Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, September 18, 2018

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

From My Shelf

Board Books: Colors

It's September and, while many kids are back in school, the very littlest still have a bit of time before they get to trot off to learn with their peers. For those who may feel that they're missing out, here are some fantastic board books that can be used for at-home color lessons and play.
Bundle Up by Jennifer Sattler (Sleeping Bear Press, $7.99)
A young elephant suits up to brave the snowy weather. Pieces of outerwear are brought up and then found: "Where are my yellow mittens? Here are my yellow mittens." Once the elephant dons the mittens, it's time to find the scarf, coat and hat all, presumably, for playing outside. What the elephant actually does is likely to be as much fun for readers as spotting the colors throughout.
Find Colors by Tamara Shopsin and Jason Fulford (Phaidon Press, $14.95)
"We made you a colors book," the authors' note states. "It has no color. Hold up the pages and look through the shaped holes. You'll find all the color you need." And children will do just that. A rooster cut-out is for red, a leaf for green, grapes for purple... the child reader will have plenty of opportunities to spot and identify colors all around them.
Hats of Faith by Medeia Cohan, illus. by Sarah Walsh (Chronicle, $9.99)
Special mention goes to the vibrant, extremely colorful illustrations in Hats of Faith, which introduces readers to the head coverings many people wear to "show their love for God." Many children will love learning about the different hats; many will love pointing out all the colors. --Siân Gaetano, editor children's and YA, Shelf Awareness

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

Book Candy

Book Borrowing Rules

Bustle listed "15 rules for borrowing books, so you don't lose your friends in the process."


Inspired by last night's Emmy awards, Quirk Books wondered: "What would author acceptance speeches look like?"


Journalist and broadcaster Jenni Murray recommended "the best books about history's forgotten women" for the Guardian.


The alternative bard: Electric Lit explored "the 10 weirdest places Shakespeare plays have been performed" and Buzzfeed imagined what it might be like "if Shakespeare characters could text in 2018."


"Getting a grip: 11 literary quotes about hands" were collected by Signature.


Gastro Obscura peeked "inside a 17th-century 'barbarian' cookbook from Japan."

The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

by Stuart Turton

Nineteen years ago, a young boy was murdered on his family's estate. On the anniversary of the tragedy, his parents are hosting a masquerade, inviting all the people who had been present then. That Lord Peter and Lady Helena Hardcastle are strangely elusive during their party is just one of the mysteries in Stuart Turton's mesmerizing debut novel, The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle.

A man wakes up in a forest, wind howling, rain pouring; his mind is a blank. He hears a woman scream. A stranger comes up behind him, drops a compass into his pocket, and whispers "east." The man heads in that direction, casting up at a Georgian mansion, Blackheath, where he's met by a scarred, silent butler. The man rushes in, begging for help--in the forest, he heard a gunshot. He seems to know that the woman who screamed is named Anna. A "decadently rumpled" man greets him by name--Sebastian--and questions him, but Sebastian Bell has no answers, only his belief that Anna--whoever she is--has been murdered. A physician is sent for, who "smells of brandy, but cheerfully so, as though every drop went down smiling." He advises Bell to rest. So far, a straightforward, albeit slightly eerie, mystery. But later in the day, Bell's passage down the hall is blocked by a man dressed as a medieval plague doctor. He asks Bell, "You woke up with a word on your lips, what was it?" Bell answers "Anna," and the plague doctor replies, "That's a pity." Bell has no idea what's happening, nor does the reader, and the intrigue is just ramping up.

Bell then meets Evelyn Hardcastle, the daughter of the house, who informs him that he's a Harley Street doctor, invited to the party to sell dope to the guests. That night, when Bell returns to his room, he finds a dead rabbit--stabbed with a carving knife--in his bed, with a note from the Blackheath footman, and he faints. He is awakened by the doorbell; when he answers it, he finds a frantic Sebastian Bell asking for help! Now Turton's novel veers wildly off conventional tracks. On Day Two, Bell has inexplicably become the butler, Collins. On Day Three, Bell awakens as playboy Donald Davies, with the plague doctor waiting in the shadows of his bedroom. He's told, "You were a doctor. Then a butler, today a playboy, tomorrow a banker. None of them is your real face, or your real personality. Those were stripped from you when you entered Blackheath, and they won't be returned until you leave." The plague doctor will not tell Bell who he really is (Aiden Bishop, he later discovers) nor how he got to Blackheath, but does tell him how to escape: "Somebody's going to be murdered at the ball tonight. It won't appear to be a murder and so the murderer won't be caught. Rectify that injustice and I'll show you the way out." He goes on to explain that the current day will be repeated eight times, and Bishop will see it through the eyes of eight different hosts. If he doesn't solve the murder, he'll be stripped of his memories and returned to the body of Bell to start over again.

After being a drug dealer, a butler, a coward, a glutton, and a rapist, he has three hosts left. How many times has Bishop danced this dance with the plague doctor? More than the doctor can recall. But each time, Bishop recalls an additional fragment. Has he enough clues to finally break away? Can he hold on to this knowledge long enough to escape the footman who has inexplicably become his nemesis and deliver it to the plague doctor? "It's like I've been asked to dig a hole with a shovel made of sparrows," Bishop laments. While the eight "detectives" contend with murder, blackmail, secret codes and hidden messages, it becomes harder for Bishop to keep a straight course as the different personalities mix in him: "I'm no longer a man, I'm a chorus."

Why did Aiden Bishop come to Blackheath in the first place? What is the underlying secret of the plague doctor? How is Evelyn Hardcastle murdered? Are these the fantasies of a madman? In this remarkably complex novel, Turton has created a mind-bending puzzle that rewards a second reading to uncover clever hints missed the first time. His plot is dazzling, as is his premise, and will have readers debating the implications and possibilities in book groups and on blog posts. An added delight is his sharp prose, as well as his wit. Maids scrub "their youth away on the floor"; Lord Cecil has declined--"A ragged specter of beauty suggests itself, but his stash of splendor has almost run dry."

Aiden Bishop wonders if the future is a promise we can't break, but he struggles on. The other guests repeat the same decisions every day, but Bishop is able to make slight course corrections over the innumerable eight-day loops. Stuart Turton makes you care about Bishop's progress, while dishing up an intricate, ingenious and enthralling mystery. --Marilyn Dahl

Sourcebooks Landmark, $25.99, hardcover, 448p., 9781492657965

Stuart Turton: Pacing and Post-its

photo: Charlotte Graham

Stuart Turton has a degree in English and Philosophy, which makes him excellent at arguing and terrible at choosing degrees. Having trained for no particular career, he has dabbled in most of them. He stocked shelves in a Darwin bookshop, taught English in Shanghai, worked for a technology magazine in London, wrote travel articles in Dubai and now he's a freelance journalist. Turton lives in London with his amazing wife and drinks lots of tea. He's not to be trusted. In the nicest possible way. The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle (Sourcebooks Landmark) is his debut.

You're a journalist. What prompted you to write not just a novel, but an intricate puzzler of a novel?

The first novels I ever devoured were by Agatha Christie, so I'd wanted to write one for as long as I could remember. I actually took my first swing at one when I was 21 and bombed spectacularly because I didn't have a clever idea to put at the heart of it. Most of the really special Christie novels have a brilliant twist or plot hook, and it took me about 10 years to come up with mine. While I was waiting for that to happen I became a journalist because, sadly, you can't bill anybody for your "thinking time."

The chronology in the book is mind-bending, in many ways. Just when I thought I'd figured out the time period (carriages), a car or a day planner pops in. Sometimes Aiden knows what will happen before it does, other times he's surprised. Were you surprised at the direction the book took?

If I was surprised, I'd done something wrong! Because the plot was so intricate and dependent on certain people being in certain places at certain times, I planned out the entire day in two-minute intervals. That allowed me to keep track of every character's movements through the house and grounds. The only time I was surprised was when I indulged an idea that wasn't in the plan. Two months later, I'd written myself into a corner (three impossible things were all happening at 1:26 pm) and I had to scrap 40,000 words. I nearly threw myself out of a window. After that, surprise became a bit of a dirty word for this book. As for the time period--that slight sense of fuzziness was entirely intentional. I wanted to write an Agatha Christie-style novel that incorporated everything she was famous for, including the twists, outlandish characters, clever murders and the period. She wrote her books between the 1920s and 1960s, and because my story has a time-travel strand, I didn't see any reason not to treat that period as a historical grab bag.

At one point Aiden says, "I'm no longer a man, I'm a chorus." How did you manage that chorus?

I have all the Post-it notes in the world, I reckon. Two walls of my study were covered in utterly insane-sounding descriptions of my characters ("face like old furniture--not same for R" being a case in point) If the police had raided my house, they would have thought I was masterminding the world's weirdest murder. At heart, each of my character's hosts was created to pace the novel, which massively helped me to define them. I introduce a clever old man to talk a lot and slow it down. I introduce a stupid young man to get into fights and speed it up.

Your character descriptions are perfect ("Herrington's spent the evening tossing around tedious stories without bothering to indulge in the courtesy of exaggeration"). I'd imagine that your journalism experience honed this ability.

That's very kind, thanks! When I was a travel journalist, there was loads of room for that sort of creative description, and I really enjoyed it. If I was writing about technology or finance, I tended to write in a bit more of a straitjacket because the readers were far more interested in facts than fancy prose. To be honest, I went slightly mad when I started the book. My descriptions were far too flowery, and I had to prune them back. If I hadn't, you'd probably still be reading it.

Do you have a favorite character? I'm partial to the obese banker, Ravencourt.

Ravencourt's my favourite, too. For me, it's because Aiden's very unkind about Ravencourt when he first wakes up in his body, but as he goes along he realizes the power of Ravencourt's intellect--and ends up yearning to be Ravencourt when he's in other hosts. It's also a character with a lot of firsts. He's the first to understand the rules of the day and work out how they might be bent to his benefit. He's the first to make a genuine friend and he's the first to encounter the footman.

After finishing The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, I wondered if there will be a sequel. You couldn't replicate the story with another character, but what happens to Aiden and Anna? Or are you writing a completely different novel?

I've been asked about a sequel a lot, but I always intended this to be a one-off novel. Any open questions at the end of the book weren't meant to tease another one, just give the impression of a continuing world. I wanted the reader to feel the characters were carrying on without them. Really neat endings always feel very artificial to me. Sorry, that's a really long-winded way of saying I'm writing a completely different novel next. It'll be mad as a bag of cats though, so it'll have that in common with 7 1/2 Deaths.

What book(s) have you been excited about recently?

Marcus Zusak has just announced he's releasing another novel, which is brilliant. It's been 10 years since The Book Thief--which I thought was utterly extraordinary. Can't wait to see what he's been cooking up this last decade. I loved Circe by Madeline Miller, and I'm currently reading If on a Winter's Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino, which is the sort of weird that makes me do handstands. --Marilyn Dahl

Shelf vetted, publisher supported.

Book Review


Let Me Be Like Water

by S.K. Perry

Let Me Be Like Water is a beautiful and heartbreaking story of young love and young loss. A meditation on grief and what could have been, S.K. Perry's debut offers glimpses of the sometimes magical ways the world works when life is shattered and we're left with nothing but the pieces.
Months after the sudden and unexpected death of her boyfriend, Holly leaves London, a city filled with memories of her lover, Sam, "our residue on pavements and seats of buses," for the seaside town of Brighton. The move gives Holly more than the space to think and heal, however. It brings her Frank, a retired magician who, in his lovingly odd way, "collects" lonely people. And she finds new friends and a cold sea, and "by the water it really does feel like things will be alright."
There are any number of novels about loss. But Let Me Be Like Water is distinctive in its poetic and vivid language, which Perry uses to bring Holly's emotional roller-coaster to life on the page. Moreover, it focuses on the loss of a young life in particular. Readers' hearts break not only for Holly's immediate loss, but for the loss of all that a future with Sam may have held: a marriage, possible children, any number of small moments of intimacy. In place of all the things that can't be known about that lost future, we get what is left: raw, unadulterated grief; desperate, clinging loneliness; and a small ray of hope in the form of good friends and good food. Perry is a voice to be watched--in this case, watched through blurred tears with a box of tissues at hand. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

Discover: This is a beautiful tale of young love and young loss, and the magical powers of friendship to heal broken hearts.

Melville House, $16.99, paperback, 224p., 9781612197265

The Fifth Woman

by Nona Caspers

There's a particularly surreal quality to the lives of those in mourning. Along with pain and sorrow is the muscle memory of sleeping beside someone, seeing them in the morning, living in a shared world with the person who died. The Fifth Woman by Nona Caspers inhabits that surreal quality, showing how it informs, and is informed by, a felt grief. Spread out into 23 connected short stories, the book plots the shaky, sometimes strange, road to recovery.
After the death of her lover, Michelle, the narrator leaves their apartment in San Francisco for a smaller, cheaper one in a rundown building. Still grieving and unsure of how to recalibrate her life, she begins to curl into herself, dreaming or creating spaces where the magical occurs. There is a dog that exists only in shadow. The weather bursts through her walls and leaves her adrift in the snow while still indoors. Her ceiling opens wide, revealing the floor above and eventually, the sky. Each strange occurrence underscores how life without Michelle has become unmoored, all the while beginning to build towards a path to acceptance (though never real peace, that much is clear).
The Fifth Woman is strange and sad, perfectly encapsulating the oddest aspects of grief through its images and events. But it doesn't wallow, nor does it attempt to pull the reader down into its sorrow. Instead, Caspers wants to open a window into the moments after a loved one has been lost, bringing out the essential, real humanity as she bends the rules of reality itself. --Noah Cruickshank, adult engagement manager, the Field Museum, Chicago, Ill.

Discover: The Fifth Woman is a book of connected short stories that depicts the surreal aftermath of losing a loved one.

Sarabande Books, $15.95, paperback, 160p., 9781946448170

The Story of H

by Marina Perezagua, trans. by Valerie Miles

When the atomic bomb was detonated over Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, the narrator--an intersex individual known as H--was 13. All of a sudden, H's life was turned upside down, her family among the 200,000 victims annihilated, and her body transformed by the blast. Years later, in New York, she meets and falls in love with an American, Jim, who served in World War II, and their stories are intertwined with the search for a Japanese baby Jim cared for during the first five years of the child's life.
Marina Perezagua has written a haunting and strange tale that captures the reader from the get-go as she unveils tiny clues to the true nature of H's life and of the search she embarks on with Jim for the baby he tended. The story twists and meanders, providing insight into a life of duality experienced by some whose gender is not apparent at birth. There are also allusions to a murder, which isn't fully revealed until the end.
Recurring themes of parenthood, love and survivorship dominate this lyrical novel. Perezagua includes graphic details about the Hiroshima victims in the aftermath of the bombing, and she muses on the meaning of sex and sexual identity. While at times she is overly cryptic in her descriptions and slow with plot reveals, the overall effect is mesmerizing and beautiful. The Story of H unfolds like the petals of a flower, exposing humanity at its center. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

Discover: A Japanese woman and an American soldier search for a girl who went missing in the aftermath of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

Ecco, $26.99, hardcover, 304p., 9780062660718

Mystery & Thriller

Red, White, Blue

by Lea Carpenter

In her intriguing second novel, Red, White, Blue, Lea Carpenter (Eleven Days) tackles the enigmatic world of the CIA through the intertwined stories of two narrators.
Anna is recently married but also still mourning the death of her father, Noel, in a Swiss avalanche while skiing. She remembers him as a brilliant businessman and a devoted father who took care of her after her mother left. The two were very close, and his death, on the eve of her wedding day, was devastating.
On a delayed honeymoon to the south of France, Anna meets a mysterious man at the bar. She soon realizes this is not a chance encounter, as the man's stories about working for the Agency involve her father. Back home, she receives a package containing videos that provide further understanding (and confusion) about a part of her father's life she knew nothing about.
The novel alternates between Anna's life moving forward and the stories of the unnamed CIA case officer that gradually bring her father's past to light. The author uses an unusual narrative style, with short, clipped sentences and very brief chapters. It feels a bit jarring at first, but readers soon fall into the rhythm of the story as it slowly unfolds in both the past and the present. Small details take on great importance in this clever and complex spy story that provides insights into the workings of the CIA and this particular agent's life. --Suzan L. Jackson, freelance writer and author of Book By Book blog

Discover: The story of a CIA spy gradually unfolds, narrated by both his daughter and a mysterious case officer.

Knopf, $26.95, hardcover, 320p., 9781524732141

Biography & Memoir

Small Fry

by Lisa Brennan-Jobs

Lisa Brennan-Jobs, daughter of late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and artist Chrisann Brennan, was born when her (unmarried) parents were just 23 years old. Jobs publicly denied his paternity until a DNA test proved otherwise. When Lisa was two, her mother sued Jobs for child support and, after months of resisting, he hurriedly agreed to pay $500 a month. Four days later, Apple stock went public and Jobs was worth $200 million. Steve Jobs may have been many things, but paternal wasn't one of them. In fact, he's portrayed as thoughtless, self-absorbed, immature and withholding. "There was a thin line between civility and cruelty in him," Brennan-Jobs writes. But Small Fry is no Mommie Dearest hatchet job. This heartfelt, emotional and exceedingly well-written coming-of-age memoir is a warts-and-all portrait, laced with resilience and healing.
Life with her mother was often hardscrabble and rootless--they moved 13 times by the time Lisa was seven. While Jobs and Brennan never married, they were always entwined in each other's lives. When Lisa was 13, her father wed and started a family. His possessive nature wanted Lisa under his (aloof) roof. Maneuvering this shaky reunion was Job's newly discovered biological sister, author Mona Simpson--who later wrote the novel A Regular Guy about a Silicon Valley tycoon's distant relationship with his born-out-of-wedlock daughter. 
Lisa and her college drop-out father became estranged when she went off to college against his wishes. Jobs's 2003 pancreatic cancer diagnosis finally brought a reconciliation, before his death in 2011. Brennan-Jobs is an outstanding storyteller, and her empowering tale of overcoming dysfunctional family relationships with haunt readers. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant

Discover: The daughter of Apple cofounder Steve Jobs writes an emotional, cathartic and haunting coming-of-age tale of family dysfunction.

Grove Press, $26, hardcover, 400p., 9780802128232


Leadership: In Turbulent Times

by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Doris Kearns Goodwin (The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism) is a popular historian who has spent much of her 50-year career on biographies of U.S. presidents. In Leadership: In Turbulent Times she examines the titular quality through four interwoven case studies of Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson.
"They differed widely in temperament, appearance, and physical ability. They were endowed with a divergent range of qualities often ascribed to leadership--intelligence, energy, empathy, verbal and written gifts, and skills in dealing with people. They were united, however, by a fierce ambition, an inordinate drive to succeed... they all essentially made themselves leaders by enhancing and developing the qualities they were given."
Arrogance was a quality all four men had to learn to moderate. Lincoln once brought a fellow legislator to tears with his public mockery. Both Roosevelts had to overcome their entitled self-righteousness to learn how to listen and collaborate. Johnson was emotionally and physically exhausting to his students and staff, but balanced that with inspiring mentorship. All four men suffered severe setbacks and depression, and considered quitting politics before going on to become president. And "all took office at moments of uncertainty and dislocation in extremis."
Goodwin alternates chapters on each president within three major sections: their educations and early careers; "adversity and growth"; and their very different presidencies. Would-be leaders may find this a thoughtful introductory manual. For general readers it is a heartening reminder of what the best leadership can look like. --Sara Catterall

Discover: Presidential biographer Doris Kearns Goodwin examines the nature of leadership as demonstrated by the careers of four major U.S. presidents.

Simon & Schuster, $30, hardcover, 496p., 9781476795928

Political Science

Rising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of a Former White Nationalist

by Eli Saslow

With raw, uncomfortable frankness, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Eli Saslow dissects the ideological transformation of a man once considered the "Great White Hope," the heir to the White Nationalist movement. Derek Roland Black grew up engulfed in white nationalism. His father, Don Black, was a prominent Klansman and founder of the racist Internet community Stormfront. His godfather is David Duke, the notorious Grand Wizard of the KKK. And his half-sisters are Duke's daughters--Derek's mother, Chloe, was married to Duke before Derek's father.
Drawing on years of interviews and research, Saslow paints a detailed picture of Derek's upbringing. A smart, perceptive child, Derek absorbs the theory, mythology and history embraced by his family and their friends. When the Florida public schools teach diversity and multiculturalism, Don and Chloe pull Derek out, opting to homeschool instead. For the first two decades of his life, a bubble of white nationalism encases Derek.
When Derek chooses to attend Florida's prestigious--and liberal--New College, that bubble bursts. He becomes friends with minority students and briefly dates a Jewish girl. However, when the campus learns of Derek's affiliation, pandemonium breaks out. But a small group of students accepts him and talks to him and exposes him to a way of thinking Derek has never experienced before. With patience and kindness, they change his life forever.
Saslow handles this delicate story with journalistic integrity. The hundreds of hours spent with his subject are evident in the portrayal of the intense internal conflict Derek and his girlfriend undergo. Rising Out of Hatred is a powerful story of the damage hate is capable of, as well as the potential of faith and hope. --Jen Forbus, freelancer

Discover: An up-and-coming White Nationalist sees the world in a different light when a diverse group of college students treats him with kindness and compassion.

Doubleday, $26.95, hardcover, 304p., 9780385542869

Social Science

Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women's Anger

by Soraya Chemaly

Most people are rightfully peeved when a scowling woman is prodded to smile; looking constantly pretty isn't expected of men, so they aren't routinely asked to turn that frown upside down. In Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women's Anger, media critic Soraya Chemaly champions a second reason to resent this double standard: a woman encouraged to smile is implicitly discouraged from showing anger. And anger, Chemaly argues, is a positive force for change.
"Anger remains the emotion that is least acceptable for girls and women because it is the first line of defense against injustice," Chemaly writes, and, boy, do women have a lot to fume about. The first chunk of Rage Becomes Her discusses the gender pay gap, sexual harassment and violence, and other topics that have been covered more exhaustively by other writers. It's in the second part of her book that Chemaly earns her subtitle: it was female anger, she explains, after Donald Trump's 2016 presidential win, that spurred historic numbers of women to run for office. Female anger also helped give birth to Black Lives Matter, #MeToo and other political movements.
Chemaly writes about injustice with vigor and flair, sharing her experiences as both a woman and the mother of daughters. She supports her conclusions with grim studies, most of them dispiritingly recent. "Is it possible to read a book about anger and not get mad?" she asks at one point. Not if it's Rage Becomes Her. But as Chemaly shows, that's a good reason to read it. --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer

Discover: In her look at the power of female rage, Soraya Chemaly argues that anger is the first step on the road to justice.

Atria, $27, hardcover, 416p., 9781501189555

Psychology & Self-Help

The Incurable Romantic: And Other Tales of Madness and Desire

by Frank Tallis

British clinical psychologist Frank Tallis (Lovesick: Love as a Mental Illness) explores the intersection between love and mental health with a compassionate look at some of the most challenging and interesting cases of his career.
In an instant, a meek, conventional woman becomes passionately obsessed with her dentist, and no power on earth can convince her that he does not reciprocate her feelings of almost spiritual connection. A wealthy married man spends his fortune romancing more than 3,000 prostitutes, then jilting them once they fall for him. An elderly widow misses her husband's presence so strongly that she begins to hallucinate his ghost. A man who visits prostitutes insists a demon possesses him and causes his behavior. Over the course of Tallis's career, he watches love change and even destroy lives, often in ways that might make little sense to the casual observer. He also includes episodes from his own life, such as the time he and his ex-wife lived in a rural village where a neighbor ran afoul of a messianic evangelist suffering psychotic delusions.
Although his material could easily lend itself to a more gossipy treatment, Tallis treats each story with the utmost seriousness, by turns empathetic toward his former patients and fascinated by the conditions and obsessions that plague them. Though entertaining and written with wry good humor, The Incurable Romantic digs deeply into the emotion of each situation and makes a case that a human experience as powerful as love can carry deep consequences. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Discover: Frank Tallis, a British clinical psychologist and mystery writer, chooses 11 of his most interesting cases to illustrate the link between romantic turmoil and mental health.

Basic Books, $27, hardcover, 304p., 9781541617551



by Eileen Myles

Readers either relish Eileen Myles's outrage and outrageously out-there writing or think the poet is a bit of a kook. Myles's inventive work and over-the-top persona don't allow for much in-between. Rich in vernacular and innovative line breaks, the poems in Evolution ask to be read out loud--like these lines from "St. Joseph Father of Whales": "I heard your/ Joseph Josephy/ songs in the whales/ last night/ giant round giggly organs/ tickling and mooing/ and diving calves, you're/ the oldest & the silliest/ Joe--need to keep/ you on my/ side."
Although Myles grew up in Cambridge Catholic schools and graduated from UMass Boston, Myles is a product of New York City through and through. A downtown denizen and self-described dyke, Myles is an alternative Patti Smith--complete with a 1980 Mapplethorpe photograph. As they describe in "Dear Adam": "Out of a/ conservative/ diaspora came I mongrel poet from Massachusetts/ to make my mark."
Myles crafts poems of personal nature. In very short lines, they are also reflective, contemporary, political, erotic and even aphoristic. "Each Day I Get Up," for example, starts with a bang: "I think I'm kind of Morrissey/ don't you/ though his sweatshirt/ wouldn't be so/ cheap/ though he'd/ probably wish/ that it/ was."
Evolution is a triumphant collection that manifests these words from Myles's prose poem "Notebook, 1981": "I called it poetry, but it was flesh and time and bread and friends frightened and free enough to want to have another day that way." --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: In a bold collection of poems, Eileen Myles reinforces their justifiable fame as the unabashed voice of what's left of New York's downtown edginess.

Grove Press, $25, hardcover, 176p., 9780802128508

Children's & Young Adult

And the Ocean Was Our Sky

by Patrick Ness, illus. by Rovina Cai

Patrick Ness follows up his conceptual 2017 young adult novel, Release, with the esoteric, artful And the Ocean Was Our Sky, a (literal) upside-down retelling of Moby Dick. "Call me Bathsheba," Ness's narrator begins, here to tell her tale of "the final hunt that ever was. The hunt for a legend, a myth, a devil."
When she was 16, Bathsheba was a hunter, a "lowly but eager Third Apprentice" to Captain Alexandra, "the best hunter in the sea." The Captain had a "short, rusted end of a man's harpoon... sticking from her great head," physical and painful proof of man's long war with whales. Bathsheba was, as she puts it, "ignorant" when she hunted with Captain Alexandra, their "sails catching the currents, the Abyss below [them], the ocean [their] sky." Bathsheba knew that man and whale were enemies, and that was all that mattered.
But then a routine hunt went awry, the man ship they sought found empty and adrift, its crew dead. All, that is, except one young man with a message: "He is uncatchable." Captain Alexandra had found the trail of Toby Wick--the whales' "devil," "monster," "myth"--and his white ship, and nothing would stop her from following it.
Bathsheba's story has heft, even though Ness's book is significantly shorter than Melville's. The questions she raises as she slowly sheds her ignorance are deep, the trauma faced by both man and whale brutal and wholly unnecessary. Rovina Cai's illustrations are detailed and dream-like, her gray-scale with splashes of color depictions of the fathomless world an additional source of intensity in this already fierce tale. Readers are likely to leave And the Ocean Was Our Sky asking the same kinds of heavy questions as Bathsheba, primary among them, "who needs devils when you have men?" --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: In Patrick Ness's young adult retelling of Moby Dick, a whale hunts down the white ship of her man enemy.

HarperTeen, $19.99, hardcover, 160p., ages 13-up, 9780062860729

Dactyl Hill Squad

by Daniel José Older

Daniel José Older makes his middle-grade debut with Dactyl Hill Squad, a Civil War-era historical fantasy--with dinosaurs.
Twelve-year-old Magdalys Roca lives in the Colored Orphan Asylum in New York City. On this July 1863 evening, Magdalys and her fellow orphans Two Step, Mapper, Little Sabeen and Amaya head out on the orphanage's "huge old triceratops," Varney, to see a performance at the "only all-black Shakespearean company in New York." When the group is stopped mid-trip by the white Magistrate Riker, supposedly to make sure the children aren't "fugitive slaves," Magdalys's fear and anxiety make her wish Varney would take evasive maneuvers--which he immediately does. Magdalys, it turns out, can talk to dinos. And she learns this not a moment too soon.
The group escapes the Magistrate and arrives at the play--but hooded white folks on raptors are rioting, setting the city on fire and attacking black citizens. Unsurprisingly, the Magistrate is among the hooded rioters, no doubt working with the Kidnapping Club to steal free black children and sell them into slavery. Magdalys's newly discovered ability comes in handy when she steals a brachy from the fire brigade and brings it to the orphans' rescue.
They flee, ending up at a refuge in Dactyl Hill where adult men and women of color work together as a Vigilance Committee, fighting the Kidnapping Club and Magistrate Riker whenever they can. Magdalys and her fellow orphans soon become freedom fighters themselves.

Dactyl Hill Squad has everything a reader could possibly want in a middle-grade book: action, adventure, magic, humor and dinosaurs. Magdalys is the same kind of young, engaging and flawed protagonist as Philip Pullman's Lyra--a character readers can't help but love even when (especially because) she's frustrating. An entertaining and wholly fulfilling series opener. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: Twelve-year-old Magdalys discovers she can talk to dinos in Daniel José Older's fantastical alternate history of New York during the Civil War.

Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic, $16.99, hardcover, 272p., ages 8-12, 9781338268812


Author Buzz

Dragon Kiss
(A Dragon Kings Novella)

by Donna Grant

Dear Reader,

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

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


Available on Kobo

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

1001 Dark Nights Press

Pub Date: 
January 9, 2024


List Price: 
$2.99 e-book

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