Editors’ Fall Picks

For style and subterfuge, look no further than these 36 fall books that have LJ's review editors talking

ljx140901webEdPtitleB Editors Fall Picks A few years back, I reconnected with an old friend from elementary school who declared my job “very Sex and the City.” Sorry to say, we’re not exactly wearing ­Mahnolos at LJ, but we do soak up our share of glamour and intrigue through books, and this season, you can, too. See below for stylish upcoming titles such as Bohemians, Bootleggers, Flappers, and Swells: The Best of Early Vanity Fair; Vogue and the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute—Parties, Exhibitions, People; and Tales of Two Cities: The Best and Worst of Times in Today’s New York. Readers can even learn to create their own fabulousness with Vintage Knit: 25 Knitting & Crochet Patterns Refashioned for Today and cookbook Persiana. For intrigue, I’m particularly looking forward to The Forgers (grisly murder, anyone?), Say Yes to the Marquess (a “determined female vs. a rake and prizefighter”), and How the Scoundrel Seduces (“a family secret that could have catastrophic consequences”)…sign me up!—Henrietta Verma

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Correspondence and crafts

As I prepped to write this, I realized that many of the upcoming titles I’m excited about involve communication—be it interviews or letters or examinations of how we interact—and crafts. Here are some I find particularly interesting.

“I had to put down By the Book: Writers on Literature and the Literary Life from The New York Times Book Review (Holt, Oct.),” edited by Pamela Paul, “to do real work,” I wrote to one of LJ’s literature reviewers. She helpfully agreed to review the book. The astute unabridged interviews feature a wide range of nonfiction and fiction writers such as Dan Savage, Neil Gaiman, and J.K. Rowling.

Another upcoming interview collection worth noting is Daniel Rachel’s The Art of Noise: Conversations with Great Songwriters (Griffin: St. Martin’s, Oct.). Originally published in the UK, it’s a thick volume that boasts new and in-depth interviews with 27 British songwriters whose popularity spans decades—everyone from Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe (Pet Shop Boys) to Noel Gallagher (Oasis) and Lily Allen talk about their craft. Read it cover to cover or skip around to your favorite artists.

As for books on how we interact, one that seems to blend social science with pop culture and memoir is Nev Schulman’s In Real Life: Love, Lies & Identity in the Digital Age (Grand Central, Sept.; Prepub Alert, 3/17/14). Schulman hosts MTV’s Catfish: The TV Show, which investigates whether people are in online relationships with someone legitimate or a “catfish,” defined by Merriam-Webster as “a person who sets up a false personal profile on a social networking site for fraudulent or deceptive purposes.” Here he provides insights into the show and people’s motivations for catfishing.

I’m also starting to think about fall crafting projects. One book on my radar is Vintage Knit: 25 Knitting & Crochet Patterns Refashioned for Today (Laurence King, Sept.) by Marine Malak with Geraldine Warner. It’s well organized and offers large photos, including one of the original piece that inspired each pattern; also helpful is that instructions for color-work are both written out and charted. I can’t wait to try out the Two-Colour Spot Jersey. But, should this go awry, as I unravel my project and cast-on again I’ll keep close at hand a copy of Heather Mann’s CraftFail: When Homemade Goes Horribly Wrong (Workman, Oct.). Based on the blog of the same name, it makes light of disastrous crafting escapades. “They come out squashed and torn and look like something one might use to scrub feet,” laments the caption of a tissue paper flower. Try, try again.—Amanda Mastrull

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Rumor and reflection

Bohemians, Bootleggers, Flappers, and Swells: The Best of Early Vanity Fair (Penguin, Oct.) celebrates the 100th anniversary of the publication by highlighting its notable works from the 1910s to the 1930s. The most captivating aspect of this collection is that it features works written by several authors before they reached their peak. Included are sonnets by Edna St. Vincent Millay three years before she won a Pulitzer, a screenplay by F. Scott Fitzgerald five years before the release of The Great Gatsby, and an article by A.A. Milne—four years before Winnie-the-Pooh—detailing his life as a struggling writer. Also on hand are founding members of the Algonquin Round Table such as Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, and Robert E. Sherwood, of The Hunchback of Notre-Dame fame. Most amusing is e.e. cumming’s “When Calvin Coolidge Laughed,” a satirical account of the pandemonium—complete with falling skyscrapers and raging fires—that ensued after this fake event happened. Historians will appreciate writers’ serious reflections on World War I, Prohibition, and the stock market crash of 1929, as well as Janet Flanner’s biographical article on executioners’ families in Paris.

The doings of the Byron family were drawing room fodder in Victorian England thanks to Lord Byron’s affairs with members of both sexes. The debt-ridden poet strategically married wealthy Annabella Milbanke, but his carelessness led her to escape to the countryside with newborn Ada. Meanwhile, Byron eluded his creditors by journeying to France, never to return. The gossipy biography Ada’s Algorithm: How Lord Byron’s Daughter Ada Lovelace Launched the Digital Age (Melville House, Oct.) details how Byron’s only legitimate daughter studied mathematics as a child, an attempt by Annabella to counter the indiscipline she loathed in her estranged husband. Ada’s interest in the subject grew after meeting Charles ­Babbage, Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University. Their frequent meetings led her to translate a paper on his analytical engine (the first mechanical computer) for Scientific Memoirs, adding meaningful explanations on the machine’s algebraic operations, yet the scientific community ignored her because of her gender. (Ada posthumously had a programming language named after her.)

Coming in November is Kate Williams’s Ambition and Desire: The Dangerous Life of Josephine Bonaparte (Ballantine; Prepub Alert, 6/12/14). Born into a once-prosperous plantation family in Martinique, Joséphine was sent to France as a teenager to marry a family friend. (Her father’s philandering and gambling repelled potential suitors at home.) This is the story of how the unhappy marriage between Joséphine and her licentious husband, Alexandre—who barely acknowledged his legitimate children and relegated his wife to a convent—created the formidable persona she is known for today. Alexandre was executed during the French Revolution and his then-imprisoned wife was only spared owing to the downfall of Maximilien de Robespierre. Suddenly destitute, she subsisted by servicing—selling herself to notables, including an army commander and benefactor of young solider Napoleon Bonaparte. Williams provides an informal yet intimate look at the troubled relationship between Napoleon and the older woman who would become his wife and de facto political advisor. Napoleon’s family never warmed to the calculating widow who was unable to produce an heir, causing Napoleon to discard her for Marie-Louise of Austria. A scandalous and satisfying story for those who enjoy the seamier side of history.—Stephanie Sendaula

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Con men, comfort food, cardiology

If the books haven’t mysteriously “disappeared” from your collection, your patrons may have enjoyed recent titles on creative knavery such as Charlie Lovett’s The Bookman’s Tale (LJ 4/15/13), B.A. Shapiro’s The Art Forger (LJ 8/12), and Michael Blanding’s The Map Thief (LJ 6/1/14). That proud tradition is continued in Bradford Morrow’s The Forgers (Mysterious: Grove Atlantic, Nov.; LJ 8/14), which investigates the grisly murder of a second-rate forger. With the opening line, “They never found his hands,” this work relays to readers from the first that this is no cozy. It takes one to know one, they say, and when the narrator, a forger himself, realizes that the police have a murder confession in “his handwriting,” he knows he’s met his match.

Colm Tóibín’s Nora Webster (Scribner, Oct.; Prepub Alert, 4/7/14) explores what happens when the person who enables a family to communicate is gone. Nora, newly widowed, barely knows how to support her young sons, let alone get through to her grown daughters. Making matters worse is the never-ending stream of local well-wishers, some of whom rather ghoulishly have the family under a microscope, while others undermine Nora’s parenting at every turn as they “help.” The novel overall is a deep exploration of a woman in crisis; it particularly shines when Nora’s defenses break down—a searing dream sequence toward the end of the book, especially, is three-time Man Booker Award–­nominated Tóibín (The Blackwater Lightship; The Master; The Testament of Mary) at his best.

After that you’ll be ready for some comfort food. 1001 Restaurants You Must Experience Before You Die (Barron’s, Oct.) features eateries in the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Oceania. Each entry lists the restaurant’s name, city, and a guide to menu costs; provides a short description of what the restaurant offers—everything from “Great fish and fries from a cherished seafood shack” (Go Fish in Vancouver) to “A temple of world gastronomy” (Pierre Gagnaire in Paris)—and a few paragraphs of rapture by someone who’s eaten there. But forget all of that—the sumptuous photos make the book.

Histories that describe a place or a time through objects have flourished over the past few years, and they’re fascinating. Following books such as Fintan O’Toole’s A History of the World in 100 Objects (Viking, 2011), A History of Ireland in 100 Objects (LJ 5/1/13), and Harold Holzer’s The Civil War in 50 Objects (Viking, 2013) is Sam Roberts’s A History of New York in 101 Objects (S. & S., Sept.; Prepub Alert, 3/31/14), which promises more of the same browsing fun (and should inspire some kvetching, as only New Yorkers can, about what was left out). Speaking of stuff, I’m also looking forward to James Ward’s The Perfection of the Paperclip: Curious Tales of Invention, Accidental Genius, and Stationery Obsession (Touchstone, May 2015), which will explore the intrigues behind the stuff on your desk.

Imagine being the cardiologists who in 1968 discovered why blood doesn’t swish backward after it flows through the aorta and published their breakthrough…only to realize they had been scooped by Leonardo da Vinci in 1513. Or the first person to dissect a human heart and discover that God’s plan for the former owner was not written on the organ’s lining, as was thought. For a compelling history of attempts to understand and treat the heart, as well as the body generally, and an equally absorbing and simple explanation of how “the meat in the middle of you” works, see Rob Dunn’s The Man Who Touched His Own Heart (Little, Brown, Feb. 2015).—­Henrietta Verma

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Cooling off

After a long hot, humid summer, I always look forward to getting back in the kitchen when the weather cools down. Late 2014 and early 2015 are going to be good to fans of female chefs working in New York City, with upcoming cookbooks Milk Bar Life (Clarkson Potter, Apr. 2015) by Christina Tosi of the restaurant Momofuku Milk Bar and A Girl and Her Greens (Ecco: HarperCollins, Mar. 2015) by the Spotted Pig’s April Bloomfield. Memoir Blood, Bones, and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef (LJ 7/11) by Gabrielle Hamilton of the eatery Prune garnered generous praise when it came out three years ago, both for the thoughtful way she writes about food and cooking and for her distinctive, no-nonsense voice. Hamilton’s memoir culminates with the opening of her restaurant in New York City and with this November’s release of Prune (Random). Fans of the author, the restaurant, and delicious things in general will be able to re-create at home dishes such as cardamom panna cotta with roasted black plums and fresh English and sugar snap peas with wasabi butter and ­honeycomb.

Sabrina Ghayour’s Persiana (Interlink, Nov.) looks like one of the best of the upcoming bumper crop of Middle Eastern cookbooks. In her gorgeously photographed first cookbook, the London-based chef shares more than 100 recipes for interesting but accessible dishes such as lamb and sour cherry meatballs; tomato salad with pomegranate molasses; and radish, cucumber, and red onion salad with mint and orange blossom dressing.

When I hear that Alice Medrich (Pure Dessert; Seriously Bittersweet) has a new book out, it’s all I can do to keep myself from running to the nearest bookstore and shouting, “Shut up and take my money!” at whoever’s behind the counter. Flavor Flours (Artisan, Nov.) uses such nonwheat flours as rice, oat, corn, buckwheat, chestnut, teff, sorghum, and coconut to play with flavor and texture in recipes for both classic and new baked goods. I’m especially anticipating trying out a date-nut loaf made with buckwheat flour and, if I’m extra ambitious this holiday season, the chestnut-flour buche de noel.

Naturally, I’ll want to have some good audiobooks on deck to keep me entertained while I’m chopping and stirring. I can’t wait to listen to Karen Abbott’s nonfiction work Liar Temptress Soldier Spy (Harper Audio, Sept.; LJ 9/15/14), which follows four female spies over the course of the Civil War, and The Rosie Effect (S. &. S. Audio, Dec.), Graeme Simsion’s sequel to last year’s thoroughly charming The Rosie Project (LJ 9/1/13).—Stephanie Klose

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Contrasts, confessions

Like many of my fellow New Yorkers, I was outraged to read about the city’s recent approval of a plan to build luxury housing on the Upper West Side with a separate entrance, “a poor door,” for low-income residents. Welcome to the New Gilded Age, I thought. How have we come to this? Where are our crusading authors and journalists—our Nelly Blys, our Theodore Dreisers, and Upton Sinclairs—who will expose and examine the growing economic and social inequality between rich and poor? An answer: former Granta editor John Freeman has recruited some of today’s best writers—Garnette Cadogan, Teju Cole, Junot Díaz, Dave Eggers, Hannah Tinti, Lydia Davis, and Edmund White—to contribute to Tales of Two Cities: The Best and Worst of Times in Today’s New York (OR Bks., Oct.), a mix of fiction and reportage that explores life in a city marked by stark contrasts, where luxury pet spas line the same blocks as job-lot stores, where the wealthy dine in expensive restaurants while the homeless comb through garbage cans for redeemable soda bottles and cans. A portion of the book’s sales, says the publisher, will go to the AIDS organization Housing Works. I preordered my copy. How about you?

“Perry and Baby Girl were in the car they’d stolen not half an hour before. A red Mazda. Looked fancier than it was, had to use hand cranks to put the windows down.” When it comes to fiction, I’m always a sucker for a strong narrative voice that pulls me immediately into the story, and Ugly Girls (Farrar, Nov.), a tough but tender debut novel by acclaimed short story writer Lindsay Hunter (Don’t Kiss Me; Daddy’s), has it in spades. Teenage friends Perry, “who looked like some garden fairy,” and Baby Girl, “who wasn’t as pretty as Perry but meaner,” spend their days—and nights—cutting school, stealing cars for joyrides, eating fries at Denny’s, and texting Jamey, a high school boy who friended the girls on Facebook. But Perry and Baby Girl’s competitive relationship spirals into chaos when they discover that Jamey, who is obsessed with Perry, may not be who he says he is.

Two historical novels caught my eye this season: Suzannah Dunn’s The May Bride: A Novel of Tudor England (Pegasus, Oct.) and Cecelia Ekbäck’s Wolf Winter (Weinstein, Jan. 2015). After so many literary trips to the Tudor history well, it might seem writers would find it bone dry. Yet as Hilary Mantel proved with her Man Booker Award–winning Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, there are still fresh stories to be drawn from an always fascinating period in English history. Dunn (The Confession of Katherine Howard) finds it in the little-known scandal that rocked the family of Henry VIII’s third wife, Jane Seymour, when the future Queen of England was 15 years old. A shy, awkward teenager, Jane is dazzled by her older brother Edward’s new bride, the vivacious Katherine ­Filliol. But she is devastated two years later when Edward sends his wife to a nunnery after it is revealed that Katherine had an affair with Jane and Edward’s father.

Moving ahead to 1700s Swedish Lapland, Ekbäck’s atmospheric debut historical thriller revolves around a family of Finns who have migrated to their uncle’s farm. When the two daughters, while herding goats, discover the mutilated body of one of their new neighbors, their mother is certain the man was murdered even though the community had dismissed his death as a wolf attack. In terms of tone and mood, the novel is being compared to Eowyn Ivy’s The Snow Child and Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites.—Wilda Williams

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Icons and illustrations

I have accepted that I will never be invited to one of Vogue magazine’s fashion galas held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the “fashion party of the season”—not even as a grubby journalist or plus-one. But now I have a consolation prize: Vogue & the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute—Parties, Exhibitions, People (Abrams, Sept.) by Vogue International editor at large Hamish Bowles and edited by Chloe Malle, the magazine’s social editor. This beautiful book concentrates on the exhibitions and galas of the 21st century, including the 2005 show Chanel and the blockbuster 2011 exhibition devoted to Alexander McQueen, Savage Beauty. The stories and coverage of the balls and the expositions come from Vogue’s extensive archives and showcase the photographic work of icons Annie Leibovitz and Steven Meisel; the fashion/editorial vision of Vogue editors such as Grace Coddington and Tonne Goodman; a foreword by the director and CEO of the Met, Thomas P. Campbell; and an introduction by Anna Wintour herself. That’s some pretty swell company, and I don’t even have to worry about what to wear!

Another thing I have finally come to terms with is that Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain is really dead—20 years gone, unbelievably. Kurt ­Cobain: The Last Session (Thames & Hudson, Nov.; Prepub Alert, 4/14/14) by photographer Jesse Frohman and others (more about them later) is a lovely homage to the troubled Cobain, who committed suicide in April 1994. The book’s 90 photos—25 in color, some never before published—are from what would turn out to be Cobain’s last professional photo shoot, and they’re accompanied by an interview that “punk historian” Jon Savage (author of Teenage) conducted with ­Cobain for a 1993 article in London’s Observer Magazine as well as additional editorial by Glenn O’Brien, a fashion/music/art chronicler with an impressive pedigree (Interview, Rolling Stone, Oui, High Times, GQ, etc. etc.!).

My only fiction pick this fall is based on a true story: that of songwriter-for-hire Cynthia Weil, who won a ton of Grammys and penned (with her husband and writing partner, Barry Mann) such 1960s hits as “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin,’ ” “We Gotta Get Out of This Place,” and “On Broadway,” to name just a few. I’m Glad I Did (Soho Teen, Jan. 2015) is Weil’s first novel, and if it’s as catchy as even one of her songs, it’s sure to be a No. 1 hit. The publicist’s elevator pitch goes like this: “YA Mad Men with murder, set in the legendary Brill Building.” Did I mention that Weil worked with music producer, songwriter, and convicted murderer Phil Spector? Hmmm.

Also upcoming are two witty and wonderful illustrated works: 101 Two-Letter Words (Norton, Oct.) features singer/songwriter Stephin Merritt’s (of Magnetic Fields) odes to all the two-letter words allowed in the Scrabble and Words with Friends games. Each poem by Merritt is accompanied by an illustration by New Yorker cartoonist extraordinaire Roz Chast. That’s a duo to be reckoned with! Then unsung enablers of greatness, including Andy Warhol’s mom, Dostoyevsky’s wife, and Harper Lee’s patrons, finally get their 15 minutes in The Who, the What, and the When: 65 Artists Illustrate the Secret Sidekicks of History (Chronicle, Nov.).—Liz French

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Past tense & a tense present

The HarperCollins library marketing team was in fine form and fine feathers in Las Vegas at the American Library Association (ALA) annual conference. Among the titles the ladies buzzed was the latest from David ­Nicholls, Us (Harper, Nov. 2014; Prepub Alert, 5/12/14). Biochemist Douglas Petersen faces a crisis when his artist wife Connie, in bed at 4 a.m., tells him that after 24 years of marriage she is thinking of leaving him. The family is about to embark on a Grand Tour of Europe; their 17-year-old son, Albie, is starting college in the fall. An altercation with a guest in their Amsterdam hotel sends Albie off on his own, with the ever reliable Douglas in hot pursuit. I just adored Nicholls’s One Day, though I never got to see the film. His new work is another heart-tugger about love, happiness, family, and learning to let go. Weepy-eyed on the subway seems to be my constant state these days. Thanks, David.

One title presented at the Random House ALA book buzz especially piqued my interest: debut author Allen Eskens’s coming-of-age novel, The Life We Bury (Seventh Street, Oct.). College freshman Joe Talbert is new to the big city, having recently left his hometown and his alcoholic mother’s mania. Sadly, his younger brother, Jeremy, who suffers from autism, is among the jetsam of Joe’s former life. To complete a project for his biography class, Joe heads to the Hillview Manor retirement home, assuming he’ll find a willing interview subject among the elderly residents. What he doesn’t expect is convicted murderer and rapist Carl Iverson, out on parole now that he is dying of pancreatic cancer. Eskens’s first-person narration grabs the reader and never relinquishes its hold. Do things go a bit too easily for our young hero? Perhaps. But the nonstop puzzle solving and unrelenting tension offer a huge payoff.

Then there’s Mary Balogh (rhymes with Kellogg; I asked her). I first became familiar with her work when I fell upon her book Slightly Married, part of her six-volume historical romance “Bedwyn” series. Her new “Survivors’ Club” titles concern six men and one woman damaged (psychologically and physically) during the Peninsular Wars. Years later, they continue to meet annually to reinforce their recovery, move on with their lives, and find romance, of course. Only ­Enchanting, the fourth book in the series (Signet, Nov.), is the story of Flavian Arnott, Viscount Ponsonby, suffering memory loss and a stammer after a head wound and being thrown from his horse. He does remember, though, the woman he met last autumn at a house party, thinking her “enchanting.” Back in the area for the club’s reunion, ­Flavian discovers Mrs. Agnes Keeping is still enchanting and a good deal more. I asked Berkley/NAL associate director of publicity and marketing Erin Galloway about Balogh’s move from Bantam Doubleday Dell (e.g., The Escape, LJ 6/15/14) to NAL’s Signet. “NAL vice president and editorial director Claire Zion is a longtime fan of Mary’s work. NAL originally published Mary in the Signet Regency line, and we’re thrilled to welcome her back with the ‘Survivors’ Club’ series,” Galloway says. My recommendation is to read Balogh, devour Balogh, become addicted to Balogh. You will find yourself in excellent company.

Last, but never least, is the next title in Tessa Dare’s “Castles Ever After” series (after Romancing the Duke, LJ 2/15/14). In Say Yes to the Marquess (Avon, Jan. 2015), Clio Whitmore goes toe-to-toe with her soon-to-be brother-in-law, Rafe Brandon, over her plans to break her engagement to his brother. Determined female vs. a rake and prizefighter; place your bets. And fall in love with librarian Dare.—Bette-Lee Fox

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No promises but a happy ending

Captivated by the enduring appeal of the romance novel, I’m hardly interested in reading anything else. Naturally, part of it is the promise of a happy ending, but the ultimate draw is the guarantee of following intricately developed characters on a journey, always to the final page.

Sabrina Jeffries (When the Rogue ­Returns, LJ 2/15/14) delivers both intrigue and bliss with her third book in the “Duke’s Men” series, How the ­Scoundrel Seduces (Pocket, Sept.; LJ 8/14). The story centers on identity as well as on coming to terms with our choices and the risks we take to protect the ones we love. Lady Zoe Keane has learned of a family secret that could have catastrophic results if proven true. She stands to lose everything—her title as countess, the land she lives for, and her dream of marrying for love—when she hires the Duke’s Men to investigate her background. Tristan Bonnaud is perfect for the job but has ulterior motives regarding his own upbringing as the “bastard” son of a viscount and being cheated out of his inheritance. Sharp-witted and deliciously unpredictable, Zoe and Tristan make a stunning pair; their future is not sealed, however, until they can answer “why” they chose each other. The rich Regency-era setting and potent writing prove a seductive combination.

Another love story that held me in anticipation until the end is Audrey Magee’s debut novel, The Undertaking (Grove, Sept.; LJ 7/14). When Peter Faber and Katharina Spinell take their wedding vows, she’s in Berlin and he’s in the trenches on the eastern front. Their eventual union is binding if short-lived, and while the bulk of the novel depicts their lives apart—Katharina experiencing motherhood in Hitler’s Germany and Peter fighting in Russia, both promising to stay alive to see the end of the war and each other—the reader will feel the edge, desperately hoping for the family to reunite. The unusual focus on the German perspective of World War II is also compelling. Irish journalist Magee has risen to a challenge, using Katharina and Peter’s relationship to probe the meaning of commitment, the unforgettable costs of war, and the conditions we place on forgiveness, showing how love is indeed a battlefield—one that breaks us down in order to build us up.—Annalisa Pesek

Bette-Lee Fox is Managing Editor and Stephanie Klose is Media Editor, LJ. Liz French is Senior Editor, Amanda Mastrull is Assistant Editor, Annalisa Pesek is Assistant Managing Editor, Stephanie Sendaula is Associate Editor, Henrietta Verma is Editor, and Wilda Williams is Fiction Editor, LJ Reviews

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