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Olympic athletes push their bodies— and their friendship—to extremes in the riveting new novel from Chris Cleave, author of Little Bee

The Age of Miracles

Growing up while the earth slows down

Women of Mystery

6 new novels to keep you up all night

paperback picks PENGUIN.COM

The Chalk Girl


Samurai Game

Leaping Hearts

The eight-year-old girl appeared in New York’s Central Park one day. She looked perfect, except for the blood on her shoulders. It fell from the sky, she told the police. It happened while she was looking for her Uncle Red, who had turned into a tree. Right, they thought, poor child. And then they found the body in the tree.

Dr. Kay Scarpetta is faced with investigating the death of a 14-year-old girl. She must follow the twisting leads and track the strange details in order to make the dead speak—and to reveal the sad truth that may be more than even she can bear…

In an underground club, a high-ranking public official spends his secret nights indulging in fantasies as exciting as they are depraved. For a seductive employee of the Dungeon, it’s her job to fulfill them. But she’s playing a far more dangerous game—one of blackmail, politics, and murder.

A.J. Sutherland buys a rogue stallion— and then must hire equestrian legend Devlin McCloud to help her train the horse. But soon, A.J. And Devlin’s mutual attraction begins to compromise their chances at a championship…

9780425250303 • $9.99

9780425250310 • $9.99

9780515151541 • $7.99

9780451230867 • $7.99

Darkness Devours

Moonshell Beach

Victory and Honor

Night Seeker

Half-werewolf, half-Aedh Risa Jones can enter the realm between life and death. Someone is killing blood-whore addicted vampires, and Risa must find the guilty party. If she succeeds, she may finally convince the council to lift the execution order on her life. But before she succeeds, she must first survive…

As J.T. struggles to keep Mary at arm’s length, Mary reminds herself that she’s never been attracted to the strong, silent type. And having known so much sorrow, J.T.’s wary of getting close to anyone. But in Shelter Bay, even the most strongly guarded heart is no match for love.

Just weeks after Hitler’s suicide, Cletus Frade and his colleagues in the OSS find themselves up to their necks in battles. Frade has been conducting a secret operation, one of great daring—and great danger—but to conduct it and not be discovered, he and his men must walk a perilously dark line. One slip, and everyone becomes a casualty of war.

Cicely Waters, owl shifter and Wind Witch, has rescued the Fae Prince Grieve at a great cost. Their reunion has lost them the allegiance of the Summer Queen. In desperation they turn to the Consortium for help. But as Cicely and Grieve embark on their search for the heartstone of Summer, Winter is already wreaking her terrifying revenge.

9780451237118 • $7.99

9780451237385 • $7.99

9780515150988 • $9.99

9780425250327 • $7.99

Wendy Wax returns with a novel of three women who are faced with strengthening their foundations… When Madeline, Avery, Nicole, and Kyra came together in a time of desperation, they never expected that they’d end up integral parts of one another’s lives—let alone join forces on their own television show. But here they are bringing once-grand historic houses on Miami’s South Beach back to their former glory in front of a national audience. Having their work broadcast is one thing, but the women are unprepared when their personal lives start playing out on TV. With a decades-old mystery—and the hurricane season—looming, the women are forced to figure out just how they’ll weather life’s storms… BERKLEY

A Penguin Group (USA) Company

9780425245415 • $15.00

contents Look for this symbol to find vacation-worthy books perfect for your summer reading list!

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



cover story

Chris Cleave

Just in time for the Olympics, Cleave captures the competitive and personal trials of world-class athletes.


Cover photo ©

14 Elin Hilderbrand Meet the author of Summerland

15 Chris bohjalian


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22 Fiction

top pick:

Armenian heritage inspires new novel

16 Karen Thompson Walker Time slows in The Age of Miracles

20 Prepping for the Olympics Background on the worldwide competition

24 Short stories Two superb collections

29 Jodi Picoult & Samantha Van Leer Mother-daughter team pens YA fairy tale

The Innocents by Francesca Segal also reviewed: Say Nice Things About Detroit by Scott Lasser The Absolutist by John Boyne Skios by Michael Frayn Some Kind of Fairy T ale by Graham Joyce Tumbleweeds by Leila Meacham The Red House by Mark Haddon Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness The Red Chamber by Pauline A. Chen Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson

top pick:

31 Susan Gal Meet the illustrator of Day by Day


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27 NonFiction

31 Ocean wonders Go under the sea with three picture books

• BookPageXTRA • Book of the Day • Children’s Corner

Coming to My Senses by Alyssa Harad

also reviewed:

Barack Obama by David Maraniss Mrs Robinson’s Disgrace by Kate Summerscale Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson The Long Walk by Brian Castner Some of My Best Friends Are Black by Tanner Colby

30 Children’s


top pick:

05 Lifestyles 06 Whodunit


Amelia Anne Is Dead and Gone by Kat Rosenfield also reviewed: Libby of High Hopes by Elise Primavera Rush for the Gold by John Feinstein Mothership by Martin Leicht and Isla Neal

11 Book clubs 12 Audio 14 Well read advertisING


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author enablers by kathi kamen goldmark & Sam Barry


“Heartwarming.” —Richard Paul Evans

“Written with all the gumption of its Tennessee characters, The Good Dream is a great story.” —Jenna Blum

“Intoxicating... heartrending and redemptive.” —Katherine Howe

Order your copy today! Available everywhere books are sold



On May 24, we said goodbye to Kathi Kamen Goldmark, my beloved soul mate, wife, partner and one of the most marvelous people I have ever known (and I’ve known more than a few). Calls and messages came from all over the world: from Maya Angelou and Oscar Hijuelos and Matt Groening and Mitch Albom and Judy Collins and Scott Turow and Ridley Pearson—I have to stop, because there is not room here to list everyone who loved Kathi, and who Kathi and I love. On her second to last day Roger McGuinn called us in the hospital room to sing the song “May the Road Rise Up to Meet You.” So many messages came to me, my brother Dave, to Amy Tan, Elaine Petrocelli, Susanne Pari—messages from young and old, famous and not, from all walks of life—that we were simply overwhelmed. All of them said the same thing, though in different ways: Goodbye, beautiful spirit. You are amazing and I am forever changed because of you. Thank you. I love you. One of the many ways that Kathi helped people was through this column and our book about writing, Write That Book Already! But long before the Author Enablers, Kathi was an enabler in the most positive sense of the term, always encouraging everyone she met to be fearless, to leap in and give writing, or music, or whatever it was that tugged at our hearts, a go. She was like a Johnny Appleseed of creativity and joy. It isn’t fair that she left us so soon, when she had so much life in her and so much to do. Cancer isn’t fair, and vampire-like it robbed us of a great person. But it never defeated her spirit—not for a second. We gathered in a beautiful room in UCSF Hospital, high on a hill overlooking Kathi’s beloved adopted home of San Francisco, a town that she had wired long before the world went online. So many people came to that hospital suite that it became a party, a celebration of this remarkable life. The nurses and doctors joined in, drawn, like so many others, to Kathi’s bright

light. Kathi awoke and smiled at us and even made jokes. We cried and laughed. My daughter Laura and I sang “Amazing Grace” and her son Tony sang “Rainbow Connection.” We all sang some more and shared story after story. Still more calls and messages came. And then the time came to say goodbye. Now we go on, though in my case I am not sure of the way. Actually, that’s not true. Right now, as I am writing this, I don’t feel like I can go on. But I know the way, or at least the direction. It isn’t fair that Kathi left us too early, but she was not cheated by life—not one bit. She lived each day so fully, with so much enjoyment, that she managed to pack several lives into her one life. If you are reading this column you are likely an aspiring writer, and certainly you are a lover of books. If you are struggling with your writing or wondering how to navigate the world of publishing, I know that Kathi would encourage you to keep going, keep trying. I also know she would urge you to get involved, to go out and meet other writers, to be a part of your local literary community, and to help build it up. What is community but us? Kathi believed in joining in like nobody I ever knew, and as a result she was given the riches of amazing experiences, loving friends beyond count, an extraordinary, multifaceted career, and a fabulous life, well lived. And she kept going right to the end. Three days before Kathi left us we were hard at work on a book about our experience as a couple in which both partners have been patients and caregivers. I know what I need to do now. I need to keep on living, and writing, and singing, and playing, and trying to make the world a little better and more fun. Kathi wouldn’t want it any other way.

lifestyles by joanna brichetto

TIPS FOR Simple, stylish DIY Jenni Radosevich’s I Spy DIY Style: Find Fashion You Love and Do It Yourself (Potter Craft, $21.99, 160 pages, ISBN 9780307587145) shows how easy it can be to duplicate designer trends at home—and to personalize the heck out of them. The goal: When you spy something fabulous in a magazine or a shop, just DIY. If you don’t sew, don’t sweat it. All you need are “a few buttons, some fabric paint, or a piece of ribbon.” If you can operate a glue gun, brush on some bleach or string a bead, you can snazz up any outfit. The trick is to start with a decent canvas: a simple tank or skirt, or a plain headband or pair of heels.

The 29 easy projects in the book show step-by-step transformations. Try the feather earrings inspired by Gwyneth Paltrow; a chopstick dress inspired by Heidi Klum; a ribbonlined jacket inspired by Coco Chanel; an oversized pearl bracelet inspired by Grace Kelly. Don’t miss the amazing temporary embellishments for everyone’s go-to outfit: the little black dress.

THE PRETTIEST PROJECTS Readers will find an explosion of color and pattern in Happy Home: Twenty-One Sewing and Craft Projects to Pretty Up Your Home (Chronicle, $27.50, 176 pages, ISBN 9780811874458) by designer Jennifer Paganelli. The bright palette and festive prints are unabashedly cheery and feminine. Projects are divided into categories: Decorate with ruffled pillows, appliqué and simple, lined drapes; Accessorize with totes, boxes, sun hats and a doggie-bed-cover; Party with a vintage banner, garland, table linen and Christmas stocking; and Dream with covers, a bedskirt, headboards and canopies. My favorite may be the Party Pouf: Imagine a spherical paper lantern studded with

pom-poms and dangled from a colorcoordinated length of seam binding. I also love the Market Tote, an ideal replacement for hideous reusable grocery bags; with the addition of a fabric flower, it’s downright girly. Beginning sewers will appreciate the chapter on basics, and everyone will love the paper patterns tucked into a front pocket, ready to unfold, pin and cut.

From the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller A Reliable Wife A Stranger. A Small Town. There’s No Stopping What’s About to Happen.

TOP PICK FOR LIFESTYLES Paper Made!: 101 Exceptional Projects to Make Out of Everyday Paper by Kayte Terry has an irresistible aesthetic. These projects are too neato not to try, even if you don’t think you are a crafter. A fruit bowl made of coiled, braided newspaper pages? A side table of layered corrugated cardboard? How about a bookshelf made out of actual books? Lamps, mobiles, frames, vases, bags, jewelry, party favors, hair accessories: All are made of or embellished with paper. Paper is everywhere—junk mail, office boxes, toilet paper innards, food packaging—which means material is always at hand and usually free. Trim it, roll it, fold it, sew it, glue it, crumple it: Any technique can produce something useful or simply pretty. Time commitments range from a few moments—like cute, covered binder clips—to a weekend, but most projects can be done in a few hours. Some are great for kids, like gum-wrapper bracelets, pinwheels and pop-up cards. The book comes with 37 downloadable templates.

Paper Made! By Kayte Terry

Workman $16.95, 288 pages ISBN 9780761159971


“I LOVE ROBERT GOOLRICK’S Heading Out to Wonderful. The novel’s seductive power and the beauty of his writing create a delicious feast for the reader.” —KATHRYN STOCKETT, author of The Help

“BEAUTIFULLY WRITTEN, striking in its imagery, Heading Out to Wonderful is a passionate and tragic story of a love affair that is entirely consuming yet completely forbidden.” —GARTH STEIN, author of The Art of Racing in the Rain Read an excerpt, win signed copies, and learn more at In hardcover and e-book editions, or downloadable audio from HighBridge. . . . and don’t miss A Reliable Wife, available in paperback




columns Grittiness and gore from the Women of Mystery ard-core grittiness and violence are now the norm in female-penned suspense novels; romance-laden cozies are no longer the province of the Women of Mystery—if indeed they ever were. So move over Andrew Vachss, step aside Lee Child: There’s a new sheriff in town—and he’s a she!

continues to move from strength to strength; with a tightly crafted story and charismatic (albeit admirably flawed) new characters, Ransom River displays the talents of a top tier mystery writer at the top of her game.




Gone Girl (Crown, $25, 432 pages, ISBN 9780307588364), Gillian Flynn’s suspenseful new thriller, has generated more pre-release buzz than just about any other mystery this year, and deservedly so. It is a fiendishly clever tale of a marriage gone toxic, and revenge exacted to a disturbingly lethal degree. The story is narrated in alternating chapters by the husband/wife team of Nick and Amy Dunne, who offer up markedly contradictory accounts of events leading up to the violent abduction of Amy, and the police investigation that follows. Needless to say, the husband is always the

first and primary suspect, and this time is no exception. Nick protests his innocence, both to the police

himself into a corner. Amy, for her part, is either manipulative and sociopathic—or the hapless victim of

and to the reader, but he is sparing with the truth; indeed, it seems he will only cop to his bad acts (an ongoing affair with a young student, for instance) when he has painted

a closet sadist, a deviant exceptionally skilled at hiding his darker side. You be the judge—but be prepared to change your mind . . . again and again, right up to the very last page!

THE KING AND HIS GARDINER New York Times Bestselling Author


On sale now!


Also available, for the first time in paperback!

Stephen King and I have one thing in common (a hint: it isn’t great wealth). Give up? OK, here it is: We are both big fans of Meg Gardiner. In fact, King went so far as to say that her books make up “the finest crime-suspense series I’ve come across in the last 20 years,” and who am I to argue with Stephen King? This time out, Gardiner departs from series novels with a stand-alone thriller called Ransom River (Dutton, $25.95, 368 pages, ISBN 9780525952855). Rory Mackenzie thought she’d never return to her hometown of Ransom River, California; the small-town attitudes and prejudices conflicted too strongly with her more sophisticated worldview. Yet somehow, she’s back, and she has been drafted as a juror in a high-profile murder trial, a case with strong connections to organized crime and corrupt cops. When a video clip from a particularly bad day in court seems to show Rory colluding with masked criminals, she finds herself on the run from both the mob and the law, not knowing where to turn or whom to trust. And it’s gonna get a lot worse before it gets better! Gardiner

Fans of Scandinavian suspense will find lots to like in Anne Holt’s Blind Goddess (Scribner, $15, 352 pages, ISBN 9781451634761), the book that introduced European readers to the exploits of Oslo police inspector Hanne Wilhelmsen back in 1993. Here in the colonies, we have gotten the Wilhelmsen books in a different sequence, starting with 1222, by which time Wilhelmsen has bitterly retired, paralyzed by a bullet lodged in her spine. In Blind Goddess, we get a flashback peek at an entirely different Hanne Wilhelmsen: sensual, upbeat, physically capable (graceful, even) and oh so enigmatic. Teamed with police attorney Hakon Sand, Wilhelmsen investigates the murder of a small-time drug dealer, followed in short order by the killing of a well-known—if decidedly sleazy—attorney. On the surface, the cases wouldn’t appear to have much in common, but before the investigation is brought to a close, it will expose an unthinkable level of corruption that permeates the Norwegian government to its highest echelons. That said, Blind Goddess doesn’t read like a political thriller, but rather a topnotch police procedural, one with an exotic and icy Nordic twist. After all, when it comes to solving a clever crime, it is not what you know to be true, but what you can prove that matters.

WHERE THERE’S A WILL Special Agent Will Trent has to be one of the most fascinating suspense protagonists in recent memory: He is tormented by his childhood demons; dyslexic to the point of being barely able to read; uncomfortable to the extreme in relationships. On the plus side, he has one of the finest analytical minds in the entire Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Together with his partner

Whodunit by Bruce Tierney

Faith Mitchell, he has appeared in several of Karin Slaughter’s excellent novels, including her latest, Criminal (Delacorte, $27, 448 pages, ISBN 9780345528506). Trent’s current case is strongly evocative of a murder dating from 30-some years ago, in which the victim’s flesh was sliced open and then crudely sewn back together. It is a case with strong personal connections for Trent; he knows exactly who the killer was (and is), and there is little or nothing he can do about it. Legally, that is. And there is the rub: Does Trent operate outside of—and in direct conflict with—the legal system that has been such a cornerstone of his existence for many years? Or, can he somehow find a way to bring the perpetrator to justice within the confines of the law, and before he kills again? Criminal offers a look back at 1970s Southern culture (with all its gentility and warts), a dash of romance for its unlikely protagonist and a twist ending that few will see coming.

THE ANGLO/IRISH CONTINGENT There’s an old joke that goes, “What do you call 100 dead lawyers?” Answer: “A pretty good start.” This is also the general mood of the London public in the case of three convicted pedophiles found murdered and mutilated—by person or persons unknown—in Irish author Jane Casey’s new thriller, The Reckoning (Minotaur, $24.99, 384 pages, ISBN 9780312622008). In the second installment of the series featuring Anglo/Irish DC Maeve Kerrigan (after last year’s The Burning), our conflicted heroine seems to be the only person truly concerned with bringing the perpetrator to justice. In her opinion, punishment should be left to the legal system, not meted out by vigilantes. Little does she realize the peril that viewpoint will hold for her. The Reckoning is written in the first person, with the sort of dry wit that often characterizes the best Irish crime fiction (think Ken Bruen’s Jack Taylor novels). The dialogue is a true treat, engaging and intelligent as Kerrigan takes on the testosterone cowboys who comprise the rank and file of the London police department. My prediction: If

The Reckoning is any indication, this young author has a long and successful career ahead of her.

“A tantalizing

story of menace and longing.” —Lee Martin, author of

Break the Skin and The Bright Forever

TOP PICK IN MYSTERY “Murder” and “Amish” are two words not typically found in the same sentence . . . unless, of course, you are referring to Linda Castillo’s brilliant suspense series featuring lapsed Amish police chief Kate Burkholder, of Painter’s Mill, Ohio. The latest installment, Gone Missing, finds Burkholder embroiled in not one, but three cases in which young people have disappeared, seemingly without a trace. The common denominator? All are teenaged Amish girls, each with a history of rebellion against their religion. Complicating matters is the fact that the Amish are notoriously insular; by the time the families get around to involving the police, the trails have grown cold. There is no shortage of suspects, however: a famous photographer once convicted of taking nude pictures of underage Amish girls; a halfway house operator expelled from the Amish culture for homosexuality; a rabid preacher trolling among the young Amish for converts to his controversial sect. Is it one of these people, or is the predator to be found closer to home, in the often misunderstood community of the Plain People? With its wonderfully conflicted protagonist, and its incisive look into a society most of us know little about, Gone Missing is the unquestioned high point of one of the most compelling series in modern suspense fiction.

Gone Missing

To save her own life, a young psychologist must overcome paralyzing terror to find out…what’s hiding in the dark? “Sisters Camilla Grebe and Åsa Träff dig deep

into the cold climes of the human heart in this sharp, atmospheric thriller.” —Perri O’Shaughnessy, bestselling author of Show No Fear and Unlucky in Law

“Grebe and Träff break new ground in the

Scandinavian crime literature genre, and they do it brilliantly. Using unique insights and experiences from their own professional backgrounds, they tell a smooth-paced yet utterly intriguing story about man’s inability to let go of the past.” —Kristina Ohlsson, author of Unwanted

Pick up or download your copy today.

By Linda Castillo

Minotaur $24.99, 288 pages ISBN 9780312658564 eBook available




Novel Reads


by Faye Kellerman The Hesse suicide strikes a troubling chord in the household of Decker. But it’s a second teen suicide that points Decker and his detectives down a dark alley of twisted allegiances and unholy alliances…and toward a cold-blooded group of high schoolers with a shocking predilection for guns and violence. 9780062066961, $9.99

The Night Eternal

by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan

Dr. Eph Goodweather, Dr. Nora Martinez, and Vasiliy Fet lead a band of freedom fighters aided by Mr. Quinlan, the halfbreed offspring of the Master, who now is bent on revenge. At humankind’s darkest hour, one of them may hold the key to salvation. But a traitor is among them. And who will be willing to make the ultimate sacrifice so that others may live? 9780061558276, $9.99

Once Burned

columns Set on the fictional Dare Island, Carolina Home (Berkley, $7.99, 304 pages, ISBN 9780425250938) by Virginia Kantra is a thoroughly wonderful read. Family comes first for fishing boat captain and single father Matt Fletcher, but his son’s teacher—newcomer Allison Carter—causes him to steer off course. After a bad marriage, Matt is wary of commitment, but the beautiful blonde is making him reconsider his stance. Can he find room for romance between taking care of his business, his teenage son and the unexpected appearance of a young niece? While Allison is drawn to Matt and his family, she is aware

Vlad is one of the most feared vampires in existence and Leila is a mortal cursed with a terrifying ability to channel electricity and to see a person’s darkest secrets through a single touch. When they meet passion ignites, threatening to consume them. It will take everything they have to stop an enemy intent on bringing them down in flames. 9780061783203, $7.99 by Loretta Chase

When the Earl of Longmore’s sister, Maison Noirot’s wealthiest, favorite customer, runs away, Sophy can’t let him bumble after her on his own. In hot pursuit with the one man who tempts her beyond reason, she finds desire has never slipped on so smoothly. 9780062100313, $7.99

A Scandalous Scot by Karen Ranney

Scottish estate, Ballindair Castle, is rumored to be haunted. Ballindair’s ghosts aren’t as fascinating as Morgan MacCraig, the most magnificent man Jean MacDonald’s ever seen. Though their passion triggers a fresh scandal that could force them to wed, Jean must first share the secrets that could force them apart, or be the beginning of a love unlike anything they’ve ever known. 9780062027795, $7.99

Willow Springs

by Toni Blake

When a woman from Logan’s past resurfaces right as some anonymous letters send his pulse hammering, suddenly he doesn’t know what he needs. One smoking-hot kiss could change everything…but will it ruin his one a one-of-a-kind friendship with Amy, or show them that they’ve already found everything they need, right here in Destiny? 9780062024619, $7.99

All available as eBooks Visit for more great reading


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


by Jeaniene Frost

Scadal Wears Satin


of his reputation and tells herself she’ll accept what they have without insisting on more. But as their feelings for each other grow, she knows she wants to be an integral part of his life. Will Matt open his heart and let her in? Readers will root for the pair’s happy ending and look forward to the next visit to Dare Island.

FALLING FOR A GHOSTWALKER Action, villains and heroic men and women pack Christine Feehan’s Samurai Game (Jove, $7.99, 416 pages, ISBN 9780515151541). The GhostWalkers are impeccably trained and genetically enhanced soldiers, committed to protecting themselves and their children from the evil man who made them: Dr. Peter Whitney. Determined to put a stop to him herself, Azami Yoshiie visits the GhostWalker compound. Ostensibly on business, she wants to discover the whereabouts of Dr. Whitney, who experimented on her as a child and then abandoned her, broken and bruised. Now with samurai skills, she’s eager to take on the doctor. Azami is thrown into a fight for her life with Sam Johnson—one

of the GhostWalkers—at her side. Not only is Sam at her side, but he’s in her mind; they share a telepathic connection and the unshakeable sense that they belong together. But Azami and Sam must fight inner and outer battles before being able to commit fully to their love. This is a thrilling ride with a heroine whose strength will capture readers’ hearts.

TOP PICK IN ROMANCE A sophisticated widow and a younger man with a dangerous secret clash in Thief of Shadows, part of Elizabeth Hoyt’s Maiden Lane series. Winter Makepeace runs an orphanage in a crime-infested neighborhood of London called St. Giles. Lady Isabel Beckinhall is a new benefactor of the orphanage, and her acquaintance with Winter reveals that he is a man of hidden depths . . . and perhaps a clandestine double life. There is an avenger at work in the neighborhood—the infamous Ghost of St. Giles—and Isabel begins to wonder if she might know the person behind the mask. For his part, Winter tries to distance himself from the sensual lady. Not only is he beneath her socially, he’s determined to remain celibate to devote his energies elsewhere. But Isabel proves impossible to resist, even as she discovers his secret— one that threatens their safety. Scorching love scenes, a hero and heroine with deep wells of emotion and a delightful twist at the end make this a memorable, remarkable romance.

Thief of Shadows By Elizabeth Hoyt

Grand Central $7.99, 384 pages ISBN 9781455508327 eBook available

Historical Romance

New York times & UsA toDAY best seller “A beautiful and literary coming-of-age romance that is as close to perfect as I’ve seen in quite some time.” —Serena Chase, USA TODAY

In DepressIon-era MIssIssIppI, Millie Reynolds knows firsthand the shame of family secrets and she craves a place of true belonging. Over time, the Gypsies that travel through town offer acceptance. Tragedy strikes and she leaves her world of poverty to join a prominent family on the other side of town. There, with the help of unlikely sources, Millie learns the power of forgiveness and finally discovers where she belongs.

New York Times Best-selling author Julie Cantrell was the editor-in-chief of the Southern Literary Review and has received the 2011 Mississippi Arts Commission Literary Artist Fellowship. Julie and her family live in Oxford, Mississippi, where they operate Valley House Farm. She is also a certified speech-language pathologist and currently teaches English as a second language to elementary students.

Available in print and digital editions everywhere books are sold


columns New paperback releases for reading groups

A BELOVED TALE REIMAGINED The Flight of Gemma Hardy (Harper Perennial, $15.99, 480 pages, ISBN 9780062064233), Margot Livesey’s ingenious retelling of Jane Eyre, will delight fans of Charlotte Brontë’s novel as well as readers unacquainted with the classic. Set in the 1960s, Livesey’s updated take on the tale chronicles the life of young Gemma Hardy, who is orphaned when her father—a widower— drowns. Gemma goes to live with her uncle in Scotland, but when he dies, she’s overseen by a mean-spirited aunt. As an escape of sorts, she enrolls in Claypoole, a fancy private

book clubs by julie hale

Nicola and Tim are an unforgettable pair, at once larger than life and down to earth. They eventually settle in the Zambezi Valley, operate a banana and fish farm and discover lasting contentment. As usual, Fuller—an expert memoirist (Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight)—writes with assurance and flair. This singular chapter in her family history brims with the sights, sounds and smells of Africa, bringing the continent to life even as it revives poignant memories from her family’s past.

HOT SUMMER READS FROM #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR MEG CABOT Meg Cabot brings one of her most beloved—and outrageous— heroines back! Are you ready to rock? Because Heather Wells definitely is!

NEW FROM KRISTINA RIGGLE “A sensitive portrayal of a dysfunctional family struggling to make peace with their pasts… highly recommended.”


school, but there her misfortunes continue, as she’s forced to work as a servant. Gemma’s next move is to Blackbird Hall, where the lord of the manor, Hugh Sinclair, engages her as a nanny for his niece. Gemma and Hugh feel a mutual attraction, but he has secrets that could keep them apart. Livesey has written a wonderfully engaging novel with the tried-and-true elements of romance and adventure—as well as a few surprises.

MEMORIES OF AFRICA In her fascinating memoir, Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness (Penguin, $15, 256 pages, ISBN 9780143121343), Alexandra Fuller offers another intriguing account of life in Africa. Although she was brought up in Kenya, Nicola, the author’s mother, comes from a family of feisty Scottish highlanders. Passionate and brave, she marries Tim Fuller and explores Africa with him in search of a place where they can put down roots. Fuller’s adventure-filled account of her parents’ early years makes for great reading.

Erin Morgenstern’s captivating debut, The Night Circus, focuses on a mysterious troupe, Le Cirque de Rêves, or the Circus of Dreams, and its two stars, a pair of young magicians named Celia and Marco. Raised as rivals, Celia and Marco were coached from childhood to perform in the circus. They’re now engaged in a battle of powers that’s destined to end dangerously. Their contest takes place each night under Le Cirque’s black-and-white tent, where the two find themselves falling in love—a development that could have fateful repercussions for the circus itself. Set in London in the 1800s and filled with an unforgettable cast of wizards and performers, including Celia’s father, Prospero the Enchanter, Morgenstern’s tale is a real dazzler. Her spellbinding novel works its magic through a blend of genres, combining elements of romance, mystery and good old-fashioned fantasy.

— Booklist, starred review

A CONTEMPORARY LOVE STORY “A moving love story that is both traditional and modern, surprising and deeply comforting…not only about finding love, but a way to be true to ourselves.” — Laura Dave, author of The First Husband

A HAUNTING LITERARY THRILLER “I just loved The Girl Below… In every sense, Bianca Zander is a fantastic writer, and I’m recommending this magical novel to all my friends.” — Curtis Sittenfeld, bestselling

The Night Circus

author of Prep and American Wife

By Erin Morgenstern

Anchor $15, 528 pages ISBN 9780307744432 Audio, eBook available



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William Morrow Paperbac ks




audio by sukey howard

Quiet lives disturbed There’s nothing flashy or flamboyant in Graham Swift’s finely wrought new novel, Wish You Were Here (Blackstone, $29.95, 9.5 hours, ISBN 9781455110926). Its pace is moderate, its tone restrained, but its elegiac mood, so wonderfully evoked by John Lee’s darkly lyrical reading, draws you into the life of Jack Luxton, the last of a dairyfarming family in rural England. A big, rough man, “mild as a lamb,” he sold the family farm at the urging of his wife, a farmer’s daughter he’s known all his life, and moved with her to the Isle of Wight to run a successful caravan park. The

her husband and small son were deported to Theresienstadt concentration camp in 1943. She and her son survived; her mother and husband and countless friends were murdered. An eyewitness to the horrors of the 20th century, Alice is never bitter. She remains optimistic, rejoicing in the things she has, especially her music; she’s a model for living a richer life. There’s a lot to learn from this extraordinary woman and this audio presentation is a good place to begin.

Top Pick in Audio


“[GROSS] IS AN AUTOMATIC MUST-READ for lovers of can’t-put-down thrillers.” —LEE CHILD

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news that Jack’s younger brother, who joined the army years before, has been killed in Iraq turns Jack’s narrow existence upside down. It’s a jolt that unleashes a flood of memories and as he mulls them over again and again, you have a sense of this stolid man’s raw emotions, the ache his brother’s loss leaves, his regrets for all that might have been said, all the “ifs” and “shoulds,” and how hard it is for him, as for all of us, to make sense of life and of death.

Thankful for everything Alice Herz-Sommer is 108 years old, the oldest Holocaust survivor and the oldest living concert pianist. She still plays the piano every day, she still laughs and still believes that life is a gift. Through interviews she had with Alice over the last seven years, Caroline Stoessinger, a concert pianist herself, has captured her essence in A Century of Wisdom (Random House, $35, 6.5 hours, ISBN 9780307967671). Alice grew up in Prague in a musicloving, intellectual family—she called Kafka “uncle Franz,” sat on Mahler’s knee and was a wellknown concert pianist when she,

Ciao, Guido, how wonderful to have you back! And thank you, Donna Leon, for giving us another Commissario Guido Brunetti mystery, read again by David Colacci with just the right hint of an Italian accent. Beastly Things revolves around the murder of a kind veterinarian who unwittingly got enmeshed in the sordid, illegal doings at a slaughterhouse and, like all its 20 predecessors, is set in Venice. Though Leon is a clever crafter of plot and amazingly knowledgeable about Italian police procedure and the internal machinations of Questura, other qualities also make this series shine: her ability to conjure up this beautiful sinking city, with its calles and canals, her skill in creating a detective with affecting humanity and a love of humanism—a man we’d all like to spend time with, whether sharing a glass of prosecco or a discussion of his beloved Marcus Aurelius—and her subtle way of weaving real political concerns into her novels.

beastly things By Donna Leon

AudioGO $29.95, 9.5 hours ISBN 9781609988975




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

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

Q: As  a mother, what do you most wish you could protect your children from?

Q: W  hat do you love most about Nantucket?

Q: W  hat are your 3 favorite summer activities?

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

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



Elin Hilderbrand launched her writing career in 2000 with The Beach Club and has gone on to write a string of summertime bestsellers. In her latest, SUMMERLAND (Reagan Arthur, $26.99, 400 pages, ISBN 9780316099837), a tragic accident kills a teen driver and has repercussions throughout the community. Hilderbrand lives on Nantucket with her husband and three children.


well read by robert Weibezahl

Faulkner’s unique vision Considering William Faulkner’s canonical status today, it is hard to fathom that in 1944, in the middle of his writing life, all but one of his novels were out of print. Six years later, he won the Nobel Prize, in no small part because of the 1946 publication of Malcolm Cowley’s The Portable Faulkner and the championing of this quintessentially American writer’s work by such European masters as Sartre and Camus. Faulkner died of a heart attack on July 6, 1962. In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of his This complex, death, Moddistinctly ern Library Southern is reissuing writer six classic Faulkner works changed in handsome the way we new hardcover think about editions. Four storytelling. of these feature new forewords by authors like E.L. Doctorow (As I Lay Dying), Marilynne Robinson (The Sound and the Fury), John Jeremiah Sullivan (Absalom, Absalom!) and C.E. Morgan (Light in August). There is also a single-volume edition of the Snopes trilogy (comprising The Hamlet, The Town and The Mansion) and Selected Short Stories. All of the novels are set in what Cowley called “Faulkner’s mythical kingdom,” the northern Mississippi county that the writer called Yoknapatawpha, which was modeled on real-life Jefferson County. To revisit these books—or read them for the first time—is to be submerged in a literary world that is unique to Faulkner, although many later writers have tried to emulate it: multiple voice narratives, intricately told. What the critic George Garrett says of the Snopes trilogy is true of all of Faulkner’s best work: It is about storytelling itself, “how stories come to be and come to us and how the sum and substance of them become our history; how history is made.” Doctorow suggests that “Faulkner’s greatest work has behind it the overreaching desire to hold together in one place the multifarious energies

of real unstoried life.” Faulkner’s work, of course, is distinctly Southern, and though he traveled far afield, and lived for a time in Paris, New York and, perhaps most famously, Hollywood (where he worked on the screenplay adaptations of Hemingway’s To Have and Have Not and Chandler’s The Big Sleep), in his writing he always returns home. For those seeking more about the man, the seminal work on his life is Joseph Blotner’s Faulkner: A Biography. Jay Parini’s One Matchless Time looks at the life and work to better understand “what it meant for him to invent himself as a southern writer of universal significance.” Becoming Faulkner: The Art and Life of William Faulkner by Philip Weinstein explores the writer’s pervasive sense of failure and embattled sense of self. Selected Letters of William Faulkner is out of print, but Thinking of Home, a collection of youthful letters to his parents, is still available. With prose that can be elliptical and densely wrought, Faulkner demands much from the reader. As a result, these days many outside academia may shy away from his masterful work. But, as Garrett points out, Faulkner is not intrinsically “hard” to read. The intensity and complexity of his work “invites the reader to deeper engagement in the experience of the story.” As readers, as humans, we crave good stories, and there has certainly never been a storyteller with a more sweeping, and at same time more penetrating, vision than William Faulkner.

As I Lay Dying By William Faulkner

Foreword by E.L. Doctorow Modern Library $22, 272 pages ISBN 9780375504525 Audio, eBook available

southern fiction


Behind the Book By Chris Bohjalian

The Proustian madeleines that inspired a novel


hen I was a boy and trying desperately to give a wide berth to the latest culinary travesty my Swedish mother had scooped onto my dinner plate—my mother was a well-intentioned cook, but far too interested in conversation to squirrel herself away in the kitchen and become a good one—she occasionally said, “Eat. You of all people should think of the starving Armenians.” At least once I recall my Armenian father sitting back in his chair after my mother had said that and asking rhetorically, “Why is it that no one ever says, ‘Eat. Think of the starving Bangladeshis?’ Or the starving Cambodians? Honestly, I don’t know of any starving Armenians.” He was the son of Armenian immigrants and he grew up in the impressive brick monolith his father had built in a suburb of New York City. Even as a child, when I thought of my grandparents’ house, instantly I would think of food: The platters of warm cheese boregs, the filo dough oozing butter. The rice pilaf rich with the aroma of chicken broth. The grape leaves stuffed with vegetables. And, of course, the lamb, marinated and tender. I have been a vegetarian for well over a quarter-century, but I know I would be in danger of backsliding if I were transported back to my Armenian grandmother’s kitchen. I had a sense that the phrase had something to do with genocide, but my family never discussed the systematic slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire during the First World War. The expression, I’d learn much later, was most likely coined by


By Chris Bohjalian

Doubleday, $25.95, 320 pages ISBN 9780385534796, Audio, eBook available

Clara Barton. Although the genocide had faded into history for most of the world by the early 1970s, the massacres (and, yes, the starving Armenian orphans) had once been common knowledge among Americans and Europeans. During the genocide, the New York Times published 145 stories about the atrocities. Among the most poignant images for Westerners were the photographs and “Even as a the stories of the chilchild, when I dren. The thought of my orphans. In grand­parents’ 1915, first house, instantly the men I would think and then the women of food.” were killed; as a result, thousands and thousands of orphans were scattered across what is now Syria and Lebanon and Egypt. Consequently, when I decided that it was time to write a novel about the genocide—what my novel’s narrator calls glibly, “The Slaughter You Know Next to Nothing About”—I found myself focused on children and food. Because of the Proustian madeleines from my own childhood, this seemed a viable entry into a story that might otherwise be one mind-numbing horror after another. The novel moves back and forth in time between an ArmenianAmerican novelist at midlife—a female version of me—and a sweeping love story set against the cataclysm of 1915 in the eastern edges of the Ottoman Empire. It is, in part, the tale of Elizabeth Endicott, a 1922 graduate of Mount Holyoke College who travels to the Syrian desert as part of an American relief mission, and her love affair with Armen Petrosian, an Armenian engineer who has already lost his young wife and infant daughter.

There is also a lot of my childhood in the book—and a lot of my grandparents’ house. And, yes, there are orphans in the scenes set in 1915, including one of my favorite characters ever: a quiet, watchful, intense little girl named Hatoun. Was there a real Hatoun? There were tens of thousands of real Hatouns. (The Near East Relief organization cared for more than 100,000 children between 1915 and 1930.) When I visited Lebanon and Armenia earlier this year, trying to ground myself emotionally as the publication of The Sandcastle Girls neared, among the places I went was an orphanage in the Lebanese city of Byblos. The town sits on a hillside above the Mediterranean and is known best for its remarkable Phoenician ruins, including a citadel and an amphitheater at the edge of the cliff. Also there, however, is the Bird’s Nest, the orphanage founded after WWI by Danish missionary Maria Jacobsen. Jacobsen saved no fewer than 3,600 children herself when she converted a villa into an emergency shelter. And how did the orphanage get its name? One afternoon when she was handing out candy to the children, they surrounded her, calling out “Mama, Mama!” Jacobsen looked at the hungry throng and imagined the orphans were like baby birds and she was their mother. When a nun at the orphanage told me this story, I thought of Hatoun and I felt a tremor of sadness ripple across my skin. But I thought also of the structure of my novel and experienced a small swell of relief. There it was, once again: Children and food. Chris Bohjalian is the author of 14 novels, including the bestsellers Midwives, The Night Strangers and

CHRIS BOHJALIAN Skeletons at the Feast. The Sandcastle Girls was inspired by his own heritage—and reader requests for his take on the Armenians’ tragic history. You can visit him at, or look for him on Facebook and Twitter.

Discover the joy of

Debbie Macomber's delightful tale of unexpected love, second chances, and a cat named Dog.

#1 New York Times bestselling author



—Paula McLain, New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Wife

a spellbinding double love story for romantics of every age Clues from a mysterious and impassioned letter will lead two different women— one in 1960 and the other, decades later—to find their own happy endings. “entrancIng.” —Parade “Hopelessly and Hopefully romantIc.” —Chicago Tribune j oj o M oy e s .co M PENGUIN BOOKS


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“I found myself utterly transfIxed . . . Moyes is a tremendously gifted storyteller.”


ho among us hasn’t wished for more hours in a day? In Karen Thompson Walker’s exciting debut novel, The Age of Miracles, we get exactly that—with dire consequences. Eleven-year-old Julia is going about the business of growing up in suburban San Diego—piano lessons, sleepovers, a cute skater boy—when the inexplicable occurs: The earth begins to slow on its axis. Days stretch out, growing first by a few minutes, then by hours. Clocks become absurd, gravity goes wonky, the sun becomes a menace, the long nights are cold and terrifying. Society must decide whether to follow “clock time” (the government’s choice) or real time (the anarchic, countercultural approach). Kids wait for the school bus in pitchdark; people hang blackout curtains to sleep through the bright sun of night. No one knows how long the slowing might last or if it will get worse. Suddenly, adolescence is the least of Julia’s worries. Speaking by phone from her home in Brooklyn, Walker says the idea for The Age of Miracles came from a newspaper article about the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia. The earthquake that preceded the tsunami was so powerful it affected the speed of the earth on its axis, shortening the length of a day by fractions of a second. “I just found that very haunting,” Walker says. “Something we think of as stable and steady—sunset and sunrise.” She immediately wrote a short story inspired by the notion. Years later she went back to the story and felt there was more to say. She also made a crucial change: to slow the earth, rather than speed it up. A grown-up Julia tells the story, looking back on the profound and rapid changes that happened to the world as she grew up. The result is an enthralling novel with multiple layers of tension between the pace of life and the pace of the story. To adolescents, it can seem as if the world is moving at a glacial pace, that adulthood and its freedoms are endlessly far away. For Julia, this is literally true. Her days are twice

as long as they should be. Nevertheless, she’s still in most ways an ordinary (confused, alienated, hopeful) adolescent, beset by life-changing events and emotional upheaval. Walker’s much buzzed-about novel captures all this with eerie precision. “I often had the feeling in those days that I was being watched,” Julia says in the book, “but I think the sensation was a product of the exact opposite conditions.” Walker credits the authenticity of Julia’s voice to “the emotional memory” of her teenage years. “It’s just an age that I remember well,” she says. “It’s when you first start noticing things in the adult world, and so much is changing. It’s visceral.” “Everything in the book is invented,” she adds. “None of it happened to me—but I do remember the feeling. As you grow up, certain friends drift away, and there’s your first love, your first interest.” To make the science of the book feel equally authentic, Walker says, she had to maintain a balance between imagination and hard facts. “I did some research but it needed to also come from my imagination,” she says. “So it was a combination of my imagination and real science.” She filed away details from newspaper articles that were tangentially related to her story—things like how the earth’s magnetic field works, how to grow crops in greenhouses, the effects of radiation. Once she had a completed draft, she summoned the courage to show it to an astrophysicist to make sure nothing she’d written was glaringly implausible. “That was scary,” she says, laughing. “I was relieved by how many of the things I wrote were plausible.” Her job was made a little easier, she adds, because the story focuses on the lives of the people involved, keeping the science in the background. In fact the science behind

what’s happening is often mysterious to the characters; the effects of the slowing only have to be explained to the degree that a very bright, observant 11-year-old narrator would be able to grasp. Julia is a sharp and funny character, and the story has its share of humor and light. But it’s also a grim look at high-speed ecological disaster, and could easily be read as a warning about the importance of treasuring the planet. Walker says she herself is no doomsayer. But, she adds, “I am drawn to stories that have some sort of threat or danger; it has a way of raising the stakes.” Walker, who wrote the novel while working as an editor at Simon & Schuster, has since quit her job to focus on writing, something she’d never imagined she would have the opportunity to do. “I didn’t realize how tempting it would be,” she says. “It’s been really unexpected, amazing, but also hard to process.”

The Age of Miracles

By Karen Thompson Walker

Random House, $26, 288 pages ISBN 9780812992977, audio, eBook available

Beginning July, New York Times bestselling author

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cover story

chris cleave by Amy Scribner


A GRIPPING race for the gold


hris Cleave adjusts the camera on his computer so it focuses on the bikes in the corner of the garage/office space in his London flat. He points to one in particular, a lighter bike, which he uses when it’s not raining.


“I haven’t used it for six bloody weeks,” Cleave says with a laugh, as we continue our Skype conversation. Cleave is only an amateur cyclist. Yet in his third novel, Gold, he somehow inhabits the minds of Olympic-caliber cyclists who pursue that elusive medal to the exclusion of almost everything else. He researched every detail, from what kind of post-race recovery drink a world-class athlete might prefer to how cyclists follow each others’ slipstreams as they race around a velodrome at upwards of 50 miles per hour. The two main athletes in Gold— Kate and Jack Argall—met as teens in an elite cyclist training program. They go on to marry, but only after a tumultuous courtship marred by a love triangle involving another young cyclist, the seductive and troubled Zoe. Jack and Zoe’s past decisions continue to haunt all three of them, who remain friends, competitors and eventually vigilant caregivers for Kate and Jack’s nineyear-old daughter, Sophie Argall, who is gravely ill with leukemia. “I’m interested in what people are like when they’re pushed to the extreme,” says Cleave. “Do we put our career first or family first? It’s an abstract question until you have to face it. For this book, I thought, ‘What’s the most extreme job you could have?’ [Cyclists] are almost like monks. I like these people who sacrifice everything and for whom a silver medal is a total disgrace.” Zoe, in particular, is a composite of several real-life athletes with razor-sharp focus on winning. Cleave cites British athlete Rebecca Romero, who won a silver in Athens in rowing. “She hated that so much that she changed sports, to cycling,” he marvels. Romero went on to win gold in that sport in 2008, becoming

one of only a handful of female athletes to medal in separate summer Olympics in different sports. “Sports are full of people like Zoe,” he says. While Cleave might not be gunning for a place on the podium when the summer Olympics come to London this year, he does admit to being somewhat competitive himself, at least once he began an intensive cycling training program to research the novel. He rides in semi-competitive events—and is training about 15 hours per week for a London-to-Paris race this summer to benefit leukemia and lymphoma research. “I enjoy winning,” he admits with a sly smile. “I enjoy beating people more than I thought I would.” After a slight pause, he reveals that the weekend before, he was on a long ride and spent about 15 “I hate when kilometers (he’s something British!) riding with a very nice as radical fellow. and raw as “And then,” storytelling Cleave says, turns into laughing, “he got a puncture and this elitist I was like, ‘See sport.” you.’ I feel a little bad about that.” That incident notwithstanding, Cleave comes across as a thoroughly likeable, down-to-earth guy. It’s hard to believe he is a best-selling and critically acclaimed novelist (Little Bee, Incendiary), and for two years had a regular column in The Guardian in which he hilariously recounted his adventures in parenting. He gave up the column once his own children grew past “the sweet spot, that universal state of infancy” and into an age where they might be embarrassed by Dad laying their lives

bare in the pages of a newspaper. It needs to be said, though, that the columns are laugh-out-loud funny and worth looking up online. One delicious example: While on a trip to Paris when his wife was pregnant with their first child, they purchased a cot to place in the baby’s nursery. The French salesman mentions that the cot did not meet new European fire regulations. The cot was promptly dubbed The Slightly Dangerous Cot, and lasted through all three children. Despite his successes, Cleave eschews the British writers’ scene, which he calls “quite cliquey,” describing literary events where novelists with a capital N stand quite literally in one circle and the lesser-known, slightly drunker writers stand in a second circle. Cleave also takes good care of his readers, regularly responding to their comments on his blog and interacting with them daily on Twitter. “2 wks to publication,” he tweeted in midMay. “Psyched. If I was an Apollo rocket, this is when giant cranes would begin taking me from the hangar to the launch pad.” “I think storytelling is something we all do quite naturally,” he says. “That doesn’t mean I can ignore the audience or am on another level from them. Quite the opposite. I hate when something as radical and raw as storytelling turns into this elitist sport. I want my work to be a starting point for people to

have great conversations with each other, enjoy it and not put it up on pedestal.” Equally important to Cleave is thoroughly researching his stories. “Then I’m reporting back: ‘This is what I’ve learned, what do we think about that?’ ” To capture the unique voice of young Sophie, Cleave spent time shadowing a hematologist at a children’s hospital. He called the experience “harrowing.” “I was there when he would give the original diagnosis [to families],” Cleave says. “It was very sad, very emotionally draining even for me— and I don’t even have skin in the game. I would go home at the end of those days on the train and try not to cry. My family was at once more


By Chris Cleave

Simon & Schuster, $27, 336 pages ISBN 9781451672725, eBook available

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“Raw, dark, and powerful. Southern Gothic at its best.”

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precious and more fragile.” Cleave describes one child who helped shape the character of Sophie, an almost unbearably brave girl who hides the true extent of her illness from her parents so as not to distract them from their intense Olympic training. “His parents left the room to get a coffee or something, and he immediately changed,” Cleave recalls. “He told me, ‘Do you know what really makes me sad? It’s when Mum and Dad are worried. I sometimes don’t show them when I’m tired.’ You know, death is abstract but they do understand the suffering of their parents.” Thanks to his research, Cleave brings wondrous life to Sophie, a precocious girl who finds escape in the fantasy world of Star Wars. Like the boy Cleave met at the hospital, Sophie goes to great lengths to convince her parents she feels OK, when in truth she has barely enough energy to visit the bathroom. But Gold is more than a story about childhood cancer, or the incredible extremes required of an Olympic athlete. It’s about what people are willing to sacrifice to succeed. When Sophie is rushed to the hospital, desperately sick, Jack sits at her bedside, praying. If you let Sophie live, I will live for her from now on, he thinks. I will hang up my bike. I will make her life my only gold. Yet, at that very moment Kate is competing in a time trial that will secure her spot in the Olympics—or end her career. Jack chooses not to tell her about Sophie’s turn for the worse. “He closed his eyes and imagined Kate, untroubled by anything except the race ahead. He smiled because he had given her something rarer than gold: an hour outside time.” In Gold, as with his previous work, Cleave writes with tremendous heart, displaying a keen eye for life’s absurdities, sorrows and triumphs. The story is riveting, the characters unforgettable. Gold has everything you could ask for in a story: adrenaline-soaked racing, wretchedly human decisions, laughout-loud moments and quietly heartbreaking ones.






by Robert Reid


olympics b y MARTIN B RADY

Let the Games begin


he Olympics may sneak up on its intended audience—that is, the entire world—but once the Games are in full swing, our attention matches their intensity. Warm up by exploring the fascinating history of this quadrennial athletic extravaganza. 

Olympics host city takes center stage Every time I go to London, where I was lucky enough to live a decade ago, I return home energized by its deep history and newly motivated to explore my own home. And to read. All eyes are on London this summer for the Olympic Games, which begin July 27, so it’s high time to learn more about the host. The best starting place is Peter Ackroyd’s London: The Biography (Anchor, $21, 848 pages ISBN 9780385497718), which treats the

city as a person, unlocking insights like alleys that have never known quiet, and church bells built to out-clang their neighbors. Or zero in on pre-Olympic East London with another excellent Ackroyd book, Thames: A Biography (Anchor, $21, 481 pages, ISBN 9780307389848). If you’ve been watching the BBC’s “Sherlock” on PBS (and you should), you’ll want to pick up the entertaining collection of 18 wellknown authors giving their own take on London’s most famous detective in A Study in Sherlock (Bantam, $15, 385 pages, ISBN 9780812982466). Not every story is set in London: Tom Perry’s story puts Sherlock and Dr. Watson in Buffalo, New York, with the London duo trying to save President McKinley from an anarchist’s


fatal bullet. Sherlock isn’t the only one getting a modern makeover— next up: English cuisine. Fergus Henderson’s The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating (Ecco, $19.99, 224 pages, ISBN 9780060585365)—a lively foodie read with an intro by Anthony Bourdain—helped kick-start the whole nose-to-tail eating phenomenon with a book that the New York Times calls the Ulysses of the Slow Food movement. And if you go to London, you can sample some of the best English cuisine not far from the Olympic sites at Henderson’s St. John Bread & Wine in Spitalfields. For a deeper dive into the British psyche, try Bill Bryson’s hilarious Notes from a Small Island (Morrow, $14.99, pages, ISBN 9780380727506), an account of the Iowa expat’s farewell to his long-time adopted English home and culture. Bryson often goes off-track to remote, hard-to-reach corners, requiring good shoes and a sense of humor. And if you have kids to entertain, Lonely Planet’s new Not for Parents travel series is a fantastic help. The best of the bunch is Not for Parents: London ($14.99, 96 pages, ISBN 9781742208169), illuminating everything from jellied eels and Austin Powers’ hangouts to the place where you can see Harry Potter’s Platform 9 ¾ in real life.

Robert Reid is the U.S. Travel Editor for Lonely Planet. He lives in New York City, but is still uncertain if he prefers his one-time home of London.

The first marathon London is the only city to host the Olympics three times, having done so previously in 1908 and 1948. Journalist David Davis’ Showdown at Shepherd’s Bush (St. Martin’s, $25.99, 304 pages, ISBN 9780312641009) relates the story of three men who arrived at the 1908 Games to compete in the first modern Olympic marathon. Johnny Hayes was an Irish scrapper from the streets of New York City, Dorando Pietri a candymaker from Italy, and Tommy Longboat a Native American by way of Canada. All three men had humble roots, and the account of their race is gripping, including the contentious outcome. Yet Davis’ book is also a profile of a time—when the Olympics had only recently been resuscitated and when sports in general were beginning to attract rabid spectator interest. “London 1908 serves as the blueprint for subsequent Olympics,” Davis writes. “They were the first to involve national squads. . . . They were the first to have an Opening Ceremony, with each country’s team marching en masse, and the first to feature a newly built, state-of-the-art stadium.” It was also the first Olympiad to be extensively photographed and filmed, setting a precedent that has never wavered. 

Hoop stars The U.S. Olympic basketball squad of 1992—led by Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird—vanquished its opponents with a virtual flick of their talented wrists. Longtime Sports Illustrated staffer Jack McCallum puts their

accomplishments in perspective in Dream Team (Ballantine, $28, 384 pages, ISBN 9780345520487), which provides the history of how the team came to be, but also benefits mightily from the author’s updated interviews with the principals. The Dream Team was untouchable on the court, and one can argue that this Olympic episode had more to do with promotion than the spirit of Olympic competition. But more interesting than the basketball dominance are the behind-the-scenes politics that spawned this particular collection of players. McCallum brings events vividly to life—including the concerns about Magic’s recent HIV diagnosis and Charles Barkley’s off-the-court antics—and effectively gets inside the heads of his famous subjects, exposing their egos and occasional insecurities. McCallum writes with energy, and his book is way more riveting than, say, Michael & Co.’s 117-85 drubbing of Croatia in the Gold Medal game.

For armchair warriors Finally, British writers David Goldblatt and Johnny Acton smartly serve up How to Watch the Olympics (Penguin, $15, 384 pages, ISBN 9780143121879). This handbook, with its fast facts and useful overviews of the many events, plus its thumbnail portraits of past Olympic performers, should rest comfortably on the easy chair, ready for quick access as the TV broadcasts commence. Visit for more Olympic book coverage.

“Consume with a bowl of popcorn and plenty of hankies.” —Publishers Weekly

In the bestselling tradition of The Friday Night Knitting Club and The Jane Austen Book Club, three women find unexpected answers, happiness, and one another, with Meryl Streep movies as their inspiration.

“A heartwarming, spirit-lifting read just in time for beach season.” —Kirkus Reviews

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reviews The Innocents


Going to the chapel? By Jillian Quint

—Harvey Freedenberg

In the wake of the 100th anniversary of Edith Wharton’s birth, there has been much discussion of the writer, from Jonathan Franzen’s polarizing New Yorker piece to the inevitable “Downton Abbey” comparisons. But in many ways, Francesca Segal’s The Innocents is the most ambitious commentary of them all. In this impressive debut novel, Wharton’s masterpiece The Age of Innocence is imagined as a contemporary tale, set in the insular Jewish suburb of North West London. In Segal’s update, “gentleman lawyer” Newland Archer is recast as Adam Newman, a good Jewish boy set to marry his high school sweetheart, Rachel Gilbert, whom he met on a trip to Israel in high school. All is going according to plan when Rachel’s long-estranged cousin Ellie re-enters the community after being kicked out of Columbia University for making a pornographic video. Tall, sexy and irreverent, Ellie is like nobody Adam By Francesca Segal has ever met—certainly the exact opposite of his bubbly, carb-counting Voice, $25, 288 pages, and achingly familiar fiancée. As the wedding approaches, Adam’s desire ISBN 9781401341817, eBook available for Ellie increases and, much like Wharton’s cowardly hero, he struggles with how much rebellion he is willing to embrace. Rachel and Ellie are more self-assured than their Age of Innocence counterparts. Ellie recognizes Adam’s feelings from the onset and is both discouraging and complicit in his pseudo-conquest. Likewise, Rachel emerges as more intelligent than she initially lets on, finding ways to re-engage her precious “Ads” at the very moments he seems closest to abandoning her. This three-person power play is interesting enough already, but what makes The Innocents so smart and compelling is the way in which Segal renders the story entirely her own. Via her expert knowledge of her characters’ milieu, readers are granted intimate access to a wonderfully specific world. Yet the Gilberts’ upper-middle class preoccupation with Purim plays and Friday night dinners and holidays on the Red Sea will ring true not only to those familiar with such traditions, but also to anyone who comes from a similarly cloistered community.

Say Nice Things About Detroit By Scott Lasser

Norton $25.95, 352 pages ISBN 9780393082999 Audio, eBook available



Whether it’s founded on a reputation for rampant crime or the recent travails of the automobile industry, is there any American city more maligned than Detroit? It’s something of an act of authorial courage, then, that Scott Lasser has chosen to set his fourth novel in the Motor City, but with Detroit taking its first halting steps toward a revival, the setting seems eminently fitting for a story about fresh starts and second chances.

When lawyer David Halpert returns to Michigan from Denver to help care for his mother, who’s suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, he’s greeted by the shocking news that an ex-girlfriend and her stepbrother, a retired FBI undercover agent, have been gunned down in Detroit’s Greektown neighborhood. Through those killings he reconnects with Carolyn Evans, sister of the murdered woman, and meets Marlon Booker, a young man who’s struggling to slip the tightening bonds of the drug trade and linked by a family friendship to the other victim. Blending an uncluttered, fastmoving plot with more character development than is sometimes evident in popular fiction, Lasser seems as interested in exploring David’s sorrow over the death of his teenage son in an automobile accident or the emotional pull of his attraction to Carolyn as he is in unraveling the

About Detroit with their perceptions of that beleaguered city fundamentally changed, but this appealing story may prompt some to hope it will receive the chance at redemption that Scott Lasser so generously extends to his characters.

mystery that’s centered in Marlon’s dangerous world. Though he’s chosen to set the novel’s main action in 2006, with some of Detroit’s worst days still ahead, Lasser effectively highlights the racial and economic tensions that have plagued the city for decades. He understands, for one thing, that Eight Mile Road, made famous by Eminem, is much more than a physical boundary separating the city from its more affluent suburbs. That sharp divide is symbolized by David’s decision to move into the Palmer Woods neighborhood, once home to wealthy Detroiters who have long since departed for mostly white enclaves. It’s a brave choice that’s greeted with skepticism by his African-American neighbors and a decision that’s revelatory of his character. It’s not likely many readers will come away from Say Nice Things

The Absolutist By John Boyne

Other Press $16.95, 320 pages ISBN 9781590515525 eBook available


John Boyne has a gift for crafting historical tales that hold all the richness and scope of a period while still maintaining a sense of intimacy. The Absolutist might be his most intimate story yet—a journey inside the mind of a man who’s seen the horror of war, and the tale of his quest to somehow find peace in the lonely aftermath. In the fall of 1919, World War I veteran Tristan Sadler travels from London to Norwich to deliver a package of letters to the sister of Will Bancroft, a soldier Tristan met while training for the war in 1916. Tristan bears the scars of war on his body, but the real reason for his journey is the scars on his heart. The world knows only that Tristan and Will were friends, and how Will officially met his end. But the truth is that Tristan and Will were something more, and what really happened to Will is a secret that cuts Tristan deeper than any war wound. Many volumes of historical fiction swell to massive length thanks to the author’s penchant for period details and historical info-dumps. Amid other works of its genre, The Absolutist is surprisingly slim. Boyne conveys the period accurately and elegantly, but the characters—specifically Tristan, who narrates—are the stars. This isn’t a novel about WWI; it’s a novel about the unique horror of one man’s experience, and Boyne makes every word count. By the end, when Tristan’s secrets

FICTION are revealed, you realize you’ve just encountered something rare in a war novel: a unique vision of the scarred, reluctant warrior trope. You might think you recognize Tristan’s type, but as Boyne unfolds his tale he ensures that you don’t. This is a different kind of journey into the darkness of war, told by a gifted, powerful novelist, and the result is a book with an often staggering emotional punch. —Matthew Jackson


Skios By Michael Frayn

Metropolitan Books $25, 272 pages ISBN 9780805095494 Audio, eBook available


Michael Frayn is perhaps best

known as an award-winning playwright, especially for his theatrical farce, Noises-Off. But he is also an accomplished novelist. His new novel Skios is a dizzying send-up of foreign travel and academic foundations, combined with stock comic elements such as mistaken identity, identical suitcases and taxi drivers who don’t speak English. The novel is set at the Fred Toppler Foundation, a dreamy mix of white walls, blue waters and cascading bougainvillea on the gorgeous Greek island of Skios. The Foundation is run to perfection by the ultra-competent Nikki Hook, Mrs. Toppler’s personal assistant, whose genial temper and blonde good looks mask her loneliness and ambition. Ms. Hook has arranged for Dr. Norman Wilfred, a notable in the world of science management, to give the annual Foundation lecture in front of an international high-paying audience. At the airport, she mistakenly

picks up Oliver Fox, an impulsive womanizer with tousled hair and a dazzling smile who has come to Greece to hook up with Georgie, a woman he picked up in a bar when her boyfriend stepped away for a mere minute. While Nikki and Oliver head off to the Foundation, the hapless Dr. Wilfred, after picking up the wrong luggage, gets taken to a rented villa, where Georgie awaits. You can see where this is going. Skios unravels like an anxiety dream where the sense of things slipping out of control increases with every step. Each time the novel shifts toward resolution, something happens that spins everything else out of control. The series of misunderstandings continues unabated as Oliver’s former girlfriend arrives at the island, along with a cast of Russian oligarchs and American investors with their own nefarious agenda. Skios gets interesting when Frayn plays with the genre, suggesting

we often believe what we want to believe. People can convince themselves, despite all evidence to the contrary, that a young and handsome playboy is a middle-aged and frumpy renowned scientist. This insight, along with Frayn’s sharp-eyed satire of the academic culture circuit, provides some food for thought among the froth. — L a u r e n B u ff e r d


Some Kind of Fairy Tale By Graham Joyce

Doubleday $24.95, 352 pages ISBN 9780385535786 Audio, eBook available


Fans of novels featuring dark, haunted woods, overgrown English

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“Palmer…is the queen of desperado quests for justice and true love.” —Publishers Weekly on Dangerous

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23 12-05-01 1:23 PM


short stories

By Harvey Freedenberg

Focus on the family


his summer brings two short story collections perfect for dipping in and out of on your vacation: one by naturalist and poet Lucia Perillo, and a debut offering by Natalie Serber. Both focus on families, though the majority of Serber’s work is devoted more specifically to the ties between mothers and daughters.

The 14 stories in Happiness Is a Chemical in the Brain (Norton, $23.95, 224 pages, ISBN 9780393083538) are firmly rooted in the small towns and quiet neighborhoods of the Pacific Northwest. Three linked stories


follow Louise, a developmentally disabled adult who is a goodnatured witness to her mother’s unhappiness and her younger sister’s sexual adventures. Many of Lucia Perillo’s adult characters recollect their childhoods, seeking answers to current situations in past behaviors. The wild exploits of youth are dissected in several stories such as “The Cavalcade of the Old West,” in which two sisters recall their adventures at a summer fair before one sister’s promiscuity drove them down separate paths. In “Report from the Trenches,” a frustrated housewife lives vicariously through the memories of her neighbor, now prim and proper, but once a female gang member. The narrator in “A Ghost Story,” one of the strongest stories in the collection, remembers her years as a “girl flagger” in a highway crew and the affair she had with a man who literally picked her up off the street. Perillo’s characters are tough but with an edgy wit and a refreshing lack of self-pity, despite their often dead-end

circumstances. Perillo’s work as a poet informs and deepens her language; in “Big-dot Day,” a miserable young boy, dragged cross-country by his mother and her new boyfriend, catches a gull with the boyfriend’s fishing rod while stuck in a motel room. The title story of a chronically ill woman suspecting her husband of infidelity ends with a striking vision of a quilt turning into migrating birds. Natalie Serber explores the emotional rollercoaster of motherhood, from euphoria to fear and everything in between. Most of the stories in Shout Her Lovely Name (HMH, $24, 240 pages, ISBN 9780547634524) trace the life of Ruby Hargrove, the daughter of an alcoholic father and depressed mother and herself the single mother of a daughter, Nora. Beginning with “Ruby Jewel,” the stories follow Ruby as she disentangles herself from her parent’s emotional neediness, only to be abandoned with a new baby, and throw a spotlight on seminal episodes of Ruby and Nora’s peripatetic life from New York and California. Each of the other three stories in the collection stands alone, but their subjects—a mother addressing her teenage daughter’s anorexia, a new mother comforting an orphaned baby on a plane and a middle-aged wife and mother taking stock of her life at her husband’s 50th birthday party—mirror and echo the themes explored so thoughtfully in the stories of Nora and Ruby. Like Perillo, Serber writes with grace, humor and a thoughtful, but realistic, understanding of the emotional toll demanded by families.



moors and changelings hidden in the dense brush will be absolutely delighted by the hypnotizing mystery of Graham Joyce’s Some Kind of Fairy Tale. Joyce opens with the promising setup of a returned, thought-for-dead protagonist, blending reality with imagination as he explores what really happened to Tara Martin. Tara lands on her parents’ doorstep on Christmas Day, emaciated, freezing, filthy and somehow not looking a day over 16—the age she was when she mysteriously disappeared 20 years ago. Her parents cannot contain their relief over their daughter’s return. However, Tara’s vague, apologetic excuses don’t fool her brother, Peter, or her distraught ex-boyfriend, Richie. Coaxed into admittance, Tara eventually reveals that she had been taken to a magical land and was unable to cross back and return to her home until six months had passed. Six months—that turned out to be 20 years on the other side. Peter, Peter’s family and Richie are overwhelmed by Tara’s insistent confession. Was Tara in fact taken by a magical being, or is something much darker going on in the inner recesses of her mind? Told from multiple points of view—the concerned brother, the broken-hearted ex-lover, the potentially dangerous therapist and that of Tara herself—Some Kind of Fairy Tale addresses the many questions behind Tara’s vanishing. Did a mystical man really seduce the 16-year-old, carting her off via white horse to a strange land full of ritualistic orgies and honor killings? And if her story is made up, how to explain why a strange man is following Richie and attacking him in the dead of night? Or Tara’s remarkably youthful appearance? Joyce bends the authorial suspension of disbelief as he explores the multiple layers behind Tara’s traumatic disappearance and return. As the sinister psychologist ponders her sanity and Richie begins to question his own mind, Tara’s ultimate fate will leave readers feeling as if they had been under a spell the entire duration of her journey.

After hitting the bestseller list in 2010 with her enthralling first novel, San Antonio writer Leila Meacham returns with the much-anticipated Tumbleweeds. Like Roses, her new work is set in Texas, where drama runs rampant and football stars run the town. Told over the course of decades, this story is a whirlwind full of deceit, murder and unyielding love. Complete with Friday night football games and a love triangle, Tumbleweeds tells the story of three close friends living in a small Texas Panhandle town. Catherine Ann, a straightlaced California girl, leaves her luxurious home to move in with her grandmother after her parents are killed. She guardedly enters her new life at Kersey Elementary, where she meets the boys who will shape her life. Pals Trey Don “TD” Hall and John Caldwell act as Catherine Ann’s protectors, ushering her into their world of popularity and football. In one way or another, the three are all orphans, and they quickly form bonds as tight as blood relatives. After several nights of passion and secrets left untold, their lives are forever changed as their familial bond unexpectedly and gravely crumbles. Just like tumbleweeds, they are detached from each other, left to drift in the wind. Thoughtfully written, Tumbleweeds follows these characters through struggles and growing pains, all born from their family misfortunes and adolescent mistakes. When all is said and done, each person understands the truth of the adage, “timing is everything.” Meacham’s second novel is a juicy page-turner that will keep readers on the edge of their seats until the final page.

—Megan Fishmann

—Meg Bowden


Tumbleweeds By Leila Meacham

Grand Central $25.99, 480 pages ISBN 9781455509249 Audio, eBook available

popular fiction

FICTION The Red House By Mark Haddon

Doubleday $25.95, 272 pages ISBN 9780385535779 Audio, eBook available


The family vacation has been the subject of many a comedic essay and Chevy Chase film, but in Mark Haddon’s new book, it gets both the literary and psychological treatment. The Red House, Haddon’s first adult novel since 2006’s A Spot of Bother, is undoubtedly the writer’s most ambitious undertaking to date. And yet, it also pays homage to his most acclaimed book, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the NightTime: In both stories, Haddon taps


into the brains of children while at the same time making the quotidian feel larger than life. His latest offering follows one family—husband Dominic, wife Angela, children Alex, Daisy and Benjy—on a trip to Wales to visit Angela’s brother Richard and new wife and stepdaughter. From the onset, nobody is particularly excited about this sojourn (Angela and Richard haven’t been close since the death of their mother) and the laborious way in which the clan goes through the motions of “quality time” is one of the book’s many uncomfortable delights. Still, more interesting is Haddon’s creative approach to interiority. In lieu of typical authorial omniscience, he jumps from character to character’s brain—often multiple times within a single page—in a way that is both frenetic and delightful. In other words, don’t get put off if you’re

initially confused; you’ll eventually get used to the device and come to appreciate Haddon’s ability to illuminate an incident from multiple points of view. Indeed, one of the book’s many great truths is that each person is too wrapped up in his own tiny dramas to appreciate anyone else’s: Angela in the loss of a stillborn child, Alex in his nascent need to assert his masculinity, Daisy in her conflicted (if fervent) relationship with God, and so on. This can lead—as in the case of several failed kisses—to miscommunications only comprehensible from the outside in. And yet, as the trip’s small incidents play out, the characters do change and do learn to understand one another—particularly the teenagers, for whom Haddon clearly has great compassion. It’s also worth mentioning that Haddon is a supremely talented and perceptive writer with a great love of

language and poetics. If The Curious Incident relied on simple diction and vocabulary, this book is the opposite—lyrically flowing from thought to thought, brain to brain, potential connection to potential connection. —J i l l i a n Q u i n t


Shadow of Night By Deborah Harkness

Viking $28.95, 592 pages ISBN 9780670023486 Audio, eBook available

popular FICTION

With her first novel, A Discovery of Witches, Deborah Harkness experienced the kind of success few authors dare to dream of. At a time when there is no shortage of books

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reviews devoted to creatures that go bump in the night, Harkness’ hefty tome—the first in a trilogy—managed to find its way into the hands of millions of readers. It introduced readers to Diana Bishop, a witch who denies her craft, and Matthew Clairmont, an austere geneticist who also happens to be a vampire, entrancing us with the irresistible—but forbidden—relationship that developed between the two. When last we saw Diana and Matthew, they were attempting to travel to the 16th century in an effort to preserve their lives and unlock the secrets surrounding Diana’s magic. Shadow of Night picks up right where the previous book left off, with Diana and Matthew touching down in Elizabethan England. Their hunt for a witch who can help Diana harness her powers and the mysterious Ashmole 782 volume carries them through the labyrinthine streets of London, as well as across the sea to

FICTION France and Prague. Initially reveling in her ability to bend time, Diana soon learns that you can travel across the globe and even across centuries, but the troubles of your life will always find you. As Diana struggles to master the secrets of her craft, she must also confront the fact that Matthew has been keeping some earth-shattering secrets. From the very first pages of Shadow of Night it is evident that this novel is as much a love story about a bygone era as it is about Matthew and Diana. It overflows with a colorful cast of characters, many of whom Harkness has plucked straight from the history books, and Harkness renders the late 1500s in exquisite detail. At times, this meticulousness causes the plot to stall, but the writing is so rich, and the characters so compelling, readers are sure to forgive. Best of all, Harkness manages to execute with aplomb the act of answering old questions while posing new ones that will intensify anticipation for the final installment. Readers who have been counting down the days, take heart: The wait was most assuredly worth it. —Stephenie Harrison


The Red Chamber By Pauline A. Chen

Tax Collectors…and Other Sinners by Wayne Vinson AuthorHouse • $9.99 ISBN 9781456734275

Knopf $26.95, 400 pages ISBN 9780307701572 Audio, eBook available

Want something different? How about this: Someone is killing IRS agents. This is blazing action!


The Guardians by Richard Williams AuthorHouse • $16.99 ISBN 9781434376633


Two shelties lead their masters back to the path of God’s love. These special dogs have the ability to speak, but their unusual talent is a closely guarded secret.

Baochai and her mother and brother already live on the Jia estate, which for all intents and purposes is run by their tight-fisted, capable aunt Xifeng, who handles the money and is in charge of the servants. Picture Downton Abbey in early modern China, and you won’t be too far off the mark. It’s a way of life that has gone on for centuries, but political intrigue, combined with the Jias’ personal conflicts, threatens to bring the entire household to its knees. The aging emperor is growing feeble, and whether or not the Jias will continue to bask in imperial favor depends upon his choice of successor. Inside the Jia home, the turmoil is just as great. Childless after several years of marriage, Xifeng learns that her husband is going to take another wife. Despising her helplessness within the concubine system, she grows bitter in her need for money and reckless in her search for affection. In the meantime, the close friendship formed by Baochai and Daiyu begins to erode as they both fall for Baoyu, the pampered heir of Jia Zheng. Chen, who holds degrees from three Ivy League schools, is the author of the well-received children’s novel Peiling and the Chicken-Fried Christmas. Her first novel for adults is skillfully written. Despite their Eastern origins, Chen’s enaging heroines seem like direct descendants of the doomed, repressed women of classic Western literature. —Ian Schwartz

Alif the Unseen In The Red Chamber, a vivid, lively reimagining of the lengthy Chinese classic Dream of the Red Chamber, Pauline A. Chen brings to life three unforgettable women trapped by class, time and circumstance. Set in Beijing at the end of the 18th century—which is when all 2,500 pages of the original were written—the novel is the story of Daiyu, her cousin Baochai and her uncle’s wife, Xifeng. Daiyu, raised in simple circumstances in the country, is sent to her uncle Jia Zheng’s mansion after her mother dies of consumption.

By G. Willow Wilson Grove $25, 320 pages ISBN 9780802120205 Audio available


“Sometimes anger is the pure and determined light that shows you the way forward.” With these introductory words, author G. Willow Wilson sends her ferocious and joyful debut novel into the world—more accurately, her debut text-based novel,

for Alif the Unseen comes on the winged heels of her award-winning graphic work. As with every comicbook artist turned author, the critical question is this: Can her talent for vivid characterization translate from image into text? The answer, in Wilson’s case, is a resounding “yes.” The main reason for her success is her anger. It’s a courageous matter for a Muslim woman to express rage to a Western readership that has come so readily to equate Muslim rage with the horrors of 9/11. But a decade after that catastrophe, the fragile Arab Spring has given a new face to Muslim anger: not a murderous hatred, but a fine outrage against tyranny; a gutsy and spontaneous resistance against various regimes who have falsely equated freedom with apostasy. Computer technology, and the social networking it has engendered, has been the most powerful tool for this painful process of liberation. It is inevitable, then, for the hero of Alif the Unseen to be a computer hacker, that most “unseen” of antiheroes. Alif only wanted to use his geeky skills to be with Intisar, his unattainable beloved. Instead, he finds himself at the head of a vast political storm—at first inadvertently, but then with whole heart. He is a modern-day Aladdin who rubs not a magic lamp, but a mouse pad, thus loosing chaos into his unnamed Arabian city, including genie (properly spelled “jinn”), demons and “The Hand,” who seeks to control the fate of his people. At the center of the tale stands the figure of Dina, the “unbeautiful” maiden who hides her light under a bushel of Muslim veils. Dina points Alif to the redemption of his world through love—the unseen first principle of every great faith tradition. Whatever the critical response may be to Wilson’s unique and unruly literary gifts, there is no question that Alif the Unseen is one of those rare events in the history of publishing, when an ancient pattern of storytelling (The Arabian Nights) is grafted onto an up-to-the-minute world crisis. This synthesis has great spiritual authority, thanks to the vision of G. Willow Wilson. —Michael Alec Rose


Mrs Robinson’s Disgrace By Kate Summerscale

Coming to My Senses

Bloomsbury $26, 384 pages ISBN 9781608199136 eBook available

Scents and sensibility review By Catherine Hollis

Woodsy and seductive, with a hint of spice, Coming to My Senses: A Story of Perfume, Pleasure, and an Unlikely Bride offers a luscious immersion in the world of perfume obsession. But what makes this memoir so appealing are its deeper notes, the ones that linger on after reading: the story of a how a no-nonsense, underemployed English Ph.D., who usually dresses like “an unmade bed,” discovers the pleasures of femininity and her own senses through an affair with fragrance. Stumbling onto the world of perfume blogs late one night, Alyssa Harad discovers a new and fascinating world of scent and language; she is as seduced by the perfumes as by the challenge of describing them. Samples start arriving in the mail, and Harad begins to develop a “vocabulary of scents” to describe the “scratchy, dirty richness” of patchouli or the “drugged, dreamy” sensation of jasmine. One afternoon, a magiBy Alyssa Harad cal transformation occurs: A honeyed wine fragrance inspires her to Viking, $25.95, 261 pages ISBN 9780670023615, eBook available dump the sweats, and put on earrings and lipstick—the freelance writer as Cinderella! The elegance of Harad’s narrative comes as much from what it doesn’t say as what it does. Unlike many contemporary memoirs, Coming to My Senses contains no trauma, no bad childhood and no exposé of her relationship with boyfriend V. (she mentions postponing their wedding, but we never learn exactly why). Such reticence is refreshing, even ladylike, and after all, there is so much to say about the scents of saffron and vetiver, the “aunties” back home in Boise and the unexpected kindness of Bergdorf’s salespeople. We never miss the trauma. In fact, this memoir performs a kind of inspirational function: I’m wearing a blend of gardenia and cherry blossom as I write this. Now if I could just get out of these yoga pants.

Barack Obama By David Maraniss

Simon & Schuster 672 pages, $32.50 ISBN 9781439160404 Audio, eBook available


The advance buzz for Barack Obama centers on the diary entries kept by Genevieve Cook, who was the one-time girlfriend of the man who would become the 44th president of the United States. Obama was 22 at the time, a recent graduate of Columbia University, living in New York and searching for his place in life. The diary entries, excerpted in Vanity Fair prior to the book’s publication, are intriguing because they reinforce the image of Obama being cool and aloof. Indeed, the 18-month relationship collapses under the weight of inertia as Obama

decides to move to Chicago to become a community organizer. The rest, as they say, is history. While Cook’s often-whiny diary entries are juicy, they represent only a fraction of what makes Barack Obama a great book. Author David Maraniss, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, uses his skills as a journalist to uncover new details about Obama and his ancestors. The book traces the Obama family tree back to his great-grandparents in Kansas and in Kenya. It follows Obama as a young boy as he hopscotches across the globe from Hawaii to Indonesia, and then as a young man attending college in Los Angeles, and later New York. The chronicles of this circuitous journey only reinforce how remarkable a story it is that Obama ended up in the White House. Barack Obama fills in the blanks of Obama’s own memoir, Dreams from My Father, because Maraniss is such a thorough reporter and researcher. The author of a memoir has a singular perspective, and can


be selective with the particulars, while a biographer strives to find all the facts. Obama’s book creates the frame for the portrait. Maraniss’ book connects the dots. What is fascinating about Barack Obama is that it ends before Obama enters politics. In fact, the protagonist doesn’t appear until the seventh chapter. Maraniss explains that he took this approach to delve deeply into Obama’s background and discover what shaped his character: Growing up as a biracial child with no father and a mother who was often gone; raised by white grandparents who struggled with their prejudices, the future president faced many challenges. “It helped explain his caution, his tendency to hold back and survey life like a chessboard,” Maraniss writes. As Obama finishes his fourth year in office, some say he is even more of an enigma. Barack Obama is a book guaranteed to bring more clarity to his story.

Until the mid-19th century, the only way to obtain a divorce in England was through a private act of Parliament. Given the difficulty of such a process, it made divorce effectively impossible for anyone but the rich and powerful. Then, in 1858, came the revolution: Divorce Court. The unhappy rushed to take advantage of the new law, and domestic secrets were exposed to all. Perhaps the most sensational resulting scandal involved Henry and Isabel Robinson, the subject of Kate Summerscale’s riveting Mrs Robinson’s Disgrace: The Private Diary of a Victorian Lady. It started when Henry Robinson, a prosperous manufacturer, read his wife’s secret diary and found what he believed was evidence of her infidelity with a respected doctor who ran a flourishing health spa. Henry filed for divorce, naming the doctor as co-respondent. With the diary—emotional, erotic, but not specific—as evidence, the newly appointed divorce judges had to decide whether the marriage should end and who should pay the cost. Summerscale, whose earlier book The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, focused on the same period, has found a story that wonderfully encapsulates much of the social ferment of the time. Isabel was a talented but frustrated woman whose friends were among the progressive intelligentsia. Her marriage a disaster, she lost her religious faith and found comfort in phrenology. Her putative lover—who denied everything and told everyone she was crazy—was a pioneer in health care. Summerscale uses the diary, private letters, newspaper stories and public documents to seamlessly and dispassionately tell Isabel’s stillpoignant story.




reviews BEACH READ

Yes, Chef By Marcus Samuelsson

Random House $27, 319 pages ISBN 9780385342605 Audio, eBook available


Marcus Samuelsson made his name as one of the youngest executive chefs in Manhattan and a familiar face on the Food Network. What might be less familiar is Samuelsson’s fascinating personal history, which he lays bare in Yes, Chef. Born in Ethiopia, Samuelsson and his sister became dangerously ill with tuberculosis. Their mother walked with them from their remote village to Addis Ababa, where she died. The children were adopted by a loving Swedish family. Samuelsson spent much of his

NONFICTION childhood at the elbow of his Swedish grandmother, an excellent home cook, and went on to work at restaurants in Europe. But after a horrific car accident killed one of his closest friends, Samuelsson sought an apprenticeship to take him away from his grief. He landed at New York’s Aquavit, a restaurant that is, he writes, “more Swedish in its menu than any I had ever worked in.” This was the beginning of a love affair with New York City. To read his descriptions of the food he eats, from steamed buns in Chinatown to roasted meats from street vendors, is to almost viscerally experience the smells, sounds and sights of the city. Although he traveled the world learning about every cuisine from French to Mexican, Samuelsson was at a loss when a student asked him to describe trends in African cooking. He had not set foot on the continent since he was a toddler. Rediscovering his Ethiopian roots led him to open the successful Red

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Candidate Without A Prayer Herb Silverman In this deeply revealing and engaging autobiography, Candidate Without a Prayer offers an intimate portrait of a central player in today’s increasingly heated culture wars. It will be sure to charm both believers and nonbelievers alike, and will lead all those who care about the separation of church and state to give thanks. 978-0-9844932-8-9 | $22.95


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Sooner Than I Thought Stacie Ellerson

Sooner Than I Thought is a powerful dynamic story of the twists and turns of this courageous savvy author’s life’s experiences. Stacie takes the reader on a roller coaster ride of one emotional heart wrenching experience after another! Stacie provokes passion, pain and compassion with an intense exemplification of power and fortitude. 978-0-9851671-0-3 | $19.99

Philogos Tabula Rasa SOMOS

Philogos Tabula Rasa searches deep into the questions of life and offers unique conclusions. The book seeks to offer the reader an unbiased, unmortgaged look at the way things really, truly are without any preconceptions, entrenched traditions, beliefs, or hypocrisy. It provides some deep reading for those interested in the bigger questions of life. 978-0-9787987-5-8 | $14.99

Rooster in 2010, deliberately choosing the underappreciated streets of Harlem as the site for the restaurant. Samuelsson’s is the most unlikely of journeys, and he takes readers along every step of the way in this delicious memoir. — AMY SCRI B NER

The Long Walk By Brian Castner

Doubleday $25.95, 240 pages ISBN 9780385536202 Audio, eBook available


In the era of the War on Terror, it is common for soldiers to serve two, three, even four tours of duty. Yet even after 11 years of combat in Afghanistan and Iraq, the consequences of repeated deployment remain largely hidden from view. Brian Castner’s new memoir, The Long Walk, shatters stereotypes about the private wars that veterans fight once they return home. Throughout his raw and compelling narrative, Castner meditates on whether soldiers lament or celebrate their redeployment, arguing that it can offer a very real, if ironic, sense of relief from the pressures at home. At the very least, redeployment allows soldiers to put the skills they learned on the battlefield back into practice—skills that have little place in civilian life. An electrical engineer-turned-Air Force officer, Castner earned a Bronze Star as the commander of an Explosive Ordinance Disposal unit in Iraq. After two tours disarming improvised weapons in Balad and Kirkuk, Castner began to experience extreme bouts of anxiety at home. He calls his debilitating combination “the Crazy”— a combination of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury. In an especially poignant passage, he compares his condition to feeling like you’re stuck in a classroom on the last day of school, taking an exam, while your friends shout at you from outside to finish. It’s an itch, an unbearable restlessness,

with no promise of relief. For the veterans living with PTSD or TBI, and for those active-duty soldiers exhausted by their redeployment schedules, the powerful story of Castner’s sacrifice and hard-fought personal victories may prove cathartic. For the rest of us, The Long Walk is an invaluable look into the private, lonely wars waged by those who fight on our behalf. — LOUIS GULINO

Some of My Best Friends Are Black By Tanner Colby

Viking $27.95, 320 pages ISBN 9780670023714 eBook available


Some of My Best Friends Are Black looks at integration and the ways it has failed from a fresh perspective. While campaigning for Barack Obama in 2008, Tanner Colby realized he didn’t know any black people. Asking around, he found that his friends didn’t either. There were very few circumstances when blacks and whites, as Colby would phrase it, hang out and play Scrabble together. He set out to learn why. Four related stories come together here: a Birmingham school system’s gradual integration; a Kansas City neighborhood that fought housing discrimination; the separate and unequal strata occupied by blacks and whites in advertising; and the intergration of a Louisiana Catholic parish whose parishioners were separated only by a parking lot. There’s no “a-ha” moment in the book, promising an easy solution and more Scrabble nights if we all follow directions. As Colby writes, “White resistance and black reticence are hopelessly entwined with one another, endlessly variable from situation to situation.” It’s not the recipe for racial harmony, but Some of My Best Friends Are Black moves the discussion forward and out into new territory. —Heather Seggel



hat would it be like if your favorite character from a book came to life and left his fictional world behind to join you in reality? Jodi Picoult teams up with her 16-year-old daughter Samantha van Leer to answer that question in a clever and charming new novel for teens. Between the Lines features high school outcast Delilah McPhee, who falls for the hero of a strange children’s book. This fairy tale prince is not only “cuter than any guy” in Delilah’s school, he’s also smart, sensitive and courageous. Can she find a way to get Oliver off the page and into the real world where they’ll live happily ever after? We asked the mother-daughter writing pair to tell us more about how they created this delightful fractured fairy tale. Sammy, this is your first book, and Jodi, this is your first teen book. What was it like venturing into uncharted territory? Jodi: I’ve been asked to write versions of my books for younger readers who might not be emotionally ready for some of the content of my grownup novels, and I’ve always said no—I’d rather tell the story the way I need to tell it, and have the kid wait till he/she is ready to read it in that form, instead of a watereddown version. But this story, which was 100 percent Sammy’s idea, was so different, and so cool—who hasn’t had a wicked crush on a character in a book at some point in her life? It felt rich enough to be a chapter book, and was a concept I


By Jodi Picoult & Samantha van Leer

Emily Bestler Books, $19.99, 368 pages ISBN 9781451635751, eBook available, ages 12 and up

thought both adults and teens could relate to. Sammy: It was a lot of hard work, but in the end I was able to create something I could be extremely proud of. I’ve written in the past but I’ve never actually completed anything quite like this in terms of size and scope. I had lots of fun imagining an entire other world where I got to essentially decide the fate of everyone living inside. It was a power I’ve never had before! Was it always a dream for the two of you to collaborate? Jodi: Sammy has always been incredibly creative, and a great writer. There have been story ideas she’s had that are so wildly “Delilah does original I’d find something myself thinking, “I wish I’d been many of us the one to come think about: up with that.” She literally I wasn’t sure if gets inside she’d have the the world of desire or the a book.” fortitude, however, to take on a long-term collaborative project. Although it was her idea, I knew that having my experience crafting something of this magnitude would help—and that I’d be the one reining her in on sunny days when it would have been far more fun to sit outside than to be at a computer writing. I can’t say whether it was a dream for Sammy . . . but it was an unforgettable and wonderful experience for me to have with my own daughter. How was the creation and writing of the story divided between you? Sammy: We sat down together during the summer of my freshman year and every day we’d write for about four hours. Sophomore summer we spent the same amount of time each day editing. This summer—after my junior year—I’ll spend on tour. As for the actual division of labor, we sat side by side

and wrote together, having a conversation or role-playing and writing it down. What’s the best and worst thing about writing with family? Jodi: The worst thing, of course, is that even when we’re writing, I’m still the mom. That means I am not only the one saying, “We have to finish 20 pages today,” I’m also saying, “Clean your room.” But the best thing is that I found our minds worked similarly in remarkable ways. We would literally write every sentence together, taking turns typing. I’d start to speak a sentence and Sammy would finish, or vice-versa. It was as if we were dreaming the same dream, and falling all over each other to describe what we were seeing, only to realize the vision in each of our minds was identical. What sparks the attraction between Delilah and Oliver? Why do you think she connects so strongly with him when she’s a loner around real people? Sammy: I feel like Delilah is more comfortable in the world of books than she is in the real world. When she uses the fairy tale as an escape from her world, she is able to associate with the characters inside better than she would with ordinary teenagers. The reason Oliver is so compelling for her is because he’s nothing like other modern-day teenage boys. He has chivalry, manners, and he also knows what it’s like to feel like he doesn’t belong in the world he inhabits. What is it about Delilah’s character that teens will most identify with or admire? Sammy: Everyone’s felt left out sometime—whether it was in high school or even in preschool on the playground. Anyone can identify with feeling lonely. Also, Delilah does something many of us think



children’s books

about: She literally gets inside the world of a book. What makes your novel a modern story—even though it’s based on a fairy tale? Jodi: The voice of Delilah—which is very poignant and true, and taps into that teen angst of how to find one’s place in a world that doesn’t seem to fit. Which, very intentionally, is also the driving force behind Oliver’s desire to escape his literary existence. There are bits of Delilah’s life that are so real a teen can’t help but identify—Sammy came up with one phrase I loved, in fact, where she described popular girls “clustered together like grapes, because really, do you ever see just one?” Who hasn’t witnessed that in the halls of a modern high school? What’s one book you’d love to be a character in? Sammy: A Dr. Seuss book. It seems like a really happy place to be, full of nonsense and imagination . . . which is a place I’d fit right into. What has the process of working together taught you? Jodi: I’ve always been proud of Sammy’s writing ability, but I was so impressed by her tenacity and her ability to really put in the time and energy required not just to craft a book, but to edit it multiple times, and then tour for eight weeks to promote it across three continents. I learned that I’m not the only story­ teller in the family. And I learned that when my daughter wants to put her mind to a task, she can be incredibly successful.


children’s books Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone


An interrupted coming-of-age Review by Heather Seggel

“The night before Amelia Anne Richardson bled her life away on a parched dirt road outside of town, I bled out my dignity in the back of a pickup truck under a star-pricked sky.” The very first sentence of Amelia Anne Is Dead and Gone tells a surprising amount about the unfolding story and its narrator Becca. Newly graduated from high school and looking to escape small-town life, Becca finds her plans change once she hears of a stranger’s murder. Instead of packing for college, she gets bogged down in the flow of local gossip about Amelia’s death. Vacillating between worry and a kind of internal deadness, she grows concerned that her boyfriend James may be covering for a suspect in the case. Alternating chapters reveal uncanny parallels between Amelia and Becca’s lives, and we watch as one life approaches its end and another is altered forever. This is author Kat Rosenfield’s first novel, and she’s to be commended By Kat Rosenfield for taking risks with Amelia Anne that aren’t common in young adult Dutton, $17.99, 288 pages fiction. The violence in this book is brutal and intimate, but never voyISBN 9780525423898, eBook available euristic—don’t be surprised if you physically recoil yet can’t stop reading. Ages 14 and up Some of Becca’s chapters seem almost to be observed from the air above the town, such as a lengthy meditation about how small-town legends persist and evolve. These musings are dreamy and slow as molasses on the page, yet build and add to the suspense of the mystery. By the end, two people have died as a result of passion and stupidity, and there are no easy explanations for either crime. Amelia Anne Is Dead and Gone blends elegant writing and brutal behavior into a sharp and haunting novel.

Libby of High Hopes By Elise Primavera

Paula Wiseman $14.99, 192 pages ISBN 9781416955429 eBook available Ages 7 to 10



Almost-11-year-old Libby Thump is told by her teacher at the end of fourth grade that she needs “to live up to her potential.” Libby is encouraged by this since it must mean she has potential, but worries what that is exactly. After she discovers the High Hopes Horse Farm, she believes her potential lies in her desire to be the world’s best horse rider. A string of disappointments and obstacles keep Libby from becoming who she thinks she should be, and the reader will feel her pain every step of the way. The frustrations of adult expectations and of being the little sister are real and palpable. Gloriously, Libby eventu-

ally discovers that who you are is just as important as you will be. Elise Primavera expertly draws us into Libby’s life, creating her world in simple prose that perfectly echoes the mind of a 10-year-old girl. Primavera also illustrates the book with pen and ink drawings that are a wonderful complement to the story. Her knowledge of horses and horse riding is evident—a major plus for all the horse-crazy girls who read this book. — JENNI F ER B RUER KITCHEL


Rush for the Gold By John Feinstein

Knopf $16.99, 320 pages ISBN 9780375869631 eBook available Ages 8 to 12


There’s a scandal brewing at the 2012 Olympics, and if Stevie Thomas and Susan Carol Anderson are

around, you might expect them to be on the trail of the story. In John Feinstein’s previous sports mysteries, teen sportswriters Stevie and Susan Carol have stopped a point-shaving scheme at the Final Four, uncovered doping at the Super Bowl and investigated the disappearance of a tennis phenom at the U.S. Open. But this time around, Susan Carol isn’t one of the sleuths—she’s at the center of the action. In Rush for the Gold: Mystery at the Olympics, Susan Carol’s career as a high school swimmer takes off when she qualifies for the Olympic Team. Her father signs her up with a sports management team that takes the young swimmer in directions she doesn’t want to go, but the potential rewards are astonishing if she wins gold. When Stevie clashes with the overbearing agents, he starts to smell a rat, but can he reveal the truth if it costs Susan Carol a medal? Feinstein, a best-selling author (A Season on the Brink) and former sports reporter, gives young readers an up-close view of athletics and deftly blends plot twists with

insider details. Appearances by real-life figures like Michael Phelps are much more than cameos—they become part of the action. Good mysteries for kids should be complicated enough to be entertaining and believable enough for readers to identify with the characters. Feinstein succeeds at both; Rush for the Gold definitely wins a medal. — J a m e s N e a l W e bb


Mothership By Martin Leicht and Isla Neal

Simon & Schuster $16.99, 320 pages ISBN 9781442429604 eBook available Ages 14 and up


Elvie Nara is a totally normal soon-to-be teen mom in the year 2074. She wants to colonize Mars when she grows up, she easily fixes the computerized cars that everyone drives, and she’s a devotee of old 20th-century flat pic movies. Shortly after an encounter with heartthrob Cole leaves her pregnant, Elvie learns of the Hanover School for Expecting Teen Mothers, a school in an Earth-orbiting cruise liner. Enrolling at Hanover for a year and then putting her baby up for adoption seems like the perfect plan. That is, until Elvie learns that her nemesis, Cole’s cheerleader girlfriend Britta, is also pregnant and will also be attending Hanover. Sneaking onto the school’s observation deck one day with a pint of ice cream, Elvie is the first to see the arrival of a group of invading aliens. Their presence sets in motion a series of adventures that will take all of Elvie’s resourcefulness—and her sense of the absurd—to resolve. Authors Martin Leicht and Isla Neal balance Elvie’s significant decisions about the future of herself and her baby with plenty of action, humor and interesting characters. This futuristic romp will delight readers and leave them anxiously awaiting the next book in what promises to be a fun, thoughtful trilogy. —J i l l R a t z a n


OCEAN WONDERS by Robin Smith

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

EXPLORING LIFE Under the sea


ne of the joys of summer is spending time at the ocean and seeing ocean life through the eyes of children, who are endlessly fascinated by all that lives in the sea. Here are three new picture books to help answer a child’s questions about all things aquatic.

Bringing up baby Dolphins are amazing to children: mammals that live in the water! Nicola Davies tells the story of these graceful animals in Dolphin Baby! (Candlewick, $15.99, 32 pages, ISBN 9780763655488, ages 5 and up). Illustrated by Brita Granström, this charmer follows the life of a baby dolphin from birth to first breath to the moment of independently catching its own fish. Filled with factual detail, the more complicated in smaller type for parents to explain, Dolphin Baby! will satisfy the curious youngster, whether she has actually seen a dolphin or not. Granström’s breathtaking brushstrokes make it easy to imagine life in the ocean and the comparisons to human development will help young readers connect with their seagoing relatives. This book could be the starting point for a lifelong love of dolphins.

Sea creatures In the Sea (Candlewick, $16.99, 32 pages, ISBN 9780763644987, ages 3 and up) brings David Elliott and Holly Meade back together with a companion book to On the Farm and In the Wild. Meade’s stunning woodcuts swim off the page and invite the young reader to enter the magical world of the ocean. Each short rhyming poem briefly introduces the young sea enthusiast to one creature. I can just imagine a young reader poring over this oversized volume, memorizing the poems and noticing the details in the illustrations. The rich rhymes

(apparition/magician, tuxedo/ torpedo, sandy place/carapace, buffoon/balloon) are inviting and challenging while the drama of the woodcuts brings a gasp at every page turn. Each book in this series respects young scientists without overwhelming them.

Chain reaction A good teacher makes learning easy and interesting, and after reading Ocean Sunlight: How Tiny Plants Feed the Seas (Blue Sky, $17.99, 48 pages, ISBN 9780545273220, ages 4 to 8) I imagine that Penny Chisholm, professor of ecology at MIT, is an amazing teacher. Her second collaboration with illustrator Molly Bang explains the role that microscopic plants called phytoplankton play in the earth’s ecology. Obscure scientific ideas are a challenge to my brain, but I could not stop reading this amazing book. Narrated by the sun, the book begins and ends with bright yellow, making the sun’s importance clear. The marriage of clear language with Bang’s rich illustrations made me want to slow down and really understand the importance of these little plants to the ocean’s food chain. Some of the pages are mostly black, allowing the reader to see the eerie “marine snow” of decaying animals. Ocean Sunlight is one of those special picture books that will appeal to all ages, from the youngster interested in ocean animals to anyone who appreciates the intricacies of food chains, seen and unseen.

would you describe Q: How  the book?

has been the biggest influence on your work? Q: Who 

was your favorite subject in school? Why? Q: What 

was your childhood hero? Q: Who 

Q: W  hat books did you enjoy as a child?

one thing would you like to learn to do? Q: What 

Q: W  hat message would you like to send to children?

DAY BY DAY Susan Gal worked as an illustrator for posters and calendars and as a Disney Animation artist before she began writing and illustrating children’s books. Her latest, Day by Day (Knopf, $16.99, 40 pages, ISBN 9780375869594), celebrates the ties that bind a community. Gal lives with her family in Berkeley, California.



By the editors of Merriam-Webster

EXTREME EXCITEMENT Dear Editor, My friends and I have been trying to figure out just what the saying I was beside myself means and where it comes from. We would appreciate your help. G.M. Suffield, Connecticut We use this expression to mean that someone is in a state of extreme excitement. It often refers to a negative feeling, such as grief, anger or worry, but it can also be used for a positive emotion, such as joy. William Caxton has been credited with popularizing the saying back in the 15th century. But the notion of being beside oneself actually goes back at least to Greek. In the New Testament, Festus says to St. Paul (Acts 26:24): “Thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad.” The phrase clearly implies that such a person is crazed or, in a sense, “carried away” from himself or herself at a particular time.

Today, we use beside oneself in a wide variety of contexts to signify that someone is not so much seriously deranged as overly excited.

SECOND COMES FIRST Dear Editor, My daughter is a first-string player for her high school lacrosse team. While watching one of her games, some of the other parents and I began to wonder where the words first-string and second-string come from. Many suggested it came from the first violinist in an orchestra. Is that right? M.A. Madison, New Jersey One curiosity about these terms is that the “second” actually came before the “first.” First-string, meaning “being a regular as distinguished from a substitute,” is simply an extension of the meaning of the older second-string, meaning “being a substitute as distinguished

would make more sense. S.A. Linden, New York

from a regular.” In fact, the earliest evidence of second-string (showing it used as a noun) is older by almost 300 years, dating back to 1643. By comparison, first-string is a mere baby, with evidence of its use dating back to just 1917. The violinist explanation is a clever one, but not correct. Although these terms are now most often used in connection with team sports, their origin can be traced to a sport practiced by individuals: archery. Archers traditionally carried a second bowstring with them to serve as a backup in case the first string broke. From this use came the extended meaning we are familiar with today. First-string developed from this by analogy.

Given our modern understanding of the meaning of the word heart, the expression by heart does appear paradoxical. After all, when we memorize something, we use our minds and our senses, long associated with the brain. In the Middle Ages, however, when the human brain was a thing of mystery, the heart was held to be the source not only of life itself, but also of intellectual ability. This included the ability to think, to learn and even to memorize. Consequently, a person who memorized something was said to know it by heart, meaning “by memory.” Chaucer made use of this expression as early as the 1380s.


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

Dear Editor, Why do we say when we memorize something that we have learned it by heart? I would think by head









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













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5/23/12 4:45 PM

BookPage July 2012