Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Zibby Books: The Last Love Note by Emma Grey

From My Shelf

Home-Brewed Wisdom

Over the weekend, my family and I visited our soon-to-be defunct local Borders to check out the clearance sale. I felt sad and guilty: it was like attending an estate sale before the funeral. I didn't buy any books, but that was because I was conflicted, not because I couldn't find any I wanted. Besides, the only real bargains were on romance paperbacks and greeting cards. Fiction? 10% (although the Shakespeare shelf was offered at 20%).

Let's face it. Readers are also consumers, and consumers love a bargain. Faced with a 50%-off-all-books sale, how many of us could resist filling a shopping cart? (I've seen the fast-moving hands at my local bookstore's periodic "galley grabs" and rifling through the hardcovers on that store's discount trolley.)

But while readers may be consumers, they are also participants in a creative process, one in which books are more than products: they're art, they're dialogue, they're information, entertainment, beauty, despair... I won't go on and on. You take my point.

So I ask myself, as I have many times before, why we value books so little that we will do anything we can to avoid paying for them. I have friends who will gladly accept books that I give them and read them eagerly--but will never spend money on buying their own. Now, let me carefully say that the people I'm talking about do have disposable income. I am not scolding anyone who can't make the month's rent for neglecting to buy a shelf of hardcovers.

What I am suggesting is that we be mindful about where we choose to distribute our dollars. One week's worth of venti skim lattes from a coffee shop equals a new trade paperback. I'll take the mug from the kitchen coffeepot, please; I'm saving up for my next book. --Bethanne Patrick

BINC: Read Love Support Campaign

The Writer's Life

Portrait of the Artist: Katharine Weber

Katharine Weber is a novelist, and an acclaimed one at that. From her first book, Objects in the Mirror Are Closer than They Appear (just reissued by Broadway Books) to The Music Room, The Little Women, Triangle and True Confections, she has created an impressive body of fiction.

But now Weber has written a memoir, The Memory of All That: George Gershwin, Kay Swift, and My Family's Legacy of Infidelities (Crown, July 19, 2011). Many people (especially Gershwin devotees and biographers) already know that Weber's maternal grandmother, songwriter Katharine Swift Warburg, had a decade-long affair with the composer George Gershwin while she was married to Jimmy Warburg, scion of the banking dynasty that was very powerful in early- and mid-20th-century America.

However, there's more to the book than George and Kay's love (which ended only when Gershwin died from a brain tumor). What does "My Family's Legacy of Infidelities" mean?

"You can only stuff so much into a subtitle," Weber responded. "We couldn't stuff in 'Warburg,' we couldn't stuff in 'FBI' for my father, and so on. But what I realized while writing the book, and only while I was writing it, is that Sidney Kaufman, this epic philanderer and schemer, wouldn't be my father if George Gershwin hadn't loomed over my mother's childhood. It's not something I grew up thinking or feeling. So, although this book is partly a researched biography, it's also in some sense memoir."

Weber is referring to her father's many extramarital affairs and shady business dealings (which included his having a huge FBI file that even noted Weber's birth)--as well as his faithlessness as a father. One of the most poignant scenes in the book is an early one in which young Katharine and her father head out to buy the family Christmas tree. Sidney is intent on getting the best deal possible, even if it means walking away from the tree seller, but he never tells his small daughter that he definitely plans to bring home a tree. The reader is immersed in a child's despair and confusion.

"One of the things I wanted to do was stay in the child's experience and not do that grownuppy, overvoicey thing that can rob moments like that of authenticity," Weber said. "But I'm so not a writer who captions things with 'This is what I'm telling you, here.' I don't do that; I don't write for everybody. "

Weber may not write for everybody, but one of the strengths of her new book is that she wants to write about everyone. "To me it's not just the pebble dropping in the stream that's interesting, it's the circles and circles and circles that get wider after it has dropped. I'm a novelist. I can't ever write about just one thing. How could I write about Kay Swift without writing about the Warburgs? How could I write about the Warburgs without writing about Kay's affair with George? If I wrote about that affair, I had to write about how it affected my family--and me."

When asked who was unfaithful to whom, Weber explained, "Well, there were infidelities in every sense. The FBI thought my father was unfaithful to his country. My grandfather was hideously unfaithful to his whole family. My grandmother was unfaithful to her daughters, but incredibly present with me--and faithful, until the day she died, to George Gershwin's memory."

One of the themes readers will find running through The Memory of All That is mirroring, including a remarkable moment of serendipity in which Weber, interviewing the acclaimed novelist Madeline L'Engle, realizes that a woman in a mirror in one of L'Engle's short stories is based on "Ganz," as Weber and her siblings called their grandmother Kay Swift. But the most haunting instance of mirroring is a photograph that George Gershwin took of himself with Andrea, Weber's mother, when Andrea was just 12 years old.

"The photo as Gershwin printed it is tightly cropped, but the full photo, which I have and which the Gershwin Trust doesn't own, shows you more of the room. When you see the full room, you can see that it's clearly night. Why is Gershwin in this room at night, taking a picture of a 12-year-old girl who looks so unhappy? She's not smiling. It's hard to know what's going on." Weber is not planning to deconstruct the photo, any more than she tries to trace the mirroring trope in her book.

"I thought, when I was younger, that I wanted to write about this charmed circle. Wouldn't you have? I mean, I remember at one party my parents held being under the piano, staring at Harold Arlen's shoes. Some of it was pretty great," Weber admitted. "But I didn't want to write about just the charmed bits, and really, there would never be enough information."

However, Weber the novelist realized, finally, that "anything I write is a lot more than information! I want to wear my research very lightly, and I want it to serve the story. I want any reader to feel that she is in sure hands. Just sit back and read--here's what comes next."

When what comes next is difficult or disturbing, Weber believes it should be included because it's necessary, but she never writes about anything just for prurience. "It's confounding to know that some early reviewers are using the word 'dysfunctional' about my family and my memories, because I never use that word. This book is not a complaint. For example, I do write about all sorts of infidelities, sexual and otherwise, but I never write about how dare he or how dare she. It's much more interesting when you go beyond that, and it's also much more emotionally authentic. It's kind of a default cliché to be outraged. "

"It's not a kitchen sink of a book," Weber continued. "There's always more, and I could have gone in any direction and found it. I wanted, finally, to be true to the story I needed to tell."

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

Great Reads

Further Reading: Rules of Civility

You can read our review of Rules of Civility by Amor Towles below; editor Bethanne Patrick liked it a lot, but the reason it's here in Further Reading is not just because it's an excellent novel, but also a singular one. Rules of Civility is a novel of manners that avoids being mannered, and when you finish reading, you might want more of...


Glamorous Manhattan: It takes place in a completely different century, but The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton, with its conflicted heroine Lily Bart, shows what Katy Kontent from Rules of Civility might have faced if born at another time. What's clear and sad in reading both novels is that men and women too often set their own traps in trying to escape those they feel others have set for them.


High-WASP relationships: The narrative sprawls like the 11-bedroom Cape Cod structure at the center of The Big House: A Century in the Life of An American Summer Home by George Howe Colt. This is an entirely good thing, as Colt--who spent 42 summers at his family's old-money escape on Cape Cod's Wings Neck--uses history, geography, nostalgia and much more to examine the beauty and blight of legacy.


Child of Immigrants Makes Good: It's the mid-1960s when Robert Vishniak, the protagonist of Rich Boy by Sharon Pomerantz, escapes his Jewish, working-class Philadelphia roots and uses his native intelligence and good looks to get from Tufts University to marrying a rich woman, but otherwise, his journey has a great deal in common with Katy Kontent's--but quite a different ending.


Authors' Final Thoughts on Borders

Authors have particular reason to mourn the loss of the Borders chain: since February, there are now 642 fewer opportunities for events and signings. "Borders was incredibly good to me when I published The Magician's Assistant in 1997," reminisces novelist Ann Patchett in a Salon roundup of author reactions to the big-box chain's closing. "They adopted that book and got behind it in every way possible: promotional discounts, store readings, newsletters.... It seems impossible now to think of that many people getting behind my third book when the first one didn't do so well and the second one did terribly."

Of course, authors are also readers, and the piece has some lovely thoughts from them about the magic of entering a clean, well-lighted bookstore. From Lauren Groff (Delicate Edible Birds): "When I first came to a blockbuster bookstore--bright, cool, caffeinated, filled with endless quantities of books that smelled clean and had no silverfish running out of them--it seemed not unlike my idea of heaven. The truth is I love bookstores, any bookstores. I'm terribly sad when an indie goes out of business, but I've never fully understood the rage against big chain bookstores, because I've found that, more likely than not, they're staffed by smart, passionate, well-read book lovers. It breaks my heart that these people will now be out of jobs." 

Book Candy: A Dress of Tulle and Text, Bookish Bags

Sometimes Your Editors get a two-fer, as we did with this Trashionista post about a dress made of books. How gorgeous and evocative is this frock? However, we wouldn't want to spill a drink on it....

Then, at the bottom of Trashionista's post is a link to these delightful book purses. One of us is particularly drawn to this little number

Book Review


The Night Train

by Clyde Edgerton

If you haven't heard of or read any Clyde Edgerton books yet, that is (as one of Edgerton's characters might say) a right shame. This North Carolina author still hasn't claimed enough of an audience, perhaps because his understated commentary on the South can't be neatly categorized.

While his previous novel, The Bible Salesman, contained no discussion of racial issues, Edgerton's new book, The Night Train, confronts them--well, not head on; that wouldn't be Edgerton's style--through music. Two teenagers, white Dwayne Hallston and black Larry Nolan (you'll learn the rest of his name in the book, and it's a doozy), want to be performers. The fact that they live on opposite sides of a town called Starke shows how unself-conscious the author is about litt-rah-choor. He's willing to play it up; if the device fits, he uses it.

But Edgerton knows what he's up to. If a name or three seems evidence of a huge artistic wink, that's because, behind the scenes, the author is deftly pulling strings so that the boys' musical ambitions will wind up taking a stage that no one in East or West Starke ever dreamed of: an integrated one. As the scenes with family, at work and even including a little red dancing hen unspool, readers may believe they're reading a slight, sweet, slice of life--until the final pages, when this Train pulls neatly into its station, right on time, without missing a beat. --Bethanne Patrick, editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: Clyde Edgerton's latest, with his trademark droll humor and spare style giving this view of the 1960s American South a beating heart.

Little, Brown, $23.99, hardcover, 9780316117593

Rules of Civility

by Amor Towles

Were you paying attention in high school, you might remember that in his novel The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald was signaling the end of the American dream--at least the American dream that was the province of the then-ruling WASP class.

However, for the protagonist of Rules of Civility, a debut novel by Amor Towles, the American dream is alive, if not particularly well. It's 1938, and for Katherine "Katey" Kontent (stress on the second syllable), Manhattan may not be Nirvana, but it sure beats her natal Brighton Beach. Katey lives in a Barbizon-style ladies' hotel and reads as quickly as her hallmates paint their nails. On a New Year's Eve nightclub outing, she and her pal Eve Ross meet the swank Tinker Grey. The encounter changes both women's lives, and the dynamic of their friendship as well.

The elusive Tinker has taken as his personal code of conduct the "rules of civility" written by George Washington (these are included at the novel's end). Intriguingly, it seems that Towles wants to show that these rules will outlast any of his characters--but the number of small plot points gets in the way sometimes. More interesting is watching Katey metamorphose into Kate, a strong-willed magazine editor whose determination and gimlet eye are a match for every man in the story and almost every woman. In Kate Kontent's game, the old rules have meaning, but the players are the thing. --Bethanne Patrick, editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: An atmospheric debut novel in which late-1930s New York City young careerists learn some hard lessons about how life's choices dictate life's outcomes.

Viking Books, $26.95, hardcover, 9780670022694

Northwest Corner

by John Burnham Schwartz

How do survivors carry on after their lives are scarred by tragedy? What causes a legacy of violence to echo from one generation to the next? Those are the questions John Burnham Schwartz poses and answers in this moving sequel to his 1998 novel Reservation Road.

Like its predecessor, Northwest Corner begins with an act of violence. This time it's not an automobile accident, but a blow with a baseball bat that ends a bar fight. It's administered by Sam Arno, a college baseball star and son of Dwight Arno, whose reckless driving 12 years earlier killed 10-year-old Josh Learner. Sam flees from Connecticut to Santa Barbara, where Dwight is attempting to fashion a new life for himself as the manager of a sporting goods store, after losing his law license and serving 30 months in prison.

Schwartz again employs a chorus of voices--Sam; Dwight and his ex-wife, Ruth; Josh's mother, Grace, and her daughter, Emma; and Dwight's friend Penny--their lives and perspectives intertwining in a complex counterpoint. Each struggles with the implacable realities of loss and grief, unable to elude an essential fact: "We think we are solid and durable, only to find that, placed under a cruel and unexpected light, we are the opposite: only our thin, permeable skin holds us intact."

Although Schwartz's novel can be appreciated without reference to Reservation Road, it will be especially rewarding for anyone who valued the characterization, psychological insight and narrative suspense that marked the earlier work. It's unlikely we'll see the Arnos or the Learners again, but we can be grateful to their creator for allowing us to leave them with a fuller sense of their lives. --Harvey Freedenberg

Discover: In this moving sequel to his novel Reservation Road, John Burnham Schwartz explores the aftermath of a tragedy 12 years later.

Random House, $26, hardcover, 9781400068456

The Graduate Student

by James Polster

Take a Ph.D. candidate fresh off an academic trip to study the Wantayo tribe of South America, add in hallucinogenic ayahuasca potion, employers that may not be who they seem and confident storytelling in the vein of Tom Robbins or Elmore Leonard. This solid third novel from movie producer and journalist James Polster follows a young man destined for, if not greatness, then at least a spot at the table for the interesting tales he can bring.

First-person narrator Blackwell James, who describes himself as not quite ready for a life outside of academia, somehow ends up in the jungles of Hollywood at a primatology study, a project run by some movie producers. What follows is a surprisingly compelling tour of the ins and outs of producing mass entertainment at a Hollywood studio, as well as a solid thriller/murder mystery without a specific murder plot. James seems to fall in easily with everyone he meets (especially women--a significant infatuation, never consummated, with his partner's wife plays a larger role in the book), while absolutely loathing a former academic, Jeffrey Hatchlo, a pompous and bumbling daddy's boy who plays a pivotal role in the climax of the book.

The novel rocks along at a page-turning pace, chock full of cleverly rendered set pieces and intelligent, clever use of language and insight. I wholeheartedly recommend this book as a quick yet smart read for anyone with an interest in movie making, academic research or well-written satire.  --Rob LeFebvre, freelance writer & editor

Discover: A confident, satirical novel of insider Hollywood, academia and the power of letting the world pull you where it may.

AmazonEncore, $13.95, trade paper, 9781935597537

A Wild Surge of Guilty Passion

by Ron Hansen

It may not have qualified as the crime of the century, but the lurid murder of New York magazine editor Albert Snyder in March 1927 riveted the attention of that city--when the perpetrators went on trial, the courtroom was packed with more than 1,500 spectators. In this vivid, imaginative novel based on that crime, Ron Hansen (Atticus and Mariette in Ecstasy) weaves a story that will appeal to fans of classic mysteries, in the process skillfully evoking the morally compromised atmosphere of Prohibition-era New York. (The Snyder case was the inspiration for Double Indemnity by James M. Cain, which was the basis for Billy Wilder's famous movie.)

When she meets handsome, alcoholic lingerie salesman Henry Judd Gray in June 1925, Ruth Snyder is a bored Queens housewife married to a man 13 years her senior. It doesn't take long for the vain, shallow duo to tumble into a torrid affair. After a few months, Ruth tricks her husband into applying for an insurance policy that will pay double indemnity in the event of a death from other than natural causes.

After Albert Snyder demonstrates a Rasputin-like quality to survive several of Ruth's bungled murder attempts, she urges the weaker Judd to bludgeon her husband, concealing the deed as a burglary. The killing is as inept as the lovers' intensity is strong, and barely a month later, they're on trial, turning on each other with the same alacrity that marked the start of their affair.

Hansen takes pains to present the story as something other than a morality play. As he portrays the era, it was a time when "wealth began to seem available to anyone." Ruth Snyder and Judd Gray were two characters whose tragic flaw was the self-delusion that led them to believe the easy riches of the time were theirs for the taking. --Harvey Freedenberg, attorney and freelance reviewer

Discover: A lively retelling of a notorious murder in Prohibition-era New York City.

Scribner, $25, hardcover, 9781451617559

Science Fiction & Fantasy

Honeyed Words

by J.A. Pitts

The middle volumes in a series can be a creative challenge for authors. You don't want to spend so much time reintroducing characters that you bore your returning audience, but if you don't lay out enough background information, new readers won't have a complete grasp on the story. So J.A. Pitts has his work cut out for him in Honeyed Words, the sequel to 2010's Black Blade Blues. That first book introduced Sarah Beauhall, a Seattle-area blacksmith who repaired a sword said to have been forged by Odin, thus calling upon herself the attention of the dragons who secretly rule our world (but because they can shapeshift, they appear to us as über-wealthy humans). By coincidence, the medieval reenactment society run by her girlfriend's brother is actually a secret organization dedicated to fighting those dragons, but that information is only coming out in dribs and drabs.

For much of Honeyed Words, Sarah and her friends try to put their lives back together after the climactic battle of the last novel, but with one of that book's most significant dramatic tensions--could Katie convince Sarah to come out of the closet?--resolved, the conflicts become increasingly external. Thus, several new characters are introduced as Pitts broadens the scope of his fantasy world, which borrows extensively from Norse mythology. (There's a running joke in the series about how real dwarves are nothing like the ones in Tolkien.) Ultimately, though, the new challenges Sarah faces are intimately connected to her previous troubles, while still other plot threads (both hers and the dragons') remain unresolved, presumably to be addressed in next year's Forged in Fire. --Ron Hogan, founder of

Discover: A volatile protagonist finds herself caught up in an intricate urban fantasy setting, the secrets of which are being revealed slowly in the sequel to Black Blade Blues.

Tor, $14.99, trade paper, 9780765329073


By His Majesty's Grace

by Jennifer Blake

Lady Isabel Milton, the eldest of sisters known as the Three Graces of Graydon, has been betrothed before. Several of her intended grooms, as well as those of her sisters', have died--giving whisper to a curse. Isabel has helped to fan whispers of that ominous "curse" that hangs over her and her sisters: the Graces must marry for love, for any man betrothed to them without love is doomed to die.

Earl Randall Braesford, a "nobody farmer" newly elevated to his title by King Henry VII, knows there is no curse. So he secures Isabel's hand in marriage. Upon Isabel's arrival at his keep and on the eve of their betrothal ceremony, Rand is arrested for a heinous crime against a child of his long-time friend and ally, the king himself. Rand and Isabel must go to the king's court to answer the charge.

Isabel also knows there is no such thing as the curse. So why are they both convinced that Rand is about to die? And why does Isabel care for the fate of a husband she never wanted?

Since this is the initial book in a series, its first section is heavy with exposition, character introductions and English history, the love story a little delayed. Once it gets rolling, however, the reader can very easily see how a recent nobleman could win over a decidedly wary gentlewoman. --Megan Tarbett, librarian, WV Library Commission

Discover: The first in a series featuring sisters--the Three Graces--who play up their intended grooms' untimely demises as a curse to protect them from forced marriages.

Mira, $7.99, mass market, 9780778312437


Crush: 26 Real-life Tales of First Love

by Andrea N. Richesin, editor

The 26 authors in this essay collection have 26 very different memories of first love. Some share poignant tales of loss and alienation, some offer insight won from youthful passions, some seem to be settling scores for love's first wounding. The writing is up and down here; for every tightly focused memoir that leads to a transcendent conclusion there is a mishmash of interesting but unconnected memories, suggesting that not all accomplished writers can write well about themselves. But the rich colors of human experience contained within these stories work together as a wonderfully vibrant portrait.

The collection kicks off strongly with "What I Kept," a haunting, gently evocative tale of the lasting echoes of a Vietnam-era summer love by Jacquelyn Mitchard. "Creative Writing" by David Levithan is a moving tale of how an erotic story of gay love by his college writing partner lets Levithan name what he was hiding from himself. "What Good Is Sitting Alone in Your Room" has theater geek Jon Skovron obsessed with a theater bad girl and contains this delicate observation: "If you've never tried to entertain four coked-up strippers in Pittsburgh, it might sound like fun."

Some of the writers casually admit to alarming behavior, like having sex in sixth grade or stalking an unrequited love. Some admit to sweeter embarrassments, like crushing on a comic book hero or being obsessed with Sir Anthony Hopkins. This openness, this exposure, draws the reader in and makes this book, with all its attractions and inconsistencies, as vivid and compelling as a crush itself. --Cherie Ann Parker, freelance journalist and book critic

Discover: An uneven but satisfying collection of essays by writers recalling their first loves.

Harlequin, $13.95, trade paper, 9780373892334

As We Speak: How to Make Your Point and Have It Stick

by Peter Meyers, Shann Nix

On the surface, As We Speak explains how to become an effective public speaker. However, the true spirit of this book is expressed on the very last page: "Show up in the world. Be generous with your voice. Share what you have to say. Give your gift; the world is waiting to receive it." Meyers, founder of Stand and Deliver consulting group and an actor, and Nix, a journalist, novelist and radio talk-show host, explain exactly how to do all of the above in an entertaining and persuasive manner.

As We Speak has wide appeal, from CEOs whose speeches affect millions to individuals who hope to communicate better with friends and family. As a former high school speech teacher, I would have loved to use this work with students--not only to teach the principles of effective public speaking but to reinforce the importance of finding a personal vision and voice.

Meyers and Nix believe "High Performance Communication is about creating clarity where there's confusion [and] creating relevance when people feel disconnected... most importantly, it's about inspiring people to achieve things they never thought possible." To help readers achieve this goal, the authors focus not only on content and delivery, but on how the emotional state of a speaker influences every aspect of communication.

The authors' ability to communicate effectively with their readers inspires confidence and credibility, and the result is a pleasure to read. --Kristen Galles, blogger at Book Club Classics

Discover: A public speaking treatise that inspires as it instructs.

Atria, $25, hardcover, 9781439153055

The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations that Transform the World

by David Deutsch

The beginning of The Beginning of Infinity felt a bit like the Big Bang beginning of the Universe--first I felt hot and dense, and then there was a Bang. Deutsch, professor of physics at the University of Oxford, introduces so many new terms and ideas to learn and think about that initially it was overwhelming (not unlike the real universe.) While Deutsch (The Fabric of Reality) doesn't slow down for the reader throughout the chapters, he does allow for catch-up at end of each one with lists of terminology, summaries and bullet points.

But that speed is emblematic of the theory he's trying to advance: progress. Progress both "rapid enough to notice and stable enough to continue over many generations," the kind of progress that began with the Scientific Revolution and continues today. The longer this progress continues, the greater the need for what Deutsch calls "good explanations" that are "easy to vary while still accounting for what [they purport] to account for." In other words: something you can make changes to that remains true.

Deutsch uses not only science (physics, biology, etc.) to illuminate his theory but also philosophy, linguistics and history, to name a few. All of these disciplines together--each beginning of progress in these separate but ultimately connected fields--are what truly is the Beginning of Infinity. By the time you hit the Further Reading list in the bibliography, you're ready to continue on in Deutsch's universe. Maybe infinitely. --Megan Tarbett, librarian, WV Library Commission

Discover: Understanding the universe starts with a good explanation--and from there goes to infinity and beyond.

Viking, $30, hardcover, 9780670022755

Children's & Young Adult

Bone Dog

by Eric Rohmann, illus. by Eric Rohmann

With a style and a friendship theme reminiscent of his Caldecott Medal–winning My Friend Rabbit, author and artist Eric Rohmann here leavens grief with just the right amount of humor. He gives you a hint of what he's up to with a transparent page overlaid on the title page. An alert, vibrant dog carries a bone; then, with the turn of the page, we see just the skeleton of the dog (still holding the bone). There's nothing creepy or macabre about the rendering. In fact, it looks playful. In this way, the author-artist sets a lighthearted tone that he carries through the book.

Ella the dog, and Gus the boy "had been friends for a long, long time," the book begins. They lead a parade of dogs in the opening illustration. One night under a full moon, Ella tells Gus, "I'm an old dog and won't be around much longer. But no matter what happens, I'll always be with you." The rest of the book shows how Gus copes with his loss: "He didn't want to do his chores. But he did." For Halloween, Gus dresses like a skeleton and is horrified when a group of real skeletons rise from the graveyard to join him. When they learn he's a boy, they surround him. But Ella comes to his rescue, rounding up neighborhood canine friends who pose their own threat to the boney bullies. A closing image of boy and dog-guardian under a full moon brings the story full circle and reassures children that the spirits of their loved ones are always near. --Jennifer M. Brown, children’s editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: An original take on both grief and Halloween, with equal parts humor and poignancy.

Roaring Brook, $16.99, hardcover, 32p., ages 4-8, 9781596431508

Pumpkin Trouble

by Jan Thomas, illus. by Jan Thomas

Poor Duck just wants to carve a jack-o'-lantern to impress his pals Pig and Mouse. But when the feathered hero struggles to get one last pumpkin seed from his hollowed-out creation, he falls in! As with her highly entertaining Rhyming Dust Bunnies books, Jan Thomas makes the most of a comical situation. First she pictures Duck stuck inside the pumpkin, legs waving in the air, with thought bubbles that read, "Uh-oh... This isn't good." From inside the pumpkin, Duck shouts, "Can anyone help me?" Fortunately, he's able to roll himself upright and moves his legs to advance the pumpkin in search of assistance. Or maybe it's not so fortunate. Pig and Mouse take him for a pumpkin monster and try to run from Duck. When they shout, "Pumpkin Monster," however, Duck doesn't realize they're referring to him and, frightened, tries to flee, too. The pumpkin monster in pursuit terrifies Pig and Mouse more.

This is spot-on toddler humor. Young children will love being in on the joke--especially because Duck is not, which only ups the humor quotient. When Duck breaks out of his bind, Pig and Mouse believe he has defeated the pumpkin monster. The more Duck seems doomed to repeat himself (which he does), the merrier the toddler audience will be. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A Halloween treat for the toddler set in which Duck, stuck in a pumpkin, is mistaken for a monster.

HarperCollins, $9.99, hardcover, 40p., ages 2-5, 9780061692840


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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