Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, October 2, 2020

Sourcebooks Landmark: Long After We Are Gone by Terah Shelton Harris

From My Shelf

Let's Dance!

Not a single one of the twisting and twirling animals in these dance-focused children's books would suggest you dance like no one is watching. Instead? Flamenco! Love your tutu! And dance to the rhythm of the alphabet.

In ABC Dance!: An Animal Alphabet (Workman, $7.95), the "aardvarks arrive with a band of baboons," then "clog-dancing camels" enter the room. Sabrina Moyle's rhyme rarely stumbles as the "sloths swing and slide"; Eunice Moyle's illustrations feature wildly colored, outrageously dressed animals having a darn good time rocking out.

In Ross Burach's I Love My Tutu Too! (Scholastic Press, $7.99), a penguin adores its ONE pale pink tutu. A bear peeks in: "I love my tutu too." The page turn reveals "TWO tutus!" The bear's tutu is a frilly affair in two different shades of purple. Eight other animals arrive, all expressing love for their multi-colored tutus until there are TEN. But "ENOUGH with the tutu talk already," says a crocodile, "It's time to... DANCE!" All of the animals, sketched with a thick, active broken line, bob, hop, pirouette and leap, until they fall back with a happy, tired "Phew."

"Every creature on earth has a dance all its own. But none so well-known as the flamingo's flamenco." Hippos "pop, lock, and drop," wallabies waltz and tigers "shuffle and prance," but even with dedicated focus to their art and gorgeous costumes, no animal dance comes close to the Flamingo Flamenco (Familius, $8.99). Brooke Jorden's repetitive, rhythmic text may get pre-readers in a wriggling and jiggling mood; Alex Zhdanov's illustrations feature boldly colored, stylized animals on bright backgrounds, sure to catch a little one's attention.

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

Book Candy

Banned Books in History

For Banned Books Week, check out this "selective timeline of book bannings, burnings and other censorship activities."


Fast Company explored "how Covid-19 is changing the English language."


For fans of the Masterpiece Mystery series, PBS offered "six surprising facts about Van der Valk novelist Nicolas Freeling.


The New York Public Library shared what books author Caroline Weber is reading.


"In 1183, a Chinese poet describes being domesticated by his own cats." (via Open Culture)

Harper Horizon: Making the World a Better Place

Andrea Fleck-Nisbet

Based in Nashville, Tenn., Harper Horizon is a new nonfiction imprint that is focused on building relationships with authors who are actively working to make the world a better place--and who will inspire and empower readers to take action to improve their lives and communities. This action could be, among other things, learning a new skill, improving the environment or having the courage to embody their beliefs. The books include memoir, how-to, biography, self-help, health and wellness, lifestyle and other inspirational topics.

"We want to bring joy to readers by putting a great book in their hands that will encourage them to actively pursue positive change for themselves and their communities," says Andrea Fleck-Nisbet, publisher of Harper Horizon. "That change could be as small as organizing their pantry or as large as starting a movement. The goal is to get readers to do something."

Harper Horizon's first two titles, being published this fall, are Make Life Beautiful by Syd and Shea McGee and Walk Through This: Harness the Healing Power of Nature and Travel the Road to Forgiveness by Sara Schulting Kranz (more about these titles and authors below).

Next year, Harper Horizon will offer a full list, publishing approximately 30 titles, ten in each of its three publishing seasons (fall, winter, spring/summer). "We want to keep to that number so we can provide a boutique publishing experience and maximize the time we spend to successfully produce and launch each project," Fleck-Nisbet says, adding that that boutique publishing experience comes with "the infrastructure of a large publisher. We are fortunate to have the rich resources of HarperCollins Publishers' global distribution capabilities behind us."

Besides offering the resources of the world's second-largest commercial publisher, Harper Horizon is working with its authors in several unusual ways. For example, the imprint is creating community among its authors, who are writers, actors, activists, chefs, bloggers, fitness professionals, advisors, field experts and more. While those authors have strong respective platforms with unique content and often speak to somewhat different audiences, they share "directionally similar missions"--inspiring and helping others--and so the imprint is encouraging its authors to connect with one another and cross-promote. "They're very excited to work with each other," Fleck-Nisbet says.

To help develop this author community, Harper Horizon is planning to host an "author university" or retreat ahead of the first title releases this fall. The event would last a day and a half and possibly be held at the same time as the June sales conference. Fleck-Nisbet says she envisions it as a place where Harper Horizon and authors can "talk through the nuts and bolts of the publishing process, the importance of pre-launch campaigns, why metadata is so important, and when to communicate what with their audience. And the authors can present to each other about their work and platforms and networks."

Not surprisingly, Harper Horizon sees its authors as long-term partners. "We take a sustained approach," Fleck-Nisbet notes. "We want to build them as brands over time and hopefully work with them on other projects. We don't have a 'one-and-done' style."

And Harper Horizon aims to partner with booksellers and librarians. "We want to develop great stories in good packages that retailers can put on shelves and sell," Fleck-Nisbet explains. "We want authors who are committed not just to writing but to selling, too." She adds that Harper Horizon "believes that independent bookstores are very much a part of the culture and the way books sell in the market."

Booksellers should be aware that because Harper Horizon is part of Harper Focus and has headquarters in Nashville, Tenn., it will be sold by the HarperCollins Christian Publishing sales force, not the HarperCollins New York sales force. (HarperCollins Christian Publishing includes imprints like Harper Horizon and HarperCollins Leadership business books that aren't Christian per se.)

Harper Horizon also aims to work with authors, the sales force, booksellers, librarians and readers themselves to find the best titles to meet readers' needs. "We want to know from booksellers what's selling and what their customers want," Fleck-Nisbet says. "We want to know the topics and the products that are trending in the market."

Fleck-Nisbet emphasizes that Harper Horizon is "trying to think outside the box and think about where publishing will be in five to ten years from now." The key is finding the right author, the right packaging, the right price and the right positioning. Fleck-Nisbet says, "As a publisher, my role sits at the crossroads of creativity and business--understanding the market needs and what will sell and be profitable. That's why this is my dream job!"

The Harper Horizon List: Upcoming Titles

Harper Horizon's first two titles, appearing this fall, exemplify the imprint's approach. In Make Life Beautiful by Syd and Shea McGee (October 27), the couple who run Studio McGee, the renowned design studio, share insights and wisdom on how classic interior design principles can be used to build an authentically beautiful life. They tell of the challenges and struggles they faced as they transformed Shea's small room of fabric samples into one of the fastest-growing design studios in the country. Inspirational topics to help readers build an authentic life include renovating one's life, visualizing the outcome and listening to one's gut, and elevating the everyday. The McGees have a huge social media presence and have been widely written about; a fall 2020 Netflix docuseries will coincide with the book launch.

In Walk Through This: Harness the Healing Power of Nature and Travel the Road to Forgiveness (November 10), life and leadership coach and wilderness guide Sara Schulting Kranz gives readers tools to develop the courage they need to overcome setbacks, to forgive and to heal, and to build a life of fulfillment and purpose. Kranz's step-by-step handbook shows how to reconnect with nature--wherever readers may be--and begin their healing journey. The book includes foundational information about nature deficit disorder and the negative impact it has on our minds and bodies; exercise prompts that help evaluate where one is on the path and check progress along the way; and meditations to guide the reader deeper into the process. Kranz is the host and founder of the Live Boldly podcast, a featured TEDx Talk speaker, and the subject of a documentary by Laura VanZee Taylor that will be released this year.

Harper Horizon already has a robust list of titles to be published in 2021, including:

The Miracle Mentality by Tim Storey, the author, speaker and life coach, and frequent featured guest on Oprah's Super Soul Sunday. In The Miracle Mentality, Storey will offer first-hand stories of inspiration that will help guide readers through the mundane, messy, and madness of life to the magical place where miracles happen. (March 2, 2021)

Strong Women Lift Each Other Up by Molly Galbraith, the founder and woman-in-charge of Girls Gone Strong, the global online movement of more than 800,000 women. Galbraith teaches that women can take ownership of their strength and power through positive body fitness--not by tearing other women down, but by lifting them up. (March 9, 2021)

A Coat of Yellow Paint by Naomi Davis, creator of the popular blog Love Taza, who reflects on being a wife and a mother of five, with a message of family focus and intentional living. (March 30, 2021)

A Season with Mom by Katie Russell, who is a cancer survivor, advocate, and sport enthusiast. In A Season with Mom, Katie shares letters to her late mother, and visits all 30 MLB baseball stadiums in a heartwarming adventure that celebrates family, grieves loss, and welcomes self-discovery. (April 6, 2021)

The Zen Mamas' Guide through Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond by popular actors and founders of the parenting site Your Zen Mama, Theresa Palmer and Sarah Wright Olson, offers essential parenting knowledge from the authors' lived experiences and keen insights from experts addressing topics such as prepping for pregnancy all the way through birth, the first twelve weeks with your newborn, and figuring out the kind of parent you want to be long term. (April 6, 2021)

Go Love Yourself by Zachary Levi, the actor (Shazam!, Chuck, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) and mental illness advocate, who traces his mental health journey and encourages readers to find clarity in a culture clustered with anxiety and depression. (April 13, 2021)

Agent You by Nicole Lynn, one of the youngest African American, female sport agents, who shows readers how to become their own agents so they can achieve goals and find fulfillment in their lives. (June 14, 2021)

Mooncakes & Milk Bread by Kristina Cho, the San Francisco cook behind the delicious recipes at, who presents an insider's guide to the world of Chinese bakeries and baking. (September 21, 2021)

Fatherhood by Fatherly, the leading digital media brand for dads, which provides guidance for fathers from pregnancy through their children's toddler years. (September 28, 2021)

Great Reads

Rediscover: Stephen F. Cohen

Historian Stephen F. Cohen, "whose books and commentaries on Russia examined the rise and fall of Communism, Kremlin dictatorships and the emergence of a post-Soviet nation still struggling for identity in the 21st century," died September 18 at age 81, the New York Times reported. Cohen first came to international attention in 1973 with Bukharin and the Bolshevik Revolution, which was a finalist for a National Book Award. His other works include Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives: From Stalinism to the New Cold War; The Victims Return: Survivors of the Gulag After Stalin; Voices of Glasnost: Interviews with Gorbachev's Reformers (with Katrina vanden Heuvel); and Rethinking the Soviet Experience: Politics and History Since 1917.

Upon learning of Cohen's death, Mikhail Gorbachev sent a letter of condolence to Katrina vanden Heuvel, editorial director and publisher of the Nation and Cohen's wife, writing: "He was one of the closest people to me in his views and understanding of the enormous events that occurred in the late 1980s in Russia and changed the world. Steve was a brilliant historian and a man of democratic convictions. He loved Russia, the Russian intelligentsia, and believed in our country's future." Cohen's latest book, War with Russia?: From Putin and Ukraine to Trump and Russiagate (2019), is available in paperback from Hot Books ($18.99).

Book Review


You Want More

by George Singleton

Landmark Southern writer George Singleton is on display in You Want More, a comprehensive and compelling collection of 30 pieces of his short fiction. In "A Man with My Number," a lonely and begrudgingly trusting man finds himself engaged in a conversation with a traveling salesman, despite his better judgment. "John Cheever, Rest in Peace" shows a man embarking on a go-for-broke, wild ride on his lawn mower, and the incident's lasting impact on his wife. In "The Novels of Raymond Chandler," a floundering English professor attempts to outwit those sentencing him for desecrating his own father's grave. And in "Director's Cut," a grown son grapples with his eccentric mother's lasting bitterness and unexpected new hobby.

Lovingly curated and joyfully introduced by Tom Franklin, You Want More argues for Singleton as a contemporary Southern classic author. Singleton's writing has a timeless appeal, its wit and ingenuity sharp and delightful. Choosing stories to highlight from the collection is not simple, as every story is both representative of Singleton's memorable flair and still a stand-out. While they focus on the mundane details and overlooked subjects of small-town Southern life, the magic is in how each of the seemingly quotidian moments and people prove completely unpredictable and unexpected. Frequently dark but nevertheless playful, this collection is a pitch-perfect presentation of Singleton's singular style. --Alice Martin, freelance writer and editor

Discover: An ideal introduction to a Southern literary master, You Want More provides bite-sized doses of tragicomic entertainment from an unpretentious storyteller.

Hub City Press, $27, hardcover, 368p., 9781938235696

The Bell in the Lake

by Lars Mytting, trans. by Deborah Dawkin

In the Norwegian author's first novel since the unlikely success of his nonfiction guide to chopping and storing firewood, Norwegian Wood, Lars Mytting gives a richly detailed and deeply human account of the battle between progress and tradition in a rural village in 1880 Norway. 

After village pauper Klara freezes to death during the New Year's Day service, fiery new pastor Kai Schweigaard announces a daring plan to sell and move the Butangen's old stave church to Germany and build a modern church in its place. Sensitive and romantic architecture student Gerhard Schönauer is sent from Dresden to Butangen to make reference sketches of the church and oversee its disassembly. Neither man reckons on the opposition of beautiful, brilliant Astrid Hekne, whose medieval ancestors gave the church the magnificent Sister Bells, named for conjoined twin girls born into the Hekne family. Astrid feels drawn to both men, but neither the status she would gain as a pastor's wife nor a possible future in faraway Dresden can dissuade her from hatching a cunning ruse to keep the Sister Bells from leaving Butangen. 

The first installment in a planned trilogy, The Bell in the Lake is a sprawling, ambitious blend of folklore, faith, magical realism and palpable admiration for the elaborately carved stave churches, most of which are lost to history. Although Astrid's resolution rings hollow, on the whole Mytting has created a fascinating, thoroughly detailed view into the life of a community torn between embracing the future and revering the past. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Discover: In this richly detailed trilogy opener, a bright young woman in 1880s Norway fights against the sale of her village's historic church and its fabled Sister Bells.

The Overlook Press, $27, hardcover, 400p., 9781419743184

The Distance

by Ivan Vladislavić

"Boxing was never my sport, but the fights look better in the past tense, the distance has given them charm, if not glamour." This line from The Distance by author and professor Ivan Vladislavić (Portrait with Keys) perfectly captures one of the main themes of the novel: the fallibility of memory.

In 1970s Pretoria, young Joe has been obsessively collecting newspaper clippings about his childhood hero, Muhammad Ali. Decades later, he is a novelist ready to use that scrapbook as the starting point of a memoir and enlists the help of his brother, Branko, to help remember details of their shared past. Through their back-and-forth narratives, readers get a peek into the life of an ordinary family in Apartheid-era South Africa, and the Ali fights echo the global politics of that time.

The Distance is a skillfully conducted chorus of language and voices. The brothers' perspectives are joined by the gregarious words of the sportswriters, and Vladislavić gives numerous examples of 1970s Pretorian slang and headlines from South African newspapers. All of this creates a fully immersive literary experience.

Vladislavić deftly alternates between the two narrators with a speed that, in the hands of a lesser linguist, could leave readers with verbal whiplash but, in this case, serves to highlight the fact that even shared memories can be vastly different.

In the novel, Branko asks, "Can a story ever belong equally to two people?" This is certainly the book to help ponder that question. --Grace Rajendran, freelance reviewer and literary events producer

Discover: This contemplative coming-of-age story set in Apartheid-era South Africa is juxtaposed with the iconic Muhammad Ali fights.

Archipelago Books, $20, paperback, 210p., 9781939810762

Mystery & Thriller

The Thursday Murder Club

by Richard Osman

With The Thursday Murder Club, British TV personality Richard Osman (The World Cup of Everything) has crafted a very funny cozy mystery set in an upscale assisted living community in bucolic Kent, England.

In the luxury facility, four elderly residents--each retired, sharp and energetic--meet once a week in the Jigsaw Room, where they covertly gather to crack actual cold case murders. The group was founded by resident Elizabeth, a shrewd and devious former spy, and Penny, a retired police detective inspector who provided the cases to solve. With Penny now in a coma, however, Elizabeth keeps the club in session, continuing to work cold cases with other fellow residents and mystery aficionados. They include dapper Ibrahim, a psychiatrist; brassy, tattooed Ron, a former trade union official; and unassuming Joyce, a nurse whose interspersed diary commentaries enlighten readers to the often zany inner workings of the club.

When a real-life murder happens at the facility--the bludgeoning of the builder who constructed the retirement community--the club and its members employ their offbeat skills and talents to root out the killer. They skillfully manipulate the help of a 26-year-old female police constable--an ambitious transplant from London--and her Detective Chief Inspector boss, who follow a host of leads and red herrings.

Osman's suspenseful, complex and deeply entertaining storytelling--along with rich characterizations depicting the quirky absurdities and power of pensioners--transforms darker themes of murder and crime-solving into smart, clever fun. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: In this clever, cozy whodunnit, four residents of a British retirement community wield their crime-solving powers to catch a killer.

Pamela Dorman Books, $26, hardcover, 368p., 9781984880963

Science Fiction & Fantasy


by Christiane Vadnais, trans. by Pablo Strauss

"All the disturbances of the planet seemed to be made flesh in her," Québécoise debut novelist Christiane Vadnais writes in Fauna, a superbly unsettling eco-apocalypse that finds climate change altering not just the world but the very idea of humanity itself. In 10 short, tense, interconnected stories set in snowed-in labs and floating lake villages, Vadnais examines humans' unraveling, from outside and within, in the years after extreme weather remakes their biomes.

Vadnais's approach to genre is amphibious, much like her conception of the relationship between people and the natural world: the literary and the horrifying slosh together here, just as the lake people of her future Canada become increasingly pale and viscous. She creates extreme situations in which doom threatens in the skies above and lurks beneath characters' skin. Two strangers wait out a weather apocalypse at a remote spa; a pregnant scientist studying a new parasite starts experiencing contractions in a snowed-in laboratory. Her prose, translated from the French by Pablo Strauss, can be terse when describing action but flowers into scarifying ickiness, equal parts clinical and poetic, when she links the pulsing mess of bodies to a natural world thrown out of balance.

The horror here doesn't concern monsters or villains, although one scene finds a woman pursued across tundra by a starving bear. Instead, Vadnais stirs terror at the possibilities of what we could become, what humanity might evolve or mutate into. Scariest of all: the sense that our potential extinction is something of a corrective. --Alan Scherstuhl, freelance writer and editor

Discover: This superbly unsettling novel of eco- and bio-terror finds horror and beauty as nature reclaims humanity.

Coach House Books, $15.95, paperback, 144p., 9781552454169

Burning Roses

by S.L. Huang

S.L. Huang's Burning Roses is a complex and thought-provoking adventure story following two middle-aged lesbians as they hunt monsters and reckon with their own monstrous pasts. Though they are both famed monster-slayers and heroes, Rosa and Hou Yi aren't exactly deserving of those titles. They've made terrible choices in the past, shameful decisions that broke apart their respective families. Through fairytale-inspired memories, including Red Riding Hood, Beauty and the Beast and Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Huang (Zero Sum Game) gradually reveals Rosa's past, and the roots and effects of her prejudice against intelligent, human-like animals. Hou Yi's story is slower to emerge, but when it does, readers will be surprised at how these two "heroes" could have done such things and still be sympathetic characters.

Huang's work as a professional stuntwoman and weapons expert is evident in the the detailed and exciting action scenes, and her writing skill makes these parts progress smoothly and slot seamlessly into the narrative. Despite all the action, and perhaps because of the insertion of classic but updated fairytales and their resonant themes, Burning Roses is unexpectedly emotional and introspective. While confrontation of prejudice and a focus on antiheroes are not uncommon in the fantasy genre, this level of self-examination is. Rosa in particular sees and resents her own life-long biases, something all too rare in fiction and in reality.

Huang packs a lot into this novella: regrets, reconciliation and reflections on what it means to be a good person. --Suzanne Krohn, editor, Love in Panels

Discover: Readers looking for adventure will be captivated by this action-packed queer fantasy novella exploring regret, prejudice, family and fighting monsters both literal and metaphorical.

Tor, $21.99, hardcover, 160p., 9781250763990


The Roommate

by Rosie Danan

The Roommate, Rosie Danan's debut romance, is sexy, funny and absolutely charming. When Clara leaves behind her wealthy Connecticut family to move in with her childhood crush in California, she's shocked to find that he's taken off on tour with his band and in his place is Josh, a complete stranger who turns out to be a performer in the adult entertainment industry. As outgoing as Clara is reserved, Josh is easy to like and to live with. If only they could shake this pesky chemistry between them.

Danan treats her subject matter with a great deal of respect. The Roommate is feminist and sex-positive, and Danan makes sure to present both the good and the bad within the adult entertainment industry. When Josh is threatened by the unethical production company holding his contract, he and Clara, along with Josh's performer ex, develop a project aimed at educating viewers on female pleasure. Although the book is high on steam and humor, it's not sexy simply because of the fact that the male lead is a sex worker. While both characters are initially attracted to each other, their physical relationship builds over time with their emotional connection. Both have their own hang-ups to work through, and their self-conscious pining is evident.

Incredibly sweet and romantic, The Roommate serves up a passionate but buoyant love story between two slightly lost people who figure out they have more to offer the world than they ever thought. --Suzanne Krohn, editor, Love in Panels

Discover: Rosie Danan's debut is a funny, sex-positive, steamy romance between a buttoned-up socialite and an adult film performer unexpectedly sharing a house.

Berkley, $16, paperback, 336p., 9780593101605

Social Science

Stakes Is High: Life After the American Dream

by Mychal Denzel Smith

Earnest and compelling, Stakes Is High argues that the U.S. should acknowledge an ideology of oppression, abandon the fiction that its people are equally united, and take collective action for a better future.

Mychal Denzel Smith (Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching) presents what he sees as the delusions keeping the American Dream alive. He highlights a pattern of cherry-picking--how the country's "faults are not American, only the progress." Yet even its progress effects minimal change; milestones like abolishing slavery or letting women vote didn't reform the beliefs underlying those inequalities. It is, he maintains, "a society resistant to justice for all," where not all citizens "survive and thrive" but are policed--particularly those protesting their lack of basic American liberties. In conjunction, the retributive prison system offers no incentives for change, preventing accountability. "Nothing will be solved when Bill Cosby dies in prison," for example, because rape culture still prevails. This landscape of injustice, Smith argues, is excused by the American Dream--by the lie that America is innately good.

Smith's galvanizing rhetoric implores a commitment to honesty. Admitting that he was a "product of American thinking," Smith models a solution on Americans rejecting a national identity of exceptionalism and supporting revolution. Bolstering his argument are quotes from intellectuals like Audre Lorde, Angela Davis, Ella Baker, Gil Scott-Heron and Iceberg Slim. What emerges is an undeniable account of America's dangerous mythmaking. Smith is the passionate, guiding voice the U.S. desperately needs. --Samantha Zaboski, freelance editor and reviewer

Discover: This passionate book is a plea for the U.S. to recognize the delusions casting it as an equal, just country and to see revolution as necessary.

Bold Type Books, $26, hardcover, 208p., 9781568588735

Body, Mind & Spirit

A Deadly Education

by Naomi Novik

Naomi Novik (UprootedSpinning Silver) starts her Scholomance series with A Deadly Education, an aptly named novel about a teen wizard in a magic school full of things that would like to kill her. Intricate world-building, a nuanced and diverse cast and a thrilling plot culminate in the kind of pulse-pounding ending that resolves much, but sets up the next installment with unanswered questions and dangers both new and old.

El attends a school suspended in "the void" that's designed to protect magical youth from attacks by maleficaria (mals), but it requires regular feedings in order to keep existing. At the end of every year, this ever-shifting tower twists down one level, dropping the graduating students back into the real world and straight into a pit of hungry monsters, able to lurk there due to a broken automated monster-killing system. Although enrollment in this school has drastically reduced youth death rates, small mals are able to sneak into the upper levels via heating ducts and plumbing, killing a not-insignificant number of students, feeding both themselves and the school.

As a junior, El isn't in immediate danger of graduating, but because of her magical affinity for destruction, she has always been a magnet for mals, so they find her anyway. Privileged and powerful, Orion Lake doesn't have any friends who don't want something from him, so he starts following El around. She's caustic, sarcastic and absolutely unimpressed with his heroics. She's also the only person who treats Orion like a person.

A Deadly Education delivers a heroine working hard to thwart a dark destiny. --Suzanne Krohn, editor, Love in Panels

Discover: The first book in a projected series, A Deadly Education is a dark, nuanced take on the magic school genre, featuring a heroine with sharp edges in a diverse world.

Del Rey, $28, hardcover, 336p., 9780593128480


Shook: An Earthquake, a Legendary Mountain Guide, and Everest's Deadliest Day

by Jennifer Hull

If mountaineering were a more publicized sport, Dave Hahn would be likened to Michael Jordan. The subject of Jennifer Hull's gripping first book, Hahn not only shattered records, he did it "while climbing as a working guide, with nonprofessional climber clients safely in tow." Known as an elite climber, Hahn has also received numerous awards for daring rescues and unselfish valor. Perhaps most amazingly, Hahn helped find the body of famed British explorer George Mallory, missing on Mount Everest since 1924.

In other words, if you're going to climb Everest, where "the ratio of deaths to summits... [hovers] at around one death for every five successful summits," you want to hire Dave Hahn. This may never have been truer than in 2015, a year after an avalanche in the Khumbu Icefall killed 16 Sherpas. Ongoing tectonic action wed with global warming means the mountain is changing. As Hahn's group attempted to reach the summit in 2015, their biggest worry was the rebuilt Icefall. Little did they know they would also face a 7.8 earthquake that struck Nepal, killing 22 people (the deadliest Everest disaster) and trapping the team on the mountain.

In Shook, Jennifer Hull deftly merges the story of how Hahn became the icon he is with a detailed account of the 2015 expedition that ended with so much death and destruction. The small details are magnificent, adding to the personalization of Everest, its pull and its power. Hull's narrative smoothly transitions and covers the rescue, never overshadowing the lives of the locals who sacrifice to make dreams possible. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review

Discover: A team of climbers led by legendary mountaineer Dave Hahn battles an earthquake and avalanches as their attempt to climb Mt. Everest goes dangerously awry.

University of New Mexico Press, $19.95, paperback, 256p., 9780826361943

Children's & Young Adult

The Left-Handed Booksellers of London

by Garth Nix

The Left-Handed Booksellers of London delivers a fantastic journey through a 1983 England where mythic beings from the Old World threaten the safety of the New.

When Susan Arkshaw turns 18, she leaves her mum and the family farm behind and goes to London to find a father she's never known. She meets the gloriously dressed, "shape-shiftery" Merlin as he is executing her mother's old friend with a pin made of "silver-washed steel." (Apparently "Uncle" Frank was a crime boss and a blood-drinking "Sipper"--said to be the basis for the vampire legend.) When the police arrive, Susan finds there's a special branch devoted to covering up "the ancient weird sh*t" that sometimes bubbles to the surface of her world. Merlin is part of the St. Jacques family, booksellers all with the mission of making sure "most Old World entities are bound" and thus unable to interfere in the "prosaic human world"--that is, "reality." Merlin is left-handed and deals with, in his words, the more "active stuff," while his sister, Vivien, is a right-handed researcher sort who can "weigh the truth." Susan, Merlin and Vivien set off to find Susan's father before the supernatural activities escalate any further.

Fans of Garth Nix's other works, such as the Old Kingdom series or Angel Mage, should enjoy this exhilarating volume. Action, light romance and otherworldly machinations keep the tension flowing as Nix reveals a warm-hearted and clever fantasy. Readers will almost certainly leave this magical London searching for hints of the Old World peeking through our own. --Lynn Becker, blogger and host of Book Talk, a monthly online discussion of children's books for SCBWI

Discover: In Garth Nix's smart literary fantasy, 18-year-old Susan Arkshaw arrives in London looking for her father and is greeted by all manner of supernatural creatures.

Katherine Tegen Books, $19.99, hardcover, 416p., ages 14-up, 9780062683250

The Reindeer Girl

by Holly Webb, illus. by Simon Mendez, Artful Doodlers

In The Reindeer Girl, the second in her Winter Journeys series, prolific British author Holly Webb (Animal Magic series; Emily Feather series) creates a magical intergenerational story likely to appeal to readers of animal stories and historical fiction.

Lotta travels to Norway from the U.S. for her oldemor's (great-grandmother) 90th birthday. When Lotta arrives, the older woman, Erika, starts to spin childhood stories about her youth as a member of the Sami Indigenous culture. She tells Lotta she resembles Erika's younger cousin (also named Lotta), with whom she shared an extraordinary journey. That is, before they were forced to go to school to learn Norwegian and forget their Sami traditions. As Lotta grows sleepy during the birthday party taking place alongside the Little Christmas Eve (December 23) celebration, she falls into a dream. Or is it? She wakes in a reindeer-skin tent, "inside the story" Oldemor had been telling. It is 80 years in the past, and Lotta, with 10-year-old Erika, is in the midst of the spring reindeer migration. The girls leave their families to rescue a mother reindeer and end up in a frightening situation strongly depicted in the Artful Doodlers' double-page illustration of the two girls surrounded by wolves.

Even though Lotta wonders how she could be with the young Erika, readers will almost certainly be swept up in her experiences, with no qualms of their own. With pleasingly retro gray-scale drawings, a glossary and informational pages on reindeer and the Sami people, this short novel is an attractive and pleasing read. --Melinda Greenblatt, freelance book reviewer

Discover: Lotta has an amazing time-travel adventure when she goes to Norway to visit her great-grandmother.

Tiger Tales, $17.99, hardcover, 192p., ages 8-10, 9781680102215

If Dominican Were a Color

by Sili Recio, illus. by Brianna McCarthy

Author-illustrator duo Sili Recio and Brianna McCarthy bring to life If Dominican Were a Color, a vibrant celebration of the Dominican Republic that makes for a splashy debut.

Recio breaks down the diverse Caribbean island's palettes, starting with the sky: "If Dominican were a color.../ it would be the sunset in the sky,/ blazing red and burning bright." The narrator's family history is explained through a set of grandmothers: one has "mahogany skin" and the other shares the narrator's "yellow tint." Recio incorporates the Dominican Republic's complicated history with Haiti by including a color that is "the Haitian black on my Dominican back." Everything from the color of natural lips to the texture of hair is not just present on the page, but celebrated as beautiful. The rhymes have a quiet pace, like the soft tapping of drums. Spanish is woven into the text and elevates the big picture of what Dominican looks like, as in, "It'd be the maíz coming up amarillo with green." Though some native English speakers might reach for a translation, the illustrations paired with the text give enough context.

The sparse text makes the double-page spreads rendered in McCarthy's jewel-toned mixed-media illustrations feel larger than life. Blues and greens of the Caribbean Sea and trees, reds and browns of dancing and coffee invite readers to linger in each frame. The varying shades of white, brown and Black skin hues emphasize the title, breaking down the idea that there is a single way to "look" Dominican.  

The author's note gives personal insight to the racism and colorism Recio faced and offers a balm to children who may be experiencing the same. --Zoraida Córdova, author and freelance book reviewer

Discover: A radiant debut that deconstructs colorism and celebrates Afro-Dominicans and the diversity of the Dominican Republic.

Denene Millner/Simon & Schuster, $17.99, hardcover, 32p., ages 4-8, 9781534461796


Author Buzz

Every Time We Say Goodbye

by Natalie Jenner

Dear Reader,

EVERY TIME WE SAY GOODBYE was the hardest book I will ever write, and the most rewarding. I packed everything I could into this book: love and conflict, faith and religion, censorship and resistance, art and moviemaking, fashion and food, cameos by favorite actresses and characters from my earlier books, and above all Rome, my favorite city in the world. I hope that my novel gives you the entertainment and inspiration that nourished me throughout its writing.

Email with the subject line "Every Time Was Say Goodbye Sweeps" for a chance to win one of five copies.

Gratefully yours,
Natalie Jenner

Buy now and support your local indie bookstore>

AuthorBuzz: St. Martin's Press: Every Time We Say Goodbye by Natalie Jenner

St. Martin's Press

Pub Date: 
May 14, 2024


List Price: 
$29.00 Hardcover

Happily Ever Maybe
(A Montgomery Ink Legacy Novella)

by Carrie Ann Ryan

Dear Reader,

What happens in a bodyguard romance when both characters are a bodyguard?

All the heat and action!

I love writing workplace romances because things get tricky. And when a one night stand ends up burning up the pages, things get... explosive.

Gus and Jennifer are fiery, kick-butt characters that made me so happy to write.

I hope you love them!

Carrie Ann Ryan

Available on Kobo

AuthorBuzz: 1001 Dark Nights Press: Happily Ever Maybe (A Montgomery Ink Legacy Novella) by Carrie Ann Ryan

1001 Dark Nights Press

Pub Date: 
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