Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, March 2, 2018

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

From My Shelf

Why Would Anyone Run Longer than a Marathon?

I ran my first ultramarathon in 2017, after years of swearing I'd never run more than a half-marathon. As I train now for my second and third ultra attempts this spring, I am frequently asked why. Why would anyone want to run more than a marathon? Unsure of how to answer the question in a way that felt accurate, I turned to my other love--books--in search of more articulate answers.

In her memoir, A Beautiful Work in Progress (Grand Harbor Press, $14.95), Mirna Valerio recounts her own path to ultrarunning despite the many stereotypes working against her. There's the much-lauded Eat & Run (Mariner, $14.95), the story of Scott Jurek's own incredible rise to ultrarunning fame (and his forthcoming book, North, looks just as promising). Alex Hutchinson's Endure (Morrow, $27.99) documents the science that ties mental and physical performance together, and while it is "not a running book," as Malcolm Gladwell points out in the introduction, it offers a wealth of insights into the science of endurance sports.

Catriona Menzies-Pike weaves the history of women's running together with her own tale of grief, loss and mental health in her incredible memoir The Long Run (Crown, $25). It was here that I came closest to an answer for myself. To borrow her words: I want to run "for long enough that being still would be a consolation."

Every one of these runners runs for different reasons. What makes their stories so compelling, though, is not the clarity they offer in answer to the question why. It is the fact that each and every one of them recognizes the ways that pushing the boundaries of their physical endurance, whatever that may be, is tied to pushing through the boundaries of their individual mental limitations. Those stories of persistence are the ones that will resonant with any reader--even those who may think running a marathon and then some is just a touch too much. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

The Writer's Life

Reading with...Akwaeke Emezi

photo: Elizabeth Wirija

Akwaeke Emezi is an Igbo and Tamil writer and video artist. Her debut novel, Freshwater (Grove Atlantic, February 13, 2018), is an Indie Next selection and has been listed as a most anticipated book of 2018 by Esquire, ELLE, Cosmopolitan, Huffington Post, the Rumpus and Bustle, among others. Her short story "Who Is Like God" won the 2017 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for Africa.

On your nightstand now:

I recently discovered Cassandra Khaw's work and promptly bought all of it that I could find. She has a wonderful way with language and worldbuilding. I just finished her books Food of the Gods and Hammer on Bone, and I'm about to start A Song for Quiet. I also have Emma Reyes's memoir, The Book of Emma Reyes, which I'm looking forward to reading particularly because it was a gift from a magician who loves me.

Favorite book when you were a child:

I feel like this is a slightly impossible question to answer! There was definitely a strong British influence in most of what I read (colonialism will do that)--books by Enid Blyton, C.S. Lewis, James Herriot, and Gerald Durrell. There were series upon series--Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Goosebumps and Animorphs--but the book that gives me a definite surge of childhood feels is actually Chinua Achebe's children's story Chike and the River. It was such a formative part of my early years; we read it both at home and as assigned reading in school.

Your top five authors:

I read quite a bit, but there are actually very few authors who I get genuinely excited to talk about and see new work by. N.K. Jemisin is one of them; I live and hunger for the worlds she makes. Helen Oyeyemi, always; she creates fascinating work. Zen Cho, who I want to write all the things, just so I can read them. And for novels that haven't come out yet but are among my favorites because the linearity of time is irrelevant--Eloghosa Osunde and Christopher Myers.

Book you've faked reading:

Most recently? Marlon James's A Brief History of Seven Killings. People tend to talk about it with the assumption that everyone's read it; I pretty much just smile and nod at this point.

Book you're an evangelist for:

I've been aggressively rhapsodizing about Fran Ross's Oreo to anyone who will listen ever since I read it a couple of months ago. The magician recommended it to me and rightfully so--that book completely blew open my ideas around what I could write, specifically what format it could fit into. It helped me see that even in just thinking about my work, I'd been limiting it to a certain template of what I thought a book could be.

Book you've bought for the cover:

I rarely buy physical books anymore; I prefer e-books, so covers become less of a factor. However, the cover design I've enjoyed recently is the U.K. edition of Chinelo Okparanta's Under the Udala Trees; it's got great color and texture.

Book you hid from your parents:

My parents were actually quite indifferent about censoring books when I was younger, so I didn't need to hide anything from them. But if there was one book I definitely didn't want them to know I'd read, it was V.C. Andrews's Flowers in the Attic. I was about nine when I read that and my goodness, that was stressful.

Book that changed your life:

I'm going to be terribly gauche here and say Freshwater, because reading that book as I wrote it and through all the editing drafts afterwards has continued to be the most transformative experience I've ever had with a book. I had no idea what it was going to be when I started, and the person I was then is not the person I became by the time it was done. The ripples of that experience continue till today, a molting of skin that's taking a few years to play out.

Favorite line from a book:

Ah, this one is from my favorite Toni Morrison book, Love. I even made a video piece in response to it--"Hey, Celestial." It's a secret reference used between characters in the book as an affirmation of bond and power.

Five books you'll never part with:

Rumi's The Masnavi, which I'm studying to figure out how to get to nothingness. Douglas Adams's The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy--my mother had a copy of this book and I've loved it since I was little. Anne Carson's Autobiography of Red, for sentimental reasons involving the magician. Kuzhali Manickavel's Insects Are Just Like You and Me Except Some of Them Have Wings; I used to read her blog and I just love the writing in this book. Grace Jones's memoir, I'll Never Write My Memoirs, which gave me incredible insight into how to be a hypervisible artist presenting as one's full self (aka life goals). 

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

Any of Octavia Butler's books. I deeply envy everyone who hasn't read them yet because they get the pleasure of doing so.

Book you carry around with you:

I'm going to collapse about 40 books into one and say Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. I honestly wish my favorite authors who do series would write a world as extensive as this, it's perfect to jump into at any time and large enough that it never gets boring to revisit.

Book Candy

Author Pic Quiz

"Only a true book expert will get 10/13 on this quiz," Buzzfeed challenged.


According to a recent study, "female representation in fiction was better in the Victorian era than now," Bustle noted.


Author Gareth L. Powell picked his "top 10 spaceships in fiction" for the Guardian.


Tempest, for example. Quirk Books screened "the literary roles of Molly Ringwald."


"A peek at famous readers' borrowing records from a private New York library" was offered by Atlas Obscura.


"T.S. Eliot borrowed an important line." Mental Floss gathered "12 facts about Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness."

Book Review


Empty Set

by Verónica Gerber Bicecci

Originally written in Spanish, Empty Set by visual artist Verónica Gerber Bicecci (and translated by Christina MacSweeney) is a wonderfully beguiling novel that demonstrates the beautiful similarities between language and math. The narrator, also named Verónica, loses, finds and loses love, while wrestling with the disassembly of her nuclear family. To understand better why people come into her life only to leave, she seeks to find patterns in her relationships, drawing from algebra and geometry, astronomy and the science of tree-ring analysis.

Bicecci documents Verónica's search for meaning through a series of fragmented passages and drawings that build and climax like a more traditional text, but that remain enigmatic enough to leave several moments up for interpretation. That's not to say the novel is difficult to read. On the contrary, Bicecci's sentences (and MacSweeney's translation) run as clear as spring water and are a joy to take in, from start to finish.

Empty Set is also brimming with observations that verge on existential philosophy: "Our story began several times and only ended once, that's why it's impossible to understand which of the beginnings was the one that ended." Here and throughout the novel, Bicecci demonstrates a talent for telling a familiar love story in astounding new ways.

Empty Set is only Bicecci's second book, and first translated into English, but it sets a new standard for excellence in experimental fiction. MacSweeney's translation work, which had to account for Bicecci's drawings as well as her prose, is equally admirable. --Amy Brady, freelance writer and editor

Discover: A beautiful experimental novel in translation about a woman who uses math and science to determine why she loses the people she loves.

Coffee House Press, $16.95, paperback, 232p., 9781566894944

The Great Alone

by Kristin Hannah

"Were you ever out in the great alone when the moon was awful clear"--a line from a Robert Service poem--is where Leni Allbright lives, literally and metaphorically. At 13, she's with her PTSD-plagued Vietnam War POW father and her loving, compliant mother in their rickety VW bus, headed from Seattle to Alaska. Here, her dad is certain, they will end their years-long quest for peace and security. Kristin Hannah, whose 2015 novel The Nightingale, about sisters in World War II France, endeared her to millions of readers, again brings life to a time and place with vibrant characters.

In 1974, Alaska drew pioneers seeking to live "off the grid," and when Ernt Allbright inherits a place in remote Kaneq, it seems like the solution to the Allbrights' rootlessness. Cora shares this dream, loyal to Ernt even through violence, abuse and poverty. Leni, too young to resist, relies on her books, photography and love for her parents--the mother she hopes to protect and the dad she remembers from before the war. Alaska's grandeur leaps from the pages--snowy peaks, Northern lights, lush spring--as does its brutality: 18-hour winter nights, isolation, foraging bears, fearsome cold. Ernt's demons revive here, trapping Leni and Cora. The colorful residents of the tiny town of Kaneq bring both friendship and danger, but it's Matthew Walker, the only local her age, who changes Leni's life. Her resilience sustains her through horrific challenges, and by the novel's satisfying conclusion, Leni Allbright is no longer among the "great alone." --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, manager, Book Passage, San Francisco

Discover: In a novel about settlers in Alaska in the 1970s, a family struggles to find peace from postwar trauma as they adapt to the harsh terrain.

St. Martin's Press, $28.99, hardcover, 448p., 9780312577230

Self-Portrait with Boy

by Rachel Lyon

Young Brooklyn photographer Lu Rile is working on a series of self-portraits in front of her loft window in an illegal apartment building. Career lightning strikes when the 400th shot reveals an unambiguous background image of a young boy falling to his death from the roof. A blown-up color print confirms the brilliance of the photo's composition and sets Lu on a determined path to get it included in a group show at a chic SoHo gallery.

But what about the feelings of the shattered parents whom she barely knows? What if seeing their son's death in her masterpiece irrevocably exacerbates their grief? In Lu's first-person narrative looking back on that formative time, former Indiana Review fiction editor Rachel Lyon captures the gritty artistic ambition of New York City in the 1990s, when just-getting-by artists elbowed each other to land on rich collectors' walls. It was an artist-eat-artist world, and Self-Portrait with Boy illuminates it--a bold first novel with bite.

Working three jobs and making prints among the rats and roaches in her freezing squat, Lu desperately needs her self-portrait to lift her out of a life of dirty black tees and shoplifted food. Gathering with her artist neighbors for the obligatory wake, the socially awkward Lu becomes drawn to the boy's mother as both comforter and semi-erotic friend. Soon Lu must choose between her art and her new friend's wellbeing. Set in a particular time of New York artistic renaissance and with allusions to Vivian Maier, Self-Portrait with Boy is a snapshot of an ambitious artist as a young woman. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: Rachel Lyon's first novel explores the gritty ambience of the New York City art world in the 1990s when a young photographer serendipitously captures a career-making image.

Scribner, $26, hardcover, 384p., 9781501169588

The Driest Season

by Meghan Kenny

When 15-year-old Cielle discovers her father's suicide, she becomes the keeper of a secret that threatens her family's livelihood. Their Wisconsin farm is suffering a historic drought, and the patriarch's sudden death could be reason enough for the landowner to repossess it. As World War II rages overseas, Cielle grapples with tragedies both near and far from home. The war takes young men from their hometown and returns them changed, if it returns them at all.

The Driest Season is Meghan Kenny's debut novel, based on her Iowa Review Award-winning short story of the same name. It explores the ways tragedy can alter a person and, for Cielle, how those changes intersect with those of adolescence. She begins to consider the big issues facing her community and herself--love and melancholy, the consequences of truth and lies, and the fears and benefits of leaving or staying.

Kenny's prose is quiet and lovely: "Her house, her skin, the light in the sky, and the leaves on the trees all seemed more alive than ever, and she was more aware of herself and everything, in vibration, breathing, part of something bigger." The plot doesn't propel the narrative. Instead, the book sits quietly, like summer heat, amid unanswerable questions about things beyond our control. It's a coming-of-age story that could be published as YA, and lends itself to crossover readership. --Katy Hershberger, freelance writer, bookseller, and publicist

Discover: In 1940s Wisconsin, a teenager considers death and secrets after her father's suicide.

W.W. Norton, $25.95, hardcover, 192p., 9780393634594

Mystery & Thriller

A Well-Timed Murder

by Tracee de Hahn

Tracee de Hahn (Swiss Vendetta) continues her Agnes Lüthi series with A Well-Timed Murder, an enjoyable and suspenseful thriller set in Lausanne, Switzerland. Agnes, who was recently injured in another case, technically is still on leave for three more days. Agnes, however, can't resist looking into the death of precision watchmaker Guy Chavanon, after being asked by Julien Vallatton, a friend who moves in Switzerland's most exalted circles.

Chavanon's death seems straightforward: he had a severe peanut allergy and died of anaphylaxis during a reception at his son's boarding school. But then strange incidents keep popping up. Chavanon's daughter, for instance, finds a note warning that he was being watched. An old friend tells Agnes that Chavanon was on the precipice of an astonishing breakthrough in timepiece technology that would revolutionize the industry. And, most curious of all, no one can figure out how he ingested peanuts, since all food being served was peanut-free, due to student allergies.

When Lüthi discovers that one of the students with a peanut allergy may be a target because of his warlord father's notoriety, she starts to wonder if Chavanon was an accidental victim. As she digs further into the world of elite watchmakers, though, she learns that more than one competitor may have had reason to have wanted Chavanon out of the way.

Perfectly paced, set in a rarefied society and with a pleasant, widowed mother of three as its protagonist, A Well-Timed Murder is bound to appeal to both traditional mystery lovers and those who enjoy an intriguing novel. --Jessica Howard, bookseller at Bookmans, Tucson, Ariz.

Discover: A Swiss watchmaker dies from a peanut allergy--but police officer Agnes Lüthi isn't convinced it was an accident.

Minotaur Books, $25.99, hardcover, 352p., 9781250110015

The Clarity

by Keith Thomas

Keith Thomas's debut novel, The Clarity, mixes high-concept science fiction with ultra-violent action scenes. Thomas was a clinical researcher before writing for film and television, and his expertise shows.

Matilda Deacon is a psychologist obsessed with the biochemical properties of memory. Her mother is dying of Alzheimer's, and Matilda wants to find a way to reverse memory destruction before the disease claims her own mind. Her goals are thrown into disarray when she meets Ashanique, a young African American girl who experiences the memories of people from the past. Skeptical but intrigued, Matilda discovers that not only is Ashanique telling the truth about past lives, but that she's hiding from a shadowy group of scientists called "Night Doctors," who want the secrets buried in her memories. Matilda and a detective named Kojo take Ashanique into hiding as they're stalked by Rade, a ruthless assassin who plans to unlock past lives and become a super being.

Thomas proves himself a fine writer of speculative fiction, though not without shortcomings. Rade, for example, starts off as a convincingly bizarre villain but slowly becomes a generic psychopath bent toward excessive gore. The novel's most thrilling parts occur when Thomas lines up the narratives of past lives with present-day action. He weaves the perspectives of characters from World War I as well as prehistoric times into a compelling continuum. These parallel tales are all the more fascinating for the science fiction behind them; the novel analyzes the nature of memory and how memories could be embedded in DNA, passed from one generation to the next. The Clarity is a thriller that raises interesting questions about consciousness. --Scott Neuffer, writer, poet, editor of trampset

Discover: A psychologist obsessed with memory must protect a young girl from a secret research group in this intense science fictional thriller.

Atria, $27, hardcover, 304p., 9781501156939


Berlin 1936: Sixteen Days in August

by Oliver Hilmes, trans. by Jefferson Chase

Oliver Hilmes's Berlin 1936, translated from the German by Jefferson Chase, brings to mind Erik Larson in the way it resuscitates famous figures from history alongside forgotten contemporaries. Focusing on the 16 days of the 1936 Olympics, held in Berlin, Hilmes has managed a deft re-creation of a city caught between the opulent, transgressive splendor of its past and the iron grip of Nazism. Various entertainers, club owners, Olympic athletes and even American novelist Thomas Wolfe feature in the book as they try to find their footing in an uncertain new world.

Berlin 1936 has its strongest modern resonances in the way the Nazi regime uses the games as a massive propaganda campaign. Hilmes highlights official missives encouraging the media to tamp down their usual output of nationalism and race-baiting in order to present a sanitized version of Nazi Germany. Many visitors were successfully persuaded by the regime's benign self-representation even as concentration camps were being filled and Hitler was fanning the flames of war in Spain.

Against this backdrop, the two weeks Hilmes describes seem almost surreal. An American woman launches a "kiss attack" on Adolf Hitler. Nazi leaders try to outspend each other with competing parties. Alcohol abuse is on the rise as "young people were being systematically depoliticised by ritualized celebrations and drinking." Hilmes shows Berlin as a strange world that will get darker once the games have ended. --Hank Stephenson, bookseller, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, N.C.

Discover: Berlin 1936 is an intimate recreation of the city and a range of participants and observers during the Olympic Games.

Other Press, $24.95, hardcover, 320p., 9781590519295

Essays & Criticism

I Wrote This Book Because I Love You

by Tim Kreider

"Note to Mom: do not read," warns cartoonist-cum-essayist Tim Kreider (We Learn Nothing) of several essays in I Wrote This Book Because I Love You, in which Kreider probes his love life for material.

Among other recollections, Kreider writes about dating both a sex worker and a pastor--the former being the first story he forbids his mother to read. While Kreider ostensibly offers reflections on lessons learned, he also paints a self-portrait of a man searching for meaning in romance but finding it more often in literature or humor. He opens with running off to Mexico with the circus, for a woman. Panic attacks (hers) and digestive issues (his) ensue. The stage is set for Kreider to deliver wacky stories throughout, but much of the collection's strength comes from wry ruminations on his non-romantic relationships, like the one between him and his agent (who once accidentally cc'ed him on an e-mail in which she called him an "Oof"), and his observations about his relationship with his cat of 19 years: "Under common law, this cat is my wife." As for life itself? He is frank: "Time will pass without mercy. We will die. It will suck."

Kreider's observations cut deep, sharply delivered in the midst of what he might sometimes call "mush." It's no surprise that David Foster Wallace declared, "Kreider rules," or that Kreider counts Richard Russo and Judd Apatow as fans. His precision and candor coexist like a just-sharpened razor slicing into soft fruit, sweet, lovely, messy and sustaining. --Katie Weed, freelance writer and reviewer

Discover: Essayist and cartoonist Tim Kreider kisses and tells (with names changed) in this comedic meditation on relationships that have shaped him.

Simon & Schuster, $26, hardcover, 224p., 9781476738994


The Courage of Hopelessness: A Year of Acting Dangerously

by Slavoj Žižek

Slovenian philosopher and cultural critic Slavoj Žižek is a devoted student of psychoanalysis and Marxism; no matter the subject his eye wanders to, his lenses are that of the psychological and of class struggle. Whether movies or President Donald Trump's first year in office, Žižek takes conventional wisdom and uses the works of Marx and Lacan to flip it on its head. In The Courage of Hopelessness, he surveys the political landscape in 2017 and argues that the true disaster upon us is the ever-growing domination of global capitalism.

Broken into sections focusing on different parts of the world, the book delves into the subversion of religion by capital in China, the political chaos around the rise of the Grecian Syriza party, the 2016 American presidential election, transgenderism and dozens of other topics. As usual, Žižek deftly weaves disparate strands of commentary together to show how the economic, political and social structures of countries across the world are all prey to the same forces of havoc. The book's jacket suggests Žižek sees no hope left for the future, but he certainly recognizes opportunities on the horizon, especially in historical moments like the rise of Syriza and Trump.

While The Courage of Hopelessness is relatively breezy in comparison to most other philosophical considerations of the world's predicaments, Žižek's writing here isn't an easy entry for readers interested in his work. Nevertheless, fans and sympathizers of the writer will certainly find what they're looking for in this polemic. --Noah Cruickshank, adult engagement manager, the Field Museum, Chicago, Ill.

Discover: The Courage of Hopelessness is another forceful look at modern culture by philosopher and critic Slavoj Žižek.

Melville House, $18.99, paperback, 320p., 9781612190037

Performing Arts

The World Only Spins Forward: The Ascent of Angels in America

by Isaac Butler, Dan Kois

Theater director Isaac Butler and writer/editor Dan Kois have created a compelling, surprising and inspiring oral history of Tony Kushner's Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Angels in America. They weave together the recollections of more than 240 actors, playwrights, critics, theater insiders and Kushner himself. The World Only Spins Forward is an amazingly ambitious book that traces the origin of Kushner's epic-sized two-part play ("Millennium Approaches" and "Perestroika"). It also does an outstanding job of reminding readers of the repressive political climate in the United States concerning gay rights and AIDS activism during the play's gestation, rewrites and many productions over the past three decades.

The play has a fascinating, byzantine history, beginning with various workshops between 1988 and 1992. A month before "Millennium Approaches" opened on Broadway in April 1993, it won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Several months into the production, while the cast was performing the 3.5-hour play eight times a week, they began rehearsing the four-hour second part of the play, "Perestroika." That November, the cast began performing both plays on alternative nights (or consecutively on matinee days). Cast and crew members illuminate the plays through their Broadway runs, an opera adaptation, a 2003 HBO miniseries starring Meryl Streep and the 2018 Broadway revival starring Nathan Lane and Andrew Garfield.

New York Times theater critic Frank Rich said, "It has everything you want in a play." The World Only Spins Forward has everything you want in an oral history of Angels in America: historical context, funny and thoughtful memories from hundreds of eyewitnesses and a celebration of an enduring, powerful theater piece. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant

Discover: More than 240 voices create a vital, exciting and illuminating oral history of Tony Kushner's epic play Angels in America.

Bloomsbury, $30, hardcover, 448p., 9781635571769

Children's & Young Adult

Tess of the Road

by Rachel Hartman

Tess, a lady-in-waiting at court, has a "whiff of scandal" about her. So it's up to her sweet, mild, virtuous sister, Jeanne, to marry and save the family. Since it was discovered that their father's first wife was a dragon in human form, he was stripped of his license to practice law and the family has suffered much ill fortune. When the eligible Lord Richard proposes to Jeanne, Tess dares to hope that "[a]fter... years at court, diligently securing her family's future," she might be set free. But Mama wants to send her to a convent and, after Tess makes a horrible, drunken mess of Jeanne's wedding, the abhorrent plan becomes Tess's only apparent option.

That is, until Tess is given a pair of fine leather boots that "[seem] to be a suggestion": she runs off to a distant city to make a new start as a seamstress. On the way, she meets up with her old best friend, the "lizardy" quigutl (a subspecies of dragon) named Pathka, who is on a journey of his own. Pathka's quest is an old dream of Tess, and the two agree to adventure together. Eager to be rid of her past, Tess disguises herself and desperately tries to keep the unbidden voice of her mother out of her head.

Tess of the Road, first in a duology, is a companion book to Seraphina and Shadow Scale, which introduced Tess's half-dragon half sister. Fully human Tess's life has been constrained by shame and the medieval expectations of others. Her growing awareness of the inequality and unfairness she has been subjected to, along with an unfolding sense of herself and her potential, will captivate any reader. Tess's ultimately unquenchable spirit and her struggles and adventures are a delight. --Lynn Becker, blogger and host of Book Talk, a monthly online discussion of children's books for SCBWI

Discover: Tess's spirit has been crushed by the weight of her mother's vindictive saints, but when Mama decides to send her to a convent, Tess runs off to make her own way.

Random House, $18.99, hardcover, 544p., ages 13-up, 9781101931288

The Serpent's Secret

by Sayantani DasGupta

Parsippany, N.J., resident Kiranmala ("Just Kiran is fine") is not having the 12th birthday she anticipated. Born on Halloween, Kiran always wants to dress up as something scary for her birthday. But no matter how much she begs, her parents always make her dress as a princess. According to Kiran's Ma and Baba, she is "a real Indian princess"--"the daughter of an underworld serpent king"--and Halloween is the "single day [she] can actually look like one!" Even though Kiran hates princess things, her parents not only force her into a princess costume, they also have the audacity to get "swallowed by a rakkhosh and whisked away to another galactic dimension."

Post-parental disappearance, Kiran finds a note from her mother: "the magical spell protecting us all has been broken on this, your twelfth birthday. Forgive us for trying to shield you from the truth." It goes on to tell Kiran to "trust the princes" and to make sure she takes her gummy vitamins, then cuts off in an ugly inkblot. Moments after reading the note, "the strangest trick-or-treaters" Kiran has ever seen arrive on her doorstep: two boys, probably brothers, about her age, one "so handsome he almost melted [her] eyeballs." They are the princes, here to escort princess Kiran back to her real home... right after they immobilize this other rakkosh (a "carnivorous, snot-trailing demon") that has suddenly appeared in Kiran's house.

Inspired by the Bengali folktales author Sayantani DasGupta heard as a little girl, The Serpent's Secret is a silly, fantastical series opener. Friendly, slapstick humor, a series of riddles to solve and appealing spot illustrations by Vivienne To make Kiran's slightly surreal journey delightfully entertaining. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor

Discover: A New Jersey girl discovers she's actually a princess from another dimension in Sayantani DasGupta's series opener.

Scholastic Press, $17.99, hardcover, 368p., ages 8-12, 9781338185706

Tempests and Slaughter

by Tamora Pierce

Ten-year-old Arram Draper doesn't have any friends at the Imperial University's School for Mages. Though he's a talented student who has been moved ahead two terms, he's still bored--until the day he taps into "the strange shove of power" within, loses control of his Gift and nearly drowns his entire class. Headmaster Cosmas recognizes that Arram needs to be given a more "engaging" schedule to keep him out of trouble, and moves the boy into a new dormitory with "leftover prince" Ozorne Tasikhe, the emperor's nephew and fourth in line for the throne (therefore not likely to ascend to it). Together with Varice Kingsford, "the most beautiful girl [Arram] had ever seen," they form an inseparable trio. Headmaster Cosmas confides in Arram that he believes the three are "the most rapidly advancing students in the Lower Academy" and have been brought together by "[s]ome special thread."

As Arram's studies progress, his talents become more prominent. He meets Enzi, god of the river crocodiles, who warns Arram that he has "a destiny"--a part to play in "the battle one day." Not long after Arram hears this prophecy, a teacher is found dead and secrets and lies begin to surface. Heirs to the throne are dying, and suddenly Ozorne is not so far down the line of succession. Tempests and Slaughter, the first book in the Numair Chronicles, begins the origin story of a powerful mage who previously appeared in Pierce's Wild Magic (the Immortals Quartet). This new saga, with its deeply compelling characters and nuanced magical world, will surely attract new fans while welcoming back the old. This is first-class fantasy from a master writer. --Lynn Becker, blogger and host of Book Talk, a monthly online discussion of children's books for SCBWI

Discover: Mage scholar Arram Draper develops his extraordinarily powerful Gift while learning to deal with schoolmates, teachers and political intrigue in his roommate's royal family.

Random House, $18.99, hardcover, 480p., ages 10-14, 9780375847110


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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