From the Shelf
Go on, Treat Yourself!
Sure, it's the new year, but that doesn't mean anyone should forget all the work you put into making last month a holiday season to remember. So why not buy yourself a little something? And by "something," we mean (duh!) books!
For the chef, because cookbooks tend to have long, lovely lives on the shelf with many happy uses, check out Julia Turshen's Now and Again (Chronicle, $35), which offers deceptively simple, delightfully delicious menus for all seasons--complete with recommendations on how to repurpose the leftovers into new and creative meals. Bonus: the book's design matches that of Turshen's first cookbook, Small Victories (Chronicle, $35), making the two a perfect set.
Had a bit of a rough 2018 and need a little love? Look for Cheryl Strayed's Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar (Vintage, $16). This collection of advice columns couldn't be further from the "Dear Abby" pieces you're imagining, as the author of Wild tackles everything from broken hearts to grieving parents to how to navigate a soul-sucking career. Already read Dear Sugar? Try G'Morning, G'Night (Random House, $22), a collection of upbeat, charming encouragements from Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Speaking of Lin-Manuel... if you're a Hamilton super-fan who's already read Ron Chernow's massive biography Alexander Hamilton, pick up Lafayette in the Somewhat United States (Riverhead, $16). Here, Sarah Vowell applies her characteristic wit and dry humor to the subject of the American Revolution, told through the lens of the dashing young Marquis de Lafayette (or, as he's known to fans of the musical, "America's favorite fighting Frenchman"). --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm
In this Issue...
by Mesha Maren
A former inmate struggles to escape her past and make a new life amid the poverty of her West Virginia home.
by Chitra Soundar
Based on traditional Indian folktales, Chitra Soundar's trickster tales star two clever boys, a prince and a commoner, who solve their kingdom's thorniest complaints.
In The Banished Immortal, Chinese American author Ha Jin explores the life and influence of legendary Chinese poet Li Bai.
Review by Subjects:
01/18/2020 - 7:00PMThe author of a well-received fiction debut, Catalina, Liska Jacobs visits with The Worst Kind of Want (MCD/Farrar, Straus & Giroux), an open-eyed novel of a woman who goes from the U.S. to Italy on a family mission only to find herself drawn into an entirely different world from the one she’d been living in. “The Worst Kind of Want transported me to Rome and blessed me with an addictive, sexy story about a woman who tries to turn her pain into a fleeting, forgettable recklessness. If only...
01/18/2020 - 11:00AMJoin us for this fun hour of readings from picture and storybooks... Go to the castle in the children’s section...and the stories begin!
01/18/2020 - 10:00AMSaturday University Silk Roads Past and Present Lecture Series. This morning the Saturday University morning autumn series on the Silk Road in Asia concludes with David Bachman, professor of political science at the University of Washington and former chair of the China Study Program there. He will present a lecture on “The 21st Century Silk Road: China’s Belt and Road Initiative.” Presented by the GARDNER CENTER FOR ASIAN ART AND IDEAS, in partnership with the UNIVERSITY OF...
01/19/2020 - 3:00PMCome learn about writing for young adults, from a literary agent and an author, with the Authors Guild. Kathleen Ortiz, a Seattle-based agent with New Leaf Literary in New York, and Lish McBride, a well-published YA writer, tell us about this rapidly expanding publishing market. All are welcome, Authors Guild members or not. Kathleen Ortiz is a literary agent who has over a decade of experience in the industry, both as an agent and licensing expert. She focuses on a diverse list of picture...
01/20/2020 - 7:00PMA Winter's Evening of Music, Poetry and Storytelling with Claudia Castro Luna, Michelle Dodson, Hilary Field, Merna Ann Hecht & Lena Khalaf Tuffaha. Weaving together original music and poetry, classical guitarist and composer Hilary Field with poets Claudia Castro Luna and Lena Khalaf Tuffaha will share poems about struggle and their means to survive. Storyteller Merna Ann Hecht and cellist Michelle Dodson will offer stories and music with the theme of bringing hope forth in dark times...
01/21/2020 - 7:00PMFollowing journalist and novelist Fatima Bhutto, here a few months ago with her book on pop culture in India, the United Emirates, Turkey, and Latin America, is William Wheeler, with another in Columbia Global Reports’ books of long-form journalism. He visits with what is his first book, State of War: MS-13 and El Salvador’s World of Violence. "In State of War, his gripping, electrifying study of the brutal Salvadoran gang culture, William Wheeler dramatizes with almost painful immediacy a...
01/21/2020 - 6:30PMThis month’s selection for reading and discussion is Ada Hoffman’s novel, The Outside (Angry Robot). Learn More
Old Friends: Book Covers from Childhood
"Here's what the stars have in store for writers this winter," according to Electric Lit's resident astrologer Jeanna Kadlec.
Kathy Hoffman, Arizona's new superintendent of public instruction, took her oath of office on a children's book on Inauguration Day, News-12 reported.
From Mrs. Wilcox in Howards End to Captain Bildad in Moby-Dick, author Bridget Collins chose her "top 10 Quakers in fiction" for the Guardian.
Mental Floss explored "how the Chicago Public Library is bringing story time to the laundromat."
My Modern Met showcased a book lover who "arranges her huge library of novels into imaginative scenes."
Rediscover: The Great Influenza
A century ago, from early 1918 until the end of 1920, a global influenza pandemic raged, infecting 500 million people and killing as many as 100 million, nearly 6% of the world's population. Inaccurately called "the Spanish flu" (censors muzzled coverage of its spread in the countries fighting in World War I, but its appearance in neutral Spain was widely reported), the pandemic involved a type of flu that likely was particularly aggressive. Wartime conditions--general malnutrition, unsanitary conditions, soldiers traveling widely and living in close quarters--contributed significantly to the lightning speed with which the flu spread.
In The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History, John M. Barry outlines the history of the great pandemic and emphasizes the role of doctors and researchers in trying to understand the disease and seeking to combat it. The book outlines the development of modern science and medicine in the years before the pandemic--and how that helped deal with such an international crisis.
Published originally in 2005, The Great Influenza won the Keck Award from the National Academies of Science for outstanding book on science or medicine. It's available in paperback from Penguin Books ($19, 9780143036494) and includes an afterword from Barry warning about the dangers of the avian flu.
The Writer's Life
Reading with... Maryse Meijer
|photo: Lewis McVey|
Maryse Meijer is the author of the story collections Heartbreaker and the forthcoming Rag. Her new novella, Northwood, was just published by Black Balloon Books.
On your nightstand now:
The Mirror of Tauromachy by Michel Leiris. I'm working on a book about bullfighting, and in my research came across this surrealist gem, complete with incredible line drawings. The first 17 pages are like poetry: dense, wildly imaginative, true. Best thing I've read this year.
Favorite book when you were a child:
Pet Sematary, Stephen King. Actually, this was my twin sister's favorite; she read it 14 times in grade school. It so dominated our literary landscape that I can't remember what my favorite book was. We like to say it taught us about what marriage was all about... thanks, Stephen.
Your top five authors:
Robert Walser--who makes the smallest things feel huge.
Joyce Carol Oates--she's done everything I've ever wanted to do as a writer, and she's done it literally hundreds of times. Her short stories completely informed my own.
Elizabeth Bowen--mainly because of The Death of the Heart, a book worth 1,000 others.
Janet Frame--every book she wrote is heartbreaking.
Anne Carson--because everything she writes is brilliant, effortlessly original and completely human.
Book you've faked reading:
Miss MacIntosh, My Darling, Marguerite Young. An enormous, fairly obscure two-volume epic that I enjoyed carting about for a month. I never got past the first 50 pages and still have no idea what it's about.
Book you're an evangelist for:
How Like a God, Rex Stout. Look, this is the best book you've never read. If you can track down a copy--it's been out of print since the '60s--you won't regret it. Incredibly well-written, bizarre and a rare, early example of a narrative told in the second person that really works. Gut-punchingly good.
Book you've bought for the cover:
Universal Harvester, John Darnielle.
Book you hid from your parents:
The Satanic Bible, Anton LaVey. The ONLY book banned from our household; of course, my twin and I just had to have it.
Book that changed your life:
Strange Angels, Kathe Koja. I read this in my early teens and it really did change my life as a writer; I immediately cribbed Koja's stream-of-consciousness style, and to this day I still find her voice cropping up in my own work. It was the first book I'd read that felt like exactly the sort of thing I wanted to write someday. I read it every year.
Five books you'll never part with:
Autobiography of Red, Anne Carson: A perfect book. Period.
The Vivisector, Patrick White: Sad, difficult, strange--I read it obsessively during geometry class in the 11th grade. Every time I read it, I think about chalk and triangles. In a really good way.
The Gallery, John Horne Burns: A book of sketches, each from a different character's point of view--incredibly beautiful on every level.
Beware of Pity, Stefan Zweig: A juicy, melodramatic story full of spot-on insights into human nature.
The Necrophiliac, Gabrielle Wittkop: A book that transcends taboo; sympathetic, ironic, romantic, lonely--a book that manages to make passion for dead bodies weirdly, beautifully understandable. Truly incredible.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel.
I held off reading this novel for years, thinking that something so popular--and historical--could never live up the hype. Well, I was totally wrong--this is one of the best books written in the last 100 years. Or ever. It was so exciting to read a contemporary novel that felt immediately classic; I envy anyone coming to this text for the first time.
Book you wish you'd written:
Transformations, Anne Sexton
I loved this book of poems based on fairy tales so much that I cribbed from it shamelessly while writing Northwood. I actually feel enraged when I think about how good it is; no one should be allowed to be so brilliant. Damn you, Sexton!!
by Mesha Maren
In her debut novel, Sugar Run, Mesha Maren plumbs the human dimensions of the economic and opioid addiction crises of rural West Virginia. And she does so with the kind of attentiveness and sensitivity that invites favorable comparison with the work of writers like Chris Offutt and Tony Earley.
At 35, Jodi McCarty has just been freed from prison after serving an 18-year sentence for manslaughter. She makes her way to a small southeast Georgia town on a mission to rescue Ricky Dulett, the abused brother of her former lover, Paula. As a teenager, Jodi fled her West Virginia home with Paula, a woman twice her age. They drove across the southern United States and into Mexico on a destination-free journey where "each moment takes on a texture of delicious, unfamiliar risk," their wandering fueled by Paula's modest skill as a poker player and petty crime.
When she arrives in Chaunceloraine, Ga., Jodi meets Miranda Matheson, the young wife of a fading country music star, and the women quickly discover their mutual attraction. But her plans for Ricky falter when she confronts the reality of nearly two decades that separate him from his childhood trauma.
Though Maren takes her time finding the rhythm of her story, she moves swiftly once she does. Chapters alternate between 1988 and 2007, toward the senseless crime that led to Jodi's incarceration and the climactic events in her relationship with Miranda. Sugar Run is a bleak tale, but one to be admired for its refusal to trade honesty for false hope. --Harvey Freedenberg, freelance reviewer
Discover: A former inmate struggles to escape her past and make a new life amid the poverty of her West Virginia home.
Farewell, My Orange
by Iwaki Kei , trans. by Meredith McKinney
"Wow, women are really something!" Expressed through one tiny line of dialogue, this sentiment nevertheless forms the foundation of Iwaki Kei's Farewell, My Orange. Reflective of Kei's own journey, the novel is set in Australia, where the author emigrated from her native Japan 20 years ago, and spotlights the experience of immigrant women.
Salimah fled ongoing conflict in Nigeria with her husband and sons, in fear for their lives. Although safer, Australia is strange. With her different language and skin color, Salimah feels great weight on her shoulders as she labors daily cutting and packaging meat.
Similarly adrift is Sayuri, despite arriving under different circumstances. She and her professor husband moved from Japan for his career, and she is expecting their first child.
Over the course of several years, Salimah and Sayuri attempt to bid farewell to the known sunsets of their homelands and make way for the new women they are wrestling to become. Through third-person narrative and letters from Sayuri to her writing teacher in Japan, Farewell, My Orange beautifully renders the women's ebbing and flowing strength through suffering. As their paths cross in English-language classes, the twists of life bring joy, pain, success and tragedy that further hone their experiences and relationships.
Kei's work won the Kenzaburō Ōe Prize, created by publishing house Kodansha to honor Nobel laureate Ōe and promote Japanese literature worldwide. Translation to English is part of the prize, and the poignant turns of this slim volume are worthy of a broader audience. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review
Discover: A difficult and tender look at the lives of immigrant women from varied backgrounds as they forge new lives in Australia.
by Tomás González , trans. by Andrea Rosenberg
Tomás González--dubbed "the best-kept secret of Colombian literature"--arrived on the English-language scene with In the Beginning Was the Sea. His follow-up is The Storm, a slim, lyrical novel about the tensions tearing apart a Colombian family. The patriarch of the family, generally referred to as "the father," rules his hotel by the seaside with an iron fist, constantly berating his twin sons, Mario and Javier. His wife, Nora, has been driven to schizophrenia by his blatant affairs and other cruelties. She spends much of the novel conversing with people only she can see. González likewise provides the reader with a multiplicity of voices as he bounces quickly among the perspectives of many of the tourists. They come to form a kind of Greek chorus, commenting on the events of the novel and giving the lie to the main characters' conceptions of themselves.
The novel begins with the father, Mario and Javier heading out for an extended fishing session to feed the hungry tourists. They ignore warnings about an approaching storm, more preoccupied with their resentment and hatred toward each other than with physical danger. As tensions bubble over into something uglier, González expertly deconstructs each character's hypocrisies and self-delusions. The father, for example, fancies himself a canny businessman when he's actually a skinflint: his hotel complex consists of a series of poorly maintained bungalows and it's revealed that he saves money by redirecting sewage into the water. The Storm is a complex psychological portrait of a family on the verge of self-made disaster. --Hank Stephenson, bookseller, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, N.C.
Discover: The Storm is a short lyrical novel about a Colombian family that implodes during an ill-planned fishing expedition.
Mystery & Thriller
Naughty on Ice
by Maia Chance
Lola Woodby, a fallen-on-hard-times society matron, and Berta, her former cook, have been doing well in business together, securing missing items. The Discreet Retrieval Agency is hopping, and Lola and Berta are especially happy to have a case taking them to Vermont just before Christmas. Berta, who is Swedish, misses the snowy winters of her childhood.
They arrive in Maple Hill at the request of the Goddard family, to recover a missing sapphire ring. But they're shocked when Mrs. Goddard, an extremely wealthy woman, falls down dead within minutes.
The local police are extremely suspicious about the timing of Mrs. Goddard's death, so Lola and Berta have to stay in Maple Hill until the killer is caught. But as they continue to interview the people present the night of Mrs. Goddard's death (requiring them to tramp through the woods, poke into cellars and skulk beneath dining windows), two more people turn up dead. Can the Discreet Retrieval Agency catch the killer before the killer catches them?
Lola's tongue-in-cheek narration and Berta's stolid Swedish responses make for excellent repartee. Set in the Prohibition era, Naughty on Ice is a funny and clever fourth entry in a series by Maia Chance (Gin and Panic, Teetotaled). With a slew of entertaining small-town characters, a wintery setting and several interesting twists, this witty novel is sure to appeal to lovers of lighthearted historical mysteries. --Jessica Howard, bookseller at Bookmans, Tucson, Ariz.
Discover: In this funny Prohibition-era mystery, Mrs. Lola Woodby and her former cook work together to catch a killer in small-town Vermont.
Science Fiction & Fantasy
by J. Barton Mitchell
In a future where humanity spans the galaxy, a single planet stands above all others, both in economic importance and brutality. 11-H37 is tidally locked with its parent red dwarf star, meaning one side, the Cindersphere, is a permanent furnace, while the other remains in perpetual shadow. Only a thin band of green separates these disparate hemispheres, a stretch of habitable land called the Razor, which shares that name with 11-H37's penal colony. It houses the worst of the galaxy's worst, gangs of men and women condemned to lifetime imprisonment in pursuit of one company's profit. Maas-Dorian needs the Razor to mine Xytrilium, the fuel to its ubiquitous engines, and abominable conditions in the Cindersphere make disposable labor a grim necessity.
Into this hellish world enters Dr. Flynn, ironically a former senior scientist for Maas-Dorian, framed for reasons that matter less than his immediate survival. Maddox, a former guard on the Razor turned prisoner for snitching on corrupt colleagues, joins Flynn on a mobile mining rig crawling out to the Cindersphere. During the course of normal operations, neither of them would have very long to live, but an emergency--including a planet-wide power vacuum--threatens to end their incarceration even earlier. They must escape their scuttled mining rig and reach the planet's starport before the Razor's thin edge fails to protect them.
The Razor is thrilling science fiction at its finest. J. Barton Mitchell has combined something like The Chronicles of Riddick with The Fifth Element into a pulse-pounder with its own rhythm. Though The Razor relies on plenty of sci-fi tropes, Mitchell's plotting keeps pace with any adventure or thriller tale. The Razor cuts a wide swath across genre interests. --Tobias Mutter, freelance reviewer
Discover: In a space-faring future, a framed scientist must survive a brutal prison planet.
On the Same Page
by N.D. Galland
Martha's Vineyard is the setting for N.D. Galland's On the Same Page. Galland (The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O., written with Neal Stephenson), an island resident, uses her insider's understanding of the social and political tensions as backdrop for a delightful romantic comedy.
Journalist Johanna Howes is Vineyard-born but worked off-island for years. Returning to care for a cranky uncle, she finds not much has changed. Year-round island residents are fiercely provincial, scorning rich summer people but needing the economic boost that they provide. One wealthy resident says, "You're xenophobes. You don't want outsiders coming in."
Johanna is hired at one of the two local newspapers but, realizing one salary isn't enough, secretly takes a job at the competing paper under a pseudonym. The biggest story on the island is the lawsuit of a summer resident who wants to land a helicopter on his property. The two newspapers take opposing views, and Johanna has to surreptitiously cover the story from both angles. "It's just simpler not to explain it to my bosses," she tells a friend.
Meanwhile, she begins dating an attractive man she meets at a zoning meeting, only to find out that he's Orion Smith, the very man bringing the lawsuit. Johanna engages in elaborate juggling to keep her jobs secret, and serious emotional gymnastics to try to dislike the man she's actually becoming very fond of.
On the Same Page is perfect for fans of Elin Hilderbrand and Nancy Thayer, as well as those looking for a romantic comedy enhanced by contemporary social issues. --Cindy Pauldine, bookseller, the river's end bookstore, Oswego, N.Y.
Discover: In this romantic comedy set on Martha's Vineyard, journalist Johanna Howe juggles competing jobs and fights her attraction to the wealthy man upending island politics.
The Life of Frederick Douglass: A Graphic Narrative of a Slave's Journey from Bondage to Freedom
by David F. Walker , illust. by Marissa Louise , Damon Smyth
In The Life of Frederick Douglass, David F. Walker (Super Justice Force) presents a retelling of the life of one of the abolition movement's most famous leaders, a man "who exists as both a historic personality and as something of a mythological figure." With stark illustrations by Damon Smyth and Marissa Louise, Walker's graphic narrative brings Frederick Douglass to life, highlighting the lasting legacy of his work in the U.S.
Walker narrates The Life of Frederick Douglass in the voice of Douglass himself--a decision perhaps not surprising given Douglass's famous autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, and the transcripts available from his lectures on slavery, abolition and racial prejudice. "I made real for them the inhuman horrors of slavery," says Douglass of his lectures to crowds of white abolitionists.
Walker places these horrors in historical context with short lessons on the history of the slave trade, photography (and its importance in documenting Douglass's life) and the trajectory of the Civil War. He also highlights Douglass's key relationships--with his wife, and with abolitionist John Brown and Abraham Lincoln, to name a few. Smyth and Louise's illustrations highlight the human cost of these larger historical trends as well as the emotions packed into each of Douglass's personal relationships. The result is a work that, like the man himself, reveals the violence and horror of slavery at both the human and systemic levels and the pervasive legacy of racism it left in its wake. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm
Discover: This graphic narrative history captures the life of Frederick Douglass and his role in ending slavery in the U.S.
Biography & Memoir
The Banished Immortal: A Life of Li Bai (Li Po)
by Ha Jin
Chinese American writer Ha Jin's fictional work and poetry examine Chinese history, culture and identity. It's no surprise, then, that he would write a biography of one of China's most important poets, Li Bai (also known as Li Po). The Banished Immortal: A Life of Li Bai (Li Po) is a typical biography, spanning the life and career of the eighth-century poet, but Ha Jin's masterful style and deep affection for his subject make the book a pleasure to read--especially for those unfamiliar with Li Bai or Chinese poetry in general.
Aside from being an outstanding and influential poet, Bai was also the most colorful of characters. A braggart who could dash off masterpieces and perform sword dances, he lived most of his life on the road, traveling across the Tang empire in search of fame and fortune. With a brief stint at court (where he impressed the emperor but ran afoul of other players in politics) and a small role in a rebellion, Bai led many lives in his 62 years, even without considering his poetry.
Ha Jin is smart to keep that poetry front and center, though. The Banished Immortal liberally quotes Bai's work, sometimes reproducing complete poems in translation to show the depth of his imagery and style. A number of readers will pick up this book knowing its author but not Li Bai, and Ha Jin makes sure they see Bai's prodigious talent. Newcomers will be swept up in Bai's personal history while fans of his work will enjoy Ha Jin's own take on the man and his influence. --Noah Cruickshank, adult engagement manager, the Field Museum, Chicago, Ill.
Discover: In The Banished Immortal, Chinese American author Ha Jin explores the life and influence of legendary Chinese poet Li Bai.
Hollywood's Eve: Eve Babitz and the Secret History of L.A.
by Lili Anolik
Before she became an artist and author (Slow Days, Fast Company), Eve Babitz was a party girl par excellence. Carousing with artists, actors and musicians came naturally to her: Eve's mother was an artist; her father was a movie musician; and her godfather was composer Igor Stravinsky. In 1963, when she was 20, she gained notoriety when for an art exhibit she posed for a nude photograph playing chess with artist Marcel Duchamp. She was sexually free and enjoyed her drugs. Babitz once said, "Anyone who lived past thirty just wasn't trying hard enough to have fun."
Much of this juicy and illuminating biography concerns how Vanity Fair contributing editor Lili Anolik's appreciation of Babitz's numerous books and album cover art led her to seek out the now-reclusive icon. Babitz left the limelight after a 1997 fire left her with third-degree burns and massive medical debt. The generous quotations from the author's novels display a witty, caustic and observant writer well worth rediscovering.
But many will read Hollywood's Eve for the tantalizing tales of her sexual exploits. She dated Steve Martin, Jim Morrison, Jack Nicholson and others. Novelist Dan Wakefield remembers, "Our year together was one of my favorite years, but I couldn't have lived through two of them. My God, the decadence!" Her relationship with struggling actor Harrison Ford was strictly physical. "Harrison could f***," says Babitz. "Nine people a day. It's a talent, loving nine people in one day. Warren [Beatty] could only do six." Hollywood's Eve is a gossipy delight and entertaining reintroduction to a very talented writer of L.A. life. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant
Discover: This fascinating and juicy bio of Eve Babitz will satisfy gossip-lovers and resurrect the superb chronicler of sex, drugs and life in Los Angeles.
Hero Dogs: How a Pack of Rescues, Rejects, and Strays Became America's Greatest Disaster-Search Partners
by Wilma Melville , Paul Lobo
The 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Okla., killed 168 people. When retired teacher and grandmother of six Wilma Melville showed up with her search-and-rescue dog Murphy, there wasn't much to be done. At the time, there was a woeful nationwide shortage of search teams--only 15, a fraction of what was needed. Knowing more dogs would save lives, Melville created the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation with an unspoken goal of certifying 168 SAR teams--one for each soul lost in Oklahoma City.
Hero Dogs is the astonishing story of how one tenacious woman, helped by a legendary dog trainer and some willing firefighters, fashioned a three-dog pilot program that revolutionized disaster response. Without funding for selectively bred dogs, Wilma was forced to turn to the rejected and allegedly defective. Though she "[doesn't] exactly share their sense of humor," Wilma ended up with three golden retrievers--a twice-rejected guide dog that terrorized wheelchair users, an abused stray and a washed-out field trial competitor.
With co-author Paul Lobo, Melville shares her story in straight-talking prose that evokes the tension and emotion reflective of the high stakes. She is also slyly funny, offering delightfully ironic thoughts on dog humor. When the pilot teams are thrust into the national limelight during their first real-life disaster on 9/11, the results are both triumphant and throat-closing. A fascinating read for animal lovers, thrill-seekers and rescue-hounds alike, Melville's work is proof that some good can rise from the ashes of catastrophe. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review
Discover: This book recounts how a retired teacher and grandmother turned a band of misfits and rescues into incredible disaster assets.
Children's & Young Adult
Mangoes, Mischief, and Tales of Friendship: Tales from India
by Chitra Soundar , illust. by Uma Krishnaswamy
Indian-born Londoner Chitra Soundar (You're Safe with Me) takes inspiration from traditional Indian folklore in this hilariously witty compilation of original stories, illustrated by Chennai artist Uma Krishnaswamy.
If he wants someday to fill his father's shoes as a kind and just ruler in their small agrarian kingdom, 10-year-old Prince Veera needs practice. Luckily, his best friend Suku, the farmer's son, has an ingenious idea: the boys will open their own court and hear some of the minor complaints citizens bring before King Bheema. Soon the bold pair find themselves swamped with tough decisions: a baker wants to charge a poor man for smelling his sweets; a man sells a well to his neighbor but insists he still owns the water inside it; King Bheema himself falls prey to a dangerous superstition. Prince Veera and Suku have an uncanny knack for turning the tables on the unjust, devising solutions that beat swindlers at their own games. With pluck, wit and each other's steadfast support, Prince Veera and Suku prove wisdom isn't solely the province of maturity.
Soundar's energetic prose and wisecracking dialogue sparkle and Krishnaswamy's acrylic folk-based illustrations of characters and nature dance across almost every page. Like any folktale, Mangoes, Mischief, and Tales of Friendship is best when shared. Read aloud, the adventures of Prince Veera and Suku will surely captivate first- through fifth-grade classrooms, the dilemmas providing excellent opportunities for critical thinking. Independent readers age 8 to 12 are likely to delight in the boys' clever solutions, not to mention their ability to confound and outwit adults. --Jaclyn Fulwood, youth services division manager at main branch, Dayton Metro Library
Discover: Based on traditional Indian folktales, Chitra Soundar's trickster tales star two clever boys, a prince and a commoner, who solve their kingdom's thorniest complaints.
1919: The Year That Changed America
by Martin W. Sandler
"Every so often there is a year when events converge in surprising ways," writes Martin W. Sandler. "And there was never anything quite like 1919." Few will argue with Sandler after reading 1919: The Year That Changed America. In nature and in number, the dramatic happenings of that period in U.S. history were staggering.
Each of 1919's six chapters tackles an event, or series of related events, of that year: Boston's deadly molasses flood; the passage of the Prohibition and women's suffrage amendments; the largest number of labor strikes of any year in U.S. history; hysteria-driven responses to postwar anxiety about the spread of communism, known as the Red Scare; and the Red Summer, the violent and racially charged period during which African Americans were first emboldened to organize against white oppressors.
Sandler, whose previous books for kids include Imprisoned: The Betrayal of Japanese Americans During World War II, seems to anticipate young readers' assumption that history is old news by providing "One Hundred Years Later" sections at the ends of most chapters; by connecting, say, the Red Summer's activism with the Black Lives Matter movement, Sandler illuminates the relevance of history. Harbored in 1919's chapters, which are copiously illustrated with photos, are two-page spreads presenting other high- and lowlights of that tumultuous year, such as the World Series scandal, during which the Chicago White Sox threw the contest. Many readers will leave this authoritative and absorbing book wishing 1919 both a happy centennial and good riddance. --Nell Beram, freelance writer and YA author
Discover: This centennial look at a fraught year in U.S. history makes a valiant case for 1919's outsize significance.
When the Truth Unravels
by Ruthanne Snow
Park City, Utah, high school seniors Elin, Ket, Rosie and Jenna are best friends--sort of. Their relationships have been strained lately, but now it's the end of the school year and, as Rosie says, "[t]he thing is... when one of your oldest friends who also tried to kill herself wants to go to prom... well." You go.
Told in four voices, RuthAnne Snow's debut novel moves through prom night (which ends up being "one long nightmare" of missed messages, misplaced friends and some nasty sexual blackmail), flashing repeatedly back to "BEFORE" the suicide attempt. Secrets abound as each girl tries desperately to protect Elin from herself, her parents, her sweet ex-boyfriend, each an unhappiness that might send her spiraling again.
What sets When the Truth Unravels apart is the remarkably undramatic authenticity of Elin's situation. Throughout, everyone--readers included--waits for the big reveal: Why did Elin attempt suicide? Was there abuse in her past? Secret drug use? "Senioritis?" No, no and no. Elin simply and unbearably suffers from depression. Once properly medicated, she is baffled by the foggy memories of what she felt: "I was just sad? That was all?"
Coming to terms with her depression and finally trying to explain it to her friends makes all the miscommunication and turmoil in the preceding months all the more poignant. "[I]t's not 'just depression,' " as Jenna says. "It's f***ing depression. It's a nightmare, that's what it is, and don't ever think it's something to be embarrassed about." For teens struggling with depression or supporting friends who suffer, this novel offers a seriously good understanding of its devastating effects. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor
Discover: In this startling and sensitive debut novel, four friends grapple with the ripple effects of an earlier suicide attempt made by one of them.