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Nicole Krauss on what we leave behind
teen reads Spooky tales for Halloween
captures a century of drama in a thrilling historical trilogy
in s i d e
e ws vi
america’s book review
o c t. 20 1 0
OCTOBER 2010 w w w. B o o k Pa g e . c o m
14 nicole krauss The author of The History of Love explores “the burden of inheritance”
After the success of his novels set during the Middle Ages, Follett turns to the 20th century with Fall of Giants— one of this year’s biggest books, in every sense of the word
15 sena jeter naslund Meet the author of Adam & Eve
Cover photo by Luke Wolagiewicz
28 rosemary wells Beloved children’s author takes to the rails with a thrilling time-travel adventure
29 teen read week Our top choices for teens offer escape from the back-to-school blues
31 Halloween Picture books for little ghouls and goblins
31 david wiesner Meet the author-illustrator of Art & Max
columns 03 buzz girl 03 Bestseller watch 04 04 06 08 08 10 11
well read author enablers whodunit audio book clubs romance cooking
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reviews 16 Fiction
How to Read the Air by Dinaw Mengestu a l s o r e v i e w e d : The False Friend by Myla Goldberg; Exley by Brock Clarke; Djibouti by Elmore Leonard; To the End of the Land by David Grossman; The Brave by Nicholas Evans; The Lost and Forgotten Languages of Shanghai by Ruiyan Xu; Our Kind of Traitor by John le Carré; World and Town by Gish Jen; Bound by Antonya Nelson; Petty Magic by Camille DeAngelis; Nemesis by Philip Roth
22 NonFiction top pick:
At Home by Bill Bryson a l s o r e v i e w e d : Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow; Our Patchwork Nation by Dante Chinni & James Gimpel; Bloody Crimes by James Swanson; Carry the Rock by Jay Jennings; Extraordinary, Ordinary People by Condoleezza Rice; Rival Rails by Walter R. Borneman; The Last Boy by Jane Leavy; Dewey’s Nine Lives by Vicki Myron with Brett Witter; Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson; The World in 2050 by Laurence C. Smith
30 Children’s top pick:
The Search for WondLa by Tony DiTerlizzi a l s o r e v i e w e d : Piggy Pie Po by Audrey & Don Wood; Milo by Alan Silberberg; The Clockwork Three by Matthew Kirby
a m e r i c a’ s b o o k r e v i e w
Michael A. Zibart
ASSISTANT WEB editor
Karen Trotter Elley
Lynn L. Green
Elizabeth Grace Herbert
BookPage is a selection guide for new books. Our editors evaluate and select for review the best books published each month in a variety of categories. Only books we highly recommend are featured.
Angela J. Bowman
BookPage is editorially independent and never accepts payment for editorial coverage.
Buzz Girl It’s well known that Robison had her own psychological troubles during her sons’ childhoods—she attempted suicide and endured at least one abusive relationship—but we’ll have to wait until March to get the whole story.
DYNAMIC DUO Vince Flynn (check out our bestseller watch, at right) and Brian Haig (The Capitol Game) are widely known for their political thriller prowess. And now the authors are joining forces for a new series featuring the members of a NYC-based anti-terror operation. No word yet on a publication date, but Atria has announced a two-book deal—and will publish the hardcovers. (Pocket will follow with the paperbacks.) Stay tuned for more details, thriller fans!
A MOTHER OF A MEMOIR After being called nothing short of crazy in the memoirs of her two sons (Augusten Burroughs and John Elder Robison), poet Margaret Robison finally has the chance to set the record straight. The Long Journey Home (Spiegel & Grau) hits bookstores on March 1, and early buzz indicates that Robison’s story is compelling and well-told. The author has been largely quiet about her sons’ writings, saying only that she doesn’t always agree with their portrayals of their early lives, and “I’ve had to forgive myself for many things.”
After bringing Charlaine Harris’ Bon Temps to television screens worldwide with “True Blood,” Alan Ball has turned his eye to another literary adaptation. He’s producing and directing a pilot for a series called “All Signs of Death,” based on Charlie Huston’s thriller The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death. The book is about an L.A. slacker who cleans crime scenes for a living—and then becomes entangled in the underworld himself. “The show is about contemporary Los Angeles, but not the glamorous L.A., it’s about the dirty underbelly of L.A.,” Ball said in an interview with Deadline Hollywood. “We’re going to try to go against the grain, away from the overlit, stylized noir for a more frantic, contemporary, naturalistic style.” We can’t wait to see the results of this killer collaboration.
‘MEMORY’ TO ‘DREAMS’
Release dates for some of the guaranteed blockbusters hitting shelves in October:
12 AMERICAN ASSASSIN By Vince Flynn
FROM PAGE TO SCREEN
Our publishing insider gets the skinny on tomorrow’s bestsellers
HOW FAR WOULD YOU GO FOR THE LOVE OF A GOOD BOOK?
Kim Edwards hit the big time in a big way when her 2005 debut novel, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, became a word-of-mouth bestseller and a book club favorite. On January 4, Edwards will have another chance to delight readers with Lake of Dreams. Publisher Viking offers this description: “With surprises at every turn, brimming with vibrant detail, The Lake of Dreams is an arresting saga in which every element emerges as a carefully placed piece of the puzzle that’s sure to enthrall the millions of readers who loved The Memory Keeper’s Daughter.” Consider us intrigued!
Atria, $27.99, ISBN 9781416595182 Before Mitch Rapp was a CIA superagent, he was a gifted college athlete without a care in the world . . . until one moment changed everything.
19 IN THE COMPANY OF OTHERS By Jan Karon
Viking, $27.95, ISBN 9780670022120 Father Tim and his wife Cynthia get more than they bargained for on a vacation to Ireland in Karon’s latest.
26 THE CONFESSION By John Grisham
Doubleday, $28.95 ISBN 9780385528047 An innocent man is about to be executed for a crime he didn’t commit. Will the guilty man confess in time to save an innocent life?
MARTIN’S NEXT MOVE
Puerto Rican pop star Ricky Martin recently announced that he has written a memoir: Me. The book will be published by Penguin imprint Celebra and will be simultaneously released in English and Spanish on November 2. Martin says, “Writing this book allowed me to explore the different paths and experiences that have led me to be who I am today. I’ve had to tie up loose ends that I’d never attempted to tie up before, to work deeply into memories that were already erased from my mind. Allowing myself to do this was not easy, but once I started an incredible spiritual healing began . . . and I wanted to share my sense of discovery.” “Livin’ la Vida Loca,” indeed.
Unrepentant book thief John Charles Gilkey has stolen a fortune in rare books from around the country. Yet unlike most thieves who steal for profit, Gilkey steals for love—the love of books. Allison Hoover Bartlett plunges the reader deep into a rich world of fanatical book lust and considers what makes some people stop at nothing to possess the titles they love.
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column by robert Weibezahl
column by kathi kamen goldmark & Sam Barry
A new translation that spans the ages
“The translator’s situation is extremely delicate,” writes Milan Kundera, “he must keep faith with the author and at the same time remain himself; what to do?” This challenge is trickiest for anyone translating the work of a writer who places major emphasis on style. The 19th-century French novelist Gustave Flaubert was certainly such a writer, a perpetual seeker of le mot juste, who reportedly wrote, rewrote and discarded to such a degree that he sometimes produced just one finished page a week. Mindful of the task at hand, acclaimed short-story writer and Proust translator Lydia Davis gives us a new translation of Flaubert’s masterpiece, Madame Bovary, that hews as close to the original as Davis’ may be possible. Davis, translation counts at strives for— who least 19 previand largely ous translations of the novel achieves— English, the flavor of into finds it curiFlaubert’s ous that “in the case of a writer realism. so famously fixated on his style as Flaubert was, many of the translations do not try to reproduce that style.” Her version adheres to the sometimes mundane rhythms of Flaubert’s prose, choosing clarity over ornamentation and respecting the importance the French writer placed on a particular word or phrase’s intent. With Madame Bovary, Flaubert was inventing a new kind of novel, one that attempted to tell the story objectively, without the florid sentiment or sanctimonious value judgments that marked the fiction of the age. The now-familiar story, of a young country girl who marries a provincial doctor, grows bored with her situation and soon surrenders to an adulterous life, certainly was ripe for self-righteous condemnation. So it is hardly surprising that Flaubert’s refusal to impose a moralizing authorial voice and guide readers as to what they should think about Emma Bovary was met with outrage and scandal. The French government brought charges against the writer and the
Practical advice on writing and publishing for aspiring authors magazine in which it first appeared, claiming the novel was a danger to public morality and religion. Both were acquitted after a one-day trial. Davis’ translation strives for— and largely achieves—the flavor of Flaubert’s realism. Comparing it to other translations on the shelf, the differences are often subtle, frequently found in her choice of a pronoun or the tense of a verb (Davis points out in her introduction that Flaubert was an innovator in the use of the imparfait, a tense with no absolute equivalent in English). She has also preserved some of Flaubert’s quirks as a writer, retaining what she calls his “occasionally slapdash approach to punctuation” and his penchant for ambiguous pronouns. For guidance, Davis referred to the approximately 4,500 pages of early drafts that Flaubert left behind. Flaubert was as meticulous in details as he was in choosing the right word, so a nice feature of this edition is the inclusion of unobtrusive endnotes that illuminate many of Flaubert’s now-arcane references to the fashion and popular culture of his day. With its fidelity to the original, Davis’ translation can hardly be accused of being calculated for the “modern” reader, and yet it provides such an unfussy, straightforward narrative that it underscores how truly modern a writer Flaubert was—even by our contemporary standards. Ironically, by preserving Flaubert’s intention as best she could, Lydia Davis has given us a Madame Bovary with one foot planted in the 19th century, the other in the 21st.
Madame Bovary By Gustave Flaubert Translated by Lydia Davis Viking $27.95, 384 pages ISBN 9780670022076
JUST THE FACTS, MA’AM Dear Author Enablers, I’m thrilled to be a published author. However, almost every article about my book has had a factual error. I had no quibble when they said I was in my 30s when the story took place (instead of my 40s), but when they referred to my memoir as a novel, I did. What are the guidelines for pointing out an error and/ or requesting a correction, and is the satisfaction of setting the record straight worth the risk that the reviewer will think you’re a pain and steer clear of you in the future? Jo Maeder, author of When I Married My Mother New York, New York We’ve noticed a lot of this lately, too—anecdotal observation suggests that increasingly understaffed news outlets don’t do as much fact-checking as they used to. In terms of etiquette, we think it’s OK to point out a misunderstood genre. For factual errors, you might borrow a page from Amy Tan’s book. On her author website she playfully lists all the fiction that has been written about her. A matter which you didn’t raise is whether or not to respond to the content of a review, especially negative ones. We think authors should tread carefully when considering writing scathing letters to negative reviewers. These angry missives often end up looking whiny and embarrassing.
CH-CH-CHANGES Dear Author Enablers, My agent got a nibble from a New York publishing house. The acquiring editor seems to like my writing and ideas but wants a complete overhaul of my book proposal, which will result in a different book than I was planning to write. What do I do now? Laura Ruth Berkeley, California You have a big decision to make—whether to try to play ball with the publisher who is interested now, or move on and gamble that you can find a publisher who will love your book idea as is. Remember that any editor is likely to ask
for revisions, and accepting a publishing deal implies working as part of a professional team. We suggest that you save a copy of the original proposal just in case, but also make the requested changes and resubmit. You’ll get some valuable practice in the art of revision, and you might end up agreeing with many of the editor’s suggestions once you’re done. Best of all, you might end up with a book deal.
SUPPLY & DEMAND Dear Author Enablers, Is there any place like a website or publication where reviews of new print-on-demand books can be found? How do librarians find new print-on-demand books that they may want to buy? Warren Wightman Fairport, New York The new printing technology known as print-on-demand (POD) allows small numbers of books to be published by pretty much anyone. Since POD is used widely, there is no one clearing house for the latest POD books. However, some bloggers review POD books, and online book sites feature customer reviews of all kinds of books. When we blogged about this topic, a librarian named Cari responded, “I rarely buy POD books unless the author has made a really good case for me to buy it. Prove that spending our money on your book will result in circs [circulation] for us. Sell yourself. Ask us if you can do a book signing. Most importantly, have a good product. So many POD/self-published books are badly written, have bad cover art, grammatical mistakes, and then the author is pushy. Focus on your writing first—put out something great—and then refocus your efforts on marketing to libraries and elsewhere.” That’s advice we second for authors everywhere. Email questions for Kathi and Sam to email@example.com. Please include your name and hometown.
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“SNOW DAY will make readers want to live aware—to discover the divine in ordinary places….Each chapter is a story in itself, a jewel sparkling with wisdom.”
“SNOW DAY is the kind of book you savor, then read again. Simple, yet profound.” —Mary DeMuth, author of the Defiance Texas trilogy and Thin Places
—Jeanne Damoff, author of Parting the Waters
Available in hardcover and as an eBook
www.faithwords.com FaithWords is a division of Hachette Book Group
column by Bruce Tierney
Racing against the clock The detective duo of Bill Smith and Lydia Chin are back, hot on the heels of the 2009 Dilys Awardwinning The Shanghai Moon, in S.J. Rozan’s latest thriller, On the Line (Minotaur, $24.99, 336 pages, ISBN 9780312544492). Actually, I should say that Bill Smith is back, because Lydia Chin’s whereabouts (and even her existence) are a matter of some conjecture, courtesy of a deranged gamesman/kidnapper with a vendetta against Smith. Rozan trumps Lee Child’s latest, 13 Hours, by compressing all of the action into a minuscule 12 hours, featuring a mad dash across both New York City and cyberspace. Help arrives from an unexpected quarter: Chin’s computer-geek nephew, Linus, and his postpunk girlfriend, Trella, who pro-
vide wheels and insight into modern information systems to Smith (who is, sadly, rooted firmly in the Phone Age). The plot is a bit forced, and there are some lucky breaks that stretch belief a bit, but On the Line is good fun nonetheless—a tense and action-packed one-sitter of a read.
Cracking the case If you are one of Michael Connelly’s legions of fans (and who isn’t?), you’ll be familiar with defense attorney Mickey Haller, who does the bulk of his (ever so slightly
When eight Nashville teenagers are found dead, with occult symbols carved into their naked bodies, homicide Lieutenant Taylor Jackson is immersed in a darkness that threatens to unbalance the order of her world, and learns how unchecked wrath can push a killer to his limits.
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On sale now!
shady) business from the back seat of a Lincoln Town Car. Haller takes on a very different sort of assignment, however, in Connelly’s latest, The Reversal (Little, Brown, $27.99, 400 pages, ISBN 9780316069489). He is drafted by the district attorney to prosecute a case, a political hot potato of a murder trial, in which newly examined DNA evidence overturned a previous guilty verdict. Second chair will be filled by Maggie McPherson, a seasoned prosecutor known to her admirers and detractors alike as “Maggie McFierce,” who also happens to be Haller’s ex-wife. In the spirit of keeping things in the family, prosecution investigations will be handled by LAPD cop (and longtime Connelly protagonist) Harry Bosch, who is Haller’s mostly estranged half-brother. At the defense table are Jason Jessup, free on bail (and relishing every moment) after some 20 years, and defense attorney Clive Royce, easily Mickey Haller’s equal when it comes to manipulation of the law for one’s own ends. It seems that pretty much everybody thinks Jessup did it; the question is, can they stop him from doing it again? Plot, nuance, characters, dialogue— as usual, Connelly delivers it all, and brilliantly.
An unlikely alliance Gerry Fegan, the anti-hero of Stuart Neville’s critically heralded The Ghosts of Belfast, returns for an encore engagement in Collusion (Soho Crime, $25, 384 pages, ISBN 9781569478554). Fegan has made good his escape from the troubles of Northern Ireland, to an under-thetable construction job in New York. He has, for the most part, put his violent past behind him, but there is one element of his history that refuses to lie quietly: Bull O’Kane. O’Kane is afraid of no man—save Gerry Fegan, and he intends to preside over Fegan’s imminent demise, a plan that Fegan will do his best to thwart. Fegan will have help from an unlikely ally, police detective John Lennon (Jack to his friends), with whom he shared the attentions of a young woman some years back (not at precisely the same time, but close enough to cause discomfort for all concerned). Moving together and separately, the pair must cut through the deceit, the machinations and the blatant disregard for human life displayed by O’Kane and his henchmen, for the lives
of a mother and daughter hang in the balance. Violent, edgy and convoluted—just the thing for a chilly autumn evening of reading.
MYSTERY OF THE MONTH When you think of suspense novel locations, Canada is not usually the first place to cross your mind. L.A., New York, London, even Botswana . . . but Canada? Yet there are some fine writers hailing from our neighbo(u)r to the North, including Giles Blunt, Barbara Fradkin and Louise Penny, who has generated quite a following for her Inspector Gamache series, the latest of which, Bury Your Dead, is our Mystery of the Month. The book is set not in Gamache’s home stomping grounds of Three Pines, Quebec, but rather in Quebec City at the time of the legendary Winter Carnival. When a prominent eccentric historian is found murdered in an English library, Gamache is summoned from his enforced holiday to lend an informal hand to the investigation. What is at stake is a matter of Canadian (and particularly French-Canadian) national pride—the body of explorer Samuel Champlain, whose remains disappeared mysteriously centuries ago, and have been the subject of ardent searches pretty much ever since. But is this something worth killing over? Depends, I guess, on which side of the Quebec Separatist issue you might stand on; if history teaches us anything, it is that seemingly small affronts have started wars. Bury Your Dead has received more pre-release praise than any suspense novel in recent memory; I was a little skeptical at first, but I am here to tell you that it is well deserving of every word. And then some!
BURY YOUR DEAD By Louise Penny Minotaur $24.99, 384 pages ISBN 9780312377045 Also available on audio
INSTEAD OF SANTAâ€Ś murder is making a special delivery this holiday season. WIN A GIANT GINGERBREAD SANTA! One Grand Prize winner will receive a giant gingerbread cookie and a signed copy of Gingerbread Cookie Murder! (Approximate value: $200)
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Also available in Thorndike Large Print & as a Recorded Books Audio
columns Tipping the scales In the 19th century, we managed to wipe out the millions of bison that roamed the plains. Now, in the 21st century, we’re on the brink of overfishing the oceans and wiping out the “last wild food” on earth. This sad state of fish-affairs is not hot news; many scientists, writers and journalists have been sounding the alarm for years and some government control is being exercised, but as you sink your teeth into that super-fresh tuna sushi or lusciously prepared plate of sea bass, you really should think about what you’re eating, where it comes from and if it has a future. Paul Greenberg, food journalist, fisherman and impassioned pescophile,
column by sukey howard
column by julie hale
with a strong belief in the promise of the Soviet future and a lingering faith in God, is one of those indefatigable crime solvers who go after the bad guys, knowing it could cost him his career and his life. Asked to investigate the death of a young woman, he discovers that she was an American citizen who may have been trying to buy one of the holiest icons of the Russian Orthodox church. More mutilated bodies turn up, and suddenly, Korolev is in a swirl of danger from the upper echelons of the feared NKVD and the treacherous Moscow underworld. Flawlessly narrated, as expected, by Simon Vance.
This month’s best new paperback releases for reading groups
PIECES OF THE PUZZLE In her charming memoir, The Pattern in the Carpet: A Personal History with Jigsaws (Mariner, $14.95, 368 pages, ISBN 9780547386096), British novelist Margaret Drabble provides an inside look at her remarkable past while documenting the evolution of the jigsaw puzzle, a source of challenge and amusement that has figured prominently in her life since girlhood. Drabble writes revealingly about her parents and her lessthan-idyllic childhood. Her Auntie
AUDIO OF THE MONTH
provides the takeaway on all these issues in Four Fish (Brilliance Audio, $29.99, 9 hours unabridged, ISBN 9781441872425), read with wonderful attention to action and accents by Christopher Lane. Focusing on salmon, sea bass, cod and tuna, Greenberg weaves his own personal fish story into a fascinating sea of deeply researched information on our fisheries, their depletion and the worldwide attempts—foul and fruitful—to farm fish, introducing us to fascinating fish-folk who have devoted their lives to fostering the production of seafood. And he offers his well-considered, quietly optimistic prescriptions for maintaining this magnificent source of protein and pleasure.
Comrade killer, comrade captain
Watch out, Martin Cruz Smith, there’s a new kid on the block and he’s really good. William Ryan’s debut opus, The Holy Thief (Macmillan Audio, $39.99, 10 hours unabridged, ISBN 9781427210395), set in Moscow in 1936, stars Captain Alexei Dmitriyevich Korolev, a detective in the Moscow Militia who might eventually give Arkady Renko a run for his rubles. In Stalin’s Soviet state, this was a time of privation, purges, propaganda and pervasive cynicism. But Captain Korolev, a man
Writer James Lee Burke and actor Will Patton are a perfect pairing—a match made in audio heaven that only gets better and better. In The Glass Rainbow, the 18th (and maybe the best) Dave Robicheaux novel, Burke, with Patton to interpret, takes his unique amalgam of lush, lyric prose that gives life and texture to his beloved bayous, deftly plotted mystery, abiding empathy for the poor and powerless and brilliant character realization to a new level. Unable to resist an investigation into a series of murders of young women in the next parish, Dave and his tiger-tough, volcanically volatile best buddy from their old NOPD days, Clete Purcel, come face to face and fist to fist with the kind of evil that revels in ruthless power and careless perversion. As always, Dave fights for the victims, for what’s right and moral, as he struggles with his Vietnam War-fueled demons and, this time, with persistent intimations of mortality. A must for Robicheaux fans.
The Glass Rainbow By James Lee Burke Simon & Schuster Audio $49.99, 16 hours unabridged ISBN 9781442304314
Phyl is an early influence, an adored elder who introduces Drabble to literature, the city of London and the simple pleasures of a good puzzle. Drabble deftly parallels her own story with an overview of puzzles in history, literature and art. Drabble’s admission that she turned to puzzles for comfort after her husband, the celebrated historian Michael Holroyd, was diagnosed with cancer lends a poignant layer to the narrative. Blending her intimate story with a larger historical vision, Drabble has produced a fact-filled, multifaceted narrative.
SYMBOLS OF LOVE Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk offers a provocative tale of love and obsession in The Museum of Innocence (Vintage, $15.95, 560 pages, ISBN 9780307386243). Kemal Bey, a member of Istanbul’s upper crust, has created a museum devoted to the woman he can’t forget, his cousin Füsun. Penniless and reserved but remarkably beautiful, the demure Füsun had a brief affair with Kemal years ago, when he was engaged to someone else. Their passion is a thread that has run through Kemal’s life, inspiring him to collect tokens connected to his cousin—jewelry, hairpins, a saltshaker—all of which he places in his museum. Nurturing the
memory of their union, Kemal demonstrates a reverence for the past, for a time and a place that can never be recovered—Istanbul during the 1970s, when he fell in love with Füsun—and his lovingly detailed catalogue of objects brings the city to life for readers. Filled with lavish detail, this expertly crafted novel explores familiar themes of love, memory and history in ways that are fresh and revealing.
TOP PICK FOR BOOK CLUBS Joshua Ferris, the acclaimed author of Then We Came to the End, returns with an intriguing novel about an affluent lawyer who struggles with a strange affliction. Tim Farnsworth has a lovely wife named Jane and a thriving career, but his picture-perfect life is thrown out of focus when—without warning—he’s gripped by the urge to walk, an instinct he’s forced to indulge until exhaustion sets in. Jane does her best to care for Tim during his prolonged perambulations, fetching him home in the dead of night. But each time the malady strikes, Jane and daughter Becka must fight to keep the family intact, a task that proves increasingly difficult. Despite their support, Tim is isolated by his worsening illness. Skillfully mixing moods, Ferris brews up his own brand of melancholy humor in this surreal study of a man in the grip of a modern malaise. Tim’s condition gives rise to an oddly compelling plot, which is rendered in prose that’s both lyrical and precise. A brave, exploratory novel, The Unnamed is a sharply observed study of the difficulties of creating—and sustaining—personal connections.
The Unnamed By Joshua Ferris Reagan Arthur/Back Bay $13.99, 320 pages ISBN 9780316034005
HARPERCOLLINS Eat Prey Love
by Kerrelyn Sparks Carlos Panterra is looking for a mate, a woman who will love and care for the young orphans he’s recently taken under his wing (or paw, as the case may be). When the shape shifter spies the beautiful Caitlyn, it’s like sunshine amidst the darkness. At last, he’s found the perfect woman. 9780061958038, $7.99
romance c o l u m n b y c h r i s t i e r i d g way
Falling into love A young widow finds new happiness in Cowboys Never Cry (NAL, $15, 384 pages, ISBN 9780451231215) by Tina Welling. Three years before, Cassie Danner’s husband, a world-class climber, fell to his death. Now she lives in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, supporting herself through a string of seasonal jobs. This summer, she’s the cook at the Cross Wave ranch, which runs cattle and caters to tourists. She must deal with the ranch owner too, child-actor-turned-movie-star Robbin McKeag, known most recently for his stint in a mental hospital— an outcome of the stress and excess
Enemies & Allies
by Kevin J. Anderson As the United States and the Soviet Union race to build their nuclear stockpiles, two extraordinary men are called upon to form an uneasy alliance. Studies in opposites—shadow and light—a Dark Knight and a Man of Steel must overcome their mutual distrust to battle a darkness that threatens humankind. And when the paths of these titans cross, a bold and exciting new chapter of history will be written…and nothing will ever be the same. 9780061662560, $7.99
Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett
The wizards at Ankh-Morpork’s Unseen University are renowned for many things—wisdom, magic, their love of teatime—but athletics is most assuredly not on the list. So when Lord Vetinari strongly suggests to Archchancellor Mustrum Ridcully that the university put forth a football team composed of faculty, students, and staff—or lose the funding that pays for their nine daily meals—the more-than-usually-at-sea UU wizards find themselves in a quandary. 9780061161728, $7.99
Romance of the Month
of his celebrity life. But Robbin seems only crazy about Cassie as the summer wears on, and the entire community has an opinion on the simmering romance. Depth is added to the story with insights into the conflict between ranchers and environmentalists, but it’s a love story at heart. Robbin is sarcastic but endearing as a man flummoxed by his first overwhelming experience with love. Cassie, while more accustomed to such feelings, needs Robbin’s help to push her into the next phase of her life. This is a tender tale of two people who have much to offer each other.
Medieval magic You are Next
by Katia Lief
Former Detective Karin Schaeffer has nothing left to live for after serial killer Martin Price destroys all she holds dear. Known as “The Domino Killer” because he leaves dominoes as a clue to his next victim, Price doesn’t stop until an entire family is destroyed. Even when he’s locked away in prison, the shadow he casts over Karin’s life keeps her in constant darkness. Look for Next Time I See You in November by Katia Lief 9780061809026, $7.99
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own, Merry throws herself into helping Garron restore order at Wareham, and the two become close. However, Merry keeps her identity a secret, and when it’s revealed, trouble follows. Missing silver coins, the mysterious villain, the frightening mother—is there a connection? Until Merry and Garron uncover the truth, the path of their love won’t run smooth. With an unpredictable plot and characters readers will root for, Coulter delivers a tale of magic, mayhem and true love.
Catherine Coulter returns to penning medieval romance in The Valcourt Heiress (Putnam, $25.95, 368 pages, ISBN 9780399156755). Merry, aka the Valcourt Heiress, is kidnapped as she flees from a marriage arranged by her powerful mother, an abbess purported to be a witch. Dressed as a boy, Merry is rescued by Lord Garron of Kersey, Earl of Wareham, on his way to the lands he’s just inherited. Though Merry escapes both her abductors and Garron, she travels to his castle and hides herself among his people, who were recently traumatized by a man known only as the Black Demon. Without a place of her
Gwyn Cready offers a rollicking romantic adventure through time and space in Aching for Always. Joss O’Malley has things under control, particularly a rich fiancé who stepped up to save the family empire as well as the beloved mapmaking company started by her mother. But a serendipitous trek down an unfamiliar alley takes Joss to a tailor’s shop where she meets a handsome man who sends her world spinning. English Navy captain Hugh Hawksmoor has been plotting his revenge for years. He’s determined to kill the man who traveled through time and murdered his brother. But when he finds his way to the 21st century, the object of his ire is already dead. However, his daughter survives, and the beautiful Joss—with the right incentive—might be persuaded to aid Hugh in righting her father’s wrongs. Full of twists, turns and sizzling love scenes, this time-travel romance will have readers turning pages to find out how—and in what year—there will be a happy ever after.
ACHING FOR ALWAYS By Gwyn Cready Pocket $7.99, 448 pages ISBN 9781439107287
column by sybil PRATT
this month’s top publisher picks
Showdown on “Throwdown!” Bobby Flay invites the best cooks across America to a TV cook-off. Local cooking heroes renowned for a special dish may think that the Food Network is there to shoot a profile of their particular prowess— until Bobby “the Bold” shows up and challenges them to a “Throwdown,” wherein the peripatetic chef, restaurateur and Food Network star offers his take on the local master’s signature dish. Both variations are judged and a winner named. Bobby Flay’s Throwdown! (Clarkson Potter, $27.50, 272 pages, ISBN 9780307719164) is billed as “the ultimate companion cookbook,” but even if you just want the fun of
considering one dish from two different angles, this is a trove of winning recipes. Flay isn’t looking for the exotic or the ultra-raffiné; what you’ll find, from Cheesesteak to Chocolate Bread Pudding, Meatloaf to Matzoh Ball Soup, are the beloved basics of our wonderfully multicultural American cuisine. Regional favorites vie with ethnic-accented mainstays—Chicken Cacciatore, Red Chili, Cuban Roast Pork, Seafood Gumbo, Steak Fajitas, Pumpkin Pie and more—every one the best of the best!
Changing the equation Mark Bittman, renowned food writer and author of many awardwinning cookbooks, has changed the way he eats, cooks and thinks about food and encourages his readers to do the same in The Food Matters Cookbook (Simon & Schuster, $35, 656 pages, ISBN 9781439120231). Bittman has a very flexible, relaxed, Pollan-esque approach to a plant-heavy, processed food-light diet (spelled out in more detail in his 2009 book Food Matters), that may well inspire you to alter your own eating habits. I can’t guarantee you’ll “lose weight and heal the planet,” as his subtitle proclaims, but you will definitely find a super source of 500 “less-meatarian” recipes that invite you to consider
grains, veggies and legumes as the core of your daily meals, with animal products as treasured enhancements and treats. The appetizers alone, from raw Beet Tartare to Hummus Pancakes, will keep you quite happy. Add the sensational soups and salads, but save room for the full-flavored mains, like Cassoulet with Lots of Vegetables and Pork Stew with Green Beans and Oregano, and sweets such as Mango Crisp and Coconut Flan.
COOKBOOK OF THE MONTH Fans and followers of Dorie Greenspan, food writer and cookbook author extraordinaire, usually think of her as the doyenne of desserts and high priestess of pastry. But her latest oeuvre, Around My French Table, offers proof positive—with over 300 recipes—that her culinary talents are limitless. There are a lot of big, impressive cookbooks coming out this fall, but Dorie’s invitation to sit at her French table is one of the most appealing of all. It’s not just that the recipes, from nibbles and hors d’oeuvres to mains and grains, salads, soups, starters and sweets, are unfussily fabulous and charmingly introduced; it’s that Dorie has infused them all with her unqualified love of France and its food, new and traditional, simple and complex. Gathered over her years of living and traveling in France, every recipe, from featherlight Gougères, smooth, sophisticated Chestnut-Pear Soup, timeless Veal Marengo and classic Moules Marinière to Honey-Spiced Madeleines and Top-Secret Chocolate Mousse, has serving and storing tips and the kind of thorough instructions that support and inspire. C’est magnifique!
Around My French Table By Dorie Greenspan HMH $40, 544 pages ISBN 9780618875535
PB 9781886976245 $15.95
HC 9781595548047 $25.99 www.StephenLawhead.com
All That Gorgeous Pitiless Song
The Skin Map
Stephen R. Lawhead
“All That Gorgeous Pitiless Song brims with amplitude and vitality. By virtue of her unsentimental warmth of spirit, Foust brings to life an immense range of experience and feeling.”—Peter Campion
Enter the ultimate treasure hunt–with a map that is made of skin, a world of alternate realities and a prize that is the greatest mystery of all. Thomas Nelson
Many Mountains Moving Press
PB 9781893670471 $20 http://tebotbach.org/publication.html#godseed
God, Seed: Poetry & Art About the Natural World Rebecca Foust and Lorna Stevens
“A lovely, singing book, in both art and language— intricate beauties informed by informed passion.” —William Kittredge “A beautiful mix of words and images, light and deep.” —William Wiley Tebot Bach Press
PB 9781605945316 $14.95 www.ARHomer.com
Look Long into the Abyss A. R. Homer
In this historical thriller set in the last days of World War II, Lt. Gina Cortazzo seeks to save Hitler’s trove of looted masterpieces from a Nazi general who has orders to destroy it. Llumina Press
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KEN FOLLETT Interview by Alden Mudge
© Barney Poole
Against the glamorous backdrop of Victorian high society, Liz Carlyle paints a dramatic tale of dangerous desire, the first in her sizzling new trilogy.
trailing HISTORY’S FOOTSTEPS IN an EPIC TRILOGY
the University of South Carolina Press
Charleston Gardens and the Landscape Legacy of Loutrel Briggs James R. Cothran
Through insightful text and nearly 140 illustrations, Cothran provides the most complete portrait to date of Briggs, his continuing impact on Charleston’s iconic gardens, and his legacy in the lowcountry.
Greek Revival: Cooking for Life Patricia Moore-Pastides, Foreword by Dimitrios Trichopoulos
“Like the recipes contained here, this elegantly presented book is a delight to be savored and shared.”-Nathalie Dupree, celebrated Charleston chef
o complete his hugely ambitious trilogy of historical novels about the 20th century, Ken Follett has set himself a punishing writing schedule. Lucky for us. Because readers who compulsively turn all 985 pages of Fall of Giants, the gripping first book in the Century Trilogy, will not want to wait long for its sequel. “If at all possible, I want to publish these books at two-year intervals,” Follett says. “So I work six days a week, and for the first draft I try to write six pages a day, which is 1,500 words a day.” That means Follett hardly has time to enjoy his beach house in Antigua, where he is taking the call from BookPage, he says, in his library, “a white room with white bookshelves and very large open windows that look out onto the beach.” Follett is there with his wife Barbara, who was for 13 years a member of Parliament and was also the minister for culture in the recently defeated Labour government of Gordon Brown. Back in England, the couple has a townhouse in London and a larger house, a converted rectory, 30 miles north of London, where they can host a tribe of children, stepchildren and grandchildren. Each of those houses also has a library where Follett writes. “I do find it pleasant to be surrounded by books,” Follett says. “It’s very nice just to be able to reach out for the dictionary or the encyclopedia or something I use quite a lot—a reference book about costume at different periods of history so that
I can describe people’s clothing. Books also remind me of the enormous culture to which I owe most of what I know and understand.” The library in the country house, Follett says, pays special tribute to that cultural debt. In addition to books, its walls are lined with drawings and illustrations of well-known writers, among them a Picasso print of Balzac, which has pride of place over the fireplace. The intertwined “I like the robustness fates of five of Balzac’s families reflect writing,” the tumult of Follett says. “He’s not a new century. afraid to confront the dark sides of human nature. Obviously my work is not perceptibly affected by the Modernism of Joyce or Proust. However, I’m not unusual in this. Almost all the books you see on the bestseller list are basically novels in the Victorian tradition, stories with plot, character, and conflict and resolution.” Perhaps. But not many of those bestsellers match the epic scale of conflict and resolution in Follett’s
bestsellers about seminal events in England during the Middle Ages, The Pillars of the Earth (1989) and World Without End (2007). If anything, the Century Trilogy is even grander in scope than its predecessors. The trilogy will follow the intertwined fates of five families—American, English, German, Russian and Welsh—through the upheavals of the 20th century. Fall of Giants opens in June 1911 with the crowning of King George V of Britain. On that same day, 13-year-old Billy Williams, who along with his sister Ethel will become one of the most stirring characters in the book, begins his first day of work in a coal mine in Wales. The novel closes in 1924 after the reader has experienced World War I, the Russian Revolution, the beginnings of the women’s suffrage movement and the collapse of an antiquated class system, not to mention the emotional, spiritual and political ups and downs of the book’s central characters. In fact, by page 985, Follett has brought the reader into contact—sometimes glancingly, but more often at some depth—with roughly 125 characters, more than 20 of whom are actual historical figures.
“The research and effort at authenticity is more difficult when you’re writing about history that is within living memory,” Follett says. “One of the features of writing about the Middle Ages is that from time to time you ask yourself or you ask your advisors a question and nobody knows the answer. So then of course, as an author, you’re entitled to make it up. But with the 20th century, if you want to put, say, Sir Edward Grey, the British foreign secretary at the outbreak of World War I, at a social event on a particular day in July 1914, you really have to find out where he was on that day. You can’t make it up. Because somebody somewhere knows where he was every day.” Follett, who takes pride in the accuracy of his historical fiction, hired eight historians to read the first draft, including experts on America, Russia and Germany. Initially, Follett says, history drove his concept of the book. But as the work progressed, he drew on other sources. A story he had heard from
a friend whose mother emigrated to the U.S. from Russia in 1913 inspired his portrayal of the Vyalovs, a Russian émigré family in Buffalo whose rise to political power will be important in the trilogy’s second book. And Follett’s own boyhood in Wales informs his portrait of the fictional mining town of Aberowen and the boyhood of Billy Williams. “My mother’s family lived in a town called Mountain Ash, which is very like Aberowen. We were there probably every other weekend when I was a little boy to visit my grandparents. . . . My descriptions of the steep streets and gray houses that snake along the hillsides and also the way people talk and the comic nicknames people have, that’s all Mountain Ash.” Follett also credits his mother with his interest in stories and storytelling. “I think my mother was a very imaginative woman. She told me stories and nursery rhymes and sang me songs when I was a baby. I was the first child. First children always get a bit more attention,
don’t they? I think my interest in the imaginative life comes from her.” And it’s that interest in the imaginative life that makes Follett a historical novelist rather than a historian. “If you want to understand the Russian Revolution, one way to do it is to read the writings of Lenin and Trotsky and of analysts and so on,” he says. “But in a novel you try to imagine what it was like to be a factory worker in St. Petersburg, why he would want a revolution, why he would pick up a rifle and start shooting. That doesn’t happen in a history book. You get a different kind of understanding through your imagination, with the help of the author’s imagination, of why people did the things they did.” Fall of Giants, Follett says, is about a period of history that “people find baffling. Most people don’t know why we had the First World War. They know that it started with an assassination in Sarajevo but they don’t know what caused the war. I want readers to understand it, but I didn’t want to give a history
lesson. My mantra while writing Fall of Giants was ‘they don’t want a history lesson.’ So I had to find ways in which all of these developments were part of the lives of characters in the story. That was probably the major challenge of the book.” It is a challenge Follett has met— and surpassed.
Fall of Giants
By Ken Follett, Dutton, $36, 985 pages ISBN 9780525951650, also available on audio
Master Storyteller... Master of Suspense... The New York Times bestseller from one of the best-loved authors of all time
MICHAEL CRICHTON An epic voyage of cutthroat greed, bloodstained gold, and swashbuckling glory.
“Crichton is a virtuoso.” —New York Times “A master.” —Los Angeles Times NOW IN PAPERBACK www.harpercollins.com
NICOLE KRAUSS interview By Stephenie Harrison
The stories a desk can tell
he line between fact and fiction sometimes blurs in unusual ways, something acclaimed author Nicole Krauss discovered when working on her much-anticipated third novel, Great House.
Krauss’ own workstation wound up performing double duty as both the platform and the unwitting muse for the new novel about a seemingly disparate group of characters linked by a mysterious desk. “What ultimately became the first half of the first chapter of Great House was initially published as ‘From the Desk of Daniel Varsky’ in the 2008 volume of The Best American Short Stories,” Krauss says by phone from Tel Aviv, Israel, where she has stayed for several months as part of a writers residency program. “I had to write a blurb to accompany the story about the inspiration [behind it], and I legitimately had no idea what I would say, but I sat down to write in my office. I looked down at my writing desk and it was almost the same as the desk that I had described in the story!” Interestingly, the desk in question is not one Krauss selected but one she inherited from the previous owners of her family’s home in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn. According to Krauss, the desk in question is “so huge and very masculine. It’s really overburdening, but we’d have to cut it into pieces to get it out. The previous owners had a painted panel that they had removed with them, so now this desk has a gaping hole that I can’t fill.” For Krauss, this is why the desk that has such an important place in
her life also has such prominence in the book. “It’s not a book about a desk, obviously,” she muses. “It was more about the idea of the desk; it became a symbol, in a way, about what passes from person to person and generation to generation. Its material existence was really beside the point, although I did make it very large with all these drawers. I was really trying to take this very daunting, abstract idea and give it physicality.” Great House is perhaps best thought of as a series of vignettes centering on four characters whose lives gradually intersect as the novel progresses. Initially the most striking link between these people is a large and imposing desk, which each has owned at some point. This remarkable piece of furniture is the source of both agony and inspiration for each character, acting as an embodiment of sublimated disappointments and desires. Shuttling across time and space, the lives of writers, parents and lovers are gradually revealed, their superficial layers slowly stripped away, until all that remains are the cores upon which identity is based. While the desk may have offered Krauss a tangible symbol during the early stages of the writing process, there was something even stronger motivating her. In recent interviews, her husband, novelist Jonathan Safran Foer, admitted that much of the impetus for his first
work of nonfiction, Eating Animals, came from the birth of his first child and the quandary he faced regarding what to feed his son. For Krauss, becoming a parent also clearly had an important impact. “I started Great House about a year after having my first child,” she says. “I started to think about what parents pass on to their children genetically, but also the transference that goes beyond that, such as personality and fears. I was connected to my son through the umbilical cord and so much was going into him whether I liked it or not, and it made me think about myself as a child and what things my son would inherit from me. As I continued to write the book, the phrase ‘the burden of inheritance’ began to haunt me.” Krauss is very clear, however, that just as Great House is a novel composed of many characters, it is also one of many ideas. It is a novel about the connections between people, something Krauss has explored in her two earlier novels, and something that she claims is “one of the deepest existential questions there is.” But it is also a novel that more deeply explores Krauss’ own Jewish roots. “I was raised Jewish,” she says, “but what interests me most is not faith, which I’ve never had, but It is a novel the tradition about the of argument, connections dissent, dissatisfaction and between questioning people, that is so cenwhich Krauss tral to Judaism. terms “one of Perhaps the best word to the deepest use is ‘doubt.’ existential In Great House, almost every questions character in the there is.” book grapples with uncertainty, whether it’s existential, or moral, or has to do with the limits of how fully known we can ever be to one another, how often we must live unknown and unknowing.” About one thing there is no doubt: There’s a lot riding on this new novel. Krauss’ deeply moving and intensely personal 2005 novel, The History of Love, captivated readers worldwide and was a bona fide publishing phenomenon. The news that her follow-up would be published this month was accom-
panied by rumblings of excitement in the literary world. Adding to the hubbub was Krauss’ recent inclusion on the New Yorker’s 20 Under 40 list, which highlights young authors worth watching. It is the rare author who can acknowledge such fervent accolades from both critics and readers alike, but not allow the hype to infect her work. When asked if she worries about whether her new novel will live up to the hopes many have pinned on it, she answers candidly. “I’m aware my books ask a lot from my readers, and I love the dedication of those readers who stay with [my books] and come through the other side,” she replies. “Ultimately, I write from a mindset where I have to please myself first. I feel that I wrote a better book here [than The History of Love ], and I think I’m becoming a better writer.” But what of those folks at the New Yorker for whom 40 is the cutoff for a young author to make an impression? At 36, Krauss’ time on the venerable list is limited, but she’s not too worried about inspiration running dry; if there’s such a thing as a pragmatic poet, Krauss is it. “Life is a progression of questions,” she says. “Each question evolves and expands, and as your life changes, the questions do too. The work of a writer is not necessarily answering the questions, but exploring. . . . In my mind, when I’m past 40, I always expect and hope that I will continue to write books and get closer to the book I am meant to write. One always hopes one’s getting a little closer.” If Great House is any indication, Krauss must be very close indeed. Surely if there is one book each author is meant to write, then there might also be one book each reader is meant to read. For plenty of Krauss’ fans out there, Great House just might be that book.
GREAT hOUSE By Nicole Krauss Norton $24.95, 304 pages ISBN 9780393079982 Also available on audio
meet SENA JETER NASLUND © José Betancourt
the title of your Q: What’s new book?
would you describe Q: How the book?
novel touches on everything from extraterrestrial life Q: This to religious intolerance. What inspired you to write it?
your personal idea of paradise? Q: What’s
What would you do if your son were accused of murder?
Q: What is your best quality? most aggravating habit? Q: Your
Q: What one thing would you like to learn to do? Q: W ords to live by?
Adam & EVE Sena Jeter Naslund is the author of six novels, including the bestseller Ahab’s Wife. Her latest is Adam & Eve (Morrow, $26.99, 352 pages, ISBN 9780061579271), an extraordinary near-future reimagining of the biblical story from the book of Genesis. Naslund teaches at the University of Louisville and directs the brief-residency M.F.A. in writing at Spalding University.
“A high-speed chase of a novel, SAVING MAX is like the best of John Grisham with a feminine twist. Its fast-paced blend of courtroom drama and detective work kept me turning pages past my bedtime.” —New York Times bestselling author Eileen Goudge
On sale now! www.MIRABooks.com • www.SavingMaxBook.com
reviews HOW TO READ THE AIR
A family’s long journey home Review by Rebecca Shapiro
Few young writers are as lauded as Dinaw Mengestu, whose debut novel, The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears, an elegiac portrait of an immigrant grocer in Washington, D.C., has been compared to the work of Naipaul and Fitzgerald, named a New York Times notable book and awarded everything from the Guardian First Book Prize to the National Book Award’s 5 Under 35. This past July, The New Yorker named him one of the coveted “20 under 40” young writers to watch. It’s a tough act to follow, but with How to Read the Air, Mengestu has proven himself far more than a one-trick pony, delivering an epic story just as nuanced and perfectly crafted, though far broader and more complex even than the first. How to Read the Air chronicles a trip from Peoria, Illinois, to Nashville, Tennessee—distinct only in how prosaic and particularly American it is—taken by two generations of a troubled family. The first is a rare By Dinaw Mengestu, Riverhead, $25.95, vacation for immigrants Josef and his pregnant wife Mariam, who were 320 pages, ISBN 9781594487705 virtually strangers when they married in war-torn Ethiopia and who endured unthinkable odds to reunite in America. Intended hopefully as a honeymoon, it ends in disaster, setting an ominous tone for the marriage. The second is taken 30 years later by their son, Jonas, who leaves his own broken marriage and fledgling career in New York after his father’s lonely death to retrace his parents’ ill-fated Midwestern journey. The narratives intersect seamlessly, communicating in a way that the family—wounded by violence, displacement and indifference—could never do on their own. Much of American literature has been shaped by the immigrant experience, which makes Mengestu’s utterly fresh eye all the more remarkable. His prose is perfect, with an innate attention to detail and an astonishing ability to draw poignancy out of images literally as drab as a cardboard box. But perhaps most impressive is his creation of Jonas himself—at once somber, angry, exuberant and indifferent, he lends a fascinating voice to this masterful work and together with Mengestu’s first protagonist, Sepha Stephanos, continues to create a mesmerizing window into modern immigration.
THE FALSE FRIEND By Myla Goldberg Doubleday $25.95, 272 pages ISBN 9780385527217 Also available on audio
A woman wants to make peace with her past. As a child, she watched her friend fall down a well, and then, for some inexplicable reason, told the police her friend had disappeared into a stranger’s car. For years, she has wondered why she told this lie, and what she can do to atone for her sin. Visiting with witnesses, she learns that her memory is inaccurate; her friend did, in fact, get into a stranger’s car. Why has she remembered the event incorrectly? What kind of child was she, and why should she worry about the past? The False Friend is a delight.
With the pace of a thriller, Myla Goldberg gives us a complex problem and an authentic, surprising resolution. Vivid characterizations fill her pages: a girl who subjects herself to fashion ratings from her peers; a man who smokes pot furtively in his in-laws’ yard. Goldberg has a talent for noticing the physical world; in one gorgeous chapter, she concisely narrates the history of an American city’s deterioration. She also knows how to use a simile. A tense hostess blows a small puff of air at her guest, as if extinguishing a candle. Fans of Goldberg’s first novel, Bee Season, will love The False Friend. In both novels, Goldberg beautifully narrates the collapse of a family. She is interested in what we sacrifice when we change; whom we hurt, and why; what separates children from adults; and how memories help us to survive. She writes about these heavy questions while creating a brisk, unforgettable story. The False Friend leaves us wanting more, as all good fiction should. — D a n B a rr e t t
Exley By Brock Clarke Algonquin $24.95, 320 pages ISBN 9781565126084
from the house where Miller lives with his mother in Watertown, New York. To relieve him of these “fantasies,” Miller’s mother sends the boy to a therapist. Naturally, that’s when all psychological hell breaks loose. The question is, which of these suffering souls has the firmest hold on the actual facts of the case? Miller? Miller’s mother? Miller’s dad, wherever he is? The therapist, who only half-sanely narrates part of the story? Frederick Exley, the real-life, down-and-out author from Watertown, whom Miller now tries to track down, believing that only Exley can save his dying father? Jonathan Yardley, Exley’s real-life biographer, who makes a cameo late in the novel? With this dazzling and hilarious chorus of perspectives—all of them toeing a precarious line between hard reality and redemptive fantasy—Exley marks an artistic leap for Brock Clarke from his previous hit novel, An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England, in which readers bore witness to the moral development of just one schlemiel. Frederick Exley, the patron saint of this novel, possessed the awful wisdom of the loser: What is really true is hardly ever what is merely good. This is an insight that can save us, even as it threatens to drive us crazy. It is what helps a boy to grow up, even as it hurts him, even as it comes his way from those who love him. —Michael Alec Rose
Djibouti By Elmore Leonard Morrow $26.99, 304 pages ISBN 9780061735172
Ever since Mark Twain made it clear that a prepubescent boy could make a mighty fine narrator, American fiction has enjoyed a spate of latter-day Huck Finns, each of them irresistibly precocious in his own way. Now Exley’s Miller Le Ray joins this company of youthful raconteurs, all of whom have an exceptional clarity of vision to see things as they are because they are boyishly unafraid to imagine things as they ought to be. Miller believes that his runaway father went to Iraq and has now come back badly wounded, laid up in the VA hospital a few blocks away
Dara Barr, documentary filmmaker and protagonist of Elmore Leonard’s latest, Djibouti, is a tough girl. This hard-driving, harddrinking Academy Award winner has to be tough, after all. Along with her trusty cameraman, a genial six-and-a-half-foot-tall AfricanAmerican chap named Xavier, she’s made films of Bosnian women, neo-Nazis and the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Dara’s latest, riskiest
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FICTION project is filming the pirates of Somalia, who, fortified by cheekfuls of khat and AK47s slung over their shoulders, think nothing of taking over supertankers from their rickety little skiffs. The piracy brings in millions of dollars that fund everything from luxury cars to prostitutes to beachfront mansions to more khat. Loot floating around brings complications, and things get very complicated very quickly. Dara and her friends quickly get mixed up with an Al Qaeda psychopath who doesn’t want people to know his real name as much as he doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life in solitary confinement. Dara and Xavier encounter this maniac several times and are no more frightened of him than they would be of any other drinking buddy— an impressive feat, and one that’s necessary if they want to finish their movie. Then there’s the tanker full of liquid natural gas—a floating bomb, in other words—and rumor has it that the killer’s jihadi pals would just love to light it up if a cut of ransom money isn’t forthcoming. That is, unless someone else gets to the ship first. Told in short, punchy chapters, Djibouti, with its East African setting and focus on topical Somali piracy, might seem a departure for Leonard, but it’s not. Once again, he concentrates on crooks, moviemakers and other hustlers, folks whose moral compass, if they have one, might be a little askew, who let nothing get in the way of their goals, and whose bravery seems indistinguishable from foolhardiness. Djibouti is a nasty good time. —Arlene McKanic
TO THE END OF THE LAND By David Grossman Knopf $26.95, 592 pages ISBN 9780307592972
Family life can be like a journey— an expedition filled with delights and sorrow, a mixture of monotony and surprises, with a few unexpected side trips. In David Grossman’s amazing new novel, To the End of the Land, he combines literal
travel with the passages of life; as the main characters hike around Israel, they renew their friendship through deep conversation, relating stories that range from the personal to the mundane and revealing a few closely held secrets. Ora, newly divorced, is planning a camping trip through the Galilee with her younger son, Ofer. When he rejoins the army, she panics and decides to take the trip on her own, rationalizing, somewhat fantastically, that if she can’t be informed of his death, then he can’t die. At the last minute, she coerces her reclusive friend Avram into accompanying her. As they wander the hills, Ora keeps up a steady monologue, describing Ofer from birth to adulthood, in the hopes that maintaining a laser-like focus on domestic minutiae will keep him alive. The background to this conversation is a complicated history among three friends. Ora, Avram and Ora’s ex-husband Ilan met as teenagers when they were all hospitalized with a debilitating illness. The attraction that both men felt for Ora tested their friendship, and their relationships were further tried when Avram was held as a POW in Egypt and brutally tortured after the 1973 Yom Kippur war. Although Ora and Ilan eventually married and had children, they continued to care for Avram until he cut himself off from their family, refusing to meet their two sons and working only the most menial of jobs. As Ora recounts the many stories of her family life, Avram is able to make a kind of human connection that he has long shunned and feels himself regaining some of the creative spirit he thought he’d lost. Grossman contrasts the tragic consequences of war with the soundtrack of everyday motherhood in such a way that the surreality of life in contemporary Israel is placed in high relief. Politics infiltrates everything, and the toll it takes on Ora’s family, from her sons’ enlistment to the ambivalence she feels she must hide from them, is almost too much for her to bear. Those who are already familiar with Grossman may know that he lost his own son in the Second Lebanon War of 2006. Though much of this book was written before that date, it is impossible to read To the End of the Land without wondering how that loss may have affected his point of view. Always a
WHO DO THRILLER WRITERS READ?
writer of provocative technique and a fearless approach to life’s most profound questions, Grossman digs deeply here, with powerful results. — La u r e n B u f f e r d
THE BRAVE By Nicholas Evans Little, Brown $26.99, 368 pages ISBN 9780316033787 Also available on audio
Meet Tom Bedford. Like Nicholas Evans, the author who created him, Tom grew up in England, became infatuated with the American West, worked in Hollywood and ultimately chose writing as his profession. But unlike Evans, who established a following with his blockbuster hit The Horse Whisperer and lives with his wife, our protagonist has only a moderately satisfying writing career and dwells in an empty house he built with his ex-wife, whom he still loves. Tom, it is clear from the start, is stuck in a number of ways. He is estranged from his son, Danny, who is fighting in Iraq and on the brink of a life-changing tragedy. And a secret from Tom’s past—the truth of what happened to his beautiful actress mother—has shaped his life. Concealing that secret has required an astonishing number of lies. When Tom becomes infatuated with a young writer, he imagines sharing the truth about his past with her. But he can’t, believing that it would be too great a betrayal to those who mean the most to him. He reflects, “That was the thing with lies. Like the gnarled and twisted pines that grew along the Front Range, the longer they lived the stronger they became.” The Brave is an engrossing tale that deals mainly with clearing out these lies and examining the past that produced them, suggesting that, as Faulkner said, “The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.” Fans of The Horse Whisperer won’t want to miss this complex and satisfying story. For readers who have not had the pleasure of reading Evans, but are looking to get lost in a big novel with larger-than-life characters, The Brave is sure to fit the bill. — K e l ly B l e w e t t
“KNOWS HOW TO MAKE YOU SHIVER.” —Harlan Coben “A HEART POUNDING ROLLER COASTER OF A TALE.” —Jeﬀrey Deaver “ONE OF THE MASTERS OF THE POLICE NOVEL.” Ridley Pearson Also available PINNACLE
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FICTION The Lost and Forgotten Languages of Shanghai By Ruiyan Xu St. Martin’s $24.99, 352 pages ISBN 9780312586546 Also available on audio
Perfect for Book Clubs! also available on highbridge audio read, listen to an excerpt, and learn more at www.algonquinbooks.com/grodstein.
—J i l l i a n Q u i n t
OUR KIND OF TRAITOR
“haunting.” —People “gripping.” —Chicago Tribune
ever, with plot and pacing, working too hard, at times, to turn her characters’ inner turmoil into outward action. Still, this first novel compels on both intellectual and emotional levels, calling into question the nature and necessity of one of our most uniquely human abilities.
Do we need language? To what extent is identity tied to expression, and to what extent is it something innate, preverbal? What if you were suddenly unable to speak your native tongue, but remained painfully cognizant of everything said around you? Ruiyan Xu’s poignant and impressive debut, The Lost and Forgotten Languages of Shanghai, explores such conundrums. The book opens with a dramatically rendered scene: a Shanghai hotel torn apart by a massive and violent gas explosion. Among the survivors is Li Jing, a businessman who has sustained severe head injuries. Although he initially seems fine, the doctors quickly diagnose a terrible condition: Broca’s aphasia, which hinders Li’s ability to speak— though not to understand—a single word of Chinese. Curiously, he is able to communicate in almost perfect English, a language he has not used since childhood, when he lived briefly in the United States. His newfound speechlessness devastates not only Li but also his beloved wife, Meiling, who finds her once effusive and loquacious husband suddenly dull and foreign. Meanwhile, an American neurologist, Rosalyn Neal, is flown halfway around the world to work with Li on unraveling his linguistic web. But as the recently divorced and decidedly culture-shocked physician grows to understand—and care deeply—for her patient, she also learns that restoring one’s “former life” is never as easy as it seems. Xu, who was born in Shanghai and moved to New York City when she was 10 years old, no doubt understands the dualities and misalignments of the bilingual mind, and her writing shines most when she delves deeply into Li’s troubled subconscious. She struggles, how-
By John le Carré Viking $27.95, 304 pages ISBN 9780670022243 Also available on audio
The newest addition to John le Carré’s extensive list of novels proves that this master of the espionage genre is still at the height of his authorial powers. Filled with Russian spies, financial and political scandals and even a few games of tennis thrown in for good measure, Our Kind of Traitor has all the necessary elements for a rip-roaring, intelligent thriller that never lacks in high-wire suspense. When young British couple Perry and Gail decided to splurge on a Caribbean tennis holiday, they never imagined their dream vacation could go from fun in the sun to deadly dealings so fast. Without really being sure how it happened, they find themselves inexplicably linked to money-launderer Dima, who has ties to the Russian mafia. He enlists the couple’s aid in seeking amnesty from the British Service in exchange for information concerning corruption in the British banking system. Before they have the chance to say no, Perry and Gail find themselves acting as pawns in a sinister game well beyond their depths, one that will take them on a whirlwind tour through Paris, Switzerland and beyond, always with the British Secret Service nipping at their heels. Le Carré has managed to capture a snapshot of history and immortalize it in the suspenseful and morally complex Our Kind of Traitor, which is based on a December 2009 article in The Observer claiming that at the height of the economic crisis in 2008, it was drug money keeping the British finan-
A world at war again. A horrific accident. And three lives forever intertwined. In the midst of God’s silence, can faith and hope survive? —While We’re Far Apart by Lynn Austin
When Amy’s life feels like a series of false starts, the appearance of the mysterious, attractive Eli changes everything.
She was determined to help a wounded family. He was determined to preach the truth. Neither expected to fall in love. But will following their hearts cost them everything?
—Amy Inspired by Bethany Pierce
—The Preacher’s Bride by Jody Hedlund
—Hatteras Girl by Alice J. Wisler
When disturbing secrets threaten Jackie’s chance to fulfill her dreams, will she risk it all to find the truth?
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reviews cial system afloat. A member of the British Foreign Service from 1959 to 1964, le Carré is well-positioned to infuse the thrilling story with the gravitas necessary to set it apart from your dime-a-dozen drugstore pulp fiction. A solid addition to his oeuvre, Our Kind of Traitor does not disappoint, and readers should be prepared for one heck of a ride. — C a t h e r i n e D . Ac r e e
World and Town By Gish Jen Knopf $26.95, 400 pages ISBN 9780307272195
Hattie Kong is a Chinese-American descendent of Confucius who lives in a small New England town. How she got there and why she lives
FICTION alone at age 68, with three dogs and new neighbors—a mysterious and seemingly broken Cambodian family—is the lovely, slowly unfurling story of the latest novel by bestselling author Gish Jen. Within the last two years Hattie has lost her husband of 30 years to lung cancer (he never smoked, she keeps marveling) and her best friend, Lee, to breast cancer. Her son Josh is a globetrotting journalist who checks in every couple of months. Some days, she thinks the only reason she’s still around is to feed the dogs. But then the Chhung family moves in next door, and Hattie strikes up an unlikely friendship with Sophy, a 17-year-old with a painful past and an uncertain future. To make things even more interesting, Hattie’s old boyfriend Carter, now a retired scientist, returns to town looking for a new life. It seems everyone and everything in World and Town is looking for a new life— even the wintry town of Riverlake is trying its best to find spring (Hattie
calls fleece the state fabric), and its residents seem to be flocking to worship in a new fundamentalist Christian congregation. Jen is masterful at mixing keen observation with wit and wisdom, and she is in top form here. The highly charged interactions between Hattie and Carter crackle with their shared history. It’s when Jen steps into the shoes of teenage Sophy, though, that the book really finds its center. Sophy got into enough trouble in her previous town to have been sent to a foster home, and she has just recently reunited with her strict parents, who still fight with the ghosts of Pol Pot. Jen gets every detail of the teenage girl right, down to the “likes” peppering her conversations. Jen has tackled the unique issues of multicultural Americans in all her previous works, including the wonderful Mona in the Promised Land. In her latest, she is at her best, diving into the pain and promise of coming to America. —Amy ScribneR
BOUND By Antonya Nelson Bloomsbury $25, 240 pages ISBN 9781596915756 Also available on audio
In her short stories and previous novels, Antonya Nelson has established her niche by portraying the domestic crisis—the tensions between spouses and generations— with a feel for the humor underlying even the direst of events. Her fourth novel continues in this vein, focusing on Catherine and Oliver—he an entrepreneur nearing 70, she barely older than his daughters from two previous marriages. Their relationship is already precarious, as Oliver is seriously entwined with the most recent of a long line of younger “Sweethearts,”
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FICTION and Catherine regularly wonders how she ended up with a humorless husband nearly as old as her nursing-home bound mother. Then a curious missive arrives notifying Catherine that Misty, her best friend from high school— “fearless, loyal, in love with intoxication, adventure, a challenge,” whom she hasn’t seen or heard from in 23 years—has died in a car accident and has named Catherine the guardian of her teenage daughter, Cattie. Suddenly Catherine’s own nearly forgotten years of rebellion come rushing to the surface—the lying, skipping school, drugs and promiscuity leading to two abortions—things she has never confided to the upright and slightly stodgy Oliver. Nelson delves into the vagaries of Catherine and Oliver’s marriage and perceptively dissects Catherine’s confrontational relationship with her mother, a former professor who is openly critical of many of Catherine’s life choices. Catherine knows she “would never be the daughter her mother might have wished for.” Nelson’s only misstep seems to be interspersing her tale with updates on Wichita’s serial killer, known as BTK, who has resurfaced after decades of quiet—a side plot which seems artificial, and never really blends with or adds to her story of relationships renewed or discarded. But she shines once again in her depiction of the many guises of marriage, and family ties both strengthening and coming undone. —Deborah Donovan
petty magic By Camille DeAngelis Crown $24, 336 pages ISBN 9780307454232
Scout oath. At least, that’s how Camille DeAngelis’ world of witches operates, and indeed, this reader wouldn’t have it any other way. Otherwise, the morally responsible half of Petty Magic’s dual personality—the part that describes witch Evelyn’s battle against the Nazis in World War II—would sound a mite dubious. Ordinarily, one would expect a witch to fight for the Nazis, not against them. But that’s not what happens here. Evelyn (known as Eve) is 149 years old, but with the pass of a finger over her face and the right words, she can still look and act young and beautiful. She lives with other witches in buildings that were long ago torn down, and she rarely cooks the “slow” way, preferring to conjure up dishes with, perhaps, a wink of an eye. Against this background, DeAngelis works in that far more serious subplot involving the underground battle against the Nazis in Europe, where Eve finds and loses her true love, Jonah. Somehow DeAngelis manages to give each of these accounts, past and present, its own space, though things tighten up a bit when Eve runs into Jonah’s dead ringer, Justin, 60 years later. Full of engaging characters, from the family parrot, who is “working his way through the metaphysical poets,” to Eve’s well-meaning, witchy family, who have a mystery of their own that must be investigated, Petty Magic pulls off the magic of being, at the same time, serious and tongue-in-cheek. If you’re a witch, petty magic is what you’ll amuse yourself with in your old age. But readers of all ages will be enchanted by this novel and, in the end, unwilling to break its spell. —Maude McDaniel
nemesis By Philip Roth HMH $26, 304 pages ISBN 9780547318356 Also available on audio
Who’d have known? Apparently there are strict rules of behavior for witches in this world, and many of these rules aim at preserving a fairly conventional moral structure. Furthermore, all witches take the “beneficium pledge,” which could be confused with the Girl
conjure up the sense of terror that surrounded any mention of the disease barely half a century ago. In his new novel, Nemesis, Philip Roth evokes his native Newark amid a raging epidemic in 1944, focusing on one decent man’s futile struggle to understand the seemingly random way that health and sickness, life and death are dealt out to those around him. Popular young athlete and high school physical education teacher Eugene “Bucky” Cantor has been hired to manage a playground for the summer in the city’s Jewish Weequahic section. Soon, some of the adolescent boys who spend the long summer days playing baseball there are stricken, and panic spreads in the community as parents blame the outbreak on everything from Italian toughs spitting on the sidewalk to overly vigorous physical activity. Despairing of any hope of stemming the outbreak, Bucky flees, like Marcus Messner, the protagonist of Roth’s Indignation, to a place of apparent safety: a summer camp in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains where his fiancée works as a counselor. But any pleasure he derives from their reunion is thwarted by his realization that, in abandoning the steamy, disease-riddled streets of Newark, “what he no longer had was a conscience he could live with,” and he resolves to abandon his summertime idyll. In Greek mythology, Nemesis was the spirit of divine retribution against those who yielded to hubris, or arrogance against the gods. Philip Roth’s well-known atheism undermines any notion that the harsh punishment inflicted on Bucky, who rails against God’s “lunatic cruelty” in striking down blameless 12-year-old boys, reflects Roth’s belief in any sort of divine judgment. Instead, he reminds us, “Sometimes you’re lucky and sometimes you’re not. Any biography is chance, and, beginning at conception, chance—the tyranny of contingency—is everything.” Bucky Cantor’s failure to grasp that harsh truth, Roth suggests in this characteristically bleak but unfailingly honest story, is the flaw that delivers him to his fate. —Harvey FreedenberG
For Americans born after 1955, polio has had about as much immediate emotional impact as the Black Death, and thus it’s hard to
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A house’s history comes alive
R e v i e w b y Br u c e T i e r n e y
It is always difficult to review a Bill Bryson book, since I’m tempted to indulge in sweeping declarations (“Bill Bryson may well be the wittiest man on the planet,” for instance) and then support such bold assertions with numerous quotes from his book. Problem is, I also want to say that he is exceptionally insightful, that he sports a keen sense of the English language and its peccadilloes, and on and on. And somehow I have to fit all that into the brief space of a review. Never has this been more the case than with his latest book, At Home. At Home builds upon his earlier work, A Brief History of Nearly Everything, this time narrowing the scope of the investigation to the everyday things found within (and about) the home: the architecture; the individual rooms; the plumbing, electrical and communications systems; the furniture. Bryson’s English countryside home is a Victorian parsonage By Bill Bryson, Doubleday, $28.95, 512 pages, where “nothing of any great significance has happened since the Romans ISBN 9780767919388, also available on audio decamped.” But “this old house” makes a very convenient jumping-off point for a look at topics as far-reaching as the spice trade with the Moluccas (did you know that the difference between herbs and spices is that herbs come from the leafy parts of plants and spices come from the non-leafy parts?), the Eiffel Tower (Eiffel also designed the skeleton of the Statue of Liberty, whose fragile bronze shell is a mere 1/10” thick), bat warfare (the plan was to launch up to a million bomb-laden bats over Japan at the height of WWII; when they came to roost, the bombs would go off, or so the theory went) and Samuel Pepys’ inadvertent descent into a basement afloat in human waste (“. . . which doth trouble me”). Somehow, curiously but inevitably, all of these seemingly unconnected particulars fit together neatly within the framework of a house. As Bryson notes in the introduction, history is “masses of people doing ordinary things.” And the common house? “Houses aren’t refuges from history. They are where history ends up.”
Washington: A Life By Ron Chernow Penguin $40, 928 pages ISBN 9781594202667 Also available on audio
George Washington was the indispensable Founding Father. He was unanimously chosen four straight times to lead: as commander in chief of the Continental Army; as president of the Constitutional Convention; and for two consecutive terms as president of the United States. Even in his retirement, the Senate unanimously confirmed him as head of the new Army. All of this was accomplished as he set precedents and dealt with opposition from Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and others. Now the brilliant biographer Ron Chernow, author of the National Book Awardwinning The House of Morgan, demonstrates in his magnificently
written, richly detailed and always compelling Washington: A Life just how and why his subject attained such an exalted status. Chernow draws on the 60 volumes of Washington’s letters and diaries as well as letters written to him, state papers from the period and the latest Washington scholarship. We now know more about him than his family, friends and other contemporaries did. From an early age, Washington was ambitious. Although he was not born into a family of the upper gentry and did not attend college, he was not exactly a self-made man. Conscientious and self-educated in many ways, it was the untimely deaths of his father and halfbrother and his marriage to Martha Custis that thrust him into the top tier of Virginia’s plantation society. Chernow’s narrative traces his evolution from a brave soldier on the frontier with a consuming desire for fame, money and status to a tough-minded businessman and a hard-driving slave owner, and then into a soldier and statesman with a mastery of political skills. Chernow’s nuanced portrait
shows that Washington generally was a realist and problem solver as well as a shrewd and subtle reader of other people. He certainly made errors of judgment, particularly during the war, and without extraordinary help from France, American history might have turned out differently. But Washington had a commitment to a greater vision than many others of what the United States could become. No other part of Washington’s life concerned him so much as being an owner of many slaves. Chernow devotes much space to his long ambivalence between abolitionism and his economic well-being based on slavery. Despite the Washingtons’ strong personal positive feelings about individual slaves, any doubts Washington had about slavery were expressed only in private letters, never publicly. He was reluctant to break up slaves’ families, yet he did not feel the same way when it came to selling slaves. Of course, by freeing his slaves in his will, Washington took a step all other slave-owning Founders failed to take. This magisterial volume cov-
ers the father of our country in all aspects, from his difficult relationship with his mother to his inability to live frugally, his obsession with Mount Vernon, his exemplary leadership in war and peace, and much more. Chernow’s latest accomplishment is historical biography at its best. —Roger Bishop
Our Patchwork Nation By Dante Chinni and James Gimpel Gotham $26, 336 pages ISBN 9781592405732 Also available on audio
Even if you think you’re above such distinctions, we all have a rough idea of what someone means when they say “red state” or “blue state.” A red-stater stops at Dunkin’ Donuts for coffee on the way to Wal-Mart and listens to Rush Limbaugh for entertainment; her blue counterpart is downing a $3 Starbucks macchiato, cranking NPR and, of course, heading to Whole Foods on an arugula run. There may be kernels of truth to these caricatures, but they don’t tell the whole story. Who are we, really? Journalist Dante Chinni and political geographer James Gimpel spent two years crossing and re-crossing the country to answer that question, and the result is Our Patchwork Nation. Their collaboration focused on the 3,141 counties in the U.S. and found 12 community types with enough demographic common ground to categorize. Military Bastions, for example, are located near military bases, generate mid-range pay and are full of soldiers, vets and their families. Their financial stability is threatened by our current cycle of long deployments; no soldiers means fewer patrons at local businesses, from the gas pump to the strip club, and the families left behind tend to spend conservatively. Evangelical Epicenters are full of young families who are very active in church life; their income tends to be less than the national average, but they’re not as concerned about keeping up with the Joneses as with home and family. Service Worker centers rely
NONFICTION on tourist dollars to stay afloat; employees live paycheck to paycheck and tend to be uninsured. A slow season or personal emergency can quickly throw residents into chaos. The surprises revealed by this analysis are numerous: Evangelical Epicenters have some of the best schools around, but the schools have very little religious influence because the range of different sects jockeying for social position tend to cancel each other out. Military Bastions, which lean to the right politically, nevertheless prefer NPR to conservative talk radio, because
NPR features international news relevant to followers of the wars. Perhaps the best news of all comes despite the many differences these 12 types have: When surveyed, all of them overwhelmingly believe that America is still a place where you will get ahead if you work hard. As Chinni puts it, “The United States is, measurably, a nation of optimists,” adding, “There are worse things to have as a foundation.” For a new, and nuanced, look at how we’re living today, Our Patchwork Nation is vital reading. —Heather Seggel
book offered a gripping, swiftmoving account of the pursuit of Abraham Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth, and his accomplices. Bloody Crimes tells the story of two different journeys that unfolded at nearly the same time as the hunt for Booth. The first journey is the flight of Confederate President Jefferson Davis from Richmond, Virginia, after General Robert E. Lee informed him on April 2, 1865, that his army could no longer protect the South’s capital. Part of Swanson’s subtitle calls this “the chase for Jefferson
Bloody Crimes By James Swanson Morrow $27.99, 480 pages ISBN 9780061233784 Also available on audio
In Bloody Crimes, James Swanson returns to the historical vicinity of his 2006 bestseller Manhunt. That
paperback picks penguin.com
Level 26: Dark Origins
Seven deadly sins. Seven souls that must be saved. One more no-holds-barred battle between a fallen angel with a hardened heart and a demon with everything to lose.
Ivory Malinov has lived centuries without love. Then she picks up the scent of a man. He is Razvan, a Dragonseeker. In spirit, in flesh and in blood, in love and in war, Ivory and Razvan are made for each other…for as long as they dare to live.
From the creator of CSI. Law enforcement personnel classify murderers on a scale of 25 levels of evil. But to an elite unnamed investigations group, a new category of killer is being defined: Level 26. 9780451232380 • $9.99
Four years ago, assassin Court Gentry was betrayed by his handlers in the CIA. Now, an old comrade returns to haunt him. With his ruthless employers on one side, his former friends on the other, and a doomed mission ahead, Court Gentry would kill to get out of this one alive.
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Play Dead While honeymooning on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, Laura’s husband David went out for a swim—and never returned. Now widowed and grieving, Laura’s search for the truth will draw her into a web of lies and deception that stretches back 30 years. 9780451231741 • $9.99
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The Secret History of the Pink Carnation Graduate student Eloise Kelly travels to England to finish her dissertation on the English spies of the Napoleonic Wars. But her greatest conquest is to reveal the most elusive spy of all—the dashing Pink Carnation. 9780451413017 • $7.99
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Sinful in Satin
Celia’s quiet life ends when her mother, a famed London courtesan, dies, leaving her a small house in town—and a darkly handsome, reputedly dangerous tenant.
When Storme Montague’s father and brother are killed by the Breeds, a crucial microchip is destroyed. Betrayed to the Council, she is rescued by Styx, a Wolf Breed. Storme has something he wants too—but it’s not a microchip.
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reviews Davis.” But one of the more interesting elements of his account is the sense that a good many Union commanders (including Lincoln himself ) seemed to hope that Davis would escape and not leave them with the thorny task of deciding whether or not to execute him. In addition, Davis’ flight was strangely indecisive. A man of old-school dignity and honor, he delayed and delayed, hoping to rally supporters and carry on the good fight while his armies surrendered and his allies drifted away. In this account at least, his capture feels almost like an afterthought. The second journey is the extraordinary train trip of Lincoln’s corpse across the country for burial in Springfield, Illinois, during which time his body was displayed to hundreds of thousands of mourners in cities along the route. Swanson’s account shows just how amazing and emotional this journey was and provides context for understanding how this “death pageant for Lincoln’s corpse” (as the engagingly lurid subtitle calls it) shaped our notions of national mourning. Swanson quotes liberally from period memoirs and documents; this lends a you-are-there feel to the book, but these passages also clearly show that Jefferson Davis was clearly not as eloquent nor as reflective as Lincoln. Davis outlived Lincoln by many years, publishing memoirs, relying on support from friends and a loyal wife and garnering resounding adulation near the end of his life from Confederate veterans. But in some small part because of his body’s long trip home, Abraham Lincoln seems have garnered something different and larger: Call it immortality. —Alden Mudge
Carry the Rock By Jay Jennings Rodale $25.99, 280 pages ISBN 9781605296371
In 1957, nine African-American teenagers integrated Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, which is considered a milestone in
NONFICTION American civil rights history. Sadly, not much progress has been made in Little Rock since. Though ostensibly a football book, Jay Jennings’ Carry the Rock provides a sobering, unfiltered history of the city’s race relations. Jennings returned to his hometown in 2007 to cover Central High School’s football team, perennially one of the state’s best, and to take a long look at the town 50 years after its historic act. The season was a disappointment, as longtime coach Bernie Cox struggled to reach his players and recapture the glory of past teams. This team lacked togetherness, which was a common theme in the school—the student body president’s collegeadmissions essay described the lack of interaction between blacks and whites—and in the city. Despite countless legal battles to promote diversity in the schools, for years white households have sent their kids to private schools or have moved to the surrounding suburbs. Neighborhoods are defined by race, with the completion of I-630 in 1985 serving as a dividing line. Little Rock’s Board of Education didn’t have a black majority until 2006, and when the school system hired its first black superintendent, it ended with an enraged Board of Education and legal agony. Even the celebration of Central’s integration leaves alumni and residents with mixed feelings. Ralph Brodie, the student body president in 1957, wrote a book declaring that the white students who went about their business that year deserved praise and that “everyone who stepped inside Central High that year exhibited courage every day.” However, Jennings says, “There were lingering doubts in the black community about the degree to which Little Rock’s white citizens were willing, or have ever been willing, to accept responsibility for the historic, and the continuing, divisiveness in the city.” Though Jennings doesn’t tie together the book’s three elements (the city’s racial climate, Central’s 50th anniversary and the football team’s travails), he shows that a sweeping social change does not guarantee acceptance—that many courageous, selfless acts must still be performed year after year, and there are no assurances that those acts will be acknowledged. —Pete Croatto
Extraordinary, Ordinary People By Condoleezza Rice Crown Archetype $27, 352 pages ISBN 9780307587879 Also available on audio
Looking for a blow-by-blow account of Condoleezza Rice’s years as George W. Bush’s secretary of state? You would do well to find one of the many Rice biographies already on the shelves. In this remarkably clear-eyed and candid autobiography, Rice focuses instead on her fascinating coming-of-age during the stormy civil rights years in Birmingham, Alabama. Extraordinary, Ordinary People is Rice’s love letter to her fiercely proud and supportive parents. An only child, Rice grew up in an age and place where middle-class black children were told they had to be “twice as good” as their white peers to succeed. As a result, young Condi was an excellent student, a competition-level ice skater and a concert pianist. “Ironically, because Birmingham was so segregated, black parents were able, in large part, to control the environment in which they raised their children,” Rice writes. “They rigorously regulated the messages that we received and shielded us by imposing high expectations and a determined insistence on excellence.” But Rice did not escape some of the harsher reminders of Birmingham’s bitter racial struggles; as a child, she played with one of the girls later killed in the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing in 1963. The book ably chronicles Rice’s years of higher education and her first experience in Washington, D.C., when she worked on the National Security Council and met future mentors and colleagues Colin Powell and Brent Scowcroft. Rice also relays her sometimes stormy tenure as Stanford provost with clarity and humor, though she avoids delving too deeply into her romantic life. She casually mentions a couple of boyfriends over the years, before dispensing with the entire subject in a single paragraph: “In the back of my mind, I had always assumed that I
would get married and have kids. . . . But as I told (and still tell) my friends, you don’t get married in the abstract; you have to want to marry a particular person.” Perhaps it speaks to Rice’s character that in this salacious age of celebrity tell-alls, she chooses to focus on her many public accomplishments. Extraordinary, Ordinary People is a rich, insightful examination of Rice’s successes and their deep roots in her childhood. —Amy Scribner
Rival Rails By Walter R. Borneman Random House $28, 432 pages ISBN 9781400065615 Also available on audio
American schoolchildren are taught that the nation’s first transcontinental railroad was completed when the golden spike was driven on May 10, 1869, at Promontory Summit, Utah. While it was a historic moment, the linking of the Central Pacific Railroad and the Union Pacific Railroad was not the denouement of cross-country rail travel; rather it was the catalyst for further expansion. And the dreams, schemes and struggles to build more national rail lines are colorfully captured in Walter R. Borneman’s Rival Rails. The first transcontinental railroad wasn’t necessarily the best. This inaugural line from Council Bluffs, Iowa, to Sacramento, California, was over long miles and rough, snowy terrain, but another, shorter route with milder weather existed between Chicago and Los Angeles. Thus, the race was on to be the first to complete the line through America’s Southwest, with the promised prize of fame and fortune. Borneman’s telling of this story is admirable foremost because of its detail and historical accuracy; his extensive research is put to good use. But he also is a gifted storyteller, and he introduces his readers to an array of characters who are part of this transcontinental treasure hunt. They include Wall Street bankers, robber barons, land speculators and outright thieves
NONFICTION who stop at nothing to build their fortunes. Borneman details unscrupulous land deals, in which Native Americans were paid a pittance for their land, with railroad executives reselling it for huge profits. He tells of unseemly businessmen who bribed politicians, created phony railroad charters and sold stock in shell companies. The race even prompted some to build flimsy railroad lines and bridges, placing their passengers in grave danger. Rival Rails also includes its share of heroes, such as Edward Payson Ripley, the executive who saved the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe from bankruptcy and the entire rail industry from financial collapse, and Mary Jane Colter, an architect who muscled her way into a maledominated world to design a series of landmark buildings at Grand Canyon National Park. Borneman’s book is an enjoyable read for railroad buffs, Old West aficionados, serious-minded historians and anyone who finds romance in the sound of a train whistle in the night. —J o h n T. S l a n i a
The Last Boy By Jane Leavy Harper $27.99, 480 pages ISBN 9780060883522 Also available on audio
Many words have already been expended in striving to ascertain the truth about Mickey Mantle. The Mick was certainly a sports hero— the statistics and on-the-field achievements bear that out. His image was helped immeasurably by playing baseball in New York when television was becoming a huge force, and those factors also helped to ascribe to him the elements of tragedy and courage, soldiering on as he did through numerous injuries during an 18-year career. As for the evidence that Mantle was a profane, bumpkinish and usually drunken galoot, Jane Leavy’s new bio The Last Boy tends to back that up as well, though the ultimate effect of her generally serious effort is also to evoke pity for one of America’s most iconic public figures.
Smartly, Leavy uses Mantle’s games primarily as a framework for her investigations, but she finds newly fertile ground in researching his legendary home run, struck in 1953 in Washington, D.C., as well as the critical knee injury he suffered in the 1951 World Series, which is said to have changed the course of history, making a mere mortal out of a would-be god. This latter episode leaves the impression that if only Mantle had had access to more advanced surgery, he might have reclaimed most of his unearthly powers. Leavy’s contradictory portrait of the personal Mantle compels: At once generous and caring to many, his behavior toward his long-suffering wife and sons was damaging and distant, much of his time off the field spent instead with buddies and booze and indulging other appetites. (Howard Cosell is quoted as calling Mantle a “whoremonger.”) Leavy also details Mick’s later years effectively, when he lent his name and image to casinos and corporate concerns, becoming a king of the sports memorabilia circuit. Those pursuits continued to earn him a good living, but Mantle’s personal life was an essential cipher, and he kept drinking until it was too late. The big revelations here are about Mantle as the victim of childhood sexual abuse, plus Leavy’s tabloid account of her attempted 1983 interview with him, when Mick groped her and acted like a drunken fool. Though many will see Leavy as further besmirching Mantle’s image, she also evokes a sense of sadness about a life that might have been more but simply wasn’t. —Martin Brady
Dewey’s Nine Lives By Vicki Myron with Bret Witter Dutton $19.95, 320 pages ISBN 9780525951865 Also available on audio
On a bitterly cold January day in 1988, some wicked individual dumped a tiny orange kitten into the book drop of the public library in Spencer, Iowa. Hours later, librar-
“Clare has done it again! Twists, turns, and fun to read. I can hardly wait for the next one.” —Alex Anderson, cohost of The Quilt Show, coexecutive director of The Quilt Life Magazine
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ian Vicki Myron found the frostbitten bit of fluff, and the lives of that kitten, Myron and the entire town changed forever. Named Dewey Readmore Books, the kitten grew into a cause célèbre and was a beloved inhabitant of the library for the next 19 years. After his death in 2007, Myron wrote a book about his life, Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World. Almost overnight, the book became a sensation, spending months atop the bestseller lists. It also brought Myron thousands of letters from people wanting to tell her how touched they were by Dewey’s story and, more often than not, sharing reminiscences of their own cats. Myron was touched by many of these stories and felt others would be, too. So she and her co-author, Bret Witter, gathered a number of them into this latest book, Dewey’s Nine Lives. One such story is that of Bill Bezanson, a Vietnam vet suffering from an undiagnosed case of posttraumatic stress disorder. Bezanson wouldn’t allow himself to get close to anyone or anything (he changed jobs, locations and acquaintances every few months) until an owl dropped a kitten on the roof of his car. The relationship he formed with that cat, named Spooky, helped Bezanson find his way back to the life he had shunned. Dewey fans will be thrilled to know there are some additional stories about the small-town library cat, too, including what Myron believes is his spirit bringing romance back into her life after a 30-year hiatus. While not all readers may be convinced Dewey was responsible, certainly those who enjoyed the first book will rejoice in her happiness and in Dewey’s Nine Lives. —Rebecca Bain
Where Good Ideas Come From By Steven Johnson Riverhead $26.95, 336 pages ISBN 978159448771 Also available on audio
Steven Johnson writes about intricate subjects; his previous books
NONFICTION have addressed communications technology, medical epidemics, the impact of popular culture—even the life of English theologian, clergyman, philosopher and inventor Joseph Priestly. Now, with Where Good Ideas Come From, Johnson examines the critical factors that are almost always present when human innovation occurs. The investigation begins with Charles Darwin and his observation of coral reefs, which he understood to be living ecosystems. From there, Johnson’s coverage ranges widely, with discussion of corporate, governmental and private innovation, including Gutenberg’s use of a wine press to develop the printing press; the development of the GPS based on early observations of the satellite Sputnik by Johns Hopkins physicists; the sonic explorations of British musician Brian Eno; the brilliantly improvised steps that led to the invention of the incubator; Watson and Crick’s discovery of the DNA double helix; and the latest in video and social networking, such as HDTV, YouTube and Twitter. Johnson’s historical overviews are arranged within seven essential chapters, whose titles—“The Adjacent Possible,” “Liquid Networks,” “The Slow Hunch,” “Serendipity,” “Error,” “Exaptation,” “Platforms”— signal the key elements whose presence gives rise to new discovery. He believes that “the more we embrace these patterns—in our private work habits and hobbies, in our office environments, in the design of new software tools—the better we will be at tapping our extraordinary capacity for innovative thinking.” Johnson keeps the discussions of hard science to a minimum, though his sidebar about carbon as an essential component of life is certainly intriguing. Otherwise, his chief focus is on the various social and structural working models that create a fertile environment for creative thinking, collaboration and a culture in which information not only flows but is recycled. In his view, those “Eureka” moments are way overrated, and “environments that build walls around good ideas tend to be less innovative in the long run than more open-ended environments. . . . Good ideas may not want to be free, but they do want to connect, fuse, recombine.” Johnson proves to be an excellent guide to that process.
Laurence C. Smith’s The World in 2050 is quite a calm book, considering the world changes it envisions. A professor of geography and earth and spaces sciences at UCLA, Smith attempts to assay what is most likely to happen on a global scale over the next 40 years. Some of his predictions are disturbing, but none is apocalyptic. Smith points to four major engines of change: population growth; the increasing demand for natural resources; economic and cultural globalization; and climate change. He looks into conventional and experimental energy sources and concludes that oil and coal will continue to dominate for the foreseeable future; wind and solar energy will only be marginally important. Fresh water will run perilously low, leading in some cases to the privatization of water supplies. Securing sufficient potable water, Smith says, “is very possibly the greatest challenge of our century.” The most fortunate region of the world by 2050, Smith speculates, will be the northern rim of nations that includes the upper United States, Canada, Russia and the Scandinavian countries. Here there are still plenteous stores of oil, natural gas, water and arable land. The melting of ice in the Arctic Ocean has opened that area up for mineral exploration and extraction and increased the number and reach of shipping lanes. The nations sharing this area have so far opted for negotiation over confrontation, and in most of them, the aboriginal inhabitants have successfully asserted control over large portions of their original tribal lands. In the end, Smith does not see humanity as merely a passive observer and victim of all these seismic shifts. “To me,” he says, “the most important question is not of capacity, but of desire. What kind of world do we want?”
— M a r t i n Br a d y
— E d w a r d M o rr i s
The World in 2050 By Laurence C. Smith Dutton $26.95, 336 pages ISBN 9780525951810
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ROSEMARY WELLS I n t e r v i e w b y A l i c e Ca r y
ALL ABOARD FOR A THRILLING RIDE
osemary Wells is one busy lady. Her prolific career as a children’s author has spanned more than 40 years and produced at least 120 books that are cherished by children around the world. However, her latest novel, On the Blue Comet, took a bit longer than most to complete—30 years, to be precise. Three decades ago, Wells created the book’s hero, Oscar, an 11-yearold who lives in Cairo, Illinois, in the 1930s. She wrote several chapters, only to reach a moment when Oscar comes close to being killed in a bank robbery. That’s when he somehow ends up on a train—and not just any train: a Lionel electric train. At that point, Wells was stuck. Very stuck. “I knew that he had jumped onto the train, and I didn’t know how to deal with that. I didn’t know that it was a time-travel book,” she remembers. That changed three years ago, when a revelation about Oscar came to her in the shower. “It occurred to me, and I immediately went to the
computer and rewrote the whole thing. I just wrote it out flat,” Wells says by phone from Connecticut, where she lives, writes, illustrates and makes creative sparks fly. On the Blue Comet was well worth the wait. This thrilling adventure and takes young readers across the country in the 1930s and ’40s. “It’s about Oscar, it’s about the Midwest, and it’s about how we were during the Depression, and how people lived through it,” Wells explains. “It’s about history and the war coming.” After Oscar’s mother dies, he and his father immerse themselves in creating elaborate Lionel train layouts. However, when his father
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loses his job, they are forced to sell their house and beloved trains. Dad heads to California to find work, leaving Oscar in the care of his fussy aunt. The boy’s salvation comes from a kind stranger he meets, an encounter that eventually leads him to the bank on the day of the robbery. Once launched on his The creator page-turning adventure, Osof Max and car meets many Ruby turns more strangers, her talents to including Alfred a time-travel Hitchcock and a kindhearted adventure young actor that doubles nicknamed Dutch. as a history Of Dutch, lesson. Wells exclaims: “Oh my goodness, that’s Ronald Reagan! He was a friend of my father’s and was the head of the actor’s union in Hollywood for a number of years. My father was a playwright, and was his co-chairman, and knew him well.” Dutch is one of many characters that Wells has brought to life over the years. Her beloved cast of friends includes Max and Ruby, Noisy Nora, McDuff and Yoko, as well as entire kindergarten classrooms. What draws all her characters and books together? Emotional content, Wells says. “It’s the center of my writing. And this is why it works. I have to make sure that the emotional content is valid, and something that is wholesome and worthwhile, even if noncompliant.” Noncompliant? “All my heroes are noncompliant in one way or another,” she responds. “I’m a very noncompliant person, but with very conservative standards. I have the belief system
of a typical person born in 1943. As far as kids go, I believe in good citizenship, good behavior, kindness to others, no time spent in front of the television, and all kinds of things like that.” Asked how she manages her nonstop pace without sacrificing quality, Wells replies, “God knows. I just love it, and books and stories just come to me, the way airplanes come in the sky, when you look up over an airport and you see all those lights backed up. It’s the way my mind works; I just find books.” Wells looks back fondly on what she calls the “Golden Age of Childhood,” from about 1920 to 1968: “I think there was a time there when children were taught better manners, there was very little sense of entitlement, they were expected to behave themselves and work. They were also greatly loved, and everybody had more time. I think there’s a lack of time now that marks childhood in the Western world.” Rosemary Wells—the extremely talented, noncompliant and inexhaustible children’s author—sums up her ongoing career with eloquence: “I do my best to contribute to what I consider to be the only legitimate part of American childhood culture left, which is books.”
On the Blue Comet By Rosemary Wells Illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline Candlewick $16.99, 336 pages Ages 10 and up ISBN 9780763637224
teen read week DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL
ctober is the spookiest season, when the nights grow longer, the shadows grow deeper and homework projects loom large. These top reads for teens offer an escape from the mundane as they explore the darker sides of life, death—and undeath. REVOLUTION By Jennifer Donnelly Delacorte $18.99, 496 pages ISBN 9780385737630 Ages 14 and up
Andi Alpers is desperately sad— or perhaps just desperate. Ever since the death of her little brother, she’s been adrift. Her mother has come unhinged, her dad has left his damaged old family for a new life, and Andi is barely holding it together. Only when she’s playing her guitar does she feel sane. When she’s warned that without a stellar senior thesis, she’ll be expelled from her exclusive Brooklyn prep school, her father whisks her away to Paris, where he’s investigating a 200-yearold genetic mystery. Andi’s ostensibly there to do her own research on a remarkably prescient 18th-century composer and his musical heirs. But almost as soon as she arrives in Paris, she becomes far more invested in the city’s history than she could have imagined. In an antique guitar case, she discovers an ancient diary written by a young woman very much like herself. Alexandrine Paradis was a performer, too, one who got swept up in revolution—and love— despite herself. As Andi reads Alexandrine’s diary, she becomes more and more immersed in the drama of a dead girl and the little boy for whom she sacrificed everything. As in her previous novel for young adults, the award-winning A Northern Light, Jennifer Donnelly combines impeccable historical research with lively, fully fashioned characters to create an indelible narrative. Revolution is a complex story, moving back and forth in time and including allusions not only to historical events but also to literature (especially Dante’s Divine
Comedy) and to music from Handel to Wagner to Radiohead. Yet this undeniably cerebral book is also simultaneously wise and achingly poignant. Alexandrine writes in her diary, “After all the blood and death, we woke as if from a nightmare only to find that the ugly still are not beautiful and the dull still do not sparkle.” Just as Alexandrine comes to terms with her country’s dashed hopes, Andi must find a place where hope—and love—can flourish despite disillusion and despair.
Charles Benoit uses it to great effect: “Another line crossed. And you didn’t even notice.” Kyle doesn’t just narrate his story, he comments on it as he goes along his downwardspiraling path to his shattering fate, usually seeing his bad choices too late. The voice is fresh and original, the prose simple, accessible and poetic. Think Cormier and Crutcher, think an edgier A Separate Peace or Catcher in the Rye, and you’ll get the significance of Benoit’s debut. —Dean Schneider
Girl, Stolen By April Henry Holt $16.99, 224 pages ISBN 9780805090055 Ages 12 and up
You By Charles Benoit HarperTeen $16.99, 240 pages ISBN 9780061947049 Ages 12 and up
Choices made or not made have determined who 15-year-old Kyle Chase is and where he’s heading. He’s a slacker, a hoodie, at Midlands High. He could have studied harder in eighth grade and made it into a good school, but he chose to be “morphed” to his Xbox instead. He chooses to set a low bar for himself—missing assignments, failing tests, getting low grades. Friends go for math help; Kyle goes to detention. The theme of his school existence is “don’t get caught,” though he knows he’d be better off if he were caught sometimes; not getting caught leads to riskier choices. Those choices carry him into the orbit of bad boy Zack McDade, who has been kicked out of private school. Kyle didn’t have to go to that party, but walking up to Zack’s house and ringing the bell changes things, and his relationship with Zack will bring Kyle down. Not many writers employ the second-person point of view, but in You, his first novel for teens,
When Griffin slips into the Cadillac Escalade, its keys left in the ignition at the mall parking lot, he only means to steal it as a gift for his father. Within seconds he realizes that he’s stolen a girl too. In April Henry’s suspenseful and wellresearched Girl, Stolen, 16-year-old Cheyenne Wilder, resting in the backseat while her stepmother runs into the pharmacy to pick up her prescription, is not only suffering from pneumonia, but has been blind for the last three years. Is escape even possible for her? The spine-tingling chapters alternate between the teens’ perspectives as Griffin delivers both the vehicle and the girl to his cruel father, Roy. While Cheyenne plots to outwit her captors, flee Roy’s home in a remote wooded area and gather as much information as possible to turn over to police when (or if) she’s rescued, readers learn more about the accident that took Cheyenne’s mother and sight. And as Griffin, a high-school dropout with a troubled background and grief of his own, begins to see his surroundings in a whole new light, he wonders if he’s as much a bad guy as Roy and his accomplices, who are busy plotting how to use and dispose of Cheyenne. Perhaps Cheyenne is not the only victim in this escalating dilemma. Reminiscent of Gail Giles’ thrillers and tension-filled to the last
sentence, Girl, Stolen will resonate with readers long after the cover is closed. With a thoughtful and eye-opening look at disabilities, it highlights Cheyenne and Griffin’s resourcefulness and resiliency as they save themselves—and possibly each other. — An g e l a L e e p e r
Rot & Ruin By Jonathan Maberry Simon & Schuster $17.99, 464 pages ISBN 9781442402324 Ages 12 and up
What kid wouldn’t love to whack some zombies? Slaughter some bumbling, disintegrating bodies with gnashing teeth? Kill them before they kill you? Benny Imura has absolutely no interest. But in his post-apocalyptic Californian community, Benny will lose half his rations if he does not find a job by the time he turns 15, so he has no choice but to become an apprentice to his lame zomslaughtering brother Tom and to follow him into the Rot & Ruin—the world outside the fences. The zombie-covered fields of America reveal to Benny a world without morality and without humanity, even among the living. Jonathan Maberry’s Rot & Ruin melds the entertainment of a zombie thriller with an examination of the roots of anger and the value of human life. When the dead rise, it is easy to find sport in whacking a former mailman or two. But Benny quickly discovers that the living dead were once simply living, and there are things far more evil in the world than a shuffling mob of zoms. Along the way, Rot & Ruin ordains the younger generations with a sense of purpose and power, and a new understanding of what a hero really is: “Often it was the most unlikely of people who found within themselves a spark of something greater. It was probably always there, but most people are never tested, and they go through their whole lives without ever knowing that when things are at their worst, they are at their best.” —Catherine D. Acree
children’s books The Search for wondla
AN OTHERWORLDLY ADVENTURE Review by Sharon Verbeten
When a vicious invader breaches the security of her underground home— the Sanctuary where she has lived for all of her 12 years—young Eva Nine is suddenly thrust above ground into an unknown and potentially dangerous world. It’s a world her mother, a robot appropriately dubbed Muthr, has long prepared her for, never really knowing when, or how, this moment would come. Striking out as apparently the only human on the planet Orbona, Eva Nine meets several odd characters—including Rovender Kitt (a Jar Jar Binkslike alien) and a kindly water bear—who aid her travels and help her search for answers to who she really is. Her only clue? A crumbling picture of a girl, a robot and a human with the word “WondLa” still visible. Through a series of amazing escapes and travels over lands with spectacular vistas and peopled with curious creatures, Eva—along with her By Tony DiTerlizzi, Simon & Schuster, $17.99, companions and Muthr—journeys far from her once-safe home into an 496 pages, ISBN 9781416983101, Ages 10 and up uncertain future. Tony DiTerlizzi, the co-creator of the best-selling Spiderwick Chronicles, offers nods to Star Wars and Planet of the Apes as well as L. Frank Baum and Lewis Carroll in his breathtakingly exciting new novel—the first in a planned trilogy. The book, already optioned for a Paramount film, is laden with DiTerlizzi’s own lush graphic-novel-type illustrations and several “augmented reality” maps—which can be revealed in 3D on a computer. Will DiTerlizzi’s latest serve as his launch pad for a leap from popularity to superstardom? Only time will tell, but The Search for WondLa is so utterly good, so compelling and so suspenseful that young readers won’t want to miss out on this fantastic journey.
Piggy Pie Po By Audrey and Don Wood HMH $16.99, 32 pages ISBN 9780152024949 Ages 3 to 7
Husband and wife author-illustrators Audrey and Don Wood are at it again. The team who brought us such favorites as The Napping House introduce a jaunty pig in their new picture book, Piggy Pie Po. Piggy Pie Po is an active, clever and mildly mischievous young pig. In three episodic “chapters” written in easy, predictable rhyme, we follow Piggy as he dances, swims and digs in the dirt. A naked pig and a much-needed bath are sure to send preschoolers into a fit of giggles, while the youngest school-aged children will identify with Piggy’s efforts to learn to read and his struggles to tie his own shoes. The illustrations, drawn by Audrey Wood and painted by Don Wood in acrylics on canvas, are bright, colorful and vastly appeal-
ing. Each section is announced by a vividly colored numeral and Piggy himself leading curious readers to discover what activity he will in engage in next. The final segment follows Piggy through a bit of gastronomic misadventure, but the solace of one’s own bed eventually bring closure and comfort to Piggy and his new fans. Sure to be treasured by families, Piggy Pie Po is another winner from the Woods. —J e n n i f e r R o b i n s o n
Milo By Alan Silberberg Aladdin $15.99, 288 pages ISBN 9781416994305 Ages 9 to 14
Have you ever picked up a book by a new author and thought: My, my. This is really good! That’s just what happened when I started Alan Silberberg’s Milo: Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze. From the cover—with
its saturated color, cartoony kids and sunshiny graphic elements—I expected another knockoff of Diary of a Wimpy Kid. And it does begins that way. We have Milo, who is filled with angst as he prepares to enter seventh grade at his fifth school in a couple of years. We have his cranky older sister and his vaguely absent father. Then there is the imaginary Dabney St. Claire, the suave inner voice of cool, who attempts to help Milo navigate the waters of junior high. But there is more to this story than meets the eye. Soon the narrative offers a hint that something is troubling Milo and his little family. It was one brief phrase that grabbed me: “After my mom first got sick.” References to the death of Milo’s mother are carefully constructed and beautifully done. The reader gradually discovers that this is a family that is trying to Get Over something. They move a lot; Milo carries only a little box of Essential Things; the family doesn’t seem to do much talking. When writing a book about death, it would be easy to bathe the loss in life lessons and advice. Silberberg, thankfully, does neither. He grabs onto the 13-year-old’s
voice and holds tight. Milo grows and changes the way a young teen typically does—through the day-today activities of school and home. His dreams of the unattainable Summer Goodman, ridiculous as they are to everyone but him, keep hope alive. And one unlikely friendship—with a grieving widow next door—plays an important part in his healing, as well. The only obvious lesson here is the one about not judging a book by its cover. Milo is a treasure. — R OBIN S M ITH
The Clockwork Three By Matthew J. Kirby Scholastic $17.99, 400 pages ISBN 9780545203371 Ages 8 to 14
In a time not that distant from our own, in a city on the East Coast of America, three children are faced with burdens and challenges that would stagger many adults. Their search to find answers—in the extraordinary and in each other—is the quest at the core of Matthew J. Kirby’s marvelous debut novel, The Clockwork Three. Guiseppe is an 11-year-old orphan who works as a busker—a street musician—for a cruel and merciless padrone. He stands on corners playing his violin, hoping to earn enough money to be spared a beating by his master, dreaming of a way to escape and return to his home in Italy. Frederick works as an apprentice to a watchmaker, hoping to open a shop of his own someday. Hannah has given up school to work as a maid in the city’s fanciest hotel. While each one’s plight seems far removed from the others, they will soon meet, and their lives will be inextricably intertwined. Kirby paints the New England backdrop of his story as meticulously as an artist dabbling in oils— when Guiseppe finds an enchanted violin washed ashore in the wake of a terrible storm, you can almost smell the fish and salt water in the air. The well-drawn cast of characters brings heart and humanity to this winning tale of hardship, magic and adventure. — J A M E S NEA L WEBB
HALLOWEEN B y A l i c e Ca r y
meet DAVID WIESNER
Treats, not tricks, for little ones
n Halloween night, the streets of our small town burst with goblins and strolling parents. It’s a once-a-year party that can’t be beat. Here are four picture books guaranteed to get you in the “spirit.”
Jon J Muth continues his captivating, thought-provoking Zen series in Zen Ghosts (Scholastic, $17.99, 40 pages, ISBN 9780439634304), a unique Halloween tale. As in Zen Short and Zen Ties, the story features a giant panda, Stillwater, who pays an instructive visit to three siblings. After trick-or-treating, Stillwater “draws” the trio a mysterious story, based on a Zen koan, or parable. Muth explains in an author’s note that this great ghost story “leaves you with more questions than answers,” and he’s right. His trio of Zen books can truly be enjoyed—and contemplated—by all ages.
HAUNTED HOUSE The Curious Little Witch (NorthSouth, $16.95, 32 pages, ISBN 9780735823051), by the late Belgian author/illustrator Lieve Baeten, is a delightful book, perfect for youngsters who want some non-scary Halloween fun. Lizzy and her cat are taking a spin on Lizzy’s broomstick when they spot an unusual house, which turns out to be full of magical details and friendly witches. Upon landing, Lizzy breaks her broom, leaving her in a pickle. She explores the house room by room, from top to bottom, finding a different witch in each location. Young readers will enjoy lingering over Baeten’s intricate illustrations, including a
final large cutaway floor plan. The Curious Little Witch is likely to be enjoyed all year round, not just at Halloween.
MOM’S ADVICE Another good no-scares book is Always Listen to Your Mother (Hyperion, $15.99, 32 pages, ISBN 9781423113959) written by the mother/daughter team of Florence Parry Heide and Roxanne Heide Pierce. Ernest is a good little boy, who always “picked up his toys, ate all his vegetables, sat up straight, and listened to his mother.” When a new family moves next door, Ernest befriends young Vlapid, who loves to swing from the chandelier, write on the walls and create all sorts of havoc. This might seem a friendship destined for disaster, but the joke is that Vlapid’s mother likes life that way, and Ernest can dutifully report that Vlapid always listens to his mother. Children will love this gentle tale, made all the more fun by the whimsical illustrations of Kyle M. Stone.
FEARFULLY POETIC For frightfully fun Halloween poems, a treat is waiting with Hallowilloween: Nefarious Silliness from Calef Brown (HMH, $16.99, 40 pages, ISBN 9780547215402). Brown is well known for his magical wordsmithery, as seen in his best-selling book of nonsense poems, Flamingos on the Roof. His verbal acrobatics continue here in high form, in lines like these from “Not Frankenstein”: I’m not Frankenstein, / but people say / I’m “Frankensteinesque.” / I sit at a desk / in my mountain lodge / and do decoupage. / It’s an homage you see, to the human collage—that’s me! While easily accessible, these are verbally dazzling poems, perfect for elementary students and sophisticated preschoolers. Both audiences are likely to benefit from additional explanations of some finer points of vocabulary and idiom from an adult, but the poetry is far from pedantic.
ART AND MAX One of only two illustrators to win the prestigious Caldecott Medal three times, David Wiesner returns with a remarkable story of friendship in Art and Max (Clarion, $17.99, 40 pages, ISBN 9780618756636). Wiesner and his family live near Philadelphia.
By the editors of Merriam-Webster
have a seat Dear Editor, Can you explain the difference between grandstand and bleachers? I have noticed that in baseball stadiums they call the seating area without a roof the bleachers, but in a football stadium such seating is called the grandstand. At the baseball park, the covered area is called the grandstand. R. P. Dayton, Ohio Most often, bleachers means the uncovered seating, especially benches, at an athletic field. Grandstand usually describes the roofed seating for spectators at a stadium or racecourse. The reason for the confusion between bleachers and grandstand is that the two terms are often not differentiated. Especially in places in which there are no covered seats (which is generally the case at football stadiums), grandstand and bleachers are used more or less interchangeably. The word bleacher derives from the tendency of the sun to bleach
the uncovered seating areas over time. Grandstand comes from the fact that these roofed stands not only afford greater comfort in various weather conditions, but also provide a better view of the game or race, since they are generally located closer to the action. Consequently, bleacher seats are usually cheaper and easier to obtain than seats in the grandstand.
Turn-ons Dear Editor, Several years ago I read that the word boot, as in booting up a computer, was an acronym. Can you tell me what boot stands for? B. W. Huntsville, Alabama The verb boot when applied in computing contexts is not an acronym, but a shortening of bootstrap. Bootstrap has been used as an adjective meaning “designed to function independently of outside direction, capable of using one internal function or process to control another” since 1926, and has
been part of computing vocabulary since the 1950s. The analogy is that the computer preparing itself to be used is much like people pulling themselves up by their bootstraps. By the mid-1970s, bootstrap had been shortened to boot, and was used to describe the process of preparing the computer for use. Our first evidence of boot used as a verb in the computing sense comes in 1980, more than 20 years after our first evidence of the verb bootstrap being used in the same way.
fighting words Dear Editor, What is meant by the expression the worm turns? My grandmother used to say it all the time. G. P. New Milford, Connecticut The expression the worm turns is a modern derivative of the old proverb, “Tread on a worm and it will turn.” In proverbs, particular animals tend to have stereotyped human qualities, and for ages the worm has been associated with
spinelessness and ineffectuality. In addition to its obvious meaning of “squirm,” turn here carries the latent meaning of “change in attitude from submission to opposition.” Hence, the proverb implies that even the meekest, gentlest soul will turn on you (i.e., fight back) if sufficiently provoked. The exact origin of the proverb is lost to us, but the earliest known example of its appearance in print is in John Heywood’s 1546 book of proverbs: “Tread a worme on the tayle and it must turne.” Over time, the abbreviated phrase the worm turns has come to signify that a meek, ineffectual person has finally begun to stand up for himself. Although rarely used anymore in everyday speech, the saying has appeared in some form or other in the works of such literary figures as Shakespeare, George Orwell, Somerset Maugham and Willa Cather, to name a few.
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EVERYTHING LITERARY 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.
THE SCARLET LETTER ACROSS 1. Newton or Stern 6. Radar’s brand 10. Horse’s hoof sound 14. Gnatlike insect 15. Yoked pair 16. Bigot’s emotion 17. Flaxlike fiber 18. Ice melter 19. Numerical prefix 20. Let out 21. Rival 23. Island group near Fiji 25. Shrink back crossword solution
26. Woman condemned in “The Scarlet Letter” 30. Songlike 31. Danube locale: Abbr. 32. Elevs. 35. Stravinsky and others 36. Econ. figure 37. Bow or Barton 39. Filmdom’s Chaney 40. Pull 41. Watched 42. Planned in advance 45. Attempts 48. First Hebrew letter 49. Father of 13-Down 52. Watch chains 55. Go sprawling 56. Knicks great Monroe 57. “This way” sign 58. 1969 jazz album 59. Romance writer’s award 60. Reed or Mills 61. Caustic alkalis 62. “Take it or leave it” 63. Deputy
DOWN 1. Hungary’s Nagy 2. “The King and I” country 3. Entrance granted 4. Firebrand 5. Middle mark 6. “Uh-uh!” 7. Midterm, for one 8. SOS 9. Doctors 10. Selection 11. Milk: Prefix 12. 10th-cen. Holy Roman Emperor known as “the Great” 13. Daughter of 26-Across 21. Heart 22. Royal flush card 24. Boot camp fare 26. Some precipitation 27. Conclusion lead-in 28. Cowboy’s home
29. “Uh-huh” 32. Author of “The Scarlet Letter” 33. Arbor Day planting 34. Prom-night safety gp. 36. Wrigley field? 37. Rouse to action 38. Jump over 40. Mosaic square 41. Reprehensible 42. Grassy plains of Argentina 43. Kvass ingredient
44. Trinity River city 45. Detroit dud 46. Nonsensical 47. Look happy 50. Place of honor 51. Intro drawing class 53. Former West German capital 54. Hostage situation acronym 57. Oklahoma town