DISCOVER YOUR NEXT GREAT BOOK
NEW READS featuring GREG ILES’ COMEBACK COZY SLEUTHS GIFTS FOR GRADS MOTHER’S DAY MEMOIRS ACE ATKINS’ GREATEST FEAR
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paperback picks PENGUIN.COM
Midnight Crossroad Welcome to Midnight, Texas, a town with many boarded-up windows and few full-time inhabitants. New resident Manfred Bernardo thinks he’s found the perfect place to work in private (he has secrets of his own). 9780425263150 • $27.95
Possession When Cait Douglass resolves to get over her broken heart and lose her inhibitions, she’s unprepared for the two sensual men who cross her path. Torn between them, she doesn’t know which to choose—or what kind of dire consequences could follow. Only time, and hearts, will tell. 9780451465221 • $7.99
The Next Always With the grand opening inching closer, Beckett is happy to give Clare a private tour of the historic hotel. It’s no first date, but these stolen moments are the beginning of something that could arouse the secret yearning that resides in Clare’s independent heart— and open the door to the extraordinary adventure of what comes next… 9780515151497 • $7.99
Death Angel When the body of a young woman is discovered in Central Park, the clock is ticking for Assistant DA Alex Cooper to find the killer. When another woman is attacked in the park, a new question arises: is this enormous urban park a sanctuary—or is it a hunting ground for a killer? 9780451417282 • $9.99
The Bone Collector Lincoln Rhyme was once a brilliant criminologist until an accident left him physically and emotionally shattered. Now he must follow a labyrinth of clues that reaches back to a dark chapter in New York City’s past—and reach further into the darkness of the mind of a madman who won’t stop until he has stripped life down to the bone. 9780451469793 • $9.99
Dreams of Lilacs Finding the truth propels Gervase de Seger and Isabelle de Piaget from the buried secrets of half-ruined keeps to the glittering French court, and to the realization that love can blossom in the most perilous circumstances—and in the most unexpected places of the heart… 9780515153477 • $7.99
Silken Prey An influential state senator has been caught with something very, very nasty on his office computer. As Lucas Davenport investigates, the trail leads to a political fixer who has disappeared, then to the Minneapolis police department itself, and finally, to a woman who could give Machiavelli lessons in manipulation. 9780425267769 • $9.99
It Happened One Wedding Special agent Vaughn Roberts always gets his man on the job—and his woman in bed. So Sidney Sinclair’s refusal to fall for his charms only makes him more determined to win over the cool and confident redhead. Because the one woman who refuses to be caught may be the only one Vaughn can’t live without… 9780425251270 • $7.99
The #1 New York Times bestselling first-person account of the planning and execution of the Bin Laden raid—from a Navy SEAL who confronted the terrorist mastermind and witnessed his final moments. No Easy Day puts readers alongside Mark Owen of the U.S. Naval Special Warfare Development Group and his fellow SEAL team members as they train for the biggest mission of their lives. The blow-by-blow narrative of the assault, beginning with the helicopter crash that could have ended Owen’s life straight through to the radio call confirming Bin Laden’s death, is an essential piece of modern history. In No Easy Day, Owen also takes readers into the War on Terror and details the formation of the most elite units in the military. Owen’s story draws on his youth in Alaska and describes the SEALs’ quest to challenge themselves at the highest levels of physical and mental endurance. With boots-on-the-ground detail, Owen describes several missions that illustrate the life and work of a SEAL and the evolution of the team after the events of September 11. In telling the true story of the SEALs whose talents, skills, experiences, and exceptional sacrifices led to one of the greatest victories in the War on Terror, Mark Owen honors the men who risk everything for our country, and he leaves readers with a deep understanding of the warriors who keep America safe.
NOW IN PAPERBACK NEW AMERICAN LIBRARY Penguin Group (USA)
9780451468741 • $16.00
MAY 2014 B O O K PA G E . C O M
12 GREG ILES Bouncing back after tragedy
The noted food writer dishes on Delicious!—her historically inspired first novel.
13 ACE ATKINS Meet the author of Cheap Shot
A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER Now in paperback “Combines a deep dramatic impact with Southern charm.” —Publishers Weekly
14 MOTHER’S DAY Unique insights on motherhood
15 GRADUATION Welcome to the real world Exploring gender and tradition in Afghanistan
21 COZY MYSTERIES Yummy comforts with a dash of murder
23 ROZ CHAST A cartoon memoir on aging parents
27 E. LOCKHART One teen’s summer of secrets
31 AGAINST THE GRAIN Picture books that celebrate individuality
31 JASON CHIN Meet the author-illustrator of Gravity
Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 by Francine Prose
The Bees by Laline Paull Remember Me Like This by Bret Anthony Johnston Chestnut Street by Maeve Binchy The Possibilities by Kaui Hart Hemmings To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris
Everybody’s Got Something by Robin Roberts
My Accidental Jihad by Krista Bremer The Little Girl Who Fought the Great Depression by John F. Kasson The Big Tiny by Dee Williams John Quincy Adams by Fred Kaplan
Creativity by Philippe Petit Love, Nina by Nina Stibbe American Crucifixion by Alex Beam The Noble Hustle by Colson Whitehead Clouds of Glory by Michael Korda
She Is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick
WELL READ AUDIO LIBRARY READS WHODUNIT BOOK CLUBS LIFESTYLES COOKING ROMANCE
The Memory Garden by Mary Rickert The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson Casebook by Mona Simpson Secrecy by Rupert Thomson Chop Chop by Simon Wroe
A Creature of Moonlight by Rebecca Hahn Girl in Reverse by Barbara Stuber Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick
Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan
The Meaning of Maggie by Megan Jean Sovern The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel Three Bird Summer by Sara St. Antione
This new novel by the beloved author of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt follows one woman as she returns to her hometown in Kentucky to come to terms with her shattered family— and find herself. “Sure to be a big hit— and to spark fabulous conversations with friends and book clubs.” —CLAIRE COOK, New York Times–bestselling author of Must Love Dogs and Time Flies
A M E R I C A’ S B O O K R E V I E W PUBLISHER
Michael A. Zibart
Lynn L. Green
Elizabeth Grace Herbert
Angela J. Bowman
Mary Claire Zibart
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04 04 05 06 07 08 08 09
reviews 17 FICTION
16 NADIA HASHIMI
Cover illustration © iStockphoto.com/mediaphotos Author photo © Fiona Aboud
BY ROBERT WEIBEZAHL
BY SUKEY HOWARD
R E A D M O R E AT B O O K PA G E . C O M
In love and war
Like the Vietnam War a generation or so later, the Spanish Civil War was a localized conflict that took on global resonance. Major Western powers adopted an official hands-off policy toward the Iberian struggle between socialists and fascists, afraid to upset the fragile diplomatic balance in the uneasy Europe of the 1930s. Still, the bloody hostilities gained the wider public’s attention and sympathies, in no small part due to a coterie of impassioned journalists and intellectuals who took up the cause of Spain. In her meticulously researched and beautifully told new book, Hotel Florida, Amanda Vaill refracts the turbulent events that took place between July 1936 and March 1939 through a prism of six such determined believers. Ernest Hemingway went to Spain in 1936 thirsting for adventure. Although he was among the most famous of contemporary writers, his career had faltered in recent years, and so he had been spending much of his time in Key West, fishing, writing and living off the considerable wealth of his wife’s family. A wartime escapade filled with the promise of daring and bloodshed was just what the self-aggrandizing writer needed to revitalize his work. A documentary film project involving the talents of his friends and rivals John Dos Passos and Archibald MacLeish provided the perfect excuse to head to Madrid. Joining him was his newly acquired mistress, Martha Gellhorn, a young journalist determined to make her mark. Her time in Spain would launch her legendary career as a war correspondent. Photography was then a relatively recent weapon in the arsenal of war reportage, and two of the pioneers in the field were on the ground in Spain. Hungarian Robert Capa, who had been born Freidmann Endre, was only 22 when he began to cover the war in tandem with his lover and professional partner, Gerda Taro, a German Jew who had fled Nazi Germany. Together and separately, these two master photographers captured some of the most memorable images of the conflict—images that helped galvanize support abroad. The third couple at the center of Vaill’s engaging chronicle—no doubt less known to most readers—are Arturo Barea and Ilsa Kulcsar. A Spanish patent officer with literary
Marlowe rides again ambitions, Barea landed the highwire job of running the foreign press office for the beleaguered loyalist government as it tried to hold off Franco’s nationalist forces, which were fast closing in on the city. Kulcsar was a Viennese-born, polyglot Communist who arrived in Madrid ready to report the leftist cause to the world and quickly became Barea’s aide-decamp, lover and eventual wife. The Hotel Florida of the title was the once-posh hotel down the street from the foreign press office. Dangerously in the line of fire and frequently ravaged by artillery, it nonetheless became the favored residence and watering hole for foreign journalists. Hemingway and Gellhorn settled in there, and the others came and went as their time away from the alarmingly nearby fields of battle permitted. The intertwined stories Vaill tells with the grace of a talented novelist are rife with courage and passion. Taro would die in pursuit of the truth through her photography, while Gellhorn’s star would rise rapidly, even if her subsequent marriage to Hemingway would prove shortlived. Barea would forever live with the guilt of leaving his former wife and children behind in the wake of defeat. Hemingway himself, of course, would gather material for writing For Whom the Bell Tolls, certainly among his finest novels. Hotel Florida offers a compelling narrative of the timelessly inseparable entities of love and war, reminding us that, while motives can be both noble and self-serving, in the end, the true stories of wars rest in people, not ideologies.
HOTEL FLORIDA By Amanda Vaill
FSG $30, 464 pages ISBN 9780374172992 eBook available
It’s possible that Man Booker Prize winner John Banville is not only a wonderfully accomplished writer, but a literary chameleon as well. As Benjamin Black, he’s written an acclaimed series of mystery fiction set in 1950s Dublin, and now, at the behest of the Chandler estate, he’s channeled Raymond Chandler and brought Philip Marlowe—still a hard-boiled, bruised loner who falls all too easily for beautiful broads—back to life and back to
seriously disturbed 11-year-old with whom she feels an immediate bond. Then Beck disappears, and you begin to wonder about everything Lana’s been telling us. Woven into her first-person narrative are diary entries that you assume, from their tone and the tribulations described, were written by Luke’s mother. But, you’ve got to be careful with all your assumptions, and you have to keep track of the clues carefully tucked into Unger’s deviously complex plot as it hurtles to its dramatic denouement.
TOP PICK IN AUDIO doing his gumshoe grunt work in the sunlight-nourished atmosphere of early 1950s Bay City, aka Los Angeles. The Black-Eyed Blonde (Macmillan Audio, $39.99, 9 hours, ISBN 9781427233363) opens as said well-heeled, expensively dressed lovely creature, with a sardonic, smoldering smile, walks into Marlowe’s drab office—“Obviously the god of Tuesday afternoon decided I needed a little lift.” She wants Phil to find Nico Peterson, her erstwhile, low-life lover, who may or may not be dead. Her reason for wanting to find Nico is not clear, but it’s not long before Marlowe finds himself in a life-threatening, “Empire State Building of a mess.” Black’s dialogue is spot-on, as is David Boutsikaris’ perfectly paced performance.
TO TELL THE TRUTH It doesn’t take very long to figure out that Lana Granger is an unreliable narrator. And that makes Lisa Unger’s latest, In the Blood (Simon & Schuster Audio, $39.99, 10.5 hours, ISBN 9781442361430), read by the capable combo of Gretchen Mol and Candace Thaxon, all the more intriguing. Lana, a psych major at a small college in upstate New York, tells us a lot about herself up front. She had a troubled childhood (to put it very mildly); she’s haunted by her mother’s murder; her father is on death row; she’s very smart, still a virgin; and her roommate, Beck, is her only intimate friend. At her advisor’s prompting, Lana takes a job looking after Luke, a brilliant,
“In the midst of life we are in death,” says the famed line from the Book of Common Prayer. But for David R. Dow, a well-known death penalty lawyer and founder of the Texas Innocence Network, it’s the opposite—in the midst of death he is in life. Things I’ve Learned from Dying: A Book About Life is his intricately intertwined memoir about a triad of terrible losses—his erudite, adventurous, 60-year-old father-inlaw diagnosed with metastasized melanoma; a death-row inmate who had become an empathetic, accommodating person in prison; and the sudden decline of his beloved family dog—and the lessons he learned from living through them. Dow, a polished, affecting writer, is often outspoken and blunt, especially about the Texas criminal justice (or lack thereof) system. Lacing this potent, poignant narrative with intimate back stories about his charming, smart, understanding young son and equally engaging wife, Dow, who reads with professional poise, makes us part of his family and part of his ongoing meditation on life and death and the possibilities of a second chance.
THINGS I’VE LEARNED FROM DYING By David R. Dow
Hachette Audio $24.98, 7.5 hours ISBN 9781478925309
Selected from nominations made by library staff across the country, here are the 10 books that librarians can’t wait to share with readers in May.
WE WERE LIARS by E. Lockhart
Delacorte, $17.99, ISBN 9780385741262
A beautiful and distinguished family. A brilliant, damaged girl. A passionate, political boy. A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive. BookPage interview on page 27.
ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE by Anthony Doerr
Scribner, $27, ISBN 9781476746586 In this deftly woven story—10 years in the writing—Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, that people try to be good to one another.
THE BEES by Laline Paull
Ecco, $25.99, ISBN 9780062331151 In this brilliantly imagined debut, Flora 717 is a member of the lowest caste in her hive, where work and sacrifice are the highest virtues and worship of the beloved Queen the only religion. BookPage review on page 17.
DELICIOUS! by Ruth Reichl
Random House, $27, ISBN 9781400069620 In Reichl’s magical debut novel, Billie Breslin travels far from her home in California to take a job at Delicious!, New York’s most iconic food magazine. BookPage interview on page 11.
THE FORGOTTEN SEAMSTRESS by Liz Trenow
Sourcebooks Landmark, $14.99, ISBN 9781402282485 This page-turning and heartbreaking tale, centered on a mysterious message embroidered into a beautiful quilt, weaves together past and present in an unforgettable journey.
BIRD BOX by Josh Malerman
Ecco, $25.99, ISBN 9780062259653 In this gripping thriller, there is something out there so terrifying that it must not be seen. One glimpse and a person is driven to deadly violence. No one knows what it is or where it’s from.
BITTERSWEET by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore
Crown, $25, ISBN 9780804138567 Ordinary Mabel, who is on scholarship at a prestigious East Coast college, befriends beautiful, wild, blue-blooded Genevra in this suspenseful and cinematic novel. BookPage review online.
DELANCEY by Molly Wizenberg
SIXTH GRAVE ON THE EDGE by Darynda Jones
St. Martin’s, $25.99, ISBN 9781250045638 In the latest novel from best-selling author Jones, most girls might think twice before getting engaged to someone like Reyes Farrow—but Charley Davidson is not most girls. On sale May 20.
THE BLESSINGS by Elise Juska
Grand Central, $24, ISBN 9781455574032 This moving novel reveals the interior worlds of the members of a close-knit Irish-Catholic family and the rituals—departures and arrivals, weddings and reunions—that unite them. LibraryReads is a recommendation program that highlights librarians’ favorite books published this month. For more information, visit libraryreads.org.
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Simon & Schuster, $25, ISBN 9781451655094 Wizenberg’s funny, frank and tender memoir recounts how opening a restaurant on a cobbled-together budget sparked the first crisis of her young marriage.
WHODUNIT BY BRUCE TIERNEY
Bad seed out of the slammer a
R u p e R t
n o v e l
t h o m s o n
“Beautifully evocative prose… makes this unusual historical novel truly memorable.” — Publishers Weekly “Thomson brings Renaissanceera Florence to life with rich descriptions and scenic locales.” — Booklist
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“A novel rich as the past it conjures up, weaving a story as playful and disturbing as the strange wax sculptures that its hero gives life to.” — sarah dunant, author of the best-selling The Birth of Venus
“Thomson succeeds on a number of levels here, for the novel works as a mystery, as a love story, as a historical novel and, more abstractly, as an exploration of aesthetic theory.” — Kirkus
OTHER PRESS otherpress.com
Fans of Norwegian writer Jo Nesbø will remember that in his last book, Police, it took ace cop Harry Hole ages (and many pages) to make his first definitive appearance. This time, Harry never shows up at all, as The Son (Knopf, $25.95, 416 pages, ISBN 9780385351379) is a standalone thriller with a hero even more conflicted and unlikely than the aforementioned Mr. Hole. Inmate Sonny Lofthus shares his countenance and his charisma with a young Charles Manson (albeit with the “helter-skelter” factor dialed back a few notches), but he displays an innate ability to soothe his fellow prisoners through his “healing hands.” He stays comfortably numb thanks to the heroin that is smuggled in to him regularly, and he is perfectly content to cop to crimes he did not commit in order to keep the flow of drugs uninterrupted. This sits very well with the corrupt prison staff, the police and the crime overlord known as the Twin, all of whom make repeated use of Lofthus’ narcotic-fueled indifference to his incarceration. But then Lofthus receives a piece of news that turns his life upside down, and he does the unthinkable: He escapes from his theoretically escape-proof prison, and sets off in search of truth and justice. Suspenseful, gritty and dark, this is another excellent read from Nesbø.
VILLA VILLAIN As is the case with the novels of Alexander McCall Smith and Martin Walker, Peter Mayle’s mysteries neatly split the difference between cozies and full-on suspense. In the latest installment in Mayle’s Caper series, The Corsican Caper (Knopf, $23.95, 176 pages, ISBN 9780307962867), sybaritic sleuth Sam Levitt finds himself once again in the service of his billionaire friend Francis Reboul, this time seeking to save Reboul from the unwanted, avaricious attentions of a Russian oligarch bent on acquiring Reboul’s
uber-lux coastal villa. It is fair to say that Russian oligarchs are not widely noted for their tact and diplomacy, and Oleg Vronsky quickly bypasses subtle negotiating tactics and opts for something more visceral and devious to achieve his goal. As is often the case with Mayle’s novels, the story takes second place to the
milieu: the effervescent descriptions of French wine and food, the beauty of the French countryside and the lifestyles of the rich and famous. This is no bad thing, as his observations are witty, insightful and full of local color. His characters are perhaps a bit overdrawn, but in a good way, reminiscent of Cary Grant and Grace Kelly in the film To Catch a Thief. Big fun abounds!
A MOTHER RETURNS Karin Salvalaggio’s gripping debut novel, Bone Dust White (Minotaur, $24.99, 304 pages, ISBN 9781250046185), ensnares the reader with its opening sentence, a woman’s cry for help to the 911 operator: “He’s hurt her, she’s bleeding.” But Grace Adams suspects that her pleas are in vain; there is no way help will arrive in time. Outside, a woman lies in the crimson-stained snow, and the man who stabbed her may be lurking close by. Against her better judgment, Grace runs outdoors and gets the surprise of her life: The woman is her mother, whom Grace has not seen nor heard from in 11 years. Detective Macy Greeley is assigned to the case, a case she really wants no part of, due in large measure to her third-trimester pregnancy. But there is more to the story than that: Greeley was one of the detectives assigned to a case of sex trafficking 11 years ago, a case in which Grace’s mother figured prominently, right before her disappearance. This is a gripping tale from start to finish, and a first-rate
debut that augurs well for Salvalaggio’s soonto-be-huge fan base.
TOP PICK IN MYSTERY When one’s protagonist is 88 years old, it doesn’t leave a lot of opportunity for sequels. Fortunately, retired cop Buck Schatz is back for an encore engagement following Daniel Friedman’s debut novel, Don’t Ever Get Old, and he’s as cranky and curmudgeonly as before. In Don’t Ever Look Back, he is recovering from gunshot wounds sustained in his previous adventure, enduring grueling physical therapy and wondering why random fragments of his memory have departed unannounced. While munching on an undercooked egg breakfast at his retirement home, Schatz is approached by an old acquaintance, a one-time criminal mastermind known simply as Elijah. Elijah wants to live out whatever may be left of his natural life, and he wants Schatz to broker a witness-protection deal with the authorities. In return, Elijah promises to hand Schatz the solution to an unsolved crime wave that has annoyed the former detective for decades. It seems pretty straightforward, and then it all goes crossways in the blink of an eye, when kidnappers ambush their car en route to the police station. There is way more action in Don’t Ever Look Back than you would reasonably expect in a book with an octogenarian protagonist, and this is all to the good. As I said in my review of Friedman’s previous book, “It may, in fact, mark the beginning of a new suspense subgenre: Geezer Noir. Long may it live!” I stand by that assertion.
DON’T EVER LOOK BACK By Daniel Friedman Minotaur $24.99, 288 pages ISBN 9781250027566 Audio, eBook available
BOOK CLUBS BY JULIE HALE
New paperback releases for reading groups
WAR’S LASTING AFTERMATH With his 15th novel, The Light in the Ruins (Doubleday, $15.95, 320 pages, ISBN 9780307743923), Chris Bohjalian offers up a fascinating crime story set in Italy in the 1950s. When a beautiful widow named Francesca Rosati is brutally murdered in Florence, it’s at the hands of a serial killer who’s stalking members of her family. Detective Serafina Bettini believes the crime may have roots in World War II, when Francesca lived with her inlaws and children on an estate in
grip of new insecurities. Since the story is told in Nate’s voice, it soon becomes clear to the reader that he thinks a little too well of himself—he’s an educated, liberal-minded guy, but he’s clueless about his own shortcomings. Waldman cleverly uses Nate as the subject of what turns out to be a shrewd study of contemporary male behavior. She writes with amazing authenticity from a man’s perspective and has woven a darkly humorous narrative around her brilliant but sometimes oblivious antihero.
TOP PICK FOR BOOK CLUBS
Tuscany. The Nazis were drawn to the estate, thanks to the presence of an Etruscan tomb on the property, and they made themselves at home there. Adding another twist to the Rosatis’ story is the affair Francesca’s sister-in-law had with a Nazi officer. Serafina, who bears her own scars from the war, has a few secrets of her own, and they weigh on her mind as she seeks Francesca’s killer. Deftly flashing back to wartime Italy, Bohjalian has created a compelling and complex narrative. He’s a daring writer who isn’t afraid to take risks, as this fast-paced historical thriller demonstrates. Adelle Waldman’s debut, The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. (Picador, $15, 256 pages, ISBN 9781250050458), is a sharply observed novel-of-manners about an up-and-coming writer who pursues love in New York City. When Nate Piven sells his first book, he’s on top of the world. His romantic life is also abuzz with activity, as his ex, Elisa, and writer friend, Hannah, both want to spend time with him. When his connection with Hannah deepens, Nate makes a habit of faulting her for any problems that arise, and Hannah—a level-headed, self-possessed young woman—soon finds herself in the
New from the internationally bestselling author of P.S. I Love You “You will turn the pages long into the night and be thrilled by the satisfying conclusion. I loved it.” —Adriana Trigiani, New York Times bestselling author of The Shoemaker’s Wife
New from the author of If Wishes Were Horses A haunting and romantic novel of passion, destiny, loss and an eternal love.
A funny, heartwarming, and utterly relatable story of three women, all grappling with the idea of motherhood “…a refreshingly honest and insightful story of a woman whose questions about the direction of her life follow her from the big city to small country roads.” —Meg Donohue, author of All The Summer Girls
From the New York Times bestselling author of Labor Day “Books this compelling just don’t come around very often.” —Jodi Picoult, #1 New York Times bestselling author
By Gillian Flynn
Broadway $15, 432 pages ISBN 9780307588371
PERFECT FOR BOOK CLUBS @WilliamMorrowPB
William Morrow Paperbacks
Book Club Girl
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Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s chilling 2012 bestseller, is available in paperback—at last. This intriguing novel starts out harmlessly enough, as Nick Dunne and his smart, beautiful wife, Amy, celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary at their new home in Missouri. But when Amy disappears, Nick becomes the prime suspect. By all appearances, some sort of struggle took place in the Dunnes’ house, and more evidence comes to light indicating Nick’s guilt. Yet—despite the formidable case that’s built against him— he protests that he’s innocent. The novel is related from his perspective and from Amy’s, and the result of these skillful shifts in point of view is a narrative world that’s disturbing in its uncertainty. When the truth behind Amy’s disappearance finally becomes clear, it’s a shock to the reader—and a testament to Flynn’s skills and originality as a novelist. Fans of literary fiction and mystery lovers alike will savor this addictive thriller, which is set to debut on movie screens in October.
Great Reads New in Paperback
BY JOANNA BRICHETTO
BY SYBIL PRATT
Thai one on
Craving a good cuppa? Have you had a good cup of tea lately? What does “good” even mean? For Cassie Liversidge, good means that you grow, harvest and brew your own. The author of Homegrown Tea: An Illustrated Guide to Planting, Harvesting, and Blending Teas and Tisanes (St. Martin’s Griffin, $23.99, 288 pages, ISBN 9781250039415) breaks the process down into doable steps, whether you’ve got a whole garden or just a windowsill. As the subtitle suggests, Liversidge makes the distinction between proper “tea”—from the tea plant, Camellia sinensis—and tisanes (infusions) made from other
home from a yard sale. Each season begins with a thumbnail grid of the 15 beautifully photographed projects featured, giving us an at-a-glance pinboard of ideas. Carve a print tablecloth into pillow sheaths; cover a river rock with leather; write on china; craft a necklace from beach glass; or transform a juice glass into a specimen display. The important thing is to make a few things to ignite our innate creativity so that we become ripe for inspiration’s urgings.
As Thai restaurants proliferate, many Americans have become real aficionados of this intensely flavorful cuisine. But most of us haven’t had the courage to do Thai makein instead of Thai take-out. Leela Punyaratabandhu—a Bangkok native, accomplished cook and creator of the blog She Simmers—wants to change that situation by providing all the support, info on ingredients (with suggestions for easily available substitutions) and the doable recipes you’ll need to re-create Thai classics in your own kitchen, no gadgets or gizmos required, in less time and more economically than
TOP PICK IN LIFESTYLES
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leaves, seeds, roots, flowers and fruits, but happily, the word “tea” is used generically throughout. Readers get the basics for nearly 50 plants (including the tea bush), which include how to grow and harvest, store, blend and prepare. Many— like rosemary, lavender, thyme and mints—are already garden staples. My own favorite, lemon balm, is particularly easy to grow. Medicinal benefits are listed, but any homegrown pot of tea cannot help but be healing, all the more so because when we grow our own, we can opt out of pesticide contamination, which is good for us and good for the planet.
OLD INTO NEW Wise Craft: Turning Thrift Store Finds, Fabric Scraps, and Natural Objects into Stuff You Love (Running Press, $20, 184 pages, ISBN 9780762449699), by Blair Stocker, features 60 DIY projects organized by the four seasons, a fitting strategy for a book meant to give us the power to “decorate and freshen” our homes. After all, what’s fresh in February might well be stale by November. Power comes in the form of creative tweaking, of being able to change what does not quite suit us—whether it’s a dish, mirror, sweater, frame or just about any old thing, even if you just brought it
The best part about Handmade for the Garden is that the projects are not only attractive, but also constructed from stuff we already own. Author Susan Guagliumi up- cycles preowned possessions into prepossessing and utterly useful tools, such as a garden hose hider made of coiled, leaky soaker hoses and a bracket from a trowel. An old window screen is trimmed into a soil sieve; random sticks become tuteurs (towers) and tripods—both plant supports—while bottle caps and broken crockery tessellate as mosaic surprises underfoot. Even the moss-covered hypertufa fairy house is useful apart from its own whimsy: If the fairies snub it as real estate, a toad or other lover of secretive shade might just move right in. Of the 75 projects, two of the most humble are my favorites. They set the DIY bar low enough to admit all, and they guarantee success: folded newspaper pots and plant markers. Who has enough seedling pots and plant markers? I even run out of popsicle sticks for the latter, but these shards, tiles and bits of metal are far nicer, and they’ll make me feel like a DIY genius.
HANDMADE FOR THE GARDEN By Susan Guagliumi STC Craft $27.50, 208 pages ISBN 9781617690976
ordering in. Punyaratabandhu has adapted 100 authentic recipes for home cooks in her first cookbook, aptly titled Simple Thai Food (Ten Speed, $24.99, 236 pages, ISBN 9781607745235). This isn’t “fusion fare” or fancy “Thai-inspired” riffs; the food you’ll cook is the food Punyaratabandhu cooks when she’s longing for the taste of home: Pork Satay with irresistible Peanut Sauce, soul-soothing Pad Thai with Shrimp, “down-home” Chicken-Ginger Stir Fry, Fish with Lime-Chile-Garlic Dressing, versatile basics like Chile Jam and red, green and yellow curry pastes, plus an array of super sweets.
SAY CHEESE! Claudia Lucero doesn’t just say cheese; she makes it—and makes it fast. In One-Hour Cheese (Workman, $14.95, 272 pages, ISBN 9780761177487) she distills thousands of years of cheese-making know-how into a foolproof, simple-to-follow manual—with stepby-step photos—that makes turning milk into 16 different cheeses a DIY delight. Lucero is as enthusiastic as she is capable, and her preamble of pep talks, tips on the cheese kitchen and pantry, tricks of the trade and troubleshooting basics will put you in a creative comfort zone, ready to change the way you think about creamy, spreadable, firm, chewy,
melty and gloriously gooey CHEESE. The recipes, from delicate Meyer Lemon Ricotta to dreamily decadent Brown Butter Burrata, flow in a natural progression, each with a brief summary letting you know what to expect. Add advice on customizing flavors and great party sides to these wondrous one-hour winners, and you’ll be in cheese heaven.
TOP PICK IN COOKBOOKS Though Marc Forgione—chef and owner of his eponymous, Michelin-starred Restaurant Marc Forgione in New York City and star of “Iron Chef America”—was born into a chef family, he had to fight the good fight to make his mark in the food world, never changing the way he cooked or the food he served. His debut cookbook, Marc Forgione: Recipes and Stories from the Acclaimed Chef and Restaurant, details the challenges he’s had to overcome and challenges you to push your inner chef to new heights—to become fearless in the kitchen. These are complex recipes with many intriguingly combined elements, and until you feel comfortable, you can pick the parts you want to tackle. Marinated Cuttlefish with Sriracha Mayo, a spectacular Salt-Crusted Rack of Lamb, Pine Nut Butter and Apple Pie Soufflé are just a small sampling of the treasures you can try before attempting one of Forgione’s multicomponent masterpieces like Pork Tenderloin with Speck, Mustard Greens and Gnocchi à la Romaine, or his signature Chicken Under a Brick and Chili Lobster. Forgione’s food is fabulous, his techniques learnable. So, take his challenge, stretch your cooking muscles and enjoy the results.
MARC FORGIONE By Marc Forgione
HMH $40, 432 pages ISBN 9781118302781 eBook available
ROMANCE B Y C H R I S T I E R I D G WAY
A survivor fights back Shelley Coriell keeps it gritty and real in The Broken (Forever, $8, 416 pages, ISBN 9781455528493). Three years ago, TV reporter Kate Johnson survived a vicious knife attack, but the perpetrator was never caught. She’s been on the run ever since, certain the villain wants to finish the job. Now other female reporters are being murdered, and Kate knows the Broadcast Butcher is the same criminal who came after her. FBI agent Hayden Reed suspects the same and tracks Kate down for her help. At first she doesn’t want to cooperate. She has little faith in justice
town doing PR work for the local baseball team. Because of the sparks that instantly fly between them, much about Jill’s usual, no-permanence life changes. Aidan’s roots go deep in the town, and it’s not long before he wants this beauty to set down her roots, too. Love makes Jill feel too vulnerable, however, so it’s a waiting game to see if her heart will override her fears. A secondary romance between a grouch and a good girl rounds out this sunny novel of love.
A search for meaning in the wake of tragedy….
TOP PICK IN ROMANCE
and is afraid her involvement will put her at risk. But though Hayden is organized and efficient, there’s something about him that makes a free spirit like Kate trust him. When he says he’ll keep her safe, she begins to believe he can. Hayden does his best to stay detached from the beautiful woman—his usual M.O. to keep himself sane as he hunts down monsters—but he cares about Kate . . . too much? As his feelings for her grow, so does his fear for her survival. A story with as many twists as there are suspects, The Broken is sure to keep readers of romantic suspense up all night.
A woman unexpectedly finds romance in No Sunshine When She’s Gone (Kensington, $9.95, 288 pages, ISBN 9780758291288) by Kate Angell. Builder Aidan Cates and his date stop for a reading at a psychic fair. When a fortune-teller reveals that Aidan’s companion has been cheating on him and then he discovers that the seer is no psychic at all, he’s angry—and intrigued enough to track down the mystery woman. Confronted by sexy Aidan, Jillian Mac confesses that her “reading” was inspired by a conversation she’d overheard at a restaurant the night before and that she’s temporarily in
DREAMS OF LILACS By Lynn Kurland
Jove $7.99, 336 pages ISBN 9780515153477 eBook available
A poignant and breathtaking debut from
PIA PADUKONE “Pia Padukone adeptly captures the aspirations of her engaging characters—how tragedy marks them, love drives them and need makes them ruthless.” —Manil Suri, author of The City of Devi
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R E A D M O R E AT B O O K PA G E . C O M
SUN AND FUN
There are very sweet Dreams of Lilacs in Lynn Kurland’s latest medi eval romance. Youngest daughter Isabelle (“Iz”) de Piaget is tired of standing in the shadows. It’s not until she receives a blackmail note, though, that she concocts a plan to escape the overprotective bonds of her family. Instructed to go to an abbey in France or her grandparents will be killed, Isabelle disguises herself as a boy and is on her way. A shipwreck takes her off course, though, and she’s rescued by one Gervase de Seger, who’s recovering from his own mishap. It takes some time before Iz’s true gender and identity are revealed, but when they compare situations, Gervase and Iz realize that they both may be targets of a murderer. Various family members arrive on the scene to unravel the mystery—and perhaps save Iz from the clutches of a man who’s rumored to be overly friendly with the ladies. But Iz’s heart is already lost, and Gervase will stop at nothing to have her—unless a villain stops him first. Kisses only, and filled with style, adventure and wit.
#1 New York Times Bestselling Author
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The Bella Vista Chronicles continue with The Beekeeper’s Ball. A story of family ties—both old and new— and of the moments that connect our hearts.
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With her first novel, a noted food writer delivers an exciting new course
© FIONA ABOUD
INTERVIEW BY AMY SCRIBNER
t’s hard to say whether Ruth Reichl is best known for her scrumptiously honest memoirs (Tender at the Bone, Comfort Me with Apples, Garlic and Sapphires) or her long stints as restaurant reviewer for the New York Times and editor of Gourmet magazine.
But one thing’s for sure: Reichl’s first novel—which comes after a career focused on nonfiction—is well worth the wait. Delicious! tells the story of Billie Breslin, a young woman who moves to New York to pursue a career in food writing and escape her sad life in California. She lands a gig assisting the famous editor of Delicious!, a venerable food magazine on the brink of closing in the midst of the recession. Billie dives into the world of Manhattan cuisine, becoming fast friends with the magazine’s flamboyant travel writer, Sammy, who persuades her to lose the thick glasses and frumpy clothes she’s hidden behind for years. When Billie discovers a treasure trove of World War II correspondence between James Beard and a young girl named Lulu, she knows she has found something special. But the rest of the letters have been elaborately hidden by a long-forgotten Delicious! staff librarian, and when the magazine is abruptly shuttered, Billie and Sammy race to crack the code to find them before the Delicious! building is sold. One doesn’t reach the career
1940s filled with rationing recipes (“truly awful”) and directions for victory gardens. World War II must have been in her subconscious, because shortly afterward, she got her inspiration. “It was really a gift,” she recalls. “I walked into a library, and I had a fully formed image of finding letters from a little girl to James Beard during World War II. I sat down and wrote them all. Lulu was a gift who came to me. The rest of the book formed around her.” Reichl actually knew Beard, the cook and author who is widely credited with growing America’s love of cuisine. She was also a close friend of Marion Cunningham, the food writer who served as Beard’s longtime assistant. “When I thought about what this book was, it was very much about how food connects us across time and space,” Reichl says. “He just seemed like the obvious person. He was extremely generous to his readers, and he is someone I think who might very well have become entranced with a Lulu. In some ways, this book is a thank you to James Beard for all he did for Marion Cunningham.” It could be argued that the book is also a love letter to New York City. One of the best parts of Delicious! is its very specific, lovingly rendered depiction of Manhattan, from Billie’s office in a gorgeous Federal-style mansion to a hip boutique under the High Line to a fantastic cheese shop tucked into a city block. Readers can practically hear the taxi horns. “I am a New Yorker to my core,” Reichl declares. “I grew up in Greenwich Village. One of the great joys of my life is wandering New York City—just getting on the subway and getting off somewhere and
wandering.” Since the novel is about a food writer at a famous New York magazine that is suddenly shut down, Reichl understands if readers assume the story is autobiographical. But it most emphatically is not, she says. Billie’s path may mirror Reichl’s in some ways, but that is where the similarity ends, Reichl insists. “My biggest problem was in focusing so hard on making Billie not like me, I wasn’t letting her be herself,” Reichl says. “I had to get out of my own way. I had to get used to sitting quietly and just letting Billie be herself.” Billie starts her time in New York as a mousy assistant, uncertain and still smarting from a tragedy she is unwilling to come to grips with. But she comes into her own as the book unfolds, taking on writing assignments, making friends, exploring the city and even finding romance. She is a wholly likable character, and the supporting players at the magazine and in Billie’s neighborhood are a hoot. The letters from Lulu are sweet and evocative (although Billie and Sammy’s search for them drags on a bit too long), and the mouthwatering food descriptions throughout the book are vintage Reichl (she even makes roasted pig’s ears sound appetizing). Delicious! is like a family-style meal around a big table: fun, loud, at times messy and, ultimately, completely satisfying.
R E A D M O R E AT B O O K PA G E . C O M
By Ruth Reichl
Random House, $27, 400 pages ISBN 9781400069620, audio, eBook available
heights Reichl has without taking chances, but the idea of writing a novel daunted her for many years. “I’m truly a slave to fiction,” Reichl says in an early spring interview from her home in snowy upstate New York. “I can’t imagine being alive and not having books to read. It’s always been my greatest Reichl joy—diving into weaves someone else’s real-life chef world. But I was afraid that James Beard I couldn’t do it. into the story I always said if I didn’t have a day of a young job, I could do assistant at a it. Then all of a sudden, I didn’t failing food have a day job.” magazine. Reichl is referring, of course, to the closure of Gourmet in 2009 due to declining ad revenue, after she’d been at the helm for 10 years. It was, she said, the best job she’s ever had, one that she plans to write about in a future memoir. “It was sort of everything that I could have imagined,” she says. “I was surrounded by people who cared passionately about the subject. It was a time in American life where other people were starting to care about food as much as I did. We just said, let’s push the envelope as much as we can.” With the magazine closed, Reichl branched out to other projects. She is a judge on Bravo’s “Top Chef Masters,” and has hosted food programming on PBS. She also realized that the time had come to make good on her pledge to write fiction. “To me, nonfiction is kind of getting in the shower and deciding how you’re going to go that day,” Reichl says. “After 40-something years, it’s natural to me. Fiction is way harder. It involves a lot of waiting.” Reichl found a cookbook from the
After a life-shattering accident, a new dedication to shooting straight
n March 8, 2011, shortly before his life took an unexpected turn, Mississippi novelist Greg Iles was stopped at an intersection, lost in creative thought as he debated what to do with his new thriller about unsolved civil rights murders—a subject that was too big for one book, or maybe even two. Most writers would consider that a great problem to have. But for Iles, being forced to choose between art and commerce always sends him into a desultory funk. In such moments, he readily admits, he should not be driving. “I pulled onto Highway 61, and a 19-year-old girl in a pickup hit my driver’s door going 70,” Iles says. “I have no memory whatsoever. I woke up nine days later with no right leg, a torn aorta, as close to dying as you can come.” Natchez Burning, the first installment of his incendiary new trilogy featuring former prosecutor turned Natchez Mayor Penn Cage, is the book that almost killed him. It is also, not coincidentally, the book that helped save his life. “When you don’t know if you’re ever going to get up, you’ve got to find some way back,” Iles recalls. “There’s nothing better than realizing that you’re shepherding this narrative along, and that if you don’t do it, it’s never going to exist.” The Natchez native credits a journalist friend with sharing the real-life cold cases that inspired Natchez Burning, in which Cage’s physician father, Dr. Tom Cage, is accused of murdering an African- American nurse who worked beside
R E A D M O R E AT B O O K PA G E . C O M
By Greg Iles
Morrow, $27.99, 800 pages ISBN 9780062311078, audio, eBook available
him during the racial unrest of the 1960s. Penn Cage’s search for the truth leads him into a dark chapter in Natchez history involving a murderous offshoot of the Ku Klux Klan under the direction of some “I’m not of Mississippi’s pulling a most wealthy single punch and powerful men. when I write For Iles, whose flagrant this book. genre-hopping Life’s too has embraced short; I’m not Gothic World going to play War II thrillers (Spandau Phoethat game.” nix), supernatural ghost stories (Sleep No More) and even apocalyptic sci-fi (The Footprints of God), this was clearly a story only the Cages could tell, even if it meant temporarily bending his own rule: no series. In each previous Penn Cage outing—The Quiet Game (2000), Turning Angel (2005) and The Devil’s Punchbowl (2009)—Iles had thought one-and-done. But events, including his accident and the 2010 death of his father, a physician who inspired the Dr. Tom character, conspired to send the author into new territory: the “thrillogy.” “This really came in the wake of my father dying, and then, as I got going, me being in that car wreck, which was the biggest transformative experience in my life,” he recalls. “That’s what made me say, you know what? I’m not pulling a single punch when I write this book. Life’s too short; I’m not going to play that game. I’m just going to put it down.” He broke another longstanding vow by placing a real-life KKK offshoot called the Silver Dollar group (which he renames the Double Ea-
gles) at the center of Natchez Burning. “Despite being considered a Southern novelist, I have always fought off any temptation to use the Ku Klux Klan as antagonists, because in real life, by 196768, they were pretty much irrelevant, and had long been totally penetrated by the FBI,” he says. “But in this case, when I found out about the real-life Silver Dollar group and how that worked and how none of those murders had been solved, I realized, OK, this is the story; this really is scary stuff.” That Iles manages to sustain the suspense in Natchez Burning for 800 pages bodes well for the trilogy’s future installments, The Bone Tree and Unwritten Laws, to be published in spring 2015 and 2016. Simply put, this is Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County for the “Breaking Bad” generation: life’s rich pageant, delivered unharnessed and uncensored by a writer at the peak of his powers who is mad as hell, and just as heartbroken. “I think what makes people accept this book is that so much of it is meticulously based on things that really happened, so when you get to things that might strain credulity, you think, wow, did that actually happen or is he making that up?” Iles says. The author admits the timing of a certain popular HBO TV series may work in his favor. “I think I’m fortunate that ‘True Detective’ came along when it did,” he says. “It’s like all of a sudden, Southern noir has gotten to where I’ve always been, which is pretty dark and pretty violent.” Helping Iles through his long
© CAROLINE HUNGERFORD
B Y J AY M AC D O N A L D
rehabilitation were his band mates in the Rock Bottom Remainders, the legendary literary rock band that includes Dave Barry, Stephen King, Ridley Pearson, Scott Turow and Amy Tan. For Iles, who years ago left his post as front man for the ’80s rock band Frankly Scarlett to try his hand at prose, the Remainders are his equivalent of literary Paris in the 1920s. “You can’t help but absorb from the people you’re around,” Iles says. “To have Scott Turow and Steve [King] in the band, guys who I had read along the way before I started writing and was so profoundly influenced by, to be able to sit on the bus or in the hotel and just talk to those guys is just unbelievable.” Iles, now 53, shares a special bond with King, who survived his own near-death experience at a similar age in 1999 when he was struck by a van while walking near his home in Maine. “Steve and I talked about it during our gig last fall in Miami,” he recalls. “I told him about wondering, what am I going to do with one leg? And how I realized, man, I’m the luckiest SOB in the world because I don’t dig ditches anymore; I write books, and I don’t need my leg! I know Steve wrote at least one book out of his own agony. But I’m good now. I’m walking erect. And as Steve said in The Shawshank Redemption: ‘Get busy livin’ or get busy dyin’, man.’ ”
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CHEAP SHOT A former crime reporter with two critically acclaimed mystery series of his own, Ace Atkins was tapped by the estate of Robert B. Parker in 2011 to continue the iconic series featuring Boston private investigator Spenser. Atkins’ third entry in the Spenser canon is Cheap Shot (Putnam, $26.95, 320 pages, ISBN 9780399161582), in which the hard-nosed PI searches for the kidnapped son of a star linebacker for the New England Patriots.
Be an INSTANT
R E A D M O R E AT B O O K PA G E . C O M
MOTHER’S DAY BY ALICE CARY
the present and being faced with an uncertain future. It is joy and pain and hope and disappointment. But it can become a relationship founded on love and blessed with commitment and happiness.”
What does it mean to be a mom?
R E A D M O R E AT B O O K PA G E . C O M
GUILT BE GONE
hese four books add unique insights to this essential question, with subjects including an irrepressible immigrant mother, birth mothers and adoptive mothers, and a crusading mom who wants to liberate others from their guilt.
One can only imagine what Elaine Lui’s mother wants for Mother’s Day. Lui, creator of the popular blog LaineyGossip.com, details her relationship with her uniquely irrepressible mother in a sparkling new memoir, Listen to the Squawking Chicken: When Mother Knows Best, What’s a Daughter To Do? (Amy Einhorn, $24.95, 288 pages, ISBN 9780399166792). Lui explains that her mother loves to be honored on any occasion, even when it’s her daughter’s birthday: “There is no better way to demonstrate gratitude for Ma giving birth to me than to give her money. If it’s not the first thing she says when she sees me, it’s definitely the second thing out of my ma’s mouth when she sees me: ‘Where’s my money?’” In this hilarious account, readers learn that Lui’s mother grew up in Hong Kong, loves rhinestone-studded clothes that her daughter describes as “China Woman Elvis,” and, most notably, has a grating voice that has earned her the nickname “the Squawking Chicken.” Despite a trauma-filled, poverty-stricken childhood, her mom persevered, remaining strong, even in later life when faced with a rare blood disorder. And she is certainly a woman who continues to be heard. The Squawking Chicken has always been an in-your-face, controlling mom, and Lui describes numerous incidents when her and her mother’s wills have clashed. The details are fascinating, and the many cultural differences between China and the West are particularly intriguing. Her mom usually ends up being right, Lui says. She’s also gotten used to the texts her mom sends after Lui appears on TV, such as “STOP MAKE UGLY FACE WHEN YOU TALKS.” Lui has made her peace with her mother’s intrusions; in fact, she would almost certainly be lost without them.
As she explains: “I am the Squawking Chicken’s only daughter and her only true friend. It can be a burden, sure. But mostly, it is my life’s honor.”
ADOPTIONS AND REUNIONS When Caroline Clarke, an award-winning journalist, faced some health issues, she contacted the agency that had handled her adoption in 1964. She ended up discovering that her birth mother was Caroline “Cookie” Cole, the adopted daughter of Nat King Cole. Clarke writes beautifully about this unexpected discovery in Postcards from Cookie: A Memoir of Motherhood, Miracles, and a Whole Lot of Mail (Harper, $24.99, 320 pages, ISBN 9780062103178). Cookie had led a life of privilege, but when she became pregnant, she was sent away to a home in New York for unwed mothers. She wanted to keep her baby and, after her birth, delayed signing adoption papers. However, when she heard on the radio that her beloved father was hospitalized with end-stage lung cancer, she felt that she had no choice but to obey her domineering mother, sign the papers and head back to California to his deathbed. When Clarke contacts her newly discovered birth mother decades later, their lives are forever changed. “This means everything to me,” Cookie says. As a psychotherapist tells Clarke, “In every way, you got the fantasy.” Not only does she suddenly belong to a well-known, highly accomplished birth family, she has a wonderful, supportive adoptive family who nurtured her every step of the way. Still, the connection becomes at times overwhelming for both mother and daughter, and there are problems as everyone gets used to this new reality. In a parallel but very different
story, at age 18, Diane Burke got pregnant during a summer fling with a co-worker, a Muslim on a work visa from Jordan. Burke writes about how this event transformed her life in One Perfect Day: A Mother and Son’s Story of Adoption and Reunion (Skyhorse, $24.95, 192 pages, ISBN 9781628737790). The young lovers quickly decided not to marry, and Burke’s horrified parents sent her off to secretly give birth in a home for unwed mothers. Burke wanted to keep her baby, but with no immediate way to support herself and the child, she gave him up for adoption. Burke continued to mourn the loss of her son as she later married, had two more sons, divorced, remarried and became a writer of romantic mysteries. During turbulent times, she turned to religion for strength. Years later, a stranger on the telephone asks, “Mrs. Burke, did you give up a child for adoption in 1971?” It was a question that would lead to Burke’s reunion with her son, Steve Orlandi. This riveting account describes the multitude of conflicting emotions that both mother and son share as they meet and get to know each other. (Steve also wrote parts of the book, explaining the emotional impact of reuniting with his birth family). As Burke explains: “All reunions are intense, emotional, and complicated. It is the past colliding with
Daisy Waugh is a busy, accomplished mother of three. She’s also a British novelist and journalist, and the granddaughter of literary lion Evelyn Waugh. In The Kids Will Be Fine: Guilt-Free Motherhood for Thoroughly Modern Women (Metropolitan, $25, 240 pages, ISBN 9781627790123), Waugh makes it clear that she loves being a mother, but adds that “there have been many moments when I felt bewildered and alienated by society’s inflexible expectations of me as a mother.” As a result, she offers “some potentially liberating observations for mothers” who’ve been led to believe they should focus solely on their child’s every need. Her blunt and amusing advice is divided into sections on Pregnancy and Birth, Baby Care, Child Care, School, and Charm School. After three kids, Waugh has learned which battles aren’t worth fighting, such as the harangues parents make about kids wearing coats in cold weather. She advises a live-and-learn policy: “As often as not, the children are only taking eight short but breezy steps from hallway to the back of a heated car. . . . It shouldn’t matter much, even in a snowstorm, if they made the journey in their underpants.” Waugh’s views on parenting without guilt are bound to be controversial, such as her thoughts on organic food, which she describes as “a waste of money.” I myself disagree with a number of her notions, such as her dislike of having children write thank-you notes. Whatever your thoughts on motherhood, Waugh’s eye-opening approach offers a new perspective on what makes a “good” mother.
GRADUATION BY JULIE HALE
R EADS from
Avon Romance Farewells and fresh starts
hether it’s from high school or university, graduation is a milestone that’s certainly cause for celebration, but with it can come a new set of concerns— big-time worries about how to make the grade in college or in the real world. Whether your grad needs direction or already possesses a five-year plan, three new books offer plenty of inspiration, encouragement and practical advice.
WISDOM FOR THE AGES Listen up, class! Remember the high school graduation oration that David McCullough Jr. delivered in
2012? The talk that went viral on YouTube? That’s right—the “You Are Not Special” speech that the English teacher gave to Wellesley High School grads. Well, you can get your very own copy of that mind- expanding address, along with some of the best real-world advice contained between two covers, if you pick up McCullough’s new book, You Are (Not) Special (Ecco, $21.99, 352 pages, ISBN 9780062257345). In it, he explains all the stuff that teens stress over—how to deal with parents, pick the right college, handle peer pressure, choose a career. It’s great, because McCullough really
gets where kids are coming from— he understands them on a level that’s, like, micro. Seriously, though. When it comes to closing the gap that exists between teens and adults, McCullough proves an expert bridge builder. In his book, he uses his now-famous speech as a jumping-off point, encouraging young people to cultivate intellectual curiosity, compassion and self-reliance. He also demystifies parental behavior—an undertaking for which he’s overqualified as a father of four. Smart but not condescending, knowing but never a know-it-all, McCullough—a longtime high school teacher—issues small admonishments to teens (text less, read more) in a tone that’s exceedingly collegial. “The sweetest
joys in life . . . come only with the recognition that you’re not special,” he told the 2012 grads. Those who can, teach.
A SIMPLE PROPOSITION George Saunders is no speechifier. He’s a writer who makes every word matter, so it’s no surprise that the convocation address he delivered to Syracuse University grads in May 2013 was brief, to the point and ohso-potent. Saunders, the acclaimed and award-winning author of Tenth of December, can cut to the heart of almost any matter in a few select sentences. His Syracuse speech lasted all of eight minutes but had enormous impact. Part of its appeal lay in the delivery—Saunders’ plainspoken, forthright tone. It was a deceptively simple address that packed a punch, raising resonant questions about contemporary values. When a transcript of the talk was published on the New York Times website, it went viral. In time for graduation season, Random House has released Congratulations, by the Way: Some Thoughts on Kindness ($14, 64 pages, ISBN 9780812996272), a gift edition of Saunders’ oration. In it, he owns up to personal “failures of kindness” and proposes that people work on being, well, nicer to one another. Calling for a general recalibration of the moral compass, he suggests that we all try to “increase our ambient levels of kindness” and passes on solid advice to his audience: “Do those things that incline you toward the big questions, and avoid the things that would reduce you and make you trivial.” Sparkling illustrations and a special gift card make this a book that grads will treasure.
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Your teen may affect an air of world-weary ennui, but don’t let the cool facade fool you. If you have a teen heading to college this fall, he or she is bound to be feeling unsettled by the changes that lie ahead. The transition from home to dorm can be tough for any first-timer (they don’t call ’em freshmen for nothing!). Luckily, Blair Thornburgh’s pithy, practical Stuff Every College Student Should Know (Quirk, $9.95, 144 pages, ISBN 9781594747106) anticipates—and provides solutions for—many of the hair-tearing scenarios students face in their first year. The book is organized into critical categories, including social life, academics and money matters. In addition to tips on how to make dorm-dwelling tolerable, Thornburgh provides succinct instruction in critical skills such as knowing how to brew a good cup of coffee, keep a mini-fridge clean and interpret the oft-confusing codes of a washing machine. She also provides advice on social savvy, with lessons in finessing potentially stressful situations, like dealing with a music-blasting roomie and landing a date with that special someone (or, conversely, calling it quits). From understanding Greek life and developing smart study skills to answering the question that looms over all college students—what should I major in?—Thornburgh covers all the bases in this pocket- size guide. Mandatory reading for the college bound.
BEHIND THE BOOK BY NADIA HASHIMI
For Afghani girls, a glimpse of freedom comes at a price
orn in America to Afghani parents, author Nadia Hashimi grew up hearing her parents’ stories of the thriving Afghanistan they left in the 1970s. But when she finally visited decades later, she found a struggling country that bore little resemblance to their memories— especially in the way women were treated. Because of the increasing restrictions on female freedom, the custom of bacha posh, the practice of dressing a daughter as a son, has become common. Hashimi’s first novel, The Pearl That Broke Its Shell, traces that modern tradition back to its possible origin, a time when women dressed as men to guard the king’s harem. Here, the author explains how these two cultural flashpoints inspired her debut.
In 2002, I took my first trip to Kabul, Afghanistan. I was accompanied by my parents, who had left the country in the early 1970s, a peaceful and progressive time in the nation’s tumultuous history. We reunited with family, explored conditions of local hospitals and searched through piles of rubble where a family home once stood. It was a bittersweet experience for us all, especially my parents, who often felt foreign in their own homeland. This was not the country they had left behind. The decades of war in Afghanistan set the nation back in a devastating way. My mother and her sisters all attended college and
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THE PEARL THAT BROKE ITS SHELL
By Nadia Hashimi
Morrow, $25.99, 464 pages ISBN 9780062244758, audio, eBook available
worked alongside men in the airline industry, international organizations and engineering companies. From what we have seen on the news in the last few years, it is hard to imagine such an Afghanistan ever existed. I was raised in a family that valued education above everything else. As a woman, it’s painful for me to hear that girls were barred from attending school under the Taliban regime. It’s heartbreaking to hear that girls and women have become victims of the country’s many plagues: opium addiction, widespread corruption, poverty, domestic violence and child marriage. These are not problems unique to Afghanistan. They are found all around the world, in developing and developed nations. But in the landscape of a country ruined by decades of war, these crises have exploded. I happened to read a New York Times article that explored the Afghan bacha posh tradition (converting young girls into boys by cutting their hair, changing their names and donning boys’ clothing). The community accepts the charade because there is a collective understanding that a family needs sons to have honor and to have someone who can go to the market freely or work outside the home. It struck me that the bacha posh tradition was an incredibly problematic practice. It gave young girls a taste of life as a
boy in a deeply patriarchal society. But what would happen when that “boy” hit puberty? That’s when these boys are converted back to girls, sent back into their homes and stripped of the liberties they enjoyed for a few years. Is it better to have tasted that liberty, if only for a short time? Or does that make life as a woman even harder to bear? The article The custom also touched on a time in of bacha history posh allows Afghan when women girls to dress were disguised as boys until as men to serve as guards for the puberty, but king’s harem. A storyline began does a taste to form in my of freedom mind, linking make the two different girls, in two restrictions different times, of life as both dressed as a woman boys in Afghanistan. Rahima harder to is a young bear? bacha posh who is married off by her opium-addicted father to a local warlord. Her great-greatgrandmother, Shekiba, is an orphan of the cholera epidemic who is forced to rely on her own strength
and determination to survive and finds herself serving as a guard in King Habibullah’s harem. Rahima’s will is strengthened by learning her ancestor’s story. She knows she is the legacy of a formidable woman, and that knowledge helps her survive her bleakest days. Through their connection, I wanted to trace the history of women in the country. The Pearl That Broke Its Shell is a novel with two stories steeped in tragedy, but if you put your ear to the ground, you can hear the rumblings of a brighter tomorrow coming. I could not bear to tell the story if I did not believe that to be true. Afghanistan was once a country where sisters held the same potential as their brothers. Things fell apart in the years of bloodshed, and girls have suffered unimaginably. I wanted to give a voice to those girls of Afghanistan, the ones who are bartered in marriage before their time, denied a chance to sit in a classroom and turned into mothers before they can live out their childhoods. Change is coming, though. We have our first female pilots, generals, political leaders, performers, scientists and athletes in decades. I am hopeful that they will forge the way to a future where Rahima’s story will be a tale from Afghanistan’s darker past.
reviews LOVERS AT THE CHAMELEON CLUB, PARIS 1932
In thrall to the City of Light REVIEW BY STEPHENIE HARRISON
Paris may be known as the City of Light, but in Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932, it serves as the backdrop for some of the darkest events of human history—and for an exhilarating new novel from writer Francine Prose. Spanning several decades, Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 kicks off in the 1920s, just as the city takes its first tentative steps toward renewal following the devastation of World War I. Artists and dreamers flock to the decadent nightclubs that thrum at the heart of the city, like the Chameleon Club, where patrons strip off societal norms and slip on new skins to express their true selves. That is where Lou Villars—a cross-dressing lesbian based on the real-life figure Violette Morris—finds refuge with a ragtag band of misfits made up of a photographer, a writer, a baroness and a French tutor, each linked by various romantic entanglements. Through the letters, memoirs and manuscripts of this quartet, By Francine Prose alongside an unpublished biography of Lou, readers learn the details of Harper, $26.99, 448 pages Lou’s tragic history, which culminates in her final role as traitor and Nazi ISBN 9780061713781, audio, eBook available collaborator. Together, this symphony of voices attempts to reconstruct Lou’s fall from grace and shed some light on the darkness that might drive HISTORICAL FICTION a person to such evil. However, as more pieces of Lou’s story are revealed, it becomes clear that it is not just beauty that lies within the eye of the beholder, but sometimes truth itself. With more than a dozen novels to her name—including the National Book Award finalist Blue Angel—and several volumes of nonfiction, Prose is no stranger to exploring both fact and fiction, but seldom before has there been a more perfect union of the two. Her narrative slyly points out the fickle nature of memory as well as the inherent unreliability of all storytelling. As Prose breathes new life into Paris of a bygone era, even history buffs may find themselves unsure just how much Prose is pulling from history rather than her own imagination. Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 is a remarkable work of fiction Visit BookPage.com for a Q&A with that feels completely true. Richly atmospheric and utterly engrossing, it is Francine Prose. not to be missed.
THE BEES By Laline Paull
Ecco $25.99, 352 pages ISBN 9780062331151 Audio, eBook available
A beehive is a place of order, control, maybe even oppression. In Laline Paull’s debut novel, The Bees, Flora 717 is a sterile worker bee from the lowest caste of an orchard hive. Like her sisters, she is bound by the motto to accept, obey and serve. But during a period of famine and environmental crisis, Flora is asked to take on new tasks: first, feeding the newborns in the hive’s nursery and then becoming a forager, flying freely in search
convent—the countryside, filled with flowers aching to be pollinated, and the Myriad, or foes of the bee, including crows, spiders, wasps and, of course, people. Most impressive of all, even the most extreme actions and concepts in the novel—the expulsion of the drones, the fertility police, the hive mind—are true to known bee behavior, with some poetic license, of course. Readers may recognize elements drawn from the work of Atwood, Orwell and even The Hunger Games, but The Bees is very much its own creation: a dystopian thriller, a love story and a plea for the plight of the honeybees. The Bees is a tremendous work of literature, told with suspense and passion. You will never look at the activity in your flower garden the same way again. —LAUREN BUFFERD
V isit BookPage.com for a Q&A with Laline Paull.
MORGAN A Novel of the Civil War
JIM R. WOOLARD
“An authentic new voice in historical fiction... Woolard knows how to tell a damn good story.” —Terry C. Johnston
Kensington Publishing Corp. America’s Independent Publisher Begin reading at kensingtonbooks.com ON SALE NOW
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of pollen and nectar. Her size and strength make her a formidable worker, and she proves to be a quick learner. But each change in role brings Flora access to new wisdom about the hive—and eventually puts her in conflict with the Queen, as well as the fertility police and the priestesses, an elite group of bees closest to the queen who keep the hive in order. Soon, Flora must decide where her loyalties lie and whether blind obedience to the rules is really in the best interest of her community. Dystopian fiction only works when there is a character who is able to see the cracks in the system, and Flora is the perfect heroine: resourceful, brave and able to take the kinds of chances that her sisters cannot, a reminder that even nature is ever-changing. Paull has created a credible version of the complex world of the bee: the stunningly complicated hive—part palace, part
The legend of Morgan’s Raiders— as it’s never been told before.
reviews REMEMBER ME LIKE THIS By Bret Anthony Johnston
Random House $26, 384 pages ISBN 9781400062126 eBook available
FICTION so emotionally powerful. Johnston is a master at creating honest portraits of family members that could easily be your neighbor. Make no mistake about it: Bret Anthony Johnston is a writer to watch. —MEGAN FISHMANN
THE POSSIBILITIES By Kaui Hart Hemmings
Simon & Schuster $25, 288 pages ISBN 9781476725796 eBook available
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By Maeve Binchy
Every now and then, a reader stumbles across a debut novelist and thinks to herself: What took you so long? Bret Anthony Johnston— current Director of Creative Writing at Harvard University and named one of the National Book Foundation’s 5 under 35 following the publication of his 2004 short story collection—is such an author. His first novel is so spellbinding, so moving, that one’s only complaint is that we had to wait 10 years to read it. Remember Me Like This opens with a surprise: It begins where most novels would have ended. We meet the Campbells four years after the traumatic ordeal of losing their then 11-year-old son, Justin, to a kidnapper. Laura and Eric (along with their youngest son Griff) are learning how to claw their way out from the darkness of grief. Then they receive the extraordinary news that Justin is coming home. Even then, Johnston doesn’t focus his novel on the facts behind Justin’s disappearance, but keeps the focus on the repercussions of the family’s loss rather than its details. Though they never stopped combing the Corpus Christi sand dunes or canvassing the town with “missing” flyers, each family member turned to distractions to cope with their grief. Laura has become a shadow of herself, spending most of her time and energy volunteering at Sea Lab, where she cares for hurt or sick marine life. Eric—a high school history teacher who still loves Laura but is unable to connect with her—has found solace in the arms of travel agent Tracy. Griff, now entering his teenage years and unable to bridge the gap between his parents, focuses his energy on skateboarding and daydreams about his best friend, Fiona. Yet it is the way Johnston reveals Justin’s painful ordeal in increments and through the eyes and ears of his family members that makes this tale
Knopf $26.95, 336 pages ISBN 9780385351850 Audio, eBook available
Chestnut Street in Dublin, Ireland, is shaped like a horseshoe, with a “big bit of grass in the middle beside some chestnut trees,” and “thirty small houses in a semicircle.” These houses are inhabited by scores of fascinating human beings, however ordinary, who figure in these stories by Maeve Binchy, written between novels. Now, after her death in 2012 at 72, they are finally being published. Most use old-fashioned O. Henry endings to resolve problems or clarify situations in unexpected ways—illuminating the lives of the people involved and, incidentally, warming the hearts of readers. Even though they share the world of Chestnut Street, each family lives a life of its own, occasionally bouncing off one another as neighbors. In my favorite story, “Ivy,” a lonely, old-fashioned girl who wishes people would write letters instead of email, wins a computer. On a local bulletin board she asks for someone to give her computer lessons in exchange for cooking lessons. “By far the best” offer comes from a 12-yearold boy named Sandy, who lives with his grandfather. The outcome is short and sweet and cuts off a story you would prefer to hear more of, but that is how it is with these little gems: The ending is the point, not anything that comes before. Though many of these little slices of life are too short for nuance, they are all undemanding and delightful. The more you read, the more you want to read, which makes the fact that Chestnut Street is Binchy’s final collection as poignant an ending as any in her oeuvre. —MAUDE McDANIEL
core really about life—in all its messy, funny, hurtful, confusing and transcendent moments. —AMY SCRIBNER
Visit BookPage.com for a Q&A with Kaui Hart Hemmings.
TO RISE AGAIN AT A DECENT HOUR By Joshua Ferris
Writer Kaui Hart Hemmings had a lot to live up to with her second novel: Her best-selling, polished debut, The Descendants, was made into an Oscar-winning film starring George Clooney. With The Possibilities, she delivers on her early promise while making a striking departure setting-wise, moving from the tropical islands of her native Hawaii to the snowy mountains of Colorado. After Sarah St. John’s 22-year-old son Cully dies in a skiing accident, she struggles to return to life. Her job as a co-host of a Breckenridge travel show (the kind of cheesy production that is shown on hotel TV channels) suddenly seems meaningless. Her widowed dad, who has been staying with her, seems to be making that arrangement permanent. And Cully’s dad Billy, whom Sarah never married, is back in the picture in a confusing way. Then a lovely but mysterious young woman named Kit shows up at Sarah’s house, with news that will send the family reeling. Sarah hits the road with Billy, her dad, her best friend and Kit, heading to a memorial service at Cully’s college. This motley crew finds out a lot about themselves and each other, and they’re forced to make some difficult choices. And yet, Hemmings manages to make this road trip as hilarious as it is touching, punctuated with knockout dialogue. Hemmings has a unique voice— both sensitive and humorous. In her hands, Sarah is all-too-human, a middle-aged woman who struggles to redefine herself after losing the child she raised mostly on her own. “I close my eyes and imagine his possibilities, the different hues of his self, what his face would look like in ten years, the kind of man he would be,” Sarah says. “He never had the chance to become himself. He never had the chance to be anyone else.” While The Possibilities is a book ostensibly about death, it is at its
Little Brown $26, 352 pages ISBN 9780316033978 Audio, eBook available
Joshua Ferris, who previously examined the culture of the contemporary workplace (Then We Came to the End) and family life (The Unnamed ) turns his attention to social media in To Rise Again at a Decent Hour. At first, the novel seems to be a satiric look at the way Facebook and Twitter could be used to hijack a person’s identity. But as the main character heads toward an existential crisis, it is clear that Ferris is also exploring how technology both connects us and reinforces our isolation. Paul O’Rourke is a dentist with a successful practice in Manhattan. His long workdays are punctuated by feelings of unrequited love for his ex-girlfriend (also his receptionist), religious disagreements with his long-term hygienist Mrs. Convoy and frequent cigarette breaks. His evenings are scheduled around Red Sox games. He has put off using the Internet for personal or professional use, so when a professional-looking website appears, purporting to represent his dental practice, O’Rourke is both puzzled and angered by this inroad into his privacy. His outrage only increases when an active Facebook page and Twitter account appear, also under his name. But when the nature of the content turns personal, he can’t resist emailing back to the virtual Paul O’Rourke. Once Paul engages with this fictional doppelganger, To Rise Again at a Decent Hour quickly becomes a farce aimed at identity theft, the lure and limitations of religion and the importance of shared belief. Paul is a lifelong loner, from a troubled family, so his yearning to be part of a
FICTION community is counter-weighted by huge emotional risks. As in his earlier novels, Ferris is both laugh-out-loud funny and even profound, often on the same page. Paul’s self-absorption can be wearying at times, but his journey to self-awareness is designed to be both amusing and thought provoking, allowing readers to take their own existential ride. —LAUREN BUFFERD
THE MEMORY GARDEN By Mary Rickert
Sourcebooks $14.99, 304 pages ISBN 9781402297120 eBook available
Our author can’t seem to make up her mind on a fairly important issue:
Is she “Mary Rickert” or just plain “M. Rickert”? Under the abbreviated M., she has published a set of haunting short stories considered to be among the very best of fantasy. With The Memory Garden, her first novel, she makes her bid to enter the literary mainstream, enlarging her name and her imaginative landscape in one grand stroke. Best of all, in a brilliant alchemical turn, Rickert transforms the lead-weight problem of indecisive identities into storytelling gold in this bewitching marvel of a book. “Bewitching.” Yes, there be witches here. Indeed, the opening line of Macbeth might well serve as an epigraph for this novel: “When shall we three meet again?” Here, the three crones are Nan, Mavis and Ruthie, brought together for the first time in 60 years, split apart all those decades ago by a deadly tragedy for which they feel (for which they were) responsible, a horror that has determined the course of their lives. And there be ghosts aplenty, wan-
dering Nan’s back garden, together with much herbal lore and a child left on a doorstep as in a fairy tale, born with a magic-bestowing caul over her face. Shakespeare applies once more: To be a witch, or not to be? That is the question. Bay (a powerful herb) is the name of that child abandoned on the doorstep. She becomes a young woman racked by doubts and fears about her own identity. Like all adolescent girls, Bay just wants to be “normal.” But as Nan’s charge—and on account of that uncanny veil over her newborn face—that can never be. Bay can see the ghosts in the backyard without even knowing that they’re ghosts, so natural is her supernatural gift. She must confront the burden of her elders’ knowledge, at long last conjured into wisdom. Bay has to decide who she really is. A witch? Or not a witch? No matter. Not when you have discovered your true place in the world. In this poignant motion of the spirit, Rickert stays alongside her own fictional
creation every faltering and courageous step of the way. —MICHAEL ALEC ROSE
THE GIRL WHO SAVED THE KING OF SWEDEN By Jonas Jonasson
Ecco $25.99, 400 pages ISBN 9780062329127 Audio, eBook available
In The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden, Jonas Jonasson unfurls a wide, whimsical net that readers will relish being caught up in. Things go from just bad to comically worse to enjoyably ridiculous in this tonguein-cheek tale. From South Africa to Sweden, from latrine cleanup to atom bomb cover-up, from pillows to presidents and potato farms, Jonasson’s wittily constructed web
Ever hear of wanderlust? Traveling just got a whole lot sexier.
“Hart’s beautiful use of language and discerning eye toward human experience elevate the book to a poignant reflection on the deepest yearnings of the human heart and the seductive temptation of passion.” —Kirkus Book Reviews on Tear You Apart
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This is a journey you won’t want to miss.
reviews intertwines historical figures and facts with the exploits of a decidedly less plausible (but more entertaining) cast of characters. Nombeko Mayeki, the titular “girl,” begins the novel as an illiterate savant, growing up but going nowhere in 1960s Soweto. Her goal—to reach the National Library in Pretoria—spurs a Quixotic journey that leads to encounters with three Han dynasty pottery forgers, twin Swedish brothers with identity crises, one unbalanced American Vietnam War deserter and two Israeli Mossad agents, just to highlight a few. And then there’s the kinship she develops with a Chinese official while acting as his interpreter on safari that comes in rather handy later on. The laugh-out-loud moments begin to pile up, making this book nearly impossible to put down, except to scratch your head at those same moments. In this, his second novel—his first, The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, was an international bestseller—Jonasson again exercises his flair for the satirical. It would seem nothing is outside his authorial grasp, from explaining the intricacies of nuclear energy to opining on international politics. This is an escape that manages to engage both the wit and the intellect as the characters’ scrapes turn into would-be catastrophes that are, of course, narrowly avoided. Readers of Francois Lelord and Alexander McCall Smith will find much to appreciate in Jonasson’s style. —MELISSA BROWN
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By Mona Simpson
Knopf $25.95, 336 pages ISBN 9780385351416 Audio, eBook available
Mona Simpson’s sixth novel, Casebook, visits the country of divorce through the eyes of California teenager and Sherlock Holmes wannabe, Miles Adler-Hart. Aided by his sidekick Hector (living through the aftermath of his own parents’ breakup), Miles recounts their earnest, if
FICTION often fumbling, effort to make sense of the emotional disturbance that inevitably surrounds even the most amicable end of a marriage and the survivors’ halting attempts to rebuild their lives. Simpson brings this all off with style, blending pathos with humor to create an appealing story. Miles’ and Hector’s sleuthing attempts to pierce the veil that surrounds Eli Lee, a man they’re told works for the National Science Foundation in Washington, and who’s dating Miles’ mother, Irene, a mathematician who teaches at UCLA. As Irene’s attraction to Eli deepens, the boys discover pieces of his story that become increasingly implausible, spurring the boys to ever more daring investigative feats, from crude wiretaps to long bus treks from Santa Monica to Pasadena. Their exploits eventually connect them with a sympathetic detective, Ben Orion, A teen who brings a cool realism to investigates their quest. his mother’s The success of any novel latest that relies on boyfriend the voice of a in Mona quirky narrator ultimately turns Simpson’s on the author’s Casebook. skill in making that protagonist both realistic and sympathetic. Simpson artfully captures Miles’ longing for an emotionally stable home and his yearning for his mother’s happiness. As determined as he is to unearth Eli Lee’s story, his adventures aren’t completely single-minded, as when he and Hector establish a thriving business selling soup in their high school or when they (both straight) become active in the school’s gay and lesbian student organization. Simpson doesn’t fall short either in portraying adults like Irene, who struggles in the gulf that separates the inexplicable (to her) end of her marriage and the beginning of a new life. Impenetrable as their parents’ lives are to them in placid times, how much more so is that the case when children undergo the wrenching experience of divorce? In this wistful and knowing novel, Mona Simpson penetrates some of that mystery, ultimately winning us over to the side of her endearing cast of characters.
Sicilian wax sculptor Gaetano Zumbo left his hometown of Siracusa, Italy, at age 19, amid rumors of betrayal and patricide. On the run from his past, he made his way across Italy and changed his name to Zummo, all the while earning acclaim for his wax sculptures of human bodies. He eventually stopped in Florence to join the Medici court at the request of the Grand Duke himself, Cosimo III, whose unreciprocated love for his wife has left him tortured—and leads him to make a strange request of the celebrated sculptor. Secrecy tells the story of Zummo’s work to complete the Grand Duke’s request—a life-size, lifelike woman made entirely out of wax—and his subsequent romance with the apothecary’s daughter, Faustina. His newfound love proves dangerous, and not just because Faustina has secrets of her own: In 17th-century Florence, pleasure carries a price. As Zummo navigates the complexities of the Italian city, both geographically and politically, he must learn to make peace with his past, even when it turns up on his doorstep. Rupert Thomson is a celebrated British author with nine novels to his name, including The Insult, which David Bowie named to his list of 100 must-read novels of all time, and Death of a Murderer, which was shortlisted for the Costa Novel of the Year in 2007. Secrecy is full of bright, colorful descriptions of Florence, often including well-crafted metaphors and similes, which provide a perfectly contrasting setting to Zummo’s shady, twisted experiences. Thomson’s thorough research and exceptional skill for the sort of detailed storytelling often missing in historical novels make Secrecy an absorbing and thrilling mystery, full of dark alleys, gray skies and cobblestone.
Simon Wroe is a former chef, so it’s no surprise that he set his debut novel in a kitchen. What is surprising about Chop Chop, though, is how little Wroe lets this fiendish little book get bogged down in the details of its setting. It’s very much about the chaotic life of a kitchen, but this darkly comic narrative covers so much more, and the result is addictively entertaining. Wroe’s unnamed narrator (dubbed “Monocle” by his coworkers because of an English degree he isn’t using) sets out for the excitement of London after university and quickly finds himself desperate for a way to pay his rent. He takes a job at a past-its-prime restaurant called The Swan, doing grunt work. It’s a place where anything can happen, and The Swan’s outrageous characters—barbaric head chef Bob, Racist Dave, Ramilov and the beguiling Harmony—push and pull Monocle in different directions, from torture to romance to devilish pranks. Monocle finds himself swept into a world that’s as much battleground as it is kitchen, even as he’s tormented by his past and his parents’ crumbling marriage. Wroe not only refuses to glamorize what goes on behind this restaurant’s kitchen door, but also refuses to tell his tale with anything but a kind of impish brutality. Bob isn’t just a taskmaster. He’s a slavedriver. Harmony isn’t just a crush. She’s a dream girl. Ramilov isn’t just a comrade in arms. He’s a lifesaver. Everything is amplified in this cramped, sweaty little space, but Wroe still leaves plenty of room for the unexpected, the uncomfortable and the uncommonly funny. Chop Chop might be fiction, but the truth of the author’s experience shines through. The result is a compelling debut from a mischievous new voice.
SECRECY By Rupert Thomson
Other Press $16.95, 400 pages ISBN 9781590516850 Audio, eBook available
CHOP CHOP By Simon Wroe
Penguin Press $26.95, 288 pages ISBN 9781594205798 eBook available
COZY MYSTERIES BY SHEILA M. TRASK
Sweet treats with a side of murder
resh settings, quirky characters and original twists abound in our favorite new cozies. Whether you prefer to sample exotic recipes, explore antique-filled English mansions, take a little break at a charming B&B or create a custom floral bouquet, a delightful adventure awaits in these books—oh, and murders, too. But don’t worry: The strong, determined and often hilarious women at the center of the action are sure to figure things out before it’s too late—if only just.
BAD NEWS AT THE B&B If you’re still hungry after your breakfast bowl with Zoe Chase, you might consider lunch at a new bed and breakfast, the Dixie Dew, where polite Southern chats over tea and cakes can carry a sinister undertone.
Award-winning author Ruth Moose makes her cozy debut with Doing It at the Dixie Dew (Mino taur, $24.99, 256 pages, ISBN 9781250046383), another tale of a woman reinventing herself. Instead of a food truck, Beth McKenzie is rehabilitating her family home and turning it into a warm and friendly B&B. Once the first guest is booked, she thinks she’s on her way, but things quickly take a grim turn when that guest turns up dead the next morning. Trusting the small-town gossip grapevine more than the local police to solve this crime, Beth follows a trail of precious jewels and deadly poison that leads her directly into the clutches of the astonishing culprits. Along the way, she bakes muffins, falls a little bit in love with her handyman and stencils the heck out of her new tearoom. Beth’s bright optimism remains throughout, even when more murders are discovered and many of the clues appear to lead straight back to the Dixie Dew. Instead of dwelling on the implications, Beth and her friends make dark jokes—maybe the motto for the B&B should be “Rest in Peace,” they suggest—and move on. With Doing It at the Dixie Dew, Moose sets the stage for further adven-
tures for the new innkeeper and her comrades; you never know who will come through the door next.
MOTHER-DAUGHTER MYSTERY For afternoon tea, might we suggest a stop in the English countryside? In Murder at Honeychurch Hall (Minotaur, $24.99, 304 pages, ISBN 9781250007797), Hannah Dennison’s first novel outside of the popular Vicky Hill series, a thoroughly modern woman—television personality Kat Stanford—is tossed deep into the history of Honeychurch Hall. This 600-year-old estate holds many secrets, the latest of which is a missing—and possibly murdered—nanny. The setting, the murder . . . none of it would even be on Kat’s radar if it weren’t for her mischievous mother, Iris, who has confounded her daughter’s respectable plans for her retirement by setting up housekeeping in a rundown carriage house on the premises. As exasperated Kat attempts to talk her reckless mother down from her latest adventure, the two share their aggravation and affection for each other in equal measure. Their entertaining banter anchors the fast-paced action, as readers come to suspect nearly everyone on the estate. Everyone has
TILL DEATH DO US PART It’s flowers and cupcakes for dessert at the romantic Rose in Bloom, a truly charmed flower shop in the small town of Ramble, Virginia. Owners and cousins Audrey Bloom and Liv Rose have an untarnished reputation for providing the perfect bridal bouquets, with the arrangements based on the Victorian meanings of flowers. These ladies are so good that not one of the couples wedded with their bouquets has ever gotten divorced. Just as the local paper is set to celebrate their success, tragedy strikes their latest customers: The groom turns up murdered, with flower petals from Audrey’s shop strewn over his body. Audrey has little faith in the local police, and when suspicion for the murder starts to turn her way, she relies on a strong network of friends and family to help her sleuth out the truth. Bloom and Doom (Berkley, $7.99, 304 pages, ISBN 9780425264973) is the first Bridal Bouquet Shop mystery from Beverly Allen, who also writes as Barbara Early. Allen’s casual dialogue captures the camaraderie among Audrey and her co-workers, as they band together to design funeral flowers instead of wedding sprays. The central mystery definitely intrigues, although it may be a secondary mystery that holds the most surprising outcome. Both are revealed slowly, as Audrey and company realistically, and often comically, go through their everyday life accompanied by a charming parade of small-town characters, like the attractive cupcake chef from the bakery two doors down and Audrey’s crazy, escape-artist cat, Chester. Ramble is a town full of such characters, and there will surely be more for Audrey to discover in upcoming volumes.
R E A D M O R E AT B O O K PA G E . C O M
J.J. Cook, the beloved author of the Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade mysteries, moves from the hills of Tennessee to the streets of Mobile, Alabama, for the first in her new Biscuit Bowl Food Truck mysteries. Death on Eat Street (Berkley, $7.99, 304 pages, ISBN 9780425263457) is a quirky and entertaining mystery that centers on the backstabbing backside of the food industry. Thirty-year-old Zoe Chase defies her parents by quitting her bank job to open, to their great dismay, a diner and a food truck. It’s not only her parents’ disapproval that Zoe has to deal with, though. Her new digs aren’t in the nicest part of town, and food truck vending turns out to be a cutthroat business. When a competitor is found dead behind the wheel of Zoe’s Biscuit Bowl truck, she finds out just how serious things can get. Zoe and the delightful cast of supporting characters, including a lazy but lovable Persian cat named Crème Brulée, lend a light mood to this ever-escalating murder mystery. Zoe’s life is threatened at every turn, but she’s undaunted. She’s much more interested in sharing her famous deep-fried biscuit bowl treats with everyone from office workers to the men at the homeless shelter. Her kind heart and intrepid determination carry the day, along with her nourishing recipes, several of which are included.
something to hide, from the stately Lady Edith to her fanciful grandson Harry. Even Iris has a few skeletons in the closet, leaving Kat to wonder about her own mother’s culpability. Dennison keeps the twists and turns coming fast and furious, alleviating the tension periodically with humorous scenes involving the underwhelming local constabulary and unusual antiques like Kat’s beloved vintage Jerry mouse. In the end, it’s all connected, but readers will have a hard time putting it all together until the very last pages.
NONFICTION THE LITTLE GIRL WHO FOUGHT THE GREAT DEPRESSION By John F. Kasson
EVERYBODY’S GOT SOMETHING
Strength for the journey REVIEW BY AMY SCRIBNER
Robin Roberts took a leave of absence as co-host of “Good Morning America” in 2012 to face a life-threatening battle with a blood disorder, one that likely was caused by the chemotherapy she endured during a bout with breast cancer five years earlier. In Everybody’s Got Something, Roberts manages to “make her mess her message,” as her beloved mother always advised her to do. Roberts is both astonishingly honest and refreshingly upbeat as she recounts the shock of discovering she once again had to fight for her life. A hall-of-fame college basketball player, Roberts had always depended on her body to deliver. Yet here she was, searching for a blood marrow donor upon whom she would now depend. Miraculously, her sister Sally-Ann was a near-perfect match, and was willing to travel between her home in New Orleans and Robin’s in Manhattan to undergo the lengthy process needed to allow doctors to harvest blood cells for her baby sister. By Robin Roberts In the midst of this health crisis, Roberts’ mother passed away after Grand Central, $27, 272 pages years of declining health. It’s a crushing blow to Roberts, who spoke to ISBN 9781455578450, audio, eBook available her mom every day after wrapping GMA. But as her mother often told her, everybody’s got something they’re dealing with. Robin returns to MEMOIR New York and dives into a brutal chemotherapy regimen that essentially destroys her immune system so that Sally-Ann’s healthy blood cells can rebuild it. Roberts, who wrote this book with author Veronica Chambers, exudes warmth and love as she recalls one of the hardest times in her life, giving credit to her GMA co-hosts and her many “dear friends” (she must use this phrase dozens of times throughout the book—girlfriend’s got a lot of friends) for their support. She also opens up about her longtime love, Amber, who nurses her through the illness and shares some of her own caretaking advice in the book. Delivered with candor and optimism, Everybody’s Got Something is a remarkable book that offers a blueprint for handling crises with grace and faith.
MY ACCIDENTAL JIHAD By Krista Bremer
R E A D M O R E AT B O O K PA G E . C O M
Algonquin $24.95, 304 pages ISBN 9781616200688 Audio, eBook available
Jihad, an Arabic word meaning strife or struggle, has many connotations in our culture, few of them romantic. Yet romance is at the center of Krista Bremer’s moving memoir, My Accidental Jihad, though struggle is a key element as well. One day while jogging in North Carolina, Krista, a graduate student, met an older Libyan man, Ismail. He was not exactly the person she’d envisioned as Prince Charming. He was graying of hair and yellow of teeth, not to mention that he struck
Krista as utterly foreign, completely other. But when she was with him, she felt herself relax, as though she were settling into a deep pool of water. She felt at home. And then, to paraphrase Charlotte Brontë: Reader, she married him. The memoir tells the story of their marriage in unrelenting candor and gorgeous prose. Intimacy with Ismail forces Krista to evaluate her American life with a critical eye. Do Americans really need so much stuff? She compares Ismail’s gentle and loving care of his few things with the habits of a previous boyfriend, who left piles of designer clothes littered across the floor. Krista is deeply glad to be with Ismail. But does he really have to use a 15-year-old coffee maker? Holidays are also difficult. For Krista, Ramadan is a mystery. She doesn’t like the way it changes her husband, who gets testy while fasting. She finds it hard to support him, to lay a single date and a glass of water
Norton $27.95, 320 pages ISBN 9780393240795 eBook available
neatly on the table for him to break his fast at sundown. Her reservations about Ramadan, though, pale next to his confusion about Christmas. Seeing Christmas through Ismail’s eyes, Krista simultaneously realizes how silly the holiday rituals are, and how terribly attached she is to them. Years after their rushed nuptials, the pair hosts a belated, extravagant celebration of their love. It’s a dramatic event, full of grand gestures such as a friend who went to great lengths to play a piano outside. The next day, Ismail and Krista return to the site of the party to clean up. As she wipes a stained table, Krista reflects, “Ours will always be a sticky marriage.” The brilliance of this book is that the author never lets herself or her husband off the hook. Instead, she presents an honest—and at times painful—portrayal of a beautiful union.
On the heels of her death in February comes an intriguing new book examining the legacy of Shirley Temple. Author John F. Kasson confines his study to the child star’s impact on popular culture at a time when escapist entertainment was both luxury and dire necessity. The Little Girl Who Fought the Great Depression may sound like hyperbole, but Temple’s impact on the nation’s self-image proves unimpeachable. From humble beginnings in Santa Monica, young Shirley was groomed into star material by her mother, but her talent and charisma were what earned her fame. For four years, she was the top box office earner in the nation; adults complained that they couldn’t get in to see her films because the children in attendance wouldn’t leave the theater. Shirley Temple merchandise sold in the millions, and advertisers learned that marketing to parents through their children was a winning strategy. Kasson parallels Temple’s success with Franklin Roosevelt’s election and the economic turnaround of the New Deal, describing her as crucial to national optimism at a tenuous moment. One reporter referred only half-jokingly to the TRA or “Temple Recovery Act,” equating her economic impact with that of the government programs of the time. Little Girl isn’t a tell-all biography, but there’s mention of Temple’s tantrums and her parents’ disastrous mismanagement of her finances, which left her roughly $44,000 of more than $3 million earned. Her mother understated Shirley’s age, most likely to keep the child star young, and lucrative, for as long as possible. Despite such circumstances, she grew into a seemingly normal, well-adjusted adult. The Little Girl Who Fought the Great Depression will appeal to biography fans, but also to pop culture historians; her influence still resonates today.
— K E L LY B L E W E T T
ROZ CHAST B Y LY N N G R E E N
By Dee Williams
Blue Rider $26.95, 304 pages ISBN 9780399166174 Audio, eBook available
ans of Roz Chast’s cartoons in The New Yorker will not be surprised to learn that her parents were an unlikely couple: Her mother, Elizabeth, was a bossy perfectionist. Her father, George, was a sensitive man often gripped by anxiety.
In her first memoir, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? (Bloomsbury, $28, 240 pages, ISBN 9781608198061), Chast captures her parents’ long, painful decline and her struggle to deal with their descent—from their cluttered Brooklyn apartment to assisted living and eventually to hospice care. Telling the story with cartoons, text and photos, Chast leaves no aging stone unturned, revealing all the agonizing, humiliating and haunting details of growing old. If you’ve been a caregiver for an aging relative, you’re likely to find every frustrated, ridiculous or desperate thought you ever had reflected in Chast’s heart-rending and often hilarious volume. The author/cartoonist responded to our questions about the book from her home in Connecticut. As the book’s title makes clear, aging is not a “pleasant” topic. Why did you decide to write this book? It wasn’t pleasant, but it was definitely interesting to me. And of course, it’s not just one’s parents who are aging. We’re all heading in that direction. Also, there were some funny, cartoon-worthy events along the way. What personal qualities do you think you inherited from your mother? From your father? My mother valued intelligence over looks. She didn’t care about clothes, hair or makeup. I try to care about fashion, but I have the opposite of what Frenchwomen are supposed to have: I make the least of what I’ve got. I deeply wish this were not so and I try to fight it, but it seems to be in my DNA. My father was the most anxious person I’ve ever met. He was the Mozart of anxieties. He makes me look like an amateur. What moment as a caregiver made you want to throw up your hands and run for cover? It was pretty much one long moment of that feeling. The question should be what moment didn’t make me want to run for cover. But one of the worst was when I was bringing my mother and father back to their apartment after visiting the terrible Place in Brooklyn and my
mother collapsed in the stairwell while my father was having a panic attack because he couldn’t get the key to open the door to the apartment. That was an out-of-body experience for me. Your parents were extremely close and did almost everything together. Did that make aging easier or harder for them? It made it easier. They gave each other moral support. What surprised you the most during the whole saga of caring for your parents? I was surprised that there were no guidelines. There were no books like “What To Expect When Your Parents Are Dying.” I felt like I was making it up as I was going along. Did you ever wish you had a sibling to help you get through this? YES. This book covers some deeply personal territory. Did you ever waver about holding back parts of the story? I did think about holding back some parts. But I felt that holding back would perpetuate the problem of not talking about what it’s like to get really, really old. I don’t mean “spry”-old. I mean OLD-old. Do you talk about “the future” with your own kids? Not yet!!! But it’s coming . . . down . . . the . . . pike. What did you learn about your own end-of-life preferences after observing your parents’ decline? I don’t want to live the last couple of years of my life in bed, drinking Ensure and having somebody change my diaper. No, no, no. On the other hand, who knows what it’s like once you get there? What one piece of advice would you give to a child-caretaker just starting on this path? Get their papers in order: their will, all their financial information, who has power of attorney, what their “advance health care directives” are, health care proxy forms, your parents’ social security numbers, what medications they take, and so forth. And, if your kids are writer- or artist-types, it’s all material, so take notes. I know, that’s two pieces of advice.
R E A D M O R E AT B O O K PA G E . C O M
Dee Williams was living the dream—the American Dream. She had a three-bedroom house with a driveway and a mortgage. She had stopped spending weekends in the mountains with her friends, trading that carefree existence for more adult matters such as rewiring the bathroom. She worked full-time and traveled too much. Then one day, she woke up in the emergency room, diagnosed with a life-threatening heart condition. Life was never going to be the same, but not in the usual way these stories go. Williams’ memoir The Big Tiny tells the story of her ambitious idea to chuck the big house and build her own home—all 84 square feet of it. Like other memoirs about a transformation, Williams describes her moment of inspiration, followed by the hurdles she faces along the way: self-doubt, design questions, letting go of material possessions, hiccups in the building process, physical injury, not to mention where to park the tiny house once it’s finished. The tiny house itself—part of a movement of small dwellings that has been catching on across the country—has a design that is appealingly practical and simple, cleverly arranged and subversive, almost like a child’s playhouse for adults. What makes this memoir unique is Williams’ voice, with its quirky, self-deprecating humor and emotional transparency. While she constantly pokes fun at her own foibles, she also allows us into her fears as she starts over after a health scare. She also reveals how her tiny home brings her into close community with friends and family, which helps her rediscover a meaningful existence through relationships with others. The Big Tiny is not a construction manual, but don’t be surprised if it leads you to wonder how you could build a tiny house of your own.
© BILL FRANZEN
The graveyard shift
THE BIG TINY
reviews JOHN QUINCY ADAMS By Fred Kaplan
Harper $29.99, 672 pages ISBN 9780061915413 eBook available
R E A D M O R E AT B O O K PA G E . C O M
John Quincy Adams was devoted to literature, and had he been able to pursue his ideal career, he wrote in 1817, “I should have made myself a great poet.” He did write poetry throughout his extraordinary life, but, from a very young age, his parents strongly encouraged him toward life as a leader in the new republic. His literary skills, however, were not wasted. There were his letters, essays on public policy and speeches, all of which he wrote himself. The best expression of these skills often came in his diary, begun in 1779 and continuing until his death in 1848. It would become the most valuable firsthand account of an American life and events during that period. Award-winning biographer Fred Kaplan, whose subjects have included Mark Twain, Charles Dickens and Thomas Carlyle, draws heavily on Adams’ diary and other writings to bring our sixth president vividly to life in John Quincy Adams: American Visionary. Because his presidency is usually regarded as unsuccessful, Adams’ place as a visionary and prophet is often overlooked. Kaplan’s book emphasizes how Adams’ vision and values have stood the test of time. Adams was an outstanding diplomat in Europe, as well as president, senator, secretary of state, Harvard professor and, for the last 16 years of his life, a member of the House of Representatives, the only former president to serve in Congress. He spent his years there eloquently proposing and defending his reform agenda, which included, most prominently, opposition to slavery. A dominant theme of Adams’ life, following the lead of his Founding Father father, John Adams, was the importance of a “social compact” that united the country’s inhabitants. In a speech in Boston in 1802, he emphasized the centrality of a union based on values expressed in
NONFICTION the Declaration of Independence, and to “perpetuate this union is the first political duty . . . of every American.” It was this pledge to union, despite the controversial compromises needed to create the Constitution, that guided his life. Although Adams’ presidency is often considered a failure, it is hard to place all of the blame on him. The supporters of Andrew Jackson, who won the popular vote but lost to Adams when the election was decided in the House, vehemently opposed his legislative proposals. Even some of his political friends felt that Adams’ vision— which included a federally supported national infrastructure, a regulated banking system, an important role for the federal government in scientific and cultural initiatives—went too far. This important book combines solid research and wisely selected excerpts from Adams’ writings with an engaging narrative about a man who made significant contributions to our national life. —ROGER BISHOP
CREATIVITY By Philippe Petit
Riverhead $27.95, 224 pages ISBN 9781594631689 eBook available
own creative coup, he recommends choosing accomplices with more attention to their character than the skills they bring to the project. “Watch bank-heist movies. You’ll see that each time a coup fails, it is due to human error, human limitation, human betrayal.” There are a few exercises suggested here, such as learning to balance on either foot while blindfolded, and doing tasks with your non-dominant hand. However, it’s more enjoyable to just watch Petit as he works, drilling for hours to learn a new juggling move, or using a giant calendar both to track progress on a project and spur him to keep at it. Small sketches and copied pages from his notebooks show how he’ll code an entry with small pictograms, then use colored markers or additional notations to chart how things progressed. Each chapter has a single word that appears in blue; readers can finish the chapter or skip to the end to read a brief stand-alone discussion of, say, bullfighting or the Golden Mean. It’s a gimmick, but a fun one. Anyone curious about Petit’s life and art, or hoping to draw inspiration for their own creative coup, will find ideas and insights in Creativity: The Perfect Crime. —HEATHER SEGGEL
LOVE, NINA By Nina Stibbe
Philippe Petit’s famous tightrope walk between the twin towers of the World Trade Center in 1974 was just one of many such performances by the artist. He made the crossing without a permit or permission to be in the building, so it’s little wonder he thinks of his actions as “coups” and has titled his book Creativity: The Perfect Crime. This is not a how-to book—it’s more of a this-is-how-I primer—but close readers will come away with both inspiration and useful instruction. Petit describes his process of amassing vast amounts of information and linking ideas together before a new project takes shape, storing these files in an imagined hiding place. This fanciful approach is a helpful counterpoint to the reality of practicing on the rope, or with the juggling balls and clubs, for hours daily. When plotting your
daily life and the comings and goings of a fascinating community. Nina gets to know playwright Alan Bennett, stage director Jonathan Miller and well-known biographer Claire Tomalin, among others. Stibbe describes her home (“Most of the plates we use for food, and mugs, are antique. Some chipped. Some nice, some spooky”) and her bright, irrepressible charges (“Will is worried about nuclear war. . . . Sam is envious of all the attention Will’s getting over the nuclear war anxiety. He says he’s got an anxiety too, he can’t say what it is, only that it’s a lot worse than Will’s.”). She also chronicles in a matter-of-fact way Sam’s trips to the hospital resulting from serious health issues. While Nina is a keen observer, we also trace her own coming-of-age journey. Nina finds love not far away and is also encouraged by her new family and friends to set her sights high and pursue an education. When asked, “So have you got all the books on the syllabus?” Nina ruefully admits to her sister: “I didn’t even know what a syllabus was.” Life as a nanny in this family is never dull. And neither is Stibbe’s heartfelt and funny memoir, which reminds us that while days with children may seem ordinary, helping them grow is one of the most extraordinary things we can do.
Little, Brown $25, 336 pages ISBN 9780316243391 Audio, eBook available
AMERICAN CRUCIFIXION By Alex Beam
PublicAffairs $26.99, 352 pages ISBN 9781610393133 Audio, eBook available
Nina Stibbe was 20 years old in 1982 when she moved to London to become the live-in nanny for MaryKay Wilmers, editor of the London Review of Books, and her sons Sam and Will (whose father is film director Stephen Frears). There was no convenient phone, so Nina began sending quirky, funny letters home to her sister to report on her job. Now, more than 30 years later, Stibbe has published these letters, mostly unchanged. The result is a collection of entertaining, if not downright hilarious, vignettes of
Contemporary views of the Mormon Church have been shaped by influences as disparate as the Broadway hit The Book of Mormon, the HBO series “Big Love” and the presidential campaign of Mitt Romney. Suffice it to say that most Americans have a shallow understanding of Mormonism. Some view Mormons as squeaky-clean apostles doing door-to-door missionary work. Others label Mormons as hedonistic polygamists, even though
—J O H N T. S L A N I A
THE NOBLE HUSTLE By Colson Whitehead
Doubleday $24.95, 256 pages ISBN 9780385537056 eBook available
Could there be a less propitious setting than the Tropicana Poker Room in Atlantic City on a Saturday morning? As Colson Whitehead reveals in The Noble Hustle, a darkly humorous work of participatory reportage that finds him (a decided amateur) attempting to play poker with the pros, the answer is a resounding no. On a typical Saturday morning, folks trickle into the Trop for the weekend tournament—regular types the author sorts into three different but equally undesirable categories: the Methy Mikes, the Robotrons and the Big Mitches. Whitehead’s previous book was the acclaimed zombie novel Zone One, an emotionally scouring horror story with a post-apocalyptic setting and all-too-plausible plot, the writing of which seems to have taken a toll on him. The Noble Hustle opens right after he has wrapped Zone One. Grantland magazine has offered him the assignment of reporting on the World Series of Poker (WSOP) in Las Vegas, but he’s reluctant to take on the project. “Now that I was done with the book, I was starting to feel human again,” Whitehead says. “I wanted to rejoin society, do whatever it is that normal people do when they get together. Drink hormone-free, humanely slaughtered beer. Eat micro-chickens. Compare sadnesses. . . .” Yes, that’s sadnesses, plural, and the usage is all too apt, as Whitehead, we learn, is four days into a divorce. And living in a crappy apartment. And struggling with the “rules of solo parenthood.” Despite—or maybe because of— Whitehead’s blue mood, Hustle is a hoot. Casting himself as hapless protagonist and letting his comedic sensibilities—however cynical—steer the narrative, Whitehead proves an ideal observer of poker culture. Once he agrees to cover the tournament, which will be broadcast on ESPN, he has six weeks to prepare, and so he
begins practicing at the Trop, working with a poker coach and playing against writer buddies in games that are casual rather than cutthroat—all pretty much to no avail. “By disposition,” Whitehead writes, “I was keyed into the entropic part of gambling, which says that eventually you will lose it all.” At the WSOP, he holds his own for a while, but by the end of the first day, he’s “a lump of quivering human meat.” Whitehead writes with authority about poker and provides plenty of play-by-play action, but the tale he tells is much more than that of an odds-against-him novice. It’s also the story of a writer befuddled by fatherhood and middle age. Whitehead may not triumph at the tables, but his new book is a winner. —J U L I E H A L E
CLOUDS OF GLORY By Michael Korda
be and how to put into practice the lessons he learned from studying Napoleon at West Point. Accompanied by 30 maps of battles and dozens of illustrations, Korda’s deftly painted portrait depicts a man whose strength of conviction established him as a great leader just as it caused him to make painful decisions. When Virginia seceded, Lee resigned his commission as Colonel of the 1st Regt. Of Cavalry, painfully bringing to an end his 36-year career, because he “would not participate in any Union attack against the South.” Korda illustrates Lee’s complexity as a Southerner who disagreed with secession and disliked slavery, but would fight to defend his beloved state of Virginia. Lee emerges from Korda’s biography as a “fallible human being whose strengths were courage, his sense of duty, his religious belief, his military genius, his constant search to do right, and his natural and instinctive courtesy.” —HENRY L. CARRIGAN JR.
Harper $40, 832 pages ISBN 9780062116291 eBook available
A Southern Girl: A Novel by John Warley (Foreward by Therese Anne Fowler)
From the Duke boys’ car named the General Lee on the “Dukes of Hazzard” TV show to his appearance on a U.S. postage stamp, Robert E. Lee has come to “embody and glorify a defeated cause,” Michael Korda asserts in a monumental new biography, Clouds of Glory: The Life and Legend of Robert E. Lee. Korda, a former publishing executive and author of many books, including a popular biography of U.S. Grant, exhaustively explores Lee’s life and times, probing the Southern general’s personality, his political and religious views, and the brilliant military strategies that catapulted him into the position of commander of the Confederate armies. The book traces Lee’s life from his relationship with his father, the famous light cavalry leader, Light Horse Harry Lee, to his college days at West Point— where he graduated as one of the top three in his class. When the Civil War began, his early battles in the Virginia mountains showed Lee how difficult the coming war would
9781611173918 $29.95 • Hardcover 9781611173925 $29.95 • eBook In this first novel from Pat Conroy’s Story River Books imprint, the worlds of privilege and poverty collide in a rich narrative of identity, belonging, dedication, and love. Blessed Experiences: Genuinely Southern, Proudly Black by James E. Clyburn (Foreword by Alfre Woodard)
9781611173376 $34.95 • Hardcover 9781611173383 $34.95 • eBook In his compelling memoir, U.S. Congressman James Clyburn tells how an African American boy from the Jim Crow-era South was able to beat the odds through a lifetime of service.
R E A D M O R E AT B O O K PA G E . C O M
multiple marriages have been prohibited for more than a century by the official Mormon Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Journalist Alex Beam tries to provide some context in his historical narrative, American Crucifixion: The Murder of Joseph Smith and the Fate of the Mormon Church. The book doesn’t try to correct the stereotypes of contemporary society. Rather, American Crucifixion explains the origins of Mormonism and shows that from the start, the faith was viewed with suspicion and hounded by detractors. Beam tells the story of Joseph Smith, a humble farm boy from upstate New York who said an angel had told him about a set of golden plates bearing the religious history of America. Smith said the angel directed him to the buried plates, and he set about translating them into the Book of Mormon, which was published in 1830. The 600-page book was a retelling of the Bible, including a story of two ancient tribes of Israel that made their way to America and buried the golden plates in the hope of future discovery. After claiming to find the plates, Smith declared himself a prophet and founded the Church of Christ. Critics immediately lashed out at Smith and his new religion, and the Mormons were repeatedly ostracized and uprooted, marching westward to Ohio and later to Missouri. Mormonism became even more controversial when Smith started accumulating multiple wives and polygamy became an accepted part of the faith. It was in the Mississippi River town of Nauvoo, Illinois, that tensions reached a crescendo. Upset with Smith’s polygamy policy and his building of a temple, locals imprisoned him in neighboring Carthage, Illinois. Beam gives a vivid description of the events of June 27, 1844, when a mob stormed the jail, killing Smith and his brother, Hyrum, his would-be successor. It was church leader Brigham Young who assumed control, leading the Mormons once again westward to Utah. American Crucifixion details the mystery and controversy that has followed Mormonism from its inception. The book provides important perspective as to why today, some still violently reject its doctrine, while others follow with faith.
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Don’t talk about this book
ow do you talk about a story so shrouded in secrecy, its own heroine doesn’t know what’s going on? Here’s what we do know: The characters in E. Lockhart’s 10th novel are members of a privileged American family. We know that a private island is involved, on which both intense friendship and romance bloom. But anything else we think we know could be a lie.
Fortunately, Lockhart, author of the 2009 Printz Honor-winning The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, is willing to tiptoe through some of the details. We Were Liars is told from the point of view of 17-year-old Cadence Sinclair Eastman, when she returns to the island off the coast of Cape Cod where she and her family—and one special friend— spend every summer. But “summer seventeen” is marred by questions surrounding a mysterious accident that occurred two years ago, leaving Cady with unexplained injuries, including chronic migraines and selective amnesia. Why did she go swimming by herself the night of the accident? Why are her aunts and cousins acting so strangely? And what dark secrets lie beneath her family’s proud exterior? It’s no surprise that Lockhart is good at keeping secrets, as her real name is Emily Jenkins. (“Lockhart” was her grandmother’s maiden name.) She has written several children’s books and two adult books using her real name, but has found something special writing for teens.
WE WERE LIARS
will undoubtedly want to revisit Cady’s reminiscences, looking for clues as to what really happened that fateful summer. Cady’s debilitating migraines echo the real-life experiences of people Lockhart knows, forming an important aspect of her storytelling. “I was interested both in the way that chronic pain affects one’s sense of oneself, and the way it would feel to live a life where you’re often taken out of your own life story for days at a time—and then have to reinsert yourself into it.” Similarly, Cady’s pain forces her to periodically retreat from her own storyline. Ever since Robert Cormier, an early pioneer of YA literature, penned I Am the Cheese in 1977, unusual narrative forms and unreliable narrators have found a welcome home in YA fiction. Cady’s narration both echoes and elaborates on this tradition. “I think we’re seeing a lot of formal experimentation and play,” Lockhart says. “There are lots of hybrid novels, mixing graphic and traditional storytelling. . . . You’re seeing more YA books that are influenced by postmodernism, in a playful, fun way. Young people love it—they’re ready to go forward with a new narrative device.” These shifting formats involve “asking a lot of the reader,” but that works fine with Lockhart’s conception of teens: “Readers [of YA lit] might be reading about, learning about or experiencing certain things for the first time. But that doesn’t mean disrespecting or devaluing their intellectual or emotional capabilities.” For many teens, including Cady, summers constitute entire separate
worlds, distinct from regular schoolyear life but every bit as meaningful. In fact, readers see so little of Cady’s school year that it almost seems not to exist. Only her summers, peppered with intense architectural and culinary detail, seem real. Lockhart has an abiding interest in these sorts of immersive environments, ranging from her love of the eccentric, iconic NYC restaurant Jekyll & Hyde Club to wax museums. “They are creepy,” she admits. “But I like artificial environments and any kind of fictional spaces. There’s a story in every waxwork. I like the dioramas the best, where there’s a narrative being created. I like that mix of reality and unreality.” Lockhart holds a doctorate in English literature and loves the connections between her academic work and writing for teens. She argues that both academia and fandom are valid ways to connect with literature. Reinterpretations of contemporary works, such as fan fiction, fan art, board games and video games, “are interpretations of popular texts that might say something different [from what] a classic college reading of those same texts would generate.” In the end, Lockhart says, writing for teens is about “just trying to write the story and tell the story truthfully.” Truthfully? Well, maybe with a few lies thrown in here and there.
R E A D M O R E AT B O O K PA G E . C O M
By E. Lockhart
Delacorte, $17.99, 240 pages ISBN 9780385741262, audio, eBook available Ages 12 and up
“I really like being a member of the young adult fiction community,” Lockhart tells BookPage from her home in the New York City area. “There are issues around which the community galvanizes: literacy issues and freedom of speech issues. I never found that kind of public-minded dialogue and enterprise in my short time in the adult fiction world. As a maker of literature, or a writer or artist . . . as a person, it was a much better fit than anything I had done before.” In her latest YA novel, We Were Liars, the suspense-laden narrative is interrupted by flashbacks and snippets of fairy tales such as “Beauty and the Beast,” elements that gradually become more connected to the main story. “All of the fairy tales begin, ‘Once upon a time there was a king who had three beautiful daughters,’ ” Lockhart says. “I took a lot of those fairy tales and used them, and variations of them, to tell the story of this family.” Although no actual royalty lives on Beechwood Island, the Sinclair family patriarch, Cady’s grandfather, fills a parallel role. His three beautiful daughters compete for his affection—and for the best parts of his inheritance. As the fairy-tale daughters profess their love and ask for gifts, the Sinclair daughters turn to increasingly desperate tactics to claim the island’s choicest sections for themselves. And as unsuitable suitors find their way into the fairy tales, Cady also finds herself in love with a boy of whom her grandfather intensely disapproves. As her mother and aunts squabble for their share, Cady struggles to fill in the missing pieces of summer fifteen. Flashbacks provided a challenge to Lockhart, both in terms of their content and their placement within the primary narrative. “Those could be moved and then reworked depending on where they settled. Those were rearranged many, many, many times,” Lockhart says. Readers
© HEATHER WESTON
BY JILL RATZAN
reviews SHE IS NOT INVISIBLE
The young leading the blind REVIEW BY NORAH PIEHL
When 16-year-old Laureth receives an email stating that her writer father’s notebook (which he’s never without) has been found in New York, rather than in Switzerland or Austria (where she thought he was), she suspects that something very bad has happened to her dad. Her mother doesn’t seem to care about the missing notebook, or about her father’s inability to return voicemails. So Laureth takes matters into her own hands, enlisting her 7-year-old brother Benjamin (and his inseparable stuffed raven named Stan) to help her travel from London to New York in search of their father. Why does she need her younger brother’s help? Because Laureth is blind, and although she can quite capably navigate the landmarks of her home, school and neighborhood, she knows she can’t negotiate international travel on her own without seeming helpless or vulnerable—the very last things she wants to be. By Marcus Sedgwick Soon Laureth and Benjamin are involved in a tense and risky search. Roaring Brook, $16.99, 224 pages Even after they find their dad’s notebook, which is filled with increasingISBN 9781596438019, audio, eBook available ly cryptic and disordered notes about the power and limits of coinciAges 12 and up dence, they can’t find the man himself—and it appears they may not be SUSPENSE the only ones trying to track down his trail. Sedgwick’s remarkable novel is reminiscent of Siobhan Dowd’s The London Eye Mystery in its sensitive and perceptive portrayal of difference, as well as its recognition that all kinds of people can investigate mysteries and solve problems. The narration from Laureth’s point of view manages to be rich and detailed without relying on visual descriptions. Most importantly, Laureth is depicted as a complex and vibrant character quite apart from her blindness, a fully realized person for whom courage is a daily decision rather than an extraordinary virtue. She Is Not Invisible is not only a compelling thriller; it’s also a portrayal of disability that is neither patronizing nor aggrandizing, but rather exquisitely sympathetic and true.
A CREATURE OF MOONLIGHT By Rebecca Hahn
HMH $17.99, 224 pages ISBN 9780544109353 eBook available Ages 12 and up
R E A D M O R E AT B O O K PA G E . C O M
With books meant for younger readers, it can be far too easy to tell where a story is going. There are certain tropes that telegraph the ending, like evil being vanquished, the protagonist struggling with a quest and so on. One of the best things about Rebecca Hahn’s A Creature of Moonlight is that the story doesn’t go where you think it might, and yet it still flows naturally. The plot sounds like something you might expect in a fantasy: Young country girl Marni comes of age and must decide if she will challenge the
evil king for her royal birthright or remain at home. Should she exact revenge on the king for killing her princess mother? Will she follow the voices into the woods and join her dragon father? Both? Neither? Marni must decide whether to find her place in the “normal” world at court or follow her heart and become a wild, magical thing—or maybe those aren’t really the choices. Maybe life is more complicated than that. What makes Hahn’s story so satisfying is that all of her characters are truly human. Sure, some of them possess a kind of magic, but they are whole people—neither all bad nor all good—who experience internal as well as external conflicts, who make mistakes and bad choices and learn to live with them. Hahn’s prose is slow and delicious, building to a denouement that is both thrilling and surprising. It’s also exciting to know this is her first novel. I don’t expect her to write about these particular characters
again, as A Creature of Moonlight doesn’t have the sense of being part of a series, but whatever she writes will be worth the read—and hopefully will be full of more surprises. —J E N N I F E R B R U E R K I T C H E L
GIRL IN REVERSE By Barbara Stuber McElderry $17.99, 336 pages ISBN 9781442497344 eBook available Ages 12 and up
In 1951, adopted teenager Lily’s Chinese features attract the wrong kind of attention from classmates at her Kansas City high school. The United States is at war, defending South Korea from the invasion of Chinese Communists via North Korea. Propaganda designed to
gain American support for the war features evil, slanted-eyed Commies eager to destroy any nation that blocks its path to supremacy, including the U.S. Lily wonders why her Chinese birth mother, whom she now thinks of as “Gone Mom,” could have abandoned her daughter to this fate of ethnic isolation. In today’s world, Chinese daughters thrive all over the U.S. But in Lily’s time, the rules of segregation reign. Mr. Howard, a black man who works as a janitor at Lily’s school, witnesses her anguish and steps in as a mentor, helping her cope with prejudice. Author Barbara Stuber captures Lily’s isolation beautifully: “I am a Chinese character without a plot.” Lily’s white parents seem shallow, concerned only with appearances, but her half-brother Ralph, with his jug ears and stinking feet, comes alive as Lily’s one true ally. A subplot involving a potential romance with an artist named Elliot pales in comparison to Ralph’s exuberant love for his sister. Girl in Reverse is a worthy follow-up to Stuber’s 2010 debut, Crossing the Tracks, a finalist for the William C. Morris Debut Award. There are many pieces that must come together to reveal Lily’s past: a box in the attic containing things left by Gone Mom; Elliot’s perceptive artwork; the owners of a Chinese restaurant; and the recollections of Sister Evangeline from the orphanage. The integration of all these pieces strains the story’s pace and requires near-magical coincidences, but it is in keeping with Sister Evangeline’s comment, “A complicated past is best understood a bit at a time.” —DIANE COLSON
DEEP BLUE By Jennifer Donnelly
Disney Hyperion $17.99, 352 pages ISBN 9781423133162 eBook available Ages 12 and up
Mermaid princess Serafina is nervous. Today’s the day she’ll prove herself a true descendant of her famous ancestor Merrow in the royal family’s traditional Dokimí ceremo-
TEEN ny. She’ll demonstrate her worthiness to rule through “songcasting” a complex musical spell, and the day will end with her formal betrothal to the handsome but rebellious crown prince Mahdi. But when a surprise attack interrupts the ceremony, Serafina and her friend Neela must flee the kingdom of Miromara and swim for their lives into unknown waters. Using both magic and their wits to escape their pursuers, they encounter a variety of fantastical sea creatures— some allies and some enemies. They also learn of political plots and secret alliances, and most importantly, they discover that they, along with four other teenage mer, are destined to find a series of hidden talismans to save the world’s oceans from an ancient monster. Like many tales set in imaginary landscapes, Deep Blue is full of invented words. Author Jennifer Donnelly’s twist is to openly acknowledge the various languages from which these terms derive, especially Latin and Greek (for example, a velo spell confers speed, and a canta magus is a powerful singer). Puns and ocean-based details abound: Teens sneak out at night to go shoaling, and trade initiatives involve the exchange of “currensea.” The action is well paced, and many chapters end with cliffhangers that draw readers further into the story. The first book in a planned quartet, Deep Blue combines fantasy adventure, court intrigue and even a touch of teenage sarcasm in an accessible, fast-moving narrative that will leave readers eagerly awaiting the next installment of the Waterfire Saga. —J I L L R A T Z A N
By Mariko Tamaki
Illustrated by Jillian Tamaki First Second $17.99, 320 pages ISBN 9781596437746 Ages 12 and up
For Rose, summers at Awago Beach are a constant. She and her parents have been renting a cottage there for as long as she can remember, and none of the changes in her
WHAT I THOUGHT WAS TRUE
Gretchen Müller is a Nazi darling. Ever since her father died protecting Adolf Hitler in 1923, Uncle “Dolf” and his National Socialist cronies look out for Gretchen and her family. It’s Uncle Dolf who gets Gretchen’s mother a job running a Munich boarding house and indoctrinates Gretchen’s brother into the Nazi party. And it’s Uncle Dolf whom Gretchen loves like a father. Then one fateful night in 1931 she meets Daniel Cohen, a Jewish reporter, who claims he has information that Gretchen’s father was not martyred for the Nazi cause, but was murdered for the cause. At first Gretchen refuses to believe him. After all, she’s been taught that Jews are dangerous subhumans. But the more information she digs up about her father’s death, the more she sees Daniel as an ally, one she finds both attractive and kind. When a brutal assault leaves her abandoned by the Nazis who are supposed to protect her, Gretchen finally sees her beloved Uncle Dolf for the man history knows him to be: a psychopath. Anne Blankman’s masterful debut novel is a suspenseful mystery involving the most notorious and nefarious historical figures of the 20th century. Blankman portrays Hitler as one would imagine him to be: charismatic but manipulative, cruel and deeply disturbed (his relationship with his half-niece is highly unnerving). With Prisoner of Night and Fog, readers shouldn’t expect an alternate history. The outcome will still be the same: the eventual extermination of 10 million innocent people, 6 million of them Jews. But what readers can expect is the transformation of a teenage girl entrenched in Nazi propaganda into a young woman determined to expose the Nazi’s true plans in hopes of changing the world for the better. A sequel set in 1933 is forthcoming.
Set on the beaches of a fictional island located off the coast of Connecticut, What I Thought Was True is the story of a young woman learning firsthand of the mystifying intricacies of love, lust, luxury and loyalty—and how each can change drastically for her friends, her family and herself. High school junior Gwen Castle is the half-Portuguese daughter of a divorced housecleaner and an offbrand fast-food restaurant owner. She lives in a cramped house on Shell Island with nearly her entire family, all of whom work multiple jobs to help pay the bills. Gwen’s life couldn’t differ more from that of Cassidy Somers, an attractive, wealthy boy and her own personal Kryptonite. Cassidy is the picture of wealth and class—just another one of the stereotypical, WASP-y “summer people” who escape to Gwen’s island to enjoy her beaches for the warmer months. But when he takes a summer job as a lawn boy—work typically reserved for the regulars of the island—Gwen begins to think that there could be more to Cassidy than his family’s money and prestige, and that their random hookup from last year just might have something more hidden within it than simple carnal release. Huntley Fitzpatrick worked as an editor for Harlequin publishing for many years before penning her first novel, My Life Next Door, which was a RITA Award finalist and a YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults title. What I Thought Was True, her second novel, continues on the same path, tempering young love and attraction with the realities of human existence—something writers too often forget when crafting their idyllic stories of young love. It also reminds us how the facets of class and money can alter, sometimes unfairly, our perceptions of people, including ourselves.
— M O L LY H O R A N
— K I M B E R LY G I A R R A T A N O
—J U S T I N B A R I S I C H
By Anne Blankman Balzer + Bray $17.99, 416 pages ISBN 9780062278814 Audio, eBook available Ages 13 and up
By Huntley Fitzpatrick
Dial $17.99, 416 pages ISBN 9780803739093 eBook available Ages 14 and up
R E A D M O R E AT B O O K PA G E . C O M
THIS ONE SUMMER
PRISONER OF NIGHT AND FOG
life can alter the yearly trip to the beach—not even her parents’ sudden surge of fights. She’s reunited with her best beach friend Windy, and at first everything falls into the usual rhythm. But her mother won’t join in the fun, no matter how hard Rose and her father try to pull her in, and the year-and-a-half age gap that separates Rose from Windy seems bigger than before. As things between her parents get worse and Windy seems This One more and more Summer irritating, Rose focuses on the effortlessly drama surcaptures the rounding the moment local DVD rental store and the when the cute boy who adult world works behind the counter. begins to She and Windy seep into discover that childhood’s his girlfriend is summertime pregnant, but Rose is certain rituals. her crush isn’t at fault. Written and illustrated by the team behind the critically acclaimed graphic novel Skim (2008), This One Summer perfectly captures the comfort of returning to a safe place steeped in tradition, and the dawning realization that no matter how static a place may stay, the process of growing up forces a change in feelings and perceptions. Author Mariko Tamaki does a masterful job of tackling issues often shied away from in young adult novels, such as the instinct to blame a girl for an unplanned pregnancy rather than the boy, either out of jealousy or a sense of societal norms. Tamaki also excels at weaving in questions of bodies and boys in an authentic preteen voice. Illustrator Jillian Tamaki’s artwork complements the story perfectly, slowing it down when the pace needs to be calmed and focusing on unusual details—such as what it’s like to look through a gummy candy—to really connect the reader to the scenes. This One Summer is a beautiful book in more ways than one and will have readers eager for summer vacation. Its illustrations will stay with you as much as the unique-yet-relatable narrative.
reviews RULES OF SUMMER
Imagination’s lessons REVIEW BY JULIE DANIELSON
I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that Shaun Tan’s books are breathtaking—just consider his wordless graphic novel, The Arrival. But the effect is even more astounding when he puts words and images together, as he’s done in Rules of Summer. There is an underlying beauty to his work that transcends our everyday lives. His design sense is striking, and he pushes the boundaries of picture books in delightful ways. As the title of his latest offering indicates, readers are given a series of rules, as a young boy looks back on the previous summer to share what he’s learned. But don’t expect rules that in any way embrace mundane realism. Tan always takes us on fantastical journeys, and this one is filled with mystery, fear, wonder and magic—all with the boy’s older brother by his side. “Never eat the last olive at a party,” we read with an illustration By Shaun Tan showing oversize, sharp-beaked creatures in suits, glaring at the boy who Arthur A. Levine, $18.99, 48 pages is reaching for the last olive on a dinner party plate. Stepping on a snail ISBN 9780545639125, all ages could immediately call forth a vicious tornado, and leaving the back door open can invite sea-like alien creatures that might overtake your den. PICTURE BOOK But it’s not all menace. There are parades with wildly imaginative creatures; a baseball-esque game with robots (just don’t argue with the umpire); and a luminous world towering over short concrete walls attempting to contain it (don’t forget the password, since big brother will ask for it). And Tan wraps it all up with a series of spreads connected by an emotionally poignant thread about brotherhood. The rich, lush paintings are for poring over, as there is much to be found in Tan’s details. They tell cryptic tales that leave ample room for the child reader to wonder and reflect. The very title is deliciously fun, given that Tan is always up for subverting the standard storytelling rules of picture books. Compelling and evocative, Rules of Summer is a great choice for both diehard Tan fans and those coming to his inventive books for the first time. Illustration © 2014 by Shaun Tan. Reprinted by permission of Scholastic.
THE MEANING OF MAGGIE By Megan Jean Sovern
R E A D M O R E AT B O O K PA G E . C O M
Chronicle $16.99, 224 pages ISBN 9781452110219 eBook available Ages 8 to 12
If you are—or ever were—a kid who couldn’t wait for school to start in September, get ready to meet Magnolia Jane Mayfield. It’s 1988, and Maggie’s starting sixth grade. She’s thrilled to have a lunch table all to herself, because she can spread out her books better that way. Her mother has a new and glamorous (or at any rate, glamorous-sounding) job; her father tells jokes even while his limbs get increasingly “sleepy”; and a boy named Clyde is beginning to make her understand her older sisters’
interest in lip gloss. But her career aspirations come first: After all, she plans to be president of the United States someday. Maggie’s fear and confusion as she learns more about her father’s illness are direct and authentic. A contemporary tween would go online for information, not chase after a missing encyclopedia volume as Maggie does, but the retro feel only adds to the charm. The Meaning of Maggie does for middle-grade fiction what John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars did for teen literature: Both portray coping with serious illness as one aspect of a complex character, not as the single issue that defines them. Details of life with multiple sclerosis are spot-on, but what ultimately stands out is the way Maggie describes her world, including her footnoted observations about everything from butterscotch to the unbreakable Law of Mom. Funny, sweet, smart and poignant, this is a book not to miss. —J I L L R A T Z A N
THE BOUNDLESS By Kenneth Oppel
Simon & Schuster $16.99, 336 pages ISBN 9781442472884 Audio, eBook available Ages 8 to 12
From the best-selling author of Airborn and This Dark Endeavor comes another cinematic adventure. In this historical steampunk folktale, young William Everett is traveling across Canada on the maiden voyage of The Boundless. With seven miles of cars, including enough freight cars to form a circus “town,” The Boundless is the longest train in the world. When Will witnesses a murder related to the railway’s golden spike, hidden in the former railway president’s funeral car, he finds himself the next mur-
der target. Hiding from a villainous brakeman and his accomplices is no easy feat, especially on a moving train that winds along perilous curves, through pitch-black tunnels and lands inhabited by menacing creatures. As Will notices his world becoming larger and stranger, his daring escape becomes an opportunity to reinvent himself and discover his artistic talents. With real-life historical figures, literary allusions, astonishing gadgets and scary beasts, this atmospheric pageturner is indeed boundless with nonstop action. —ANGELA LEEPER
THREE BIRD SUMMER By Sara St. Antoine Candlewick $16.99, 256 pages ISBN 9780763665647 Ages 10 and up
For the first time ever, it will just be Adam, his mom and his aging grandmother at their cabin on Three Bird Lake. His parents have recently divorced, and although it will be a different kind of summer, 12-yearold Adam looks forward to escaping the routine of school, sitting on the dock by himself and watching the loons. But his grandmother has other ideas and decides he should learn to canoe around the lake by himself. After disappointing her with his inept efforts, he finds a curious note in her handwriting that sends his summer in a new direction. There has been talk of a cute new girl in the neighborhood, and Adam resists his family’s expectation that they’ll become boyfriend and girlfriend. But when Adam and Alice take a daylong canoe trip, she turns out to be much better friend material than he’d expected. The two end up spending every day of the summer together, canoeing, swimming and tackling a mystery set in place years ago when his grandmother was young and in love with someone else—not Adam’s grandfather. Three Bird Summer will charm readers with its tale of a summer that is very different indeed. —BILLIE B. LITTLE
AGAINST THE GRAIN BY JULIE HALE
Go your own way
eaturing creatures with outsize personalities whose slightly subversive behavior is hugely hilarious, the picture books featured below are about defying expectations and bending the rules. Young readers, show the world who you really are!
HOLLYWOOD STARS And the Best Comedy Award goes to . . . Richard T. Morris and Tom Lichtenheld for their screwball offering, This Is a Moose (Little, Brown, $18, 48 pages, ISBN 9780316213608). Set in the woods during the shooting of a movie, this zany tale is the story of a star who eludes the typecasting trap and pursues new dreams. The lead, a moose with broad antlers and a defiant stance, has something to declare: He wants to be an astronaut! Clad as a spaceman, he steps before the camera, causing the di-
rector to call “cut”—the first of many such eruptions, as the star and his animal pals usurp the production. With gags aimed at grownups, showbiz jokes and a quintessential dictator-director, this is a brilliant send-up of cinema culture. On this set, a bear serves as gaffer, a chimp mans the camera, and a kangaroo wields the clapper. Lichtenheld is the real director here: His antic illustrations in ink, pencil and gouache make Moose a future classic. Readers will applaud this behind-the-scenes movie spoof.
the title of your Q: What’s new book?
would you describe Q: How the book?
has been the biggest influence on your work? Q: Who
was your favorite subject in school? Why? Q: What
was your childhood hero? Q: Who
books did you enjoy as a child? Q: What
HOW-TO HIGH JINKS Camp Rex (Viking, $16.99, 40 pages, ISBN 9780670785735), Molly Idle’s madcap sleepaway adventure, features the blue-eyed tykes from her previous book, Tea Rex. This time around, the proceedings are less civilized, as blonde and beaming Cordelia and her impish younger brother (with teddy bear in tow) rough it in the wilderness with four grinning, agreeable dinosaurs. No regulation troupe, this! Led by the granddaddy of them all, T. Rex, whose kit consists of a red neckerchief and a minuscule scout hat, the gang goes on a march and (after some inexpert attempts at pitching tents) sets up camp. When it comes time to gather round the fire, T. Rex tears a tree from the ground, attaches marshmallows to the roots and gets to roasting! Idle plays it straight in the text, adopting a serious, howto-camp tone that stands in hilarious contrast to her genius drawings. This is an irresistible trip readers will want to go on again and again.
one thing would you like to learn to do? Q: What
message would you like to send to young readers? Q: What
GRAVITY Jason Chin pairs epic, imaginative illustrations with spare text to transform the concept of Gravity (Roaring Brook, $16.99, 32 pages, ISBN 9781596437173, ages 5 to 9) into an accessible lesson for young readers. Chin lives with his wife and their son in Burlington, Vermont.
R E A D M O R E AT B O O K PA G E . C O M
Delightfully demonstrating the adage that there’s “nothing to fear but fear itself,” Jill Esbaum’s I Am Cow, Hear Me Moo! (Dial, $16.99, 32 pages, ISBN 9780803735248) is a triumphant tale of self-reliance that features, of all creatures, a cow. In the barnyard one day, Nadine boasts about her own bravery, impressing her cow comrades, Starla and Nanette. To test her courage, the two suggest a trek to the forest. Nadine is game, although the sight of the woods— overgrown, dark and dense—quickly sparks fear in her heart. Nadine discovers that she loves the woods, but when she becomes separated from her friends and night falls, she’s terrified. With a twitch of her own tail, she spooks herself and takes off at a mad trot. But she soon bumps into her buddies, who were hopelessly lost. Convinced that Nadine saved them, they celebrate her as a hero—not quite the truth, Nadine knows, but close enough! Esbaum’s rollicking, rhymed lines give this inspiring story momentum, while Gus Gordon’s clever mixed-media illustrations will draw the kiddos in for a closer look. Who knew that fear could be fun?
meet JASON CHIN
BY THE EDITORS OF MERRIAM WEBSTER
AN INFAMOUS NAME Dear Editor: A while back I read a John le Carré novel that contained a word I’d never encountered before. The word was quisling, and in the novel it said that “burning paper was a Quisling act.” Is there a verb to quisle? If so, I can’t find it. S. J. Springfield, Illinois Quisling is not the present participle of a verb, but rather a proper name, used in much the same way we use Benedict Arnold to mean “a traitor.” It comes from the name of a Nazi collaborator during World War II, Vidkun Quisling. Quisling served as Norway’s minister of defense from 1931 to 1933, but resigned to found a fascist political party called the National Union whose platform called for the suppression of Communism and unionism. He met with Adolf Hitler in December 1939, urging the Germans to occupy Norway. The Germans invaded in April, and Quisling pro-
claimed himself head of the government. Widely and bitterly opposed, he lasted only a week in this position. He continued to serve in the occupational government, however, and in 1942 was named “minister president” by the Germans. Quisling’s attempts to convert Norway to National Socialism aroused fervent opposition. After the liberation of Norway in 1945, Quisling was found guilty of treason and other crimes (including the deaths of nearly 1,000 Jews) and was executed. His name has been used synonymously with traitor since 1940.
PARTY POOPER Dear Editor: Recently, I came across the phrase skeleton at the feast. I couldn’t quite tell what it meant from the context, although I have a couple of ideas. Can you help? N. T. Miami, Florida The phrase skeleton at the feast is explained by the ancient Greek writer Plutarch. According to Plutarch,
the ancient Egyptians would place a skeleton at their feasts as a reminder of mortality amid the festivities. It is unclear whether this reminder was meant to encourage the partygoers to indulge while they could or to put a damper on things. Today the phrase generally is used to refer to a source of depression or reminder of depressing things on an otherwise festive occasion. It is also used to mean someone who makes it difficult for others to enjoy themselves, a person also often called a wet blanket. The term wet blanket came into use in the mid-1800s for someone or something that quenches or dampens the enthusiasm or enjoyment of others, just as a literal wet blanket quenches a fire.
FLOWERY CREATION Dear Editor: Where did the word posy, meaning “flower,” come from? My dictionary says posy is archaic, but I find it to be a popular word, far from being archaic. W. C. Boalsburg, Pennsylvania
You’re right, the “flower” sense of posy is certainly not archaic. Posy has a few different meanings, and “a flower” is in fact the most recent one. It gets plenty of use. Perhaps your dictionary is referring to the original meaning of the word, “a brief sentiment, motto, or legend, often in verse,” which was once popular but is now rarely used. Posy was born in the 16th century as an alteration of the word poesy, a synonym of poetry. After that original sense, a second sense of the word quickly sprang up: “a bouquet of flowers; nosegay.” Perhaps the “bouquet” meaning came from the idea that an arrangement of flowers is as lovely as a poem. In any case, it’s apparent that the “flower” sense then developed from the “bouquet” sense, giving us the meaning of posy we hear most often today.
Send correspondence regarding Word Nook to: Language Research Service P.O. Box 281 Springfield, MA 01102
Test Your Mental Mettle with Puzzles from BANANA TREES
BANANA SPLITS LEVEL
Use the 15 tiles in this bunch to fill in each
For each of the three
For each of
of the four grids below. To get you started,
words below, change
a few tiles from the bunch have been placed
one letter to an
in each grid. Using the remaining tiles in the
and then rearrange
change one letter to an
bunch, find words that complete each grid.
the letters to spell a
and then rearrange the letters
type of fish.
to spell a type of spice or herb.
AWE 1. 2. T A A COA T COUNT U WE U T UNT RU E R E U T
ANSWERS: TUNA, CARP, BASS; SALT, DILL, CLOVE
3. T U N A C W U AU T O T E E R
4. U T AUNT C AW E URO T E
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