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Finding the Literary Limelight | The Reader’s Shelf

10 hours 7 min ago

Fame in this industry can happen in many ways. Debuts can act as lightning strikes, making authors instantly celebrated. Often the already notable become writers on the side, carrying their star power onto the page. And sometimes, well-known ­authors are applauded for successfully trying something new.  

J.D. Vance’s first book, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis (Harper. 2016. ISBN 9780062300546. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062300560), became the touchstone of the 2016 election. This look at his white, working-class life was a sensation, enabling venture capitalist Vance to add big-ticket media positions to his already impressive résumé. Born into what he calls Hillbilly Royalty, he offers an intimate look at a family full of chaos, drugs, and broken homes held together by his grandmother. Her stable base and steel spine allowed him to escape his circumstances and gave him the wherewithal to do so. Descriptive, direct, and compelling, Vance’s work ventures beyond his own story and calls into account the attitude, behavior, and choices of his community.

The Virgin Suicides (Picador. 2009. ISBN 9780312428815. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781429960441), Jeffrey Eugenides’s 1993 debut, originally made waves and launched his critically acclaimed career. The seductive and creepy novel follows the five Lisbon sisters—Bonnie, Mary, Therese, Lux, and Cecilia—who all kill themselves over the course of a year. A group of teenage boys are witnesses to the deaths. They act as a shared voice, recounting as adults and looking back on the events and their obsessions with the girls. Collected mementos, such as a photo, cosmetics, and a hairbrush, are used as markers in the story. Full of odd and mysterious details, the narrative is both claustrophobic, given the family dynamics, and expansive in its time sweep and vividness. Eugenides’s newest book, Fresh Complaint (Farrar), is coming out this month.

In Born To Run (S. & S. Sept. 2017. ISBN 9781501141522. pap. $19.99; ebk. ISBN 9781501141539), music legend Bruce Springsteen presents his life in a lyrical and raw tale that moves from childhood to present day. A series of short chapters flow one into the next; highlights include Spring­steen’s poetic explorations of his work, his early years opening for bands he has now outlasted, his foray into being a family man, and his long struggle with depression. Insightful and full of anecdotes, this auto­biography spools out in a compelling mix of hardscrabble and high celebrity, from his days in Freehold, NJ, to a night watching his wife sing at a dinner hosted by Frank Sinatra.

Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks turns his talents to the literary in Uncommon Type: Some Stories (Knopf. Oct. 2017. ISBN 9781101946152. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101946169). The inviting vignettes are about characters (various and deftly conjured), tone (from funny to melancholy to charming), and life (the relationships among friends, war buddies, and blood). The laugh-out-loud opener, “Three Exhausting Weeks,” could be turned into a sitcom—as pointed out by one of the characters—and follows the romantic collision of a high-octane woman and a loafer of a guy. Writing what he knows, Hanks offers a different story paralleling Christmas in a prosperous and peaceful time with the terror of the holiday during war. The closing tale circles back to the beginning, with repeat characters going bowling. Relaxed and informal, the collection unfolds with beguiling ease.

Marking a change in genres, Bill ­McKibben, known for his works on environmentalism, takes a shot at fiction with Radio Free Vermont: A Fable of Resistance (Blue Rider. Nov. 2017. ISBN 9780735219861. $22; ebk. ISBN 9780735219878). It is a hilarious and progressive caper about a small band of Vermonters who launch a movement to secede from the United States. Their quest launches with a poorly thought through piece of resistance: flooding a new ­Wal-Mart with excrement. After the FBI labels them as terrorists, the group shifts gears, issuing podcasts to promote a statewide town meeting day where neighbors can listen to one another, think about issues together, and make wise decisions. The quick and sharply observant novel takes on climate change, self-serving politicians, and political power itself.

Nonfiction author and National Book Award winner James McBride turns to short stories in Five-Carat Soul (Riverhead. Sept. 2017. ISBN 9780735216693. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780735216716), which is divided into several distinct sections. He begins with an antique toys dealer who improbably discovers that a poor minister is in possession of the rarest and most expensive toy on Earth. In a portion devoted to the members of the Five-Carat Soul Bottom Bone Band, one tale tells of a media-­hungry preacher and a shop owner who shoots a robber, while another explores the consequences of stealing from the father of one of the boys. The rest of the pieces are as fascinating, immediate, and thrumming, showcasing McBride’s masterly skill for rhythmic and vibrant prose, vivid characterization, and deep ­storytelling.

Neal Wyatt compiles LJ’s online feature Wyatt’s World and is the author of The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Nonfiction (ALA Editions, 2007). She is a collection development and readers’ advisory librarian from Virginia. Those interested in contributing to The Reader’s Shelf should contact her directly at


Christmas Can Be Murder: 27 Tales of Yule

Thu, 10/12/2017 - 22:01

This year there’s plenty of homicide for the holidays, along with a pack of dog stories and all kinds of delicious holiday treats. And have you ever wondered how Charles Dickens came to write A Christmas Carol, or why the toymaker Drosselmeier created the Nutcracker? Read on. [For more holiday fiction, see Kristin ­Ramsdell’s Romance column, LJ 10/15/17, p. 64.]

Andrews, Donna. How the Finch Stole Christmas! A Meg Langslow Mystery. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Oct. 2017. 288p. ISBN 9781250115454. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250115461. M

Visiting Caerphilly, VA, especially at Christmastime, doesn’t get old in this 22nd series entry (after Gone Gull). Meg’s husband is directing a full-scale production of A Christmas Carol and has his hands full with a famous aging actor playing Scrooge. Meg and most of the town have been enlisted to keep the actor sober enough to get through the play, but one night, when tailing him, Meg stumbles upon a barn full of exotic animals and designer dogs. Then a raid on the property leads to an even more disturbing discovery—a human corpse. VERDICT With her trademark wit and resourcefulness, Meg continues to thwart crime in an entertaining fashion. [See Prepub Alert, 4/17/17.]

Berenson, Laurien. Wagging Through the Snow: A Melanie Travis Canine Mystery. Kensington. Oct. 2017. 224p. ISBN 9781496712981. $19.95; ebk. ISBN 9781496713001. M

Melanie Travis, a special-needs tutor and mom to two boys and six dogs, is back in her 21st adventure (after Murder at the Puppy Fest). When her brother Frank impulsively buys a Christmas tree farm in Connecticut, Melanie and her family are coaxed into checking it out. The purchase of the dilapidated farm looks even more ill-advised when Melanie encounters a dead body in the woods after following the sounds of a whimpering dog. What first appears to be a drunken fatal accident soon starts to look suspicious, and Melanie is compelled to uncover the truth. VERDICT Dog-loving mystery fans will welcome another Christmas caper featuring Melanie, Aunt Peg, and their poodles.

Bowen, Rhys. The Ghost of Christmas Past: A Molly Murphy Mystery. Minotaur: St. ­Martin’s. Nov. 2017. 272p. ISBN 9781250125729. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250125736. M

On the heels of her harrowing adventures in San Francisco (Time of Fog and Fire), this latest entry in a long-running series finds private detective Molly Murphy back home in New York but suffering from depression after a miscarriage. An invitation to spend Christmas in a mansion along the Hudson River promises a welcome distraction for Molly and husband Daniel. However, their hosts seem rather tense and at odds with each other. Molly soon learns why: the couple’s daughter disappeared shortly before Christmas several years ago and was never found. When a teenage girl claiming to be the missing daughter turns up on the doorstep, they all wonder if it’s a Christmas miracle or a hoax. VERDICT For series and historical mystery fans, it’s a treat to return to historic New York during the holidays as the indomitable Molly investigates an unusual disappearance. [See Prepub Alert, 5/7/17.]

Brightwell, Emily. Mrs. Jeffries and the Three Wise Women: A Victorian Mystery. Berkley. Oct. 2017. 288p. ISBN 9780399584220. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780399584237. M

The 36th book (after Mrs. Jeffries Rights a Wrong) in this popular historical series finds Inspector Witherspoon of Scotland Yard and his household led by housekeeper Mrs. Jeffries anticipating their holiday plans until a botched murder investigation is assigned to Witherspoon. Given that the killing happened six weeks ago, all are feeling rather pessimistic about achieving justice for Christopher Gilhaney in time to enjoy the holidays. The staff soon rallies and begins hunting for clues to aid their employer. The inimitable Mrs. Jeffries needs a nudge from her three wise women, Luty Belle, Ruth, and Mrs. Goodge, to pursue the case wholeheartedly, but once she’s on board, there’s no chance of the killer getting away. VERDICT An entertaining and well-crafted Victorian mystery that will attract readers of Anne Perry and Victoria Thompson.

Byron, Ellen. A Cajun Christmas Killing: A Cajun Country Mystery. Crooked Lane. Oct. 2017. 304p. ISBN 9781683313052. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781683313069. M

After the events in Body on the Bayou, Maggie Crozat is back home in Pelican, LA, helping her family run the ­Crozat Plantation B&B. They’re busy fielding guests and preparing for Christmas Eve on the Mississippi levee, where houses along the river will celebrate the holiday with bonfires. The season is feeling less than joyful, though, when an investor threatens the family business and then ends up murdered. With Maggie and her family under suspicion, she plays sleuth along with boyfriend Det. Bo Durand. VERDICT Amid the slew of Christmas cozies, Byron spices up the genre with her colorful Cajun Louisiana setting and entertaining protagonist; the Cajun recipes are an added treat.

Colgan, Jenny. Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery. Morrow. Oct. 2017. 320p. ISBN 9780062662996. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062663009. F

Colgan’s third “Little Beach” novel (after Little Beach Street Bakery and Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery), set on the tiny tidal island of Mount Polbearne off the coast of Cornwall, England, has Polly busily making Christmas pastries at her bakery when she’s not snuggling up with her boyfriend Huckle and pet puffin Neil in their drafty lighthouse home. Polly and Huckle are looking forward to a quiet holiday to themselves, but their plans change as Polly must help her friend Kerensa through a crisis and then is faced with a family problem of her own. A Christmas surprise, though, makes for a sweet ending. VERDICT Women’s fiction devotees will savor this latest and utterly charming visit to Mount Polbearne with some holiday recipes included. Fans of Jill Mansell and Vanessa Greene will relish this series.

De la Cruz, Melissa. Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe. St. Martin’s. Oct. 2017. 240p. ISBN 9781250141392. $18.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250141408. F

In this modern loose twist on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, it’s almost Christmas, and wealthy hedge fund partner Darcy ­Fitzwilliam has rushed home to the family estate in Pemberley, OH, from New York City for the first time in years to visit her ailing mom. Now forced to attend her family’s annual holiday party, Darcy has to face her former classmates and manages to make out with Luke Bennet after a few too many eggnogs while also playing matchmaker to Jim Bennet and Bingley Charles. But will laidback carpenter Luke ever be good enough for smart and sophisticated Darcy, or should she marry Carl, the obvious choice for her? VERDICT Read this for the fun holiday romance, not for the barely there Pride and Prejudice references.

De Maupassant, Guy & others. A Very French Christmas: The Greatest French Holiday Stories of All Time. New Vessel. Oct. 2017. 142p. ISBN 9781939931504. $22.95; ebk. ISBN 9781939931559. F

After last year’s A Very Russian Christmas, New Vessel presents a new holiday compilation featuring 14 French stories from both classic and contemporary authors. Several selections date from the 19th century, including stories by François Coppée and ­Maupassant, interspersed with more modern tales from Jean-Philippe Blondel, Dominique Fabre, and Irène Némirovsky. The book starts off with Blondel’s slyly humorous story, “The Gift,” about an elderly man who has to put up with his family at Christmas but manages to sneak off with an old flame he spies across the restaurant. However, the remaining pieces don’t live up to the promise of the first. VERDICT Recommend this title only for the most die-hard Francophiles.

Duncan, Francis. Murder for Christmas: A Mordecai Tremaine Mystery. Sourcebooks Landmark. Oct. 2017. 352p. ISBN 9781492651703. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9781492651710. M

The release of this holiday tale marks the relaunching of British golden age mystery author Duncan’s 1950s “Mordecai T­remaine” series. ­Tremaine has been invited to spend Christmas at a country estate in the little English village of Sherbroome, but the holiday brings a rather ghastly surprise as the house guests awake to a dead Father Christmas under the tree. In his retirement, the former tobacconist with a penchant for romance novels has taken up the hobby of amateur investigator and become friendly with Scotland Yard, so, of course, he surreptitiously begins questioning the guests and looking for clues to the murderer. Sporting his pince-nez and making astute observations, Tremaine adeptly solves the mystery. ­VERDICT Fans of Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers will enjoy Tremaine’s exploits. Pair with Mavis Doriel Hay’s The Santa Klaus Murder for a double shot of golden age yuletide mystery.

Erickson, Alex. Death by Eggnog: A Bookstore Café Mystery. Kensington. Oct. 2017. 304p. ISBN 9781496708878. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781496708885. F

Krissy Hancock, owner of a bookstore café in Pine Hills, OH, is back in her fifth outing (after Death by Vanilla Latte). She’s disappointed that she won’t be heading to California to visit her father for the holidays since he’s made other plans, but her staycation won’t be dull. Talked into filling in as an elf in the local holiday musical, Krissy has to deal with a demanding director and a lecherous actor, as well as her former boyfriend and his new girlfriend. When the actor is murdered in the theater, there are several suspects, including her ex, who flees the scene but ends up at Krissy’s house begging for help. She gives in and starts some amateur investigating. VERDICT A Christmas cozy for fans of the series, but not a standout from the usual holiday crime fiction fare.

Frost, Jacqueline. Twelve Slays of Christmas: A Christmas Tree Farm Mystery. Crooked Lane. Oct. 2017. 320p. ISBN 9781683313175. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781683313182. M

After her fiancé leaves her for a yoga instructor shortly before their Christmas Eve wedding, a dejected Holly White returns home to Mistletoe, ME. She finds solace at her parents’ Christmas tree farm until Margaret Fenwick, president of the Mistletoe Historical Society, is murdered on the property right after a very public argument with Holly’s father. Despite the new sheriff’s warnings to leave the case to him, Holly asks questions around town to identify other suspects and exonerate her father. Still, she doesn’t mind getting to know Sheriff Gray better. VERDICT Writing as Frost, Julie Chase (Cat Got Your Secrets) kicks off a lively and festive cozy series, introducing an appealing protagonist and charming Maine setting. Fans of Vicki Delany’s “Year-Round Christmas Mystery” titles will enjoy.

Gaynor, Hazel & Heather Webb. Last Christmas in Paris: A Novel of World War I. Morrow. Oct. 2017. 400p. ISBN 9780062562685. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062562692. F

An elderly Thomas Harding’s Christmas visit to Paris in 1968 alternates with an epistolary novel that begins in September 1914 at the beginning of World War I with Thomas writing to inform his father that he’s joined the British Army along with his best friend Will Elliott. Will’s sister, Evie, begins corresponding with Will and Tom when they head to the battlefield in France. As hardships on the war front and back home play out through the letters, Evie is faced with difficult choices about pursuing her writing, helping with the war effort, and figuring out who she really loves. VERDICT Best-selling author Gaynor (A Memory of Violets) teams with historical novelist Webb (Rodin’s Lover) to pen a moving and heartfelt story of love and bravery that will attract admirers of World War I fiction and the collection Fall of Poppies: Stories of Love and the Great War. [See Prepub Alert, 4/10/17.]

Hennrikus, J.A. A Christmas Peril: A Theater Cop Mystery. Midnight Ink. Sept. 2017. 288p. ISBN 9780738754154. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9780738754789. M

Edwina “Sully” Sullivan, forced to retire from the police department, returned to her small hometown of Trevorton, MA, to care for her dying father. Having left behind her unfaithful husband with the job, Sully is at loose ends when her father dies, so she decides to stay on in Trevorton as the general manager of the local theater. They’re rehearsing for a performance of A Christmas Carol when powerful businessman Peter Whitehall is killed. Trying to exonerate the victim’s son, Sully must brush off her detecting skills. VERDICT Hennrikus, aka Julianne Holmes (Chime and Punishment), delivers a promising series launch; the intriguing premise of a cop–turned–theater manager is bound to attract cozy aficionados seeking something different from the usual run of pet and culinary mysteries. Tough and independent Sully will also appeal to fans of Sue Grafton’s Kinsey ­Millhone.

Hesse, Jennifer David. Yuletide Homicide: A Wiccan Wheel Mystery. Kensington. Oct. 2017. 320p. ISBN 9781496704962. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781496704979. M

In this third series outing (after Bell, Book & Candlemas), Edindale, IL, lawyer Keli ­Milanni openly celebrates the Wiccan holiday of Yuletide in the midst of trying to identify the murderer of businessman and mayoral candidate Edgar Harrison. The list of suspects grows as Keli discovers that ­Harrison, who harboured many secrets, had several enemies owing to a failed real-estate venture and his disdain for environmentalists. To complicate matters, Keli’s ex-boyfriend arrives in town just as things are going well with new beau Wes. VERDICT Hesse incorporates Keli’s Wiccan practices into her story line, with prayers to the Goddess and incantations that assist her sleuth in gaining insights to solve the mystery. A perfect read for New Age devotees and those who prefer the pagan version of Yuletide.

Hilderbrand, Elin. Winter Solstice. Little, Brown. Oct. 2017. 320p. ISBN 9780316435451. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780316435482. F

Winter Storms was supposed to conclude the Quinn family story, but Hilderbrand has happily written a fourth installment with the Pancik family from The Rumor making appearances, too. As the Quinns gather on Nantucket at the Winter Street Inn for what may be a final reunion there, Kelly is nearing the end of his battle with brain cancer and Mitzi is considering selling the inn. Bart has returned a war hero but is struggling with depression and PTSD. Still, a chance at love gives him hope. Ava is finding success and love in New York City, while Patrick and Jennifer rebuild their lives. VERDICT Devotees of Hilderbrand’s Nantucket-based family saga will find this final “Winter” novel a must-read holiday indulgence. [See Prepub Alert, 4/10/17.]

Honigford, Cheryl. Homicide for the Holidays: A Viv and Charlie Mystery. Sourcebooks Landmark. Oct. 2017. 432p. ISBN 9781492628644. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9781492628651. M

In 1938 Chicago, Viv is busily navigating her newfound fame as a radio star and getting ready for the winter holidays. While decorating the Christmas tree, she discovers a hidden key to a drawer in her father’s desk and is shocked to find an envelope full of cash along with a threatening note. Hoping to uncover some answers, Viv hires private detective Charlie and does some investigating of her own. It’s not long before Viv begins to regret nosing around as the evidence points to her father’s involvement with gangster Al Capone, making her wonder if her father really died of a heart attack. VERDICT With its cast of colorful characters, this captivating second entry in this historical series (after The Darkness Knows) will please aficionados of the period and readers who enjoy Jill Churchill’s Depression-era “Grace & Favor” mysteries.

Hornak, Francesca. Seven Days of Us. Berkley. Oct. 2017. 368p. ISBN 9780451488756. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780451488770. f

The Birch family has to spend seven days together in quarantine over the Christmas holiday at their country home in Norfolk, England, since doctor Olivia has returned from treating the Haag epidemic in Liberia. Olivia and sister Phoebe haven’t gotten along in years, and parents Andrew and Emma each harbor their own resentments and devastating secrets. Then one of those secrets arrives in person, stirring up more revelations and ensuring that the clan will never be the same after a very long seven days. VERDICT Hornak’s brilliant debut manages to be simultaneously clever, funny, and poignant, as the Birch family is forced to spend an isolated week in the country during the holidays. [See full review, LJ 9/15/17; an October LibraryReads favorite.]

Hughes, Anita. Christmas in London. Griffin: St. Martin’s. Oct. 2017. 288p. ISBN 9781250145796. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250145802. F

Louisa has been working long hours at a Manhattan bakery to save money to start her own restaurant. Her delicious cinnamon rolls land her the chance to star in a Christmas TV special at Claridge’s in London. She’ll get to tour the British capital and meet her baking idol Digby Bunting while traveling with the show’s handsome assistant Noah and producer Kate. It sounds like a dream come true, but Louisa is soon weighing her career versus a new relationship. Meanwhile, Kate runs into her college boyfriend, whom she never forgot, and wonders if she can risk falling in love again. VERDICT Having celebrated a French Noel in Christmas in Paris, Hughes now crosses the English Channel with this deliciously satisfying story of love that will have readers yearning for pastries and a holiday trip to England.

Lovesy, Peter & others. The Usual Santas: A Collection of Soho Crime Christmas Capers. Soho Crime. Oct. 2017. 416p. ISBN 9781616957759. $19.95; ebk. ISBN 9781616957766. M

With a foreword and story by Lovesy, this holiday-themed collection presents 18 pieces of short fiction from an impressive roster of international mystery writers. The voices veer from darkly humorous ­(Helene Tursten and Mick Herron) to touching (Timothy Hallinan and Mette Ivie ­Harrison) to disturbing (Stuart Neville and Ed Lin),with tales set around the globe. Standouts include Herron’s title story, featuring multiple shopping center Santas in London who enjoy an unusual Christmas Eve, and Cara Black’s “Cabaret aux Assassins,” a tale of Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler in Paris. VERDICT This is a thoroughly entertaining seasonal noir collection with something for everyone. [See Prepub Alert, 4/17/17.]

Maguire, Gregory. Hiddensee: A Tale of the Once and Future Nutcracker. Morrow. Oct. 2017. 304p. ISBN 9780062684387. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062684400. F

The author of Wicked and After Alice has written an origin fairy tale for toymaker Drosselmeier and the famous Nutcracker he creates, the protagonists of an E.T.A. Hoffman story that was later transformed into Tchaikovsky’s famous ballet. The novel begins with Drosselmeier’s beginnings as a young foundling, living in the forest with an old couple. A fateful trip to fell a tree sets the boy on a winding path with a magical knife. He finds shelter and work along the way and eventually begins a long friendship and possibly something more with Felix Stahlbaum, grandfather of Fritz and Marie-Claire, commonly known as Klara, and the recipient of the magical Nutcracker. VERDICT Maguire combines the Greek myth of Pan and Pythia with the dark undertones of a Brothers Grimm fairy tale, resulting in a strangely fascinating reimagining of how the Nutcracker came to be. Lovers of classical retellings and the author’s other books will admire. [See Prepub Alert, 4/10/17.]

Mugavero, Liz. Purring Around the Christmas Tree: A Pawsitively Organic Mystery. Kensington. Sept. 2017. 312p. ISBN 9781496700216. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781496700223. M

In the small town of Frog Ledge, CT, Kristan “Stan” Connor is preparing for the grand opening of her pet patisserie, where she’ll serve up organic real food pet treats. The soft opening is timed to coincide with the town’s Christmas tree lighting, but the evening quickly goes awry when the sleigh arrives, bearing a dead Santa. In the meantime, local residents Seamus and Ray haven’t returned from their poker game in Boston. When Stan and local reporter Cyril start to wonder if Seamus might have been mixed up in an international crime, the mystery deepens. VERDICT For fans of pet-themed mysteries, Mugavero pens a purrfect New England Christmas cozy (after Murder Most Finicky), which also includes gourmet pet treat recipes.

Naigle, Nancy. Hope at Christmas. Griffin: St. Martin’s. Oct. 2017. 352p. ISBN 9781250108678. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250108685. F

Sydney Ragsdale needs space from her soon-to-be ex-husband, so she moves with ten-year-old daughter RayAnne to Hopewell, NC, where she has inherited an old farmhouse from her grandparents and hopes to find some peace as Christmas approaches. Sydney soon rediscovers one of her favorite places, the Book Bea, and is thrilled to help the elderly bookstore owner over the holidays. Mother and daughter receive a warm welcome from the small town, especially from the kind, good-looking Mac, who secretly plays the town Santa each year. Not all is perfect, though, as Sydney grapples with the divorce, a dangerous accident, and a sudden loss. VERDICT Naigle’s (Christmas Joy) wonderfully heart-warming holiday story will appeal to romance and women’s fiction readers.

Noblin, Annie England. Pupcakes: A Christmas Novel. Morrow. Nov. 2017. 384p. ISBN 9780062563781. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062563804. F

Brydie Benson is trying to start fresh in Memphis, TN, after leaving her cheating husband. But walking away from her marriage also meant giving up her house and bakery. Needing a cheap place to live, she agrees to house-sit an elderly pug named Teddy when his owner moves to a nursing home. She quickly warms to Teddy, and a business idea is born when she discovers the dog is a fussy eater and starts to bake snacks for him. Teddy also turns out to be a great way for Brydie to meet the neighbors, especially ­Nathan, the cute owner of a mischievous Irish wolfhound. By Christmastime, Brydie has found a new community of friends and love in unexpected places, with a little help from a finicky pug. VERDICT Fans of Noblin’s canine-themed tales (Sit! Stay! Speak!; Just Fine with Caroline) will beg for more.

Perry, Anne. A Christmas Return. Ballantine. Nov. 2017. 192p. ISBN 9780425285077. $20; ebk. ISBN 9780425285084. M

In Perry’s latest seasonal novel (after A Christmas Message), Charlotte Pitt’s grandmother Mariah Ellison returns for more sleuthing in the wake of her investigation in A Christmas Guest. It’s nearing the Yuletide season when Mariah receives a letter from Peter Wesley requesting her presence in Haslemere, where his grandfather Cullen died 20 years earlier. The death was ruled accidental, but there were always suspicions of foul play, especially since Cullen, a lawyer, had refused to continue to defend Dr. Durward shortly before he went to trial for killing a 14-year-old youth. Now ­Durward, who was acquitted and moved out of the area, has returned to clear his name, but he greatly underestimates Mariah’s determination and persistence. While she wasn’t able to fight back against her abusive husband, she’s not going to let this man get away with murder. VERDICT Perry’s many fans will enjoy another winning Victorian-era mystery set during the holidays. [See Prepub Alert, 5/7/17.]

Silva, Samantha. Mr. Dickens and His Carol: A Novel of Christmas Past. Flatiron: Macmillan. Nov. 2017. 288p. ISBN 9781250154040. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250154033. F

DEBUT Silva’s first novel offers a take on how Charles Dickens came to write his famous holiday story, A Christmas Carol. Dickens has just excitedly finished his latest installment of Martin Chuzzlewit and welcomed his sixth child when his publishers inform him that Chuzzlewit isn’t selling and he needs to write a Christmas story or lose money from his advance. Dickens is adamantly opposed, but with family depending on him, he accepts the challenge. Beset by demands from everyone he encounters, he struggles to write the story. Finally, he’s captivated by an unexpected muse and his holiday spirit comes back, inspiring the much-loved and enduring classic. VERDICT Silva has imagined an intriguing and atmospheric backstory to the quintessential holiday tale and its most revered author.

Smith, Karen Rose. Slay Bells Ring: A Caprice de Luca Home Staging Mystery. Kensington. Nov. 2017. 352p. ISBN 9781496709776. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781496709783. F

In Smith’s seventh series outing (after Shades of Wrath), the holiday season is approaching and Caprice has just finished staging a historic home in Kismit, PA. One of the homeowners, Chris Merriweather, a Vietnam vet, toymaker, and town Santa, hasn’t been himself since a recent trip to Washington, DC, and then is shockingly found murdered on Santa Lane. The weapon: a wooden candy cane stake. As Chris’s secrets come to light, and Caprice probes for answers, someone steals her sleigh bells with the threat: “Stop asking questions or your sleigh bells will never ring again.” VERDICT This Christmas cozy with Catholic undertones ­occasionally becomes more preoccupied with the protagonist’s chastity than the mystery, ­making it an optional read.

Willis, Connie. A Lot Like Christmas: Stories. Del Rey: Ballantine. Oct. 2017. 544p. ISBN 9780399182341. pap. $17; ebk. ISBN 9780399182358. SF

Willis (Crosstalk) gifts readers with an expanded, updated edition of her previously published Miracle and Other Christmas Stories, which includes five new pieces and lists of suggested Christmas viewing and reading. Whether the story features the Spirit of Christmas Present (the gift kind, and the here-and-now kind), artificial intelligence that seems like a real girl, or aliens from another planet, these tales all manage to restore at least some of their characters’ festive spirit or serve up justice. VERDICT There are a few blasts from the past in the previously published selections as characters use “the Net” and make “Xerox” copies, but overall this collection of wryly funny, off-kilter stories offers an excellent alternative to the usual sentimental holiday fare while still reflecting Willis’s love of Christmas.

Melissa DeWild is Assistant Director, Spring Lake District Library, MI


Everyday and Holiday Projects | Crafts/DIY Reviews

Thu, 10/12/2017 - 21:48

Art Instruction

HEATHER HALLIDAY, American Jewish Historical Soc., New York

Ames, Lee J. with Erin Harvey. Draw 50 Outer Space: The Step-By-Step Way To Draw Astronauts, Rockets, Space Stations, Planets, Meteors, Comets, Asteroids, and More. Watson-Guptill: Crown. (Draw 50). Jul. 2017. 64p. illus. ISBN 9780399580192. pap. $9.99; ebk. ISBN 9780399580208. ART INSTRUCTION

This 100 percent visual drawing guide presents 50 different sequential drawing exercises of outer space-related subjects: galaxies, planets, moons, various spacecraft and satellites, astronauts in a number of activities, comets, meteor, and more. Each exercise starts with a rough sketch in blue lines, with more blue-lined detail building in a few successive steps, leading to a final drawing shaded in black pencil. Readers can copy each step to arrive at their own version of each illustration, embellishing it with ink or color if they choose, and are encouraged to approach the exercises according to their interests rather than from front to back of the book. VERDICT Although this guide is ideal for children and young adults, artistically inclined readers of any age who are intrigued by space exploration will be entertained.

Fordham, Demetrius. If You’re Bored with Your Camera Read This Book. Ilex: Octopus. Sept. 2017. 128p. illus. index. ISBN 9781781574317. pap. $14.99. ART INSTRUCTION

All creative people get in ruts from time to time. This book aims to help readers find detours around the creative roadblocks that photographers face. Fordham, an accomplished professional photographer, shares 50 of his own personal tricks, tips, hacks, and exercises designed to refresh one’s outlook. Sections of this resource include: things to do without a camera that can inspire future projects; breaking some of the most common “rules” of photography to create exciting photos; short project ideas that open up new possibilities; and a section on basics, such as shooting on film, using a pinhole camera, or printing in a darkroom, which many photographers haven’t tried in years, if ever. VERDICT This guide is an excellent companion for hobbyist, amateur, or professional photographers looking to perk up their artistic practice.

Fiber Crafts


Karlsson, Maja. Traditional Swedish Knitting Patterns: 40 Motifs and 20 Projects. Trafalgar Square. Aug. 2017. 160p. tr. from Swedish by Carol Huebscher Rhoades. illus. photos by Maria Rosenlöf. index. ISBN 9781570768217. $24.95. FIBER CRAFTS

The knitting traditions of Scandinavia are often associated with stranded colorwork, and this collection of Swedish knitting designs features traditional motifs on a variety of contemporary garments and accessories. While knitters will find some of the typical yoked sweaters familiar, Karlsson also includes several cardigans (and only one includes steeking) as well as pullovers with all-over patterning. For knitters who aren’t ready to commit to a stranded colorwork sweater, there are plenty of small accessories to knit, including cowls, mittens, socks, and slippers. The yarn weights used vary from light fingering to bulky, so there’s a little something for every knitter. Written instructions with charts for the colorwork are provided for each design. ­VERDICT Knitters seeking contemporary takes on traditional Swedish colorwork will enjoy Karlsson’s beautifully styled projects.

Marth, Susan R. Dresden Quilt Workshop: Tips, Tools & Techniques for Perfect Mini Dresden Plates. C&T. Aug. 2017. 88p. illus. ISBN 9781617455001. pap. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9781617455018. FIBER CRAFTS

Miniature versions of the popular Dresden plate quilt block in both four-and-a-half and seven-inch sizes are the focus of quilt designer Marth’s first collection. Scaled-down piecing calls for precision, and Marth includes plenty of tips for improving accuracy in cutting, pressing, and piecing. The 13 projects present Dresden plates in a variety of settings, using them both on their own and as part of larger blocks (such as the center of a churn dash) or layouts (a focal point for an Irish chain), and as full circles as well as half- and quarter-circles. The majority of the projects are miniquilts or wall hangings; there’s also a lap-size quilt and a table runner. ­VERDICT Dresden plates are frequently seen in both modern and traditional quilting, and Marth’s petite plates will inspire and challenge confident quilters.

Mornu, Nathalie. Embroider Your Life: Simple Techniques & 150 Stylish Motifs To Embellish Your World. Alpha: DK. Sept. 2017. 128p. illus. ISBN 9781465464859. pap. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9781465471130. FIBER CRAFTS

Mornu (Quilt It with Wool) jumps on the hand embroidery bandwagon with this collection of embroidery ideas and ready-to-use motifs. The introductory chapter covers the basics—transferring designs, choosing fibers, standard stitches, and finishing techniques—followed by thematic collections of motifs. Each of the motif pages includes a small selection of traceable motifs, as well as a variety of ideas for use, including the usual (embellishing ready-made clothes, hoop art) and the less common (stitching on paper, embroidered buttons and jewelry). Mornu cleverly balances them between contemporary hipster and traditional style, and the suggested projects may help stitchers devise unique ideas for using embroidery as an embellishment. VERDICT Embroidery is on the upswing among crafters, and Mornu’s nicely organized collection is full of helpful tutorials and clever ideas.

Susa, Sachiko. Sweet & Simple Needle Felted Animals: A Step-by-Step Visual Guide. Tuttle. Sept. 2017. 96p. tr. from Japanese by Leeyong Soo. illus. ISBN 9784805314548. pap. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9781462919550. FIBER CRAFTS

Needle felting—a process in which wool roving is punched with a sharp needle and sculpted into shapes—is used to create a menagerie of adorable animals in this collection by expert felter Susa (It’s a Small World Felted Friends). Susa begins with two step-by-step lessons (a miniature dachshund and matryoshka bears), walking crafters carefully through the process of sculpting the individual components, then combining and refining the finished piece. For each pattern, Susa provides handy size measurements for the individual elements, which lets crafters know they are on the right track. The designs are best described as realistic/cute, with details that will appeal to children and adults alike. VERDICT Susa’s approach to needle felting will give beginners the know-how to get started, but experienced felters will also appreciate her whimsical designs.

Wolfe, Victoria Findlay. Modern Quilt Magic: 5 Parlor Tricks To Expand Your Piecing Skills. Stash: C&T. Aug. 2017. 128p. illus. ISBN 9781617455087. pap. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9781617455094. FIBER CRAFTS

Wolfe (15 Minutes of Play) introduces quilters to five “parlor tricks” intended to expand their repertoire as well as build confidence with difficult techniques such as partial seams and Y-seams. Each “trick” begins with an overview of the technique, as well as examples from the author’s collection and a small practice project such as a pillow cover or a miniquilt. A series of larger quilts exploring the technique follows. Most of the quilts include cutting instructions for a variety of sizes ranging from crib to king, and all include thorough instructions for piecing. ­VERDICT Wolfe is known for her remarkably intricate piecing, and this book helps intermediate and advanced quilters achieve a similar effect. Those who follow her advice will find themselves taking exciting risks with both color and piecing.

Interior Design

GAYLE A. WILLIAMSON, formerly with the Fashion Inst. of Design & Merchandising, Los Angeles

Leggett, Kim. City Farmhouse Style: Designs for a Modern Country Life. Abrams. Sept. 2017. 224p. photos. ISBN 9781419726507. $35; ebk. ISBN 9781683351054. INTERIOR DESIGN

Growing up in a home that eschewed popular styles for well-worn furniture and whitewashed walls, interior designer Leggett developed an affection for this country look. Here, she visits a baker’s dozen of houses, including those of singer Sheryl Crow and country music band Little Big Town’s Phillip Sweet. The styles range from cozy traditional to sleek modern, all with “shabby chic” touches. Leggett identifies the decorative accessories, furniture, and finishings that define the farmhouse style with choices for color, textiles, and wallpaper highlighted and shown in 200 color photographs. She concludes with a list of flea markets and vintage stores as well as online resources. VERDICT With Leggett’s guidance, these visits into farmhouse decorated homes provide the do-it-yourselfer with ideas for decorating their own abodes.

Holiday Crafts


Ishii, Sachiyo. Mini Felt Christmas: 20 Decorations To Sew for the Festive Season. Search. Sept. 2017. 128p. illus. ISBN 9781782214977. pap. $17.95. FIBER CRAFTS

Ishii (Mini Knitted Toys) demonstrates the basics of soft-sculpture with wool felt in this Christmas-themed collection. Projects include figurines (Santa Claus, a nativity set, elves, reindeer, angels, and snowmen) and ornaments and decorations (Christmas cookies, a Yule log, and a wreath). Ishii begins with a step-by-step overview of the techniques used in the projects via two small designs—a doll and a donkey—which allows her to simplify the instructions for most of the other projects. Larger designs are divided into easy-to-manage pieces, such as the elaborate gingerbread house, which is comprised of numerous components, including a tiny Hansel and Gretel. Full-size templates for each of the designs are provided. VERDICT Ishii’s clever, whimsical pieces are a delightful addition to crafters’ holiday decor.

Pester, Sophie & Catharina Bruns. Homemade Holiday: Craft Your Way Through More Than 40 Festive Projects. DK. Sept. 2017. 144p. tr. from German. illus. ISBN 9781465463265. pap. $14.95. CRAFTS

German crafting entrepreneurs Pester and Bruns, who previously collaborated on Supercraft, return with a collection of holiday-themed craft projects that use a variety of techniques, including knitting, crochet, paper craft, sewing, and cooking. The projects are organized by type (decoration, giving, wrapping, and last-minute ideas) and range from explicitly Christmas-themed items (advent calendars, evergreen garlands) to crafts appropriate for yearround gift-giving (knitted slippers, bath salts, greeting cards). Most are beginner friendly and use simple supplies, with instructions that are easy to follow. A guide to basic techniques for knitting, crochet, sewing, and embroidery, as well as reproducible templates, are included. VERDICT ­Crafters looking for an abundance of holiday-themed projects suitable for decorating and gift-giving will find an array of ideas here.

Shore, Debbie. Sew Advent Calendars: Count Down to Christmas with 20 Stylish Designs To Fill with Festive Treats. Search. Aug. 2017. 96p. illus. index. ISBN 9781782214885. pap. $19.95. FIBER CRAFTS

In her latest book, Shore (Half Yard Home) turns her attention to advent calendars in styles ranging from whimsical and kid-friendly to country-craft cute. Most of the calendars serve as a 24-day Christmas countdown, and there are options with pockets or pouches that can accommodate a small daily treat as well as those in which the countdown itself is the focus. The items are machine sewn with occasional hand-sewn embellishments such as embroidery or buttons. Shore’s instructions are clear enough for beginners to complete the projects successfully. As a bonus there’s even a dachshund-shaped advent calendar for dogs, featuring a daily biscuit as a treat. VERDICT Sewists interested in creating their own custom advent calendar will savor this collection.

Presidential Picks: Inside the Lives and Careers of America’s Leaders

Thu, 10/12/2017 - 21:17

Baime, A.J. The Accidental President: Harry S. Truman and the Four Months That Changed the World. Houghton Harcourt. Oct. 2017. 448p. notes. index. ISBN 9780544617346. $30; ebk. ISBN 9780544618480. BIOG

Baime (Arsenal of Democracy) examines the harrowing first few months of Harry Truman’s (1884–1972) unexpected first term in office after the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1945. In highlighting their stark differences, Baime describes Roosevelt as representing the people while Truman was the people. The author begins with Truman’s background as a farmer and former haberdasher from Missouri, then demonstrates how the president was viewed as ordinary and unqualified for the position. In four months, Truman would chair the Potsdam Conference; help create the United Nations; sign the London Agreement, setting the stage for the Nuremberg Trials; and lead Germany and Japan to surrender at the end of World War II. By relying mostly on primary sources, Baime allows for a better perspective of Truman, in which his political decisions are equally as significant as the correspondence with his beloved wife, daughter, and mother. He also adeptly manages to include nuanced U.S.-Russia relations and East Asian diplomacy. VERDICT Those seeking an all-encompassing biography of Truman before he took office and after World War II should seek out David McCullough’s Truman. However, Baime’s spotlight on an influential segment of the 21st century and the man who saw the country through it will be appreciated by most readers. [See Prepub Alert, 4/17/17.]—Keith Klang, Port Washington P.L., NY

Cooper, William J. The Lost Founding Father: John Quincy Adams and the Transformation of American Politics. Liveright: Norton. Oct. 2017. 544p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9780871404350. $35; ebk. ISBN 9781631493898. BIOG

Award-winning author Cooper (history, Louisiana State Univ.; Jefferson Davis, American) illuminates the character of John Quincy Adams (1767–1848) as different from his political peers, shedding light on his influence on early American politics. The son of former president John Adams, John Quincy spent his formative years in Europe studying the Enlightenment while men such as Andrew Jackson, who defeated incumbent John Quincy in the presidential election of 1828, grew up along the American frontier. Chapters follow Adams’s upbringing, his hesitancies about entering politics, and the personal circumstances that affected him throughout his journey. Readers receive a candid view into his marriage to wife Louisa and his constant anxiety about his ability to perform in each of the roles that called to him. VERDICT With several recent comprehensive biographies of Adams already available, Cooper’s monograph is not exceptionally ground­breaking. However, it will be of importance to readers interested in the rise of American political parties, the national expansion and political reforms of the early 19th century, and the emerging sectional discord between North and South.—Rachel Koenig, Virginia Commonwealth Univ. Libs.

Dallek, Robert. Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Political Life. Viking. Nov. 2017. 704p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780525427902. $40; ebk. ISBN 9780698181724. BIOG

Presidential historian Dallek follows up his well-received An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917–1963 with his third and most comprehensive work on Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882–1945) to date. After briefly covering Roosevelt’s college years and early political career, the book chronologically recounts the politician’s greatest challenges, including trying presidential elections and the years leading up to and during World War II. Dallek’s familiarity with his subject and deep understanding of American history and context shines in his clear and engaging prose. The author keeps his focus almost entirely on Roosevelt’s political life. For example, a chapter on the leader’s struggles with polio is also cast in a political light. There is less information on his life with wife Eleanor and his extended family. Although lengthy, the narrative manages to move quickly through a dense subject; readers will gain a solid sense of Roosevelt’s political mind and an inspiring appreciation of his mighty character. VERDICT This highly recommended, expertly crafted book will please a variety of readers, especially those interested in biographies as well as presidential, military, and American history.—Benjamin Brudner, Curry Coll. Lib., Milton, MA

Engel, Jeffrey A. When the World Seemed New: George H.W. Bush and the End of the Cold War. Houghton Harcourt. Nov. 2017. 608p. notes. index. ISBN 9780547423067. $35; ebk. ISBN 9780544931848. BIOG

Throughout his career—businessman, congressman, UN ambassador, CIA director, vice president under Ronald Reagan—George H.W. Bush (b. 1924) earned a reputation for being “reliable rather than revolutionary” and loyal to a fault, says Engel (director, Ctr. for Presidential History, Southern Methodist Univ.; Into the Desert). Engel maintains that Bush’s impressive resume combined with a sturdy temperament made him uniquely qualified to manage the “most internationally complex” presidency since World War II. In his single term, the world watched the fall of the Berlin Wall; the dissolution of the Soviet Union; revolutions in China, Yugoslavia, and Romania; and American forces enter Panama, Somalia, and Kuwait. The author contends that Bush’s style of “Hippocratic diplomacy,” or striving to do no harm, led the way toward a new world order. Though settled within Bush’s administration, the broader narrative is more focused on the geopolitical maneuvering of the era. It will intrigue fans of political history who are also interested in international relations. VERDICT General readers may struggle to get through the exhaustive political play-by-play, but Engel does justice to his subject and his monumental, if underrated, feats.—Chad Comello, Morton Grove P.L., IL

Feldman, Noah. The Three Lives of James Madison: Genius, Partisan, President. Random. Oct. 2017. 800p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780812992755. $35; ebk. ISBN 9780679643845. BIOG

James Madison (1751–1836) was instrumental in framing the constitutional government that serves the American people today, with his efforts at the Philadelphia Convention of 1787. Madison ended the “Genius” phase of his political life, as Feldman (law, Harvard Univ.; Cool War) labels it, by successfully persuading his fellow Virginians to ratify the new form of government at a critical point in the process. The politician was prepared to retire until he saw his concept of republican government threatened; he entered the second phase of his political life as a partisan, representing a Virginia district in the First Congress. Here, he became increasingly adept at practicing politics while becoming political enemies with Alexander Hamilton, a former partner in ratifying the U.S. Constitution. Madison viewed Hamilton’s political ideas as threats to true republican government. It led him, along with Thomas Jefferson, to form the first political party (Democratic-Republican). In his third political life, as Jefferson’s secretary of state and later as president, Madison tried to remain faithful to his ideals. ­VERDICT Based on primary and secondary sources, this is an insightful examination on how theories and ideals are applied and changed by real-life circumstances. [See Prepub Alert, 4/17/17.]—Glen Edward Taul, formerly with Campbellsville Univ., KY

Giorgione, Michael. Inside Camp David: The Private World of the Presidential Retreat. Little, Brown. Oct. 2017. 320p. ISBN 9780316509619. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780316509602. HIST

Rear Admiral Giorgione (U.S. Navy Civil Engineer Corps), a commanding officer of the presidential retreat Camp David from 1999 to 2001, fills a gap by writing a book that “peer[s] over the gate” at the secure, remote, and nearly invisible estate in the wooded hills of Maryland. Girogione shows that presidents are different at Camp David: “more reflective, playful, and energized,” saying they can “reveal their humanity.” In telling the stories of the activities of presidential families, the work and lives of the military crew that serve them come into sharp focus as well. The author interviewed all living commanders who have served there, offering their firsthand accounts along with his own to give a complete yet personal history. Of note are the profiles of presidents away from the glare of Washington: Harry Truman’s dislike of Camp David, John F. Kennedy’s restful visits, Betty Ford calling it the “best thing about the White House,” Jimmy Carter’s use of the site during the difficult negotiations for Egypt-Israel Peace, and George W. Bush’s thoughtful and spiritual reactions. VERDICT This intelligent and recommended account is sure to appeal to readers of presidential biographies and American history buffs in general.—Paul A. D’Alessandro, Brunswick, ME

Merry, Robert W. President McKinley: Architect of the American Century. S. & S. Nov. 2017. 624p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781451625448. $35; ebk. ISBN 9781451625462. BIOG

One of eight children reared in an anti-slavery Ohio household, William McKinley (1843–1901) enlisted in the army at 18 at the onset of the Civil War, joining the same Union regiment as future president and mentor Rutherford B. Hayes. He ended the war as a major and embarked on a postwar law career, fostering a cautious approach to politicking, which eventually propelled him to the presidency in 1896. Though most comfortable dealing with tariff issues, McKinley faced a cascade of international crises—the Spanish-American War, the annexation of Hawaii, and the contested acquisition of the Philippines—that expanded America’s new role as a nascent imperial superpower. But soon after his second inaugural, McKinley was killed by a Polish anarchist at the 1901 Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, NY. Merry (Where They Stand) seeks to boost the reputation of the 25th president, who, despite being widely popular while in office, was deterred by a “rhetorical blandness” and is often overshadowed in history by his successor, Theodore Roosevelt. VERDICT Though sometimes lost in the 19th-century political weeds, this is a deserving reappraisal of a middling leader that will intrigue presidential history fans. [See Prepub Alert, 3/27/17.]—Chad Comello, Morton Grove P.L., IL

Whyte, Kenneth. Hoover: An Extraordinary Life in Extraordinary Times. Knopf. Oct. 2017. 752p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780307597960. $35; ebk. ISBN 9781524732462. BIOG

Whyte (The Uncrowned King) emphasizes the challenges presented by the contradictory personality of Herbert Hoover (1874–1964) in this comprehensive and accessible study. The author provides details about Hoover’s experiences as an orphan who became a self-made millionaire, commerce secretary, director of the U.S. Food Administration, spokesman for progressive efficiency before his White House years and for the new anti-Communist, noninterventionist, conservatism thereafter. Similar to Glen Jeansonne’s Herbert Hoover, Whyte’s work contextualizes Hoover as a man of his times, underscoring that he left the White House scandal-free and with a better understanding than his successor Franklin D. Roosevelt that the Great Depression required concerted international, rather than primarily domestic solutions. Whyte explains how supporters of the New Deal took credit for programs that Hoover, albeit tentatively, began for bank and agricultural relief, industrial refinancing, and federal aid to local governments. Sources from nationwide newspapers and the written observations of Hoover’s colleagues supplement the politician’s largely nonintrospective, although voluminous writings, which were motivated by his lone political defeat. VERDICT In seeking to understand rather than judge Hoover throughout the entire trajectory of his life, Whyte succeeds in creating a positive overview of the leader’s long prepresidential service. [See Prepub Alert, 4/17/17.]—Frederick J. Augustyn Jr., Lib. of Congress, Washington, DC

Wood, Gordon S. Friends Divided: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Penguin Pr. Oct. 2017. 512p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9780735224711. $35; ebk. ISBN 9780735224728. HIST

Both John Adams (1735–1826) and Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826) died on the golden jubilee of America’s founding, within hours of each other. This well-known story opens Wood’s (history, Brown Univ.; The Idea of America) biography of an unlikely friendship that had the power to bring the nation together; yet, one also fraught with an ideological divide that threatened the strength of their relationship. Adams, a middle-class pessimist, was known for telling hard truths that he believed the American people needed to hear. Jefferson, in contrast, was a slave-holding aristocrat who espoused the exceptional nature of Americans and told people what they wanted to hear. Wood’s outstanding scholarship and beautiful, masterly prose tells each man’s experience, and he’s unafraid to discuss hard facts, such as Jefferson’s blind spot on slavery or Adams’s reverence for the British monarchy. More importantly, their friendship reveals why Americans remember the words of Jefferson over those of Adams. Jefferson’s charm and optimistic view of the American experiment better fit Abraham Lincoln’s unification narrative as the Union started to crumble. VERDICT Essential reading from a Pulitzer Prize–winning giant of early American history for both casual history readers and historians.—Jessica Holland, Univ. of Kentucky, Lexington

Woolner, David B. The Last 100 Days: FDR at War and at Peace. Basic. Dec. 2017. 368p. illus. maps. notes. index. ISBN 9780465048717. $30; ebk. ISBN 9780465096510. BIOG

Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882–1945) remains one of the most popular presidents in 20th-century history. Many historians focus on the 32nd president’s first 100 days, which set the standard for future administrations. Woolner (history, Marist Coll.; coeditor, Progressivism in America) is senior fellow and Hyde Park Resident Historian at the Roosevelt Institute. Here, he uses his knowledge of Roosevelt to focus on the president’s last three months in office. Roosevelt saw the country through the end of the Great Depression and the trials and eventual end of World War II. The author relays how the politician faced criticism in deciding to run for an unprecedented fourth term. Despite ongoing health issues, Roosevelt, who battled polio, remained determined to achieve his final goal: the creation of the United Nations. Woolner also recounts the president’s journey to the Soviet Union for the Yalta Conference, where he met with Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Premier Joseph Stalin to discuss postwar peace. Even as Roosevelt sometimes failed to keep his vice president well informed, he worked daily to achieve his remaining goals. VERDICT A balanced, readable book based on thorough archival sources that will have considerable appeal to historians and political scientists, as well as general readers interested in the presidency.—William D. Pederson, Louisiana State Univ., Shreveport

Analyzing Grant

The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant: The Complete Annotated Edition. Harvard Univ. Oct. 2017. 816p. ed. by John F. Marszalek & others. illus. index. ISBN 9780674976290. $39.95. BIOG

Renowned Civil War historian and editor of the Ulysses S. Grant papers Marszalek collaborates with Louie P. Gallo (Ulysses S. Grant Assn.) and David S. Nolen (Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Lib.) to edit the most copious annotated edition of Grant’s (1822–85) indispensable memoirs to date. The result is a valuable publishing history on the 18th president’s writings, along with useful annotations on people, places, and events that set his written works in historical context. Historians have regarded Grant’s memoirs as a classic in military writing and a revealing example of the public memoir genre; they provide essential insight into the general’s approaches to war, experiences leading armies to victory, and justifications for thoughts and actions during the Mexican-American War and the U.S. Civil War. The memoirs also reveal his trenchant observations on the nature of courage, the call to public service, and the character of Americans. VERDICT It’s been said that if you’re going to pick up one memoir of the Civil War, Grant’s is the one to read. Similarly, if you’re going to purchase one of the several annotated editions of his memoirs, this is the collection to own, read, and reread.—Randall M. Miller, St. Joseph’s Univ., Philadelphia

Calhoun, Charles W. The Presidency of Ulysses S. Grant. Univ. Pr. of Kansas. Aug. 2017. 720p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780700624843. $39.95. BIOG

Despite several recent biographies of Ulysses S. Grant (1822–85), none have concentrated exclusively on his eight-year presidency. Calhoun (history, East Carolina Univ.; Benjamin Harrison) remedies this with a wide-ranging examination of the former general’s administration. This work presents a substantial chronological and topical analysis covering not only major events of the era, such as Reconstruction, but other issues of the time: currency, corruption, patronage, and foreign affairs. Grant emerges not as a military general out of his element but rather a capable administrator who understood that his greatest challenges would emerge from both expected matters and unanticipated concerns. The former included ongoing Reconstruction in the South in the face of stiff resistance. While foreign affairs and banking provided ongoing problems, corruption scandals emerging both outside and within Grant’s circle of advisors and family created some of his most difficult challenges. VERDICT With sound research and skillful writing, Calhoun offers a balanced treatment of the Grant administration that will likely be definitive for many years. Its straightforward organization and greatest strength make it accessible to both interested general readers and professional historians.—Charles K. Piehl, Minnesota State Univ., Mankato

Chernow, Ron. Grant. Penguin Pr. Oct. 2017. 1104p. illus. maps. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781594204876. $40; ebk. ISBN 9780525521952. BIOG

Chernow continues his success from his best seller Alexander Hamilton, with this comprehensive account of Civil War general and U.S. president Ulysses S. Grant (1822–85). Some view Grant as a brilliant military tactician and influential if flawed politician; others paint him as corrupt and ineffectual. Chernow, utilizing thousands of letters, military records, and diary entries, creates a more complete portrait of the surprisingly timid Grant, who hated the sight of blood and understood that the thousands of men dying every day under his command were the only way to end what was, in his mind, a thankless and brutal war. Chernow’s Grant is humble, quiet, and playful—moody in peacetime but a genius in wartime. As other historians have painted Grant as a raging drunkard, Chernow sheds light on Grant’s lifetime battle with alcohol as a disease, rather than a vice. Admittedly, Grant’s history as president is much less interesting than his military duty, and much of this volume is devoted to the Civil War. Grant was an inexperienced politician, and history has allowed the corruption that flourished during his time as president to overshadow the landmark civil rights legislation passed during his tenure. VERDICT Don’t expect a Grant musical, but this important work of American biography belongs on every library shelf. [See Prepub Alert, 4/17/17.]—Tyler Hixson, Brooklyn P.L.

Love Is All Around | Genre Spotlight: Romance

Thu, 10/12/2017 - 14:56

Buckle up, folks, we are going for a ride. That is the current spirit of the billion-dollar romance publishing industry, according to statistics provided by the Romance Writers of America. Readers are eagerly coming along and expect well-written stories with fresh characters in new settings to accompany their journey. No dented, rusty, old cars, just the latest model off the showroom floor, perhaps with a few sexy hockey players in the backseat.


From the Olympics to the National Hockey League (NHL), sports-themed romances continue to thrive. Jodi Rosoff, director, marketing and publicity, for Grand Central Publishing’s Forever and Forever Yours lines, considers “hockey players the new Highlanders. And the heroines of these books have to be just as strong to keep up with their über-alpha counterparts.” Writing for the Forever imprint, ­Victoria Denault will release the sixth book in her “Hometown Players” series, Game On (Oct.), and the second book in the San Francisco Thunder series, Slammed (Dec.).

HarperCollins’s romance powerhouse Avon Books is giving love a sporting chance with the celebration of the 20th anniversary of Rachel Gibson’s Simply Irresistible (Nov.), a re­issue of her first NHL romance in the “Chinooks Hockey Team” series. “It is pretty plain to see that hockey romance is melting all the ice in the contemporary genre,” says Pamela Jaffee, senior publicity director at Avon. Gibson’s next novel, The Art of Running in Heels (Avon, Dec.), takes her Chinooks into the reality television realm when a bride-to-be leaves her fiancé at the altar in front of millions of viewers and flees in a floatplane to Sandspit, Canada.

Popular ebook author Kate Meader’s Undone by You (Pocket Star, Mar. 2018) combines same-sex romance with the fastest game on earth. Dante Moretti is the first openly gay professional hockey general manager. Cade “Alamo” Burnett, the team’s star defenseman, can’t provide any defense against his interest in Dante, but both have to consider the risk to their million-dollar careers. Meader gets the women into the game with So Over You (Pocket Star, Dec.). Injured National Women’s Hockey League player Isobel Chase is a personal coach to Vadim Petrov, a puck bunny ­favorite known as the Czar of Pleasure, as he works back from a bad year with a knee injury. Tara Gelsomino, executive editor at the Crimson Romance division of Simon & Schuster (S. & S.), predicts an upsurge in such athlete heroines who cross into professional male sport territory.

When asked about female participants, Diversion publisher Jaime Levine tends “to describe them as skilled and fierce, rather than gritty…. Women’s strength has always been an important theme in romance, and we don’t see this changing!”

Lia Riley offers the second book in her “Hellion Angels” ebook titles, Head Coach (Avon Impulse, Nov.), after Mr. Hockey. Readers meet the Denver Hellions, an NHL team, and their biggest fans, the Hellion Angels—and do not call them puck bunnies. Jaci Burton’s Shot on Gold (Jove, Feb. 2018) sets up a romance between an American hockey player and a U.S. figure skater participating in the Olympics. He’d love to, per the publisher’s blurb, show her “how hot life off the ice can be.”

It’s not all about hockey: from S. & S.’s Pocket Star ebook imprint, a freelance publicist who never takes on a client she can’t handle tries to ignore the charms of a hunky MMA (mixed martial arts) playboy billionaire in Tara Wyatt and Harper St. George’s No Contest (Jan. 2018). In the authors’ Take Down (Nov.), an MMA champion prefers to block out the noisy world until he meets a journalist who challenges him with prying questions and astute ­observations.

Santino Hassell is a new addition to Penguin Random House (PRH) who has made a name for himself with his gritty New York City romances featuring gay and bisexual men and women. In his new “New York Barons” series, NFL team players who identify as LGBTQ are struggling to find love in a profession that is not particularly accepting. The next release is the ebook Down by Contact (­InterMix: Penguin, Jan. 2018).


When it comes to inclusivity, the publishing representatives we spoke with are on the same page. Diversity of backgrounds, orientations, settings, characters, and characterizations are vital to the health of the genre. According to Shauna Summers, executive editor of PRH division Ballantine Books, “We’re always looking for diversity/inclusion in the books we acquire and publish, both from authors and within the books. For [­ebook imprint] Loveswept, we’ve been publishing a wide range of queer romance over the last couple of years, particularly M/M [male/male], which has been a lot of fun.”

“Love is love,” says Nicole Fischer, editorial director of Avon’s Impulse ebook line. “Our goal has always been to publish the best romances and that would not be possible without including characters with diverse backgrounds and authors with diverse voices. Every reader deserves to see themselves…which is why we are actively seeking and publishing books that highlight different sexualities, cultures, races, religions, ages, body types, and disabilities.”

Author and journalist Nicole Blades agrees: “While there have been definite shifts toward more rich and elevated story­telling starring more people of color, the fact is we need more.” Have You Met Nora? (Dafina: Kensington, Oct.), Blades’s upcoming release, introduces a biracial woman who has been passing as white.

According to Berkley vice president and editorial director Cindy Hwang, “We’re definitely seeing more diversity in romance…from authors who are people of color and who feature people of color in their works.” In the interracial romance The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory (Jove, Feb. 2018), a groomsman and his last-minute guest go on a fun and flirty fake date.

Cat Sebastian’s M/M “Seducing the Sedgwick” historical romance series begins with It Takes Two To Tumble (Avon, Dec.), and an M/F series, “Regency Imposters,” explores gender identity in Unmasked by the Marquess (Avon, Apr. 2018). Avon is also excited to publish RITA Award winner Alexis Hall’s first queer historical series, with an older heroine and a bisexual hero, launching with A Lord for Whenever (Mar. 2018).

Crimson’s Gelsomino thinks diversity in characters’ life experiences and perspectives are what make a novel vibrant and memorable. As a case in point, An Unsuitable Heir by KJ Charles (Loveswept, Oct.) features fraternal twin trapeze artists inheriting a manor house, but their relatives are not so welcoming. [See our interview with Charles on p. 25.]

The popular Alison Bliss is soon to publish the third book in her “A Perfect Fit” series, More To Love (Forever, Jan. 2018), showcasing plus-size women. Erika Tsang, editorial director, Avon Books, says, “Having diverse characters should be a given in any story. To paraphrase [author] Beverly Jenkins, if you can relate to sparkly vampires and shape-shifters, you can relate to people of color, people of all kinds, searching and falling in love.”

Paranormal IMMORTAL?

Speaking of shape-shifters, reviews from the publishing experts we contacted were mixed on the paranormal subgenre’s future, though it continues to have a strong fan base with digital readers. Esi Sogah, senior editor at Kensington Publishing, indicates there is still a strong readership for paranormal romance, but readers are definitely looking for more than vampires and werewolves; they want authors to bring something new to the table. A valiant move in that direction is Shelly Laurenston’s Hot and Badgered (Apr. 2018), which features honey badger–shifters.

Forever’s Rosoff sees paranormal as an opportunity. Her colleague Forever editorial director Leah Hultenschmidt feels paranormal is underpublished. “There are still plenty of shifter fans out there.”

Christine Warren’s Baby, I’m Howling for You (St. Martin’s, Jan. 2018) features librarian Lennie Landry, a wolf on the run from a pack of coyotes and a stalker. She finds refuge in Alpha, WA, where she meets Mark Fischer, who is escaping his past—or so he thought. Thanks Fur Last Night (St. Martin’s, Jan. 2018) is a paranormal anthology headlined by best-selling authors Eve Langlais, Milly Taiden, and Kate Baxter. Also from St. Martin’s is Donna Grant’s Heat (Jan. 2018), which involves an outcast dragon who is drawn to a woman whose mind has been overtaken by magic.

You can’t discuss paranormal romance without a major nod to the prolific Christine Feehan. In Covert Game (Berkley, Mar. 2018), another title in her “GhostWalker” series, super­soldiers race against the clock to neutralize danger.


Whether the romance involves dragons, vampires, or just plain folks, readers like them hot and steamy, compelling, and emotionally driven, says Kensington executive editor Tara Gavin, though she also notes that interest in highly erotic fantasy may be waning. Waterhouse Press is ramping up its “Misadventures” series with Misadventures of a Good Wife (Oct.) by Meredith Wilde and Helen Hardt, about a woman who presumes her husband is dead following a plane crash until she sees his “ghost.” Kendall Ryan’s Misadventures with the Boss (Apr. 2018) involves a blind date between an employee and her new employer.

In Opal Carew’s X Marks the Spot (St. Martin’s, Apr. 2018), when Abi and Liam’s marriage falls apart, Abi decides to act on her attraction to Del. She thinks she is in bed with Del but soon realizes she is actually with Liam. Oops—or maybe not. Zara Cox’s Arrogant Bastard (Forever, Feb. 2018) provides espionage, intrigue, danger, and passion as a young housewife transforms into the Black Widow.

Alisha Rai’s Wrong To Need You (Avon, Nov.) promises to make romance lovers swoon. This second book in the “Forbidden Hearts” series is a contemporary Romeo and Juliet, featuring Rai’s signature heat along with a forbidden romance.

Contemporary CONCERNS

Everything new is contemporary again, with playful banter and clever humor to sustain older fans and also attract millennials. Save a Truck, Ride a Redneck (Pocket Star, Oct.) by Molly Harper invites readers to Lake Sackett, GA, in a new “Southern Eclectic” series that provides a snarky tale of a college student who returns to her hometown for the summer.

Forever’s Rosoff believes romances that take place in larger cities often have strong ebook sales and more of an international following. Such is the case with Undercover Attraction, the fifth book in the Katee Robert’s “O’Malleys” series (Nov.). Dangerous Aiden O’Malley offers ex-cop Charlotte Finch a chance for justice after she was betrayed by her fellow officers, but to seize it, she has to pretend to be his fiancée.

Making her Avon debut, Alyssa Cole presents a look into modern-day royalty in A Princess in Theory (Avon, Feb. 2018), while Lauren Dane’s Whiskey Sharp: ­Unraveled (HQN, Jan. 2018) is the first in her “Whiskey Sharp” series featuring hair stylist and punk rocker Dolan at Seattle’s sexy vintage-styled barbershop and whiskey bar. ­Christina Lauren’s Roomies (Gallery: S. & S., Dec.) combines humor and besotted lovers in New York City with a daring subway rescue by a darling of Broadway.

Yes, it seems geography does matter. Diversion’s Levine says geography is “crucial in most romance stories because location functions as a character. It is a benefit that gives readers an additional connection point.” Note the rise of Miami-based Latinx romances. Next Year in Havana by ­Chanel Cleeton (Berkley Trade, Feb. 2018), set in Miami and Havana, focuses on a freelance writer who uncovers her late grandmother’s history. Nadine Gonzalez’s Exclusively Yours (Kimani Romance, Feb. 2018) features Miami realtors and a regretful, bitter affair between coworkers.

Ranchers and Cowboys

According to Monique Patterson, editorial director, ­romance and executive editor, St. Martin’s Press, “we have seen cowboys start to bubble up lately…. The cowboy can be different from the billionaire (though sometimes they are one and the same). What is exciting is that both are in demand.” Kensington’s Gavin believes the American West has an appeal that always attracts readers. “The Western hero, the stalwart man against the land,” she says, “is an archetype that readers enjoy again and again.” Forever’s Rosoff concurs: “We are obsessed with cowboys.”

Beautiful Lawman (Avon, Dec.) continues Sophie Jordan’s “Devil’s Rock” series, as her heroine pushes the line and focuses on the instant-adversaries trope when she meets an arrogant sheriff. As locations (and more), Montana and Texas are hot, as illustrated by two new Avon titles: Montana Heat: True to You by Jennifer Ryan (Feb. 2018) and Cowboy, It’s Cold Outside (Oct.) by Lori Wilde. According to the promo, “nothing is sexier than a Texas cowboy with a five o’clock shadow and cowboy hat.”

Cowboy Up (Pocket, Dec.) by Harper Sloan features a one-night stand between a shy bookstore owner and a rancher and auto shop owner. Maisey Yates’s Smooth Talking Cowboy (HQN, Feb. 2018) is the first in her “Golden Valley” contemporary Western titles.

Wounded Warriors

Riding high as well are military romances with realistic protagonists. Called the master of the military genre by Kensington’s Gavin, Lindsay McKenna is releasing the fourth book in her best-selling “Wind River” series, Wrangler’s Challenge (Zebra: Kensington, Nov.). Here, a veteran who lost a foot during her service comes to the Bart C Ranch for some equine therapy. Gavin sees McKenna’s books as providing heart-wrenching emotion with an action-packed plot.

Cowgirl, Unexpectedly (Lyrical: Kensington, Feb. 2018), an ebook by Vicki Tharp, is the new “Lazy S Ranch” military series that also features a heroine back from war, wounded both physically and spiritually, who takes a new job as a cowgirl. The Wicked Billionaire by Jackie Ashenden (St. Martin’s, Oct.) involves a ruthless Navy SEAL who feels ­obligated to protect the widow of a teammate when she is threatened.

Hearkening back to history

Conflicts of all kinds lead to thoughts of history and its influence on the romance world. Yelena Casale, chief marketing officer, City Owl, sees an increase in the historical titles set outside 19th-century England. There is interest in the Italian and French Renaissance, frontier America, and especially the American Revolution, what some are referring to as the Hamilton Effect.

New York City’s Gilded Age is showing strength as well. Joanna Shupe’s Avon debut, A Daring Arrangement (Oct.; see review, p. 67), introduces an English beauty with a scheme to win the man she loves and the American scoundrel who ruins her plans. Beverly Jenkins’s Tempest (Avon, Jan. 2018) ventures into Wyoming in the third book in her “Old West” series. This title involves the fate of a mail-order bride who greets her intended with a bullet instead of a kiss.

The popularity of historical romance “is always hard to predict,” according to Diversion’s Levine. “We expect 19th-century England and the American West will remain robust parts of the market. That being said, sometimes the expansion is not about time period, but about culture….” In Jane Bonander’s Her Sister’s Bridegroom (Jan. 2018), a now penniless young woman accepts a proposal meant for her twin sister.

Fan favorite Eloisa James opens the Georgian “Wildes of Lindow Castle” series with Wilde in Love (Avon, Oct.). The spirited Miss Willa Ffynche wants nothing to do with Lord Alaric Wilde, the most celebrated man in England, whose private life is publicly splashed over every newspaper and on the London stage (see review, p. 66). Sabrina Jeffries’s The Secret of Flirting (Pocket, Mar. 2018), next up in her “Sinful Suitors” books, has spymaster Baron Fulkham positive that Princess Anne of Chanay’s royal persona is a ruse and that she’s ­really a mysterious actress he met three years before. Loretta Chase’s A Duke in Shining Armor (Avon, Nov.), the first in her “Difficult Dukes” series, sees the Duke of Ripley following the bookish, bespectacled Olympia as she tries to escape her wedding to his equally rapscallion friend and fellow duke (a Fall Editor’s Pick, LJ 9/15/17, p. 34). RITA Award–winning Kelly Bowen offers heart and heat in A Duke in the Night (Grand Central, Feb. 2018).

Historical romance readers will thrill at the return of Betina Krahn with A Good Day To Marry a Duke (Zebra: Kensington, Dec.), the first in her “Sin & Sensibility” series, set in 1890. An American heiress is in London looking to land—what else?—a duke.

Sweet and Savory

Sweet romances can be set in any time period. According to Ilise Levine, Shadow Mountain’s sales and marketing manager, the focus is on the cat and mouse game of relationship-building, featuring sparks, chemistry, and passion and emphasizing the romantic tension of leaving things unsaid. Two new “Proper Romance” contemporaries should find avid fans. In Check Me Out by Becca Wilhite (Feb. 2018), an assistant librarian is torn between the high school civics teacher and a poet as the library is threatened with closure. Julie Wright’s Lies Jane Austen Told Me (Nov.) will be a treat for Austen fans as our obsessed heroine quotes the author and imagines she has found her Darcy.

Dawn Anderson, associate editor for Kregel Publications, announced the third book in the “Regency Brides: A Legacy of Grace” series with The Dishonorable Miss ­DeLancey (Oct.), by Australian author Carolyn Miller. According to Anderson, Kregel has also explored other settings, such as the 1890s Appalachian Mountains and the 1930s Oklahoma Dust Bowl, looking for a strong romance story well supported by its historical underpinnings.

Selena James, executive editor, Kensington, sees a lot of interest in stories in which romantic ideals are more important than sex. Belle: An Amish Retelling of Beauty and the Beast by Sarah Price (Zebra, Oct.) is the first book in a new Amish fairy tale series. Zondervan is offering Love Held Captive (Oct.) by the much-revered Shelley Shepard Gray, the third and final installment of the “Lone Star Hero’s Love Story” series set after the Civil War.

the gift of love

Holiday-themed novellas, short stories, and novels transcend genre. James believes anthologies are a significant part of the romance world because they help introduce readers to authors they may not know, offering a cross promotion to launch debut writers.

Ebook publisher Tule is promoting Kate Hewitt’s A Vicarage Christmas (Oct.) about the handsome stranger who turns out to be the heroine’s father’s new curate. In Barbara Ankrum’s A Little Christmas Magic (Nov.), a military widow returns to her late husband’s Montana hometown and falls into a relationship with his one-time best friend. The Nurse’s Special Delivery by New Zealand author ­Louisa George (Harlequin Medical Romance, Dec.) is a new ­ebook for the author as she launches her “Ultimate Christmas Gift” series.

Tamera Alexander’s historical holiday novella, Christmas at Carnton (Thomas Nelson, Oct.), tells the story of a child, a former soldier, and a destitute woman who all discover the true meaning of Christmas. The ever-popular Debbie ­Macomber’s story of online dating, Merry and Bright (Ballantine, Oct.), notes the pluses and minuses of falling in love with someone you haven’t yet met (see the review, p. 65).

October marks the 50th anniversary of Catherine Marshall’s landmark Christy (Evergreen Farm: Kregel, Oct.), set in Ashville, NC, and the Smoky Mountains of 1912.

Romantic Suspense

Readers want “spellbinding” in their romantic suspense, along with new settings and fresh characters. Laura Griffin’s Touch of Red (Pocket, Oct.), the 12th title in her “Tracers” series, offers twists and turns with a crime scene investigator tracking down a murderer. A master of series suspense, Brenda Novak sets us up with Hello Again (St. Martin’s, Oct.), the second title in her series featuring Dr. Evelyn Talbot set in an Alaskan treatment center for psychopathic criminals.

Christine Feehan will debut her “Torpedo Ink” series with Judgment Road (Jove, Jan. 2018), a spin-off of her popular “Sea Haven” and “Drake Sisters” titles featuring members of the Torpedo Ink motorcycle club.

St. Martin’s has plenty of suspense on tap for next year. Lisa Renee Jones’s End Game (Jan. 2018) is the final novel in the scorching “Dirty Money Series,” in which Wall Street meets Sons of Anarchy. The streets of Charleston, SC, provide the backdrop for Tara Thomas’s new suspense series “Sons of Broad.” In the opener, Darkest Night (Feb. 2018), a notorious playboy would give up ­everything to be with the woman he has loved for years.

Christina Dodd’s Dead Girl Running (HQN, Apr. 2018) introduces a woman running to the Pacific Northwest “from a year she can’t remember, a husband she prays is dead, homelessness, and fear.” And rounding out a genre with which she has become synonymous, Jayne Ann Krentz makes us Promise Not To Tell (Berkley, Jan. 2018), as a Seattle gallery owner raised in a cult meets a PI who is a fellow survivor of that experience.

can there be enough LOVE?

With regard to format, romance readers are not picky when it comes to where or how a story is published—they just want it to be good. St. Martin’s Patterson also sees beyond format. “As always, we have been interested in the authors that we really feel we can grow—whether they are self-published or not. All it takes is one book to kick [in] the door in a new way and leave it open for other writers to walk through. As a publisher, you hope that you are the one to help an author do just that.”


London-based KJ Charles spent 20 years working as an editor before switching to the full-time author role. She writes mostly queer historical romance, some of it paranormal or fantasy, and is the author of the “Charm of Magpies” series. The third title in her “Sins of the Cities” trilogy, An Unsuitable Heir (Loveswept, Oct.), features a Victorian detective and some high-flying action. LJ asked her to share her views on her books and her readers.

How did you select the distinct focus of trapeze artists who are twins on the run from their family?
An Unsuitable Heir is the third book in the “Sins of the Cities” trilogy, which is basically my go at the massive three-decker Victorian sensation novel (you know: plots, fog, skulduggery, secrets, murder, ridiculous names, high society, low life). I planned all three books together, so while each has [a] stand-alone love story, the whole thing slowly unravels a family secret with associated murders. The setup with the lost twins was an integral part of that (“lost heirs returning to claim their birthright”). As for the trapeze artists, I wanted to do historical romance that wasn’t all about high society…. My heroes in this trilogy are lodging-house keepers, taxidermists, fraudulent spiritualists, private detectives, and music hall performers because all those things fascinate me.

How do you write historical m/m romance in a time and place where discrimination was the law without having that take over every plot or create a sense of dread?
I feel very strongly that if historical romance can give women a happy ending, it can give queer people a happy ending. M/f historical romance doesn’t tie itself in knots over the likelihood of the rake having syphilis, the terrible dentistry, the lice, the prolapsed uterus after multiple pregnancies, the prospect of death in childbed, or the horrifying legal discrimination against married women. We don’t close the book on the wedding scene reflecting that the heroine can now be legally raped, has just lost all her property to her husband…and would be vanishingly unlikely to obtain a divorce. Historical romance readers aren’t stupid; we know this stuff, but we choose to believe our heroine will be one of the lucky ones. And I don’t see why we can’t extend that happy glow to other stories, too. If women’s lives don’t have to be blighted by social oppression in romance, neither do those of people of color or queer people.

Moreover, human nature doesn’t change. A lot of what we read about LGBT people in history is appalling because the rec­ords we have are the legal documents, the newspaper reports, the accounts of people who were victimized. We don’t generally have the hidden stories of the people who lived under the radar…. But we know…people we’d now call gay, bi, trans have always existed and [that] as a matter of statistics plenty of them must have lived and died without ever coming to the law’s attention. Which is not to hand-wave the horrors of the past but only to say that horror isn’t the only story, and it’s not an acceptable reason to deny marginalized people their happy-ever-after.

What theme do you want readers to take away from this novel?
The series title “Sins of the Cities” comes from the Bible via a famous work of Victorian gay porn, Sins of the ­Cities of the Plain. (This will permanently remove any idea you may have of Victorians being sexually repressed, but read with caution because some of it is really pretty grim.) The Cities of the Plain were Sodom and Gomorrah, so obviously their sin was sodomy. Except it wasn’t. If you actually read the Bible, the sin of Sodom was that “She and her daughters [the other cities] were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.” Greed and lack of caring for others is the plot engine of [my] trilogy, causing damage in a lot of directions, and it takes a lot of kindness and love to counteract it.

Many readers of m/m romances are heterosexual women. Do considerations of that audience influence how you tell the story, as opposed to a gay or bi male reader?
I’m not really on board with the assumption that most m/m readers are het women; it certainly isn’t my experience of the readership I meet and talk to in person or on social media. A majority of readers are women, certainly, but [they have] all kinds of identities, and more men read and write romance than people think.

In any case, an m/m romance written to appeal to a heterosexual audience would all too likely end up being pretty exploitative. I doubt anyone does their best work with an eye on the audience in any case, but I feel strongly that anyone nonmarginalized writing about marginalized people needs to do so with a great deal of care, research, and respect, and to think hard about how what you write will sound to the people you write about….

Does your audience follow you between your magical and nonmagical series or are they largely separate readerships?
The majority of my readers seem to like both, which is nice. I tend to make my historical paranormals very rooted in British history anyway, so my newest paranormal release, Spectred Isle [KJC Bks., Aug.], is set in an alt-1920s where the Great War was fought by occult means, but I’ve kept the morals, politics, and culture of the actual 1920s as far as possible. I find it more fun that way…. (The tricky part is remembering that I can’t get a character in a real-world book out of trouble by having them cast a spell.)

What trends do you see in romance novels today?
I’m not really an on-trend writer (and by that I mean I live under a rock). What I think is most interesting, and welcome, is the explosion of diversity in romances. Diversity isn’t a trend, obviously, it’s an overdue recognition that romance has been exclusionary for too long and that there are vast numbers of readers who want more. I’m delighted that more romance readers are being represented in books and that more publishers are telling those stories. I think that’s very much been driven by the massive success of indie and self-published authors who couldn’t get a toe in the door of traditional publishing but have demonstrated that there are voracious readers hungry for representation, and many more looking for new-to-them stories….


Below are the titles mentioned in this article.

AUTHOR TITLE PUBLISHER RELEASE Alexander, Tamera Christmas at Carnton Thomas Nelson Oct. Ankrum, Barbara A Little Christmas Magic Tule Nov. Ashenden, Jackie The Wicked Billionaire St. Martin’s Oct. Blades, Nicole Have You Met Nora? Dafina: Kensington Nov. Bliss, Alison More To Love Forever Jan. 2018 Bonander, Jane Her Sister’s Bedroom Diversion Jan. 2018 Bowen, Kelly A Duke in the Night Forever Feb. 2018 Burton, Jaci Shot on Gold Jove Feb. 2018 Carew, Opal X Marks the Spot St. Martin’s Apr. 2018 Charles, KJ An Unsuitable Heir Loveswept: Random Oct. Chase, Loretta A Duke in Shining Armor Avon Nov. Cleeton, Chanel Next Year in Havana Berkley Trade Feb. 2018 Cole, Alyssa A Princess in Theory Avon Feb. 2018 Cox, Zara Arrogant Bastard Forever Feb. 2018 Dane, Lauren Whiskey Sharp: Unraveled HQN Jan. 2018 Denault, Victoria Game On Forever Oct. Denault, Victoria Slammed Forever Dec. Dodd, Christina Dead Girl Running HQN Apr. 2018 Feehan, Christine Judgment Road Jove Jan. 2018 Feehan, Christine Covert Game Berkley Mar. 2018 George, Louisa The Nurse’s Special Delivery Harlequin Medical Dec. Gibson, Rachel The Art of Running in Heels Avon Dec. Gibson, Rachel Simply Irresistible Avon Nov. Gonzalez, Nadine Exclusively Yours Kimani Romance Feb. 2018 Grant, Donna Heat St. Martin’s Jan. 2018 Gray, Shelley Shepard Love Held Captive Zondervan Oct. Griffin, Laura Touch of Red Pocket Oct. Guillory, Jasmine The Wedding Date Jove Feb. 2018 Hall, Alexis A Lord for Whenever Avon Impulse Mar. 2018 Harper, Molly Save a Truck, Ride a Redneck Pocket Star Oct. Hassell, Santino Down by Contact InterMix: Penguin Jan. 2018 Hewitt, Kate A Vicarage Christmas Tule Oct. James, Eloisa Wilde in Love Avon Oct. Jeffries, Sabrina The Secret of Flirting Pocket Mar. 2018 Jenkins, Beverly Tempest Avon Jan. 2018 Jones, Lisa Renee End Game St. Martin’s Jan. 2018 Jordan, Sophie Beautiful Lawman Avon Dec. Krahn, Betina A Good Day To Marry a Duke Zebra: Kensington Dec. Krentz, Jayne Ann Promise Not To Tell Berkley Jan. 2018 Langlais, Eve & others Thanks Fur Last Night St. Martin’s Jan. 2018 Lauren, Christina Roomies Gallery Dec. Laurenston, Shelly Hot and Badgered Kensington Apr. 2018 McKenna, Lindsay Wrangler’s Challenge Zebra: Kensington Nov. Macomber, Debbie Merry and Bright Ballantine Oct. Marshall, Catherine Christy Evergreen: Kregel Oct. Meader, Kate So Over You Pocket Star Dec. Meader, Kate Undone by You Pocket Star Mar. 2018 Miller, Carolyn The Dishonorable Miss DeLancey Kregel Oct. Novak, Brenda Hello Again St. Martin’s Oct. Price, Sarah Belle: An Amish Retelling of Beauty and the Beast Zebra: Kensington Oct. Rai, Alisha Wrong To Need You Avon Nov. Riley, Lia Head Coach Avon Impulse Nov. Robert, Katee Undercover Attraction Forever Nov. Ryan, Jennifer Montana Heat: True to You Avon Feb. 2018 Ryan, Kendall Misadventures with the Boss Waterhouse Apr. 2018 Sebastian, Cat It Takes Two To Tumble Avon Impulse Dec. Sebastian, Cat Unmasked by the Marquess Avon Impulse Apr. 2018 Shupe, Joanna A Daring Arrangement Avon Oct. Sloan, Harper Cowboy Up Pocket Dec. Tharp, Vicki Cowgirl, Unexpectedly Lyrical: Kensington Feb. 2018 Thomas, Tara Darkest Night St. Martin’s Feb. 2018 Warren, Christine Baby, I’m Howling for You St. Martin’s Jan. 2018 Wild, Meredith & Helen Hardt Misadventures of a Good Wife Waterhouse Oct. Wilde, Lori Cowboy, It’s Cold Outside Avon Oct. Wilhite, Becca Check Me Out Shadow Mountain Feb. 2018 Wright, Julie Lies Jane Austen Told Me Shadow Mountain Nov. Wyatt, Tara & Harper St. George No Contest Pocket Star Jan. 2018 Wyatt, Tara & Harper St. George Take Down Pocket Star Nov. Yates, Maisey Smooth Talking Cowboy HQN Feb. 2018

Joyce Sparrow has been writing reviews for LJ for more than 20 years and was among the pioneers to undertake e-original romances in 2011. She lives in Florida

Libraries, Queens, Longmire, Roxane Gay, Standards | What We’re Reading & Watching

Fri, 10/06/2017 - 15:36

It’s October already, and the reading season is upon us. But the staffers from LJ/School Library Journal and Junior Library Guild are also going to the movies and binge-watching TV as well as reading like mad. Whether it’s escapist, allegorical, French, Irish, informational, or simply sensational, the WWR/WWW gang want to share their experience with you.

Mahnaz Dar, Assistant Managing Editor, LJS
I’m donning my crown and holding my scepter as I immerse myself in all things royal. Last week, I saw Victoria and Abdul, a Stephen Frears film about Queen Victoria’s friendship with Abdul Karim, an Indian servant who tutored her in Urdu. Frears brilliantly skewers the idea of the British Empire’s superiority over the rest of the world, with hilarious results. Overall, the movie presents a fairly cuddly portrait of Victoria—in reality, I believe she was a bit more forbidding. But it’s pure fun, and it’s prompted me to do some more reading about the royals. I plan to read Julia Baird’s Victoria: The Queen as soon as I can. In anticipation of the new season of The Crown, which drops on Netflix in a couple of months, I’m reading Sarah Bradford’s Elizabeth: A Biography of Britain’s Queen—and particularly enjoying historical context about the abdication.

Liz French, Senior Editor, LJ Reviews
In between reading for LJ’s Best Books, I’m catching a few movies. I reviewed the Frederick Wiseman NYPL doc Ex Libris for my colleague Kent Turner’s film blog,; see what Kiera Parrott has to say about the three-hour-and-17-minutes-long film below. I also went to see the very er, polarizing Darren Aronofsky film mother! with my film-loving friend Rosemary and we voted two thumbs up. I thought it was darkly funny in parts and so over the top! Michelle Pfeiffer takes the movie, tucks it in her black silk garter belt, and runs with it; Javier Bardem is perfect as a Mephistopheles type; Jennifer Lawrence does pretty well considering she’s called on mostly to widen her eyes in horror and shock. The set design was killer-diller too!

After compiling the latest “Classic Returns” column for LJ  and reading about Raymond Postgate’s Verdict of Twelve,  I became curious about an essay by Raymond Chandler that mentioned Postgate’s book. A little bit of Internet sleuthing led me to his 1950 opus, “The Simple Art of Murder,” which I found on the University of Texas website. Thanks Google, thanks UT!   Among his many amusing, erudite observations about the state of crime writing post-World War II is this, comparing American “cozies” as we call them now, to their British brethren:

Personally I like the English style better. It is not quite so brittle, and the people as a rule, just wear clothes and drink drinks. There is more sense of background, as if Cheesecake Manor really existed all around and not just the part the camera sees; there are more long walks over the Downs and the characters don’t all try to behave as if they had just been tested by MGM. The English may not always be the best writers in the world, but they are incomparably the best dull writers.

Liz Gavril, Senior Editor, JLG
I’m in my usual state, always reading for work, never reading for myself. That said, my hold for Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist (Harper Perennial) finally came through from the library, so hopefully I’ll have time to get through it for my fast-approaching book group. I’m new to Gay’s work and have read only a couple of the essays so far, but I’m already a fan.

And speaking of being a fan, we’re really enjoying The Bureau at my house these days, though if you’re looking for something to veg out to, I’m not sure this is the show. We find that if our minds wander for even a second (and sometimes even if they don’t), we have to rewind. And, subtitles. But it’s a smart, often gripping show about DGSE (the French equivalent of the CIA) agents and their missions. Plus, I’m finding that some of my French-language comprehension is coming back to me, hurrah. We just finished the second season (what an ending!) and are rarin’ to go for season three, though I think we’re taking a time out to get through the Ken Burns Vietnam War documentary.

Molly Hone, WWR emerita (Pequannock Township P.L, Pompton Plains, NJ)
I just finished up Craig Johnson’s The Cold Dish (Viking), first in his “Longmire” series. I actually got the idea to start this series from a recent article written by Johnson, which discussed how the popularity of Longmire, the TV show, has eclipsed that of the long-running book series. I, too, had heard of the show, but not the books.

As a reference librarian at a public library, I love that reader’s advisory is a two-way street. I’ve had several mysteries recommended to me by patrons in recent memory, but never got around to reading them (or I lost the bits of paper I scribbled their titles on). My response to these recommendations is always, “Ooh, that sounds interesting! I’ve always wanted to read a mystery series.” “Longmire” is the series I’ve been looking for—I love how well developed the protagonist, Sheriff Walter Longmire, is; love the (sometimes dark) humor and witty dialog; and most of all, I think, I love being taken away to a sparsely populated (fictional) county in Wyoming, a far cry from my populous, bustling northern New Jersey abode.

Kiera Parrott, Reviews Director, LJS
I recently saw the Frederick Wiseman documentary about the New York Public Library, Ex Libris. It’s a three-and-a-half-hour tour de force on my favorite subject: the transformative power of the public library. I guess I’m a tad biased since I got my start at NYPL as just a teeny tiny baby librarian. And my husband makes a cameo appearance in the doc as well. But don’t take my word for it! It’s gotten glowing reviews and seems to be resonating with more than the usual bibliophile crowd. If you’ve got a long afternoon to kill, it’s worth seeing.




Henrietta Verma, WWR emerita (National Information Standards Organization)
I just devoured and loved (it might be the best book I ever read, and I read four books last week alone), John Boyne’s The Heart’s Invisible Furies (Hogarth: Crown). It is a lengthy and often snort-coffee-out-your-nose-with-laughter saga (all right, I also cried) about Cyril Avery, a boy who grows up in 1950s Ireland feeling different and not quite knowing why. His crazy adopted family is bad enough—his parents remind him at every turn that he’s not “a real Avery,” and when his father is disgraced at one point, he comments that at least he has no children to witness it—but slowly, Cyril realizes that he likes boys more than girls, and in Ireland in the 1950s that is NOT OK. The story follows him over the next few decades as he falls in love; breaks hearts; has his heart, spirit, and body broken; and oh so much more that I can’t even do justice to. I’m adopted and from Ireland, so perhaps the book particularly spoke to me, but please do give this wonderful novel a chance. Watch out for the delightfully uptight Mary-Margaret Muffet, whose haughty ways have added a new phrase to my lexicon: “This is not my standard.”


Q&A: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Sports Icon, Novelist, Comics Creator

Wed, 10/04/2017 - 12:44

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, NBA superstar and Sherlock Holmes aficionado for most of his life, has described applying Holmes-style deduction techniques to his own game strategy. Intrigued by the notion of creating Victorian sleuthing adventures himself, he’s focused two new books on Sherlock’s older and lesser-known brother, Mycroft. His debut novel, Mycroft Holmes (Titan; LJ 8/15), coauthored with Anna Waterhouse, was released last year to wide acclaim, and this September, with Raymond Obstfeld and Joshua Cassara, he published his first graphic novel, Mycroft Holmes and the Apocalypse Handbook (Titan Comics; LJ 6/1/17), which features a very different take on the character.

LJ: How fascinating that you’ve created two different versions of Mycroft: the love-besotted, neophyte civil servant of your novel, and now the bed-hopping rogue of the graphic novel. Are you planning to disclose any further adventures of these characters?
I’ve recently completed the second Mycroft novel, which I’m very excited about. And I have plans for a second volume of the graphic novel. Because he’s a relatively unknown character, I have a lot of possibilities to explore.

In the graphic novel, the repartee between Mycroft and Sherlock adds plenty of comedy. Do you see the brothers working together in a sequel?
At the end of the graphic novel, Mycroft hints that he intends to bring in Sherlock to help with some of his adventures for the British government. I agree that having the two of them work together would be a lot of fun, especially given Sherlock’s prudish attitude toward Mycroft’s roguish behavior. But there’s also something deeper going on regarding Mycroft’s guilt, that he was unable to look out for his younger brother better.

Mycroft reveals that the name Moriarty is an Anglicized version of the Irish O’Muircheartaigh, a wonderful detail. What led you to dig out that etymology?
Part of what I wanted to do in the graphic novel was to have fun with the Holmes mythology. Having one of the characters related to Moriarty was part of that. The other was the character related to Irene Adler, though this story doesn’t yet explain how. I’m saving that for the next volume.

Karl Bollers and others’ graphic novel Watson and Holmes: A Study in Black recasts the duo as black residents of Harlem, NY. Did the possibility of varying setting or character ethnicities ever come up among you and your collaborators?
Not really. I had read Watson and Holmes and didn’t think we needed to follow in that same track. I decided to make the story more diverse through the character of Lark Adler, who is half black, half Indian. Her background plays an important part of the story in how it affects and changes Mycroft.

Indeed, Lark Adler is too engaging a character to be confined to one story! Might you star her in a new series, with Mycroft as sidekick?
That’s a good idea, though she doesn’t need Mycroft. She’s highly capable on her own. But I would love to see her on more adventures. She’s tough, smart, and funny.

You’ve done several prose books for kids, including the “Streetball Crew” series. Are you interested in writing graphic novels for younger readers?
I love writing for kids and young adults. They are so open to retellings. Right now, some of the best writing is going on in young adult fiction because the stakes are so high and the emotions so deep.

You told Publishers Weekly that comics were like “portable movies.” Have you thought of putting Mycroft into a screenplay?
Absolutely. The story and characters [in the graphic novel] lend themselves to a pretty exciting movie in the vein of [the British Kingsman films] and Deadpool. The portrayals of Queen Victoria, Jesse James, and even Sherlock are a lot of fun, plus we have a very nasty villain.

In the novel, Mycroft finds Sherlock in the library. If Mycroft and Sherlock were living today, both would probably be library regulars as well as champion web searchers. Did you hang out at the library when you were young?
I’ve always been a voracious reader, just like my father. He used to buy books by the pound at the local used bookstore, and when he was done, he’d return them and come back with more. I love how reading can change a person, not just by giving them information they didn’t know, but by giving them insights into themselves and the rest of the world. Very few things have that kind of transformative power.

If a library wanted to create a program around your Mycroft stories, what might you suggest? A deductive game through the stacks? Trivia? A challenge to apply Holmes-style deduction techniques to daily life?
I love everything on your list. That’s one of the amazing things about the Holmes stories: there are so many aspects to them that one can create games and programs for all ages and interests. My preference would be simple deductive exercises from clues. Perhaps a set of hidden clues in which each leads to the location of the other, like a Holmesian Easter-egg hunt.

Are there any questions I didn’t ask that you’d like to address? Anything else you’d like to tell readers?
I’ve been interviewed a lot over the past 50 years, so there’s not much that hasn’t been asked. I loved writing this graphic novel because it gave me a chance to be as wild and imaginative as I wanted to be. I was able to add a Frankenstein-type monster, a bunch of steampunk weapons, a train robbery, a romance, and lots of other things people wouldn’t expect from me. That’s what made this such a grand adventure for me as a writer and what I hope will be the same for readers.—Martha Cornog, Philadelphia

Doorstoppers, War Stories, Fashion, Folkies | Classic Returns

Tue, 10/03/2017 - 11:14

War and its effects reverberate through this edition of LJ’s “Classic Returns” column, with breaks for French memoirs and fashion, American folk singers and folk songs, British crime classics and classic rockers, an abandoned Inuit boy, and a humongous collection of stories by Kurt Vonnegut.

Bob Dylan: The Essential Interviews. S. & S. Oct. 2017. 528p. ed. by Jonathan Cott. ISBN 9781501173196. $35; ebk. ISBN 9781501173202. MUSIC
Originally published in 2006, this collection of interviews with Nobel Laureate and singer-songwriter icon Bob Dylan spans his long career and many incarnations. Selected by Rolling Stone editor Cott, the interviews begin in 1962, with a transcription of a radio interview on WBAI (New York) conducted by Cynthia Gooding, and conclude with a new-to-this-edition Rolling Stone interview with Douglas Brinkley (2009). Other Rolling Stone interviews are featured—a conversation with Jann Wenner (2007), several with Cott; a  discussion with Kurt Loder (1984); two by Mikal Gilmore; a 1969 cover story by Wenner, etc., but additional publications are represented as well. Nat Hentoff’s Playboy (1966) and  New Yorker (1964) interviews are here, plus Jon Pareles’s New York Times piece (1997), and others. TV and radio discussions highlights comprise an early-days talk with Studs Terkel (1963) and a later meetup with Nora Ephron, Susan Edmiston, and Dylan. The iconic Milton Glaser “rainbow head” graphic adorns this new edition’s cover.

Chateaubriand, François-René. Memoirs from Beyond the Grave: 1768–1800. NYRB. Nov. 2017. 576p. tr. from French by Alex Andriesse. ISBN 9781681371290. pap. $18.95; ebk. ISBN 9781681371306. MEMOIR/hist
Writer, historian, diplomat, and French aristocrat Chateaubriand (1768–1848) wished not to release his copious memoirs to the public during his lifetime. To say he lived in “interesting times” is putting it mildly: in this unabridged section of roughly one-fourth of the original work, he recalls wandering through the grounds of his father’s castle, hunting with King Louis XVI, seeing the first heads of nobles carried on pikes through Paris, meeting George Washington, and his eight-year exile in England, concluding with his return to France.

Gary, Romain. Promise at Dawn. New Directions. Oct. 2017. 336p. tr. from French by John Markham Beach. ISBN 9780811221986. pap. $16.95. MEMOIR
Born Roman Kacew in Vilnius, Lithuania (or perhaps Kursk, Russia) in 1914, the author changed his name to Gary when he fled Nazi-occupied France to fight in World War II with the Free French Army. This 1961 memoir, translated by Gary using yet another pseudonym (he wrote under several others), is primarily a love letter to his mother, who raised him alone and often in dire circumstances. Gary went on to become a military hero, an ambassador for France, a prize-winning author, and a filmmaker. He was married to actress Jean Seberg for eight years and died of a self-inflicted shotgun wound in 1980.

Gillian, Ian with David Cohen. Highway Star: The Autobiography of Deep Purple’s Lead Singer. Lesser Gods: Overamstel. Sept. 2017. 224p. photos. ISBN 9781944713287. pap. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9781944713478. AUTOBIOG/music
This first U.S. edition of Gillian’s autobiography, originally published in England in 1993, is just in time for the Deep Purple 2017 “Long Goodbye” reunion tour, marking the 50th anniversary of the band, recently inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Gillian’s story has all the excesses readers look for in a rock saga: nonstop partying, groupies, drugs, alcohol, friction with band mates; then the downward spiral and demise of the group. Gillian pursued a solo career and worked with Black Sabbath before reuniting with the band (sans guitarist Ritchie Blackmore). Deep Purple is working on its 20th album, Infinite.

Harper, Kenn. Minik: The New York Eskimo; An Arctic Explorer, a Museum and the Betrayal of the Inuit People. Steerforth. Sept. 2017. 304p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781586422417. pap. $20; ebk. ISBN 9781586422424. HISt/BIOG
The story of Minik, one of several Inuit people who sailed into New York Harbor in 1897 with Robert Peary, was originally published in 1986 as Give Me My Father’s Body. With a touching foreword by actor Kevin Spacey, which also appeared in a 2000 revised edition, the book tells of young Minik’s arrival in New York; the death of his father and others who accompanied him; the museum’s study of his father’s remains; and Minik’s unsuccessful attempts to return his father’s body to his homeland for a proper burial. In a 2000, an LJ starred review of Give Me My Father’s Body by Rose M. Cichy read: “Told in unembellished prose with heartbreaking excerpts from Minik’s own writings, this powerful book is recommended for all public and academic libraries.”

Lomax, John A. Adventures of a Ballad Hunter. (Focus on American History). Univ. of Texas. Sept. 2017. 292p. photos. index. ISBN 9781477313718. pap. $18.95; ebk. ISBN 9781477313732. MUSIC
Lomax (1867–1948), father of music ethnographer Alan Lomax, started the family “business” of collecting American folk songs, becoming in the process one of the genre’s foremost authorities. He and his informants created more than 5,000 recordings of America’s musical heritage, including work songs, children’s songs, fiddle tunes, religious dramas, blues, ballads, and spirituals. This 70th-anniversary reissue of his 1947 memoir recounts his life on the road (alone and with his son Alan and second wife, Ruby Terrill Lomax), his efforts to preserve and record the music he heard, and the lyrics to dozens of songs.

Steele, Valerie. Paris Fashion: A Cultural History. Bloomsbury USA. Sept. 2017. 332p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781635570892. $40; ebk. ISBN 9781474245494. DEC ARTS
First published by Oxford University Press in 1988, then by Berg in 1998, this revised and updated version has three times as many pictures, all in full color. Steele, the chief curator at New York’s Museum of Fashion Institute of Technology, writes in the introduction that updating this volume was not a simple matter of tacking on a new chapter:

“…bringing the story from 1997 to the present. The field of fashion studies has developed so much over the past twenty years that I really wanted to acknowledge the wealth of scholarship that has been done on fashion in general and on Paris fashion in particular. At the same time, I tried not to lose the conversational tone that made the book accessible to the general reader.”

In a review of the first edition, LJ reviewer Sally R. Simms called the title “perfectly apt,” the research “broad-ranging,” and the notes and bibliography useful, adding “Steele draws from the literature, politics, and art of the 14th to the 20th centuries; she is as fascinated by the treatment of ‘sartorial’ distinctions in Proust and Baudelaire as she is by fashion images in 19th-century French painting.” (LJ 5/1/1988)

Vonnegut, Kurt. Kurt Vonnegut: Complete Stories. Seven Stories. Sept. 2017. 944p. ed. by Dan Wakefield & Jerome Klinkowitz. ISBN 9781609808082. $45. F
More than half of American writer Vonnegut’s (1922–2007) output was short fiction; here, his longtime friend Wakefield (Going All the Way; New York in the Fifties), also a Hoosier, and Vonnegut scholar Klinkowitz (English, Univ. of Northern Iowa) gather 97 stories written between 1941 and 2007. With an introduction by author Dave Eggers and five previously unpublished stories, this anthology is organized thematically: War, Women, Science, Romance, Work Ethic v. Fame and Fortune, Behavior, The Band Director, and Futuristic. Wakefield and Klinkowitz take turns writing “headnote” introductions for the various sections.

Short Takes

Brown, Carter. The Wench Is Wicked/The Blonde/Blonde Verdict. Stark House. Oct. 2017. 296p. bibliog. ISBN 9781944520335. pap. $19.95. F
Prolific England-born, Australia-based author Alan Yates (1923–95) wrote more than 300 crime novels under the Brown alias, starting in the late 1950s. This volume features three “Lt. Al Wheeler” stories; Book 1, The Wench Is Wicked, here makes its U.S. debut.

Green, Henry. Concluding. New Directions. Oct. 2017. 224p. ISBN 9780811227001. pap. $13.95; ebk. ISBN 9780811227018. F
Green’s 1948 novel is set during a single summer day and concerns a retired scientist living on the grounds of a girls’ boarding school. This edition features the introduction, “Henry Green: Novelist of the Imagination,” by Eudora Welty, originally published in her book The Eye of the Story: Selected Essays & Reviews (1961).

Szabó, Magda. Katalin Street. NYRB Classics. Sept. 2017. 240p. tr. from Hungarian by Len Rix. ISBN 9781681371528. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9781681371535. F
From one of Hungary’s greatest writers, this 1969 novel depicts the lives of three families during the German occupation of Budapest in 1944.

Casemate World War I Classics

Alverdes, Paul. The Whistlers’ Room. Casemate. (Classic War Fiction). Jun. 2017. 94p. tr. from German by Basil Creighton. ISBN 9781612004662. pap. $12.95. F
German poet and novelist Alverdes (1897–1979) draws on his experience in World War I to write this story about soldiers recovering from injuries incurred during combat.

Morris, W.F. Pagan. Casemate. (Classic War Fiction). Jun. 2017. 314p. photos. ISBN 9781612004648. pap. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9781612004655. F
Decorated World War I veteran Morris’s thriller/mystery is set in 1930 and features two English veterans on holiday in the Vosges Mountains. Formerly the old border between the German Empire and France from 1871 to 1918 (and after that a part of France), the area was the only part of the western front to see mountain fighting during the Great War. The Britons are curious as to why the locals act so strangely concerning an old battlefield nearby.

Rebreanu, Liviu. Forest of the Hanged. Casemate. (Classic War Fiction). Jun. 2017. 336p. tr. from Romanian by A.V. Wise. ISBN 9781612004686. pap. $14.95. F
A member of the Austro-Hungarian Army until obtaining his discharge in 1908, Romanian author Rebreanu’s 1922 novel takes place just behind the eastern front. A young Romanian officer witnesses the hanging of a fellow officer for desertion and attempting to pass information to the enemy and slowly begins to question his long-held beliefs.

Britain’s Finest

Bellairs, George. The Dead Shall Be Raised & The Murder of a Quack. Poisoned Pen. (British Library Crime Classics). Oct. 2017. 244p. ISBN 9781464207341. pap.  $12.95; ebk. ISBN 9781464207358. MYS
Under the Bellairs pseudonym, prominent Manchester banker and philanthropist Harold Blundell wrote mysteries featuring Scotland Yard inspector detective Thomas Littlejohn. The Dead Shall Be Raised first appeared in 1942; The Murder of a Quack, 1943.

Postgate, Raymond. Verdict of Twelve. Poisoned Pen. (British Library Crime Classics). Oct. 2017. 244p. ISBN 9781464207907. $12.95; ebk. ISBN 9781464207914. MYS
“Socialist journalist,” historian, and Good Food Guide founder Postgate’s most famous detective novel follows 12 members of a jury as they try to decide a woman’s fate. Raymond Chandler praised this 1940 title in the essay “The Simple Art of Murder.”





First—And Foremost | Debut Novels

Mon, 10/02/2017 - 08:11


Some debut novels are much anticipated, such as National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 honoree Thomas Pierce’s The Afterlives, Commonwealth Short Story Prize winner Akwaeke Emezi’s Freshwater, and A.J. Finn’s Frankfurt hit, The Woman in the Window. Others seem to come out of nowhere. Who knew Joseph Cassara’s The House of Impossible Beauties would be that good, and how did C. Morgan Babst make us feel Hurricane Katrina’s lasting terror in The Floating World? Either way, debut novels are always a surprise, and therein lies their power.


Cassara, Joseph. The House of Impossible Beauties. Ecco: HarperCollins. Feb. 2018. 416p. ISBN 9780062676979. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062677006.

Opening in 1980 New York with 16-year-old Angel feeling trapped in her boy body, then weaving together the stories of various trans outsiders whom Angel collects into a family, this exceptional debut was inspired by the House of Xtravaganza, as seen in the documentary Paris Is Burning. “Erotically luscious, lyrically intense, forthrightly in your face, and pitch-perfect in the dialog.” (LJ 8/17)

Emezi, Akwaeke. Freshwater. Grove. Feb. 2018. 240p. ISBN 9780802127358. $24.

A Nigerian-born Igbo and Tamil writer and artist now living in Brooklyn and Trinidad, Emezi won the 2017 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for Africa. Here, she grounds madness, as manifested in main character Ada, in an ancient cosmology that sees god-born selves creeping into human being when the gates between this world and the beyond aren’t properly closed. Readers agree: like nothing you have ever read.

Graham-Felsen, Sam. Green. Random. Jan. 2018. 320p. ISBN 9780399591143. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780399591150.

Chief blogger for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, Graham-Felsen investigates ongoing inequality by fictionalizing his experiences as a white boy in a mostly black middle school in Boston. At the same time, he examines the complexities of friendship across a racial and cultural divide. This LJ Editors’ Fall Pick “poignantly captures the tumultuous feelings of adolescence against the historical backdrop of a racially segregated city and country.” (LJ 9/1/17)

Harrison, Phil. The First Day. Houghton Harcourt. Oct. 2017. 224p. ISBN 9781328849663. $23; ebk. ISBN 9781328849670.

In this blazing first novel by filmmaker Harrison, Belfast preacher Samuel Orr cannot resist the sins of the flesh, and son Philip’s resentment of half-brother Sam leads to a violent act with long-lasting repercussions. “Harrison’s absorbing debut will surprise readers with its ingenious plot twists and nuanced characters.” (LJ 9/1/17)

Howarth, Paul. Only Killers and Thieves. Harper. Feb. 2018. 336p. ISBN 9780062690968. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062690999.

In 1880s Australia, adolescent siblings whose parents have been slaughtered and sister left for dead, presumably by a resentful Aboriginal stockman recently let go, join with an unscrupulous landowner in a violent search for revenge. This visceral yet elegantly written work is the publisher’s “Lead Read” for the season.

Hunter, Megan. The End We Start From. Atlantic. Nov. 2017. 160p. ISBN 9780802126894. $22; ebk. ISBN 9780802189066.

With London sunk beneath the flood­waters, a woman escapes north with her baby in this fable-like, delicately told dystopic tale. “The story may seem familiar…but debut novelist Hunter’s spare prose and luminous writing give it a fresh immediacy.” A big hit at the London Book Fair and a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Selection. (LJ 9/15/17)

Lee, Mira T. Everything Here Is Beautiful. Pamela Dorman: Viking. Jan. 2018. 368p. ISBN 9780735221963. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780735221987.

Spun from an award-winning short story that originally appeared in the Missouri Review, this debut features two Chinese American sisters, steady Miranda and the volatile Lucia, who starts hearing voices after their mother dies and loses all direction despite Miranda’s best efforts to help. “A visceral portrayal of sister love and its limits.” (LJ 9/1/17)

Li, Winnie M. Dark Chapter. Polis. Sept. 2017. 352p. ISBN 9781943818624. $26; pap. ISBN 9781785079061. $11.99; ebk. ISBN 9781943818761.

In Ireland on a weekend break from her London job, Taiwanese American Vivian is enjoying a solitary walk when she is attacked and raped by an emotionally damaged Irish boy. “What is striking about this acclaimed first novel…is that not only is it based on an incident in the author’s life, but the facility with which Li is able to intertwine the life stories of Vivian and Johnny, giving each substance and depth.” (LJ 8/17)

Murphy, Devin. The Boat Runner. Harper Perennial. Sept. 2017. 384p. ISBN 9780062658012. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062658029.

In a moving coming-of-age story set during World War II, a Dutch boy and his family face impossible choices. Do they cooperate with the invading Germans? Or engage in risky sabotage? And what happens when the Allies bomb the local factory because it supplies the German army? This Discover Great New Writers Pick is “an effectively detailed, morally complex book that will appeal to all readers of historical fiction.” (LJ 8/17)

Pierce, Thomas. The Afterlives. Riverhead. Jan. 2018. 384p. ISBN 9781594632532. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780698144941.

A National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 honoree who won high praise for his debut story collection, Hall of Small Mammals, Pierce tells the story of a man who dies briefly of a heart attack at age 30 and, after reviving, worries that he saw no hint of an afterlife. That sends him and his wife on a journey both thoughtfully and absorbingly written.


Babst, C. Morgan. The Floating World. Algonquin. Oct. 2017. 384p. ISBN 9781616205287. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781616207632.

When older daughter Cora refuses to abandon New Orleans as Hurricane ­Katrina sweeps in, Joe Boisdoré, an artist descended from a freed slave, and his white, upper-crust wife, Dr. Tess Eshleman, must leave without her. “A richly written, soak-in-it kind of book; now you’ll know what it was like to have survived Katrina.” (LJ 8/17)

Dempsey, Joan. This Is How It Begins. She Writes. Oct. 2017. 399p. ISBN 9781631523083. pap. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9781631523090.

Still tough at 85, art professor and ­Holocaust survivor Ludka Zeilonka wrestles with a new problem: her grandson Tommy has been fired, along with other gay high school teachers, after being accused of silencing Christian students. “Current events have only made this gripping story more relevant.” (LJ 9/15/17)

Diaz, Hernan. In the Distance. Coffee House. Oct. 2017. 272p. ISBN 9781566894883. pap. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9780062676979.

Associate director of the Hispanic Institute at Columbia University, Diaz challenges the conventions of writing fiction about the American West. In the 1840s, young Swedish immigrant Håkan Söderström boards the wrong ship in New York, ends up in San Francisco, and must travel east to find his brother. “Resonant historical fiction with a contemporary feel.” (LJ 9/1/17)

Patric, A.S . Black Rock White City. Melville House. Sept. 2017. 256p. ISBN 9781612196831. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781612196848.

A Sarajevo-based Serb who fled unimaginable horrors with wife Suzana, Jovan now works as a janitor in a Melbourne hospital, where he’s forced to wash away increasingly disturbing graffiti that seems directed at him; he’s obliterating and cleansing terms like obliteration and ethnic cleansing. A Miles Franklin Literary Award winner; “Patric’s images will remain indelibly and affectingly in readers’ minds.” (Xpress Reviews 8/18)

Rowe, Josephine . A Loving, Faithful Animal. Catapult. Sept. 2017. 176p. ISBN 9781936787579. pap. $16.95.

In 1990 Australia, Ru’s increasingly disturbed Vietnam vet father disappears, and more troubles cascade down as her mother languishes in the past and her wild sister seeks escape. This debut from an Elizabeth Jolley Prize winner is “one of the smarter, most lyrically written stories you’ll read about a fracturing family” (forthcoming LJ review).


Adams, Brock. Ember. Hub City. Sept. 2017. 200p. ISBN 9781938235320. pap. $18.

In this postapocalyptic thriller, winner of the South Carolina First Novel Prize, the sun is cooling, people desperate to survive clump in little enclaves, and armed militant rebels look to take over what’s left of the government. For those “who enjoy dystopian worlds, quick pacing, sympathetic if flawed protagonists, and compelling prose.” (LJ 9/1/17)

Brady, A.F. The Blind. Park Row: Harlequin. Sept. 2017. 400p. ISBN 9780778330875. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781488023651.

Routinely assigned the toughest cases at her elite psychiatric institution in Manhattan, psychologist Sam James is the only staff member willing to deal with seemingly normal new patient Richard. Working with him sends Sam down her own dark path. “A fast-paced, riveting psychological chiller; brilliant character study and superior writing make this an outstanding debut.” (LJ 8/17)

Cleveland, Karen. Need To Know. Ballantine. Jan. 2018. 304p. ISBN 9781524797027. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781524797034.

Counterintelligence analyst Vivian Miller has a talent for discovering the leaders of Russian sleeper cells in the United States, but a secret dossier of deep-cover agents brings her whole life crashing down. “This suspenseful espionage tale is a rousing Act 2 to the excitement of TV’s The Americans and the novels of Chris ­Pavone.” (LJ 10/1/17)

Finn, A.J. The Woman in the Window. Morrow. Jan. 2018. 448p. ISBN 9780062678416. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062678447.

A big Frankfurt title, buzzing even before BookExpo last spring, sold to 35 countries, and in development as a Fox film, this white-knuckler is one of the most talked-about debuts of the season. Finn’s woman at the window peers out of her New York apartment and sees something she shouldn’t, and the result “lives up to its hype, stand[ing] out in a crowded genre.” An LJ Editors’ Fall Pick. (LJ 8/17)

Robins, Jane. White Bodies. Touchstone. Sept. 2017. 304p. ISBN 9781501165085. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781501165108.

Callie may be unusually obsessive about glimmering, popular twin sister Tilda, but she has good reason to worry about Tilda’s new boyfriend Felix. “After a slow beginning, this debut by a British journalist…offers a suspenseful and twisty foray into the world of obsessive love that suspense junkies should not miss.” (Xpress Reviews 9/1/17)


Birkby, Michelle. The House at Baker Street. Harper Perennial. (Mrs. Hudson & Mary Watson Investigation, Bk. 1). Oct. 2017. 368p. ISBN 9780062680198. pap. $15.99.

Bad move, Sherlock, turning down the case of that needy young woman. Now Mrs. Hudson and Dr. Watson’s wife, Mary, have joined forces to help her and have ended up with a fun new mystery short-listed for the 2016 CWA Dagger Awards. This work “captures the atmosphere and feeling of Arthur Conan Doyle’s original Sherlock Holmes stories while shining a spotlight on his overlooked female characters.” (LJ 10/1/17)

Early, Hank. Heaven’s Crooked Finger. Crooked Lane. (Earl Marcus Mystery, Bk. 1). Nov. 2017. 336p. ISBN 9781683313915. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781683313922.

Earl Marcus wants to forget a childhood riven by the excesses of his father’s fundamentalist church, but not so fast. He’s just received a photo of his father, presumably long dead but looking hale and hearty. “This gritty and riveting debut combines elements of a classic Southern gothic tale, enhanced by distinct pacing, a redolent sense of place, and striking characters.” (LJ 10/1/7)

Steyn, Martin. Dark Traces. Catalyst. Oct. 2017. 352p. ISBN 9781946395016. pap. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9781946395054.

A member of Cape Town’s Violent Crimes Unit, South African Police Warrant Officer Jan Magson goes after a nasty serial killer while mourning his wife’s death. “A damaged but determined detective is matched against a bold and intelligent killer in this captivating debut thriller.” (LJ 8/17)

Thomas, Wendall. Lost Luggage. Poisoned Pen. (Cyd Redondo Mysteries, Bk. 1). Oct. 2017. 258p. ISBN 9781464208928. pap. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9781464208935.

Having worked hard at her family’s travel agency, Cyd Redondo is thrilled to win a trip to Tanzania, but things don’t go as planned—and lost luggage, jailed clients, and animal smugglers aren’t even the half of it. Now she’s the main suspect in a murder. “Thomas makes a rollicking debut.” (LJ 10/1/17)


Bergmann, Emanuel. The Trick. Atria. Sept. 2017. 384p. ISBN 9781501155826. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781501155840.

After World War I, rabbi’s son Moshe Goldenhirsch runs away from home and becomes a magician, performing as the Great Zabbatini. How his story connects with that of 11-year-old Max Cohn, trying to avert his parents’ divorce in 21st-century California, is “a magic trick of its own. Bergmann’s ability to create appealing, well-drawn characters and tell a gripping story is impressive.” An LJ Editors’ Fall Pick. (LJ 9/1/17)

Glover, Dennis. The Last Man in Europe. Overlook. Nov. 2017. 256p. ISBN 9781468315912. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781468315929.

In a tumble-down farmhouse on one of Scotland’s far-flung islands, George Orwell battles illness to pen his masterpiece, Nineteen Eighty-Four. “This engrossing, timely, and finely detailed first novel about the creation of a 20th-century literary masterpiece is a must-read for lovers of history, literature, or politics.” (LJ 9/1/17)

Hayes-McCoy, Felicity. The Library at the Edge of the World. Harper. Nov. 2017. 368p. ISBN 9780062663726. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062663733.

Having escaped a crumbling marriage, librarian Hanna Casey is home on Ireland’s southwestern coast, driving a book­mobile and leading the fight against developers who want to consolidate services and close the local library. “An appealing novel…. There are plenty of good discussion points about the nature of community for book clubs and thoughtful readers.” (LJ 9/1/17)

Hornak, Francesca. Seven Days of Us. Berkley. Oct. 2017. 368p. ISBN 9780451488756. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780451488770.

Luckily for the Birch family, they’re getting to spend Christmas together for the first time in years. Unluckily for them, they’re forced together for seven days, quarantined because daughter Olivia is back from volunteering in Liberia. This “satisfyingly alternative holiday read” is an LJ Editors’ Fall Pick and the No. 1 ­LibraryReads pick for October.

McKibben, Bill . Radio Free Vermont: A Fable of Resistance. Blue Rider. Nov. 2017. 240p. ISBN 9780735219861. $22; ebk. ISBN 9780735219878.

Famed environmental activist ­McKibben steps into fiction with a work starring 72-year-old Vern Barclay, who broadcasts a subversive message via Radio Free Vermont: Vermont should secede from the United States and operate under a free local economy. “McKibben’s…spirited and thought-provoking modern fable will have readers grappling with the ethical questions of how and when resistance is necessary.” (LJ 9/15/17)

Navin, Rhiannon. Only Child. Knopf. Feb. 2018. 304p. ISBN 9781524733353. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9781524733360.

After a gunman ranged through their school, killing 19 people, six-year-old Zach retreats into his own special hideaway and uses his imagination to heal. One of the publisher’s biggest books of the spring—the voice immediately distinctive and riveting.

Roberts, Paige. Virtually Perfect. Kensington. Sept. 2017. 352p. ISBN 9781496710093. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9781496710109.

Her cooking show, monthly magazine column, and cookbook deal all out the window, Lizzie Glass becomes personal chef to the über-wealthy Silvesters at their summer home on the Jersey Shore. “Roberts’s spot-on debut novel delves into the virtually perfect façade of an internally imperfect family.” (LJ 9/1/17)

Weiner, Matthew. Heather, the Totality. Little, Brown. Nov. 2017. 144p. ISBN 9780316435314. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780316435307.

In the world of Manhattan’s one percent, a husband and wife frantically compete for their daughter’s attention even as a threatening young man steps in view. Weiner, the driving force behind Mad Men, delivers “a razor-sharp, fast-paced dark look at the class divide.” (LJ 8/17)

Wolfson, Brianna. Rosie Colored Glasses. Mira: Harlequin. Feb. 2018. 336p. ISBN 9780778330691. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781488022890.

Wolfson’s autobiographical debut features Willow, a child of divorce caught between her rigid father and a mother named Rosie who’s warm and loving and suddenly dangerously crazy. From a star on the San Francisco storytelling circuit; a big hit at BookExpo and a Publishers Lunch Buzz Book.

Bracht, Mary Lynn. White Chrysanthemum. Putnam. Jan. 2018. 320p. ISBN 9780735214439. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780735214453. historical

Of Korean heritage, Bracht boldly faces the ugly truth of the Japanese military’s forcing 200,000 Korean women into sexual slavery during World War II. Big buzz.

Darznik, Jasmin. Song of a Captive Bird. Ballantine. Feb. 2018. 416p. ISBN 9780399182310. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780399182327. literary

Darznik follows The Good Daughter, her New York Times best-selling memoir, with a portrait of poet Forugh ­Farrokzhad, sometimes called Iran’s ­Sylvia Plath.

On the Horizon

Hughes-Hallett, Lucy. Peculiar Ground. Harper. Jan. 2018. 496p. ISBN 9780062684196. $28.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062684219. literary

Winner of Samuel Johnson and Costa Biography honors, Hughes-Hallett got rave UK reviews for this novel, which chronicles a great house named ­Wychwood from the 17th century ­onward.

MacArthur, Robin. Heart Spring Mountain. Ecco: HarperCollins. Jan. 2018. 368p. ISBN 9780062444424. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062444455. literary

Following the PEN New England Book Award–winning story collection Half Wild, this soberingly relevant work features a young woman looking for her estranged mother after Tropical Storm Irene devastates ­Vermont.

Quatro, Jamie. Fire Sermon. Grove. Jan. 2018. 224p. ISBN 9780802127044. $24. literary

Quatro’s story collection, I Want To Show You More, won multiple honors; this full-length fiction features Maggie, married with children, who is drawn as if mesmerized to a wild affair with poet James.

Rosengaard, Mikkel. The Invention of Ana. Custom House: Morrow. Feb. 2018. 288p. ISBN 9780062679079. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062679093. LITERARY

In this Danish award winner, an aspiring writer fresh from Copenhagen meets a performance artist in Brooklyn who claims that she can time travel.

Vale, Maria. The Last Wolf. Sourcebooks Casablanca. (Legend of All Wolves, Bk. 1). Feb. 2018. 320p. ISBN 9781492661870. pap. $7.99. paranormal romance

Runty Silver Nilsdottir determines to make a place for herself with the Great North Pack by fighting for a wounded man who seeks the pack’s protection. The publisher wants a trilogy.


Chakraborty, S.A. The City of Brass. Harper Voyager. (Daevabad Trilogy, Bk. 1). Nov. 2017. 544p. ISBN 9780062678102. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062678126.

In 1700s Cairo, street hustler Nahri cons people with her tricks but rejects the idea that magic really exists until she manages to summon up a dark and wily djinn warrior who takes her to the magnificent City of Brass. An LJ Fantasy Debut Pick. “With a swiftly moving plot, richly drawn characters, and a beautifully constructed world…this lyrical historical fantasy…brings to vivid life the ancient mythological traditions of an Islamic world unfamiliar to most American ­readers.” (LJ 9/15/17)

Solomon, Rivers. An Unkindness of Ghosts. Akashic. Oct. 2017. 340p. ISBN 9781617755880. pap. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9781617755996.

Solomon’s dystopian fantasy stars quietly rebellious Aster, whose family has lived for generations in the hold of the creaky HSS Matilda, putatively carrying the last of humanity to a Promised Land. “Harrowing and beautiful, this is sf at its best…. The fully rounded characters bring ­nuance and genuine pathos to this amazing debut.” (LJ 9/15/17)

Yang, JY. The Black Tides of Heaven. (Tensorate, Bk. 1). 240p. ISBN 9780765395412; ebk. ISBN 9780765395405.

Yang, JY. The Red Threads of Fortune. (Tensorate, Bk. 2). 224p. ISBN 9780765395399; ebk. ISBN 9780765395382.

ea. vol: Oct. 2017. pap. $15.99.

In this debut novel doubleheader, the Protector has sent her six-year-old twins ­Mokoya and Akeha to the Grand Monastery to satisfy a debt, but when ­Mokoya develops prophetic tendencies, she’s essentially recalled, and the twins spin down different paths. “While published simultaneously, each volume can be read separately…together, they make an impressive, fresh debut steeped in Chinese culture.” (LJ 9/15/17)

Barbara Hoffert is Editor, Prepub Alert, LJ

LJ Talks to Comics Legend Frank Miller

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 20:30

In 1986, Frank Miller (Ronin; 300; Sin City; Batman: Year One) made comics history with the release of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, about the 55-year-old superhero coming out of retirement to battle villains in Gotham City. Fifteen years later, he presented that book’s sequel, Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again, and in September of this year, released the third installment, Batman: The Dark Knight; Master Race (starred review, Xpress Reviews 8/18/17).

Miller recently talked to LJ reviewer Jason Steagall via phone, opening up about his love for the character of Batman, the hero’s enduring fan appeal, evolution of sidekick Carrie Kelley, and the work’s history as a whole.

LJ: What originally made you interested and invested in Batman?
I really fell in love with him because he was the hero who had to work the hardest. He couldn’t fly or lift cars over his head or anything like that. He had to do combat and everything else the old-fashioned way. I liked him because he was an effort character.

Batman is a timeless character (originally created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger in the 1930s) who resonates strongly with fans. Why do you think that is the case?
I’ve changed my mind over time for the reason. At first, I thought it was because he was scary and angry, and I’m sure that’s part of it. But now I think it’s because he works the hardest. The notion of Batman is that [you can succeed] if you work hard enough, if you’re smart enough. Everything he’s achieved, somebody could do, conceivably. For most of us, though, it’s easier to imagine dressing up in the costume and running across rooftops than it is simply to jump off the building and stay up in the air and actually fly.

At the end of Master Race, when Batman realizes that Superman has been “holding back” his abilities all these years, are you implying that Batman could never really beat Superman if both were at their best?
Oh yeah, there’s no contest there. I mean, in the first Dark Knight book, I had Batman win a bout with Superman. But, Superman was holding back without question… [and] Batman wound up having a heart attack. Without a doubt, Batman is smarter, but Superman is stronger.

The character of Carrie Kelley has evolved into a dangerous crime fighter and sidekick to Batman. Does she serve as his conscience and moral compass as he grows older?
Carrie is the next generation. She offers a view into an evolving world. [Batman] is getting older, and she can see things he can’t see. Her purpose, though, is to represent youth. She is youth.

Master Race features several other crucial female characters such as Wonder Woman, her daughter Lara, and Police Commissioner Yindel. Why is it important to include strong females in this story?
Well, look at my work history and you’ll see it throughout. The first professional writing job I did was an issue of Daredevil, in which I introduced ­Elektra [in 1981]. It’s something that had been absent from comics. I’ve known the right women throughout my life.

Superman plays an important role in your Batman stories. Do you feel he and Batman are inexorably linked as superheroes?
I think you could take them separately; you could take them together. Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman are what I regard as the triumvirate of the basic [mythology] of DC Comics. If you break it down to gods and heroes, they are the Gods.

Due to the popularity of this series, should readers expect a Dark Knight Book 4?
Oh, yeah. I can’t wait.

You incorporate many pop culture and political references in these Batman stories. How do you feel that impacts the story?
In literature in general, there is something called the Greek Chorus, which is talking and giving you a sense of what’s going on, narrating events, and commenting on them. That’s what all the TV screens are doing speckled throughout Dark Knight. They also present an opportunity for political parody, which is abundant in all the Dark Knight books. And as politics get sillier and sillier, there’s more and more of these kinds of treatment.

Throughout the three Dark Knight volumes, there’s a story arc about Batman’s concerns over Superman’s unchecked powers. Does this mirror a situation in the current or past socioeconomic/political environment?
These things spring from the characters. It’s way too easy to get confident and attach all kinds of psychological stuff to the stories. I like to tell a good yarn, and I’ll leave it at that.

Most of the best superheroes have a memorable antagonist. Who is your favorite Batman villain?
Without question, it is and always has been the Joker. Batman has spent his whole life since his parents were murdered trying to hold onto his sanity, and the Joker relishes in insanity. So, he is Batman’s worst nightmare in every sense.

How do you feel about the interpretation of your famous fight scene from Batman: The Dark Knight Returns in the film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice?
It was a good translation. That sort of thing is very easy to draw on the page. Actually, working it on the movie screen is murder. Translating a comic book fight scene into a movie fight scene is very difficult. They did a very good job.

Is there a superhero or historical figure you have not yet written about but would like to in the future?
I have a book on Xerxes that I want to complete, and I’m eager to forge on to research Alexander the Great. Beyond that, I’m aching for my crack at Superman—as the good guy this time.

What are you working on currently?
Superman: Year One and Xerxes. [There are no specified release dates for these two publications.—Ed.]—Jason Steagall, Gateway Technical Coll. Lib., Elkhorn, WI

New Perspectives | Day of Dialog Brooklyn

Mon, 09/25/2017 - 11:10

Besides offering New Perspectives, speakers at this aptly named panel at LJ’s inaugural Day of Dialog Brooklyn asked thought-provoking questions.
Obama campaign blogger Sam Graham-Felsen‘s debut novel, Green (Random, Jan. 2018), depicts the experiences of a white boy in a mostly black school. His novel is a reflection of his lived experience, “what it felt like to be powerless in a country where I am not powerless.” In explaining his childhood, Graham-Felsen wondered why schools are still extremely segregated more than 50 years after Brown v. Board of Education.

Granta Best of Young American Novelists and NYPL Young Lion Uzodinma Iweala‘s debut is Speak No Evil (Harper, Mar. 2018), which is about more than a Nigerian American teenager questioning their sexuality. “How do you tell that immigrant story? What are the fault lines between people who come here with a set of beliefs and how they raise their children? How do you speak about difference?” Another debut is Commonwealth Prize winner Akwaeke Emezi‘s Freshwater (Grove, Feb. 2018), depicting a Nigerian woman in America exploring the intersection between identity and mental health. Noting that the novel was partly autobiographical, Emezi expressed the weight of feeling as if you’re shouldn’t exist in the world or being told that something is wrong with your reality. Creating this work, she added, was a service to others who haven’t been able to articulate their lived experiences.

Krystal A. Sital offers a memoir, Secrets We Kept (Norton, Feb. 18), about three generations of women in a Hindu family in Trinidad reckoning with an abusive patriarch. In trying to build a complete picture of this grandfather, Sital realized that her story—which is told from three different perspectives—is about women realizing their own power, especially when struggling with their own truths. Lauren Hilgers’s Patriot Number One: American Dreams in Chinatown (Crown, Mar. 2018) gives a different perspective of identity through the eyes of Chinese protest leader Zhuang Liehong, who now resides in Queens. How much of his identity is in China and how much is in the United States? After asking these questions, Hilgers, who spent six years living in China, explained that some immigrants leave China in the past while others always carry it with them.

Photo by Kevin Henegan

Great Book Club Books | Day of Dialog Brooklyn

Mon, 09/25/2017 - 11:07

The last panel of the inaugural Day of Dialog Brooklyn, “Great Book Club Books,” moderated by  LJ Prepub Alert Editor Barbara Hoffert, featured five authors whose books she selected for their book-club potential. Beth Gutcheon set The Affliction (Morrow, Feb. 2018) in a private school “because it’s a moral community” and her school head protagonist has access to many people when she’s called upon to solve a mystery. Stephanie Powell Watts wanted to expand on the themes (particularly of return) in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby with her debut novel No One Is Coming to Save Us (Ecco, Apr.), the inaugural selection by Sarah Jessica Parker for the American Library Association’s Book Central. Relaunching in the spring, her short story collection, We Are Taking Only What We Need (Ecco, Feb. 2018), spotlights young, female African Americans.

The concept of Alice McDermott’s novel The Ninth Hour (Farrar, Sept.) began long ago when she and a friend discussed the Civil War–era practice of paying substitutes to take one’s place in battle. “What do we owe these substitutes?”  McDermott asked, ruminating on selflessness and self-regard in these modern times, then adding, “I didn’t think I’d end up with nuns in Brooklyn.” Dara Horn’s Eternal Life (Norton, Jan. 2018) deals with exactly that: her heroine, Rachel, cannot die and has been on the planet for more than two thousand years. “There are almost never [immortality stories] about fertile women,” Horn, a mother of four young children, mused.  If McDermott’s “big question” was about selflessness, Horn’s might be “What is life for?”

Jillian Medoff wanted to “do something more compelling” with the workplace novel. This Could Hurt (Harper, Mar. 2018) examines how coworkers behave, what they conceal and what they bring to the surface, when they’re in a work situation. “Sometimes there’s more kindness in unexpected places,” she said.

When Hoffert asked the authors if they consider their audience when writing in “solitary situations,” the responses were mixed. Gutcheon “thinks about them all the time, I want [the books] to be worth their time.”  Medoff said she really doesn’t, at least at the writing stage, because “I’ve been doing this a long time.” She does more at the “editing, editing, editing” stage. Watts does think about her readers.  “My characters are minority women, they’re guarded and moving in a hostile world. I have to stay true to them and their journey.” When Hoffert asked the author if she feels like she’s giving a “voice to the voiceless,” Watts replied that she often feels like she’s “walking a weird line” because hers might be the only view readers get of that type of character.

“I do a lot,” Horn said, sharing a story about her Italian American editor, raised Catholic, who identified so much with Horn’s Jewish history–infused stories. “I underestimated them at first.” McDermott answered by saying that “we all are readers first, so you don’t have to because you’re already a reader.” When she added that she was “not sure I’m a writer, but I know I’m a reader,” Hoffert, the other panelists, and numerous audience members assured the multi-awad winner that she is a writer.

Finally, Hoffert asked the panelists how they would go about forming a book club. Gutcheon would ask potential members, “How many sociopaths have you known?”  Watts queried the audience about what stands out for them about the Great Gatsby. Answers such as “the shirts” and “the parties” and “the green light” floated up, and then Watts said “Nobody mentions the mutilated body of Myrtle Wilson….” Medoff’s question was “How well do you know your coworkers, would you take one into your home after she suffered a stroke?” McDermott’s tongue-in-cheek query was “Are you sure this is by me?” Horn’s more serious question was a two-parter: “If you could live forever, would you want to, and would you want it to be with the people you’re with now?”

Panel photos by Kevin Henegan


Editors’ Picks | Day of Dialog Brooklyn 2017

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 16:34

Librarians from across the tristate area and beyond gathered at Brooklyn Public Library’s Dr. S. Stevan Dweck Cultural Center auditorium on the afternoon of September 15, for LJ’s first-ever Day of Dialog Brooklyn, extending the much-beloved annual Day of Dialog, now in its 20th year, into Manhattan’s neighboring borough.

The popular “Editors’ Picks” panel, moderated here by LJ fiction editor Wilda Williams, commenced the half-day event, with six New York editors and publishers presenting a preview of their biggest fall 2017–winter 2018 titles. Debut authors, new imprints, existing lines exploring uncharted genre territories, and current topics were all part of the conversation.

HOUSE FAVORITES from editors (l. to r.) Megan Lynch, Ellen Adler, Wilda Williams (moderator) Peter Joseph, Johnny Temple, Katie Adams, and Betsy Gleick

Katie Adams, Editor, Liveright: Norton

Hailed as “an astonishingly good time,” The Extra Woman: How Marjorie Hillis Led a Generation of Women To Live Alone and Like It (Nov.), by longtime LJ reviewer Joanna Scutts, tells the largely forgotten story of advice/self-help author Marjorie Hillis, who in the 1930s pioneered a new era of women’s rights in America. Rome Prize–winning author Will Boast, dubbed the “real deal” by Adams owing to writing supported by multiple fellowships and other prestigious honors, offers the novel Daphne (Feb. 2018), a rich reimagining of the Greek myth of Daphne and Apollo. A surprise favorite for Adams, and drawing comparisons to Sy Montgomery’s The Soul of an Octopus, Ulrich Raulff’s Farewell to the Horse: A Cultural History (Feb. 2018) engages a smart narrative through a wide lens of history, philosophy, and nature to chronicle the sprawling evolution of the relationship between human and horse. Finally, think We Need To Talk About Kevin meets Dept. of Speculation, and you’ll have Tom McAllister’s new novel How To Be Safe (Apr. 2018), providing a moving account of one woman coping in the aftermath of a small-town school shooting. McAllister has been listening, heeds Adams, and here he brilliantly relates what he’s heard.

Ellen Adler, Publisher, New Press

Promoting “fearless books for perilous times,” Adler gave a brief history of New Press, which launched its first title in 1992, then reminded librarians that her books support understanding and discussion and are among the most diverse in the field. The first of her many picks revolving around the themes of politics and social justice is the paperback release of the 2016 National Book Award finalist Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right (Feb. 2018) by sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild, who embedded herself in the lives and mind-sets of Tea Party members supporting Donald Trump, bringing much-needed insight into the 2016 election. Another title to aid in the discussion of the current political climate, being brought back into print this November, is The Responsibility of Intellectuals, Noam Chomsky’s 1967 essay challenging the abuse of power in government and the will of smart people to enact real change. In Denmark Vesey’s Garden: Slavery and Memory in the Cradle of the Confederacy (Apr. 2018), Ethan Kytle and Blain Roberts examine the deep roots of slavery in America, the memories that live on today, and opposing viewpoints regarding its legacy. Two May 2018 releases librarians will want to acquire are Alexis Clark’s Enemies in Love: A German POW, a Black Nurse, and an Unlikely Romance, and Janet Dewart Bell’s Lighting the Fires of Freedom: Oral Histories of African American Women in the Civil Rights Movement. These powerful accounts speak to issues of race, love, and the struggle to survive.

Betsy Gleick, Editorial Director, Algonquin Books

Gleick joined Algonquin less than a year ago yet is already making an impressive mark as editorial director, kicking off 2018 with the publisher’s first novel in translation from Icelandic author Hallgrímur Helgason. Likened to “John Irving on speed,” Woman at 1,000 Degrees centers on octogenarian Herra Bjornsson and notable historic events in the 20th century interwoven into her life. Seasoned journalist Shoba Narayan’s The Milk Lady of Bangalore: An Unexpected Adventure (Jan. 2018) will captivate animal lovers and armchair travelers with its story of female friendship across cultures, namely, Indian and American, both of which the author knows well. Further drawing on social, cultural, and class distinctions is Jonathan Evison’s Lawn Boy (Apr. 2018), a coming-of-age story about a Mexican American who aspires to become a landscape architect but as Gleick put it, “can’t seem to get a break.” And if you’re asking yourself in these uncertain times, “What works best to combat hate?” check out Sally Kohn’s The Opposite of Hate (Apr. 2018), described as “a witty, intelligent, and real read” from a gay, feminist commentator and former FOX news correspondent whose prose engages readers on every page.

Peter Joseph, Editorial Director, Hanover Square: Harlequin

In 2018, Harlequin will launch its new imprint Hanover Square Press, spearheaded by Peter Joseph, who spent more than a decade as an editor at St. Martin’s Thomas Dunne Books. Rather broad in scope, this new line will focus on general, historical, and crime fiction, as well as speculative fiction, thrillers, and nonfiction. Notable crime fiction includes literary agent and author Neil Olson’s The Black Painting (Jan. 2018) and Daily Mail First Novel award winner Amy Lloyd’s The Innocent Wife (Feb. 2018). On the historical front, American Israeli writer Steven Hartov’s The Soul of Thief (Apr. 2018) captures the experience of German Jews, or Mischlinge, who served in various branches of the German military during World War II. For fans of speculative/high-concept fiction, specifically dealing with shifting realities that push readers to the edge, seek out actor and acclaimed children’s author Damian Dibben’s canine-centric Tomorrow (Mar. 2018), along with journalist/author John Marrs’s psychological thriller How Far Would You Go To Find the One (Feb. 2018). In Marrs’s work, science takes the guesswork out of discovering true love, helping people find their soulmate.

Megan Lynch, VP and Editorial Director, Ecco: HarperCollins

The top picks from HarperCollins imprint Ecco have already garnered high accolades from our most trusted critics. In a starred review of in-house favorite Joseph Cassara’s The House of Impossible Beauties (Feb. 2018), LJ’s Prepub Alert editor Barbara Hoffert praised the book as “a grittily gorgeous work for readers who don’t go for cozies.” Rising author Jesse Ball is also turning heads. According to Lynch, his latest novel, Census (Mar. 2018), about a journey through unfamiliar country taken by an ailing father and his son with Down syndrome, is simply “blowing his readers out of the water.” In May 2018, acclaimed novelist Rumaan Alam, whose debut, Rich and Pretty, gripped and then held our attention, returns with a second novel, That Kind of Mother (May 2018), which author Celeste Ng regarded as “heartfelt and thought-provoking,” a dive into the hot-button issues of parenthood, adoption, and race. Lastly, taking on the complex subject of female friendship, Christine Mangan’s debut novel, Tangerine (Mar. 2018), sets a chilling story in 1950s Morocco. Reportedly reminiscent of Hitchcock films and Shirley Jackson’s short fiction, with bonus themes of intense psychological warfare, according to Lynch. Expect demand; George Clooney has already optioned the film rights.

Johnny Temple, Publisher and Founder, Akashic Books

Akashic Books founder Johnny Temple began by thanking librarians and LJ editors for their “invaluable support” of the independent, Brooklyn-based press over the last 20 years. Though it’s clear that what’s driving the company forward is Temple’s love of quality storytelling—he acquired the first novel by Marlon James, whose A Brief History of Seven Killings went on to win the 2015 Man Booker Prize. More evidence of the publisher’s keen eye for powerful writing is found in Rivers Solomon’s An Unkindness of Ghosts (Oct. 2017), described by Temple as “utterly magnificent sf depicting how parallel obsessions can work against each other,” and by LJ reviewer Megan McArdle as “harrowing and beautiful.” Key to this compelling story is the strong female lead, Aster, who eventually overcomes an oppressive regime aboard a ship traveling into space, with the lowest decks reserved for black slaves. In time for spring 2017 is the release of Akashic’s 50th-anniversary edition of Pete Hamill’s seminal, fast-paced thriller A Killing for Christ, originally published in 1968. Jumping ahead to April 2018, Emmy Award–winning Sopranos actor Michael Imperioli makes his first foray into fiction with The Perfume Burned His Eyes, about a young man coming of age in 1970s New York; singer Lou Reed figures prominently. Lots of in-house love for this first novel.

Panel photos by Kevin Henegan


Strange Boys, Vanishing New York, Brollies, and IT | What We’re Reading & Watching  

Wed, 09/20/2017 - 13:24

This time out, the “What We’re Reading & Watching” gang finds a jewel in the slush pile, confronts monsters who bedevil us, fights for New York City’s soul, hoists brollies against the rain, and piles up future reads for self and kids.

Bette-Lee Fox, Managing Editor, LJ
Who knows what will entice you to pick up a book, either from a shelf of discarded galleys or from a pile of such items lugged home from the office. I liked the mostly red cover of Monica Wood’s The One-in-a-Million Boy (Houghton Harcourt) and the précis from the back cover: “The incandescent story of a 104-year-old woman and the sweet, strange young boy assigned to help her around the house.” I’d put down a few other books of late after a few pages; I was getting desperate knowing soon I’d be mired in Best Book reading and this might be my last chance for a while at a book “just for me.” I seem to have found myself recently devouring stories featuring children who are a bit different or complex and require more from the adults around them. Such is the case with “the sweet, strange boy” of this novel, who will tear your heart out in so many ways, and the grown-ups who become much better for having known him. Find it; read it; recommend it.

Liz French, Senior Editor, LJ Reviews
My colleague Mahnaz loaned me her actual store-bought copy of Jeremiah Moss’s Vanishing New York: How a Great City Lost Its Soul (Dey St: HarperCollins) because I follow (haphazardly) Moss’s blog, Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York, and generally lament the same losses and detest the same genericizing of Gotham that he does. I’m a fan of the blog, but the book is leaving me cold. It’s a little too louche-loving and crusty grit-embracing for me, although I enjoyed his sneering takedown of the infamous “CBGB toilet” exhibit at the Met’s Fashion Institute “Punk Fashion” show. Moss is very close-minded about any sort of change—I get the feeling if he’d been around in the early 20th century he’d be “agin” indoor plumbing and electric light—but he is right (imo) about how many of those changes by “the elites” have coopted our city and destroyed its character.

Tyler Hixson, WWR/W alumnus (Brooklyn Public Library)
I was one of the many who contributed to IT‘s record-breaking opening weekend, and I was not disappointed. Andy Muschietti’s (director of 2013’s sleeper horror hit Mama) vision of one of my favorite Stephen King novels had everything in it that the 1990 TV miniseries didn’t (no disrespect to Tim Curry, but the miniseries is lackluster at best). For those who are unfamiliar with the story, IT is about a group of seven kids—the Losers Club—that take on “It,” an ancient evil that has plagued the town of Derry, ME, every 27 years since forever. The book tells the story of the Losers Club battling It as kids and 27 years later as adults; this movie focuses on the Losers Club as kids. This adaptation’s R rating allows the kids to be vulgar and crude, and the real-life horrors they face—the bullies, the sinister, indifferent adults—are truly terrible, but the biggest upgrade, enhanced by CGI, is Pennywise the Dancing Clown, played by Bill Skarsgård, who more than fills Curry’s giant shoes. If you weren’t afraid of clowns before you watch the film, you will be when you’re done.

IT is essentially a coming-of-age story, and the film’s best moments are when the group is all together. There’s Bill (the excellent Jaeden Lieberher), the stuttering ringleader of the club whose younger brother Georgie is dragged into the sewer by Pennywise at the beginning of the film; Richie (Finn Wolfhard, from Netflix’s Stranger Things), the wisecracking loudmouth; Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer), the nervous hypochondriac; Stan (Wyatt Oleff), the Jewish nerd; Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor), the heavyset new kid, who’s got a crush on Beverly (the also excellent Sophia Lillis), who joins the group because she feels slighted by the town that considers her promiscuous; and Mike (Chosen Jacobs), the only black kid in the neighborhood, and the last to join the club after the group saves him from a town bully and his gang. The chemistry between Richie and Eddie is screamingly hilarious as they rag on each other even in moments of mortal peril, and the “love triangle” of Bill, Beverly, and Ben is sweet and tender. The film manages to delight and terrify in equal measure, and the multitude of Easter eggs that the filmmakers sprinkle throughout will satisfy King’s Constant Readers. IT: Chapter Two can’t come soon enough.

Meredith Schwartz, Executive Editor, LJ
I have just picked up Marion Rankine’s Brolliology: A History of the Umbrella in Life and Literature  (Melville House). I’m a fan of microhistories in general—they are generally much less full of war and woe than macrohistories—and I’ve already encountered a few odd umbrella facts in my other hat (a bonnet) as a historical reenactor, so it’ll be fun to fill in the rest of the story.

Henrietta Verma, WWR alumna (National Information Standards Organization)
I’m crazy busy at the moment and not reading much besides news, but I have added a few items to my WIWBR (What I Will Be Reading) list. The first is Manoush Zomorodi’s Bored and Brilliant: Rediscovering the Lost Art of Spacing Out (St. Martin’s); it’s quite hard for me to do nothing, and I hope this book will give me permission. Next is Micaela Erlanger’s How To Accessorize: A Perfect Finish to Every Outfit (Clarkson Potter: Crown), so I can look fab while spacing out, and because I’m intrigued by a book on accessorizing that has such an understated cover. The last of my recent wannareads is Kassia St. Clair’s The Secret Lives of Color (Penguin Pr.), just because it looks fascinating.

I add books to my kids’ lists, too, and sometimes they even like them. For Henry, age six, when I can drag him away from Dav Pilkey’s canon, next up is Dazzle Ships: World War I and the Art of Confusion (Millbrook) by Chris Barton, illustrated by Victo Ngai. My 13-year-old daughter gave an almost-audible grunt when I told her about Adam Silvera’s new They Both Die at the End (HarperTeen), which is high praise, so I’m going to get a hold of that as well.




Reconciling Histories, Unraveling Mysteries | Memoir

Wed, 09/13/2017 - 10:57

This month, we’ve got a variety of memoirs: two that focus on family and its vicissitudes, and two that consider different aspects of Russia and its traumatic history. Anne Fadiman’s The Wine Lover’s Daughter is a standout—possibly the best memoir, and one of the best books, this reviewer has read in 2017.

Alyokhina, Maria. Riot Days. Metropolitan: Holt. Sept. 2017. 160p. ISBN 9781250164926. pap. $17; ebk. ISBN 9781250164919. MEMOIR
Alyokhina, a member of the Russian feminist protest collective Pussy Riot, writes passionately and with insight about the events leading up to and the two years she spent in a penal colony for “organized hooliganism.” Her offense? Participating in the performance of a “Punk Prayer” in an Orthodox Russian Church in Moscow. Unfortunately, the author provides little context for this incident and related events. Many assumptions are made about what readers already know about Pussy Riot and about life in Vladimir Putin’s Russia. A foreword or afterword would have been helpful for American audiences to put things in perspective. Still, Alyokhina well captures the horror, absurdity, and confusion of life in contemporary Russia. VERDICT For readers interested in and familiar with Pussy Riot. Others may want to seek out Masha Gessen’s Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot.

Fadiman, Anne. The Wine Lover’s Daughter. Farrar. Nov. 2017. 272p. photos. notes. ISBN 9780374228088. $24; ebk. ISBN 9780374711764. MEMOIR
Essayist (At Large and at Small; Ex Libris) and author (The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down) Fadiman’s wonderful memoir examines herself, her father, her relationship with her father, wine, books, family, and much more. Clifton Fadiman had a long and distinguished career as a radio and TV host and book reviewer. But his main passion, besides books, was wine. Those familiar with the author’s essays will recognize her polymath mind and tangential style, and those unfamiliar will find it delightful to encounter for the first time. How she manages to fit her own life, her father’s life, her marriage, a primer on wine, the scientific study of taste, and many other subjects into such a slim volume is mind-boggling, something this reviewer is still trying to comprehend. VERDICT A fascinating book with something to interest anyone; a pure reading pleasure. [See Prepub Alert, 7/12/17.]

Johnson, Claudia Hunter. Hurtling Toward Happiness: A Mother and Teenage Son’s Road Trip from Blues to Bonding in a Really Small Car. Skyhorse. Oct. 2017. 288p. photos. ISBN 9781628728156. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781628728170. MEMOIR
With their relationship, and their lives, at a breaking point, documentary filmmaker (The Other Side of Silence: The Untold Story of Ruby McCollum) and memoirist (Stifled Laughter) Johnson and her 16-year-old son Ross realize that they both have always had the same desire to head west on I-10 and see what they can find. They journey from their home in Tallahassee, FL, to the various places in Texas where Johnson grew up. While her childhood wasn’t always happy, and the book has many tearjerker moments, it is also filled with warmth, affection, and good humor. Johnson tells her story well and does a particularly good job of interweaving past and present. VERDICT Highly recommended for all parents, whether their children are teenagers or not. This memoir will alternately cause readers to smile and tear up frequently.

Sukys, Julija. Siberian Exile: Blood, War, and a Granddaughter’s Reckoning. Univ. of Nebraska. Oct. 2017. 192p. photos. ISBN 9780803299597. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9781496203144. MEMOIR
In this debut memoir, Sukys uncovers the horrible family secret that her paternal grandfather, Anthony, was involved in a pogrom against Jews in Nazi-occupied Lithuania during World War II. Sukys alternates this narrative with the story of her grandmother Ona, who spent 25 years exiled in Siberia. Here, too, the author uncovers secrets and discovers that Ona’s exile, and the circumstances surrounding it, were not what they appeared to be. While Sukys’s stories are nearly always fascinating, the purpose and audience of this title are unclear. In fact, the narrative in places reads more like a history than a memoir, yet one wonders what it is a history of. In a nutshell, this book is slightly unfocused and offers extraneous detail to little effect. VERDICT For readers interested in the time period or subject.

Note: see Sanderson’s full-length Q&A with Daniel Mendelsohn, author of An Odyssey: A Father, a Son, and an Epic (LJ 9/1/17, p. 119), about which Sanderson said, “Memoirs—hell, books—like this don’t come around too often. This is absolutely essential reading.”—Ed.

Diversity in Gaming | Games, Gamers, & Gaming

Wed, 09/13/2017 - 08:55

My wife and I enjoy playing Guild Wars 2, a massive multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) set in a unique fictional universe that combines elements of high fantasy, steampunk, and sf. While the forgiving progression system, robust in-game economy, and varied game play mechanics have been more than enough to keep us interested for going on four years, a recent addition has made my wife love it even more.

My wife is African American and wears her hair natural. While she’s an avid gamer who has played a wide variety of characters over the years, she’s never played a character that actually looks like her—she’s played as black women but always with straight hair. But ArenaNet, the developer behind Guild Wars 2, recently added more options for customizing players’ in-game avatars. My wife can now create a black female character with an Afro or braids, and by doing so she has a deeper connection with her character.

Mirrors and windows

Rudine Sims Bishop coined the phrase “mirrors and windows” to describe the need in children’s literature for characters who allow readers to see themselves and those who are different from themselves. This need is equally as strong in gaming. Games, gamers, and gaming often experience well-deserved criticism when it comes to a lack of diversity and ­inclusiveness. However, there has been some progress made.

Guild Wars 2, as previously mentioned, recently added new choices to its already robust character options. Players can create a wide range of ethnic styles and looks, even among the game’s non­human races, and are encouraged to come up with at least a basic story about them. One of the best ways to engage patrons with gaming is to have them invent back­stories for their characters in RPGs; the same could be done with this game. Beyond the player-­characters, the game’s story content includes characters of a variety of cultural backgrounds and skin tones; an LGBTQ character and a trans­gender character; a race of characters who have no assigned sex and whose gender is completely self-determined; a character with a disability; and some hints at those living with post-traumatic stress disorder. It’s not a perfect representation of varied physical and mental states—one villain is a stereo­typical “insane genius”—but it’s beyond what many other MMORPGs attempt.

Games have struggled to portray mental illness with both sensitivity and relevance to their narratives and game play mechanics. Rarely do characters have to deal with their mental health as a challenge, and even more rarely is the main player-character afflicted with a mental or behavioral disorder at all. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice for PC and PlayStation 4 changes that. The main character suffers with psychosis and must constantly question her ­reality. Her mental state plays into the game mechanics, making puzzles and enemy encounters more challenging, and serves as a crux to the overall story.

Of course, any discussion of heroes with mental disorders is incomplete without a mention of Batman, and while he’s primarily a comic book character, the “Arkham” series has cemented his video game legacy. All four games in the series discuss at length his obsession and paranoia, with more than a few hints that he’s just as mentally unstable as the villains he fights.

It may surprise some gamers that non-heteronormative characters go all the way back to the 1980s. The arcade classic ­Final Fight, which casts a trans woman as one of its villains, is a well-known piece of video game trivia, but many might be surprised that Super Mario 2 features a trans character as well—the original instruction manual references a character named Birdo who “believes he is female” and prefers to be called Birdetta. The iconic RPG Fallout 2 features video games’ first same-sex marriage. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and Star Wars: Knight of the Old Republic feature bisexual characters, and Final Fantasy IX includes a trans character.

Far to go

There’s still more ground to cover with regard to game diversity. People of color are vastly outnumbered in game casts. Nonheteronormative characters are usually relegated to supporting roles. The challenges of being part of a marginalized group are rarely explored. Mental illness is getting more attention in games, but it’s still far more likely associated with villainy.

Also, too often the gaming community responds with resistance when the issue of diversity is raised. Members of majority groups disparage the desire for people to see characters that defy the norm, frequently using the excuse that they themselves “just want a good game” and don’t care about the race, gender, or health of the main character.

Of course, if they truly didn’t care, then they wouldn’t be bothered in the least by this ongoing discussion. As a librarian, you can be an advocate for both video games and diversity in gaming and help foster a culture of acceptance and inclusion in your gaming community.

Until next time, keep telling yourself: just one more level!

M. Brandon Robbins is Media Coordinator, Goldsboro High School, NC, and a member of the 2011 class of the American Library Association’s Emerging Leaders

Leveling the Field: Women in Sports | Collection Development

Thu, 09/07/2017 - 09:20

It is a common misconception that Title IX only relates to women having an equal opportunity to participate in school athletics. In fact, the law is much broader than sports and encompasses equality for everyone, not just women. In the last few years, Title IX has been in the news in connection with campus sexual assaults. Previously, Title IX cases were mostly related to athletics and physical ­education.

The basic letter of the law states, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

Applying the law to sports

The specifics of the law as they relate to sports stipulate three major areas of compliance: equal opportunities to participate; equal access to scholarships and funding; and equal treatment in the provision of equipment, coaching, facilities, scheduling of games and practices, publicity, support services, and recruitment. Title IX also applies to physical education, requiring equal treatment in assignment of instructors, testing, grading, equipment, locker rooms, and other resources.

In order to be in compliance with Title IX, schools must meet at least one of three measures (the so-called “three-prong test”): the ability to demonstrate that opportunities for participation are proportionate to enrollment; a history and continued practice of program expansion responsive to interest; or that current programs fully accommodate the interests and abilities of all students.

Challenges, Clarifications, Impact

Since its passage in 1972 as part of the Education Amendments Act, Title IX has weathered many challenges and helped bring about major changes in women’s sports (thus the thinking that Title IX only applies to women). An early and frequent (three times since 1974) assault has come from those who seek to remove “revenue sports” from the jurisdiction of Title IX. All have failed so far to gain any ground with the courts, but the expectation is that this issue will continue to be raised because these sports have historically been funded far beyond other programs. Grove City College v. Bell (1984) spoke to the inclusion of intercollegiate athletics in the juris­diction of Title IX, arguing that these programs were not direct recipients of federal funding. The Supreme Court agreed, and Title IX carried no weight in athletics until the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987 reversed that decision. Those brief years underscored the importance of the law. In its absence, many female athletes lost scholarships and numerous women’s teams were dropped.

Other key early rulings also served to clarify important points of Title IX. Haffer v. Temple University (1988) created a model for evaluating discrimination in funding and support for athletic programs, and Franklin v. Gwinnett County Public Schools (1992) confirmed that monetary damages could be awarded in Title IX lawsuits. Over the last 20 years, there have been additional legal actions surrounding Title IX and athletics, many of which have served to clarify the application of the law.

Title IX has contributed to significant increases in the number of women who participate in high school and college sports, and consequent athletic scholarships have grown exponentially. The effects have extended into leadership as well, with coaches of women’s teams being paid competitively with men’s and successful female athletes and coaches heading athletic programs and National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) offices.

Starred titles () are essential purchases for most ­library collections.

Sara Holder is Head of Research and Information Services at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and coauthor of Difficult Decisions: Closing and Merging Academic Libraries (ALA Editions, 2015). She earned her MLIS from Dominican University and is a longtime sports and business reviewer for LJ

History & Law

Belanger, Kelly. Invisible Seasons: Title IX and the Fight for Equity in College Sports. Syracuse Univ. 2016. 504p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780815634843. $75; pap.
ISBN 9780815634706. $44.95.

Belanger’s comprehensive work tells the story of the women athletes and their supporters who took on Michigan State University in the early years of Title IX.

Brake, Deborah L. Getting in the Game: Title IX and the Women’s Sports Revolution. New York Univ. 2010. 320p. ISBN 9780814799659. $89; pap. ISBN 9780814760390.
$26; ebk. ISBN 9780814787120.

In this concise account, Brake offers a definitive legal analysis of Title IX through the lens of feminist theory.

Carpenter, Linda Jean & R. Vivian Acosta. Title IX. Human Kinetics. 2004. 280p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780736042390. $62.

Covering all aspects of Title IX, this detailed work includes the history of the law from its creation to its judicial interpretations and clarifications and how these have affected its impact.

Cohen, Marilyn. No Girls in the Clubhouse: The Exclusion of Women from Baseball. McFarland. 2009. 228p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780786440184. pap. $29.95.

In analyzing the history of women’s exclusion from baseball, Cohen mentions Title IX lawsuits that have resulted, along with stories of women who have broken the barrier and the isolation they experienced. (LJ 2/15/09)

Equal Play: Title IX and Social Change. Temple Univ. 2007. 376p. ed. by Nancy Hogshead-Makar & Andrew Zimbalist. illus. index. ISBN 9781592133802. pap. $40.95.

Hogshead-Makar and Zimbalist present an excellent collection of essays written by sports journalists on issues and aspects of Title IX and how the law relates to school athletics.

LeBlanc, Diane & Allys Swanson. Playing for Equality: Oral Histories of Women Leaders in the Early Years of Title IX. McFarland. 2016. 208p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9781476663005. pap. $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9781476626987.

The authors illustrate the impact of Title IX through the words of eight women involved in different aspects of competitive and recreational sports.

Mitchell, Nicole & Lisa A. Ennis. Encyclopedia of Title IX and Sports. Greenwood. 2007. 240p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780313335877. $66.

Mitchell and Ennis have crafted an essential collection of 150 entries on topics both directly related to and associated with Title IX.

Sporting Equality: Title IX Thirty Years Later. Taylor & Francis. 2004. 182p.
ed. by Rita James Simon. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780765808486. pap. $44.95.

This volume examines the findings and recommendations of the Secretary of Education’s Commission on Opportunities in Athletics (2002) as well as the strengths and weaknesses of the original legislation.

Sociology of Sports

Eckstein, Rick. How College Athletics Are Hurting Girls’ Sports: The Pay-To-Play Pipeline. Rowman & Littlefield. Mar. 2017. 244p. notes. index. ISBN 9781442266285. $34; ebk. ISBN 9781442266292.

Sociologist Eckstein looks at the increasing commercialization of college sports and its negative impact on the development of younger athletes, particularly girls.

Fields, Sarah K. Female Gladiators: Gender, Law, and Contact Sport in America.
Univ. of Illinois. 2008. 232p. notes. index. ISBN 9780252075841. pap. $28.

Fields, who specializes in sports as well as women’s and gender studies, looks at the continued resistance, both in the courts and in society, to women’s participation in contact sports.

Lieberman, Viridiana. Sports Heroines on Film: A Critical Study of Cinematic Women Athletes, Coaches, and Owners. McFarland. 2014. 200p. notes. bibliog. index.
ISBN 9780786476619. pap. $40.

In this analysis of the portrayal of female athletes in film from the 1940s to the present, Lieberman identifies links to the social values of the time and assesses the potential of athletes as role models.

McDonagh, Eileen & Laura Pappano. Playing with the Boys: Why Separate Is Not Equal in Sports. Oxford Univ. 2009. 384p. notes. index. ISBN 9780195386776. pap. $19.95;
ebk. ISBN 9780199840595.

The playing field in competitive sports needs to be leveled, the authors argue, which includes doing away with special rules that are currently in practice in the women’s versions of sports that are also played by men.

Milner, Adrienne N. & Jomills H. Braddock II. Sex Segregation in Sports: Why Separate Is Not Equal. Praeger. 2016. 208p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781440838101. $48;
ebk. ISBN 9781440838118.

Here, the authors maintain that Title IX’s “separate but equal” stance is ineffective and should be replaced by the integration of male and female athletes on the same team.

Pieper, Lindsay. Sex Testing: Gender Policing in Women’s Sports. Univ. of Illinois. 2016. 256p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780252040221. $95; pap. ISBN 9780252081682. $22.95; ebk. ISBN 9780252098444.

While examining the history of sex testing in sports, Pieper looks at the International Olympic Committee’s use of the practice to identify and eliminate female athletes who do not fit Western norms and how this hindered the development of women’s athletics.

Suggs, Welch. A Place on the Team: The Triumph and Tragedy of Title IX. Princeton Univ. 2006. 296p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780691128856. pap. $30.95.

Suggs covers 30 years of debate on the pros and cons of Title IX and how it has affected both women’s and men’s sports, offering a solid starting point for ­discussion.

YA Resources

Blumenthal, Karen. Let Me Play: The Story of Title IX; The Law That Changed the Future of Girls in America. Atheneum. 2005. 160p. ISBN 9780689859571. $22.99.

Journalist Blumenthal narrates the story of the impetus, creation, and effect of Title IX for younger readers. (SLJ 7/05)

White, Ellen Emerson. A Season of Daring Greatly. Greenwillow. Feb. 2017. 432p.
ISBN 9780062463210. $17.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062463234.

White’s YA novel features 18-year-old Jill, the star pitcher for her high school, who is drafted by a major league team and how she struggles with being a role model. (SLJ 1/17)


Gracie. 97 min. Davis Guggenheim, dist. by New Line Home Video. 2007.
DVD UPC 0794043109911. $14.99.

Directed by Guggenheim, this family drama recounts the story of a young girl and her fight to play on the boys’ varsity soccer team.

Half the Road: The Passion, Pitfalls and Power of Women’s Professional Cycling.
106+ min. Kathryn Bertine, dist. by First Run Features. 2014. DVD UPC 720229916042. $24.95.

Professional cycling is a sport dominated by men but in which women compete and thrive despite inequalities. This documentary examines the subject using interviews, racing footage, and director ­Bertine’s own story of chasing her Olympic dream. (LJ 3/15/15)

Patsy Mink: Ahead of the Majority. color & b/w. 56 min. Making Waves Films. 2008. DVD $44.50.

Patsy Mink was the first Asian American member of Congress and first woman elected to Congress from the state of ­Hawaii. This documentary centers on her political life and her involvement in the creation of Title IX.

Playing Unfair: The Media Image of the Female Athlete. 30 min. Media Education Fdn. 2002. DVD $250.

Investigative reporters explore the contrasts between the success of Title IX and the continued inequity in media coverage of men’s sports versus women’s.


Borders, Ila Jane & Jean Hastings Ardell. Making My Pitch: A Woman’s Baseball Odyssey. Univ. of Nebraska. Apr. 2017. 264p. illus. notes. ISBN 9780803285309.
$26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781496200204.

Borders describes her years as a Little League prodigy who went on to win a college baseball scholarship and play in both collegiate and professional men’s baseball leagues. (LJ 4/1/17)

Gilder, Ginny. Course Correction: A Story of Rowing and Resilience in the Wake
of Title IX. Beacon. 2015. 272p. bibliog. ISBN 9780807074770. $26.95; pap.
ISBN 9780807090367. $20; ebk. ISBN 9780807074787.

Gilder validates the importance of Title IX by showing the profound impact that participation in sports can have on a young woman’s life.

Ross, Betsy. Playing Ball with the Boys: The Rise of Women in the World of Men’s Sports. Clerisy. 2011. 240p. ISBN 9781578604609. pap. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9781578604616.

This collection of essays includes personal stories of women who broke barriers to succeed in male-dominated ­positions in sports journalism, medicine, coaching, and administration.

Skaine, Rosemarie. Women College Basketball Coaches. McFarland. 2001. 207p.
notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780786409204. pap. $39.95.

The increasing presence of female coaches in college basketball and their in­fluence on the sport is detailed by Skaine, including a historical look at the involvement of women in college sports, both pre– and post–Title IX.

Wambach, Abby. Forward: A Memoir. Dey Street: HarperCollins. 2016. 240p. ISBN 9780062466983. $26.99; pap. ISBN 9780062467003. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062467010.

Retired soccer player Wambach tells the story of the many challenges she faced—from both outside forces and her own inner struggles—on the road to becoming a world-class athlete. (LJ 11/1/16)

Internet Resources

American Civil Liberties Union

This resource includes write-ups on the pioneers of the movement (for example, Rep. Patsy Mink, Rep. Edith Green, Sen. Birch Bayh, and Billie Jean King); blog posts about Title IX–related cases and news; and fact sheets on Title IX history and related topics such as school segregation and sexual assault on college ­campuses.

National Women’s Law Center (NWLC)

Created through NWLC’s ­MARGARET Fund (May All Resolve, Girls Achieve Real Equality Today) that supports Title IX educational and compliance efforts, this site explains the basics and history of the legislation, with case studies, and provides links to resources for further learning and ­advocacy.

The U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR)

The OCR is the official body tasked with enforcing Title IX and other ­statutes. The site provides a wealth of background documents relating to the legislation and its enforcement, a resource guide to assist with compliance, and an online mechanism for reporting allegations of ­discrimination.

Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF)

The WSF provides the story behind the legislation and its history as well as myths and facts about Title IX, a primer on the language used in the legislation, and ­position papers recounting the foundation’s opinion issues such as those regarding contact sports and dropping men’s sports from the name of Title IX.

Books for Thought | The Reader’s Shelf

Wed, 09/06/2017 - 13:06

Some of the best novels are those that get people talking. By introducing a new perspective, featuring gripping plots, and tackling ethical dilemmas, they become perfect catalysts for discussion among bibliophiles.

In Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West (Riverhead. Mar. 2017. ISBN 9780735212176. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780735212183), bold Nadia and gentle Saeed find romance in an unnamed Middle Eastern city as everything around them unravels into civil war. Hamid depicts the harrowing destruction of society in a deeply personal way, whereby something as normal as a visit to the car to find a lost earring becomes deadly. Magical “doors” allow Nadia and Saeed to escape the turmoil, and, as refugees, they remain optimistic while dealing with the feeling of belonging. Their youthful hope is contagious, making the reader want to stay firmly in their orbit. Through lovely language and endearing characters, Hamid crafts an uplifting story.

Lisa Ko’s extraordinary The ­Leavers (­Algonquin. May 2017. ISBN 9781616206888. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9781616207137) was inspired by the life of Xiu Ping Jiang, who was profiled in a 2009 New York Times article. Old enough to start school, Deming Guo joins his mom, Polly, in the Bronx after being raised affectionately by his grandfather in China. Deming finds Polly to be loud, fun, hardworking, and totally committed to him. But then Polly doesn’t come home from work one day, leaving her son distraught and forced into an adoptive white family in upstate New York. Given a new name—Daniel Wilkinson—and guardians pushing him to assimilate, he grapples with his circumstances in moving, heartbreaking prose. Ko offers up a devastating look at the immigrant experience, the sacrifice of family, and personal identity.

Elizabeth Nunez’s Even in Paradise (Akashic. 2016. ISBN 9781617754401. pap. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9781617754562) is a fresh, modern telling of Shakespeare’s King Lear—this version set in Trinidad and Barbados, tackling matters of race and class with captivating accuracy. Widower Peter Ducksworth believes that love is best expressed with flattery—sincere or otherwise. With that in mind, he divides his estate to benefit his two manipulative daughters over his kind and honest child, and the decision begins a startling series of betrayals. Knowing this landscape well as a result of living it, Nunez paints the beauty of the islands while also introducing the nuances of privilege in this accessible and graceful narrative.

An epic work of historical fiction, Annie Proulx’s Barkskins (Scribner: S. & S. Apr. 2017. ISBN 9780743288798. pap. $20; ebk. ISBN 9781476771823) depicts 300 years of the timber industry in North America. The tale starts with two indentured servants as they arrive in primitive rural Canada from France in 1693. Ultimately, one becomes a manual laborer and marries a native woman; the other is the founder of a successful lumber company. Their descendants are entangled in revenge, disease, cultural prejudice and annihilation, and more as Proulx tracks them through many generations. This skillfully structured novel features a huge cast of characters whose lives serve as a backdrop to the destruction of the natural environment. Proulx will have readers invested in learning about the brutal, rapacious logging business.

Doree Shafrir tells the story of the New York City tech industry and the wacky mores and expectations associated with it in Startup (Little, Brown. Apr. 2017. ISBN 9780316360388. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780316360371). It’s an anthropological adventure where very young and overly confident men—men like Mack McAllister—can make enormous amounts of money if someone falls in love with their idea for a new app. When Katya, a journalist at a gossip-fueled blog, inadvertently discovers Mack is sexually harassing one of his employees, she wonders if she should publish a damning story on this “superhero” and, if so, what will be the fallout? Shafrir creates a fascinating world of interconnected friends and coworkers and the brash, bombastic characters who run and fund the cutting-edge tech field.

In Lionel Shriver’s The Mandibles: A Family 2029–2047 (Harper Perennial. Jun. 2017. ISBN 9780062328281. pap. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9780062328267), the United States defaults on its loans, the dollar is worth nothing, and the government is in complete disarray. All of the societal structures that have been in place to keep the economy afloat and maintain order are no longer viable. The Mandibles, a family whose challenges have been softened by the expectation of an inheritance and the comforts of a middle-class life, are thrown into chaos and move in together in Brooklyn to pool resources and survive. As the stress grows, everyone begins to reveal their true natures. Shriver adds wit to this frighteningly believable dystopian journey.

Neal Wyatt compiles LJ’s online feature Wyatt’s World and is the author of The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Nonfiction (ALA Editions, 2007). She is a collection development and readers’ advisory librarian from Virginia. Those interested in contributing to The Reader’s Shelf should contact her directly at

This column was contributed by Cathleen Towey Merenda. She served on the RUSA/CODES Notable Books Council and is currently a board member. She is also is on the University Press Books for Public and School Libraries Committee

Genre Mashups & Original Retellings | Graphic Novels Reviews

Wed, 09/06/2017 - 12:34

Maybe it’s owing to graphic novels being a hybrid form to begin with—mixing illustration with text to present a story—that they lend themselves so well to blending elements of different genres. The popularity of the recent film Logan, which tempers the superheroics typically associated with the key Marvel Comics character Wolverine with Western and dystopian fiction, is a recent breakout example of this, but the books have been at it for a while.

Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s classic The League of ­Extraordinary Gentlemen (Xpress Reviews, 9/6/13) plucks famous Victorian characters such as Alan Quartermain and Captain Nemo from various literary tales and recasts them as secret agents fighting criminal empires or threats from outer space. Mike Mignola’s long-running “Hellboy” series combines horror, folklore, sf, and historical fiction, and Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’s modern hit Saga (LJ 9/15/13) delivers sf by way of fantasy and romance. Kelly Sue ­DeConnick and Valentine De Landro turn the often exploitative women-in-prison genre inside out by adding an sf twist in their empowering Bitch Planet. Vol. 1: Extraordinary Machine (LJ 1/16).

Many of the books reviewed this month feature genre mashups and showcase how in the right hands such works can completely transcend their origins. Fabian Rangel Jr. and Ryan Cody’s The Complete Doc Unknown filters an early 20th-century pulp sensibility through sf and horror lenses to create something distinctively modern. The graphic adaptation of Craig McDonald’s novel Head Games runs its hard-boiled noir hero through a historical plot, complete with plenty of cameos by real-world figures. Rick Remender and Sean Murphy’s Tokyo Ghost: Complete Edition owes as much to Samurai epics as it does cyberpunk and the classic British serial Judge Dredd, but in the end is an original tale with a lot to say about the way we live now. [For more on graphic novels, see the interview with ­Fantagraphics Books associate publisher/editor Eric Reynolds (LJ 9/1/17, p. 105).—TB

Davodeau, Étienne. The Cross-Eyed Mutt. NBM. (Louvre). Jul. 2017. 144p. tr. from French by Joe Johnson. ISBN 9781681120973. Rated: M. F

Fabien is a guard-cum-guide at the Louvre museum in Paris, enamored of the frisky Mathilde Benion. But then he meets the Benion clan, a pushy crew who ask him to use his position to get great-grandfather Benion’s all-too-amateur portrait of a cross-eyed dog hung in the museum. Now what? For although the Benions haughtily distinguish highbrow from lowbrow in their furniture business, they do not recognize such distinctions in the arts. French creator Davodeau (Lulu Anew) constructs an amusing sitcom out of the story’s premise, incorporating a Louvre-based secret organization as bizarre as Mathilde’s relatives. Underneath the chuckles, the plot meditates on art culture and who decides what “great art” is and why. A closing essay acquaints readers with the Louvre’s actual acquisition policy to discourage Benion imitators. Davodeau’s black-ink-with-grey-wash drawings excel at depicting realistic people via simple lines without excessive caricature, and the background features numerous real artworks beautifully rendered. ­VERDICT Romance fans might complain that Fabien’s relationship with the independent Mathilde is not more fully resolved, but amateur and professional art watchers alike will be amused and challenged. Some nudity and suggested sex. [Previewed in Douglas ­Rednour’s “Comics Cross Over,” LJ 6/15/17.—Ed.]—MC

Evans, Kate. Threads: From the Refugee Crisis. Verso. Jun. 2017. 176p. ISBN 9781786631732. $24.95. graphic novels

Over the course of five months, from 2015 to 2016, British creator Evans (Red Rosa) volunteered with her husband at refugee camps in the French port cities of Calais and Dunkerque, where thousands fleeing violence in Africa and the Middle East hope to secure passage to England. Yet nothing is secure in these shelters. In vivid color-pencil illustration, Evans records sweeping vistas of camp life: rich in fellowship and mutual aid among the inhabitants yet brutalized by police. She hears stories about deaths and disappearances and befriends many, including the Kurdish Hoshyar, who cooks wonderful food but cannot enter England despite his brother’s living there legally. And although donated supplies pour in, much is forbidden by local authorities. Despite compassionate aid efforts and human resilience, this corner of Europe is only marginally less dangerous than the places the refugees are escaping. Wrenchingly, Evans intersperses this intractable tragedy with antiimmigrant cell phone messages from angry British. ­VERDICT ­Evans’s raw, bright drawings of dark outcomes will attract anyone interested in the international refugee crisis, as she allows us to walk briefly in her—and their—shoes.—MC

Fraction, Matt & Jonathan Coulton (text) & Albert Monteys (illus.). Solid State. Vol. 1. Image. Jul. 2017. 128p. ISBN 9781534303652. pap. $19.99. MYS

Based on a concept and album of the same name by singer/songwriter ­Coulton, and written by Fraction (ODY-C), this first volume in a new series intertwines the tales of two men separated by hundreds of years: Bob, a worker tasked with charting the course of the moon across the sky in a futuristic world, and the more contemporary Robert, an employee at a popular search engine and social media company disillusioned with his employer’s unethical approach to customer privacy. One of them may or may not be dreaming the other, or something. What’s certain is that when an accident results in Bob questioning his place in society, and those questions instill a sense of rebellion in Bob’s robot friend Robogrande, everyone involved is forced to reckon with the consequences. Artist Monteys (El Jueves magazine) provides innovative page design, expert pacing, and cartooning that makes a cohesive whole of a story that switches between lighthearted satire and heady philosophical exploration as well as centuries—and maybe even planes of existence. VERDICT An intriguing, engaging start to a series that excels at raising interesting questions and remains satisfying even as it falters a little when it comes to providing answers.—TB

Grayson, Devin (text) & Sean Phillips & John Bolton (illus.). User. Image. May 2017. 176p. ISBN 9781534301597. $29.99. F

Meg Chancellor’s world is falling apart—her mother has walked out, her father’s best friend Cal is sexually abusing her younger sister Annie, and her father will do nothing about any of it. So Meg finds a new online world of paladins and princesses where she can become the hero she needs in real life. Eventually, the two worlds come together, with Meg taking control and finding hope. Grayson’s (Batman) parable first appeared as a GLAAD Award–nominated Vertigo miniseries in 2001 and is set in the mid-1990s when MUD (Multi-User Dungeon) role-playing games became popular. Meg and Annie are the most multidimensional characters, both fighting their way through their problems in different ways. Bolton’s (The Books of Magic) masterly gray-scale brushwork with only touches of color depicts the “real” world, while Phillips’s (Criminal) blocky, vividly colored fantasy art creates the online realm as a confusing yet compelling place. VERDICT This coming of age that can happen at any age reveals our heroine finding power and peers while exploring her own gender fluidity. Seekers age mid-teens and up will empathize and learn from her quest.—MC

Hennessey, John (text) & Justin Greenwood (illus.). Alexander Hamilton: The Graphic History of an American Founding Father. Ten Speed: Crown. Aug. 2017. 176p. ISBN 9780399580000. pap. $11.99. BIOG

Born to a single mother on a culture-impoverished Caribbean island, yet with persuasive writing skills plus a dogged interest in learning, Alexander Hamilton (1757–1804) went on to become a soldier in the Revolutionary War, a U.S. founding father, and the first secretary of the treasury. Hennessey’s (The United States Constitution) script spotlights Hamilton’s dilemmas, skimming only lightly over historical details outside the leader’s personal and professional penumbra. Neither monkishly pure nor in agreement about the greater good, the nation’s founding fathers persevered through schism, scandal, and slander. Much turmoil concerned whether the new republic should have a strong, elitist-run central government hewing to a Constitution (Hamilton’s viewpoint) or a looser confederation with power given to states and the “common people.” We’re still struggling over that today, and it’s fascinating to read how it all began. Greenwood’s (The Fuse) real-ish color art takes on the pleasant quality of candlelight, spiked by sharper reds as tempers flair. VERDICT Unpacking the history behind the high-energy Broadway megahit Hamilton, this focused biography will get teen through adult readers to ask questions about the country’s past and present. Find copious source notes at ­ [Previewed in Douglas Rednour’s “Comics Cross Over,” LJ 6/15/17, p. 40-46.—Ed.]—MC

Jason. On the Camino. Fantagraphics. May 2017. 192p. ISBN 9781683960218. $24.99. GRAPHIC NOVELS

In 2015, Norwegian cartoonist Jason (If You Steal) set out on a 500-mile pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago across Spain to celebrate his 50th birthday. This memoir traces the author’s 32-day trek of taking in the sights, sleeping in hostels, and meeting strangers from all around the world. While fans of Jason’s previous books, many of which tend toward quirky, melancholy spins on romance and adventure stories, might not immediately embrace this more mundane and self-reflective tale, his distinctive melding of minimalist presentation and restless imagination is still on full display, and results in a strangely intimate portrait of the artist as he struggles with blisters, bed bugs, bad food, and social anxiety while searching for a meaningful and authentic experience. VERDICT This one might have slightly more appeal to Jason’s devoted fans than those not yet familiar with his work, but as he’s an internationally acclaimed cartoonist with a rabid following, that should not be a ­problem.—TB

Jodorowsky, Alejandro (text) & Georges Bess (illus.). The Magical Twins. Humanoids. Dec. 2017. 56p. tr. from French by Montana Kane. ISBN 9781594654084. $19.95. FANTASY

Princess Mara and her twin brother, Aram, live a life of luxury, exalting in their royal status and enjoying their magical abilities until discovering that Tartarath, the ruler of a kingdom of darkness, has kidnapped their father. In order to save their father, the twins must face a series of challenges loosely organized around the five senses. Virtually every page of this slim volume is packed with adventure, thrilling escapes, and wonderfully imagined realms as the twins and their sidekick, a goofy magical bird, combat an array of monsters, solve puzzles, and make new friends on their journey. Author Jodorowsky (The Metabarons) has a huge following for his decidedly adult sf and fantasy works but obviously delights in presenting this all-ages, candy-colored Dungeons & Dragons riff, brought to life with artwork from collaborator Bess (The White Lama). VERDICT Largely avoiding the pitfall of the kind of forced morality that often turns such all-ages adventures into a total drag yet with just enough focus on team work and responsibility to keep parents looking for a positive message happy, this one is a total blast.—TB

Kondo, Marie (text) & Yuko Uramoto (illus.). The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up: A Magical Story. Ten Speed: Crown. Jun. 2017. 192p. tr. from Japanese by Cathy Hirano. ISBN 9780399580536. pap. $14.99. GRAPHIC NOVELS

In this fictional case study incorporating the philosophy of Kondo’s best-selling self-help book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and the practical techniques of its follow-up, Spark Joy, Chiaki is a messy, workaholic driven to hire Kondo when an encounter with the guy next door convinces her that her rats-nest apartment is sabotaging her entire life. Kondo first asks Chiaki to visualize her ideal future: How would she actually like to live? This simple challenge motivates Chiaki and hints at Kondo’s appeal: people refusing to tidy under a parent’s thumb are now tidying for themselves. Uramoto’s (Less Than Married) charming art makes Kondo into a winsome shojo character and assimilates Chiaki into the tradition of a young manga heroine finding happiness. VERDICT Readers reluctant to submit to word-heavy lectures may be beguiled—and even converted—by witnessing Chiaki’s success as played out in an enjoyable story that paints Kondo as more inspiring than inquisitorial. Both of the original nonfiction books were LJ “Most Borrowed,” so expect demand. [Previewed in Douglas Rednour’s “­Comics Cross Over,” LJ 6/15/17, p. 40-46.—Ed.]—MC

McDonald, Craig (text) & Kevin Singles (illus.). Head Games. First Second. Oct. 2017. 160p. ISBN 9781596434141. pap. $19.99. MYS

Aging screenwriter and pulp novelist ­Hector Lassiter thinks his days of hard-boiled adventure are behind him until he comes into possession of legendary Mexican revolutionary Francisco “Pancho” Villa’s skull and finds himself thrust into a vicious, violent chase across the American Southwest. Pursued by treasure hunters, mercenaries, and rogue FBI and CIA agents who believe that Villa’s head holds the key to a lost treasure, as well as a nefarious Yale fraternity anxious to add the skull to their collection of macabre human remains, Lassiter and his companions—a young reporter and a haunted actress—must dig deep and fight dirty if they are going to stay alive and come out ahead of the pack. Featuring more than enough action (both pulse-pounding and sultry) to please pulp purists, as well as cameos by Orson Welles, Marlene Dietrich, ­Ernest Hemingway, and a young George W. Bush, author McDonald ably adapts his own novel, while illustrator Singles’s ­artwork brings a gritty edge to every page. VERDICT Good fun for fans of pulp, crime, or historical fiction.—TB

Nury, Fabien (text) & Thierry Robin & Lorien Aureyre (illus.). The Death of Stalin. Titan Comics. Jul. 2017. 120p. ISBN 9781785863400. $24.99. satire/Hist

Having murdered millions of his countrymen without cause, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin (1878–1953) suffered his own end entangled in the fear he inspired. Inert from a stroke, Stalin remained unexamined for hours since his staff thought him drunk and dangerous. When deemed ill, his highest political associates put off assisting him, and his doctors proceeded ineptly since he had arrested the top physicians on ungrounded suspicions. But his actual death was only the beginning of a spy vs. spy–type power struggle among the Communist Party’s Central Committee over who would now lead the nation. This darkly funny, satirical version draws on real events, originally reported only partially and with contradictions. ­Nury’s (coauthor with Robin, Death to the Tsar) script finds excellent realization in Robin’s strongly etched characterizations, crafted in sepia/grey splashed with blood-red. ­VERDICT Juicy and engrossing, this story speaks of a style in political machinations going back centuries and inspiring both revulsion and twisted admiration. Teens and adults following the current political scene will appreciate the background about our most powerful national frenemy. Note the forthcoming film from Armando ­Iannucci.—MC

Rangel Jr., Fabian (text) & Ryan Cody (illus.). The Complete Doc Unknown. Dark Horse. Aug. 2017. 360p. ISBN 9781506702889. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781630088286. sf

Set in the mid-1940s and created in the tradition of pulp heroes such as Doc Savage and The Shadow, Doc Unknown was a fighter pilot until crashing his plane and discovering a secret temple guarded by an ancient order of warrior monks. After becoming a master of their discipline, Doc travels to Gate City and does battle with mad scientists, vampire ninjas, ghosts, Nazis, mob bosses, and monsters, investigates the haunted typewriter of a deceased sf author and the lingering legacy of the lost city of Atlantis, somehow managing to find the time to fall in love. A series of short stories from Rangel Jr. (Space Riders) depicting our hero’s adventures in the first half of this volume gradually wind together to form a larger narrative, as his various enemies combine forces in order to seek revenge in what turns out to be a rather sweeping tale. Cody’s (Monstrous) illustrations are a little more cartoonish than the sometimes moody scripts seems to call for, but they make up for that in dynamism and inventive character design. This hardcover collects material previously released in series volumes 1–3. ­VERDICT An action-packed romp refreshingly free of irony, perhaps slightly too macabre to be considered for all-ages but perfect for fans of superheroes, sf, or horror looking for something that combines all the best parts of those genres.—TB

Remender, Rick (text) & Sean Murphy & others (illus.). Tokyo Ghost: Complete Edition. Image. Jul. 2017. 272p. ISBN 9781534300460. $39.99; ebk. ISBN 9781534305489. SF

In 2089, Los Angeles is a partially flooded, toxically polluted wreck inhabited by a populace totally dependent on drugs, blood sport, and cheap thrills and in thrall to an evil corporation that rose to power by producing an endless stream of distractions and diversions. When Constable Led Dent, a hulking, bloodthirsty enforcer, and his partner and lover Debbie Decay are tasked with infiltrating Tokyo, a luddite paradise whose populace is committed to the ancient practice of Bushido, Debbie sees an opportunity for a fresh start. What follows is a stylish, bleak, action-packed, and deeply moving love story that examines how yearning for escape can keep us from ever being free. This complete edition collects single Issues 1–10 of the series and also includes supplementary material by the author and artist. VERDICT Remender (Seven to Eternity) and artist Murphy (Punk Rock Jesus) are two of the hottest talents currently working in comics, and this epic volume is sure to be a breathtaking modern classic, ranking among the most fully realized graphic works of the last decade.—TB

Smith, Juliana “Jewels” (text) & Ronald Nelson & Mike Hampton (illus.). (H)afrocentric. Vols. 1–4. PM. Nov. 2017. 120p. ISBN 9781629634487. pap. $20. comics

Naima, who is biracial and Afrocentric, yearns for revolution amid her fellow Eurocentric students at Ronald Reagan University. Wearing a T-shirt of abolitionist John Brown and conjuring conversations with heroes Malcolm X and Fannie Lou Hamer, Naima decides to fight gentrification and escalating rents by creating the social networking site She enlists eccentric friends and locals to help out, but setbacks lead to varied success. In a second story, she tries an internship as a “racial interpreter” but is caught between being frank and accomodating her white supervisor, with whom she disagrees on most things. Inspired partly by Aaron ­McGruder’s ­Boondocks, Smith (web series “Sasha & Condi”) aims to write from a feminist ­perspective about millennials of color squeezed among cultures. Her characters depict individuals who ­simultaneously wish to blend in and break out of social norms, while her masterly script satirizes attitudes black and white alike, trendy-chic niche preoccupations, political activism (note slogans on background signs throughout), idealism, and gender stereotypes. First-timers Nelson and Hampton provide realistic, energetic black-and-white drawings. ­VERDICT Rebels, phonies, fringe-mongers, and the simply clueless take wry hits in Smith’s insightful series. Culture watchers, teen through adult, will find their presumptions challenged as well as much to recognize in themselves. [Previewed in Douglas Rednour’s “Comics Cross Over,” LJ 6/15/17, p. 40-46.—Ed.]—MC

Wheeler, Shannon & others. Too Much Coffee Man: Omnibus Plus. Dark Horse. Jun. 2017. 600p. ISBN 9781506704029. $29.99. GRAPHIC NOVELS/HUMOR

This massive collection of cartoonist Wheeler’s magnum opus presents more than a decades’ worth of cult classic comics featuring the titular Too Much Coffee Man, a pudgy, red spandex–clad everyman whose life as a sort of superhero parody in the earliest material collected here quickly gives way to more autobiographical tales, as Wheeler uses the character to explore philosophical quandaries, satirize everything from politics to the creative process, and explore his own struggles. Serialized battles with nemesis Trademark Copyright Man and adventures through the afterlife, into the underwater world of Sea Monkeys, and to outer space provide plenty of fun, but Wheeler is at his best in briefer one-page stories featuring his protagonist sitting around pontificating at pals like Too Much Espresso Guy, Too Much German White Chocolate Woman with Almonds, and Underwater Guy. ­VERDICT Wheeler’s visibility is slightly higher in recent years, given his gig supplying cartoons for The New Yorker, and this hilarious, thought-provoking collection tracks a fascinating evolution as his early days as an angry outsider give way to more mature work.—TB

Additional Graphic Novels

Gonick, Larry & Tim Kasser. Hypercapitalism: The Modern Economy, Its Values, and How To Change Them. New Pr. Jan. 2018. 240p. ISBN 9781620972823. pap. $19.95; ebk. ISBN 9781620972830. ECON

Harvey Award–winning author/artist Gonick, best known for The Cartoon ­History of the Universe, has also showcased his signature style in the “Cartoon Guide to…” series. In all of these guides, Gonick takes complex issues and explains them with patience, wit, and a healthy dose of humanism. Here, with Kasser (psychology, Knox College, IL), Gonick explains hypercapitalism and its deleterious effects on modern society. The first part of the book is dark, featuring a cast of characters whose motivations are often at odds with the community’s best interests. Gonick’s illustrations lend needed humor and a grounding influence as Kasser explores studies and statistics. The second section is a reader’s guide to fighting such an economic system, not only introducing major figures and protests in the history of the opposition to hypercapitalism but recommending ways to get involved. Including an extensive bibliography for further reading, the authors conclude on a surprisingly upbeat tone. Verdict A great introduction to the current state of the economy and what can be done about it, and a solid addition for Gonick’s many fans.—E.W. Genovese, Andrew Bayne Memorial Lib., Pittsburgh

Martha Cornog is a longtime reviewer for LJ and, with Timothy Perper, edited Graphic Novels Beyond the Basics: Insights and Issues for Libraries (Libraries Unlimited, 2009). Tom Batten is a writer and teacher whose work has appeared in the Guardian and The New Yorker. He lives in Virginia

Sticky Situations & the Power of Three | Erotica Reviews

Wed, 09/06/2017 - 12:00

This month, our erotica titles plant their protagonists into sticky situations, to varying degrees of enjoyment. In Tara Sue Me’s The Flirtation, recently reunited D/s couple Simon and Lynne are still drawing the lines of their relationship; Lynne is playing with fire by “double-dating” Simon both as herself and as online alter ego Faye. Carson Frost is willing to do almost anything to save his late father’s candy company from going under—including hiring an actress and staging a shotgun wedding in Shayla Black’s Misadventures of a Backup Bride. But things heat up fast when playing house brings real love. Brilliant Domme Carmen Dane finds herself the target of a stubborn terrorist mastermind in Sienna Snow’s third “Rules of Engagement” thriller, but Thomas Regala, security expert, former flame, and father of Carmen’s children, refuses to leave her side. We’re also highlighting the power of three with two steamy series updates. Rikki runs the risk of falling in love with not one but two men of the only variety she’d sworn off permanently—firefighters—in Opal Carew’s latest. And bookish dreamer Bayli Styles is taken to the heights of pleasure when she risks it all for her own sexy trio in Calista Fox’s newest addition to the “Lover’s Triangle” series.

Black, Shayla. Misadventures of a Backup Bride. Waterhouse. (Misadventures, Bk. 1). Oct. 2017. 178p. ISBN 9781943893423. $19.99. EROTICA

Carson Frost has suddenly become a Sweet Darlin’s CEO after a tragic turn of events—the father he barely knew left him his candy business when he dies. To avoid going under, Carson appealed to rival Gregory Shaw, who has since roped Carson into a marriage of convenience with his daughter Kendra in exchange for financial security. Carson’s only out is a fabricated “one who got away” in the form of hired actress Ella Hope. Their chemistry is palpable and immediately leads to a passionate marathon sex session—though neither can tell who is putting on an act when it comes to true romance. Playful banter and affectionate one-upmanship showcase Ella’s and Carson’s competitive drive in their respective fields and highlight their compatibility. Ella’s ambivalent relationship with her body size may prove relatable to some readers, though Carson’s persistence in disabusing her of this notion by ordering her food while reassuring her of her beauty feels more controlling than altruistic. This component aside, fans of erotic romance will thoroughly enjoy Black’s (More than Want You) simply sweet lovefest with its slightly wacky premise. VERDICT This speedy, steamy read will leave hearts racing. A solid launch to the ­“Misadventures” series.

Carew, Opal. Heat. Griffin: St. Martin’s. Jun. 2017. 288p. ISBN 9781250116789. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250116796. EROTICA

Rikki is still on the mend years after losing her first love, firefighter Jesse, in the line of duty. When she moves to the small town of Muldone for a fresh start, she hardly expects to fall hard and fast for two gorgeous, sincere men: best friends (and firefighters) Simon and Carter. But Rikki has set a hard limit on giving her heart to anyone else in this brave yet perilous profession, let alone to two men. Can Simon and Carter burn her boundaries to the ground? Carew (Six; Blush; Swing) brings passion and lust to a refreshingly contemplative story line. Though Rikki, Simon, and Carter eventually find contentment (and have plenty of naughty fun along the way), this unconventional happy ending isn’t without its hiccups. When it appears the trio have found solid ground, disaster strikes, and Rikki is reminded of just how easily she could lose love again. VERDICT Strongly recommended for Carew fans and readers craving delightfully naughty threesomes with a touch of melodrama.

Fox, Calista. The Billionaires: The Bosses. Griffin: St. Martin’s. (Lover’s Triangle, Bk. 2). Sept. 2017. 320p. ISBN 9781250096425. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250096432. EROTICA

Aspiring model and recent New York City transplant Bayli Styles can’t believe she is interviewing at the supremely exclusive restaurant Davila’s NYC for the role of hostess. She’s especially unsettled when she runs into master chef Rory St. James, literally and figuratively, leaving quite the first impression on the cranky culinary legend. Rory and his partner Christian have been excelling at joint ventures for years; the pair realized they share a head for business—and a keen interest in dating women as a triad. Rory feels an immediate spark with Bayli, as does Christian when he encounters the stunning model turning heads at a swanky charity event. The trio’s chemistry sparkles in and out of the bedroom as they navigate a relationship and the planning of their next big idea—a destination-based cooking show—hopefully with equal success. Fox’s distinct characterization of Christian’s inimitable charm and Rory’s impressive ambition allows their respective relationships with Bayli to flourish—readers will love the unique ways each man drives her wild. VERDICT Fox’s (The Billionaires) latest is a sure hit for fans of erotica with titillating triads (of the M/M/F variety), luxury, and lust.

Snow, Sienna. Rule Changer. Forever Yours: Grand Central. (Rules of Engagement, Bk. 3). Oct. 2017. 352p. ebk. ISBN 9781455568802. $3.99. EROTICA

This third book in Snow’s darkly sexy ­series sees Domme and new mother Carmen Dane stowing away her broken heart, and two young sons, in the safety of the Hamptons. She can barely forgive Thomas Regala, or herself, for showing him her rarely seen submissive side. When Thomas tracks her down, she tries to maintain the icy demeanor protecting her genuine heartbreak, but she finds her resolve waning when Thomas declares that he wants her back, so much so that the renowned Dom is willing to submit to her completely. The pair find themselves falling head over heels again in a naughty new game, without their usual rules. But romance is put on hold when a deadly ghost from their past resurfaces, putting the whole team in jeopardy once more. Part erotica and part juicy crime thriller, Snow’s latest is a perfect blend of peril and passion. The series’ main trio—Arya, Milla, and Carmen—are all powerfully smart women with unique talents and wealth, a refreshing shift in a sea of male millennial millionaires. Scenes of Carmen embracing her inner Domme while experimenting with Thomas’s submission provide some of the book’s hottest highlights. ­VERDICT A stellar conclusion (after Rule Master) to this action-packed, erotic series. Recommended for fans of grittier drama and scintillating Dominant/submissive power play.

Sue Me, Tara. The Flirtation. Berkley Sensation. (Submissive, Bk. 10). Aug. 2017. 384p. ISBN 9781101989333. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781101989340. EROTICA

This addition to the expansive “Submissive” series (e.g., The Exposure; The Claiming) centers on Lynne, Simon Neal’s submissive ex whom he’s still not over. It is soon revealed that Simon broke up with Lynne using a flimsy excuse, saying he didn’t think she was submissive enough; in reality, he didn’t think her inexperience could match his own sadist tendencies, so he ran. When tentative Lynne decides to tiptoe back into the lifestyle through a kink website, she hardly expects to connect with Simon, under the guise of confident yet mysterious submissive “Faye.” Meanwhile, Simon and Lynne reunite in “real life,” leaving Simon to wonder why he ever abandoned a woman who might be his missing puzzle piece. But can lightning strike twice—and should it? Though predictable at times, and with potentially questionable ethical behavior (Lynne actively seeks out Simon while adopting a fake identity, and there is a murky incident of unprotected sex), this novel will appeal to readers looking for a tale of lovers reuniting with a cautious simmer that still brings in plenty of kink. Strong writing and abundant BDSM ribaldry keep the plot deliciously decadent, even when Simon and Lynne are doing nothing more salacious than assembling a jigsaw puzzle. VERDICT Fans of the series and newbies alike will enjoy this slow-burn story of kinksters rediscovering their love.

Ashleigh Williams is Editorial Assistant, School Library Journal