No one can ever have too many picture books about smart girls who love science—or too many stories about big, loyal dogs. Still, a book with these elements needs other features to stand out, and Maggi and Milo delivers.
It’s good to know that a female protagonist doesn’t have to be “nice” in order to be compelling. In Cara Hoffman’s latest novel, Be Safe I Love You, returning Iraqi war vet Lauren Clay is anything but nice. Indeed, the reader might be tempted, at first, to call her hateful. But as you read on, it dawns on you that the Lauren who enlisted as a soldier because of the fat signing bonus that would keep the wolves away from the door of her impoverished family isn’t the Lauren who has returned. The word that kept going through this reviewer’s head was “revenant.”
To marry their daughters off, four social-climbing men in 1790s London hatch a plot: Buy a pianoforte (the au courant instrument of the late 18th century) and have them give a concert that will have noblemen lined up for their hands in marriage.
The ladies are as varied as their fathers are ambitious: emaciated Georgiana; Everina with her unfortunate false teeth; mysterious Alathea; and the Brass sisters, practical Harriet and lumpy Marianne.
Sometimes things happen in life that change one’s perspective. Literally. For Gail Caldwell, hip surgery made her five-eighths of an inch taller. It was a new view, and she wasn’t quite sure what to make of it.
Mohandas K. Gandhi was born and raised in India and is best known for his work there as a world-renowned social reformer, political thinker, religious pluralist and prophet. If his life had followed the traditional path for someone of his family and caste, he would have remained in India, served in a prominent position and been unknown to most of the world. But as the noted scholar Ramachandra Guha demonstrates in his eminently readable and exhaustively researched Gandhi Before India, the 20 years that Gandhi spent in South Africa before his return to his home country in 1914 were fundamental to his success.
Leah Hager Cohen’s new novel, No Book but the World, takes its title from a quote by philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Ava and her younger brother, Fred, were raised by progressive parents who followed Rousseau’s “free” education and parenting model, letting their children discover the world on their own and without inhibitions or formal constrictions. Memories of their imaginative childhood in the woods flood forth as an adult Ava visits the town where her brother is now in jail.
Near Albuquerque, New Mexico, a teenager struggles to define herself in the aftermath of her parents’ divorce, the harsh newness of high school life and the recent death of her sister.
Prenna James was born in the 2080s, during a time of disease and environmental catastrophe. She and her mother escape a blood plague by traveling to the present day with a group of time travelers. Forced to assimilate, Prenna attends high school with kids who must never know she’s from the future—except for Ethan Jarves, who makes her feel special and safe.
The story of the once-successful novelist trapped in the throes of writer’s block, personal woes and emotional contemplation is a favorite of many novelists, from Stephen King to Michael Chabon, but lesser versions of the tale often veer into the realm of plodding semi-autobiographical navel-gazing and serve the writer more than the book itself. With her latest novel, Tatiana de Rosnay not only avoids the pitfalls of the struggling-novelist story, but also obliterates them with a lush, beautifully rendered saga layered with secrets, scandal and, yes, an exploration of what it means to be a writer who’s terrified of having nothing left to say.
Lantern Sam is a rare male calico cat who lives aboard a train called the Lake Erie Shoreliner (New York to Chicago in under 20 hours!) in the 1940s. Ostensibly in the care of conductor Clarence Nockwood, Sam is an intelligent and independent cat who has the ability to share his thoughts with some humans. Clarence is one of them, but when 10-year-old Henry Shipley comes aboard, Sam finds he can “talk” to him, too.