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aug. 2012

america’s book review

American West Myths and Mayhem in the

Claire Vaye Watkins mines her turbulent family history and the rugged Nevada landscape to create a stunning collection of stories—and a must-read debut.

+ 10 more new writers to note

SEATTLE SATIRE

Maria Semple’s hilarious take on a missing mom

GOODBYE, NORMA JEAN 50 years later, new views of Marilyn Monroe

64

Book Reviews Inside!


paperback picks PENGUIN.COM

The Devil’s Elixir

Getting to Happy

Heart of Gold

Happy Ever After

What if there was a drug capable of inducing an experience so momentous—and so shocking— that it might shake the very foundations of Western civilization? What if FBI agent Sean Reilly and archaeologist Tess Chaykin were the only ones who could stop the unthinkable from happening?

In the sequel to Waiting to Exhale, best friends Savannah, Gloria, Bernadine, and Robin are reclaiming the joy and the dreams they deserve. And they’re doing it with spirit, sass, and hard-earned faith in one another.

Archaeologist Carter Wessex is drawn to Farrell Mountain to solve a centuries-old mystery—and find a fortune in hidden gold. One thing stands in her way: Nick Farrell, a notorious corporate raider with no patience for trespassers on his land—and way too much sex appeal.

Mechanic Malcolm Kavanaugh loves figuring out how things work, and Parker is no exception. Both know that moving from minor flirtation to major hook-up is a serious step. Parker’s business risks have always paid off, but now she’ll have to take the chance of a lifetime with her heart.

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Celebrity in Death

Death Benefit

Stygian’s Honor

The Secret Crown

Talented but rude and widely disliked, actress K.T. Harris made an embarrassing scene during dinner. Now she’s at the center of a crime scene—and Lieutenant Eve Dallas is more than ready to step into the role she was born to play: cop.

Pia is an exceptional yet aloof medical student working with Columbia University Medical Center scientist on cutting edge research that could revolutionize health care. But when tragedy strikes, Pia, with the help of classmate George, launches an investigation into the unforeseen calamity in the hospital’s supposedly secure biosafety lab.

Stygian’s mission is to find Honor Roberts, no matter the cost. Now, with the help of Liza Johnson, assistant to the chief of the Navajo Nation, he is closer than ever to his goal. But will the discovery of Honor Roberts mean the destruction of the mating heat that has developed between Stygian and Liza?

According to legend, King Ludwig II had stockpiled gold and jewels. But in the years since the king’s mysterious death, no one has found any evidence of such a trove. Jonathon Payne and David Jones find themselves in a struggle to uncover the truth about Ludwig’s death, his mythical treasure, and who would be willing to kill for it.

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NOW WITH EVEN MORE WAYS TO WRECK! PERIGEE

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Keri Smith’s Wreck This Journal will inspire you to create, destroy, explore, beautify, and make a mess. Color outside the lines. Look at the world in a new way.


contents

AUGUST 2012 w w w. B o o k Pa g e . c o m

features

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16 M.L. Stedman Facing tough questions in a debut novel

cover story

Claire Vaye Watkins

Battleborn, Watkins’ debut collection of short stories, explores the legends of the American West and the myths of her own family.

17 Maria Semple Big laughs in Where’d You Go, Bernadette

Cover photo © iStockphoto.com/melhi

18 debut novelists

The summer’s best newcomers

21 Marilyn Monroe

Looking back on America’s bombshell

reviews top pick:

21 Emily GIffin

Broken Harbor by Tana French

Subscribe to our free e-newsletters! • BookPageXTRA • Book of the Day • Children’s Corner

also reviewed:

Meet the author of Where We Belong

22 Talking about education Four memoirs give hope for schools

23 Parenting perfection Five clever guides for one tough job

Requiem by Frances Atani Goodbye for Now by Laurie Frankel What in God’s Name by Simon Rich The Age of Desire by Jennie Fields

The surprising journey of a pregnant teen

30 Back to School Start the year right with four picture books

31 The Brothers Hilts Meet the illustrators of The Insomniacs

top pick:

Dearie by Bob Spitz

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26

21

24

29

20

Hello Goodbye Hello by Craig Brown Dreamland by David K. Randall A Daughter’s Tale by Mary Soames The Black Rhinos of Namibia by Rick Bass Law Man by Shon Hopwood with Dennis Burke

29 Children’s top pick:

columns

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26 NonFiction also reviewed:

28 Beth Kephart

Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead

also reviewed:

04 book fortunes 04 05 06 07 08 08 11 12

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24 Fiction

The author Enabler Audio ROMANCE whodunit well read lifestyles book clubs Cooking

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Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Extra Credit by Tommy Greenwald Minnie McClary Speaks Her Mind by Valerie Hobbs Emily and Jackson Hiding Out by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry Fingerprints of You by Kristen-Paige Madonia Intentions by Deborah Heiligman

Correction: The short story feature in the July issue was written by Lauren Bufferd.

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columns

Our crystal ball predicts your next great read Reader name: Carol Hometown: Columbia, CT Favorite genres: Nonfiction Favorite books: Shadow Divers (Robert Kurson); A Walk in the Woods (Bill Bryson); The Bear’s Embrace: A Story of Survival (Patricia Van Tighem); The Lost City of Z (David Grann) Carol requested suggestions for “nonfiction that makes me breathless.” Based on her list of favorite books, I strongly suspect she also wants books that will take her on an exciting adventure! One book that fits this bill perfectly is Wild by Cheryl Strayed, about a young woman’s journey across 1,100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. The book is both painfully funny and heartbreaking; Strayed starts the hike after her mother’s death and in an attempt to find direction in her life. It was also BookPage’s Nonfiction Top Pick in April. Other recommendations? Try Skeletons on the Zahara by Dean King, a pulse-pounding story about a group of American sailors taken captive in North Africa in 1815. We also liked Nothing Daunted by Dorothy Wickenden, the true story of two well-bred Smith grads who head out for the frontier in 1916. Reader name: Caitlin Hometown: Normandy Park, WA Favorite genres: historical fiction, horror, mystery Favorite books: No Night Is Too Long (Ruth Rendell); My Cousin Rachel (Daphne du Maurier); The Lottery (Shirley Jackson); Sorry (Zoran Drvenkar)

4

I loved two recent books that are both suspenseful and historical: The Yard by Alex Grecian is a crime novel set in London in 1889, in which a

Book FortuneS

THE author enabler

by eliza borné

by Sam Barry

murder squad searches for Jack the Ripper. Charlotte Rogan’s debut, The Lifeboat, takes place in the harrowing days after an ocean liner sinks. The characters are crammed onto a lifeboat, fighting to survive the elements and each other. Finally, if you like your thrillers gritty, look no further than Elizabeth Hand’s books about punk photographer Cass Neary (Generation Loss, Available Dark). Don’t blame us if they make you too scared to fall asleep . . . Reader name: Mary-Ann Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA Favorite genres: time-travel fiction, Civil Rights-era fiction, historical fiction set in ancient Egypt or during the time of Christ, novels about real historical women Favorite books: The Summerhouse (Jude Deveraux); Winged Pharoah (Joan Grant); Soul Flame (Barbara Wood); To Kill a Mockingbird (Har­ per Lee); The Help (Kathryn Stockett) For time travel, you can’t beat Time and Again by Jack Finney, the classic story of a man who travels from the 1970s to 1882. Love Egypt? Try Wilbur Smith’s Ancient Egypt quartet (River God, The Seventh Scroll, Warlock, The Quest) or Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody books, a mystery series that starts with Crocodile on the Sandbank, set in the 1880s. For fiction set in ancient times, we like The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman, which takes place in 70 C.E. at Masada, a mountain fortress south of Jerusalem. If you want a real-life heroine, try The Widow of the South by Robert Hicks, a novel based on the life of a woman named Carrie McGavock; her Tennessee plantation home was used as a Confederate hospital during the Civil War. As for Civil Rightsera fiction, try Freshwater Road by Denise Nichols, about a 19-year-old woman’s coming of age in Mississippi of 1964. For a chance at your own book fortune, email bookfortunes@bookpage.com with your name, hometown and your favorite genre(s), author(s) and book(s). Also, visit bookpage.com/newsletters to sign up for Book of the Day, our daily book recommendation e-newsletter.

Practical advice on writing & publishing for aspiring authors

TELLING YOUR STORY Dear Author Enabler, How do you decide whether to write an autobiography or a memoir? Alberta Harvey Columbus, Georgia Before answering the question, let’s define the two forms. Autobiography is the history of a person’s life narrated by the author. When we read an autobiography, we expect to get a life story, inasmuch as any book can capture an entire life. In a memoir, the focus isn’t on telling the whole life story, only the relevant aspects that fit the author’s framework. In A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis tells the story of his personal loss and grief, and his focus is on understanding and perhaps finding meaning in his loss; he is not interested in telling his life story. So the question for you, the author, is very simple, though the answer may not be so easy: Are you setting out to tell your life story, or are you more interested in certain aspects of your life and how they relate to some other subject or area of interest? It’s up to you to decide.

FACT VS. FICTION Dear Author Enabler, My late daughter Natalie Jacobs’ book is a novel based on the life of Franz Schubert called When Your Song Breaks the Silence. I am not sure how to categorize it, as it seems to be somewhere between creative nonfiction and historical fiction.  Judith Jacobs Ann Arbor, Michigan Creative nonfiction aspires to be compellingly written prose that uses the craft elements associated with literary fiction to present factually accurate stories about real people and events. The essential components are that the writing be both creative and fact-based. Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff is an example; so is Dave Eggers’ A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. Historical fiction is, first and foremost, fiction. It tells a story that is set in the past, generally employing

characters, events and places that are drawn from history. However, the plot and the main characters are usually fictional. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell is historical fiction; so is In the Time of Butterflies by Julia Alvarez. My guess is that your daughter’s book is historical fiction, in that she is writing about a real person in novel form. The fact that you refer to it as a novel suggests this—a novel cannot be creative nonfiction.

FIRST THINGS FIRST Dear Author Enabler, I’m a new writer working on my first book that I would love to pursue into publication. However, I am not sure about copyright. When is the best time to obtain copyright for a novel, if ever? Should I do so before a pursuing an editor or a publisher? Candice O’Garro Camden, Delaware Beginning authors often worry unnecessarily about their work being stolen or appropriated. This should not be your primary concern, or even high on your list. Reputable publishers won’t publish an author’s work without permission. Focus on writing a good book and then on how to sell it to a publisher. If you are particularly cautious, once your work is ready to be shopped,visit copyright.gov and download the Short Form TX. The cost is reasonable and the form is not difficult to fill out. Also, if you are self-publishing it is your responsibility to copyright your work. But, remember, the primary and first task of an author is to write a good book. Everything else is secondary. So don’t let the details of publishing distract you from your main purpose: good writing. Sam Barry, whose late wife Kathi Kamen Goldmark was a co-writer of this column for many years, will continue to offer advice to would-be writers on navigating the publishing world. Send your questions, along with your name and hometown, to authorenablers@gmail.com.


audio

Calling all BookPage-loving NOOK owners

by sukey howard

OF LOBBYISTS AND LAMAS If the combo of a title like They Eat Puppies, Don’t They? (Hachette Audio, $29.98, 10.5 hours, ISBN 9781611134261) and an author named Christopher Buckley doesn’t shout sharp satire with cutting-edge irony, you’re probably a newly arrived space alien. In Buckley’s latest, “Bird” McIntyre, a lobbyist for the aerospace behemoth GroeppingSprunt with a high-spending trophy wife, needs to beef up support for Groepping’s mammoth killer drone. Why not inflame American antiChinese sentiment with a rumor that the Chinese are trying to poison the Dalai Lama? To set the rumor

the pull of a psychological thriller. In the second novella, inyour-face—or, in this case, in-her-face—anti-Irish prejudice clouds feisty Siobhan Lavenham’s judgment as she tries to sort out the truth about murder, arson, robbery, present passions and past perjuries, turning a straightforward hedunit into a surprising, witty whodunit. Reader Simon Prebble is at his best, evoking time and place and using his estimable gift for dialect with spot-on accuracy.

TWO TWISTED TALES Elsie, a very plain, very troubled, desperate woman of 24, tried to catch good-looking young Norman’s attention at church. He responded. Asking whether “either would have died if Norman hadn’t smiled,” Minette Walters ponders their sad, intertwined fates in the first of the two novellas that make up Innocent Victims (Highbridge, $24.95, 6 hours, ISBN 9781611747874). Based on the true story of the 1924 “chicken farm murder,” Walters tells the tale with the starkness of a documentary and

discover your next great book www.bookpage.com

aug. 2012

america’s book review

American West Myths and Mayhem in the

+ 10 more new writers to note

It’s 1938 and Warner Brothers has sent Austrian-born Fredric Stahl— handsome, charming, just muscular enough to be seen in a bathing suit—to Paris to star in a French film titled Aprés la Guerre. Ironically, Stahl finds himself in a city that, like the rest of Europe, is on the brink of war, and we fortunate listeners find ourselves on the brink of being totally mesmerized by Alan Furst’s latest thriller, Mission to Paris, read with smooth elan by Daniel Gerroll. Furst is a master of this genre and a master at painting this era in Casablanca black-andwhite. He’s in top form here, mixing up a heady, atmospheric cocktail of intrigue, deception, seduction and romance and serving it in a Paris shadowed by the threat of a Nazi takeover, swarming with political operatives who find Herr Stahl a potential agent of influence. And the compelling Herr Stahl turns out to be a leading man with a moral compass strong enough to see him through a dangerous, intricate interlude with espionage.

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Claire Vaye Watkins mines her turbulent family history and the rugged Nevada landscape to create a stunning collection of stories—and a must-read debut.

TOP PICK IN AUDIO

raging, Bird enlists the aid of Angel Templeton, the sexy, long-limbed, Ann Coulter-ish commander of the Institute for Continuing Conflict. Action shifts back and forth—from Beijing, where the mild president of the People’s Republic is trying to fend off ferocious attacks from party hardliners, to Washington, where Sino-American tensions are heating up, and to Bird’s workweek condo, known as the “Military-Industrial duplex.” Buckley’s take on our times, as clever as ever and disturbingly believable, is made even better by Robert Petkoff’s perfectly paced narration.

If you’d like to read BookPage on the go, look for every issue on the NOOK Newsstand. It’s a fast and convenient way to read all our reviews on any NOOK device.

SEATTLE SATIRE

Maria Semple’s hilarious take on a missing mom

GOODBYE, NORMA JEAN 50 years later, new views of Marilyn Monroe

64

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MISSION TO PARIS By Alan Furst

Simon & Schuster Audio $29.99, 9 hours ISBN 9781442349087

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Novel Reads

HARPERCOLLINS HarperCollins.com • AvonRomance.com The Bride Wore Pearls by Liz Carlyle

In a world where treachery abounds, no one can be trusted—and no true passion can be denied. Earl Rance Welham and Lady Anisha Stafford are two tempestuous souls will risk their lives for a love that could redeem them…or destroy everything they hold dear. 9780061965777, $7.99

The Cowboy and the Princess

by Lori Wilde

On the run, Princess Annabella dons the guise of a hitchhiking cowgirl. But when she finds herself alone, she has no choice but to trust the Texas horse whisperer who offers her a ride. And when one wild kiss leaves her breathless, she realizes she’ll give up everything to spend a lifetime of night times in his arms. 9780062047779, $9.99

columns Mythologies mingle in Kira Brady’s imaginative debut, Hearts of Darkness (Zebra, $6.99, 352 pages, ISBN 9781420124569). Nurse Kayla Friday travels to Seattle to unravel the mystery of her sister’s murder. There, life only turns more puzzling. Soon, she’s seeking clues to her sister’s death in the company of Hart, a sexy but cursed werewolf. Hart is bound to a Norse dragon battling yet another segment of the paranormal world, the Kivati—shapeshifters tasked with protecting humans. Kayla, who considers herself a woman of reason, now has to believe in all manner of unreasonable things as well as rely on Hart. She

by Christine Feehan Drawn to the far Carpathian Mountains, Shea found a ravaged, raging man, a being like no other. And she trembled. For in his burning eyes she recognized the beloved stranger who’d already become part of her. But was she to be his healer…or his prey? 9780062019431, $7.99

Lessons from a Scandalous Bride Lord Logan McKinney knows he must wed a title-hunter with a substantial dowry in order to restore his estate. Having the vibrant Cleo nearby, however, makes his task even more unpalatable—for she tempts him like no other woman. But when attraction proves too powerful, they succumb to a kiss that leads to lessons too scandalous for even the darkest nights.

Power Blind

9780062033000, $7.99

by Steven Gore An hour before his death, Palmer reaches out to private investigator Graham Gage. A funeral-day burglary of Palmer’s office and a wife’s plea for the truth about her husband’s misdeeds plunge Gage into a morass of murder, corporate cover-ups, and corrupted justice that masks a political money-laundering scheme threatening to destroy not only our democracy, but all that is dear to Gage. 9780061782244, $9.99

Scorpion Winter by Andrew Kaplan

Two seemingly unrelated incidents have placed the former CIA covert operative-turned-freelance spy, code-named Scorpion, in a desperate position: joining forces with a beautiful woman to prevent the assassination of a powerful Ukrainian politician. 9780062063786, $9.99

All available as eBooks Visit LibraryLoveFest.com for more great reading

6

b y c h r i s t i e r i d g way

Falling for a wereWolf

Dark Desire

by Sophie Jordan

romance

finds herself falling for the man, and he for her, but there are dangerous demons and ghosts to fight off, as well as a looming bloody battle they might not survive. Part steampunk and part shifter romance, this fastpaced, gritty story will thrill paranormal readers.

TUSCAN DELIGHT Three women and three men find themselves sharing a magic Tuscan castle (or is it cursed?) in Juliana Gray’s A Lady Never Lies (Berkley, $7.99, 320 pages, ISBN 9780425250921). At the end of the 19th century, these acquaintances are forced into close proximity, sparking reluctant romances. Lady Alexandra Morley, a widow who is escaping money troubles, finds herself in trouble of another kind when she’s attracted to Finn Burke, a wealthy inventor. He’s readying an electric-powered horseless carriage for an upcoming auto exposition in Rome and doesn’t have time for flirtation—but his heart believes otherwise. As Alexandra and Finn spend time together in the beautiful, perhaps enchanted countryside,

they fall in love. But is there a future for the societyconscious lady and the low-born inventor? Witty repartee, intriguing glimpses of other couples embroiled in their own love affairs and an exciting race at the finish make this a standout story. The fresh setting and details about the development of the automobile will charm readers, leaving them primed for the next book in the trilogy. Delightful.

TOP PICK IN ROMANCE Infused with lush descriptions of food, place and feelings, Lisa Kleypas’ Dream Lake is a lovely novel of magical realism and aching romance. Damaged by a bitter divorce and his childhood with alcoholic parents, Alex Nolan is in the process of losing his home, a good portion of his construction business and, perhaps, his sanity—the latter because he’s being haunted by a stranger’s ghost. While coming to grips with all that’s gone wrong, Alex takes on the job of rehabbing a home for baker Zoë Hoffman, whose sweetness and optimism he worries will be damaged by his dark edges. But Zoë can’t help but be drawn to Alex. Even as she cares for her ailing grandmother, she manages to work her kitchen magic on the brooding man, finally persuading him to succumb to their mutual attraction. Can Alex learn to have faith in love before events make that impossible? This is Kleypas at her contemporary best: The writing wows and the ending evokes happy tears.

Dream Lake By Lisa Kleypas

St. Martin’s $14.99, 384 pages ISBN 9781250008299 eBook available

Contemporary Romance


last summer-different kind-K_Layout 1 7/6/12 3

Whodunit by Bruce Tierney

A new hero in Scandinavian suspense Now that Chief Inspector van Veeteren has retired, forsaking the cop’s life for that of a bookseller, Intendent Münster must step up to the plate in Håkan Nesser’s Münster’s Case (Pantheon, $25.95, 320 pages, ISBN 9780307906861). Nevertheless, Münster still consults his longtime mentor on hard cases, and the murder of septuagenarian Waldemar Leverkuhn looks like it will be a doozy. Leverkuhn was one of four friends who invested in a lotto ticket that hit big. By the end of their evening of celebration, one has been brutally murdered; another has gone missing. In short order, Leverkuhn’s nosy neighbor joins the ranks of the absent as well, at least until bagged pieces of her body begin to show up in the city park. Van Veeteren plays second fiddle this time around—the sixth in Nesser’s series—but he plays it like Stephane Grappelli. Münster’s Case is sure to be a hit with fans of Scandinavian suspense, as well as those who enjoy a first-rate police procedural. Note: Münster’s Case was released in Sweden back in 1998, although it speaks well of Nesser’s skills that the book does not seem dated, except perhaps in terms of up-to-the-minute police gear.

A ROLLICKING SPY THRILLER If you’re a fan of Robert Ludlum’s Bourne series or John le Carré, Charles Cumming’s A Foreign Country (St. Martin’s, $24.99, 368 pages, ISBN 9780312591335) should be right up your alley. It certainly has all the requisite components: a world-weary protagonist; exotic locales (Tunisia and the Sinai, among others); a plot featuring intrigues within intrigues; and a bunch of good guys who might be bad guys (and vice versa). In 1978, Amelia Weldon was an au pair in Tunis. She became pregnant by her French employer, and opted to leave without notice, frustrating his every attempt to find her; nine months later she gave the baby up for adop-

tion, a decision that would come back to haunt her. Fast forward a few decades, and Amelia Weldon (now Amelia Levene) is the head of Britain’s spy agency, MI6. Or rather, she would be, except that she has gone rather embarrassingly missing. Thomas Kell, a Secret Intelligence

agent fallen from grace, is nursing a hangover when he receives the call summoning him back to duty, a call he never expected. His mission: find Amelia Levene. Cumming’s crisp prose and relentless plotting push all the right buttons. Extraneous details, character motivations, lush backstory . . . ah, who needs ’em? But if you’re looking for a spy novel par excellence, look no further.

QUIRKE IS BACK Benjamin Black’s Dublin pathologist/protagonist, Quirke, more than lives up to his unusual name. Since his debut in the groundbreaking Christine Falls, the eccentric (and often obdurate) medical examiner has proven to be more than a match for colleagues and criminals alike, not to mention family members and lovers. In his latest outing, Vengeance (Holt, $26, 320 pages, ISBN 9780805094398), Quirke is called upon to investigate the killing of a wealthy businessman, a death that occurred within days of the suicide of the victim’s equally wealthy business partner. There is no shortage of suspects. Business dealings were, by all accounts, ruthless; family matters even more so. Stir in a hormonal trophy wife, a sociopathic pair of identical twins and a disgruntled whistle blower—and you have a recipe for murder most foul. Black is in fine fettle, as usual; his prose harkens back to an earlier time, when the English language was to be savored. He develops a plot with

Poignant Summer Reads

the best of them, and his characters are finely drawn and challenging.

TOP PICK IN MYSTERY In my August 2010 review of Timothy Hallinan’s last book, The Queen of Patpong, I mentioned that the author was the only three-forthree winner of Top Pick in Mystery. Now he’s four-for-four with his latest Poke Rafferty novel, The Fear Artist. Rafferty is the author of a series of books titled “Looking for Trouble in . . . ” (fill in the exotic Asian locale of your choice). Thing is, he doesn’t have to look for trouble; it tends to find him. And where better for a head-on collision with trouble than the teeming streets of Bangkok? As an elderly and overweight tourist barrels into Rafferty, three shots ring out; moments later, the man lies dying. His final words: “Helen Eckersley, Cheyenne.” At the time, these words mean no more to Rafferty than they do to you or me, but they will take on sinister proportions in the coming days, as Thai security forces interrogate Rafferty about his connection with the dead man. Rafferty comes to realize that he has inadvertently wound up on the wrong side of the War on Terror. He sends his family to the country for safety, and goes underground in a desperate attempt to clear his name. The pacing is intense, the characters are among the best in modern suspense fiction and the atmosphere is steamy and dangerous throughout. Come to think of it, not unlike Bangkok in real life.

The Fear Artist By Timothy Hallinan Soho Crime $25, 352 pages ISBN 9781616951122 eBook available

MYSTERY

“A powerful story of the toll of bullying, and the ties of friendship.” —News & Sentinel

“Lamb delivers grace, humor and forgiveness… positively irresistible.” —Publishers Weekly

READ A CHAPTER NOW. KENSINGTONBOOKS.COM

7


columns

well read

lifestyles

by robert Weibezahl

by joanna brichetto

Kick plastics from your life

The man behind big brother

8

Some sources maintain that 1984 and Animal Farm together have sold more copies than any two books by a 20th-century author. Whether or not that is a verifiable truth, it speaks to George Orwell’s enduring importance as a writer that such a claim could even be made. Consider the writers whose sales he is being measured against: Proust, Joyce, Hemingway, James, Mann, etc.—a lengthy and formidable list to be sure. Given that these works are tied to a political reality that crumbled two decades ago, it is a testament to Orwell’s extraordinary talent that we still find his books so riveting and relevant. Pre-eminent Orwell scholar Peter Davison tells us that the writer, whose real name, of course, was Eric Blair, was against the notion of his biography being written. So it is ironic, Davison points out, that Orwell’s Diaries “offer a virtual autobiography of his life and opinions.” These diaries, which cover the years 1931 to 1949 (Orwell died in January 1950, at the age of 46), are being published in the U.S. for the first time, nearly three years after appearing in the U.K. Christopher Hitchens, a great admirer of Orwell, supplies an introduction—his last commissioned piece before his own untimely death in December 2011. Diary entries are, by nature, spontaneous and unpolished, although some of these were typed up by Orwell’s wife from his handwritten notes, suggesting that they may have “improved” in the process (Davison has preserved much of Orwell’s idiosyncratic spelling and grammar). No matter; the writing retains a casual quality, while still capturing Orwell’s genius for a certain kind of descriptive, politically attuned prose. The diaries parallel some of his better-known books (although not, alas, his two most famous). They begin with his exploits living rough and picking hops in Kent, learning firsthand how poor, migrant agricultural workers lived. His yearning to observe and report carries over to the journals of his time spent among coal miners in the north—the source material for The Road to Wigan Pier—and a trip to Morocco during

the Spanish Civil War that informed Homage to Catalonia. Some of the most absorbing entries come from the war years (Orwell was rejected for military service because of poor health, but worked as a journalist and for the Overseas Service of the BBC). They capture the keen socio-political perception that is on full display in his best published writing. “The unconscious treacherousness of the British ruling class in what is in effect a class war is too Orwell’s obvious to be diaries offer worth mentiona glimpse of ing,” he writes in June 1940, one of the 20th century’s adding that, most original “with individual exceptions . . . minds. the entire British aristocracy is utterly corrupt and lacking in ordinary patriotism, caring in fact for nothing except preserving their own standards of life.” By retaining the authenticity of Orwell’s original, the Diaries include a fair amount of chaff—weather reports, gardening and husbandry records—that has little significance beyond showing us the true nature of this man, who, Davison points out, was an inveterate writer of lists. There are also many charming line drawings, reproduced as Orwell sketched them. It is easy enough to skim the domestic ephemera, though, and get to the heart of the matter: the evolution of one of the most important writers of his time.

Diaries By George Orwell

Edited by Peter Davison Introduction by Christopher Hitchens Liveright $39.95, 608 Pages ISBN 9780871404107 eBook available

literature

Plastics are everywhere, even in places we might not imagine. I had no idea the inside of my organic soy milk carton was lined with plastic, or that plastic is what makes glossy book jackets so slick. Plastic Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too (Skyhorse, $19.95, 344 pages, ISBN 9781616086244) is full of such examples of plastic’s presence around us—and what’s worse, even inside us. The surprise is how thoroughly the author gives us the bad news without losing her sense of humor or destroying our sense of hope. In a book that’s part personal story, part tutorial, blogger Beth Terry defines plastics; explains why they’re problematic; describes why recycling is not the easy solution it seems; then lists ingenious alternatives for nearly every place

we’ve plugged plastic into our lives. From the obvious (water bottles) to the ubiquitous (food packaging) to the gross (pet waste bags), she proves our personal actions can make a difference to the community and, if enough of us act, to the planet. By the way, the book jacket is brown paper, and not even slightly slick.

MOD PODGE MANIA Mod Podge was the craft craze of the 1970s; I know because I was there. Now clocking in at nearly half a century and still sporting its groovy graphics of yore, Mod Podge is as cool as ever. Mod Podge, to the few uninitiated, is a one-step decoupage medium: It glues, seals and finishes just about anything onto just about anything. In Mod Podge Rocks! Decoupage Your World (Lark Crafts, $14.95, 128 pages, ISBN 9781454702412), author Amy Anderson and a crew of craft bloggers share more than 40 projects to bring Mod Podge up to date. Shoes? Sure.

They’re in the Wearables section, along with jewelry and a bike helmet. Home Decor includes a fabric lampshade, Moroccan end table, media tower, and “Super Girly Wall Cubes.” Check out the “Geek Plates,” outdoor planter and “Glowing Mummy Hand Candy Bowl.” The best part is that any of the projects can be easily personalized to fit your skill level, your materials and your aesthetic.

TOP PICK FOR LIFESTYLES Any new book on wild edibles is exciting, but Foraged Flavor: Finding Fabulous Ingredients in Your Backyard or Farmer’s Market is groundbreaking. Author Tama Matsuoka Wong presents 71 plants that aren’t just edible, but are altogether delicious. She teamed with Eddy Leroux, the chef de cuisine of the renowned restaurant Daniel, to find “a way of working with these ingredients that would truly showcase them in a classic and balanced seasonal dish.” The result: 88 recipes—good enough for a gourmet crowd, but easy enough for a home kitchen— to take readers through the year. Anyone for sumac-ade? How about nettle and asparagus pizza? Imagine turning chickweed, a common yard pest, into a topper for crostini, or infusing invasive honeysuckle in honey for fragrant, icy granitas. Foraged Flavor includes a section on plant identification and information about foraging sustainably and safely, and it is peppered with excerpts from the author’s meticulous and personable “Forager’s Journal.”

Foraged Flavor By Tama Matsuoka Wong  Clarkson Potter $25, 224 pages ISBN 9780307956613 eBook available

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columns New paperback releases for reading groups

ONLY THE LONELY Russell Banks’ latest novel, Lost Memory of Skin (Ecco, $14.99, 432 pages, ISBN 9780061857645), has an unexpected protagonist. The Kid, a convicted sex offender, camps out under a causeway in Florida. Laws stipulate that he must stay away from places where children congregate. A victim of his own instincts, young and a bit naïve, the Kid leads a shiftless existence with other homeless men. His life takes an unexpected turn when the Professor—a compelling and intellectually brilliant figure—takes an interest in him. Determined to show

that individuals like the Kid can be given another chance and brought back into society, the Professor allies himself with the young man. But when the Professor’s questionable past comes to light, their delicate bond is forever altered. Provocative and timely, Banks’ expertly crafted novel is also a penetrating study of social issues. The Kid’s story is captivating from start to finish.

AFTER COLUMBUS Charles C. Mann’s 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created (Vintage, $16.95, 720 pages, ISBN 9780307278241) takes an intriguing look at the ascent of Europe and the development of globalization. Grand in scope yet satisfyingly detailed, Mann’s powerful narrative touches down in China, Africa and Mexico as it traces the evolution of complex trade systems and the establishment of economies that made the world what it is today. This rich synthesis of politics and history also examines the cross-continental exchanges that brought the tomato to America and the potato to Ireland and disseminated diseases on a

book clubs by julie hale

worldwide scale. Mann deftly tracks volatile political issues—race and class, immigration and trade—back to their roots, placing them in a fresh context. A contributing editor of The Atlantic and other publications, Mann is the author of the much-praised 1491. He has followed up that acclaimed work with another eloquently written narrative that makes history come alive.

TOP PICK FOR BOOK CLUBS Proving yet again that he can pull off any narrative sleight of hand, Stephen King delivers one of his most imaginative books yet in 11/22/63: A Novel, a time-tripping return to the era of JFK. High school English teacher Jake Epping leads an uneventful life until he’s persuaded to take a journey into the past by his diner-owning friend, Al. Long preoccupied with the Kennedy assassination, Al has the ability to travel back in time—via a portal in his restaurant. He entrusts Jake with a special task: Revisit the ’60s and abort the Kennedy assassination. Jake is equal to the challenge, embarking on the adventure of a lifetime—one that takes him to rural Texas, where he teaches high school, falls in love and awaits the appearance of Lee Harvey Oswald, whose plans he hopes to thwart. King mines the absurdity of Jake’s situation even as he highlights the drama and danger of his mission. This genre-bending work is an unforgettable blend of history, mystery and fantasy.

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“THE NOVEL THAT SHOULD HAVE WON THE BOOKER PRIZE”* “This is family life today at its most believable: warm and messy, bored and raging. . . . I LOVED IT.” — Emma Donoghue, New York Times bestselling author of Room *Daily Mail (London)

A VICTORIAN GOTHIC TALE “Boccacino’s deft handling of this delicately supernatural period piece makes it a sterling genre selection.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

By Stephen King

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Travels

with

by Robert Reid

columns

cooking b y s y b i l P RATT

RACHAEL RAY’S BURGERAMA!

The joys of the great American road trip Have you heard the news? Along with “Dallas” and colored denim, the great American road trip is back in 2012. No type of travel is more “what you make of it” than hitting the road. Reading up before you go not only gets you inspired, but helps you build an itinerary. Here are a few books to get you started. For a road trip dream-planner, Lonely Planet’s award-winning USA’s Best Trips: 99 Themed Itineraries Across America ($24.99, 708 pages, ISBN 9781741797350) has creative routes that crisscross all regions of the country and cover a broad selection of interests, including some you might never have considered before (anyone for a green-chile focused tour of New Mexico?). The next two I’m planning are the kitschtastic scoot across parts of old Route 66, or the short trip through the nation’s best old-fashioned diner zone in New Jersey. Jack Kerouac’s On the Road is 55 this year and is still the definitive testament to the glory of the American road, even if you don’t plan to hitchhike or survive mostly on pie. People are buzzing about it again as the movie version is finally coming out, after many failures. Even if you’ve read it before, pick up On the Road: The Original Scroll (Penguin

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Classics, $17, 416 pages, ISBN 9780143105466), which reads like it was first typed: single-spaced on a continuous 120-foot scroll. Left in are wilder passages that were edited out of the 1957 edition. If you’re ready to go but still in need of a destination, page through the inspired State by State: A Panoramic Portrait of America (Ecco, $16.99, 608 pages, ISBN 9780061470912), featuring essays on all 50 states by 50 well-known writers. Designed to look like a reprisal of the WPA Guides from the FDR era, the book has many surprising and

convincing turns. Dave Eggers’ spirited case for why Illinois is the best state is a standout, pulling together skyscrapers, Lincoln, license plates and friendliness on the road. If you’re like me and could spend hours scouring maps and wondering about place names from Orange, New Jersey, to Okmulgee, Oklahoma, go to George Stewart’s pure-fun Names on the Land: A Historical Account of Place-Naming in the United States (New York Review of Books, $19.95, 432 pages, ISBN 9781590172735), now a classic almost 70 years after its release. It’ll make you want to hit the road, and that’s what this is all about.

Robert Reid is the U.S. Travel Editor for Lonely Planet. He lives in New York and dreams of one day driving home to Oklahoma with a bulldog.

Let me confess upfront that I’m a burgerholic, a proud lover of these rounded patties, whether beef, tuna or mushroom, and a fierce advocate of all their accoutrements (that’s fancy-talk for onions, ketchup, relish, etc.). So, it’s a real treat to have Rachael Ray’s homage in The Book of Burger (Atria, $24.99, 336 pages, ISBN 9781451659696), a collection of her own favorites and a dozen doozies created by other burger-loving chefs. Rachael’s burgerosphere knows no borders; you’ll find Burgers all’Amatriciana, Goulash Burgers, pork Banh Mi Burgers, chicken Spanakopita Burgers, Falafel burgers and Garlic-Ginger Salmon Burgers with Wasabi Mayo, plus an ample array of super sliders, “sloppies,”

and all kinds of sides and sauces, including Eggplant Fries and Roasted Jalapeño Poppers. More than 200 recipes, each with Rachael’s clear, thorough instructions, will keep you in burger bliss from summer when it sizzles to winter when it drizzles.

FIRE UP THE GARDEN I’m not sure when Karen Adler and Judith Fertig, aka the BBQ Queens, were crowned, but this tiara-totin’ twosome has given us a ream of royal grilling and BBQ recipes in their many cookbooks. Now, in The Gardener & the Grill (Running Press, $20, 224 pages, ISBN 9780762441112), they’ve married two of the best things about summer—garden-fresh food and the thrill of the grill. Whether you have a garden, a few pots on your patio, or simply shop at a farm stand for seasonal standouts, Karen and Judith will show you that grilling gives foods (even a head of romaine) that special super-concentrated flavor you just can’t get in the kitchen. Add their repertoire of “make-inminutes” marinades, vinaigrettes,

butters (don’t miss the Italian Parmesan Grilling Paste) and sauces to your own and you’ll be all set. Then you can fire your way from Grill-Roasted Edamame, char-grilled pizza, poppy-seed naan, Grilled Summer Slaw with Gorgonzola Vinaigrette, and Brats with Grilled Kale to Stir-Grilled Nectarines and Plank-Roasted Pears. Your garden and your grill will get a fabulous makeover and you’ll get salutes fit for a queen.

TOP PICK IN COOKBOOKS Paul Virant, award-winning chef/ owner of Vie—a Chicago restaurant that boasts a Michelin star—and an “Iron Chef” competitor, is passionate about preserving nature’s bounty. In his debut cookbook, The Preservation Kitchen: The Craft of Making and Cooking with Pickles, Preserves, and Aigre-doux, he becomes your personal coach, your guide to creating a “flavor arsenal” that prolongs the seasons and adds unexpected delights to weekday and celebratory meals. Virant offers both a canning manual, with the principles of safe preserving spelled out and the different techniques eloquently explained and applied to seasonal produce, and a superb cookbook with recipes for 16 complete dinners, plus a few “Happy Hour” cocktails. The book follows the cycle of the year, starring relishes, jams, marmalades, mostardas, sweet-sour condiments, sauerkrauts (cabbage and beyond) and preserved citrus you can make yourself. Yes, you can can—and this beautiful book proves it.

THE PRESERVATION KITCHEN By Paul Virant

Ten Speed $29.99, 204 pages ISBN 9781607741008

CANNING


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cover story

CLAIRE VAYE WATKINS

HAUNTING STORIES FROM THE NEVADA DESERT

U

ntil she moved to Columbus, Ohio, to pursue an M.F.A. in creative writing, Claire Vaye Watkins couldn’t imagine writing a story set in her home state of Nevada. Her early stories of young lovers and parents tended to be set in exotic locales like Hawaii, where, according to family mythology, her relatives ran a “mango-cum-pot farm.” “It hadn’t occurred to me that Nevada or the desert was interesting to anyone,” she says by phone from Columbus. Watkins, who is 28, now has what she calls a “big-girl job” teaching writing at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania, but at the time of our conversation she’s back in Ohio for the graduation ceremonies of her beloved, writer Derek Palacio. “When I came to Ohio it was the first time that I had ever met people who weren’t from Nevada or California. It seems quaint to say the move changed my worldview. But it did. My friends from New Jersey would say, what a weird place Nevada is; did you ride your horses to school? So it occurred to me that it was interesting to people.” Thus was born Watkins’ powerful debut collection of short stories, Battleborn (the book’s title derives from Nevada’s nickname, “the battle born state,” because it became a state during the Civil War). “Early on I was often crippled about being able to write about anything, . . . Eventually I decided to choose place as my form,” she says. “By the end of the collection, I was actually looking at a map and think-

Battleborn

By Claire Vaye Watkins

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Riverhead, $25.95, 304 pages ISBN 9781594488252, eBook available

ing, where haven’t I written about? I couldn’t really start a story without understanding where it was set— because I can’t really start to think about who these characters are and what kind of trouble are they going to get into if I don’t even know what they see when they get up in the morning.” And Watkins’ characters do get into all kinds of trouble. In the electrifying story “Ron“I think my dine Al Nido,” relationship for example, to my dad a 30-year-old woman trades and to his involvement stories with a new lover about in the shameful things Manson they’ve done in the past and family has always been remembers herself at 16 travela storytelling ing from a small relationship.” Nevada town to Las Vegas with a naïve friend, looking for danger, and pushing her friend toward selfdestruction among a group of frat boys. “Some people have said my [stories] are gritty, but I don’t think of it like that at all. I just want to be true to real experience. So thinking about a teenager in rural Nevada who lives over the mountain range from Las Vegas like the girls in ‘Rondine Al Nido,’ well, we used to take those trips all the time, tell our parents we were staying at someone’s house and then go into Vegas to see if we could get into some trouble. I didn’t want to whitewash it by saying this was just a story of hijinks, like getting change out of the fountains and buying hamburgers with it. We were after danger and destruction there.” Many of the characters in Battleborn teeter at the edge of physical or psychological catastrophe. But in the best of these 10 stories, Watkins’

prose possesses the bright clarity of desert sunlight—she has been compared to Joan Didion—with the result that even her most lacerating tales can be oddly exhilarating. The first and best story in the collection is “Ghosts, Cowboys,” a haunting exploration of the troubling mythologies surrounding her father, Paul Watkins, an early and important member of the Charles Manson family. “I don’t know much about my dad. He had Hodgkins disease and died when I was six,” Watkins says. “So it’s hard to know if I actually remember anything about him. Stories become memories, you know? And in our family the stories that you tell about dead people are pretty flat, so that person becomes a very one-dimensional character. I mean the stories I get from my family about my dad are: He was a good man and he loved you very much. That’s not really enough. I have been so very, very curious about him my entire life.” Watkins says she discovered that her father had been a member of the Manson family when she was 10. “I learned because a kid had been teasing my sister at school about it. We came home and asked my mom. And she said, yeah, he was in the Manson family but he didn’t kill anyone, and she gave us Helter Skelter. We looked him up in the index and read about him. We were happy that he hadn’t killed anyone and we just kind of went on with our lives,” she says. “I think my relationship to my dad and to his involvement in the

© Lily Glass 2010

Interview by Alden Mudge

Manson family has always been a storytelling relationship. I have been asked in the past if I’m interested in writing a memoir about it. But that doesn’t really interest me. On the other hand, it is interesting to think about him in terms of the American West and my own family mythology. I think that’s why fiction is the place that I worked it out, or tried to. I think that felt right because art is about trying to understand yourself and who we are.” Watkins says one of her earliest introductions to storytelling culture came through Alcoholics Anonymous. Her mother and stepfather “were in recovery and were very involved in the 12-step club. I spent much of my childhood in the car. When we lived in Tecopa, California [a town of 100 inhabitants in the Mojave Desert on the southern edge of Death Valley], there was no grocery store or hardware store there. So once or twice a month, usually on the first or the 15th, we would drive either into Pahrump, Nevada, where there was a grocery store which was quite expensive, or we’d drive into Las Vegas. And we would listen to AA tapes in the car on those long drives,” she recalls. “AA is a culture where the story,


THE SUMMER THRILLER YOU WON’T WANT TO MISS! your story, is really important. But it’s not just any story, it’s your rock-bottom story, your worst story. I think that sometimes gets simplified into: It was bad and now it’s good. So we used to listen to these speaker tapes that were really thrilling to me for probably like the first 90 percent, and then the last 10 percent came—you know I was a kid— and I remember asking my mom: can I listen to something else?” As a teenager, Watkins planned to become a filmmaker rather than a writer. By the time she entered the University of Nevada, Reno as an undergraduate, her ambition was “to be a geologist and a feminist critic. But that didn’t work out.” Besides, she’d run into Christopher Coake, a teacher she refers to as “my guy, my mentor and my friend.” He and a handful of writers whose writing stayed with her—F. Scott Fitzgerald, Amy Bender, Louise Erdrich, Joan Didion, Mary Gaitskill— made a writing career imaginable. In Battleborn, the first step of that career, Watkins undertakes some astonishing fictional explorations of the mythologies that have shaped her—from family stories to the lore of the American West. The stand-out novella-length “The Diggins,” for example, is a harrowing Gold Rush-era story of two brothers who come West from Ohio to make their fortunes in the goldfields. In it Watkins deftly mimics the syntax of 19th-century 49ers’ letters while at the same time exploring the violent, despairing human stories at the root of our national myths of Manifest Destiny and rugged individualism. Much closer to home is “The Archivist,” a story in which the central character imagines a museum of lost love curated from the detritus left in her exes’ jeans pockets. “The moment when the character says the mother wing of the museum would probably be empty?” says Watkins, whose mother died of a prescription-drug overdose the month before she graduated from college. “My own mother wing would probably be a not-very curated place, very messy and very chaotic. I think I’ll probably be sorting that stuff out for the rest of my life.”

“A pure nail-biter.” —HARLAN COBEN

“Shiveringly good suspense! Will leave you wondering who to trust. The answer: You don't want to know...” —LISA GARDNER

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interviews

M.L. stedman By Jillian Quint

© ANNETTE PORTER

THE ECHOES OF A FATEFUL CHOICE

I

n the wake of World War I, on a remote island off the coast of Australia, lighthouse keeper Tom Sherbourne and his wife Isabel make a life-altering choice: to keep and raise a foundling child who is not theirs. The repercussions of this decision shape M.L. Stedman’s stunning debut novel, The Light Between Oceans. We caught up with Stedman (herself born and raised in Western Australia) for a discussion of right and wrong, moral ambiguity and an author’s responsibility to her characters. What a mesmerizing story. Did anything specific inspire you to write The Light Between Oceans? I write fairly instinctively, just seeing what comes up when I sit down at the page. For this story, it was a lighthouse, then a woman and a man. Before long, a boat washed up on the beach, and in it I could see a dead man, and then a crying baby.

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Everything that happens in the book stems from this initiating image—a bit like the idea of ‘Big Bang’—an initial point that seems tiny turns out to be incredibly dense, and just expanded outward further and further. I got to know Tom and Isabel as I wrote them, and was drawn into their seemingly insoluble dilemma, and their struggle to stay true to their love for each other as well as to their own deepest drives. The major moral question of keeping a child that isn’t yours is posed early in the book. Do you think there was a “right” decision for Tom and Isabel? Aha! It’s up to each reader to come up with their own answer to this one. Fair enough. Well, you do a wonderful job of refusing to pass judgment on your characters. Was this a conscious choice and if so, was it difficult to do? It was a conscious choice, yes. I think today more than ever we can fall into “sound-bite judgment,” reaching conclusions on the basis of quite a cursory consideration of an issue. It’s a kind of moral multitasking, that stems perhaps from being required to have an opinion on everything. If we really stop to consider things, they’re rarely black and white. As to the second part of your question, the more my own views differed from that of a character, the more satisfying I found it to explore them and to put their point of view as convincingly as possible. To this end, do you think there is a “bad guy” here? Do all books need heroes and antagonists? I don’t think there are any “bad guys” in the book, just some poor choices made on the basis of imperfect information or perspective (i.e. the lot of the standard-issue human). Stories need tension, which can be supplied by antagonists, but here it’s supplied by fate or circum-

stance—the overwhelming force that pretty much all the characters are up against. One good character’s gain will be another good character’s loss, which makes the questions a lot harder. I didn’t want there to be any “safe place” in the book where the reader could relax and say, “I’m completely sure of what the right thing to do is here.” Speaking of antagonists, the landscape of Janus Rock and the great sea beyond is awfully unforgiving. Is it based on a real location? No and yes. The island of Janus Rock is entirely fictitious (although I have a placeholder for it on Google maps). But the region where the Great Southern Ocean and the Indian Ocean meet is real, and the climate, weather and the landscape are more or less as I’ve described them. I wrote some of the book there: It’s a very beautiful, if sometimes fierce, part of the world. Lighthouses are always weighty images in literature. What do they represent to you? A lighthouse automatically implies potential drama: You only find them where there’s a risk of going astray or running aground. They’re a reminder, too, of human frailty, and the heroic endeavor of mankind to take on the forces of nature in a ludicrously unfair fight to make safe our journey through this world. And they betoken binary opposites such as safety and danger, light and dark, movement and stasis, communication and isolation—they are intrinsically dynamic because

they make our imaginations pivot between them. What kind of research did you do to prepare to write? To prepare, none at all! My research very much followed the story rather than leading it. I climbed up lighthouses, and went through the lightkeepers’ logbooks in the Australian National Archives—wonderful. And I spent time in the British Library, reading battalion journals and other materials from Australian soldiers in WWI: heartbreaking accounts that often left me in tears. Do you have any useful tips for aspiring novelists? Write because you love it. Write because that’s how you want to spend those irreplaceable heartbeats. Don’t write to please anyone else, or to achieve something that will retrospectively validate your choice.

The Light Between Oceans

By M.L. Stedman

Scribner, $25, 352 pages ISBN 9781451681734, audio, eBook available


Maria Semple Motherless in Seattle

B

ernadette Fox loathes Seattle, a city she calls the “dreary upper-left corner of the Lower Fortyeight.” Her husband, Elgie, has become the stereotypical Seattle man: a Microsoft executive who rides a bike and works endless hours on code-named IT projects. And don’t even get her started on the weather.

“What you’ve heard about the rain: it’s all true,” says Bernadette. “So you’d think it would become part of the fabric, especially among the lifers. But every time it rains, and you have to interact with someone, here’s what they’ll say: ‘Can you believe the weather?’ And you want to say, ‘Actually, I can believe the weather. What I can’t believe is that I’m actually having a conversation about the weather.’” The only thing Bernadette hates more than Seattle, in fact, is the people who live there. This has not earned her many fans among the other mothers at the private school where her precocious daughter Bee is enrolled. Once an up-and-coming architect in Southern California, Bernadette now spends her days holed up in their decaying house (a former home for wayward girls) and relying on an Internet assistant in India to run her errands. When 15-year-old Bee chooses a family trip to Antarctica as her reward for stellar grades, the agoraphobic Bernadette steels herself for a journey way, way outside her comfort zone. But as the vacation nears, Bernadette’s increasingly eccentric

Where’d You Go, Bernadette

By Maria Semple

Little, Brown, $25.99, 336 pages ISBN 9780316204279, audio, eBook available

behavior worries Elgie, who stages a bumbling, ill-fated intervention that ends in Bernadette’s disappearance and presumed death. But in this bitingly funny novel, nothing is what it appears. One might think no one could hate Seattle as much as Bernadette. But author Maria Semple From a writer is here to tell for “Arrested you differentDevelopment,” ly. She moved to Seattle four a hilarious years ago look at life in after leaving the Rainy City. behind a successful career as a television writer in Los Angeles. “I love Seattle now,” she insists during a phone interview from her Seattle home on, yes, a rainy day. “At first, I didn’t like it. I left a very successful writing career and I didn’t have a career. I have this fiendish creative energy I can’t turn off, and I was only applying it to how much I hated Seattle. I caught myself doing that and thought, hey, that’s kind of funny.” Thus Bernadette Fox was born. But Semple hastens to add that is the only similarity between her and her character. Semple’s 8-year-old daughter does attend private school, but the moms there are nothing like the book’s obnoxious social climbers. And unlike Bernadette, who abruptly abandoned her promising career after a traumatic event two decades before, Semple has worked steadily in her chosen profession for years. She published her first novel, This One is Mine, in 2008, and has written for magazines and TV, including “Mad About You” and the cult favorite “Arrested Development.” “I can see why TV writing might seem glamorous,” Semple says. “But it gobbles up your time like you can’t believe. It’s seven days a week, until 2

or 3 in the morning.” After working on a critically revered show like “Arrested Development,” Semple says, she saw that it was time to walk away from what some would say is a dream gig. So she and her boyfriend—and here she stops to chide herself, “Boyfriend. It sounds like I just picked up some guy at a bar. We’ve been together 25 years.”— packed up their young daughter and moved north. Once she realized that her fuming about Seattle’s detriments was actually funny, Semple set to work. Where’d You Go, Bernadette is told through letters, emails, invoices and even police reports. Semple decided to try this approach after a few failed attempts to write from Bernadette’s agoraphobic, slightly misanthropic view. “I had this big ‘aha’ moment: This’ll be an epistolary novel, which is one of the most traditional, oldfashioned forms of writing,” Semple says. “Dangerous Liaisons influenced this book, although this book is about really modern issues.” Once that decision was made, Semple set the simple goal of writing one of the great epistolary novels. “It is a lot of pressure,” she says. “I would sit down and think, oh, shit, now I have to write a TED talk! Almost every day felt like, oh my gosh, are you kidding me, now I have to do this?” The format works, beautifully. Jaunty, buzzword-laden emails from a private school fundraiser are interspersed with a psychiatrist’s transcript of Bernadette’s intervention. Every character is funny, flawed and achingly real. Jonathan Franzen himself has written that he “tore through this book with heedless pleasure,” a fact that Semple is still trying to process like the Franzen fangirl she is. “That was like someone reached out of another dimension into my

© LETA WARNER

By Amy Scribner

life,” she says of Franzen’s high praise. “He’s the one that I feel like kind of gave me permission to be the writer I am. The Corrections was crazy and original. I kept it next to me while writing Bernadette. It was a reminder that this can be done. “I sent him the manuscript with a note saying thank you for being the writer you are, and then he somehow plucked it off the pile. . . . Getting an email from Jonathan Franzen was really a high point of my career.” That Franzen guy is definitely on to something. Where’d You Go, Bernadette is a summer mustread in which Semple takes you to the ends of the earth—literally. You will love being along for every minute of this completely original and hilarious ride.

The Guardians by Richard Williams AuthorHouse • $16.99 ISBN 9781434376633 Two shelties lead their masters back to the path of God’s love. These special dogs have the ability to speak, but their unusual talent is a closely guarded secret.

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features

debut NOVELists

Start at the very beginning

D

iscovering a new favorite writer is one of the joys of life for any reader. And while it’s exciting to find that your new obsession has a lengthy backlist, there’s something especially satisfying about knowing you’ve been with them from book one. Here are 10 notable summer debuts—pick one up now, and you can say you knew them when.

LIZA KLAUSSMANN People are bound to be drawn to a novel written by Herman Melville’s great-great-great-granddaughter. But while author Liza Klaussmann’s literary roots may initially attract some readers to Tigers in Red Weather (Little, Brown, $25.99, 368 pages, ISBN 9780316211338), her literary abilities will keep them riveted. Tigers in Red Weather is one of the most anticipated novels of the summer season, and rightly so. The prose is crisp, plot enticing and pacing masterful. Told from the points of view of five engaging characters whose names, privilege and circumstances can be compared to those in The Great Gatsby, the dialogue and storyline here are as compelling as the sense of promise cousins Nick (a female) and Helena feel at the novel’s start. It’s September 1945. Nick and Helena have just spent another summer on Martha’s Vineyard, lounging in the sun and hosting harborside gin parties at Tiger House in Edgartown, the family home their grandfather designed. Love, however, is about to change their lives. Nick’s husband is returning home from war, and Helena is moving to California to marry an insurance salesman. But not all lives turned out as planned, and there’s often a fine line between love and loathing. In Tigers in Red Weather, self-loathing and a loathing of others (some justified, some

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Klaussmann

BRUNT

not), lead to infidelity, cruelty, drug abuse and the slow, painful unraveling of Nick and Helena’s once-solid family. Matters come to a head when Nick and Helena’s teenaged children discover a Portuguese maid murdered on the beach near Tiger House—her skull cracked open and her neck black from being strangled. Who is responsible? Spanning more than 20 years and two generations, Tigers in Red Weather is a richly crafted story in which the setting is as much a character as those who inhabit it. A longtime journalist for the New York Times and winner of Barnard College’s Howard M. Teichmann Prize for creative writing, Klaussmann has created an exquisite and evocative story of family secrets that leaves the reader exhausted, exhilarated and, in tiger fashion, roaring for more. —Cynthia Wolfe Boynton

CAROL RIFKA BRUNT Carol Rifka Brunt’s astonishing first novel is so good, there’s no need to grade on a curve: Tell the Wolves I’m Home (Dial, $25, 368 pages, ISBN 9780679644194) is not only one of the best debuts of 2012, it’s one of the best books of the year, plain and simple. It’s the story of 14-year-old June Elbus, a quirky outcast fiercely attached to her uncle Finn, a famous painter who is dying of AIDS. It is only with Finn that June can unload her deepest desires and fears, so when Finn dies

SHOMER

and June discovers his own cache of secrets, the bottom drops out of her world. Questioning everything she has ever known, June will risk all that she has—even losing her uncle all over again—to discover the man Finn truly was and to become the young woman only Finn could see. In a literary landscape overflowing with coming-of-age stories, Tell the Wolves I’m Home rises above the rest. The narrative is as tender and raw as an exposed nerve, pulsing with the sharpest agonies and ecstasies of the human condition. Exploring the very bones of life— love, loss and family—this compassionate and vital novel will rivet readers until the very end, when all but the stoniest will be moved to tears. If Brunt has managed to produce this stunning novel on her first attempt, there is no telling just how far her star will rise. The smart money says the sky’s the limit. —Stephenie Harrison

ENID SHOMER Before she became a heroine of the Crimean War, and before he had written a word of Madame Bovary, Florence Nightingale and Gustave Flaubert each traveled to Egypt—and, reportedly, glimpsed each other on the Nile. Though the historical record suggests that they did not actually meet, in poet Enid Shomer’s rich and imaginative novel, The Twelve Rooms of the Nile (Simon & Schuster, $26, 464 pages, ISBN 9781451642964), they do, igniting a passionate friendship that both inspired and repelled. Though the enfant terrible of French letters and the Lady of the Lamp might not seem to have many similarities, in 1849 both were searching for a larger purpose to their lives. Nightingale had just turned

down a marriage proposal and Flaubert had just dropped out of law school and was mourning the death of his sister. He had also written his first novel, deemed unpublishable by a group of close friends. Both suffered from maladies; Flaubert had recurring seizures, which were probably epilepsy, and Nightingale endured debilitating depression. A trip down the Nile was an opportunity to refresh their minds and stimulate their senses. Most importantly it was a chance to leave their families behind. In The Twelve Rooms of the Nile, so called after the many rooms the sun god Ra was said to pass through on his sacred journey from sunset to sunrise, Flaubert and Nightingale are both traveling the river with arranged stops at archaeological sites such as Philae and Abu Simbel. Flaubert was traveling with his friend Max Du Camp, an amateur photographer and archaeologist; Nightingale was with family friends and a lady’s maid, Trout. Shomer suggests that the strange surroundings provided opportunities for Flaubert and Nightingale to confide their deepest wishes and fears to one another, and the intensity of the environment, with its extreme temperatures and strange fauna, encouraged their closeness. The striking Egyptian ruins serve as a perfect backdrop for the intensity of the characters and the plot gets a comic, though not wholly successful, twist in an apparent desert kidnapping. But the novel shines brightly as a thoughtful study of these two singular geniuses, a story Shomer tells with a deep understanding of the poignancy of human connection. —Lauren Bufferd

Visit BookPage.com for a Q&A with Enid Shomer.


debut Novelists

VADDEY RATNER Stories enrich us in different ways. They entertain us and take us to faraway lands. They give insight into the lives of others, and aid us in our own introspection. For Raami, the child narrator of In the Shadow of the Banyan (Simon & Schuster, $25, 336 pages, ISBN 9781451657708), stories bring salvation, giving her the strength to survive the Cambodian genocide. Raami contracted polio as an infant, and her father tells her stories from a young age, saying, “When I thought you couldn’t walk, I wanted to make sure you could fly . . . I told you stories to give you wings.” Raami holds these stories inside herself during impossible circumstances, maintaining the will to live. This haunting debut novel is based on the amazing life story of author Vaddey Ratner, who was five when the Khmer Rouge came to power in the 1970s. Like Raami, she was born as minor royalty, forced out of her home in Phnom Penh, separated from family members and forced to perform hard labor until she nearly starved. In an author’s note, Ratner explains that she wrote a novel instead of a memoir because she wanted to reinvent and reimagine her experiences where “memory alone is inadequate.” Although the fictionalized story of Raami—who is seven when the story begins—stands on its own, the reader’s knowledge of Ratner’s close personal connection to the material makes the novel feel even more intimate and devastating. Remarkably, In the Shadow of the Banyan is an uplifting story, as Raami’s humanity—her fierce choice of life—is juxtaposed with the cruelty around her. Ratner’s lyrical prose and graceful descriptions serve as a lovely counterpart to bleak situations, reminding us of litera-

ture’s ability to transcend. Her novel will no doubt inspire readers to learn more about this painful chapter in world history. —Eliza Borné

DAVID R. GILLHAM

plete strangers. Gillham has studied the Second World War and women’s roles in it for more than two decades, and it shows. Berlin’s streets circa 1943 come to life—not just the sights, sounds and smells, but also the tension in the air. Who can be trusted? The author ably depicts the strengths, desires and fears of women in a city both nearly emptied of its men and permeated with betrayal. His vivid characters keep the pages turning while the historical details enlighten and deftly underpin his complex plot. Readers who like their intrigue charged with big issues and warmed by very human needs will enjoy their hours in Sigrid’s shoes.

David R. Gillham is making quite the splash with his gripping portrait of an ordinary World War II hausfrau —Sheri Bodoh in extraordinary circumstances: Kim Fay Praise has been lavished on City of Women (Amy Einhorn, $25.95, Thrillers centered on the search 400 pages, ISBN 9780399157769) for some ancient artifact have been by historical fiction brethren Alan popping up with dizzying regularFurst, Margaret Leroy and Paula ity ever since Dan Brown made his McLain, and name (and millions) with them. rights have been Seattle author Kim Fay’s first novel is A thriller sold in multiple certainly the tale of a daring search: full of twists, countries. Not a search for a valuable artifact, yes, sex, muddy too shabby for a but also one for self-worth, redempfirst-time noveltion and understanding. morals and Irene Blum arrives in 1925 a Berlin that ist. And also not surprising. Full Shanghai on a mission to recover breathes. of sharp twists, a set of priceless copper scrolls sex, muddy detailing the history of Cambodia’s morals and a Berlin that breathes, ancient Khmer civilization, which Gillham’s thriller delivers. have long been believed to be lost. Beautiful, dutiful Sigrid Schröder She seeks the help of Khmer expert is an apparently perfect German and temple robber Simone Merlin. wife—other than the fact that she’s But the journey isn’t an easy one. borne no children for the FatherSimone’s domineering husband is in land—but she has a secret. Instead the way of their mission, a dangerof thinking of her husband freezing ous jungle awaits and the world of on the Russian front line while she French-colonized Cambodia is full of peels rotting potatoes and puts up hidden agendas and very little trust. with her razor-tongued Party memFay has already made a name for ber mother-in-law, she recalls the herself with award-winning Asian heat of the lover who recently swept travel writing, and her first foray into in and out of her life. He was mystefiction is proof both of her experrious, but this much she knows: He was a Jew, and she desperately wants him back. Even so, she largely turns a blind eye to the Reich’s cruelties, feeling powerless against its might. But when her rebellious, secretive young neighbor confronts her with a stark choice, Sigrid must decide whether she is brave GILLHAM enough to save the lives of com- RATNER

tise in and love for the region. The prose of The Map of Lost Memories (Ballantine, $26, 336 pages, ISBN 9780345531346) is full of lush details, from the elegance of Shanghai to the musty damp of the Cambodian jungle—but more importantly, it’s packed with the kind of drama that many other novels of its kind lack. Thrilling and ambitious, this is a book to get lost in, a book that homes in on the human drama of the quest and never lets go. The Map of Lost Memories is a rich debut—perfect not just for lovers of historical fiction, but for lovers of unusual journeys filled with powerful revelations. —Matthew Jackson

I.J. Kay An Englishwoman in her 30s moves into an apartment without heat but with plenty of rats and noise. She has spent a decade in prison. Faces from the past resurface. As she puts her world together, we wonder what put her away: Did she really shoot that boy by mistake? Who was she aiming at? British writer I.J. Kay’s masterful debut, Mountains of the Moon (Viking, $26.95, 352 pages, ISBN 9780670023677), holds so much more than that one mystery. It folds readers into an entire life, and it is gripping, technically stunning and truly original. Lulu is an abused child. Her mother neglects her and wants to be back on a stage; her stepfather beats them; her older half-brother gets the chance to live with his father and leaves. Lulu copes by pretending she is a Masai warrior, running through the hills of “Africa” with her red cape and makeshift spear. The arrival of Baby Grady gives her something to care for; a surrogate mother at 10, she takes Grady up into the trees she loves, escaping the

FAY

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features

—Sheri Bodoh

rather, it’s the middle-aged father of the bride, Winn Van Meter, who leads us through the twisting, turning events of the weekend. Winn loves his daughters and his wife, but he doesn’t understand them. In fact, he doesn’t seem to understand much. He is obsessed with outward appearances and his social status—to the detriment of his family, his marriage and his mental health. Shipstead completely inhabits Winn and all his neuroses, painting a devastating picture of a man in crisis during what should be one of the happiest times of his life. This is social satire at its best, a novel examining a group of people who seem to have it all and are, for the most part, completely falling apart. The bride is beautiful and happy, but she’s also heavily pregnant. Livia, the maid of honor, is too busy nursing her own heartbreak to fulfill her sisterly obligations. Seating Arrangements is not a novel about a wedding. It’s a novel about family, marriage and what it means to belong. Like J. Courtney Sullivan in Maine or Galt Niederhoffer in The Romantics, Shipstead places deeply flawed characters in an idyllic setting and creates an unforgettable world. — Abb y P l e s s e r

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The novel opens as Evangeline “Eva” English and her younger sister Lizzie arrive in Kashgar, where they have been dispatched as missionaries. The fragile Lizzie is driven by her religious fervor, but Eva is merely going along for the ride—literally. She hopes to channel her wanderlust and fledgling literary skills into a travel Like the best book titled, of course, A Lady bicycle rides, Cyclist’s Guide to Joinson’s Kashgar, offering up tips for literary bicycle riding debut is an which also serve invigorating as eloquent delight. metaphors for life lessons. Joinson brings us an equally enigmatic but distinctly different heroine in Frieda. The modern-day single woman is juggling an unsatisfying career, a toxic affair with a loutish married man and a budding friendship with Tayeb, a sensitive artist who also happens to be a homeless illegal immigrant on the lam. Readers of A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar are certain to enjoy a literary journey that is not unlike the best bicycle ride—invigorating and challenging, with plenty of hills, vales and scenic views to keep one’s blood pumping and spirits soaring. —Karen Ann Cullotta

BEN FOUNTAIN The year is 2004, and the war in Iraq slogs on, with rising casualties and no sign of the weapons of mass destruction. When a squad of brave soldiers comes to the aid of their ambushed comrades and the subsequent firefight is captured by an embedded Fox News camera team, the men become instant celebrities. That’s the premise of Ben Fountain’s sly, raucous, occasionally

MAGGIE SHIPSTEAD

SUZANNE JOINSON

The premise of Maggie Shipstead’s debut novel sounds like a typical beach read: A family gathers at a New England summer home for a wedding weekend and—surprise, surprise—nothing goes as planned. But Shipstead’s writing is so precise, her characters so nuanced, her plot so unexpected, that Seating Arrangements (Knopf, $25.95, 320 pages, ISBN 9780307599469) is anything but a breezy poolside read. One thing that sets the novel apart from the pack is its narrator. We don’t get the story of Daphne Van Meter’s wedding from the bride herself, or from her troubled, envious little sister Livia, as one might expect;

From the dusty and dangerous roads of China’s ancient city of Kashgar, circa 1923, to the immigrant underground in present-day London, Suzanne Joinson beckons readers with lush, evocative prose, yet never lets her gift for poetry interfere with a good story—or, to be more precise, two good stories. While eight decades divide the dual narratives of A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar (Bloomsbury, $26, 374 pages, ISBN 9781608198115), heroines Eva and Frieda are tethered by the timeless themes of love, loss and redemption. SHIPSTEAD

bawdy first novel, one that recounts the wildly improbable Thanksgiving Day that eight members of Bravo squad, including Texas native Specialist Billy Lynn, spend as guests of the Dallas Cowboys. Fountain employs his ample satiric gifts to depict how flag-waving patriotism merges with our worship of professional football in a single manic event. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (Ecco, $25.99, 320 pages, ISBN 9780060885595) teems with a host of colorful characters, starting with the members of Billy’s squad—men with nicknames like “A-bort” and “Load.” Accompanying them is a Hollywood producer who’s optioned their story and thinks he’s about to persuade Hilary Swank to sign on to the project. There are the nubile Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders and the team’s slick, predatory owner. In a wickedly funny locker room scene, the football stars offer to make an excursion to Iraq (no more than a couple of weeks, of course) to polish off a few terrorists. The fawning civilians (still recovering from the shock of “nina leven” and committed to the war on “terrRr”) are mesmerized by the soldiers’ courage, and yet somehow detached from their experience. Fountain perfectly captures the bewilderment of Billy and his cohorts at this phenomenon, made more poignant by the knowledge that the white Hummer limousine that will transport them from Texas Stadium at game’s end is the first step in their redeployment to Iraq. No doubt there will be other novels that turn to humor to examine this troublesome period in our nation’s history. They will certainly find themselves up against some stiff competition when measured against this shrewd story. —Harvey Freedenberg

© Simon Webb

terror of “Daddy” Bryce. A shocking accident sets her on a new path. Twenty years later, when she makes it to Uganda’s Rwenzori Mountains, her dreamed-of “Mountains of the Moon,” she must come to terms with all that has come to pass. Lulu’s story jumps around in time as it unfolds in determinedly nonchronological order. The result is a dense, challenging novel that is also incredibly rewarding. Seemingly every phrase has a structural purpose and emotional resonance; when one doubles back to check something along the path, a different discovery astonishes. We are two-thirds through when we walk into the relationship that changed young Lulu’s life. In name, this love is wrong, but in Kay’s hands it is beautiful, rendered with pitch-perfect tenderness. It is also a crucial puzzle piece, changing what came before. Full of hidden gems of connection, the novel begs for multiple readings. One wonders, based on this beyond impressive debut, where I.J. Kay (a pseudonym) will take us next.

debut Novelists

JOINSON

FOUNTAIN


B y Pat H . B r o e s k e

50 YEARS LATER, HER STAR STILL SHINES

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he passage of time and occasional discoveries of new source materials have made Marilyn Monroe an ever-evolving presence. Marking the 50th anniversary of her death on August 5, 1962, two revisionist biographies offer divergent views of the blonde icon. Marilyn: The Passion and the Paradox (Bloomsbury, $30, 528 pages, ISBN 9781608195312), by USC gender studies professor, feminist historian and unabashed Monroe fan Lois Banner, seeks to quash the notion of Monroe as damaged victim. Marilyn is instead the one on top—a smart cookie, largely in control of her self-created sexy persona and career. Adept at depicting time and place in authentic detail, Banner digs deep into the fractured childhood of Norma Jeane Mortenson, showing that Monroe exaggerated chapters of her life (her foster families were relatives/friends, not total strangers), while downplaying probable childhood sexual abuse. Growing up in the shadow of Southern California’s film industry, Monroe did more than dream of stardom; she set out to make it happen. After being snapped by a photographer for a recruiting magazine, she became an eager and astute photo subject, then a possible “party girl” (serving up sex and drinks to the powerful) and studio contract player. Her star was rising when rumors hit that she’d once posed nude for a calendar pin-up. Instead of today’s typical insincere apology, Monroe owned up to it. Asked if she had anything on during the shoot, she quipped, “The radio.” Seeking self-improvement she frequented bookstores, took classes at UCLA, studied acting. She confounded studio executives by wanting control over her movies, and infuriated the same crowd when she went out without donning underwear.

Banner takes us through the films, love affairs, the shrinks, the medication and a pivotal weekend during which something murky transpired at Frank Sinatra’s Cal Neva Lodge. A drunken Monroe may have been sexually violated; she was certainly humiliated. Days later she was dead, at 36. Banner recounts various Monroe death theories, including those with a conspiratorial edge involving the Kennedys, and wonders if, had she lived, she would have embraced the sisterhood of feminism. In Marilyn Monroe: The Final Years (Thomas Dunne, $25.99, 352 pages, ISBN 9780312607142) British author Keith Badman charts similar biographical terrain, but steadfastly refutes an affair with JFK—beyond a one-nighter—and shoots down a rumored RFK romance. Itineraries prove both were logistically impossible, Badman argues. He also claims to have solved the mystery of Monroe’s death, via copious data regarding her lengthy use of prescription meds. Well, maybe. . . . Like Banner, he delves into the creepy goings-on at Cal Neva, while taking a magnifying glass to the actresses’ final films, The Misfits and the never-completed Something’s Got to Give. Author of books on the Beach Boys, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, Badman is gifted at depicting Monroe’s colorful supporting cast, including longtime acting coach Paula Strasberg (dubbed Black Bart by crew members) and publicist Pat Newcomb, who remains a tantalizing figure in the life of the ultimate mystery woman.

meet Emily Giffin

the title of your Q: What’s  new book?

would you describe it in Q: How  one sentence?

Deborah Feingold

marilyn monroe

novels are set in cities like London, Chicago and New Q: YYork  our City, but you live in Atlanta. What’s your favorite thing about the South?

Q: W  hat is the best thing about having one of your movies adapted for film?

change places with one person for a day, who Q: Iwould f you could it be?

Q: W  hat achievement are you proudest of? Q: W  ords to live by?

Where We Belong Emily Giffin is the author of Something Borrowed, which became a major motion picture starring Kate Hudson. In WHERE WE BELONG (St. Martin’s, $27.99, 384 pages, ISBN 9780312554194), a successful TV producer has her life upended when the daughter she gave up for adoption shows up on the threshold of her NYC penthouse. Giffin lives with her husband and children in Atlanta.

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features

EDUCATION By Angela Leeper

GO TO THE HEAD OF THE CLASS

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ational debates on education reform have never been fiercer. Four new memoirs that range from inspiring to determined to hilarious fuel the discussion as their authors reflect on challenges and innovations in public schools, charter schools, educational nonprofit programs and even homeschooling.

ROOKIE IN THE CLASSROOM Before his successful career in acting, Tony Danza earned a degree in history education, fully intending to become a teacher. When he found himself pushing 60, separated from his wife of more than 20 years and dealing with the cancellation of his talk show, Danza decided to return to his first, unfulfilled passion:

student in need. Ultimately finding teaching to be rewarding yet emotionally grueling, Danza brings the profession the recognition it deserves in this touching and candid account.

A BORN LEADER Founder and CEO of Harlem Village Academies Deborah Kenny

the business of running a school, and celebrates such triumphs as ranking first in math scores across the state’s public schools and the bittersweet farewell of Harlem Village Academies’ first high school graduates. In the process of building these schools, Kenny realizes that she’s also built a culture and community. Anyone interested in school reform—whether parents, teachers or leaders—should begin with this powerful story.

ANNUAL GIVING

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teaching. His year spent as a 10th grade English teacher at Northeast High, an inner-city public school in Philadelphia, was depicted in the brief 2010 A&E television series, “Teach.” In I’d Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had (Crown Archetype, $24, 272 pages, ISBN 9780307887863), to be published in September, he gives an enlightening, behind-the-scenes look at what happened when the cameras weren’t filming. In his toughest role yet, with his harshest critics seated right in front of him, a tearful and frustrated Danza struggles to uphold the school’s mantra—“engage the students.” Often at odds with his producers, who only want to heighten the drama for television, he fights to keep his experience as authentic as possible for both himself and his students. His observations about teaching, from wondering how technology will shape the way kids learn to the emphasis on testing, echo common national concerns. With the help of his “half-sandwich club,” based on his father’s practice of sharing his sandwiches, he reaches out to any

has always believed in social justice, but after her husband’s death from leukemia in 2001, she realized that if she really wanted to make a difference in the world, she would have to put her sadness aside. Born to Rise (Harper, $25.99, 256 pages, ISBN 9780062106209) chronicles her arduous path to open not one but two charter schools in Harlem neighborhoods that had some of New York’s lowest test scores. In a time when there was little information on starting a charter school in the state of New York, Kenny quit her job and raised her three children on her meager savings while building the schools’ framework, seeking startup funding and performing hundreds of other pivotal tasks. Deciding early on that an ideal school should focus on hiring and developing superior teachers rather than setting up a curriculum to be strictly followed, Kenny revolutionized public education. Her heartfelt narration reveals numerous mistakes along the way, from not remembering to have the school building unlocked on the first day to forgetting her own sense of fun amid

A Year Up (Viking, $26.95, 368 pages, ISBN 9780670023776) by Gerald Chertavian shows that school age children are not America’s only underserved population. As the nation’s demand for high-quality, entry-level workers increases, an estimated 5 million young adults ages 18-24 are currently unemployed and don’t possess more than a high school diploma. Suddenly a multi-millionaire when his startup dot-com business was sold and inspired by his “little brother” David, from the Big Brothers Big Sisters mentoring program, social entrepreneur Chertavian created Year Up, a nonprofit workforce development program for urban young adults, in 2000. Starting with 22 students from Boston’s tough inner-city neighborhoods, the thriving program has spread to eight additional cities. Chertavian describes with sincerity and detail the journey toward implementing this one-year program that combines marketable computer skills with professional skills, followed by an internship with a top company. He also profiles numerous students and staff who have overcome such hardships as homelessness, poverty, neighborhoods infested with drugs and violence, limited education and the

responsibilities of single parenting. Some of his key decisions, like placing Year Up centers in downtown financial districts to get students out of their dangerous neighborhoods and into the setting of the corporate world, reveal the secrets of his success. Most importantly, Chertavian demonstrates that an investment in America’s young people is an investment in America’s future.

NO PLACE LIKE HOME Frustrated by her daughter Alice’s constant finagling out of doing her math homework and not, as they say, “reaching her full potential,” Quinn Cummings decided to give homeschooling a try for one year. Assuming that the homeschool movement began in the U.S. during colonial times (it did start in the U.S., but not until 1982), she gives herself homework, exploring the nearly 2 million homeschooled children and myriad homeschooling philosophies. The result is the frank and irreverent The Year of Learning Dangerously: Adventures in Homeschooling (Perigee, $23.95, 240 pages, ISBN 9780399537608) in which the former child actor from The Goodbye Girl and the 1970s television drama “Family” searches for the ideal way to homeschool her daughter (and validate her decision). Cummings doesn’t limit her information gathering to Google searches. She observes children without limits at a Radical Unschooling conference in Boston, chaperones a Christian homeschool prom in Indiana, sneaks into the Sacramento convention of a secretive, ultra-authoritarian Christian sect and engages in other laughout-loud encounters, all in the name of research. Hearing over and over again about the doomed fate of homeschoolers—no socialization—she interjects French lessons, team sports and the playground into Alice’s repertoire, all with mixed results. Realizing that some of Alice’s best learning—and bonding—occurred on their routine hikes, Cummings also discovers that there’s no typical homeschool family, just as giving children their best start isn’t limited to one curriculum.


parenting By Joanna Brichetto

Parenting with passion and purpose

F

ifty years ago, the word “parenting” didn’t even exist. What did parents do before that? Muddle through, mostly—lucky if they didn’t inflict their own problems on their children. These five books indicate that “parenting” these days is not just a neologism; it’s an art form invested with life-enhancing values. Here’s a smattering from the palettes of five wise instructors.

COMPASSIONATE CARE Dr. Madeline Levine, author of the bestseller The Price of Privilege, presents her exhaustive research with clarity and passion in a compelling new book. To Teach Your Children Well (Harper, $26.99, 352 pages, ISBN 9780061824746), you need to get your kid off the “Merit Train” (test scores, sports trophies, etc.) and take a walk with them instead. You don’t just “parent” your children; you “mentor” them, bestowing values that matter: a love of learning, a sense of self, compassion for others, a close and caretaking regard for both body and soul and— above all—the resourcefulness to face most challenges. Most—but not all. Levine’s conclusions are wisely and boldly inconclusive. We cannot solve all our children’s problems because we have too many of our own. What we can do is show them that we’re with them all the way, holding tight, being brave together, letting go when it’s right.

contemplating SCREEN TIME James P. Steyer argues that it’s time for parents to start Talking Back to Facebook (Scribner, $15, 206 pages, ISBN 9781451657340). He should know: As founder and CEO of the advocacy group Common Sense Media, Steyer has devoted his life to “improving the media lives of kids and families.” Here, he lays out what may be the crucial questions of our time: How can a person develop any self-image when constantly inundated with external images? How can you uphold for your child the value of

face-to-face connections when she is connected to Facebook instead? The author identifies two ways that children are at risk—through a loss of privacy and a loss of innocence. If anything and everyone is available online, these standard childhood privileges disintegrate. Thanks to technology, kids grow up much faster now, shedding their fragile childishness as quickly as possible. Steyer is no Luddite fool. He celebrates the positive “data points” the Internet gives children, helping them to be more politically and culturally current than any previous generation. Nevertheless, his dire warning remains plain, given eloquent imprimatur by Chelsea Clinton’s foreword: If parents don’t take care, too much media exposure can undermine a child’s life and leave him or her scrambling for selfhood.

MANTRAS FOR MAMAS The title of Erin Bried’s guide is almost ludicrously modest. How to Rock Your Baby (Hyperion, $14.99, 274 pages, ISBN 9781401324599) is one of 97—count ’em!—“how to’s” for new moms in this handy book. Of all the instructors in this group of parenting authors, Bried is the most artful. Even her Table of Contents constitutes a work of art unto itself, combining a near-hundredweight of gentle and laconic imperatives for going as gently as possible into that

sometimes-not-so-good night of parenthood. Consider this sequence of instructions in the section of the book on “Delivering.” Find Focus. Bear Down. Speak Up. Give Love. Or this set from “Surviving.” Reach Out. Cheer Up. Space Out. Go Out. Reclaim Yourself. Like most moms, I could have used these mantras in the pinched moments of early motherhood when it wasn’t at all clear what to do or how to do it. Concision, simplicity and sweetness are three fundamental and indispensable virtues of Bried’s compendium. Pregnant? Choose Well (another gem from the Table of Contents) and get this book for yourself and your partner.

HAPPY, HEALTHY BÉBÉS Let’s face it: It seems like we’ll never figure out how to get our kids to eat what we want them to. Meanwhile, Karen Le Billon reports that French Kids Eat Everything (Morrow, $24.99, 305 pages, ISBN 9780062103291). What might we learn from parents across the pond to help us make mealtime less of a tug-of-war and more of a picnic? Le Billon recounts with relish (and lots of different sauces) “how our family moved to France, cured picky eating, banned snacking, and discovered 10 simple rules for raising happy, healthy eaters.” That’s the subtitle of the book, if you can

believe it, and it fairly epitomizes the author’s point: To digest anything (whether it’s a morsel of food or an idea), you’ve got to slow down and chew on it. The French have this down. There have been many celebrations of that bon vivant attitude, but this volume about raising Gallic eaters beats them all. Filled with humorous anecdotes, recipes, foodie French nursery rhymes and scintillating cultural inquiry, Le Billon’s adventures take intercontinental flight, showing us it’s not quoi we eat with our kids, but comment we eat it together.

HOME AGAIN, HOME AGAIN? Here’s a book that needs no endorsement: Sally Koslow’s melancholy title says it all to her alarmingly emergent readership. Slouching Toward Adulthood: Observations from the Not-So-Empty Nest (Viking, $25.95, 258 pages, ISBN 9780670023622) packs an unsentimental punch for the growing population of parents with grown-up kids who are home again after college, travel or vocational school—jobless, heart-sore and adrift. Koslow’s “adultescents” are a new phenomenon, different from both F. Scott Fitzgerald’s or even David Foster Wallace’s slouchers, unprecedented in both scope and spiritual danger because of our new century’s perfect storm of economic hardship and over-qualification. “Sobering” is the word for Koslow’s data and hopeful conclusions. We have been drunk— not on alcohol, but on unreasonable expectations. For our lost kids at home, it’s time to dry up and move out.

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reviews Broken Harbor

FICTION

the murder squad returns Review by Stephenie Harrison

Half the fun of waiting for the next Tana French book comes from trying to predict who will be its star. Unlike many popular mystery series in which the same detective is featured time and again, French shakes things up with each book, promoting a previous supporting character to the lead role. Her fourth novel offers Faithful Place antagonist Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy a shot at redemption. Broken Harbor revolves around the triple homicide of a father and two children who have been living on an all but abandoned development in the Brianstown area of Dublin—one of the many projects that were begun during the real estate boom and not completed when the market dropped. Mother and wife Jenny Spain survived the attack, but is barely hanging on in intensive care. Solving this kind of headline-grabbing case would make Mick untouchable on the squad, By Tana French so even though Mick has personal reasons for giving wide berth to Viking, $27.95, 464 pages Brianstown—a place that is the source of his very worst memories—he ISBN 9780670023653 partners with rookie detective Richie Curran and prepares to bag the Audio, eBook available biggest case of the year. It’s not until he and Richie are in too deep that Mick realizes he’s dealing with one of the creepiest cases of his career. It may be hyperbolic to claim that French has reinvented the police procedural, but there’s no denying that her Dublin Murder Squad series has breathed fresh life into the genre, throwing the standard mystery tropes out the window. Rife with the ambiguity and uncertainty that reign supreme in real life, French’s novels are deliciously addictive, even though her protagonists—no matter how beloved or long-suffering—are not guaranteed a happy ending. Whether you are a fan of mysteries or not, Broken Harbor is complex storytelling at its most masterful and should not be missed.

Requiem By Frances Itani

Atlantic Monthly $24, 336 pages ISBN 9780802120229 Audio available

LITERARY fiction

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We knew of them at the time, but we did not know them for what they were—acts of national ruthlessness for which Pearl Harbor was no excuse. Only popular hysteria explains the banishment of more than 20,000 Japanese-Canadians (and more than 100,000 Japanese-Americans) to detention camps during World War ll. Requiem covers this shameful chapter in North American history with clear-eyed historical accuracy. Forcibly removed to transport boats, young Bin Okuma and his family watch helplessly as their for-

mer neighbors loot their homes. One hundred miles from the “Protected Zone,” they are dumped on unsettled lands and forced to fend for themselves until the end of the war. It is here that Bin’s “First Father” gives him away to another man who has no son. Fifty-some years later, Bin Okuma impulsively takes off with his dog Basil (a welcome light note) to revisit the location of his five-year detention, and to deal with the unspoken issues of his boyhood. His adoptive father Okuma-san is gone, but his First Father is still alive. At the abandoned camp, they meet again, and pride crumbles beneath the shared need of their relationship. Frances Itani, a prizewinner for her previous book, Deafening, writes with a delicate grasp of both the obvious and the unspoken, using ordinary words charged with extraordinary meaning to produce a serious book that nevertheless invites you to keep reading past midnight. In the

end, Requiem promises healing out of drowning hopelessness. —Maude McDaniel

The formula works, and Sam meets his perfect match in Meredith—but is soon fired because the company no longer receives repeat business. When Meredith’s grandmother suddenly dies, Sam adapts his program to ease her grief, allowing it to create responses to emails and video chats for the dead to hold with the living. It proves such a successful way to help Meredith that they, along with Meredith’s flamboyant cousin Dash, open a business: RePose. The service is meant to be a stop on the way to acceptance, not a way to cheat loss. But when they’re faced with negative publicity accusing them of exploiting the bereaved, the couple is forced to reckon with their mortality and the ramifications of simulating life after death. Frankel is unafraid to take on big questions as she weaves together her entertaining and thoughtprovoking story. The result is an imaginative tale that explores life, love and what lasts. —Carla Jean Whitley

What in God’s Name By Simon Rich

Reagan Arthur Books $23.99, 240 pages ISBN 9780316133739 Audio, eBook available

SATIRICAL fiction

Goodbye for Now By Laurie Frankel

Doubleday $25.95, 304 pages ISBN 9780385536189 eBook available

popular fiction

In Goodbye for Now, Seattle author Laurie Frankel (The Atlas of Love) tests the limits of social media with the story of Sam Elling, a software engineer at an online dating site. Single himself and fed up with being regularly reminded of the fact, Sam develops an algorithm that analyzes clients’ emails, financial records and more to see who they really are—not who they want to be.

If you can imagine a story that marries the comic sensibility of Woody Allen to the good-natured theology of the Oh, God! movie trilogy, you’ll have a pretty fair idea of what comedy writer Simon Rich is up to in his second novel, a fable of love, miracles and second chances. The deity who presides over Heaven, Inc. is more interested in opening an Asian fusion restaurant and reuniting Lynryd Skynryd than he is in managing his maddening creation. In fact, he’s so bored he decides to dispose of his handiwork with the cool resolve of a corporate CEO shutting down an underperforming division. But in an uncharacteristic burst of compassion, he yields to the request of Craig, an An-


FICTION gel in the humble Miracles Department, and agrees to stay the planet’s execution if the earnest angel can answer just one prayer in 30 days. On its face, granting 20-year-old Sam Katz’s plea to “Please let me and Laura be together,” seems simple. It turns out to be anything but, as Craig and his colleague Eliza seriously underestimate the obstacles that stand in the way of uniting the lonely young man with Laura Potts, an equally forlorn college classmate. Though the outcome of the angels’ determined efforts to bring these two Manhattan singles together is never seriously in doubt, Rich constructs an amusingly formidable series of challenges for them to overcome. Call it miracle or coincidence, in this winsome story he makes us ponder some of the fragile mysteries of human attraction. And though Rich confesses his days in Hebrew school didn’t turn him into an observant Jew, there are clever allusions

here to the Book of Job and Sodom and Gomorrah, along with nods to Paradise Lost and the writings of the “New Atheists” like Richard Dawkins. At age 28 and with two novels, two collections of humor pieces and a writing slot on “Saturday Night Live” to his credit, Rich looks poised to work the field of gentle satire for some time to come. —Harvey Freedenberg

The Age of Desire By Jennie Fields

Pamela Dorman Books $27.95, 368 pages ISBN 9780670023684 eBook available

HISTORICAL fiction

It is tempting, in light of Jennie Fields’ novelization of Edith Whar-

ton’s affair with Morton Fullerton, to start a review that asks the reader to imagine Edith Wharton with no clothes on. For most of her fans this is a daunting task; the woman seemed to have been born wearing layers and layers of velvets, lace, buttons, corsets and ribbons.  Fields, however, has no problem imagining Wharton in the altogether. Still, The Age of Desire is about more than adulterous hijinks. Indeed, the book’s primary relationship isn’t between Wharton and Fullerton, but between Wharton and her now mostly forgotten governess and secretary, Anna Bahlmann. Called “Tonni” by her boss, she’s mousy, self-effacing and infinitely forbearing. She needs to be; the sometimes imperious Wharton switches between treating her like a beloved family member and a house elf. Still, this is rather better than Wharton treats her husband, Teddy, who spends much of the book not only

being cuckolded, but suffering from what is now recognized as manic depression. Fields makes us understand why Wharton would fall in love with a bounder like Fullerton. Wharton married the older Teddy because he was a gentleman of some means and it was the thing to do at the time. Their marriage is arid. Fullerton is beautiful, he’s as indifferent to public opinion as the rest of her friends, and he wants her, a plain woman in her mid-40s. All the while Tonni lurks in the background, watching and disapproving, yet ever steadfast. Inspired by Wharton’s letters, The Age of Desire is by turns sensuous— Fields’ descriptions of Wharton’s homes and apartments are far more mouth-watering than her depictions of Edwardian rumpy-pumpy—and sweetly melancholy. It’s also a moving examination of a friendship between two women. —Arlene McKanic

When your safety depends on living a lie… And everyone you love is a target… Who can you afford to trust? New York Times bestselling author

returns with a gripping story of romantic suspense.

“A fast-paced, action-packed tale of romantic suspense that will appeal to fans of Lisa Jackson and Lisa Gardner.” —Library Journal on Saint’s Gate Also available for the first time in paperback!

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reviews

NONFICTION Dreamland By David K. Randall

A taste for the good life

DEARIE

Review by Henry L. Carrigan Jr.

In his acclaimed biography, The Beatles, Bob Spitz delivered an intimate and enduring portrait of four rock stars who changed the course of popular culture. Now, timed to coincide with Julia Child’s 100th birthday, Spitz offers an admiring portrait of the woman who became a rock star in her own world, changing forever the way Americans think about food and cooking. Drawing deeply on Child’s diaries and letters, Dearie exhaustively— and exhaustingly—chronicles her life from her rambunctious childhood and her socially active days at Smith to her early adult life in government service, her whirlwind romance with Paul Child, and her rapid rise to becoming the television star without whom the Food Network and the passion for celebrity chefs might never have developed. As Spitz points out, Julia Child wasn’t a natural when it came to the By Bob Spitz kitchen. In November 1948, an extraordinary meal in Paris changed her Knopf, $28.95, 560 pages life, and she enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu, gaining the skills she needed to ISBN 9780307272225, Audio, eBook available prepare everything from sauces to soups to soufflés. In 1961, she published Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and though critics called it a monumental work, it was not until Child promoted the book on the “Today” show that it began flying out of bookstores and ended up on kitchen counters around the country. In 1962, Child’s energetic personality and her love of teaching landed her before the camera for her groundbreaking public television show, “The French Chef,” where she cultivated an audience with her down-to-earth ways, her off-color humor, her lack of concern for perfection and her devotion to making sure that everyone—even the unskilled—could cook the dishes she prepared. As Spitz so cannily observes, Child was determined to stand at the center of her own world. The story of her emancipation runs parallel to the struggles of post-war American women who were frustrated that the demands of being a perfect hostess and a perfect wife kept them from pursuing other dreams and desires. In Julia Child, these women had not only a role model who steered them from beans-and-franks casseroles to Sole Meunière but also a fiercely independent woman who lived above the rules of both the kitchen and culture.

Hello Goodbye Hello By Craig Brown

Simon & Schuster $26.95, 384 pages ISBN 9781451683608 eBook available

HISTORY

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Famous people cross each other’s paths all the time and end up exchanging views on various topics. No surprise there. What is surprising about Craig Brown’s Hello Goodbye Hello: A Circle of 101 Remarkable Meetings is how artfully he strings these meetings together into an unbroken chain. Brown begins with a 1931 traffic accident involving Adolf Hitler and British playboy John ScottEllis, then moves on to an earlier encounter between Scott-Ellis and

Rudyard Kipling and from there to a meeting between Kipling and Mark Twain, who, in turn, grants a farewell audience to Helen Keller, and so on. Each account involves a person from the former one. By the time Brown writes his last vignette—reconstructing a 1937 tête-à-tête between the Duchess of Windsor and Hitler—he has completed the circle. Brown, a London-based satirist, includes in this bounty of historic get-togethers such seemingly disparate pairings as Nancy Reagan and Andy Warhol, Frank Lloyd Wright and Marilyn Monroe, H.G. Wells and Josef Stalin, and Alfred Hitchcock and Raymond Chandler. He enlivens these brief accounts (each precisely 1,001 words long) with smirky asides and breezy footnotes. In one such note, Brown quotes the Australian comedian Barry Humphries concerning his reac-

Norton $25.95, 304 pages ISBN 9780393080209

SCIENCE

tion to meeting playwright Arthur Miller: “When [he] shook my hand,” Humphries recalled, “I could only think that this was the hand that had once cupped the breasts of Marilyn Monroe.” For the most part, it’s the incongruity of these one-on-ones that interests Brown—and the reader. Why does Groucho Marx persist in discussing King Lear when T.S. Eliot clearly prefers talking about the Marx Brothers movies? Is it conceivable that the 92-year-old philosopher Bertrand Russell is putting the moves on his 22-year-old neighbor, the budding actress Sarah Miles? (Short answer: Oh, yeah.) There are many personalities chronicled here who won’t be familiar to an American audience, but that doesn’t matter. Brown makes them all come alive.

David Randall had a history of talking in his sleep, and the occasional creepy incidence of falling asleep with his eyes open, but his interest in the science of sleep peaked when he hit a wall. Literally. After crashing painfully while sleepwalking, Randall went to a sleep lab. Festooned with monitors in his nostrils, on his fingertip, cheeks and head, a lab tech wreaths him with a blue box connecting all the wires and advises him, “Try to sleep normally.” Welcome to Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep. Randall’s writing isn’t as breezily hilarious as that of Mary Roach, but Dreamland’s structure owes a nod to her work, particularly when he uncovers uniquely twisted avenues of thought. There’s the matter of legal ethics, whereby a sleepwalker who killed his father-in-law was acquitted of wrongdoing; the irony of sleeping pills whose effectiveness stems from their inducing shortterm amnesia, thus helping you forget how much you actually tossed and turned all night; or the inventor of a highly successful treatment for sleep apnea, now patiently waiting for the Westernization of China to manifest itself in a king’s ransom of obesity-related sleep disorders. Strange territory, indeed. A journalist by trade, Randall is adept at clean, unfussy prose, which makes the crazier stories here stand out in bold relief. Dreamland offers some simple advice for improved sleep (basic behavior modification trumped sleeping pills in one study cited here), but the real fun is finding out how little we truly know about roughly one-third of our time on earth, and the wild and wideranging paths we’ve taken in search of answers.

— EDWARD MORRIS

—Heather Seggel


NONFICTION A Daughter’s Tale By Mary Soames

Random House $28, 368 pages ISBN 9780812993332 eBook available

MEMOIR

Winston Churchill played many roles during his extraordinary life. In addition to being one of the 20th century’s great leaders, he was also the father of five children. The youngest and only surviving child of Winston and Clementine Churchill, Mary Soames, now almost 90, takes us into their rarefied world and gives us an intimate view of her parents and their times in A Daughter’s Tale. Soames describes in rich detail the “lovely life” of her childhood at Chartwell, the family home, where she kept many animals—cats, dogs, lambs and goats, among others. A highlight of those years were the elaborately staged Chartwell Christmases, which usually ran over into the new year. Prominent public figures were frequent visitors; one of Soames’ favorites was T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia). Soames bonded with her father over their love of animals and the outdoors. But he was not deeply involved in what she calls the “small print” of her life. Her parents were often absent from home or otherwise engaged. Soames notes that there was a “tug-of-love”; Winston loved his children but always wanted Clementine to be with him. Still, the author demonstrates the love between parents and daughter in charming letters between them. Instead of being presented at Court in 1941, as her mother had predicted, Soames enlisted in the Auxiliary Territorial Service. She was involved in serious defense work and her father was proud of her for it. This absorbing memoir gives us glimpses of Mary’s opinions about such public figures as Franklin Roosevelt and Charles de Gaulle. But she also tells us a lot about people who were important to her but are lost to history. This wonderful memoir would be of interest not only to

Law MaN

those who want to learn more about the Churchills, but to anyone who wants to read an engaging memoir about an impressive young woman.

By Shon Hopwood with Dennis Burke Crown $25, 320 pages ISBN 9780307887832 eBook available

— ROGER B ISHO P

THE BLACK RHINOS OF NAMIBIA By Rick Bass

HMH $25, 288 pages ISBN 9780547055213 eBook available

NATURE

Environmental author Rick Bass is basically a grizzly bear guy. Well, grizzlies and wolves. His writing ranges widely, but his home is in the Yaak Valley of Montana, and his focus has mostly been the American West. Still, the writer/activist is nothing if not adventurous, so when an opportunity arose a few years ago for a trip to southwest Africa, he was game. The impressive result is The Black Rhinos of Namibia, by turns exciting, reflective and moving. The critically endangered black rhino had no real predators until men armed with guns happened along, reducing its population from an estimated 100,000 to below 2,500 in a remarkably short time. But by the time Bass arrived, the species was making a fragile comeback, thanks to the efforts of conservationists. Their hope is to develop a tourism industry around rhinosighting—the kind of future that Bass would like to see for grizzlies. In search of the elusive rhinos, Bass and a friend traveled with Mike Hearn, the young field director for the Save the Rhinos Trust. Their first sight of rhinos, a mother and calf, is the thrilling centerpiece of the book, at once exhilarating and frightening. But Bass gives readers more than an entertaining adventure. He’s a ruminative writer, always turning over his own feelings and wrestling with the larger meaning of human interaction with the environment. And the book is a fine tribute to Hearn, whose devotion to the rhinos exemplifies for Bass how humans can save instead of destroy. — ANNE B ARTLETT

MEMOIR

Shon Hopwood was basically a good kid whose life became a case study in bad decisions. As a young man, he was so bored that when a friend drunkenly suggested a bank heist, “[T]he world was newly framed in that instant,” and off they went. They didn’t stop at one bank, robbing five before his eventual arrest. Sentenced to a dozen years in federal prison at only 23 years old, he worked out relentlessly and worked hard at his job in the prison law library. Knowledge is power, and Hopwood became useful to fellow

inmates by helping them with legal questions. When asked to file a petition with the Supreme Court—a hail Mary move for a trained lawyer, much less a prisoner—the results changed his life course forever. Law Man is a prison memoir and a story of redemption, and Hopwood would be the first to point out how seldom those two things combine. While his own story moves from bleak to fairy-tale fantastic so swiftly you half-expect the inmates to line up and start singing “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” behind him, he notes in a sobering aside that the system’s initial goal of rehabilitation has been abandoned. Prison is now a multi-billion dollar business with a dirt-cheap labor force that is overwhelmingly African-American. That his legal help shortened a few of their sentences is small comfort, but Hopwood’s own transformation is both moving and inspiring. —Heather Seggel

In seeking and finding forgiveness, we experience pardon and restoration, which offer

A NEW BEGINNING. “… a must-read for both Christian counselors and every person who has something or someone to forgive.” —Jennifer Cisney Ellers, author of The First 48 Hours: Spiritual Caregivers as First Responders

The new book from the bestselling author of Why?, Enough, 24 Hours that Changed the World, and The Journey. Also available in Leaders Guide with DVD

www.adamhamilton.org Available at your preferred local or online bookseller

®

AbingdonPress.com | 800.251.3320 Fax 800.836.7802 | @AbingdonPress

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children’s books

Beth Kephart I n t e r v i e w b y Abb y P l e s s e r

Home is where the heart is

B

eth Kephart is one of those enviable people whose talent seems limitless. She is a prolific writer—of YA novels, memoirs and nonfiction. Her first book, the memoir A Slant of Sun, was a finalist for the National Book Award.

She teaches at the University of Pennsylvania, reviews books frequently for publications like the Chicago Tribune and has a passion for photography. And she holds a day job running a boutique marketing and communications firm. When we meet on a sunny summer day at a quaint coffee shop near Kephart’s home in Devon, Pennsylvania, I ask her how on earth she has time to do so many things at once. With a smile, she explains, “I don’t sleep much, obviously. I wish I slept more and I want to sleep more. But I am so passionate about words and about story that it’s just hard to stop myself. When there is a story percolating, when there is an opportunity to do something with language, I’m unstoppable.” Indeed she is. Over limeade (hers) and a latte (mine), we spend an afternoon discussing Kephart’s 14th book, the mesmerizing teen novel Small Damages. It’s the story of Kenzie, a 17-year-old American who is sent to Spain to wait out a surprise pregnancy before giving her baby up for adoption—a plan her mother has concocted to save face in their suburban Philadelphia town. Kenzie is not happy about the move; it will take her away from her home, her

Small Damages

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By Beth Kephart

Philomel, $17.99, 304 pages ISBN 9780399257483, eBook available

friends and the father of her baby, Kevin. But she agrees to go abroad, relieved to escape her mother’s judgment and have some space to contemplate the difficult journey ahead of her. While the plot of Small Damages may sound sensational, Kenzie’s pregnancy and plans for adoption are only part of the story. As Kephart tells me, “This is not a political novel. But it is a novel about making choices and about not judging either way. It never occurred to me that I was writing a book about a pregnant teen. It was just a story that had to be written.” When Kenzie arrives in Spain, she is immediately struck by the beauty of the landscape and the richness of the culture all around her. She travels from Seville to a bull ranch outside of town, where she will serve as a cook’s assistant. Filling out Kephart’s story is a cast of unforgettable characters. There is Miguel, who trains bulls on Los Nietos, the ranch where Kenzie stays; Estela, the “queen” of the ranch who encourages Kenzie to master the art of Spanish cooking; Luis, Estela’s long-lost love; Esteban, a mysterious young ranch hand with whom Kenzie strikes up an unlikely flirtation; and a roaming band of gypsies. Kephart’s descriptions of Spain— the scenery, the food, the people and the history—bring the story to life. It’s remarkable how much Kephart can say in so few words, and while the novel moves quickly, certain passages beg to be reread and savored. The inspiration for Small Damages came from Kephart’s own travels through Spain, though the novel took her more than 10 years to write. “It wasn’t the direct line that many of my stories have been,” she says. The novel originally began as a book for adults, but after conversations with her son, Jeremy, Kephart decided to focus on Kenzie—and her rela-

tionship with Estela. “I’m always interested in inserting the wise older person into my books for young adults. I think there’s so much to learn. I wanted someone who had the Spanish Civil War experience. I wanted it not to be a history lesson, but a reminder of what people have gone through and what they have to give up—and the lessons that they try to pass on to those they truly love. Once I discovered Kenzie as a character, Estela developed, because it is the tension between them that truly An American defines them.” teen sent As Kenzie spends more to Spain to time on the wait out ranch, she a surprise grows to love— pregnancy and feel truly finds a new loved by—the people around sense of her. Estela family and transforms belonging. from a brash taskmaster into a wise, supportive presence, encouraging Kenzie to listen to her heart and live a life without regrets. She shares her story with Kenzie—a story of love and loss in the time of the Spanish Civil War—and gives Kenzie a perspective on family and belonging that she had been missing. When she thinks about the baby growing inside of her, Kenzie thinks about her father, who has recently passed away, and she begins to question her mother’s plan to give the child up for adoption. While Small Damages is a book for teens, it is a novel that adults will enjoy, too. Of this crossover, Kephart says, “When I took the leap [to write YA] I said I will never write down, I will never do anything

other than honor the intelligence of young readers. I’ve had the privilege of spending time with them and I know how smart they are. I write with great respect for their intelligence. I think that’s also why my books get carried forward to the adult reading world.” No matter the audience, there is one thing Kephart hopes readers take away from her novel: not to judge others. Of her protagonist, she says, “Kenzie is very loving, intelligent, moral. She is in a situation. I think no less of her and I don’t want my readers to think any less of her.” Kephart speaks with such compassion for her characters and such passion for her work that it’s hard not to be inspired by such an unassuming, accomplished woman. Of her career, she reflects, “I never want to look back and say, ‘Well, my best book was my first one or my fifth or my seventh,’ so I’m highly motivated to not just slide. I try to break form or go to a new place in the world or tell a story that hasn’t been told before. I’m invested in challenging myself and going to the verge or taking the risk.” Small Damages is a book well worth the risk. Kephart has created a lyrical, beautiful story about a young woman at a turning point, struggling to reconcile her choices, find her place in the world and discover the true meaning of family.


reviews

Liar & Spy

Going out on a limb for a friend r e v i e w b y KEVIN DELECKI

Sometimes it’s the smallest thing that can bring about the biggest change in your life. For Georges, it’s a sign in the basement of his new apartment building that simply reads: “Spy Club Meeting—TODAY.” In Liar & Spy, the new book by Rebecca Stead, author of the Newbery Medal-winning When You Reach Me, Georges (the “s” is silent) attends the mysterious Spy Club meeting. It is there that he meets Safer, a 12-year-old eccentric loner and self-proclaimed spy, and his younger sister Candy, who loves to eat (what else) lots and lots of candy. Georges needs a friend, since he has been uprooted from his home as a result of his father’s job loss, and his mom is spending lots of extra time at the hospital where she works. He finds that friend in Safer, who also needs someone in his life. Safer has decided, after careful observation through the front-door By Rebecca Stead camera in his apartment building, that Mr. X, who lives in a top-floor Wendy Lamb/Random House, $15.99, 208 pages unit, must be a criminal. After all, he only wears black, he leaves his ISBN 9780385737432, audio, eBook available apartment at strange times and he carries different types of luggage. Ages 9 to 12 Georges’ first assignment as a member of the Spy Club is to learn as much as he can about Mr. X. However, as Safer’s missions and demands grow increasingly dangerous (and maybe illegal), Georges must decide how far he will go for his only friend. Liar & Spy is much more than its short length suggests. It is filled with twists and turns, and will force young readers to examine what they, and those around them, “know” to be true. Georges must make hard decisions, and come to some stark realizations, about friends, families and what truth really is. Like When You Reach Me, Liar & Spy keeps readers in suspense until the very end and will be enjoyed by anyone who loves a good story. And that’s the truth!

Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Extra Credit By Tommy Greenwald

Roaring Brook $14.99, 272 pages ISBN 9781596436923 eBook available Ages 9 to 12

MIDDLE GRADE

Charlie Joe Jackson is back! Fans of Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading will not be surprised to learn that his new adventure is titled Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Extra Credit. Being the slacker that he is, Charlie Joe has waited almost too late to earn good grades. If he doesn’t get his failing grades in order, his parents will send him to an intensively boring summer camp where reading is the main activity. Mind you, it’s not that Charlie Joe can’t do the work, he just doesn’t

have the ambition to do it. He likes goofing around more than buckling down, and this attitude has landed him in trouble again. As in the previous book, Charlie Joe adds “tips” between the chapters on how to succeed—usually by listing the things he should have done himself, but didn’t. These tips are hilarious and right on the money: “Remember that Science is not recess” and “If a teacher is giving you extra credit, do not injure them in any way.” Tommy Greenwald’s first book was a big hit with the middle grades, especially reluctant readers. The continuation of Charlie Joe’s story is sure to draw the same crowd, but it’s refreshingly funny for anyone. Mild crushes and “who’s dating who” discussions make the book most appropriate for junior high students, but fourth graders and up should enjoy Charlie Joe and his entertaining efforts to stave off academic disaster. —J e n n i f e r B r u e r K i t c h e l

Minnie McClary Speaks Her Mind By Valerie Hobbs

FSG $16.99, 224 pages ISBN 9780374324964 Audio, eBook available Ages 9 to 13

MIDDLE GRADE

Sixth grade hasn’t started out well for Minnie McClary. She lives in a new town because her father lost his job as a lawyer. She worries about her Uncle Bill, who after losing his leg in a helicopter crash in Iraq, lives in their basement and builds a model helicopter, trying to make sense of his war experiences. And Minnie’s language arts class erupts in chaos every day, having already chased away four substitute teachers. Minnie is a small girl with a big heart who fears that she may have already committed social suicide

by shouting “Stop it” to her wild classmates. Surprisingly, everyone listened and stopped their shenanigans. After her outburst, however, Minnie quiets her voice, trying to blend into her new surroundings. Life seems more promising when Miss Marks takes over Minnie’s class. Wearing blue jeans and message-spouting tee shirts (LIVE OUT LOUD), Miss Marks looks more like a teenager than a teacher. She asks her students to fill their daily journals with meaningful writing and questions about life. Her goal is to teach her charges to write and think, which worries parents whose focus is standardized tests scores. Minnie soon finds her first friend at school: an Iraqi girl named Amira, who covers her head with a scarf. Unfortunately, bullies relentlessly tease Amira, drawing mean portraits and yanking her scarf off her head. Meanwhile, a group of concerned parents protest Miss Marks’ unorthodox teaching methods. Valerie Hobbs has written a fastpaced story with a likeable heroine. As is the case with most sixth graders, Minnie struggles to figure out her own identity. Just in the nick of time, however, she finds her voice, coming to the defense of both her teacher and her friend. Minnie McClary Speaks Her Mind is a thoughtful novel about learning to ask important questions, and stopping to think before jumping to misguided conclusions. — ALICE CARY

Emily and Jackson Hiding Out By Phyllis Reynolds Naylor Delacorte $14.99, 176 pages ISBN 9780385740975 eBook available Ages 9 to 12

MIDDLE GRADE

Emily and Jackson are back. Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, Newbery Medal-winning author of Shiloh and more than 100 other titles, introduced Emily Wiggins and her scrappy companion, Jackson, in Emily’s Fortune. In their first rip-

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spotlight

BACK TO SCHOOL

TAKING THE FIRST BRAVE STEP

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ach child, whether confident or nervous, stands on the edge of the great unknown when a new school year begins. These dandy books will help the youngest students face this big step toward independence.

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In Mom, It’s My First Day of Kindergarten! (FSG, $16.99, ISBN 9780374350048) we find out that two people are anxious about the first day: mom and son. At first, the oversized boy bounces out of bed while the nervous mom (small and washed in anxious blue) drags her feet. Using color, size and varying perspectives to show the emotions of both generations of kindergartners, Hyewon Yum captures the nerves, bravado and excitement of the first day. In Marco Goes to School (Atheneum, $16.99, ISBN 9781416984757), a chuckle-worthy and encouraging sequel to Too Busy Marco, a little red bird has a big dream. Marco wants to go to the moon. After he exhausts the opportunities for entertainment around the house, his mom suggests he attend school. Though teacher Mrs. Peachtree has fun floral pants, she talks a lot, which allows Marco’s mind to wander to the class library, where a toy astronaut is perched alluringly. Marco knows what he wants: to go to the moon. Roz Chast’s love of this distracted student are almost enough to get him there, but he does find a friend willing to push him very high . . . in a swing. For read-aloud hilarity, Ollie’s School Day: A Yes-and No Book (Holiday House, $15.95,

reviews

By Robin Smith

ISBN 9780823423774), written by Stephanie Calmenson and illustrated by Abby Carter, is the perfect choice. Written as a series of questions, this read-aloud gem allows even the youngest child to learn about the social and behavioral expectations of school. The reader asks questions about Ollie’s day (What will Ollie eat? Wear? Say? Ride? How will he ask a question? Do at story time?). Three silly follow-up questions allow the reader to call out, “NO!” before the turn of the page allows the satisfying “YES.” Calmenson’s wit and Carter’s light, cartoony watercolors are the perfect vehicles for imparting important social expectations to newbies. Stan is worried that all the other children know how to write, but his words are coming out in a muddle. In Back to Front and Upside Down! (Eerdmans, $16, ISBN 9780802854148) Claire Alexander has created a comforting book for little learners. Instead of asking for help with the principal’s birthday card, Stan struggles by himself. He hides his writing failure from his friends until the pressure is too much. Then he finds out that everyone needs help sometimes, and writing becomes easier once he shares his struggle with the engaging Miss Catnip. Stan’s story can serve as a springboard to discussions about learning and getting help when needed.

roaring Western adventure, the two young orphans escaped the clutches of Emily’s evil uncle to make their way to kind Aunt Hilda in Redbud. Emily and Jackson Hiding Out finds the friends eagerly embracing life on the farm with Aunt Hilda. But their troubles aren’t quite over. One day, while Aunt Hilda is in town, Emily and Jackson find a pathetic widow woman begging on the road. Ever mindful of Aunt Hilda’s edict to practice kindness, they offer to make her lunch. But when the widow woman is washing up, Jackson catches sight of something that makes his eyes grow wide. “What in shootin’ shivers did he see?” A tiger tattoo! The widow is no other than Emily’s evil Uncle Victor—who has hatched a nefarious kidnapping plot. There’s a bold rescue attempt and a nerve-racking finale before the bad guy is rounded up and order is restored once again. Naylor’s latest will capture young readers with cliff-hanging chapter endings, humorous illustrations and a fun, old West design. The future looks bright for Emily and Jackson, but, then again, you never know: “Who in rushin’ rapids knows what might happen next?” — DE B ORAH HO P KINSON

olent, overgrown Giant. The forever15-year-old accepts her fate until she meets the infamous Peter Pan and his Lost Boys. Their tentative and secret love, full of tenderness, doubt, companionship and jealousy, often surprises them both. Readers will enjoy the intensity of the story, which intersects with Barrie’s and Disney’s versions, but the rich, complex characters earn the most appreciation. Tiger Lily must reconcile her duty to her tribe and loyalty to her father with her true feelings, while Pan fights to stay a boy as he wrestles with becoming a leader to his Lost Boys and finding the privacy that love requires. Even the minor characters—broken, alcoholic Hook, psychotic Smee and killer mermaids—elicit fascination. With this quiet and bittersweet story, readers will never again think of Peter Pan as simple animation. —Angela Leeper

Pushing the Limits By Katie McGarry

Harlequin Teen $17.99, 416 pages ISBN 9780373210497 eBook available Ages 13 and up

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Tiger Lily By Jodi Lynn Anderson

HarperTeen $17.99, 304 pages ISBN 9780062003256 eBook available Ages 14 and up

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You may think you know all there is to know about Peter Pan, but long before Wendy, there was Tiger Lily. Featured only briefly in the Disney movie, Tiger Lily receives the coverage she deserves in Jodi Lynn Anderson’s captivating retelling. The mute, insect-sized fairy Tink narrates the love story, revealing even more mysteries about Neverland. The adopted daughter of her tribe’s cross-dressing shaman, Tiger Lily enjoys immense freedom until she learns that she is to be wed to vi-

Katie McGarry’s debut novel has everything a summer romance for teens should: compelling characters, an intriguing plot, sparkling dialogue and plenty of suspense. Pushing the Limits is told by two high school seniors who could not be more different. Echo is trying to emerge into “normalcy” after a series of traumas: Her brother died in Afghanistan; she is repressing a terrible incident with her mother; and her new stepmother (and former babysitter) is pregnant. Furthermore, Echo’s father has pushed her away from the art classes she loves. At least Echo has a stable home. When her new counselor assigns her to tutor Noah, she’s unsure about getting involved with a reputed stoner. Noah, for his part, is also struggling to overcome the death of his parents, which separated


reviews him from his younger brothers and changed their lives forever. Echo and Noah may be facing intense life situations, but their story is full of insightful humor and a cast of engaging characters. Pushing the Limits is an accomplished debut, a perfect choice for readers who thrive on edgy, riveting storytelling.

“Lemon” because her daughter was bitter; later she admits to being drawn to it because, “That yellow looked like hope to me.” Lemon’s trip is a tough one, but by the end she’s found a new path that owes as much to the hardships she’s seen as to her mother’s once-invisible but nevertheless enduring love.

—Deborah Hopkinson

—Heather Seggel

Fingerprints of You

Intentions

By Kristen-Paige Madonia

Simon & Schuster $16.99, 272 pages ISBN 9781442429208 eBook available Ages 14 and up

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Fingerprints of You opens on Lemon’s 17th birthday, which her mom, Stella, is celebrating by getting herself a new tattoo. After a lifetime of being dragged from place to place in the wake of Stella’s bad decisions inspired by bad men, Lemon wants to differentiate herself from the mother she sees as “made of metal and glass.” Lacking a better role model, she does so by hooking up with her mom’s tattoo artist and ending up pregnant. Author Kristen-Paige Madonia brings poetry to the down-but-notout Stella and Lemon. When Lemon rides a bus cross-country in search of her absentee dad, she can finally loosen up and explore an age-appropriate romance (ironic belly bump notwithstanding). Lemon’s first impressions of San Francisco’s Mission District include “the smells of marinara and car fumes and something dank and wet seeping from the street drains,” along with the many small kindnesses from neighbors in an overwhelming landscape. Those little lessons pay forward into Lemon’s budding relationship with her dad and help her forge some peace with Stella. At its heart, Fingerprints of You is the tale of Lemon’s liberation from a too-young adulthood and her emancipation back into youth. At the beginning of the book Stella jokes that she chose the name

By Deborah Heiligman Knopf $16.99, 272 pages ISBN 9780375868610 eBook available Ages 14 and up

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Rachel Greenberg’s parents are on the edge of divorce, her former best friend Alexis is barely speaking to her, her grandmother’s health is fading—and while she’s theoretically almost-dating handsome, athletic Jake, something about the rabbi’s son, Adam, is totally irresistible. Arriving early at her synagogue one day, Rachel accidentally hears an encounter that overturns everything she thought she knew about someone she trusted. She must come to terms with the secret and what it means for her own beliefs. Rachel doesn’t always make the right choices—particularly when it comes to sneaking out of Friday night services or exacting revenge on a friend. However, her sense of morality, shaped by her religious heritage, leads her to well intended—if stumbling—attempts to make amends. Perhaps resolving these internal conflicts can help her find peace with her external ones as well. Deborah Heiligman’s Intentions is suffused with the traditions of Reform Judaism. For readers who have struggled with Judaism’s views on God and personal responsibility, Intentions is a mirror that will validate their own experiences; for others, it’s a window to the landscape of an unfamiliar world. Intentions is a unique and welcome addition to the world of young adult literature. —J i l l R a t z a n

It’s about a family that moves 12 time zones away and find they can’t sleep, a big problem, until they meet their nocturnal neighbors who show them the beauty of living at night.

Edward Gorey, Terry Gilliam, Carson Ellis, Beatrice Alemagna, Maurice Sendak, Jon Klassen, Chris Van Allsburg

History. It always seemed like one long story with many different narrators. Science. I always loved science because it’s all about discovery.

Our dad and Walter Payton

Where’s Waldo, all of Dr. Seuss, Shel Silverstein The Chronicles of Narnia, Winnie the Pooh

Sail Play piano

We think the strongest message we could send, wouldn’t be a message at all, but to pique their curiosity and feed their imagination.

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WORDNOOK

By the editors of Merriam-Webster

FALLING FOR A CON Dear Editor, Can you explain where the word con as in con artist or con game comes from? Does it have anything to do with convict, meaning “a person convicted of a crime”? T. B. Webster Groves, Missouri The word con in con artist is a shortened form of the adjective confidence. Confidence used this way means “adept at swindling by false promises.” A confidence man persuades others to trust him, then takes advantage of them in some way. The verb to con means to swindle, manipulate or persuade. The noun con is a shortened form of convict. It is not related to the adjective or verb con.

GLADS IN BLOOM Dear Editor, We have some flowers blooming in the yard now, one of which is the gladiolus. Of course, we’ve got more

than one gladiolus plant growing, so what do we call them? Gladioluses? Gladioli? We usually try to get around it by just calling them glads, but we remain curious. C. K. Nantucket, Massachusetts There are three plural forms of gladiolus that you can choose from, based on your preference. They are all acceptable, though one is more commonly found than the others. The most common plural is gladioli, which some may find stuffy. It is found in technical sources, such as a catalog, and nontechnical sources, such as in a book by John Cheever. The plural gladiolus is also used, though not quite as often, and appears in many different types of sources. Also commonly found is gladioluses, which is used in general periodicals and books but not in technical sources. Although gladiola and its plural gladiolas are not frequently found in print, they appear often enough not to be considered misspellings. You will meet with these spellings in general publica-

tions only. Glad is an acceptable form as well, along with its plural glads.

and catre. Middle English picked up catre, spelling it many ways, the commonest of which was cater—which mostly designated the four in dice. Sometimes false dice were made with the sides bearing the four and three slightly elongated in order to make favored combinations turn up more often. A die like this was called a catertrey. The placement of the four spots on a die can also suggest an X. By the second half of the 16th century, there was a verb, cater, which meant, “to move or place diagonally.” This in time produced an adverbial cater, which finds a place in dozens of compounds, most of them dialectical, meaning “diagonal” or “diagonally.” In the United States, there are many variations, including kitty-corner, catercorner, cater-cornered, catacorner, catty-corner and even catawumpus.

DOWN ON THE CORNER Dear Editor, I have a four-year-old daughter who is crazy about kittens. The other day we were rearranging the furniture in her room and I suggested placing her bureau kitty-corner, meaning “on a diagonal.” She loved the idea, of course, because it had something to do with kittens, but I couldn’t answer her questions about why we call it kitty-corner. Can you help me out? F. Y. Yuma, Arizona Kitty-corner is a variant of catercorner, which was once the most common spelling of the word in the United States. To trace the word’s history, we need to go back to medieval France. At that time, the French were fairly casual about spelling. They took the Latin word quattuor, meaning “four,” and spelled it quatre

GIVE YOUR BRAIN A BOOST!

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Excerpted from Mensa 10-Minute Crossword Puzzles by Fred Piscop, on sale now from Workman Publishing.

Send correspondence regarding Word Nook to: Language Research Service P.O. Box 281 Springfield, MA 01102

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www.workman.com

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BookPage August 2012