Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Poisoned Pen Press: That Night in the Library by Eva Jurczyk

From My Shelf

Only Connect

In a January column titled "Resolution Restart," I mentioned Debbie Macomber's One Perfect Word, about finding the perfect word to focus on for a year. My suggested word was "gratitude." That prompted an e-mail from Meredith Vajda, who noted that "the sentiment fits with a book [published by Berkley in April] for which I'm an evangelist." That book is Praying for Strangers by River Jordan (The Messenger of Magnolia Street, The Miracle of Mercy Land et al.), her account of praying for a stranger every day for a year. The subtitle is "An Adventure of the Human Spirit," and Jordan takes us on her journey that started New Year's Eve, 2008, as she was preparing to send her two sons off to war, to Afghanistan and Iraq. In the midst of knowing that all she could do for her sons was pray, in the midst of needing prayer herself, the idea of praying for a stranger every day dropped into her life. How would she do it? How could she do it? Jordan decided that focusing on someone, on something, besides herself was what she had to do.

As she carried out her resolution, she found herself becoming more aware of those around her, as she slowed down, attuning herself to the human condition, "looking for another soul passing through [her] little universe." She found that people were surprised, then grateful, for her prayers: "It really is a grand thing to pray for people, to give them an extra tip if you're led to, to pass on a good word of encouragement."

There is also another opportunity for gratitude, because River Jordan found herself changed: "They are rescuing me from my indifference." The people who cross our paths all have something to teach us if we take the time to stop and listen. Praying for Strangers is the perfect guidebook for the challenge of connecting. --Marilyn Dahl

The Writer's Life

Brief Encounter with Ben Fountain

In Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk (see our review below), Ben Fountain tells the story of a group of eight young men, Bravo Squad, who have been plucked out of Iraq for a two-week, Pentagon-sponsored "Victory Tour" to pump up the volume on Bush's war. What the tour de-emphasizes--but what is on every soldier's mind--is that in a very short time, they will be back in Iraq. The hoopla will be over, the stadium lights will go out and they will, once again, be trying to stay alive.

Ben Fountain is also the author of the story collection Brief Encounters with Che Guevara. He has won many awards, including the Texas Institute of Letters Short Story Award, a Pushcart Prize and two O. Henry Awards. He grew up in North Carolina and lives in Dallas, Tex.

What led you to this theme at this time?

It came to me in 2004 after the election. I won't say when Bush was re-elected because I believe that he was not elected in 2000. He was elected in 2004. I was internalizing so much of what was happening in the external world: politics, power and economics. On that Thanksgiving Day, at a football game in Dallas with family and friends, I noticed a small group of soldiers in camo, lean and tan, on the periphery of the huge artificial production that is a halftime show. What were they doing there?

You portray everything in a way that makes the reader believe in the sincerity of all points of view, even though major themes in the novel--politics, Texas football and a Hollywood agent--could lend themselves to cynicism.

I started writing from the inside out, following my instincts. Writing by the seat of my pants, so to speak. The politics came from the inside. I wanted to be fair to everyone and tell the story correctly. The football culture is part of the air you breathe in Texas, from pee-wee through high school, college and on to the pros. The scenes in the owner's box provided a perfect contrast to what Bravo Squad was used to. They are just kids with very little experience of the world, trying to figure things out.

Having Billy meet the gorgeous cheerleader, Faison, and actually entertain notions of a future with her after a very short acquaintance, seems perfectly rational in the context you create.

Billy is especially sensitive to what is going on around him, he feels that everything is urgent--especially meeting Faison. Of course, at 19, everything matters. His sister wants him to desert, to just leave the Stadium in a car she has arranged with people who will spirit him away. Billy fantasizes about taking Faison and living in some halcyon place where flowers grow and no one dies. He is unformed but is starting to figure things out. He is uneducated, but he's smart. He full well understands the consequences of deserting--but it is tempting.

You leave no doubt about whom we send to fight this war.

No. Absent conscription, the armed forces are made up of volunteers who perhaps are facing an uncertain future on the outside and of kids sent by a judge as an alternative to jail. That's Billy's story. We pride ourselves on being a classless society when it clearly is not true. Bravo Squad is definitely part of a class very different from the owners and their guests and even from Albert, the agent. All but one of them is under-educated and many of them have come out of domestic chaos. That familial bond that is so necessary to maturation is not there. They have nothing solid to sustain them. The average age of young men serving in the military today is 19. That part is not fiction.

You have your say about the right-wing, Christian, ultra-patriotic, wealthy men and women in the owners' box, but you are never unkind. How did you walk that line?

They are absolutely sincere in everything they say. They espouse Christian values, but they also have responsibilities to stakeholders, shareholders and their families and proudly say: "I am a businessman." There is no perceived contradiction for them here, which is why the Cowboys owner could offer Bravo Squad a movie deal well below what they had been told to expect, after praising their bravery to the skies, entertaining them royally and congratulating them endlessly. It's just business, after all.

How was the transition from your short story collection, Brief Encounters with Che Guevara, to a novel?

A novel is a huge psychological burden. You have so much invested in it and you might not pull it off. After three years, you start to wonder. I have a great editor who was with me all the way. I have two novels in the drawer. I tried to load too much into them; this one I kept simple.

What's next?

I am writing what I want to write in a totally self-indulgent way. Revisiting the Iran-contra situation and U.S. involvement in Central America in a short-ish novel. It starts in Nicaragua and ends in Haiti.

Haiti is a place about which you know a great deal, having been there more than 30 times.

Yes. Haiti just cannot seem to catch a break. Abject poverty, dire dictatorships and then the earthquake. They are a remarkably resilient people. --Valerie Ryan

Book Candy

Fifty Shades of Laughter; Book Furniture; Authors' Libraries

Saturday Night Live is not the only one spoofing E.L. James's erotic bestseller Fifty Shades of Grey. Reuters reported that the book may be "reinvigorating marriages and sparking anguished debates among feminists, but there has been one unintended result of the novel--laughter."


Bookcase of the day: The UnWaste bookcase "is the inventive response to a challenging brief and an adventurous client, resulting in a sustainably designed full-wall rotating library," Bookshelf noted.


GadgetReview recommended the Mr. Ed Bookend, equipped with "a 40 watt light bulb fixture squeezed between what appear to be two books, which are actually two pieces of cast aluminum finished in black."


"Since we discovered an ongoing crowdsource project called Legacy Libraries, we haven't been able to tear our eyes away from it," Flavorwire noted in offering "a look at the titles in famous authors' libraries."

Great Reads

Further Reading: Gardening Literature

Whether you're the type who likes to get your hands dirty in the garden or you simply wish to dig out some free time to turn the pages of gardening-inspired literature, bookstores are blooming with a host of titles.

In Why Every Man Needs a Tractor, Charles Elliott, former publisher at Knopf, details his gardening labors in Wales. Elliott's essays combine personal experience with interesting tidbits and facts about some of the world's most notable, history-making gardens and gardeners.

The World of Wild Orchids by Christian Ziegler contains dazzling color photographs and a fascinating text accompaniment exploring the mysterious aura of these exotic beauties.

Lane Smith's illustrated children's book Grandpa Green, while aimed at ages 4-8, translates across generations. A young boy shares a poignant, heart-tugging narrative that bears witness to his forgetful grandfather's love for topiary gardening.

Family secrets take center stage in the novel The Girl in the Garden by Kamala Nair. In this tale, told via an extended flashback, an off-limits, walled garden in India might hold the key to one woman's search to reclaim her past and reinvent her future.

A foster mother inspires a troubled girl by planting seeds, both literal and figurative, in The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. This heartbreaking, yet hopeful debut novel resonates with the way flowers can become symbols that inspire us to believe in the power of tomorrow. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines


Maurice Sendak: 1928-2012

We're sorry to note that Maurice Sendak, one of our favorite children's book authors, died this morning at age 83. His wonderful works included Where the Wild Things Are and In the Night Kitchen. In a long obituary, the New York Times said Sendak "wrenched the picture book out of the safe, sanitized world of the nursery and plunged it into the dark, terrifying and hauntingly beautiful recesses of the human psyche."

Mother's Day Reading; Avengers; Books to Reread

For a little Mother's Day reading, Rosamund Lupton, author most recently of Afterwards, offered "three cheers (and three books) for mummy dearest" at NPR.


To celebrate the weekend release of The Avengers, HitFLix featured the "top 10 performances in comic book movies."


A "selection of books 'written' by celebrity animals" was showcased by Flavorwire in honor of Uggie, "the lovable terrier from the Oscar-winning film The Artist" who recently landed a book deal.

Book Review


Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

by Ben Fountain

Ben Fountain (author of the story collection Brief Encounters with Che Guevara) has written a truly wondrous first novel in Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk. On the face of it, this is the story of Bravo Squad, eight brave survivors of a horrendous firefight with Iraqi insurgents who are being celebrated at Texas Stadium on Thanksgiving Day. They are feted, made part of the halftime show and projected on the Jumbotron--then dropped when their marginal utility has been served.

One subplot covers an agent's attempts to get Bravo a movie contract--$100,000 for each of them. It's an unimaginable amount of money for these kids to imagine. Another set piece is Bravo's visit to the owner's box--a glimpse of Valhalla for young men who have known nothing but privation, fear, mud and field rations for months. The panoply of riches on display, with huge tables of food and booze and incessant bonhomie and jingoistic blather, are all heady stuff for 19-year-old Billy Lynn and his comrades.

Billy is the centerpiece of the novel. The steady thrum that beats through every page is his realization that he will be back in Iraq in 36 hours. We see everything through the lens of his experience, at the center of which is the loss of his good friend, Shroom, in the firefight.

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk is a sad story about what war does to us, all of us. If it doesn't bring you to your knees, read it again. --Valerie Ryan, Cannon Beach Book Company, Ore.

Discover: After surviving a Iraqi firefight, Bravo Squad faces an overwhelming celebration on the home front.

Ecco Press, $25.99, hardcover, 9780060885595

A Naked Singularity

by Sergio De La Pava

Casi never loses a case. The 24-year-old Manhattan public defender bobs and weaves his way through the intricacies and inanities of the New York legal system as nimbly as a lightweight champ, scoring plea bargains and dismissals for a long list of drug offenders, petit larcenists and immigrants selling hotdogs without a license. Despite his talent, Casi's life is far from ideal. At work, he faces circular and surreal discussions with clients and judges as well as the passionate but illogical philosophizing of his coworkers. In his private life, financial debt piles up and he struggles with inexplicable ear pain, while his preschool-aged niece frightens his family by ceasing to speak, and his neighbors begin bizarre psychological experiments involving The Honeymooners.

When a client turns police informant, Casi becomes privy to a $10-million drug deal. His coworker Dane, whose moral compass always points to himself as true north, approaches Casi with a scheme to snatch the dough, but Casi refuses to participate, until he finally loses a case and his entire world begins to unravel.

At nearly 700 pages, A Naked Singularity is no casual read, packed with Socratic dialogues, ruminations on the nature of the time-space continuum and legal satire. Nonetheless, it's a sometimes heartbreaking, always hilarious romp leading up to its ultimate heist. Challenging, addictively entertaining and not to be missed, A Naked Singularity heralds the arrival of a tremendous talent. --Jaclyn Fulwood, graduate assistant, University of Oklahoma Libraries

Discover: A public defender turns to crime in a bold mix of thriller, legal satire and philosophical humor.

University of Chicago Press, $18, paperback, 9780226141794

Mystery & Thriller

Robert B. Parker's Lullaby

by Ace Atkins

Fourteen-year-old Mattie Sullivan walks into private investigator Spenser's office looking to set the record straight on her mother's murder four years earlier. Mattie is convinced the wrong man was convicted, but the combination of Mattie's age, her mother's history of drug addiction and prostitution, and the evidence compiled against the convicted man all cause the police to turn a deaf ear. Spenser listens, takes the case and soon finds himself embroiled in a dark element of Boston no one's willing to talk about.

Ace Atkins has proven an exceptionally talented writer through his own fiction (Wicked City; The Ranger). With Lullaby, the first Spenser novel written by someone other than Robert B. Parker, Atkins opens himself up to a high level of scrutiny, but the results showcase his skills at a greater level than ever before. Taking the essence of everything that made Spenser one of crime fiction's iconic PIs, Atkins adds an arresting new chapter to the wisecracking, food-loving, former boxer's story. The sharp, witty and engaging dialogue echoes Parker's, and Atkins remains true to the characterizations of all the series' supporting cast--Susan, Hawk, Rita and Quirk--as well as its star. Atkins's sense of Boston is especially impressive; unlike Parker, Atkins is not a native, but that doesn't impair his ability to give the city as much life as any of the characters.

Taking on the challenge of continuing the much-loved Spenser series is a daunting task. Ace Atkins responds with a knock-out punch in round one. Parker would most definitely approve.  --Jen Forbus of Jen's Book Thoughts

Discover: The first Spenser novel after Robert B. Parker's death marks an impressive new turn in the series.

Putnam, $26.95, hardcover, 9780399158032

Biography & Memoir

Are You My Mother?

by Alison Bechdel

Alison Bechdel's new graphic memoir, Are You My Mother?, confirms what anyone who has read Fun Home already knows: Bechdel is the premier master of graphic comic narrative. Having explored her father's secret gayness and suicide in her first memoir, this second volume takes on her sometimes chilly, smart and ambiguous mother--a poet who gave up her art for love, an actress and a housewife with three children.

As the reader jumps backward and forward in time, Bechdel relentlessly explores her relationship with her mother, peeling back the layers of the onion in a visually exhilarating manner. Her double-page spread of five old photographs of mother and child spread on a desktop is a mini-masterpiece of subtle emotional depths with a dramatic trajectory from first snapshot to last. She masterfully sets up a sequence where she hangs up on her mother and then breaks down crying, perfectly arranged graphically for maximum impact--you'll gasp at the expertly delineated pain.

On one level Are You My Mother? is a psychoanalytic plunge into the mystery of that intimate bond between mother and child. Each of the seven chapters begins with a hauntingly visualized dream sequence expressing one of Bechdel's anxieties or repressed emotions about her complex, elusive parent. She taps into the universality of the mother experience with extraordinary revelations, engaging the thoughtful reader with her insights, using comic book tools to take you to terrifying places. Together, Bechdel's memoirs form one of the most detailed, entertaining and harrowingly honest portraits of parents in gay literature. --Nick DiMartino, Nick's Picks, University Book Store, Seattle

Discover: Alison Bechdel's second memoir completes one of the greatest portraits of parents in gay literature.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $22, hardcover, 9780618982509

Paris, I Love You but You're Bringing Me Down

by Rosecrans Baldwin

Rosecrans Baldwin (You Lost Me There) has been "anaphylactic for France" since childhood. The mere thought of France's ancient buildings, its endless cafes or the sea of faces in the Metro stations give him an immediate shortness of breath and tightness in a chest that's about to explode for joy. If Baldwin had a textspeak abbreviation for his Francophilia, it would read OMG PARIS.

Until he moves there, anyway.

In pursuit of their dream to live abroad, Baldwin and his wife settle into the city to work on their personal creative projects--Baldwin's first novel and Rachel's screenplay--and he takes a job as a copywriter at a French ad agency. Before long, though, anaphylactic Francophilia gives way to the realities of living as American expats, from speaking the language (tricky) to finding a credit card (impossible) to navigating the government bureaucracy (life sentence). The city still has its beautiful moments, but these are not just fantasies from afar; Baldwin's French realities are more vivid, fascinating and funny than any version of Paris sold on this side of the Atlantic.

Paris, I Love You but You're Bringing Me Down follows in the humorous memoir tradition of David Sedaris and Wade Rouse, but its honest, no-longer-breathless portrayals of American expatriate life ally it with works like Naturi Thomas's How to Die in Paris as well. Baldwin's book puts a lot of French fantasies to rest--and replaces them with realities worthy of true love. --Dani Alexis Ryskamp, blogger at The Book Cricket

Discover: Sometimes nerve-wracking, often funny, and permanently honest, Baldwin's memoir forms the basis for a true love of Parisian life.

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $26, hardcover, 9780374146689

God's Hotel: A Doctor, A Hospital, and a Pilgrimage to the Heart of Medicine

by Victoria Sweet

When Dr. Victoria Sweet began working at Laguna Honda, she knew the hospital's monastic turrets and arches, peeling paint and lively aviary distinguished it from its gleaming modern counterparts. But Laguna Honda wasn't just a hospital: it was an almshouse, with its roots in the medieval French "Hôtel-Dieu"--God's hotel. Populated with the poor and homeless, the ill and addicted, Laguna Honda was at once hospital, shelter, rehabilitation clinic and halfway house.

"Laguna Honda is a gift," a colleague told Sweet during her first week of work. But Sweet quickly learned it wasn't just the building, high on a San Francisco hill, that was special. As she witnessed a remarkable spectrum of resilience and defeat in Laguna Honda's open wards, Sweet came to understand that it was the hospital's inspirational patients, caring staff and slow, healing pace that made it unlike any other.

Part professional memoir, part meditation on the nature of medicine and part argument for a dramatic reframing of health care, God's Hotel is the story of Sweet's 20-year tenure at the hospital. Sweet, also an expert on medieval healer and mystic Hildegard of Bingen, merges modern training with her study of Hildegard's "slow medicine," a practice of intuitive observation that is striking in its effectiveness and in its opposition to the impersonal efficiency of modern healthcare.

But modernity eventually reaches Laguna Honda, and Sweet must negotiate the inevitable challenges and changes it brings. Still, the hospital remains "God's hotel"--and Sweet's book is a moving tribute to the place it was, and is. --Hannah Calkins, Unpunished Vice

Discover: A physician's philosophical, compassionate reflection on 20 years at America's last almshouse.

Riverhead, $27.95, hardcover, 9781594488436

Half in Shade: Family, Photography, and Fate

by Judith Kitchen

Poet and essayist Judith Kitchen opens a door into her past with short vignettes of family life in Half in Shade. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but when Kitchen delves into boxes of inherited family photographs and scrapbooks, she discovers that more words would have been useful in deciphering the who and the why behind each picture. Using her skills as an observant writer, she examines each black-and-white photograph from edge to edge, but can only partially decipher the context behind each image. She yearns for more information to understand the full significance of the time, the people and the places. For instance, in one snapshot of nine women hanging off the running boards, roof and rumble seat of an old car, Kitchen questions why the message written on the back says "note car," instead of a list of the women.

Kitchen opens windows of speculation with her minute inspection, especially with those photographs that could be of her mother. Was she really so full of spunk, with such a "sense of play?" Kitchen remembers her as "a chide. A disappointment. A silence at the core." When Kitchen is diagnosed with cancer, she questions her own existence and searches for deeper meanings in the photos and journal entries written by her teenage mother; anything to help link the past with her current condition. Kitchen's ruminations linger long after Half in Shade is finished, leaving readers to question how much we really know about the people who become our parents. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

Discover: A collection of family photographs leads to a meditation on personal history and memory, with many gaps to fill in.

Coffee House, $16, paperback, 9781566892964

Book of My Mother

by Albert Cohen, trans. by Bella Cohen

Behind the high-blown, overwrought classical French style of Albert Cohen's Book of My Mother lurks an inconsolable son grieving over his mother's death. "My mother had no me. She had a son," says Cohen, and the subject of his bittersweet memoir is, in some ways, the stereotypical Jewish mother: urging her son to go to synagogue once in a while just for her, suggesting some nice, quiet girls that the rabbi recommends, quizzing her son if he's been eating the Unmentionable (pork), then stopping him from answering: "Don't tell me--I don't want to know."

Though laughter and drolleries ripple through this little elegy, behind it burns a son's aching, unhealing regret for every careless selfishness or neglect. Albert Cohen at the age of five came to Marseilles from the Greek island of Corfu, grew up in France, and ultimately became a Swiss citizen, living in Geneva, where his mother visited him until her death. Strangely intimate, playfully classical, his little book is Cohen's therapy, its creation his comfort in the face of her loss, the healing joy in the act of writing.

The utter sweetness of his recorded memories is somehow a result of the exquisite sadness behind the words, the finality of their permanent separation. That anything so sad can also be witty and sublimely comic makes la mère Cohen into a triumph of literature with her curly hair, large nose, small hat, swollen ankles and magnificent eyes. --Nick DiMartino, Nick's Picks, University Book Store, Seattle

Discover: A French literary gem from the 1950s is finally available to English-language readers, as Albert Cohen pays loving tribute to his late mother.

Archipelago Books, $15, paperback, 9781935744337

Social Science

Wedding Cake for Breakfast

by Kim Perel and Wendy Sherman, editors

Many of us are already well-versed in the how-tos of wedding planning, from the purchase of the dress to the color of ribbons that will wrap the bouquet stems. There are hundreds of books to guide brides through the stress-inducing, mother-in-law-ridden, over-pressured world of weddings, but what comes after the party--when all the guests have left, and the newlyweds are left alone with each other and a boatload of gifts to unwrap and thank-yous to write?

This is the question Kim Perel and Wendy Sherman ask, and aim to answer, in Wedding Cake for Breakfast, a collection of essays about the first year of marriage. Their 23 contributors--including bestselling authors like Joshilyn Jackson and Jill Kargman--leave no stone unturned in exploring those first 365 days, with all of the hope and joy and difficulties they can bring. The stories represent a range of experiences, from the doubts that come with such a lifelong commitment to the humorous tale of spending a honeymoon without luggage, from the loneliness of a newlywed who has lost her parents to the joy of two newlyweds receiving the unexpected (but welcome) news of their first child.

All of the stories are written by women, which can make the collection feel a little one-sided. Ultimately, however, Wedding Cake for Breakfast proves a delight to read, whether you are newly engaged, newlywed or just celebrated your 50th anniversary. Or, of course, if you are just looking for a gift for your next bridal shower. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

Discover: A heartwarming collection of 23 essays exploring the highs, lows and in-betweens of the first year of marriage.

Berkley, $15, paperback, 9780425247303

Art & Photography

Infra: Photographs by Richard Mosse

by Richard Mosse with an essay by Adam Hochschild

Haunting beauty and violence intersect in the pages of Infra: Photographs by Richard Mosse, accompanied by an informative essay, steeped in historical fact, by Adam Hochschild (To End All Wars). Mosse, an Irish photographer whose work has been exhibited internationally, elevates photojournalism to a new level by documenting the ongoing war in the Democratic Republic of Congo via the use of Kodak Aerochrome, a now discontinued light-sensitive color film that absorbs an invisible spectrum of infrared light. (The film was designed as an aerial surveillance film for military purposes.) Infrared light cannot be seen with the human eye. Thus, Mosse's photographs absorb color schemes that render lush green landscapes, jungles and even military uniforms into vivid, otherworldly hues of crimson, fuchsia, hot pink and intense shades of blue and purple-violet. The skewed color palate of spectacular panoramas juxtaposed against portraits of warlords, nomads and rebel militia besieged by the horrors and violence of a multi-sided war increases the eerie visual drama, reflecting the complex, staggering instability of a region still in crisis.

Mosse's unusual esthetic approach keeps viewers off-balance, with a perspective that encourages a closer look at the surreal and unexpected aspects of each print. By conflating the boundary between visual reality and fantasy, Mosse evokes a deeper contextual consciousness and understanding of the problems inherent in a region still trying to recover from one of the greatest humanitarian disasters of our time.-- Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: A wholly unique series of infrared photographs of the Congo--the land, the people and the war.

Aperture/Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, $50, hardcover, 9781597112024

Children's & Young Adult


by Veronica Roth

This second installment after Veronica Roth's page-turning debut, Divergent, continues at a breakneck pace with even more twists and turns.

Picking up where Divergent left off, Insurgent follows Tris, Tobias, Marcus (Tobias's father), Peter and Caleb (Tris's brother) as they travel by train to the Amity faction. Readers must begin with Divergent in order to understand narrator Tris's inner struggle as she confronts her grief and guilt over the fallout from Erudite's usurping of the Dauntless faction. Jeanine Matthews, leader of Erudite, would wipe out nearly the entire Abnegation faction to protect something. But what?

Tris and Tobias travel among the factions to drum up support against Jeanine and her master plan. Then they learn that the plan somehow hinges on Divergents, and the greatest number of them live among the factionless--those with no faction to call home. To Tris's surprise, she discovers that the factionless "are together, like a faction." Their leader proposes "a different kind of society. One without factions." Tris finds this hard to imagine: "A world in which no one knows who they are or where they fit" even as she discovers facets of herself--and others--that do not fall neatly into categories. And she must choose between her instincts about Marcus as honest and Tobias's view of him as a liar: "Cruelty does not make a person dishonest," Tris realizes, "the same way bravery does not make a person kind."

Roth's novel will keep teens guessing to the very last page and hungry for the trilogy's conclusion. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf  Awareness

Discover: Roth's riveting sequel to Divergent: Must Tris choose between Tobias and her pursuit of the truth?

Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins, $17.99, hardcover, 544p., ages 14-up, 9780062024046

When You Were Mine

by Rebecca Serle

Narrated by high school senior Rosaline Caplet, this emotionally authentic debut novel inspired by Romeo and Juliet will keep readers engrossed.

Cousins Rose and Juliet Caplet, along with neighbor Rob Monteg, were inseparable as children. But 10 years ago, Rosie's father and his brother, Juliet's father, fell out. Rose recalls a Christmas visit that ended in a scene--horrifying to a seven-year-old--in which Juliet snapped off the head of Rose's brand-new Barbie. Now Juliet is back in town for Rose's senior year, and ups the stakes: she sets her sights on Rose's newly minted romance with Rob.

Serle gets the nuances just right. The optimism of new love, the concerned friends after Rose's heartbreak, and the dynamics of a triangle--not just the love triangle between Rose, Rob and Juliet, but also the friendship triangle of Rose and her two female best friends. Teens will appreciate Rose's anxiety in risking a best friendship to try out romance. So to have Juliet show up and quash it feels doubly cruel. Readers will also sense a more than platonic interest in Rose from offbeat Len, who delivers some of the novel's pearls of wisdom: "Sometimes the hardest part about letting someone go is realizing you were never meant to have them," he tells Rose.

With Serle's credible dialogue and snappy pace, no previous experience with the classic is required to thoroughly enjoy this contemporary novel. Readers may know the outcome from Shakespeare, but the real drama here plays out as the evolution of Rosaline's thinking. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: An original take on Romeo and Juliet in which Rosaline weighs a dear friendship against the possibility of romance.

Simon Pulse, $16.99, hardcover, 352p., ages 14-up, 9781442433137


Author Buzz

The Rom-Commers

by Katherine Center

Dear Reader,

Famous screenwriter Charlie Yates wrote a romantic comedy screenplay--and it’s terrible. Aspiring writer Emma Wheeler just got hired to fix it. But Charlie doesn't want anyone rewriting his work--least of all a "failed nobody," and Emma can't support a guy who doesn't even like rom-coms, adding another bad one to the pantheon. So what choice does Emma have but to stand up for herself, and rom-coms, and love in general--and, in the process, to show her nemesis-slash-writing-hero exactly how to fall stupidly, crazily, perfectly in love?

Email with the subject line "The Rom-Commers sweepstakes" for a chance to win one of five copies.

Katherine Center

Buy now and support your local indie bookstore>

AuthorBuzz: St. Martin's Press: The Rom-Commers by Katherine Center

St. Martin's Press

Pub Date: 
June 11, 2024


List Price: 
$29.00 Hardcover

Blue Moon
(A Smoke and Mirrors Novella)

by Skye Warren

Dear Reader,

When I started writing Ringmaster Emerson Durand in the Smoke and Mirrors series, I knew he would get his own story. Insouciant. Charming. And he's actually the villain of that book. So can he be redeemed? It's the question I'm always working to answer in my books.

If he's going to deserve his own happily ever after, it's going to be a journey. A scorching hot journey!

That's what BLUE MOON illuminates. A dangerous ringmaster claims his rebellious acrobat for a sensual show you cannot miss.

Skye Warren

Available on Kobo

AuthorBuzz: 1001 Dark Nights Press: Blue Moon (A Smoke and Mirrors Novella) by Skye Warren

1001 Dark Nights Press

Pub Date: 
March 12, 2024


List Price: 
$2.99 e-book

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