Workman Publishing: Hear My Voice/Escucha Mi Voz: The Testimonies of Children Detained at the Southern Border of the United States by Warren Binford

Octavia Books Issue for Tuesday, March 2, 2021

From the Shelf

Award-winning Board Books

Though the 2021 Youth Media Awards are behind us, I'd like to highlight some wonderful board books by past Caldecott medalists and honorees. Let's celebrate awards season for just a bit longer!

Jillian Tamaki's They Say Blue is a 2018 picture book available now in board book format ($9.99, Abrams). The thick paper of the book makes Tamaki's swirls of color almost tangible, nearly begging pre-readers to reach out and trace their fingers over the lines of fields of grass that look "like a golden ocean." While the illustrations invite activity, the text soothes, allowing this book to work perfectly for both story time and bed.

Yo! Yes?, Chris Raschka's 1994 Caldecott Honor book, became available as a board book in 2020 ($7.99, Cartwheel/ Scholastic). A breakout book for its time, Yo! Yes? has plenty of value for contemporary young readers as it brings two children together in friendship. Raschka's use of spare text and the literal boundary of the gutter act as excellent visual tools for those just learning to read.

Kevin Henkes and Laura Dronzek's 2018 picture book Winter Is Here, featuring a curious pup and his child, received its own board book edition in 2019 ($8.99, Greenwillow). Considering it is the very beginning of March, Winter Is Here is the perfect board book to read to little ones living in climates where they experience seasons. It highlights all the joys of winter, especially at a time when it seems to be never ending: "Winter comes and then it stays/ and stays and stays." A calming blue palette and lean text make this an excellent book to read in the comforting circle of caregiver and child. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

William Morrow & Company: Anne of Manhattan by Brina Starler


Columbia University Press: An I-Novel by Minae Mizumura


Sarabande Books: The Book of Otto and Liam by Paul Griner

In this Issue...

Reviews

Klara and the Sun

by Kazuo Ishiguro

In this bittersweet novel, Ishiguro follows the life of an Artificial Friend, a robot programmed to become a human child's closest companion.

Read this review >>

Heartfelt science-based poems and paintings for young readers celebrate planet Earth.

Read this review >>

The Committed

by Viet Thanh Nguyen

In an impressive successor to The Sympathizer, the unnamed narrator moves to Paris, where he struggles to escape the shackles of his damaged past.

Read this review >>

Review by Subjects:

Fiction Mystery & Thriller Romance Biography & Memoir Essays & Criticism Children's & Young Adult

Bold Type Books: Bird Uncaged: An Abolitionist's Freedom Song by Marlon Peterson

Book Candy

Secrets of Comic Book Artists

Mental Floss divulged "12 secrets of comic book artists."

---

"Now online: a free library devoted to West Africa's food heritage," Gastro Obscura reported.

---

Translations: Dictionary.com asked, "What does Waldeinsamkeit mean?"

---

"Behold all 42 maps from Jules Verne's Extraordinary Voyages, the author's 54-volume collection of 'geographical fictions.' " (via Open Culture)

---

Bookshelf featured a Diamond British Poets travelling library, circa 1823-1831.

Float Plan

by Trish Doller

Since losing her fiancé, Ben, to suicide, Anna Beck has been sleepwalking through her life and her waitressing job. But then a forgotten calendar reminder pops up: the date for the sailing trip around the Caribbean she and Ben had planned. Armed with only the most basic sailing knowledge and a desperate desire to move forward somehow, Anna hoists anchor from Fort Lauderdale on her own, unsure whether she'll even make it to Miami, much less the islands on her itinerary. In her warmhearted adult fiction debut, Float Plan, Trish Doller charts Anna's travels to various Caribbean islands, and her gradual passage out of paralyzing grief into something akin to hope.

Doller (Something Like Normal) tells her story in Anna's voice, giving readers first-person insight into both Anna's sailing experiences and her emotional struggles. The trip's beginning is not auspicious. Anna runs aground in Bimini, realizes her knot skills need serious work, and makes a fool of herself with a handsome stranger she meets at a bar. Unsure whether she should keep going, but unwilling to slink back home, Anna advertises for a crew member and ends up with Keane Sullivan: good-looking, Irish and fundamentally kindhearted. Keane, a professional sailor, is wrestling with life changes of his own. After losing part of one leg in an on-land accident, he's learned to sail again with the help of a prosthetic limb. Though he's still a highly capable sailor, Keane struggles not only with self-doubt, but with taunts, sneers and dismissal: since his injury, many people in the sailing community no longer think he's as good as he was.

Together, Anna and Keane push on: from Bimini to Nassau, and from there to the Turks and Caicos, heading for Puerto Rico and eventually Trinidad. Anna is determined to stick to Ben's original itinerary, not really caring if all the islands start to blur together, while Keane gently urges her to deviate from the route when it makes sense. Doller renders their growing friendship believably: witty banter, tentative questions about each other's lives, awkward moments when Anna's still-fresh sorrow flares to the surface. They meet a cast of colorful characters in the various marinas they visit: gray-haired hippies turned sailors, swaggering men who relish the thrill of a race, even chic social media influencers taking advantage of the Caribbean's picture-postcard backdrops. In Providenciales, Anna falls unexpectedly in love with Queenie, one of the many stray "pothounds" who haunt the shores of the islands, and they end up taking the little dog on as a passenger and mascot. A rough crossing to San Juan leaves Anna injured and all of them exhausted, but to Anna's own surprise, she finds she's drawing on a resilience she didn't know she had. The idea of truly living without Ben--after months of believing only survival was possible--both intrigues and terrifies her.

Doller's love for the Caribbean comes through in her vivid descriptions of the islands--not only pristine beaches and colorfully painted houses, but warm, welcoming residents who hail from all over the world. There's Christmas karaoke on Jost Van Dyke, cliff diving, swimming with sea turtles and, of course, plenty of delicious cocktails. But as she hops from island to island, Anna isn't (only) drowning her sorrows or trying to outrun them. She's trying to figure out how to live a life entirely different from the one she had been planning. The gorgeous setting and her new companions don't automatically make that easier, but they provide some much-needed distraction and perspective as her broken heart begins to heal.

As their journey continues, Anna and Keane not only become better sailing partners, but recognize their growing attraction. Anna knows, though, that she has to deal with her grief: she can't move forward, romantically or otherwise, until she has faced the pain and abandonment of Ben's death. But, Keane reminds her, that doesn't mean forgetting about Ben altogether. As they walk past houses and other structures wrecked by hurricanes, Keane shares with Anna a belief he's picked up from the islands: that of building a new house alongside the ruins of the old. Anna gradually comes to accept that Ben will always be a part of her life, but she must consciously decide to build new memories out of the materials she has. Though she and Keane are both wary of falling for one another, Doller gives them--and readers--plenty of sweet romantic moments (and a few seriously sexy ones).

Full of appealing characters, interesting tidbits about sailing and striking island sunsets, Float Plan is at once lighthearted escapism and a sensitively rendered account of a woman's life-altering grief. Doller's breezy writing style, deep compassion for her characters and knack for snappy, entertaining dialogue make this trip around the Caribbean a delight. --Katie Noah Gibson

St. Martin's Griffin, $16.99, paperback, 272p., 9781250767943

Trish Doller: Sailing Toward Renewal

(credit: Jesi Cason Photography)

Trish Doller is the author of five young adult novels, including the critically acclaimed Something Like Normal. A former journalist, bookseller and radio personality, Doller lives in Florida with an opinionated herding dog and an ex-pirate. Float Plan, just published by St. Martin's Griffin, is her adult fiction debut.

Tell us about the inspiration behind Float Plan.

This book began about eight years ago, as a young adult novel that kind of went nowhere. The sailing piece came later, after we got our own boat. My husband and I have been sailing for as long as we've been together, and I've always wanted to read a book about a sailing "road trip." They always say, "Write the book you want to read." So I basically took this grain of a story from a YA novel and turned it into a novel about a woman who walks out of her own life.

Anna, the protagonist, is grieving her fiancé's death by suicide, though the book has a light tone overall. Can you talk about exploring her grief process this way?

I've done that in all of my books--I guess it's my style. My first novel was about a Marine coming home from Afghanistan and dealing with life after war. It has moments that will make you laugh and moments that will make you cry. I think that in anybody's life, you have these moments of deep sadness or grief or depression. But it's not all the time. There are moments when you're laughing and there are things that make you absolutely joyful.

The book begins a few months after Ben's death, so Anna is past the initial shock, but still very much in the thick of her grief.

Yes, I set it a little farther out from his death, so there's a point where Anna can walk out of her life. Immediately afterward, she just had to wade through this swamp of grief for a while. [When the book begins,] the grief is still real and raw, but she can recognize that she needs to do something to help herself heal.

In our culture, when someone we love is grieving, we want them to move past it. We want them to be happy again, and we want them to come out and do things with us. But how do you put a number on grief? Anna says, "No one gets to tell me how long I get to grieve." That's why I wanted her to have Keane: he knows exactly how it feels. Grief doesn't move in a linear way. It folds back on itself, and it trips over itself.

Keane is an experienced sailor who is dealing with a disability. Tell us about including him and treating his disability in the novel.

He was the original love interest in the YA novel that started this whole thing. He was 19 at the time--he liked to drink a lot, liked picking up girls. But I could tell, he was a good guy on the inside. When I started writing Float Plan as an adult novel, I wondered: What would he be like if he were 10 years older? What has he gone through? What has pushed him to be a better person? And I came across the story of a soldier who had been in an IED explosion in Afghanistan or Iraq and lost his leg, and he was an avid snowboarder. He had special prosthetics made so he could get back out there on the slopes. His experience helped inspire Keane's story.

Anna is surprised to find a kind of community in the sailing world.

Yes. One of the things I've learned in having boats and meeting boat people is that people make boat cards. They're like business cards, so you can keep up with people and kind of sail together. People will anchor near each other and meet near sunset for drinks. I could have delved more into that aspect, but the story was really about Anna's journey. She is so steeped in grief that she doesn't realize it, but she does have a quiet endurance that builds through the whole book. She's strong enough to handle this: both life without Ben and sailing the Caribbean alone.

How did you hammer out the details of Anna and Keane's journey?

That was tricky, because a lot of things are similar from island to island. It was really difficult to pick and choose. I wondered how to make the characters stop at a lot of islands and still have a unique experience. When Anna starts out, it's really not about the journey for her. It is about the destination. She just wants to do this thing.

The recent hurricanes in the Caribbean have also affected my writing. In previous versions of the book, Anna went to different islands. In one version, Keane and his brother go to Mass at a church that doesn't exist anymore. I kept changing things, but my editor and I finally decided--you have to find that middle ground between idealism and realism.

I also had to find the balance between sailing as a romantic thing and a realistic thing. On a boat, things break constantly. Experienced sailors might read this book and think it's not realistic, because things don't break often enough! Anna, when she leaves Miami, is literally me--I'm still learning and so is she. I wouldn't know if all the sails were trimmed correctly. But there are so many people who just buy boats and learn.

Have you visited the places Anna and Keane visit together?

I am fascinated by the Caribbean. I've been to Grenada, the Grenadines and Martinique, and now the doors are blown off. I just want to go everywhere. I love the people, and all the things there are to see and do.

My husband and I own a boat that is a smaller version of the one in the book. When I was drafting the book, we used the Alberg 30, and then we found one and bought it. We were going to outfit a boat and go sailing in the Caribbean, but we realized the boat was too small! We realized that we'd made this five-year plan, and we should maybe go to the Caribbean first to see if we liked it. So we flew to Grenada and spent a week there. I fell head over heels in love.

We have two boats now: the Alberg I mentioned, which we ended up calling Lorelei. We're German, and I wanted a mermaid-related name. The other boat--it's not beautiful. It is very functional, and it has all the things we need to do a serious sailing trip in the Caribbean. We named that boat Aroha, which is a Polynesian word that encompasses all the meanings of love. Compassion and kindness and love: that's how we want to be seen when we're out in the world. We want to leave a place knowing that when we come back, we will be welcomed. --Katie Noah Gibson


Shelf vetted, publisher supported.

Earth Aware Editions: Hope in Hell: How We Can Confront the Climate Crisis & Save the Earth by Jonathon Porritt

Great Reads

Rediscover: Margaret Brown Maron

Margaret Brown Maron, the award-winning mystery writer who published 30 books and was one of the founders of Sisters in Crime, died on February 23 at age 82. Maron began her writing career in 1968 when she published "The Death of Me," her first short story, in Alfred Hitchhock's Mystery Magazine. At the time she was living in Brooklyn, N.Y., with her husband and only son, and had given herself a writing course from books in the Brooklyn Public Library. In 1972, Maron and her family moved to North Carolina, and Maron would go on to write all her books there. Born in Greensboro, N.C., Maron featured the state heavily in her writing. Her Judge Deborah Knott series, which began in 1992 with the publication of Bootlegger's Daughter, consisted of 20 books and starred an attorney who is the daughter of a North Carolina bootlegger.

Over the course of her career, Maron served as the third president of Sisters in Crime as well as president of Mystery Writers of America. She was named a Grand Master by the MWA in 2013, and her books have received Edgar, Agatha, Anthony and Macavity Awards. In 2008, she received the North Carolina Award, which is the state's highest civilian honor. In 2010, she received an honorary doctorate from UNC Greensboro and in 2016 was inducted into the state's Literary Hall of Fame. The first nine Deborah Knott mysteries have been reprinted by Oconee Spirit Press. The final entry, Long Upon the Land (2015), is available from Grand Central ($7.99).

Insight Editions: Unstoppable: Siggi B. Wilzig's Astonishing Journey from Auschwitz Survivor and Penniless Immigrant to Wall Street Legend by Joshua Greene

Book Reviews

Fiction

Klara and the Sun

by Kazuo Ishiguro

More Info

More Info

In his first novel since winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2017, Kazuo Ishiguro (The Buried Giant) steps into a possible near future in this heartwarming story of an AI learning about the curious and complicated heart of humanity.

As a B2 model Artificial Friend, Klara does not have the same acrobatic abilities as the new B3 series and, despite industry specifications, her series is known for having difficulties staying fully charged. Still, the manager of the shop where Klara and other AFs have their first home believes Klara has something special, an "appetite for observing and learning" that gives her "the most sophisticated understanding of any AF in this store." When a woman buys Klara for her teen daughter, Josie, Klara finds living among humans more challenging than watching them through a plate-glass window. Josie has a mysterious sickness that could kill her, putting strain on the family. Her personal life is fraught with social pitfalls. As a "lifted," or genetically enhanced, child, Josie's potential bright future drives a wedge between her and the "unlifted" boy next door, whom she has loved all her life. Determined to help Josie, Klara makes an impossible bargain with an unusual partner.

Ishiguro sketches a world in vague strokes for this futuristic setting, giving readers a few clues and letting them fill in the empty spaces. Though it possesses some trappings of sci-fi, Klara and the Sun offers painstaking character portraits and gently examines grief and the rejection of mortality. As he did in Never Let Me Go, Ishiguro again gives an ethical dilemma its own beautiful, bittersweet life. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Discover: In this bittersweet novel, Ishiguro follows the life of an Artificial Friend, a robot programmed to become a human child's closest companion.

Knopf, $28, hardcover, 320p., 9780593318171

William Morrow & Company: Mother May I by Joshilyn Jackson

The Committed

by Viet Thanh Nguyen

More Info

More Info

Viet Thanh Nguyen's sequel to his 2016 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Sympathizer, is a dark and comic investigation of themes that include identity, morality and the clash of civilizations brought about by French and American colonialism. Above all, it is both a striking standalone novel and an impressive successor to Nguyen's earlier work.

Set in Paris in the early 1980s, the novel relies on the beguiling voice of the same unnamed narrator, now in his mid-30s, whose worldview has been shaped by the fact that he's the son of a Vietnamese mother and a French Catholic priest. He's made his way to France from an Indonesian refugee camp after a stint in a communist reeducation program, which followed his service as a murderous double agent in California after the war's end in 1975.

To say that the narrator quickly falls in with an unsavory crowd would be an understatement. The "worst Asian restaurant in Paris" where he works is a front for a ruthless Vietnamese drug and prostitution ring. When he makes the mistake of treading on the turf of a competing Arab gang, he finds himself enmeshed in a violent rivalry. As he fights for survival in this merciless world, he's haunted by the ghosts of his victims in the United States, and desperately hopes to conceal the full knowledge of his past from his blood brother Bon, a rabid anti-communist whose wife and daughter died during the fall of Saigon.

Nguyen (The Refugees) is a literary virtuoso, and The Committed is a multilayered story that will appeal to a wide and varied audience. --Harvey Freedenberg, freelance reviewer

Discover: In an impressive successor to The Sympathizer, the unnamed narrator moves to Paris, where he struggles to escape the shackles of his damaged past.

Grove Press, $27, hardcover, 368p., 9780802157065

St. Martin's Press: The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth

The Invisible Woman

by Erika Robuck

More Info

More Info

In the late 1930s, a young woman shoots herself in the foot while hunting, causing an amputation below the knee. She's fitted with a prosthetic--which she names Cuthbert--and eventually becomes a secret agent working with the resistance fighters and hunted by the Germans in Nazi-occupied France. It happened. It's true. Erika Robuck's electrifying thriller The Invisible Woman is based on the life of American spy Virginia Hall.

After the terrible accident, Virginia's options are keep the leg or keep her life. She chooses life, and becomes a legend in the world of intelligence. Trained in explosives, subterfuge and combat, Virginia is sent to France to prepare small bands of resistance fighters for the invasion of Normandy (aka D-Day). She carries with her a wireless transmitter for sending intelligence back to the Allied Forces. Each transmission takes time, and the Nazis need only 20 minutes to pinpoint her location. Razor-thin escapes result in her likeness plastered on wanted posters. Virginia takes advantage of her limp and disguises herself as an old lady; the Germans dismiss her appearance as non-threatening and easily overlook her. Even resistance fighters disregard her. She must struggle between being ignored by one group and worthy of attention by the other.

Robuck (Hemingway's Girl) was working on a wife-of-a-famous-male-writer book when an editor suggested she write about a woman who was special in her own right. The incredible story of Virginia Hall entered her radar. Robuck combines many real characters into fewer, serving to highlight Hall's remarkable exploits and resulting in an epic that is deeply engrossing. --Paul Dinh-McCrillis, freelance reviewer

Discover: This electric spy thriller is based on the real-life exploits of American World War II secret agent Virginia Hall.

Berkley, $16, paperback, 368p., 9780593102145

The Baddest Girl on the Planet

by Heather Frese

More Info

More Info

In Heather Frese's debut novel, The Baddest Girl on the Planet, a smart-mouthed yet vulnerable heroine comes of age on North Carolina's Outer Banks, and takes on the trial and error of adulthood with funny and moving results.

"No one writes songs about being Good," points out Evie Austin, self-proclaimed "baddest girl on the planet." In this confessional novel, she details every step of her fall into badness, including the time Mike Tyson inadvertently turned her into a fourth-grade social pariah; how she got the nickname "Easy Evie" in high school; and the accidental pregnancy that ended her college career: "Most Likely to Get Knocked Up and Move Back Home might as well have been written in your high school yearbook." A broken childhood home, a few poor decisions and some serious stink-eye from Lady Luck have put Evie on a bumpy road. However, her gallows humor and irrepressible spirit might see her through to the future she deserves--if she can learn to believe she deserves it. 

Told out of chronological order in a mixture of first- and second- person, with the occasional letter to Dear Abby sprinkled in, the frustrations of parenthood, the complexities of family and the dangers of believing labels play out in Frese's breezy, powerful voice. She clearly evokes her North Carolinian setting and imbues her characters with the eccentricity common to Southern fiction without stooping to caricature. Like a letter from a close girlfriend, Evie's story demands big laughs and big love. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Discover: This bold-voiced debut novel about a young woman's life on Hatteras Island, N.C., is a funny and candid look at the perils of adulthood.

Blair, $25.95, hardcover, 250p., 9781949467161

Mystery & Thriller

The Burning Girls

by C.J. Tudor

More Info

More Info

The quaint British village--the scene of many a cozy mystery--receives a chilling noir treatment in The Burning Girls, the superbly plotted fourth novel by C.J. Tudor (The Other People; The Hiding Place).

The village of Chapel Croft is known for the Sussex Martyrs: eight villagers, including two girls, burned to death during Queen Mary's purge of the Protestants. The locals are very attached to that history, making twig dolls that are burned in an annual ceremony to commemorate the purge. Rev. Jacqueline "Jack" Brooks, a widow with a 15-year-old daughter, Flo, knew about the town's history even before she was assigned to be the new vicar after the previous vicar committed suicide. A sinister atmosphere blankets the village, which, in addition to the martyrs, is still fixated on the disappearance of two teenage girls 30 years before. Jack is pulled into the dark history when she receives an exorcism box, notices lights late at night in the chapel and learns the previous vicar tried to burn down the chapel, which he called "corrupted." Jack and her daughter are close, adding to the vicar's uneasiness about Flo's friendship with troubled teenager Lucas Wrigley.

Tudor keeps the suspense high in The Burning Girls, from the bodies that keep turning up to the creepy abandoned house deep in the woods. The appealing Jack maneuvers the villagers' various secrets while trying to hide her own past, which includes an abusive childhood and an incident at a previous parish. One character's remark that "small villages have their own way" is only the start of the chilling, believable twists that ignite The Burning Girls. --Oline H. Cogdill, freelance reviewer

Discover: A new vicar discovers a legacy of violence and secrets in a quaint British village in this superbly plotted chiller.

Ballantine, $27, hardcover, 352p., 9781984825025

The Postscript Murders

by Elly Griffiths

More Info

More Info

In The Postscript Murders, Detective Sergeant Harbinder Kaur of the West Sussex Police is moved to ask someone who's skeptical of the crime novel's literary value, "Don't intelligent people read crime fiction?" It's one of many winking meta moments threaded through Elly Griffiths's witty paragon of the mystery genre.

When care worker Natalka Kolisnyk arrives at the home of client Peggy Smith, she finds the 90-year-old dead in her chair. It's not an extraordinary turn, given Peggy's age, but Natalka is unsettled when she comes across the woman's business card, which reads "murder consultant." While helping Peggy's son pack up his mother's crime novels, Natalka discovers that in a significant number of them Peggy is the dedicatee or mentioned in the acknowledgments. Natalka reports these findings to DS Kaur, along with the fact that Peggy believed she was being watched. Faster than Kaur to accept Natalka's murder diagnosis are a pair of Peggy's friends, and the three become as determined to play detective as they are unqualified to do so.

Griffiths (Now You See Them) splits the narrative duties among The Postscript Murders' four sleuths, including the amusingly sulky Kaur, whose return fans of the Edgar Award-winning The Stranger Diaries will cheer. Various criminal and suspicious developments ultimately lead all investigating parties to a literary festival in Scotland, where the question of whether smart people read crime fiction resurfaces. The answer: they do, but they would have to be of superior intellect to solve Griffiths's unusually clever puzzle. --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer

Discover: The top-flight second book in the Harbinder Kaur series finds the West Sussex detective joining a trio of amateur sleuths in investigating the death of a self-described murder consultant.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25, hardcover, 336p., 9780358418610

Never Far Away

by Michael Koryta

More Info

More Info

Michael Koryta's Never Far Away opens with a nail-biting scene in which Nina Morgan is asking for contract killers to murder her--to make it look like they have, that is, using shallow cuts and lots of blood. Faking her death and disappearing by herself is the only way for her to save her husband and kids and escape being hunted by her boss, a powerful dark-business figure named Lowery, whom Nina crossed simply by telling the truth.

Ten years later, Nina has established a new, happy life as Leah Trenton, a wilderness guide in northern Maine. But then she gets a call informing her that her husband has died in a freak accident. Leah swoops into action to rescue her kids from the killers who are still out there. One problem: they don't know Leah is their "long-dead" mother. And this time, Lowery will make sure Nina actually dies.

Thrillers are only suspenseful if the stakes are high and the villains formidable, and the Blackwell men in Koryta's novels are among the most lethal in crime fiction. The Blackwell brothers from 2014's Those Who Wish Me Dead reappear at the start of this novel. Next-generation Dax Blackwell is the killer from If She Wakes but, in a neat twist, is helpful to Leah in Never Far Away while remaining as deadly as ever. The story is hers, though: a mother who goes through her worst nightmares only to come out as fierce as those who wish her dead. --Elyse Dinh-McCrillis, blogger at Pop Culture Nerd

Discover: A woman with a past braves the wilderness of northern Maine with her children to protect them from killers in this taut thriller.

Little, Brown, $28, hardcover, 384p., 9780316535939

Romance

Love at First

by Kate Clayborn

More Info

More Info

Sparks fly in Kate Clayborn's tender Love at First when an ER doctor inherits his estranged uncle's apartment and upsets the life of his new neighbor. When they hear that he's planning to rent the apartment to short-term tenants, Nora leads the close-knit group of building residents in a campaign to make Will love the old Chicago building as much as they do. But while they work at cross-purposes, Nora and Will discover they have much more in common than an apartment building.

Both were raised by distant parents but ended up with different approaches to life. Will gives generously of himself at work, but doesn't allow anyone beneath his charming doctor veneer. Meanwhile, Nora is fiercely protective of the neighbors she loves and the small community they've cultivated over decades. She fears change and clings to the relationship she had with her grandmother. Will, however, is resistant to depending on other people and attachment of any kind, making them a seemingly unsuitable match.

Clayborn (Love Lettering) employs her signature combination of past emotional wounds and tender blossoms of hope to gradually twine her two protagonists together, allowing them to--temporarily--live in denial even as they fall deeply in love. Her beautiful prose is full of a softness and depth that lingers--passages beg to be reread and savored--while moments of humor and gently smoldering passion lift what might otherwise be a slow and overly sentimental read. Perfect for fans of Christina Lauren and Emily Henry, Love at First feels like a long, warm hug upon returning home. --Suzanne Krohn, editor, Love in Panels

Discover: Kate Clayborn pairs neighbors with opposite approaches to attachment--and apartments--in a deeply emotional contemporary romance.

Kensington, $15.95, paperback, 320p., 9781496725196

Biography & Memoir

The Officer's Daughter: A Memoir of Family and Forgiveness

by Elle Johnson

More Info

More Info

"When I was sixteen, my sixteen-year-old cousin, Karen, had her face blown off at point-blank range by a sawed-off shotgun in a robbery gone awry at a local Burger King in the Bronx. It was early Saturday morning, April 4, 1981." Decades later, Elle Johnson still carries the wounds of her cousin's murder. Not until 2014, when her cousin Warren, Karen's older brother, asks Johnson to write a letter to the parole board encouraging them not to let the gunman free, does she truly begin to process the impact of her loss and upbringing. The result, The Officer's Daughter, is a memoir awash in doubt, anger and loss of innocence, told in the honed voice of a professional television writer and showrunner.

Karen's father was a homicide detective, Johnson's father a parole officer. Not only was Johnson's life filled with lessons learned in law enforcement (which would later influence her writing on such shows as Law & Order and Bosch), but on the night Karen was killed, the author overheard her father, uncle and numerous officers discussing tracking down and killing Karen's murderers. In a tale that begins as a tribute to Karen, Johnson traces her soul-searching, reflecting on the violence and control that pervaded her immediate family.

Johnson writes exquisitely about the conflicting yearnings of punishment and forgiveness as she considers each of the men convicted for Karen's murder. Yet the contemplation of her complex father is the beating heart at the center of this soulful and aptly titled remembrance. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review

Discover: Through the lens of her cousin's 30-year-old murder, a television crime writer movingly reflects on how her law enforcement family and the killing molded her and her views of those imprisoned.

Harper, $27.99, hardcover, 224p., 9780063011328

Essays & Criticism

Science Fiction

by Sherryl Vint

More Info

More Info

As a professor of media and cultural studies and English, as well as an editor of the journal Science Fiction Studies, Sherryl Vint knows about the genre of science fiction, and she lends her expertise here to demystify it. Science Fiction is not an encyclopedia of the genre, but rather, an engaging exploration of the different ways in which the genre, across its history and development, can help readers think about technology, crisis, development and where the future might be heading.

Vint writes, "The social imagination and the stories we tell, the worlds we build with our stories, matter." She examines different broad themes around which the genre has coalesced, and around which her chapters are organized, such as utopia and dystopia; colonialism and the colonial imagination; robots, AI and transhumanism; and the environment, climate change and the Anthropocene, to name a few. She draws on examples from various authors including Sir Thomas More, Octavia Butler and N.K. Jemisin, as well as leading critical thinkers on the genre, tracing the development of science fiction and attempts to both categorize and shape it.

Her measured approach creates an accessible, thematic and historically organized overview of a complex literature. As such, it can be enjoyed by both neophytes and long-time fans alike. It also showcases the genre's relevance and importance to how society uses its imagination, and how that is tied to ways in which various technologies are then imagined. --Michelle Anya Anjirbag, freelance reviewer

Discover: An expert on science fiction offers an insightful primer on where this popular genre intersects with technology, modern-day anxieties and how people think about the world.

The MIT Press, $15.95, paperback, 224p., 9780262539999

Children's & Young Adult

Hello Earth!: Poems to Our Planet

by Joyce Sidman , illust. by Miren Asiain Lora

More Info

More Info

Newbery Honoree Joyce Sidman (Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night; Round) teams up with Miren Asiain Lora (illustrator, The Mermaid Atlas) for this heartfelt poetry collection featuring the voices of Earth's children--"the human ones"--as they speak directly to the planet.

Melding scientific research with poetry, Sidman's words encourage readers to think philosophically. In "Floating," she questions how humans can be "climbing trees, walking paths,/ staring up at constellations" while also out "in deepest space." Of the relationship with moon and sun, Sidman asks Earth what it's like to feel "one so close,/ a silver sister. One so far,/ a burning star." Sidman takes readers beneath the ocean, home to "creatures whose bodies/ breathe water/ instead of air," and into "Noisy" cities, where "digging/ and building /and shouting/ and grabbing/ and rushing around" keep people from remembering to be happy with what we've been given. Sidman crafts her poems to speak eloquently to "our ship/ through light/ and darkness."

Lora's graceful watercolor and acrylic art employs fine details on expansive backgrounds to evoke wonder in concepts both concrete and abstract. Her tiny humans and animals actively interact with their surroundings, adding depth and giving readers plenty of details to pore over. Topics--including the physical attributes of Earth, forces that act upon it and the human impact on the planet--are further fleshed out in extensive back matter, including a section on "ways kids can help." This is an inspiring collection, and one likely to encourage further study. --Lynn Becker, blogger and host of Book Talk, a monthly online discussion of children's books for SCBWI

Discover: Heartfelt science-based poems and paintings for young readers celebrate planet Earth.

Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, $18.99, hardcover, 68p., ages 5-9, 9780802855282

The Sea-Ringed World: Sacred Stories of the Americas

by María García Esperón , trans. by David Bowles , illust. by Amanda Mijangos

More Info

More Info

Mexican author María García Esperón invites readers to open their "hearts and minds to the wisdom and beauty of the people on whose land we now live" in this dazzling collection of 56 sacred stories from Indigenous civilizations of the Americas, illustrated by Mexican artist Amanda Mijangos and translated from Spanish by Mexican American author David Bowles (They Call Me Güero).

Gods give birth to worlds, mythical creatures interfere in human lives and heroes rise in this diverse set of tales with roots in the traditions of the Maya, Inuit, Nahua, Taino and other American Indigenous peoples. In the Alutiiq story "White-faced Bear," a hunter transformed into a bear by his rivals becomes an instrument of vengeance against hunters. The Hopi creation story "Spider Grandmother" tells of how Spider Grandmother threw her web into the heavens and "a million stars began to glow." From the Andean tradition, a shepherd's star-crossed love for the daughter of Sun ascends to unexpected immortality in "Shepherd and Maiden."

A short poem announces each story, adding to the sense that Esperón's agile, expressive prose begs to be read aloud. Mijangos gives her digital illustrations a fluid, aquatic quality with an azure, navy and white palette and figures sketched in soft, abundant curves. Though Esperón cautions that characters may not follow readers' cultural norms, the stories contain universal mythic touchstones, including constellation lore, landmark creation and true love. Middle-grade readers and older lovers of traditional lore should find treasure in abundance here. --Jaclyn Fulwood, youth services manager at Main Branch, Dayton Metro Library

Discover: Readers can see the world through the eyes of American Indigenous civilizations in this visually arresting, captivating collection of traditional stories.

Levine Querido, $21.99, hardcover, 240p., ages 8-12, 9781646140152

« prev issue | next issue »


Shelf Awareness Readers Archive