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america’s book review

Escapes summer

Beach reads that sweep you away to new and exciting destinations

also inside

Turn up the heat with 3 mystery debuts A magical adventure from Neil Gaiman

paperback picks PENGUIN.COM


Forged in Steele

Knit Two

The King

Pia Grazdani is shocked by the secretive corporate culture at her new employer, Nano. She’s warned not to investigate the other work being done there, nor to ask about the source of their funding. When she encounters a fellow employee suffering the effects of a seizure, she realizes she may have discovered Nano’s human guinea pigs...

Steele, a KGI team leader, has his emotions tightly locked down. Nothing can break that icy exterior—except Maren Scofield. Steele is determined not to allow Maren past his carefully guarded defenses. But when she’s in danger, there’s no way he’ll allow anyone else to protect her..

At the Manhattan knitting store founded by Georgia Walker, the members of the Friday Night Knitting Club—including Georgia’s daughter Dakota, now a college freshman—continue to rely on each other for help, even as they struggle with new challenges.

Patrick Bowers and his fiancée are planning their future together—until a demon from the past returns to draw him down a dark road he hoped had closed forever. Forced into a desperate hunt, Patrick is in a race against time to stop an international conspiracy from becoming the most widespread act of terrorism in U.S. history.

9780425261347 • $9.99

9780425263389 • $7.99

9780425269435 • $7.99

9780451239785 • $9.99


The Spymasters

Off the Grid

Trust Your Eyes

A note delivered to FBI agents Dillon Savich and Lacey Sherlock has them on edge, just as they’re starting an investigation into the shooting of their longtime friend Ramsey Hunt. The San Francisco judge was shot in the back during a high-profile murder trial—and now Sherlock’s and Savich’s search for the truth will take a shocking turn…

When two of the Allies’ most important plans for winning World War II are at risk, OSS spy chief William “Wild Bill” Donovan turns to his top agent. In the weeks to come, they must fight not only the enemy in the field—and figure out how to sabotage Germany’s new “aerial torpedo” rockets—but also the enemy within.

Grace MacBride thwarts an assassination attempt on a retired FBI agent, a young girl’s throat is slashed, and two men are killed execution style. Homicide detectives Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth struggle to link the three crimes. Evidence accumulates, pointing to a suspect—and a motive—that shocks them to the core.

Map-obsessed schizophrenic Thomas Kilbride sees something in an online street view of downtown New York City: an image of a woman being murdered. His brother and caretaker humors him with a half-hearted investigation— and soon realizes they have stumbled onto a deadly conspiracy...

9780515153019 • $9.99

9780515151374 • $9.99

9780451418791 • $9.99

9780451414175 • $9.99

New York Times bestselling author Laurell K. Hamilton “remains one of the most inventive and exciting writers in the paranormal field” (Charlaine Harris). Some zombies are raised. Others must be put down. Just ask Anita Blake. Before now, she would have considered them merely off-putting, never dangerous. Before now, she had never heard of any of them causing human beings to perish in agony. But that’s all changed. Micah’s estranged father lies dying, rotting away inside from some strange ailment that has his doctors whispering about “zombie disease.” Anita makes her living off of zombies—but these aren’t the kind she knows so well. These creatures hunt in daylight, and are as fast and strong as vampires. If they bite you, you become just like them. And round and round it goes… Where will it stop? Even Anita Blake doesn’t know.


A Penguin Group (USA) Company

9780425255704 • $28.95


July 2013 B o o k Pa g e . c o m



07 Mystery Debuts

Five summer reading picks whisk you away to another time and place.

Three fresh voices in crime fiction

14 Tash Aw Immigrants refract a portrait of Shanghai in Five Star Billionaire

16 Jincy WilletT A bump on the head leads to instant success in Amy Falls Down

17 Nancy Thayer Meet the author of Island Girls

27 Spotlight: Military History Four books provide a fresh look at three wars

28 Kirkpatrick Hill An Alaskan orphan grows up in Bo at Ballard Creek

31 Laura Vaccaro Seeger Meet the author-illustrator of Bully

columns 04 04 05 05 06 08 10 11

Lifestyles Cooking Well Read The Author enabler Whodunit Romance Audio Book Clubs




beach reading Cover photo ©

reviews 18 Fiction

24 NonFiction

top pick:

top pick:

also reviewed:

also reviewed:

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Fin & Lady by Cathleen Schine Tampa by Alissa Nutting Blood & Beauty by Sarah Dunant The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adelle Waldman The Humans by Matt Haig The Light in the Ruins by Chris Bohjalian The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells by Andrew Sean Greer Christian Nation by Frederic C. Rich Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld Visitation Street by Ivy Pochoda The Lovebird by Natalie Brown Lexicon by Max Barry A Treacherous Paradise by Henning Mankell Ten Things I’ve Learnt About Love by Sarah Butler



Blue Plate Special by Kate Christensen

Ready for a Brand New Beat by Mark Kurlansky Mother Daughter Me by Katie Hafner The Manor by Mac Griswold The Deserters by Charles Glass The End of Night by Paul Bogard Rose Kennedy by Barbara A. Perry I Hate to Leave This Beautiful Place by Howard Norman

Sukey Howard


children’s books

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Roger Bishop

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top pick:

Crankee Doodle by Tom Angleberger

also reviewed:

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt Zero Tolerance by Claudia Mills A Summer of Sundays by Lindsay Eland Written in Stone by Rosanne Parry A Trick of the Light by Lois Metzger Golden Boy by Tara Sullivan A Moment Comes by Jennifer Bradbury Half Lives by Sara Grant



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“...An inspired exploration of the meaning of commitment” -Kirkus Reviews “[T]his account will inspire others to take to the trails.” -Publishers Weekly

r e a d m o r e at b o o k pa g e . c o m


Michael A. Zibart



a m e r i c a’ s b o o k r e v i e w PUBLISHER

Through rugged mountains and raging rivers, sleet storms and 100–degree heat, shin-splints and illnesses...





by joanna brichetto

b y s y b i l P RATT

Home Design Recipes


Here’s a neat and innovative idea: Since you follow recipes for cooking up delicious meals in your kitchen, why not use “recipes” to “cook up” the perfect design for your whole house? HGTV star Kelly Edwards takes this simple notion of assembling the right “ingredients” for designing the spaces you live in and gives us The Design Cookbook: Recipes for a Stylish Home (Medallion Press, $27.95, 256 pages, ISBN 9781605425320). Edwards walks us through each and every room, showing how easy, fun and economical it can be to turn your unique concept of style into a livable dream

Kevin West lives in L.A.; he’s not a farmer or a gardener. But he is an aficionado of local farmer’s markets and farm stands who found himself frustrated by the fleeting nature of nature’s abundance. When he set out to capture the fabulous essence of each season by preserving it, he realized he was returning to his East Tennessee roots and childhood memories. A blog followed and, now, Saving the Season: A Cook’s Guide to Home Canning, Pickling, and Preserving (Knopf, $35, 544 pages, ISBN 9780307599483), a complete companion to mastering the art of putting up and putting by—mak-

nearly synonymous. The chapter on “Homegrown Wines” is practically worth the price of the book alone, a cornucopia of basic instructions for making vintages out of everything under the sun, from the venerable grape, to peaches and plums, to the humble parsnip, right down to the dandelions missed by your lawnmower. Whether it’s a way to make cider from apples, mead from honey, or gin infused with rose hips, Meyer is still at it, at the still, distilling step-by-step knowledge into inebriating wisdom.


Top Pick in Lifestyles

come true. “Economical” is truly the key word: Edwards has been called the “MacGyver of Design,” able to turn the most meager, leaden budget into enviable, stylish gold. On any given page of The Design Cookbook, no consideration—not one pinch of design salt—is too small to be brought to light by Edwards’ all-divining eye for detail, color, accent, space, contrast, harmony and (above all) practicality. Every step of the way, she makes sure you feel confident about how smart you’d be to put your money wherever her intelligent design sensibility says it should go.

r e a d m o r e at b o o k pa g e . c o m

DIY Distilling


There are few greater markups in our entire economy than the one we literally swallow at our local bars and restaurants, where a glass of wine or a pint of beer gives merchants an exponential return on their investment. Smart oenophiles (and those who tipple other libations) are figuring out the joys and frugal benefits of making their own various homegrown glories. In Hooch: Simplified Brewing, Winemaking, and Infusing at Home (Running Press, $22, 208 pages, ISBN 9780762446032), Scott Meyer reveals the simplest paths to fermenting self-sufficiency, whichever nectar you happen to imbibe. For Meyer, “frugal” and “fruity” are

Who are you going to turn to when it comes to figuring out the best way to raise your child to become that almost unattainable ideal, that combination of crafty, thrifty, versatile and joyfully sybaritic—a set of qualities that will help your kid flourish and be creative and (therefore) be happy in the world? This is the book you’ve been waiting for, all of you moms and dads out there. Martha Stewart’s Favorite Crafts for Kids delivers “175 fun projects to create, build, design, explore, and share” on one gorgeous, full-color spread after another. But more than that, the book delivers on Stewart’s career-long promise to help us make our lives simply more beautiful, and beautifully more simple. Because the book offers so many projects, kids at any stage will find plenty to do, including making quick origami finger puppets, adorable button bobby pins, tie-dye t-shirts, pressedleaf art (even a whole leaf alphabet book), bottle piggy banks and, my favorite, a wacky peg-board marble run.

martha Stewart’s Favorite Crafts for Kids By Martha Stewart Potter Craft $24.99, 352 pages ISBN 9780307954749 eBook available

crafts and hobbies

her fresh, low-key approach to cooking, with memories and experiences included. Good header notes and fully fleshed-out instructions enable landlubbers like us to join Coxwell in turning out a mélange of morning mueslis, standout soups, salads, seafood, sauces and sides, plus great grain dishes and masterful mains like Cilantro Fish, Lamb and Quinoa Koftas and Cape Malay Lamb Curry, all in our own landlocked galleys.

ing sweet preserves with fruit and savory preserves with vegetables, and using simple techniques for drying, freezing and storing seasonal produce. The recipes (more than 220) are, of course, organized by season, and accompanied by stories (preserver extraordinaire West is also a gifted Southern storyteller) and essays that entertain, educate and take you into the cuisine and culture of food preservation. Look no further: This is the only preserving book you need for this season and all that follow.

THE FOOD OF A FREE SPIRIT Jane Coxwell is Diane von Furstenberg’s personal chef and spends most of her time on the big, beautiful yacht that von Furstenberg and Barry Diller own, creating light, lively, luscious meals as they cruise the world. So it’s no surprise that her food has been inspired by her travels to Southeast Asia, New Zealand, Australia, Papua New Guinea, French Polynesia, the ­Caribbean, the Mediterranean, Central America and her homeland, South Africa. Coxwell is a free spirit whose zest for the world and its food is truly infectious, and in Fresh Happy Tasty: An Adventure in 100 Recipes (Morrow, $35, 320 pages, ISBN 9780062125408), her debut cookbook, lavishly illustrated with full-color photos, she shares

Noted omnivore Hugh FearnleyWhittingstall seems to have taken to heart Michael Pollan’s admonition to “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Well, I’m not sure about the not-too-much part, because River Cottage Veg, his new paean to vegetables, is big, beautiful and so bountiful that it’s not going to encourage moderation. Just looking at the luscious full-color photos is enough to make a committed carnivore morph into an advocate of the mostly veggie approach to everyday eating. His 200 recipes take you from multilayered, multifaceted mains, such as Kale and Mushroom Lasagna and Sweet Potato and Peanut Gratin, to hearty salads, hefty soups—try the summery Cucumber and Lettuce Vichyssoise—and super suppers that come right off the pantry shelf; from pasta-, riceand grain-based dinner winners, to a superb sampling of small plates à la meze and tapas—like marinated Zucchini and Mozzarella—to a bonanza of roasted, grilled and broiled centerpieces and sides. His approach is practical and practiced, his enthusiasm boundless and inspiring. Vegging out has just taken on a new and delicious meaning.

River Cottage Veg By Hugh FearnleyWhittingstall Ten Speed $35, 416 pages ISBN 9781607744726 eBook available


well read

THE author enabler

by robert Weibezahl

by Sam Barry

Practical advice on writing & publishing for aspiring authors

Among the great and neargreat American writers of the 20th century, James Agee had one of the most curious careers and a singularly eclectic body of work. After graduating from Harvard, he went to work for Henry Luce’s media empire, reporting on a variety of subjects for Fortune and Time, and for a while serving as the latter publication’s film critic and book reviewer. He published one volume of poetry (his poems were set superbly to music by Samuel Barber) and wrote the screenplays for two of the most James Agee’s admired movies of the 1950s, look at The African the lives of Queen and The Depression- Night of the Hunter. But the era tenant two works that farmers still have enshrined him in the literresonates ary canon are today. the lyrical autobiographical novel A Death in the Family, published posthumously and awarded the Pulitzer Prize, and the text for Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, the monumental book about Alabama sharecroppers with photographs by Walker Evans. Let Us Now Praise Famous Men was a commercial failure when it was published in 1941, selling only 600 copies before the rest were remaindered, and was only recognized as a classic after it was reissued in 1960, five years after Agee’s death from a heart attack at the age of 45. The ill-fated book had an equally troubled pedigree: It grew out of an assignment that Agee and Evans were sent on by Fortune in 1936, but for reasons lost to journalism history, the story was killed. The original typescript was found many years later among the papers Agee’s daughter had transferred to the University of Tennessee’s Special Collections Library. One-third of it was published in the journal The Baffler in 2012. The full 30,000-word manuscript, along with some of Evans’ evocative photos, now appears in book form under Agee’s original title, Cotton Tenants: Three Families. It is perhaps not much of a mystery why this story never made it into the pages of Fortune, a business

Publishers and Plagiarism

magazine bankrolled by the famously conservative Luce. For while this chronicle of the lives of dirt-poor Southern farmers may not seem particularly subversive to modern readers, the desperate poverty it depicts could have spurred sympathy for the policies of Luce’s nemesis, FDR, and his hated New Deal. Agee’s narrative, though, is not blatantly political, but rather sociology as filtered through a poet’s eyes. No agenda-driven political writer could have crafted such exquisite sentences as, “Meanwhile the flies are wakening more and more thickly and meanwhile, too, the dogs and cats have assembled under the table, in postures which would do honor to any Bethlehem stable painting of the Holy Family,” or, “Unbridled hunger by summer means less to put up for the winter; by winter, less to satisfy it that much sooner. The tenant’s life is a mirrormaze of such little choices between two losses.” The purity of Agee’s observations and the powerful grace of his prose are in perfect harmony. No less an American genius, Walker Evans was as much a poet of the visual as Agee was of the word, and each of the 30 photographs included here is a little masterpiece. The somber but never self-pitying faces of the adults, the artlessness of the sparely dressed children, the hardscrabble landscape, the domestic still lives of this shockingly rudimentary way of life: Evans’ camera catches all with deceptively simple candor. He, like Agee, knew that with such raw material, there was no need to editorialize.

Cotton Tenants: Three Families By James Agee

Photographs by Walker Evans Melville House $24.95, 224 pages ISBN 9781612192123


Dear Author Enabler, Here is my concern: If I send a novel I wrote (something I spent a lot of time writing) around to some publishing houses for consideration, how do I know that no one at these publishing houses will take the barrow load of my ideas, run with them and claim them as their own? I mean, even if someone were to change character names, time periods, scenes, etc.—just enough to make the setup a little different than mine and, thus, their “own”—this still seems like a form of plagiarism.  What is your opinion of this concerning publishing houses? Do you feel that there is a high risk of something similar happening? Would it not be better to simply self-publish a book?  Marybeth Yokovich Merrillville, Indiana The best safeguard against the theft of your novel—which I consider to be highly unlikely—is to deal with a reputable publisher. Publishers, editors and agents wouldn’t be in business long if they stole other people’s work. And people in the publishing business don’t have the time or inclination to steal; most books don’t make money, and the amount of money involved (blockbusters aside) in advances and royalties is far too low to justify the risks of theft. The fear of idea or story theft is very common for unpublished writers, but the truth of the matter is that the idea or plot is not really as important as you might think. Far more important is your skill as a writer, as well as your ability to reach an audience. Books get published because they are timely and well written; the importance of uniqueness is overestimated. Publishers are looking for talented, promotable authors with appealing writing styles as much as they are good manuscripts. If a publisher (or agent) has that combination in hand, they’re not going to waste time and risk possible damage to their reputation trying to pass off your writing as someone else’s; they are going to consider representing or buying and publishing your book. Self-publishing is a legitimate

option, and if you choose that path then the question of theft is moot. But successful self-publishing is not easy. As the publisher of the book, you are responsible for everything: editing and designing the book, inside and out; distribution; getting blurbs and seeking reviews; marketing; and publicity. Even if you hire professionals to handle these tasks, which costs a lot of money, you are still the one who must manage the process and make final decisions. Are you good at all of that? I’m not. Tens of thousands of books are published in the United States each year; given the option, I would rather my book enter that fray with an established team than do it all myself.

To Publish or Not? Dear Author Enabler, I have been writing my memoirs for several years—primarily for my son, as my mother is elderly and has memory loss—and I have lived a rather blessed life, so to speak. Some of it is funny, some sad, some is the family tree and some is about the years I have lived through. My primary goal is to leave my memories of my life. My question is, do you think it is saleable, and do you have any suggestions that would make it appealing to more readers other than family and acquaintances? Shirley Grundhoefer Owensboro, Kentucky Leaving aside memoirs written by celebrities or established writers, the memoirs that sell usually have two qualities: a fascinating story and compelling writing. I think you should focus on getting your whole story down on paper, and then spend as much or more time editing it and making it as good as it can be. Once you have a solid manuscript, you can decide whether you want to attempt to publish it, or just take it to a local printer and get enough copies bound for it to be a family memento. I think the latter is just as valid a reason to write it as the former.

r e a d m o r e at b o o k pa g e . c o m


Send your questions about writing and publishing to


dream with little angels #9_Layout 1 6/5/13 12

A lyrical debut mystery that goes into the heart of a small Southern town haunted by tragedy, and uncovers the dark, painful secrets that fracture the ground between innocence... and understanding.



LITTLE ANGELS MICHAEL HIEBERT “An authentic Southern voice... a masterful gem.” r e a d m o r e at b o o k pa g e . c o m

—DEBORAH CROMBIE “A trip to the dark side of a town and the aura of safety that often settles— unjustifiably.” —CAROLYN HAINES

K EN S IN G TO N P U B LIS H IN G C O .R — P America’s Independent Publisher


Begin reading at •


Whodunit by Bruce Tierney

PATHS CONVERGE IN THE STOCKHOLM UNDERWORLD Count on Swedish writer Jens Lapidus to drag you straight into the action from page one. Forget about introductions, a lengthy plot setup or any other such coddling. Simply git-on-board and hang on for dear life. In Never Fück Up (Pantheon, $26.95, 512 pages, ISBN 9780307377494), Niklas, who lives with his mother after a tour in Iraq, and Mahmud, who’s in deep with some Turkish mobsters, are thrown together by a violent act not of their doing. Thomas is a somewhat bent cop, padding his retirement fund with a bit of graft here, a little discretionary theft there. When a brutal murder takes place in Niklas’ apartment complex and the evidence is deliberately tampered with by police higherups, Thomas launches himself into a world of hurt by continuing the investigation on his own time, not realizing that he has ventured into the very sensitive arena of hush-hush global politics. It goes without saying that Niklas, Mahmud and Thomas will cross paths; the question will be which one, or ones, will survive the experience. Last year’s Easy Money was the first volume of Lapidus’ Stockholm Noir trilogy, and fans will positively champ at the bit for the final episode.

HOLLYWOOD MAYHEM I started reading Timothy Hallinan’s books several years back and was drawn into his series featuring adventure travel writer Poke Rafferty. Read ’em all, loved ’em all, reviewed most of ’em for BookPage. So I was a bit concerned when Hallinan started a new series featuring Junior Bender, occasional burglar and fulltime go-to guy for those who need a bit of private investigation that strays outside the fine lines of the law. My worries were unfounded: Hallinan is three-deep into the new series, and the books are every bit as good as their forebears—with the added attraction of some Hiaasenesque comic tone. This time out, in The Fame Thief (Soho Crime, $25, 336 pages, ISBN 9781616952808),

 Visit to discover Private Eye July.

Bender is summoned to the palatial home of Irwin Dressler, one-time mob boss who has gone more or less straight. It seems Dressler wants our hero to investigate a crime that dates back more than 60 years— a true iceberg of a cold case—in which the career of a promising starlet was torpedoed by malice and innuendo. But vendettas die hard, and what was once barely a blip on the Hollywood radar will come full circle in present day, a payback with usurious compound interest.

CHASING A GHOST “Who the hell is Big Whitey?” This is the question you will ask

yourself—indeed, it will be the pressing question of your life—for the first 200-some pages of Unseen (Delacorte, $27, 400 pages, ISBN 9780345539472), Karin Slaughter’s latest thriller featuring GBI (Georgia Bureau of Investigation) detective Will Trent. Trent is working undercover, piloting his Harley down the mean streets of Macon, seeking out an arch-criminal known only by the nickname Big Whitey. Trouble is, despite Trent’s ongoing efforts in pressuring Macon’s lowlife population for information, he remains unable to identify the (possibly mythical) crime boss. Meanwhile, Trent’s inamorata, Dr. Sara Linton, receives some devastating news: Her stepson, motorcycle cop Jared Long, has been shot during a home invasion and is hanging onto life by the thinnest of threads. Linton will receive little comfort from Trent, as he can be in touch only sporadically, else he risks blowing his cover. What neither realizes is that their two separate situations share some points of commonality that will threaten both their relationship and their lives. Slaughter is the consummate novelist: Her characters are finely chiseled, the action is relentless and she saves a surprise or two

for the final pages, guaranteed to trip up even the jaded mystery reader.

TOP PICK IN MYSTERY When BookPage interviewed author David Downing last year, he said, “I’m working on what will probably be the last of the [John] Russell series, Masaryk Station. Still no idea how to end it.” In the intervening months, Downing not only figured out how to end it but did it with a bang. And that is all I am prepared to tell you about the ending, largely because I am still processing the notion that this fine series has (“probably”) drawn to a close. The Station books—from 2007’s Zoo Station to the latest, Masaryk Station—are without a doubt some of the finest espionage novels these days, easily inviting comparison to the legends of the genre like John le Carré, Frederick Forsyth and Tom Clancy. In Masaryk Station, set in 1948 Berlin, protagonist John Russell, an American agent doing double duty for the Soviets, has to tread carefully. He’s hoarding information to dispense judiciously to his handlers in both camps, and one false move will bring charges of treason, assuming he lives long enough to answer for his crimes. If he’s lucky, he will come out of it with his freedom, his family and his life intact. If not, he will at least go down fighting. I stand by the assertion that it would be a good idea to read these books in order. You won’t want to read anything else until you have devoured the entire series.


Soho Crime $26.95, 330 pages ISBN 9781616952235 Audio, eBook available


MYSTERY DEBUTS by bruce tierney

HOT ON THE TRAIL of three newbies


t’s always a pleasure to read books by longtime favorite authors, but finding a new writer who can keep you up all night is a special treat. Here are three new voices in crime fiction, each worthy of recognition. Fina Ludlow could have taken the easy route—a cushy corporate gig with her family’s high-powered law firm—but it had the look of a velvet prison. Instead, she dropped out of law school and hung out her shingle as a private investigator. Grudgingly, her domineering father has kept her somewhat in the fold, utilizing her sleuthing talents whenever they are required for a first-class (read: underhanded) defense of a clearly guilty client. It is a matter of devotion, after all, that defines the family’s values and offers up the title of Ingrid Thoft’s engaging debut, Loyalty (Putnam, $25.95, 416 pages, ISBN 9780399162121). When Fina’s sister-in-law abruptly disappears, the cops focus on the husband, Fina’s older brother Rand, who was seen carrying a large chest to his boat, then sailing off and returning with no chest to be found. Fina senses that there is more here than meets the eye, but she pursues the case out of familial obligation. Her allegiances will be tested, as will her detective skills, for it is likely that someone close to her is singularly undeserving of her loyalty.


force, a no-brainer case of an accidental death (or perhaps suicide) of a young man who fell from an apartment window. That initial assessment doesn’t stand up to close scrutiny, however, and the case files quickly become littered with tales of drug deals gone sour, cover-ups protecting the rich and the resurfacing of crimes long buried. This fine debut will appeal to fans of Nesbø and Rankin, especially ones who enjoy a little Catalonian sunshine illuminating the darker corners of their mysteries.

VIRTUAL SINS Jonathan Holt’s gripping debut, The Abomination (Harper, $25.99, 448 pages, ISBN 9780062264336), book one of a planned trilogy, is unique in that it is set in two places in one time—sort of. Both settings are modern-day Venice: one, the beloved city; the other, a brick-bybrick cyber replication courtesy of a website called Carnivia, in which anonymous users can conspire and move information clandestinely throughout virtual Venice without government interference. Meanwhile, a highly unusual murder takes place. The victim is a woman dressed in the sacred robes of a Catholic priest—but the Catholic Church does not recognize female priests, and the corpse becomes known as “the Abomination.” The case is assigned to Captain Kat Tapo, who quickly finds her pursuit leading her in strange directions: to superannuated U.S. military bases, unforthcoming clerics and the convoluted virtual world of Carnivia. The Abomination is a tantalizing debut, a masterful melding of religious mystery, political intrigue and just a bit of fantasy/sci-fi.

Available June 25

r e a d m o r e at b o o k pa g e . c o m

Having lamented the disappearance of such complex and haunted stalwarts as John Rebus from the mystery pantheon, let us welcome a wonderfully troubled new entry, Barcelona police inspector Hector Salgado, in Antonio Hill’s The Summer of Dead Toys (Crown, $26, 368 pages, ISBN 9780770435875). The charge against Salgado: police brutality. The fallout: probation and self-imposed exile to his homeland of Argentina. Now, however, Salgado is back, and he needs a far-reaching case to take his mind off the savaged Nigerian girl and the sleazy human trafficker who provoked his uncharacteristically violent behavior. Instead, Salgado’s boss gives him an easy re-entry into the work-

A family’s loyalty is put to the ultimate test…


From USA Today and #1 New York Times Bestselling Author


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

True Grit, True Love


he’s the last unmarried member in her branch of the Cynster Family Tree....

The Honorable Miss Mary Cynster always gets what she wants…

And Ryder Cavanaugh is at the BOTTOM of her list.

But destiny has a different plan… “[An] irresistible mix of passion and dangerous intrigues.” —Booklist

“Her lush sensuality takes my breath away.” —Lisa Kleypas


The rough-and-tumble West is the setting for romance in Rosanne Bittner’s Paradise Valley (Sourcebooks, $7.99, 352 pages, ISBN 9781402280979). In 1886, widow Maggie Tucker teams up with rancher Sage Lightfoot to track the thieves who murdered both her husband and Sage’s foreman. Though Sage is reluctant to take the young redhead on such an arduous journey, she proves her courage and grit to him early on. Sage is aware of Maggie’s sexual appeal, too, but due to a previous love affair gone bad, he intends to ignore the attraction. However, close quarters and Maggie’s desire to be with a man who makes her feel safe—and whom she has come to love—push them into


New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author

passion. Now traveling as husband and wife, they tackle varied dangers, make new friends and learn about each other’s pasts and past hurts. Maggie fears she might never have claim to Sage’s heart, but she holds on to hope as they draw closer to their quarry. Bittner has written an enthralling, gritty read with colorful, dangerous characters, as well as a hero and heroine who face hard lives yet are not hardened to love.


ebuts a new series set in the Scottish Highlands


he never expected to marry…

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he never expected to fall in love…


Love, Wyoming Style

ut all it takes is one kiss to surrender.

“Lush, lively and romantic—Lynsay Sands hits all the right notes.” —Suzanne Enoch


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Text AVON to READIT (732348) for more exclusive content · Also available as eBooks Check out for exciting digital-first publications.

Dakota Carson, a former Navy SEAL suffering from PTSD, finds love and new purpose in Lindsay McKenna’s The Loner (HQN, $7.99, 384 pages, ISBN 9780373777723). After leaving military service, Dakota lives in an isolated cabin in the mountains of Wyoming with only a half-tame wolf for company. An encounter with a ferocious bear drives him to the nearest town, where he meets beautiful Shelby Kincaid, deputy sheriff. While Shelby sympathizes with Dakota’s inner demons and their attraction is palpable, Dakota isn’t ready to end his seclusion. After two violent convicts escape and there’s reason to suspect they

might want revenge on Shelby, Dakota leaves his hideout to track the wrongdoers and to protect the woman he’s growing to care so much about. Still, he believes his disorder makes him the wrong man for her, and it is only after a few more traumatic events that they both realize they are better together than apart. With a wild, rural setting that poses many kinds of risks, this fast-paced and suspenseful page-turner will set pulses pounding.

Top Pick in Romance Stephanie Laurens offers her trademark blend of lush passion edged with danger in her historical romance The Taming of Ryder Cavanaugh. As the last unmarried Cynster of her generation, Mary Cynster is serious about finding the right husband—one unlike the domineering types who people her family tree. To that end, she’s set her sights on a gentleman she believes will be the best mate for her . . . though an entirely different male is constantly putting himself in her path: Ryder Cavanaugh, the Marquess of Raventhorne. As he attempts to convince Mary that her target is a poor match for her, Ryder comes to realize that she would, instead, be the perfect bride for him. But will Mary, who likes to be in charge, be willing to become the wife of a man who is not only a legendary lover, but also one renowned for his strong will? Threats to both their lives require that they combine forces, accelerating their growing romance—and making readers worry about whether they’ll survive. A sensual, action-packed treat.

The Taming of Ryder Cavanaugh By Stephanie Laurens

Avon $7.99, 448 pages ISBN 9780062068651 eBook available

historical ROMANCE

New York Times bestselling author

welcomes readers back to Fool’s Gold, where first loves, broken hearts and teenage crushes all find their happy endings.

She never forgot the boy who captured her heart, and now he’s back, unable to resist her smile or her kisses. Is a man who puts his life on the line for others prepared to risk his heart for just one kiss?

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audio by sukey howard


“Poignant, comical and marvelous.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“A terrific beach read.”

—Library Journal

“Dazzling.” —Elle

“Compelling and captivating.”

—Garth Stein, bestselling author of The Art of Racing in the Rain

When a stranger shows up at the door of Geniver Loxley’s London townhouse and tells her that her stillborn baby was really delivered alive, everything in Gen’s life is turned upside down. Eight years ago, Beth—as Gen and Art had named their daughter—died in utero. Ever since, Gen has lived in a blur of grief, unable to conceive again, her writing career swapped for desultory teaching gigs, her marriage to her handsome, super-supportive, super-successful husband as empty as her teaching. Close My Eyes (Macmillan Audio, $39.99, 13 hours, ISBN 9781427232175), Sophie McKenzie’s wickedly compelling new thriller, performed by Marisa Calin, follows Gen into a labyrinth of lies as she begins to search for the child she’s dreamt of all these

painful years. Whom can she trust? Where can she turn? Is she losing it, as her husband insists, finally tipped over by grief? Or is there a lethal reality that, once discovered, could cost Gen her life and the loss, all over again, of the child she’s never seen or held? Once you start listening to this audio cocktail spiked with Gaslight, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter and a dash of The Bad Seed, don’t plan to do anything else.

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“Elegant." —Kirkus

“Powerful.” —Associated Press


PERENNIAL Twitter: @harperperennial

A local woman who never drank dies of alcohol poisoning, and the probable murder lands in the lap of Detective Patrik Hedstrom just weeks before his long-awaited wedding. It’s a perplexing case for the police department in Tanumshede, the small Swedish town where Camilla Läckberg sets The Stranger (HighBridge Audio, $36.95, 11.5 hours, ISBN 9781611746266), the fourth in her best-selling crime series. It gets even dicier when Patrik discovers similar cases in other towns around Sweden and wonders if he might be dealing with a slow-moving serial killer. To add to the challenge, a TV reality show centered on the bad behavior of heav-

ily drinking teens comes to town to start shooting, and, within days, one of the contestants is murdered and stuffed in a garbage can. Though Läckberg doesn’t favor the razzle-dazzle horror and wild chases that mark many Scandinavian thrillers, her convoluted plots, deftly drawn characters and super sense of suspense make her a formidable fashioner of fine crime fiction, impeccably evoked here by narrator Simon Vance.

TOP PICK IN AUDIO Nora Eldridge is angry, and her rage spills out in an eloquent first-person narrative. Hearing her voice, so convincingly rendered by Cassandra Campbell in this extraordinary audiobook, makes you her confidant, enveloped in her world. Yet, as The Woman Upstairs, Claire Messud’s brilliant new novel, unfolds, you begin to wonder if Nora is really a reliable narrator. A beloved third grade teacher in a Cambridge, Massachusetts, private school, she wanted to be an artist, but never had the ruthless fire and confidence she needed. Nearing 40, unmarried, perceiving herself “consigned to mediocrity,” Nora meets the Shahids, a glamorous international couple from Paris, whose son is in her class. She falls in love with all of them: Reza, a sweet 8-year-old; Sirena, an emerging Italian installation artist; and Skandar, a charming Lebanese professor on a fellowship at Harvard. And suddenly, Nora feels alive, empowered to make art, empowered to be significant. Still, the reader knows—though Nora doesn’t seem to—that she can’t live in their aura forever; sooner or later, she’ll feel betrayed, and that betrayal will fuel a fury that might not be contained.

The Woman Upstairs By Claire Messud

Random House Audio $40, 11 hours ISBN 9780307913609

literary fiction

book clubs by julie hale

New paperback releases for reading groups

A CRACK IN TIME The title says it all: Some Kind of Fairy Tale (Anchor, $16.95, 320 pages, ISBN 9780307949073), Graham Joyce’s spellbinding new novel, is a genre-bending book built around a provocative proposal— that there are other realms of existence besides the one we inhabit. Tara Martin went missing 20 years ago during a walk in the woods. Her parents, Dell and Mary, and her brother, Peter, continue to mourn her. When she materializes on their doorstep on Christmas Day looking like the teenager she was when she disappeared, the family is sent reeling. Tara explains that she’s been living in another world where time is perceived differently, and that

she was led there by a stranger on a white horse. Joyce moves skillfully between these two worlds, contrasting Tara’s story with that of her family and her boyfriend, a wouldbe musician named Richie. Joyce is a master conjurer, and the tale that he spins here feels wonderfully authentic. This is a magical book that serves as a rich exploration of family and memory even as it questions the nature of reality. In her beguiling memoir, Coming to My Senses: A Story of Perfume, Pleasure, and an Unlikely Bride (Penguin, $16, 272 pages, ISBN 9780143123385), Alyssa Harad reveals how an improbable obsession with perfume altered the course of her life. Harad isn’t a perfume-y kind of girl; she’s a feminist who hates shopping and loves her comfy Birkenstocks. At 36, she has earned a Ph.D. in English and is set in her ways—until a perfume blog introduces her to the enchanting world of scent. Taken with the concept of perfume, Harad soon finds herself collecting samples, honing her sense of smell and embracing life in

LITERARY SPYING Sweet Tooth, Ian McEwan’s 12th novel, is a smart, suspenseful tale of romance and Cold War espionage set in 1970s London. Serena Frome, the book’s beautiful Cambridge-graduate heroine, is recruited by a former lover to join the intelligence agency MI5 and participate in a secret operation called Sweet Tooth. The agency, which provides financial support to anti-Communist writers and teachers, tasks Serena with getting close to up-and-coming author Thomas Haley. An avid reader, Serena discovers that she loves Haley’s work, and when she meets him in person, romance blossoms between them. But obstacles abound: Haley’s bleak, anti-capitalist debut novel upsets MI5, and when the press discovers his entanglement with Serena, the Sweet Tooth operation is in danger of being compromised. A complex, amusing and richly textured story that revisits a fascinating era, McEwan’s latest is a shrewd piece of work—expertly constructed and vastly entertaining.


Anchor $15.95, 400 pages ISBN 9780345803450 Audio, eBook available

literary FICTION

New in Paperback

Indiscretion Charles Dubow Now in paperback from New York Times bestselling author Charles Dubow “A smart, sensuous, and moving debut.... Delicious.... The characters exude a Jazz Age glamour.” —O magazine

City of Hope Kate Kerrigan From book club favorite Kate Kerrigan, the heartrending and inspiring sequel to Ellis Island “Kerrigan is excellent at evoking both rustic Ireland and 20th-century New York.” —Publisher’s Weekly

Stargazey Point Shelley Noble A stunning new novel of sun, sand, love, and family “With Noble’s words we see sunsets and sea grass, fashion and frustration, life, love and happily ever afters. I can’t wait for her next book!” —Robin Kaye, author of The Domestic Gods Series

Godiva Nicole Galland From the author of The Fool’s Tale comes a brilliantly crafted retelling of the legend of Lady Godiva “Nicole Galland is exceptionally well versed in the fine nuances of storytelling and illustrating the combustible nature of mixing religion, commerce and war.” —St. Petersburg Times



William Morrow Paperbacks

Book Club Girl

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new ways. Whether she’s visiting a perfume lab in Austin, Texas, or touring exclusive perfume hotspots in New York City, Harad exhibits an infectious curiosity about and love for her elusive topic. As her fascination with perfume grows, so does her passion for life and her new sense of femininity. A gifted writer, Harad brings a richness of language to the narrative—a lavishness that matches her subject matter. Filled with intriguing trivia about the history, production and culture of perfume, this memoir is a charmer.

Summer’s Hottest Reads


cover story

beach reading

Far-flung locales inspire literary escapes


true beach read takes the reader somewhere new and fascinating, and tells a juicy story that keeps the pages turning. Whether you’re looking for something to take on vacation—or just a mental vacation!—these five books are guaranteed to transport you.

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What could be more divine than spending a summer day devouring the elegantly written WWI-era correspondence between a plucky Scottish heroine and an American ambulance driver risking his life on the frontlines? Jessica Brockmole’s debut novel, Letters from Skye (Ballantine, $25, 304 pages, ISBN 9780345542601), is a charming vintage love story about Elspeth, a lonely poet living on the remote Isle of Skye, and her American pen pal, Davey, a student at the University of Illinois. Elspeth and Davey are the quintessential star-crossed lovers, facing formidable obstacles as their friendship blossoms into a love affair. While epistolary novels are a popular storytelling style of late, Brockmole’s use of this device is essential to her tale, allowing her to blend the voices of the enigmatic Elspeth and the irrepressible Davey. Avoiding a chronological narrative, the novel fast-forwards to World War II, when Elspeth’s daughter, Margaret, discovers a box of old letters addressed to “Sue”—Davey’s secret nickname for his Scottish lover. When Elspeth disappears, Margaret is compelled to unravel this riddle from her stoic mother’s past. While Letters from Skye is at its heart a love story, Brockmole’s graceful writing never succumbs to the sensational or the maudlin. Instead, she wisely lets the letters carry readers back to a time when war raged and life itself was writ large. — KAREN CULLOTTA

TO THE MOON AND TIMBUKTU A woman finds herself unhappy in marriage, crying in the supermarket; she decides to travel, to get

to know herself as an individual, not as a wife, daughter or mother. This is the set-up for the bestseller Eat, Pray, Love and also for Nina Sovich’s memoir To the Moon and Timbuktu (New Harvest, $25, 320 pages, ISBN 9780544025950). But the comparisons stop the minute Sovich lands in West Africa. Her travels are uncomfortable, often frightening, always illuminating and so beautifully conveyed that the reader feels present, as if she herself is watching a sunrise over the Nile. Sovich learns early in life that “the bitter sweetness of travel fills me up and makes me feel whole,” and she spends her 20s as a reporter in the West Bank and Pakistan, experiencing new cultures. After Sovich meets her French husband Florent, she finds herself living a bourgeois life in Paris and wondering why she is unhappy. Inspired by Victorian explorer Mary Kingsley, she decides to spend six months traveling in West Africa with the legendary city of Timbuktu as her goal. Sovich’s journeys are page-turning and suspenseful. In a cheap hotel in the Sahara, surrounded by drunken sailors, she blocks her door with a chair under the handle. Riding across the desert with four men who grow increasingly menacing, she distracts them by telling stories. Sovich finds that the best way to protect herself—and a good secret for all female travelers—is to seek out the company of other women. Sitting in the women’s section of a market in Mali with a baby in her lap, Sovich encounters a sense of perfect peace. By the time she reaches Timbuktu, she wears a traditional boubou and walks in bare feet. Traveling has transformed her heart and mind, turned her toward the beautiful,

glittering world and finally allows her to return home. — CATHERINE HOLLIS

CRAZY RICH ASIANS A shockingly hilarious debut, Crazy Rich Asians (Doubleday, $25.95, 416 pages, ISBN 9780385536974) will carry the reader to a civilization comparable to Lilliput, Wonderland or Narnia. Except that the inhabitants are faithful Methodists and the setting is only a plane ride away. The characters here aren’t just “crazy rich”; they’re grotesquely, monstrously rich. These offshore Chinese, the high society of Singapore, are so moneyed that clans live in a separate world replete with their own memes, dreams and extremes. Their expectations, their shopping habits—the most spectacular excess since 18th-century France—create a backdrop that boots this novel into must-read territory. Rachel Chu’s dating relationship with Nicholas Young takes a serious turn when he invites her to accompany him to Singapore, where he is to be best man in a friend’s wedding. Though he wants her to meet his family, Nick doesn’t think to enlighten Rachel about the extraordinary qualities of Singapore’s ultra-wealthy. She is thrown into a lions’ den of ingrown gossip and intrigue, which takes a vicious twist

when Nick’s mother Eleanor decides Rachel is unworthy of the family. A native of Singapore now living in New York, Kevin Kwan knows this relatively hidden culture inside and out, yet he is distant enough to appreciate its uniqueness and hubristic appeal to American readers. For we are all suckers for legendary troves of jewels and 70-carat earrings that brush majestically against our shoulders. — MAUDE M c DANIEL

PILGRIM’S WILDERNESS Rural Alaska seemed like the perfect place for a family of Christian homesteaders to escape the ways of the world. But when Papa Pilgrim moved his wife and 15 kids to McCarthy, they brought conflict and confrontation the likes of which the area had never seen. Initially embraced as exemplars of the libertarian ideal, the family turned out to be a dangerous sham, ruled by an evil patriarch. Pilgrim’s Wilderness (Crown, $25, 336 pages, ISBN 9780307587824) unravels this drama with journalistic precision and the wallop of a true-crime potboiler. Longtime Alaska journalist Tom Kizzia had a cabin near the first Pilgrim family settlement; when he covered their initial skirmish with the National Park Service, Papa called him “Neighbor Tom.” But Kizzia’s research into Pilgrim’s past revealed him to be a master of reinvention with much to conceal. The community split into proPilgrim and anti-Pilgrim camps, with many wondering about the powerful control Pilgrim exercised over his wife and children. When the older kids made a run for safety and the truth came out, it was far worse than anyone could have imagined. Kizzia is able to capture all this with the dispassionate voice of a reporter, which allows the chilling details to resonate powerfully. For all the horrors visited upon Pilgrim’s children, the story has a suitably twisted happy ending as the family

gathers once more in a Wasilla cemetery, wishing their deceased patriarch swift passage to hell. Pilgrim’s Wilderness is fascinating and hard to put down—an excellent choice for those who like their beach reading on the darker side. — HEATHER SEGGEL


—Megan Fishmann


The summer thriller you don’t want to miss!


The NEW Alvarez/Pescoli novel ON SALE 7.30.13




Also available as an eBook, Brilliance Audio, and Center Point Large Print Edition

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For many, Hawaii conjures up images of grass skirts and fruity cocktails in a bucolic setting. But in today’s modern world, is this paradise only a myth? The short story collection This Is Paradise (Hogarth, $16, 240 pages, ISBN 9780770436254), from author Kristiana Kahakauwila, answers that question. Kahakauwila, a native Hawaiian raised in Southern California, explores the reality of life for Hawaiian locals in an impressive debut. The opening story (which shares the book’s title) follows three groups of women over 24 hours as they narrate their encounters with a soon-to-be-intoxicated tourist. Whether the observations come from matronly maids at a hotel, executive women blowing off steam at Waikiki’s karaoke bar or teen surfers unafraid of the ocean’s dangerous undertow, each voice poignantly overlaps with the others to ring out like a song from a Greek chorus. In the emotionally charged story “The Old Paniolo Way,” a gay son struggles with the decision to come out to his dying father, while falling head over heels for his father’s caretaker. Familial lines are crossed as the narrator’s sister also battles for the affections of the caretaker, even as she tries to convince her father to leave her (and not her brother) the family farm. And in the collection’s strongest story, “Wanle,” a young woman avenges her father’s murder by challenging his rival at the local cockfighting ring. One can almost smell the tropics emanating from each page, thanks to Kahakauwila’s startling and vivid imagery. With prose like a riptide, This Is Paradise is the perfect way to mentally transport you to Hawaii from the comfort of home.

E N S I N G T O N P U B L I S H I N G C O R P. — A m e r i c a ’ s I n d e p e n d e n t P u b l i s h e r



tash aw By alden mudge

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© andrew mills

THE PROMISE OF a NEW START IN SHANGHAI ash Aw says he is “by nature a solitary person.” No writing in cafes for him. He needs the solitude and silence of his small apartment in London to do most of his work.

But he wrote the middle section of his dazzling third novel, Five Star Billionaire, in Shanghai. “I think I got caught up with the energy of Shanghai,” he says in British-accented English during a call to his borrowed office at Singapore’s Nayang Technological University, where he is finishing up a semester as writer in residence. At about that moment, a bell sounds and a polite voice in the background announces that the building is being evacuated, but Aw calmly reports that he is not in danger and continues our conversation. “At some point I became aware that I was writing with much more pace than I had been before.” Five Star Billionaire explores the interconnected lives of five quite different characters who immigrate from Malaysia to Shanghai. “I’m interested in why people leave their homes to go to another country to start a new life. I think that’s one of the big themes in all my work,” he says of the earliest impulse behind the novel. “What I noticed about the process of immigration is that, for many immigrants, even though they want to commit themselves to their new life, their new country, what matters most to them emotionally is their old country. They’re trying to find something in their new country that they didn’t have back home.” Aw, who is 41, grew up in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and attended college in England. While there, he discovered it was possible to think of writing as a career, and he has made England his home base ever since. His first novel, The Harmony Silk Factory (2005), won several awards, and his second, Map of the Invisible World (2010), drew literary raves as well. In his latest, Five Star Billionaire, Aw unfolds the lives of his characters in Shanghai as he slowly and subtly reveals the circumstances in their past that have led them there and the emotional holes they are hoping to fill. The characters’ stories are captivating and complex. Phoebe, who arrives in Shanghai as a poor factory worker with dreams inspired

by the self-help books she avidly consumes, steals an identity card and sets out to remake herself by finding a rich husband. Yinghui, a woman of a certain age, abandons her artsy past back home and comes to Shanghai to reinvent herself as a businesswoman. Gary is catapulted to instant fame when he wins a talent contest. Justin, scion of a super-rich real estate development dynasty, comes to Shanghai on family orders to extend the company’s reach. Walter Chao, who speaks in grandiose self-help terminology and is the author of one of the self-help books Phoebe “I think this reads, turns out book opens to be working a different plan a window altogether. as to what’s The plights of Aw’s charhappening acters are by in China in turns comic a way that and sorrowful. makes China He writes with such specificfathomable.” ity about their circumstances that their stories feel universal. But there is another vibrant character in the novel that American readers will likely find just as fascinating: the city of Shanghai, self-proclaimed cultural and intellectual leader of the New China. “Shanghai has a strong personality. It’s a brash, modern city, but underneath all that there are layers of history and tradition as well,” says Aw, who, with writing fellowships and the ability to speak Mandarin (with, he notes, a Taiwanese accent), was able to explore the city and absorb its energy for a year. “Shanghai wants to see itself as the New York for our times, as the place where people can arrive from anywhere and reinvent themselves. And there is a hell of a lot of reinvention going on because the New China is growing so rapidly that people don’t ask questions about where you’re from. They need your presence, they need your work, they need your labor and creative input.” As his characters move through their lives in Shanghai, Aw presents

a visceral sense of the vast appeal of this burgeoning, sometimes difficult city. Aw thinks his ability to do this with such deep understanding has something to do with being a writer from Malaysia, a smaller Southeast Asian country. “Malaysians, Singaporeans, Thais and Indonesians grow up being really aware of how one’s fate is linked to the fate of people in the other countries around you,” he says. “China and America are big countries. In many different senses—economically, culturally—they don’t need the rest of the world. What my work reflects is that if you live in a lot of Asian countries, particularly the smaller Asian countries, you have an inextricable link with the other countries around you.” Aw was among the first generation of Malaysians to be educated abroad. “Identifying as coming from somewhere and being something sometimes defies logic,” he says. “The experiences that are important to me are those from my first 18 or 19 years, and my relationship with Malaysia is much more complex than it is with England. It’s much more screwed up in some ways, but I think that sense of having a very tangled relationship means that I have a stronger identification with the place.” Aw remains closely connected to his parents and large extended family in the region. His decision to spend a semester in Singapore, which is roughly 10 miles from Malaysia, was influenced by his desire to act as a guide and mentor for young writers there. “I think it’s important for me to give back something, to try and be a part of the new writing that is coming out of Southeast Asia today,” he says as the emergency announcements blessedly end.

Returning to the question of his identity as a Malaysian writer, he says, “It involves hybridity. The whole meaning of what it is to be Malaysian is one of worldliness.” For some readers the captivating worldliness of Five Star Billionaire will be a wake-up call. Aw says this was never his aim. “My aim was to record what I saw going on, how Shanghai is this magnet for people from all over the world. I think this book opens a window as to what’s happening in China in a way that makes China fathomable. It doesn’t make China weird and scary. It gives, I think, a straightforward, truthfully complex view of what’s going on.”

Five Star Billionaire

By Tash Aw

Spiegel & Grau, $26, 400 pages ISBN 9780812994346, eBook available

“Like Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and Kathryn Stockett’s The Help, Whistling Past the Graveyard is

deSTined To becoMe a cL aSSic.”




rom an award-winning author comes a wise and tender coming-ofage story about a nine-year-old girl who runs away from her Mississippi home in 1963, befriends a lonely woman, and embarks on a life-changing roadtrip.

“A coming-of-age story as well as a luminous portrait of courage and the bonds of friendship. . .I laughed and cried at [the] keen observances of life and family and the sometimes blurred edges of justice.” —*New York Times bestselling author Karen White

OKRA Pick Indie Next List Pick

“Young Starla is an endearing character whose spirited observations propel this nicely crafted story.” —Kirkus Reviews Pick up or download your copy today.


jincy willeTt By becky ohlsen



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e readers can be greedy things. Mere books are not enough for us: We want the authors, too. We want their autographs, their photographs, handshakes, interviews. We want them to tell us all the secret things they didn’t put in the book—we want it all, the entire package. And these days, they’re more or less obligated to sell it to us.


In her hilarious, merciless, entirely delightful new novel, Amy Falls Down, Jincy Willett digs into this phenomenon from several angles. Our protagonist, Amy Gallup, is a contentedly washed-up fiction writer in her 60s who spends most of her days teaching writing classes online from her California home. Then one day she trips in the garden, conks her head on a birdbath and proceeds to give a newspaper interview she doesn’t remember doing. The interview, and Amy’s intriguingly odd (because totally concussed) behavior during it, leads to newfound fame for the long outof-print writer. “You’re not gonna understand it, but you are gonna have to trust me,” her agent tells her. “You’re not just a writer now. You’re a package.” Amy finds the sudden attention at various points invasive, thrilling, oppressive, scary, sad and gross. Even as she resents the way in which a writer’s work has come to include the roles of performer and media personality, Amy learns to make it work for her. Turns out, she has a knack for it. One of the many pleasures of Amy Falls Down is watching Amy venture out of her shell and have fun toying with the media, the publishing industry, her students and pretty much everyone else. She has nothing to lose, and no interest in impressing anybody; consequently, she has no filter, and she gets away with saying things others won’t. Willett has many things in common with her protagonist, including that same amused befuddlement regarding the “packaging” of writers. By phone from her home in Escondido, California, where the Rhode Islander has lived since 1988, Willett talked about publicity, humor, David Sedaris and the curse of potential, among other things. Amy’s biography matches Willett’s in several ways: same age, similar geographical background, nearly

identical smart-aleck websites. Both teach writing online. Some of the lines Amy spouts in the book turn up in Willett’s interviews. The parallels are noticeable. “My feeling about using autobiographical material is, I’m completely free to use my own character, but not free to use anybody else’s,” Willett explains. “She’s a lot like me, but that’s it.” Everything else is invented—and in fact, as Willett sees it, Amy actually “has nothing to do with me.” “It’s lazy, that’s all,” she explains. Using a character that doesn’t need to be invented from whole cloth makes it easier for the author When a to spend her writer suffers energy playing with ideas and a bump on themes. “The the head, more you make things up, the her literary more likely you career gets an are to discover things you didn’t unexpected know about boost. yourself,” she says. “Whereas when you’re actually working with what you know, what you’re really doing is crystallizing things you’ve been turning over for a long, long time.” This leads to fiction that engages in the world of ideas and arguments, Willett says. “Not that you have a message—because that’s obnoxious.” The goal has more to do with “exploring certain issues you think are important, and you want to see if you’re right about them.” Then, too, there’s the fact that using a protagonist only slightly removed from oneself adds to the fun of Amy’s unguarded venting, which focuses on the absurdities of the publishing world. “It was wonderful for me to be able to rant on and on about this stuff,” Willett says. “She does sort of go on.” Late in the novel, Amy ends a speech by telling the crowd, “I am

here accidentally and just for the moment.” Willett seems similarly unimpressed with the idea of fame. It means nothing, she says, except in the sense of still being known 200 years from now— “that’s a big deal.” But the thrill of writing lies elsewhere: “It’s communication, that’s all it is. You can reach out and you can actually communicate with people, even after you’re dead. All we’re doing, really, is talking to each other.” Willett says she “stumbled into” writing in her 30s (unlike Amy, who was a promising young superstar). “When I was a child I lived in my head entirely, and of course I wanted to write,” Willett says. She finally composed one sentence at age 10, and found it so terrible that she “stopped forever.” But she fell back into writing in college, when she took a random creative writing class while majoring in philosophy. She really just wanted an easy A (“I was trying for a 4.0!”), but once she’d submitted a story, the professor told her she should send it to magazines. This sort of thing might be thrilling to some, but Willett was devastated. “The truth is, it’s one thing to have this daydream,” she says, but when it becomes a real possibility, then it’s suddenly your fault if the dream doesn’t happen. “Great, thanks!” Willett thought. “I was perfectly happy as a philosophy student!” Nevertheless, she kept writing stories, and her first story collection, Jenny and the Jaws of Life, was published in 1987. She might have continued writing fiction in relative obscurity except that David Sedaris discovered and fell in love with the book, and raved about it publicly. “That was a very happy circumstance for me,” Willett says. “The thing I like about it is that it’s not a networking story—the only reason we got connected is that he discovered me in a library.” The two have

since met and become friends. The Sedaris connection was particularly exciting for Willett because of her fondness for his particular lineage of American writers, especially the humorists of the ’20s and ’30s (S.J. Perelman is a favorite). “There aren’t many people doing that anymore,” she says, adding that writers today hesitate to make light of things. But the fact that something is funny doesn’t mean it has no weight, she argues: “If you’re doing it right, it doesn’t make light of anything.” Illustrating the point, Willett’s prickly, unvarnished protagonist is at once gruffly funny and unexpectedly touching, the sort of curmudgeon who imagines she’s driving people away but is in fact winning their devotion, wholly by accident. A large part of this ability comes from the accumulated wisdom of having been around a while—something else the author and her character share. “Writing is an older person’s game,” Willett says. “Experience helps, living helps.”

Amy Falls Down

By Jincy Willett

Thomas Dunne, $24.99, 336 pages ISBN 9781250028273, audio, eBook available

meet  NANCY THAYER © Jessica Hills

the title of your new book? Q: What’s  would you describe the book Q: How  in one sentence?

o you have a favorite character in the novel or one that you Q: Despecially enjoyed writing about?

ou’ve lived on Nantucket for almost 30 years. What’s the best Q: Ything about being an island girl?

Q: What are your three favorite obsessions?

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

Q: W  ords to live by?

The author of the popular Hot Flash series and many other bestsellers in women’s fiction, Nancy Thayer returns to Nantucket in her latest summer read, ISLAND GIRLS (Ballantine, $26, 320 pages, ISBN 9780345528735). Blending a beach setting with family drama and several surprises, Thayer tells the story of three very different daughters who must spend a summer together in their late father’s beach house in order to inherit it. Thayer lives on Nantucket year-round with her husband Charley.

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FICTION Tampa By Alissa Nutting


Ecco $25.99, 272 pages ISBN 9780062280541 eBook available

again the magic

DEBUT fiction

Review By matthew jackson

We readers expect magic when we pick up a Neil Gaiman novel. By now he’s built a reputation for his own unique brand of spellbinding fiction, but even among works like American Gods, Stardust and Coraline, The Ocean at the End of the Lane stands as a landmark. Never before has Gaiman’s fiction felt this personal, this vibrant or this deeply intimate. Gaiman’s hero is an unnamed narrator who returns to his childhood home as an adult and is flooded with memories of a farm at the end of the English country lane where he grew up. We relive those boyhood memories as he does, beginning with an odd tragedy that brought him to the doorstep of the Hempstock family. There he meets 11-year-old Lettie, her mother and her ancient grandmother, who claims she was around when the moon was first made. There he finds a pond that Lettie insists is an ocean. And there he embarks on a strange, mesmerizing and frequently terrifying adventure that probes the often unreachable corners of human memory, nostalgia and wonder. By Neil Gaiman At fewer than 200 pages, this is one of Gaiman’s shortest books, and Morrow, $25.99, 192 pages yet The Ocean at the End of the Lane is overflowing with ambition. ISBN 9780062255655, audio, eBook available As it meanders through ever-thickening layers of magical intrigue— which wrap this book like bright green English moss—the novel becomes something more than a boyhood adventure story. It is a fable about the practicalities and inconsistencies of magic, about the often unreliable powers of memory and about how fear can sometimes make us stronger. All this is imparted through a lightning-quick narrative filled with typically spellbinding Gaiman imagery, and told in unpretentious but endlessly evocative prose. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a character study trapped in a fairy tale, a coming-of-age story wrapped in the trappings of myth. It’s Gaiman at his bittersweet, hypnotic best, and it’s a can’t-miss book for this summer.

Fin & Lady By Cathleen Schine

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Sarah Crichton/FSG $26, 288 pages ISBN 9780374154905 Audio, eBook available


POPULAR fiction

Cathleen Schine’s latest novel, Fin & Lady, begins at the funeral of Fin’s mother in rural Connecticut in the early 1960s. His father has already passed away, and his older half sister, Lady, whom Fin hasn’t seen in six years, is now his legal guardian. Fin’s only memory of Lady is from a trip to Capri, where he and his parents went looking for Lady after she jilted her fiancé. Glamorous, careless and charismatic, Lady seems like an unlikely guardian for an 11-year-old boy, but she is all Fin has. Together, they set up a home

in New York, first in the West Side apartment Lady inherited, then in Greenwich Village, where Fin comes of age along with the decade. Lady is obsessed with her freedom, but equally consumed with being loved, and charges Fin with the inappropriate task of selecting the perfect husband. Lady is pursued by three ardent suitors—Tyler, a lawyer and the former fiancé; Biffi Deutsch, a Hungarian gallery owner; and Jack, a preppy jock. None of them seems quite right to Fin, although he likes Biffi the best, and Lady goes from one to another with a cavalier charm. Only Fin can see the pain behind her recklessness, the urge to run that Lady fights on a daily basis. In a more conventional novel, there would be some kind of moral comeuppance for Lady’s irresponsibility and demands for adult behavior from a teenager. But in Schine’s world, nonconformity is acceptable, even preferable, and the family you make is as important as the one you

are born into. Placed against the backdrop of the revolutionary 1960s, this nontraditional family seems part and parcel of the era’s social changes. Just as the spirit of Jane Austen wafted through The Three Weissmanns of Westport, Fin & Lady seems inspired by Homer’s Odyssey—from the three suitors who hang around the Greenwich Village apartment to the references to Capri (the original home of the Sirens) and the battered copy of the Greek epic that Lady sends to Fin after she runs away for the second time. Schine’s novels are as light and crisp as a perfectly baked meringue. They are sentimental, but without a shred of the saccharine, and she writes with a deeply felt empathy for all her characters. This comic romance will delight her fans, and may also win her some new readers for whom the swinging ’60s in New York and Capri may hold a special appeal. — L a u r e n B u ff e r d

Readers who insist that characters must be “likable” for them to enjoy a story had best steer clear of Alissa Nutting’s debut novel, Tampa, a black comedy whose protagonist’s soul is as dark as a thunderstorm at midnight. But for those of a more adventuresome literary bent who are looking for a frank—and often, frankly funny—glimpse into the troubled mind of a female sexual predator, this swiftly paced novel will generate as many intriguing questions about contemporary sexual mores as it does laughs. Inspired by the true story of Debra Lafave, a Tampa middle-school teacher charged in 2004 with “lewd and lascivious battery” for engaging in sex with a student, the novel is narrated by her fictional doppelgänger, Celeste Price, a 26-year-old teacher who’s entered the profession solely to gain access to sexual prey. She soon fixes on Jack Patrick, a 14-year-old student in her English class, where most of the tutelage involves works of literature with strong sexual themes. It doesn’t take long for them to begin a lust-fueled affair, one that unsurprisingly provokes strong emotions in Jack, while allowing Celeste to sate an appetite for sex that’s like “seafood with the shortest imaginable half-life, needing to be peeled and eaten the moment the urge ripened.” Take note: Nutting’s descriptions of Celeste’s frequent sexual encounters with her adolescent lover are graphic, even shocking. Equally disturbing is the darkness at the core of Celeste’s being, a depravity that allows her to watch impassively as a character dies of a heart attack or coolly assess how she’ll bring her affair with Jack to what she knows from the beginning will be its inevitable end. Nutting has taken a considerable risk in tackling such a transgressive subject at a point in her career when she’s being discovered by most readers for the first time. But a novel

FICTION can’t succeed based only on a bold premise. It’s a tribute to Nutting’s considerable talent that she adds style and wit to make this a convincing, if deeply troubling, story. —Harvey Freedenberg

Blood & Beauty By Sarah Dunant

Random House $27, 528 pages ISBN 9781400069293 Audio, eBook available


from draping the work in gorgeous prose. The bombast and the high stakes of this story come to vivid life with every word. It’s a refreshingly unrestrained treatment of the genre, and it makes the tale all the more engaging. Perfect for readers who love danger, romance and lots of palace intrigue, Blood & Beauty is a triumph on an epic scale. Dunant takes us deep into this gorgeous but often deadly world, and we never want to leave. Lucky for us, the epilogue notes that she’s already planning another Borgia book. —Matthew Jackson

The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. By Adelle Waldman Holt $25, 256 pages ISBN 9780805097450 Audio, eBook available

debut fiction

MEGAN HART weaves a shattering small-town story about what can turn brother against brother, and the kinds of secrets that cannot remain untold.

—Megan Fishmann

Visit for an interview with Adelle Waldman. 

The Humans “I want to see your book collection.” So goes a classic pickup line from Nathaniel (Nate) Piven, an up-and-coming literary star in Brooklyn whose relationships populate Adelle Waldman’s The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. Reminiscent of classic realist novels from authors like Graham Greene or Henry James, this delightful debut jumps headfirst into the mind of one man, revealing what he really thinks about women, dating and success. From the beginning, readers know that Nate Piven is an anxious guy. He’s anxious about his upcoming book (which sold for a considerable advance, but not quite as much as the sexually explicit memoir from fellow hot, young writer Greer Cohen). He’s anxious about the dinner party thrown by his ex-girlfriend Elisa (who definitely is still in love with him) and he’s anxious about asking out Hannah, Elisa’s good friend. Meanwhile, he’s constantly bumping into his flock of exes, beautiful and brainy literary assistants who seem to come off some sort of assembly line—one can’t help but wonder if Nate’s struggle to commit stems from his having too much nostalgia for his own past. Nate is a nearly unlikable, yet frighteningly realistic, character— the sort of neurotic, conceited,

By Matt Haig

Simon & Schuster $25, 304 pages ISBN 9781476727912 eBook available

POPULAR fiction

How often do we contemplate what it is that makes us human? Caught up in the daily minutiae of our lives, many of us lose sight of the true miracle that is our existence. This is the sentiment explored by British author Matt Haig in his novel The Humans, which takes a hackneyed premise (the observation of Earthlings by a visitor from another galaxy) and turns it into a surprisingly touching and often hilarious tale. Our narrator is Professor Andrew Martin, a brilliant mathematician who has just cracked the Riemann hypothesis, a mind-bending, reallife theory that is considered one of the math world’s most significant unsolved problems. Only it isn’t really Andrew the reader is following. Our protagonist is actually an alien being, sent from his hosts on a far-distant and extremely advanced

“A tense look at dark secrets and the redemptive power of truth.” —Kirkus Reviews

Available June 25.

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Sarah Dunant has visited the turbulent beauty of the Italian Renaissance before, in rich historical novels like The Birth of Venus. With Blood & Beauty, she returns to this fascinating era, but this time she’s trained her acute storytelling eye on real historical figures: one of Europe’s most infamous families, the Borgias. Turning the lives of people who actually inhabit the pages of history into a compelling, dazzling fictional narrative is a new challenge for Dunant, but she rises to it beautifully. Filled with rich detail and pageturning drama, Blood & Beauty is an ambitious and bravura new work from a powerful voice in historical fiction. Beginning with the election of Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia as Pope Alexander VI in 1492, Dunant charts 10 years of turbulent, romantic and often chaotic Borgia rule in Europe. As a Spanish clergyman surrounded by Italians, famous as much for his wealth and the love of his illegitimate children as for his statue in the church, Alexander knows he must be shrewd and smart if he is to bend Europe to his will. To satisfy his unceasing desire for power amid the ever-turbulent politics of a divided Italian peninsula, he turns to his two most famous children, the warrior Cesare and the charming Lucrezia, key to the future of his dynasty. The most striking thing about Blood & Beauty is how unreservedly Dunant luxuriates in the pageantry and drama of the period. She labored to strip away some of the centuries’ worth of propaganda and rumors surrounding the Borgia family with this novel, and she succeeds in that, but she also never shies

selfish boor who might have sprung from the mind of Woody Allen. At one point in the novel, Nate’s friend questions why women always want to be in a serious relationship while men rarely do, and it’s this perplexing thought that permeates the story. Does Nate date Hannah because he’s terrified of being alone with his own company? Will he ever have the capacity to develop feelings for another person? Much of the strength of The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. lies in Waldman’s attention to detail, which builds a completely believable depiction of the New York 20- and 30-something dating scene. Although the novel’s ending unfortunately trails off, leaving readers curious about Nate’s ultimate fate, Waldman succeeds in revealing one man’s narcissistic impulses and shortcomings as a boyfriend.



reviews planet to kill the professor, take on his identity and delete all knowledge of the solved hypothesis from Earth. In the view of these extra­ terrestrials, humans are nothing but incredibly simple, brutally violent, money-hungry beings who aren’t worthy of the revolutionary effects this proof would have. If this sounds far-fetched and a bit ridiculous, well . . . it is. But Haig elevates the premise with his deft, humor-rich storytelling skills, even as some plot points can be seen several pages away. Will the alien Andrew Martin realize that the “simplicity” of human emotions such as love and grief—things not experienced in any way on his planet—are actually complex and beautiful? Will the idea of mortality—also not seen on his planet—cause him to appreciate the magnificent fragility of earthly life? What do you think? Yet even when the storyline seems predictable, there is much pleasure in the journey as the previously impassive “professor” is awakened

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Text AVON to READIT (732348) for more exclusive content Visit us on Facebook and Twitter Also available as eBooks. Check out for exciting digital-first publications.

FICTION to the joys of the Talking Heads, crunchy peanut butter, sex, soccer and the sloppy-tongued loyalty of a good dog. A reverence for mathematics and history also runs through the book, cutting through some of the sentimentality with a healthy dose of intellectualism. The Humans is an engaging summer read. —Rebecca Stropoli


Ecco $26.99, 304 pages ISBN 9780062213785 Audio, eBook available

LITERARY fiction

The Light in the Ruins By Chris Bohjalian

Doubleday $25.95, 320 pages ISBN 9780385534819 Audio, eBook available

Historical fiction

In his 15 previous novels, Chris Bohjalian has delved into a potpourri of weighty topics, including environmental activism, medical malpractice suits and interracial adoption. Some of his more recent novels are injected with an element of mystery, and he continues on that track with his latest—a brilliant blend of historical fiction and a chilling serial killer story. This gripping novel opens in Florence in 1955 with the brutal murder of Francesca Rosati, daughter-inlaw of Antonio and Beatrice Rosati. Serafina Bettini is part of the homicide unit investigating Francesca’s murder, and she first interviews Cristina, the Rosatis’ only daughter, who discovered the body. In only a few days her mother, Beatrice, is murdered in the same manner, and it becomes clear that a serial killer is methodically eliminating the Rosati family one at a time. Wondering if the motive may trace back to the war years when the villa was occupied for a time by supporters of Mussolini, Serafina questions Cristina about her family’s involvement with either the Nazis or the local partisans trying to sabotage the Nazi efforts, bringing up painful memories. Bohjalian deftly ties together the stories of these two young women as the killer is identified and the long-harbored revenge is revealed. He succeeds in turning a historical novel into a page-turner that the reader will not soon forget. —Deborah Donovan

It’s clear that 1985 hasn’t been Greta Wells’ year. Reeling from the death of her twin brother and the shock of her longtime partner walking out on her, Greta feels as if the very foundation of her life is crumbling and threatening to take her with it. Desperate times call for desperate measures, so in a last-ditch attempt at happiness, Greta turns to electroshock therapy, hoping it will help dispel the quagmire of depression and despair she finds herself sinking into. The treatment is not without consequence, however: With each electrifying session, Greta finds herself transported through time, sliding seamlessly into lives in different decades that, with but the slightest shuffling of fate’s deck of cards, could have been her own. As Greta bounces from her 1918 persona of oppressed housewife with a secret lover, to a doting mother and picture-perfect wife in 1941 and back to 1985 once more, she revels in the return of loved ones she feared were forever Which life out of reach, while also grapwill Greer’s pling with the time-traveler struggles and heroine losses that seem to reverberate choose? throughout each lifetime. The harsh boundaries between the lives begin to soften as the burdens that each Greta carries can no longer be ignored and the consequences of their actions become increasingly difficult to compartmentalize. With the end of her treatment drawing near, Greta faces a race to set everything right and must prepare herself to choose the one life in which happily ever after has the potential to exist right now. In The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells, Andrew Sean Greer masterfully harnesses the dizzying powers of his imagination to explore the

intoxicating question of “what if?” in a story that proves utterly enchanting. Greer writes with a thoughtfulness and elegance that allows the multiple storylines to coalesce easily into something that is both larger than life and the very essence of it. Though the time-travel may initially throw some readers for a loop, the quandaries that Greta faces are sufficiently universal and convincing—and Greer’s storytelling so skillful—that within the pages of fiction, the impossible has never seemed so attainable, or so real. —Stephenie Harrison

Christian Nation By Frederic C. Rich Norton $25.95, 352 pages ISBN 9780393240115 eBook available


The logician Kurt Gödel, who contemplated becoming an American citizen, decided that the Constitution had loopholes big enough to drive a dictatorship through. His insight is vindicated by Frederic C. Rich’s Christian Nation, a speculative novel in which militant evangelicals incrementally take over the American government and proceed to eviscerate the Constitution. It’s 2009, and John McCain is president. After dying rather precipitously, he is replaced by Sarah Palin. She quickly loses what little credibility she had, and drifts. That is, until terrorists down several American planes using surface-toair missiles. Martial law is declared. Meanwhile, FOX News has merged with a family values organization, spawning a “Teavangelical” mouthpiece. Homeschooling grows in prevalence in order to inculcate Christian values. A state law banning abortion snowballs into a reversal of Roe v. Wade. Finally, after the election of the dryly named President Jordan, God usurps the Constitution as the supreme law of the land. After the real 2004 election, a satirical map circulated, designating the blue states as “The United States of Canada” while the red states became “Jesusland.” In Christian Nation, several blue states form a “Secular Bloc” constituting nearly

FICTION half of the country’s wealth. This bloc is then invaded by the federal military, with San Francisco and New York bearing the brunt. This scenario would be terrifying if it weren’t occasionally ludicrous. Picture now-governor Mike Bloomberg discussing the Siege of Leningrad, or the protagonist pleading with him, “Mike . . . think of the gays.” At moments like this, Christian Nation flounders as fiction. But as a primer on how extremists can contort the law, it can be very compelling. Rich, a lawyer, might well have chosen to write a legal history instead. His command of relevant legislation is frequently devastating. Though John McCain did not win the 2008 election, in recent years controversial actions like drone strikes, invasions of privacy and unlawful detainment have been condoned in part due to greater worries over terrorism. So it’s not for us to say, “It can’t happen here.” This disturbing book argues that much of it already has. —Kenneth Champeon

Sisterland By Curtis Sittenfeld Random House $27, 416 pages ISBN 9781400068319 Audio, eBook available


ing as a psychic medium and gains international attention when she predicts that a massive earthquake will soon devastate their hometown of St. Louis. It sounds like a strange premise—and it is—but Sittenfeld’s writing is so nuanced, true-to-life and readable, it almost doesn’t matter what she’s writing about. Kate is our not-quite-reliable narrator, moving back and forth through time to the girls’ childhood with a depressed, reclusive mother and a quiet, passive father; to college, where Kate excels and Violet flounders; and to the present day, where the twins lead vastly different lives, yet are bound by their shared past and visions of the future. As the date of the earthquake approaches, both sisters make decisions that will change their lives forever. In Sisterland, Sittenfeld plays with our ideas of premonition and intuition and questions the reliability of our perception of current events and memories of the past. Do we see things as they are, or as we want them to be? Do we have control over our lives, or are we destined to follow a certain course? Are things ever as they seem? The answers, of course, are complicated, and while the plot occasionally dips into melodrama, Sittenfeld never loses control. Sisterland is another Sittenfeld novel to savor, ponder and recommend to friends. —Abby Plesser

Visitation Street By Ivy Pochoda

Dennis Lehane Books $25.99, 320 pages ISBN 9780062249890 eBook available

more than the story of an ill-fated romance between a timid co-ed with a Strawberry Shortcake suitcase and a predatory teacher. The affair between the diffident Margie Fitzgerald and her Latin professor fades out almost as quickly as it begins. As a parting gift, however, he makes her the head of the fanatical animal rights group he founded and is now washing his hands of. Feeling useful and included at last, Margie does something stupid and spectacular enough for her to be wanted by the FBI. With the help of one of her animal activist friends, she flees to a Crow reservation in Montana. Specifically, she’s deposited, like one of the stray bunnies she likes to save, at the home of a wise and elderly Crow woman and her family. Yes, yes, haven’t we had enough of authors bringing out old, patient, sagacious Native American women—to the point where we may secretly long for a matriarch who’s mean, irresponsible, potty-mouthed and can’t tell one herb or root from another? But that’s for another novel.

EARTH WITCHES SERIES Dynamic Urban Fantasy The Earth Witches, keepers of the world’s magic, find chaos and desire in the hidden ruins of the Barrows. Servants of the enigmatic Earth Mother, they use magic and modern weapons to battle men, monsters and personal conflicts. BOOK 3 • AVAILABLE JULY 2

—Meg Bowden



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Curtis Sittenfeld is best known for Prep, her pitch-perfect novel of high school angst, but she is no one-trick pony. She explored questions of love in The Man of My Dreams and gave Laura Bush a fascinating fictionalized life in American Wife. With Sisterland, Sittenfeld introduces us to twin sisters Kate and Violet, bound by a complicated childhood, conflicted friendship and—most importantly—psychic abilities. Kate and Vi discovered that they had “senses” at an early age, but while Vi embraced and nurtured her premonitions, Kate repressed them. Kate wanted love, marriage and a conventional life, while Vi was always happy to live more on the fringes. When we meet them in their 30s, Kate has the family she always wanted, complete with devoted husband Jeremy and adorable young children Rosie and Owen. Vi is work-

olds June and Val are craving adventure. Lanky and fair-haired, Val is timid and demure compared to June, her gregarious best friend. Much to Val’s dismay, June has developed into a buxom young woman seemingly overnight, and her priorities are shifting to a place where Val may no longer fit. Aiming to keep their friendship alive, Val suggests the two take a late-night ride out on the bay. A reluctant June agrees, and the girls set out in the unlit, humid streets of Red Hook. Moments after their raft is afloat, the two girls disappear. Only Val washes up on shore, badly bruised and semi-conscious. Shocked by this unsettling event, the residents of Red Hook must deal with the aftermath of June’s disappearance. Cree, a friend of the girls who has just faced his own family tragedy, finds himself at the center of the police investigation. Fadi, a local bodega owner, uses his storefront to publicize June’s disappearance in hopes that it will become the neighborhood’s headquarters for news. Jonathan Sprouse, music appreciation teacher and frequent boozer, battles with his personal ties to the tragedy. In the middle of it all, pain-stricken Val buries a dark secret about that night, only revealing it to the one she trusts most. A literary mystery, Pochoda’s story weaves through the haunting atmosphere of Red Hook, where drugs, drinking and violence dominate the streets. Truths about Red Hook are cleverly hidden throughout the novel, allowing the reader to determine which characters can be trusted. Full of vivid imagery and striking characters, Visitation Street ends with a bang you won’t want to miss.


The Lovebird By Natalie Brown One sweltering summer night in Red Hook, Brooklyn, Val and her best friend June take their inflatable raft onto the bay—but only one of them returns home. Searching for answers and pertinent evidence, their neighborhood is shaken as residents attempt to solve the biggest mystery they’ve ever witnessed. Ivy Pochoda’s second novel, Visitation Street, uncovers Red Hook’s secrets, delving deep into a girl’s disappearance and the ghosts that arise in its wake. As summertime wanes, 15-year-

Doubleday $24.95, 336 pages ISBN 9780385536752 eBook available


The first pages of Natalie Brown’s debut novel might bring a reader to groan, “Not another story about a ninny falling for her college professor!” But The Lovebird proves to be

reviews Besides, Brown’s skill pulls us into Granma’s warm, nurturing orbit in spite of ourselves. One reason we love her is the goodness she’s passed on to her son Jim, a chap who’s manly enough to rebuild a car engine and sensitive enough to cry when he shoots a buffalo. Another reason we love Granma is that she’s such a refreshing contrast to the watery Margie. Motherless, raised by a loving but sad and ineffectual father, Margie has been blown hither and yon all of her life like so much of the fluff that blows from the Montana cottonwoods. The rootedness of Granma and her family is what she deeply needs. Skating so close to cliché and stereotype, then subverting them a little; making you feel for and believe in her characters and care about what happens to them—these are signs of real talent. Natalie Brown is a real talent. —Arlene McKanic

Lexicon By Max Barry

Penguin Press $26.95, 400 pages ISBN 9781594205385 eBook available

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It’s easy to underestimate the challenges of crafting contemporary fantasy, especially when one compares the task with that of writing its older cousin, the traditional swords-and-sorcery fantasy. But just because the author of a contemporary fantasy can skip some expository steps in character development and setting if the protagonist is an ex-Navy SEAL named Josh living in Boston instead of, say, a 12th-degree death-o-mancer named Magyar Trothan who lives in the land of Whimsicalia, that doesn’t mean taking the less fantastical road is easy. After all, anything that happens in the mostly real, present-day world is subject to the immediate scrutiny of countless experts—plenty of readers will be familiar with Boston or have a family member in the military, whereas no one other than the author will possess any firsthand knowledge on death-o-mancer training. (Granted, the Whimsicalian Wiki will be up a few days after the

FICTION book is published.) Nonetheless, most crafters of fantasy, traditional or contemporary, have one big hurdle in common: devising a system of “magic” that’s fresh, compelling and coherent. With his latest book, Australian author Max Barry (Jennifer Government, Company) easily clears this often fatal hurdle with a premise (and system) guaranteed to appeal to readers: Words have power, and some words have a lot of power. In Lexicon, a global organization whose members refer to themselves as “the poets” employs psycho-linguistic tactics to control, well, pretty much anything or anyone. But like any other multinational concern, even super-secret groups have staffing needs. In the orphaned Emily Ruff, they find someone who may or may not be a powerful addition to their organization. Barry alternates the chapters covering her recruitment and training with tense action sequences involving a man named Wil and his mysterious captors (or protectors?). These are maddeningly opaque at first, though the blistering pace—more reminiscent of a Ludlum spy thriller than anything else—makes the difficulty in gaining one’s bearings tolerable. By book’s end, Lexicon has revealed itself as a contemporary fantasy that’s three parts thriller and one part romance (somewhat diluted). In the process, Barry’s tale provides its reader with an intriguing, satisfying ride through a world where the phrase “has a way with words” refers to the author’s own world-building as much as to the characters who inhabit it. —Michael Burgin

A Treacherous Paradise By Henning Mankell

Knopf $26.95, 384 pages ISBN 9780307961228 Audio, eBook available

Historical fiction

There are two Henning Mankells: One is doyen of the Swedish suspense genre and creator of the popular Kurt Wallander mystery series; the other contemplates the painful racial relationships between Europeans and Africans, as in The

Eye of the Leopard. While lacking the page-turning propulsion of his Wallander books—and nearly devoid of all suspense, period—A Treacherous Paradise is nevertheless an engrossing read, driven by a woman’s evolution and the question she must ultimately face: What future will she choose when the choice is finally hers to make? At the age of 18, Hanna Renström is defined by her powerlessness, as changes both permanent and frightening toss her one way or the other. Her early life is a series of passive events: Hanna is banished from Suspense her home in author provincial Sweden; she is given Mankell a job as a cook changes on a ship bound for Australia; gears with she is widowed a racially after being marcharged ried to a young sailor for mere story set in weeks. colonial In her first deliberate act, Africa. Hanna escapes the impenetrable sorrow of the ship by disembarking in Portuguese East Africa and taking up residence in a brothel barely disguised as a hotel. Hanna marries the brothel owner and almost immediately finds herself widowed again, and so she becomes the proprietress of the bordello and its black prostitutes. In turn-of-the-century Mozambique, where whites assert a perilous dominance over a simmering black population, Hanna’s status is determined by the color of her skin, a classification that chafes but is initially impossible to subvert. Her defining moment comes when a black woman kills a white man, and in an act of courage that edges on the unbelievable, Hanna aligns herself with the guilty woman, choosing gender over race. Mankell, who divides his time between Sweden and Mozambique with “one foot in the snow and one foot in the sand,” comes at the postcolonial African narrative like so many European writers before him. A Treacherous Paradise is reactionary literature; like Conrad, and like Hanna herself, Mankell restages the players again and again to better understand the roles of racial imbalance, the unifying quality of fear and possibly his own place in the fold.

Readers looking for some Wallanderstyle twists should keep looking, but fans of evenly paced tales of awakening will recognize the reward. —Cat Acree

Ten Things I’ve Learnt About Love By Sarah Butler

Penguin Press $26.95, 320 pages ISBN 9781594205330 eBook available

debut fiction

Love has many forms. It’s the bond between a parent and a child. It shows up in sibling relationships. It’s the connective tissue that unites sweethearts. It’s a lasting friendship. And all too often, love is a complex web of emotion, commitment and uncertainty. That’s certainly the case for the characters in Ten Things I’ve Learnt About Love, a debut novel by Londoner Sarah Butler. At nearly 30, Alice is the youngest of three daughters, and she has always felt as though her parents should have stopped with just two children. Her mother died in a car wreck en route to pick up 4-year-old Alice from ballet. Ever since, Alice thinks it has been difficult for her father to look at her. That paranoia has resulted in difficult relationships with him and her sisters. Alice has spent most of her adulthood as a globetrotting nomad. Daniel is similarly adrift, wandering the streets of London in search of the daughter he never knew. Both of his parents have died, and the woman he loved was never his to begin with. Life has dealt him a difficult hand, leaving him homeless and, save for finding his child, without purpose. “You can’t miss someone you’ve never met. But I miss you,” he says to her. As Butler shifts between—and eventually links—Alice’s and Daniel’s stories, the novel explores the intricacies of familial relationships and what an individual is willing to sacrifice to preserve the relationships and the people in his or her life. Combining detailed storytelling with character-revealing lists of 10 things her protagonists have learned to treasure, Butler establishes herself as a talent to watch. —Carla Jean Whitley

reviews Blue Plate Special


Appetite for reconstruction R e v i e w b y K e l ly B l e w e t t

—Henry L. Carrigan Jr.

Blue Plate Special began as a series of autobiographical blog posts about food, which Kate Christensen jokes she wanted to write even if her mother were the only reader. The responses to these posts were so enthusiastic that Christensen, author of the acclaimed novels The Astral and The Great Man, among others, knew she’d found the topic of her next book, a mouthwateringly good story that begs to be read and shared. Blue Plate Special follows the unusual—even eccentric—development of both Christensen’s palate and her very identity. It’s a story full of delicious indulgences and tasty descriptions of fried chicken, fresh produce and cheese. Simple recipes are included throughout, and it is well worth trying a few. (I can personally attest to the tastiness of the spinach pie.) Like many foodies, Christensen’s palate truly awoke during a year-long stay in France, and the stories of her simple meals in the French countryside alone are worth the price of the book. But her story is also one of deprivation, determination to lose a few By Kate Christensen pounds, troubling thoughts about wide backsides and what her mother Doubleday, $26.95, 368 pages called “huskiness.” Christensen, a passionate and charismatic personality, ISBN 9780385536264, eBook available vacillates between gorging herself on whatever her fancy may be at the moment—say, burritos with fried-up canned beans—and starving herself on diets that involve dipping a carrot in olive oil and calling it lunch. She seems to profoundly understand how she came to be herself, and she shares her insights simply and movingly. Consider, for instance, her reflection on witnessing domestic violence between her parents in early childhood. “This particular wrecked breakfast,” she writes, “is imprinted on my soul like a big boot mark. It became a kind of primordial scene, the incident around which my lifelong fundamental identity and understanding of the dynamic between women and men was shaped, whether I liked it or not.” This frank insightfulness flavors all of the chapters, which are organized chronologically and span a wide geography, both literally and metaphorically. For much of her life, Christensen writes that she was “a hungry, lonely wild animal looking for happiness and stability.” Readers will celebrate that she, at long last, finds both.

Ready For a Brand New Beat By Mark Kurlansky

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Riverhead $27.95, 288 pages ISBN 9781594487224 Audio, eBook availablee



The summer of 1964 was marked as much by rioting in the streets as by dancing in the street. President Kennedy’s assassination in November 1963 had already cut deeply into the optimism, hope and anticipation of the early 1960s, and the subsequent escalation of the Vietnam War and racial strife in the cities tore that quilt of dreams wide open during the following year. In the midst of this disappointment and conflict, however, music brought people of diverse backgrounds together in

ways that had never occurred previously, and have seldom happened since. Kurlansky captures the power of music to unite people, at least momentarily, in Ready for a Brand New Beat, the evocative tale of a song and its enduring impact on American culture. Much as he did in his earlier acclaimed books such as Salt and 1968, Kurlansky uses a small focal point as a way to illuminate larger trends in history. Along the way, he tells a rattling good story as he vividly recreates the birth of Martha Reeves and the Vandellas’ hit song “Dancing in the Street,” its immediate popularity and its long musical afterlife. When Marvin Gaye, Ivy Jo Hunter and Mickey Stevenson wrote “Dancing in the Street,” Stevenson had his wife, Kim Weston, in mind as the singer; after they invited Reeves to come into the studio to sing the song, and she laid down an energetic, moving first take, the trio knew this was her song. When it was

what many have called the best cover ever made—have tried their musical hands at it. Yet because the song is so intimately connected to the events of 1964 in Detroit and in America, none of these covers has equaled the power of Martha Reeves and the Vandellas’ original.

released in August 1964, it started a slow climb to the top of the Billboard charts. At the end of this long, hot summer marked by urban riots and protests against the war, the song soon took on many meanings. For white audiences, “Dancing in the Street” was a good-time song, providing the soundtrack for their hedonistic spirit. For black audiences, however, “Dancing in the Street” was an anthem that celebrated freedom from the social injustices of segregation. By October, the song had reached the number two spot on the Top 100 chart, confirming its popularity among all audiences. Much as it provided the musical backdrop to the summer and fall of 1964, “Dancing in the Street” continues to live in more than 35 cover versions by very diverse artists. Kim Weston finally recorded her own take in 1997, and artists including Joan Baez, the reggae group The Royals and the duo of Mick Jagger and David Bowie—who recorded

Mother Daughter Me By Katie Hafner

Random House $26, 288 pages ISBN 9781400069361 eBook available


Journalist and author Katie Hafner kept no secrets where her difficult upbringing was concerned. Moved from place to place with her older sister by their self-involved, alcoholic mother, the two girls were ultimately removed from her custody but remained in touch with her over the years. When her mother fell on hard times in 2009, Hafner decided to forge a new bond by bringing her to San Francisco and a home shared with Hafner’s 16-year-old daughter. Their idealized experiment in multigenerational living quickly became contentious and unlivable. Mother Daughter Me tells their story, then sifts through the fallout for larger truths about the roles of parent and child. Hafner has said throughout her life that “parents do the best they can, given what they have to work with,” and somehow hewing strongly to that belief has allowed her to be both forthright and compassionate in portraying her mother (whose name is changed in the book). Hafner’s mother was a genuine monster early on, but stabilized considerably in later life. Her struggles to connect with her daughter and granddaughter at age 77 could be seen as deserved comeuppance, but Hafner also directs our attention to her mother’s skilled work at starting a new life in a new city, and her admiration does not feel grudging in the least. Their fights are real, and often have unexpectedly deep roots, but the love is constant as well. This is a heavy story—not just a memoir of parents and children but

NONFICTION of infidelity, job loss and death—but Hafner can apply a light touch as needed. Anyone who has cared for an aging parent will identify as she and her mother stock their new kitchen with combined utensils. Hafner is insistent on hers taking up the bulk of the space, in part as testament to her superiority as a parent and provider, a sentiment she considers “too obnoxiously smug to say in words. So I say it with flatware.” Mother Daughter Me is a story of bonds frayed well past the point of breaking, yet somehow held tight in the grip of a fierce and forgiving love. —Heather Seggel

The Manor By Mac Griswold

FSG $28, 480 pages ISBN 9780374266295 eBook available


to the Society of Friends. Nathaniel had grown up as a religious nonconformist and would have been receptive to the Quakers’ radical message, in opposition to the more restrictive Puritans. Nathaniel’s unique and courageous contribution was to offer a lawful sanctuary to Quakers in a region where they were most severely prosecuted. Ship captains knew they could leave Quaker passengers on Shelter Island and they would be safe. Grizzell had been raised as an Anglican and, in her new circumstances, participated in studies of the Bible and theology. Although Quaker leader George Fox and others preached freedom for the slaves, the slaveholders among their ranks did not release their slaves for many years. Their wealth and status was too strongly dependent on this source of labor. Griswold’s engaging book takes the reader with her on a voyage of discovery over years of meticulous research from many sources, including fascinating treasures found in a vault in the house. She presents her material in such a way that we feel we learn about the lives of the inhabitants of the house at the same time as the author. The focus on this one plantation raises—and is able to answer— some questions about relationships between and among European colonists, African slaves, Native Americans and slaveholding Quakers. This fine book shines light on an important but little-known (at least to the general public) aspect of our history. —Roger Bishop

The Deserters By Charles Glass

Penguin Press $27.95, 400 pages ISBN 9781594204289 eBook available


Given that only one American soldier—the statistically unfortunate Private Eddie Slovik—was executed for desertion in World War II, one might conclude that it was rare for a soldier to prematurely leave the battlefield during that protracted conflict. Not so, says Charles Glass,

the former chief Middle East correspondent for ABC News, in his new book, The Deserters. By official estimates, around 50,000 American and 100,000 British combatants deserted for various reasons and stretches of time. A great number of these fought bravely before and/or after their unsanctioned absences—and many deserted more than once. The common denominator of these desertions, as Glass sifts through them, was battle fatigue, not cowardice. Indeed, he heads each of his chapters with a quotation from Psychology for the Fighting Man, Prepared for the Fighting Man Himself, a guide to understanding behavior caused by wartime stress, published in 1943 at the height of the war. (The insights conveyed in these quotations apply just as well to the flood of mentally damaged soldiers returning from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq today.) To convey the chaos and horror that so frequently led to desertion, Glass examines the individual histories of three soldiers—Americans Stephen Weiss and Alfred Whitehead and Englishman John Bain—who fought in campaigns throughout North Africa and Europe from the start of the war until Germany surrendered. All three men (hardly more than boys at the time) volunteered for service, and all gradually became disillusioned and embittered with the way the war played out. They witnessed friends dying under the most gruesome circumstances, suffered incompetent and indecisive leadership, lived like burrowing vermin on the front lines and endured the around-the-clock terror of imminent death or injury. The tide of desertions was a double problem for the Allied Command. To begin with, it was a public relations embarrassment since it carried the message that not all soldiers were eager and heroic warriors, as the prevailing propaganda suggested. Moreover, it depleted the supply of men desperately needed at the front. Consequently, the definition of what constituted desertion became fairly elastic, and deserters were routinely forgiven if they agreed to return to battle. Weiss, Whitehead and Bain were convicted of desertion and sentenced to long periods of hard labor. Ultimately, though, their sentences were reduced. Weiss became a psychologist, Whitehead a professional barber; Bain changed his name to

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When cultural landscape historian Mac Griswold first saw the boxwoods in 1984, they appeared to be 12 feet tall and 15 feet wide. She knew immediately that the slowgrowing shrubs must be hundreds of years old. As she learned later, the house, built in the 1650s, and gardens beyond were known as Sylvester Manor, and had been there a long time: through 11 generations over three and a half centuries. Finding out as much as she could about the manor and the people who lived there became Griswold’s history project for many years. The research and excavation continues, but she shares her exciting and complex—and surprising—journey with us in her extraordinary book, The Manor: Three Centuries at a Slave Plantation on Long Island. Long before large plantations were created in the American South, there were many plantations along the New England coast. They were provisioning plantations, part of what is called “the Atlantic system,” a constantly changing web of connections in trading and shipping that kept the system going. Sylvester Manor, on Shelter Island between the North and South Forks of Long Island, New York, is the earliest of these plantations to survive in es-

sentially complete form. It was the first Northern provisioning plantation to be systematically excavated. As was the case with the Landscape better-known plantations historian in the South, Griswold these Northern discovered a plantations little-known depended on the labor of Afstory on a rican slaves. The workers also Long Island included Native plantation. Americans and indentured servants. Griswold speculates that this Northern slavery may be harder to grasp because the numbers of slaves were smaller and the labor arrangements and tasks more varied. Nathaniel and Grizzell Sylvester, the married couple who established the Manor, came from quite different backgrounds. Nathaniel was born in Amsterdam in 1620, where his father, who had immigrated from England, had become wealthy and developed connections that would help his sons establish themselves as significant players in shipping. Nathaniel’s roots in entrepreneurial Amsterdam and his time spent in Barbados—on a plantation owned by his brother, Constant, where he first dealt with the practice of slavery—shaped his approach to Sylvester Manor. Grizzell Brinley was born in England in 1636, where her father was an auditor in the court of Charles I. Changing political winds in England led Grizzell’s family to send her, in 1650, with her sister and brother-in-law to the New World: a quite different life than the one she had expected to live. Several revelations stand out in Griswold’s research. In her first tour of the house she hears about a “slave staircase,” but the steps are blocked. This is the first indication to her that although they were often called “servants” in this period, in fact it was slaves who built the house. Later on, it became clear that the slaves did live in the same house as their owners, a policy that appears to have continued until at least the mid-18th century. Common housing also was the case, we now know, for the earliest planters of Virginia and Maryland. Another revelation is that, contrary to what Griswold was originally told, the Sylvesters were not only slaveholders but also converts


reviews Vernon Scannell and lived out the remainder of his life as a respected poet. None repudiated his actions or lost his distaste for war. —Edward Morris

The End of Night By Paul Bogard

Little, Brown $27, 336 pages ISBN 9780316182904 eBook available

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Paul Bogard is afraid of the dark. But he’s more afraid of losing the dark. His book, The End of Night, examines how we are slowly losing our ability to enjoy the night skies because of the spread of artificial light. The glare of commercial signage, billboards, parking lot lampposts and other sources of light pollution means that 80 percent of American children will never experience a sky dark enough to see the Milky Way, Bogard writes. The human race prides itself on having conquered darkness, that mysterious abyss that is home to werewolves, vampires and other scary monsters. But the urge to shed light on every dark corner is another way in which we humans have separated ourselves from nature. The concern is more than just aesthetic. Bogard warns of health issues for people exposed to artificial light at night, including sleep disorders, diabetes and cancer. And other species, such as bats and moths, are in danger because of increased artificial light. “We are just beginning to understand night’s natural darkness has always been invaluable for our health and the health of the natural world, and every living creature suffers from its loss,” he writes. So Bogard embarks on a road trip across the globe in search of darkness. It takes him from the world headquarters of light pollution, Las Vegas, to Paris, the “City of Light,” to Death Valley in California, one of the darkest places on Earth. Along his journey, he hangs out with casino gamblers, national park rangers, night-shift workers and stargazers to get their take on the night. One of Bogard’s more entertaining encoun-

NONFICTION ters with darkness is his after-hours trespass onto Walden Pond State Reservation in Massachusetts, where he tries to experience the night Henry David Thoreau experienced in the writing of Walden. He also returns to a lake in his native Minnesota, where he tries to overcome his lifelong fear of darkness by walking a gravel road at night. Bogard makes some convincing points as to why we need to embrace the dark and halt the march of artificial light (although I believe he falls short in his argument that increased light at night does not improve safety). At the end of the day, The End of Night enhances our appreciation of the beauty of a starry night. —J o h n S l a n i a

Rose Kennedy By Barbara A. Perry

Norton $27.95, 416 pages ISBN 9780393068955 eBook available


Just when you think not another word could be written about the family with which Americans have a seemingly insatiable fascination, biographer Barbara A. Perry makes use of newly released papers to paint a fuller picture of Rose Kennedy than ever before in Rose Kennedy: The Life and Times of a Political Matriarch. Through letters and diaries, Perry depicts Rose Kennedy as a complicated, influential and—it must be said—not particularly likable woman. The mother of nine, including a future president, took her role seriously. She kept meticulous records of her children’s physical health on index cards, with a particularly obsessive focus on their teeth and weight. She instilled in them her strong Catholic faith and helped ensure they were well versed in everything from current events to geography. “My great ambition was to have my children morally, physically and mentally as perfect as possible,” Kennedy said. Yet she also carefully cultivated and protected her family’s media image to help ensure political success and a TV-friendly appearance.

She kept daughter Rosemary out of the limelight for decades to hide her mental retardation from the world. Kennedy also turned a blind eye to her husband’s many affairs and advised her daughters to do the same in their own marriages. She thrived in the company of the world’s rich and powerful, especially when her husband Joe served as the United States ambassador to Great Britain in the years leading up to World War II. And while it’s hard to fault her for wanting some respite from such a large brood, it’s surprising to learn that she spent months traveling abroad, leaving her young children in the care of governesses, maids and nurses while she explored the globe and bought the latest Parisian fashions. In 1923, she took a six-week trip to California; she often escaped to Palm Beach during the cold Boston winters. “When I left my children and their problems at home, I wanted to tuck them aside mentally for a while and talk and hear about something new and different in order to refresh my mind,” she said. A senior fellow in presidential oral history at the University of Virginia, Perry writes with compassion and brings keen insight into what Rose Kennedy’s own words tell us about this complex woman. —Amy Scribner

I Hate to Leave This Beautiful Place By Howard Norman HMH $26, 208 pages ISBN 9780547385426 eBook available


Many memoirs tell a straightforward tale of the narrator’s life from birth to the present stage of their lives, reflecting along the way on the failures and foibles of parents and family, on the disappointments of first love or the horrors and joys of school, or on the ragged way that the narrator recognizes and embraces, or refuses to embrace, his identity. You’ll find many of these elements in acclaimed novelist (The Bird Artist) Howard Norman’s exceptional glimpse into the times

and places—especially the places— that animate his character and that have formed his identity. Yet Norman tells these tales not in the usual linear fashion but by recalling moments of “arresting strangeness” that provide the threads by which he has woven the colorful quilt of his life up until now. Norman experiences such moments of strangeness and, sometimes, clarity, in the places that he calls home for a while; he feels a “bittersweet foretaste of regret when getting ready to leave” them, and it’s these places and his reasons for leaving them that frame his memoir, I Hate to Leave This Beautiful Place. In a tale of teenage lust, angst and despair, Norman recalls one summer during his adolescence in Howard Grand Rapids, Michigan, when Norman life seems to be is a gifted falling apart on storyteller the one hand (as his parents whose go through a presence divorce) and you’ll hate to full of promise on the other (in leave. his sole sexual encounter with his brother’s girlfriend). Through his first job as an assistant on the town’s bookmobile, he learns about trust and loyalty, but he also finds new worlds opened to him through the books he reads. The books, though, carry their own dangers; from one of them he learns to fashion a trap for ducks on a local lake and inadvertently kills a swan. By the end of the summer, he feels lonely and bereft. Other moments include Norman’s relationship in Halifax with a landscape painter, Mathilde, who “speaks autobiographically, but seldom confessionally”; his encounter with an Inuit shaman and an Inuit rock band whose song gives the book its title; and his attempts to come to terms with a murdersuicide in his D.C. home—the woman to whom he had leased the house for the summer kills her son and herself. Finally, he experiences a moment of “arresting strangeness” at his home in Vermont, where he resolves, in bittersweet fashion, not to “leave this house . . . to let the world arrive as it may.” Norman is a gifted storyteller whose presence you’ll hate to leave when you close the book. —Henry L. Carrigan Jr.


military history By pete croatto



ar is a complex subject with many aspects to explore, but one thing is clear: It makes for good books. Four new releases examine the American experience in three wars through the remarkable stories and objects that survived them.

A GENERATION PASSES Richard Rubin (Confederacy of Silence) roamed the country to interview The Last of the Doughboys (HMH, $28, 528 pages, ISBN 9780547554433), the only surviving American veterans of World War I. Just a few dozen of them remained when he began his research, including a man who transferred bodies to Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery and another who regretted not serving in combat. Though not all of the subjects are chatty, their remembrances give Rubin the opportunity to provide dignity to the elderly and show how a simpler time was actually quite complicated. Rubin reminds us that 1.3 million men were killed in just one battle, the Somme. The era of WWI saw segregation as the norm, as well as the marginalization of women, who could not serve in combat. Immigrants were a significant presence in America, but the culture of the day was to support the U.S.—or else. Those are among several themes explored by Rubin, who is so determined to detail the battles and tasks of his interview subjects—while discussing other topics such as the challenges of interviewing 100-yearolds—that he’s nearly foiled by his own ambition. Still, he manages to fashion a nice ode to a generation whose role in shaping modern-day America is fading from public consciousness.


WRONG PLACE, WRONG TIME Junius and Albert’s Adventures in the Confederacy: A Civil War Odyssey (PublicAffairs, $26.99, 288 pages, ISBN 9781610391542) possesses the juiciness of a beach read. Peter Carlson’s excellent book covers the plight of two reporters from the New York Tribune, Junius Browne and Albert Richardson, who were captured by Confederate troops in the Battle of Vicksburg. Since both men were non-military personnel, they were quickly paroled. But getting released was

another matter entirely. Because the Confederacy so loathed the Tribune and prisoner exchanges between the North and the South had stopped, Browne and Richardson were stuck in purgatory. After 20 months, escape on foot and horseback to Union territory near Knoxville, Tennessee—a 340-mile journey laden with potential enemies—was their only option. Carlson works with wonderful efficiency, describing the political and social environment both men faced but never losing sight of the story and its momentum. The writing is compact and vivid as readers are escorted to the hell both men endured. “Freezing rain fell all night,” Carlson writes, “and in the morning the corpses piled outside the dead house glistened with a thin coating of ice.”

THE WEIGHT OF HISTORY I’m guessing the New-York Historical Society doesn’t have corpses, but it probably has everything else. The Civil War in 50 Objects (Viking, $36, 416 pages, ISBN 9780670014637), written by Civil War historian Harold Holzer, is a fantastic museum tour of a book. Fifty items out of the Society’s nearly one million Civil War items are presented in mostly chronological order. Holzer provides historical background and context for each piece, which range from a pike used by John Brown’s freedom fighters to a footlocker belonging to Lt. Col. William H. Paine of the Fourth Wisconsin. The beauty of the book is its format. Readers familiar with the Civil War can head to an item of particular interest— as a reformed beat reporter, I flipped right to the prison newspaper—while casual readers will enjoy an inviting atmosphere for a historically intimidating subject. With such an effective strategy, it’s no wonder that Holzer is an editor. Perhaps he should have been a general.

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Robert M. Edsel’s Saving Italy (Norton, $28.95, 480 pages, ISBN 9780393082418) examines the United States’ attempt to save valuable artistic works in WWII-ravaged

Italy. Bombings and gunfire were not the only threats: The Nazis were smuggling art from various Italian cities, including works by the most famous artists of the Renaissance. Salt mines in Austria were converted into a hideout for thousands of pieces of art, some of which belonged to Adolf Hitler himself. Saving Italy works best in showing how a picture is worth more than a thousand words. For the Nazis, the paintings and sculptures were spoils of war. For the Italians, art was a crucial part of their history, one that the Americans recognized. Out of that concern rose “a new kind of soldier charged with saving, not destroying, what lay in the path of the conquering army.” Among these soldiers were the book’s two protagonists, “Monuments Men” Deane Keller and Fred Hartt. Though some readers may grow impatient with the book’s structure, which loads the story with a detailed accounting of military strategy (including the Nazis’ surrender), Edsel tells a readable and ultimately triumphant story.


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kirkpatrick hill INTERVIEW B y L i n d a M . C a s t e l l i t t o



iction writers are often exasperated by questions from readers who want to know whether their books’ characters and events are based on real life. Not so with Kirkpatrick Hill. Instead, she told BookPage in an interview from her Fairbanks, Alaska, home, “Everything in the book is pretty much true. Think of me as a Grandma Moses type: I’m just recapturing things.” In her eighth novel for young readers, Bo at Ballard Creek, Hill sends us back to the 1920s, to a post-gold rush town called Ballard Creek that sits on the Koyukuk River. She herself lived at a mining camp as a child in the 1940s—she comes from a family of mining engineers— and says she was “just like Bo.” Readers who grew up in suburbs or cities—really, anywhere that doesn’t have Alaska’s snow and ice and bouts of 24-hour daylight—may find it hard to picture living in a 1920s mining town intertwined with an Eskimo village, a place where everyone has a broom on the front stoop (it’s rude not to sweep snow off your boots before you go inside); kids are told not to run in the woods because a bear might chase them; and only one resident has ever laid eyes on an airplane. But thanks to Hill’s vivid writing (and her palpable fondness for her home state), plus LeUyen Pham’s artful, adorable illustrations, the places and people of Bo’s world soon feel familiar. Especially because, despite being set in a seemingly exotic place, Hill’s story encompasses universal themes—like the fact that

Bo at Ballard Creek

FREE books

By Kirkpatrick Hill

Holt, $15.99, 288 pages, ISBN 9780805093513 eBook available, ages 8 to 12

families don’t require members to be blood relations. Bo’s own family is described in the first chapter: “Bo had two fathers and no mothers, and after she got the fathers, she got a brother, too. But not in the usual way.” It’s a promising, tantalizing start, and Hill has crafted an entertaining and interesting backstory: Bo’s fathers both came to Alaska in the gold rush of 1897, in search of work and a way to get some distance from sadness. Arvid, a Swede, had recently lost his mother, and Jack, an African American, was grieving the death of his fiancée. The two big, strong men became friends and workmates, and when Bo’s mother (a “good-time girl” known as Mean Millie) thrust her baby at them and demanded they take her to a local orphanage, Arvid and Jack couldn’t bear to leave her there. So they took her home and, with help from their miner and Eskimo neighbors, they became Bo’s family. Hill says the blend of races and cultures in Bo at Ballard Creek jives with her own experiences, as does Bo’s unofficial adoption. She says, “It happened a lot. It was a ubiquitous thing, not just men of course. . . . And also, within the Indian culture, it was very common for people to give up their kids. Kids would live right in the same village with their natural parents and have two sets of relatives. And you see, Jack and Arvid had no legal claim to Bo at all, because they never would’ve had to.” It’s fascinating stuff, not least because it’s true. That’s very important to Hill, who says her urge to commit Alaska—and its singular history, dramatic terrain and diverse people—to the printed page was prompted by years of frustration with the way the state was depicted in books and other media. As a mother of six, and during her 30plus years as an elementary school teacher, Hill encountered many ill-informed books about her state. “I would read Alaska books to my children, and they were all totally bogus because the authors weren’t from Alaska. And Jack London . . . it

was as bogus as you could get!” So, she decided she’d write about Alaska herself. Her first book, Toughboy and Sister, was published in 1990, when Hill was in her early 50s (if you’re wondering, Grandma Moses began painting in her 70s). She explains, “I’d gotten seriously broke and needed a new life plan, so I thought, ‘Well, I’ll just send this off and get some money.’ I had no clue how anything worked at all!” Then, she says, “By the sheerest good luck, it fell into the right hands. A dear, lovely person got it out of the slush pile and wrote me a letter. . . . It never should’ve happened. You just don’t do things like that!” But Hill did, and it worked—and she’s been writing ever since. While her protagonists are a range of ages, and her time periods are both historic and contemporary, all of her books are set in her beloved home state and make real the traditions and trials, foods and fun experienced by the people who have lived there, from sliding down a riverbank, to making ice cream out of decidedly non-dairy ingredients, to hearing the click-clacks of a telegraph machine. Like all of Hill’s novels, Bo at Ballard Creek is a fine mix of happiness and hard truths, reverence for history and excitement about innovation. It’s enough to make readers want to visit Alaska to see it for themselves. Though perhaps, for those who are winter-precipitation-averse, you might want to check the forecast first: When she spoke with BookPage in May, Hill realized that day was her “last ticket for the ice pool. . . . I guessed on days the ice would go out. But the weather’s gone mad, and we’re still experiencing winter when normally there would be leaves on the trees. I’m looking out my window at snow, deep snow.”


Crankee Doodle

Stick this in your hat, Mr. Doodle Review by Julie Hale

Now that the 4th of July, the most patriotic of holidays, is upon us, the time is right for reconsidering a national classic: “Yankee Doodle,” a quintessentially American tune—a song so well established that its absurdity slips right past us. What, after all, does it mean to stick a feather in your hat and call it macaroni? Looked at closely, “Yankee Doodle” is less ditty than oddity. So what’s the deal with the song? Who wrote it? And when? Tom Angleberger addresses these mysteries and more in Crankee Doodle, a brilliant new picture book in which his twisted wit is on full display. Dressed in Revolutionary-era duds of red, white and blue—including a cuffed coat loaded with buttons—Mr. Doodle is snoozing in a grassy pasture when the story opens. The reason for this repose? Ennui. “I’m bored,” Doodle complains to his pony, who is chewing grass nearby. “We By Tom Angleberger could go to town,” his companion suggests. And so begins a series of Illustrated by Cece Bell hilarious exchanges, as the pony proposes various activities for their trip Clarion, $16.99, 32 pages to town (foremost among them: purchasing the proverbial feather). Every ISBN 9780547818542, ages 4 to 8 one of the horse’s suggestions is humbugged by his grump of a master, who meets each with an extensive volley of complaints (Doodle is a longwinded dandy). After much comical give and take, the pony prevails. Doodle caves, and the two take off for town, but not in the way readers might expect. Capping off their adventure is a historical note explaining the origins of “Yankee Doodle,” which, in truth, seem rather murky. This is the first picture book from Angleberger, the brain behind the best-selling Origami Yoda titles. His wife, Cece Bell, author and illustrator of the Sock Monkey series, provides the story’s wonderfully loopy line drawings. Together, this creative dream team has taken the tarnish off an American antiquity and created a classic of their own. Crankee Doodle is a charmer.

The Day the Crayons Quit By Drew Daywalt

Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers Philomel $17.99, 40 pages ISBN 9780399255373 Ages 3 to 7

picture book

—J u l i e D a n i e l s o n

Zero Tolerance By Claudia Mills

FSG $16.99, 240 pages ISBN 9780374333126 eBook available Ages 8 to 12

middle grade

Sierra Shepherd is a model seventh grader at her middle school. As a member of the Leadership Club and an exclusive choir group, Sierra prides herself on her accomplishments. She makes good grades and follows the rules. The biggest rule is zero tolerance for bringing any kind of weapon to school, and Sierra would never dream of violating that one! So when she realizes that she grabbed her mother’s lunch by mistake one day and it has a paring knife in it, she does the right thing and turns it in immediately. She doesn’t expect to be put on in-

—J e n n i f e r B r u e r K i t c h e l

A Summer of Sundays By Lindsay Eland

Egmont $16.99, 336 pages ISBN 9781606840306 eBook available Ages 8 to 12

middle grade

With two older sisters and three younger brothers, Sunday is often lost in the middle. She is so tired of being overlooked and forgotten, in fact, that she is determined to do something to make herself stand out. When her father moves the family to the small town of Alma to help rebuild the local library, Sunday decides this is her chance. Somehow, some way, she will make her mark while she is there. Sunday comes up with several ideas—planning a grand opening for the library, getting the local hermit to come out—but the best idea is to discover who wrote the

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Poor Duncan. He heads for his crayons one day in class, only to find a stack of letters waiting. He simply wants to color, but instead he has 12 manifestos to read. Little did Duncan know his crayons are beleaguered, bitter and beset with all sorts of headaches. Purple is about to lose it and would like Duncan to color inside the lines. Black is tired of being used merely for the outlines of things (“how about a BLACK beach ball some time?”), and Pink is tired of limitations (why not a pink dinosaur or cowboy?). Peach wraps it all up with a confession: Since Duncan peeled his paper off, he’s naked and too humiliated to leave the box.

There’s much more from the poor, persecuted pieces of wax in author Drew Daywalt’s clever picture book debut, The Day the Crayons Quit. Each spread shows a crayon’s protest letter on the left and the pontificating crayon on the right. The crayons use Duncan’s drawings to prove their points: Beige wilts in front of a piece of wheat, one of only two things he draws, since Mr. Brown Crayon gets all the fun stuff. In the funniest spread, White Crayon, who feels empty, demonstrates Duncan’s “white cat in the snow,” just two eyes, a mouth, a nose and whiskers in an empty white space. There’s a lot of humor in Oliver Jeffers’ relaxed, naïf illustrations, made to look like a child’s artwork: a pink monster; Santa Claus on a red fire truck (Red Crayon is tired of working, even on holidays!); and the triumphant, colorful final spread, in which Duncan attempts a piece of art to make all the crayons happy. Sure to draw in young readers (the crayons demanded I use that pun), this entertaining set of monologues will also tickle their funny bones.

school suspension while awaiting a hearing to see if she will be expelled. The zero tolerance rule turns Sierra’s world upside down, and she begins to rethink what it means to have a one-size-fits-all policy. Meeting other kids she normally wouldn’t in the detention room allows Sierra to broaden her thoughts on “acceptable” behavior. If she thinks rules are a good idea, then shouldn’t she abide by them? Even when there are “extenuating circumstances”? The answers to these questions in Zero Tolerance are satisfying and not necessarily predictable. Author Claudia Mills has written a compelling story. Schools often face these issues, and it’s interesting to see what such a crisis feels like from a student’s perspective. Readers could fall on either side of the issue and still find something to think about in this well-written book. Though the publisher recommends it for readers ages 8 to 12, a few instances of mature language make the writing most appropriate for the upper end of that age range. Anachronistic mentions of Game Boys and answering machines are a bit confusing, but the importance of this story is timeless.


children’s books manuscript for a book she finds in the basement of the library. Maybe it’s a famous author! Everyone in the world would know Sunday as the girl who discovered the lost treasure. After making friends with a local boy named Jude, she enlists his help in her quest for fame. In A Summer of Sundays, author Lindsay Eland’s portrayal of a girl in her tweens trying to find her place in the world is spot on. Her new best friend, Jude, is an only child, helping Sunday to see that the alternative to a big family is not necessarily better. Readers will figure out who the mystery author is before Sunday does, but watching her solve the puzzle is half the fun. In the end, however, she has to decide between fame and friendship, between standing out and fitting in. She’s grown up a lot while in Alma and knows who she is and what is important to her—all of which will help her make the right choice. — JENNI F ER BRUEL KITCHEL

Written in Stone By Rosanne Parry

Random House $16.99, 208 pages ISBN 9780375869716 eBook available Ages 9 to 12

middle grade

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Author Rosanne Parry’s first teaching job was on the Quinault Indian reservation in Taholah, Washington. Her fifth grade stu-



dents at Taholah Elementary asked her why there had never been a book about them. Their questions launched Parry on a career as a writer of award-winning novels for young readers, including Heart of a Shepherd. Now, with Written in Stone, a heartfelt, meticulously researched portrait of a community in transition, Parry has provided an answer for her students, in a story dedicated to the children who inspired and welcomed her into their lives. In 1923, Pearl is a 13-year-old girl who dreams of hunting whales like her renowned father, Victor Carver, who, she thinks proudly, is “the best whaler of the Makah, probably the best Indian whaler on the whole Pacific coast.” But Pearl’s hopes of accompanying her father are shattered when he is killed on the last whale hunt. Pearl, who lost her mother and baby sister in the flu epidemic of 1918, must now search for her own path and find a way to carry forward and celebrate the traditions, stories and values of her family and community in a rapidly changing world. In May 1999, the Makah successfully completed their first traditional whale hunt since the 1920s. Pearl’s story is told as a flashback on this occasion, as she remembers that last whale hunt and her own journey through her life. In the author’s notes that provide historical context for young readers, Parry writes, “Pearl is a tribute to Native grandparents everywhere who work to keep cultural memory alive.” And it also seems clear that Written in Stone is a tribute to Parry’s fifth grade students, who shared their stories and culture with her. — DEBORAH HO P KINSON

Skinny by Donna Cooner, include insistent internal voices that whisper damaging thoughts to their hosts. Others, like Nothing by Robin Friedman and Purge by Sarah Darer Littman, portray teen boys struggling with anorexia and bulimia. But none combine these elements in quite the same way as Lois Metzger’s A Trick of the Light. Who is this oddly persuasive voice that’s telling Mike to ignore his best friend and hang out with a strange, too-thin girl instead? Why does the voice encourage Mike to set aside his interest in stop-motion animation and focus entirely on the size and shape of his body? And who could ignore a voice that promises a more exciting life than one spent picking up the pieces left by a depressed mother and an absent father? Speaking in a simple, hypnotic style, this unnamed voice distorts logic and warps perceptions, offering Mike the illusion of strength and discipline while pulling him further and further into the depths of anorexia. Will Mike eventually succumb to the voice’s unattainable goals? Or will he somehow find a way to silence the very speaker who’s been telling—and controlling—the story all along? The unusual point of view is reminiscent of the otherworldly and disembodied narrators of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and Every Day by David Levithan. However, unlike those more reliable narrators, the voice in A Trick of the Light is manipulative and deceitful, drawing readers into Mike’s head and forcing them to decide for themselves what’s true and what’s twisted. Don’t be misled by the book’s small size: This slim volume packs a big emotional punch. —J i l l R a t z a n

A Trick of the Light Forced Journey: The Saga of Werner Berlinger Rosemary Zibart • Artemesia $12.95 • ISBN 9781932926323

A 12-year-old Jewish boy flees Nazi-held Germany and travels to New York City in 1939. The second in the Far and Away series about children dislocated by World War II. The first novel in the series, True Brit—about a young girl who flees war-torn London and travels to Santa Fe—won the 2012 New Mexico Book Award for Historical Fiction and received the Silver Nautilus Award given to books that promote social change and inspire readers to imagine a better world.

By Lois Metzger

Balzer + Bray $17.99, 208 pages ISBN 9780062133083 Audio, eBook available Ages 12 and up


Many YA books tackle the topic of teens with eating disorders and body image issues. Some, like

Golden Boy By Tara Sullivan

Putnam $16.99, 368 pages ISBN 9780399161124 eBook available Ages 12 and up


“Even to the strangers, I am strange,” remarks 13-year-old Habo,

short for Dhahabo, which means “golden” in his home country of Tanzania. The teen never feels the warmth suggested by his special name, given to him for his light appearance due to albinism, but is instead an outcast in his world. With a father who abandoned the family after Habo’s birth, a mother who rarely touches him and an embarrassed brother who encourages taunting, Habo has spent most of his life alone. When Habo’s family is faced with losing their meager farm, they head to their Auntie’s house in Mwanza. Upon their arrival, Habo quickly learns that this superstitious city is dangerous for a zeruzeru (literally, “zero-zero”) or person with albinism. Witch doctors hunt people like Habo to kill them and sell In a riveting their body parts teen novel, a to those who believe they bring Tanzanian good luck. If boy with Habo can reach the city of Dar es albinism Salaam, where searches for albino ministers of parliament a place to serve, he may fibelong. nally find a place to feel at ease. But first he must outrun an evil poacher who will stop at nothing to track and kill him. Their heartstopping chase across cities leaves readers with Habo’s palpable fear until the final pages. In Golden Boy, first-time author Tara Sullivan brings to light this lesser-known and growing human rights problem, which occurs in several East African nations where the rate of albinism is higher than in other parts of the world. In telling the story, Sullivan sprinkles in phrases from Habo’s native language and facts about people with albinism, including their poor eyesight and increased susceptibility to skin cancer. She bases the harrowing account on actual events and shows how strange notions of good luck cross all socioeconomic levels. Sullivan offers hope, too, through a blind sculptor who “sees” Habo’s true spirit and encourages his selfesteem. An author’s note and other resources provide more information on the teen’s plight, in the hope that Habo’s story will move many readers to take action. —Angela Leeper

REVIEWS a moment comes


Half Lives

By Jennifer Bradbury

Atheneum $16.99, 288 pages ISBN 9781416978763 eBook available Ages 12 and up

By Sara Grant

Little, Brown $18, 400 pages ISBN 9780316194938 eBook available Ages 15 and up



Half Lives is a smart adventure story, but it’s also perilously full of potential spoilers, so let’s step lightly, shall we? At 17, Icie’s biggest problem in life is that her boyfriend just broke up with her via text message. When she gets a 911 text from her folks, she knows it’s serious—one is highly placed in the federal government and the other is a nuclear physicist—but the crisis that greets her at home changes her life forever. She’s given a crude map, a money belt and instructions to get to an unmarked bunker outside Las Vegas and await further orders. Icie’s journey and what happens at the bunker are just half of the story. Generations later, a society led by teens lives on the mountain where the bunker was, and it’s clear that Icie has left them a legacy of some sort. The way these stories intertwine and reveal information about what happened—and the consequences—keeps Half Lives suspenseful until the very end. Author Sara Grant toggles back and forth between the present and the distant future, and while there are complex love stories in each world, the real meat of the novel is in how things change—or fail to change—over time. Much of this comes through in Grant’s use of language: Icie likes to create new compound words in hopes they’ll catch on, and it’s a pleasure and an ongoing surprise to see where they turn up and how definitions evolve. A few songs on an old iPod become a hymnal of sorts, and “Facebook” takes on a whole new meaning. This isn’t dystopian fiction, but fans of the genre will appreciate the dark humor and complex future created here, which offers up several “a-ha” moments when past and future reveal themselves. Half Lives is tough and scary, but ultimately a story of bravery and hope.

—Deborah Hopkinson

—Heather Seggel

BULLY The author-illustrator of such clever books as Green, First the Egg and What If? Laura Vaccaro Seeger has won numerous awards for her work, including two Caldecott Honors. In her latest, BULLY (Neal Porter/Roaring Brook, $16.99, 40 pages, ISBN 9781596436305), a domineering bull gets his comeuppance from a goat.

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Jennifer Bradbury’s ambitious new novel takes place in 1947 in the Indian city of Jalandhar, near the modern border with Pakistan, just before India is divided into two separate religious states. While the time and place may be unfamiliar to many teen readers, the dramatic, intertwining stories of the three young people at the heart of this story are sure to draw them in. Tariq, a Muslim, would rather not go with his family to start a new life in Pakistan. Instead, he dreams of an education abroad at Oxford. Tariq finds himself increasingly at odds with his old friends, who try to engage him in acts of violent protest against the Sikhs. As Tariq struggles to keep hold of his future, his hopes are fueled when he goes to work for a British cartographer sent to India to establish the new borders. Tariq is sure that with Mr. Darnsley’s help, he can get to England. Also in the cartographer’s household is the beautiful Anupreet, a Sikh, who has already been the victim of the increasing violence brought about by political turmoil. Anupreet and the cartographer’s daughter, Margaret, form a tentative friendship despite their differences. As the political tensions around them escalate, these three young people face intensely personal choices that will affect their lives— and one another. Today’s teens may hear about disputes between Pakistan and India without having a sense of the historical context. In A Moment Comes, Bradbury shines a light on a complex time in history while telling a riveting story about the choices that sometimes determine our lives. Readers can almost feel the humidity, taste the delicious food and feast their eyes, as Margaret does, on beautiful silks in the marketplace. It’s a journey well worth taking.



By the editors of Merriam-Webster

JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS Dear Editor: In our seventh grade literature class we ran across the word jounce, which means “to bounce or jolt.” We were interested in the word and thought it might be a combination of the two words jump and bounce. We were unable to find the origin of the word. Can you help us? S. G. Decatur, Alabama You’ve come up with a very clever theory that makes a lot of good sense. Unfortunately, the way language develops does not always make good sense. From what we know about the history of the words, jounce could not have developed from jump. Jounce first appeared in print around 1440. The earliest evidence we have for jump, however, comes from a publication dated 1530. Jounce could not have derived from a word that didn’t come into English until nearly 100 years later. Having said this, we can’t offer an alternative explanation. Lack of

evidence makes it impossible to trace the history of this word beyond the period of Middle English. The ultimate origin of jounce—and of similar words like bounce and pounce—remains unknown.

A SQUIRREL AND HIS SHADOW Dear Editor: My wife and I watch the squirrels in our yard demonstrate great ingenuity in getting into every squirrelproof birdfeeder we’ve installed. We speculated that the animal’s name might have something to do with its abilities, but when we looked it up, our dictionary said it comes from a Greek word for “shadow.” Huh? L. H. Saco, Maine The ingenuity you’ve observed in your backyard squirrels is present to a degree in the word’s etymology, though not for the animal’s ability to raid birdfeeders. Squirrel ultimately comes from the Greek words skia, meaning “shadow,” and oura, meaning “tail,” which combined to form skiouros. Presumably the Greeks noticed that when a squirrel sits

erect, it often raises its bushy tail up against its back and over its head, providing itself some shade. The English word had a number of spellings from the time Chaucer wrote of “squyrelis and bestes smale of gentil kynde” (squirrels and small animals of gentle nature). The meaning of the word squirrel may also have been somewhat broader at one point. Shakespeare used it to refer to a dog in his play Two Gentlemen of Verona: “The other squirrel was stol’n from me . . . and then I offered her mine own, who is a dog as big as ten of yours.”

THE DEVIL HIMSELF Dear Editor: I’m making it a project to read all the books I should have read while in school but didn’t. Right now I’m reading Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The House of the Seven Gables, in which a character is described as having a face that “is enough to frighten the Old Nick himself.” I know that Old Nick is a name for the devil, but how did that come to be? W. L. Amherst, Massachusetts

The use of Old Nick to mean “the devil” was first recorded in 1648. Although its source isn’t definitively known, that hasn’t stopped theorists from suggesting some possibilities. One theory connects Old Nick to Niccolò Machiavelli. The16thcentury Italian statesman described human nature as venal, grasping and self-serving and suggested that ruthless cunning was appropriate in leaders. Almost immediately after his death, the word Machiavellian was widely used to describe deceitful or manipulative behavior. It has also been suggested that Nick is a shortened form of Iniquity —a character in English morality plays who represented the failings of human beings. Those well versed in mythology have also tried to draw a connection to Nicker, the name of a fabulous water monster. Finally, attempts have been made to connect Old Nick to the German word nickel, meaning “goblin.”

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

BookPage July 2013  

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