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BEACH BOOKS

america’s book review

Our top picks for vacation reading— guaranteed to make a splash!

Look inside to start your escape...


paperback picks penguin.com

Body Work

Can’t Hurry Love

The Constantine Covenant

The Devilish Montague

The last thing V.I. Warshawski was expecting when she showed up at Chicago’s Club Gouge was that she’d wind up cradling a dying performance artist in an alley. A PTSD-stricken soldier is presumed guilty of the murder, but it’s up to V.I. to find out what kinds of shady activities are really happening at Club Gouge.

Liam Bennett staked his claim to Tanti Baci winery after stepping in to help the Baci sisters save their family legacy. But Giuliana Baci doubts his motives. With the fate of the winery on the line, the former lovers need to get a handle on their barely leashed hostilities…

1944: Nazi agents are gathering ancient items that together could turn the tide of the war. What Special Agent Matt Harris discovers is a plot that crosses all battle lines, reaching beyond mere victory in war. Hart must uncover a secret that has shaped the history of the world before it is used to seal the fate of millions.

All Blake Montague wants is to save Europe from a tyrant. But as the penniless youngest son of a baron, he needs a marriage of convenience to provide the money he requires for a military commission. Then he meets a blonde beauty who can fulfill all his needs—especially those satisfied by a wife.

9780451413086 • $9.99

9780425242100 • $7.99

9780515149609 • $9.99

9780451234056 • $7.99

An Irresistible Bachelor

One Summer

The Prophecy

The Vigilantes

Art conservator Callie Burke’s new assignment is restoring a masterpiece owned by ruthless, wealthy, and sexy politico Jack Walker. When she’s persuaded to move into Jack’s sprawling estate to finish the job, a mere business proposition turns into something far more complicated—and passionate.

When former U.S. Marine photojournalist Gabriel St. James arrives in Shelter Bay to help out a fellow Marine, the last thing he expects is to meet a woman like Charity. But as summer unfolds, and Gabe finds reasons to extend his stay in Shelter Bay, he and Charity realize that there’s nothing simple about falling in love, and nothing easy about the choices of the heart.

After discovering a message written in a series of codes and ancient languages a young woman is prompted to seek out former Special Forces Operatives Jonathan Payne and David Jones for help. Unfortunately, their meeting is interrupted by an assassin whose only mission is to kill all who know of the secret message.

Murders are on the rise in Philadelphia. Worse for Homicide Sergeant Matt Payne, the main suspect is leaving evidence for police to find. But when copycat killings start popping up due to vigilante groups dealing out their own justice, Payne must find out who’s behind the chaos before the violence overtakes the city.

9780451234001 • $7.99

9780425242056 • $9.99

9780451230980 • $7.99

9780515149593 • $9.99

All-new in the New York Times bestselling drop-dead funny series.

Vampire Queen Betsy Taylor thought she couldn’t die. So what’s she doing in the morgue? It could have something to do with a time-traveling trip she made, and a foe with a wicked agenda that could finally be the real death of Betsy—if she’s not careful.

BERKLEY

2

A Member of Penguin Group (USA)

9780425241271 • $25.95


contents

july 2011 w w w. B o o k Pa g e . c o m

features

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09 summer suspense Mystery lovers, rejoice! We’ve got even more chills & thrills in store for you

cover story

summer reading

When the days are long and the temperatures are high, it’s time to pour some lemonade and unwind with one of our favorite new releases this summer

09 benjamin black An amateur sleuth in noirish Dublin

Cover illustration © iStockphoto.com/sweetlifephotos

12 stefan merrill block Exploring the line between genius and madness

14 ann napolitano Flannery O’Connor to the rescue

15 ben mezrich The biggest heist you’ve never heard of

18 brainy beach reads True tales for summer reading

20 meg cabot Meet the author of Overbite

28 rosemary clement-moore A magical family with a Texas twist

31 dav pilkey Meet the author-illustrator of Super Diaper Baby 2

departments

reviews 21 Fiction

top pick:

Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan a l s o r e v i e w e d : The Girl in the Blue Beret by Bobbie Ann Mason; Then Came You by Jennifer Weiner; The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield; Twice Born by Maria Mazzantini; Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson; Ladies and Gentlemen by Adam Ross; Once Upon a River by Bonnie Jo Campbell; Conquistadora by Esmeralda Santiago; The Kid by Sapphire; The Gap Year by Sarah Bird

25 NonFiction top pick:

Season to Taste by Molly Birnbaum a l s o r e v i e w e d : Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams; The Optimism Bias by Tali Sharot; The End of Country by Seamus McGraw; La Seduction by Elaine Sciolino; My Year With Eleanor by Noelle Hancock; Thoughts Without Cigarettes by Oscar Hijuelos; Nothing Daunted by Dorothy Wickenden

29 Children’s top pick:

Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading by Tommy Greenwald a l s o r e v i e w e d : Along a Long Road by Frank Viva; Brother Sun, Sister Moon by Katherine Paterson; Sylvia & Aki by Winifred Conkling; It’s the First Day of School . . . Forever! by R.L. Stine; The Silver Bowl by Diane Stanley; Withering Tights by Louise Rennison; My Favorite Band Does Not Exist by Robert T. Jeschonek; Sister Mischief by Laura Goode; Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma

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book clubs author enablers well read audio whodunit lifestyles cooking romance

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columns

BUZZ GIRL by The Secret Speech. Agent 6 opens in 1965, when Leo and his family are sent to New York City to help warm relations between America and the USSR. But tragedy strikes while he’s there, and Moscow denies his request to investigate the wrong done to his family. As publisher Grand Central puts it, this is a “surprising, epic story that spans decades and continents”—and we can’t wait to read it.

big news from irving Our publishing insider gets the skinny on tomorrow’s bestsellers

suspense with smith Good news for fans of intelligent suspense! The final novel in Tom Rob Smith’s Leo Demidov trilogy, Agent 6, will be published in January 2012. The trilogy kicked off in 2008 with the remarkable Child 44, followed

The publishing world is all abuzz: Simon & Schuster’s publisher Jonathan Karp poached John Irving from Random House and signed a two-book deal. S&S will release Irving’s much-anticipated next novel, In One Person, in June 2012, with another book planned for 2015. In One Person claims its title from Shakespeare’s Richard II and irving

explores the life of a 60-year-old bisexual man.

bestseller watch

d.d. warren returns

Release dates for some of the guaranteed blockbusters hitting shelves in July:

Speaking of author switcheroos, best-selling suspense writer Lisa Gardner will publish her next three novels with Dutton (rather than Random House). In winter 2012, we can look forward to reading Catch Me, Gardner’s new book about Detective D.D. Warren. “This time she’s investigating a vigilante killer who is murdering sex offenders in the city of Boston,” explains Gardner on her website.

an all-star adaptation It seems like every day we get more exciting news about the cast of The Hunger Games, Gary Ross’ adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ bestseller. The latest? Lenny Kravitz will play Cinna, Donald Sutherland is President Snow and Woody Harrelson is Haymitch. As we already know, Jennifer Lawrence is Katniss. Can the March 23, 2012, movie release come any sooner?

5 the silent girl By Tess Gerritsen

Ballantine, $26 ISBN 9780345515506 Rizzoli and Isles must crack a crime resonating with bonechilling echoes of an ancient Chinese legend.

12 a dance with dragons By George R.R. Martin

Bantam, $35, ISBN 9780553801477 In Martin’s epic fantasy, the future of the Seven Kingdoms hangs in the balance—beset by newly emerging threats from every direction.

19 portrait of a spy By Daniel Silva

Harper, $26.99 ISBN 9780062072184 Silva’s latest is a breathtaking portrait of courage in the face of unspeakable evil.

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Can Casey hold together her new family— her fiancé and his three kids—when their volatile mother crashes in … and her own secret is revealed?

“ You come away laughing and also touched.” —Tiffany Baker

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Ghosts of the Cold War still haunt Tatiana and Alexander. But their beautiful son is depending on them to learn to trust and love once more.

“High on feeling and suspense.” —Sydney Morning Herald

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This month’s best paperbacks for reading groups

FAMILY IN CRISIS A compelling drama that takes the unpredictable world of medicine as its backdrop, Carol Cassella’s Healer (Simon & Schuster, $15, 320 pages, ISBN 9781416556145) has an authenticity that comes, in part, from the author’s own experience. Cassella is an anesthesiologist, and in her intense, imaginative second novel she examines of-themoment issues in health care and drug research. Claire Boehning is reaping the rewards of her husband

book clubs

author enablers

by julie hale

by kathi kamen goldmark & Sam Barry

Milderhurst, Edie pays a visit to the now-dilapidated manse, which serves as home to Blythe’s slightly daffy elderly daughters. Edie soon discovers that Milderhurst holds secrets for her mother, who was lodged there during the war. Mysteries, past and present, involving matters of the heart abound in this richly atmospheric novel. Moving smoothly through time, the story flashes back to earlier eras that Morton conjures up in vivid detail. Her inventive plot and cast of unforgettable characters make this an irresistible read

TOP PICK FOR BOOK CLUBS

Addison’s flourishing career in biochemistry. But when Addison’s effort to develop a new cancer drug derails, the Boehnings lose everything. Claire, once an aspiring doctor, is forced to take a job at a health clinic, where she befriends Miguela, a Nicaraguan who’s in the United States searching for her family. The new friendship takes Claire down an unexpected—and ominous—road, one that could mean the undoing of her family. Cassella demonstrates great range when it comes to characterization, and her finely calibrated plot keeps the reader turning pages. This is a fascinating and rewarding novel.

A CASTLE’S SECRETS Readers who like a little history with their fiction will be enthralled by Kate Morton’s The Distant Hours (Washington Square Press, $15, 576 pages, ISBN 9781439152799). Drawing on the events of World War II, Morton mixes romance and suspense in an old-fashioned tale that spans five decades. Edie Burchill, a London book editor, is asked to pen the introduction to a children’s story written by the late Raymond Blythe, a popular author and the former proprietor of Milderhurst Castle. After Edie’s mother, Meredith, receives a disturbing letter posted decades ago from

The Widower’s Tale, the fourth novel from National Book Award winner Julia Glass, is an intricately structured family saga with a gruff yet appealing protagonist. Percy Darling, a retired Harvard librarian, savors the solitude of his rural Massachusetts home. A longtime widower at 70, he has settled into a quiet life. But Percy’s peaceful existence is shattered when a preschool moves into a barn that’s on his property. The intrusion forces Percy to rethink the course his life is taking and to re-evaluate old relationships, including those with his daughters, Trudy, a successful doctor, and Clover, an unhappy wife and mother. Once Clover takes a job at the new preschool, Percy finds himself entangled in the institution’s affairs—and falling for the mother of one of its students. This beautifully executed novel is full of twists and turns, as Percy comes to terms with his past and engages more fully with the present. It’s an insightful work from a writer at the top of her game.

The Widower’s Tale By Julia Glass Anchor $15, 480 pages ISBN 9780307456106

fiction

Practical advice on writing and publishing for aspiring authors

BUILDING BUZZ Dear Author Enablers, My daughter just had a novel published by a small company. They are not very helpful in the area of promotion. We have scheduled book signings at the local library and bookstores. What else can we do to get some buzz going? Robin Dinkens Copperas Cove, Texas It sounds like you’re on the right track. Your local library or bookstore can be a great resource, and authors can also reach out to book festivals and book groups. One way to generate interest is to offer a giveaway on a site such as Goodreads.com, where your daughter can also share information about herself, her book and any upcoming events. For more inexpensive do-it-yourself ideas we recommend Publicize Your Book by Jacqueline Deval.

PROUD MAMA Dear Author Enablers, I am writing you about my daughter Sara and I’m afraid it will seem like I’m about to play “Proud Mama!” While I am proud, this truly is not the reason I’m writing. Sara is a creative writing major. Prior to college, she won a worldwide creative writing competition (there are many other accolades and awards as well). Her Mother’s Day gift to me was an originally written and illustrated children’s story called The Cuddle Monsters that is, in my humble opinion, AMAZING. I would love to investigate the possibility of having this story published. Karen Levy Yardley, Pennsylvania We’re parents, too, and we know what it’s like to be proud of your children’s gifts. But how do you get the rest of the world to see what you see? It sounds like in Sara’s case, the world is well on its way. Your enthusiasm and support are understandable, and no doubt appreciated by your daughter. Here’s where the tough love comes in: Getting published is Sara’s job. You need to step back and let her decide: 1. If she wants to be a children’s book author.

2. How to take the first steps toward getting her work published. You can help by being a first-line reader, coach and fan, but for Sara to become a published author, she must embrace the process of finding a literary agent or approaching publishers on her own. There are many books (including ours, Write That Book Already!) that walk the reader through this journey from beginning to end. She can start by finding a literary agent who handles children’s books. The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (www.scbwi.org) is a great resource for finding agents and learning more about the process.

Craft of Writing Spotlight We recently interviewed the delightful Paula McLain at our San Francisco office about her bestseller, The Paris Wife. This evocative novel is drawing readers with its fictionalized account of the marriage between Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley Richardson. “Paris in the 1920s: Can you imagine a more exciting or romantic place to have an adventure?” McLain asks. “I began my research with Hemingway’s memoir, A Moveable Feast, and then moved on to private letters between Hadley and Ernest. I ended up falling in love with them both and developed a huge crush on Ernest Hemingway,” she told us. “The story of their marriage was perfect for a novel—no need to come up with a plot. The real work lay in using the framework of history to find Hadley’s voice, and the truth of these characters’ hearts and minds,” McLain says. “I had to find a place in my imagination where I could explore their more private, interior lives—the parts that were not documented in writing anywhere. Once my imagination was engaged, I’d never felt so energized by a writing project. You have to go with the story that grabs you and won’t let go.” Email your questions about writing to authorenablers@gmail.com. Please include your name and hometown.

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columns

6

WELL READ

audio

by robert Weibezahl

by sukey howard

MACHINATIONS of time

LONG LIVE THE QUEEN

H.G. Wells was not the first writer to imagine time travel, but his 1895 novel, The Time Machine, captured the Victorian imagination and still endures as a canonical work of speculative fiction. Now Spanish writer Félix J. Palma has appropriated the visionary writer as the central character of his own novel, The Map of Time, a brawny, genre-bending historical entertainment. In three interlocking episodes, the fictionalized Wells is immersed in adventures that involve smashing the constraints of time, or at least our perception of them. The story begins with a thwarted suicide. A young, well-heeled Englishman, Andrew Harrison, is bereft over the death of his true love eight years before, and plans to kill himself in the very room where she was murdered. We Spanish author Félix come to learn that the girl, J. Palma Marie Kelly, was the final raises victim of Jack intriguing the Ripper. questions After Andrew’s cousin stops about his recklessparallel ness, they visit layers of time a time travel in his genre- emporium run by Gilliam bending Murphy, who novel. has capitalized on the runaway success of Wells’ novel by offering excursions into the future. Murphy’s purported method of time travel, though, can only take people forward, and to one date—May 20, 2000, the day of a fateful battle when humankind wrests control from its automaton overlords. Murphy suggests that Andrew visit Wells himself, who is rumored to have an actual time machine in his attic. With Wells’ help, Andrew seemingly travels back to 1888 and the night Marie was killed in order to change her fate. But can history be altered without damaging the fabric of time? That question permeates the novel as another forward-thinking Victorian, this one a woman, travels on one of Gilliam Murphy’s trips with the intention of staying in the future. Her plan doesn’t work out, but has unforeseen consequences involving someone she meets in

Another book about Queen Elizabeth I? Yes, but after listening to Elizabeth I (Penguin Audio, $49.95, 31 hours unabridged, ISBN 9780142429136), Margaret George’s wholly satisfying historical novel, perfectly performed by Kate Reading, I can only say “hooray!” for this wonderfully crafted portrait of this ever-fascinating woman. A queen of a certain age, Elizabeth has ruled for 30 years and become the accomplished monarch who tells her troops, as the Spanish Armada approaches, “I know that I have but the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king; and a king of England, too.” This is also the Elizabeth who still wants flattery and male atten-

what she believes is the year 2000. In the final section of the novel, Wells finds himself the victim of a mysterious time traveler who wishes to steal the novelist’s work as his own—as well as that of Bram Stoker and Henry James—erasing all memory of these writers from history. Murphy returns in each of the episodes, a villainous, opportunistic counterpoint to the more romantic time-bending dreamers who populate the novel. Repeatedly in The Map of Time, Palma plays tricks on his characters’—and the reader’s—perception of temporal reality, although at times this literary sleight of hand, once revealed, can prove mundane. Whether due to choices made by translator Nick Caistor, or the failings of the original Spanish from which he was working, some of the writing is rather pedestrian, especially given the “world of wonder” nature of the story. Rambling in spots, and unnecessarily repetitive in details, the writing is best when Palma adopts the archaic 19th-century literary tone of the omniscient narrator, reminding us that this is indeed a work of fiction meant to pay loving homage to the overwrought potboilers of that age. Still, by the novel’s close, the disparate threads of the stories have entwined, and Palma has raised some intriguing questions about parallel layers of time and our possible relationship to the fourth dimension. A languorous, cunning mélange of historical science, science fiction, fantasy and mystery, The Map of Time is agreeable escapist fare, well-timed for summer reading.

The Map of Time By Félix J. Palma Translated by Nick Caistor Atria $26, 624 pages ISBN 9781439167397 eBook available

Historical fantASy

tion, who loses Robert Dudley, the love of her life, and succumbs for a time to the charms of his handsome, scheming stepson. As a foil to the Virgin Queen’s first-person narrative, Lettice Knollys—Dudley’s widow, Elizabeth’s cousin and far from virginal—offers her own take on Elizabeth, while plotting the restoration of her family’s fortune. With this richly detailed, deeply imagined story, you’ll be immersed in Elizabethan life as never before and enthralled for all 31 entertaining hours.

POOR LITTLE RICH GIRL What money can and can’t buy is charmingly parsed in Daisy Goodwin’s debut novel, The American Heiress (Macmillan Audio, $39.99, 13 hours unabridged, ISBN 9781427212290). This audio presentation, narrated by Katherine Kellgren, who moves with effortless authenticity from the haughty Mayfair drawl of the Prince of Wales to the self-important, Southerntinged cadences of a rich American society matron, is bound to top the list of super-summer-beachlistens. Bundled off to England by her social-climbing mother, Cora Cash, the wealthiest and most beautiful of this year’s crop of New York debutantes, falls off her horse

and into the arms of the darkly handsome, darkly moody Duke of Wareham. She’s in search of a title, and he’s in search of deep American pockets to keep Lulworth, his somewhat threadbare ducal manse, worthy. Can a headstrong American girl find love and happiness with an enigmatic aristocrat? Goodwin gives us the answer in this delicious diversion, filled with evocative Gilded Age details and written with stylish flair.

AUDIO OF THE MONTH I’m not sure what I wanted to do most when I finished listening to Eric Greitens’ The Heart and the Fist, hug him or clone him. If we had more young men like him, this world would be a better place. Greitens grew up reading about heroes and yearned for both adventure and purpose. A Rhodes Scholar with a focus on humanitarianism, he traveled the Third World, working in orphanages, hospitals and refugee camps, seeing firsthand the horrors that man can do to man. What he saw and what he studied taught him that “without courage, compassion falters, and without compassion, courage has no direction.” He came to believe that the world requires us “to be both good and strong,” that sometimes power must be used to protect the powerless. To that end, he became a Navy SEAL, served in Kenya, Iraq and Afghanistan, then came home and founded The Mission Continues, a nonprofit that helps wounded veterans find hope in serving their communities. Greitens reads with the uncommon grace he brings to his uncommon life.

The Heart and the Fist By Eric Greitens Tantor Media $34.99, 11 hours unabridged ISBN 9781452600963

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7


columns

Whodunit by Bruce Tierney

Like father, like daughter There is an old bromide that suggests “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” and this has rarely been proven truer than in the case of Alafair Burke, daughter of best-selling mystery writer James Lee Burke. That said, the younger

Burke’s approach to the craft differs dramatically from that of her old man. Where papa is world-weary, gritty and deeply attuned to the long-term development of his Deep South characters, daughter has stepped up her game with her first stand-alone thriller, Long Gone

ending, Long Gone is a solid bet for the summer bestseller lists.

(Harper, $24.99, 368 pages, ISBN 9780061999185), an urban tale of deception and murder played out amid the tony art scene of New York City. As unlikely heroine Alice Humphrey approaches her fifth decade, she seems ensnared in the unenviable position of being a woman without a career. Then, resulting from a series of accidents almost too good to be true, she falls into a dream job, managing an edgy new art gallery. As veteran suspense readers know, however, if it seems too good to be true, it is too good to be true; in short order, Alice will be a person of interest, major interest, in a sordid case of child pornography and murder. Highly suspenseful and cleverly crafted with a neat twist

Beyond the things that science can explain lurks another world. One steeped in danger…

Up in smoke Sam Capra, CIA agent, was moments away from making a PowerPoint presentation at his London office when he got the hysterical call from his pregnant wife, Lucy: “I need you to step outside, now, Sam!” Making hasty apologies to his co-workers, Capra bolted. “Sam, now. Please. Run,” Lucy continued, urgently. Sam ran, looking everywhere and not seeing his wife anywhere. Then the blast came, and the building that housed his office vaporized. Only then did he see Lucy, an unwilling passenger in a silver Audi, speeding away from the wreckage. The intro to Jeff Abbott’s aptly monikered thriller Adrenaline (Grand Central, $24.99, 416 pages, ISBN 9780446575171) would be a perfect setup for a tale of Capra’s search for his abducted wife, but Abbott takes the story in a different direction altogether: Because of his hasty departure just moments before the explosion, Capra’s bosses suspect him of treason. Faced with the choice of defending his actions to skeptical inquisitors or launching an all-out search for his missing wife, Capra opts for the latter, with consequences both unexpected and profound. Adrenaline, like its namesake hormone, is all about pace, and a high-speed pace at that. A word of caution: Don’t start reading Adrenaline just before bedtime!

Nothing to lose

On sale July 26!

On sale August 30!

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8

If you’re looking for the perfect war correspondent, find a driven and reckless soul, someone without ties, without illusions, with nothing left to lose. Someone like Luca Terracini, on the ground in war-torn Baghdad, investigating a series of bank heists, in Michael Robotham’s high-voltage international thriller The Wreckage (Mulholland Books, $24.99, 448 pages, ISBN 9780316126403). When Luca draws a bit too close to the truth for someone’s liking, his visa is summarily revoked and he is forced to leave the country at a moment’s notice. Meanwhile, in London, international banker Richard North has gone missing, on the heels of a scam by an artful pair of grifters. Ex-cop Vincent Ruiz, drawn in by the selfsame larcenous duo, soon finds himself embroiled in a transcontinental subterfuge involving truckloads

of stolen currency, corrupt politicos, torture and murder. As Terracini and Ruiz pursue their separate inquiries, it becomes clear that their paths will cross; together, they have information that could bring down governments—if they can survive long enough to bring it to light. Terrific suspense set against an exotic backdrop, The Wreckage is easily one of the summer’s most unputdownable books.

Mystery of the month What? Yet another killer writer from the Lands of the Midnight Sun? Mankell, Nesbø, Larsson, Fossum, Nesser—the list goes on (and on). Well, find room on your bookshelves for one more more: Lars Kepler, whose debut thriller The Hypnotist is about to take North America by storm. This prediction is not simply reviewer hyperbole, but an educated assumption based on the book’s stellar performance in Europe (six languages and counting) and Japan. In the wake of a trio of gruesome murders, police summon psychologist Erik Maria Bark to hypnotize the sole survivor, a teenage boy, critically injured and apparently left for dead. What Bark unearths will leave police dumbfounded and scrambling to prevent yet another homicide. And then, as if by some malevolent design, bad things begin to happen to the hypnotist, events chillingly redolent of an earlier time when his practice took a deadly turn. So dreadful a turn, in fact, that Bark swore he would never hypnotize anyone again. He will live to wish he had kept that promise. You heard it here first: The Hypnotist will be the mystery buzz-book of summer 2011!

The Hypnotist By Lars Kepler FSG $27, 512 pages ISBN 9780374173951 Audio, eBook available

Mystery


More chills and thrills for mystery fans in the season’s hottest titles

IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER Chevy Stevens’ debut thriller, Still Missing, was a runaway hit, and her hotly anticipated follow-up, Never Knowing (St. Martin’s, $24.99, 352 pages, ISBN 9780312595685), is nearly impossible to put down. Sara is a feisty single mother—simultaneously running a carpentry business and planning her wedding—who feels an uneasy void in her life. With little connection to her adoptive parents, she decides to investigate the identity of her birth

parents. Her search leads to a startling discovery: Sara’s birth mother was the rape victim and sole survivor of the elusive Campsite Killer. As the killer strikes out on another murderous rampage, Sara slowly learns more about herself—and her biological father. Through phone calls, the killer manages to torture Sara and yet also endear himself to her. Hiding this news from her family and fiancé, Sara risks her job, her relationship and even her own daughter to catch the man who has evaded everyone, including herself. With heart-pounding action and a main character whose faults only make her more engaging, this spinetingling novel grapples with the danger and pain of unrevealed truth. —Megan Fishmann

A MURDEROUS IRISH SUMMER Benjamin Black’s previous mysteries—all set in 1950s Dublin—have been lauded for their tight pacing, intelligent plotting and ambient setting. A Death in Summer (Holt, $25, 320 pages, ISBN 9780805090925), his newest offering, deftly follows suit, reprising the amateur detective stylings of moody medical pathologist Quirke, who continues to struggle with the memory of his own troubled Catholic childhood and painful lost love.

This time, Quirke sets out to find the truth behind the murder of Richard Jewell, a newspaper tycoon whose gunshot-to-the-head “suicide” screams foul play. Jewell’s wife, the wonderfully disaffected— i.e., French—Françoise, seems an obvious suspect, as do a host of individuals ranging from lowly Dublin goons to men and women of prominent social standing. A Death in Summer does everything a good mystery should do: tantalize without conspicuously withholding, divulge clues in measured and surprising ways and interweave the lives and woes of its characters. Moreover, Black stands out within his genre by gesturing toward larger social issues—in this case, the era’s unspoken prejudices and misconduct within the church—without letting such moral quandaries overtake the story. A welcome voice in the genre, Black has established a series worth following and a character worth coming back to. —J i l l i a n Q u i n t

STOLEN INNOCENCE Working just a smidgeon outside the law, Casey Woods’ crew of experts, “Forensic Instincts,” tackles the daunting case of a kidnapped kindergartener, Krissy, in Andrea Kane’s The Girl Who Disappeared Twice (MIRA, $24.95, 400 pages, ISBN 9780778329848). Years before, Krissy’s six-year-old aunt was also kidnapped—and never heard from again. Now Krissy’s mother, family court judge Hope Willis, desperately seeks help, official or otherwise, to locate her missing daughter. FI tackles the job with all the esprit that comes naturally to a psychologist, an almost-superskilled techno-savant and a former Navy SEAL (not to mention Hero the bloodhound). Assembling the disparate facts of Krissy’s disappearance, they form a picture that confronts the guilty, satisfies the romantic and brings a gratifying answer to the whole puzzle. Known for her ability to seamlessly combine the emotional and technical threads of her stories, Kane succeeds once again with The Girl Who Disappeared Twice. —Maude McDaniel

q&a

BENJAMIN BLACK

MAN OF MYSTERY

B

enjamin Black, the alter ego of Irish literary author John Banville, returns with A Death in Summer, his fourth detective novel featuring pathologist/amateur detective Garret Quirke.

You don’t hide the fact that Benjamin Black is a pseudonym. What does having a pen name afford a writer? How does having an alter ego affect your approach toward the crime series? My decision to write crime fiction under a pseudonym arose out of the fear that if I published under Banville’s name, Banville’s readers would suspect I was working a postmodernist trick on them. I wanted readers to know this was a new venture I was embarked on, and that what they saw was what they got. BB writes entirely differently from JB—both in procedure and in the finished product. I haven’t yet decided what it means to have an alter ego. Nothing much, probably. We are all manifold selves, after all. What kinds of liberties does writing about an “amateur” give you? Do you ever worry that your part-time sleuth is becoming a professional? I wanted a protagonist who would be the direct opposite of a Sherlock Holmes or an Hercule Poirot, and certainly in Quirke that’s what I got. He’s just as slow and dull-witted as the rest of us are, and most of the time he gets things wrong, misses clues, falls over his own feet and will certainly never be a professional. Since the books are set in the 1950s it means I do not have to keep up with present-day forensic science and so on, which is a great relief, for I find the contemporary obsession with factuality a great bore. A pinch of imagination will tip the scales against a pound of research any day. Why do you find the 1950s such an interesting time to write about? The 1950s in Ireland was a horrible, soul-destroying, hidebound and mean-spirited time, but also absolutely fascinating, at this remove. Ireland was just like Eastern Europe, caught fast in the grip of an iron ideology and ruled over by half-crazed zealots who watched our every move to

© Barry McCall

SUMMER suspense

ensure we did not deviate from the party line. And then, life in Dublin in those days, as I vividly recall it, was pure noir: the fog, the furtive sexuality, the dirty secrets hidden deep. Banville gets quite jealous of BB, at times. You’re particularly good at withholding information without leaving your readers feeling cheated. How do you decide which clues to reveal and when? Will it dent your admiration if I say that, as in life, so in fiction, and that I just stumble along, making it up as I go? The essence of BB’s work, I like to think, is spontaneity, a sense of the contingent, of what Wallace Stevens calls “life’s nonsense” which “pierces us with strange relation.” From the start I determined to write crime fiction that would be true to life, as true to life as fiction can be. The jigsaw-puzzle crime novel does not interest me, which is not to say I don’t find, say, John Dixon Carr’s books breathtakingly ingenious. But his methods are not, could not be, mine. When you start writing a crime novel, do you always know “who did it”? In some books I knew from the start, in some I wasn’t sure. I liked that uncertainty; it made me feel quite close to my poor, dumb protagonist as he treads on the evidence and falls in love with all the wrong people. What are you most afraid of? As a human being: death, insofar as death means the loss of everyone and all that I love dearly. As a writer: the illusion of success, than which there is nothing more dangerous.

9


columns

cooking

b y j o a n n a b r i c h e tt o

by sybil PRATT

UNEXPECTED TREASURES

THE BALLAD OF THE SALAD

Explore new twists to an ancient art with Trash-To-Treasure Papermaking (Storey, $16.95, 208 pages, ISBN 9781603425476). Transform junk mail, newspapers, phone books, food labels, candy wrappers and other trash into unique, handcrafted papers. Master papermaker Arnold E. Grummer makes the process easy enough for preschoolers, but with variations and techniques that will challenge experienced crafters too. Supplies can be as simple as a tin can, a blender and a bit of screen. He covers internal and surface embedment (sticking objects in or on the wet paper), plus neat things to do with pulp: layering, painting, casting, bordering, texturing and embossing. And what to do with the gorgeous sheets and shapes of fresh paper? Step-by-step instructions and big photos detail oodles of projects: magnets, lampshades, gift tags, jewelry, cards, garlands, mobiles, bookmarks, puppets, ornaments and journals. All this colorful content gets a context, too. Readers are exposed to a bit of paper history, including plant fibers, production methods and the surprisingly old idea of recycling.

Chopped or tossed, Caesar or Cobb, salads come in many forms. With her 12th book, Salad as a Meal (Morrow, $34.99, 368 pages, ISBN 9780061238833), Patricia Wells celebrates salads with her cultivated, creative and completely irresistible interpretations. According to Wells, a salad doesn’t have to have lettuce or greens; it can be a “light and refreshing salad-related entity.” And when you look through the 150-plus recipes gathered here, you’ll find that much of the pleasure is in the treasures that pair with salads. Wells starts off with “side-

COLOR TO DYE FOR

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lifestyles

Harvesting Color: How To Find Plants and Make Natural Dyes (Artisan, $22.95, 192 pages, ISBN 9781579654252) by Rebecca Burgess is a treat for dyed-in-the-wool lovers of curious lore and a beautiful resource for folks who work with textiles, as well as for gardeners or artisans interested in how to plumb nature for vibrant colors. As the author says, “the return to natural dyes after 150 years of relying on synthetics is garnering increased interest from a wide variety of environmentalists, farmers and do-it-yourself crafters.” Organized by season, Harvesting Color highlights 36 dye plants easily cultivated or foraged. These range from the ubiquitous

pokeberry and black walnut to the geographically specific cochineal, an insect whose dried, crushed bodies have supplied dyers with pure scarlet since Aztec times. A resource guide helps readers find local sources by state. Each plant profile includes uses (historic and current), where to find it, when and how to harvest it and a master dye recipe.

TOP PICK FOR LIFESTYLES Our interest in weeds is usually limited to how best to kill them. But in the hands of Britain’s “greatest living nature writer,” weeds grow so captivating that 336 pages do not seem long enough. Richard Mabey’s Weeds: In Defense of Nature’s Most Unloved Plants generously covers a wide and hybrid field of history, science, culture and on-the-ground experience. But what is a weed, exactly? Apparently the “criteria for weediness” change according to aesthetic, location, time, custom, size, toxicity and invasiveness. As the author says, “the definition is the weed’s cultural story.” The story includes how some weeds heal and others kill, how some save a landscape and others destroy it, and how humans keep altering the very properties of plants, such as through genetic modification, as we devise increasingly sophisticated weapons. Readers also get poetry, war, city planning, walks in the woods, bouquets of wildflowers and lore from around the globe. Mabey is a comprehensive guide who wears his learning as lightly as a dandelion seedhead. There’s no fluff here, though, only fascinating fodder for thought.

Weeds By Richard Mabey Ecco $25.99, 336 pages ISBN 9780062065452 eBook available

GARDENING

sweet spot on the dot, each with an almost edible photo. For openers, “Cupcakes 101” gives you the basics on tools and equipment, baking tips and techniques, pantry essentials and special touches. Then on to the fun stuff, the fluffy, rainbow-hued frostings, charming decorations and innovative flavors that have taken cupcakes out of the lunch box and into the gourmet limelight at weddings, holidays, birthdays and beyond.

COOKBOOK OF THE MONTH

kicks,” like Curried Pumpkin Seeds or Tapenade “Toasts,” that garnish, add crunch or double as appetizers, and concludes with pantry staples, from homemade cornichons to seasoned salts, dressings and sauces. She delights in adding a good hit of protein—grilled fresh tuna in her sensational Salade Niçoise, shredded chicken breast in a Vietnamese Green Papaya Salad, Pot-au-Feu Beef Salad—and in providing the perfect bread accompaniments: flat, crispy, homemade pita, quick bread with figs and hazelnuts or ham and cheese. Salad never had it so good.

DREAMING UP DREAMCAKES A foodie friend just told me that pies are the new cupcakes, but whether cupcakes are “in” or “out,” they remain the little darlings of baking—cheerful, chubby and everpopular. Jan Moon fell in love with baking and cupcakes when she got her first Easy-Bake Oven at age five. She dreamed of having a bakery for years, worked in the test kitchens of Southern Living and Cooking Light, then struck out on her own and opened Dreamcakes, her supersuccessful bakery on the outskirts of Birmingham, Alabama, where making cupcakes is a passion and an art. With Big Book of Cupcakes (Oxmoor House, $19.95, 256 pages, ISBN 9780848734374), Jan lets us in on her signature confections: 150 pint-sized prizes that hit the

It’s that wonderful time of year when produce is plentiful and locally grown, when roadside stands and farmer’s markets beckon and when we all look for new ways to serve up Mother Nature’s bounty. To that healthy and enjoyable end, Barbara Scott-Goodman and Liz Trovato give us Eat Greens, with 120 recipes arranged from A to Z (what would we do without zucchini!) and liberally seasoned with full-color photos. Barbara and Liz don’t think of veggies as side dishes; they shine as the main ingredients in appetizers, soups, salads and entrées. You’ll find intriguing ways to steam, sauté, stir-fry, braise, roast and blanch them, from elegantly simple dishes like Green Bean, Prosciutto, and Parmesan Salad and sublimely summery Sautéed Snap Peas, Sweet Corn, and Red Peppers to Herbed Leek and Watercress Soup and Escarole Bundles (stuffed with ricotta and raisins) with Tomato and Olive Sauce. An informative intro sets the scene for each of the 29 greens, while good header notes help you pick a peck of delicious veggie dishes.

eat greens By Barbara ScottGoodman and Liz Trovato Running Press $24.95, 240 pages ISBN 9780762439072 eBook available

vegetables


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

The secrets of seduction A Regency miss finds herself the temporary ward of her brother’s best friend—who is also her secret crush—in How to Seduce a Scoundrel (Forever, $7.99, 448 pages, ISBN 9780446565387) by Vicky Dreiling. When the Earl of Hawkfield agrees to watch over Lady Julianne, her heart thrills. Maybe this is her chance to make him see her as a desirable woman and not the mischievous minx of childhood. But Hawk’s eyes won’t open easily. As a renowned rake, he knows it’s dangerous to dally with any young

north than ever documented—and he wants to prove her right. But he finds much more than he bargained for upon arrival at the ranch. There’s the enticing Gina, who stirs his passion, and then there is the lingering sense of evil on the wind. When the two of them accidentally free a trapped ancient sorcerer, murdering werewolves start stalking the land . . . and Gina and Matt. Will they and their growing love survive? Chills abound in this tale that’s both sensual and scary.

Romance of the Month

lady, particularly a good friend’s little sister. But Julianne is hard to resist—and so are his memories of his debauched past. Though he wants her, he doesn’t feel worthy of wooing such a respectable young woman. Hawk’s resistance strikes at Julianne’s most vulnerable spot. After living with a cold, unfaithful father, she wants a man who will truly love her. A scandalous, anonymously penned pamphlet—“A Lady’s Secrets of Seduction”—provides more for the town to gossip over besides Hawk and Julianne’s burgeoning affair. Delightful and delicious, this sensual romance will leave readers smiling.

Ancient danger Lori Handeland offers an imaginative and exciting story that includes Aztec warriors and supernatural werewolves in Crave the Moon (St. Martin’s, $7.99, 352 pages, ISBN 9780312389369). Gina O’Neill is struggling to hold onto the family ranch in Colorado by taking in vacationers looking for a “dude” experience, while rebuffing a noted archaeologist who wants to explore her land for Aztec ruins. Gina can’t take the chance that Dr. Matt Mecate might discover the dangerous cavern where her parents died trying to save her. Matt was raised by his mother, also an archaeologist, who risked her reputation by insisting that the Aztecs ventured farther

Mark Ryan and Jessica Ford reappear in another riveting novel from Karen Robards. In Justice, attorney Jess has taken a new name and a new job since she’s still considered in danger as the sole survivor of a car accident that killed the former First Lady. Mark, a Secret Service agent she met and fell for after that harrowing experience, is out of her life due to a mutual attack of cold feet. But when a high-profile case puts her in the spotlight again, Mark returns to her side, determined to keep her safe. Though she at first resists, Jess realizes she does indeed need help—but is the danger surrounding her related to the old case? Or could it be something to do with the mysterious disappearance of the woman whose place she has taken at the law firm? A mugging, missing teenagers and a near-death by drowning make Jess hope that she and Mark can put the pieces together before she’s six feet under. A smart, capable heroine paired with a sexy, protective man add up to a winning summer read in Justice.

Justice By Karen Robards Gallery $25, 352 pages ISBN 9781439183700 Audio, eBook available

Romantic suspense

by

Novel Reads

HARPERCOLLINS HarperCollins.com • AvonRomance.com Belong to Me

by Marisa de los Santos Cornelia Brown surprised herself when she was gripped by the sudden, inescapable desire to move with her husband to the suburbs. Her mettle is quickly tested by her impeccably dressed, overly judgmental neighbor Piper Truitt. With Lake, another recent arrival, Cornelia shares a love of literature and old movies—as she forms an instant bond with this warm yet elusive woman and her perceptive, brilliant young son, Dev. But nothing is quite what it seems in suburbia. 9780061983856, $7.99

The Fall

by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan

Last week they invaded Manhattan. This week they will destroy the world. The vampiric virus is spreading and soon will envelop the globe. Amid the chaos, Eph Goodweather—head of the Centers for Disease Control’s team—leads a band out to stop these bloodthirsty monsters. But it may be too late. 9780061558252, $9.99

The Genesis Key by James Barney

More than 30 years ago, Dr. Kathleen Sainsbury’s archaeologist parents were murdered at an ancient excavation site in Iraq. Now the gifted biologist stands on the brink of a miraculous breakthrough: the discovery of a gene that could extend a human life by hundreds of years. But at the moment of her greatest triumph, a mysterious phone call reveals a hidden truth that draws chaos and violence once again into Kathleen’s world…and threatens to irreversibly alter the destiny of humankind. 9780062021380, $9.99

Lure of the Wicked

by Karina Cooper

Naomi West was plucked from one prison and placed undercover in another: the gilded cage that is Timeless, New Seattle’s premier spa and resort, where owner Phinneas Clarke—the most seductive man Naomi has ever met—may be hiding a killer. She’s an agent of the Holy Order, trained to hunt the guilty and render justice. But while she’s tracking down a rogue agent on a killing spree, Phin is determined to uncover her most damning—and dangerous—secrets. Whatever the cost. 9780062046901, $7.99

Silk is for Seduction by Loretta Chase

Brilliant and ambitious dressmaker Marcelline Noirot is London’s rising star. And who better to benefit from her talent than the worst-dressed lady in the ton, the Duke of Clevedon’s intended bride? Winning the future duchess’s patronage means prestige and fortune for Marcelline and her sisters. To get to the lady, though, Marcelline must win over Clevedon, whose standards are as high as his morals are . . . not. 9780061632686, $7.99

All available as eBooks Visit LibraryLoveFest.com for more great reading

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interviews

STEFAN MERRILL BLOCK

Mastering the ‘Spooky Art’

A

bout four years ago, just before he began work on his beautifully written second novel, The Storm at the Door, Stefan Merrill Block installed a new black and white checkered floor in the apartment kitchen where he writes. The floor is now seriously chipped around his writing desk and darkly stained near the coffee pot. “If you were to take an aerial shot of the floor, it would be like a map of my anxiety,” the 29-year-old Block says, laughing. “But I’ve come to understand that it is anxiety that writes the books.” Anxiety, Block adds during the call to his apartment in Brooklyn, pushes him “to go through draft after draft after draft and focus on every sentence and every word until the point where there’s no further you can take it.” Fortunately that anxiety is invisible to readers. As the many fans of Block’s first novel, The Story of Forgetting, know, he has an uncanny ability for someone his age to inhabit the deepest parts of his characters’ psyches and to find language that precisely evokes those states of being. “There’s something spooky about it, as Norman Mailer said— he called fiction ‘the spooky art.’ Because it’s strange how these observations that you didn’t know you thought about people or about the world come out of you.” Block’s first novel was a sometimes fanciful, often moving story of a family with inherited, earlyonset Alzheimer’s. The Storm at the Door, an even better novel, is a sort of mythic re-imagining of a period

The Storm at the Door

12

By Stefan Merrill Block, Random House, $25 368 pages, ISBN 9781400069453, eBook available

in the 1960s when his grandmother put his grandfather in a mental hospital. Block thinks the two books share a lot thematically, but that the new book “addresses those complications in what feels like a much truer way. It feels like the first novel was like a rough draft of this book. But I’ve only written a few novels. Maybe that’s the way a career “There’s feels. Maybe something you always feel spooky about that the previous book is a [writing]. rough draft of It’s strange the new one.” The Storm how these at the Door observations arose out of “a that you deep personal urgency,” Block didn’t know says. “I had you thought been haunted about people by this absence my whole life. or the world I was homecome out schooled by my of you.” mom. My relationship with my mother has been my central relationship from my childhood, and we are still very close. She is my first reader even now. On the opposite side of her is this absence [her father died some years after his institutionalization when she was in college] and this sadness that has been transmitted through her. In some ways it feels like I have been the correction to that. So I think my relationship with my mother first compelled my curiosity about my grandfather. The other fact that I know is that we look quite similar [for example, Block’s grandfather was 6’6” and he is 6’3”]. Since I was a kid, my relatives have been very moved by our obvious physical similarities. And everyone said he was the writer in the family. So I’ve always had this extremely close sense of identification with him, as if he is an alternative version of myself. . . . There has always been

this terrible urgency to understand who he was and what happened to him.” Then why didn’t Block simply write a memoir? “My grandfather was absent for so much of my mom’s childhood and he died so young that there’s little that factually remains. Basic things that are so telling of a person’s character—the way he held his body, the kinds of conversations that he had, the women he loved—all these things that are so important to understanding a person are gone, so I felt that the only way I could explore this urgent need was through fiction.” Of course Block’s novel is much more than historical fiction about his grandparents. Block’s grandfather was institutionalized at McLean Hospital, a place with an “inverted sort of glamour” outside of Boston that was undergoing immense change at the time, with decidedly mixed results. The great poet Robert Lowell was there then and wrote of his experiences with mental illness in Life Studies. Block heightens and transforms McLean into a more mythic place called The Mayflower Home for the Mentally Ill. Lowell appears in the novel, but for the most part Block peoples the institution with a set of invented characters who blaze with the strange and discomfiting beauty of madness. “I’m very interested in the way that societies consider madness,” Block says. “It has a long and complicated history. In biblical times it seems that schizophrenics were considered prophets. Then there’s this long romantic history of the link between madness and genius, particularly poetic genius. I was interested in assessing the truth of that, whether there is a link or if madness is what keeps poets from being even greater poets. In general, I don’t write with any sort of political objective but I was also interested in exploring what now seems like the obvious mishandling of mental illness as a way of understanding how little we understand it and

© BEOWULF SHEEHAN

by Alden Mudge

probably still mistreat it.” Block says his writing begins every day with “a reading of a novel that I’ve carefully selected to restore me to a literary voice.” For this novel, he read Nabokov’s Speak Memory, Chabon’s Wonder Boys and Yates’ Revolutionary Road, whose voice he deliberately echoed. He also had before him a photograph of his grandmother and one of his grandfather, which are reproduced in the novel. “I know there’s this tricky interplay between fact and fiction and between memoir and imagination in the novel. And the photographs were a really important part of the writing process. I wanted to present my story as earnestly as I could—that this is how I think of my family’s history, that there are things that are true and that I know and that there is all this space that I have to imagine. I feel it’s a type of story I don’t see depicted often, probably because it straddles such an awkward line between nonfiction and fiction.” Which returns Block to a discussion of his writer’s anxiety. “Most of my anxiety is that I have not yet written the book that I feel I can write,” he says. “That anxiety is something I hope I never lose. I hope I never feel satisfied with anything I produce, that I always have the worry that the book on the page will never equal the book I have in my mind, because that is what really powers me forward.”


“An electrifying book, impossible to put down.

Gripping, thought-provoking, humane, funny, tragic, it is masterfully done, a tour de force that can’t be a first novel—and yet it is.”—Ann Packer

#1 IndIe next pIck

Barnes & noBle dIscover selectIon

“Haunting . . .

“A uniquely entertaining literary mystery.

this masterfully written debut is fascinating on so many levels,

LaPlante’s portrayal of the prime suspect’s escalating dementia, told from her point of view,is gripping, unnerving, and utterly brilliant.”

—Lisa Genova

from its poignant and inventive depiction of a harrowing illness to its knowing portrayal of the dark complexities of friendship and marriage.”

“Extraordinarily crafted . . . an amazing achievement. Heartbreaking and stunning, this is both compelling and painful to read.” —Library Journal

—Joanne Wilkinson,

Booklist (starred review)

“Turn of Mind blindfolds the reader and spins her around, gives her a push into a maze of echoes. Alice LaPlante’s debut is a tricky neo–nouveau roman, rife with danger.”

(starred review)

“As the narrator’s mind is devoured by dementia, she struggles to remember the extent of her involvement in her best friend’s murder. LaPlante’s characters are completely convincing,

—stewart o’nan

the plotting masterful.” —Donna Leon

“Hey readers, Alice LaPlante has arrived. Turn of Mind features a crazy-smart narrator in a gripping family drama that is itself a brilliant murder mystery. LaPlante possesses both the wild audacity to attempt such a tour de force and the pure talent to pull it off.” —colin Harrison

In Bookstores now AtLAntic montHLy PrEss an imprint of Grove/Atlantic, Inc. Distributed by Publishers Group West

www.groveatlantic.com

also available from grove/atlantic on brilliance audio an atlantic monthly press book


features

BEHIND THE BOOK

how flannery saved the day

I

slumped onto the couch and told my husband that the novel simply didn’t work. I was a year into A Good Hard Look, and it already felt like a lost year. Maybe I should throw it away and start over, I said.

I didn’t know what was broken, so I couldn’t fix it. The main character, Melvin Whiteson, was rudderless. The story was aimless. There was no spine, no uniting thread. My husband was seated across from me; he leaned forward. He loves nothing more than to solve a problem, and he’s a writer himself, so he knows what he’s talking about. I’m stubborn though, and I wanted sympathy, not a solution. So instead of listening, I let my attention drift. I told myself I would be fine if I never published a second novel. I imagined possible alternative careers: therapist (too much education required), chef (terrible hours), personal assistant (I had done this for almost a decade; I was qualified, but not interested). I closed my

eyes in an act of dramatic self-pity, and listened to my husband sigh in response. When I opened my eyes I found myself looking at the bookshelf above his head. My eyes fell on a book I hadn’t picked up in nearly a decade. It was a collection of Flannery O’Connor’s letters, The Habit of Being. I studied the spine of the book as if it had something to tell me. And it did, in a way. The thought fell upon me slowly, with the weight of a heavy blanket: Flannery O’Connor should be in the novel. This seems like a crazy idea, even now. Here are a few reasons why: (1) Flannery is a Southern icon, and I am from New Jersey; (2) I had read her stories in college,

returns with the latest in the Lady Julia Grey series!

Escape with Julia Grey and Nicholas Brisbane as the newlyweds investigate a case built on lies, the dark arts and family secrets…

“Storytelling at its most compelling.” —Nora Roberts

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and been awed by them, but I’d also found them abrasive and upsetting; (3) I had never even aspired to write historical fiction. Incorporating a real, well-known person into my make-believe world seemed fraught with traps and complications. Could I possibly pull that off? Despite my skepticism, the words continued to blink in my head. Flannery O’Connor should be in the novel. The idea was certainly intriguing, and what if this was an actual flash of inspiration? I was in no position to turn that away. I decided to approach the idea by reading everything I could get my hands on. I re-read Flannery’s stories (still shocking, still brilliant), her essays and two novels. I read the one existing biography on her, and several critical essays about her work. Then I re-read The Habit of Being, and to be honest, this is when my apprehension began to wane. Flannery’s letters are wonderful—in correspondence she is irreverent and sarcastic, kind and generous. Through the letters, I followed her path away from her Southern town and domineering mother to graduate school. She began her writing life in New York City, where she had dear friends and a life that satisfied her. When she felt her shoulders begin to tighten during a harsh Northern winter, she attributed the discomfort to arthritis. But by the time she arrived home to visit her mother, she was desperately ill. She was only 26 years old when she received the diagnosis that was also a death sentence. She had disseminated lupus—the same disease that had killed her father. Flannery settled down on her mother’s farm, Andalusia, and poured herself into her work. The doctors gave her five years to live; she took 13. And during that time she produced some of the best fiction we have. I flew to Atlanta, rented a car and drove to Andalusia. I walked across the speckled grass, and sat on Flannery’s white porch. A story began to grow in my head; pieces that seemed to have no business being in the same room came together. Melvin Whiteson met Flannery O’Connor at a Southern wedding; I held my breath, and followed the characters deeper into the nar-

© Nicola Dove

B y A n n Na p o l i t a n o

rative. Flannery, and the bravery with which she lived her life, soon became the spine of A Good Hard Look. Raymond Chandler famously said, “When in doubt, have a man come through the door with a gun in his hand.” My version of that was to have Flannery O’Connor show up, on crutches. The novel took six additional years to write; I slumped on the couch in despair many more times, but I never again considered throwing the book away. The crazy idea had become a real, three-dimensional world. Flannery walked among her beloved peacocks, turning her sharp eyes on the world I was creating; my new struggle lay in making sure it met her approval.

A Good Hard Look is the second novel by Ann Napolitano, who received her M.F.A. from New York University and lives in New York City with her family.

a good hard look

By Ann Napolitano, Penguin Press, $25.95 336 pages, ISBN 9781594202926, eBook available


interviews

Ben Mezrich B y J ay M ac D o n a l d

© Tonya Mezrich

THE CASE OF THE STOLEN MOON ROCKS

Y

ou’ve probably never heard of Thad Roberts, the brilliant young NASA recruit who pulled off one of the most audacious heists in history when he tiptoed out of the Johnson Space Center one rainy Texas night in 2003 with a 600-pound safe containing $20 million in moon rocks. Even Ben Mezrich, the gonzoinspired biographer of Ivy League geeks (Bringing Down the House), drew a blank when Roberts called him out of the blue following an eight-year prison sentence. Mezrich fields hundreds of such calls these days, thanks in part to the success of the Oscar-nominated film The Social Network, based on his bestseller about the founding of Facebook, The Accidental Billionaires. “Everyone who does something kind of crazy calls me, so I get like 10 of these a day and 99 percent of the time it isn’t something I can use,” Mezrich says by phone from Boston. “But this one was different.” If Mezrich’s hunch is correct, you will recognize Thad Roberts from the talk show circuit by summer’s end and, despite yourself, you’ll either love him or hate him, all because of Sex on the Moon, Mezrich’s stranger-than-fiction, true-life thriller of a man who went where no man has gone before. For a participatory journalist like Mezrich, who describes himself as “Hunter S. Thompson without the guns, alcohol and drugs,” the Roberts story ticked all the boxes: a charismatic dreamer with a troubled past, a Romeo-and-Juliet love story, a geek-alicious hightech setting, an ingenious Oceans 11-style heist—and perhaps the most boneheaded mistake any man ever made to impress a girl. Even better, it was a journalist’s Holy Grail: a truly uncovered story. “It was completely covered up; there was nothing on it,” Mezrich says. “NASA never wanted this story to get out. In prison, Thad was basically strong-armed not to talk about it. Nobody knew the story.” It goes like this: Roberts, a working-class Mormon, is ostracized by his parents for having premarital sex. He and his girlfriend soon marry and plunge deep into debt while Thad, a triple major in physics, geology and anthropology, studies hard to earn a spot as a NASA co-op, essentially an astro-

naut intern. Once at Johnson Space Center, Roberts reinvents himself from loser to winner by daring to take risks, thus becoming a leader of the co-ops. Thad’s marriage is on shaky ground when he catches a glimpse of a cache of invaluable moon rocks, now considered waste by NASA because they’ve been contaminated by scientific study, and soon becomes obsessed. When a risk-taking new co-op captures his heart, the two cook up a scheme with a third ally to steal the lunar samples, sell them to a collector in Antwerp, Belgium, for $100,000, and disappear into private research. Unfortunately for Thad, the buyer is well aware that it is illegal to traffic in moon rocks On the heels of and tips the his best-selling FBI to the scheme. The account of night before the founding they’re of Facebook, busted, the daring couBen Mezrich ple spend recounts the night in the true-life an Orlando escapades of a hotel room with lunar NASA scientist samples who risked from Neil Armstrong’s everything to Apollo 11 impress a girl. moon walk tucked under their mattress—hence the book’s intriguing title. Mezrich didn’t know what to expect when he met Roberts in a Utah hotel lobby near where Roberts is now completing his Ph.D. “First of all, the kid’s a genius, absolutely a genius,” Mezrich says. “He was this charismatic, incredibly smart guy and he had done something incredibly stupid out of love. What was interesting was how complex his personality was. He wasn’t just this guy who stole something to make money; he was on his way to being an astronaut, to achieving

his dream. That made him different from all of the other characters I’d written about.” Mezrich spent months obtaining the voluminous FBI file on the case through the Freedom of Information Act, including transcripts of conversations by wired FBI undercover agents that add authenticity to much of the dialogue. “When you’re interviewing a guy like this, your first question is, how much of this is true?” he says. “Thad felt his sentence was very harsh, that he was very unfairly characterized by the FBI and others. He did steal a 600-pound safe full of moon rocks, but at the same time, they got them back. For him, it was almost like a college prank. But NASA didn’t look at it that way at all.” True to his gonzo ethos, Mezrich managed to tour NASA with remote help from Roberts. “They didn’t know I was writing the book and I got this Level 9 tour,” he recalls. “While I was walking around NASA, I was texting back and forth with Thad and he’d be like, ‘Now go to the back of the room, there’s a door there, go through that door, take a left, that’s the room! ’ So I got to see everything with him guiding me.” Mezrich received pushback from NASA, which labeled him persona non grata at the Johnson Space Center. The women involved shut him out as well, having moved on with their lives. It will be no surprise to the author if critics lodge their usual objections to the way he reinvents dialogue and weaves whole

cloth from random threads of speculation. He’s used to controversy, he says. It comes with the territory. It’s not bad for sales either. “There are always going to be a million articles about the form of nonfiction that I write,” he says. “But I’m very clear up front [about] exactly what I’m going to do and how I’m going to do it. This story follows very closely with the facts. It’s written like a thriller but it’s very, very true.” Will readers embrace Roberts? “He’s an interesting guy,” Mezrich says. “I think when he starts going on TV, people are going to be fascinated by him. Some will think he’s awful and he’s a thief; others are going to see him as a romantic character. I think he’s somewhere in the middle.”

sex on the moon

By Ben Mezrich, Doubleday, $26.95, 320 pages ISBN 9780385533928, audio, eBook available

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cover story

books for the beach

STEAMY SUMMER READS

W

hether you’ll be reading on the beach, by the pool or on your front porch, we’ve got five great books to start the summer off right.

Love connections An engrossing double love story set in the not-so-swinging ’60s and a contemporary London news office, The Last Letter from Your Lover (Pamela Dorman/Viking, $26.95, 400 pages, ISBN 9780670022809) offers a captivating tale of missed connections. The novel opens when the victim of a bad traffic accident, Jennifer Stirling, wakes up in a hospital room unable to remember anything. Nothing is familiar to this Grace Kelly look-alike, not even her husband. After she is released, she is haunted by the strangeness of her surroundings and by her husband’s reserved manner. Finding a series of love letters addressed to her and signed “B” carefully hidden around her house confirms her sense that her marriage was an unhappy one. But who was her lover? Held back by fear and the rigid conventions of the early 1960s, Jennifer hesitates to grasp at a remembered chance of happiness, even after she discovers the identity of the man for whom she was willing to risk so much. Forty years later, journalist Ellie Haworth uncovers a group of love letters signed “B” in the newspaper archives. The passion and tenderness of the letters draw Ellie in. She can’t help but compare the intensity of the letters with the cryptic text messages she receives from John, a married man with whom she is having an affair. As she labors to discover the people behind these mysterious letters, Ellie re-examines the choices she has made. Author Jojo Moyes artfully combines the two threads of this romantic tale in ways that not only avoid cliché but offer continuous

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surprises. More than a simple framing device, Ellie’s story thoughtfully reflects Jennifer’s dilemma. In some ways, The Last Letter from Your Lover is itself a love letter to the all-but-disappearing handwritten message. But Moyes is too honest to simply pine for what once was; though Ellie may long for the passion behind a scribbled love note, the changing times offer her a freedom that Jennifer never had. —Lauren Bufferd

mystery in the big easy Claire DeWitt thinks differently than most people when it comes to solving mysteries. According to Claire, “Clues are the most misunderstood part of detection. Novice detectives think it’s about finding clues. But detective work is about recognizing clues.” In Sara Gran’s Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead (HMH, $24, 288 pages, ISBN 9780547428499), Claire is summoned back to New Orleans a year after Hurricane Katrina to investigate the disappearance of Vic Willing, a notable prosecutor who worked within the corrupt legal system of New Orleans. Claire had worked in New Orleans a few years earlier, studying under the tutelage of Constance, a well-known detective. After Constance’s untimely death, Claire severed ties with the city. However, the prospect of an unsolvable mystery entices her to return to New Orleans, which is haunted not only by the recent memory of Katrina, but ghosts from Claire’s past. Using the book Détection by the famous French detective Jacques Silette, Claire follows clues, omens and instinct to help her solve the mystery. Her unorthodox tactics

include mind-expanding drugs, working with gang members and befriending the local homeless population, all of which lead her on an unlikely path to discovering the truth. Mick Pendell, another one of Constance’s ex-students, assists Claire and provides connections to different people around the city, including Andray Fairview, a youth hardened by gang life who is the key to understanding the truth about Vic Willing. As the plot twists, you feel like Claire is always one step ahead, understanding each clue’s depth before you can put the pieces together. The mystery of Vic Willing’s disappearance pulls you in, but Gran’s enticing characters will keep you hooked. This is a page-turner with an unexpected ending that will leave readers wondering what is just around the corner for Claire DeWitt and her unlikely crew of accomplices. —Katy Menges

a new werewolf legend Just when you think you’ve seen it all in the fictional werewolf/vampire/witch craze, British novelist Glen Duncan comes along with a story unlike anything else out there. His dark, atmospheric and gripping The Last Werewolf (Knopf, $25.95, 304 pages, ISBN 9780307595089) has more in common with Anne Rice than Stephenie Meyer, but it’s a book completely its own. As the title suggests, Jake Marlowe comes to learn he is the last werewolf on Earth. He’s been a man/werewolf hybrid for almost two centuries, and he’s had about enough. With the help of his friend Harley, Jake realizes he’s being hunted by the WOCOP (World Organization for the Control of Occult Phenomena), and that’s just fine with him. Jake was turned in a random act of violence in the mid-19th century, and his new identity (complete with unimaginable bloodlust, sexual yearning and pain of transformation) caused him to kill his beloved wife, Arabella. And so Jake has merely survived in the years since, killing when

he must, seeing prostitutes instead of engaging in meaningful relationships and documenting it all in the novel, which reads like a journal. But just when he is about to give up hope, Duncan gives us a shocking twist—one that motivates Jake to keep on living, if only for a few more days. To say much more would spoil the fun of reading The Last Werewolf, a supernatural novel that somehow reads like the best of literary fiction. Elegant and thoughtful while thrilling and violent, this is a book to sink your teeth into. — a bb y p l e s s e r

Brooks’ future America It is a time of virtual vacations and robotic surgeries, “intelligent” electric cars and universal healthcare— which has resulted in endless waiting lines and sky-high premiums. In light of new scientific discoveries, cancer can be cured, bones can be regenerated and humans are living longer lives. Welcome to America in 2030, where the first Jewish president is in office and the national debt surpasses $200 trillion. In 2030, America’s most powerful lobbyist is the AARP and the preservation of life quality is reserved for the over-50 population, leaving little to no jobs, benefits or future security for younger generations. When the under-50 crowd decides enough is enough and begins initiating terrorist attacks on the “olds,” America finds itself in a period of extreme civil unrest. Add to the attacks the world’s worst earthquake ever— which levels Los Angeles—and the fate of America looks bleaker than ever. When the government decides to offer China half ownership of L.A. in exchange for the $20 trillion needed to rebuild the city, America enters a new age where its power no longer holds up, its citizens can no longer pursue the lives their grandparents once lived and the country’s fate is undeniably uncertain. Is America selling the very dream that once defined the nation? In his literary debut, 2030 (St. Martin’s, $25.99, 384 pages, ISBN 9780312583729), legendary director and actor Albert Brooks creates a satiric, futuristic narrative in true Orwellian fashion. Instead of making gigantic hypothetical leaps to a completely robotic world where cars sail through the skies, Brooks leads his narrative down a more plausible


path. Given America’s present issues, 2030 allows readers a glimpse into a possible future for America. It’s not exactly light reading, but Brooks’ thoughtful, provocative novel will give you plenty to talk about over cocktails this summer. — T a r a P e tt i t

sweetness and secrets Ava Dabrowski—eight years out of college and satisfied, if not completely happy, with her well-paying job at a Chicago ad agency—has come to a crossroads. An affair with her boss has “wound down to its inevitable conclusion,” her estranged mother has died and her career has come to a standstill. She still harbors dreams of becoming a novelist, so when Will Fraser, an old college friend, invites Ava to spend the summer with his two aunts at the family home in Woodburn, Tennessee—a quiet getaway where she can work on her first novel—she quickly accepts his offer. Ava and her hippie mother had moved around a lot when she was younger, but she experiences culture shock when she arrives in Woodburn, a town she soon realizes is “broken up into social classes that resembled Victorian England.”  Southern author Cathy Holton perfectly captures the slow pace and local customs in which Ava immediately becomes immersed: the leisurely breakfasts, garden party dress codes and Toddy Time, held daily at precisely 5:00 p.m. The more she learns about Will’s aunts, Josephine and Fanny Woodburn, and the story of the mysterious death of Fanny’s first husband Charlie, Ava realizes she has the plot for her novel. But at what price? Will, who is clearly interested in her as more than a friend, is disturbed by her research into his family’s dark secrets . . . and is even more annoyed by her attentions to his estranged cousin Jake, the black sheep of the Woodburn clan. Holton delves into the flip side of the “moonlight and magnolias” version of Southern life, as she maintains the suspense surrounding not only the demise of Charlie Woodburn, but which of the dashing cousins Ava will eventually choose. Summer in the South (Ballantine, $25, 352 pages, ISBN 9780345506016) is a winning combination of murder and romance, and an engaging summer read. —Deborah Donovan

Find these novels where books are sold. BHPublishingGroup.com

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features

BRAINY BEACH READS By Heather Seggel

SAMPLE A TRUE STORY THIS SUMMER

F

or some readers, summer means enough time to tackle a serious work of history. Other readers relish the vicarious thrills of true crime and courtroom drama, while armchair travelers settle in for an exciting new journey (and save a bundle on luggage fees). These books share one trait vital to any summer read: unputdownability.

BATTLE BETWEEN OLD AND NEW

fern

If you know anything about the Crimean War, it’s likely a story told from the British point of view. In The Crimean War (Metropolitan, $35, 608 pages, ISBN 9780805074604), historian Orlando Figes consulted Turkish, Russian, French and Ottoman sources as well, to create a broader picture of “the major conflict of the nineteenth century.” This battle, both religious and territorial in nature, was the first truly modern war. Steamships and railways were crucial, as well as technology like the telegraph, field hospitals and medical triage. It was also the first to have war reporters and photographers directly on the scene. Yet older traditions such as truces to allow each side to collect their dead from the battlefield were still observed, and “war tourists” traveled from all over the world, opera glasses and picnic baskets in hand, to observe the fighting. Some soldiers were hampered by enforced adherence to traditional dress codes that barely allowed them freedom of movement and didn’t keep out the elements; the war killed almost a million soldiers, but many of those deaths were from cholera and exposure. It’s fascinating to see a young Leo Tolstoy appear in the story, reporting on the fighting in Sevastopol to Tsar Nicholas and finding his voice as an author in a setting that inspired some classic literature. The Crimean War takes readers through the famous Charge of the Light Brigade, but also well beyond and deeper, in a bold re-examination of this 150-year-old war.

On Sale 6.28.11

CORRUPTION ON THE CAPE

All it takes is one phone call to change everything.

WIN A FERN COLLECTIBLE BEACH BAG! Visit facebook.com/kensingtonpublishing and tell us about your worst betrayal. -ORUse Twitter to tell us about your worst #BETRAYAL @kensingtonboooks. Contest ends 7/31/11… ENTER NOW!

Also available

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Kensington Publishing Corp. FOR CONTESTS, GIVEAWAYS, AND MORE VISIT KENSINGTONBOOKS.COM/FERNMICHAELS AND FERNMICHAELS.COM

On January 6, 2002, Christa Worthington’s body was found on the floor of her Cape Cod cottage, stabbed, beaten and half-naked, her two-year-old daughter clinging

to her side. Who could have done such a thing? Reasonable Doubt (Atria, $25.99, 448 pages, ISBN 9780743296663) follows the investigation, the trial and its aftermath, and reaches a disturbing conclusion: An innocent man is now in jail for life, and Christa’s real killer is free. Journalist Peter Manso intended to write a quickie “trial book,” but once he started researching the story, things turned ugly. Christopher McCowen, an African-American garbage collector with an IQ bordering on mental retardation, was interrogated for hours but no recording was made, and his statements were condensed and edited by the investigating officer. Now in jail for life, he maintains his innocence, and can point to a more likely suspect whose connections in law enforcement may have granted him a pass. Manso finds corruption in every corner of Cape Cod law enforcement, possibly even in the presiding judge’s decision to deny appeals for a retrial that would have hurt his chances for promotion. Entrenched racism in the affluent white community made it easy to sell the story of a black murderer, and many believed that a possible sexual liaison between McCowen and Worthington could only have been rape. It’s a grim tale from any angle, and Manso balances a straightforward accounting of the investiga-

tion and trial with a more inflammatory section at the end of the book, listing the missteps by DA Michael O’Keefe along with a Q&A designed to explain the fallibility of DNA evidence and many other pieces of information that were kept out of the trial (but were, in Manso’s opinion, crucial to an understanding of what really happened). Readers will of course draw their own conclusions, but Reasonable Doubt raises potent questions about our courts and the true beneficiaries of justice.

WHEN IN SIENA Robert Rodi fell so in love with one part of Tuscan culture, it bordered on obsession. Seven Seasons in Siena (Ballantine, $25, 272 pages, ISBN 9780345521057) chronicles the author’s multiple trips to Siena, home of the Palio, a bareback horse race around the town’s central piazza. Seventeen independent societies, known as contrade, compete in the race, and Rodi is determined to find acceptance in the Noble Contrada of the Caterpillar. It’s not a simple matter of asking permission: The culture is insular and macho, while Rodi is a gay American writer who’s just getting a handle on conversational Italian. But he doesn’t give up. Rodi has been compared to Bill Bryson, and rightly so; Seven Seasons in Siena is packed full of history, trivia and details about Siena, yet reads like a breezy travelogue. It’s also frequently hilarious. When a native indulges Rodi’s rudimentary language skills, “He grins widely, as though listening to a parakeet try to speak Latin.” Seconds after tasting some proffered homemade grappa, Rodi says, “I can feel all the hair on my chest just quietly drop off.” You may decide to spend a season in Siena yourself after reading this love letter to a passionate people and their beautiful corner of the world.


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meet MEG CABOT

the title of your Q: Whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s  new book?

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the reservoir

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you rather be a princess or a demon hunter? Q: Would 

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OVERBITE

The author of the Princess Diaries series and many other best-selling books for teens and adults, Meg Cabot tracks the undead all the way to the wilds of New Jersey in Overbite (­Morrow, $22.99, 320 pages, ISBN 9780061735103), a sequel to her modernday vampire novel, Insatiable. Cabot and her husband live in Key West.


reviews

FICTION

Drama at the family cottage

maine

R e v i e w b y r e b e cc a s h a p i r o

J. Courtney Sullivan made a name for herself in 2009 with a smart, incredibly resonant debut, Commencement, about four unlikely friends during their college years at Smith and the turbulent 20-something years that followed. With her sophomore effort, Sullivan turns from friendships to family, writing with the same warmth and nuance as in Commencement, but pushing her characters further, creating an even more complex and satisfying whole in Maine. Maine revolves around the Kelleher family, a large Boston Irish-Catholic clan that has been vacationing for nearly 60 years at the same beachfront cottage, which fell into their laps in a bit of uncharacteristic luck. Weatherworn but packed with years of sun-soaked memories, the cottage was once a uniting force for the Kellehers, but in recent years, it seems to have been little more than a nuisance, and the family matriarch is preparing to make a rash decision about its future. By J. Courtney Sullivan, Knopf, $25.95, 400 pages As she did in her first novel, Sullivan oscillates between narrators with ISBN 9780307595126, audio, eBook available a remarkable ease in Maine, capturing the summer from the perspectives of Alice Kelleher; her estranged daughter Kathleen, a recovering alcoholic with a holistic California farm; her revered daughter-in-law Ann Marie, who copes with her fledgling children and disappointing marriage through an obsessive dollhouse habit; and granddaughter Maggie, at a painful crossroads in her own life. In Sullivan’s hands, the four considerably flawed but deeply sympathetic narrators come to life in a meaningful and believable way. Perhaps even more impressive, though, is Sullivan’s ability to again conjure a place so completely through description and careful attention to detail. Damp, salt-laden air and strong cocktails practically emanate from the pages of this pleasing story, which cements Sullivan’s status as a talented young writer to watch.

THE GIRL IN THE BLUE BERET By Bobbie Ann Mason Random House $26, 368 pages ISBN 9781400067183 Audio, eBook available

fiction

Bobbie Ann Mason became an American sensation with her books Shiloh and In Country. She has returned with a fabulous tale that takes her outside the United States, into France and back a few decades in history to the tumultuous years of World War II in The Girl in the Blue Beret. Mason’s protagonist, Marshall, must navigate the choppy waters of memory in this riveting, understated novel. Years ago, Marshall was involved in a crash-landing in France, and he almost lost his life along the way. As part of his recuperation process, he was sheltered by a host of courageous French citi-

zens—participants in the anti-Nazi cause. Having survived the war, Marshall enjoyed a fairly luxurious life in the States, flying for a commercial airline and drawing strength from a sturdy (if not very passionate) marriage to his patient wife, Loretta. But, newly widowed, Marshall must decide if he wants to fade quietly into senescence. A part of him longs to start a new life in France, back among the people who helped him so long ago. Mason’s subtle, gorgeous prose keeps us captivated. She is not the kind of writer who relies on stylistic pyrotechnics, yet you occasionally pause to marvel at how real her fictional world seems. Tiny details lodge in your memory—a group of men spraying beer on a “newlychristened” plane, a small cardboard container of black-market ice cream “smuggled in newspapers and straw.” Her characters’ letters are unforgettable. A Frenchman writes—in choppy English—“I am sending you a little word to ask you what are you doing and to tell you that we are going very well and hope that you are the same since

we see you.” Readers who enjoy a well-told, realistic story will want to get their hands on The Girl in the Blue Beret. It’s a novel for lovers of the rich, fully plausible narratives of Anne Tyler and Mona Simpson. Like these two masters, Mason can say quite a bit about America just by telling one man’s tale. —Dan Barrett

THEN CAME YOU

Then Came You, a man walks over to a woman having lunch and asks to sit down. He compliments her, tries to buy her meal, and then, just when readers expect him to fish for her phone number, he poses a question: “How would you like to make twenty thousand dollars?” He’s talking about egg donation, and just like that, Then Came You instantly veers off the ordinary path and dives headlong into a very modern story of motherhood. Beautiful and athletic Princeton grad Jules, courted by a rep from the fertility center, considers how the hefty reward could buy her father another much-needed round of rehab. Jules’ story intersects with Annie’s, a stay-at-home mom of two boys who is considering surrogacy to make ends meet. India, the newly wedded second wife of wealthy, older Marcus, needs both Jules and Annie to help her conceive a child. Bettina, Marcus’ daughter, is incensed when she gets the news that she’ll have to graft a half-sister onto her fractured family tree. She does her best to expose India as a Botoxed, gold-digging phony. But Bettina grapples with her own insecurities, especially when it comes to making her life count for something outside of her work. Though India’s maternal instincts surface for seemingly obvious reasons—to secure her inheritance—her backstory is slowly revealed. By the book’s end, readers will discover her true motivation. Weiner has a history of turning out lighthearted and romanceinfused reads like Good In Bed and Best Friends Forever. Then Came You is something different for her, offering an eye-opening perspective on parenthood in an age where the family is ever evolving. —Lizza Connor Bowen

By Jennifer Weiner Atria $26.99, 352 pages ISBN 9781451617726 Audio, eBook available

fiction

THE HOMECOMING OF SAMUEL LAKE By Jenny Wingfield Random House $25, 336 pages ISBN 9780385344081 eBook available

debut fiction

Jennifer Weiner’s latest novel, Then Came You, opens with a scene her readers would expect from this best-selling author—but it unfolds unlike any other she’s ever written. In the first pages of

The best of Southern fiction depicts both the charms and the underbelly of regional communities,

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reviews

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and Jenny Wingfield’s The Homecoming of Samuel Lake fits nicely within this tradition. The story takes place on a farm in the south of Arkansas in 1956, where the charms range from spunky children creating worlds for themselves on large stretches of property, to family suppers complete with made-fromscratch biscuits, to neighbors who operate on the honor system. This idealized, simple life is rocked by no small list of heartbreaks: animal abuse, suicide, rape, murder and the near falling apart of a family. Samuel Lake is a preacher, and every summer his wife, Willadee, and their three kids go without him to the Moses family reunion. His wife is a Moses, and the reunion is on her parents’ farm; Samuel can’t attend because of an annual conference of Methodist ministers. This year, however, is different. A tragic event takes place during the reunion, and Samuel learns at the conference that he’s lost his church. Samuel and Willadee decide to stay at the Moses farm all summer with their clan: eldest son Noble, who longs to be “formidable,” book-loving youngest son Bienville, and daughter Swan, a charming 11-year-old spitfire with a big mouth and a mind of her own. And yes, her name is Swan Lake. Wingfield has also written screenplays for The Man in the Moon (a 1991 movie starring Reese Witherspoon) and The Outsider (a 2002 Western with Naomi Watts), and there are plenty of cinematic moments in The Homecoming of Samuel Lake. Drama runs high on the Moses farm, not least of all because the family runs two businesses on their land—a grocery store and a bar, which doesn’t always sit well with Samuel the preacher (although the bar does attract a crowd when he holds a tent revival across the yard). All hell really breaks loose when Swan harbors the young son of a mean horse trainer—the villain of the story—and when Willadee’s conniving sister-in-law decides she’d rather be married to Samuel. There are many threads and personalities packed into this novel, and at times I wondered how it was all going to come together. Due to a quick narrative pace and funny, kind-hearted characters, though, readers will gladly stick it out and immerse themselves in the world of Samuel Lake. —Eliza Borné

FICTION TWICE BORN By Maria Mazzantini Translated by Ann Gagliardi Viking $26.95, 464 pages ISBN 9780670022687 eBook available

literary fiction

Twice Born, Maria Mazzantini’s beautiful but heartbreaking second novel, opens in post-war Sarajevo. Gemma has traveled from her native Rome with her teenage son Pietro to show him the city where he was born and where his father, Diego, died. The nominal reason for this trip is an exhibition of photography put together by Gemma’s old friend Gojko featuring Diego’s work. The emotional intensity of the visit instantly transports Gemma back to the delights of her first visit to the city, as well as the horrific period of the four-year Siege of Sarajevo. Gemma first encountered Sarajevo as a graduate student in 1984, when the city was a bustling host to the Winter Olympics. On the day she was scheduled to return to Rome, poet and tourist guide Gojko introduced her to Diego, a young bohemian photographer from Genoa. Their attraction was instantaneous, though their joyful affair faltered soon after Gemma’s return to Rome and marriage to a conventional businessman. That marriage didn’t last, and after she and Diego got back together, they married, hoping to begin a family. But Gemma was plagued by fertility problems and unable to conceive. Several years later, on a vacation to Sarajevo, Gojko introduced Diego and Gemma to Aksa, a young punk musician willing to be a surrogate. At the same time, the deteriorating political situation and intensifying violence put their plans in jeopardy. Gemma’s return to Sarajevo, 16 years later, shatters every truth she thought she knew about Diego’s death and Pietro’s origins. Armed with new information, Gemma finally begins to understand the magnitude of what was lost, but also sees what the power of her love allowed to grow. What keeps Twice Born from sinking into a desperate sadness is Mazzantini’s skilled depictions of

love, both maternal and romantic, and her honest look at the collateral damage of a war-torn city. The stories, past and present, are woven together with true skill, and Ann Gagliardi’s translation ensures that the plot and Mazzantini’s elegant style are well served. Diego tells Gemma he keeps his eye on “something beautiful to hold despair at bay.” This holds true for Mazzantini as well; her faith in the persistence of love keeps this passionate novel afloat. —Lauren Bufferd

singular cause of survival. Wilson, despite his Ph.D. in robotics, allows nearly no time for jargon as the apocalyptic pacing burns through the story. The chapters feature children, an old Japanese man, soldiers in the Middle East and old-world warriors in Oklahoma, and each voice allows new humor and horror, instantly banning any chance for a moment’s rest. There’s a reason Steven Spielberg has a movie version of the novel in the works: Wilson’s debut is one of a kind. — C a t D . Ac r ee

robopocalypse By Daniel H. Wilson Doubleday $25, 368 pages ISBN 9780385533850 Audio, eBook available

science fiction

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN By Adam Ross Knopf $25.95, 256 pages ISBN 9780307270719 eBook available

short stories

Our cars can parallel park themselves. Our vacuums can zoom independently around the carpet. Add a few advancements in artificial intelligence and the setting in Robopocalypse is not so different from today. That is what makes Daniel H. Wilson’s debut novel so jarring. Robopocalypse begins at the end, several years after Zero Hour, the moment when all the robots in the world turned against humanity. The New War has been won and the robot behind it all—Archos—has been defeated. Readers meet Cormac Wallace, whose crew of guerrillas finds a solid black cube buried deep underground. Within the cube is a special file kept by Archos that includes security footage, recorded conversations and stored video, all documenting the humans Archos had considered “heroes.” As one of those heroes, Cormac takes it upon himself to write their stories. The result is a truly entertaining, gruesome and humbling novel, with each chapter memorializing the humans and robots that were most pivotal in the rise and fall of the New War. The seemingly unrelated heroes, scattered across the globe and described with an intensity that suggests that each is more important than the last, give shape to Robopocalypse as their minute rebellions come together for the

Adam Ross arrived on the literary scene last summer with his debut novel Mr. Peanut, a book that received nearly unanimous rave reviews. Ross returns with a stellar collection of intriguingly dark—and emotionally heavy—stories in his new collection, Ladies and Gentlemen. What is most compelling about Ross’ writing is how much detail he incorporates into his stories; the reader comes to know so much about his characters so quickly that we feel fully committed to their subsequent exploits. In the actionriddled “When in Rome,” a powerhouse lawyer aims to make amends with his drug-addicted younger brother, only to truly test the limits of brotherhood when they become involved in a violent mugging. In “In the Suicide Room,” four college students break into a dorm room where a former student had hanged herself, only to witness a semester’s prank turn deadly among them. And in “Middleman,” a child actor tests the boundaries of his relationship with his best friend’s older sister as he coaches her through the underbelly of New York City’s acting world. Ross layers both tension and action within each story, delving deeply into his characters’ neuroses and finishing each story profoundly


FICTION with an intense climax. Whether he takes on the voice of a young, lonely male professor or that of a woman contemplating an affair (the only female protagonist in this collection), each persona is fraught with concerns, curiosity and complexities. A finely balanced composite of humor and cynicism, Ladies and Gentlemen delivers compelling portraits of misunderstandings matched by good intentions. —Megan Fishmann

ONCE UPON A RIVER By Bonnie Jo Campbell Norton $25.95, 352 pages ISBN 9780393079890

literary fiction

with an elderly, dying man named Smoke, whose solicitude, born of an understanding of the real nature of Margo’s quest, provides the foundation on which she can hope to build something approaching a normal life. This is not a novel for the squeamish. There’s incest, rape, murder and graphic descriptions of animal skinning, from deer to muskrat, while Margo’s self-absorption and frequent misjudgments hardly qualify her for sainthood. Campbell, who lives in Kalamazoo, excels at evoking her home territory with a keenness of observation and naturalism that call to mind the best of Jim Harrison’s Michigan-based fiction. Combine these qualities with a plot that’s a thrilling variation on the classic journey narrative, and one has a novel that stakes a serious claim to an enduring place in our literary world. —Harvey Freedenberg

To the ranks of memorable literary heroines add the name of Margo Crane, the protagonist of Bonnie Jo Campbell’s passionate new novel, Once Upon a River. Navigating the borderline between civilization and the harsh, dangerous natural world, it’s a story of a journey that begins with the search for a missing parent and ends in self-discovery. After her father is killed in an incident provoked by her own impulsive act, 16-year-old Margo sets out in a flat-bottomed teak rowboat on the Stark River in southwestern Michigan to find her mother, who has abandoned the family. Margo’s hero is Annie Oakley, her bible a biography of the legendary sharpshooter. With Oakley, Margo shares an uncanny ability to wield a .22 Marlin rifle, displaying feats of marksmanship that provide some of the novel’s most dramatic moments. Though it’s set in the late 1970s, that linkage contributes to the novel’s timeless feel. Along the way, Margo encounters a succession of men whose conduct runs the gamut from depravity to tenderness. To one of these men she’s the “wolf girl,” to another she’s a “river spirit,” but whatever form her complex, shape-shifting character takes, Margo manages to sustain herself in every sort of adversity through a combination of courage, stubbornness and ability to thrive in the natural world. Her most improbable relationship is

Conquistadora By Esmeralda Santiago Knopf $27.50, 432 pages ISBN 9780307268327 Audio, eBook available

historical fiction

Esmeralda Santiago captured readers’ hearts in 1994 with her memoir, When I Was Puerto Rican, and was heralded for her proud account of her Nuyorican upbringing and her deep connection to the little Caribbean island. After a novel and two more memoirs, Santiago returns to Puerto Rico in Conquistadora, a historical novel that tells the story of the island itself. Conquistadora begins at the very beginning—or at least the beginning for one woman—with Ana Larragoity Cubillas as a brighteyed and curious child in search of adventure in 1800s Spain. Ana grows into a tough, stout woman, and after she falls in love with her best friend Elena, she arranges marriages for both of them to a set of twins. She coerces the husbands to plan their future in Puerto Rico and hopes they will claim their wealth on a sugar plantation, La Hacienda los Gemelos. However, Puerto Rico greets Ana and her new family with

stifling heat, disease epidemics and desolation. Much like the Spanish dream of Puerto Rico as a colony, Ana’s own life loses its mystique as her success on La Hacienda becomes “erected on corpses.” Her devotion to sugar is far greater than her connection to her husband, to Elena or even to her own son. In time, it seems as though Ana’s plantation is cursed, though she cannot deny it is where she belongs. The novel spans nearly her entire life, through child-rearing, ruined marriages and many deaths, leading to an open-ended conclusion, as though to suggest the story of Puerto Rico has just begun. Styled much like a romance novel from the Civil War era (which in timing it parallels), but told with a stoniness that separates it from more romantic, sweeping novels, Conquistadora is simple in its purpose: to tell the story of those who lived and died in Puerto Rico. Readers may not sympathize with Ana, the book’s hardened hero, but her unflinching devotion to her dream of living with the valor and beauty of her conqueror ancestors is compelling. Woven together with Ana’s tale are the lives of all those around her, and they are each given time for their own perspective—Elena, the twins, her second husband and business partner, her son, even the slaves, one at a time. The result is a broad and multidimensional account of the little island of Puerto Rico.

Abdul’s mother when he’s only nine years old and still an innocent. Still, the trauma of Precious’ death and the sugary callousness of the women who take him in are the beginnings of his break with the world. He not only loses his mother and his home, but somewhere along the line he even loses his name—everyone starts calling him “Jamal” or “J.J.” He believes he hears his mother’s voice, he zones out, he talks to himself. His removal to a boy’s orphanage, the oddly named St. Ailanthus, furthers his deterioration; he is by turns sexually and psychologically abused and coddled by the religious brothers who run the place. After a while, Abdul comes to treat his one friend at the orphanage, a smaller boy named Jaime, with the same abuse mingled with perverse tenderness. Still Abdul insists that he’s not a bad boy, and he isn’t. He was with his loving but beset mother—she was desperately poor and deteriorating from AIDS—long enough to have a core of goodness in him. In this, Abdul is a bit more fortunate than Richard

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New York Times bestselling author

— C a t D . Ac r e e

THE KID By Sapphire Penguin Press $25.95, 384 pages ISBN 9781594203046 Audio, eBook available

fiction

The Kid, Sapphire’s sequel to Push, the novel on which the movie Precious was based, is a grueling book. The difficulty comes largely because its protagonist, Precious’ son Abdul, is a young man who’s hard to relate to. Frankly, Abdul is psychotic. The problem isn’t his fault. The book opens with the death of

Also available as an eBook

The dazzling first installment of the Smythe-Smith Quartet AvonRomance.com • JuliaQuinn.com

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reviews Wright’s sociopathic and homicidal Bigger Thomas in Native Son. Abdul’s escape from the craziness both inside and outside him is dance. He first takes lessons at a studio not far from St. Ailanthus and develops into a brilliant semiprofessional dancer. But his vocation doesn’t deliver him from pain. A series of bizarre twists and turns lands him with a group of passionate fellow dancers, but even his connection with them, like his connection with the rest of the world, is ragged and fragile. Sapphire keeps the reader on edge—sometimes, like Abdul, you don’t know whether a situation is “real” or is taking place entirely, or somewhat, in the young man’s mixed-up head. As with Push the author doesn’t gift us with even a semblance of a happy ending, but she does give us hope; the ending of The Kid feels like a cliffhanger, and there’s more to come. We simply don’t know if what’s coming will be better. —Arlene McKanic

FICTION THE GAP YEAR By Sarah Bird Knopf $25.95, 320 pages ISBN 9780307592798 eBook availablee

fiction

Sarah Bird’s latest novel, The Gap Year, is a must-read for anyone who loves mother-daughter stories. Cam Lightsey, a lactation consultant in the homogenous world of Texan suburbia, is attempting to prepare her daughter Aubrey for the next step after high school. The pushing-from-the-nest does not exactly go as planned, which Bird reveals through two simultaneously unfolding storylines. The first, told from Cam’s perspective, details her mounting frustration with her daughter and her grow-

ing suspicion that Aubrey has no intention of attending college at all. The second, told from Aubrey’s perspective a year earlier, attempts to explain her own seemingly cryptic actions in the present day. Like many daughters, Aubrey is both a great deal like her mother and anxious to rebel against everything her mother believes in. In the absence of a father figure (Martin left home 16 years ago to embrace leadership in a bizarre religious sect), Cam and Aubrey have become incredibly close. Cam can read Aubrey like a book, a quality Aubrey relies upon and resents in equal measures. Meanwhile Aubrey can sling insults at Cam so personal the reader may find herself wincing. In short, Bird has done a remarkable job of creating one very specific mother-daughter pair and a dynamic that will feel familiar to many readers. It becomes nearly impossible to put The Gap Year down once broiling tensions come to a nice

simmer. In plot one, Cam vacillates between strong-arming her daughter into packing and realizing how outside the loop she really is. In plot two, Aubrey resumes communication with her long-lost dad and falls for exactly the kind of guy she knows her mother wouldn’t understand: a football jock. I will say nothing of the conclusion, except that Bird knew what she was doing the whole time. As Cam and Aubrey learn to see each other in different lights, readers might reflect on their own relationships with their mothers, especially during the difficult late-teenage years, and decide to dial up Mom to offer some belated gratitude. — K e l ly B l e w e T t

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reviews Season to Taste

NONFICTION

SCENTS AND SENSIBILITY Review by Amy Scribner

When a speeding car slammed into Molly Birnbaum while she was out for a run, she broke her pelvis, fractured her skull and ripped tendons in her knee. Those injuries, though severe, would heal with time and hard work. But for this aspiring chef, the loss of her sense of smell was more devastating by far. In Season to Taste, Birnbaum vividly recalls what it was like to suddenly live in a world devoid of scent. “It was an invisible injury, potent and intense,” she writes. “It involved nothing concrete like crutches; physical therapy wasn’t a possibility. But the absence—the monotone blank, the indescribable pale of a scentless landscape—was more painful than the nights I hyperventilated in the hospital after knee surgery.” At the time of the accident, Birnbaum—who writes a delicious, recipefilled blog called “My Madeleine”—was about to begin studying at the By Molly Birnbaum, Ecco, $24.99, 320 pages Culinary Institute of America. She’d spent a grueling summer working in a ISBN 9780061915314, eBook available popular Boston restaurant to prepare for school, washing dishes, cleaning wild mushrooms and herbs, peeling garlic and learning to trust her sense of smell to guide her cooking. And then, in the split second it took for her forehead to smash into a moving windshield, the neurons that connected her nose to her brain snapped. Her brain could no longer receive the messages about incoming smells. There’s even a name for it: anosmia. Birnbaum began talking with experts in the science of taste and smell, trying to understand what had happened, and what would happen next. After recovering (physically, anyway), she moved to New York City in search of a job and a fresh start. Intriguingly, she began to get flashes of scent. First, rosemary, smelling green and woodsy. Then chocolate, followed by laundry soap, cilantro, cucumbers, old books. Slowly, she reclaimed her life, one scent at a time. Birnbaum powerfully explores the science of smell and its ties to emotion, love and even memory in Season to Taste. This deeply personal recollection of recovering from a loss invisible to the outside world is a truly mouthwatering read.

TURN RIGHT AT MACHU PICCHU By Mark Adams Dutton $26.95, 352 pages ISBN 9780525952244 eBook available

TRAVEL

As the actor Carleton Young declared in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence, “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” That’s exactly what happened in the April 1913 issue of National Geographic, when the entire magazine was devoted to explorer Hiram Bingham III’s “discovery” of ancient Inca ruins in Peru. In his meticulously researched and marvelously readable book Turn Right at Machu Picchu, author and adventurer Mark Adams retraces the steps that led Bingham to the famed site 100 years ago this July.

Adams, whose Mr. America was named a Best Book of 2009 by the Washington Post, goes beyond merely printing the legend: He studies it, he lives it . . . and he debunks it. At first glance, it seems like Adams might have been following in the footsteps of Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods, given the book’s “maybe-I-should-haveworked-out-just-a-little-bit-morebefore-starting-this-physicallydemanding-quest” setting. Like Bryson, Adams peppers his book with interesting anecdotes, trenchant observations and frequently hilarious asides. But as the chapters (which more or less alternate between Bingham’s and Adams’ expeditions) fly by, both the book’s scholarship and its organization also call to mind John McPhee’s excellent history/travelogue of Alaska, Coming into the Country. Even if you’ve never traveled farther than the Jungle Cruise at Walt Disney World, you’re guaranteed to be swept up in Adams’ vivid descriptions of the near-

unpronounceable sights along the Inca trail, as well as the remarkable amount of information he tactfully packs into a single paragraph: “We walked down the mountainside beneath Llactapata and crossed the Aobamba River—an important milestone, because we were now officially inside the Machu Picchu Historical Sanctuary. Technically, this zone is a haven not only for ruins but for the diverse flora and fauna of the region. (This is one of the few safe places for the rare Andean spectacled bear, which looks like a cross between a raccoon and a black bear cub.) There is one important eco-exception—the gigantic hydroelectrical plant on the backside of Machu Picchu. John and I walked past dozens of men in matching hard hats and coveralls driving heavy machinery; a funicular ran up the mountainside. KEEP OUT signs were posted everywhere. None of this is visible from the sacred ruins directly above. It was like stumbling upon a Bond villain’s secret hideout while hiking in

Yosemite.” Perhaps, in the best-case scenario, Adams’ book might impel you to adopt the motto of one of his former employers, Adventure magazine: “Dream it. Plan it. Do it.” And at the very least, you’ll get an unparalleled insight into how demanding, and how rewarding, following that dictum can be. —T h a n e T i e r n e y

THE OPTIMISM BIAS By Tali Sharot Pantheon $25.95, 272 pages ISBN 9780307378484 eBook available

Psychology

Most of us know that eyewitness testimony is often inaccurate. But what about our own memories? Especially our recollections of emotionally charged events—so-called “flashbulb memories”? We’re pretty sure that they’re vividly accurate, even when they aren’t. Why that is is just one of a complex of psychological phenomena Tali Sharot explores in her illuminating and vastly entertaining first book, The Optimism Bias. Sharot, a researcher in neuropsychology at the Wellcome Trust Center for Neuroimaging at University College London, makes two major claims here: Most of us are optimistic, and we are optimistic because our brains have evolved to make us so. Why? Because the optimistic belief that we are all slightly better than the average “makes health and progress more likely,” and that set of mild illusions has helped humans to survive and progress. “Optimism,” Sharot writes, “may be so essential to our survival that it is hardwired into our most complex organ, the brain.” Such observations could smack of psychobabble, except for the fact that Sharot and colleagues have produced fascinating brain imaging experiments and data that support her assertions. You can’t read this book and disagree that, as Sharot writes, “the human brain . . . is extremely efficient at turning lead into gold.” Sharot subtitles her book “A Tour of the Irrationally Positive Brain.”

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reviews “Tour” is a good description, as she explores facets of our ability to delude ourselves, taking us on a magical mystery tour of our perceptions, rather than making a step-by-step argument. “Tour” also evokes the pleasure Sharot gives us in her surprising, research-based observations (“Political stability is one of the nine strongest indicators of a nation’s well-being, and human rights is one of the two strongest.”), her use of contemporary examples (“from the dark skies of Sham el-Sheikh to the crowded lockers of the Los Angeles Lakers”) and her pleasing sense of humor (discussing experiments with mice, for example, she acknowledges that humans are quite different but notes “like humans, however, these mammals are frequently found in the kitchen in the middle of the night, searching for leftovers”). Sharot also acknowledges that optimism, at least extreme optimism, has its downside—sometimes leading to risky, life-threatening behavior. So while she doesn’t directly say it, her book certainly suggests that we need a little humility to accompany our certainties. A little—but not too much. —Alden Mudge

THE END OF COUNTRY By Seamus McGraw Random House $26, 256 pages ISBN 9781400068531 eBook available

CURRENT AFFAIRS

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The search for sustainable sources of energy continues with great urgency in many places. One area that has attracted much attention in the last several years is a stratum of shale called the Marcellus, which was discovered 150 years ago and named for a small town in New York state where the layer of shale had, after a series of geological upheavals, been wrenched to the surface. Some estimates say it contains the third largest cache of natural gas in the world, with a potential worth in the millions of dollars. Getting to that natural gas, however, is not easy. Part of the Marcellus stratum is in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, a

NONFICTION rural, rocky, remote part of the state populated primarily by several generations of farmers and their families. When representatives from gas companies began to appear there and sought to persuade landowners to sign documents giving the companies the right to drill on their property, it set in motion a classic story of locals with deep family roots and a suspicion of Big Oil and Big Government versus large corporations willing to spend a lot of money in the hopes of eventually reaping huge profits. At the same time, it could also provide at least a short-term solution to the nation’s energy needs. Journalist Seamus McGraw grew up in the area, and his mother was one of the first to be approached by an oil company wanting a lease to drill on her property. In The End of Country he tells the compelling story of how residents of the community were changed by this apparent good luck that led to, among other consequences both good and bad, what one resident called “the end of country.” Two of the prominent personalities in the story are Ken Ely, a sometimes cantankerous, self-described hermit who has lived there for many years, and a newcomer, Victoria Switzer, a former teacher who moved to the area with her husband to build a home that could be their refuge. Although different in so many ways, Ken and Victoria find themselves unlikely allies in dealing with some of the negative aspects of the big changes confronting the landowners. Another key figure is Terry Engelder, a Penn State University professor whose reading of the initial production reports from a few gas wells in the Marcellus shale led him to estimate greater productivity in the area than originally thought—setting off a frenzied bidding for access to landowners’ property. But there is much more in this carefully researched and beautifully written account. McGraw wants us to understand that “the whole history of the Marcellus shale . . . was itself a history of random accidents and improbable coincidences.” He tells about unique and often desperate men who over the years were obsessed with mastering and subduing this vast area of potential underground energy. He gives us a history of some of these who made significant contributions but did not personally profit from them.

Among many other subjects, he explains the controversial practice of “fracking,” the shorthand for “hydraulic fracturing.” Although drillers vouch for its safety, the state government of Pennsylvania and the federal government consider the used frack water to be so dangerous that they say it is the most toxic byproduct of gas development. The story McGraw tells takes place over hundreds of millions of years, and it is also about our present and our future. It is a personal story about how families and a community met the challenges and dilemmas posed by the energy companies and by the protection of their own land and the environment. The End of Country is an important book that deals with complex issues in a reader-friendly way. —Roger Bishop

LA SEDUCTION By Elaine Sciolino Times Books $27, 352 pages ISBN 9780805091151 eBook available

Culture

In one of the most hilarious and poignant scenes in his classic comedy Annie Hall, Woody Allen brilliantly depicts the art of seduction. One afternoon after a tennis match, Annie (Diane Keaton) invites Alvy (Allen) back to her apartment for a drink; standing on her terrace, the two range over a number of topics even as subtitles flash across the bottom of the screen depicting each character’s real thoughts. As much as they might desire each other’s bodies, they crave the pleasure that intellectual foreplay nourishes. In addition, when these two cease to desire each other and seek mere physical gratification, the relationship ends. As Elaine Sciolino, the Paris correspondent for the New York Times, so vividly reveals in her alluring and irresistible exploration of plaisir (blandly translated into English as “pleasure”), seduction in France does not always involve body contact. As we come to learn in La Seduc-

tion, seduction in France encompasses a grand mosaic of meanings; what is constant is the intent: to attract or influence, to win over, even if just in fun. With a slow passionate burn, she explores the early history of the idea of seduction, teaching us that intellectual foreplay, the allure of the flesh and the temptation of scent all artfully enhance the pleasure of playing political, economic or sexual games. For the French, if an individual seduces with a delicious meal and a glass of excellent wine, a promise of romance, an intoxicating scent and a lively game of words, then he or she has led you to a place where you can find freedom to enjoy and savor the best that life has to offer. Drawing on interviews with politicians, artists, philosophers and men and women from all walks of life, as well as her deeply charming and absorbing readings of French film and literature, Sciolino captivates us with scenes of seduction played out in political offices, butcher shops and sidewalk cafes. Her perhaps most memorable line—“I had never had a gastronomic orgasm before I met Guy Savoy”—reminds us of the power of food to seduce. In France, she observes, food is consistently presented as a source of pleasure, and gustatory pleasure is so close to amatory delight that the lines may sometimes blur. Sciolino’s charming tales of the French art of seduction will entertain and delight readers, and instruct us in how best to embrace life’s joys and celebrate every moment of our lives and loves. — H e n r y L . C arr i g a n J r .

MY YEAR WITH ELEANOR By Noelle Hancock Ecco $24.99, 304 pages ISBN 9780061875038 eBook available

MEMOIR

“Do one thing every day that scares you.” Most people reading that quote by Eleanor Roosevelt, if at all disenchanted with themselves for leading less than robust lives, would feel a momentary rekindling of their “inner warrior” attitude.


NONFICTION They would take it as a gentle reminder and might silently vow to wrest more out of life, to challenge themselves more frequently, to be a little braver and bolder. But when Noelle Hancock sees it written on a chalkboard in a coffee shop, she adopts it as her mantra—literally! My Year With Eleanor is a delightful memoir of her journey out of fear and anxiety with the former “First Lady of the World” as her imitable guide. At the book’s opening, Hancock has been seeing a therapist, Dr. Bob, for about a year (a decision that came about, she writes, “when I realized I knew more about Jennifer Aniston than I did about myself”); her lucrative, but less-thansoul-fulfilling job as a blogger for a celebrity-themed website has just gone kaput; and her next birthday looms ahead. When she discusses the Roosevelt quote with Dr. Bob, he says, “This could be a good project for you. You should run with this,” and ultimately, she does. Delving further into Eleanor Roosevelt’s writing, she is moved and inspired by Eleanor’s life story: her early timidity, her heartbreaks and sorrows, and her eventual triumph over immobilizing insecurity. Buoyed by Eleanor’s example, on her 29th birthday Hancock begins a year-long struggle to “do one thing each day” that scares her before she turns 30. With no paying job, and her parents still wishing she’d go to law school, she kicks off the project by taking a trapeze class, and after much heart-pounding trepidation, she finally hops from the elevated platform and takes her first “exhilarating and dreadful” plunge toward self-confidence. With unwavering and witty self-analysis (and Eleanor’s “mentoring”), Hancock embarks on an uncomfortable but never-a-dullmoment voyage of self-discovery and daring. Sometimes her challenges are more physical—sky diving, hiking Kilimanjaro and taking fighter pilot lessons—while some are fear-provoking on other levels— singing karaoke, doing stand-up comedy or volunteering in a cancer ward. But whether she is confronting terrifying sharks in a diving cage or her tangled feelings about her boyfriend Nick, she demonstrates how thrilling it can be to face your fears. I double-dare you to read this book! —Linda Stankard

THOUGHTS WITHOUT CIGARETTES By Oscar Hijuelos Gotham $27.50, 384 pages ISBN 9781592406296 eBook available

Memoir

Oscar Hijuelos ends his appealing memoir Thoughts Without Cigarettes in 1990, shortly after he won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for his second novel, The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love. That Hijuelos was the first Latino to win the fiction prize (and only one of two Latino writers to date who have won) made him “feel both proud and, at the same time, oddly singled out for the wrong reason.” And, in light of this memoir, the fact that he was the first is, in the same instant, more strange and more appropriate than he lets on. In fact, Hijuelos spent much of his young life constructing an Americano identity. Born in upper Manhattan in 1951 to Cuban parents who had immigrated to New York years before the Castro revolution, Hijuelos was a sickly and overly protected child. Following a trip to Cuba when he was four years old, he developed kidney disease and spent a year away from his family in the hospital, losing forever his fluency in Spanish, the only language his mother spoke. Not only that, he and his brother were fair-haired and fair-skinned, leading the pensive child to wonder what about him was Cuban. Yet after years of confusion and drift, Hijuelos—an accidental writer if ever there was one—found a world opened to him with the discovery of Latin American writers. “For the first time in my life, I didn’t feel particularly ashamed of how and what I had come from and, thinking about my father and mother, began to conceive that perhaps, one day, I would be able to write something about them, and without the fear and shame that always entered me,” he writes. The discovery of a possible identity as a writer who mines his experiences as a Cuban American is more spiritual and cultural than political. Although Hijuelos writes briefly and sharply here about how

Latino writers are too often ignored, Thoughts Without Cigarettes is in the main a very personal, often moving, sometimes quite humorous account of his grappling with his divided self. Hijuelos shows flashes of anger at people—writers especially—who have humiliated him. But the spirit of the book is generous. He expresses deep gratitude to writers Donald Barthelme, Susan Sontag and Frederic Tuten, who helped with his fledgling efforts at fiction. And the book brims with a complicated love for the Morningside Heights neighborhood where he grew up and for the difficult and flawed parents who raised him. — Al d e n M u d g e

NOTHING DAUNTED By Dorothy Wickenden Scribner $26, 304 pages ISBN 9781439176580 eBook available

biography

Back in the hardscrabble past, our grandparents walked barefoot 10 miles in the snow to get to school on time. Sound like a joke? Not for New Yorker editor Dorothy Wickenden, whose grandmother Dorothy Woodruff, with her best friend Rosamond Underwood, broke trail on horseback in a blizzard to get to their teaching post at the rural one-room schoolhouse in Elkhead, Colorado. Nothing Daunted tells the delightful true story of how Dorothy and Rosamond, two well-bred Smith College graduates, lit out for the frontier in 1916 to work as schoolteachers rather than do the expected thing and marry. Little did they know that idealistic Ferry Carpenter, the lawyer and rancher who masterminded the building of the Elkhead school, hoped that importing schoolteachers would provide wives for the local ranchers and cowboys. (He requested a photo with each job application.) Dorothy and Rosamond embrace the hardships of mountain life with irrepressible good humor. One of the first lessons they learn is that wearing spurs on horseback reduces their commute time to

school by 15 minutes. Their pupils, the ragtag children of local ranchers and miners, charm and frustrate in equal measure; of maintaining order in the classroom, Dorothy writes, “my boys . . . say such funny things—but they are regular imps of Satan, too.” Ferry Carpenter is a charismatic figure, a man of all trades drawn to the egalitarian West, able and willing to fill in as a Domestic Science teacher when it becomes clear that neither Dorothy nor Rosamond can cook. Ferry and Bob Perry, the son of a mine owner, engage in a friendly rivalry for the affections of Rosamond, but it’s hard for Ferry to compete after Bob endures a kidnapping and bravely escapes his assailants. Nothing Daunted began life as a 2009 New Yorker article, after Wickenden fortuitously discovered her grandmother’s Elkhead letters. Scrupulously researched, it is both an entertaining and an edifying read, bringing early 20th-century Colorado to vivid life. — C a t h e r i n e H o ll i s

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BASHER’S “distinctive, adorable little icons . . . sets [this book] apart.

–Booklist, Starred

N noodle “Engagingly spot-on.” –Kirkus Reviews

HC: 978-0-7534-6495-3 $17.99 • Ages 3-6

“A

standout .

– School Library Journal

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ROSEMARY CLEMENT-MOORE by Deborah Hopkinson

A Texas magical mystery tour

© Silver Screen Photography

A

my Goodnight, the appealing heroine of Rosemary Clement-Moore’s new teen novel Texas Gothic, comes from a positively magical family. Inside her family circle, magic is reasonable, tangible and, well, an everyday occurrence. Still, Amy (short for Amaryllis) prides herself on being the “normal” one in the Goodnight family: the one who understands the outside world and has spent her life building a wall around her family’s activities. As Amy puts it, “A lifetime of living with witches and psychics had made spells a routine part of my life. I knew they worked, but I still prefer to put my trust in a locked door.” Amy is thrown into the magical world in frightening ways one summer when she and her sister Phin (short for Delphinium—do you sense some herbal magic afoot?) are house-sitting their Aunt Hya“Magic is just cinth’s Texas farm, which is below the to some surface. How home especially can you use unruly goats (as well as the it to make ghost of her the world a late husband, better place?” Uncle Burt). Suddenly Amy finds her two worlds colliding with dangerous results, and it’s up to her to put things right. Amy and Phin are just two of a delightful cast of characters who inhabit the world Clement-Moore has created in Texas Gothic. And perhaps the most magical part of this story is how deftly the author has blended genres: romance, mystery, realistic teen fiction and comingof-age story. Her aim, she says, is to create “smart, funny, supernatural mystery novels.” And Texas Gothic is just that. Perhaps the reasons can be traced to Clement-Moore’s parents. “My dad was an avid science fiction reader and my mom was a die-hard ‘Star Trek’ fan,” says Clement-Moore, a fifth-generation Texan. “I grew up on reruns, which were always on when we got home from school and she was cooking dinner.” Not only that, her dad was a his-

tory buff. “Whenever we took vacations, he would have some story about what had happened in different places. In fact, my dad and I came up with the idea for Texas Gothic when I was still in high school. The notion of a lost expedition of gold prospectors came from my dad’s Texas stories,” notes the author, whose novel includes a slice of Texas history surrounding the fate of the lost Almagres gold mine. When creating the world for her stories, Clement-Moore loves to ask questions. “If I just look at the world cross-wise, what would it look like?” she says. “I want to combine magic with real-life mystery.” In Texas Gothic, no dragons appear, but mysteries abound. Bodies are discovered during an archaeology dig, and there’s definitely trouble brewing at the ranch next door, where the handsome cowboy Ben McCulloch blames Amy’s family for a malicious, trouble-making ghost. Ben is certainly complicating Amy’s life: Wherever she turns, there he is. Neither the characters nor the reader can be entirely sure what is causing the random attacks, or where reality ends and magic begins. Since she grew up in a household steeped in science fiction and fantasy, it’s no surprise that as a girl, Clement-Moore was drawn to books like the classic A Wrinkle in Time. “That is the book that made me want to write,” she says. “I also like fantasy because it’s a way to take big-picture issues like good and evil, remove them from rhetoric in the real world, and explore them in a fantasy setting.” It’s also probably no accident that the author loves to write at night. “There’s something about the time when the house is quiet and everyone else goes to sleep. I get most of my work done between 10

at night and two in the morning,” she explains. Perhaps that’s also the best time to see ghosts. In Amy Goodnight, ClementMoore has created an engaging heroine who is facing the challenges of young adulthood along with finding her own powers as a person, both magical and real. As her creator explains, “Magic is just below the surface. How can you use it to make the world a better place?” Fans of the Goodnight family will also have a future treat in store: “I would love to revisit these characters for a companion book,” Clement-Moore promises. “I love this whole family and there are a lot of stories there.” Teen readers will be eagerly waiting for more from this talented author.

TEXAS GOTHIC

By Rosemary Clement-Moore, Delacorte, $17.99, 416 pages ISBN 9780385736930, eBook available, ages 14 and up


children’s books Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading

reviews

The joys of not reading R e v i e w b y J e n n i f e r Br u e r K i t c h e l

Charlie Joe Jackson doesn’t like to read. He never has. In fact, he is proud of his record of never having completely read any book assigned to him. He does, however, believe in getting good grades, and he shares how to do this along with many other tips in Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading, a delightful choice for reluctant readers. Charlie Joe tells us that he is writing this book to help other “non-readers” like himself—and we believe he is doing it out of the kindness of his heart—but in truth, there is a wonderful twist to the ending that reveals why he is really writing this book. His long-term scheme for avoiding reading any book in its entirety has fallen apart, and he is forced (he believes) into coming up with another plan. Those of us who love to read will wonder why he doesn’t simply read the assigned book, since it would take less effort than his elaborate tactics for not reading, but Charlie Joe has a reputation to maintain and he will not let it go. Along the way he By Tommy Greenwald, Roaring Brook, $14.99 learns about friendships and the value of honesty—and honest work— 224 pages, ISBN 9781596436916 and we learn to love his irascible self. Audio, eBook available, ages 9 to 12 Tommy Greenwald’s writing style is breezy and accessible without being too easy. It is also extremely funny and hard to put down. If the book’s cover showed something blowing up, every reluctant boy reader in middle school would be proud to carry it around while secretly enjoying the nonviolent, straightforward story. Bookworms won’t care; they’ll love it either way..

ALONG A LONG ROAD By Frank Viva Little, Brown $16.99, 40 pages ISBN 9780316129251 Ages 3 to 6

picture book

Whoever coined the term “deceptively simple” obviously had something like Frank Viva’s debut picture book, Along a Long Road, in mind. Created digitally as a single, 35-foot-long piece of art, this story of a lone cyclist is less about the short text (sometimes only one word per page) and more about the experience he brings to young readers and listeners. The retro-style illustrations sport minimal background colors—cream, blue and black—and a touch of red in the cyclist’s jersey. Children’s eyes and hands will be drawn to the raised yellow road, which they can trace with their fingers on each page. When the cyclist sets out on his ride, a lighthouse appears in the background and a dragonfly hovers above. As he journeys up and down a hill, into a tunnel, over a bridge and through a town, his body positions and expressions give clues to the strenuousness and enjoyment

of the ride. When he can reach his full speed on a straightaway, his smile and already extended body appear to stretch even longer. Items in the foreground and background, such as a snail inching uphill and a roaring jet, also help identify the rider’s pace, while another clue set in the rider’s path foreshadows a quick bump in the road. Never far from shore, the cyclist comes full circle to his starting point, this time with the moon illuminating the water, the lighthouse sending out a beam of light and a bat flying overhead. As he continues along the road, young readers will want to turn back to the beginning and follow along again— and again. —ANGELA LEEPEr

BROTHER SUN, SISTER MOON By Katherine Paterson Illus. by Pamela Dalton Chronicle $17.99, 36 pages ISBN 9780811877343 eBook available Ages 4 to 8

picture book

Newbery-winning author Katherine Paterson re-imagines Saint Francis of Assisi’s beloved canticle

praise song to the natural world in a beautiful new picture book, Brother Sun, Sister Moon. Paterson’s clear prose takes this ancient text and makes it accessible to everyone. Breathtaking papercut and watercolor illustrations invite the reader to slow down and explore the pictures that extend the text and add a level of grandeur not often seen in books for children. Pamela Dalton’s illustrations start as Scherenschnitte, an old German technique of cutting a large piece of paper into astoundingly intricate details and later adding paint. This style is particularly well suited for book art. The gutter of each spread is the center of each symmetrical illustration; the visual symmetry works especially well with the text, which shows exquisite balance as well. Paterson and Saint Francis speak of Heaven and Earth, Sun and Moon, Wind and Air, Water and Fire, War and Peace, Death and Life, all with a gentle cadence that reminds the reader of the love of God. Each spread is a self-contained story, with children in old-fashioned clothing living their rich lives. When Paterson speaks of forgiveness and comfort in sickness, Dalton’s illustrations serve as a place for the reader to consider

what these words really mean. Framed in a large oval are scenes of children comforting one another and treating each other in kind and forgiving ways. On the left, we have a boy helping a girl pick up a spilled basket of oranges. Above them are two girls sharing a doll. Even the animals joyfully observe this very human ritual. Paterson comes from a religious family and is married to a minister, but this is no simplistic Sunday School book. Her love of life and deep appreciation for all gifts, even the gift of “Sister Death, who will usher us at last into your loving presence, where we know and love you as you have always known and loved us,” lead the younger reader to consider difficult questions in a comforting context. This treasure has the feel of an instant classic and should be part of any family’s library. It would be a perfect gift for a baptism, confirmation, birth or any special celebration. —robin smith

SYLVIA & AKI By Winifred Conkling Tricycle Press $16.99, 160 pages ISBN 9781582463377 Ages 9 to 12

middle grade

In this bittersweet story based on actual events, Mexican-American Sylvia Mendez and Japanese-American Aki Munemitsu share a bedroom in Orange County, California, from 1942 to 1945. Well, sort of. After Aki’s father, who’s considered a threat to national security, is taken away and Aki, her mother and her brother are sent to an internment camp in Arizona, the Mendez family leases the Munemitsu asparagus farm in California. In alternating chapters, the girls express their confusion and frustration when they are denied basic freedoms. Sylvia, eager to start third grade in a school with new textbooks, is told that she must attend the Mexican school, which is further away, only prepares students for menial jobs and gives them outof-date, hand-me-down textbooks and scarred, secondhand desks.

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children’s books Meanwhile, Aki and her family must cope with meager housing and supplies and an almost three-year separation from Aki’s father. Despite their physical distance, both girls share a love for dolls and develop a friendship via letters. And despite their different ancestries, both families share a common goal: equality. As Aki’s brother must decide if he can serve in the military of a country that doesn’t recognize him as an American, Sylvia’s father sues the local school system on March 2, 1945, for her right to attend the closer white school. Author Winifred Conkling used court records from the real-life case to include some of the courtroom dialogue, almost verbatim. Although the story ends with the return of Aki’s family to their farmhouse, an enlightening afterword explains how history unfolded. Conkling provides photos of the real Sylvia and Aki and information about Japanese internment camps, but perhaps the most profound element is the record of the Mendez lawsuit, which not only inspired the end of school segregation in California in 1947, but influenced the landmark lawsuit Brown v. Board of Education, which made school segregation illegal nationwide in 1954. Change and friendship may start small, but their impact can be far-reaching. —ANGELA LEEPEr

IT’S THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL . . . FOREVER! By R.L. Stine Feiwel & Friends $15.99, 192 pages ISBN 9780312649548 Audio, eBook available Ages 9 to 12

MIDDLE GRADE

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Picture your own perfect day—no homework, lots of good food, video games for hours. Now envision getting to live that day over and over. Sounds great, right? But what if it wasn’t your perfect day that repeated, but your absolute worst? That’s just what happens to Artie Howard. In It’s the First Day of School . . . Forever!, Artie’s first day at a new school begins with a bang, as he falls out of bed and hits his head on the floor—hard. Unfortunately, it only gets worse from there. Artie stumbles his way through

reviews

the first day of school, getting sprayed with syrup and splashed by a bus, and even hitting the star football player in the head with a baseball. As the day goes on, things only get worse. Finally, when it seems like nothing else could go wrong, Artie wakes up in his own bed; it must have been only a dream! Then he falls out of bed and hits his head on the floor—hard. His worst first day of school has just begun again. R.L. Stine, author of the Goosebumps series, brings his unique blend of storytelling, suspense, humor and horror to It’s the First Day of School . . . Forever! Things are never as they seem, and any attempt to change the outcome of the day is met with disastrous results— sometimes funny, sometimes scary, always bad. Artie is stuck with three separate puzzles to solve: Why does he have to keep reliving the first day of school? How can he stop destroying everything he touches, thinks about or even looks at? And when is he going to stop ending up in the creepy basement of the school? Stine’s many fans will not be disappointed in this book, and anyone who likes mysteries, humor or scary books will enjoy it as well. —KEVIN DELECKI

THE SILVER BOWL By Diane Stanley Roaring Brook $16.99, 320 pages ISBN 9780061575433 eBook available Ages 10 and up

middle grade

Why would a serving girl ever have contact with a prince? In historical fantasy worlds such as the one in Diane Stanley’s The Silver Bowl, the separation of the classes follows that of medieval Europe, and no prince would ever have meaningful conversations with the servants. So it’s unusual that Stanley has derived a story that allows interaction between the classes, and realistically so. Molly is from a large, poor family, which includes a “crazy” mother and an unloving father. As soon as possible, her father sends her to work in the castle, but Molly is glad to go and leave her unhappy home behind. Her life in the castle is conventional; she watches the royal

family from afar and makes friends with other servants. When she is taught to clean the silver, however, she discovers that she can hear a voice in her head and see visions whenever she is set to work on a great silver bowl. The voice tells her that the royal family is in danger. Molly cannot tell anyone in charge what she knows for fear of being thought crazy herself, so she enlists the help of her one good friend, Tobias. When they are able to rescue the youngest prince from an attempt on his life, Molly and Tobias quickly become embroiled in keeping him safe. The prince learns to trust Molly and relies on her to help him resolve his fate. Stanley has created a delightful story that is both fantastical and completely believable at the same time. The plot contains several twists that are nicely unexpected, including a most unusual battle scene. While both boys and girls would enjoy this book, most fifth and sixth grade girls will love it. —J E N N I F E R B R U E R K I T C H E L

WITHERING TIGHTS By Louise Rennison HarperTeen $16.99, 288 pages ISBN 9780061799310 eBook available Ages 12 and up

be tickled to find Georgia in a sort of cameo here, and the glossary, eccentric adults (and toddlers!), animal characters and beaucoup de boy drama are virtually Rennison’s trademark. But Withering Tights departs from the other series with Tallulah herself; instead of Georgia’s hilarious self-involvement, this series is anchored by someone who wears her insecurities front and center, like her nobbly knees. Her parents are traveling constantly; her father’s idea of a helpful talk on growing up was to give her a James Bond novel and call it a day. As a result, she’s kind and appreciative of those around her and quickly forms familial bonds. Rennison hasn’t changed too much, though: Like Georgia’s diaries, Tallulah’s story is a laugh-out-loud winner, chock full of Irish jigs and the occasional sheep’s bladder. Start here, and be glad nothing’s neatly resolved at the end, because there’s more to look forward to in the series! —HEATHER SEGGEL

MY FAVORITE BAND DOES NOT EXIST By Robert T. Jeschonek Clarion $16.99, 336 pages ISBN 9780547370279 Ages 12 and up

TEEN

TEEN

Tallulah Casey is spending the summer at a performing arts school in Yorkshire (described in its brochure as like “Wuthering Heights but with more acting and dancing and less freezing to death on the moors!!”). Hence, Withering Tights. At 14, Tallulah’s looking forward to making new friends, finding her talents (spontaneous attacks of Riverdance are a talent, right?) and having unfettered access to boys, but the summer has even bigger things in store. Like baby owls hatching, performance art aplenty—including a female Heathcliff— a small fire in the dorms . . . and a lot of access to boys. Oh, and a handy glossary, so American readers can tell a “noddy niddy noddy” from a “nunga nunga” (a crucial distinction). Fans of author Louise Rennison’s Georgia Nicolson series will

Robert T. Jeschonek takes metafiction to the extreme in his teen novel My Favorite Band Does Not Exist, which features no fewer than three alternate realities. Idea Deity has an unshakable fear that he is a character in a novel and that its malevolent author has doomed him to die in chapter 64. When not worrying about his fate, he’s working on his hoax website about a fake band called Youforia and marveling over its legions of followers on YoFace and Yapper. In alternating chapters, Reacher Mirage, lead singer of Youforia, wonders how so many people know about his secret band when they haven’t even gone public yet. (He’s waiting for that magic feeling, so quit pressuring him.) Interrupting Idea’s and Reacher’s stories are dog-eared chapters out of Idea’s favorite book, Fireskull’s Revenant, a parody of bad fantasy writing that features the ongoing battle between Lord


reviews Fireskull and his mortal enemy, Johnny Without. As the story—part Spinal Tap, part Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and part its own surreal invention—twists and turns, these four characters begin to parallel one another. Confused yet? That’s all part of the fun in this urban fantasy that exudes tongue-in-cheek humor as it mocks everything from politics and the internet to literature and parenting. With the help of a (literally) two-faced character, Idea and Reacher (or is that Fireskull and Johnny?) not only confront their difficult pasts and their uncontrollable fears, but just may restore the Chain of Realities to their worlds. To reveal any more would spoil the intricate and irreverent plot; to call this novel unique would be an understatement.

her mom left when Esme was in preschool. Is Esme doomed to be left by women forever? Or can she use the example of her countless hip-hop heroes to turn her pain and anger into emotionally searing art? Esme and her friends sometimes talk like a veritable encyclopedia of rap music, but they (and author Laura Goode) clearly know their stuff—and although their conversations can veer toward the polemic, their verbal acuity also results in snappy banter that can be pretty darn funny. In the end, Esme’s story demonstrates to her friends, to the reader and, most importantly, to herself that despite her tough-girl persona, she can love—and live— passionately, openly and well. —NORAH PIEHL

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

the book in one Q: Describe  sentence.

your favorite thing about Super Diaper Baby? Q: What’s 

Q: If you could have one personal superpower, what would it be?

IMAGINARY GIRLS

—ANGELA LEEPER

SISTER MISCHIEF By Laura Goode Candlewick $16.99, 384 pages ISBN 9780763646400 Ages 14 and up

By Nova Ren Suma Dutton $17.99, 352 pages ISBN 9780525423386 eBook available Ages 14 and up

TEEN

teen

If ever there was a candidate for the current “It Gets Better” campaign supporting gay and lesbian teenagers, Esme Rockett is it. The heroine of Sister Mischief is a smart, gorgeous and funny high school junior, and she can throw down some mad rhymes with the other members of her all-girl hip-hop group. But it’s hard to hear that she’ll be loved and appreciated someday, when the girl she loves right now wants to keep their relationship a secret, and when neither the students nor the school administrators at her prestigious public school in suburban Minneapolis understand the righteous importance of a gay-straight alliance—not to mention the cultural relevance of hip-hop. Esme’s burgeoning political passions burn just as hot as her secret love affair with fellow band member Rowie. But when the “thinking Christian” in their group discovers the relationship before Rowie is ready to go public, Esme must own up to the feelings of abandonment she’s been hiding ever since

and where are you happiest? Q: When 

Chloe and Ruby have an unbreakable bond. Half-sisters who share an alcoholic mother, the girls live a bohemian life in a sleepy New York town that borders an infamous reservoir. All of this changes when 14-yearold Chloe finds the body of a dead classmate in the reservoir. Traumatized, she decides to move in with her estranged father. Two years later, Ruby shows up at Chloe’s house begging her to come home. When Chloe returns, she discovers that Ruby’s influence is far more extensive than anything Chloe could have imagined—and that their sisterly bond is rife with deadly secrets. Chloe’s first-person narration is often haunting, bringing to life not only the enigmatic Ruby, but also the mythic reservoir that surrounds their home: “You had to watch your toes, because the jagged bottom could cut you, and hang tight to your clothes, if you were wearing any, because the reservoir was known to take what it wanted when it wanted it.” Imaginary Girls will submerge its readers in an eeriness and intensity not often felt in YA literature. — K I M B E R LY G I A R R A T A N O

own (of course!) what are some of your favorite Q: Bcharacters  esides yourfrom children’s books?

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

Q: W  ords to live by?

SUPER DIAPER BABY 2 It’s been nine years since Dav Pilkey’s kid-sized alter egos, George Beard and Harold Hutchins, created The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby, a stinky spin­ off of the wildly popular Captain Underpants series. The tiny hero returns in Super Diaper Baby 2 (Scholastic, $9.99, 128 pages, ISBN 9780545175326), also starring his trusty sidekick, Diaper Dog. Pilkey and his wife live in Washington state.

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WORDNOOK

By the editors of Merriam-Webster

STARTING SMALL Dear Editor, How did newspapers that carry mostly gossip come to be called tabloids? M. O. Cochester, Connecticut The earliest record of the word tabloid comes from 1884, when a British chemical and pharmaceutical company registered Tabloid as a trademark for their medicinal products. Not long after, the uncapitalized tabloid started showing up in reference first to small pills and then to anything condensed or compressed. The company sued to block any and all public appropriation of the term, but when they lost the suit, tabloid officially entered the public domain. A page in a tabloid newspaper is about half the size of a page in a regular newspaper and typically features shorter articles. It was the condensation of size and substance in such newspapers that led to their being called tabloids. Many people, however, now associate tabloid less with the format of a newspaper than

with its content. As early as the 1920s, tabloid newspapers were drawing fire for their lurid stories and lack of news value. Of course, tabloid has also now come to be applied to sensationalistic TV reporting, which has increased our exposure to this type of material far beyond the confines of the supermarket checkout line.

YOUNG AND RESTLESS

Dear Editor, Lately I keep hearing the term lost generation being used in connection with young people who haven’t been able to enter the work force because of the recession. I know the term first applied to a generation that grew up in the early 1900s, but could you explain more specifically? R. N. Boise, Idaho The phrase the lost generation refers in general to the post-World War I generation, and specifically to a group of U.S. writers who came of age during the war and established their literary reputations in the 1920s. The term stems from a remark made by Gertrude Stein to Ernest Heming-

way: “You are all a lost generation.” Hemingway used the comment as an epigraph to The Sun Also Rises (1926), a novel that deals with a group of aimless and disillusioned expatriates in France and Spain. The generation was lost in the sense that its inherited values could no longer operate in the postwar world and because of its spiritual alienation from a country that seemed provincial and emotionally barren.

SEEING THE SIGHTS Dear Editor, Can you tell me where the term Cook’s tour comes from? H. P. Yreka, California In the summer of 1841, a missionary named Thomas Cook convinced the Midland Counties Railway Company in Britain to carry a group of travelers from Leicester to a temperance meeting in Loughborough and back again, for a fixed rate of one shilling per person. The event is often seen as the beginning of organized tourism. It was certainly the start of something big for Thomas Cook.

EVERYTHING LITERARY

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Reprinted from The Everything Literary Crosswords Book by Charles Timmerman, published by Adams Media, an F+W Media, Inc. Co. Copyright ©2007, F+W Media, Inc.

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A TALE OF TWO CITIES ACROSS 1. Showed up 5. Approximately 10. Nickelodeon’s “ ___ the Explorer” 14. “Family Ties” role 15. Kind of squash 16. The groundhog seeing its shadow, say 17. Roller coaster feature 18. Morocco’s capital 19. Rejections 20. First five words in A Tale of Two Cities 23. It precedes one

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He began arranging excursions on a regular basis, and in 1851 thousands of people traveled with him to the Great Exhibition in London. By the end of the century, the Thomas Cook & Son company had grown into a full-scale travel agency orchestrating travel around the world. The tours Cook’s firm put together became known for their excellent organization, but also for their tendency to rush travelers from location to location. Tourists who took a Cook’s tour were apt to return home with an impressive list of famous sights seen, but they rarely caught more than a superficial glimpse of the countries they hurried through. Before long, the phrase cook’s tour was being used generally for any rushed tour in which attractions were viewed very briefly. Eventually its meaning was broadened even further to cover any rapid or cursory scanning or treatment.

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27. Frisco footballer 28. One of the two cities 29. Felt sorry 30. Squelch 31. African virus 32. Inane 34. Inner tube surrounder 37. Abruptly 38. Physical power 40. 10th-century pope 41. One of the Channel Islands 43. Small bed for an infant

44. English Channel county 46. 1 991-92 U.S. Open champ 47. Part of the Corn Belt 48. Crook 49. Very wide shoe spec 50. Exclamation of acclaim 51. Singer Anita 52. City district 53. Big Board letters 54. Krypton or radon

C A M E A L E X L O O P I T W A N L O N D A L I E R I N D A V E M E R C R I H A G O O D A W O L S A K E

L E O V

S U D D E N L Y

V I V A

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P A R I S

T I R E

C I R A C O R A B S T H E O O N O N N

S E L E S R U E D C R A B

A D O N O M T N O E S T O L U G O P O S P E I E S T S T O D A R N O R E R K N O S G D E T A T H Y

W A R D E B O L A

N Y S E D O P E Y

R A E N E S F


BookPage July 2011