Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Book Review: Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey

I really don't read fantasy. Aside from some children's books, it's been years since I've read one. But a bookseller wrote such an amazing review that I just had to! Picture the feel of a 1930s noir PI novel. Now picture a Hogwarts-type school, but instead of in a castle, it takes place at your old high school (also no one wears robes although they do have school blazers.) Now mash those together, and put twin sisters (one with magic powers, one not) at the center of it, and a murder. How can you not read this?

Normally I'd write a heck of a lot more about this book but I don't want to spoil anything. It was much fun. What are you waiting for? Go read it!

This book is published by Tor Books, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Book Review: Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered: The Definitive How-To Guide by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark

Have you ever heard the phrase: "If you can't be a good example, then you'll just have to be a horrible warning"? Well this book is the embodiment of that aphorism. Karen and Georgia have gotten quite famous from their podcast, My Favorite Murder. But this book isn't about murders (mostly.) It's a memoir and advice book. Which also means if you're not familiar with the podcast, that's fine.

A joint memoir is unusual, and so they've structured it differently. They've picked some of their favorite pieces of advice and each told a story related to why that's a life suggestion they push. And the two of them, Georgia in particular, have some less-than-good stories in their pasts. Between drugs, eating disorders, and just plain old bad decisions, they've made a lot of mistakes so you don't have to. Along the way, they're really funny, but also really open and honest about their lives. At the end of several of the chapters, Georgia asks Karen some questions about the topic, and there are occasional sidebars. Even while talking about harrowing events, they keep the humor dialed in. Which is what they're famous for. On their podcast they talk about death and murder and rape, but they do it in a way that is simultaneously respectful and filled with fun (mostly that's the part of the podcast before they specifically start talking about murders but not exclusively.)

If you're a fan, you must read this. But if you want to hear about growing up in the '70s and '80s in California, about the entertainment industry (sadly, no name dropping), and about two women who went through some shit and came out the other side, this is a great and fun book for that. Heck, it would even make a good graduation gift! For your gothier young women.

This book is published by Forge, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Book Review: Bitcoin Billionaires: A True Story of Genius, Betrayal, and Redemption by Ben Mezrich

You know who the Winklevoss twins are. From the Facebook movie, they were played by Armie Hammer. They came up with the idea for Facebook, brought it to a fellow Harvard undergrad for help with programming, he stole it, and the rest is history.

That movie and the way they've been covered in the media made them look like privileged pricks. But not only is that only one side of the story, it maybe shouldn't be a side at all because it's so inaccurate. They really did come up with the idea for Facebook. (What? You think a friendless nerdy introvert came up with a social network, not a couple of popular guys? Really?) They didn't come from much privilege--their grandfather was a car mechanic. While their father did make it big (in tech start-ups, back in the '80s! They came by it honestly!), he taught them the value of hard work, as evidenced by their stint on the US Olympic rowing team. And they've also been through some tough times, like the death of their older sister.

So this book gives you their backstory, the backstory to the whole Facebook debacle, and enticingly, is about what came next. Bitcoin. After being shut out of Silicon Valley as venture capitalists, no matter how much money they had, they found a strange subculture tech opportunity on the East Coast--a small company that facilitated Bitcoin transactions called BitInstant. This was many years before anyone in the mainstream had heard of Bitcoin. If you haven't don't worry--the book explains it well. They invest in both BitInstant and Bitcoin itself, and you see them being the only grownups in the room as BitInstant's young, volatile, hyper CEO Charlie, digs himself a large hole. If you're paying attention, the red flags are all there. You pretty much know how things are going to end for young Charlie and his hubris. Yet it's a fun ride getting to that point. I just ate up the second half of the book in only two sittings, as it raced along to what was inevitably a bumping ending. It very much reminded me of the other Mezrich book I've read: Bringing Down the House. It has the same audacity, smarts, and high stakes. If you like true financial insider accounts that read like a thriller, this book is for you!

This book is published by Flatiron Books, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Book Review: Pie in the Sky by Remy Lai

Jingwen was once excited to move to Australia, but that was before. Before his father died in a car accident. A year later, his mom moves him and his little brother, Yanghao, anyway. But now his parents can't open their bakery, Pie in the Sky, as they dreamed. Jingwen's having a lot of trouble adapting especially with the language. It sounds like everyone around him is an alien. And then, just to make matters worse, it seems like Yanghao is starting to learn English and make friends!

Jingwen decides to bake all of the cakes he had baked with his father, that were going to be the cakes in Pie in the Sky. Of course when their mom is at work (at a bakery, of course), they are forbidden from using the oven. But Jingwen knows what he's doing and if Yanghao will just follow the increasingly-length list of rules and stop annoying him, everything will be fine. 

The book isn't a graphic novel, but it half is. It's a hybrid of sorts. Parts of it are very funny, but parts of it made me tear up. The little brother is perfectly irritating as all get out. The technical aspects of the baking are all spot-on--from how they bake so much without their mom noticing the disappearing ingredients, to occasional baking fails. And the relationships in the family are just pitch perfect. It's a lovely, funny, hunger-inspiring novel about loss and love. And cake.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

This book is published by Henry Holt, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Book Review: Naturally Tan by Tan France

I had seen the first season of the new Queer Eye when I read this (and yes, second two is high on my to watch list now!) And I think that helps but it's not necessary. But in case you don't know, Tan is the fashion guru on the new reboot of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (now just Queer Eye) on Netflix. This is the first truly global show, appearing in 190 countries. And he's the first openly gay Muslim South Asian on TV.

But this isn't about the show. Don't get me wrong--it's not one of those memoirs that annoying ends way before the fame you bought the book because happens. But it's more about the rest of his life. After all, Queer Eye has only been around for the last year. And there's a lot more to his life than that. It's about growing up different, about fearing rejection from your culture because of who you are, it's about finding love where you least expect, and about coming to success from less-traditional angles. I did love the bit about the 30 jobs he had before he was 25.

He's funny and snarky and sweary (he's British--they swear a lot). He will give a few fashion tips but it's not a fashion book. Yes, of course he will talk about the French Tuck. But he'll also talk about his family and growing up in England and about his first long-term relationship, which is when he learned that to be a good partner, you have to take care of yourself (and for the record, he was the one being a slob.)

It's a quick read, fun, but also eye-opening, and please don't wear those boot-cut jeans out of the house. I understand they're comfy--I have a pair for at-home-wear-only. But they're not flattering. And Tan wants you to always look and feel amazing.

This book is published by St. Martin's Press, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Book Review: Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

What might happen if the (adult) First Son of the President, fell in love with a Prince of England? Hijinks! Lots of swearing and sex! Sneaking around! Scandal! And so much fun!

If you read this book, in 2016, the first woman, a Democrat, was elected President. Her two half-Mexican-American adult children who are in college and graduate school, move into the White House with her, along with the adult granddaughter of the Vice-President. These three smart, savvy, wonky best friends have been impressing the media and having a blast living at the heart of power. But when they attend the wedding of the Prince of Wales, Alex, who has been really annoyed at the younger prince, Prince Henry, since the Rio Olympics when he overheard Henry make a rude remark about him, gets drunk and gets into an argument with Henry which results in the two of them falling on the wedding cake.

Damage control dictates that Alex and Prince Henry have to now pretend to be best friends, even though they hate each other. Or do they...? Methinks they both protest too much. But when they make up in spades, their newfound "friendship" will be the stuff of scandals and will put the reelection of Alex's mother on the line, not to mention putting them both in the crosshairs of the Queen.

This book was a blast! It was such a balm in these ridiculous political days. I actually read it in the middle of the government shutdown, a week before traveling to DC (which was soooo depressing). The author really gets the White House to feel real, the dialogue is super snappy, and there are some rather sexy scenes, if that's what you're looking for. I enjoyed the heck out of it and you should read it right away. I promise, it will make you smile.

This book is published by St. Martin's Griffin, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

My Month in Review: April

The Month in Review meme is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date.

I note the non-Macmillan books in this post with a star. I unexpectedly went on a cross-country trip earlier this month. Not only did that seriously reduce my reading time (I get car sick easily while reading these days) but we didn't even do any audiobooks. That's not my SO's thing. Lots of podcasts, though.

Books completed this month:
Pippa by Design: A Story of Ballet and Costumes by Claudia Logan
The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols: Adapted from the Journals of John H. Watson, M.D. by Nicholas Meyer
Revolution of the Soul: Awaken to Love Through Raw Truth, Radical Healing, and Conscious Action by Seane Corn
Here We Are: American Dreams, American Nightmares by Aarti Shahani
The Lost Man by Jane Harper (audio)
The Man That Got Away: A Constable Twitten Mystery 2 by Lynne Truss
Are You Listening? by Tillie Walden
The Incomplete Book of Running by Peter Sagal (audio)*
Give and Take by Elly Swartz
The Wasp That Brainwashed the Caterpillar: Evolution's Most Unbelievable Solutions to Life's Biggest Problems by Matt Simon (audio)*
The Grammarians: A Novel by Cathleen Schine
In My Father's House: A New View of How Crime Runs in the Family by Fox Butterfield (audio)*
Trapeze by Leigh Ansell
King of the Mole People by Paul Gilligan

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner

Book I gave up on:
Billion Dollar Whale: The Man Who Fooled Wall Street, Hollywood, and the World by Tom Wright and Bradley Hope (audio)* Just not in the mood for this kind of ridiculous excess. Plus the narrator sounds like an old boss who I didn't much like.
Christmas in Vermont by Anita Hughes. Ugh. Like a Hallmark movie that overdosed on cupcakes and threw up on itself. I was looking for light and fluffy, not insulting.

What I acquired this month (non-work books): 
A Life in Parts by Bryan Cranston I bought for my husband after we saw him in Network.
On Independent Bookstore Day I bought:
The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grames
The Story of the Great British Bake Off by Anita Singh
Bibliophile: An Illustrated Miscellany by Jane Mount

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Book Review: Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Rosemary Valero O’Connell

Freddie's girlfriend, Laura Dean, keeps breaking up with her. Freddie's friends are sympathetic, consoling her and listening to her angst, especially Freddie's best friend, Doodle. They're obviously getting tired of the repetition, but they're also supportive. One day, in a seeming effort to try something different to convince Freddie this isn't good for her, Doodle brings her to her favorite comic book shop, where in the back room is a mysterious woman, who asks Freddie some questions, throws some runes, and finally tells her, you're caught in a circle. To break out of the circle, you have to break out. Instead of letting Laura Dean break up with you (repeatedly), you need to break up with Laura Dean.

Freddie listens to the advice but doesn't take to it right away. Laura Dean breaks up with her again. And asks Freddie to take her back again. We finally see them in a relationship, and it's... not great. Laura Dean invites Freddie to a party, ignores her, but is hurt when Freddie wants to leave, and completely blows off that Freddie promised Doodle she'd help her with something. As things between Freddie and Laura Dean spiral, Doodle disappears. She's no longer with the lunch crowd and doesn't seem to be at school. When Freddie finally notices and asks a mutual friend what's up with Doodle, the friend (rightly!) says basically, I can't believe you just now noticed, and I'm not going to explain anything to you. If you're really a friend, you'll try harder to find out what's wrong with Doodle.

This is a little spoilery here, but I don't think it'll be shocking to most that in the end, Freddie does see the situation in clear light, and makes things right. Personally, the part of the message at the end of the book that I liked most, was that Freddie realized when she was with Laura Dean, she, Freddie, was a bad friend. I think that's a really important message for teens to learn early. Girlfriends come and go (and come and go and come and go) but if you want your friends to stick around and support you when things are tough, you need to also be there for them, even sometimes when it's inconvenient.

Also loved the artwork. Beautiful storytelling. Felt like a real relationship and real friendships. Was nice at the end to see that cool chick Laura Dean also had some insecurities behind her behavior. A great read.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

This book is being published by First Second, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Book Review: All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation by Rebecca Traister, narrated by Candace Thaxton

For single women everywhere!

This inspiring audiobook wasn't exactly what I expected. Based on the subtitle, I thought the book was going to be entirely historical, about single women among the "Founding Mothers" and Suffragettes and so on. And it is about one-third that. But then it is sociological, getting into the role of single women today, how single women have been treated over the centuries and decades, how life for them has been difficult, how it's improved, and how there's still plenty of room for improvement left. How the experience of life as a single woman is different for different races. Why some women choose to remain single when it might seem, superficially, better to marry. How choosing to stay single has changed, and improved, all women's choices.

It was an addictive book I just couldn't stop listening to. I wished a single friend was with me who I could tell lots of fascinating tidbits to. Instead, I will simply tell of them to read it! You will love it! It will make you rethink some things, reevaluate others, and appreciate singleness in a way you haven't before.

I downloaded this eaudiobook from Libby/Overdrive via my library.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Book Review: Strangers Assume My Girlfriend Is My Nurse by Shane Burcaw

Shane Burcaw is a young man who does not see himself as remarkable, or any of the other adjectives one could use to describe him as special. He is disabled--he has spinal muscular atrophy, a condition similar to muscular dystrophy--but he has dedicated his life to showing how ordinary and normal his life is, and the lives of similarly differently-abled people.

He started with a blog, which grew into books and speaking engagements, which now is his full-time job. He runs a Foundation and those are the major income sources for it. In this book, aimed at older kids than his previous ones, in a series of personal essays, he tackles everything from going to the bathroom (a big topic in all of his books) to how he and his girlfriend have sex, to becoming more independent--first in his parents' house when he's able to put in an elevator and live in the basement, and later when he and his girlfriend move to Minnesota. He's profane and funny and laughs at himself first most of the time. He certainly does admit to times when he didn't find his disability so funny--as in an early chapter about his refusal to go tot he bathroom at school as that would require him to ask the nurse to assist him. But in the end, he's chosen to see all the difficulties as just life, and lemonade ingredients. He is optimistic and has a real winning attitude.

I think a lot of us who read the book will wish we had the same mental and humorous fortitude to take personal problems in stride. Shane is an inspiration, but I don't mean that in a sappy, sweet way. I mean he's a great fucking inspiration. If this shit isn't getting him down, I should be able to laugh at myself more too. I wish I could. I'm trying to. Teens in particular could really use that lesson.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

This book is published by Roaring Brook Press, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Book Review: Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive by Stephanie Land (audio)

If you've read Nickel and Dimed and/or Educated a lot of this book will feel familiar. That's not to say don't read it, it's repetitive. There aren't enough voices out there speaking for the underprivileged, the overworked, the abused. Even better if those voices can be as eloquent as Stephanie Land's.

Stephanie never made it to college. She meant to go. In fact, in her late twenties, she was enrolled to start at the University of Montana at Missoula in the creative writing program, when she became pregnant. Her boyfriend reacted with anger and violence, and I kept begging her to just walk out and never look out, right there. But alas. (People, two parents are NOT good for the kids when it leads to major problems. One parent is just fine if it's a sane, relatively stable parent.) After an especially violent outburst involving the police, Stephanie takes her baby daughter, Mia, and leaves. Her angry ex fights her for custody (seemingly more to hurt Stephanie than because he gave two figs about his daughter), her own parents are either struggling themselves (her father) or clueless nincompoops (her mother) who can't/won't help, and they end up homeless. Thankfully it seems that all along the way, Stephanie had great case workers, counselors, and others in the system to advise her. After the abused women's shelter, she ends up in a little cabin available to the homeless, and then transitions into low income housing. I was hopeful at that point that things would slowly but surely keep progressing upward. But then she gets involved with another man and quickly moves in with him. He's not violent, but he's not good. This is where she starts to get into house cleaning.

She works for two different companies and also for herself. She has a process, and she seems to really like learning about her clients, even the ones she never sees who don't seem to know she exists. The voyeurism was very tempting (and also made me aware of what our own house cleaner might be learning about us!) There is "the sad house" and "the porn house" and even (shudder) "the clown house." She knows who is ill, who is down on their luck, whose marriages are in trouble, without ever laying eyes on the people. It's intriguing, to be sure.

But it's also backbreaking, exhausting work, that pays very little and can be highly demoralizing. Luckily, Stephanie has Mia to inspire her. She comes up with a plan, to attend community college and get a degree. She takes online classes at night and studies while Mia is with her dad. She doesn't sleep much and she eats even less. I did worry several times about just how she was going to break out of the cycle of poverty in which she was trapped. And to that end, she does have advantages other abused homeless single moms do not: her parents went to college. She's white. She owns a computer. In that regard, even though she didn't have even half the safety net that Barbara Ehrenreich had (admittedly, she had the entire safety net, as her experiences of poverty were entirely self-inflicted for the sake of journalism, and could be and in fact were ended on the spot when she decided her experiment was over.) For Stephanie this was no journalistic foray to check out the life of The Other. But it still is a half a step removed from the truly impoverished who cannot break the cycle.

That said, it is Stephanie's story and no one else's. And I'm not making light of her experiences which were pretty awful. It's simply that when this book, and Stephanie herself, are held up as examples of why-can't-all-poor-people-pull-themselves-up-by-their-bootstraps, I'm just saying hers is not the same situation. But she's told it well and I have hope for her and Mia's future. I even have hope that she might develop better taste in men.

Meanwhile, I will continue to use a maid service myself, as I know it's valuable job for the unskilled and for non-English speakers, and I will continue to tip very, very well. I hope that's the number one thing my house cleaners remember about me.

I listened to this eaudiobook via Libby/Overdrive from my local library.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Book Review: The Normal One: Life with a Difficult or Damaged Sibling by Jeanne Safer

My father's only sibling, his younger sister, had both schizophrenia, and also mental capacity limitations. When she was a young adult, their parents and she moved to Florida where the mental health system was better. For decades she cycled in and out of homes, had a wide variety of harmless to severe health issues, and was a constant drain on his emotions. Years ago I read a fascinating book, Mad House: Growing Up in the Shadow of Mentally Ill Siblings by Clea Simon, who had two older siblings with schizophrenia. And after the recent success of the book, The Collected Schizophrenias, which my company distributes, I've been thinking about their relationship again, and a friend loaned me this book.

It is mostly about having a severely damaged sibling. The various case studies range from the expected (schizophrenia, bipolar) to addiction, narcissism, brain damage, and just plain horrid siblings with no diagnosis. A few were not as extreme on the scale, which was nice for variety, and also to make the book more accessible to some of us who might have difficult, but not clinical siblings. It's interesting that Dr. Safer came up with the term "Caliban Syndrome" because I've certainly heard it, even though I'm not in the mental health field. I do wish the chapters analyzing The Tempest were a bit shorter (maybe readers less familiar with the play do appreciate the lengthy descriptions however.) And I wish there was more directive of approaches to those relationships, but the book is more of a series of case studies than a how-to. The stores were fascinating and riveting, and I kind of wish the book had even more of them--if it was chock-full like a Dr. Sacks book. But I understand she needed to explain the underpinnings of the patterns she was seeing, particularly as at the time this was published, there was little to no psychological research about siblings at all. Which is bizarre as, as she points out several times in the book, your sibling relationships will be the longest relationships you have in your life.

It would be truly fascinating to see a new edition--or perhaps simply a follow-up book--twenty years later as the mental health field has changed so much in the intervening time. With new diagnoses and more diagnoses and changing attitudes towards mainstreaming and mental health concerns, I think Dr. Safer would find significant differences, in just two decades. A really interesting read.

I borrowed this book from a friend.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Book Review: Miracle Creek by Angie Kim

The Yoo family has emigrated from Korea. First the mother and daughter together, and many years later the dad. The mother and daughter live with a white family in Baltimore. The mother, Young, is essentially treated like a slave, working in a convenience store their host family owns, seven days a week, 12+ hours a day, with a very long commute. The daughter is not treated like their own, but she goes to private school and has a pretty privileged life. So she's become very Americanized, very fast, and when her father, Pak, comes to America and they move to Northern Virginia for him to start a business as owner of a bariatric chamber, there is even more first-generation/second-generation tension than usual.

And one day the bariatric chamber explodes. A child dies, a couple of people are badly injured. Naturally, there's a big trial. Was it the daughter, resentful of her parents and having an affair with an older customer? What about the Yoos, who are finding life in America harder than they'd expected, looking for an insurance payout? Or maybe the mother of the dead child, whose life had been so difficult with a troubled, ill, difficult to manage child who had taken over her life? Then there were the protesters who had gotten dangerously close to the equipment.

Now I have read a fair number of legal thrillers, and this is definitely the most literary one I've ever read. It has much more character development and less action than one gets in a typical legal thriller. But that doesn't mean the tension doesn't ratchet up as you go along. Obviously, there's no lack of suspects, and as each person testifies and we hear the different parties' stories--although not always in court--a multi-layered and complicated story is made clear, and the truth about that horrible day will finally be revealed.

This book is published by Farrar Straus & Giroux, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Book Review: Girls on the Verge by Sharon Biggs Waller

Camille is pregnant. It's not a rape or a long-term serious boyfriend. It's a mistake. And she's only 16 and this would really destroy her life in a lot of ways. And she wants to get an abortion.

Her best friend, Bea, who is religious, is the opposite of supportive. She cuts Camille off without even hearing her out, leaving her alone. She has no boyfriend to go through this with her, she can't tell her parents (they don't have a bad relationship but a tempestuous one, and this wouldn't improve things), and now her best friend has abandoned her. Luckily, she runs into Annabelle while buying a pregnancy test. Annabelle is older but Camille knows her through Drama. And Annabelle lets Camille know that she will do whatever it takes to help her. Annabelle has her own reason of course, but they embark on an unforgettable roadtrip. Oh, and with Bea along, as she begs Annabelle to let her come, says that while she doesn't agree with Camille, she does want to be supportive. Camille isn't inclined to trust Bea again, but she lets her come. The three set off across Texas on a series of quests, running into every possible legal speed bump along the way.

This book was very much written as a way to demonstrate the consequences of the draconian abortion-restriction laws that have been passed across the country in the last decade or so, and often books with such an agenda really sideline novel basics such as plot and character. And while the plot is straightforwardly in service of this goal, it's well done, and the characters are really well drawn. I loved this book. Lots of teenagers (and older women) have to go through this gauntlet of restrictions, and poor Camille gets thwarted at every turn. She even hires a lawyer at one point to try to get permission for a legal abortion in Texas without parental notification. She does everything right. And yet, as a privileged white girl heading to college in a couple of years, the obstacles are nearly insurmountable. One quickly realizes how daunting these same obstacles would be someone with fewer resources.

This is a very important book. I love that the character of Bea helps round out the story and address her concerns and be a questioner of Camille's decisions. As much as I would have done the same thing as Camille in her shoes, my high school girl friends were all very religious, and I would have met with much the same resistance. This book can help any teen going through this decision, who might be in the future, or who might have a friend in trouble. And it's also a great road trip, girl-power story. I loved it.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

This book is published by Henry Holt, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Book Review: Death of a New American: A Mystery by Mariah Fredericks

Jane, the ladies' maid we met in A Death of No Importance, gets embroiled in another mystery in this second book in the series.

The mousy sister from the last book, Louise, is actually engaged to a wealthy and accomplished young man from a prestigious family. His uncle, whose house on Long Island is to be the setting for the wedding, is the current New York City police investigator who has been recently much lauded for his great success in starting up an Italian Squad to root out crime, especially related to The Black Hand. He's so passionate about this work that he even employs several Italians at his house, which is both noble, and also a little icky in the paternalistic racism. But he's trying.

Pretty much as soon as they arrive, Jane meets the nanny, Sofia, and then Sofia is dead. The official story that there was an attempted kidnapping of the baby who Sofia was murdered while protecting, doesn't ring true with Jane. She thinks there's more to it. And with the help of journalist Michael Behan, she investigates.

Once again, we get a view of this 1910s America that isn't featured much in literature, when everyday life was just so much more dangerous, especially among the lower classes, and that was just considered a given and no one gives it much thought. Jane is relatively independent but not anachronistically so, which is refreshing. The mystery is well set up and kept me guessing. I really like this series and am looking forward to seeing where it goes next!

This book is published by Minotaur, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Monday, April 1, 2019

My Month in Review: March

The Month in Review meme is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date.

I note the non-Macmillan books in this post with a star. I got bogged down at the end of the month with Sales Conference. I hope I can catch up in April.

Books completed this month:
Molly: The Amazing True Story of the Pet Detective Who Rescues Cats by Colin Butcher, with JoAnne Lake
Campusland by Scott Johnston
Ellie, Engineer: In the Spotlight by Jackson Pearce
Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive by Stephanie Land (audio)*
Broke: Detroit and the Cost of Urban Austerity in America by Jodie Kirshner
Some Places More Than Others by Renée Watson
Unfollow by Megan Phelps-Roper

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
The British Are Coming: The War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775-1777 by Rick Atkinson
The Lost Man by Jane Harper (audio)
Revolution of the Soul: Awaken to Love Through Raw Truth, Radical Healing, and Conscious Action by Seane Corn
Billion Dollar Whale: The Man Who Fooled Wall Street, Hollywood, and the World by Tom Wright and Bradley Hope (audio)*

What I acquired this month (non-work books): 
Startalk: Everything You Ever Need to Know about Space Travel, Sci-Fi, the Human Race, the Universe, and Beyond by Neil deGrasse Tyson [a gift for my husband]

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Book Review: Caterpillar Summer by Gillian McDunn

Cat always takes care of her little brother Chicken. But he's more high-maintenance than most little brothers. He has a tendency to run off, he's extremely impulsive, and doesn't seem to understand scary things like that cars will run over you and if you can't swim, the ocean will kill you. But Cat doesn't mind; after all she really loves Chicken. And that love has inspired her mom who has written a series of picture books about Cat and Chicken. Which is great because they need the money since Cat's father died. But with Mom working essentially three jobs (college instructor as well and I forget the third, maybe tutor?), it's even more vital for Cat to watch Chicken.

This summer, Mom has gotten a temporary position teaching at a college in Atlanta, where their family's best friends moved last year. It's perfect because Cat and Chicken can stay with the friends all day while Mom works. Except that while they're on their flights from San Francisco, Mom gets a phone call. The Atlanta friends have to fly to India because their grandmother has had a stroke. And no, they're not coming back soon as India is so far away and they have so many family members there they haven't seen in years. So Mom has to come up with a Plan B for Cat and Chicken right away.

She rents a car. And they drive to the Outer Banks of North Carolina where their mom grew up. Cat and Chicken are going to stay with their grandparents, who they've never met. They disapproved when their daughter got married (you wonder for a moment if it's because her husband was black but no, it's because they were too young, they wanted to be artists and to move to San Francisco.) And there's been a rift ever since. Obviously, everyone is nervous going into this situation.

It's not going to be shocking news that everything works out. But you'll have to read the book to find
out! Both Cat and Chicken grow a lot emotionally over the summer, they learn a lot about what it means to be a family and to be a friend and to be part of a community. They learn a lot about their mother that they never knew. And they end up having an unexpectedly great summer, albeit not without its drama.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

This book is published by Bloomsbury, which is distributed by Macmillan, my employer.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Book Review: Hotbox: Inside Catering, the Food World's Riskiest Business by Matt Lee and Ted Lee

At first, when this book was compared to Kitchen Confidential, I was wary. I mean, I loved Kitchen, but it also made me feel rather icky about restaurant food, and I was about to go to two trade shows and eat a lot of catered food, so I wasn't sure if I wanted to read it. But boy, am I glad I did! This isn't a hit job on catering--it's a love letter.

The Lee Brothers are a writing and cooking duo from Charleston (I've made their bourbon balls which were delicious and I don't like bourbon, nor am I much of a cook.) But they also partly live in New York, and over the course of writing this book they each get jobs as kitchen assistants (KAs) at a couple of different caterers. And these aren't caterers in the vein of a hotel or conference center--these are offsite caterers who bring in EVERYTHING and often are cooking on folding tables in a back hallway. Or really, they're cooking in hotboxes. Those are these large rolling cases in which you can keep food warm (or cold) and if you put in sternos and use the large baking sheets in a smart way, you can even cook in them.

These chefs work amazingly hard jobs--think celebrity weddings at the beach and charity fundraisers in museums. They're expected to put out 5-star meals under incredibly imperfect conditions, and they never get any praise and no one even knows who they are. They will never win a Michelin star. They will not get cookbook deals or be judges on Food Network TV shows. In the history of catering, there has been exactly one caterer who has become famous, and no one else: Martha Stewart. It is a seriously difficult, seriously unsung job done by consummate professionals at the height of their skills. This book left me impressed. And I was angry every time I had to put the book down. A great read. It will leave you hungry.

This book is published by Henry Holt, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Book Review: Maybe a Mermaid by Josephine Cameron

Anthoni and her mom move around a lot. Her mother sells makeup at house parties (think Avon) and while things had been going well for a long time, recently sales have seriously dropped off, and they're unexpectedly in more difficult financial straits. Her mom had put down a substantial nonrefundable deposit at a fancy lake resort in the town where she'd grown up, for Anthoni to have that fun experience for the summer, but in the end, she gives up their apartment and they both go to the resort for the summer, with all their belongings in their car. Anthoni is determined to make the best of things, as The Showboat Resort is going to be amazing, like her mom said, right?

Welllllll, they're the only guests. It's more than a tad bit run down. But Anthoni nonetheless goes ahead with her summer plan to make a True Blue best friend, modeling her plan on her mother's marketing and sales plans. Meanwhile her mother's old childhood best friend isn't completely welcoming. The town kids also aren't exactly Anthoni's cup of tea. And the old lady who runs the resort is, well, quirky at best. Did she really used to be a mermaid in a vaudeville show? Did she REALLY used to be a mermaid? Is Anthoni's mom getting their lives back on track or further off? Will Anthoni make a True Blue best friend?

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

This book is published by Farrar Straus & Giroux Books for Young Readers, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Book Review: Trust Exercise by Susan Choi

David and Sarah are two students at a prestigious arts school. Over the summer they embark on a hot and heavy affair. But when school starts back the pressure of being boyfriend and girlfriend breaks them. Mr. Kingsley, their acting teacher, knows what's gone on between them and uses it in a trust exercise in the class for weeks on end. But neither David nor Sarah will be the first to give in.

Meanwhile, a troupe of British student actors come over for an extended visit and infiltrate the groups in the school, and embark on romantic relationships. Relationships are twisted, pulled, snapped, and then...

Twenty years later, Sarah has written a novel about a teen at a prestigious arts school. And a friend who was a minor character in the first part is standing outside City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco as Sarah gives a reading, trying to decide whether or not to confront her. And tell her that she's now working on a play with David.

I know this book is supposed to be amazing and oodles of people I respect are raving over it, but it just didn't work for me. The first half felt icky and gratuitous. Then the narrative shift was so abrupt and I saw the ending coming from a mile away. Overall it didn't work for me. However I seem to be in the minority. Decide for yourself.

This book is published by Henry Holt, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Book Review: The Astonishing Maybe by Shaunta Grimes

Gideon has just moved from New Jersey to Nevada at the beginning of summer. Since school is out and he's not even allowed to cross the street on his bike, his only friend option is his next-door-neighbor, Roona. She's nice but a bit odd--wearing a baby blanket tied around her neck as a cape and rainbow-colored knee socks even though it's stiflingly hot. Very soon, Gideon and we readers realize Roona's got bigger problems and Gideon and Roona might be in over their heads in trying to solve them.

Overall, this is a wonderful, albeit somewhat difficult novel, perfect for kids who like realistic and heartbreaking stories. There's an element of magical realism in the book that doesn't really go anywhere--Roona's mother bakes for the whole town and when she's upset, her feelings go into her baked goods--and it's primed to be a major plot point at the climax, but that is literally dashed to pieces and isn't mentioned again. But this is a minor quibble.

It's very realistic in the best ways. In other middle grade books I've read recently, even ones that are ostensibly realistic, I knew everything was going to work out. Everything would slot into place and at the end (or close enough to the end that you could see it), everyone would be happy. This book isn't like that. Readers have a serious worry that things won't work out. And a couple of really, really not-good things do happen. And in the end, even though there's a satisfactory resolution, and you know things will in the very long run probably be okay, nothing is tied up neatly in a bow, and several people are not happy or have a strong chance of being not happy. Sorry for all the vague-ness but I don't want to give away spoilers.

As with a lot of great middle grade books dealing with difficult subjects, the main character, Gideon, is a step removed, giving us perspective and safety in the reading. In the meantime, through his worrying over Roona, he understands his mother better and her worrying over things like him biking across the street. While the book isn't perfect--the little sister doesn't have much purpose and the cover is too cheerful--its heart is enormous and its issues are important and its insights are powerful. It might cause some of the most sensitive kids anxiety, but it's also easy to argue that since you can't protect them from bad things forever, this is great exposure in a safe, discussable way to some problems they or their friends might face down the road, and it's very important for kids to be prepared emotionally and intellectually, to deal with the inevitable bad stuff. I sometimes wish I could have a magic cape when I'm feeling overwhelmed. I hope Roona gets the support she and her mother desperately need.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

This book is published by Feiwel & Friends, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Book Review: Credo: The Rose Wilder Lane Story by Peter Bagge

You should know by now that I am a HUGE Laura Ingalls Wilder fan. HUGE. I've taken a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on her, I've been to her house, and my youngest sister is named Laura (not a coincidence). I haven't known much about Rose until more recent years, and this is a fun, odd, and much-needed graphic biography of her. After reading Prairie Fires by Caroline Frasier, I was pretty well convinced that Rose was a grade-A nutjob. I'm glad this book tells things from her perspective, as rarely is a person just a crazy basket case without more to the story.

First of all, her mother, Laura Ingalls Wilder, was a difficult mother: demanding, cheap, and grumpy. And as an only child, she had no one to share the burden with. Then her own life didn't go remotely as expected. From an early marriage that didn't work out to losing a baby and having a hysterectomy, meaning no children ever, to becoming a famous writer and friends with influential people across the twentieth century, I hadn't given either the difficulties or achievements in her life much weight. In her lifetime, she was the highest-paid woman journalist/writer with many bestsellers. She even went to Vietnam in her 70s to write about that war. Very well-traveled, she kept trying to get away but was always inextricably pulled back home to Mansfield, Missouri. She was inspired by, helped with, and felt sidelined by her mother's books. Even though she unofficially adopted several young men, she never seemed to fulfill her maternal drive. A famous contrarian and libertarian, she hung out with Ayn Rand.

Graphic biographies are, by their nature, accessible and concise. If you're a Wilder fan and/or have heard of Rose and want to know more, or just want to see what life was like for a famous woman writer from the Midwest in the first half of the twentieth century, this is a great book.

This book is published by Drawn & Quarterly, which is distributed by Macmillan, my employer.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Book Review: Kiss Number 8 by Colleen AF Venable, illustrated by Ellen T. Crenshaw

When I picked up this book, I thought it was going to be a light, fluffy, Sweet Valley High type of book about kissing and flirting and boys, and so on. Boy, did I underestimate it!

I mean, on the surface, that is how it starts out. Mads and her best friend Cat are seniors at the local Catholic school and they party and hang out--especially Cat who is always somewhere fun (her home life is a mess and she's always wanting to not be at home.) Mads loves to hang out with her dad, play video games, and go to the minor league baseball games with family friends. Adam, the brother of another friend, has a big crush on Mads, but she doesn't feel the same way... or does she? Well, if she did, why does she also kind of have a crush on... Cat?

Meanwhile, she overhears her father in a conversation and misunderstands a big secret. She figures out the secret isn't what she thinks... but then what is it? She starts to do research after finding a photo and a check, and is astonished by what she finds, and how it might change her family forever.

This was a powerful book. There's a lot to unpack. It's really layered and there's a lot going on--a lot of emotions, confusion, betrayal, trust issues, some of it going back before Mads was even born. There's nothing inappropriate here--a younger kid flipping through this book won't see anything that would shock them, but it certainly is for more mature teens who can understand the complexity. I absolutely loved it.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

This book is published by First Second, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Book Review: Heating & Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs by Beth Ann Fennelly

I wasn't sure about micro-memoirs. I love memoir but hate short stories. I haven't read Ms. Fennelly before but I love her husband Tom Franklin's books. Finally a friend raved about it so it went on my shelf. And in a spurt to finish my goal at the end of the year, super-short books are a boon.

I'm so glad I read it! If it were longer it likely would have gotten annoying. But it's cutesy, quippy little bites of life. Mostly funny, occasionally eye-opening, and one or two surprisingly sad. I do wish for the more serious ones that she'd not held so firmly to her form as a few more details (when her sister died and how) would have provided much-needed context. But I loved it! That is a minor complaint. My favorite is the one about marriage and love that is only a few lines long, and is about how she bumps into her husband's hand with her own, as they each reach to turn on the other's seat warmer. That is true love!

I bought this book at McNally Jackson, an independent bookstore in Manhattan.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Book Review: Tito the Bonecrusher by Melissa Thomson

Oliver loves the Mexican wrestler, Tito the Bonecrusher, who has gone on to have a wildly successful action movie career (while still wearing his mask). Oliver's dad moved to Florida recently to help a friend open a restaurant and... he has been arrested for some confusing things Oliver doesn't fully understand but might have to do with illegal loans. And of course Oliver knows it's all the friend's fault and his dad didn't do anything. Which means he shouldn't be in jail. And who is great at breaking people out of places impossible to break out of? Tito the Bonecrusher! Who is going to be in town soon as a guest at a charity fundraising event! Oliver just knows that if he's able to sneak in and talk to Tito, he can get his dad out of prison and save the day!

Along the way Oliver makes some new friends, finds his own resourcefulness, and might figure out his father's not quite as innocent as he believes, but that life will go on nevertheless and things will work out okay. But the hijinks to get there will be pretty hilarious!

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

This book is published by Farrar Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Friday, March 1, 2019

My Month in Review: February

The Month in Review meme is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date.

I note the non-Macmillan books in this post with a star.

Books completed this month:
Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey
This Was Our Pact by Ryan Andrews
The White Darkness by David Grann (audio)*
The Right Sort of Man by Allison Montclair
All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation by Rebecca Traister,  Candace Thaxton (audio)*
Amazing Decisions: The Illustrated Guide to Improving Business Deals and Family Meals by Dan Ariely
The Normal One: Life with a Difficult or Damaged Sibling by Jeanne Safer*
Twenty-one Truths About Love: A Novel by Matthew Dicks
Born to Fly: The First Women's Air Race Across America by Steve Sheinkin

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
The British Are Coming: The War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775-1777 by Rick Atkinson
The Dharma of the Princess Bride: What the Coolest Fairy Tale of Our Time Can Teach Us about Buddhism and Relationships by Ethan Nichtern

Books I did not finish:
The Personality Brokers: The Strange History of Myers-Briggs and the Birth of Personality Testing by Merve Emre (audio)* Even though I was 3/4 of the way through this, I couldn't follow the narrative line and just didn't find it interesting. So many other people love it, I wonder if audio was just the wrong format.

What I acquired this month (non-work books):
None! Doing well with my budget!

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Book Review: Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson

A memoir about sexual assault is never going to be easy. And I wasn't sure about reading a book in verse--I'd never tried one of those before. But I heard such good things about this, that I figured I should give it a whirl. After all, last year when I first heard about the Reading Without Walls program (it's in the summer but what the hey), I scoffed at it, saying "I read so broadly I can't possibly need to stretch myself." Well the third thing mentioned as a possibility was "a book in verse." Oops. Well now I can say I've ticked that off my list.

This book was good. It was powerful. Anderson really got a lot off her chest. And it's good for teens--memoirs aren't just for adults. However, it hasn't stuck with me. Not like Speak did. I think Shout was more elusive because of its lack of a single narrative thread throughout and the multiplicity of topics. I did love it while I was reading it and it will be beloved by many, but Speak was still such a harrowing the visceral experience that it stands head and shoulders about all its peers. This is a good companion book and will lead to discussions and much thinking, especially in teens.

I got an ARC of this book for free from the publisher at SIBA.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Book Review: The Breakaways by Cathy G. Johnson

Faith is starting at Middle School and doesn't know anyone. When a popular older girl asks her to join the soccer team, the Bloodhounds, on the first day, she's elated. Only to find out she's on the C team full of kids who don't really care, aren't any good, and don't like soccer. She never even sees that popular 8th grader until the end of the season. But over time, Faith figures out that the girls on her team are good at something else--being friends. No, they're not perfect. A couple of longtime friends have a falling out that lasts for a while, and a couple of the kids are certainly teased/bullied by other kids, but overall, they're pretty supportive and nice to each other. And that's much more important than winning soccer games you don't care about.
This book would be so good for kids who like to play games/sports just because they like them, not because they're good or want to win. Also good for kids going to a new school or struggling to make friends. And Faith draws her own graphic novel, so perfect for more artsy kids. Also kind of meta, since this is a graphic novel.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

This book is published by First Second, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Book Review: Kid Gloves: Nine Months of Careful Chaos by Lucy Knisley

I really enjoyed this graphic memoir. But I don't know who to recommend it to! Lucy and her husband wanted to have kids, and they got pregnant. But she lost the pregnancy. And then another. And before they became on of those tragedies you sometimes hear about with miscarriages in the double-digits, she went to the doctor and was diagnosed with a condition that was causing her pregnancies to fail. She had to have a minor surgery, and it was corrected.

She became pregnant and did not miscarry! Although of course that was a worry for a long while. Instead she had deep, debilitating "morning" sickness. She couldn't keep anything down, couldn't sleep, could only barely function as a human for months and months. Eventually, towards the end of her pregnancy, that finally passed. And she was having some uncomfortable symptoms, like being really swollen, which she did tell her doctor. But he didn't put two and two together, and so after she had a healthy baby, she nearly died of preeclampsia. That was so unforgivable--she pretty much had every symptom, like a textbook case, and he ignored her complaints.

In the end, she has a happy healthy baby, but her road there was harrowing. It was life-threatening, and not a path many would choose to go down, if they knew what dragons lay in wait. But it was a fascinating memoir and as a graphic memoir, her changing body and the baby growing inside her, were skillfully rendered in a way that made them very real.

That said, I just don't know who this book is for? Someone who wants to have kids? Yikes! Someone pregnant? No way! Someone with little kids? Too soon. Someone who doesn't want to have kids? Well, why do they want to read about someone struggling to have them? Anyway, I fall into the last category and I did like it, but it's a tough story. You need to have a strong stomach and a strong heart to get through it. Like many memoirs with tragedy in them, be careful who you give this book to, but it's an important story nonetheless.

This book is published by First Second, a division of my employer, Macmillan.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Book Review: The White Darkness by David Grann

This is Into Thin Air crossed with Endurance. It is short (I think it was originally published in The New Yorker) but I really appreciated that it wasn't chock full of filler. It was exactly long as it needed to be and no longer, which was perfect.

Henry Worsley idealized Ernest Shackleton all his life. It was great when he was in the military, but otherwise, it was mostly just a fun quirk. Until he decided to recreate Shackleton's infamous attempt to get to the South Pole. And then emulate his attempt to fully cross the Antarctic continent. It's riveting and harrowing. And I'm not going to give away the ending. But it's great.

Here is Henry's favorite Shackleton quote: "better a live donkey than a dead lion." Good advice.

I downloaded this audiobook from my local library via Libby/Overdrive.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Book Review: How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States by Daniel Immerwahr

Before the hurricane hit it last year, did you know Puerto Rico was a part of the United States? How many other US territories can you name? Just one or two? The US Virgin Islands are fairly easy because they have "The US" in the name. And Guam is often listed with them so you might get that too. But there have been hundreds of others. Does that surprise you?

We try to pretend that the US is unique among superpowers in that we never had colonies. But we kind of did. The Philippines. The Guano Islands. It's true that large parts of our former territories are now states: The Western Territory, Indian Territory, Alaska, Hawaii. But some still aren't. Like DC (which oddly is never mentioned, I guess because it's a "district" and not a "territory") they have taxation without representation. And without representation in Washington, it's not too shocking when natural disasters aren't adequately prepared for or repaired, as just one example.

But how and when and why did we get all of these territories? And what fun facts can we learn along the way? Two of my favorites: In 1940, an American was more likely to be living in a territory than to be African-American. 1 in 12 Americans were African-American but 1 in 8 Americans lived in a territory. And how long was the United States totally and completely just the "logo map" of the lower 48 states? No more, no less? In other words, how long after the 48th state did we get our first outside territory?

Learn these fun facts and many more, while also learning why we have territories, what has happened to them in their history which isn't taught in US history classes, and what is to become of them?

[answer: 3 years]

This book is published by Farras Straus and Giroux, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Book Review: Bloom by Kevin Panetta, illustrated by Savanna Ganucheau

This graphic novel centers around Ari. He's just graduated from high school and wants to move to Baltimore from his beach town with his best friends and fellow band-mates. But his sister has just gotten married which leaves him to help out his parents with the family bakery. He really doesn't want to do that, so he advertises to find someone to replace him, so he can escape.

Enter Hector. He is in town temporarily to sort through his grandmother's belonging and sell her house before resuming college. And he loves to bake. Really loves it. He's a pretty happy guy, easy-going and mature, but his love for baking really and truly comes through on every page. And eventually he starts to remind Ari that he once loved baking too. And his presence also serves as a counterpoint to Cameron, the band's lead singer and lead asshole. Will Ari ever see the light in front of him? Or will he keep being is own worst enemy, in getting his life together?

This is a charming graphic novel about love, friendship, figuring out how to adult, adjusting to more grown-up relationships with your family, and love. Yes, I did say it twice. And sourdough.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

This book is published by First Second, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Book Review: The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders

I've mostly not read sci-fi, except for the occasional cross-over book like The Martian or The Sparrow which are most definitely written for a more mainstream audience. Even those are pretty few and far between. But with my new job, I have to sell a whole line of sci-fi, Tor Books, which luckily is one of the best in the business. And this year I gave myself a challenge: to read 3 Tor books. And I am done, and it's only June! (I know it's February; I hold my reviews until right before the books publish, but I read this one in June 2018.) And I enjoyed them all!

I didn't know anything about this book but one of my buyers had highly recommended the author, Charlie Jane Andrews (and initially I didn't know if the author was male or female as that name could be either, but she is female. So it turns out all three Tor books I read are by woman.) Before Sales Conference I read the first 10 pages of about 35 books and this was one of them. And I decided to give it a go.

Initially it didn't feel very science fiction-y, but more post-apocalyptic, even though it's most definitely way in the future and on another planet. At some point in the 25th century humans had to leave Earth and we found a planet we called January which seemed habitable. But seemed is a key word there. The planet must turn in parallel with its star and not perpendicular, because half the planet is always a black winter, half is a glaring desert, and in between there's a thin strip of livable twilight. We have two main cities, one very regimented and the other more Vegas-like.

Mouth is the last of her kind, from a people of nomads. She now is a member of a band of smugglers operating between the two cities, navigating the Sea of Murder, and the terrifying creatures we have named with our old Earth names, even though they don't very much resemble crocodiles or squids.

Sophie, a student at university, takes the blame when her friend steals and is busted, and the she is dragged out to die on a mountain in the night. One of the crocodiles finds her, and she is too exhausted and sluggish to fight it off. But instead of attacking her, the creature warms her and shares knowledge that these scary beasts have built an amazing city in the middle of the cold, dark night part of the planet, which we humans are endangering.

Mouth and Sophie will cross paths and change the entire future of the humans on this planet, and themselves as well. I am not sure if this is the first book in a series as it ends with a lot of loose ends which could easily be picked up. The ending was still satisfying, but if I could find out more, I would.

This book is published by Tor, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Book Review: Good Kids, Bad City: A Story of Race and Wrongful Conviction in America by Kyle Swenson

A few years ago my youngest sister moved to Cleveland, which many people find a surprising move. It has a thriving foodie scene, a world-class art museum (where she works), and of course, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. However, since The Drew Carey Show, its only media hits tend to be about crime. So when I saw this book was about a wrongful murder conviction in Cleveland, and using that as an extrapolation point from which to look at the issues with the criminal justice and policing systems writ large, I jumped on it.

A sales rep who worked for a money order company was on his rounds of convenience stores, and had an unusually high amount of cash on him. Outside one store, he was jumped, had acid thrown on him, and was shot and killed. Three teens were convicted of the murder on the bases of a sole eyewitness, a small child. Dozens and dozens of other eyewitnesses were there, none of which described these three boys as being on the scene. The boys had alibis. And the kid also was demonstrably not in a position to have seen what happened. And yet, they were convicted.

Almost 40 years later, they were released. Kyle Swenson tells their story. And he tells the story of Cleveland. How a city that was once proudly fully integrated, which scoffed at Jim Crow laws and refused to uphold them, later became one of the most segregated cities in the Midwest, and how its once-vaunted infrastructure and government crumbled at the hands of corruption, mismanagement, and social ills. By the 1970s, African-Americans in the city were pushed into smaller and smaller neighborhoods, which were crumbling and not maintained, but overly policed. And three teens had a very, very bad day which wasn't rectified for decades.

If you are enjoying the current season of Serial, you must read this book. It truly goes hand-in-hand with Sarah Koenig's reporting and Cleveland really isn't a bad city--it's like dozens of other cities across the US. This could have happened anywhere. In fact, stories just like this have happened everywhere. Luckily, these three men were freed. Not all are. And the murderers were never caught.

This book is published by Picador, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Book Review: Ruby in the Sky by Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo

After her father dies, Ruby and her mom move from DC back to her mom's hometown in Vermont, where she swore she'd never return. She gets a job at a local diner and on her first day is sexually harassed by her boss and stands up for herself. And gets arrested since he's best buds with the sheriff. Despite how right she is, Ruby is mortified. They've been in town for one day and her mom is arrested, and she has to start her new school like this? It's the worst.

She tries to lay low including not really speaking with or interacting with anyone, especially not Ahmed, the nice Syrian immigrant boy who wants to be her friend. The one person she reaches out to is the "bird lady" who lives in a shack at the end of her street. Ruby's mom has expressly forbidden her from talking to the Bird Lady, and the kids at school say she murdered her family, and even if that isn't true why is she living in a shack in the middle of winter instead of in the boarded up house she owns? Ruby finds out Abigail is actually a fascinating person and a true friend. She starts to open up and get along better in school, but then a big school project where everyone has to participate in a "wax museum" makes her clam up again. Meanwhile her mother's court case is proceeding, and the town is trying to force Abigail off her land.

It's a middle grade book so despite the difficult subject matter, it's handled thoughtfully and all comes together in the end. I wish Ahmed hasn't been rather cookie-cutter of a character, but otherwise it was a good read. It's not too difficult, either with the writing style or the content, for even kids on the younger end of range, but a little emotional maturity wouldn't hurt.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

This book is published by Farrar Strauss and Giroux, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Friday, February 1, 2019

My Month in Review: January

The Month in Review meme is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date.

I note the non-Macmillan books in this post with a star.

Books completed this month:
Small Animals: Parenthood in the Age of Fear by Kim Brooks (audio)
Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
War in the Ring: Joe Louis, Max Schmeling, and the Fight between America and Hitler by John Florio,  Ouisie Shapiro
Past Perfect Life by Elizabeth Eulberg
In Pieces by Sally Field (audio) *
Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center
Kingdom of Lies: Unnerving Adventures in the World of Cybercrime by Kate Fazzini
Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Rosemary Valero O’Connell
The Last Book Party by Karen Dukess
The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish (audio)*

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey
The Personality Brokers: The Strange History of Myers-Briggs and the Birth of Personality Testing by Merve Emre (audio)*
The British Are Coming: The War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775-1777 by Rick Atkinson
The Dharma of the Princess Bride: What the Coolest Fairy Tale of Our Time Can Teach Us about Buddhism and Relationships by Ethan Nichtern

What I acquired this month (non-work books):
none! Another win in the war against clutter!

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Book Review: The Peacock Feast by Lisa Gornick

A quiet, contemplative novel about an old (101!) woman in New York, remembering her life, meeting a long-lost relative she never knew existed, uncovering some family secrets, and giving us readers some dirt on late-Gilded Age Louis Tiffany. This book put me in mind of Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk or a sedentary A Man Called Ove (with less drama).

Prudence was born at the Tiffany estate out at Long Island. Not because she's a member of that family oh no! Her mother is a maid and her father is a gardener. The family eventually moves into Manhattan to Hell's Kitchen and her father still works for Tiffany in his Manhattan mansion. One day, Dorothy Tiffany gives Prudence a gift of drawing paper and pencils.

Prudence's life changes as she goes to college for design, becoming an interior designer in the very early days of that field (pioneered by Louis Comfort Tiffany), meeting a man, getting married, being torn over her decision about children, eventually leading a solitary life, until one day, in her 101st year, a grand-niece she didn't know existed, Grace, shows up at her apartment. Prudence's brother Randall had left to try his luck in San Francisco as a teen and quickly lost touch with the family. They never knew what happened to him and vice versa. Grace and Prudence will uncover secrets, find out truths, and redevelop a family they didn't know they still had.

This book is about family and loss and love and memory and art, and I enjoyed it very much. It is on the quiet side without a lot of action, but I found it an easy read.

This book is published by Farrar Straus and Giroux, a division of Macmillan, my employer.