From the Shelf
The Blurb Game
One day I had lunch with a bestselling author and, thinking to break the ice, said, "I saw that you blurbed so-and-so's latest book. I love him, too!" The ice got thicker as she said she had no idea who I was talking about--she doesn't write her blurbs. She has "people" to do that. I recalled that as I was looking over publishers' catalogues for fall books and came across some seriously odd blurbs for new books, like "Once in a lifetime, a writer puts it all together," said of a co-authored book; and a Fifty Shades of Gray wannabe described as cute and charming. Or "For fans of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and the Twilight series." Throw in Dan Brown for a stunning Venn diagram.
I'm a passionate Jack Reacher fan, and an even more passionate Spenser fan; when I read "Jack Reacher is much more the heir to the Op and Marlowe than Spenser ever was," I must protest. That is sacrilege, worse than casting Tom Cruise as Reacher. Spenser is The Heir.
Bruce Jacobs, one of our reviewers, sent this: "Ben Fountain's Billy Lynn's Long Half Time Walk is a North Dallas Forty for our times." Jacobs noted, "Other than both being set in Cowboy stadium, Fountain's rather incredible and intoxicating send-up of war and the 'American way of life' has little in common with Gent's book and very little to do with football."
Another reviewer, Elyse Dinh-McCrillis, made up an excellent blurb: "Grownups who loved Little Red Riding Hood when they were young won't be able to resist Tana French's Into the Woods."
On the other hand, when you see a blurb that actually tells you something--"Gangsters, a silent but heroic drifter with second sight, and a whopper of a Florida hurricane. How can you go wrong?" Stephen King on Michael Koryta's The Cypress House--well, that's something that you can walk into a bookstore with.
Share your favorites with us, or create your own. --Marilyn Dahl, reviews editor, Shelf Awareness
In this Issue...
by Erin Hunter
Lucky, a Lone Dog, torn between going solo and helping his sister and her pack survive the ravages of an earthquake.
by Jeffrey Ford
20 fantastic and disturbing visions, including the never-before-published "The Wish Head," from a master of the short story.
by Vincent Lam
An unforgettable portrait of love, betrayal and sacrifice on the eve of the Tet Offensive.
Review by Subjects:
From Garden District Book Shop
04/13/2021 - 6:00PMTuesday, April 13th 6:00-7:00PM CT Melissa Ginsburg in conversation with Laura Lippman, discussing her book, The House Uptown. This event is free, however a ticket is needed. Get Tickets Ava, 14 years old and totally on her own, has still not fully processed her mother's death when she finds herself on a train heading to New Orleans, going to stay with Lane, her grandmother whom she's never met. Lane is a well-known artist in the New Orleans art scene. She spends most of her...
04/14/2021 - 6:00PMJoin us for the discussion the second Wednesday of every month. New Members are always welcome. Purchase book in-store for a 20% discount. Beginning in June book club meetings will be virtual.
04/16/2021 - 5:00PMIt's Happy Hour!! Join us as we celebrate National Poetry Month with poet Kelly Harris-DeBerry as we talk books, poetry, sound making, and more! The 2nd edition of Kelly's poetry book, Freedom Knows My Name will be available soon! Mix a drink and join us for this interactive live-streaming! This event will stream live on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GardenDistrictBookShop/ and YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCE_bC6Cv_VnbDrqqN1OhnCw
Harry Potter Quiz; Vintage Ads for Classics; Book Cover Design
Attention muggles! Test your wizardly book knowledge with the Harry Potter Lit Slits quiz from Mental Floss: "Here's how it works: we'll show you a vertical strip taken from one of the seven Harry Potter books. It's your job to I.D. the book."
"The publishers advise you to be very much aware of this book from the start," proclaimed a 1926 ad for Ernest Hemingway's newly released The Sun Also Rises. Flavorwire showcased a "collection of original vintage advertisements for classic books."
Do you judge books by their covers? In the Guardian, designers Jon Gray and Jamie Keenan shared the "20 irrefutable theories of book cover design."
Falling asleep while reading in bed at the beach: Now this is an amazing work of sand art, which was featured by I Can't Believe It.
The Most Beautiful Coffee Stain
Kim Fay is the author of the historical novel The Map of Lost Memories (Ballantine).
By the age of 10, I knew that I wanted to be writer. And I didn't just want to write books. I wanted to have them edited, reviewed and sold in my favorite bookstores. To that end, I learned to type on my dad's old Smith-Corona so I could compose my novels properly. I taught myself professional editing marks, so I could edit my pages like the martini-swilling mainstays of publishing I'd read about in my great aunt's issues of the New Yorker. I created my own magazines so I could review my work, and I even stole pockets and cards from my school library and made my sister check out my books from me.
After college, during my five years as a bookseller at the Elliott Bay Book Company, my fellow book lovers and I followed authors in the way others followed celebrities. As I continued to write novels like a mad fiend, I wanted to know all about Martin Amis, his new teeth, and the rift this caused between him and A.S. Byatt.
Fast forward nearly two decades. At 44, I'd finally written a novel that was not only accepted for publication, it was battled over for two days in a heated auction. By this time, I was an editor of travel books, and I knew firsthand that publishing had changed since I was 10. Between corporate takeovers, bottom lines and the disintegration of personal exchanges due to e-mail, publishing--or so everyone lamented--had become an aloof, cold-blooded world. Because of this, I wasn't sure what to expect when I began working with my editor, Susanna Porter.
Then it came, a padded manila envelope delivered by FedEx with that hallowed of names in the return address: Random House.
I let that envelope sit on my kitchen table for three days while I walked around it, sometimes daring to graze my fingers over it, all the while uncertain of what experience it held. When I could bear it no longer, I opened it. I nearly wept with joy. No "track changes" for my precious novel! There on each page was my editor's handwriting. Not only that... on one of the pages was a beautiful round stain from the coffee she had been drinking while editing my work.
As my chapters traveled back and forth between her office in New York and my apartment in Los Angeles, so began the personal correspondence (interspersed with regular phone conversations) that was to become my editing experience. Through it all, I understood that as technology replaced the Number 2 pencil, I might be one of the last writers to have this kind of relationship with her editor. I felt so grateful that I hung that page with the coffee stain on my wall as a reminder of my good fortune. As for my sister, she already knows the drill, and has her library card ready and waiting! --Kim Fay
'Unfilmable' Books; Women Mystery Authors; Best Rock Memoirs
Indiewire highlighted "5 'unfilmable' novels that became movies & 5 more that are on the way."
Noting that women mystery authors "are not only established names, but often lead the genre," the Huffington Post showcased 13 of the English language's most talented female exponents of crime fiction.
Conceding that the funny thing about rock memoirs is they "tend to have the same plot," Rolling Stone magazine picked the "25 greatest rock memoirs of all time."
Just in time for the last weeks of summer, Michelle Filgate, writer and the events coordinator at the Community Bookstore in Brooklyn, suggested "a solid dozen titles that run the gamut--high and low, fat and slim, light and dark" at Vulture.
Book Brahmin: Tiffany Reisz
Tiffany Reisz's books inhabit a world where romance, erotica and literature meet and do immoral and possibly illegal things to each other. She describes her genre as "literary friction," a term she stole from her main character, who gets in trouble almost as often as the author herself. Reisz's debut novel, The Siren, was published by Mira on July 24, 2012. Reisz describes it as "not your momma's Thorn Birds." Reisz lives in Lexington, Ky.
On your nightstand now:
Priests: A Calling in Crisis by Father Andrew Greeley. Why would a BDSM erotica writer have a book about the modern Catholic priesthood on her nightstand? Read The Siren and then you won't have to ask.
Favorite book when you were a child:
Every summer for years, I'd wait for a hot and rainy day, curl up in the air conditioning inside the house and read every single book in The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis as thunder and lightning danced outside the walls. Apocalyptic weather seemed the best background music for books that seemed so utterly cosmic to me. They are then and now nearly as sacred to me as the Bible itself.
Your top five authors:
Best genre writer: Anne Rice (don't argue with me on this because you will not win. She did the best erotica and the only original vampire novel since Dracula).
Best Kentucky writer: Robert Penn Warren. Nobody ends chapters like Robert Penn Warren. I can quote chapter endings from All the King's Men from memory. "Little Jackie made it stick." And so did Robert Penn Warren.
Best women's fiction writer (a term I loathe): Haven Kimmel. The Solace of Leaving Early changed me (for the better I hope although the jury's still out.)
Best nonfiction author I'm not dating: Anne Lamott. When my faith needs a balm or my writing a kick in the pants, I can always turn to this dreadlocked prophetess for the inspiration I need. We Christians Who Say the F-Word need to start our own denomination.
Best nonfiction author I am dating: Andrew Shaffer, whose book Great Philosophers Who Failed at Love introduced me to his intelligence and sharp wit long before we met face to gorgeous face. His book might be about losing at love but he wins in my book. (And his book Fifty Shames of Earl Grey, a parody of you-know-what, is just out.)
Book you've faked reading:
In high school, I was supposed to read Crime and Punishment. "Supposed to" is the operative phrase in the previous sentence.
Book you're an evangelist for:
The Keep by Jennifer Egan. I put my money where my mouth is with this beautiful book about the power of imagination and the freedom that writing brings. I've bought and given away at least four copies of the book. I'll keep doing it until the entire world has read this book.
Book you've bought for the cover:
The Last Girl by Kitty Thomas. This cover is almost as weirdly wonderful as Kitty's stories.
Book that changed your life:
This honor goes to a trilogy: The Sleeping Beauty Chronicles by Anne Rice. At age 16, I started reading these books after four straight years of reading sweet Regency romances and light fantasy novels. Nothing I've read or written has been the same since.
Favorite line from a book:
I learned from Lee Smith how a good writer can turn an entire story on a dime. You'll think you're reading one kind of book and then one line will reveal you've crossed the border into foreign territory. The book Saving Grace seems to be about a little girl in the south traveling with her devout parents--her quietly spiritual mother and her preacher father. A cozy beginning, sweet and bucolic... until you get to this line at the end of a scene when the little girl Grace is trying to fall asleep one night, and you discover Daddy isn't the simple country preacher you thought he was: "Sometimes I'd hear the serpents rattling in their boxes under our beds, but I was used to the sound, and finally it would put me to sleep."
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle. Every writer has that one book, that first book, that one special story that blew their mind open as a kid that elevated reading from a pastime to something almost spiritual or magical. The story of the tesseract and of misfit children using love to fight cosmic evil was the one that did it for me. I would write middle grade fiction if I could, but a book for children requires a kind of wisdom I don't yet possess.
Fave book on writing:
I tell all aspiring writers to read Stephen King's On Writing. Don't bother reading a book about the craft of writing by some Ph.D. you've never heard of. If you want to learn how to write a bestseller, read the book on writing by the man who's done it--50 freaking times.
The Headmaster's Wager
by Vincent Lam
Coping with shifting political tides can be hard to take even for the wisest man. For headmaster Percival Chen, a self-centered, self-made and womanizing aggrandizer with a gift for self-congratulatory ignorance, change can be downright earth-shattering.
In Vincent Lam's The Headmaster's Wager, the Chinese expatriate Chen must navigate the growing anti-foreign sentiment of war-torn 1960s Vietnam; a stranger in a stranger land, Chen still manages to make a fortune while staunchly adhering to his increasingly outdated pro-Chinese sentiments. His demons eventually come back to haunt him, however, as a misguided philosophical protest turns his son into a political prisoner and Chen turns to a prostitute for solace and comfort only to discover treachery and betrayal.
Though American readers may be familiar with the history of the communist takeover of China after the Second World War and the ultimate resolution of the Vietnam War, they may be less familiar with the role that Vietnam played as the "Gold Mountain" dream of poor Chinese journeymen who sought to plunder and reap its rich rewards. Lam's debut novel (after the short story collection Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures) is a fictionalized account of his own parents' and grandparents' family history--a well-researched effort resulting in a vivid, palpable and lyrical document evoking a forgotten segment of modern Vietnamese history. --Nancy Powell, freelance writer
Discover: An unforgettable portrait of love, betrayal and sacrifice on the eve of the Tet Offensive.
The Making of Us
by Lisa Jewell
Lydia, a self-made millionaire at 29, is a loner, distrustful of human interaction after a depressing childhood with a miserable father. Dean is 21, a new father who is unemployed and smokes too much pot trying to escape tragedies he can't face. Robyn, 18, is a vivacious medical student with a novelist boyfriend and an apparently perfect life. On the surface, the three protagonists of Lisa Jewell's The Making of Us have little in common--except that they are all remarkably attractive. But then, separately, they make an astonishing discovery: they were all fathered by the same French sperm donor. This knowledge sends each of them on a voyage of self-discovery that will lead them to their father, to each other, to their mysterious fourth sibling--and ultimately to a better understanding of themselves.
Jewell brings these characters to life: exploring their complicated visions of themselves and the way learning about their siblings changes each of them. Though the story threatens to veer toward soap-opera melodrama, Jewell skillfully steers it back to a more believable scenario. The stories of Lydia, Dean and Robyn are each engrossing on their own; combined with the over-arching storyline of their father, they make for an irresistible read. Anyone who has ever pondered the nature of family or imagined finding a long-lost sibling will be captivated by The Making of Us. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm
Discover: Three very different people learn an astonishing secret that brings them together.
The Kingmaker's Daughter
by Philippa Gregory
The Kingmaker's Daughter, the fourth novel in Philippa Gregory's Cousins' War series (which began in 2009 with The White Queen), delves deep into the life of Anne Neville, 16th Countess of Warwick, and Queen of England from 1483 to 1485. Gregory's detailed account of England during the Wars of the Roses, and the psychology and culture of 15th-century English courts, will prove a delight to her fans or to anyone enamored of English history. As with her previous novels, The Kingmaker's Daughter draws on a real figure of history, developing the emotional fabric of one woman's life to reveal in detail the world in which she lived. In the case of Anne Neville, it's a life lived as a pawn in the political plots of powerful men.
Daughter of the Earl of Warwick, known at the time as "The Kingmaker" for his ability to seat--and unseat--kings on the throne of England, Anne was always destined for a political marriage. But when her first husband dies in battle, she finds herself a teenaged widow, with her father killed, her mother claiming sanctuary and her sister married to the enemy. Anne is rescued by Richard, the younger son of the king of England, in a sweeping gesture of romance and passion, but soon realizes that she remains a pawn--albeit a loved and cherished one--in Richard's own political maneuverings. (History buffs are already nodding eagerly. For the uninitiated, here's a hint: Richard's schemes are a drama of Shakespearean proportions.) --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm
Discover: Gregory (The Other Boleyn Girl) gives readers another stunningly detailed historical novel, probing the emotional fabric of Anne Neville's tragic life.
Mystery & Thriller
by Mischa Hiller
Mischa Hiller (Sabra Zoo) has created another intense spy thriller with Shake Off, his second novel. Michel Khoury, in London, works as a courier, spy and strategist for his enigmatic boss, Abu Leila. Abu Leila and the Palestinian cause are all Michel has left. Haunted by the death of his family in a refugee camp, Michel drugs himself to sleep every night to avoid his nightmares. When he's awake, however, he is constantly aware--analyzing every gesture and word of the people around him as he works to fulfill his missions without detection.
Michel's life is a lonely one, with essentially no contact beyond that with Abu Leila, until he becomes better acquainted with the girl renting the room next door in his boarding house. Her name is Helen, and Michel finds her irresistible. As developments in the Middle East (and glasnost in the Soviet Union) complicate his professional life, Helen and her lover simultaneously complicate his personal life, increasing Michel's tension to almost unbearable levels.
Shake Off moves at breathtaking speed, flashing between Michel's life in Lebanese refugee camps, years of training in the Soviet Union and East Germany and his current life in London. With all these locations, Hiller has brilliantly re-created the late '80s setting, making the immediacy of the Soviet breakup and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict all too real. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm
Discover: Michel, a Palestinian intelligence operative constantly looking over his shoulder, just might be falling in love with an English girl.
by Michael Ridpath
Magnus Jonson is a detective from Boston who's moved back to his native Iceland, trying to fit in while working in the police department. The country is still recovering from the kreppa, or crisis, brought on by the recklessness of its bankers; in a country so small, those responsible are well known. They're also dying, one by one, and it's up to Magnus (who made his debut in Ridpath's 2011 novel, Where the Shadows Lie) to figure out why.
Michael Ridpath weaves a tale of two generations in Far North. The story of the modern-day murder investigation unfolds with a delightful sense of place and culture, showing readers the stark beauty and practicality of Icelandic culture and peoples. It seems as if everyone reads Icelandic epics or knows them from childhood; each character has a personal connection with Icelandic history and mythology. (Meanwhile, Inglief, Magnus's free-spirited girlfriend, messes with the investigation by talking to people she knows or is related to.) Nearly 80 years before all this, though, two neighboring boys in Iceland witnessed an illicit affair between their parents, and became bitter enemies over a lifetime of secrets not shared, secrets that reflect on Magnus's Icelandic heritage.
The setting alone will thrill readers interested in Iceland and its many charms, while the story of the financial crisis is timely and plausible, filtered through the Icelandic culture as Far North builds up to its satisfying climax. --Rob LeFebvre, freelance writer and editor
Discover: The modern-day financial crisis is filtered through Icelandic history and mythology in Ridpath's second novel starring detective Magnus Jonson.
Science Fiction & Fantasy
by Jeffrey Ford
Speculative fiction has produced several great practitioners of the art of the short story whose critical acclaim matches that given to more traditionally "literary" writers. With his fourth collection of short stories, Crackpot Palace, Jeffrey Ford is positioned to join such luminaries as Ray Bradbury and Harlan Ellison in that inner circle.
Ford's stories are stuffed with so many ideas, weird scenes and startling denouements that it is hard to summarize them. In "Down Atsion Road," Ford mixes urban legend, a ghost story and the New Jersey Pine Barrens to chilling effect. While his inventiveness is unmatched, he is also a master of psychological realism. There is a gritty day-to-day aspect to some of his tales that adds a degree of verisimilitude to events most genre writers wouldn't have a clue how to sustain. In "Every Richie There Is," a mentally challenged neighbor's slow disintegration from cancer and madness is chronicled with devastating skill. Finally, Ford's sense of the place where the weird intersects with the beautiful is unsurpassed; "Dr. Lash Remembers" is a steampunk gem where dream, sickness and hallucination are layered into disorienting new patterns.
With Crackpot Palace, one has a chance to read a collection by a true master of the short story. For lovers of the weird and fantastic and lovers of great writing, this is a treasure trove of disturbing visions, new worlds and fully realized craft. --Donald Powell, freelance writer
Discover: 20 fantastic and disturbing visions, including the never-before-published "The Wish Head," from a master of the short story.
Ballpoint: A Tale of Genius and Grit, Perilous Times, and the Invention That Changed the Way We Write
by Gyoergy Moldova , Gyeorgy Moldova , trans. by David Robert Evans
Although his work is little known in English, György Moldova has been Hungary's bestselling author for more than 40 years. In Ballpoint: A Tale of Genius and Grit, Perilous Times, and the Invention that Changed the Way We Write, Moldova tells the story of two other notable Hungarians largely unknown in the west: Lázló Biró and Ander Goy, the inventors of the ballpoint pen.
The story of the pen's development is interesting in itself, beginning with Biró life as a Jewish journalist in interwar Budapest, frustrated by a leaking fountain pen. Biró's technical difficulties and triumphs are told in a clear, non-technical manner. His search for financial partners is a lesson in understanding legal documents before you sign them.
But what really makes the book is Moldova's use of Biro and Goy's story as a lens through which to view the troubled history of Hungary in the mid-20th century. Biró escaped from fascism by fleeing first to Paris and then to Buenos Aires. Once in Buenos Aires, he traded increasingly large percentages of the rights to his as-yet-undeveloped pen for help in getting his family safely out of Hitler's Europe. His erstwhile partner and fellow inventor, Goy, remained in Hungary. He prospered under fascist rule, but lost everything when the new communist government nationalized his company. By the end, as a result of financial deceptions and legal chicanery, both partners had no rights to the pen. The pen was a success; its inventors weren't. --Pamela Toler, blogging at History in the Margins
Discover: The trials and triumphs of the men who invented the ballpoint pen.
Better Off Without 'Em: A Northern Manifesto for Southern Secession
by Chuck Thompson
With a title like Better Off Without 'Em, Chuck Thompson's "manifesto" looks like little more than a polemic screed at first glance. Two things, however, make it a surprisingly worthwhile read. First, Thompson presents plenty of evidence that Northerners are being taken for a ride, at least financially, by their neighbors below the Mason-Dixon Line. No southern state but Florida, for example, contributes more money in federal tax revenue than it takes in federal assistance and entitlement programs--even, as Thompson gleefully points out, while conservative politicians in those states rail against big government.
Second, he constantly reminds us of his own hilarious arrogance as he stumbles through nearly two years of southern travels. "Three southern-fried rock pilgrims in the honky-tonk badonkiest bar in South Carolina can't summon a single nugget from the pride of Spartanburg?" Thompson argues when faced with a Skynyrd-playing bar band who claims not to know anything by Marshall Tucker. "Am I the only real redneck in this joint?" he asks--even when, in his Old Navy T-shirt, dirty black Levi's and Nikes, he "might as well be wearing a top hat and carrying a jewel-encrusted walking stick" compared to the rest of the bar's patrons.
Thompson may revel in his regional jackassery, but the facts he musters in support of his political argument are worth note. Then again, it's hard to take him too seriously, when he reveals his deepest animus against the South: the SEC's unfair overrepresentation in college bowl games. --Cherie Ann Parker, freelance journalist and book critic
Discover: A confrontational, extreme--and occasionally convincing--argument for cutting the South loose, peppered with hilarious anecdotes.
Psychology & Self-Help
Making Marriage Work: New Rules for an Old Institution
by Lynn Toler
In Making Marriage Work, Divorce Court judge Lynn Toler shares her experience from the bench--and from her 22-year marriage--in a series of rules designed to help couples avoid ever reaching her television courtroom.
In the introduction, Toler explores why the divorce rate in the U.S. continues to rise: are couples unwilling to put forth the effort to create a strong marriage or is the secularization of marriage to blame? Is love too fickle an emotion to base a serious commitment like marriage upon? Or has the institution simply become obsolete? "Once an institution of obligation, [marriage] is now one of choice," she writes. Rather than looking to old solutions, then, we need a new approach--hence her rules.
Toler believes that marriage is still a viable institution since humans are social creatures and can thrive in a committed relationship--if they are prepared to be practical both before and during marriage. Her sense of humor is a welcome companion to her practicality; for example, her take on Divorce Court: "Yes, I know the show is a bit extreme, voyeuristic, and, well, often a little silly, but if you listen past the anger, I sincerely believe that the people on the show have something to teach us all." Happily, Toler is neither extreme nor silly in her "how to" book on marriage, and the result is a hands-on, practical guide for couples at every stage of marriage. --Kristen Galles from Book Club Classics
Discover: Judge Lynn Toler's general observations and rules for marriage can help couples create a viable and long-lasting relationship both before and after "I do."
Bullied: What Every Parent, Teacher, and Kid Needs to Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear
by Carrie Goldman
The name-calling, taunting and threatening that nearly one in five teens--and close to half of all middle-school students--report having experienced has extended beyond school grounds to the Internet, encroaching upon the safety of a child's home. When she learned that her daughter was being picked on in first grade for using a Star Wars water bottle, Carrie Goldman wrote a blog post that quickly went viral as hundreds of readers--including geeky girls, effeminate boys, children with disabilities and members of the GLBT community--responded with their own stories of being bullied or being a bully.
Bullied incorporates Goldman's experience with those of her blog readers, adding extensive research and analysis by experts, to question the role gender-specific toys and clothes play in identifying those who might be "different." She believes that it is only through confronting and changing the stereotypes that define girls as "sexy" and boys as "hyper" or "tough" that bullying will end. This relearning can begin at a very early age, but it should also extend into changing the attitudes of parents and other adults. Goldman provides readers with surveys to identify the type of mistreatment their children suffer and with techniques to implement at home and at school to counteract the effects of a bullying attack. She also includes techniques to help the bully stop his/her aggressive behavior. Bullied is a constructive and informative tool toward creating a more empathetic world for all. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer
Discover: A hands-on approach to ending the persecution of bullying, inspired by one woman's concern for her own young daughter.
Children's & Young Adult
The Empty City: Survivors #1
by Erin Hunter
The launch of Erin Hunter's new Survivors series (after Warriors and Seekers) stars an unforgettable cast of canines in a world nearly devoid of humans (or "longpaws," as the dogs refer to them).
Lucky, a golden-furred sheltie-retriever mix, awakens from a dream of a story that his Mother-Dog once told him, about the "Big Growl" the Earth-Dog causes in an attempt to capture Lightning's life force. Moments later, the Big Growl hits the "Trap House," and Lucky and fellow captive Sweet are the sole survivors. Sweet longs to be back in a pack, and Lucky wants to go it alone, so they part ways. In a mall, Lucky has a chance meeting with his litter sister, Bella, who begs Lucky to join her and a makeshift pack of Leashed Dogs, dogs that belonged to longpaws.
Erin Hunter sets up a tantalizing tension between Lucky's wild instincts and his loyalty to his litter sister and her band of domesticated friends. Through his eyes, we see the devastation of the earthquake: houses abandoned, streets shattered, toxic waste leaking into the water. Will Lucky ever feel confident enough in the Leashed Dogs' abilities to leave them? Or will his sense of responsibility to them outweigh his desire for autonomy?
Hunter lays the groundwork for a world in which these thoroughly likable characters must let go of their bonds to their longpaws and move toward a Pack strategy of cooperation, and share physical strengths, experiences and resources in order to exist. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness
Discover: Lucky, a Lone Dog, torn between going solo and helping his sister and her pack survive the ravages of an earthquake.
Princess Academy: Palace of Stone
by Shannon Hale
Shannon Hale delves more deeply into her beloved characters in this sequel to the Newbery Honor book Princess Academy, which takes Miri to the big city and plants her right in the middle of a political morass.
Danland is being bankrupted by the king's demands for increasingly extravagant tributes, there's a revolution brewing, and the revolution wants Mount Eskel on their side. The Princess Academy graduates have been invited to travel to Asland, the capital city, and stay for a year. And while not all of them will go, Miri and Peder jump at the chance. But when they arrive, Miri is immediately drawn into a dangerous situation. Britta barely has time with the other Academy girls because of her royal duties and impending wedding to Prince Steffan, and Katar, the Mount Eskel delegate, asks Miri to find out more about the rebels plotting against the king. As she tries to figure out whom she can trust, Miri also struggles to figure out who she is--a mountain girl, a city scholar or something else entirely.
While Princess Academy was primarily an adventurous coming-of-age story, Palace of Stone is far more political. Miri has to learn how court etiquette works in practice, not just in theory, and navigate her way through shifting allegiances, widespread unrest, philosophical quandaries and emotional uncertainties. There is certainly derring-do (some truly epic derring-do, in fact), but there's also a deep thoughtfulness and an intellectual edge to Palace of Stone that add layers to the characters we already love. --Jenn Northington, events manager at WORD bookstore
Discover: A new side to Miri as she struggles to stay true to her heart, her home and her country.