Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Mariner Books: Briefly Perfectly Human: Making an Authentic Life by Getting Real about the End by Alua Arthur

From My Shelf

Furry Friends of Internet Fame

The Internet is capable of transforming someone perfectly ordinary into someone wildly famous. But those someones are not always human someones, as the four-legged stars of several blogs-turned-books can attest:

Maddie, a sweet-tempered coonhound who accompanied her owner on a cross-country photojournalism trip, is perhaps one of the most photogenic--and patient--dogs in the world. Maddie on Things (Chronicle Books) is living proof of this claim, featuring no less than 120 stunning photographs of Maddie posing on everything from giant watermelons to car hoods to turtles to tree trunks, across the country. The photographs reveal both her patience and beauty, and the interesting objects and scenes encountered on a road trip. (See Maddie's book trailer here.)

Henri is a black-and-white cat known as the world's first and foremost feline philosopher. Online, he offers up short films depicting his general ennui; his first book, Henri le Chat Noir (Ten Speed Press), offers up the same "existential musings of an angst-filled cat" via a collection of photographs and quotes from Henri. His droll insights and dry wit, coupled with dramatic black-and-white photography, combine to create a book that will fit perfectly on the shelves of any philosopher, cat-lover or philosophizing cat-lover.

Grumpy Cat's tagline just about sums up the frowning feline's take on the world: "I had fun once. It was awful." Grumpy Cat's book from Chronicle, aptly titled Grumpy Cat, combines new photos of the well-loved frowning face with classics from the Grumpy Cat blog to offer new readers and long-time fans alike a dose of serious grumpiness--though the images and captions are just humorous enough to turn most frowns upside-down. The only who will not be amused by Grumpy Cat's antics is, of course, Grumpy Cat. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

Sleeping Bear Press: A Kurta to Remember by Gauri Dalvi Pandya, Illustrated by Avani Dwivedi

Book Candy

Fitzgerald's 22 'Essential Books'; Awesome Bookshelves

Open Culture featured F. Scott Fitzgerald's list of "22 essential books, 1936."


Nigel Williams, author of Unfaithfully Yours, selected his "top 10 books about suburbia" for the Guardian.


When Edward Gorey illustrated Dracula. Brain Pickings featured pages from a 1977 edition of Bram Stoker's classic novel in which "Gorey's illustrations of the characters are terrifyingly charming and charmingly terrific."

With his choices for the "top 10 books about disability," novelist Paul Wilson recommended "the best literature on lives too frequently overlooked or misunderstood."


Buzzfeed discovered "16 unique and awesome bookshelves for every budget."

The Returned

by Jason Mott

Between the premise--the dead walking the earth--and the fact that it's already been adapted as an ABC television series by Plan B (the production company behind the film version of World War Z), the casual observer might assume that Jason Mott's debut is yet another addition to the glut of zombie stories currently lurching around the entertainment market. However, nothing could be farther from the truth. Mott has created a much subtler, more thought-provoking experience, without a single lumbering corpse in sight.

Harold and Lucille Hargraves have had decades to learn how to live with the loss of their only son, Jacob, who drowned in a river on his eighth birthday in 1966. At least they have each other, even if they never got to see their beloved son grow up--until he shows up on their doorstep, very much alive and no older than the day they found his waterlogged body. "It's happening like this all over," agent Martin Bellamy tells them as he asks if they would like to claim their no-longer-deceased son. "It's a unique time for everyone."

Bellamy is from the Bureau, an organization formed to study the astounding phenomenon of the Returned. All over the world, the dead are coming to life, not as reanimated corpses crawling from the grave, but just as they were right before they died, and generally turning up quite far from home. No one knows how or why the Returned appear and, more to the point, no one knows how to react. Are these beings who look, speak and act like long-lost loved ones really who they appear to be? Are they a blessing from God, a sign of the end times, or something else altogether?

Harold cannot bring himself to believe, as Lucille does, that the little boy Bellamy places in their custody is really Jacob come back to them, but he reenters parenthood with as much enthusiasm he can muster for his wife's sake. However, their personal struggles soon seem small in the face of a global crisis. The Returned continue appearing at alarming rates, raising the question of how to sustain the earth if everyone who has ever lived returns to life. Not every country has treated the Returned as actual human beings, but the Hargraves are shocked when the United States takes action against the Returned under the guise of protecting them. Their newly remade family now divided, the Hargraves, their small-town neighbors, and even Agent Bellamy must decide which way their loyalties pull them, and at what cost.

Rather than attempt to force a pseudo-scientific explanation of the resurrections on readers, Mott takes the route of greater impact, and perhaps greater credibility, by focusing on the lives and emotions of the everyday characters struggling with the new turmoil in their lives. Mott's simple "what if" philosophy raises far larger issues than the question of "how" could. The story's underlying ethical questions occasionally dovetail with arguments about human cloning, such as whether a copy of a human being is a fully fledged person or only an echo with no rights of its own. Human fear of the unexplained largely drives the plot and throws small acts of compassion into sharp relief, making heroes of characters brave enough to offer the Returned the simple kindness and hospitality anyone might normally offer a neighbor. Lucille and Harold in particular, that elderly "pair of thin, wiry birds," follow their consciences rather than turn a blind eye, forcing confrontations that lead them to become the story's unlikely action heroes.

Perhaps the greatest power of this story is its ability to raise a bit of discomfort in its readers. Imagine for a moment that every dead person on Earth is coming back to life, and that they will need all of the food, shelter, and resources any other living person needs. The human race simply could not survive in such numbers. With no time to formulate a way out of the situation, what course of action seems best? Morally, one might say that the Returned have the same rights as anyone who has not yet died. On the other hand, in the face of dwindling resources and starvation, perhaps each of us would find ourselves asking, at some point, why the dead should have another chance at life if it means taking away from the still-living.

Thought-provoking, occasionally dreamlike, and centered around the most charmingly irascible couple in recent memory, Mott's story of literal life after death will catch readers by their hearts and capture their imaginations. We recommend not waiting around for the TV series. Grab this book as soon as you possibly can. --Jaclyn Fulwood

Mira, $24.95, hardcover, 9780778315339

Jason Mott: Heroes and Dreams

photo: Randy Skidmore

Jason Mott holds a BA in fiction and an MFA in poetry and is the author of two poetry collections, samples from which may be read on his website, Pen and Cape. His writing has appeared in numerous literary journals, and he was nominated for the 2009 Pushcart Prize. Mott lives in North Carolina. The Returned is his first novel. Follow him on Twitter @jasonmott.

How did you come up with and develop the basic concept of The Returned?

The seed for the idea actually came from a dream. Both of my parents have passed away--my mother in 2001, my father in 2007. Back in July 2010, around the anniversary of my mother's death, I dreamed of her. It was a simple dream: I came home from work one day and she was sitting at my kitchen table, waiting for me, the same way she had done on many days of my childhood.

The rest of the dream was, given the scope of things that can happen in dreams, relatively boring. She and I simply talked. She asked me about my life. I told her everything that's happened since her death. She even nagged me a little about the fact that I still wasn't married. In short, she was my mother as I had always known her.

It was one of those hyper-realistic dreams, the kind you wake from unsure over which world is real. I half expected to walk out of my bedroom and find her waiting for me. That dream stayed with me for weeks. I fell asleep each night hoping to re-create it--hoping to spend more time with my mother--but was never able. Eventually I talked about it with a very good friend who asked, "Can you imagine if that really happened? And what if she wasn't the only one?"

The Returned is more about dealing with a situation than finding the answers behind the situation. What made you decide to leave so many of the "hows" unanswered and just follow your characters?

I struggled with the "how issues" for a long time. At the end of the day, I've got a very analytical mind. I'm a science junkie, and here I was working with a premise that science could not explain. That kept me up at night.

I spent a great many hours trying to come up with an explanation for the Returned, but none of them rang true. They were all terrible--even until the point of being a little insulting to the reader, I felt. More than that, the pursuit of the "how" began to distract from the story. It was getting me sidetracked. That was about the time I realized that I cared far more about my characters than I did about the explanation for the Returned.

I came to terms with the fact that I was writing about an impossible event, something that could only occur in a dream. So I embraced it. I threw my characters into it wholeheartedly. I let it become something as vexing and unconquerable for my characters as it had become for me.

Even more than that, I asked myself: If my mother came back to me, even if only for a little while, would I really care how? Or would I just do everything I could to hold on to whatever time I had with her?

The answer was clear for me.

Tell us about The Returned being optioned for a TV series.

The Returned has been picked up by ABC, and been renamed Resurrection. It is being produced by Brad Pitt's production company, Plan B, in association with Brillstein Entertainment. The screenplay is being written by Aaron Zelman and directed by Charles McDougall. I can't begin to tell you how exciting this is!

As I type this, casting has been completed and they're filming in Atlanta. I'm completely in love with the casting, which includes Frances Fisher, Kurtwood Smith, Omar Epps, Matt Craven, Devin Kelley, Nicholas Gonzalez, Sam Hazeldine and newcomer Landon Gimenez.

The cast has been wonderfully approachable. Nearly all of them found me on Twitter and will send me photos and snippets of news about filming. They're amazingly excited to be a part of the project.

[Resurrection is scheduled to premiere in March 2014.]

You're a superhero fan and your poetry is often inspired by comics. Is there any aspect of the superhero universe that influences your fiction in general and The Returned specifically?

The superhero universe always influences my writing. I can't get enough of the study of superheroes and their grandparent, mythology. Often times, when I write, I will snatch characteristics from certain superheroes or from certain mythological stories, or I'll pattern the core of a character after a certain superhero. Lucille was most certainly a partial derivative of Wonder Woman. I pictured the evolution of Lucille's character as slightly parallel to the evolution of Wonder Woman. Over the years, she has stepped out of the shadow of DC's other "big guns" and become a complex, powerful and formidable character in her own right.

So when Lucille is separated from Harold, she undergoes an evolution. Which is not to say that Harold dominated Lucille--those two were most certainly evenly matched!--but, rather, to say that, as the situation in the town of Arcadia worsened, Lucille stepped out of the shadow of what she had been--what she expected herself to be--and became something even greater, something even she did not know she could become.

Does writing poetry help with or play into your fiction writing or vice versa?

My fiction and poetry have always informed each other. Most people don't know this about me, but fiction has always been my primary writing venue. Poetry is my second love.

I started writing short stories when I was about thirteen or fourteen. I grew up loving mythology and the epic, heroic narratives such as The Odyssey and Beowulf. And then I came across an excerpt from John Gardner's Grendel. That was an awakening moment for me. I didn't know writers were allowed to take existing stories and make them their own. It was wonderfully exciting to learn! That's when I started writing.

What can we expect to see from you in the future?

Right now I'm hip-deep in my next novel. That's where my creative energy is focused right now. I don't want to talk about it too much because it's still in development, but I will say that it is another magical realism/speculative fiction story and, once again, it takes place in a small North Carolina town.

Apart from that, I've got a couple of other back burner projects in various stages of completion. As you know, I'm a fan of comics. And I'd be lying if I said I wouldn't like to take a swing at that genre. The same can be said for screenwriting. --Jaclyn Fulwood

Shelf vetted, publisher supported.

Book Review


Night Film

by Marisha Pessl

Night Film, Marisha Pessl's first novel since her 2006 debut, Special Topics in Calamity Physics, is a mystery built around two absences that chip away at the psyche of the novel's narrator, disgraced investigative journalist Scott McGrath. His immediate concern is the apparent suicide of former musical prodigy Ashley Cordova; beneath that lies the even greater enigma of Ashley's father, reclusive film director Stanislas Cordova, whose later films are said to be so disturbing that they're no longer distributed by Hollywood, but have literally gone underground in screenings organized by his cult-like fan base.

Solving Ashley's death is a personal mission for McGrath: his career went on the skids five years ago when he recklessly accused Cordova of committing crimes against children and was sued for slander. So he's determined to prove that he was on to something back then--but is it the story he thought it was? Meanwhile, he picks up two unwanted research assistants: Hopper, a young drug dealer lurking around the construction site where Ashley's body was found, and Nora, a coat-check girl who may have been the last person to see Ashley alive. The two 20-somethings provide a running commentary on each new development (and, frequently, on McGrath's fitness of character).

Pessl builds the dark tone of Night Film to a fever pitch. Ultimately, she has to define the rabbit hole down which McGrath has fallen, and once she's made her choice she sees it through, while readers become deeply invested in the theories they've constructed about the possible solutions, only to realize that Pessl is steering them down a different path. --Ron Hogan, founder of

Discover: A baroque noir puzzle-quest with the eerie vibe of early Stephen King melded with the gloomy fatalism of Colin Harrison.

Random House, $28, hardcover, 9781400067886

Lookaway, Lookaway

by Wilton Barnhardt

Wilton Barnhardt's touching, often laugh-out-loud funny Lookaway, Lookaway probes the history of a clan so mired in Southern tradition even the darkest family secrets cannot knock them from their high-class pedestals. Barnhardt's large, ambitious novel covers everything from date rape to racism to religion, but never makes the characters feel distant or undeveloped. Instead, by shifting among the Johnstons--from Jerilyn, searching for a husband at the University of North Carolina, to Gaston, the somewhat estranged alcoholic brother who has made millions writing Civil War-era romance novels--Barnhardt skillfully reveals each character's motivations along with the skeletons in their closets.

The portrait Barnhardt (Gospel) paints of Southern families and Southern culture is not always pretty. Abortion discussions abound even at the Christmas dinner table; racist comments are made with little thought for their consequences; arguments about religion are rampant. The honest portrayal of all that is lost in the translation between reality and propriety serves only to amplify Barnhardt's underlying respect for Southern culture as a whole, from the legacy of the Civil War to discussions of true North Carolina barbecue. The result is a novel that gives readers not only a fresh take on the classic subject of dysfunctional families, but a refreshing look on the long-lasting role of the South in shaping our culture today. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

Discover: Barnhardt's humorous, touching novel introduces a traditional Southern family with less-than-traditional family secrets.

St. Martin's Press, $25.99, hardcover, 9781250020833

Sweet Thunder

by Ivan Doig

Opening an Ivan Doig novel is like greeting an old friend. His 12th, Sweet Thunder, is another yarn of ordinary Montana folks from the days when the West was still a bit wild, told in his characteristic rich language, from Latin phrases to immigrant slang. Best of all for his fans, it brings back itinerant wordslinger Morris Morgan, introduced in 2007's Whistling Season and last seen in Work Song (2010), leading Butte's miners in the charge against the Anaconda Copper Mining Company.

Readers new to Doig's work won't feel that they've arrived in the middle of a story, but those who've met Morrie before will be happy to see Sweet Thunder opens as he returns to Butte with his wife, Grace, after their honeymoon. Morrie, still haunted by some shady past encounters, reluctantly accepts a job as an editorial writer for Butte's new newspaper, founded to take on the Anaconda-run daily. As he says, he's destined to be a "gazeteer of risky occurrences" in a town choked by "the copper collar."

While Morrie's zest for easing miners' woes and the perils of taunting the powerful Anaconda are sober themes, Doig's rollicking storytelling offers plenty of humor and drama: crotchety librarian Sandy Sanderson has a weakness for rare books (and bootleg Scotch); colorful multi-ethnic immigrants enhance the plot; Grace, while adoring Morrie, has limits to her patience. Ultimately, though, the power of the press and the glory of the written word are Doig's true heroes. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, bookseller, Book Passage, San Francisco

Discover: The master storyteller's 12th novel set in Montana re-introduces feisty wordsmith Morris Morgan, leading the fight for miners' rights against a copper mining giant in 1920s Butte.

Riverhead, $27.95, hardcover, 9781594487347

Mystery & Thriller

Tell No Lies

by Gregg Hurwitz

Gregg Hurwitz has a remarkable habit of outdoing himself with each book he writes. Tell No Lies is his 13th novel, and the traditionally unlucky number has no effect on that string of excellence.

"Everyone's got a con, a pinch of deceit, a green light at the end of the dock. And a dream, however grand or modest." Daniel Brasher's dreams have always been contrary to what his wealthy mother wants for him, but his life with his wife, Cris, makes him happy. Daniel works as a counselor for ex-cons but is leaving to open a private practice. During his final days, he finds an envelope containing a threatening note meant for someone else. When the intended recipient turns up dead and more notes follow, including one addressed to Daniel, he finds his happy life has transformed into a terrifying nightmare. If he doesn't discover the transgression that put him on the killer's hit list, he may never wake up from the nightmare.

This ambitious thriller includes many of Hurwitz's trademarks--humor, social issues and rapid pacing--but strong psychological elements and sense of place take it beyond anything he's done before. He weaves the city of San Francisco into the novel in a way that creates parallels between city and story, while Daniel's profession puts everything through a psychological magnifying glass, prompting readers to examine themselves as well.

Hurwitz is blazing a trail for future crime writers. Tell No Lies is his brightest fire yet. --Jen Forbus of Jen's Book Thoughts

Discover: This psychological thriller should come with its own defibrillator: heart-stopping action, mind-turning themes, all in a typical San Francisco day.

St. Martin's Press, $25.99, hardcover, 9780312625528

Runaway Man

by David Handler

David Handler (the Berger & Mitry Mysteries) writes funny mysteries. His victims are just as dead as the ones in more hard-boiled stories, but Handler makes us laugh as we read the snappy one-liners that keep on coming in novels like Runaway Man.

Benji Golden, a small, baby-faced man of 28, is working with his mom, said to have once been the only Jewish pole dancer in Manhattan, and their noticeably endowed assistant, Rita, at Golden Legal Services, a private detective agency. When a guy arrives at the agency in a limo and wearing a bespoke suit and (Benjy thinks) mink-lined shoes, the trio wonder: "Why us?" Peter Seymour, a partner at a prestigious law firm with access to everyone, has chosen Golden to find Bruce Weiner, a college student who disappeared. He says it's because Benji is so good at finding runaways. Over time, we find out that is not quite the whole story.

The young man is soon found; the complicating factor is that he's dead. Then, a friend of his is murdered and the estranged daughter of a very prominent family jumps out of a high window--or did she have help? Benji is suddenly in the middle of a very dangerous situation--complicated by the fact that he's taken up, in heated fashion, with a kindergarten teacher he met at shul. How he works everything out is plausible, entertaining, amusing and will have you turning pages until there are no more. --Valerie Ryan, Cannon Beach Book Company, Ore.

Discover: Private investigator Benji Golden, charged with finding a runaway, turns up three corpses and a long-held secret before the case is through.

Minotaur, $24.99, hardcover, 9781250011626

Holy Orders

by Benjamin Black

Melancholy Dublin pathologist Quirke returns in Holy Orders, the sixth novel in a series of mystery novels by Benjamin Black (the pen name for Man Booker Prize winner John Banville). Fans of the series will easily slip into the larger plot arc, in which Quirke's daughter, Phoebe, gradually grows closer to him and outwards into her world, despite the tragedy at the center of this story: the body that turns up on Quirke's autopsy table in the opening pages is that of Phoebe's red-headed friend Jimmy Minor.

Quirke teams up with Inspector Hackett to follow the clues from the newspaper where Minor worked, to the priest he was bent on interviewing, to a tinkers' camp outside town. As Quirke continues to combat his alcoholism and possible hallucinations, a previously unknown relative of Jimmy's surfaces and Phoebe will make a surprising discovery about herself. Within the darkness of this tale of murder, she finds dazzling possibility.

The strengths of Black's methodically paced mystery series echo Quirke's own personality traits. The 1950s Dublin setting is murky and depressed; the Catholic Church is over-powerful and corrupt. Quirke wrestles most of all with a feeling of detachment from the living players in his life. He worries that childhood trauma--also at the hands of the church--and his medical career working exclusively with dead clients make him inaccessible to family, friends, and lovers. Phoebe's personal growth threatens to steal the stage in Holy Orders, which will leave Black's readers eager for the next installment in Quirke's sad but engaging story. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: Black's series, set in 1950s Dublin, continues with a gloomy mystery that still offers occasional bright points of light.

Holt, $26, hardcover, 9780805094404

It Happens in the Dark

by Carol O'Connell

Kathy Mallory is beautiful, antisocial and freakishly smart, spotting connections where no one else does. In the 11th Mallory novel, It Happens in the Dark, Carol O'Connell puts her heroine's strange talents to the test with a very peculiar case.

A Broadway play has been struggling to open: first its playwright renounced it, then had his lawyers attempt to shut it down. On opening night, a woman dies during the first act; the next night, there's an apparent suicide.

Could all of this be a coincidence? Mallory and her partner, Riker, don't think so. They start investigating the cast and crew of the play, ranging from pothead stagehands to prima donnas to former A-list actors. They try to shut down the play; but popular demand overwhelms them, so on night three another person dies--and a warning message appears for Mallory.

Now that a murderer is clearly stalking the play--and one with a particular animus against Mallory--the investigation really takes off. Playwrights, critics, actors, and stage fans all fall under the scrutiny of Mallory and Riker.

It Happens in the Dark is a twisted mystery about an even more bizarre play. The strangeness of the play spills over into the real world; making the cops crazy as they try to separate reality from fiction and figure out who is just acting and who had a reason to kill these people. O'Connell's cryptic writing aptly reflects the mysterious nature of the case--leaving the reader guessing as to what will happen next. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

Discover: Truth turns out to be stranger than fiction as a murderer stalks the cast of a Broadway play.

Putnam, $26.95, hardcover, 9780399165399

Science Fiction & Fantasy


by Kelley Armstrong

Kelley Armstrong has developed a reputation over the years for strong heroines and compelling stories. Omens, the first volume in the Cainsville trilogy, does not disappoint. The novel centers around Olivia Taylor Jones, a 20-something heiress who learns from an incautious reporter that she is adopted and her biological parents are convicted serial killers. Suddenly engulfed in scandal, Olivia flees her wealthy family, her fiancé and her life in Chicago, relocating to her birthplace, the sleepy Illinois town of Cainsville.

Omens is an example of the best kind of urban fantasy--the sort that realistically blends the mundane and supernatural and puts as much love into the creation of the commonplace as it does the eldritch. Indeed, the supernatural elements here are for the most part subtle, arguably less crucial than the development of Armstrong's characters. As the name of the series implies, the town of Cainsville is as much a character in this novel as Olivia. Armstrong presents a number of insightful relationships--Olivia's troubled dynamic with her biological parents, her growing assimilation into rural and secretive Cainsville, an understated love interest--that are compelling and ring true. It is a pleasure to watch Olivia transform over the course of the novel as her circumstances and environment change.

Although the languorous pace of Cainsville is not for the restless reader, those willing to make the journey will find themselves enchanted and eager to return. --Katie Montgomery, book nerd

Discover: Memorable characters, a vivid sense of place and masterful storytelling mark Armstrong's latest paranormal series.

Dutton, $26.95, hardcover, 9780525953043

The Bone Season

by Samantha Shannon

In the dystopian England of 2059, the population has splintered into those with clairvoyant powers and those without, with "voyants" ruthlessly hunted and exterminated by the normals in power. Voyants who escape detection, like Paige Mahoney, are forced to earn their keep as members of violent crime syndicates or face capture and euthanasia. Samantha Shannon's The Bone Season (the first in an ambitious series of seven novels) follows 19-year-old Paige as she struggles against an oppressive system for survival and freedom.

The Bone Season has already garnered Shannon comparisons to J.K. Rowling and Suzanne Collins, among others. In many ways, the novel lives up to the hype. While the premise of a dystopian society that exploits supernatural powers is certainly not a new one, Shannon peppers her story with unexpected plot twists (including a major one very early in). As a narrator, Paige is entertaining and accessible; her sardonic observations often evoke an almost noir sensibility.

A forewarning: though The Bone Season will certainly win over fans of supernatural YA fiction, light science fiction and romance, it may not appeal to all. The plot, while engaging, sometimes beggars the belief of the jaded reader, and Paige's voice can wear thin as the novel progresses. However, the denouement hints at interesting developments throughout the rest of the series--if this debut is any indication of things to come, Shannon will certainly be an author to watch. --Katie Montgomery, book nerd

Discover: A young author's new addition to the pantheon of dystopian fiction (mostly) lives up to its hype.

Bloomsbury, $24, hardcover, 9781620401392

Biography & Memoir

Confessions of a Latter-day Virgin: A Memoir

by Nicole Hardy

Nicole Hardy never meant to rebel. Throughout her childhood, she assumed she would grow up, meet a suitable boy, marry young and have children like any girl raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). Her church and family expected Nicole to consider all of her education and experiences as preparation for the eventuality of marriage and motherhood, a Mormon woman's highest calling. But as year after year passed without Mr. Right making his appearance, Nicole began to wonder: If God had destined her for marriage and motherhood, where was her husband-to-be? Why didn't she feel any desire to bear children? Why did her heart tell her she could only find fulfillment by pursuing a writing career? Most importantly, could she reconcile her faith with her true self?

Warm and straightforward, Hardy recounts her struggle to follow a path that continually presented her with dead ends. In the process, she gives readers an inside look at LDS culture and the frustration Mormon singles can face. Determined not to disappoint God or her parents, she faced years of sex-free dating and cutthroat competition from other women before aging out of the "singles ward" and into the pity and occasional contempt of her married LDS peers. Her story is one of quiet bravery, never bitterness, as her life experiences and the support of newfound friends finally give her the strength to seek the life she truly wants. --Jaclyn Fulwood, youth services manager at Latah County Library District and blogger at Infinite Reads

Discover: The unflinchingly honest memoir of one woman's struggle to reconcile the demands of her Mormon faith with her inner self.

Hyperion, $24.99, hardcover, 9781401341862

Children's & Young Adult

Warning: Do Not Open This Book!

by Adam Lehrhaupt, illus. by Matthew Forsythe

In the spirit of Press Here and other inventive books that play with the possibilities of the page turn, this debut from author Adam Lehrhaupt unequivocally warns children to close this book and turn away from it. So... kids won't be able to resist, just to see what their act of rebellion yields.

"Maybe you should put this book back. You don't want to let the monkeys out," the book begins. Matthew Forsythe (My Name Is Elizabeth!) draws a wide-eyed monkey on a sign that says "DANGER." When children inevitably turn the page, they are greeted with, "Why did you turn the page? Didn't you see the warning? Stay on this page. You are safe here." Signs that read "Stop," "Go Back" and "U-Turn," plus barbed wire and orange pylons, suggest that readers proceed at their own risk. On the next page, a monkey appears from stage right ("Oh, no. Now you've done it"); others follow. They parade onto the pages wielding paint cans, tubes of paint and brushes ("What a mess! Naughty monkeys"). While the story warns against impending doom, children will delight in the consequences of each page turn; the monkeys' artwork results in a lush and tropical landscape of gold, forest green and burnt orange. Everything halts due to the entrance of a predator, and it's up to readers to save the naughty monkeys.

Lehrhaupt delivers a brilliant conclusion to this hilarious romp, which involves readers to the very end. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A picture book that warns children to walk away from it--ensuring they'll eagerly turn every page to view the consequences.

Paula Wiseman/S&S, $16.99, hardcover, 40p., ages 4-8, 9781442435827

The Infinite Moment of Us

by Lauren Myracle

Two mature recent high school graduates fall in love and bring out the best in each other in Lauren Myracle's (ttyl; Shine) thoughtful exploration of an intimate relationship.

Wren Gray is nearly perfect--smart, attractive, winner of a scholarship to nearby Emory, where her mother works, and a hospital volunteer in preparation for a medical career. After years of foster homes, Charlie Parker now lives with a wonderful family, is learning a carpentry trade and is college-bound. His Achilles heel is former girlfriend Starrla Pettit, who's needy, often cruel and always shows up at the wrong times. Wren and Charlie's first prolonged conversation occurs when Charlie hurts his hand severely enough to land in the E.R., where Wren is volunteering.

Myracle credibly chronicles the missteps and the coming together of two likable, intelligent people who learn to love and trust each other. She alternates between their third-person points of view and nails male-female dynamics. For Wren, intimacy means confiding in Charlie; she tells him how trapped she feels by her parents. Charlie fears losing Wren if he describes his early childhood experiences; he'd rather show her how he feels. This causes inevitable rocky moments (mostly involving Starrla) and leads to a climax that some readers may find melodramatic. But the relationship between Wren and Charlie always remains realistic and involving. Their responsibility about their sexual intimacy (Wren goes on the pill and insists Charlie be tested) models the importance of communication in all aspects of any healthy relationship--emotional, spiritual and physical. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: An insightful novel about two mature high school graduates, Wren and Charlie, who enter an intimate relationship.

Amulet, $17.95, hardcover, 336p., ages 14-up, 9781419707933


Author Buzz

The Wild Card
(A Rivers Wilde Novella)

by Dylan Allen

Dear Reader,

"What if…?" is my favorite question to ask myself when I start writing a book. The answers that Cassie and Leo's story delivered were unexpected and heartwarming. Adding a heist and serendipitous reunion into the mix took my tried and true favorite trope, second chance, to a whole new level. Theirs is a classic case of right person/wrong time. Whether you're a Rivers Wilde newbie or expert, watching them overcome some pretty steep hurdles is a wild, thrilling, feel good ride.

I hope you love every word. xo,

Available on Kobo

AuthorBuzz: 1001 Dark Nights Press: The Wild Card (A Rivers Wilde Novella) by Dylan Allen

1001 Dark Nights Press

Pub Date: 
January 16, 2024


List Price: 
$2.99 e-book


Kids Buzz

Where Do Ocean Creatures Sleep at Night

by Steven J. Simmons and Clifford R. Simmons
illus. by Ruth E. Harper

Dear Reader,

My newest and latest in a three-book series, Where Do Ocean Creatures Sleep at Night?, came from seeing the fascination so many kids have with the ocean and ocean creatures. How do a whale, octopus, dolphin, clownfish, great white shark and so many other undersea animals get their rest?

After all, they need to get their rest and sleep, just like all of us. So dive into this rhyming STEM picture book to encourage a love of nature and the environment--and under the covers for a great bedtime story.

"What do animals do when children are sleeping? Featuring creatures young children are likely to know, this book has the answers....[and] unusual nighttime facts are a plus." --Kirkus

Steve Simmons

KidsBuzz: Charlesbridge: Where Do Ocean Creatures Sleep at Night? by Steven J. Simmons and Clifford R. Simmons, illus. by Ruth E. Harper


Pub Date: 
April 16, 2024


Type of Book:
Picture Book

Age Range: 

List Price: 
$17.99 Hardcover

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