Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, June 3, 2016

Zibby Books: The Last Love Note by Emma Grey

From My Shelf

Sherman Alexie: Writing About Contemporary Kids

One surprise for Sherman Alexie in his hugely successful foray into children's and YA literature is that everyone in the field is so nice: "It's an exponentially kinder professional world, so I really enjoy the people," he says. "The writers, the librarians, the booksellers. We're united in our mission to get books to kids. Still, there are egos, but the primary mission of all of us is to get books into the hands of kids. There's something primal about it."

Poet, short story writer, novelist, filmmaker, social satirist and Spokane/Coeur d'Alene Indian, Alexie first catapulted into the world of YA with The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (Little, Brown), which won the 2007 National Book Award for Young People's Literature. His debut picture book, Thunder Boy Jr. (just published by Little, Brown), illustrated by Yuyi Morales, has sparked a constellation of starred reviews.

Alexie wants to write about contemporary kids. "I'm not interested in talking animals," he says. "I'm not interested in telling the story of Running Bear. I'm interested in how Native kids live now." Instead of publishers "cleaning up" and reissuing a classic title that may contain stereotypical images or ideas, he suggests in a recent Shelf interview, "Publish something new, damn it! With the amount of money they're putting into that book they could probably publish five new books!"

The raw, emotionally potent Absolutely True Diary hits home for many young readers: "I've gotten fan letters from rich white private school kids and from the poorest kids on the rez and in the inner city," Alexie says. "And one thing always rings clear: kids feel trapped by their communities' expectations. And then it's hard to become an individual. And in becoming an individual, you're going to get hurt. I think there's something universal about that message." --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Read Shelf Awareness's full interview with Sherman Alexie.

BINC: Read Love Support Campaign

The Writer's Life

Allison Amend: In the Space Between the Lines

photo: Stephanie Pommez

Allison Amend, a graduate of the Iowa Writer's Workshop, is the author of the novels A Nearly Perfect Copy and Stations West, which was a finalist for the 2011 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature and the Oklahoma Book Award. She is also the author of the Independent Publisher's Award-winning story collection Things That Pass for Love. She lives in New York City, where she teaches creative writing. Her latest novel is Enchanted Islands, based on the life of Frances Conway, who lived with her husband, Ainslie, on the Galápagos Islands for several stretches in the 1930s and '40s. Our review is below.

When did you discover Frances Conway, and what about her spoke to you? Did you know you needed to tell this story when you first encountered her?

I discovered Frances through her memoirs. I originally wanted to write about the series of strange disappearances on the Galápagos island of Floreana, but some of the descendants of the people involved are still alive, and Dayna Goldfine and Dan Geller were making a documentary about it, and I felt I wanted more freedom to imagine characters. It was in that period of research, though, that I read Frances's memoirs and immediately fell in love with her voice. She is funny and witty, self-deprecating and actually a talented writer. This was a voice I wanted to attempt to emulate.

What also struck me about her two books is what they didn't say. She was 50-year-old woman married to a man more than 10 years her junior, and in her middle age they decided to go to a deserted island? There was some larger story that she wasn't talking about. It was in the space between the lines that my interest in the story grew.

I had written a full draft of the novel before I went to do research. Frances never mentions in her memoirs that Ainslie has a drinking problem, but I wrote that into the novel. Later, I spoke to the son of someone who knew the couple, who said that the Conways had come to Floreana in part so he could dry out. There are traces of honesty even when we try to hide them.

Have you ever been to the Galápagos?

Yes. My parents took me and my brother when I was just out of high school. It was an amazing trip. During that time I read Floreana, Margret Wittmer's account of the strange goings-on on the island, and I became fascinated with the human history of the islands.

I returned to do research in February 2015 and found the islands much changed. Land-based tourism is in full effect, and the population of the islands has exploded. I saw many more Ecuadoreans taking advantage of their natural park. It's wonderful that the islands have become accessible to those who are non-wealthy, but the increased traffic stresses the islands.

Every superlative everyone has uttered about the utter awesomeness of the Galápagos is true. I urge everyone reading this to visit this spot before tourist degradation destroys it.

Where is the line between fact and fiction? How firm is it? How important is it to you?

Ehhh, line-schmine. I like to say that fiction dwells in the possible, not the probable. Is it possible that Frances and her husband were spying for the U.S. government? Unlikely. But it does seem clear that Ainslie wrote an anonymous feasibility report for the U.S. Navy, and it is rather strange that a mismatched middle-aged couple would play Swiss Family Robinson on a strategically placed island full of Germans just before World War II, so who knows?

If there had been more historical records about Frances and Ainslie, I might have felt more compunction about inventing their lives, but the dearth of facts seemed to me to be a green light.

How much research did you do, and do you find that part of the process enjoyable?

I love to do research, and all of my books have been research-intense. It is one of the most enjoyable parts of writing for me. This may be because I get to procrastinate and call it writing.

I did try to complete a working draft before I started researching so that I would be sure to focus on creating characters rather than writing a Forrest Gump-like series of important events.

I did a lot of my research on the internet, unsurprisingly. There is a fantastic resource on the human history of the islands compiled by John Woram:, which has nearly all the historical documents that exist on the islands. I also did a lot of reading on spying tradecraft in the 1930s, and the role of the Pacific and the Panama Canal in the Second World War. Then there was all that research on Chicago during the turn of the century and San Francisco in the periods between the wars. Oh, and I went to the Roosevelt library and the Allan Hancock collection at the University of Southern California.

I read Frances's memoirs several times, because I wanted her voice in my head. For a while I considered weaving in parts of her memoir, but I decided that would be more of a gimmick than an asset to the novel, so I tried to put the book out of my head and just write from my memory of her voice.

There comes a time, though, when research starts to inhibit imagination instead of spark it, and then it's time to put the research away and just write.

Do you have a favorite character or one you feel closest to?

Well, obviously I spent four years or so with Frances, so I feel like I know her (or my fictionalized version of her) very well. But I have sympathy and fondness for all the characters in the novel.

In what ways is this book different from your previous work?

All of my books are different from each other. One of my biggest pleasures in writing is to try something new--it keeps the writing exciting and challenging. After my last historical novel, I swore I would never write another... but the pull of this story was just too great.

Enchanted Islands was a challenge because I was writing in first person for the first time in a novel. And I was writing from a voice that already existed. I didn't have to match it, but I wanted to be true to its spirit. I was also challenging myself to write a tightly plotted novel, with spies and violence and action. From someone who comes from a literary fiction, character-driven background, highlighting plot is like getting a horse to walk backwards. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

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

Book Candy

Dnqxt?: Book Titles Without Vowels or Spaces

"Can you name the book titles without vowels or spaces?" Mental Floss challenged.


As seen on TV: There have been several "special editions" of Survivor over the years, and Quirk Books pitched a new version: Survivor: Literary Edition, featuring "some of the most capable outdoorsmen and survivalists from the pages of literature."


And in other bookish TV news, the Atlantic considered "The Real Housewives of Jane Austen," noting that "reality television's most popular stars so uncannily resemble the heroines of the 19th-century writer's work."


Author Greg Jackson chose his "top 10 books to make you a better person."


Buzzfeed shared "15 things book nerds are guilty of doing during the summer."


"Make yourself at home in this giant bookshelf," Mental Floss noted.

Great Reads

Rediscover: Alexander Hamilton

The Broadway musical Hamilton, written by and starring Lin-Manuel Miranda, is a radical reimagining of the life of founding father Alexander Hamilton and one of the most successful Broadway shows of all time: it was nominated for 16 Tony Awards, won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, a Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album, received resoundingly rave reviews and is sold out for the foreseeable future. The play even saved Alexander Hamilton's portrait on the $10 bill (Harriet Tubman will replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill instead).

Hamilton is based on the 2004 biography Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, who won the National Book Award for Nonfiction with The House of Morgan: An American Banking Dynasty and the Rise of Modern Finance (1990) and the Pulitzer Prize for Biography with Washington: A Life (2010). Alexander Hamilton is an inspiring profile of a self-taught orphan from the Caribbean rising to first Treasury Secretary of the United States. Chernow was the historical consultant for Hamilton, and his book, a bestseller when it came out, is back in the spotlight thanks to Lin-Manuel Miranda's play. It was last published in 2005 by Penguin Books ($20, 9780143034759). --Tobias Mutter

Book Review


Enchanted Islands

by Allison Amend

Allison Amend's Enchanted Islands is based on the life of Frances Conway, who lived with her husband, Ainslie, on the Galápagos Islands for several stretches in the 1930s and '40s. Aside from her memoirs, which reveal only the day-to-day mechanics of her life, little is known about her. In Amend's imaginative, richly detailed novel, Frances comes from a large, poor family of Polish Jewish immigrants in Duluth, Minn., where her lifelong friendship with a girl named Rosalie begins. The girls are in many ways opposites: Rosalie is from a relatively well-off family of better-established German immigrants; she is coddled, sexually precocious and selfish.

In adulthood, Rosalie marries a wealthy man and has a mansion filled with sweet children. Frances has recently married the tall, handsome, charismatic Ainslie Conway, but it is an arrangement orchestrated by Naval Intelligence, their shared employer. Ainslie is being sent to the Galápagos to keep an eye on suspected German spies, and Franny is part of his cover. "You're not allowed to read this--I'm not even really allowed to write it," begins Enchanted Islands, Franny's fictional third memoir.

The narrative is colorful and sensually bursting. These details are engrossing and lush, while the realities of World War II are recalled in dreamier terms. Amend offers strong, nuanced characters and a potent backdrop. Her prose is lovely without being overbearing, and her dialogue is impeccable, effortlessly evoking the characters' lovable eccentricities and less lovable faults. With a wide-ranging, adventuresome plot and a humbly engaging protagonist, Enchanted Islands is a gorgeous piece of historical fiction. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: A woman with a modest past turns unlikely spy in the Galápagos in this evocative fictionalized history.

Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, $26.95, hardcover, 9780385539067

The Dog That Whispered

by Jim Kraus

A rescued black lab named Thurman is the titular The Dog That Whispered in the continuation of Jim Kraus's (The Dog That Talked to God) fictional series featuring domestic animals that alter human relationships. At 85 years old, Gretna Steele adopts Thurman before learning that her retirement community in Pittsburgh, Pa., does not allow pets. So Gretna hands the dog off to her son, Wilson, a college professor of "nearing-senior-citizen-status," who has lived an insular life for decades, ever since his tour of duty in Vietnam. Wilson grudgingly accepts Thurman, who eerily begins uttering, in growls and barks, responses to Wilson's self-talk--words like "bunkum" and even phrases: "I good at dog. You not good at human." Thurman forces Wilson to question his sanity, examine his conscience and confront the socially isolating aspects of his guilt.

In a parallel story, 20-something actuary Hazel Jamison of Portland, Ore., is packing up her recently deceased mother's belongings when she discovers a picture of her mom--a never-married hippie--with a uniformed soldier. Written on the back of the photograph, in her mother's hand, are the words "Our Wedding." Hazel, who believed she was the byproduct of a short-lived affair, is shocked by the revelation. She cashes in her mother's stocks, quits her job and sets off on a cross-country road trip determined to find out more about the man in the picture. Amid her quest, Wilson and Thurman enter her life.

The power of providence and redemption emerge as undercurrents in another delightful installment in Kraus's inspirational series. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: A rescued black lab helps a troubled veteran confront traumatic war experiences and get on with life.

FaithWords/Hachette, $14.99, paperback, 9781455562565

Grief Is the Thing with Feathers

by Max Porter

Max Porter's Grief Is the Thing with Feathers handles bereavement and the novel format in inventive ways. Scraps of poetry, dialogue and ramblings, with lots of white space, fill just over 100 pages, but this sparse little volume takes on no less than love, loss and art.

Three parts, "A Lick of Night," "Defence of the Nest" and "Permission to Leave," roundly sum up the grieving process. Brief segments are narrated from three characters' perspectives: Dad, Boys and Crow. Mom has recently died, and Dad and two young sons struggle to cope until a special Crow comes along to care for them--in a manner of speaking.

The Crow's voice tends toward the stream-of-consciousness, as a bird's might, but there's no questioning its agency and intelligence. Dad is an eccentric Ted Hughes scholar, struggling to write a book on deadline. Under these influences, Grief Is the Thing with Feathers resembles free verse. The Boys generally speak as "we"; despite the occasional singular, the two brothers are interchangeable. In Porter's poetic bent and unusual usages, "They were in brother with each other." They are nonetheless realistic and childlike; they wonder, when their mother dies, "Where are the fire engines...? Where are the strangers... screaming, flinging bits of emergency glow-in-the-dark equipment at us to try and settle us and save us?"

This is not a novel for children, with its moments of gore and sex, but it is a whimsical and ultimately pleasing perspective on grief, and utterly original. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: A minimalist meditation on loss takes an unusual slim and poetic form.

Graywolf Press, $14, paperback, 9781555977412

Grand Hotel

by Vicki Baum, trans. by Basil Creighton

In 1929, Austrian novelist Vicki Baum (1888-1960) found international success with the publication of Menschen im Hotel ("People at a Hotel"). The English translation, Grand Hotel, became a bestseller in the U.S., a Broadway play and an MGM film (featuring Greta Garbo, John and Lionel Barrymore and Joan Crawford) that won the 1932 Academy Award for Best Picture.

Grand Hotel's nonlinear plot bounces from one hotel room to another, focusing on a half-dozen interconnecting characters spending a few days at Berlin's most expensive lodgings. Grusinskaya is an aging Russian ballet dancer who fears she's getting too old for her profession and realizes that she's neglected her personal life: "She could intoxicate but she could not be intoxicated." Baron von Gaigern is a charming (and penniless) aristocrat who beds Grusinskaya to steal her pearls. And it's no wonder Grusinskaya finds him so intriguing--Gaigern is often so overcome by beautiful things (including fresh flowers and his car's leather upholstery) that he actually licks them. Other guests include Otto Kringelein, a bookkeeper who has cashed in his insurance after learning he has only weeks to live, and Kringelein's ruthless boss, Preysing, who is brokering a shady merger and celebrates with hotel stenographer Flämmchen, who sells her companionship to businessmen.

The author's strength is creating compelling characters with sexual attitudes that feel contemporary. Grand Hotel prefigures Downtown Abbey and Upstairs, Downstairs by examining multiple characters from different classes (both guests and the hotel staff) in a single-setting microcosm of society and lives up to its reputation as a modern classic. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant

Discover: This compelling classic offers deft character studies of different classes intersecting under one roof.

New York Review Books, $16.95, paperback, 9781590179673

Mystery & Thriller

Not Dead Enough

by Warren C. Easley

Warren C. Easley (Matters of Doubt, Dead Float) continues his Cal Claxton series with Not Dead Enough. Cal is enjoying his new life in Oregon. He's starting to make friends, and his law practice is growing, although the suicide of his wife still haunts him.

One of his new friends, Philip Lone Deer, introduces Cal to his cousin Winona. Winona is the granddaughter of a Wasco man named Nelson Queah. Fifty years earlier, Nelson bitterly fought the construction of the Dalles Dam on the Columbia River, because it destroyed the Wasco tribe's traditional salmon fishing grounds. The 1957 night that the dam's floodgates first closed, destroying the Wasco village, also marked the last time that anyone saw Nelson alive.

At the time, biased police officers chalked it up to "another drunk Indian," and didn't do much about his disappearance. But Winona has always been convinced that her grandfather met with foul play, and begs Cal to try to solve Nelson's disappearance. It quickly becomes clear, however, that political tension around Oregon's dams has not eased in the last half-century, and as the bodies start piling up, Cal is worried he's the next target.

With a very likable sleuth, Not Dead Enough is sure to appeal not only to mystery lovers, but also to those interested in Native American history, Oregonian culture and environmental issues like salmon migration. Although Not Dead Enough is the fourth in the series, it can easily read as a standalone, allowing fans of Tony Hillerman or Dana Stabenow to dive right into Cal Claxton's life. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

Discover: A cold case investigation in Oregon quickly turns into a thriller, as a killer stalks lawyer Cal Claxton.

Poisoned Pen Press, $26.95, hardcover, 9781464206139

Food & Wine

Deceptive Desserts: A Lady's Guide to Baking Bad

by Christine McConnell

In 2012, baking and Internet sensation Christine McConnell had never made a cake. Like many people, she enjoyed looking at beautiful confections posted online, and she decided to master the skills required to make them by watching YouTube tutorials and trying her hand at baking. In Deceptive Desserts: A Lady's Guide to Baking Bad, she shares her creative designs, which are often labor-intensive and offer a playful touch of the macabre. The skills needed vary from recipe to recipe, with Chocolate Squid Gelatin being one of the easier recipes, and Mackinac Island Fudge, which she shapes into an architectural wonder in the likeness of the Grand Hotel, among the most challenging and time-consuming.

The cookbook reviews the various accouterments required and provides basic foundation recipes used in later sections, like white cake and chocolate buttercream frosting. McConnell offers a Decorating 101 so readers can learn skills such as how to create buttercream roses and build cake stands. The elaborate desserts--arranged by the four seasons--are extraordinary, but the photography here really stands out. For many recipes, McConnell poses in settings and costumes that enhance each concept and theme, often giving them a humorous horror feel. Even her Hummingbird Cake--a beautiful blue-and-white confection with cream-cheese frosting and small hummingbirds that appear to be drinking from the cake's flowers--is given a darker side as McConnell is depicted wielding a knife, ready to stab. Aspiring and professional bakers alike will find McConnell's approach to baking a wild delight. --Justus Joseph, bookseller at Elliott Bay Book Company

Discover: Christine McConnell displays her baking and photographic skills in this imaginative and challenging book.

Regan Arts, $29.95, hardcover, 9781941393390

Biography & Memoir

Dinner with Edward: A Story of an Unexpected Friendship

by Isabel Vincent

Two lost souls bond over gourmet feasts in Dinner with Edward, a memoir by investigative journalist Isabel Vincent (Gilded Lily: Lily Safra). Isabel--a middle-aged newspaper reporter transplanted to New York City as her marriage comes undone--meets a dear friend for dinner. The friend's 95-year-old mother has recently died, and she fears her father, Edward, is giving up on life. She asks Isabel to check in on him occasionally, touting Edward's culinary prowess. Isabel's loneliness in a new city ultimately propels her to show up at Edward's apartment on Roosevelt Island, armed with a bottle of wine.

One meal turns into a weekly, culinary rendezvous where meticulous and debonair Edward, a self-trained cook, whips up savory and sweet feasts, paired perfectly with cocktails. "Edward was neither a snob nor an insufferable foodie. He just liked to do things properly." Over dinner, he conveys heartfelt details of his life, his creative pursuits and his enchanted marriage, ultimately becoming something of a teacher and protective father figure to Isabel. He offers wisdom and perspective as Isabel shares her adventures working for the New York Post, her crumbling marriage, difficulties in raising her daughter and her return to dating.

Dinner with Edward emerges as a beautiful, passionate love story--wholly platonic--about two people whose lives are have undergone change, but who learn how to adapt and truly appreciate life again. Isabel Vincent's rich, perfectly paced narrative is served with as much wonder and gratitude as the deliciously conveyed indulgence of each satisfying, lingering meal. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: A middle-aged writer and a 93-year-old widower, both facing changes, become friends through the satiating comfort of food.

Algonquin, $23.95, hardcover, 9781616204228

Essays & Criticism

The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction

by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman is most recognized for the power of his imagination, with novels like Coraline, comics like Sandman and television credits like Doctor Who underscoring his ability to dream up impossible worlds and turn them into a reality. His nonfiction is just as compelling (and, perhaps not surprisingly, just as imaginative), as collected in The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfictions.

The pieces here don't always qualify as essays in the truest sense of the word. Book introductions lead to speeches, which mingle with essays, which sit beside articles--and this "motley bunch," as Gaiman dubs them, combines to provide readers with a glimpse into his creative genius. The subjects, too, vary as much as the delivery formats. The View from the Cheap Seats explores the writing of American Gods; the immigrant experience; what it is to be a child--and what it is to raise them; the powerful, almost inexplicable draw of science fiction and fantasy works across the years; the role of truth in fiction; and freedom of speech.

"Some of them are serious and some of them are frivolous and some of them are earnest and some of them I wrote to try and make people listen," Gaiman explains. Whether it was his intent or not, every piece in The View from the Cheap Seats will make people listen--and pay attention, and think, and ponder over the role of stories, both real and imagined, in shaping our lives. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

Discover: Gaiman's works of nonfiction prove just as powerful as his fiction in exploring the lasting place of fiction and imagination in the real world.

Morrow, $26.99, hardcover, 9780062262264

Nature & Environment

Candid Creatures: How Camera Traps Reveal the Mysteries of Nature

by Roland Kays

In Candid Creatures, Roland Kay, head of the Biodiversity and Earth Observation Laboratory at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, collects images from automated camera traps that help us understand and decode animal behavior and habitats. Kay collaborated with 153 research groups to feature the 613 photographs in this remarkable collection. Candid Creatures is distinctive in the astonishing quality of its photographs depicting a diverse cast of animals, from tigers to the less well-known servaline genet, a small-prey hunter in African forests.

Camera traps have enabled the scientific community to research and estimate animal numbers and habitats and identify habits and behavior patterns they would otherwise be unable to witness in person. Ideal for observation, the technology is relatively noninvasive, though as is evidenced by many of the photographs, some animals do take notice. Animal and habitat conservation efforts receive much-needed support thanks to the increased visibility and concrete evidence of the plights these animals and areas face--though Kay is quick to note that scientists are not the only people using this form of photography. Camera traps are widely used by hunters and have become increasingly popular with hobby naturalists and animal lovers. People without the ability to set their own traps can access live Internet feeds and apps to discover nature without threatening or disturbing habitats. Kay's writing and research show how such photos expose a complicated ecosystem people are just starting to discover. --Justus Joseph, bookseller at Elliott Bay Book Company

Discover: Candid Creatures offers plenty of information about animal behavior and conservation efforts, but the photography elevates it to an art book.

Johns Hopkins University Press, $39.95, hardcover, 9781421418889

Parenting & Family

Rules for My Newborn Daughter

by Walker Lamond

Walker Lamond wants to remind women--by way of a set of rules for his own newborn daughter--that they don't have to listen to boys play guitar, that throwing like a girl is a good thing, and that they can't be friends with just anyone.

Rules for my Newborn Daughter, full of pithy sayings and life lessons presented with interesting typography and photos, will charm even the most cynical reader. There's some great advice for any gender, such as "if you're cool, you don't have to prove it," "always carry a book" and "learn to drive a stick shift."

Some of the advice is focused on newer technology ("Never cancel dinner plans by text message"), while other bits come off a bit patriarchal and strangely traditional: "You can buy your way into the gossip pages, but you can't buy your way out" speaks to a different time, when gossip pages existed.

The short book, a follow-up to Lamond's Rules for My Unborn Son, pulls content from Lamond's website; it's a fun, joyful read with plenty of moments of familiarity and discovery. Rules for My Newborn Daughter has somewhat of a tender streak, too. "No pierced ears until you are sixteen" and "Help your father clean the garage; he gets sentimental" seem to worry about the titular young daughter ahead of any actual problems she might have in her life. This author/father engages in a thought exercise full of heart and love that will ring true for dads (and moms!) everywhere. --Rob LeFebvre, freelance writer and editor

Discover: This book offers witty advice parents might want to give their daughters (and sons), ranging from the practical to the sentimental.

St. Martin's Griffin, $15.99, hardcover, 9781250085702

Performing Arts

Never a Dull Moment: 1971--The Year That Rock Exploded

by David Hepworth

The best tagline to British music journalist David Hepworth's love letter to rock-n-roll might be from its introduction: "You never get to be twenty-five again." For Hepworth, rock music "never got any better than 1971." He makes a good case for his claim. It was a year when cigarette smoking was ubiquitous, New York City real estate prices were off 50% from two years earlier, and new cars sported 8-track stereos. Vietnam War protest marches sometimes blurred their lines with dope and music festivals. Tower Records on Sunset in Los Angeles was a vinyl mecca. "Rolling Stone was still the black-and-white double-folded underground magazine... yet to become the Life magazine of the denim bourgeoisie." It was also the year the Doors' Jim Morrison died at 27 (the same age as Hendrix and Joplin before him), leading to a Rolling Stone cover proclaiming: "He's hot. He's sexy. He's dead."

From January's Carole King blockbuster Tapestry to December's Don McLean eulogy to rock 'n' roll, American Pie, Hepworth runs through a year of great music as pop gave way to rock, and the 45 rpm single expanded into carefully conceived LPs. Appropriate to their claim to be the "World's Greatest Rock Band," the Rolling Stones dominate the month of May: their move to France to avoid taxes and manage their own finances, the release of Sticky Fingers with its Warhol cover, Jagger and Bianca's wedding, and all those Dominique Tarlé photos of debauchery in Nellcôte during the creation of Exile on Main St. With its apt title, Never a Dull Moment makes you want to be 25 in the '70s again. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: With poignant personal observations and nostalgic zeal, British journalist David Hepworth delivers a solid history of 1971, rock music's transformative year.

Holt, $30, hardcover, 9781627793995

Children's & Young Adult

Finding Wild

by Megan Wagner Lloyd, illus. by Abigail Halpin

Sometimes the most striking picture books are the ones that make readers see something in a new way, or that creatively express a concept regularly pondered but rarely put into words.

In Finding Wild, debut author Megan Wagner Lloyd poetically explores the idea of wildness, and Abigail Halpin (illustrator of Bella's Rules) uses watercolor and colored pencil to paint this irrepressible "wild" as it "pushes through cracks and crannies and steals back forgotten places." As the book begins, Lloyd asks, "What is wild? And where can you find it?" Two children with matching blue backpacks emerge from a subway station, ready to find out. A single airborne leaf beckons, full of promise, luring them into a jungle-lush park. Impossibly, the two adventurers are then traipsing through the hills and dales of the natural world: "Wild is forest-fire hot and icicle cold" and "Wild roars and barks and hisses and brays. It storm-thunders and wind-whispers." (Here the two intrepid souls are huddled in a mountaintop tent in the stormy blue night.)

At journey's end, as they emerge into the city from the park they first entered, they see the stretch of lifeless pavement and how "[s]ometimes the wild is buried too deep." But that swirling leaf is still there to remind them that wild is never far away. A lifelong game could be made of finding the "wild" wherever you are, be it in the howl of a wolf, the sting of a bee or the smell of a salty sea. --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: This charming picture book introduces the concept of "wild," from a sharp pine scent to a soft rain to a leaf blowing through a city.

Knopf, $16.99, hardcover, 32p., ages 4-7, 9781101932810

The Art of Being Normal

by Lisa Williamson

While his eight-year-old classmates wrote about wanting to be an actress, prime minister or even Harry Potter, David Piper had a six-word wish for his future: "I want to be a girl." At 14, David's wish has only become more fervent, as his traitorous body races toward manhood: "...time is running out." He's managed to confide in his two BFFs, but his parents think he's gay, his younger sister prefers to ignore him, and his fellow students call him "Freak Show."

On David's first day back to school, rumors swirl around a new kid: " 'Apparently he went nuts during wood shop and chopped off the teacher's index finger with a junior hacksaw.' " Leo Denton is a transfer from Cloverdale School--only a few miles away but a striking socioeconomic contrast to posh Eden Park. Home for Leo is defined by deprivation and dysfunction. At school, Leo's only objective is to keep to himself, survive the year and escape his tumultuous past. But when he sees David being bullied, Leo's anger overrides self-preservation. Post-fight, both boys land in detention, leading to the fortuitous start of a most unlikely friendship, further forged by math tutoring, an abandoned pool, a seaside journey, a pink limo and a spectacular Alternative Christmas Ball.

Directly inspired by her work with British teens at the Gender Identity Development Service department of England's National Health Service, debut author Lisa Williamson crafts an affecting, entertaining story told in the two voices of David and Leo. Already a bestseller in the U.K., The Art of Being Normal arrives Stateside with perfect timing. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon

Discover: David wants to be a girl, Leo wants to be unnoticed, and an unlikely friendship is born in this illuminating and appealing YA British import.

Margaret Ferguson/FSG, $17.99, hardcover, ages 14-18, 9780374302375


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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