Reviews of the Week with Maya Rodale, Whitney Scharer, Tehlor Kay Mejia, and More!

Every weekday we feature a different review on Booklist Online. These reviews are notable for different reasons—they may be starred, or high-demand, or especially relevant to the current issue’s spotlight. We’ve collected the reviews from October 29–November 2 below.

Monday, October 29

Duchess by Design, by Maya Rodale

Adeline Black has a passion for fashion that is not being fulfilled working as a seamstress for Madame Chalfont, and fully believes that her upcoming fitting session with Miss Harriet Burnett will finally provide her with the opportunity to showcase her sartorial skills to the world at large. But Adeline’s couture career plan hits an unexpected snag when she bumps into Brandon Alexander Fiennes, Duke of Kingston, whose search for an heiress to wed has brought him to New York City. Agreeing to show Kingston around and steer him toward suitably wealthy and matrimonially minded ladies while she’s dressed in her own designs would certainly provide Adeline with plenty of free advertising, but can she trust Kingston when he says he can’t afford to fall in love with her?


Tuesday, October 30 

Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful, by Arwen Elys Dayton

Six stories meld perfectly together into one complex, eerily plausible narrative in Dayton’s newest novel. The book thoroughly integrates scientific advancements of the present and explores the achievements—and horrors—possible in the future if these advancements are built upon. In this sf world, humans are obsessed with perfection and becoming more of everything: stronger, faster, more intelligent, longer-lived, more beautiful, more resilient. Dayton allows humanity to accomplish such feats in her collection of stories, but the results aren’t the picture-perfect image most would imagine. Just as the pursuit of power can lead to malfeasance, the pursuit of perfection can foster corruption.


Wednesday, October 31

Rewrite: Loops in the Timescape, by Gregory Benford

Remember Timescape, Benford’s 1980 sf novel in which attempts to send messages into the past lead to the creation of an alternate time line? His new novel isn’t a sequel, but it does share some of Timescape’s literary DNA. After an automobile accident in the year 2000, Charlie Moment wakes up as his teenage self in 1968. Has he traveled in time? Has he been reincarnated as his younger self? As Charlie tries to understand what has happened to him, he relives his life, making deliberate changes along the way, using his knowledge of the years to come to his own advantage. He becomes a wildly successful film producer, remaking in this time line the box-office hits from his own time line.


Thursday, November 1

The Age of Light, by Whitney Scharer

The remarkable life story of photographer Lee Miller—a successful Vogue model in New York who decided she would rather “take a picture than be one” and moved to Paris in 1929 to learn what life looked like from behind the lens—has been recounted in Carolyn Burke’s superb biography, Lee Miller (2005), but Scharer’s intoxicating first novel adds depth and shade to the picture, bringing a stunning chiaroscuro effect to the saga of a woman transforming herself into an artist. Miller has often appeared as a supporting character in the story of surrealist artist Man Ray, who was her lover in Paris and who became her mentor as a photographer, but Scharer puts Miller front and center, with the result being a deeper, more compelling story.


Friday, November 2

We Set the Dark on Fire, by Tehlor Kay Mejia

In Medio, a myth tells of the Sun God, who took two wives, one wise and loyal, the other sensual and nurturing. Now, selected young women train to become the dual wives of the nation’s politicians: the Primera to be his partner in work and business, and the Segunda to run his home and family. Daniela’s poor parents lied to get her into the school, hoping to secure her a better future, and indeed, Dani has become the top Primera student, keeping her emotions in check and her forged papers a secret. Mateo, her new husband, seems strangely cold and cruel, and it doesn’t help that the family has chosen Dani’s longtime rival, Carmen, as their Segunda. But the worst comes when Dani is contacted by a resistance group and asked to spy on Mateo and politicos like him. As she learns more about Mateo’s narrow-mindedness and oppressive politics—​and as she and Carmen grow startlingly closer—Dani’s sympathy for the resistance grows, but is there even a life for her beyond this one?



About the Author:

Michael Ruzicka, Office Manager, was raised in suburban Los Angeles, received a BA in Creative Writing/Poetry at UC Santa Cruz, then moved to Birmingham, AL, where he spent five years owning an independent bookstore and earned an MLIS. He has brought his librarian skills to Vanderbilt’s Television News Archive, Battle Ground Academy, The Museum of Contemporary Art-Chicago, and the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Michael is very excited to be a part of Booklist and call Chicago his home.

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