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eries all month long myst ate


JULY 2018

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Long Summer Days—

Perfect for Reading “Superbly engaging, balancing delightful wackiness with genuine tenderness … reminiscent of Michael Chabon or Jonathan Lethem.”

“Holds your attention from the jump— and doesn’t let go.” —Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


“Emotionally gripping…. Filled with humor, insight, summer cocktails, and gorgeous sunsets…. An ideal summer read.”

“One of the funniest debuts I’ve had the good fortune to read.” —Kevin Kwan, author of the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy


“An addictive…saga in which a jilted wife goes to the mat to save her marriage and her morale.” —O, The Oprah Magazine, (“10 Titles to Pick Up Now”)



“There are no funnier, wittier people in all the land than Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza.” —InStyle

Read excerpts, print reading group guides, find original essays and more at


JULY 2018

A M E R I C A’ S B O O K R E V I E W

features 11

It’s Private Eye July at BookPage! Look for the magnifying glass to read about our favorite mysteries and thrillers.

THRILLERS Five books that will keep you up all night


ANTHONY HOROWITZ An author writes himself into a murder mystery




book reviews top pick : The Great Believers

by Rebecca Makkai

When Arthur Conan Doyle played detective




top pick : Old in Art School by Nell Painter

Charming locales, devious crimes


JEREMY FINLEY Meet the author of The Darkest Time of Night



top pick : My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand,

Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows

NELL PAINTER A Princeton professor goes to art school


beatriz williams




top pick : A Stitch in Time by Daphne Kalmar


New from the New York Times bestselling author of A Hundred Summers and A Certain Age


summer wives

Books hit the road


WILDERNESS Into the woods we go in two YA novels



CHILDREN’S AND TEEN FANTASY Magical journeys for young readers




Funny tales of furry friends


ZACHARIAH OHORA Meet the author-illustrator of Niblet & Ralph


columns 4 5 5 6


7 8 8 10


The glorious setting and drama are enriched by Williams’s signature vintage touch. It’s at the top of my picks for the beach this summer.” —ELIN HILDERBRAND


30 NAMED A BEST BOOK OF Cover illustration by Lucie Rice






Michael A. Zibart

Hilli Levin

Penny Childress




Julia Steele

Savanna Walker



Stephanie Koehler

Sukey Howard



BookPage is a selection guide for new books. Our editors evaluate Elizabeth Grace Herbert and select for review the best books published in a variety of categories. ADVERTISING OPERATIONS BookPage is editorially independent; only books we highly recommend Sada Stipe are featured. MARKETING

Cat Acree

Allison Hammond

Mary Claire Zibart




Lily McLemore

Roger Bishop

Sharon Kozy


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More at @authorbeatriz Also available as audio and eBook

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Making Waves

READ BY GABRA ZACKMAN “We Need to Talk About Kevin meets Gone Girl meets The Omen... a twisty, delirious read” —Entertainment Weekly

columns A fine thinking time Despite childhood beliefs that linger on, we are not dumber in the summer, and we don’t have to bury our brains in insipid beach reads. Instead, we can spend the long summer days tackling a difficult subject. So if you want to make your synapses snap to attention, settle down on a warm, cloudless day and pay close attention to The Order of Time (Penguin Audio, 4.5 hours), Carlo Rovelli’s latest explication of a confounding and complex concept, narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch in his elegant,

READ BY KATHLEEN MCINERNEY “Kathleen McInerney does an excellent job portraying this diverse cast...A compelling listen, well-written and expertly narrated.” —Publishers Weekly

READ BY GROVER GARDNER “Gardner’s performance is seamless as he delivers an exhilarating listening experience.” —AudioFile on Who Let the Dog Out?, Earphones Award winner

READ BY JONATHAN DAVIS The new novel from Cherise Wolas, acclaimed author of The Resurrection of Joan Ashby

READ BY HENRY LEYVA “Narrator Henry Leyva keeps listeners on the edge of their seats....This is an excellent, chilling story and performance.” —AudioFile on The Precipice




honeyed voice. Rovelli, a founder of loop quantum gravitational theory and a bestselling author, has a gift for making the abstruse intelligible to those of us who are not theoretical physicists, filling his lyrical prose with references to philosophy, art, literature and his very personal reflections on the “brief circle of our existence.” Time, as Rovelli explains it, is an illusion, and our perception that it flows is counter to physical reality—and that’s only for starters. Stay with it and listen more than once—but don’t worry, there won’t be a quiz.

FEATHERED FRIENDS Adrian Mandrick’s mother found solace and joy—and a way to avoid her difficult, brutal husband—in bird watching. Adrian picked up the birding passion big-time when he was very young, and these airborne creatures still keep him grounded. Now, even though he’s a successful anesthesiologist in Boulder with a loving wife, two smart, happy children and all the trappings of the good life, he will gladly leave work and family for the possible sighting of a new bird to add to his life list (his record of all the birds he’s seen and identified), which is the third longest in North America. Though Adrian doesn’t

mention it up front, he also has more than a bit of a problem with prescription drugs, and he seems to be teetering on the edge of disaster. The Life List of Adrian Mandrick (Recorded Books, 8.5 hours), Chris White’s affecting debut novel, read here with intensity by David Aaron Baker, follows Adrian into a midlife crisis and a confrontation with a past that stunted his capacity for love and tainted his memories. This is a raw, honest comingof-middle-age tale.

TOP PICK IN AUDIO Every Sunday, the New York Times Book Review asks an author whom she or he would invite to a literary dinner. After listening to Michelle Dean’s Sharp: The Women Who Made an Art of Having an Opinion (Blackstone, 11.5 hours), impeccably performed by Bernadette Dunne, I know, if asked, that the 10 women Dean considers in this brilliant group bio would be at my table: Dorothy Parker, Rebecca West, Hannah Arendt, Mary McCarthy, Susan Sontag, Pauline Kael, Joan Didion, Nora Ephron, Renata Adler and Janet Malcolm, with Zora Neale Hurston and Lillian Hellman stopping by as well. And I would invite Dean, so very sharp herself, to keep the peace. Combining anecdotes with rigorous research, Dean takes a deep dive into the lives and works of these “oppositional spirits,” women who were central to the literary and intellectual history of the 20th century, who engaged in the great arguments of the time. They were influential social critics, and now, when it’s become evermore crucial to include women’s voices, we need to hear them again.


THE HOLD LIST Each month, BookPage editors share special reading lists—our personal favorites, old and new.

Criminal chasers If you’ve read Michelle McNamara’s I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, the bestselling sensation about a serial killer who stalked California for more than 10 years, and you’re desperate for another captivating true-crime read, these five books might satisfy the craving.

LOST GIRLS by Robert Kolker Beginning in 1996, five women working as escorts went missing in Long Island, New York. They are believed to be the targets of a serial killer still at large today. The women were drawn into prostitution by the false veneer of safety offered by Craigslist and the internet, but Kolker refuses to allow the girls’ difficult lives to be defined by their deaths in this heartbreaking, gripping book. The women’s cases, despite the efforts of their families and a litany of bizarre suspects, remain unsolved.


Change your pace “This book is about how you can choose to slow down,” writes Brooke McAlary in her new guide, Slow: Simple Living for a Frantic World (Sourcebooks, $25.99, 288 pages, ISBN 9781492665540). “Step off the ever-revolving carousel of want-buy-want-upgrade. Opt out of the comparison games. Stop cramming a month’s worth of engagements into a weekend. Refuse to live your life according

THE FACT OF A BODY by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich One of the aspects that makes I’ll Be Gone in the Dark so striking is how invested McNamara was in the mystery of the Golden State Killer, which was solved after her death and the publication of her book. Marzano-Lesnevich feels a similarly intense personal connection to the case of Ricky Langley, a pedophile convicted of murdering a young boy, which haunts her and forces her to reconcile with her own painful past in this unusual, harrowing book.

PEOPLE WHO EAT DARKNESS by Richard Lloyd Parry When the remains of 21-year-old British hostess Lucie Blackman are found in a seaside cave in Japan, all clues point to Joji Obara as her murderer. Parry’s account is a gripping exploration of Japanese society, the dark underbelly of Tokyo, a cagey police force and the mind of a deeply disturbing serial sex offender and killer.

ALLIGATOR CANDY by David Kushner When Kushner was 4 years old, his older brother, Jon, rode his bike into the woods and never returned. Later, his body was found in a shallow grave, and two drifters were arrested for his brutal murder. Kushner’s raw, poignant memoir recounts the crime and the devastating grief his family carries with them each day. Now a parent, Kushner continues to meditate on the place of love and courage in an oftentimes cruel and pain-filled world.

AMERICAN FIRE by Monica Hesse If you’d like the thrill of true crime without the body count, then pick up this fascinating book about a rash of arson incidents in Accomack County, Virginia, a depressed coastal town with plenty of abandoned buildings, many of which were going up in flames after dark. Hesse unpacks the strange tale of two troubled arsonists in love who lit up the night with their burning, all-consuming passion.

with me is the fact that the consistency of one’s bowel movements can, in part, determine a person’s dominant dosha, or body type. Interesting, yes, but there’s more to determining whether your constitution skews kapha, vata or pitta—and how you can adjust your ratios for the better—and that’s where Practical Ayurveda: Find Out Who You Are and What You Need to Bring Balance to Your Life (DK, $22.99, 224 pages, ISBN 9781465468499) comes in. The principles of Ayurveda, often described as the sister science to yoga, can be applied to improve your well-being in all manner of ways, and this thorough guide helps you apply the principles through yoga practice, sundry treatments, lifestyle changes and eating habits. Plus, the dosha-balancing vegetarian recipes offered here are simple and tasty.

TOP PICK IN LIFESTYLES to trends.” Could it be argued that slow living is itself a trend? Well, yes, but I for one hope slow-living advocates are onto something more lasting than the fad of cold-shoulder tops. McAlary’s take, which she first explored on her popular “Slow Home Podcast,” is set apart by her personal storytelling: She jumped off that carousel in a big way and has lived to tell the tale, and she’s the first to say that just reading another blog or book isn’t going to cut it. She addresses mindfulness, disconnecting, embracing “wobbly” balance and—everyone’s favorite—decluttering and making do with less. I like her attitude toward borrowing stuff from your friends and neighbors: It shows a willingness “to admit, even in some small way, we don’t have it all, and that’s OK.”

DO’S AND DON’TS OF DOSHAS Many years ago, I completed an Ayurveda questionnaire at a spa. The single thing that has stayed

Headed to the beach this summer? You’ll want to pop Anna Marlis Burgard’s sweet, slender guide in your tote with the sunblock and shades. The Beachcomber’s Companion: An Illustrated Guide to Collecting and Identifying Beach Treasures (Chronicle, $16.95, 128 pages, ISBN 9781452161167) could make a conchologist out of anyone with its list of more than 40 shell types and other commonly collected gifts of the sea, all illustrated by Jillian Ditner. Lifelong beachcomber Burgard covers each type of shell with a combination of natural science, history, folklore and other contextualizing info, making even the most humble shell into a storied object. Bivalves and gastropods get their own sections, with a third for “echinoderms, crustaceans, and other beach treasures”—think shark teeth and sea glass, among other small coastal delights. A how-to for ethical beachcombing and tips for cleaning and preserving your finds round out the volume.



Our best kept secret!

Love in the shadows

“Emotional, riveting and uplifting.

If you’ve got a sister, you’ve got to read this book!” —Susan Mallery,

A young aristocratic woman finds romance far away from the ballrooms of the nobility in Sarah MacLean’s Wicked and the Wallflower (Avon, $7.99, 416 pages, ISBN 9780062692061), the first book in her new Bareknuckle Bastards series. Devastated by the rejection of her former friends in society, Lady Felicity Faircloth

#1 New York Times bestselling author “Jane Green meets Sophie Kinsella. Heartwarming, emotional, funny and real—

I adored this book.” —Jill Shalvis,

New York Times bestselling author

makes a brash (and completely fabricated) announcement—she’s engaged to a mysterious duke who’s just come to town. Before the truth is revealed, a dark stranger promises Felicity that he can make her fib come true. Bastard-born crime lord Devil Culm wants to exact revenge on his titled half-brother. If that means involving and possibly ruining the intelligent and determined Lady Felicity, so be it. But this pair of opposites find each other fascinating, and soon they are verbally sparring and sharing sultry kisses. They agree a relationship between them can’t be, or at least can’t last—or can it? Watching a strong man fall for a witty and determined lady is one of the chief joys of the romance genre, and MacLean has created a dashing hero and deserving heroine that readers will remember far beyond the last page of this charming novel.

“Sarah Morgan just gets better and better.” —Veronica Henry,

Sunday Times bestselling author


Pick up your copy today! 6 18_190_BookPage_KeepASecret_Rev1.indd 1


Steampunk technology, witches, fairy tales and shape shifters all come together in Kiss of the Spindle (Shadow Mountain, $15.99, 352 pages, ISBN 9781629724140) by Nancy Campbell Allen. Dr. Isla Cooper joins the passengers on board a private airship in order to reach the Caribbean, where she hopes to find the antidote for a curse that causes her to sleep like

5/4/18 10:06 AM

the dead every night. The airship is piloted by the attractive and roguish Captain Daniel Pickett, who is not above carrying out illegal activities under the nose of the dangerous government official aboard his ship. Allen’s extensive world building provides a view into an intriguing alternate universe, and readers will delight in following the author’s imagination into its heart. Isla and Daniel have full lives and believable motivations, and the humor provided by a very realistic automaton—yes, an automaton!—is a welcome touch. This kisses-only love story is an action-packed thrill ride, complete with a ticking clock sure to keep readers’ pulses racing.

TOP PICK IN ROMANCE In Donna Kauffman’s Bluestone & Vine (Zebra, $7.99, 368 pages, ISBN 9781420145472), small-town romance hits several sweet notes when a famous Irish folk singer travels to Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. After undergoing surgery, Pippa MacMillan retreats to Blue Hollow Falls to recuperate and let her voice heal. She stays with vintner Seth Brogan, who proves to be a wonderful host and also much too attractive. The pair acknowledges their palpable chemistry, but they’re not sure what could possibly come of it, so they try to go their separate ways. But small communities mean tight connections, and soon Pippa is invested in the lives of other townspeople— who in turn do their best to make a match of the wary pair. Readers will appreciate the wonderful sense of place, the well-rounded secondary characters and the deep emotion of this tender and sometimes tearful tale.


New in paperback Emily Culliton’s compelling debut novel, The Misfortune of Marion Palm (Vintage, $15.95, 304 pages, ISBN 9780525432623), features a slippery central character whom readers are sure to find intriguing. Marion Palm lives in Brooklyn with Nathan, her poet husband, and their two daughters, who attend a prominent private school. Marion

works in the school’s development office, from which she has been siphoning money for several years. When she learns that the school is to be audited, Marion flees her old life, taking a bag of cash with her. Her sudden absence upends the family’s routine existence. Nathan must deal with detectives, angry school administrators and two very confused daughters. Average-looking Marion is a kind of Everywoman who can easily blend in with a crowd, but she also has the nerve to act on her criminal instincts. Culliton moves skillfully through time, offering glimpses of Marion’s relationship with Nathan, her low-income background and her early forays into theft. With its short chapters, this brisk and suspenseful satire is a great summer book club selection.

INDOMITABLE In Be Free or Die: The Amazing Story of Robert Smalls’ Escape from Slavery to Union Hero (Picador, $17, 304 pages, ISBN 9781250183897), journalist Cate Lineberry delivers a riveting account of one man’s incredible triumph in the midst of the Civil War. In 1862, a 23-year-old slave named Robert Smalls defied all odds and seized command of a Confederate steamer in Charleston, South Carolina. Aided by a few men and joined by his wife and children,

who were stowed away on board, Smalls evaded Confederate forces and reached Union territory—a bold act that resulted in freedom for him and his family. Celebrated as a hero, Smalls went on to become the first African-American captain of an Army vessel and a United States congressman, serving five terms in the House of Representatives. Lineberry offers a lucid, insightful account of his courageous act, his political career and his life after the war. History buffs will appreciate her attention to scholarship and detail. This is a captivating portrait of a remarkable man whose heroism deserves wider recognition.

TOP PICK FOR BOOK CLUBS Named one of the best books of 2017 by NPR and the New York Times, Stay with Me (Vintage, $16, 272 pages, ISBN 9781101974414), the remarkable debut novel from Nigerian author Ayobami Adebayo, focuses on the troubled marriage of Yejide and Akin. The pair fall in love quickly during their university years in Nigeria, and although polygamy is commonplace in their culture, both feel that the custom doesn’t suit them. As time goes by and Yejide fails to get pregnant, she seeks the advice of doctors and traditional healers—to no avail. Matters go from bad to worse when she learns that Akin, under pressure from both of their families, has taken a second wife. Desperate to salvage their relationship, Yejide finds a way to get pregnant, but the risks involved are great. Adebayo’s revealing portrayals of Nigerian culture and the struggles of a once-happy couple are unforgettable. This is a moving novel from an important new writer.

HOT Book Club Reads

for summer RAINY DAY FRIENDS by Jill Shalvis After her husband’s death, Lanie discovers she isn’t the only woman grieving his sudden passing. A moving story of heart, loss, betrayal, and friendship.


by Terri-Lynne DeFino A whimsical, moving novel about a retirement home for literary legends who conjure up new stories, and change the lives of the people around them.


by Mary Hogan A woman retreats into a fantasy world as she slowly loses her once whip-smart husband to dementia— perfect for fans of Still Alice.


by Sarah Miller “A stunning and sentimental novel brimming with historical detail.” —Bustle

 @Morrow_PB  @bookclubgirl  William Morrow  Book Club Girl







A man’s own story

Glorious grilling

Writer Edmund White was a pioneering force in the nascent gay literature movement of the 1970s and ’80s, when the LGBT community was making its first inroads into staking out a wider literary terrain. White’s novels, such as A Boy’s Own Story and The Beautiful Room Is Empty, are often autobiographical, always narratively elegant and frequently sexually frank. He has also made his mark with numerous candid memoirs. White’s latest memoir, The Unpunished Vice: A Life in Reading (Bloomsbury, $28, 240 pages, ISBN 9781635571172), filters his experiences through a lifetime of reading and writing. The impetus for this particular memoir seems to have been, in part, a massive heart attack in 2014 that temporarily left White with no interest in reading—a desire now happily restored. Writing from his 78-year-old perch, White vacillates between the curmudgeonly and the wistful as he assesses a changing world tempered by the permanence of literature. He calls reading “a melancholy project . . . at once a lonely and an intensely sociable act,” and he clearly savors the essential role it has played in his life since an early age. “I’ve always associated reading and writing with sex,” he states in a customary statement of provocation. Episodes from his childhood in suburban Chicago, his time at boarding school and the University of Michigan, his literary apprenticeship in New York and many years spent living in Paris were often shaped by sexual liaisons. These liaisons are fixed in memory by the books he discovered in libraries, bookshops and, to a lesser extent, the classroom. Acknowledging his homosexuality at a young age, White at first wrestled with that realization during the unforgiving cultural climate of the 1950s, but he found early guid-

To reach nirvana, it’s best to have a guru. To reach grilling nirvana, it’s essential to have Steven Raichlen—the grand guru of grilling, the brilliant Baron of Barbecue—as your dedicated guide. The latest addition to his cooking-with-livefire canon is Project Fire (Workman, $22.95, 336 pages, ISBN 9781523502769). Before getting to his succulent, smoke-and-firegraced recipes, Raichlen makes sure you’re au courant by providing


ance into the complexities of self in the work of Thomas Mann, André Gide and Christopher Isherwood. White offers insightful commentary on a range of international writers, from the Japanese masters Jun’ichirō Tanizaki and Yasunari Kawabata to Marcel Proust and Jean Giono, one of his favorite French novelists, who is not very well known in America. (White is an avowed Francophile, and his recollections of living in Paris are alluring.) He carries from his past a great appreciation for some now-neglected writers such as Henry Green and Ronald Firbank, and he reveres Leo Tolstoy and Vladimir Nabokov, whom he never met face-to-face but with whom he shared a literary friendship by phone and letters. White reveals that Nabokov once offhandedly called him his favorite American writer. White also writes admiringly about some of his fellow American authors, as well as about less-famous friends who have sustained him in his literary career and in everyday life. The Unpunished Vice is an unusual hybrid composed of White’s astute literary criticism interlaced with often highly personal stories about friendships, relationships and sex. Some of the chapters previously appeared in the New York Review of Books, The Paris Review and other literary outlets, and consequently there are occasionally unnecessary repetitions of facts or observations. While the writing is always engaging, White’s thoughts sometimes seem to meander, and the book might have been tightened with judicious editing. But even in his sometimes irascible, sex-preoccupied dotage, White is a charming and sharp-witted raconteur worth spending time with on the page. The Unpunished Vice is a welcome capstone to the venerable literary career of a writer who has never been afraid to expose his own and others’ fallibility.

tips for choosing a grill, sourcing your fuel, getting the right tools together and finally firing up. Start your day with the scent of wood smoke and coffee with a recipe for a Bacon and Egg Quesadilla, or kick off your barbecue with Chorizo-Grilled Dates. Move on to grilled salads, breads and pizzas before you hit the big time with a Reverse-Seared Tomahawk Steak, Black Pepper Baby Back Ribs or a Rotisserie Chicken basted with a tarragon-shallot-lemon butter. Top off your meal with Salt Slab Brownie S’Mores, and wash it all down with a glass of sangria featuring grilled citrus. What’s not to love?

LIKE BURGERS FROM HEAVEN When is an obsession a good thing? Easy: It’s when Chris Kronner decides to perfect the classic American burger by obsessing over each of its elements and then putting them together to achieve burger bliss. Kronner, who admits to cooking close to a billion hamburgers and pondering their particulars for years, is not shy about telling readers his own burger opinions, but he also provides info that’s useful no matter your particular burger preference. First and foremost, his burger mantra is “thoughtful reductive simplicity: A

Hamburger is the sum of its parts. Don’t complicate it.” He’s distilled his assiduously accrued know-how into a kind of burger bible: A Burger to Believe In: Recipes and Fundamentals (Ten Speed, $29.99, 240 pages, ISBN 9780399579264). Kronner offers chapter and verse on meat, buns, select sides and salads, condiments, the basics of a burger pantry and a few divine “other burgers” made with mushrooms, shrimp, crab, pork or fried chicken.

TOP PICK IN COOKBOOKS Feast: Food of the Islamic World (Ecco, $60, 544 pages, ISBN 9780062363039) is a feast in every way—big and beautiful, it features over 300 recipes from countries stretching from the Middle East, North Africa, India and Central Asia to Malaysia and Indonesia. If I listed all the recipes’ sources, I wouldn’t have space to mention the fantastic array of dishes that award-winning cookbook author Anissa Helou has included in this grand culinary tour. The chapters are divided by ingredients and types of food, and each recipe has an in-depth header note and carefully detailed instructions. There are flatbreads and kebabs galore, plus exotic pancakes and meat pies, whole-roasted baby goats, stuffed whole lambs, elegant Meatballs in Sour Cherry Sauce, simple Lamb Shanks in Yogurt, seven kinds of biryani, six recipes for couscous, fish of all sorts, salads, spice mixtures, sweets and much more. Savoring these legendary classics is a great way to travel without leaving home—the perfect, food-filled stay-cation.



Enter for a chance to win all eight! Go to to enter.

Sweepstakes ends at 11:59 p.m. (EDT) on July 31, 2018. NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. The Sweepstakes is open to all legal residents of the United States 18 years of age and older at the time of entry. Entries must be received no later than 11:59 p.m. (EDT) on July 31, 2018. ONE GRAND PRIZE WINNER will receive one (1) Summer Prize Pack and a copy of each of the books advertised. The total approximate retail value of all prizes is $165.89 USD. Limit one entry per person. Void where prohibited or restricted by law. For the official rules, go to

Pick up or download your copies today!

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“Chandler, Ross Macdonald, James Crumley . . . Straley proves once again that he is up there with the great ones.” —CHICAGO TRIBUNE

columns An Irish chill settles deep in your bones As Dervla McTiernan’s debut novel, The Ruin (Penguin, $16, 400 pages, ISBN 9780143133124), opens, the year is 1993, and Cormac Reilly is a trainee officer in Ireland’s Garda. He has been summoned to a decrepit estate house, where he is greeted by a teenage girl and her 5-year-old brother. Upstairs, their mother lies dead of an accidental heroin overdose. Fast forward to 2013, and the young brother, now 25, has just discovered that his surgeon girlfriend is pregnant. He goes out grocery shopping while she catches some much-needed shut-eye, and then, according to an eyewitness, he inexplicably jumps to his death from a Galway bridge. To the police, it seems an open-andshut case, but his older sister doesn’t believe it’s that simple for a moment. Meanwhile, a new look at old evidence suggests that the mother’s overdose may not have been as accidental as it first appeared. McTiernan weaves in the Catholic Church, child abuse, police corruption and murder for a multilayered narrative as Irish as corned beef and cabbage (and I love corned beef and cabbage).






Detective Inspector Tom Thorne takes his fair share of ribbing in Mark Billingham’s edgy and unusual thriller The Killing Habit (Atlantic Monthly, $26, 432 pages, ISBN 9780802128249). Thorne has been assigned to investigate a series of murders . . . of cats. Astute readers of suspense novels know that the slaughter of animals is one of the common precursors to the serial killing of humans, but Thorne is still none too happy about this turn of events. In this case, however, the killing of cats may not be a precursor, but rather a “cooling down” activity between premeditated homi-

cides. Meanwhile, DI Nicola Tanner has been tasked with investigating the murder of a junkie—with the distinct possibility that the prime suspect has been framed. The fact that Thorne and Tanner will team up is a given; Thorne’s shoot-fromthe-hip manner plays off Tanner’s rather more by-the-book style, and they make a formidable investigative team, decidedly greater than the sum of their parts.

DIRTY COPS IN PARIS Since 1998’s Murder in the Marais, I have looked forward to each new installment of Cara Black’s series featuring Paris-based

private investigator Aimée Leduc. I’ve read them all, and there isn’t a clinker in the lot. The latest, Murder on the Left Bank (Soho Crime, $27.95, 288 pages, ISBN 9781616959272), is set in 1999, when Leduc’s attention is focused on the furor surrounding the worrisome Y2K computer issues predicted for the turn of the 21st century. It is fairly benign investigative work—until, all of a sudden, it isn’t, as she is drawn reluctantly into the search for a notebook containing a confession and a detailed exposé of police corruption spanning decades. There is a troubling personal component to it for Leduc, as her deceased father, once a high-ranking police officer, may be among those named in the tell-all. As readers might imagine, the individuals named in the notebook will stop at nothing to ensure that it never sees the light of day, and before the narrative draws to a close, their crimes will include torture, kidnapping and several particularly gruesome murders. Black’s milieu-driven novels could

not take place anywhere other than the City of Light, and they are all the better for that.

TOP PICK IN MYSTERY It has been 17 years since the last Cecil Younger novel from John Straley. That’s a long hiatus, to be sure, but Baby’s First Felony (Soho Crime, $25.95, 272 pages, ISBN 9781616958787) proves more than worth the wait, as Alaska’s erstwhile writer laureate dusts off his suspense fiction chops to craft the finest installment of the series thus far. The novel unfolds as a flashback, with Younger chronicling the events that led to his conviction of a fistful of felonies. That he will do time is a foregone conclusion; the question is how much time, and that is predicated upon how well he persuades the sentencing judge regarding the extenuating circumstances. The book’s title refers to a side project of Younger’s, a humorous guidebook to coach first-time defendants on the finer points of keeping themselves out of the slammer. To wit: “Don’t eat the cheese puffs when burglarizing a house. The yellow dust makes your fingerprints pop when the cops first arrive.” Of course, Younger breaks virtually every rule in the book, and now he may have plenty of time to consider the error of his ways. One note of caution: This is not a book for everyone. There is a fair bit of graphic violence (one example is a severed foot with a toe ring), as well as one of the most tasteless jokes I have ever heard: “What is green and melts in your mouth?” And no, I am not going to give you the answer, but trust me, it’s worse than whatever you’re thinking.



Stay up all night with cold-blooded fiction


he latest wave of suspenseful novels brings thrills and chills to your summer reading list. These five stories of mystery, intrigue and horrific happenings are perfect for lazy days at the beach or hot summer nights.

What begins as a fun, relaxing getaway at a New Hampshire lake for 7-year-old Wen and her dads, Andrew and Eric, turns into a terrifying ordeal of survival in The Cabin at the End of the World (Morrow, $26.99, 288 pages, ISBN 9780062679109) by Paul Tremblay. When the trio is visited at their cabin by four mysterious strangers—Leonard, Adriane, Redmond and Sabrina—their familial bond is put to the ultimate test. “We are not going to kill you, Wen, and we are not going to kill your parents,” promises Leonard, the smoothtalking leader of the visitors and an alleged bartender from the Chicago area. He goes on to explain: “The four of us are here to prevent the apocalypse.” But to ensure that happens, Wen, Andrew or Eric has to die, and they must choose among themselves who it will be. The unusual deal thrusts the family into a tense moral dilemma that tests the limits of their love. Tremblay won the 2015 Bram Stoker Award for A Head Full of Ghosts and may be on his way to a repeat with the chillingly good The Cabin at the End of the World.

lying every day at school because of his excess weight—discovers Annie’s body buried in their backyard. As Laurence wrestles to learn what happened and how his parents could have done such a thing, Lydia goes about her business as if nothing happened. Elsewhere, Annie’s twin sister, Karen, begins a meticulous investigation into her sister’s disappearance. Events cascade toward a collision as the trio’s stories unwind in alternating chapters. Author Liz Nugent, whose debut novel, Unraveling Oliver, earned high critical praise, has upped her game here with a

Kron, whose horror films have earned him a cult-like following. Liv follows the trail to Kron’s California hometown of Stone’s Throw, where fans are converging for an annual film festival in Kron’s honor. With bitter townsfolk, a none-too-helpful sheriff and Kron’s crazed followers to contend with, Liv discovers that finding the truth will be a challenge. When Liv’s younger sister Gemma also goes missing in the haunted woods of Stone’s Throw, the stakes intensify. Wolfe incorporates text message exchanges into the more traditional first-person narrative to create

darkly twisted tale of murder, lies and secrets best left buried.

a novel that reflects today’s social media-obsessed world. Fast-paced and fraught with suspense, Watch the Girls unravels like a perfect summer-night movie.


Sibling rivalry and Hollywood obsessions collide in young adult novelist Jennifer Wolfe’s adult fiction debut, Watch the Girls (Grand DON’T DIG TOO DEEP Central, $26, 400 pages, ISBN What secrets do a mother and 9781538760840). From the start of her son keep, and how far are her acting career, Liv Hendricks they willing to go to protect those (formerly known as child actress secrets? These are just two of the Olivia Hill) has been pushed at questions facing Lydia Fitzsimons every turn by her domineering and her son, Laurence, in Lying mother, Desiree, and has lived in Wait (Scout, $26, 320 pages, in the shadows of her successful ISBN 9781501167775), set in 1980s sisters, Miranda and Gemma. Then Dublin. Lydia explains on page one Liv’s career reaches a dead end that her husband, Andrew, “did not when Miranda goes missing. Years mean to kill Annie Doyle, but the later, after a bout of alcoholism and being ousted from a reality lying tramp deserved it.” It’s off to the races from there. Within short series, Liv decides to reignite her order, 18-year-old Laurence—who career by filming her own detective web series. Her first case: find the recently had sex for the first time with his girlfriend and endures bul- missing daughter of auteur Jonas

WELCOME BACK TO CAMP Riley Sager, who made a splash with last year’s Final Girls, returns this summer with another tense thriller. Whereas Final Girls followed the plight of the sole survivor of a horror movie-like massacre whose past comes back to haunt her, The Last Time I Lied (Dutton, $26, 384 pages, ISBN 9781524743079) follows Emma Davis in her quest to find her friends, who disappeared in the dead of night during a camp outing 15 years ago. Emma, who has become an accomplished New York artist, is invited to return to Camp Nightingale as an art instructor and sees it as an opportunity to learn what re-

ally happened that night. The past has a way of repeating itself, and it isn’t long before Emma suspects she and her new camp companions may be in as much danger as her lost friends. The tension ratchets up with each chapter, leading to a suspenseful showdown. Like Final Girls, The Last Time I Lied has all the earmarks of a campy Friday the 13th-type horror flick, but Sager elevates the story with a strong lead character and a grounded, realistic threat.

MONEY WON’T SAVE YOU In case the previous thrill-a-minute reads are a little too intense, or readers are looking for a more intellectually stirring, sophisticated mystery, The Banker’s Wife (Putnam, $27, 352 pages, ISBN 9780735218451) by Cristina Alger may fit the bill. A former financial analyst and corporate attorney, Alger brings her real-world experiences to bear in this novel about the world of global finance, insider trading and corruption. After Swiss banker Matthew Lerner’s private plane bound for Geneva crashes in the Alps during a storm, his wife, Annabel, is left to piece together her life and, perhaps more importantly, the mysteries he leaves behind— namely, an encrypted laptop and a client who doesn’t want Matthew’s secrets getting out. At the same time, journalist Marina Tourneau is enlisted to obtain a USB drive containing highly sensitive materials from a Luxembourg courier that may reveal the whereabouts of long-thought deceased financial schemer Morty Reiss. Along the way, Marina discovers a financial web with far-reaching implications, inevitably bringing the two storylines together. With global settings, covert government agencies and intricate plotting, The Banker’s Wife reads like an old-fashioned international espionage thriller. But Alger’s talents keep the plot digestible for readers while her female protagonists provide strong, smart alternatives to this typically male-dominated genre.




Mystery homage with a twist


ust after 11 a.m. on a bright spring morning, wealthy widow Diana Cowper waltzes into the London funeral home of Cornwallis and Sons to plan her own funeral service. Six hours later, she’s found strangled to death in her terraced Chelsea home. Who arranges their final bow and then gets killed the same day? Baffled, the police turn to Daniel Hawthorne, a disgraced yet brilliant investigator whose uncanny detective skills are matched only by his mysterious past. It’s tempting to wade into these first few pages of The Word Is Murder by Anthony Horowitz, author of last year’s bestselling Magpie Murders and a BAFTA-winning screenwriter (“Foyle’s War,” “Midsomer Murders”), thinking that you’re about to enjoy a loving homage to the classic British mysteries of Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle. Then comes Horowitz’s inventive twist: The inscrutable Hawthorne enlists an author whose name happens to be Anthony Horowitz to join him as he probes the case and then to write a book about it, splitting the profits. And voila: This Holmes has his Watson, this Hastings his Poirot. This literary technique, known as self-insertion, would prove problematic for most novelists. But for Horowitz, stepping into his own


By Anthony Horowitz

Harper, $27.99, 400 pages ISBN 9780062676788, audio, eBook available



tale as first-person narrator allows him to introduce both an unorthodox reader relationship and an additional storyline—and a fun one at that. “When my publishers asked me to do a series of murder mysteries, my first thought was, how do I do something that hasn’t been done before?” Horowitz says by phone from London. “I began to consider: Could I change the entire format, not only as another way to explore it but to enhance it? So I suddenly had this idea that if I became the narrator, everything changes. Instead of being on the mountain, seeing everything and knowing everything, I’m now in the valley, seeing nothing and knowing nothing. That suddenly struck me as fun—the author never knowing the ending of his own book.” Once he found his (own) voice, The Word Is Murder took on the high-velocity twists and turns one would expect from a writer who has been wholly consumed with the conventions of classic murder mysteries since childhood. (As an upper-crust kid, Horowitz battled prep school bullies by reading golden age mysteries aloud.) Looking for suspects with possible motives, our oddly matched detectives visit the English seaside town of Dean, where 10 years prior, Cowper had struck two twin boys with her car, killing one and seriously disabling the other. She was charged but released without penalty, which leads Hawthorne and Horowitz down a trail of suspects, including the boys’ parents. Meanwhile, Cowper’s grown son, Damian, an actor whose rising star prompted a move to Hollywood, provides another lead that bears exploring. As does Raymond Clunes, a theater producer whose recent flop cost Cowper her investment in his theater troupe. Central throughout is Haw-

thorne, an enigmatic hero who is also a blunt, brutal hothead. The self-insertion twist allows readers to enjoy Hawthorne and Horowitz as they bicker and brainstorm, but it also keeps this classic tale grounded in the 21st century, thanks to Horowitz’s brief asides on social media, Tintin screen production meetings with Stephen Spielberg and occasional conversations with his wife, Jill Green, who is also the producer of “Foyle’s War” and the upcoming TV adaptation of Magpie Murders. “I’ve always loved books on writing, like William Goldman’s Adventures in the Screen Trade, “The whole and I’ve always business of wanted to do being a writer this,” Horowitz says. “I even is almost as weird as being tried at one point to write a detective.” a book about writing, but my problem was that it was rather dull and not really worth reading. So this is my attempt to hone in on it and make it part of the narrative. Because the whole business of being a writer is almost as weird as being a detective.” Horowitz’s mix of personal fact and fiction within his narrative is already paying off in unexpected ways. “The people in England have been looking on Google to see if they can work out how much of the book is true and how much of it isn’t,” he says. “And that’s exactly what I wanted the readers to do, in a way. That seems like a fun way to approach it.” However, Horowitz admits it was a little awkward to insert his wife



and two sons into a work of fiction. “My wife and children were, to say the least, alarmed that they would wind up in my new book, and quite wary as to how they should be treated. . . . My wife did insist on a few changes to make her kinder. What a terrible admission about our relationship!” Horowitz laughs. “We’ve been married 30 years, so we know each other pretty well.” At age 63, when some writers are dialing back their workload, Horowitz finds himself suddenly in high demand. In addition to his popular Alex Rider teen spy series, Horowitz has completed two Sherlock Holmes sequels, The House of Silk (2011) and Moriarty (2014). This November, he’s following up his James Bond spy thriller Trigger Mortis, which was commissioned by the Ian Fleming estate, with Forever and a Day. He’s also 30,000 words into a Hawthorne sequel, and he couldn’t be happier. “The plan is to write 10 or 11 of these Hawthorne novels,” he says. “I have five books in my head already, so that just shows how quickly the ideas are coming. . . . Having been a kid’s author and a TV writer, now I want to be a murder mystery writer.” To which I would humbly add: mission accomplished.

Why we love it: Jane Harper on Australia’s sinister appeal




s a writer, I am often drawn to the same things that attract me as a reader. I absolutely love being transported by a strong sense of place, and the savage beauty of the Australian landscape is leaving writers—and readers—spoiled for choice. A strong setting always stays with me long after the book is closed, and when it comes to landscapes that linger, it is hugely exciting to see readers around the world discovering the diverse offerings brought to life in Australian mysteries and thrillers. The international surge in popularity of Australian-based fiction has been greeted with delight—but perhaps not surprise—by the writing community Down Under. Storytelling has always been a part of Australian life, starting with our rich indigenous Aboriginal culture and stretching through to chilling tales of true crime and page-turning novels. Our red dusty land, breathtaking coastlines, dense bushland and unique—and often deadly—wildlife mean Australian writers are never short of inspiration. When I began to write my debut novel, The Dry, I had a long list of questions for myself, but the one thing that never wavered was the setting. The drought-stricken country town in the heart of regional Australia was clear to me from the moment I began writing, and much of the novel grew on the foundations of that setting. My second novel, Force of Nature, is based in a dense and remote forest region, while my upcoming novel, The Lost Man, is set in the harsh desert Outback. In each case, I was drawn to the way the isolation and the harsh realities of nature impact characters’ lives, relationships and communities. The sprawling Australian landscape is so diverse and naturally atmospheric that it lends itself particularly well to books with an element of mystery and suspense, as many international readers are now discovering. Readers who have fallen in love with Australian mysteries, thrillers and crime novels have a whole world to discover as fantastic authors bring the Southern Hemisphere to life. Candice Fox’s gritty and compulsive novels caught the eye of publishing powerhouse James Patterson. Their Sydney-based collaboration novels Never Never and Fifty Fifty have topped the bestseller charts, while Fox’s own acclaimed works, including the new Crimson Lake series, are classic, compelling page-turners with a distinctly Australian twist. For memorable protagonists, look no further than Emma Viskic, who has won numerous awards for her crime novels featuring deaf investigator Caleb Zelic. Viskic learned sign language in order to write her debut, Resurrection Bay, and its sequel, And Fire Came Down, which take the reader from the city to coastal Australia. Cricket is a national passion in Australia, and Jock Serong delves into the murky world of professional sportsmen in his Edgar-shortlisted crime novel, The Rules of Backyard Cricket, while Sarah Bailey ramps up the pressure-cooker tension with an unexplained small-town death in her debut, The Dark Lake. In March, we mourned the passing of celebrated novelist Peter Temple. Temple was the first crime writer to win Australia’s top literature award, the Miles Franklin, with his novel The Broken Shore, and he was loved by readers around the world. Australian writing is as beautiful, dark and diverse as the land itself, and for both writers and readers, there is always something new and unexpected to discover.

Move aside, Nordic noir. Australian crime fiction offers a whole new landscape of psychological horror and suspense. Check out these standouts.

THE DRY and FORCE OF NATURE by Jane Harper

Joining the ranks of Tana French and Laura McHugh, Harper never wavers in her rich sense of place and her tremendous grasp on mounting dread as her Aaron Falk mysteries draw readers into the secrets of rural Australia. The Dry finds Federal Agent Falk investigating the death of a childhood friend, while Force of Nature unearths the shady dramas behind a woman’s disappearance. In both, the Australian wilderness is not to be trifled with.

CRIMSON LAKE by Candice Fox Sydney-based author Fox begins her Crimson Lake series by diving into the Australian wetlands, where a former detective lies low. But he can’t stay in hiding for long, and soon he’s assisting a private investigator—who is also a convicted murderer.


Howarth didn’t move to Melbourne until he was in his 20s and now lives in the U.K., but for six years he soaked up the spirit of the Outback. He translated that Wild West attitude into his debut, a tale of racial and cultural collisions, family bonds and murder in colonial Australia.

THE DARK LAKE by Sarah Bailey Melbourne-based author Bailey launches her debut series with a gripping police procedural that explores the secrets we carry with us from a young age. Readers meet Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock, who must investigate the death of a beloved high school classmate.

ONLY DAUGHTER by Anna Snoekstra Set in the author’s hometown of Canberra, Australia, this debut novel’s two storylines weave together in a clever tale of missing girls and false identities. Snoekstra is a master of red herrings, so be ready to trust no one.


Wood’s Stella Prize-winning psychological thriller has echoes of Margaret Atwood, as a young woman wakes up to the sound of a kookaburra and discovers she’s being held captive with several other women, all of whom are linked by episodes in their pasts.




A study in justice


argalit Fox vividly remembers the day she first read about a case she could hardly believe: Arthur Conan Doyle personally investigated and helped commute the sentence of Oscar Slater, a wrongfully imprisoned 36-year old immigrant in Glasgow, Scotland. Fox was riding the A train on her way to work as a senior writer at the New York Times. “I almost dropped the book in the middle of the train,” she recalls. “I thought, my God, the creator of Sherlock Holmes turned real-life detective and used those same methods to overturn a wrongful conviction. Why on earth isn’t this story better known?” Now Fox has brought the story to light in the endlessly riveting Conan Doyle for the Defense: The True Story of a Sensational British Murder, a Quest for Justice, and the World’s Most Famous Detective Writer. The case was certainly a sensation in its time, and Fox begins her account in storybook fashion: “In Glasgow at the turn of the twentieth century, there lived an old lady whom few people liked.” “She didn’t sound like a particularly nice woman,” Fox notes, speaking by phone from her office at the Times. “That said, she certainly didn’t deserve what happened to her.” Eighty-two-year-old Marion


By Margalit Fox

Random House, $27, 352 pages ISBN 9780399589454, eBook available



Gilchrist was bludgeoned to death in her apartment on December 21, 1908, her face and skull smashed, most likely with a wooden chair. Gilchrist owned an expensive jewelry collection, but nothing was stolen except a diamond brooch. Residents in the apartment below heard strange noises, and one neighbor—along with Gilchrist’s maid who was returning from an errand—arrived at her doorstep just in time to see a mysterious, well-dressed man stroll out. Slater was a Jewish immigrant from Germany, a gambler and an easy scapegoat for this high-profile crime. He was accused and wrongfully convicted, although police had determined his innocence within a week. “It’s terrifying,” Fox says. “What just ripped my guts out is he had literally made arrangements for his own burial, and his sentence was commuted to a life of hard labor 48 hours before he knew he was going to be hanged. You’re not supposed to know the date of your own death. That just sends chills down my spine.” Death is something that Fox deals with every day, having written obituaries for the Times since 2004 (she’s featured in Obit, a wonderful documentary film about the department). The work, it turns out, has been perfect training. Speaking in the crisply enunciated, fact-filled sentences one might expect from a seasoned journalist, Fox elaborates: “Writing obits is really extraordinary training for writing narrative journalism in general, and particularly narrative journalism in which the lens of an individual life is used to examine larger social issues. And in this case, the social issues are all about the things that we see in the papers every day today: racism, xenophobia, class tension.” As a writer who chooses each

word with a surgeon’s precision, Fox could not be more clear-eyed about the importance of this story. “History is very, very much appearing to repeat itself,” she says, “so this 1908 murder in Glasgow has never been more relevant to America in 2018.” Conan Doyle believed in Slater’s innocence from the start and became publicly involved with trying to free him in 1912. He was obsessed with the case; he scoured court documents and spotted myriad inconsistencies and fabrications by police and prosecutors. Despite “History Conan Doyle’s is very, efforts, Slater very much continued to appearing to languish in prison until repeat itself, 1925, when a so this 1908 freed prisoner murder in managed to Glasgow has carry a secret message— never been more relevant wadded into a tiny pellet hidto America in den beneath 2018.” his dentures— from Slater to Conan Doyle. The short message urged Conan Doyle to renew his efforts, and by 1927, Slater was freed, having spent more than 18 years in prison. Fox says, “Conan Doyle used almost to the letter the methodology of his most famous literary creation—and it worked.” The story has been largely untold, however, requiring herculean research on Fox’s part. She began in Scotland in 2014, requesting documents at various archives. She visited Peterhead Convict Prison in Aberdeenshire (which is now a museum), about which she notes: “It is freezing cold and wet and raining. I took a picture of the state of my



umbrella after waiting for a bus for 20 minutes, and the umbrella had been completely decapitated and had its spine snapped. I can’t imagine 18-and-a-half years [there].” Back at home, bulging files soon began arriving at Fox’s doorstep, “easily three or four thousand pages of documents,” including trial transcripts, police records, interview notes and letters to and from Slater’s family. It took Fox about 18 months to go through everything. “I used the same skills we use doing daily obits on deadline,” she says. “The research is exactly the same. . . . [You’re] trying to distill all of these diverse, often atomized, often seemingly unrelated documents into one cogent narrative that one hopes gives the sense of a life.” In the meantime, she was riding back and forth to work and reading Sherlock Holmes stories during her daily commute. “Basically I was really tired and had no social life,” she admits. The publication of Conan Doyle for the Defense marks a bittersweet time for Fox, who will soon retire to write books full time. She already has her next idea: a prisoner of war’s escape story. “I know it has to be narrative nonfiction,” Fox confesses, “because I, unfortunately, was not born with a fiction gene. I would love to be able to just make stuff up and be relieved of the illness of having fealty to historical facts— but no such luck for me.”


Whip-smart amateur sleuths



the title of your new book? Q: What’s 

ecrets make for good reading in three new cozy mysteries set against colorful backdrops, from 1913 prewar New York City and Boston’s lively North End in 1937 to an abandoned mansion in present-day Maryland.

Q: Describe the book in one sentence.

In Murder in Greenwich Village (Kensington, $15.95, 304 pages, ISBN 9781496714244), 20-year-old Louise Faulk has a painful secret, one that follows her to New York City in 1913 as she seeks work and a new life. She has a new roommate and friend, the lovely Broadway wannabe Callie, and the two run smack into a gruesome murder committed in their Greenwich Village apartment. As she gets involved in searching for clues, Louise discovers her own talent for problem-solving and detection, and she finds she has a taste for police work that’s both intimidating and inviting. First-time novelist Liz Freeland lures readers in with her tense, escalating plot, droll humor and the possibility of an unexpected romance. Readers are never bludgeoned with the obvious or overly dramatic. This new series is sure to be a hit on all fronts.

did you choose Nashville, Q: Why Tennessee, as the setting for

BOSTON GLAM Cream-filled cannoli from the North End, the golden dome of the State House, bells ringing from the Old North Church— there’s atmosphere galore in Murder at the Flamingo (Thomas Nelson, $15.99, 352 pages, ISBN 9780785216926), the opener of Rachel McMillan’s new Van Buren and DeLuca Mystery series, set in 1937 Boston. The murder happens nearly 200 pages in, but in the meantime, the story revolves around two characters, runaways of a kind, who eventually pair up to sleuth and maybe even fall in love. Well-to-do Regina “Reggie” Van Buren and young lawyer Hamish

DeLuca are each about to turn a corner in their lives when they are swept up in the orbit of Hamish’s cousin Luca Valari, a young man of charm, ambition—and many secrets. Adventure and a quick coming of age are at hand when Luca’s new nightclub, the Flamingo, opens its doors to champagne, glamour and shady doings, as the youthful pair encounters the darker side of Boston’s glitzy nightclub scene.

this story?

has your career as an investigative reporter influenced Q: How your writing?

HOMETOWN HOMICIDE A formerly thriving industrial town falls victim to changing times, but a spirited young woman rides to the rescue—at least that’s where things seem to be headed in Murder at the Mansion (Minotaur, $26.99, 336 pages, ISBN 9781250135865), the first book in the Victorian Village Mystery series by Sheila Connolly, the beloved author of more than 30 mysteries. The story centers on a lovely old Victorian mansion that may hold the key to the struggling Maryland town’s rejuvenation. Kate Hamilton, who works in hospitality management at a tony Baltimore hotel, returns to her hometown of Asheford at the behest of an old friend to discuss ways to get the town back on its feet. Of course there’s a caretaker at the mansion, and of course he’s attractive. When the two tour the place, they stumble over a dead body—but since when did murder impede a budding romance? Readers who like inheritance drama will enjoy this diverting story.

Q: What are three qualities any great reporter needs?

Q: What is your greatest fear?

Q: Words to live by?

THE DARKEST TIME OF NIGHT Lynn was raised to fear the woods behind her family home. When her young grandson goes missing in them, the only hope of finding him lies in revisiting dark memories from the past, which may threaten her husband’s political career. Jeremy Finley’s debut thriller, The Darkest Time of Night (St. Martin’s, $26.99, 336 pages, ISBN 9781250147301), deftly mixes supernatural suspense and political intrigue. An investigative reporter, Finley lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with his family.


of self-discovery and second chances from the Pulitzer-winning author of





A Spool of Blue Thread.

Clock Dance

ANNE TYLER “Brilliant, charming, and bookclub-ready.

Tyler’s bedazzling yet fathoms-deep feel-good novel is wrought with nimble humor, intricate understanding of emotions and family, place and community.”— A Booklist


— A Publishers Weekly



Rebecca Makkai is a skilled and versatile writer whose work often contains a quietly comic edge. Her ambitious new novel, The Great Believers, is a change of pace, exploring the effects of the AIDS epidemic on the gay community in Chicago. The novel begins in 1985. Nico Marcus has died from AIDS-related illnesses, and his parents have banned his partner and friends from attending the funeral. His friends have organized an unofficial wake at the home of local photographer Richard Campo, where gatherers include Yale Tishman, a development director at a university art gallery, and his partner Charlie Keene, editor and owner of the local gay newspaper. Also present is Nico’s fiercely loyal sister, Fiona. Her atBy Rebecca Makkai tachment to Nico’s circle has repercussions that echo decades later, as Viking, $27, 432 pages explored in the novel’s second storyline, set in 2015, which finds Fiona ISBN 9780735223523, audio, eBook available searching for her estranged daughter and staying with Richard, now a world-famous photographer living in Paris. LITERARY FICTION As is true of many novels with parallel narratives, one storyline initially seems more compelling than the other. Yale’s pursuit of a career-making donation of French art from an unlikely donor and the slow passage of the virus through his circle of friends overshadow the bumpy path of Fiona’s frantic, unfulfilling life. But when Fiona realizes the toll that being a caregiver has taken on her own life, the two stories come together in a way that honors the different forms of suffering on both sides. As Makkai notes in the afterword, when a heterosexual woman writes a novel about AIDS, some may feel she has crossed “the line between allyship and appropriation.” But The Great Believers reminds us of the powerful connection between fiction and empathic imagination. Makkai does a superb job re-creating the atmosphere of bigotry and moral finger-pointing that existed even in a big city like Chicago during the early years of the epidemic, as well as the enormous changes wrought by compassionate activists, doctors, nurses, lawyers, artists and social workers who did so much to improve the lives and deaths of so many people, especially gay men.


Riverhead $25, 304 pages ISBN 9780525533122 Audio, eBook available DEBUT FICTION



What we lose and how we survive

Happiness is an amorphous thing, a kind of fog about which it is easier to speak peripherally—the pursuit of happiness, the idea of happiness, the absence of happiness. In Tell the Machine Goodnight, author Katie Williams considers a future in which the ingredients of happiness have not only been identified but also commodified.

Set a couple of decades from now, the novel centers on Pearl, a technician working for Apricity, the hot tech corporation of the day. Apricity designs oracles—machines that, given a sample of the user’s DNA, return a number of recommendations to improve the user’s life, to make them happier. The recommendations can be ambiguous or downright cryptic: “Eat tangerines”; “Wrap yourself in softest fabric”; “Tell someone.” More often than not, the connection between doing these things and experiencing greater happiness is unclear, but Pearl’s clients almost always follow the machine’s instructions. And they almost always report feeling satisfied with the results. The Apricity construct is clever and flexible enough to support the

weight of the narrative. Williams does an admirable job of weaving myriad characters’ stories together, with the Apricity machine as the intersection at which all the tales meet. Some of the characters treat the machine with unwavering reverence, others with outright disdain. Its recommendations are used as clues, divine prophecy and the basis for performance art. But the novel is at its best when it pushes the technology to the background and turns instead to the emotional mechanics of happiness. Williams is a deft observer of small human details, and in moments when she pinpoints these details, the story shines. For all its imaginative and speculative power, Tell the Machine Goodnight is not a particularly

FICTION futuristic book. Its primary concern is something so fundamentally human that it transcends time—our insatiable need to feel better, to decipher whatever happiness means. —OMAR EL AKKAD


to better themselves, for gender equality and for a decrease in homophobia and sexual assault in India’s future. Her emotional portrayal of these two strong women will be a popular choice for book clubs, and for readers who enjoy multicultural family sagas. —DEBORAH DONOVAN

By Thrity Umrigar Harper $27.99, 368 pages ISBN 9780062442208 Audio, eBook available FAMILY SAGA

Thrity Umrigar’s eighth novel follows the main character of her bestselling The Space Between Us (2006), the servant Bhima, over the course of a year. The life of Parvati, a minor character in that earlier novel, becomes intricately entwined with Bhima’s in this sequel. Parvati has the sadder background of the two: Sold into prostitution as a young girl by her desperately poor father, she spent two decades in a brothel before one of her regulars asks her to marry him. She trades one horrific life for another, as she is regularly abused by him and is left penniless when he dies. Now Parvati exists by selling six cauliflowers a day from her spot at an outdoor market; she sleeps under the stairwell outside her nephew’s apartment and eats leftovers from a nearby restaurant. Bhima has been forced to leave one of her servant jobs and is looking for a way to earn extra money to help send her granddaughter, Maya, to college. She meets Parvati at the market, and they form a working partnership. As the two lonely women grow closer, they gradually begin to share their stories, listening without judgment to the secrets they’ve hidden from others—poverty, illiteracy, sexual abuse, multiple abortions, offspring who died from AIDS. Nothing is left unsaid. Umrigar places these two old women, steeped in the strict class distinctions of their upbringing, in the midst of modern-day Mumbai. Through the character of Maya, the author builds hope for classes


Penguin Press $26, 304 pages ISBN 9780525522119 Audio, eBook available SATIRICAL FICTION

Sadness is relative, and this is the overwhelming theme in Ottessa Moshfegh’s new novel, My Year of Rest and Relaxation. In the year 2000, a young woman has everything one might need to be happy. A recent Columbia graduate in her 20s, enviably thin and beautiful even at her worst, she lives in New York’s Upper East Side with enough inheritance to last a long time. But there is a hole in her heart that her youth, health and wealth can’t fill, and her answer to fix this mishap is to literally sleep it off. With the help of a cocktail of pharmaceutical drugs, prescribed by the world’s worst psychiatrist, the young heroine sinks into a type of hibernation, surfacing only to take us on a journey of her sad childhood and even more despairing adulthood. Each revelation supposedly unloads the baggage for good and cleans the slate for when the hibernation ends. Keeping her company through it all is her endlessly optimistic best friend, Reva, who has a dying mother, unfulfilling job, failed relationships and poor self-confidence, and at times seems more deserving of our sympathy than the narrator. True to her style, Moshfegh’s dark sense of humor makes the reader laugh (perhaps guiltily) when it seems least appropriate. Melancholic, ominous and even uncomfortable, My Year of Rest and Relaxation traverses a laby-

rinth of emotions as a young New Yorker learns to define her sadness and hope in the days leading up to September 2011. —CHIKA GUJARATHI


Scribner $26, 288 pages ISBN 9781501170065 Audio, eBook available DEBUT FICTION

Emmeline Lake has big dreams. She’s already doing what she can to support the war effort as a volunteer telephone operator for the Auxiliary Fire Service. She writes frequent letters to keep her boyfriend up to date and in high spirits while he’s fighting Hitler and the Nazis. But she wants to do even more: Emmy dreams of becoming

a war correspondent. She’s so busy dreaming, in fact, that she doesn’t pay attention during her interview for a job she spotted in The London Evening Chronicle. Emmy daydreams of seeing her byline under important reports from the front. Instead, she’s hired as a typist for another publication: Woman’s Friend. Emmy will spend her days typing up tough-love advice from Mrs. Henrietta Bird, author of the column “Henrietta Helps.” The problem? Emmy actually wants to help. Mrs. Bird sends any letters containing “unpleasantness” to the rubbish bin. But as Emmy sorts through the mail, she sets aside such letters. Those readers deserve a response, she reasons, and it should be more thoughtful than the harsh advice Mrs. Bird doles out. So Emmy writes them back. And signs her boss’s name. It seems like a small offense in

A deeply moving and resonant story of love, identity, and belonging T H E F I R S T N OV E L F R O M S A R A H J E S S I C A PA R K E R’ S N E W I M P R I N T, S J P F O R H O G A RT H

“A triumph and an inspiration. I wish everyone would read this novel.”

—K A R E N R U S S E L L ,

author of Swamplandia! “A beautifully achieved epic about nearly everything that matters.”

—A N T H O N Y M A R R A ,

author of A Constellation of Vital Phenomena




novEls from



reviews the context of World War II. London has so much more to worry about. But as Emmy continues to sort through her boss’s mailbag, she finds that she can provide some hope in the midst of the world’s darkest time. In Dear Mrs. Bird, debut novelist AJ Pearce draws inspiration from women’s magazine advice columnists of the era. The result is a charming story full of as much pluck and grit as its protagonist. —CARLA JEAN WHITLEY

THE LAST CRUISE By Kate Christensen

Doubleday $26.95, 304 pages ISBN 9780385536288 Audio, eBook available LITERARY FICTION In nineteenth-century Nantucket, a Quaker woman must choose between the man everyone expects her to marry—or his seafaring cousin.

One young woman must stand up for freedom—and perhaps find her own in the process.

N Available wherever books and ebooks are sold.


Kate Christensen’s novels hit that sweet spot between beach read and literary fiction. With unsparing wit and an eye for sensuous detail, she’s tackled subjects that range from the inhabitants of a singular Brooklyn apartment building (The Astral) to the emotional repercussions of the death of a family’s patriarch (The Great Man). Her sixth novel, The Last Cruise, is set during the final voyage of a vintage ocean liner on a two-week cruise to Hawaii. Before heading off to the scrapyard, the Queen Isabella is making one last cruise that will emulate the bygone luxuries of the 1950s. Smoking is allowed on board, but internet and phone use are not. There are no children on board. For highbrow entertainment, the ship owners hired the Sabra Quartet, a notable Israeli string ensemble led by violinist Miriam Koslow, now well into her 70s. Below decks, Hungarian sous chef Mick Szabo toils away, lost in fantasies of vintage cocktails and lobster thermidor. Also on board are Christine Thorne, a journalist turned Maine farmer’s wife, and her writer friend Valerie. Despite the rich food and evening entertainment, the effort to hearken back to an easier, sunnier

FICTION decade (a decade, let’s remember, that wasn’t equally pleasant for everyone) can’t disguise the fact that the cruise is taking place in a fractured society on a disintegrating planet. Christine and Miriam become aware of the corners cut by the ship’s cynical owners, while Valerie begins to dig into the personal lives of the unhappy crew, hoping for an exclusive. Even Mick can’t help but notice the tensions rising among his staff as rumors begin to spread about layoffs planned by the cruise ship company. When a crisis hits—and boy, does it ever—the passengers find themselves facing the best and worst aspects of civilization. The Last Cruise can be read as an analogy to our complex political present—the haves and have-nots divided on a floating world with a selfish wealthy owner that flies off as soon as disaster strikes. But it can also be enjoyed as a darkly humorous comedy of manners, with a diverse cast of characters and enough details about sex, food and drink to satisfy any reader. —LAUREN BUFFERD


Holt $27, 304 pages ISBN 9781250141293 Audio, eBook available DEBUT FICTION

Number One Chinese Restaurant, Lillian Li’s darkly hilarious debut novel, exposes what goes on behind the scenes at the Beijing Duck House Chinese Restaurant in Rockville, Maryland. Its vibrant employees serve up not only a glorious duck dinner but also a fiery tale of sabotage, revenge and lasting love. “The waiters aren’t real people on the floor. . . . More like cartoons,” Li writes. “Little boss” Jimmy Han wants to one-up his father, the original Duck House owner, with his own establishment. But he has to enlist the godfather of the family, Uncle Pang, and undermine his brother and mother

to do it. Uncle Pang has his own plans for Duck House, involving Pat, the newest employee. Meanwhile, Pat’s mom, Nan, the longtime Duck House manager, and her best friend, Ah-Jack, play out their feelings for each other. The novel is tense from start to finish, taking place mostly in close quarters, indoors and internally. Chapters end with cliffhangers as Li navigates each character’s thread of the tale. The pacing is as quick as an industrial kitchen over dinner service, jumping from one emergency to the next. There is a wild fierceness to Li’s writing, as she likens characters to an “agitated collie,” a “trapped rat” and “demon dogs,” both as comic relief and as a clue to the characters’ barely contained energies. This energy explodes, literally and figuratively, in a rousing climax that proves both curse and blessing. After all, fires may be destructive, but they also can provide an opportunity for new growth. The flavor of Number One Chinese Restaurant is anything but typical, as Li combines broiling anger and slow-simmering love in delicious proportions. —MARI CARLSON


Viking $26, 352 pages ISBN 9780735221314 Audio, eBook available SATIRICAL FICTION

The Russian émigré is not uncommon in modern fiction. Generally, said immigrant comes to the states and cultural misunderstandings abound—plus feelings of displacement, pathos, yada yada— until a reckoning in which America and the émigré come to terms with each other and are both better for it. But what do you get when more than two decades after arrival in America, the young immigrant has to go back? You get Keith Gessen’s sad, funny and altogether winning novel, A Terrible Country. Thirty-three-year-old Andrei

FICTION Kaplan is stuck in a rut. His life is small, his New York City sublet is smaller, and he was just dumped by his girlfriend at a Starbucks. So when Andrei’s shady older brother, an aspiring kleptocrat living in Moscow, asks Andrei to return to the land of his birth and take care of their ailing grandmother, he agrees. But Andrei, who left Russia when he was 8, is surprised to find himself in Putin’s Russia, where espressos are outrageously priced, the KGB has merely changed initials, and everyone is grasping for riches with both hands. So Andrei cares for his grandmother, plays pickup hockey games and teaches online courses while waiting to go back to the U.S. It’s a lonely, hermetic existence— his lone attempt to experience the Moscow nightlife ends with a pistol whipping—until he meets Yulia, who is attractive, mysterious and a communist. Drawn into Yulia’s world of clandestine meetings and anti-government protests, Andrei grows closer to both her and Russia, and decides he will stay in the country. But taking on Putin’s government becomes all too real, and Andrei discovers the hard way that his choices affect not just his life but also those of his new friends. Gessen is the author of the novel All the Sad Young Literary Men and an editor of popular literary magazine n+1. Like his protagonist, he moved to the United States from Russia as a child. His first novel in 10 years is a compassionate, soulful read that avoids dourness by being surprisingly funny. A Terrible Country shows us that while you certainly can go home again, it often turns out to be a lousy idea.

guage debut with the masterful The Book of Hidden Things. When three friends return to their small hometown of Casalfranco in southern Italy to honor a longstanding pact, their friend Art doesn’t show. This isn’t the first time he’s vanished—decades ago, Art walked between a grove of gnarled olive trees, shrieked and disappeared. When he returned a week later, his friends didn’t believe his story of having run away. Always one for drama, Art has left a trail of mysterious stories in his wake. He’s growing and selling weed. He healed the daughter of a Mafia king. Even in his absence, Art’s alluring antics have a strong pull on his friends. As they follow the clues to learn where Art has vanished to this time, Fabio, Mauro and Tony wrestle with their own demons. Fabio, a respected yet broke photographer, hates being thrust back into the town he’s outgrown. He learns that his father has Alzheimer’s, and he’s confronted with an unhealthy desire for Mauro’s wife. Mauro is underwhelmed with his status quo life and yearns for something more. And as Tony looks to his sister and her husband for answers about Art’s disappearance, he learns his sister isn’t the innocent girl he believed her to be. The stark and sensual landscape of Casalfranco begs us to linger in its ancient and mystical hold. Through multiple perspectives, Dimitri weaves a tale of adventure, mystery, friendship and heart-wrenching beauty that will make you re-examine what is holy, what is true and what is beyond the realm of possibility.


—J E S S I C A B A T E S


Titan $14.95, 400 pages ISBN 9781785657078 eBook available DEBUT FICTION

Italian fantasy writer Francesco Dimitri makes his English-lan-


Ballantine $28, 448 pages ISBN 9780425286166 Audio, eBook available HISTORICAL FICTION

If there were ever a cautionary tale about the disasters of patri-

archy and inequality, the tale of the Romanovs is it. C.W. Gortner’s engaging historical novel tells the story of the last dowager empress of Russia, Maria Feodorovna, née Princess Dagmar of Denmark. Engaged as a teenager to the czarevich (the Russian heir apparent) who dies suddenly, Maria is handed over to his brother, the gruff Alexander III. Luckily for her, their marriage is a devoted one. Despite (or because of) the unfathomable wealth and privilege of the Russian imperial family—they can literally get away with murder—the Russian people are getting tired of them. Nihilists finally blow up Maria’s father-in-law, Czar Alexander II, and other members of the czar’s family. And everyone knows the fate of Maria’s son Nicholas II and his family. Is it possible that these tragedies did not have to happen? Under inhuman pressure to produce a male heir, Maria’s emotionally brittle daughter-in-law Alexandra gives birth to four healthy daughters before she finally produces a son, the hemophiliac Alexei. Because of the boy’s illness, Alexandra and Nicholas II fall under the spell of Rasputin. Consider what would have happened if Alexandra had her first two daughters, an heir and a spare, and was then allowed to quit. Maria is fairly good-hearted, but forget about her checking her privilege. According to her, the czar and imperial family were ordained to rule by God. There is no scene in the book more heartbreaking or queasily funny than when Cossacks break into Maria’s bedroom in the middle of the night, and she reminds them that she’s the dowager empress—though by then, it hardly matters. The imperial downfall has already begun. Gortner is wonderfully subtle, but given the times we live in, the problems are obvious: When a tiny percentage of people hold most of the wealth, it leads to demagoguery. The Romanov Empress relates an important piece of history. It’s also a warning about what comes when a nation is marred by rampant inequality.

Deceptively simple prose is like a child with an adorable smile: They can both get away with a lot. In a career that began with 1964’s If Morning Ever Comes, Anne Tyler has created one deceptively simple novel after another. Her specialty is the depiction of quiet lives that may seem ordinary at first glance. Upon closer inspection, each book is a subtle analysis of American married life, its joys as well as its darker elements. Tyler offers yet another astute portrait in Clock Dance. In 1967 Pennsylvania, 11-year-old Willa is the elder daughter of a mild-mannered father and a mother prone to disappearances and bursts of violence. The action then shifts to 1977, when college junior Willa flies home so that her boyfriend, Derek, can meet her parents. After a section set in 1997, in which Derek, now her husband, dies in a car accident, the second half of the book shifts to 2017. Willa is living in Arizona and married to retired lawyer Peter. One day, she gets a call from a stranger in Baltimore, who tells her that Denise, a former girlfriend of her elder son, has been shot in the leg. The woman, Denise’s neighbor, asks Willa to fly out to care for the victim’s 9-yearold daughter, Cheryl, whom the neighbor mistakenly thinks is Willa’s granddaughter. Tyler fans won’t be surprised to learn that kind-hearted Willa agrees to the request. Her experiences with Denise and Cheryl make up much of the book’s drama. If the concluding pages are more circuitous than necessary, Tyler’s touch is as light and sure as ever. Clock Dance is a tender portrait of everyday people dealing with loss and regret, the need to feel useful and the desire for independence.




Knopf $26.95, 304 pages ISBN 9780525521228 Audio, eBook available POPULAR FICTION





food.” It’s a wake-up call that needs to be answered. —BECKY LIBOUREL DIAMOND


By Francine Prose

Paint by numbers REVIEW BY ALICE CARY

As director of the African American Studies program at Princeton University, Nell Painter seemed to be at the pinnacle of her distinguished career. The renowned historian had written numerous books, including the bestseller The History of White People. But at age 64, Painter surprised everyone by leaving Princeton to take up something completely different: art school. The road was anything but easy, as she explains in her bold, brave account, Old in Art School: A Memoir of Starting Over. Not satisfied with being what she calls a “Sunday painter,” she was determined to study art on a professional level. First she got a BFA at Rutgers University, then she earned an MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). Amid the tattoos, piercings and bright yellow hair of her fellow students, Painter’s fashion statement consisted of a By Nell Painter white T-shirt, black pants and “sturdy” New Balance walking shoes. Counterpoint, $26, 352 pages ISBN 9781640090613, audio, eBook available She was “an exotic in art school . . . a creature from another planet.” Her confidence was hardly boosted when a RISD teacher informed her MEMOIR that she would never be an artist. Adding to her turmoil were anguish and grief over the fact that Painter’s mother was dying on the West Coast, leaving her father depressed and needy, necessitating cross-country trips and interventions. Nonetheless, Painter persevered, enjoying moments of absolute euphoria at having the time and freedom to paint, while also experiencing interludes of extreme self-doubt and loneliness. In the end, she triumphed by relying on what she calls her “old standbys: education and hard work.” Painter concludes that “the Art World is racist as hell and unashamed of it,” but she was able to find her own artistic voice by incorporating both history and text into her work which, in a way, brought her career full circle. Old in Art School is a fascinating memoir about Painter’s daring choice to follow a passion with courage and intellect, even when the odds seemed firmly stacked against her.

EAGER By Ben Goldfarb

Chelsea Green $24.95, 304 pages ISBN 9781603587396 ECOLOGY

As descriptive phrases go, “busy as a beaver” is right on target. Most of us probably don’t give much thought to the second largest member of the rodent family, except perhaps when they become a nuisance by felling trees and plugging waterways in residential areas. But did you know just how integral beavers are to the environment? In his intriguing debut, Eager:


The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter, environmental journalist Ben Goldfarb details the multitude of ways beavers impact the landscape. Their dams help create wetlands and water storage, reviving aquifers for farms and ranches and providing homes for a diverse assortment of flora and fauna. Without beavers, wetlands and meadows dry up, streams are altered, and countless forms of wildlife become homeless. Through interviews with experts in the field, scientific studies, statistical analysis and his own experiences crisscrossing the U.S. and the U.K. to witness beavers up close and personal, Goldfarb explains how restoring these “ecosystem engineers” to their natural habitat can save tens of millions of dollars each year and help combat

drought, climate change and other environmental issues. Goldfarb delves millions of years into the past, explaining how much North America’s terrain has changed since its colonization. Trappers seeking lush beaver pelts brought these “hairy banknotes” to the brink of extinction. But conservationists saved and even reintroduced beavers to some areas in an effort to restore the land to its former status, and today a fervent group of “Beaver Believers” help spread the news that we need to live in harmony with this keystone species. As Goldfarb reinforces, beavers are “nothing less than continent-scale forces of nature, in large part responsible for sculpting the land upon which we Americans built our towns and raised our

Harper $23.99, 336 pages ISBN 9780062397867 Audio, eBook available LITERATURE

It would be surprising if the reading list of anyone who picks up novelist, critic and professor Francine Prose’s What to Read and Why doesn’t instantly grow exponentially. After considering the 33 essays that compose this deeply informed collection, it’s tempting to ask: Is there anything worth reading that she hasn’t read? Traversing more than a century and a half of literature, from the works of Dickens, Eliot and Balzac to the recent works of Jennifer Egan, Mohsin Hamid and Karl Ove Knausgaard, Prose’s book offers a generous serving of her wide-ranging literary enthusiasms. And Prose’s favorites aren’t limited to canonical authors. If the names Patrick Hamilton or Elizabeth Taylor (no, not the actress) aren’t familiar, Prose’s accolades may tempt you to seek out their work. As she revealed in her book Reading Like a Writer, Prose is an evangelist for the painstaking but richly satisfying art of close reading. For her, the most rewarding way of engaging with the best writers’ work is at the level of the sentence. With apt examples, she lavishes praise on Jane Austen for the “grace and wit of her sentences” and the “thrilling attention to the shape of paragraph and sentence” in the work of Rebecca West. Prose doesn’t confine herself to appraisals of individual authors. Several of the most satisfying essays in this book focus on broader subjects like the uses of art or the difficult task of defining the short story. The essay “On Clarity” is a masterly primer on the art of graceful writing, a gift Prose dis-

plays on every page. What to Read and Why is a collection of love letters to the art of literature. The only impediment to devouring this book is the persistent urge to trade it for the work of one of the writers Prose so avidly praises. —HARVEY FREEDENBERG


HMH $25, 224 pages ISBN 9781328826343 eBook available MEMOIR

Poet, essayist and children’s book author Donald Hall looks back over his richly textured 89 years of life in his latest memoir, A Carnival of Losses: Notes Nearing Ninety. Most of his reflections here are blithely inconsequential, keen observations about nature, career and relationships. They expound no end-of-life wisdom, detail no significant literary trends or feuds and offer no general assessment of the state of poetry today. But it is this very lack of utility—the knowledge that we need not underline or take notes—that makes the book such a joy to read. This is not to suggest that the book lacks weight. Whether Hall is describing the passage of the seasons or mulling over the comforts of friendship, he is always worth hearing out. He is especially moving when writing about his love affair and home life with his second wife, Jane Kenyon, a respected poet in her own right. Among his “carnival of losses”—his mobility, old friends, an ancient tree in his front yard—her death in 1995 at the age of 47 looms largest. It is a shrinking pool, to be sure, but English majors who came of age academically in the 1960s and ’70s will especially relish Hall’s recollections of other big-name poets, among them Theodore Roethke (“exuberant, loud, and funny”), Stephen Spender (“talked well on any subject other than poetry”),

James Dickey (“the best liar I ever knew”) and T.S. Eliot (“spoke like a member of Parliament”). He met them all. Many contemporary poets make their living as teachers, but Hall has made his mostly as a freelance writer, packaging and selling his verbal wares wherever he could. This collection of well-crafted brica-brac demonstrates that he’s still not inclined to let any of his words go to waste. —EDWARD MORRIS

SQUEEZED By Alissa Quart

Ecco $27.99, 320 pages ISBN 9780062412256 Audio, eBook available ECONOMY

What Alissa Quart calls “the failing middle class vortex” is indeed a powerful force, growing stronger every day, as she knows from personal as well as professional experience. When her daughter was born, mounting day care and hospital costs forced Quart and her husband, both freelance writers in New York City, to adjust their lives. Now, as executive editor of the nonprofit Economic Hardship Reporting Project, Quart spends her days investigating social and economic inequalities. Squeezed: Why Our Families Can’t Afford America provides an in-depth look at two things people all too often shy away from discussing: money and class. The term standard of living, Quart notes, is used less and less, perhaps because “the notion that a relatively high quality of life should include small pleasures and comforts has faded.” Quart introduces readers to a variety of people and families being squeezed, whom she calls the Middle Precariat—a “just making-it group,” who “believed that their training or background would ensure that they would be properly, comfortably middle-class,” but whose assumptions turned out to



An apt surname


n her memoir Old in Art School, Nell Painter surprises everyone by returning to college in her 60s to earn degrees in one of her passions: painting.




How did you make your decision to leave a chaired professorship at Princeton to go to art school? My decision to retire from Princeton a little early came in several steps, beginning with my mother’s turn to book writing when she retired back in the 1980s. I was always close to my mother, close to both my parents, actually, feeling my family as a bulwark against a basically hostile—well, if not hostile, at least not trustworthy—society. It took her 10 years to write and publish her first book and 10 years for the second. She was just that disciplined over the long haul, with discipline and persistence her gifts to me. My mother showed me you could change vocations, even though the payoff might not come immediately. The point was to do what you wanted to do. Looking at her, I figured, hell, I could do that, too. It just so happened that what I left was a chaired professorship at Princeton. Bette Davis once said that old age is no place for sissies. And neither is art school, it seems, especially when your age made you feel like “a creature from another planet.” Did you ever feel you had made a mistake leaving such a successful career to go to art school? Oh, boy, did I ever question my sanity for leaving the life I knew how to live for one I felt lost in! The hard part about art for me—one of the hard parts—was my sense of not knowing what was good and not good. Not knowing why my art was not good. One great thing about scholarship is the existence of established criteria of judgment. People don’t always respect those criteria, and there’s plenty of room for old-boy networks and the workings of privilege. Still, the rules of the game are pretty apparent. Not so with art. I still sometimes feel like the worst painter in the world, but I don’t care anymore. There are awful painters who have their followings; there are more excellent painters in the world than can receive their due. Your professors were astounded by the progress you made during the summer between your first and second year of grad school. Did you surprise yourself as well? During that summer, my growth pleased me enormously. I suppose I took for granted that the work I was enjoying would be good work. But I can’t say I was surprised. My progress didn’t surprise me, but I was amazed by my teachers’ surprise at the beginning of the second fall semester. I have never gotten over how little some people can expect of me. What advice do you have for other “old” people who might be contemplating reinventing themselves? Advice?! As I say at the end of Old in Art School, people don’t usually want advice; they want to be listened to. So I’d say find someone who will listen to you and who knows something about what you’re thinking about doing. I’d say try it out for a little while. Take a class at your local community college. But my biggest, most important piece of advice, especially for old black women, for black women, for old women, for all women, for black people, for people young and old, for nonblack people is: Don’t see yourself through other people’s eyes.


reviews be wrong. There are teachers driving Uber, grading papers between rides; adjunct professors drowning in debt, whom Quart calls “the hyper-educated poor”; and immigrant nannies caring for wealthy families while their own children are left behind in their home country. “Each story was like a tiny detail in a giant oil painting that allowed me to understand the whole picture in a different way,” Quart writes. She backs up these anecdotes with clear, sharp analysis, noting that a systemic problem is the undervaluation of caring professions such as teachers, day care workers and parents. She also points to a variety of solutions, including better, cheaper day care, a universal child allowance, public pre-K and universal basic income. Like Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed, Squeezed is a thoughtful, enlightening and painful analysis of the ever-growing divide in the American economy. —ALICE CARY


Viking $27, 336 pages ISBN 9780735224568 Audio, eBook available SCIENCE

When a paleontologist writing about whales begins by quoting naturalist Henry Beston—“They are not brethren, they are not underlings: they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time”—you know you are in for a wondrous read. And Spying on Whales: The Past, Present, and Future of Earth’s Most Awesome Creatures by Nick Pyenson is indeed that. Pyenson is the curator of marine mammal fossils for the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History, and here he recounts discovering the fossils of whales’ ancestors and following today’s whales with tracking technology. He reveals evidence-based


NONFICTION predictions about the future of whales, and his obvious passion for these magnificent creatures makes the scientific research enthralling. Readers learn that whales once walked on land (yes, with feet), blue whales were not always giants, and killer whales sometimes travel in packs, like wolves. Pyenson’s enthusiasm is contagious. Pyenson confesses that “whales aren’t my destination: they are the gateway to a journey of discovery, across oceans and through time,” and he excels in taking his reader along on this journey. The Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft carry whale-song recordings as greetings to alien life-forms, although their meanings are yet to be understood. Despite all that humans have learned about whales, these sounds remain as mysterious as their makers. —PRISCILLA KIPP


Simon & Schuster $26, 304 pages ISBN 9781501163135 Audio, eBook available MEMOIR

“A baby is basically a nonnegotiable map for the next two decades.” By sharing her story in No One Tells You This, MacNicol gives implicit permission for other women to embrace the lives they’ve chosen. Or the lives that have chosen them, as the case may be. After all, MacNicol didn’t exactly plan to remain single. A series of not-so-good romantic choices made singleness appear inevitable. But she’s (mostly) happy with where she’s landed. When her family needs support, MacNicol returns to Canada. When she falls in love with a ranch out West, she rearranges her schedule to spend a month there. “I was increasingly frustrated that some people seemed incapable of believing me when I said I was happy with my life,” she writes. “My life, I was learning, was sometimes even more confusing for women a few decades older than me to comprehend than it was for me.” MacNicol spent the year following her 40th birthday exploring and embracing her meandering path. The result is a memoir that will help women of all ages and life circumstances understand the experience of today’s single-and-joyful woman. —CARLA JEAN WHITLEY

Twenty-Five Years in Provence is the last volume of travel writing from Mayle, who died in France in January 2018, and it is a bittersweet pleasure. It’s hard to believe that the initial print run of A Year in Provence was only 3,000 copies, as the book quickly became a sensation. For many readers, the aspiring novelist (his fiction never attained the popularity of his accounts of a delectable café lunch) put Provence on the map. In this final memoir, Mayle returns to the beginning, recounting the couple’s early days house-hunting, learning the language and falling in love with the culture. This is France, so of course food and wine play a large part in his writing. But while Mayle can pen a mouthwatering description of bouillabaisse, what has always drawn readers to his writing are his loving portraits of people, community and the Provençal way of life. “Lunch is taken very seriously in Provence,” Mayle discovered early on. So it’s fitting that as he makes his way home from the village market, basket piled high with warm bread, fragrant cheese, cherries, grapes and fresh eggs, Mayle’s last words to us are, “I must go. Lunch is calling.” —DEBORAH HOPKINSON

Life moves along a prescribed path for many people. You go to school, you graduate, you get a job. You fall in love, you get married, you have babies. But what if you don’t? That’s the question Glynnis MacNicol asked as she faced her 40th birthday. MacNicol had a lot going for her: She lived in New York City, a city she loved, and was a successful writer and co-founder of a successful company. She had great friends and loved her family and her role as an aunt. It’s not that MacNicol took issue with being 40, single and childless. It’s that the rest of the world seemed to. “This is why people have babies . . . because it’s exhausting not to know what you’re supposed to do next,” MacNicol says to a friend who is contemplating her own reproductive choices.


Knopf $25, 192 pages ISBN 9780451494528 eBook available MEMOIR

“It started,” Peter Mayle begins, “with a break in the weather.” After two weeks of a rainy Mediterranean vacation, Mayle and his wife, Jennie, set out to look for sun and explore Provence on their way home to England. They quickly fell in love with the beautiful region of southeastern France. After the couple uprooted their lives and moved to Provence, Mayle wrote his beloved 1991 memoir, A Year in Provence. My


Metropolitan $30, 320 pages ISBN 9781250125149 eBook available SOCIAL SCIENCE

Make no mistake: The water crisis that has plagued the people of Flint, Michigan, is not the result of a single decision. Rather, it is the disastrous culmination of state government dysfunction, decades of enforced housing segregation and the meteoric rise and fall of the American automobile industry. In April of 2014, Flint residents discovered that the water pouring from their faucets was not only un-

NONFICTION drinkable but also downright toxic. Due to a recent switch in the city’s water supply, Flint’s lead pipes corroded. Initial reports from horrified Flint citizens were largely ignored. By the time the state of Michigan admitted to its mistake, 12 people had died and Flint’s children had been exposed to irrevocable harm. Anna Clark, a journalist and regular contributor to the Detroit Free Press, recounts the tangled series of events that eventually led to the city’s poisoned water supply in The Poisoned City. Clark avoids sanctimonious judgments, but she isn’t afraid to painstakingly show how racism and state-sanctioned white supremacy shaped the socioeconomic policies of Flint. Flint’s water crisis extends beyond an environmental disaster; it’s a public health and civil rights issue. In a way, it was by design that Flint’s communities of color were hit hardest. Unfortunately, the narrative surrounding Flint’s poisoned water is not an anomaly. For Clark, it’s a reflection of America’s tradition of inequality—the nation’s foundations are structured at the expense of the vulnerable and marginalized. Ultimately, the story of Flint’s water crisis echoes throughout countless American cities. —VANESSA WILLOUGHBY

tails in his heart-rending, poignant memoir, The Widower’s Notebook. Following Joy’s death, Santlofer spends many sleepless nights not only reliving her death but also recalling the many tender, angry, sad and joyous moments of more than 40 years of married life. On one of those sleepless nights, he writes with fits and starts in a notebook, trying to bring some peace to his restless mind. He also starts to draw pictures of Joy and their daughter, Dorie. “Drawing,” he writes, “has made it possible for me to stay close to Joy when she is no longer here . . . grief is chaotic; art is order.” In the pages of his notebook, Santlofer reflects on the importance of paying attention to the pain of grief: “Better to have painful memories than no memories at all.” He meditates on the many things he misses about Joy, as well as the stupid things that smart people say to grieving friends. Even after he releases Joy’s ashes, Santlofer shares the raggedness of his still-raw emotions, admitting that he’ll never stop crying. Santlofer’s honesty, his focus on the moments that remind him of Joy and their life together, and his beautifully crafted, tender prose make for heartbreaking yet page-turning reading. —HENRY L. CARRIGAN JR.

THE WIDOWER’S NOTEBOOK By Jonathan Santlofer

DEAD GIRLS By Alice Bolin

Penguin $17, 272 pages ISBN 9780143132493 Audio, eBook available

Morrow $15.99, 288 pages ISBN 9780062657145 Audio, eBook available



One late morning in August, Jonathan Santlofer discovers his wife, Joy, in their living room, gasping for breath. In a surreal flurry, Santlofer frantically dials 911 while urging his wife to hold on. Soon he’s standing against the living room wall watching his wife die, even as paramedics try to save her. Joy’s death leaves her husband bereft, and Santlofer struggles to live with his grief, a process he de-

Dead girls: They’re everywhere. Television shows like “Twin Peaks” and “True Detective” are built around them, true crime shows and books investigate their deaths, and mystery novels hunt down their killers. The American public seems to be obsessed with murdered women. In her debut essay collection, Dead Girls, Alice Bolin contemplates why popular culture



Pack it up, pack it in


ummertime means travel—family travel, solo journeys, finding lost places. Two new books take on these concepts in distinctive ways.

In Don’t Make Me Pull Over! (Scribner, $27, 288 pages, ISBN 9781501188749), Richard Ratay uses his memories of family trips as a portal back to what he calls the golden age of car travel: the 1970s, when he would sit crammed in the family car’s back seat between his two brothers, his sister up front between their parents. Ratay’s dad had some eccentric ideas about saving time and money on their long car trips, and Ratay recounts these anecdotes with relish. Ratay also takes a comprehensive look at the family road trip, starting with the patchy history of American roads and the changes wrought by the interstate system. He gives us the backstory on entrepreneurs like Howard Johnson, who grew one drugstore into a national chain of restaurants and motels, and Bill Stuckey, whose stores once blanketed the South. And he delves into smaller but memorable details of ’70s-era car trips: the CB radio craze, eight-track tape players, AAA’s TripTik guides and low-tech video games. Don’t Make Me Pull Over! is a love letter to the ’70s and all its weirdness, and if Ratay sometimes goes a little overboard on travel-related puns, that’s OK— he just so enjoys his subject. His enthusiasm shows in this entertaining, funny book. Northland (Norton, $26.95, 272 pages, ISBN 9780393248852) takes a quieter journey, detailing author Porter Fox’s treks along the border between the United States and Canada, the world’s longest international border. “On a map the boundary

is a line,” Fox writes. “On land, it passes through impossible places—ravines, cliff bands, bogs, waterfalls, rocky summits, whitewater—that few people ever see.” Fox begins his journey near Passamaquoddy Bay, Maine, where he puts in for a solo canoe trip up the St. Croix River, following the path of explorer Samuel de Champlain. Fox’s journey has five legs. In Montreal, he boards a freighter bound for the Great Lakes; in Minnesota, he canoes the Boundary Waters with an older married couple; in North Dakota, he visits the pipeline protests at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation; in Montana, he follows the border to Glacier National Park; and finally he makes his way to the Peace Arch Border Crossing, which connects Washington and Canada. The narrative moves fluidly between Fox’s own travels and larger stories of the border, mixing history, travel writing and nature writing. Fox shows how the northern border is intimately bound up with our nation’s history, particularly in the shifting relationships between European settlers and Native Americans and the violent and sad history of the United States’ treatment of indigenous people. But he also gives nuanced profiles of intrepid French explorers Champlain and Robert de La Salle, who learned from and fought alongside Native Americans. Most memorably, Northland offers vivid, lyrical writing about the strange and beautiful places along the United States’ northern border.


reviews is fascinated by silenced women, while also exploring literature, misogyny, graveyards, the genius and tragedy of Britney Spears and the unglamorous side of the California dream. The dead girl of popular culture is almost always viewed as a mere catalyst for others’ growth. But her own life? Eh, not so important. The dead girl is merely a prop, and she can be cast as whatever the male protagonist desires—a mysterious nymphet, a sex fiend or an innocent schoolgirl—but she is almost always white, young and pretty. “The victim’s body is a neutral arena on which to work out male problems,” Bolin writes. What does it say about our society that we are so enthralled by male violence and dead or abused women? Nothing good. Informed by the literature of Raymond Chandler, Joan Didion and others, as well as films, television shows and other pop culture ephemera, Bolin branches out, exploring toxic masculinity, myths of femininity and the American West, where, if media is to be believed, serial killers and neo-Nazis roam freely in the dense woods of the Pacific Northwest or disappear into isolated desert towns. Bolin does not hesitate to inspect her own stigmas and beliefs—she’s watched her fair share of “Dateline.” Her dryly humorous, deeply researched collection is a thoughtful critique of American culture and its disparate and disturbing fixations and fears. — L I LY M � L E M O R E

Visit to read a Q&A with Alice Bolin.


Spiegel & Grau $28, 352 pages ISBN 9780525509127 Audio, eBook available MEMOIR

Recent Wesleyan grad Beck Dorey-Stein swore she would


NONFICTION spend no more than three months in Washington, D.C., a place she calls “an ego swamp of a city.” Then she lands a job as a White House stenographer, a position she didn’t even realize existed. From the Corner of the Oval is Dorey-Stein’s effervescent memoir that recounts spending five wide-eyed years traveling the world on Air Force One, producing transcripts of President Barack Obama’s press conferences and speeches. She joins a team of D.C. insiders who hopscotch the globe, from Senegal to Tanzania to Stonehenge, all in service to their country and to the man they call POTUS. “The people who make the president look good on these trips often look terrible and feel even worse,” Dorey-Stein writes. “It is degrading and embarrassing and awkward when a twenty-two-yearold advance person scolds you for disappearing to the bathroom, and when you’re so hungry you eat three bags of stale cookies in front of a vanful of trigger-happy photographers. Civility takes a backseat to survival as you chug water, throw elbows and down half a bottle of Advil. You work through the pain to keep up with the action. Ballets are full of bloody slippers.” Yet the few chosen to serve the president also form intense bonds, and they get a front seat to history. Dorey-Stein and her colleagues bear witness to the White House response to the tragedy of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri. She forms a tight band of friends within “the Bubble”—her name for the president’s cliquish traveling entourage—and she begins an ill-fated romance with a magnetic yet noncommittal senior staffer. Dorey-Stein offers a generous, vivid portrait of what it’s like to work at the epicenter of power when your job is to stay out of the spotlight. She navigates heartbreak, career indecision and friendship like virtually every 20-something. But unlike other young women, she does it all in the shadow of the White House. —AMY SCRIBNER

UNTHINKABLE By Helen Thomson Ecco $27.99, 288 pages ISBN 9780062391162 Audio, eBook available PSYCHOLOGY

You might guess that Helen Thomson, a journalist who studies neuroscience, would be a fan of the late Oliver Sacks. And you’d be right. Like Sacks’ The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Thomson’s Unthinkable features case studies of people who inhabit unimaginable realities, among them a man who believes he is a tiger, a woman who is continually lost and a man who feels the bodily sensations of others as he observes them. Thomson brings to the project an eye for detail and narrative prowess, and unlike a scientific investigator such as Sacks, she does not seek to study these astonishing minds in clinical settings, but instead in more natural ones. Based in England, Thomson travels thousands of miles to meet her contacts and visit their homes. She asks the kinds of personal questions scientists might avoid. For instance, she queries one subject, who strongly associates people with colors, what color he associates with his mother—and even with Thomson herself. Yet Thomson’s aim, ultimately, is to shed light on what each case can tell us about our own life experiences, particularly as they are mediated by the three-pound lump of flesh in our heads. How do we find our way around, perceive our bodies and record our memories? Neuroscience has exploded in the last two decades as imaging technology and a renewed exploration of human cognition have illuminated the inner workings of our minds like never before. Thomson traces the roots of this enterprise and shows how these extraordinary cases relate to ongoing investigations into the nature of perception. Fans of Sacks will enjoy and quick-

ly devour this insightful and very readable book. — K E L LY B L E W E T T


St. Martin’s $28.99, 400 pages ISBN 9781250151216 Audio, eBook available HISTORY

By the early 20th century, thanks to Queen Victoria’s prodigious matchmaking, almost all the ruling families across Europe were related. Among Victoria’s favorite grandchildren was Alexandra Feodorovna, who went on to marry her cousin Nicholas II, the czar of Russia. Alexandra’s new husband looked so similar to George, their mutual cousin and the future king of England, that they could have passed for identical twins. So why, given all the family ties, were “Alicky” and “Nicky” left to die at the hands of revolutionaries? Many of the royal cousins attempted to create a plan for rescue, but the bulk of the blame for their deaths has generally been laid on King George V. But in her new book, The Race to Save the Romanovs, historian Helen Rappaport argues that British anti-royal sentiment in that era was so strong that rescuing the Romanovs could have been disastrous for King George’s family. This is not the sweet, sacrificial Nicholas and Alexandra of other biographies. Rappaport writes—with substantial evidence—that the czar was a weak leader, and the czarina was a decided and sometimes oblivious partisan. They were, however, deeply devoted to one another and to their children. Rappaport concludes that no rescue attempt would have succeeded because the Romanovs would never have abandoned the motherland. Ultimately, however, what resonates is the irony of the book’s title. There was no “race,” or even a jog: The Romanovs were all but abandoned by their extended family. —EVE ZIBART









Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows, the team of young adult authors otherwise known as the Lady Janies, penned the 2016 New York Times bestseller My Lady Jane—inspired (more or less) by hapless historical figure Lady Jane Grey, who ruled as queen of England for only nine days. Now, they’ve whipped up another ghostly journey into the past in the latest installment of their Jane-centric series, but their new inspiration is a different famous Jane. This time, the eponymous protagonist is none other than Charlotte Brontë’s indomitable heroine Jane Eyre. With this crew of authors at the helm, don’t expect a simple retelling. In the opening pages of My Plain Jane, we meet not only Jane but also her friend Charlotte Brontë, both of whom are students at the infamous Lowood School. As a young aspiring author, Charlotte is working By Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton on her “Very-First-Ever-Attempt-at-a-Novel” and thinks Jane will make and Jodi Meadows the perfect heroine in her story. HarperTeen, $17.99, 464 pages Jane has the ability to see ghosts, which convinces the very attractive ISBN 9780062652775, audio, eBook available supernatural investigator Alexander Blackwood that she would make Ages 13 and up a fine addition to his Society for the Relocation of Wayward Spirits. But Jane rejects the job offer and instead sets off to fulfill her destiny by HISTORICAL FANTASY securing the governess position at Rochester’s Thornfield Hall. Off she trots with a ghostly Helen Burns at her side, who proves to be a fantastic comic foil for Jane. Anyone who loves Brontë’s classic novel will find this supernatural, romantic sendup to be clever and hilarious. At the end of the story, Charlotte reads from her future novel, and Jane approves: “Your readers will eat it up.” Charlotte nervously admits that she doesn’t have any readers yet, but it’s a sure bet she’ll have a lot more after readers finish My Plain Jane.

I’M NOT MISSING By Carrie Fountain Flatiron $18.99, 336 pages ISBN 9781250132512 Audio, eBook available Ages 13 and up FICTION

Miranda and Syd have been best friends for as long as they can remember. Both abandoned by their mothers, they swore an oath that they would be each other’s person forever. So when Syd runs away midway through senior year, Miranda is left anchorless. As she tries to discover where Syd went and why—all while navigating college decisions and her first love with Nick, the boy she’s had a

crush on for ages—she realizes it’s time to step out of her best friend’s shadow and figure out who she is on her own. I’m Not Missing is a powerful debut novel about a young girl dealing with devastating loss and ultimately finding herself. An award-winning poet, author Carrie Fountain has a knack for crisp prose, which is evident in her vivid depictions of the New Mexico landscape. But her biggest strength is the realism of her characters and their relationships with one another. Miranda’s budding romance with Nick will feel utterly relatable to any reader who’s bumbled through first love, and the evolution of Miranda’s friendship with Syd is equal parts heartwarming and painful in the way only a changing friendship can be. Fountain also explores drasti-

“Good girl falls for bad boy… [with] an edgy twist.” —Publishers Weekly

cally different family relationships in Miranda’s, Syd’s and Nick’s home lives. Readers will see themselves or people they know on every page. I’m Not Missing is a must-read for any teen who’s felt the pain of lost friendship and the challenge of finding herself. —SARAH WEBER

A THOUSAND BEGINNINGS AND ENDINGS Edited by Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman Greenwillow $17.99, 336 pages ISBN 9780062671158 Audio, eBook available Ages 13 and up

“A powerful roller-coaster ride of emotions.” —Kirkus Reviews


As a collection of Asian myths and legends, A Thousand Be-

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reviews ginnings and Endings could be required reading for any classroom. Fifteen acclaimed Asian and Asian-American authors breathe fresh life into 15 popular Asian folktales and myths, elevating this anthology to a higher level. Editors Ellen Oh (YA author and co-founder of the nonprofit organization We Need Diverse Books) and Elsie Chapman (a fellow author and member of the same nonprofit) have compiled these diverse narratives to represent the stories and cultures of East and South Asian peoples, who are all too often disregarded in modern media and publishing. Spanning Chinese, Filipino, Gujarati, Hmong, Japanese, Korean, Punjabi and Vietnamese cultures, authors such as Renée Ahdieh (The Wrath and the Dawn), E.C. Fifteen Myers (Fair popular Asian Coin) and legends are Aisha Saeed (Written in the given new Stars) have life in this reimagined the collection. stories of their ancestors from their own viewpoints, crafting layered tales with nuance and cultural wherewithal. For example, in Ahdieh’s “Nothing into All,” a brother and sister try to lift themselves out of poverty by using the magic of forest goblins to transform common objects into gold, but the dueling good and evil in their natures result in twisted desires and irreversible consequences. The retooled stories included here fall into many categories— fantasy, science fiction, romance— and each gives the reader newfound insight into Asian culture and history. As a welcome bonus, each author has penned an educational essay chronicling the historical origins of their chosen tale. By giving these bestselling and award-winning authors an opportunity to freely explore their histories and identities, Oh and Chapman have created a work that celebrates Asian storytelling. It should fill the authors and editors with pride and the reader with wonder.




Amberjack $12.99, 324 pages ISBN 9781944995652 eBook available Ages 14 and up FICTION

are holding them back from being their true selves. —J I L L R A T Z A N


— K I M B E R LY G I A R R A T A N O

By Lauren James

HarperTeen $17.99, 320 pages ISBN 9780062660251 Audio, eBook available Ages 14 and up SCIENCE FICTION

In Erin Callahan’s The Art of Escaping, escapology is defined as the art of breaking free from locks, chains, straitjackets and water tanks along with dodging sharp arrows aimed at your heart. For some teens, there’s no better metaphor for high school. For 17-year-old Mattie, it isn’t a metaphor. The summer before her senior year, Mattie convinces Miyu Miyake, the reclusive adult daughter of a famous Japanese escape artist, to teach her the practice made famous by Harry Houdini and Dorothy Dietrich. All summer long, Miyu instructs Mattie in how to pick locks, how to hold her breath underwater and how to conquer her fear of the spotlight. But while Mattie is bending hairpins and training in ponds, she is also learning how to be herself. With her best (and only) friend, Stella, away at nerd camp, Mattie soon finds herself in an unexpected friendship with fellow misfit Will, who, unlike Mattie, doesn’t outwardly seem like a misfit at all. Both Mattie and Will—and later Frankie, a third friend who joins their wayward band—love the sights, sounds and even textures of the 1920s, and their story is peppered with the slang of the era, jazz music, vintage dresses and speak-easies populated by bohemian audiences. Yet even as these historical references are celebrated and romanticized, they’re simultaneously critiqued as Mattie enrolls in a history class designed to question the nature of how history is discussed. In the end, metaphor blends with reality, text blends with interpretation, and Mattie, Will and those around them just might escape from the restraints that

James’ The Loneliest Girl in the Universe. The plot reaches warp speed once Romy and J make faceto-face contact—prepare for some rapid page-turning.

The year is 2067, and 16-year-old Romy Silvers is the only surviving crew member aboard the Infinity, a NASA spaceship sent to colonize an Earth-like planet. For the past five years, Romy has been commanding and piloting the Infinity alone after her parents and all of the other astronauts on board died from a mechanical malfunction. Romy’s only human contact is via the audio messages she receives from Molly, a NASA psychiatrist, but those stop when war erupts back home. Another spaceship, the Eternity, has been dispatched to aid the Infinity. The commander on board the Eternity is a young man simply known as J. As J and Romy begin to exchange emails, a romance slowly blooms between them. For a girl who has never even had a friend, Romy clings to this budding relationship with the fervent hope that she won’t always be as lonely as she is now. But a shady system update on her ship and J’s too-good-to-be-true persona make Romy wonder if she’s being saved or sabotaged. Despite Romy being singularly tasked with saving humanity, she is an incredibly relatable heroine. She obsesses over her favorite television show and writes fan fiction. She understands complicated physics problems but is overwhelmed by the expectations placed on her. She crushes hard on J but is insecure about his feelings for her. Romy is an Everygirl alone in deep space, but it’s her zesty narration that drives the momentum in British author Lauren


Candlewick $18.99, 400 pages ISBN 9780763697457 Audio, eBook available Ages 14 and up MYSTERY

Tim Wynne-Jones’ intense new book, The Ruinous Sweep, opens with a car crash, in which teenager Donovan Turner is tossed from a vehicle in the middle of nowhere. Then the narration fast-forwards to a hospital, where a near unconscious Donovan receives treatment following the hit-and-run and his girlfriend, Bee, holds watch and tries to decipher his urgent mumbles. Shortly after Donovan’s car accident, police inform Bee that her boyfriend is also suspected of murdering his alcoholic father, whose badly beaten body was found lying next to Donovan’s baseball bat. The story’s timeline then begins to alternate between Donovan’s accident and the mystery of his father’s murder, which Bee sets out to investigate. Wynne-Jones introduces a bevy of dark characters and chilling scenarios designed to lead readers to piece together the two puzzles, but while the eerie paths may thrill some, the winding narrative may prove confusing at points. The Ruinous Sweep is a trip into an underworld filled with drugs, murder and dysfunctional families. Fans of thrillers will find plenty of suspense in this story with vague echoes of Dante’s Inferno. The plot requires a fair amount of heavy lifting and focus, but fans of Wynne-Jones’ previous books and his talent for fabulism may find it worthwhile. —SHARON VERBETEN



Into the woods they go


wo new young adult novels open in Boulder, Colorado, and find their teen protagonists in the wilderness—struggling to save themselves or someone they love.

With a host of deftly drawn characters, Emily France’s Zen and Gone (Soho Teen, $18.99, 360 pages, ISBN 9781616958572) is a paean to the multicultural mountain mecca of Boulder. With no father, a stoner mom who burns through boyfriends like cigarettes and a little sister to look after, Essa is not a carefree teenager. Determined to give her little sister, Puck, the stability and attention she so desperately needs, Essa spurns drugs and dating for the clean thrills of orienteering and the practical wisdom of Zen Buddhism. Everything changes when a Chicago transplant named Oliver arrives in Boulder for the summer, and Essa’s self-imposed no-dating rule is put to the test. But when the couple signs up for a survival game in the Rocky Mountains, Puck breaks the rules and tags along— and promptly goes missing in the Colorado wilderness. Though Zen and Gone toggles back and forth between Essa’s and Oliver’s viewpoints, with the latter struggling to come to terms with his sister’s schizophrenia, this story belongs to Essa. And as she searches for Puck, it becomes a tale of faith as much as anything else. While France’s promotion of mindfulness and her foregrounding of Buddhist principles make Zen and Gone a unique contribution to the YA canon, its vivid rooting in place and its granular depiction of present-day Boulder is its greatest achievement. Kathy Parks’ Notes from

My Captivity (Katherine Tegen, $17.99, 352 pages, ISBN 9780062394002) also features a complex female protagonist who is thrust into the unknown, but Parks favors quick-witted dialogue over detailed description, resulting in a story filled with high-energy prose and off-kilter humor. When Adrienne leaves Boulder to join her anthropologist stepfather in the Siberian wilderness on a mission to find the elusive and possibly mythical Osinov family, she quickly finds herself out of her depth. In a matter of pages, their entire search party dies and Adrienne is captured by the Osinovs. The only eligible woman for miles around, Adrienne decides her best shot at surviving rests with the Osinovs’ youngest son, Vanya. If she can make him fall for her, then she might be able to survive long enough to convince him to smuggle her back to civilization. Though it begins as a ploy, their real attraction threatens to develop into something else entirely. When Adrienne learns that the Osinovs can communicate with the dead, her focus turns from her budding romance and dreams of escape to her deceased father. She would give anything to speak to him just one more time, but if it means losing Vanya and forgoing the chance of returning to her home, will she go through with it? With a touch of magic and a heavy dose of humor, Notes from My Captivity is a fast-paced summer read sure to thrill.

A monthly children’s &YA enewsletter from BookPage



children’s & teen


Summer fantasies to keep young readers flipping pages


weeping fantasies are this year’s biggest trend in children’s and teen literature—think breathtaking action, complex world building, magical abilities and bands of young heroes who must save the day.

Like any great high fantasy should, Jaleigh Johnson’s The Door to the Lost (Delacorte, $16.99, 304 pages, ISBN 9781101933169, ages 10 and up) opens with a series of maps depicting the land of Talhaven and the grand city of Regara, where “magic is dying,” only to be found in the abilities of 327 seemingly orphaned children who have been mysteriously jettisoned from their magic-filled homeland known as Vora. A young girl known as Rook happens to be one of these magical refugees, and she and her friend Drift survive in Regara by offering their magical skills on a sort of black market. Rook’s particular talent is creating doors—she simply draws a rectangle with a piece of chalk and channels thoughts of her destination in order to open a portal. But one client’s door goes horribly wrong, and Rook lets in a giant Fox, whom she discovers is actually a shape-shifting boy from a snowfilled world. Can Rook and Drift get Fox back home again when they’re not even sure how to get there? Johnson’s spell-casting cast of young heroes will entertain and endear, and their sweet adventure will help young readers grasp some key details of the refugee crisis in a way that never feels ham-fisted.

MAGIC OF FRIENDSHIP The latest middle grade novel from Printz Honor-winning author Garret Weyr, The Language of Spells (Chronicle, $16.99, 256 pages, ISBN 9781452159584, ages 8 to 12), is an extraordinary tale that meshes real historical events with a winning cast of magical creatures. As this magic-filled journey begins in 1803, we meet a young dragon known as Grisha in the Black Forest. He’s young and care-


free and enjoys eating acorns and playing by the stream—until one day, a heartless sorcerer imprisons him in a teapot. Grisha’s teapot is sold to the highest bidder, and for hundreds of years, he silently observes the world as it changes around him. When his enchantment is finally broken, he’s reunited with a group of dragons in Vi-

enna during World War II. But the lives of the once mighty dragons are now controlled by the Department of Extinct Exotics, an organization that refuses to allow them to return to the forest and instead assigns them strict jobs and curfews. On a night off in a hotel bar, Grisha meets a human girl named Maggie, and the two forge a sweet and powerful friendship built on empathy and honesty. Soon, the two join forces to face their fears and investigate what happened to the city’s missing dragons. Katie Harnett’s black-and-white illustrations kick off each chapter and add to the classic European fairy-tale atmosphere, and Weyr’s allegorical tale never glosses over a heart-rending detail or passes up a chance for a gorgeous turn of phrase, making this an ideal readaloud that fantasy lovers of all ages can enjoy.

EPIC TRAGEDY Puccini’s opera Turandot is based on a Persian fairy tale about a princess who challenges her suit-

ors to solve three riddles in order to win her hand. If they fail, they will be executed. As one would expect from an opera written in 1924 set in the “mystical East,” there isn’t much historical accuracy to be found—but the original fairy tale was inspired by a Mongol warrior woman named Khutulun, who declared she would only marry a man

character’s self-deprecating facade, it’s a relentless rush to the finale as Jinghua tries to save Khalaf. Bannen’s prose grows ever more lyrical, soaring to match her ambition as The Bird and the Blade arrives at an unforgettable climax.


For some reason, there are an awful lot of new YA novels in which women are endangered or oppressed. Grace and Fury (Little, Brown, $17.99, 320 pages, ISBN 9780316471411, ages 14 and up) by Tracy Banghart is one of the most compelling of the bunch. Serina Tessaro and her sister, Nomi, travel to the capital city of Bellaqua where Serina will compete for a chance to become one of the Heir’s Graces. Banghart doesn’t spell it out all at once, but Graces are essentially glorified concubines who represent the ideal subservient woman. The who could beat her in a wrestling sisters are shocked when rebellious match. It is within this Mongol Nomi is chosen, and soon Serina Empire that author Megan Bantakes the fall for one of Nomi’s nen sets her retelling of Turandot, crimes and is sent to Mount Ruin, a The Bird and the Blade (Balzer prison island. + Bray, $17.99, 432 pages, ISBN Nomi’s storyline has the roman9780062674159, ages 13 and up). tic entanglements and sparkling Slave girl Jinghua is on the run settings common to YA fantasy, but with deposed Mongol Khan Timur and his kindhearted son Khalaf. Banghart presents both with queasy suspicion. The beautiful rooms Timur wants to raise an army to take back his lands. Khalaf wants to and pretty gowns of the Graces are mere decoration for another type marry the princess Turandokht by solving her riddles and, as her hus- of prison, and it is impossible to band, restore his father to power. fall in love with a man who might Jinghua, who thinks both plans are see you as a possession or a tool. idiotic, is hilariously blunt about Meanwhile, the all-female her chances of surviving either prisoners of Mount Ruin are forced of them, but less open about her to fight for rations, and Serina’s growing feelings for Khalaf. lifelong training to become a Grace Bannen plays with time in her surprisingly helps her excel in her YA debut, beginning with the trio’s new environment. As she begins arrival at Turandokht’s palace and to enjoy the camaraderie and then flashing back to their danger- mentorship of other women for ous journey there. The awkward the first time in her life, Serina’s attraction between Jinghua and feminine ideal quickly transforms Khalaf, plus Timur’s caustic sarfrom elegant consort to ferocious casm, makes this novel surprising- warrior. After all, in a society that ly funny. But after Bannen reveals constrains women at every turn, the utter devastation behind one both roles offer a way to survive.



Wacky tales of animal antics

and the kids are excited about their new house. It has a large yard and a big bathtub that—surprise!—is hese rollicking picture books feature animals who get mixed up in some already occupied by an enormous walrus. He’s having a leisurely soak outrageous situations. High jinks and humor ensue in five slapstick stories as the family arrives on move-in for young readers. Reading has never been more uproarious! day, accidentally creating some “bathtub tidal waves.” Between the storytime. The girl takes her cat to Sterling, Best Dog Ever Perched in his “safe, boring cage,” walrus’ pool parties (er, bathtub task: “Did you eat the parakeet? He Trevor is feeling dejected until he (FSG, $17.99, 40 pages, ISBN parties)—complete with friendly was right there on his tiny seat! He 9780374306144, ages 3 to 6) by spies a lemon hanging on a branch seagulls and a blasting boomwas such a small and scrawny bird. outside the window. Mistaking it Aidan Cassie is a heartwarming box—and his unendurable singing, To eat him would be absurd!” The parable about a lonely pooch’s for a bird, he leaves his cage and the family’s nerves begin to fray. frustrated feline soon sets the girl search for his place in the world. flies to the tree with a seed as a Despite the efforts of a plumber, Sterling is living in a box in an alley straight, and all is well—until her gift. Although the lemon remains a firefighter and a wildlife rescuer, when he gets strangely the walrus won’t budge from the a crazy idea. silent, Trevor tub, which means the family might He sneaks builds a have to move out, but perhaps the into the Butnest where troublesome walrus is just a little lery Cutlery they can live misunderstood. Matt Hunt’s bright, Company’s together. vivid illustrations are chock-full of warehouse, When the details, including lots of floating takes a ride lemon disap- soap bubbles. Bath time will never down the silpears during be the same once the kiddos get a verware asa storm, look at this book. sembly line, Trevor is gets packed alone again, LOST AT SEA up in a box Leo is a wee infant when he goes but not for of brand flying overboard—and away from a long. The new forks his frantic parents—during a boat kernel he and is soon trip. Following the accident, he’s brought as delivered to cared for by friendly sea lions. In A a gift has the Gilbert Home for Leo (Two Lions, $17.99, sproutfamily’s 40 pages, ISBN 9781503902602, ed into a front door. ages 5 to 6), Vin Vogel tells the sunflower, From Walrus in the Bathtub. Illustration © Matt Hunt. Reproduced by permission of Dial Books for Young Readers. and its seeds delightful story of the boy’s life by As a skinny critter with a the ocean. Leo has fun with his attract a silvery coat, Sterling blends right in pet mouse goes missing! Iacolina’s new family—they teach him to feathered flock who welcome him with the utensils at first glance, but rhyming text is irresistible, and his as one of their own. Amy Hevron’s swim and catch fish—although the Gilberts quickly realize that he’s stick-figure illustrations, embellovely acrylic-on-wood illustrations he doesn’t quite fit in with them. lished with patches of color and After he’s unexpectedly reunited different. Their daughter befriends have eye-catching texture. Filled pattern, are wonderfully expreswith his parents, Leo is one happy him, and Sterling is determined to with hope, this gentle book shows sive. There’s lots to love about this lad, but he misses his animal pals. please her and keep up the ruse. that friendship can materialize at story of pet ownership gone awry. Can he find a way to bring his two Instead—with the help of his new the perfect moment. lives together? Vogel’s energetic, friend—he learns the importance FINDING FRIENDSHIP AN UNEXPECTED GUEST cartoonish illustrations add to the of being himself. Cassie brings appeal of Leo’s adventures. This Jim Averbeck’s touching Trevor Deborah Underwood’s madSterling’s changeable nature to vivout-of-the-ordinary story has a cap Walrus in the Bathtub id life through vibrant, playful illus- (Roaring Brook, $17.99, 40 pages, heartwarming ending, as Leo and ISBN 9781250148285, ages 4 to (Dial, $17.99, 40 pages, ISBN trations. This is a sweet story that 8) features a solitary canary who 9780803741010, ages 4 to 8) is filled his parents find the perfect home— addresses important ideas about by the sea, of course. longs for someone to sing with. with splish-splash fun. Mom, Dad self-esteem and individuality.


TOO MANY MISSING PETS The confused little girl in Mark Iacolina’s Did You Eat the Parakeet? (FSG, $17.99, 40 pages, ISBN 9780374305888, ages 4 to 6) is convinced her cat has made a meal of her pet bird, but readers know from the get-go that this isn’t the case. It’s a silly scenario that’s sure to elicit lots of laughs during


reviews T PI OP CK



Life and adventure after loss REVIEW BY NORAH PIEHL

Eleven-year-old Dorothy, better known as Donut, knows what she likes—taxidermy, poker and geography—and what she doesn’t—the prospect of having to leave her beloved Vermont woods for a new life in stuffy, crowded Boston. The year is 1927, and Donut, whose mother died in childbirth, has been perfectly content in the life she’s led with her engineer father and the eccentric characters who occupy her remote corner of Vermont. But now, after her father’s death in a car accident, Donut is terrified of what a future with her Aunt Agnes might look like, hundreds of miles away from everything and everyone she knows and loves. Desperate to avoid attending the girls’ school run by her aunt, Donut hatches a plan to take her dad’s innovative, collapsible boat and hide By Daphne Kalmar away in an abandoned cabin in the Vermont woods. But when a crisis Feiwel & Friends, $16.99, 176 pages strikes, Donut must reassess not only her own independence but also ISBN 9781250154989, eBook available the meaning of family—and what it means to rely on one another. Ages 8 to 12 For more than 20 years, debut novelist Daphne Kalmar was a teacher who loved introducing her students to the natural world. Her MIDDLE GRADE affection for the animals and landscapes of Vermont’s northern kingdom is apparent throughout A Stitch in Time, but what will really win over readers is her novel’s heroine. With her big heart and an openness to adventure, Donut is an affecting blend of toughness, vulnerability and fearlessness. A Stitch in Time would make a wonderful read-aloud and provides an opportunity for parents and children to talk about grief, love and self-reliance.

Shouldn’t he be chomping ducks? Leonard is left feeling discouraged, but together, Leonard and Marianne collaborate on a poem about the value of thinking for oneself. They bravely recite their verses to the lions—with Marianne clutching Leonard’s leg in fear the whole time. Vere’s palette is dominated by deep honey, rose and mustard hues, and he keeps the focus on the characters with outlines in thick, wide brushstrokes and simple backgrounds. How to Be a Lion may be a message-driven picture book, but it’s a welcome message: There’s an alternative to the toughguy approach to masculinity. Leonard is sensitive and thoughtful, and as he tells the other lions, “Let nobody say / just one way is true.” Vere’s story is likely to linger in the minds of children. —J U L I E D A N I E L S O N

LOOK By Fiona Woodcock Greenwillow $17.99, 40 pages ISBN 9780062644558 Ages 4 to 8 PICTURE BOOK

GERALDINE By Elizabeth Lilly

Roaring Book $17.99, 40 pages ISBN 9781626723597 Ages 3 to 6 PICTURE BOOK

No one likes moving, especially Geraldine the giraffe. It doesn’t help when her mother reminds her not to be a drama queen or when her father suggests that moving will be “a Grand Adventure.” Back in Giraffe City, Geraldine was just Geraldine. But as the only giraffe at her new school, she feels like “That Giraffe Girl.” Never shy before, Geraldine now hides behind trees and basketball poles during lunch and recess. But one day, Geraldine discovers someone else in her lunchtime hiding spot: a girl named Cassie


with a long, twisty braid who identifies herself as “that girl who wears glasses and likes MATH and always organizes her food.” As Geraldine and Cassie hide and hang out together, they realize that they’re not so unusual. In her debut picture book, Elizabeth Lilly’s unpretentious illustrations depict Geraldine’s range of emotions through her spirited, wiggly neck. As Geraldine and Cassie gain confidence and new friends just by being themselves, Geraldine begins to stand a little taller. To readers, Geraldine will always stand out humorously among her new classmates, but she also fits right in with them, playing, dancing and hiding (in a game of hide-and-seek). Although Geraldine is a giraffe, her experience will resonate with any child who’s ever had the difficult task of moving and starting over with new friends. —ANGELA LEEPER


Doubleday $17.99, 32 pages ISBN 9780525578055 eBook available Ages 3 to 7 PICTURE BOOK

Author-illustrator Ed Vere would like readers to know that there’s more than one way to be a boy, a lesson delivered via the story of Leonard the lion. A gentle, introspective soul, Leonard likes to spend time daydreaming, thinking, playing with words and humming. He especially loves it when his wordplay leads to poetry, and he’s thrilled when he makes a new friend in Marianne, a “poetic duck.” But when other, more aggressive lions discover the two have hit it off, they tell Leonard there’s only one way for a lion to be: fierce.

From breakfast to bedtime, Fiona Woodcock’s Look has one theme: “oo” words. Luckily for us, “oo” abounds. In fact, you might be surprised at how many of these words Woodcock fits into her simple but charming story about a trip to the zoo. Incorporating stamps and stencil art into her illustrations, Woodcock makes creative use of her minimal text. Double “o” words are cleverly integrated into each illustration: “Shampoo” is written in floating bubbles; “food” features a pair of fried eggs; “goodnight” can be spotted in a cuddly duo of stuffed bears. Woodcock lets her images carry the story forward, and animal antics entertain and add a touch of whimsy. Woodcock clearly has fun with her art, filling one page with ice cream sprinkles and another with pink pollen from a sneeze-inducing field of flowers. Bright colors and simple shapes make Look delightfully appealing

CHILDREN’S and cheerful, while its lights-out ending makes it an ideal bedtime book. Look is full of easy-to-learn sight words for beginning readers, and it will also find a home in classrooms, serving as inspiration for English lessons. Even nonreaders can keep up with this book’s straightforward plot. —J I L L L O R E N Z I N I


the title of your Q: What’s  new book?

By Kristin Levine

Putnam $17.99, 368 pages ISBN 9780399174520 Audio, eBook available Ages 10 to 13

would you describe Q: How  the book?



Twelve-year-old Claudia Dalton panics when her dad mysteriously disappears, until he sends a postBy Jo Watson Hackl card saying that he “needs a little Random House time to think some things over” $16.99, 240 pages while he visits an old friend. Then ISBN 9780399557385 he starts sending Claudia a series eBook available of mysterious clues in the form of Ages 8 to 12 jigsaw puzzle pieces. Claudia works hard to solve each one, hoping the MIDDLE GRADE solution will bring her dad home. Dad, it turns out, has picked a In Jo Watson Hackl’s Smack Dab thoroughly unusual way to reveal to his family that he’s gay, but the in the Middle of Maybe, young Cricket is motivated—with magical setup works brilliantly in The Jigthinking and pure determinasaw Jungle, Kristin Levine’s comtion—to make things right with her pelling portrayal of a family in the midst of transition. Levine knows mother, who left the family after exactly how such a transition feels, Cricket’s grandmother died. In a as her own husband and the father moment of courage, Cricket takes advantage of being left behind in a of their two daughters came out in 2012. supermarket and runs away from Adding to the excellence of her aunt and bratty cousins. With a real cricket as a traveling compan- Levine’s tightly drawn plot is the ion, Cricket takes off for the woods fact that this story is told in scrapbook form—as a series of emails, to hole up for a little over a week, phone conversations, receipts, hoping and waiting for her mothflyers and transcripts of old home er’s reappearance on the anniversary of her grandmother’s death. movies—compiled by Claudia, Equipped with supplies from who’s just trying to make sense of the grocery store and her father’s everything. survival manual, Cricket has some The Jigsaw Jungle has a wondersuccesses and major pitfalls in her ful cast of likable and believable outdoor adventure. She believes supporting characters as well, each that if she can find the special with their own issues. Claudia’s “bird room” that her mother so grandfather, Papa, is a recent often described, everything can widower, while her new friend Luis be put right. While Cricket disis a child of divorce. Levine’s novel covers clues that lead her closer adeptly shows how acceptance to the bird room, more is revealed and change, as hard as they may about Cricket and her mother’s be, are vital foundations for love. relationship. Readers slowly realize “I decided I’ll just have to get used Cricket’s mother has mental health to the pieces I’ve been given, even issues, which form the cornerstone if they don’t form the picture I had of this touching middle grade imagined they would,” Claudia novel. explains. Hackl’s cheerful protagonist conThe Jigsaw Jungle is a triumph fronts difficult situations and issues of a book, portraying sensitive famwith resolve and aplomb during ily dynamics in a loving, engaging her journey toward maturity. way. —LORI K. JOYCE



has been the biggest influence on your work? Q: Who 

was your favorite subject in school? Why? Q: What 

Q: Who was your childhood hero?

books did you enjoy as a child? Q: What 

one thing would you like to learn to do? Q: What 

message would you like to send to young readers? Q: What 

NIBLET & RALPH Two nearly identical, equally adorable cats accidentally switch families in Niblet & Ralph (Dial, $17.99, 40 pages, ISBN 9780735227910, ages 3 to 5), in which vivid, playful artwork from author-illustrator Zachariah OHora showcases a diverse apartment community. OHora is the illustrator of many hilarious books, including Wolfie the Bunny. He lives in Pennsylvania with his wife and sons.




Hogwarts opens its doors once more


t’s hard to believe, but it has been 20 years since J.K. Rowling released Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Published in September 1998 in the U.S. by Scholastic, the Harry Potter series has since sold more than 500 million copies worldwide, in 200 territories and in 80 languages.

A pop culture phenomenon that inspired a blockbuster film series, the Harry Potter books are especially beloved by the millennial generation that grew up reading them, many of whom still proudly identify themselves as belonging to one of the four houses of Hogwarts—Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff and Slytherin. Twenty years later, those millennial readers are now adults, perhaps with children of their own. Is there any greater joy than sharing the books of your childhood with your own kids? Imagine discovering the classic story for the first time: An orphan boy discovers that he is a wizard on his 11th birthday, and he is whisked off to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where he begins to learn how to cast spells and brew potions, and soon befriends fellow students Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. As the series progresses and Harry and his friends grow up, Rowling’s books begin to tell darker stories of government corruption, restrictions on freedom of speech and social injustice, all while her young heroes draw closer to a final confrontation with the evil wizard Voldemort, who murdered Harry’s parents when he was a baby. Even though Rowling’s original book series and the movies inspired by them have concluded, Rowling has since returned to her magical world by writing the screenplays for the Fantastic Beasts spinoff films, which take place

decades before the Harry Potter books and follow the adventures of Newt Scamander. Harry Potter has even appeared on Broadway in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a Tony-nominated play that revisits Rowling’s central trio of characters as adults. Black South African actress Noma Dumezweni was cast as Hermione, fulfilling the hopes of legions of fans who often depicted the character as a woman of color in fan art. With so much new material to enjoy, debate and discuss, it’s no wonder that Potter mania shows no signs of dying down. To celebrate the series’ 20th anniversary and to welcome a new generation of readers to the wonderful world of Hogwarts, all seven books are being rereleased in paperback with spellbinding new covers. The creator of the intricate new artwork is Brian Selznick, another beloved figure of children’s literature and the acclaimed author and illustrator of Wonderstruck and the Caldecott Medal-winning The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Selznick’s intricate black-andwhite drawings are an excellent match for Rowling’s precisely plotted, exuberantly constructed novels. Fans of the series will spot key plot points from each book nestled within the serpentine twists of Selznick’s designs—like Hermione’s Time-Turner in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban or a centaur in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

If the new editions are laid out in chronological order, the jackets fit together to make one large illustration, perfectly mirroring how plot elements from Rowling’s earlier novels resurface in later installments to impact the broader story. Later in 2018, all seven books will be gathered in a collectible box set, and Scholastic has events planned throughout the year at bookstores and libraries to celebrate the anniversary of the series.

ISBN 9781338299144, $12.99

ISBN 9781338299151, $12.99

ISBN 9781338299168, $12.99

ISBN 9781338299175, $14.99

ISBN 9781338299182, $14.99

ISBN 9781338299199, $14.99

ISBN 9781338299205, $16.99


Bookpage July 2018  

Book reviews, Author interviews

Bookpage July 2018  

Book reviews, Author interviews