You don’t have to be an expert on Chinese proverbs to discern what might happen when an egg meets a stone, but you will understand much more about modern China and its struggling people when you meet this fearless egg: Chen Guangcheng, the narrator of the riveting memoir The Barefoot Lawyer: A Blind Man’s Fight for Justice and Freedom in China. Born in 1971, blind since infancy, growing up in dire poverty, Chen learns to escape all his constraints. Barred from the village school and its force-fed propaganda, Chen instead learns from his father that the folktales and myths of his homeland carry a message: As surely as empires will rise, corruption will bring them down. Justice must find its way.
While away on duty, Army Ranger Van Shaw receives a chilling note from his grandfather: “Come home, if you can.” The last time the two talked was 10 years ago—a conversation that resulted in a bloody brawl. Pride and stubbornness run strong in this family, so for the old man to reach out means there’s something big happening back home.
At this moment on the other side of the world, a girl is sitting in the dark. A rare skin disease prevents exposure to the sun, to a shining bulb, even to the benign glow of a Kindle screen. She covers up the slightest cracks of light with tin foil. What do people who pass her house on the street think of these ceaseless black-out blinds, she wonders. She doesn't find out.
Bec McMaster’s fifth book in her London Steampunk series,Of Silk and Steam, takes place in an extravagant and violent steampunk version of Victorian London. In this alternate world, the Queen is controlled by the dangerously insane Prince Regent. Under his rule, Blue Bloods (a version of vampires) dominate over a whole slew of humans and supernatural creatures alike.
The World War II era is fertile soil for writers of crime fiction, and Francine Mathews follows hard on the heels of her exceptional Jack 1939 (2012) with a crackerjack espionage thriller, Too Bad to Die, both set in that time. Mathews, a former intelligence analyst for the CIA, knows all the tricks of the trade, and her novel imagines the words and actions of bona fide participants in one of the seminal events of that war—the Tehran Conference in 1943, where Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin come together to plan their final move against Nazi Germany, the invasion of Europe.
Everyone knows the possibilities of planting a garden, but in this story with a clever twist, a rabbit and mouse learn the real benefits of planting seeds. As the sun rises, the big-eyed, cute-as-a-button rabbit and mouse plant a tomato seed, a carrot seed and a cabbage seed. As the days pass with rain and shine, they tend to their seeds with love and care until they reap the rewards of juicy and crunchy vegetables.
Michele Young-Stone’s second novel, Above Us Only Sky, is a coming-of-age story set in the 1970s—with a magical twist. Prudence Eleanor Vilkas was born with wings, “heart-shaped, crinkled like a paper fan” against her newborn back. The doctor apologized; later her wings were removed, leaving only scars. Prudence’s parents divorce. She and her mother move to Florida. She struggles through her teens, wondering about her identity as a winged girl.
Bedtime at Bessie and Lil’s offers a delightful look at what bedtime routines are often really like. As Mama Rabbit diligently tries to read one of her favorite childhood books to her lovable yet active girls, Bessie practices headstands and Lil shows off her skipping abilities.
In this bedtime book that begs to be enjoyed over and over again, master writer Jane Yolen and her daughter and fellow birder, Heidi E.Y. Stemple, offer a rhythmic and cozy story that doesn’t disappoint.
It’s 1932, and Sydney’s slum, nicknamed Razorhurst for the gangsters who wield knives instead of guns, is run by two major crime lords: Mr. Davidson and Gloriana Nelson. Despite the mobs’ truce, no one is truly safe from the violence that disrupts the neighborhood, especially Kelpie, a homeless orphan who depends on the help of ghosts for her daily survival.