can never go amiss in life with some granola." Not to mention a fair amount of emotional baggage between them. As they battle their foes together, though, Imelda and Ambrose find themselves in the one danger neither wants to risk: falling in love with each other again.

This short, charming fable is packed with tongue-in-cheek humor and astute reflections on the sacrifices and risks that come with love as free-spirited Imelda and self-conscious Ambrose reconnect. Mimicking oral storytelling techniques, Chokshi's playful narrative invites readers to relax into a delightful adventure of twice upon a time. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Discover: In Roshani Chokshi's lighthearted, romantic fantasy novella, a young couple who lost their love work together to find their hearts' true desires.

Sourcebooks Casablanca, $14.99, hardcover, 144p., 9781728239828

The Death of Jane Lawrence

by Caitlin Starling

In The Death of Jane Lawrence, Caitlin Starling (The Luminous Dead) skillfully blends medical and magical horrors in a deeply unsettling historical gothic fantasy. As the story begins, Jane approaches small-town doctor Augustine Lawrence with a proposal: a literal marriage of convenience in which she will manage his practice and he will provide her with the security she needs as a mathematically gifted young woman with limited prospects. Augustine spends his evenings at his family's abandoned home, Lindridge Hall, so Jane will sleep above his clinic and their relationship will be amicable but strictly professional.

Unfortunately, they quickly come to care for each other, bonding one day over the glistening, twisted intestines of a dying patient. And then, despite Augustine's prohibition, Jane has to spend the night at Lindridge Hall, kicking off a series of disturbing revelations and terrifying encounters. As it turns out, her new husband has a dead wife--and she's not a peaceful sort.

As with so many gothic novels, the house in The Death of Jane Lawrence is a forbidding setting, possibly full of malevolent spirits, possibly just dark corners and spiderwebs. The magic system Starling builds is gruesome, brimming with visceral descriptions, macabre rituals and disturbing situations; this balance of horrors both real and fantastical makes for a truly chilling read. The reality of early 1900s medical treatment--including bleeding and risky internal surgeries--are presented alongside and often entwined with the unknowable terrors of playing with magic and death. The Death of Jane Lawrence is a grisly, repulsive, compelling read for anyone looking to be properly frightened. --Suzanne Krohn, editor, Love in Panels

Discover: The Death of Jane Lawrence is a historical gothic horror novel perfect for readers who wish to be frightened, disgusted and irresistibly intrigued.

St. Martin's Press, $27.99, hardcover, 368p., 9781250272584


The Holiday Swap

by Maggie Knox

Identical twins--20-something sisters who are both successful bakers--switch lives in The Holiday Swap, a fun and quick-witted first novel by Maggie Knox (pseudonym for authors Karma Brown and Marissa Stapley).

The story launches days before Christmas in sunny California. Charlie Goodwin, a noted Paris-trained pastry chef, is embroiled in a network reality baking show. Her program--Sweet & Salty, produced for two seasons in Los Angeles and cohosted by Chef Austin Nash--is facing the threat of replacement with another show slated to feature only one chef. Charlie and Austin, who leaves Charlie feeling more "bah-humbug than merry and bright," embark as judges on a 12-days-to-Christmas countdown, where 12 amateur bakers compete for a $25,000 prize.

After a shelving unit tips over, giving Charlie a concussion that strips her of the ability to taste and smell, she is ordered to take it easy. But how can she possibly rest with her show and job on the brink of peril? Afraid to tell anyone of her sensory malfunctions, Charlie secretly enlists the help of her lifelong confidante, her identical twin, Cass, who steps in to save Charlie in her hour of need, agreeing to swap lives temporarily--and covertly. 

Knox assembles a memorable cast and whips up inventive switched-lives scenarios filled with a host of mishaps that double the fun. Delightfully romantic plot twists further sweeten this lighthearted, feel-good story with a message that is sure to make rom-com readers hunger for whatever Knox decides to dish up next. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: In this delightful romantic comedy, twin baker sisters secretly swap lives and hilariously discover their true selves by experiencing how the other lives.

Putnam, $17, paperback, 352p., 9780593330739

Graphic Books

Night Fisher

by R. Kikuo Johnson

Lauded illustrator R. Kikuo Johnson's potent, career-making debut, Night Fisher--which won the prestigious Russ Manning Newcomer Award at the 2006 Eisner Awards--returns in a handsome hardcover edition. Originally published in 2005, Night Fisher was Johnson's antidote to Hollywood's Hawaii, "the backdrop for countless films and novels, but the place they depicted was never one [he] recognized," his author's note reveals. In capturing the (mis)adventures of two best friends, private school seniors, on the verge of young adulthood, Johnson's stated intention was to "honor Maui by showing it truthfully."

Loren moved from Boston to Maui six years earlier with his dentist father into a "dream house," despite the intractable lawn that's become the "blight" of the neighborhood. He's been best friends with Shane ever since, except for the blip in seventh grade when Shane tried smoking pot for the first time and didn't invite Loren along. Loren's "Boy Scout phase" at that time hasn't really changed and, as usual, he's still "playing catch up" to Shane's shenanigans. These days, though, Shane (and his cronies) are involved in harder, more dangerous pursuits. Reluctant he may be, but Loren won't get left behind again.

Johnson, who declined a 10th anniversary edition because he could "only see its faults," agreed to this reissue with enough retouches, redrawing, dialogue-refining improvements to satisfy his "nagging perfectionism." The rewarding result showcases his never-static, black-and-white panels filled with both motion and emotion. In addition to compelling coming-of-age challenges, Johnson also exposes environmental destruction, colonial invasion, widespread drug abuse and entitlement. Narratively and visually, Johnson definitively underscores his initial well-earned success. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon

Discover: This heralded graphic novel about two Maui best friends courting danger returns in a handsome new edition.

Fantagraphics, $19.99, hardcover, 144p., 9781683964704

Biography & Memoir

How to Be Golden: Lessons We Can Learn from Betty White

by Paula Bernstein

How to Be Golden by Paula Bernstein (Love Is All Around: And Other Lessons We've Learned from The Mary Tyler Moore Show) is an enjoyable tribute to beloved TV icon Betty White. It's a tasty and fast-paced biography, supplemented with pop quizzes, advice (her exercise regime: "I have a two-story house and a very bad memory, so I'm up and down those stairs"), notable quotes ("The older you get, the better you get. Unless you're a banana") and trivia (White played Rose Nylund on four different TV series: Golden Girls, Golden Palace, Empty Nest and Nurses).

White is a true television pioneer, with an entertainment career spanning over nine decades. How to Be Golden is publishing three months before White's 100th birthday. In 1949, she became a regular on the TV variety show Hollywood on Television and took over hosting duties in 1952; that live show ran six days a week in a five-and-a-half-hour time slot. Also in 1952, she formed a production company to create and star in the sitcom Life with Elizabeth. With that sitcom, she earned her first Emmy Award. White was 51 when she joined The Mary Tyler Moore Show, little dreaming that she'd still star in two more long-running sitcoms (Golden Girls, Hot in Cleveland). White won her seventh Emmy when she hosted Saturday Night Live at age 88.

This breezy tribute focuses on White's career rather than personal life. Her 18-year marriage to Allen Ludden is covered in eight paragraphs. Fans will delight in the buoyant writing, fun facts and pleasing book design layout. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant

Discover: How to Be Golden celebrates Betty White's nine decades on TV with a fast-paced and breezy overview complemented by fun trivia and pop quizzes.

Running Press, $22, hardcover, 192p., 9780762474592

Essays & Criticism

Letter to a Stranger: Essays to the Ones Who Haunt Us

by Colleen Kinder, editor

Colleen Kinder, cofounder of Off Assignment magazine, collects 65 essays--poignant, vividly described and thought-provoking--in her first nonfiction anthology, Letter to a Stranger. Drawn from OA's long-running column of the same name, Letter to a Stranger takes readers into the moments that haunt these writers. Authors ranging from established (Julia Glass, Pico Iyer, Lauren Groff) to emerging here chronicle chance meetings, often with people wildly different from themselves, that have echoed throughout their lives.

In seven sections, which bear names like "Chemistry," "Wonder," "Remorse" and "Farewell," the essays explore the immediate and lasting effects of the moments their authors can't stop thinking about. Most of them celebrate the human goodness of brief encounters: the bit of much-needed advice or perspective, the directions (or rides) given in a strange city, the woman who walked beside Sarah Perry on a frightening night in Yonkers and then put her in a taxi. Some of them express regret: the longing for a deeper relationship, the author's inability to help or comfort, or the author's realization that they had made incorrect assumptions about a person or group. All of the essays take readers into a particular place and time: a crowded neighborhood in Beijing, a mountain in Peru, a Dallas tattoo parlor, the Chilean base on Antarctica. Spanning several decades and all seven continents, the essays' contents and settings vary widely. But each one is a thoughtful, engaging, gemlike tribute to a person whose presence changed each writer's life forever. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: Sixty-five gemlike, thought-provoking essays take readers into chance encounters that left a lasting impact.

Algonquin, $19.95, hardcover, 336p., 9781643751245

Children's & Young Adult

It's OK, Slow Lizard

by Yeorim Yoon, trans. by Chi-Young Kim, illus. by Jian Kim

Author Yeorim Yoon invites readers into a welcoming haven in the Korean import It's OK, Slow Lizard, gorgeously illustrated by Jian Kim. In an idyllic forest live five wonderful friends: Little Bird, Elephant, Rabbit, Monkey and Slow Lizard. Basking in gentle sunlight, Slow Lizard enjoys a "slow, slow life. And because I live a slow life, I see many things, I hear many things, and I have lots of time to help my friends."

When Little Bird, who rushes to do everything early, gets anxious, Slow Lizard is there to share flower tea so that "Little Bird's stress slowly melts away." When Elephant becomes frustrated over a broken shoelace, Slow Lizard suggests some cloud watching. When Rabbit loses a race, Slow Lizard--and friends--assure Rabbit that not winning is okay. When Monkey indulges in too many pranks, Slow Lizard offers a "really good" book to read together instead. Slow Lizard's friends eagerly reciprocate the reptile's kindness. With a thunderstorm approaching, "prepared" Little Bird, "generous" Elephant, "clever" Rabbit and "funny" Monkey all work together with Slow Lizard to stay "safe and sound."

Just like the cozy menagerie, Yoon, Kim and translator Chi-Young Kim are in perfect synch in quietly convincing readers that slow-going is often the best antidote for anxiety, frustration and making mistakes. On every page, Jian Kim provides a soft landing point with intricate details that highlight nature: tiny leaves, magnificent blossoms, perfectly ripened fruits. Together, Yoon's soothing prose, Jian Kim's winsome spreads and Chi-Young Kim's crisp translation create a comforting, multi-layered literary gift to return to for many years (decades!) to come. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon

Discover: Animal friends discover ways to live mindfully in this soothing picture book.

Yonder, $18.95, hardcover, 42p., ages 3-6, 9781632062772


by Margaret Rogerson

Vespertine by Margaret Rogerson (An Enchantment of Ravens) is a splendidly dark story of a reclusive young woman struggling to control a powerful revenant.

Artemisia, like all Sighted people, is vulnerable to possession. As a child she was controlled by a spirit which left her so badly scarred--physically and emotionally--she wants only a cloistered life in the convent, "tending to the dead." There she and the other novices are tested for their ability to sense ghostly entities and Artemisia discovers she has "an extraordinary talent for wielding relics." When possessed soldiers attack, Artemisia is tasked with watching over the convent's "greatest weapon": the holy relic of Saint Eugenia, a finger joint from the Sister of the Gray Lady of Death who martyred herself to "bind a Fifth Order spirit to her bones." To save the Sisters now, Artemisia takes the bone's fettered revenant into her body. She is able to wield it successfully, despite its great power, and decides she must use it to learn why a rising number of Dead are attacking the living. Artemisia is forced to trust the revenant, a dangerous--and sarcastic--entity she has no idea how to control.

Rogerson's third YA novel contains a wonderfully ghastly mythology, and a plot that crackles with tension. Reluctant "Saint" Artemisia charges forth in her quest to solve the mystery and save humanity, even as her beloved solitary existence is wrenched from her grasp. At its heart, Vespertine is a satisfying friendship story about the ability to trust other people--and revenants--enough to share one's burdens. Vespertine is an excellent bet for fans of Robin LaFevers's Assassin Nuns and Garth Nix's Old Kingdom. --Lynn Becker, reviewer, blogger, and children's book author

Discover: Reclusive novice Artemisia struggles to control a spirit of great power to vanquish rising hordes of the Dead in this darkly splendid novel.

Margaret K. McElderry Books, $18.99, hardcover, 400p., ages 13-up, 9781534477117

Time Will Tell

by Barry Lyga

Barry Lyga's Time Will Tell is an intricately plotted, thrilling YA murder mystery that dissects universal anxieties around being and belonging, love and sexuality, friendship and family life.

The story begins in present-day Canterstown, Md., when friends Liam, Elayah, Marcie and Jorja go on a hunt for a time capsule that was buried by their parents in 1986. Soon after unearthing the capsule and exploring its contents, the group finds a bloody knife and a note that reads, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to kill anyone." This shocking discovery launches the group into an intense investigation to discover the killer's identity. Unbeknownst to the teens, the killer is alive and well and will go to great lengths to make sure the secret never gets out.

Time Will Tell is a story driven by uncertainty. There is the central question of the murderer's identity, but there are also the myriad uncertainties of daily life, which the teens must learn to deal with. Alternating between past and present, Lyga provides a deep, even voyeuristic, look into the lives of his characters. He examines the ways in which they are affected by enduring societal ills like homophobia and racism, and uses podcast transcripts, text messages and social media feeds to explore more contemporary difficulties like information saturation and online gossip. Perhaps most compelling, Lyga launches an attack on rose-tinted nostalgia, instead electing to probe the complexity of memory, reminding the reader that, "Memory... could be sunshine, and memory could be a blade." --Cade Williams, freelance reviewer and staff writer at the Harvard Independent

Discover: In this anxiety-provoking YA mystery thriller, an unearthed secret leads to violence, scandal and betrayal.

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, $18.99, hardcover, 432p., ages 13-up, 9780316537780

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