From the Shelf
Teen Readers Recommend
In today's issue, three insightful teenaged readers share their love of books across genres--they review a contemporary fantasy steeped in ancient Greek treachery, a historical novel about a young Chinese lesbian finding herself during the Red Scare and a young readers edition of a 2008 memoir about growing up Black in Baltimore. Thinking about the wonderfully diverse group of subjects represented in these books made me want to highlight some of the variety of subjects that can be found in YA in just the past few months.
Editor Dhonielle Clayton's We Need Diverse Books fantasy anthology, A Universe of Wishes (Crown Books for Young Readers, $18.99), shows that "every voice [should] be allowed into every kind of space." Accomplished YA fantasy and science fiction writers present 15 stories for readers of all races, ethnic backgrounds, gender identities and sexual preferences, prioritizing marginalized voices--including BIPOC and trans and nonbinary individuals--while also acting as a mirror for people living in poverty or with chronic illness.
Theatrical flair, competition between a rising star and a pop diva generate excitement and tension in Dana L. Davis's #ownvoices Roman and Jewel (Inkyard Press, $18.99). A charged love story about passionate characters balancing life, work and relationships, this contemporary realistic novel explores the idea of destiny, accepting a person's flaws and daring to grasp everything desired. Exhilarating and irresistible, the book is an entertainingly dramatic and satisfying teen romance.
Into the Heartless Wood by Joanna Ruth Meyer (Page Street Kids, $18.99) is an intense and haunting fairy tale tinged with horror and filled with beautiful imagery of nature and love, gorgeously written and emotionally fulfilling. Meyer uses poetic language and imagery to ratchet up the intensity. She also uses a blend of prose and verse, creating an atmospheric fairy tale that is bewitching and unforgettable. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness
In this Issue...
by Rodrigo Fuentes
In seven interlinked stories, Rodrigo Fuentes ingeniously reveals the life of an enigmatic white man in Guatemala through the eyes of others.
by Mikael Niemi
This marvelous historic crime novel plumbs the bogs of 19th-century Sweden--and the mysteries of the soul.
by Malinda Lo
A young Chinese woman living during the Red Scare in 1950s San Francisco discovers first love and her own power in this winning YA novel.
Review by Subjects:
From Fountain Bookstore
05/16/2021 - 10:00AMPurchase of book from Fountain either in the book, ebook, or Libro.fm audiobook is required. Young Adult (or YA for short) is a very diverse and exciting genre. Our book club is subtitled Adults Who Read YA, so this group is open for those 18+ years old. Email the store to join and to get meeting directions. By attending you agree to our Code of Conduct: Our event provides a harassment-free experience for everyone, regardless of gender, gender identity and expression,...
05/17/2021 - 6:30PMPurchase of book from Fountain either in paper, ebook, or audio is required. Fountain of Evidence features discussions on books in the popular true crime genre, but may occasionally read fiction based on true crimes. Ages 21+ only. Email the store to join and to get meeting directions. By attending you agree to our Code of Conduct: Our event provides a harassment-free experience for everyone, regardless of gender, gender identity and expression, age, sexual...
05/19/2021 - 2:00PMRooted in pathos and told in Sendker’s signature gentle style, THE HEART REMEMBERS is, at its core, a novel about love’s ability to unify us in the face of hardship. Written from the alternating perspectives of Julia’s estranged son, an empathic 12-year-old named Ko Bo Bo, and her brother, U Ba, Ko Bo Bo’s uncle and caretaker, THE HEART REMEMBERS delves into Julia’s enigmatic past and the personal and political events that fractured her family. Hosted by the owner of Fountain Bookstore...
05/20/2021 - 7:00PMGET TICKETS HERE Join the Friends of the Chesterfield County Public Library on May 20 as they celebrate their 50th anniversary with a virtual visit from Nick Bruel, author of the Bad Kitty series. Bruel, a New York Times bestselling author and illustrator of both picture and chapter books, will highlight his soon-to-be-published Bedtime for Bad Kitty, a picture book for young children or anyone who has resisted bedtime with the same determined ferocity as Bad Kitty....
05/20/2021 - 2:00PMThreat management expert Spencer Coursen shares lessons learned from his decades of global experience as a combat veteran, supervisory special agent, and private security professional to help you avoid life’s most common “safety traps” which often hide behind our own false sense of security — because sometimes feeling safe, is the most dangerous thing we do. Hosted by Fountain Bookstore owner Kelly Justice. Spencer Coursen is a nationally recognized threat management...
Bookstore Lovers Reading List
Check out "a reading list for bookstore lovers" from the New York Public Library.
Nora Roberts defended Alyssa Milano's casting in an upcoming Brazen Virtue film adaptation, Entertainment Weekly wrote.
"The bizarre events of 2020 have been aptly chronicled into a calendar in the style of medieval art," Design Taxi noted.
Word clarification: Mental Floss looked up "titular vs. eponymous: What's the difference?"
A Devon movie theater that used to reserve a balcony for Agatha Christie--and a second for her butler--is to be restored, the Guardian wrote.
Rediscover: Sharon Kay Penman
Sharon Kay Penman, the historical fiction author best known for her Plantagenet Series, died January 22 at age 75. Penman wrote her first novel while she was still a student. Entitled The Sunne in Splendour, it focused on Richard III and the War of the Roses. The manuscript, however, was stolen from her car, and Penman could not bring herself to rewrite the book for years. Eventually, while working full-time as a tax attorney, Penman did rewrite it, and The Sunne in Splendour was finally published in 1982.
After that, she quit her job to write full time, publishing the Welsh trilogy (Here Be Dragons; Falls the Shadow; The Reckoning), about Llewelyn ap Gruffydd, grandson of Llewelyn the Great, and then the Plantagenet Series, about King Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. That series began with When Christ and His Saints Sleep, and the second book in the series, Time and Chance, became her first New York Times bestselling novel. Penman also wrote a series of historical mysteries featuring Justin de Quincy, a fictional character who works for Eleanor of Aquitaine. The first of these books, The Queens Man, was a finalist for the Edgar Award for Best First Mystery. Her last novel was The Land Beyond the Sea, published in 2020 by Putnam ($32).
The Writer's Life
Reading with... Jenn Bane and Trin Garritano
|photo: Wes Taylor|
Jenn Bane and Trin Garritano are the coauthors of Friendshipping: The Art of Finding Friends, Being Friends, and Keeping Friends (Workman), and the cohosts of the Friendshipping podcast, a feel-good advice show about making friends.
Bane is a writer, editor and producer who has received three Shorty Awards and a Clio Award for her work in comedy writing and production. Garritano is a writer and game developer. Most recently, she contributed to Asmadi Games' tabletop roleplaying game 1001 Odysseys and the Victorian dating simulator Max Gentlemen: Sexy Business.
On your nightstand now:
Jenn Bane: I just finished Luster by Raven Leilani in two sittings. It's so addicting and so uncomfortable. I can't wait to see what the author does next. I also just picked up All Adults Here by Emma Straub. Contemporary fiction is my favorite genre and I have no doubt I'll love this book.
Trin Garritano: I've been slowly nibbling at Written in Stone: Evolution, the Fossil Record, and Our Place in Nature over the past while. For whatever reason, knowing that we're living in just a teeny-tiny slice of Earth's vast history quells my existential dread (temporarily).
Favorite book when you were a child:
Bane: I loved Goodnight Moon because my mom read it to me and that meant I got to delay bedtime. Also, it was the first time I ever noticed that words and art could evoke "loneliness." I wasn't a particularly lonely kid, but the book made me feel that way when I read it. That really got me thinking.
Garritano: Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time series knocked my socks off when I was 10. Experiencing science fiction that is empathetic, optimistic and deeply spiritual was absolutely brain-changing for me. Also, there's a girl in it, which blew my mind.
Your top five authors:
Bane: Curtis Sittenfeld, Roxane Gay, David Sedaris, Maya Angelou, Jane Austen, Joan Didion, Laura Lippman, Tana French and I know I'm over five here but I can't help it.
Garritano: Ray Bradbury, Bill Bryson, Madeleine L'Engle, Garth Nix and David Sedaris, I think? I am basing this entirely on the number of books per author on my shelf.
Book you've faked reading:
Bane: Tess of the d'Urbervilles in English class sophomore year of high school. I just couldn't do it, I still can't and I never will.
Garritano: Moby-Dick. I've been assigned to read it three separate times in school and I've gotten away with completely ignoring it every single time. In a way, I am Moby-Dick's white whale. I will never read it. I will never be captured and turned into perfume.
Book you're an evangelist for:
Bane: The Secret History by Donna Tartt. The tension! The quiet chaotic group dynamics! How it all unravels! I'm just forever searching for another book like this one.
Garritano: How Not to Kill Your Houseplant by Veronica Peerless is a great resource for anyone who keeps plants in their home. It's clear and concise, and it gives a solid overview of care for 119 different houseplants.
Book you've bought for the cover:
Bane: I enjoyed Mary Shelley's Frankenstein when I read it, but I specifically bought a copy when I saw it with the blue cloth cover with anatomical hearts all over it. So morbid.
Garritano: I grew up on webcomics, but Fables by Bill Willingham was the first printed comic I ever got into. Mark Buckingham drew me in with the cover of issue 67, The Good Prince. There's something about a person with a sword in their hands facing impossible odds that speaks to me.
Book you hid from your parents:
Bane: I didn't need to hide books from my parents, actually. I did hide video games. I secretly played my older brother's violent fantasy games on the computer and they did not love that.
Garritano: Please see my next answer.
Book that changed your life:
Bane: Probably To Kill a Mockingbird, which is the cliche but truthful answer. Thank goodness for that book.
Garritano: My eighth grade English teacher once loaned me a copy of Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, and I stayed up all night reading it so I could hide it from my parents. In retrospect, I don't think they would have cared. But it was so dark and so different than anything I'd ever read, it felt like contraband. Anyway, it melted my brain and turned me into the weird nerd I am today. Thanks, Mrs. C.
Favorite line from a book:
Bane: From Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass:
"This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown, or to any man or number of men--go freely with powerful uneducated persons, and with the young, and with the mothers of families--re-examine all you have been told in school or church or in any book, and dismiss whatever insults your own soul."
I used this in my wedding vows. Great advice in 1855, great advice now.
Garritano: From Norton Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth:
"Whatever we learn has a purpose and whatever we do affects everything and everyone else, if even in the tiniest way. Whenever you learn something new, the whole world becomes that much richer."
This has been my guiding light for decades. Learn everything, love everyone and tread gently on the world.
Five books you'll never part with:
Bane: Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld (which is completely worn down and torn up from being reread so many times), A Separate Peace by John Knowles and Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie. "All children, except one, grow up." That has to be of the best opening lines ever.
Garritano: Code Name "Mary": Memoirs of an American Woman in the Austrian Underground by Muriel Gardiner, The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury, A Testament of Revolution by Bela Liptak, National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Fossils, and Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. I like to think Jenn is the Neil Gaiman of our partnership (tight, solid writing with a dry wit), and I am the Terry Pratchett (ridiculous human being, the wettest possible wit).
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
Bane: The Giver by Lois Lowry. The moment when you realize as the reader that Jonas is seeing color for the very first time--I want to experience that again.
Garritano: Goodbye, Chunky Rice by Craig Thompson spoke directly to the loneliness and misery of my early 20s. I finished it lying on the floor, weeping. I'm not exactly interested in an hours-long crying session again, but it meant so much to feel understood.
To Cook a Bear
by Mikael Niemi , trans. by Deborah Bragan-Turner
This vivid and engaging historical mystery, set in 19th-century northern Sweden, pits a Sami runaway and a Lutheran pastor against a killer of women--and an indifferent local sheriff who insists the attacks must be the work of bears. Mikael Niemi aces scenes of primitive forensic science, as the pastor-turned-detective inspects hairs, boot polish, pencil shavings and more to make his case.
More arresting still is the patient, loving relationship between the pastor, based on the real-life revivalist Lars Levi Laestadius, and Jussi, the runaway boy the pastor has welcomed into his family. Niemi reveals their investigation through the slow, steady questions he poses to the boy--"Look at the legs. What can we say about them?"--and inviting readers to deduce the evidence along with him. This appealing mentor relationship, focused on a murder in a village, suggests in its moving intimacy the one central to Robert McCammon's Speaks the Nightbird, a momentous historical crime novel to which To Cook a Bear measures up.
To Cook a Bear steeps readers in its milieu, offering visions of peasant dances, secret-holding bogs and summer days when the sun never sets. Most intriguing of all is the politics of Laestadius's teetotaling revival movement, especially his efforts to bring literacy and learning to the poor, and the resistance he faces from local innkeepers engaged in the secret sale of alcohol. The title refers to a bracing chapter that offers a step-by-step guide to boiling the skull of a freshly killed bear, but Niemi, author of the international bestseller Popular Music from Vittula, proves ultimately more interested in soul and the heart. --Alan Scherstuhl, freelance writer and editor
Discover: This marvelous historic crime novel plumbs the bogs of 19th-century Sweden--and the mysteries of the soul.
Trout, Belly Up
by Rodrigo Fuentes , trans. by Ellen Jones
Not until the last of this ingenious seven-story collection do readers get the most intimate glimpse of Don Henrik, and even then, only through the lens of his not-quite stepson. Henrik, however, is the single connecting character in Rodrigo Fuentes's U.S. debut, Trout, Belly Up; he appears as employer, son, brother, husband, lover--and that rare white man in Guatemala trying to live his life in peace and beauty.
In the titular opening story, Henrik finances the trout farm where the manager's philandering wreaks destructive havoc. "Dive" reveals the tragic demise of Henrik's brother, Mati. Henrik owns the hacienda in "Out of the Blue, Perla," in which a rejected calf becomes a local celebrity until she's brutalized by vigilante gunmen. Mati reappears in "Whiskey," attempting sobriety. Henrik's associates deflect violent threats in "Ubaldo's Island." Henrik's not-quite stepson gives Henrik the chance to reminisce about his late wife in "Terrace," just before further exposing Henrik in the ending "Henrik."
Guatemala-born Fuentes teaches at College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts. Originally published in 2017, Trout, Belly Up was shortlisted for the Premio Hispanoamericano de Cuento Gabriel García Márquez, one of Latin America's highest literary honors. Ellen Jones's adept translation, too, has garnered recognition. For savvy audiences, piecing together Henrik's life will require a deliciously double-layered reading--to sift his trajectory through seven impressive stories in which different characters maintain narrative control. While each of the shorts could stand alone--and do, rather successfully--deciphering and connecting the overlapping threads provides enhanced literary pleasure. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon
Discover: In seven interlinked stories, Rodrigo Fuentes ingeniously reveals the life of an enigmatic white man in Guatemala through the eyes of others.
The Narrowboat Summer
by Anne Youngson
British author Ann Youngson was 70 years old when she published her first novel, Meet Me at the Museum, a touching, hopeful story about a blossoming relationship between a museum curator and a farmer's wife. In her sophomore effort, The Narrowboat Summer, Youngson delivers another moving, thought-provoking novel that again brings together unlikely souls whose bond helps them transcend the limiting boundaries of their lives.
In a "town not far from London," three middle-aged women meet by chance. Strong-willed Eve, a single career gal, is squeezed out of her 30-year job at an engineering firm. On her way home from work, she unexpectedly crosses paths with Sally, a compliant, kindly wife and mother, wearied by her indifferent husband and grown children. The two women hear a dog barking furiously from a boat on the canal. When they join forces and investigate, they meet Anastasia, the normally self-reliant boat and dog owner, who is facing a crisis of her own. She's sick and needs life-saving treatment, but her houseboat also needs to be piloted down the canal in order to be inspected and repaired. The three strangers, each at a crossroads, figure out how to help one another.
Newfound friendships, self-discovery and unexpected challenges force the trio to recalibrate their respective lives. Along their journeys, they encounter a host of quirky, colorful characters, some of whom are also in the same "boat," emotionally. Youngson, a heartfelt storyteller, takes readers on a charming excursion that provides a comforting, tender escape. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines
Discover: A charming, life-affirming story about three middle-aged women who help each other in piloting a boat down a British canal.
A Thousand Ships
by Natalie Haynes
Known for her podcast Natalie Haynes Stands Up for the Classics, classicist and broadcaster Natalie Haynes (The Children of Jocasta; The Furies) reimagines the story of the Trojan War from the viewpoints of the women, both mortal and immortal, caught up in it.
When the poet asks Calliope the muse to sing, she grants his request, but only shows him events as they affect the women, telling the reader, "They have waited long enough for their turn." In shifting chronological order and settings across the Mediterranean region, readers see the war's impact. Hecabe and the Trojan women face slavery and degradation at the hands of the Greeks. Sea-goddess Thetis grieves for her son Achilles, but also regrets the insult of having a mortal son. Abandoned in Ithaca, Penelope writes Odysseus increasingly wry letters about his unusual difficulty in escaping the beds of beautiful women. A host of wives, mothers, warriors and goddesses come forward with insightful comments on the true cost of war and who must pay it.
Haynes draws on Homer for material but also looks farther afield, to Euripedes, Ovid and others, even including a blink-and-miss-it exchange similar to a moment from the classic film The Clash of the Titans. Although the women perhaps focus overmuch on the actions and feelings of the men rather than their own lives, overall Haynes has created a fine addition to the body of fiction striving to give silent women characters a voice. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads
Discover: With great originality, classicist Haynes retells the story of the Trojan War from the viewpoints of the many women, goddesses, and girls usually relegated to the narrative sidelines.
by Melanie Finn
In Melanie Finn's entrancing literary thriller The Hare, Rosie Monroe seems broken. The victim of a disgusting assault during her listless, lonely childhood, she becomes a promising art student at Parsons School of Design. But the career that could sweep her away from the grief that trails her instead slips through her fingers when she meets Bennett, a charming and tremendously rich con man whom Rosie convinces herself she loves. Obliged to follow him, to love him, to give him her body repeatedly--even after she's sure he's committed a terrible crime--she follows him to Vermont, where she's forced to acclimate to the cruel winters and even crueler company.
Decades later, she's become Rose, a hardened woman, her body struggling through menopause, toughened by years of paltry income and a life derailed by the whims of men. Her adult daughter is embarrassed by her: her bad haircut, cheap clothes and drafty house. She survives through sheer grit, depending on the mountains around her, multiple low-income jobs and a single sincere friendship. Through it all, she's hiding a secret, one she can't afford to confess lest she lose the daughter she's sacrificed everything for. Exhausted but determined, she makes one last stand against the hierarchies of wealth and gender that have conspired to end her life--and decides to burn the house down with her. This is a thrilling story that sucks readers in almost immediately, its protagonist as fascinating as she is flawed. --Lauren Puckett, freelance writer
Discover: A talented art student is swept under the wing of a wealthy con man, who forces her to become increasingly independent--and isolated--in this engrossing thriller.
The Swallowed Man
by Edward Carey
Edward Carey is interested in art as it imitates life. In Alva and Irva (2003), a woman re-creates, in miniature, the city where she is afraid to venture; Little (2018) is a fictional account of the people behind Madame Tussaud's wax museum. The Swallowed Man is a much darker and emotionally complex exploration of this theme. This is the story of Giuseppe, the woodcarver who creates Pinocchio--a man whose art "comes through with more grace, more life in it, than you had supposed possible." In heartbreaking, increasingly mad narration, enriched with vintage-style line drawings, Giuseppe tells how he simultaneously loses his son and winds up in his current, fatal predicament: riding in the belly of a great fish.
Giuseppe creates Pinocchio to soothe his loneliness and challenge his woodworking skills. But pride takes over and he decides to exhibit Pinocchio for recognition that's eluded him his entire life: "How well, I thought, I shall be known for it. How celebrated--the creator of life." The tension between parenting and exploiting his art tugs at him throughout. Pinocchio runs away after Giuseppe punishes him for lying. Giuseppe dedicates himself to finding his son, who may have been set to sea in a boat. As Giuseppe rows out to search, an impossibly large fish swallows him. At some point, the "monster-beast, this hunger-creature" also swallowed a schooner and so, using found items from the ship, Giuseppe makes confinement bearable.
The Swallowed Man is a haunting tale that provides no easy answer, but readers looking for a compelling story rich with insight and compassion will appreciate Carey's work. --Cindy Pauldine, bookseller, the river's end bookstore, Oswego, N.Y.
Discover: Giuseppe, the woodcarver who created Pinocchio, narrates the story of his miraculous creation in this moving tale that hews more closely to the traditional Italian folktale than to the cartoon.
Mystery & Thriller
Prodigal Son: An Orphan X Novel
by Gregg Hurwitz
Extreme action melded with in-depth character studies punctuate Prodigal Son, Gregg Hurwitz's absorbing sixth Orphan X thriller featuring Evan Smoak, who was abandoned as a baby, then, as a child, recruited into the secret Orphan Program, where he was trained to be an assassin. Leaving the Orphans, Evan reinvented himself as the Nowhere Man, a crime-fighting vigilante for ordinary people in need.
Now retired, Evan wants to lead "an ordinary life, whatever that was." In Prodigal Son, Evan meets a dose of the ordinary with the arrival of Veronica LeGrande, who claims to be his long-lost mother. The skeptical Evan comes to believe Veronica as she recounts details about the circumstances of his birth. Veronica wants a favor: help Andrew Duran, a down-on-his-luck, minimum-wage guard at an impound lot who witnessed a murder. Evan is soon embroiled in a conspiracy involving innovative military technology--and targeted by brother and sister killers.
Prodigal Son spins on sharp, over-the-top action with a sense of believability, including Evan's high-tech weapons, surveillance toys and his state-of-the-art condo. Evan's mad martial-arts skills give him the edge in any fight, no matter how many opponents he faces, but he is no superhero, often getting hurt.
A highlight is how Hurwitz (Don't Look Back) forcefully illustrates the fearless Evan's continued emotional growth. He begins to care about Veronica and Andrew while keeping an eye on Joey, a 16-year-old hacker he rescued from the Orphan Program. Evan also desperately wants to give into his feelings for Mia Hall and her nine-year-old son, Peter, who live in his building.
Prodigal Son is an impressive addition to the outstanding Orphan series. --Oline H. Cogdill, freelance reviewer
Discover: An absorbing thriller revolves around a trained assassin whose plan to retire is derailed when a woman claiming to be his long-lost mother draws him into a military technology conspiracy.
Food & Wine
Vegetarian Chinese Soul Food: Deliciously Doable Ways to Cook Greens, Tofu, and Other Plant-Based Ingredients
by Hsiao-Ching Chou
In Vegetarian Chinese Soul Food: Deliciously Doable Ways to Cook Greens, Tofu, and Other Plant-Based Ingredients, Hsiao-Ching Chou delivers a knockout cookbook making everyday Chinese cooking accessible. This is Chou's follow-up to Chinese Soul Food and can serve either as a companion or stand on its own for anyone meat-free or just looking to eat greener.
Chou's family had a Chinese restaurant in the 1980s and 1990s in Columbia, Miss., and she now leads popular cooking classes in Seattle, Wash. Her deep knowledge of Chinese cuisine and knack for teaching home cooks shine in her user-friendly recipes, which include concise instructions complemented by vibrant photos. After an overview of key ingredients and techniques, Chou shares her Dumpling Code--also a model for her general approach to cooking, more about preparation and flexibility than steadfast rules. Rounding out the book are Dim Sum and Small Bites (worth the price of the book alone) plus Stir-Fries, Steamed Dishes, Rice and Noodles, Tofu, Eggs, and Salad and Pickles.
Chou is eminently personable and unfussy; she notes when occasional recipes require finesse. About the Crystal Dumplings with Squash and Peas, she cautions, "Allow yourself plenty of time to make these and absolutely do not try them for the first time when you plan on having guests over." The majority, though, are as advertised: doable and delicious. Highlights include Sichuan Pepper Salt Fried Tofu; Chinese Mustard Greens with Shishito Peppers; Homestyle Egg Foo-Yung; Dry-Fried Brussels Sprouts; and Sweet Potatoes with Chili-Shallot Jam. --Katie Weed, freelance writer and reviewer
Discover: Make Chinese cuisine part of your regular kitchen repertoire with these flexible, easy-to-follow vegetarian recipes.
America and Iran: A History, 1720 to the Present
by John Ghazvinian
Historian and former journalist John Ghazvinian writes in the introduction to America and Iran: A History, 1720 to the Present: "For more than forty years, endings, ruptures, and angry disagreement--rather than beginnings, attractions, and initial infatuations--have become the starting point for every conversation about Iran and America. We are all much poorer for it." In order to counter the focus on the modern end of the relationship between the two countries, Ghazvinian begins his story with how the 18th-century Persian Empire was admired by American thinkers and leaders such as Thomas Jefferson, and in return the budding American nation was looked at as a potential model for a changing Iran. From there, a more nuanced history unfolds, one in which the countries are "animated by a spirit of common respect and mutual understanding."
Ghazvinian uses not only U.S. archival resources, but Iranian ones as well to form a narrative where both countries can speak on their own terms, in his hope that "history can be a force for peace." Given the scope, America and Iran is understandably a tome, but remains fascinating and readable throughout, highlighting undiscussed points of intersection and interaction in the two countries' histories. Ghazvinian adds depth to a much-maligned relationship, examining both sides' perceptions of the other from the 18th century onward. Moreover, he makes an argument that this long history, and the many varied negotiations between differences in attitudes, needs revisiting to better understand how the United States and Iran might yet move forward. --Michelle Anya Anjirbag, freelance reviewer
Discover: Historian John Ghazvinian takes a long view of the complex relationship between the U.S. and Iran.
Psychology & Self-Help
The Power of Voice: A Guide to Making Yourself Heard
by Denise Woods
The Power of Voice: A Guide to Making Yourself Heard by legendary Hollywood voice, speech and dialect coach Denise Woods invites readers on an uplifting journey of vocal empowerment and reveals accessible strategies for developing a beautiful speaking voice infused with personality. Addressing critical elements of relaxation, breath, voice, articulation and communication, Woods's debut offers tips to resolve everyday voice concerns, such as mumbling; provides a comprehensive public speaking guide; and shares the intriguing vocal transformation stories of celebrity clients such as Halle Berry, Jessica Chastain and broadcast journalist Soledad O'Brien.
A trailblazing Juilliard drama school alum and faculty member, Woods believes each person's voice can be trained accurately to reflect their authentic, individual self. The author's speaking style pays tribute to her African heritage, South Carolina roots and New York upbringing. Still, a successful 30-year teaching career did not protect Woods from being judged by her gender and skin color. As such, she took great pleasure in disorienting people with her charismatic, crisply articulate voice, what she calls her "superpower."
In The Power of Voice, the author encourages readers to develop their own superpower through daily vocal workouts and exercises for clearing the voice of distractions and synchronizing the physical self. In the case of Academy Award-winning actor Mahershala Ali, of Green Book and True Detective fame, for example, Woods helped him develop a more nuanced vocal timbre through adjustments in body language.
Readers familiar with the frustration of being stereotyped will find a new freedom in enhancing their speech. As Woods passionately declares to her reading audience, "Let the world hear your light!" --Shahina Piyarali, reviewer
Discover: Hollywood's best-kept voice and speech secrets are revealed by an uplifting voice coach to the stars.
Teen Readers Recommend
Last Night at the Telegraph Club
by Malinda Lo
In her sixth YA novel, Last Night at the Telegraph Club, William C. Morris YA Debut Award finalist Malinda Lo (Ash; A Line in the Dark) offers a riveting, emotionally stirring tale of a young Chinese American woman learning about herself during San Francisco's Red Scare.
Lily Hu has lived in the city's Chinatown her entire life. She was raised by her parents to be a "good Chinese girl" as well as a model American citizen to combat their fear she might be seen as a Communist. This excellent upbringing notwithstanding, Lily and fellow "half Italian and Catholic" classmate Kathleen begin sneaking out at night to go to the Telegraph Club, a lesbian nightclub. As Lily falls in love with Kath, she begins to wonder how it's fair she is forced to keep her two worlds separate.
A young woman of the 1950s, Lily is expected to marry a successful man, raise a family and be a loyal housewife. Lo takes these expectations and uses them as fodder to develop an exceptional and compelling character in Lily: despite disapproval from her mother and best friend, she reads about developments in space exploration for fun and wants to pursue a career in aeronautics or engineering. Lo also stealthily and effectively passes on to her readers the lessons Lily learns as she meets and befriends people at the Telegraph Club. Last Night at the Telegraph Club--focused on unapologetically embracing one's true self--is a spectacular addition to the young adult historical fiction genre. --Rachel Firman, 19
Discover: A young Chinese woman living during the Red Scare in 1950s San Francisco discovers first love and her own power in this winning YA novel.
The Beautiful Struggle (Adapted for Young Adults)
by Ta-Nehisi Coates
National Book Award-winning author of Between the World and Me Ta-Nehisi Coates's captivating young adult adaptation of his 2008 memoir, The Beautiful Struggle, tells the story of his adolescence under the tough-love tutelage of his father, a man described as having the "aura of a prophet."
Using short snippets of memories, Coates guides readers through his childhood in West Baltimore, a life that was far from easy for a kid with a pacifist streak and a "native dreamy state"; Coates describes himself as a kid who would rather "talk and duck" than fight. All that changes after his first schoolyard altercation. Coates fights to carve out a place for himself in a hostile world by arming himself with "the Knowledge" and gaining "Consciousness" through his father's instruction. Through navigating familial relationships--especially the one with his father--and playground politics, Coates comes to an understanding of what it means to be a young Black man in the United States.
While this edition of The Beautiful Struggle is directed toward younger readers, it provides a complex and nuanced exploration of adolescent masculinity that is relevant for readers of all backgrounds. Coates reimagines the very real conflicts of his world in fantastical terms--knights and kings vying for territory, orcs and goblins waiting to attack unsuspecting victims--which both invites in readers unused to nonfiction and uses vivid imagination to explore the complexity of his youthful experience. An accessible and enlightening edition of an extraordinary book. --Cade Williams, 19
Discover: This memoir adapted for a young adult audience guides readers through the author's adolescent quest for "Knowledge" and "Consciousness" in West Baltimore.
by Alexandra Bracken
In the cutthroat, brutally captivating world of Alexandra Bracken's standalone fantasy Lore, nine Greek gods are punished for betraying Zeus, king of the gods. "For seven days at the turn of seven years," the shamed gods are forced to take part in the "Agon," in which they walk the Earth as mortals. Every moment of that week, they are hunted by the descendants of ancient Greece's greatest heroes, all seeking to kill a god and claim their immortality and power. Lore, the last surviving member of the House of Perseus, however, turned her back on the Agon after rival hunters murdered her family in the last hunt. As the new Agon begins in New York City, Athena, one of the remaining original gods, approaches Lore with an offer of alliance--and revenge--against the Perseides' killer. "Despite her best efforts to move on," Lore is drawn back into the Agon, where she'll have "to forget the shadowed life she'd left behind and step into the sunlight of a new, better one."
The pacing is relentless, carrying Lore and her allies from one fight to the next against a backdrop of escalating stakes, while still leaving room for quieter moments of character growth. Bracken (The Darkest Minds series; The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding) also uses Lore to challenge the patriarchal undertones of Greek mythology--where women are assaulted, brutalized and discarded--in an empowering tale of a young woman embracing her righteous rage. For years, Lore has repressed her anger "making it smaller, making it feel irrelevant and undeserved," but now "she held on to the sharp hurt inside her and didn't pull away. She held firm, waiting for her claws to come back to her." --Alanna Felton, 19
Discover: Alexandra Bracken's Lore breathes passionate fresh life into Greek mythology, introducing a world where heroes hunt and kill gods to steal their immortality and power.