AMERICA’S BOOK REVIEW
Meg Gardiner Dean Koontz Anthony Horowitz Don Winslow & more
discover your next great book
Your next great summer read is here!
In the town of Haven Point, love can be just a wish— and one magical kiss—away…
This Texas cowboy has come home to Copper Ridge to put down roots… but will he risk his heart again?
Pick up your copies today!
Molly and Daniel think they know everything about relationships… but they soon discover they have a lot to learn.
Weddings are easy. It’s family that’s complicated.
columns 04 04 05 06 09 11 12
Well Read Lifestyles The Hold List Romance Audio Book Clubs Whodunit
Look for the Private Eye July magnifying glass for extra features celebrating the best mysteries and thrillers for your summer reading! Cover illustration by Lauren Cierzan
features 14 17 18 18 19 24 25 29
on the cover
Fall Down 7 Times Get Up 8 by Naoki Higashida Patrick Henry by Jon Kukla Sting-Ray Afternoons by Steve Rushin
t o p p i c k : The Secret Diary of
Hendrik Groen by Hendrik Groen
Meg Gardiner Andrew Wilson Dean Koontz Literary mysteries Dina Nayeri Monica Hesse Summer nonfiction Karen English
meet the author 13
The Confusion of Languages by Siobhan Fallon The Supremes Sing the Happy Heartache Blues by Edward Kelsey Moore Quiet Until the Thaw by Alexandra Fuller The Necklace by Claire McMillan Live from Cairo by Ian Bassingthwaighte Grace by Paul Lynch Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory The Reason You’re Alive by Matthew Quick South Pole Station by Ashley Shelby
t o p p i c k : The Gentleman’s Guide
to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
Waste of Space by Gina Damico The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy
— Library Journal, (Starred Review)
They say life can change in an instant...
Now I Rise by Kiersten White The Leaf Reader by Emily Arsenault Ash and Quill by Rachel Caine The Art of Starving by Sam J. Miller Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley
t o p p i c k : American Fire
ON SALE JUNE 20, 2017
t o p p i c k : Sputnik’s Guide to Life
by Monica Hesse
on Earth by Frank Cottrell Boyce
Among the Living and the Dead by Inara Verzemnieks Be Free or Die by Cate Lineberry How to Fall in Love with Anyone by Mandy Len Catron Woolly by Ben Mezrich Saving Charlotte by Pia de Jong The Secret History of Jane Eyre by John Pfordresher
“A wonderful summer read that will fit right in with beach blankets, flip-flops, and maybe a little moonshine.”
Now by Antoinette Portis Claymates by Dev Petty and Lauren Aldridge The Song from Somewhere Else by A.F. Harrold and Levi Pinfold A Babysitter’s Guide to Monster Hunting by Joe Ballarini Superstar by Mandy Davis
Due to an editing error, the artist’s credit for our June cover illustration was omitted: iStock.com/JHLloyd
A M E R I C A’ S B O O K R E V I E W ASSISTANT EDITOR
Elizabeth Grace Herbert
PUBLISHER Michael A. Zibart
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EDITORIAL POLICY BookPage is a selection guide for new books. Our editors evaluate and select for review the best books published in a variety of categories. Only books we highly recommend are featured. BookPage is editorially independent and never accepts payment for editorial coverage.
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B Y S U S A N N A H F E LT S
BY ROBERT WEIBEZAHL
Crossing the divide
Ready for adventure
In the pantheon of African-American writers, Chester Himes occupies a secondary perch. If he is still embraced by the general reader, 30 years after his death, it is probably for his Harlem-based series of detective novels featuring Grave Digger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson—the best known of which is Cotton Comes to Harlem. Yet, far more than being simply the black Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler, Himes was a writer who crossed genres and explored the racial and political divide he witnessed and personally lived through in 20th-century America. Lawrence P. Jackson’s detailed and eminently readable new biography, Chester B. Himes (Norton, $35, 624 pages, ISBN 9780393063899), goes a long way in restoring this influential writer to a place at the table. Himes was born in Missouri in 1909 into an elite subculture of black America—both his parents were professors in the system of historically black colleges and universities. Expectations were high, and young Himes’ intelligence and talent were apparent, but he would fail to fulfill his academic promise, a reality that Jackson traces to a number of factors, including a restless spirit and, not least of all, the burden of domestic strife caused by his parents’ faltering marriage and the family’s frequent geographic upheavals. Himes’ mother was a light-skinned black woman of exacting standards with no small amount of intraracial prejudice of her own, and her clear disappointment in her son’s shortcomings seem to have weighed heavily on young Himes. His time at Ohio State University was shortlived, and still a teenager, he began to drink, gamble and solicit women in Cleveland’s slums. By 19, he
As I perused the curious compendium that is Evan S. Rice’s The Wayfarer’s Handbook: A Field Guide for the Independent Traveler (Black Dog & Leventhal, $17.99, 288 pages, ISBN 9780316271349), I couldn’t help thinking that one place a reader might wish to travel with this book in hand is . . . the bathroom. It’s the ideal quick dip: On any page you’ll find some fresh
was convicted of armed robbery and sentenced to 20 years in the state penitentiary. That excessive prison term was eventually reduced, but the almost eight years that Himes did spend incarcerated would prove defining to his career. While in prison, Himes began to write about what he knew—life in prison. His short stories, with their unvarnished authenticity, were soon being published in Esquire and other periodicals. Ironically, once Himes was a free man and editors no longer could sell him as writing from behind prison walls, he found it increasingly hard to sell stories. Still, encouraged by the likes of Langston Hughes and Carl Van Vechten, he found his footing in the literary world. His first novel, If He Hollers Let Him Go, based on his experiences living amid racism in Los Angeles, was published in 1945. In a review, Richard Wright wrote, “Himes establishes himself not as what has quaintly Jackson been called a does not shy New Negro, but as a new away from kind of writing conveying man.” the pricklier Jackson, side of Himes’ who spent 15 years working nature. on this book, displays a vast knowledge and clear appreciation for Himes, his work and his rightful place in the canon. Still, he does not shy away from conveying the pricklier side of the man’s nature, which sometimes led to imprudent choices. Much of Himes’ fiction was autobiographical, and Jackson interweaves just the right amount of literary analysis into the narrative of his life. This engaging and impressive biography does Himes the greatest service of all—it inspires the reader to seek out Himes’ books and appraise the work of an underappreciated writer firsthand.
soupçon of trivia for globetrotters, from a list of helpful words in languages worldwide to the definition of yoko meshi, a Japanese term for “the stress that accompanies trying to speak a foreign language.” Other bits are more practical: Unsure how to say no when given the hard sell in far-flung parts of the world? Rice offers a quick how-to on “The Art of Declining.” Quotes on travel also appear throughout, such as this winner from George Bernard Shaw: “In this world there is always danger for those who are afraid of it.” Less a true guide than a clever hodgepodge, this book will delight both seasoned explorers and armchair types.
SHORTIE FILMS What modern parent has not heard their child utter these six words: “Can I play with your phone?” My 9-year-old typically goes straight for the camera app, which is why I now have 5,000 pictures and videos of her in storage. I’ve often thought that this self-exploration could be channeled into something more artful. So I’m thrilled to discover The Movie Making Book (Chicago Review Press, $18.99, 144 pages, ISBN 9781613739150) by Dan Farrell and Donna Bamford, co-directors of Sparks, a film school for children based in the U.K. They begin by teaching the many basic shots
used by filmmakers: establishing, closeup, high and low angle, mirror, etc., with tips and kickstarter ideas for each. Kids can then go progressively deeper, exploring how to master special effects, edit their movies, add sound, develop programs and experiment with genres like superheroes and horror. Well-designed and accessible, this is a book I’m very glad to have in my house this summer. Action!
TOP PICK IN LIFESTYLES Surely I’m not alone in dreaming of having an authentic loft space of my own, full of exposed timber and abundant light from giant windows. Sophie Bush made that dream a reality when she and her husband bought a warehouse on the Thames in southeast London. It was the beginning of what would become her media brand focused on industrial conversions. In Warehouse Home (Thames & Hudson, $40, 320 pages, ISBN 9780500519462), Bush showcases the architectural features of warehouses and factories—columns, beams, concrete, doors, windows and more—illustrating how architects and homeowners have incorporated these into modern living spaces the world over. In a second section on decorative details, Bush notes that “the loft look and warehouse living can influence decor in any modern home” through use of elements like old bricks and cinder blocks, galvanized piping, pallets and even repurposed car and airplane parts. The result is as much a dazzling celebration of global industrial heritage as it is a look-book for anyone planning to outfit a new space with a nod to a simultaneously gritty and sleek aesthetic.
BookPage e ditors share curated lists of the best books—old and new—on a variety of subjects. Feed your TBR!
Unlikely sleuths Hardboiled detectives and private investigators are a mainstay of the mystery genre, but sometimes a surprising figure takes the lead in solving a crime or catching a culprit. Here are five of our favorite mysteries featuring Sherlocks of a different stripe.
SIDNEY CHAMBERS AND THE SHADOW OF DEATH by James Runcie Good-natured vicar Sidney Chambers doesn’t mean to get tangled up in all sorts of murders and thefts—he’d much rather listen to jazz records, play a nice game of backgammon and put off writing his weekly sermon. But he can’t help himself when faced with a puzzle and grieving parishioners in need of answers. The basis for the PBS series “Grantchester,” this first book by Runcie (whose father was the archbishop of Canterbury) offers an utterly charming look at 1950s England.
THE SWEETNESS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PIE by Alan Bradley Let’s face it: A know-it-all preteen has the potential to be extremely annoying, but Bradley manages to make pigtailed crime-solver Flavia de Luce both likable and clever. Before you know it, you’ll be rooting for 11-year-old Flavia to outwit her aggravating older sisters as well as the villains who are trying to frame her father for murder. The eternally youthful Flavia has starred in nine more adventures since this engaging debut.
Top book club picks!
THE HOLD LIST
THE ULTIMATUM Karen Robards
Thief. Manipulator. Con artist. Bianca St. Ives is the best in the business, but her past is about to catch up with her in this new high-stakes international thriller.
THE HEARSE YOU CAME IN ON by Tim Cockey Cockey kicked off an entertaining five-book series featuring undertaker Hitchcock Sewell with this comic whodunit that begins when a Baltimore woman tries to schedule her own funeral. Hitch is a mortician any potential customer could love—laid back, self-deprecating and willing to go the extra mile (in his hearse) to nab a wrongdoer. Though the series ended with 2003’s Murder in the Hearse Degree, it’s well worth exhuming.
For fans of characters with something to hide… UNDERTOW Elizabeth Heathcote
CELINE by Peter Heller This beautifully written novel by bestselling author Heller (The Dog Stars, The Painter) isn’t a traditional mystery, and the title character definitely isn’t a traditional investigator. Inspired in part by the author’s mother, Celine is an elegant, French-speaking, 68-year-old sculptor with a knack for finding missing persons. Her search for a photographer who disappeared in Yellowstone years ago gives Heller an opportunity to include stunning descriptions of the natural world in this suspenseful tale.
DOG ON IT by Spencer Quinn A dog? Who serves as the better half of a crack investigative team? Turn up your nose if you must (what are you? a CAT person?), but within the first few pages of this series debut, Quinn will convince you that the wisecracking and sharply observant Chet could solve any mystery on the planet. Pair this pooch with a PI (Bernie) who’s going through tough times, and you have an irresistible formula for tail-wagging fun.
For fans of action-packed page-turners. A DEEPER GRAVE Debra Webb
Do we have a story for you!
5 17_131_BookPage_BookClubbish_July.indd 1
5/16/17 2:35 PM
The secrets that divide us can also unite us.
An instant connection Suzanne Brockmann fuels romance with adventure in her latest Troubleshooters novel, Some Kind of Hero (Ballantine, $27, 352 pages, ISBN 9780345543820). When Navy SEAL Peter Greene jumps into a random car to follow his runaway 15-year-old daughter Maddie, he discovers that the driver is his neighbor, romance author and single mom Shayla Whitman. Shayla’s sympathy for his situation
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of
Daughters of the Bride comes a charming tale about the problem with secrets, the power of love and the unbreakable bond between sisters.
makes her an immediate ally, and using her writer smarts and his SEAL experience, they embark on a journey to save the girl from the unknown danger threatening her. Both are surprised by their swift and undeniable connection, and in just a few days they are considering commitment. Maddie’s alarming disappearance will touch the heart, and rooting for her safety is part of the fast-paced fun. It’s a pleasure to rejoin Brockmann’s SEAL team for another rollicking ride.
DARK AND DANGEROUS The mutual attraction between a cop and a Mafia capo lead the pair into jeopardy in Luca (St. Martin’s, $7.99, 384 pages, ISBN 9781250104052), the second book in Sarah Castille’s Ruin & Revenge series. Detective Gabrielle Fawkes and restaurateur/crime boss Luca Rizzoli experience an instant bond when they meet in the hospital, both recovering from bullet wounds. After recovery, Gabrielle visits Luca’s restaurant on a whim. Though she’s heartbroken following her cop-husband’s violent death at the hands of an at-large drug dealer, she finds herself responding to the brash and sexy Luca. Before he has learned of her profession, they’re involved—
On sale July 11 TulipSisters.com
2017-04-21 3:54 PM
ROMANCE B Y C H R I S T I E R I D G WAY
against Mafia rules— and have discovered they share an enemy in the dangerous man who killed Gabrielle’s husband. Both cop and capo have a thirst for revenge, and while Luca’s been given permission by his crime family’s boss to team up with Gabrielle to catch the bad guy, he’s told the relationship must end afterward. Luca agrees—for all his macho confidence, he isn’t sure that he’s worthy of Gabrielle’s love. But they grow closer as danger circles and their chances of survival grow ever smaller. This is a gritty love story filled with breath-stealing action and peppered with scorching scenes.
TOP PICK IN ROMANCE Deep emotions arise in The Day of the Duchess (Avon, $7.99, 400 pages, ISBN 9780062379436), the latest addition to Sarah MacLean’s Scandal & Scoundrel series. After two years abroad, Seraphina, Duchess of Haven, returns to London to demand a divorce from her estranged husband. A scandalous request for certain, but Sera is used to being the talk of the town after she was accused of entrapping her husband in marriage. Now she wants the ties between them broken—or does she? Malcolm Bevingstoke, Duke of Haven, is shocked by his wife’s request and bowled over once again by her beauty. He’s been searching for her ever since she disappeared, desperate to right the wrongs of the past. Is it too late for them to learn to trust each other? Witty banter, entertaining secondary characters and a poignant use of Greek myth are the delicious icing on this lovely, romantic story.
Your Summer Stories Contest
1 Grand Prize:
These Six Stellar Summer Reads, Courtesy of Kensington Books: Cicada Summer by Maureen Leurck • Home for the Summer by Holly Chamberlin • High Stakes by Fern Michaels Celebration by Fern Michaels • Between Lost and Found by Shelly Stratton • Love Blooms by Jamie Pope
Plus, A Summer Memories Bag Filled with: • Polaroid Snap Instant Digital Camera Set (10 Sheets of Instant Polaroid Photo Paper / Polaroid Snap Camera Case) • Marcus Adler 59” Round Beach Blanket • Floatie Kings 5’ “Heart Eyes” Emoji Pool Float • Saachi Starfish Bucket Bag
5 Second Place Winners Receive a Set of All 6 Beach Reads. *No purchase necessary. Contest begins July 1, 2017 and ends July 31, 2017. Total retail value approximately $385. Actual prize colors may vary.
AUDIO BY SUKEY HOWARD
Old love songs Who hasn’t indulged in a few what-might-have-been moments? Still, most of us don’t get the chance to rekindle that old flame. Not so for the eponymous lead man in Graeme Simsion’s The Best of Adam Sharp (Macmillan Audio, 9.5 hours), performed here with convincing intimacy by David Barker. Long ago, Adam, a British IT guy, was in Australia, doing his IT thing by day, playing piano and singing in a Melbourne
bar at night. When Angelina, a beautiful young actress in a soapy TV series, asked him for a special song, it was passion at first glance. Implacably romantic, always on the edge of making the right move, Adam somehow just couldn’t do it. He never went back for Angelina. Out of the blue and 22 years later, Angelina emails and invites him to join her and her husband in France on holiday. A trifecta of crisscrossing midlife crises, it turns into a wild week, packed with sex, superb wine and nostalgia galore, set against the soundtrack Adam’s been playing for years (actually available on Spotify). Do we grow up and grow wiser? Do we ever really get a second chance? It’s good fun finding out.
THE DROWNING POOL Off the “train” of her bestselling debut, Paula Hawkins now goes Into the Water (Penguin Audio, 11.5 hours), her second thriller to top the bestseller list in its first week of sales. This tale has all the psychological twists and turns that have become Hawkins’ hallmarks, as well as a baker’s dozen of unreliable narrators, given emotional life by five estimable audio readers. As you begin listening, pay close attention to the many voices and shifting points of view—all will become clear. When Jules is called to
identify the body of her estranged older sister, Nel, found in a deep pool of the river that runs through the Northern English town where they grew up, she finds herself in a swirling maelstrom of malice and small-town intrigue. Was Nel’s watery death a suicide, an accident or murder? Fascinated by this “drowning pool” since she was a child, Nel had been working on a serious book about the pool and all the “troublesome women” who died in it—from the 17th-century witches to her own teenage daughter’s best friend just a few months ago. Why here, why then, why now? Listen on.
TOP PICK IN AUDIO “So much has slipped away, but the smell of death lingers. Maybe the smell has entered my body and been welcomed as an old friend come to visit,” says the grieving, scheming queen Clytemnestra in the first few minutes of this exemplary audio version of Colm Tóibín’s novel House of Names (Simon & Schuster Audio, 9 hours), perfectly performed by Juliet Stevenson as Clytemnestra, Charlie Anson as Orestes and Pippa Nixon as Electra. We know the ancient story: Clytemnestra had waited more than a decade to kill Agamemnon, her husband and the murderer of their daughter. Then, after years of palace power plays, as violence begets violence, she is murdered by her own son, Orestes. Once again (as he did in The Testament of Mary), Tóibín so brilliantly evokes the emotions, inner thoughts and turmoil of his well-known characters that they become fleshed-out as never before. To say this is just a retelling of an ancient Greek tragedy sells this thrilling novel very short.
Listen to the
Sounds of Suspense “Dark and dangerous and strange and wonderful . . . Kennedy writes with the gritty poetry of Daniel Woodrell and misfit sensibility of Flannery O’Connor.” —Benjamin Percy, bestselling author of Red Moon
READ BY KATHLEEN McINERNEY “Kathleen McInerney does an excellent job...A compelling listen and expertly narrated.” — Publishers Weekly on Pray for Silence
READ BY JAY SNYDER “Blows the competition away!” —Brad Thor
AVAILABLE FROM MACMILLAN AUDIO
POOLSIDE LISTENING! “We get to be flies on the wall as the mother-daughter team fights, makes up, and hurls barbs just like you and your mom.” —O, The Oprah Magazine on Have a Nice Guilt Trip
READ BY THE AUTHORS
“A beautiful novel about the joys of friendship, the risk of romantic love, and the power of a secret to unravel a future.” —Adriana Trigiani READ BY BRITTANY PRESSLEY
VISIT UNABRIDGEDACCESS.COM TO LISTEN TO EXCERPTS
Wonderful New Books for
“Makes us feel the pure shock and wonder of living.” —The New York Times Book Review
“[A] page-turner.... Like reconnecting with a long-lost friend.” —The New Yorker
“Under her Ask Polly moniker, Havrilesky dishes radically honest, no-nonsense advice tempered with selfdeprecating humor, gleeful profanity, and an unfettered voice.”
“[A] dynamo of a novel.” —Los Angeles Times
“Striking…. By the end, readers will believe they’ve read [Mata Hari’s] actual letters.”
—Los Angeles Times
A Best Book of the Year NPR, Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar, and more
“A riveting psychological thriller, Huntley’s debut takes you inside the world of Manhattan’s elite— and keeps you on tenterhooks.” —People, “Book of the Week”
“A funny and moving commentary on that point in a woman’s life when everything seems to come into question.” —The New York Times
N e w i n Pa p e r b a c k . A ls o ava i l a b l e i n e B o o k . VINTAGE
Read excerpts, print reading group guides, find original essays and more at ReadingGroupCenter.com
BOOK CLUBS BY JULIE HALE
Dollars and sense Lionel Shriver looks to the future—2029, to be exact—in the smart, insightful The Mandibles (Harper Perennial, $15.99, 432 pages, ISBN 9780062328281), a novel that chronicles the catastrophic effects of a global financial crisis. At the center of the novel is the Mandible clan, who await the inheritance that’s due to come their way once Douglas, the head of the
family, dies. When the U.S. economy tanks, due in part to a massive cyberattack, the Mandibles lose their fortune and are forced to give up their affluent lifestyles. The ways in which each member of the family reacts to the loss make for a fascinating narrative. Douglas and his wife, Luella, leave their retirement digs and move in with their son. Daughter Avery and her professor-husband begin living with Avery’s charitable sister, Florence. All are forced to rethink their lives and reconsider old relationships. Shriver presents a chilling account of a country undone by disaster, but she balances the grim proceedings with humor and intelligence.
A SOLITARY LIFE Brad Watson explores the nature of physical and spiritual love in his acclaimed novel Miss Jane (Norton, $15.95, 304 pages, ISBN 9780393354386). Set in Mississippi in the early 1900s, the novel tells the story of Jane Chisolm, who is born with a rare disorder of the reproductive system. With an alcoholic father and distant mother offering little in the way of family life, Jane is looked after by her sister, Grace, and by kindhearted Eldred Thompson, a doctor who offers her compassion and understanding. Although Jane’s condition sets her
apart, she comes to know love, after a fashion, and the farm where she grows up provides a natural backdrop that’s marvelously alive. Inspired by the life of Watson’s great-aunt, the narrative offers a richly detailed portrait of the rural South. Watson’s bare-bones prose style is arresting, and his portrayal of Jane’s inner life is complex and authentic. Longlisted for the National Book Award, this rewarding novel is sure to be a book club favorite.
TOP PICK FOR BOOK CLUBS A finalist for the National Book Award, Paulette Jiles’ mesmerizing novel News of the World (Morrow, $15.99, 240 pages, ISBN 9780062409218) is a beautifully rendered tale of the Old West that focuses on Johanna Leonberger, a 10-year-old who’s been taken captive by Kiowa raiders. Johanna’s parents and sister were killed by the Kiowa, and she has lived among them since the age of 6. When Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd—a 70-yearold war veteran—comes to take her to live with relatives near San Antonio, Johanna, who has forgotten how to speak English, is frightened and reluctant to go. Their journey home makes for remarkable reading. Along the way, the contradictory twosome smooth out the rough edges of their relationship and develop an unexpected rapport. Jiles writes beautifully about Texas in the late 1870s, using poetic prose to tell a timeless story. Named the top book of 2016 by the editors of BookPage and slated for a film adaptation starring Tom Hanks, News of the World is a must-read for lovers of historical fiction.
THE USA TODAY BESTSELLER
SISTER ONE OF THEM IS TELLING THE TRUTH.
SISTER THE OTHER IS A MANIAC.
BY BRUCE TIERNEY
A tragedy of mistaken identities Apparently for the guilty parties involved, policewoman Nicola Tanner had been getting a bit too close for comfort in her investigation of honor killings among London’s South Asian population; and in a case of mistaken identity, her life partner, Susan, was brutally murdered in a failed attempt to shut
one of those early friends, Joseph King, who recently escaped from prison where he was serving a life sentence for murdering his wife. Now Burkholder sits in a kitchen with Joseph, a gun pointed across the table at her, while outside a SWAT team and a hostage negotiator attempt to defuse the situation.
for the unseen. Couple this with some otherworldly antagonists, like the Brethren, the Collector and the very unmotherly Mother, and it is more than sufficient to engender serious unease. My advice: Don’t start this book shortly before bedtime.
TOP PICK IN MYSTERY
down the probe. Now, Detective Inspector Tom Thorne has been seconded to the honor killings investigation—thanks in part to his well-known contrariness—in Mark Billingham’s latest gripping police procedural, Love Like Blood (Atlantic Monthly, $26, 432 pages, ISBN 9780802126535). And if Billingham’s fans know one thing about Tom, it’s that his dogged pursuit of justice will not be stopped until he gets his man (or in this case, men). This is a mighty fine police procedural, and it’s a pleasure, as always, to watch Tom sift through clues and intentional misdirection along the journey to find his perps. And in keeping with the time-honored tradition, there is a final-chapter surprise to keep you on your toes.
A FINAL REQUEST
An Amish mystery novel almost sounds like a joke, but I assure you, Linda Castillo’s Kate Burkholder novels are anything but. Burkholder is chief of police in Painters Mill, a tiny Ohio town with an Amish presence in the surrounding farmlands. Although she was raised Amish, Burkholder is largely shunned by the family and friends she grew up with. Her latest case, chronicled in Down a Dark Road (Minotaur, $26.99, 304 pages, ISBN 9781250121288), finds Burkholder forcibly brought into contact with
Joseph wants to extract only one promise from Burkholder: find the person who really killed his wife, because he is innocent. After a police sniper gets off a lucky shot, killing Joseph, the rest of the cops are ready to put the whole thing to bed. But Burkholder can’t get King’s request off her mind, and she soon discovers unpleasant surprises as she starts to turn over some rocks.
INVESTIGATING THE UNSEEN John Connolly pretty much single-handedly defined the supernatural noir genre, bringing a spectral element of suspense into his series featuring Maine private investigator Charlie Parker. In his latest adventure—book 15 in the series—A Game of Ghosts (Atria/ Emily Bestler, $26.99, 464 pages, ISBN 9781501171895), Parker finds himself knee-deep in ectoplasm, thanks to an off-the-books investigation launched and funded by his FBI handler, Edgar Ross. Ross engages Parker to locate a missing private investigator by the name of Jaycob Eklund, who had been doing some work in the area of the paranormal—specifically, looking into murders linked to reported hauntings. Parker takes the paranormal with a grain of salt, although he finds himself coming closer and closer to wholesale belief thanks to his daughter, Sam, who displays an uncanny affinity
Once every few years, a book comes along that stands head and shoulders above its genre. Dennis Lehane’s Mystic River was one; Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, et al.) was another. Don Winslow’s The Force (Morrow, $27.99, 496 pages, ISBN 9780062664419) is such a book. It chronicles the career of New York’s hero cop Denny Malone who’s on a downward spiral. Like all the best protagonists (and I am using the word “best” very loosely), Malone is a multifaceted character—by turns kind, just, ruthless, brave, sensitive, selectively dishonest, loyal (until push comes to shove, at least) and so much a cop that he just about bleeds blue. Recently, Malone helmed the largest investigation in New York City history when piles of dope and cash went into the evidence lockers, but even more did not. The missing evidence was enough to ensure the financial security of Malone and his support team for the rest of their natural lives. But Malone made one tiny peripheral mistake, and everything came crashing down. There is still a small chance for him to negotiate a deal that will pull him and his friends out of the line of fire, although it will take ingenuity and more than a bit of chutzpah to navigate the treacherous minefield he’s caught in. Film rights for The Force were acquired by 20th Century Fox before the book even had a title. In the right hands, it could be on par with The Long Good Friday, The Usual Suspects or Miller’s Crossing. I see Kevin Spacey in the lead role.
meet FRED VAN LENTE
the title of your new book? Q: What’s
Q: Describe the book in one sentence.
Summertime...and the livin’ is
Murder... It started as a prank, but it went horribly wrong. Now, 20 years later, deadly secrets of the past stir to life…
novel is packed with great characters. Which was your Q: Your favorite to write and why?
This summer, if you don’t tell… YOU WILL PAY.
3 things you would want with you on a desert island. Q: Name
Q: Who’s your favorite real-life comedian? f you, hypothetically of course, killed someone, what would Q: Iyour murder weapon be?
Three New York Times bestselling authors join forces for one blockbuster novel of suspense you can’t miss!
Q: Words to live by?
TEN DEAD COMEDIANS Fred Van Lente is an award-winning writer whose bestselling comic books and graphic novels include the Archer & Armstrong series, Action Philosophers! and Cowboys & Aliens, which was adapted into a feature film. He moves to a new genre with his latest work, Ten Dead Comedians (Quirk, $24.99, 288 pages, ISBN 9781594749742), a hilariously twisted mystery that skewers show business, comedy and self-absorbed performers in equal measure. Van Lente lives in Brooklyn with his wife and “mostly ungrateful” cats.
Her vengeance is murder… one woman will do whatever it takes to get her revenge…even kill. Available Everywhere Books Are Sold ENSINGTONBOOKS.COM
A near brush with an infamous killer
s a young girl, Edgar-winning mystery writer Meg Gardiner lay awake nights wondering if the headline-seizing San Francisco killer known as the Zodiac might one day drift south to her Santa Barbara neighborhood. Years later, her childhood fears became reality when two neighborhood couples were murdered by another notorious serial killer, the Night Stalker.
“By the time they announced this, it was just a deep, sick feeling that you couldn’t believe you’d been so close to something this dark and massive,” Gardiner says. “The killings were 18 months apart, so they weren’t immediately connected like he went from one house to the next, but it just echoes and reverberates. Then you start thinking, did this guy literally walk by the bedroom where my sister was sleeping? Did he walk up the creek where I used to play and catch tadpoles before he climbed the bank and broke the back window of these peoples’ houses? It does knock down your sense of security.” What’s a bestselling author to do with such a gut punch from the past? In Gardiner’s case, she harnessed her personal horror into UNSUB (FBI shorthand for “unknown subject”), a gripping, Zodiac-inspired thrill ride guaranteed to turn nighttime readers into daytime readers. It’s so visceral,
By Meg Gardiner
Dutton, $26, 384 pages ISBN 9781101985526, audio, eBook available
CBS has already bought the rights to adapt it into a TV series. Set in the Bay Area where Gardiner spent seven years earning her undergraduate and law degrees from Stanford University, UNSUB centers on newbie detective Caitlin Hendrix, herself a victim of a similar childhood trauma. Caitlin’s father, Detective Mack Hendrix, spent years as the lead investigator in pursuit of a brazen, cryptic serial killer known as the Prophet, wrecking himself and his family in the process. As the book opens, the Prophet’s trademark symbol is found carved into a new set of victims 20 years later. For Caitlin, the suddenly redhot cold case poses an irresistible opportunity to vindicate her father, but at what price? Mack’s entreaties to steer clear are no match for Caitlin’s resolve to capture the killer who stole her childhood. Gardiner welcomed the opportunity to dive into a new world with a female detective at the helm, a nice fit alongside her other two successful series featuring feisty freelance journalist Evan Delaney (China Lake) and forensic psychiatrist Jo Beckett (The Dirty Secrets Club). In addition to researching unsolved murder cases and speaking with psychiatrists and investigators, Gardiner had to take a journey back in time to put herself in Caitlin’s shoes. “It is fiction, but I’m drawing from the idea of how a case would have been handled 20 years ago versus how it would be handled today, with greater coordination and crisis response,” Gardiner says. “You can find all the original files for so many of these real-life UNSUB cold cases and read through them and see how the investigations ran and the frustrations and the dedication of
the law enforcement officers. It affected them terribly. I know that some retired cops every year still go to the cemetery on the anniversary of one of the Zodiac attacks and leave flowers on the victims’ graves.” Bringing Caitlin’s broken, bitter father to life as a central character proved something of a balancing act. “He is the person who has taken on all of the pain, and that aspect comes out in his character throughout the story. But it’s also got to be a story of him as a father. That’s as much a part of everything as the killer in the story,” she says. Conversations with “The Zodiac actual law enwas the first forcement ofmodern serial ficers proved crucial to killer who presenting really lusted a realistic for publicity . . . picture of a family driven to feed his to the brink own ego.” by a psychotic killer. “It just trickles down to every level. For cops, being able to draw the line between work and home so they can turn off, that becomes difficult,” Gardiner explains. “I’ve spoken to cops who needed to switch from night shift to day shift because the cases they were getting were bleeding over to the breakfast table with their first graders. How do you take care of yourself when you’re responsible for taking care of the community?” While it would have been accurate to cast a fellow cop as Caitlin’s
© STUART BOREHAM
I N T E R V I E W B Y J AY M AC D O N A L D
love interest, Gardiner added a humorous twist in creating Sean Rawlins, an FBI-trained federal explosives expert who shares custody of a young daughter with his ex. “It is true that female police officers often do end up in relationships with male officers or another policewoman because it’s so unusual for them to be in this world that they find it easier to deal with someone who understands the job and why they are doing it,” Gardiner says. “And their relationship is fun as well; he’s a bomb explosives specialist, not a botanist.” While it’s often Sean who helps Caitlin unwind, Gardiner has beaucoup experience conjuring fully formed, flawed and funny female protagonists. “I’m glad you think she’s fun!” the author cheers when I ask about Caitlin’s humorous side. “She takes her work seriously but she doesn’t take herself that seriously. I write thrillers that are supposed to make you gasp and hold your breath and bite your nails out of concern for the characters, but the thing I would never, ever want to write is something that anyone would describe as bleak. If a character can’t laugh at themselves, then I want them to leave.”
It wouldn’t be a Gardiner book without at least one child in the mix. The author and her husband raised three, and she considers it a must to invoke the joys of family life when writing thrillers. “People do enjoy families, and you want to have a sense that it’s just a little beyond the tunnel focus of whatever is going on out on the crime scene,” she explains. “You want there to be a larger life that people find rewarding and want to preserve and nurture. I like writing about kids, too. My [grown] daughter doesn’t play with My Little Pony anymore, so I have to find some way to slip that in!” She grants no such levity to the Prophet however. His sick mindgames to baffle law enforcement prove as disturbing in UNSUB as it was in real life for those who remember the Zodiac. “That’s part of the intrigue of both reading and writing a novel, to give readers what they want but not in the way they expect it,” Gardiner explains. “The Zodiac was the first modern serial killer who really lusted for publicity and wanted to invoke terror and bring it all back to feed his own ego, really. That still horrifies and fascinates me, that somebody would try to gain self-importance in that way, and I tried to give the Prophet something mysteriously similar to that. “Certainly, with the Zodiac, who wanted people to think perhaps that he was smarter and deeper than he actually is or was, the cops were all over every possible connection, because there were all these cyphers, cryptograms and references to the afterlife; all these symbols. The Zodiac symbol itself, what does it mean? Did it have to do with astrology? Astronomy? Devil worship? Everybody was starting to pull at every possible thread. In a mystery novel, you want people to wonder what’s going on, and you want to offer ambiguous signposts that let them try to figure it out for themselves.” Odds are we’ll once again be day reading and signpost heeding in January when Gardiner’s Ted Bundy-based second UNSUB thriller, Into the Black Nowhere, hits bookstores.
COOL DOWN with a Hot Summer Read
“A fast-paced, funny, great good-fortune of a novel that has it all.” — Nancy Thayer, New York Times bestselling author of Secrets in Summer
“A shining example of the power of persistent women united in their aim to reshape history.”
“A fast-paced romp through the streets of Paris.”
— Sarah McCoy, New York Times bestselling author of The Baker’s Daughter and The Mapmaker’s Children
— Chris Pavone, New York Times bestselling author of The Expats
“A quirky, offbeat delight and a heartwarming reminder that one is never too old for some mischief.”
“Wonderfully wicked and deliciously dark…had me totally spellbound.”
— Tom Winter, author of Lost & Found on the League of Pensioners series
— Hazel Gaynor, author of The Girl Who Came Home
“Claustrophobic, twisty, creepy and dark…It will keep you guessing right to the last page.”
“A book that is unapologetically about women and our intertwined lives and essential friendships.”
— Gilly Macmillan, New York Times bestselling author of What She Knew
— Elizabeth Lesser, bestselling author of Broken Open and Marrow
DISCOVER GREAT AUTHORS, EXCLUSIVE OFFERS, AND MORE AT HC.COM
PRIVATE EYE JULY BY G. ROBERT FRAZIER
Heart-pounding suspense for summer
f you’re seeking edge-of-your seat thrills and psychological suspense to keep you turning pages long into the humid summer nights, then look no further. From exotic locales like the Greek islands to the seamy underbelly of New York City, these books have the right ingredients for an entertaining escape.
Years and miles apart will change people. So will wealth—or a lack of it. Ian Bledsoe discovers this the hard way in Christopher Bollen’s engrossing new novel, The Destroyers (Harper, $27.99, 496 pages, ISBN 9780062329981). Set on the Greek island paradise of Patmos, the novel reunites Ian with his childhood friend and college pal, Charlie Konstantinou, who may be Ian’s best chance of getting out of a precarious situation. Ian is on the outs with his affluent New York family after stealing $9,000, and he’s currently on the run following a failed business venture in Panama (rumored to involve drugs). Charlie, who hails from a wealthy family of his own, readily offers Ian a job with his tourist-centric yacht company. Ian is further surprised to be reunited with his former college girlfriend, Louise Wheeler, who has also found a refuge of sorts amid Charlie’s eccentric circle of friends and extended family. But before Ian gets a chance to repay Charlie for his generosity, Charlie vanishes after a business trip, leaving his friends and family to fend for themselves. Bollen takes his time unraveling the seeds of deceit, obsession and secrets, building suspense with each page.
MAP QUEST Obsession takes many forms. In Colin Harrison’s new novel, You Belong to Me (Sarah Crichton, $27, 336 pages, ISBN 9780374299477), the consequences of various obsessions are often messy and deadly. Successful immigration lawyer Paul Reeves is obsessed with his hobby of collecting rare archival maps. His neighbor, Jennifer
Mehraz, is obsessed with her longlost lover, former Army Ranger Bill Wilkerson. Jennifer’s husband, Iranian-American entrepreneur Ahmed Mehraz, is obsessed with her. Paul, being the good neighbor and friend that he is, soon becomes entangled in Jennifer, Bill and Ahmed’s complex love triangle, even as he tries to focus on acquiring an elusive, rare archival map of New York City. Events
sion for his daughter, Polly, drives everything, making their quest for survival one readers can embrace. Nate makes the drastic mistake of killing a member of the Aryan Steel gang in jail, resulting in a bounty being put on his head and on the heads of his wife and child. Nate is too late to save his wife, but he manages to get to Polly, setting off a cat-and-mouse chase. Along the way, Nate becomes the dad he
quickly careen out of control as neither Paul’s nor Ahmed’s wealth can easily buy the two out of the situations they’re in, forcing the men to resort to other, less reliable alternatives to get what they want. Harrison, who is the editor-in-chief at Scribner and the author of eight previous novels, explores how far each of these characters will go to conquer their obsession and attain the unattainable. You Belong to Me is an intriguing, moody tale of love, lust and avarice—and great summer reading.
never was to his child, a spunky and smart girl whose infatuation with her long-missing dad grows the longer they are together. Polly, in turn, grows up much too fast as Nate begins training her to fend for herself. By turns heartwarming and shocking, this book entertains on numerous levels. Harper is also a talented screenwriter, and it’s easy to envision this electric story unfolding on the silver screen. Get in and go along for the ride.
ALL IN THE FAMILY
Author Gin Phillips thrusts Joan and her 4-year-old son, Lincoln, into the middle of a life-and-death scenario in one of the summer’s most action-packed and emotionally harrowing thrillers, Fierce Kingdom (Viking, $25, 288 pages, ISBN 9780735224278). The pair are just about to wrap up a visit to their local zoo when the sounds of gunshots shatter the otherwise tranquil environment. Joan’s motherly, protective instinct immediate-
You’ll want to buckle up and hold on tight for Jordan Harper’s debut novel, She Rides Shotgun (Ecco, $26.99, 272 pages, ISBN 9780062394408), a fast-paced, energetic noir about an ex-convict and his 11-year-old daughter. Nate McClusky isn’t your typical protagonist—he’s done a lot of bad things in his lifetime, both beyond and behind bars. But his compas-
PREDATOR AND PREY
ly kicks in as the pair hide from the shooters amid the zoo’s exhibition spaces. Their only connection to the outside world is through Joan’s text message exchanges with her husband, who is unable to reach them. Joan must rely on her own wits and courage to see them through this frightening situation in one piece, but with a young child in tow who sees everything as a game, doing so proves easier said than done. Fierce Kingdom unfolds at a rapid-fire pace with each chapter upping the tension and danger.
LAST WOMAN STANDING Stephen King recently praised Final Girls (Dutton, $26, 352 pages, ISBN 9781101985366) by Riley Sager as “the first great thriller of 2017,” an assessment we’ll second. This suspense-packed novel—written by an established author under the Sager pseudonym—follows the life of Quincy Carpenter, the lone survivor of a horror movie-like massacre of five college friends that happened 10 years ago during their vacation at Pine Cottage. Somehow Quincy eluded the assailant long enough to reach a nearby cop for help, but the memories of that harrowing ordeal—or more precisely the trauma-triggered absence of those memories—never let go. When the lone female survivor of a similar ordeal dies and a third “Final Girl” of another incident winds up on her doorstep, Quincy is immediately thrust into yet another do-or-die scenario. To survive this time, Quincy will have to solve the mystery of her past. Sager quickly ratchets up the mystery and the psychological suspense in classic slasher-movie fashion. Unlike those movies, however, Sager takes time to delve into the head of the main character, creating an emotionally charged experience readers won’t soon forget.
BEHIND THE BOOK
Rethinking the mystery of Agatha’s disappearance
© JOHNNY RING
BY ANDREW WILSON
Montana's favorite fly fisherman-detective tackles a case of lost love, murder, and wildlife politics.
n 1977, I was 10 years old and on holiday with my parents in an uninspiring (and no doubt rain-soaked) coastal town in North Wales. We were walking down the high street when we passed a bookshop. Something in the window caught my eye and I stopped, refusing to move a step further.
As I stared at the book on display—the posthumously published autobiography of Agatha Christie—I became possessed by a sense of longing that took me by surprise. At that point I don’t think I had read any Christie, but my grandmother was an avid fan, and as a precocious aspiring writer, I wanted to know all about the Queen of Crime, particularly the secrets of her success (she is still the bestselling novelist of all time). My parents dragged me away from the shop, refusing to purchase the book for me—they thought it was too “grown-up”— yet my interest in Christie only increased, and I soon devoured book after book. At 12, when my English teacher asked his students to write an extended piece of fiction, I handed in a 46-page story entitled “The German Mystery,”
A TALENT FOR MURDER
By Andrew Wilson
Atria, $26, 320 pages ISBN 9781501145063, eBook available
which I still have. From its opening lines it’s not hard to spot the source of my inspiration: “Dr Bessner’s frail hand reached inside the ebony box and took out a white cyanide pill. He placed it in his dry mouth and swallowed with a loud gulp. There was a small whimper, his body jumped and fell back in his black leather car seat, gave a last gasp and he was dead.” Throughout my teenage and adult life I kept returning to Christie’s books, especially when I was writing the biographies of dark subjects such as Patricia Highsmith, Sylvia Plath and Alexander McQueen. Yet it wasn’t until I moved to Devon, the location of Christie’s Greenway estate (now operated by the National Trust and open to the public), that I started to think about writing a novel about her. I had always been fascinated by the 11 days in December 1926 when Christie disappeared—she abandoned her car in Surrey, leaving behind her fur coat and driving license. The police suspected that she might have been murdered by her husband, Archie, who wanted to leave her for his mistress, Nancy Neele. The search for clues involved 15,000 volunteers, airplanes and sniffer dogs, and the sensational story even made the front page of the New York Times. Christie—who was discovered at a hotel in Harrogate, Yorkshire, after checking in under the name Mrs. Neele—always maintained that she had been suffering from amnesia, but there were many elements of that claim that simply did not add up. My imagination started to work, and using police and
A SEAN STRANAHAN MYSTERY
newspaper reports as a framework, I came up with a crime story, an alternative history about why she disappeared. We meet Christie when she is at her most vulnerable: Her mother had died earlier in 1926, her writing is not going well, and she has just discovered that her husband wants to leave her for another woman. In London to visit her literary agent, she is waiting for a tube when she feels someone push her into the path of the oncoming train. At the last minute, a doctor pulls her back to safety but the medic, Dr. Patrick Kurs, turns out to be a blackmailer with a sadistic streak. At the end of the first chapter Kurs outlines his sinister plan: He wants Christie to kill on his behalf. “You, Mrs. Christie, are going to commit a murder,” he says to her. “But before then, you are going to disappear.” We know she disappeared in real life, but the question my novel poses is this: Christie wrote about murder, but would she—could she—ever commit one herself? Andrew Wilson is a British journalist and the author of four biographies (including the award-winning Beautiful Shadow: A Life of Patricia Highsmith), several other nonfiction books and a novel, The Lying Tongue. A Talent for Murder, Wilson’s fictional take on the real-life 1926 disappearance of Agatha Christie, will be released in the U.S. on July 11.
“Like Brad Smith and Elmore Leonard, McCafferty does a marvelous job manipulating mood . . . for Craig Johnson and C. J. Box fans.” —Booklist (starred)
Read them all, starting with The Royal Wulff Murders
And coming July 4 from Viking: Cold Hearted River
BY AMY SCRIBNER
© THOMAS ENGSTROM
BY HILLI LEVIN
A rogue FBI agent versus the machine estselling author Dean Koontz’s new thriller introduces a tough-as-hell heroine with a very big heart.
Can you describe your new novel in one sentence? When Jane Hawk, an FBI agent, determines to prove her much-loved husband didn’t kill himself, she’s targeted by powerful people with a terrible secret agenda and becomes the most-wanted fugitive in the nation. Technology’s ability to influence behavior plays a central role in the story. Were you inspired by any real-world technological advances? All the tech in the book exists or is pending, though it’s not a story about technology. It’s about the human heart. But I did just see that Elon Musk is starting a company to develop brain implants to “help us think better.” Uh-oh. Are you an eager adopter of new tech, or do you limit yourself? I understand it all, but I adopt a minimum. The simpler life, the better. An hour of conversation with my wife or a walk with my dog is more interesting than a lifetime on Twitter. Protagonists in action thrillers can sometimes be a bit cold. Why was it important for you to show Jane’s human side? The best FBI agents and cops I’ve known have profound compassion for the suffering of innocents. I wanted to capture that. Jane’s good heart is what empowers her to be so tough when she has to be. She realizes how others will suffer if she fails. You so rarely write series; what is it about Jane that inspired you to continue her story? I just finished the third book, and Jane surprised me with ever greater depths. I have a long way to go before I fully know her. And though each book is a standalone, I realize I’ve fallen into an epic tale. Will you be involved in the TV adaptation of The Silent Corner? I have certain approvals. Otherwise, I’ll just write books about THE SILENT CORNER Jane. If the show is as good as I hope, I’ll watch and be buried with DVDs of it, but only after the 40th and final season! In honor of Private Eye July, what’s one mystery you think everyone should read? James M. Cain’s Double Indemnity. I’ve read it six or seven times, and I’m always chilled.
By Dean Koontz
Bantam, $28, 464 pages ISBN 9780345545992, audio, eBook available
What’s next for you? I’ve just started the fourth Jane Hawk, and at the end of each day I regret having to stop. I’ve got to know what happens next. Visit BookPage.com to read more of our Q&A with Dean Koontz.
Cases for literature lovers
pair of hair-raising whodunits aimed at bibliophiles are worthy of a top place on your summertime reading list.
Magpie Murders (Harper, $27.99, 464 pages, ISBN 9780062645227) by screenwriter and bestselling author Anthony Horowitz (Moriarty) is a wickedly clever Agatha Christie-style novel within a novel. As editor Susan Ryeland reads through the manuscript for the ninth novel from her publishing house’s bestselling author, Alan Conway, she finds that his Magpie Murders is a crisp murder mystery set in the bucolic English village of Saxby-on-Avon, a town filled with Georgian stone homes and terraces, where you “didn’t need to read Jane Austen. If you stepped outside, you would find yourself actually in her world.” In Conway’s story, local cleaning lady Mary Elizabeth Blakiston and the wealthy man she works for, Sir Magnus Pye, have both been killed inside Pye Hall. There is no shortage of suspects: Could it have been Pye’s sister who was cut out of the family fortune? The vicar who stands to lose his lovely view when Pye sells off his land for the construction of a cookie-cutter housing development? The son of the cleaning lady who was heard shouting at his mother just before her death? Conway’s brilliant London detective, Atticus Pünd, comes to the secretive town of Saxby-onAvon for what might be his last investigation. But the final chapters of the Magpie Murders manuscript are missing, and Conway is now out of the picture in a very unexpected way. Susan comes to suspect that the fictional manuscript holds a darker, real-life story. As life imitates art, Susan becomes a detective of sorts as she begins to
interview Conway’s associates in order to piece together what really happened to him and discover where those lost chapters are hidden. Magpie Murders is brilliantly constructed, a thoroughly satisfying read that left me dazzled. In Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore (Scribner, $26, 336 pages, ISBN 9781501116841), first-time author Matthew Sullivan creates a vivid world inside Denver’s Bright Ideas Bookstore, where 30-year-old Lydia Smith works and nurtures the store’s “BookFrogs,” damaged men who spend their days wandering the cozy aisles. When one of the youngest BookFrogs, Joey Molina, hangs himself inside the store, it is Lydia who finds him. Joey leaves Lydia a set of books that contain coded messages within their pages. The discovery cracks open a long-held secret from her youth—the fact that she famously survived a brutal triple-murder while at a sleepover— and Lydia begins to unravel a horrifying connection between Joey and her traumatic past. Sullivan, a former bookseller himself, weaves an intense, unsettling story. Joey is an enigmatic character, “haunted but harmless—a dust bunny blowing through the corners of the store.” And the flashbacks to that fateful night from Lydia’s childhood, narrated by her father, literally had me reminding myself to breathe. Twisty and dark, Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore is a remarkable debut novel that will leave readers unsettled and probably yearning to pay a visit to their local bookstore.
Somewhere safe in a callous world
hroughout her time at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Dina Nayeri wrote draft after draft of a second novel, and with each revision her editor would say, no, that’s not it, it doesn’t have the Dina magic.
“I remember thinking, what the hell is the Dina magic? I don’t know what that is!” Nayeri says, laughing, during a call to her home outside of London, where she now lives with her partner, the writer Samuel Leader, and their 16-month-old daughter, Elena. Finally, her editor told her to shelve the project and write instead about whatever popped into her head when she thought about her life and what she had experienced as a displaced person. Nayeri fled Iran with her brother and mother, a Christian convert persecuted by Iran’s morality police, when she was 8 years old. She ended up, improbably, in Oklahoma as a refugee. Her father remained in Iran. What popped into Nayeri’s head were the four occasions when she had seen her father, a dentist from Isfahan, after she left the country. These four visits, fictionally reimagined, of course, but also “pretty closely autobiographical,” are one of three beautifully braided narratives in Refuge, a revelatory novel about the lives of uprooted people. One of the narrative
By Dina Nayeri
Riverhead, $27, 336 pages ISBN 9781594487057, Audio, eBook available
threads concerns Dr. Bahman Hamadi, a vibrant, poetry-loving, opium-addicted dentist who remains behind in Iran and runs afoul of the Iranian authorities during the Green Movement’s protests of 2009. Another focus is his daughter, Niloo, a high-achieving, assimilated immigrant now in her 30s. She is in a listless marriage with a sweet man named Guillaume and living in the Netherlands, where despite its progressive politics, anti-immigrant furor is rising, with shocking results. Nayeri’s 10-page fictionalized treatment of her visits with her father, submitted at the last minute, earned her a residency at the MacDowell Colony, a “sacred space” for artists in New Hampshire, where in a burst of creative energy she completed a full draft of Refuge. At MacDowell, Nayeri also met Sam, who like her had married his college sweetheart and then divorced after 10 years. “It’s an experience that’s hard to relate to unless you’ve been through it,” she says. “We kind of realized we were each other’s person very quickly. This book is deeply tied into my relationship with Sam.” Refuge is also deeply tied to Nayeri’s profound experiences as a young refugee. “We escaped from Iran and then spent a couple of years in a refugee camp before coming to the U.S.,”she says. “There were two years when we were completely without a home. And when we arrived in Oklahoma, we were suddenly very poor. I don’t even know the words to describe the sense of loss I lived with for those first few years. I developed this kind of crazy determination to find a place for myself in the world, to have a kind of security that won’t disappear in an instant.” Drawing on these experiences, Nayeri creates in Niloo a character who is very tightly controlled. Niloo fashions, for example, what her husband names the Perimeter,
a fiercely protected corner in every place she lives that is for her alone. Unhappy at the beginning of the novel, Niloo’s journey is toward finding some sense of belonging and happiness. “Once you’ve lost everything and there’s no going back,” Nayeri explains, “you have this sense of panic that nothing is under control. You develop these OCD-like symptoms. You want some small space that you can control—a space just small enough so you know that whatever happens you can huddle over it and it isn’t going to change.” Nayeri is quick to emphasize that the character Niloo is not her. “I think the child Niloo is very much based on who I “I don’t even was. But as know the an adult, Niloo is not words to at all like describe the me. It was so sense of loss I tempting to lived with for just pump in those first few all my own feelings and years.” experiences and reactions. Reining that in was something I had to go through a lot of iterations to do.” Likewise, Nayeri makes a distinction between her real father and her character Bahman. “I just love that character. He’s this other version of my dad. My dad was in his early 30s when I said goodbye to him, and Bahman in his 30s is very close to that person. Then my father and this fictional father branch out in different directions. I think I captured the voice of a real, true person and at the same time gave him a balance that maybe my father’s real life hasn’t had. Bahman is a person who has kept his capacity for joy through all his adversity. He represents to me a kind of wild,
© ANNA LEADER
INTERVIEW BY ALDEN MUDGE
animal enjoyment of life, a quality that can’t be stamped out.” Nayeri says she has not gone back to Iran because “it never feels safe enough.” Her visits with her father were in other countries. But she remains deeply connected to Persian culture. “I moved away from my Iranian roots for a while in my late 20s when I was very lost and trying to become something different. But as I was becoming a writer, I jumped back in. I immersed myself in Iranian communities. I made sure my Farsi speaking and writing skills didn’t deteriorate. I listened to the music, cooked the food and celebrated the holidays. I recaptured my culture for myself.” Her immersion in Persian culture, in addition to her experience as a refugee, enables Nayeri to create a nuanced and remarkably textured narrative about a world few of us experience. That was apparently also the opinion of her editor when on the final day of her MacDowell residency, Nayeri and friends hit the send button on the first complete draft of Refuge. Nayeri recalls, “Of course we went through a long editing process. But the first thing she said was, ‘This is it! This is the Dina magic!’ . . . And I still don’t know what that is.”
T PI OP CK
THE SUPREMES SING THE HAPPY HEARTACHE BLUES By Edward Kelsey Moore
THE SECRET DIARY OF HENDRIK GROEN
Keeping rust off the golden years R E V I E W B Y C A R R I E R O L LWA G E N
When we meet Hendrik in this anonymously authored Dutch bestseller, he lives in an Amsterdam retirement community where the days are long, hope is scarce and even life’s simple pleasures, like a good meal and a decent piece of cake, are in short supply. He’s friendly with a few fellow residents, but he’s generally lonely and baffled by the typical “old person” behaviors of others in the home. He’s irritated by their shallow small talk, poor hygiene and lack of self-awareness. Hendrik decides to start a journal to give himself daily purpose and a place to vent. He writes about the funny things he sees every day, like old men on motorized scooters who cause pileups with motorcyclists, a woman who accidentally sits down on a plate full of pastries, and a man who reads the same newspaper every day and reports the stories as if they’re fresh. By Hendrik Groen The administrator of the home seems bent on enforcing silly rules Translated by Hester Velmans and keeping any semblance of personality out of the residents’ lives, Grand Central, $26, 384 pages and Hendrik writes about the mysteries and intrigue that spring up in ISBN 9781455542178, audio, eBook available this closed society: the fish tank that keeps being poisoned, the woman suspected of pushing her husband’s wheelchair down the stairs and COMIC FICTION Hendrik’s own contraband Christmas tree. The reflection that comes with journaling soon offers glimmers of hope for Hendrik, and he connects with kindred spirits. Together, they form the Old But Not Dead Club and go on adventures designed to help them experience new things. The club is life-affirming for all members, and the project is a huge success. But even as we rejoice with Hendrik, he doesn’t let us forget that he and his friends are constantly threatened with and sidelined by ailments both small and serious. The way they band together and support each other is an incredible picture of friendship, and it’s something we could all stand to emulate, no matter where we are in our lives.
THE CONFUSION OF LANGUAGES By Siobhan Fallon Putnam $26, 336 pages ISBN 9780399158926 Audio, eBook available
Cassie Hugo, one of two women at the center of The Confusion of Languages, the touching debut novel by Siobhan Fallon (You Know When the Men Are Gone), has many reasons to be jealous of Margaret Brickshaw, the biggest of which is Margaret’s family. It’s May 2011, the time of the Arab Spring. Both women are married to soldiers who work for the U.S. embassy in
Jordan. But while Cassie and Dan haven’t conceived a child in their nine-year marriage (including the two years they’ve lived in Amman), Margaret and Crick, new to Jordan, have a 15-month-old boy named Mather. Cassie’s jealousy might have been less intense if Dan hadn’t signed them up to sponsor the new arrivals. But she does her best to befriend Margaret and hide her sadness whenever she holds Mather and thinks, “This is everything I want.” On the morning of May 13, with the men on assignment in Italy, Margaret gets into a car accident and doesn’t return from embassy headquarters, where she was supposed to fill out paperwork. While Cassie babysits Mather, she reads Margaret’s journals, in which
Margaret chronicled relationships with people she met in Jordan, including two guards, one of whom teaches her Arabic and, in a moving scene, invites her to dinner with his family. Cassie suspects Margaret may be seeing one of these men and that the affair may explain her disappearance, a suspicion fueled by an enigmatic journal entry: “I must find him. I must make it right.” The device of one character reading another’s journal is a cliché, but The Confusion of Languages is nonetheless a moving work about desire and the dislocation one might experience in a foreign land. As Fallon shrewdly makes clear, a friend can be as mysterious as the ways of another culture. —MICHAEL MAGRAS
Holt $28, 320 pages ISBN 9781250107947 Audio, eBook available
In 2013, Edward Kelsey Moore introduced an indomitable and unforgettable trio of headstrong African-American women in his bestselling debut, The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat. Lifelong best friends Odette, Clarice and Barbara Jean—known collectively as the Supremes—won the hearts of readers worldwide as they navigated life’s ups and downs with grit and good humor. After four years, fans will jump for joy that Moore’s long-awaited sequel is finally here. In fictional Plainview, Indiana, life hasn’t changed much for our heroines since we last left them: Odette and her husband still have a rock-solid marriage; Barbara Jean and her high school sweetheart are enjoying a second chance at love; and Clarice is experiencing a welcome renaissance in both her marriage and her concert pianist aspirations. The three women still meet for their weekly post-church catch-up lunch at Earl’s diner, and it seems that after the tumult of the previous novel, they’ve found their grooves and are sailing through their golden years. All this changes, however, when Clarice’s mother falls madly in love with the owner of the local blues joint/gentlemen’s club/general house of ill repute (much to the bemusement—and amusement—of the town). Their wedding brings home legendary bluesman El Walker, even though he swore decades earlier he’d never return to Plainview. El’s performance at the wedding is the calm before a truly epic storm that rips open tender wounds from the past and catches the Supremes and their families in its terrible wake. Like its predecessor, The Supremes Sing the Happy Heartache Blues is an uplifting read
FICTION that tugs at readers’ heartstrings and elicits enthusiastic chuckles in equal measure. Moore masterfully balances sorrow and humor, scandal and earnestness, to create a soul-nourishing narrative that entertains and captures life’s richness. With a colorful cast of characters and touching meditations on family, faith, love and loss, this sparkling sequel will satisfy fans while welcoming new ones to the fold with open arms. —STEPHENIE HARRISON
QUIET UNTIL THE THAW By Alexandra Fuller Penguin Press $25, 288 pages ISBN 9780735223349 Audio, eBook available
A nonfiction writer and memoirist, Fuller writes unhurriedly and with an economy of expression that is nonetheless evocative. Her characters’ lives and motivations— from You Choose and Rick to their guardian Mina; from Le-a and Squanto to the twin boys Jerusalem and Daniel—aren’t fully realized, but what is explored paints a vivid picture. As they search for belonging and meaning, every piece of the slowly unveiled story helps fill in the complicated puzzle of their relationships. You Choose’s and Rick’s paths meet time and time again until one last encounter, when the path of one becomes the path of the other in their seemingly fated intersection. Fuller writes: “Since all things are connected, always and for all time, there is no avoiding reunion.” —MELISSA BROWN
THE NECKLACE In the shadow of Wounded Knee, the characters in Alexandra Fuller’s debut novel strive to make, force or find their way. Life on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation reads as both humorous and heartbreaking in Quiet Until the Thaw. Rick Overlooking Horse and You Choose Watson are cousins, bound by shared ancestry and blood, but little else. Rick grows to appreciate and revere the ways of the land of his people, the Lakota Oglala Sioux Nation; You Choose turns his back on the Rez and all it would teach him. Fuller says much in few, well-chosen words, like the quiet Rick Overlooking Horse himself, who left the Rez to serve in Vietnam and came back burned in body but resolute in spirit. Winding through seminal events from the 1940s to the 2000s, Fuller muses on the nature of time itself, how it circles and returns, how cycles repeat themselves. You Choose wanders north, returns, becomes tribal chairman and then loses it all in a fit of rage. Rick finds his home in a meadow, tends wild horses, befriends buffalo and, late one night, becomes the caretaker for twin baby boys. A couple, Le-a Brings Plenty and Squanto, help raise them.
By Claire McMillan Touchstone $26, 320 pages ISBN 9781501165047 eBook available
last will and testament will identify, painfully. Alternating with Nell’s chapters are those focusing on the triangle involving Nell’s long-dead maternal grandparents. Loulou’s brothers, Ethan and Ambrose Quincy, contend for the love of May, a nice girl from another well-heeled family who’s going to marry one or the other anyway. When the restless Ambrose decides to head to Asia for some culture and big-game hunting, May stays behind with the dutiful Ethan. In the fullness of time, Ambrose returns with the necklace meant for May, his new sister-in-law. McMillan impresses with her knowledge and interplay of both timelines: Ambrose’s handwritten letters versus the texts between Nell and her love interest; the golden sheen that surrounds a family at the height of its pre-Depression power and wealth versus the aggravations of having to find ways to get rid of every unwanted, moth-eaten thing in that family’s crumbling old mansion. Throughout, McMillan reminds the reader that the bonds and misunderstandings among families continue from generation to generation. —ARLENE M�KANIC
Imagine what it would be like for Tom and Daisy Buchanan’s grandchildren to deal with the messes their grandparents made 80 years ago. The eponymous piece of jewelry of Claire McMillan’s absorbing novel is what remains of another Gatsby-esque Jazz Age tragedy made by another bunch of careless people. Nell Merrihew has come to the family seat in Ohio after being tapped as the executor of her great-aunt Loulou Quincy’s will. This is viewed with some dismay by her upper-crust Quincy cousins, for Nell isn’t considered one of the clan. When Nell’s statuesque, snobbish cousin Pansy finds out that Loulou gifted a fabulous and valuable Indian necklace to Nell, Pansy has no problem threatening to haul out the big legal guns. Anyone who’s had to deal with a passel of greedy and/or irrational kinfolk when it comes to the fine print of a
LIVE FROM CAIRO By Ian Bassingthwaighte Scribner $26, 336 pages ISBN 9781501146879 eBook available
Ian Bassingthwaighte’s experience as a legal aid worker in Egypt in 2009, helping to place refugees from Iraq and Sudan, was the impetus for this remarkable and timely debut novel, which takes place in Cairo in 2011, just after President Hosni Mubarak’s removal from power. The story focuses on four characters trying to survive in the chaotic months following Mubarak’s ouster. Dalia is an Iraqi refugee who becomes trapped in Egypt after her petition to join her
husband, Omran, in America is denied. Omran worked for the U.S. Army in Iraq and was abducted and tortured by anti-American militia. He was granted the right to go to America for his own safety, but for want of an official marriage certificate, Dalia was forced to stay behind. She escaped to Cairo, where she contacts the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, or UNHCR, in hopes of obtaining her own refugee status so she can join Omran. Dalia’s case is assigned to Hana, an Iraqi citizen with her own tragic backstory: She has recently been hired by the UNHCR to read and evaluate refugee petitions, only a fraction of which are approved each year. Hana empathizes with Dalia, but her boss insists that Dalia’s case is not convincing enough, and her petition is denied. Two other characters who become immersed in Dalia’s plight are Charlie, a lawyer for the Refugee Relief Project, and Aos, his translator who is also an active participant in anti-government protests. How they become enmeshed in a risky plot to get Dalia out of Cairo becomes the crux of the novel’s second half, as they enlist Hana’s help in some highly illegal activity, putting them all in danger. We can all become numb by reading the news each day and seeing images on social media of those seeking safety from the violence in their home countries. But a novel such as this puts a very personal face on this growing global problem—one that is not going to disappear soon. —DEBORAH DONOVAN
GRACE By Paul Lynch
Little, Brown $26, 368 pages ISBN 9780316316309 eBook available
Paul Lynch’s new novel, Grace, opens with a jarring scene: Fourteen-year-old Grace is pulled out of her house one morning in 1845
reviews and dragged to the killing stump by her pregnant mother, who then cuts off her daughter’s hair. Grace is dressed in men’s clothing and cast from the house as her mother declares, “You are the strong one now.” What ensues is a heartbreaking tale of desolation, hunger, loneliness and survival, set during the darkest hour in Irish history. Lynch, who has garnered comparisons to Cormac McCarthy and Colm Tóibín for his previous works Red Sky in Morning and The Black Snow, has woven a sweeping novel that is difficult to properly categorize. While calling upon traditional Irish storytelling, Grace also feels vaguely Dickensian and unfolds through language that’s more like poetry than prose. Even through gruesome parts of the novel—such as the death of Grace’s younger brother or the mildly traumatic experience of her first menstruation— Lynch’s descriptions and turns of phrase are macabrely beautiful. Readers follow Grace as she wanders the barren countryside, reinventing herself. She is a boy, a man, a cattle herd and even a thief. She speaks with ghosts and struggles to survive. Many would see her mother’s choice to cast her out as harsh, but in comparison to the hardships experienced in the novel, readers come to see that her mother’s choice was actually an act of love, an attempt to help Grace grow and save her from hunger, pain and potentially the hands of her mother’s new lover, Boggs. Grace offers an intriguing perspective on the concepts of femininity and hardship, one that feels as though it has already claimed its place among great Irish literature. —HOPE RACINE
SPOONBENDERS By Daryl Gregory Knopf $27.95, 416 pages ISBN 9781524731823 Audio, eBook available
Comic novels about dysfunctional families certainly aren’t new.
FICTION Neither are novels about grifters bound together by blood and larcenous vice. It’s the personalities that make such stories feel fresh, and with Spoonbenders, Daryl Gregory has created a captivating cast for a hybrid breed of story. Told from multiple points of view and leaping between past and present, it’s a hilarious portrayal of family, schemes and a few superpowers thrown in along the way. Once upon a time, the Telemachus clan was on the verge of greatness, wowing audiences with claims of clairvoyance and telekinesis. Though the patriarch, Teddy, was merely a very skilled con man, the family had a secret weapon: The matriarch, Maureen, was an actual psychic so powerful that even the government made use of her skills. Then Maureen died, and the family’s dreams seemed to die with her. In the present day, the Telemachuses are fragmented and defeated. Teddy tries his old moves on new women. His daughter, Irene, looks for excitement in her dull life, while her brother Frankie sells supplements and her other brother, Buddy—who has mysterious gifts of his own—constantly invents new projects as he picks apart the family home. A ray of light enters their lives when, in a moment of pubescent heat, Irene’s son, Matty, learns he has a genuine psychic gift of his own. Despite its fantastical premise, the real power of Gregory’s novel is in his ability to pivot between several fully realized points of view with each passing chapter. The disappointment at having to leave one fascinating Telemachus behind is exceeded only by the delight in finding the next Telemachus to be just as complex, funny and genuine. These are eccentric people with eccentric lives, but the level of emotional detail at work is astounding, and Gregory’s magic touch makes even their strangest moments relatable. These characters’ gifts merge with a brisk pace and a subtle, often bittersweet sense of comedy to make Spoonbenders an intensely endearing read. The premise will hook you, the plot will entice you,
and then the Telemachuses themselves will make you fall in love. —MATTHEW JACKSON
THE REASON YOU’RE ALIVE By Matthew Quick Harper $25.99, 240 pages ISBN 9780062424303 Audio, eBook available
choke, but always bind. —T O M D E I G N A N
SOUTH POLE STATION By Ashley Shelby Picador $26, 368 pages ISBN 9781250112828 eBook available
The Silver Linings Playbook author Matthew Quick channels the political anger that is all the rage these days in this scorching family drama. The Reason You’re Alive is narrated with ire and eloquence by David Granger, a Vietnam vet in his late 60s who has just had brain surgery. It’s as if Holden Caulfield grew up to be a reflective, even soulful, Archie Bunker. David’s voice is intimate, personal, occasionally poetic and sensible, even sympathetic. He is, however, filled with right-wing rage directed at everybody—from the government that sent him off to war to his art-dealer son, Hank, a liberal and a hypocrite (two of David’s least favorite traits). David is recounting his life story for an unspecified report, and we spiral back to his wartime experiences, the harrowing meeting that led to his marriage, the tragedy that followed and the roots of his rocky relationship with Hank. Like Holden, the one thing David seems to love unequivocally is a little girl—Hank’s 7-year-old daughter, Ella. The question coursing throughout The Reason You’re Alive is whether or not Ella—or anything—will prevent David from yielding to his darkest impulses. For the first half of the novel, the force of David’s voice is electric. After some time, his rants begin to wear thin, dabbling in a certain kind of narrow-mindedness and self-pity we see in angry folks on both sides of the political aisle. The book does move toward an emotional conclusion, offering Hank and David an opportunity for redemption. For all of David’s political bluster, this is a touching, old-fashioned drama about the ties that sometimes
The South Pole, often talked about as that place melting quicker than the ice cubes in our summer drinks, happens to be the location of Ashley Shelby’s debut novel, South Pole Station. Filled with characters that one would expect in a place like this—scientists and researchers—it also has an unexpected menagerie of authors and artists, as well as an interpretive dancer and a climate skeptic who round out this spectacle at the southernmost tip of our planet. The story starts miles away in Minnesota, where 30-year-old struggling artist Cooper Gosling has been offered a spot at the Amundsen-Scott research station. It’s hard to deny the unique inspiration such a place could evoke, but Cooper’s reasons to be so far from civilization have more to do with the personal trauma of her twin brother’s recent passing. At the station, Cooper meets other “Polies” with whom she automatically shares the camaraderie of being in one of the strangest places on earth, although she still bears the weight of feeling like a lone castaway. But it’s hard to keep romance and friendships at bay, even in the most scientifically sterile place, and Cooper slowly finds the comfort she’s looking for. Throughout witty, often hilarious scenarios, Shelby expertly weaves in the legitimate political and environmental concerns of climate change faced by the worldwide scientific community today. Shelby’s exploration of the human spirit continuously digs deeper, ever in search of answers to all of life’s important questions— scientific and otherwise. —CHIKA GUJARATHI
T PI OP CK
BE FREE OR DIE By Cate Lineberry
Burning down the house
St. Martin’s $25.99, 288 pages ISBN 9781250101860 eBook available
REVIEW BY ALICE CARY
Abandoned buildings were going up in flames in sleepy Accomack County on Virginia’s Eastern Shore in late 2012 and early 2013. More than 60, one after the other, lighting up the skies in the middle of the night. Neighbors grew suspicious, vigilante groups were formed, and police checkpoints dotted lonely country roads. In the end, a bizarre story emerged once police captured the culprits, who turned out to be engaged lovers Charlie Smith and Tonya Bundick. The story of the hunt for these Bonnie-and-Clyde arsonists, their capture and trials is mesmerizing, as told by Washington Post feature writer Monica Hesse in American Fire. The chase involved 26,378 hours of work by the Virginia State Police and 14,924 hours of overtime for nearly five months. Teams of men spent nights in tents beside potential targets, hoping to catch the fire starter red-handed. By Monica Hesse Hesse happened upon this story when she went looking for an asLiveright, $26.95, 288 pages signment that would simply get her “out of the office for a day.” She got ISBN 9781631490514, audio, eBook available more than she bargained for, spending the next two years researching, TRUE CRIME writing and trying to understand the why behind the strange crime spree. She ended up moving to the area for a while, riding on fire trucks, visiting Smith and Bundick in jail, getting to know residents at church potluck suppers and digging deep into the area’s past, present and future, even reading a book about the chicken industry “that is more interesting than any book about chicken farming has a right to be.” So why did Smith and Bundick commit these crimes? “The answer,” Hesse writes, “inasmuch as there is an answer for these things, involved hope, poverty, pride, Walmart, erectile Read a Q&A with Monica dysfunction, Steak-umms . . . intrigue, and America.” What more is there to Hesse on the next page. say? American Fire is deftly written and endlessly surprising.
AMONG THE LIVING AND THE DEAD By Inara Verzemnieks
Norton $26.95, 288 pages ISBN 9780393245110 eBook available
In old Latvia, Inara Verzemnieks tells us, people believed that the dead returned home once a year to see how everyone was doing. The living couldn’t see them, but they felt their presence, maybe even talked to them. It was a source of great comfort. After decades of upheaval and migration, the traditional beliefs have gone underground. But Ver-
zemnieks, the Latvian-American daughter of a refugee, understands their value and finds her own comfort through the personal journey she recounts in Among the Living and the Dead. Verzemnieks’ grandmother Livija fled Riga, Latvia, with her two children during World War II, making her way to a displaced persons camp in Germany. She was joined there by her war-wounded husband. After much struggle, they were resettled in the United States. As the family adjusted, Livija’s relatives overseas in Latvia were undergoing their own torment: They were exiled by the Soviets to Siberia for years, returning only to find that they had lost their ancestral farm. Verzemnieks was raised largely by her beloved grandparents, who existed somewhere between the U.S. and their memories of rural
childhoods. After her grandmother’s death, Verzemnieks visited Livija’s sister in the old village in an attempt to unravel family mysteries. Verzemnieks is an exquisite writer who weaves together tales of old Latvia and her own discoveries in lyrical prose. Slowly, carefully, she coaxes her great-aunt into talking about Siberia. She learns more about her grandparents, though troubling uncertainties remain. Her descriptions of the years on the “war roads” and in the displaced persons camps are particularly heartbreaking. It becomes evident that her father, outwardly a successful professional, was permanently affected by an early childhood of deprivation and fear. But the revelations also bring understanding. The dead and the living mingle and reconnect. —ANNE BARTLETT
In the early morning of May 13, 1862, the side-wheel steamboat Planter left its dock in the Charleston, South Carolina, harbor and eased past an array of heavily armed Confederate fortifications toward the open sea. The Planter was a local vessel that regularly plied those waters. The only thing that made this morning’s passage remarkable was that the runaway slave Robert Smalls was piloting the boat. His “cargo” consisted of 15 other slaves, among them his wife and children. It was a daring escape, minutely planned and flawlessly executed. And it was the beginning of Smalls’ life as a free man. After surrendering his craft to the Union navy, along with crucial military intelligence, he continued to serve the Union cause as a pilot and as a spokesman for black equality. Endlessly imaginative and resourceful, Smalls was able, within less than two years of his escape, to buy the “master’s house” in which he and his mother had recently been slaves. (To compound this irony, years after the war ended, he invited members of his former master’s family to his home—once theirs—for a prolonged visit. They accepted but refused to eat at the same table with his family.) Smalls, who learned to read relatively late in life, did not leave voluminous written records behind. But in Be Free or Die, Cate Lineberry has pieced together a coherent arc of Smalls’ story through contemporary newspaper accounts—he was heralded as a hero throughout the North—military and government records and biographies of those who worked with Smalls and knew him well. Lineberry sets these collected, fascinating details into a larger
MONICA HESSE BY ALICE CARY
Follow the smoke
raveling to Accomack County, Virginia, journalist Monica Hesse uncovers the complex triggers behind a pair of lovers’ five-month arson spree in the small, neglected town.
How did your Washington Post feature, which later evolved into American Fire (reviewed on the previous page), originate? I live in Washington, D.C., about four hours from Accomack. It’s close enough that the fires made the news here, at least occasionally. Every few weeks I’d see something about how the fires were piling up on the Eastern Shore. When Charlie and Tonya were finally arrested, I thought, “Huh, that’s interesting. You don’t see a lot of female arsonists. I wonder what happened there?” So I drove down to cover one of the first hearings, and it happened to be the one where Charlie talked about why he and Tonya had started lighting the fires to begin with. And then I thought, “Holy ----.” What was your most memorable experience while writing this book? I was really sure that Charlie Smith wasn’t going to want to talk to me for the book. He hadn’t talked to anyone else, and people had tried. But I wrote him a letter that I guess stuck with him, and one morning I’d just stepped out of the shower when I saw an unfamiliar number pop up on my cell phone. I picked up, and he just said, “This is Charlie, are you the girl who’s trying to write about me?” I was flying around my apartment in a bath towel, searching for something to write with; my notes from my first conversation with Charlie ended up being on a roll of paper towels. But that’s how this whole book went. I would have completely given up on someone talking to me, and then they’d come through at the most unexpected time. Your book notes that “[a]rson is a weird crime.” Did the arsons change the county in lasting ways? Do many of the burnt buildings still stand? Oh, a lot of them. The fires burned some buildings to the ground, but others they only singed. I don’t think the arsons particularly changed the county—it’s not like nobody trusts each other anymore, just because there was a serial arsonist—except that there are some places that end up having particular and peculiar dates with destiny. You can’t think of Holcomb, Kansas, without thinking of it being the setting of In Cold Blood, for example. And that’s what the arsons did. They took a place that nobody was paying attention to and made it briefly famous. Charlie Smith and Tonya Bundick truly had, as Elvis would say, a “Burning Love.” Each of them tells a very different story about who’s responsible for these crimes. Will anyone but them ever know the truth? I don’t think anyone but them will ever know. Which is part of what makes it so fascinating. I heard a writer once say that the best mysteries are ones that leave more questions than they answer, because the real mystery isn’t who does what, but why. To me, American Fire is a book about arsons, but it’s really a mystery about the unfathomableness of the human heart. I had a million theories for what really happened and why, and they would change every time I talked to a new person.
reviews narrative about how the Civil War played out in the Union-occupied coastal areas of South Carolina. —EDWARD MORRIS
HOW TO FALL IN LOVE WITH ANYONE By Mandy Len Catron
Simon & Schuster $26, 256 pages ISBN 9781501137440 Audio, eBook available
on the most universal topic. —AMY SCRIBNER
WOOLLY By Ben Mezrich
Atria $26, 304 pages ISBN 9781501135552 Audio, eBook available
Mandy Len Catron’s essay, “To Fall in Love with Anyone, Do This,” went viral after being published in the New York Times Modern Love column in 2014. In it, she details a study in which couples sit face to face, asking and answering progressively more personal questions. Six months after the study, two participants were married. Catron tried the questions out with an attractive acquaintance named Mark, and lo and behold, they are now a couple. (She is the first to admit, in the last paragraph of the essay, that love didn’t happen to them because of the questions—they chose to be together.) Now Catron is tackling the many facets of love in a book that builds upon her famous essay. In truth, the book’s name is a bit of a misnomer. Catron, a professor in British Columbia, is not making the case, as the title suggests, that love is either random or formulaic. Rather, she examines what science tells us about the elements of lasting love, and explores why her Appalachian grandparents stayed married for life while her parents divorced after so many seemingly happy years and her own longterm relationship (pre-Mark) slowly crumbled. She writes, “Deciding to break up, I thought, was like learning a star had burned out in a distant galaxy, even though you can still see it in the sky: You know something has irrevocably changed, but your senses suggest otherwise.” Catron melds science and emotion beautifully into a thoughtful and thought-provoking meditation
When Michael Crichton published Jurassic Park in 1990, people were enthralled by the idea of bringing long-extinct dinosaur species back to life. It was an intriguing notion, yet pure science-fiction entertainment. Now, just over 25 years later, a similar concept may soon become a reality, as evidenced by the fascinating new book Woolly: The True Story of the Quest to Revive One of History’s Most Iconic Extinct Creatures by Ben Mezrich. Mezrich explains how a team of scientists led by brilliant geneticist Dr. George Church is currently working on resurrecting the prehistoric woolly mammoth. The scientists are trying to sequence the DNA of woolly mammoths that were found frozen in the Arctic and splice elements of that sequence into the DNA of a modern Asian elephant (its closest living ancestor). Repopulating the woolly mammoth in an isolated region of Siberia is the brainchild of Russian scientist Sergey Zimov, who has slowly been collecting mammals that can survive the area’s frigid conditions such as reindeer, musk oxen and moose. Called Pleistocene Park, this experiment is not a whimsical theme park, but rather a way to slow down global warming. When herbivores disappeared from this region, much of the vegetation vanished, too. Reviving the grasslands and animals that feed on them helps keep the permafrost from melting, preventing the release of carbon into the atmosphere and decelerating the greenhouse effect so detrimental to our planet. Deftly connecting the backsto-
NONFICTION ries of all the players involved in this extremely complex undertaking, Mezrich explains the genetics and genomics in layman’s terms, piecing together a mesmerizing tale. He also discusses the numerous obstacles they face—political, ethical and monetary, to name a few. A thought-provoking story, Woolly shows how the power of technology can take concepts previously considered inconceivable and transform them into realities. —BECKY LIBOUREL DIAMOND
SAVING CHARLOTTE By Pia de Jong
Translated by Landon Jones Norton $25.95, 256 pages ISBN 9780393609158 eBook available
In 2000, Pia de Jong and her husband, Robbert Dijkgraaf, eagerly welcomed their third child, a daughter named Charlotte. Five years earlier, the couple had moved into a 17th-century brick canal house in Amsterdam. A sign above the door gave the construction date: 1632. De Jong felt welcomed by the house—and the colorful cast of characters in the neighborhood: There’s a young, blonde prostitute doing business in the alley who can guess that de Jong is pregnant just by looking at her; Mackie, an angry man who watches over not only his aging mother, but the entire neighborhood; and across the canal is Rutger, an old, sick man who tells de Jong, “That house belongs to you. It was waiting all these years for you to move in. I should know. I’ve lived across from it all my life.” When newborn Charlotte arrives, she is embraced by her parents and two older brothers, as well as by this odd, eccentric community. But it is clear from the first that something is wrong. The midwife finds an unusual bump on the baby’s skin that when touched turns blue. Charlotte has congenital myeloid leukemia. Informed that the prognosis is poor, de Jong
and her husband, with the support of their compassionate oncologist, choose to actively watch and wait rather than subject Charlotte to potentially deadly chemotherapy. With a novelist’s sense of story and characters, de Jong paints a vivid picture of Charlotte’s first year. Even when we don’t see the neighbors, we feel their concern cradling the family, and especially this small, brave baby, who keeps fighting—and eventually goes into remission. Several cases of spontaneous remission have occurred, and “watchful waiting” is now a standard protocol for this type of leukemia. The subject of this inspiring, heartfelt memoir is now a healthy teenager living with her family in Princeton, New Jersey. —DEBORAH HOPKINSON
THE SECRET HISTORY OF JANE EYRE By John Pfordresher
Norton $26.95, 256 pages ISBN 9780393248876 eBook available
The Brontë sisters were publicity shy. The three writers used masculine pseudonyms both to overcome the bias against female authors and to preserve their privacy as the respectable, unmarried adult daughters of an Anglican clergyman. Charlotte even continued to use her nom de plume well after the death of her sisters and the critical success of her novels. She also vehemently denied that she served as the model for her most famous heroine, Jane Eyre—even publicly scolding William Makepeace Thackeray for introducing her as “Jane Eyre.” And yet, despite these protestations, Charlotte acknowledged that every emotion that Jane experiences in the novel was also experienced by her creator. Jane Eyre, which is subtitled “An Autobiography,” is, in many ways, also an autobiography of Charlotte Brontë. Rochester is based in part on Charlotte’s great unrequited
SUMMER BY JULIE HALE
A taste of summer
here’s no better way to spend a lazy July afternoon than dipping into the pages of a good book. The lighthearted titles below are just right for poolside perusal.
Nothing says summer like a simple, classic ice-cream cone. Author Amy Ettinger salutes the timeless treat in Sweet Spot: An Ice Cream Binge Across America (Dutton, $26, 320 pages, ISBN 9781101984192), a breezy, appealing book that tracks the history and development of the frozen favorite. A self-described “ice cream snob” ever in pursuit of “the perfect scoop,” Ettinger explores the culinary advancements that have affected the creamy concoction over the years and shares personal anecdotes about her lifelong love affair with the sweet stuff. As she travels across the country investigating ice cream’s allure, Ettinger attends classes at Pennsylvania State University’s prestigious ice-cream making school, which is equipped with its very own creamery, and chats with ice-cream icon Jerry Greenfield of Ben & Jerry’s fame. Along the way, she serves up plenty of tasty trivia (back in 1790, George Washington spent $200 on ice cream; in today’s economy, that’s around $3,000) and shares the backstories of famous brands like Carvel, Breyers and Good Humor. Ettinger also includes recipes— Arnie’s Ballpark Chocolate is a standout—but you don’t have to be a foodie to savor her tribute to a summer staple. “Ice cream,” Ettinger says, has “the ability to add the words So what? to life’s dire circumstances.” Her travelogue is a scoop of fun for everyone.
LAUGHS FOR THE LADIES We have good news for the
legion of readers who love mother-daughter co-authors Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella: The eighth entry in the team’s bestselling The Amazing Adventures of an Ordinary Woman series comes out this month. The delightfully companionable essay collection I Need a Lifeguard Everywhere but the Pool (St. Martin’s, $21.99, 336 pages, ISBN 9781250059963) offers more of the invaluable life perspectives—and big laughs—that fans anticipate from this terrific twosome. In brief, razor-sharp pieces, mother and daughter provide insights from different stages in the female experience. Their essays brim with we’ve-all-been-there moments. Serritella, a 30-something Manhattanite who’s on “guyatus”— that’s a hiatus from guys—writes candidly about the realities of life in the city and the process of owning her independence. “Being single is a status,” she says, “it’s not an urgent problem in need of remediation.” Scottoline, who lives on a farm in Pennsylvania, reflects on her iPhone obsession, Twitter dependency and the surreal experience of purchasing diapers for her incontinent dog. Her can-do attitude is a true spirit-booster, and she entreats women to stand on their own two feet and stop waiting for a lifeguard to save the day. “Who better to trust with your life than you?” she writes. “Who’s more reliable than a woman?” Indeed, when it comes to feel-good and uproarious storytelling, this duo always delivers.
reviews love, Constantin Héger, and Charlotte’s sister Maria was the model for doomed little Helen Burns. But in The Secret History of Jane Eyre, John Pfordresher explores how Jane Eyre is more than a superficially autobiographical novel; it is a complex emotional self-portrait of the author. Pfordresher, a professor of English at Georgetown University, is obviously a great admirer of Charlotte, and he uses her letters, earlier work and life experiences to explore his topic. But he also uses the novel itself as a kind of treasure map to find where Charlotte has hidden herself in Jane’s story. In an especially interesting section, Pfordresher uses his expertise in Victorian art to show how Jane’s drawings, as described in the novel, express Charlotte’s deep and turbulent emotional life. The moon, used in many key scenes, is symbolic of Charlotte’s yearning for the mother taken from her at a young age. This is a fascinating and authoritative book, written with intelligence, wit and affection, and full of surprises. Reader, I recommend it. —DEBORAH MASON
FALL DOWN 7 TIMES GET UP 8 By Naoki Higashida
Translated by KA Yoshida and David Mitchell Random House $27, 240 pages ISBN 9780812997392 Audio, eBook available
Naoki Higashida is a nonverbal, autistic young man whose first widely translated memoir, The Reason I Jump, written when he was 13, was received with acclaim and incredulity. Acclaim because it detailed the vivid inner life of someone who had, before his mother’s intervention with what they call an “alphabet grid” (a modified QWERTY keyboard), seemed unresponsive, and incredulity because it seemed impossible that someone who was genuinely autistic and working independently could compose such coherent and artful
NONFICTION prose. Since writing The Reason I Jump, Higashida has become a celebrity in Japan and the second most widely translated Japanese author behind Haruki Murakami. Higashida’s new collection— comprised of blog entries, poems, a short story and an interview— brings readers up to speed with the author, now in his early 20s. His thoughts on neurological diversity are riveting: “My brain has this habit of getting lost inside things. Finding the way in is easy, but—like being in a maze—finding your way out is a lot harder. I want to exit the maze right now, but I’m forced to stay inside it. This applies also to time and schedules. They constrain me.” Higashida’s accounts of thinking in images, feeling compelled to make repetitive movements and the difficulties and pleasures of communicating make this book totally captivating. Translator and bestselling author David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas) introduces the volume with an account of the dismay he felt when Higashida’s work was dismissed by critics as fraudulent. Mitchell points out that he has witnessed Higashida’s composing firsthand, and that, moreover, Higashida’s prose has changed the way he perceives—and interacts with—his own autistic son. Mitchell writes that bringing Higashida’s writing to a larger public has been the most important writing task of his life. Readers will find this older Higashida not only eloquent and thoughtful, but also wise, measured and, most of all, kind. — K E L LY B L E W E T T
PATRICK HENRY By Jon Kukla
Simon & Schuster $35, 560 pages ISBN 9781439190814 Audio, eBook available
Patrick Henry is best known for his defiant words delivered in a May 1775 speech: “I know not
what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” In his authoritative, detailed and absorbing Patrick Henry: Champion of Liberty, Jon Kukla explores Henry’s crucial public roles as an early leader of opposition to the Stamp Act and other repressive measures, as well as a key legislative strategist, an outstanding orator and, perhaps most importantly, a very effective five-term governor of Virginia, his first election to the position coming in 1776. At that time, Henry’s priority was to win the war against Britain and support the Congress and George Washington. After the war, Henry dealt with difficult situations of state and national authority including Native American warfare and a congressional conspiracy against Virginia’s vast western expansion interests. Washington and Henry were colleagues for years in politics and war, a relationship that was strengthened by Henry’s loyal support of Washington in 1777-78 during an alleged plot to replace him as military commander. The mutual trust remained despite, 10 years later, Washington’s favoring of and Henry’s opposition to the ratification of the Constitution. Henry’s opposition was based on his ideas of liberty and federalism and his fear that the national government would become too powerful. He was instrumental in pushing for a Bill of Rights before James Madison championed the idea. As president, Washington offered Henry positions as secretary of state and as ambassador to Spain, but he declined both. Henry was increasingly distressed as party politics came to play a more important role in governmental decisions. Henry and Washington felt that true patriots should be able to rise above partisan politics and make decisions based on disinterested commitment to the welfare of the community. Kukla’s vivid recreation of Henry’s life and times enlightens readers about a man who was much more than his courageous words spoken in 1775. —ROGER BISHOP
STING-RAY AFTERNOONS By Steve Rushin
Little, Brown $27, 336 pages ISBN 9780316392235 Audio, eBook available
Get out that vintage bike—or imagine the one you always wished for—and join award-winning Sports Illustrated writer Steve Rushin on a wild ride through his ’70s boyhood in fast-growing Bloomington, Minnesota. Once the proud owner of his own Sting-Ray bike, Rushin was born just in time to watch the first man land on the moon. Sting-Ray Afternoons takes it from there in this fiercely funny memoir about family, sports, music, food and fads. Rushin is the middle child of a frequently traveling, hardworking 3M salesman and a stay-at-home mom who somehow remained sane and mostly in control of four brawling boys and an unflappable daughter. A candid observer of his own troubles—sleepwalking, night terrors and sibling wars among them—Rushin adds wit with a comic’s timing to his tales. Meanwhile, the Sears Wish Book catalog promised grand Christmases, the new Weber grill delivered backyard barbecues, and the Vikings went down in Super Bowl defeat an ignominious four times. Pringles were pretty new, and who knew that their creator would someday ask to be cremated and buried in a Pringles can? Rushin is a wealth of such odd facts. Mixing in more sports and popular trivia than any board game can provide, Rushin offers up a time capsule of the 1970s. The affection he bestows on his family—foibles and scars notwithstanding—colors the details of their times together. “Childhood disappears down a storm drain,” Rushin concludes. “It flows, then trickles, then vanishes. . . .” Sting-Ray Afternoons does its best to ensure the devil in those details lives on. —PRISCILLA KIPP
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THE GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO VICE AND VIRTUE
A rollicking summer adventure REVIEW BY JUSTIN BARISICH
Jumping from country to country across 18th-century Europe, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue follows a bisexual lad on a raucous adventure of self-discovery. Henry “Monty” Montague was lucky enough to be born into one of England’s wealthy noble families, and now that he’s come of age, it’s time to make his grand tour across the Continent. It’s a year-long trip he’s assuming will be nothing but fun times, fast love and excessive libations with his biracial best friend (and secret love) Percy—until his unforgiving father saddles them with Monty’s boring sister, Felicity, and a killjoy tutor employed to keep them in line. Nevertheless, while attending a royal party in Paris, Monty insults and steals from the former prime minister, disgracing his family name. As punishment for wasting his last chance to redeem himself, Monty By Mackenzi Lee and his motley crew are ordered home, but their carriage gets attacked Katherine Tegen, $18.99, 528 pages by highwaymen with ties to the French crown. Once they escape, MonISBN 9780062382801, audio, eBook available ty, Percy and Felicity must learn about themselves, each other and the Ages 13 and up world around them to survive a trip that’s become far more than they bargained for. HISTORICAL FICTION Award-winning author Mackenzi Lee adeptly addresses vital themes in her historical novel, including women’s rights, racial biases, domestic abuse and LGBTQ struggles—issues that today’s society is still struggling with. The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is such a stellar piece of young adult fiction that it could easily entertain the adult reader as well.
WASTE OF SPACE By Gina Damico
HMH $17.99, 400 pages ISBN 9780544633162 Audio, eBook available Ages 12 and up
Ten teenagers. One soundstage made to look like a spacecraft. Plus a questionable scientific agency, a maniacal producer and a dozen or so corporate sponsors. What could possibly go wrong? Told in transcripts of audio and video recordings, blog posts and other documents obtained by a disgruntled intern, Waste of Space follows an eponymous reality show. Documents show the daily power struggles, challenges and romantic trysts of the “Space tronauts,” along with the personal
confessions they’re encouraged to record, the highly edited results that appear on TV and the increasingly frantic conversations that occur among various behind-thescenes partners. Discerning readers might initially get frustrated by the clichés, including the show’s instant and intense social media popularity and the overt product placement. But as these elements fall away or twist in on themselves, the characters are revealed to be more than they seem. Readers will come to see that Waste of Space is a satire skewering every element it seemed at first to glorify. Author Gina Damico, best known for her humor/horror hybrids like the recent Wax, taps into a cultural zeitgeist of advertising saturation, Hunger Games spinoffs and self-mocking tales like Joss Whedon’s movie The Cabin in the Woods. A bit of real emotional power sneaks in with the mockery, leading readers to question
the lines between realistic fiction, science fiction, magical realism and parody. —J I L L R A T Z A N
stay with family friends. When they arrive, Aila discovers the townspeople have been suffering “Disappearances” every seven years. These fantastical losses include the ability to smell, to see the stars and to see their own reflections. Aila and Miles don’t understand why everyone blames their mother until Aila begins to unravel Juliet’s mysterious past. Why was she able to break free of the curse? Why did Juliet leave notes in a book of William Shakespeare’s works? Bain deftly weaves these threads together as Aila discovers not only her mother’s secrets but also her own identity. By setting the novel in a time before the internet, Bain thoroughly conveys the sense of strange isolation of Sterling’s residents and their troubles. In the end, The Disappearances is a delicious mix of mystery, fantasy and romance. —J E N N I F E R B R U E R K I T C H E L
NOW I RISE By Kiersten White Delacorte $18.99, 480 pages ISBN 9780553522358 Audio, eBook available Ages 12 and up
THE DISAPPEARANCES By Emily Bain Murphy
As the second volume in Kiersten White’s And I Darken series HMH (a retelling of the Vlad the Impaler $17.99, 400 pages legend) begins, the ferocious Lada ISBN 9780544879362 has fled the Ottoman Court with Audio, eBook available a band of warriors, determined to Ages 12 and up fulfill her destiny and secure the throne of Wallachia. Left behind MYSTERY is her brother, Radu, who is still yearning for the attentions of Set in early 1940s New England, Sultan Mehmed, despite Mehmed’s Emily Bain Murphy’s debut novel, unabated lust for Lada. The Disappearances, follows As part of his scheme to expand 16-year-old Aila Quinn and her his empire, Mehmed sends Radu to younger brother, Miles. The two are Constantinople to gather intellistruggling after the recent death gence for a planned invasion. Radu and his wife, Nazira—who has left of their mother, Juliet, and their father’s departure to fight in World behind her own same-sex lover— War II. Left alone, they must travel are thrust into a dangerous game to their mother’s mysterious home- of intrigue in the court of Constantown of Sterling, Connecticut, to tine. Meanwhile, Lada’s blood-
reviews thirsty drive for power is tempered by unexpected affection for an ally. Nevertheless, she remains true to her dragon nature, outmatching her opponents through a merciless combination of cunning and brutality. White skillfully interweaves the cultural and political norms of 15th-century Eastern Europe with contemporary empathy by switching up gender roles and maintaining a smoldering undercurrent of romantic tension. The storylines of Lada and Radu do not directly intersect in this middle volume, which allows readers to bond with each sibling and their respective entourages. This installment is highly recommended for both teens and adults interested in alternative histories flush with imaginative twists. —DIANE COLSON
Visit BookPage.com to read a Q&A with Kiersten White.
THE LEAF READER By Emily Arsenault Soho Teen $18.99, 240 pages ISBN 9781616957827 Audio, eBook available Ages 12 and up
For 16-year-old Marnie Wells, reading tea leaves is a party trick—a kooky hobby she picked up from an old book of her grandmother’s. And although Marnie doesn’t take her tea-leaf reading seriously, the kids at her high school sure do. Matt Cotrell, a popular athlete whose best friend, Andrea, disappeared last year, is particularly interested in Marnie’s hobby. Matt begins to seek out the introverted Marnie for fortune telling, but is it really to help find Andrea? Marnie isn’t sure, even as she and Matt spend more time together. But anonymous emails, a missing drug dealer and suspicious circumstances at a party compound the mystery, placing Marnie in the center of it all.
TEEN Marnie is a cynical and perceptive character, but she struggles to fit in. Grappling with her sense of identity, Marnie longs to escape the rundown home she shares with her troubled brother and loving grandmother. And she’s unsure how to navigate her new romance with Matt—a boy she doesn’t wholly understand. Emily Arsenault, known for weaving haunting tales in adult mysteries, brings her knack for subtle suspense to a younger audience in this rewarding YA debut. — K I M B E R LY G I A R R A T A N O
ASH AND QUILL By Rachel Caine
Berkley $17.99, 352 pages ISBN 9780451472410 Audio, eBook available Ages 12 and up
Ash and Quill is a page-turning adventure, full of danger and intrigue. There’s romance, too, as Jess and the courageous Morgan take on the challenge of trying to save the true core of the Library from evil plotters within. While Ash and Quill is perfect for teen readers, parents intrigued by the alternate future depicted in Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle might want to borrow this one to stick in a beach bag. —DEBORAH HOPKINSON
THE ART OF STARVING
WORDS IN DEEP BLUE By Cath Crowley
Knopf $17.99, 288 pages ISBN 9781101937648 Audio, eBook available Ages 14 and up
By Sam J. Miller
HarperTeen $17.99, 384 pages ISBN 9780062456717 Audio, eBook available Ages 13 and up
Readers who devoured Ink and Bone and Paper and Fire, the first two titles in bestselling author Rachel Caine’s Great Library series, have a summer reading treat in store. Ash and Quill continues this ingenious saga of an alternate world in which the Great Library of Alexandria has not only survived but also become immensely powerful, controlling all knowledge and even the ownership of books. Jess Brightwell is a likable, compelling hero. He has been raised to love books, despite the fact that his family has “smuggled them, sold them, and profited from them.” As the story opens, Jess and his friends have been transported from London by the Translation Chamber, which can destroy a person and then recreate him or her far away. Jess has landed in the rebellious colonies of America (Philadelphia, to be exact) where “Burners” refuse to submit to the Library’s rule. There, in a half-ruined sports stadium, Jess is forced to witness books being burned before he is jailed. But, as he reflects, “Prisons—like locks—were made to be broken.”
offers as much relief as desperation, and Matt’s journey will feel familiar and hopeful to any reader who’s experienced the precarious scramble for self-acceptance.
Matt is on a mission of bloody revenge; he’s bent on making the jocks pay for driving his sister away and determined to save his single mother from a dead-end job. But he’s got to be sharp if he wants to succeed, and that means conquering his hunger. Food will only dull his senses, making him soft and disgusting. But hunger? Hunger gives him unconquerable strength and superhuman senses. Sam J. Miller’s first novel, The Art of Starving, is a gut-wrenching and powerful read about a high school boy clamoring for acceptance— from his wealthy classmates, from the boy he has a crush on and from the sister he fears he’s lost. As Matt turns to food deprivation in order to gain control over something in his life, Miller paints his descent into the eating disorder in terrifying relief. As Matt’s pain goes unnoticed by most—those who do see it are too lost in their own trials to provide the support he needs—it becomes all too clear how easily we can overlook each other’s suffering. Like Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why (and more so the recent Netflix adaptation), The Art of Starving teeters on the edge of romanticizing tragedy. However, Miller’s novel
Since the drowning of her beloved brother, Cal, 10 months ago, Rachel feels like she’s lost everything. She’s lost her academic drive and consequently failed year 12 at school. She’s even lost her passion for the ocean, a love that has sustained her in the years since her former best friend, Henry, broke her heart just as her family moved to the seaside. Now, compelled by her aunt to make a change, Rachel is returning to Melbourne and— more than a little reluctantly—to her old job at the used bookshop Henry’s family owns, where they once spent so much time together. Henry is going through a crisis of his own. Amy, the girl he once chose over Rachel, has been toying with his heart for three years, and she’s just done it again. Meanwhile, the bookshop is struggling, and Henry is tempted to side with his mother and sell the place—at least then he’ll have money to spend on Amy. But when Rachel shows up to catalog the shop’s so-called Letter Library (where strangers leave notes for one another in the margins of beloved books), things seem more confusing than ever. Cath Crowley’s latest novel is a complex but comforting love story about resilience, second chances and the power of stories to uplift (and in many cases outlast) human lives. Words in Deep Blue offers nourishment to readers who love words, books and the thrill of discovering the unexpected within the pages of a dusty old volume. —NORAH PIEHL
A story as gently powerful as its creator
hat was it like growing up black in a mostly white neighborhood in 1960s Los Angeles? Karen English, like the heroine of her new middle grade novel, knew the drill.
“Before we left the house, my mother would say, ‘Remember to act your age and not your color,’ ” English says. “It didn’t feel like a bad thing. It felt like, ‘Oh yeah, right. We have to show other people that Negroes are just as good.’ It was like a little responsibility that we had. It was so—I hate to use the word natural—but you know, after 400 years, it was like breathing.” English remains a Los Angeles resident, and we speak over the phone while she’s visiting her mother in Northern California. English has written many children’s books, including the Nikki and Deja series and The Carver Chronicles, and is a Coretta Scott King Honor winner. But her latest book—the spot-on, beautifully understated It All Comes Down to This—is personal, taking on weightier themes and aimed at an older middle grade audience. Like Sophie, the novel’s 12-year-old protagonist, English grew up in an L.A. neighborhood that was “turning,” or growing more integrated. At first English recalls idyllic touchstones: riding her bike and enjoying more freedom than today’s
IT ALL COMES DOWN TO THIS
By Karen English
Clarion, $16.99, 368 pages ISBN 9780544839571, eBook available Ages 10 to 12
kids have. But she also remembers going to the house of a friend who suddenly announced, “Oh, I can’t play with colored people anymore.” “It was like a stab in the heart,” English says. In one scene in It All Comes Down to This, Sophie isn’t allowed to swim in a neighbor’s pool, but Sophie’s white friend Jennifer sticks with her, refusing to swim. “It was just the way things were,” English notes, “like the sun rising in the east and setting in the west. You just kind of accepted it.” English was eager to fictionalize another particularly memorable incident. Sophie’s mother is modeled after the author’s, who came to California during World War II to work in a shipyard and later briefly played Ruby, the wife of Amos, in several “Amos ’n’ Andy” television episodes. After English’s mother and father divorced, her mother remarried a lawyer and moved the family to a middle-class neighborhood. Then one day, a black housekeeper pulled English aside to criticize her light skin, saying, “If you ever [go] to Africa, they would kill you. They don’t like no lightskinned Negroes in Africa.” Coincidentally, English ended up marrying a man from Senegal. “So I learned that wasn’t true,” she says nonchalantly. And yet that incident made an indelible impression: “I wanted to write a book around it.” Set during the summer of 1965, It All Comes Down to This begins with the arrival of a similarly gruff housekeeper, Mrs. Baylor, who makes such a remark to Sophie. “There’s still colorism—I guess I can use that as a word—in the African-American community,” English says. “It was really big back then.” In one of the novel’s numerous historically informative moments, another housekeeper—a beloved one—asks Sophie (who loves to read and write), “Can’t you come up with something about colored girls? Don’t they have a story?”
English, who taught elementary school for some 30 years, understands this question all too well. She calls writing “an obsession” that started at age 7, and she penned her first novel in the sixth grade. “I couldn’t make my main character black, because other than Little Black Sambo, I had never seen black people in children’s books or on TV, nor in my teenage magazines,” English says. “So when I wrote this character, I said to myself, ‘She’s Negro.’ But I gave her blond hair and blue eyes.” The author laughs quietly, a moment of amusement that stands in stark contrast to her powerful stories of racial injus“It was kind tice. In much of liberating the same way, It All Comes when that Down to This word came is a gentle yet in. It was provocative book, allowlike, ‘Whoa, ing Sophie’s we’re black.’ eye-opening And there experiences about race to was some unfold amid power quiet summer behind days filled with Anne of Green that word.” Gables, Hawaiian Punch and “Gidget” on TV. It’s as silent as a tsunami, striking with painful force at times, like when Sophie thumbs through an old Jet magazine from 1955, spotting photos of brutally murdered Emmett Till in his casket. Also like Sophie, the author lived in L.A. during the Watts riots, which were foremost on her radar but distant enough to seem otherworldly. “It was kind of exciting,” English
© TIMOTHY FALLS
INTERVIEW BY ALICE CARY
says, “and yet you felt responsible because you are a Negro.” She recalls how the National Guard pulled her over as she drove to church, miles away from the riots. She notes several similar childhood memories, saying, “We knew if the police stopped you, it was hands on the wheel, 10 and 2, yes sir, no sir. It was bad, even then.” English’s novel also records changing racial nomenclature, a helpful history for young readers. “When I was coming up,” English explains, “you wouldn’t dare call someone black. But it was kind of liberating when that word came in. It was like, ‘Whoa, we’re black.’ And there was some power behind that word.” A lot has changed since English’s childhood, but so much remains the same. She points to beloved children’s writer Beverly Cleary as her literary heroine, saying she adores her writing and was “propelled” by her example. But English added a personal twist: “I wanted to write something that reflects another kind of African-American experience. It seems like we have this prescribed narrative of drugs, gangs, absent fathers and poverty. That is part of our story, but we have other stories.”
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SPUTNIK’S GUIDE TO LIFE ON EARTH
An Earth worth saving REVIEW BY KEVIN DELECKI
Toys. Books. Friends. Television. Fidget spinners. If you had to make a list of 10 amazing things about Earth in order to keep it from being destroyed, what would you pick? In Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth by Frank Cottrell Boyce (Millions), this is exactly the situation Prez finds himself in after Sputnik, a strange little boy (or is he a dog?), rings the doorbell that isn’t there and invites himself into Prez’s world. After his granddad gets into “a wee spot of bother,” Prez is taken to Children’s Temporary Accommodation (an orphanage) and then placed with the Blythe family on their farm. As talkative as Prez is silent, the Blythe family provides a good, if not peaceful, place for Prez to live. But everything is turned upside down when Sputnik enters their lives. Sputnik appears as a dog to everyone but Prez, and he telepathically “tells” Prez that he is an alien from another planet and is By Frank Cottrell Boyce on Earth to keep it from being destroyed. Most importantly, he needs Walden Pond, $16.99, 336 pages Prez’s help to go out into the world and discover the 10 things that will ISBN 9780062643629, Audio, eBook available stop the destruction. Thus begins Prez’s most eventful summer ever. Ages 8 to 12 Wrapped in humor and absurdity, Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth deftly examines a number of issues, including dementia, foster care MIDDLE GRADE and how to see the beauty in common, everyday things. While not a simple, straightforward book, readers who take the time to explore Earth with Prez, Sputnik and Granddad will be rewarded with joy, laughter and the knowledge that it might actually be possible to find your own place in the universe. favorite because “it’s the one I am singing.” In essence, the girl is living By Antoinette Portis deeply in the moment, as children are wont to do. Only once does the Roaring Brook author switch to past tense; the rest $17.99, 32 pages ISBN 9781626721371 of the book exists in the immediate eBook available and engaging present. Ages 3 to 6 Visually, Portis tells the story with great economy, just as she did PICTURE BOOK in Wait. She uses thick, black lines In Now, Antoinette Portis returns (rendered via ink, brush and bamboo stick and colored digitally) on to themes similar to the ones in her evocative Wait (2015). This new uncluttered spreads to tell the tale, providing breathing room that’s story manages to be even more streamlined and thought-provokfitting for a story about appreciating, encouraging readers to slow ing the moment at hand. The book’s ending ushers in an down and enjoy the moment, a sugadult, assumed to be a parent, and gestion that is nearly subversive in smartly, subtly invites readers to this era of distracted multitasking. In a series of spreads with simple appreciate their own moment of sentences rendered in large black now, as we see the adult reading to the girl. This “now” is the girl’s fatype, a young girl expresses her vorite because she’s sharing it with appreciation for moments in her this adult. Can the reader do the day: “This is my favorite breeze,” same? Only if they’ve been paying the book opens, as the girl runs through grasses. Her favorite cloud attention to Portis’ wise sentiment is such because “it’s the one I am and eloquent story. watching.” The song she sings is her —J U L I E D A N I E L S O N
CLAYMATES By Dev Petty
Illustrated by Lauren Eldridge Little, Brown $16.99, 40 pages ISBN 9780316303118 eBook available Ages 3 to 7
Two blobs of clay (with eyes) sit on an artist’s bench. The gray one seems mischievous; the brown one looks a tad nervous. When the artist (or at least her hands) shows up, she bends and stretches and smooshes and scratches the blobs into a gray wolf and a brown owl. But that’s only the beginning. The wolf (true to its playful origins) isn’t satisfied with its chosen form and starts improvising, crafting crazy ears, funny hairstyles and dramatic eyelashes out of clay. The more cautious owl isn’t so sure—until it starts tentatively experimenting with its own clay and
soon discovers the joy of reinvention. But what happens when all that creativity gets out of control? Perhaps the two clay creatures will go beyond being just “claymates” and prove they’re true friends. The charming story in Claymates is told through humorous cartoon-style dialogue, hand-lettered in ink (matching the speaker’s clay color) on torn scraps of paper. The expressive characters, made only of clay and dolls’ eyes, come to life in memorable color photographs, which are remarkable for showing an artist’s studio and an artist at work, complete with all the tools of her trade. Parents be forewarned: You might want to purchase some modeling clay before giving your child this book. They’ll come away inspired and eager to create their own claymates. —NORAH PIEHL
THE SONG FROM SOMEWHERE ELSE By A.F. Harrold
Illustrated by Levi Pinfold Bloomsbury $16.99, 240 pages ISBN 9781681194011 eBook available Ages 8 to 12
Frank (short for Francesca) is tired of being the target of Neil Noble and his cadre of neighborhood bullies. She can’t shake them, can’t avoid them and doesn’t know where to turn. But when lumbering, awkward outsider Nick comes to her rescue, Frank finds herself drawn to—and repelled by—his weirdness. There’s no reason the two should be friends, but in an eerie way, they both need to be friends. Soon, Frank visits Nick’s house, where she unearths odd and uneasy secrets and learns more about his unusual family. What are the strange shadows Frank sees? Where is the mysterious, mellifluous music coming from, and what does it mean? Is Nick in danger, and if he is, can Frank save him like he rescued her? Drawn in by the enchanting atmosphere—a combination of skilled text and dark drawings—readers will be eager to
CHILDREN’S follow the familiar and haunting music along with Frank. Similar to Neil Gaiman’s tales that intertwine real life and fantasy— often with a very thin dividing line—A.F. Harrold’s latest novel offers a story of friendship, loyalty and the unknown. With a creep factor enhanced by atmospheric illustrations by Levi Pinfold, The Song from Somewhere Else will entrance those making their own journeys from tweendom to adolescence. —SHARON VERBETEN
A BABYSITTER’S GUIDE TO MONSTER HUNTING By Joe Ballarini
Katherine Tegen $13.99, 352 pages ISBN 9780062437839 eBook available Ages 8 to 12
Kelly Ferguson is a self-described “invisible”—a middle schooler several social circles removed from the popular kids—but she has a plan to change that. Since learning about the camp where popular princess Deanna spends her summers, Kelly has been saving up by doing every odd job she can find. Kelly is reluctant to try babysitting at first, but the promise of earning big bucks for watching Netflix all night is convincing. The only catch is that Jacob, the boy she’s babysitting, is adamant that there’s a monster under his bed. And he’s right. When Jacob is kidnapped by a group of scary creatures, Kelly gets swept along in the rescue efforts of a secret society of monster-fighting babysitters, sworn to protect the children in their charge. Together, Kelly and the babysitters must find Jacob, defeat an evil bogeyman and save the world from a never-ending nightmare, all before Jacob’s parents get home. The first in a planned series of middle grade humor/horror books, Joe Ballarini’s debut is a cheeky romp full of truly disgusting trash monsters, a quirky and smart protagonist and the unique setting of a Rhode Island coastal town beset by mayhem. Kelly and her new com-
panions are inspirational figures: sassy and determined in the face of the really scary stuff, despite their youth. Despite some awkward narrative moves (such as excerpts from video camera footage), A Babysitter’s Guide to Monster Hunting has more than enough charm to leave readers curious about Kelly’s next adventure.
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SUPERSTAR By Mandy Davis
HarperCollins $16.99, 336 pages ISBN 9780062377777 eBook available Ages 8 to 12
An autistic student discovers his hidden abilities in Mandy Davis’ powerful debut. Ten-year-old Lester Musselbaum is not happy about attending public school after his mom gets a library job and can no longer homeschool him. School is filled with plenty of unnerving situations, including Ricky the classroom bully. To his advantage, Lester is good at science, especially aerodynamics, but Lester’s interest in this field makes his mom uncomfortable, having lost her husband to a rocket explosion five years before. She worries that Lester will follow in his father’s footsteps. When Lester enters the school’s science fair and wins, the achievement only exacerbates Ricky’s bullying. And when a classmate offers Lester a piece of advice to remedy the intimidation, it turns out that following through with his friend’s counsel is easier said than done. Lester’s narration provides a view into the world of an intelligent boy with qualities of autism spectrum disorder. He’s an underdog determined to find a way, even when it doesn’t seem possible. With a constantly moving plot that unfolds in short chapters, engaging dialogue and a well-defined cast, Superstar is an inimitable story bound to become an award-winning favorite. —ANITA LOCK
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THE JELLY BEAN TREE Former librarian Toni Yuly’s latest picture book, The Jelly Bean Tree (Feiwel & Friends, $17.99, 40 pages, ISBN 9781250094063, ages 2 to 4), was inspired by her Torn Tissue Tuesday creations, which she posts every week on her Facebook page. Her tissuepaper collage art tells the story of a sweet young giraffe who wakes from a nap to discover that a bird has built a nest on her head. Yuly lives in Bremerton, Washington.