Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Zibby Books: The Last Love Note by Emma Grey

From My Shelf

Women's History Month, Starting at Home

Women's history lives in schools, books and laws. But for me, it started at home. Growing up, I was lucky. My mother, Martha Kendall, not only ensured that books centering women featured prominently on my bookshelf, she frequently wrote them. A Carnegie Scholar and longtime professor of literature and women's studies at San José City College, she was the founding adviser for their Women's Union and Black Student Union, and has published more than 20 books--Failure Is Impossible!: The History of American Women's Rights (now out of print) was an ALA winner. In 1998, I got to watch from the crowd when she spoke at the 150th anniversary of the First Women's Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, N.Y. Her Alive in the Killing Fields: Surviving the Khmer Rouge Genocide (National Geographic, $15.95), written with her former student Nawuth Keat--whose own mother was murdered--demonstrates the power of communicating stories and learning from the past.

But written words do not equal lived equality. My mom also gave me Melba Patillo-Beals's Warriors Don't Cry: A Searing Memoir of the Battle to Integrate Little Rock's Central High (Simon & Schuster BFYR, $17.99). She even let me skip school to attend a conference where Patillo-Beals was the keynote speaker. Her words still profoundly guide me.

Two more for your own and your loved ones' bookshelves: Savala Nolan's Don't Let It Get You Down: Essays on Race, Gender, and the Body (Simon & Schuster, $26) and Mikki Kendall's Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women that a Movement Forgot (Penguin, $16). Both books also sear and are incisive, critical, unforgettable. My enduring gratitude to these women, for their work and words--for their impact on lives now, and ultimately, on history. --Katie Weed, freelance writer and reviewer

BINC: Read Love Support Campaign

The Writer's Life

Reading with... Sarah Blake

photo: Maximiliano Schell

Sarah Blake's first novel, Naamah, is a queer retelling of the story of Noah's ark from his wife's perspective. It won the National Jewish Book Award for Debut Fiction and the Bisexual Book Award for Fiction. Her works of poetry include Mr. West, Let's Not Live on Earth and the forthcoming In Springtime. She was awarded a literature fellowship for her poetry from the National Endowment for the Arts. Her second novel, Clean Air (Algonquin, February 8, 2022), is set in the aftermath of a climate apocalypse.

On your nightstand now:

I read on apps on my phone, so on my "nightstand" right now is A Children's Bible by Lydia Millet, which is having me take a bunch of screenshots every time I love a sentence or a paragraph. I even had to text a friend when I came to this one, "The water carried us: we were carried."--because it's perfect.

Favorite book when you were a child:

I remember loving A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle when I was 10. I think it was the first time I thought about telepathy, and that was pretty wondrous to consider. And that was all that I remembered about it until the movie came out.

Your top five authors:

Wow. It's a difficult question because there are so many authors who I love, but when I think about it, my opinion is based on one book that I've read by them. So here are my top five who I love and I've read nearly everything that they've ever published: Lucille Clifton, Marie Howe, Brenda Hillman, Brigit Pegeen Kelly, George Saunders.

Book you've faked reading:

There are MANY that I've faked reading all the way to their ending. And I will admit to none of them here, as I've written papers about those books, and I'm still friends with the professors to whom I submitted those papers.

Book you're an evangelist for:

If you've been looking for a good contemporary novel, then I've probably told you about Cecily Wong's Diamond Head, which I loved. Her second novel, Kaleidoscope, is due out in July, and I can't wait!

Book you've bought for the cover:

I always buy a book based on reading the first few pages, but if I ever did buy a book for its cover, I would have for Karim Dimechkie's Lifted by the Great Nothing. I love the colors, the fonts and the layout. I find it utterly charming.

Book you hid from your parents:

I'm not sure my parents could be offended by anything. My mom was buying me Sylvia Plath, The Clan of the Cave Bear and The Thorn Birds when I was in middle school. When my dad reads the Goodreads reviews of Naamah, he says things like "There wasn't that much sex in it." We're just not an easily offended bunch!

Book that changed your life:

Plainsong by Kent Haruf is told entirely linearly, but every few pages there's a new chapter and it's told from a different point of view--all to tell the same story. That is to say--it's not like a lot of books of late that use multiple points of view to tell multiple stories. I'm not explaining this perfectly, but the book found me at the exact time that I needed it. I knew I wanted to write fiction, but I wasn't sure my brain knew how to write novels like the classics I loved. This book reminded me of how many different ways a novel could be.

Favorite line from a book:

Well, as this is impossible, I will put this from Brigit Pegeen Kelly's poem "The Orchard": "And then it growled. And I saw/ That the horse was a dog. But the apples/ Were still apples."

Five books you'll never part with:

I have a copy of The Source by James A. Michener, which my mother gave me, and I have loved it so well that it's lost its front cover. I've bought a backup copy to lend out from now on.

I have a similarly falling apart copy of Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. I remember the exact place and time I was when I decided to read the first page and decide whether or not I should buy it and spend the afternoon reading it--a used bookstore in New Jersey in 2008. I came to the dream about the singing tables and the decanters that were women, and I was sold.

I have a copy of a 1971 printing of T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets, which my mother has written notes throughout from a college course she took. The price of the book is printed on the cover: $1.65.

I have a signed copy of the hardcover of Marie Howe's The Kingdom of Ordinary Time, which I will always treasure.

And finally, my copy of the first edition of The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Short Fiction: Fifty North American Stories Since 1970. Cathy Day taught me about the short story from this collection, and I return to it over and over.

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

I never want to read a book over again that I loved when I was younger. I know far more now and find myself overly critical. What if I ruin something for myself that I once loved! I would like to read a few short stories over again for the first time, but I'm happy to reread them for the one millionth time, too--namely, "One Arm" by Yasunari Kawabata.

Zest Books (Tm): Nearer My Freedom: The Interesting Life of Olaudah Equiano by Himself by Monica Edinger and Lesley Younge

Book Candy

Favorite Book Genres Around the World

Mental Floss featured "the world's favorite book genres, mapped."


"Read these books before they hit the small screen," the New York Public Library recommended.


Olympic speedskating champion Nils van der Poel gave one of his Beijing 2022 gold medals to Angela Gui, whose bookseller father is imprisoned in China.


Merriam-Webster looked up "10 words for uncommon colors."


Author Kristen Bird examined "the dark underbelly of Austen's world and all those happy endings" for CrimeReads.

Great Reads

Rediscover: The Gates of Europe: A History of Ukraine

Russia's invasion is only the latest chapter in the centuries-long story of Ukraine's struggle for independence. In The Gates of Europe: A History of Ukraine, Harvard professor Serhii Plokhy traces that fertile, often blood-soaked land back to Neanderthal mammoth hunters, ancient Greek settlers on the Black Sea, through the development of Slavic identity and the medieval state of Kievan Rus, which was conquered by Mongols in the 13th century. The area was ruled successively by the Golden Horde, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Crimean Khanate until a Cossack rebellion in 1648. Ukraine was subsequently split between the Russian Empire and Austria-Hungary with Ottoman conquests along the Crimean coast. In the 19th century, Russia went to great lengths to suppress Ukrainian nationalism, including banning the Ukrainian language.

The First World War and especially the Bolshevik Revolution turned Ukraine into an anarchic battlefield. Soon Ukraine was subsumed by the Soviet Union, and in 1932-33 suffered millions of deaths in the Holodomor, widely recognized as a deliberate genocidal famine orchestrated by Stalin. World War II left millions more dead, including 1.5 million Jews, and lasting partisan scars. Ukraine's independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 has unfortunately not been the end of that country's troubles. The Gates of Europe, first published in 2015, was revised and updated in 2021 and is available in paperback from Basic Books ($19.99). --Tobias Mutter

Book Review


Tell Me an Ending

by Jo Harkin

Set in the town of Crowshill, near London, Tell Me an Ending by Jo Harkin boldly imagines an eerily plausible present where people with unwanted memories can have them deleted by a secretive British tech company named Nepenthe. Harkin's intriguing debut features multiple interconnected narratives nestled within the larger whole, as well as characters whose memory deletions send them traveling across the globe in search of answers to missing pieces of their lives.

Nepenthe's premise is deceptively simple: a PTSD sufferer or someone struggling with a distressing experience can have that traumatic memory erased in a safe and highly effective manner, deleting only the targeted memory and leaving everything else intact. The technology, it turns out, is not foolproof. Central to the story is the enigmatic Noor, a socially awkward Nepenthe psychologist with a tea addiction, who suspects her boss and mentor, Louise, is in violation of company policy. As Noor investigates Louise's actions, she is drawn into a horrifying cover-up at Nepenthe that threatens to destroy her faith in its mission.

Harkin masterfully probes several characters, questioning whether deleted memories translate into altered narratives that fundamentally transform who a person is and their relationships with loved ones, echoing a question Noor asks herself: "Does wiping a note change the rest of the symphony?" As Noor uncovers the extent of Louise's deception and its impact on William, Mei and others, she finally confronts the true cost of the technology she has devoted her career to promoting. --Shahina Piyarali, reviewer

Discover: This thrilling speculative novel features a psychologist-turned-whistleblower working at a secretive British tech company that specializes in memory removal.

Scribner, $27.99, hardcover, 448p., 9781982164324

Woman Running in the Mountains

by Yūko Tsushima, trans. by Geraldine Harcourt

In Woman Running in the Mountains, the late great Japanese novelist Yūko Tsushima (1947-2016) unflinchingly confronts the judgmental challenges an unwed woman faces when she defiantly chooses single motherhood. Takiko Odaka is 21 and already an independent spirit. As she goes into labor, she leaves her family home for the maternity hospital to give birth to her son, Akira, alone.

Akira's father is long gone. Takiko's own father remains brutally abusive--as he has been her entire life. Her long-suffering mother attempts to seem detached, having initially urged Takiko toward abortion. Her already embarrassed younger brother, still in high school, wants no involvement. Despite lacking any semblance of support, Takiko learns to care for her infant, arranges childcare, endures grueling parttime work and eventually finds a rewarding job--and meaningful companionship--at a plant nursery. While her adoration for Akira grows, Takiko also manages to retain her own selfhood, seeking adult company when she can, even casually claiming her youthful sexuality. As constricting as social and familial expectations may be, Takiko continues to experience motherhood on her own terms.

Originally published in 1980 and translated by Geraldine Harcourt in 1991, Tsushima's re-launch is skillfully introduced by Lauren Groff (Matrix), another lauded author who subversively empowers women in her fiction. The 40-year-old narrative retains timeless resonance, despite Harcourt's jarring word choice of "retarded" to describe Down Syndrome. Twenty-first-century women readers, especially, will immediately recognize the stifling consequences of other people's definitions for womanhood and motherhood, and find rewarding inspiration in Takiko's many rebellions, large and small. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon

Discover: The late, acclaimed Japanese novelist Yūko Tsushima profoundly confronts the timeless familial and societal challenges an unmarried young mother must face.

NYRB Classics, $17.95, paperback, 288p., 9781681375977

Run and Hide

by Pankaj Mishra

Ambition can come at great cost as well as deliver great rewards, as three classmates discover in Run and Hide, a challenging novel by Pankaj Mishra (From the Ruins of Empire: The Intellectuals who Remade Asia). The three Indian men, all from lower-class backgrounds, meet as students at the Indian Institute of Technology. All seem destined for greatness. Aseem, whose hero is V.S. Naipaul and whose favorite word is "career," becomes a novelist and celebrated intellectual. Virendra becomes "a freshly anointed billionaire" in the U.S. But Arun, the book's narrator, moves to a Himalayan village to care for his aging mother and works as a translator. In later years, a woman named Alia, whom Aseem describes as "rich, but with some brain cells," visits Arun's village to interview him about a book she's writing, "an 'intimate account' of the New India" with a focus on "the minute particulars" of the more egregious activities of Arun's former classmates.

Portions of the book's latter half feel as if Mishra has elbowed his way into the narrative to comment on the world. Fortunately, those points are thoughtfully argued, including concerns such as global capitalism and multiculturalism, social media's role in their furtherance and the price of upward mobility. The result is a searing indictment of unchecked materialism and its consequences. As the book suggests, likes, clicks and retweets might get people the attention they seek, but if they land them in trouble, there's nowhere to hide. --Michael Magras, freelance book reviewer

Discover: This is an important novel about the price of ambition, unrestrained materialism and moral decay.

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $27, hardcover, 336p., 9780374607524

Science Fiction & Fantasy


by Catriona Ward

Catriona Ward (The Last House on Needless Street) places mundane frustrations alongside profound chills in a novel of family, tough choices, secrets and terror. "It's the chicken pox that makes me sure--my husband is having another affair." At the beginning of Sundial, readers wonder what feels just a little off about the suburban household where Rob and her husband, Irving, bicker and feud and raise their two daughters, Callie and Annie. Irving has a nasty temper; Rob is bitterly frustrated. Annie is a sweet, docile child; Callie has a discomfiting fascination with murder and death. When the bones of small mammals begin to show up in Callie's room, Rob feels that things have gone far enough, and takes her elder daughter away for a spell--to Sundial, Rob's family home in California's Mojave desert, an abandoned hippie commune and site of terrible unnamed wrongs.

Through flashback-style stories Rob tells Callie, readers learn of Rob's past: she had a twin sister named Jack, and the sisters shared an unusual upbringing, surrounded by half-wild dogs, scientific experiments, wayward graduate students and shadowy, evil acts. Something dark lived or lives in Rob, or Jack, or Callie, or possibly all of them, and it gradually dawns on readers that Rob is mulling the unthinkable choice to save one daughter or the other.

With the special horror of creepy children and the torture of abusive adults, Sundial serves up a deeply, deliciously disturbing family mystery, populated by ghost dogs and misguided scientists as well as apparently nonthreatening neighbors. A slow burn leads into a quick ratcheting up as this psychological horror deals its final blows. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: This unnerving novel of family history and impossible choices is part ghost story, part terrifying reality.

Tor Nightfire, $26.99, hardcover, 304p., 9781250812681


Hook, Line, and Sinker

by Tessa Bailey

Tessa Bailey returns to the seaside town of Westport, Wash., in Hook, Line, and Sinker, a breezy rom-com full of music and banter. Hannah and Fox met in It Happened One Summer, when her sister fell for his best friend. Bailey smartly chooses to build a foundation of friendship for her protagonists, who've been texting regularly during the seven months Hannah has spent living in Los Angeles.

A production assistant, Hannah has dreams of one day scoring films. When her film director boss starts having issues with his latest project, she convinces him to relocate the shoot to Westport. Fisherman Fox Thornton, meanwhile, is avoiding a promotion to ship captain, convinced that the playboy reputation foisted upon him at a young age will always get in the way of him garnering the respect needed for the job.

In Westport, Hannah stays in Fox's spare room, and the two bond through song recommendations and teasing, but it's their belief in each other that forms the core of Hook, Line, and Sinker. Despite Fox's attempts to prove to Hannah that he's only good for one thing, she refuses to get physical with him until he admits that he deserves to be treated as a whole person. Fox will do anything to support Hannah's goals, even if it means she reaches them without him. This book is less steamy than many of Bailey's others, but it's certainly no less intimate.

Readers may be sad to say goodbye to Westport, but they'll love to watch these two sail off into the sunset. --Suzanne Krohn, librarian and freelance reviewer

Discover: Full of mutual pining and sweetness, Hook, Line and Sinker is perfect for romance readers who love music, self-sacrificing characters and the roommates trope.

Avon, $15.99, paperback, 400p., 9780063045699

Biography & Memoir

I Was Better Last Night

by Harvey Fierstein

Four-time Tony Award-winning playwright and actor Harvey Fierstein knows how to tell captivating stories that are hilarious and heartbreaking. I Was Better Last Night is filled with the same energy, quick wit, wise observations and big heart that are hallmarks of his plays and musicals. This is a theater memoir for the ages.

Fierstein, who grew up gay in Brooklyn, recalls using eyeliner, mascara and lipstick to dress as a girl for Halloween at the age of seven. "My outsides at last matched my insides," he writes. As a teenager, he was cast in Andy Warhol's only play, Pork, and eventually started writing plays himself. When he combined three autobiographical one-act plays into Torch Song Trilogy, the four-hour production surprised everyone by becoming a critical and popular success in 1983. Although he was memorable in his role as Robin Williams's gay brother in Mrs. Doubtfire, Fierstein's biggest successes were on stage.

His drinking spun out of control in the late 1990s. "I never had a hangover because I was never sober," he writes, adding that he was drinking nearly half a gallon of 100-proof Southern Comfort every day. He successfully turned to Alcoholics Anonymous after a suicide attempt. He found great joy and acclaim when, finally sober, he starred in Hairspray. In the 2010s, he wrote three Broadway productions (Kinky Boots, Newsies, Casa Valentina) that ran concurrently while he toured the U.S. in Fiddler on the Roof and prepared for the second Broadway revival of his musical La Cage aux Folles. This is a joyous, life-affirming memoir written with charisma and a generous spirit. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant

Discover: Harvey Fierstein's smart, witty and juicy memoir exudes warmth and, even at 400 pages, will leave readers clamoring for more.

Knopf, $30, hardcover, 400p., 9780593320525

Spellbound by Marcel: Duchamp, Love, and Art

by Ruth Brandon

Readers of Ruth Brandon's lusty Spellbound by Marcel: Duchamp, Love, and Art can be excused for wondering if, with all the bed-hopping and heart-breaking going on in its pages, the featured artists actually managed to get any work done. Happily, the book's art reproductions attest to the artists' productivity and facility, if not always their integrity.

Here's what happened: in 1916, budding American artist Beatrice Wood fell in love with French Dadaist Marcel Duchamp in New York but, to her dismay, Marcel saw no need to link sex with fidelity. Redirecting her affections, Beatrice romanced fellow Marcel fancier Henri-Pierre Roché, who rather inconveniently fell in love with the married Louise "Lou" Arensberg; Henri-Pierre and Lou had an affair. Lou--along with her husband, Walter--hosted a salon in an apartment they owned in Manhattan. Here, Marcel had a studio and paid his rent with his art. This is by no means an exhaustive list of the overlapping free spirits ricocheting through the mischievous Marcel's orbit at this time in history.

Spellbound by Marcel is about not the art but the art-makers, and cultural historian Brandon (Ugly Beauty) has everyone's number, especially Duchamp's, whose "particular talent" she shrewdly defines as "his unerring ability to slide needles under the art world's fingernails." The book is a juicy, assiduously researched probe into the lives of an international cadre of artists who, on the eve of the U.S. involvement in World War I, found a hot spot and kept it warm with their hearts and bodies. --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer

Discover: Ruth Brandon presents a keen and lusty psychological portrait of the French Dadaist Marcel Duchamp and his fellow bed-hoppers and art scene-makers.

Pegasus, $27.95, hardcover, 352p., 9781643138619


Run Like a Pro (Even if You're Slow): Elite Tools and Tips for Runners at Every Level

by Matt Fitzgerald, Ben Rosario

Running is one of the most egalitarian sports, given that what is needed to start the practice is merely a pair of shoes and a place to run. But there is still a large gap between amateur runners and professional ones. Elite running coaches Matt Fitzgerald and Ben Rosario bring their expertise to the masses in Run Like a Pro (Even if You're Slow), through which all runners can learn the habits and techniques that help elite runners stay at the top of the field. Instead of offering a prescriptive text, Fitzgerald and Rosario emphasize the many different philosophies in training for running, and highlight patterns and studies that can help readers make the best choices for themselves. One of these is the 80/20 principle, where 80% of workouts are run at low intensity, and the other 20% are done at a higher intensity. Although the text is focused on running, the discussions on rest, recovery, nutrition, pacing and stress management will serve readers across a variety of sports.

The authors gently but firmly redress what they refer to as the misconceptions and assumptions amateur runners hold--ones that can be detrimental to training and, more generally, to a runner's health, such as restrictive elimination-based diets and that progression must be constant. They also provide alternative methods to replace bad habits. Helpful advice also includes cross-training exercises, with demonstrative photos and even directions to YouTube resources. Fitzgerald and Rosario treat all runners--in a holistic and approachable way--as if they have the potential to become pros. --Michelle Anya Anjirbag, freelance reviewer

Discover: In ways that athletes of all levels can incorporate into their own training, professional running coaches Matt Fitzgerald and Ben Rosario break down what makes elite runners successful.

Berkley, $17, paperback, 320p., 9780593201916

Now in Paperback

The Paris Library

by Janet Skeslien Charles

In her second novel, The Paris Library, Janet Skeslien Charles (Moonlight in Odessa) weaves the story of a woman in Paris just before and during the Nazi Occupation together with that of 14-year-old Lily Jacobsen, growing up in Montana in the mid-1980s.

Fresh out of library school, Odile Souchet lands a job at the American Library in Paris and is immediately enamored of her new workplace and its cadre of international patrons. She especially admires Miss Reeder, the library's sharply intelligent, imposing directress. But then the Nazis invade.

In Montana, young Lily, reeling from the loss of her mother and her father's remarriage, finds herself adrift. Intrigued by her reclusive elderly neighbor, Odile, Lily talks her way into Odile's house and begins asking questions. Odile, long accustomed to solitude, nonetheless strikes up a friendship with Lily that flourishes with their French lessons and shared love of books. But Odile is hiding a secret, the revelation of which will force Lily to rethink what she has come to believe about her new friend.

Charles's narrative shifts between Paris and Montana, bringing in Odile's perspective as well as that of her friend Margaret, a lonely Englishwoman who seeks out the library as a place of refuge. When the Nazis begin eyeing the library's collections, as the net tightens on the people of Paris, Miss Reeder and several others refuse to leave. Her colleagues' quiet heroism makes a deep impression on Odile, and, nearly four decades later, on Lily.

All of Charles's characters must face the consequences of their actions and do what they can to move forward with grace. A testament to courage under fire and an honest exploration of complex friendships, The Paris Library is a treat for book lovers, Francophiles and anyone whose life has been changed by a dear friend. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: Based on the true story of heroic librarians in Paris during World War II, this novel is a love letter to libraries, a testament to courage under fire and an exploration of complex friendships.

Atria, $17.99, paperback, 384p., 9781982134204

Klara and the Sun

by Kazuo Ishiguro

In his first novel since winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2017, Kazuo Ishiguro (The Buried Giant) steps into a possible near future in this heartwarming story of an AI learning about the curious and complicated heart of humanity.

As a B2 model Artificial Friend, Klara does not have the same acrobatic abilities as the new B3 series and, despite industry specifications, her series is known for having difficulties staying fully charged. Still, the manager of the shop where Klara and other AFs have their first home believes Klara has something special, an "appetite for observing and learning" that gives her "the most sophisticated understanding of any AF in this store." When a woman buys Klara for her teen daughter, Josie, Klara finds living among humans more challenging than watching them through a plate-glass window. Josie has a mysterious sickness that could kill her, putting strain on the family. Her personal life is fraught with social pitfalls. As a "lifted," or genetically enhanced, child, Josie's potential bright future drives a wedge between her and the "unlifted" boy next door, whom she has loved all her life. Determined to help Josie, Klara makes an impossible bargain with an unusual partner.

Ishiguro sketches a world in vague strokes for this futuristic setting, giving readers a few clues and letting them fill in the empty spaces. Though it possesses some trappings of sci-fi, Klara and the Sun (a Good Morning America Book Club Pick), offers painstaking character portraits and gently examines grief and the rejection of mortality. As he did in Never Let Me Go, Ishiguro again gives an ethical dilemma its own beautiful, bittersweet life. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Discover: In this bittersweet novel, Kazuo Ishiguro follows the life of an Artificial Friend, a robot programmed to become a human child's closest companion.

Vintage, $16.95, paperback, 320p., 9780593311295

Children's & Young Adult

Star Fishing

by Sang-Keun Kim, trans. by Ginger Ly

Delight sparkles throughout Sang-Keun Kim's Star Fishing, a picture book import from South Korea smoothly translated by Ginger Ly. A bunny-suit-clad child, wide awake in a shadowy bedroom, reveals, "It's the kind of night when you just can't fall asleep. You feel as though everyone in the world is asleep but you." The child ventures downstairs (losing slippers on the steps), past an open door where parents slumber, to gaze out a window brightened by a crescent moon: "Oh, I see a light! Is somebody awake?" The child dashes outside, yelling upward, "Play with meeeeeee..." when "something marvelous happens" and a star on a string appears.

Little Rabbit-on-the-moon pulls the gleeful child up with a magic pole. Together, the pair continue star fishing, gathering other insomnolent adventurers: Crab from the sea, Fox from the forest, Big Bear and Little Bear from the Arctic. The stars, it turns out, aren't sleepy either, and readily provide a glittering playground. Realizing that their nocturnal escapades can't last forever, the empathic child and friends leave behind twinkling memories to ensure Little Rabbit won't be lonely. And then the child's eyelids begin to droop....

Kim's dreamy tale is a timeless balm for those all-too-familiar nights of elusive sleep. Kim's mixed-media night skies, whimsically presented in palettes of mostly blues and golds, might emphasize the smallness of the characters, but the placement of the companions cleverly underscores their closeness. The child, Little Rabbit and their new friends offer a welcoming community in which the sleepless need not feel alone. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon

Discover: A sleepless child finds many new friends for glittering, twinkling nighttime adventures in this delightfully whimsical Korean import.

Abrams Books for Young Readers, $18.99, hardcover, 56p., ages 4-8, 9781419751004

The Ice Cream Machine

by Adam Rubin

Adam Rubin (Dragons Love Tacos; Gladys the Magic Chicken) proves that "writing is magic" in his middle-grade debut, a hilarious collection of six stories, illustrated by different artists, that share the same title: "The Ice Cream Machine."

The six stories include Shiro Hanayama and his robot best friend, Kelly, who travel the world in search of the best ice cream; two sisters deciding to challenge the repeat winner of their town's annual ice cream eating contest; a sorcerer's assistant unexpectedly filling in for the sorcerer. The titular machine defies definition and is personified in each iteration as something slightly different. In "(the one with the ice cream eating contest)," it's a nickname. In "(the one with the sorcerer's assistant)," it's an enchanted object whose creations bring joy to a kingdom.

Set in space, on a farm, in the future and in the past, every story in this collection is distinct and original, imaginative and inventive. Each is its own world, written in a different genre with characters who feel as real and vivid as those in the last. The writing style for every tale is similar enough to allow the book to feel cohesive, with humor reminiscent of Louis Sachar and an outlandishness that brings Roald Dahl to mind. The illustrations--by Daniel Salmieri, Emily Hughes, Charles Santoso, Nicole Miles, Liniers and Seaerra Miller--help create a feeling of continuity through their grayscale palettes and make each story an individual art piece. The Ice Cream Machine brings as much inspiration as it does laughter. --Kyla Paterno, freelance reviewer

Discover: Six short middle-grade stories with only their title in common offer laughter and inspiration.

Putnam Books for Young Readers, $17.99, hardcover, 384p., ages 8-12, 9780593325797


Author Buzz

The Grave Robber
(A Charley Davidson Novella)

by Darynda Jones

Dear Reader,

Have you ever seen a ghost? I think we all have stories the defy explanation. Some are creepy and some are downright traumatizing. That's what I wanted to explore in THE GRAVE ROBBER.

What would happen to a woman who'd been haunted her whole life? Who'd been at the mercy of an enraged poltergeist hellbent on revenge? And how will she respond when her father stumbles across a man who says he can help?

I hope you enjoy her story!

Darynda Jones

Available on Kobo

AuthorBuzz: 1001 Dark Nights Press: The Grave Robber (A Charley Davidson Novella) by Darynda Jones

1001 Dark Nights Press

Pub Date: 
September 5, 2023


List Price: 
$2.99 e-book

The Heirloom

by Beverly Lewis

Dear Reader,

In 1997, I released my first Amish novel, The Shunning, and now I am delighted to present this long-awaited prequel about Ella Mae Zook, a beloved character from that book and others, who readers have asked for more of. I've been planning this novel for years, as my stories must simmer in my heart until they are ready. I'm delighted to now be able to share this story with readers, and to celebrate, I’m giving away 5 copies. 

Click here to enter the giveaway!

Beverly Lewis

Buy now and support your local indie bookstore>

AuthorBuzz: Bethany House: The Heirloom by Beverly Lewis

Bethany House Publishers

Pub Date: 
September 12, 2023


List Price: 
$17.99 Paperback

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