Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, October 24, 2017

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

From My Shelf

Opening Lines

How do you choose a book, aside from reviews and recommendations? I prefer first lines, first paragraphs. We know many iconic first lines, like "Call me Ishmael." (Not a compelling opening; seriously, try it with another name: "Call me Susan.")

A first line that delivers anticipation is what I want. When I picked up Eugene F. Walters's novel The Untidy Pilgrim, I knew I was in for a wild ride: "Down in Mobile, they're all crazy, because the Gulf Coast is the kingdom of monkeys, the land of clowns, ghosts and musicians, and Mobile is sweet lunacy's county seat." I give high marks to sentences that promise wit, like "Even a hundred years past the town's founding a visitor to Amicus might guess it had been laid out by rival drunks." (The Exact Nature of Our Wrongs, Janet Peery)

Some openings are tragic, like Toni Morrison's from Paradise--"They shoot the white girl first."--or "We started dying before the snow, and like the snow, we continued to fall." (Tracks, Louise Erdrich) Some are simply shivery: "Nothing good happens after midnight." (Are You Sleeping, Kathleen Barber). Some start us on a journey: "The train to Odessa is careening along at ninety miles an hour in the green light of dusk, hurdling copper-colored rivers...." (The Fault Line, Paolo Rumiz)--the colors and the verbs promise poetry and adventure, and Rumiz delivers. Some are unexpected, like John Stubbs's in his exemplary John Donne: The Reformed Soul: "His mistress lived with her parents, and access was a problem."

So many great first lines; I have rarely been disappointed in the rest of the book. But every now and then, I choose a page at random and am pleasantly surprised there, too: "How can anything in the world seem bleak when one is eating bacon?" Thank you, Julia Quinn (The Girl with the Make-Believe Husband). --Marilyn Dahl

The Writer's Life

Alice Hoffman: The Magic of Being Truly Human

photo: Deborah Feingold

Alice Hoffman is the author of more than 30 novels for adults, three books of short fiction and eight books for children and young adults. Her 1995 novel Practical Magic is a cult classic, and was made into a film starring Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock. Hoffman revisits its central characters, the Owens family, in her new novel, The Rules of Magic (reviewed below; trailer here).

What made you decide to return to the story of the Owens family, 20 years after Practical Magic?

Ever since Practical Magic came out, readers have kept writing to me and saying they wanted more. I found myself wanting more, too. I'm always interested in people's history and pasts, and trying to figure out what made them become the people they were. With the older people in your life, I find, you can never really know them as they were when they were young. And so I wanted to go back and explore the history of the Owens family in a slightly earlier time.

I have been writing bits and pieces related to Practical Magic for 15 years, and it was so easy for me to return to that world. When I started writing The Rules of Magic, I reread Practical Magic because I hadn't reread it for so long. But this book was different. There are so many new characters, a different setting. It was such a pleasure to get back into that world.

Plus, it's the 1960s in New York City--my favorite time period! I lived through it, and I was there (I'm a New Yorker). I love that time period: culturally, socially, artistically. Everything about it is just so rich. And it's kind of the perfect time for these characters, for experimenting with things: mysticism, magic, music. There's also a sense of both past and present in that neighborhood [Greenwich Village]. When I go there now and I walk through the places where Franny and Jet go, I have a sense that the story could be happening now.

There is a sense in the book of both time and timelessness: it's tied to a particular time and place, but the characters and their struggles resonate now.

I want my books to feel timeless, even though they are tied to a particular time and place. I think there are also a lot of echoes between that time and the present day, about what's happening politically and culturally. The 1960s were such an unsettled time, but there was also a real openness to trying new things--to trying to make the world different, and better.

The magic the characters use is a kind of everyday alchemy: there's an understanding that magic is already here in our world, and they can channel it or avoid it via certain "rules." Tell us about your concept of magic and magical power.

I'm interested in everyday magic: magic that you could turn a corner and find. I think a lot of that has to do with the books I read as a child, because those are the books that make you a writer. I loved Ray Bradbury's books, and there's a real sense of that everyday magic in the here and now. That's what I'm interested in both as a reader and a writer: magic that is affected by the everyday.

Also, for me, the magic arises in the writing of the book. I knew I was writing about a family of witches, and I did a lot of research: herbal remedies, folk remedies, that sort of thing. But then the real magic comes in the writing of it, and I can't quite explain how that happens.

Courage is a thread that runs through the book: choosing courage over caution, being brave above all. How does courage relate to magic?

In a certain sense, the characters discovered this thread on their own. The book is really all about courage: the courage it takes to be different, the courage it takes to be in love, and the courage it takes to be human. Most people spend their lives running away from all that. The characters have to learn that. It takes Franny a long time to believe that she can be in love, with the consequences it carries, or to admit that she has been in love for a long time. Her sister Jet, who is shy and quiet, is much more able to choose love as a young person. So in a way, the woman who declares herself to be brave takes longer to come into her own than the sister who appears more timid on the outside.

The book deals with destiny and choice: the characters try to dodge a family curse, and they wrestle with accepting fate versus making their own choices. Can you talk about that?

That's a big question. But it's central to the book: the idea of the curse, which affects whether and how the Owens women fall in love. And yet, if you love someone, and open your heart to them, they will ultimately break your heart, curse or no curse. They may betray you; they may not be who you thought they were. Or they may get sick and die, as ultimately we all do. At some point, inevitably, there is pain involved with love. I think it's a big leap to make, and people are very brave when they do it. Part of the Owens "curse" is just being human. And along the way, there are beautiful, wonderful things, and that's part of being human too: such joy. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Book Candy

Best Kids' Books Movie Adaptations

Entertainment Weekly recommended the "25 best movie adaptations of classic children's books."


Maybe you're a "Book-Buster." The Atlantic challenged: "What kind of book reader are you? A diagnostics guide."


"Answer these questions and we'll give you a badass fictional woman to be your Mom," Buzzfeed challenged. 


Pop quiz: "How well do you know Samuel Johnson's dictionary?"

Great Reads

Rediscover: The Long Road Home

On April 4, 2004, soldiers from the U.S. Army's 1st Cavalry Division were ambushed while patrolling Baghdad's Sadr City neighborhood. Eight Americans were killed and another 70 wounded in the fighting. The battle became known as Black Sunday, and marked a turning point in the sectarian uprisings that would sow chaos and destruction among the Iraqi people and occupation forces for years to come. As news of the casualties broke, relatives near Fort Hood, Tex., where the 1st Cavalry Division is based, waited anxiously for updates on sons, brothers and husbands who might never come home.

Martha Raddatz, chief global affairs correspondent for ABC News, was embedded with the 1st Cavalry Division during its deployment to Sadr City. In The Long Road Home: A Story of War and Family (2007), Raddatz recounts the harrowing hours of Black Sunday and its impact on family members back in the United States. On Tuesday, November 7, the National Geographic Channel will air the premiere episode of an eight-part miniseries based on Raddatz's book. On October 3, Berkley published a tie-in edition of The Long Road Home with a new cover ($16, 9780451490797), released in time for the miniseries and Veteran's Day. --Tobias Mutter

Book Review


Savage Country

by Robert Olmstead

Robert Olmstead, author of The Coldest Night, has crafted another dark, contemplative western with his new novel, Savage Country. Olmstead's voice is distinctive: his brutally spare sentences create an apocalyptic mood reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy's Border Trilogy and his characters are similarly tightlipped. Olmstead's plotting is also unusual, mostly eschewing tense gunfights for a grimmer story of survival and environmental destruction.

Savage Country opens in 1873 with recently widowed Elizabeth Coughlin setting out on a highly dangerous buffalo hunt in a last-ditch effort to rescue her finances. She enlists her brother-in-law Michael, a veteran and experienced hunter, to help her navigate Indian Territory as well as the racial tensions, wild animals, illnesses and loose morals that variously afflict the men hired for the journey. Olmstead portrays the environment as at least as dangerous as hostile outlaws or Comanche, an unforgiving world embraced primarily by tough, mean people with little left to lose.

Despite the dangers, the hunt goes well for Elizabeth, so well that the novel's focus shifts to the enormous costs inflicted on the last of the buffalo. After days of shooting buffalo, Michael muses: "He'd begun his part in the great vanishing and he knew it. It was as if he was taking apart the world around him one life at a time." The novel's perspective is a cynical reinterpretation of American history as an exercise in higher profits fueled by increasingly efficient killing. Savage Country is a pitiless vision of the dark side of westward expansion. --Hank Stephenson, bookseller, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, N.C.

Discover: Savage Country follows a buffalo hunt that turned the last of the great herds into an abattoir in a dark, terse western that looks at American history through the lens of greed and exploitation.

Algonquin, $26.95, hardcover, 304p., 9781616204129

The Trick

by Emanuel Bergmann

Translator Emanuel Bergmann's first novel, The Trick, shifts settings between his birthplace in Germany and home in Los Angeles in a cross-generational tale of love, heartbreak and magic.

When Max Cohn, a 10-year-old boy in Los Angeles, listens to his father's decades-old record of the Great Zabbatini performing a spell of eternal love, he knows the magician can use his powers to bring Max's divorcing parents, Deborah and Harry, back together. Since a scratch in the record has destroyed the magic words, Max goes in search of the real deal, finding the crass, eccentric 80-year-old man who used to be Zabbatini in a local nursing home. In flashbacks to World War II Europe, readers learn the history of Zabbatini, born Moshe Goldenhirsch, son of a rabbi in Prague. After running away to join the circus as a young man and taking up with a beguiling magician's assistant, Moshe finds fame as a mentalist partly by faking Persian, and therefore Aryan, ancestry. Eventually discovered as a Jew and sent to a concentration camp, Moshe needs all his cleverness and magic to survive.

By turns sentimental and quirky, The Trick has much to love, most notably a charming intergenerational friendship between a boy who clings to his magical thinking and a disillusioned old grouch. While the secret revealed in the end might feel like a particularly strong coincidence, Bergmann packs in enough minor magic and miracles along the way to leave the reader willing to fall under his spell in an entrancing diversion. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Discover: When a 10-year-old boy searches for a famed magician, he finds an octogenarian who survived the Holocaust.

Atria, $26, hardcover, 384p., 9781501155826

The Rules of Magic

by Alice Hoffman

Twenty years after her bestselling Practical Magic, Alice Hoffman returns to the Owens family, exploring the history of sisters Frances and Bridget (known in their younger days as Franny and Jet) and their brother, Vincent, in her spellbinding new novel, The Rules of Magic.

The Owens women aren't like other women. Descendants of a highly unusual family, they have certain powers and gifts, but they also struggle against a longstanding family curse. Despite Susanna Owens's best efforts to raise her three children in a non-magical, non-accursed fashion, one summer spent with their great-aunt Isabelle in Massachusetts will change everything.

Like many fairy tales, this story begins with "Once upon a time," and the narration does have a timeless quality. Wild birds fly into Franny's hand; daffodils bloom in all seasons under Jet's; Vincent discovers a mysterious book with powers he doesn't quite understand. But the characters also feel complex and sympathetic, especially when they wrestle with the weight of the Owens legacy. Their fierce, often fractious love for each other proves to be their greatest strength when tragedy strikes not once, but many times.

While Hoffman's story is shot through with magic, it is undeniably real: marked with heartache and loss, and the need to reckon with one's own choices and those of one's family. Hoffman explores loss, love and hope through her characters' lives, all while weaving a spell strong enough to make readers believe that magic--of several kinds--is right around the next corner. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: Alice Hoffman's spellbinding new novel weaves a rich new chapter in the history of the Owens family.

Simon & Schuster, $27.99, hardcover, 384p., 9781501137471

Second Acts

by Teri Emory

Second Acts by Teri Emory depicts the enduring friendship among three women who met as students at Buffalo College in the late 1960s; now in middle age, each narrates one of three sections of this vivid first novel.

The story begins when New York City marketing writer Sarah Roth learns that her ex-husband--the father of their daughter, Elle--has died of a sudden heart attack. The news forces Sarah to take stock of her life--her work and her current post-divorce relationship--through the prism of the past while trying to formulate a vision for the future. The 30-year marriage of Beth Gillian, a psychotherapist, is tested after she and her husband, a "Wall Street Wunderkind," bury a child. Beth reconnects with an old college flame who rallies her spirit and inspires her to contemplate the road not taken. Miriam Kaplan, a teacher in Manhattan, has remained single over the years; her life changed after a passionate romance with a charming photographer from the South. This experience left her reluctant to engage in a new relationship with a man whose sweetness helps her through a difficult passage in life.

Emory's unhurried prose braids the complex personal stories of these three women as they come to grips with loss, choices and compromise. All the while their bond of friendship flourishes in a changing world. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: Longtime friends at the crossroads of middle age re-examine and reconcile their different paths in life.

Amberjack Publishing, $14.99, paperback, 342p., 9781944995317

The King of Lighting Fixtures

by Daniel A. Olivas

In a helter-skelter cornucopia of voices and formats, the stories of Daniel Olivas's King of Lighting Fixtures are set on the streets of Los Angeles, focusing on characters as diverse as the city. The collection cements his place in the magical realism tradition of García Márquez and Urrea, and showcases his skills as a master stylist and self-aware observer of life's little vignettes. Grandson of Mexican immigrants, converted Jew in the Reformed tradition, Olivas (The Book of Want; Things We Do Not Talk About) works as a lawyer in the California Department of Justice and works miracles on the page. "He will have to call it 'fiction' otherwise he will be rejected by the publishing industry as a lunatic," as Olivas writes of a character in "The Three Mornings of José Antonio Rincón" who wakes in different bodies on three consecutive days.

God bless Olivas's lunacy. His stories chronicle the lives of writers, lawyers, administrative clerks, baristas, panhandlers, dopers and the more fantastic but nonetheless believable goat-footed Satan, sex-fixated female devil and 12-fingered boy. The titular metafiction, about a self-made lighting store magnate and his love life, includes interviews with each character by a journalist hired by a man named Olivas. The only story set outside Southern California, "Imprints," is the marvelous monologue of a Latina literary agent sitting at a New York City café with a friend and lamenting a publisher's request that she provide him with more ethnic work: "I hate that word. Hispanic. It's so government-talk and sounds like white liberal-ese." Olivas is a literary marvel, and The King of Lighting Fixtures is dazzling fiction. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: This latest story collection from the prolific Daniel Olivas is a potpourri of formats and styles capturing nuances of Los Angeles life.

University of Arizona Press, $16.95, paperback, 168p., 9780816535620

Mystery & Thriller

Sleeping Beauties

by Stephen King, Owen King

A collaboration between Stephen King and his son Owen, Sleeping Beauties is another of the horror master's works where the supernatural incites and exacerbates the violence innate in men. After the arrival of a mysterious stranger, Evie, in a small Appalachian town, women across the world start falling asleep and forming cocoons, becoming violent if they are awoken. As women go under, one by one, the world falls into chaos. Only Evie seems immune, and the town's men soon begin to turn on one another--some believing she's the key to bringing the women back, others that she must be destroyed.

While there are truly villainous characters, and Evie's actions run the gamut from noble to profane, the Kings are more interested in regular people, neither perfectly good nor bad, who begin to crack under the weight of what's occurring in this small town. Evie is an expert manipulator, creating situations that pit the remaining residents against each other in an experiment to see whether men can maintain order without the opposite sex. Sleeping Beauties is at its most horrifying when that order falls, and characters that the reader has grown to like or respect begin to commit acts of atrocity. There are no true sides to root for, which makes the story all the more compelling.

Fans of either King will thoroughly enjoy Sleeping Beauties, but it should also serve as a good entry point for new readers as well. The novel is fast-paced, thrilling and the right amount of scary. --Noah Cruickshank, adult engagement manager, the Field Museum, Chicago, Ill.

Discover: In Sleeping Beauties, Stephen King partners with son Owen for an apocalyptic novel about men without women.

Scribner, $32.50, hardcover, 720p., 9781501163401

Science Fiction & Fantasy


by Ann Leckie

Ann Leckie's acclaimed debut novel, Ancillary Justice, won the Hugo, Nebula and Arthur C. Clarke awards. Ancillary Sword and Ancillary Mercy follow it for an expansive, far-future space opera about a sentient warship whose consciousness becomes trapped in a single ambulatory unit called an ancillary. Leckie's fourth novel, Provenance, is a standalone that takes place in the same universe as the Imperial Radch trilogy, though in an area far removed from Radchaai space.

Ingray Aughskold is the foster child of a powerful politician on planet Hwae. In a desperate, perhaps ill-convinced bid to outwit her conniving brother in their constant battle for their mother's favor, Ingray spends all her money (and some that doesn't belong to her) to free a fellow Hwaean aristocrat from a supposedly inescapable prison. When Ingray's plan goes awry, she and her new companion find themselves in the middle of a local interstellar conspiracy and wider galactic turmoil loosely related to events in Leckie's previous books.

The most audacious prose ploy in Provenance is similar to the universal female pronoun used by the Radchaai in the Imperial Radch trilogy: the Hwaeans and their neighbors, though human, have a third gender, nemen, for whom Leckie invents the pronouns "e, eir and em." It takes some getting used to, and is likely to find a mixed reception among readers. Other than that, Provenance is a stunning work of imagination, with intriguing alien cultures, well-crafted characters and an engaging mystery. --Tobias Mutter, freelance reviewer

Discover: Set in the same universe as Ancillary Justice, this standalone follows an aristocratic young woman whose scheming entangles her in interstellar intrigue.

Orbit, $26, hardcover, 448p., 9780316388672

Biography & Memoir

Nine Continents: A Memoir in and out of China

by Xiaolu Guo

In her moving memoir Nine Continents: A Memoir in and out of China, Xiaolu Guo (Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous Youth) draws an open portrait of her life as a young woman in China.

She begins by delving into her impoverished childhood in the coastal fishing village of Shitang. Her early life with her grandparents is characterized by a hardscrabble existence in which she's ravenous. Her finely tuned prose captures the austerity of peasant life: "When the wind came and blew through the windows, the long and pale-coloured ribbonfish were like a row of hanging men, swinging weightlessly in the stale air." A Taoist monk in a nearby decrepit temple identifies Guo as a "peasant warrior" and prophesizes that she will travel great distances and helm her own fate. When a group of young artists visits the village to sketch and paint the coastline, revealing the transformative power of art, Guo recognizes her calling.

Guo's artistic journey leads her to London. Though the West offers more individual freedom, Guo is alienated by its contradictions: "A feeling of being a 'second-class citizen' dominated my every day in Beaconsfield, and made me hang my head in despair." To mitigate this dislocation, Guo pushes herself to learn English and soon succeeds as a novelist in her adopted tongue. Piercing and poignant, Nine Continents serves as a bridge between two worlds and demonstrates the hardship of immigration but also the value of multiculturalism. --Scott Neuffer, writer, poet, editor of trampset

Discover: Novelist and filmmaker Xiaolu Guo recounts her peasant childhood in post-Mao China and her path to becoming a breakout multicultural artist.

Grove Atlantic, $26, hardcover, 9780802127136

Essays & Criticism

Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks

by Annie Spence

Bibliophiles should prepare to settle in with librarian Annie Spence and the collection of letters she's written to the books in her life. This compilation of witty, heartwarming, sometimes startling missives is hard to put down. Talking to literature she's loved, hated or hasn't even read--really Annie, To Kill a Mockingbird?--Dear Fahrenheit 451 is a delightful gem for readers who experience stories as friends, not just words on a page.

The fortunate recipients of Spence's messages are wide-ranging: current and classic, fiction and nonfiction, children's lit and adult, even some poetry. As she pulls from library shelves, her own home bookcases and those of her friends and family, Spence communicates with them intimately, honestly and hilariously. The novel that inspired Spence's title receives a philosophical communiqué: "The modern-day 'firefighters' are armed not with kerosene but snarky Internet memes, reality TV, and the ability to simultaneously see more or less of the world around them... there are people who don't believe libraries are necessary anymore." Meanwhile, her undervalued thesaurus is treated to a tongue-in-cheek love note, and Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series receives a sharp tongue-lashing.

In the heartfelt words Spence addresses to The Namesake, "once a book is written, it's in the hands and minds and hearts of the reader." Readers aren't likely to agree with all of Spence's feelings, but they're certain to enjoy conjuring up their own reactions, and might even start crafting dispatches themselves. --Jen Forbus, freelancer

Discover: A librarian pens wonderfully creative letters to her close friends--books.

Flatiron Books, $19.99, hardcover, 256p., 9781250106490


A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived: The Human Story Retold Through Our Genes

by Adam Rutherford

As the most dominant species on Earth, humans have understood their past through storytelling and, more recently, biology, anthropology and other disciplines. In A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived, geneticist and BBC science contributor Adam Rutherford illustrates that genomics--the study of the DNA in our genes--reexamines our history, upending commonly held beliefs about who we are and what the future holds for us.

Rutherford begins 100,000 years ago with the "evolutionary shrub of humankind" and the origin of Homo sapiens--modern humans--tracing their migration out of Africa and intermingling with the now extinct Neanderthals and Denisovans. Along the way, Rutherford identifies whether DNA can explain commonly held beliefs and assumptions, from the profound (who were the first Americans?) to the less momentous (are redheads going extinct?). Rutherford also tackles thorny contemporary issues, including race ("genetically, two black people are more likely to be more different to each other than a black person and a white person") and whether "bad" genes can be responsible for a person's violent behavior.

While genomics is both thrillingly new and exceedingly complicated, Rutherford manages to reveal fresh (and controversial) assessments of human history and dispel long-held beliefs with clarity, enthusiasm and humor. Fans of popular science writers such as Mary Roach will be delighted by amusing footnotes throughout. And with DNA testing widely available, readers will be swabbing their cheeks to find out how their genes tell their story. --Frank Brasile, librarian

Discover: New perspectives on the history of humankind as told through the DNA in our genes.

The Experiment, $25.95, hardcover, 416p., 9781615194049

Art & Photography

Marked, Unmarked, Remembered: A Geography of American Memory

by Alex Lichtenstein, Andrew Lichtenstein

In Marked, Unmarked, Remembered, brothers Andrew (a photographer) and Alex (a historian) Lichtenstein combine their skills to memorialize the physical locations of traumas throughout American history. Fifty-seven black-and-white photos accompanied by short descriptions highlight massacres, lynchings, killings, pogroms and other horrors of the past. Some are easily recognized: the balcony where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated; Japanese internment camps in World War II. Others are more obscure: the ruined home of a farmer who participated in the 1845 No Rent Rebellion; the site of the Pequot Massacre in Mystic, Conn.; the town square in Waco, Tex., where Jesse Washington was lynched.

The photographs, alongside a handful of more in-depth essays on these events by a series of American historians, are grouped by their present-day characteristics, giving the collection its name. This structure proves crucial in understanding the places presented. Assembling sites that are marked, sites that are unmarked and sites that host memorial events, Alex Lichtenstein argues in the introduction, provides an intentional "foregrounding of the active process of competing forms of memorialization."

Individually, Andrew's haunting images (and the stories that accompany them) are horrifying reminders of the trauma in the collective past, especially as it relates to the treatment of indigenous peoples, people of color and the poor in the U.S. Taken as a whole, Marked, Unmarked, Remembered is a call to both see and recall. As Andrew said of his own photography, "It's always about how we are viewing the past in the present." This is where we are, this book reminds us. This is how we got here. Don't look away. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

Discover: Fifty-seven black-and-white photographs tell a haunting, horrific story of terrible events in American history.

West Virginia University Press, $34.99, paperback, 180p., 9781943665891

Children's & Young Adult

A Skinful of Shadows

by Frances Hardinge

It is the reign of Charles I of England, and Makepeace and her mother, Margaret, live in the Puritan town of Poplar. "Makepeace didn't know what her original name had been"; her name was "a way of 'making peace' with God and the godly folk of Poplar. It was an apology for the hole where Makepeace's father should have been." Husbandless and fatherless, the two are maligned in both the community and the family home. But things get particularly bad for Makepeace when the nightmares begin.

She dreams of wispy, tortured figures invading her brain, ripping her apart. Margaret knows this is a sign--the dead are reaching for her child--and forces Makepeace to spend nights in the cemetery chapel. "The dead are like drowners," Margaret tells the girl. "They are flailing in darkness, trying to grab whatever they can. They may not mean to harm you, but they will, if you let them." Night after night, Makepeace is attacked by the dead until she learns how to build defenses against their invasions.

Eventually, after too many nights of terror, Makepeace lashes out at Margaret, surprising her mother into giving her the name of a place from the past: Grizehayes. Margaret is killed shortly after, and Makepeace seeks out the mysterious Grizehayes, learning too late the horror found in the sprawling manse and why her mother fled in the first place.

As with every Hardinge novel (A Face Like Glass; The Lie Tree), A Skinful of Shadows is outlandishly creative and thoroughly blood-chilling. Her storytelling is visceral and unfurls at an exciting pace, making this novel a wonderful, weird and terrifying addition to her body of work. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: In Frances Hardinge's blood-chilling new novel, Makepeace learns that her inheritance is even more terrifying than the spirits of the dead that haunt her.

Amulet, $19.99, hardcover, 432p., ages 12-up, 9781419725722

Long Way Down

by Jason Reynolds

Jason Reynolds's (As Brave As You; Ghost) newest YA novel begins "I haven't/ told nobody the story/ I'm about to tell you./ And truth is, you probably ain't/ gon' believe it either.../ but I'm telling you,/ this story is true."

The day before yesterday, 15-year-old Will's older brother, Shawn, purportedly crossed rival lines to go to the other side of their largely black neighborhood. During Shawn's absence, Will and his friend heard shots. We waited, Will says, "for the rumble to stop,/ before picking our heads up/ and poking our heads out/ to count the bodies./ This time/ there was only one": Shawn. Now, two days later, Will abides by "The Rules" he's been taught. He won't cry, he won't snitch and, most importantly, he will follow the third rule: "if someone you love/ gets killed,/ find the person/ who killed/ them and/ kill them." He finds a gun in Shawn's dresser and sets off.

Will gets on the elevator at 9:08:02 a.m. The next 200-plus pages of action take place between the time Will enters the elevator and when it reaches the lobby a moment later, at 9:09:09 a.m. At each floor on Will's long trip down, a friend or loved one from Will's past boards; each new passenger is dead, a victim of gun violence. As the ghosts of those killed tell Will their stories, their interconnected tales are untangled; Will begins to understand why The Rules are the rules and how they perpetuate the cycle of violence.

Reynolds's work is rich with symbolism, the verse lending a feeling of immediacy to the 300-page, 60-second journey. Long Way Down is an intense read with an ambiguous ending that highlights the humanity of those who are regularly touched by and contribute to gun violence. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: Will is visited by the ghosts of victims of gun violence as he prepares to kill someone in Jason Reynolds's thoughtful and captivating Long Way Down.

Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum, $17.99, hardcover, 320p., ages 13-up, 9781481438254


Author Buzz

The Rom-Commers

by Katherine Center

Dear Reader,

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

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

Katherine Center

Buy now and support your local indie bookstore>

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

St. Martin's Press

Pub Date: 
June 11, 2024


List Price: 
$29.00 Hardcover

Blue Moon
(A Smoke and Mirrors Novella)

by Skye Warren

Dear Reader,

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

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

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

Skye Warren

Available on Kobo

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

1001 Dark Nights Press

Pub Date: 
March 12, 2024


List Price: 
$2.99 e-book

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