Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Poisoned Pen Press: That Night in the Library by Eva Jurczyk

From My Shelf

The Ongoing Cold War

Father's Day is soon. To save you last-minute gift shopping, we offer a suggestion--the sophisticated, thrilling espionage novels by former CIA officer Jason Matthews: Red Sparrow (Scribner, paperback) and Palace of Treason (Scribner, hardcover), wherein he heats up the Cold War with sparring, skullduggery and passion between Nathaniel Nash, a young CIA officer, and Dominika Egorova, a Russian intelligence officer. Did you think the Cold War was over? Not so, says Matthews:

Jason Matthews

"I'll quote Vladimir Putin himself who said, 'Russia never lost the Cold War... because it never ended.' In the summer of 2010, eleven Russian deep-cover intelligence officers were arrested by the FBI. Some of them had lived in the U.S.--as Americans, maybe your neighbors--for a decade, trying to develop access to secrets. Six months ago, a Russian banker was arrested for trying to infiltrate the NYSE to chart the high-volume electronic transfer network. It was probably contingency casing for a future cyber-attack. [Espionage] hasn't changed in 2,000 years. The new Cold War is humming along nicely."

Matthews has a wicked wit, unexpected in a spy thriller. He looks "into a world a lot of people don't know exists. There are a lot of spy novels, but few authors have actually lived the Life. Simply put, espionage is the process of finding a human (foreign) source, recruiting them to spy for you, and stealing secrets undetectably. More than anything, that process involves human interaction, assessing motivations, and exploiting vulnerabilities. A sly sense of humor is one of the attributes I found helpful as I did this work."

Matthews adds a surprising twist to the genre: recipes. "I had always admired authors who wrote passionately about food in their novels. Len Deighton is a good example. I thought it would be different (and maybe a little provocative) to include an elliptical recipe at the end of each chapter, many of which I have tried myself. Blending descriptions of interesting foreign food into the plot just takes a little planning." Try the Imam Biyaldi (stuffed eggplant). Delectable. --Marilyn Dahl, editor, Shelf Awareness for Readers

The Writer's Life

Kevin Cook: It's How You Share the Game

photo: Pamela Marin

Son of celebrated screwball pitcher Art Cook, Kevin Cook is former senior editor at Sports Illustrated and has written several books, including Titanic Thompson: The Man Who Bet on Everything, Tommy's Honor: The Story of Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris, Golf's Founding Father and Son and Kitty Genovese: The Murder, the Bystanders, the Crime that Changed America.

The Dad Report: Fathers, Sons and Baseball Families (W.W. Norton) takes a look at the generational effect in baseball, focusing on the fathers, sons and sometimes grandsons who play the game in the minor and major leagues. The title comes from the Cook men's phone conversations as Kevin traveled the country writing for Sports Illustrated, calling home to tell his dad he loved him the best way they knew how: with stories of baseball.

You've been writing about sports for a long time.

Pretty close to forever. Part of it goes back to my own youth. I wound up not being the ball player that my dad was. It makes you kind of value the game, I think, over the years of covering ballplayers and seeing all the connections that you run through, especially baseball, with its long and well-documented history.

One thing I found with ballplayers is so often they like to talk about their dads. That's the guy who taught them the game. Those are the fondest memories they have before the game became a business. That's really where the book came from: just finding out how many ballplayers like to talk about their own dads.

You have several chapters about your own father, Art Cook.

Yes. He was a very good ballplayer. He pitched and got as high as Double-A ball before he hurt his arm. He entered some footnotes to baseball history. He gave up a home run to Reds' slugger Ted Kluszewski, that Dad always told me is still in the air to this day. He had funny stories, like he had one finger that he could bend all the way back because it had been just ruined by a line drive many years before. It didn't occur to me until years later to ask what had happened on that play. He remembered that he had grabbed the ball and thrown the guy out before he left the game.

That's a really specific memory. How many plays did he actually participate in? How does he remember the details so well?

Thousands and thousands. That's the funny thing that you run into with ballplayers, both pitchers and hitters. There are hitters who remember every at-bat of their whole careers. There are some very good hitters who take notes--"I want to remember this pitcher and how he pitches me."

There are guys like Bret Boone, who I spoke to--he was of the three-generation Boone family. His dad, Bob, was a fine catcher for the Phillies, and Grandpa Ray was a fine player and a scout. Bret Boone remembers all of his at-bats, and he could still tell you who owned him and who he managed to hit pretty hard. I think they are vivid memories for so many of us if we're lucky enough to spend a little time on the field.

Did the chapters of the book originate as proposals for magazines or were they all for this book?

They were all for this book. One of them came from my experiences working from magazines, like chasing Barry Bonds around for a story. I spent some time with Michael Jordan for a piece, but the stuff in the book is not in the magazine story. The funny thing is when we got done talking with Jordan for a basketball story, we found out what he really liked talking about was baseball. His brief career with the Birmingham Barons is often remembered as a flop and a failure when, in fact, here's a guy who hadn't played ball since high school, had never faced a professional pitch, who went straight to Double-A and batted .202 for his season. It wasn't a failure, and that's also, as it turns out, his way to really honor the memory of his father, who liked baseball better than basketball.

Right. The Michael Jordan of baseball isn't remembered as a good ball player.

That's how it's remembered, and it really kind of enters popular memory that he was so bad. In fact, I'd like to see sports writers of my generation go out there and face some Double-A pitching and hit .202. It wouldn't happen.

You are able to humanize these players, including guys like [steroid user] Barry Bonds. What's your take on that?

I think one thing that's really not understood about Barry Bonds is that he can be a very moody character. He blew me off a few times, and then we had a great time playing golf. I think it's almost tragic that the guy was one of the two or three or four best hitters of all time, and he won't be remembered that way. Out of jealousy of an inferior hitter like Mark McGwire, Barry went to the dark side. It's a shame, because as he talked to me, the one thing that meant a lot to him was the Hall of Fame; if he got something of his in the Hall of Fame, it would honor his family, and his father, Bobby Bonds.

I am one of those guys who didn't have a great deal to talk about with his father for years. We wouldn't talk about religion or the weather or politics, but we found that we could always talk baseball. Even living far apart, we'd have these long phone calls just about what was going on in baseball.

I wound up doing the same thing with my son, with whom I don't talk politics or religion or things like that. We talk baseball, and we still call it the Dad Report. One project that was a part of this book was to go back to where my dad pitched, and his grandfather, and finding a ball field--the diamond itself is still there--and throw the ball around to call up the echoes of Art Cook's playing days.

What's the appeal of baseball? Why is it so enduring?

It rewards scrutiny. The more attention you pay to it, the more interesting it gets. I'm often asked, "What's your favorite team?" I've never had a favorite team. I always just want to see a good ball game. It's the guys who you choose to admire, who to me are gamers. They're maybe not the most talented guys, but they're the guys who fight the hardest to play well and keep the tradition going.

Yeah, it's a frightfully competitive and grueling game. 162 games just wears you down. I think it takes a great deal of character to summon the strength, focus and attention that the baseball season demands. They wound up being the guys that I admire. I admire Ike Davis for keeping his chin up. Sometimes he'll hit two 450-feet homers in a game, and then go homer-less for two months. That's a hard thing to get used to. You call your dad and he says, "Hey, I got bought twice, traded four times, and released."

I watch Yankee games with my daughter. I never imagined having Yankees fans for kids, but we moved to New York, and that's what they became. The one thing that means a great deal to me is just talking about it. There's nothing better than watching a game and talking about who gave a lot of extra effort on that play, even if he didn't make the play.

It's the underdog story that keeps it fresh for you.

I think it is. The one thing I really came to believe, to paraphrase an old baseball saying, is that it's not whether your team wins or loses that counts, it's how you share the game. In some ways, the game is almost a pretext. It may be a lousy game today, but the fact that you're there together with people you love to talk baseball with, that's what really counts to me. --Rob LeFebvre, freelance writer and editor

Book Candy

26 Reasons to Read More; Mockingbird Test

Buzzfeed's "26 reasons why you need to read more" includes: "You have nothing to lose. (Except ignorance.)"


"What is in Dolphus Raymond's brown paper bag?" Test your knowledge of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird with the Guardian's pop quiz. (And be ready for the arrival of Go Set a Watchman, which will be published July 14.)


The Huffington Post suggested "21 books from the last 5 years that every woman should read."


"You realize everyone has problems." That was just one of "11 ways reading Judy Blume changes you, because the author's books impart some major life lessons," Bustle noted.


"Don't worry about the bits you can't understand. Sit back and allow the words to wash around you, like music." Stylist magazine showcased "the greatest wisdom from Roald Dahl books for all moments in grown-up life."

Book Review


Our Souls at Night

by Kent Haruf

Kent Haruf's final novel begins with a startling proposition: a 70-year-old widow approaches a widower who lives down the street in the small town of Holt, Colo., and asks whether he would "consider coming to my house sometimes to sleep with me." Though it's hardly a subtle opening, Haruf's not looking to shock or titillate. Instead, in a novel that shares with its predecessors Plainsong, Eventide and Benediction not only its setting, but also a meditative mood and acute sensitivity to character, Haruf has simply and effectively let us know we are in the hands of a master storyteller.

In the late-night conversations that ensue, Louis Waters and Addie Moore quietly exchange the stories of losses and regrets that have marred their lives. And yet, as Haruf portrays them here, they are good and generous people who understand why, in spite of these tragedies and disappointments, they must persevere.

Haruf's ability to evoke the people and atmosphere of Colorado's High Plains in a few well-chosen words of description or a brief scene remains undiminished. And the resolution of the novel's plot, with the pain it inflicts on characters readers have come to care about deeply, has all the hallmarks of emotional truth.

One has a sense reading this novel that, had he lived, Kent Haruf could have drawn from an inexhaustible well of material to continue producing beautiful Holt novels. That there will be no more enhances our appreciation of his talent and our gratitude for the gift of these unforgettable stories. --Harvey Freedenberg, attorney and freelance reviewer

Discover: The story of a man and woman whose companionship provides a bulwark against loss in old age.

Knopf, $24, hardcover, 9781101875896

The Sage of Waterloo

by Leona Francombe

In a debut filled with history and whimsy, Leona Francombe retells the Battle of Waterloo through the lore and bedtime stories of a modern-day family living on the battle site at Hougoumont Farm. This clan is set apart from most historians by one notable factor--they are rabbits.

Unlike most of his twitchy-nosed relatives in the Hougoumont hutch, William has white fur. Despite his appearance, William never feels out of place among the other rabbits. Like them, he loves to hear stories from his wise grandmother, Old Lavender, matriarch of the warren, who acts as repository for the rabbits' knowledge of the great battle. She divides her time between silent contemplation, seeming to exist between the physical world and a spirit realm the others cannot join, and reminding her progeny of details from the long-ago battle. While her Waterloo retellings are for the entire hutch, William is her special protégé, and she encourages him to stretch his senses toward the echoes of the past and the ghosts of war.

Although the narrative occasionally veers into territory as charming as that of a children's story, such as William's friendship with a magpie, Francombe never loses the thread of examining the profound impact of Waterloo. She also does not miss the opportunity to point out how blithely humans sip coffee on the ground where thousands once died in bloody combat. Part historical chronicle, part adventure story, Francombe's unconventional debut hops along in crowd-pleasing fashion. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Discover: The Battle of Waterloo as narrated by a rabbit living on the farm where the deciding conflict occurred.

W.W. Norton, $22.95, hardcover, 9780393246919

Saint Mazie

by Jami Attenberg

Saint Mazie by Jami Attenberg (The Middlesteins) brings to life a true historical figure--movie theater proprietress Mazie Phillips--as a fully realized, full-color, unlikely hero.

They called her Queen of the Bowery. She was bottle-blonde, busty, husky-voiced and crude; she was a self-described good-time girl with a gruff manner, partial to men and drink. But she was also a humanitarian, though she would never have admitted it. Attenberg's inspired story takes the form of a historian's fictional collection of material: entries from Mazie's diary, excerpts from a draft of her unpublished autobiography and interviews with descendants, acquaintances and local experts on New York City's past.

Mazie begins her diary on her 10th birthday, in 1907. She is new to New York City; her older sister, Rosie, has rescued her and the youngest, Jeanie, from domestic violence in Boston. The three sisters form an odd but lasting household with Rosie's husband, Louis, beloved of all three. From this day forward, Mazie remains in the city, drinking through Prohibition, assisting the wounded at the Wall Street bombing in 1920, and pinching pennies to help her neighbors through the aftermath of the 1929 crash.

Saint Mazie's structure establishes an evocative tone of both ancient history and immediacy. Mazie's love affairs and friendships are wrought with sensitivity and nuance; Nadine, the barely-named researcher behind the story, surfaces with rare, delightful hints to her own personality and motivations. Mazie's life is compelling, heartrending and irresistibly paced, but it is Attenberg's subtle storytelling decisions that make this novel unforgettable. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: The fictional portrait of a real-life, rough-edged, hard-drinking "Mother Teresa" on New York City's tough streets in the early 20th century.

Grand Central, $25, hardcover, 9781455599899

Food & Wine

The Geeky Chef: Real Life Recipes for Your Favorite Fantasy Foods--Unofficial Recipes from Doctor Who, Game of Thrones, Harry Potter and More

by Cassandra Reeder

Video gamer, lifetime geek and wickedly brilliant home cook Cassandra Reeder is the chief architect behind the Geeky Chef blog. Her obsession with science fiction and fantasy's food began while she played the Legend of Zelda. She was inspired by ramen and cereal fatigue to create Yeto's Superb Soup, a thick and hearty broth of fish, pumpkin and goat cheese. This led her to explore and dissect the food and ingredients in science fiction and fantasy. The Geeky Chef is a fun-filled compilation of more than 60 recipes culled from movies, television shows, video games and books.

Reeder includes humorously descriptive and replicable recipes for Red Potion (Legend of Zelda, Minecraft and World of Warcraft), potent Romulan Ale (a 151-proof rum stunner inspired by Star Trek), Butter Beer (Harry Potter) and Mushroom Cakes (Super Mario Bros.). She reimagines lembas (Lord of the Rings) as a floral and citrusy bar, "soft, lightly sweet and very delicate so it's somewhat of a surprise when you start to feel like you just ate Thanksgiving dinner." Reeder's vision of lamb stew with plums (The Hunger Games) offers the "perfect meal after a long day of terror and fighting for your life." Under desserts, chocolate salty balls (South Park) and old school Turkish Delight (Narnia) are among some of the more memorable creations.

Reeder's recipes are personal and delivered with a wink. "As a little girl I always expected that one day adventure would happen," she writes. Indeed, Reeder's kitchen wizardry will inspire many Jedi, dragon riders and time travelers to boldly go... to the kitchen. --Nancy Powell, freelance writer and technical consultant

Discover: Science fiction and fantasy's best dishes made real by diehard fan and geeky chef Cassandra Reeder.

Race Point Publishing, $21.99, paperback, 9781631060496

Biography & Memoir

The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings: J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, and Charles Williams

by Philip Zaleski, Carol Zaleski

They were a group of precocious, Christian professors at Oxford in the 1930s who called themselves the Inklings. Its members had "nostalgia for things medieval and archaic," and they met in their rooms or a local pub to discuss literature, philosophy and to read aloud from works in progress. Their impact on modern literature was immense, and in the magisterial The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings, Philip and Carol Zaleski (Prayer: A History) show in exquisite detail how these young writers evolved, influenced each other and went on to write some of the most popular books of the 20th century.

The four main Inklings were J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Owen Barfield and Charles Williams. The group's "great hope was to restore Western culture to its religious roots, to unleash the powers of the imagination." Millions of readers know Tolkien's work; shortly after joining the Inklings in 1930, he wrote The Hobbit. C.S. Lewis spurred a Christian awakening and caused heated discussions as he read from what would become The Screwtape Letters. Charles Williams became a regular member of the group when he arrived from London, and was editor of Oxford University Press. Owen Barfield was the least known, but his book Poetic Diction made a strong impression on Tolkien.

The Zaleskis note that feminist critic Germaine Greer feared Tolkien would become "the most influential writer of the twentieth century." But as the authors beautifully demonstrate in this virtuoso book, the Inklings were instrumental in a "revitalization of Christian intellectual and imaginative life" while showing everyone the importance of a good story. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

Discover: An all-encompassing, impeccably researched and beautifully written history of one of the most important writing groups of all time.

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $35, hardcover, 9780374154097


Jacksonland: President Andrew Jackson, Cherokee Chief John Ross and a Great American Land Grab

by Steve Inskeep

Steve Inskeep's second book, Jacksonland: President Andrew Jackson, Cherokee Chief John Ross and a Great American Land Grab, focuses on the relationship between the leadership of the Cherokee tribes and the U.S. government under President Andrew Jackson that led to the Trail of Tears. NPR anchor Inskeep (Instant City) depicts two men from opposing cultural poles as political adversaries, forcing each other to make unpopular decisions.

In the 1830s, the United States was still defining itself. The loudest voices were often the southern states that surrounded Native American regions. As the U.S. grew, the Cherokee Nation, led by Chief John Ross, responded by establishing its own representative government in order to make treaties more transparent and democratic. But Inskeep shows that Ross's plan created rifts within both the Cherokee Nation and the U.S. government.

Jackson and Ross pushed the ethical boundaries of their own constitutions for what they believed was the good of their people. While Ross struggled inside the Cherokee Nation to maintain a unified government, Jackson fought in the halls of Washington to draw divisive legislation favoring the southern states in treaties regarding Cherokee land. Jackson manipulated Ross's government into ever more land concessions. The harder Ross fought, the less his people trusted him, while the manipulative Jackson became more and more a political rogue.

The collective American consciousness has since come to consider the Cherokees as victims of the United States' inevitable expansion. But Inskeep shows that both nations were instrumental in shaping the other. --Josh Potter

Discover: A new angle on Andrew Jackson and the treatment of the Cherokees by one of journalism's most trusted and experienced storytellers.

Penguin Press, $29.95, hardcover, 9781594205569

Essays & Criticism

The Great Detective: The Amazing Rise and Immortal Life of Sherlock Holmes

by Zach Dundas

More than 120 years after his debut in A Study in Scarlet, Sherlock Holmes is a permanent cultural fixture: archetypal literary hero, perennial movie and television star (most recently in Cumberbatchian and Millerian form). With or without deerstalker hat and pipe--but always with matchless observational skills and a Dr. Watson at his elbow--Holmes is everywhere, and he's never been more popular. Journalist Zach Dundas, a longtime Holmes fanatic, takes a deep dive into the Sherlockian universe in his second book, The Great Detective.

Dundas (The Renegade Sportsman) weaves fascinating parallel histories of Holmes as literary creation, Holmes as broader cultural phenomenon, and the character's larger-than-life creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Dundas traces the evolution of the Sherlock canon and its offshoots, from serialized short stories to novels to film and television--and eventually to fanfiction, parody and pastiche. He also chronicles his own past and present forays into Sherlockiana, attending fan conventions and dragging his wife and son to explore fog-draped Dartmoor (setting of The Hound of the Baskervilles). Along the way, he muses on the traits that make Holmes at once a man of his time and an infinitely adaptable character.

Calling the Holmesian myth "the ultimate Lego set for imaginative minds," Dundas explores ways in which writers, actors and fans have followed "the impulse to re-create, remix, remodel, subvert, and generally tinker with Sherlock Holmes." Incisive, well-informed and slyly witty (like Holmes himself), Dundas's book provides entertaining and irrefutable evidence that the game is still--and is likely to remain--afoot. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: A rollicking, informative history of the meteoric rise and enduring appeal of Sherlock Holmes.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26, hardcover, 9780544214040

Psychology & Self-Help

Irrationally Yours: On Missing Socks, Pickup Lines and Other Existential Puzzles

by Dan Ariely, illus. by William Haefeli

In this astute collection of insights into the human condition, behavioral economist Dan Ariely (Predictably Irrational) shares questions originating from his Wall Street Journal advice column, "Ask Ariely." Using a scientific approach, he offers suggestions to societal inquiries such as, "What's the best way to get people to stop smoking?" He provides logical, dispassionate opinions about emotional situations--"My wife and I are... debating whether or not to have kids. Any advice?"--and even tackles issues as lofty as whether free will exists.

Ariely often adds a humorous or sarcastic spin to his responses. When explaining how best to ensure that Americans are financially prepared for retirement, he suggests either saving money at a young age or getting people to die young: "By allowing citizens to smoke. By subsidizing sugary and fatty foods. By limiting access to preventative health care, etc.... it seems like we're already doing the most we can on this front." But his shrewd advice and observations can also be delivered with genuine earnestness. Spelling out the lesson he hopes readers take away from a response, Ariely says, "Direct contact with other people... causes us to feel, empathize, and act with more care and compassion. And the big question is how to get our politicians, bankers, CEOs... [to] feel the consequences of their decisions and actions."

Because of its format, Irrationally Yours lends itself perfectly to short reading sessions. However, the wide spectrum of topics and Ariely's unpredictable responses makes each page an alluring gem, so readers may have difficulty stopping, but they certainly won't have trouble finding nuggets of wisdom to take away. --Jen Forbus of Jen's Book Thoughts

Discover: A Wall Street Journal advice columnist uses social science to respond to questions people have about their experiences, challenges and decisions.

Harper Perennial, $15.99, paperback, 9780062379993

Travel Literature

Skyfaring: A Journey with a Pilot

by Mark Vanhoenacker

Mark Vanhoenacker always wanted to be a pilot. After a few years working in the business world, he decided that he would fulfill his childhood dream. He went to flight school and then began piloting a British Airways Airbus before moving up to the Boeing 747. Skyfaring is his maiden effort as a writer, and if he flies as well as he writes, he's a darn good pilot.

His book is divided into nine sections, each a short essay, beginning with "Lift" and ending with "Return." Taking off is his favorite part of a flight. As the lights begin alternating to indicate the approaching end of the runway, "four rivers of power" create nearly a quarter of a million pounds of thrust as they leave land behind and enter the sky. Soon they are traveling at about one mile every seven seconds.

In "Place," he ruminates over the concept of place-lag: "our jet-age displacements over every kind of distance" result in "the inability of our deep old sense of place to keep up with our airplanes." In "Machine," he writes about regaining control of the plane after the autopilot has been shut off. To turn the control column and "watch the horizon tilt like a two-dimensional game board... lifting, banking in response to my hands, is a feeling like nothing else."

Vanhoenacker demystifies the complexities of flight and engages readers with his wit, knowledge and excitement for his profession--a modern farer of the skies. He is the perfect guide, and his book is sure to be a bestseller in airport bookstores all over the world. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

Discover: An insider's tour of what it's like to fly, as told by the pilot of a huge airplane.

Knopf, $25.95, hardcover, 9780385351812

Performing Arts

The Horror of It All: One Moviegoer's Love Affair with Masked Maniacs, Frightened Virgins, and the Living Dead...

by Adam Rockoff

Adam Rockoff knows and loves horror films. He wrote a reference guide to the genre (Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film, 1978–1986, which became a 2006 feature-length documentary), and several produced screenplays (including the 2010 remake of I Spit on Your Grave). Rockoff's autobiographical second book, The Horror of It All, recalls that his generation was the first to have immediate and repeated access to any film thanks to the explosion of videotape movie rental market in the 1980s. His parents owned a local video store, so his ability to acquire popular and obscure horror films was virtually limitless.

A self-confessed "fear junkie," Rockoff writes, "Every new horror film became a test, a game to see how much fear I could handle.... And the more films I watched, the more I fell in love with them." Rockoff's unbridled enthusiasm and encyclopedic knowledge is a winning combination as a tour guide for both fans of the genre and the uninitiated. He's adept at introducing undiscovered but worthy films and isn't afraid to criticize some classics. He is bound to ignite message boards when he levels Alien ("boring") and Halloween ("Friday the 13th is better... or at least as good"), or says Wolfen is a superior werewolf film to An American Werewolf in London or The Howling.

In 1980, Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert spent a full episode of their show, Sneak Previews, criticizing slasher films, but Rockoff refutes their accusations in one illuminating chapter. The Horror of It All reevaluates a stigmatized genre and thrills with each page. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant

Discover: Even non-horror movie fans will be won over by Rockoff's enthusiastic and impassioned defense of horror films.

Scribner, $24, hardcover, 9781476761831

Children's & Young Adult

The Last Leaves Falling

by Sarah Benwell

As soon as Sarah Benwell's exquisite debut novel opens, readers know that narrator Sora, 17, is dying of ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease). What makes Sora's journey so all-consuming for readers is the way he grapples with the question of how to live the days he has left. In many ways, Sora's story is a guide to living a meaningful life, and the importance of family, friendship and self-knowledge.

Benwell crafts her novel with the spareness of haiku. She uses Sora's observations of nature to convey his feelings in a way that never seems ponderous. The book takes place in the fall, when warm days grow rare and daylight shorter. Sora views the Kyoto park he loves from the bridge, watching for his favorite koi, Emperor Fish; its elusiveness and appearances reflect Sora's fluctuations in moods, his good and bad days. In a chat room, he meets Mai and Kaito, and the trio's resolve to be completely honest takes their friendship to ever deeper levels. Readers see Dr. Kobayashi, Sora's counselor, through Sora's eyes but will perceive in ways Sora cannot how carefully she weighs her words. She supports Sora, while still being realistic and compassionate. Sora, in turn, finds compassion for his mother, on whom he must rely to a greater degree each day. He resents his loss of independence but learns to accept her help with grace.

Again, like a haiku, the author closes with a beautiful surprise, one that lifts Mai, Kaito and Sora--and readers--to a new level of understanding. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: An exquisite debut YA novel that serves as a guide to living a meaningful life, and the importance of family, friendship and self-knowledge.

Simon & Schuster, $17.99, hardcover, 368p., ages 14-up, 9781481430654

Tiger Boy

by Mitali Perkins, illus. by Jamie Hogan

Following up on her illuminating book set on the Burma-Thai border, Bamboo People, Mitali Perkins now takes readers to the Sunderbans of West Bengal, where young Neel must similarly stand up for what's right even when the adults around him seem to be betraying the moral code of his village.

Neel loves life on his island, feeding the goats, and enjoying meals prepared by his sister, Rupa, and his mother, and long conversations with his father. But Headmaster sees in Neel great promise and wants the boy to compete for a scholarship that would take him to Kolkata, away from the place and people he loves best. When wealthy Mr. Gupta begins to tear down his beloved sundari trees, and threatens to hunt down and sell one of the rare Bengali tiger cubs on the black market, Neel realizes that his gifts could help him preserve the way of life he cherishes--even if that means leaving for a time. Perkins once again lays out the hard choices for Neel, especially when he must stand up to his beloved father.

Perkins brings the island to life through its sounds, smells, foods and people. Jamie Hogan's charcoal drawings help readers picture the exotic setting, and the pictures of Neel and the tiger cub make palpable the bond between them. A glossary and list of organizations working to support the wildlife and people of the Sunderbans round out this enlightening novel. Perkins shows young readers that their actions can force adults to confront their own conscience. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A boy rescues a Bengali tiger cub, which leads to self-realization.

Charlesbridge, $14.95, hardcover, 144p., ages 8-12, 9781580896603


Author Buzz

The Rom-Commers

by Katherine Center

Dear Reader,

Famous screenwriter Charlie Yates wrote a romantic comedy screenplay--and it’s terrible. Aspiring writer Emma Wheeler just got hired to fix it. But Charlie doesn't want anyone rewriting his work--least of all a "failed nobody," and Emma can't support a guy who doesn't even like rom-coms, adding another bad one to the pantheon. So what choice does Emma have but to stand up for herself, and rom-coms, and love in general--and, in the process, to show her nemesis-slash-writing-hero exactly how to fall stupidly, crazily, perfectly in love?

Email with the subject line "The Rom-Commers sweepstakes" for a chance to win one of five copies.

Katherine Center

Buy now and support your local indie bookstore>

AuthorBuzz: St. Martin's Press: The Rom-Commers by Katherine Center

St. Martin's Press

Pub Date: 
June 11, 2024


List Price: 
$29.00 Hardcover

Blue Moon
(A Smoke and Mirrors Novella)

by Skye Warren

Dear Reader,

When I started writing Ringmaster Emerson Durand in the Smoke and Mirrors series, I knew he would get his own story. Insouciant. Charming. And he's actually the villain of that book. So can he be redeemed? It's the question I'm always working to answer in my books.

If he's going to deserve his own happily ever after, it's going to be a journey. A scorching hot journey!

That's what BLUE MOON illuminates. A dangerous ringmaster claims his rebellious acrobat for a sensual show you cannot miss.

Skye Warren

Available on Kobo

AuthorBuzz: 1001 Dark Nights Press: Blue Moon (A Smoke and Mirrors Novella) by Skye Warren

1001 Dark Nights Press

Pub Date: 
March 12, 2024


List Price: 
$2.99 e-book

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