Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, August 10, 2018


Abrams Press: The Anna Karenina Fix: Life Lessons from Russian Literature by Viv Groskop

From My Shelf

University of California Press: Carleton Watkins: Making the West American by Tyler Green

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: Short & Skinny by Mark Tatulli

The Next Move

The last weeks of August are buzzing with new beginnings--children getting ready to go back to school, students heading to college. For those of us who wish we, too, could experience something new and exciting in our lives, or just push the reset button on our careers, it's tempting to wonder what the options might be. If you're pondering your next move, these books will get you asking all the right questions.
 
In Pivot: The Only Move that Matters Is Your Next One (Portfolio) Jenny Blake demonstrates how to take advantage of existing strengths and interests to pivot in new career directions. She encourages small steps, not big leaps, toward new goals.
 
What Blake refers to as "pivoting," authors Bill Burnett and Dave Evans of Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well Lived, Joyful Life (Knopf) call "reframing." They advocate the use of good design principles--the same ones that gave us our smartphones, for instance--to highlight our best qualities and reveal their optimum use. Bottom line: it's never too late to design a life you love. The crucial question is not how to solve a design problem but to define it correctly in the first place.
 
What Color Is Your Parachute? 2018: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers (Ten Speed Press) by Richard N. Bolles is an updated, reliable classic that covers résumé building, interviewing and job hunting tips in excellent detail. It is packed with all manner of helpful advice, including how to start one's own business, how to deal with a handicap and how to conduct a personal inventory that is the first step toward promoting one's best self. --Shahina Piyarali, writer and reviewer

Callaway Arts & Entertainment: Gray Foy: Drawings 1941-1975 by Don Quaintance, Lynn M. Herbert, and Alexis Rockman


Book Candy

Books About Falling for Your BFF

Shhhh. Bustle recommends "7 Books About Best Friends Falling in Love That Will Give You Serious Feel-Good Vibes."

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Buzzfeed wonders which "Harry Potter characters would survive the Hunger Games?"

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Chronicle Books offers "six books that teach children to be global citizens."

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In the Guardian, novelist A.G. Lombardo outlines his "top 10 novels about riots," which include A Clockwork Orange, Midnight's Children, Les Misérables and The Plot Against America.

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Perhaps "better known for its scantily clad female characters and their impossible anatomy," anime does feature "plenty of incredible badass women," Quirk Books writes. It profiles eight of them in "Strong female characters in anime."


National Geographic Society: National Geographic Almanac 2019: Hot New Science - Incredible Photographs - Maps, Facts, Infographics & More by National Geographic


Great Reads

Rediscover: The Complete Robuchon

French chef, restaurateur and cookbook author Joël Robuchon died on August 6 at age 73. He was a celebrity French cook who operated dozens of restaurants around the world--which earned him a total of 32 Michelin stars, the most of any chef. At age 21, Robuchon joined an apprenticeship program that allowed him to learn regional techniques throughout France. By age 29, he was head chef at the Hôtel Concorde La Fayette, which staffed 90 chefs cooking 3,000 meals each night. Robuchon cut his chops during the height of nouvelle cuisine, a style centered on innovation and reduction with an emphasis on plating. Robuchon synthesized some of those elements with more classic French cuisine. His simultaneous strive for perfection and simplicity earned him the title "Chef of the Century" by the restaurant guide Gault Millau, as well as frequent appearances on French cooking shows. An early retirement (caused by witnessing the premature heart attacks of overworked colleagues) was cut short when Robuchon opened his worldwide line of restaurants, L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon.

Patricia Wells, chef, journalist and co-author of  Robuchon's cookbook Simply French (1991), said his favorite line was "our job is not to make a mushroom taste like a carrot but to make a mushroom taste as much like a mushroom as it can." Home cooks seeking to sample Robuchon's famous simplicity of ingredients and perfection of execution can find more than 800 of his recipes in The Complete Robuchon (2008), translated by Robin H.R. Bellinger and available from Knopf ($40, 9780307267191). --Tobias Mutter


Sleeping Bear Press: Auntie Loves You! by Helen Foster James, illustrated by Petra Brown


The Writer's Life

Keith O'Brien: Flying Back into Women's History

Keith O'Brien is an award-winning journalist and author of Outside Shot, about basketball in rural Kentucky. He has been a finalist for the PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sportswriting and contributed to National Public Radio for more than a decade. O'Brien has also written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, USA Today, Politico, Slate, Esquire.com and the Oxford American, among others. He lives in New Hampshire with his wife and two children. His new book, Fly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History (Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28), is reviewed below.
 
You first learned of these women while you were, ironically, on a plane.
 
In spring 2016, I was reading Lily Koppel's The Astronaut Wives Club on a flight to Pittsburgh. One of my all-time favorite books is The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe, and I was interested to learn that story from the wives' perspectives. As I read, I became captivated by a reference to an all-female air race, the Powder Puff Derby. I consider myself well read and educated, yet I had never heard of this. My plane had wi-fi, so I cracked open my laptop and started Googling. I did what all good storytellers do: I stumbled on a little nugget of a story, just a little crumb, and followed it down a path. Sometimes these nuggets don't lead anywhere. Other times, they take you to a magical place you never knew existed.
 
Did you know immediately that this was a bigger story than one race?
 
By the time I landed in Pittsburgh, I knew I needed to get to a library soon. After my kids were asleep and my workday was done, I started going to my town's university library at night to research these races and these remarkable unknown women. While I was tracing these women's lives, I was looking for a narrative--what is the story and who are the primary characters in that story? That was a journey with a lot of stops and starts. When I found Florence Klingensmith, everything came together. She was one of the few women who raced against men, and was the first to do so in a race of great importance. She was one of the most talented female pilots of her time and undoubtedly more talented and skilled than Amelia Earhart.
 
Why do you think Florence Klingensmith, Ruth Elder, Louise Thaden and Ruth Nichols aren't as well known as Amelia Earhart?
 
I think we remember Amelia for several reasons. You can't underestimate how famous she was at that time. When she flew across the ocean as a passenger in 1928, and when that plane succeeded in reaching the coast of Wales, it made her one of the world's most famous women. Of course, it didn't hurt that she was backed by the full power of the George Putnam publishing machine, cranking out her books and sending her on a lecture tour. To Amelia's credit, she didn't rest on her laurels. She could have taken that flight, gone on the lecture circuit, done a vaudeville show, gone to Hollywood. She was also outspoken. People thought she was famous for doing nothing and criticized her behind her back--she knew that. In response, she spent the rest of her very short life--her remaining nine years--challenging herself and answering her critics. 
 
Had it not been for happenstance, crashes and others' instances of sheer bad luck, we might be remembering one or all of them instead. Their stories and accomplishments are just as fascinating.
 
Right. Fly Girls isn't just a story about airplanes flown by women. There was a purpose in what these women were trying to do. To put it in context, when a man attempted to fly across the ocean or race across the country, he was treated as a hero. If he died, he was memorialized with a grand tribute. When a woman tried the exact same thing, to push the limits of what she could do--and what planes at the time could do--her failure was severely criticized. She was judged harshly and treated horribly. Florence's story is an example of that. What happened to her changed the course of aviation history and certainly the course of my narrative. I'll be honest--her story also really changed me.
 
Have you talked with any of the pilots' surviving family members?
 
I spoke to many relatives, including Louise's daughter, who was three years old when this story ends. As a reporter, when you sit with someone's child and talk at length with them about their parents, you come to know that person in ways that you would not have otherwise. 
 
You are also giving the families, and the world, the gift of knowing these women and their rightful place in history.
 
These five women founded and were charter members of an organization called the Ninety-Nines, still in existence today. I recently had the honor of speaking to them, and only a few in the audience had ever heard of these women. Florence is remembered in the small Minnesota community where she lived. But when I called around to Rye, N.Y., and Anniston, Ala., nobody knew Ruth Nichols or Ruth Elder, respectively. 
 
What advice do you think the pilots would give to women--pilots or not--today?
 
They knew they were connected because of discrimination and how men regarded them. One woman's failure was every woman's failure. The opposite was true, too: one woman's success was to everyone's benefit. They were rivals at times and racing to beat each other, but they knew that they all needed to make it. Amelia talked about the importance for women to "keep knocking" on closed doors. "As more knock, the more will enter," she famously said. That was true in 1936 and sadly, remains true now. --Melissa Firman

Harper: Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver


Book Review

Fiction

My Year of Rest and Relaxation

by Ottessa Moshfegh


It's 2000, and the unnamed narrator of My Year of Rest and Relaxation seems to have it all: an apartment on Manhattan's Upper East Side, an easy gig at an art gallery and an inheritance to sustain her. She's beautiful, even on bad days ("like a young Lauren Bacall the morning after"). But those are the only days she has. At 24, she's lost both of her parents and, with the exception of trips to the corner bodega to get bad coffee, her interactions with the world are limited to three people. And those connections grow tenuous and troublesome as she embarks on a year of hibernation.
 
There's Trevor, her on-and-off (but mostly off) boyfriend who occasionally surfaces for sex. There's Reva, her only friend, whose loyalty and devotion are offset by neediness and envy. And there's Dr. Tuttle, a remarkably disreputable doctor who dispenses prescription drugs without a second thought. All the narrator wants to do is sleep. "I was growing less and less attached to life. If I kept going, I thought, I'd disappear completely, then reappear in some new form. This was my hope. This was the dream." When sleep is replaced by days of insomnia, Dr. Tuttle prescribes Infermiterol. Sleep arrives in three-day blocks; so do blackouts and bizarre behavior she can't account for.
 
With My Year of Rest and Relaxation, Ottessa Moshfegh (McGlue, Eileen) has created a character whose detachment is so profound she often hears herself saying things, as if caught by surprise. Yet the novel is frequently funny, and Moshfegh skillfully makes her narrator, with all of her wealth and misanthropy, sympathetic. You may never learn the narrator's name, but you'll never forget her. --Frank Brasile, librarian

Discover: A young woman disconnected from the world goes into hibernation with the aid of a dangerous drug.

Penguin Press, $26, hardcover, 304p., 9780525522119

Touchwood Editions: A Sorrowful Sanctuary (Lane Winslow Mystery #5) by Iona Whishaw


The Boatbuilder

by Daniel Gumbiner


"When was the last time you got lost in a thing?" When 28-year-old Eli "Berg" Koenigsberg is asked this question, he's fresh out of rehab, living in the Northern California coastal town of Talinas, trying to stay clean until his musician girlfriend returns from the road. Derailed by a brain injury and resultant opioid addiction, Berg has, by his own account, made nothing of himself, despite supportive parents, significant intellect and prior career success. In The Boatbuilder, Daniel Gumbiner excerpts a life interrupted and the craft and community that help Berg figure out who he might be.
 
Berg has grand intentions of living a life of fulfilling work, exercise and fresh air. He makes progress, discovering the art of boatbuilding as an apprentice for Alejandro, a local artisan whose farmhouse Berg unknowingly raided of prescription drugs shortly before they crossed paths. As Berg immerses himself in the details of craftsmanship, Alejandro mentors him on a grander scale--"You do this one little thing right, in this moment, you fix this one little thing, then you think, Maybe I can fix my life."
 
Gumbiner surrounds Berg with a boatload of colorful characters (including a local who sings country songs about deer) and a community vibrant with oddities (full-size papier-mâché bodies hang from wires in the underground sewer) and local lore. Engagingly written and full of the complexities of being human in a muddled world, The Boatbuilder is a soulful, funny and sometimes absurd slice-of-life debut that shines. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review

Discover: A young man in search of himself finds hope under the tutelage of a philosophical boat builder and the denizens of his small coastal town.

McSweeney's, $18, paperback, 240p., 9781944211554

Shelf Awareness Giveaway: Starburns Industries Press: Hellicious Vo1. 1 by Mina Elwell and Alan C. Medina, illustrated by Kit Wallis and Jio Butler


Early Work

by Andrew Martin


Funny and trenchant, Early Work is the story of a love triangle among ambitious but lethargic aesthetes. In Andrew Martin's first novel, unpublished writers, unproduced playwrights, unemployed actors and literary hangers-on mingle in the bars and literary soirees of Charlottesville, Va. Peter narrates most of the tale. Living with his fiancée, Julia (an aspiring poet and medical student), he imagines writing a great novel while teaching at the local community college. A Ph.D. drop-out from Yale, he dawdles with drinking and smoking weed while Julia holds their household together. When he meets Leslie, an MFA graduate taking a break from her Montana fiancé, their free-spirited lust gets the best of them. More booze, more dope and lots of uninhibited sex unseat their presumptions about commitment--to their partners and to writing. Something's gotta give.
 
A University of Montana MFA graduate, Martin takes on the boozy world of writers with the panache of J.P. Donleavy's classic bawdy tale of intellectual debauchery The Ginger Man. Martin's characters wallow in what Leslie describes as "baseball and arrogant French New Wave movies and... I don't know, Otis Redding, too." Early Work may be mostly filtered through Peter's snarky wit and cynicism, but it is Leslie who is the no-BS voice of truth. As she tells Peter: "You should be a writer. You should f**king write something down on a piece of paper." We are lucky that the talented Martin followed her advice. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: Martin's first novel cleverly dramatizes writers who overcome early indulgences to hone their skills and master their craft.

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $26, hardcover, 256p., 9780374146122

Mystery & Thriller

Live and Let Chai

by Bree Baker


After dropping out of culinary school and getting her heart broken by a cowboy, Everly Swan has returned to Charm, her quaint seaside hometown in North Carolina. Things are looking up: she's just opened her dream iced tea shop and cafe in a gorgeous Victorian house that's also her new home. But when a cranky local councilman is found dead on the boardwalk with one of Everly's signature tea jars next to him and poison in his system, she must battle a wave of suspicion from the townspeople. An anonymous vandal begins targeting Everly's shop, and she becomes even more determined to clear her name and find the killer. Bree Baker brews up a cozy mystery as sweet and Southern as Everly's tea in her debut, Live and Let Chai.
 
Baker fills her town with (mostly) appealing characters, including the owners of Charm's other small businesses: the bookstore, the ice cream shop, the general store. Everly's quirky beekeeper aunts, Fran and Clara, offer more local color and emotional support, while an unnervingly handsome, new-in-town detective provides expert crime analysis and a bit of romantic interest. In classic amateur sleuth fashion, Everly follows every lead with more tenacity than discretion, throwing a wrench or two into the police investigation, but also turning up some useful information. While Everly's cooking skills far outpace her sleuthing abilities, this is an enjoyable setup for Baker's series, best enjoyed with a sweating glass of sweet tea. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: A cozy mystery set in a seaside North Carolina town features iced tea, a slow-brewing romance and murder.

Sourcebooks Landmark, $7.99, mass market paperbound, 352p., 9781492664758

Stay Hidden

by Paul Doiron


Mystery floats through the pages of Paul Doiron's enthralling whodunit Stay Hidden like a thick Maine fog. This is the ninth novel featuring game warden Mike Bowditch, who must now determine whether a woman shot to death while vacationing on a small island off the coast of Maine was killed intentionally. The locals are convinced her death was a hunting accident--hunting and fishing are the community's most common ways of making a living, and guns can be found in every home. But when a woman who looks almost identical to the dead woman steps off a ferry a few days later, no one knows what to believe. What follows is an atmospheric mystery with enough twists to keep even the most seasoned readers guessing what will happen next.
 
Bowditch proves once again to be a likable protagonist, confident enough to push people's buttons when necessary, but possessing enough self-awareness to feel guilty about it. The characters surrounding him are well-rounded, and the landscape feels as real on the page as sea water does on the skin. Especially impressive is Doiron's attention to the ecological problems Mainers face, including deer overpopulation, widespread increases in tick counts and the proliferation of Lyme disease. All of this adds to the novel's eeriness. A native of Maine, Doiron is at his finest here, capturing both the state's wild beauty and rural suspicion to create a marvel of a thriller. --Amy Brady, freelance writer and editor

Discover: This atmospheric mystery set on an island off the coast of Maine is filled with unpredictable twists and a cast of believable characters.

Minotaur Books, $26.99, hardcover, 336p., 9781250102386

Biography & Memoir

Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret

by Craig Brown


Satirist Craig Brown says that for most royal biographers "there is no division between the interesting and the uninteresting." His deliciously gossipy and unconventional biography of HRH Princess Margaret (1930-2002) avoids the humdrum by creating a fascinating patchwork of stories culled from histories, memoirs and diaries of historians, servants, royal watchers and celebrities including Michael Palin, Alec Guinness, Nancy Mitford, Noël Coward, John Fowles and Christopher Isherwood.
 
As the daughter of a king and sister to a queen, Margaret was keenly aware of her supporting role in history and her own life, and she wasn't happy about it. Her waspish personality attracted people who were "mesmerised less by her image than by the cracks to be found in it." She liked to arrive late to parties, then delay dinner "to catch up with her punishing schedule of drinking and smoking." She would then stay late, which meant other guests were unable to leave because protocol dictated that no one depart before her. "She had no wish to draw others in, and refused to offer them the illusion, however fleeting, of parity," writes Brown. Her marital life wasn't any happier. Her husband, Lord Snowden, tossed lit matches at her across the dinner table and left her notes reading "You look like a Jewish manicurist" and "I hate you."
 
Brown's Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret could be subtitled "Royals Behaving Badly." It's chock-full of catty, funny, surprising and sometimes heartbreaking anecdotes. This supremely witty, riotously rude and tightly written biography will be irresistible to Anglophiles. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant

Discover: An irreverent and catty highlights-only biography of Queen Elizabeth's waspish younger sister, Princess Margaret.

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $28, hardcover, 432p., 9780374906047

History

Fly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History

by Keith O'Brien


More than 80 years after Amelia Earhart's mysterious disappearance, she continues to hold a place among the world's most famous women. What isn't as well known is that Earhart was part of a group of brave, high-achieving and largely forgotten female pilots--fly girls--who helped to set the course of aviation while setting records and shattering stereotypes.
 
A fly girl is "a term used in the 1920s to describe female pilots and, more broadly, young women who refused to live by the old rules, appearing bold and almost dangerous as a result." In addition to Earhart, these fearless women included Florence Klingensmith, Ruth Elder, Louise Thaden and Ruth Nichols. They came from vastly different backgrounds: Nichols was born into a wealthy Rye, N.Y., family; Elder was a divorcée from Alabama; Thaden sold coal in Wichita, Kan. Yet each saw flying as a chance to prove that women could compete equally in a high-stakes, life-or-death environment. "These women... wanted the right to be heard and the right to hold any job they wished. Most of all, they wanted respect...."
 
Journalist Keith O'Brien's (Outside Shot) compelling narrative soars as he explores the business of competitive air races in the 1920s and '30s, complete with publicity-savvy promoters and wealthy investors who recognized that women pilots would generate intense interest, especially in cross-county events. As they competed in the face of tragedy and discrimination, the female pilots learned the importance of keeping a united front and supporting each other (they formed the Ninety-Nines, a female pilots' association still in existence). The bravery, courage and determination of the fly girls provides inspiration for modern times. --Melissa Firman, writer, editor and blogger

Discover: This is the story of five female pilots who challenged stereotypes and changed aviation history.

Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28, hardcover, 352p., 9781328876645

Social Science

A Deal with the Devil: The Dark and Twisted True Story of One of the Biggest Cons in America

by Melanie Hicken, Blake Ellis


A Deal with the Devil is the story of a global mail scam that bilked more than $200 million from its victims. Blake Ellis and Melanie Hicken use their skills as award-winning investigative journalists to keep the narrative lively as they explain an extraordinarily complex financial scam.
 
Letters signed by French psychic Maria Duval arrived at the homes of mostly elderly people, prophesying better days ahead if they sent her money. "The letters appealed to the most base emotions of fear, loneliness, and hope--making it nearly impossible for victims to resist." International fraud units had tried without success over the years to get to the company behind the letters. Duval was "the psychic that no one ever sees."
 
Ellis and Hicken became obsessed with the extent of this fraud and reported on it for CNN Money in 2016. They spent countless hours on the phone and Internet tracking down what governments could not, and even traveled to France in an effort to meet Duval. Their reporting turns up a colorful cast of characters that includes a copywriter of scam letters, a Swiss attorney and an Argentinean landowner. As the authors wryly point out, "Whistleblowers have always been a journalist's best friend."
 
A Deal with the Devil shows the power of investigative journalism to uncover corruption. Ellis and Hicken discover the truth about a complicated scheme, halting the financial victimization of those who could not help themselves. --Cindy Pauldine, bookseller, the river's end bookstore, Oswego, N.Y.

Discover: A CNN investigative reporting team uncovers the incredible story behind a decades-long mail fraud that netted over $200 million.

Atria, $26, hardcover, 304p., 9781501163845

Psychology & Self-Help

Tech Generation: Raising Balanced Kids in a Hyper-Connected World

by Jon Lasser, Mike Brooks


Tech Generation: Raising Balanced Kids in a Hyper-Connected World by Mike Brooks and Jon Lasser is a welcome addition to the growing field of developmental psychology addressing the challenges of parenting in our tech-saturated times. While much has already been written about harnessing the positive aspects of technology while avoiding the negative impact of too much screen time on children's lives, Tech Generation still has plenty of new and fresh material to offer parents.
 
Brooks and Lasser advance their Tech Healthy Life model of cultivating a healthy relationship with technology using some crucial reminders: we must be the change we want to see in our children, a variation of Gandhi's advice to "be the change you want to see in the world." Parents must model a balanced, controlled and healthy relationship with their own screens before expecting their children to do the same. Secondly, our influence as parents is strongly dependent on the quality of the relationship we have with our children.
 
The authors offer practical advice paired with an empathetic understanding of day-to-day realities: busy parents, the powerful lure of games and social media on growing brains and the increasing dependence on technology at school. Topics such as authoritative parenting, mindful engagement with technology and the difference between parental monitoring and electronic surveillance are addressed with thought-provoking insight.
 
Every generation of parents faces child-rearing challenges. For parents of young children and teens today, maintaining a healthy relationship with technology is one of the principal challenges of our times. --Shahina Piyarali, writer and reviewer

Discover: This guide is for parents engaged in what often is an increasingly fraught battle with their children over technology use.

Oxford University Press, $24.95, hardcover, 328p., 9780190665296

Humor

Maeve in America: Essays by a Girl from Somewhere Else

by Maeve Higgins


Comedian, podcaster and writer Maeve Higgins delivers a stellar U.S. debut with her collection of essays, Maeve in America. Her astute cultural observations combined with a wicked sense of humor make for delicious entertainment, while her sharp intelligence, self-effacing disposition and compassion add an honest thoughtfulness to timely subjects like immigration and race. Through the eyes of this Irish woman, the U.S. has never been so clear--or hilarious.
 
Higgins's idiosyncratic range of topics includes lighthearted pieces on small talk, Instagram stories and identifying a husband like a baby bird does his mother in the children's book Are You My Mother?: " 'What about you?' I ask a vaguely interesting handyman. He looks at me the same way the cow looked at the baby bird, like, No, ma'am, absolutely not." Higgins carefully balances this delightful humor with forays into heavier subjects like depression, misogyny and racism: "It's troubling to see how privilege accumulates over generations... and, when people reach a certain level of safety, to see how they pull the ladder up after themselves." The overall equilibrium is perfect, leaving readers with inspiration and hope.
 
Maeve in America offers distinctive insights from a fabulously fresh voice. Higgins is candid and humble, inviting readers into her personal space in order to see through her eyes. The view isn't always beautiful, but readers will follow Higgins's allure. It's pleasing and powerful, possibly even addictive. She is a treasure and this reader, for one, is happy to have Maeve in America. --Jen Forbus, freelancer

Discover: An Irish comedian offers her shrewd insights on American culture in this collection of clever essays.

Penguin Books, $16, paperback, 256p., 9780143130161

Children's & Young Adult

Eleanor Roosevelt, Fighter for Justice: Her Impact on the Civil Rights, Movement, the White House, and the World

by Ilene Cooper


Ilene Cooper's Eleanor Roosevelt, Fighter for Justice is an inspiring account of how Roosevelt developed from a shy, wealthy girl bred with the racism of her time into a spokesperson and champion for many social causes.
 
As her husband advanced in politics, Eleanor became immersed in politics. In 1933, when Franklin Roosevelt became president, the issue of civil rights attracted her attention. She had not been fully aware of the social and economic conditions faced by most African Americans until she was taken to visit the slums of Washington, D.C., where she saw firsthand "a rotten world of crumbling wooden tenements, home to twelve thousand blacks and one thousand whites." From that point on, she grasped the importance of making changes to improve the lives of all people--a feeling not always fully shared by Franklin, a pragmatic politician--and met with black leaders like Mary McLeod Bethune and NAACP head Walter Francis White.
 
Cooper's (Faith and Fury: The Temple Mount and the Noble Sanctuary: The Story of Jerusalem's Most Sacred Space) solid biography, with archival photos, excellent notes and timeline, focuses on Eleanor's many civil rights activities, including efforts to stop lynching, ensure that New Deal government agencies treated blacks and whites equally, and integrating the armed forces. The absorbing text discusses personal concerns, including Eleanor's dismay at her husband's affair and her fraught relationships with her mother-in-law and her own children, and emphasizes her strengths in forging an independent identity as a speaker, a writer, a United Nations delegate and an active First Lady concerned with the rights of all U.S. residents. --Melinda Greenblatt, freelance book reviewer

Discover: Ilene Cooper's Eleanor Roosevelt, Fighter for Justice is an inspiring account of Eleanor Roosevelt's untiring involvement with the major issues of her time.

Abrams, $17.99, hardcover, 192p., ages 10-14, 9781419722950

Illegal

by Andrew Donkin, Eoin Colfer, illus. by Giovanni Rigano


Eoin Colfer, Andrew Donkin and illustrator Giovanni Rigano, collaborators on the Artemis Fowl graphic novels, team up once again on the powerful, moving Illegal. This middle-grade graphic novel is told in two timelines: "Nineteen months earlier" and "now." The book opens with "now": a "Seahawk Inflatable Rubber Dinghy. Maximum safe load 6 people. Currently carrying 14 passengers." The 14 people on this decrepit dinghy are hoping to reach safety in Europe. Razak, whom 12-year-old Ebo and his older brother, Kwame, met along the way, is, like the other people on board, angry--angry at the others, angry at the situation and angry at those who put them in this position. There is no more fuel and no more water, and Ebo tries to calm everyone down: "If we don't fight and tip over then soon we will reach our new home. People are rich there and will be ready to give us blankets and food. We have a long way to go."
 
Nineteen months earlier, Ebo's brother disappears from their village in Ghana, just like their older sister, Sisi, did years ago. Ebo knows his brother is going to Europe--where Sisi is presumably safely settled---and refuses to be left behind. He collects what's his ("not much") and heads out to find his brother.
 
The narrative continues, moving back and forth through time, depicting every new, painful trial--murder, poverty, dehydration, repeated dehumanization--with sensitivity and nuance. Rigano's illustrations show the beauty of the unforgiving landscapes and the individuals desperately seeking a better life; Colfer and Donkin's text is deep and evocative. With the timely subject material and backmatter dedicated to both the refugee experience and the art of creating a graphic novel, Illegal is sure to be a bookseller, librarian and teacher favorite. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: The team behind the Artemis Fowl graphic novels collaborates again on Illegal, a middle-grade graphic novel about a Ghanian boy's escape to Europe.

Sourcebooks, $19.99, hardcover, 144p., ages 10-up, 9781492662143

#MurderTrending

by Gretchen McNeil


Alcatraz 2.0 is a "suburban island... where convicted murderers [are] hunted down by government-sanctioned serial killers for America's amusement." The "brainchild of an anonymous television mogul known only as The Postman," Alcatraz 2.0 has taken over a significant part of the judicial system because the "former reality 'star' [who] was elected president of the United States" relished the idea of "capital punishment as entertainment." The Postman's killers are "media-driven celebrities" who maintain their anonymity through masks and clever killer names: Hannah Ball kills by turning her victims into "cannibalistic casseroles"; Cecil B. DeViolent uses the prisoners to re-create movie deaths; Gucci Hangman constructs designer murders that match the victim's "complexion and outfit and the latest trends from New York Fashion Week." The Postman app is a "runaway success."
 
According to 17-year-old Dee, who has just woken up wearing a floor-length ballgown in what must be Prince Slycer's kill room, "[t]he whole thing [is] f*cking nuts." Dee, who has never engaged with the app, was forced to watch the livestream while held in jail awaiting trial for killing her stepsister. From this little bit of exposure, she knows that Prince Slycer dresses his victims like Disney princesses and chases them "through booby-trap-riddled mazes," hunting them down and skewering them with "an arsenal of increasingly large and bizarre cake knives." Simply put, Slycer is "the worst," and he's about to kill Dee--who knows she's innocent--in front of 50 million people.
 
What follows feels best described in review clichés: #MurderTrending is an edge-of-your-seat, heart-pounding thriller. While savvy readers will likely pick up what McNeil is putting down and figure out the conspiracy, that knowledge takes absolutely no enjoyment away from this inventively gory, regularly humorous and extremely suspenseful novel.  --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: On a prison island where the inmates are tortured and murdered by government-sanctioned serial killers, a teen tries to prove her innocence and stay alive.

Freeform/Disney, $17.99, hardcover, 352p., ages 14-up, 9781368010023

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