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ON THE COVER 9 Sarah Palin The story behind one of America’s
TTH HEE BBEESSTT IIN N N NEEW W BBO OO OKKSS Publisher Michael A. Zibart Publisher Associate Michael A.publisher Zibart Julia Steele Associate publisher Editor Julia Steele Lynn L. Green Editor fiction Editor Lynn L. Green Abby Plesser fiction Editor NONfiction Editor Abby Plesser Kate Pritchard web Editor web TrishaEditor Ping Trisha Ping Contributing Editor Assistant web Editor Sukey Howard Eliza Borné Contributor Contributing Editor Roger Bishop Sukey Howard Children’s books Contributor Allison Hammond Roger Bishop Advertising Sales Children’s books Julia Steele Allison J.Hammond Angela Bowman
most intriguing politicians
INTERVIEWS 11 John Irving A father-son team are on the run in
Irving’s latest novel
15 Mary Karr Coming to terms with her past, her
addictions and herself
FEATURES 10 David Baldacci Meet the author of the new
thriller True Blue
12 Veterans Day Books to help us honor—and
24 Well Read A stunning suburban drama from
36 Wine How to pick the perfect pour
Ford County by John Grisham
26 John Hendrix Meet the author-illustrator
Family Album by Penelope Lively
More of This World or Maybe Another
by Barb Johnson
Angel Time by Anne Rice
The Pursuit of Other Interests by Jim Kokoris
Generation A by Douglas Coupland
Look at the Birdie by Kurt Vonnegut
No Less Than Victory by Jeff Shaara
The Vintage Caper by Peter Mayle
27 Be Brave Teaching little ones to have courage 28 Kristina Springer A coffee-lover turned author
30 Barry Lyga On goths and geeks
REVIEWS Fiction 6
Invisible by Paul Auster
The Humbling by Philip Roth
The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk
Under the Dome by Stephen King
BBO O O K PA GE.COM 2
NOVEMBER 2009 BOOKPAGE
Louisa May Alcott by Harriet Reisen
Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
34 Highest Duty by Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger
and Jeffrey Zaslow
One and the Same by Abigail Pogrebin
Eating the Dinosaur by Chuck Klosterman
The Big Burn by Timothy Egan
Mean Mothers by Peg Streep
The Case for Books by Robert Darnton
Rates or contact Julia Rates are are available availableonline, at BookPage.com or Steele 615-292-8926, ext.15. contactatJulia Steele at 615-292-8926, ext.15.
RREEA AD DA ALLLL O OU URR RREEVVIIEEW WSS AT AT
4 Googled by Ken Auletta
34 Changing My Mind by Zadie Smith
A A D D V V EE RR TT II SS EE
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To Mexico and back in an epic fictional journey
remember—our nation’s heroes
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A star-studded cast of Hollywood biographies page
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Buzz Girl The Author Enablers Whodunit? Bestseller Watch Romance Audio Cooking Book Clubs
➥ Our publishing insider gets the skinny on tomorrow’s bestsellers From short stories and novels sure to inspire controversy to comebacks sure to bring big sales, the future of fiction looks bright.
➥ ‘Love’ for Bloom In January, author Amy Bloom returns with her first work since 2007’s muchlauded Away. The new book, Where the God of Love Hangs Out (Random House), will be an interconnected collection of short stories that “explores the unexpected patterns that all forms of love and loss weave into our lives”—at least, according to the catalog copy. Away, which made several “Best Book of the Amy bloom Year” lists, was something of a comeback for Bloom, whose previous work of fiction, A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You, was published in 2000. BookPage reviewer Arlene McKanic described Bloom’s writing in Away as “clear, rich and shot through with moments of humor” that perhaps made it more accessible than the grittier tales
of “people on the edge” she’d published previously. We’ll be interested to see where God of Love fits into Bloom’s oeuvre. Titlewise, it seems more in line with her early works: of her first four works of fiction, two have the word “love” in the title.
➥ pullman’s prayer
Philip Pullman’s follow-up to the acclaimed His Dark Materials trilogy (among the most-banned books of all time) will also court controversy. Written for adults, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ will be “a fictionalized account of the life of Jesus that will differ from the version presented in the New Testament,” according to the New York Times. On his website Pullman writes, “I’ve always been fascinat- Philip pullman ed by the two parts of the name of Jesus Christ, and by the difference between them. Another thing that’s interested me for a INTERNET ENVY long time is the way in which the Christian church began to formulate its beliefs and establish a canon of scripture.” Our new site means MORE BookThe novel will be pubPage for you to love. November highlished in the U.K. by Canongate around Easter. So far, no lights found only on BookPage.com inAmerican release has been anclude interviews with Stephen Dubner nounced.
(of Freakonomics fame), Gail Collins and Jonathan Safran Foer, and webonly reviews—including the latest from David Baldacci and Jane Gardam.
➥ he’s a big deal James Patterson, blockbuster writer extraordinaire, has signed a multi-book deal with Hachette. How many books, you ask? An astonishing 17 . . . and perhaps the craziest thing about that figure is that those 17 books (11 for adults, 6 for kids) will only take Patterson readers through 2012.
More chances to win
➥ on to 2010
Looking for more free books? You’ll find contests in our email newsletter, BookPageXTRA, and on our blog, The Book Case, where we highlight books, authors, publishing news and more. BookPage.com has details!
We’re already getting tons of January books — here are a few recent arrivals that are on our radar. Leila Meacham’s debut, Roses (Grand Central), was a big buzz book at BEA and is a four-generation Texas family saga that has been compared to
The Thorn Birds. Tracy Chevalier was one of the writers who kicked off the latest wave of historical fiction. Her new novel, Remarkable Creatures (Viking), is about two female tracy chevalier fossil-hunters in Lyme Regis, England, in the 19th century. We were intrigued by the fanciful cover of Ali Shaw’s The Girl with the Glass Feet (Holt), which was released this year in the U.K. to considerable acclaim. Shaw said his debut—the story of a girl who visits an island where strange things are happening and subsequently finds herself slowly turning into glass— was inspired by the European fairy tale tradition. Mo Hayder has Skin (Grove), a sequel to Ritual, coming out in January. Though so far none of her recent books have topped the creepiness of The Devil of Nanking, fans of literary horror will have something to keep them up at night. And of course no summary of January 2010 would be complete without mentioning the anticipated second novels from Elizabeth Kostova and Joshua Ferris. If the first month of 2010 is any indication, this should be a great year for fiction.
Share the emotional magic of
NORA ROBERTS’ BRIDE QUARTET with the first two books in the series.
BED of ROSES
➥ ’Dragon’ on screen Variety announced recently that the three movies based on Stieg Larsson’s best-selling mysteries, starting with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, will be released in the U.S. The first film topped the box office in the author’s native Sweden when it was released, and has since grossed $100 million in Europe. The second is currently in theaters overseas and having similar success—the producers have high hopes for the adaptation of the final book in the Millenium trilogy, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, which is currently in post-production. Larsson’s novels were hits in Sweden, where Stieg larsson they were originally published, but the author died suddenly after turning in the manuscripts for all three books. You'll find reviews of the first two books in the series on BookPage.com— the third novel is scheduled for release in the U.S. on June 18, 2010.
VISION in WHITE NEW IN PAPERBACK
BERKLEY A Member of Penguin Group (USA) penguin.com
NOVEMBER 2009 BOOKPAGE
Behind the scenes of an Internet giant By John T. Slania Google is little more than a decade old, but look at the impact it has already had on our lives. It processes more than 70 percent of all searches on the web and generates $20 billion in annual advertising revenue. It is the site of choice not only to search the Internet, but to correspond by Gmail, to get driving directions on Google Maps, to make a free phone call using Google Voice or even to watch a video on YouTube, which Google acquired in 2006. The search engine is so ubiquitous, in fact, that it has become a verb; people don’t conduct a search anymore, they “google.” Author Ken Auletta tackles the phenomenal growth of Google in his new book, Googled: The End of the World as We Know It. The title is provocative, but misleading. This is no treatise on how Google has become Big Brother. Auletta’s book, rather, is a fairly straightforward biography of Google and its founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page. He takes a chronological approach, recounting how the pair met at Stanford, how they began their venture in a spartan Silicon Valley office building and how they never lost sight of their vision to become the world’s largest media company. The year-by-year account of Google’s growth can be tedious at times, but Googled does provide some intimate details of a Googled company notorious for its secrecy. That’s because Auletta By Ken Auletta had unprecedented access to GooglePlex, the Mountain Penguin Press View, California, headquarters where Google now employs $27.95, 400 pages 20,000 people. Thus, we have an opportunity to sit in on the ISBN 9781594202353 free-wheeling Friday afternoon Q&A sessions between Brin, Also available on audio Page and their employees. We witness the tough hiring process, where applicants are told they have a better chance of being accepted to Harvard than getting a job at Google. And we get a taste of the hubris of Google, where its engineers believe that any challenge can be overcome with a mathematical algorithm. If there is a shortcoming to Googled, it’s that it doesn’t take as critical a look at the company as suggested in its subtitle. But overall, Googled does deliver an insider’s look at a dynamic company that, for better or worse, has changed our lives. o John T. Slania is a journalism professor at Loyola University in Chicago.
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NOVEMBER 2009 BOOKPAGE
THE AUTHOR ENABLERS Facing the music Dear Author Enablers, I am writing a book about planning group travel for clubs or senior adult groups, and would like to include the lyrics of songs such as “She’ll be Comin’ Round The Mountain,” “Red River Valley,” “Crawdad Song,” “Bicycle Built For Two,” “Oh My Darling Clementine” and some religious chorus pieces. I have a limited budget and am trying to select songs that are in the public domain. Joy Shelton Winter Garden, Florida Oh no! As Thanksgiving approaches, we’ve got “Over the River and Through the Woods” stuck in our heads, which means that soon “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” will be playing everywhere, even in BY SAM BARRY & police stations and bathrooms. You are correct that if a song is in the KATHI KAMEN GOLDMARK public domain no one can claim ownership and you can use it in your book. A handy site for determining public domain is pdinfo.com, though you should double- and triple-check, since this is your book and you are responsible for everything in it. Music rights issues are complicated, and any author using music in the text of a book must be extra diligent in the effort to clear those rights. So, make absolutely sure that the songs are not still protected under copyright. If you want to use lyrics from a song that is protected, you must get permission from whoever owns the rights to the property. A search on bmi.com and ascap.com (the two largest music-rights organizations) will usually provide this information. Then it is up to you, the author, to contact the copyright holders and arrange to pay whatever fee is required for usage. Dear Author Enablers, I wrote a children’s book. I know a little bit about this industry, but have not yet experienced the realities of being a first-time author. I worked with a children’s magazine called Power Kids, which was phased out after one year. That is a sad story for another time. Can you recommend an agent who works with the big six, is real and can help me? I am looking for the traditional route to get my foot in the door. Gladys Jakachira Aurora, Illinois So sorry, but we can’t offer a personal connection to a children’s book agent. We do know some real agents, but they don’t do children books. Kathi has an imaginary-best-friend play agent who gets her pretend million-dollar movie deals with Pixar, and Sam had a pretend big-time agent friend, but they had a fight and aren’t speaking. Seriously, though, it is our policy not to recommend specific agents. Here’s what we do recommend: if you haven’t done this already, find a few trusted readers to give you feedback. This can happen in a class, a writers’ conference or in the more informal setting of a writing group. Your local library, bookstore or community college might offer writers’ groups or seminars in which you can share your manuscript and get feedback from both instructors and peers. This may or may not result in making changes to your book. Once you’re ready to share your book with the world, a good place to start is the Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market, published by Writer’s Digest. This resource will help you to find outlets for your writing, including journals, contests and book publishers. There’s information on how to write a query letter, format your manuscript and find an agent. Literary Market Place is another resource. Here you will find a comprehensive list of agents and publishers in the United States, their specialties and requirements for query letters and submissions. By “big six” we gather you mean the six major New York publishers with notable children’s imprints: HarperCollins, Random House, Simon & Schuster, Scholastic, Penguin Putnam and Disney/Hyperion. But don’t limit your search to these publishers— sometimes a smaller house is a better fit for a particular book. Send each publisher or agent whatever is asked for in the agency’s published guidelines, along with a clever and engaging query letter. o With more than 25 years of experience, Kathi Kamen Goldmark and Sam Barry have the inside scoop on writing and publishing. Sam is the author of How to Play the Harmonica: and Other Life Lessons; National Women’s Book Association Award winner Kathi is the author of And My Shoes Keep Walking Back to You. Their book on publishing is scheduled for release in 2010. Email your questions (along with your name and hometown) to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their blog at bookpage.com.
NOVEMBER 2009 BOOKPAGE
Auster’s most impressive work yet
A lion in winter
By Rebecca Shapiro If anyone could be considered an heir to Vladimir Nabokov’s legendary narrative trickery, it would be Paul Auster—a master of literary illusion whose novels have long been lauded for their intricate puzzles and bold subversion of traditional narrative structure. In recent years, though, Auster has used a lighter hand, and novels like The Brooklyn Follies suggested that he might be exchanging his signature postmodernism for more character-driven, even sentimental fiction. With his 15th novel, Auster has somehow balanced the two, creating in his winding maze of literary questions a searing, emotional bildungsroman. Invisible opens in 1967 when Adam Walker, a bored Columbia undergraduate, is seduced, both literally and figuratively, by a charismatic Parisian couple he meets at a party—a visiting professor and his sad, sexy girlfriend. The professor makes Adam an incredible offer—financial backing for his own literary magazine. But Adam learns quickly that things that seem too good to be true are often just that. Forty years later, he contacts a former classmate, now a book editor, for help in telling his story—a life-changing incident, its aftermath and how it shaped his troubled life. Perhaps his best trick is one of the oldest in the book—Aus- Invisible ter alternates between narrative voices, telling the first section By Paul Auster in the first person, the second in the second person and the Holt third in the third person. With anyone else at the helm, this $25, 320 pages could feel like an MFA exercise gone awry. But Auster thor- ISBN 9780805090802 Also available on audio oughly engages with each voice and weaves them together so seamlessly that it becomes the most effective interrogation of narrative reliability in recent memory. At the end of the novel, it is literally impossible to understand, in the story’s many layers, the difference between fact and fiction. With an overwhelming, often totally shocking story, Auster brings in the most universal, most difficult themes—guilt, love, anger, family and friendship, to name just a few. Powerful not only in form but also in feeling, Invisible is truly a masterpiece—Auster’s best, most complete effort in years. o Rebecca Shapiro writes from Brooklyn, New York.
By Harvey Freedenberg Forty years into a distinguished acting career, Simon Axler suddenly finds himself bereft of his ability to perform. His wife has deserted him and a halfhearted attempt at suicide lands him in a psychiatric hospital, where he meets a woman whose own struggle with depression haunts him long after his own discharge. His elderly but still enthusiastic agent tries in vain to persuade him to tackle the role of James Tyrone in Long Day’s Journey Into Night, but Axler remains paralyzed by a fear of failure. Into his life strides Pegeen Mike Stapleford, a 40-year-old lesbian college professor, who happens to be the daughter of two of his lifelong acting colleagues. Despite having watched her nurse at her mother’s breast and being fully aware of her incompatible sexual orientation, Simon hurls himself into an intense and invigorating relationship that has him contemplating a return to the stage—and even the possibility of starting a family with his new lover. Alas, this brief interlude of imagined happiness quickly mutates into a distorted image of itself, as Simon all too swiftly discovers “the failures were his, as was the bewildering biography on which he was impaled.” Befitting the story of a professional actor, The Humbling The Humbling unfolds in three tightly structured acts, featuring an intense By Philip Roth focus on character and a Chekhovian economy of language Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and detail well-suited to its taut subject matter. In his 30th $22, 160 pages book, Philip Roth frankly revisits his lifelong preoccupation ISBN 9780547239699 Also available on audio with the persistence of raw sexual desire, exploring both its regenerative power and the seeds of self-destruction it bears. In this searing novel, Roth adds dark shadings to the austere vision he has explored in recent works like Everyman and Exit Ghost; there are precious few shafts of light that break through his clinical examination of one man’s catastrophic fall from grace. But in recounting with unrelenting precision the grim story of Simon—not a bad man, simply a tragically human one—Roth offers another unflinching assessment of the essence of our mortality. o Harvey Freedenberg writes from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
Thank God it’s Friday. Saturday. Sunday. Monday. Tuesday. Wednesday. Thursday. Enjoy one of the world’s most beloved Christian authors every day of the week.
Grace Notes is an inspirational new daily reader featuring Philip Yancey’s most
memorable excerpts to help you celebrate the grace of God every single day. For more information, please visit www.zondervan.com or purchase a copy at your favorite bookseller or online retailer.
NOVEMBER 2009 BOOKPAGE
The space between
Kingsolver’s latest novel is a powerful mix of art, politics and identity
Kingsolver. Reading old papers and historical accounts “is only one kind of research. It doesn’t tell you what anything smells like, and it doesn’t tell you what anything tastes like. You cannot write about a place you haven’t been.” For that, Kingsolver visited the homes of her subjects, and walked in Mexican jungles to observe howler monkeys and to visit a medicine man. She even read the doodles Kahlo made in the margins of her household ledgers. “I learned a lot about her and how she felt that wasn’t recorded in her journal,” Kingsolver says. “It’s like taking black-and-white film and making it color.” Such painstaking research meant a nine-year gap between novels, although Animal, Vegetable, Miracle came out during that stretch. That book on her family’s effort to eat locally attracted a whole new group of fans. “Some readers informed me they never read me [before Animal, Vegetable, Miracle] because they can’t bother with fiction,” she says with a chuckle. “Maybe they can be convinced now to give me a try.” Her family—which includes her husband and two daughters—still tries to adhere to the principles of the book. “We still eat as locally as we possibly can,” she says. “Every year I vow to scale back, but at least it keeps me muscular. You can’t weasel out when it’s time to shear the sheep or weed the tomatoes.” Living locally is ingrained in Kingsolver. She becomes particularly passionate when talking about the notion of real community versus, say, the online communities created through social media tools such as Facebook. “I love the fact that my work is meaningful to people, and I appreciate their letters. But a friend, to me, is someone I can call when I’m in trouble, who I can make a casserole for when someone dies,” she says. “I don’t need 3,000 of them. I’m invested in my local community, in being a good friend to my friends. All the rest would be fake to me.” And authenticity is something Kingsolver is thinking a lot about these days. Despite investing years of research in her latest novel, she admits that along with the rich historical details infused throughout The Lacuna come fears about anachronisms seeping onto the pages. “The nightmare of the historical fiction writer is that you have the equivalent of the scene in Spartacus where he’s wearing a Rolex,” she laughs. She needn’t worry. There’s nary a Rolex in sight in The Lacuna—just page after page (more than 500 in all) of lush details and probing questions about the purpose of art. The Lacuna is both deeply thought-provoking and thoroughly entertaining—which is just how Kingsolver wants it. “My rule is, as long as I give you a reason to turn every page, it doesn’t matter how long a book is.” o Amy Scribner writes from Olympia, Washington. ANNIE GRIFFITHS BELT
By Amy Scribner n the pantheon of popular fiction, Kingsolver is queen. Or close to it. Consider this: she is among the first Barbaras to pop up in a Google search, trailing only a few well-known names such as Streisand, Bush and Boxer. In the two decades since the release of her first novel, The Bean Trees—which was published the day her daughter, now a college graduate, started to walk—Kingsolver has amassed an avid following of readers. They’ve devoured both her fiction and nonfiction, including best-selling novels The Poisonwood Bible and Prodigal Summer, and 2007’s nonfiction meditation on local, sustainable eating, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. “They really are readers from every age, from middle school to 100,” Kingsolver says in a recent phone interview with BookPage from her farm in southwest Virginia. “I can’t tell you how often I hear, ‘I grew up reading you.’ I think, really? Has it been that long?” With her new novel, The Lacuna, that following is likely to grow. It’s the epic story of Harrison William Shepherd, a young boy whose Mexican mother takes him back to her home country in the 1930s after splitting with his father, a Washington, D.C., bureaucrat. With his mother more focused on snagging a rich husband than on raising a son (he wryly calls one of her conquests “Mr. Produce the Cash”), Harrison is left mostly to BARBARA his own devices. With little formal education and even less parental supervision, he finds himself working as a cook in KINGSOLVER the home of mercurial artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, then as a secretary to the exiled Leon Trotsky. It’s a tumultuous time both politically and artistically, prompting Harrison to grapple with his own identity—his art, his sexuality and the meaning of truth. Finally, when Trotsky is assassinated, Harrison flees back to the United States, settling in North Carolina to find his own voice, only to become the target of a McCarthy-esque “un-American activities” investigation. The novel is a brilliant mix of truth and fiction, history and imagination, presented as a compilation of Harrison’s journals, along with newspaper clippings and other notes that make for a compelling and utterly believable read. The lacuna of the title is an underground sea cave, which links one beach to a hidden place. It’s an idea that has intrigued Kingsolver since she read a short story about lacunae years ago. “I’m a bit claustrophobic, so the idea of sea caves is sort of horrifying and fascinating to me,” Kingsolver says. “I kept thinking about tunnels and passageways, missing pieces and things you don’t know about people.” While living with his mother and her latest lover, a wealthy Mexican oilman, Harrison finds such a cave: “Inside the tunnel it was very cold and dark again. But a blue light showed up faintly like a fogged window, farther back. It must be the other end, no devil back there but a place to come up on the other side, a passage. But too far to swim, and too frightening.” For Kingsolver, this book was her exploration of that “in between” space where pieces are missing and the truth is hidden. She also set out to probe the question: Do artists have a responsibility to address social issues and express their opinions? “For as long as I’ve been a published writer, I’ve been asked a certain kind of question—the legitimacy of addressing political content in art,” she says. “It’s always struck me as odd. Questioning authority, issues of class and gender, this is completely integral to art in other places, but here there’s something funny about that. I had this notion that art and politics had gotten a divorce in this country and never really finished the mediation. We have this ‘Don’t question what it means to be an American. Don’t draw pictures of it, don’t The Lacuna write about it.’ ” By Barbara So Kingsolver started digging, and found herself deep into Kingsolver the archives of both the New York Times and several Mexican Harper newspapers, sifting through thousands of photographs and $26.99, 528 pages pieces of art and, eventually, traveling to Mexico. ISBN 9780060852573 “The difference between the amateur and the professional Also available on audio researcher is the willingness to get your hands dirty,” says
“I had this notion that art and politics had gotten
a divorce . . . and never
really gotten a mediation.”
The pale-skinned boy stood shivering in water up to his waist, thinking these were the most awful words in any language: You will be surprised. The moment when everything is about to change. When Mother was leaving Father (loudly, glasses crashing against the wall), taking the child to Mexico, and nothing to do but stand in the corridor of the cold little house, waiting to be told. The exchanges were never good: taking a train, a father and then no father. Don Enrique from the consulate in Washington, then Enrique in Mother’s bedroom. Everything changes now, while you stand shivering in the corridor waiting to slip through one world into the next. And now, at the end of everything, this: standing waist-deep in the ocean wearing the diving goggle, with Leandro watching. A pack of village boys had come along too, their dark arms swinging, carrying the long knives they used for collecting oysters. White sand caked the sides of their feet like pale moccasins. They stopped to watch, all the swinging arms stopped, frozen in place, waiting. There was nothing left for him to do but take a breath and dive into that blue place. —from Chapter 1, The Lacuna
NOVEMBER 2009 BOOKPAGE
NEW YORK TIMES AND USA TODAY BESTSELLING AUTHOR
At Home in Stone Creek Old flames reignite when DEA agent Jack McCall returns to Stone Creek. But will Jack be able to stifle his fear for the safety of his college sweetheart Ashely O’Ballivan and rekindle her love?
ON SALE OCTOBER 27 Available wherever books are sold, including most bookstores, supermarkets, discount stores and drugstores. Visit Silhouette Books at www.eHarlequin.com ®
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NOVEMBER 2009 BOOKPAGE
Political maverick Sarah Palin tells her own story in new memoir By Eliza Borné hether you love her or hate her, there’s no doubt that Sarah Palin can sell In a statement describing why his company pursued Palin’s memoir, Brian Murray, books. When Harper announced in late September that Palin’s memoir, CEO of HarperCollins Publishers, wrote, “Governor Palin is one of the most charismatic, Going Rogue: An American Life, would be released on November 17, the inspiring and controversial figures to appear on the national political stage for many years.” book shot to the top of bestseller lists, reaching the number-one spot more than a Palin herself thinks Going Rogue will give her the opportunity to tell her story “unmonth before its release date. The memoir was originally scheduled for restrained and unfiltered,” she said in an interview with the Anchorage publication in the spring of 2010. Daily News. “There have been so many things written and said through Pre-orders for Going Rogue quickly surpassed the sales of many popmainstream media that have not been accurate, and it will be nice ular nonfiction books that are already in print, including Glenn Beck’s through an unfiltered forum to get to speak truthfully about who we Arguing with Idiots, Mitch Albom’s Have a Little Faith and Edward Kenare and what we stand for and what Alaska is all about.” nedy’s True Compass. Palin also told the Anchorage newspaper that she looks forward “to Palin reportedly finished the memoir in just four months—conbeing able to relate to people through this book, those who are anxious sidered record time in the publishing business. To help her write the to hear stories about people who are facing similar challenges . . . balbook, Palin worked with ghostwriter Lynn Vincent, a contributor to the ancing work and parenting.” conservative Christian publication World Magazine. Vincent has previPalin’s presidential running mate, Sen. John McCain, told NBC News ously collaborated on books by William Boykin, a general who caused there are some parts of the book he’s anticipating more than others: controversy with his statements about Muslims, and Michael English, a “The part I’m looking forward to most is the part where it energized Christian pop singer. Palin reportedly spent several weeks in San Diego our campaign, and her selection put us ahead in the polls,” he said. completing the manuscript with Vincent before working with editors “The part I am looking forward to least is some of the disagreements in New York. that took place within the campaign.” Any readers worried that Palin’s memoir will skip some sections of With an initial print run of 1.5 million copies, Harper hopes the her controversial career will be reassured by comments from Harper Going Rogue surge of interest Palin has generated will continue through the holiPublisher Jonathan Burnham: “It’s her words, her life, and it’s all there day shopping season. Murray says the company will hold the e-book By Sarah Palin in full and fascinating detail.” release of Going Rogue until December 26 to “[maximize] velocity of Burnham credits Palin herself with setting the direction for the book. Harper the hardcover before Christmas, at a time when hardcover sales in the $28.99, 432 pages “Governor Palin has been unbelievably conscientious and hands-on at ISBN 9780061939891 industry are down 15 percent.” The large print and audio versions of every stage,” Burnham says, “investing herself deeply and passionately Also available on audio Going Rogue will be available on December 1. in this project.” Palin’s role as a polarizing figure in American politics and popular According to Harper, Palin will give a “personal and political chronculture needs little introduction. From 1996 until 2002, she served as icle of her life” in the book. The memoir will “recount her political exmayor of Wasilla, Alaska. In 2006, she was elected governor of the state. periences, her time as mayor of Wasilla and as the first female governor of Alaska, as And just two years later, McCain surprised observers by choosing Palin as his runwell as her rapid rise on the national stage during the 2008 campaign.” The publisher ning mate—making her the first female vice-presidential nominee for the Republican also promises revelations about Palin’s challenges in being a working mother, having a Party. More than 40 million viewers tuned in to watch her acceptance speech at the son serving in Iraq, parenting a child with a disability and dealing with the unplanned convention in St. Paul. Although Palin’s future in the GOP is uncertain, some Republipregnancy of her teenage daughter, Bristol. cans consider her a contender for the presidential nomination in 2012. o
Small-town life with a King-size twist
Obsessive love in Pamuk’s Istanbul
By Trisha Ping Under the Dome opens with a signature Stephen King moment: a woodchuck, foraging for food, hides from a passing human—and is chopped in half as an impenetrable dome appears around the city limits. At the same instant, a plane crashes into the dome above him. “The Seneca exploded over Route 119 and rained fire on the countryside. . . . A smoking forearm . . . landed with a thump beside the neatly divided woodchuck.” In seconds Chester’s Mill has transformed from your typical small town to a closed-off stage where the worst and best of human nature will be displayed. The worst comes in the form of Big Jim Rennie, a politician who takes advantage of the police chief’s demise to consolidate power and deputize a motley crew of thugs— including his disturbed son—to police the town. Throw in an unbalanced meth addict and some seriously stale air (the dome is impermeable not only by weapons, but also by clean air), and Chester’s Mill is well on its way to becoming a chaotic police state. An Iraq war vet, a newspaper publisher, a physician’s assistant and a couple of spunky teens Under the Dome (among the novel’s most engaging characters) try to foil Big Jim’s plans while the world watches—at least, at first. By Stephen King Though their situation draws TV crews from around the Scribner world, once the novelty fades, other news stories take top $35, 1,088 pages ISBN 9781439148501 billing despite the residents’ increasingly desperate state, re- Also available on audio calling tragedies like Hurricane Katrina. As in his epic The Stand, King uses his characters’ predicament to address major questions about human nature. The emphasis here is on compassion—or, sparing that, pity. What makes us stop seeing people as people, and why? These deeper themes combined with King’s trademark suspense and folksy charm keep the almost 1,100 pages turning and make Under the Dome a novel readers will relish. o
By Lindsey Schwoeri Modern Turkey is a place full of contradictions—straddling Europe and Asia, caught between Western culture and the strictures of traditional Islam and riddled with political upheaval and violence. No contemporary writer has brought this complex world to life for Western readers like Nobel Prize-winning novelist Orhan Pamuk. In his intensely psychological new novel, The Museum of Innocence, we view Istanbul in the tumultuous 1970s and ’80s through the lens of a doomed love affair. Kemal is happily engaged to a beautiful, intelligent woman of his own social class, Sibel—and yet, he falls deeply, irrevocably in love with a poor, distant relation, Füsun. When Kemal refuses to leave Sibel, Füsun disappears. Inconsolable, he returns almost daily to the scene of their lovemaking, cradling the objects she once touched as though they still contain some trace of her. He descends deeper into despair, alienating everyone around him except Sibel, now bound to him as much by love as by the shame that she will face should they break off their engagement. But Kemal cannot forget The Museum Füsun, and will dedicate his life to possessing her—or at of Innocence least, the objects that remind him of her—even to the point By Orhan Pamuk of destroying himself, and those he loves most. The most remarkable thing about this beautiful novel Knopf is that Pamuk manages to tell his story through a narra- $28.95, 560 pages ISBN 9780307266767 tor who, like Nabokov’s Humbert Humbert, is so absorbed Also available on audio with his obsession that he barely seems to notice the world around him. But just as Lolita emerges as a kind of portrait of America, so The Museum of Innocence stands not only as a story about a man and the woman he loves, but also about a man and his city—its people, its music and its ever-changing traditions. o NOVEMBER 2009 BOOKPAGE
© YVONNE TAYLOR
Life of the real Jo March By Trisha Ping There may be no American author more strongly identified with her creation than Louisa May Alcott is with Jo March. And with good reason: as Harriet Reisen explains in Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind ‘Little Women’—the first Alcott biography in 30 years, and soon to be adapted for the PBS “American Masters” series—the real Louisa was just as intelligent, hot-tempered, rebellious and ambitious as her fictional counterpart. But the true story of Alcott’s life is both more tragic and more triumphant than anything she cooked up for her favorite little woman. Born in 1832, Louisa grew up surrounded by American literary giants: Thoreau, Emerson and Hawthorne were personal family friends. Her father, Bronson Alcott, was an intelligent and gifted teacher with ahead-of-his time theories on everything from education to diets to bathing. He was also an idealist who didn’t believe in owning property and paid scant attention to financial matters. Always chasing the next dream (or escaping the last debt), Bronson moved the family four times before Louisa was two, a pattern that would be repeated throughout her life. Though famous friends often lent a hand, Louisa and her three sisters endured grinding poverty and deprivation, including a failed experiment in utopian living. This only fueled Louisa’s ambition: “I will do Louisa May Alcott something, by and by,” she vowed at 16, “. . . anything to help By Harriet Reisen the family; and I’ll be rich and famous before I die, see if I Holt $26, 384 pages won’t!” Reisen seamlessly weaves episodes from Alcott’s life with ISBN 9780805082999 Also available on audio analyses of her fiction, nonfiction, essays and poetry, as well as revealing excerpts from letters and journals. Above all, she emphasizes Alcott’s enormous talent and prodigious output, some of which would only be uncovered years after her death. Since her more commercial work contained sensational lines like “heaven bless hashish,” Alcott felt it best to publish them under pseudonyms (her journals include several tantalizing references to stories as yet undiscovered). Never-before-published excerpts from a 1975 interview with Alcott’s niece, Lulu, lend insight into Alcott’s later years. Meticulously researched and compelling, Reisen’s biography holds surprises for even the most devout Alcott fan. This empathetic portrait of the life of an American literary icon will be read for years to come. o
Grisham’s quirky short fiction debut
A native Virginian, David Baldacci practiced law in Washington, D.C., for nine years before becoming a full-time writer. His 17 best-selling suspense novels have won him millions of fans around the world, including many elected officials and D.C. insiders. His latest book, True Blue (Grand Central, $27.99, 464 pages, ISBN 9780446195515), offers an inside look at the DCPD.
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By Eliza Borné The king of the blockbuster courtroom thriller has succeeded at stepping into a new genre—short fiction—and created seven rich and enticing narratives. In Ford County, John Grisham’s first collection of stories, we meet a weird and endearing group of misfits with one thing in common: each has lived in Clanton, the seat of fictional Ford County, Mississippi. There’s Sidney, a separated husband whose only solace comes in breaking the town’s casino; Gilbert, who enjoys exposing mistreatment at nursing homes; and Raymond, an inmate on death row who’s written a 200-page autobiography. We are privy to each of their twisted desires, and although we may not agree with all of these protagonists, we can sympathize with their individual plights: to escape from a dull existence; to give life a jolt; or, sometimes, just to survive. Grisham’s prose is smooth and controlled as he deftly moves between narrators and storylines, and his skilled storytelling makes even the wackier scenes believable. One of Ford County’s greatest assets is its abundant but understated Ford County humor. When Calvin, a young virgin, hits a strip joint in By John Grisham Memphis en route to donating blood, the omniscient nar- Doubleday rator comments dryly: “It was a life-changing experience. $24, 320 pages ISBN 9780385532457 Calvin would never be the same.” Also available on audio Predictably—and thankfully, since it’s what the author does best—there is no dearth of lawyers in this collection. Grisham’s first novel, A Time to Kill, was also set in Clanton, where “a town of ten thousand people provided enough conflict to support fifty-one lawyers.” Readers will enjoy getting sucked into this world of small-town corruption and Sonic drive-ins, kind-hearted neighbors and sleazy businessmen. And although there’s little doubt that Grisham will return to the thrillers that made him famous, here’s hoping that Ford County is the precursor of many collections to come. o
On the run
John Irving’s father-son fugitive adventure By Alden Mudge ohn Irving did not actually attend his induction into the that satisfies something I’ve always liked to do with readers, which National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Oklahoma, is to allow readers to anticipate where the story is going—almost. some 15 years ago. But now he wishes he had. “I regret it,” I want the reader to say, ‘Oh, I know what is going to happen. I see Irving admits during a call to his hotel room in San Francisco, this coming.’ But they don’t quite see everything.” where he has come to dine with Bay Area booksellers prior to Among the many items that readers familiar with Irving’s the publication of his exuberantly previous novels will anticipate, inventive 12th novel, Last Night in but not necessarily accurately preTwisted River. “There have always dict, are the electric profusion of been these two parts of my life, and subplots and plot twists; the large they don’t overlap very easily. My and idiosyncratic cast of characwrestling friends are not very easily ters; and the bravura demonstramixed with my writing friends, and tions of audacious storytelling skill vice versa. But it’s an honor that in chapters like “In Media Res,” meant a great deal to me because wherein Irving offers a dizzying that sport was such a huge part of and delightful example of jumping my life,” says Irving, who competed right into the middle of his story in wrestling in high school and and telling it from both ends and college. the middle. Writing and wrestling may not That particular chapter, Irving mix in Irving’s real life, but the tenadvises, “is a labyrinth. You have to sion between the two worlds—the walk your way very slowly through intensely physical world of wrestling it. . . . Like the novels I most like to and the inward, reflective world of read, this is one in which you know a writer’s imagination—has been you’ve got to pay attention.” a powerful source of that exciting A careful reading of Last Night blend of comedy and tragedy that in Twisted River turns out to be JOHN IRVING is one of the hallmarks of his best richly rewarding, for this multifiction. Irving’s breakthrough novlayered novel is, in part, an emoel, The World According to Garp, is tionally resonant exploration of “If you let enough time pass, your a case in point. So, in a way, is his 50 years of American life and, in a newest novel. way, of Irving’s own life as a writer. Last Night in Twisted River takes “I like the part of this novel that memory is no longer the tyrant place first in the physically dangeris about a writer’s process,” Irving ous, working-class world of New says. “I’ve written about it before, it once was. You can afford to be England logging camps, and then, a but I feel I’ve never written about bit later, in the physically exhausting it as well or as comprehensively. playful and take liberties.” kitchens of the Italian restaurants of I think I’ve woven the reasons Boston’s North End. These places for Danny becoming the kind of comprise a world that somewhat writer he is into the story of what unexpectedly produces a young novelist whose later career bears happens to him.” remarkable similarities to Irving’s own. And what about the fact that Danny’s career and attitudes—inThis new novel, whose pages contain some of the most entercluding his objection to readers who think his fictional works are taining and intellectually playful storytelling of Irving’s career, merely veiled autobiography—resemble Irving’s own? opens in 1954 in a logging camp in northern New Hampshire “I’m having fun with that,” Irving says. “Like Danny, I went during one of the last river drives, just as logging roads and logthrough years and years of being asked if I was writing autobioging trucks are beginning to supplant river transport as a way of graphical fiction, the assumption being that I was. But I wasn’t. moving logs out of the forest to downstream lumber mills. DomiMy earliest novels were entirely made up. My later novels have benic Baciagalupo (“Cookie”), the camp cook, and his 12-year-old come more autobiographical. I’m a very slow processor, and those son Danny, the future novelist, are in a sort of emotional holdthings that had an impact on me when I was a child or an adolesing pattern after the drowning death of Dominic’s wife (and the cent, I did not write about when I was in my 20s, my 30s or my boy’s mother). Then through one of those tragicomic accidents 40s. But I have written more about my childhood and adolescence so typical of Irving’s fiction, father and son become fugitives from lately—over the age of 60. One reason for that is if you let enough a relentless deputy sheriff and spend the next 50 years in hiding, time pass, your memory is no longer the tyrant it once was. You often in plain sight. During their time on the run, they change can afford to be playful and take liberties and invent better stuff.” identities—the father goes from cook to chef and the son raises a Irving pauses and adds, “When you repeatedly write about family and becomes a best-selling writer. things that have never happened to you, but which you hope “One of the things I like about the structure of the fugitive don’t, when you write about things you fear, you are also being, story,” Irving says, “is that from the vioat least psychologically, autobiographical. In how many of my lence that begins part one, you know novels is a child lost? But I have never lost one, thank God. I have what is going to happen. There’s going three children and I think about it every day—as any parent with to be a shootout. It’s inevitable. It’s just an imagination does. You think that isn’t autobiographical? Of a question of how and when. I like how course it is. What is thought to be autobiographical in fiction is so narrowly defined and is often trivial. Whereas the things that truly obsess a writer, that a writer even unconsciously goes back to again and again, those things are real and they are autobiographiLast Night in Twisted River cal—whether they happened or not.” By John Irving So, call Last Night in Twisted River part 12 in the psychological Random House autobiography of one-time wrestler John Irving, if you like. Better $28, 576 pages yet, call it a darn good novel and a delight to read. o ISBN 9781400063840 Also available on audio Alden Mudge writes from San Francisco. © EVERETT IRVING
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WARS AND REMEMBRANCES
Military histories honor veterans of American conflicts By Howard Shirley eterans Day, November 11, began as Armistice Day—the day on which World War I, or The Great War as it was then known, came to a messy, awkward close. But as later wars became more significant to America, Armistice Day changed to Veterans Day as a way to celebrate all veterans of conflicts past and present. In keeping with that goal, five excellent new books offer fresh perspectives on the American military experience.
A grandfather’s legacy James Carl Nelson’s The Remains of Company D: A Story of the Great War (St. Martin’s, $25.99, 384 pages, ISBN 9780312551001) began as a quest to uncover the past of one American veteran of that war—Nelson’s grandfather, a taciturn Swedish immigrant named Jon Nilsson. He came to America only to be drafted by his newfound nation and sent back across the ocean to fight on the very continent he had left behind. Knowing only that his grandfather had been wounded by a German machine gun in the battle of Soisson, Nelson was inspired to discover his story, as well as the story of the other men who found themselves running into the German lines on that fateful July day. The result is a moving account of young men swept into a war few truly understood, who nevertheless found exceptional courage amid horrors they never imagined. Using personal accounts derived from journals and letters of the men and their families—many who never knew their sons’ and husbands’ final fates—Nelson recreates their experiences in vivid detail. The Remains of Company D immerses the reader in the world of the doughboys, helping us see a war of dwindling memory through the eyes of those who lived—and died—while waging it.
From Pusan to Inchon Another war even less well-known to modern readers is nevertheless considerably closer in time—the Korean War, with origins almost as muddled as that of World War I. The Darkest Summer: Pusan and Inchon 1950: The Battles that Saved Korea—and the Marines—From Extinction (Simon & Schuster, $27, 368 pages, ISBN 9781416571742), by Bill Sloan, recounts the origins and first year of what almost became America’s greatest military disaster. As might be expected from the subtitle, Sloan focuses heavily on the contribution of the Marine Corps, which prior to the Korean conflict was in danger of being reduced to little more than a ceremonial guard. In Korea, the Marine Corps proved itself to be America’s only truly battle-ready force in the wake of drastic postWWII military cuts. Sloan deftly combines a thorough explanation of the causes and politics behind the Korean War with riveting descriptions of the battles, from the near rout as North Korean forces pushed the woefully ill-equipped and under-trained U.S. Eighth Army almost into the sea at Pusan, to the stunning reversal at Inchon that handed the U.S. its greatest military triumph since DDay—only to be reversed yet again when China poured human wave attacks across the Yalu River. Sloan’s account ends there—but one hopes he will pick up the story once
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more. In era when the world is once again facing strategic challenges in Korea, The Darkest Summer is a compelling read and a timely reminder of a “forgotten war.”
New appraisals Like the veterans of World War I, the men and women of World War II are slowly leaving us behind, and with them goes the living memory of their deeds. Antony Beevor’s D-Day: The Battle for Normandy (Viking, $32.95, 608 pages, ISBN 9780670021192) is a powerful reminder of just how great their accomplishments were. Beginning with the build-up to invasion, Beevor follows the Allied forces through the greatest amphibious landing in history, across the hedgerows of France and through the glorious entry into Paris. From the upper-level planning of generals to the desperate fights of the men themselves, Beevor skillfully covers the full scope of the summer offensive that liberated France and signaled the inevitable end of Hitler and the Third Reich. Whether you’re familiar with the names and events of 1944 or curious to learn more, Beevor’s D-Day is a comprehensive and thoroughly engaging journey back through time. Equally engaging is John Keegan’s The American Civil War: A Military History (Knopf, $35, 416 pages, ISBN 9780307263438). The master of military history sets his pen to what may be the most seminal war of the American experience, the war that remains the bloodiest conflict and the most indelible in the American historical consciousness. Whereas many books share the story and causes of the war, or discuss the personalities, politics and battles, Keegan examines how and why the war unfolded as it did—both the deliberate strategy-making and the almost accidental developments brought about by such disparate concerns as geography and social politics. The result is a highly readable overview of the war that goes far beyond merely describing who fought where. Through Keegan’s book, one gains an understanding of why the battles happened as they did, where they did, and how they fit into the whole story of the war and its resulting influence on our nation. Both the casual reader and the Civil War buff will find much to appreciate in this excellent work.
Final rest Lastly, we come to a book about a place that is unquestionably the most sacred military site in the national psyche. No battle was ever fought there. It saw no triumph of arms, no treaty, no surrender, no speech of resounding note—but its importance to the nation and the nation’s military is unequaled, because it is the final resting place of our most honored dead. Robert M. Poole’s On Hallowed Ground: The Story of Arlington National Cemetery (Walker, $28, 368 pages, ISBN 9780802715487) explores the history of the vaunted cemetery across the Potomac from Washington, D.C., and the uniquely American approach to honoring our military heroes. What began as a way to punish Robert E. Lee by seizing his Arlington, Virginia estate and rendering it “inhospitable” for his return, turned into one of the greatest sources of healing for a grieving, divided nation. It also inspired an unparalleled
commitment by the country to find, identify (if possible) and, if requested by the family, bring home with honor the body of every American service person who died in battle, regardless of where or when. Poole’s book is both sobering and inspiring as it explores the history of this remarkable tradition and the quietly majestic site to which many of those men and women have returned. As we celebrate the living on Veterans Day, On Hallowed Ground is a beautiful portrait of the place where we honor their fallen comrades. o Howard Shirley is a writer in Franklin, Tennessee.
Spies of the Revolution The old saying that politics makes strange bedfellows is even truer when applied to international politics. Most Americans know that during the American Revolution the Continental Congress negotiated with France for military assistance against the British, and that this support was crucial to the eventual American victory. How this alliance between a band of democratic rebels and the most autocratic monarchy in Europe came to be is the fascinating story told in Joel Richard Paul’s Unlikely Allies: How a Merchant, a Playwright, and a Spy Saved the American Revolution (Riverhead, $25.95, 416 pages, ISBN 9781594488832). The hero of this true-life tale is Silas Deane, a member of the Continental Congress who was sent to France without money, standing or assistance, to convince the court of Louis XVI to aid the colonists in their rebellion. To all observers, including the British spies (who knew all about it, thanks to a double agent who was Deane’s closest confidante), it was an impossible mission—especially since Deane spoke no French. But Deane encountered an unexpected ally in Caron de Beaumarchais, a former playwright with an unusual source of leverage with the king—a relationship with a cross-dressing former spy privy to France’s greatest secret. What resulted was a bizarre mix of plots, accusations, clandestine meetings, political infighting, lies, betrayals, love affairs and even murder. Carefully researched from Deane’s own papers and the accounts of his contemporaries (including Benjamin Franklin), Unlikely Allies is an astonishing look at the sometimes seedy side of our country’s founding—a side in which a good man doing an impossible job would be painted with the brush of “traitor,” losing his fortune, his family, his sacred honor and at last his life in service to the land he loved. Paul tells the story with the skill of a novelist, crafting a compelling tale with engaging characters, intriguing twists and a surprise ending, without having to make anything up. Now that is history! o —HOWARD SHIRLEY
WHODUNIT? A truly odd job
Mystery of the month
James Lessor and Skip Moore are among the most unorthodox mystery fiction protagonists in recent memory. Neither cops, private detectives nor journalists (the mainstay livelihoods of genre heroes worldwide), instead they work dead-end gigs: Skip sells security systems door to door, James cleans up in a fast food crab restaurant. For all that, they are remarkably upbeat, always looking for the “next big thing,” which, in fiction as in life, seems either to elude the clueless duo completely or manifest itself in some manner 180 degrees out of whack with what they had in mind. In their latest adventure, Stuff to Spy For (Oceanview, $25.95, 288 pages, ISBN 9781933515229), Skip manages to close the largest security system sale of his career to Synco Systems, a hush-hush organization entrusted with sensitive BY BRUCE TIERNEY government data. It is not an entirely straightforward deal, however, since part of Skip’s duties involve pretending to be the boyfriend of a woman who is carrying on a clandestine affair with the company president (who happens to be married to the daughter of the company’s owner!). The tangled web gets knottier (and naughtier) when said wife enlists Skip’s aid to expose the dirty dealings at Synco, a distinct conflict of interest, but a potentially lucrative one if he can navigate the treacherous waters. That’s a big if at the best of times, but when Skip enlists aid from roommate James, all bets are off. If you are a fan of the genre-bending Florida school of mysteries (Carl Hiaasen, Tim Dorsey, et al.), check out the latest from author Don Bruns; you’ll be glad you did.
It is difficult to imagine that Martin Limón’s first novel featuring George Sueño and Ernie Bascom, Jade Lady Burning (a New York Times Notable Book of the Year), came out way back in 1992—shortly after I came onboard at BookPage. In the intervening years, I believe I have reviewed most, if not all, of Limón’s books, and I remain singularly impressed with his ability to whisk the reader away to an exotic place and time (the anything-goes Itaewon pleasure quarter of Seoul, Korea, in the turbulent 1970s). The sixth installment in this popular series, G.I. Bones (Soho Crime, $24, 336 pages, ISBN 9781569476031), finds Limón’s two military police sergeants in the home of a fortune-teller who regales them with a tale of being haunted by a dead G.I., murdered some 20 years earlier. She needs Sueño and Bascom to find his bones, so he (and presumably she) can rest in peace. Skeptical of fortune-tellers in general, and this one in particular, they embark on the search, never anticipating the tsunami of resistance they will meet from both the Koreans and their own superiors. As is the case in real life, multiple plot lines intersect (sometimes jarringly). One subplot involves an army officer’s underage daughter, who has gone AWOL with a young Latino soldier, introducing another element of racial tension to the already bubbling cauldron of whites, blacks and Asians that characterized 1970s Korea. Additionally, there is a bit of romance on the horizon for Sergeant Sueño, as his relationship with a lovely young Korean doctor deepens in ways he could not have foreseen. A short side note: I had the opportunity to visit Korea earlier this year, so of course I had to check out Itaewon. Although it has lost a bit of the “Wild Wild East” flavor described in Limón’s books, there is still a delightfully sleazy international vibe to the place, complete with counterfeit goods, tantalizing aromas, expats looking for a good time and business girls (and boys) eager to accommodate them. o —BRUCE TIERNEY
Poetry in motion Andrew Vachss is best known for his series featuring anti-hero Burke, a curiously moral purveyor of violence upon society’s predators—usually people who are, for some reason, untouchable by the law. In his latest standalone thriller, Haiku (Pantheon, $24.95, 224 pages, ISBN 9780307378491), Vachss strikes out in a different direction, offering up the tale of a quintet of homeless men who live beneath a New York pier, and their enigmatic leader, Ho, a Japanese martial arts master fallen on hard times. Their pier is not the sort of place where one might expect to see a Rolls-Royce, so when the owner steps out of the elegant automobile and surreptitiously pitches a package into the harbor, it creates something of a stir among the unseen witnesses. Surely there is some money to be made here, either in the sale of the retrieved object, or in blackmailing the clearly wealthy disposer. Each of the homeless men brings a talent to the table that might prove useful in furthering the group’s aim: Michael is an ex-finance guy, wellversed in high-dollar ventures; Ranger is a loose-cannon Vietnam vet, skilled in takeno-prisoners combat; Brewster is an obsessive mystery aficionado, keyed into plot; Lamont is something of a street poet, with a gang-related past; and Target, well, he is totally off the map, but with a couple of big surprises up his sleeve. Ho, of course, is the glue that holds this motley crew together, although it must be said that his job is akin to herding cats. Haiku is a markedly different direction for Vachss, and that is always a risk; in this case, it is one that should pay off handsomely.
A drunk driving case seems straightforward to criminal defense attorney Harrison J. Walker—until recklessness becomes murder….
Clouded vision I tend to avoid period mysteries like the proverbial plague, but one author for whom I always make an exception is Laura Joh Rowland, whose tales of Inspector Ichiro Sano, set in feudal Edo (the Tokyo of 300 years ago), never fail to impress. Her latest, The Cloud Pavilion (Minotaur, $24.99, 304 pages, ISBN 9780312379490), finds the inspector hot on the trail of a serial rapist who kidnaps his victims and drugs them, leaving them with only their injuries and faint memories of clouds as clues to the crime. The pressure gets ratcheted up exponentially when the wife of the Shogun disappears, and Sano is presented with an ultimatum from the supreme leader: find her or you will be put to death. Complicating matters is Sano’s old nemesis, Yanagisawa, returned from exile into the good graces of the Shogun. To all outward appearances, Yanagisawa seems a reformed man, eager to mend fences with Sano. That said, there is an underlying current of deceit, and a series of unexplained issues that may lead back to his long-time rival. There are numerous references made to earlier Sano mysteries, but all are thoroughly explained, so there is no problem starting here and working through the rest. o
On sale now! NOVEMBER 2009 BOOKPAGE
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What are you giving this holiday season?
available December 15
The most complete biography of one of Hollywood’s truly respected and beloved stars, by bestselling author and acclaimed film historian Marc Eliot.
“This is a wonderful story, with a cast of characters out of a Cecil B. DeMille epic, told in a style that is lucid, lyrical, even electric. Narrative history at its very best.” —JosEPH J. Ellis, Pulitzer Prize–winning author
The films of James Cameron, including an exclusive chapter on the upcoming blockbuster Avatar.
available December 15
Based on never-before-published or -quoted interviews with Grace Kelly and her family and friends, bestselling biographer Donald spoto offers an intimate and honest portrait of a Hollywood legend.
“Courageous in its honesty and at times unsettling, it draws us deep into the soul of a woman in love, the pain of her loss— and the unpardonable theft of hopes and dreams, lives and futures stolen by war.” —susaN l. Taylor, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus, Essence
The newest—and final—novel from the most brilliant society chronicler of our time, Dominick Dunne, features many favorite characters from the bestselling People Like Us.
available wherever books are sold the Crown Publishing Group 14
NOVEMBER 2009 BOOKPAGE
Salvation in a bottle
Mary Karr comes clean in a riveting third memoir By Katherine Wyrick he may be 20 years sober and a Catholic convert, but don’t someone you’re divorced from?” She says that, toward the end get the wrong impression—Mary Karr is no “candy-ass” of the process, she ending up throwing away 525 finished pages (her word). She’s still the tough, scrappy outlaw that readof work. ers were introduced to in her first memoir, The Liars’ Club. She’d been working on the book for seven years, and her editor When it was published in 1995, The Liars’ Club offered a searwas pressuring her to turn in a finished manuscript. “I said, look, ing portrait of Karr’s hardscrabble Texas childhood that raised y’all could publish this, and it’s technically true, in that I didn’t the art of the memoir to a new level make up the events, but it didn’t feel and brought about a revival of the true. I mean, the other thing was genre. In her follow-up, Cherry, she when I wrote about the religious stuff recalled the wild ride of her adolesI had a very hard time not sounding cence and her sexual coming-of-age. like one of those evangelists saying Her third memoir, Lit, more than 10 send me a dollar.” years in the making, details how Karr Writing about religion, she conultimately emerged from her troubled cedes, is tricky business. “It’s very upbringing triumphant, but not behard to write about. It’s like doing fore a descent into alcoholism and card tricks on the radio, I think— near-madness. writing about prayer and spiritual exA recent call to her New York home perience to people who mostly think confirms that Karr indeed hasn’t lost you’re an idiot. On the other hand it her edge. The conversation—briefly was an important part of my story, interrupted by a call from the dean of and I felt obligated to represent it, Syracuse University, where she teaches not in any evangelical way. . . . I know English, and the arrival of her “heroic” this sounds insane, but I believe that assistant, without whom, she says, she God wanted me to write this book. would be “like an overfilled Macy’s That doesn’t mean that God wants balloon”—proves lively and candid. the book to succeed by any measure.” “I’ll tell you,” she says with only the She’s unapologetic about her faith, Mary karr faintest trace of a Texas drawl, “this and anticipates a backlash from critis the first book I’ve been excited to ics and “professional atheists” alike. promote. This is what my life’s about “Believe it or not . . . I’m an extremely “I do feel like my life has now . . . how I became a mother, my private person. You really wouldn’t relationships, my spiritual practice, my know that, even though I’m pretty been transformed and is nervous breakthrough. Those things open and honest about things that are so much closer to who I am now. other people would not be open This is what I talk to people about. about, but the degree to which I care better than I could ever Even if people think I’m an idiot, I’m about my reputation is pretty liminterested in having the conversation ited. I really gave that up long before have imagined.” with readers.” And readers, whether I published anything anybody read. I familiar with Karr’s previous work or think you have to [do that] as a writer not, will be riveted. or else you’ll go insane. My fear [in Never shying away from self-scrutiny, she explores the diswriting about faith] wasn’t so much that people would look at solution of her marriage, the joy and pain of motherhood, her me and think I was a candy-ass, as that I wouldn’t represent it father’s stroke and death, her fraught relationship with her own truly—I wouldn’t be able to recreate an experience in the reader mother and her professional setbacks and successes in equal that matched and mirrored my experience. I wouldn’t be able measure. This account of the latter part of her life is as unsparing to create an emotional experience for a secular audience. That’s and unsentimental as her first two memoirs and, like the othwhat I was most scared about.” ers, by turns hilarious and gut-wrenching. She again brings to the Karr manages to write about spirituality without ever coming task her acerbic wit and a poet’s eye for lyrical detail. across as didactic or preachy—no small feat. “Well, on two earlier In search of the stable home she lacked as a child, Karr mardrafts I did,” she confesses. “Hopefully I corrected that.” ried a handsome, patrician poet and with him has an adored son, In one passage, she eloquently describes her first stirrings of Dev. But over time, she drank herself into the disease that nearly faith, a brush with the numinous: “I feel some fleet movement destroyed her mother. Her path included, among other detours, travel through my chest—a twinge, a hint. This faint yearning a stint in “The Mental Marriott,” a famous asylum, where she was not belief itself, but wanting to believe.” found wisdom in unlikely places. She says her transformation would never have been possible Asked how writing this book was discernibly different from without her mother’s recovery from alcoholism. “I honestly think writing the other two, Karr laughs, “Well, for one, I’m clearly the if my mother had not gotten sober, there’s no way. . . . She gave the asshole. I think that’s the big thing.” She adds, “The hardest thing whole family a great gift.” for me about writing these books is “I was so scared and so mean all the time,” she says of her prehow to handle the emotional and sobriety days. “I do feel like my life has been transformed and is moral questions, and this one obvibetter than I could ever have imagined. I’m so much more in it. I ously posed a lot of moral questions. have more life now in a day than I used to have in a year.” You know, how do you write about Karr’s entire body of work attests to this simple truth: that your child? How do you write about the past, until you reckon with it, will remain in hot pursuit. In other words, what you don’t bring into the light will destroy you. Lit brings this process full circle. That pleasingly monosyllabic title encapsulates this writer’s entire journey thus far—one that Lit is about drinking and the illuminating revelations of sobriety, By Mary Karr about the redemptive power of literature and how the act of writHarper ing can save a soul. o $25.99, 400 pages ISBN 9780060596989 Katherine Wyrick is a writer in Little Rock.
The first book in a brand new series,
The Black Cobra Quartet
A bold, beautiful woman. A battle-hardened man. Together they must vanquish the enemy known as the Black Cobra. See the trailer at www.avonbooks.com
BESTSELLER WATCH Release dates for some of the guaranteed blockbusters hitting shelves in November:
A Christmas Blizzard By Garrison Keillor Viking, $21.95, ISBN 9780670021369
A comic novel about a Hawaiibound traveler who ends up stranded in his North Dakota hometown during a blizzard.
Open By Andre Agassi Knopf, $28.95, ISBN 9780307268198
From breaking into the pros to breaking up with Brooke Shields, the tennis champ spares no detail in his autobiography.
Going Rogue By Sarah Palin Harper, $28.99, ISBN 9780061939891
The former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate’s hotly anticipated memoir.
Breathless By Dean Koontz Bantam, $28, ISBN 9780553807158
The latest thriller from Koontz features a solitary mountain man and two mysterious animals he discovers and fights to save. NOVEMBER 2009 BOOKPAGE
classic boxed sets
Stephen King stories It Grows on You by Stephen King A star-studded cast of readers present unabridged tales of horror and suspense from King's classic best-selling short story collections. Retail Price: $14.99 Discount Card: $13.49 Dolan's Cadillac by Stephen King King's unparalleled imagination is in full force in this collection of four unabridged short stories originally found in Nightmares & Dreamscapes. Retail Price: $14.99 Discount Card: $13.49
Junie B. Jones's First Boxed Set Ever! by Barbara Park A fabulous gift for those millions of Junie B. fans, or a wonderful introduction, this collection contains the first four Junie books. Retail Price: $19.96 Discount Card: $17.97
The House on Maple Street by Stephen King King himself, his wife Tabitha, Robert Parker and Stephen J. Gould lend their voices to this haunting collection of classic stories that no King fan should be without. Retail Price: $14.99 Discount Card: $13.49
Sorry, Right Number by Stephen King With his trademark blend of fantasy, horror and psychological suspense, King reminds us that evil is still a potent force in the world. Retail Price: $14.99 Discount Card: $13.49 Chattery Teeth by Stephen King A pair of metal teeth in a convenience store may prove to be more than a novelty in "Chattery Teeth," one of the three haunting short stories in this audio collection. Retail Price: $14.99 Discount Card: $13.49
The End of the Whole Mess by Stephen King More famous readers present spine-tingling, unabridged tales from King's classic bestselling short story collections. Retail Price: $14.99 Discount Card: $13.49
Magic Tree House Boxed Set by Mary Pope Osborne This fantastic set is the perfect gift to encourage a struggling new reader or remind old fans of the magic of books. Retail Price: $15.96 Discount Card: $14.37
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early readers Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney When Greg Heffley finds himself thrust into middle school, the hazards of growing up before you’re ready are uniquely revealed through the words and drawings of his diary.
join the Benedict Society!
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Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Do-It-yourself Book by Jeff Kinney This innovative interactive journal based on Greg Heffley’s own “diary” lets kids express themselves in an exciting new way. The book includes 16 pages of full-color comics.
The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma by Trenton Lee Stewart Reynie, Kate, Sticky and Constance embark on a daring new adventure that threatens to keep them from their families, friends and even each other. Retail Price: $16.99 Discount Card: $15.29
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Dr. Seuss's Beginner Book Collection by Dr. Seuss A perfect gift for new parents and happy occasions of all kinds, this collection of five beloved books will be cherished.
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart Dozens of children respond to a peculiar ad in the newspaper and are then put through a series of mindbending tests. Retail Price: $6.99 Discount Card: $6.29
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OUT OF THIS WORLD
new and notable Paula Deen: It Ain’t All About the Cookin by Paula Deen This revealing memoir tells the Cinderella story of Paula Deen: the butter-loving, jokecracking queen of Southern cuisine. Retail Price: $14 Discount Card: $12.60
Gears of War by Joshua Ortega This story bridges the end of the first Gears of War game and the start of the second one, following the brutal adventures of Fenix and Delta Squad. Retail Price: $19.99 Discount Card: $17.99
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I Am the New Black by Tracy Morgan Hilarious, inspiring, searing and touching, this is a fascinating peek inside the mind of a wildly unpredictable funnyman. Retail Price: $25 Discount Card: $22.50 It's Your Time by Joel Osteen Best-selling author Osteen, the pastor of one of America’s largest and fastest growing churches, brings an exciting message about seizing the day. Retail Price: $25.99 Discount Card: $23.69 Green Lantern by Geoff Johns Mongul attempts to establish his hold on the Sinestro Corps by enslaving the planet Daxam and making it the home world of his Corps.
Batman: Battle of the Cowl by T. Daniel & F. Nicieza Amid fires, rioting, looting and gang warfare, Gotham’s desperate citizens have one question: Where is Batman? Retail Price: $19.99 Discount Card: $17.99
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Fall finds Rainwater by Sandra Brown In this romantic historical novel from bestselling thriller-master Sandra Brown, an independent woman runs a boarding house in Dust Bowl Texas.
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Torch of Freedom by David Weber In this gripping novel, Anton Zilwicki and the notorious Havenite secret agent Victor Cachat set off on a dangerous mission to uncover the truth concerning a wave of mysterious assassinations. Retail Price: $26 Discount Card: $23.40
The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver Journey from Mexico City to America in Kingsolver’s accomplished novel, a poignant story of a man pulled between two nations as they invent their modern identities. Retail Price: $26.99 Discount Card: $24.29
Southern Living Annual Recipes 2009 All the receipes from the 2009 issues of this magazine, which forms the heart of Southern life. Retail Price: $34.95 Discount Card: $31.56
Under the Dome by Stephen King In Stephen King’s mesmerizing new novel, a Maine town is subject to the imposition of an impenetrable dome that isolates its citizens from the world. Retail Price: $35 Discount Card: $31.50
The Gathering Storm by R. Jordan with B. Sanderson Jordan’s best-selling Wheel of Time series begins its dramatic conclusion toward the Last Battle in this highly anticipated novel. Retail Price: $29.99 Discount Card: $26.99
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Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2010 America's leading epicurean magazine and authority on healthy cooking collects a year's worth of recipes— more than 800!—in one volume. Retail Price: $34.95 Discount Card: $31.56
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live. laugh. love. Last Words by George Carlin Read about one of the greatest and most influential stand-up comedians of all time in George Carlin’s autobiography, nearly completed before he died in 2008. Retail Price: $26.99 Discount Card: $24.29
Our Front Pages by The Onion As the first decade of this new millennium closes, this book shows us the first thing that presidents, kings, prime ministers and popes saw when they opened their eyes each morning for the last 21 years. I Will Always Love You by Cecily von Ziegesar Blair, Serena, Nate, Dan and Vanessa are coming home for the holidays. A lot can change in a few months—but some things never do. Retail Price: $17.99 Discount Card: $16.29
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A Really Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson Tackling everything from the Big Bang to the rise of civilization, Bill Bryson’s inimitable storytelling skills make scientific discovery entertaining and accessible for young readers. Retail Price: $19.99 Discount Card: $17.99 Our Choice by Al Gore This book is an inspiring call to action for those ready to fight for solutions that really work—including bold initiatives that were deemed impossible only a short time ago. Retail Price: $26.99 Discount Card: $24.29 Secrets of the Short Game by P. Mickelson, G. Yocom & T.R. Reinman In his first-ever instruction book, Mickelson explains in detail how to master every phase of the short game. No golfer can afford to miss out on Mickelson’s secrets and tips. Retail Price: $29.99 Discount Card: $26.99
Charmed and Dangerous by Lisi Harrison It took a miracle to bring the Pretty Committee together—or rather, a New Year's Yves party. Retail Price: $15.99 Discount Card: $14.39
Christmas with Southern Living 2009 Over 100 brand-new recipes offer options galore for casual gatherings with menus for a Holiday Open House, a Family Celebration, an Elf Party for the kids and a Cozy Christmas Eve Dinner for two. Retail Price: $29.95 Discount Card: $26.96 Cooking Light: Way to Cook These healthy cooking principles and so many more are set to a visual backdrop of over 850 photos and hundreds of cooking tips and recipes in this guide to healthy cooking. Retail Price: $29.95 Discount Card: $26.96
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all about audio Rainwater by Sandra Brown In this romantic historical novel from bestselling thriller-master Brown, an independent woman runs a boarding house in Dust Bowl Texas.
explore with Eragon
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Our Choice by Al Gore This is an inspiring call to action for those ready to fight for solutions that work—including bold initiatives that were deemed impossible only a short time ago. Retail Price: $29.99 Discount Card: $26.99 Arguing with Idiots by Glenn Beck Beck has stumbled upon the secret formula to winning arguments against people with big mouths but small minds: knowing the facts. Retail Price: $29.99 Discount Card: $26.99
Pursuit of Honor by Vince Flynn Flynn returns with his most exhilarating political thriller to date, a pulse-pounding tale of espionage, covert intelligence and counterterrorism.
Brisingr Deluxe Edition by Christopher Paolini Experience the best-selling phenomenon of the final Paolini novel, now in a deluxe edition! Following the colossal battle against the Empire’s warriors on the Burning Plains, Eragon and his dragon, Saphira, have narrowly escaped with their lives. Retail Price: $29.99 Discount Card: $26.99
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High on Arrival by Mackenzie Philliips As her outrageous and often tender story unfolds, actor-musician Phillips shares her lifelong battle with personal demons and near-fatal addictions. Retail Price: $29.99 Discount Card: $26.99
It Ain't All About the Cooking by Paula Deen This revealing memoir tells the Cinderella story of Paula Deen: the joke-cracking queen of Southern cuisine. Retail Price: $29.99 Discount Card: $26.99
Eragon's Guide to Alagaesia by Christopher Paolini Alagaësia comes alive in a lush and detailed look at an unforgettable magical land. Retail Price: $24.99 Discount Card: $22.49
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NOVEMBER BOOK CLUB
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
by Stieg Larsson
This Swedish writer's U.S. debut combines murder mystery, family saga, love story, and financial intrigue into one satisfyingly complex and entertainingly atmospheric novel.
Retail Price: $14.95 Discount Card: $13.46 Next month's selection: Wicked by Gregory Maguire LITERARY
The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf As dawn's shimmering light drenches the humid Iowa air, two families awaken to find their little girls have gone missing in the night..
Retail Price: $13.95 Discount Card: $12.56 Next month's selection: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
The Devil Is a Lie
by ReShonda Tate Billingsley
When Nina Lawson wins $16 million in the Texas Lotto, she and her fiancé ecstatically begin planning their future—until she learns she was never divorced.
Retail Price: $14 Discount Card: $12.60 Next month's selection: Midnight by Sister Souljah
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Bankes
by E. Lockhart
A boarding-school student is tired of being underestimated by the men in her life—so she infiltrates an all-male secret society looking for some respect.
Retail Price: $15.99 Discount Card: $14.39 Next month's selection: The Alchemyst by Michael Scott
The Hope of Refuge
by Cindy Woodsmall
Raised in foster care and now the widowed mother of a little girl, Cara Moore struggles against poverty, fear, and a relentless stalker.
Retail Price: $13.99 Discount Card: $12.59 Next month's selection: The Silent Gift by Michael Landon, Jr.
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle
by Barbara Kingsolver
Kingsolver describes her family's adventure as they move to a farm in southern Appalachia and realign their lives with the local food chain.
Retail Price: $14.95 Discount Card: $13.45 Next month's selection: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
Homer's Odyssey by Gwen Cooper When Gwen’s veterinarian called with a story about a three-week-old eyeless kitten who’d been abandoned, it was love at first sight.
Retail Price: $20 Discount Card: $18 Next month's selection: Come Back Como! by Steve Winn
the magical world of
MORE TEEN READING
Stephenie Meyer New Moon: The Illustrated Movie Companion Explore the making of the film in this ultimate visual companion, lavishly illustrated with full-color photos of the cast, locations and sets. This beautiful paperback celebrates the onscreen version of Meyer's fascinating world, brought to life by Academy Awardnominated director Chris Weitz. Retail Price: $18.99 Discount Card: $17.19
New Moon Collector's Edition by Stephenie Meyer The second book in the Twilight Saga phenomenon is now available in a deluxe collector's edition! Featuring a ribbon bookmark, cloth cover, new chapter opener designs and a beautiful protective slipcase, this edition is perfect for fans and collectors alike. Retail Price: $30 Discount Card: $27
Don't miss the New Moon movie: in theaters November 20 New Moon by Stephenie Meyer Meyer delivers another irresistible combination of romance and suspense with a supernatural twist. Now available in a mass market paperback. Retail Price: $7.99 Discount Card: $7.19
New Moon by Stephenie Meyer The movie tie-in edition of the #1 bestselling trade paperback includes a collectible full-color, fold-out poster with photos of the movie cast on both sides. Retail Price: $10.99 Discount Card: $9.89
shop online at booksamillion.com or call (800) 201-3550
Well Read A father’s descent into madness Pete Dizinoff, the narrator of Lauren Grodstein’s compulsively readable novel, A Friend of the Family, is a man in crisis. The fact that it is largely a crisis of his own making, and on the whole preventable, makes reading his story somewhat akin to that strange impulse one feels to gape at a roadside accident scene, at once anticipating and dreading what you might see. Grodstein hooks readers right from the start, with the conversational, if meditative, voice of Dr. Pete, a middle-aged New Jersey internist who has been banished to a room above the garage of his suburban home. Until recently, Pete had the perfect life, at least to his mind: a successful medical practice in Round Hill, an upscale suburb of New York City; a companionable soul mate in his wife, Elaine; and a smart and sensitive son, Alec. Things started to turn sour, though, when Alec began to act out his adolescent hostilities in high school, then failed out of Hampshire College (“our son fails out of a college that doesn’t even give grades,” Pete reflects rueBY ROBERT fully). Back home, Alec—an aspiring artist—works on his WEIBEZAHL paintings, but fails to show the level of initiative his father ordains acceptable; that is, the kind that will lead to a lucrative career, a suitable marriage and, eventually, the grandchildren Pete craves. Pete really panics when Alec takes up with Laura Stern. In his view, Laura, the eldest daughter of Pete and Elaine’s oldest and closest friends, Joe and Iris Stern, is a totally inappropriate girlfriend for his son. For one thing, she is 10 years older. But the real issue is Laura’s past. When she was 17, Laura secretly gave birth to a premature baby in the bathroom of the public library and, most likely, killed the infant before leaving its body in a dumpster. After years of psychiatric care and an itinerant life, Laura has returned to Round Hill, seemingly restored to sanity. While he cannot express it to his wife or friends, Pete still believes in his heart that she is a “baby killer” and wants her to stay away from his son.
Plumbing the depths of a suburban family in crisis. Rather than let a situation that everyone else recognizes as adolescent infatuation run its course, Pete’s obsession about the relationship, tinged as it is by the A Friend of yearnings of his own aging libido, leads him down a the Family path of irrational choices. It also distracts him from his By Lauren Grodstein medical practice, causing him to disregard some key Algonquin symptoms of a young female patient, Roseanne Craig. $23.95, 304 pages The consequences of Roseanne’s illness, converging ISBN 9781565129160 with his final unraveling over Alec and Laura, will de- Also available on audio stroy Dr. Pete’s perfectly orchestrated world. There have been, of course, many books and movies about the venal underside of life in shiny American suburbs, but unlike many of her predecessors, Grodstein is not going for dark satire or indiscriminately tarring every suburban dweller with the same brush. Indeed, most everyone in A Friend of the Family is a reasonable, likeable, predictably flawed human being with whom you wouldn’t mind sharing a few hours at a weekend barbecue. Only Pete Dizinoff, with his mania for controlling his son’s life, approximates the kind of madness that a certain body of literature assures us lurks behind those well-manicured lawns. Still, we come to understand, if not condone, Pete through his reflections on his lower middle class Jewish upbringing, his aspirations, his disappointments and his long, intimate relationship with the Sterns. “Everyone who’s ever had intentions knows they mean much more than actions do,” Pete muses after an ill-advised pass at Iris Stern. That little bit of wisdom, delivered without irony, sums up everything we come to comprehend about this damaged man. Grodstein plots the story expertly, taking it in directions we don’t expect, hinting at what is to come to build requisite tension, but saving the crucial disclosures until late in the narrative. The ending of A Friend of the Family proves something of a surprise, though, not because of the way events play out, but because in the final analysis Pete Dizinoff remains unrepentant and self-justifying. Even as it lies in shattered pieces at his feet, Dr. Pete seems unwilling, or perhaps unable, to give up his stubborn vision of the American dream. o Robert Weibezahl grew up in a suburb of New York City not unlike Round Hill.
NOVEMBER 2009 BOOKPAGE
Penelope Lively’s family affair By Joanne Collings “One lovely big family. For Alison, Allersmead is a kind of glowing archetypal hearth, and she is its guardian. This is all she ever wanted: children, and a house in which to stow them—a capacious, expansive house. And a husband of course. And a dear old dog. And Denby ovenware and a Moulinex and a fish kettle and a set of Sabatier knives. She has all of these things, and knows that she is lucky. Oh, so lucky.” When I was a teenager I planned on having six children: three girls, three boys. I wasn’t nearly so offhand about the husband as Alison, and I wanted more than one dog, as well as several cats. By the time I hit my mid-20s, I was off the idea of having children and wasn’t keen on marriage either. But those early yearnings—so true and so deep at the time—all came back while reading Penelope Lively’s wonderful new novel, Family Album. With an established author such as Lively, readers expect graceful prose, astute insights and deft characterizations. All are present in Family Album, in which we visit matriarch Alison and her husband Charles, their six grown children and the former au pair, Ingrid, via snapshots of past and present occasions, daily life, games and Family Album holiday trips. With a delicately wielded scalpel, Lively By Penelope Lively opens wide this family with quiet precision. Viking You don’t have to come from a large family to recognize $25.95, 240 pages the turbulent dynamics. Eldest daughter Gina (once told ISBN 9780670021246 by Alison that she was never her favorite child) and her Also available on audio siblings are widely flung and largely successful, but not one of them has escaped the challenges inherent in being part of a large family. Yet, despite their differences—and there are many—this dynamic group is first and foremost a family, and when a loss and a troubling discovery require their cooperation, they band together and do what we all hope our own families will do in times of trouble: whatever needs to be done. Through these efforts, the clan regroups, forming a new, more understanding kind of family. o Joanne Collings writes from Washington, D.C.
On the streets of New Orleans By Lauren Bufferd The map of modern American fiction is scattered with urban spaces, from cafés and diners to beauty parlors and laundries. These public areas function like the old town square, providing a place for locals to rub shoulders, gossip, hang out and peoplewatch. The Bubble, a New Orleans Laundromat, is one of these iconic spots in More of This World or Maybe Another, a book of linked stories by new author Barb Johnson. The Bubble is owned by Delia and her partner Maggie, and it serves as a gathering place for many in their diverse MidCity community, embracing gay and straight; black, white and Latino; the recent immigrants and the old-timers. As much as these stories are rooted in the neighborhood, it is four characters whose paths cross that are the centerpiece of the book. The title story, “More of This World or Maybe Another,” introduces Delia, then a teenager in rural Louisiana, on the eve of a school dance, when her strong feelings for her date’s sister threaten to upend her world. After moving into the city to pursue his music, her younger brother Dooley finds his life shattered by a devastating accident. Their friend Pudge survives years More of of painful teasing, but his adult years are spent wander- This World ing the streets in an alcoholic haze, spying on his teenor Maybe Another age son, Luis. And in the final story, “St. Luis of Palmyra,” Luis finds refuge and peace in an abandoned car across By Barb Johnson from the Laundromat. Family, especially the one these HarperPerennial characters piece together from friends, neighbors and co- $13.99, 208 pages ISBN 9780061732270 workers, is paramount. Johnson’s stories are suffused with warmth and empathy, focusing on those singular moments in life, painful or ecstatic and sometimes both, when everything changes. Some of the individual stories don’t hold up as well on their own, but as a whole, More of This World or Maybe Another is a strong debut full of heart and memorable moments. o Lauren Bufferd writes from Nashville.
Bright lights, big names
‘Tis the season of celebrity in this year’s Hollywood tomes By Pat H. Broeske he star names shine particularly bright on the bookshelves this holiday season. Where to begin? How about age before beauty . . .
The good ol’ boys The life, times and works of an iconoclast filmmaker are examined in Robert Altman: The Oral Biography (Knopf, $35, 576 pages, ISBN 9780307267689). Author Mitchell Zuckoff rounded up family members (including exes), associates and countless actors who assess the director known for ensemble casts, overlapping sound, a dense and naturalistic style and disdain for the Hollywood system. To Altman, the great films were inexplicable; a moviegoer might not be able to recount the plot, but they knew they’d experienced something. Little wonder Altman’s Nashville is so revered. A former documentary filmmaker (see 1957’s compelling The James Dean Story) who directed episodic TV in the late ’50s and early ’60s, Altman became a counterculture force with the 1970 film M*A*S*H. (He had nothing to do with the TV series, which he hated.) Critical successes followed, as did flops. But the rollercoaster career was never boring. Neither was the hard-living Altman, who died in 2006 at the age of 81. As confounding as his films, he was alternately gregarious, self-absorbed and bitter. He demanded loyalty from the troops; sensing
Scared silly It was the scream—and the shower scene—heard ’round the world. Just 40 minutes into Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, we watch— horrified but rapt—as Marion Crane (played by Janet Leigh) is stabbed to death in the shower stall of the now infamous Bates Hotel. At first we think Norman Bates’ mentally deranged mother is the murderer, but we come to realize that there is no Mrs. Bates—or no living Mrs. Bates—and that Norman himself (played pitch-perfectly by Anthony Perkins) is the true psycho. Just how Hitchcock created his masterpiece— and what it did to change the landscape of American filmmaking and audience perception in the 1960s and beyond—is the subject of film critic David Thomson’s authoritative The Moment of Psycho: How Alfred Hitchcock Taught America to Love Murder (Basic, $22.95, 208 pages, ISBN 9780465003396). Thomson’s detailed and insightful primer is the perfect book for Hitchcock aficionados and general film fans alike. o
otherwise, he held a grudge. “His eyes were fantastic instruments of reprimand and reproach,” recalled composer John Williams. But as careers go, Altman gave it his all, and he did it the hard way—by remaining true to himself. Another famous maverick is the subject of the unauthorized American Rebel: The Life of Clint Eastwood (Harmony, $25.99, 400 pages, ISBN 9780307336880). But this is no “gotcha” tome; author Marc Eliot is reverential as he links Eastwood’s personal life with his professional choices. Based largely on previously published works, the book moves along quickly, fueled by Eliot’s astute knowledge of the Eastwood filmography, including the performer’s three essential screen personae: The Man With No Name (the spaghetti Westerns); nihilistic “Dirty” Harry Callahan; and the good-natured redneck. All “are viscerally connected to the real-life Clint,” Eliot argues. Eastwood’s Army days were a conduit to Hollywood—and beyond. As a base lifeguard and projectionist, he met young actors like David Janssen and Martin Milner, who served in the Special Services. (Like Janssen and Milner, Eastwood became a contract player at Universal.) Being stationed at Fort Ord allowed him to explore the fabulous Northern California coastline—and the quaint city of Carmel, where he would ultimately become mayor. Like the men he has portrayed, Eastwood goes his own way, and is not to be crossed. Though he had a long first marriage, he was never the faithful type. Over the years and under the radar, he fathered four illegitimate children, in addition to two with his first wife and one with the current Mrs. Eastwood (who is much younger than Eastwood’s 79 years). A palimony suit involving his former lover, actress Sondra Locke, put his unorthodox personal life in the spotlight. But his cinematic artistry on the big screen has remained unspoiled over the years—a testament to hard work, resourcefulness and a deft understanding of moviegoer’s tastes. As for Eastwood’s special allure, the Italian director Sergio Leone once said, “It seemed to me Clint closely resembled a cat.” He’s moved like one, too—pouncing to the top of the Hollywood fence.
Glamour girls Though Liz Taylor long ago lost her perch as a leading lady, her name continues to evoke fame like few others. William J. Mann dissects the crafty machinations of her stardom in the biographical How to Be a Movie Star: Elizabeth Taylor in Hollywood (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28, 496 pages, ISBN 9780547134642). The author, who last wrote about Katharine Hepburn, interviewed Taylor sources and exhaustively examined the publicity that has accompanied the life and career of a woman who once casually observed that she couldn’t recall when she
wasn’t famous. Mann concentrates on what he calls the “chocolate sundae” years—those of the great films and great romances. That period encompasses her carefully staged illnesses and botched suicide attempt, the Liz-Eddie-Debbie drama, the scandalous Liz-Dick Cleopatra hookup, her friendships with gay icons Monty Clift and Rock Hudson . . . which all played out publicly, with Liz working the media. Say what you will about her, the woman knew how to be a star. Grace Kelly knew how to evoke style, class and an on-screen cool. Celebrity biographer Donald Spoto met her in her incarnation as Princess Grace of Monaco, while writing one of his many books on Alfred Hitchcock, director of three films in which she starred. At her request, he waited 25 years after her death to write High Society: The Life of Grace Kelly (Harmony, $25.99, 320 pages, ISBN 9780307395610), a respectful take on a woman whose impassive calm hid great passion (there were many lovers) and whose serenity masked her melancholy. Another screen icon is profiled in Doris Day: The Illustrated Biography (André Deutsch, $27.95, 127 pages, ISBN 9780233002620), by frequent BBC broadcaster and prolific celebrity biographer Michael Freedland.The book hits the career highlights and personal benchmarks of a complex woman whose life is at odds with her sunny image. First published in the U.K. in 2000, the book doesn’t include recent events in Day’s life, such as the death in 2004 of her only son, record producer Terry Melcher. But the slender volume succeeds as a stocking stuffer-sized introduction to the vivacious actress-singeranimal rights activist.
All about Paul Ending on a musical note, Paul McCartney: A Life (Touchstone, $26, 384 pages, ISBN 9781416562092), is a pageturner that depicts McCartney as an ambitious, intuitive musical innovator, ever in competition with the rougher-edged John Lennon. Peter Ames Carlin, author of an acclaimed bio of the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson, is a journalist-fan who’s dug deep and written authoritatively. It’s all here: the genesis of the Beatles; McCartney’s relationship with the sophisticated and cultured Jane Asher—and her family (with whom he lived); his romances and marriages; the contractual battles with John and Yoko. And of course, there’s the music, with Carlin arguing that it was the “cute” Beatle who was the real force behind the Fab Four. Be prepared to be convinced. o Author-journalist Pat H. Broeske has written about Hollywood for publications including the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and Entertainment Weekly. NOVEMBER 2009 BOOKPAGE
MEET John Hendrix
CHILDREN’S BOOKS Bonds as strong as silk By Eliza Borné When third grader Griffin Silk was born, his dad called him “the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, the period at the end of the Silk family, and the icing on the cake.” He was the youngest in a family of six and the only boy; his older sisters, all named for colors (Scarlet, Indigo, Violet, Amber, Saffron), were dubbed the “Rainbow Girls.” Life turns upside down for Griffin when his parents have another baby. Although he is happy to have a new sister, Griffin grapples with the feeling that he won’t be a “period” anymore. Instead, he’ll be a comma. When tragedy strikes and Griffin’s mother and sister go away, he feels responsible because of his selfish feelings about the baby. At its heart, Glenda Millard’s The Naming of Tishkin Silk is about finding joy after tragedy. Young readers will become engrossed in the moving tale of the Silk family and delight in a wacky cast of characters. Layla, Griffin’s friend in a school full of bullies, is particularly memorable as she coaxes the Silks to move beyond their loss. Adults will admire the author’s stunningly simple language and descriptions of scene and personality, which pair The Naming of nicely with Patrice Barton’s black-and-white drawings. To introduce a flower-bedecked Layla, Millard writes, “A per- Tishkin Silk son who believed in the magic of daisies, a person skilled By Glenda Millard in the art of crown making, was likely to be an uncommon Illustrated by Patrice Barton kind of person.” Griffin—himself named for the mythical Farrar, Straus part-lion, part-eagle—says of “Tishkin,” the name of his $15.99, 112 pages lost sister: “That’s the sound I hear the leaves make, when I ISBN 9780374354817 Ages 7 to 10 see her face looking down at me.” Millard is especially adept at describing the unspoken, such as when Griffin realizes that loved ones don’t need “ears to hear and they don’t need words to talk.” As Layla and his family have taught him, sometimes, “they just know.” The Naming of Tishkin Silk addresses a heavy topic in a sensitive manner. Young readers will be touched by the quirky and thoughtful personalities of Griffin and Layla and will learn a powerful lesson about family resilience. o
Two paws up for Martin’s latest
John Hendrix is an award-winning artist whose illustrations have appeared in several children’s books and in publications such as the New Yorker. John Brown (Abrams, $18.95, 40 pages, ISBN 9780810937987) is the first book he has both written and illustrated. Hendrix lives in St. Louis with his wife, Andrea, and their two children.
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By Sharon Verbeten Orphaned stray dogs Bone and his sister Squirrel are left to fend for themselves in the great outdoors, not knowing where their next meal will come from. These two survivors have a strong sense of family—that is, until fate separates the two and Bone is left, alone and scared, to find a new home. Bone’s canine adventures are only one of a trio of tales that make up Ann M. Martin’s latest book for middle-grade readers. In alternating chapters, we are also introduced to young Henry, who wants a dog so badly that he asks for a dog, and everything for a dog, on each year’s Christmas list. And then there’s Charlie, who loses his brother and finds companionship and solace with his own dog—until tragedy strikes again. Each well-paced story is interesting enough to propel readers through the book, wanting to know what’s next for Bone, Henry and Charlie. Chapters shift back and forth among the three—until the story takes an interesting and unexpected turn, intertwining the three main characters. It’s hard enough to write one solid and satisfying story with well-drawn characters. It’s even harder to write three. Toughest of all, perhaps, is weaving those three tales togeth- Everything er seamlessly. But that’s exactly what Martin manages in a for a Dog novel that explores the themes of survival, companionship, By Ann M. Martin family and the importance of home. Feiwel & Friends By the end of the book, readers gain greater insights into $16.99, 224 pages Bone, Henry and Charlie, and how those themes impact ISBN 9780312386511 them all and change their lives, mostly for the better. To Ages 9 to 12 be sure, there are elements of harsh realism (among them hunters, hunger and loss), but Martin’s compassion for canines is at its best here—leading to a satisfying and entirely believable ending. Dog owner Martin is also author of the critically acclaimed A Dog’s Life, and she has truly found her niche with animal stories that are both touching and compelling. Fellow dog lovers—and even those without a penchant for pets—are sure to share her compassion for Bone, Henry, Charlie and the entire cast. o Freelance writer and former children’s librarian Sharon Verbeten lives in De Pere, Wisconsin, where she is one of the few people in her neighborhood without a dog.
“This is a good choice for reading aloud in classrooms studying the topic, or for children interested in the real world of pirates.”
Stepping out: Little ones (and parents) find the courage to break away
—School Library Journal
By Robin Smith hen is the best time for a youngster to strike out on his or her own? Every family faces this crucial moment, whether it’s a toddler taking her first wobbly steps across the living room, a kindergartner nervously meeting the teacher or an older child biking down the street for the first time. These moments of poignancy follow weeks and years of experimenting with independence. Three new picture books can help young families encourage and celebrate the exploration that make a child truly independent.
Hop to it David Ezra Stein returns with the delightful Pouch! (Putnam, $15.99, 32 pages, ISBN 9780399250514), which is something of a sequel to his marvelous 2007 book, Leaves. While Leaves celebrated a bear’s first encounter with autumn, Pouch! explores the exhilaration of discovering the world. Baby kangaroo Joey has spent a long time in his mother’s pouch when one day he exclaims, “Mama, I want to hop!” Two hops away from Mama, Joey finds a bee, who surprises the little kangaroo so much that he turns back toward Mama with a wide-eyed cry: “Pouch!” Mama is always there, welcoming Joey back to the pouch. But Joey cannot be kept in, and he hops three times to see a rabbit and four times to meet a bird. Each encounter ends the same way, with Joey safe in the pouch. Still, the call to independence is strong and, after hopping five times, Joey meets another kangaroo . . . and makes his first friend. Stein’s expressive watercolor and crayon illustrations are full of movement and humor, especially the repeated “Pouch!” scenes. Youngsters who are just learning their boundaries will enjoy watching Joey and his new friends explore the inviting world beyond their mothers’ protective care.
Leaving the nest Australians Margaret Wild and Julie Vivas team up again in Puffling (Feiwel & Friends, $16.99, 32 pages, ISBN 9780312565701), the gentle tale of a baby Puffin and his attentive, loving parents, Big Stripy Beak and Long Black Feather. These parents bring back food for Puffling because “There are scary gulls out there, watching and waiting.” Puffling wonders when he will be allowed to leave the burrow. His parents tell him exciting tales of the time when he will be “strong enough and tall enough and brave enough” not only to leave the burrow, but to sleep in the sea and find friends. Little by little, Puffling grows up and is ready to go. His parents are ready to let him go, too, comforting him (and themselves, too?) by telling him, “You’ll be our dear Puffling—even when you’re grown up and have a chick of your own.” Illustrated in the rich browns of the burrow and dark blues of the ocean, Puffling beautifully tells the universal story of growth and maturity. Modern parents might learn a thing or two about raising children to be brave and strong so they will be ready for their own scary world. Puffling is a book to read over and over—shelve it next to Stellaluna.
There are famous pirates, and
then there are the rest of the pirates. All were a bunch of misfits, thugs, and ne’er-do-wells who spent most of their time bored, waiting for a few moments of excitement and rich booty that could very well get them wounded or killed, or captured and executed. But to most of those who swore the oath of the Brotherhood, it was just a job. Still, a pirate’s life was chosen by many, and this collection describes and depicts the high points, the low points, and everything in between.
Taking charge Amy Hest’s latest offering, When You Meet a Bear On Broadway (Melanie Kroupa/Farrar, Straus, $16.99, 40 pages, ISBN 9780374400156), is a whimsical look at a little girl who—internalizing the strong, reasonable voice of her mother—helps reunite a little lost bear with his mother. Sporting orange-and-red-striped tights, a sensible blue coat and a jaunty beret, the girl is wise beyond her years and ready for anything. Told in the second person, the story reads very much like children often speak. “When you meet a bear on Broadway, this is what to do. Suck in your breath. Stick out your hand.” Our heroine might be young, but her mother and father have taught her well and she knows just what to do—ask what the mother looks like, calm down, take his hand, look around and wait for the mama to find him. Lightly outlined watercolors, sometimes in many colors and occasionally in retro greens and yellows, highlight the girl and bear as they search for the missing mother. Young readers will enjoy the short sentences, the generic city scenes and the comfort of seeing a little person take charge—just like her mama taught her. o Robin Smith encourages her second-grade students in Nashville to take risks.
Poetry • Ages 9–11 • $17.95 hardcover ISBN: 1-59078-455-3 • ISBN-13: 978-1-59078-455-6
An Imprint of Boyds Mills Press 815 Church Street, Honesdale, PA 18431 TOLL-FREE (877) 512-8366 www.wordsongpoetry.com NOVEMBER 2009 BOOKPAGE
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CHILDREN’S BOOKS Debut teen author brews a tasty romance By Linda M. Castellitto ristina Springer is unequivocal and unabashed about her love of coffee. She drinks it often, her kitchen is espresso-themed and she’s a devoted customer of her local Starbucks. In fact, during the horse-and-carriage segment of her wedding, she and her husband halted the horses so they could pop in to get coffees and take photos. It’s fitting, then, that Springer’s debut young adult novel, The Espressologist (Farrar, Straus, $16.99, 192 pages, ISBN 9780374322281, ages 12 and up), is set in a coffee shop—and was
Every word of this lively YA novel was written in the author’s favorite coffee shop. KRISTINA written in one, too. Plus, a coffee-related skill Springer possesses SPRINGER was imparted to her main character, 17-year-old Jane Turner: the ability to size up people based on their choice of coffee drink. “When we were dating, my husband and I would go to coffee shops to hang out and people-watch,” Springer said in an interview from her home just outside Chicago, where she lives with said husband and four young children. “After a while, it occurred to me that I could tell what people will order.” What remained entertainment for Springer became a matchmaking tool for protagonist Jane. During her shifts at Wired Joe’s, Jane keeps careful notes about customers’ quirks, preferences and characteristics and uses her coffee clairvoyance to steer them toward potential romantic partners. Jane keeps her unusual skill a secret from mercurial manager Derek, until he overhears a fellow barista refer to Jane as an “Espressologist” and, ever alert to ideas that might boost sales, demands to know the details. That’s all it takes to make the nickname official: Derek decides that, on Friday nights, customers can come in for a coffee and Espressology, courtesy of Jane. Not surprisingly, all sorts of interesting situations ensue. Springer does a spot-on job of creating those situations, not least by speaking fluent
Lessons from treasured books In Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Children’s Book (Roaring Brook, $29.99, 240 pages, ISBN 9781596433953), Anita Silvey offers a guided tour to children’s books that have changed lives. “The act of reading to a child is the most important contribution to the future of our society that adults can make,” Silvey writes in the book’s introduction. She asked more than 100 celebrated individuals from all walks of life to choose a special book from their own childhood that had changed the way they see the world. The volume is divided into six categories—including inspiration, motivation and storytelling—within which are essays, excerpts from some of the children’s books themselves and sidebars about the books and their authors. Cardiothoracic surgeon William De Vries, who implanted the first artificial heart, writes about The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and the Tin Woodman’s quest for a heart. Steve Wozniak read the Tom Swift books as a kid and grew up to invent the Apple computer. Historian David McCullough recalls Robert Lawson’s Ben and Me, which demonstrated to him how good historical literature employs humor, wisdom and imagination. Maurice Sendak, though, seems to be a dissenting voice in this collection: “Books shouldn’t teach. They shouldn’t give lessons. . . . They can just be kids and enjoy reading and looking at a book.” It’s a point well taken; the worst of children’s literature is the intentionally inspirational, the stories that reduce too easily to a conscious moral. But the books in Silvey’s collection don’t fall into that group. These books have inspired, touched and motivated through their power as good stories. This volume—perfect for any gift-giving occasion—will inspire adults to enhance their family lives and contribute to the future of our society through the good books they choose to share with their children. o —DEAN SCHNEIDER
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teenager. Anyone who’s worked in a service-industry job will nod in recognition while reading passages about snarky customers and cranky coworkers—and anyone who’s been a teenager will relate to the romantic tension that builds as Jane makes matches for her friends but doesn’t realize she’s overlooking her own perfect romantic partner. The atmosphere of Wired Joe’s is just right, too. The book’s pages aren’t coffee-scented, but they could be, considering every word was crafted in that favorite Starbucks. Springer says, “I think people thought I was crazy. . . . I was always looking at customers, and I’d hang over the counter after someone ordered a drink and watch how they made it.” She adds, “After a while, I told [the Starbucks employees] what I was doing, and they were very supportive.” It’s an approach and environment that works for Springer; she says that, although she’s only able to set up at the coffee shop a couple of times a week for a few hours each time, she’s written several novels, including a middle-grade novel due out next year called My Fake Boyfriend Is Better Than Yours. Now an avid writer of fiction, Springer says she’s long been a devoted reader: “I read tons of books as a young adult; I really liked series. I read 100 of the Sweet Valley High books, and The Girls of Canby Hall books. I was drawn to female authors and characters as a kid.” Speaking of female authors, Springer says she didn’t have Jane Austen’s Emma in mind when she wrote The Espressologist, but when the book was previewed at the American Library Association conference last summer, Austen fans noticed the similarities and were eager to meet her. When it’s pointed out that she was a bit Austen-like in writing the book—sitting back, quietly observing and writing about people—she says laughingly, “It wasn’t intentional!” But, like Austen, she says, “I eavesdrop all the time. It’s part of the [writer’s] job description.” Springer adds, “I still don’t know how I did this. I never thought I’d be good at writing fiction,” particularly after obtaining a nonfiction-centric master’s degree in writing and working in technical writing for many years. “Maybe I just found the right genre and age group,” she says. “My natural voice must be the teen voice.” o Linda M. Castellitto is a former barista who favors tea over coffee.
Work and play in pre-war New York By Aniko Nagy The first things about the cover of The Doll Shop Downstairs that catch a reader’s eye are the delicate illustrations and sweet title. Below the old-fashioned lettering, a girl clad in a plaid dress and apron cradles a doll amid paintbrushes, spindles of cloth and a turnof-the-century cash register. It’s not only a book cover but a window on the charming story that follows. Anna, the nine-year-old narrator, loves the porcelain dolls her father and mother mend in their New York City shop. She especially loves a dark-haired beauty, despite its missing foot and cracked arm. Sharing Anna’s love of dolls are her two sisters, each of whom has her own favorite. Together, they have tea parties and cope with the economic effects of World War I. But what happens when the dolls’ owners are ready to take them back home and away from the girls? That source of anxiety for Anna is dwarfed only by her family’s money troubles, which Anna and her sisters ingeniously help their parents solve. It seems, though, that all the ingenuity in the world won’t help them keep the dolls they love. Yona Zeldis McDonough gently evokes a now-lost world with her portrayal of a loving family of doll-menders in New York’s Lower East Side. Young readers will enjoy vi- The Doll Shop cariously living above the shop in a brownstone walk-up, Downstairs sleeping overnight on a rooftop to cool off in pre-AC sumBy Yona Zeldis mer heat and paying a penny for candy at the neighborhood McDonough newsstand. Heather Malone’s period illustrations comple$14.99, 118 pages ment the text and create a nice bridge for children moving Viking, ISBN 9780670010912 from picture to chapter books. Ages 8 to 11 The images of immigrant family life in a New York long since past and an industry now nearly forgotten are strengths that make The Doll Shop Downstairs a welcome addition to the shelves of yesteryear- and doll-loving youngsters alike. o Aniko Nagy is a bookseller and freelance writer in Boston.
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TEEN READING Goth Girl finds her voice
A disturbing view of the dark side
By Kate Pritchard arry Lyga’s debut YA novel, The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl, told the story of two high school outcasts: one a self-described geek who spent most of his time writing and illustrating his comic book, and one an angry, depressed girl still reeling from the death of her mother. Fanboy and Goth Girl touched a chord in many readers, and although Lyga has since published several more books, his fans kept asking to see more of those two characters. In Goth Girl Rising (Houghton Mifflin, $17, 400 pages, ISBN 9780547076645) he brings them together once again. Emotions run high and the outcome is uncertain when the two reunite; the result is an honest and thoughtful exploration of friendship, anger and love. Lyga answered questions about the new book from his home in Las Vegas.
By Dean Schneider Liam Lynch’s father, a famous fiction writer, has often said that “the real world is the very very strangest of places.” Liam was out wandering with his friend Max when they found an abandoned baby girl with a scribbled note attached to her blanket: “PLESE LOOK AFTER HER RITE. THIS IS A CHILDE OF GOD.” Next to her was a jam jar filled with notes and coins. Mr. Lynch has always told Liam to “Live an adventure. Live like you’re in a story.” And now Liam does—in a story of wandering children, a strange baby, a message and a treasure. The story broadens to include a war refugee from Liberia, the local bully and a teenage girl who survived a fire in which her family perished. Raven Summer is David Almond’s darkest novel yet, evolving from characters and themes in his previous works, with unsettling undertones of Lord of the Flies and Heart of Darkness. There is a narrative arc in Almond’s body of work, pointing the way to this beautiful and poetic look at the dark side of human nature. Almond’s Skellig was all about mystery and the feeling that “the world’s full of amazing things.” In Kit’s Wilderness, the theme of darkness and light is developed, reflected Raven Summer in Grandpa’s statement, “This is our world. Aye, there’s By David Almond more than enough of darkness in it. But over everything Delacorte there’s all this joy, too, Kit. There’s all this lovely, lovely $16.99, 240 pages light.” ISBN 9780385738064 Raven Summer shares with The Fire-Eaters a cast of Ages 12 and up characters trying to live in a world in the face of war. In Clay, a monster is created to get back at the local bully; in Raven Summer, we are the monsters, each of us capable of the “darkness at the heart of the world.” This is a Brothers Grimm mindscape of fairy babies and fairy gold; witches and monsters, foundlings and angels; ancient border raids and modern war; snake pits and caves, ravens and wanderers. Still, what remains after this dark tale is an angel baby, an ordinary family and their familiar garden—a well-lighted home in a dangerous world. Almond is one of the finest writers in the world of children’s literature, a writer of uncommon vision and elegant prose, fully capable of plumbing the heart of darkness and the “lovely, lovely light” as well. o Dean Schneider teaches middle school English in Nashville.
Your three previous YA novels have all been written from the perspective of a teen boy. Was it difficult to get inside the mind of a teen girl for this book?
You know, I worried about that . . . for roughly 10 seconds. The instant I sat down and started writing, the concern went away. Maybe if I was writing about BARRY LYGA some other teen girl, it would have been difficult, but this is Kyra. I know her incredibly well. I just said to myself, “OK, I’m Kyra now. What am I thinking?” and the book flew from there. You make quite a few references to comic book writers such as Brian Michael Bendis and Neil Gaiman in the Fanboy and Goth Girl books. Why did you decide to incorporate real people into these stories?
I had decided early on that these stories took place in the real world, where there were comic books about Superman and Spider-Man, not in some alternate universe with characters like SuperbGuy and Arachnid-Kid. I could have made up my own ersatz versions of the characters, but it just seemed phony and transparent. Using a name like Bendis or Gaiman will immediately communicate volumes of information to someone who knows about those guys, and if a reader doesn’t know anything about them, it’s not like the story will be harmed. A reader who doesn’t know who Bendis is, for example, would just assume I made him up. (And I’m sure Bendis would be thrilled to know someone out there thinks I invented him!) You had a story in the recent YA anthology Geektastic, and some of your characters—notably Fanboy—consider themselves geeks. Do you identify as a geek? What do you think defines a geek?
Yeah, I guess I identify as a geek, which isn’t as shameful these days as it used to be, now that geeks have sort of reclaimed that term and turned it around. I used to do a presentation in schools called “Geekery: An Analysis,” which was a half-serious, half-tongue-in-cheek analysis of what a geek was and how geeks rule the world. I think geeks are people who are obsessed with something, possibly obsessed beyond the bounds of what is considered good mental health, and don’t mind letting that obsession dictate large portions of their lives. To that degree, crazy sports fans are geeks—they just happen to be geeks for something that society doesn’t look down on. There’s no qualitative difference between a guy who’s learning to speak Klingon and a guy who can recite chapter and verse of every inning of every game in the World Series dating back to 1912. It’s just that society has decided that the latter is acceptable and the former is risible. Your books often contain some raw dialogue and graphic scenes, and have dealt with issues such as suicide and sexual abuse. What makes you decide to include those elements in your writing?
It’s not really a decision. It’s not like I sit down to write a book and think, “Hmm, what topic or salty language can I add to this?” The topics, the language—these things are integral to the story. They’re crucial organs. I write what I write and the way I write it because I’m writing for teens and about teens. This is the world they live in. These are the words they speak. I’m not inventing any of this. I’m just taking it in, massaging it and turning it around for everyone to see. It would be dishonest to write otherwise, I think. What kind of responses have you gotten from teens who have read your books?
For the most part, great enthusiasm! It’s terrific. I think most gratifying have been the kids who write to tell me that they never liked reading until they read one of my books. Most authors have that experience, I believe, and it’s great—to think that you’ve opened up a whole new world to this person. Reading saved my life as a kid—it was the one thing that kept me sane when the world around me made no sense. So to be able to give that gift back into the world is just tremendously fulfilling. o
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Holding on while the world falls apart By Angela Leeper When the first World Trade Center tower is hit on 9/11, high school senior Claire worries about her mother at work and her brother across the street in elementary school. Classmate Peter, skipping study hall to buy the new Bob Dylan album at Tower Records and dreaming of his first date with Jasper, wonders how listening to music will ever be the same. Korean-American Jasper, at home until his college classes begin, sleeps through it all and wakes to emptiness. In the eloquent Love Is the Higher Law, these young adults’ lives intertwine in a way that wouldn’t have been possible before the tragic event. The focus of this episodic story is not on what happened on September 11, 2001, but on the outcome just hours, days and weeks afterward. Temporarily forced away from home, breathing in the dust of the remains and peering at the immense hole left behind, the three teens wonder how they will ever sleep, date and feel again. From even simple acts, such as a shoe store handing out free sneakers to fleeing workers, they discover that survivLove Is the ing is finding the gratitude in one another. Author David Levithan’s repertoire includes Boy Meets Higher Law Boy and other masterful love stories. While romance may By David Levithan be a possibility for Peter and Jasper, the real love in this Random House novel is for New York City and humanity. Taking its name $15.99, 192 pages from a U2 lyric, the slim but powerful novel also features ISBN 9780375834684 Ages 13 and up pop song lyrics that continue to strike a chord. Teen readers, just children on 9/11, may remember the facts from watching them on television, but Love Is the Higher Law relates the emotions of that day, defined by Before and After, and how we all began living in the After that rocked the world. o Angela Leeper is a librarian at the University of Richmond.
Rice unravels the mind of a killer By Cory Bordonaro In her latest novel, Angel Time, author Anne Rice strays from the vampire-laden subject matter of her past and plumbs the heart and mind of a killer transformed. “Lucky,” or Toby O’Dare, makes his engrossing entrance as a heartless hitman with a checkered past. A boyhood bent toward the priesthood goes awry when his drunkard mother derails his path with repeated selfishness. When a series of events leads Toby to meet an eventual faux-father figure, he falls into a life of cruel anonymous crime. His gradual shift from a spiritual boy to a cold assassin gives insight into how easily wrong can be justified and absorbed into the mundane. In stark contrast to his murderous lifestyle is his everpresent, yet latent, interest in all things sacred. He often seeks solace at The Mission Inn, a local getaway marked by a tranquil monasterial atmosphere. Toby also habitually reads history books, enjoying the neat and tidy accounts historians glean from the trials and tumult of the past. His need for conclusion speaks volumes about a complex character Angel Time whose troubled past perpetuates his hardness of heart. One night, after completing an assignment to kill, Toby By Anne Rice is visited by an angel called Malachi. His life is quickly cata- Knopf pulted to the Middle Ages, where he adopts an alternate ex- $25.95, 288 pages istence as a friar. He is prompted by Malachi to look outside ISBN 9781400043538 Also available on audio of himself and see the suffering of a couple of persecuted Jews in the town of Norwich, England. Toby quickly comes to realize that his past can be redeemed by choosing to help save lives rather than take them. Rice masterfully weaves together the elements of Toby’s story to demonstrate the irrelevance of time as we experience it. She communicates the poignant truth that a character can indeed be extracted from an old life—saved to another for the task of intervening in evil to bring forth greater good. o Cory Bordonaro is a freelance writer, crafter and barista in Birmingham, Alabama.
Rediscovering life’s riches By Stephenie Harrison Sometimes fiction’s allure is its ability to transport us to worlds unknown, providing an escape from the pressures of daily life. At other times, fiction is at its very best when it fixates upon the things that we know intimately. It can act as a mirror, providing us with insight into the lives we are leading and the world around us, and it can even uncover desires buried deep within ourselves. These are the goals that Jim Kokoris aims to achieve in The Pursuit of Other Interests, and the result is an illuminating read. Kokoris tells the story of Charlie Baker, the erstwhile CEO of a major advertising firm in Chicago. Charlie has been running on empty trying to keep the sinking company afloat while the economy tanks, so it is an unpleasant surprise when he is unceremoniously fired (and to add insult to injury, deemed “frenetic” in the process). Desperate and scared, Charlie meets with an outplacement agency meant to help him get back on his feet and back out into the workplace; after all, it won’t be long before his severance pay runs out. Maybe if Charlie is really lucky, he can find a new job before he is forced to tell his wife that he The Pursuit of has lost his old one. Kokoris allows his readers, along with Charlie, to ex- Other Interests plore what can happen when the day from hell seemingly By Jim Kokoris has no end in sight. At a time when job security is nonSt. Martin’s existent and many are contemplating unexpected career $24.99, 352 pages changes, The Pursuit of Other Interests speaks to the fears ISBN 9780312365486 of many. However, contrary to its dreary subject matter, it is ultimately an uplifting journey, rife with self-discovery and a re-examination of priorities. As Charlie bumbles his way through shopping on a budget and reconnecting with his teenage son, it is with a potent blend of humor and humility that we are reminded of what really matters. Life may be a rollercoaster, filled with ups and downs, but with Kokoris at the helm, readers are guaranteed an unforgettable and meaningful ride. o Stephenie Harrison writes from Nashville.
Great titles from University Presses
The sweeping memoir, Just One Restless Rider, reflects a lifetime’s love of trains. The narrative and photos by Carlos A. Schwantes embrace not only trains themselves but also the view from the car windows.
hardcover, $34.95 ISBN 9780826218599
University of Missouri Press
hardcover, $30 ISBN 9780807833179
“William T. Sherman once remarked that Ulysses S. Grant was a mystery, even to himself. In U. S. Grant, a marvelous, multifaceted study of his life, death, and reputation, Joan Waugh enriches our understanding of this oft-misunderstood national icon.” —Brooks D. Simpson, author of Let Us Have Peace UNC Press
“Nortin Hadler exposes the overmanagement of a sometimescontrived disease with a compelling body of scientific investigation in Stabbed in the Back.”—Mehmet Oz, M.D. UNC Press hardcover, $25 ISBN 9780807833483
“In Fields of Blood, William Shea has raised the bar and established himself as the foremost historian on the Civil War in the TransMississippi. Smooth. Polished. Riveting!” —Terrence J. Winschel, historian, Vicksburg National Military Park, author of Triumph and Defeat: The Vicksburg Campaign, Vols. 1-2 UNC Press
hardcover, $35 ISBN 9780807833155
“Saving Ben by Dan E. Burns is a wonderful read that will make parents look at their own children, disabled or not, and find so much to cherish.” —from the FOUR STAR review in People magazine
hardcover, $22.95 ISBN 9781574412697
“Susan M. Reverby’s energy, passion, insight, intelligence, industry and originality shine through on every page of Examining Tuskegee. She has made a stunning contribution to our understanding of an important and tragic chapter of our history.”—James H. Jones, author of Bad Blood: The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment UNC Press
University of North Texas Press
hardcover, $30 ISBN 9780807833100
Part memoir, part historical mystery, My Grandfather’s Prison recounts longtime journalist Serrano’s search to discover whether his alcoholic grandfather was murdered in solitary confinement. University of Missouri Press hardcover, $24.95 ISBN 9780826218643
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Foer offers food for thought on America’s taste for meat By Alison Hood The stories we tell ourselves about what is true in our lives have tremendous power, especially when those stories involve what we eat. We humans have strong convictions about food—many of these formed from memories ranging from sublime to scary— that are woven closely into our families and lives, affecting our choices about the foods we crave, purchase and consume. “We are made of stories. . . . Stories establish nar-
ratives, and stories establish rules,” writes novelist Jonathan Safran Foer (Everything Is Illuminated) in his first nonfiction book, Eating Animals, an idiosyncratic exploration of meat: what it actually is (and isn’t); how it is farmed in modern America; and the economic, social and environmental implications of eating it. As a college student, Foer had no strong allegiance to any one diet manifesto. An on-
Signet, $7.99, 9780451228383
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PAPERBACK PICKS PARANORMAL
Bone by Bone Brothers Oren and Josh disappear into the woods. Only Oren comes out. Twenty years later, older brother Oren, now a former investigator for the Army CID,returns. The mystery of what happened to Josh is about to be exposed, and somebody is finally sending himhome—bone by bone.
Finding the Lost Sentinel warrior Paul has beensearching for centuries for a woman like Andra, but his desire for her threatens to destroy his much-needed control. Against her wishes, Andra agrees to join Paul on a journey fraught with dangerthatleadstotheSynestrynwho victimized her family eight years ago.
Me and My Shadow May Northcott is at the end of her tether. The arrival of a nearly-dead man on her doorstep could be the spark that sets light to her tinderbox world. And with dragon war imminent, it’s looking increasingly like it will be up to May to stop it before her life ends up in smoke.
ROMANCE Nauti Boy Marine Rowdy Mackay has returned home to Kentucky—and to the girl he left behind: Kelly Benton. But before they can engage in the erotic games that have earned him his Nauti boy reputation, he must fight to save her from the deadly threats of a stalker still on the prowl.
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Blaze of Memory Dev Santos finds a woman with amnesia—all she can remember is that she’s dangerous. Stripped of her memories by a shadowy oppressor and programmed to kill, Katya’s only hope is Dev. But how can she expect togainthetrust of amanwho could very well be her next target?
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Never After Some bonds are made to be broken. Four of today’s most provocative authors, Laurell K. Hamilton, YasmineGalenorn, MarjorieM.Liuand Sharon Shinn, present stories based on the classic idea of the “fairy tale wedding”—except this time, the damsels aren’t the ones in distress.
Relic of Time Five centuries ago, a Mexican peasant was visited by the Virgin Mary. His cloak was marked with the image of the Holy Mother andbecame a priceless religious relic. Now it has been stolen and retired CIA agent Vincent Traeger suspects thetruthcouldbring acountry—andafaith—toitsknees.
TomClancy’s Splinter Cell: Conviction Several disastrous missions have depleted the ranks of the Splinter Cells. The Third Echelon is training new recruits when a stunning piece of evidence is uncovered. Evidence that points to the mole who sold out his government.
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again, off-again vegetarian, he maintained a diet of “unconscious inconsistency.” He admits sheepishly that he “just ate what was available or tasty, what seemed natural, sensible or healthy—what was there to explain?” It was not until he became a father that Foer perceived a lack of morality and responsibility inherent in his ongoing dietary vacillation. Now that he was responsible for nurturing and nourishing his son, what stories and lessons would he truly want to transmit to his children? Two tales, of boyhood meals past and imagined future repasts with his wife and son, serve as bookends for Foer’s horrifically enlightening, thought-provoking examination of how farmed animals—hogs, chickens and cows—are bred, raised, distributed and consumed in our nation. Under cover of darkness, he sneaks into a chicken CAFO (aka “concentrated animal feeding operation”) to observe firsthand its hellish confines. He interviews farmers, like Bill and Nicollette Niman, who are trying to raise animals for consumption with kindness and conscience. He allows a multitude of voices to speak—CAFO workers, animal rights activists, farmers, scientists and literary figures—in order to build a case for conscious and ethical food consumption. Foer employs an adroit blend of storytelling, philosophical reflection and rigorous investigative journalism to illustrate “how our food choices impact the ecology of our planet and the lives of its animals,” and to persuade us toward unflinching self-examination in how we choose our nourishment. He admirably presents fact and science, while pricking the reader’s conscience by recounting his own probing questions about dietary choice and moral acceptability. Eating Animals is “an argument for vegetarianism, but it’s also an argument for another, wiser animal agriculture and more honorable omnivory.” America, the author believes, has made a choice between basing its meals around harvest or slaughter. And, collectively, we have chosen slaughter. Even using the most humane practices, consuming meat is a social act of war, of aggression. This is, he says, “the truest version of our story of eating animals.” Can we, Foer asks, tell another story instead? For the future of our race and of our fragile and heated planet, the question is timely and well worth any painful self-interrogation. o Alison Hood writes from Marin County, California.
Eating Animals By Jonathan Safran Foer Little, Brown $25.99, 352 pages ISBN 9780316069908 Also available on audio
READ REVIEWS ONLINE AT bookpage.com
ROMANCE Heroic measures Counteract cool weather with this handful of hot books. From a poignant historical to an enchanting contemporary, these are romances perfect for fireside reading. Anna Campbell’s Captive of Sin (Avon, $6.99, 384 pages, ISBN 9780061684289) opens with the bruised and desperate heiress, Lady Charis Weston, on the run from her violent stepbrothers. She meets Sir Gideon Trevithick, who recently survived a long imprisonment in India, and the vulnerable woman calls to all his protective instincts. He offers aid to the terrified Charis, without realizing this act will ultimately lead them to marriage. Charis, who has fallen for the handsome man, is eager to be his wife—until she learns the offer has a catch. Gideon insists it will be a marriage in name only after a single night of consummation. Still, Charis agrees, and then the real BY christie ridgway trouble begins as husband and wife battle their growing love and the torturous ghosts from Gideon’s past, along with the outside dangers closing in on them. An emotional read about brave and loving characters, Captive of Sin will bring sighs and smiles to readers looking for rich, historical drama.
More than a woman Suspense and science drive the love story in Caridad Piñeiro’s Sins of the Flesh (Grand Central, $6.99, 336 pages, ISBN 9780446543835). As the book opens, Caterina Shaw is dying from a brain tumor. In a last effort to save herself, she volunteers for experimental gene therapy. Six months later, one of her doctors has been violently murdered, suspect Cat is on the run and mercenary Mick Carrera has been tasked with hunting her down—with the full understanding that he might have to kill his prey. But when Mick discovers Cat, he also discovers that the therapy has given the beauty unusual strength and odd characteristics. Intrigued and aroused, Mick helps Cat get healthy and then partners with her to stop the evil men who have unethically treated her and others. Cat might be more than a woman, but Mick is more tender and protective than even he knows. Readers will root for these two characters as they battle the bad guys to find a future together.
Secret identity Susan Sizemore’s paranormal romance series about the Prime vampires takes a slight turn, as those very vampires have formed a Vampire Book Club, and their first selection is Dark Stranger (Pocket, $7.99, 384 pages, ISBN 9781416562139). While on a secret diplomatic mission, Zoe Pappas, heir to the Byzant empire, is captured and sent to a shadowy, underground prison where humans and aliens are housed. There, the man in charge of humans is medical officer and POW Matthias “Doc” Raven. Doc is attracted to the outspoken “Lieutenant,” the rank Zoe assumes in order to keep her presence in the camp a secret. But as the two grow close, Zoe’s true status comes to light and Doc’s own secret is revealed—he’s a vampire. Both make their long-term love impossible, Doc believes, and so he concentrates on the present, which ultimately means orchestrating an escape that he thought previously impossible. Atmospheric and exciting, Dark Stranger takes the reader into a murky prison populated by frightening creatures, thwarted ambitions and sizzling love.
Friends and lovers Bed of Roses (Berkley, $16, 368 pages, ISBN 9780425230077) by Nora Roberts is a delightful friends-to-lovers story in her Bride Quartet. Florist Emma Grant never lacks for male attention, but her romantic streak has yet to attract the exact right man. Her life changes, however, when suddenly sparks fly between her and Jack Cooke, a man she’s known for over a decade and who is a member of her tight circle of friends. What’s a woman to do? Jack senses the same sparks with Emma, but has similar reservations. If they pursue the relationship, how might it affect their friendship when it’s over? But an exchange of sexy e-mails and their undeniable attraction wins the day, and soon Emma and Jack are enjoying coupledom. Still, true intimacy isn’t easy, especially for Jack, and Emma thinks she should have listened to her head instead of her heart. Will love overcome? Yet another winner from Roberts, this lovely story brims with romance and likeable, believable characters. o Christie Ridgway writes contemporary romance from her home in Southern California.
antastic F ICT ION by abulous AUTHORS The Christmas Pearl By Dorothea Benton Frank $7.99, 9780061438486 Theodora has lived long enough to see her family grown into a bunch of truculent knuckleheads. She has finally gathered the whole bickering brood together for the holidays at her South Carolina home, and the grand matriarch pines wistfully for those extravagant, homey Christmases of her childhood. But someone very special has heard Theodora’s plea for help and arrives, with pockets full of enough Gullah magic and common sense to make her Christmas the love-filled miracle it’s meant to be.
The Wrong Side of Dead By Jordan Dane $7.99, 9780061474132 In the second of the Sweet Justice series, bounty hunter Jessie Beckett must solve a murder . . . and save a friend. But a single mistake could leave them both on the Wrong Side of Dead.
The Care and Taming of a Rogue By Suzanne Enoch $7.99, 9780061456763 New York Times best-selling author Suzanne Enoch kicks off a new Regency romance series, in which adventure and heart-stopping romance go hand in hand. Rugged adventurer Bennett Wolfe, once presumed dead, has returned to London and is much sought after by every marriage-minded young woman. But Bennett only has eyes for the exceedingly proper Philippa. She simply must teach him some manners before temptation sweeps her away.
Whiplash: A Dreamland Thriller By Dale Brown with Jim DeFelice $7.99, 9780061713002 A perennial New York Times best-selling author whom Clive Cussler calls, “The best military writer in the country,” the incomparable Dale Brown joins forces once more with coauthor Jim DeFelice for a breathtaking international thriller starring their popular Dreamland team. In Whiplash, the new elite high-tech unit plunges headfirst into harm’s way, as they race to thwart a terrifying plot to unleash nuclear terror and global chaos on the eve of historic reconciliation between the United States and Iran.
Blood and Bone By William Lashner $7.99, 9780061143496 Once Kyle Byrne had promise. But he opted for a life of slack—drinking too much, playing too much, sleeping with the wrong type of women. But when his dad’s former law partner is murdered and the cops start asking Kyle questions, he’s forced to confront the tragedies and selfdeceptions of his existence. Suddenly, Kyle wants the truth about his father’s death—and his search is leading him to high, dark, and very dangerous places.
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Insights from a gifted writer By Michael Lee A good essay collection reveals something new about its subjects, while a great collection also reveals something about its author. Zadie Smith’s excellent Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays falls into the latter category. In a collection divided into four sections—Reading, Being, Seeing and Feeling—Smith brings deep knowledge and stunning wit to these nomadic pieces and in the process, brings the curtain up on herself. A question running throughout the book is how someone, at age 34, gets to be so smart about so much. Smith writes a wonderful homage to Katharine Hepburn and in doing so, imparts an appreciation of the past two generations of filmmaking that film critics will envy. In the section on “Being,” she begins with a version of a lecture she gave to students of Columbia University’s Writing Program. It should be required reading for all writers, students or otherwise. Her approach to, and understanding of, the written word begins to explain how she burst onto the literary scene in 2000 with the novel White Teeth. And her essays on her personal life, especially the tender handling of her father’s memory in “Smith Family Christmas,” “Accidental Hero” and “Dead Man Laughing,” are glimpses into her own com- Changing plex family, displaying unflinching insight without sacrific- My Mind ing a loving appreciation. By Zadie Smith Smith also displays a keen mind for literary analysis in Penguin Press her final essay, “Brief Interviews with Hideous Men: The $25.95, 320 pages Difficult Gifts of David Foster Wallace.” Here she bravely ISBN 9781594202377 disseminates Wallace’s work, not in simplistic terms, but in Also available on audio language that renders the demanding author’s body of work in manageable bites. With Changing My Mind, Smith has given the art of the essay its most entertaining and educational revival in years. It’s the kind of collection a reader will keep within reach for a long while, simply based on Smith’s virtuosic performance. o Michael Lee is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.
A hero reflects on life’s lessons By Maude McDaniel This is exactly the kind of book you would expect the now-legendary Sully Sullenberger to write. In his memoir, the pilot of US Airways Flight 1549, which set down so memorably on the Hudson River in January, is earnest, controlled and exacting. Sullenberger is not prone to flights of fancy—in fact, he is the very pilot you’d choose for the job if you had any say in it. His book reflects the same qualities. For someone who has spent so much time in the air (he’s been flying for 42 of his 58 years), Sully is remarkably downto-earth. This memoir covers a wide array of issues, from certain practical aspects of airline price-cutting (it cuts corners on the kind of pilot experience that gives depth of skill) to a rueful assessment of his own healthy sense of self (“regimented, demanding of myself and others—a perfectionist”). He alternates thoughtful accounts of family dynamics with a career overview, including seven years in military service after graduation from the Air Force Academy and a stint at Purdue in a master’s program that enabled him “to understand the why as well as the how” of the world. Throughout, Sully selects just the right anecdotes to convey both his love for his family and his practical approach to life, all rounded out by his endearing appreciation for the elements of flying Highest Duty that cannot be pinned down. Eventually Sully gets around to the defining incident of By Captain Chesley his life that catapulted him into the spotlight and arrives at “Sully” Sullenberger something millions have suspected ever since those riveting with Jeffrey Zaslow pictures of the downed plane and its passengers first ap- Morrow peared on our TV screens: “Technology is no substitute for $25.99, 352 pages experience, skill and judgment.” Readers will know how it all ISBN 9780061924682 Also available on audio turns out, but the details are engrossing. The world will never return to its former state, but life has been renewed for Sully as it has for each of the other 154 passengers on Flight 1549. His “search for what really matters” appears to have arrived at family and flying, but subtly includes the encompassing qualities that discerning persons discover in the course of a lifetime. Like the best pilots, Sully just got there a little early. o Maude McDaniel writes from Maryland.
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THE SPOKEN WORD A cold case heats up At 38, Mark Darrow has made it. Now a wealthy, highly successful Boston trial lawyer, he started from nothing in Wayne, Ohio, and would have stayed there in a dead-end job if Lionel Farr, a professor at Wayne’s Caldwell College, hadn’t picked up on his football prowess and then his intellectual potential. A hefty scholarship and four years of Farr’s intense, hands-on mentoring left Mark deeply in his debt. So when Farr asks Mark to take over Caldwell and lead the school past a nasty embezzlement scandal, it’s an offer he can’t in good conscience refuse. That’s for openers in The Spire (Macmillan Audio, $39.99, 11 hours unabridged, ISBN 9781427208071), Richard North Patterson’s latest, a cold case whodunit that will keep you wrapped up, guessing and BY SUKEY HOWARD reassessing. When Mark was a senior, he found the strangled body of Angela Hall, a beautiful, smart, African-American coed; his best friend Steve was charged and convicted. Back at Caldwell, still unconvinced of Steve’s guilt, Mark can’t keep himself from re-examining the case. Totally engrossed, I was determined to find the perp before he was revealed—I did, but was still intrigued by how Patterson wound it all up. Performed by Holter Graham, it’s edge of your seat all the way.
Ancient artifacts, modern mania In a Dan Brown-dominated season, it’s not surprising to find symbol-laden thriller-dillers hoping to ride that big bestseller wave. The forces of destruction and denial face off with the forces of preservation and knowledge in Daniel Levin’s The Last Ember (HighBridge Audio, $34.95, 15 hours unabridged, ISBN 9781598878912), read by Jeff Woodman, a refresher course in Jewish, early Christian and Roman history wrapped in the derring-do of Raiders of the Lost Ark. When Jonathan Marcus, once a brilliant doctoral student in classics at the American Academy in Rome, now a hotshot lawyer specializing in antiquities (quite like the author’s own C.V.), returns to the Eternal City, he and his former lover, a dedicated U.N. preservationist (and gorgeous blonde), are drawn into a wild hunt for a sacred golden icon, lost for 2,000 years. Using clues hidden in Josephus’ famed first-century History of the Jewish War, they must outsmart the ruthless grandson of Amin al-Husseini, aka Hitler’s Mufti, who, armed with cutting-edge technology, is feverishly, fervently determined to acquire the icon’s power by destroying it—and all the archaeology supporting the Judeo-Christian history of the Temple Mount. Hang on, take notes, root for the good guys!
Audio of the month Move over Dewey, there’s a new cat on the block, and a new audio that will make you smile and sob while it thrums your heartstrings. Homer’s Odyssey: A Fearless Feline Tale, or How I Learned About Love and Life with a Blind Wonder Cat (Random House Audio, $35, 9.5 hours unabridged, ISBN 9780307704115), read by Renée Raudman with, dare I say it, purrrrfect pitch, is Gwen Cooper’s love letter to her small furry friend who’s spent the last 12 years making every one of her days more fun and more gratifying. Homer, a scraggly, starving, black fuzzball foundling with seriously infected eyes, started his odyssey when an idealistic young vet saved his life but not his eyes. After much searching, Homer found a new home with an equally young and idealistic woman who had the requisite mix of eccentricity and empathy to sense that this little kitten was curious, courageous, affectionate and truly worth saving. In a way, they came of age together; Gwen’s life—and love life—were not at their best, but her recognition of Homer’s willingness to love and be loved, and her willingness to see that in him, was her “first truly adult decision” about a relationship. They’ve grown older together—Gwen’s happily married, and Homer doesn’t leap around as much—but their story holds timeless wonders. o
FOOD & DRINK
Vintage selections to please any wine lover BY EVE ZIBART or several years now, the holiday batch of wine books has become increasingly divided between the “elitists” and the “populists.” The former are the critics, who toss out bushel baskets of flavors (tar, black fruit, chocolate, licorice and old leather) and anthropomorphize wines. The others are the proud wine amateurs (aka “wine lovers”), whose diatribes against the “Parkerization” of wines—the reliance on numerical scores for wines and the trend toward bigger, fruitier, mine-is-bigger wines preferred by Wine Advocate founder Robert Parker—can be as stringent as their own self-promotion. This polemical tug of war can easily bewilder those looking to give a wine book as a gift (which side are your friends on?), but there are some new volumes that can safely be delivered to any wine lover. Along with a bottle, of course. Many guides to appreciating wine veer from cutesy to condescending, but food mag columnist Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl’s Drink This: Wine Made Simple (Ballantine, $26, 384 pages, ISBN 9780345511652), finds a happy medium, keeping the catchphrases to a minimum while gently prodding wine newbies through the nine varietals that dominate American shelves and restaurant lists. Each chapter winds through the pros and cons (what’s to love, what’s to hate) of each varietal, a brief history, major taste markers and a comparison of bottom-shelf and top-shelf styles. Each chapter ends with a quick cheat sheet and suggestions for gifts, from inexpensive to “knock-their-socks-off” labels. Entertaining sidebars (what really causes the famous “cat pee” smell in Sauvignon Blanc?) and interviews with respected winemakers, along with sensibly straightforward tips on hosting low-key wine tastings (example: put a tablespoon of peppercorns or some shaved chocolate in a wine glass and sniff before tasting a Zinfandel or Pinot Noir), make this a solid primer. And, unlike most guides, Drink This occasionally includes pronunciations of wines (rhyming Shiraz with pizzazz, for instance).
The guide’s other concession to more modern wine culture is its emphasis on the fact that less expensive wines need much less aging than the big names, so that most whites and rosés listed should be consumed within a year or so and the reds within three to five years. In other words, you can stop fretting about laying it down and start drinking it up.
A browser’s delight The third sort of wine book—after the how-tos and the must-haves— might be called the bedside wine book: collections of anecdotes or literary references or ruminations on wine, generally short enough to be consumed a few at a time (presumably over a nightcap). Is This Bottle Corked? The Secret Life of Wine (Harmony, $19.99, 208 pages, ISBN 9780307462916) by Kathleen Burk and Michael Bywater is one of those, a combination of fact (what is corkage?) and fiction. What color “wine-dark sea” did Homer really see? Could the Duke of Clarence really have been drowned in a butt of Malmsey? And what is Malmsey, anyway? The Bible, Beaujolais Nouveau, Omar Khayyam, Napoleon, Jane Austen, Pliny and (of course) Robert Parker; phylloxera, absinthe, unami, foot-stomping, silver wine goblets and the dreaded “winespeak”—these and scores of other characters and controversies cohabitate comfortably in this chatty little collection.
A classic returns
It’s a serious sign of the economic times that Robert Parker and his Wine Advocate team have produced Parker’s Wine Bargains: The World’s Best Wine Values Under $25 (Simon & Schuster, $17.99, 512 pages, ISBN 9781439101902). It’s a paperback, described as Zagat guide-sized, though in fact it’s a little hefty for the pocket. It reveals a little about the magazine’s biases—France is divided into eight regions, while all the regions of Italy are lumped together; and only California, Oregon and Washington wines are covered in the United States. Nevertheless, this might be a great book for someone looking to acquire collectable wines without breaking the bank. Wines are marked by price ($ for under $10, etc.) and relative dryness.
Grumdahl’s guide notwithstanding, it would be ungenerous not to toast one notable perennial on these lists: Kevin Zraly, onetime wine director at New York’s Windows on the World, who turned his master classes for the staff into a course that eventually graduated 19,000 people. (When the World Trade Center was destroyed on 9/11, it had nearly 100,000 bottles in the cellar; Zraly himself had taken the day off to celebrate his son’s birthday.) Zraly has been updating his eminently sensible and accessible Windows on the World Complete Wine Course on a pretty regular basis, but he’s just released the 25th anniversary edition (Sterling, $27.95, 224 pages, ISBN 9781402767678). For someone who’s already a little more at ease ordering wine and wanting to expand his palate, or for a sentimental New Yorker, this might be the perfect choice. o Eve Zibart is a former restaurant critic for the Washington Post.
The hidden lives of twins
Inside the mind of a media maven
By Pete Croatto In the introduction to One and the Same, journalist Abigail Pogrebin admits that writing a book about identical twins was something she was loath to do, equating it to “volunteering to do a public striptease. Because being a twin goes to the core of who I am and I was wary of examining that.” Thankfully, Pogrebin avoids a literary bump’n’grind, instead merging interviews, research and memoir into a fascinating look at the lifelong dynamics of twins. Along the way, she freely admits that she and her twin sister Robin, a reporter for the New York Times, have drifted apart. That revelation gives the book an interesting slant: while interviewing other twins, doctors and her friends and family, Pogrebin gauges her own relationship with Robin. This is more than just journalism; it’s a search for personal clarity. At the same time, Pogrebin is a good reporter on two fronts. First, she is able to get her twin sources to share personal, sometimes heartbreaking, information about a special relationship: “There’s a closeness that we have—even if it isn’t spoken—that my husband can’t duplicate,” one tells Pogrebin. Second, she examines myriad issues, both medi- One and the Same cal and social, without confusing the reader or deflating the By Abigail Pogrebin personal tone. Pogrebin’s first-person narrative, coupled with her thirst for knowledge, makes for an immensely sat- Doubleday 288 pages isfying, enlightening read on what too many people dismiss $26.95, ISBN 9780385521567 as a genetic gimmick. o Also available on audio Pete Croatto is a freelance writer based in New Jersey.
By John T. Slania In an early chapter of Eating the Dinosaur, author Chuck Klosterman ruminates on whether he has a favorite guitarist. “That’s more a question of virtuosity versus feel,” he writes. “Jeff Beck has a high level of both, I suppose, but sometimes that works to his disadvantage. Clapton and Page are both good, but I think we’ve taken the blues as far as they can go. The blues get in the way now.” It’s a classic Klosterman riff, not unlike a riff from one of his guitar heroes. And it’s these writing flourishes that make Eating the Dinosaur such a gutsy, irreverent, wonderful read. Klosterman is a gifted essayist whose work is regularly on display in Esquire and The New York Times Magazine. Now he displays his wit and wisdom in a nonfiction collection that explores pop culture, sports and the meaning of life. Eating the Dinosaur ponders such wide-ranging topics as the similarities between the late alt-rocker Kurt Cobain and the late cult leader David Koresh and some of the things Unabomber Ted Kaczynski had right. There are lighter pieces about sitcom laugh tracks, Garth Brooks, time travel and the new look of Pepsi. In the wrong hands, Eating the this eclectic mix could prove disastrous. But Klosterman Dinosaur exhibits a deep knowledge and a deft touch on an expansive list of topics, and his insights are sometimes enlight- By Chuck Klosterman Scribner ening, sometimes educational and always entertaining. o $25, 256 pages John T. Slania is a journalism professor at Loyola University ISBN 9781416544203 in Chicago.
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Fire on the mountain By Anne Bartlett The recent “Station Fire” in California’s Angeles National Forest, the worst in Los Angeles County history, burned more than 160,000 acres and killed two firefighters. In comparison, the 1910 Northern Rockies forest fire remembered in The Big Burn covered nearly 3.2 million acres in Washington, Idaho and Montana. At least 85 people were killed, most of them members of ill-trained firefighting crews. That blowout, the biggest wildfire in American history, devastated the economy of a booming timber and mining region. It traumatized the survivors—and as New York Times columnist Timothy Egan shows in The Big Burn, it set the course for U.S. forest conservation for the next hundred years, for good and ill. The national forests that burned were brand new, the product of President Theodore Roosevelt’s conservation crusade. Spurred on by fellow aristocrat Gifford Pinchot, the founding head of the National Forest Service, Roosevelt had worked at breakneck pace to protect millions of acres from logging, railroad and mine companies. But when Roosevelt left office, the land barons’ allies in his own party starved the Forest Service of resources, and forced out Pinchot. The scope of the disaster and the heroism of so many for- The Big Burn est rangers turned public opinion in favor of conservation at By Timothy Egan a crucial moment. National forests were subsequently cre- Houghton Mifflin Harcourt ated throughout the country, and the Forest Service became $27, 336 pages a thriving agency. ISBN 9780618968411 For his National Book Award-winning account of the Also available on audio Dust Bowl, The Worst Hard Time, Egan was able to interview survivors. For The Big Burn, he had to comb through Forest Service reports, memoirs and old newspapers. But he’s equally effective here in telling the story through individuals—the homesteaders, the fire crews of immigrants and drifters, the idealistic Ivy League grads who followed Pinchot’s siren call to the Forest Service. Egan is a gorgeous writer. His chapters on the “blowup,” when thousands fled burning towns and desperate fire crews burrowed in mine shafts or submerged in streams to escape the inferno, should become a classic account of an American Pompeii. o Anne Bartlett is a journalist in Washington, D.C.
Healing the wounds of childhood By Jillian Mandelkern Western society has carefully cultivated the myth that every mother sympathizes uniquely with her children and loves them unconditionally. Even fairy tales have been revised to reflect the idea that a biological mother is incapable of cruelty; centuries ago it was Snow White’s own mother, not a jealous stepmother, who was forced to dance to her death in hot iron shoes for treating her adolescent daughter as a rival. In Mean Mothers: Overcoming the Legacy of Hurt, Peg Streep explores the uncomfortable reality of mothers who lack an inherent ability to love their children—especially daughters. Streep, herself the daughter of what she terms an “unloving mother,” deftly weaves her recollections and those of other Baby Boomer-generation daughters together with scientific studies of mother-child bonds and psychologists’ observations to illuminate the reasons why some mothers are unable to nurture their daughters. Born in an era when married women were expected to have children regardless of their capacity for caring, the adult daughters interviewed remember mothers who constantly insulted their appearances, criticized their lifestyles, Mean Mothers discounted their achievements and—perhaps causing the By Peg Streep deepest wounds—refused to offer the everyday comforts of Morrow kind looks, calming voices and gentle touch. Without asking $24.99, 256 pages for pity, Streep shows how daughters denied their mothers’ ISBN 9780061651366 intimate gestures can develop uncertainty in their self-images, leading to compensatory behaviors like overeating, overspending and overachieving. At age three Streep recognized her mother’s detachment as the inability to love her, knowing “more than anything, that her power was enormous and that the light of her sun was what I needed. But that light could burn, flicker, or disappear for any or no reason.” Despite her painful history, Streep has been able to write a legacy of love with her own daughter. Ultimately, she concludes that while we learn many behaviors from them, we are not our mothers, and we can triumph in disrupting the cycle of hurt. o Jillian Mandelkern is a teacher and writer in Pennsylvania.
COOKING A baking master class If your beef stew needs a bit more salt or your vinaigrette a bit more garlic, you can fix it in a flash, but if your cake needs a bit more baking powder and looks like a thick, gooey pancake, you’ve had it. Baking is a precise art; the more you know about techniques, ingredients and their interactions, the better a baker you’ll be. James Peterson, expert cook and super-expert instructor, whose “comprehensive and comprehensible” cookbooks have guided both pros and home cooks through sauces, soups, shellfish and more for over 15 years, explicates this art in Baking (Ten Speed, $40, 416 pages, ISBN 9781580089913), with 350 recipes for cakes, pastries, cookies, breads, quick breads, custards, curds and mousses, and 1,500 step-by-step color photographs that illustrate the most important parts of every technique and recipe BY SYBIL PRATT included. As you learn the principles used in Peterson’s classic recipes, you’ll build a firm foundation that can be used in a wide range of baking projects and that will get you those gratifying oohs and aahs. His tricks of the trade and troubleshooting tips, added in notes and sidebars, are the icing on the cake. Peterson is as reassuring as he is inspiring, like having a patient friend at your side teaching you to think like a baker.
Going local with Lidia There’s no shortage of Italian cookbooks; they multiply as fast as zucchinis in midsummer. I usually greet the arrival of a new one with a somewhat jaded, ho-hum attitude—but not when it’s written by Lidia Bastianich, celebrated chef, co-owner of five restaurants and author of five previous cookbooks, four accompanied by nationally syndicated public television series. Lidia knows her stuff and, with her unique warmth, cooking savvy and enthusiasm, knows how to share it. Her newest (just in time for your holiday gift list), Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy (Knopf, $35, 432 pages, ISBN 9780307267511), is an exploration and celebration of regional cooking from 12 of the lesser-known parts of Italy: Chicken in Beer from Trentino-Alto Adige; creamy Risotto with Gorgonzola from Lombardy; Veal Chops with Fontina from Valle d’Aosta; Tuna Genova-Style from Liguria; Tagliatelle with Walnut Pesto from Emilia-Romagna; Rabbit with Onions from Le Marche; Lentil Crostini from Umbria; Crespelle with Spinach from Abruzzo; Fish Soup with Vegetables from Molise; Baccalà LucanaStyle from Basilicata; Spicy Calamari from Calabria; Semolina Pudding with Blueberry Sauce from Sardinia; and 163 more recipes that reflect a deep respect for food and “the harmony of elements that result in a harmony of taste.” Brava Lidia! You’ve done it again.
Cookbook of the month It’s big (over 1,000 pages), it has more than 1,400 recipes, it’s been a best-selling cookbook in France for three generations and here, wrapped in a bright pink jacket and weighing in at more than five pounds, is I Know How to Cook (Phaidon, $45, 1,072 pages, ISBN 9780714857367), the first English translation of Ginette Mathiot’s “cookery bible,” Je Sais Cuisiner, originally published in 1932. (We could say it’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking for the French, and I’m sure Julia wouldn’t object.) Mathiot wanted to give her readers a “simple book of family food,” organized on sound cooking principles—including both traditional and “modern” dishes from many regions of France—that would save time and money for the home cook. Updated and revised in many editions, it’s been adapted for us by French food writer Clotilde Dusoulier, the creator of the “clog” (aka cooking blog) Chocolate & Zucchini. With 15 chapters covering everything from Aïoli to Zephyr Veal Scallops, making stops for essentials like Moules Marinière and Mousse au Chocolat, this is a refreshingly solid, old-fashioned cookbook, with concise, matterof-fact directions in paragraph form. Mathiot doesn’t preach about seasonality or togetherness, she just makes this great cuisine wonderfully accessible. o NOVEMBER 2009 BOOKPAGE
Book clubs Best paperbacks for reading groups A Country Called Home By Kim Barnes Set during the 1960s, Barnes’ beautifully written novel tells the story of Thomas and Helen Deracotte, newlyweds who leave civilized, cultured Connecticut behind to start a fresh life in Idaho. Thomas, a doctor, sets his sights on opening a country practice and running a farm in the small town of Fife. Neither Thomas nor well-to-do Helen knows anything about farming, and so they hire Manny, an independent and capable hand, to take over operations on their homestead. Charmed by the idea of living off his own land, Thomas soon decides Anchor not to open a medical practice and turns his energies to the $15, 288 pages ISBN 9780307389114 farm. But he relies heavily on handsome Manny, who quickly insinuates himself into the Deracottes’ good graces. After Helen gives birth to a daughter, the Deracottes’ dependence on Manny increases, and Helen—disenchanted by the responsibilities of new motherhood—finds herself increasingly drawn to him. Barnes, a Pulitzer Prize nominee for her memoir In the Wilderness: Coming of Age in an Unknown Country (1997), writes poetically about the rough Idaho landscape, instilling the narrative with rich detail and vivid imagery. Her poignant portrait of an unraveling marriage brims with tension and suspense. This is a fierce novel that bravely explores the challenges of love and family life. A reading group guide is available online at readinggroupcenter.com.
A Partisan’s Daughter By Louis de Bernières Taking 1970s London as its backdrop, de Bernières’ captivating novel is a testament to the power of storytelling. Lonely and restless, Chris is stuck in a dead-end marriage and desperate for change, which arrives one night in an unexpected form—that of a mysterious Yugoslavian woman named Roza. Chris wrongly believes that Roza is a prostitute and tries to engage her services. Amused by the situation, Roza plays along and accompanies him. So begins a strange relationship that—instead of being based on sex—is founded on Vintage the power of Roza’s tales about her old life. In truth, she is $15, 208 pages far from a call girl. The daughter of one of Tito’s supporters, ISBN 9780307389145 she is new to London and struggling to make a life for herself. Mixing fact and fiction, she spins incredible accounts about her existence in Eastern Europe, seducing the naïve Chris, who falls hopelessly in love with her. Roza’s stories transport him to a reality far more interesting than his own, and the consequences— heartbreaking and unforgettable—change Chris’ life forever. With his latest novel, de Bernières, author of Corelli’s Mandolin, offers a profound look at the ways in which a seemingly simple choice can irrevocably alter a life. A master novelist, he has written a fascinating and insightful book that’s part love story, part political history and part mystery. A reading group guide is available online at readinggroupcenter.com.
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet By Jamie Ford Ford’s accomplished first novel focuses on Asian Americans in Seattle. Struggling to regain his equilibrium after the death of his wife from cancer, Henry Lee finds a welcome distraction in his own personal history. When he learns that the possessions of some Japanese immigrants who were imprisoned during World War II have been discovered in the cellar of a Seattle hotel, he is prompted to re-evaluate his life. Reflecting upon his childhood, Henry recalls the challenges of his upbringing in Seattle during the war. As a student at a reputable, predominantly white private school, he Ballantine $15, 320 pages is teased mercilessly. While there, Henry falls in love with ISBN 9780345505347 Keiko Okabe, a young Japanese-American girl who is also a student. After Keiko and her family are interned in a camp, he is forced to acknowledge the reality of anti-Japanese feeling, a sentiment his own Chinese father displays, much to Henry’s horror. Shifting back and forth between past and present, the novel highlights Henry’s strained relationship with his own son, Marty, a college student. The narrative presents his memories and musings in chapters rich with drama and finely choreographed scenes. Ford writes with assurance about the legacies of history and the difficulties of cultural assimilation. His poignant examination of the father-son relationship adds an extra layer of complexity to this mature debut. A reading group guide is included in the book. o —JULIE HALE
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A new generation rises By Stephenie Harrison In 1991, Douglas Coupland burst onto the literary scene with the groundbreaking Generation X, a novel that brilliantly captured the minds and imaginations of those who stepped tentatively across the threshold of adulthood in the late 1980s. Now, nearly 20 years later, Coupland revisits the generational divide, this time focusing on the pressures and insecurities looming on the horizon of the 21st century. Generation A uses the same framed narrative style as its predecessor; five disenfranchised 20-somethings—all trying to find their place in the world—unfold their individual stories through alternating chapters. They are scattered across the globe, unaware of each other’s existence until the unthinkable occurs, irrevocably linking them to one another: they are each stung by a bee. In Coupland’s vision of the future, bees have long been extinct, so getting stung by one is not just something to blog about, it’s worthy of attention from the National Guard! All five Wonka kids (as they call themselves) are rushed into isolation where they are scrutinized and studied for several weeks before finally being released back into the wild without any explanation. Soon an undeniable pull causes them to seek one another out, eventually uniting on a small island where their narratives slowly begin to merge as they piece together not just what Generation A has happened to them, but more importantly, why. By Douglas Coupland Within the first pages of Generation A, readers will real- Scribner ize that they are in the hands of a master, that they have $24, 320 pages been gifted with something more lofty and ambitious than ISBN 9781439157015 the average work of fiction. Coupland playfully exposes the contemporary contradictions that plague us: in the era of Twitter and mass communication, as we play exhibitionist and voyeur on a global stage, how is it that we feel more isolated than ever? Where can genuine human connections be found, or are they a thing of the past? A piercing analysis of our modern society, Generation A is exhilarating and insightful, bubbling with wit and verve. Readers who are willing to brave Coupland’s literary pyrotechnics and unconventional exercises in style will be richly rewarded with a thoughtful and mind-bending analysis of what makes us tick. Coupland is better than ever, and Generation A is certain to thrill readers of every generation. o Stephenie Harrison writes from Nashville and now considers herself part of Generation A.
Hidden gems from an American master By Lacey Galbraith Fans of the author Kurt Vonnegut—who died in April 2007—are in for a treat with the publication of Look at the Birdie, a posthumous collection of 14 works of his short fiction. Written at the beginning of Vonnegut’s career and never before published, these stories offer a glimpse into the early imagination of the author who would later give the world such classics as Cat’s Cradle, Mother Night and Slaughterhouse-Five. In Look at the Birdie, whimsical line drawings accompany the stories, each one penned by the author. Present, too, is Vonnegut’s signature sharp wit and dark humor: there is the fraudulent psychiatrist who describes a paranoiac as “a person who has gone crazy in the most intelligent, wellinformed way,” and the small town police chief who says “If I’d known there was going to be a murder . . . I never would have taken the job of police chief.” In the book’s introduction, Vonnegut’s close friend and fellow writer Sidney Offit offers one reason as to why these stories have remained unpublished for so long. Citing the “Rolled up balls of paper in the wastebaskets of his workrooms in Bridgehampton and on East Forty-eighth Street,” he describes Vonnegut as someone who “rewrote and re- Look at the Birdie wrote.” He was “a master craftsman,” he says, “demanding By Kurt Vonnegut of himself perfection of the story, the sentence, the word.” Delacorte The stories in Look at the Birdie may not be Vonnegut’s $27, 272 pages finest work, but in their immaturity are indications of the ISBN 9780385343718 artist the man will become. He is a writer on the cusp, never flinching at the world before him yet also never forgetting to entertain as well. As Sidney Offit concludes, “Few writers in the history of literature have achieved such a fusion of the human comedy with the tragedies of human folly in their fiction.” o Lacey Galbraith is a writer in Nashville.
An ode to books
Wine and crime in Mayle’s France
By Roger Bishop Through the centuries, technologies have profoundly affected the way people read. When the codex—that is, a book with pages to turn—replaced the scroll, readers approached the text differently. They could now concentrate easily on a single page and individual paragraphs and chapters. Printing with movable type made books available to thousands of people previously denied the reading experience. And electronic technology in our own day has again changed the communications landscape. Robert Darnton knows this territory as well as anyone and views the subject from a unique perspective. As a scholar, he helped invent the modern discipline of the History of the Book and is the Director of the Harvard University Library. He loves rare book rooms but is also enthusiastic about creating a digital Republic of Letters. The stimulating and thought-provoking essays in The Case for Books: Past, Present, and Future provide us with an excellent overview of where we have been and where we are likely to be headed. Darnton points out that in each age the information technology has been unstable. Even in our day, there is no guarantee that copies made by Google Book Search—or anyone else—will last. He notes that digital copies are even The Case more vulnerable than microfilm, the advanced technology for Books of several years ago, to decay and obsolescence. “Paper,” he By Robert Darnton writes, “is still the best medium of preservation, and librarPublic Affairs ies still need to fill their shelves with words printed on pa- $23.95, 240 pages per.” He believes the strongest argument for the book is how ISBN 9781586488260 effective it is for ordinary readers. Each of us can pick up a Also available on audio book and read it; a computer screen does not give most of us the same satisfaction. Darnton quotes Bill Gates, chairman of Microsoft, as admitting that for anything more than four or five pages he prefers printed paper to computer screens. Darnton’s thoughtful and incisive essays on this important topic should be of interest to a wide range of book lovers. o Roger Bishop is a retired Nashville bookseller.
By Cathy Shouse When entertainment lawyer Danny Roth’s secretary finagles him an interview with the Los Angeles Times so he can showcase his impressive wine collection, Danny is over the moon. Alas, his newfound celebrity in the wine world soon curdles into sour grapes when hundreds of bottles of his prized Bordeaux are stolen from his wine cellar. Thus kicks off Peter Mayle’s sixth novel, The Vintage Caper, a tale that flows as smoothly as the fine wines frequently referenced in the book. When Danny files a claim for $3 million, Sam Levitt is assigned to the case, and it’s up to him to try to recoup Danny’s losses. Sam’s sleuthing takes him on a food and wine snob’s dream sojourn, touching down in Paris and then making his way to the heart of France’s wine country in Bordeaux and Marseille. To help him in his investigation, Sam is paired with Sophie Costes, a quintessentially French foodie, which makes for an intoxicating and irresistible combination. It is upon reaching France that Mayle’s writing really begins to soar; his prose bubbles with the pertness of a fine champagne and teems with sumptuous delights. Little wonder, as Mayle resides in the south of France and is perhaps best known for his memoir chronicling some of his The Vintage Caper time there, A Year In Provence. Mayle’s mastery of language By Peter Mayle is reflected in his sophisticated, eloquent prose, which el- Knopf evates A Vintage Caper from your run-of-the mill crime $24.95, 240 pages novel into something a little more satisfying; he shows that ISBN 9780307269010 sometimes it is not enough to simply write what you know, Also available on audio but you must instead write what you love. In truth, the delights of this latest offering are not really in discovering who absconded with the wine, but instead lie in the delectable descriptions of the food and the insightful commentaries on French culture. Of course, Mayle’s story has as many unexpected twists as the wending streets of France that are featured throughout the novel, making this one countryside romp that will both thrill and transport oenophiles and armchair travelers alike. o Cathy Shouse is a writer in Fairmount, Indiana.
Shaara’s incisive portrait of war By Ian Schwartz Jeff Shaara, one of the grand masters of military fiction, returns with the final novel of his acclaimed WWII trilogy. No Less than Victory concludes the epic tale of the war in Europe from the Battle of the Bulge through the German surrender. Shaara’s plump third installment illuminates the final six months of the war as told by a handful of men on both sides. The battles and timeline themselves are painstakingly accurate. As Shaara himself says, the only reason he is forced to call his work fiction is because he must use dialogue. And he uses it well. While battles may be enough for military buffs, it’s the dialogue and thoughts of Shaara’s characters that make the book a narrative success. On the American side, the story is mainly told by a trio of soldiers, two of whom you may have heard of: Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower and Gen. George Patton. Eisenhower comes across as wholly human and singularly humane. You’ll feel his exasperation when dealing with British general Montgomery Ward—whom Shaara absolutely skewers—and have a lump in your throat as Ike gets his first glimpse of a German concentration camp. Patton does not No Less entirely shed the famous portrayal by George C. Scott, but Than Victory we do get a glimpse beneath the bravado. No story of WWII is complete without GIs. Their story By Jeff Shaara is told by Private Benson, a raw recruit unlucky enough to Ballantine $28, 512 pages arrive just before the Bulge. Benson is scared and confused, ISBN 9780345497925 but draws courage from his fearless buddy Mitchell, whose Also available on audio hatred of the Germans grows along with his love of war. The Germans are mostly represented by Gen. Karl Rudolf Gerd von Rundstedt, who knows by the winter of 1944 that he is merely following Hitler into the abyss, but has little choice but to continue. Curiously, Shaara is gentler with much of the German military hierarchy than he is with the English. His empathy is fitting—on the front lines, where Shaara’s writing is limpid and concise, politics do not exist, only soldiers. o Ian Schwartz writes from San Diego.
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