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april 2014

america’s book review

discover your next

great book

Books bring transformation—and love— to a lonely bookseller in Gabrielle Zevin’s big-hearted and unforgettable novel


in this


New books from: Barbara Ehrenreich • Julia Glass • Tatiana de Rosnay • Emma Donoghue Lorrie Moore • Frances Mayes • Bob Mankoff • Donna Leon • Maggie Shipstead • Nora Roberts

paperback picks PENGUIN.COM

Dead Ever After When a shocking murder rocks Bon Temps, Sookie Stackhouse will learn that what passes for the truth is only a convenient lie. What passes for justice is more spilled blood. And what passes for love is never enough... 9780425256398 • $7.99

Wild Wolf Graham McNeil knows that his pack is unruly, but he’s not sure he can take the next step toward Shiftertown stability—choosing a new mate. And even if he was inclined to bind himself again, his girlfriend, Misty, is human. Graham must now defend his leadership and save Misty before Shiftertown is pulled into an all-out war. 9780425266045 • $7.99

The Mystery Woman Joshua Gage knows one thing: Beatrice Lockwood, a flame-haired beauty, was present the night Roland Fleming died at the Academy of the Occult. Guilty or not, she is his guide to a trail of blood and blackmail, mesmerism, and madness—a path that will lead both of them into the clutches of a killer who calls himself the Bone Man… 9780515154214 • $7.99

Angel City Katherine Taylor, ex-escort, and Jay Harper, private detective, no longer remember the cosmic battle they fought against the Nephilim. In fact, the only memory of the events of their pasts takes the form of a child, Katherine’s infant son, Max, who has, unbeknownst to anyone, stirred the interest of the same vengeful spirits. 9780451416803 • $9.99

Betting the Rainbow When a poker tournament comes to town, Dusti Delaney is determined to win enough money to leave Rainbow Lane. She enlists Kieron O’Brian to teach her and sparks begin to fly. After a year of traveling, Ronny Logan is settling into her home on Rainbow Lane. She refuses to fall for anyone, regardless of the chemistry she has with her neighbor Austin Hawk… 9780425268407 • $7.99

Dark Lycan In time, Tatijana and Fenris will discover all that unites them—their secrets and pasts, their predators, and the hot flush of passion that stirs their souls. Yet just as surely, they’ll also discover everything ancient and evil that exists to destroy them. 9780515154238 • $7.99

Circle of Blood Samantha Ryan travels to New Orleans to confront Lilith Black, the witch who has been mercilessly shaping events around her for months. But little does Samantha know that her own nightmarish past and Lilith’s are inescapably intertwined—and that what Lilith wants most of all is for Samantha to suffer until her final breath… 9780451240149 • $7.99

Decadence In the intimately private club Decadence, secret desires become reality and Nia’s ability to distinguish truth from fantasy becomes increasingly blurred. Seduced into the extremes of Decadence, Nia soon discovers that abandoning all caution in pursuit of your hedonistic fantasies can carry a devastating price. 9780451466525 • $16.00

“A deliciously addictive, cinematically influenced page-turner, both comic and provocative.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review) With a few strokes of the keys that sit before her, she can send a person away for life in prison. A typist in a New York City Police Department precinct on the Lower East Side, Rose is like a high priestess. Confessions are her job. The criminals admit to their transgressions, and Rose records their crimes. It is 1923, and while she may hear every detail about shootings, knifings, and murders, as soon as she leaves the interrogation room she is once again the weaker sex, best suited for filing and making coffee. It is a new era for women, and New York City is a confusing time for Rose. Gone are the Victorian standards of what is acceptable. All around her, women bob their hair short like men, they smoke, they go to speakeasies. But prudish Rose is stuck in the fading light of yesteryear, searching for the nurturing companionship that eluded her childhood and clinging to the Victorian ideal of sisterhood. When glamorous Odalie, a new girl, joins the typing pool, despite her best intentions Rose falls under Odalie’s spell. As the two women navigate between the sparkling underworld of speakeasies by night, and their work at the station by day, Rose is drawn fully into Odalie’s high stakes world. And her fascination with Odalie turns into an obsession from which she may never recover…


Penguin Group (USA)

9780425268421 • $16.00


APRIL 2014 B O O K PA G E . C O M




An outspoken atheist ponders her mystical experiences

Miss Julia returns!

Gabrielle Zevin

Zevin’s captivating new novel, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, is a love letter to all things literary.

13 BOB MANKOFF Meet the author of How About Never—Is Never Good for You?

14 POETRY Four collections in time for National Poetry Month

15 BASEBALL America’s favorite pastime

16 EASTER Reinvigorate the spirit

23 SHORT STORIES New collections make a big splash

25 FRANCES MAYES A Southern memoir


Cover illustration © Jim Tierney Author photo © Hans Canosa

reviews 17 FICTION

top pick:

Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead

also reviewed:

And the Dark Sacred Night by Julia Glass You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld Mimi Malloy, at Last! by Julia MacDonnell Vintage by Susan Gloss Love and Treasure by Ayelet Waldman

In Paradise by Peter Matthiessen Be Safe I Love You by Cara Hoffman Sedition by Katharine Grant No Book but the World by Leah Hager Cohen The Other Story by Tatiana de Rosnay Frog Music by Emma Donoghue Worst. Person. Ever. by Douglas Coupland

An adventurous tale inspired by Scandinavian folklore

31 CHILDREN’S POETRY Rhyming fun for little ones

31 JAMES McMULLAN Meet the author-illustrator of Leaving China


top pick:

Under Magnolia by Frances Mayes

also reviewed:

Savage Harvest by Carl Hoffman Stronger by Jeff Bauman with Bret Witter The Bohemians by Ben Tarnoff The Remedy by Thomas Goetz

New Life, No Instructions by Gail Caldwell Gandhi Before India by Ramachandra Guha Things a Little Bird Told Me by Biz Stone



top pick:

top pick:

also reviewed:

also reviewed:

Noggin by John Corey Whaley

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira The Here and Now by Ann Brashares Going Over by Beth Kephart

Maggi and Milo by Juli Brenning Tap Tap Boom Boom by Elizabeth Bluemle Tools Rule! by Aaron Meshon Lantern Sam and the Blue Streak Bandits by Michael D. Beil The Riverman by Aaron Starmer

Praise for Miss Julia to the Rescue: “DELIGHTFUL . . . Those who like smiles with their crimes will be satisfied.” —Publishers Weekly

Now in paperback



Michael A. Zibart

Sukey Howard



Julia Steele

Allison Hammond



Lynn L. Green

Roger Bishop



Trisha Ping

Penny Childress



Joelle Herr

Elizabeth Grace Herbert



Cat Acree

Angela J. Bowman



Hilli Levin

Mary Claire Zibart




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Miss Julia Stirs Up Trouble OfficialAnnBRoss


04 04 05 06 07 08 08 09


It’s summer in Abbotsville, and Miss Julia has visions of enjoying a life of leisure. But before she can even sip some iced tea on her front porch, she learns that she’ll have to teach a long-lost cousin’s granddaughter how to become a lady.









A true man of letters


Was John Updike one of America’s great writers or merely, as Harold Bloom famously said, “a minor novelist with a major style”? In Updike, his meticulously detailed and highly readable new biography—the first full-fledged life of the writer, who died in 2009—Adam Begley makes a convincing case for the former view while providing a rich account of the events that shaped Updike’s fiction. Like his contemporary Philip Roth, Updike drew nakedly on his own life in his work, often relying on what Begley calls “bare fact, artfully arranged.” His autobiographical, not to say confessional, style of writing—navel-gazing, albeit on the highest plane—is why some critics perceive his work as less than canonical. Conversely, it is why many readers devoured his New Yorker stories as they appeared and eagerly awaited each new novel. Updike’s transcendent prose could elevate everyday experience into a realm well beyond the ordinary. His unabashed honesty—oddly selfindulgent yet self-critical—is hard to resist, even as he exposes his own (mostly marital) transgressions with uncomfortable candor. What Begley does well in Updike is connect the dots between the work and the life. In many cases, they are actual dots on the map—in particular, three places that would figure time and again in Updike’s work: Shillington, the small Pennsylvania town where he spent the first part of childhood; the farm in nearby Plowville, where his mother moved the reluctant family when he was 13; and Ipswich, Massachusetts, where he and his first wife, Mary, raised their four children until their divorce. Updike revisits one or more of these locales, in barely masked guises, in many of his novels and dozen of stories, and Begley underscores how each marked him as a man and artist. The outlines of the story are known to any Updike reader. A precocious child encouraged by a mother with her own unfulfilled literary ambitions, young John dreamed of someday working at The New Yorker. He was barely out of Harvard when that dream became a reality. A versatile and nimble writer, his talents perfectly suited the magazine at midcentury, but he left after a short time to devote himself to the

An Oxford idyll

life of a freelance writer, proving wildly successful— both critically and commercially—in short order. Ensconced in Ipswich, north of Boston, he and Mary became part of a social group that soon migrated from cocktail parties and weekend sports to bed-hopping and marital discord. Updike documented all of this misadventure with painstaking frankness. His notorious novel Couples, about the sexual shenanigans in a town that was clearly Ipswich, was published in 1968 and reportedly earned him a million dollars. Given the serial adultery, the at times blissful and other times painful marriage to Mary—which unravels before readers’ eyes in his stunning Maple stories and in countless others—was doomed to fail. His second marriage to Martha, the woman for whom he left Mary, is given less attention. She clearly did not cooperate with the writing of the book (unlike Mary, who is the first person Begley thanks in the acknowledgments). Hence, Updike’s last 30-some years are given a lessthorough treatment than the first 40, which may be the one fault in this otherwise impressive biography. Largely admiring, Begley offers an evenhanded portrait of Updike as highly intelligent, diligent in his work habits, impish in humor and generally kind, that nonetheless does not whitewash his less admirable traits—the adultery, of course, but also his quiet ambition and the collateral damage left in the wake as he recycled the personal into art. It is an occupational hazard that many great writers face, but Updike perhaps more than most.

UPDIKE By Adam Begley

Harper $29.99, 576 pages ISBN 9780061896453 eBook available


Charles Finch, author of a series of successful mysteries set in Victorian England, has turned to literary fiction. The Last Enchantments (Macmillan Audio, $39.99, 11 hours, ISBN 9781427241382) is Will Baker’s first-person account of his year at Oxford. He’s 25, way past a junior year abroad or a Wanderjahr. But Will, a privileged New York WASP with a Yale and Andover pedigree, is looking for something, maybe his adult self, maybe a new beginning, though he’s hardly begun. Bruised by spending months with the failed Kerry presidential campaign, not sure if his lovely live-in girlfriend is

his true soul mate, he goes to Oxford to study English lit for a year. The Oxford that Finch evokes is a dreamily beautiful place, graced with sprawling lawns, punts on the river, pints in the college pub, lots of sex (sorry, hookups) and great camaraderie all wrapped in the coddled atmosphere of perpetual youth. Will makes great friends, falls for a gorgeous English girl who toys with his affections in the same way he toys with the heartfelt affections of the girl he left behind, and actually does a bit of academic work. Reader Luke Daniels gets all the accents right and makes these last youthful enchantments compellingly real.

A DEEPER GAME If you didn’t meet Leo Maxwell in Bear Is Broken, the first in Lachlan Smith’s new legal thriller series, you’ll catch up on his background story in a flash as you get into Lion Plays Rough (HighBridge Audio, $29.95, 6.5 hours, ISBN 9781622311866). Leo, now working in his older brother Teddy’s ex-wife’s law office, still caring for Teddy as he slowly relearns how to live after being shot in the head, thinks he’s been handed the first big case of his fledgling career. A beautiful woman wants him to defend her jailbird brother, falsely accused of murder. But when Leo checks in, nothing checks out. He’s been set up and

is sinking deeper and deeper into a mire of deceit, duplicity and drug-dealing police corruption. And as the line between prey and perp blurs, Leo’s longevity is in serious doubt. Told in staccato prose, perfectly mirrored by R.C. Bray’s noir-tinged narration, Smith’s tautly twisted plot moves at a fast, cut-to-the-chase pace.

TOP PICK IN AUDIO If you can tell a book by its cover, then Robert Gates’ sober, serious face staring at you from both the hardcover and audio of Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War leaves no doubt that this man is going to tell it as he saw it. And it was this candor that enveloped the book and the man in a pre-pub tsunami of hype, gripe and questions about the efficacy of publicly assessing a sitting president and his closest advisors, including his much-quoted remarks about Joe Biden. No matter where you stand on this issue, Gates’ take on his four unique bipartisan years as Secretary of Defense—two for George W. Bush, two for Obama—is a fascinating immersion into what actually goes on in Washington’s labyrinthian corridors of power. He has a lot to get off his chest about what he came to abhor (e.g. our gridlocked, self-absorbed Congress) and about the troops he came to love, increasingly affected by having to send young Americans to war, to die or be maimed physically and psychologically. In all honesty, I’m not sure I would have had the stamina to read Duty’s more than 600 pages, but I listened to George Newbern’s memorably modulated reading with abiding interest; a great example of how audio can, at times, trump print.

DUTY By Robert M. Gates

Random House Audio $60, 25.5 hours ISBN 9780804148627


Selected from nominations made by library staff across the country, here are the 10 books that librarians can’t wait to share with readers in April.


THE STORIED LIFE OF A. J. FIKRY by Gabrielle Zevin Algonquin, $24.95, ISBN 9781616203214

In Zevin’s salute to the power of books, a surprising discovery between the shelves of a faltering bookstore transforms the lives of the store owner and his friends. BookPage interview on page 11.


“No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World.” A. J. Fikry is about to discover what that means.

FROG MUSIC by Emma Donoghue

Little, Brown, $27, ISBN 9780316324687 The author of Room crafts an intriguing 19th-century mystery. When Jenny is shot dead from a saloon window, her friend is determined to find out why. BookPage review on page 21.


Pantheon, $26.95, ISBN 9780307377937 The National Book Award-winning author revisits characters from her earlier novels in this compelling story about the quest for an unknown father. BookPage review on page 17.

SILENCE FOR THE DEAD by Simone St. James

NAL, $14, ISBN 9780451419484 When Kitty begins work in 1919 as a nurse at a remote hospital for World War I veterans, she finds strange things afoot: empty rooms, ghostly breezes and patients who all seem to have the same nightmare.

BY ITS COVER by Donna Leon

Atlantic Monthly, $26, ISBN 9780802122643 When pages are stolen from rare books in a Venetian library, Commissario Brunetti searches for the American professor who appears to be behind the theft. BookPage review on page 9.


Simon & Schuster, $25, ISBN 9781476733807 In this gripping thriller, the interns sent by a placement agency are actually hit men with a secret mission: taking down highprofile CEOs.

“A wonderful, moving, endearing story of redemption and transformation that will sing in your heart for a very, very long time.” —GARTH STEIN, author of The Art of Racing in the Rain

LOVE, NINA by Nina Stibbe

Little, Brown, $25, ISBN 9780316243391 Stibbe brings humor and charm to her real-life account of ­ orking as a nanny for an eccentric literary family in London w in 1982. On sale April 22.

THE AXE FACTOR by Colin Cotterill

FAMILY LIFE by Akhil Sharma

Norton, $23.95, ISBN 9780393060058 In Sharma’s highly anticipated second novel, the Mishra family leaves India to join their father in A ­ merica. They feel as if they’ve arrived in paradise—until tragedy strikes.

ON THE ROCKS by Erin Duffy

Morrow, $25.99, ISBN 9780062205742 The author of Bond Girl returns with a heartwarming second novel about a single woman finding friendship and love in the age of Facebook. On sale April 22. LibraryReads is a recommendation program that highlights librarians’ favorite books published this month. For more information, visit

—EOWYN IVEY, author of The Snow Child

“Funny, tender, and moving, it reminds us all exactly why we read and why we love.” —Library Journal, starred review

“Will prove irresistible to book lovers everywhere.” —Booklist “Zevin is a deft writer, clever and witty.” —Publishers Weekly Available wherever books and e-books are sold. ALGONQUIN BOOKS


Minotaur, $24.99, ISBN 9781250043368 In the latest Jimm Juree mystery, women have been disappearing from their village on the coast of Thailand—and a grisly blog post may explain why.

“This novel has humor, romance, a touch of suspense, but most of all love—love of books and bookish people and, really, all of humanity in its imperfect glory.”


New York Times bestselling author



Under a love spell The secrets that made you leave home can also bring you back.… A Whiskey Creek Novel

“[An] engrossing tale of love and forgiveness.”

Longtime friends find themselves becoming more in Nora Roberts’ Shadow Spell (Berkley Trade, $17, 352 pages, ISBN 9780425259863), the second in her Cousins O’Dwyer Trilogy. Falconer Connor O’Dwyer is confident, as both a man and a witch. Along with his sister and cousin—also witches—he’s on a mission to vanquish an old evil. But when he begins to see his sister’s best friend in a new light, Connor’s laid-back approach to life changes. Since his heart has found love, he realizes there is much more to endanger it now. Meara Quinn


—Library Journal on Take Me Home for Christmas (starred review)

Available now.



delivers high-octane suspense in a riveting new thriller.


“Grabs your gut—and your heart—in the opening scenes and never lets go.” —Jeffery Deaver, New York Times bestselling author, on Six Seconds

cover what’s really going on. Is the dive’s lack of success due to incompetence or thievery? Neither would endear him to the lovely Kate, so he tries to keep away, but tropical nights and a heady attraction win out. Holden and Kate are ready to commit to a future—if they can survive the dangers lurking in and out of the sea. Filled with authentic details, this is an adrenaline-rush of a romance.

has known Connor (and about his special powers) her entire life. She’s already signed on to help—as much as a normal human can—battle the dangerous enemy Cabhan. But after Connor is badly hurt one night, she finds herself no longer able to ignore the wild desire he ignites in her, despite her doubts about lasting love. As Meara and Connor explore their new relationship, they must also strategize with others to fight the wicked force out to destroy them. Spooky, sexy and thoroughly satisfying for fans of paranormal romance.

HIGH-SEAS PASSION Treasure and passion collide in Elizabeth Lowell’s Night Diver (Morrow, $26.99, 368 pages, ISBN 9780062132826). After 10 years away, Kate Donnelly returns to the Caribbean to try to save her family’s salvage diving business. Under contract with the British government to recover artifacts from a foundered pirate ship, her brother and grandfather need her help dealing with their new overseer—Holden Cameron, a former Royal Navy diver. Kate knows the project isn’t discovering enough valuables to keep it funded, but she doesn’t like the suspicious manner of the handsome Brit. Holden sees red flags and is determined to un-

Two characters on the threshold of matrimony discover unexpected love in Three Weeks with Lady X by Eloisa James. Thorn Dautry, wealthy bastard son of the powerful Duke of Villiers, is ready for marriage, and he’s picked out the most biddable girl on the market. Her parents, however, aren’t so sure about the match, and so he decides to convince them during a party at his newly purchased estate. Problem: The home and grounds need a makeover. Enter Lady Xenobia, aka India. The once-impoverished daughter of a marquess, she’s well known for finishing and staffing houses for aristocratic clients. This is to be her swan song, as she’s also interested in marriage. While Thorn initially jokes that India is his “temporary wife,” they find a passion that feels anything but fleeting. Their tempers clash, though, and both are certain they want an easier type of spouse. Issues of class and abandonment add to their conflict, but love has a way of working out— or does it? With engaging secondary characters and powerful chemistry between the leads, this is another witty charmer from James.


Avon $7.99, 400 pages ISBN 9780062223890 Audio, eBook available



New paperback releases for reading groups

JAZZ AGE THRILLS Set in New York City during the Prohibition era, Suzanne Rindell’s The Other Typist (Berkley Trade, $16, 368 pages, ISBN 9780425268421) is a captivating mystery with an unassuming heroine at its heart. Rose Baker— respectable, conscientious and more than a little mousy—works as a typist for the New York City police, documenting spine-tingling criminal confessions. The sensational stories she’s exposed to at

is a heavyweight at a corporate law firm, while modest, downto-earth Bob works with Legal Aid. When Susan summons them home to Maine to help her son, who has been charged with a hate crime, the brothers’ contrasting reactions reveal just how different they really are. The fresh family crisis also dredges up unpleasant memories— issues from the past that they’re forced to come to terms with. Strout’s spot-on depictions of sibling friction are sure to strike a chord with her many fans. Her deep understanding of human motivations and psychology lend authenticity to this unforgettable family tale.


SIBLING STRIFE Pulitzer-Prize winning novelist Elizabeth Strout is back with another compelling family drama. The Burgess Boys (Random House, $15, 352 pages, ISBN 9780812979510) is the story of Jim and Bob Burgess, brothers who, along with their sister, Susan, experienced a traumatic accident when they were kids—a mishap on the part of Bob that led to the death of their father. Although they’ve both become successful New York attorneys, the brothers aren’t close. Arrogant, self-centered Jim


New in paperback from New York Times bestselling author Dorothea Benton Frank “The Last Original Wife is a keeper.” —Adriana Trigiani, New York Times bestselling author of The Shoemaker’s Wife

The poignant story of a group of Irish emigrants aboard the RMS Titanic “I loved this book. Hazel Gaynor is an exciting new voice in historical fiction.” —Kate Kerrigan, author of Ellis Island

Mary McNear’s debut novel introduces readers to the charming town of Butternut Lake “A great, emotional read for every woman who must face the past before moving forward.” —New York Times bestselling author Sherryl Woods

New from internationally bestselling author Paullina Simons A compelling saga of heartbreak and redemption, and the devastating love story that led to The Bronze Horseman

By Hannah Kent

Back Bay $15, 352 pages ISBN 9780316243926




William Morrow Paperbacks

Book Club Girl


work add spice to her somewhat mundane life. When a typist named Odalie is hired, Rose finds herself fascinated by her new co-worker. Odalie is flirtatious, beautiful and brazen, and she leads the life of a flapper, frequenting speakeasies and dressing in the latest styles. Rose becomes wrapped up in Odalie’s world, but she’s plagued by doubts about her new friend’s intentions. She soon discovers that Odalie is not at all who she seems to be. This richly detailed, skillfully constructed mystery offers a fascinating look at life in 1920s New York. Rindell’s depiction of the city is convincing, and her gift for dialogue adds zest to the proceedings. Fans of historical fiction and suspense will love this debut.

Hannah Kent’s chilling debut novel, Burial Rites, is based on the true story of Agnes Magnúsdøttir, a maid accused of murder who was the last defendant in Iceland to face the death penalty. The year is 1829, and Agnes is being held at a remote farm in lieu of a prison until the time of her execution. Jón Jónsson, owner of the farm and a local official, is responsible for Agnes, and her presence creates a definite sense of unease among his family. Agnes asks for a priest, and it’s through her conversations with him that parts of her story unfold. Agnes has been accused of the murder of her employer and his friend, but in spite of that fact, she earns the audience’s compassion. Her tale is perfectly matched by its grim Scandanavian setting. Kent deftly weaves historical fact into this hypnotic work of fiction. It’s an unsettling portrait of a woman whose motives and actions are darkly fascinating.

New in Paperback







Bookish inspiration Many of us find inspiration for our next craft or art project online, but image-centric sites like Pinterest, where the image source is often lost in a trail of missed links, can feel more like a closed loop than an open field. Transfer those retrieval skills to a library catalog, and suddenly the field is endless. Libraries are full of inspiration and solid sources, and there’s a new book that tells us exactly how to mine them: BiblioCraft: A Modern Crafter’s Guide to Using Library Resources to Jumpstart Creative Projects (STC Craft, $27.50, 208 pages, ISBN 9781617690969), by

librarian and DIY-er Jessica Pigza. The first half of the book shows some of what library collections can offer, old and new, and where to find it all (with digital collections open 24/7). It also reminds us about local library events, where we can meet authors, join a craft circle, take a workshop. The second half documents 20 lovely paper and fabric projects by artists, paired with the objects that sparked the artworks, such as coasters that pay tribute to Japanese heraldry, a table runner that mimics 19th-century illustrations of meat cuts and a marbled fabric pouch from a collection of book endpapers.




Baylor Chapman’s The Plant Recipe Book (Artisan, $24.95, 272 pages, ISBN 9781579655518) is not a cookbook. Rather than a how-to for meals, the step-by-step instructions show how to assemble “100 living arrangements for any home in any season.” The A-to-Z plant list includes about 40 species that can typically be found in local shops, grocery stores and discount chains, along with straightforward maintenance instructions—the easiest being for bromeliads, aka air plants, which don’t even need soil. Four hundred delicious color photos convince readers of the book’s big idea: that plants are cheaper than flowers, last longer and can be

Eggstra, eggstra!

endlessly reconfigured to suit a mood, room or event. Each species is shown “On Its Own,” “With Company” and decked out for a “Special Occasion.” Here is the trio of presentation options for an ordinary Kalanchoe: singly in a length of copper pipe; poised with air plants and a begonia in a vintage pedestal bowl; and fluffed with pink cyclamen, elephant ears and other succulents in an upside-down bronze light fixture.

Michael Ruhlman is a curious, capable cook and a wonderful food writer—a great recipe for a cookbook author. His latest, Egg: A Culinary Exploration of the World’s Most Versatile Ingredient (Little, Brown, $40, 256 pages, ISBN 9780316254069), is an ode to this abundant, affordable miracle that provides powerful nutrients and offers cooks “a range of culinary acrobatics, from an airy cake to a tightly bound seafood terrine.” To Ruhlman, an egg is a “singularity with a thousand ends,” and it’s these ends, all part of the great egg continuum,

of flavor boosters like a splash of citrus, fresh herbs, chopped fruit, garlic, onion and more—add pizzazz and extra oomph. While the fire heats up, put the fixings for one of the many international razzle-dazzles into a big bowl, add the main item—such as steak tips, pork skewers, fish fillets, chicken wings or corn, grilled according to their “super-basic” recipes—toss it well, then savor the flavor and revolutionary simplicity.



In The Backyard Homestead Book of Building Projects, master carpenter Spike Carlsen shares 76 plans “for making a self-sufficient life easier and better organized.” Some prior experience with construction is useful, but Carlsen urges beginners to start small and get to know the tools, materials and techniques before tackling, say, the Modular Shed or the Animal Shelter. Not everything involves wood: Anyone can create the Flowerpot Smoker, Concrete Planters (from 5-gallon buckets) or the Lawn Bag Stand (out of PVC pipe). Many projects are possible for even city dwellers without a backyard, but most assume space and need for things like produce racks, raised-bed gardens, compost bins and rain barrels. I’m particularly pleased to see projects that help two threatened critters: bees and bats. The basic Top Bar Beehive will help beginning beekeepers get started, and the large Bat House (better than the ones sold at garden centers) might encourage insect-eating—and endangered— bats to hang around. Includes good lists for recommended reading and resources.

I’m not exactly sure how “bistronomy” is defined, but if it describes the food Greg Marchand creates and serves, then count me in as a bistro-ista. Trained in classic French cooking, Marchand has worked in Hong Kong, Spain, London and New York, where he experienced new flavors and learned to appreciate the excitement of contrasts within a dish. When he opened Frenchie, his first restaurant, on an unfashionable street in Paris, he seasoned the best of bistro tradition with innovative, international ingredients and a flare for light-handed fusion. In his beautifully illustrated debut cookbook, Frenchie: New Bistro Cooking, Marchand makes his vibrant recipes totally accessible for the home cook. I had the joy of tasting a few of his creations at a lunch in New York. Each one was a WOW, and I’ve now wowed my friends with his Butternut Squash Risotto with Amaretti (go with the crumbledcookie crunch), the silkiest panna cotta ever and his superbly original take on duck à l’orange. If you can’t get to Paris tomorrow, you can still revel in Marchand’s nouvelle vague bistro cooking.


Storey $24.95, 296 pages ISBN 9781612120850 eBook available


that he addresses here. The more than 100 recipes, all organized by technique (cooked in the shell, out of the shell, whole, separated, etc.), go from a super-simple, soft-cooked egg to an irresistible Île Flottante with Poire William Sabayon. You’ll find sensational surprises like Eggs in Puttanesca Sauce, Aged Eggnog that keeps for three years in the fridge and bibimbap topped with an “aggressively fried” egg, alongside much-craved classics like Gougères, Chicken Fricassee, Crunchy French Meringue and Curried Egg Salad. All in all, egg-ceptional, egg-semplary and egg-cellent!

FIRED-UP FLAVOR We still may not know what women want. But when it comes to grilling, we know what Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby want—to “dial it back,” make it radically easy, without marinating, brining or using fancy equipment. They lay out their unique grilling game plan in The Big-Flavor Grill: No-Marinade, No-Hassle Recipes (Ten Speed, $25, 240 pages, ISBN 9781607745273). To achieve big flavor without big effort, Schlesinger and Willoughby turned to the hot-weather regions, where “bold, contrasting, competing but complementary flavors” are in the gastronomic DNA. Spice rubs replace marinades, and “razzle-dazzles”—quickly composed combos

FRENCHIE By Greg Marchand

Artisan $22.95, 144 pages ISBN 9781579655341 eBook available



Cat got your tongue? Duluth police detective Jonathan Stride and his Asian-American partner Maggie Bei comprise one of the more complex and chemistry-driven investigative teams in modern suspense fiction. This time out, in Brian Freeman’s The Cold Nowhere (Quercus, $26.99, 432 pages, ISBN 9781623651312), Stride discovers a young woman hiding in his lakeside cottage, dripping wet and scared out of her wits (or so it seems). And “so it seems” is the key phrase here, because orphanturnedprostitute Cat Mateo is no stranger to the casual lie. She carries secrets buried within secrets, and it proves nigh impossible to separate the truth from the fiction in her stories of life on the street, and of the alleged predator who (allegedly) stalks her relentlessly. Maggie is sure that Cat is playing Stride, but he and Cat share a bit of dark history, and he owes her in a way that he cannot easily explain, even to himself. Freeman delivers an edge-of-the-seat thriller that begs to be read in one sitting.


RARE BOOKS & MURDER I have it on good authority that Donna Leon’s books are not pub-

lished in Italian because some of the characters in her Venice-based Commissario Guido Brunetti series hew rather closely to real-life folks, and she doesn’t want to unduly ruffle official feathers in the city that has been her home for 20-some years. True or not, I am happy that her books are published in English, because they are routinely some of the finest mystery novels to come out of Europe (or anywhere else, for that matter). Her latest, By Its Cover (Atlantic Monthly, $26, 288 pages, ISBN 9780802122643), will do nothing but burnish that reputation, as the redoubtable Brunetti looks into a theft at Venice’s prestigious Merula library. The initial investigation ratchets up into a full-blown murder case, with the requisite complement of twists, cul-de-sacs and misdirection. Brunetti et al. are by turns warm and loving, acerbic and pointed, very like real people in real life, warts and all. The Brunetti novels are endlessly atmospheric and redolent of a Venice that you can smell, taste and embrace the rich history thereof, even if you have never spent time there in person. You cannot help but learn something new and have a darned good read in the process.

Gavin Miller, whose checkered past includes drugs, radical student activism and an odd connection to one of Great Britain’s best-known titled personages, who knows more than she is willing to let on. As ever, Robinson’s writing is first-tier; read one of his books, and you will be back for more.

CHILDREN OF THE REVOLUTION By Peter Robinson Morrow $25.99, 352 pages ISBN 9780062240507 Audio, eBook available

G e t to k n o w th e neighbors of Chestnut Street in t h e se s t o r i e s of w a r m t h , k i n d n e s s , l o v e , a n d l os s .

MAEVE BINCHY Chestnut Street From the #1 bestselling author of A WEEK IN WINTER

Maeve Binchy imagined a street in Dublin with many characters coming and going, and every once in a while she would write about one of these people. She would then put the story in a drawer; “for the future,” she would say. The future is now.

TOP PICK IN MYSTERY Former teacher Gavin Miller led a hermit-like existence after his termination for sexual misconduct with a student. The juicy details of his transgression traveled at the speed


Knopf Knopf

Available illustration © William Low Available as as aa hardcover, hardcover, ebook ebook and and audio audio •• Jacket Jacket illustration © William Low


Mo Hayder set the hook in me with The Devil of Nanking and then reeled me in with Hanging Hill; now she is back with the home invasion novel to end all home invasion novels, Wolf (Atlantic Monthly, $24, 352 pages, ISBN 9780802122506, on sale May 6). The Walking Man, a peripheral yet pivotal recurring character in several Hayder novels, happens upon a dog wearing a collar on which “HELP US” is written. He calls upon DI Jack Caffery, with whom he has a longstanding and rather unusual (some might say “mystical”) relationship, to investigate the situation. Caffery is inclined to demur, but he finds himself inexorably drawn in when the Walking Man offers up some crucial information that may help explain the disappearance of Caffery’s brother Ewan, a loss that has plagued him since childhood. Hayder neatly splits genres with this series, borrowing in

equal measure from suspense and horror, not unlike John Connolly’s Charlie Parker novels or T. Jefferson Parker’s Charlie Hood books. Wolf is exceptionally original in premise and nightmarish in its rendering.

of gossip through the academic community, ensuring that he would never again work in his chosen field. His death appeared at first glance to be an accident or suicide, but the forensic evidence strongly suggests murder. Enter veteran Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks, the dogged protagonist of Peter Robinson’s latest and possibly greatest police procedural, Children of the Revolution. Banks has logged 30 years at his job and is eligible for retirement; that said, he cannot think of anything he would prefer doing than continuing in his current role. However, his boss is gently nudging him upward toward an admincentric position, using the triedand-true carrot/stick approach. The carrot: Banks may continue working until age 65 (the downside being reams of paperwork, which he abhors). The stick: If he doesn’t take the promotion, he may be superannuated at any moment. And with this scenario hanging over his head, Banks launches the sensitive investigation into the death of


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One bookseller’s life-changing discovery


abrielle Zevin may be one of the few authors alive who thanks her lucky stars she hasn’t had J.K. Rowling’s level of success. If she had, she never would have written The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, the lovely, irresistible story of a down-on-his-luck bookseller. “I never would have gotten to know the publishing business the way I did,” Zevin says in an interview with BookPage from her Los Angeles home. “I never would have gotten to drive around the Midwest during a book tour with a sales rep in an old Toyota.” It was just that kind of experience that shaped Zevin’s latest novel, which dives deep into the relationship between a publishing house and the booksellers who peddle its wares. A.J. Fikry owns Island Books, a withering bookstore in an East Coast vacation town. His wife has died; someone steals his retirement plan (a rare volume of Edgar Allan Poe’s poetry); and his store’s sales are plummeting. Amelia is the quirky sales rep for Knightley Press who visits A.J. every season to convince him that her company’s titles are worth stocking on his shelves. It is not an easy task. “How about I tell you what I don’t like?” he sneers at Amelia during their first meeting. “I do not like postmodernism, postapocalyptic settings, postmortem narrators, or magic realism. I rarely respond to supposedly clever formal devices, multiple fonts, pictures where they shouldn’t be—basically gimmicks of any kind. I find literary fiction about the Holocaust or any other major



happened to me was publishing my first book,” Zevin says cheerfully. “I was 27—sold my manuscript at 26. I had movie-version expectations of cutting to the scene where you’re walking down Madison Avenue and there’s a bookstore and there’s your book, and only your book, in the window.” Although the reality was somewhat less Carrie Bradshaw, Zevin still got to buy a dress from Filene’s and have a book launch party with wine and cheese. Even that is a somewhat quaint affair in the rapidly evolving publishing world, Zevin says. “The future of books is in many ways being decided right now,” she says. “Even before this book, I was passionate about the idea that we can’t not think about how books get to readers anymore. When my first book came out, YouTube had just been founded. Forget about Facebook and Twitter—I didn’t even have a blog. None of those things factored in. I was and am publishing in a time of enormous change.” Margarettown got excellent reviews, but didn’t exactly burn up the charts. That came with her next book, the 2007 young adult novel Elsewhere. “I’ve had books that have done pretty well, and books that’ve done less well,” Zevin says. “You have to give everything you can to the book and not worry too much about what happens when it’s out in the world.” Although she has never worked in a bookstore, Zevin has spent her fair share of time in them. She spent 13 years after college living in Manhattan and frequenting her neighborhood bookshop before moving to Los Angeles. (“I’d never been particularly drawn to L.A., but the idea of having a second bedroom and a washer and dryer was really sexy to me,” she says.) Zevin can still recall the first time she saw her debut book, in the Barnes & Noble at L.A. mega-mall

The Grove. “I was like, oh god, you gotta go three escalators up to get to my book,” she laughs. “The first floor was entirely filled with music CDs. The second floor was children’s books, gifts, maybe a discount section. I can remember with specificity the other titles that came out the same month as mine. I remember thinking, man, that’s a really big stack of Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld and a really little stack of Margarettown.” No doubt A.J. Fikry would have some strong opinions about such a behemoth store. And that crystalclear view of the world is what makes him—and this book—so wholly appealing. Zevin starts each chapter with a thought-provoking blurb about a book A.J. is recommending to his young daughter. These blurbs serve as a window into both their evolving relationship and his deep love of books. It was an idea Zevin got from her hours spent in bookstores reading the recommendations that employees post on shelves. “Anybody who is a lifelong reader forms their own little mini-canon— their own collected works—and I’ve always really liked those shelftalkers in stores,” she says. “It’s so analog in a digital world. It’s like a greeting card to the customer—this beautiful, personal thing.” The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry has a little bit of mystery and a little bit of romance, but is at its core a love story: love of books, love of family, love of community. It is as enchanting a book as you will read this year.


By Gabrielle Zevin

Algonquin, $24.95, 272 pages ISBN 9781616203214, audio, eBook available

world tragedy to be distasteful.” Oh, and he also despises genre mash-ups, children’s books featuring orphans, ghostwritten books about reality stars, chick lit and anything featuring vampires. A.J. and Amelia slowly—very slowly—build a relationship that goes beyond books. (“I thought there was something romantic about the idea that she only came to him once a season,” Zevin says.) In the meantime, a toddler shows up in A.J.’s bookstore with a note from her mother, who Zevin’s cannot take care of her but wants novel about her to grow up a a prickly reader. Now A.J. bookstore has to decide whether he will owner who turn the young finds love is girl over to the a paean to authorities the power of or take her in himself. books. Needless to say, A.J. has his hands full. After years of treading water in his underperforming store, he has to rise to the occasion. He does so, with plenty of false starts and help from Amelia and his gang of island friends. Real-life booksellers around the country have been singing the novel’s praises, which is as big a compliment as Zevin could have asked for. “It was a daunting proposition, writing about booksellers,” Zevin admits. “I hoped in my heart that they would think of A.J. as a colleague, that he could plausibly have a store out there. He’s a prickly guy who could be doing so much more. I thought I knew where he fit in the ecosystem of booksellers.” Daunting or not, Zevin had been toying with the idea of writing a book set in the publishing world for several years—in fact, since publishing her debut novel, Margarettown, in 2006. “I like to write books about things that happen to me, and probably the most traumatic thing that has




An atheist reconsiders the human ‘situation’


arbara Ehrenreich and her younger sister are very close. But her sister really, really does not like the title of Ehrenreich’s new memoir, Living with a Wild God.

“She thinks I’m being too soft on theism in this book. She’s like, how can you write a book with God in the title! It was hardcore, the atheism we came from,” Ehrenreich says with a bemused laugh during a call to her home in Alexandria, Virginia, where she moved some years ago to be near her daughter and grandchildren. Readers of Ehrenreich’s earlier books—Nickel and Dimed, Bait and Switch or Bright-Sided, for example—know her to be a smart, funny, opinionated progressive voice. Her fascinating new book—her most personally revealing work so far— almost inadvertently points to the sources of both her rigor and her passion. Ehrenreich, who has described herself as a fourth-generation atheist, was the child of parents raised in radicalized mining families of Butte, Montana. Her parents, we learn, eloped in their teens and eventually became successful and admired community members. “They were smart,” Ehrenreich says. “They were unusual in their upward mobility. They encouraged reading, inquiry, curiosity. But they had problems. My father had the drinking problem first. And my mother didn’t like me. This would make no sense in today’s child-raising discourse, because we now have these artisanal project children, where we constantly think




By Barbara Ehrenreich

Twelve, $26, 256 pages ISBN 9781455501762, audio, eBook available


about their feelings and challenges. My mother’s belief was do something useful or get out of the way. My parents imbued me with a firm, dogmatic atheism and rationalism.” This is the crux of the story Ehrenreich explores in Living with a Wild God. Sometime around the age of 13, she began to have strange experiences of the ineffable. “In these episodes of disassociation as a teenager, I could not look at a chair and see a chair. I saw something else, unnamed, unaccounted for, something beyond lanEhrenreich guage,” Ehrenaccepts a reich says. At the same time, as a challenge rationalist, she from her pondered the younger self meaning of a life to explore the that ended in death in a cooly “uncanny” “solipsistic” manner. mystical For a decade experiences or so, starting of her youth. when she was 14, she kept an episodic—and remarkably articulate—journal of her thoughts and observations about this dilemma, which she called “The Situation.” Her seemingly mystical experiences culminated in a vividly described, ecstatic, hallucinatory morning in Lone Pine, California, after a ski trip with her brother and a friend. For years, as she battled with her parents, went off to Reed College, earned a Ph.D. in cellular immunology from Rockefeller University, and then made a U-turn into social activism and a career as a writer, Ehrenreich explained these teenage episodes to herself as a kind of temporary insanity. But about five years ago she decided to write “a massive, sweeping history of religion, the rise of monotheism, which I do not applaud.” Ultimately that big idea didn’t work, but Ehrenreich did have the journal of her younger self wrestling with big thoughts. And, it so happens, in that journal her younger self threw down a challenge in July 1958 to her future self, writing: “What have

you learned since you wrote this?” “I think there was a little bit of a secret polemic here,” Ehrenreich says of her interest in writing about the struggles of her younger self. “Which is that I think that there is a narrative trend, certainly in mainstream American fiction, of maturing, of growing beyond whatever you were in your youth and coming to a more reflective and socially responsible state. I find that kind of repellant. I have respect for the child and the teenage persons of myself. I undertook this with the feeling that I had to return to them, that I could learn from them, that their experiences were not something to be put away. Some of it is very embarrassing, which is to say I was pretty selfinvolved. But I see the logical rigor that got me there.” In the intervening years, it turns out that Ehrenreich has learned quite a bit. Researching this book, which as it develops becomes a compelling mix of memoir and metaphysical rumination, she read widely in philosophy, science and the writing of mystics and others who seemed to have had experiences similar to hers. One of her most personally satisfying scientific discoveries was that the seemingly botched results of her experiments on silicon electrodes for her college senior thesis could now “be explained by a complete paradigm shift in science. There were just phenomena that could not have been imagined in 1963.” She writes that “the reductionist core of the old science has been breached. We have had to abandon the model of the universe in which tiny hard particles interact and collide to produce, through a series of ineluctable, irreversible steps, the macroscopic world as we know it.” These previously undiscovered

phenomena and the conceptual shifts in science in recent decades lead Ehrenreich to an astonishing speculation in her final chapter. She wonders if hers and similar experiences could be an attempt at contact from another kind of being—not God; Ehrenreich remains an atheist—but something like what scientists call “an emergent quality, something greater than the sum of all its parts.” Asked about this idea, Ehrenreich says, “We don’t have the data. Let me say that scientifically. We don’t know enough about the experiences other people have. I suspect many people have uncanny, unaccountable experiences that they attribute to something conventional—God or what they’ve been told God is. Or they put it aside completely. What I’m saying in this book is, let’s not bury this anymore. Something happens often enough to enough of us that we ought to know what it is. The urgency for me is sharpened by my critique of science and its unwillingness in so many ways to acknowledge that there are other conscious agencies or could be in the universe than just ourselves.” And does Ehrenreich now believe that she’s risen to the challenge made by her earlier self? “I do feel I’ve done my best to discharge my responsibility to her.”


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Bob Mankoff thinks he has the best jobs in the world: He’s the cartoon editor of The New Yorker, and also a cartoonist for the magazine (with more than 900 cartoons published). His hilarious and insightful new memoir, How About Never—Is Never Good for You? (Holt, $32.50, 304 pages, ISBN 9780805095906), captures his love for the craft of cartooning and includes more than 250 cartoons by himself and others.

Order your copies today, now available in paperback.





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or National Poetry Month, we’re highlighing new collections from four American poets that offer fresh insights into the state of the nation. These visionary writers provide unique perspectives on both inner and outer conflicts: the horrors of war, the decline of the environment, the challenges of relationships. Dan Chiasson moves with sleightof-hand smoothness through varied poetic forms in ­Bicentennial (Knopf, $26.95, 96 pages, ISBN 9780385349819). This shape-shifting collection features a pair of plays, a number of compact, epigrammatic poems and longer pieces that unfold over the course of several movements. Cultural references abound as Chiasson revisits his adolescent years in 1970s Vermont, dropping allusions to cartoons, sports and drugs. “Tackle Football” offers an unforgettable verbal sketch of high-schoolers playing in waist-high snow: “We’re Pompeian before Pompeii was hot. / We have the aspect of the classic dead / Or of stranded, shivering astronauts. . . . ” Chiasson trades the touchstones of adolescence for the paradoxes of parenting in poems like “The Flume,” in which he’s all too aware of “The future doing its usual loopde-loop, / The sons all turning into fathers.” Chiasson never knew his own father, whose enduring absence seems to be the impulse behind works that explore symmetry and balance—poems in which equilibrium is achieved, and relationships are complementary. In “Nowhere Fast,” the parallelism is literal: “O my compass / Your wilderness / Awaits reply: / Say you and I / Will find our way / Eventually— / Like see and saw, / Or sea and sky.” Chiasson is a master of poetic construction, and his facility with form is on full display in this rewarding collection.



Peeling back the layers of human experience


First time in mass market!


A COLORFUL TAPESTRY Although the title might indicate otherwise, Maureen N. McLane’s excellent new collection, This Blue (FSG, $24, 128 pages, ISBN 9780374275938), is filled with green imagery: a “tapestried field” is “mossed ferned & grassed,” and the earth itself is “embroidered” with all manner of plants and trees. McLane writes with a deep awareness of geological time, history and human behavior, and the ways in which they’ve influenced the world. Poems like “Another Day in This

Here Cosmos” address mankind’s abusive relationship with our world: “A park’s a way to keep / what’s gone enclosed forever.” Instead of being in sync with nature, McLane says, we’re “commuters” to it. McLane makes delightful use of contemporary syntax. Contractions and abbreviations—sd stands in for said, yr for your—appear at unexpected points in her brief, sculpted lines. Her insights are often sociological in their precision. In “Replay / Repeat,” a playful and profound poem that examines the endurance of human habits, kids do what they’ve always done—“climb trees they’ve eyed for years / in the park, their bicycles / braced against granite.” Frisbees “saucering / the summer into a common / past” point to shared experience and collective memory. Again and again in these radiant, probing poems, McLane excavates the layers of contemporary experience and gets at the heart of what it means to be human.

ness of selfhood” and “to give a right voice to scenes, to breakage and joy, / to plain plates of jam and bread.” In his reverence for details, Di Piero reveals what we might otherwise miss: “the unspeakable beauty of facts.”

ARMS AND THE MAN U.S. Army veteran Kevin Powers explores the brutality of war in Letter Composed During a Lull in the Fighting (Little, Brown, $23, 112 pages, ISBN 9780316401081), an urgent, haunting book that—like

THE POETRY OF REALITY W.S. Di Piero’s Tombo (McSweeney’s, $20, 65 pages, ISBN 9781938073762) could be read as the work of what the author calls a “vagrant imagination,” a mind that “rushes toward the world / in fear of forgetting anything: / witness and invent, it says. . . .” Di Piero seems to possess just such a psyche—capacious and insatiable and motivated by wonderment. He’s a precise recorder of everyday experience for whom small moments are sublime. In “Other Ways to Heaven,” he ponders “systemic pleasures”—preparing breakfast, reading a book—that in their regularity are remarkable because they “make us feel at home in our elusive lives.” Many of the poems are prompted by a sense of inquiry, an effort to make sense of the world: “Let me be fool enough / to read meaning into / the twiggy lightning that cracks / the darkening distance / such meaning as animals / like me need to see.” In “Bruised Fruit,” Di Piero explains that his intention as a writer is to take readers “beyond / the sleepi-

his acclaimed novel The Yellow Birds—draws on his experiences as a machine gunner in Iraq. The disconnection between his reality and civilian reality warps the way he sees the world. In “Separation,” he eyes some “Young Republicans” in a bar: “I want to rub their clean / bodies in blood. I want my rifle / and I want them to know / how scared I am still . . . when / I notice it is gone.” Other poems find Powers pondering his own pre-war history. He writes effectively about his Southern boyhood and offers striking characterizations of his parents. As a whole, this collection is masterful—composed and controlled, taut and contained, with a sense of tamped-down passion that can stop the reader cold.


A grand slam for baseball books


here are certain years that trigger immediate associations in any baseball fan’s mind. 1903: the first World Series. 1927: Murderer’s Row. 1961: Mantle and Maris. 1994: the players’ strike. Whether 2014 will produce such a season is yet to be written, but a tremendous crop of baseball books guarantees this year to be one for the publishing annals. he should be eligible for the Hall. It’s interesting enough material for the baseball reader, but the appeal of this book goes further. With writing of such quality and a subject of such complexity, it deserves to be read by anyone who appreciates good biography.

downs. Harvey only blows one call, so to speak, by including a painfully awkward story about the late umpire Eric Gregg that should not have seen the printed page. That aside, the book offers refreshing insight into an umpire’s world, and with considerable panache.



No baseball book in recent memory has been as uproarious as They Called Me God (Gallery, $27, 288 pages, ISBN 9781476748788), written by legendary umpire Doug Harvey with an assist from longtime sportswriter Peter Golenbock. Harvey, one of only nine umpires in the Hall of Fame and considered by many—including himself—to be one of the best of all time, worked the National League from 1962 to 1992. Stylistically, the book is a marvel, particularly while recounting Harvey’s origins. Its staccato style and fatalistic tone are on par with classic noir. Take, for example, this setup: “The regulars had been drinking, I’d had a few myself, and I was sitting there wondering what I was going to do with the rest of my life.” Or this meditation on his professional plight: “There was just one perfect umpire, and they put him on the cross.” I won’t spoil any more gems. The book is billed as a tell-all. No kidding. Man, does Harvey settle some scores. His first wife, coaches who disrespected him, cheating pitchers and the league officials who enabled them—no one, it seems, is safe. But the book is written with such good humor and honest feeling that you can hardly begrudge Harvey these take-

About 20 years ago, the band the Mountain Goats produced a tune called “Cubs in Five.” The title was a joke—the song is about stuff that is unlikely to happen—but it encapsulates nicely the futility of rooting for Chicago’s National League squad. Even if renowned columnist and Bunts author George F. Will hasn’t heard the song, he gets the sentiment, as is apparent from his latest baseball foray, A Nice Little Place on the North Side: Wrigley Field at One Hundred (Crown Archetype, $25, 224 pages, ISBN 9780385349314). Appropriately for a topic as inherently funny as the Cubs, Will takes a droll approach. In about the amount of time it takes to soak in a ballgame, the reader is treated to a romp through Cubs history, from the origins of Wrigley Field up to the Steve Bartman debacle. As this is George Will, there’s a dollop of evolutionary psychology and economics on the side, though nothing

BACK TO THE MINORS Every kid dreams of hitting a game-winning homer in the World Series. No kid dreams of hitting anything at all for the Montgomery Biscuits. That, in a nutshell, is the idea behind John Feinstein’s Where Nobody Knows Your Name: Life in the Minor Leagues of Baseball (Doubleday, $26.95, 384 pages, ISBN 9780385535939), a thorough and enjoyable profile of the players, coaches, umpires, radio announcers and pretty much everyone else besides the peanut vendors who are associated with minor league baseball. By focusing on eight different people over the course of the 2012 season, Feinstein ably shows how the tantalizing promise of working in the bigs—not to mention the attendant compensation and creature comforts—shapes the lives of those who are still down on the farm. The book has a nice pace: casual and a little rambling, though a bit repetitive at times and with lags here and there. Not so different, come to think of it, than a midsummer Double-A tilt.


Is there any more complicated figure in the modern baseball era than Pete Rose? Consider the brief of Kostya Kennedy, author of the magnificent new biography Pete Rose: An American Dilemma (Sports Illustrated, $26.95, 352 pages, ISBN 9781618930965). Those with even casual baseball knowledge are familiar with the outline: “Charlie Hustle,” Cincinnati Reds stalwart, the man who always slid headfirst and who attained the Major League record for base hits, is evicted from the game—as well as from eligibility for the Hall of Fame—for betting on those Reds while serving as their manager. Kennedy takes that familiar story and delves deeper, presenting an artful portrait of the blue-collar world Rose came from, the dream world he ascended to and the bizarre world he slipped into after his banishment. In doing so, Kennedy touches on a theme well beyond baseball: the inherent contradictions of human nature. How could someone who willed himself to the top of his profession with such clarity of purpose throw away his legacy with such singular dissipation? The tragic element of Rose’s life—his ability to bend circumstances to his will in one context yet to lose all sense of rationality in another—is stuff worthy of Shakespeare. Kennedy handles it just fine, though. For the market, the book is pitched as a re-evaluation of Rose’s fate now that baseball has suffered though steroids, arguably a graver sin than gambling. Kennedy doesn’t break new factual ground or suggest “answers” so much as refocus the question. And he presents a compelling case that whether Rose deserves his lifetime suspension should be evaluated separately from whether

much heavier than an Old Style. About that field. The title evokes it, and it is the focus of the book’s thesis: that the beauty of the ballpark is in large part responsible for the consistently poor quality of the product on the diamond. Will has discovered, through the work of some authors he cites, that ticket sales at Wrigley bear a smallerthan-normal correlation to the team’s record and actually are more sensitive to the price of a beer in the stadium than the cost of admission. By providing a good place to watch baseball, Will hypothesizes, management has relieved itself of the need to provide a good baseball team. At least the theory has the virtue of explaining the otherwise inexplicable phenomenon that is the Cubs.




and in community, offered with wisdom, honesty and beauty. Whether the pain you’ve received or given is great or small, The Book of Forgiving offers a roadmap to healing, from one who has followed it.


What you make of life




n time for the Easter season, six new books offer guidance for living a more spiritual life. Some are inspirational, some inspirationally practical. All offer wisdom for those seeking a stronger connection with God and a more fulfilling life.

The meaning of an abundant life in Christ is the central theme of Jonathan Merritt’s Jesus Is Better Than You Imagined (FaithWords, $20, 208 pages, ISBN 9781455527878). In this deeply personal and highly evocative book, Merritt takes the reader on a search for God through times of intimate communion and soulsearing doubt, sharing the highs and lows of his faith. Whether it’s in the silence of a desert monastery or the brash environs of a bar filled with sacrilegious art, Merritt discovers unexpected truths about Christ and about himself, and realizes that what Christ offers is more than anyone expects and far more than anyone even imagines. Written with soul-stirring simplicity and soulbaring honesty, Jesus Is Better Than You Imagined is both a balm to the wounded believer and the scarred skeptic, as well as a challenge to the committed traditionalist. Merritt calls for a personal encounter that’s not a list of dos and don’ts or pros and cons, but rather an invitation to a lifelong, one-to-one intimacy with a God who knows and loves us, regardless of who, what or where we are.

WORRY NOT Part of Merritt’s point is that Christians are neither perfect people nor promised perfect lives, and that Christ promises to be there through every mess, mistake and miracle that comes along. This, too, is the central theme of Overwhelmed: Winning the War Against Worry (Tyndale, $15.99, 256 pages, ISBN 9781414368863) by Perry Noble. Depression, anxiety and worry are

not strange afflictions to which Christians should be immune, Noble writes. After all, Moses, Elijah and Paul all suffered through periods of deep depression, even to the point of wishing for death, while heroes like Joseph, Daniel and Christ himself dealt with sources of stress simply unimaginable to most people today. Noble points out that the promise of Christ is not that such struggles will not come, or that we will not feel overwhelmed, but

Filled with practical solutions, family stories and her trademark Southern wit, You’re Going to Be Okay is an intimate conversation with a friend who’s been there too and knows not only what you’re going through, but also that you can go through it—that you’re not alone, no matter what. If you’re a woman dealing with stress, anxiety or depression, or if you love a woman who is, then this is the book for you to seek out.

In The God of Yes: How Faith Makes All Things New (FaithWords, $22, 208 pages, ISBN 9781455515394), Jud Wilhite points out that wisdom is neither mysterious nor unattainable—with God, it’s ours for the asking. Wilhite explores our lives today through the prism of Ecclesiastes and the eponymous Teacher’s attempts to discover the purpose and meaning of life. Anything but a dry Bible study, Wilhite’s book combines levity with modern-day reality to present an Ecclesiastes that is very much relevant to today’s reader, and an enjoyable read. By comparing our everyday experiences and cultural quirks and showing how there is “nothing new under the sun,” Wilhite offers insight into a God who offers the gifts we need for a fulfilling, meaningful life.

LIFE IS A CANVAS rather that God will carry us through these struggles. With heart and humor, Noble shares details of his own personal battle with depression and stress, using the touchstone of Daniel and his compatriots (and even his kings) to reveal that God has a path through the worry and the fear, and a promise of Christ’s presence amid it all.

HAVING IT ALL If the superheroes of the past weren’t immune to feeling overwhelmed, then certainly the superwomen of today aren’t, either. Holley Gerth’s You’re Going to Be Okay: Encouraging Truth Your Heart Needs to Hear, Especially on the Hard Days (Revell, $15.99, 240 pages, ISBN 9780800720629) tackles stress, depression and anxiety from a woman’s perspective, for a woman’s life. Gerth brings her knowledge as a counselor and her own experiences with overwhelming worry to relieve the stressed-out and the harried.

THE POWER OF FORGIVENESS One of the foremost leaders in the fight against apartheid, Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa comforted countless victims of brutality, rape, torture and murder while facing death threats and virulent racism himself. Yet after apartheid ended, Nobel Peace Prize winner Tutu was among the loudest voices calling not for revenge, but for forgiveness. That commitment and his own personal experiences—as well as those of his daughter, Reverend Mpho Tutu—form the basis for The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World (HarperOne, $25.99, 240 pages, ISBN 9780062203564). This is not a history of apartheid, though it informs the work, but rather an inspirational, practical and moving guide to finding and giving forgiveness, whether for a criminal action or a slight as ordinary as an insult. It is a path to peace, both internally

Wisdom can be practical, but it can also be sublime— and the latter is the best word to describe Erwin Raphael McManus’ The Artisan Soul: Crafting Your Life into a Work of Art (Harper One, $24.99, 208 pages, ISBN 9780062270276). Beautiful, rich, philosophical and inspiring, The Artisan Soul argues that we are all “little creators,” and that human creativity, imagination and love are what make us “the image of God.” Though his own background and relationships are with artists and artistic people, McManus says that we all have “an artisan soul,” from a master painter to anyone who flunked finger painting. It’s not the activity that defines us, but our imaginations—and our canvas is life itself. God has given us the paintbrush and the paints, and like a gentle master guiding a pupil, He is there to help us see what art we make of it. Whether you’re an artist or an accountant, The Artisan Soul will inspire you to make your life the masterpiece God intends it to be.



A mesmerizing and evocative debut novel of love, greed, and redemption in 1920s Texas…



The title of Maggie Shipstead’s second novel, Astonish Me, is a fitting one indeed. It’s a request, a demand, a dare, all wrapped up in two little words, heavy with promise. And like the prima ballerina at the heart of the novel itself, Shipstead delivers a glorious story that does exactly what it says it will. Superficially, Astonish Me is about the world of professional ballet: It is the story of Joan, a woman whose life is first shaped by her love of dance, and then by her love for an extraordinary Russian dancer (and defector). We follow Joan back and forth through time, from girl to grown woman, watching as passion propels her forward, heedless of the consequences and pain that are the ultimate fallout from such explosive affaires de coeur. As Joan’s pirouettes slowly morph into downward spirals both on and off the stage, the novel becomes a deeply thoughtful meditation on the relentless pursuit of perfection and just how far we’re willing to go for love. By Maggie Shipstead Astonish Me is an awful lot of fun to read—the plot moves at a quick Knopf, $25.95, 272 pages clip and is deeply engrossing—but it has a satisfying weight and delicious ISBN 9780307962904, audio, eBook available darkness that undercuts the sudsier elements. Shipstead’s writing isn’t LITERARY FICTION showy, but dazzles nonetheless with vivid imagery and startling turns of phrase. Given that her last novel, Seating Arrangements, won the Dylan Thomas prize, there is a lot riding on this follow-up; far from a sophomore slump, this novel proves that Shipstead’s star is still on the rise as she pushes herself to exhilarating new heights. For those who might dismiss the book as “chick lit” masquerading as serious fiction, rest assured that Visit for a Astonish Me is as nuanced and delightful as any reader could ever hope Q&A with Maggie Shipstead. for a book to be.


Pantheon $26.95, 400 pages ISBN 9780307377937 Audio, eBook available


years since Malachy’s death. (Sadly, Fenno’s charming West Village bookshop has gone the way of Border’s. His parrot Felicity is still very much in the picture.) Glass is skilled at capturing how people relate to one another, and her descriptions of grief are especially piercing, as when a mother reflects on the passage of time since her child’s death. The distance from the tragedy has only moved her pain “to a more distant room; when she enters that room, though she does less so often, the pain still blinds her with its keen, diamondlike brilliance.” My one quibble with And the Dark Sacred Night is the blandness of Kit compared to the rich and varied supporting cast; I was more invested in the interior lives of the other characters than in Kit’s midlife crisis, which launches the book. Be patient and keep reading. It’s worth it to watch how the story unfolds. Like life, the plot can be wretched and wonderful—indeed, dark yet sacred. —ELIZA BORNÉ

“Masterfully written.” —Maria V. Snyder


“You will not want to put this book down.” —rebecca Kanner


“A page-turner from the start.” —Holly cHaMberlin

KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.— America’s Independent Publisher


Julia Glass’ fifth novel borrows for its title a lyric from “What a Wonderful World,” the song made famous by Louis Armstrong. In Glass’ book, the reference comes up when Fenno McLeod, the Scottish expat introduced in Three Junes, is at a therapy session with his boyfriend. “The past is like the night: dark yet sacred,” the therapist says, neatly summing up the crux of this big-hearted story of family ties. “There is no day without night, no wakefulness without sleep, no present without past. They are constantly somersaulting over each other.” So it goes in And the Dark

Sacred Night. The plotline somersaults back and forth, from past to present, and there are several points of view— though they all come back to Kit Noonan, a scholar of Inuit art who is out of a job and in an emotional rut. Kit’s wife believes that he must solve the mystery of his paternity in order to move forward; Kit’s mother got pregnant as a teenager, and she’s always refused to reveal the identity of her young lover. (It doesn’t take long for readers to learn that Kit’s father is Malachy Burns, the witty and enigmatic music critic who died from AIDS in Three Junes.) To solve the mystery, Kit travels to the house of his ex-stepfather—a woodsy, tender Vermont ski instructor—and eventually on to Provincetown for a charged weekend with people who knew Malachy. Knowledge of Three Junes isn’t a prerequisite to enjoying this companion novel, though readers who liked the National Book Award winner will be satisfied to find out what’s happened to Fenno in the

Begin reading at


reviews ALL THE BIRDS, SINGING By Evie Wyld

Pantheon $24.95, 240 pages ISBN 9780307907769 Audio, eBook available


FICTION named Lloyd shows up on her farm, he is less a menace than a fellow wounded soul, and the novel suggests that theirs is a friendship that could deepen. Wyld once again creates a complex character who may find recovery in small acts of kindness. —LAUREN BUFFERD




Australian-born author Evie Wyld’s novels ask tough questions without seeking easy answers. In her debut, After the Fire, a Still Small Voice, she explored the impact of World War II and the Vietnam War on a single Australian family. Her new book, All the Birds, Singing, follows Jake Whyte, a young Australian woman living on a remote sheep farm on an island off the coast of England. When someone— or something—attacks her sheep, Jake is plunged into paranoia, brought on in part by her isolation, but also because of the secrets she carries about her childhood. All the Birds, Singing has two narrative strands. The first follows Jake as she tries to track down the beast that threatens her livelihood. The second moves back in time, slowly piecing together—in reverse—what led her from family and friends to the lonely English outpost. Where the English side of the story is fueled by disembodied fears and perhaps even a ghostly creature, the Australian side is rooted in clear memory and the kind of cause-and-effect storytelling made more powerful because it is told in reverse. It is to Wyld’s credit that she can maintain the mystery until the final pages. Wyld excels in the intimate details that make up the relationship between humans and animals. Both continents are rich with flora and fauna—sheep, of course, but also blowflies, spiders and the singing birds of the title. Best of all are Jake’s interactions with the dogs in the novel, her faithful companion Dog and the decidedly creepy Kelly, a four-legged Mrs. Danvers. Despite Jake’s gruff exterior, this is not a book about loneliness or even isolation. There are moments of connection and human kindness, from her fellow sheep shearers in Australia to her crusty English neighbor, Don. When a stranger

By Jean Hanff Korelitz

Grand Central $26, 448 pages ISBN 9781455599493 Audio, eBook available


tailspin, questioning the man she’s known for more than a dozen years, as well as the relationship that defines all her interactions and her very worth as a counselor. You Should Have Known is an insightful, compelling tale sure to provoke reflection. —CARLA JEAN WHITLEY

MIMI MALLOY, AT LAST! By Julia MacDonnell

Picador $25, 288 pages ISBN 9781250041548 eBook available


slowly begins to piece together the mystery behind the disappearance of their beloved sister Fagan. In the background is a budding friendship between Mimi and her widowed superintendent, Dick Duffy. MacDonnell truly shines in creating a cast of unforgettable characters who struggle to forgive each other, spinning a story that recalls The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, though with a bit more of an edge. Mimi Malloy, at Last! will ensnare readers with its human drama and fascinating references to Irish folklore—even as the vulnerable and brassy Mimi Malloy steals their hearts. —MEGAN FISHMANN

VINTAGE In the latest novel by accomplished author Jean Hanff Korelitz (Admission, A Jury of Her Peers), which shares the title of its main character’s book, relationship challenges raise questions of how often we really know what’s best, whether living the life we’ve envisioned necessarily means we’re living it right, and how we overlook our instinctive responses to the people we meet. Grace Reinhart Sachs’ cynicism toward the wedding industry understandably follows from her work as a couples’ therapist. If there were more emphasis on marriage and less on the wedding, she postulates, 50 percent of couples wouldn’t get married at all—likely the ones who shouldn’t have been together to begin with. That philosophy is reflected in her self-help book, You Should Have Known, in which she argues that many women would have long ago ended their relationships, had they only followed their instincts. Grace is juggling her private practice and her son’s New York City private school demands while amping up for the book’s release. The fielding press inquiries from Vogue, Cosmopolitan, “The Today Show” and “The View.” Then her life takes an unthinkable turn: Her own picture-perfect marriage is called into question. Although she cautions her patients and readers against love at first sight, that was her experience with her pediatric oncologist husband, whom she met during her senior year of college. Grace goes into a

It has been 20 years since Julia MacDonnell wrote her first novel, A Year of Favor. But readers will find her highly entertaining and heartfelt second novel, Mimi Malloy, at Last!, well worth the wait. At 68, Mimi Malloy finds herself divorced, forced into early retirement and spending her days fending off check-in phone calls from her six daughters and four surviving sisters. Having lost her husband to a much younger secretary, she bides her time in her Quincy apartment drinking Manhattans, listening to Frank Sinatra and puffing away on True Blue cigarettes. Her eldest daughter, Cassandra, is adamant that her mother needs to be placed in an assisted-living home. Despite Mimi’s recent “spells” of forgetting things (like how to start her car) and a MRI showing that she’s got the atrophied brain of an 86-year-old, Mimi stubbornly claims that she is just fine on her own. Then Mimi finds herself at the center of a grandson’s genealogy project. Packed to the brim with repressed memories from a traumatic childhood, Mimi refuses to outline her Irish ancestry or explore her Depression-era upbringing. But when she discovers an antique pendant that had once belonged to her mother, Mimi takes the first tenuous step down an extremely crowded memory lane. Bit by bit, she unveils the secrets that she has struggled to hide: a mother who died in childbirth, a secret sister sent away to Ireland and an abusive stepmother. With the help of her sisters, Mimi

By Susan Gloss

Morrow $25.99, 320 pages ISBN 9780062270320 Audio, eBook available


In Vintage, author and secondhand store enthusiast Susan Gloss weaves together the lives of three very different women in a story filled with humor and heart. Violet Turner, the 30-something proprietor of Hourglass Vintage, has a passion for making something out of the hand life has dealt. Growing up in small-town Wisconsin, she was always a bit offbeat but found safety in dating a popular boy. With dogged determination, Violet continued to live the life she thought she should live. But when she realized that she wanted more from life and that her husband was a goodfor-nothing alcoholic, Violet took off for the state capital and a new life. That’s exactly what she’s found in Madison, with her vintage-focused consignment shop drawing clientele from the university and the city’s eclectic professional community alike. It also draws in 18-year-old high-school graduate April Morgan, who is five months pregnant and is selling the vintage wedding dress she won’t need after breaking things off with her fiancé. April seems an unlikely companion for Violet, but regular customer Betsy, an elderly woman whose friendship with Violet

FICTION is nearly familial, sees that the pair needs each other. Indian immigrant Amithi Singh also finds comfort in the shop and its proprietor, following a betrayal that has left her questioning her adult life. Vintage is a sweet and comforting debut that celebrates the families we make. It will remind readers not only that they are never alone, but also that happiness often returns when it seems all hope is gone. —CARLA JEAN WHITLEY

LOVE & TREASURE By Ayelet Waldman

Knopf $26.95, 352 pages ISBN 9780385533546 Audio, eBook available


Ayelet Waldman (Red Hook Road,

Love and Other Impossible Pursuits) has written about personal tragedy numerous times: failed marriages, the struggles of motherhood, divided families. Her latest novel, Love & Treasure, deals with a larger human tragedy: the true story of the Hungarian Gold Train during World War II. It is a slight departure from her previous work, and yet, it remains just as powerful and inspiring. Broken into three sections told over various periods of time, Love & Treasure follows three men: Jack, a young Jewish-American captain in Salzburg during WWII; Amitai, a famous Israeli-born art dealer in the current day who deals with repatriated items; and Dr. Zobel, a pioneering psychiatrist at the turn of the 20th century in Budapest. It begins with Jack, whose primary responsibility is to guard and take inventory for the Hungarian Gold Train, which was filled with stolen riches from exterminated Jews. There, he falls head over heels for Ilona, a striking Hungarian woman who has lost

all her family to the concentration camps and is desperately holding out hope that her sister might have survived. Then readers find Jack—50 years later—on his deathbed with cancer. It is there that he gives a stunning gemstone peacock pendant to his recently divorced daughter, Natalie Stein. His last wish is for her to return this item, stolen from the train, to its original owners, leading Natalie on an epic pilgrimage throughout Europe with Amitai, who finds himself quickly obsessed with both the pendant and Natalie herself. The third section of the novel adds more layers to the story about the pendant’s origin and owner, but the heart of the novel is the story of Amitai and Natalie. Although the male characters control much of the narration, it is the female characters (Ilona, Natalie and the suffragette Gizella) who truly shine with their moxie, fiery spirits and utter determination. Whether they’re fighting for the rights of Jewish people,

trying to secure the female vote or making sure a family promise is fulfilled, it is these leading ladies who make Love & Treasure a real treasure. —MEGAN FISHMANN

V isit for a Q&A with Ayelet Waldman.

IN PARADISE By Peter Matthiessen

Riverhead $27.95, 256 pages ISBN 9781594633171 eBook available


Who risks the most when a literary lion well into his ninth decade writes a novel? The legend, who is

New York Times Bestselling Author

waiting on you R E A D M O R E AT B O O K PA G E . C O M

Is your first love worth a second chance…? “Both gut-wrenchingly emotional and hysterically funny at the same time…

Kristan Higgins writes the books you don’t want to end.” —#1 New York Times bestselling author Robyn Carr Read a FREE excerpt at


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Don’t wait… find out March 25!

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putting his legacy on the line, or the longtime reader, who shoulders the load of vicarious shame in the event the book is a mess? With In Paradise, readers can rest assured the risk is worthwhile. In fact, it feels that Peter Matthiessen’s more than 60 years of professional writing has led to this, his most deft exploration into that crimped, fallible piece of meat called the human heart. In a dark, powerful and relevant novel, Matthiessen takes on Auschwitz and its legacy. Polish-born Clements Olin is a middle-aged American poet. His family fled Poland as the Nazis were invading. In 1996, he returns, joining scores of other visitors at the notorious death camp. For a week, they will pray, meditate and bear witness to the atrocities that took place there. They will sleep in the barracks where the guards once slept. They will try, ultimately, to make sense of the unknowable horror that affected their own lives. Clements is a self-proclaimed observer. He listens to the arguments about good and bad Germans, the complicity of the Polish citizenry, the guilt and responsibility Jews have in their own annihilation. He strikes up a dangerously close-toimproper friendship with a Catholic novitiate, a joyless young woman whose outspoken condemnation of her church’s passive role in the Holocaust gets her into trouble. But Clements is a sham. A gradual reveal shows us he has more ties to the camp than first thought. He is even more of a searcher than the others. He is looking for his past, and for answers to questions he knows he should have asked long ago. It may be in dubious taste to refer to an 86-year-old as among the last of a dying breed, but Matthiessen, a three-time National Book Award winner—twice for the same book, The Snow Leopard—self-confessed spy and co-founder of the prestigious Paris Review, has made a career of following his curiosity around the globe. A naturalist as much as a novelist, he’s explored the animal kingdom in places so remote the fauna outnumbered the people. That is especially pertinent now, when a whole generation of authors considers the L train from Brooklyn into Manhattan a schlep. This powerful, necessary novel is hard to take, yet impossible to turn away from. It doesn’t shy away from

FICTION questioning the depths of human depravity, nor is it ashamed to admit that there are no real answers. —IAN SCHWARTZ

BE SAFE I LOVE YOU By Cara Hoffman

Simon & Schuster $26, 304 pages ISBN 9781451641318 Audio, eBook available


a way that only teenage boys can be lovable and goofy. Her boyfriend and her best friend believe in her even as they’re subjected to the worst of her behavior. Her voice teacher still believes she’s destined for greatness. Even the boyfriend’s dumb, drunken louts of uncles care about her, as does Lauren’s own surrogate uncle. How can you not think, “If these people care about Lauren so much, why shouldn’t I?” This is called telling a story slant, and it’s a way to pull the reader into some difficult material. In Be Safe I Love You, Hoffman pulls us in brilliantly. —ARLENE McKANIC

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.” It’s not that Lauren is actually a newly minted member of the walking dead—the book is a horror story, but it’s not that kind of horror story—but her experiences in Iraq have hollowed her out to the point where she is truly something other than human. Fans of “Firefly” and Serenity might recall River Tam, a delicate-looking girl who’s had her amygdala scraped, or something similarly horrible, so that when she hears certain trigger words she becomes a killing machine. Fortunately and unfortunately, Lauren has enough self-awareness to know that she’s crazy. It’s good that she wants to spare her loved ones, including her depressive and useless father and the beloved younger brother she raised after their mother abandoned them. But the knowledge that she’s been destroyed inside makes her life a torment, and she can’t keep that torment from spilling over onto others. And it’s those others who finally make you care about what happens to Lauren in the end. Yes, her father is pitiable, but he’s also good. Her brother, too, is lovable and goofy in

SEDITION By Katharine Grant Holt $26, 320 pages ISBN 9780805099928 eBook available


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. The men hire a French pianist to teach the daughters, but Monsieur Belladroit has another agenda. He is working for the bitter man who made the pianoforte, whose own daughter is disfigured and will never be married off. Belladroit is paid to sabotage the girls’ performance, seducing them one by one as part of their training. Only Alathea, smart and independent, is immune to him. But she hides a dark secret about her relationship with her father, and her struggle to get out from under his control ends in a shocking act of violence. Sedition could easily have dissolved into semi-kinky melodrama, a chronicle of Belladroit’s conquests. Thanks to author Katharine Grant’s sly writing, it never does. Just when

FICTION things get tense, she lightens the mood with a dose of the competitive girls comparing notes on Belladroit, or even better, their truly doltish fathers comparing notes on their brilliant scheme. As the disastrous lessons progress, the clueless fathers congratulate themselves: “The die was cast; they could relax, though Brass had been stirring things, asking what would happen if Harriet married a duke and Marianne a baronet. Would one set of grandchildren have to bow to another?” Grant is better known as K.M. Grant, an author of children’s books, including the de Granville trilogy. Sedition is her first adult novel, and while the ending may be a little too tidy for some, the book remains a thumping debut filled with sex, manipulation and a dash of romance. Wickedly dark and provocative, Sedition is a bold reminder that the thirst for power and status remains unquenched over the ages. —AMY SCRIBNER

Amid the suspense, Cohen’s new novel is also a coming-of-age story that examines the pressures of following in familial footsteps. Though Fred lives out his father’s experiment in the woods with almost no formal schooling, Ava begs to attend school—the first of many decisions that eventually estrange her from her father. Yet Ava can’t fully separate herself from her upbringing, and is not wholly of one world or the other. No Book but the World gives readers ideas to chew on every step of the way, questioning the obligations we have to our families, the struggle to love people who are difficult to love, the ways the stories we tell ourselves about our experiences affect our understanding of other people’s actions, and the tension between freedom and societal norms. A captivating look at the unwavering focus and innocence of children and the capacity of memory, No Book but the World is the work of a masterful storyteller. —STEPHANIE BRUMFIELD


Riverhead $27.95, 320 pages ISBN 9781594486036 eBook available


THE OTHER STORY By Tatiana de Rosnay

St. Martin’s $26.99, 320 pages ISBN 9781250045133 Audio, eBook available



FROG MUSIC 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. When Nicolas Duhamel was 24, he made a discovery that shook everything he knew about his family. This shocking revelation inspired a novel that rapidly became an international

By Emma Donoghue

Little, Brown $27, 416 pages ISBN 9780316324687 Audio, eBook available

It is evident that history is the star of this show. Blanche, a French dancer who supports her boyfriend, injured trapeze artist Arthur, by imaginative prostitution, gets in over her head when she invests in a block of apartments and finds herself unable to stay on top of the wave. When her child, whom she had imagined to be safe and cared for outside her life, surfaces in trouble, suddenly a more respectable life begins to exert its appeal. Jenny makes a living by catching frogs to meet the considerable local restaurant traffic’s high demand, and she and Blanche cement their new friendship during expeditions out into the swamps and streams of the backcountry. Or do the two only know each other for a few hours before disaster strikes? The story is never quite clear, but the reader who is willing to live with ambiguity will find this book endlessly intriguing. Donoghue brings the setting, a smallpox-stricken summer, almost too vividly to life: The unwilling but fascinated reader will be transfixed by her descriptions of the disease’s “opalescent slime” and “dimpled red pearls . . . all across what used to be his lovely face.” References to some 30 songs of the time, many of them familiar (“How Can I Keep From Singing?” “Somebody’s Darlin’”) add to its period allure. The French (“Frog”) connection may be strong, but this engrossing, truth-bending story is all American. You’ll find yourself enraptured by the intricate plot developments that will keep you revising your version of the action from one hour to the next. —MAUDE McDANIEL


Irish-born author Emma Donoghue returns to historical fiction with her first novel since the 2010 runaway bestseller Room. Frog Music was inspired by a real-life unsolved murder in 1876 San Francisco, a good three decades after the Gold Rush. Cross-dressing Jenny, a voice of surprising common sense amid the wild culture of the time, was shot in cold blood at her friend Blanche’s house, and the murderer was never found.

Double Take by Laura Kennedy Fire and Ice • $11.95 ISBN 9781612357966

How can something as simple as a dress change your life? It can if it’s the famous green toga worn by actress Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra and you’ll do anything to wear it.


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. Ava recollects Fred’s oddities—his broken speech, his raging tantrums, his aversion to eye contact and touch— but also his focus, his empathy, his innocence. With a 12-year-old boy dead and news accounts suggesting her brother is responsible, Ava races to piece together a story that she feels only she can tell—one of misunderstanding, but also of deep fraternal love.

bestseller. A few years later, Nicolas is a wealthy author with a hit film based on his book and throngs of adoring fans, but the next novel, the one he’s been promising his agent, isn’t coming. Hoping to revitalize his creativity, Nicolas takes his girlfriend to an exclusive coastal resort in Italy, but what he finds there is far from the peace he was hoping for. As his personal life rapidly changes, the old secrets begin to haunt him again, and Nicolas realizes that if he hopes to rediscover that creative spark, he must contend not only with a frightening new future, but also with an increasingly haunted past. By jumping between past and present tense to tell the dual stories of Nicolas pre- and post-fame, de Rosnay tells us right away that this novel is a meditation on time, legacy, memory and what the stories of our youth do to us when we’re older, but The Other Story is much more than a saga of past and future. By showing us the world through Nicolas’ eyes, de Rosnay is able to give us portraits, both of a deeply flawed man and the world around him through the perceptive lens of a storyteller. Throw in a remarkably complex cast of supporting characters, a series of juicy new developments in Nicolas’ life and always engaging dialogue, and you’ve got a brilliant combination of page-turner and character study.



Blue Rider Press $26.95, 320 pages ISBN 9780399168437 Audio, eBook available


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Worst. Person. Ever., Douglas Coupland’s new novel, is engaging, funny and a rocking good read. As the title implies, the main character, Raymond Gunt, is not a nice person. The book is written in the first person, in what is known as the “unreliable narrator” style. Ray Gunt is a highly unreliable narrator. Ray’s ex-wife hires him as a cameraman to film a sequence of reality television in the South Pacific. On an odyssey that takes him from London to a small Pacific island nation, Ray manages to insult, denigrate and otherwise abuse absolutely everyone he encounters, beginning with airport security and ending with the grossly overweight man seated next to him on the plane, to whom he says, “by the looks of you, you’d best hope they have all of Noah’s Ark on the menu.” He keeps it up and so completely enrages the obese man that the poor guy has a heart attack and dies on board the plane. Ray expresses no remorse. Not surprisingly, Ray often pays a price for his bad behavior, but the reader roots for him nonetheless, maybe partly because many of these encounters are laugh-outloud funny. Equally enjoyable is the character of Neal, a homeless man whom Ray meets (read: insults) on the street in London and later recruits as his assistant/slave for the trip, and who provides an excellent foil for Ray’s stunts. In addition to the humor, which is plentiful and uproarious (albeit colorfully expressed and, as in the example above, not always PC), the book is successful because of Ray’s me-first attitude and his willingness to express any nasty thought that comes to mind—things that the rest of us would like to say, were we a little less civilized. Readers will identify with Ray Gunt in spite of themselves, taking pleasure in his crazy antics. —DAVID W. SCHWEID



Good things, small packages


hree short-story stalwarts showcase their acclaimed skills with their first collections in several years, while a newcomer who’s made his name in television and movies demonstrates that his talents aren’t limited to the screen.

For readers who lack an adventuresome streak, Lydia Davis’ distinctive short fiction can be an acquired taste. Can’t and Won’t: Stories (FSG, $26, 304 pages, ISBN 9780374118587) won’t dispel that reputation, but admirers of Davis’ work will find much in this, her fifth collection, to reinforce their appreciation for her singular style. A sizable number of the stories are based on excerpts from the letters of Gustave Flaubert (Davis translated Madame Bovary in 2010), while others are little more than fragments from Davis’ dreams and those of her family and friends. Despite these and other formal experiments like the story “Ph.D.,” which consists of a single sentence, or “Local Obits,” nine pages of life fragments of the sort that appear in each day’s paper, Davis is capable of expressing deep feeling. One example is “The Seals,” where the narrator describes her struggle to come to terms with the deaths of her sister and father three weeks apart seven years earlier, as she recognizes “the quieter and simpler fact of missing them.” “Life is too serious for me to go on writing,” says the narrator of the story “Writing.” After reading a collection that’s as varied, vibrant and unsettling as this one, one can only hope Davis isn’t speaking for herself.


CELEBRITY LITERATURE If you are tempted to dismiss former star of “The Office” B.J. Novak’s collection One More Thing: Stories

and Other Stories (Knopf, $24.95, 288 pages, ISBN 9780385351836) as a celebrity vanity project, think again. Novak, a Harvard graduate with a degree in English and Spanish literature, is the real thing. With his brand of sharp, absurdist, observational humor, it’s easy to see him taking his place in The New Yorker’s “Shouts & Murmurs” column alongside stalwarts like Woody Allen and newcomers like his fellow actor Jesse Eisenberg. Novak’s collection comprises 64 pieces, ranging from the two lines of “Kindness Among Cakes” to 20 pages, so if you encounter one offering that isn’t appealing, you generally don’t have to wait long before he delivers one that scores. Immersed as he is in pop culture, Novak finds it a ready-made source of material, as in “Walking on Eggshells (or: When I Loved Tony Robbins),” where the narrator turns her pursuit of the self-help guru into a self-help project. Celebrities like Kate Moss, Neil Patrick Harris, Johnny Depp and Elvis Presley also have their moments onstage. But Novak fully displays his considerable skill in stories like “J.C. Audetat, Translator of Don Quixote,” in which a poet gains fame producing a string of increasingly improbable translations of great works, or in “The Ghost of Mark Twain,” where a middle school English teacher confronts an editor at Bantam Scholastic Classics with a surprising complaint about a certain deplorable word in Huckleberry Finn.

TALES FROM THE SOUTH After the edgier short fiction of Davis, Moore and Novak, the Southern-based stories of Ellen Gilchrist’s Acts of God (Algonquin, $23.95, 256 pages, ISBN 9781616201104) are likely to go down for many readers as smoothly as a cool mint julep on a steamy summer afternoon. The characters in several of these 11 stories teeter on the edge of annihilation, and natural disaster, in particular, is never far away. “Miracle in Adkins, Arkansas” follows five teens from Fayetteville, Arkansas, who become instant celebrities when one of their number rescues a baby following a tornado in a nearby small town. Hurricane Katrina forms the backdrop for the two of the stories. In “Collateral,” Carly Dixon, a widow and mother of a 13-year-old son, finds herself making helicopter rescues in New Orleans as a member of the National Guard. Dean and Dave, two gay paramedics from Los Angeles attending a convention in New Orleans as the hurricane bears down on the city, decide to ride out the storm with a colorful new friend in a Jackson Square apartment in “High Water.” Carly Dixon’s new lover dismisses his ex-wife with the comment that “she’s from up north and she doesn’t understand the South.” If you weren’t raised below the Mason-Dixon line, you’ll finish this collection with a better understanding of the lives and values of the people who live there.


Lorrie Moore hasn’t produced a short story collection since 1998’s Birds of America, which included the classic “People Like That Are the Only People Here: Canonical Babbling in Peed Onk.” In Bark: Stories (Knopf, $24.95, 208 pages, ISBN 9780307594136), she returns with eight stories that blend her often wicked humor with keen insight into our struggles to cope with contemporary life. Those characteristics are best illustrated in “Debarking,” where Ira Milkins, employed at the State Historical Society in Minneapolis, dips his toe into the “world of middleaged dating” six months after divorce ends his 15-year marriage. He connects with Zora, a pediatrician whose emotional stability is as

tenuous as her relationship with her sullen teenage son is strange. While Ira “had always thought he was a modern man,” he discovers that he “has his limitations.” “Paper Losses” is the heartbreaking story of Kit and Rafe, who embark on a longplanned, if ill-advised, Caribbean vacation with their children, even as they’re about to end their marriage of two decades. The stories in Bark are liberally seasoned with Moore’s lightningquick one-liners. Ira seeks “the geometric halfway point between stalker and Rip van Winkle,” and Kit muses that it was “good to date a nudist: things moved right along.” In “Wings,” the collection’s longest story, KC, a musician in a failing relationship with her boyfriend, befriends an elderly widower and finds herself drawn ever deeper into his sad life. Reflecting on dying, KC imagines it would be “full of rue: like flipping through the pages of a clearance catalog, seeing the drastic markdowns on stuff you’d paid full price for and not gotten that much use from, when all was said and done.” Certain writers excel in keeping their finger on the pulse of the era in which they write. Lorrie Moore unquestionably is one of them, and this book offers further proof of her deftness in doing so.

While it may not be as lucrative as his work in film and television, if Novak can continue to produce writing this fresh, funny and emotionally astute, he’ll have established himself firmly in a successful complementary career.



NONFICTION STRONGER By Jeff Bauman with Bret Witter


A chaotic Southern childhood REVIEW BY AMY SCRIBNER

Frances Mayes’ lyrical memoir of growing up Southern was a long time coming. Worried about upsetting her family, she stopped and started Under Magnolia many times over: “Anytime I felt the impulse to start my Southern opus again, I instead headed for a movie or a new Thai restaurant,” she writes. “I’d go jogging or read a novel until the impulse faded.” Thank goodness she finally gave in to her impulses to dare alla luce, as the Tuscans say, to give the book to the light. This memoir from the author of Under the Tuscan Sun is a lovely, soul-baring look back at growing up in Fitzgerald, Georgia, the youngest of three daughters. Her family was chaotic, to say the least. Her parents were at war with each other from the first drink of the day, desperately unhappy but unable to make changes. “I said many things to myself by the age of seven,” Mayes writes. “If I ever get out of here, I will never select unhappiness. When the plate of unhappiness is passed around and more and more is offered, I’ll say no By Frances Mayes thank you, no. But they wanted seconds, thirds.” Crown, $26, 336 pages Much younger than her sisters, Mayes bore the brunt of her parents’ ISBN 9780307885913, audio, eBook available dysfunction. Her saving graces were books and Willie Bell, the woman who had been working for the family since before Mayes was born. Less MEMOIR confidant and more co-conspirator, Willie Bell took care of Mayes in her own brusque way: feeding her, advising her to go play outside to escape the toxic house. Mayes also recalls her cloistered years at Randolph-Macon, the women’s college in Virginia where she cultivated some of her deepest friendships and her deep love of writing. (“We began to forget we were supposed to please men,” she writes. “There weren’t any.”). Under Magnolia is a gorgeous, dreamy remembrance of hot Southern afternoons, mothers in red lipstick and Shalimar, Elvis turned up loud to cover up the family troubles that ran deep. An unflinching love song to her simultaneously rich and troubled childhood, it is Mayes’ most generous work yet.


Morrow $26.99, 336 pages ISBN 9780062116154 Audio, eBook available




Michael Rockefeller, the 23-yearold son of then New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, disappeared in 1961 while on an art-collecting trip in the Asmat region along the coast of southwest New Guinea. His boat capsized in rough waters, and, after he and a companion had waited overnight for rescue, Rockefeller decided to swim to shore, buoyed by two empty gasoline cans. He was never seen again—at least not by any witnesses who’ve been willing to come forward. The official cause of death was

drowning at sea. But even as the search for young Rockefeller was still going on, rumors began surfacing that he had been killed and eaten by Asmat natives, among whom cannibalism was still a common and sacred practice. The aim of Savage Harvest is to settle the question of Rockefeller’s fate, just as earlier books and articles have attempted. Since Carl Hoffman opens his narrative with a jarringly graphic description of what might have been Rockefeller’s last agonizing minutes, it will come as no surprise that he is indeed convinced that the young man was cannibalized. A contributing editor of National Geographic Traveler, Hoffman forms and undergirds his thesis by visiting the same villages Rockefeller scoured for art objects, interviewing descendants and kinsmen of those rumored to have killed him and uncovering personal correspondences and official documents concerning the disappearance. He also explains

Grand Central $26, 256 pages ISBN 9781455584376 Audio, eBook available


how the politics of the region— waning Dutch colonialism vs. rising Indonesian nationalism—figured into the story. Hoffman depicts Rockefeller as a young man bent on pleasing his doting father—talented, to be sure, but a bit overeager and entitled, and oblivious to the fact that the art objects he was acquiring so matter-offactly still had deep spiritual significance to their creators. Among local tribes, the author explains, taking revenge against one’s enemies was a way of restoring balance to the universe. He speculates that Rockefeller was probably killed in response to a Dutch raid on a native village three years earlier in which the main tribal leaders were slaughtered. Hoffman’s quest is to discover physical or eyewitness evidence that Rockefeller made it to shore and there met his end. Whether his findings achieve the level of “beyond a reasonable doubt,” readers are left to decide for themselves.

When explosions rocked the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon, three people were killed and 260 injured, among them Jeff Bauman. Standing with friends to cheer on his girlfriend, who was running in the race, Bauman saw a man whose appearance and demeanor didn’t fit the crowd leave a backpack and walk away. Bauman was about to suggest to his friends that they move farther up the street when the pack exploded, taking both his legs with it. Stronger is Bauman’s account of his injury and recovery, and a tribute to working-class Boston resilience. Bauman, with co-author Bret Witter, describes growing up among hard-working, hard-partying relatives and struggling to find his own path. Unable to afford college, he was cooking rotisserie chickens at Costco when the bombing occurred (a co-worker convinced him to keep his employee health insurance, which turned out to be a financial lifesaver). He’s apprehensive at being called a hero despite providing a description credited with helping to identify bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev, and feels pressured to make appearances at multiple charity events, even though the travel saps energy needed for his own recovery. Bauman describes feeling no hatred toward the Tsarnaev brothers, just sorrow that they chose to hurt strangers out of a sense of their own futility. Carlos Arredondo, the man who saved Bauman’s life (pictured in a famous AP photo in which he’s running next to Bauman in a wheelchair) had his own life changed by stepping up in a moment of crisis. His personal story is heartbreaking, but his friendship with Bauman seems to offer a glimmer of hope. Bauman’s frank discussion of the long path to recovery, seeded with doubt, setbacks and small victories, makes Stronger both informative and inspiring.




Penguin Press $27.95, 336 pages ISBN 9781594204739 eBook available



THE REMEDY By Thomas Goetz

Gotham $27, 320 pages ISBN 9781592407514 eBook available


In August 1891, a young physician named Arthur Conan Doyle made an impulsive decision to travel to Berlin to attend a much-anticipated lecture on tuberculosis by the renowned scientist Robert Koch. The two men had much in common, as author Thomas Goetz points out in his fascinating new book, The Remedy: Robert Koch, Arthur Conan Doyle, and the Quest to Cure Tuberculosis. Ambitious and frustrated by the confines of small-town medical practice, both were part of the exciting landscape of late-19thcentury breakthroughs in science and medicine. Tuberculosis, that ubiquitous scourge of 19th-century life, would play a major role in the lives of both men. Koch had already found his path from obscurity to fame, beginning with his discovery of Bacillus anthracis in 1876. He then took on wound infections and developed scientific protocols for determining infectious agents. In 1882, firmly ensconced as the head of his own lab, he triumphantly discovered the bacteria that caused tuberculosis. Koch would eventually be awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1905, five years before his death. Conan Doyle, whose first wife succumbed to tuberculosis, was equally driven and inspired by the process of discovery, though his path took


Magnolia memories


n a frank and richly evocative memoir, the author of Under the Tuscan Sun recalls growing up in the Deep South.

Why did you feel now was the right time to write a memoir of your coming-of-age? Moving from California (where I lived and worked for decades) back to the South reconnected me on many levels with the land I came from originally. Some of the connections were simple and primitive—the fecund and flowery smells, the cheerful sounds of the tree frogs, the grating drama of cicadas, the grand sunsets and the intense humidity. Maybe the sensory world where you first breathed and walked never leaves you. Feeling so at home again naturally brought up early memories. And they seemed to want to come to the light. You write in depth about your parents’ drinking and how it painted your childhood, saying theirs was a marriage of “Southern Comfort, recriminations, and if onlys.” Was it hard to reveal this part of your life to readers? Shame is a powerful emotion and a silencing one. I don’t feel shame but can see why I might. They were who they were. They operated under some pretty intense cultural pressures, and they burned out so early that they never had a chance to emerge into larger versions of themselves. I’m always sad for that. As parents, they were not ideal, but they did have wonderful qualities as well—gusto, humor, passion, generosity. There are so many exquisite details in the book: the shape of your daddy’s fingernails, the hospital room where you visited your grandmother. Did you keep detailed journals as a kid, or do you have an incredible memory of certain moments? My little red, locked diary is still on my desk. I kept notebooks always, and even a reading log. These stacks of journals are disappointing because they record events, not observations or feelings. But it’s odd—as I read them, the details come rushing back. The plain words unlock memory, and I

can again feel the images and nuances. You paint an endearing portrait of Willie Bell, who worked as a maid for your parents throughout your childhood. How influential a figure was she in your life? As I wrote, it was not a Mammy sort of thing. She quietly offered me a perspective on the chaotic life within our house. So often she said, “When are you going to learn? Just don’t talk back.” I saw only in later years that she was revealing her own survival tactics as well as trying to keep me from getting switched! At one point, you write that you might have lived forever in Fitzgerald, Georgia. What do you think kept that from happening? My mother! She wanted for me what she never achieved—a big life. An unconfined life. Even though I battled her about my local boyfriends she feared I would marry, her constant get-out-ofDodge stance seeped in. By high school, I was planning my escape to the North, the forbidden land, the dreaded land. I only made it as far as Virginia at first! As a child, you didn’t know the word racism. Looking back now, how racist was the time and place in which you grew up? Oh, Lord. Give me a volume to write! It is very hard now to imagine the racism. And not only in the South. Beneath the violence and unfairness and craziness, I always sense that a deeper vein of connection binds blacks and whites in the South than ever has been explained. How have you settled into life in North Carolina? Love it! My husband, Ed, and I have had the great good luck to fall in with a group of writers, artists, cooks, readers, gardeners. We are having a fine time down here. We have a big creaky old house with a porch, many remodeling projects, and two gentlemen cats. I am loving roving around the South, as I did in my youth.


As 19th-century San Francisco evolved from a rowdy Gold Rush boomtown into the financial center of the American West, its rambunctious poets and writers—especially the self-styled Bohemians—sought to bring a skeptical, caustic, humorous Western voice to American writing that had been long dominated by the relatively staid literary eminences of Boston and New York. This not-so-quiet literary revolution is the story San Francisco-born writer Ben Tarnoff tells in his wellresearched, well-told The Bohemians: Mark Twain and the San Francisco Writers Who Reinvented American Literature. Tarnoff focuses on four writers—Charles Warren Stoddard, Ina Coolbrith, Bret Harte and Mark Twain—whose lives converged in San Francisco in 1863. As Tarnoff’s narrative begins, Harte, “a shy, soft-spoken dandy” and a talented editor, was the most famous Western storyteller in the country. The young Twain, recently arrived from Nevada, was best known for a few callow journalistic stunts and was unsure enough of his talents that he would soon consider giving up writing altogether and returning to life on the river in Missouri. The forever-boyish Stoddard, a “dreamy and frail” poet, struggled with his sexuality and only found himself as a person and as a writer when he ventured to the South Seas. Coolbrith, perhaps the most tragic figure in this story, was a poet with some talent, but she was increasingly shackled by financial responsibilities, first for her ailing mother and then for her orphaned nieces and nephews. She could never fully develop her gifts but, as an Oakland librarian, influenced writers like Jack London, and was named California’s first poet laureate near the end of her life. Tarnoff alternates his narrative among these four aspiring writers struggling to achieve something

new. He vividly describes a vibrant 10-year period when San Francisco was adjusting to the impacts of the Civil War and the arrival of the transcontinental railroad. But the strongest and most fascinating strand of Tarnoff’s story focuses on the friendship and rivalry between Harte and Twain. This sad drama offers important insights into how young Twain—by turns helped and hindered by an increasingly irrational and vainglorious Harte—became the great American writer he was.





reviews him away from medicine and into the realm of literature. Goetz weaves together a compelling narrative, chronicling the struggle to find the causes and cures for some of the most ferocious diseases that have stalked humans (and animals) through time: cholera, smallpox, anthrax and tuberculosis. In The Remedy we meet not just Koch and Doyle, but Louis Pasteur, whose public feud with Koch about anthrax helped to energize scientific breakthroughs in both men’s labs. Perhaps most importantly, The Remedy reminds us of how far we have come, and how much we take for granted in modern medicine. Tuberculosis is still very much with us. Just as we thought we had bested the bacterium, multi-drug-resistant TB has emerged. As Goetz reminds us, in the end, “The bacteria precede us. They outnumber us. And they will outlast us.” —DEBORAH HOPKINSON


Random House
 $23, 176 pages ISBN 9781400069545 Audio, eBook available


NONFICTION ized in Caldwell’s unforgettable Let’s Take the Long Way Home) and her beloved dog, Clementine. Now she’s at a crossroads. How can she keep moving forward when she struggles to even climb her stairs? Then, to Caldwell’s surprise, a new doctor suggests that a total hip replacement would take away the chronic physical pain that has come to dominate her life. And her new puppy, a Samoyed named Tula, fills her with joy. As Caldwell’s physical body changes, new possibilities are presented for her emotional life. What I like best about this book is its refusal to compartmentalize. We often think of the body as being separated from the mind, and (more importantly) the heart. Caldwell’s story forces us to think otherwise. It interweaves reflections on everything from dogs to disease, from the loss of loved ones to the pleasures and pains of new beginnings. New Life, No Instructions shows us how a lot of little things—shifted perspectives about memories, a new puppy, dear friends and a height increase of just over half an inch— add up to something much more significant: a new life, embarked upon and embraced. — K E L LY B L E W E T T



By Ramachandra Guha


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. Caldwell had suffered from polio as a child, and for years she attributed her slight limp and growing physical pain to the disease. Though she acknowledged that polio was rough, Caldwell refused to see herself as anything but a survivor. In a new memoir, New Life, No Instructions, she traces how she arrived at this crucial self-perception—the influence of her father, her own stubbornness, the meticulous maintenance of a “tough girl” persona. But at nearly 60, the jig seems up. Caldwell’s old physical routines (long swims, walks with big dogs, rowing) seem increasingly untenable. And she’s suffered a series of deep losses—her parents, her close friend Caroline (memorial-

Knopf $35, 688 pages ISBN 9780385532297 eBook available


Mohandas K. Gandhi was born and raised in India and is best known for his work there as a worldrenowned 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.

It was in South Africa that Gandhi invented what he named “satyagraha” or the “force of truth in a good cause,” the techniques of mass civil disobedience in which those in authority are shamed by nonviolent protesters willing to suffer beatings and imprisonment to attain justice. As he was about to leave South Africa for good, Gandhi called satyagraha “perhaps the mightiest instrument on earth.” Nothing in Gandhi’s life had prepared him for the intensity of racial prejudice in South Africa. He went there, for what he thought would be a short time, to represent a prominent businessman in a lawsuit. He won the case and was asked to stay longer to help defeat a bill that would keep Indians, who were coming to South Africa in increasing numbers, from registering to vote. In his autobiography, Gandhi writes: “Thus God laid the foundations of my life in South Africa and sowed the seed of the fight for national self-respect.” His biographer speculates that it may have had more to do with the actions of the ruling class of white men. Guha’s research took him to archives around the world, where he found many previously unknown or unused documents, including private papers of Gandhi’s friends and co-workers. As a result, Gandhi Before India presents the most complete portrait we have of a very human Gandhi during this period. Perhaps most importantly, we learn that Gandhi had a real gift for friendship. His closest friends in South Africa were two Hindus, two Jews and two Christian clergymen. Each was courageous and impressive, no one more than Gandhi’s devoted Jewish secretary, Sonja Schlesin, a steadfast supporter of his work. Guha takes us through the negotiations Gandhi conducted with government officials, and we see how skilled he was in this arena. A strategist of slow reform, he proceeded incrementally, protesting by stages, preparing himself and his followers systematically rather than spontaneously rushing into confrontation. It was only when petitions, letters and meetings with authorities had failed that he chose to demonstrate. This is an engrossing look at a major figure of the 20th century during a pivotal period in the development of his influential philosophy.

Biz Stone is cocky. Charming. A self-described genius. In Things a Little Bird Told Me: Confessions of the Creative Mind, he offers readers a glimpse of how he got that way. If his name doesn’t ring a bell, consider that the “little bird” he’s referencing is the Twitter logo—he’s the co-founder of the site, and the reason we now think in 140-character phrases. The stories here are funny and insightful. In school, Biz couldn’t hold down a job and keep up with homework, so he established a “no homework” policy—and convinced his teachers to go along with it! When Twitter’s success earned him an appearance on “The Colbert Report,” a gift card in the show’s swag bag led to amazing things. Each of these yarns has a point for would-be entrepreneurs, encouraging creativity, collaboration and making your own opportunities rather than waiting for them to appear. Stone is generous in his assessments of others and almost never snarky, so his story of meeting with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg stands out. Neither Stone nor Twitter cofounder Evan Williams wanted to be acquired by Facebook, so they tossed out an obscenely high value for their company, then bailed when they found themselves stranded in an unmoving cafeteria line. (They were later offered the amount they’d requested, but still turned it down.) Stone is social to his core, so Zuckerberg’s notoriously flat affect—he’s described here as pointing to some people and saying, “These are some people working”—was clearly not a love connection in the making. If you have big ideas, or a sense that you could have big ideas if only (fill in the blank), Things a Little Bird Told Me can help you fill in that blank and bring your personal genius to the masses. It’s a wise and generous book, and also a lot of fun.




Grand Central $26, 240 pages ISBN 9781455528714 Audio, eBook available




Don’t lose your head



When 16-year-old Travis Coates, dying from acute lymphoblastic leukemia, donated his head (the only part of his body not ravaged by cancer) to be cryogenically stored at the Saranson Center for Life Preservation, he imagined being reinstated in 100 years, alongside jet packs and other futuristic gadgets. But when technology advances sooner than expected, he “wakes up” five years later with the body of another teen who suffered from a brain tumor. In Noggin, by Printz Award winner John Corey Whaley, Travis recalls the initial days, weeks and months of his second chance at life. Although Travis feels like he just briefly went to sleep, he’s now an overnight celebrity and must face the reality that life went on without him and that nothing will ever be the same again. His parents grieved. His best friend, Kyle, who once revealed that he’s gay, is hiding his sexuality in college. Cate, his girlfriend and first love, has moved on and is By John Corey Whaley Atheneum, $17.99, 352 pages engaged to be married. Yet Travis remains the high schooler he was—or ISBN 9781442458727, audio, eBook available has he, too, changed? Although he has a new body, it’s seems the world Ages 14 and up keeps rejecting him. A graceful combination of raw heartbreak and biting wit (including SCIENCE FICTION plenty of head puns) guides Travis through this existential search for life’s meaning and survival. With the help of old loves and new friends, he learns to accept Travis version 2.0 and discovers that life may be even harder than death. While the novel’s premise may be straight out of Hollywood, Travis’ voice could not be any truer. Fans of John Green will welcome this smart tearjerker.


FSG $17.99, 336 pages ISBN 9780374346676 Audio, eBook available Ages 12 and up


—J U S T I N B A R I S I C H

THE HERE AND NOW By Ann Brashares

Delacorte $18.99, 256 pages ISBN 9780385736800 Audio, eBook available Ages 12 and up


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. But Prenna is under constant surveillance by the community elders, and she knows what happens to time travelers who fall in love with present-day people—they disappear. Rather than working on a solution to save the future, Prenna’s people haven’t done a thing except

— K I M B E R LY G I A R R A T A N O

GOING OVER By Beth Kephart

Chronicle $17.99, 272 pages ISBN 9781452124575 eBook available Ages 14 and up


In her searing new novel, National Book Award finalist Beth Kephart paints a vivid picture of a divided Berlin and the wall that separates friends, lovers and families. It’s 1983, and Ada scrapes out an existence in West Berlin. Her world is full of secrets: A childcare worker by day, she spends her nights roaming the city armed with a can of spray paint. Her best friend is hiding a pregnancy, and a little boy in her care is also harboring a secret, a dangerous and terrible one. But perhaps Ada’s greatest secret is Stefan, the boy on the other side of the Berlin Wall whom she loves and begs to cross over, and to do it now. For his part, Stefan must balance his desire for freedom and to be with Ada with his responsibilities to his grandmother. He knows full well the consequences of a failed escape attempt, and so he makes lists of all the tiny things that could go wrong. Then he meets Lucas, and his plans start to become reality. Inspired by a trip the author took to Berlin in 2011, Going Over is told in alternating chapters by Ada and Stefan, giving us a glimpse of life on both sides of the Wall. Kephart gets under the reader’s skin, raising questions and leaving us unsettled, unsure. And that, in the end, is just what graffiti artists are after. —DEBORAH HOPKINSON


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. Laurel’s childhood innocence came to a sudden end when May, her beloved older sister, was killed just when Laurel was transitioning between middle school and high school. In the wake of the tragedy, Laurel’s mom split from the family and escaped to the California coast to clear her head. Laurel’s father has remained, but the death of his oldest child weighs heavily on him. To avoid an atmosphere of constant sadness and pain, Laurel chooses to

attend a high school where nobody knows her family history. She doesn’t want anybody’s pity. As she tries to fit in, Laurel befriends the eccentric and chainsmoking Natalie and Hannah, catches the eye of the mysterious and attractive Sky, and gets taken under the wing of kindly rebellious couple Tristan and Kristen. All the while, Laurel chronicles her grief process by writing letters to her deceased idols, starting with Kurt Cobain. But eventually Laurel will have to reveal her true self to her loved ones still living, or else risk losing their companionship forever. Debut author Ava Dellaira earned her MFA in Poetry from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and has worked under the famous Stephen Chbosky, author of The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Dellaira even mimics Chbosky’s narrative device of addressing letters to people who may never read them, allowing her protagonist to be immensely honest and open. Dellaira handles these delicate subjects with such innocent deftness that it’s easy to forget this is a work of fiction.

intimidate other time travelers into submission. Eventually she must make a decision: be with the boy she loves or save the world. The Here and Now seems like a departure for Ann Brashares, whose best-selling novels focused on friendships and romance. Readers are given more to consider here, such as environmental abuse and self-sacrifice for the good of others. Prenna and Ethan are truly selfless and brave, and readers will root for their happiness—whether or not it’s what the future holds.





Those plucky Norwegian girls


efore she became a Newbery Honor-winning author, Margi Preus spent 25 years as the artistic director of Duluth’s Colder by the Lake Comedy Theatre, where she wrote, produced and directed sketches, operas, plays and adaptations. So why the switch to children’s books? “I had kids!” she says with a laugh. “Something really happened to me when my older son [now 26] discovered the magic of books at age 2 or 3. He wanted me to read him book after book, and he’d watch my lips and . . . eyes, look at the page, then back up at my face and mouth. I could see he was putting it all together, that those little squiggles on that page are making her say words that have meaning to me. This magical thing is happening to me, and a story is happening somehow. That was a big part of my inspiration, of wanting to try [writing books].” And so she did, first with three picture books, and then historical fiction for middle grade readers: the 2011 Newbery Honor book Heart of a Samurai and 2012’s Shadow on the Mountain. Her new book, West of the Moon, was another new writerly adventure for Preus: It’s inspired by the writings and art of her real great-greatgrandmother, Linka, who came with her husband to America from Norway in 1851, but the story and its characters are not as tied to history as in her previous works. Preus spun a mere few lines of text from Linka’s diary into a magical mix of folklore, myth and adventure set in the




By Margi Preus

Amulet, $16.95, 224 pages ISBN 9781419708961, ages 10 to 14


sometimes beautiful, sometimes forbidding mid-19th-century Norwegian mountainside. It’s the story of 13-year-old Astri, who (in today’s parlance) kicks some serious butt. She’s smart and savvy, and ably navigates strange, stressful situations even if she’s sad or scared—which is fairly often, considering her mother’s dead, her father is somewhere in America, and her aunt has just sold her to a filthy, mean goat-herder, thus separating her from her younger sister Greta. Astri strives to maintain her safety and dignity, recalling favorite folktales and memories when she needs a mental lift, and using all her guts and wits on a daring escape-andrescue mission that’s often as funny as it is suspenseful. And the mission continues on—ill-intentioned pursuers and bridge-trolls be damned— because Astri decides it’s time to go to America. While many details of her ancestors’ own immigration experience informed West of the Moon, Preus says her great-great-grandmother’s brief mention of a girl she met on the ship to America revved up her imagination. “As I read over [those lines in the diary],” she says, “I wondered . . . what kind of girl would get on a boat alone and go to America, not knowing anyone? I thought I’d see if I could figure out a story for her.” But, she adds, this “was a bit scary for me. . . . I had so many ideas, and it was hard to settle on what should happen next. [When] writing the two earlier books based on real people . . . I couldn’t go off in a direction too far afield from what actually happened. With Astri, I just had to decide or feel how I wanted it to be.” One important decision: Preus infused Astri with the strength and smarts typically found in Scandinavian folklore, as well as in the pages of her great-great-grandmother’s diary. In Astri’s favorite folktale, “the

girl goes three days past the end of the world to rescue a guy,” Preus explains. “That’s not an unusual heroine in Scandinavian folktales and fairy tales. Girls can be very strong; even if a boy comes to rescue them, they tell them what to do.” She adds, “I was thinking about that, looking through the diary again. The night before [Linka] got married, she wrote . . . ‘A human being is a free and independent creature and I would recommend every woman consider it, and I insist that every maiden owes it to herself to do so.’ That is a fairy-tale heroine. . . . She kind of got in trouble as a pastor’s wife, because they were supposed to be submissive.” (At the book’s end, readers may peruse Linka’s actual drawings and a handwritten excerpt from her diary.) Lucky for readers, Preus’ greatgreat-grandmother didn’t stop writing and drawing in her diary because others disapproved, and Astri wasn’t meek because dastardly people wanted her to be. That drive for independence, the belief that something better lies ahead, is an inspiration for readers of any age— and, perhaps, an impetus to read Scandinavian folktales. For now, though, Preus has put folktales aside to work on her next book, a companion to Heart of a Samurai. “It picks up where that book left off, historically.” She’s working on it in her backyard writing house, built for her in 2009 by her younger son (artist and furniture

designer Misha Kahn) and her husband, a designer and contractor. “It’s a wonderful place. I love it!” she says. “It’s got a real wood stove, great big picture windows looking out over a frozen creek, all birch inside. . . . I’m sure if I looked hard I could see a deer in the woods behind it.” The little wooden house has become vital to Preus’ writing process, now that she’s left the comedy theater (and teaching, which she also did in previous decades) and has been transitioning to writing full-time. But her years spent focusing on laughter have served her well, as evidenced by the bouts of humor that buoy West of the Moon and in the way she approaches her stories. “[At the comedy theater], I didn’t write the funny stuff. I just took all these ideas everybody had, all these little scripts and pieces and improv bits, and made them into a show. I feel like writing a novel is a lot like that, with all the different themes that have to come together to make a whole story.” While she does miss collaborating on comedy productions, “I don’t miss the ego things, which are rampant when doing theater. . . . I have very little patience for that now.” It works out nicely, then, that the woodpeckers and chickadees— and the occasional black bear—in her yard aren’t likely to bicker over personal issues. They’ll do their outdoor things; Preus will write indoors; and Astri will journey on.



A tale of two brothers REVIEW BY HEATHER SEGGEL

“Work smart / Live smarter / Play hard / Practice harder / Love, Dad” The Crossover is a novel-in-verse, with long flows of prose that spill out a tale of family, love, loss and basketball. Josh and his twin brother Jordan live for the game and plan to play at rival colleges. Their mother is tough but fair with the boys, but she tries in vain to persuade their father to make healthier choices. An ex-player whose pro dreams faded after an injury, he lives through the boys’ achievements while wolfing down Krispy Kremes. One crisis leads to another, and soon the family is mourning an irreplaceable loss. The Crossover will appeal to basketball fans, and it will likely grab reluctant readers with its quick wordplay, deft rhymes and kinetic, poetic take on the game. “The bass booms. / The crowd looms. / There’s music and mocking, / teasing nonstop, but / when the play begins / all the talk ceases.” Author Kwame Alexander has made a gift to teachers with this By Kwame Alexander book: References to classical and jazz music (Josh’s dad nicknamed him HMH, $16.99, 240 pages “Filthy McNasty” after a Horace Silver song), probability (Jordan places ISBN 9780544107717, eBook available bets on nearly everything) and the geometry of the game open up plenty Ages 9 to 12 of study topics without ever losing a step. Jordan’s fledgling romance MIDDLE GRADE and the strain it puts on the brothers’ relationship will draw sympathy from anyone who has ever felt deserted by a friend. The title refers to a move made on the court, but The Crossover is destined to reach—and touch—readers who never gave basketball or poetry a second thought until now. It’s tough, muscular writing about a tender, unguarded heart.

underground, where the water can’t getcha. You betcha.”) A big group of friendly folk ends up in a subway shelter, sharing a delivery boy’s pizza, listening to musicians play and generally meeting and greeting. A tall lady with a poodle gives her umbrella to a boy; two friends huddle together to stay dry; and a burly construction worker holds a tiny umbrella. Up above the platform, a girl, dressed to the nines, is “late for dancing” and runs through the rain. Illustrator G. Brian Karas places readers right in the center of the action. Combined with Bluemle’s immediate, first-person sentences, it’s as if we’re in danger of getting soaked ourselves. The collaged photos of city scenes—along with Karas’ gouache and pencil additions—make for intriguing textures and add concreteness to this warm-hearted story of community. In the end, everyone heads out for a “surprise in the sky.” It’s a rainbow, and folks pause in the hustle and bustle of their day to look up and savor it. The sky-blue endpapers are further hints that the storm has passed, though this is one storm readers will be pleased to participate in. —J U L I E D A N I E L S O N

MAGGI AND MILO By Juli Brenning

Illustrated by Priscilla Burris Dial $16.99, 32 pages ISBN 9780803737952 eBook available Ages 3 to 5


—J I L L R A T Z A N

TAP TAP BOOM BOOM By Elizabeth Bluemle

Illustrated by G. Brian Karas Candlewick $16.99, 32 pages ISBN 9780763656966 Ages 3 to 7


“Tap TAP, dark clouds. Tap TAP, damp air.” Better run for cover. There’s a storm coming, and author Elizabeth Bluemle brings it to us with style. Using short, rhyming sentences, we readers are right there in the burgeoning storm with a cast of characters about to get drenched. It’s an otherwise beautiful spring day when the raindrops and thunder-booms arrive. People are out and about or relaxing on park benches. We first follow a young girl in a bright yellow dress, who looks with alarm at the coming rain. She and the other people in her community are driven to shelter. (“You’d better go down

TOOLS RULE! By Aaron Meshon

Atheneum $16.99, 40 pages ISBN 9781442496019 eBook available Ages 4 to 8


In Aaron Meshon’s Tools Rule!, the tools in a very messy yard need to get organized, but how? By building a tool shed, of course! From the obscure awl to the ubiquitous drill, all the tools pitch in and, in turn, teach the reader about what they do. Find out what sounds a saw makes (vrip! ) and how a level works as they put a frame together. Watch the glue stick on roof tiles and the paintbrush slap on paint. Once the shed is finished, these tuckeredout tools can finally get some rest, as long as the screwdriver doesn’t snore. Reminiscent of many Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld


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. When a package with froghunting supplies arrives from her grandmother, bespectacled Maggi and her large canine companion Milo head out beyond “the edge of the world” to a nearby pond where, after waiting “a million minutes,” their patience is finally rewarded. As they collect more and more specimens, Maggi even remembers to assign gender-fair names to

her newly found frogs. Finally, as evening approaches, the two friends share “a quiet, end-of-the-day kind of song” and look forward to more adventures to come. Maggi’s enthusiasm is reflected in the exuberant lines of Priscilla Burris’ digitally created illustrations, and Milo’s perpetually wagging tail and lolling tongue add to the delightful effect. As the day goes on, bold, bright colors give way to the murkier shades of dusk, while details in the illustrations, like Maggi’s frog slippers and Milo’s interest in a passing dragonfly, add even more visual interest. The occasional color-accented words (as when Maggi shouts, in big yellow and orange capital letters, “I am FROG HUNTER!”) provide helpful emphasis cues to guide read-alouds. Watch for more fun, scientifically literate tales from debut picture book writer Juli Brenning, and don’t be surprised if young naturalists start asking for a frog book and a pair of blue waterproof boots of their own.



When Audrey Met Alice By Rebecca Behrens

collaborations, Tools Rule! is full of clever puns easy enough for young readers to understand. Little handymen and women will love the bright illustrations and kid-friendly fonts. The simplicity of each detailed spread is spot-on for this age group. Although each page is bustling with objects and activity, it’s easy to spot specific tools and their corresponding names. This is perfect for the budding builder who is just starting to read. —SADA STIPE


CHILDREN’S when he gets to his last one? That and many other mysterious questions will keep kids reading to the very end. —J E N N I F E R B R U E R K I T C H E L

THE RIVERMAN By Aaron Starmer

FSG $15.99, 320 pages ISBN 9780374363093 eBook available Ages 10 to 14


By Michael D. Beil

“Details of life in the White House, combined with Audrey’s more ordinary struggles…will keep readers hooked.”

Knopf $15.99, 288 pages ISBN 9780385753173 eBook available Ages 8 to 12

—Publishers Weekly



The Ninja Librarians


By Jen Swann Downey

“[Downey] shows a rare gift for crafting scrambles so madcap that it’s hard to turn the pages fast enough to keep up.” —Kirkus STARRED H Review

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. It’s just as well, because when Henry’s new friend Ellis Strasbourg is kidnapped on the train, he’s going to need Sam’s help to rescue her. Together, Sam and Henry will have to figure out many clues and outwit the kidnappers before it’s too late. As author of the Red Blazer Girls series, Michael D. Beil is no stranger to middle grade mysteries. His prose is readily accessible, and the danger is mild but bound to be exciting to most third- and fourth-grade students. The story unfolds in alternating chapters between the first-person voices of Henry and Sam. This format is initially confusing, but Beil does a wonderful job of establishing their separate personalities, and the swap soon becomes fluid and easy. Plus, Sam’s chapters are a countdown of his nine lives, which makes the reader wonder: What happens

Separating fact from fantasy is no small order in The Riverman, Aaron Starmer’s first installment in a planned trilogy. And discerning what is real is a challenge for the reader as well as for 12-year-old Alistair Cleary, the well-meaning protagonist of this dark and multilayered novel set in a small town in the 1980s. Odd girl-next-door Fiona Loomis has a proposal for Alistair: listen to her ramblings and write down her story. Sounds innocent enough, but Alistair soon learns that Fiona’s story is far from typical or even believable. She weaves a tale of traveling the magical, unknown world of Aquavania (via a portal in her basement). There, she creates her own reality and meets unusual characters along the way who tell her about the nefarious Riverman, who allegedly steals children’s souls. In Fiona’s stories, time shifts; children disappear; and she struggles to live both in Aquavania and in what she calls the Solid World. But as confused and concerned as Alistair is, he finds himself strangely drawn to Fiona and begins to wonder if her stories are a cover for something dangerous or abusive happening in her family. This tale of alternate realities may be a tad tough to follow (and a bit mature) for younger readers, but older preteens and teens will find this contemporary twisted and tumbled take on Through the Looking-Glass (with a few similarities to Tony DiTerlizzi’s WondLa trilogy) to be a compelling mystery. Alternate worlds may be the next dystopias, and Starmer is the one to pull it off. —SHARON VERBETEN



Giggles and rhymes


ational Poetry Month begins with April Fools’ Day. Coincidence? Perhaps not. These three books for young readers goof, spoof and are rarely, if ever, aloof. They make poetry and reading as easy as breathing, and also a lot of fun.

“My sister likes to sing a lot, / but some, like me, prefer she not.” Outside the Box (McElderry, $17.99, 176 pages, ISBN 9781416980056, ages 7 to 10) dots comical couplets like this one among longer works, covering such topics as school, holidays, superstitions and how great salad would taste if you could just leave out all the vegetables (so true!). Author Karma Wilson’s verses are illustrated with black-and-white art from Diane Goode, and the pictures grace the words with additional humor. (In one illustration, a Good Samaritan certificate is drawn to indicate it was a free Internet download.) Outside the Box is dedicated to Shel Silverstein, and a streak of gentle subversion—much like in his poems— runs through it. Thoughtful, funny and sometimes gross, these poems have solid kid appeal. Jon J Muth’s Hi, Koo!: A Year of Seasons (Scholastic, $17.99, 32 pages, ISBN 9780545166683, ages 4 to 8) is a beautiful introduction to haiku, following a panda and two human friends through the four seasons. From outdoor play to spending the winter watching too much TV (“my eyes are square”), each poem is accompanied by a watercolor illustration of Koo or his friends. The images are largely joyful, but there are pensive moments as well (“killing a

VROOM VROOM “You thought the dinosaurs were dead?! / The cars behind our school / Are big Tyrannosaurus wrecks / That run on fossil fuel.” The wild rides in Poem-mobiles: Crazy Car Poems (Schwartz & Wade, $17.99, 40 pages, ISBN 9780375866906, ages 4 to 8) include a rubber band car, an egg car and a hot dog car with the valueadded feature that it runs on sauerkraut and “when you’re done / You simply eat it.” That sure saves on parking. J. Patrick Lewis and Douglas Florian wrote the lively and humorous poems, and artist Jeremy Holmes brings them to vibrant life with paintings full of visual puns, lush colors and retro styling. Read the poems aloud—they’re snappy as bubblegum—then spend 10 minutes spotting all the visual treats that accompany them. Poem-mobiles will win over any reluctant reader who lights up at the sound of an engine, after which they’ll delight in dreaming up new cars from the stuff of daily life. It’s a clever way to jumpstart young imaginations.

LEAVING CHINA Award-winning artist James McMullan is perhaps best known for his theatrical posters. His memoir, Leaving China: An Artist Paints His World War II Childhood (Algonquin, $19.95, 128 pages, ISBN 9781616202552, ages 12 and up), shares memories that chronicle his early childhood in China and his wartime journey to the United States. McMullan lives and works in New York.



bug / afterward / feeling alone and Sad”), which allow for discussion of difficult emotions. Muth capitalizes one letter in each poem, so there’s an A-to-Z sequence readers can follow. The calming sounds, short poems and paintings set in nature make this an ideal bedtime book.




WE’LL DRINK TO THAT Dear Editor, I just attended a symposium, and it got me wondering. Can you tell me anything about the origin of the word symposium? D. M. Elyria, Ohio We’re guessing the symposium you attended did not much resemble the type of gathering that is the source of the word symposium. In ancient Greece, the evening meal was often followed by a drinking party, attended only by men, that usually featured songs, games and performances. This party was called in Greek symposion, a derivative of sympotes, meaning “drinking companion.” For Greeks with loftier aspirations, the drinking became somewhat subordinate to the entertainment, which at its most exalted might take the form of philosophical discussion. The Platonic dialogue known as the Symposium is one example of a Greek literary genre that used conversation at a drinking party as a frame for treatment of a serious

topic—in the case of Plato’s work, love and beauty. The Greek word has been borrowed into English via Latin, but the academic connotations the word now has could hardly be further from the riotous excess more typical of the ancient symposion.

LOWEST OF THE LOW Dear Editor, How did the word riffraff come about, and why does it refer to people of a bad sort? F. P. Sherman, Texas The word riffraff seems to represent a triumph of sound over sense, for it is a compound of two quite different words that have little semantic connection. In Middle French the verb rifler meant “to scratch” or “to plunder,” and the noun raffle or raffe meant “the act of sweeping or snatching.” From these words in about the late 13th century the French contrived the phrase rif et raf which was used to mean “completely” or “altogether.” Later variants such as rifle ou [or] raffe and rif ny

[nor] raf show that the phrase most likely also meant “anything” or with a negative adverb “nothing.” Medieval French rif et raf was thus borrowed into English as rif and raf, in the sense “one and all, every single one.” No doubt it was the lack of exclusivity implied by “every single one” that led to ryfe raffe being used in early Modern English as a collective noun for people of the lowest or most disreputable sort.

CHILLIN’ LIKE A VILLAIN Dear Editor, A friend and I have made a bet over the origin of the word villain. I say it comes from the word vile. My friend thinks it has something to do with the word villi, meaning “hair,” because a hairy, unkempt person looks like a villain. Who wins? G. F. Kokomo, Indiana We’re afraid there are no winners, since the origin of villain is not related to either vile or villi. Let’s turn the clock back to the Middle Ages to find an explanation. In medieval France and England,

a villain or villein was an agricultural laborer, at some times and places free and at others bound through feudal obligation to the property of his lord. Villain is the Old French outcome of a word that appears in early Medieval Latin as villanus, meaning literally “inhabitant of a villa.” Villa in classical Latin was a large country dwelling, though by the time of Late Latin (3rd to 6th centuries), the word could refer to any aggregation of rural dwellings and was nearly equivalent in sense to village, so that a villanus was in effect a villager. Because the landed aristocracy that dominated medieval society had a preponderant influence on linguistic usage, Middle English villain or villein developed the depreciatory sense “a person of uncouth mind and manners.” This pejorative tendency gained strength, so that the modern villain is a person or thing blamed for a particular evil or difficulty.

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Test Your Mental Mettle with Puzzles from BANANA TREES



Use the 15 tiles in this bunch to create words

There is one letter that when added to

that fit into the grids below. You will reuse this

all of the four-letter words below can be

bunch for each of the four grids. The BANANA

used to form new five-letter words. Find the

BITES provide hints.

letter that works for all four words, add it to each word, and then rearrange each set of letters to form a new word.

1. BANANA BITE: One word is a type of animal.

COMMON LETTER 2. BANANA BITE: One word means “duplicated.”




2. B C I L OOP P R I N T I E D

3. B CO I L N O I T P I P E R D

1. C R I B L I ON I T OP P E D

3. BANANA BITE: One word means “kicked.”

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