Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, November 1, 2016

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

From My Shelf

Rita Mae Brown: Born to Read

Rita Mae Brown is the bestselling author of the Sneaky Pie Brown series; the Sister Jane series; the Runnymede books; A Nose for Justice and Murder Unleashed; Rubyfruit Jungle; and In Her Day; as well as 57 other novels. An Emmy-nominated screenwriter, a poet and 2015 Winner of the Lambda Literary Pioneer Award, Brown lives in Afton, Va., and is a Master of Foxhounds. Her latest book, Cakewalk (Bantam), is reviewed below. We asked her about her reading habits.

photo: Mary Motley Kalergis

If birth is the search for a larger apartment, I emerged looking for the library. I learned to read at three and couldn't stop.

Currently I'm re-reading Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. Every 10 years I re-read Meditations, War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar and Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. Each decade I learn something new.

I have a book on the kitchen table, one by the bed, another in the car and one down at HQ, a stable with a place for people. I am a promiscuous reader. I will read anything: popcorn fiction, science, true literature, history, historical fiction and any 18th- or 19th-century foxhunting book I can get my hands on.

In the last week I read Karin Slaughter's The Kept Woman (just released), Virgil's Aeneid Book VI, translated by Seamus Heaney, The Genius of Birds by Jennifer Ackerman. God Is Watching You: How the Fear of God Makes Us Human by Dominic Johnson is on the kitchen table, so that's slower going.

Next up will be The Education of Henry Adams, published in 1918, followed by The Degradation of the Democratic Dogma by Henry Adams, published in 1919. I have never given the Adams family their proper due apart from John Adams and Abigail. Time I corrected this oversight.

Book Candy

Happy National Novel Writing Month!

It's that time of year again. "National Novel Writing Month 2016: 10 tips for NaNoWriMo Writers" were offered by International Business Times; and Signature showcased tips on "surviving NaNoWriMo: The tough mudder of writing challenges."


Headline of the day: "Bryan Cranston leaves signed copies of his book at Heathrow," the Bookseller reported.


In the spirit of the season, Quirk Books put up "10 typographical fall decorations."


Resfeber (noun, c, Swedish). The Chronicle Books blog shared "8 strange + lovely words from around the world."


Bustle displayed "20 charming accessories every book-lover must have."


by Marissa Meyer

The tiny and furious Queen of Hearts who shouts "Off with their heads!" was not always so angry.

In Heartless, an imagined prequel to Lewis Carroll's 150-year-old classic Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Marissa Meyer (the Lunar Chronicles) introduces the Queen of Hearts as she was at the tender age of 18, when the King of Hearts, a giggling simpleton, is over the moon for her and for the scrumptious pastries she's famous for baking. The young, yet unmarried Queen of Hearts is Lady Catherine Pinkerton of the Kingdom of Hearts, but her friends call her "Cath."

Cath's moody mother, the Marchioness, thinks her daughter is lucky to have caught the eye of the King, but the loathsome match is unthinkable to Cath. Being Queen to that ridiculous royal with his curled mustache and clammy hands would quash any hope she might have of romance, passion, love--and wowing the kingdom with her mouthwatering baked goods; she's been dreaming for years of opening a bakery in town with her brilliant, numbers-minded best friend (and maid) Mary Ann. Cath is well aware of the societal obstacles: "Her mother would never approve of her only daughter, the heir to Rock Turtle Cove, going into the men's world of business, especially with a humble servant like Mary Ann as her partner." She remains undaunted.

But one night Cath's fantasies take another turn. She dreams of a "hazy, beautiful boy" with lemon-yellow eyes, and the next morning, a real-live lemon tree is growing in her bedroom. She harvests a few of the magical lemons to make three perfect tarts for the King's party, obviously not to charm the King but to further her reputation as a baker. (To say Cath is mad about pastry would be an understatement: "The tarts trembled for a moment more before falling still, flawless and gleaming.") That very night at the party, she meets the boy with the lemon-yellow eyes from her dream. He's the King's new court jester, a "Joker" named Jest, and he dazzles her with his wordplay and breathtaking tricks. "Why is a raven like a writing desk?" the handsome acrobatic jester asks the crowd at the King's party, while hanging from a spinning hoop attached to a chandelier. (That particular riddle has many, many answers, doled out throughout.) A shower of confetti, a wink from him, and Cath's new obsession is born. The story of the blossoming, forbidden romance between Cath and Jest is absolutely swoon-worthy, and their witty repartee and obvious chemistry make the suspenseful narrative sizzle. Of course, the relentless courtship of the ardent King, Cath's touch-and-go bakery dream, and the terrifying new threat of the dangerous Jabberwock, "a creature of nightmares and myth," fuel the fire as well.

Those who are well versed in Lewis Carroll's world of Alice will revel in how cleverly, seemingly effortlessly, Meyer works the beloved Wonderland characters into her story; it's always a delight when they pop up unexpectedly. As Meyer says, "All the time while writing this book, I was asking, 'Who is this character when Alice meets them, and how did they become that way?' " In Heartless, for instance, the sassy "half-invisible cat" Cheshire is Cath's friend (who would very much like a tuna tart) and the town cobbler is the hookah-smoking Caterpillar. (" 'Who,' he said lazily, 'are you?' ") Meyer's version of the Hatter's tea party ("not so much a tea party as a circus") is a dramatic, deliciously described tour de force in which Cath wins over an odd, tough crowd of porcupines, bumblebees and boa constrictors with her delectable macarons. Jest tells her, "'re extra beautiful when you talk about baking. You know you're good at it, and that knowledge lights you up." (This flatters and flusters her, and has her once again cursing her fate as Queen.)

As Carroll does in Alice with the likes of Humpty Dumpty and Tweedledee and Tweedledum, Meyer pulls nursery rhymes into her story. For example, her spin on Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater (who had a wife and couldn't keep her) catapults Heartless into horror, a creepy subplot first only hinted at during the King's party when Peter Peter's pasty-faced, sickly and desperate wife asks Cath for pumpkin pastries with the intensity of a junkie needing a fix. Fans of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven" will be pleased to see glimpses of that poem, too, in the Raven's dialogue. It's to Meyer's great credit that the abundant literary allusions never overwhelm, they just liven up the recipe.

What begins as a witty, ingenious and charming romp through the mesmerizing world of Alice darkens and deepens until it grabs its readers by the throat. Will the brave, fierce Cath buckle and marry the King? Will she follow her heart? How many impossible things, as the White Queen says, can be believed before breakfast? Meyer's foray into Wonderland will unhinge hearts and drop jaws as it charms and chills. --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Feiwel & Friends, $19.99, hardcover, 464p., ages 13-up, 9781250044655

Marissa Meyer: Exploring the Heart of a Villain

photo: Julia Scott

Marissa Meyer, from Tacoma, Wash., is the author of the #1 New York Times-bestselling Lunar Chronicles series of futuristic fairy tales for teens: Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, Fairest, Winter and Stars Above. Heartless is her first stand-alone YA novel.

How did you come upon the idea of writing a novel inspired by Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland?

Alice has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, though not in the form of Lewis Carroll's book. I knew about Alice through Disney, naturally, and through my mom who loves all things Wonderland and has a fantastic Alice collection with everything from music boxes to figurines. For many years, we had an all-Alice Christmas tree. I remember my parents and their friends doing a whole Alice-themed group of costumes for Halloween one year.

I don't think I read the original Alice until I was in college, and by that time I could appreciate it not only for the whimsical world and characters, but also for Carroll's genius wordplay. I was, and still am, in awe of his ability to play with language and hidden meanings.

How many times did you reread Alice while working on Heartless? To what degree did you try to stick to the "facts" of that fictional world?

All in all, I read Wonderland three times and Looking-Glass twice, and referenced them both about a million more times in between. I certainly took my share of liberties with the world, but I attempted to not change anything that would be in stark contrast to the original. I wanted Heartless to be a believable counterpart to Alice in Wonderland--a logical starting point for the story, and for the origins of so many of these familiar characters. Luckily, Lewis Carroll left us a lot of room for interpretation!

You must have had fun writing this. I loved your fresh, inventive versions of old favorite characters and images, from the croquet scene with the hedgehogs and the flamingo with "horrible shrimp breath," to the Cheshire Cat, the March Hare, the Mad Hatter, the Mock Turtle and the Jabberwock.

I absolutely had so much fun writing this book--largely because I was making an effort to pay homage to Carroll's writing style. Though I know I'm not the wizard at wordplay that he was, I was constantly questioning the world and the dialogue, trying to pull little jokes and secrets out of the language, or include twists of meaning throughout the world. It was a different way of thinking about the words on the page--everything has to be questioned and inspected, to see if there's another way it can be interpreted, a more fun, interesting, Carrollian way.

I liked your publisher's description of Heartless: "Long before she was the terror of Wonderland--the infamous Queen of Hearts--she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love." Was this always going to be the story of Lady Catherine Pinkerton, future Queen of Hearts?

Cath was always the focus of the book--I was hugely inspired by Gregory Maguire's Wicked when I first had the idea for Heartless. I loved how he was able to transform the opinions of an entire generation of readers, completely changing the cultural attitude toward one of the most infamous literary villains of all time, the Wicked Witch of the West. I wondered if I could even begin to accomplish the same sort of thing with one of my favorite villains, the Queen of Hearts, and from there my imagination started to run away from me.

The Queen is so boisterous and loud and bloodthirsty and angry in Lewis Carroll's story, and I wanted to know how she'd gotten that way, and also how she'd ended up married to such a meek, simpering man like the King. I was also intrigued from the start by the entire trial sequence in Alice, in which the Knave is accused of stealing the Queen's tarts. It didn't add up--this furious queen, who also had the time and inclination to bake tarts? I wanted to know more, and Cath's story began to emerge from my questions.

So that's why Cath is obsessed with baking and opening her dream bakery. Are you, too, obsessed with baking? Those luscious descriptions of the lemon tarts, "trembling," "quivering," were almost not PG-13.

Goal accomplished! Though it isn't a passion of mine like it is for Cath, I do enjoy baking on occasion, and I did make lemon tarts as "research" for the book.

I read one fan's online description of Heartless, that it was "exactly the right combination of prophecy, romance, Victorian-style female repression and weirdness." How does that assessment strike you?

I love this! In particular, "romance" and "weirdness" were two elements I was hoping to accomplish in spades. As with all my romances, I want the readers to feel as swept up as the characters do--to feel as though they're falling in love themselves, which is often how I feel as I'm writing the story. And weirdness, well... I daresay Alice is one of the weirdest works of classic literature out there, so I was hoping to do it justice!

Tell us about the Victorian-style female repression part.

Though I consider Heartless to be set in a fantasy world (and therefore, not based on any sort of factual history), I did want it to feel authentic to the time Lewis Carroll was writing and the Victorian-era Wonderland that Alice dropped into in 1865. I did a fair amount of research into the culture and expectations of the time, and a lot of rules in Cath's society were formed from that research. Perhaps most notable is the idea of Cath and her friend Mary Ann becoming business owners, which is met with such derision. Many of Cath's struggles throughout the story are a result of this oppression--people are constantly trying to put her in a box, often "for her own good," and the smaller the box becomes, the more Cath tries to fight her way out of it. I think her story would have been much, much different if it had been set in a more contemporary setting.

What was the most fun character to write?

I absolutely adored writing Cheshire. He is so self-assured--he doesn't care about society and its rules, has no qualms whatsoever about crashing the King's ball and devouring his feast. He also has questionable loyalties, which continues into Alice's story, too. In Heartless, he is sort of friends with Catherine, but in the end, all he really cares about is who he can get to rub his stomach and feed him tuna fish. With so many other characters playing the games of politics and relationships, Cheshire made a nice "it's all about me" counterpoint.

Was there a character who was more challenging to write than other characters?

Though I enjoyed writing the Hatter, he was also one of the most challenging of the book, largely because he's the sort of character who keeps secrets. Lots and lots of secrets... and I've found that characters who keep secrets from other characters tend to also be keeping secrets from me!

How would you characterize Cath and Jest's secret romance?

Passionate, magical... impossible?

You weave some nursery rhymes into Heartless. That Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater part was terrifying.

Why, thank you! The use of nursery rhymes was a direct homage to Lewis Carroll's originals, as he drew on plenty of nursery rhymes as well. Most notably, Humpty Dumpty, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, and even the Queen of Hearts and her tarts, all of which were popular nursery rhymes. As for Peter Peter, I always found that rhyme to be incredibly creepy. Even as a child, I questioned what kind of man locked his wife up in a pumpkin shell?

Readers should know this book gets dark, sometimes even veering into horror territory. Without giving anything away, tell us a little about that.

I always knew the book was going to head that direction, because--well, it's the story of the Queen of Hearts! We know who she becomes. We know that she'll have anyone beheaded for the slightest infraction. The question, then, is why is she so furious, so easily enraged? To get there, Cath's story had to travel down some dark paths.

Can this really be a stand-alone novel?

It really is! At this time, I have no plans for any more books set in the Kingdom of Hearts. However, never say never.

Any advice for young writers?

Don't rush into publication. Take your time to learn your craft, develop your voice, study the art of writing and storytelling, and simply enjoy the process.

Anything else you'd like to tell the readers of Shelf Awareness?

I hope Shelf Awareness readers will fall desperately, hopelessly in love with Heartless. I hope you'll have a sweet tooth the whole time you're reading. And I hope you won't lose your head....

--Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Shelf vetted, publisher supported.

Book Review



by Rita Mae Brown

Since Rubyfruit Jungle, her debut novel in 1974, the prolific Rita Mae Brown has written 13 novels, numerous anthropomorphic mysteries, five nonfiction titles, three poetry collections and a novella. Cakewalk marks her delightful return to her charming Runnymede series featuring the boisterous, feisty and ever-battling Hunsenmeir sisters, Louise and Julia (aka Wheezie and Juts). The Runnymede novels don't need to be read in any specific order because they were not written in chronological order. The duo was introduced in Six of One, a 1978 novel that spanned eight decades and included a bevy of characters living in Runnymede, a city straddling Maryland and Pennsylvania on the Mason-Dixon line. The sisters returned as octogenarians in Bingo, and Loose Lips was set in 1941 when the sisters were in their 30s. The novella The Sand Castle is set during a single day in 1952.

Cakewalk spans six months in 1920, when Wheezie and Juts are teenagers and their mother, Cora, works as a housekeeper for the town's beautiful and aristocratic lesbian Celeste Chalfonte. Although Brown warns, "This is not a plot-driven book," readers will have no complaints with the fast-paced action of bed-hopping as Celeste's longtime lover Ramelle becomes pregnant and decides to marry the father--Celeste's brother, Curtis. An agreeable arrangement is met after a couple more lovers are added to the mix.

Cakewalk is both nostalgic and outrageous; a feel-good novel told by an expert storyteller who delights in creating colorful and quirky characters and subverting readers' expectations. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant

Discover: Quirky and outrageous characters and surprising situations abound in Rita Mae Brown's charming Cakewalk.

Bantam, $27, hardcover, 320p., 9780553392654

Mystery & Thriller

Escape Clause

by John Sandford

After dealing with dognappings in 2014's Deadline, Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agent Virgil Flowers investigates catnappings in Escape Clause, his ninth outing in John Sandford's Prey spinoff series.

The cats in this case are no household pets; they're a pair of endangered Amur tigers stolen from the Minnesota Zoo. Flowers fears they'll be slaughtered for parts to use in illegal traditional medicines.

But the first body he encounters is human, a small-time crook linked to the stolen tigers. Then another corpse surfaces. And yet another person goes missing. Flowers realizes he's up against someone who intends to kill not only the tigers, but anyone who gets in the way of a deadly get-rich scheme.

Though the crimes in this novel are no joke--a subplot involves the exploitation of illegal Mexicans in the workplace--the appeal lies in the humor Sandford gives his eccentric characters. Sporting long blond hair and cowboy boots, Flowers is sometimes underestimated by others as a law enforcement officer, but readers know he's smart, competent and fair. His sidekicks are two other BCA agents, who resemble "Mafia thugs," but Flowers points out they'd do well in Hollywood with that look. The cool but complex Catrin Mattson, another colleague (Field of Prey), begs for a spinoff series of her own. Flowers's girlfriend, Frankie, has a sister who's dangerously self-centered, but Flowers's relationship with Frankie is still going strong, just like this series. --Elyse Dinh-McCrillis, blogger at Pop Culture Nerd

Discover: Virgil Flowers tracks two stolen endangered tigers to prevent them from being slaughtered for use in traditional medicines.

Putnam, $29, hardcover, 400p., 9780399168918

A Study in Scarlet Women

by Sherry Thomas

A Study in Scarlet Women opens on a scandal: the young Charlotte Holmes is caught in bed with the married Roger Shrewsbury--by his wife, mother and a gaggle of society ladies quick to gossip, no less. Charlotte remains unperturbed in the face of public scrutiny, however, and is prepared to face the consequences of her actions. Fleeing her family's home, she sets out to make a life of her own, despite the odds stacked against her as a single woman without connections in a time when upper-class women were taught to aspire to nothing more than marriage. But when Lady Shrewsbury turns up dead and suspicions are cast on Charlotte's sister for her murder, Charlotte is forced to re-engage with the life she thought she'd left behind for good--this time under the guise of one Mr. Sherlock Holmes, crime-solver extraordinaire.

Charlotte is no ordinary Victorian woman, waiting to be saved from a life of spinsterhood--nor are the women she surrounds herself with. They are strong and independent female takes on classic Holmes characters, determined to forge their own way in life: Charlotte posing as a man named Sherlock, aided by Mrs. Watson, widow of one Mr. John Watson. In so casting her characters, Sherry Thomas (The Luckiest Lady in London) has succeeded in crafting a story inspired by the Holmes canon that never feels derivative. On the contrary: A Study in Scarlet Women is a fresh, female-driven historical mystery and the promising start to a new series of Charlotte Holmes stories. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

Discover: Charlotte Holmes poses as a clever crime-solver named Sherlock to aid police in solving a murder.

Berkley, $15, paperback, 336p., 9780425281406

The Fall Guy

by James Lasdun

James Lasdun's The Fall Guy begins with a summer wish to escape the burdens of everyday life and live in a dream--at least for a while. In the tradition of Goodbye, Columbus and The Great Gatsby, the novel is contained within a single season--a sensual, surreal space that seems soothingly insulated from the dangers of the world, and yet contains its own peculiar threat as a result of this disconnection. It is not long before the dream becomes nightmarish, as characters begin to unravel, morally, psychologically and otherwise.

Matthew, a depressed chef, sets out to stay with his wealthy cousin Charlie, and Charlie's cool, charismatic wife, Chloe, in their vacation home. Together, they form what Matthew feels is a perfect triangle of affection. Yet there is something precarious about their dynamic, as though with just the slightest crack, it could be revealed to be fragile or false. There is also something forced about the happiness Matthew feels with them, even if he fully believes it to be a pure and innocent admiration.

Lasdun captures the contradictions of this atmosphere with precision, describing the season as having "reached that point of miraculous equilibrium where it felt at once as if it had been going on forever and as if it would never end. The heat merged with the constant sounds of insects and re-winged blackbirds, to form its own throbbing, hypnotic medium. It made you feel as if you were inside some green-lit womb, full of soft pulsations." --Annie Atherton

Discover: A depressed chef seeks refuge in the luxury summer home of his cousin and his cousin's wife, only to become caught up in lies, denial and danger.

W.W. Norton & Company, $25.95, hardcover, 256p., 9780393292329

Science Fiction & Fantasy

Everything Belongs to the Future

by Laurie Penny

Everything Belongs to the Future is another striking entry in an impeccably edited series of novellas published by the popular science fiction and fantasy website Laurie Penny's book is a miniature dystopian nightmare, conveying the sweeping horrors of a 700-page epic in a story that can be read in a single sitting.

On the surface, Everything Belongs to the Future has a simple premise not unfamiliar to science fiction readers: in the late-21st century, an anti-aging drug referred to as "the fix" has the capability artificially to extend life spans and allow users to remain young forever. Naturally, the rich hoard it for themselves, creating an oligarchy that throws lavish parties and ignores the hungry, aging lower classes. The novella is brash, topical and furious, exploring the full sociopolitical consequences of its premise and never allowing the reader to forget how tragically similar its imagined scenario is to our current unequal era: "Time is a weapon wielded by the rich, who have excess of it, against the rest, who must trade every breath of it against the promise of another day's food and shelter."

Everything Belongs to the Future centers on a small group of friends and activists determined to bring down the ruling class. Penny challenges genre conventions, introducing a double-agent protagonist who falls in love with one of the women he's spying on and undercuts his self-justifying morality at every turn, raising troubling questions about consent. The novella is a fierce, punkish read and a missile aimed at privilege in all of its forms. --Hank Stephenson, bookseller, Flyleaf Books

Discover: Everything Belongs to the Future is a science fiction novella that imagines a future where the privileged few remain young forever.

Tor, $11.99, paperback, 128p., 9780765388285

Graphic Books

Saints: The Book of Blaise

by Sean Lewis, Benjamin Mackey

Deftly drawn and beautifully presented, Saints: The Book of Blaise never fails to impress. Its intricate plot involves new incarnations of Catholic saints. By turns poignant and snarky, this graphic novel--originally published as nine single-issue comic books--considers questions of faith, power and the corrupting influence of a godless and despairing Archangel Michael.

Blaise is a young heavy metal groupie with a mystical ability to heal anyone he lays hands on. He's pulled from his directionless existence and enlightened about his role as the incarnation of Saint Blaise by Sebastian, a saint who can shoot the iconic arrows that pierce his body. They head off in search of Saint Lucia, or Lucy, a young woman with candles in her hair, who uses the Earth itself as a weapon. The trio uncovers Michael's conspiracy to capture young people who exhibit saintly powers and bring forth the apocalypse. 

The wry, blasphemous humor--which includes a divine painting of Jesus and several women, dubbed "Jesus Pimp" by Blaise--lends itself well to the graphic novel format. Saints is an epic of good versus evil, demons versus saints--and heavy metal. Illustrator Benjamin Mackey's color palette and line art bring the story to life, while Sean Lewis's narrative moves carefully, allowing readers fully to invest in the characters before the final conflict occurs, making for an engrossing read and visual feast. --Rob LeFebvre, freelance writer and editor

Discover: Saints: The Book of Blaise considers disappointed faith and the desire to be better through a misfit group of saintly incarnations bent on saving the world.

Image Comics, $19.99, paperback, 256p., 9781632156969

Biography & Memoir

They're Playing Our Song: A Memoir

by Carole Bayer Sager

With more than 400 writing credits to her name, it's no surprise that Carole Bayer Sager's memoir, They're Playing Our Song, is as captivating, thoughtful and memorable as her lyrics--which have won her a slew of awards, including an Oscar, Grammy and two Golden Globes. She began writing songs in high school and was immediately successful. Her first record ("Groovy Kind of Love" for The Mindbenders) went to #1. Soon, she was creating hits for and with Neil Sedaka, Melissa Manchester, Peter Allen, Barry Manilow, Neil Diamond and Bette Midler (she describes writing songs with the demanding Miss M as "a ten-day They Shoot Horses Don't They?-like marathon"). A speedy lyricist, the first time she met Marvin Hamlisch, they wrote the James Bond theme "Nobody Does It Better." They began dating, and a year later they had collaborated with Neil Simon on a Broadway musical based on their lives called They're Playing Our Song.

In 1980, after things with Hamlisch ended, she began dating and collaborating with Burt Bacharach. She was his muse and they produced hits together (including the Oscar-winning "Arthur's Theme" and the AIDS anthem "That's What Friends Are For"), but their marriage was discordant. Bacharach proved to be a controlling, philandering narcissist whose casual cruel remarks chipped away at Sager's fragile self-esteem. At their wedding, he said, "I'll try," rather than "I do."

Sager's brutally honest examination of her failed marriage with Bacharach is the book's core, and it's riveting, raw and visceral. At the same time, Sager's memoir is chock-full of celebrity dish and backstage tales that will delight music fans. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant

Discover: A delightful, dishy memoir depicts Carole Bayer Sager's very successful songwriting career--and her destructive marriage to Burt Bacharach.

Simon & Schuster, $28, hardcover, 352p., 9781501153266

Business & Economics

The Attention Merchants: The Epic Scramble to Get Inside Our Heads

by Tim Wu

Where do you draw the line between your private life and the world of commerce and public opinion? Do you draw it at all? Tim Wu (The Master Switch) is an influential law professor and policy advocate known for coining the term "net neutrality." His goal in The Attention Merchants is to make us aware of "the influence of economic ambition and power on how we experience our lives."

Wu begins with certain school districts that have welcomed corporate advertisers into their classrooms. The worst of this, says Wu, "is just how uncontroversial and indeed logical it has seemed to those involved." We have gradually given up on the idea of sacrosanct private spaces free of commercial and political exploitation. Wu asserts that this change is not a natural evolution but the direct result of "the dramatic and impressive rise of an industry that barely existed a century ago."

This is a well-paced and lively history of how advertising and propaganda started with posters and patent medicines before soon becoming "an increasingly efficient engine for converting attention into revenue." Wu also examines the neuroscience of attention and distraction, and how easy it is to exploit them. But he emphasizes that the most important question is "not how the attention merchant should conduct business but where and when." This can be legislated, but important changes may be made in our daily decisions about where we choose to look. --Sara Catterall

Discover: An influential professor and policy advocate explains how powerful entities profit by controlling our attention, and why we should resist them.

Knopf, $28.95, hardcover, 416p., 9780385352017


The Lion in the Living Room: How House Cats Tamed Us and Took over the World

by Abigail Tucker

Cats are one of those creatures that people either love or hate; there is no middle ground. In The Lion in the Living Room, Abigail Tucker takes readers on an alluring, funny and informative romp through the domestication and history of the cat. "Worldwide, house cats already outnumber dogs, their great rival for our affections, by as many as three to one.... Wild and tame, homebound and footloose.... In many ways, they rule us," writes Tucker. So why do we go to such lengths to keep a pet that's been "classified as one of the world's 100 Worst Invasive Species?"

In accessible language, Tucker explores this mystery in depth, examining the connections humans have had with felines since ancient Egypt. Famous for their hunting abilities, cats were prized companions on long sea voyages, where they took care of the ever-present rat and mouse populations. Yet they became the hunted when they invaded the Pacific islands, including Australia, where the government is now providing research money for the discovery of an effective cat poison. Funny cat videos and photos pop up on social media on a daily basis, providing humorous relief for thousands. On the other hand, felines are also the only known host of the Toxoplasma parasite, which forms untreatable cysts in animal and human brain and muscle tissue and can be fatal. Although cats are a strange blend of good and bad, Tucker does an excellent job of providing facts so readers can make their own assessments. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

Discover: Abigail Tucker presents a history of the beloved and problematic domestic cat.

Simon & Schuster, $26, hardcover, 256p., 9781476738239

Performing Arts

Love for Sale: Pop Music in America

by David Hajdu

"If music be the food of love, play on," Duke Orsino famously declared in the opening scene of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. Then and now, popular music has been primarily and perennially concerned with love: yearning for it, falling in and out of it, enjoying its blissful heights and mourning its loss. Music critic and Columbia journalism professor David Hajdu, a longtime pop-music geek, takes readers on a tour of the 20th-century landscape of American popular music in his fifth book, Love for Sale.

Hajdu (Positively 4th Street) roams the pop music landscape, covering a dizzying array of musical trends, artists and technologies: wax cylinders, commercially produced sheet music, transistor radios, the Walkman, the MP3 file. He explores the ways in which pop music has always pushed the racial, sexual and societal envelope. He also draws on his interviews with many popular musicians, weaving in anecdotes of his years living in the Greenwich Village as a young music critic with a secret passion for disco.

Pop music, as Hajdu notes in his introduction, is "a phenomenon of vast scale and intimate effect." It is "a social art that works with every member of its enormous following in small, unique ways." Love for Sale will have music fans of all tastes and ages humming the nostalgic tunes of their youth, or scrolling through the latest digital music delivery service in search of the songs they once treasured. Pop music may be a crass commercial endeavor, but as Hajdu shows, it is also the food--and the lyrical expression--of love. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: Music critic David Hajdu takes readers on a smart, entertaining tour of the American pop music landscape.

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $27, hardcover, 320p., 9780374170530

Children's & Young Adult

The Sun Is Also a Star

by Nicola Yoon

Nicola Yoon's The Sun Is Also a Star is a love story that feels timeless in its cosmic examination of what makes the human heart beat faster (think Keats) and yet is decidedly modern (think IKEA references and the word "ass" used as an adjective).

The novel--a finalist for the 2016 National Book Award for Young People's Literature--largely unfolds in the alternating first-person voices of two star-crossed lovers in New York. Seventeen-year-old high school senior Natasha Kingsley is a Jamaican-born black girl from Brooklyn. Daniel Bae, also 17, is the son of Korean immigrants and lives in Harlem. There are more than two sides to this story. Yoon (Everything, Everything) deepens her narrative with interruptions from an omniscient narrator who not only discusses multiverses, fate and the Jamaican word "irie," but also offers a lively chorus of perspectives.

Natasha first encounters Daniel in Manhattan on the day her family is scheduled to be deported. Daniel--on his way to a college admissions interview--spots Natasha with her "enormous, curly Afro and almost-as-enormous pink headphones" and follows her into a record store. Witty repartee ensues and sparks fly for the next 12 hours; that there's "something big" between them is undeniable. Despite his "poem-writing tendencies," science-minded Natasha likes this fine, funny, earnest boy way too much for a girl who's about to leave the country forever.

The Sun Is Also a Star--an exhilarating, hopeful novel exploring identity, family, the love of science and the science of love, dark matter and interconnectedness--is about seeing and being seen and the possibility of love... and it shines. --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: In Nicola Yoon's philosophical and romantic YA novel, a science-minded Jamaican-born teen girl and a poetry-loving Korean American boy cross paths in New York City.

Delacorte, $18.99, hardcover, 384p., ages 13-up, 9780553496680

It Is Not Time for Sleeping (A Bedtime Story)

by Lisa Graff, illus. by Lauren Castillo

How can it be time for sleeping already? The dish-soap bottle needs squeezing, the bathtub's rubber duck is calling and Jasper the dog's belly needs rubbing. A young boy never wants his good day to end in Lisa Graff's debut picture book, It Is Not Time for Sleeping.

His amiable parents drop not-so-subtle clues about their son's impending bedtime, but the boy resists: "When dinner is over,/ Dad runs water in the sink. I squeeze the soap and make bubbles./ 'It's getting dark,' he says, while he scrubs and scrubs./ 'It could be darker,' I tell him./ It is not time for sleeping." It's not time for sleeping even after the boy's toes get wrinkled in the bathtub, not after he dons his pajamas, "the bear ones with feet," not even when he's brushed his teeth upside-down with "top ones on bottom and bottoms on top." The story crescendos to a fun-to-read-aloud, "This is the house that Jack built"-style cumulative finale: "When dinner is over and the dishes are scrubbed and I'm squeaky-squeak clean and zipped up to my chin and my teeth are shiny and I've said goodnight to Jasper and I'm tucked tight in my bed and the story is done, Mom turns off the lights." Even then, there's still time for a hug... before... sleep.

Caldecott Honor artist Lauren Castillo (Nana in the City; Melvin and the Boy; The Troublemaker) makes a cozy story even cozier with her warm-toned, richly textured ink and watercolor illustrations. Thick, soft black lines echo the comforting solidity of this loving trio who've clearly been through this routine before. --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: This appealing bedtime book will lull children to sleep with its fun, cumulative storyline and Caldecott Honor artist Lauren Castillo's inviting illustrations.

Clarion, $16.99, hardcover, 40p., ages 3-5, 9780544319301

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