Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster: A Short Walk Through a Wide World by Douglas Westerbeke

From My Shelf

Gift Books: Spiritual Sustenance

The holidays are almost here, and we have a few more last-minute gift suggestions.

Wendell Berry's 1995 Roots to the Earth, poems with wood engravings by Wesley Bates, has been reissued, with a short story included, by Counterpoint Press ($26). It's a handsome book, a fitting tribute to Berry, a national treasure. New Directions and the Christine Burgin Gallery have co-published Emily Dickinson's Envelope Poems, which were written on used envelopes ($12.95). Full-color facsimiles are paired with transcriptions of the poet's handwriting to craft a charming volume. W.S. Merwin composed the poetry of Garden Time (Copper Canyon Press, $24) as he lost his eyesight--poignant, lyrical elegies musing on time, mortality, memory.

Has it been a half-century since the iconic Chaim Potok's The Chosen was written? Yes, and Simon & Schuster has just published the 50th Anniversary Edition ($27). This classic coming-of-age story is enhanced with photos and essays, perfect for the first-time reader or the re-discoverer.

Henri Nouwen, one of the most beloved spiritual teachers of the 20th century, received more than 16,000 letters in his lifetime. In Love, Henri: Letters on the Spiritual Life (Convergent, $24) Nouwen archivist Gabrielle Earnshaw has collected 200 of his responses to friends and strangers, offering wisdom and kindness and inspiration.

Mysterious coincidence/ concurrence often happens in publishing (as in life). An example is the publication of two Henry James books: Travels with Henry James (Nation Books, $19.99) and The Daily Henry James (University of Chicago Press, $16). Travels is a handsome edition of his dispatches from Saratoga to Ravenna--deckle-edged, compact--with period photographs and etchings. Daily was originally printed in 1911, as the "ultimate token of fandom." It was edited by Evelyn Smalley, compiled as a commonplace book--a personal collection of quotes. From The Portrait of a Lady: "I judge more than I used to--but it seems to me that I have earned the right. One can't judge till one is forty; before that we are too eager, too hard, too cruel, and in addition too ignorant." --Marilyn Dahl, editor, Shelf Awareness for Readers

Sleeping Bear Press: When You Go Into Nature by Sheri M Bestor, Illustrated by Sydney Hanson

The Writer's Life

Chris Santiago: Poetry with Mouthfeel

Chris Santiago is the author of Tula (Milkweed, $16), winner of the 2016 Lindquist & Vennum Prize for Poetry, selected by A. Van Jordan. Santiago's poems, fiction and criticism have appeared in FIELDCopper NickelPleiades and the Asian American Literary Review. He holds degrees in creative writing and music from Oberlin College and received his Ph.D. in English from the University of Southern California. The recipient of fellowships from Kundiman and the Mellon Foundation/American Council of Learned Societies, Santiago is also a percussionist and amateur jazz pianist. He teaches literature, sound culture and creative writing at the University of St. Thomas. He lives in Minnesota.

You open Tula with an incredible image of a pencil piercing the cochlea, where nerves respond to sound vibrations. Where did your fascination with sound and language begin?

I'm glad you liked that image; it was a thing that actually happened, but only after the fact did I stop and think about how arresting it might be.

I think my fascination with sound and language has always been there, although I didn't become conscious of it until I had spent several years thinking seriously about poetry. I'd always been fascinated by wordplay, and I've always loved puns, especially when I started studying other languages, such as Italian and Japanese. For me, there's a pure and uncomplicated joy in finding false cognates between languages, and in finding out that something quite sober in one tongue means something obscene in another! This was what I love about so many writers--Shakespeare, Robert Hayden, Gertrude Stein: yes, the line or sentences sing, but at the smaller unit, at the level of the word, there is a music, too. All young poets, I think, have to go through a kind of triage at some point, and figure out what it is that attracts them, that draws them out. I was less interested in the ironic, the flat or the discursive; I wanted poetry with mouthfeel.

Throughout the book you consider the music of language, like in the lines "ng a sound/ that will never start its own word/ not in this tongue" in "Transpacific." How does your knowledge of music influence your writing? And how does your writing influence your music?

I once had a wonderful conversation with David St. John about Philip Levine, in particular about Breath, and Levine's special phrasing, which isn't unlike a horn player's. To be a traditional musician, by which I mean one who plays an acoustic instrument or uses their voice (I'm not knocking electronic music or DJs, because I have much love for those fields as well, but they are different), you have to learn a lot about your own body. You have to learn to control your breath, your hands, your posture, your eyes. And this changes over time. Inasmuch as I'm interested in sound and language, I am interested in how that sound--how the word in all its physicality--is formed first in the body. One of my piano teachers, Josef Schwartz, liked to say that pianists are failed singers. He was trying to get me to think lyrically about the melody, in whichever hand it happened to be written; maybe, as a poet, I feel something like a failed composer, but what I'm working with are words, and the performance will, for the most part, be silent. Even though it is silent, though, I want there to be that trace of the physical, the enunciation of the words, in the reader's mind.

Your focus on the physicality of language production makes idioms like "even my lunatic/ cabbie held his tongue" in "Counting in Tagalog" come alive in slippery and surprising ways.

The poetry that I get really excited about never stops acknowledging that it quite literally speaks from a place--from language--that is both stable and incredibly unstable. It is this instability--the constantly changing nature of speech and language, and the fact that a language is a whole series of definitions with no real grounding, except for sound or shape (in the case of sign languages, for example)--that makes poetic utterance possible, in my opinion. Everything that is stable and immobile about language is unpoetic. Of course there are wonderful poets who play with this, poets who use or recover or repurpose the unpoetic (Solmaz Sharif's Look, for example, is amazing in its reworking of Defense Department terminology). But this kind of work still comments on the slipperiness of language, even if it doesn't mean to.

Literary translators speak about operating in the ether between languages. Has studying language done more to cloud or dispel that ether for you?

I think studying language has done more to expand that ether for me, and the more that ether can be expanded the better! If only every writer was a translator, too! Or more than that, if every student in the U.S. was required to learn translation at some point. Once you learn to step outside of your first tongue and look in at it as if you were an outsider, you start to realize how much your language shapes you. One of my favorite writers, the Japanese-German multigenre writer Yoko Tawada, has a story/essay translated by Susan Bernofsky as "Canned Foreign," in which the narrator gets physically ill hearing people "speak their native tongues fluently." It's as if, she argues, they are "unable to think and feel anything but what their language so readily served up to them." For a poet, that's a good place to start, to try thinking of your own language as something strange and magical.

The series of "Tula" poems constitute much of this book. Were they originally conceived as a single long poem?

Yes. In fact it was conceived as a long elegy in numbered parts, and published that way in the Asian American Literary Review. I still like that version, but when I incorporated it into a manuscript, it acted like a force of gravity and drew attention away from the other poems in the book. I was a Kundiman Fellow in 2013, and had the great fortune to work on the manuscript with Oliver de la Paz, who suggested I break the poem up into parts and scatter them throughout the book, almost like an archipelago. Once I started to think of the long poem as Tula--the contradiction there being that "tula" simply means "poem" in Tagalog, but that it was a word I hadn't known until I Googled it!--it made sense to me that each of the poems that had been scattered throughout the manuscript would also be called Tula.

Water and routes through it are a recurring image. Your poems draw parallels between the cognitive tides of language and the geographic journeys of immigration. How did you balance your family's personal experiences with drawing out a broader immigrant experience and that of being multilingual?

Part of the recurring imagery of water and routes has to do with ancestry, but in a much more remote sense. An interest in language and etymology led me to this idea of transpacific history, especially in terms of the Austronesian language groups, and how these remarkable navigators traveled from mainland Asia through the Philippines and out across the rest of the Pacific. As they did so, their languages changed and evolved, but there are still ancestral ties and links there; I love how Craig Santos Perez talks about these ideas in his "from Unincorporated Territory" poems. I love too finding that lalaki, which means "boy" in Tagalog, is lelaki in Malay. My own family's journey was by air, and not by sea; but with the poems, especially the "[Island]" series that counterbalances the "Tula" poems, I hope to think of the Pacific as both a space of ancestral dreams and lore, as a rich wholeness, replete with cultures, languages, peoples, flora and fauna, rather than as a space between one continent and the next. --Dave Wheeler, associate editor, Shelf Awareness

Book Candy

Vintage Cards and Holiday Activities

Mental Floss posted "50 vintage Christmas cards from the New York Public Library archives."


" 'Tis the season for holiday printables & activities" for the kids from the editors at Brightly.


"You guys, this theory explains Santa perfectly using Harry Potter," Buzzfeed noted.


"Fictional characters who will skip your holiday party" were revealed by Quirk Books.


The Yule bookcase "can be placed anywhere and fixed to the ceiling. Its shape, slim at the base and larger at the top, allows you to use the room at the top and to pass beneath," Bookshelf reported.

Great Reads

Rediscover: Those Glamorous Gabors

Zsa Zsa Gabor, an icon of yesteryear Hollywood, died on Sunday at age 99. She was born as Sári Gábor in 1917 in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Gabor began her career on stage in Vienna, and was crowned Miss Hungary in 1936 before emigrating to the U.S. in 1941. Her Hollywood acting career took off in 1952, with parts in Moulin Rouge, Lovely to Look At and We're Not Married! Zsa Zsa appeared in other films, often in cameos, during the following decades, but her most famous role was as an extravagant socialite. Gerold Frank, who co-authored Gabor's 1960 autobiography, described her as "a woman from the court of Louis XV who has somehow managed to live in the 20th century."

Zsa Zsa's taste in men kept her in the gossip pages. She was married nine times (and divorced seven times), including to Hilton hotel founder Conrad Hilton and actor George Sanders. She ended her life married to Frédéric Prinz von Anhalt, a German-American entrepreneur who paid for his own adult adoption to the Princess Marie-Auguste of Anhalt in 1980. Zsa Zsa survived her only daughter, Francesca Hilton, and two sisters, Eva and Magda, who were also accomplished actresses and famous socialites. In 2013, Blood Moon Productions published Those Glamorous Gabors: Bombshells from Budapest by Darwin Porter ($24.95, 9781936003358), a biography about all three sisters. --Tobias Mutter

Book Review


Please Do Not Disturb

by Robert Glancy

Robert Glancy's second novel, Please Do Not Disturb, is set in the fictional East African country of Bwalo. It is a portrait of a land struggling, decades after its emancipation from British colonial rule, to escape the iron fist of the man responsible for its liberation; his despotic reign has turned Bwalo into "a country where anything can happen to anyone at any time."

The novel revolves around an event known as the Big Day, the annual commemoration of Bwalo's independence in the 1980s. Its liberator, King Tafumo, now lies ailing and demented in his palace's medical wing. His bureaucrats, army and secret police serve him by maintaining a terrifying surveillance state, where those suspected of disloyalty simply disappear. Chief among his functionaries is Josef Songa, a childhood friend who now refers to himself, with no small amount of bitterness, as the "Minister of Whispers and Lies."

Glancy (Terms & Conditions), who was born in Zambia and lived in Africa until age 14, creates a convincing portrait of poverty-stricken Bwalo, "a country you couldn't even call forgotten for the fact no one had heard of it in the first place." With events like a near-disastrous safari--for the benefit of a teenage American performer named Truth, who's been flown in with his entourage to provide the Big Day's musical entertainment--and a rapidly unfolding plot to overthrow Tafumo, there's ample action to keep the novel's plot bubbling. Please Do Not Disturb is a tragicomic story of the price exacted when those bent on corruption thwart the promise of freedom. --Harvey Freedenberg, attorney and freelance reviewer

Discover: Robert Glancy's second novel is the story of political intrigue and moral decay in a corrupt African nation.

Bloomsbury, $26, hardcover, 304p., 9781632864307

Mystery & Thriller

Sinner Man

by Lawrence Block

Hard Case Crime specializes in tracking down lost or forgotten works from the golden age of pulp fiction. Decades before he collected nearly two dozen Shamus and Edgar Awards, Lawrence Block wrote erotica (under pseudonyms) for pulpy magazines and publishing imprints. Sinner Man was written in 1959 and was Block's first crime novel. Because he was writing for so many publishers under so many different names, he never knew what happened to this novel. A fan finally found it for him: it had been published in 1968 as Savage Lover by Sheldon Lord. With some edits and minor rewriting, Sinner Man resurfaces as a nearly 50-year-old buried treasure for Block fans, showcasing a writer finding his genre.

Sinner Man starts with a bang: the narrator stands over his wife's dead body. His slap sent her reeling and her head hits the stone fireplace. "The killing wasn't manslaughter and it wasn't second-degree murder--it had ceased to be either the minute I stuffed Ellen's corpse in her closet and decided to leave her to heaven," writes the remorseless narrator, who may remind readers of Patricia Highsmith's Tom Ripley. Instead of panicking, he calmly obtains a fake I.D. to change his name, subtly alters his appearance, moves to a new state and starts working for a gangster.

Block's terse, hardboiled and sardonic prose complements his fast-paced story. He cleverly makes readers root for his unsympathetic narrator. Sinner Man is grade-A, retro pulp fiction that will not disappoint fans of Block, Dorothy B. Hughes or Mickey Spillane. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant

Discover: Lawrence Block's first crime novel resurfaces after nearly 50 years, and it's a lean, hardboiled, sardonic and pulpy delight.

Hard Case Crime/Titan Books, $9.95, paperback, 240p., 9781785650017

Science Fiction & Fantasy

The Fate of the Tearling

by Erika Johansen

Erika Johansen (The Queen of the Tearling, The Invasion of the Tearling) ends her chronicle of the mystical land of the Tearling and its enemies in a time-traveling adventure with the fate of a world in the balance.

Following the events of the second installment, young Tearling Queen Kelsea Glynn and the magical sapphires that defended her kingdom have landed in the clutches of the Red Queen of Mortmesne, the Tearling's sadistic enemy. Kelsea's loyal guard Lazarus serves as regent, his attentions split between the kingdom and rescuing his queen. Her spiritual counselor, Father Tyler, still possesses the long-lost Tear crown, but the church has placed a bounty on his head.

Tortured and chained, Kelsea relies on her indomitable spirit to face the Red Queen, but her enemy seems to desire connection more than retribution, particularly now that the Orphan, an evil spirit from the past, is turning the children of Mortmesne into a cannibalistic force in search of the crown. Kelsea continues to travel in visions back to the founding of the Tearling and the roots of her world's conflict, this time inhabiting a girl her age named Katie, one of a younger generation unconvinced of the merits of William Tear's utopian vision.

Johansen creates her most sweeping vision of Kelsea and her world yet, packing her story with political machinations and explosive revelations, including the long-withheld identity of Kelsea's father. The stunning ending makes a bold statement about sacrifice and rebirth. Readers new to the series should nab the first two volumes prior to learning The Fate of the Tearling. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Discover: This is the astonishing ending to the chronicle of the Tearling and its young, dynamic queen, Kelsea Glynn.

Harper, $25.99, hardcover, 496p., 9780062290427

Food & Wine

Grape, Olive, Pig: Deep Travels through Spain's Food Culture

by Matt Goulding

Matt Goulding knows a thing or two about Spanish cuisine: he has loved the country and its wildly varied culinary offerings since his first visit to Barcelona as a wide-eyed high school student. After a brief career as a chef and a slightly longer one as a journalist, Goulding is now happily ensconced in Barcelona, savoring its jamón and churros with his Catalan wife, Laura. In the follow-up to Rice, Noodle, Fish, his exploration of Japanese food culture, Goulding takes readers on a mouthwatering, deeply personal tour through Spain's regional cuisines. Grape, Olive, Pig follows Goulding's peregrinations, diving into the essential dishes of a country with strong opinions about food.

Goulding divides his account into nine chapters, each covering a city (Barcelona, Valencia, Cádiz) or a region (Galicia, Asturias, the Basque country) with its own memorable culinary culture. He highlights chefs, restaurants and dishes from every part of the Spanish plate, from the ultramodern molecular gastronomy of Ferran Adrià to the homely but satisfying tapas bars of Madrid. Color photos depict the dishes (saffron-infused paella, mouthwatering cheeses and charcuterie) and people (the farmers, fishermen and chefs who raise, catch and transform the raw ingredients) that so fascinate Goulding. He also touches on village markets, climate change, gender roles in food production and many more facets of Spain's food culture.

Thoughtful, informed and totally unpretentious, Grape, Olive, Pig is a delicious field guide to the tables and markets of a fascinating land. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: Food writer Matt Goulding takes readers on a mouthwatering, informative, deeply personal culinary tour of Spain.

Anthony Bourdain/Harper Wave, $35, hardcover, 368p., 9780062394132

Biography & Memoir

The Clothing of Books

by Jhumpa Lahiri, trans. by Alberto Vourvoulias-Bush

Readers know not to judge a book by its cover. In The Clothing of Books, Jhumpa Lahiri (In Other Words) uses her experiences to reflect on the publishing industry's approach to--and emphasis on--cover art.

"I think that publishers today have overloaded covers with unreasonable expectations.... Book jackets are often blamed if a book doesn't sell. I often hear editors say, 'The book is beautiful. Too bad the cover was wrong.' To be badly dressed is always a condemnation."

Lahiri's parents often dressed her in unfashionable clothing; in this long-form essay, the Pulitzer Prize winner compares her childhood attire with her book covers, lamenting authors' lack of control over the design process and her displeasure at the results. ("I am forced, at times, to accept book jackets that I dislike, that I find problematic, disappointing.") Stereotypes are prevalent, with Lahiri's jackets featuring Indian symbols without considering that "the greater part of [her] stories are set in the United States and therefore pretty far from the river Ganges." Readers might be better served, she says, if covers were akin to school uniforms, allowing for equitable representation.

Originally written as a keynote speech for the Festival degli Scrittori in Florence, Italy, The Clothing of Books is more than personal criticism. Lahiri's viewpoint is bolstered with a brief history of the jacket's evolution and a look at how translations often beget dramatically different images. It will appeal most to savvy readers interested in the inner workings of publishing and its trends. --Melissa Firman, writer, editor and blogger at

Discover: In this long-form essay, Jhumpa Lahiri explores the nuances of book covers.

Vintage, $7.95, paperback, 80p., 9780525432753

War Diaries, 1939-1945

by Astrid Lindgren, trans. by Sarah Death

Astrid Lindgren's War Diaries, 1939-1945, is a fascinating account of life in neutral Sweden during World War II.

Famous today as the creator of Pippi Longstocking, which was published in 1945, Lindgren was a 30-something housewife and aspiring author during the war years. Her diaries are a mix of the personal and political. Marital problems, concerns about her son's difficulties at school and rumors about increased rationing are mingled with her determination to document the course of the war. Lindgren includes clippings from newspapers and information gained on her night job with a security agency responsible for censoring correspondence sent to or from other countries. Although her work was so hush-hush that her children did not know what she did, she had no hesitation about copying and commenting on sections of the letters in her diaries, including letters describing the transportation of Jews to concentration camps in Poland as early as 1941.

Readers hoping to gain insight into the creative process behind what Lindgren describes as "that jolly funny book" will be disappointed. There are few references to her writing. Instead, she describes her relief and guilt over Sweden's relative prosperity, her shame over allowing German troops to travel through Sweden and her fear that the Soviet Union might prove to be a greater threat than Germany.

Lindgren's War Diaries tell the story of the war as seen through the veil of Swedish neutrality--a veil that Lindgren recognized was perilously thin. --Pamela Toler, blogging at History in the Margins

Discover: The creator of Pippi Longstocking documents the events of World War II from Sweden.

Yale University Press, $30, hardcover, 240p., 9780300220049

Toussaint Louverture: A Revolutionary Life

by Philippe Girard

Toussaint Louverture is better known as a legend more than as a man. For many of his admirers, he was "the George Washington of his race, the black Napoléon, the new Spartacus, or even the Messiah"--the hero who fought his way from slave to international statesman as the leader of the successful Haitian revolution against the French. But he was a cautious man who kept his distance, and his contemporaries left few accounts of him.

In Toussaint Louverture, historian and author Philippe Girard (Haiti: The Tumultuous History) embraces all aspects of this ambitious, radical and contradictory leader who lived in the African, Caribbean and French worlds. "He was a slave rebel and a conservative planter, a caring father and a cold-blooded general, a passionate idealist and a scheming politician." Girard is an entertaining writer and a diligent scholar who has immersed himself in many archives to reconstruct a biography from sometimes fragmented and discordant evidence. Louverture was the Haitian-born grandchild of Benin aristocracy, and first gained his provisional freedom when he was well into his 20s. He tried various business ventures, bought and rented slaves, and even returned to work on his original plantation before age 47, when he became the elusive mastermind of the carefully planned slave revolt of 1791. He was a general, governor and diplomat before he was captured by Napoleon's forces and died at age 59 in a cold French prison cell. This is a detailed and sympathetic account of a powerful historical figure. --Sara Catterall

Discover: Historian Philippe Girard details the life of the ambitious, contradictory and brilliant Haitian revolutionary leader and statesman Toussaint Louverture.

Basic Books, $29.99, hardcover, 352p., 9780465094134


Rasputin: Faith, Power, and the Twilight of the Romanovs

by Douglas Smith

Douglas Smith, the author of Former People: The Final Days of the Russian Aristocracy, has written what may be the definitive account of Grigory Rasputin's life and times. He questions every element of the mythos, even countering accusations of Rasputin's criminal background as a horse thief through "a series of documents that have languished unnoticed... until now." That becomes something of a refrain in the biography, as Smith not only reinterprets the work of his predecessors but provides a wealth of new information.

Beginning with Rasputin's obscure transition from a Siberian peasant to a pilgrim wandering among Russian Orthodox holy sites, Smith explains how Rasputin developed his religious outlook: "[he] took in all that the Russian religious world had to offer but kept only that which suited him, fashioning in the process his own version of peasant Orthodoxy." Far from uncovering banal reality behind Rasputin's supposed mystical talents, Smith instead explains how the man's forceful personality came to have such an impact on intelligent, learned people such as the Tsar and Tsarina.

The Rasputin that emerges in Smith's portrait is strikingly different from the one that dominates the popular imagination. The spiritual leader's ascendancy frightened some important Russians who began an enormously influential campaign against him. That campaign was so successful that Smith's book reads like a revelatory work of revisionist history, unearthing a flesh-and-blood person from a century's worth of lies and exaggerations. --Hank Stephenson, bookseller, Flyleaf Books

Discover: Rasputin: Faith, Power, and the Twilight of the Romanovs may prove to be the definitive portrait of his life and times.

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $35, hardcover, 848p., 9780374240844

Social Science

The Doulas: Radical Care for Pregnant People

by Mary Mahoney, Lauren Mitchell

The term "doula"--used to describe someone occupying a position somewhere between midwife, friend and birth coach--is becoming better known as people recognize the benefits of having unconditional support during labor. But what about those who can't afford to pay for a doula's services? What about pregnancies that don't culminate in a natural birth, but in abortion, miscarriage or stillbirth? What about births resulting in adoption? The Doulas: Radical Care for Pregnant People documents the work of the Doula Project, founded by authors Mary Mahoney and Lauren Mitchell, which connects underserved clients with what they term "full-spectrum doulas." Mahoney and Mitchell envision a "holistic service and advocacy model that challenges stigmatized, artificial divisions among pregnancy outcomes," aiming to provide support and advocacy for all pregnant people, particularly those with fewer resources and women of color.

The Doulas presents with candor the many experiences and emotions navigated by volunteer doulas and their clients. Individual narratives appear alongside chapters geared toward aspiring full-spectrum doulas, who will find valuable guidance about working with clients, moving from activism to direct care, avoiding burnout and building a new doula organization.

The work of a full-spectrum doula comes with its fair share of political tension, and the stories collected here are moving, personal and informative. Activists and healthcare professionals will gain particular perspective. The Doulas addresses the healing nature of face-to-face connection and the benefits of having additional support to help deal with the emotionally and physically challenging experience of pregnancy. --Richael Best, bookseller, Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle, Wash.

Discover: This book shows how doulas--a combination midwife, friend and birth coach--can help all pregnant women.

Feminist Press, $19.95, paperback, 240p., 9781558619418

Travel Literature

The Lonely Planet Travel Anthology: True Stories from the World's Best Writers

by Don George, editor

Editor extraordinaire Don George (An Innocent Abroad: Life Changing Trips from 35 Great Writers) has compiled his 10th literary anthology for Lonely Planet with The Lonely Planet Travel Anthology: True Stories from the World's Best Writers. The authors include well-known people such as Rebecca Dinerstein, Pico Iyer, Ann Patchett and T.C. Boyle, as well as talented newcomers.

The writing is sometimes sumptuous, sometimes sparse, exploring internal growth in striking exteriors. The scent of jasmine in Damascus tantalizes Suzanne Joinson, and soft cheese and herbs sate Anthony Sattin as he traces the path of Lawrence of Arabia, also in Syria. Two writers marvel at winter views of the Aurora Borealis, and two more expound upon love and loss in Kathmandu. In Wisconsin, Jan Morris sketches a pastoral scene along the Mississippi River, glimpsing a passing train while awaiting fresh eggs for breakfast. Natalie Baszile contributes a poignant account of racial relations in a southern Louisiana town, probing privilege and belonging and the power of simply making introductions.

The countries explored freckle the globe: Bolivia, China, the Congo, Egypt, Ghana, India and Japan, among others. Stories have both moving and seemingly mundane subjects, from the cremation of loved ones to the simple act of sharing a home-cooked meal. These essays span lessons learned, challenges overcome and horizons broadened; ultimately, this anthology beautifully reflects the illuminating power of travel. --Katie Weed, freelance writer and reviewer

Discover: Editor Don George gathers affecting and awe-inspiring stories from stellar writers' travels around the world.

Lonely Planet, $15.99, paperback, 320p., 9781786571960

Children's & Young Adult

Word of Mouse

by James Patterson, Chris Grabenstein, illus. by Joe Sutphin

"My story starts on the day I lost my entire family," begins Isaiah, who is a literate, neon-blue laboratory mouse, the youngest, smallest and most cowardly of 96 brothers and sisters. To the "Long Coats" of the "Horrible Place" he is known simply as "Blue 97."

Just as his family is escaping the lab, Isaiah loses them. For the first time in his life, he is alone--no cedar-shaving bed, no kibble, no sugar water, no anything. He is terrified. But also... curious. Out in the real world, in "Suburbia," Isaiah encounters slimy-skinned rats, devil cats and vermin-hating pie-bakers. He wonders, "Is my life outside of the Horrible Place doomed to become nothing but an endless quest for food and shelter?" Isaiah is not homeless for long. He befriends an enormous mouse family, gets a huge crush on a girl mouse, and even meets a 12-year-old, possibly albino human girl who also feels small, misunderstood and powerless, and who affirms, "We're all different. It's the only thing we have in common." Through many suspenseful scrapes, Isaiah proves time and time again he's not the cowardly mouse he once thought he was. Is there any way he can tap into that new-found courage and reunite with his family?

Chris Grabenstein (Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library) has collaborated with James Patterson on the I Funny, Treasure Hunters and House of Robots series. Joe Sutphin's absolutely wonderful, delicately etched black-and-white illustrations--reminiscent of Garth Williams's fine work--catapult this witty, action-packed middle-grade novel to new heights. Sweet, brave Isaiah will surely scurry and dart his way into readers' hearts. --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: In James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein's lively middle-grade novel, a blue mouse explores the big world outside the only home he's ever known--the laboratory.

Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown, $13.99, hardcover, 304p., ages 8-10, 9780316349567

The Lonely Giant

by Sophie Ambrose

"In a cave, on top of a crag, in the middle of a huge forest, lived a giant. The giant spent all day, day after day, doing what giants do... pulling up trees as though they were weeds, heaving and hurling huge logs like spears, and smashing and mashing mountains." This way of life is all well and good until the giant realizes his hard work has resulted in the disappearance of the forest and all the wildlife and its sounds. But when a small yellow bird shows up, singing and following him around all day, the heartened giant finds hope for his loneliness. He puts her in a cage. Unfortunately, he has yet to learn that nature shouldn't be destroyed or contained for one's own pleasure.

British author-illustrator Sophie Ambrose's lovely debut provides gentle lessons on friendship, freedom and a human's relationship with the natural world. Her tremendously appealing acrylic, watercolor and colored pencil illustrations capture the ingenuous violence of a giant who knows no other way to live. The aggressive bashing of mountains is offset by the delicate precision with which he pulls up trees by the roots. His big square-jawed face is kind, even as he goes about his workaday business of destroying things. Readers will be especially moved by the illustration of the giant sipping a teeny-tiny cup of tea in his cave--at his feet the in-progress carvings of the very animals he has displaced. And when he oh-so-gently holds the yellow bird on the tip of his rough finger and apologizes for caging her, it's clear change is in the air. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor

Discover: A giant smashes and mashes mountains and forests--because that's what giants do--not realizing until it's almost too late that there are repercussions to his destruction.

Candlewick, $16.99, hardcover, 32p., ages 4-8, 9780763682255


Author Buzz

Dragon Kiss
(A Dragon Kings Novella)

by Donna Grant

Dear Reader,

Welcome back to the Dragon Kings! I'm thrilled to bring you DRAGON KISS. The world of the Dragon Kings keeps expanding, and this story brings us Alasdair and Lotti, a powerful couple who have overcome all odds to find love. But a deadly enemy intends to rip them apart.

I can't wait for you to fall in love with Alasdair and Lotti as I have.


Available on Kobo

AuthorBuzz: 1001 Dark Nights Press: Dragon Kiss (A Dragon Kings Novella) by Donna Grant

1001 Dark Nights Press

Pub Date: 
January 9, 2024


List Price: 
$2.99 e-book

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