Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, February 28, 2020

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

From My Shelf

Women Behind the Mic

The history of music is a history of women in music. But for anyone looking for an avenue into women's contributions to the rich legacy of American popular music, start with the thought-provoking and entirely fascinating She Begat This: 20 Years of the Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (Atria, $24). Author Joan Morgan examines Hill's incredible and complex impact--still going strong--on the landscape of both hip-hop and popular culture.

Lovers of '90s hip-hop and R&B will appreciate Tionne (T-Boz) Watkins's candid, behind-the-scenes memoir A Sick Life: TLC 'n Me: Stories from On and Off the Stage (Rodale, $26.99). Watkins is reflective and serious in her look at her struggle with sickle cell disease and ways it has affected her life and livelihood, especially during her years in TLC. It's occasionally juicy as well, including silly (and sometimes dangerous) tour antics and memories of the now-deceased Lisa "Left-Eye" Lopes.

From another star with the power to fill arenas, see the gigantic, gorgeous, visual feast that is The Rihanna Book (Phaidon, $150). Rihanna's luxe, large-format volume features more than 1,000 images from throughout her life and is spectacular to behold. 

Finally, travel back in time with Shout, Sister, Shout!: The Untold Story of Rock-and-Roll Trailblazer Sister Rosetta Tharpe (Beacon, $18). Gayle Wald paints a riveting and thorough portrait of Tharpe, who blended and transcended genres, based on interviews with more than 150 people who knew her. Tharpe's influence on rock is hard to overstate: "Gospel crossover celebrity? A woman who played guitar 'like a man'? A rule-breaking black rocker before rock and roll? All of these formulations work," writes Wald, "but only to a certain degree. For the rest, we'll need to invent a new story." Indeed, women have--and continue to.

--Katie Weed, freelance writer and reviewer

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

The Writer's Life

A.S. King: Michael L. Printz Award Winner

A.S. King
(Krista Schumow Photography)

Recently, A.S. King won the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature for her novel Dig (Dutton). We took the opportunity to speak with her about the inspiration for and creation of her award-winner.

Congratulations! You received a Michael L. Printz Honor in 2011 for Please Ignore Vera Dietz and now, nine years later, the Printz Award for Dig. Dig is a powerful, painful work that takes deep dives into subjects that are difficult but also need to be confronted and spoken about. How did Dig come to you?

Dig came to me while I was shoveling snow and thinking about whiteness. You know, the things we do. I started writing it and got a good third into the book before I went to Wichita for a conference. There, I met a woman who would inspire me to dig deeper. It was a simple scene. We sat at a table in a bar having a drink and behind us were people watching sports on TV. Some team must have scored because suddenly the crowd got obnoxiously loud. After a while, I turned and looked and then turned back to my new friend and said, "Ugh. White people." She looked me right in the eye and said, "Those are your people." I suddenly understood. And I wanted to write about them. About us. I wanted to dig until I found out why our country is like this--why we don't teach real history or a wider history of the people who live here. What I found was a polite, normalized racism that runs through every vein of this country. Then I personified it. 

How did Dig develop as you worked? Did paths or characters or focuses change as you delved deeper into the bonds that keep this family both together and apart?

It didn't change much as I wrote. It's pretty much still in the exact same order and has the basic structure of the first draft.

It was hard to keep all the balls in the air for this book--nine points of view and so many stories but, ultimately, I trusted my gut. I write by the seat of my pants, so I didn't even know the Freak's secret until about two years/350 pages into writing the project. She'd already written all the hints in; I was just slower than her. This happens with characters sometimes. They are so much smarter than I am. And yet, even though my characters know more than I do, there aren't as many changes as you'd think. If anything, I just kept trying to tighten it.

How do you feel about Dig? Where does it fit--if at all--with your other titles? How do Dig and Please Ignore Vera Dietz look next to each other?

I feel great about Dig. I'm very proud of the book because it did what it set out to do--it found what I was trying to say and it gave me the right characters to say it. Please Ignore Vera Dietz was the same, pretty much. How it compares? It's one step of a staircase. I love the work I do. I love doing the actual work. That's what's important to me. It's probably good to put this in perspective by saying that I wrote novels for 15 years before finding publication. So I had to develop a mindset that was work-focused, which keeps my feet firmly on the ground and my butt firmly in my desk chair.

Now for the most imprecise of questions: How do you feel about receiving the Printz Award? Of all your books, is Dig the one you personally would put in this place?

I feel very proud of Dig for winning the award. There is no way to answer this second question, though, because I go literal. This is my only YA book from 2019, so no other would fit in its place. But as a writer, I am proud that this book won this award. The subject matter is very important and time sensitive.

Is there anything else you'd like to say to Shelf Awareness readers?

I'd like to thank independent booksellers for championing my work for more than a decade. If it weren't for indies, I'm not sure I'd have a career anymore, and Dig would not be.

--Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Book Candy

$100,000 for a Copy of Pride & Prejudice

A first edition of Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice went for $100,000 in a sale at Swann Galleries in New York," ArtDaily reported


"Pyke notte thy nostrellys." A 15th-century guide on children's manners has been digitized for first time, the Guardian noted.


Electric Lit recommended "7 books for people who like speed."


Why "the Scottish Play"? Mental Floss explained "why actors won't call Macbeth by its title."


"This €2.39 million [about $2.6 million] Paris duplex is an instant win for book-lovers," the Spaces noted.

Great Reads

Rediscover: The Age of Innocence

This year marks the 100th anniversary for Edith Wharton's masterpiece, The Age of Innocence (Vintage Classics, $11). Published in 1920, the novel earned her the first Pulitzer Prize awarded to a woman the following year. Hardly lost to time, this irresistible story of relentless tensions--between passion and duty, dignity and decorum, steadfast traditions and innovative fashions--nonetheless deserves the lavish attention it received from the beginning.

Much like her characters here, Wharton lived within circles of New York City's wealthy elite, and her fiction gives an unvarnished look inside its inner workings--its peccadilloes and its limitations. "What was or was not 'the thing' played a part as important in Newland Archer's New York as the inscrutable totem terrors that had ruled the destinies of his forefathers thousands of years ago," writes Wharton, with incisive wisdom that more than stands the test of time. She draws these enduring tensions--insiders and outsiders, the established generation and the younger one--with such delicious irony and pertinent depth that it's a wonder so many years have passed at all! "These young people," Archer, now middle-aged, muses at the novel's end, "take it for granted that they're going to get whatever they want, and that we almost always took it for granted that we shouldn't." Now, doesn't that sound familiar? --Dave Wheeler, associate editor, Shelf Awareness

Book Review


Red Letter Days

by Sarah-Jane Stratford

Young, ambitious and talented, Phoebe Adler is slowly building a career for herself as a New York television screenwriter in the 1950s. Her work doesn't just pay the bills: it represents the next rung on the ladder to success. It also pays for her sister's medical care at an expensive sanitarium. But when the House Un-American Activities Committee begins blacklisting writers and directors, Phoebe receives a subpoena and must make the split-second decision to abandon her life in Greenwich Village and flee to London. In her second novel, Red Letter Days, Sarah-Jane Stratford tells Phoebe's story, and traces its intersection with that of fellow exiled American Hannah Wolfson.

Stratford (Radio Girls) has created a cast of strong women, from Phoebe and her whip-smart sister, Mona, to Hannah Wolfson's cadre of American exiles and their colleagues in London. A successful writer and director, Hannah has set up her own production company, creating a new take on The Adventures of Robin Hood with a roster of entirely blacklisted writers (all working under aliases). Once Phoebe arrives in London, she lands a job as Hannah's script supervisor by day, and spends her evenings working on a script of her own for Robin Hood. Meanwhile, both women are dealing with romantic complications and trying to avoid the attention of the FBI, which reaches across the ocean in ways they didn't expect.

Well plotted and moving, with witty characters and unnervingly timely, Red Letter Days is smart, satisfying historical fiction at its best. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: This compelling novel explores the lives of blacklisted female American writers working in London during the McCarthy era.

Berkley, $17, paperback, 400p., 9780451475572

Science Fiction & Fantasy

Upright Women Wanted

by Sarah Gailey

Sarah Gailey (Magic for Liars, American Hippo) packs a lot of punch and personal journey into this short, atmospheric western novella, full of remarkable characters taking control of their own destinies. In Upright Women Wanted, gunslinging librarians are here to fight for freedom.

Esther Augustus has grown up hearing stories of the brave and honorable Librarians, women given the assignment of delivering Approved Materials across the country. When Esther's best friend and secret lover, Beatriz, is hanged for crimes against the State, Esther stows away in a book wagon to escape her "deviant" feelings and an arranged marriage, hoping to become as righteous and law-abiding as the Librarians. But the Librarians who discover her are not at all what Esther expects, and as they journey across the American Southwest, Esther finds herself riding in a posse of no-nonsense, road-hardened women who, far from patriotic, secretly lead the rebellion to take down the totalitarian state. As she watches them deliver banned books, insurgent ideologies and runaways in forbidden relationships (like Esther herself), her sense of justice is turned on its head, and she begins to understand that perhaps she--and others like her--aren't the ones who are wrong.

Lesbian, nonbinary and queer characters feature prominently in Gailey's novella, survivalists fighting to bring hope to others who feel alone in a dangerous and unaccepting world. This dystopian western, set in the near future, is a grand adventure and an impressive mix of classic genre tropes, revolution and queer romance. Juxtaposed against the confident Librarians who "liked themselves, not in spite of who they were but because of who they were," Esther's journey from self-loathing to self-love is hard won as she battles not only her inner demons but also bandits, the hostile desert and a society that would kill her just for being herself. --Jennifer Oleinik, freelance writer and editor

Discover: With bandit attacks, covert rebellion and classic western flavor, this story of gunslinging queer librarians fighting to take down a totalitarian government is fun and thought provoking.

Tor, $20.99, hardcover, 176p., 9781250213587

Biography & Memoir

Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist

by Judith Heumann, Kristen Joiner

"Do you know what is harder and more daunting than the prospect of managing 400 staff and $10 billion under the eyes of a country made up of 263 million people and a bicameral Congress?" asks Judith Heumann. "Finding an accessible three-bedroom apartment" in Washington, D.C. Even as the Clinton administration's assistant secretary in the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, Heumann was still up against the sorts of obstacles she'd faced as a child paralyzed by polio.

The daughter of German immigrants, Heumann believes she got her fighting spirit from her mother, who rejected a Brooklyn public school principal's ruling that her daughter couldn't attend kindergarten because "Judy is a fire hazard." In 1970, when she was 22, Heumann successfully sued the New York City Board of Education: although she had passed her exams, the board wouldn't give her a teaching license because she used a wheelchair. Heumann's biggest victory--the story is the cornerstone of her book--entailed taking over the San Francisco Federal Building with a hundred-plus disability rights activists in 1977 in order to pressure Washington to sign an antidiscrimination law; the law was ultimately expanded into 1990's landmark Americans with Disabilities Act.

Throughout the awe-eliciting Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist, the author is modest about her accomplishments--"You drop a petal in the water and it has a ripple effect"--but readers will leave the book feeling as though they've just encountered the mother of a movement. --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer

Discover: Judith Heumann, who has spent her life in a wheelchair, writes about her results-generating activism with brio, humility and humor.

Beacon Press, $25.95, hardcover, 240p., 9780807019290

The Genius of Women: From Overlooked to Changing the World

by Janice Kaplan

When asked to name a genius, more than 90% of Americans identify someone who is male--Albert Einstein, for example. Women are often an afterthought, with Marie Curie typically the only female luminary mentioned. In The Genius of Women, Janice Kaplan (The Gratitude Diaries) succeeds in correcting this misconception.

Reaching back into history, Kaplan highlights women whose notable achievements in their respective disciplines were forgotten, ignored or intentionally attributed to men. Among them are Einstein's wife, Mileva Marić, a stellar mathematician and physicist in her own right. Felix Mendelssohn's older sister Fanny likely wrote many of her brother's compositions. Rosalind Franklin was instrumental to the discovery of DNA, despite James Watson and Francis Crick receiving credit.

With fascinating insight and wit, Kaplan delves into cultural factors contributing to the bewildering yet common belief that brilliance is a characteristic reserved for men. Citing the importance of positive portrayals of female genius in pop culture, Kaplan points to neuroscientist Amy Farrah Fowler of The Big Bang Theory--played by Mayim Bialik, who earned a real-life Ph.D. in neuroscience from UCLA. ("They must have figured I could correct any science mistakes that the writers made," Bialik joked to Kaplan.)

Kaplan interviews numerous women who are blazing trails in various fields, motivated in part by their commitment to nurture and champion the next generation of leaders and visionaries. "Only if you can ignore the implicit restrictions and climb high are you then in the position to use your distinctive position for good. All of the women... walked through closed doors--and once they were on the other side, they looked for ways to push them wide open." --Melissa Firman, writer, editor and blogger at

Discover: A revelatory look at past and present women geniuses explores why their accomplishments are frequently forgotten or overlooked.

Dutton, $27, hardcover, 352p., 9781524744212

When Time Stopped: A Memoir of My Father's War and What Remains

by Ariana Neumann

In When Time Stopped: A Memoir of My Father's War and What Remains, Ariana Neumann peels back the layers of secrecy and silence to discover her father's life story. The full chronicle is as fascinating as the gripping details of how he survived the Holocaust as a Czech Jew.

Ariana grew up in Caracas, Venezuela, the daughter of an esteemed industrialist and a strikingly beautiful mother, in a home lush with gardens and filled with art. She knew her father, Hans Neumann, was European, but nothing about his heritage or his past. As a child, she discovered an ID card with a photo of Hans as a young man, a stamp that she knew "represented evil" and a strange name. Her mother soothed her panic at this puzzling document, and she never saw it again until after he died in 2001, in a small box of papers he had bequeathed her. "My father left the world of which he seldom spoke as a riddle for me to unlock," sparking years of research that revealed how he survived the war, and ancestors she never knew existed. In meticulous detail, she tells the story of how her father, in a daring escape, fled to Berlin with fake papers, posing as a Gentile, and worked in a German factory, returning home to Prague in April 1945 and eventually emigrating to Venezuela.

Ariana Neumann balances the story of seeking her own heritage with her father's and her grandparents' prewar lives and Holocaust tragedies. She relates the horrors but imparts a life-affirming sense of success in rescuing their histories from oblivion. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, freelance reviewer

Discover: A daughter's research of her father's Holocaust experience uncovers the incredible story of his survival, and ancestors she never knew she had.

Scribner, $28, hardcover, 336p., 9781982106379


The Boston Massacre: A Family History

by Serena Zabin

Paul Revere's iconic engraving of the "Boston Massacre" of 1770 shows colonists and British soldiers facing each other across a clear divide, breached only by gunfire. In The Boston Massacre: A Family History, history professor Serena Zabin (Dangerous Economies) argues that prior to the violence of March 5, 1770, the two groups were in fact linked together through complicated social, spatial and even familial connections.

Zabin drills into fascinating details of relationships between Bostonians and the unwelcome soldiers quartered in their midst. Many were housed in tents on Boston Commons, but others, especially men with families, rented rooms in Boston homes. All of them patronized Boston businesses. Beyond these casual points of connection, Zabin considers the effects of marriages, seductions and affairs. She looks at instances of members of one group serving as godparents for children of the other group, at roles played by soldiers' wives, at soldiers working side jobs for Bostonians and at pub brawls. She outlines the social relationships between British officers and the Bostonian elite.

Having established the depth and intricacy of these relationships, Zabin weighs the events of March 5, 1770, the mass of contradictory accounts of those events and the trials that followed. She demonstrates how attorneys on both sides erased those relationships from their arguments, creating their own versions of the gulf between Bostonians and British soldiers that appears in Revere's engraving.

The Boston Massacre is a well-written and eye-opening addition to the social history of colonial America. --Pamela Toler, blogging at History in the Margins

Discover: Serena Zabin takes a close and fascinating look at the intimate relationships that tied British soldiers to Boston's citizens in the years before the American Revolution.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30, hardcover, 320p., 9780544911154

Social Science

18 Tiny Deaths: The Untold Story of Frances Glessner Lee and the Invention of Modern Forensics

by Bruce Goldfarb

Forensic science is commonplace today. But as recently as 1944, qualified medical examiners inspected only a few deaths in the United States. In 18 Tiny Deaths: The Untold Story of Frances Glessner Lee and the Invention of Modern Forensics, journalist Bruce Goldfarb tells the fascinating story of how one woman became an unlikely crusader for forensic science in the U.S.

Frances Glessner Lee was a child of the Gilded Age in Chicago, with all the privileges and restrictions that entailed. (Unable to attend Harvard, she chose not to attend college at all.) As an adult, Lee felt the need to use her substantial resources to benefit society. She found her calling through a childhood friend, Dr. George McGrath, who was Boston's second medical examiner. McGrath introduced Lee to what was called "legal medicine," telling her stories of finished cases and describing his frustrations with the haphazard use of forensics in police work.

Lee dedicated the next 30 years to developing what she called the "three-legged stool" of legal medicine: medicine, the law and the police. She alternately seduced and bludgeoned Harvard Medical School into founding a department of Legal Medicine. Not content with giving money, she insisted on hands-on involvement, culminating in the "18 tiny deaths" of the title: detailed dioramas called the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death, which Lee created as tools for training police officers in scientific forensic methods.

18 Tiny Deaths combines elements of women's history and police procedurals in a story that will intrigue fans of both genres. --Pamela Toler, blogging at History in the Margins

Discover: 18 Tiny Deaths tells the largely forgotten story of how one wealthy woman gave modern CSI its start.

Sourcebooks, $25.99, hardcover, 368p., 9781492680475

Essays & Criticism

Slouching Towards Los Angeles: Living and Writing by Joan Didion's Light

by Steffie Nelson, editor

Joan Didion has long been a symbol of literary and cultural cool. Marked by a pervasive sense of place, particularly her native California, Didion's writing created what style and culture writer Steffie Nelson felt as a "visceral pull" to Los Angeles. Nelson, former editor-in-chief of Pasadena magazine, further sensed Didion's impact while organizing a literary event examining the "promise of the West." Conversations with other writers "who had also migrated to the City of Angels with their creased copies of Slouching Towards Bethlehem" (Didion's 1968 collection of pieces on California counterculture) buttressed Nelson's belief that "every writer in Los Angeles probably had something to say about Joan Didion." She has now gathered them together to say it.

Slouching Towards Los Angeles contains 25 essays by writers, editors and journalists, 20 of whom are women, "a ratio [Didion] helped make possible." Wide-ranging in subject, "perhaps even a little schizophrenic," these entries speak to the influence Didion's multi-faceted legacy had on each author's personal encounters with the Western United States. Whether contemplating a particular Didion essay, a public interaction, a lesson learned, an architectural marvel, an iconic photograph or a '60s benchmark (the Manson murders make multiple appearances), the pieces reflect Didion's depth of substance and unflappability.

Didion enthusiasts will experience themes through sharp and clever new lenses. Newcomers to the canon will likely be moved to acquaint themselves. Nelson's "love letter and thank you note, personal memoir and social commentary, cultural history and literary critique" is an eccentric trip through Didion's California. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review

Discover: Multiple essayists reflect on Joan Didion's work, its impact on their lives and careers, and how she shaped perceptions of culture and place.

Rare Bird Books, $27, hardcover, 312p., 9781644280676

Unfinished Business: Notes of a Chronic Re-Reader

by Vivian Gornick

Leave it to Vivian Gornick to write a short book that is the opposite of a quick read. A longstanding practitioner of what she calls "personal journalism," Gornick seeds the 10 critical essays in Unfinished Business: Notes of a Chronic Re-Reader with vignettes from her life, giving each think piece the soul of memoir.

Gornick, the author of a dozen previous works of nonfiction, including the canonical memoir Fierce Attachments and the starkly gorgeous hybrid The Odd Woman and the City, has lived long enough to return--and in some cases re-return--to books that she hasn't touched in decades. She can now see them "in the light of insight only years of living could have supplied." What a revelation it was for her to go back to D.H. Lawrence's Sons and Lovers after having been married; to go back to Colette after having had sexual adventures of her own; and, especially, to go back to any of a number of books after having become a feminist--"the exhilaration I experienced once I had the analysis!"

Whenever we return to a book, Gornick suggests, we revisit ourselves (particularly when we've left marginalia behind), but we also tend to our relationship with it. "When I read Jude [the Obscure] again, most recently," she writes, "I wondered, as I turned the last page, if the book had finally finished saying what it had to say to me." Unfinished Business is an enchanting work worth taking in--and perhaps taking in again. --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer

Discover: The great memoirist and literary critic combines her gifts in 10 penetrating essays about the joy of revisiting books.

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $25, hardcover, 176p., 9780374282158

Psychology & Self-Help

Hold On, but Don't Hold Still: Hope and Humor from My Seriously Flawed Life

by Kristina Kuzmič

In the inspiring memoir Hold On, But Don't Hold Still: Hope and Humor from My Seriously Flawed Life, a mother who struggled with finances, depression and divorce presents her parenting philosophy with wit, wisdom and candor.

Internet parenting sensation Kristina Kuzmič walks readers through her darkest moments and how she broke through monumental barriers to self-confidence. She kept her marital issues quiet, blindsiding those around her when she later announced her divorce. She maintained a false front at her waitressing job only to consider suicide as she drove home to the small bedroom she and her two toddlers shared. Yet Kuzmič didn't stay stuck long. She instituted weekly dinners, preparing a home-cooked meal for anyone who needed company, thereby proving she had more to give.

Kuzmič exhibits resilience in moving forward as she recollects tragic events--fleeing her home country of Croatia during its war of independence, miscarrying her twins, being molested--as well as everyday chaos: spending Christmas in the hospital after her son's appendectomy, co-parenting with her ex, calming a screaming toddler on an airplane. At her brightest, like winning her own cooking show on the Oprah Winfrey Network and hitting one million views on a parenting video, Kuzmič remains grateful for how far she has risen. She encourages readers to focus on what they do have. Parents especially will appreciate hearing it's okay to be average and that "challenging kids don't equal bad parenting."

Through hilarious and heartrending personal anecdotes, Hold On, but Don't Hold Still delivers valuable strategies for accepting, enjoying and surmounting life's uncontrollable messes. --Samantha Zaboski, freelance editor and reviewer

Discover: Unabashed and endlessly supportive, Kristina Kuzmič recounts difficult times and normal days as a mom in this buoyant memoir, assuring parents that they don't need to be perfect to succeed.

Viking, $26, hardcover, 272p., 9780525561842

Children's & Young Adult

We Unleash the Merciless Storm

by Tehlor Kay Mejia

Tehlor Kay Mejia's conclusion to the We Set the Dark on Fire duology is as thrilling and elegantly written as the first book.

As second wife to the future president of Medio, Carmen Santos covertly worked for the rebel group, La Voz, to take down the corrupt government. She also secretly fell in love with Dani, the soon-to-be president's first wife. When her cover was blown, Carmen had to leave Dani behind amid violent political upheaval. Carmen is torn as she considers the life she had with Dani, but she is "a soldier first and foremost... obedient. Soldiers didn't let their commitment slip. Not even for a moment." She is disturbed, though, by the direction La Voz is taking. Its leader, El Buitre, is spellbound by a fiery new revolutionary of whom Carmen is suspicious. Worried about Dani, Carmen sneaks off to return to Medio's capital, where she discovers her ex-husband, Mateo, is now in power--with Dani by his side. This new development is more than she can bear, and with the flames of revolution licking at her heels, Carmen must figure out a way to win back her love while staying true to La Voz and its people.

In We Unleash the Merciless Storm, Tehlor Kay Mejia expands the world of Medio established in the first book and exposes more of Carmen's layers and her complicated past. Carmen's struggle to save Dani is fast-paced, the plot full of arresting events that mirror current political and racial divides, and readers will surely root for the couple as Carmen fights for a happy ending. Mejia writes an utterly captivating and thoroughly satisfying ending for the two young women, while leaving the world of Medio open for a potential return. --Clarissa Hadge, bookstore manager, Trident Booksellers & Cafe, Boston, Mass.

Discover: In the sequel to We Set the Dark on Fire, Carmen Santos returns to La Voz to find her community of revolutionaries in turmoil and her love, Dani, stuck in a hornet's nest of political revolution.

Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins, $17.99, hardcover, 400p., ages 14-up, 9780062691347

Red Hood

by Elana K. Arnold

Elana K. Arnold's (Damsel; The Question of Miracles) Red Hood is a literary and emotionally complex novel centered on gender dynamics and power.

When "once upon a time" begins, Bisou is 16 and is on her way to a dance with her kind, handsome boyfriend, James. When the dance is done, Bisou and James eagerly slip off to his car where James, for the first time, pleasures her--and Bisou, for the first time, gets her period. "You have a long relationship with blood," the narrator states, "but not your own." Mortified, Bisou runs into the woods where she is confronted by a wolf. Instinct takes over and she kills him. The next morning, Bisou learns that one of her male classmates was found dead in the woods, his wounds identical to those she inflicted on the wolf.

Told almost entirely in spectacularly effective second-person, Red Hood doesn't simply invite readers in, it makes them the protagonist: "you are both a girl and not a girl. You are a hunter, and this wolf, though he thinks he is the predator, is your prey." Occasional first-person sections reinforce the mood and theme of the work--"who's afraid of the big bad wolf/ i am afraid/ of everything"--and add an additional layer of mystery to Bisou's startling legacy. Alongside the painful and traumatic, Red Hood also discusses periods, sex and desire with a candor and directness that can potentially do for contemporary readers what Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret has done for readers since 1970. Deeply and darkly enticing, Red Hood isn't a modern retelling so much as it is the story we should have had all along. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: This literary YA retelling of "Little Red Riding Hood" features a 16-year-old young woman who discovers a disturbing legacy upon the arrival of her first period.

Balzer + Bray, $18.99, hardcover, 368p., ages 14-up, 9780062742353

Folktales for Fearless Girls: The Stories We Were Never Told

by Myriam Sayalero, trans. by David Unger, illus. by Dani Torrent

Folktales for Fearless Girls, Spanish-born author Myriam Sayalero's collection and interpretations of 14 folktales from around the globe, emphasizes the intelligence and fortitude of women.

Many of the stories carry the strains of well-known folklore heroes like the devil's daughter, the warrior woman disguised as a man and the clever wife who manages to outwit the king of thieves. Sayalero situates them in specific communities across Europe, Africa and Asia--readers may have already encountered some of these tales in other compilations, but here Sayalero provides context and connection. Among the standouts: from South Africa, a beautiful, virtuous young Bantu woman trades skins with an imbula, or orgress, and is helped by an inquisitive auntie. Another, from Scotland, showcases a faithful princess's quest to save her stepsister and a cursed prince with a little help from a wee fairy. The skillful weaving of an enterprising young Armenian woman, Anait, leads her to her lost love and saves the lives of her fellow countryfolk.

Each story is separated by a delicate silhouette that details scenes from the book. The broadness of Dani Torrent's talent as an illustrator is on display with subdued, scenic drawings in one spread and bright, boisterous profiles in the next: accompanying one story is an enchanting picture of rosy-cheeked mermaids with brilliant, flowing tails; another features a quick-thinking businesswoman with her patterned sari blowing in the wind. These images help make this compilation a fun, forward-moving frolic. --Breanna J. McDaniel, author and reviewer

Discover: Women of the world are celebrated through joyous illustration and triumphant tales in this middle-grade compilation.

Philomel Books, $24.99, hardcover, 224p., ages 8-12, 9780593115220


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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