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Suspense Author on Her Latest Book | LJ Talks to Linda Howard

Fri, 03/16/2018 - 13:34

Alabama-based author Linda Howard published her first book in 1982 and deservedly received the Romance Writers of America Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005. Her latest romantic suspense is a fascinating tale of paramilitary men and women facing battles of their own and of others’ making. According to LJ’s starred review, The Woman Left Behind (Morrow, Mar.; LJ 2/15/18) is “a heart-pounding adventure that doesn’t let up until the very end.” We posed a few questions to Howard via email about this new book and her writing process.

When you get an idea for a story, how does it begin? Do you start with a character, a plot idea, or is it a bit of both? For example, in The Woman Left Behind (TWLB), was it the idea of a tech geek being embedded in a special ops unit that appealed most or was it the fiercely competitive heroine or maybe the tough-as-nails hero?
It’s everything. It can be a line of dialog that pops into my head, or the expression on a character’s face in a movie, or some little detail that resonates. It can be an entire scene that I fall in love with, and I have to write a whole book to encompass that scene. In TWLB, it was the idea of an operative with the code name “Babe.” That was all I had to go on. Everything else I had to find out while I wrote the book. I didn’t get the feeling of a professional female operative for the book, which meant I was dealing with an amateur [and that] brought up the question of what circumstances would put an amateur in that position.

The heroine’s experiences (and reactions) are so realistic (parachuting out of a plane?). How did you do the research for this book?
For the record, I am personally not a daredevil. On the other hand, when I was growing up I was active and athletic, and I know how it feels to push myself physically to the point of throwing up, to run with blistered feet, etc. I would parachute if I had to, under extremely dire circumstances, but I’d never do it for fun. Research was reading a lot of online information about the different types of parachutes (not absorbing), how the military trains parajumpers, private jump schools and how they take amateurs for their first jumps, firsthand accounts of people doing their first jumps, and YouTube videos. Then my imagination kicked in, and I let Jina tell her own reaction to jumping out of a plane.

Physical descriptions are key, but perhaps especially so in romance. Jina considers herself “normal,” yet she has the husky voice that engenders her team nickname and the fantasies. Why was this your choice over her being, for example, very tall or very short (pocket venus–type)?
The short answer is, it isn’t my choice. The characters themselves “tell” me what their names are, what they look like, their quirks and oddities. You might argue that every word in a book is my choice, but that isn’t how it feels to me. I don’t create them so much as I enter their world and let them tell me what they’re doing. It’s a deep level of concentration.

A hardened veteran, Ace acts pretty much like a “Neanderthal” (especially near the conclusion). Did you ever consider softening him up at all?
Ace would have softened himself if necessary, but he was what he needed to be to do the job he did. There were moments, such as his interactions with the [other GO-Team members’] kids, his sharp awareness of Jina’s reactions and when she was really upset, and how he protected her without being obvious about it, that showed his softer side. He respected Jina by not taking it any easier on her than he would have on a man, and he didn’t sabotage her efforts, either.

Jina is a fabulous heroine. Is she one of your favorites?
She kinda is. She is funny and gutsy and very much her own woman.

TWLB is listed as a stand-alone, but are you considering writing more stories about the team? It seems like a natural series.
If I planned ahead I’d be able to answer this question, but I never know what the next book is going to be about. TWLB was a natural fit for the GO-Teams world [Toublemaker, Morrow, 2016], but I didn’t realize it until I’d been day-dreaming scenes for a while. I also had an ulterior motive for revisiting the GO-Teams. To my astonishment and horror, some people really liked Axel McNamara and kept posting that they’d like to see him as a hero. No way, no how. So I took care of that in TWLB.

Although most of your books are contemporary, several of your early romances were historicals. Have you ever considered writing historical romantic suspense?
Only if a plot occurs to me. I’m an organic, seat-of-the-pants writer; I can’t decide to write a certain type of book and plot it out. Some idea has to grab me, then I write the book to see what happens. If I plotted ahead of time, then I wouldn’t be able to write the book because I’d already know what happened, and in my mind the story would already be told and my imagination would have moved on to something else.

What’s up next for Linda Howard?
I’m currently collaborating with Linda Jones on a contemporary mass market romance about a small community surviving during a collapse of the power grid. After that…I’ll find out when some idea pops.

Fathers & Farewells | Memoir

Wed, 03/14/2018 - 14:56

Well, folks, this is it for me, at least as far as this column in concerned. You’ll still be seeing my reviews elsewhere in LJ, though. I leave you with three books about fathers and fatherhood, which has become my unofficial area of expertise over the past few years, and one by a man who’d decided he didn’t want to be a father. Of particular note here are Mary W. Garber’s Implosion and Neal Thompson’s Kickflip Boys, two excellent and insightful memoirs.

Bouchier, David. An Unexpected Life. Permanent Pr. Mar. 2018. 272p. ISBN 9781579625191. $29.95. MEMOIR
This memoir is quite compelling, especially considering that it is more of a just-the-facts account of writer (Not Quite a Stranger: Essays on Life in France; The Accidental Immigrant: America Observed) and radio host (WSHU Public Radio) Bouchier’s life, rather than an exploration of one aspect of it. In a Zen-like fashion, the author approaches life with great openness, allowing opportunities to come to him and seizing them when they do. How else do you explain how someone goes from high school dropout to college professor, radio host, and writing teacher; from Britain to America, with many interludes in Europe, specifically France? VERDICT Bouchier is a warm and welcome guide; his life is filled with enough variety to interest just about anyone.

Erskine, Chris. Daditude: The Joys and Absurdities of Modern Fatherhood. Prospect Park. Apr. 2018. 184p. ISBN 9781945551307. $18.95; ebk. ISBN 9781945551314. MEMOIR
This book is probably best read in short doses instead of in one sitting, as it is mostly a collection of Los Angeles Times editor and writer Erskine’s newspaper columns. Written in a tradition reminiscent of author and columnist Dave Barry, these pieces focus on the trials, tribulations, and joys of white upper-middle-class life, from a man’s point of view—dogs, kids, home repairs, a wife’s big purse, visiting the kids at college, and so on. Erskine (Man of the House; Surviving Suburbia) is folksy but charming in his own way, and the columns are very well written, concise, and to the point. VERDICT Perfect for anyone who enjoys stories of fatherhood.

Garber, Elizabeth W. Implosion: A Memoir of an Architect’s Daughter. She Writes. Jun. 2018. 256p. photos. ISBN 9781631523519. pap. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9781631523526. MEMOIR
Poet (True Affections: Poems from a Small Town; Listening Inside the Dance) and acupuncturist Garber’s extraordinary debut memoir tells the story of her abusive father, architect Woodie Garber. Life in the Garber home, which was designed by Woodie, revolved solely around the father and his needs and interests. Among other perversities, Woodie photographed his children naked in order to chart their progress from childhood through puberty, and insisted that no bedroom or bathroom door ever be closed. Mostly his abuse was psychological, though with his only daughter it took on a more physical and sexual nature. While growing up, the author was devoted to her father, and here slowly and steadily charts his and her family’s descent into chaos and madness, as Woodie’s commissions dry up and he ceases to receive the recognition he believes he deserves. VERDICT A brilliant dissection of how one family fell victim to abuse by one of its own. Recommended for survivors of abuse and those interested in knowing more about the ways in which great professional success often comes at the sacrifice of one’s own family and private life.

Thompson, Neal. Kickflip Boys: A Memoir of Freedom, Rebellion, and the Chaos of Fatherhood. Ecco: HarperCollins. May 2018. 320p. photos. ISBN 9780062394347. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062394354. MEMOIR
Author Thompson (A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert “Believe It or Not!” Ripley; Driving with the Devil: Southern Moonshine, Detroit Wheels, and the Birth of NASCAR) pens an excellent memoir about the growing pains of fatherhood and adolescence. Encouraged from an early age to learn to skateboard and to find their own way through life, the author’s two sons enter their teenage years with a rebellious fury, smoking pot, drinking, staying out to all hours, and barely giving school a passing thought. Thompson does not take all of this very well, even though he behaved no differently in his youth. He is beset by worry about his kids and given to frequent and unintentionally humorous rants. But upon reflection, he comes to realize that in spite of it all his sons are good people with core values and a real sense of direction and purpose. VERDICT Thompson’s remarkably honest account of fatherhood presents a scary, funny, and reflective read all at once.

The Shape of Water: The Novel | Oscars 2018

Tue, 03/06/2018 - 13:24

The coverage of the Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday, March 4, by the publishing industry e-newsletter Shelf Awareness noted that despite numerous nominations for book-related films, few of them walked away with the Oscar statuette. What the report failed to mention is that the Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water, is now also a novel. Cowritten by the film’s director Guillermo del Toro and YA author Daniel Kraus (The Death and Life of Zebullon Finch), the book is being released today, March 6, by Macmillan’s Feiwel and Friends children’s imprint (although it is technically considered an adult title).

But this is no ordinary movie novelization, as Germain Lussier’s io9  article, “The Shape of Water Novel Does Much, Much More Than Adapt the Movie,” reports: the book and the film tells the story of a mute woman who falls in love with an imprisoned sea monster in very different ways. The idea—a creature trapped in a lab and the janitor who tries to free it—came to Kraus when he was 15, and he tinkered with it over the years until a breakfast meeting with del Toro had the Mexican director optioning the idea for a film and reignited Kraus’s interest in writing a novel. As both projects developed, Kraus and del Toro would email and exchange phone calls, but at a certain point, Kraus wanted to finish his novel without knowing anything more about del Toro’s film. As Lussier notes, “the pair agreed each story would be its own thing.”

While Kraus’s novel is a companion to del Toro’s movie, it is also different. It opens with Richard Strickland, the villain in the film played by Michael Shannon, heading to the Amazon to capture the fish man, a scene not in the movie. Strickland is also the second lead protagonist in the book, and his marriage is portrayed in greater detail. The novel also further explores the mythology of the creature. For libraries supporting film clubs and book discussion groups, The Shape of Water (in either format) makes the perfect crossover title.


Intersectional Feminism | Collection Development

Wed, 02/28/2018 - 11:46

Recently, American feminism has been compelled to account for the disparities within the movement in terms of priorities, scope, and access. Historically, the concerns of white women in America have been at the forefront; women who exist at the intersections of racial and economic inequality, as well as women fighting for gay rights and disability rights, have too often been ignored. Poor women of color have never had the benefit of a megaphone, nor the luxury of prioritizing their lack of presence in corporate boardrooms. The women who are most vulnerable in this country are fighting to survive; their voices should be imperative.

First- and second-wave feminism earned women, in 1920, the right to vote; brought more of them out of the home and into the workplace; and saw the passage of Roe v. Wade in 1973. Third-wave feminism brought new topics into the national conversation while also attempting to deal with the fallout from the backlash against the gains made by the second wave. The Riot Grrrl movement of the 1990s was an effort to wrest control of the feminist narrative and avoid media spin, keeping it grassroots. The 1990s also saw the proliferation of zine culture, which laid the groundwork for publications such as Bitch and Bust.

Today’s fourth-wave movement is characterized by body and sex positivity and has a strong digital presence. Intersectional feminism focuses on solidarity among social justice movements as well as shared responsibility for equality rather than a sole emphasis on individual rights, ambitions, and concerns. However, the adage “the personal is political” does still characterize feminism, by necessity. Scholarly works exist alongside memoir and poetry in illustrating the breadth of women’s experience.


While the presentation of topics including abortion, equal pay for equal work, and sexual harassment will change and texts will need to be updated, one must exercise caution when weeding in this area. Past feminist works provide a valuable historical time line of the evolution of the movement. Older works by scholars like Angela Y. Davis and Cherrie Moraga are still relevant, and researchers of gender studies and feminist history will find both historic and contemporary titles helpful. Classic feminist volumes remain in print and are often revisited with new introductions and afterwords. Histories and re­appraisals about first- and second-wave feminism continue to be written, and the concerns of intersectional feminism are on the rise—expect to see more contemporary narratives in the future.

Feminist titles are not only published by major houses but also smaller, independent presses. It is worth digging deeper to amplify marginalized voices. Feminist magazines often provide book lists and reviews of titles outside the mainstream. Women from all avenues have important stories to tell, from the arena of #GamerGate to campus rape culture to sexual harassment throughout all industries. Library patrons are diverse across economics, race, ethnicity, religion, and sexuality—titles pertaining to the primary concern of feminism, equality for all women, must reflect that.

Starred titles () are essential for most collections.

An LJ reviewer since 2015, Barrie Olmstead is the Adult Materials Selector, Sacramento Public Library (SPL), CA. She has worked at SPL for 11 years, first as a teen/adult librarian and then in acquisitions for seven years

Third Wave

Ensler, Eve. The Vagina Monologues. Random. 2007. 272p. ISBN 9780375505652. $21.95; pap. ISBN 9780399180095. $17; ebk. ISBN 9780375506581.

In this collection of monologs, women share stories around topics such as body image, menstruation, rape, female genital mutilation, sex work, and orgasms. Ensler offers a classic work of the third wave, making the case for the vagina as a tool of female empowerment and reclaiming the word cunt.

Faludi, Susan. Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women. Crown. 2006. 594p. notes. index. ISBN 9780307345424. pap. $15.99; ebk. 9780307426871.

A classic work by Faludi, this title serves as a treatise on where feminism stood at the end of the second wave, which was followed by a swift backlash in the 1980s, as the Reagan Administration and evangelical movements sought to control women’s bodies and ability to progress in the workforce. (LJ 11/1/06)

Fourth Wave

Eltahawy, Mona. Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution. Farrar. 2015. 256p. ISBN 9780865478039. $25; pap. ISBN 9780374536657. $14; ebk. ISBN 9780374710651.

Eltahawy, an Egyptian American writer, surveys the landscape of Middle Eastern feminism after the Arab Spring. She identifies areas of women’s lives that demonstrate male hostility: the demand for veiling and virginity until marriage along with genital mutilation and lack of recourse for domestic violence and rape. (LJ 3/1/15)

Hurley, Kameron. The Geek Feminist Revolution: Essays. Tor. 2016. 288p. notes. ISBN 9780765386236. $26.99; pap. ISBN 9780765386243. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9780765386250.

Hurley covers everything from geek culture to #GamerGate to the lack of diversity in publishing. She speaks from the perspective of being a feminist at the forefront of Internet culture as well as a woman creator in a landscape that is often hostile toward women. (LJ 6/1/16)

Kafer, Alison. Feminist, Queer, Crip. Indiana Univ. 2013. 276p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780253009227. $75; pap. ISBN 9780253009340. $27.

Kafer writes at the intersections of feminism, ability, and queerness. She argues that ableism is still the predominant discourse. To attempt to “fix” or prevent disability is to deny alternative ways of being and leads to a failure to advocate for those possibilities.

Nasty Women: Feminism, Resistance and Revolution in Trump’s America. ed. by Samhita Mukhopadhyay & Kate Harding. Picador. 2017. 256p. ISBN 9781250155504. pap. $16; ebk. 9781250155511.

This anthology assesses the feminist terrain postelection. Contributors maintain that the path forward is through ­coalition-building, accountability, and active, sustained resistance to policies that are blatantly harmful to women. (LJ 9/15/17)

Pollitt, Katha. Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights. Picador. 2015. 288p. notes. ISBN 9780312620547. $25; pap. ISBN 9781250072665. $18; ebk. ISBN 9781250055842.

Pollitt, an award-winning columnist for The Nation, tackles the “personhood” argu­ment, reaffirms the priority of women’s lives and health, and explains why abortion is often necessary, welcomed, and desired. (LJ 9/15/14)

Serano, Julia. Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Feminity. 2d ed. Da Capo. 2016. 432p. ISBN 9781580056229. pap. $20; ebk ISBN 9781580056236.

Serano, a lesbian transgender activist and biologist, introduces the term transmisogyny and discusses the connections among transphobia, sexism, and ­homophobia. Trans women are frequently marginalized or rejected by the feminist community. Serano argues that trans activism is feminism and that femininity should be embraced and empowered in all its forms.

Silliman, Jaell & others. Undivided Rights: Women of Color Organize for Reproductive Justice. 2d ed. Haymarket. 2016. 384p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781608466177. pap. $19; ebk. ISBN 9781608466641.

Based on organization case studies and interviews, this book outlines the ways in which women of color have always had to fight for reproductive justice outside of the mainstream feminist movement. The authors illustrate the power of coalition-building and identity-based organizing and the need for culturally specific health information.

Solnit, Rebecca. The Mother of All Questions. Haymarket. 2017. 180p. ISBN 9781608467402. pap. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9781608467204.

Activist and historian Solnit, who is widely credited with launching the term mansplaining into the public discourse, provides commentary on a variety of topics, including rape jokes, the gender binary, and a patriarchal culture that continues to silence women. (LJ 2/1/17)

Stryker, Kitty. Ask: Building Consent Culture; An Anthology. Thorntree. 2017. 224p. ISBN 9781944934255. pap. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9781944934262.

Stryker, founder of, presents a multifaceted view of a consent culture that she deems essential to resisting its inverse: rape culture. The message is one of safety and self-advocacy: learn what works for you, ask for what you want, and empower others to do so as well. (LJ 10/15/17)

Zeisler, Andi. We Were Feminists Once: From Riot Grrrl to Covergirl, the Buying and Selling of a Political Movement. PublicAffairs. 2016. 304p. notes. index. ISBN 9781610395892. $26.99; pap. ISBN 9781610397735. $16.99; ebk. ISBN 9781610395908.

Zeisler discusses the commodification of feminism, exemplified with the rise of celebrity feminism and companies peddling products to a female market. She argues that this lightweight pop feminism has banked the fires of activists, robbing the movement of its grassroots urgency. (LJ 3/1/16)


Gay, Roxane. Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body. Harper. 2017. 320p. ISBN 9780062362599. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062362605.

Gay lays bare her experience of being a black woman of size in the world, claiming her right to a voice. This book provides valuable insight into the ways overweight women are treated in society and the work it takes to reckon with sexual violence. (LJ 6/1/17)

Mock, Janet. Surpassing Certainty: What My Twenties Taught Me. Atria. 2017. 256p. ISBN 9781501145797. $24.99; pap. ISBN 9781501145803. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781501145810.

Mock relays what it is like being a young woman trying to determine how and when to disclose her trans status and what it meant to claim it. She also discusses her job at a strip club to help pay for college, which serves to destigmatize sex work. (LJ 6/1/17)

Steinem, Gloria. My Life on the Road. Random. 2015. 304p. ISBN 9780679456209. $28; pap. ISBN 9780345408167. $16; ebk. ISBN 9780812988352.

Steinem, a pioneering second-wave feminist, takes stock of feminism in its current incarnation with the benefit of hindsight. Her accounts of the campaign for the Equal Rights Amendment and the 1977 National Women’s Conference are illuminating; her friendships with Florynce Kennedy and Wilma Mankiller broadened her perspective. (LJ 8/15)

Intersectional Feminism ROOTS

Ahmed, Leila. Women and Gender in Islam: Historical Roots of a Modern Debate. Yale Univ. 1993. 304p. notes. index. ISBN 9780300055832. pap. $22.

Ahmed highlights the contributions of Muslim feminists, who rejected a strictly Western interpretation. She describes how in an effort to assert the inferiority of Muslim religion and culture, the Western patriarchy, specifically in the Victorian era, deliberately misinterpreted and overemphasized female oppression.

Davis, Angela Y. Women, Race and Class. Vintage. 1983. 288p. notes. ISBN 9780394713519. pap. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9780307798497.

Scholar and activist Davis takes a historical approach to feminism, outlining black women’s heritage of tenacity and resistance. She explains how perseverance and self-reliance are the keys to racial justice, economic freedom, and sexual equality.

Garcia, Alma M. Chicana Feminist Thought: The Basic Historical Writings. Routledge. 1997. 344p. photos. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780415918015. pap. $59.95.

Garcia showcases the voices of Chicana poets and writers to outline the growth of Chicana feminism. Chicana women have always existed at the intersections of class and ethnicity and have had to assert their own identities between the Chicano movement and the women’s liberation movement, neither of which prioritized them.

hooks, bell. Ain’t I a Woman: Black Woman and Feminism. 2d ed. Routledge. 2014. 220p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781138821514. pap. $27.95.

Scholar and cultural critic hooks lays out a case for why black women historically received the brunt of brutal “terrorization” during slavery owing to their proximity to white families. This legacy of rape and institutionalized sexism has persisted to this day and legitimized sexual exploitation of black women.

Lorde, Audre. Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches. Crossing. 2007. 192p. ISBN 9781580911863. pap. $16.99; ebk. ISBN 9780307809049.

In her seminal essay, “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House,” Lorde argues against a white patriarchy that oppresses people on multiple fronts. She also explores the ways in which acknowledgment of difference can foster communities instead of dividing them, leading to creative social change. (LJ 9/15/07)

Moraga, Cherrie & Gloria Anzaldua. This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color. 4th ed. State Univ. of New York. 2015. 336p. illus. ISBN 9781438454382. pap. $29.95.

Moraga and Anzaldua create a foundational anthology that centers the experiences of women of color and queer women and demonstrates that they have always been on the front lines of economic, racial, sexual, and environmental justice. First published in 1981, this edition features a new preface and foreword.

Suzack, Cheryl & others. Indigenous Women and Feminism: Politics, Activism, Culture. Univ. of British Columbia. 2011. 296p. index. ISBN 9780774818087. pap. $39.95.

In a collection of wide-ranging essays, female activists and writers from different tribes offer themes on indigenous feminism. They argue that colonization reordered gender relations to subordinate women, regardless of precontact status. Native women on reservations are in a state of forced dependency and are especially vulnerable to sexual violence.


Bitch Media 

Launched in 1996, Bitch magazine is “a feminist response to pop culture.” With a robust online site, Bitch Media features articles, interviews, a podcast, and reviews of music, film, and books.

Crunk Feminist Collective 

Created by Brittney Cooper (Eloquent Rage) and Susanna M. Morris, CFC aims to create a space for feminists of color to speak on politics, activism, music, and more.


Cofounded by Jessica Valenti (Sex Object), Feministing is an online community looking to engage young feminists. The site addresses a broad range of issues, including the #MeToo movement and LGBTQ rights.

Ms. Magazine

Founded by Gloria Steinem and Dorothy Pitman Hughes, Ms. Magazine debuted on newsstands in 1972. It remains a vital presence in feminist dialog today and a prominent advocate for women’s rights.


Hollaback!; for Apple or Android.

Users can download harassment stories they’ve witnessed or experienced in real time. Searchable by map; some major cities have local chapters.

Mixing Business and Pleasure | Erotica Reviews

Wed, 02/28/2018 - 10:41

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT This month’s titles feature smart women thriving, or sometimes just surviving, at their place of business—and getting in some action after hours, as well. In Helen ­Hoang’s charming debut, The Kiss Quotient, brilliant data expert and workaholic Stella tries to buy a boyfriend in the form of gorgeous escort Michael, only to realize that she had the real thing all along. Night Shift’s Taryn, from author Joanna Angel, has a decidedly less glamorous job at adult novelty shop Dreamz, but her unique vocation brings with it a lot of hands-on sex education. Two heroines toe the left side of the law with their thrilling, and occasionally dangerous, professions in Sara Brookes’s Switch It Up and Kristen Ashley’s The Greatest Risk. Quirky barista and bartender Blake, on the other hand, works where she can until she’s fired; luckily, her new job at the Coffee Bean brings her into close proximity to Gavin, her sexy future roommate who soon becomes much more, in Elizabeth Hayley’s Misadventures with My Roommate.

Angel, Joanna. Night Shift: A Choose-Your-Own Erotic Fantasy. Cleis. Feb. 2018. 310p. ISBN 9781627782883. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9781627782531. EROTICA

In this choose-your-own erotic adventure, Taryn, facing the death of her academic dreams, finds herself working at an erotic novelty shop in Florida. There she encounters a range of eccentric customers and learns more about herself (and sexuality) than she ever had in school. Though awkward and fairly inexperienced when it comes to sex, she quickly catches on through the various steamy, raunchy, wild, and playful scenarios that unfold in her workplace—all of which readers can select via footnote directions that dictate the course of the plot. Encounters include an old friend who struck it rich and is treating his jocular posse, a customer convinced he doesn’t measure up without herbal assistance and a special technique, and a bashful, burly lumber­jack on the hunt for something with frills—who ends up playing a big role in Taryn’s erotic education. Angel’s (coauthor, Burning Angel) writing style is wry, witty, and engaging; readers will chuckle with Taryn’s dry observations on the shop’s odd happenings and cheer her on as she expands her repertoire. Unfortunately, there are a few rocky moments, including questionable inclusions of terms such as ethnic and midget and Taryn’s unsettling assertion that women with degrees and lingerie don’t mix. VERDICT Overall, this laugh-out-loud inter­active tale is perfect for readers seeking a lively and enjoyable erotic read.

Ashley, Kristen. The Greatest Risk. Griffin: St. Martin’s. (Honey, Bk. 3). May 2018. 592p. ISBN 9781250177100. pap. $17.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250177117. EROTICA

This final installment in the “Honey” series, centered on the enigmatic Bee’s Honey kink club and its patrons, sees damaged Domme Sixx taking the stage. Sixx has spent most of her life hopping from one “fixing” job to another and rarely looks back—except when it comes to handsome Dom Stellan Lange, for whom she’s harbored a years-long attraction. When she returns to ­Phoenix for good, Sixx dances around Stellan, waiting for him to make the first move—which turns out to be a big one, in the form of creating an elite gladiator stadium to fulfill the woman’s deepest aggressive male-on-male fantasies (personal sexual gladiator included). Things escalate quickly when Stellan makes an offer she can’t refuse: a month of living together, with no outside sex or play, and her submission to him on the weekends. As ­Stellan grapples with the trials of committed love and Sixx finds her icy walls melting (allowing the wounded Simone Marchesa to emerge in her stead), ghosts from both their pasts threaten to end more than the couple’s complicated relationship. Clocking in at almost 600 pages, this tome is best suited for those seeking a dense, racy read with plenty of plot. Following the tradition of the earlier works in the series (The Deep End; The Farthest Edge), kinky depictions of “­alpha subs” (submissive alpha men), chastity cages, and group sex abound. VERDICT Fans of Ashley’s work will delight in this gritty finale to an intense series.

Brookes, Sara. Switch It Up. Carina: Harlequin. (Noble House Kink, Bk. 2). Feb. 2018. 368p. ISBN 9781335013613. pap. $8.99; ebk. ISBN 9781488030734. EROTICA

Genius hacker Maddy Zane is bored with her all-too-easy job of perusing clients’ websites for security errors and her quiet solo life with cat Samoa. After catching a number of code glitches and running into an online predator, Maddy heads to the sleekly mysterious Noble House, a hybrid kink club and fetish site, where she directs her ire at club owner Kochran Duke and web developer Ezra Snow. She’s shocked to find that anger isn’t the only emotion she feels for the men, both of whom experience similar attraction (for Maddy and for each other), despite their best attempts to quell it. When Maddy gives in to the delicious sensation of submitting to not one but two Dominants, the trio must battle a long history of fear and pain to accept the love they deserve. Brookes (Get Off Easy) has crafted an engrossing “Noble House” sequel featuring a cast of well-­cultivated characters with full lives, hobbies, and hardships that readers will find just as absorbing as the sizzling triad. While the threesome have chemistry, the dynamics between each partnering bring their own unique love and eroticism. ­Kochran’s confidence and no-nonsense approach melts Maddy’s heart, among other things, just as thoroughly as Ezra’s subtle strength and penchant for geekery, while both men have a long-standing friendship that evolves into something more. VERDICT A playfully sexy m/m/f novel with an intriguing plot and an outstanding Dominant/submissive trio. Recommended for fans of nuanced depictions of BDSM with emotional depth and happy endings.

Hayley, Elizabeth. Misadventures with My Roommate. Waterhouse. (Misadventures, Bk. 10). Mar. 2018. 224p. ISBN 9781947222977. $12.99. EROTICA

Quirky, disarmingly honest Blake finds herself working at the Coffee Bean to get by when she’s not tending bar. Coworker Gavin is having a similar struggle, barely making ends meet with his two jobs. The pair’s mutual attraction is undeniable, and Blake is extremely open to learning more about her sexy colleague after hours. A unique opportunity arises when Blake’s roommate moves out and Gavin gets the boot from his apartment. The two quickly become roommates and friends with benefits, but their casual setup evolves into something much more serious, leaving Blake terrified. Her candor and lack of a filter hide a very troubled past—but Gavin has secrets of his own. Both must work through their emotional barriers now that someone’s shown up who is worth it. Author duo Hayley (The Proposition) have crafted a decidedly unconventional erotic heroine: Blake is odd, snarky, and fairly unflappable, with deep levels of vulnerability. An unfortunately persistent focus on her slim body size is unnecessary at best and at times distracting. VERDICT Quick pacing and immediate chemistry are welcome departures for those eager to ditch the “chase” ever present in lengthier novels. ­Recommended for fans of the authors.

Hoang, Helen. The Kiss Quotient. Berkley. Jun. 2018. 318p. ISBN 9780451490803. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9780451490810. EROTIC ROMANCE

DEBUT Stella Lane, a successful 30-year-old econometrician with Asperger’s syndrome, is feeling the pressure from her mother to settle down. But she doesn’t like dating, or kissing, or what might come after. So she finds a practical solution: hiring escort Michael Phan for some unconventional education. When their first night doesn’t go as planned, Stella realizes that her intended field of study should be relationships, not just sex. Michael agrees to be her faux boyfriend, but neither can deny that the feelings brewing between them are very real. Debut author Hoang, diagnosed with Asperger’s herself, portrays Stella with honesty and tender­ness. Michael’s fraught family history is given lush attention, with a cast of endearing relatives who come together in a delightfully realistic portrayal of an unlikely couple falling in love. This title sits firmly in the erotic romance category, but the couple’s slow build (and ­sizzling sexual chemistry) is certainly worth the wait. VERDICT A compulsively readable erotic romance that is equal parts sugar and spice. Highly ­recommended.

Ashleigh Williams is Editorial Assistant, School Library Journal

The Art of the Short Story: 16 New Collections Reveal the Best of a Flourishing Genre

Wed, 02/28/2018 - 09:34

Bonnaffons, Amy. The Wrong Heaven: Stories. Little, Brown. Jul. 2018. 256p. ISBN 9780316516211. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780316516204. F

DEBUT At once goofy, poignant, and edged with the fantastic, the stories in ­Bonnaffons’s debut collection initially surprise, then turn into one long, delicious rush—you just have to get into the author’s frame of mind. For class, a floundering grade-school teacher buys two cheap plastic statues—an Electric Jesus and a Flashing Virgin—that when plugged in come alive and finally become overbearing. (“Said Mary,…‘You are loved. You are loved. You are loved.’ ‘Possibly,’ said Jesus.”) A newly engaged lawyer hangs out at JoyfulSongTime, obsessively singing along to a song she cannot get out of her head and finally collapsing crying in the booth. A woman exhaustively queries a doctor about becoming a horse via a newly discovered procedure, finally finding “alert acceptance.” Cancer-afflicted Doris obliges friend Katie by cutting her hair, but sobbing Katie won’t let Doris cut her own. Throughout, Bonnaffons shows us absurdity and carefully managed pain. VERDICT Not just fun but full of smart ideas; as the woman-become-horse observes, “Would you rather transform your Core, or your entire being?”

Braverman, Kate. A Good Day for Seppuku: Short Stories. City Lights. Feb. 2018. 192p. ISBN 9780872867215. pap. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9780872867222. F

In these rich and energetic stories, the ever-illuminating Braverman (The Incantation of Frida K.) proves herself again by exploring the lives of characters young and old, female and male, as they struggle through upheaval emblematic of today’s rending social fabric. A 13-year-old who regularly wings her way between her high-inspiring, materialistic California mother and her laconic, back-to-the-land father in the Alleghenies realizes that she must choose between the two once she starts high school. A woman denied tenure seeks comfort from her flamboyant mother, who leads an “unscripted life” south of the border yet needs as much rescuing as her daughter. A conscientious high school teacher hides a secret: she’s searching for her daughter, a heroin addict and prostitute. And a doctor about to retire, stunned to learn that he won’t be getting a plaque in the lobby of the hospital he founded, returns home to find his wife packing to leave. VERDICT Sparkling work for smart readers.

Brinkley, Jamel. A Lucky Man: Stories. Graywolf. May 2018. 264p. ISBN 9781555978051. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781555979959. F

DEBUT Brinkley’s first collection portrays young African American men struggling with fathers, brothers, and friends, present or absent. What impresses first is the length and strength, the sheer weightiness of each detailed and meditative story. Brinkley doesn’t flick off moments but shows how each contains multitudes. In “No More Than a Bubble,” ostensibly about two friends picking up girls at a party, the narrator says, “Sometimes I feel all I’d have to offer, other than questions, are my memories of that time in Brooklyn.” As he recalls his father’s effort to teach him about happiness, he can’t enjoy the sex he’s having because he’s trying to manage the situation; later, he recognizes the sudden rupture with his friend as something repeated throughout his life. Elsewhere, a boy who thinks of himself as a robot—the better to block his feelings—endures a troublesome trip to the suburbs, and a teenager striving for manhood is caught between his desire for a wild night out and his concern for a damaged younger brother he sometimes scorns. VERDICT Fully developed stories that readers will savor.

Cooper, Paige. Zolitude: Stories. Biblioasis. Apr. 2018. 248p. ISBN 9781771962179. pap. $14.95. F

DEBUT In the title story of this spikily surreal debut collection, one of the characters declares, “Neuroscientists have concluded that love and fear are the only two physiologically measurable emotions,” and those emotions radiate throughout these vivid, complex stories, though fear seems to predominate. Acting as go-between for Simona, who intuits that her lover intends to kill her, the narrator of “Zolitude” meets the troublesome Lars at a wine bar (where “daylight shows up to eat its lunch over our desks, then leaves”) and finally absorbs the sense of unease. Popov, a police officer who once patrolled the mountains on a huge black gelding with claws for hooves, recalls courting his wife at a time when anarchists were rioting. Another fierce, birdlike creature punishes men for their sins as the book bus woman tries to save one of them. In yet another story, a man hoping to visit an ancient temple is blocked by a creature with “mean little forearms” and eventually encounters scenes of ongoing war (“POWs eating their own bowels in tiger cages”). VERDICT Not for the fainthearted or lovers of straightforward plot, but brilliant for anyone preferring heightened reading.

Georgiou, Elena. The Immigrant’s Refrigerator. GenPop. Feb. 2018. 190p. ISBN 9780998512648. pap. $16. F

DEBUT A Lambda Literary Award–winning poet, Georgiou portrays immigrants to America, both legal and illegal, in heartfelt, no-nonsense prose. The opening story, “Gazpacho,” features a man in a Mexican border town who provides soup for boys heading to America by train (“el tren de la muerte”)—or being forced to return. For money, he drives a hearse, frequently repatriating children’s bodies from America—257 so far; “each time, …a small country turns to dust inside me.” In another piece, white employees at a confectionary find that listening to news about police shootings “with a dark-skinned man—a refugee!—in their midst had made their hands clumsier,” and an MFA student from Northern Ireland who works for a gay escort service can’t be friends “with anyone who had not known troops standing on the corner of the same road as the house in which they were born.” It’s indeed brutally hard to imagine that kind of experience, but Georgiou brings it closer. VERDICT A keen, sobering work; ten percent of profits will go to the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Center.

Groff, Lauren. Florida. Riverhead. Jun. 2018. 288p. ISBN 9781594634512. $27; ebk. ISBN 970698405141. F

A frank, rambunctious, generous writer, Groff thought big in her much-heralded novel Fates and Furies. Here, in spot-on language, she effectively provides slice-of-life reading, capturing the scents and sounds of her newly adopted state, Florida. Her portraits aren’t of sand, surf, and sunshine; instead, she shows us houses that “rot and droop” in the humidity, the “devilish reek of snakes” at swamp’s edge, and an “old hunting camp shipwrecked in twenty miles of scrub” where a panther lurks. But these portraits aren’t unaffectionate, and the characters can be satisfyingly tough, though Groff’s alter ego in several stories is still getting her bearings. In the opening story, she walks nightly in her transitional neighborhood, seeing few people but keeping herself from becoming a yowling mom. The standout “At the Round Earth’s Imagined Corners” traces a Florida boy’s life from his rough upbringing, his mother’s stealing him away to safety, his father’s grabbing him back, and his adulthood in the family home, when he confronts the ghost of his let-down father, then joyously greets his wife. VERDICT Well-observed, unexpected writing for fans and more. [See Prepub Alert, 12/11/17.]

Johnson, Charles. Night Hawks: Stories. Scribner. May 2018. 192p. ISBN 9781501184383. $24; ebk. ISBN 9781501184406. F

In “The Cynic,” an early story in this arresting collection from National Book Award winner Johnson (Middle Passage), a disgruntled Plato, unable to communicate his vision of abstraction to mocking students, notices the full moon and is “ambushed by its sensuous, singular, and savage beauty.” Readers encounter that beauty throughout as Johnson finds his clear way to experience, showing his characters stepping back to understand the world, then rushing to embrace it. A Japanese priest presiding over his own private sanctuary, who learns from a visiting African American scholar that he’s been “locked in a cycle of emotion (his own)” and decides to reach out and create a congregation, an escaped slave returning to rescue others acknowledging that “he had known happiness and freedom” as he runs madly, leading a soulcatcher away from his quarry—these are the indelible moments that show Johnson to be a master of the short form. VERDICT Highly recommended.

Loskutoff, Maxim. Come West and See: Stories. Norton. May 2018. 208p. ISBN 9780393635584. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9780393635591. F

DEBUT In this fresh first collection from Nelson Algren winner ­Loskutoff, refugees from civilization gather in the Northwest and sometimes violently resist intrusion. First, though, an opening story unfolding in 1890s Montana territory sets the mood; a trapper falls in love with a bear, reluctantly heads into town for female company when she hibernates, and succumbs to vicious jealousy when he returns to find she has a cub. In the present day, a desperate woman forces her boyfriend to drive her across state lines to find a vet who will treat her injured coyote, abandoning man for animal when they arrive. A fellow from Montana takes his wife to her family’s cabin in Michigan, where a frightening encounter makes him realize that “the safety I dreamt of bringing Kimia, and our daughter, was only that: a dream.” In the final story, another couple arrives from “traitor country” shot full of arrows even as federal soldiers gather across the mountains. ­VERDICT The stories don’t always connect as much as one is led to expect, but the writing is sure-footed and the disquieting sense of a world upended successfully delivered.

Millet, Lydia. Fight No More: Stories. Norton. Jun. 2018. 176p. ISBN 9780393635485. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9780393635485. F

Showing a high-end California house to a man she assumes to be an African dictator, brisk, self-contained real estate agent Nina is shaken when the man plunges into the pool and must be revived by paramedics. She learns that he’s actually a musician, with his presumed bodyguards his band members, and in the course of this wise and witty new collection—Millet’s first since the Pulitzer Prize finalist Love in Infant Monkeys—she connects with one of the musicians, though her love is slammed by tragedy. Connection is the key throughout, as these stories interlock like the veins in a leaf. For instance, we keep meeting troubled teen Jem, who slyly disrupts Nina’s showing of his divorced mother’s house and gets abused teen Lexie, whom he’s met via cybersex, a babysitting job with his father and stepmother. Jem grows over these pages, genuinely helping Lexie and his sharp-witted if ailing gram, no slouch herself. Meanwhile, Nina contends with a client who thinks she has dwarves in the attic. VERDICT Top-notch, in-your-face work from the priceless Millet. [See Prepub Alert, 12/11/17.]

O’Connor, Scott. A Perfect Universe: Ten Stories . Scout: Gallery. Feb. 2018. 256p. ISBN 9781507204054. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781507204061. F

A perfect universe? Not in this sometimes wry, sometimes cutting story collection from O’Connor (Half World), set in a somewhat threadbare California. Buried under debris after an earthquake, a musician hears a woman reading off names and screams in response, even as the mayor insists that no one is left alive and orders the bulldozers forward. Afterward, spiraling downward, he seeks out his savior, who obliges him by repeating, “You hold on. We’re going to get you out of there.” At a coffee shop, an obnoxious businesswoman on a cell phone annoys the put-upon server and a patron awaiting a script meeting when gunshot fragments the window and an armed teenager brings the violence inside. Two lesbians, joyous at having won the right to marry, now find their relationship crumbling. And a bicycle thief, troubled by the kidnapping of a child, must ride all the way to New York to let his image go. VERDICT Entertaining stories accessible to all.

Oates, Joyce Carol. Beautiful Days: Stories. Ecco: HarperCollins. Feb. 2018. 416p. ISBN 9780062795786. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062795809. F

With her usual acute grasp of human psychology, the prolific, multi-award-winning Oates delivers a hefty volume of short stories in three parts. Pieces in the first section mostly explore lacerating relationships that are broken or breaking. A married man tires of the daring and dazzling honesty he and his younger lover, also married, once shared; as he returns later, when she has cancer, she shouts him down. A man plots to implicate a woman who loves him in his death, and elsewhere, a couple for whom marriage “is an affable not-quite-hearing” bend but perhaps don’t break under the strain of a daughter’s death. The second section features identity confusion, with a white woman convinced that the black nurse easing her pain is the hostile student she once tried to help, and a professor who is intrigued by a staring woman learns that she thought he was deceased. In the final section, a young woman worships the reckless “master” who controls her and an African student unprepared for an American university education is deprived of his visa and subjected to horrific indignities. VERDICT ­ Perceptive, un­missable work. [See Prepub Alert, 8/28/17.]

O’Neill, Joseph. Good Trouble: Stories. Pantheon. Jun. 2018. 176p. ISBN 9781524747350. $22; ebk. ISBN 9781524747367. F

In his typically sharp, smart language, the author of the PEN/Faulkner Award–winning Netherland shows us characters undone by contemporary life, not grandly but in the small, essential ways that define our culture. When poet Mark McCain receives a request from another, younger poet to sign a “poetition”—a petition cum poem asking President Barack Obama to pardon Edward Snowden, he’s outraged at the misunderstanding of what poetry really is and, in the story’s brief, reflective passages, explains its meaning before vowing “Never give in”—to philistinism of every stripe. A professor who cannot find a way to persuade an oblivious former student to cease his yearly visits finds the problem finally solving itself, even as he and his wife entertain each other with titles for memoirs of the fancy life they haven’t led. Deserted by an in-second-childhood husband who says she’s not passionate and a tetchy son who’s banned her from his own family for being too distant—she was trying not to intrude on a conjugal fight—fiftyish Breda makes tentative steps toward liberating herself. ­VERDICT Absorbing reading sophisticates will love. [See Prepub Alert, 12/11/17.]

Ramspeck, Doug. The Owl That Carries Us Away. BkMk: Univ. of Missouri-Kansas City. Apr. 2018. 184p. ISBN 9781943491131. pap. $15.95. F

DEBUT That Ramspeck is a prize-winning poet shows in this accomplished collection, winner of the G.S. Sharat Chandra Prize for First Fiction: the language is grittily lyrical and each story in the moment. In one piece, the narrator says, “I see that my sons are wild creatures, feral boys in the backyard,” and that beneath-the-surface sense of nasty brutishness surfaces throughout. A boy relentlessly pursued by a bullying older brother nearly drowns him, then wishes he had; “his brother will be lying in wait, will never forget this.” A young woman is delighted with her new husband yet finds his presence, his very body, intrusive. And in the particularly affecting opening story, a boy who treasures a possum skull, a great sense of comfort to him with his father ill and his life lonely, is devastated when it’s destroyed by a would-be friend. Memory matters, too; a man finds his wife’s clothes “dangling their remembrance around him,” while the father watching his sons is defined by the moment long ago when his brother drowned. ­VERDICT ­Excellent reading for those who value meditative, beautiful storytelling.

Sachdeva, Anjali. All the Names They Used for God: Stories. Spiegel & Grau. Feb. 2018. 288p. ISBN 9780399593000. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780525508670. F

DEBUT In the best stories in this smooth collection, individuals longing for something better face adversity and keep moving. An albino girl in the American West loses her parents, marries a charming drifter who loves her but decides to continue his travels, then teeters at the edge of a chasm, with people below calling, and falls “into their waiting arms.” An ambitious young man leaves Denmark to “find a place where he could live with abandon,” is horribly injured in a factory blast and sullenly accepts dependence on his young daughter, yet travels with her and her mentor to excavate ruins in Egypt. Two young African women kidnapped as teenagers by Muslim extremists return home, having learned to get what they want. Indeed, adversity can teach you things; a man determined to be new at the dating game has a disastrous camping experience (the nutty woman whose invitation he accepted has disappeared) and decides he was happier with his old self. VERDICT Not all these stories startle, but Sachdeva is a writer to watch.

Trevor, William. Last Stories. Viking. May 2018. 224p. ISNB 9780525558101. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780525558118. F

Two workmen realize that the worn-out relative/housekeeper of the crippled man who hired them is hiding his boss’s death (the better to keep receiving his pension). A man learns that the rumpled woman found dead in an alley was once the polished, desperately striving widow who tried to win him. A cartographer returns to the Yorkshire farm where he once tutored a lovely girl, now a grown woman with whom he falls in love. Throughout these final stories from the masterly Trevor (The Story of Lucy Gault), limpid and clearly defined as dewdrops on a branch, we see characters dealing with the past and moving forward—or not. Not surprisingly, there’s an autumnal air throughout: the housekeeper “had once known what she wanted, but she wasn’t so sure about that anymore,” while the cartographer realizes that you can’t escape what’s done (“the damaged do not politely go away”), and a woman betrayed by a friend recalls a time when “friendship was the better thing.” Yet this is hard-won wisdom, not sorrow. VERDICT Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 11/6/17.]

Young, C. Dale. The Affliction: A Novel in Stories. Four Way. Mar. 2018. 154p. ISBN 9781945588068. pap. $17.95. F

DEBUT Full-time physician Young has won numerous fellowships for his poetry, compiled most recently in 2016’s The Halo. Here he turns to fiction, demonstrating the easy grace that defines his verse. (He has published short stories but offers a book-length work for the first time.) Capturing a community, these linked stories open with “The Affliction,” which details Javier Castillo’s astonishing ability to disappear and reappear at will. It seems like such a gift—he “could travel around the world like air itself”—but to the story’s narrator, it starts becoming tiresome. And of course being invisible, like so many people in marginalized communities, is as disquieting as being among the “disappeared” of Latin American history. Elsewhere, Rosa hears a terrible prediction from the fortune teller; Old Cassie, once a nun, inherits a great estate and terrorizes her neighbors; and Leenck, who bandaged an injured leg too tightly, nearly has it amputated but is freed by a swift machete stroke from his standoffish father. ­VERDICT A heartfelt and well-crafted work.

Barbara Hoffert is Editor, Prepub Alert, LJ

Memoirs of Merit

Wed, 02/28/2018 - 09:14

Even this early in the year, we’re seeing a strong showing of top-shelf memoirs, with one already selected as an “LJ best memoir of 2017” (Myriam ­Gurba’s powerful Mean), and another positioned as an early contender for best of 2018 (Sands Hall’s Flunk. Start). This quarterly roundup is an all-female slate, with LJ columnists Rachael Dreyer and Derek Sanderson highlighting the must-have titles. For more memoir reviews, go to:

Gurba, Myriam Mean. Coffee House. 2017. 160p. ISBN 9781566894913. pap. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9781566895019. memoir

Gurba’s writing makes you want to know the author better. Her voice is irreverent, lyrical, and sharply observant, even as her book offers dark commentary on what it means to be a woman in American society. Here, she addresses traumatic experiences, including sexual violence that men forced upon her and against other women, disordered eating, and the cultural norms of women’s beauty. Gurba’s work also explores issues of race and sexuality; the author is mixed race and queer, and her narrative packs a lot into a few pages. If you believe that women, and all people, have the right to safety in public and domestic spaces, the right to control their bodies and express their gender identity and sexuality, and that prejudices of all kinds continue to impact and restrict the promise and potential of many in this country, then this is a book you’ll want to read. ­VERDICT Gurba is a writer for our times; her memoir brings a powerful perspective. (Memoir, 10/20/17)—Rachael Dreyer, ­Pennsylvania State Univ. Dept. of Libs. (RD)

Hall, Sands. Flunk. Start. Reclaiming My Decade Lost in Scientology. Counterpoint. Mar. 2018. 400p. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9781619021785. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781619021808. memoir

Novelist Hall (Catching Heaven) has written a beautiful memoir about spending seven years as a Scientologist. What sets this account apart from so many recent “leaving Scientology” narratives is that the author has no ax to grind. Though Hall never felt comfortable as a member of the religion, she fell in love with the study of words and their meaning, which she says is an integral part of Scientology coursework. Hall still uses these methods as a teacher of creative writing. Although her experience in the religion was mild compared to others’, she was frequently pressured to “disconnect” from her parents, as they disapproved of her involvement in the faith and were thus considered “suppressive persons.” Hall leaves readers to decide, but few will close this memoir wishing to become Scientologists, hearing the author ultimately sound a clear warning to stay away. VERDICT An early candidate for memoir of the year, this is a thrilling story of one woman’s search for truth and her place in the world. (Memoir, 1/12/18)—Derek Sanderson, Mount Saint Mary Coll. Lib., Newburgh, NY

Narayan, Shoba. The Milk Lady of Bangalore: An Unexpected Adventure. Workman. Jan. 2018. 272p. ISBN 9781616206154. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9781616207618. memoir

Writer and cookbook author Narayan grew up in the Indian capital of Chennai and has spent most of her adult life in New York City. As her parents and in-laws grow older, the author and her husband decide to move their family to Bangalore to be closer to them. Settling into her new home, Narayan begins to buy milk from Sarala, the local milk lady, whose small herd grazes in the city. Sarala and Narayan become friends, and as their relationship develops, Narayan’s involvement with and interest in the cows increases. While Narayan never loses sight of her own privileged position, even as she navigates the intricacies of caste and class in modern-day India, her stories radiate with compassion. Living in Bangalore, the author’s Western sensibilities are met with both delight and inconvenience, and she revels in relating her experiences on the page. VERDICT An absolute joy to read. Through her close encounters with the bovine kind, Narayan shows how Indian traditions are incorporated into contemporary ways of life. (Memoir, 10/20/17)—RD

O’Farrell, Maggie. I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death. Knopf. Feb. 2018. 304p. illus. ISBN 9780525520221. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9780525520238. memoir

This memoir will make readers look more closely at the danger they’ve brushed up against in their lives. British novelist O’Farrell (This Must Be the Place; Instructions for a Heat Wave) explores episodes in which she came close to death: a near drowning, an encounter with a murderer on a deserted hiking trail, dysentery, meningitis, close calls during surgeries, to name a few. With each chapter, the author reveals more of her experiences, including parenting a daughter with multiple and severe allergies. Though not expressly addressed to her daughter, O’Farrell’s book serves to show her (and readers) that we are not alone in our clashes with fate. In confronting her own mortality, she proves that she isn’t isolated in these frightening moments, but instead resilient and courageous. ­VERDICT A heartfelt meditation on the fragility and wonder of life, O’Farrell’s work emphasizes the body’s desire to fight for survival, even as it takes on challenges from all sides. (Memoir, 12/13/17)—RD

Seeger, Peggy. First Time Ever. Faber & Faber. 2017. 416p. photos. ISBN 9780571336791. $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9780571336814. memoir

The author, half-sister to folk singer Pete Seeger, is a force of folk all her own. In this lovely firsthand account, Seeger shares memories of her idyllic childhood and reflections on race, as her family employed African American domestic workers. She also explores cultural differences as she looks back on her travels through Europe and Asia as a young woman playing music; she delves into her identity as both a public performer and a woman, daughter, partner, mother, musician, activist, and feminist, crafting the narrative from recollections and her own diaries. Readers will find a constellation of folk music greats here, all linked by Seeger’s anecdotes. Now in her 80s, Seeger is enmeshed thoroughly in the search to know herself fully. One delightful aspect is Seeger quoting from biographies of her life, written by others. The chronological structure zigzags a bit in time, but it mimics the way memory works. VERDICT An engrossing read for all, even those who don’t know their folk music history. (Memoir, 12/13/17)—RD

Spring/Summer Bests | Debut Novels

Tue, 02/27/2018 - 16:58

Drawing on reviews and media buzz, LJ regularly offers a summation of the top debut novels of the season. But what about forthcoming titles that have not yet been reviewed? This time ’round, as I assayed spring titles, I found so many intriguing May titles that had not yet received critical coverage and so many June and July titles that deserved early notice that I decided to take a closer look. Herewith are my picks for early spring titles you should order now and late spring and summer titles you should have on your radar.

Books To GET

Pop Fiction

Allnutt, Luke. We Own the Sky. Park Row: Harlequin. Apr. 2018. 368p. ISBN 9780778314738. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781488078712.

His marriage and his life shattered by son Jack’s cancer, Rob Coates posts stunning scenes of places he and Jack had visited together on a website he calls We Own the Sky. “Vivid and heart-twisting.” (LJ 1/18)

Burke, Sue. Semiosis. Tor. Feb. 2018. 336p. ISBN 9780765391353. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9780765391377.

Colonists escaping an environmentally imploding Earth make an emergency landing on a planet they weren’t aiming for, and generations of humans grow up there, evolving as they adapt to a new ­environment. “Extraordinary.” (LJ 1/18)

Gabel, Aja. The Ensemble. Riverhead. May 2018. 352p. ISBN 9780735214767. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780735214781.

Steely first violinist Jana. Beautiful second violinist Brit. Self-confident violist Henry. And troublesome cellist Daniel. Together, they’re the Van Ness Quartet, whose professional and personal highs and lows are explored “with great warmth, humanity, and wisdom.” (LJ 3/1/18)

Hirshberg, David. My Mother’s Son. Fig Tree. May 2018. 368p. ISBN 9781941493229. $23.95.

Looking back at his youth in post–World War II Boston, Joel realizes that he never really knew his family or friends, whose activities weren’t always legal. “This amazing mosaic of fact and fiction will hold the reader in its grip from the first page to the last.” (LJ 2/15/18)

Johnson, Chelsey. Stray City. Custom House: Morrow. Mar. 2018. 432p. ISBN 9780062666680. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062666703.

A restless young member of the lesbian community in 1990s Portland, OR, ­Andrea is surprised to find solace with a man named Ryan. Then she gets pregnant. “An enjoyable read embracing complex and believable characters.” (LJ 1/18)

Lynch, Christina. The Italian Party. St. Martin’s. Mar. 2018. 336p. ISBN 9781250147837. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250147844.

In 1956, newlyweds Michael and ­Scottie Messina arrive in Italy, where Michael will be working for the CIA. His ambitions and their not-government-approved sexuality complicate matters. “Effervescent as spumante; spot-on social commentary.” (LJ 11/1/17)

Pedreira, David. Gunpowder Moon. Harper Voyager. Feb. 2018. 304p. ISBN 9780062676085. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062676092.

In 2072, the moon is being mined because of Earth’s environmental degradation. Then there’s a murder. “Pedreira’s science thriller powerfully highlights human politics and economics from the seemingly desolate expanse of the moon.” (LJ 1/18)

White, Chris. The Life List of Adrian Mandrick. Touchstone. Apr. 2018. 288p. ISBN 9781501174308. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781501174322.

Painkiller-addicted anesthesiologist Adrian Mandrick, a dedicated birder, hunts obsessively for the elusive ivory-billed woodpecker but must finally face himself. “Successfully combines the best elements of a psychological portrait, a travel adventure, and a suspenseful mystery.” (LJ 2/1/18)


Abel, Heather. The Optimistic Decade. Algonquin. May 2018. 368p. ISBN 9781616206307. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781616208271.

The daughter of a radical newspaper publisher, Rebecca Silver is working as a camp counselor when she gets re­acquainted with a troubled friend and finds something beyond politics. “A generous, thoughtful view of youthful passion and idealism.” (LJ 3/1/18)

Castillo, Elaine. America Is Not the Heart. Viking. Apr. 2018. 416p. ISBN 9780735222410. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780735222434.

Imprisoned and tortured for her activism, then repudiated by her family, Hero flees the Philippines for California, where she lives undocumented with relatives and has a passionate affair with makeup artist Rosalyn. “Relevant in today’s toxic political climate; a rich, challenging read.” (LJ 2/15/18)

Delury, Jane. The Balcony. Little, Brown. Mar. 2018. 256p. ISBN 9780316554671. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780316554664.

The tale of a young American who works as an au pair on a French country estate in 1992 is followed by portraits of people who have inhabited or visited the house over a century. “A beautifully written novel that can be enjoyed both for its literary merits and for the intriguing stories of its characters.” (LJ 2/15/18)

Djavadi, Négar. Disoriental. Knopf. Apr. 2018. 320p. tr. from French by Tina Kover. ISBN 9781609454517. pap. $18; ebk. ISBN 9781609454524.

Sitting in a Parisian fertility clinic, Kimia Sadr reflects on her family’s deep roots in Persia, her dissident parents’ flight from Iran post-Revolution, and her own sexual disorientation. “This enchanting novel…perfectly blends historical fact with contemporary themes.” (LJ 2/1/18)

Goenawan, Clarissa. Rainbirds. Soho. Mar. 2018. 336p. ISBN 9781616958558. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781616958565.

In this 1990s Japan–set novel by an ­Indonesian-born Singaporean writer, a young man investigates his sister’s murder. “Shift[ing] from a murder mystery to magical realism, Goenawan infuses her postmodern literary tale with enough complexity, mystery, and emotional connection to make this a memorable and haunting read.” (LJ 2/15/18)

Halliday, Lisa. Asymmetry. S. & S. Feb. 2018. 288p. ISBN 9781501166761. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781501166778.

Raw young editor Alice is roped in romantically by a distinguished older author, Iraqi American Amar is detained at Heathrow, and the book’s third section gracefully links these tales. “Evocative of the world we live in today; highly recommended.” (LJ 2/1/18)

Lyon, Rachel. Self-Portrait with Boy. Scribner. Feb. 2018. 384p. ISBN 9781501169588. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781501169601.

A photographer specializing in self-­portraits inadvertently captures the moment the neighbors’ son falls to his death, then brazenly exhibits Self-Portrait with Boy to acclaim—though not from the parents. “A powerful, brilliantly imagined story not easily forgotten.” (LJ 2/1/18)

Mangan, Christine. Tangerine. Ecco: HarperCollins. Mar. 2018. 320p. ISBN 9780062686664. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062686688.

Living in sultry 1956 Tangier with her husband, Alice is dismayed when a trouble­some former college roommate comes calling. “Readers captivated by the flavor of international romance and intrigue…will enjoy the distorted psychological twists and turns in this fascinating off-centered tale.” (LJ 12/17)

Rao, Shobha. Girls Burn Brighter. Flatiron: Macmillan. Mar. 2018. 320p. ISBN 9781250074256. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250074263.

Allied as outsiders, two girls in India become fast friends but are separated by tragedy, with Poornima finally traveling all the way to Seattle to renew her bond with Savitha. “This tale of sacrifice, exploitation, and reclamation is not to be missed.” (LJ 1/18)

Steavenson, Wendell . Paris Metro. Norton. Mar. 2018. 384p. ISBN 9780393609783. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9780393609790.

Having had an affair with worldly Ahmed while based in Iraq, journalist Kit now lives in Paris with their 13-year-old son and faces terrorism close to home. From an award-winning journalist; “an engrossing insider’s view of complicated geopolitics and conflicted identity.” (LJ 1/18)

Vermette, Katherena. The Break. House of Anasi. Mar. 2018. 288p. ISBN 9781487001117. pap. $16.95.

Métis author Vermette won multiple awards in Canada for this first novel, which opens with a woman spotting an assault, then expands to tell the story of an entire family and a mixed indigenous and settler community. “Sharp-edged and relentless.” (Xpress Reviews 2/23/18)


Copenhaver, John. Dodging and Burning. Pegasus Crime. Mar. 2018. 384p. ISBN 9781681776590. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9781681777153.

A fading crime-scene photo returns a mystery author to 1945 Virginia, when friend Ceola was shown the photo of a dead woman. “A coming-of-age tale [mixed] with a puzzling mystery and a haunting portrait of the experiences of the LGBTQ community in the 1940s.” (LJ 2/1/18)

Molloy, Aimee. The Perfect Mother. Harper. May 2018. 336p. ISBN 9780062696793. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062696816.

Mothers who gather in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park for support throw themselves into an investigation when one mother’s son is abducted from his crib. “For lovers of cunning narrative suspense; …[it] will keep readers turning the pages.” (LJ 2/1/18)

Nay, Roz. Our Little Secret. St. Martin’s. Apr. 2018. 272p. ISBN 9781250160812. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250160829.

Grilled by police about the missing wife of her former boyfriend, Angela reveals the fateful story of their love triangle. “Nay has expertly crafted a narrative that has the potential to veer in several directions, keeping readers enthralled and guessing until the end.” (LJ 2/1/18)

Parks, Alan. Bloody January. Europa. (World Noir). Mar. 2018. 304p. ISBN 9781786891341. pap. $17; ebk. ISBN 9781609454494.

In this 1973 Glasgow–set exemplar of tartan noir, Det. Harry McCoy follows a tip, witnesses a murder-suicide, then learns that his tipster was has been brutally killed, too. “Spare, tough prose; [characters] who might have been safely relegated to sidekick status are ones that readers will welcome back in the likely sequels.” (LJ 2/1/18)

Sacks, Michelle. You Were Made for This. Little, Brown. Jun. 2018. 352p. ISBN 9780316475402. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780316475433.

Merry seems merry about marriage and motherhood, but her visiting best friend knows better. “Fans of dark and twisted psychological thrillers will be swept up in the appearance of domestic bliss and maternal perfection, only to be left off-kilter and breathless.” (LJ 3/1/18)

Into the Wild

Bradbury, Jamey. The Wild Inside. Morrow. Mar. 2018. 304p. ISBN 9780062741998. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062742018.

Young trapper/hunter Tracy Petrikoff knows her way around the Alaskan wilderness but won’t tell her father than a stranger has moved into the shed on their property. “A lovely and intense novel about the precarious balance of life and death.” (LJ 1/18)

Davies, Carys. West. Scribner. Apr. 2018. 160p. ISBN 9781501179341. $22; ebk. ISBN 9781501179365.

A recently widowed mule breeder hears about the discovery of mammoth animal bones and heads into the wilderness, leaving behind his young daughter. “Graceful prose and sharp observations make this absorbing debut novel a standout.” (LJ 2/1/18)

Kitson, Mick. Sal. Canongate. May 2018. 240p. ISBN 9781786891877. $20; ebk. ISBN 9781786891891.

Repeatedly abused by her mother’s boyfriend, 13-year-old Scottish lass Sal kills him and takes younger sister Peppa into the wilderness. “Readers will be captivated by Sal’s resolution, ingenuity, singular voice, and infinite capacity for wonder in the face of appalling circumstances.” (LJ 2/1/18)

McLaughlin, James A . Bearskin. Ecco: HarperCollins. Jun. 2018. 352p. ISBN 9780062742797. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062742810.

Hiding from the drug cartel that killed his girlfriend, a biologist serving as caretaker at a forest preserve finds his peace shattered by evidence of bear poaching. “This versatile debut…successfully straddl[es] the line between the evocative erudition of ­Gabriel Tallent’s My Absolute Darling or Tom Franklin’s Poachers and the page-turning suspense of C.J. Box.” (LJ 2/15/18)

Books to Anticipate

Burton, Tara Isabella. Social Creature. Doubleday. Jun. 2018. 288p. ISBN 9780385543521. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385543538.

“Stick with me long enough…and I promise—things will just happen to you.” So declares ­Lavinia, the wildly off-kilter, upper-crust New Yorker who takes on church mouse–poor Louise as her fellow carouser and confidante. They drink, they dream, they attend costume parties, and Lavinia steers toward doom. ­Pulsing energy, polished language, perfectly drawn characters.

Cohen, Elisabeth. The Glitch. Doubleday. May 2018. 368p. ISBN 9780385542784. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385542791.

Overreaching Silicon CEO Shelly Stone, who schedules sex with her husband and 3 a.m. downtime for herself, barely flinches when temporarily losing her daughter on vacation in France. (“ ‘We’re lucky,’ I said. But I didn’t mean it. We’re smart.”) Then she encounters a laid-back version of herself and rethinks her life. Compelling, thrillerish prose and a deft skewering of corporatism and social attitudes today.

Faye, Gaël. Small Country. Hogarth: Crown. Jun. 2018. 224p. tr. from French by Sarah Ardizzone. ISBN 9781524759872. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781524759896.

Burundi-born and French-based like Faye himself, Faye’s protagonist is told as a child that Tutsis and Hutus are fighting “because they don’t have the same nose.” Not surprisingly, he later proclaims, “I had already made up my mind never to define myself again.” Faye’s taut, affecting story reveals family tension, then shows a childhood and a country ­shattered as violence floods in from Rwanda. That Faye is a songwriter/­rapper is ­evident in the fine-tuned ­language. A multiaward winner.

Fine, Julia. What Should Be Wild. Harper. May 2018. 352p. ISBN 9780062684134. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062684158.

In this dark literary fantasy, Maisie is hidden away at the family manor because she can kill or resurrect with a touch (barefoot, she left “a comet tail of crackling, yellowed grasses”). According to legend, some of her female ancestors walked into the nearby forest, never to return, and village men who enter come back mad. But Maisie has her own forest mission. ­Atmospheric and lushly written.

Franqui, Leah. America for Beginners. Morrow. Jul. 2018. 320p. ISBN 9780062668752. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062668776.

After her husband’s death, Pival ­Sengupta boldly risks traveling alone from India to America to learn what she can of her son, who died not long after announcing that he was gay. She’s accompanied by a Bangladeshi tour guide and a female escort (for propriety’s sake), as all the characters reexamine cultural expectations (“When Pival returned to ­Kolkata the first thing she did was fire all the servants”). Not surprisingly, ­playwright Franqui has a sharp take on character and dialog.

Hansen, Malcolm. They Come in All Colors. Atria. May 2018. 320p. ISBN 9781501172328. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781501172342.

In early 1970s New York, biracial 13-year-old Huey Fairchild, the only nonwhite student at elite Claremont Prep, struggles dangerously with sneaking racism and recalls the traumatizing incidents in 1960s Georgia that sent him and his mother north. Hansen captures both the times and indelible, smart-mouthed Huey and his core issue: “I’m a wannabe less because I want to be something that I’m not than because the reality of what I am just doesn’t make any sense to them.”

Joukhadar, Jennifer Zeynab. The Map of Salt and Stars. Touchstone. May 2018. 368p. ISBN 9781501169038. $27; ebk. ISBN 9781501169106.

Salt tears and our fateful stars: Syrian American author Joukhadar expansively portrays Nour, who arrives home in Syria from Manhattan with her cartographer mother just before civil war explodes, and Rawiya, a widow’s daughter in the medieval Middle East “who dreamed of seeing the world, but she and her mother could barely afford couscous.” Sharply contemporary Nour copies her storytelling father by relating Rawiya’s folkloric-dreamy tale until the two voices deftly blend.

Knecht, Rosalie. Who Is Vera Kelly? Tin House. Jun. 2018. 272p. ISBN 9781947793019. pap. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9781947793026.

When we first meet Vera Kelly, she’s a troubled 1950s teenager who’s overdosed on Equanil. Next she’s in explosive 1960s Buenos Aires after being recruited by the CIA (“I could be charming if I wanted to. There were basic tricks”). Her past and present are told in alternating chapters, with all the edgy fun of classic noir but in an original voice that’s fresh, brisk, and snappy. Hugely buzzing.

Kuang, R.F. The Poppy War. Harper Voyager. May 2017. 544p. ISBN 9780062662569. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062662590.

War orphan Rin scores big on an empirewide test and lands at the most prestigious military school in Nikan. She’s sassy and pugnacious when accused of cheating (“If you decide my score is void, that means this simple shopgirl was clever enough to bypass your famous anticheating protocols”), and though she gets taunted as a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south, her shamanic powers soon emerge. ­Military fantasy based on Chinese history.

Kwon, R.O. The Incendiaries. Riverhead. Jul. 2018. 224p. ISBN 9780735213890. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780735213913.

Will, who transferred from a Bible school to a prestigious university, hopelessly pursues Phoebe, glamorous and ambitious (as a young piano student, she says she “had the blood taste of public triumph on my lips”). But Phoebe is drawn into a dangerous cult by charismatic leader John Leal, who’s connected to her Korean American family. Seamless, propulsive writing.

Lye, Harriet Alida. The Honey Farm. Liveright: Norton. May 2018. 384p. ISBN 9781631494345. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9781631494352.

Countering a drought so bad it has “discontented the bees,” Cynthia turns her farm into an artist’s colony whose attendees provide free labor. But secrets darker than the dried-out soil haunt this setting. Comparisons range from Patricia Highsmith to Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go to Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan. Toronto-based Lye is writer in residence at Shakespeare & Company in Paris.

Mirza, Fatima Farheen. A Place for Us. SJP: Hogarth. Jun. 2018. 448p. ISBN 9781524763558. $27; ebk. ISBN 9781524763572.

A California-based Indian Muslim family celebrates the wedding of daughter Hadia, marrying for love. Present is her estranged brother Amar, who hasn’t easily managed the rough road between youth and adulthood, Old World tradition and America, and the novel effectively unfolds family tensions and ­Amar’s swirling personal anguish. (“He could convince them…he could even convince himself, that he belonged here.”) First out from Sarah Jessica Parker’s new ­imprint.

Neale, Jen. Land Mammals and Sea Creatures. ECW. May 2018. 300p. ISBN 9781770414143. pap. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9781773051826.

In her Canadian port hometown, Julie Bird is fishing with father Marty—a Gulf War vet with a prosthesis and post-traumatic stress disorder—when a blue whale unaccountably beaches itself and several birds hit the rocks “in a streak of gore and feathers.” The animal kingdom’s self-destruction reflects Marty’s own, and throughout we watch tough-talking, empathetic Julie trying to reel him in. Stringently lyrical; Neale won the Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers.

Orange, Tommy. There There. Knopf. Jun. 2018. 304p. ISBN 9780525520375. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9780525520382.

“For Native people in this country…there is no there there,” says one character in this blistering novel. But “there are so many stories” in MacDowell Fellow ­Orange’s narrative, interwoven portraits of individuals such as drummer Thomas Frank, self-trained dancer Orvil Red Feather, and angry Tony Loneman, afflicted with fetal alcohol syndrome, all heading to the Big Oakland Powwow. Tersely summed up in the ­prolog, ­America’s violence toward Natives ­reverberates throughout.

Rojas Contreras, Ingrid. Fruit of the Drunken Tree. Doubleday. Jul. 2018. 320p. ISBN 9780385542722. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385542739.

In 1990s Colombia, where bombs explode and kidnapping is common, seven-year-old Chula befriends the family’s new teenage maid Petrona. But the house is ominously shaded by a poisonous Drunken Tree, and though Máma calls Petrona “a little dead fly, someone whose life-strategy was playing dead,” she brings the family to grief. Rich and fluid storytelling from the Bogotá-born author.

Shepherd, Peng. The Book of M. Morrow. Jun. 2018. 480p. ISBN 9780062669605. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062669629.

In Shepherd’s scary new world, people who lose their shadow lose their memory; “there was a strange weightlessness to it. As if they weren’t actually there.” Ory and wife Max are hiding out from this terrible Forgetting, but Max runs away when her shadow evaporates, determined to spare Ory. Both eerie and suspenseful: Will Ory find Max? And what happens to everyone else?

Weir, Meghan MacLean. The Book of Essie. Knopf. Jun. 2018. 336p. ISBN 9780525520313. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9780525520320.

A preacher’s daughter and star of her family’s reality TV show, teenage ­Essie is pregnant, and she’s not even part of the meeting to decide what’s expedient—“which is just as well, since my being there might imply that I have some choice.” Thus are readers introduced to one family’s ­manipulative and hypocritical small-mindedness. Will Essie prevail? Weir delivers her smartly crafted answer without a trace of melodrama.

Cooking with Team Voracious | What We’re Reading & Watching

Tue, 02/27/2018 - 14:58

When I asked the LJ/School Library Journal and Junior Library Guild people (and all the lovely alums) for new “What We’re Reading/Watching” write-ups, I mentioned cooking magazines and joked that the next column would be “What We’re Cooking.” A couple people wrote back immediately with recipes and suggestions. Our Research/Customer Insight Manager Laura Girmscheid gave the thumbs-up to a shrimp and pasta recipe she discovered online; other colleagues wrote more specifically about cookbooks they’ve been using recently—see below for Liz G.’s Instapot adventures, Stephanie S.’s forays into the world of vegan recipes, and Etta’s steps toward mastering the elements of good cooking.

It’s not all about eating and cooking, though. Lee and Della both delved into debuts—Lee devoured two—and Della’s pick was an LJ Mystery Debut of the Month. Mahnaz discovered a Fantasyland while attending SLJ‘s Leadership Summit in Nashville; I enjoyed two different coming-of-age memoirs; both Tyler and Guy kept their “read more widely” New Year’s resolutions in mind; oh, and Guy got high on Black Panther. It’s a banquet over here in WWR/W land, pull up a chair and join in the feast!

Mahnaz Dar, Reference and Professional Reading Editor, LJS
We’re living in the posttruth, alternative facts era. But how did we get there? According to Kurt Andersen’s sometimes snarky, always deeply entertaining Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire; A 500-Year History (Random; see the author interview here), it’s no accident; our propensity for creating our own truths is part of our national identity. I picked up Fantasyland a while ago, when I was visiting Nashville’s Parnassus Books (owned by author Ann Patchett) last fall. Though it’s taken me a while, I’m so glad that I finally read it. Andersen presents the most engaging and trenchant U.S. history text I’ve read since Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. He argues that our nation was founded and developed by those who preferred to make their own reality and cites everyone from Anne Hutchinson to P.T. Barnum. Almost every aspect of our history and present—suburbia, religion, the counterculture of the 1960s, New Age philosophy—comes out of what he calls “the fantasy-industrial complex.” Fantasyland is gripping, frightening, and above all, required reading.

Della Farrell, Assistant Editor, SLJ Reviews
I zipped right through Kellye Garrett’s Hollywood Homicide (Midnight Ink) last weekend. Désirée Zamorano’s review in the Los Angeles Review of Books grabbed my interest. A “retired” (at age 26) actress-turned–amateur sleuth who wants to prevent the bank from foreclosing on her parents’ house,  Dayna Anderson is sharp-witted, and her observations of Los Angeles, the entertainment industry, and how people spend and make money are spot-on. Most important, Dayna—along with her group of idiosyncratic, lovable friends—is funny. I loved joining her as she followed up on lead after lead and engaged in antic after antic. Ultimately, Dayna solves the case and opens the door for many more. I’ll definitely be preordering the sequel, Hollywood Ending, due this August.

Liz French, Senior Editor, LJ Reviews
In between reading recipes in Cook’s Illustrated and Milk Street magazines and the New York Times food section (even testing a few), I’ve been vicariously experiencing the growing pains of others. First up is Pamela Druckerman’s There Are No Grown-Ups: A Midlife Coming-of-Age Story (Penguin Pr.), which I’ll be reviewing in a future issue of LJ.

Second is painter Duncan Hannah’s Twentieth-Century Boy: Notebooks of the Seventies (Knopf), a lively account of his wild youth in New York City during the last good time to be a bohemian there (okay, *maybe* the Nineties were, but not as much). I wanted to review this one, too, but I didn’t have the time. So I leafed through, read some entries, and then sent it to a reviewer who’ll do it justice. I was impressed by Hannah’s candor about having an alcohol problem and dealing with it. After being clean for a bit, he ventured out to see a performance:

Saw Tom Waits on stage. He sang, “If I exorcise my devils, well my angels may leave too.” I used to think that too. I don’t anymore. Suffering is not imperative. Being cynical is a cop-out. Hip negativity is just another form of conformity. If I feel the world is horrible, to be horrible myself would just be adding to the problem. The path of least resistance would be to submit to the inevitable course, and just become another fatality of bohemia’s wicked ways. As if I was passively going along with the downward flow. That’s not me, not who I was, not who I want to be. I have a choice in the matter. I can fight back. Wouldn’t the brave option be to try to live a positive life? Wouldn’t that be rebellion?

Elizabeth Gavril, Senior Editor, JLG
We’re in Instapot land at home. After receiving the cooker as a gift, I was skeptical, but we’ve been using it quite a bit this fall and winter. Right now, steel-cut oatmeal is a mainstay (possibly the most boring food mention ever, but good for a winter doldrums breakfast). We’ve also been trying lots of recipes—I randomly chose a couple of cookbooks for Christmas, including Urvashi Pitre’s Indian Instant Pot® Cookbook: Traditional Indian Dishes Made Easy and Fast (Callisto Media) as well as Melissa Clark’s Dinner in an Instant: 75 Modern Recipes for Your Pressure Cooker, Multicooker, and Instant Pot (Clarkson Potter: Crown). I’ve made tasty recipes from both (though I have my complaints, too). We’re also finally receiving a gift subscription of Cook’s Illustrated and the renewal of a Bon Appétit subscription. Last, I’m dipping into Cook’s Illustrated Kitchen Hacks: How Clever Cooks Get Things Done (America’s Test Kitchen), which I found lying around my brother’s house when I visited his family last month. Lots of snippets of food reading at the moment.

I haven’t had much time to read anything outside of my constant work reading. We’ve been watching and enjoying Season 2 of Victoria, so my boyfriend sweetly got me Julia Baird’s bio, Victoria: The Queen; An Intimate Biography of the Woman Who Ruled an Empire (Random) from the library. Will I have time to read it before it’s due? Alas, probably not. We’re also making our way through Babylon Berlin, which I’m liking quite a bit. I’ll be sad when we finish the last couple of episodes.

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez, WWR/W emeritus
I’m still riding the high from seeing Black Panther (and enjoying the variety of different and insightful takes it’s generated), and following through on my New Year’s resolution, I updated my to-be-read list and pulled a few books to the top, starting with Nnedi Okorafor’s Who Fears Death (DAW). I read Okorafor’s The Shadow Speaker (Hyperion) back in 2011, about a year after hearing her on the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast.  I loved her impressive worldbuilding and nuanced characters but never got around to reading her other books until now. I’m only 50 pages in, but what a 50 pages it’s been, as she slowly unveils an intriguing near-future setting from the perspective of the simultaneously tragic and heroic lead, Onyesonwu, who may (or may not) have magical powers, and may (or may not) be heading toward some tragic or heroic destiny. It’s too early to tell where it’s going, but I’m fully enjoying the beginning of the journey!

Tyler Hixson, WWR/W emeritus
I just finished Robert McCammon’s Speaks the Nightbird (Gallery: S. & S.) in an attempt to broaden my reading horizons beyond horror, fantasy, and YA. Nightbird takes place in the Carolinas in 1699 in a struggling seaport named Fount Royal. The denizens of Fount Royal, led by their zealous, wealthy founder/mayor, believe their town is plagued by a witch and have arrested a young Portuguese woman named Rachel Howarth after the brutal murder of two respected residents—one of whom was Rachel’s husband. Enter Isaac Woodward, traveling magistrate, and his young inquisitive clerk, Matthew Corbett, brought in from the neighboring city of Charles Town to preside over the trial of the witch. Woodward has a reputation for being thorough and fair; he insists on doing things by the book, but faces increasing pressure from the townspeople to bring down the swift sword of justice.

When Woodward falls ill with some sort of “swamp fever,” the cry for blood rings ever louder. Everyone believes that Howarth has cursed Woodward for trying to burn her at the stake—everyone except Matthew. In order to save both the woman he has come to love and the man whom he thinks of as a father, Matthew must race against time and a lethal murderer bent on destroying Fount Royal.

I was riveted from beginning to end. Matthew is one likable protagonist, and a large part of enjoying this book came from his—for that time period—liberal and forward-thinking theories about what was really happening. It is one of those reads that you didn’t know you needed until you finish.

Lee Prout, Associate Managing Editor, JLG
I recently read two debut novels that left a big impression. Both feature young women protagonists who are finding their footing while also dealing with shifting family relationships. In each book, a parental health crisis brings the women back to their childhood homes. Rachel Khong’s Goodbye, Vitamin (Holt) takes place in a Los Angeles suburb, where narrator Ruth returns when her father shows signs of dementia. Naima Coster’s Halsey Street (Little A: Amazon) is primarily set in a Brooklyn neighborhood that has changed dramatically in the five years main character Penelope has been away. Penelope’s father’s health problems began shortly after losing his cherished Bed-Stuy record store to an organic grocery store called Sprout. For various reasons, I found myself identifying with both Ruth and Penelope, and to a degree, I felt offended when I came across a New York Times review that referred to Ruth as a “screw-up.”

These are very different books with distinct and complex characters, but one fun similarity is that both Ruth and Penelope are runners. (I love running and am always pleased to see it pop up in fiction.) In a scene in Goodbye, Vitamin, Ruth runs laps around her old high school track and evades an interaction with her former gym teacher by jogging away as the teacher calls after her. In Halsey Street, Penelope hollers at a quartet of Williamsburg hipsters blocking the sidewalk while she’s running to the East River. I cheered them both on.

Stephanie Sendaula, Associate Editor, LJ Reviews
As one who believes it is impossible to own too many cookbooks, I’m always drawn to authors who offer flexibility or substitutions for dietary restrictions. My newest go-to is Gena Hamshaw’s Power Plates: 100 Nutritionally Balanced, One-Dish Vegan Meals (Ten Speed: Crown). This is already my favorite meat-free cookbook, alongside Kathryne Taylor’s Love Real Food. I’ve recently prepared three recipes from Power Plates as make-ahead lunches: Tuscan kale salad with white beans; winter salad with bulgar, radicchio, and toasted almonds; and butternut squash salad with red quinoa and pumpkin seeds. That last dish is a household favorite. I keep returning to recipes in Power Plates because they’re customizable, filling, and most important, delicious. What else do you need?

Henrietta Verma, WWR/W emerita
I just started a new job—hello from Credo Reference!—and am reading a lot about information literacy, which is the focus of the position. For example, on my screen now is Danielle Salomon et al.’s “Embedded Peer Specialists: One Institution’s Successful Strategy To Scale Information Literacy Services.” On a more traditional WWR note, I recently picked up from the library Samin Nosrat’s Salt Fat Acid Heat (S. & S.), which I’ve been wanting to read for ages. The subtitle is “Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking.” We shall see.


LJ Talks to Naomi Hirahara

Tue, 02/27/2018 - 09:00

Photo by Mario Gershom Reyes

After six mysteries starring elderly Japanese American gardener and World War II atomic bombing survivor Mas Arai, Naomi Hirahara brings her Edgar Award–winning series to a close in Hiroshima Boy (LJ 2/1/18). Now, as the author prepares to be a Guest of Honor at the Left Coast Crime conference (March 22–25) in Reno, NV, she shares the inspiration for the books and why she decided to conclude the series.

I was surprised to discover that your parents were survivors of the 1945 bombing at Hiroshima. How did that affect your development as a writer? Was your father the model for Mas Arai?
The discussion of atomic bombings can be very polarizing for people, especially Americans, but for me, it originates from a very personal place. My father, like Mas, was a gardener and a Hiroshima survivor who was born in California. My mother was also a survivor, in that she was taken to ground zero within a few days as an eight-year-old to search for her father, whose remains were never found. At that time, the people of Hiroshima had no idea that there was a danger of radiation exposure.

Without the atomic bombing, my parents would probably have never married and I would have never been born. I felt that the Hiroshima story could best be told to U.S. readers through the lens of an American survivor such as Mas Arai.

Why did you set this seventh and last book in the series in Hiroshima?
I knew early on that the final Mas Arai [book] had to end in Hiroshima. The first one has flashbacks to 1945, and for Mas truly to be free, he had to return [to the city]. After [writing] the third mystery, I decided to map loosely the trajectory of the series, and seven seemed to be the magic number.

Before researching and writing this book, had you already been to Hiroshima? Do you still have family there?
My family roots are very strong in Hiroshima—in both the city and the neighboring towns. I’ve spent time there as a child, and then when I lived in Japan after graduating college, and then I’ve taken two more recent trips. I received a grant specifically for book research to Hiroshima and Ninoshima, which inspired Ino, the fictional island in the mystery. I actually stayed in a retirement home that my family manages. Ino reminded me of those English seaside villages—tight-knit communities with complicated histories.

The mystery revolves around the stigma that some hibakusha, or survivors, continue to face in Japan. Why do you think this prejudice still lingers after some 70 years? And in some ways, does Mas Arai feel damaged, too?
My maternal grandmother once told me that she was worried if I would be healthy because of my parents’ exposure to radiation. Although medical research had proven that subsequent generations, at least from this nuclear incident, are not in danger, the fear remains in some circles. Mas is more damaged psychically than physically.

I was especially touched by Mas’s reunion with his niece, and his realization that the family from whom he’d felt estranged for so long still cared about him. Is this something you discovered about your own relatives in Japan?
Actually, my husband’s experience with his relatives in Okinawa inspired that interaction. They showed him an album of photos of himself and his brothers that he had never seen before. It turned out his father had been sending these photos to Okinawa from Los Angeles. It was very touching and made me think how we view our existence can be so different an ocean way.

During a visit to Hiroshima last November, I was so impressed by what a dynamic and lovely city it is. Do you find hope in the area’s resurrection in the wake of the most horrifying destruction?
I definitely hope that more people will fall in love with Hiroshima. It’s a great size, with a good mix of culture, arts, food, history, industry, nature, and sports including the Hiroshima Carp baseball team and its Mazda Zoom-Zoom stadium, which is right next to a very popular Costco.

What’s next for you on the mystery front? Are you continuing with the “Ellie Rush” series or starting something new?
I’m currently working on a historical mystery set in Chicago in the 1940s. Its working title is Clark and Division, and it’s inspired by real stories of the temporary resettlement of Japanese Americans in Chicago during World War II from wartime detention camps. This was a time of new and chaotic beginnings, which in some cases led to criminal activity.—Wilda Williams, Library Journal

Oscar Documentaries 2018 | Video Reviews

Thu, 02/22/2018 - 14:50

Another year, another wealth of award-worthy documentaries to consider. A few Netflix-exclusives were unavailable for preview, but we’ve got two features and a short film that seem perfect for most library video collections. Weigh in with your thoughts, and see which way the academy goes when the ceremony airs on Sunday, March 4.

Abacus: Small Enough To Jail. 88 min. Steve James, dist. by Kartemquin Films
c/o PBS, 2017. DVD ISBN 9781531702205. $24.99. SDH subtitles. ECON/LAW
Documentarian James (Hoop Dreams; The Interrupters) here tells the story of New York City’s family-owned Abacus Federal Savings Bank, the only bank prosecuted after the subprime mortgage crisis. The Chinese American founder and his family talk on camera about how in 2009 they discovered loan irregularities made by several bank officers, whom they then fired before notifying their regulator. The local district attorney’s office opened an investigation that led to a fraud indictment of the officers and the bank despite it having one of the nation’s lowest mortgage default rates. The film follows the case’s five-year duration through excerpts from court testimony, artist renderings, and news footage, plus on-screen discussions by experts, attorneys, jurors, and the Sungs. What make this film so riveting are its insights into the Chinese American community, extraordinary access to the family, and the spirit of the founder, his wife, and daughters. Verdict All viewers will find meaning in this sympathetic portrayal of a small bank against what appears to be the legal system’s grasping for a scapegoat rather than taking on banks considered “too big to fail.” [Nominated for a 2018 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.—Ed.]—Lawrence Maxted, Gannon Univ. Lib., Erie, PA

Edith + Eddie. 29½ min. Laura Checkoway, dist. by PBS,; 773-472-4366. 2017. DVD $295. Public performance. SOC SCI
Love turning to lawsuit is at the crux of this Best Documentary Short Film IDA Documentary Awards 2017 winner and Oscar nominee. Edith Hill and Eddie Harrison were 96 and 95, respectively, when they married in Virginia, claiming the title of the oldest interracial newlyweds. But now Hill’s daughters’ are involved in an ongoing dispute over what they see as their mother’s best interests, which would make Hill a ward of the state and separate the couple. The court-appointed guardian decrees that Hill should move into her Florida-based daughter’s home over the objections of the couple themselves and Hill’s daughter who lives in Virginia. Promising the couple that they can talk daily and that Hill would be returning in “two weeks,” the guardian implies that Hill doesn’t recall what transpired during her previous Florida visits and that only she knows what Hill needs. When Hill fails to return at the end of the second week, Harrison collapses. A strong narration, excellent audio quality, consistent volume, legible subtitles, and true color enhance this film’s impact, presenting an accurate, heart-rending portrayal of a broken elder-care system that denies the elderly basic human rights and self-respect. Verdict An insightful, powerful indictment of current U.S. elder-care law. Of interest to those working with the elderly, legal professionals, social workers, think tanks, and caregivers.—Laurie Selwyn, formerly with Grayson Cty. Law Lib., Sherman, TX

Last Men in Aleppo. 104 min. In Arabic w/English subtitles. Feras Fayyad, dist. by Grasshopper Film, 2017. DVD $99.95; acad. libs. $395.
Public performance. INT AFFAIRS
The Syria Civil Defense (SCD), known internationally as the White Helmets, rose as a volunteer rescue force during the 2012 escalation of the Syrian civil war. By 2013, SCD was responding to artillery and air attacks on civilian targets throughout Syria. This film focuses on the group’s responses to increased Russian bombing of Aleppo in 2015. With the city under attack, even the White Helmets feel defeated and wonder whether to continue their work or try to flee to Turkey. Actual SCD members talk about their volunteer lives, their families, and their motivations while doing dangerous, gruesome rescue work, searching bombed-out buildings for survivors and recovering body parts. The death and destruction are harrowing: a stark reminder that civilians have become major targets in modern warfare. While the United States becomes increasingly isolationist, this excellent film is a plea to help the freedom-seeking people of Syria before they are bombed out of existence. VERDICT An appeal to America to reassume its moral leadership in world affairs by supporting those Syrians abandoned by their Arab neighbors and the West. [Nominated for the 2018 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.—Ed.]—Cliff Glaviano, ­formerly with Bowling Green State Univ. Libs., OH


A Circus Escapade, Tips for Distance Runners, and More | Books for Dudes

Wed, 02/14/2018 - 15:12

Holy crap, does Books for Dudes start out 2018 with some badass stuff. You’ve got your Mary Beard, feminist classics author supreme, you got your Tessa Fontaine, a talented writer masquerading as a circus performer, you’ve got your dark-as-a-dungeon tale of pathology from Christopher Yates, and you’ve got your greatest-book-in-the-world-this-month by JM Gulvin. There’s a mess of other stuff, too, but that’s the main stuff.

How badass is that for a group of books? I’d say “pretty badass,” but then I think about Aleksandra Samusenko, the only female tank officer in the 1st Guards Tank Army, and I realize that’s what being a badass is all about.

And hey, if you need more, go with the ALA CODES picks for 2017; great selections.

Beard, Mary. Women & Power: A Manifesto. Liveright. 2017. 128p. ISBN 9781631494758. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9781631494765. SOC SCI
Two lectures converted to essay form lose none of their power and, one hopes, increases their audience exponentially. As a classics scholar, Beard’s basic argument is that women have been getting the dirty end of the stick since Greek’n’Roman times. Evidence includes Echo and Narcissus and Perseus and Medusa, with parallels to (naturally) Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. “When it comes to silencing women, Western culture has had thousands of years of practice.” In between there isn’t much evidence of people like Eleanor Roosevelt or Lucretia Mott or, you know, JWoww. It’s not polemic, it’s not anti-men. VERDICT Good stuff, very well done, erudite, and a great nail in the coffin for the patriarchy. Read it for your brain, dude.

Fontaine, Tessa. The Electric Woman: A Memoir in Death-Defying Acts. Farrar. May 2018. 384p. ISBN 9780374158378. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780374717025. MEMOIR
Fontaine smashes together two distinct memoirs, one focused on grieving her mother’s prolonged illness and death, the other her unlikely, brave’n’crazy season as a small-time carnival performer. About both she writes that there’s no trick: “[t]he only way to do it is to do it.” These independent stories become twined only when Fontaine reveals that she sought the job to escape her grief and the guilt she felt about being a less-than-stellar daughter: “I thought the sideshow would be a place to escape it. But here it is. Over and over.” As she waxes about her mom, Fontaine finds similarities to herself. Fun and wild, mom was a onetime surfer-girl performer who said things like, “Do you kids know what’s no fun? Everything ordinary.” The circus proves both a disorienting, distracting balm, but as exciting as the snake handling, card tricks, and “secret rituals” of the carnival’s insides are, it is the grinding journey of mom-grief that will resonate with readers, as when Fontaine considers the “wound” of the illness. It must, she writes “must be mendable over time, because it has to be—because people go on, because a death happens and eventually it’s Wednesday, and then Thursday, and somebody has to buy coffee filters.” VERDICT There are plenty of memoirs out there, but take a walk on the wild side, why dontcha?

Gulvin, JM. The Long Count: A John Q Mystery. Faber & Faber. 2017. 288p. ISBN 9780571337743. $22; ebk. ISBN 9780571323807. F
Q: Can a thriller be simultaneously gripping and laid back? A: If it’s written by Gulvin, magnificently so. It’s May, 1967, but this ain’t no flower child hippy-dippy horseshit throwback. John Quarrie is a widower, a Texas Ranger, and a Korean War vet—in that order. A smart, thorough, and experienced investigator, this loner receives and dispatches missions like a knight accepts quests. He backs his confidence with the threat of being (quite literally) the fastest draw in the West. Quarrie is tracking a rampage of mayhem across Texas and Louisiana that’s somehow linked to the apparent suicide of a quiet World War II war vet; the culprit is indefatigably, wrathfully hunting and destroying his victims, and Quarrie needs to figure it out. Details about race relations and mental health treatment are unsentimental, and sadly, true to life. The unhurried pace of Gulvin’s solid writing is attributable to an admirable economy of words and careful, spookily accurate descriptions. Also, Gulvin has engaged enough characters to keep the plot swirling, but not so many that readers will lose track. Readers will correctly predict that this will end with John Q. “winning,” but almost none will guess how. VERDICT If you enjoy Robert B. Parker, Lawrence Block, Ed McBain, or Michael Connelly, this is similarly propulsive, quiet, and compelling. First of a projected series, this one is BFD-approved and highly recommended.

Helton, J.R. Bad Jobs and Poor Decisions: Dispatches from the Working Class. Liveright. Jan. 2018. 272p. ISBN 9781631492877. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9781631492884. SOC SCI
Don’t be fooled by the title, this isn’t some ironic, hipster selection—it’s literally the chronicle of one dude’s bad jobs and poor decisions. In 1983, after publishing one short story, JRH drops out of college to write full time; he fails, not spectacularly, and recounts the next six-odd years of his activities, replete with verbatim conversations. Some, like the time he spent as a pot-smoking underemployed house painter, are long-form stupid stuff many have done. One learns, right? Others are doozies; it’s hard to understand how a months-long honeymoon of “…doing cocaine or, when the money got low, crank, crystal meth” could turn out okay. It can be fun to read about the travails of others, especially if those others are named “William Shatner” (Up Till Now), but JRH’s episodes aren’t particularly interesting. Reading them is like when your uncle who’s a machinist comes over at Easter, gets some beers into him, and starts telling the story of his winter salvaging railroad ties or when he got fired at Christmas and the boss screwed him out of the bonus—dreary and aimless. In a way, it’s the opposite of David Sylvian, superdude.  VERDICT Whatever its intent, this is a cautionary tale or a chronicle of resilience; JRH should have got to the point a lot quicker. File under: Baby Boomers ruin everything.

The Long Distance Runner’s Guide to Injury Prevention and Treatment: How To Avoid Common Problems and Deal with Them When They Happen. ed. by Brian J. Krabak, Grant S. Lipman, and Brandee L. Waite. Skyhorse. 2017. ISBN 9781510717909. pap. $22.99; ebk. ISBN 9781510717930. SPORTS
This is a good, reputable, science-based guide with 23 topical articles covering a wide variety of issues and injuries common (and some not so common) to runners and triathletes. Some content is super useful, like the nice fat chapter on foot care. All the stuff we runners experience is covered, from macerated (wet, super-wrinkly) feet to blister formation and prevention, to a table listing the ingredients and pros and cons of applying various lubricants (e.g., Bodyglide vs. Sportshield). Super-exciting, no, but each is written by a team of athletic doctors and medical/running professionals of very high quality. For example, the chapter on “Proper Training and How To Avoid Overtraining” is written by Jonathan Dugas, a triathlon coach with a CV that includes the Department of Kinesiology and Nutrition at the University of Illinois at Chicago. It’s a well-organized science’n’facts tool, not an inspire-you-to-finish-the-race type book. With 50 pages of references (index not seen), it’s good. VERDICT Readers might not want to spring for two reasons: 1) most of the information is common sense backed up by beaucoup science and, 2) it is focused on maximum breadth of coverage for diagnosis and recommended fix, not deeper coverage of common injuries. So a two-page treatment of Iliotibial (IT) Band syndrome is good, but begs more, but the 20 pages on ocular problems…maybe not so useful.

Rae, Amber. Choose Wonder Over Worry: Move Beyond Fear and Doubt To Unlock Your Full Potential. Wednesday: St. Martin’s. May 2018. 288p. ISBN 9781250175250. $25.99. ebk. ISBN 9781250175274. $11.99. SELF-HELP
Reading this is like being at a high school graduation where the 18-year-old Valedictorian urges the audience comprised of investment bankers, car dealers, and assorted septuagenarians to “never give up your dreams.” Most adults I know are crushed beneath soul-destroying medical/credit/college debt or health issues or whatever else; they gave up their dreams long ago¹. Rae’s language is as convincing as an infomercial (e.g., “Maybe you have a bold vision, but lack the resources to make it happen”). The folksy tone “speaks” directly to readers, and while it doesn’t guarantee success (which is at least honest), it does encourage readers to try. There are also attempts to provide antidotes to negative personality aspects. Some of this is puzzling (see: “jealousy” and the anecdote of Rae’s husband Facebook flirting). Because Rae uses elements of her own journey as book fodder—including her struggle in writing the actual book—she has inextricably linked her personal issues, journey, and solutions to the advice. What the title promises is a map, what it delivers is her map, and what readers need is to develop their own maps. VERDICT Self-help books are a bit of a crapshoot—your mileage will vary. Look up any of Rae’s online advice columns; if that stuff resonates with you, this book goes deeper along those lines and “should” work for you.

Smith, Lindsey. Eat Your Feelings: The Food Mood Girl’s Guide to Transforming Your Emotional Eating. Macmillan. Jan. 2018. 272p. ISBN 9781250139412. pap. $24.99. ebk. ISBN 9781250139429. COOKING
An incredibly strange mix of unhealthy eating advice that also features nutritious, delicious recipes. The bad: there is endless quackery, such as that by eschewing party foods your body may “…seek justice because it doesn’t feel like it was properly served.” The writing is overly personal and also manipulative; on page six you’ll find a 130-word snippet; seven of those words are “love” and 16 others are some variant of “you.” The good: weirdly, the recipes seem totally great, nutritionally sound and super tasty. Three-ingredient peanut butter cookies, chunky monkey banana bites, chocolate chia pudding, egg’n’potato tacos. All good, and made with healthy ingredients. Some, like roasted cauliflower mash or black bean burgers, have a few fussy ingredients and longer-than-needed prep times, but these are balanced by the simple ones. But many health and fitness professionals spend distinguished careers getting people to change their relationship with food, to move away from emotional eating, and to break the cycle of emotional connection to food. Considering food as nourishment, not as an emotional component of your life, is a time-tested way to health. Smith’s entire approach, as shown by the work of many professionals, not a healthy way to live and eschews science. VERDICT Rip out the first 40 pages, then proceed with caution. Having said that, if Smith invites you over to her place to eat any of her home-cooked meals, go without hesitation.

Yates, Christopher J. Grist Mill Road. Picador. Jan. 2018. 352p. ISBN 9781250150288. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781250150318. F
This unsettling, dark novel begins in 1982 with a grotesque incident involving three children, then whiplashes to 2008ish NYC where two of them (Patrick aka “Patch” and Hannah) seem to be happily married. The two don’t need to work (trust fund parasites) though Hannah slums as a detective and Patch has recently been canned from something. When he’s not stalking his old boss he’s strutting around their apartment dreaming of  being a restaurateur and blogging about his gourmet food creations in scenes so overly “extra” they destroy the narrative (e.g., he turns “…chicken fat into powder that he scatters over micro-green salads like a dusting of crumbled feta.” The story is told from multiple perspectives, though primarily Patch’s, and against all odds, Yates somehow presents this self-absorbed butthole of a guy sympathetically. Hannah initiates sex in public places, and in one scene strategically places meat all over her body “… until the pink and bloody path disappears between her legs.” By the time the third person from the past incident reappears, the narrative’s intensity has faded and readers will be puzzling over which of the three is reliable, which is the most violent, and about the interplay among the three different perspectives on the past. VERDICT Yates keeps readers guessing, but the layers of pathology and bitterness abound and the abundance of detail drags the pace to a crawl.

In Pursuit of Lost History: How a Forgotten Doctor Inspired a Novel

Tue, 02/13/2018 - 17:05

Jody Shields, author of The Winter Station (starred review, LJ 11/15/17), found the subject of her new novel after she stumbled across a reference to a Russian doctor’s memoir of the 1910–11 Manchurian plague in a medical journal. Both the doctor and the epidemic, which killed 60,000 people, had been lost to history. Here, Shields writes about this discovery and the search to track down the mysterious physician, “the Baron,” who would become the main protagonist in her book.—Ed.

Meeting the Baron

The first encounter with the Baron took place in the library of the New York Academy of Medicine, a majestic 19th-century room with massive oak tables set alongside towering bookshelves and tall windows overlooking Central Park. This introduction, discovered in the pages of a medical journal, was brief and astonishing: a Russian aristocratic doctor had abandoned his privileged life to live in Manchuria. Caught up in a fierce plague in 1910, he had written a memoir, published in 1923, about his experience.

Thus, an obsession with the Baron began. He was pursued through libraries in several countries, and the gradual accumulation of information shaped itself into The Winter Station, with the Baron becoming the central character. The primary source material was problematic, hard to obtain and written in Russian or Chinese. Research was plodding trial and error, relieved by a few eureka discoveries and the encouragement of numerous librarians at the New York Public Library and several translators.

The original materials were typically fragile. Delicate and damaged books were protected in a string-tied cradle of a box, and the pages could only be turned with slow, tender care. Many of these books hadn’t been opened in years, and yet hidden among their pages was evidence of previous readers: ancient request slips, shriveled rubber bands, scrap paper with scrawled notes, paper clips, bookmarks.

Mysterious Manchuria

Kharbin, the Baron’s home and the Manchurian city ravaged by the epidemic, was built by the Russians, beginning around the turn of the 20th century. Manchuria itself was a mysterious territory, closed to the Chinese and the world for hundreds of years by Imperial decree. But Kharbin was unique: a dual city occupied by Russians and Chinese. There were few records of this young city, and those that still existed were usually inaccessible. This was a fresh set of research hurdles.

However, a handful of explorers from the National and Royal Geographic Societies provided inspiring accounts of their treks through unknown Manchuria; rhapsodic descriptions of vast forests, fields of blue iris, and rare wild birds that had no fear of humans. Unexpectedly, Scottish and British missionaries were the most valuable sources for accounts of everyday life in Manchuria. Dozens of firsthand [reports] by women and men detailed their attempts to convert the Chinese to Christianity. But they also described traditional Chinese religious customs, food, clothing, etiquette, medical treatment, tea ceremonies, folk tales, even fortune telling and street markets. In one intensely personal [narrative], a Presbyterian missionary mourned the loss of lives in his church and the surrounding towns and villages to the plague.

Uncovering the plague

Accounts by other doctors who had treated the plague were unearthed in a variety of international sources including medical journals, doctoral dissertations, even obituaries. Newspapers in the United States, China, Russia, Great Britain, France, and Japan covered the epidemic in sensational stories; only a few understood this highly contagious disease without a cure to be a global threat.

Because of his conflict with Chinese and Russian authorities, the Baron was cited in few official accounts of the Manchurian plague. However, he was a powerful but ghostly presence. Rebellious and outspoken, the Baron was even banned from an international plague conference in Manchuria for medical representatives. But his name surfaced in St Petersburg newspapers along with his scathing editorials.

The Baron’s memoir, Lungenpest-Epidemien in der Manschurei, was finally located at a rare bookshop in Germany. When [this author received it], the volume was practically pristine. Written in German, the book was profusely illustrated with photographs taken during the epidemic. Many [of the images] were surprisingly gruesome and their purpose was to act as evidence backing up the Baron’s claims against the Russian and Chinese governments [that they had mishandled] the [medical] crisis.

The Baron was a passionate, uncompromising man, and a whistleblower. During the years-long adventure of researching and writing The Winter Station, the Baron [served as this author’s] guide, and his memoir was an ever-present talisman. Perhaps his suspenseful and revealing look at the epidemic has resurfaced—after being overlooked for nearly 100 years—at a significant time. His book may be a message in a bottle.

Jody Shields is also the author of the best-selling novel The Fig Eater and The Crimson Portrait

Emotional Rescue Reads | Memoir

Tue, 02/13/2018 - 13:02

Love, escape, education, and family are the themes throughout this month’s memoirs. These subjects are intertwined in the following works in ways that make for emotionally engrossing reading, perfect companions for cold winter evenings.

Baker, Laura Jean. The Motherhood Affidavits. Experiment. Apr. 2018. 288p. ISBN 9781615194391. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9781615194407. MEMOIR
Baker’s memoir uses the language of addiction to talk about pregnancy and child-rearing experiences. The subject of addiction is especially relevant for Baker, as her husband, who works as a criminal defense attorney, represents many clients charged with drug-related offenses or who struggle with substance abuse. Starting with her first child’s birth, Baker admits to being “hooked” on oxytocin, a naturally occurring mood-altering chemical released during pregnancy and breastfeeding. As a result, she persuaded her husband to have more kids, even as the financial support, time, and care that five children require stretched the couple to their limits. Her narrative demonstrates the power and privilege of choosing to become a parent but also the wisdom to know when enough is enough. In between vignettes of family life, the author writes with compassion about her husband’s clients, shedding light on the inequity of the American justice system. VERDICT A feminist’s perspective on prolific procreating; the unusual premise of linking addiction and crime with motherhood and birth will keep most readers on the line.

Kaifala, Joseph. Adamalui: A Survivor’s Journey from Civil Wars in Africa to Life in America. Turner. Mar. 2018. 240p. photos. ISBN 9781681626840. $29.99; pap. ISBN 9781681626833. $16.99; ebk. ISBN 9781681626857. MEMOIR
In this heartrending story of Kaifala’s childhood caught between civil wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone, he points out that many of the first-person accounts about African civil wars center on child soldiers. However, there are many children caught up in armed conflict who have different perspectives to offer. Kaifala focuses on his struggle to achieve an education. Born in Sierra Leone, he moves to Liberia, when his father finds work there. Then civil war strikes, and they flee back to Sierra Leone. The conflict crosses the border, however, and the family soon seeks safety in refugee camps in Guinea. Throughout these hardships, Kaifala describes his tenacious pursuit of knowledge. This serves him well, as he receives a scholarship to attend high school in Norway and ultimately completes college in the United States. VERDICT Kaifala’s story provides readers with a view of what it is like to grow up in the midst of civil war and be swept up as a bystander rather than a participant.

Rao Pingru. Our Story: A Memoir of Love and Life in China. Knopf. May 2018. 368p. tr. from Chinese by Nicky Harman. illus. ISBN 9781101871492. $30; ebk. ISBN 9781101871508. MEMOIR
Rao has created a truly remarkable graphic memoir. Born in 1922 in Nancheng, Southeastern China, Rao witnessed massive, sweeping changes to Chinese society. He documents these as he shares his personal history with readers in a series of self-taught paintings. Each image depicts a different memory, from Rao’s first day of school to treasured family meals to his marriage to Mao Meitang. Indeed, the core of the narrative is the couple’s life as they navigate the impact of the Cultural Revolution and its aftereffects. Captions describe the images, but Rao also pens longer narrative pieces that will deepen readers’ understanding of his life and compel them to wonder about what is not included. For example, Rao is sent to a rural reeducation camp for 17 years, but we never learn why. Filling the gaps, in part, of these years are letters from his wife. VERDICT A fascinating intersection of personal, cultural, and political history.

Singer, Natalie. California Calling: A Self-Interrogation. Hawthorne Books & Literary Arts. Mar. 2018. 291p. ISBN 9780998825717. pap. $18.95. MEMOIR
Singer’s memoir covers a lot of ground, literally. The early pages describe the author’s move from Montreal to the suburbs of San Francisco with her mother, stepfather, and siblings. This transcontinental transition serves as the backdrop for the family drama that unfolds around her: an affair, a divorce, a remarriage. In the midst of these changes, Singer turns 16 and grows into young adulthood. California becomes a powerful force in Singer’s life—it comes to symbolize limitless possibilities, self-discovery, and escape. The “self-interrogation” of the subtitle takes the form of questions or statements the author has seemingly asked herself many times over, followed by her responses. VERDICT As much about the mythical powers of place and the comfort of belonging as coming of age and seeking purpose, this book zigzags through the formative events and realizations in Singer’s life, but it doesn’t always make for a clear narrative.

More Memoir

Styles, Rhyannon. The New Girl: A Trans Girl Tells It Like It Is. Headline, dist. by Hachette. Mar. 2018. 336p. ISBN 9781472242587. pap. $15.99. MEMOIR
You name it, Styles has done it: club kid, performance artist, clown school student, drag performer. The hardest thing the author has done, however, is transition from Ryan, a sometimes depressed, sometimes substance-abusing, always uncomfortable male, to Rhyannon, a much happier, healthier trans woman. Styles recounts the circuitous course her life took (for 30 years!) before she acted on the reality that she was dealing with gender dysphoria. A not-so-idyllic boyhood in rural England provided Styles with early insight into her preferred wardrobe and recreational choices, but it was not until much later that she realized what her interest in fairy dresses, makeup, and hanging out with the girls after school meant. VERDICT Styles’s matter-of-fact telling of the painful path to the life she was meant to live will appeal to a broad base of readers, including those already familiar with her popular journalism. Readers in search of a clear illustration of all that gender transition entails will find answers in this sometimes meandering, but always earnest, account of how Styles came to be “the new girl.”Thérèse Purcell Nielsen, Huntington P.L., NY

LJ Media | Review Alert, March 1, 2018

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 12:19

Below is a list of Audio and Video titles to be reviewed in the March 1, 2018, issue of Library Journal. These lists include pertinent publisher and bibliographic information for your convenience.

Starred reviews are indicated with **.

Publishers: Please remember to send us one finished copy of each book that is scheduled for review (i.e., all of the forthcoming titles listed below) if you initially submitted a galley or bound manuscript. Our reviewers are not paid, and we like to send a finished copy of the reviewed book as a thank you. Materials should be mailed to: Library Journal, 123 William Street, Suite 802, New York, NY 10038.

CALL FOR REVIEWERS: LJ is seeking reviewers in the following subject areas: Memoir and Performing Arts (contact Liz French,; Technothrillers, Historical Fiction, popular African American fiction (Terry McMillan, Eric Jerome Dickey, Mary Monroe), and Street Lit (K’wan, Sister Souljah, De’nesha Diamond; contact Wilda Williams, Click here to fill out an application.



Benjamin, Melanie. The Girls in the Picture. 13 CDs. 16:30 hrs. Books on Tape. Jan. 2018. ISBN 9780451484659. $50. digital download. F

Eugenides, Jeffrey. Fresh Complaint: Stories. 7 CDs. 8 hrs. Macmillan Audio. Oct. 2017. ISBN 9781427289223. $34.99. digital download. F

Feeney, Alice. Sometimes I Lie. 9 CDs. 9:26 hrs. Macmillan Audio. Mar. 2018. ISBN 9781427293367. $39.99. digital download. F

Grisham, John. The Rooster Bar. 8 CDs. 10:17 hrs. Books on Tape. Oct. 2017. ISBN 9780399565014. $45. digital download. F

Guillory, Jasmine. The Wedding Date. digital download. 8:30 hrs. Books on Tape. Jan. 2018. ISBN 9780525530909. $66.50. F

Hayes-McCoy, Felicity. The Library at the Edge of the World. 8 CDs. 9:45 hrs. Dreamscape. ISBN 9781520085210. $47.99. 2 MP3-CDs. F

Lee, Mira T. Everything Here Is Beautiful. 11 CDs. 13:19 hrs. Books on Tape. Jan. 2018. ISBN 9780525497462. $45. digital download. F

Nutting, Alissa. Made for Love. digital download. 10:19 hrs. Harper Audio. Jul. 2017. ISBN 9781538418376. $39.99. F

Sánchez, Erika L. I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter. 8 CDs. 9:41 hrs. Listening Library. Oct. 2017. ISBN 9781524782245. $60. digital download. F

Sanderson, Brandon. Oathbringer. (Stormlight Archive, Bk. 3). 43 CDs. 55:30 hrs. Macmillan Audio. Nov. 2017. ISBN 9781427275936. $94.99. digital download. FANTASY

Scalzi, John. Miniatures: The Very Short Fiction of John Scalzi. 1 MP3-CD. 2:54 hrs. Brilliance. Jan. 2017. ISBN 9781536683448. $9.99. SF

Ward, Jesmyn. Sing, Unburied, Sing. 8 CDs. 8:22 hrs. S. & S. Audio. ISBN 9781508237549. Sept. 2017. $29.99. digital download. F

Weiner, Matthew. Heather, the Totality. 2 CDs. 2 hrs. Hachette Audio. Nov. 2017. ISBN 9781478922728. $25. digital download. F


Gaines, Chip. Capital Gaines: Smart Things I Learned Doing Stupid Stuff. 5 CDs. 5:08 hrs. Brilliance. Oct. 2017. ISBN 9781543637311. $59.97. 1 MP3-CD. memoir

Rather, Dan & Elliot Kirschner. What Unites Us: Reflections on Patriotism. 6 CDs. 7 hrs. HighBridge. Nov. 2017. ISBN 9781681687360. $29.99; digital download. soc sci

**Thorpe, Helen. The Newcomers: Finding Refuge, Friendship, and Hope in an American Classroom. 12 CDs. 15:10 hrs. Dreamscape. Nov. 2017. ISBN 9781520085692. $39.99. 2 MP3-CDs. SOC SCI/ED

Various Authors. Social Studies from Texas Monthly. digital download. 5:43 hrs. Books on Tape. Jan. 2018. ISBN 9780525593508. $38. soc sci

Yaffe, David. Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell. 10 CDs. 12:30 hrs. HighBridge. Oct. 2017. ISBN 9781681686981. $44.99. digital download. MUSIC



Behind the White Glasses. color & b/w. 107+ min. Valerio Ruiz. DVD UPC 738329208950. $29.95.
Ferdinando and Carolina.
107+ min. Lina Wertmüller. DVD UPC 738329208837. $19.95; Blu-ray UPC 738329208936. $29.95.
Seven Beauties.
116+ min. Lina Wertmüller. DVD UPC 738329208752. $19.95; Blu-ray UPC 738329208769. $29.95.
Summer Night.
94+ min. Lina Wertmüller. DVD UPC 738329208790. $19.95; Blu-ray UPC 738329208806. $29.95.
Swept Away.
112+ min. Lina Wertmüller. DVD UPC 738329208776. $19.95; Blu-ray UPC 738329208783. $29.95.
vol: In Italian w/English subtitles. dist. by Kino Lorber, 2017. F/FILM

Bender. 80 min. John Alexander, Candy Factory, 2017. DVD $19.99. Closed-captioned. WESTERN/HORROR

Devil’s Domain. 91+ min. Jared Cohn, dist. by Cleopatra Entertainment c/o MVDvisual, 2017. DVD UPC 760137987291. $19.98; Blu-ray UPC 760137987284. $24.98. HORROR

Nutcracker: The Motion Picture. 86 min. Carroll Ballard, dist. by Olive Films, 2017. Blu-ray UPC 887090128710. $29.95. SDH subtitles. Rated: G. F/DANCE

The Women’s Balcony. 96 min. In Hebrew w/English subtitles. Emil Ben-Shimon, dist. by Passion River, 2017. DVD UPC 019962235207. $29.99; Blu-ray UPC 752830042230. $34.95. F


Eva Hesse. color & b/w. 108+ min. Marcie Begleiter, dist. by Zeitgeist Films c/o Kino Lorber,  2017. DVD UPC 738329224578. $29.95. SDH subtitles. ART-GENERAL

Barnegie Hall: Where Songwriters Play. 2 discs. 391+ min. Demetria Kalodimos, dist. by Dreamscape Video, 2017. DVD UPC 818506021593. $29.99; public performance $199.99. Closed-captioned. MUSIC

Hype! Collector’s Edition. 83+ min. Doug Pray, dist. by Shout! Factory, 2017. DVD UPC 826663178517. $17.58; Blu-ray UPC 826663178524. $25.28. MUSIC

With This Ring. 90 min. Ameesha Joshi & Anna Sarkissian, dist. by Cinema Guild, 2017. DVD ISBN 978071515689. $99.95; acad. libs. $350. Public performance; closed-captioned. SPORTS


The Pulitzer at 100. 91 min. Kirk Simon, dist. by First Run Features, www.firstrunfeatures. com. 2017. DVD UPC 720229917490. $24.95. COMM/LIT

**Abacus: Small Enough To Jail. 88 min. Steve James, dist. by Kartemquin c/o PBS, 2017. DVD ISBN 9781531702205. $24.99. SDH subtitles. ECON/LAW

Growing Up Coy. 82+ min. Eric Juhola, dist. by Outcast Films, 2016. DVD UPC 701327486392. $325; DVD w/DSL $595. Public performance; closed-captioned. home version $29.99. GENDER STUDIES

The First Great Escape. 45 min. Max Jourdan, dist. by Dreamscape Video, 2017. DVD UPC 818506020275. $24.99; public performance $199.99. Closed-captioned. MILITARY HIST

Proof of Loyalty. color & b/w. 54 min. Lucy Ostrander & Don Sellers, dist. by Stourwater Pictures,; $69; acad. libs. $250. Public performance. MILITARY HIST

Company Town. 77 min. Deborah Kaufman & Alan Snitow, dist. by Bullfrog Films, 2017. DVD ISBN 9781941545812. $350 (Rental: $95). Public performance; SDH subtitles. BUS

Dalya’s Other Country. 52+ min. In English & Arabic w/English subtitles. Julia Meltzer, dist. by Good Docs, 2017. DVD $129; acad. libs. $349; streaming + DVD $549. Public performance; closed-captioned. SOC SCI

Nothing on Earth. 58 min. Michael Angus, dist. by Dreamscape Video, 2017. DVD UPC 818506020701. $24.99; public performance $199.99. Closed-captioned. TRAV


The Watershed Guardians of the Fraser River. 68 min. Jocelyn Demers, dist. by Green Planet Films, 2017. DVD $39; public performance $199; acad. libs. $225; download available. Closed-captioned/SDH subtitles. ENVIRONMENT

CARE. 56/65 min. Deirdre L. Fishel, New Day Films, 2017. DVD ISBN 9781574484465. $99; acad. libs. $350; streaming $60–$350. Public performance; closed-captioned. HEALTH

Thank You for Playing. 80+ min. David Osit & Malika Zouhali-Worrall, dist. by Kino Lorber, 2018. DVD UPC 738329227364. $29.95. Closed-captioned. TECH/PSYCH


The Awful Truth. b/w. 91+ min. Leo McCarey, dist. by Criterion Collection. Apr. 2018. DVD ISBN 9781681434230. $29.95; Blu-ray ISBN 9781681434223. $39.95. COMEDY

Basmati Blues. 106+ min. Dan Baron, dist. by Shout! Factory. Apr. 2018. DVD UPC 826663183887. $16.97; Blu-ray UPC 826663183894. $22.97. ROM-COM

The Color of Pomegranates. 78+ min. In Armenian, Azerbaijani, & Georgian w/English subtitles. Sergei Parajanov, dist. by Criterion Collection. Apr. 2018. DVD ISBN 9781681434254. $29.95; Blu-ray ISBN 9781681434247. $39.95. DRAMA

Dead Man. b/w. 121+ min. Jim Jarmusch, dist. by Criterion Collection. Apr. 2018. DVD ISBN 9781681432908. $29.95; Blu-ray ISBN 9781681432892. $39.95. WESTERN

Ingrid Bergman’s Swedish Years. 6 discs. b/w. 95+ min. In Swedish w/English subtitles. Gustaf Molander & others, dist. by Criterion Collection. Apr. 2018. DVD ISBN 9781681434308. $69.95. DRAMA

Looking Glass. NA+ min. Tim Hunter, dist. by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. Apr. 2018. DVD UPC 741952943993. $17.99. Rated: R. THRILLER

Molly’s Game. 140+ min. Aaron Sorkin, dist. by Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. Apr. 2018. DVD UPC 191329010129. $29.98; Blu-ray UPC 191329010143. $34.98. SDH subtitles. Rated: R. DRAMA

The Virgin Suicides. 2 discs. 97+ min. Sofia Coppola, dist. by Criterion Collection. Apr. 2018. DVD ISBN 9781681434292. $29.95; 1-disc Blu-ray ISBN 9781681434285. $39.95. DRAMA


LJ Fiction | Review Alert, March 1, 2018

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 11:16

Below is a list of Erotica, Fiction, and Mystery titles to be reviewed in the March 1, 2018, issue of Library Journal. These lists include pertinent publisher and bibliographic information for your convenience.

Starred reviews are indicated with **.

Publishers: Please remember to send us one finished copy of each book that is scheduled for review (i.e., all of the forthcoming titles listed below) if you initially submitted a galley or bound manuscript. Our reviewers are not paid, and we like to send a finished copy of the reviewed book as a thank you. Materials should be mailed to: Library Journal, 123 William Street, Suite 802, New York, NY 10038.

CALL FOR REVIEWERS: LJ is seeking reviewers in the following subject areas: Memoir and Performing Arts (contact Liz French,; Technothrillers, Historical Fiction, popular African American fiction (Terry McMillan, Eric Jerome Dickey, Mary Monroe), and Street Lit (K’wan, Sister Souljah, De’nesha Diamond; contact Wilda Williams, Click here to fill out an application.


Angel, Joanna. Night Shift: A Choose-Your-Own Erotic Fantasy. Cleis. Feb. 2018. 310p. ISBN 9781627782883. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9781627782531. EROTICA

Ashley, Kristen. The Greatest Risk. Griffin: St. Martin’s. (Honey, Bk. 3). May 2018. 592p. ISBN 9781250177100. pap. $17.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250177117. EROTICA

**Brookes, Sara. Switch It Up. Carina: Harlequin. (Noble House Kink, Bk. 2). Feb. 2018. 368p. ISBN 9781335013613. pap. $8.99; ebk. ISBN 9781488030734. EROTICA

Hayley, Elizabeth. Misadventures with My Roommate. Waterhouse. (Misadventures, Bk. 10). Mar. 2018. 224p. ISBN 9781947222977. $12.99. EROTICA

**Hoang, Helen. The Kiss Quotient. Berkley. Jun. 2018. 318p. ISBN 9780451490803. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9780451490810. EROTIC ROMANCE DEBUT


Abel, Heather. The Optimistic Decade. Algonquin. May 2018. 368p. ISBN 9781616206307. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781616208271. F DEBUT

**Celt, Adrienne. Invitation to a Bonfire. Bloomsbury USA. Jun. 2018. 256p. ISBN 9781635571523. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781635571516. F

Christensen, Kate. The Last Cruise. Doubleday. Jul. 2018. 304p. ISBN 9780385536288. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385536295. F

**Gabel, Aja. The Ensemble. Riverhead. May 2018. 352p. ISBN 9780735214767. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780735214781. F DEBUT

Kauffman, Rebecca. The Gunners. Counterpoint. Mar. 2018. 224p. ISBN 9781619029897. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781640090705. F

LaBan, Elizabeth. Not Perfect. Lake Union: Amazon. Feb. 2018. 304p. ISBN 9781477809228. $24.95. F

**McAllister, Tom. How To Be Safe. Liveright: Norton. Apr. 2018. 224p. ISBN 9781631494130. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9781631494147. F

Rimmer, Kelly. Before I Let You Go. Graydon House: Harlequin. Apr. 2018. 384p. ISBN 9781525820847. pap. $16.99; ebk. ISBN 9781488029387. F

**Rizzuto, Rahna Reiko. Shadow Child. Grand Central. May 2018. 352p. ISBN 9781538711453. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781538711446. F

Tan, Lucy. What We Were Promised. Little, Brown. Jul. 2018. 336p. ISBN 9780316437189. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780316437219. F DEBUT

**Tearne, Roma. Brixton Beach. Aardvark Bureau: Gallic. Apr. 2018. 400p. ISBN 9781910709474. pap. $15.95. F

White, Curtis. Lacking Character. Melville. Mar. 2018. 208p. ISBN 9781612196787. pap. $16.99; ebk. ISBN 9781612196794. F

**Wolitzer, Meg. The Female Persuasion. Riverhead. Apr. 2018. 464p. ISBN 9781594488405. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780525533221. F


**Bonnaffons, Amy. The Wrong Heaven: Stories. Little, Brown. Jul. 2018. 256p. ISBN 9780316516211. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780316516204. F DEBUT

Braverman, Kate. A Good Day for Seppuku: Short Stories. City Lights. Feb. 2018. 192p. ISBN 9780872867215. pap. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9780872867222. F

Brinkley, Jamel. A Lucky Man: Stories. Graywolf. May 2018. 264p. ISBN 9781555978051. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781555979959. F DEBUT

**Cooper, Paige. Zolitude: Stories. Biblioasis. Apr. 2018. 248p. ISBN 9781771962179. pap. $14.95. F DEBUT

Georgiou, Elena. The Immigrant’s Refrigerator. GenPop. Feb. 2018. 190p. ISBN 9780998512648. pap. $16. F

Groff, Lauren. Florida. Riverhead. Jun. 2018. 288p. ISBN 9781594634512. $27; ebk. ISBN 970698405141. F

**Johnson, Charles. Night Hawks: Stories. Scribner. May 2018. 192p. ISBN 9781501184383. $24; ebk. ISBN 9781501184406. F

Loskutoff, Maxim. Come Westand See: Stories. Norton. May 2018. 208p. ISBN 9780393635584. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9780393635591. F DEBUT

**Millet, Lydia. Fight No More: Stories. Norton. Jun. 2018. 176p. ISBN 9780393635485. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9780393635485. F

O’Connor, Scott. A Perfect Universe: Ten Stories. Scout: Gallery. Feb. 2018. 256p. ISBN 9781507204054. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781507204061. F

**Oates, Joyce Carol. Beautiful Days: Stories. Ecco: HarperCollins. Feb. 2018. 416p. ISBN 9780062795786. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062795809. F

O’Neill, Joseph. Good Trouble: Stories. Pantheon. Jun. 2018. 176p. ISBN 9781524747350. $22; ebk. ISBN 9781524747367. F

**Ramspeck, Doug. The Owl That Carries Us Away. BkMk: Univ. of Missouri-Kansas City. Apr. 2018. 184p. ISBN 9781943491131. pap. $15.95. F DEBUT

Sachdeva, Anjali. All the Names They Used for God: Stories. Spiegel & Grau. Feb. 2018. 288p. ISBN 9780399593000. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780525508670. F DEBUT

**Trevor, William. Last Stories. Viking. May 2018. 224p. ISNB 9780525558101. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780525558118. F

Young, C. Dale. The Affliction: A Novel in Stories. Four Way. Mar. 2018. 154p. ISBN 9781945588068. pap. $17.95. F DEBUT



**Coyle, Cleo. Shot in the Dark. Berkley Prime Crime. (Coffeehouse, Bk. 17). Apr. 2018. 352p. ISBN 9780451488848. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780451488855. M


**Chapman, Julia. Date with Malice. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. (Samson & Delilah, Bk. 2). Apr. 2018. 400p. ISBN 9781250109385. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250109392. M

Dovalpage, Teresa. Death Comes in Through the Kitchen: A Cuban Mystery. Soho Crime. Mar. 2018. 368p. ISBN 9781616958848. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9781616958855. M

DuBois, Brendan. Hard Aground. Pegasus Crime. (Lewis Cole, Bk. 11). Apr. 2018. 224p. ISBN 9781681776521. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9781681777269. M

Grimes, Martha. The Knowledge. Atlantic Monthly. (Richard Jury, Bk. 24). Apr. 2018. 368p. ISBN 9780802128010. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780802146250. M

Heaberlin, Julia. Paper Ghosts. Ballantine. May 2018. 368p. ISBN 9780804178020. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780804178037. THRILLER

**Hillier, Jennifer. Jar of Hearts. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Jun. 2018. 320p. ISBN 9781250154194. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250154217. THRILLER

Indridason, Arnaldur. The Shadow Killer. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. May 2018. 304p. tr. from Icelandic by Victoria Cribb. ISBN 9781250124043. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250124050. M

Knoll, Jessica. The Favorite Sister. S. & S. May 2018. 384p. ISBN 9781501153198. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781501153211. THRILLER

**McPherson, Catriona. Scot Free. Midnight Ink. (Last Ditch, Bk. 1). Apr. 2018. 288p. ISBN 9780738753867. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9780738754512. M

**Paris, B.A. Bring Me Back. St. Martin’s. Jun. 2018. 336p. ISBN 9781250151339. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250151353. THRILLER

**Penrose, Andrea. Murder at Half Moon Gate. Kensington. (Wrexford & Sloane, Bk. 2). Mar. 2018. 304p. ISBN 9781496710796. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781496710802. M

**Sacks, Michelle. You Were Made for This. Little, Brown. Jun. 2018. 352p. ISBN 9780316475402. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780316475433. SUSPENSE DEBUT

Wagner, David P. A Funeral in Mantova. Poisoned Pen. (Rick Montoya, Bk. 5). Mar. 2018. 228p. ISBN 9781464209499. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781464209529. M

Cozy Corner

Clark, Becky. Fiction Can Be Murder. Midnight Ink. (Mystery Writer’s Mystery, Bk. 1). Apr. 2018. 312p. ISBN 9780738753324. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9780738753706. M

Kashian, Tina. Hummus and Homicide. Kensington. (Kebab Kitchen, Bk. 1). Mar. 2018. 336p. ISBN 9781496713476. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781496713483. M

Swanson, Denise. Tart of Darkness. Sourcebooks Landmark. (Chef-To-Go, Bk. 1). Apr. 2018. 352p. ISBN 9781492648383. pap. $7.99. M

Weiss, Kirsten. Déjà Moo. Midnight Ink. (Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum, Bk. 3). Mar. 2018. 360p. ISBN 9780738750361. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9780738753928. M


Brynard, Karin. Weeping Waters. Europa. Apr. 2018. 512p. tr. from Afrikaans by Maya Fowler & Isobel Dixon. ISBN 9781609454463. pap. $18; ebk. ISBN 9781609454470. M DEBUT

Elliott, C.M. Sibanda and the Black Sparrowhawk. Jacana Media. (Sibanda, Bk. 3). Mar. 2018. 240p. ISBN 9781431402632. pap. $21.95; ebk. ISBN 9781431425464. M


Belle, Kimberly. Three Days Missing. Park Row: Harlequin. Jun. 2018. 336p. ISBN 9780778307716. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9781488095412. SUSPENSE

Jewell, Lisa. Then She Was Gone. Atria. Apr. 2018. 368p. ISBN 9781501154645. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781501154669. SUSPENSE

Ramsay, Caro. The Suffering of Strangers. Severn House. (Anderson & Costello, Bk. 9). Mar. 2018. 256p. ISBN 9780727887603. $28.99; ebk. ISBN 9781780109381. M


Reading & Rereading for February & Beyond | Classic Returns

Wed, 02/07/2018 - 12:31

The first Classic Returns column of 2018 has seven still-timely reissues for Black History Month (and beyond) reading,Three Musketeers (actually four, but let’s not quibble), three revised agricultural guides, two photography reprints, one architectural monograph, and an autobiography by an Irish activist. That should be enough to hold you till the next installment sometime in spring. Until then, happy reading and rereading.

Adams, Gerry. Before the Dawn: An Autobiography. Univ. of Notre Dame. Feb. 2018. 338p. maps. index. ISBN 9780268103774. $75; pap. ISBN 9780268103781. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780268103804. autobiog
Originally published in 1996, this memoir by the former president of Sinn Féín, the political wing of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), details his role in the “Troubles” between the IRA and Britain. Adams began protesting for Irish civil rights in the 1960s, growing increasingly radicalized in the 1970s, and finally being jailed and tortured for his anti-British activities in the 1980s. This edition contains a new introduction and an epilog by the author covering Adams’s family, Brexit, and the peace process.


The Complete Zaha Hadid. Thames & Hudson. Jan. 2018. 320p. illus. notes. ISBN 9780500343357. $40. ARCH

Last updated in 2013, this newly expanded volume includes the final projects of innovative and celebrated architect Zaha Hadid before her death in 2016. With more than 650 illustrations, most in color, this survey highlights hundreds of Hadid’s achievements. Organized chronologically, it begins with her 1976 London Architectural Association graduation proposal and ends with major projects such as the Danjiang Bridge in Taipei, Taiwan, and the Port House in Antwerp, Belgium. The concluding chapters feature objects designed by Hadid, ranging from tables to shoes and cars, and coverage of a 2015 Hadid retrospective at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia. With an introduction by Aaron Betsky, dean of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture and former director of the Cincinnati Art Museum.

Dumas, Alexandre. The Three Musketeers. Pegasus. Jan. 2018. 816p. tr. from French by Lawrence Ellsworth. illus. notes. ISBN 9781681776149. $26.95. LIT
The popular and much-adapted story of valiant D’Artagnan and his three musketeer comrades, Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, was first released in early 1844, when installments of their adventures were published in the Paris paper The Century. At the end of the year, the chapters were collected and published in novel form and translated worldwide. Later, the work would be made into movies, miniseries, graphic novels, etc. In the introduction to this newest edition, translator Ellsworth asks rhetorically why readers need another English translation, citing “fine recent renditions by Richard Pevear and Will Hobson.” His answer:

Because it deserves it, and because most published editions of the novel that you’ll find in bookstores and libraries still use translations that were prepared in the 1840s or 1850s, respectable but creaky adaptations endlessly recycled and reprinted, versions that simply don’t properly convey the energy and tone of Dumas’s original work…

Ellsworth adds that he’s on a mission to return the humor and the sexual frankness of the original to the page:

By the standards of the mid-nineteenth century the novel took a rather frank approach to sexuality; those scenes, which were mostly or wholly elided from the Victorian translations, have been restored in this version…. I’ve also kept in all the jokes. Dumas was a very funny man …. [he] wasn’t above stooping to make a terrible French pun, in which case I considered it my solemn obligation to provide some matching wordplay in English.

Rexroth, Nancy. Iowa. Univ. of Texas. 160p. ISBN 9781477310410. $45. PHOTOG
When Rexroth published her collection of photos taken with a tiny toy camera called “the Diana” in 1977, it was practically unheard of to self-publish one’s own photobook or to use primitive equipment to create such arresting images. Rexroth captured the landscapes, children, houses, and interiors of southeastern Ohio, creating blurred, dreamlike images of what she called her “own private landscape”  that reminded her of childhood visits to Iowa. The book was a huge hit in photographic circles and became a collector’s item. Long out of print, it is now available with 23 previously unpublished images; a new foreword by Magnum photographer and book maker Alec Soth; an essay by Anne Wilkes Tucker, curator emerita of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and new postscripts by Rexroth and Mark L. Power, who wrote the introductory essay in the first edition.

Westerbeck, Colin & Joel Meyerowitz. Bystander: A History of Street Photography. Laurence King. 2017. 400p. photos. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781786270665. $65. PHOTOG
A superb reissue of a 1994 book published by Little, Brown, this edition of curator Westerbeck and photographer Meyerowitz’s “bible” for street photographers has been updated to include more contemporary photographers, a reevaluation of some historical material, and a concluding chapter that picks up a conversation the coauthors began in 1987, asking: “What has street photography become in the interim?” LJ reviewer Raymond Bial recommended the original publication highly, calling it a “substantial book” and “a thoughtful, coherent study of this fascinating genre of photography.” (LJ 2/1/95)


Harlem Renaissance Reissues & Other Reads

Du Bois, W.E.B. The Souls of Black Folk. Penguin Classics. Feb. 2018. 288p. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9780140189988. $14; ebk. ISBN 9781101078143. SOC
Civil rights activist, scholar, and NAACP cofounder Du Bois wrote this text in 1903; in it, he combines history and autobiography to discuss racism in America and how to combat it. Du Bois’s essays laid the groundwork for his contemporaries and for writers of today to tackle these issues. February 2018 marks the 150th anniversary of the author’s birth, and this new edition makes available his essays “The Talented Tenth” and “The Souls of White Folk.” With an introduction by author (The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America) and professor (history & international relations, American Univ.) Ibram X. Kendi.

Hughes, Langston. Not Without Laughter. Penguin Classics. Jan. 2018. 232p. ISBN 9780143131861. $16; ebk. ISBN 9780486113906. F
Poet and author Hughes’s debut novel, first released in 1930, is a largely autobiographical account of a young black boy growing up in rural, predominantly white small-town Kansas in the early 20th century. This edition is introduced by author Angela Flournoy, whose first novel, The Turner House, was a finalist for the National Book Award.

Larsen, Nella. Passing. Penguin Classics. Jan. 2018. 160p. notes.  ISBN 9780142437278. $14; ebk. ISBN 978110191156. F
Larsen, one of the most acclaimed Harlem Renaissance writers, worked as a nurse and a librarian (New York Public Library’s 135th St. branch, now the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture) before publishing stories and a novel in the 1920s. Passing, her second novel (after Quicksand), came out in 1929. It tells the tale of two light-skinned black women, Clare and Irene. Clare has rejected her heritage and is married to a racist white man who is unaware of her racial masquerade. Irene chooses to stay in the black community. Each woman contemplates the other’s life decisions and identities. Emily Bernard (English, critical race & ethnic studies, Univ. of Vermont) provides an introduction and suggestions for further reading; notes by Thadious M. Davis (Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought; English, Univ. of Pennsylvania; Nella Larsen: Novelist of the Harlem Renaissance).

Murray, Albert. Collected Novels & Poems. Library of America. Feb. 2018. 978p. ed. by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. & Paul Devlin. maps. notes. ISBN 9781598535617. $45. Lit/F
In 2016, Library of America released Volume 1 of the collected works of this trailblazing author, jazz historian, and social critic, Collected Essays and Memoirs, also edited by Gates and Devlin. New York Times book columnist Dwight Garner listed it as one of his Top 10 Books of that year. This second volume gathers Murray’s four novels that chart the coming of age of his fictional alter ego, Scooter, as he moves from the Deep South in the 1920s and 1930s (Train Whistle Guitar, 1974) to the Tuskegee Institute (The Spyglass Tree, 1991) to a stint playing bass with a Depression-era big band along the lines of Duke Ellington’s (1996’s The Seven League Boots). Finally, in prewar Greenwich Village, Scooter finds his true vocation as a writer (The Magic Keys, 2005). Also included in the collection are poems from Conjugations and Reiterations (2001), along with 11 unpublished poems and two short stories.

Phillips, Delores. The Darkest Child: A Novel. Soho. Jan. 2018. 432p. ISBN 9781616958725. pap. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9781569477496. F
Phillips’s sole novel, written in 2004 and one of Soho’s best-selling books, tells of the hardscrabble life of Tangy Mae, the darkest child of Rozelle Quinn, who works as a domestic in 1958 Georgia. Tangy Mae is not only the darkest of Rozelle’s children, she’s the brightest. When she’s offered an opportunity to join the first integrated class of a local high school, her plans clash with those of her willful, often violent mother. This special edition has a new introduction by author Tayari Jones (An American Marriage; Silver Sparrow), an exclusive excerpt from Phillips’s (1950–2014) unfinished sequel, and an updated discussion guide.


Schuyler, George S. Black No More: Being an Account of the Strange and Wonderful Workings of Science in the Land of the Free, A.D. 1933–1940. Penguin Classics. Jan. 2018. 182p. ISBN 9780143131885. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781524705749. F
This scathing satire, originally published in 1931, is set in a postracial future (the action takes place from 1933–40). Why postracial? Because almost every person of color in America, except those who are in jail or mental wards, has availed themselves of a visit to Crookman’s Sanitarium, where Dr. Junius Crookman has developed a process to turn black people white. The antihero of the story is Max Disher, a young black man, who pays the $50 fee and is transformed into Matthew Fisher, white supremacist and husband of a Southern belle. Soon whites are up in arms about who’s “really” white, and many white women are giving birth to black babies. Schuyler (1895–1977) takes potshots at everybody, caricaturing the black leaders of his day, racists and bluebloods, religious and political leaders, and exploited workers in Southern states. VERDICT This lively speculative fiction tears down myths of ethnic purity and superiority, even the notion of race itself. An introduction by Caucasia author and English professor (Univ. of Southern California) Danzy Senna helps readers identify the subjects of Schuyler’s attacks and piques interest in the man who went from avid socialist to member of the John Birch Society and fathered a biracial child prodigy.—LF

Thurman, Wallace. The Blacker the Berry… Penguin Classics. Jan. 2018. notes. ISBN 978043131878. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781524705732. F
Journalist, ghost writer, playwright, and magazine editor Thurman (1902–34) was the first African American to write about intraracial prejudice in his debut. Originally published in 1929, the story of dark-skinned Emma Lou’s rejection by white society, her own lighter-skinned family members, and by the denizens of 1920s Harlem is one of the most widely read and controversial works of the Harlem Renaissance. Stanford history professor and director of African and African American studies Allyson Hobbs opens the book with a discussion of how Thurman’s homosexuality informed his writing.



Back to the Land with Storey

Readers will want to start a flock or herd right in their own backyard or wherever they might live after leafing through these updated editions of Storey’s classic guides. At the very least, they’ll want to get into worm composting, which even apartment dwellers can do.

Appelhof, Mary & Joanne Olszewski. Worms Eat My Garbage, 35th Anniversary Edition: How To Set Up and Maintain a Worm Composting System. 2017. 192p. ISBN 9781612129471. pap. $14.95. GARDENING
Belanger, Jerry & Sara Thomson Bredesen. Storey’s Guide to Raising Dairy Goats. 5th ed. Feb. 2018. 336p. ISBN 9781612129358. $34.95; pap. ISBN 9781612129327. $24.95. ANIMAL HUSBANDRY
Damerow, Gail. Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens. 4th ed. 2017. 480p. ISBN 9781612129341. $34.95; pap. ISBN 9781612129303. $24.95. ANIMAL HUSBANDRY
ea. vol: Storey. illus. bibliog. index.

Worms Eat My Garbage, a trusted guide to vermicomposting, was originally written by National Science Foundation grant recipient and international worm expert Appelhof (1936–2005). Friend and fellow vermi-enthusiast Olszewski, who met Appelhof in 1972, has lovingly revised the guide with updated information, retaining Appelhof’s first-person observations and adding her own.

The Storey animal husbandry guides are getting a fresh look, starting with Raising Chickens and Raising Dairy Goats. Undergoing a complete redesign, the series volumes will have a larger format and full-color illustrations. Damerow, author of more than a dozen books, including The Chicken Health Handbook, runs a family farm in Tennessee with her husband; Dairy Goat coauthors Belanger and Bredesen have both been involved in dairy goat farming for more than 30 years. Next up in the revised series: rabbits in July and honeybees in September.


LJ Talks to Samuel Parker

Wed, 01/31/2018 - 16:09

Parker made a splash last year with Purgatory Road (LJ 2/1/17), a gritty debut thriller about a couple’s day trip into the Nevada desert that goes very wrong and turns into an epic battle of good vs. evil. Not only did this novel receive acclaim from PW, LJ, and Booklist, it was also chosen as an LJ Best Christian Fiction title of 2017. Now, Parker returns with a second book that is sure to garner equal acclaim. A retelling of the biblical story of Cain and Abel, Coldwater (LJ 2/1/17) is an intense and riveting tale about the destructive nature of evil.

Both Purgatory Road and Coldwater are novels with very dark themes. What draws you to such stories?
I naturally gravitate to that type of storytelling. My favorite authors I’m sure play a factor: Cormac McCarthy, Robert Olmstead, Fyodor Dostoevsky. I don’t write as lyrically as they do, but what I am drawn to in their books is the stripped-down examination of the human condition.
I also think that people are capable of extreme violence and extreme charity, and that it’s all wrapped in the same box. I think we fool ourselves into believing there is a wide gap between good and evil. In my writing, I like to look at those dark thoughts we all have at some point in our lives and get down to the core of why we have them and how they can move us to a better place.

The Coldwater vigilantes spring directly from the self-righteous public outcry over a heinous crime committed by a young boy in our city. So, for [my novel], I started with the question: Can I move a reader to empathize with a character who did an incredibly evil act? I think that without empathy, you can’t have forgiveness, and without forgiveness, you have nothing.

Considering that your books are grittier than most typical CF fare, can you share the initial reaction from your readers and from the community of Christian writers?
The public reception is hard to gauge, as the only people who have personally contacted me are readers who have liked the book. I have read some reviews that were critical of the style or the nature of the storytelling. That just goes with the territory. One argument that I have heard several times would be whether the stories fit the genre, but that isn’t for me to decide. I’m just writing. I’ll let others classify or declassify at their leisure. The world is violent, people are prone to do selfish things, people are prone to [commit] horrible [acts], but even the least of these should be viewed as redeemable in some way, or what’s the point of the gospel?

Did you ever have any concerns about publishing a book so different and edgy for the genre?
Revell editor Andrea Doering provides great feedback on your question: “When I look for fiction for Revell, the biggest picture goal is to deliver on a quote I once read by Andy Crouch—’Christian fiction is fiction that can only be true because the gospel is true.’ In the case of Coldwater, the novel can only be true because, indeed, good and evil, damnation and redemption exist. For his [book], it’s the antithesis of the gospel that gets examined—what does it look like when we reject God, when we devalue what He values (life, humanity)?
Parker has picked an unlikely “anti-hero” [for his] main character, which he did with Purgatory Road as well. We don’t see much of this in the CBA [formerly Christian Booksellers Association], though we have at Revell, with the publication of novels by Steven James in the past. Among the many ways we express our faith and explore the larger themes of this life we’ve been offered, I believe there is room for novels such as these.”—Christine Sharbrough


You Say You Want a Resolution | What We’re Reading & Watching

Wed, 01/31/2018 - 10:32

February is nearly upon us, and still we’re talking about New Year’s resolutions and other ways to chase away the winter blahs. After reading SLJ Reviews Manager Shelley Diaz’s fantastic feature “25 Authors for Teens Share Their 2018 Writing Resolutions,” I decided to “borrow” the idea and ask the “What We’re Reading (& Watching)” team if they had any reading resolutions for 2018. Then the library Internet exploded with #shelfieday, and I asked readers to send in a shelfie with their blurbs. We’re extending the day into the next week and beyond, showing off our book collections, turning off our devices, ranging further out of our zones, and reading more. How about you? Got any suggestions for reading resolutions or historical and/or sf titles to help WWR alum Etta Verma bust out of her reading rut? 

Liz French, Senior Editor, LJ Reviews
As my gym/exercise resolutions, er, dissipate, I look toward reading and watching resolutions for another shot. Watching-wise, I think a little more discernment is in order, or as my mother would say, “Turn that idiot box off and go read a book! ” (I also resolve to watch more “Noir Alley” movies on Turner Classics just for host Eddie Muller’s amazing intros). Reading-wise, I want to expand out of my comfort zone of dark mysteries and suspense and books about or set in the 1930s and 1940s. A step in that direction is a reissue of a mordant speculative fiction novel by critic, satirist, and African American journalist George S. Schuyler, Black No More (Penguin Classics), written in 1931 and set around that time. So it’s partly still in my safety zone but also not.

Schuyler’s big “what if”: What would happen if all the black people in America turned white? His answer is scathing, sometimes humorous, and occasionally horrifying, especially during a lynching scene. Suffice to say that Schuyler, an equal-opportunity hater, thinks humans will still be horrible to one another and find new ways to discriminate. His worldbuilding skills aren’t as polished as his satirical skills—the names of characters alone are hilariously hateful—but the book is a swift and stinging indictment of racism that still rings true more than 80 years later.

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez, WWR/W Emeritus
I weeded my bookshelves at the beginning of the year, partly to get organized, but mainly to surface the way-too-many books that caught my eye over the past few years and then faded into the shelves as video games, podcasts, and TV have dominated my free time. I made one reading resolution this year, to put away my phone on the commute home and read something, whether a book, magazine, or long-form online article. News and social media don’t count.

I’m currently reading Mary Pilon’s The Monopolists (Bloomsbury), the surprisingly fascinating herstory of the board game Monopoly and its unheralded creator, Lizzie Magie, whose vision of the game would become co-opted over time, eventually embracing that which it originally critiqued: “It’s a practical demonstration of the present system of land-grabbing with all of its usual outcomes and consequences.” One hundred pages in, it’s kind of a low-key thriller introducing all of the chief players, including Quakers, Atlantic City, the Great Depression, and good old-fashioned capitalist greed.

Daryl Grabarek, Senior Editor, SLJ Reviews
While much of my reading is SLJ- and committee-related—fiction and nonfiction by authors of children’s and YA lit—I’m determined to make a dent in the endless piles of adult books and magazines at home. So far so good. I’ve managed to finish significant chunks of the last three issues of The New Yorker, and Sally Rooney’s really smart Conversations with Friends (Hogarth: Crown), breaking a recent avoidance of novels about millennials. Next up is Lisa Ko’s The Leavers (Algonquin). I think it has helped that I’m simultaneously working on taming my TV news addiction, which, no surprise, began in 2016. Ask me how I’m doing in in December.

Tyler Hixson, WWR/W emeritus (Brooklyn P.L.)
I have finally hopped on the Goodreads bandwagon and created a 2018 reading challenge for myself: finish an average of a book a week. I’ve read seven so far (putting myself ahead of schedule) and have only disliked one of them. Most recently I finished a book I never would have picked up if it hadn’t popped up in my Goodreads recommendations: Barry Hughart’s Bridge of Birds: A Novel of an Ancient China That Never Was (Del Rey: Ballantine). It tells the story of Number Ten Ox, the tenth son of a farmer, who hires Master Li Kao—who has a slight flaw in his character, as he repeatedly tells Ox—to cure the children of Ox’s village, who have mysteriously been poisoned.

Ox and Li’s travels take them all over medieval China in search of the Great Root of Power—the only known thing that can cure this particular type of poison. They encounter such characters as Henpecked Ho (a brilliant scholar who is in constant fear of his 500-pound wife), Ma the Grub (an odoriferous man who keeps interrupting their travels), and my personal favorite, Cut-Off-Their-Balls-Wang (the head of a ruthless group of thieves). Along the way, they discover that the only way to cure the children is to solve a 1,000-year-old mystery that involves immortals, gods and goddesses, labyrinths, and ghosts. Ox and Li must rely on all sorts of trickery to make it out alive.

In a story so whimsical and funny, Master Li goes to all lengths to keep plowing forward, whether tricking a miserly old man to buy a goat that poops gold to staging the murder of a self-centered, snobby woman to make it look like an accident. The villains (there are many) are so outrageously horrible that when they meet their demise, you cheer. Master Li is my new literary hero. Hughart’s blend of authentic Chinese lore and his own fantastical inventions is wonderful, and will have readers wishing that this ancient China actually existed. Also, the ending is most surprising and beautiful.

For those who are interested, The Exorcist is next!

Lisa Peet, Associate Editor, LJ
My reading resolution for 2018 is simple: read more of what’s on my shelves and in my ereader already, as opposed to buying new books, picking up attractive ARCs, adding to my library holds the moment something catches my attention, or impulsively one-clicking on the ebook deals of the day (and catch up on my New Yorkers). One month into the new year and I have mostly failed at this, including failing twice on the same book. Earlier in January, I had two library holds come in at the same time, one ebook and one print. I read the ebook first. But by the time I finished the first, Lesley Nneka Arimah’s What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky (Riverhead), a terrific debut story collection ranging from realistic to sf to mythology, the second, Joan Silber’s Improvement (Counterpoint) was due. What to do? Guilt battled with desire for a couple of hours, until Improvement popped up in one of the many ebook bargain e-newsletters I subscribe to, deeply discounted. I told my boss that I had to make an emergency library run and returned the print version. (Other than the serendipity of that, there’s also the joy of working in a place where “emergency library run” is a totally valid reason to duck out of the office for 20 minutes.) So: Improvement was a double fail, but for the record it was really good. Silber uses beautiful declarative sentences to paint a whole mural of a story, and how she does it is entertaining and very sweet. This is a morally decent novel, and God knows we need more of those right now. And now I’m going to go back to reading what I own, at least until one of my five current library holds comes in.

Meredith Schwartz, Executive Editor, LJ
I am not a resolution person, but I’m reading Joshua Palmetier’s Shattering the Ley (Daw), which is so far the winner of the Spoilers in the Title Award of my personal book collection. I’m on page 113 and so far the ley energy network is just fine.


Henrietta Verma, WWR/W Emerita
Lots of times when I read a book that I wouldn’t have chosen myself, I’m pleasantly surprised and sometimes blown away by a new voice or different genre. This year, I’ve told myself that I’ll read reviews of books that I don’t normally gravitate toward. For me, that means historical fiction and sf. I’ve failed so far, because I haven’t had any time for personal reading this month yet. But I’m trying to skip the guilt trip. I hope people will chime in in the comments section below on what great historical fiction and sf I should try once I get off the work treadmill. Thanks in advance!




Mystery Writers of America Edgar® Nominees Announced

Fri, 01/19/2018 - 16:49

Today, on what would be the 209th birthday of Edgar Allan Poe (1809–49), the Mystery Writers of America announced its nominees for the 2018 Edgar Allan Poe Awards, “honoring the best in mystery fiction, nonfiction, and television published or produced in 2017.” The Edgar® Awards will be presented to the winners at the MWA’s 72nd Gala Banquet, on April 26, at New York’s Grand Hyatt Hotel.

Below are the nominees, with LJ/SLJ review links where available.


The Dime by Kathleen Kent (Little, Brown: Mulholland)
“This fast-paced, adrenaline-producing suspense novel will appeal to Karin Slaughter fans; it will also attract crime fiction aficionados who appreciate Minerva Koenig’s Julia Kalas series for its Texas setting and resilient female protagonist with a sixth sense.”—LJ  

Prussian Blue by Philip Kerr (Putnam)

Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke (Little, Brown: Mulholland)
“Locke, winner of the Harper Lee Prize for legal fiction (Pleasantville) and a writer and producer of the show Empire, has woven an atmospheric, convoluted mystery seasoned with racial tension and family loyalty.”—LJ starred review

A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee (Pegasus)
“Winner of the Harvill Secker Daily Telegraph crime writing competition, this stirring, entertaining first mystery bursts with lively, colorful historical details about colonial Calcutta.”—LJ starred review

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti (Dial)


She Rides Shotgun by Jordan Harper (Ecco)
“This emotional and fast-paced tale will stick with mature teens who appreciate gritty contemporary fare.”—SLJ

Dark Chapter by Winnie M. Li (Polis)
“What is striking about this acclaimed first novel (highly recommended for the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger) 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, sacrificing her own biases to create a clear sight line for the reader.”—SLJ starred review

Lola by Melissa Scrivner Love (Crown)
“Lola’s resilience and loyalty will have them wanting to see more of the genre’s newest heroine and her creator.”—LJ starred review (see SLJ review here)

Tornado Weather by Deborah E. Kennedy (Flatiron)—Xpress Reviews

Idaho by Emily Ruskovich (Random)—LJ review


In Farleigh Field by Rhys Bowen (Thomas & Mercer: Amazon)

Ragged Lake by Ron Corbett (ECW)

Black Fall by Andrew Mayne (Harper)

The Unseeing by Anna Mazzola (Sourcebooks Landmark)
“…for fans of Sarah Waters.”—LJ review

Penance by Kanae Minato (Little, Brown: Mulholland)
“Minato is two for two for twisted psychological Japanese noir.”—LJ audiobook review

The Rules of Backyard Cricket by Jock Serong (Text)


Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann (Doubleday)—starred LJ review, an LJ Best Book of 2017

The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple by Jeff Guinn (S. & S.)
“Replicating the success of his biograph­­­­­­y of Charles Manson, the author also delivers a nuanced portrait of Jones’s descent into paranoid megalomania.”—LJ review, an LJ editors’ pick

American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land by Monica Hesse (Liveright: Norton)
“…a microcosm of the desolation of rural America and a metaphor for the emptiness that continues to pervade many areas of the country.”—LJ review

The Man From the Train: The Solving of a Century-Old Serial Killer Mystery by Bill and Rachel McCarthy James (Scribner: S. & S.)—LJ review

Mrs. Sherlock Holmes: The True Story of New York City’s Greatest Female Detective and the 1917 Missing Girl Case that Captivated a Nation by Brad Ricca (St. Martin’s)
“Ricca has parlayed an obscure reference to Mrs. Sherlock Holmes in his earlier research into a spellbinding true crime history that reads like a novel. It will be enjoyed by aficionados of Victorian crime novels as well as true crime fans.”—LJ starred review


From Holmes to Sherlock: The Story of the Men and Women Who Created an Icon by Mattias Bostrom (Mysterious Press: Grove Atlantic)—LJ review

Manderley Forever: A Biography of Daphne du Maurier by Tatiana de Rosnay (St. Martin’s)
“This outstanding biography will attract du Maurier devotees of all ages.” —LJ starred review

Murder in the Closet: Essays on Queer Clues in Crime Fiction Before Stonewall by Curtis Evans (McFarland)

Chester B. Himes: A Biography by Lawrence P. Jackson (Norton)

Arthur and Sherlock: Conan Doyle and the Creation of Holmes by Michael Sims (Bloomsbury USA)


“Spring Break” – New Haven Noir by John Crowley (Akashic)

“Hard to Get” – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by Jeffery Deaver (Dell Magazines)

“Ace in the Hole” – Montana Noir by Eric Heidle (Akashic)—Xpress Reviews

“A Moment of Clarity at the Waffle House” – Atlanta Noir by Kenji Jasper (Akashic)

“Chin Yong-Yun Stays at Home” – Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine by S.J. Rozan (Dell Magazines)


Audacity Jones Steals the Show by Kirby Larson (Scholastic)— SLJ audiobook review

Vanished! by James Ponti (Aladdin: S. & S.)

The Assassin’s Curse by Kevin Sands (Aladdin: S. & S.)

First Class Murder by Robin Stevens (S. & S. BFYR)

NewsPrints by Ru Xu (Scholastic – Graphix)
“the first in what should be a popular new series”—SLJ review


The Cruelty by Scott Bergstrom (Feiwel & Friends: Macmillan)— SLJ review

Grit by Gillian French (HarperTeen: HarperCollins)
“This page-turner will hold the interest of mystery fans.”—SLJ review

The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak (S. & S.)—SLJ review

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds (Atheneum: S. & S.)
“…will pair well with Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give and Reynolds’s previous works. The unique narrative structure also makes it an excellent read-alike for Walter Dean Myers’s Monster.”—SLJ starred review

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (Balzer + Bray: HarperCollins)
“Pair this powerful debut with Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely’s All American Boys to start a conversation on racism, police brutality, and the Black Lives Matter movement.”—SLJ starred review, an SLJ Best Book of 2017


“Episode 1” – Loch Ness, Teleplay by Stephen Brady (Acorn TV)

“Something Happened” – Law and Order: SVU, Teleplay by Michael Chernuchin (NBC Universal/Wolf Entertainment)

“Somebody To Love” – Fargo, Teleplay by Noah Hawley (FX Networks/MGM)

“Gently and the New Age” – George Gently, Teleplay by Robert Murphy (Acorn TV)

“The Blanket Mire” – Vera, Teleplay by Paul Matthew Thompson & Martha Hillier (Acorn TV)


Selected by the committee for the best  published mystery short story by a previously unpublished American author

“The Queen of Secrets” – New Haven Noir by Lisa D. Gray (Akashic)


Guidelines for this award include: a nice young female protagonist with primarily good family relationships and a good job who “solves her problem by her own courage and intelligence”; no on-scene violence, profanity, or explicit sex scenes.

The Vineyard Victims by Ellen Crosby (Minotaur: St. Martin’s)

You’ll Never Know, Dear by Hallie Ephron (Morrow)

The Widow’s House by Carol Goodman (Morrow)
“…resonant references to local folklore and to literature such as Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper and Edgar Allan Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher combine with influences from both classic gothic works and domestic suspense novels in Goodman’s chilling 14th novel.”—LJ review

Uncorking a Lie by Nadine Nettmann (Midnight Ink)

The Day I Died by Lori Rader-Day (Morrow)
“Mary Higgins Clark Award winner Rader-Day’s third novel will thrill readers who can’t get enough of the psychological suspense genre.”—LJ review