In her novel The Gifts We Keep, Katie Grindeland layers revelations over misunderstandings to spin a complex and ultimately unsustainable web of secrets between a family, their neighbor, and the ten-year-old girl who comes to stay with them. Told from several points of view, the book explores miscommunication and its inevitable traps.
Twelve years after the death of her husband, Will, Emerson is returning home to the house that she used to share with him. It is now occupied by her mother, Eve, and her sister, Tillie, a paraplegic whose best friend is their neighbor, Henry. These four people share a powerful past that is in danger of exploding. They come together to care for Addie Long, a child sent to live with Emerson.
Grindeland gives each character their own say—each narrates at least a portion of each chapter. Secrets, characters, and new connections cascade as the chapters progress. Each chapter begins with Henry doing something and the others following suit: Henry begins, Henry reads a sign, et cetera. Though gimmicky, the approach propels the plot forward and deeply characterizes the protagonists. In the book’s explosive culmination, each character’s fate is tied up tightly.
The characters themselves don’t fall into neat delineations. Tillie finds herself floating across the spectrum of sexuality, resistant to binaries, as she gardens and moves through life without the use of her legs. Eve flits through the story, a delightful sort of butterfly with a tensile strength. Emerson and Henry, though opposites in disposition, prove painfully complex. Even little Addie has an unexpected edge.
Part thriller, part love story, part family drama, The Gifts We Keep satisfies a lot of appetites at once.
CAMILLE-YVETTE WELSCH (February 27, 2019)
Sinister and sickeningly real, Little Darlings is fairy tale-inflected horror that explores postpartum depression. This new psychological thriller is a modern reimagining of a changeling story, with consequences that touch both the magical world and our own.
Birth is a nightmare, but Lauren Tranter’s is a true horror. She delivers two healthy twins after an unbelievably hard labor. Her husband leaves her by herself in the hospital with the twins, where she struggles to breastfeed and care for the babies. The nights are the hardest, and she’s not alone.
One night, an apparition visits Lauren: a filthy woman with a black tongue who smells like a cold riverbank. The stranger offers to trade one of her twins, hidden in “rags, a nest of grey swaddling,” for one of Lauren’s. Nobody will know. And, the woman says, she is owed.
From that moment, Lauren loses her grip on reality. Even police detective Joanna Harper, who begins following Lauren after she reports the “intruder,” can’t understand why the new mother’s behavior is so unpredictable. Lauren, driven by her instincts, does battle with the fairy world—but she’s on her own, and when she becomes convinced that one or both of her babies has been taken as changelings, all bets are off.
Little Darlings is full of stomach-turning moments that touch on our deepest, most instinctive fears and fairy tales. Tense, spooky scenes arise from everyday materials. Lauren’s perspective, in particular, is blurry and self-aware. She doubts her sanity and doesn’t understand why she can’t seem to bond with her twins. She’s exhausted, worn down by an endless “long night of lifting and swiveling and feeding … cracking and bleeding and drying out only to be thrust into the hard, wet vice of her baby’s latch.” The vivid, visceral descriptions of early motherhood are realistic, which makes the novel’s fairy tale elements even more believable.
Mothers who don’t adore their babies are monstrous. In Little Darlings, Lauren fears that she’s become the worst monster of all.
CLAIRE FOSTER (February 27, 2019)
Set in a time and place when humans have already nearly destroyed the Earth once, Alex Lyttle’s The Rise of Winter is a richly imagined middle grade fantasy about a young girl who joins with a select group of animals to protect the Earth and its creatures.
Winter is a timid girl, raised by a grandmother who refuses to tell her anything about her parents. Her life is full of questions. Then she hears a bird speak. She dismisses this oddity as a figment of her imagination until she has an entire conversation with a raccoon. This starts a chain of events that leads to the discovery that her father was a Guardian, charged with protecting the Earth. Winter has been selected to take his place.
The anthropomorphized animals that fill the book exhibit personalities ranging from charming to frightening, and they add significant emotional richness to its pages. Winter’s family history, including the experiences of her parents, grandparents, and cousin Alectus lead to an exciting central conflict centered around the idea that human activity damages the Earth and must be mitigated. Winter’s story calls into question the morality of progress and innovation that exists without consideration of its consequences to Earth and Earth’s creatures.
A complex exploration of metaphysical concepts, including the manipulation of energy vibrations to influence the material world, comes in the context of Winter learning to use her special gifts. Well-thought-out explanations for these magical abilities are refreshing and fascinating.
An environmental and metaphysical fantasy, The Rise of Winter is entertaining as it introduces a new world and leaves a great deal to explore.
CATHERINE THURESON (April 25, 2019)
150 Years Retold
David A. Robertson
Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair
Richard Van Camp
Tara Audibert, illustrator
Kyle Charles, illustrator
GMB Chomichuk, illustrator
Natasha Donovan, illustrator
Scott B. Henderson, illustrator
Andrew Lodwick, illustrator
Scott A. Ford, illustrator
Donovan Yaciuk, illustrator
Ryan Howe, illustrator
Alicia Elliott, contributor
Softcover $36.00 (296pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon
Thoughtful, inspiring, and moving, This Place: 150 Years Retold collects ten tales about the Indigenous communities of Canada and their troubled relationship with the country’s non-Indigenous inhabitants.
The talented writers and artists of This Place tell stories of protest and uprising against Canada’s government, including incidents seldom discussed outside of Indigenous communities. Some protests succeeded and some failed, but This Place does more than just share historical accounts. It demonstrates how protests are intricately woven into native history and culture, which spans all the landmass of Canada.
These stories are engaging—not just as testaments to the power of grassroots political movements, but as tributes to the individuals who led them, many braving tremendous dangers and hardships to do so. Though they are always inspired by facts, fictional stories of a cannibalizing spirit, spirits and talismans, and even time travel provide variety and surprises. The story “Nimkii” might be the collection’s most memorable, with its fictionalized account of the Sixties Scoop, in which Indigenous children were taken wholesale and placed into adoption or foster care with the full support of the Canadian government.
Each story is prefaced with a brief background explanation by its author, along with a timeline listing important events within the book’s 150-year time frame. These, along with a selected bibliography for further reference, make This Place valuable as a learning tool. But first and foremost, it’s a collection of exciting, entertaining, beautifully drawn stories; as Alicia Elliott states in her foreword, “Every Indigenous person’s story is, in a way, a tale of overcoming apocalypse.”
PETER DABBENE (April 25, 2019)
The Value of Print in a Digital Age
Matthew Budman’s Book Collecting Now is both an enthusiastic, clear-eyed look at book collecting in the digital age and an info-rich primer for those who want to begin, expand, or refocus their collections.
Despite predictions, print has not fallen victim to a digital mass extinction. Book Collecting Now opens with a spirited examination of how print reading incorporates touch, scent, and eye appeal to reach beyond the digital experience. It is aimed at ordinary, non-wealthy people who collect for pleasure and personal interest, and it addresses all sorts of niche interests, including scouring flea markets for valuable texts and collecting everything from pulp science fiction to Cold War books.
The text covers the most fruitful places to look for books both online and off; how to avoid scams or paying too much; how to evaluate a book’s condition, research its publishing history, and avoid mistakes that decrease value; and how to pass along books that are no longer needed. Publishing practices and terms are explained from a collector’s viewpoint, including deciphering front matter to identify print runs and determine the dates of earlier editions.
The book ends with a realistic forecast for the future: while some reading experiences are best suited to digital (like a mystery you read while waiting for a plane or info-dense tomes that are most useful when they’re searchable), the pleasures of print are not likely to go away. Numerous mentions of both classic and contemporary titles hold the delight of stumbling across an old friend, while tempting photos of loaded shelves will have readers turning their heads sideways to spot familiar titles. The ample back matter will be helpful for getting collectors started or more honed in.
Book Collecting Now is itself a collectible gem for fans of the printed word.
SUSAN WAGGONER (April 25, 2019)