Harper: The Snakes by Sadie Jones

Garden District Book Shop Issue for Tuesday, June 25, 2019

From the Shelf

Summer Reading: Beach Grab Bag

One of the true readerly delights of summer is heading to the beach (or the back porch) with a book you're dying to dig into. Whether it's a traditionally "summery" novel, a new twist on a classic or an inventive take on summer in the city, the bookish possibilities are endless--and all of them pair perfectly with sun, sand and iced tea.

Meg Mitchell Moore (The Admissions, So Far Away) takes readers to bucolic Block Island, R.I., in her fifth novel, The Islanders (Morrow, $26.99). Her three protagonists--harried whoopie-pie baker Joy, disgraced author Anthony and bored stay-at-home mom Lu--are each hiding something, and their stories intersect in surprising ways. Both Moore's setting and her characters have instant appeal, but it's their deeper layers that make for a breezy yet entirely satisfying read.

Literature teacher Alys Binat, the outspoken second of five daughters, has sworn never to marry, despite her mother's constant marital machinations. When Valentine Darsee and his friend Fahad "Bungles" Bingla come to town, things get interesting for Alys and her whole family. Unmarriageable (Ballantine Books, $27), Soniah Kamal's modern-day Pakistani take on Pride and Prejudice, contains all the classic elements of Austen's love story, but its witty dialogue, cultural dynamics and a few other updates help it feel fresh.

Sierra Santiago hopes to spend her summer painting murals and hanging with her friends in Brooklyn. But then she discovers she's a shadowshaper: an heir to a kind of magic channeled through art. Along with various members of her family and a very intriguing boy, Sierra must figure out how to stop the spirits before they destroy everyone she loves. Daniel José Older brings together art, myth, race relations and an epic battle between good and evil in the young adult novel Shadowshaper (Scholastic, $9.99) and its sequel, Shadowhouse Fall (Arthur A. Levine, $18.99).

Whatever/wherever you're reading this summer, we wish you a literary one. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Dey Street Books: The Education of an Idealist: A Memoir by Samantha Power


John Scognamiglio Books: The Long Flight Home by Alan Hlad


Pegasus Books: Second Sight by Aoife Clifford

In this Issue...

Reviews

The Tenth Muse

by Catherine Chung

In this powerful historical novel, a female mathematician recounts the personal and professional challenges of finding her way in a male-dominated field.

Read this review >>

In Misa Sugiura's second novel for teens, a Japanese American teen finds purpose in flowers and social justice as she brings historical discrimination to light to save her family's flower shop.

Read this review >>

Cygnet

by Season Butler

An island of elderly separatists and one teenaged girl face essential human angst in this remarkable debut novel.

Read this review >>

Review by Subjects:

Fiction Mystery & Thriller Food & Wine Biography & Memoir History Sports Humor Children's & Young Adult

Kokila: Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay

Book Candy

War of the Words

"Language wars: the 19 greatest linguistic spats of all time" were showcased in the Guardian.

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"Literature Tube map replaces stations with titles of books set in the area," the Evening Standard noted.

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"A library of one's own: Meet the man who owns 12,000 books," the Age suggested.

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Tom Waits shared his "top 10 favorite books of all time" with Far Out magazine.

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"Sold: a letter where Hemingway complains that he sucks at bullfighting" (via Atlas Obscura).

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"Sala Beckett: Barcelona's inspired homage to the playwright" was featured in the Observer.

Great Reads

Rediscover: Judith Krantz

Romance author Judith Krantz died last week at age 91. Her 10 novels--beginning with Scruples in 1978 and ending with The Jewels of Tessa Kent in 1998--have together sold more than 85 million copies in more than 50 languages. Most of her books also became TV movies or miniseries, often produced by her husband, Steve Krantz. Her other works include the novels Mistral's Daughter (1982), I'll Take Manhattan (1986), Dazzle (1990), Scruples Two (1992) and a memoir, Sex and Shopping: Confessions of a Nice Jewish Girl (2000).

After a bad experience with a creative writing class at Wellesley College, Krantz did not pursue fiction writing for another 31 years. She worked for several magazines before her husband convinced her to try her hand at fiction again. While writing her first novel, Krantz believed the work was meant to prove to her husband that she was a poor fiction writer. Scruples was published in 1978, the same year as Krantz's 50th birthday. Her second novel, Princess Daisy (1980) earned her $5 million prior to publication. As alluded to by the title of her memoir, many of Krantz's books heavily feature sex and shopping. But beyond those escapist fantasies, her work also includes female achievement and empowerment intertwined with complex plots.

The Writer's Life

Linda Holmes: A Different Kind of Romcom

photo: Tim Coburn

Linda Holmes is the host of National Public Radio's Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast and has many years' experience writing about books, movies and TV shows for NPR and, previously, for TV Guide, New York magazine and the website Television Without Pity. Her debut novel, Evvie Drake Starts Over (Ballantine Books, $26; reviewed below), is the warm, witty and thoughtful story of a young woman in Maine who suddenly loses her husband and of a professional baseball player who misplaces his mojo.

First novels are often partially autobiographical. Does Evvie share some characteristics with you?

Biographically, almost not at all, but she does have a best friend who's a man, which I also do. I think that every character an author writes has elements of things that she spends time thinking about. In Evvie's case, she thinks about what it means to be the person people expect you to be versus the person you feel you really are. I have elements of that, as probably a lot of people do. She has a little bit of anxiety about her future, which I certainly have had at times. And she has a fondness for being with other people but only so much--that I also have. I love being with my friends and family, but I can also be a bit introverted, so I relate to her desire to retreat sometimes and get some peace to think.

One of the main characters in your novel, Dean, is a professional baseball player. Why did you choose that profession for Dean?

I watched a lot of baseball growing up, and my nephews play a lot of Little League, so I am kind of a baseball person. I have also been fascinated by struggling athletes who lose the ability to do the things that they've always been able to do. Both of the main characters in this book are trying to figure out, "This is what I thought my life was going to be like, and it's now going to be abruptly different." It seemed like it was going to be a suitable match of very different situations that nevertheless have some things in common.

In a typical romcom, one of the main characters saves the other in some way. Without any spoilers, both Evvie and Dean have to work individually to heal themselves. Why did you decide on this less common approach?

I love romcoms, but I have always wanted to take that kind of story and change certain things about it. As you mentioned, very often, romcoms feature someone with a lot of problems, and a person comes into their life and repairs the problems. In the cases of both of the main characters in my novel, it's a little bit different. He's got a very concrete issue with his pitching arm, and she's feeling, "I like this person, and I want to help." He's feeling a compassionate sense that he would love to be helpful to her because he's trying to figure out what's going on with her. I particularly don't like a story where it seems to me that the problem is something that needs addressing through mental health treatment, and it turns out to be treatable by meeting a new boyfriend or girlfriend. I wanted to make a book that did not do that.

I loved the humor and lightness in your novel, but it also deals with some serious issues, like emotional abuse and living up to others' expectations. How did you find the right balance between gravity and wit?

Even in very sad stories, there is an opportunity for funny things to happen, whether it's because of a sort of gallows humor or just because, as in this story, even people who are going through difficult things are still looking for those moments of joy. In terms of writing the book, I love and could write that kind of witty romcom banter back and forth all day long. As long as I took care of the more serious elements of the story, I felt like when I put those characters in a room and they talked to each other, you got the lightness and the humor of how much they enjoy each other.

Most of your career has been focused on writing nonfiction, particularly reviews and articles about pop culture. What made you decide to give fiction a try?

I have always, since I was a little kid, wanted to write stories. I dabbled in it in various ways. I was too afraid to take it seriously, so I always had little beginnings of stories, ideas that I was nursing along, but I never got anywhere with them. This was a story that I found hard to just throw away. I would pick it up and put it down, pick it up and put it down. And eventually, in late 2016, when the election cycle was preoccupying, I needed other things besides politics, which can get overwhelming, so I decided to pick it up again. Eventually, I found the time and concentration to actually get somewhere with this story after all this time of sitting with it and thinking about it.

What do you hope readers take away from Evvie Drake Starts Over?

It is meant to be a love story--several love stories, including a romantic story and a friendship story and a family story--and I want them to be love stories that don't require anybody to be fixed or changed or to necessarily keep all relationships the same forever. I want them to be love stories that tolerate the imperfect ways that people and circumstances change and you ultimately just have to find a way to not feel broken. I hope people will take away from the book my conviction that that is possible, even when it feels very unlikely. --Suzan L. Jackson, freelance writer and author of Book by Book blog

Book Reviews

Fiction

The Tenth Muse

by Catherine Chung

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Catherine Chung's (Forgotten Country) novel The Tenth Muse champions female intellectual independence while uncovering sacrifices made to acquire it. Episodic chapters allow Katherine, a celebrated mathematician, to organize her memories, which she says have "never seemed very straightforward to me."

Katherine's early life is fraught, and her loving but distant mother ultimately abandons the family. Escaping a tense home and proving herself in a university mathematics program--unusual for women in the 1950s--becomes her raison d'être. She remembers wanting to "ground myself in science, with its fixed rules that never changed and never lied." Her genius for mathematics is apparent, even as her place in the program isn't: "I was always watched, as a symbol of something--an outsider who'd somehow made it in." Throughout her life, Katherine's friends and lovers take advantage of her talents, causing extraordinary personal and professional loss. Yet she reflects that she's proof that mathematics--"the divine language"--is not the provenance of the "world of men" only.

The titular 10th muse was Zeus's youngest daughter, who sang her own songs, not those of men, and whose transfiguration into a mortal was her punishment. Women in the sciences who also charted their own course, independent of men, encourage Katherine throughout her life. Even readers who don't recall their own math classes will get the mathematical references woven seamlessly into Katherine's emotional memories. "Numbers blink in and out, glowing like fairy lights." Readers who enjoyed The Only Woman in the Room will appreciate this intelligent novel. --Cindy Pauldine, bookseller, the river's end bookstore, Oswego, N.Y.

Discover: In this powerful historical novel, a female mathematician recounts the personal and professional challenges of finding her way in a male-dominated field.

Ecco, $26.99, hardcover, 304p., 9780062574060

Cygnet

by Season Butler

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Cygnet is a powerful, poignant, smart debut novel by Season Butler. Her protagonist, known only as Kid, lives on an island otherwise populated entirely by elderly separatists. Ten miles off the coast of New Hampshire, Swan Island's inhabitants call themselves Swans, and they want nothing to do with the rest of the world, which they call the Bad Place. Seventeen-year-old Kid has no business there, but her parents abandoned her with her grandmother, who has since died. Now she works part time for one of the residents, digitizing and editing photographs, home videos and the woman's children's diaries. She spends her lunch breaks with an Alzheimer's patient, who has no memories to fix.

Swan Island is slowly crumbling into the sea, with Kid's grandmother's house set to go first: her backyard shrinks by the day, and Kid hates and fears the ocean, its relentless "waves that never tire of the same old dance moves. The cliff and the ocean, a mosh pit of two." The Swans are always going on about how you can view the sea from anywhere on their island; she doesn't see the appeal. With few exceptions, the Swans are cruelly frank about their displeasure at her presence, her very existence.

At the intersection of teen angst and sobering end-of-life realities, Cygnet contains some powerfully depressing material. But Kid's disarming voice and unlikely will to push forward save this novel from doom and gloom. Kid and the Swans have more in common than they think--age and youth being more alike than either perhaps accepts--and Butler's conception of this particular world-within-a-world is easy to lose oneself in. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: An island of elderly separatists and one teenaged girl face essential human angst in this remarkable debut novel.

Harper, $26.99, hardcover, 240p., 9780062870919

Evvie Drake Starts Over

by Linda Holmes

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Linda Holmes, host of the NPR podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, makes her fiction debut with this bright and lively romantic comedy that charts the course of 33-year-old widowed and childless Eveleth "Evvie" Drake of Calcasset, Maine. A transcriptionist, Evvie saw her life derail when her husband, Tim, died in a car crash on the very day Evvie was ready to leave him. Family and friends were completely unaware of Tim's dark, abusive side and Evvie's exit plan. This includes her closest friend, Andy, whose wife walked out on him and their two young children.

Evvie's planned escape riddles her with guilt. And when small-town talk of Tim keeps circling back to Evvie, it exacerbates her isolation. But her life changes with the arrival of Andy's pal Dean Tenney, a pitcher for the New York Yankees who's struggling with an emotional block that has rendered him unable to throw a baseball straight.

Andy asks Evvie to let Dean rent the small apartment in the back of her house so Dean can have privacy as he attempts to regroup. Evvie agrees, but sets conditions: Dean will not ask Evvie any questions about her marriage or her deceased husband. And Evvie will not ask Dean why his successful pitching career tanked to the point that he's known as "Baseball's Exiled 'Head Case.' "

Evvie Drake Starts Over, ripe with amusing wit and charm, skillfully explores regret and longing, friendship, love and forgiveness, and the challenges posed by reinvention. Holmes has a firm grasp on the realities of everyday life and the difficulties of carving out happiness in the modern world. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: A smart romantic comedy about two lost, wounded souls who lean on each other as they step into their futures.

Ballantine Books, $26, hardcover, 304p., 9780525619246

The Girl in Red

by Christina Henry

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When people started getting sick, Red started getting ready. A fan of horror stories and survivalist tales, she thought she knew what it would take to keep herself and her family safe. Unfortunately, her parents and older brother weren't inclined to take her advice. And so, she finds herself in the woods, hatchet in hand and backpack on, slowly making her way to her grandmother's house all alone. The Girl in Red is Christina Henry's (Alice; Lost Boy) retelling of a classic folktale, in which Little Red Riding Hood is not as defenseless as she seems.

A single young woman walking thousands of miles is hard enough, with poisonous plants, dangerous animals and the weather to worry about. But since the Crisis, there are evil people giving in to their baser instincts, racists forming militias of their own, government agents rounding people up for quarantine camps, and more than one apocalypse-causing nightmare to worry about. On top of all of that, there's Red's prosthetic leg to consider, too, slowing her down as winter approaches.

Henry offers a fascinating reimagining that places ability at the heart of the tale. Red is strong of mind, body and spirit. She continues to put one foot in front of the other--letting nothing and no one stand in the way of her and her grandmother's house, and willing to go to desperate lengths to protect herself and those more vulnerable than her. --BrocheAroe Fabian, owner, River Dog Book Co., Beaver Dam, Wis.

Discover: Little Red Riding Hood makes her way to grandmother's house as never before, in a post-apocalyptic world where she does what she must to survive.

Berkley, $16, paperback, 304p., 9780451492289

Mystery & Thriller

Wherever She Goes

by Kelley Armstrong

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While playing with her daughter in the park one day, Aubrey meets a little boy and his mother. Days later Aubrey sees the boy again--being dragged into an SUV and calling for his mother, who's mysteriously absent. After the vehicle peels away, Aubrey files a police report, but no one believes her. Because no one has reported a missing boy. 

Aubrey fears the mother is dead, but she's dismissed by police and the media as an attention seeker. Attention is the last thing she wants, however. She's been living under an alias, hiding from her past. But as a mother, she can't ignore what she saw, knowing a child has been abducted with no one looking for him. She sets out to find him herself, confronting not only very bad people but ghosts from her tragic childhood.

As usual with Kelley Armstrong's books (This Fallen Prey, A Darkness Absolute), the standalone Wherever She Goes starts with a bang, and maintains a steady pace. Aubrey has shades of Detective Casey Duncan from Armstrong's Rockton series; she's far from perfect, even borderline criminal, but she's righteous and sympathetic and never one to bet against. 

While she searches for the boy, Aubrey is also dealing with the dissolution of her marriage, struggling to make the right decisions so her daughter won't be taken away from her. Her relationship with her husband is complicated but refreshingly mature, heading in surprising directions. Armstrong's characters aren't superhuman, simply regular people who rise to the occasion in extraordinary circumstances. --Elyse Dinh-McCrillis, blogger at Pop Culture Nerd

Discover: After a woman witnesses a kidnapping and the police doubt her report, she sets out to save the boy herself.

Minotaur, $27.99, hardcover, 304p., 9781250181350

Food & Wine

Heirloom Kitchen: Heritage Recipes and Family Stories from the Tables of Immigrant Women

by Anna Francese Gass

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One of the delights of Heirloom Kitchen: Heritage Recipes and Family Stories from the Tables of Immigrant Women is that cooks will be entertained while the pasta water boils or the dough rises or the curry simmers. Each of the 100 recipes is tucked into a spread that includes the creator's story.

Anna Francese Gass was inspired by her mother's meatballs, which she realized she didn't know how to make, even after training at the French Culinary Institute and working in test kitchens and as a food journalist. So Gass began her "Nonna's meatball" project. Soon, she contacted other children of immigrants to learn the stories of women who "left everything behind to come to the Land of Opportunity," creating "the melting pot that is our vital American heritage."

Her research took her beyond her Rhode Island roots (her family came from Italy when she was a baby), and she introduces 40 immigrants from all over the world. The Europe section spotlights eight countries, and the recipes include Italian Eggplant Patties, Ukrainian Apple Pancakes and Russian Poppy Seed Cake. Central America offers Haitian Cashew Chicken and Puerto Rican Rice with Pigeon Peas. Meanwhile, Mumbai delivers savory dosas and Crab Curry. Recipes cover main courses, side dishes and sweets.

Contributor profiles, with passport photos, maps and snapshots, are featured alongside their recipes (with full-color photos). This makes Heirloom Kitchen a book to treasure as much for its stories of strong, empowered immigrant women as for its diverse recipes. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, manager, Book Passage, San Francisco

Discover: This is a collection of 100 recipes from around the globe, all brought by immigrants to the U.S., plus their stories of leaving their homelands for "the Land of Opportunity."

Harper Design, $29.99, hardcover, 256p., 9780062844224

Biography & Memoir

What a Body Remembers: A Memoir of Sexual Assault and Its Aftermath

by Karen Stefano

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Karen Stefano's memoir What a Body Remembers is both uncomfortably candid and instantly accessible to anyone who has ever felt like an outsider.

As a freshman at Berkeley, Karen is happy and hopeful about fitting into college life. But the obstacles of rush week end with an envelope containing a blank piece of paper. No sorority wanted her. She is from meager means and now she has to pay for a place to live. So she switches gears and gets a job with the campus police department. She dutifully learns all the procedures and tools, and realizes she likes the job. The uniform feels like armor and empowers her. When she slips back into regular clothes, though, she worries she's not as tough as her co-workers.

Walking home late one night from work, she's attacked by a knife-wielding man who tries to rape her. She screams and the attacker escapes into the night. Karen isn't hurt physically, but that doesn't mean there aren't any wounds or scarring. It's 1984, and PTSD hasn't become part of mainstream vocabulary yet; Karen is too damaged to know even to ask for the help she needs. For the next three decades, she struggles with panic attacks and a lack of compassion as memories of the traumatic event and the subsequent trial of her attacker keep coming back to haunt her.

Stefano's memoir is raw and wrenching, but her solid, candid writing invites readers into this testament to her experience. --Paul Dinh-McCrillis, freelance reviewer

Discover: After a college student is sexually attacked on her way home one night, she wrestles for decades with the trauma of the event and its aftermath.

Rare Bird Books, $18, paperback, 312p., 9781947856950

History

Waffen-SS: Hitler's Army at War

by Adrian Gilbert

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The infamous Schutzstaffel (SS) began as a small bodyguard unit for Adolf Hitler and other Nazi leaders. Between 1929 and 1945, under the direction of Heinrich Himmler, it became one of the most powerful groups in Nazi Germany and the foremost force behind the Holocaust. By the outbreak of World War II, it was a vast collection of Nazi fanatics with personal loyalty to Hitler.

The SS was divided into two parts: the Allgemeine SS (General SS) and the Waffen-SS (Armed SS). The Waffen-SS is often considered an elite element of Nazi Germany's armed forces, as well known for its battlefield accomplishments as its widespread war crimes. In reality, many Waffen-SS units had poorer training than their army counterparts during the beginning of the war and suffered high casualties. But by the time Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, many of these units had become formidable formations. As the war turned against Germany, Himmler's insistence on racially "pure" SS membership was superseded by Germany's incessant need for manpower. By the end of the war, the Waffen-SS included conscripts of any background.

Waffen-SS: Hitler's Army at War by military historian Adrian Gilbert (Challenge of Battle) is the first single-volume, comprehensive history of the Waffen-SS written in the past 50 years. Gilbert goes into great detail on unit leadership, makeup and movements, making this book more appropriate for military history buffs than general readers. However, for those with an interest in World War II, Waffen-SS is fascinating reading. --Tobias Mutter, freelance reviewer

Discover: Military historian Adrian Gilbert delivers a fascinating and comprehensive history of the Waffen-SS.

Da Capo Press, $32.50, hardcover, 512p., 9780306824654

Sports

The Sixth Man

by Andre Iguodala , Carvell Wallace

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Andre Iguodala is one of the talented few who have made it to the National Basketball Association. More remarkably, he has multiple defensive awards, an Olympic gold medal and three NBA championships on his résumé. When his Golden State Warriors won in 2015, Iguodala was the Finals MVP coming off the bench.

In the fittingly titled The Sixth Man, Iguodala reveals components of his success. It helps to be talented, hard-working and six-foot-six, but Iguodala wasn't always the tallest kid on the court. Having to change his game to deal with growth spurts of competitors was just one hurdle to becoming elite, a level he maintains even 15 years after being drafted ninth as a 19-year-old in 2004.

Iguodala's memoir is not a recitation of important games through his career, but rather the tale of the people and events that challenged and shaped him along the way. From his strong upbringing in Springfield, Ill., guided by his mother and grandmother, to the teachers, coaches, teammates and systems that honed him, Iguodala imparts insight and wisdom in a conversational yet expert style suffused with confidence and heart.

Iguodala also has had to deal with racism, which he experienced early on, after a seventh-grade teacher assumed he was lost when he showed up to honors class. Iguodala's story is a compelling and important one that provides a glimpse into what people of color face, from little boys to the height of stardom, in a country "designed to wreak absolute havoc on the confidence of black people." --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review

Discover: Golden State Warrior Andre Iguodala highlights the bumps and accomplishments on his path to the NBA and beyond, as a player and a man.

Blue Rider Press, $28, hardcover, 256p., 9780525533986

Humor

Awards for Good Boys: Tales of Dating, Double Standards, and Doom

by Shelby Lorman

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Shelby Lorman isn't the first person to write about, as she puts it, "the praise we heap on men for meeting the barest of minimums, for avoiding being the Outright Worst." But she may well be the first to use the stories of Prospero and Pygmalion to shore up her argument, and she is almost certainly the first to reinforce her thoughts on the matter with homespun cartoons.

Awards for Good Boys: Tales of Dating, Double Standards, and Doom is a witty pocket-size feminist treatise generously illustrated with crudely rendered art full of disembodied human heads. To these Lorman has attached, through dialogue balloons, what she sees as woefully gender-typical comments. (Male head: "I have spent one month reading 'feminist' literature." Female head: "Look at this wise boy!") Lorman, a comedian and writer who created the Instagram account @awardsforgoodboys, uses her dating foibles as grist for her gripes: she reproduces daft things that men have said to her over the years and shares the thinking behind her This Is How You Wronged Me e-mails.

Does Awards for Good Boys occasionally read like a revenge cudgel? Yes, but Lorman is simultaneously hammering away at the funny bone, as with the names she conjures for awards that she would like to present to men she has known. These include "Openly Loves His Fat Wife," "Isn't Openly Threatened by Your Competence" and "Once Went to a Show That Wasn't Just White Boys with Vaguely Offensive Band Names Singing Synth Ballads to Their Exes." --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer

Discover: The writer-comedian behind the Instagram account @awardsforgoodboys drolly takes issue with the praise that men often get for doing what they're supposed to.

Penguin Books, $16, paperback, 208p., 9780143134312

Children's & Young Adult

This Time Will Be Different

by Misa Sugiura

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When your unofficial family motto is "Katsuyamas Never Quit," there is a lot of pressure to have "a grand vision" and succeed in life. Much to her mother's chagrin, 17-year-old CJ Katsuyama has yet to find her passion, and sees life as "an endless cycle of trying and failing." At least working with her aunt at the flower shop, which has been in the family since the 1930s, is fun, and CJ discovers she has a talent for floral arrangements. Then, her mother decides to sell the business to the McAllisters, a family that exploited the Japanese American Katsuyamas during World War II. This decision leads CJ to her true passion: holding the McAllisters accountable for decades of exploitation and prejudice. Add in CJ's budding relationship with her mega crush Shane Morgan (a stellar athlete with a "smile to make the angels sing") and her increasingly fond feelings for Owen Takasugi (her history nerd co-worker), and CJ's world is more complicated than ever before.

Asian/Pacific American Award-winning author Misa Sugiura (It's Not Like It's a Secret) seamlessly incorporates discussions of complex social issues into her sophomore YA novel. CJ is an accessible, imperfect protagonist who simultaneously develops crushes and worries about the future as her mission to save the family flower shop blossoms into a larger purpose. She and her peers bring the history of Japanese American internment (and those who took advantage of Japanese Americans) into the spotlight: "There's no point in dwelling on the past, but you can acknowledge it and try to make things better. Or try a new way, and know that this time will be different." With intelligent dialogue surrounding diversity, representation and responsible social action, This Time Will Be Different is a timely, smart novel that readers of contemporary teen fiction will likely devour. --Jennifer Oleinik, freelance writer and editor

Discover: In Misa Sugiura's second novel for teens, a Japanese American teen finds purpose in flowers and social justice as she brings historical discrimination to light to save her family's flower shop.

HarperTeen, $17.99, hardcover, 400p., ages 13-up, 9780062473448

Midsummer Mayhem

by Rajani LaRocca

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Eleven-year-old Mira is afraid she will "fail at everything, always." Perpetually overshadowed by older brother Henry, a fantastic actor; oldest sister Riya, a gifted dancer; and older sister Jules, an incredible athlete, Mira (or Mimi Mouse to her family) feels left out and inadequate. On top of that, her best friend and fellow nature-lover, Emma, recently moved to Australia, forcing Mimi to explore the woods behind her Massachusetts home alone. At least Mimi has one particular talent: she's a baker. And her father, a food writer, helps her improve her recipes.

But Dad has been acting strange. Freshly returned from a business trip, he ate a "rare and precious chocolate" Mimi brought him from the While Away, a new café in town, and now he's eating nonstop, paying no attention to flavor. Things get weirder still when Mimi is chased up a (banyan) tree by a boar in the woods. There, she meets a boy--Indian, like her Mom--with eyes that are "bright brown, with bursts of gold in the middle." Vik, like Mimi, loves baking and happily steps into her father's taste-testing role while also helping her find special herbs to add to her recipes. Then, two boys who had shown no interest before suddenly fall for Jules, enacting larger and larger displays of affection. With her sisters fighting and her dad eating everything in sight, Mimi begins to worry that something is very wrong.

Rajani LaRocca's middle-grade debut is an entertaining and epicurean retelling of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Mimi speaks the language of food, her opinions on flavor lush and vibrant and her metaphors always piping hot. Midsummer's Mayhem strikes a perfect balance between the pleasant and the melancholy, as sweet and savory as one of Mimi's confections. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: Mimi's life takes a turn for the strange when a new café in town opens around Midsummer's Eve in this debut middle-grade novel.

Little Bee Books, $16.99, hardcover, 352p., ages 8-12, 9781499808889

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