From the Shelf
A Victorian Sleuth
Mystery fans love to discover a good author with a slew of books. I recently discovered Charles Finch with The Vanishing Man (Minotaur, $26.99), his 12th book about Charles Lenox and second prequel in the series. Then I read the first book, A Beautiful Blue Death (Minotaur, $9.99), then four more in no order--whatever I could immediately find. (Shelf Awareness has reviewed three: The Woman in the Water, Home by Nightfall and The Laws of Murder, all published by Minotaur, $17.99 each)--which makes me doubly embarrassed to have overlooked them.)
The mysteries are a delight. The plots are clever, matched by the prose, the characters and the settings. In Victorian London, Charles Lenox, a gentleman detective, pursues his calling in the face of peer derision and police opposition. He is ably abetted by his butler, Graham, and his beloved wife, Lady Jane. Finch writes with dry wit: a bobby stands guard with "the blankness of his face hiding either boredom or stupidity, or who knew, great internal self-sustaining brilliance...."
In An Old Betrayal (Minotaur, $17.99), the seventh book, Lenox has become a Member of Parliament, but misses detecting. When his protégé, the formerly disreputable son of a duke, John Dallington, asks for help, Lenox accedes, and finds himself pursuing a murderer. As the story progresses, we learn about class distinctions, like the significance of tea with or without lemon and what it signals about gender; the origins of the words "hogwash" and "soup kitchen"; the workings of Parliament. Finch's novels brim with historical and social information, adding to the richness of his stories.
The third and final prequel, The Last Passenger, will be published February 18, 2020, by Minotaur. But, one hopes, it will not be the last of Charles Lenox. For me, there are six books to go--my summer is looking good. --Marilyn Dahl
In this Issue...
by Michael Robotham
An unlikely pair of broken people come together to solve the murder of a junior champion ice skater in this spellbinding thriller.
by William Ritter
In William Ritter's middle-grade novel, two boys raised as twins embark on an adventure to save magic and discover which of them is a goblin changeling in disguise.
by J. Michael Straczynski
In this inspiring, reflective, shocking memoir, a screenwriter recounts how a love of superheroes led him out of an extremely abusive childhood.
Review by Subjects:
04/07/2020 - 6:30PMDue to the Napa County Health order issued on March 17, 2020 regarding protective measures for COVID-19, this event has been POSTPONED. We will update with new event info as soon as it is safe to do so. Each month, Poetry Club meets to discuss one must-read book of poems, whether a timeless classic or an award-winning contemporary. Led by Napa poet Kathleen Patterson, who has been an enthusiastic book club member since its beginning, meetings are open to all levels of poetry...
04/11/2020 - 10:30AMDue to the State of Califorina Shelter-In-Place order regarding protective measures for COVID-19, this event has been cancelled. Join Napa Bookmine on Saturday, April 11th for a special Easter storytime event in the Oxbow Commons with authors Dr. Cheryl Palladino and Barbara Toboni and their books THE SCRAGGLY RABBIT and THE BUNNY POETS. ABOUT THE SCRAGGLY RABBIT We all need help from time to time. The tale of The Scraggly Rabbit captures the hearts of both young...
04/16/2020 - 6:30PMDue to the State of Califorina Shelter-In-Place order regarding protective measures for COVID-19, this event will now be a DIGITAL bookclub hosted on Zoom. Stay tuned for updates here on how to join! To join the virtual bookclub, download the Zoom app and visit the following link: Join Zoom Meeting: https://zoom.us/j/466616674 Meeting ID: 466 616 674 This meeting is password protected. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to RSVP and receive the meeting password. Justyn will be hosting...
04/18/2020 - 10:00AMDue to the State of Califorina Shelter-In-Place order regarding protective measures for COVID-19, this event has been postponed. We will announce the updated date when it is safe to do so. The Napa Valley Book Festival, in its fourth year, will feature a full day of author readings and conversations, that span multiple genres and include young adult, nonfiction, poetry and fiction. Authors include Alexandria Brown, Yangzse Choo, Iris Jamahl Dunkle, Devi S. Laskar, Sarita Lopez...
Most Read Poem: 'Still I Rise'
For fans of Amor (A Gentleman in Moscow) Towles: AP chronicled the Metropol Hotel's path from "elegance to revolution and back again."
The Big Issue checked out "top 5 libraries in books."
Author Caroline Crampton picked her "top 10 books about the River Thames" for the Guardian.
George Hodgman, editor at Simon & Schuster, Houghton Mifflin and Vanity Fair, and author of the bestselling memoir Bettyville, died July 20 at age 60. In recent years, he moved from New York City back to his hometown of Paris, Missouri, to care for his aging mother, Betty. Bettyville (2015) chronicles Hodgman's difficult formative years as a gay child in Missouri, his mother's trouble accepting his sexuality, and the challenges of returning home to assist elderly Betty. Bettyville was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle's autobiography prize.
On Facebook, Kris Kleindienst, co-owner of Left Bank Books, St. Louis, Mo., shared a tribute to Hodgman. "I met George Hodgman in 2015, shortly before his outstanding memoir, Bettyville, was to be published... The book, like George, is tender, funny with a special flourish towards the absurd, and more than a bit profound without the slightest hint of pretension or self-consciousness. Bettyville, as did George, radiates a great love of family, friends, and neighbors. George is one of the most genuinely kind people I have ever met, even when he has been treated badly. And that was a higher than average experience for a gay man growing up an only child in a tiny rural Missouri town."
Bettyville is available in paperback from Penguin Books ($17, 9780143107880).
The Writer's Life
Reading with... Daphne Kalotay
|photo: Sasha Pedro|
Daphne Kalotay made her publishing debut with the fiction collection Calamity and Other Stories, shortlisted for the Story Prize, and went on to publish the novels Russian Winter and Sight Reading. She has received fellowships from the Christopher Isherwood Foundation, MacDowell and Yaddo. Kalotay teaches at Princeton University and lives in Somerville, Mass. Her novel Blue Hours (Triquarterly) is a mystery linking Manhattan circa 1991 to eastern Afghanistan in 2012, and tells of a life-changing friendship between two memorable heroines.
On your nightstand now:
Rutting Season, a terrific story collection by Mandeliene Smith. I blurbed the book and am rereading it now because the stories are daring in a way that I want to push my own writing to be daring. Smith writes about hard topics like domestic trauma, race relations, suicide and mortality, allowing her storylines into difficult spaces--with beauty and even humor.
Favorite book when you were a child:
Like so many girl writers, Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh. Harriet's curiosity about the people around her, her intense and complicated friendships, the comedy of her family, the seriousness she applied to her notetaking--and the way the outside world decided there was something wrong with that notetaking--all added up to good preparation for the life of a writer.
Your top five authors:
Toni Morrison for the audacity and inner wisdom of her strong female protagonists; Gina Berriault for her compassion; Elizabeth Hardwick for her unshowy brilliance; Anton Chekhov for making it look simple. Mavis Gallant for her moral engagement with topics that only now, it seems, everyone is finally paying attention to: refugees, xenophobia, the lingering consequences of colonialism. Back in the mid-'90s, I wrote my doctoral dissertation on Gallant's stories about intolerance; she was ahead of her time and, like Berriault and Hardwick, never sufficiently celebrated.
Book you've faked reading:
I don't fake it--I stop reading. Life's too short and there are too many good books to have to pretend to have read any you aren't into.
Book you're an evangelist for:
Autumn by Ali Smith, from her seasons quartet. She's written something so beautiful about friendship and the transformative power of art. And in this #metoo moment, a love story between a girl and a man that is not about sex or manipulation is liberating in its own right.
Book you've bought for the cover:
poems the size of photographs by Les Murray. The book itself is small, almost a square, the title printed in lowercase, with a dark brown cover that after a moment you realize is a brown and white photo of two men who look so similar they must be father and son. They are grinning goofily while holding these huge axes, so that you almost don't notice what they're holding. I didn't know anything about the poet, but I remember I opened the book and it was dedicated To the glory of God and I thought, this is a man of conviction, and scanned a poem or two, and next thing I knew I'd bought the book. I've treasured it for years. Each poem fits on a page or two, and of course Les Murray is an amazing poet. He died just this spring.
Book you hid from your parents:
I truly can't think of any.
Book that changed your mind:
Martyr's Day by Michael Kelly, the war correspondent who died in Iraq in 2003. I remember when he died, in the first days of the Iraq war, I was feeling very piqued at all the correspondents so keen on being "embedded" with the troops; to me, their eagerness felt like approval of that war, of which I did not approve. Then, years later, doing research for the early 1990s section of Blue Hours, I read Martyr's Day, Kelly's chronicle of the first Gulf War and the people he met during his year in the Persian Gulf. It is an incredibly humane, clear-sighted book, and through it I was able to truly understand that a journalist's urge to follow a war doesn't necessarily signal tacit approval of that war, and that this man risked--and ultimately gave--his life to find out the truth on the ground.
Favorite line from a book:
"It's a sad day when you find out that it's not accident or time or fortune but just yourself that kept things from you." --Lillian Hellman, Pentimento
Hellman is a great one for insightful quips, and the tone of this one sums up what I love about the autobiographical pieces that make up Pentimento, each one rich with her straightforward wisdom, humor and insight.
Five books you'll never part with:
Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald, for the growing power of that classic Sebald narrative voice, and for the way he tells a story of memory, loss and the Holocaust through a meditation on buildings and architecture.
The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai, for her ability to tell an ultimately tragic story while staying true to the small daily moments of comic absurdity that are inseparable from our humanity.
The Transit of Venus by Shirley Hazzard, for the sweeping beauty of the saga she created and the carefully placed plot twists that leave you spinning in the last pages.
The Known World by Edward P. Jones, for the sheer completeness of the world he has created, telling a complex and painful story from multiple angles in a way that feels utterly real and, to me, unforgettable.
The Door by Magda Szabo, for the way she creates a page-turner out of a woman's relationship with her cleaning lady and her neighbors.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. I have read it multiple times, captivated by the way she creates suspense around an apocalyptic event while retaining the basic tension of human relationships: love (between siblings, spouses, parents and children), secrets and power struggles. The world she creates is at once strange and familiar, and I remember the feeling of reading those opening pages for the first time, absolutely captivated, not knowing what was going to happen.
The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep
by H.G. Parry
Charley Sutherland is a literary scholar and prodigy with a secret gift: he can bring characters from books to life. As fun as a visit from the Cat in the Hat or teatime with Sherlock Holmes might sound, Charley's older brother, Rob, knows better--it always means trouble. But Uriah Heep from David Copperfield appears as one of Rob's law firm interns, and the brothers later discover an entire Dickensian street filled with characters Charley swears he didn't create. Suddenly what used to be a nuisance turns into a dangerous adventure as they realize other summoners exist.
Charley attempts to understand the origin of the street, the threat of a rumored fictional "new world" and the identity of the other summoner (all while surviving attacks from the Jabberwocky and the Hound of the Baskervilles, among others). Meanwhile, Rob digs further into reality and discovers even deeper mysteries surrounding their own family. It comes down to whimsical Charley, practical Rob and a wild cast of literary characters brought to life to save the real world from complete fictional takeover.
The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep, H.G. Parry's debut novel, is a Dickensian booklover's delight, filled with the most popular characters from Western literature, from Heathcliff, Dorian Gray and five brooding Mr. Darcys to more modern characters like Matilda and the Implied Reader, all navigating their own stories as well as the real world they've come to inhabit. Anyone who has ever wondered what it would be like to have a conversation with the Artful Dodger or to hold the legendary Excalibur in their hands will be in excellent company in the pages of this delightful literary fantasy. As one fictional creation puts it: "I think we've found ourselves in the middle of an adventure." --Jennifer Oleinik, freelance writer and editor
Discover: In this smart literary adventure, a young academic has the ability to bring fictional characters to life.
Gravity Is the Thing
by Jaclyn Moriarty
Australian YA author Jaclyn Moriarty (The Slightly Alarming Tale of the Whispering Wars) soars in this raw, dryly funny adult debut.
Since the age of 16, Abigail Sorensen has lived under the shadow cast by the absence of her twin brother and best friend, Robert, who disappeared on their birthday. Despite years of searching, Abi's family and the authorities never found him, leaving her with a grief too tainted by questions and residual hope to ever heal.
Now a cafe owner and single mother, 35-year-old Abi travels to tiny Taylor Island to solve the other great mystery of her life. For years, chapters of a cryptic self-help book called The Guidebook have shown up in Abi's mailbox, unsolicited and unexplained. Wilbur, the writers' son, has invited all Guidebook recipients to the island. In a setup evocative of an adult version of The Westing Game, Abi and a small handful of strangers will compete to learn the truth about the book, with bizarre results. The comradeship she forms with the other Guidebook readers, including attractive but distant Niall, regret-filled Nicole and disgruntled Pete, lead Abi back through a past filled with mistakes, open wounds and the ever-present specter of her lost brother.
In Gravity Is the Thing, Moriarty offers an examination of modern womanhood, a satire of the self-help industry and a searing exploration of unresolved grief. Redemptive and hopeful, this novel announces the arrival of a fresh, funny and perceptive voice in adult fiction. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads
Discover: YA author Jaclyn Moriarty makes her adult fiction debut in style with this offbeat, heartfelt story of a woman struggling 20 years after the disappearance of her twin brother.
The Flight Girls
by Noelle Salazar
When World War II broke out, women served the war effort in different ways. While not officially part of the military, female pilots were instrumental to the air force, training new male pilots and transporting planes and goods between bases. More than 1,000 women served in this way, and when the war was over, the women went, unrecognized, back to their prewar lives. In her debut novel, The Flight Girls, Noelle Salazar paints a sweeping portrait of the brave Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), the friendships they formed in this extreme circumstance and the dreams and lives that were forever changed.
Each woman has a different reason for joining up and background with flying planes. Audrey Coltrane is fearless, a skilled pilot who has the clear goal of purchasing and running the small airfield back in her Texas hometown. A husband and children are not priorities, and she's determined not to acquiesce to anyone's expectations for that more traditional path. Yet when she meets Lieutenant James Hart, she's surprised to find that it is her own unfamiliar feelings that may stand in her way. Through the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the sexist assumptions and treatment of female pilots, the loss of close friends and the varied flight assignments, Audrey continues to learn and grow, as a woman, a friend, a daughter and, most importantly, as a pilot.
Thirty years after their service to the U.S., President Jimmy Carter granted the women of WASP full military status for their service and, in 2009, President Barack Obama and Congress awarded them the Congressional Gold Medal. --BrocheAroe Fabian, owner, River Dog Book Co., Beaver Dam, Wis.
Discover: A debut author uncovers a nearly forgotten piece of American history in this dynamic novel about the vital role of the Women Airforce Service Pilots during World War II.
A Stranger on the Beach
by Michele Campbell
Parents have long told their kids to beware of strangers. In her heart-thumping thriller A Stranger on the Beach, Michele Campbell reminds readers why that lesson should be heeded.
Caroline first saw Aidan on the beach outside her newly built seaside mansion. Or so she says. As the novel unfolds, the two become friends and then more than that, though Caroline is already married. But no matter how close they get, neither can be fully trusted--not with their feelings or their words. Caroline and Aidan take turns narrating the chapters, their stories rarely matching. Is Aidan a possessive stalker? Or a dim-witted but well-intentioned boyfriend? Is Caroline a passionate lover who's afraid of her violent husband? Or a loyal wife afraid of the stranger she met on the beach?
A former federal prosecutor in New York City, Campbell draws on her experience with the law to keep readers guessing what's truth and what's fiction, even as blood is spilled and the mystery deepens. As in her previous novels, including She Was the Quiet One and It's Always the Husband, Campbell fills Stranger on the Beach with twists and turns until its truly shocking end.
At a time when more attention than ever is being paid to women's tales of sexual assault--and whether they should be believed--Campbell has delivered a realistic story that reveals just how complex such stories can become. Fans of Ruth Ware (The Woman in Cabin 10) and Paula Hawkins (The Girl on the Train) will not be disappointed. --Amy Brady, freelance writer and editor
Discover: This thriller keeps readers guessing by having not one but two unreliable narrators.
Mystery & Thriller
Good Girl, Bad Girl
by Michael Robotham
Teenager Cyrus Haven returned home from school one day to find his parents and sisters shot to death and his brother with a big smile on his face, calmly watching television. That moment haunts Cyrus into adulthood, but also spurs him to become a police profiler with an uncanny ability to solve confounding murder cases.
Evie Cormac also experienced trauma as a child, found hiding in a trunk in the house where her long-dead kidnapper's body was discovered. Now she's incarcerated at a juvenile facility for dangerous teens. Cyrus is brought in to determine whether she should be released or remain behind bars until she turns 21. Complicating the matter is the fact no one knows Evie's real age.
Cyrus's task is sidelined when the police seek his help in finding the killer of a local teen ice skating star, Jodie Sheehan, last seen leaving a party and taking a shortcut through woods. Cyrus soon realizes neither Evie nor Jodie are what they seem, and Evie might be instrumental in finding out what happened to Jodie.
Michael Robotham's writing is achingly beautiful in Good Girl, Bad Girl. He shows the redemptive power of love and trust on broken people who don't know how to ask for help. He also digs deeply into how well-meaning adults can hijack the aspirations of adolescents, causing irreparable damage. --Paul Dinh-McCrillis, freelance reviewer
Discover: An unlikely pair of broken people come together to solve the murder of a junior champion ice skater in this spellbinding thriller.
Hope Rides Again
by Andrew Shaffer
Continuing the noir bromance of last year's Hope Never Dies, Andrew Shaffer again plucks Joe Biden and Barack Obama out of retirement and into their new roles as detectives. Hope Rides Again is another action-packed mystery rife with close calls.
While their first case was in Biden's Delaware, this time there's trouble in the Windy City, starting at Obama's Rising Hope Economics Forum. Joe arrives amid the hoopla of St. Patrick's Day, uneasy with the crowds of leprechauns clogging the streets. At the Forum, instead of the anticipated intro to a potential campaign supporter, there's a shooting--of a young "Rising Star" volunteer.
"There was no injustice too small to right if I had the chance," Joe thinks, and he sets out to confirm his suspicions: this was not gang related, which means sleuthing is in order. His BFF Barack joins the chase, and their investigation propels them to the sketchiest neighborhoods in Chi-town, a bizarre trek through a University of Chicago tunnel, a visit to a "strip club" (with "Gal Capone") and a speedboat pursuit on Lake Michigan (interrupted by "pirates"). Hope Rides Again and so does the intrepid team, but tensions are high on the path to justice. So, too, are wisecracks, puns and plenty of observations on the current state of White House affairs.
Shaffer writes slapstick noir that plays off of the Obama-Biden friendship, dropping names along the way (Rahm and Michele appear), yet doesn't require serious thought about 2020. In this light novel, Joe Biden is just a former veep with a passion for mystery. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, manager, Book Passage, San Francisco
Discover: The second mystery starring a hopeful Barack Obama and Joe Biden takes the duo on a wild ride through the seamy side of Chicago, their humor, loyalty and quest for justice intact.
Tell Me Everything
by Cambria Brockman
"Pretend," Malin Ahlberg's father whispers in her ear as her parents drop her at Hawthorne College, a small liberal arts school in the Maine backwoods. For the next four years, from that first day through the tragedies that befall her friends on Senior Day in 2011, Malin takes his directive to heart.
Cambria Brockman's debut, Tell Me Everything, ultimately does tell all; yet, in line with psychologically twisted college clique tales, not before putting the reader through a maddeningly enjoyable wringer. Malin is patently unreliable, but in a wonderfully fresh, clear-headed way. She is not influenced by drugs or alcohol; quite the opposite, in fact. Malin is about control, with an unknown but definite method to her madness.
Coming from Texas, as something of a fish-out-of-water, Malin surprisingly finds herself part of an intimate yet disparate group of six friends. Living together in a house purchased by one set of wealthy parents gives Malin constant access to and insights into their secrets, changing dynamics and intimacies.
Weaving through three main timelines--Malin's childhood, freshman year and senior year--Brockman slowly exposes the meaning behind Malin's father's whispered instruction and her ongoing manipulations. Some minor plot points and discrepancies in the character depth of the six friends create minor hiccups in the flow, but Brockman has turned in a compelling slow burn with focus justly on its furtive protagonist. Malin's retelling of each period in her life is fraught with competing control and unease that make for a dynamite combination. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review
Discover: A young woman's attempts to deal with childhood trauma set her new college friends on a course to catastrophe.
by Mark Greaney , H. Ripley Rawlings IV
Mark Greaney (the Gray Man series) and Marine lieutenant colonel H. Ripley Rawlings IV offer a fast-paced, riveting story about heart and courage taking a stand against impossible odds in Red Metal.
A mine in Kenya holds 60% of the world's known supply of essential minerals. Russia discovered, purchased and developed the mine, but is now ordering Major Yuri Borbikov and his troops, who have been guarding the mine, to leave, for reasons he doesn't fully understand. As he and his men file past the Kenyan, French and Canadian soldiers taking over control of the mine, Borbikov is pelted with jeers and fresh ox dung. He vows revenge.
Two years later, a pivotal election is being held in Taiwan. Seeking to reunite Taiwan with China, Chinese special forces assassinate the pro-China candidate, leaving behind evidence framing the Taiwanese government as evil. NATO sends a large military presence to defend Taiwan against Chinese retaliation. Knowing the world will be distracted, Borbikov, now a colonel, pitches a long-gestating plan to Russian president Rivkin on how the country can revive its failing economy by taking back the mineral mine in Kenya. Rivkin gives the go-ahead to the bold plan, which involves an invasion of Europe.
Despite an abundance of detailed military jargon, the writing is taut. Saving the world are a handful of individuals--including an old, forgotten French spy; his military captain son; a tank mechanic; a feisty submarine commander; a helicopter pilot named Glitter; and a Polish barista--suggesting that heroes are made when all hope is lost. --Paul Dinh-McCrillis, freelance reviewer
Discover: A Russian officer's bruised ego leads to a bloody invasion of Europe in this realistic novel of World War III.
Biography & Memoir
Becoming Superman: My Journey from Poverty to Hollywood
by J. Michael Straczynski
Screenwriter, novelist and comic book writer J. Michael Straczynski reveals his origin story in Becoming Superman, and it's more harrowing than most superheroes endure. The creator of TV's Babylon 5 and Sense8 was conceived in a whorehouse and raised by a raging, abusive and alcoholic father and mentally unstable mother who tried to smother him as a baby and pushed him off a rooftop when he was six. His family moved 21 times over 18 years. When his grandmother tries to seduce him, he realizes that she had done the same thing to his father growing up. Brutalized at home and at school, his escape was through superhero comic books. "That ethical core meant everything to a young kid trapped in a family that operated without any sort of moral compass," he writes.
"And that, ladies and gentlemen," he explains later, "is how I trained for a career as a television writer." Writing for TV was almost as painful. His first three animated TV series (She-Ra, The Real Ghostbusters and Captain Power) each debuted as the top-rated kids' show. But network demands for misguided retooling made Straczynski jump ship after single seasons. By putting his self-worth first, he continually found success. He began writing graphic novels for Marvel Comics, which lead to screenplays for feature films (including Clint Eastwood's Changeling and Kenneth Branagh's Thor).
This hard-hitting and fearless gut-punch of a memoir will inspire future writers to follow their dreams and value their instincts. Becoming Superman is an amazing story, told with verve, humor and bravery. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant
Discover: In this inspiring, reflective, shocking memoir, a screenwriter recounts how a love of superheroes led him out of an extremely abusive childhood.
by Jana Prikryl
This second collection of poetry from Jana Prikryl (The After Party), senior poetry editor for the New York Review of Books, is a playful and melancholy reordering of everyday life in the metropolis. In Prikryl's city, David Bowie gives mobile tours and the ancient characters of the Aeneid slip into the background of modernity. The binaries of the world collapse within No Matter, or perhaps they were barely in place to begin with. Titles reappear over and over in unknown patterns. Even the language is slippery and unpredictable, as Prikryl stacks incongruous lines and stanzas on top of one another in a moderate cut up: "when was it I gathered that dissolve/ was native to them, how long after/ I gave myself away in the corner." This is poetry as jazz: loose and prone to chaos. Prikryl is creating work that reads as totally, hauntingly melodic.
No Matter is arguably not for readers new to poetry; this is challenging work even perhaps for veteran bibliophiles, but that's a good thing. These are poems of urban spaces unstuck in time and known to few. (The lyrics of Astral Weeks come to mind.) Yet Jana Prikryl gives the interested party a chance to explore them and experience something new. This is a book of ordinary moments turned into catastrophe, where leisurely walks down the streets become literally explosive. A superb feat of insight, "distinctions/ and an amazing capacity for imagining" that shouldn't be missed by those with a taste for something bold. --C.M. Crockford, freelance reviewer
Discover: Jana Prikryl's second collection of poetry showcases the bold work of a true original.
Children's & Young Adult
by William Ritter
In the dead of night, a goblin named Kull creeps into Endsborough, "a quaint community teetering on the edge of what could be only generously termed civilization." Kull's world is slowly losing magic, victim to an intangible villain known only as the Thing. But Kull has a plan: a goblin changeling, "the living embodiment of goblin magic," has been born and he intends to exchange it with a human baby. The Old Ways say that this switch will revive magic and restore Kull's people. Unfortunately, Kull is interrupted as the changeling takes on the human baby's appearance. Unable to tell the two apart, he flees, leaving both babies behind. Annie Burton sees the new baby in her newborn's crib and knows it must be a changeling. She can't figure out which one it is, so she raises them as twins. Now nearing their 13th birthday, mischievous and rambunctious Tinn and Cole know about their origins, but neither knows who the changeling is. When a strange note beckons the changeling to enter nearby Wild Wood and reunite with the goblin horde to save magic (warning that if he does not, there will be "lots of death"), the boys decide they'll go together.
William Ritter takes familiar pieces of lore and infuses rich new life and magic into them. The characters of Changeling, both human and magical, are complex and multi-faceted: wildly brave single mothers, rowdy sensitive boys, goblins yearning for forgiveness and redemption and a Thing whose power is limited by its own insecurities. Wonderfully written, with powerful messages of love and the importance of family, Changeling is a bold start to a promising series. --Kyla Paterno, freelance reviewer
Discover: In William Ritter's middle-grade novel, two boys raised as twins embark on an adventure to save magic and discover which of them is a goblin changeling in disguise.
Spin the Dawn
by Elizabeth Lim
Eighteen-year-old Maia Tamarin "was born with a needle in one hand, a pair of scissors in the other" and dreams of being the emperor's master tailor. However, because she is a girl, the best she can hope for is to "marry well." When her frail father, a once highly respected tailor, is summoned by the emperor to the palace, Maia poses as her brother and takes his place. Upon arrival, she learns she will be competing against 11 others to become the court's imperial tailor. Maia manages to survive the sabotage, treachery and deceit of the cutthroat contest, but her ultimate undoing may be the impossible final challenge: journey through the kingdom to collect materials from the sun, moon and stars, and make three dresses "no human hands had ever made."
A contest that hinges on a dangerous journey, an inadvisable romance, a world filled with ancient magic and legends.... In her epic first novel, Spin the Dawn, Elizabeth Lim balances it all, effortlessly knitting together magic, romance, political intrigue and mythology. Lim's superior storytelling is rich with detail ("When the bridge collapses, the stars will bleed dust from the sky") and her use of tailoring metaphors--"trees that were sleeved with red, gold, and orange leaves"--feels like a natural extension of Maia's being.
While this impressive series opener deserves its comparison with Mulan, it's important to note that Lim's world is wholly her own, populated by characters who live, love and fight by the dictates of their fictional universe. Lim uses the girl-dresses-as-boy trope to kick off Maia's intense, high-stakes competition, then puts it on the back burner as act two unexpectedly explodes into action. Throughout, Maia discovers that she not only has worth, but that her talents are, in fact, priceless. --Lana Barnes, freelance reviewer and proofreader
Discover: In this Chinese-inspired YA romantic fantasy, a female seamstress poses as a boy to compete for the coveted position of imperial tailor, embarking on a treacherous, eye-opening journey.
Dreamland (Young Adult Adaptation): The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic
by Sam Quinones
Journalist Sam Quinones's lauded 2015 Dreamland was, according to our review, "a comprehensive and empathetic investigation into the Mexican pipeline feeding the United States heartland's growing appetite for opiates." This adaptation, pared down for a young adult audience, is a sharp, engrossing work of narrative nonfiction.
Dreamland snares the young reader immediately with the story of Matt Schoonover from Columbus, Ohio, who began using prescription opiate painkillers in high school, became addicted and moved to black tar heroin when the "street OxyContin" became too pricy. A day after returning from three weeks in rehab, at the age of 21, Matt fatally overdosed. Quinones's account speaks directly to teens about the opiate crisis by placing young people (the "new addicts") at the center of the narrative. He makes the nationwide problem personal through the experiences of Tyler Campbell and Chris Jacquemain, football teammates who both died of heroin overdoses; Kathy Newman, a cheerleader who became addicted to OxyContin after being convinced by friends to visit a Portsmouth, Ohio, pill mill; and Enrique, from Nayarit in Mexico, who began dealing black tar heroin at the age of 14.
Quinones has skillfully reworked his absorbing work of nonfiction for a teen audience, with the narrative divided into three parts (instead of the original five) grouped together by related content. With this edition, Quinones was able to include up-to-date information, as well as new reporting focusing on affected teens. Photographs, an epilogue, a reading guide and source notes round out this gripping, perceptive book. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness
Discover: Sam Quinones's Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic is excellently adapted for young adults in this new edition.