Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, July 7, 2017

Sourcebooks Landmark: Long After We Are Gone by Terah Shelton Harris

From My Shelf

Beauty in the Beast

In 2010 and 2011, I lived in Burma (now Myanmar). Though my residency took place at least 50 years after the events of Miss Burma, the newest novel by Charmaine Craig (The Good Men), those decades hadn't erased the sociopolitical tensions that hound the book's heroic family. Craig's novel pulls on her own family history and manages to give engagingly personal perspective to Burma's complicated modern history through the experience of an equally complicated family.

Benny and Khin meet in the capital city, Rangoon, and begin a family despite their combined social disadvantage in Burma, where the nationalist fervor following World War II became violent toward minority groups. Benny, an orphan of the city's once-thriving Sephardic Jewish community, and Khin, of the Karen ethnic nationality, face combat, evacuation, separation, imprisonment and disenfranchisement during Myanmar's turbulent development in the wake of British colonial withdrawal, through the 1960s and the rise of General Ne Win's brutal military rule.

Based on Craig's mother, the novel's titular character is Louisa, the eldest daughter of the struggling couple. Growing up amid the civil conflict, Louisa's resiliency and beauty win her the country's pageant crown, and she begrudgingly becomes a symbol of national unity, even as civil rights abuses in the country soar and her father is imprisoned.

Craig details the neglected perspectives of minority women in Burma's longstanding conflict. Using these underrepresented voices and offering more complex perspective on iconic figures (most notably humanizing the typically lionized Aung San), this revisionist history is made even more engaging with the deeply personal vein of her family story. Whether readers are familiar or not with Burma's history, Craig's novel is a compelling excavation of the origins of conflict and the capacity to overcome. --Kristianne Huntsberger, Shelf Awareness partnership marketing manager

The Writer's Life

Nina George: Writing, Loving, Fighting

photo: Urban Zintel

Nina George is the author of the bestselling novel The Little Paris Bookshop, a story about how books have the power to change destinies. She also writes (in German, with her husband, Jens "Jo" Kramer) a mystery series set in Provence under the pseudonym Jean Bagnol; has written science thrillers as Nina Kramer; and many titles about love, relationships, Eros and femininity as Anne West. In her 27th book, The Little French Bistro (see our review below), George tells the fictional story of a 60-year-old German woman's quest for reinvention and self-discovery. 

Why use the word "little" in the titles of both novels?

In every language, my books have totally different titles. Every market has its own rules. And let's face it: I like to write intimate stories, set in a specific place--because the place is a sort of secret protagonist. Every landscape, every room has its character, which helps me to describe certain emotions and cultural attitudes.

Both "little" books are journey stories. What did you learn about yourself in taking the journey to write these novels?

I love to tell "road stories." The art of developing a "quest," the searching and finding, is one of the oldest ways to create legends. You have to move on--our own, real lives are daily-quests, too. With The Little French Bistro, I found my writing voice. I had nearly 18 years of practice in professional writing, but with Marianne (the protagonist of The Little French Bistro), I reached the magical point of telling the story just exactly the way it wanted to be told. A story finds its way to a writer in different ways. When I found the tale of Marianne, it all started with her "getting lost at the end of the world." And like Marianne, I also found my home--at the "end of the world."

That "end of the world" reference is to Kerdruc, the setting of this novel.

Yes, Kerdruc is a very, very small village in the "Commune Nevez," which is part of the Region Cornouaille in the Department Finistère in the State Brittany (Bretagne) of France. Some call it a place at the "end of the world."

How did you discover Kerdruc?

Years ago, my husband and I traveled without any GPS, and one day we ended up at the Port of Kerdruc. It was like a slap in the face: I had the idea to develop a setting right then and there.

You divide your time between Berlin and Brittany.

Brittany is the place where I feel at home. I belong to the sea, the beauty of the nights; I feel familiar with the savage seashore, the stones and the stolid nature of Bretons.

Did that Breton sensibility spark the idea for this story?

The idea was born when I noticed a group of older people hanging around in a Bar Tabac on a Monday morning--drinking, chatting, enjoying their friendship and their time left together. I wanted to tell a story about older people and why they are still together--is it friendship? Is it love? Is it just home? What is necessary to do in your own life to find the exact place that is meant for you? 

Is that why you chose to create Marianne--the protagonist of The Little French Bistro--as a 60-year-old, as opposed to someone younger?

Modern literature often ignores older people in the autumn of their lives. At 60 years old, the layers of your emotions, your memories, and also the cage you have built up around you, are more complex.

Community is the centerpiece of both "little" books.

Our memories are made of the people we've spent our time with. Life is not about what you get. Not your career or success. It's about who you choose to spend your short time on earth with: friendship--short or long-term--love, an encounter with a stranger on a train by night....

What research was necessary to tell this story?

For several weeks, I traveled through the Finistère; watching, listening, visiting forests and chapels, feeling the loneliness and freedom of this part of old Europe, learning how to cook like the Bretons.

Cooking and gastronomic delights are backdrops of the novel. Are you a cook?

Bah oui! I was raised in a family of cooks. For me it is normal to get something good on the table--to please me, to please the one I love. And I really love to take care of guests. One day, I will open a guest house with a fine kitchen and a library in each room.

How has your life changed since the success of The Little Paris Bookshop?

It took me 20 years to become famous "overnight"... but those years help me to stay humble today. No one tells you beforehand that it is even harder to write another successful novel after having a bestseller. The success also makes it easier for me to support others. The royalties allow me to advocate for authors' rights, for women in literature and to defend those whose voices are silenced. We have to care for the world and the future.

Will there be another "little" book?

I am working right now on a new novel, my 28th, which asks the existential question: Did I become (the woman) who I could have been? It will be based in Brittany again in an endless summer, an intimate play between two women and two men. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Book Candy

Beach Reads

Bustle recommended "7 poems about the beach to take your next trip to the next level."


Author Gillian Best picked her "top 10 books about swimming" for the Guardian.


Kurt Vonnegut: Car salesman. The New York Public Library shared some of the "day jobs of 10 famous writers."


Pop quiz: "Can you score 14/16 on this first edition book cover quiz?" Buzzfeed challenged.


Mental Floss took fans of Shakespeare "inside the Public Theater's traveling 'Mobile Unit.' 


Sou Fujimoto's Bookchair is "a compact, essential bookcase from which you can extract a chair," Bookshelf noted.

Great Reads

Rediscover: Walden

This July 12 marks the bicentennial birthday of poet, essayist, social activist and philosopher Henry David Thoreau. He was born in Concord, Mass., where his father owned a pencil factory. Thoreau studied at Harvard College, though he apocryphally refused to pay the $5 fee for his diploma. He became a public school teacher, then resigned rather than use corporal punishment on his students. The young Thoreau's writing career was nurtured by like-minded locals such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ellery Channing and Margaret Fuller. In 1845, following the advice of Channing to "build yourself a hut, & there begin the grand process of devouring yourself alive," Thoreau set out on a two-year stint of simple living in a cabin on the banks of Walden Pond in Concord.

Thoreau's time on Walden Pond begat his two greatest works. The first, the essay "Civil Disobedience," resulted from Thoreau's brief stint in prison over his refusal to pay taxes. Thoreau objected to slavery and the Mexican-American War, and argued that an individual could not allow a government to overrule their conscience, an approach that influenced Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. Walden (1854) is a transcendentalist tract on Thoreau's spiritual self-discovery and practical lessons on isolated life, perhaps best explained by the book's most famous lines: "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." --Tobias Mutter

Book Review


South Pole Station

by Ashley Shelby

The Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station Guide welcomes Cooper Gosling, an artist in residence, with the fact that the average annual temperature is -56.7 degrees Fahrenheit. She'd already been vetted for a grant: subjected to an exam ("True or false: I prefer flowers to trucks"), questioned about why she wants to paint in Antarctica and treated to a trust-building exercise involving Tabasco and 7UP. In Ashley Shelby's witty and affecting debut novel, South Pole Station, Cooper joins a group of eccentrics on the ice for a slide into the surreal. There is Sal, an astrophysicist with one year left to prove his cosmological theory; Pavano, a helioseismologist in the pay of big oil and global warming deniers; Pearl, a cook with culinary ambitions; Bozer, the construction chief who sports a Confederate bandanna; Tucker, the calm and cool African American area director; and various other "margin-dwellers" for whom the Pole is the only place they feel at home.

South Pole Station, told from various viewpoints, always circles around Cooper, who was raised, along with her brother, on tales of polar exploration. The tension in the novel, aside from extreme weather conditions and personal interactions, comes from the opposition to Pavano. The scientists go out of their way to thwart him, which ultimately results in an accident involving Cooper, and the threat by several congressmen to withdraw funding.

Shelby makes serious statements about scientific quests, climate change, politics and people in extremis, but it's the "Polies" who undergird the story. With South Pole Station's satire, science, wry wit and warmth, Ashley Shelby has written one of the best novels of the year. --Marilyn Dahl

Discover: A blocked artist gets a grant to paint in Antarctica, and finds both inspiration and family among the "margin-dwellers" who call the ice their home.

Picador, $26, hardcover, 368p., 9781250112828

The Little French Bistro

by Nina George

While vacationing in Paris with her demeaning ogre of a husband, unfulfilled and unhappy, 60-year-old Marianne Messmann from Celle, Germany, decides to end her life by taking a plunge into the River Seine. But when a stranger rescues Marianne, she sets off on a journey to find her true self--the woman she sadly left behind and lost when she married 41 years before.

Marianne's second chance at life seems dictated by providence. This begins in the hospital, where she finds a glazed tile depicting a beautiful harbor and a dainty red boat, sails slack, named Mariann--"a magnificent scene in the tiny space." On the back is written Port de Kerdruc, Fin. Marianne takes this as a sign. She ditches her husband and sets her sights on Kerdruc, located miles away in the Finistère region, a place in western France that "bulged out into the Atlantic--Brittany."

Kerdruc is all Marianne imagines and hopes for. She lands a job at a bistro where she's befriended by a host of locals--dynamic characters, artists and dreamers--who also carry challenges and burdens of loss, regret and a lack of love and fulfillment. Amid Marianne's liberation and self-discovery, she falls in love again. But when her contrite husband tracks her down, Marianne is faced with a difficult choice. Loyal bonds of community, the tug of romance, gentle humor and poignant revelations buoy Nina George's (The Little Paris Bookshop) beautifully written, French-infused story brightened with hope. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: A small, lively town in France offers an unfulfilled, 60-year-old woman liberation and a chance for personal reinvention.

Crown, $26, hardcover, 320p., 9780451495587

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness

by Arundhati Roy

Twenty years after winning the Booker Prize for her debut novel, The God of Small Things, human rights activist and essayist Arundhati Roy is back in fiction mode with an epic saga of love and war.

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness unfolds amid decades of civil unrest in the Indian subcontinent, during the tumultuous era after the British partition of India, once a treasured colonial jewel. India and Pakistan are at war over the disputed region of Kashmir, a mountainous province in the north renowned for its beauty. Kashmir is a battleground between Hindus and Muslims, soldiers and militants, where children turn into freedom fighters, "tombstones grow out of the ground like young children's teeth" and martyrdom spreads through "saffron fields... like a creeping mist."

Roy infuses her storytelling with mesmerizing imagery and characters. She cleverly compares the tired country of India with an old woman who is forced to hide her varicose veins under imported fishnet stockings and jam her aching feet into high-heeled shoes. Anjum is a transgender prostitute and reality TV star, learning to love herself and yearning for motherhood. Musa, a handsome young Kashmiri freedom fighter, is dealing with unimaginable loss and yet personifies dignity and truth. Love blossoms in the most unlikely of places, including a graveyard repurposed as Paradise Heavenly Guesthouse. As with those in The God of Small Things, Roy's characters finally succumb to her particular version of "happily ever after": bound together by loneliness, they accept each other with the relief that comes with being understood and finding a place to belong. --Shahina Piyarali, writer and freelance reviewer

Discover: An entertaining cast of characters searches for love in the chaos of post-colonial India.

Knopf, $28.95, hardcover, 464p., 9781524733155

The Reminders

by Val Emmich

When actor Gavin Winters is caught fueling a backyard bonfire with items that remind him of his recently deceased partner, Sydney, he tries to escape his grief--and the media spotlight--with old friends Ollie and Paige Sully back home in New Jersey. Their 10-year-old daughter, Joan Lennon Sully--named in honor of John Lennon by her musician father--has her own issues with memory: she can't forget. One of few people known to have Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory, Joan remembers her days to the last detail, including each visit "Uncle" Sydney made to the Sully home.

Joan has a hard time understanding "normal" memory and how someone, particularly her beloved, Alzheimer's-stricken Grandma Joan, could forget her name. Determined to become unforgettable, the young musician decides to win the Next Great Songwriter contest and enlists the help of Gavin, her dad's old bandmate, trading memories of Sydney for Gavin's lyric-writing prowess. When Joan's recollections reveal Sydney's secrets, Gavin wonders if his insecurities about parenthood caused a rift with his partner deeper than he imagined.

Actor and singer-songwriter Val Emmich has written an endearing and sincere paean to the bonds of music and family in The Reminders. Quirky and lighthearted yet still soulful, Emmich's debut reveals his skilled hand for crafting relationships and voice, adult and child alike. Told from Joan and Gavin's perspectives, the novel mines the charming duo for thought-provoking notions about memory, and wraps them in a charismatic, Beatles-themed story of grief, hope and love. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review

Discover: Both struggling with issues involving memory, a grieving man and a young girl with a remarkable mind team up to write a contest-winning song.

Little, Brown, $26, hardcover, 320p., 9780316316996

The Answers

by Catherine Lacey

In The Answers, Catherine Lacey (Nobody Is Ever Missing) focuses on a young woman whose passivity and introspection take her places she never planned. Born Junia Stone in East Tennessee, Mary Parsons was renamed and taken in by her aunt when her Bible-obsessed father tried to raise her "in a state of complete purity." A self-described "homeschooled semi-orphan from a barely literate state," she remembers her time at college as "a gestational period, four years of warning and training for this life that was coming." She graduates and moves to New York City with her loopy roommate Chandra.

When she's stricken with body-wracking disease, Mary lets Chandra lead her through a maze of traditional health care before venturing to Chandra's preferred healers. She finally discovers miraculous relief with Chandra's last recommendation: Pneuma Adaptive Kinesthesia ("PAKing"), as practiced with the hocus-pocus jive of the personal masseuse Ed. Problem is, a full PAKing treatment costs thousands, so Mary turns to Craigslist. After numerous interviews, Mary is offered a job with the Girlfriend Experiment, designed to illuminate love and companionship.

When the job and PAKing sessions inevitably end, Mary has a new perspective on the uncertainty of life. She reflects: "I thought of all those billions of hearts beating out there, trying to find love or keep love going. All those people, getting in the way of each other--how do we even stand it? How do we make our way around?" Lacey doesn't give us answers, but she sure gives us a wild story with a memorable protagonist. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: In an adept novel filled with wacky alternative health cures and a bizarre celebrity psychological experiment, a young woman searches for stable ground.

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $26, hardcover, 304p., 9780374100261

Mystery & Thriller

Cast the First Stone

by James W. Ziskin

James W. Ziskin (Heart of Stone) produces a memorable romp through 1960s Hollywood in his smart and fun thriller Cast the First Stone.

The Ellie Stone Mystery series follows a young, clever--if somewhat naive--reporter for an upstate New York newspaper. In this installment, Ellie is whisked off to Los Angeles to track down and profile Toby Eberle, a local boy on the brink of stardom. But when Eberle goes missing, and the producer of the film he was starring in is found murdered, Stone must piece together the truth or lose her big story.

Cast the First Stone starts off a little slowly, bogged down by Stone's excessive internal monologue--usually in the form of rhetorical questions used to frame the plot--but soon finds its stride. Ziskin crafts a female lead who is intelligent, resourceful and energetic, and genuinely funny. Her reaction to Hollywood superficiality is both wry and self-deprecatory, especially when people keep telling her, unprompted, that she's pretty but not "Hollywood pretty." Ziskin succeeds at sustaining the historical reality of the early 1960s, not only in the material fashions of the times, but in disturbing reminders of the era's backward mores. For example, as Stone investigates the murder, she discovers a coordinated attempt on behalf of the studios to cover up the homosexual activities of big-name macho actors. Society's intolerance of gays becomes a major theme in the narrative as Stone questions her own attitudes and biases. This adds a serious aspect of social justice to the more standard plot twists and mystery tropes. --Scott Neuffer, freelance journalist, poet and fiction author

Discover: A spunky reporter discovers the dark side of Hollywood in this mystery thriller set in the 1960s.

Seventh Street Books, $15.95, paperback, 303p., 9781633882812

Science Fiction & Fantasy

The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O.

by Nicole Galland, Neal Stephenson

The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O., a collaboration by novelists Neal Stephenson (Seveneves) and Nicole Galland (Stepdog), combines witches, time travel, particle physics and espionage. It's a dizzying range of subjects, but the two authors rope their sprawling novel together with a compelling and propulsive central conceit. At the outset, the modern-day protagonist (and major narrator throughout) is trapped in Victorian England and may not be able to get home.

Mel Stokes, a professor of ancient languages, is hired by a shadowy government agency to translate writings from across geographies and times that discuss magic. Digging further with her handler, Tristan, she finds that magic disappeared from the earth around the time of photography's rise. This leads them to an exiled physicist and his put-upon wife, and the discovery that time travel is possible, given the right conditions. From there, The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. delves into a battle for the future of magic and technology. To its credit, the novel is never portentous regarding its subject matter. Instead, it zips along with a light touch, keeping the reader on her toes as it bounces among eras.

If anything, the book can be too quick (especially regarding how Mel comes to be trapped in the Victorian Era), but given its 400-plus page length, Stephenson and Galland can't be faulted for trying to trim the fat. Fans of both authors, and of swashbuckling fantasy, will certainly enjoy the ride. --Noah Cruickshank, adult engagement manager, the Field Museum, Chicago, Ill.

Discover: The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O., a collaboration by writers Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland, is a rollicking adventure through time and space.

Morrow, $35, hardcover, 768p., 9780062409164

Food & Wine

Recipes from the Herbalist's Kitchen: Delicious, Nourishing Food for Lifelong Health and Well-Being

by Brittany Wood Nickerson

Basil rules pesto, cilantro sparks salsas and mint muddles into a soothing tea, food aficionados know. But Massachusetts herbalist and health educator Brittany Wood Nickerson guides us beyond the everyday uses of common herbs in her lavishly photographed book advocating their medicinal benefits in Recipes from the Herbalist's Kitchen: Delicious, Nourishing Food for Lifelong Health and Well-Being.

The introduction, "Empower," urges readers to live well through home herbalism, before Nickerson suggests "finding your own deep, meaningful, intimate relationship with herbs, cooking, medicine and health." She shares knowledge from her studies of Ayurveda, traditional Chinese medicine and Western herbalism, and teaches cooks to listen to their bodies, trust their instincts and taste. Flavor is a powerful indicator of an herb's power, she writes, and "as long as you can taste an herb, it is having a medicinal effect." Use of culinary herbs can "renew our connections with age-old cherished traditions."

The less adventurous home cook may resist the more esoteric of the 110 recipes, like Lavender and Dandelion Flower Muffins, or Lactofermented Dilly Beans. Herb-centric traditional fare, however, calls for easily procured ingredients: Prosciutto-wrapped Dates with Sage; Red Grape Chimichurri with Dill and Oregano; Lemon Roasted Asparagus with Baked Goat Cheese encrusted with chives, oregano, thyme and pecans.

An East Coaster who studied in California, Nickerson delivers a beautiful guide suitable for all seasons and growing climates, and sure to bring healthy dishes to any table. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, manager, Book Passage, San Francisco

Discover: An herbalist offers 110 recipes and a primer on the health benefits of common culinary herbs.

Storey, $24.95, hardcover, 312p., 9781612126906


Young Radicals: In the War for American Ideals

by Jeremy McCarter

Jeremy McCarter's Young Radicals: In the War for American Ideals offers a rousing history of a pivotal era in American history as lived and seen through the struggles of five prominent activists.

McCarter, a former culture critic for New York magazine and Newsweek, co-authored Hamilton: The Revolution with Lin-Manuel Miranda. He knows how to bring history to life, and he does it here splendidly with the lives of Randolph Bourne, Max Eastman, Walter Lippmann and John Reed--pioneers of socialist thought--as well as crusading suffragist Alice Paul. McCarter frames their respective struggles and evolving ideologies through lively narration, vividly capturing social and political realities of the U.S. in the early 20th-century. He reveals a formative time in both American and world history when society, coming out of the Industrial Revolution, was fraught with inequality and class warfare.

McCarter is almost elegiac in the way he writes of naive idealism. Young Radicals charts the rocky course of utopian idealism to the catastrophes of World War I, the atrocities of the Russian Revolution, and the mass disillusionment that would characterize the "Lost Generation." Yet all is not hopeless. That idealism melded with what became the progressive movement and produced tangible improvements in the human condition, including Paul's eventual victory in securing women's suffrage. Many of the political battles McCarter evaluates are shockingly relevant to modern-day politics. For instance, opining against the nativism and ethnic violence of his day, Bourne writes of "that miracle of hope, the peaceful living side by side, with character substantially preserved, of the most heterogeneous peoples under the sun." --Scott Neuffer, freelance journalist, poet and fiction author

Discover: Jeremy McCarter illuminates American ideals of equality in this multifaceted biographical history.

Random House, $30, hardcover, 400p., 9780812993059

Social Science

If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?: My Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and Communicating

by Alan Alda

Arguably best known for his role as Captain Hawkeye Pierce on the television series M.A.S.H., Alan Alda's first stab at interviewing scientists for PBS's Scientific American Frontiers didn't go so famously. Alda says, "I walked over to the scientist, smiled confidently--and immediately made three huge blunders." Despite the mistakes, that experience sparked his ensuing two decades of work in the realm of communication, as well as contributions to the establishment of the Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University in New York. If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? is the chronicle of his endeavors and the lessons he learned along the way.

Alda makes dogged attempts to teach scientists improvisation exercises. He also shares anecdotes from his acting experiences (and how they translate into universal communication skills), entertaining stories of private experiments he tried on himself, and a plethora of research he gathered through reading and interviewing experts. His findings point to the importance of developing empathy in order to better relate to others and thus to more clearly communicate ideas. "People are dying because we can't communicate in ways that allow us to understand one another," Alda believes. Whether it's doctors to patients, teachers to students, or scientists to laymen, the clear transferance of ideas is vital.

Delivered with a witty, engaging style, If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? offers readers a variety of accessible ways to build their own empathy levels. It's a valuable life tool presented in a wonderfully entertaining narrative. --Jen Forbus, freelancer

Discover: Comedic actor Alan Alda illustrates a growing need for improved human communication and how improvisation skills can help bridge the gap between speaker and audience.

Random House, $28, hardcover, 240p., 9780812989144

Children's & Young Adult

Can You Find My Robot's Arm?

by Chihiro Takeuchi

Where, oh where is Robot's arm? His wee robot friend (think squashed R2-D2) is ever so helpful, looking all through the house, up a tree, at an aquarium for the missing limb, but alas, it's "nowhere to be found." He resorts to offering alternatives but "[n]o, a broom won't make a good arm. Neither will a pencil. Neither will scissors. And an umbrella certainly won't do." The diligent bot-pal tries--and discards--every possible option in every locale, including a library, a candy store ("Shall we look in here? Sweet!") and even a robot factory, ultimately deciding that "[m]aybe a fork is not such a bad arm after all."

Young readers accustomed to I Spy and Where's Waldo? will pore over the intricately detailed black-on-cream cut-paper illustrations, searching for the lost arm, but it's not until the final page that they will be rewarded with a sighting--wouldn't you know it, even robo-dogs are rascally when it comes to carrying off appealing looking objects!

Striking geometric silhouetted images invite long, happy perusal (gears and wind-up keys abound) while opposing pages offer pleasing muted blues, greens and peaches, against which the simple, playful text stands out nicely: "It isn't in the amusement park, but will this lollipop do?"

Chihiro Takeuchi is a well-known cut-paper artist in Osaka, Japan. Can You Find My Robot's Arm? is her debut English-language picture book, although she has written and illustrated several books in Japanese. Readers will surely be asking librarians, "Can you find more books by Chihiro Takeuchi?" --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor

Discover: A one-armed robot and his mini-bot friend search high and low for his missing appendage in this charming, funny cut-paper picture book.

Tundra/Penguin Random House, $16.99, hardcover, 40p., ages 2-5, 9781101919033

Magellan: Over the Edge of the World: The True Story of the Terrifying First Circumnavigation of the Globe

by Laurence Bergreen

Although the Strait of Magellan is marked on modern maps, many readers may not be familiar with the Portuguese explorer for whom the Strait is named. Setting out in 1519 with five ships and more than 200 sailors, Fernão de Magalhães (known in English as Ferdinand Magellan) sailed for Spain in an attempt to find the Spice Islands (an archipelago in present-day Indonesia). Magellan was an ambitious man who bristled at sharing power with his fellow captains, ruthlessly drove his sailors (sometimes unnecessarily cutting their rations) and mistreated the indigenous communities along his route, often trying to convert people to Christianity. He survived vicious mutinies only to find death in the Philippines--before his mission was accomplished--by needlessly interfering in a local conflict.

Laurence Bergreen, a prolific biographer (Columbus: The Four Voyages, 1492-1504; Marco Polo: From Venice to Xanadu), has ably adapted Magellan: Over the Edge of the World from his adult book, Over the Edge of the World. Bergreen tells the story of the Armada de Molucca, at first focusing on Magellan--his good decisions and his bad--but then describing the fates of the other boats, captains and men, revealing that only one boat and 18 men returned to Seville after the full circumnavigation. He details shocking shipboard conditions, such as food contaminated by weevils and rat urine and the prevalence of scurvy caused by the lack of vitamin C and medical knowledge. Excerpts from the journal kept by Antonio Pigafetta, a Venetian scholar who survived the expedition, appear throughout the book and some of the archival illustrations are also from Pigafetta's work. Excellent chapter notes, an extensive bibliography and maps are included. --Melinda Greenblatt, freelance book reviewer

Discover: This absorbing biography of one of the great explorers from the Age of Discovery allows young readers to make their own assessment of Magellan's accomplishments.

Roaring Brook, $19.99, hardcover, 224p., ages 12-up, 9781626721203

Amazon Adventure: How Tiny Fish Are Saving the World's Largest Rainforest

by Sy Montgomery, photographs by Keith Ellenbogen

As part of the Scientists in the Field series, author Sy Montgomery (The Soul of an Octopus) and photographer Keith Ellenbogen trek up the Río Negro, one of the main arteries of the Amazon River, to study piaba: shy, "pip-squeak" fish that may be the answer to saving the region and improving global climate.

Traveling by riverboat, Montgomery and Ellenbogen bring the South American rain forest to life, sharing vivid sights and sounds through engaging storytelling and captivating photographs. Their examination of the many types of fish all called piaba by locals explains, in accessible language, how fishing and exporting the hundreds of species treasured for personal aquariums can provide jobs, reduce the practice of other destructive trades in the rain forest and increase the production of oxygen, thereby slowing climate change. Interspersed throughout the chapters are pages of fun facts (for example, "Meeting the Seven Deadly Plagues of the Amazon--in the Dark") that add to the plethora of fascinating information about the region.

The underwater photos of piaba, with additional images of piranhas, stingrays and pink river dolphins, emphasize these distinctive waters, darkened by natural chemicals found in the plant life. Meanwhile, surface images of Brazil's plants, animals and people burst with vibrant colors and textures. Anyone flipping through these pages will be drawn in by the stunning world displayed in the photographs.

While Amazon Adventure is geared toward readers aged 10-12, this extraordinary look at "the lungs of the world" is sure to intrigue fish enthusiasts, eco-conscious readers and anthropology buffs of any age. --Jen Forbus, freelancer

Discover: An exciting adventure on the Amazon reveals a small fish that means a big deal to the world.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $18.99, hardcover, 80p., ages 10-12, 9780544352995


Author Buzz

Every Time We Say Goodbye

by Natalie Jenner

Dear Reader,

EVERY TIME WE SAY GOODBYE was the hardest book I will ever write, and the most rewarding. I packed everything I could into this book: love and conflict, faith and religion, censorship and resistance, art and moviemaking, fashion and food, cameos by favorite actresses and characters from my earlier books, and above all Rome, my favorite city in the world. I hope that my novel gives you the entertainment and inspiration that nourished me throughout its writing.

Email with the subject line "Every Time Was Say Goodbye Sweeps" for a chance to win one of five copies.

Gratefully yours,
Natalie Jenner

Buy now and support your local indie bookstore>

AuthorBuzz: St. Martin's Press: Every Time We Say Goodbye by Natalie Jenner

St. Martin's Press

Pub Date: 
May 14, 2024


List Price: 
$29.00 Hardcover

Happily Ever Maybe
(A Montgomery Ink Legacy Novella)

by Carrie Ann Ryan

Dear Reader,

What happens in a bodyguard romance when both characters are a bodyguard?

All the heat and action!

I love writing workplace romances because things get tricky. And when a one night stand ends up burning up the pages, things get... explosive.

Gus and Jennifer are fiery, kick-butt characters that made me so happy to write.

I hope you love them!

Carrie Ann Ryan

Available on Kobo

AuthorBuzz: 1001 Dark Nights Press: Happily Ever Maybe (A Montgomery Ink Legacy Novella) by Carrie Ann Ryan

1001 Dark Nights Press

Pub Date: 
February 13, 2024


List Price: 
$2.99 e-book

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