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america’s book review

Interview with the author of LOVING FRANK




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paperback picks PENGUIN.COM

The Witness The mystery of Abigail Lowery intrigues local police chief Brooks Gleason, on both a personal and professional level. And while he suspects that Abigail needs protection from something, Gleason is accustomed to two-bit troublemakers, not the powerful and dangerous men who are about to have him in their sights. 9780515151336 • $7.99

The Night Ranger When four young volunteers in Kenya decide to take a break from working at a Somali refugee camp, they get more than they bargained for when they are kidnapped. John Wells is asked to find them, but the clock is ticking. If he can’t find the hostages soon, they’ll be dead—and the U.S. may be in a war it never should have begun. 9780515153705 • $9.99

Crimson Veil The D’Artigo sisters still haven’t found a way to stop Lowestar Radcliff—the daemon in charge of a supernatural corporate power grab. He’s attempting to awaken Suvika, the lord of vice and corrupt businessmen, and they have to stop him. Their enemies are closing in on all sides, and this time, there’s no place to hide. 9780515152838 • $7.99

High Seduction Landing a position on the Lifeline squad puts Timothy’s old flame, Erin Tate, back within reach, and this time he’s not letting her go. But when an emergency throws Erin and Timothy together in unanticipated ways, the stakes are raised—on the job and off. Now they’ll both discover the real meaning of control…and the risks that come from falling in love. 9780425263358 • $7.99


Six Years Six years have passed since Jake watched Natalie, the love of his life, marry another man. When Jake comes across Todd’s obituary, he can’t keep himself away from the funeral. There he gets the glimpse of Todd’s wife he’s hoping for....but she is not Natalie. Soon Jake’s search puts his very life at risk, as he uncovers the secrets and lies that love can hide. 9780451414113 • $9.99

Walking on Air Golden-haired beauty Nancy Hoffman and solitary gunslinger Gabriel Valance cross paths when Gabe gets a second chance at life and a divine mission: to sweep Nancy off her feet, gain her trust, and convince her to believe in his love. And in doing so, the oncehardened cowboy may save himself. 9780451418333 • $7.99

Watch Your Back It’s former Marine Clay Maynard’s job to see the risk in every situation, but he doesn’t have to look hard to find the danger surrounding Baltimore Homicide Detective Stevie Mazzetti. When Stevie attracts the attention of a vicious psychopath, Clay will do whatever it takes to keep her alive. 9780451414106 • $7.99

The Countess Confessions Damien Boscastle, the Earl of Shalcross, knows he must marry Emily Selwick to defend her honor and keep his mission secret. After a whirlwind courtship leaves her breathless, Emily finds herself wed to a husband who vows not only to protect her from his menacing world—but to train his wife in the pleasures of passion. 9780451415332 • $7.99

New York Times bestselling author Jen Lancaster is “as adept at fiction as she is at telling her own stories.” (Publishers Weekly, starred review)

Despite her overwhelming professional success, Reagan Bishop never seems to earn her family’s respect. When a national network buys Reagan’s show, the pressures for unreasonably quick results and higher ratings mount. Desperate to make the show work and keep her family at bay, Reagan actually listens when the show’s New Age healer offers an unconventional solution… Record Nielsen ratings follow. But when Reagan decides to use her newfound power to teach everyone a lesson about sibling rivalry, she’s the one who will be schooled… NEW AMERICAN LIBRARY Penguin Group (USA)

9780451239655 • $25.95






The second novel from the author of Loving Frank is a beautifully crafted tale of the love between Robert Louis Stevenson and his strong-willed wife.

A profound connection to Middlemarch

13 JILL SHALVIS A brooding hero on the mend in Lucky Harbor

16 BICH MINH NGUYEN An immigrant’s link to a long-ago pioneer

18 BLACK HISTORY MONTH A turbulent past but hope for a brighter future

19 RELATIONSHIPS Let’s talk sex and dating

19 ISABEL ALLENDE Meet the author of Ripper

28 BLACK HISTORY FOR CHILDREN African-American heroes to inspire young readers

31 KADIR NELSON Meet the author-illustrator of Baby Bear

columns 04 05 06 07 08 11 11 12

Cover images © ©


our Readers

reviews 20 FICTION

top pick:

The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon

also reviewed:

Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen The Widow’s Guide to Sex and Dating by Carole Radziwill The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick


top pick:

The Swan Gondola by Timothy Schaffert The Last Days of California by Mary Miller Alena by Rachel Pastan Lydia’s Party by Margaret Hawkins

The Adventures of Henry Thoreau by Michael Sims

also reviewed:

Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan All Joy and No Fun by Jennifer Senior The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert

Cut Me Loose by Leah Vincent Lincoln’s Boys by Joshua Zeitz The Up Side of Down by Megan McArdle



top pick:

top pick:

also reviewed:

also reviewed:

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith


Nancy Horan


The Tyrant’s Daughter by J.C. Carleson The Gospel of Winter by Brendan Kiely And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard

The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing by Sheila Turnage

Brimsby’s Hats by Andrew Prahin What’s Your Favorite Animal? by Eric Carle and Friends Codename Zero by Chris Rylander When Audrey Met Alice by Rebecca Behrens Ice Dogs by Terry Lynn Johnson

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Allison Hammond



Lynn L. Green

Roger Bishop



Trisha Ping

Penny Childress



Joelle Herr

Elizabeth Grace Herbert



Cat Acree

Angela J. Bowman



Hilli Levin

Mary Claire Zibart




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A M E R I C A’ S B O O K R E V I E W




The parallels between life and literature


George Eliot’s Middlemarch is a crowning achievement among Victorian novels—a canon with its fair share of weighty masterworks. Admired by generations of writers, including Virginia Woolf, who called it “one of the few English novels written for grown-up people,” it holds primacy of place on many readers’ “to be read” lists, though many probably never get to the somewhat daunting task. Not so Rebecca Mead, a staff writer for The New Yorker, who first read the novel when she was 17 and has re-read it many times since. “Most serious has a place in their life like the one Middlemarch has in mine,” she writes in My Life in Middlemarch. “I chose Middlemarch—or Middlemarch chose me—and I cannot imagine life without it.” An enveloping book that combines biography, literary criticism and memoir, My Life in Middlemarch is a singular expression of Mead’s passion for this seminal work. Augmenting a very close reading of the text with deep research into the life of George Eliot, aka Mary Anne Evans, she explores how her own meaningful relationship with the book has changed and deepened. Eliot, Mead writes, has given her “a profound experience with a book, over time, that amounts to one of the frictions of my life. I have grown up with George Eliot. I think Middlemarch has disciplined my character. I know it has become part of my own experience and my own endurance. Middlemarch inspired me when I was a young, and chafing to leave home, and now, in middle life, it suggests to me what else home might mean, beyond a place to grow up and grow out of.” The eight chapters of My Life in Middlemarch parallel the eight books of the novel, and in each Mead examines a bit of her own experience through the lives of Eliot’s astutely wrought characters, as well as Eliot’s own. Mead was a girl in provincial England dreaming of something more when she first discovered Middlemarch, and it has continued to maintain its hold on her as she has progressed through life: struggling to build a career as a writer, becoming stepmother to a tribe of boys (as did Eliot), bearing witness to her parents’ endur-



A singular connection

ing marriage—these signposts in life’s journey give shape to Mead’s narrative. A Brit living in New York, Mead travels home and visits places integral to Eliot’s life and work. She pores over the novelist’s correspondence and journals, as well as other contemporary accounts, to paint an intimate portrait of the beloved writer. She seeks the real-life inspirations for Doro-

thea, Lydgate, Ladislaw, Mary and the novel’s other central characters to better understand the source of Eliot’s genius and creativity—and identify the wellspring of the novelist’s uncanny and ageless perceptions about love, marriage, religious belief, morality and life’s purpose. Though an impressive work of scholarship, the book is never dry. Mead brings decades of experience as a journalist to the table, and the result is a book about a long-dead writer that reads with the immediacy of a contemporary profile. The autobiographical portions of the book are restrained—this, thankfully, is not an overindulgent act of emotional evisceration like so many memoirs. Mead’s life has been interesting but not chaotic, and the same could be said about Eliot’s and those of the characters she created. This three-pronged convergence gives My Life in Middlemarch its power: No ordinary experience is ordinary when examined with the deftness MY LIFE IN MIDDLEMARCH By Rebecca Mead

Crown $25, 304 pages ISBN 9780307984760 eBook available



n her second book, My Life in Middlemarch, New Yorker staff writer Rebecca Mead offers a thoughtful examination of the book that has turned out to be a touchstone of her life. What inspired you to write this book? I decided I wanted to write about something I loved. The last book I wrote, One Perfect Day, was a journalistic exposé of the wedding industry. The business of weddings had engaged me because it seemed so alien, but reporting on it meant spending a lot of time immersed in a world that—not to put too fine a point on it—horrified me. After that experience, I thought if I were going to ever spend several years of my life immersed in another world, I wanted it to be one that would delight and excite me. George Eliot had long fascinated me, and her greatest novel, Middlemarch, was one I returned to again and again. What was your introduction to Middlemarch? I first read Middlemarch when I was 17, studying to take the specialized entrance exams to Oxford University. I was living in a provincial seaside town in England, and spent a few hours every Sunday at the home of an English teacher, who was tutoring a handful of students from my school. Middlemarch begins with the character of Dorothea Brooke, who is 19, living in a provincial town and yearning for a more meaningful life. Of course I identified with her completely: I was Dorothea, even if I wasn’t wealthy, eligible and beautiful, as she is. But the book is so much more than the story of one young woman’s quest for meaning and fulfillment. It’s a rich, complex portrait of the interconnected lives of the residents of the town—their aspirations, their failures, their love affairs, their professional ambitions, their moral quandaries, their dreams and their limitations. As I sat in my teacher’s living room— with the book on my lap and my own hopes in my heart—it seemed to me the wisest thing I had ever read. It still seems that way.



How many times have you read the novel? I’ve not kept to a precise schedule, but I’ve read Middlemarch about every five years or so. The first time I was a teenager . . . and at that point it seemed to be all about being a very young woman eager to get on with life. When I read it in my 20s, stumbling from one misbegotten love affair to another, it seemed to be all about the meaning of marriage, and what true commitment might be. In my 30s, when I was seeking to establish myself seriously as a writer, the story of Tertius Lydgate, the doctor who starts out with high professional ambitions and ends up failing to fulfill them, came to have a much more significant resonance for me. And by the time I was in my early 40s—when I started to think about writing My Life in Middlemarch—the book that had once seemed to be all about the hopes and aspirations of youth now seemed to be all about the resignations of middle age. I’m due for another full re-read; I wonder what it will say to me next time. How has your relationship with Middlemarch changed over the years? It has changed in surprising and rewarding ways. . . . After many years and many love affairs of my own, I have come to regard earlydawning, long-lived love with something approaching awe. Fred Vincy and Mary Garth’s story has taught me to look differently at the marriage of my own parents, who met when they were 15, married at 21, and who stayed married for 60 years, until my father’s death, which happened when I was halfway through writing My Life in Middlemarch. I thought about my parents a lot while I was writing it; the book is dedicated to them, and their influence is on every page. Visit to read more of our Q&A with Rebecca Mead.

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


RED RISING by Pierce Brown

Del Rey, $25, ISBN 9780345539786

The first in a planned series, this debut fantasy is set in the near future, where a 16-year-old boy may hold the key to overthrowing a brutal caste system.


Harper, $25.99, ISBN 9780062285539 After the death of his mother, 38-year-old Bartholomew must find a way to engage with the world in Quick’s quirky new novel. BookPage review on page 21.


Morrow, $25.99, ISBN 9780062088253 Cash’s second novel is an atmospheric story of two young girls who are kidnapped by their father—who is being pursued by both the girls’ legal guardian and a vengeful killer.

New York Times

bestselling author and digital sensation


say i do

brings three of her beloved wedding stories to print for the very first time!

THE MARTIAN by Andy Weir

Crown, $24, ISBN 9780804139021 In this offbeat debut, astronaut Mark becomes the first man to walk on Mars—and the first person to be stranded there. Can he survive the isolation, the bland diet and the dearth of entertainment options long enough to be rescued?

AFTER I’M GONE by Laura Lippman

Morrow, $26.99, ISBN 9780062083395 The latest standalone from best-selling author Lippman is a thought-provoking look at the women left behind when a Baltimore gambling boss goes on the lam.

RIPPER by Isabel Allende

Harper, $28.99, ISBN 9780062291400 Chilean novelist Allende, best known for her literary explorations of South American history, turns to murder in her latest work, which is inspired by the crimes of Jack the Ripper. Meet the author on page 19.


Nan A. Talese, $25.95, ISBN 9780385533508 The author of Mary Reilly returns to historical fiction in this atmospheric tale of psychics, ghosts and the power of the sea, told through diaries and letters.


THE WINTER PEOPLE by Jennifer McMahon

Doubleday, $25.95, ISBN 9780385538497 This creepy literary thriller is both a haunting ghost story and a chilling tale of the lengths to which a grieving mother will go for her child. BookPage review on page 20.

E.E. CUMMINGS: A LIFE by Susan Cheever

Pantheon, $26.95, ISBN 9780307379979 Noted biographer Cheever takes on the troubled life of poet e.e. cummings, whose work is perhaps more sympathetic than many of his attitudes. LibraryReads is a recommendation program that highlights librarians’ favorite books published this month. For more information, visit

Available for the first time in print!

Set in the enchanting Rose Chalet Bridal venue overlooking San Francisco Bay, six people find love when and where they least expect it.


Doubleday, $25.95, ISBN 9780385537629 When a judge disappears without a trace in Jazz Age New York City, three women may be the only key to his whereabouts.


“The first in a Victorian mystery series introduces a sleuth who matches Sherlock Holmes.” —Publishers Weekly





A Colin Pendragon Mystery


A tenacious sleuth is on a case that illuminates the darkness lurking inside one of London’s most noble families…

“Intriguing.” —kirkus revieWs

KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.— America’s Independent Publisher

Begin reading at




A heist of godlike proportions Race, religion, greed, xenophobia—author Okey Ndibe tackles these sensitive topics and more in the heist novel to end all heist novels, Foreign Gods, Inc. (Soho, $25, 336 pages, ISBN 9781616953133). In this strange and lyrical tale, protagonist Ike Uzondu will attempt a theft, but not of gold or diamonds: His target is nothing less than a war deity venerated by a dwindling number of adherents in Ike’s home village in Nigeria. A god who will, if things go according to plan, bring Ike fortune, both in the “luck” and the “lotsa money” senses of the word. Ike has tried to live a good life up until now. He completed a degree in economics at an Ivy League university, only to be told by a potential employer, “Your credentials are excellent, but the accent is crappy.” In fact, the only job he can find in New York City where his accent is not an issue is one that has become the fallback position for many a new immigrant: taxi driver. But piloting a cab cannot fulfill the ambitions of a man who has braved a long journey, jarring culture clash and interminable bureaucracy to get as far as he has gotten. Only the god Ngene can do that for Ike, and even then, only if Ngene sees fit.

ECHOES OF THE GREAT WAR It is hard to imagine how a mother and son writing team from North Carolina could pen the quintessentially English mystery novels of “Charles Todd,” but pen them they do. The 16th installment in the Inspector Ian Rutledge series, Hunting Shadows (Morrow, $25.99, 336 pages, ISBN 9780062237187), is set in post-WWI England, a time and place where wartime losses remain very much a part of everyday life. More than most men, Rutledge carries his war experiences with him: The chiding voice of Corporal Hamish MacLeod, who fought and died under Rutledge’s command at the Battle of the Somme, comes unbidden to Rutledge in times of stress or reflection. As Hunting Shadows opens, Rutledge is summoned to the Fen country, a low-lying area north of his usual Cambridge stomping grounds. Two murders have been committed, seemingly with no rela-

tionship between victims but with strong correlation of methodology. Rutledge’s brief is to find the killer before a third victim joins the list. It falls to Rutledge to seek out the truth; this time, perhaps more than any other time in his career thus far, the truth will prove an elusive adversary, one perhaps better left unexposed.

NEXT STIEG LARSSON? As a mystery columnist, I am skeptical of blurbs hailing new Scandinavian suspense authors as

“the next Stieg Larsson.” That said, Norway’s Jørgen Brekke should be in the running, with his original and suspenseful debut novel Where Monsters Dwell (Minotaur, $25.99, 368 pages, ISBN 9781250016805). Five hundred years ago, a young Norwegian monk took a walk on the dark side, feeding an unholy obsession with death, culminating in his creation of “The Book of John,” a text bound in human skin. This sort of thing is an aberration that appears only sporadically over the centuries. So imagine the shockwave in present-day Trondheim, Norway, when the curator of the museum holding the Book of John is brutally murdered, her skin flayed from her body. Double-down on the shock effect when the cops find that the curator of the Edgar Allan Poe Museum in Virginia has met much the same fate. Police forces from both sides of the Atlantic collaborate in parallel, then tandem, investigations, the clues to which may be found in the macabre, skin-bound Book of John . . . if they are to be found at all. A killer debut, in every sense of the word, and a book you will want to read in one sitting, preferably not right before bedtime.

TOP PICK IN MYSTERY Leighton Gage’s previous book, Perfect Hatred, was last March’s

BookPage Top Pick in Mystery; shortly afterward, Gage wrote to thank me for the accolade, and we exchanged a series of emails about what was coming next for Brazilian police inspector Mario Silva. One note read, in part: “I shall try very hard not to disappoint you with the next one. It’s entitled The Ways of Evil Men and is scheduled for release, by Soho, in February of 2014.” Well, February 2014 is here, and so is The Ways of Evil Men. Sadly, Gage is not here; he passed away in July. A 20-year resident of São Paulo, Gage wrote compellingly about the social problems that plague modern-day Brazil: assassinations; staggering poverty; and the class system that permeates every social interaction. His final book takes Silva and his team deep into the jungle to investigate a case of possible genocide. Thirtynine members of the Awana tribe have dropped dead mysteriously, perhaps poisoned, leaving only two members alive. When a local white man is murdered and the elder of the two remaining Awana is found at the scene, it all seems just a bit too pat, and the specter of a massive conspiracy begins to take form. As a writer, Gage had it all: social conscience; complex, well-drawn characters; and superb plot development. All he lacked was the gift of another dozen years of writing, to shepherd Chief Inspector Silva safely into his retirement. No disappointments here, Leighton, none whatsoever. Sleep well.


Soho Crime $26.95, 304 pages ISBN 9781616952723 Audio, eBook available



New paperback releases for reading groups

A WILD WEST DYNASTY An old-fashioned tale of the West with all the trappings—Indian raids, oil booms and plenty of shoot-’emup action—The Son (Ecco, $16.99, 592 pages, ISBN 9780062120403) by Philipp Meyer is at once a well-crafted work of literary fiction and a wild journey through the Lone Star State. When Eli McCullough, 13, is captured by Comanches, he’s forced to assimilate and develops into a formidable warrior. After he re-enters the world of white men, he becomes

hausted, the hospital’s only doctor, Sonja Rabina, has doubts about taking the girl in, but Akhmed convinces her to let Havaa stay on a provisional basis. As the book progresses, connections between the characters come to light, revealing a chilling network of betrayal. Marra’s depiction of war-torn Chechnya is all too accurate, yet he balances the bloodshed with moments of humor and the creation of characters who feel real to the reader. This is a landmark first novel from a writer worth watching.


a Texas Ranger and establishes a sprawling ranch in South Texas. Along the way, he has adventures aplenty, some of them amorous (involving the wife of a judge), many of them bloody (a Mexican family is slaughtered under his orders). The novel is narrated in part by Eli, who, at the age of 100, is addressed by everyone as “the Colonel.” Sharing the storytelling duties are his weakwilled son, Peter, who’s considered a failure, and great-granddaughter Jeanne Anne, who fights to keep the McCullough dynasty intact in contemporary times. Reminiscent of grand Western sagas like Lonesome Dove, Meyer’s expertly written novel has the makings of a classic. Anthony Marra’s outstanding debut novel, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena (Hogarth, $15, 416 pages, ISBN 9780770436421), tells the story of a war orphan and the doctors who try to save her. During the Second Chechen War, 8-yearold Havaa stands by helplessly as her father, accused of a crime he had nothing to do with, is taken away by Russian soldiers, who burn down their home for good measure. Akhmed, a neighbor, finds Havaa hiding in the woods and, risking his own life, takes her to a run-down hospital where he hopes she’ll be looked after. Overworked and ex-


The New York Times bestselling romantic comedy “Big Girl Panties has wit and heart.” —People magazine

The internationally bestselling story of love and loss “Packed with gorgeous imagery and undertones of buried secrets...Sultry, tragic and intensely atmospheric.” —The Times (London)

A story of high drama, forbidden love, and families fighting the changing of the world All of the upstairs/ downstairs drama of the best Downton Abbey episodes.

A charming, witty, honey-sweet novel about finding new love “The Wedding Bees is a romp of a novel, designed to be read for pure pleasure.” —The New Zealand Herald

By Rachel Kushner Scribner $17, 416 pages ISBN 9781439142011




William Morrow Paperbacks

Book Club Girl



A finalist for the National Book Award, Rachel Kushner’s second novel, The Flamethrowers, is set in the 1970s and narrated by a young artist called Reno. Led by an obsession with motorcycles, Reno arrives in New York City hoping to channel her love of motion and speed into art. She becomes romantically involved with sculptor Sandro Valera, whose prominent family manufactures motorcycles and tires in Italy. Their famous bike—the Moto Valera—provides inspiration for Reno, who stages an art performance of sorts by racing one on the Bonneville Salt Flats. During a visit to Italy with Sandro, Reno joins up with a group of anarchic protesters only to find herself entangled in a murder. Navigating the worlds of politics and art proves trickier than she imagined, and she soon learns the meaning of betrayal. Reno proves to be a remarkable heroine—a courageous yet vulnerable young woman who isn’t afraid of taking risks. Kushner’s inventive style and obvious delight in language make this an unforgettable read.

New Paperbacks to Fall in Love With




Fearless baking Bake It, Don’t Fake It! (Atria, $20, 208 pages, ISBN 9781476735542) is a great and wonderfully descriptive title for this straightforward seminar on baking from scratch. Heather Bertinetti, a super-talented pastry pro who has worked in some of the best restaurants in New York City, has made it her mission to dispel the fear of baking that lurks in so many home kitchens and keeps otherwise competent cooks from making pies, pastries, party cakes and beyond. She starts with the basics: measuring (really important), ingredients and necessary equip-

A bevy of satisfying salads— from small and simple to substantial, like a hearty, guy-pleasing Steak au Poivre Salad—start things off, followed by a super selection of dinner winners from Pork Chops with Pears in Port Wine, warming, spicy Rush-Hour Chili and Hawaiian Mahi Lettuce Wraps to Thai Vegetable Curry for the meatless contingent. Finish off with the likes of Amaretti-Peach Parfait, and you’ll get applause and appreciation seven days a week.


ment. Then you’ll move on to Baking 101, a collection of basic recipes for cakes, cookies, pies and pastries— Basic Yellow Cake, Basic Chocolate Cake, Shortcut Puff Pastry, Pâte à Choux, muffins, frostings, fillings, etc. When you graduate to the “Next Level,” you’ll find PB&J Whoopie Pies, Palmiers and Brown Butter Pizzelle—and then, the “wow!” provokers like St. Honoré Cake, Black and White Crêpe Cake or Red Velvet Macarons. Bertinetti’s insider chef tips—both practical and tactical—on how to make the bake easier to handle, vary the ingredients or posh-up the presentation are boons for beginners and veterans alike.




Ellie Krieger’s latest foray into fighting the dinner-time blahs, Weeknight Wonders (HMH, $29.99, 304 pages, ISBN 9781118409497), will leave you without any excuses to eat out, order in or complain about not having enough time to put a healthy, home-cooked meal on the table. Krieger focuses on using fresh, minimally processed, additive-free, low-fat (when possible) ingredients and using smart shortcuts (e.g. prewashed greens). She promises that each of the 150 recipes included can be ready in 30 minutes or less—and to that desirable end has organized her cooking instructions to maximize the natural rhythm of a home cook.

There’s seems to be a mystical relationship between chocolate and romance. Maybe it’s the intensity, the sweetness and the sensuality. Maybe it’s the power of chocolate to make us happy and happily addicted. Maybe it’s the lingering connection to those wonderful foilcovered chocolate hearts we enjoyed as kids. Whatever it is, chocolate and Valentine’s Day are a perfect pair, and Alice Medrich’s Seriously Bitter Sweet: The Ultimate Dessert Maker’s Guide to Chocolate is the perfect love letter to this dark, dense, divinely delicious delicacy. The world of chocolate has had a renaissance since Seriously Bitter Sweet was originally published more than 10 years ago, and Medrich has meticulously retested and retinkered all of the book’s 150 recipes to get just the right flavor and texture. She’s also added “Chocolate Notes,” essential sidebars that explain how using the many different cacao percentages now available will affect a particular recipe. So, go for it— make your Valentine a real Truffle au Chocolat, a Warm Bittersweet Mousse or some cold, creamy, seriously chocolate ice cream. It’ll be love at first bite.


Artisan $25.95, 336 pages ISBN 9781579655112 eBook available


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W I N T E R L I ST Macmillan E N I N GAudio from

“In Radiance of Tomorrow, Beah has produced a formidable and memorable novel—a story of resilience and survival, and, ultimately, rebirth.” —Publishers Weekly, signature review

How did Lucky Santangelo become the woman she is today? Only Jackie Collins can tell...

“This lovely novel invites the very kind of enchanted immersion that its protagonist experiences at Oxford....Beautifully done.”

“Narrator John Keating has a field day with the humor, long-winded stories, and colorful accents...[Keating] skillfully presents the unique and sometimes-hilarious Irish take on joy, sorrow, illness, and death.”

—Ann Packer, New York Times bestselling author of The Dive from Clausen’s Pier

—AudioFile on An Irish Country Doctor

ON SALE 2/18

“His best book yet—breathless, involving, smart, and completely convincing.” —Lee Child







Something about Billy Billy Collins, a two-term Poet Laureate of the United States who can fill large auditoriums and appears on “A Prairie Home Companion,” has made poetry miraculously accessible without dumbing it down or making it any less profound. His voice is plain but eloquent, his style easy, without complicated meter; he makes the ordinary meaningful and the everyday beautiful. His latest collection, Aimless Love (Random House Audio, $20, 1.5 hours, ISBN 9780385366397), which he reads with perfect timing and little fuss, is his first compilation in a dozen years, with more than 50 new poems

and selections from four previous books. Old or new, these poems have a charming grace that touches the soul even when they’re wryly funny. They can take on the serious and somber with quiet, affecting power, like this last line of a poem for the victims of September 11: “So many names, there is barely room on the walls of the heart.” Poetry is best when read aloud, and these are poems to listen to over and over, to savor and discover again and again. I’d like to think of this collection as Collins’ valentine to poetry and to all his avid fans.


that radiates from within people and from above.” Whether you believe or question, her unflinching take on dealing with loss, suffering and hardship will help get you through personal disasters and world crises, to keep going, or, as she puts it, to be lucky enough to live “stitch by stitch.” Lamott reads here and sounds like she’s talking directly to you; she’s comfy and comforting to spend time with, never scolds or judges, just holds out a helping hand that we all can use.

Vicki Robin transformed our relationship with money in her bestseller Your Money or Your Life, and now she’s set to do likewise regarding our relationship with food. Don’t be misled into thinking her new book belongs in the religion section, though, because Blessing the Hands That Feed Us (Viking, $26.95, 352 pages, ISBN 9780670025725) is all about food systems: how they work, how they don’t and how they can be healed. The subtitle is more descriptive: What Eating Closer to Home Can Teach Us About Food, Community, and Our Place on Earth. Call it

and glue, and so on. Look at #46: Painting Without Brushes, which is meant to liberate us from the control a paintbrush usually offers. Instead, we paint for a specified time using dry ends of vegetables, “hairy string” and a feather. Each activity helps us “relearn the art of play” and eventually teaches us we are our own best guides. The stage above apprentice is called “journeyman.” That sounds just right, considering all the places you’ll go in this workshop of a book.



Of all the fictional detectives I spend time with, I’d most like to have a drink with Arkady Renko (Guido Brunetti would run a close second). It’s almost as though the malice, corruption, greed and indignities of current-day Russia have polished, rather than pitted, his melancholy Slavic soul, kept his moral compass set and strengthened his commitment to justice. He’s still undervalued by his superiors and still determined to solve cases others dismiss. In Tatiana, Martin Cruz Smith’s brilliant new addition to the series—narrated by Henry Strozier, whose pitch-perfect Renko makes this audio version so special—Arkady takes on two murders the authorities would rather not deal with. An underworld oligarch has been killed in the crime-ridden city of Kaliningrad, and a renowned crusading journalist, modeled on Anna Politkovskaya who was murdered in 2006, has supposedly leapt to her death in Moscow. As Arkady pursues his investigation, he begins to uncover possible connections. Smith, Strozier and Renko are all at their best.

In How to Build a Hovercraft: Air Cannons, Magnet Motors, and 25 Other Amazing DIY Science Projects, Stephen Voltz and Fritz Grobe declare that “you’re never too old to be the coolest kid on the block.” The authors should know: They’re the guys behind the incredible Cokeand-Mentos videos (Google them) that inspired the rest of us to run to the grocery store and make our own (smaller, but still fantastic) backyard geysers. They specialize in transforming everyday materials and objects into extraordinary fun—all of it based solidly in science. Nerd-tastic projects are divided into three levels of difficulty, which means even young beginners can geek out with quick tricks and illusions. Crank it up with an Air Vortex Cannon made out of a trash can and a shower curtain liner, or the titular hovercraft, which comes in three sizes, from tabletop balloon to driveway leaf blower. Some experiments require adult help, what with the addition of power tools and/or fire, but some, like the Sticky Note Slinky, are as safe as they are spectacular.

TATIANA By Martin Cruz Smith

Simon & Schuster Audio $29.99, 8 hours ISBN 9781442364363


what you may—“locavorism,” food justice, agricultural literacy or the phrase Robin seems to have coined, “relational eating”—the movements to eat locally, sustainably, and to know where food comes from are all gaining ground. Much of the book chronicles Robin’s personal challenge: For a month, she limited herself to food she was able to source from within a 10-mile radius of her home. Her struggles and story grow naturally into a “global manifesto” that urges us all to reshape our lives and the health of our planet.

COAXING CREATIVITY In The Trickster’s Hat: A Mischievous Apprenticeship in Creativity (Perigee, $20, 208 pages, ISBN 9780399165023), author and artist Nick Bantock plays master (as he should, what with his Griffin & Sabine trilogy staying on the bestseller list for so long) to you, the apprentice. Your task is to coax “a better understanding of your artistic core,” and to gather all—even the most peripheral—“sensory experiences” into usable focus. Such a goal has many paths, and apparently, the more circuitous, the better. Bantock offers 49 “mischievous” exercises to help writers and artists of all sorts “unearth the roots of creativity.” Most prompts require simple materials already at hand: a pen and notebook, a voice recorder, paper

HOW TO BUILD A HOVERCRAFT By Stephen Voltz and Fritz Grobe

Chronicle $24.95, 192 pages ISBN 9781452109527 eBook available


Anne Lamott is a very wise woman (though that description would probably embarrass her), an incredibly good and compassionate friend who listens with an open heart, and an eyes-wide-open realist who took off her rose-colored glasses decades ago. She calls her latest installment of loving advice on how to navigate this chaotic world Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair (Penguin Audio, $17.95, 2 hours, ISBN 9781611762372) and describes it as a “patchwork of moments, memories, connections and stories” that steer her to what T.S. Eliot called “the still point of a turning world.” Though a steadfast Christian, Lamott uses God as “shorthand for the Good, for the animating energy of love; for Life, for the light

Locavore inspiration




R EADS from

Avon Romance





When old friends become lovers Sharon Sala writes a charming story about a second chance at life and love in The Curl Up and Dye (Sourcebooks Landmark, $14.99, 288 pages, ISBN 9781402283963). When LilyAnn Bronte lost her high school sweetheart 11 years ago, she became mired in grief. But now, at 28, the sound of a hot-rod engine awakens her to all that’s wrong with her existence. Is the newcomer behind the wheel the next man of her dreams? Her neighbor and best friend, Mike Dalton, sure hopes not. Owner of the town’s fitness center, Mike’s been in love with LilyAnn forever, but she’s never considered him to be romance material. With nudges from the proprietor of the local beauty salon (the titular Curl Up & Dye), LilyAnn begins making herself over, which prompts Mike to decide to go after what he wants—a future with LilyAnn. Old habits must be broken for them to come together, and, unfortunately, there’s a bad guy stalking LilyAnn, a threat that could bring their burgeoning love affair to a violent end. While LilyAnn and Mike stumble along their way, the good folks of their small Southern town are there to offer help—and gossip about them, too. Sala makes Blessings, Georgia, a vastly entertaining place to visit.




A simple affair becomes so much more in Darcie Wilde’s historical, Lord of the Rakes (Berkley, $7.99, 320 pages, ISBN 9780425265550). Beautiful Lady Caroline Delamarre has lived a cloistered country life, watched over carefully by her father, followed by her brother. After she learns of an unexpected trust fund, the now-heiress goes against her brother’s wishes, stopping in London on her way to starting anew in Europe, where she plans to live a life of freedom. While attending a ball, she meets Phillip Montcalm, who’s known as the “Lord of the Rakes” due to his way with women. The moment their eyes meet, they both experience a tender longing that they interpret as simple desire. Caroline considers Phillip the perfect contender for a brief fling. Never one to deny

himself what he wants, Phillip gladly acquiesces to the idea of teaching Caroline about sensual delights. But as they get better acquainted, they also learn more about themselves. Second son Phillip begins to question dedicating his life solely to his own shallow entertainment and pleasure, and Caroline wonders if giving her heart to a man would truly make him her jailor. Though both thought they desired independence, is staying true to that principle enough reason to give up the love of a lifetime? A steamy read of sexual and emotional awakening.

PRINCESS FOUND Every young girl’s fantasy becomes a grown woman’s dilemma in the Christian romance Princess Ever After (Zondervan, $14.99, 368 pages, ISBN 9780310315506) by Rachel Hauck. Accountant-turned-automobile restorer Regina (“Reggie”) Beswick considers herself an average smalltown girl, so she’s shocked to discover at 29 that she’s actually a royal princess. Tanner Burkhardt, the attractive Minister of Culture for the Grand Duchy of Hessenberg, travels to Florida to deliver the news—and to bring Reggie back to the island country in the North Sea. But as much as Regina is starting to like Tanner—and maybe feel even more—could she possibly give up her friends, family and career in the U.S. to take on a new destiny and rule a land she’s never even seen? Still, her legacy beckons, and she decides to visit the beautiful place. Meanwhile, Tanner has some problems of his own. Not only is he falling for Reggie, but he also wants to keep her safe from political machinations. And his past keeps creeping into his present, bringing him deep heartache and the feeling that he’s unworthy of a happily ever after with his princess. The two must look to their shared faith and to

each other to determine where their futures lie. This is a sweet and sparkling kisses-only romance.

TOP PICK IN ROMANCE Karen Rose offers another complex, twisting tale of romantic suspense in Watch Your Back. Hom­ i­cide detective and single mother Stevie Mazzetti is the target of a killer—and she knows it. While recuperating from an injury sustained in the line of duty, she starts looking into the cases of her now-dead partner—a dirty cop who framed innocent people for crimes they did not commit. After Stevie survives more than one attempt on her life within one week, she realizes that the trouble might be coming from her own department. Stevie decides to turn to handsome private investigator Clay Maynard for help—even though he’s a man she’s pushed away before. Clay, a former Marine, is as determined to keep Stevie safe as he is to win her heart. Though she has a past filled with loss, he wants to provide a bright future for her and her daughter—but that means catching whoever is after her first. Together, Stevie and Clay uncover more crimes and ugly truths until they finally pinpoint the person who holds a grudge against Stevie. Along the way, trust and respect grow between the pair—enough to last forever, if they can stop the villain before he stops them. Gripping, intense and filled with characters readers will root for.


Signet $7.99, 592 pages ISBN 9780451414106 Audio, eBook available





A small-town dream come true


t takes a certain kind of person to parlay tearful, angry-door-slamming sibling rivalry into a series of popular novels.

But Jill Shalvis is nothing if not creative, so she combined her romance-writer instincts (50 novels and counting) with her motherly concerns, and kicked off her bestselling Lucky Harbor series. “My three daughters had just entered their teens and were fighting all the time,” Shalvis recalls. “I couldn’t imagine a happily-everafter for them.” So she made one up. “I pitched a story about three estranged sisters who inherit their mother’s dilapidated beach inn [in a small town in Washington state]. They can’t sell the inn because it’s a mess, so they’re stuck together for the summer. They start out estranged, and end up happy.” Shalvis says her publisher was enthusiastic about the idea right away. “Grand Central was lovely enough to say, let’s do it as a trilogy, with each sister getting her own story.” Then, “when I turned in the third manuscript, they said, this is becoming very popular, we need more.” Thus followed three more Lucky Harbor trilogies. February 18 will see the arrival of Book 9, Once in a Lifetime, featuring Aubrey, who’s trying to reopen her beloved late aunt’s bookstore—and check names off a list of people to whom she wants to make amends. Aubrey’s uncle hires Ben to fix up the store. Ben’s been grieving the death of his wife by doing engineer-



affinity for men with carpentry skills, and the fact that her husband is a builder. Ben of Once in a Lifetime is a tribute to him, she says. “There’s always a tool belt in my books!” While the current romance trend is the billionaire bad-boy, Shalvis says she prefers real-life men who work with their hands. “It’s more attractive, to me, to make an everyday guy become a hero versus a guy who had everything easy and doesn’t see how hard life is.” And “there’s always a bromance,” Shalvis says. “It’s a big part of what I write. In Ben’s case, his relationships with [friends] Jack and Luke are part of who he is.” Aubrey’s attempt to right past wrongs is a big part of who she is, and who she’s trying to become. “There are so many layers, and her huge complicated past, and some things Ben doesn’t know about,” Shalvis says. “I thought, what can I do to make the worst possible scenario?” (No spoilers here, but: It’s a doozy.) There’s more Lucky Harbor ahead, with another trilogy starting in August. After that, the series will likely come to a close, the author says. “I want to go when readers are still happy. I don’t want to stay too long at the party.” For the moment, fans have a lot to look forward to—and there’s always Shalvis’ active presence on her blog, Facebook and Twitter, where she alternates shirtless-hunk photos with less sexy updates. They’re all part of Shalvis’ plan to maintain the sense of community she always longed for—and has found in her fictional hometown of Lucky Harbor and her connection with fans. “Romance readers are the best on the planet,” she says.



“THIS BOOK IS SO FUNNY AND ENGAGING THAT I WAS READING IT AND FORGOT TO PICK UP MY KIDS.” —TOM FRANKLIN, author of Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter Available wherever books and e-books are sold.



By Jill Shalvis

Grand Central, $6, 352 pages ISBN 9781455521135, audio, eBook available

ing jobs in dangerous places around the world. Romance isn’t on either one’s mind, but it’s not long before Aubrey’s more than a little distracted by Ben (and his low-slung tool belt), and he her. There’s an underlying threat to their connection, though: Aubrey has a secret she’s afraid to share, and Ben’s afraid to fall in love again. The two receive well-meaning advice from family and friends, as well as suggestions posted on the Lucky Harbor Facebook page by a group of irrepressible senior citizens. That small-town scrutiny figures in all the Lucky Harbor novels. “I grew up in Los Angeles, a very large town that’s very anonymous, but my dream was always the opposite,” Shalvis says. “[Lucky Harbor] is truly just a fantasy.” Ten years ago, Shalvis’ dream came true when she and her family moved to a home outside Lake Tahoe, California. “I now live in a small town,” she says, “and it’s easy to find the humor. I’m able to pull out things that someone who’s always lived here wouldn’t think are funny, but they are to me.” She includes herself in that category: “I always feel like a misplaced city girl. I’m always going to scream when a wolf spider shows up, or if I see a bear out by the garbage. I’m not the Pioneer Woman.” Shalvis thinks there’s a hint of herself in the character Lucille, the chief gossip of Lucky Harbor. “She’s a little bit of how I would see myself as an old lady. I’m curious, I’m nosy,” she says with a laugh. It’s that intense curiosity—plus a knack for translating real-life relationships to the page—that makes Shalvis’ novels so engaging, whether a dialogue-heavy scene in which characters face up to their less-thanpleasant behavior, or a sex scene in which pleasure is the order of the day . . . and the night . . . and the next morning. About those sexy bits, Shalvis says, “I try to make each sex scene important to the story and individual. Whether the experience is funny, or even anxiety-ridden, I try to keep it real.” Also keeping things real: Shalvis’


cover story



A writer’s muse gets her due


irst the woman behind Frank Lloyd Wright and now Robert Louis Stevenson’s wife—author Nancy Horan has carved a niche for herself as a novelist who gives voice to strong, influential yet largely forgotten women.

“Women have been underrepresented in the history books,” Horan says by phone from her home on an island near Seattle. “I’ve chosen to write about two women who were very strong in their own right.” Horan’s 2007 debut novel, Loving Frank, focused on the life of Mamah Borthwick Cheney, Wright’s partner in a scandalous affair. The book struck a chord with readers and remained on the New York Times bestseller list for more than a year. Her new novel, Under the Wide and Starry Sky, is a dazzling love story that unspools across years and continents. Horan deftly brings to life a woman shamefully overlooked by history, and celebrates her contributions to the man whom history remembered. Fanny van de Grift Osbourne was a smart, pretty, strong-willed American artist who took her three children from San Francisco to Europe to get away from her unfaithful husband. She met and fell in love with Stevenson, a sickly aspiring writer 10 years her junior, at a French inn. But the death of one of her children ultimately led her to return to America and an attempted




By Nancy Horan

Ballantine, $26, 496 pages ISBN 9780345516534, audio, eBook available


reconciliation with her husband. Stevenson followed, sailing across the Atlantic and then taking a train to California to find her, a trip that nearly killed him. Horan heard about this dramatic expedition when she visited Monterey, California, where he lived for some time. “I learned that Stevenson had taken this incredible journey across the ocean and across America seeking this woman he had met: an American woman nearly 10 years his senior,” she says. Horan was further intrigued when she read Stevenson’s memoirs of the trip, including The Amateur Emigrant and Across the Plains. Sure, he was the world-famous author, but it was Fanny who grabbed Horan’s attention. “He struck me as really interesting, but when I read about Fanny, I thought, whoa,” Horan recalls. “Stevenson took on a strong character. There was a disparity in age. There was a disparity in class. There was a disparity in education. I just knew they were going to be good company for the ride, and it was a five-year ride. They had to be worthy of the companionship.” After reuniting in California, and marrying in 1880, the pair lived in different places with Fanny’s young son. They both devoted themselves to writing, with Fanny often nursing Stevenson (whom she called Louis) through tuberculosis-like illnesses. After Fanny’s daughter moved to Honolulu, the pair set sail for the South Pacific. Fanny was seasick from the moment they set foot on a ship. But the sea air was almost magical for Stevenson, who felt in the best health of his life as they island-hopped in the tropics, finally settling in Samoa. “Fanny understood that when he was at sea, he was well,” Horan says. “And she was seasick every single day. There’s someone who was tough. She had rats run on her face on one of the ships!” Fanny and Louis settled in, building a luxurious home among the

natives. Over time, Fanny’s children and Louis’ mother joined them. The couple was adventurous, to be sure, but it still proved difficult to write about Stevenson. “The challenge was he was a sickly man and he was bed-bound,” Horan says. “How do you write about a writer who was moving a pen across paper and was stuck in bed? Luckily, he left rich documents of his feelings in his letters.” Fanny, it turned out, was a much more complicated—and therefore easier—subject. Fiercely protective of her often-ill husband, she watched as his literary star rose while she was labeled difficult and mercurial. She continued writing, but didn’t achieve the success of her husband, who became a worldwide celebrity. His closest friends from Scotland viewed her with suspicion and in some cases contempt, calling her an American from “the land of bilge and spew.” “Fanny was not as introspective as Stevenson. She was active,” Horan says. “Here’s a woman who saved his life repeatedly. She was a woman who had aspirations before she ever met him. She put aside her own aspirations. She earned a bad reputation because she kept his friends

away because they weren’t healthy. She probably was overprotective.” An English major, Horan had read the Stevenson works listed on most syllabi—Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde—but hadn’t delved deeper until she began her research. “I hadn’t gone further than that,” she says. “I didn’t think much about him at all. What I learned is he was a literary athlete. He wrote Jekyll and Hyde in three days. He was extra­ ordinary. So I tried to read everything I could. I found some things were more accessible than others.” Horan was especially drawn to his short stories, and the novel Kidnapped and its sequel, David Balfour. “His essays are fabulous,” she says. “I don’t think people think of him as an essayist, and we don’t realize that he’s quoted a lot. I think about Mandela, who was imprisoned and had a lot of time to think, and Stevenson had some of the same situation. Even as a child, he was not a normal kid. He couldn’t go out and play. He was pale and long and stringy and wore his hair long to keep drafts off his neck.” Bringing these long-gone people to life meant piles of research. But

A WellTempered Heart The sequel to internationally acclaimed The Art of Hearing Heartbeats

Jan-Philipp Sendker “An AbSoluTely TrAnScendenT novel . . . About love, unspeakable loss, and coming to know what really saves us in life . . . To say I loved it is pure understatement.” — caroline leavitt, New York Times best-selling author

“An absorbing, moving sequel.” — Booklist

“Sendker [is] a mesmerizing storyteller.” —Kirkus Reviews

OTHER PRESS www.o th e r p r e s s .c o m


rather than being daunted, Horan embraced sifting through information. “I deal with a whole scaffolding of facts,” she says. “I feel, in a way, liberated by them. If I find them interesting, someone else will, too. Truths and themes just bubble up in the space between the facts.” A central theme in Horan’s novel is identity and how it impacts choices. Stevenson identified strongly as a Scotsman and a writer, and his life was shaped by his recurring illness. Fanny, who was in many ways a woman Fanny was light-years fiercely ahead of her protective of time, was more multiher often-ill faceted. husband, “I loved Scottish writer exploring Fanny’s strong Robert Louis identity as Stevenson. a woman, a mother, an artist, a single mother and an American,” Horan says. “That’s the big payoff when you’re writing fiction: those themes that emerge.” Not to say that every day as a writer is golden for Horan. “There are times when it’s very frustrating,” she admits. “You have days when you toss what you write, and it’s no good, and you’re going down the wrong alley.” But she’s not in total solitude while spending years shaping a book. “I have a very funny husband who takes the journey with me,” Horan says. “It’s a conversation. And I think I need a sounding board while I’m working my way through.” Her husband, a photojournalist and “outdoors fanatic,” convinced her to move to the Pacific Northwest after 24 years in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park. “When the kids went off to college, we decided to come out here,” she says. “He’s a mountain climber; he likes to go ice camping. I don’t, but I can appreciate the beauty.” Appropriately enough, Horan took her book’s title, Under the Wide and Starry Sky, from the opening line of one of Stevenson’s best-known poems, “Requiem.” The poem, which was later engraved on Stevenson’s gravestone, concludes: Here he lies where he longed to be, / Home is the sailor, home from the sea / And the hunter home from the hill.








From Vietnam to Wilder’s Little House he surprising source of Bich Minh Nguyen’s enthralling second novel, Pioneer Girl, was her discovery that Laura Ingalls Wilder’s daughter Rose had traveled to Vietnam as a journalist in 1965.

Nguyen (pronounced New-win), whose family fled Vietnam in 1975 when she was 8 months old and settled eventually in Grand Rapids, Michigan, says she “had read the Little House on the Prairie books when I was a kid, and I loved them. And I would reread them as an adult as comfort literature. I identified very strongly with them, which some people would think really strange, because why would an Asian American like Little House on the Prairie ? But there’s actually a strong connection in terms of the immigrant/migrant experience of starting over. When I found out about Rose Wilder Lane, I felt this was a connection that was asking me to investigate a little bit more.” Rose Wilder Lane, as readers of Pioneer Girl—or Wikipedia—will discover, was a prominent journalist and well-regarded novelist in her era. She was a close enough friend to President Herbert Hoover that her voluminous papers are housed at his presidential library in Iowa. And many scholars think that if she did not write the Little House books outright, then it was her editorial hand that gave narrative shape—and popular success—to her mother’s efforts. Three years before she died, she went to Vietnam on assignment from a woman’s magazine to offer a woman’s perspective on the war. The facts of Rose Wilder Lane’s life—and the secrets that may lie hidden beneath those facts—become a kind of obsession to Lee Lien, the narrator of Pioneer Girl. Unable to find a university teaching job after completing her dissertation on Edith Wharton’s novel The Age of Innocence, she returns home to help her domineering mother and sweet-tempered grandfather run the Lotus Leaf Café, a struggling Asian fusion-ish restaurant in a strip mall west of Chicago. The discovery of a possible family connection to Rose Wilder Lane sets Lee on a quest to unlock the secrets—real or imagined—of Rose’s life and resolve some of the mysteries of her own family background. “Meshing the historical with the

fictional was a huge challenge for me,” Nguyen says. “I felt that taking a real-life character and imagining an alternate reality is a huge risk. I wanted to do justice to Rose Wilder Lane’s life. I didn’t want to treat her life as just ‘material’ because she’s a fascinating person and a wonderful writer. At the same time I was interested in the idea of mythmaking and the idea of trying to find one’s story. “Rose kept so many journals and even copies of the letters she sent to other people because she wanted to be in charge of the trajectory of her story,” Nguyen says. “The narrator of the novel, Lee, is essentially in “The real that same pursuit in her famstory of our ily. She wants to family is take control of never known her family’s narto us because rative. But the real story of our so much of family is never known to us beit happens cause so much before us.” of it happens before us. We’re researchers picking up clues, trying to understand our parents and family members who are no longer with us. We’re wondering, guessing and coming to conclusions that may not be 100 percent accurate.” What is certainly true is that Lee’s family is full of conflict. Lee and her mother clash often. Her brother Sam, the favored son, steals from the family and leaves Chicago for San Francisco, where, it turns out, Rose Wilder Lane lived for some years, and where Sam’s is not the only Asian-American face in the crowd, as he tells his sister when she arrives in pursuit of a resolution to the Rose Wilder Lane mystery. “I’m really fascinated by conflict in immigrant families,” Nguyen says. “This conflict plays out regardless of ethnic background. If you’re a first-generation immigrant in the United States, your children are going to reject so much of what you represent and what you desire. It’s partly the desire for assimilation and partly trying to find one’s own

identity while being stuck between two different cultures.” Pioneer Girl, which takes its title from the working title of the first book in the Little House series, offers a deeply resonant portrait of contemporary Asian-American immigrant life. But, with, for example, a marvelous riff on the generic Chinese restaurant that exists at the edges of many towns in the Midwest, the novel makes clear that it is exploring a different sort of immigrant experience than we often read about—call it the Middle America Asian-American experience. “That was probably the most autobiographical part of the novel,” Nguyen says, “wondering why my family decided to stay in the Midwest. When we arrived as refugees, we were resettled in Michigan, and for a long time my family wasn’t particularly happy there, but my father never thought about moving. I always thought that was a fascinating aspect of my dad’s character.” Nguyen previously touched upon these experiences in her highly praised 2007 memoir, Stealing Buddha’s Dinner. “I think my AsianAmerican Midwestern experience is marked by alienation—not all the time, but a little bit—and selfconsciousness. I don’t regret my upbringing because it was a fascinating way to grow up and there was so much conflict that it gave me material probably for the rest of my life. But because I grew up in this dual culture, I never quite felt at home anywhere.” Still, until last summer, Nguyen had spent her whole life in the Midwest. In July, she and her husband, writer Porter Shreve (who also has a novel coming out in February), left their teaching positions in the writing program at Purdue Univer-

sity and moved with their children, ages 4 and 2, to the San Francisco Bay Area. Nguyen now teaches fiction and nonfiction writing at the University of San Francisco. “I’m a Midwesterner. We sort of believe you should grow where you’re planted. So it was hard to leave,” Nguyen says. “It took me and my husband a long time to make this decision. It was such a life-changing decision. But the Bay Area is one of these places where, especially if you’re from the Midwest, you think—wouldn’t that be a dream. We love it here.”


By Bich Minh Nguyen

Viking, $26.95, 304 pages ISBN 9780670025091, audio, eBook available


A Perfect Book Club Night Begins with Algonquin Paperbacks Our February Book Club Selection: A Life in Men

Purple Hibiscus

“A terrific book, a tender story of friendship, and a frank story of a young woman’s adventures with an assortment of oddly funny, violent, and quirky men. It’s intense and beautifully written.”

“At once the portrait of a country and a family, of terrible choices and the tremulous pleasure of an odd, rare purple hibiscus blooming amid a conforming sea of red ones.” —San Francisco Chronicle

by Gina Frangello

by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

—AUDREY NIFFENEGGER, author of The Time Traveler’s Wife

Life After Life

Good Kings Bad Kings

by Jill McCorkle

by Susan Nussbaum

PEN/Bellwether Prize Winner

“This is fiction at its best . . . Simply and breathtakingly honest . . . A stunning accomplishment.” —BARBARA KINGSOLVER, author of Flight Behavior

Is This Tomorrow

The Art Forger

“I recommend this novel to anyone looking for a beautiful, heartfelt, funny, warm and smart story. It’s a rare delight.” —ELIZABETH GILBERT,

by Caroline Leavitt

by B. A. Shapiro “[A] highly entertaining literary thriller about fine art and foolish choices.” —Parade

author of Eat, Pray, Love

“A truly unique story of love, loyalty, loss, betrayal, secrets, healing . . . It’s everything you want in a novel.” —SUE MONK KIDD, author of The Secret Life of Bees

* Algonquin’s Book Club Bestsellers )

Mudbound Hillary Jordan

In the Time of the Butterflies Julia Alvarez

A Reliable Wife Robert Goolrick

The Girl Who Fell from the Sky Heidi W. Durrow

Silver Sparrow Tayari Jones

Water for Elephants Sara Gruen

Breakfast with Buddha Roland Merullo

Discover More Great Book Club Selections at Books for a Well-Read Life A LG ONQUIN B O OK S

Running the Rift Naomi Benaron

A Friend of the Family Lauren Grodstein



Turning points on the road to equality


frican Americans have been struggling for independence, equality and respect from the moment they were brought to the New World in chains. As that struggle continues today, it’s instructive to look back on our turbulent history to learn from the past and hopefully improve on the future. The five books featured here can help us to do just that, examining historical themes that serve as milestones on the journey of progress.




It’s ironic that Captain Amasa Delano was on the high seas in pursuit of seals when he came upon what appeared to be a slave ship. Hunting for seals and slaves were equally predatory professions. And while seal hunting was a lucrative industry, the slave trade would prove to be even more profitable. Not that Delano would grasp the irony; he was an idealistic, antislavery New Englander. And when he boarded the battered vessel, his idealism would leave him vulnerable to a deception that had deadly consequences. This page-turning history lesson is found in The Empire of N ­ ecessity (Metropolitan, $30, 384 pages, ISBN 9780805094534) by Greg Grandin, author of the acclaimed Fordlandia. Delano’s ship happened upon a distressed Spanish vessel one day in 1805. It appeared to be merely a lost slave ship. In reality, the 70 West Africans on board, seeking their freedom from slavery, had commandeered the ship. The clever slaves forced the Spanish captain to go along with the ruse. Delano believed the charade for nine hours, but when he discovered he’d been tricked, he ordered his men to attack the West Africans. While Grandin’s narrative is a gripping read on its own, the underlying theme is profound: The deception in this incident is symbolic of America’s willingness to ignore the hypocisy of slavery in a supposedly free society. Unfortunately, it would take the United States another 60 years before it would acknowledge the falsehood.

FAILED EXPERIMENT When the Civil War ended slavery in 1865, the U.S. embarked on an effort to provide reparations to Southern landowners and expanded rights to newly freed slaves, including suffrage and education. That policy, called Reconstruction, was a noble idea that failed.

ture the divergent leadership styles of the era’s civil rights leaders. There was the defiant Carmichael, who led marchers in “black power” chants, while King preached nonviolence. This single march, captured in detail in Down to the Crossroads, gives readers a clearer understanding of the tensions that often dominated the civil rights movement.

CONTINUING THE DREAM In The Wars of Reconstruction (Bloomsbury, $30, 448 pages, ISBN 9781608195664), Le Moyne College history professor Douglas R. Egerton details the myriad factors that led to the collapse of Reconstruction: the replacement of Abraham Lincoln with an inept Andrew Johnson; Southern resistance to the granting of equal rights to blacks; and the premature withdrawal of federal troops. But Egerton contends that an ongoing pattern of violence in the South doomed Reconstruction from the beginning. “Reconstruction . . . was violently overthrown by men who had fought slavery during the Civil War and continued that battle as guerrilla partisans,” Egerton writes. The Wars of Reconstruction offers a fresh perspective on why the grand experiment of Reconstruction failed and how it took nearly a century afterward for African Americans to gain any semblance of equal rights in the South.

SIREN SONG In the early 1900s, many African Americans—shackled by an inability to earn a living or cast a vote—began a Great Migration from the rural South to the industrialized cities of the North. Jobs in the car factories of Detroit and steel mills of Chicago beckoned, while also fostering a black middle class. For the first time, African Americans earned enough money to own homes, buy cars and spend money on entertainment. One of the people they went to see was trumpeter Louis Armstrong. In Louis Armstrong: Master of Modernism (Norton, $39.95, 608 pages, ISBN 9780393065824), Duke University music professor Thomas Brothers chronicles Armstrong’s own Great Migration. After gaining notoriety as a musician in New Orleans, Armstrong heard a siren song in 1922 calling him north to Chicago, where there was a thriving black nightclub scene on the city’s South Side. There, Armstrong

honed his crafts playing alongside jazz greats such as King Oliver, Earl “Fatha” Hines and Cab Calloway. While this biography highlights the maturation of a great entertainer during the Jazz Age, it parallels the evolution of many African Americans in the early 20th century as they earned respectable livelihoods and carved out their own cultural enclaves in the North.

BARRIER TO PROGRESS Unfortunately, the prosperity of the Jazz Age gave way to the Great Depression, and over the next several decades, many African Americans suffered from poverty and segregation in Northern cities. Some returned to the South, only to encounter further discrimination. The hatred experienced by a race was crystallized in the life of James Meredith, a trailblazer best known as the first African-American student to attend the University of Mississippi. Meredith is the central figure in Down to the Crossroads (FSG, $30, 368 pages, ISBN 9780374192204), an intriguing new book about the civil rights movement by historian Aram Goudsouzian. Down to the Crossroads focuses on the so-called Meredith March, which the civil rights leader began on June 5, 1966, to register black voters in Mississippi. He started the march in Memphis with the goal of reaching Jackson, Mississippi, but he was soon wounded by a mysterious gunman. While Meredith recovered from his wounds, other black leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr. and Stokely Carmichael, traveled to Mississippi to continue the Meredith March. Goudsouzian uses the march to cap-

When King was assassinated in Memphis on April 4, 1968, some thought it was the end of the dream of equality for African Americans. In his new book, Waking from the Dream (Random House, $27, 272 pages, ISBN 9781400065462), David L. Chappell turns the spotlight onto those who stepped in to continue the cause in King’s wake, albeit in a less unified fashion. Waking from the Dream describes the attempts by black leaders such as Ralph Abernathy and Jesse Jackson to further the movement, only to see the struggle slowed by politics and in-fighting. Despite the splintered movement, Chappell details how this new generation of leaders helped gain the passage of the Fair Housing Act and launched the presidential campaign of Jackson. While it would take another 40 years before Americans would vote in their first black president, Waking from the Dream makes a strong case that Barack Obama would never have been elected were it not for the efforts of the leaders who followed in King’s wake.


Love, and all that jazz


s Valentine’s Day draws nigh, our thoughts turn to romance. These three books explore dating and relating from a variety of viewpoints.

Any woman who’s tired of relatives, friends and co-workers who ask, “Why are you still single?” will appreciate Sara Eckel’s It’s Not You: 27 (Wrong) Reasons You’re Single (Perigee, $15, 208 pages, ISBN 9780399162879). The author—who writes the New York Times “Modern

GEEKS OF ENDEARMENT Eric Smith’s The Geek’s Guide to Dating (Quirk, $14.95, 204 pages, ISBN 9781594746437) is a popculture compendium of advice for dating, with clever geek lingo and analogies galore. Smith (founder of the website Geekadelphia) offers sound tips for readers who spend so much time behind their computers that they haven’t learned the

FOR MATURE AUDIENCES There’s girl-talk, and then there’s Sex After . . . Women Share How Intimacy Changes as Life Changes (Gotham, $26, 352 pages, ISBN 9781592408276), a no-topic-is-taboo collection gleaned from interviews with 150 women ages 20-something to 80-something (and a few men, too). Iris Krasnow, author of the popular The Secret Lives of Wives, specializes in writing about women’s relationships. In Sex After . . ., she wanted to go beyond stereotypes and explore what real women are experiencing: “And may that truth release you into becoming your authentic and fullest sexual self, after the honeymoon, after cancer, after boredom, after divorce, after wrinkles—until death do you part.” She alternates well-researched passages full of relevant statistics and quotes with frank stories about sex after major life events such as childbirth, illness, infidelity and more. While 20-somethings are enjoying “hooking-up culture,” Krasnow notes that young ladies aren’t the only ones having fun. She also finds “rocking grandmothers who attend Tantric sex workshops and are as lusty as teenagers.” Those skeptical of Krasnow’s assertion that, in the realm of sex, “the 70s are the new 40s” surely will change their minds after reading this lusty litany.

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

would you describe the book Q: How  in one sentence?

Q: What inspired you to write a mystery at this point in your career?

Q: The sleuth in Ripper is a brilliant, sometimes bratty, teen.What do you think readers will find most appealing about Amanda?

Q: What are your three favorite obsessions?

Q: What do you fear the most?

Q: W  hat is your personal motto?

RIPPER The author of 20 books that have been translated into 35 languages and sold more than 57 million copies, Isabel Allende adds another genre to her considerable body of work with the riveting new mystery Ripper (Harper, $28.99, 496 pages, ISBN 9780062291400). A native of Chile, Allende lives in California with her husband, crime fiction writer William C. Gordon.


Love” column—has penned a smart, I’ve-got-your-back debunking of the most common remarks made to unmarried women, especially those 30ish and older. Eckel, who married at 39, believes that being unmarried is due to one simple thing: not having met the right person. But after being told that she and her single friends were too needy, unrealistic or picky, she wondered why this blame-assigning mindset is so prevalent. One reason, she writes: “We’re a nation that believes strongly in personal efficacy—if there’s something in your life that isn’t working quite the way you’d like, then the problem must begin and end with you.” That myth shows up in all 27 of the wrong reasons Eckel explores, from “You’re Too Intimidating” to “You Should Have Married That Guy.” Eckel encourages readers to push aside the naysaying, enjoy life as it is right now and remember that the question isn’t why you’re single, it’s “why are near strangers so often compelled to demand answers?”

nuances of courtship. Topics include Selecting Your Character (identifying your interests and strengths), Search Optimization (where to meet geeks) and Building a Bulletproof Wardrobe (no LED belt buckles, please). Smith’s advice is straightforward, whether reminding readers to approach others with respect or suggesting that they “Start a conversation, not a debate.” Fun illustrations, plus charts, lists and what-if scenarios add to the good-hearted guidance. May the force be with you.






Let sleeping daughters lie REVIEW BY ELISABETH ATWOOD

“The first time I saw a sleeper, I was nine years old.” Best-selling author Jennifer McMahon (Promise Not to Tell ) opens her new novel, The Winter People, with a sentence that offers a tantalizing glimpse of the horrors to come in this marvelously creepy page-turner. Set in on a rural farm in West Hall, Vermont, this multigenerational paranormal tale alternates between the early 19th century and the present. In 1908, Sara Harrison Shea and her husband, Martin, are blessed with a little girl, Gertie, after many years of failed pregnancies and loss. Sadly, Gertie perishes in a terrible accident, and Sara seems to be out of her mind with grief. She believes that Gertie is still with her, appearing in strange places, whispering to her, even holding her hand—that is, up until her own untimely death. More than 100 years later, Ruthie and her sister, Fawn, are living in Sara’s farmhouse with their mother, Alice. One morning, Alice is gone without a trace, and Ruthie and Fawn stumble upon Sara’s diary while By Jennifer McMahon searching for clues about their mother’s disappearance. It gradually Doubleday, $25.95, 364 pages becomes clear that Alice’s disappearance is related to Sara’s sad life and ISBN 9780385538497, audio, eBook available tragic death—and to her belief that Gertie had returned from the grave. THRILLER Using Sara’s diaries, they embark on a journey to find their mother and, in turn, discover shocking truths. In The Winter People, McMahon gives readers just what they want from a good thriller: can’t-put-it-down, stay-up-until-dawn reading. In addition to being downright creepy, this novel is also a poignant reminder of what grief can drive humans to do. Lock your doors, check under your bed and soak up The Winter People, a legitimately chilling supernatural thriller.


Random House $26, 272 pages ISBN 9781400065752 Audio, eBook available




“Rebecca Winter” remains a household name, thanks to the iconic photograph “Still Life with Bread Crumbs” that catapulted her art career into the public eye. But Rebecca Winter, the person, has changed significantly in the decades since she captured that domestic image of her kitchen counter after her husband and son retired for the evening. She’s no longer married, for one. And it’s been so long since she made a significant sale that she can no longer afford the upscale Manhattan apartment that contains the kitchen immortalized in that famous picture. As a result, the 60-year-old Rebec-

ca feels adrift when she sublets her home and moves into a rented cottage in rural New York. Each time a royalty check hits her bank account, the couple-hundred-dollar deposit leaves her feeling momentarily rich. Some other people in the small town are familiar with “Still Life” and consider Rebecca something of a celebrity, but she is often left to her own thoughts. That solitude gives Rebecca plenty of time to figure out whether her camera is still the best way to share what she sees with the world—and to determine who she is outside of the context of high-end art galleries and New York City. In Still Life with Bread Crumbs, Anna Quindlen deconstructs the typical form of a novel. Chapters toggle between Rebecca’s present and the formative moments that brought her here, with each chapter title lending insight into the path Rebecca walks. The result is refreshing pacing; the story doesn’t unfold in linear fashion, but in bits and pieces at a time. Still Life is a journey of self-exploration, of getting to know who you are rather than who others expect you to be. It’s a meditation on art,

age and commercialism wrapped up in a delightful story—perhaps the best-selling author’s finest novel yet. —CARLA JEAN WHITLEY

V isit for an interview with Anna Quindlen.

I’ve read in a long time. At 32, Claire Byrne is smart, beautiful and married to famous author and sexologist Charlie Byrne. She dabbles in magazine writing, but is mostly content in his larger-than-life shadow, following him from party to party around Manhattan, where he’s never short on opinions and admirers. “He gave her entrée into the elite upper reaches of words and the people who traded in them; she gave him a wide swath,” Radziwill writes. Then Charlie is improbably killed by a falling piece of art while walking home from a tryst with his publicist, and Claire finds herself with the burden (opportunity?) of redefining her life as a widow. She fumbles through dates set up by well-intentioned girlfriends, drinks a lot of wine, sleeps too much and consults a ridiculous series of questionable therapists. When Charlie’s editor asks Claire to finish Charlie’s last book, Claire finds herself face-to-face with the book’s subject, movie star Jack Huxley. As their relationship deepens, Claire has to decide whether she is willing to step into someone else’s shadow again. An award-winning former TV reporter, Radziwill is also the author of the well-received What Remains—a memoir of her marriage, which ended when her husband died of cancer in 1999. It’s hard to know how much of her own experience colors this debut novel. What is clear is that her spare writing and wry voice make The Widow’s Guide an exhilarating, insightful and moving story about loss and identity. —AMY SCRIBNER


Holt $25, 320 page ISBN 9780805098846 Audio, eBook available


I was skeptical when I found out the author of The Widow’s Guide to Sex and Dating stars on “The Real Housewives of New York.” And when the epigram was a Lady Gaga quote, I thought I was in for a long slog. What a pleasant surprise, then, when the book turned out to be one of the richest, most deeply satisfying stories

THE CRANE WIFE By Patrick Ness

Penguin Press $26.95, 320 pages ISBN 9781594205477 eBook available


Patrick Ness has made a welldeserved name for himself in the realm of young adult fiction, where he’s crafted magical tales full of sensitivity and raw emotional energy. With The Crane Wife, he brings all of those talents to a story for adults, and the result is a viscerally beauti-

FICTION ful, subtly magical and instantly memorable realistic fairy tale that will linger in your brain. George Duncan has carved out a sensible if predictable life for himself as an American in London. He owns a small print shop, stays close to his adult daughter Amanda and her young son, and has an amicable relationship with his exwife. George’s world is stable and unremarkable, until the night a large crane with an arrow through its wing shows up in his back garden. When the crane is freed of the weapon that wounded it and flies away, George thinks he’s experienced a momentary upset, but he’s about to experience so much more. The very next day, a woman named A mysterious Kumiko appears in his shop askwoman ing for help with brings her art: a series of beautiful tiles romance covered in iminto the life ages that seem of a staid to be made from delicately shopkeeper woven feathers. in this What begins as magical new a curious attraction blossoms novel. into a romance, and George and his entire family are forever changed by Kumiko’s presence, even as the lingering mystery of who she really is persists in George’s mind. Ness’ way of constructing a story on a sentence level is particularly fascinating in this novel. He lets whole pages go by with nothing but brisk and believable dialogue, using narration and internal monologue only when necessary. The result is a character-driven book that never feels slow or overstuffed with personal detail. The same technique also serves to almost instantly immerse the reader in these characters, and that creates a special kind of magic. While The Crane Wife never dives headlong into the supernatural, there is a spell that Ness is casting here, a sense of romance and myth and life-altering circumstance that other realistic novelists just don’t have. This is the story of a group of people transformed by their connections to each other, and in his own particular way, Ness transforms the reader, too.

Author Matthew Quick probably is tired of hearing the word “quirky,” but it really is the singularly best way to describe his storytelling. After his first novel, The Silver Linings Playbook, was adapted into an Oscarnominated movie starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, Quick delivers a new story featuring Bartholomew Neil, a uniquely likeable protagonist who at nearly 40 has lived with his mother his entire life. Bartholomew might be a little stunted—he’s never had a girlfriend or, really, any friends other than his local priest—but he has a good heart and takes good care of his mom. When brain cancer leaves his mom confused and disoriented, she begins referring to Bartholomew as “Richard.” Bartholomew assumes she is confusing him with her idol, actor Richard Gere. The Good Luck of Right Now is told in the form of Bartholomew’s letters to Gere after his mom’s death. It’s a risky approach that pays off big: The book is witty, funny and real, and Bartholomew’s voice is candid and innocent. The grieving Bartholomew slowly ventures out into the world, befriending another misfit in group therapy and taking in his priest, Father McNamee. Bartholomew sets a few life goals, like having a beer in a bar with an age-appropriate friend and pursuing Girlbrarian, the lovely but withdrawn woman who shelves books at his local library. “Her long brown hair . . . covers her face like a waterfall can cover the entrance to a mysterious cave,” Bartholomew writes. The story reaches its zenith when Bartholomew, his friend from therapy, Father McNamee and Girlbrarian take a revealing road trip to Montreal that is both hilarious and heartbreaking. The Good Luck of Right Now is a knockout of a book that has something for everyone: humor, wisdom, plot twists, wholly original characters and Richard Gere.




Harper $25.99, 304 pages ISBN 9780062285539 Audio, eBook available

The Book That’s Sweeping Book Clubs Nationwide “A gem.”— Huffington Post


Visit for a Reading Group Guide, Christina’s Tour Schedule, and the Top Questions Book Clubs are Asking about Orphan Train



The New York Times bestselling novel that uncovers a forgotten part of our nation’s history and delivers the heart-wrenching story of two women who become unlikely friends united by their pasts and a yearning to belong.


reviews THE SWAN GONDOLA By Timothy Schaffert

Riverhead $27.95, 464 pages ISBN 9781594486098 eBook available


Liveright $24.95, 256 pages ISBN 9780871405883 Audio, eBook available





At the start of The Swan Gondola, Timothy Schaffert’s enchanting new historical novel, two elderly spinster sisters discover a man in their front yard who has fallen from the sky (or from a hot air balloon, at least). The man in question is Ferret Skerritt, a ventriloquist turned star-crossed lover with an incredible tale to tell. The story-within-a-story begins several months earlier, in the spring of 1898, at the opening of the Omaha World’s Fair. Ferret, who rolls with a Fellini-like crew of freaks and circus performers, becomes enchanted by Cecily, a beautiful member of a traveling horror troupe. (She plays Marie Antoinette and nightly has her head chopped off.) Despite a rocky start, the two quickly fall in love, and their relationship blossoms amid the magic and mysteries of the fair. But as with all too-good-to-be-true romances, a threat looms. Here, it’s in the form of William Wakefield, an older Fair investor who has an eye on Ferret’s dummy, Oscar—not to mention Cecily herself. Schaffert clearly did a tremendous amount of research for this book, and he’s at his best when cleaving to historical detail and quirky fact. The uncanny automatons cackle with life; the late-night séances are chill-inducing; and the sinking of the USS Maine is on everyone’s mind. But Schaffert’s period authenticity is also literary in nature. He’s clearly a fan of L. Frank Baum, and Wizard of Oz references are plentiful, though at times heavy-handed. The Swan Gondola will no doubt garner comparisons to Water for Elephants and The Night Circus, and fans of such historical romances will not be disappointed. There’s plenty of magic to go around in this good, old-fashioned love story. —J I L L I A N Q U I N T

V isit for a Q&A with Timothy Schaffert.

tender. Miller is a talent to watch. —STEPHENIE HARRISON

V isit for a Q&A with Mary Miller.


ALENA By Rachel Pastan

If you knew the world was going to end in less than a week, how would you spend your final days? Though few people would likely answer that question by piling into a car and taking a road trip across the country, in Mary Miller’s The Last Days of California, that’s exactly what the Metcalfs choose to do. Believing they will soon ascend to their rightful home in the kingdom of heaven, this family of four sets out from Alabama with the goal of reaching California by the end of the week so that they might be among the last people on Earth to witness the impending Rapture. As with all epic pilgrimages, there are plenty of bumps along the way. For 15-year-old Jess, the end of the world might be a welcome relief given the host of worries she’s juggling. From her exasperated parents, whom she just can’t understand (and what’s worse, they don’t have a clue about what to do with her either) to her beautiful but rebellious older sister, Elise, who smokes and drinks and is also secretly pregnant, Jess has more than her fair share of earthly problems. As the family weaves through the Midwest, each day offers Jess new questions to ponder and new temptations to resist or surrender to. Jess begins to wonder how many other people she can ultimately save if it means losing herself in the process. The Last Days of California tells a traditional coming-of-age tale within an apocalyptic framework, a narrative marriage that works beautifully. Witnessing Jess’ despair and wonder as she awkwardly lurches through an increasingly foreign world feels like being right back in the middle of one’s own raw, aching teenage years, where confusion and hormones rule and every blunder feels fatal. Reveling in the dysfunction of its characters, The Last Days of California is no fairy tale, but it is timely, true and—at times—even a little bit

ence working in a contemporary art museum brings a grounded reality to the running of a museum and the complex questions of identity, aesthetics and originality in contemporary art.

Riverhead $27.95, 320 pages ISBN 9781594632471 Audio, eBook available


LYDIA’S PARTY By Margaret Hawkins

Viking $26.95, 304 pages ISBN 9780670015764 eBook available


An unnamed, ingenue heroine. A dramatic location by the sea. A wealthy and cultured older gentleman. If this sounds like the plot of the beloved mystery Rebecca, it is—but Rachel Pastan’s third novel pays homage to the Daphne du Maurier classic while adding a few new twists. Alena’s young heroine is a curator at a small art museum in the Midwest. Visiting the Venice Biennale with her employer, she is introduced to Bernard Augustin, the wealthy and enigmatic founder of the Nauquasset, a museum on Cape Cod that specializes in cutting-edge work. The Nauk has been closed for two years, ever since the disappearance of the chief curator, Alena. When Augustin offers the position to our narrator, she is eager to prove herself, but she is soon drawn into deep emotional and ethical entanglements at the museum. The remaining staff at the Nauk is fiercely loyal to Alana’s memory, to the point of keeping her private office like a shrine. A performance artist whose violent imagery references the first Gulf War turns up, claiming Alena promised him the next exhibition, but the young curator finds herself drawn instead to the work of a local ceramicist—a conflict that leads to rifts among the museum staff. It is to Pastan’s credit that she makes the curatorial arguments as compelling as the mystery of Alena’s disappearance. For people who love Rebecca, there are all kind of allusions and asides—names, locations and plot points. The transformation of Mrs. Danvers to Agnes, the Nauk’s creepy bookkeeper and business manager, is especially clever. But Alena stands on its own, and Pastan’s experi-

Taking a page straight out of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, Margaret Hawkins begins her third novel with the preparation for a dinner party. Each year, Lydia invites a group of friends over for a midwinter meal, where they devour food, sip wine and share secrets. Except this year, Lydia has the biggest secret of all. She has just been diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer, and with only a few weeks to live, she has to share the devastating news so that she can properly say goodbye. Each year, Lydia invites the same six women, no matter how close (or not close) they might be at the time. These include Maura, who has spent most of her life devoted to her and Lydia’s married boss; Elaine, who is bitter after having ended up alone; Celia, whose life primarily consists of waiting on her husband and teenage son; and Norris, whom Lydia continues to invite despite the fact that no one really likes her. Little do they know that this year a blizzard will force them together overnight and alter the course of their relationships. Lydia’s Party ably addresses the question of what legacy we leave after we die. Lydia worries that she made the wrong choices: in the men she dated, the art she created and even the friendships she established. This novel is a tearjerker, but readers will find comfort in Hawkins’ sumptuous descriptions of the party preparations and the cozy winter setting. This thought-provoking new novel will please fans of authors like Elizabeth Berg—and provide plenty of fodder for book club discussion. —MEGAN FISHMANN

B B ooks you’ll rememBer

long after you’ve read the last page…

A beautifully written story of compassion, healing, and true soul mates—in all their guises.

The aftermath of infidelity from three different perspectives— husband, wife, and mistress.

“enchanting… I was captivated from page one.”

“Freedman demonstrates a keen understanding of relationships.”

—JeFFRey MoussAIeFF MAsson

—PubLisHErs WEEkLy

“A heartwarming story.” —susy FloRy

An IndieBound Great Read Selection

AvAilAble Now

AvAilAble Now

In this poignant and insightful new novel, delve beneath the shimmering surface of one couple’s evolving marriage.

Unlikely friendships provide a poignant and powerful debut novel set amidst the turbulent 1960s.

“Readers will find themselves drawn into the tragedies and triumphs of this fictional family.”

“An eerie, haunting, beautifully realized novel.” —Joseph olshAn

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Henry’s journey to Walden Pond

Ecco $26.99, 320 pages ISBN 9780062072221 Audio, eBook available



Wild, irregular and free, Henry Thoreau cut a distinctive figure in 19thcentury Concord, Massachusetts, whether carving “dithyrambic dances” on ice skates with Nathaniel and Sophia Hawthorne or impressing Ralph Waldo Emerson with his “comic simplicity.” More at home in the woods than in society, Thoreau began the first volume of his celebrated journals with a simple word that also functioned as his motto: solitude. But Thoreau was hardly a recluse, as accomplished nature writer Michael Sims shows in The Adventures of Henry Thoreau, an amiable and fresh take on the legendary sage of Walden Pond. As a friend, brother and teacher, Thoreau had many relationships that were critical to his development as a writer and thinker. Whether unconsciously imitating the speech of his beloved mentor Emerson or grieving the death of his brother John, Thoreau was as capable of deep feeling for humans as he was of delighting in the mouse, the fox and the New England pole bean. By Michael Sims By focusing his book on the young Henry, Sims gives us an animated Bloomsbury, $27, 384 pages portrait of an uncertain writer and reluctant schoolmaster. He portrays ISBN 9781620401958, eBook available the questing, struggling, stubborn Henry, constantly asking “what is life?” and finding it, most often, in the woods and on the rivers. Henry’s twoBIOGRAPHY week boating trip with his brother John on the Concord and Merrimack rivers shows Henry at his best, singing and paddling and living off the land like the Native Americans he so admired. Henry’s tracking abilities—his sharp eye for an arrowhead or a long-abandoned fire pit—were developed by studying the land as intently as he translated Pindar or Goethe. His time living in the woods led him ever closer to an appreciation for reading the landscape, as in his months-long winter project to study the ice and plumb the depths of Walden Pond. As in his well-received 2011 portrait of E.B. White, The Story of Charlotte’s Web, Sims has found another subject who brilliantly bridges the worlds of nature and thought. Like White, who visited Walden Pond in 1939 to pay tribute to his predecessor, Thoreau found in plants and animals and seasonal cycles his most enduring material. Similarly, Sims has once again proven himself to be a distinctive writer on the subjects of human nature and humans in nature.



By Kelly Corrigan


Ballantine $26, 240 pages ISBN 9780345532831 Audio, eBook available


Cheryl Strayed wrote about how the death of her mother changed her life in the best-selling Wild. In a similar and yet very different vein, Kelly Corrigan writes about the effects of her mom’s presence in a wonderful new memoir, Glitter and Glue. In an earlier book, The Middle Place, Corrigan paid tribute to her larger-than-life father, “Greenie.” In contrast to her optimistic cheerleader of a father, Corrigan’s mother has

always been a practical, worrying realist. As this steadfast woman once explained to her daughter, “Your father’s the glitter but I’m the glue.” Corrigan remembers as a child longing for a more lively, upbeat mom, but over the years, she’s come to realize what an essential and anchoring influence this glue has been, especially now that she’s a mother herself. Corrigan first began truly appreciating her mother in 1992, when she ran out of money during an aftercollege backpacking trip around the world. She ended up as a nanny for John Tanner, an Australian widower with two children: 7-year-old Milly and 5-year-old Martin. There was also a handsome stepson in his early 20s named Evan, who adds a romantic interest to Corrigan’s Down Under adventure. As Corrigan takes on a motherly role for the Tanner children, she constantly thinks about their late

mother, a cancer victim, as she gains new insight into the challenges her own mother faced raising Corrigan and her two brothers. As she eloquently explains: “God knows, every day I spend with the Tanners, I feel like I’m opening a tiny flap on one of those advent calendars we used to hang in the kitchen every December 1, except instead of revealing Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus, it’s my mother. I can’t see all of her yet, but window by window, she is emerging.” Young Corrigan set out on her journey in search of adventure, but along the way learned that many of life’s greatest rewards occur during everyday moments at home. And while this is indeed a “quiet” book in contrast to Strayed’s wild exploits, Glitter and Glue is both riveting and highly readable. Framed by a tight structure and compelling writing, this memoir is refreshingly nondysfunctional.

What are the effects of children on their parents? Academics have long studied the question, and most readers have some back-of-thehand knowledge of the subject. But rarely have those two groups been in conversation—until now. Jennifer Senior successfully connects a barrage of scholarship with the real experiences of moms and dads, and the resulting book, All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood, is completely fascinating. Chapters are organized loosely by stage of childhood, explaining how each stage impacts parents. Infancy leads to sleeplessness, toddlerhood to constant negotiation, middle childhood to overscheduled lives, and so on. Senior is a skilled writer who can take the reader into a particular scene, say, a kitchen in Brooklyn. But she can also beautifully gloss a complicated academic text and then pull out a quote so lovely you want to tack it on your wall. Senior is a terrific guide to the subject, in part because she’s not afraid to offer a dissenting opinion. Take the oft-cited studies of parents who report less happiness with the birth of each successive child. Such studies, Senior argues, leave a lot out. Yes, life with children might not be much fun. But there’s something different to be had with children: meaning, connectedness, legacy. Joy. Parents are in it for the long game. As the mother of a 3-year-old, I found myself underlining passages that begged to be shared with friends. Did you know, for instance, that the average toddler only listens 60 percent of the time? You, too, might see your situation reflected in these pages. In short, All Joy and No Fun is a terrific read that speaks to something so present, yet so intangible: how each generation of children inevitably and irrevocably changes the generation of parents who bore them.


— K E L LY B L E W E T T


Holt $28, 336 pages ISBN 9780805092998 Audio, eBook available


is that in life, as in mutual funds, past performance is no guarantee of future results.” The Sixth Extinction is a mustread for anyone concerned in any way, shape or form about the future of life on planet Earth. —ALDEN MUDGE

LINCOLN’S BOYS By Joshua Zeitz

Viking $29.95, 400 pages ISBN 9780670025664 eBook available




By Leah Vincent

Nan A. Talese $25.95, 240 pages ISBN 9780385538091 Audio, eBook available


Leah Vincent is a good girl who loves her rabbi father. In her Yeshivish community—a sect within ultra-Orthodox Judaism—she’s a girl “who would never sneak a kosher candy bar that did not carry the extra strict cholov Yisroel certification.” Vincent yearns for little more than to live devotedly the only life available to her: Follow Jewish laws strictly, marry the right man and have his children. When she leaves her home in Pittsburgh to attend high school in Manchester, England, she meets her best friend’s brother, Naftali. It’s not long before she’s not only aching with lust and love for him, but also beginning to question her religious teachings. She writes letters to Naftali filled with theological questions. When her aunt in Manchester discovers the letters, Vincent’s life spirals out of control, as her parents turn their backs on her because of her “immoral” action of writing letters to a boy. Overnight, she is on her own without any financial or emotional support. In Cut Me Loose, Vincent details her harrowing journey as she wanders through harmful relationships and destructive actions, such as cutting her body. As she hits bottom, Vincent realizes that the “life she is trying to craft is doomed to failure.” Although she eventually achieves a measure of redemption, she learns that too much freedom, like too much restriction, has its pitfalls. Vincent’s compulsively readable memoir draws us into her fears, her few joys and her complete aloneness as she struggles to navigate the course of a new life. —HENRY L. CARRIGAN JR.

THE UP SIDE OF DOWN At the time of his death, Abraham Lincoln was immensely popular with the Northern public. The country’s political elite, however, regarded him as a good country lawyer ill-suited to deal with the heavy responsibilities of a wartime presidency. Influential writers and politicians of all stripes blamed him for a series of political blunders. Early in their tenure as President Lincoln’s private secretaries, John Nicolay and John Hay began to plan for a joint biography of their boss. Lincoln’s assassination and Nicolay and Hay’s service in diplomatic positions for the next five years put the idea on hold, but it was not forgotten. When the two men did complete their work, in 10 volumes, the Lincoln they wrote about is the one we know today. That is to say, he was the Great Emancipator, the brilliant political tactician, the military genius, the greatest orator in American history. Joshua Zeitz tells the story of their deliberate work of historical creation, grounded in evidence and fact, in his superb Lincoln’s Boys: John Hay, John Nicolay, and the War for Lincoln’s Image. “The boys,” as Lincoln called them (both were in their 20s at the time) knew him as president more intimately than anyone outside his family. They lived in the White House and worked seven days a week. Zeitz emphasizes that Hay and Nicolay were quite different personalities. Nicolay had been deeply involved in politics and was a Lincoln loyalist well before 1860. Hay, who had many other interests, drifted into politics and developed a growing admiration for the president during the White House years. Nicolay and Hay spent 15 years researching and writing their multivolume biography. One of the highlights of Lincoln’s Boys is to show how their views on slavery evolved over time. Their book emphasizes

By Megan McArdle Viking $27.95, 320 pages ISBN 9780670026142 eBook available


The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well Is the Key to Success is true to its title, flipping an entrenched view of success on its ear. Author Megan McArdle argues for the value of failure, not just in business but law enforcement, job hunting, even love. Writers like to toss around the Samuel Beckett advice to “fail better,” but what does that mean in practice? McArdle, a popular business blogger who landed her dream job (and her husband!) through a series of missteps and adaptation to the unexpected, talks to experts in multiple fields about failure in theory, then illustrates with examples from current events and her own life. When solar manufacturer Solyndra was tanking, no one was able to admit defeat and pull the plug on federal spending. Failure to heed the warning signs led to far worse consequences for everyone involved. An innovative probation reform program in Honolulu shows how a failed system’s mistakes can point toward a solution. People in the program are drug tested and given the instruction to come forward if they violate their probation. Speaking up leads to a shorter sentence—and saves taxpayers a fortune by eliminating mountains of paperwork. McArdle, an outspoken libertarian, may rankle some readers with her contrarian opinions, but she makes her points with clear prose and dry humor. Entrepreneurs, the unemployed and even the lovelorn will find sound advice here. —HEATHER SEGGEL


Few writers engage readers in thinking about the meaning of scientific discoveries as well as Elizabeth Kolbert, a staff writer at The New Yorker. Kolbert’s enviable talents, her wit and intelligence, the clarity of her prose, are on full display in The Sixth Extinction, a fascinating and alarming book that examines mass extinctions of life forms, past and present. The very idea of species extinction is relatively recent. It “finally emerged as a concept, probably not coincidentally, in revolutionary France,” Kolbert writes in an early chapter about the discovery of bones of the American mastodon. Since then, naturalists and scientists have debated the mechanism of mass extinction—do species evolve, so to speak, into extinction, or do they disappear rapidly, catastrophically? (The answer, Kolbert writes with customary wit, is that “as in Tolstoy, every extinction event appears to be unhappy—and fatally so—in its own way.”) In the first half of her book, Kolbert explores these scientific debates by looking at five previous mass extinctions, times when “conditions change so drastically or so suddenly (or so drastically and so suddenly) that evolutionary history counts for little.” Her strategy here and throughout the book is to focus on an emblematic species—the great auk, for example—and build a layered narrative about each mass extinction event. In the second half of the book, Kolbert focuses on threatened but not-yet-extinct species to make her most telling point: that humans have become a—perhaps the—force of nature, capable of changing the world “faster than species can adapt.” What our massively disruptive power means, we cannot fully know. But, as Kolbert writes at the end of the book, “Among the many lessons that emerge from the geologic record, perhaps the most sobering

that the Civil War was rooted in the moral offense of slavery, a view they did not hold in 1861, or even as late as 1865. This is a fascinating and extremely well-written account of the central role played by Lincoln’s private secretaries in determining how the 16th president would be regarded by future generations.


Exciting reads to discover! MY SWEETEST ESCAPE by Chelsea M. Cameron

New York Times bestselling author Chelsea M. Cameron delivers a sexy New Adult romance about a young woman hoping to start over, and a past she can’t quite leave behind.



by Susan Wiggs

by Alessandra Torre

Share in the joys of the quiet life—solitude, scenery and peace— where a summertime escape to the lake means simple living, happy times and blossoming romance.


by Susan Mallery A touching new story in the hit series Blackberry Island, all about love, family and finding the courage to reach for your dreams.

The hotly anticipated print release of Alessandra Torre’s digital smash hit takes erotic contemporary romance to the next level!


Step into the shadows of a present-day murder and uncover a cold-case mystery in this gripping new thriller from New York Times bestselling author J.T. Ellison.



Deadly mantis vs. teenager REVIEW BY JILL RATZAN

The end of the world is coming, and it will start in the small town of Ealing, Iowa. While skateboarding and smoking in an abandoned alley they’ve nicknamed Grasshopper Jungle, best friends Austin Szerba and Robby Brees are accosted by neighborhood bullies. After a scuffle, the boys’ shoes and skateboards wind up on the roof of a dilapidated pancake house. When they sneak up to the roof later that night to retrieve their missing items, Austin and Robby have no idea that they’re about to witness a series of events that could result in the end of the human race. Revealing any more details about the plot twists of this edgy, darkly funny work of magical realism would spoil the fun. Instead, readers—like Austin and Robby—can gradually learn what forces have been unleashed by a combination of teen curiosity, Ealing’s flailing economy and the legacy left behind by the town’s questionable past. As Austin narrates his By Andrew Smith escapades in hilarious, uncensored language, he also reflects on his famDutton, $18.99, 432 pages ily’s Polish ancestry, his confusing romantic attractions and the nature of ISBN 9780525426035, eBook available history itself. Ages 12 and up No author writing for teens today can match Andrew Smith’s mastery of the grotesque, the authentic experiences of teenage boys or the way one SCIENCE FICTION seamlessly becomes a metaphor for the other. Like Smith’s earlier novel The Marbury Lens, Grasshopper Jungle looks at the senseless violence, intense friendship and palpable sexual energy that come together when the world comes apart. Unlike The Marbury Lens, though, it also includes references to 1970s classic rock, bad science-fiction movies, pink lawn flamingos and—of course—giant, hungry, sex-driven, mutant praying mantises. What more could a reader want from contemporary YA fiction?


Knopf $17.99, 304 pages ISBN 9780449809976 Audio, eBook available Ages 12 and up


—J U S T I N B A R I S I C H


Margaret K. McElderry Books $17.99, 304 pages ISBN 9781442484894 eBook available Ages 14 and up


In the winter of 2001, the tragedy of 9/11 is still fresh, especially for 16-year-old Aidan Donovan. There’s something to fear everywhere, and with this fear comes isolation. Only charismatic and vibrant Father Greg offers certainty, and maybe even love, in a world that seems to be falling apart. As Aidan turns to drugs, alcohol and a new set of friends, he begins to question his relationship with Father Greg. Faced with the possibility of a girlfriend for the first time and a classmate who may share Father Greg’s dirty secrets, Aidan has more to ponder, including his own sexuality and his belief system.


AND WE STAY By Jenny Hubbard

Delacorte $16.99, 240 pages ISBN 9780385740579 Audio, eBook available Ages 14 and up


Jenny Hubbard’s outstanding debut novel, 2011’s Paper Covers Rock, was set at a boys’ boarding school in the 1980s, where a young man struggled to find his poetic voice while overcoming a personal tragedy. Hubbard’s second novel, And We Stay, explores many of the same themes from a female perspective. It’s early 1995, and Emily Beam has just started school at Amherst School for Girls, notable for its most famous alumna, Emily Dickinson. No one at ASG knows Emily’s whole story, which she begins to explore via poems, although she’s never before had any inclination to write poetry. As Emily attempts to fit in at ASG and strives to articulate her feelings about the events surrounding her boyfriend’s recent death, she begins to feel a real kinship with Dicksinson, whose work proves “to other daughters of America, the ones who endure, who rise like rare birds from the ashes, that they are not alone.” Hubbard is an accomplished poet as well as a novelist, and Emily Beam’s poems are remarkably good. Writing these poems leads Emily out of the darkness of a New England winter and into a fragile spring— out of tragedy and into something resembling hope. —NORAH PIEHL


The Tyrant’s Daughter is the existential story of a teenage girl living on the periphery of war, where she straddles the blood-soaked country she’s always called home and the new American land of bittersweet promise where she has since been exiled. Laila is 15 years old when her father—the iron-fisted inheritor of an unnamed Middle Eastern “kingdom”—is murdered in coldblooded betrayal. Laila’s mother agrees to the amnesty offered by an American CIA agent in exchange for family and governmental secrets, and Laila’s family is whisked away to Washington, D.C.

Laila is observant, analytical and introspective, regularly comparing American customs to her family’s old existence of royal restriction. She neither fully condemns nor endorses either one of her lives or the people associated with them, but rather walks the common ground between them and begins to understand them. She grapples with harsh truths of guilt, identity and freedom. Without knowing whom she can truly trust, she must tread quietly and cautiously if she hopes to avoid the destruction of her family and her country. As a former undercover CIA agent, debut author J.C. Carleson has a firm grasp on the world of espionage and power plays. She is able to take her intimate knowledge of this secretive world, an oftenavoided gray area of morality, and craft an amazingly gripping and honest tale. Carleson keeps her readers feeling as though they have just returned from traveling in a foreign land, making those faraway issues feel a little more personal—a feat few can achieve with words alone.

This hard-hitting literary story propels Aidan’s problems even more when the widespread priest sexual abuse scandal hits the news. Author Brendan Kiely raises common questions of abuse victims as the teen wonders if everyone will read his face and know what happened, whether Father Greg’s attention was really love or abuse, and who is to blame. The Gospel of Winter speaks soundly to the current generation of YA readers, who will understand Aidan’s distrust, trepidation and desire for honest relationships.


children’s books


Little boys and girls, join hands


emembering the sacrifices and successes of African Americans—from unexpected champions of civil rights to talented performers who dreamed big—is one of the most inspiring ways to celebrate Black History Month. If we keep teaching our children well, racism just may someday be a thing of the past. UNDER THE FREEDOM TREE By Susan VanHecke

Illustrated by London Ladd Charlesbridge $16.95, 32 pages ISBN 9781580895507 Ages 6 to 9




“Hearts drumming, / eyes darting, / knees trembling.” Susan VanHecke’s reverent free verse describes the trepidation felt by Frank, James and Shepard, three slaves working in a Confederate camp in Virginia, as they risk their lives. The men secretly slip out and sail across the harbor to a Union fort on May 23, 1861. If they had attempted this just a few days earlier, they would have been returned according to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. But Virginia has recently seceded from the United States, and the Union general declares the men “contraband” and “keeps” them as “enemy property.” Soon the three former slaves are joined by hundreds more. Based on actual events and accompanied by dramatic illustrations, this poetic picture book follows the runaways as they build a community, which they call Slabtown, in the ruined city of Hampton, once torched by Confederates. At the heart of this community grows a mighty oak, where missionaries illegally teach slave children to read, and a boy recites President Lincoln’s recent Emancipation Proclamation, a promise of freedom to come. A concluding author’s note provides more information on the Emancipation Oak, now designated one of the 10 Great Trees of the World by the National Geographic Society, and the daring escape of the three slaves. With appeal for younger and older readers alike, Under the Freedom Tree is both a beautiful tribute to a lasting symbol of freedom and a powerful reminder that one brave action can change the course of history. —ANGELA LEEPER

JOSEPHINE By Patricia Hruby Powell Illustrated by Christian Robinson Chronicle $17.99, 104 pages ISBN 9781452103143 Audio, eBook available Ages 7 to 10


In Josephine, Patricia Hruby Powell writes with great reverence and a vigor fitting to the life of the illustrious performer Josephine Baker. This handsomely designed tribute to Josephine’s life is refreshingly uncluttered in every way: Powell’s free-verse text doesn’t waste any words, and Christian Robinson’s minimalist acrylic illustrations communicate the very essence of Josephine’s vivacious spirit. Powell takes readers from Josephine’s poor childhood to her death, and in between she chronicles the major events of her life—her struggles with racial discrimination, her rise to the top, her legendary performances and her efforts to spy for the Allies against the Nazis during WWII. Powell repeatedly uses the powerful metaphor of Josephine as a volcano, often using all caps to emphasize Josephine’s larger-thanlife talent. “Deep-trapped steam FLASHED and WHISTLED,” she writes about her signature dance moves. “Josephine was on fire. CALL THE FIRE DEPARTMENT.” Other sparkling metaphors nail Josephine’s stamina and describe her body as “a prizefighter, like a kangaroo, with rhythm in her hips, like a cat ready to strike, a volcano about to burst.” The book plays effectively with font size and type to accentuate the major themes of her life. After Josephine gets yet another rejection early in her career, based on her skin color, Powell asks in large, cursive type, “Wasn’t there any place in the world where color didn’t matter?” Quotes from Josephine are also dramatically placed, and Powell chooses those that communicate

Josephine’s inner fire: “I improvised, crazy with music. Even my teeth and eyes burned with fever.” With grace, simple shapes and lots of style and movement, this book perfectly captures Josephine, with a varied and vibrant color palette that complements her dynamic personality. Josephine is an extraordinary tribute to an American legend. —J U L I E D A N I E L S O N

THE PORT CHICAGO 50 By Steve Sheinkin

Roaring Brook $19.99, 208 pages ISBN 9781596437968 Audio, eBook available Ages 10 to 14


In The Port Chicago 50, Steve Sheinkin, author of the Newbery Honor book Bomb, tells the harrowing story of the fight for the lives and rights of 50 black sailors. On July 17, 1944, more than 300 sailors were killed and almost 400 were injured when several thousand tons of explosives aboard two ships detonated at the Port Chicago naval base in California. When the surviving sailors went back to work, they refused to obey orders to load munitions again. They were too scared to do such a dangerous job without the proper training. It was also worrisome that no white sailors were ordered to load munitions at Port Chicago. Charged with mutiny and facing the death penalty after their continued refusal, the sailors became unsung heroes in the heated battle for racial equality. Painstakingly researched through recorded interviews, The Port Chicago 50 vividly recounts the fear and anxiety surrounding the explosion. From 17-year-old sailors to respected, 23-year-old informal leader Joseph Smalls, Sheinkin provides powerful first-hand accounts of these events. Long, complicated court transcripts and documents are presented as edge-of-your-seat drama.

Sheinkin does an admirable job describing for young readers the profound impact these sailors had on civil rights and the integration of the Navy. This is a fascinating read on an important event in U.S. history. —SADA STIPE

WILLOW By Tonya Cherie Hegamin

Candlewick $16.99, 384 pages ISBN 9780763657697 Audio available Ages 14 and up


In 1848, 15-year-old Willow lives on a plantation so far north in Maryland that the Mason-Dixon Line lies just beyond her mother’s grave. Although she barely remembers her mother, Willow desperately needs her advice. Papa is planning to marry Willow off to a man on the neighboring plantation, a very different place from the “gentle” plantation life she has known. The owner of Willow’s plantation has even taught her to read—but no one knows that Willow has gone on to teach herself to write. One morning, Willow catches sight of two black men riding horses into free Pennsylvania. If they are fugitive slaves, then just seeing them is dangerous. As it turns out, one of the men is 17-year-old Cato, a free man, who changes everything Willow has grown to believe about her future. In a highly credible fashion, Willow grapples with her choices—she is as afraid of the path of freedom as she is of the certain horrors of continued enslavement. Perhaps most important to Willow, however, are the secrets she learns about the fate of her own mother, a beautiful and educated African woman. Author Tonya Cherie Hegamin slides period details into Willow’s simple, insightful narrative, creating a fluid reading experience only slightly interrupted by the occasional shift to Cato’s third-person narration. Willow is a well-researched historical novel that features a unique aspect of American slavery. —DIANE COLSON

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Spooky homework for Mo REVIEW BY ANGELA LEEPER

On the heels of solving her first mystery in the Newbery Honor book Three Times Lucky, Mo LoBeau faces more intrigue in her tiny North Carolina town of Tupelo Landing. Just when her adoptive kin buy the old Tupelo Inn, now abandoned and rumored to be haunted, her sixth-grade teacher assigns an oral history report to coincide with the community’s 250th anniversary. Extra credit goes to the student who can interview the town’s oldest member, so Mo decides to interview the ghost of the Tupelo Inn because “[t]here ain’t nobody older than dead.” Helping Mo form the Desperado Detective Agency’s new Paranormal Division is her steadfast partner and classmate, Dale. As the sleuthing duo employs various methods of communicating with Tupelo’s mystifying resident, they discover that the ghost is a girl who may have been murdered, and that some of Tupelo’s finest—and not-so-finest—may know forgotten clues. As if solving another murder mystery weren’t enough to keep Mo busy, the town’s crotchety moonshiner complicates matters throughout. By Sheila Turnage As in Sheila Turnage’s debut novel, relationships are key in this Southern Penguin/Kathy Dawson, $16.99, 368 pages story: Mo and Dale’s sibling-like camaraderie; the budding romance of ISBN 9780803736719, eBook available Mo’s adoptive parents, Miss Lana and the Colonel (now that the Colonel’s Ages 10 and up amnesia has cleared); and the ghost girl’s attraction to newcomer Harm, who eerily resembles his long-lost moonshining grandfather. Mo’s conMIDDLE GRADE tinuing letters to her unknown “Upstream Mother” help her sort out clues in the case—and in life. Small-town charm, clever dialogue and Mo’s unyielding wit are excellent reminders of why the first book was so successful. With The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing, readers will fall in love with Mo and her endearing friends and family all over again.

BRIMSBY’S HATS By Andrew Prahin

Simon & Schuster $15.99, 40 pages ISBN 9781442481473 eBook available Ages 4 to 8




Brimsby is a hat maker. He lives in a tiny cottage in the country, and his best friend, a badger, visits daily to chat over delicious hot tea. When his bestie leaves to become a sea captain, Brimsby is lonely and sets out to make some new friends. Birds high up in a tree are too busy keeping warm to pay him any mind. When Brimsby returns with hats for each, large enough to cover their nests and keep out the wind and snow, he makes more than enough new friends in one fell swoop. One of many things debut authorillustrator Andrew Prahin does so well here is regulate the careful and generous pacing of this story. Never rushing, he gives readers just enough time to believe in the friendship of Brimsby and his friend, and

he devotes two spreads to Brimsby’s subsequent loneliness. We feel Brimsby’s loss. In one spread, we see four seasons go by in 12 small vignettes, as Brimsby sews by the window where his friend once sat with him. Prahin also uses white space to great effect. In several illustrations, we see copious white for the abundant snow, as heavy-hearted Brimsby trudges forward to make someone’s acquaintance. It’s moving and possesses a poignant restraint. The color palette of Prahin’s digitally created art is also smart, as he replaces the warmer colors of his best friend with the cooler, more muted colors of sadness and heavy winter. When Brimsby strikes up a friendship with the birds, glowing pinks are introduced. And when they all head out to visit the sea captain at the book’s close—new friendships never cancel out the old ones, after all—we see vivid greens, as everyone sits by the shore in summer, having tea as a group. Brimsby’s Hats is a very promising debut and a touching story of friendship from a storyteller I hope we hear from again. —J U L I E D A N I E L S O N

interchange between the wide-eyed feline and his creator is hilarious. Peter Sís recalls growing up in the Czech Republic, where residents traditionally eat carp on Christmas Eve. Sís describes people buying live carp from barrels in the street, then putting them in their bathtubs to keep them fresh. Often, he says, children become attached to these new “pets.” Sís explains: “You would see many families coming with their carps to the river and blue fish swimming toward the ocean. This gave us all hope! So my favorite creature of hope is the blue carp.” Carle writes about his cat Fiffi’s treasured string bean (of all things). Susan Jeffers recalls her childhood dreams of white horses, while Steven Kellogg tells of wallpapering his room with drawings of cows. What’s Your Favorite Animal? is a great way to explore a variety of children’s illustrators (short bios are included). Extend the enjoyment by grabbing several books by each of these artists, and you’ll be ready for a lengthy session of excellent children’s literature. —ALICE CARY

CODENAME ZERO By Chris Rylander

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE ANIMAL? By Eric Carle and Friends

Holt $17.99, 40 pages ISBN 9780805096415 Ages 4 to 8


Eric Carle asked a handful of children’s illustrators a question: What’s Your Favorite Animal? The answers are creative jewels by 14 beloved artists, including Mo Willems, Rosemary Wells, Lane Smith and Jon Klassen. Children and adults alike will enjoy the varied responses, each on a two-page spread, including anecdotes, childhood memories and more—all with illustrations, of course. For example, Nick Bruel, creator of the wonderful Bad Kitty books, begins seriously, with an intriguing pictorial essay titled, “Behold the Octopus,” about the marvels of these eight-legged creatures. Bad Kitty quickly intervenes, outraged at being left out, and the resulting

Walden Pond $16.99, 368 pages ISBN 9780062120083 eBook available Ages 8 to 12


The most exciting part of Carson Fender’s day was supposed to be his role in the fourth-biggest prank in Erik Hill Middle School history (it involved fainting goats). That all changed when a mysterious man pressed a mysterious package into Carson’s hands and ran away, only to be abducted by two men with painted white faces. In Codename Zero, by Chris Rylander, Carson learns quickly that crazy, frightening and awesome things can happen anywhere. Even in North Dakota. Carson’s first task is to figure out where to deliver the package. He knows that it’s meant for someone at school, but the package makes things hard when it starts shouting warnings about “fail-safe measures” and “self-destruction.” Loudly. Every 15 minutes. From there, things get

even stranger. Carson is thrust into the middle of a secret organization and must live up to his new codename: Zero. With the help of his friends, including conspiracy theorist Dillon and his sister Danielle, Carson must keep exchange student Olek safe from the strange men. Codename Zero is a creative and exciting twist on the traditional spy novel. Readers will find themselves cheering for Carson as he learns not just how to be Zero, but how to be himself. Filled with great characters and an outstanding, original plot, Codename Zero will jump to the top of every aspiring spy’s reading list! — KEVIN DELECKI


Sourcebooks/ Jabberwocky $16.99, 304 pages ISBN 9781402286421 eBook available Ages 9 and up


and historical fiction. An author’s note and bibliography provide the historical context, and an accompanying website includes supplemental resources, most notably a version of Alice’s fictionalized diary entries annotated with quotations from primary sources. The combination of humor, history, light romance and social consciousness make Rebecca Behrens’ debut novel a winner. —J I L L R A T Z A N

ICE DOGS By Terry Lynn Johnson

HMH $16.99, 288 pages ISBN 9780547899268 eBook available Ages 10 and up


Fourteen-year-old Victoria Secord loves nothing more than her 16 Alaskan huskies. Like her dad, she loves racing, and she races to win. But after her father’s untimely death, Vicky and her mom are at odds. Vicky could never leave Alaska, but her mom keeps talking about moving back to Seattle. Vicky is convincingly portrayed as a strong and spunky heroine who never flinches at taking responsibility for herself. When she takes off, hooking up her dogsled team without telling anyone, the routine outing takes a perilous turn, and a four-hour trek becomes a harrowing six-day battle for survival. When she comes upon a snowmobile twisted around a tree, she uses everything her dad taught her to save the life of its only occupant, Chris, a “citified” boy who Vicky decides has no right to be out in the woods at all. Vicky and Chris’ relationship evolves as they face hunger, hypothermia, wild animals and icy waters. As the story deftly skirts the line between teenage awkwardness and a looming closeness, they huddle together for warmth, snare rabbits for food and eventually find a trapper’s cabin that provides comfort and a brief respite from the snow. Readers will feel empowered by Vicky’s boldness and will sympathize with her sadness over the loss of her father, her determination to make him proud and her first inklings of romance with her newfound friend. —BILLIE B. LITTLE

BABY BEAR Kadir Nelson is the winner of an impressive number of awards, including the 2012 Coretta Scott King Author Award and an NAACP Image Award. His stunning new picture book, Baby Bear (Balzer + Bray, $17.99, 40 pages, ISBN 9780062241726), finds a little bear on an incredible journey. Nelson lives in California with his wife and two daughters.


When your mom is the president of the United States, you’d think your life would be perfect. But, as eighth grader Audrey Rhodes is discovering, living at “1600” (as she calls her new home) isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Having friends over becomes an issue of national security, a Secret Service agent follows her everywhere and class trips are out of the question. Sulking around the White House one night, Audrey discovers a hidden compartment containing a diary written by a previous First Daughter, Alice Roosevelt. Alice’s desire to “eat up the world” and claim an independent identity for herself— including bringing her pet snake to state functions, dancing on the roof and sneaking a boy past White House guards—inspire Audrey to try similar antics, with results that don’t always end up as planned. Alice is often lucky in matters of the heart, whereas Audrey’s attempts to be more than friends with her attractive classmate Quint aren’t going nearly so well. Parents who read Ellen Emerson White’s President’s Daughter books in the 1980s will appreciate the updated take on this wish-fulfilling premise. When Audrey Met Alice is a terrific work of blended realistic






LIVE & LEARN Dear Editor: My father remembers shows that traveled the West in the early part of the 20th century performing Chautauqua theater. But I’ve also heard that chautauqua was used in New England in the 1800s for friendly gettogethers to discuss issues of the day. Are these related? J. H. Ware, Massachusetts We haven’t heard chautauqua used in exactly the ways you describe, but the two uses do share a common thread. One summer in the early 1870s, a group of people organized a gathering on Lake Chautauqua in western New York for educational and religious purposes. These assemblies became an annual event, and led in 1878 to the development of the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle, which promoted home reading and study. Perhaps this home study led to the “friendly get-togethers” you mention. The annual gatherings on Lake Chautau-

qua, by the way, are still offered over a period of nine weeks each summer by the Chautauqua Institution. Throughout the remainder of the 19th century and into the 20th, other summer assemblies and conferences began to spring up across the country. Each of them was also called a chautauqua. There was, in fact, a regular chautauqua circuit that would move from one locale to the next throughout the summer, typically staying for about a week in each place. These chautauquas were usually held outdoors, often in large tents, and were sometimes known as tent chautauquas. They featured a variety of programs, including lectures, concerts and exhibitions. They also provided people in remote areas with opportunities for socializing. These, of course, are the chautauquas your father recalls. The tent chautauquas enjoyed great popularity through the early decades of the 20th century. Their death knell was sounded by the advent of movies and radio, which made entertainment more easily available to remote parts of the country.

WIN OR LUGE Dear Editor: The Winter Olympics are approaching, and I find myself wondering about the origin of the word luge. Can you tell something about its history or where it comes from? D. J. Honolulu, Hawaii The noun luge comes from a dialect of French spoken in Switzerland and means “small sled.” Early in the 20th century, popular activities at Alpine resorts included riding luges as well as skiing and tobogganing. The English language adopted the word luge as the name of the sled used and quickly added luge, luging and luger to its winter sports vocabulary. Incidentally, luge competition first appeared as an Olympic event in the 1964 games at Innsbruck, Austria.

IN THE CLOSET Dear Editor: My husband’s family lives in England, and they use the word loo as a euphemism for bathroom, though no

one can explain why. Do you know the origin of this term? D. F. Norfolk, Virginia Unfortunately, the origin of loo remains obscure, although several explanations have been offered. One connects it vaguely to Waterloo, perhaps as a play on water closet. According to another story, loo comes from an old practice of French hotels putting the number 100 on bathroom doors. An Englishman anxiously searching for the facility could easily have misinterpreted the l in l00 for the letter “l” and come up with loo. A different story holds it to be possibly a modification of the French term lieux d’aisance, which can be translated literally as places of ease or more simply as toilet. A less likely explanation suggests that loo might have come from the obsolete English word lanterloo, from the French lanturelu, meaning “piffle.”

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BookPage February 2014  

Author Interviews, Book Reviews

BookPage February 2014  

Author Interviews, Book Reviews