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Sun, Moon, Stars | What We’re Reading & Watching

Mon, 08/21/2017 - 12:49

Today’s the day of the solar eclipse, and everybody’s talking about it. We’ve been anticipating this for weeks, and several LJ/School Library Journal colleagues began discussing an eclipse “playlist”—Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon,” of course Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” “The Sun Is a Mass” by They Might Be Giants, Cat Stevens’s “Moonshadow,” the Velvet Underground’s “Who Loves the Sun.” That prompted me to ask the “What We’re Reading & Watching” crew to recommend eclipse-themed books and/or movies. I don’t have any specific books in mind myself, but I recall watching a lot of late-late-show movies in which a very timely eclipse saves the hero or heroine from a gruesome death at the hand of the aggrieved natives whose land or riches they’re trying to exploit, er, explore.  Come see our eclipse and noneclipse recommendations, but be sure to don those safety glasses!

Mahnaz Dar, Assistant Managing Editor, LJS
Though I wasn’t thinking of the eclipse when I picked up Erin Kelly’s He Said, She Said (Minotaur: St. Martin’s), I realize now that this suspense novel that centers on “eclipse chasers” was the perfect way to prepare for today. In 1999, Kit and Laura, twentysomethings in a relationship, are in Cornwall, England, to watch the solar eclipse when Laura sees a woman being raped. Laura is asked to testify as a witness in the trial and eventually befriends the woman, Beth. In 2015, Kit and Laura, still together, are expecting twins. Both are deeply in love, still devoted to eclipses—and utterly terrified of Beth, whose ominous presence has cast a shadow over their lives. Slowly, alternating between Kit’s and Laura’s perspectives and two different time periods, Kelly immerses readers in a taut, gripping thriller. While I had some issues with the ending (I found myself repeating, “Really?” for a good five minutes after the big revelation), the journey was delightful, and I’m very excited at the prospect of the eclipse.

This summer, I took a trip back in time—to the mean streets of New York City a few decades ago. The Film Forum, a small, independent cinema in downtown Manhattan, recently presented “Ford to City: Drop Dead—New York in the 70s,” a series of about 40 movies from the “me decade.” The films varied—some were absolutely stellar, while others were a bit lacking. My favorite selections utterly exemplified 1970s-era New York: garbage-strewn streets, a Times Square crammed not with costumed characters but with pornographic theaters galore, grimy apartments, and graffiti-festooned subways. Among the highlights were John Schlesinger’s Midnight Cowboy, which peeks beyond the city’s filthy veneer at a surprisingly tender bond between a wannabe hustler and a homeless scam artist; Taxi Driver, Martin Scorsese’s haunting look at loneliness through the eyes of the increasingly alienated Travis Bickle; and Sidney Lumet’s Dog Day Afternoon, which centers on a standoff between two bank robbers and the police on a swelteringly hot Brooklyn day.

Liz French, Senior Editor, LJ Reviews
I’ve been on a memoir jag lately. I read and reviewed  Heather Harpham’s harrowing (sorry, couldn’t resist the apt alliteration) Happiness: The Crooked Little Road to Semi-Ever After (Holt). Equally harrowing was Cree LeFavour’s Lights On Rats Out (Grove: Atlantic), a retelling of her treatment for self-mutilation and depression, her psychiatrist-mandated stay in a mental institution, and her eventual “recovery,” though I’m pretty certain LeFavour has another book’s worth of stories of the aftermath. I say this: I’d read the follow-up, though Rats Out was a real drainer. In between harrowing memoirs, I blasted through Suzanne Gates’s debut, The Glamorous Dead (Kensington), a sort of uneasy mix of cozy and noir starring a Hollywood extra who befriends Barbara Stanwyck and other 1940s Hollywood personages while trying to find her friend’s killer.

The book dovetailed nicely with Turner Classic Movies’ annual “Summer Under the Stars” festival, which showcases a classic star for every day in August. Stanwyck was the featured star on August 13, and I got to take in a lot of old favorites and a few flicks I hadn’t seen before.

Tyler Hixson, WWR/WWW emeritus (Brooklyn Public Library)
I’m on a B-list movie bender right now, having recently watched The Room, the hilarious, awful, perfect mess of a movie directed, written, produced, and executive produced by and starring Tommy Wiseau. The latest film that I gave a go was The Giant Claw (1957), which is about a civilian electrical engineer named Mitch (Jeff Morrow) working with the Canadian government for some undefined reason when he spots an unidentified flying object! Nobody believes him, though, until Canadian Air Force planes mysteriously go missing. Mitch and his attractive, vaguely titled government liaison Sally (Mara Corday) manage to capture photos of this flying menace.

Turns out North America is being menaced by a giant vulturkey. The Giant Claw wouldn’t be one of those “so-bad-its-good” movies without this hot mess of a monster. It’s so poorly designed, even by 1950s monster movie standards, that the first time it squawks and flumps on-screen, you laugh…and laugh and laugh as you watch people run in terror. Without the bird, the movie would simply be awful. Fun fact: the actors in the movie never saw the monster until the film’s premiere, and when audiences started laughing uproariously when the bird made its appearance, Morrow snuck out of the theater in embarrassment so no one would recognize him.

Lisa Peet, Associate Editor, News & Features, LJ
I haven’t read anything recently that had anything to do with eclipses or Bonnie Tyler, but the last book I finished had “Moon” very prominently in the title. David Grann’s Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI (Doubleday). It’s an interesting telling of a really terrible episode, a string of murders of Osage folks in the early 1920s for their oil rights, and how the difficulty of working within the small-town racist corruption helped establish the FBI. Solid storytelling, easy read. But it’s also tangentially about research, the choices you make to tell a story when you have a big pile of source material but no personal accounts and when there’s no convenient narrative arc on which to hang it. I think Grann did a good job.  He structures the book in three parts: the story of the murders leading into the story of how J. Edgar Hoover put together the FBI leading into a shorter last section about Grann doing some of the legwork that led up to the book. It is an interesting concept and makes a lot of sense for the scope of what he was trying to cover, though I have to admit I might not have been quite as on board with the structure if I hadn’t first listened to Grann on the Longform podcast talking about why he did it. I’m a huge Longform fan and rarely listen to one that doesn’t give me big ideas about something or other.

I have also read Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight Moon approximately 80,000 times, although not in the last 25 years or so. Does that count?

Meredith Schwartz, Executive Editor, LJ
Okay, I’m going super old school here, but for eclipse-based science fiction you just can’t beat Isaac Asimov’s “Nightfall,” a short story that magazine editor John W. Campbell asked him to write after discussing with him a quotation from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore, and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God!”

Campbell’s opinion was: “I think men would go mad.” “Nightfall” is set in a world with multiple suns so that only a very rare eclipse creates the condition described in the Emerson quote. It was later expanded into a novel by Robert Silverberg, but if you haven’t read it yet, you want the original—adding more exposition, IMO, only dilutes its punch. It’s been anthologized in many places, so it’s not hard to find.

Henrietta Verma, WWR/WWW emerita (National Information Standards Organization)
In terms of eclipse-related reads, I’m coming up empty. How about an eclipse memory? As children in Ireland, my twin sister and I were best friends with sisters Niamh and Amy Moynihan. Mr. Moynihan (I still can’t bring myself to use his first name decades on), their dad, had been a NASA scientist, and I realized only later what a big deal that was. We were at their house for a total solar eclipse, which Google tells me was either October 3, 1986, or March 29, 1987. I remember it being interesting but not as interesting as the chemical powders Mr. Moynihan would bring home from his science professor job. He would throw them on the fire and they made fabulous colors. It’s OK that my body is probably still detoxing from the poisonous fumes because the memories are worth it.

I’m not doing too much reading on my own, but six-year-old Henry is whiling away the time waiting for Dav Pilkey’s Dog Man 3 by reading Aaron Blabey’s The Bad Guys (Scholastic). This hilarious book, part of a series, stars storied nasties such as the Big Bad Wolf, Mr. Snake, and Mr. Shark. They’re tired of their intimidating images and want to be heroes. My favorite parts are the bad guys’ rap sheets. Here are excerpts from two of them.

Mr. Wolf
Criminal Activity

  • Breaking into the homes of old women
  • Impersonating old women
  • Attempting to eat old women
  • Theft of nightgown and slippers

Mr. Snake
Criminal Activity

  • Broke into Mr. Ho’s Pet store
  • Ate all the mice at Mr. Ho’s Pet Store
  • Ate all the canaries at Mr. Ho’s Pet Store
  • Ate all the guinea pigs at Mr. Ho’s Pet Store
  • Tried to eat Mr. Ho at Mr. Ho’s Pet Store
  • Tried to eat the doctor who tried to save Mr. Ho
  • Tried to eat the policemen who tried to save the doctor who tried to save Mr. Ho

…and so on.

Ashleigh Williams, Editorial Assistant, SLJ
I’m not exactly abiding by the eclipse theme, but a major plot point in my book takes place during the equinox, and it publishes on Halloween. A couple of weeks ago at the beach, I breezed through an advance reading copy of Molly Knox Ostertag’s The Witch Boy (Scholastic). In Aster’s magical community, girls are brought up as witches while boys are trained as protectors and shapeshifters. Aster, however, is enamored with the spells, runes, and lore of witchcraft; he’s constantly spying on his sisters’ lessons because he is forbidden to participate. At his age, his lack of interest or ability to shapeshift are becoming noticeable. When a mysterious demon begins kidnapping the boys his age, Aster’s perplexing gift for witchcraft may be the only thing that can save them. The only complaint I had about this book is that it feels short; I want more! Ostertag has created such a sweet, intriguing world in about 200 pages and has skillfully woven an allegory for gender fluidity into a fun, exciting middle grade graphic novel. I’m crossing my fingers for a sequel; I’m especially eager to see more of Charlie, Aster’s adventurous nonmagic friend who has her own bone to pick with gender stereotypes.


Summering Down | Memoir

Tue, 08/15/2017 - 12:19

As summer winds down, we feel the passage of time more acutely. This month’s memoirists each address this in their own way: grieving loved ones, facing health issues, overcoming broken relationships, documenting the milestones of children, aging, and rebuilding marriages and family connections. For some, sorrow eases over time; for others, time is marked by loss. It’s especially poignant to read these works in August, when we start to mourn the end of the season before it’s even over.

Cawood, Shuly Xóchitl. The Going and Goodbye. Platypus. Jun. 2017. 192p. ISBN 9780993532191. pap. $16. MEMOIR
Cawood’s essays explore love and its counterpoint loss. The reverse of romantic partnerships is rocky breakups and separations; marriage counters divorce; the reverse of friendship is loneliness; the contrast to good health is illness. The author shares what she has learned from her experiences of loss and reflects on the process that brought her to the end point. One essay delves into her nostalgia surrounding the futon she bought at age 24 and kept through many relationships, moves, a marriage, and a divorce. Something as central as a soft place to sleep takes on new meaning when Cawood revisits the people who sat or slept on the futon over the years. Other pieces contain deeper explorations: for example, friend Tsafi receives a cancer diagnosis and Cawood supports her through treatment, just as Tsafi once helped the author through difficult times. To be human is to be “going” about our lives, always saying “goodbye” to someone or something. Cawood stands firmly in the camp of “better to love and lose.”  VERDICT Powerful writing that reminds readers the time with loved ones is both precious and limited. Those experiencing grief may find a welcome and fresh perspective in this account.

Fennelly, Beth Ann. Heating & Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs. Norton. Oct. 2017. 128p. ISBN 9780393609479. $22.95; ebk. ISBN 9780393609486. MEMOIR
The subtitle of Mississippi Poet Laureate Fennelly’s memoir provides readers all the explanation they need. Each of the “52 micro-memoirs” range in length from a sentence to several pages. The author covers motherhood, marriage, childhood, family, writing, her parents, the death of a beloved sister, the quirks of neighbors and friends, aging, her husband, and a multitude of other observations. It may seem incongruous, but Fennelly packs a lot into each short essay, with some light in subject matter, while others have a sudden punch-in-the-gut feel, weighted with existential exploration. VERDICT Potent despite their brevity, many of Fennelly’s micromemoirs bring hefty topics to the surface; the lack of excessive text allows readers to fill in the gaps in the narrative themselves. Readers who enjoyed Anne Lamott’s memoirs (Bird by Bird; Hallelujah Anyway) will delight in these pieces.

Gisleson, Anne. The Futilitarians: Our Year of Thinking, Drinking, Grieving, and Reading. Little, Brown. Aug. 2017. 260p. ISBN 9780316393904. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780316393898. MEMOIR
Gisleson faced much loss, as did many of her friends and family living in New Orleans before and after Hurricane Katrina. Instead of succumbing to despair, the author and her compatriots formed the Existential Crisis Reading Group (ECRG). There is wine, there are novels, but the book of choice is not the latest cozy mystery. In this New Orleans pseudo-Bohemian group, the readings and gatherings are designed to parse meaning from tragedy. Interspersed throughout, with insightful literary analysis from the ECRG readings, is Gisleson’s own family’s stories. Her younger sisters, twins, both commit suicide within months of each other. Her father dies of a bacterial infection. Her husband loses his partner, the mother of his son, six months before meeting Gisleson. Through these experiences, the author reveals that meaning exists when we are willing to look for it and interpret what we see, a search made even more powerful when its done with friends. Themes of fellowship and family override what might at first seem like a depressing endeavor. VERDICT Readers interested in expanding their reading lists, as well as those fascinated by New Orleans, will find this a meaty work.

Jarrell, Andrea. I’m the One Who Got Away. She Writes. Sept. 2017. 176p. ISBN 9781631522604. pap. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9781631522611. MEMOIR
Jarrell begins her memoir with an account of the tragic murder of her neighbor Susannah, whose death triggers a wellspring of emotion that reminds the author of her own childhood. Jarrell’s mother married her father, Nick, while still in high school; he quickly became controlling and abusive, isolating her from her family. When Jarrell is a baby, her mother leaves Nick and scrimps and saves to take her daughter to the theater and to Europe, but Nick is never far away. Jarrell gets to know him in her teens, and his verbal abuse and mercurial moods set her up for some unhealthy life choices. She ultimately marries a man who seems stable and calm, but the relationship is fraught. In Susannah’s death, the author sees the future her family might have had if her mother had stayed with her father: patterns that might have resulted in tragic endings for both mother and daughter. VERDICT Jarrell writes powerfully about coming of age in the shadow of domestic violence and her growth as a spouse, parent, and daughter. How she successfully navigated her responsibility to her children as well as her desire to know her father may be of interest to readers who wish to explore boundary-setting in their own families.

More Memoir

Harpham, Heather. Happiness: The Crooked Little Road to Semi-Ever After. Holt. Aug. 2017. 320p. ISBN 9781250131560. $27; ebk. ISBN 9781250131577. MEMOIR
Dancer/performer/playwright Harpham’s debut memoir is harrowing and human. The author writes about the joys and sorrows of motherhood, childbirth, and ad-hoc family without veering into corniness or bathos. This is a pretty amazing feat when you consider her critically ill daughter, Gracie, received a transfusion hours after birth, requiring many more such procedures in the following years. Initially, Harpham suffers these ordeals as a single mom (albeit with a strong support group). When Brian, her boyfriend in New York, balks at fatherhood, the author flees to her native California to give birth to Gracie. As her daughter’s condition worsens, Brian reconsiders his parental role, and he and Harpham face agonizing choices about treatments for their child. VERDICT Especially good at conveying sights, smells, and sounds, Harpham portrays those around her—hospital staff, family members, friends, foes—with nuanced observation, though some of the characters’ walk-on parts seem superfluous. All in all a strong first book that will touch parents and nonparents alike. [See Prepub Alert, 3/8/17.]—Liz French, Library Journal


Final Thoughts on the Perfect Genre | RWA 2017

Fri, 08/04/2017 - 14:48

With a reimagined Romance Writers of America 2017 schedule, I attended fewer workshops than I might have previously, but each was fresh and worthwhile, as was fully acknowledged by the large and receptive crowds.

“The Art of the Novella” (size does matter) featured authors Katharine Ashe, Robin Covington, and Caroline Linden and William Morrow/Avon Books executive editor Lucia Macro on the challenges of writing “short” and the benefits (increasing one’s catalog; honing skills; setting up future books). “Plotter vs. Pantser: A Big Series Face-off” saw “Troubleshooters” creator Suzanne Brockmann draw a line in the sand with “Nighthawks” engineer M.L. Buchman. These two know their romantic suspense, but they approach their books from different perspectives. With all the research Buchman does, audience members were questioning his position as a pantser (writing by the seat of one’s pants), thinking he might be a closet plotter (“a person who plots out or knows in advance the characters, their actions, the plot, the setting, and the ending”). He contested that characterization.

“Creating Authentic Characters with Disabilities” included authors Tessa Dare, Barbara Devlin, Sue Ward Drake, Laurie Alice Eakes, Andrew Grey (later recognized for releasing his 100th book), and moderator Karen Rose. Emotions ran high when Devlin revealed the details of an accident she suffered as a police officer when a drunk driver pinned her against a guardrail and the years of physical therapy she endured. The attendees validated her bravery and candor with a standing ovation (and many tears).

(L.–r.): Sisters Audrey and Brianna Lee

Young artists were on hand to participate in the continued coloring craze, working their magic on mounted Avon covers. Brianna Lee (r.) and her sister Audrey Lee (daughters of author Katy Lee) were totally into it and a pleasure to watch.

Ultimately, the days flew by, with another RWA in the books. The steamy Orlando weather made everyone look forward longingly to the 2018 conference in Denver. See you there, folks.


A Special Day for Librarians | RWA 2017

Wed, 08/02/2017 - 12:06

A highlight of the annual Romance Writers of America (RWA) conference is Librarians Day, offering a full complement of panels and discussions about romance and how librarians can more effectively market the genre to their patrons. This year’s event, held Saturday, July 29, in Orlando, FL, kicked off with librarian stalwarts Amy Alessio, Robin Bradford, and Susan Gibberman presenting their top trends in romance. Among the popular subgenres are Kinktemporary (ménage), Beyond Regencies, Sweet Treats & Sweet Reads, Western Expansion, Civil War and Reconstruction, and Hamilton (go figure!).

Booksellers (l.–r.) Bea and Leah Koch

“Engaging the Romance Reader in Your Community” was led by RWA Booksellers of the Year Bea and Leah Koch, owners of the Ripped Bodice in Culver City, CA, which sells almost exclusively romance titles. Their programming is inventive and could translate to libraries as well. A networking event followed, at which librarians and bloggers mingled with publishers and authors.

Attendees were overcome by the heartfelt speech of luncheon speaker Brenda Jackson, author of more than 120 books. She thanked librarians for their work and noted how research in her local library provided her family with valuable information relating to the unconscionable Tuskegee Study. In place from 1932 to 1972, the project injected unsuspecting black men, including Jackson’s great-grandfather, with syphilis and left them untreated for decades.

The day ended with the “Readers for Life” author signing, with hundreds (yes, hundreds) of authors meeting and greeting readers and signing and selling books, with proceeds going to ProLiteracy Worldwide. As well, RWA garnered the ProLiteracy Worldwide 2017 President’s Award for its commitment to literacy and its accumulated donations since 1991 of more than $1 million.

Collection Development: Prostate Health & Wellness

Tue, 08/01/2017 - 14:00

Many men do not seek medical advice or treatment unless it’s clearly essential. As part of this mind-set, they tend to ignore their (admittedly well-hidden) prostate glands unless there are problems. Some men (as well as trans women and anyone with a prostate) suffer from prostate infection, inflammation, or enlargement, often as benign prostatic hyper­plasia (BPH), which can cause pain or difficult urination. They may become interested in prostate health while getting treatment and turn to websites or books for more information.

Prostate cancer has become the most common male cancer, with some 240,000 people diagnosed in the United States and 24,000 in Canada in 2013, killing roughly ten percent of patients in those countries. Strides made in detection, monitoring, and treatment mean that most of those affected are cured or able to live with the disease as a chronic condition. Medical research is advancing toward a goal of targeted destruction of cancer cells when they are discovered within the body. What’s needed now is a test to identify found prostate cancers as either aggressive or “indolent.”

In the meantime, effective mainstream treatments such as surgery, radiation, and hormone-blocking therapies can have significant side effects. Patients require information and support to remain as functional as possible during and after treatment, and libraries should keep current. However, there are very few evidence-based books for patients published annually.


Most men diagnosed with prostate cancer will seek opinions beyond the urologist’s office. At that point, they need to have the cancer monitored or choose a treatment. Partners or close family members will likely get involved in those decisions. Some progressive hospitals or medical centers offer information seminars and counseling. Some pro­active patients will join live or online prostate cancer support groups and could benefit from the information supplied by knowledgeable attendees.

Several books, such as Richard J. Ablin and Ronald ­Piana’s The Great Prostate Hoax, have covered overtreatment, which is a valid concern. Not all prostate cancers are aggressive, and some therapies can cause permanent side effects. Monitoring, with or without a treatment option, now has a place in prostate cancer care, particularly for older men with slow-growing disease. Posttreatment is likely to present another personal research phase, as patients deal with side effects and try to live a healthier lifestyle to decrease the risk of further illness.

Should prostate cancer recur or progress, patients will be offered additional protocols and again need to make informed choices. There may be attention paid to chemotherapy and medications that combat metastatic cancer. Sadly, end-of-life care will become an issue for some.

Libraries can provide critical resources throughout the prostate cancer experience. Here are some recommendations for evidence-based books and websites. Personal testimonials are excluded, as those authors’ experiences may not be applicable to the majority of readers. Two titles are also listed in Scott Vieira’s collection development feature “Staying Healthy: Men’s Edition” (LJ 2/1/15).

Some of the best and most current information about prostate cancer is online, so libraries should make a selection of websites available for their patrons.

Starred titles () are essential acquisitions for most ­collections.

David R. Conn had a 30-year career as a special librarian and public librarian, including as collections manager of Surrey Libraries, BC. Now a freelance writer and editor based in Vancouver, BC, he has reviewed books and media for LJ since 1998

Prostate Health

Beliveau, Richard & Denis Gingras. Foods To Fight Cancer: What To Eat To Reduce Your Risk. DK. May 2017. 240p. illus. index. ISBN 9781465456281. pap. $22.95.

This well-illustrated guide explores proven cancer-fighting foods and those to avoid, with many references to prostate cancer. The recommended fare isn’t necessarily exotic: tomato sauce gets a shout-out. The authors are both professors of biochemistry.

Carter, H. Ballentine & Gerald Secor Couzens. The Whole Life Prostate Book: Everything That Every Man—at Every Age—Needs To Know About Maintaining Optimal Prostate Health. Free Pr. 2012. 467p. illus. index. ISBN 9781451621211. $26.99; pap. ISBN 9781451621228. $18; ebk. ISBN 9781451621235.

This is a rare book that genuinely deals with prostate health as well as disease. Carter (urology/oncology, Johns ­Hopkins Sch. of Medicine) and health writer Couzens have produced a complete guide. (LJ 6/1/12)

Cooking Well: Prostate Health; Over 100 Easy & Delicious Recipes for Prostate Wellness. Hatherleigh. 2011. 144p. ed. by Marie-Annick Courtier. ISBN 9781578263769. pap. $12.50.

Chef Courtier suggests a low-fat, low-sugar diet to reduce the chances of prostate trouble. She provides some general advice on eating and activity, then offers recipes for healthy Mediterranean-style breakfasts, soups, salads, entrées, side dishes, snacks, and desserts.

Taguchi, Yosh. The Prostate: Everything You Need To Know About the Man Gland. Linda Leith. 2014. 230p. ISBN 9781927535356. pap. $18.95; ebk. ISBN 9781927535363.

Taguchi (urology, McGill Univ.), drawing on his 50 years of clinical experience, muses elegantly on prostate health and illness. While covering an expansive range of issues and patient cases, he has more to say than most urologists about treating prostatitis and enlarged prostate.


American Cancer Society 

This major nonprofit provides brief information about causes, risks, prevention, detection, diagnosis, staging, treatment, and side effects. Also on the site are live chat and a cancer help line.

His Prostate Cancer 

This website was created by medical writer Dana Kababik, who is married to a prostate cancer survivor. It offers useful information for spouses or partners and covers such topics as treatments, common side effects, and intimacy. Discreet advertising supports the site.

James Buchanan Brady Urological Institute

The institute, part of Johns Hopkins University, commissions research into bladder, kidney, and prostate disease. The website offers information, Q&A sessions, and videos.

Life on ADT 

This website was set up by the authors of Androgen Deprivation Therapy: an Essential Guide for Patients and Their Loved Ones (see above). It includes video presentations about their research on the lives of men taking ADT.

Medline Plus

The National Library of Medicine hosts this comprehensive health database, updated daily. It may be topic or keyword searched for fact sheets, journal articles, tutorials, and videos. Many items are available in Spanish. Includes links to current clinical trials.

National Cancer Institute

The NCI is the federal government’s main agency for cancer research and training. Its website has a section about prostate cancer. Topics cover screening, causes and prevention, treatment, research, and ­statistics.

The New Prostate Cancer Infolink

This comprehensive nonprofit website includes news items, blogs, informative articles, video lectures, and a mentoring service. It provides links to many discussion groups and other websites.

Prostate Cancer Canada

Prostate Cancer Canada is a nonprofit that sponsors prostate cancer research and support, including a network of support groups across the country. Considerable information is posted here, including medical webinars. The website also hosts a national telephone help line.

Prostate Cancer Foundation

This foundation uses creative campaigns to sponsor innovative research, for example, partnering with Major League Baseball to help raise funds. The website offers basic information, FAQs, news, and videos.

Prostate Cancer Research Institute

This nonprofit educates patients and the public with a help line, resource center, blog, and newsletter.

Prostate Knowledge

The Harvard Medical School provides information about prostate disease, along with patient perspectives. One section discusses the increased risk of developing prostate cancer and increased death rate among African American men.

Us Too International 

Us Too bills itself as the world’s largest nonprofit prostate cancer education and support network. The site serves as a resource for assistance and educational materials. It advocates for patients and survivors, including hosting discussion groups.

Zero: The End of Prostate Cancer 

This nonprofit supports prostate cancer research and offers information, including fact sheets, webinars, and videos, plus a telephone help line. The website features information for high-risk groups.

Cancer & Treatments

Ablin, Richard J. with Ronald Piana. The Great Prostate Hoax: How Big Medicine Hijacked the PSA Test and Caused a Public Health Disaster. St. Martin’s. 2014. 272p. ISBN 9781137278746. $27; ebk. ISBN 9781137431318.

Ablin (pathology, Univ. of Arizona) is the claimed discoverer of the prostate specific antigen (PSA). Collaborating with science writer Piana, he strongly objects to its widespread application to screen for prostate cancer. He believes many men have suffered from unnecessary treatments and side effects. (LJ 2/15/14)

Centeno, Arthur. Prostate Cancer: A Man’s Guide to Treatment. 2d ed. Addicus. 2014. 170p. ISBN 9781940495408. pap. $19.95.

This short, straightforward title from urologist Centeno covers diagnosis and the major treatments available. The book also includes some information about dealing with side effects.

Chodak, Gerald. Winning the Battle Against Prostate Cancer: Get the Treatment That Is Right for You. 2d ed. Springer. 2013. 464p. ISBN 9781936303540. pap. $19.95; ebk. ISBN 9781617051852.

This detailed guide to conventional treatments for prostate cancer also offers advice on how to make treatment choices, including those relating to chemotherapy. It’s a lot of medical information, well presented. It also features a chapter on complementary and alternative medicine. Chodak is a urologist and educator.

Goldenberg, S. Larry & others. The Intelligent Patient Guide to Prostate Cancer. 4th ed. Intelligent Patient Guide. 2014. 297p. ISBN 9780981159928. pap. $34.95.

This comprehensive illustrated Canadian work is cowritten by Goldenberg, a urologist, with a radiation oncologist and a medical oncologist and intended as a personal resource for prostate cancer patients. Most of the content is about mainstream treatments, but there are chapters on healthy living, unconventional therapies, complementary treatments, and alternative options.

Wassersug, Richard & others. Androgen Deprivation Therapy: An Essential Guide for Prostate Cancer Patients and Their Loved Ones. Demos Health. 2014. 184p. ISBN 9781936303663. pap. $19.95; ebk ISBN 9781617052200.

This is an interactive manual for prostate cancer patients who plan to take androgen deprivation therapy (ADT), also known as hormone therapy. Wassersug, a research scientist at the University of British Columbia, and psychologist coauthors ­Lauren M. Walker and John W. ­Robinson guide the reader through the ADT process and its side effects, with many suggestions to help patients and loved ones adjust to physical and emotional changes.

Cancer Management/Support

Alterowitz, Ralph & Barbara Alterowitz. Intimacy with Impotence: The Couple’s Guide to Better Sex After Prostate Disease. Da Capo. 2004. 240p. ISBN 9780738207896. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9780786730032.

The Alterowitzes’ book was written to help committed partners resume intimacy in spite of erectile dysfunction or incontinence. The authors emphasize that partners must be flexible in terms of technique and expectations. The work includes a comprehensive appendix of medications and devices that may aid erections. (LJ 7/04)

Katz, Anne. Prostate Cancer and the Man You Love: Supporting and Caring for Your Partner. Rowman & Littlefield. 2012. 232p. ISBN 9781442214521. $44; pap. ISBN 9781442214538. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781442214545.

Prostate cancer has been described as a “couple’s disease,” but the literature often leaves patients’ partners in the background. This clear and helpful guide covers the prostate cancer process but is addressed specifically to patients’ spouses or partners. Katz (nursing, Univ. of Manitoba) is a clinical nurse specialist and sexuality counselor.

Melman, Arnold & Rosemary E. Newnham. After Prostate Cancer: A What-Comes-Next Guide to a Safe and Informed Recovery. Oxford Univ. 2011. 256p. illus. ISBN 9780195399660. pap. $20.95; ebk. ISBN 9780199753024.

Melman (urology, Albert Einstein Coll., Montefiore Medical Ctr.) and medical writer Newnham describe common cancer treatments and side effects and suggest methods for coping. They go into more detail than most books on this subject and include quality illustrations.

Roth, Andrew J. Managing Prostate Cancer: A Guide for Living Better. Oxford Univ. 2015. 368p. ISBN 9780199336920. pap. $21.95; ebk. ISBN 9780199336944.

Roth, a psychiatrist who works with a cancer center, focuses on the psychological impact of a prostate cancer diagnosis, treatments, and side effects, as well as simply living with the disease. This aspect of the cancer experience is seldom dealt with in such detail. Throughout, he advises readers about how to understand and deal with their feelings. (LJ 11/15/15)

Smith, William. Exercises for Cancer Wellness: Restoring Energy and Vitality While Fighting Fatigue. Hatherleigh. 2015. 112p. illus. ISBN 9781578265718. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9781578265725.

Fitness author Smith presents illustrated directions for workouts that emphasize resistance, flexibility, and cardiovascular activity. An appropriate exercise program can benefit patients physically and emotionally, while regular activity is thought to reduce the risk of cancer recurrence or relapse.


Romance Conference Presents Lovely RITAs | RWA 2017

Mon, 07/31/2017 - 13:57

Oftentimes, change can be positive, even if it turns things upside down and your internal calendar can’t determine one day from another. This year’s Romance Writers of America (RWA) annual conference in Orlando, FL, July 26–29, gave us all a bit of a challenge by rearranging the traditional timing of some of its elements, causing RITA Awards host Ally Carter to remind attendees that it was indeed Thursday, July 27, and not Saturday, when the honors were being presented, formerly the final conference activity. She did state that Friday was still Friday, so not to worry.

Delighted to receive their golden statuettes (no matter the day of the week) were:

Romance Novella: Courtney Milan, Her Every Wish (self-published)

Contemporary Romance Long: Sarah Morgan, Miracle on 5th Avenue (HQN: Harlequin; LJ 10/15/16)

Contemporary Romance Mid-length: Virginia Kantra, Carolina Dreaming (Berkley)

Contemporary Romance Short: Michelle Major, Christmas on Crimson Mountain (Harlequin Special Edition)

Young Adult Romance: Jennifer L. Armentrout, The Problem with Forever (HQN Teen: Harlequin; SLJ 4/16)

RITA winner Laura Lee Guhrke

Historical Romance Long: Laura Lee Guhrke, No Mistress of Mine (Avon)

Historical Romance Short: Kelly Bowen, A Duke To Remember (Forever: Grand Central)

Romantic Suspense: Elisabeth Naughton, Repressed (Montlake)

Paranormal Romance: Jeffe Kennedy, The Pages of the Mind (Kensington)

Erotic Romance: Roni Loren, Off the Clock (Berkley)

Romance with Religious or Spiritual Elements: Tammy L. Gray, My Hope Next Door (Waterfall)


Mainstream Fiction with a Central Romance: Weina Dai Randel, The Moon in the Palace (Sourcebooks Landmark; LJ 9/15/15)

Best First Book: Cheryl Etchison, Once and for All: An American Valor Novel (Avon Impulse; LJ Xpress Reviews 6/10/16)


For more information, see the RWA website.

Galaxy Quests | Genre Spotlight: SF/Fantasy

Mon, 07/31/2017 - 10:54
Debuts showcase diverse voices, epics reign, space operas blast off, and horror rises from the grave (again)

Speculative fiction has traditionally explored the realm of what might be rather than what is. Yet many science fiction (sf) and fantasy titles have often presented those “might be’s” from a relatively narrow range of viewpoints. Increasingly, though, publishers are emphasizing diversity and greater inclusiveness, as reflected in the backgrounds of the authors being published, the types of stories these writers are telling, and the use of myths and legends from cultures outside the well-represented Western European Celtic and Norse mythologies as source material.

The upcoming fall/winter publishing season sees the release of more titles by female authors in what have been traditionally male bastions such as hard sf and military sf and grimdark fantasy. Likewise, authors of color are a greater presence in both sf and fantasy. A noteworthy addition this year is the increased number of authors identifying as ­LGBTQ across all subgenres. As well, physically challenged writers are introducing into the genre protagonists and stories that represent their own perspectives.

Diversity & Debuts

“What we want are great stories, and the thing that’s becoming [increasingly] apparent is that there are stories that just aren’t being told,” says Harper Voyager executive editor David Pomerico. The ability to publish fiction that readers connect to is Voyager’s goal. “[With authors] like Maggie Shen King writing about the one-child policy in China, or S.A. Chakraborty writing about Islamic myths, or Ausma Zehanat Khan fighting the Taliban through her fantasy, we’re trying to explore the world we live in today.”

To change the paradigm of which stories are being told and who is telling them, publishers are actively seeking and promoting previously underrepresented voices. Each season, Harper Voyager selects one book to market as its “Spotlight Title.” Chakraborty’s The City of Brass (Nov.) is the fall 2017 pick—as well as a lead title for parent company HarperCollins. “We’ve seen major excitement for this stunning debut,” notes Pomerico. One of HarperCollins’s most talked-about and requested galleys at BookExpo/BookCon this year, the novel is a brilliantly imagined historical fantasy in which a young con artist in 18th-century Cairo discovers that she’s the last descendant of a powerful family of djinn healers and must claim her magical birthright to prevent a war. In October, Khan, the author of the acclaimed mystery The Unquiet Dead, switches genres and delivers her first fantasy novel, The Bloodprint, the opening installment in a quartet about the epic battle to defeat a superstitious patriarchy that suppresses knowledge and subjugates women.

Orbit Books, Hachette’s sf/fantasy imprint, too, is having a banner year for diverse debuts. “We have increased the number of titles we publish this year by 50 percent,” says publisher Tim Holman, “and we’re launching more new authors than ever.” Out this month is Anna Smith Spark’s debut, The Court of Broken Knives, which Holman praises as “a brilliantly told grimdark fantasy—an area that has been almost exclusively populated by male writers.” This November, Orbit is releasing Fonda Lee’s Jade City, a Godfather-style novel set in an Asia-inspired fantasy world. “It’s original and captivating, and we think readers will love getting swept away by Lee’s story,” remarks Holman.

Tor Books, which publishes the largest list of original sf and fantasy titles in the English-speaking world, is also actively acquiring material from different outlooks and cultural perspectives. Tor associate publishers Patrick Nielsen Hayden and Devi Pillai explain their company’s new direction: “It’s a big world out there, and we aim to find and publish stories that speak to all of it.”

Tor editor Jennifer Gunnels is excited about Richard Baker’s Valiant Dust (Nov.), a new military sf series featuring a Sikh hero struggling with race, class, and imperialism. “Baker manages to balance a great read with some issues drawn from today’s news,” explains Gunnels, who compares the novel to Lois McMaster Bujold’s “Vorkosigan Saga” and David Weber’s Honor Harrington books.

Senior editor Miriam Weinberg has high praise for promising newcomer K. Arsenault Rivera and her first novel, The Tiger’s Daughter (see review on p. 69), which “captures the epic lushness of a reimagined feudal East.” Weinberg is convinced that the October release, with its demon battles and ensemble of formidable, complex women, will shake up the epic fantasy scene. “Its powerful imagery and language have the potential to revolutionize the [epic] fantasy landscape, in the vein of Patrick Rothfuss or N.K. Jemisin.”

Another major Tor debut is Annalee Newitz’s Autonomous (Sept.), which explores the boundaries of gender and freedom. Senior editor Liz Gorinsky is proud to be publishing a rigorous sf book by a queer woman. “[Newitz’s] knowledge of and interest in LGBTQ+ issues shows in the queer woman protagonist but also in the complex journey one of the robot characters faces as they attempt to figure out how the human concept of gender applies to them.”

A special project for Tor senior editor Claire Eddy is Iraq + 100: Stories from Another Iraq (ed. by Hassan Blasim; Dec.), a collection of sf short stories set 100 years after the U.S.-led 2003 invasion of Iraq and written by Iraqi authors (both those who still live in that nation and those who have joined the worldwide diaspora). “I was initially drawn by the idea of reading stories from a non-Western perspective,” says Eddy. “It was an eye-opening experience in the best possible of ways, and I knew I had to publish this book.”

Small press impact

Smaller presses, too, are pushing for more inclusivity with stories that represent the broad range of human diversity in terms of culture, race, gender, and sexuality. “Genre publishers are definitely committed to exploring previously unheard perspectives,” notes Jacob Weisman, publisher of Tachyon Publications.

Its August release The New Voices of Fantasy, coedited by veteran fantasy author Peter S. Beagle and Weisman, features some of the rising stars of the past few years, including Max Gladstone, Sofia Samatar, and Alyssa Wong, as well as introducing other writers of color, LGBTQ authors, and newcomers from outside the United States. “This is directly attributable to more inclusiveness in genre publishing in the short story markets,” explains Weisman. “I firmly believe that these writers will emerge as major [authors] in our field within the next few years.”

This October, S.&S.’s Saga Press imprint brings queer women of color into the often white male stronghold of space opera with the publication of R.E. Stearns’s debut, Barbary Station, in which lesbian space pirates of color battle a murderous AI. Another Saga title, Kat Howard’s An Unkindness of Magicians (Sept.; see review p. 66), is a fantasy revenge thriller, headed by a female protagonist fighting abuse and exploitation, set in a New York City underground of magicians. “Saga’s list has been built on bringing new voices and particularly women’s voices to the forefront of the genre,” says Saga editorial director Joe Monti.

DSP Publications, a Florida boutique imprint, adds to its expanding list of sf and fantasy titles featuring LGBTQ protagonists with such entries as Xenia Melzer’s Ummana (Jul.) and The Storm Lords (Aug.) by Ravon Silvius. This October, Bellingham, WA-based Blind Eye Books, which specializes in LGBT genre fiction, is releasing Ginn Hale’s The Long Past and Other Stories (Oct.), a collection of weird Westerns featuring diverse characters.

Genderqueer sf/fantasy is the theme of Transcendent 2: The Year’s Best Transgender Speculative Fiction, edited by Bogi Takács, the second volume in Lethe Press’s new annual series (Sept.). Also, characters of differing physical abilities are represented in Tripping the Tale Fantastic: Weird Fiction by Deaf and Hard of Hearing Writers (Handtype, Oct.), edited by Christopher Jon Heuer.

Dystopia & Dysfunction

Speculative fiction has always engaged with social and political questions, especially when it came to inventing futures or alternate worlds, but Tor’s Nielsen Hayden senses that in 2017 many more writers recognized that the genre is in constant dialog with present-day social reality, and this is reflected in their work. “We all have our points of view, and we might as well get on with the business of making stories out of them,” notes Nielsen Hayden.

It turns out that many of these stories in these politically fraught times are dystopian. Two books that Harper Voyager acquired well before the 2016 presidential election examine dystopic ­futures. Christopher Brown’s strangely prescient Tropic of Kansas (Jul.) features a celebrity president and an America torn by political discord, while Maggie Shen King’s An Excess Male (Sept.; see review on p. 69) looks at a China dealing with the aftermath of a generation composed mostly of boys.

In January 2018, the publisher is releasing Sarah Tarkhoff’s near-future Sinless, in which humans are chemically modified to be beautiful or ugly to manifest their moral standing. Harper Voyager’s Pomerico points out that this series launch examines more universal phenomena rather than something specifically tied to our current day. Warning against publishing speculative fiction that is too topical, he states, “We’re still a bit early into this new era to see something that either isn’t rushed or feels simply too ripped-from-the-headlines to come across as fresh.” Instead, Pomerico seeks much the opposite: “books that are hopeful, that could possibly help readers escape—if even for a moment—the reality we live in.”

apocalypse now

Others, however, are happy to publish explorations of ways that the world might end, or at least go to hell in a handcart, and their authors are drawing on our current anxieties. Holly Goddard Jones’s second novel, The Salt Line (Putnam, Sept.) is a literary dystopian thriller with elements of horror. The monster here is a disease-bearing tick that breeds and hatches within human bodies.

After a devastating epidemic that changes the very nature of humans, two sisters, an epidemiologist and a neuro­biologist, hold the key to humanity’s survival in Eric L. Harry’s Pandora: Outbreak (Rebel Base, Jan. 2018), the first volume in an apocalyptic series from Kensington’s new digital-first imprint (see “Digital Universes,” page opposite, for more details).

Meanwhile, N.K. Jemisin concludes her award-winning postapocalyptic “The Broken Earth” epic trilogy with The Stone Sky (Orbit, Aug.), and we return to more traditional apocalyptic visions with Stephen Baxter’s The Massacre of Mankind (Crown, Aug.), the authorized sequel to H.G. Wells’s classic The War of the Worlds. It is 14 years after the “war,” and the Martians are back. This time, it’s for keeps.

Epic fantasy still rules

As HBO’s adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones moves into its penultimate seventh season, fans of Martin’s epic “Song of Ice and Fire” series are still impatiently awaiting the release of The Winds of Winter. This sixth book (of a projected eight) was originally scheduled for publication as early as 2012. Then 2013—and 2014. The date is now uncertain.

Meanwhile, readers will have to content themselves with a full-color graphic novel edition of The Mystery Knight (Bantam, Aug.), one of the thrilling “Dunk and Egg” novellas from Martin’s A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms and a prequel of sorts to A Game of Thrones, as well as a never-before-published “Song of Ice and Fire” story included in The Book of Swords (Bantam, Oct.), edited by Gardner Dozois.

Despite the publication delay, Martin’s books continue to influence the epic fantasy genre. Coming in May 2018 from Tor is Tessa Gratton’s The Queens of Innis Lear, a medieval European epic fantasy inspired by Shakespeare’s King Lear. “[It] has the provocative political drama and eerie family ties perfect for fans of Martin’s ‘Song of Ice and Fire’ series,” explains senior editor Weinberg.

This fall, another big name in epic fantasy, Stephen R. Donaldson, will be publishing Seventh Decimate (Berkley, Nov.), the start of a new trilogy about a prince seeking the legendary sorcerers’ library to save his people and the author’s first novel since completing his landmark “The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant.” At the other end, veteran writer Peter V. Brett is closing out his “Demon Cycle” epic fantasy saga in truly epic fashion with The Core (Del Rey, Oct.).

Meanwhile, Kevin Hearne, best known for his “Iron Druid Chronicles” urban fantasy series, is branching out into epic fantasy with A Plague of Giants (Del Rey, Oct.), the first book in a projected series with an entirely new mythology of shape-shifting bards, fire-wielding giants, and children who can speak to astonishing beasts.

“Kevin Hearne transformed urban fantasy with his unique voice,” says Del Rey editorial director Tricia Narwani. “Now he’s doing something similar with epic fantasy: taking a classic genre and making the inimitably Kevin Hearne version of it.” In trying this subgenre, Hearne notes that he “wanted to [simulate] the experience of a nightly bardic performance…so that readers might imagine what it would have been like to perform The Iliad or The Odyssey.” With this new series, he also wanted to feature characters who aren’t necessarily great leaders or heroes but ordinary people thrust into circumstances that require heroism.

There are plenty of debut authors in epic fantasy this season, including V.M. Escalada’s Halls of Law (DAW, Aug.), which Alexis Nixon, assistant director of publicity for Berkley Publishing Group and DAW, praises as a great choice for George R.R. Martin and Terry Brooks fans. This launch of “The Faraman Prophecy” military/magic series introduces a young female psychic who refuses to follow the rules and goes on the run from the powers that would harness her talents. Rounding out DAW’s series debuts in January is Cass Morris’s From Unseen Fire, an alternative Roman historical fantasy.

To carry on the fine tradition of antiheroes in epic fantasy, look no further than Age of Assassins (Orbit, Aug.) by R.J. Barker, in which an apprentice assassin is tasked with saving a life by a master who is up to his neck in empire-ending politics. Other debut fantastic worlds to explore in the coming months: Melissa Caruso’s The Tethered Mage (Orbit, Oct.), the first volume in a new series that centers on the relationship between an imprisoned mage and her sympathetic captor, and Ed McDonald’s Blackwing (Ace, Oct.), an unusual first-person-narrated epic fantasy featuring a bounty hunter living at the edge—of everything.

Rocketing into space

Once a subgenre in decline, overshadowed by epic fantasy’s dominance in the market, space-based sf is expanding like the universe it depicts. “The runaway success of the ‘Expanse’ series by James S.A. Corey [now a popular Syfy show] has helped make sf feel epic again,” comments Orbit’s Holman. In December, the publisher will release Persepolis Rising, the next title in Corey’s series.

Holman also notes that investment in commercial space travel has increased public interest in our solar system and that a number of writers have been looking at the moon. The most notable example is Andy Weir, who follows up his surprise best seller, The Martian, with Artemis (Crown, Nov.), a heist thriller set in a lunar city.

Other authors prefer to travel to other galaxies. In Marina J. Lostetter’s space opera debut, Noumenon (Harper Voyager, Aug.), it is the year 2088, and humankind is at last ready to explore beyond Earth’s solar system. But where do we go? Elizabeth Bonesteel’s Breach of Containment (Harper Voyager, Oct.), the third entry in her “Central Corps” series, is a riveting mix of space opera, military sf, and space-age technothriller that Harper Voyager describes as a hybrid of Corey’s gritty sf thrillers and Ann Leckie’s sociopolitical dramas.

Leckie returns this September to the military sf world of her award-winning “Ancillary” space operas with a stand-alone, Provenance (Orbit; see review on p. 67). Likewise, Pierce Brown, after the runaway success of his “Red Rising Trilogy,” mines for Iron Gold (Del Rey, Jan. 2018), a new adventure set in the same universe. Jim C. Hines, however, is investigating new frontiers in space. After concluding his funny and thoughtful “Magic Ex-Libris” urban fantasies with 2016’s Revisionary, Hines is bringing his light touch to a new humorous military sf series. The first title, Terminal ­Alliance (DAW, Nov.), introduces a team of janitors who must save their spaceship’s zombied crew—and the galaxy.

genre Mashups

With its mix of various genre themes—alien invasion, zombie apocalypse, and secret conspiracies—Hines’s “Janitors of the Postapocalypse” series is a prime example of the increased blurring of lines between distinct types of fantasy and sf. “We love to see this blend of subgenres,” explains DAW’s Nixon, “because it allows authors to both embrace familiar and beloved aspects of each genre but also deconstruct old tropes in exciting ways.”

Another DAW series, Marshall Ryan Maresca’s “Maradaine” novels, blends epic fantasy with urban fantasy, as well as the vigilante justice of superhero stories; the next title, The Imposters of Aventil, arrives in October. This month, Joshua Palmatier concludes his “Ley” trilogy with Reaping the Aurora (DAW). Nixon describes the book as blending sf and epic fantasy in a world in which complex technology and magical, landscape-changing natural phenomena interact.

Genre blending also involves going outside of the speculative fiction box, as in the case of Brad Abraham’s Magicians Impossible (Thomas Dunne: St. Martin’s, Sept.), which mixes urban fantasy with espionage fiction. Best described as Harry Potter meets James Bond, this series launch by a screenwriter features ages-old spy rings of magic-wielding secret agents. Simon R. Green also skewers both urban fantasy and Bond thrillers in his long-running “Secret Histories,” set in an alternate London. His hero is Eddie Drood, aka Shaman Bond, who is literally a dead man walking in search of his killer. His latest adventure is Moonbreaker (Ace, Jun.).

For the ultimate mashup, there is Canadian sf author James Alan Gardner’s All Those Explosions Were Someone Else’s Fault (Tor, Nov.). “It is a brilliantly witty and ingenious mashup that literally pits comic book superhero tropes against Gothic horror tropes in a never-ending battle of genre versus genre, weird science versus the supernatural,” comments Tor consulting editor Greg Cox. With fans eagerly awaiting Gardner’s first major book in years, the author is already working on a sequel, They Told Me the Gun Wasn’t Loaded.

It’s alive!

Harper Voyager’s Pomerico notes a surprising resurgence of horror. “You might not realize it, but there are people other than Stephen King writing in that genre.” At William Morrow, Voyager’s sister division of HarperCollins, the author list includes Joe Hill (King’s oldest son), Stephen Graham Jones, and Paul Tremblay.

“With writers like Tremblay and Graham Jones (and a growth in the short story market allowing new voices to find a wider audience), I think we’re seeing darker, contemporary stories that aren’t just dystopian or zombies but filled with different kinds of monsters,” says Pomerico. When a new New York subway line opens to the public, it also unleashes an ancient horror in James S. Murray and ­Darren Wearmouth’s Awakened (Harper ­Voyager, Apr. 2018). Fans of The Strain, both the book by ­Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Logan and the FX television series, are bound to be enjoyably creeped out.

Meanwhile, the master of horror himself is writing a dark, near-future thriller with his younger son, Owen King. In Sleeping Beauties (Scribner, Sept.), women fall prey to a sleeping sickness; if they are awakened, they become feral and violent. David Wong, the ­author of the darkly comic John Dies at the End, returns with the third installment of his series in What the Hell Did I Just Read (St. Martin’s, Oct.). Whatever the protagonist just read, it was gothic, scary, and hilarious in equal measure.

In the Still of the Night (St. Martin’s, Oct.), the follow-up to David L. Golemon’s acclaimed haunted-house tale The Supernaturals, has the ghost-hunting team of scientists and paranormal experts reunite to investigate a modern-day California ghost town. The horror trope of remote places haunted by past evil also continues with the scarily titled One of Us Will Be Dead by Morning (Thomas Dunne: St. Martin’s, Dec.) by David Moody. Focused on a group of people trapped on a island in the North Sea, this gloomy psychological horror thriller contains a surprising twist of dystopia, a promising note for the series that it launches.

Mira Grant, who writes more traditional and urban fantasy as ­Seanan McGuire, dons her horror/dark fantasy cap and takes us an underwater maritime adventure in Into the Drowning Deep (Orbit, Nov.) as her protagonist seeks answers to her sister’s disappearance at sea. She’ll soon find that wresting the sea’s secrets from its depths comes at a frighteningly high price.

Horror fright-fests, dystopian thrillers, diverse heroines and universes, twisty plots, and worlds of wonder are at our fingertips in this upcoming influx of speculative fiction. Sf/fantasy readers will have their ­voracious appetites whetted while looking for the next big thing to come ­along.

Marlene Harris is Solo Librarian, TAPPI (Technical Association of the Pulp & Paper Industry) Resources Library, Peachtree Corners, GA, and is the founder of the book review blog Reading Reality. She has been an LJ reviewer since 2011 and has written the LJ Best of the Year E-Originals online feature since its inception. She is also a library consultant in the Atlanta metro area

Digital Universes

As ebooks have come of age, major publishers have introduced digital sf/fantasy imprints, such as Random House’s Hydra, Impulse from Harper Voyager, and from Tor Books. Now Kensington, which already releases other digital genre fiction under the Lyrical Press imprint, will be joining the sf/fantasy ranks in January 2018 with the launch of Rebel Base Books. Meanwhile, Tor moves this summer into yet another brave new world with Tor Labs, which will focus on dramatic podcasts of original speculative fiction.

Kensington editor Martin Biro, who will be captaining Rebel Base, explains the company’s move. “We feel that the digital market is the best place both to cater to longtime fans [and] capture the attention of crossover readers.”

The initial January list of four titles, each the first volume in a new series, includes Pandora: Outbreak, an apocalyptic thriller by Eric L. Harry; J.T. Nicolas’s cyberpunk SINthetic; popular paranormal author Barb Hendee’s new fantasy, Through a Dark Glass; and Alexander Rushe’s A Meddle of Wizards. “We have fairy tale kingdoms, synthetic humans, wizards, and a globe-devastating virus,” says Biro.

Rebel Base will then release two titles a month by a mix of best-selling and debut authors, with a focus on soft sf and dark epic fantasy. Biro stresses that the imprint will continue Kensington’s proud tradition of publishing diverse stories. “We are especially interested in books with strong female protagonists.”


Tor is turning to audio for its new experimental publishing initiative. “Audio is currently one of the fastest-growing formats in publishing,” comments Tor senior editor Marco Palmier, who will be helming, with editor Jennifer Gunnels, Tor Labs, the first Big Five publishing imprint to focus on dramatic podcasts as the primary format for original speculative fiction.

The initial audio drama, Steal the Stars, is a noir sf thriller, coproduced with Gideon Media and written by award-winning podcast writer Mac Roger (The Message; LifeAfter). Debuting August 2, the 14-episode series will air weekly through the Macmillan Podcast Network and conclude in November. A novelization of the entire series will follow, as well as an ad-free audio bundle of the entire miniseries from Macmillan Audio.


Below are the forthcoming titles mentioned in this article.

AUTHOR TITLE PUBLISHER RELEASE Abraham, Brad Magicians Impossible Thomas Dunne: St. Martin’s Sept. Baker, Richard Valiant Dust Tor Nov. Barker, R.J. Age of Assassins Orbit: Hachette Aug. Baxter, Stephen The Massacre of Mankind Crown Aug. Beagle, Peter S. & Jacob Weisman, eds. The New Voices of Fantasy Tachyon Aug. Blasim, Hassan, ed. Iraq + 100 Tor Oct. Bonesteel, Elizabeth Breach of Containment Harper Voyager Oct. Brett, Peter V. The Core Del Rey: Ballantine Oct. Brown, Christopher Tropic of Kansas Harper Voyager Jul. Brown, Pierce Iron Gold Del Rey: Ballantine Jan. 2018 Caruso, Melissa The Tethered Mage Orbit: Hachette Oct. Cassidy, Nat & Mac Rogers Steal the Stars Tor Nov. Chakraborty, S.A. The City of Brass Harper Voyager Nov. Corey, James S.A. Persepolis Rising Orbit: Hachette Dec. Donaldson, Stephen R. Seventh Decimate Berkley Nov. Dozois, Gardner, ed. The Book of Swords Bantam Oct. Escalada, V.M. Halls of Law DAW Aug. Gardner, James Alan All Those Explosions Were Someone Else’s Fault Tor Nov. Golemon, David L. In the Still of the Night St. Martin’s Oct. Grant, Mira Into the Drowning Deep Orbit: Hachette Nov. Gratton, Tessa The Queens of Innis Lear Tor May 2018 Green, Simon R. Moonbreaker Ace Jun. Hale, Ginn The Long Past and Other Stories Blind Eye Oct. Harry, Eric L. Pandora: Outbreak Rebel Base: Kensington Jan. 2018 Hearne, Kevin A Plague of Giants Del Rey: Ballantine Oct. Hendee, Barb Through a Dark Glass Rebel Base: Kensington Jan. 2018 Heuer, Christopher Jon, ed. Tripping the Tale Fantastic: Weird Fiction by Deaf and Hard of Hearing Writers Handtype Oct. Hines, Jim C. Terminal Alliance DAW Nov. Howard, Kat An Unkindness of Magicians Saga: S. & S. Sept. Jemisin, N.K. The Stone Sky Orbit: Hachette Aug. Jones, Holly Goddard The Salt Line Putnam Sept. Khan, Ausma Zehanat The Bloodprint Harper Voyager Oct. King, Maggie Shen An Excess Male Harper Voyager Sept. King, Stephen & Owen King Sleeping Beauties Scribner Sept. Leckie, Ann Provenance Orbit: Hachette Sept. Lee, Fonda Jade City Orbit: Hachette Nov. Lostetter, Marina J. Noumenon Harper Voyager Aug. Maresca, Marshall Ryan The Imposters of Aventil DAW Oct. McDonald, Ed Blackwing Ace Oct. Martin, George R.R., Ben Avery, Mark S. Miller (illus.) The Mystery Knight Bantam Aug. Melzer, Xenia Ummana DSP Jul. Moody, David One of Us Will Be Dead by Morning Thomas Dunne: St. Martin’s Dec. Morris, Cass From Unseen Fire DAW Jan. 2018 Murray, James S. & Darren Wearmouth Awakened Harper Voyager Apr. 2018 Newitz, Annalee Autonomous Tor Sept. Nicolas, J.T. SINthetic Rebel Base: Kensington Jan. 2018 Palmatier, Joshua Reaping the Aurora DAW Aug. Rivera, K. Arsenault The Tiger’s Daughter Tor Oct. Rushe, Alexander A Meddle of Wizards Rebel Base: Kensington Jan. 2018 Silvius, Ravon The Storm Lords DSP Aug. Spark, Anna Smith The Court of Broken Knives Orbit: Hachette Aug. Stearns, R.E. Barbary Station Saga: S. & S. Oct. Takács, Bogi, ed. Transcendent 2: The Year’s Best Transgender Speculative Fiction Lethe Sept. Tarkhoff, Sarah Sinless Harper Voyager Jan. 2018 Weir, Andy Artemis Crown Nov. Wong, David What the Hell Did I Just Read St. Martin’s Oct.






Reading Diana, Princess of Wales | Wyatt’s World

Wed, 07/26/2017 - 14:57

On Monday, July 27, HBO aired the documentary Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy, marking a run of special broadcasts leading up to the 20th anniversary of the princess’s death on August 31, 1997. For readers interested in learning more about Diana and the royal family, these excellent backlist titles and new releases make great additions to displays and booklists.

  • The Day Diana Died by Christopher Andersen (Morrow).
    With Diana’s death came a period of global mourning and disbelief. Andersen’s account of the days before and after the fatal car accident that took her life captures that shock, tracing the reactions and fallout from the events that followed, including the responses of Prince Charles and Queen Elizabeth. Published in 1999 and a best seller in its time, it once again evokes the anger and sorrow felt by so many.
  • William & Catherine’s New Royal Family: Celebrating the Arrival of Princess Charlotte by Ian Lloyd (Carlton).
    The legacy of Princess Diana lives well beyond her personal style and many charity efforts, resting in the lives of her children and grandchildren. The recent interest in Prince William and wife Catherine’s trip to Europe proves the next generation has plenty of followers, as this photo-rich book focuses on the second, third, and fourth in line to the throne.
  • Diana: Her True Story—In Her Own Words by Andrew Morton (S. & S.).
    First published in 2009, Morton’s blockbuster biography has had a long shelf life and is considered one of the key titles in the Diana canon. Update the collection with this 20th anniversary edition, which includes a fresh foreword and afterword as well as previously unpublished material Morton gathered while working on the original account.
  • Remembering Diana: A Life in Photographs by National Geographic Eds. (National Geographic, Aug.).
    Some of the most popular titles on Princess Diana are the oversize photography books that document her resonant fashion sense. This latest addition features great classic and lesser-known images as well as commentary from celebrities and context provided by journalist Tina Brown. It joins the many earlier works that have a new chance to circulate in the next few weeks.
  • Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life by Sally Bedell Smith (Random).
    There is no way to talk about the beloved Queen of Hearts without running into the quagmire of her marital strife. Smith offers insights into both Diana’s marriage to Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Charles’s current wife, while taking a meticulous look at the man who would be king.

Dog-Eared Pages & Hot Stages | What We’re Reading & Watching

Tue, 07/25/2017 - 17:36

Last week, when I wrote to the staffers at LJ and School Library Journal (and to our illustrious alumni), it was too darn hot. It felt like the dog days had finally hit (after a cool and pleasant summer, which suited me just fine). So I asked the “What We’re Reading & Watching” contributors what they were reading in air-conditioned comfort, or by the pool, or on the beach. I also asked if they were slipping into frigid cinemas to while away the dog days with a summer blockbuster or art-house film. They lit up my inbox with hot-hot-hot replies, including my favorite from LJ Prepub Alert Editor (and doting mama) Barbara Hoffert, who sent along a fantastic YouTube video of her darling daughter Michael Anne belting out “Too Darn Hot” in a cabaret setting.

Other respondents latched onto the dog days theme, with an unusual dog memoir and the adventures of Dog Man. YA tales abound, with a teen librarian, a graphic novelization of A Wrinkle in Time, and a murder mystery marrying The Breakfast Club. We have a sf title that cuts a little too close to the truth, too, and the true stories of the suffering of innocents, both in the 21st century and in colonial Connecticut. Not to mention a tip of the horror hat to film director George Romero from newly minted “film historian” Tyler Hixson. It seems a pity to point out that the weather in New York has cooled off, but the heat index in the “WWR/WWW” sector is off the charts this week.

Liz French, Senior Editor, LJ Reviews
For the next LJ memoir column, I’m covering Heather Harpham’s Happiness: The Crooked Little Road to Semi-Ever After (Holt). The book is sometimes harrowing, sometimes lyrical, and often funny despite its themes (sick baby, single motherhood, ambivalent father, family weirdness). Here’s Harpham discussing Hollywood happiness with her mom, who also seems like an interesting person (maybe she should write a memoir, too):

I didn’t say any of this to my mom. Instead, I held up People magazine and pointed at a picture of Halle Berry wearing ripped jeans, flip flops, and a white men’s shirt as she pumped gas not as a mere mortal but as a demigod whose body inspired an unwavering allegiance from any object it touched. On her, the button-down shirt was impossibly sexy.

“Look how buoyant she is,” I said. “Her body practically floats. How is that possible?”

“Untold hours of yoga,” my mom said. “Or, an all-raw, mostly nothing diet combined with salt scrubs and Finnish saunas. Whatever it is, regular people don’t have time to be buoyant. Anyway, not everything is the way it appears; I’m sure there are unseen things weighing her down.”

We routinely discussed celebrities as if they were extended family members. In fact, my mom believed celebrity culture had replaced tribal affiliations.

Daryl Grabarek, Senior Editor, SLJ
During a visit to one of my favorite bookshops (R.J. Julia’s in Madison, CT), I saw a copy of Jon C. Blue’s The Case of the Piglet’s Paternity: Tales from the New Haven Colony, 1639–1663. I was intrigued. I grew up on the Connecticut shore, within the perimeters of that colony, albeit some 400-plus years later. Sure enough, there are a few family names mentioned that are still local to the area. Cases of poaching, arson, and thievery, involving men, women, and children—those, too, are there—recorded in incredible detail. Even a suspected witch makes an appearance, one that the court was remarkably lenient with, given how strict the law was (biblical law, with a penchant for extracting confessions). I was surprised by the number of cases—beyond the “frisky couples” caught in the act—that were sexual in nature. Most were ones in which boys, girls, and women in service were the victims. Blame the victim? Nothing new. An adult woman, who was harassed or molested, was whipped along with the perpetrator—in public. In one case a woman’s husband was also whipped because he didn’t report the crime. When asked why he didn’t report the crime he said because he was afraid his wife would be whipped. Don’t even ask what the piglet’s paternity was about….

Tyler Hixson, WWR/WWW emeritus & film historian
I just finished the incredible novel Strange the Dreamer (Little, Brown for Young Readers) by Laini Taylor. It’s so beautifully written and thrilling. The story follows teenage librarian Lazlo Strange, who is chosen to go on an expedition to the lost city of Weep, which hasn’t been heard from in more than 200 years. When the party arrives, led by the hero of Weep, the legendary Godslayer, Lazlo and Co. are confronted with a mysterious problem, and Lazlo has so many more questions than answers—especially questions about the strange blue-skinned girl who begins showing up in his dreams.

This one-of-a-kind story is filled with characters who are personable, real, and incredible. The prose is gorgeous, it’s one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read. The second book in this duology can’t come soon enough.

In response to being named the speaker at this year’s FEARnyc horror film festival honoring the late, great George A. Romero, I refamiliarized myself with Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, arguably his two best zombie movies. If you’ve seen these iconic films, then you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, then you need to experience them for yourself. Approach them with an unblemished mind, because part of their staying power is the many ways they can be interpreted.

Amanda Mastrull, Assistant Editor, LJ Reviews
I’m currently reading Karen M. McManus’s One of Us Is Lying (Delacorte), a YA novel I’d heard a lot about before finally picking it up myself. I follow a librarian on Twitter who tweeted about a review that calls the book “Breakfast Club meets murder mystery” and thought, “I love both of these things, why haven’t I read this book?” I then immediately placed a library hold. I’m glad I did. Five students—the brain, the beauty, the criminal, the athlete, and the outcast—go into detention and only four come out alive. Simon, the outcast, suffers a fatal allergic reaction after drinking a glass of water in detention. How did peanut oil get in the cup? Why were both his and the school’s emergency backup EpiPen missing? Simon, the creator and curator of a gossip app that shared the embarrassing (but always true) exploits of his classmates, definitely had his share of people who weren’t pleased with him, so suspects abound. The book is told from the alternating points of view of the surviving students in that detention, which also has me hooked—What did Bronwyn do to raise her chem grade last year? What’s Addy’s problem with some guy called TJ? Does Nate know more than he’s letting on? Who is texting Cooper “Hey handsome” while he’s standing in front of his girlfriend? And, of course, who wrote the Tumblr post claiming responsibility for Simon’s death? I’m only about 60 pages in and clearly have more questions than answers right now, but I’m looking forward to finding out what happened in that classroom.

Lisa Peet, Associate Editor, News & Features, LJ
I just finished a galley of poet Eileen Myles’s Afterglow: A Dog Memoir (Grove: Atlantic). A lot of the time I find that the prose of poets can be so packed with meaning that it’s by nature uneven—though I guess the same could be true for poetry as a whole. That’s definitely the case with this book, but I get the feeling that Myles would be just fine with the idea of readers taking what they want and leaving the rest—she’s managed to sandwich an entire worldview into an elegy for her late pit bull. Some of the writing is simply gorgeous, lyrical, madly associative, and evocative. And some of it I found to be too dense or esoteric. I was perfectly happy to just read along and let the words settle to the bottom in order for the stuff that resonated for me to rise. Although Myles definitely stretches the definition of “a dog memoir,” there is some marvelous writing on dogs here, dog ownership in particular—both in descriptions of the intense scrutiny that’s borne out of love and also the dilemma of that tenderness and adoration weighed against the wrongness of leading another living being around by the neck. I love the author’s directness, often bordering on crudeness, and the adoration that shines through for her departed Rosie—”the physiognomy of dearness unsurpassed.” This one takes a little suspension of the need to absorb every sentence, but the rewards are great.

Meredith Schwartz, Executive Editor, LJ
I’m reading Charles Stross’s The Delirium Brief (, the latest in his “Laundry Files” series—think Bond-esque spies plus vaguely Lovecraftian mythos (minus the racism) plus office/government bureaucracy humor. This is the book the author had to stop and rewrite after recent current events made it clear he’d under- (or over-) estimated the way the UK government handles crises. And it shows—there’s much more involvement from the rest of the government in this book, not only the Ministry of Magic, and its eccentricities and shortcomings are no longer funny.

Henrietta Verma, WWR emerita
I just started what everyone and their mother is reading, A.J. Finn’s The Woman in the Window (Morrow). I’ve heard great things about this book and am looking forward to diving in further. I’m also listening to nightly doses of Dog Man Unleashed (GRAPHIX), the Wimpy Kid of whatever this decade is called. The main character is literally a dog-man. According to my six-year-old superfan, a police officer and a dog were both on the brink of death. Only the dog’s head and the cop’s body could be saved, so “the hospital lady” sewed the dog’s head onto the man’s body, and voilà, he hasn’t looked back. Other plot points are that the bad guy is a cat called Petey and “they solve crimes.” My son has read this book over and over and is dying for the third installment, Dog Man: A Tale of Two Kitties, which comes out next month. The series is by Dav Pilkey, author of Captain Underpants, and happily it is very Underpants-esque in its slapstick and potty humor.

Ashleigh Williams, Editorial Assistant, SLJ
After the trailer for Ava DuVernay’s film adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time dropped (and made me cry deliriously happy tears), I raced to the library in hopes of picking up the Madeleine L’Engle novel that owned my heart before Harry Potter. They were out, so I decided to give the graphic novel adaptation by Hope Larson, A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel (Farrar) a try. While the cover looks pretty bold and exciting, not to mention colorful, the interior art is colored entirely in black, white, and a sort of pastel periwinkle. You’d think that scheme would be great for a space story, but everything just seems kinda…twilight-ish (absolutely no pun intended), and those tones really don’t capture the glorious creepiness of “dark planet” Camazotz or the collective majesty of Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsit, and Mrs. Which. Again, DuVernay does an awesome job of highlighting Camazotz’s sinister synthetic uniformity in the film trailer. Readers are also robbed of a substantial amount of Meg’s internal monolog, rendering some of her outbursts and comments a little disjointed. The lack of context also makes the religious overtones and good (light) vs. evil (shadow) trope feel heavyhanded. Overall, I’m hoping to get my hands on the original version, to see if it’s nostalgia or justified admiration that had me crying over Oprah (!!!!) in a sf movie.








ITW Thriller Awards 2017

Thu, 07/20/2017 - 14:55

The 2017 ITW (International Thriller Writers) Thriller Awards were presented, as they have been for the past 12 years, at a sit-down banquet at the Grand Hyatt in midtown New York City. Many people who’ve been there from the start were on hand Saturday, July 15, to present and accept accolades from their colleagues in thrillerdom. Plus, there was singing!

The mood was festive and friendly as author Kathleen Antrim (Capital Offense), ITW past president and mistress of ceremonies, introduced herself and the ITW board of directors and thanked the sponsors of ThrillerFest. She then turned the stage over to prolific author (Dark Rites; If Looks Could Kill) Heather Graham, who also sings. This time 2016 ThrillerMaster Graham sang an ode to 2017 ThrillerMaster Lee Child. She was backed by authors Daniel Palmer (Forgive Me) and Brad Parks (Say Nothing, LJ 12/16) in an amusingly reworded version of Carly Simon’s “Nobody Does It Better.”

Next came a brief Presidents’ Report from ITW copresidents M.J. Rose (The Library of Light and Shadow, LJ 4/1/17) and John Lescroart (Fatal, LJ 10/1/16). They bade farewell to Rose, who’s stepping down this year, and to Janice Gable Bashman, VP of technology.

Jon Land was up next. The “Caitlin Strong” author presented the 2017 Thriller Legend Award to publisher Tom Doherty, extolling his excellent business sense and loyalty to his authors and employees at Tor Publishing. Land compared Doherty to other titans in the industry such as Bennett Cerf and Alfred A. Knopf.

Lescroart, who received the 2016 Silver Bullet Award, returned to praise 2017 Silver Bullet recipient Lisa Gardner (Find Her, starred review, LJ 2/1/16) for  “outstanding charity work” in her New Hampshire hometown and beyond. Gardner spoke about her work with therapy dog charities and her local library and discussed how important “early intervention” is in children’s lives, especially those from at-risk environments.

After the special awards segment of the program, the Thriller Awards presentation began. Below is a listing of the awards, the presenters, the nominees, and the winner in each category (starred).

Best E-Book Original Novel, presented by Todd Gerber
Romeo’s Way (Compendium Press) by James Scott Bell*

The Edge of Alone (Sean Black) by Sean Black
Untouchable (Wonder Women Publishing) by Sibel Hodge
Destroyer of Worlds (J.F. Penn ) by J.F. Penn
Breaker (Alibi) by Richard Thomas
*Bell thanked his wife of 36 years, his “first editor”

Best Young Adult Novel, presented by Carla Buckley
Morning Star (Del Rey) by Pierce Brown
Holding Smoke (Disney-Hyperion) by Elle Cosimano
Steeplejack (Tor Teen) by A.J. Hartley*
Thieving Weasels (Dial) by Billy Taylor
The Darkest Corners  (Delacorte) by Kara Thomas
*Hartley told of how he read Lee Child novels to his ailing father

Best Short Story, presented by Chantelle Osman
“The Business of Death” by Eric Beetner, Unloaded: Crime Writers Writing Without Guns (Down & Out Bks.)
“The Peter Rabbit Killers” by Laura Benedict, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine
“The Man from Away” by Brendan DuBois, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine
“Big Momma” by Joyce Carol Oates, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine*
“Parallel Play” by Art Taylor, Chesapeake Crimes: Storm Warning (Wildside Pr.)
*Oates was in Paris and unable to accept her award in person; the audience sighed in sympathy

Best Paperback Original, presented by Barry Lancet
In the Clearing (Thomas & Mercer) by Robert Dugoni
The Body Reader (Thomas & Mercer) by Anne Frasier*
The Minoan Cipher (Suspense Publishing) by Paul Kemprecos
Kill Switch (St. Martin’s Griffin) by Jonathan Maberry
Salvage (Dundurn) by Stephen Maher

Best First Novel, presented by Allison Brennan
Deadly Kiss (Black Opal) by Bob Bickford
Type and Cross (WiDo Publishing) by J.L. Delozier
Recall (Lyrical Underground) by David McCaleb
The Drifter (Putnam) by Nick Petrie*
Palindrome (Witness Impulse) by E.Z. Rinsky
*after uttering “Holy shit!” the author thanked his “sweet patootie”

Best Hardcover Novel, presented by Dawn Ius
You Will Know Me (Little, Brown) by Megan Abbott
Where It Hurts (Putnam) by Reed Farrel Coleman
Before the Fall (Grand Central) by Noah Hawley*
Arrowood (Spiegel & Grau) by Laura McHugh
Underground Airlines (Mulholland) by Ben H. Winters

The finale of the evening was Heather Graham’s presentation of the 2017 ThrillerMaster Award to ”Jack Reacher” author Lee Child “in recognition of his legendary career and outstanding contributions to the genre”—but before that, Parks and Palmer returned to sing Child’s praises to the tune of a Beatles medley—Child’s favorite group. “Paperback Writer” became “Tiny Jack Reacher” and “Eight Days a Week” became “Eight Blurbs a Week.” The duo finished, the crowd roared its approval, and Child strode to the stage amid a standing ovation, adding “How can I follow that?”

The last bit of thrilling news was the announcement of next year’s ThrillerMaster: Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin will preside over the 2018 festivities, July 10–13, at the usual spot, New York’s Grand Hyatt.

Families & Addiction, Philosophers, Two Debuts, & Joyce Maynard | Memoir

Thu, 07/13/2017 - 11:26

This month we have a grab-bag of books about drug addiction, prevailing against all odds, almost forgotten ancestors, and a Renaissance philosopher. Really, there’s something for just about everybody. [A review of Joyce Maynard’s cancer memoir is also included.—Ed.] Until next time, happy reading!

Fitzmaurice, Simon. It’s Not Yet Dark. Houghton Harcourt. Aug. 2017. 176p. ISBN 9781328916716. $23; ebk. ISBN 9781328918581. MEMOIR
Filmmaker Fitzmaurice’s debut memoir is a life-affirming chronicle of his struggle with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), very sparely written. After his diagnosis and contrary to conventional medical advice, the author chooses to go on a ventilator so that he can live as full a life as possible, at home. He and his wife go on to have more children, and he completes his first feature film, which was released earlier this year. In a particularly effective section, Fitzmaurice suddenly plunges into his life before ALS. In breathless prose, he takes us through his first job, first kiss, experiences traveling abroad, all leading up to the time when he met his wife and his life changed. Then, just as quickly, we are brought back to the present. It’s a marvelous narrative device that’s not often encountered in memoirs and fully cements readers’ identification with the author. VERDICT This memoir is a quick read that will long remain in the minds of its audience.

Perry, Michael. Montaigne in Barn Boots: An Amateur Ambles Through Philosophy. Harper. Nov. 2017. 240p. bibliog. ISBN 9780062230560. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062230584. MEMOIR
This warm and humorous memoir by New York Times writer Perry gives us a crash course in the life and ideas of Renaissance philosopher Michel de Montaigne (1533–92). Montaigne’s thinking was famously flexible, and he seemingly wrote something about everything. Here, Perry takes us through Montaigne’s, and his own, thoughts on sex, marriage, forgetfulness, kidney stones, religion, and a number of other matters. The author shares with his subject a seemingly congenital humility, combined with an openness to new ideas and ways of thinking. Readers will laugh out loud frequently while reading this very funny memoir, as this reviewer did, yet it’s a profound laughter that comes from the writing, which gets you thinking. VERDICT One couldn’t hope for a better introduction to the work of Perry or Montaigne. [See Prepub Alert, 5/15/17.]

Rausing, Sigrid. Mayhem. Knopf. Sept. 2017. 224p. ISBN 9780451493125. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780451493132. MEMOIR
This is a shallow book masquerading as something deeper. Editor (Granta magazine) and author (History, Memory: Identity in Post-Soviet Estonia; Everything Is Wonderful) Rausing attempts to explore her brother’s and now-deceased sister-in-law’s drug addictions. She writes around the issue and quotes authorities on the matter, but little time is spent actually exploring the lives of addicts themselves. Though the disease has profound effects on families, all of whom respond in their own way, there is no sense here of the impact on the Rausing family, or if it was in any way unique. The author’s writing initially dazzles, then appears vacuous upon a second glance. Chapters often end with such pseudoprofundities as: “We live, and then we die. Things end.” VERDICT There are thousands of addiction memoirs out there; this is not the place to start. Readers might want to try Jerry Stahl’s Permanent Midnight or Mary Karr’s Lit instead. [See Prepub Alert, 4/3/17.]

Williams, Brooke. Open Midnight: Where Ancestors & Wilderness Meet. Trinity Univ. Mar. 2017. 232p. illus. ISBN 9781595348036. pap. $17.95; ebk. ISBN 9781595348043. MEMOIR
Wilderness advocate Williams’s debut memoir has two major strands. He writes about his time in southern Utah “ground truthing” maps—that is, verifying that roads on maps exist as roads in reality—and campaigning for preserving that state’s wild places. Into this narrative he blends the story of his English ancestor, William Williams. Knowing little about this man but feeling his spirit more and more profoundly each day, the author re-creates details of his relative’s life, in passages that are obviously fictionalized. It is the spirit of this ancestor that spurs Williams into even greater advocacy for saving what’s left of our wilderness, through the seemingly paradoxical idea that the wilderness saves us more than we save it. VERDICT An unusual memoir that will not be for everybody but should be read by lovers of the outdoors or those rethinking their relationship with their environment.

additional Memoir

Maynard, Joyce. The Best of Us. Bloomsbury USA. Sept. 2017. 448p. ISBN 9781635570342. $27; ebk. ISBN 9781635570366. MEMOIR
Maynard—novelist (Under the Influence) essayist, memoirist, columnist, commentator, and unofficial voice of women of a certain age—chronicles the next frontier facing baby boomers in her account of later-in-life love and loss. Twenty-five years after a contentious divorce, and after weathering years of solo parenting, bad romance, critical press, and disrupted adoptions, Maynard married Jim Barringer, a Bay Area lawyer. Barringer could have stepped out of Central Casting as “Joyce’s soul mate.” The pair reveled in their idyllic relationship until, just after their first anniversary, Jim was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. In the 19 months leading up to Jim’s death, Maynard tells us that she found a capacity for love, understanding, and partnership she had never known, even as she struggled to adapt to the drastic changes in her life. While the terror and torturous course of Jim’s disease are not sugarcoated, Maynard’s memoir conveys the joy the couple maintained in her conversational telling of the latest chapter in the life she has been living out loud for many years. VERDICT Although the specter of Jim’s death hangs over the book from the prolog, Maynard’s story is not a solemn one; it is more of a love letter to a love story. [See Prepub Alert, 3/8/17.] —Thérèse Purcell Nielsen, Huntington P.L., NY


Veeps, Saul, Lynch, Jail, & Federer FTW | What We’re Watching

Wed, 07/12/2017 - 11:30

I better post this column quick, before a reader jumps in to ruin the perfect unanimity of “What We’re Watching” this week! Of course our gang reads—matter of fact, LJ Executive Editor Meredith Schwartz just confided that she was reading a book that made her so angry she didn’t want to sully the “What We’re Reading” column with a takedown—but this time the whole gang is watching and discussing what they’re watching on the telly (or tablet). I’m inspired by Irving’s write-up to take a chance on HBO’s Veep, by  Mahnaz’s enthusiasm for Orange Is the New Black to go on a tangerine (make that pumpkin) binge; Kiera’s appreciation of the art of David Lynch to travel back to Twin Peaks; and amused by Amanda’s Federer fealty to the point that I might even watch a match! (drops mic.) And I fangirl all over the amazing acting in AMC’s Better Call Saul, it’s a win-win/watch-watch situation.

Irving Cumberbatch, Art Director, LJ
As MSNBC cable news host Chris Matthews once said of Barack Obama’s 2004 Democratic National Convention speech, “I get a thrill up my leg!” That thrill for me comes every time I hear the familiar strains of the theme song for the HBO series Veep. This show marries two of my greatest loves, politics and comedy. This wink-wink satire on the travails of U.S. President Selina Meyer and her merry band of sycophants has been bumbling along for the past six seasons. The title role of Selina is played to devastating effect by Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Her character originally started out as the beleaguered vice president, often forgotten and always misunderstood by her boss, whether it’s being left out of cabinet meetings, shunted off to the obligatory ribbon cutting, or given a dead-end Clean Jobs Bill to shepherd. She endured these indignities and more during her three years as vice president. After the sitting president steps down to care for his ailing wife, Selina ascends to the presidency. Once in office, she travels to Iran; advocates a controversial Families First Bill that goes down in flames in Congress; then there was a congressional hearing to determine whether or not Selina hired lobbyists to get the bill to fail. All of this and more occurred during the span of her short one-year term while also running for reelection.

The current Season 6 picks up months after Selina has lost her bid, and now the former president has to deal with the aftermath. She’s forced to downsize from the White House residence to living in a Manhattan brownstone, which she shares with her much put-upon lesbian daughter and her daughter’s taciturn lover, and setting up an office in nearby Washington Heights. This season Selina has had to suffer through the indignities of having her wax figure placed next to Gerald Ford. Attempts to quash a Washington Post exposé on her tumultuous presidency backfires on her. She is essentially forced to beg, borrow, and steal for donations to help fund her presidential library. The discovery that her deceased father cheated on her mother for years with his secretary leads Selina to realize that she has married her father in the form of her serial cheating ex-husband. Oh, and she’s going to be a grandmother.

Louis-Dreyfus has an uncanny ability to convey her character’s lack of self-awareness. The more insecure her character becomes, the sharper and more dismissive her retorts. Selina’s withering glances are their own soliloquy. A simple hand gesture can help to punctuate what could otherwise be considered an innocuous throwaway line. The supporting cast is top-notch. A special shout-out to her bagman Gary (Kent Davison), who is at her side whether it’s to provide support, hand lotion, or a tampon. Veep is at times subversive, vulgar, and just downright cruel. Did I mention this is my favorite comedy on television right now?  Between the backroom deals, boldface lobbying, and naked desperation for power, this satire is not so far removed from what appears to be the current state of affairs in our nation’s capital.

Mahnaz Dar, Assistant Managing Editor, LJS
The Fourth of July may be about red, white, and blue, but for me, it was more orange and black. I spent the long weekend bingeing on everyone’s favorite prison drama, Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black. The latest Season 5 takes place over the course of about three days, with the prisoners at Litchfield engaged in a riot. Season 4 took a dark turn. The prison came under private management, and a white guard killed a black inmate during a protest. Now erupting in anger, the prisoners are fighting back, taking several guards hostage. The show takes on serious themes such as the Black Lives Matter movement and how the privatization of these institutions ultimately dehumanizes those incarcerated. There are plenty of bizarre and whimsical moments, too, and at times the show borders on grotesque as it blends the hilarious and the more serious, such as when the inmates force the hostage guards to take part in an America’s Got Talent–esque competition (yes, complete with a strip show!).

Liz French, Senior Editor, LJ Reviews
I was never a hard-core Breaking Bad fan (ducks under her desk). I’ve seen some episodes and know the general trajectory, and I definitely perked up when Giancarlo Esposito, aka Gustavo Fring, came on the scene. I was also amused by Bob Odenkirk’s character, the slimy lawyer Saul Goodman. He was sort of comically bad while the title character, Walter White, played by Bryan Cranston, was just bad bad. So I was interested when Better Call Saul, the “prequel” to Breaking Bad, was announced, and even more intrigued when Esposito joined the cast. I discussed the show with my colleague Mahnaz and pretty soon I was hooked. I have yet to watch this season’s finale, but the show is soooo good! The writing is excellent, and Odenkirk is devastating in it as he turns from freewheeling Jimmy McGill into Saul. Michael McKean, who plays his agoraphobic (and more) brother Chuck, also a lawyer, deserves at least six Emmy Awards. Ditto Mark Margolis, who reprises (pre-reprises?) his role as Hector Salamanca, a nasty drug dealer, and Jonathan Banks, who as Mike Ehrmantraut, should get  special citation for conveying so much yet saying so little. He’s like Mount Rushmore. There are females in the show, though not so many (nor as complex) as in Breaking. Rhea Seehorn as Kim Wexler, “Jimmy’s” love interest of sorts, is all coiled efficiency; Tina Parker as Francesca Liddy is a goofy receptionist. It’s mostly a boy’s club though, and I worry about any of the characters, male or female, who did not appear in Breaking Bad. What happened to Nacho, Kim, Chuck? I fear they came to a Bad end.

Kiera Parrott, Reviews Director, LJS
My husband and I have been digging the new season of Twin Peaks—a show over 25 years in the making! It’s pure David Lynch—puzzling, beautiful, frustrating, and addictive. It’s best appreciated if you’ve already seen the original first two seasons and watched the feature film, Fire Walk with Me. But if you’re expecting a conventional continuation of the narrative, you’re likely to be disappointed—or just plain confused. My advice: don’t go into it looking for structure. Experience it the way you would a work of modern art. Let the sights, sounds, and textures of performance wash over you. It’s more felt than understood explicitly. So far my favorite episode is “Part 8: Gotta Light?” It’s a stunning piece of television. Just when you think nothing new could possibly be done in this medium, Lynch comes back and blows your mind again.

Amanda Mastrull, Assistant Editor, LJ Reviews
I spent last Saturday watching the Wimbledon Championship tennis tournament.That probably doesn’t surprise anyone who knows me, given how much I love tennis, but this year the event feels particularly special. Roger Federer, my favorite player, started this season with a dream run after six months off resting an injury during the latter half of 2016. So far he’s won all of the main hard court tournaments (the Australian Open and the Sunshine Double of Indian Wells and Miami) and one of two grass court tournaments in the run-up to Wimbledon. Given that resurgence and his history, he has a real chance at his eighth Wimbledon title this year. I watched a few matches on Saturday, July 8, (there’s no play on the middle Sunday), but it was Federer’s match I really wanted to see. He played Mischa Zverev, whom he’s never lost to, and won in straight sets. Zverev is an old-school serve and volley player, which made for some interesting net play, but I was very happy to see Federer come out on top. He looks sharp and is on form (his backhand though), and I’m hopeful he’ll go all the way. His future in the draw isn’t the easiest: following a straight sets win over Grigor Dimitrov on July 10, today he faces Milos Raonic in the quarterfinal. He lost to Raonic in the semifinals last year. If he wins, he’ll face Novak Djokovic (who beat him in the 2014 and 2015 finals) or Tomas Berdych in the semi-finals. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on those matches. As for TV viewing this weekend, here’s hoping that I’ll be taking in Federer’s victory in the men’s final on Sunday.






“Class Mom” Laurie Gelman Earns Top Honors | Debut Spotlight

Mon, 07/10/2017 - 18:58

Laurie Gelman has put her stamp on the world of women’s fiction with her debut novel, Class Mom (LJ 5/1/17), which revolves around the antics of kindergarten class mom Jen Dixon. Here, the author gives a behind-the-scenes peek into her writing process, shedding light on how the book came to life.

So many women—regardless if they are mothers or not—will be able to relate to Class Mom. What attracted you to the story?
I did a lot of complaining about being a class mom. I would tell my agent stories and have him in stitches; he suggested I write them down. I wove them all together, filled in the blanks, and out came a book. I’m as surprised as anyone.

Jen’s emails to the parents were laugh-out-loud funny! Are there characteristics of you in Jen?

The very first email Jen sends is pretty much verbatim [a version of] the ones I sent my class each year. So I would say yes, there is a bit of me in my main character. Just a bit though. I’m nowhere near as cool as she is.

What was the best and worst part of being a class mom?
My favorite part was something I did not include in the book. It was getting to be in the classroom for all the parties and other events. My girls’ faces would light up when I came into the room. I guess I did include a bit of that when Jen helps out on picture day. My least favorite part was being treated like an employee by the other parents who would conveniently forget that I was not being paid for this job.

Did you embellish any particular situations that Jen encountered? Was Miss Ward based on your daughters’ real-life teachers?
I embellished the parent-teacher conference a bit to play along with Miss Ward’s crazy personality, but I did not exaggerate the tiny chairs and risking your life trying to get in and out of them. No, the girls have never had a teacher like that. I hope no one has!

What scene(s) did you most enjoy writing? What was your favorite part of the process?
[Writing] the emails was definitely my favorite part. I used some of my original emails, although I had to adapt them a bit. My favorite part of the writing process was actually the rewriting. I would write in the morning and edit in the evening with a glass of wine. That just might be where the funny stuff came from.

Besides Jen, were you especially attached to any character?
The whole heartbroken [aspect of] Nina was fun to write, but I’d have to say my favorite was Jen’s mother, Kay. She is so quirky, and you get that the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.

Who or what has influenced you as an author?
You know, I really can’t point to any one person or thing that has inspired me. I have done so many different types of writing—news, long-form magazine articles, reviews, blogs, a screenplay based on my father’s experience winning a gold medal at the Olympics, and now fiction. I think the one common denominator is that I find it is my best way of communicating my thoughts and feelings.

Was working on a first novel what you expected?
I was amazed at how long it took me to write the book. I was used to slamming out one or two blogs a day, but to sit down almost every day for a year and a half and never have a finished product was really daunting. I thought of scrapping the whole thing more than once, but then I would show [it to] one of my friends and they would encourage me to keep going.

Having experience in so many different areas of writing, does one style stand out to you?
I’m going to be honest, blogging is the easiest! You sit down, you write it, you publish it, and within minutes plenty of people let you know how much they hate it (or like it). The gratification is instantaneous, but now that the book is finished, I feel a much stronger sense of accomplishment. I guess it’s like the difference between making [boxed] mac and cheese for dinner or cooking a gourmet meal.

Do you have another project in the works?
I’m writing a not-so-funny story about a latch-key kid growing up in the 1970s. But if readers demand Class Mom 2, I have a lot of ideas!—Erin Holt, Williamson Cty. P.L., Franklin, TN

Actor Snipes and Norman’s Debut of the Month, Cato’s Latest “Breath of Earth,” Yoon Ha Lee, Levine, and More | SF/Fantasy Reviews

Fri, 07/07/2017 - 18:56

Setting is a huge draw for sf and fantasy readers, promising total escape from the humdrum real world. While many are imagined, these fictional universes often carry an author’s cultural influences or borrow from an actual society or physical place. This month’s titles give readers a sense of the variety in cultures and settings in both genres. Traces of Yoon Ha Lee’s Korean American heritage could be lost among the sheer delightful weirdness of his sf landscape in Raven Stratagem, but it exists around the edges, seen in the way he approaches cultures assimilated into the hexarchate. Natasha Pulley’s The Bedlam Stacks takes readers to Victorian-era Peru, with added magical clockwork inventions. We have immortal Egyptian pharaohs in Michael F. Haspil’s Graveyard Shift, a Soviet-style mining planet undergoing a revolution in Mike Brooks’s Dark Sky, and a half-Chinese witch seeking revenge in the Old West in J. Danielle Dorn’s Devil’s Call. Racing to the other planets in the solar system is still exciting, but in David D. Levine’s Arabella and the Battle of Venus, the indigenous populations and warring factions from the Napoleonic times cause issues.—MM

Debut of the month

Snipes, Wesley & Ray Norman. Talon of God. Harper Voyager. Jul. 2017. 368p. ISBN 9780062668165. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062668189. FANTASY

Dr. Lauryn ­Jefferson is a skeptic, believing only in science, until a former patient becomes demonically possessed. Then she meets Talon Hunter, a man of God, who aims to train her as a spiritual warrior despite her doubts. A new drug available on the streets is turning its users into slaves for Satan’s army. After discovering a sinister plot, supported by the world’s most powerful men, to establish a kingdom of Hell on Earth, Lauryn has no choice but to find her faith. VERDICT This urban fantasy debut by actor Snipes (Blade; Passenger 57) and coauthor Normans (WorldVision International) is an exciting, fast-paced, religious thriller that will draw in even the most cynical reader with its mash-up of science and faith. Fans of Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden and Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim will enjoy. [See Prepub Alert, 2/6/17.]—KC

Check These Out

Aaronovitch, Ben. The Furthest Station. Subterranean. Jul. 2017. 144p. ISBN 9781596068339. $40; ebk. ISBN 9781596068346. FANTASY

British cop and apprentice wizard Peter Grant is investigating reports of ghosts on the London Underground. Ghosts, normally unseen by the less magically inclined, seem to be clustering on certain lines and making themselves noticed. Peter not only has to track down these apparitions with the help of a colleague from the transit police, but he also needs to figure out what they want before their behavior escalates to violence. This novella will satisfy fans of ­Aaronovitch’s protagonist, last visited in The Hanging Tree. Peter brings his young cousin Abigail along for the investigation, deciding her burgeoning magical talents might come in handy, which helps to keep things light. VERDICT A fun, if optional entry in an always enjoyable urban fantasy series.—MM

Brooks, Mike. Dark Sky. Saga: S.&S. (Keiko, Bk. 2). Jul. 2017. 336p. ISBN 9781481459570. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781481459587. SF

The crew of the Keiko, still reeling from Capt. Ichabod Drift’s secrets (revealed in series opener Dark Run), need a new smuggling job. Spending their ill-gotten gains on a pleasure planet, they are offered a job they can’t refuse by a crime boss with a long reach. It seems simple enough: head down to the mining planet Uragan and retrieve a message before a planet-wide storm shuts down access. But everything goes wrong, and Drift and his crew members are separated as they get pulled into a local revolution. Ironically, the former pirate ends up on the side of law and order. VERDICT Fans will delight in the new adventures of Brooks’s motley space crew. While the setting is mostly underground on the Soviet-influenced mining planet, the action is pretty much nonstop, making this a good bet for fans of light space opera.—MM

Cato, Beth. Call of Fire. Harper Voyager. (Breath of Earth, Bk. 3). Aug. 2017. 352p. ISBN 9780062422118. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062422125. FANTASY

Having survived the 1906 San Francisco earthquake caused by her father’s godlike powers, geomancer Ingrid Carmichael and friends Cy, Fenris, and Lee flee the devastated city and head north. Ingrid wants to learn more about her father, from whom she has inherited her magical abilities, but she also seeks escape from Ambassador Blum’s machinations to exploit her skills for political purposes. When Lee and Fenris are captured in Portland, OR, Ingrid and Cy make their way to Seattle with the help of another mysterious Unified Pacific ambassador, ­Theodore ­Roosevelt. As she attempts to free her friends, can Ingrid avoid becoming the spark that ignites war? VERDICT Cato’s sequel to Breath of Earth takes readers further into an alternate turn-of-the-20th-century America, wrapping a dark time in U.S. history in a bright fantasy veneer. The incorporation of sympathetic characters results in a gritty, imaginative, and unforgettable read.—KC

Dorn, J. Danielle. Devil’s Call. Inkshares. Jul. 2017. 275p. ISBN 9781942645603. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9781942645610. FANTASY

DEBUT Descending from a long line of witches, Li Lian met Matthew Callahan when she was 14. She ran away from her Missouri home and straight into trouble in a Texas saloon. Matthew saved her from being burned as a witch and returned her to her family. But she doesn’t stay out of mischief for long, and after he rescues her again, Li Lian and Matthew begin a courtship that leads to marriage and a baby on the way. In 1859, now living in the Nebraska Territory, where Matthew serves as a local doctor, their happiness is destroyed when Matthew is killed by three men, one of whom is not quite human. Pregnant Li Lian immediately sets off to find the killers and exact her revenge. VERDICT Narrated in the form of a diary written for the protagonist’s unborn daughter, this debut excels in setting a tense mood and introducing a prickly yet compelling heroine. Highly recommended for fans of weird Westerns like Lila Bowen’s Wake of Vultures or Laura Anne Gilman’s Silver on the Road.—MM

Haspil, Michael F. Graveyard Shift. Tor. Jul. 2017. 352p. ISBN 9780765379627. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466869226. FANTASY

DEBUT Once a pharaoh in ancient Egypt, the man now known as Alex Romer works for the paranormal department of the Miami Police. With his vampire partner Marcus, he gets sucked into several cases that seem to be heating up tension between the city’s humans and vampires. One involves the hunt for a vigilante vampire killer known as Abraham, while another hinges on someone tainting the synthetic blood supply with a substance that can drive vampires into a violent frenzy. To top it off, a new ancient vampire has moved into the Miami area, with plans cloaked in shadows. Local regional details make an interesting backdrop, and while we’ve seen just about everything in this subgenre, a former pharaoh is definitely new. VERDICT Those who enjoy police action mixed with urban fantasy may want to try this series launch, but the squeamish should be prepared for a hefty amount of violence, much of it against women.—MM

Lee, Yoon Ha. Raven Stratagem. Solaris. (Machineries of Empire, Bk. 2). Jun. 2017. 400p. ISBN 9781781085370. pap. $9.99; ebk. ISBN 9781786180469. SF

Gen. Shuos Jedao, a 400-plus-year-old master strategist and mass murderer, was anchored to Capt. Kel Charis in the Hugo- and Nebula Award–nominated Ninefox Gambit. As this sequel opens, Jedao has survived an assassination attempt and taken over another military Swarm. While he is willing to fight off the Hanf who have invaded local space, his goal seems to be the destruction of the hexarchate, the rigid social and political structure that he feels has grown corrupt. Meanwhile, the hexarchate leaders are scrambling to control the man they use as their ultimate weapon. Lee has leveraged the adage that any seemingly advanced science can look like magic to create truly bizarre technologies, starting with a society based so rigidly on a special calendar that any who stray from its rules are executed as heretics. While the parasitic arrangement between Charis and Jedao created interesting character developments in book one, it shifts here to an even more unreliable narrator dynamic. VERDICT While there is plenty of gripping space opera action, the real pleasure of this series is the inventive worldbuilding.—MM

Levine, David D. Arabella and the Battle of Venus. Tor. (Adventures of Arabella Ashby, Bk. 2). Jul. 2017. 416p. ISBN 9780765382825. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466889507. FANTASY

Napoleon Bonaparte has escaped from the Moon, and Arabella Ashby learns that her fiancé, Capt. Prakash Singh, and his crew have been captured and imprisoned by the French on Venus. Arabella must find a way to get to the enemy-controlled planet, then release her captain through either bribery or a fight. She enlists the less-than-inspiring privateer Capt. Daniel Fox and his ship Touchstone, but Arabella’s brother insists their straitlaced neighbor, Lady ­Corey, accompany her as chaperone. Arriving on Venus, Arabella soon discovers that ­Napoleon has developed a secret weapon that could change the course of the war; can Arabella, Singh, and Fox, drawing on their skills and wiles, stop him? VERDICT Levine’s sophomore work (after the Nebula Award–­winning Arabella of Mars) brings back his plucky heroine and introduces charismatic characters for another engaging steampunk adventure among the stars.—KC

MacNaughton, Laurence. A Kiss Before Doomsday: A Dru Jasper Novel. Pyr: Prometheus. (Dr. Critchlore’s School for Minions, Bk. 2). Jul. 2017. 290p. ISBN 9781633882676. pap. $18; ebk. ISBN 9781633882683. FANTASY

After battling the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, new sorceress Dru Jasper returns to Denver to find that her store has been broken into and that undead creatures are attacking sorcerers. The wizards also are behaving even more strangely than usual, and signs indicate that someone is using forbidden necromancy to fulfill the Apocalypse Scroll’s prophecy. Dru could use the help of half-demon Greyson and his car Hellbringer, but Greyson is nowhere to be found, and most believe him dead. Dru must rely on her friends to confront the mysterious sorcerer determined to make doomsday a reality. VERDICT The follow-up to It Happened One Doomsday is a fun turducken of humor, magical exploits, and entertaining characters. More urban fantasy than supernatural romance, this offers fans of both subgenres a fun crossover read.—KC

Newman, Emma. All Good Things. Diversion. (Split Worlds, Bk. 5). Jun. 2017. 362p. ISBN 9781682306161. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9781682306178. FANTASY

Introduced in Between Two Thorns, the secret Victorian world of the Nether lies between Mundanus, the place for ordinary humans, and Exilium, the kingdom of the patriarchal Fae. William Iris, who has been consolidating his power in Nether society, must retrieve his wife, Cathy, who has left him, if he is to maintain his status. Cathy, finding that her escape from the Nether is not complete, agrees to join the sorceress Bea in her plans to unite these separate worlds. But Bea has enemies, and a final battle to control all of the Split Worlds may come at a high cost. VERDICT The final volume of ­Newman’s historical urban fantasy series (after A Little Knowledge) brings the conflicts of these diverse worlds to a strong close. Series fans won’t want to miss this.—KC

Pulley, Natasha. The Bedlam Stacks. Bloomsbury USA. Aug. 2017. 352p. ISBN 9781620409671. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781620409688. FANTASY

Merrick thought his adventuring days were finished after an injury forced him to resign from the East India Company and retire to his brother’s estate. In 1859, a desperate need for cinchona trees, a rich source of quinine and part of Merrick’s family history in Peru, requires him to travel there to smuggle cuttings past a Peruvian government blockade. He and an old companion head for the New Bethlehem settlement where Merrick’s father and grandfather once lived but find more than they bargained for. VERDICT Fans of The Watchmaker of Filigree Street (who will be pleased that a character from that novel makes a cameo appearance) know that ­Pulley has a way with damaged characters who are looking for a new purpose in life. While there are steampunk elements, including clockwork lamps, there’s also a subtle inexplicable magic running throughout the unusual, remote setting. [See Prepub Alert, 2/27/17.]—MM

Ridler, Jason. Hex-Rated: A Brimstone Files Novel. Night Shade. Aug. 2017. 336p. ISBN 9781597809030. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9781597806329. FANTASY

Korean War vet James Brimstone, once a child magician, is now a private ­investigator in 1970 Los Angeles. It may be stardust and fame for many who come to La La Land, but cults and real magic are creeping into the glamour. After the funeral of his former mentor, James lands his first case. A beautiful but physically scarred actress named Nico claims to have been attacked by black magic. And while the police have discounted her story, blaming drug use, James senses that Nico’s chilling tale of demons, snakes, and the supernatural on the set of a porn movie is a troubling reality. VERDICT Pulp mystery meets urban fantasy in this gritty retro series launch by the author of the “Spar Battersea” thrillers. Hard-boiled humor and an action-packed plot combine in this deep dive into sex, death, and the movie industry.—KC

Saintcrow, Lilith. Cormorant Run. Orbit: Hachette. Jun. 2017. 388p. ISBN 9780316277969. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9780316277938. SF

No one knows for sure what caused the event that opened rifts across the Earth and killed those caught inside. Despite the devastation, some entered these anomalies and returned, bringing with them strange, valuable technologies. When Ashe, the most famous of the rifters, dies, her student Svinga, who has been in prison for murder, is ordered to enter the Cormorant Rift and discover whatever killed Ashe, and bring it back. If she refuses the job, she rots in jail. Either way could be a death sentence, but Svinga has not survived this long without reasons. VERDICT Reading Saintcrow’s (“Gallow and Ragged” series) postapocalyptic adventure is like riding a high-speed train. After a slow start owing to footnoted vernacular, the pace quickens and readers will be caught up in the ­excitement.—KC

Willett, Edward. The Cityborn. DAW. Jul. 2017. 416p. ISBN 9780756411770. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780756412890. SF

Twenty years ago, a special mission sent a resistance agent to the highest levels of the City to steal an important child named Danyl. Raised in the middens, the garbage heaps that skirt the bottom of the towering self-contained city, he scavenges for the funds that will earn him a pass to enter the City itself, even if he can reach only the lowest tiers steeped in poverty and oppression. Alania, who was missing from the nursery the night Danyl was kidnapped, was fostered by an officer and grew up as a member of the privileged class on the Twelfth Tier. She and Danyl are both potential catalysts for reviving the City, and when their paths intersect, they will have to decide whose vision of the City’s future they will follow. VERDICT The rigid dystopian society of the City is nothing new, but the young protagonists give this latest novel from Willett (“The Shards of Excalibur” series) possible appeal for teen readers. Unfortunately, the plot loses a little coherence as it races to a muddled conclusion.—MM

Wilson, Daniel H. The Clockwork Dynasty. Doubleday. Aug. 2017. 320p. ISBN 9780385541787. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780385541794. SF

June travels the world seeking rare antique automatons. Her interest in such objects was fixed from an early age when her Russian grandfather told her a story of seeing a man on a World War II battlefield and then gave her a relic from that encounter, which seems to be a piece of intricate clockwork. When her employers hear about the artifact, June’s life is in jeopardy. She soon learns that there are clockworkmen and -women, known as avtomat, who live among us. One such clockworkman calling himself Peter offers to assist her. In alternating chapters, readers learn Peter’s history, from his awakening in the court of the tsar to his realization that he has a greater purpose, which June is uniquely placed to help him achieve. In short chapters, each ending on moments of tension, Wilson (Robopocalypse) keeps readers engaged, and even if the origins of the avtomat and their goals could have been explored more, many readers will be happy to settle into the momentum. VERDICT A well-crafted summer read. [See Prepub Alert, 2/27/17.]—MM

Collections & Anthologies

Ex Libris: Stories of Librarians, Libraries & Lore. Prime. May 2017. 384p. ed. by Paula Guran. ISBN 9781607014898. pap. $15.95. FANTASY

In this collection of 24 stories from such acclaimed fantasy and sf authors as Ellen Klages, Ruthanna Emrys, Ken Liu, and Scott Lynch, noted anthologist Guran (Beyond the Woods; Blood Sisters) celebrates librarians and libraries. Klages’s “In the House of the Seven Librarians” revolves around the inhabitants of an abandoned Carnegie Library and the orphaned baby girl who helps them discover a new life. Esther M. Friesner’s “Death and the Librarian” features an elderly librarian facing off against the Grim Reaper. A fifth-year student wizard faces the last challenge before moving up—returning a library book—in Lynch’s “In the Stacks.” VERDICT This anthology showcases an amazing range of sf and fantasy centered on a favorite ­institution and the people who serve it.—KC

Maberry, Jonathan & George A. Romero. Nights of the Living Dead: An Anthology. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Jul. 2017. 400p. ISBN 9781250112248. pap. $17.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250112255. HORROR

In 1968, director Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, which depicted 48 hours of a zombie outbreak, took the movie world by storm. Here, author Maberry (Patient Zero) and Romero bring us back to those two days of the newly risen dead with this anthology of 19 tales. Along with original stories by both men, there are entries such as Joe R. Lansdale’s “Dead Man’s Curve,” in which a brother and sister come face to face with the undead during a drag race, and Mira Grant’s “You Can Stay All Day,” about a young zookeeper. All of these stories highlight the fear, darkness, hope, and humor facing the living dead can bring. ­VERDICT Zombie fiction fans can’t get enough of their favorite monsters, but this masterly collection of tales from some of today’s greatest speculative writers will sate their appetite—for a while.—KC

Series Lineup

Brooks, Terry. The Black Elfstone. Del Rey: Ballantine. (Fall of Shannara, Bk. 1). Jun. 2017. 336p. ISBN 9780553391480. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780553391497. FANTASY

After launching one of the most popular fantasy series 40 years ago with The Sword of Shannara, Brooks concludes the “Shannara” books with this first installment of a final quartet. After generations of peace, mysterious invaders attack the Four Lands.—MM

Chen, Curtis C. Kangaroo Too. Thomas Dunne: St. Martin’s. (Kangaroo, Bk. 2). Jun. 2017. 320p. ISBN 9781250081896. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250081902. FANTASY

The irrepressible secret agent Kangaroo, introduced in Waypoint Kangaroo, must investigate when his teammate Jessica is accused of murder. Fans of sf/mystery blends with plenty of snarky humor will want this sequel.—MM

de Castell, Sebastien. Tyrant’s Throne. Jo Fletcher: Quercus. (Greatcoats, Bk. 4). Jun. 2017. 400p. ISBN 9781681441955. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781681441924. FANTASY

Channeling the swashbuckling action and camaraderie of The Three Musketeers, the latest entry (after Saint’s Blood) in this epic historical series finds Falcio and his Greatcoat companions close to fulfilling their vow to restore the king’s daughter Aline to the throne. But their old enemy Trin has found new allies.—MM

Husberg, Christopher. Dark Immolation. Titan. (Chaos Queen, Bk. 2). Jun. 2017. 400p. ISBN 9781783299171. pap. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9781783299188. FANTASY

Husberg’s debut Duskfall introduced the amnesiac human warrior Knot and his almost-bride Winter, a woman of the elf-like tiellan race. In this outing, Winter is imprisoned, Knot is trying to deal with his true nature, and the prophetess Jane Oden’s new religion is growing in power.—MM

Additional SF/Fantasy

Hudson, Gabe. Gork, the Teenage Dragon. Knopf. Jul. 2017. 400p. ISBN 9780375413964. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9781524732479. FANTASY

DEBUT Gork is an alien dragon attending an elite military academy in preparation for a life conquering other planets. Bullying is encouraged at WarWings Academy and deaths are frequent, but Gork doesn’t have the requisite fiendish disposition for success. His horns are too small and his heart too big. He is boastful and self-aggrandizing. As the novel opens, Gork must pick a mate or forever become a slave; he sets his sights on the most unattainable female at WarWings. As Gork’s day progresses, it seems every clique wants to burn him to ash, and the distractions add up, for both Gork and the reader. Before he can pick his queen, he must discover the whereabouts of his missing grandfather Dr. ­Terrible, uncover treachery among his closest companions, and grow his courage and his horns. Hudson burst onto the writing scene with his breakthrough collection of short stories, Dear Mr. President. Unlike his previous book, the humor and satire here fall flat, and Gork’s narration is repetitive and sophomoric. VERDICT Fans of ­Hudson’s earlier work may be confused by this first novel, which might find an audience in older teens but is otherwise an optional purchase. [See Prepub Alert, 2/9/17.]—­Jennifer Beach, ­Longwood Univ. Lib., Farmville, VA

Kenyon, Kay. At the Table of Wolves. Saga: S.& S. Jul. 2017. 432p. ISBN 9781481487788. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781481487801. FANTASY

Kim Tavistock possesses a hidden power known as the spill. People can’t help but reveal their secrets to her, but she has very little control over when and how she uses her ability. Which is a shame, because it would sure come in handy when she tries to unmask Nazi agents operating in the heart of 1936 London. And when those agents also have paranormal powers and are plotting an invasion, England’s very survival may be in jeopardy. Kenyon’s (“The Entire and The Rose” series) focus is very much on creating a wartime spy thriller, and in that she succeeds. However, she could have spent more time developing her characters and exploring the consequences of their psychic abilities. VERDICT Fans of Connie ­Willis and V.E. Schwab should appreciate this historical fantasy, set in a pre–World War II Britain.—Laurel Bliss, San Diego State Univ. Lib.

Percy, Benjamin. The Dark Net. Houghton Harcourt. Aug. 2017. 272p. ISBN 9780544750333. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780544750579. HORROR

There’s a deep global net in the virtual world, accessed only by those wishing to remain anonymous. Black-market trading and illicit dealings occur here, along with programs that provide prurient services. Keeping their operations vital but nearly untraceable is the task of people who are well paid to keep these servers up and running. What happens when demonic forces acquire log-in abilities at these dark levels? Can a computer hacker, a onetime child evangelist, a technophobic journalist, and a little girl with prosthetic eyes come to grips with hell on earth if it’s only a keystroke away? VERDICT Percy (The Dead Lands) turns in a fast-paced dark thriller with crisp, honest dialog and well-imagined characters. His premise is fanciful yet anchored in believability. [See Prepub Alert, 2/27/17.]—Russell Miller, Prescott P.L., AZ

QUOTABLE “I’d thought that something was gone in me and I would never be uncircumspectly pleased about anything again. But all at once it came back. The place where my father had stood and my grandfather, a place that was in my bones and stories and home but had been as lost to me as Byzantium for years—here it was. I felt like I’d drawn a door on the wall at home in chalk and gone through into an imaginary place where the river was a dragon and somewhere in the forest was something stranger than elves.”—Natasha Pulley, The Bedlam Stacks


Megan M. McArdle is a Collection Specialist at the Library of Congress, National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. Kristi Chadwick is Advisor for the Massachusetts Library System. In addition to being a 2013 LJ Reviewer of the Year and 2014 Mover & Shaker, she was also a finalist judge for the 2015 LJ SELF-e Award in Fantasy


Lisa Ko’s Latest Novel Concerns Us All | LibraryReads Authors

Thu, 07/06/2017 - 17:53

In Lisa Ko’s The Leavers, an acutely rendered tale of parent and child torn apart, 11-year-old Deming’s Chinese immigrant mother, Polly, does not return one day to their Bronx, NY, apartment, and he is doubly abandoned when Vivian, sister of Polly’s boyfriend and mother of Deming’s best friend Michael, surrenders Deming to the authorities.

Adopted by well-meaning but oblivious white professors, he becomes Daniel Wilkinson, a rebel with a guitar lost in suburbia and anguishing over what happened to his mother. It takes a lot of living for Daniel to realize, “God, it was great to be himself again,” a sentiment Polly echoes as she narrates her own jaggedly painful saga in an alternate story line.

Thus Ko’s nuanced narrative communicates not just the burdens of the immigrant experience but the important lesson that one must learn—and sometimes fight—to be oneself. As Ko clarified in a phone interview with LJ, those themes fit together seamlessly.

“I was thinking a lot about the melting-pot fantasy, how we melt into culture and everyone is happy,” she explains. “That version doesn’t give credence to the violent realities of what it means to assimilate into a dominant culture.” Ko wanted her characters to be honest with themselves about how they really want to live, and Polly, raised in a society that severely restricts women, could at least use immigration “to empower herself in terms of reinvention, in ways that benefited her and on her terms.”

Daniel, meanwhile, is trapped in a system dominated by the idea that “economic privilege and social capital are in the best interest of the child and can serve as a stand-in for the biological family,” says Ko of the wealthy, well-educated Wilkinsons. Yet they haven’t a clue or, finally, much concern about Daniel’s real feelings and can never provide the sense of belonging he had with the family he lost, however straitened their circumstances. For Daniel, family means “the place he can feel most at home,” argues Ko, “and in the end he designs his own family with his friends, by choice.”

Ko has an excellent ear for dialog, and Daniel is also attuned to the sounds around him, at one point declaring, “The city had been one long song, vivid, endlessly shading, a massive dance mix of bus beats, train drums, and passing stereos.” That he misses those sounds shows how much he misses the city and its electric vitality, so unlike the presumably healthy hush of his upstate New York home.

This aural sensitivity explains why he finds solace in music, though of course playing rock guitar is also a “natural fit” for a teenager at odds with his environment, notes Ko. It finally leads free-spirited Daniel back to New York City and a lifestyle that blasts away the aspirations of his bookish adoptive parents.

To tell Daniel’s story, Ko drew on the real-life stories of children taken from undocumented immigrant parents, reading memoirs and articles about transracial, transnational adoptees and even traveling to Polly’s hometown in China. Though Ko builds suspense by slowly unfolding what happened to Polly, getting the right flow after shifting around scenes over seven years’ worth of experimentation, it’s no mystery how traumatic her characters’ experiences have been.
“I would love for the book to add a little awareness of how immigration policy, even before Trump, ends up permanently fracturing families,” says Ko. “In the end, this is the very American story of immigration, identity, and self-definition.” And that’s a story that concerns us all.—Barbara Hoffert

Created by a group of librarians, LibraryReads offers a monthly list of ten current titles culled from nominations made by librarians nationwide as their favorites. See the May 2017 list at and contact to make your own nomination.


Picking Up Books | What We’re Reading (& Watching)

Mon, 07/03/2017 - 15:35

What a whirl the spring and summer has been for the “What We’re Reading & Watching” gang! We survived LJ’s annual Day of Dialog (DoD), BookExpo (formerly Book Expo America, or BEA for you acronym fans), and then a quick swoop into Chicago for the ALA Annual conference, June 22–27. Books ruled all over, and many of us grabbed ARCs at the various cons we attended. I asked my colleagues to talk about the great finds from any or all of those gatherings and got some pretty fantastic responses. See below! And since this is a bunch of free thinkers and actors, we have some that went their own way and wrote about non-con books. We accept all kinds here, as long as you’re reading—or ahem, watching.

Della Farrell, Assistant Editor, SLJ Reviews
I’m going against the grain by writing about two books that I did not pick up at DoD/BookExpo. I can’t stop raving about Deborah Noyes’s latest work of nonfiction for tweens and teens, The Magician and the Spirits (Viking). Part biography of Harry Houdini and part examination of the spiritualist movement in the early 20th century, this title expertly probes debates that are still relevant today, namely the limits of scientific knowledge when it comes to the afterlife and the tough business of exposing charlatans who profit on the public’s insecurities.

And on a similar note, I just started Joanna Lowell’s gothic romance Dark Season (Crimson Romance), which was starred by LJ’s Managing Editor, Bette-Lee Fox, in a 2016 Xpress Review. Ella Arlington, newly orphaned, escapes to London to avoid her cruel cousin’s plan to have her institutionalized because of her epilepsy. But a chance encounter at a séance puts her in the path of Isidore Blackwood, a viscount with secrets—dead fiancée–type secrets. I’m hooked.

Liz French, Senior Editor, LJ Reviews
Women of all ages and eras are ruling my book rack. I just completed Michael Connelly’s first police procedural starring a female protagonist, Renée Ballard. It’s called The Late Show (Little, Brown), which refers to the graveyard shift, where LAPD detective Ballard has been assigned after running afoul of a supervisor: she sued him for harassment; he won the case because her partner wouldn’t verify her testimony; her supervisor then condemned her to the night shift. The thing with the night shift is, the detectives have to turn cases over to their daytime counterparts at the end of their shift. This suits Ballard’s partner just fine, but she is more stubborn, pursuing cases on her own and running down leads, which of course puts her in conflict with that bad boss man.

I’m also reading one of several DoD titles I grabbed after that event: Joanna Scutts’s The Extra Woman: How Marjorie Hillis Led a Generation of Women To Live Alone and Like It (Liveright: Norton) is a biography/sociological study of a very influential woman of the 1930s. It pairs well with Linda Simon’s Lost Girls: The Invention of the Flapper (Reaktion), which I’m reviewing for my colleague Stephanie Sendaula. Finally, at the New York Review of Books’ booth at BookExpo, I scored a copy of Slow Days, Fast Company: The World, the Flesh and L.A. by Eve Babitz. It’s the second title by my favorite L.A. lady of the Seventies; my excited Twittering caught the attention of the Counterpoint people, who promptly sent me Babitz’s Sex and Rage, her third work. Oh riches! I cannot resist quoting from Slow Days, Fast Company:

If you’re wondering why I was tossing my friends at Nikki like fish, you’re probably a person who has no tendency for society and who does not like to spend hours on the phone reliving parties. You do not like to find things out from women. One afternoon I was sitting on a veranda at a party with about six women and the information that was exchanged, commonly called gossip, was enough to run the world for months. Suddenly a hush fell over the women and I looked around and there was a man. The women slid masks over their faces, the subject changed, the man said, “What are all you girls doing out here? Come in and join the party.” And the summit conference was over.

Laura Girmscheid, Research Manager, LJS
The DoD ARC I was most excited to read was Gabrielle Zevin’s new book, Young Jane Young (Algonquin). Aviva Grossman is a promising political science/Spanish literature major interning for a local Florida congressman. When her affair with the politician is found out (made worse by details she had published in a blog), Aviva escapes by cutting ties with her family, changing her name to Jane Young, and moving to Maine. Years after settling in a small coastal town and with a mayoral bid underway, her 13-year-old daughter, Ruby, sets out to find out who her father is, with the potential to upset everything.

This book is divided into five sections, each written from a different character’s point of view at various points in the story—Aviva’s mom, Rachel; Jane; Ruby; the congressman’s wife, Embeth; and Aviva. I enjoyed the varying generational perspectives. The last section (Aviva’s “Choose Your Own…”) is written in the second person, which is handled in a humorous way.

Tyler Hixson, WWR/WWW emeritus
I finally got around to reading Marcus Sedgwick’s Saint Death (Roaring Brook) after it had been starred (and raved about by SLJ Reviews Manager Shelley Diaz), and it. was. incredible. It follows a single day in the life of Arturo, a young man living in a Mexican shanty town just across the U.S. border, pulled into the violent underworld of the cartels that control the border by his long-lost friend Faustino. Arturo spends his life trying to avoid and ignore the violence around him, but when Faustino arrives at his doorstep asking for help after spending a year missing and confesses that he stole $1,000 from his boss to send his girlfriend and daughter Stateside, Arturo is helplessly swallowed up by the gangs that populate Juárez. It is heart-wrenching to see Arturo attempt everything to save his and his friend’s lives. Saint Death is a stark commentary on the brutality of life in Mexican cartel towns, and really, just a beautifully written novel. Printz Award beautiful, perhaps?

Molly Hone, WWR emerita
Now that I’m done with library school, I am reading what I want, when I want, and it is wonderful (and I think it’s helping with readers’ advisory at work!). My first postgrad choice is Fannie Flagg’s The Whole Town’s Talking (Random), a lovely story about the fictional town of Elmwood Springs, MO, and the people who settle it in the late 19th century. This is charming historical fiction that, unsurprisingly, reminds me of Flagg’s breakout 1987 novel Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe (Random). For those looking for a feel-good summer read, I can’t recommend it enough.

I’m also listening to Storm Front, the first in Jim Butcher’s long-running “Dresden Files” series (Brilliance Audio). I’m sure this book—a noir-fantasy hybrid about a private detective and wizard named Harry Dresden—is just as absorbing in print, but I can’t imagine it without the cool, nuanced narration of James Marsters (of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame). Another must-read (or must-listen), especially for mystery fans.

Lisa Peet, Associate Editor, News & Features, LJ
I just reread Jesus’ Son (Farrar) for no particular reason other than that Denis Johnson died, and I remember being really knocked sideways when I first encountered his stories in the New Yorker in my mid-20s. I don’t reread often, so I was happy to find that this collection thrills me as much as the work did when I first read them almost 30 years ago. His use of language is still surprising—and considering all the fiction I’ve read since then, that’s pretty impressive—and those swooping, propulsive sentences continue to hit me on an almost physical level. That first graf of “Dirty Wedding” still does it for me:

I liked to sit up front and ride the fast ones all day long, I liked it when they brushed right up against the buildings north of the Loop and I especially liked it when the buildings dropped away into that bombed-out squalor a little farther north in which people (through windows you’d see a person in his dirty naked kitchen spooning soup toward his face, or twelve children on their bellies on the floor, watching television, but instantly they were gone, wiped away by a movie billboard of a woman winking and touching her upper lip deftly with her tongue, and she in turn erased by a—wham, the noise and dark dropped down around your head—tunnel) actually lived.

It’s like an old flame who still, surprisingly, looks fine at the reunion, even with a little less hair. I don’t find Johnson’s marginal folks as fascinating as I once did, no doubt because I’m middle-aged and staid and don’t know, or even really want to know, characters like that anymore; no hint of there-but-for-the-grace-of-God in my heart these days. That’s been replaced by a healthy middle-aged dose of compassion, which—pleasingly—deepens my appreciation of their hapless lot rather than dulls it.

So, cheers to Denis Johnson. I could sit down and unpack every sentence in this book and I still wouldn’t be able to figure out how he does it, but he does.

Stephanie Sendaula, Associate Editor, LJ Reviews
My long WWR write-up contains a month’s worth of reads, starting with Kate Moore’s The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women (Sourcebooks), which was one of the many books I read around BookExpo (and my favorite so far). It’s already received a lot of librarian attention, and for good reason. It’s a well-written, humanistic story that relates to several subject areas: war, love, loss, work, health, etc. Our reviewer Chad Statler says, “Often the daughters of immigrants, these women were lured to these prestigious and well-paying jobs unaware of the dangers of the radioactive paint present in their workplace—which caused their bodies and clothes to glow, even outside of work…. After nearly 20 years, several trials, and thousands of dollars in doctor and attorney fees, the women won a small measure of justice, but for some, it was too late.” I teared up while reading some of the stories; keep a box of tissues nearby if you know you’ll need one. Moore spoke at DoD, and after fangirling over the book, I told her that I wish I had heard this story before.

In between BookExpo and ALA, I had jury duty, which meant plenty of time for more reading—and from two additional DoD authors. I breezed through Young Jane Young (Algonquin) by Gabrielle Zevin, since I enjoyed one of her previous books, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry (a 2015 LJ Best Book). I also read Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere, which our reviewer Terry Hong called “a magnificent, multilayered epic that’s perfect for eager readers and destined for major award lists.” Although I enjoyed both books, the characters in Little Fires Everywhere have stayed with me. I met a bookseller at ALA who had just finished (and loved) the novel, and I told her that I’m still thinking about Pearl and Izzy a few weeks later. I haven’t read Ng’s first book, but I’ve been meaning to, and this is giving me the motivation to start. I also found it interesting to read two books based in the 1990s back-to-back. Both touched on the relationship between Monica Lewinsky and President Bill Clinton, and the differences in how women versus men are treated when they don’t do something that society perceives as moral.

I also read nearly all of Ben Blum’s Ranger Games: A Story of Soldiers, Family and an Inexplicable Crime (Doubleday), which I won’t say too much about since I’m still in the process of writing a review, but so far I’d recommend it. Similar to the previous two titles, this is a book that makes you question right and wrong. I didn’t know much about the crime (the day before deployment, the author’s cousin and some fellow U.S. Army Rangers robbed a bank) before I started reading, and sometimes I still don’t know what to think, which is probably testimony to the author’s great writing.

Lastly, since I’m often reading more than one book at a time, I’m almost done with Amy Goldstein’s Janesville: An American Story (S. & S.), a recommendation from our reviewer Janet Ingraham Dwyer. In her review, she wrote, “Janesville, WI, is home to politician Paul Ryan—and, until two days before Christmas in 2008, the longest-operating GM plant in the world…. Their post-GM paths are as typical as they are heartrending: daylong commutes to spend the workweek far from family; transitioning from being givers to recipients of charity; stubbornly hopeful boosterism with few tangible results; and a widening gap between the city’s elite class of bankers and politicians and the frustrated and increasingly desperate workers.” This book is the 2017 equivalent of Matthew Desmond’s Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City. I feel every emotion, hoping it will get better for someone, anyone. I don’t think this type of story only relates to Janesville, but to any area where one company is the main employer.



More Writing, Less War: LJ Talks to Thomas J. Brennan and Finbarr O’Reilly

Fri, 06/30/2017 - 09:55

Marine veteran Thomas J. Brennan (below, l.) and war photojournalist Finbarr O’Reilly (r.) are coauthors of Shooting Ghosts: A U.S. Marine, a Combat Photographer, and Their Journey Back from War (see the starred review,
LJ 6/15/17, p. 92).

How did you decide to write a book together?
Writing about my life as a foreign correspondent and photographer had never appealed to me, but the idea of comparing and contrasting my war experiences with someone who actually fought in those wars seemed interesting and worthwhile. TJ and I discussed how to approach telling our combined stories, how the wars affected us, and how we found ways to cope in the aftermath of war. Originally, we planned on me writing chapters in the first person, with TJ writing in third person, for the book to read as though there was a single narrator. But our editor, Wendy Wolf, suggested we try dual first-person narratives, which created tension between our voices and made the story more textured and intimate.
TB: Just as Fin trusted me to go on our first patrol together in Afghanistan, I trusted him as we set out on our mission to write Shooting Ghosts.

Why do you think the Iraq and Afghan Wars receive little attention?
TB: People don’t discuss U.S.–led wars because [civilians] are willfully omitted from the conversation. I was unable to see that while I was on active duty because I was too busy fighting those wars. The conflict in Afghanistan was nearing its tenth anniversary when my deployment began in 2010, and it seems now that perpetual war is an accepted staple of American life in a post–9/11 world. War impacts us all; war and trauma must become part of the larger conversation.

What motivated you to tell your stories?
Lots of journalists struggle with the emotional fallout that stems from the work they do. This is a stressful job, especially when reporters are under threat from oppressive regimes. Media corporations go to great lengths to ensure the physical safety of their correspondents but rarely show as much concern for their long-term psychological and emotional well-being. I had a fairly decent level of mental health care available to me, but it took me a long time to step forward and take advantage of that. One of the reasons for telling my part of this story is to show others that seeking help is the right thing to do.

How can civilians better understand military life?
The majority of military service is laughing with friends and being immature around explosives and ammunition—not killing or being shot at. Civilians understand life without the threat of exploding poppy fields and mortars. Veterans do not, and that’s okay. A divide between civilians and veterans will always exist; that doesn’t mean we can’t narrow that divide. I say we start with honest conversation. It’s the only way for people to connect with war and its aftermath. I’d rather war be a romantic idea to a minority than for it to be a reality for the majority.

What does life look like in a war zone?
FO: At first it’s exciting and compelling, but it can become draining if you don’t allow yourself occasional breaks from the stress. You become hyperaware of your environment and the threats it may hold; this stays with you long after you’ve left.

How can we overcome the stigma surrounding PTSD and other mental health issues?
TB: I believe that consistent storytelling about war and trauma is the key to moving forward the conversation about war’s impact on mental health.

FO: In writing our book, we wanted to put our struggles out in the open so that others can relate to our experiences. For the most part, we don’t discuss this openly, and we often don’t understand what to do, or who to talk to, and how. The only way to challenge that stigma is to bring the issues forward so they can be discussed without shame and without fear that it will adversely effect a person’s career.

How have your shared experiences helped shape your friendship?
FO: We’ll always have that common thread of Afghanistan, but now we tend to talk more about journalism than war. Writing, instead of fighting, has become the reference point for our friendship.

TB: During our time together in Afghanistan, my fellow marines and I called Fin, “old man.”
He was nearly twice our age and full of grey hair. What makes our friendship so strong is knowing that I can trust him with my life. After being shot at together, asking for advice about journalism
is easy.

What will you be working on next?
Following graduate school in 2015, I began developing The War Horse, the only nonprofit newsroom dedicated to investigating the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs. During my time at the Jacksonville, NC, Daily News, I was fortunate to write short profiles of World War II veterans. I hated being the cliché military reporter chasing after veterans’ stories during their last years of life, yet I knew that military reporting was missing its gold standard. Within our first year of publishing, War Horse reporting has changed military law and sparked congressional and federal investigations into pandemic sexual exploitation throughout the DoD.

FO: I’m still trying to determine the direction my career will take in the years ahead. I expect to write, photograph, and teach in ways that I find rewarding and fulfilling.

Stephanie Sendaula is Associate Editor, LJ Reviews

Children & Divorce, Neuroscience & Teen Brains, Montessori Mastery, Risk-Taking | Parenting Reviews

Thu, 06/29/2017 - 16:27

Bring on the summer reading! Libraries across the country are moving from traditional summer reading programs to “Reading Plus” models designed to attract young people who don’t self-identify as readers by providing incentives for STEM program attendance, community involvement, and more. Early literacy initiatives, lunch programs, and Maker/Tinker exercises keep our library staff and buildings humming with movement meant to feed curious minds. With federal funding cuts looming ominously, it is more important than ever that libraries continue to offer the services our communities desire and demand. The shift from “collections to connections” challenges librarians everywhere to reinvent our spaces and programs as well as service models and policies. These changes will reinforce the value of libraries to our neighbors and beyond, ensuring that the vitality of lifelong learning remains a ­possibility for us all.

Baker, James A. (Jim). Positive Parenting 101: A Handbook for Parents Undergoing Divorce. Bayou. Aug. 2017. 102p. index. ISBN 9781886298354. pap. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9781886298675. CHILD REARING

Complete with a companion online course, consultant Baker’s guidebook gives parents and caregivers strategies for responding to the needs of children during and after divorce. The first portion of the book is dedicated to developing parenting skills in general, followed by information specific to children within the context of divorce. Baker not only addresses the most common issue of ­children feeling that they are to blame for the breakup, but he also validates the emotions parents experience as well, such as embarrassment, guilt, anxiety, and fear of damaging their children. He explores how best to handle arrangements such as custody, visitation, and how to inform children about the divorce and move through the grief process. Chapters are readable, nonjudgmental, and each concludes with a helpful quiz. VERDICT Although this is truly a workbook, libraries may want to acquire anyway since patrons can take the quizzes on separate paper. Recommended for public library collections.

Bradley, Michael J. Crazy-Stressed: Saving Today’s Overwhelmed Teens with Love, Laughter, and the Science of Resilience. AMACOM. Apr. 2017. 288p. notes. index. ISBN 9780814438046. $17.95; ebk. ISBN 9780814438053. CHILD REARING

According to adolescent psychologist Bradley (Yes, Your Teen Is Crazy), teens are more stressed today than they have been in 50 years. Combine mood swings, impulsiveness, and lack of sleep with present-day triggers of increased academic demands and social media consumption, and many youths may feel like they are spiraling down a path of depression and anxiety. Bradley begins this work with a look at the neuroscience of a teenage brain, examining how this work-in-progress sometimes lapses into poor judgment and produces angry outbursts. Part 2 offers critical strategies for parents to help their kids build resilience. The final section is a veritable toolbox of approaches and contains phrases for parents to use that not only enable empowerment in youth but also help to pave the way for stronger communication and even greater sanity for mom and dad. VERDICT Bradley’s work offers valuable case studies, quotes, and a bit of humor that guides readers through to the end. Recommended.

Ellis, Biz & Theresa Thorn. You’re Doing a Great Job: 100 Ways You’re Winning at Parenting. Countryman Pr. Apr. 2017. 160p. ISBN 9781682680056. $17.95; ebk. ISBN 9781682680063. CHILD REARING

Authors Ellis and Thorn found each other amid the chaos and too often disappointing early years of parenting. Tired of what they found to be society’s uppity and unreasonably high expectations for parents, they joined forces to produce the podcast One Bad Mother. This offering, similar in spirit, provides 100 affirmations for moms everywhere by tapping the lowest hanging fruit: “Your kid pooped in the tub and nobody died. Poop in the tub happens to all of us at some point…but, it wasn’t the end of the world. You just handled it. Good job!” Although the narrative is only mildly entertaining in spots, the presentation is excellent. Pink- and blue-colored pages, darling icon-like images, and compelling fonts and layouts make the book a pleasure to peruse. VERDICT Libraries can pass, but this may serve as a terrific baby shower gift.

Hicks, Randall. Parenting: 50 One-Minute DOs & DON’Ts for Moms and Dads. Wordslinger. Jun. 2017. 97p. ISBN 9780979443053. pap. $9.95; ebk. ISBN 9780979443060. CHILD REARING

Hicks’s highly acclaimed Step Parenting: 50 One-Minute DOs and DON’Ts for Stepdads and Stepmoms earned an LJ starred review. This edition, aimed at birth parents, is just as pleasing, with 50 tips further explained in one- and two-page snippets. These “golden rules” for child rearing include advice such as, “Don’t Control Your Kids—Guide Them” and “Don’t Try To Be the Cool Parent.” Not all of the topics are philosophical in nature, and many include such practical suggestions as mandating the use of sunscreen and why using chores as punishment is probably not a good idea. The appeal of Hicks’s titles are their concise and direct approach. That said, the power of his words is not diluted, and the guidance is richly conveyed. VERDICT Highly recommended for public library collections.

Morin, Amy. 13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don’t Do: Raising Self-Assured Children and Training Their Brains for a Life of Happiness, Meaning, and Success. Morrow. Sept. 2017. 352p. ISBN 9780062565730. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062565747. CHILD REARING

Social worker and psychotherapist Morin delivers an in-through-the-out-door approach to building mental muscle by presenting 13 parenting behaviors to avoid. She first outlines three components of psychological strength (thoughts, behaviors, and emotions) that will help youngsters deal with life’s challenges. The 13 no-nos for parents include confusing discipline and punishment, expecting perfection, letting children avoid responsibility, making their kids the center of the universe, allow fear to dictate their choices, among others. Chapters conclude with follow-up questions that address issues in both one’s personal and parenting life. “Stage moms” and “sports dads” are asked to look deep and consider that kids can handle more than you think and that “pain is not the enemy.” VERDICT Morin’s strategies support long-term goals. Her advice, while lengthy, is sound and can be applied to children of any age. ­Recommended.

Pearlman, Catherine. Ignore It! How Selectively Looking the Other Way Can Decrease Behavioral Problems and Increase Parenting Satisfaction. TarcherPerigee. Aug. 2017. 272p. notes. ISBN 9780143130338. pap. $18; ebk. ISBN 9781524704001. CHILD REARING

From tantrums and food strikes to sibling bickering and random refusals, children often seem to create drama and incite arguments intentionally. Family counselor Pearlman (social work, Brandman Univ.) advises mom and dad to turn a blind eye and step away in order to effectively decrease power struggles and avoid blistering disagreements. Demonstrating how debate and engagement with a child only encourages whining and negotiating, Pearlman presents a four-step process designed to increase both a child’s self-esteem and parenting satisfaction. The author stands firm in the belief that parents will always lose something in a negotiation, even if they “win,” reminding us that “any attention—even negative—still motivates a child.” Ignoring bad behavior is known to be a preferable and more effective tool than over-correcting. And as always, parents will need a lot of inner strength and consistency to get the desired results. VERDICT For public library collections.

Price, Adam. He’s Not Lazy: Empowering Your Son To Believe in Himself. Sterling. Aug. 2017. 288p. notes. ISBN 9781454916871. $19.95. CHILD REARING

Clinical psychologist Price offers one of the most significant books of the year in this new look at an old problem—the underperforming teenage boy. Many parents will relate to the dynamic of the “opt-out kid,” who Price argues is, contrary to appearances, not lazy but rather “overcome by demands that he fears he simply cannot meet.” These kids tend to fall into four categories: Mr. Oppositional, Mr. Do-It-For-Me, Mr. Popular, and Mr. Uncertain. Supporting three touchstones of masculinity (competence, control, and connection), the author then presents specific tips for striking a balance between giving your kid space and setting limits (e.g., stop taking the opt-out attitude personally, stop telling him how smart he is, etc.). With today’s kids being pushed harder than ever to perform and succeed at an early age, Price’s book brings an important voice to a much-needed conversation. VERDICT Highly recommended.

Roginski, Dawn R. The Littlest Learners: Preparing Your Child for Kindergarten. Rowman & Littlefield. Aug. 2017. 160p. ISBN 9781475832761. $30; ebk. ISBN 9781475832785. CHILD REARING

Early childhood librarian and educator Roginski takes an academic and expanded approach to the many “Read, Play, Grow” curricula offered by libraries, outlining the research behind the program and including extensive literature selections, notes, and charts. Citing that many state prisons base their strategic plans, including programs for inmates, on a fourth grade–level reading scores, the author provides expansive information on literacy statistics and their long-term implications before delving into a practicum of sorts. Included are ideas for singing activities, conversation techniques that encourage critical thinking, and lots of quality e-resources for tech-oriented parents. VERDICT Despite the title, parents will probably find this volume overly academic and statistic-heavy. Still, thoroughly researched and presented, it is a worthy addition to scholarly collections.

Seldin, Tim. How To Raise an Amazing Child the Montessori Way: A Parent’s Guide to Building Creativity, Confidence, and Independence. DK. 2d. ed. Jun. 2017. 208p. index. ISBN 9781465462305. pap. $19.95. CHILD REARING

Montessori-based learning programs are considered by many to be the crème de la crème of early literacy and development. Child psychiatrist Seldin, president of the Montessori Foundation, here adapts key Montessori principles for the home environment, maintaining the core tenets of “kindness, partnership, and respect.” In brief, the Montessori methodology concludes that children pass through distinct developmental stages, each characterized by specific inclinations and interests. The educator’s goal is to recognize these “sensitive” periods and allow the child self-mastery at their own pace. Mastery, in turn, permits children to feel respected and competent, thus gaining a heightened level of emotional well-being throughout life. Beginning with a child’s earliest days and continuing throughout the elementary years, Seldin’s volume concludes with a chapter on developing the brain’s executive functioning skills (i.e., the ability to focus attention, control impulses, and to hold and manipulate short-term information). In true DK tradition, this book abounds with full-color images, slick paper, and attractive sidebars that lend a great deal to the reading experience. VERDICT Libraries can confidently acquire this updated second edition, which reflects current information on family issues and digital tools.

Shatkin, Jess P. Born To Be Wild: Why Teens Take Risks, and How We Can Help Keep Them Safe. TarcherPerigee. Oct. 2017. 304p. bibliog. ISBN 9780143129790. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781101993422. CHILD REARING

Adolescent psychiatrist Shatkin (child psychiatry & pediatrics, New York Univ. Sch. of Medicine) argues that our ­understanding of teen risk-taking ­behavior is completely wrong, having resulted in programs that simply don’t work (think D.A.R.E.). Essentially, according to the author, we are fighting evolution, which has selected adolescents, whose brains and hormones all scream and encourage risk at every turn, to embrace a certain amount of danger in life. All is not lost, however, because teens do respond to positivity and immediate rewards. In other words, Shatkin suggests that instead of saying, “If you don’t study hard, you won’t get into a good college,” try, “Study hard in school so that you can apply to any college you like.” The author makes a strong case for not only understanding a teen’s “natural state” but also for intervening in situations in which mental illness or instability are at play, advocating for increased mental health services in schools. For example, one reason anxiety and depression skyrocket during adolescence is the “relative hyperactivity of the amygdala, which induces fear, and the relative passivity of the prefrontral cortex, which exerts emotional control.” Shatkin’s readable style, complete research, and useful case studies all combine cohesively to help parents sort out what’s normal, what’s a stage, and what’s cause for greater concern. VERDICT Recommended for both public and academic collections.

Additional Parenting

Wagner-Peck, Kari. Not Always Happy: An Unusual Parenting Journey. Central Recovery. May 2017. 288p. ISBN 9781942094371. pap. $16.95. CHILD REARING

Freelancer Wagner-Peck and her husband, Ward, decided to become parents when the author was in her 40s. The Maine couple realized that adopting from the foster care system might be their quickest route but never planned on falling in love with Thorin, a toddler with Down syndrome. They quickly learned that—despite strong educational and civil rights laws—discrimination and ignorance are still alive and well. Here they relate shocking encounters that might have been commonplace decades ago yet are unacceptable and happening now. Using her knowledge as an advocate, social worker, and parent who homeschools her son, the author has created the blog ­, the entries of which form the basis for this book. While this memoir is often humorous, it doesn’t set out to be. VERDICT Recommended reading for every parent.—Virginia Johnson, East Bridgewater P.L., MA

Julianne Smith received her BA in English and her MS in Information from the University of Michigan. She has been a librarian for over 20 years and an LJ reviewer for nearly ten. She currently serves as Assistant Director, Ypsilanti District Library, MI. Parenting consumes much of her time outside of work, and it’s a good thing she writes this column because her twins give her a run for her money on a daily basis

Claire Zion on Editing the Late Jo Beverley

Thu, 06/29/2017 - 13:33

Claire Zion, editor in chief at the Penguin/Berkley publishing ­division of Penguin Random House, had been editing the late Jo Beverley (1947–2016) for roughly ten years (her first book was published in 1988). Beverley’s final novel, Merely a Marriage (LJ 6/15/17, p. 66), is releasing this June. We asked Zion to talk about her relationship with the much-revered author, Beverley’s process/themes, and her contributions to the romance genre.

What was it like to work with Jo Beverley? How did you resolve things if you didn’t see eye-to-eye on revisions?
Jo was a joy to work with because she always had a very clear vision of what she wanted to do and the talent to achieve it. She was a professional in every sense of the word. Sometimes her imagination would be caught by an idea, and she would incubate it over a season, developing it carefully and lovingly, then she would put it on the page. Sometimes books flowed easily for her, and sometimes she struggled. But the result was consistently polished and graceful. In fact, I never asked Jo for many changes on her manuscripts. She always hit her target.

What was one of the most memorable things you remember about Jo?
When Jo decided to move to England from Canada, she and her husband took the summer to drive across the North American continent. It was such a liberating thing to do—pick up stakes and seek out the adventure. I admired her for it—and was jealous! She kept that curiosity [and energy] about life with her always.

Her career spanned almost 30 years. How did her writing evolve and how did it (and she) change the romance genre?
Sadly, I was not Jo’s only editor, but [I was] her last. I had the privilege of working with her for a decade but not during her formative years. By the time we met, she was a master…. As a fan of the historical romance genre, I certainly observed how Jo’s novels grew and changed over the years.

She started out, like many of our finest historical romance authors, writing category-length Regency romances. But even those shorter books showed off Jo’s magic in portraying spirited heroines and the heroes who knew how to bring out the best in them. As time went on, her settings and stories grew larger and more complex. She started introducing more cultural, social, and political issues [into her works]. She was writing in the same romance genre, but her novels seemed more elevated and offered the reader more.

What do you think she will be most noted for? What is her legacy?
It’s hard to pick just one thing. I guess one reason I enjoyed Jo’s books so much is that they were not just entertaining and heartfelt romances but novels that brought to light social issues of the time that still held relevance to modern readers. For instance, it was from Jo’s novels that I came to understand the limits—legal and real—on women’s lives in the early 19th century. She found characters who brought to life social, political, economic, literary, and artistic issues of all kind.

That being said, she wrote in several historical time periods other than the Regency. And do you know what [drew] her to the earlier time periods, especially the 1760s (George III) and the 12th century? It was the freedom those time periods gave her to explore her characters in more complex ways. I worked with Jo on her Regency “Company of Rogues” series and her Georgian “Malloren World” books. She loved the Georgian period because it was a pretty loose and racy time, so her characters could risk naughtier behavior. She encapsulated the magic of the ton during the Regency period in her novels about the Rogues.

So many of her stories have related characters. Did she ever have a problem keeping things straight?
No! She never had any problem with this at all. I was so impressed by that. But her characters were all very real people for her (and her readers). So they were hard to forget or confuse.

Her early works were traditional Regencies, but they always pushed the envelope a bit. Do you know if she had problems with editors wanting her to tone things down or be more “traditional” when writing these?
I don’t know if she had problems with this in the early days. I certainly never had a problem with it. It was sometimes that risky element that I liked about Jo’s books. Maybe risk isn’t the right word. It’s that her books were very honest. They portrayed the time as people must have lived it. That was the magical part about her books, her ability to make those people come alive.—Kristin Ramsdell

Cuba, Then & Now | Collection Development

Thu, 06/29/2017 - 11:08

Cuba has served as a playground for tourists, a model Communist state, and most recently a renewed interest for American travelers and investment. The country, a scant 90 miles off the Florida coast, has also been the subject of exciting literary output for decades.

From the time of Spanish colonial rule in the 1500s to the death of former prime minister and president Fidel Castro in 2016, Cuba has experienced a number of pivotal episodes, including the Spanish American War in 1898, the critical rule of U.S.-backed leader Fulgencio Batista in the 1950s, and the Cuban Revolution, 1953–59.

Events such as the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, the period following the downfall of the Soviet Union in 1989, and the media response to the Mariel boatlift and Elián González controversies have all been fertile ground for writers and historians.

In 1971, Hugh Thomas published his seminal Cuba: The Pursuit of Freedom, a nearly 1,700-page tome detailing the island’s rich history. This sparked other writers to contribute to the impressive body of literature being published. With more books available on Cuba each year, current areas of interest include Castro’s life and legacy, the nation’s economy and burgeoning tourism industry, and the country’s rich cultural history, especially relating to literature and the arts.

One important consideration for acquiring materials on Cuba is objectivity. Margaret Randall’s To Change the World (2009) has been controversial because of her praise of the accomplishments and improvements that Castro initiated, an opinion disputed among those who witnessed years of oppression and economic hardship. Yet, voices such as Randall’s are necessary to provide a complete picture, a counterpoint to American-dominated anti-Castro stances.

As Cuba’s future continues to evolve, it is essential for readers of all ages to have an understanding of and appreciation for the history, politics, and culture of this island nation. Both mass-market and scholarly works offer exciting selections for libraries and readers. Also, libraries have a role to play in building collections that enhance our knowledge of the events that shaped Cuba—and what the future holds.

Starred titles () are essential for most collections.

Boyd Childress is a retired reference librarian and longtime LJ reviewer living in Alabama. He enjoys college sports and maintains a research interest in the American Revolution and the early American Republic. His reading trends to mystery, sports, and Latin America with an emphasis on Cuba


Brown, Jonathan C. Cuba’s Revolutionary World. Harvard Univ. Apr. 2017. 600p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9780674971981. $35; ebk. ISBN 9780674978324.

This recent history focuses on Cuba’s chief export after 1959—revolution. Castro’s influence spread across countries such as Venezuela, Peru, Brazil, and Panama, sparking activist movements in reaction to massive inflation and social and political unrest. (LJ 4/1/17)

Gott, Richard. Cuba: A New History. Yale Univ. 2005. 400p. illus. index. ISBN 9780300111149. pap. $23.

In the most comprehensive history since Hugh Thomas’s classic Cuba (1971), Gott traces Cuba’s history first as a Spanish colony and later as a nation constantly threatened by internal security and external attack. He concludes that Cuba was headed for an economic revolution well before Castro’s rise. (LJ 10/15/04)

Hansen, Jonathan M. Guantanamo: An American History. Farrar. 2011. 448p. illus. maps. notes. index. ISBN 9780809053414. $35; ebk. ISBN 9780809048977.

With both an American and Cuban perspective, Hansen presents the history of controversial American soil in a foreign state, an ever-present thorn in Castro’s Cuba. This readable, well-researched account traces the evolution of Guantanamo Bay from the 15th century to its current status as a U.S. naval base. (LJ 9/1/11)

LeoGrande, William M. & Peter Kornbluh. Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations Between Washington and Havana. Univ. of North Carolina. 2015. 584p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781469617633. $35; pap. ISBN 9781469626604. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781469626611.

Previous administrations attempted reconciliation years before the reopening of relations between the U.S. and Cuba in 2014. LeoGrande and Kornbluh provide a front-row seat to those diplomatic and economic negotiations, along with the challenges involved. (LJ 8/14)

Pérez, Louis A., Jr. The Structure of Cuban History: Meaning and Purpose of the Past. Univ. of North Carolina. 2015. 352p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9781469626598. pap. $27.95.

Perez, a leading scholar on Cuba, explores how Cubans view their own history. In doing so, he presents a background of societal struggle long before Castro and his revolutionaries gained power in the 1950s.


Argote-Freyre, Frank. Fulgencio Batista: From Revolutionary to Strongman. Rutgers Univ. 2006. 416p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780813537016. $39.95; ebk. ISBN 9780813541006.

To understand Castro and his revolutionary movement better, one needs to understand Cuba under the rule of Fulgencio Batista (1901–73). This biography places the army sergeant–turned–brutal dictator within the historical context of the “Sergeants’ Revolt” of 1933, a bloodless army coup. (LJ 5/1/06)

Bustos, Ciro. Che Wants To See You: The Untold Story of Che Guevara. Verso. 2013. 468p. tr. from Spanish by Anne Wright. ISBN 9781781680964. $34.95; ebk. ISBN 9781781683361.

No list of books on Cuba would be complete without an entry on Che Guevara. In this memoir, first printed in Spanish in 2007, Bustos reflects on his life as a revolutionary after he followed Che from the Sierra Maestra to Bolivia. He also considers Che’s thoughts and beliefs. (LJ 6/15/13)

James, Ian. Ninety Miles: Cuban Journeys in the Age of Castro. Rowman & Littlefield. 2008. 216p. illus. maps. bibliog. ISBN 9780742540439. pap. $21.95.

Although dated, this excellent book tells the stories of three Cuban expats: Eloy Menoyo (an early ally of Castro who spent 20 years in prison); jazz musician Paquito d’Rivera; and Nancy Espinosa, a Cuban housewife who followed her husband when he left Cuba.

Latell, Brian. After Fidel: The Inside Story of Castro’s Regime and Cuba’s Next Leader. St. Martin’s. 2007. 304p. notes. index. ISBN 9781403975072. pap. $21.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466885912.

Castro and Cuba specialist Latell’s insights about Fidel and the future of Cuba written ten years before the reopening of Cuban-American relations is a remarkable blueprint of the events leading up to that moment. There is also insight on Fidel’s brother and current president Raúl ­Castro. (LJ 10/1/05)

Randall, Margaret. To Change the World: My Years in Cuba. Rutgers Univ. 2009. 247p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9780813544328. pap. $28.95.

Randall is one of the most prolific writers on contemporary Cuban affairs. In this contribution, she recounts her experiences living in Cuba from 1969 to 1980, offering a voice seldom heard in most literature critical of Castro’s Cuba. (LJ 1/09)

Stout, Nancy. One Day in December: Celia Sánchez and the Cuban Revolution. Monthly Review. 2013. 400p. photos. maps. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781583673171. $28.95; ebk. ISBN 9781583673188.

Celia Sánchez was an influential contributor to the Cuban revolution: a Castro confidante and his rumored lover. Stout’s important biography contributes a distinctive perspective that is often missing from other histories and biographies of the era. Sánchez died in 1980, leaving a legacy across the nation. (LJ 5/1/13)

Symmes, Patrick. The Boys from Dolores: Fidel Castro’s Schoolmates. Pantheon. 2008. 368p. index. ISBN 9781400076444. pap. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9780375425189.

Fidel, Raúl, and Ramón—the Castro brothers—attended the Colegio de ­Dolores in Santiago, Cuba. In this excellent work, Symmes uses personal interviews to provide perspective on Fidel, his early background and education, and the lives of his classmates after 1959.


Estrada, Alfredo José. Havana: Autobiography of a City. St. Martin’s. 2008. 288p. photos. notes. index. ISBN 9781403975393. pap. $21.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250114662.

A guide to Havana, relating the city’s cultural history from the time when Ernest Hemingway resided there in the 1940s and 1950s to the rise of casinos and the mob. The author spares no one from responsibility for the city’s decline.

Frank, Marc. Cuban Revelations: Behind the Scenes in Havana. Univ. of Florida. 2013. 344p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780813044651. $29.95; pap. ISBN 9780813061818. $19.95; ebk. ISBN 9780813047843.

The city of Havana loses its charms daily, as buildings collapse and others are abandoned. Frank’s interviews with residents shed light on both the hope and despair of life under Fidel Castro’s rule, along with prospects for the future under Raúl ­Castro. (LJ 12/13)

Sanchez, Yoani. Havana Real: One Woman Fights To Tell the Truth About Cuba Today. Melville House. 2011. 256p. tr. from Spanish by M.J. Porter. ISBN 9781935554257. pap. $16.95.

This gem is a narrative about life in contemporary Havana—a life of waiting for food, electricity, medical care, and individual freedoms. Sanchez shares her struggles on her blog, Generacion Y, offering new reflections on daily existence in the capital and beyond. (LJ 5/15/11)


Bjarkman, Peter C. A History of Cuban Baseball, 1864–2006. McFarland. 2014. 496p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780786493821. pap. $35.

Baseball historian Bjarkman details Cuba’s rich baseball history before the revolution, when the game was an amateur sport, to the revolutionary period, when players became the nation’s primary export. Included are tales of legendary players and games. (LJ 2/1/07)

Bjarkman, Peter C. Cuba’s Baseball Defectors: The Inside Story. Rowman & Littlefield. 2016. 386p. illus. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9781442247987. $36.

Cuba has contributed numerous baseball stars to the major leagues, including Minnie Minoso, Tony Oliva, and 2016 World Series champion Aroldis Chapman. This remarkable social history follows these and other players on their journey from the island to the pros. (LJ 5/1/16)

Connors, Michael. The Splendor of Cuba: 450 Years of Architecture and Interiors. Rizzoli. 2011. 320p. photos. notes. ISBN 9780847835676. $85.

This lavishly illustrated collection of ­Cuban architecture includes buildings such as mansions and plantations throughout the island that have been preserved since the colonial era. Photographs offer remarkable detail and a vivid journey through a lost era of Cuban history.

English, T.J. Havana Nocturne: How the Mob Owned Cuba…and Then Lost It to the Revolution. Morrow. 2009. 432p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780061712746. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9780061795589.

In one of the best recent books on Cuba, English spins a tale of Meyer Lansky, Lucky Luciano, and the world of Havana casinos—a lurid story of gambling, drugs, and sex amid the corruption of Batista’s government. The result is a must-read for insight on prerevolutionary Cuba.

Sublette, Ned. Cuba and Its Music: From the First Drums to the Mambo. Chicago Review. 2007. 688p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781556526329. pap. $26.95.

Cuban music has a rich past and has influenced music worldwide, including modern jazz and rhythm and blues. It has also introduced the world to notables such as Benny Moré and Pérez Prado. This delightful volume will satisfy readers interested in all aspects of music and entertainment.

General & Reference

The Cuba Reader: History, Culture, Politics. Duke Univ. 2004. 723p. ed. by Aviva Chomsky & others. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780822331971. pap. $29.95.

For a solid introduction to all things ­Cuban, start with this edited collection of primary sources, including speeches, articles, songs, poems, book excerpts, and other publications spanning 500 years of Cuban history and culture.

Leonard, Thomas M. Encyclopedia of Cuban-United States Relations. McFarland. 2010. 288p. maps. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780786445820. pap. $49.95.

Leonard has written an excellent reference work with concise entries on relations between the two nations over the course of 200 years. Topics range from the Bay of Pigs Invasion to the Mariel boatlift, with notable events in the 18th century as well.

Sweig, Julia E. Cuba: What Everyone Needs To Know. Oxford Univ. 3d ed. 2016. 378p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780190620363. $74; pap. ISBN 9780190620370. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9780199740819.

Using a question-and-answer format, Sweig creates an essential guide that addresses former president Batista and the future under current leader Raúl Castro. Ideal for libraries, travelers, historians, and general readers.


Castro: Man and Myth. 50 min. Parthenon Entertainment, dist. by Cinema Guild. 2013. Free at; also available for streaming on Amazon for $2.99.

This informative documentary traces Castro’s life as he became an insurgent. The biographical format follows his turn toward communism and the history of his dictatorial rule, giving an overview of the life of an admired and vilified ­revolutionary.

Cuba Today. 99 min. Marlin Darrah, dist. by 2013. $19.95; also available for streaming on Amazon for $9.99.

Award-winning filmmaker Darrah creates a fascinating travelog through Havana and other cities. He explores the country’s history, culture, and architecture, taking care to include glimpses of Cuba’s back roads and rural landscapes.

Cubamerican. color & b/w. 107 min. José Enrique Pardo, ÑO Prods., dist. by Midwest Tape. 2015. $30; acad. libs. $325.

Five years in the making, this emotional film looks deep into the lives of Cuban families whose lives were displaced by the revolution. These exiles reflect on life in their ­adopted home of the United States and how they view the future of their homeland. The starkest scenes involve adults reflecting on their childhood, as they knew little of what happened after 1959 but now understand the tragedy of their history. (LJ 3/15/16)

ONLINE Resources

Council on Foreign Relations: Cuba

The Cuba page from the Council on Foreign Relations includes a wide variety of articles, policy papers, news briefs, and blogs on diplomatic, economic, and cultural issues, as well as a useful time line on America-Cuba relations.


The daily newspaper of Cuba’s Communist Party contains sections on national and international affairs, culture, sports, and tourism. English (as well as Dutch, French, and Italian) translations are available. Included are lavish illustrations and links to other online sources of interest.

Lonely Planet

This travel guide features sections on food, lodging, culture, architecture, and history and historic sites. Readers can also find related maps and videos. n

The Developing Schedule

SEPT Women in Sports
OCT Retelling the Classics
NOV Math & Science Literacy
DEC graphic novels/nonfiction
JAN 2018 Fake News & Media Literacy

To submit titles (new and/or backlist), contact Barbara Genco four to six months before issue dates listed above (email: