Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, July 2, 2019


Grove Press: Elements of Fiction by Walter Mosley

From My Shelf

Neal Porter Books: Small in the City by Sydney Smith

Celadon Books: The Whisper Man by Alex North

The Women Behind the Founding Fathers

This year, celebrate America's origins on July Fourth in a different way: by immersing yourself in the lives of important women connected to our Founding Fathers who have mostly been forgotten by history.

Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie have written two engrossing novels set during the American Revolution, told from the perspectives of strong, influential women, and combining historical facts with compelling narratives.

 

America's First Daughter (Morrow, $15.99) is about Martha "Patsy" Jefferson Randolph, Thomas Jefferson's beloved oldest daughter. Her mother died when she was a child, and Patsy vowed at her deathbed to take care of her father. The novel follows Patsy and her father to Paris, when Jefferson was U.S. ambassador to France, back home to Virginia and on to Washington and the presidential mansion, where Patsy served as "First Daughter" in the absence of Jefferson's wife. Though the novel is Patsy's life story and focuses on her personal triumphs and traumas, she was an integral part of the early years of this nation and deeply involved in her father's work.

 

The same winning formula of fascinating history plus an intimate look at a significant woman's life is applied in My Dear Hamilton (Morrow, $16.99), focusing on Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, wife of Alexander Hamilton. Eliza--the daughter of a general--was involved in politics and the Revolution before she ever met Alexander. But with Alexander, she had a front-row seat to the birth and growing pains of our nation and even helped with some of his famous writings. She lived a long and accomplished life decades past Hamilton's death, and Dray and Kamoie bring her to glorious life on the page. --Suzan L. Jackson, freelance writer and blogger at Book By Book


Soho Press: Paperback Preview - Start Reading


Book Candy

Best Day-Long Books

"A day in the life: the best books set over 24-hours" were collected by the Guardian.

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Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer donated annotated copies of D.H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover to support PEN's crowdfunding campaign.

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Nimbus Coffee, a Harry Potter-inspired café, "is now casting spells in DTLA," Los Angeles magazine reported.

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Buzzfeed checked out "21 libraries that will make you say: Damn, that is CLEVER."

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One of Abraham Lincoln's Bibles, which "has been kept hidden from scholars and the public since the president acquired it in 1864," is now on display, Atlas Obscura reported.

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After extensive renovations, Victor Hugo's Hauteville House has reopened, Fine Books & Collections wrote.


International Thriller Writers: Click here to read an exclusive interview with author Lisa Unger


Great Reads

Rediscover: Iris Murdoch

 

July 15 marks the 100th birthday of British author and philosopher Iris Murdoch (1919-1999). She was born in Dublin to Irish parents, though her family moved to London weeks after her birth. She was a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain while studying at Oxford between 1938 and 1942. In 1946, Murdoch won a scholarship to Vassar College but was unable to enter the United States due to her former political affiliations. Instead she studied postgrad philosophy at Cambridge University before returning to Oxford as a professor. Her first novel, a picaresque called Under the Net, was published in 1954. Murdoch went on to write 25 more novels, works of philosophy, poetry collections and plays.

Murdoch's best-known novel, The Sea, the Sea, won the 1978 Booker Prize. It follows playwright Charles Arrowby, who retreats to a house by the sea to write his memoirs. There he meets his first love, Mary Fitch, now an old woman. Arrowby becomes obsessed with the aged Mrs. Fitch and bungles a kidnapping attempt after she refuses his offers to elope. He spends the final chapters of the novel ruminating over his rejection and lost youth. Murdoch's other books include A Severed Head (1961), The Unicorn (1963), The Italian Girl (1964), The Black Prince (1973) and The Sacred and Profane Love Machine (1974). Her final novel was Jackson's Dilemma (1995). The Sea, the Sea is available from Penguin Classics ($20, 9780141186160). --Tobias Mutter


Thomas Nelson: Around the World on 50 Bucks: How I Left with Nothing and Returned a Rich Man by Christopher Schacht


The Writer's Life

Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson Interview

photo: Kjetil Sverdrup-Thygeson

Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson is a professor at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences. She is also a scientific adviser to the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research and holds a doctorate in conservation biology. In her debut, Buzz, Sting, Bite: Why We Need Insects (Simon & Schuster, $26; reviewed below), the ecologist introduces readers to basic insect biology, looks closely at bugs' relationships with plants and animals and explains how important they are to human life.

As a professor at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, you're likely involved in all kinds of thoughtful, interesting discussions about the natural world. What drew you to the subject of insects?

I've always been curious about nature. When I was a kid, I used to spend a lot of time in the outdoors with my family. We went for hikes, made campfires, slept in a snow cave, picked berries or mushrooms in the autumn. My granddad taught me the names of flowers and the calls of the birds. I wasn't particularly interested in insects; all the fascinating details and connections in this magical jigsaw puzzle of nature appealed to me.

When I started my studies, I started out in humanities, with studies in history. Later I switched to biology, but they're not as different as you might think. Both look at the connections between the details and the bigger picture.

I still love to be outdoors, to marvel at the intricate details that connect nature and humans in a common web of life. Insects are an important part of this--they make up more than half of all known species on Earth. Life as we know it depends on these small creatures. It doesn't get more interesting than that!

One mind-boggling revelation in your book has to do with honeybees. They can distinguish between human faces!

Yes, it turns out that insects, especially social insects, are capable of doing stuff that we thought was impossible for organisms with a brain the size of a sesame seed, things such as honey bees distinguishing between human faces. It is doubtful that the bees relate to what they are actually seeing. They probably believe that faces are really funny flowers, with the darker areas of eyes and mouth representing recognizable patterns on "petals." But even more amazing, honey bees can remember a face they've become familiar with for at least two days.

Your book delves into the complex relationships that insects have with their natural environments. One interesting case study has to do with the golden poison frog in Colombia. What do insects have to do with this frog? 

In the South American jungle, there lives a poisonous frog with the thoroughly appropriate Latin name Phyllobates terribilis. Its poison is one of the most powerful nerve poisons known to mankind. One frog contains enough poison to kill 10 grown men.

This little frog, no larger than a plum, used to be fairly common in the rain forest in parts of Colombia. The locals would carefully stroke their arrows along the frog's back to ensure that their arrowheads were poisonous enough to kill anything they might encounter.

The pharmaceutical industry got wind of this shocking yellow poisonous sensation in the rain forest. Early tests indicated that the poison was an incredibly effective painkiller when given in very tiny doses. What's more, because it affects the transportation of sodium through cell membranes, it could also be significant for our understanding of numerous diseases, including multiple sclerosis.

A few specimens were fetched from the jungle for closer examination, but when the catch arrived in the laboratory, the frog was no longer poisonous! As it turns out, their poison comes from the frog's diet of a specific species of soft-winged flower beetles. The frog lost its poison when it was no longer able to eat the beetles, which were found in its natural forest habitat.

Sadly, due to rain forest logging, the frog is about to go extinct. Soon, the frogs and the opportunity to do further research into the active ingredients they produce could be lost forever.

Your book also makes clear how important insects are to human life. Broadly speaking, why do we need insects to survive?

In sum, they help plants set seed, are janitors that clean up our world and create soil and they serve as food for other animals. They are also important as predators and parasites that keep other species in check.

There have been a number of recent studies that suggest that insect populations are dropping dramatically. In your book, you suggest that some populations have dropped by 75%! What is causing this steep decline, and what might such a decline mean for humanity?

Yes, the number of 75% drop in biomass of flying insects is from a study of 60 small, German nature reserves, spanning approximately 30 years. The article that explained this got a lot of attention. Then, last year, after my book was published in Norway, another paper on insect decline hit the headlines, this time with a focus on Puerto Rico's rain forest. These studies and others were reviewed in a paper that came out early 2019, which looked into the factors behind the decline. The paper's conclusion is that the main culprit is our intensive land use--habitat loss and conversion to intensive agriculture and urbanization. Pesticide use, introduced species and climate change are other drivers that have negative effects.

I realize that the causes of insect extinction are so systemic that no one person alone can make a difference. But if you could ask readers to do--or stop doing--just one thing to help protect insects, what would you ask of us?

If I am to mention just one thing, it would be to change the way you talk about insects. I believe in knowledge, positive talk and enthusiasm. I would encourage people to be curious about bugs, to take the time to look and learn. I think it's important to teach children about all the strange and useful things insects do, and in general talk nicely about bugs. And if I could add a second thing: If you have a garden, you can make it a better place for insects by turning part of your lawn into a flower-rich meadow or prairie-type habitat. Grow native plants and be sure to avoid pesticides. --Amy Brady, reviewer


Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster: Three Women by Lisa Taddeo


Book Review

Fiction

Bunny

by Mona Awad


Mona Awad's twisted and hilarious follow-up to 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl expands on classic Queen Bee tropes by transporting them to a setting even more cruel, petty and backbiting than high school--graduate school. In Bunny, a brooding and beleaguered scholarship student must contend with the punishingly effervescent members of her all-female creative writing cohort, discovering to her horror that their fawning affect and carefully curated personas mask a deadly supernatural persuasion.

Struggling through the final year of an elite postgraduate program with which she has long felt disenchanted, Samantha Mackey finds that her passion for writing has been supplanted by repulsed fascination for the other four members of her group. Disgustingly rich, unbearably twee and virtually inseparable, they refer to each other as "Bunny," a habit that Samantha finds grotesque. Assuming her disdain is mutual, Samantha is shocked when the "Bunnies" reach out to befriend her, beckoning her into their candy-colored and tulle-embellished private circle. What seems like a frivolous escape, however, quickly becomes a hallucinatory nightmare, as the balance of power shifts, and lines between fantasy and reality begin to blur.

Awad's flair for the provocative occasionally veers into self-conscious grandstanding (her protagonist, too, is criticized for the "edginess" of her prose). Still, Bunny's gleeful, unapologetic revelry in fantastical revenge play is seductive, gripping and gloriously excessive. Steeped in rank feminine pathos and dripping with psychedelic horror imagery, Bunny is a campy deconstruction of neofeminist artifice, academic class blindness and the sugar-frosted exclusionism they both serve up with an eager, sharp-toothed smile. --Devon Ashby, sales & marketing assistant, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A disillusioned creative writing student's life of bored alienation is hijacked by the sinister influence of a cliquish band of fellow students.

Viking, $26, hardcover, 320p., 9780525559733

Newhouse: Britt-Marie Was Here directed by Tuva Novotny, based on the novel by the author of A Man Called Ove


The Most Fun We Ever Had

by Claire Lombardo


In her debut, Claire Lombardo offers a sprawling drama that explores the maelstrom of love, resentment and tension of the nuclear family and the ways in which a shared history can affect the future for years.

When Marilyn Sorenson, exhausted by raising two babies nine months apart in age, gives a patently untrue reply to a question about motherhood, it instantly becomes one more inside joke she shares with her husband, David. "They would repeat it for years to come in times of strife: the most fun I've ever had." The joke follows the Sorensons from 1980 to 2016, the year in which their four adult daughters wreak havoc on their peace of mind in a whirlwind of existential crises, relationship drama and long-buried secrets. As fissures in the family open, close and shift, David and Marilyn look back on their legendary marriage and the joy and heartache inherent in loving the same person for decades.

Lombardo has a deft hand with metaphor, pulling off the inclusion of a literal family tree--a venerable but diseased gingko--with neither camp nor irony. She also has a knack for encapsulating universal relationship truths in single clear-eyed sentences, as when she describes the situation of "one party consumed with worry so the other could sleep through the night" as a life-saving aspect of marriage.

Covering 40 years of Sorenson family strengths and foibles, The Most Fun We Ever Had is a classy but juicy read that always has one more surprise up its sleeve. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Discover: In this ambitious debut novel, four adult sisters and their famously in-love parents unravel decades of family history when a secret from the past resurfaces.

Doubleday, $28.95, hardcover, 544p., 9780385544252

Grove Press: Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata


Mystery & Thriller

Girls Like Us

by Cristina Alger


Cristina Alger (The Banker's WifeThis Was Not the Plan) crafts a gripping story of suspense with Girls Like Us. Fans of murder mysteries packed with action and plot twists will be satisfied by this edge-of-the-seat adventure into seedy Suffolk County in New York.

FBI Agent Nell Flynn has returned home to the unbeautiful end of Long Island to sprinkle her father's ashes, close up his house and move on. Her father, homicide detective Marty Flynn, had some good buddies on the force, and it's nice to see them again, but Suffolk County doesn't hold many pleasant memories. Then Marty's last partner, Lee Davis, with whom Nell went to high school, asks for her help on one last case. Two young women have been murdered: "working girls," the cops call them; one of them was undocumented. In their details, though, these murders take Nell back to the murder of her mother when Nell was seven years old.

Is there a serial killer at work in Suffolk County? Is there a link to Nell's past? With violent action and split-second turns, this is not a book to put down easily: plan accordingly. Alger's thriller is emphatically plot-driven, but her characters hold their own.

Nell is a quintessential damaged cop, even if she is FBI: ignoring her own injuries, pushing too hard, taking foolhardy risks, with a strong sense of right and wrong (as her father seemed to have). Her personality serves as backbone to the electric plot of Girls Like Us, and the reader trusts that she will follow through to the truth, no matter how much it hurts. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: Heart-racing action and a twisty-turny plot mark this thriller of multigenerational cops and murders.

Putnam, $26, hardcover, 288p., 9780525535805

Other Press: Inheritance: A Novel by Evelyn Toynton


The Shallows

by Matt Goldman


Minneapolis private investigator Nils "Shap" Shapiro returns in his third outing by being called to a murder scene at 3:27 a.m. Lawyer Todd Rabinowitz has been killed, his body left in the shallows of a lake with a fishing stringer through his mouth and the other end tied to the dock. It's a clear message to someone, but no one knows what.

Todd's wife, Robin, hires Shap to find the killer, knowing the police would focus only on her, especially since the couple was on the outs and she was having an affair. But she's not the only person who wants to hire Shap to solve Todd's murder. So do the Greater Lake Minnetonka Police Department, the FBI, the partners at Todd's law firm, Robin's boyfriend and a controversial congressional candidate. As the list of potential clients grows, the number of dead bodies almost keeps pace.  

In The Shallows, Matt Goldman (Gone to Dust) manages to cover timely issues in a tone both light and mature, without naming names or being didactic. Shap points out people are born with a neurological makeup that dictates what they believe in and arguing won't change anyone's mind. It helps to know the complex history between Shap and his ex-wife, Micaela, but The Shallows can stand on its own. He experiences life-changing revelations here, but seemingly nothing can dampen Shap's wit. Being summoned to a meeting with a partner at Todd's firm, Shap makes sure to leave his shirt untucked "to convey a dash of apathy." Fans of layered mysteries and well-defined characters will convey only delight. --Elyse Dinh-McCrillis, blogger at Pop Culture Nerd

Discover: Minneapolis PI Nils Shapiro investigates why a local lawyer was murdered in a gruesome, showy way.

Forge, $26.99, hardcover, 320p., 9781250191311

Sleeping Bear Press: Snow Globe Wishes by Erin Dealey, illustrated by Claire Shorrock


Biography & Memoir

The Wild Boy: A Memoir

by Paolo Cognetti


After turning 30, Paolo Cognetti (The Eight Mountains) felt restless and unfulfilled in the city of Milan. He missed his childhood summers--the first 20 years of his life--spent in the Italian Alps. Inspired by Thoreau's Walden and the principled quest of Chris McCandless (subject of Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild), he rented a renovated but rustic cabin alone in a village of ruins in a high alpine valley and undertook to learn what the mountains had to teach, to "live deep and suck out all the marrow of life." After years of frustration, he hoped to write again.

The Wild Boy is a memoir of three seasons spent in that cabin, or, more accurately, spent hiking and exploring the mountains he remembered from when he was a boy--that wild boy he hopes to find again. It has a lovely and profound story to tell about connections to land and history and one another. In seeking simplicity and a new start in his life, Cognetti rediscovers timeless truths about the human condition.

This is a stunning book: Cognetti's prose is incandescent when writing about nature, about human history, about friendship and, perhaps most of all, about words. For any reader who has wondered about the next step, loved a mountain or a book, struggled with writer's block or stared in wonder into a forest, this astonishing memoir is necessary. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: A city dweller returns to the mountains of his youth, and his gorgeous, reflective memoir is full of nature and humanity.

Atria, $16.99, paperback, 176p., 9781501196713

Lifestyle Entrepreneurs Press: The Offline Dating Method: How to Attract a Great Guy in the Real World by Camille Virginia


Social Science

American Predator: The Hunt for the Most Meticulous Serial Killer of the 21st Century

by Maureen Callahan


On Thursday, February 2, 2012, Samantha Koenig was reported missing by her fellow barista at an Anchorage, Alaska, roadside kiosk. An obscured figure captured on security footage appears to have held the 18-year-old daughter of a local pot dealer at gunpoint for 17 minutes around 9 p.m. the previous night. Due to Samantha's father's criminal past, however, the ensuing investigation first grapples with the possibility that her disappearance was staged for ransom money, before diving headlong into an anxious manhunt in the Lower 48.

Maureen Callahan, the investigative journalist who first pursued this story for the New York Post, crafts a riveting true-crime saga in American Predator: The Hunt for the Most Meticulous Serial Killer of the 21st Century. With an even hand, she details the power struggles between the Anchorage criminal justice system and the FBI as their cooperative efforts close in on the insidious Israel Keyes, who seems to have materialized out of thin air. No criminal history, hardly any record of his existence at all. In an age of quantifiable Internet footprints, Keyes was the closest thing to a ghost that investigators could track down. Their only leads came from dumb luck.

The lion's share of the book places readers in the tense interrogation room as Keyes recounts his chilling crimes, teasing investigators with the far-flung locations of bodies he buried, in exchange for better treatment in prison and protection for his 10-year-old daughter. For years, Keyes cached his trademark "kill kits" around the country, for whenever and wherever his murderous urges came to climax. American Predator reveals a horrifying truth about the human capacity for bloodlust. --Dave Wheeler, associate editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: The 21st century's most meticulous serial killer baffles investigators with his forethought and ruthlessness in Maureen Callahan's riveting true-crime narrative.

Viking, $27, hardcover, 304p., 9780525428640

Weldon Owen: The Official Downton Abbey Cocktail Book: Appropriate Libations for All Occasions by Downton Abbey


Science

Buzz, Sting, Bite: Why We Need Insects

by Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson


In light of recent news stories reporting dramatic drops in insect populations around the world, Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson's Buzz, Sting, Bite: Why We Need Insects is an especially vital and timely work. Written by a professor at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, the book is both witty and informative, a captivating introduction to how creepy-crawlies affect all life on Earth.

The book opens with several chapters on the insects themselves: their biology, their life cycles, the ways in which they organize their communities. The author drops some truly fascinating facts: ants are capable of teaching other ants, she writes. And, incredibly, bees are capable of recognizing specific human faces.

Sverdrup-Thygeson goes on to explore how insects are studied and named--the story of how the Beyoncé horsefly got its name is especially hilarious--and the complex relationships between insects, plants and other animals. The final section is the most poignant and eye-opening. Sverdrup-Thygeson explains in clear and urgent prose how important insects are to human life. Yes, insects are highly adaptable creatures. But through "intensive land use, climate change, insecticides, and the introduction of invasive species," humans have created conditions that are threatening insect populations everywhere. It's our "moral duty," she writes, to "rein in our dominance of the earth" so that "millions of fellow creatures" may have a chance to "live out their tiny, wonderful lives, too." Amusing and thoughtful, Buzz, Sting, Bite reminds us that all life on Earth is connected. --Amy Brady, freelance writer and editor

Discover: This witty and educational look at the lives of insects is also a reminder of how important they are to all life on Earth.

Simon & Schuster, $26, hardcover, 256p., 9781982112875

Nature & Environment

The Fate of Food: What We'll Eat in a Bigger, Hotter, Smarter World

by Amanda Little


In every corner of the globe, food supply faces unprecedented threats. Frequent natural disasters such as volatile weather, flooding, famine and drought, along with polluted soil and water and predicted population increases, are only a few factors presenting challenges in feeding the world today and in the uncertain future.

Journalist Amanda Little spent three years traveling to 13 states and 11 countries to observe and understand the promising science and potential solutions for developing and securing sustainable food sources. In The Fate of Food, she recounts visits with Andy Ferguson, a Wisconsin apple farmer focused on data analysis for developing new technology to prevent crop damage. (His orchards lost six million apples--more than $1 million in potential harvest--after a sudden temperature drop one night in May.) In Kenya, Little meets Ruth Oniang'o, a 72-year-old woman using bioengineered seeds as a way to fight famine in her country. In Maharashtra, the second-most populous state in India, Little boards a four-seater prop jet to observe "cloud-seeding," a technique that injects chemical vapor into clouds to stimulate rain in drought-stricken areas.

With its sobering statistics and exploration into unsettling trends such as excessive food waste, The Fate of Food could easily leave readers pessimistic and frightened. But having met many of the most thoughtful and brightest people dedicated to securing the world's food supply, Little doesn't share that view: "My journey so far--into new and strange frontiers of vegetable, fruit, grain, fish and meat production--has convinced me that feeding humanity sustainably in the coming decades will require not just major advances in technology, but also the discipline of applying them wisely and equitably." We are only beginning to harvest the knowledge and technology to do so. --Melissa Firman, freelance writer at melissafirman.com

Discover: An environmental journalist delivers a fascinating firsthand look at current and coming challenges to the global food supply.

Harmony/Crown, $27, hardcover, 352p., 9780804189033

Sports

Casting into the Light: Tales of a Fishing Life

by Janet Messineo


Casting into the Light, a memoir of teacher, taxidermist and surfcaster Janet Messineo's 40 years fishing, adds a distinct new voice to the choir of sportswriters. As a girl, she was captivated by the lure of the striped bass, the most prized migratory fish in the Northeast due to the degree of difficulty in catching the crafty ocean night-feeders. Now a respected surfcaster, Messineo spent years teaching herself the sport and breaking into the inner circle of colorful Martha's Vineyard locals.

A fascinating story of fish and their predilections as well, as the high art of the hunt (and sometimes hijinks and tricks of the trade), Messineo's memoir is also intimately personal. She shares her rough beginnings, fishing for food and money while relationships burned and burned out. In no small part due to the restorative influence of the natural world, she continues to conquer her demons.

Messineo never loses sight of the fact that perseverance and dedication to her craft remain at the whim of the fish, the sea and her tools. The dream of landing the big one, whether in the famed Martha's Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby or alone on a dark beach, keeps her casting against the odds, her line compulsively in the water. Messineo's voice is passionate and she's an enthralling storyteller concerned about the environment and continuing the traditions of the individual fisherman. Humor, zealousness and adoration more than smooth some minor disjointed thoughts and repetitions, making this memoir a prize catch. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review

Discover: A woman's tale of becoming a master surfcaster and of the challenges of life and relationships along her path to prominence.

Pantheon, $26.95, hardcover, 320p., 9781524747640

Poetry

The Government Lake: Last Poems

by James Tate


James Tate (The Lost Pilot), who died in 2015, has given the world one last wondrous poetry collection in The Government Lake. The 43 prose poems in this collection defy easy categorization. Perhaps they're best described as parables for the peculiar moral lessons they impart, but they're especially surreal ones, full of strange characters and dream imagery, bending reality with a nonchalant assurance reminiscent of the great magical realists more than other contemporary poets. Tate is a builder of small whimsical worlds, and the reader must not so much suspend disbelief as surrender all expectations upon entering.

The book opens with "Eternity," in which a man's wife begins laying eggs. Their house becomes populated with chicks until a fox sneaks in and eats them all. After this bizarre occurrence, the couple tries to get back to a normal life. In an ending that's typical of Tate--when the reader is invited to shift perspectives and consider a lesson--the husband minimizes the whole incident until the wife reminds him: "To the chicks it was an eternity." In "Into the Night," a nun spontaneously combusts, only to come back to life. In "The Seahorse," the main character fills with gas and floats off to sea. These events are portrayed as ordinary happenstance, which makes the poems all the more alluring, as if Tate has stumbled upon another dimension hidden in plain sight.

Whether quaintly sweet or unexpectedly sour, The Government Lake is fun to read. Tate is a master of wordplay and varying mood and effect. He is a wizard who will be missed. --Scott Neuffer, writer, poet, editor of trampset

Discover: This posthumous collection of surreal prose poems shows James Tate at both his most absurd and tender.

Ecco, $24.99, hardcover, 96p., 9780062914712

Children's & Young Adult

You Are Home: An Ode to the National Parks

by Evan Turk


You Are Home: An Ode to the National Parks begins by honoring the parks' animals: "To the chipmunk in her burrow,/ sleeping beneath the leaves to keep warm;/ to the resilient bison in the streaming oases/ of an endless winter:/ you are home." The book goes on to include the human animal: "To the child in the city,/ surrounded by windows,/ noise, and crowds;/ to the child on the farm,/ surrounded by endless fields;/ you are home," and so on. Finally, the book defines its terms: "A home's walls may topple,/ its floors might crack,/ but what keeps a home standing/ can never be broken:/ a sense of belonging, sung by the streams, from valleys to peaks, over thousands of miles,/ through millions of hearts."

This lyrical tribute demands art to match, and Ezra Jack Keats Book Award winner Evan Turk (Muddy: The Story of Blues Legend Muddy Waters) rises to the challenge. Using pastels on black paper, Turk has created scenes that conjure a range of media: the cloudy sky above Yellowstone's bison has a watercolor-like grace; a vibrant spread devoted to Zion suggests cut-paper collage; and a masterful gatefold capturing Yosemite has a chalky glow. In his author's note, Turk writes that most of the book's illustrations are based on drawings he did while visiting 20 of the 25 featured parks. (The name of each park is unobtrusively printed in the corresponding art's corner.) You Are Home is a gallant rebuke to the expression "You had to be there." --Nell Beram, freelance writer and YA author

Discover: The art in this stunning picture book tribute to the United States' national parks mimics the poetry of the text.

Atheneum, $18.99, hardcover, 56p., ages 4-8, 9781534432826

Bear Out There

by Jacob Grant


Spider and Bear, housemates since Bear's Scare (2018), are friends, even if they don't always share the same habits.

"Spider loved the outdoors." Today, he wants to fly his new kite--and "the bugs were also nice." Bear, on the other hand, is a stay-at-home type. His ideal day includes cleaning up the house, "followed by a nice cup of tea in his cozy chair." But then, as shown in a sweeping illustration of trees, clouds and one lonely kite sailing into the sky, Spider's kite flies away. The tiny spider asks the huge bear for his assistance and Bear is ready to help his friend, despite his dislike of the forest. Unfortunately, when they venture into the woods, their day goes from bad to worse. At first Bear complains about everything--"Who would want to smell so many yucky weeds?" "Who would ever want to see such an unpleasant forest?"--even though it is clear through illustration that Spider really enjoys these experiences. When it starts raining, Bear is ready to give up, but the sight of his forlorn friend inspires him to continue the search.

Jacob Grant's (Through with the Zoo) charcoal, crayon, ink and digital illustrations use a predominantly green and brown palette with pops of yellowy orange and mauve. There is a surprising fluidity to Grant's forms, which are solid and blocky, with fully saturated colors, perhaps showing themselves to be as steadfast as Spider and Bear's friendship. Though the two still have different hobbies, the last wordless spread demonstrates how they find a way happily to share their favorite pastimes, creating a model for children with different interests to find ways to spend time together. --Melinda Greenblatt, freelance book reviewer

Discover: With its spare text and large, easy-to-view illustrations, this read-aloud about compromise and companionship will resonate with children.

Bloomsbury, $17.99, hardcover, 40p., ages 3-6, 9781681197456


The Stranger Inside
by Lisa Unger
isbn: 9780778308720
Park Row
September 17, 2019


an exclusive interview with bestselling author Lisa Unger  
 

There’s nothing formulaic about your bestselling novels—but when it comes to writing, you’ve definitely created a “formula” for success. Would you care to elaborate?  

“A publishing contract is not a windfall—it’s an opening to the writing life. But if you want to succeed, you have to roll up your sleeves, check your ego, and get to work. Writing is never a chore for me. I don’t get frustrated. If I’m present for the work, then I know it’s the best work I can do. And that’s the goal every day—to write better than the day before. It never stops being about the words.”

Read the rest of the interview here.

 

ALSO FEATURED ON THE the big THRILL…

MOTHER KNOWS BEST by KIRA PEIKOFF: Abby was a miracle, her DNA stitched together, genetically modified to prevent transmission of a fatal disease—but at what price? That’s the chilling premise of Kira Peikoff’s new domestic suspense, MOTHER KNOWS BESTFind out more here.

BLACK NOWHERE by REECE HIRSCH: In Reece Hirsch’s cyber-thriller, BLACK NOWHERE, brilliant college student Nata Fallone starts a website on the “Dark Web” as an experiment—and that’s when things get really dark. Read more at The Big Thrill.

RULE OF CAPTURE by CHRISTOPHER BROWN: Justice rarely comes easy, even in a fair legal system. But what if the powers that be were jailing the opposition and using the courts as a tool of oppression? This is the system in Christopher’s Brown’s compelling new dystopian legal thriller, RULE OF CAPTUREFind out more here.

WHAT SHE NEVER SAID by CATHARINE RIGGS: Welcome to Serenity Acres, where the super-rich go to die. This elite Santa Barbara enclave may appear bright and immaculate, but behind the iron gates, and beneath the manicured landscapes, lie dark secrets buried by golden shovels. Visit The Big Thrill for more.

ELEVATOR PITCH by LINWOOD BARCLAY: The action in Linwood Barclay’s terrifying new thriller centers on a terrorist plot in which all of the elevators in Manhattan are brought to a grinding halt—some with people in them, and all with nail-biting consequence. Read more here.

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